Blu-Ray Spotlight: ‘Father Figures’ Is A Family Comedy With A Ton of Heart

Father Figures

Now out on Blu-ray and DVD Father Figures centers on Kyle (Ed Helms) and Peter (Owen Wilson), fraternal twins who, on their mother’s (Glenn Close) wedding learn that their late father is actually not their dad! Determined to find their biological father, the pair go on a quest where they meet several guys who could be their dad (Terry Bradshaw plays himself, JK Simmons is a criminal, and Christopher Walken is a veterinarian).

This road comedy, which if one judges by the poster, may seem like an innocuous, forgettable affair but surprisingly the flick has a ton of heart and, running at 113 minutes, a well developed storyline. Credit goes to director Lawrence Sher for making Kyle, who is a stuffy proctologist, a rather unlikable dude for a substantial portion of the narrative. Peter, a millionaire who lucked into his money (he’s the logo for a popular drink), is the more easygoing of the two, and his zest for life absolutely rubs Kyle the wrong way. Bradshaw, Simmons, and Walken all have their moments to shine, but it’s Katt Williams as a hitchhiker they pick up along the way who steals the show.

Along with being a solid and ultimately heartwarming comedy, Father Figures also has 21 minutes of deleted scenes that are featured on both the Blu-ray and DVD versions. These sequences included more moments with Glenn Close, a bonding moment between Kyle and his son, and a scene from Peter and Kyle’s childhood that establishes their rivalry. Overall, Father Figures is definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of the two leads but, more importantly, if you dig comedies that unabashedly pulls your heart strings. 

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi

Review: ‘Isle of Dogs’ a Master Class in Wes Anderson Storytelling

It’s been four years since we were graced with a Wes Anderson film, but you can forgive the director for the slow turnaround due to the nature of his latest effort. Isle of Dogs, like Fantastic Mr. Fox earlier in his career, is an animated tale using stop motion, thus requiring more time to achieve the painstaking detail that Anderson films have become known for.

This new film is a master class in storytelling, opening with a prologue revealing the history that the Kobayashi family has with canine kind, thus revealing why the modern day mayor (Kunichi Nomura) might be prone to bow to pressure to exile dogs to a trash island when Megasaki City gets overrun by dogs, some of whom begin to take ill. As a sign of his dedication to the city, Kobayashi makes Spots (Liev Schreiber), the faithful companion of his ward Atari (Koyu Rankin), the first exiled dog.

But the bond beyond boy and dog is one that should not be underestimated, with Atari defying his uncle and flying off to the trash island in search of Spots. It is there he meets a pack of alpha dogs, who have survived malnourishment and poor conditions. They include the seeming leader Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray) and Duke (Jeff Goldblum) who are joined by a no-nonsense stray named Chief (Bryan Cranston) who eventually comes around to help save the little pilot when he crashes on the island. Eventually the dogs and Atari fend off an attempt by Kobayashi robot dog unit to reclaim the boys and set out on an adventure through the finger island in order to find out what happened to Spots upon his arrival.

For fans of Anderson, there is his typical dry wit with Murray and Goldblum offering a little comic relief to the adventure, while Norton and Cranston do most of the heavy lifting in terms of dialogue. Many of the Japanese actors in the film speak in their native tongue, with the occasional translation coming from English speaking characters, but to Anderson’s credit, not much is lost for viewers even if the native tongue spoken is not their own.

Other central characters to the story include Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig), a conspiracy theory-obsessed foreign exchange student and activist who’s seriously crushing on Atari’s exploits, and Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson), the former show dog serving as a voice of reason to Chief on his journey to aid Atari in his noble mission. You’ll also find Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand, F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, Courtney B. Vance and Yoko Ono (in a very meta character) among the high profile voice talent in the film.

As you might expect from Anderson, the film is visually stunning. Credit should be given to Curt Enderle and his art direction crew, who could be hearing their name called at Oscar time. The look and style help set the tone for the film. And Alexandre Desplat‘s score, as usual, adds an extra layer to the film.

Though animated, there are some seriously darker moments that might be a little much for young children, with adult themes definitely more at play. But still, family, no matter in what shape it may come, and the connection made in the most difficult of circumstances, is what gives this film its heart. Anderson and his frequent collaborators Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola, along with Kunichi Nomura deliver this heartfelt tale with a well-earned ending.

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Posted by Ari Coine

‘All I Wish’ Review: Sharon Stone Shines In Wonderfully Crafted Comedy

All I Wish

Sharon Stone as Senna Berges in the comedy film All I Wish – a Paladin / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Paladin / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Though Sharon Stone has carved out a diverse career, romantic comedies have never been her calling card. Whether it’s due to a lack of imagination for filmmakers or her own creative choices, that’s a shame, as her work in the seemingly breezy All I Wish is worth the price of admission.

Senna Burges (Stone) is a woman who, in the throes of middle age, still doesn’t have her act together. Spontaneous to a fault, Senna is a clothing designer whose unpredictably frustrates her boss (Famke Janssen) and perplexes her mom (Ellen Burstyn, delivering resonant work as usual). Best friend Darla’s (Liza Lapira) attempts to set up Senna with a lawyer named Adam (Tony Goldwyn) ends up disastrous (partly due to Senna’s intractability and an Adam misstep), and happily ever after many never be a reality for our protagonist.

Though much of All I Wish is delivered with a light touch from first time director Susan Walter, the narrative also mines darker material as Senna navigates through life’s inevitable tragedies and challenges. Whether it’s the “battle of the sexes” bantering with Goldwyn or bonding with Burstyn, Stone is always engaging, and her charismatic performance anchors the film. Credit goes to Walter for giving Stone an equally talented ensemble to play with, and each of them gets their respective moment to shine within the story.

One can understandably rail against the world at the rarity of having a female lead over 40 spearheading her own romantic comedy, and thankfully All I Wish is a step in a right direction. But more importantly the film, running at a brisk 94 minutes, has a ton of storytelling meat on the bone. In an acknowledged ode to When Harry Met Sally, Walter has each of these characters speak to the camera between chapters (the film is set on Senna’s various birthdays), and the breaking the fourth wall element actually adds a deeper layer to the proceedings.

In a ton of romantic comedies, the players are playing roles in a relative fantasy land, and romcom fans are more than happy to play with the illusion. While All I Wish is set amidst the sunny confines of Los Angeles, Walter and Stone (who also produced) have snuck in a much deeper tale into the framework. Finding love and happiness is lifelong quest, and although some naysayers believe Senna should be acting her age, she has other things on her mind. Sometimes being an adult is throwing caution to the wind and following one’s dreams, and perceptions be damned.

It’s easy to draw a link between Stone, who’s now 60, finally finding a romantic comedy to sink her teeth into, and Walter, after years of assistant directing (she started in the early 90s), finding her footing as a director. But maybe overthinking the whole thing is the wrong idea, as All I Wish stands on its own as a solid piece of entertainment, and thankfully that wish came true.

All I Wish is now playing in select theaters and is available VOD and Digital HD.

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi

Review: ‘Ready Player One’ Game for Spielberg’s Next Great Adventure

Five decades into his career, it’s good to see that director Steven Spielberg has not lost his passion for adventure. In fact, his latest release, Ready Player One, recalls the fascination that came along with his early screen work in a very modern and futuristic tale.

Penned by Zak Penn using Ernest Cline‘s novel for inspiration, Ready Player One is set in two worlds — the futuristic but somewhat dystopian future of real life Columbus, Ohio and the escapist gaming centric world of the Oasis.

The Oasis is the creation of a mastermind named Halliday (a nearly unrecognizable Mark Rylance) where those who enter the virtual world can achieve what they want and be who they want to be in a variety of adventures and in the sad state of modern affairs, this world is an escape for many and has become an everyday part of life for most, including a young player named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), whose closest friends he only knows as their avatars while playing under the name Parzival. In real life, Wade lives in a less than ideal family situation, cared for by his aunt in the stacks (think a futuristic trailer park) after his parents passed away in his youth. But at the Oasis, Parzival regularly competes in an attempt to uncover the three keys that Halliday left behind as an easter egg following his death. Those unable to retrieve the keys will become heir to Halliday’s fortune and the Oasis itself.

Parzival and his pal Aech are regular race participants, often attempting to best the Sixers, a group of gamer trainees hired by Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), Halliday’s onetime assistant and chief of the second biggest gaming organization hoping to lay claim to the riches left by their primary competition. When Parzival and Aech are joined by the fearless Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) in yet another race that falls short of completion, something Art3mis says triggers the clue that Parzival needs to become the first person ever to retrieve one of the keys. Eventually, Parzival is joined by Art3mis, Aech and two other frequent competitors — Sho (Philip Zhao) and Daito (Win Morisaki), who start to form a loose alliance in attempting to solve the riddles that had eluded many for so long.

Parzival’s victory upsets Sorrento, who starts to take a more active role in trying to eliminate his competition, while things suddenly become all too real for Wade/Parzival in the real world.

Though set in the future, there are plenty of nods to the past in Ready Player One. Much of the soundtrack is set in the ’80s, an era where Spielberg’s star shone at its brightest. There are also nods to the era where video games first came to prominence, with clues cleverly based among the games that started it all. And yes, there are even nods to Spielberg’s peers, with shoutouts to Robert Zemeckis and Stephen King among others. It’s a pop culture treasure trove for those paying attention, with Spielberg going meta and offering any number of easter eggs while telling a story about trying to find the ultimate easter egg.

And while the film is very much about gaming and a virtual reality world, there is a lesson to be had about staying grounded in every day life as well. Halliday’s final adventure is riddled with clues of his own life, regrets and triumphs, one that lays the path for the future with only the rightful gamer being able to solve it all. Ultimately, it’s a film about connections made and finding hope in the adventure. A visually impressive feature, Spielberg continues to show why he’s one of the most lauded directors in history and this film serves both as a love letter to his past while showing he still has so much more left to give.

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Posted by: Ari Coine

Review: ‘Thoroughbreds’ Thoroughly a Dark and Juicy Journey

There’s nothing quite as dangerous as a teen girl scorned, whether the infraction is real or built up in the mind of the beholder. In the new film Thorougbreds, Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy take viewers on an unsettling journey as the rekindling of their friendship becomes almost a chess game of dark intentions.

We’re first introduced to Amanda, a wise-beyond-her-years, sullen and emotionless (literally, as she reveals her inability to feel certain human emotions) teen who has become an outcast over an incident that involved her horse from her youth. Amanda arrives at Lily’s (Taylor-Joy] spacious yet antiseptic mansion for an arranged tutoring session-hangout, quickly surveying the surroundings while awaiting for her estranged friend from youth to arrive. Amanda sizes up Lily rather quick, as the teen portrays the picture of privilege and a picture perfect life, but Amanda’s blunt nature catches Lily off guard and intrigues her, forcing Lily to give up the ruse of her life and be brutally honest for the first time in a long time.

The introduction of Lily’s stepfather Mark (Paul Sparks) marks the first real crack in Lily’s veneer, with Amanda astutely assessing Lily’s below-the-surface hatred of the controlling parental figure. The obsessive-compulsive Mark has little time or compassion for his stepdaughter, often seen treating her as an annoyance while Lily’s mother Karen (Kalli Vernoff) seems content being the trophy wife who never challenges her husband. But Finley’s writing of the character leaves room for who’s perspective is correct.

Writer/director Cory Finley does a masterful job in revealing the depths of the two girls. Amanda’s able to unravel Lily with ease, with her bluntness calling out Lily’s darkest desires. When Amanda suggests the possible killing of Lily’s stepfather as a solution to her new friend’s problems, Lily is initially horrified, but the more Amanda addresses the simplicity, the harder it is for Lily to deny those feelings. But Amanda has unleashed a monster. While Amanda’s dark side is up front and present, Lily proves to be every bit as dark, almost matter-of-factly embracing a focused psychosis.

The pair initially hatch a plan to off Mark engaging the local small-time drug dealer Tim (Anton Yelchin in his final role) to do the deed, but things don’t go as expected. While a smaller role, Yelchin’s Tim provides some perspective on the girls’ plans and some much needed comic relief with his hapless nature.

It’s when things go awry that the film really goes to its darkest places, with Lily’s masking of her real persona fading away and Amanda’s realizations about her own motivations in life coming to a head. Both Cooke and Taylor-Joy shine in their respective roles, leaving viewers truly unnerved at many points in the film while also providing some nervous levity as well.

Thoroughbreds is a well-written, superbly acted thriller which ranks among the best in this genre of film.

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Posted by Ari Coine

‘CinemAddicts’ Podcast Reviews ‘Red Sparrow’ And ‘Josie’

josie5

The bad news with episode 80 of CinemAddicts is that Jennifer Lawrence’s latest film Red Sparrow absolutely misses the mark. Playing a ballerina turned intelligence agent who attempts to extract information from a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton), Lawrence does her best in the role but the narrative is a muddled mess. Also covered on the show is the disappointing sci-fi thriller Annihilation which, though it also features a capable lead performance from Natalie Portman, also ends up a big disappointment.

Smaller fare turned out to be my cinematic recommendations in this installment, as the motel thriller Josie, headlined by Dylan McDermott and Sophie Turner, had much more dramatic gravitas than I was expecting. Featuring standout work from McDermott as a loner haunted by his past and Turner as the young woman who changes his fate, Josie is a must watch (especially if you love twisty pulp noir or generally well done dramas) when it debuts in theaters and On Demand March 16. I Kill Giants, a flick based on the Joe Kelly graphic novel that hits theaters and On Demand a week later, is also highly recommended.

To listen to the latest episode of CinemAddicts, which is available on iTunes, click on the media bar below:

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi