Wednesday, December 24, 2014

INTO THE WOODS (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Rob Marshall, John DeLuca, 
Marc Platt, Callum McDougall
Screenplay by James Lapine
Based on Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim, James Lapine
Directed by Rob Marshall
Starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, 
Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, 
Christine Baranski, Johnny Depp


This production was perfect to me.

Some musical productions don't translate well to film but Into the Woods is actually memorizing on the big screen.

Centering around a childless baker and his wife, Into the Woods intertwines several familiar fairy tales stories (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel) as the main characters scramble to find ingredients for a potion that will lift a witch's curse of infertility. Charming and hilarious we follow each character through mishaps and songs as shenanigans ensue.

Hilarious and witty, the entire cast is lovely and on point.

UNBROKEN (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson


Produced by Matthew Baer, Angelina Jolie, 
Erwin Stoff, Clayton Townsend
Screenplay by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, 
Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson
Based on Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Directed by Angelina Jolie
Starring Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, 
Miyavi, Garrett Hedlund, Finn Wittrock, 
Jai Courtney, Luke Treadaway


My severe disappointment in Unbroken makes my heart hurt. I am a big Angelina Jolie fan, but her newest production was just a painful experience.

Based on the amazing heroics of Louis Zamperini, an Olympian turned prisoner of war, Unbroken goes through his entire, painful experience as a prisoner of war.

Adrift at sea for 47 days, captured by the Japanese and tortured for years, Louis never breaks. Now the story is unbelievable and his endurance is much to be admired--an understatement of his strength--but Jolie's rendition of his life in this film traps it in a giant cliche.

Sappy and incredibly redundant. Louis gets beaten, he prevails.

He gets beaten, he prevails.

He gets beaten, he prevails.

He gets...And that's the entire film.

BIG EYES (review)

Review by Clay N Ferno
Produced by Tim Burton, Scott Alexander, 
Larry Karaszewski, Lynette Howell
Written by Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz,
 Danny Huston, Jon Polito, Krysten Ritter, 
Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp


Set in the sixties, Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, is based on the life of artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) and her shyster husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz). This is a sidestep from Burton’s previous work while still maintaining some of his signature weirdness. Supporting cast includes Jason Schwartzman, Krysten Ritter, Terence Stamp, Danny Huston and a host of others.

The title comes from Margaret’s ‘waif’ paintings, you’ve seen these and knockoffs for years, perhaps in your grandma’s sitting room.

The unfortunates look sad and look through you, and Big Eyes means to set the record straight about who is behind the brush.

BARBARELLA (graphic novel review)

Review by Benn Robbins
Written and Drawn by Jean-Claude Forest
Adapted to English by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Published by Humanoids Press
12” x 16”, Bicolor
Deluxe oversized Hardcover Coffee Table Book
Limited to 1200 copies only
SRP $79.95


              





I was first introduced to the titillating world of Barbarella via the 1968 Roger Vadim directed b-movie starring the curvy and intoxicating Jane Fonda.

From the opening title sequence to the end battle this film mesmerized me like no other. The costumes, the set design the ships and the weapons. They all fascinated my young impressionable mind and started me on a course to the wonders of cheesecake.


I was 7 years old.

Little did I know, at the time, that Barbarella was based on something even more enchanting and equally, if not even more tantalizing.

VANDROID (graphic novel review)

Review by Atlee Greene
Writer: Tommy Lee Edwards & Noah Smith
Artist: Dan McQuaid
Colorist: Melissa Edwards
Lettering: John Workman
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $17.99



I didn’t know what to expect when Vandroid was placed into my lap.

On the surface, it looks like a cheesy, direct-to-home video movie from the 80’s. However, upon examining the pages of this brash and colorful adventure, I soon realized that this is indeed a B-movie from the 80’s filled with all of the over-the-top, high-octane action, cheesy one-liners and totally rad characters.

Let me explain.

In 1984, a movie studio called Palm Springs Entertainment started production on a movie called Vandroid.


A fire destroyed the studio and permanently halted production on the film.

As luck would have it, the script survived and the creative team comprised of Tommy Lee Edwards, Noah Smith, Dan McDaid, Melissa Edwards, John Workman and Nic Nicola bring this tale to life through the pages of Dark Horse Comics

SHE MAKES COMICS (review)

Review by Clay N Ferno
Produced by Karen Green, Patrick Meaney, 
Jordan Rennert, and Marisa Stotter
Executive Produced by, Julian Darius and Mike Phillips
Directed by Marisa Stotter
Starring Ramona Fradon, Trina Robbins, Karen Berger,
Joyce Farmer, Karen Berger, Kelly Sue DeConnick, 
Becky Cloonan, Wendy and Richard Pini, 
Jenette Kahn, Marie Severin, Paul Levitz

She Makes Comics is the latest film by the Sequart Organization funded by Kickstarter and available for sale and digital download for comics fans of any gender.

Marisa Stotter directs this documentary produced in association with Respect! Films that delves into the history, present and future of female fandom, lady creators and what it means to be a fan of comics today. A true celebration of the medium, She Makes Comics puts the spotlight on key contributors, editors and cosplayers to encourage young girls and women to embrace what they love.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

That Time of The Week: DVD/Blu-ray Reviews For The End of 2014


Welcome to the last DVD/Blu-ray column for 2014.

This time out we've got some fantastic films including some catalog titles, some television and several must see films.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.  Now. fire up that queue and prep that shopping cart.


This is Where I Leave You

Warner Bros / Released 12/16/14

When their father passes away, four grown siblings (Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll), bruised and banged up by their respective adult lives, are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother (Jane Fonda) and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and the frayed states of their relationships among the people who know and love them best, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide—driving us insane even as they remind us of our truest, and often best, selves. Extras include commentary, featurettes, deleted and extended scenes.

Last Word:  Ensemble films are tricky business, and those set around a family are particularly delicate when it comes to casting.  We as an audience need to believe that not only are these actors related, but also believe in the verisimilitude of their dynamics.  This is Where I Leave You might not have an ensemble that looks like they shared the same womb, but they certainly make themselves believable.  Unfortunately, the movie itself never lets these characters do much else, which is a shame since the ensemble (which also includes Kathryn Hahn, Rose Byrne, Timothy Olyphant, Connie Britton,  Ben Schwartz and Debra Monk) is wasted with an underwritten emotional base.  This is Where I Leave You is light and enjoyable, which in some ways belittles the actual plot of a dysfunctional family being forced to sit Shiva together.  Recommended, but ultimately forgettable.


Magic in the Moonlight

Sony / Released 12/16/14

Acclaimed magician Stanley Crawford (Academy Award Winner Colin Firth) dazzles his audiences with feats of supernatural amazement. But when it comes to the inexplicable, Stanley is a dedicated skeptic. Enter Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), psychic, soothsayer, and stunning seductress. As Stanley and Sophie embark on misadventures up and down the French Riviera, will they discover proof of a world beyond the laws of physics or have they fallen under the sway of a more earthly chemistry? Woody Allen pulls the strings with precision in this enchanting romantic comedy that explores the realm between what's understood in our minds and what's known in our hearts. Extras include featurettes.

Last Word: Magic in the Moonlight is a romantic comedy with Woody Allen’s telltale wit that harkens back to his The Purple Rose of Cairo. Allen seems to have a love and affinity for Old Hollywood and it shows.Magic in the Moonlight takes place during the roaring 20’s on the stylish French Riviera. Colin Firth plays Stanley Crawford, an arrogant, aristocratic Englishman who who is secretly Wei Ling Soo, a famous, Chinese magician.

As a master of illusion, Stanley sees no real magic in the world. He believes in only cold, pure logic. To him, magic is all tricks and slight of hand. And he revels in exposes psychic and mediums as being fakes. So when his long-time friend and fellow magician, Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney), ask for his help in exposing Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), an American psychic that is plaguing a wealth family, Stanley jumps at the chance to expose her.At first Stanley is completely dismissive of Sophie.

He finds her beneath him. Being neither well-educated nor having any breeding, he sees no way she could compete with him. He declares that he will be able to debunk her in no time. However, as time goes Stanley comes no closer to exposing Sophie as a fake. On the contrary, she is able to delve into Stanley’s past through her “mental images”, tuning into personal information she could have not possible way of knowing.

Against his better judgement, Stanley begins to believe that Sophie may be the genuine article, causing him to reevaluate the way he looks at life and the world around him. His new view shines a different light on Sophie herself. Stanley begins to see a magic there between them as well.

Firth is perfectly cast as the stiff Englishman. He blusters through each scene, always confident that he knows more than anyone else in the room. Emma Stone does her best to act as a quick-witted, American foil to Firth’s stuffy, proper aristocrat but mostly seems out of her depth. She’s not bad, she’s just not as good as the rest of the cast around her. She is surrounded by actors and actress that have won Oscars and or have been appointed CBE by the Queen. In this company, one can’t fault her for looking a little out of place as the girl hired to be the pretty face. Dame Eileen Atkins  plays the wonderfully spirited, wealthy Aunt that we all wish we had. Oscar winner, Marcia Gay Harden takes a turn as Sophie’s eye-on-the-prize mother, and Jacki Weaver is lovable as the widow who just wants the comfort of hearing again from her deceased husband. Their delivery of Allen’s dialogue is vintage Woody Allen.

Woody Allen loves this time era. His attention to detail goes beyond costumes and sets. His collaboration with cinematographer Darius Khondji gets the film of the time right. From the framing of the shots to the lighting of the characters to the coloring of the film, Magic in the Moonlight feels like a film of Old Hollywood. (– Elizabeth Robbins)


The Skeleton Twins

Lionsgate / Released 12/16/14

When estranged twins Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) feel they're at the end of their ropes, an unexpected reunion forces them to confront why their lives went so wrong. With an irresistible mix of humor and heart and a stellar supporting cast including Luke Wilson and Ty Burrell, The Skeleton Twins follows Maggie and Milo's unforgettable journey to reconnect, as they realize that the key to fixing their lives may just lie in repairing their relationship. Extras include commentary, featurettes, gag reel, outtakes and deleted scenes.

Last Word: The Skeleton Twins quietly became one of my favorite films of the year.  Years of working together on Saturday Night Live certainly informed the chemistry of Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as two suicidal, estranged twins who reconnect unexpectedly.  Both of the characters are survivors; neither coming to terms with their father's suicide, their poor relationship with their emotionally distant mother and their own damaged histories.  And despite their relationships with other people (Luke Wilson plays Maggie's husband, Lance and Ty Burrell plays Milo's former English teacher, Rich), the film does an excellent job conveying their own complicated histories both as individuals and as family.  Both characters are tremendously flawed people, but by the end of the film, it's pretty had to be rooting for them.  Highly recommended.