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THE LION KING Comes Alive

Lion King poster

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Jon Favreau and Disney is the 1994 iconic animated story now come to life with THE LION KING.

In case you come from another solar system I’ll give the story a run down. There is a young cub named Simba (Donald Glover) who is born a prince. Father King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) tries to teach his young son what it is to be a king. He is also learning side lessons from his jealous Uncle Scar (Chitwetel Ejiofor) that get him into a few scrapes.

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Along with his best friend Nala, the two explore much to the fright of Mufasa, even if the royal bird Zazu (John Oliver) can’t keep up. Scar gets an idea enlisting the help of the hyenas and their leader Shenzi (Florence Kasumba) to take what he thinks is his.

Simba is caught up in a stampede that brings death and sadness to the pride and the young prince decides to run. He walks away and meets meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner) and faithful companion Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) who embrace Simba as one of their own.

In the meantime Scar is destroying the valley and Nala (Beyonce) knows it is time to get help. What she doesn’t plan on is running into Simba who is now fully grown. Explaining what has happened, Simba meets Rafiki (John Kani) who shows him why it is important to remember who he is and what it means to be a king.

Glover as Simba is a little less animated vocally than I would have expected. The younger cub prince was delightful and brought a bit of playfulness that made the little furry growler even cuter. Beyonce as Nala stayed in her lane so to speak meaning I had thought she would have song-wise taken over but instead they kept it easy and lovely.

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Several characters that I enjoyed so much are Oliver as Zazu making me laugh several times with his antics, Kasumba as Shenzi with a tad less humor than her 1994 Goldberg counterpart but still very good and Ejiofor getting a chance to be the devious Uncle Scar.

Eichner and Rogen got all the silliness that made the animated version so much fun. I giggled so much as the antics of Simba’s smaller friends. It must be said that my four year old granddaughter couldn’t stop smiling when these two were on the screen.

Finally, James Earl Jones is the one and only Mufasa and having him once again accept the mantel of King was a wise choice. He is Mufasa and his presence at the beginning and at the most important point of the film’s emotion is something only his voice could capture. It also soothes the ruffled feathers of those not happy with Disney and its live action choices as of late.

Other cast include Keegan-Michael Key as Kamari, Eric Andre as Azizi, JD McCrary as Young Simba, Shahadi Wright Joseph as Young Nala and Alfre Woodard as Sarabi.

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Now, let me get this out of the way – do I think THE LION KING needed to have a live-action version? Nope. Am I a fan of live-action films? Not really. I just think it’s a huge waste of money when we could easily enjoy the animated versions of stories on the big screen and my family would love it. Plus, after seeing the trailer for MULAN and the latest LITTLE MERMAID ruckus – I’m still not a fan.

THAT being said, I can’t fault THE LION KING at all. From the moment the screen is lit up with a beautiful sunrise and music that continues to be recognized with The Circle of Life and I Just Can’t Wait to be King, this is absolutely how it’s done folks!

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Favreau should be applauded on several fronts – first of all he stayed ever faithful keeping to the original 1994 story that has become so iconic and also allowed the songs to once again bring joy. I saw this on the faces of not just the children at the screening but the adults as well. Oh trust me when I say I caught a woman six seats down singing along to Hakuna Matata and thrilled to be doing it.

The cinematography in the live-action is colorful and lively to the point that it was easy to forget that these lions, hyenas, birds, and the rest weren’t actually real. From the look of joy in Rafiki’s eyes to the sadness in Simba’s eyes, everything that needed to be related emotionally is there. The humor is wonderful in the film and there is a moment between Timon and Pumbaa that gives a nod to a beast of another kind so listen for it.

In the end – the King has returned!

 

 

 

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STRANGER THINGS Season 3 Brings More Frights in Friendship

 

Stranger Things 3

Jeri Jacquin

Currently on Netflix with its continuing story is the highly successful and long awaited STRANGER THINGS Season 3.

It is 1985 and Hawkins has fallen to shopping malls causing the shops in town to begin closing. The Starcourt Mall is now the hangout for everyone who wants to see and be seen. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) aren’t seen there much because they’ve been spending quality time together much to the dismay of El’s guardian Officer Hopper (David Harbour).

Looking for parental tips, Hopper turns to Joyce (Winona Ryder) who is coming to terms with her choice to move away from Hawkins. That doesn’t give Hopper much time to deal with his feelings about anything. The rest of the gang – Will (Noah Schnapp), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sade Sink) welcome Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) back from science camp.

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At the nearby steel mill, something wicked this way comes and Mike is feeling it on the back of his neck. The power goes out and a weird creature emerges from the darkness. Max’s brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery) is on his way for a rendezvous when his car is struck by an invisible force and without warning he is dragged into the Upside Down.

The tips Joyce gave to Hopper about Mike and El didn’t work out so well and Mike now fears to be around El. She doesn’t understand it but Max shows her the fun side of life with a trip to the Starcourt Mall and another way for El to use her powers. At the local paper, Nancy (Natalia Dyer) gets Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) to help her investigate a local woman who is having a weird rat problem.

Dustin is still weirding out by the hilltop transmission that sounds like Russian and convinces Steve (Joe Keery) to help figure it out. What they both don’t expect is that Robin (Maya Hawke) who works with Steve is more than happy to lend her language ear to the problem at hand.

Discovering the joys of the mall, El and Max decide to spy on the guys again with powers but Eleven only discovers that Billy may be responsible for a missing lifeguard. Billy is changing and he can’t explain why he is making dangerous choices. Hopper finally asks Joyce on a date but she loses track of time when her refrigerator magnets lose their magnetism.

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Dustin, Steve and Robin make a chilling discovery when they see Russians moving shipments of mysterious crates down into the mall. Nothing is going to stop these three from uncovering what is going on below their town and they find help from the very smart and no-nonsense Erica (Priah Ferguson).

What they don’t know is that Joyce and Hopper have gone to high school teacher Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) for answers about the magnets. It leads them back to the place they didn’t want to ever go again. That’s when they take Russian scientist Dr. Alexi (Alec Utgoff) sort of hostage to get answers as to what is happening but they are being chased mercilessly.

Nancy and Jonathan are still trying to discover what has happened to the source of their story. Once at the hospital, the two are also attacked by something, well, gooey that comes together to create an insanely large beast! Still below the mall, Steve and Robin are interrogated by Russians but Dustin and Erica save the date.

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Now above ground, they all manage to come together to put the pieces of the monster puzzle together. El discovers from Billy the exact location of the beast and now a plan is formed as the gang handles the food court, Dustin handles the communications while Joyce and Hopper take on the reason for all of this happening again.

What the Russians and the monster don’t realize is that this group isn’t afraid of taking hard knocks and they have El on their side!

Brown as Eleven is growing up so fast and under the protection of her guardian and new boyfriend. Her world is still relatively small until Max shows her what she’s been missing. Of course that doesn’t last long but Brown has made the character of Eleven her very own and I love when she embraces her powers.

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Wolfhard as Mike is smitten with Eleven and wants to spend every minute with her. Of course this doesn’t set well with his buddies, especially with Will. The other person it doesn’t make happy is Harbour as Officer Hopper. Trying to keep his ‘fatherly’ instincts in check, it is policeman instincts that take over and are a little harsher than poor Mike can take. Harbour is a little more intense this season but then again I think I would be too if the town I’m responsible for can’t catch a break.

Matarazzo as Dustin returns from science camp with a new outlook and a new love even though no one believes him. I adore Matarazzo because he is quick and hilarious all rolled into mischievous eyes and a quirky smile. Keery as Steve is thrilled to see Dustin as their friendship finds another level – that of Russians and being a hero to the town. Hawke as Robin is a breath of fresh air and don’t like the ice cream costume fool you. She’s smart as a whip and has a secret of her own.

Ryder as Joyce is still dealing with the death of Bob Newby and can’t quite catch on to Hopper’s intentions. The one thing she is sure of and that’s there is a creepy in Hawkins that she knows all too well. Ryder continues to give her character everything I remember about Moms of 1985. Schnapp as Will understands the creepy as it tends to bring goose bumps to the back of his neck. Of course he’d rather be playing D&D with his friends but they all have other plans.

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McLaughlin as Lucas keeps busy with his relationship with Max but is also surprised when Ferguson as sister Erica joins the mix and madness. Ferguson as Erica is smart, doesn’t take any garbage from anyone and has a thing for ice cream which is a good thing for Steve, Robin and Dustin! Sink as Max is a fiery redhead who has the chance to solidify her friendship with El through fashion and boy advice. Montgomery as brother Billy gets the intensity award this season! He lives through the creature and throughout the season it just gets worse and worse. What a great role for the season!

Dyer as Nancy smells a story and nothing or no one is going to get in the way of her investigating.  Heaton as Jonathan doesn’t want to follow Dryer’s character but it all starts to make horrible sense and he can’t turn away.  Gelman as teacher Murray Bauman carries all the science and language and finds himself deep into all that is happening to the town, what’s under the town and the people in it.  Utgoff as Dr. Alexi thinks he holds all the cards so get the man a cherry slurpee and get on with it!

Other cast include Cara Buono as Karen Wheeler, Joe Chrest as Ted Wheeler, Andrey Ivchenko as Grigori, Cary Elwes as Mayor Kline, Peggy Miley as Mrs. Driscoll, Jake Busey as Bruce, Francesca Reale as Heather Holloway, Michael Park as Tom Holloway, Rob Morgan as Officer Powell, Arthur Darbinyan as Dr. Zharkov and Misha Kuznetsov as Ozerov.

The episodes include Chapter One: Suzie Do You Copy?, Chapter Two: The Mall Rats, Chapter Three: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard, Chapter Four: The Sauna Test, Chapter Five: The Flayed, Chapter Six: E. Pluribus Unum, Chapter Seven: The Bite and Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt.

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 Season 3 of STRANGER THINGS has to be the most intense yet and with that being said, watch carefully the last few moments of the last episode. That means Season 4 has it’s work cut out yet I think the writers have accepted the challenge. As these characters have grown older, I can’t wait to see what they all do next in the season and in other things. Brown already tested her chops in the summer film GODZILLA.

What I love best about STRANGER THINGS is everything about the era the story takes place in. From the outrageous clothes, shoes and hair to the music that I still embrace and listen to today. Wrapping the story around the setting of an era we still hold dear is so much fun and brings back memories for some of a time when things like bike riding, malls, friendships and big hair were more important than cell phones and texting.

All of the friendships are so endearing and even though they are growing up (both on and off camera), it hasn’t changed this group in the way they interact with each other. It is totally believable that they would have been friends in 1985, played D&D, went to the mall, and watched early zombie movies – all of it. This cast, these actors and actresses have given us a treat and when the final season comes around (because we all know its going to happen), we will be all the sadder for it.

The downside of binge watching the whole season in one day is that the waiting begins for the next season. Of course it will drag its heels making us all crazy with wonder and craving the first trailer of what is to come. It’s a pretty cool torture and I don’t mind saying so.

In the end – friends like these are amazing and necessary!

SPIDER-MAN: Far From Home Brings Early Fireworks to the July 4th Holidays

Spiderman cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres just in time to help celebrate the 4th from director Jon Watts, Marvel Studios and Columbia Pictures is our friendly neighborhood SPIDER-MAN: Far From Home.

It is after the Endgame as Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is still dealing with the loss of Tony Stark and looking forward to a school trip to Europe. His hope is that he can finally tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels and enjoy some time away from his spider suit. His Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is happy for him as well.

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On the trip is best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), Betty (Angourie Rice), Brad (Remy Hii), Flash (Tony Revolori) and teachers Mr. Bell (J.B. Smoove) and Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr). They are ready to explore Italy first but there is a creature under them with other plans. When it rises to the surface, Peter must do his best to protect as many people as possible.

That is until he sees Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), fly in and lend a hand. When it’s all over, his friends give the superhero a name – Mysterio. Later Peter is visited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) because he needs Spider-Man’s help and gives him something special. Yet Peter can only think of MJ, their trip and being a kid.

Trying to explain his feelings to Fury, he goes back to his classmates only to discover that their itinerary has changed to go, oddly enough, where Fury wants Spider-Man to be. A plan is set in motion with Mysterio and Spider-Man working together to save even more people.

That is when Peter makes a decision that may cost far more than he could have imagined!

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Holland as Spider-Man has to be one of the best choices ever made for the Marvel Universe next to Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man. He is funny, insecure, fearless and fearful at the same time, has teen angst and most of all – just plain adorably charming. He has made the role of Spider-man his and fans love it.

Gyllenhaal as Mysterio is, and lets be honest here, so cool to watch. Here he works with Spider-Man and befriends him which helps Peter with the loss of his good friend. Gyllenhaal fits into his costume as if it were always destine to be his.

Jackson is back as Nick Fury who doesn’t mind guilting Spider-Man into getting a gang back together. Zendaya as MJ is still her dark self and occasionally has an eye on Peter, Batalone as Ned is there for his web weaving friend but has his eyes drawn in an unexpected way. Tomei as May is happy with her life and to have Peter in it but may have a surprise of her own.

Hii as Brad returns a little older and crushing on MJ. Revolori as Flash once again plays the tourist except he spends more time trying to get social media friends than actual friends.

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Shout out to Favreau for returning as Happy Hogan! I have come to love his character and am thrilled to see him be there for Peter Parker.

Other cast include: Toni Garrn as The Seamstress, Michael Mando as MacGargan, Numan Acar as Dimitri, Hemky Madera as Mr. Delmar, and Cobie Smulders as Marla Hill.

SPIDER-MAN: Far From Home is going to delight fans because Holland has done such an amazing job of portrayed the young webbed one. There is something for everyone in the film with action, story, twists, turns and – well, a teen love story that has been trying to break free.

Being a superhero has its price and it is a talk between Happy and Peter that helps the young man decide how to continue being a hero people can look to. I honestly believe that’s what makes this incarnation of the Spider-Man franchise more believable than it has ever been. Holland brings it all together with a tender and emotion filled performance that is so relatable.

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The film is fast paced, full of cgi eye-candy and warmth that lets us know that AVENGERS: Endgame is just a beginning for the webbed one. Of course I’m being evasive in my description of the film because, as with most fun films, the fun is absolutely seeing it with the least amount of spoilers possible. I want everyone to have just as much fun as I did!

So as you prepare for the 4th of July holiday, make sure you start it off with a visit from your friendly neighborhood (both in country and out) Spider-Man!

In the end – he is more than your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, so much mor

TOY STORY 4 Reunited Our Favorite Friends

Toy Story 4 cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Josh Cooley, Pixar Animated Studios and Walt Disney Pictures brings back our friends for TOY STORY 4.

Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the gang are still living with Bonnie. As time has gone on, Woody has found himself spending more time in the closet and less time with Bonnie. Yet Buzz, Jessie (Joan Cusack), Dolly (Bonnie Hunt), Trixie (Kristen Schaal), Rex, (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris) and the gang are still supportive of Woody.

But he has other things to worry about when Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) is upset about going off to kindergarten. Taking the initiative, Woody decides to make sure she has a good day! When things don’t seem to be going in that direction, he helps Bonnie create a new friend, Forky (Tony Hale) and she is delighted.

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Before the real school year starts, Mom and Dad decide it’s time to go on a little road trip. The toy-gang is thrilled as well and wait to be packed into the RV for a little adventure. When Forky escapes the RV, Woody tells he gang he will meet them at the RV park in the next town while he goes off to settle their new toy friend down a bit.

It gives time for Woody and Forky to bond as the sheriff gets time to explain the situation to him. Getting close to the RV park, Woody sees something in an antique store window. A lamp that his friend Bo Peep (Annie Potts) once called her home with the three sheep Billy, Goat and Gruff. Taking a small detour to find out if she is in the shop, he and Forky meet Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) who only wants one thing from Woody!

When she doesn’t get it, Gabby Gabby takes Forky as hostage at the same time Woody finds Bo Peep. Now she needs to bring her friends to help including Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) because Bonnie and her parents are about to leave the RV park and not everyone is aboard. Buzz jumps into action to help as the gang in the RV make a little plan of their own.

It’s pretty much help your friends, help your new friends and make a decision that will change the lives of everybody all while getting back to Bonnie.

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Because that’s what friends do for one another!

Hanks as Woody will now and forever be considered a beloved icon in both movies and animation. He has brought all of us so much love and teachable lessons in the character of Sheriff Woody. From the very first TOY STORY in 1995, I knew this was going to be a ride from adults to children, little did I know now that it would include grandchildren. Woody can be found in kids rooms still because he is the friend we all wish we could have for a lifetime.

Allen as Buzz is once again the lighthearted friend who tries to keep Woody’s spirits up and when it comes time to bring him home, it is Buzz who go to find him. They are an unbeatable pair and even if he is still a little confused sometimes, he doesn’t let that stop him from hearing his own ‘inner voice’.

Potts as Bo Peep is sweet, strong and has a little fight in her swagger. She has a story to tell and it is about where she has been and how she now sees the world. McGraw as Bonnie is such a young girl learning to be outside of her bedroom and toy world into something much bigger – but she still needs her toy friends.

Cusack, Hunt, Schaal, Shawn, Ratzenberger, Benson, Clark, Rickles, Harris return as their respective and beloved characters and, of course, we wouldn’t have it any other way. As much as there wouldn’t be a TOY STORY without Woody and Buzz, there equally wouldn’t be a Woody and Buzz without Jessie, Dolly, Rex, Hamm, Barbie and the Potato Heads.

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Hendricks as Gabby Gabby can be a little bit off putting and a tad-bit like Lotso from TOY STORY 3 in that she wants to be large and in charge. It is clear that there are deeper issues and Woody needs to get to the bottom of it.

Reeves as Duke Caboom may have only been in the film briefly but man did he make me laugh! This was a fantastic chance for Reeves to show his comedic side in a way that most would see as unexpected and awesome at the same time.

Other cast include Bill Hader as Axel the Carnie, Ally Maki as Giggle McDimples, Jay Hernandez as Bonnie’s Dad, Lori Alan as Bonnie’s Mom, Emily Davis as Billy/Goat/Gruff, Carl Weathers as Combat Carls, Jeff Garlin as Buttercup, Jordan Peele as Bunny Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants, Jodie Benson as Barbie, Jeff Pidgeon as Aliens, and especially Mel Brooks as Melephant Brooks, Carol Burnett as Chairol Burnett, Betty White as Bitey White and Carl Reiner as Carl. Reineroceros.

TOY STORY 4 is a chance for the toys themselves to actually have an adventure that is about – well – them! Of course there is the continuing story of Bonnie but it is also about how these toys are still caring of one another.

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They have their own attachments and feelings about the years they have spent together and TOY STORY 4 has a chance to tell that side of it all and do so in a way that brings closure we didn’t even know we needed.

In the end – on the road of life there are old friends, new friends and stories that will change you forever!

 

 

GKids Brings the Delights of Animation with OKKO’S INN

Okkos Inn

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray from GKids and SHOUT! Factory comes the look at a young girls life changing with OKKO’S INN.

After losing her parents in a car accident, Okko (Seiran Kobayashi) must go live with her grandmother Mineko and other family. It is immediate that she is a city girl as the local bugs and lizards are something that cause her panic. What Okko can’t explain to the others is that she sees a ghost in the house and is surprised to learn who the ghost truly is!

Mineko also run the inn and once the young boy ghost Uribo gets Okko to admit to wanting to help at the inn, grandmother puts her in a kimono and the training begins. She finds a bell and doesn’t realize she has released the food stealing ghost named Suzuki. Grandmother also announces that Okko will be starting at the local school. She meets Matsuki who is very standoffish and classmates call her ‘Frilly Pink’ and their meeting doesn’t go very well.

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But the class embraces Okko very quickly and good thing too because she doesn’t want them to know she’s seen another ghost. On her way home from school she meets a father and sick son who need a place to stay. After the boy Akane gets upset and yells at Okko, it is her grandmother that must intervene to teach her to be kind to the guests.

Okko finds a way to make the ghosts she is meeting help around the Inn. They aren’t happy about it but it’s a way for them to stay with Okko. When grandmother tells her to check on guests Ms. Glory Suiryo, Okko discovers that she is a fortune teller! She tries to talk to Matsuki about it but she only wants to make Okko feel bad.

Glory and Okko become friends and decide to go on a shopping spree together. On the drive Okko remembers the day about her parents and the ghost friends help her through it. After a day of shopping together, Okko discovers that Akane’s father was a writer and did a review of their inn! It was such a success that now the inn is crowded with people who want to meet her.

Matsuki is upset with Okko thinking she doesn’t take her dancing seriously. That’s when she explains that both of their dances is how the girls will be taking over their family’s respective inn’s. Uribo also learns that there may come a time when Okko doesn’t see all of her friends anymore.

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Arriving at the Inn is the Kise family and their little boy name Shota. The problem is Shota’s father is having problems with the food their inn is serving. Okko realizes that she needs help from the most unlikely of places – Matsuki herself. The surprising thing is that Shota’s father loves the food.

That is when Okko realizes who Shota’s father is that she must come to terms with the path her life has taken. It is the good friends she has made along the way as well as those who have watched over her that has her seeing a bright future.

SHOUT! Factory has grown into a tremendous multi-platform media company. Releasing new animated features such as the exquisite Long Way North, and the epic fantasy Beauty And The Beast. Also their own original horror film, Fender Bender gives fans a good scare. For more of what SHOUT Factor has to offer please visit www.shoutfactory.com.

GKIDS brings award-winning feature animation for both adult and family audiences. The company has received ten Best Animated Feature Oscar nominations including The Secret of Kells, A Cat in Paris, The Tale of Princess Kaguya and The Breadwinner. GKIDS is also a distributor for Studio Ghibli films including Spirited Away and Princess Monokie and many more. To learn more about GKIDS please visit www.gkids.com.

The Blurays Special Features include Interview with the Director, Interview with Seiran Kobayashi (Okko), Question & Answer with Director and Producers at Japanese Premier and Trailers.

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OKKO’S INN is absolutely delightful in every way! The story is that of a girl who loses her parents but also understands the importance of friendship, family, love, loyalty and surprises she never saw coming.

The animation is stunning and beautiful which adds such richness to the story that is being told. This is a story that is relatable in its telling on so many levels which means that although sad at moments, it is those around Okko that help her reclaim her the life she so richly deserves.

‘The waters of the Harunoya springs are a gift from the gods; they welcome everyone and heal everyone’. What a lesson it is for us all to learn!

In the end – all are welcome here!

MIA AND THE WHITE LION is a Compelling Story on Bluray

 

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray and DVD from SHOUT! Studios and director Gilles de Maistre is the beautiful story of MIA AND THE WHITE LION.

Mia (Daniah De Villiers) is a ten year old girl who isn’t happy about leaving her life in London for a farm in Africa. It isn’t just any farm, it is a lion farm! Run by Dad John (Langley Kirkwood), Mom Alice (Melanie Laurent) and joined by brother Mick (Ryan MacLennan), this is a farm that supports the family.

It doesn’t help that Mia is absolutely grumpy about being in Africa or that brother Mick keeps trying to get her interested in the animals – she just won’t be happy. That is until Mia meets Charlie, a beautiful white cub who seems to take a shining to the young girl.

Eventually Charlie wins her over and the two become inseparable. As the cub grows older, John and Alice become more and more worried that Mia is becoming too attached to Charlie. Trying to explain to her that he is still a wild animal isn’t sinking in, even when Mick is accidentally hurt.

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When a decision is made about Charlie, Mia isn’t about to let anything happen to her friend. Once the secret is revealed, Mia will never be the same and what her parents don’t know is that Mia wants something more for Charlie.

De Villiers as Mia is a young girl who at first isn’t happy about living in Africa. Once she accepts it with the help of Charlie, she isn’t about to let anyone destroy what she has come to love – no one. It is a concept to watch De Villiers grow up on the screen from a young angry girl to a young angry woman, except that anger changes into positive action and that’s the glory of this film.

Kirkwood as John is trying to make a go of a business that that almost went bust which is the reason they all came to Africa. He wants the best for his family and that means making decisions that some might see as abhorrent. Laurent as Alice just wants her family to be safe, her son to be well and Mia to be happy. That is a load for any mother to deal with let alone the mother of a young girl who is taken with a lion.

MacLennan as Mick wants to help his sister acclimate to Africa but also has his own set of problems to deal with. That doesn’t stop him from helping for the greater cause.

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Let’s give a shout out to Charlie, one of the most beautiful and stunning creatures on the planet. Looking so regal and majestic from the moment he is on screen as a cub until he is grown and playful I just loved watching him. Of course I realize Charlie is a wild animal but this film gives us all a look at what that truly means.

SHOUT! Factory has grown into a tremendous multi-platform media company. Releasing new animated features such as the exquisite Long Way North, and the epic fantasy Beauty And The Beast. Also their own original horror film, Fender Bender gives fans a good scare. For more of what SHOUT Factor has to offer please visit www.shoutfactory.com.

The Special Features include Interview with Director Gilles de Maistre, Interview with Actress Daniah De Villiers, The Making of MIA AND THE WHITE LION Featurette, The Extraordinary Friendship Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Casting Footage, Theatrical Trailer and Still Gallery.

MIA AND THE WHITE LION is filmed over a course of three years. Brought to life by French director, Gilles De Maistre, the expansive production was filmed at the Welgedacht Reserve in South Africa. De Maistre chose to shoot throughout a three-year period so that the film’s young stars Daniah De Villiers and Ryan MacLennon could bond and have a real relationship with the lions and other animals that appear in the film.

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Kevin Richardson, a lion expert known as the ‘Lion Whisperer’ oversaw the entire production process and all interactions between the lions and the children ensuring the safety of the animals, cast and crew on set.

The film also brings awareness to ‘canned’ lion hunting and what that means to the lion population in future years to come. Awareness to tourists can be a huge step into understanding and helping the future of these amazing animals.

MIA AND THE WHITE LION is truly a story about a young girl finding that place in herself that has meaning and the story of a lion who has found friendship in a human being. It isn’t an easy world for an animal to live in but Mia is going to make sure her friend finds his place.

In the end – it is a quest for freedom!

DUMBO Arrives on Bluray

Dumbo Bluray

Jeri Jacquin

Landing on Bluray from director Tim Burton and Walt Disney Home Entertainment is the beloved pachyderm we know as DUMBO.

Captain Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) has returned home after being wounded in the war. His home happens to be a circus where his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) are waiting. They have had a tough time too with the loss of their own mother.

The circus is much smaller than Holt remembers only to discover that owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) has hit hard times. The only job open for Holt now is working with the elephants. The circus waits for Jumbo to have her baby and is dealing with cruel handlers. Holt steps in to find a baby with the biggest ears and in a snap a protective Jumbo is taken away!

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Milly and Joe take an interest in the baby they name Dumbo and are delighted to learn that he is special for more than just his ears. Everyone learns about Dumbo and crowds are selling every seat in the tent.

It also comes to the attention of V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton) who makes a deal with Max to take the whole troop to Dreamland. Dumbo begins working with Colette Marchant (Eva Green) for a big act.

It is what Dumbo discovers at Dreamland that shakes up Vandevere’s plans but brings joy and help from his friends.

Farrell as Holt is a man feeling broken from war and detached from his children. Trying to find his place in the circus, Dumbo gives him purpose. This is the emotional Farrell that feels reminiscent of his role in SAVING MR. BANKS. He is charming and finds adventure once again with his family and the most unlikely of friends.

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DeVito as Max is trying to keep the circus afloat and the whisperings of making things better by Vandevere push him. Devito is always a joy to watch because he makes every character just that – a character.

Parker as Milly wants science over circus and her family back as it was. Dumbo becomes her emotional respite. Hobbins as Joe loves the flying elephant and will do anything to keep him safe.

Keaton as Vandevere gets to be a very charming, ruthless and kid-mean character all in one role. Of course this family is a Keaton fan so there isn’t anything we won’t enjoy from him. Green as Colette is under the thumb of her Dreamland boss but starts to understand how absolutely wonderful Dumbo is.

Other cast include Roshan Seth as Pramesh Singh, Lars Eidinger as Hans Brugelbecker, Deobia Oparei as Rongo, Miguel Segura as Ivan the Wonderful, Zenaida Alcalde as Catherine the Great, Phil Zimmerman as Rufus and Alan Arkin as J. Griffin Remington.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment began distributing under its own label in 1980 and continues to bring quality programming to kids and kids at heart. Home of the most beloved animated features including SNOW WHITE, PINOCCHIO and SLEEPING BEAUTY to name a few is what keeps families coming back for more. To see what is currently available to add to your own family library please visit. www.movies.disney.com for their At Home titles!

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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.

The Bluray Bonus Extras include Deleted Scenes, Easter Eggs on Parade, Clowning Around Bloopers, Behind the Scenes Look at the Magic of Dumbo and more!

DUMBO made his first appearance in animation in 1941 as the fourth Disney film in the format. Helen Aberson-Mayer wrote the original story as Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

It is clear that this is a Tim Burton film with the grayish tones and even the reds are deep which give hints of trademark.

There are a few nods to the original film but this version has its changes. The story retains the charm of friendship, loyalty, family, extended family, life, death, caring for animals and exposing those who are cruel and malicious.

Those are definitely a staple of Disney films and reason families continue to return again and again to watch them. Some family’s even go as far as making Disney films a tradition in their household. Those of us who grew up on the original animated film appreciate the live-action.

Dumbo teaches to love almost unconditionally and push ourselves to heights we wouldn’t think imaginable – and there is certainly nothing wrong with that!

In the end – a beloved tale that will take you to new heights!

ROCKETMAN Takes Off into the Stratosphere

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Dexter Fletcher and Paramount Pictures comes a ride lead by a ROCKETMAN.

Reginald Dwight is a young music prodigy who lives with a father Stanley (Steven Mackintosh) who has no heart for the boy and mother Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) who only has a heart for herself. Supporting him is Grandmother Ivy (Gemma Jones) who sees musical potential in the boy.

From a music conservatory to playing at the local bar, Reggie (Taron Egerton) is still trying to figure out this thing called life. Then he meets Ray (Charlie Rowe) who introduces him to songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and magic happens.

Ray and music man Dick James (Stephen Graham) send the newly renamed Elton John out on the road including a show at the Troubadour in California. Bernie is thrilled with their windfall but Elton is still trying to figure it all out.

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Help comes in the presence of John Reid (Richard Madden) who sweeps Elton off his feet. Reid also ingratiated himself into the performers life and home which doesn’t sit well with everyone.

In the meantime the world has become his oyster with sold out performances that allow him to be as wild as he wants. Then, success turns sour as Elton finds himself in the world of drugs, alcohol and the past turn him inside out.

There comes a time when you either ignore the world crashing around you or change the direction of life.

Egerton as Elton John is absolutely stunning. He is in it from beginning to end and by that I mean playing the life of a legend that, for the most part, isn’t pretty. Whether by his own hand or the craziness that comes with fame, Edgerton portrays the naïve, sensitive, longing and angry side of Elton John. He is mesmerizing to watch and cements his talent as an actor as well as a singer.

Bell as Taupin is thrilled to be working with Elton and takes off along side his friend with the sparkle and thrill of a kid. It doesn’t take long for Taupin realizes that he, and the man he considers a brother, is headed for disaster. Bell gives his performance everything filled with friendship, loyalty and a bit of tough love. I truly enjoyed Bell’s performance as it was truly heartfelt and strong.

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Mackintosh as father Stanley seems to have an almost distain for his son and it is the young Reginald who feels every piece of that. Even as the young Reginald grows up, the shadow of that relationship is with him daily. Howard as Sheila is a woman who clearly isn’t happy in marriage or motherhood. When there are moments of motherly love and Reginald grabs onto it, he is almost instantly swatted away with added pain.

Madden as Reid is a piece of work for sure. He gives Elton hope that he deserves to be loved but it comes at such a high and debilitating cost. Jones as Ivy is the sole hope for young Reginald, she is strong, compassionate and keenly aware of the situation with Reginald’s parents.

Other cast include: Jason Pennycooke as Wilson, Jimmy Vee as Arthur, Rachel Muldoon as Kiki Dee, Celinde Schoenmaker as Renate Blauel and Tate Donovan as Doug Weston.

ROCKETMAN is a film that is to be experienced on so many levels. Yes, it is filled with Elton John’s music and the placement of each memorable song is perfection. The choreography is thrilling to watch and the moments in the story where his life is seen through song and dance is toe tapping and engaging.

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I also have to say that there were moments that kleenex is needed. Lets be honest, John’s life as we are shown is only moments of heartbreak that are hidden with music, flashy outfits and smiles induced by drugs and alcohol. Believing the worst in himself by the stinging comments of those who profess to love him, if your heart doesn’t feel it on the screen then might I suggest hanging out with Sheila and Stanley!

It must also be said that Egerton’s outrageous and colorful performance is everything for this film. He had the audience laughing at times, sniffling a lot, and toe tapping if not trying to sing out loud to the songs we all know so well.

This is a film that brings us everything, tells us the tale of an icon and how thoroughly lucky that he went beyond the yellow brick road to stay with us. Elton John is someone in my own life who seemed to sing the words filled with emotion that floated around in my own head. Taupin didn’t hesitate to bring the words that we have been singing for the past twenty-five plus years.

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From Sacrifice, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, Your Song, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, I’m Still Standing, Candle in the Wind, Daniel, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and my favorite, I Want Love.

For those of us who love Elton John, ROCKETMAN is the film that embraces the reasons why and lets us all into a life that explains so very much.

In the end – the only way to tell his story is to live his fantasy!

BOOKSMART Brings Teen Comedy in Time for Summer

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Olivia Wilde and Annapurna Pictures is the story of the last night of the first night of their lives after being BOOKSMART.

Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are two girls who have spent their years in libraries and studying. In those years Molly and Amy became the best of friends and know each other secrets and habits. Their idea of fun isn’t exactly like most seniors in high school.

Even Principal Brown (Jason Sudeikis) knows that about the two girls. Molly being class president and valedictorian on the class, she is making sure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed before saying goodbye to the halls that educated her.

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Overhearing a conversation, Molly learns that students she thought didn’t take school seriously are attending colleges just as prestigious as hers! The thought sends her into a tizzy and tells Amy that they are not going to sit home in their pj’s on their final night.

That’s when she learns that Nick (Mason Gooding) is having a final wild party and convinces Amy that going is the only way they are going to redeem themselves. It also gives Amy a chance to hang out with Ryan (Victoria Ruesga) and Molly can visit with Nick.

The problem is that with every move they make to try to get to the party, something else gets in their way and mayhem ensues. From Jared (Skyler Gisondo) leading them astray to Gigi (Billie Lourd) freaking them out every place they go, Molly is not going to let anything to her from getting to Nick’s.

When they finally arrive, everything changes – even Molly and Amy! Their friendship is riding on the party and put to the test. Then again…it’s only high school right?

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Feldstein as Molly is the spokesperson for the dynamic duo. She knows what she wants and pretty much tells Amy every bit of it. Yet there is a believeability in the way she speaks to her friend and their relationship from beginning to end. I enjoyed Feldstein so much and she reminded me a little of someone I know.

Dever as Amy is charming, sweet and in love with someone who doesn’t know she exists. It is clear she loves her friendship with Molly and although reminding me a bit of Cameron Frye from FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF. She goes along to get along and even if she’s having fun, there are moments where fun makes her very nervous.

Gisondo as Jared is absolutely outrageous yet there is something sweet about him. Perhaps it’s because he understands Molly and Amy more than he is given credit for. Gooding as Nick is the guy in school who just wants to have a good time and isn’t seen as a serious student. Sudeikis as the Principal is hilarious and in a role that totally gives him the opportunity to just totally go crazy in a great way.

Okay, it must be said Lourd as Gigi is absolutely hysterical. I just love this character but mainly because of what she says and what she does. A free spirit that’s a little bit on the nutty side and no one more than Lourd deserves to just let loose.

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Other cast include Will Forte as Doug, Diana Silvers as Hope, Molly Gordon as Triple A, Eduardo Franco as Theo, Nico Hiraga as Tanner, Austin Crute as Alan, Jessica Williams as Miss Fine and Lisa Kudrow as Charmaine.

BOOKSMART is charming, funny, silly, and gives the audience a look at pieces of their own high school days. There are the usual misunderstandings, cliques, misconceptions and chances to have one last opportunity to a make a mark that could be memorable forever.

After all, isn’t that what high school is all about? The mistakes that are made, the plans that change every other day, friendships that in some cases become life long (I happen to know a few of those) and broken hearts, oh yes, the high school broken hearts most everyone has experienced. Most of all, the pure laughs about who we were and hopefully who we all turned out to be.

In the end – getting straight A’s and giving zero F’s.

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