Blu-ray Review “Tommy Boy: 25th Anniversary Steelbook”

Celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year, “Tommy Boy” comes home with a brand new Limited Edition Steelbook arriving 05/26/2020 exclusively at FYE. It’s crazy to think that it has been 25 years since this film has come out. I remember seeing it in the theaters and literally falling out of my seat laughing, which doesn’t happen very often. There really aren’t comedies like this these days. The combo of Chris Farley and David Space really delivered one of the best comedies ever with “Tommy Boy”.

Leave it up to FYE for delivering yet another amazing exclusive Steelbook. They have some of the best steelbook releases recently. FYE understands that collector’s love these releases and they are always on the ball of releasing some great titles with fantastic steelbook releases. The artwork for this film is great especially love the choice of the inside case photo that they chose. Fans of “Tommy Boy” should definitely pick this up at your local FYE or online at their shop.

Official Premise: The gust-busting duo of crack-up comedians Chris Farley and David Space star in one of the funniest films of the ’90s. To save the family business, two ne’er-do-well traveling salesmen hit the road with disastrously funny consequences. Tommy Boy is a larger-than-life movie, with a great supporting cast that includes Rod Lowe, Bo Derek, Dan Aykroyd and Brian Dennehy.

The Blu-ray disc included is the same as the “Holy Schnike Edition”, which was released back in 2008. Paramount presents the film in a solid 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer. The film shows its age a little bit but the transfer is overall very nice. There is a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack included as well, which works fine with the dialogue and the soundtrack.

The special features are worth checking out as well. First up, we get a commentary track from director Peter Segal. You can tell that he enjoyed watching the film due to laughing at various scenes. The rest of the extras are all in 480p, so DVD quality, due to the age of the film. There are storyboard comparisons, a bunch of deleted / extended and alternate scenes as well as a photo gallery. Lastly there are four featurettes, a gag reel and some trailers included.

I can’t wait to see what FYE releases next for their exclusive steelbook releases. I am keeping my figures crossed for some of Terry Gilliam’s classics like “Brazil” or “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. I can see FYE nailing some of his film with a solid steelbook releases.

Film Review: “Blow the Man Down”

  • BLOW THE MAN DOWN
  • Starring: Sophie Lowe, Morgan Saylor
  • Directed by: Bridget Savage Cole & Danielle Krudy
  • Rated: R
  • Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins
  • Amazon Prime Video

 With a title borrowed from a classic English sea shanty, “Blow the Man Down” is an average, yet entertaining mystery/drama with a multitude of secrets that emanates a “Fargo”-like vibe. First-time feature length directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy, who also co-wrote the film that debuted on Amazon Prime, have crafted a smooth-paced work of cinema with a few flashes of well-timed suspense. 

Set in the small, picturesque fishing village of Easter Cove, Maine, “Blow the Man Down” begins with the Catholic wake of one Mary Margaret Connolly. Her two daughters – Priscilla (Sophie Lowe, “The Beautiful Lie”) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor, “Homeland”) – are naturally saddened by the loss of their mother, whom they had to care for in recent times. The girls, though, seem surprised to hear tales from their mother’s three closest friends – Susie Gallagher (Academy Award nominee June Squibb, “Nebraska”), Gail Maguire (Academy Award nominee Annette O’Toole, “A Mighty Wind”) and Doreen Burke (Marceline Hugot, “The Messenger”) – of how Mary had saved their bacon on several occasions. 

Interspersed within this sadness is a scene in which a nameless woman frantically jumps out of a car and runs screaming from an angry man who eventually tackles her. All the while a woman we come to know as Enid Nora Devlin (Margo Martindale, “August: Osage County”) watches silently from a second story window. We get the sense she may approve of the violence that is transpiring and thus has no interest in helping the woman. It’s brief but it’s an important nugget of things to come.

 Back at Mary’s house, the younger Mary Beth is dismayed to learn from Priscilla that their mother has left them with nothing. Mary Beth leaves in an explosion of anger and ends up at a dive bar where she latches onto a man who proves to be far more dangerous than she had ever considered. This is followed by a killing and cover-up that leads the sisters down a rabbit hole of secrets and lies involving prostitution, bribery, murder and a police force that either looks the other way or is incompetent. 

Even with a solid story, “Blow the Man Down” does contain some mystery clichés so don’t expect anything fresh when watching it. Additionally, the two leads are fine enough in their roles, but they are overshadowed greatly by the much older, supporting female cast. Squibb, O’Toole and Hugot are a hoot as a trio and they excel at making us feel like there is something more to their characters without giving too much away too quickly. 

Overall, the real star is Martindale who is simply a delight to watch. A woman with a ton of secrets and a hardened, mean streak a mile wide and a mile deep, Enid is someone that proves to be a perfect antagonist. Martindale also infuses her character with a level of complexity that the other cast members are not quite able to achieve. 

Call it a poor man’s version of “Knives Out,” “Blow the Man Down” is a nice way to spend 90 minutes in front of a screen at home.

Blu-Ray Review: “Mystify Michael Hutchence”

Directed By: Richard Lowenstein

Distributed By: Shout Factory

Runtime: 102 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars

Special Features: 4 out of 5 stars

The fascinating new documentary “Mystify Michael Hutchence” comes to Blu-ray™ and DVD on March 31, 2020 via ShoutFactory.com and Amazon.com. The film takes an in-depth look into the life and tragic death of the lead singer of INXS. Written and directed by Richard Lowenstein (Dogs in Space) who was a close friend of the artist, “Mystify Michael Hutchence” is a powerfully intimate and insightful portrait of the internationally renowned INXS front man.

Right away I want to make potential viewers aware that “Mystify Michael Hutchence” is not a film specifically about the band INXS. Yes, obviously the group whose hits include “What You Need” “Never Tear Us Apart” and “New Sensation” do play a part in the story of Michael Huthence however, what “Mystify” does do is take a deeper and more personal look at the enigmatic front man. From his early years as a shy and somewhat introverted youth to, his involvement with the formation and success of INXS “Mystify” leaves no stone unturned. Though I found the did seemed t be a bit scattered and spotty at times there was still enough substance and detail to give the viewer a solid sense of what Hutchence was like throughout the various stages if is life. As the film begins to close in on the singer’s struggles and subsequent suicide you can’t help but feel some sense of internal grief and sadness.   

Over an hour of special features are included with the Blu-ray and DVD releases including extended interviews with the people closest to Michael prior to his death along with interviews of Hutchence himself discussing the formation of INXS, his growing up on film sets around Hong Kong and the use of INXS music in commercials. I found this portion of the release complimented the film nicely as each section provided even more depth to what was covered in the film.  

 “Mystify Michael Hutchence” is not just a film for INXS fans as Michaels story is a captivating one that keeps viewers attention throughout the films 102 minute run time. Despite the somewhat scattered presentation the film does give viewers plenty of footage and interviews some of which were previously unseen making for an interesting viewing experience.   

Win It All Movie Review

Win It All is a compelling movie that showcases Jake Johnson’s acting range brilliantly. Although it’s essentially a comedy, it does feature some great dramatic moments throughout. The main character, Eddie Garrett, spends his evenings playing poker — and, sadly, losing. Even though it’s a modern movie, Eddie doesn’t play at online casinos, and uses the old-school method of finding poker games around town instead.

Jake Johnson Shines

Jake Johnson is excellent as Eddie. Anyone who’s seen New Girl will know just how good he is, and he brings some much-needed sympathy to the character. This is vital as, throughout the movie, you’ll find yourself rooting against Eddie.

He ignores the good advice offered by his friends, family and even GA sponsor, and continues to get himself into trouble. This could be why Johnson was chosen to play him, because without his natural charm, Eddie would definitely be the villain of this movie.

This makes it extremely hard to root for him, and the viewer ends up becoming more sympathetic towards the various people that he hurts instead. However, Johnson is so charming and such a likeable actor that it’s easy to connect with him at times, even when his behaviour is so questionable.

Doesn’t Break New Ground

The movie’s storyline is relatively easy to follow. Eddie Garrett is a habitual loser. Everything that he touches goes bad. This includes his poker playing. One night, a local criminal drops a bag off at his house and asks him to hold onto it until he gets out of prison. He tells him that as long as he doesn’t look in the bag, he will give him $10,000 when he gets out. Eddie agrees, and of course, looks in the bag. He finds piles of money in there, and as he’s a gambling addict, he uses some of it to wager with.

The movie takes him on a journey of highs and lows that are generally quite cliched. There’s nothing unexpected to be found in the film. That doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining, it’s just not quite as good as the previous Joe Swanberg and Jake Johnson collaboration, Drinking Buddies. But if you were a fan of Drinking Buddies, Win It All is definitely worth a watch.

There’s of course the obligatory romantic storyline that underpins everything, but Johnson plays it with such charm that it feels natural. It might be a familiar trope, but it’s not overbearing and doesn’t take away from the enjoyment the film offers.

The undoubted highlight of the movie is Keegan-Michael Key. He plays Eddie’s Gamblers Anonymous sponsor, Gene, and brings a lot of energy to the part. It also helps that he has the best lines of all the characters, but his delivery of those lines is excellent. You’ll find yourself looking forward to seeing Gene on screen more than Eddie.

Entertaining but not Spellbinding

On the whole, the movie has a lot going for it, yet there are just too many flaws for it to be heralded as a classic. The cast are all likable and play their parts well. The writing is sharp and funny, with some excellent lines that will have you laughing out loud in places. But, sadly, the story is a little too similar to so many other movies and generally cliched.

If you’ve seen one romantic comedy, it’s fair to say you’ve seen Win It All. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie, not by any stretch, but it does mean that it’s nothing new or original.

If you’re a fan of Jake Johnson or want something to watch for a lazy evening in, Win It All is a great choice to watch. If you want something that has some depth or originality to it, maybe this isn’t the movie for you. It’s definitely an entertaining film, but it’s been done before many times in the past.

Blu-ray Review “Spies in Disguise”

Directors: Nick Bruno, Troy Quane
Starring: Tom Holland, Will Smith, Karen Gillan, Ben Mendelsohn, Rashida Jones, Masi Oka
20th Century Fox
Running Time: 101 min
Rated PG
Release Date: Mar 10, 2020

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Talk about a hot voice cast including Tom Holland (“Spider-Man” franchise), Will Smith (“Men in Black”). I really wanted to love this film, but it didn’t really hit it home for me. There are parts I really liked but I wanted this to be so much funnier. The supporting cast also are fantastic including Karen Gillan (“Jumanji” franchise), Ben Mendelsohn (“Ready Player One”), Rashida Jones (“Parks and Recreation”). The action is hot in the film. The gadgets are fun also. I can’t see myself watching this film over and over again, but I don’t regret seeing it once. Kids will definitely dig it as my 8-year-old loved it.

Official Premise: In this high-flying animated comedy, super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is none of the above. But this unlikely duo must team up for the ultimate mission to save the world when a “biodynamic concealment” experiment transforms Lance into a brave, fierce, majestic…pigeon!

The Blu-ray 1080p transfer is solid! The colors and the animation really pop. The film definitely has a nice style to it and the transfer works really well. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 also delivers the film’s action perfectly. There are also Spanish and French tracks included on the disc, but they are only Dolby Digital 5.1, which is quite the drop-in quality.

The Blu-ray edition of Spies In Disguise includes a “Super Secret Spy Mode,” which is an immersive, in-movie experience which delivers Easter eggs, fun facts, and behind-the-scenes insights into the making of the film. Get the thrill of the movie while enjoying it, definitely the best of both worlds. I wish that more Blu-rays came with features like this. Usually, I can’t get my daughter to sit through the special features since she they lose her attention but this one was interactive and added a lot to the film.

The rest of the special features included are “Infiltrating Blue Sky Studios”, which goes inside the studio that made the film, pretty cool stuff. There is a featurette called “The Top Secret Guide to Gadgets”. The music in this film is important there are two music videos includes as well as behind-the-scene looks into both of the songs, “Then There Were Two” and “Freak of Nature”.

Next up, there are a few featurettes on the behind-the-scenes into the production including a gallery of images as well as Color Keys and Moment Paintings, Character Designs and Props and Gadgets Concept Art. Lastly the Blu-ray combo pack includes a DVD copy of the film as well as a digital code.

CD Review: TAKE TWO “We Aren’t Big”

“We Aren’t Big”

Take Two

Tracks: 9

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Punk rockers from upstate New York, Take Two have unleashed a brand new album “We Aren’t Big” upon the world. The album (the band’s 4th release) stampedes onto the scene like a mohawk clad rhinoceros whose metallic punk riffs run you over while the catchy choruses bring you back for another beating. From the vintage comic book cover art, to the New Found Glory and Descendents influences, “We Aren’t Big” screams PUNK ROCK! directly in your face.

Featuring nine raging tracks with a little something for everyone, I found “Hearts Will Remain” to be the stand out hit on the album. Its a classic pop punk track with a chorus capable of getting stuck in your head for eons. 90’s and early 2000’s fans of the genre will definitely approve. Going a little deeper thought provoking tracks like “Shots & Scars”, as well as “Red Eye”, are also solid stand outs as both recount tales of the road and the determination of a band never willing to give up. Now if you’re more in the mood for lights out, fist pumping mosh pits, look no further than “Burner” as nonstop head-banging will certainly ensue as the track closes out with a mega mosh riff which beckons a bloodbath of furious spinning back kicks and seismic circle pit activity measurable by the Fujita scale.

Take Two’s influences certainly shine through, making for a familiar listen However, the new territory the group covers brightens up an otherwise usual punk-fare. The metal riffs and intricate drum fills are a welcome flourish not to mention the heavier vocals and powerful choruses. Much of the album will inspire car ride sing along’s, as well as the previously stated mosh pits and neck cramps. Listening I couldn’t help but reminisce of said trips, beers with friends, and the girl at the rock show.

If you’re a fan of old school pop punk sing along’s, but also smashing beer cans on your forehead before jumpin’ in the pit, “We Aren’t Big” is a must for you! Every track brings something different to the table by mixing what you already love about punk with something new and fresh. The sky is the limit for the ambitious Take Two and I’m eager to see what they come up with next.

Track Listing:

1.) Lock Up

2.) Delf

3.) Shots and Scars

4.) Day Dreaming

5.) Red Eye

6.) Fall

7.) Hearts Will Remain

8.) Nothing to Lose

9.) Burner

Head over to Officialtaketwo.com for links to download “We Aren’t Big”

Blu-ray Review: Dark Waters

Directed by: Todd Haynes
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins
Distributed by: Universal Home Video
Running time: 126

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
A/V: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1 out of 5 stars

1975. A group of youngsters out on a Saturday night. They take their trucks and their beer to the local swimming hole and jump in. A pretty standard night for the teenagers in West Virginia (or anywhere else for that matter). They are surprised when they are rousted out of the water by strange men with hoses in boats.

1998. After being informed he is moving up in the law firm he works for, Attorney Rob Billot (Ruffalo) is informed that he has a visitor. The man, a farmer named Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp) has come to ask for help regarding the horrific deaths of cows on his farm. At first Rob hesitates to speak with Wilbur but, when he learns that the man is friends with his grandmother in West Virginia, he agrees to listen. What he hears -and later witnesses – will change his life forever.

At first I thought this film would play out as a male-led version of “Erin Brockovich.” I was wrong. While I enjoyed that Julia Roberts flick, it didn’t pack the heart that “Dark Waters” does. I think a lot of this comes from the fact that Mark Ruffalo is not only a talented actor but he has been, and is, very vocal about the world’s environment. I imagine him hearing the pitch for this film and just saying “yes.” Intentional or not, Ruffalo’s personal passions inhabit his character, and you feel that passion.

Ruffalo is joined by a strong cast of supporting actors, including Hathaway, Robbins (in only his third film in five years), Victor Garber, Mare Winningham and a grizzly Bill Pullman. The script, based on a New York Times magazine article, is strong but not preachy. The direction is strong and Mr. Haynes keeps the film flowing smoothly over it’s two-plus hour length.

Oddly, this is the 2nd time Mark Ruffalo has taken on DuPont. He ended up on the wrong end of a gun in “Foxcatcher” so maybe this film was his way of getting even!

Blu-ray Review “Charlie’s Angels (2019)”

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 10, 2020
Run Time: 118 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Some films you can just tell from the trailers that they were going to be terrible…this one surprised me a little. It’s been 16 years since the “Charlie’s Angels 2” and no one was really screaming for another sequel in the “Charlie’s Angels” franchise, but we got a new one. Meet our new Angels: Kristen Stewart (“Twilight” franchise), Naomi Scott (“Aladdin” 2019) and relative newcomer, Ella Balinska! Honestly a great gang of girls. They are kick ass together and definitely give some life to this reboot. I definitely didn’t hate this film. It had solid action despite having some issues. I didn’t feel like this film knew what it wanted. Was it a sequel or a reboot? Either way if you are looking for some brainless fun, this film is worth checking out.

Official Premise: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska are working for the mysterious Charles Townsend, whose investigative agency has expanded internationally. The new Angels are among the world’s smartest, bravest, and most highly trained women all over the globe. Under the guidance of Bosley (Elizabeth Banks), the Angels have to protect a revolutionary technology from becoming weaponized. They will have to rely on each other as their assignment becomes increasingly treacherous and even those closest to them can no longer be trusted.

The 1080p transfer on this Blu-ray is solid enough and definitely showcases the beautiful shooting locations in the film. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track also works well with the action and gives the film a large scale feeling. Personally though, the 4K Ultra HD release includes The IMAX® Enhanced 4K Ultra HD™️ edition features digitally remastered content presented with High Dynamic Range and DTS:X® audio for a more immersive at-home entertainment experience. So that would be the more preferred way to view this film.

The specials included are decent and worth checking out if you enjoyed the film. There is a pretty funny Gag Reel with never-seen-before bloopers that show this must have been a fun shoot. There are five deleted scenes included as well as the music video for “Don’t Call Me Angel” featuring Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus & Lana Del Rey, which was made for the movie itself. Fun song and definitely a great collection of talent here.

Lastly there are four behind-the-scenes featurettes included. The first “Stronger Together: The Sisterhood of the Angels” features the Angels and how they got into their roles. “Elizabeth Banks: As BOSSley” features Banks discussing not only acting in the film but also writing, producing and directing. “Warriors on Set: Angels in Action” focuses on the biggest action scenes from the film including stunt rehearsals with the cast. And the last one “Tailored for Danger: Styling the Angels” focuses on the costumes, hair and make-up. Overall solid features.

Film Review: “The Way Back”

THE WAY BACK
Starring: Ben Affleck, Janina Gavankar
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hr 48 mins
Warner Bros. 

Having its release date delayed several months was not a good sign for the new sports drama “The Way Back” starring Ben Affleck. However, instead of just being another piece of cinematic rubbish that is typically released at the beginning of each year, “The Way Back” proves to be one of the greatest cinematic surprises in recent memory. With one of Affleck’s finest performances to date, this sports drama about an alcoholic who becomes a high school basketball coach ranks among the pantheon of such classics as “Hoosiers” and “Bull Durham.”

 The life of construction worker Jack Cunningham (Affleck) has boiled down to this: wake up and have a beer while showering; drive to work while having another beer; work all day while drinking some more; drive back home while drinking; and then either drink a case of beer in his run-down apartment or drink himself into a stupor at a local bar. It’s a tragic life as he is clearly on a path to drinking himself to death. 

One day, Jack receives a coaching offer from the priest who oversees his alma mater – a private Catholic school that is experiencing some hard times thanks to diminishing enrollment. We learn that once upon a time, Jack was a high school basketball phenom and was recruited by NCAA Division I programs. However, Jack walked away from basketball after high school and never looked back. 

Reluctantly, Jack takes on the role, but he soon discovers that his team is less than stellar and his assistant coach (Al Madrigal, “The Daily Show”) is a math teacher with no real experience. There are some predictable things that subsequently occur, but for the most part, the story evolves beyond general sports clichés, which typically dominate this subgenre, and deals with real life issues, thus giving “The Way Back” substance over style. 

Whether he likes it or not, Jack becomes a mentor to his players, particularly so for the team’s lone standout. Yet his newfound lease on life is shaky at best because of the underlying issues that remain, which are brought to the forefront again when his estranged wife, Angela (Janina Gavankar, “True Blood”) reaches out to him. Inevitably, Jack hits rock bottom in a painful and sad way. 

Once upon a time, yours truly was offered a position as a basketball coach at a private high school. Strictly basketball speaking, Affleck nails the evolution of Jack’s growth as a rookie coach and as a mentor to young men, notwithstanding his profane tirades. Director Gavin O’Connor (“The Accountant”) also brilliantly captures the atmosphere of the little gymnasiums that these schools play in as well as bringing an authenticity to the depiction of games played. 

Affleck has been open about his own battle with alcoholism in recent years and it is easy to see that he gave everything he had to the role. As the lone “star” of the film, Affleck lives up to the challenge with a fantastic performance as a man in great pain that is raw and authentic. In the end, like a Steph Curry jump shot, “The Way Back” is nothing but net.

Film Review: “Ordinary Love”

ORDINARY LOVE
Starring: Liam Neeson, Lesley Manville
Directed by: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hr 32 mins
Bleecker Street Media 

Nearly everyone has been affected by cancer in some way. Whether you have had to battle it yourself or had a family member, friend or acquaintance to be diagnosed with it, cancer, as we all know too well, is non-discriminatory as to who it invades. In the somber British drama “Ordinary Love,” this hideous disease inflicts a toll on the relationship of a devoted married couple still haunted by a tragic loss. The ups and downs they experience during one long year are portrayed with absolute brilliance and humanity by Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”). 

By the time we meet Tom (Neeson) and Joan (Manville), their relationship has developed into one that feels like putting on a comfortable pair of slippers. There is a tangible ease about how they interact with each other, punctuated by wonderful chemistry between the two leads. Initially, they have all the appearances of carefree empty nesters enjoying the autumn period of their lives. However, when Joan discovers a lump in her breast, we learn that underneath the pleasant exterior of their marriage is a scar that runs deep in their souls.

 Somehow, their marriage endured the death of their daughter long ago, but cancer threatens to put them through an altogether different ordeal. Despite trying to maintain a stiff upper lip about her diagnosis, Joan is racked with fear of the unknown while Tom swims in denial while trying to do his best to be supportive. What unfolds over the course of a year are challenges they meet with a variety of emotions, ranging from gut-wrenching despair to laughter to anger born from frustration. Through it all there is a grace which carries them through. 

“Ordinary Love,” which had its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, is a serious work of cinematic art that will leave its mark on you. It is raw and unfiltered. Neeson and Manville are terrific at making us feel the painful intensity of their characters’ emotions. For her part, Manville, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in 2017’s “Phantom Thread,” delivers a gut-wrenching performance as a woman trying to endure a disease that takes its toll on the mind, body and spirit. 

The film’s brevity, at just over an hour-and-a-half, means less time the story can explore the medical/hospital elements of Joan’s cancer. As such, these moments seem rushed and too abbreviated, thus lessening how truly impactful “Ordinary Love” could have been. Some elements are also predictable, yet this can be overlooked as a negative because of the overall emotional potency within the film. “Ordinary Love” is certainly not ordinary and will hit close to home for anyone who has been touched by cancer. 

Film Review: “Onward”

ONWARD
Starring the voices of:  Tom Holland and Chris Pratt
Directed by: Dan Scanlon
Rated:  PG
Running time:  1 hr 42 mins
Walt Disney

Fathers and sons.  As a father (and a son) I can tell you there is nothing like the bond shared between the two.  Films dealing with this special relationship have been around since time immortal.  From “The Godfather” to “The Lion King,”… from “Field of Dreams” to “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” the celebration of that bond is timeless.  So, if you had only 24 hours to discover that bond, wouldn’t you do ANYTHING to achieve it?

Ian Lightfoot (Holland) is turning 16 but he doesn’t seem to pleased.  His mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) wants him to invite his friends over for a party but, with the exception of a few of his classmates, he really doesn’t have any.  Ian lives with his mom and his older brother, Barley (Pratt).  Ian’s father passed away before Ian was born and today, to honor his pop, Ian is wearing his dad’s favorite college sweatshirt.  A random meeting with a former classmate of his dad gives Ian a new insight into him.  To make things even more exciting, his mother gives Ian a present that dad intended to give him on this special day.  It seems that dad was a fan of wizardry and has bequeathed Ian his staff.  He has also given him a spell that will allow Ian to bring his father back for one day.  A day that Ian will remember forever.

I’ll have to admit that I went into this film not expecting much.  Obviously, as it was from PIXAR, I knew that visually it would be amazing (and I was right) but from the previews I didn’t think the story would hold my attention.  WRONG!  Helped by the strong vocal performances from the cast, “Onward” is a fine addition to the proud line up of films the company has produced.  It hits all of the emotional notes and, if you’ve ever been a child who longed for a few extra moments alone with your dad, it brings tears to your eyes.

Like most animated films these days, the cast is top notch.  Holland brings his youthful exuberance to the role while Pratt is all blustery bravado.  Both actors inhabit their characters.  Louis-Dreyfuss, Octavia Spencer and the rest of the cast do likewise.  Visually, the film is gorgeous.  Brightly colored and stunningly rendered, this is a film that can stand proudly next to such recent fare as “Toy Story 4” and “UP” as a can’t miss hit for the entire family to enjoy!

Blu-ray Review “Parasite”

Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun, Jang Hye-jin
Distributed by: CJ Entertainment
Running time: 132 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
A/V: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

Director Bong Joon Ho has been on my radar since “The Host”, and “Snowpiercer”. Two amazing movies that the average viewers have never seen but hopefully that will change now. “Parasite” made history as the first Korean film to be nominated for an Oscar®. The film received six Oscar® nominations and ended up winning not only Best International Film but also Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay. This film is definitely the underdog and deserved everything it got. It is a very unique and original film and I am glad to see it get the attention it deserves.

Featuring incredible must-see performances from the entire cast including Song Kang Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host), Lee Sun Kyun (A Hard Day, Paju), Cho Yeo Jeong (The Servant, Obsessed), Choi Woo Shik (Okja, Train to Busan), Park So Dam (The Priests, The Silenced), Lee Jung Eun (Okja, The Wailing) and Chang Hyae Jin (Marine Boy, If It Snows on Christmas). Everyone in this cast does an amazing job. I am huge fan of Song Kang Ho and I am glad to see him back with director Bong Joon Ho. I would definitely call this film an ensemble cast. Literally outstanding.

Official Premise: In PARASITE, meet the Park family, the picture of aspirational wealth and the Kim family, rich in street smarts but not much else. Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kim’s sense a golden opportunity. Masterminded by college-aged Ki-woo, the Kim children expediently install themselves as tutor and art therapist to the Parks. Soon, a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families. The Kims provide “indispensable” luxury services while the Parks obliviously bankroll their entire household. When a parasitic interloper threatens the Kims’ newfound comfort, a savage, underhanded battle for dominance breaks out, threatening to destroy the fragile ecosystem between the Kims and the Parks.

Technically this release is amazing. The 1080p transfer is gorgeous. The colors are simply gorgeous. According to IMDB, this film was shot at a resolution of 6.5K and finished at 4K and then downscaled to 1080p. But simply, this film just looks beautiful. The Korean language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is the only audio option on the disc. There is no dub track only English subtitles are included. This is the way to watch the film anyway. I wouldn’t want to see this dubbed. The score works well with this track also. It is just simply perfect. Overall, in terms of technical merits this release deserves a big major thumbs up!

Despite the amazing A/V on this release, personally I am a bit disappointed in the Blu-ray release for “Parasite”, I feel like it was rushed to release. It also didn’t get a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release, which is a bit sad. With the way this film was shot it would be amazing in 4K. It is though available to stream in 4K Ultra HD if that is your thing, just not on disc. Also the special features aren’t very special. There is only one extra included on this Blu-ray disc, which is a Q&A with Director Bong Joon Ho. It is worth watching if you enjoyed the film but I was really hoping for more. I don’t think anyone expected this film to do what it did. Hopefully there will be a re-release of this film in 4K Ultra HD in a nice steelbook release in the future.

Film Review: “The Invisible Man”

THE INVISIBLE MAN
Starring:  Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen
Directed by: Leigh Whannell
Rated:  R
Running time:  2 hrs 4 mins
Universal

There’s a great joke I first heard in the eighth grade that deals with a mishap involving Superman, Wonder Woman and the Invisible Man.  I can’t relate it hear but believe me, the punchline is killer.  So is the latest incarnation of the Invisible Man.

We open on a couple in bed.  As Adrian (Jackson-Cohen) sleeps, Cecilia (Moss) gets up, gathers some things and makes her way quietly out of the state of the art house.  Doing her best to avoid cameras and not set off alarms, she makes her way to the road, where a ride is waiting.  But she will soon find out that you can’t run away from some things, no matter how hard you try.

Genuinely terrifying, with a tour-de-force performance by Ms. Moss, “The Invisible Man” starts off slowly and clumsy.  20-minutes in I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to see a rehash of “Sleeping with the Enemy,” only with a Patrick Bergin that I couldn’t see.  But just as that thought came into my head, writer/director Whannell flipped the switch, taking the film into directions I never would have imagined.

There have been many attempts at filming H.G. Wells’ story of a man with the power of invisibility, from the 1933 Universal Horror Classic “The Invisible Man” starring Claude Rains to the 2000 Kevin Bacon-starrer “Hollow Man.”  Heck, even Kurt Russell and Chevy Chase have taken comedic shots at the story.  But here, the main theme is terror, especially to an audience who is on the edge of their seats, intently staring at the screen and looking for the slightest hint the bad guy is there.

Moss is a revelation here.  Best known for her television and streaming work (“Mad Men,” “The Handmaids Tale”) and a strong supporting turn in last year’s Jordan Peele horror masterpiece, “Us,” she has the unenviable job of basically interacting with a character that the audience never sees.  Whether arguing, pleading or physically fighting with our villain, it’s just her on the screen, yet you feel her terror, especially when she is violently struggling with an entity that she (nor the audience) can see.  Mr. Whannell, no stranger to horror thanks to his involvement in the “Saw” and “Insidious” film series, keeps the pace moving (after the first half-hour) and uses his camera as an almost additional character.  The musical score, by Benjamin Wallfisch (“IT,” “Bladerunner: 2049), helps set the mood as well.  The result is the most terrifying film since the aforementioned “Us.”  By all means, go see it…even if you can’t SEE it!

Theatre Review “Mean Girls” @ Dr. Phillips Center – Orlando, FL

“Mean Girls” is a musical based on the 2004 movie that was written by Tina Fey. The musical premiered in Washington, D.C. in October 2017 and opened on Broadway in April 2018. If you are thinking “Seriously they made a musical for Mean Girls?”, this show has no shortage of talent from the award-winning creative team, including Tina Fey (30 Rock), composer Jeff Richmond (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), lyricist Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde) and director Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon). This show is packed with energy and devilish humor that will leave you howling.

From upbeat anthems like “Apex Predator” and “I See Stars” to the songs that show the difficult side of being a female like “What’s Wrong With Me,” the music never stopped. The female leads in the show, especially Mary Kate Morrissey (Janis), Danielle Wade (Cady), and Mariah Rose Faith (Regina George), all had unique singing voices that were nothing short of impressive. In addition, the show decided to use digital screens for quick set changes which led to seamless transitions when changing from classroom to classroom and location to location in the middle of a song. The comedic timing in the show, especially by Karen – played by Jonalyn Saxer, kept you laughing throughout the entire show. There was even a scene with the Lion mascot that had the audience laughing so hard some were in tears. Overall, the show captured the life of a teenage girl in a way that had you sympathizing, laughing, and swaying along to the amazing music.

Official Premise: Cady Heron may have grown up on an African savanna, but nothing prepared her for the vicious ways of her strange new home: suburban Illinois. Soon, this naïve newbie falls prey to a trio of lionized frenemies led by the charming but ruthless Regina George. But when Cady devises a plan to end Regina’s reign, she learns the hard way that you can’t cross a Queen Bee without getting stung.

The show is playing at the Walt Disney theater from February 25–March 1, 2020. If you are able to get tickets, this is a show that is not to be missed. Overall this musical is just plain fun. You find yourself smiling and laughing till it hurts. Due to the success of the musical production it was recently announced that a film adaptation of the musical was being produced. So expect more of “Mean Girls” in the coming years!

Film Review: “Emma”

EMMA
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn
Directed by: Autumn de Wilde
Rated: Rated PG
Running Time: 2 hrs 5 mins
Focus Features 

Patience is a virtue and you must be virtuous indeed to eventually enjoy the newest adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 classic novel, “Emma.” This is due to its initial pacing, which is lethargic, and it takes a bit to get comfortable with the cadence of the dialogue. Anya Taylor-Joy (“Glass,” “Split”) delivers a solid performance as the strong-willed title character, but excepting Bill Nighy as her character’s somewhat eccentric father, the remaining supporting cast doesn’t provide much that is memorable. Some of the blasé quality can arguably be attributed to “Emma” being the feature-length film debut for American director Autumn de Wilde, whose previous endeavors have predominately been video shorts. The trick for something so well known, and thus predictable like “Emma” is for it to be unpredictable. Sadly, it fails to surprise in any way. 

This silver screen adaptation of Austen’s work begins by telling us that, “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition… and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.” Having grown up in a privileged, aristocratic existence, Emma is spoiled and is vain about her matchmaking abilities. Her own self-aggrandizement has caused her to be blind to the dangers of playing with other people’s hearts. 

With no wish to become married herself, even though she pines away for an often talked about yet unseen Frank Churchill (Callum Turner, “War & Peace”), it has become Emma’s desire to follow-up her most recent matchmaking success by finding a suitable suitor for her friend, Harriet Smith (Mia Goth, “Suspiria”). Harriet is a nice girl with a pleasant disposition but is not as high on the social ladder as Emma, which is a challenge for her because she wants to upgrade Harriet’s status.

 Emma proves to be ignorant of a good thing right in front of her in the form of one George Knightley (Johnny Flynn, “Clouds of Sils Maria”), a gentleman of means who lives within walking distance. Generous and kind-hearted, George doesn’t mince words with Emma as he often expresses disdain for her meddling in other people’s affairs. Ultimately, Emma finds herself in an ostracized position and must look inward in order to make things right.

 “Emma” contains some beautiful costume designs, wonderful locations, and good cinematography throughout its running time. It’s nice icing on the cake, but the cake itself is what’s truly important. There are a few moments that produce laughter, especially ones involving Nighy being a scene stealer, but de Wilde’s retelling fails to pull on the heartstrings enough to evoke a deep, emotional reaction when the climax arrives. It’s a decent enough film so that one doesn’t feel like they have wasted two hours of their life, yet “Emma” isn’t something that’s so impactful that you will still remember it say two years from now except, of course, for perhaps diehard Austen fans.