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October 2019

Gumshoe Noir is Wrapped in MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN 

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Jeri Jacquin
Coming to theatres from writer/director Edward Norton and Warner Bros. is the tale of secrets, lies and a man who embraces MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN.
Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) works for Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) who owns a detective agency and car service. Caring for Lionel since he was young, Minna saw something special and not just the speech condition he has no control over.
On a case, Minna asks Lionel to signal him if things go wrong at a meeting. Watching every move, he is upset seeing boss and mentor Minna getting into a car with a couple of shady types. Following the best he can, it all falls apart and Lionel must now deal with the most heartbreaking thing he can imagine.
Back at the office, Tony (Bobby Cannavale) has taken over to keep the business afloat along with Gilbert (Ethan Suplee) and Danny (Dallas Roberts).  Lionel cannot shake what has happened and isn’t about to let it go. Digging into what Minna was working on, he comes across activist Laura (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who lives next to the nightclub The King Rooster. It is when he follows Laura to a community meeting and Gabby Horowitz (Cherry Jones) does he meet Paul Randolph (Willem DaFoe) who seems to have a lot to say about brother Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin).
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Putting the scattered pieces together, Laura tells Lionel that Moses Randolph is buying up all the property from poorer families to get them out and reclaim the land in favor of the rich. Wrapped up in the confusion, Lionel must discover what it was Minna tried to tell him, what Laura has to do with it all, what is wrong with Paul Randolph and what it will take to get the truth out of Moses Randolph to solve his friends murder!
Norton as Lionel is exquisite from start to finish. Losing someone who cared for him and that he cared for meant he wasn’t going to let sleeping dogs lie. Donning the man’s coat and hat, you can sense the determination and although at times the film seemed to slow a little, it certainly pays off as the pieces of this crazy puzzle slowly come together. It may have taken Norton all these years to write the script but you can be sure I’d rather him have taken his time to create MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN than make a shoddy detective film. I just loved this character and how his mind worked even with some considered his disability.
Raw as Laura is a woman after justice for the city she loves. Always on the move to find answers to stopping Randolph, she has no problem laying it out plainly for Lionel. She also finds herself feeling warmly towards him without actually knowing why. Raw is such a soft actress but in that softness is strength of conviction in the characters that she plays – brava! Jones as Gabby is a force just as powerful as Laura and isn’t worried about what will happen to her as she is what is happening to the people of New York.
Baldwin as Moses Randolph is a grade A ass of a man that some people might easily recognize in a weird way. It is clear that this man feels he owes no one an explanation for the wiping out of whole neighborhood blocks. Over the years we have seen Baldwin play so many different roles but one thing is for certain, he has the amazing ability to portray douchebags in such a way that everything that falls from his character may seem awful but you can’t help but watch! This role is no exception to that as Randolph feels justified in everything he does and makes no apologies.
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DaFoe as Paul is a character that was hard to keep up with but in a good way. His mind worked even faster than Lionel’s and it seemed so scattered and absurd but that’s the brilliance of DaFoe’s portrayal, the truth is in the madness created by family. Lionel is never really sure what is happening with Paul and I certainly went with him on that. I think DaFoe is such a treasure and that Norton choose wisely!
Cannavale, Suplee and Roberts provide support as the men behind the agency door. Trying to support Lionel in finding who killed Minna, they are also realistic in knowing that their skills might not be needed any longer. Cannavale has the ability to steal a scene and his choice of roles always surprises me.
Other cast include Josh Pais as William Lieberman, Leslie Mann as Mrs. Minna and Bruce Willis as Frank Minna (and I oh so wished he was in it far more than he was).
The story is based on the 1999 novel by Jonathan Lethem as Norton took to tasks writing the screenplay. At the Toronto Film Festival, Norton says, “Lethem wrote this incredible character of 50s gumshoes living in the modern world. It made sense to set it in the 50s and once that decision was made, we got very interested into opening it up to the deep corruption and history of New York.”
I am a fan of detective films, especially the black and white films of ‘old’ (so to speak). Norton has captured the essence of those beloved films with the look and feel that is fantastic. The added music track of the film with the amazing jazz club scenes just made me completely giddy. The music is actually created by Grammy Award-winning artist Thom Yorke, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and nine-time Grammy winner Wynton Marsalis.
MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN is a film that will fall easily in line with other classics such as L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, CHINA TOWN, and ROAD TO PERDITION. There is something drawing to Norton’s performance at Lionel that is deliberate and powerful and with the cast he is working with, there is nothing out of place in a story that is completely out of place. Watching several interviews with the cast, it is clear that they are just as pleased with the outcome of the film.
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If you are a fan of what I call gumshoe noir then MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN should entice you, if a fan of gorgeous cinematography, music and costuming then MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN should have you buying a ticket and if you are a fan of a film that takes its time to tell a marvelous story – then MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN is absolutely for you. I have no doubt there will be nominations coming from every direction very soon.
In the end – he will leave no stone unturned to find the answer!

Fast & Furious Presents: HOBBS & SHAW Bring Action to Bluray and 4K Ultra

Hobbs and Shaw Cover
Jeri Jacquin
This week Bluray/DVD, Digital Code and also available on 4K Ultra HD from director David Leitch and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment comes the double team of action with Fast & Furious Presents: HOBBS & SHAW.
Trying to obtain a virus that could kill people all over the world, MI6 Agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) is sent in with other agents. What they couldn’t have foreseen is Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) arriving to steal the virus for himself. Hattie has no choice but to get the virus out the only way possible.
Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is notified that he will be working with someone else on the case. Imagine his surprise when it turns out to be Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)! They are not thrilled to see one another in the slightest and make it known as loudly and verbally as possible.
When Hattie hits the news that she is a rogue agent, Hobbs and Shaw are told they need to find her and both go about it in their own way. When she is finally captured it doesn’t take long before Brixton breaks the door down to take her away. She is now the virus and someone powerful wants her.
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After getting her back, the only way save her is to find Professor Andreiko (Eddie Marsan) who created the virus. There is a machine that can help retrieve it but the company Etheon has it which means finding a way inside, get it and get away and – it’s in the Ukraine.
Time isn’t something these three have and Brixton isn’t about to stop till he gets what he wants. That means it’s time to get off the grid and go someplace no one would think to look and much to Hobbs’ dismay its home in Samoa.
Getting his family and disgruntled brother Jonah (Cliff Curtis) to help proves to be difficult, but then again even when family is a little upset – no one messes with them. It’s time to let the enemy know that you can’t get past Mama!
Now it’s time to go old school and take down Brixton!
Johnson as Hobbs is funny, charming, and everything we have come to expect from an action hero. There is something absolutely fantastic about the way Johnson handles his roles to the point where he makes it all look so darn easy. This time he gets a chance to bring in his own heritage in a way of family and the strength of those who will stand up for you even if they only have large clubs to do it with.
Statham as Shaw can’t help but bring his driving skills to bear in this film. Always behind the wheel, he doesn’t bat an eye when turning corners like they are on rails and jumping anything that stands in his way. Playing opposite Johnson, these two are meant to be in action films together because as much as the characters think they are different, lets be honest they are pretty much the same. They are full of quickness, silliness, brotherly quarreling and everything that goes with this twisted friendship.
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Kirby as Hattie is very smart, doesn’t hesitate to act when the moment is right and has to deal with Hobbs and Shaw like a babysitter. I enjoyed her character in that she actually is a seriously more than capable agent and slick as they come and although her ‘wards’ are necessary they sort of aren’t.
Elba as Brixton is a genetically modified man who has been changed by the voice behind Etheon. A history with Shaw that is nothing short of lethal, Brixton is a man who feels superhuman and has no trouble letting everyone know that the human race itself is weak. Elba is deliciously evil and there isn’t a dang thing wrong with that!
Other cast include: Lori Tuisano as Sefina, John Tui as Kal, Joshua Mauga as Timo, Joe Anoa’I as Mateo, Rob Delaney as Agent Loeb, Alex King at Lt. Grapefruit, Eliana Sua as Sam, Eiza Gonzalez as Madam M and Helen Mirren as Queenie. Also, look for a surprise that will make you laugh and cheer!
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us to all experience and re-experience in our own home theaters. There are film of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.
There are 80+ minutes of Bonus Features including Alternate Opening and Deleted Scenes and even more content not seen in theatres! You want more? Well, how about Johnson & Statham: Hobbs & Shaw, Progress of a Fight Scene with Director David Leitch, Practical Action, The Bad Guy, The Sister, The Hobbs Family Tree, The Matriarch, New Friends, Elevator Action, Stunt Show and Tell, Keeping it in the Family: A Conversation with Roman and Dwayne, Blind Fury, Dwayne and Hobbs: Love at First Bite and Feature Commentary with Director David Leitch.
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MOVIES ANYWHERE gives viewers the ability to download the Movies Anywhere App. With that you can view films by downloading or streaming to your favorite device using a Digital Code. For more information on Movies Anywhere please visit www.MoviesAnywhere.com.
Fast and Furious Presents: HOBBS & SHAW is 135 minute thrill ride of action, crazy humor and everything fans have come to expect from the F&F franchise. You can help but cheer, laugh and cheer even more as the story draws to a close. It is clear that Johnson and Statham have a chemistry that everyone watching absolutely loved. I kinda liked it myself!
There are a few surprises that bring even more laughs and I think I was grinning from ear to ear a lot. That is saying something. So if you are looking for a reason to spend quality time with two pretty awesome dudes, then join Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham for a ride that only these two can provide with Fast and Furious Presents: HOBBS & SHAW.
In the end – they may not like each other but they dislike bad guys even more!

SCARFACE: The World is Yours Limited Edition!

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Jeri Jacquin
In celebration of the 1983 classic film with a screenplay by Oliver Stone, director Brian De Palma and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment comes the SCARFACE “The World Is Yours” Limited Edition 4K UHD/Bluray and Digital.
Tony Montana (Al Pacino) is a Cuban refugee arriving in Miami along with friends Manny (Steven Bauer), Angel (Pepe Serna) and Chi-Chi (Angel Salazar). Given green cards they become dishwashers which is totally distasteful for Tony who feels he is meant for something bigger.
Involved in a hit gone bad, Tony wants to meet Miami drug dealer Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia) to deliver his drugs and money in person. Taking the initiative, Tony and Manny are hired to work for Frank which sets them up to bring his mother Georgina (Miriam Colon) and sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) to Miami. Once Tony’s mother discovers what he is doing she refuses to have him around.
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Tony has his first opportunity when Frank sends him to Bolivia to meet another drug kingpin in Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar). His sidekick Omar (F. Murray Abraham) isn’t happy with what’s happening and Sosa takes the opportunity to deal with him as well as warn Tony not to ever mess with him. This isn’t the only thing that upsets Frank as word gets out that Tony is going solo behind his back sending an attack. Tony isn’t about to let that slide and with moves of his own he marries Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer) and builds an empire bringing in more money than anyone could have imagined.
Years go by and Manny isn’t happy with what Tony is doing. Expanding into money laundering, the boss is also addicted to his own product. All of this leads to tension with Elvira and a mild disdain between husband and wife. Looking for the next big thrill, it comes when he is arrested and charged with tax evasion.
Sosa agrees to help Tony with his little problem but Sosa also has a little problem that Tony needs to take care of in the form of a journalist about to blow up the kingpins life. Frustrated with the whole thing Tony takes it out on Elvira in a public place but she’s had enough and walks away. Heading for New York to do what Sosa asks, Tony has a moment of conscious and returns to Miami.
Promising Tony that he would pay for not doing the job, he learns that Gina is missing. Finding her with Manny after asking him to stay away turns ugly. Feeling everything crumbling, Tony takes Gina and returns to the mansion and a cocaine face dive.
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That’s when hell comes knocking at the door and one of the biggest gun fights reminds Tony that “The World is Yours”, even if only temporarily.
Pacino as Tony is a man who wants to get away from everything he knows in Cuba to start over. Discovering that starting over isn’t as easy as he thought, it takes a hot second before he finds the best way to get what he wants. The problem is that the best way in his mind is the worst way for everyone around him. Pacino is totally absorbed in portraying this character and after years of watching it trust me when I say I’ve looked for an opening – there isn’t one. Pacino makes damn sure with this performance that no one can ever touch it again.
Bauer as Manny is a friend to Tony and wants to succeed. I have to say he has more of a conscience than his friend but that probably isn’t saying too much. As the years pass and the danger becomes even crazier, it is Manny who seems to want to walk away but doesn’t know how. Bauer gives a strong performance and that could be considered saying something standing next to Al Pacino.
Pfeiffer as Elvira is a woman who falls for a smooth talking man promising her a good life. It may have started out that way but, as with all things sinister, it begins to force itself into her life. She becomes no better than Tony as they both begin to drown in their dislike of one another because it’s like looking in a mirror for each of them. What started out as the potential for a good life was based on lies and false promises, nothing good can ever come of that. Elvira is just one sniff away from destroying any chance of a life period and Pfeiffer makes you believe it.
Mastrantonio as Gina quickly assimilates into the Miami scene which completely drives her brother insane. He wants a sweet and innocent sister but Gina has other plans. This is a character that cries out to be saved but when everyone is in self-destruct mode it turns into ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. Loggia as Frank shows Tony what it takes to have the drug business and after creating a monster suffers a creators fate.
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Abraham as Omar has always been such an interesting character because Abraham is always in my head as the underhanded Salieri from AMADEUS or the underhanded Dar Adal from the series Homeland. I forget that Omar was the first underhanded character I’d ever seen him portray and he did it so well then as he does now. Shenar as Sosa was always a force to be reckoned with but Tony thought he was always one step ahead. Trust me, when someone says ‘don’t cross me’ I suggest you not cross them, especially in the violent world created by drug kingpins!
Other cast include Harris Yulin as Mel Bernstein, Michael P. Moran as Nick the Pig, Al Israel as Hector the Toad, Mark Margolis as Alberto the Shadow, Geno Silva as The Skull, Dennis Holahan as Jerry, Ted Beniades as Seidelbaum and Gregg Henry as Charles Goodson.
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us to all experience and re-experience in our own home theaters. There are film of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.
MOVIES ANYWHERE gives viewers the ability to download the Movies Anywhere App. With that you can view films by downloading or streaming to your favorite device using a Digital Code. For more information on Movies Anywhere please visit www.MoviesAnywhere.com.
The combo includes SCARFACE (1983) 4K UHD, SCARFACE (1983) Bluray, SCARFACE (1983) Digital, and SCARFACE (1932) Bluray. The Bonus Features include SCARFACE 35th Anniversary Reunion: An All-New Conversation with Director Brian De Palma and Actors Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer and Steven Bauer from the Tribeca Film Festival, The SCARFACE Phenomenon, The World of Tony Montana, The Rebirth, The Acting, The Creating, Deleted Scenes, SCARFACE: The TV Version and more!
Pacino saw the 1932 version of SCARFACE and saw potential in remaking the film. After a shift in writers, Oliver Stone was brought on to create the iconic script. De Palma brought his direction and SCARFACE would become an iconic film making list after list for villains, movie quotes and gangster films (Body count: 42). “Say hello to my little friend” (which was an M16 assault rifle with an M203 40mm grenade launcher on the barrel) is uttered at least once a day somewhere on the planet in so many ways and in so many situations.
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There is actually nothing that can touch SCARFACE and even though there are rumors always abound of a remake or a sequel, I personally wouldn’t see it. I love everything about this film from its intrigue to cinematography to the cast who create the whole story with the nuances of the characters they portray.
SCARFACE is a film that is memorable for my generation and it continues to stun the next generation of audiences because, despite the polyester suits, what happens to Tony and the gang is not so far off what is happening today. There is a mentality and a way of life that lends itself to the kinds of danger and violence these characters bring on themselves.
That being said, I love the cinematography, the costuming and the music choices. It is as if Pacino, Bauer, Pfeiffer and the rest of the actors gave it everything and the rest is pure icing on this magnificent cake of a film. It is as if Pacino dares us to go along for the ride and when we are shocked, Tony laughs at our squeamishness. His idea of the American dream sends most of us running the other way and he makes no apologies as he doesn’t suffer fools and the weak.
SCARFACE is iconic, epic and is a totally uncomfortable film to watch but like all train wrecks you can’t look away. The characters are bad, that’s clear from the start but maybe there is something in us that hopes someone, anyone will find redemption. Once again, our definition of redemption and Tony’s is what brings on the final scene of the film.
In the end – he loved the American dream with a vengeance!

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary with THE SWAN PRINCESS

Swan Cover
Jeri Jacquin
Coming to Bluray celebrating the 25th Anniversary of its 1994 release from director Richard Rich and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is a story filled with magic and enchantment with THE SWAN PRINCESS.
Odette is a young princess born to King William (Dakin Matthews) and he couldn’t be happier. Not so happy is the evil sorcerer Rothbart (Jack Palance) who has vowed revenge to take the kingdom for himself until he is banished. As Odette (Michelle Nicastro) begins to grow, Queen Uberta (Sandy Duncan) wants to introduce her to son Derek (Howard McGillin) and after years of learning about one another, fall in love.
But Odette thinks he only loves her for beauty and nothing more. Returning home the vengeful Rothbart attacks their carriage and takes Odette leaving the King injured. Derek goes after his love but it is too late as the King informs him that she is gone and the kingdom believes her to be gone forever. Determined to find Odette, Derek is joined by Bromely (Joel Miller) and Lord Rogers (Mark Harelik) honing their skills to face what the King called the Great Animal.
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Rothbart has Odette at Swan Lake and wasting no time he casts a spell turning the young girl into a swan during the day and human for a short time at night. He tells her that this will continue until she agrees to marry him. Knowing his plan to rule her father’s kingdom, she continues to refuse. While a swan, Odette makes friends with a turtle Speed (Steven Wright), French frog Jean-Bob (John Cleese) and an Irish puffin named, well Puffin (Steve Vinovich).
It is Odette the swan and Puffin that look for Derek discovering him looking for the Great Animal. Having the chance to speak with the human Odette, she tells him the only thing that can break the spell is an open declaration of love. Derek tells her to come to the castle where a ball is taking place to do just that – declare his love.
Rothbart has heard the plan but has a plan of his own. The real Odette is thrown into a dungeon turning a woman named Bridget into a copy of Odette, it is she who goes to the ball which starts a chain of doom. Even as the animals come to her aid as much as they can, Derek will do what he must to fight the Great Animal and save the only happiness he has ever known.
But will he be in time to save their love?
Nicastro as Odette lends her lovely voice to a young girl who spends her whole life trying to find true love. When she does, she isn’t quite sure whether it is her outer beauty he loves or also sees her inner beauty. In a snap decision to leave Derek behind, it leaves the door open for Rothbart to swoop in and change her life. McGillin as Derek is a young man who, at first, isn’t thrilled with the idea of Odette in his life but soon realizes she is what he didn’t know he was looking for. Realizing his mistake he takes it upon himself to find her and set the world right again.
Palance as Rothbart does what he has always been good at, being a tough guy and in this case a tough kind of evil guy. Being nasty in order to get a kingdom is his plan and nothing is going to stop him from accomplishing his goal. Well, that’s what he thinks anyway because love has a way of changing the evilest of plans.
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Vinovich as Puffin is adamant that he get Odette where she needs to be to make the world of love right again. He is such a strong character and his accent just makes him oh so more endearing. Wright as Speed is a turtle who is in a hurry to not be in a hurry. His friendship with Odette is very important to him as he wants his friend to be happy first and foremost. Cleese as Jean-Bob the frog just continually cracked me up but that’s what he’s always been good at as well, entertaining everyone with his humor.
Matthews as King William absolutely adores his daughter and only wants her every happiness. When she is taken it is heartbreaking for him but he knows she isn’t gone forever. Duncan as Queen Uberta wants her son married as soon as possible and if it’s not Odette then another girl would do just as well. Having the ball at the castle gives her a chance to find a quick replacement.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment encompasses motion picture production for television, digital content and theater releases. The studios include Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Stage 6 Films and Sony Picture Classics. To see what is coming to theaters and to home entertainment please visit www.sonypictures.com.
The Bluray Special Features include Looking Back at 25 Years of THE SWAN PRINCESS, The Swan Princess: The Original Making of and Five Sing-A-Longs.
Director Rich has taken the German tale of Swan Lake and brought it to animation in such a beautiful way. Taken over four years to create due to original hand painted cels, over 275 animators and artists brought the film to life. THE SWAN PRINCESS is the winner of the Film Advisory Board Award of Excellence and the Parents’ Choice Award.
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This animated version of THE SWAN PRINCESS is so entertaining, fun, and covers about ever theme you can imagine when it comes to love, family and friendship. The songs are catchy and it is quite easy to catch yourself toe tapping or shoulder bobbing along, even when Rothbart breaks out into his ‘No More Mister Nice Guy’ routine.
What is most amazing about THE SWAN PRINCESS is that the film is celebrating its 25th year but there is nothing on the Bluray that would show its age. Instead it is stunningly colorful and could easily fit into place in any family’s home entertainment library. It feels as fresh as the day it was released and my daughter is thrilled to be able to share with my granddaughter a story and film that she was raised on and remembers with heartfelt fondness. Now, three generations of gals can sit together and share THE SWAN PRINCESS.
In the end – it is an enchanting classic destined to capture your heart and free your spirit!

Ready for the Holidays Because Iconic Characters Are!

Ultimate cover
Jeri Jacquin
Ready to start celebrating the holidays? Well you should be as DreamWorks and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment have a way to start us all off with ULTIMATE HOLIDAY COLLECTION!
Starting with TROLLS HOLIDAY, Poppy realizes that the Bergens have lost their only holiday and she is determined to help them find happiness. Wanting to make sure there is as much glitter as possible, Poppy and Branch head to Bergentown to meet with friends Bridgett and King Grissom To discuss what can be done. Happiness is what Poppy and the Trolls are all about and creating a new holiday is what they are all about.
Poppy get a little carried away and it causes a little problem in her friendship with the Bergen queen. You can imagine that friendship can heal so much and it happens for Bergentown and the Trolls as well. So come aboard the love train and prepare your feet to dance and new songs to sing!
Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, Zooey Daschnel and Christopher Mintz-Plasse return in their iconic character roles to show us the awesomeness that is creating a Bergen holiday that everybody can enjoy.
SHREK THE HALLS brings Shrek, Donkey and Fiona along with their new family to celebrate the holidays. The problem is that Shrek doesn’t really know how to celebrate it. Getting a quick lesson on what needs to be done, Shrek takes it upon himself to create his own version of decking the halls.
Of course Donkey has to put in his opinion but Fiona knows exactly what Shrek is trying to do so, as a family, they decorate and create their own magic. Shrek’s friends crash to bring all the mayhem Shrek was trying to avoid not being a party person. After being ‘ogreish’, the secret about Shrek’s idea of a holiday comes out.
In DONKEY’S CAROLING CHRISTMAS-TACULAR has Donkey thrilled about the holiday parties and the apple bobbing, stockings and everyone singing Christmas carols. Of course depending on who you are, the songs are a little different. The ogres sing about rat pies and Puss n’ Boots sings about itching and a bit of fairy tale rocking!
Mike Meyers, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas and Eddie Murphy gives us everything we love about these story book characters celebrating the first Shrek family holiday!
MERRY MADAGASCAR brings Alex, Marty, Melvin and Sylvia heading back to New York for the holidays, well that is until their balloon is brought down my Julian and the gang. They thought the balloon was their dreaded Red Night Marauding Goblin who turns out to be Santa Claus!
Now sporting a case of amnesia, the jungle gang must do what Santa can’t, deliver the presents to the world and hitch a ride home to New York. It is a holiday chore that reminds us of why these hilarious animals are friends till the end. On the island Julian is learning about giving and Santa has a special gift for them all.
Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, Cedric the Entertainer,  and Danny Jacobs return to give us their idea of the holidays!
THE MADAGASCAR PENGUINS A Christmas Caper has everyone celebrating at the New York Zoo as the Private tells Skipper that the Polar Bear isn’t as jolly as everyone else. When the Private sneaks out to find a gift for the sad polar bear, the Skipper notices him gone. Now the penguins are on a mission to find their missing friend!
DRAGONS GIFT OF THE NIGHT FURY takes us back to the town of Berg where Hiccup and Toothless prepare for the towns own brand of holidays. Without warning, all the dragons take off leaving the night fury behind. Realizing its because he can’t fly without Hiccup, a new tale is created and off Toothless goes. The whole town truly begins to miss their dragons.
When Hiccup discovers one dragon hidden away, he is taken on a long flight to an island where the dragons are together with their young for a season of nesting. Back on Berk, Astrid and the gang discover that a batch of eggs left behind bring a big bang of a surprise and when all are reunited there is such a celebration that only Berg can dream up.
Jay Baruchel, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig and Gerard Butler and the gang return to Berk giving us a little dragon with our holiday grog.
KUNG FU PANDA holiday brings our favorite Dragon Warrior dealing with the Winter Feast. Shifu tells Po that the festival is very formal and very traditional with all the Kung Fu Masters coming to celebrate. With this traditional feast comes a lot of things to learn but upsetting Po the most is that he is not allowed to invite his dad.
Now Po must decide between being the host to the traditional Winter Feast as the Dragon Warrior and making Master Shifu proud or to be with his father Ping being a good son. Holidays are about family and everyone is about to learn a lesson from the Dragon Warrior!
Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Jack McBrayer, Dan Fogler, Jackie Chan and James Hong lend their voices for the holiday animated fun.
HOME For the Holidays tells the story of Oh learning about Christmas and all of the traditions that include baking, songs, snowmen and connecting with everyone about the warmth of the holidays. In this animated holiday story, everyone can be sure that Oh will give us a chance to see everything through his eyes.
The Boov got carried away when Oh tried to explain the workings of the holiday. This causes a rift between Oh and Tip and the town is blaming them both for ruining Christmas. Chicago is now floating and someone’s got to fix it. Oh also learns about the different customs and how we all celebrate with the ones we love. Kelly Clarkson brings her voice to Oh Holy Night!
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As an amazing bonus the full film of RISE OF THE GUARDIANS which has become a holiday must-see in my family. Jack Frost (Chris Pine) is being called on by North aka Santa (Alec Baldwin), the Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Sandman, the Tooth (Isla Fischer) to help them fight the very dangerous Pitch (Jude Law).
Pitch wants to make children forget about the wonderful holidays that bring them so much joy by replacing it all with fear and darkness. The Guardians aren’t about to let that happen and Jack, although not quite a Guardian, is also in to help. He has friends as Jamie (Dakota Goyo), Caleb (Khmani Griffin), Claude (Kamil McFadden), Sophie (Georgie Grieve) and Monty (Jacob Bertrand) are about to show Jack what true friendship means!
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us to all experience and re-experience in our own home theaters. There are film of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.
DreamWorks Animation brings amazing animated entertainment to films, television specials and series for the young and young at heart audiences around the world. For more of what they have to offer please visit http://www.dreamworksanimation.com.
The Bonus Features of this collection are Shrek’s Yule Log, 12 Days of Christmas Pop-up Book, 4 Penguins Sing-Along Videos and so much more!
This is just an absolutely fantastic edition to anyone, like me, who has a home entertainment library section dedicated to the holidays. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I had my share of holiday favorites that are still being shown yearly even to this very day. That being said there is certainly nothing wrong with opening up hearts and homes to additional stories.
All of these are about home, love, friendship, family (and everyone you love is family), standing up for the right thing, defending those who need defending and all the craziness that can be found during the season.
Of course there is chaos and a little mayhem, but there is also singing, dancing, sharing and enjoying each other’s company through it all. What this ultimate collection truly does is remind us of the season in ways that we sometimes forget during the year and to seriously lighten up a little, okay a lot!
In the end – if you are going to have the ultimate of holidays then you need the ultimate collection!

Now on Bluray and DVD is DR. SEUSS’ THE GRINCH

Grinch cover
Jeri Jacquin
This week on Bluray/DVD and Digital from directors Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier, Illumination and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is the one we know as THE GRINCH.
In Who-ville it is that time of year as the Who-ville-ians prepare themselves for their favorite holiday of Christmas. Of course there is always one who isn’t quite so thrilled about the excitement and that’s The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch). Living atop Mount Crumpit with his dog Max, Grinch gets a little grumpier when he realizes that he has to make a grocery stop in Who-ville which is the last thing he wants to do.
Also in Who-ville is Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely), a very sweet six-year-old who is very aware that her mother is overworked. Taking care of twin boys Buster and Bean, Mom Donna (Rashida Jones) keeps a happy face for her family but Cindy reaches out to Santa for a little help. The Grinch and Cindy meet and the outcomes is that Cindy Lou decides to go to the North Pole and ask Santa straight out for help. The problem is that the traveling she would have to do to make that happen means that Cindy Lou has to go to plan B – trap Santa!
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The Grinch has his own idea for messing with Who-ville and the holidays he hates so much. On Christmas Eve with the help of Max, he decides to be Santa Claus and take every little gizmo and gadget from the towns people. While heisting the Who’s house, he meets Cindy Lou again as she explains that she wants nothing for herself, only her mother and there is a crack in the Grinch’s nasty ole heart.
That doesn’t stop him from stealing everything in Who-ville and back up to Mount Crumpit. What he doesn’t expect is that all the people of Who-ville see past the trappings of Christmas and celebrate the holiday with love in their hearts. Well, the Grinch can’t get away from the feelings that snowball to the point of doing the right thing and becoming part of Who-ville the way it always should have been.
The Grinch toasts, “To kindness and love, the things we need the most”!
Cumberbatch as The Grinch is funny and charming in his grumpy way but that is what is expected of this iconic character. It is difficult to carry on the tradition of the Dr. Seuss’ from it’s 1966 Boris Karloff voice narration that I grew up with to the 2000 Jim Carrey hilarious version that my daughter grew up with but Cumberbatch has a little help from Illumination to make his version come to life.
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Seely as Cindy Lou Who is a very sweet girl who sees the day to day struggles of her mother and although tries to help the best she can, she feels it might not be enough. That’s a child with an amazing heart that should all be blessed to know.
Jones as Donna is a Mom who is trying to be everything to everyone and does so with the Who-ville positive attitude – even if it is exhausting. I found her creative, skillful and someone I’d like to have around my kitchen at breakfast time.
Lansbury as the Mayor is a voice I can say that I always love to hear and am thrilled that she is The part of the Grinch memorable universe.
Other cast include: Kenan Thompson as Bricklebaum, Tristan O’Hare as Groopert, Ramone Hamilton as Axle, Sam Lavagnino as Ozzy, Scarlett Estevez as Izzy and Pharrell Williams as the Narrator and the glorious Ms. Angela Lansbury as Mayor McGerkle.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us all to experience and re-experience in our own home theatres. There are films of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.
The Bluray of THE GRINCH includes the Bonus Features of 3 Mini-Movies, The Making of the Mini-Movies, From Green to Screen, Who’s Who in Who-ville, My Earliest Grinch Memories, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” Lyric Video, Songs from His Little Heart, Grinchy Gadgets, Anyone Who Can Draw: The Grinch, Max, Fred, Cindy Lou’s Yule Log and so much more!
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The Digital Movie included in this pack has Movies Anywhere and with the Movies Anywhere App you can download and stream from any device which means you can go to Who-ville from almost anywhere.
THE GRINCH is a film that will be part of holiday viewing for years to come. The animation is green and vivid which is what we’d expect of the world created by Dr. Seuss and it adds to the fun of the film.
What is also in this film is the importance of family and helping one another because if you do that, it is so easy to reach out that feeling to a Grinch we all might know. Let’s face it, no one wants to be left out of the holiday fun and watch it from afar. THE GRINCH invites us to be caring, giving, loving and full of holiday fun.
Now that’s something we can all get behind all year long.
In the end – it’s never too early to be annoyed by Christmas!

THE BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT is From VeggieTales

Veggie cover
Jeri Jacquin
Coming to DVD from from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is the beloved characters created to charm our imaginations now helping us celebrate the holidays with VEGGIETALES: The Best Christmas Gift.
The Veggies are preparing for Christmas as Bob and Larry get things together for a holiday show in Mr. Nezzer’s theatre. There are songs to learn and dances and costumes to gather in order to make the show a success. Arthur seems to be having a difficult time and Archibald Asparagus is preparing all the food from different parts of the world to share.
But things start to go wrong as the other Veggies decide they want something else because food from different countries just isn’t working. They also have a problem as Bob has to explain what a Christmas tree is and how it is decorated. They believe their celebration is in jeopardy without setting things right.
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Then it comes to them that it’s time to remember what the holidays are truly all about. There is a story that needs telling and it just might be what is needed to the unhappy veggies back to a holiday space. It’s about a Jr. sheppard, wise persons and a place called Bethlehem. The Veggies are bringing joy and a story about a new king to an audience who is riveted.
There is a call for an encore from the performing Veggies and the holiday is saved!
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us to all experience and re-experience in our own home theaters. There are film of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.
The DVD includes Bonus Features of Introducing: The VeggieTales Show, Sing Song Karaoke, Behind the Scenes: Silly Song Remixes, Audio Commentary, and Trailer. Introducing All New Silly Song Remixes of The Hairbrush Song and The Water Buffalo Song. Plus A Veggie Tales Christmas, Song & Story Mash Up and Downloadable Parental Discussion Guide which is available at www.VeggieTales.com
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Is there anything more enchanting than singing Veggies? I hardly think so! These lovely and very animated characters bring so much to the holidays. Not only do they embrace trying foods from other countries but they want all Veggies to feel the love of the holidays. From their version of the Christmas Story which is not only charming but extremely cute, but their own decorating and singing version of a Christmas tree.
The Veggies want everyone to understand that the love of family comes from a special place and that Christmas brings good news for us all. The world may seem to be a messy place for the Veggies but that isn’t about to stop them from celebrating the holidays even through the bumps and crazy happenings because they have each other.
It has been 29 years since the inception of the VeggieTales and this story is one of the newest that will be coming once again. Created by Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki, the idea was to bring Christian themes to an animated story that included the characters of fruits and vegetables. Living on the counter of a kitchen, Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, Junior and Archibald Asparagus, Petunia Rhubarb, Pa Grape, Laura Carrot, Madame Blueberry, the French Peas and so many more were born.
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The VeggieTales have grown and have been shared over and over with the children who are riveted by these characters. THE BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT is another story to be shared with each other and bring the family together for a little bit of seasonal celebrating!
In the end – it is a timeless story of hope!

THE KILL TEAM

The Kill Team cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres and On Demand from writer/director Dan Krauss and A24 are events of war and the effects caused by THE KILL TEAM.

 

Andrew Briggman (Nat Wolff) is a young man who joins the military and immediately send to the Middle East. Settling into camp, he tries to learn the ropes from the other soldiers. His first experience with the seriousness of their work is when their leader Weppler (Osy Ikhile) is killed. The group tries to come together as the new leader Sgt. Deeks (Alexander Skarsgard) walks in with confidence.

 

Deeks makes it very clear what he expects from the men under him and even treats them to a cookout. He also takes Briggman under his wing a little and encourages him to be more forward in his soldiering. The young soldier appreciates the attention and begins to find his way and becomes more inclusive with the platoon.

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Out on a mission, Briggman remembers what Weppler told him about ‘hearts and minds’ but Deeks doesn’t agree with this approach. In fact, while out on patrol, he witnesses something that he knows is frighteningly wrong. Unsure of what to do, Briggman reaches out to his father William (Rob Morrow) who tells his son to stand fast using his military contacts to find help.

 

As word begins to spread that there could be a rat in the ranks, Briggman watches everyone including Deeks for signs of danger. The days become more difficult to handle as the others start weeding out who could be the person turning on them all.

Every move brings him to a decision that will cost everyone!

Wolff as Briggman is a young man who comes from a military family and sees himself as doing his duty to country. Not as tough as some of the other soldiers he is with means if someone is going to be made to feel the outcast it is Briggman. Wolff brings a believable naivetés to his character that is shattered quickly and his reaction is fear. From beginning to the end of the film I felt with Briggman every step of the way (including feeling a big paranoid) and all of the emotions means Wolff delivers.

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Skarsgard as Deeks is charming and disarming at the same time. Coming off as ‘one of the guys’ is perfect for a predator of his calibre. Of course I know Skarsgard can play a villain because I’ve seen him do it as a vampire in the HBO series True Blood, but this isn’t the same by any means. In THE KILL TEAM, he uses war and the innocence of these young soldiers to fulfill his own nasty need for destruction. Despicable yes, well portrayed – absolutely.

Morrow as William Briggman is a father who just wants his son to come home alive without physical harm or emotional scars. When his son reaches out, Dad does what dad’s do, try to fix a problem before it becomes bigger than a problem.

Other cast include Anna Francolini as Laura, Oliver Ritchie as Cappy, Brian Marc as Marquez, Jonathan Whitesell as Coombs, Adam Long as Rayburn and Ian Attard as Captain Weaver.

THE KILL TEAM is a difficult film because the idea presented is one that people have thought about but never talk openly about. War brings about actions that otherwise wouldn’t be a part of a person’s behaviors in everyday life. Not just in the recent wars but wars throughout history people have done things to one another that aren’t spoken of in ‘polite society’.

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Not so much in recent years as PTSD has become prevalent in our world and with that come the stories (and even photographs/video with our technology now) that show what the men/women of the armed services endure. The leader in this film, Deeks, is supposedly one of their own that is trusted to do his job and protect his soldiers is the disturbing part. Instead he is a man that betrays that trust and does the unthinkable.

Briggman is a character but not so far removed from all the young soldiers who join the military. When the trust of a leader is betrayed, the fear is just another thing that can get one killed. Anyone in the military or family of those in the military will experience this film in a more difficult way because having a service member in the family is already difficult enough. The choices they make as soldiers is one most of us will never have to make and the film portrays that as well.

The entire film is on an emotional roller coaster for the viewer but at the same time will have the same viewer writing up a mental list of questions. That’s where the conversations come into play that need to be had regarding the realities of war. Of course my father and grandfather came from a generation where what happened in war was never discussed but that is no longer the case and, in fact, they are now speaking out for their own mental health.

In the years to come this will not be the only time we hear and see a story of this kind as writer/director Krauss gives us a based on a true story, in-depth look at a few good men brought to many bad (and sad) behaviors.

In the end – they are soldiers, brothers and enemies.

Tragedy and Family in BUCK RUN

bUCK rUN cover

Jeri Jacquin

From director Nick Frangione, Intuition Film and Tomorrowland Productions comes a story of a boy, a father and life when it comes to BUCK RUN.

Shaw (Nolan Lyons) lives in a small town with a very ill mother. One morning he discovers the worst thing a young man could, that his mother is gone. Not telling anyone for a day he tries to process but instead is sent by Officer Daniels (Jim Parrack) to live with his absentee father William (James Le Gros).

Since his parents separation, Shaw hasn’t seen much of William who seems to spend more time at the swap meet or with friend John (Kevin J. O’Connor). The Shaw and his father don’t seem to have too much to say to each other but the boy wants to know about the arrangements being made for his mother.

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If that isn’t enough to handle, Shaw has to deal with being the target of a very large bully who doesn’t care one wit about any of his problems. Time and time again it is as if Shaw is handed insult to injury with no true adult to turn to. Maneuvering his emotions and the task of almost having to be the adult in the relationship with his father, Shaw begins to understand what takes most of us a lifetime to come to terms with.

Being a kid sometimes means accepting human frailty no matter how deep it goes.

Lyons as Shaw is absolutely stunning in this role. He is a young man clearly in the middle of adult problems and death starting the ball rolling. This young actor gives us everything we would expect and so very much more. Shaw is a complex character (just being a teen is the beginning) who is forced to navigate through the toxic environment created by those around him. It is amazing how quickly I wanted to embrace Shaw but found myself realizing that at his young age he does what we all tend to do, roll with the punches and accept.

Le Gros as William is a man with his own emotional issues and it becomes quickly clear that Shaw inherited those same qualities. Keeping things locked away and excusing it all when those feelings start to bubble to the top, William hides in the forest and shoots his problems away. Whether through heredity or the environment around him, Le Gros portrays a man who has learned that problems don’t get put on Facebook and you suck it up and move on. What a lesson there is in these two characters.

Yoder as Kevin is trying to be a good friend to William but even that relationship hits a bump in the road when a truth surfaces. Yoder is an amazing actor to begin with so I expect everything I saw in this performance and applauded. Parrack as Officer Daniels tries, in his own way, to keep an eye on Shaw but as we see with the men in this film, it’s easy to nod that all is well and not face the reality of what this boy is going through.

Other cast include Amy Hargreaves as Karen, Alicia Goranson as Misty, Rod Luzzi as Alan Davis, Marcin Paluch as Mike, Roy Wilson as Dan, Aaron Marcus as Ned, Isaac Conner as Walt, Robert Frangione as Charlie and the ever amazing Angus Macfadyen as Angus Ford.

BUCK RUN is about as emotional as a film can get but that emotion comes from the audiences’ reaction to Shaw. The story is such that I wanted to scream at the screen for someone, anyone to have an emotional reaction to what is happening to the boy. There is where the film gets you, the intensity of hoping that someone up on the screen will save him. Remember how I spoke about acceptance? Well, you will find yourself accepting the result whether you like it or not.

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The fact is that BUCK RUN has layer after layer of emotion but they are buried in the family history of the family. There is love but it is not open, there is compassion but its hidden by generations of ‘suck it up’ and there is concern but it’s hidden under the leaves of a town stuck in its own beliefs and whoa be an outsider.

Having come from a small town in Illinois, I found myself slowly beginning to understand the creatures of habit in BUCK RUN’s town. There is a sense of things stuck in time and emotional traditions that people will hold on to until they are dust. There is no suggestion of hijacking emotions as being right or wrong – it just is.

I had the chance to interview director Frangione and discovered first of all that he has an amazing sense of humor which I appreciate. He also told an audience at the San Diego International Film Festival this past weekend that he came from a small town like the one in the film. He was drawn to the story because of its complexities and I can honestly say he captured them all in the film. I congratulated him on the cast because each one brought a uniqueness to the story.

It is dark, it is tense and between the characters, the location and the cinematography, Frangione understood all of those elements to bring BUCK RUN to its conclusion. It may not be the one we want for Shaw but it is one that we will accept so what does that say about us?

In the end – a boy, his father and things that are never said.

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