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DOLITTLE Brings Charm to the Big Screen

Dolittle cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from writer/director Stephen Gaghan and Universal Pictures is the story of animals who live with none other than DOLITTLE.

Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey, Jr.) began as a doctor who has the unique ability to speak with animals. Known far and wide, even the Queen called upon him to help with her animals. In gratitude Dolittle is given an estate to continue his work with animals and given them shelter.

When tragedy strikes the good doctor, he closes the gates to everyone and becomes secluded from the world. That is until meeting the young Tommy (Harry Collett) who discovers a squirrel that needs a doctor! It is the flying parrot Polly (voiced by Emma Thompson) who leads the lad to Dolittle’s door.

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At the same time, the young Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) is sent to Dolittle on behest of Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) to come to the palace and help the monarch. Quickly is snapped back to his self by all the animals who know that he needs to do what’s right. Visiting the Queen he is met by Lord Thomas Badgley (Jim Broadbent) and the nefarious Dr. Blair Mudfly (Michael Sheen).

It seems a plot is in the works against the Queen and only Dolittle knows how to stop it. The mysterious illness that has taken the Queen has a cure and Dolittle knows where it can be found.

Taking along Tommy, their journey begins with a ship full of animals and a mission – to save the Queen

Downey, Jr. as Dolittle is perfect casting with his unique ability to be quirky and humorous in his own way. It could also be that I’m happy to see him on the big screen again taking on a role that is lighthearted and warm in character. Downey, Jr. has a flair to entertain an audience, so much so that I can easy overlook the mushiness of his accent.

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Collett as Tommy is a young man unlike the rest of his hunting family. He sees the grace in loving animals and once meeting Dolittle, knows his path in life. The adventure is just a bonus! Collett is charming and fun to watch alongside Downey, Jr. and that makes for wonderful storytelling.

Sheen as Mudfly has become good at being bad. This time he is able to add a little slap stick comedy to his role but never go against Downey, Jr.! Broadbent as Badgley is supposed to be taking care of the Queen but is he?

Laniado as Lady Rose is sweet, elegant and wants to protect her Queen. A strong young woman who isn’t afraid of much and that serves her well against both man and animal. The spark between herself and Tommy is very sweet as well.

The animal cast include: Rami Malek as Chee-Chee, John Cena as Yoshi, Kumail Nanjiani as Plimpton, Octavia Spencer as Dab-Dab, Tom Holland as Jip, Craig Robinson as Kevin, Ralph Fiennes as Barry, Selena Gomez as Betsy, Marion Cotillard as Tutu, Frances de la Tour as the Dragon and Jason Mantzoukas as James the Dragonfly.

Other cast include Kasia Smutniak as Lily Dolittle, Oliver Chris as Sir Gareth, Clive Francis, and Antonio Banderas as King Rassouli.

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DOLITTLE is a charming fun adventure for the entire family. This is an introduction to Dolittle like we have not seen before and it does leave the door open in case Downey, Jr. wants to return. The audience was taken with the bounty of talking animals and all their own personalities and it did bring lots of laughs with side jokes.

The human cast is fun and ready to take on the journey which is unexpected and full of twists and turns. DOLITTLE is the reason families come to the movies together on a Saturday and escape into a magical world for a time and still talk about it after.

So, gather the entire family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – everybody!) and enjoy time together with the animals.

In the end – he’s not just a people person!

THE BIG TRIP

Big Trip DVD cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to DVD from writer/director Vasili Rovenskiy and Lionsgate comes an animated adventure of an unlikely friendship and together taking THE BIG TRIP.

Mic-Mic (Pauly Shore) is a bear who wants to enjoy his leisurely uninterrupted life but that’s all about to change. A stork making his deliveries doesn’t do such a good job when mis=delivering a baby Panda. Immediately irritated, it is decided to take him to family in China.

Going along for the big trip is rabbit Oscar (Drake Bell) because he seems to be the only animal capable of calming the crying panda. On the road they pick up a pelican, a tiger who likes to chat and a wolf with issues.

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Their journey is one of learning to understand their differences but all toward the goal of one thing – returning the baby panda to his family!

Bell as Mic-Mic is not in the mood to be any other animals caretaker let alone nanny! Deciding to take the panda home is his only way out of the situation. Bell certainly uses his voice to project his character and gives it the right amount of grump.

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Shore as Oscar is a rabbit who truly wants to be friends with all the animals they are traveling with. Mic-Mic isn’t to keen on sharing the big trip and Oscar makes darn sure that he hops his way into their hearts. Shore is sassy and funny as always.

Lionsgate is a global leader in motion picture production and distribution for theatres, television, home entertainment and more. Theatre franchises include THE HUNGER GAMES, and DIVERGENT along with JOHN WICK. Now, adding this film to its 16,000 motion picture and television titles you can see everything coming soon as well as available now at http://www.lionsgate.com

The DVD Special Features include Giving the Characters a Voice: At the Recording Studio with Drake Bell and Pauly Shore Featurette.

Here is how I feel about animated films – I want them to be fun and colorful of course but also have a point to the adventure and even a few lessons about how to work out difficult problems and have fun at the same time.

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THE BIG TRIP is a story of differences and unlikely friendships and that is what I’m taking from it. My granddaughter loved the animal characters who made her laugh and even ‘awwww’ a few times. She loves pandas so watching the togetherness to protect this particular little panda captured her attention from start to finish.

The is most definitely a family film that is a good way to spend time together cuddled up on the sofa during these winter months with a soft blanket and a tub of popcorn. This is how you go on an adventure without leaving home.

In the end – big dreams, big travel and big trouble!

THE TWO POPES is a Hit for Netflix

The Two Popes cover

Jeri Jacquin
Coming to Netflix from director Fernando Meirelles and writer Anthony McCarten comes the story needing to be told by these two actors about THE TWO POPES.
The story set in 2012 should be easy to tell but this one isn’t. Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) is an interesting man to say the very least but he is more interested in Jesuit Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce). On a visit to Pope Benedict’s summer house, Bergoglio wants to present the Pope with his resignation.
With paper in hand and explaining himself, Pope Benedict doesn’t seem to be the slightest bit interested. In fact, he begins conversing with Bergoglio about everything but the papers in his hand, including their differing views on the church.
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Their conversations tell the story of these two men and the lives they have led and in that lies so much greatness. Juan Minujin portrays the Bergoglio as a young man telling the story of a time when decisions cost everyone everything. As Pryce tells his story, it is so heavy a tale he is telling remembering where he has come and what he feels he must do by resigning. He certainly doesn’t shy away from telling his Holiness what he really thinks which had my jaw dropping.
Hopkins Pope Benedict listens intently but tends to coat the conversation with brevity every chance he gets. Here is a man who has his own past to deal with and lets Bergoglio know that in that fashion that they are only human no matter what clothes they are wearing. He is also confronted with the scandals that have been a part of the Church and Bergoglio wants to understand.
Throughout the film, it is Hopkins and Pryce that are stellar and with every conversation there are revelations about the two men who would become Popes. This film could easily have become a dry story with a peak behind Vatican curtain but instead it is a film that you can’t take your eyes off of from first moment to last.
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One might not expect humor from THE TWO POPES but between jokes, a little piano time, orange soda and pizza you’d be wrong. That is what Hopkins and Pryce bring to the film – an unpredictability that is informative, endearing, charming and worth every minute. The story being told is one of two men holding the highest religious place in the Catholic Church.
The cinematography is absolutely stunning and the costuming is equally beautiful. Those are important in this piece because this is no ordinary story about the church being told, it is also a look inside the walls of where both these men live in a way most of us cannot fathom.
Netflix has certainly found a winning streak this year with some of the most fantastic stories for viewers. THE TWO POPES ends their year on an even higher note as streaming channels truly cater to originality in their programming. Netflix’s release of THE IRISHMAN in November is another example of showing viewers something new, interesting and thought provoking.
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THE POPE is a film I want to see again because the performances by these two actors is so brilliant and stunning it has to be seen again. Hopkins and Pryce carry the film together with equal greatness of the Popes in both humor, strong character and acceptance of their pasts. We should all see those characteristics in ourselves.
In the end – two men with one goal!

We Return Once Again to DOWNTON ABBEY on Bluray

Downton cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray/DVD and Digital from director Michael Engler, Focus Features and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment from the characters created by Julian Fellowes is the return to DOWNTON ABBEY.

The Crawley family continues normal life at Downton Abbey until Robert (Hugh Bonneville), the Earl of Grantham, receives word that the King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) are about to make a visit. Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) is thrilled but Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) goes into immediate panic especially with husband Henry (Matthew Goode) off on business. Barrows (Robert James-Collier) is now the head of the staff but Lady Mary feels as if things aren’t getting done properly.

Bringing her concerns to Lord Grantham there is only one choice, ask a retired Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) to resume his duties as Downton Abbey until the visit is over and Barrows isn’t happy. Mr. Carson gets the staff in order with Andy (Michael Fox) and the return of Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle). Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) also has her hands full as every nook and cranny must be cleaned and there isn’t a lot of time. Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and Daisy (Sophie McShera) begin creating a menu fit for royalty.

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Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) doesn’t seem as nervous about the King and Queen’s visit but is concerned about seeing relative Maud Bagshaw (Imedla Staunton). The Dowager believes that Maud is trying to cut Robert out of any inheritance since being seen about with her companion Lucy (Tuppence Middleton). Isobel (Penelope Wilton) agrees to help Violet discover the true story behind Maud’s decision as husband Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) stays out of it.

Tom Branson (Allen Leech) is happy to be back at Downton Abbey and with his car business. When he learns about the King and Queen’s visit, some think that perhaps he wouldn’t be pleased out it. So much so that Mary senses something is wrong and isn’t sure what to do. Up for the festivities is Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and husband Bertie Hexham (Harry Hadden-Paton) as they make their way home.

With everything buzzing and plans being made, there is a damper on the happiness when the staff are told that they will not be handling the royal visit. Enter the very stuffy Kings manservant Mr. Wilson (David Haig), Queen’s dresser Mrs. Webb (Richenda Carey) and royal chef Monsieur Courbet (Philippe Spall). Hardly ready to relinquishing their pride in Downton Abbey, Mrs. Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) come up with a plan that is brilliant and wonderful. Barrows is also being watched by Captain Chetwode (Stephen Moore) as being upset with Mr. Carson leads him down a bad road.

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When the King and Queen finally arrive, the household is in high gear as the royal family is treated to dinner with a party to follow the next evening. That is when secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested and everyone who lives and works at Downton Abbey once again remembers how they have all come together for so long and can’t imagine anything else.

Bonneville as the Earl of Grantham returns to his role as the leader of a family who go their own way no matter what he might say about it. This character has grown to understand that things change and if he doesn’t then the Downton Abbey could fall at his feet. I adore Bonneville in this role because he has the facial expressions that say everything even if he says nothing. He clearly loves his family and what’s more is he respects those who keep his household running. McGovern as Cora is the American who has embraced the world she married into. When she is stern, it comes with a smile most often and when she is giddy her face lights up. Her character is the opposite of Robert which is why these two actors make such an awesome pairing.

Dockery as Lady Mary is such an unusual character because she gives off an air of superiority but when she lets her humanity and frailty show it is a sight for the heart to see. Carmichael as Lady Edith has finally found her niche in the world along with daughter Marigold. Now she needs to find the order of it all. Staunton as Bagshaw is a relative full of secrets and some in the family are going to make sure they know every little juicy detail. Middleton as Lucy has her own secrets but a certain Irishman only sees a lovely young girl.

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Leech as Branson has become a character that was once on the outside looking in and now on the inside looking out. Finding the middle ground has always been such a difficult process for this character but now he seems to have found it. Happy with his business and equally happy at Downton Abbey, he carries himself with such grace and still finds humor in his adopted family. Goode as Henry just goes along to get along and is happy in his marriage to Lady Mary, I wish there would have been more of him but I’m thinking it will happen. Hadden-Patton as Hexam is being pulled away by a King who has taken a liking to him and Edith finds herself being meek about it once again. I kept thinking ‘come on Edith, stand your ground!’. Reith as Lord Merton has found happiness in his life and plans to keep it that way by staying out of any family drama.

Jones and James as the King and Queen are lovely and bring their own personal baggage to Downton Abbey. They prove that even royals have family issues and through it all a sense of humor as well. Moore as Chetwode protects the royal family but has a few secrets of his own. Haig as Mr. Wilson is a man I’d throw out on his ear if it wouldn’t get me put in the Tower! Carey as Mrs. Webb would be in the pig mud right night to Mr. Wilson and to complete the threesome would be Spall as the royal chef. Those three brought enough aggravation and did it extremely well – kudos!

The return of Carter as Mr. Carson brought joy to every moment he is on screen. His presence, even when he is a bit frazzled, lets you know that everything will be alright. Right by his side is Logan as Mrs. Hughes. Never let it be said that this very elegant lady doesn’t know how to take care of her position and life with Mr. Carson. Nicol as Mrs. Patmore is a character I see as the fire that is always keeping everyone warm. Food is one thing but the obvious caring she has for those around her comes through the screen. McShera as Daisy once again puts her foot in it and manages to not be concerned with how some people love traditions and pageantry.

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James-Collier as Barrows has been in Mr. Carson’s shoes for some time and isn’t all that thrilled when he returns. So instead of dealing with it, which he never does very well, he once again finds destructive ways of handling things. Nothing he does surprises me! Doyle as Mr. Molesley is over excited and willing to put his teaching position on hold just to be in the same room as the King and Queen. Of course with this excitement comes the usual missteps that had me responding with a slap to my forehead. Fox returns as Andy who is in love with Daisy and discovers he might have a bit of a jealous streak in him.

My favorite couple ever in the entire series is Froggartt as lovely Mrs. Bates and Coyle as Mr. Bates. If there was ever a couple that went through everything horribly imaginable and came out the other side the same honorable people it is the Bates’. Froggartt is beautiful, sweet, gentle yet has a sarcastic side I love. Being the dresser for Lady Mary for years, she still wants to be at Downton Abbey and in the film gets her chance to show a side that is epic. Coyle as Mr. Bates has gone through the gambit if I do say so myself. Through it all his life has changed dramatically and yet he never once looked for an excuse for anything. That being said, planning what is planned for the staff at Downton Abbey, this husband and wife duo show they will fight for what they believe in and do it as they always have done it – together.

Now let’s talk Maggie Smith as Violet – can it be said that she is the cherry on top of a very large and very ostentatious Downton Abbey cake? Well, she is on the one in my mind. Smith is sharp, witty, and doesn’t take anything lightly. One moment she is watching everything and the next jumping in the fray to mix it up. Of course she wouldn’t be able to do some of it with her partner-in-sort-of-crime Isobel. Wilton in her supporting friendship with Violet is the yin to her yang. When these two ladies get together you can be sure it will be hilarious and the repartee a feast for the mind.

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Other cast include Raquel Cassidy as Miss Baxter, Kate Phillips as Princess Mary, Max Brown as Richard Ellis, Mark Addy as Mr. Bakewell, Michael Fox as Andy Parker, Susan Lynch as Miss Lawton, James Cartwright as Tony Sellick, Fifi Hart as Sybbie, Oliver & Zac Barker as George, Alice McCarthy as Nanny Harewood, Marina Balbara as Baroness Valerenay, Andrew Havill as Henry Lascelles, Eva & Karina Samms as Marigold, Diane Halling as Countess of Harrowby, and Perry Fitzpatrick as Chris Webster.

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 Bluray Includes the Bonus Features of Deleted Scenes, Cast Conversations – Exclusive roundtable interviews with the Upstairs and Downstairs Cast, The Royal Visit – A look at how the royal visit proved to be an ambitious event both on and behind the camera, True to the Twenties – Fans of DOWNTON ABBEY are charmed by the sheer grandeur of the aristocracy in the early 20th century. Learn how DOWNTON ABBEY maintains a reputation of being true to the time period. Welcome to Downtown Abbey – a behind-the-scenes look at the grandeur of HIGHCLERE Castle and how it serves as a cornerstone in the Downton Abbey franchise.

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Also, The Brilliance of Julian Fellowes – Writer Julian Fellowes has created a story and beloved characters that resonate with people across the world. This piece celebrates Julian’s brilliant creativity and reveals his approach to bringing Downton Abbey to the big screen. Downton Abbey Series Recap – Whether you’re new or just need a refresher, this series recap will catch you up on the story so far and Feature Commentary with Director Michael Engler.

I discovered the series DOWNTON ABBEY completely by accident as it was on KPBS the same night as my other favorite The Great British Baking Show. It didn’t take long before I became completely engrossed in the story of the families both upstairs and downstairs. I hated when the seasons ended and I broke out the tea set when the next season came around. Little did I know that the series was exploding all over the United States.

Created by writer Julian Fellowes, it aired in 2011 telling the story of Downton Abbey in the mid-1900s of a Yorkshire estate and the Crawley family but it also told the story of the servants. There was everything imaginable happening and the cast made every bit of it magical to watch for those of us who watched week after week. Downton Abbey is actually Highclere Castle in north Hampshire and although there was filming in Ealing Studios, most of it is Highclere Castle both inside and out.

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Fellowes himself has had an amazing career as an actor, to launching his own series on BBC and writing a miniseries about the Titanic. He won an Oscar for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen in 2002 for the script GOSFORD PARK and won Best Directorial Debut from the National Board of Review for SEPARATE LIES. His credit also include VANITY FAIR, THE TOURIST, FROM TIME TO TIME and one of my absolute favorite Emily Blunt films THE YOUNG VICTORIA.

DOWNTON ABBEY has become and I believe will continue to be an iconic series and now film for years to come. There is nothing that can hold a candle to it. In the four years since fans cried their eyes out at the television show finale, the film will not only make us forgive everything but thrill us once again. The story, the character, opulence, splendor, feistiness, heart, gumption, and so much more wrapped in a castle most of us know from a mere glance.

How does one thank Julian Fellowes for giving us just a little more of what we crave and an even bigger thank you to every original cast member that came back and made us feel like they didn’t miss a beat. DOWNTON ABBEY is such a beautiful film in every way and I love period pieces of all kinds but this film has a special place in my heart because the characters.

This is not just a reunion of characters, but a reunion of us along with the characters we embraced back in 2011. We want to know they are all fine in the world of Downton Abbey and that it is possible (please let it be possible) that there might be another film to continue their story.

In the end – they’ve been expecting us!

Disney Delights with FROZEN II

Frozen cover
Jeri Jacquin
Coming to theatres in time to welcome us all into the holiday season from director Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Walt Disney Pictures is the return to Arendelle and FROZEN II.
Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad), Sven and Queen Elsa (Indina Menzel) are enjoying life in their city. Since their adventure it is nice for them all to just enjoy each other’s company and the people. That is until Elsa starts to hear this strange call that no one else seems to hear.
Putting it out of her mind, the city prepares for a gathering but is suddenly interrupted by strange winds driving the towns people to a safe cliff outside Arendelle. Confused by what is happening, Queen Elsa feels as if the problems are caused by the voice that is calling out to her. Deciding that she must go and find answers, Anna and Kristoff make it clear she isn’t going alone.
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Loading up into the sled on wheels, Sven takes them to a place that both Anna and Elsa believed was only a tale their father told. A wall of mist blocks them from going forward but when Elsa touches it, a door is opened wide revealing people living on the other side. That’s when the girls discover that there is truth to the tale and that there are still more questions to be answered.
With each step they take, more and more of their parents life become clearer. But, there comes a moment when Elsa realizes that she can no longer put Anna’s life in danger and takes the final steps of the journey alone were all is revealed – but will it be too late for Arendelle!
Bell as Anna shows a lot more maturity in this film in that she feels even more protective over her sister Queen Elsa. Still googly eyed over love Kristoff, she is back in her happy place. When the wind changes in Arendelle and she sees that something is wrong with Elsa, Anna makes it very clear from the onset that whatever it is they will face it together. Bell brings her pipes back with song, love and a whole lot of fun.
Menzel as Queen Elsa is having a difficult time concentrating on Arendelle because of the mysterious voice. Still feeling a little out of place in life, she feels there is something in the wind that is calling to her. Fight as she may, the voice is too strong to ignore. Menzel brings her voice to belt out more than one song and it is with that voice that we are with Elsa every step of this next journey.
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Groff as Kristoff is very happy with his life in Arendelle and even happier with Anna. Now ready to try something a little different, he seems to have great difficulty making it happen. Groff once again brings his charm that oozes through his voice to a character that is strong for those around him yet still has that goofiness I enjoy about this character. Oh let us not forget Sven, he is back and just as hoppingly endearing as ever with his extended family.
Gad as Olaff is still the lovable snowman who loves everyone around him and yet still maintains that bit of innocence that makes him unforgettable. That’s what Gad brings to this character, a memorable giggle, a heart that runs over with love for Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and his good buddy Sven. He is the snowman we all wanted growing up, at least I did all those times building a snowman in Chicago. Thanks Gad for bringing my childhood character to life.
Shout out to Hinds for returning as the wise and round stone Pabbie. He gave out the first warning of what was to come for Arendelle and the royal family. Brown as Mattias has his own story to tell of what lies beyond the mist and it is a story worth hearing.
Other cast include Sterling K. Brown as Mattias, Evan Rachel Wood as Iduna, Jason Ritter as Ryder, Alan Tudyk as Northuldra, Rachel Matthews as Honeymaren, Ciaran Hinds as Pabbie and Martha Plimpton as Yelana, Alfred Molina as Agnarr and Jeremy Sisto as King Runeard.
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FROZEN II brings songs, fun, giggles, color and a re-connection with characters that have stayed with us all since 2013. The song “Let It Go” became an anthem for anyone who wanted to do just that even though my personal favorite was “In Summer” and who doesn’t love a lovable dreaming snowman?
It is such a precarious thing to make a sequel to such a highly successful animated film. It doesn’t always work and sometimes it works badly. Some of it might be because I always feel slightly cheated by sequels like the idea is a second thought thrown on a screen hoping it will stick with viewers.
This film is not that in the slightest. What FROZEN II brings is a delightful return to embraced characters that doesn’t feel like six years has even passed. It is a visually stunning feast for the eyes with rich colors which are completely dazzling. The story may have a few hiccups but seriously, let it go (and I said that).
The entire cast returns (which always is a great thing) with 8 new songs that are as powerful as the original film. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez returned to write the new songs for the film. Composer Christophe Beck  also returned to bring his magic to the score.
Am I being extremely vague in my description of the film…well, yes! I am hardly about to tell every detail of the film because it’s FROZEN II and no one, and I mean no one has the right to ruin it. This is a film about family and community, wanting to understand where we come from, learning who we are and what we are made of, protecting those we love and, of course, loving each other unconditionally.
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Disney has been on a very cool winning streak with their animated films and FROZEN II seals the 2019 deal for them. The launch of Disney+ this week means that in a few months you can FROZEN and FROZEN II all year long which I know my granddaughter intends to do.
FROZEN II is a time for families to have a wonderful holiday beginning together. Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf are part of our own families now and to spend 104 minutes together feels like home in many ways. In the theatre we embrace our children and grandchildren as the story unfolds because we share a connection with our friends on the screen. We understand the struggles, the love, friendship and caring and that makes FROZEN II just about everything we need in family time.
In the end – they are going into the unknown!

MIDWAY Launches for Veterans Day

Midway cover
Jeri Jacquin
Coming to theatres from director Roland Emmerich and Lionsgate comes the story of one of the biggest battles against Japan on MIDWAY.
On December 7, 1942, Japan surprise attacked Pearl Harbor and the one person not surprised is Lt. Commander Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) who had been trying to tell anyone who would listen of an impending attack. Lt. Dick Best (Ed Skrein) returns home to learn of the death of his friends with wife Anne (Mandy Moore) helping him to grieve.
On ship is Vice Admiral Bull Halsey (Dennis Quaid) waiting for orders to stop the Japanese. His aviation crew include Lt. Commander Wade McClusky (Luke Evans). Put in charge of a plan along with Lt. Cmdr. Layton is Admiral Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson) who looks to a group of code breakers led by Commander Rochefort (Brennan Brown).
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The first strike is for Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) and his men to fly to Tokyo and carpet bomb the city. The Japanese are caught by surprise not ever believing it was possible for the United States military to strike back so quickly.
Leading the Japanese fleet is Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi (Tadanobu Asano), Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo (Jun Kunimura) and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa). Pearl Harbor isn’t their only target as the plan now includes Midway. Gathering all their forces, they are confident that no one sees them coming and victory is sure.
With so much ship loss at Pearl Harbor, the ships that are left have to come together as well as planes and pilots to make the plan work. Lt. Best and Lt. Cmdr. McClusky go to their men with confidence to let them know that they must give it their all and remember their fallen friends. As the battle for Midway approaches, Nimitz and Layton trust the information given to them by the code breakers to stay ahead of the plan, Best and McClusky fly for their lives as everyone does their part.
It is the history of taking one step at a time to win.
Skrein as Best is a man who is a little dangerous in the sky but he wants to be prepared for any eventuality. With each battle, he only wants to go home to his wife and daughter. Using every bit of his flying experience and a little bit of his grit, Skrein gives his character bravery and the will to fight. Moore as wife Anne is a lady I’d call a spit-fire. She knows that what her husband does is dangerous and holds her breath with each bit of news that all the wives are allowed to know.
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Harrelson as Nimitz is brought into the fight at the time of Pearl Harbor. He has to trust those around him for the information knowing that more American soldiers will die and that’s a hard job to have. Wilson as Layton tried to warn his superiors about what Japan was capable of and they didn’t listen. When given the opportunity to show what he knows and how he knows it, Wilson gives his character strength and determination to stand by Rochefort.
Quaid as Halsey shows his character as a gritty leader who, like everyone else, wants to stop the Japanese fleet from destroying anything else or getting to the west coast of the United States. He may be gruff but he knows what is necessary to win. Evans as McClusky thinks Best is a reckless pilot but since Pearl Harbor realizes that perhaps reckless, in this case, is a brave thing that is needed in the fight.
Kunimura, Toyokawa and Asano have the difficult roles of the Admirals (Rear and Vice) who feel strong that they can win. Pearl Harbor gives these characters a feeling of invincibility and feel Midway is the next reasonable step in their plan. What they do not expect is that the United States military forces have banned together with a plan of their own and they will stop at nothing to punish the Japanese fleet.
Other cast include Alexander Ludwig as Lt. Roy Pearce, Keean Johnson as Chief Aviation Radioman James Murray, Luke Kleintank as Lt. Clarence Earle Dickinson, Brandon Sklenar as Ensign George Gay, Jake Manley as Ensign Willie West, Darren Criss as Lt. Commander Eugene Lindsey, Jake Weber as Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance, James Carpinello as Captain Brockman, Geoffrey Blake as John Ford, Greg Hovanessian as Lieutenant Arizona, David Hewlett as Admiral Kimmel, Mark Rolston as Admiral King and Nick Jonas as Aviation Machinist Mate Bruno Gaido.
MIDWAY is exactly, first of all, what you’d expect from director Roland Emmerich coming in at 127 minutes long.  A master of special effect and the big bangs, the battle scenes on the screen are epic (as I suspect they were in real life). Beginning with the Pearl Harbor attack until the final battle for Midway, the film gives the feeling of all the films Hollywood put out in the 50’s and 60’s that I watched growing up. My father was a Gunner’s Mate on many of Navy ships from aircraft carriers to destroyers like the Hornet, Boxer, Constellation and Kitty Hawk.
So I watched many, many films IN HARMS WAY (1965), THE LONGEST DAY (1962), SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949), FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953), TORA! TORA! TORA! (1973) and the list is endless. I am well versed in war films so I expect a lot. Emmerich spends very little time depicting the attack on Pearl Harbor because it has been done so many times before. He gets in, makes it clear and moves on because the goal in the storytelling is what happened next and next and next.
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A few problems that I have are such things as the story about Lt. Col. Doolittle and his men. It seemed one minute they were there and the next gone. Things like this happened a few times in the film which if you are attempting to keep me in the story – then keep me there, don’t take me on little side ventures.
Here’s a touchy problem – writer Wes Tooke sort of muddled the lines between Japan and the United States. It seemed as if there was an attempt to make us feel sorry for the Admirals of the Japanese fleet and that’s a little difficult when they were the aggressors. I kept thinking, ‘pick a side and tell that story’ but then again that’s been done as well.
The actors themselves did well with what they were given. There were a few moments where I felt nostalgic with lines being delivered in such a way that I felt I was watching a 50’s/60’s war film instead of 2019. The characters were righteously angry because, let’s face it, no one who saw, was part of and survived Pearl Harbor could ever be the same again.
Skrein, Evans and the rest of the actors portraying the pilots were amazing to my way of thinking. The pilots job back then was to focus on a target and get the job done, that’s how Skrein and Evans made it look and feel which is totally successful in my eyes. Harrelson and Wilson together made a dynamic duo doing something totally different than their predecessors in the job. Harrelson gave his Nimitz portrayal an opportunity to trust when there was really nothing else left and Wilson’s portrayal of Layton jumps in as if to say ‘we can’t do it the old ways anymore’.
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Is there anything here that says epic? Not really and that’s a shame. Personally I would have loved to see this film in black and white. What the film lacks in dialogue it makes up for in Emmerich battles but just barely. I have a feeling that MIDWAY is going to have a love-hate relationship with viewers. This is a target movies for an audience that wants to see a war film but going up against an old hotel, a romantic comedy and an Irish tale, MIDWAY might not be able to hold its own.
In the end – they awoke a sleeping giant!

Put on your Running Shoes for BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON

brittany cover
Jeri Jacquin
Coming to Amazon Prime from writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo is the story we listen to and the one we create for ourselves with BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON.
Brittany (Jillian Bell) is a 20-something New Yorker who is a greeter at a way-off Broadway theatre. Living with social media grabber Gretchen (Alice Lee), the two party till the break of dawn with drinking and a few other substances. When the supply runs low, Brittany heads to the nearest doctor but instead the only prescription she gets is to lose weight and get healthy.
Thinking maybe it’s time and realizing paying for a gym is to hysterical to contemplate, she decides to be her own gym. Stepping out for her first run she sees Catherine (Michaela Watkins), a neighbor Brittany believes lives the perfect live which is annoying. Instead, Catherine invites her to join a running group meeting another new friend Seth (Micah Stock).
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Seeing that Gretchen is just not going to support anything other than Brittany being the overweight, third wheel, partying friend, she looks for work that will get her away. Becoming a house and pet sitter she meets Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who has found a way to work the system which annoys Brittany as well.
But the running starts to show results and Brittany can’t believe it, pound after pound she begins to find a little bit of self-respect and decides to run a marathon. Catherine and Seth are so excited that the three of them are going accomplish it together! That is until Brittany hurts her ankles and is forced to put her dream on hold.
Hurt by it all she returns to some of her old habits such as eating and being a little more than nasty to anyone around her. Ignoring Catherine and Seth the downward spiral continues until brother-in-law Demetrius (Lil Rel Howery) who has always been there for her sets Brittany sternly straight.
Brittany has her own personal epiphany about her friendships, what she wants for her life and who is important but does she have the nerve to change everything?
Bell as Brittany reminds me of someone, oh yes, me (the funny part that is)! She is sharp, funny, and self-deprecating  and not quite sure how she fits in the world. Barely squeaking by has worked for her through the years but at 28-years-old, squeaking by is no longer working. That’s what makes this character so engaging, most of us have been through those emotions or actions sometime in our lives. Bell gives us all the excuses and all the attitude and I feel hook, like and sneaker!
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Watkins as Catherine is a woman who clearly has been misunderstood by every person she has come into contact with. A private person who is dealing with her own issues, that becomes clear to Brittany who has to adjust her long time bogus thinking about people in general. Lee as Gretchen is another person who is on the opposite end of Catherine as she is out there putting her business in the street. As with most social media addicts it’s all about her world and everyone else is just living in it. Stock as Seth is such a heartwarming friend who sticks with Brittany when most would turn tail and run!
Ambudkar as Jern is funny, irreverent and is the opposite of Brittany in the sense that she takes everything like a direct hit to the heart and Jern is more the slow-down-and-smoke-a-bowl type. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, he just cares differently than Brittany which she can’t grasp. Howrey as Demetrius is the guy we all wish we had in our lives in that he has been there through everything and still sees the best but don’t think he won’t check a body if they are being just plain wrong.
Other cast include Patch Darragh as Doctor Falloway, Erica Hernandez as Molly, Dan Bittner as Terrence, Mikey Day as Dev, Kate Arrington as Cici, Beth Malone as Tesla, and Esteban Benito as Peter
Amazon Prime Video is a Video on Demand service that is developed, owned and operated by Amazon. They provide such shows such as JACK RYAN, THE BOYS, BOSCH and THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL. To find out more of what they have to offer please visit www.amazon.com.
BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON is a film that on the surface is witty, funny, sarcastic and a bit shallow. That’s how it starts but as the film gets deeper it is still witty, funny and throws of sarcasms but the “bit shallow” part starts to melt away slowly. Instead of a woman who seems to be just Adderall-floating by in life, a person who has come to believe everything she’s ever been told about herself emerges.
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Having never really made the important choices, her bell has been rung and it’s time to come out fighting. That doesn’t mean there aren’t set back and life disappointments (welcome to adulthood Brittany!), but it is in how she handles those same setbacks that are what show her growth from the beginning of the film to the end.
Oh I realize we’ve all done this in one form or another but seeing it all in one film certainly brings any unanswered life questions right to the face. It’s nice when a movie can make one laugh at it all but still walk away thinking ‘am I doing all I want to do?’.
In the end – you can’t rush progress!

GO FISH is Animated About Saving the Ocean

Go Fish Cover
Jeri Jacquin
Coming to DVD from writer/director Sean Patrick O’Reilly, Arcana and Lionsgate comes a look and lesson from below the sea with GO FISH.
Alex the parrot fish (Sean Patrick O’Reilly) is the janitor of his fish town and happy with what he does. Also in their little fish village is sea horse Christine (Kathleen Bar), loner eel Eelanore (Asia Mattu), and Ed the blowfish (Tobias the Owl). It is Mary (voiced by Allison Wandzura) that discovers something wrong in the sea.
Calling it goop, fish are getting stuck in it and they want lion fish King Charles (Scott McNeil) to do something. Alex approaches the King’s assistant Paul for a meeting. The request is not well received as he gets a loud lecture about nothing happening and to keep his fish lips shut on the matter. That’s not good enough for Alex or his friends and a plan is formed.
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Upon the surface, a company called Quoquo Modo is drilling into the ocean floor. Callie (iJustine) loves her job and wants to make sure everything is done to keep the ocean safe. Dennis (Mark Hamill) is grumpier and less on the ball thinking that 100% no leaking doesn’t necessarily mean 100%.
Alex, Eelanore, Ed and Christine go out in search of the goop and meet a whole group of characters that just want to make their adventure a little more difficult. Maria the shark (Summer O’Reilly) and her friend Bernardo the tiger shark (Ron Perlman) are two particularly toothy characters that try to get in the way.
But once they find the goop, Alex and the gang try to get the attention of the humans in funny diving outfits to show them where there is a leak. Try as they might, the diver just shoo’s them away. The next step is an even bigger plan that gets the attention of everyone on the platform and just in time to save them all from a total ocean disaster.
O’Reilly as Alex is a spunky and happy parrot fish who truly does love his job as a janitor. Keeping everything nice and clean for his fellow fishes and friends is very important. When the goop appears, he knows that it will hurt all of them if they don’t at least try to stop it. He’s such a cutie of a fish!
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Bar as Christine is another happy sea creature and the cutest color of pink for a sea horse. Trying to grow up a little out of the shadow of her overbearing Mom and baby carrying Dad, going with Alex to find the goop is her chance to do just that. Mattu as Eelanore would prefer to be left alone in her comfy cave where she can watch the world go by or take a nap whenever she likes. Going with Alex may have started out as protection but quickly became a thrill for her first adventure.
Tobias as Ed is a little grumpy by that doesn’t stop him from being part of the gang to stop a disaster. I personally think he just liked being part of something bigger than his little puffy self. McNeil as King Charles is a fish on a power trip caring nothing for his ‘subjects’ but instead wielding his fishly powers.
iJustine as Callie is a happy person who really does love her job and wants everyone, above the water and below to be safe. When it becomes clear that both of those things are in jeopardy, Callie is on it to make it right. Hamill as Dennis is just a cranky unhappy employee who just isn’t on the ball when it comes to what’s best for everyone.
Other cast include Michelle O’Reilly as Joanne and Geoff Gustafson as Vincent.
Lionsgate is a global leader in motion picture production and distribution for theatres, television, home entertainment and more. Theatre franchises include THE HUNGER GAMES, and DIVERGENT along with JOHN WICK. Now, adding this film to its 16,000 motion picture and television titles you can see everything coming soon as well as available now at http://www.lionsgate.com.
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The DVD Special Features include ‘Go Fish’ (Side by Side) Music Video Sing-Along, The GO FISH Digital Comic Book and a GO FISH Fish Guide.
GO FISH is a very charming and educational look at life in the ocean. The animation is colorful and fun and in the mix of that is a story about how precious the eco-system is in the ocean. It shows how, if fish could talk (and maybe they do!), they could tell us when pipes are leaking or trash is choking them out. Explaining these things to younger children, GO FISH does so in a way that is relatable for them.
Yet, it’s also enjoyable for the adults as well and gives families something to talk about after the film. The Special Features of the DVD also provide some fun things to do together as a family. Whether it’s singing or learning about other fish, it is always a wonderful way to spend quality time together.
In the end – just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water – it really is!

Gumshoe Noir is Wrapped in MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN 

motherless cover

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!

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