Category Archives: Pop Culture

Good Vibrations

Paul Dano, John Cusack share role of Beach Boy Brian Wilson

LM_00304.CR2

Love & Mercy

Starring Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks & Paul Giamatti

Directed by Bill Pohlad

PG-13

The Beach Boys and their songs about surf, sand, hot rods and girls represented West Coast light, life, fun and frolic in the 1960s. But the story “behind the music” had darker undertones, especially when it came to the group’s leader, Brian Wilson.

This trippy, time-tunnel dramatization of Wilson’s troubled, tortured musical genius bridges two different eras, 20 years apart, with powerful performances and mesmerizing filmmaking that recreates pivotal Beach Boys moments along with other, lesser-known incidents in Wilson’s life long after the group’s heyday.

LM_03545.CR2

Paul Dano as ’60s-era Brian Wilson.

The movie’s most striking feature is its use of two different actors to portray its central character. As younger Brain, Paul Dano is nothing short of phenomenal in an Oscar-worthy performance that captures and channels the drive, innocence, obsession and brilliance that coalesced into the 1960s Beach Boys album Pet Sounds.

The movie toggles back and forth between Dano’s Brian and “later” Brian, movingly played by John Cusack as a shattered shell of man in the mid 1980s, imprisoned in a toxic relationship with a greedy, manipulative therapist (Paul Giamatti) who over-medicates him into a stupor and bars him from contact with his family.

LOVEANDMERCY081431647886

Elizabeth Banks and John Cusack

Elizabeth Banks is terrific as titanium blonde Melinda Ledbetter, the Cadillac saleswoman who comes into Wilson’s life in 1985, falls in love with him—and leads the charge for his deliverance.

The movie takes its title from a 1988 solo song by Wilson, and if you want to hear it, you’ll need to stay through the credits. It’s well worth the wait.

Although the relationship between Brian and Melinda puts much of the dramatic spotlight on Cusack, Banks and Giamatti, it’s Dano who steals the show. Composing songs at a piano, singing on stage, tinkering in the studio or simply feeling his head swell with a symphony of swirling music that only he can hear (kudos to Oscar-winning composer Atticus Ross for his mood-perfect soundscapes), he conveys the sophisticated scope of Wilson’s prodigious talents, the heartbreak of his tumultuous relationship with his abusive father (Bill Camp) and the fissures that would later lead to full-blown mental and physical breakdowns.

“Who are you, Mozart?” Mike Love (Jake Abel) of the group asks Wilson as he seethes over Wilson taking more and more creative control—and leaving the rest of the Beach Boys on the sidelines. “It’s like you’re making your own record—we’re barely a part of the Brian Wilson band.”

LM_02573.CR2

Beach Boys fans will love director Bill Pohlad’s almost documentary-style recreation of the group’s early promotional videos, album-cover photo shoots and TV performances. Sequences that depict Wilson in the recording studio, working with session players and band mates on what would become the 1966 pop-opus masterpiece Pet Sounds, feel like stolen, behind-the-scenes glimpses of the real thing.

But even more casual viewers will be touched by the romance at the heart of the tale, riveted by the acting, retro-grooved by the tunes, and entranced by the opportunity to learn more about a wounded pop-music Mozart who finally, fatefully found the Love & Mercy that healed him.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Building a Badder Dinosaur

‘Jurassic World’ takes a big new bite out of the classic franchise

2424_FTT_00426AR_CROP.JPG_cmyk

Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Nick Robinson & Ty Simpkins

Jurassic World

Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and Vincent D’Onofrio

Directed by Colin Trevarrow

PG-13

The ingredients to a new dinosaur movie are a lot the ones for a new dinosaur: Bigger, louder and more teeth.

It’s been 22 years since director Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, which broke new ground in computer-generated special effects and left audiences gasping for air with its romping, stomping tale of bio-engineered prehistoric creatures running amok. But after two sequels, the Jurassic franchise lost much of its roar—and its box-office bite. Audiences were no longer gaga for lifelike, big-screen dinosaurs.

In Jurassic World, the owners and operators of a sprawling new “living dinosaur” theme park, re-established after the downfall of the original facility, are faced with the same problem. “No one’s impressed by a dinosaur anymore,” says Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the corporate operations manager. Visitors are still coming—up to 20,000 a day—but teenagers barely look up from their smartphones at a stegosaurus, investors are clamoring for greater return on their dollars, and sponsors want something with more wow and pow.

What to do? Create a bigger, badder dinosaur. Meet Indominus Rex, cooked up in Jurassic World’s lab from a monstrous mixture of dino-DNA super-traits. It’s nastier, angrier and more nightmare-inducing than any other creature, even the park’s venerable T. Rex.

What could possibly go wrong?2424_SB_00075NBR

Steven Spielberg is executive producer this time around, but newcomer director Colin Trevarrow loads his film with clever and nostalgic throwbacks to him and his craft, from specific camera shots to an original Jurassic Park t-shirt (one character’s EBay find) and a holographic depiction of a dinosaur that had a memorable small role back in 1993. When several characters come across a decrepit building that was once part of the old park, it looks like they’re strolling through the franchise’s long-abandoned prop room.

2424_SB_00033R_2

Chris Pratt plays a dinosaur trainer working with wily, lethally dangerous raptors.

As Owen, a dinosaur trainer working with a group of wily, dangerous raptors, Chris Pratt is quick with a quip—even when faced with serious, life-and-death situations. Vincent D’Onofrio plays a contractor who wants to use the raptors for military purposes. “These guys’ll run straight into the enemy’s teeth and eat them, belt buckle and all,” he says.

To further stir the perfect storm, two young brothers (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) are visiting the park, sent by their parents for a weekend-adventure getaway. Guess who gets way more adventure than they ever dreamed?

The movie’s underlying theme of modern man’s hubristic drive to control—and commercialize—nature’s ancient, primal power never gets in the way of its full-throttle fun and its cavalcade of chills, thrills, stupendous state-of-the-art special effects and even outright grins and giddy giggles. Jurassic World isn’t quite the revelation that its granddaddy was, some two decades ago. But for pure summer popcorn wow-and-pow dollars, you certainly won’t find much anything bigger, louder or with more teeth.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Ghost in the Machine

Online, anyone can stream your scream

Cybernatural

Unfriended

Starring Shelley Henning, Heather Sossaman, Matthew Bohrer, Courtney Halverson, Moses Jacob Storm & Renee Olstead

Directed by Levan Gabriadze

R

Hackers, spammers, scammers, trolls and identity thieves can make going online pretty scary, right?

You’ll have even more reasons to fear clicking and scrolling when you watch this freaky-fresh take on a classic horror-movie standby—teenagers in peril—seen entirely through the perspective of a character’s laptop computer screen.

In Unfriended (originally titled Cybernatural), a group of high school friends having an online chat notices an anonymous, lurking intruder on their call. Ominously, it’s on the anniversary of the suicide of Laura Barnes, one of their classmates, who took her life after being victimized by cyber bullying. Then weird things start to happen: The friends can’t boot the lurker off the line; other web5713_FPT2_00024 pages malfunction; unsettling messages begin coming in—and they say they’re from Laura.

“Something srysly wrong,” types one of the chatters. Indeed it is, and it’s about to get much wrong-er…srysly.

Director Levan Gabriadze takes what might have been a gimmick—the computer-screen format—and totally makes it work. We see everything as the character of Blaire (Shelley Henning, Malia on TV’s Teen Wolf) sees it, does it and experiences it. We watch as she moves her cursor around the web—Skype, Facebook, Google, Gmail, Spotify. We follow each click as she types, enters a command or searches frantically for answers. We read, as she reads, messages as they come in, often bearing hair-raising news. We watch, as she watches, terror contort her friends’ faces—and her own—in the windows of her screen.

Computer viruses never seemed so dangerous; a hovering cursor over a link can be a thing of wrenching suspense; that spinning “beach ball” icon becomes not just maddening, but positively malevolent.

Can their late classmate really be taunting them, and haunting them, from beyond the grave? What role did each of them play in her death? What other terrible secrets might be buried—online or elsewhere—just waiting to be brought to light?

5713_FPT2_00101_000123_COMP cropWhen things turn nasty—and they do—the gore is seen as either on a terrifying, in-and-out, glitch-y pixelated webcam connection, or via attachments that the teens have opened to view. The audience, like Blaire, never knows what’s going to pop up on the screen. Our eyes, like hers, are glued.

It’s a nifty-nightmare premise for an online-saturated culture, so much so it’s a wonder someone hasn’t done it already. It taps into several themes—the illusion of online privacy; the “permanence” of online content; the compliance of everyone who creates, uploads, downloads or even views material on the web; the evils of cyber-bulling; how social media has supplanted so many other former means of communication, information and interaction.

Unfriended delivers some truly unsettling jolts with a minimum of effects and what was surely a micro-fraction of the budget of much bigger, bloodier, more bloated horror flicks. Once you see it, you might not stare into your computer screen so casually—or comfortably—again.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Need For Speed

A masterful cavalcade of carefully orchestrated vehicular mayhem

2431_SB_00003R

Furious 7

Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker & Jason Stratham

Directed by James Wan

PG-13

Fast cars and stunt driving have always been Hollywood staples, but nothing raised need-for-speed thrills to the level of pop-art success like the Fast and Furious franchise, which began almost 15 years ago, spawned six sequels and became a $2 billion-plus property—one of the most lucrative ever—for Universal Studios.

Now, in the seventh installment, Vin Diesel and his virtually indestructible crew of pedal-slammers reunite to save the world from more devious dudes, including a super-bad Brit (Jason Statham) out to avenge the death of his brother from a previous movie. But the plot’s just so much air whizzing by from the dozens of vehicles that zoom, smash and sail across the screen. Don’t worry about following a storyline: Just sit back and marvel at the masterful cavalcade of carefully orchestrated vehicular mayhem, a dose of high-octane escapism ramped up to ridiculous, fantastical extremes.

Furious 7

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

In addition to Diesel (who’s also one of the franchise’s producers), the parade of gear-jamming, road-ripping all-stars includes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, rapper-turned-actor Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson, all of whom will be very familiar to anyone who buckled up for previous F&F joyrides. Kurt Russell comes aboard as a slick, mysterious quasi-governmental deep-cover operative, Mr. Nobody, who needs Diesel & crew’s help to put the brakes on an international criminal (Djimon Hounsou) who’s kidnapped a mastermind computer hacker (Nathalie Emmanual, who plays Missandei on TV’s Game of Thrones).

Director James Wan, the maestro of horror and suspense whose resume includes Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, creates some absolutely stupefying set pieces, jaw-dropping scenes of stunts and special effects. In one, cars drop from a cargo plane, parachute onto a winding mountain roadway and roar off to assault a heavily armored convoy, leading to a literal cliffhanger—then keep going! Another features the world’s most expensive car racing through—and I do mean through—the world’s tallest building.

And, as usual, the car scenes are broken up by equally impressive fight scenes, magnificent, crashing, smashing slam-o-ramas, choreographed to perfection and shot with inventive, topsy-turvy camera angles that bring you right along for the tosses and tumbles. Mixed martial arts fighting champ Ronda Rousey and Muai Thai warrior Tony Jaa both have bone-crunching cameos.

2431_TPI_00030R

Paul Walker

But for all the speed and spectacle, something else truly makes this one special for Fast and Furious fans—and that’s the final appearance of Paul Walker, one of the series’ top stars, who died (ironically) in a car crash in 2013 while it was still in production. Using footage already shot, digital effects and body doubles as stand-ins, the filmmakers were able to complete all the scenes—and amazingly, most viewers will likely never be able to spot any trickery.

Rather than simply a character, Walker’s role is a cornerstone of the entire movie, which actually becomes a eulogy and a tribute to him. At the end, as Vin Diesel’s character rides, literally, into the sunset and says farewell, literally, to his old friend, a montage of scenes from their previous movies plays. It’s not fast, and certainly not furious, and it may make your eyes misty, for just a sweet moment or two, from something other than gravel dust, exhaust fumes and the head-spinning speed at which the next sequel, number eight, is already being readied to head our way.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Back to the Future

Hot youth reunite in grim dystopia for part two of ‘Divergent’ trilogy

52069.cr2

Insurgent

Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Kate Winslet & Theo James

Directed by Robert Schwentke

PG-13

 

What’s in the box?

That’s the question that drives the plot of the second movie based on author Veronica Roth’s young-adult Divergent trilogy about love, loyalty, politics and identity in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Chicago.

40947.cr2

Shailene Woodley, Theo James & Ansel Elgort

Shalene Woodley returns as Tris, a “Divergent” who doesn’t fit into any of the dystopian society’s other rigidly prescribed factions based on personality and aptitude: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peacefulness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery) and Erudite (intelligence). As the movie opens, the subdivided system has fallen apart, insurrection has swept across the land, and the ruthless Erudite overlord (Kate Winslet) blames it all on rebel Divergents.

Peace, we’re told, can only be obtained by opening a rune-covered, boxed-up do-dad containing a secret message “from the founders” of the long-ago, walled-in society that that has ultimately disintegrated into chaos and ruin. And the only person who can open the box—through a series of grueling, simulated tests, or “sims,” that are like wiring into a life-or-death computer game—is a Divergent.

Winslet’s icy CEO/empress orders her minions to round up Divergents until she finds one who can pass—survive—all five sims, each based on one of the factions. What’s in the box, that drives her to coldly sacrifice others to obtain it? The search is futile…until they find Tris, the purest, most “divergent” of all the Divergents.

Some viewers have faulted the Divergent series as being too derivative of The Hunger Games, which—fair enough—also featured great-looking, well-coiffed, repressed young people in a grim future world, fighting each other, held against their will and railing against an unjust, repressive, totalitarian regime. But every franchise of anything has its fans, and Roth’s trio of novels—like The Hunger Games—will also be stretched into four films before it finally wraps up in 2017.

70613.cr2

Octavia Spencer

Insurgent, in addition to Woodley, finds several other young actors returning to their roles, including hunks Theo James, Ansel Elgort and the series’ true secret weapon, Miles Teller, who provides much-needed levity—and what little real surprise there is to be found in the thin storyline. Octavia Spencer and Naomi Watts are newly aboard, and their relatively seasoned maturity frequently gives them the air of grownups navigating a bustling high school hallway.

The plot is convoluted and confusing, moving at a gloopy glacial pace punctuated by spasms and spurts of running, chasing, shooting and scuffling. The special effects, when Tris is hooked up to the sims contraption, are bombastic, jarring blowouts that pummel, rather than dazzle, the senses. Some of the large interior scenes seem designed, propped, costumed and photographed less like pieces of a dystopian drama and more like a Broadway musical—I halfway expected someone to break into a song called “Beyond the Wall” or “United We Diverge.”

What’s in the box? Oh, that: The setup for two more movies!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Of Rags and Riches

New ‘Cinderella’ updates age-old fairytale with modern spectacle

CINDERELLA

Cinderella

Lily James, Cate Blanchett & Richard Madden

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

PG

Downton Abbey launched the acting career of Lily James as the rebellious young Lady Rose, a character who joined the show’s sizeable ensemble in 2012. Now, in her first major movie role, the 25-year-old actress steps outside the Downton manor and into the iconic glass slippers of the most famous rags-to-riches fairy tale of all time.

Actor-turned-director Kenneth Branagh’s lavish, live-action production of Cinderella hews closely to the once-upon-a-time basics of the centuries-old European folk tale, especially the version with which most modern-day viewers are most familiar, Walt Disney’s iconic theatrical cartoon of 1950. But Branagh fills the outlines of Disney’s animated characters with pounding human heartbeats, encourages robust performances from his fine, mostly all-British cast, and wraps it all up in a sumptuous package of colorful, to-die-for costumes, spectacular settings and lush cinematography.

This Cinderella is also built on a deep foundation of tenderness and forgiveness, an antidote to all the cruelty and unfairness that our Cinderella will ultimately face, and overcome. “You have more kindness in your little finger than most people possess in their whole body,” says her dying mother (Hayley Atwell) to the little girl, “Ella” (Eloise Webb), who will grow up to become the “ragged servant girl” eventually transformed—for one literally magical night—into the princess of all princesses.

CINDERELLA

Cate Blanchett (center), Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera

Lily James is as lovely as sunshine as the grown-up Cinderella, whose limitless optimism and kind-heartedness endures even after the arrival of her “evil” new stepmother (Kate Blanchett) and her two mean, dingbat daughters (Sophie McShera, also from Downton Abbey, and Holiday Granger).

You know the rest. But one of the coolest things about Branagh’s movie is how he makes this familiar tale feel so fresh, even though you know exactly where it’s going. He stages it like a full-scale period drama rather than a bedtime story, and there’s an epic splendor to everything—sweeping vistas of coastlines and oceans of the British Isles; vast, ornate castle interiors teeming with extras and activity; the lonely spaces of Cinderella’s attic quarters and kitchen.

CINDERELLA

Richard Madden

The ballroom sequence between Cinderella and the prince (Richard Madden from Game of Thrones) is magnificent; the transformation of the pumpkin into a glistening, golden carriage—courtesy of the fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter)—is a thing of whimsical wonder; the climactic, kingdom-wide search for the foot that perfectly fits the left-behind slipper has intrigue, humor, edge and suspense.

Both James and Madden find characters beyond—and beneath—their starry-eyed storybook romance, and Blanchett maintains a delicious, delicate balance of coldness and camp.

This grand new version of Cinderella may not make you believe in fairytales. But it might make you think, like Cinderella, that with enough “love, kindness and occasionally, a little bit of magic,” the world might, indeed, become a better place.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Super(cool) Spies

‘Kingsman’ makes other spy flicks look old, slow and tame

KSS-012_rgb

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson & Michael Caine

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

R

Move over, James Bond—or get blown off the road. Some new supercool spy guys—and gals—have just laid claim to the multiplex, and they make just about everything that came before them look old, slow, tame and even lazy.

Kingsman: The Secret Service, based on a 2012 Marvel Comics-distributed series, takes the spy game to wildly adventurous, dizzily fun-tastic new heights of both homage and spoofery. Colin Firth, the Oscar-winning British actor best known for his roles in dignified historical dramas (The Kings Speech; A Single Man; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) makes his smashing “action-lead” debut as Harry Hart, the top agent in this international intelligence agency of high-ranking, impeccably dressed, lethally trained gents organized in the mid-1850s as a latter-day Knights of the Round Table to “preserve peace and protect life.”

KSS_JB_D22_02210_rgb

Taron Egerton & Colin Firth

Newcomer Taron Egerton is “Eggsy” Unwin, the streetwise London lad whose fate leads him into the ranks of the Kingsman elite. And Samuel L. Jackson plays, well, basically Samuel L. Jackson, as an evil, lisp-y philanthropist billionaire whose altruistic façade hides a super-sinister plan of global domination.

Michael Caine is aboard as the Kingsmen’s top dog; Mark Strong has a key role as his senior officer; and Algerian-born dancer Sofia Boutella makes a memorable impression as the high-hopping villainess Gazelle, who slices and dices foes to ribbons with her razor-sharp prosthetic feet. Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill—of Stars Wars fame—plays a college professor appearance is a bit of an inside joke that will delight readers of the comic book, which featured a character with the actor’s name.

The action is frenetic, super-stylized and sometimes gleefully hyper-violent. During fight scenes and other adrenaline-pumping moments, director Matthew Vaughn (Snatch; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and cinematographer George Richmond keep the camera moving, zooming, sweeping, bobbing and weaving, then speeding up and slowing down the film to increase the visual intensity.

KSS_JB_D59_05292_R_rgb

Sofia Boutella & Samuel L. Jackson

The fan-boy comic-book crowd will lap it up, but mainstream audiences will find plenty to like about Kingsman, too—its nonstop plot is full of cheeky British humor, meta spy-movie satire, and jabs at politics, government, celebrities and everyone’s greed for the latest with-it technology. But be warned: It definitely earns its R rating—especially in its final moments, when it dives into a particularly randy joke. It may be just to cap off its playful naughtiness with a real zinger, or perhaps it’s seeking something more profound, a profane parody statement about how spy movies have always “debased” their female characters.

KSS_JB_D69_06371_rgbSpy movies have also always been about gadgets and secret-agent do-daddery, and here Kingsman goes all-out: Bulletproof umbrellas, exploding cigarette lighters, shiv-toed shoes, holographic eyeglasses, lethal fountain pens, electrocution signet rings. And the suits! When it comes to fashion, the Kingsmen are the coolest cats around—and, in one of the most extensive merchandise marketing tie-ins of any movie ever, almost anything you see onscreen (suits, ties, shoes and—yes—umbrellas) can be purchased in special Kingsman product lines.

See the movie, buy the suit—and get me one of those indestructible umbrellas!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The ‘Eyes’ Have It

Amy Adams & Christoph Waltz shine in quirky true retro-art tale

BIG EYES

Big Eyes

Starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz

Directed by Tim Burton

PG-13

Appropriately enough, the opening shot of Big Eyes is a big eye—and a tear.

For this is a sad tale—sort of. Based on the true story of Margaret Keane, the artist whose paintings of children with big, sorrowful eyes became a kitschy art sensation in the 1960s, it stars Amy Adams as Margaret and Christoph Waltz as her husband, Walter.

The “sad” part of the story is that Walter took full credit for Margaret’s paintings, keeping his wife and her talent hidden in his shadow for almost ten years.

BIG EYES

Christoph Waltz & Amy Adams

“People don’t buy lady art,” Walter tells Margaret, convincing her that “they” would benefit more if he becomes known as the creator of the wistful-looking, saucer-eyed waifs on the canvasses—and above the signature that read simply “KEANE.”

Amy Adams, whose career has spanned a spectrum of widely diverse roles (American Hustle, The Muppets, Her, The Master), shines with a wounded, subdued glow as Margaret, making us understand both the weakness that would let her character remain a victim of Walter’s bullying, as well as the strength it took for her to finally leave him—and then, 20 years later, sue him to prove her rightful claim to the paintings.

Waltz, the German-Austrian actor who became known to American audiences in Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, brings a manic, electrified energy to Walter, depicted him as a trifecta of showy self-promotion, talentless hackery and scary domination.

BIG EYES

A tense moment with Margaret’s visiting friend (Krysten Ritter)

Big Eyes might seem an odd, highly conventional choice for director Tim Burton, best known for the eccentric, wildly imaginative look, feel and subject matter of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and The Nightmare Before Christmas. But there are quirks a-plenty in the weird true story itself, and Burton’s signature touches abound, especially in the movie’s bight, day-glow colors; his attention to far-out, decade-spanning period details; and the casting of some fine character actors in supporting roles, including Terence Stamp (as a snooty New York Times art critic), Danny Huston (a tabloid reporter who serves as the movie’s narrator), Krysten Ritter from TV’s Breaking Bad (as Margaret’s best friend), Jason Schwartzman (an art gallery snob) and Joe Polito (a nightclub owner), all of whom provide their own dry, dark-comic edges to the central melodrama.

The movie culminates in a recreation of the 1986 trail, a showdown in which a judge orders Margaret and Walter into an easel-versus-easel contest for the jury to determine who was the real artist of the “big eye” paintings.

Burton’s movie brings up several issues: the subjugation of women in the 1950s and ’60s, intellectual property theft and the role of media and publicity in creating fads, movements and celebrity. But mostly it’s a wacky history lesson about a real-life woman who finally set the record straight, told by a director who loves a kitschy underdog tale, with two lead actors who put their own colorful brushstrokes on a zesty, little-known story. Big Eyes may not become a big breakout hit, but it’s certainly a big, bright surprise.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The Lizard King

New ‘Godzilla’ stomps onto Blu-ray with eco-message

Godzilla

Godzilla

Blu-ray $35.95 (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

 

Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche and David Strathairn lead the international cast in this rompin’, stompin’ remake of the Japanese sci-fi classic, about everyone’s favorite radioactive dino’ from the depths of the Pacific, which comes with fully updated special effects—and a whopping message about scientific arrogance and ecological balance that’s almost as loud as Godzilla’s hair-raising, master-blaster roar. Bonus content features several behind-the-scenes mini-docs on the actors, production and story, including “explosive new evidence” in the plot’s elaborate cover-up to keep Godzilla’s existence a secret.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , ,

‘Toon Classics

Vintage antics of Bugs, Daffy, Porky and pals & more from the vaults

Looney Tunes Platinum Coll. Vol. 3_BD_Beauty Shot 

Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Vol. 3

Blu-ray $44.98 (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

 

Animation connoisseurs and anyone who fondly remember yesteryear’s yuks will appreciate this latest roundup of classic ’toons, all brushed up for the first time up for Blu-ray. In addition to 50 mini-masterpieces featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety & Sylvester, Wile E. Coyote, Foghorn Leghorn, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam and many more supporting players, the 11-hour, double-disc set also includes a bevy of bonus content, including a booklet and 14 mini-documentaries—I particularly enjoyed “Mel Blanc: The Man of a Thousand Voices,” and “Drawn For Glory,” a look at how the humble pre-movie “theatrical shorts” went on to become pieces of craftwork worthy of Academy Awards.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,