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May 2016

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is a Sweet Revisit of Friendship!

 

alice

 

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday from director James Bobin and Walt Disney Pictures is a story created from the mind of writer Lewis Carroll as we join ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is the captain of her father’s ship Wonder and has been away from home for quite some time. When she returns, Alice learns that mother Helen (Lindsay Duncan) has had pressure put upon her by Hamish (Leo Bill). Either the Kingsleigh women must turn over the Wonder or lose their home.

Those aren’t her only problems as Absolem (voiced by Alan Rickman) tells Alice that her friends need her in Wonderland! Leaping through a mirror she meets Mirana (Anne Hathaway) who tells her that Hatter Tarrant Hightopp (Johnny Depp) is in trouble. Believing Alice is the only one who can reach him, she visits her Hatter friend.

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Hiding at home, Hatter believes that his family might still be alive after years of thinking they had died. The only way to learn of their true fate, Alice must seek out Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) and get the object that can transport her back to the last time the Hightopp’s were seen.

There is just one big-headed problem – Iracebeth (Helena Bonham Carter) wants it as well. She has a moment in her own past in which one sister changed the fate of the other. Furious that Alice is back in Wonderland, it is once again going to be an epic battle with friendship and loyalty setting the course!

Wasikowska as Alice has truly made this character her own. It is hard to believe that the original ALICE IN WONDERLAND was released six years ago. My how time flies and yet Wasikowska jumps back into character as if no time has passed.  For me that is what makes the film so much fun. She is still bold, strong, witty and loyal.

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Depp as Hatter also seamlessly puts his hat and mad hair back on to give us a peek back into the hat makers history. Depp is still lively, funny, quirky and quick at delivering the clever lines that made me laugh – a lot! I adore the colorful insanity Depp brings to this character and I wouldn’t want anyone else to play Hatter.

Carter as Iracebeth certainly does show up with a huge chip on her shoulder. Obviously once you know what that chip is and who placed it, there are a few moments of sympathy for the bulbous headed ginger. Carter embraces the cranky and still makes me laugh. Hathaway as Mirana is elegant and concerned for Hatter but she has a secret of her own! The way in which Hathaway carries herself as the White Queen is really funny. That’s talent when you can make an audience laugh without saying a word.

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Cohen as Tim is just as nutty as the rest of the characters in Wonderland. He is snarky, funny, a little creepy but clever and funny at the same time. His costuming is awesome but then again the costuming for the film is epic period.

Other cast include Rhys Ifans as Zanik Hightopp, Timothy Spall as Bayard, Ed Speleers as James Harcourt, Richard Armitage as King Oleron, Andrew Scott as Dr. Addison Bennett, Geraldine James as Lady Ascot, and Matt Lucas as Tweedledee/Tweedledum.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS four tubs of popcorn out of five. Let’s begin with the amazing special effects because, after all, you can not do a story like this without massive special effects. The CGI is bold, daring, fun and another character in the story.

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Having the original cast back is so meaningful and makes the visit back to these characters so much fun. I mean who doesn’t love the Cheshire Cat or the White Rabbit? Watching the tea time exchange between Hatter and the gang with Time is hilarious!

Alice once again brings a storyline that really is full of lessons about love, family, friendship, loyalty, adventure and forgiveness. Disney has done what they are known for doing – bringing all those qualities into a story that is wrapped up in amazing fun.

Gather up the family and make sure there is enough popcorn and drink to go around, visit Wonderland again with Alice and friends in this 113 minute wild ride!

In the end – it’s time for a little madness!

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TIME TO CHOOSE Wants Us to Seriously Consider Our World View

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Jeri Jacquin

A new documentary is out this week from Abramorama and director Charles Ferguson speaks on what is truly happening with the climate change and giving us all a TIME TO CHOOSE.

Narrated by Oscar Isaac, the film also includes interviews with Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Kumni Naidoo who is the director of Greenpeace International, Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu, Dr. Jane Goodall and Nobel Prize winner Mohammed Yunus.

The film travels to five continents discussing the use of fossil fuels, industrialized agriculture and more of what is changing our planet. From the Appalachians where coal-poisoned waters are hurting citizens to the coat pits of China, the film asks us too truly listen to those who are affected by it all.

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Jennifer Hall-Massey lives in West Virginia where people died from brain tumors and she wanted to know why. Wu Gang from China is bringing more wind turbines to help produce what the world need cleanly. There is Blairo Maggi from Brazil, owner of the world largest soybean producing company who changed his own mind about the way he treats the world.

These are only a few of the people believing that change is possible and TIME TO CHOOSE gives us a chance to learn about many more.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give a TIME TO CHOOSE four tubs of popcorn out of five. Ferguson brings the issue up front and personal by bringing to speak those who are not only affected, but those who see the constant result of what is being done to the planet.

In making TIME TO CHOOSE he says, “I made the film because climate change is the most important issue facing humanity and we urgently need broader understanding of how enormously we would all benefit from addressing it.

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Ferguson continues with hope saying, “Fortunately it is a challenge that we hold in common, and the film shows that across the globe, in myriad ways, people are coming together to find and implement solutions. We’re not too late, and our hope is that TIME TO CHOOSE will help audiences see both the tragedy that is unfolding and the remarkable and innovative ways in which humanity is finding a better way forward”.

This is not the first documentary on serious issues that Ferguson has tackled. He also produced NO END IN SIGHT, the Oscar-nominated piece about the conflict in Iraq. In 2010, he won an Oscar for his documentary on the financial crisis with INSIDE JOB.

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To learn more about the film please visit www.timetochoose.com.

In the end – climate change for good!

Get ready to Experience ALTERED MINDS

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to DVD from creative mind of writer/director Michael Z. Wechsler and Entertainment One is a psychological thriller that reaches into ALTERED MINDS.

Dr. Nathaniel Shellner (Judd Hirsch) is a Nobel Prize winning psychiatrist who now at 75 years of age is facing death because of a serious illness. Bringing his family together for quality time is the goal of the weekend. Wife Lillian (Caroline Lagerfelt) is happy to have her children home even though 37 year-old Tommy (Ryan O’Nan) seems to be showing signs of mental illness.

Elder son Leonard (Joseph Taylor) is also a psychiatrist who is upset by Tommy’s behavior. Along with siblings Julie (Jaime Newman) and Harry (C.S. Lee), they aren’t quite sure what to do. Knowing they don’t want their father upset anymore than he needs to be, everyone takes a turn trying to keep Tommy calm.

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But that isn’t going to work because Tommy wants answers from his father believing that the mental issues comes from psychological experiments done when they were kids. Nathaniel repeats time after time that it just isn’t true and that Tommy’s problems are all in his head, literally. Wanting to believe, Tommy has moments where he wants to share time with dad until disturbing images flash and the lashing out begins again.

Julie and Harry, at first, constantly tell Tommy to stop. Then, out of no where, both Harry and Julie start remembering things about the family home that begin to freak them out. With each moment that passes, family secrets emerge, memories become clearer and it is time to tell the truth no matter what the cost.

O’Nan as Tommy makes sure this characters feelings and suspicions are known by all from the moment he appears on screen. Displaying an air of serious creepiness, I was captivated every time he went on a rant. Piecing together what may or may not be true in the things Tommy believes becomes as serious as a game of Jenga! Awesomely done.

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Hirsch as Dr. Shellner is living the end of his life with a cargo container full of secrets and not just family kind. Trying to keep the family calm isn’t an easy task as each of them begins to question their own memories. Personally I am just happy to see Hirsch again and yes this is an awesome role for him to take on.

Taylor as eldest son Leonard has his own personal issues feeling as if his parents care more about his younger siblings than they ever did him. Tired of Tommy’s issues and wanting to spend time with his father, Leonard isn’t about to put up with more crap than he has too. Taylor gives his character a little bit of “feel bad for me” but the tables do have a way of turning when the truth comes out.

Newman as Julie is the middle kid, as it were, and sees everyone’s issue until her own come into play. She wants to spend time with her ailing father without the family drama and still be supportive of her troubled brother Tommy. When a photograph calls into question her own memories, she wants to know more. Lee as Harry seems the quiet son, but as the memories rattle him, Harry almost become a casualty of the fears they share.

Lagerfelt as Lillian is a mother who just wants her family to get along, especially with the impending death of her husband. As each of the kids shares what they remember, Mom shows her own doubts as to what her husband could possibly have done to the children to cause all of this to happen.

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Other cast include Jake Miller as Sasha, Lily Pilblad as Sylvia, Hayden Signoretti as Young Tommy, Isaac Solstein as Young Harry, Dana Konner as Young Julie, Marilyn Chris as Elizabeth Robbins, and Dennis Flanagan as Sgt. Joseph Robbins.

Entertainment One has more than 4,500 hours of programming and growing. From script development to global distribution, Entertainment One creates and distributes the compelling content that everyone wants to watch. For more of what they have to offer please visit http://www.entertainmentone.com.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give ALTERED MINDS four tubs of popcorn out of five. Oh my goodness where to begin! This film is a prime example of how hard it can be to write a review sometimes. The story is twisted, full of turns, and takes the viewer on a family ride of dysfunction and disturbing secrets. The cast does such a fantastic job at keeping the flow in such a way that when the story abruptly turned it rattled me!

The cinematography gives the film a fantastic bit of creepiness as well. I love when a cast is basically ‘house bound’ for a film adding that caged-animal feeling from start to finish. There isn’t a moment I don’t like about this film and highly recommend ALTERED MINDS to those who absolutely love a thriller with a jaw dropping story and an ending that is nothing short of shocking.

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Coming in at 93 minutes, ALTERED MINDS shows how a good film can be made for about a million dollars when the story is well done, the director knows his vision and takes away all the cgi garbage and loud distractions, and knows who can play the roles.

The DVD includes some pretty cool bonus features with Deleted Theatrical Scenes, Two Audio Commentary tracks with director Wechsler and Composer Edmund Choi who shares anecdotes from the shoot and post-production as well as different aspect of the filmmaking process, Director Video Logs from pre-production and table reads through every shooting day and post production. ALTERED MINDS is currently available for download on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, Xbox and Playstation.

In the end – if a man fails his family he fails life!

QUACKERZ Brings Animated Duck Fun!

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming home on two-disc Bluray and 3D Combo Pack from SHOUT! Kids Factory and writer/director Victor Lakisov comes a tale (pun intended) of Mandarins and Mallards that are all QUACKERZ!

On an island in China there lives a group of Mandarin ducks. Longway (Robbie Daymond) is a young duck who wants to see the world. Frustrated that his father the Emperor Peng Li (Enn Reitel) seems to want to keep him close, Longway doesn’t know the half of it.

That is until the day the Mallards crash land on the Mandarin island thinking they were in Hawaii. Quickly Longway makes friends with Erica (Andrea Becker) but their friendship isn’t without it’s pitfalls. When the Emperor and the Mallard Commander Duckmus (Michael Gross) get on the wrong side of each other, it causes fighting to begin.

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That all seems minuet compared to the secret of who Longway really is. One human who knows is Margo (Evelina Bledans), an evil woman searching for Longway because the legendary Sun Duck holds the key to her eternal youth. Now Mandarin and Mallard must put their winged differences aside if they are to save each other!

It is these two characters that bring the rest together in an effort to stop a legend from taking place! Even though there are difficulties for both sides, the fathers work together for the sake of their children. Isn’t that what we all want to happen for ourselves and our families?

This is going to get ducky!

SHOUT! Kids Factory brings feature films, classic and contemporary television series, animation, live music and comedy specials to families looking for quality programming. They bring the best and show it in theaters, on DVD and Bluray as well as Digital formats. Everything Shout! Kids Factory has available is exactly what anyone wanting to expand their home media library is looking for. To see more of what Shout! Kids Factory has to offer please visit http://www.shoutfactory.com.

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Other voice cast include: Jesse Corti as Kianga, Mark DeCarlo as Dancer, Bruce Nozick as Shina, Amy Margolis as Nanny and Nikita Presnyakov as Nik.

QUACKERS is exactly that – quackers! There is comedy, color and plenty of action in this animated tale. There really is something for everyone including a little animated slap-stick comedy. The characters are as vivid as their colors and all of them have a part to play.

Longway is a Mandarin duck who doesn’t realize that he has a destiny that is bigger than anything he could imagine. He’s to busy trying to figure out a way to fly off the island and see the world. Even though his initial meeting with Mallard Erica doesn’t go very well, she teaches him so much that makes his want to see the world even bigger.

Ms. Kout is one creepy lady and there is good reason for that! Without giving to much away, keep your eyes on that woman because the Sun Duck may be what she is after but she also doesn’t have a problem using people in not-so-nice ways. Peng Li really made me laugh a lot. Duckmus is a character so full of concern that he doesn’t realize that maybe he should perhaps be a little less concerned with fighting and a lot more concerned with his daughter!

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There are so many lessons in this film about differences and putting them aside and do what is right for all. The relationship between Longway and Erica starts out a little rough but even they find similarities that stand out more than any differences.

The characters are all pretty funny and that’s what makes a good animated film. QUACKERZ, the Two-Disc Bluray 3D Combo Pack and DVD contains the bonus content of Storyboards, Behind-the-Scene Footage and Animatics. Check it out because its such an awesome look at the making of QUACKERZ. With a running time of 81 minutes, families will have a chance to enjoy some time together.

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QUACKERS is filled with fun, adventure, lessons, comedy and even young romance all brought together by the wings of their mutual cause – remembering who they are and what they can accomplish together.

In the end – they will quack you up!

RISE OF THE LEGEND is Full-On Action!

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray from director Roy Chow and Well Go USA Entertainment is the story of a different kind of gang where one will become the RISE OF THE LEGEND.

It is the 1800’s in Guangzhou at the Huangpu Port during the Qing Dynasty. Running the streets are The Black Tiger gang and the Northern Sea. Gang boss Lei Gong (Sammo Hung) continues to try and get rid of the Northern Sea. The way to do this is recruit new young men to become fighters. Wong Fei Hung (Eddie Peng) catches the crime boss’ attention and not only trains the young man and makes him one of his “Four Tigers” but calls him son.

The North Sea gang has a plan of their own and are not about to let Gong take over the city without a fight. A fight that may very well lead to the destruction of a city.

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Through all the twists and turns, it becomes clear that Wong Fei Hung has a game plan of his very own and what is to come – no one suspected or was prepared for!

Peng as Wong Fei Hung is totally disarming with his ability to truly play the role of a young man who keeps us on our toes. Not letting on for a moment, there comes a single moment when Fei must decide if the fight is worth the loss.

Jing Boran as Fiery is a strong character and doesn’t seem to have a problem fighting to the bitter end. Part of the Orphan Gang, his story unfolds and the martial arts come out strong. Byron Mann as Black Crow is another of the sons’ who actually likes being part of the gang.

Wang Luodan as Chun is a quiet but keeps her eyes open. Knowing that she must not bring attention to herself, Luodan does a brilliant job of hiding in plain sight. I loved watching her glide through the streets and yet when she needed to, had no problem using martial arts to get her point across. Angelababy as Xiao Hua is a young woman who is gorgeous but wicked in her own right.

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Hung as Master Lui has made quite a name for himself in Martial Arts film. I first saw this actor in 2001 in the film THE LEGEND OF ZU as well as KUNG FU HUSTLE in 2004 and finally THREE KINGDOMS: Resurrection of the Dragon. Once again Hung gives a character toughness along with fancy footwork and a smirk that would scare anybody! He is fun to watch.

Other cast include: Zhang Jin as Wu Long, Wong Cho-lam as Big Tooth, Qin Junjie as Foon, Jack Feng as North Evil, Byron Mann as Black Crow, and Gao Taiyu as Wing.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give RISE OF THE LEGEND four tubs of popcorn out of five. This film has so much going for it because of the twists and turns. Nope, I have no intention of giving away anything! The film is definitely action oriented from start to finish with some amazing fight scenes and martial arts choreography.

The story is very well told and personally I am a fan of the plots twists and turn. The set design and costuming lend to making the story even more intense to watch. Martial Arts films have become so amazing to watch because of a combination story, design and costuming told through the very capable eye of director Roy Chow.

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Director Chow is responsible for writing and directing MURDERER in 2009 and NIGHTFALL in 2012. The later film is one that once again brings twists and turns to a storyline that kept me wondering what was going to happen next. Chow has the ability to write up a good story that keeps audiences riveted to the very end.

The Bluray includes the bonus features of The Making of RISE OF THE LEGEND and the original trailer for the film. Coming in at 132 minutes, the film can be viewed in Mandarin with English subtitles or the choice of English language.

In the end – justice has come back to town!

THE NICE GUYS Buddy Up for a Mystery

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Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this week from writer/director Shane Black and Warner Brothers comes a twist in crime when taken on by THE NICE GUYS.

Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a legit private investigator who is having problems with life. His young daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) keeps him in check and tries to overlook the crazy decisions and drinking. Currently March is helping an elderly woman find her daughter Misty Mountains.

Their world is abort to change when they meet Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) an under-the-radar wanna-be P.I. who gets jobs when he can. His newest job comes courtesy of Amelia (Margaret Qualley) who wants Healy to take care of someone who has been stalking her.

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That’s how March and Healy meet discovering they are actually trying to solve the same mystery. It doesn’t take long for trouble to show up with weaponry wanting them both to go away.

March and Healy are not going to take it all lying down, at least without answers to what happened to Misty, who is Amelia and why is bad guy John Boy (Matt Bomer) out for them!

It’s just another case in the 70’s!

Gosling as Holland March is endearing as a P.I. who knows what he’s doing – when he isn’t two sheets to the wind. Dealing with a young daughter with a healthy case of the smarts, March has a good heart, sort of. I actually liked Gosling’s performance but more so when his co-stars are getting the better if him.

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Crowe as Jackson Healy is a hard-ass who doesn’t want anyone to know he’s got a soft spot. Of course he has no problem beating up a bad guy or two or three or four.  It is March’s daughter Holly who brings out the best in him. It is funny watching Crowe be the straight-guy to Goslings character and I’d like to never be on his bad side.

Angourie as daughter Holly is smart, funny, opinionated and headstrong. She would have to be hanging around The Nice Guys. Holly doesn’t hold back saying exactly what needs saying, even to a father lost in a bottle. The party scene wasn’t my favorite and didn’t see the need for it as it lent nothing to the story but that’s the Mom in me talking.

Kim Bassinger as Judith Kuttner has her five minutes in the film as Amelia’s mother who also happens to be a Federal Agent. It was fun to see Bud White and Lynn Bracken (yes, that would be an L.A. CONFIDENTAL reference) together again in the name of corruption.

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Shout out to Yaya DaCosta as Tally who catches March’s’ eye. Also, I have to mention Lance Butler because this kid has comedic timing that is hilarious and I look forward to seeing more from him.

Other cast in the film include Keith David as Older Guy, Beau Knapp as Blueface, Gil Gerard as Bergen Paulsen, Daisy Tahan as Jessica, Jack Kilmer as Chet, and Murielle Telio as Misty Mountains.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THE NICE GUYS three tubs of popcorn out of five. It is a nice buddy P.I. film with two actors who absolutely work well together and I enjoyed watching them bounce off one another. The problem is the two hour length of the film because it is fifteen-twenty minutes too long.

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After some time it becomes a chore to continue investing attention in to a story that is dragging out just for the sake of dragging out. I’d make the first cut at the scene with Holly at the party. The music is fun, the costuming is very familiar and the cars are awesome which give the film serious points.

In the end – they are a nice pair!

 

NEIGHBORS 2: Sorority Rising Doesn’t Rise High Enough

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Jeri Jacquin

Back in the neighborhood this week from director Nicholas Stoller and Universal Pictures is another round with NEIGHBORS 2: Sorority Rising.

Life has been quiet since Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) and the gang closed up the frat house next door to Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and wife Kelly (Rose Byrne). Working on baby number #2, the Radner’s have decided to sell their home and move to a house of their dreams.

Before that can happen they need to close the deal on their home. Keeping focused they need to get through a thirty day escrow with no problems. Well, they didn’t count on Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein)! These three girls have had their fill of sorority’s who still won’t let them do what they want.

The idea is born to start a sorority of their own and guess which house they find to rent? While going through the house they meet Teddy who is in a bad way since being asked by his buddies Pete (Dave Franco) and Darren (John Early) to move out. Listening to the girls’ story, Teddy offers to be a mentor for the girls.

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Immediately the parties begin! Mac and Kelly feel like they’ve stepped into a time machine. Asking the girls to keep it down until escrow closes; they are instantly met with resistance. When the girls turn on Teddy, he goes to the Radner’s offering his services to help rid them of the sorority.

The gauntlet has been thrown and both sides are in it deep.

Rogen as Mac once again questions his abilities as a father and a husband. Trying to keep everyone happy, Mac knows that the move will make everyone happy. The challenge of another group of partiers is more than he can take so trying anything, even accepting the help of Teddy, is worth it.

Byrne as Kelly is pregnant again and isn’t about to let a group of girls take away her dream home. The scene that is the funniest to me is when she and Rogen are comparing who is the worst parent because (barring the pot references) have had the same comparisons when my kids were little.

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Efron as Teddy misses his college days and seems to be aimless in knowing what he is meant to do in life. Having the chance to party like his college days, it turns on him and helping the Radner’s gives him focus – and a place in the family. Efron is funny and once again gives the ladies something to cheer about.

Moretz as Shelby is a role I’m surprised she took. This actress has so much to offer and is so talented that playing a spoiled pot head who wants to party speaking like she doesn’t have a brain was just too much for me to take. Not a fan of her in this role at all.

Clemons and Feldstein are two other roles that I just didn’t understand. It was like watching two pre-teens giggle there way through ridiculous behaviors and attempting to play at being adults.

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Other cast include Ike Barinholtz as Jimmy, Jerrod Carmichael as Garf, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Scoonie, Cara Mamet as Maranda, and Selena Gomez as Phi Lamda President.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give NEIGHBORS 2: Sorority Rising three tubs of popcorn out of five. There are some very funny moments but after a while the jokes lost their luster. Personally I felt like the whole film was trying too hard to be as funny as the original. Because of that, many of the run on jokes just became a sigh of ‘can we get on with this?’

Of course there was nothing here that was a surprise – instead it was start to finish standard predictability. I wanted to laugh more than I did and be less disgusted than I was. The funny thing is that what was disgusting was not the dangling set of Efron or the continual talk about pot, nope; instead it was the racial jokes that seemed more like an offending test than trying to make anyone laugh.

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NEIGHBORS 2 will find its audience but they need to be prepared because the super hero films aren’t done dominated the box office yet.

In the end – it is parenthood vs. sisterhood!

WAR & PEACE is Epic: Speaking with Director Tom Harper

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Jeri Jacquin

On Bluray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment, TWC and the BBC is the beautifully told story of WAR & PEACE: The Complete Miniseries. Now, read what director Tom Harper has to say about his epic work.

It is 1805 Russia when only the rumors of Napoleon coming to Moscow were on the wind. Pierre (Paul Dano) is the illegitimate son of Count Bezukhov, the richest man in Russia. Prince Kuragin (Stephen Rea) is doing everything possible to make sure that Pierre doesn’t inherit a thing, but the young man has many on his side.

Becoming the new Count Bezukhov takes Pierre from a simple life to extravagance like he has never known. That is when Anna Povlovna Scherer (Gillian Anderson) sets her sites on matchmaking with Helene (Tuppence Middleton). Before Pierre has a time to catch his wealthy breathe, he is married.

Happy for all his success is the Rostova family and his good friend Natasha (Lily James), Nikolai (Jack Lowden), parents Count Rostov (Adrian Edmondson) and Countess Rostova (Greta Scacchi) along with Cousin Sonya (Aisling Loftus).

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Also friends of Pierre are the Bolkonsky family including Prince Andrei (James Norton), his sister Princess Marya (Jessie Buckley) and their very loud father Prince Bolkonsky (Jim Broadbent).

Prince Andrei and Nikolai are soldiers who are preparing for what might happen if Napoleon Bonaparte (Mathieu Kassovitz) enters their country. After losing his wife, Prince Andrei begins to have feelings for Natasha but father Prince Bolkonsky wants them to wait a year and Natasha agrees.

Meanwhile Sonya and Nikolai have had an unspoken relationship but he is having trouble making the commitment. His mother the Countess decides its time for her son to help the family financially and wants Nikolai to marry a wealthy woman.

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In the meantime Pierre discovers that his wife Helena has been less than faithful yet he looks the other way until he can’t any longer. Having a hard time knowing what to do, he becomes involved in the lives of his friends.

War is on the horizon as Napoleon invades Russia, in the midst of it all relationships are being torn apart, friendships put to the test, loyalties under scrutiny, secrets kept, families in ruin and all in the name of love.

This is the story of life.

Tom Harper

That’s where director Tom Harper and story adaptor Andrew Davis come in. They brought together the beautiful tale of a time in Russia so deep and rich that holds every human emotion imaginable.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Tom about WAR & PEACE, his thoughts on making the miniseries, the cast and what he hopes everyone takes away after seeing his work.

Thank you for talking to me today Tom.

Thank you Jeri, it’s a pleasure.

Let’s delve right in because this is truly had to be a huge undertaking for you. What drew you to take this story on?

I fell in love with it really. This is one of the most wonderful stories and the characters are so fantastic and relevant to me. This story occurred over 200 years ago yet it is still relatable and I think the passions and relationships are also relevant I suppose.

Is this a project someone brought to you?

Yes, the BBC came to me with the project. This was a combination of Leo Tolstoy and Andrew Davis as well bringing it all together.

Had you thought about how much this was going to take of your life? This is a miniseries to tell a huge story that has so much detail.

I knew it was a huge undertaking but I didn’t quite realize what I was getting myself into. It was two years of my life and for a lot of that it was incredibly intense. Every waking moment was thinking and working on the show. We were in Russia and Lithuanian and the shoots were sometimes six months long. It was challenging and we went to some extraordinary places and did epic things with battles and balls. It was incredibly challenging and demanding but at the same time rewarding too. We had some wonderful experiences and I was fortunate to work with amazing actors, crew and go across the country. It was a pretty special job and it doesn’t come much better than that I think. It wasn’t without its trials and challenges but ultimately it is why you get into the job in the first place.

One of the things I love are period pieces, you can rise or fall on the set design and costuming. Where you as detail oriented about that?

Yes and no. I had a very clear idea of how it should be and there are very clear ideas in the book. There was such an enormous amount with a cast of 130 people and 230 locations and inevitably you work with great people. When it comes to detailing you call on experts and all their job is is to oversea the making of the military uniforms or embroidery of the dresses. There are great skills coming into play here with brilliant people who had that attention to detail. They were all working to complete the overall vision. The detail is important and brilliant people working on it.

Is it hard to put your trust in so many people when you are working on something this epic?

It’s hard but you have to take a leap of faith. There is no way you can be everywhere all the time. You can’t make something on this scale if you can’t work with people and trust the people you hire to do the work. You can’t be everywhere so my role was to oversea the vision and the tone and the look and detail. There is so much to do so you have to trust.

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Can you tell me about working with Paul Dano? Watching him bring Pierre to life was, as always with him, just beautiful.

It was pretty wonderful really. Paul is, I think, one of the finest actors in the world. Actually casting him was a very straight process really. This was a difficult part to cast I think because Pierre doesn’t externally do very much but stuff happens to him and internally he is complicated, thoughtful and complex. That doesn’t manifest in his actions, not until the end really. I needed someone who could show that internal world and be able to lead the whole show. Paul was at the top of my list at the very beginning. He read the script and liked it and it turned out that he studied Russian Literature! I think Paul is an exceptional actor and I think what he brought to the role was extraordinary and he has this ability to transform and tap into the magic of a role. He makes such interesting and surprising choices and he’s always is always telling and fascinating to watch. I think he does an extraordinary job.

Lily James as Natasha, she is so amazing to me. Every role she takes on she gives it a totally different look. She is the light of the series.

I think you are exactly right. She also has a hard job to do because she begins this role as a teenager and terrible things happen to her. She is so innocent, youthful and vivacious and over the course of years she falls in love and the public disgrace and death. Natasha goes on a hell of a ride and a journey for a young actor to go on. She captures all of the emotions and you believe by the end everything the character goes through.

Watching each character start innocent enough and through their life journey is really amazing to watch. With such a large cast and each having their own story to tell it is thrilling to see how you brought out the nuances of the book. This is so epic, get use to that work when talking about this work of yours.

I’m so glad you liked it.

You managed from the get-go to capture and make me want to watch more and more. That’s what I love about what you have created here. When you finally got to sit down and watch the whole thing, what are some of your personal thoughts?

Because I’m so close to it and so wanted it to be good and we had been through so much to make it it was wonderful. It was such a Herculean effort by so many people. You always hope something will be good but because it is so much longer than other work I have done and the stakes were higher, I found it very difficult to be able to assess it in an objective way. I knew I liked it and that some of the performances were fantastic but it was hard to know if I did it justice. I do remember a time when everyone was exhausted and were doing promos with the cast and crew toward the end before the wrap. I thought to myself, ‘it might actually be okay’.  So there was a spark of elation that it will all be okay!

I have nothing but praise for you Tom; you brought such emotion along with such beauty and wrapped it up with strength. Thank you very much for that. So, how do you handle a cast this large!

Actually, of all the things that were hard it wasn’t one of them! Mainly because they were so brilliant, professional, talented and a pleasure to be with them. Everyone was a joy to work with. We were working in groups as well. We scheduled it in such a way so that we’d do one group, then the battle, then the ball so every two weeks the cast would change and it was quite nice. It was nice for the cast to get breaks and come back refreshed. That worked pretty nicely.

What would you want anyone watching the series to take away with them after seeing your work?

I hope people come away with a positive outlook toward life and humility despite some of the atrocities we all face. I believe and Tolstoy believed it is the beauty and wonder in life that makes it all possible.

Thank you Tom for talking with me today and congratulations on a marvelous and beautiful – and epic – piece of work with WAR & PEACE, well done sir.

Thank you Jeri, I’m so pleased you liked it, truly.

 

It was such a pleasure talking to Tom about the epic miniseries of WAR & PEACE that is now on stunning Bluray. The cast, sets, and costuming all brings Leo Tolstoy’s brilliant work of literature to life. This is a miniseries that will make an amazing addition to anyone’s home media library. Pick up WAR & PEACE now!

MONEY MONSTER Hits the Mark

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Jeri Jacquin

In theatres today from director Jodie Foster and Sony Pictures comes a look at the result of greed when dealing with a MONEY MONSTER.

Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a financial television host of a show that talks about investments and the buying and selling of stocks – with a flare. Gates is clearly a narcissist and producer Patty (Julia Roberts) has dealt with him for years.

The day was to be like every other day and as filming of Gates’ piece begins, Patty notices another person on the set. Within seconds Gates has a gun to his head with Kyle Budwell’s (Jack O’Connell) finger on the trigger. Making sure every bit of what is to happen is heard Kyle airs grievances.

During one of Gates’ shows, he talked up a company called IBIS and Kyle invested a large some of money only to lose it when a glitch lost $800 million dollars. Now the gun toting man wants answers.

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One person Patty looks to is Diane Lester (Caitronia Balfe), an executive with IBIS who can only say ‘I don’t know’ when asked about the loss. The one person who does know is Walt Camby (Dominic West) who owns IBIS and he can’t be found.

With the news set on lockdown, the police are ready to jump in but Gates decides in the midst of the chaos to help Kyle find the answers he’s looking for.

Clooney as Gates just cracked me up with the loud antics and fast talking madness about money. This is probably why I don’t watch those shows because b.s. tends to make me ill. It’s all fun and games until someone has a gun to your head yet Clooney still manages a wise crack here and there. Of course there is a moment when the wisecracking stops and reality sets in and the audience gets to experience that light switch moment for Clooney’s character.

Roberts as Patty is the voice that keeps Gates calm, even if she’s freaking out herself. Being quick on the draw this character does what Gates can’t – find those who are in “charge” and follow the paper trail. Roberts is fast and furious till the end.

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O’Connell as Kyle is brilliant. He looks like an every day American who would try to make a better life for his family. Listening to Gates tell him IBIS is the way to go to make more money is something everyone does everyday. It’s also what happens when you push a hard working guy just a little too far. Is what Kyle does right? Hardly, but feeling squashed makes people do strange things. O’Connell’s character made the audience I sit with sad, angry and siding with Kyle.

West as Camby is just a money hungry douchebag who thinks the world will be shocked for five seconds before moving on to something else. The were people sitting behind me at the screen who were none to happy with Camby and loudly said a few choice words about him – well done West, you pissed off all the right people!

Balfe as Diane is one of the top executives at IBIS but that doesn’t mean a whole lot when you don’t have answers about losing a ton of money! Balfe gives her character a few good shots at being a responsible exec and she looks good in modern clothes (OUTLANDER fans will know what I’m talking about)

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give MONEY MONSTERS four tubs of popcorn out of five. I truly enjoyed this film because I became invested in it quickly. Of course it did remind me of films like JOHN Q and THE NEGOTIATOR but I had to ask myself why that was? It’s simple actually – because there does come a point where people are tired of being taken advantage of.

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That’s what MONEY MONSTERS is really about! Yes it is intense and a highly charged film that constantly twists and turns trying to keep our eye off the ball as it were. For 98 minutes the film does its job well and let that be a lesson to us all. We are captivated at the moment something big happens but when it’s over we go back to our lives – and those in know count on it.

Okay, I’m done ranting (see how that works?). Clooney is awesome, Roberts keeps her cool and O’Connell is a character to be pitied. West comes in once again riding his black horse of bad-guy-ness which he does very well and it’s good to see Balfe outside of Scotland.

MONEY MONSTERS has wit, twisted humor (which I love), action, slight-of-hand and a cast that brings it all together so very well. Director Foster gets it done right and forces each of the characters to ask the hard question with an answer that is as empty as the wallets of investors. I’ll keep my money in my pocket thank you very much!

In the end – follow the money!

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