Can Beauty tame the Beast once more? This beautiful fairy tale of Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has now been turned into a live action motion picture that delivers a more detailed story. What once was animation that provided the story of romance and power, becomes reality with this release on Blu-ray combo pack that includes a DVD + Digital HD. It’s now the actors that have to reach out to home viewers and make them believe. And they nail it! Read more
Review by John M. Delia, Jr.
Can Beauty tame the Beast once more? This beautiful fairy tale of Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has now been turned into a live action motion picture that delivers a more detailed story. What once was animation that provided the story of romance and power, with this release it’s the actors that have to reach out to the audience and make them believe. And they nail it! Much like the recent Walt Disney’s Cinderella (2015) and The Jungle Book (2016), I’m predicting Beauty and the Beast will be another worldwide blockbuster. Read more
Weird, wild and whimsical the musical drama Bang Bang Baby has a fine cast, good direction and a story too inconceivable to be nothing but science fiction. Played out and filmed like it could be taking place on a stage with many sets, the film’s presentation reminds me a lot of the madcap Little Shop of Horrors. The 60’s rock music also adds some nostalgia as part of the enjoyment. Now available on all major VOD platforms. Read more
Taking a few ideas from High School Musical and adding offspring of four of Disney’s evil villains makes Disney Channel a winner with their newest teen/tween adventure Descendants. It’s a well-made film with fine direction, young Disney stars and a whole lot of fun for the whole family. Yep, even dad if he watches with his daughter. Targeted toward females, it makes a perfect film for the sleep over or pajama party crowd. Now on DVD the film has no commercial interruptions and some bonus material that keeps the party going. Read more
If you’ve never had the chance to see Stephen Sondheim’s musical comedy Into The Woods on Broadway, it’s now on Blu-ray for the first time. The wacky play was filmed during a performance on Broadway and stars Bernadette Peters in the lead role. Nicely framed for optimal viewing the play features its original cast, music and stage sets. Originally released on DVD, the film has been remastered in Blu-ray for a clear, clean presentation. Read more
From off-Broadway to silver screen the musical Lucky Stiff really packs a comedic punch. The zany, wacky and cunningly romantic film may have a simple storyline, but it entertains right down to the moment the credits roll. It’s the opening night feature for the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival and there couldn’t have been a better choice for the swank audience that will be in attendance. Walking the red carpet with other actors, producers and directors will be stars Jason Alexander who will be receiving Career Achievement Award from FLIFF, supporting star Pamela Shaw and director Christopher Ashley.
Harry Witherspoon (Dominic Marsh) working as a salesman for a London shoe store hasn’t had much luck getting his dream job or any romance in his life. In fact he’d rather count shoes for Friday inventory than go out on the town. He plays out his meager lifestyle in a plain room at an apartment in the lower income area of town. Following the last counted shoe he leaves for home.
Meanwhile his landlady has just accepted a telegram for Harry and the nosy woman can’t wait till he arrives. She hands him the letter and gets the news that his Uncle Anthony in the United States has died and he’s been awarded his estate worth millions. There are two catches however, Harry has to take Anthony’s preserved by taxidermy body in a wheelchair to Monte Carlo so he can at least in death, spend a weekend in luxury. If he doesn’t succeed the money goes to a dog pound in New York City.
When his photo appears in the newspaper about the inheritance and Rita LaPorta (Pamela Shaw) Anthony’s ex-wife reads about it, she takes her gun and Optometrist brother Vinnie (Jason Alexander) on a trip to the French Riviera.
The wacky little film has a very good dialogue driven musical score that’s ably handled by the fine cast under the direction of Christopher Ashley. Nominated for a Tony Award for Directing the musical “Memphis” on Broadway, Ashley really shows how he can handle both the singing and the comedy in Lucky Stiff. He keeps his film moving at a very fast pace introducing his three main characters and collecting more as the film progresses. It’s mad cap fun with seamless transitions from one comical scene to the next.
Dominic Marsh leads the cast with a fine performance as the lonely guy who gets his world turned upside down. Nicely played out, his portrayal of Harry keeps the script enjoyable to watch, especially when he finds that even a shoe salesman can find love and happiness. His supporting cast has Nikki M. James (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby) as Annabel Glick the young woman from Brooklyn set on getting the inheritance money for her dog pound. Also included in a very off-the-wall role is Pamela Shaw who brings the “wacky” to the production. Nearsighted Rita La Porta has her mind trained on getting the millions and even though she can’t see beyond her hands without her glasses, the gun she’s wielding still gives her a lot of power.
Jason Alexander gets very zany taking nervous Vinnie for the ride of a lifetime finding himself getting deeper in trouble the more he helps his looney sister. He’s beyond George Costanza of “Seinfeld” with his crazy ever changing hair and animated gestures. Did I say he even sings in his role? The film is also a nice tribute to Dennis Farina who plays Luigi an Italian playboy. Helping Harry to get acclimated to Monte Carlo and a lifestyle he would never choose to be in, Luigi looks out for the young man. Farina has been in at least 75 films with this being his final appearance.
Lucky Stiff has not been rated by the MPAA but does contain some violence and suggestive sexuality. The film plays as part of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival on Friday November 7th at 7:15 p.m. at the Amaturo Theatre in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For further information go to http://www.fliff.com/Films_and_Events.
Additional Film Information:
Cast: Dominic Marsh, Jason Alexander, Pamela Shaw, Dennis Farina, Nikki M. James
Directed by: Christopher Ashley
Genre: Musical Comedy
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 1 hr 28 min
Festival Showing Date: FLIFF November 7, 2014
Creating a blast from the past, Clint Eastwood delivers Jersey Boys the rocking musical that took Broadway by storm. Creating more of a drama than a song fest, the movie takes the audience from the Four Seasons chaotic beginning to stardom. Using the lead actor from the original Broadway cast the movie emulates more than what most everyone has been eagerly awaiting. Read more
One of the most beloved films Mary Poppins comes to Blu-ray for the first time and it’s just in time to be united with the release of the movie Saving Mr. Banks. Now in its fiftieth year since the original movie release the fun family film won 5 Oscars including a Best Actress for Julie Andrews. Released in a Blu-ray combo pack that includes the Blu-ray, DVD and a Digital Copy, there’s loads of extras. Read more
Disney goes back to its roots with a show tune filled animated adventure for the whole family. Filled with song, action and comedy the film Frozen hits the ground sliding into a holiday almost devoid of family fare. Featuring new characters that are bound to attract both young girls and boys, Frozen should be able to go toe-to-toe with The Hunger Games for the Thanksgiving holiday box-office champ. Read more
In its first season Nashville has attracted a large audience and rightly so. Now on home video the new and very different series has put together an ambitious story with a whole lot of drama and a good measure of country music. Now on DVD it reminds me of another first timer Smash that had a good first season not too long ago. The production shows smart preparation, a sizable budget and some excellent new faces with very good voices among its headliners Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere. Read more
The film’s not your average Glee offering, but a nice Welsh take on a drama teacher facing some tough going with her musical in the film Hunky Dory. The movie features a fine young cast lead by a charming performance by Minnie Driver who makes the film work. If you are a romantic, arts lover or just like a sweet movie then this little jewel is worth a look. Read more
Not many musical plays get translated to screen with pleasing results and Les Miserables barely makes the cut. The lavish film production of the heartfelt story wins with sets, music and cinematography, but not desirable enough in the acting development. While the strongest performances come from support characters the leads just couldn’t make the grade with the vocals. For stage production purest, this may not be your cup of movie magic.
The light opera opens with Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) on the day of his release from prison for stealing food. Tired and crushed by seventeen years of incarceration, Valjean jumps parole and makes his way to a small town where he gets befriended by a priest who allows him to steal valuable items and start a new life. Hunted by Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) for breaking the law of his conditional release, Valjean finds himself avoiding major French cites and settles in one where he finances a factory and becomes its mayor. In a quark of fate Javert gets transferred to Vanjean’s town and narrowly misses capturing his quarry. When Valjean gets confronted by Fantine (Anne Hathaway), an ailing factory worker of his who was fired without his knowledge, he agrees to care for her illegitimate child Cosette. So starts an adventurous journey of hide and seek that leads to a remarkable resolve. Read more
Get ready to get rockin’ with Rock of Ages, a blowout musical spectacular featuring outstanding performances by actors that take the music world by storm. It’s an extravaganza of music, dreams and life’s challenges all with the backdrop of the 1980s fight for rock n’ roll survival. I am still reeling from the soundtrack, acting and presentation of the stage play brought to life on the big screen. Read more
If you have some time, want some cool entertainment and like updated gospel music then sit-in on Joyful Noise, a very entertaining musical. Director Todd Graff keeps the story simple, predictable yet enjoyable with a glowing cast, hip tunes and amazing vocals.
Following the recent death of their choir director, the board of a small-town church appoints Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) to lead the choir in the annual quarterfinals of the Joyful Noise competition. When Vi takes over she finds out that she isn’t the most able leader due to the home life baggage, attitude toward other members of the choir and an old school choice of music.
G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton), the widow of the deceased director has hurt feelings that she was not appointed which adds to the difficulties that lie ahead for the small choir facing the best competition in the USA. When G.G.’s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) comes back to live with her and gets romantically involved with Vi’s daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) things start heating up between the two matriarchs.
The fun within this film comes with the infighting between Latifah’s character, Parton’s role and the choir. But, the best part of the film is the music. Filled with enjoyable upbeat songs and choir arrangements mixed in with a family story, that although you can tell where it’s going, Joyful Noise is just that, joyful.
Writer/Director Todd Graff (Bandslam) keeps his relationships realistic enough to keep the audience interested in the story while he spins the music using Palmer’s strong voice and Parton’s country twang. Taking some older rock, pop, country and blues, arranged by five time Grammy winner Mervyn Warren, he turns old choir into a modern toe-tapping concert right up to the down right incredible finale. Even Latifah gets in on the singing action with her thrilling rendition of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.”
I really don’t think there’s more to say, except ‘go and see the rousing film’. To enjoy it best however, go along with the predictable story that even your youngest teen can enjoy. The film has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some language including a sexual reference. Taking pre-teen children accompanied by a responsible adult should be okay with Joyful Noise.
FINAL ANALYSIS: An uplifting film that should fill you with spirit. (B)
Rating System (with best being a 5): Film- 4.5, Video- 5, Audio- 5, Extras- 3.5, Overall 4.5
I don’t know if you recently had the opportunity to see The Lion King in 3D at your local theater or the original version in 1994 when it came out, but I had the opportunity to see the film in the 3D Blu-ray disc version and it’s amazing. The film will probably never be replaced as the all time animated entertainment event for me because it has all the action, drama, comedy and values that make it the best for family viewing, and now in 3D Blu-ray.
The movie follows the adventure of a young lion cub Simba who is next in line to be King of the pride. But his uncle Scar has other plans and sets up Simba to fail leading to his taking of the throne. Cast out into the wilderness Simba runs into Pumbaa and Timon who help Simba get his strength and courage back. When Simba returns to the pride a fight for leadership begins.
The songs are classics with “The Circle of Life” at the very top. It’s hard to get most of the songs out of your brain once you revisit them and I still toe tap to “Hakuna Matata”. But my heart belongs to “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, especially watching Simba and Nala begin their journey in life.
In 3D the movie takes on another level of entertainment. This super visual mode put me right into the movie showing the characters up close and providing an amazing depth that brought the jungle to my living room. If you have the 3D television and 3D Blu-ray system it’s the most unique way to see this classic spectacular movie.
The Four Disc combo pack turns out to be the best buy for now and the future. This packaging includes the Blu-ray 3D, a regular Blu-ray disc with the feature film and the bonus features, a DVD of the film with it’s own bonus feature and a fourth Digital copy of the feature so you can download it and take it with you inside your laptop computer or other mobile device.
The Lion King has remained my favorite animated film over the years with just a few being it’s equal. But, even though it has equals, it’s still the top one on my library shelf. With the new Diamond Collection beginning, the original DVD has a new guest the 3D Version that will sit along side. This product is among the new Disney’s Blu-ray Diamond Collection a selection of the most prestigious animated classics in the Disney vault. The collection will be comprised of those treasured titles and will be released through the year 2016.
The Diamond titles represent the highest level of picture and sound, feature groundbreaking, state-of-the-art immersive bonus content, and include unprecedented levels of interactivity, personalization and customization, made possible because of Blu-ray technology. It all starts with The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, both available October 4, 2011. Look for Lady and the Tramp DE in Spring of 2012.
Disney makes it easy to upgrade your collection to Blu-ray by just going to dineyupgrade2blu.com for instructions. You don’t have to give up your old DVD format disc and you get an $8 coupon to use for a discount on that Blu-ray title for which you send in purchase tab.
For all you ‘techie’ people let’s look inside the box and find out about the cool technical aspects of this baby.
The color, sharpness, contrast and other goodies depend on your system, but if it is high grade you can depend on the discs inside the box to be top notch. I found the 3D to be extremely well presented in its 1.178:1 aspect ratio a widescreen format that filled the whole screen with pop out quality and no black bars to distract. Imaging has been greatly improved over the 2004 release of The Lion King with this pristine high definition picture. It’s hard to beat Disney’s Blu-ray for quality of picture including the fine sharpness, contrast, color and black levels.
Featuring AC-3, Dolby Digital Surround Sound my system would have blew the doors off the room if I jacked up the levels to full bore. Instead I notched the film at a level that would fix my body in the center of all the action without destroying the ‘feel’ of the film. Sound is at least 50% of any film showing and without good levels the presentation fails. The Blu-ray 3D disc provides (English) a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio that easily drives my speaker system.
The special bonus features on the discs are quite good and do have more than 2004’s 2 Disc Special Edition of The Lion King. On the 3D Blu-ray there’s just the film where you will experience 3D to the max. The Blu-ray disc included in the combo pack has many bonus features, but don’t get rid of your 2004 SE because it has some features this edition doesn’t.
Deleted Scenes: 4 never-before-see deleted scenes (6 min)
Bloopers: New funny ‘animated errors’ that make you laugh (1 min)
Deleted Song: I guess the film was a little too long or the scene was cut, but this special song was not in the original.
The Morning Report: After you watch the film check this bonus out as it provides a longer sort of alternate version of this scene from the film. (2 min)
Pride of the Lion King: a visit with the crew on the film (36 min)
Sing-a-long mode: The songs from the film are set up with subtitles so the kids (and yourself) will know all the words.
Interactive Blu-ray Gallery: It’s worth the look.
The DVD disc includes the bonus:
The Lion King: A Memoir- Don Hahn: Hahn takes you on a journey into the creation of the film introducing the people who helped make it happen. It’s a wonderful behind the scenes memory not to be missed. (20 min)
Disney Second Screen: The Lion Ling Edition provides a chance to sync your laptop or iPad with your Blu-ray disc to provide additional content you control as your movie plays. It can be a bit dicey to set up and a little techie to use but once you do,…Revelations!
For me The Lion King 3D Blu-ray is a no-brainer, but if you are not ever planning on purchasing a 3D system it may not be for you. However, with the Blu-ray and DVD enclosed in the 3D combo pack, if you are going to purchase the Blu-ray anyway the Combo Pack may be a better deal for any future changes in your entertainment system.