Philip S (sayblack)


Philip's Recent Reviews


Antboy Antboy PG
Cinedigm's Danish import Antboy is a surprisingly entertaining movie for anyone that is a fan of the superhero genre. There is plenty to be said of this mostly family friendly flick beginning with the fact that it is indeed family friendly. This ties directly in to the movie's script, which will be discussed momentarily. Just as noteworthy is the work put in to dub the movie's originally Danish language into English. Unlike other foreign films that have been dubbed for English audiences, this one actually impresses to a point. And last but not least, the movie's comic book on-screen look puts the finishing touch to the presentation. The combination of all three of these factors together makes Antboy a movie that while hardly a blockbuster caliber work, one worth watching as a family at least once.

The most noticeable aspect of Antboy that audiences will appreciate is that unlike so many of its major blockbuster counterparts, it is actually a family friendly movie. It seems an increasing trend nowadays for both Marvel and DC to make their movies dark and gritty. Why? If not that, then they are being rebooted with an eye specifically towards teen audiences. The upcoming reboot of Marvel's Fantastic Four movie and DC's upcoming The Flash series are prime examples of that trend. On the avenue of dark and gritty, one look at DC's Man of Steel and Dark Knight Trilogy are proof of the trend towards darker and grittier movies. They aren't the only ones that are following that path, either. Considering all of this, it's nice to see a movie like Antboy come along. It isn't dark and gritty. What's more, it presents some wonderful themes of friendship and believing in one's own self. Even better is that the movie's hero, Pelle, isn't the standard brooding anti-hero figure that has become so popular among its big brothers in theaters and on television. This factor alone makes Antboy well worth at least one watch by audiences of any age.

By direct relation to Antboy's family friendly nature is its script. It takes a cue from Marvel's Spiderman. But it doesn't go so far as to directly rip off said franchise. Instead, Pelle is bitten by a genetically modified ant, and ends up developing the powers of an ant. And fittingly, his arch nemesis is a baddie by the name of "The Flea." "The Flea" is a former scientist whose research on ants had been cut by the head of his place of employment. The story presented by "The Flea" on his origin is actually interesting in that it makes him something of a sympathetic character strangely enough. He was just a good guy who had been poorly treated by those over him and was pushed too far, thus leading to becoming the villain that he was. It's just another part of the script that makes the whole story easier to believe. Pelle's eventual realization that it's okay to not be popular through it all makes the script even better. It's another example of how this story at least strives to set itself apart from its big budget brethren. Those movies see their main characters struggle with their dual identities and lives. In the case of this story, the main figure embraces his two separate roles. Having so much difference from all of the major superhero blockbuster is a big plus to this movie. Add in the fact that it is family friendly and it gains even more footing. There's still more worth noting in the movie's overall success, too. Another factor to note in the movie's success is its dubbing.

Audiences will note in watching Antboy that this movie is not originally American. There are subtitles used in certain scenes. That's the first hint. And watching the actors speak, audiences will note a discrepancy between the movement of the cast's mouth movements and the actual words being heard. At first one might think that it's just a sync issue. But a closer watch reveals that it's actually dubbing. This movie is Danish in origin. So obviously the actors spoke in their native language. To the credit of those charged with dubbing it into English, they did quite the impressive job of carrying out their duties. As noted, the difference in the dubbing and original speaking parts is difficult to notice if one isn't looking closely. That is a tribute to the painstaking efforts of those responsible for translating the movie into English. It's yet another positive to a movie that while it will likely never be as big as its blockbuster counterparts, is just as good.

The translation of the original speaking parts from Danish to English was done with the utmost expertise. The same care as taken to separate Antboy from bigger name blockbusters. From making it family friendly to giving it its own identity, Cinedigm and all of the other companies responsible for bringing this story to American audiences are to be applauded for their efforts. There is still one more factor involved in this movie for which those companies deserve respect and applause. That final factor is the movie's look. It was actually made to look like a comic book that had jumped right off the printed page. The animated panels and the movie's very look together give this movie the truest feel of a real life comic book since 2002's Sam Raimi helmed Spiderman ironically enough. That look combined with every factor previously noted becomes the final touch on this movie. It rounds out the entire presentation and makes it a movie that every family will enjoy even with just a single watch.

In the end, Antboy will never be as big as the films being churned out by Marvel and DC. But the reailty of the movie is that regardless of this, it is still a largely family friendly film. At the same time, it maintains its own place in the pantheon of superhero flicks. And in the arena of independently released superhero movies, it is one that any audience will appreciate whether it be in one watch or more.

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At Middleton At Middleton R
Anchor Bay Entertainment's At Middleton is a complete surprise of a movie. This bittersweet story about love and self-realization completely defies the standard rom-com formula. Instead, it presents a story that in the end is both hopeful and heartbreaking. The story, co-written by Glenn German and Adam Rogers is the central point of this movie's surprising success. The pair's overall writing is just as important to the movie's enjoyment. And last but definitely not least, the acting on the part of stars Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga seals the deal for At Middleton. Their on-screen chemistry will have audiences laughing right along with them and then tearing up as the story progresses. Whether audiences lean more towards the acting, the writing or the story itself, what can be agreed upon is that all three factors work together to make At Middleton one of the best new indie flicks of 2014.

Glenn German and Adam Rogers have crafted in their script for At Middleton a story that is one of the best new indie flicks of 2014. The story, which centers on George Hartman (Andy Garcia) and Edith Martin (Vera Farmiga) completely defies the standard rom-com formula. Audiences start out believing that it will be another rom-com. That's because George and Edith start out just like any rom-com couple. They start out hating each other, but eventually fall for each other as their visit to Middleton College progresses. What's really funny is that in the case of this story, the initial hatred for one another happens because Edith is accused by George of having stolen George's parking space. Garcia's portrayal of the uptight Hartman makes this moment especially entertaining. The acting will be discussed later. Getting back on track, the bond formed between George and Edith makes the story's eventual outcome both heartbreaking and hopeful. The ending won't be revealed here for the sake of those that have yet to see this story unfold. But simply put, the story's final act is anything but the standard rom-com finale. Those audiences that lambasted the movie likely did so because of this aspect. Audiences in general have been overly programmed to expect the standard gift-wrapped happy ending from stories. So when a story like this comes along with its more emotional ending, it creates a feeling of discontent in those viewers. However, those that are open-minded enough to understand the story in its whole will appreciate that ending. And in retrospect, they will find that they appreciate the story as the endearing work that it is.

German and Rogers' story is the central point of At Middleton's success. One reason that the story works as well as it does is the pair's writing. What parent or student hasn't had the "joy" of the college campus tour at one point or another? Using that as the story's base is both original and hilarious. German and Rogers display so much wit with jokes about campus crime and the physical depiction of the tour leader. The tour leader here, named Justin, is depicted by actor Nicholas Braun. And the pair will even have some viewers laughing later in the story thanks to the subtle joke about why college students really attend a given college as Audrey (Taissa Farmiga) snaps in learning why her favorite professor wouldn't be her advisor. These are just some of the ways in which German and Roger's writing makes At Middleton work as well as it does. One would be remiss to ignore the more emotional aspects of the writing, too. That also plays a role in the movie's overall success.

The more comical aspects of At Middleton make for more than their share of laughs. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the story's more emotional moments that make up the story's second and third act will leave any viewer tearing up. Edith and George's ultimate realization about their unhappy marriages is one of the most powerful of those moments. German and Rogers perfectly timed this moment within the context of the story. After all of the fun that George and Edith had enjoyed through the first act, this moment is a clearly defined transition point in the story. It puts the breaks on everything and lets audiences know that things have just changed in a big way. That realization does slow down the story. But it also plays an integral role in the story's eventual outcome. German and Rogers are both to be commended on balancing this moment with the rest of their story. And again, that outcome will not be revealed here for the sake of those that have yet to see the movie. But it definitely puts the rest of the story into full context. It's just one more example of German and Rogers' expertise in writing their script.

The writing on the part of German and Rogers, and their overall story are both important to the whole that is At Middleton. Those that are open-minded enough will agree with that when they watch this surprisingly gripping and entertaining story for themselves. As important as both noted factors are to the whole here, there is one more factor that should be taken into account in the story's success. That factor is the acting on the part of the cast; More specifically, the acting on the part of Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga. Not to be left out, Nicholas Braun shines, too as campus tour leader Justin. The chemistry between Garcia and Farmiga is so strong throughout the story. This applies both in their lighthearted moments and in their deeper, more emotional moments. Their chemistry is so strong that it pulls viewers in with ease, making them completely forget that they're watching two people acting. That is a tribute to their work. It is not something that can be said even of today's major motion pictures.

Not to be outdone by Farmiga and Garcia, Nicholas Braun shines in his own right as campus tour leader Justin. Audiences of all ages will agree that there is a Justin at every college and university across America. Right from the moment that Justin introduces himself to the tour group, holding out his name tag for everyone to see, saying, "I'm Justin," audiences will be rolling. That's pretty much how those college campus tours start. He's just a dopey sort of character that entertains with everything he says. Whether that moment or his semi-dopey joke about campus violence or later when a random girl comes up behind him and slaps him, Braun is spot on in his role. Both Taissa Farmiga and Spencer Lofranco impress as Audrey and Conrad. But Braun, Garcia and the elder Farmiga are the real stars of this movie. Their acting-along with the writing and overall story crafted by Glenn German and Adam Rogers-collectively make At Middleton a story that is one of this year's best independent movies.

At Middleton is available now on Blu-ray and DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered direct online from the Anchor Bay Entertainment website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?projectID=08b706e3-61ee-e211-a9b4-d4ae527c3b65. More information on this and other movies from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.anchorbayent.com/Entertainment.aspx, http://www.faceboo.com/AnchorBay, and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and "Like" it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil's Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Philip's Favorite Movies


12 Angry Men (Twelve Angry Men) 12 Angry Men (Twelve Angry Men) PG
This is possibly one of the best movies of all time in any genre. With the exception of the first five minutes of the film, the entire thing took place in a jury room. There are likely books written on the different aspects of it. One could say that perhaps ithe heat of the room and the weather outside caused the conflict. Perhps it was the differences of the 12 jurors. Pehaps it was something else. But the conflict flt entirely real. What's more is that none of the men gave doubt a chance until one man stood up and cast doubt on the case. That was one of the any storylines that go on in that little jury room. The wonderfully interwoven storylines, combined with the odd absence of a soundtrack make the movie so fully enjoyable. The lack of that soundtrack with the exception of the beginning and the end disprove the need for muisc throughout a movie to make it good. Not only that, but all the cast and crew had to work with was that single jury room. Yet the movie was so enjoyable. That is proof that so many modern movies far too often go over the top with special effects and soundtracks. One could go on and on about this movie. But the fact of the matter is that it is not only the original legal drama, but one of the best movies of all time, next to Citizen Kane.
The Wizard of Oz The Wizard of Oz PG
So much has been said and written about The Wizard of Oz since its debut way back on August 25, 1939. It's one of the longest running movies on tv every holiday season. And it's one of the most discussed movies both among moviegoers, and students of the theater and film arts. The discussions range from topics such as choreography, music, and cinematography, to the infamous conspiracy theory about the alleged death of one of the munchkins, among others. Yes, it's largely different from the book from which it was adapted. But that aside, it's still one of the most outstanding movies that's ever been created. It's been over seventy years since The Wizard of Oz originally debuted. That it still generates so much discussion on so many topics proves how much of a landmark movie it is. One of the main discussion topics that it still creates to this day is the alleged death of one of the munchkins. So to start off, that myth needs to be debunked, for those who still believe it. The myth in question is that one of the munchkins committed suicide in one scene. That never happened. Here's the reality of that old myth: There was a large bird walking around in the scene that introduces the Tin Man. It looked like a pelican, or some such. Later in that scene, as he, Dorothy, and the Scarecrow are readying to get back to their journey again, that same bird (or a second one), is seen in the far background moving around. What looks like a munchkin comitting suicide is actually just the bird in question flying around far off in the background. So what is possibly one of the greatest mysteries in film history has now been solved, much to the distate of probably thousands of audiences. But there's the answer. Speaking of the bird being far off in the scenery, the scenery is another reason for the success of The Wizard of Oz. The scenery/set art, and costumes create a lot of discussion among theater students at college campuses nationwide. The people behind the scenes obviously paid a lot of attention to the detail of both. For a movie of that time to so smoothly mix actual physical scenery with painted backdrops took a lot of skill. Not to mention, making them so colorful to match what heads of the movie wanted. The costumes had to have taken as much time as the sets (if not more) to create because of the amount of detail for each character's outfit. The sets and costumes were only one part of what made The Wizard of Oz as great as it is. The music and choreography add their own enjoyment to the movie. It is a musical, after all. So, these two are just as important as, if not more than, the costumes and sets. Probably the most time intensive scene for choreography was the initial scene when Dorothy first landed in Munchkinland. Considering the size of the cast in that scene, one can only imagine how much time and effort went into choreographing the dancing, and making sure everyone sang together. The movie is loaded with lots of other scenes that had to have required immense planning. But this was easily the biggest one of them all. The music, choreography and sets used in The Wizard of Oz are some of the most impressive of any musical to date. But they aren't the only factors that have made this movie as timeless as it is. It's created discussions on each of the aforementioned topics. But there are other topics that have been born from the story. The most well known discussion topic is that of industrialism versus agriculturalism. In the discussion, the Scarecrow supposedly represents agriculturalism. And the Tin man is supposed to represent industrialism. Some people argue that the Tin Man not having a heart is the basis for that. The Scarecrow's kind personality, but lack of a brain is argued to represent how farmers were seen by the industrial leaders at the time. And the Wizard himself is argued by some to represent the political figureheads that the ordinary people would talk about, but rarely ever get close enough to, in order to talk to them. Whether or not any of these arguments hold water, the fact that they still happen so many decades later shows just how much staying power The Wizard of Oz has. It's been over seventy years since The Wizard of Oz debuted. Since that time, few films have managed the success that it's managed. It serves as a beacon for theater students thanks to its music and choreography. The discussion topics generated from its story are more than enough for any film studies course, or for discussion among any group of film afficianados. And most of all, it's one of the greatest family friendly films of all time. It may not be the greatest movie of all time. Though it definitely is among that list. But it goes without saying that it is the single greatest summer movie of all time.

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