Disney’s Bambi: Anniversary Edition – Blu-ray Review

In the interest of full disclosure, I had never seen Disney’s Bambi before I sat down to watch this latest Anniversary Edition. I know, I know. How is that possible? I’m a huge fan of Disney animated films. The first movie I ever saw in theaters was the 1984 re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, so the foundation of film-going experience begins with the Disney animated feature that started it all. And yet, Bambi had eluded by viewing for the 37 years I’ve been around. Until now.

Here are SIX things I learned while watching and researching the film, Bambi:

1. Bambi is a Milestone for Disney Animation

From its setting of the forest to its more accurately drawn animals, Bambi marked a new era in Disney animation with its eye for realism. Disney created special classes for his animators so they could learn how to draw and animate animals, water, fire, and other elements in order to create a truly believable world. And to their credit the film is a visually stunning masterpiece of pastoral beauty. It’s a feast for the eyes with literal layers of animation to watch and enjoy time and time again.

2. Bambi was not a Financial Success for Disney

It’s hard to believe that it’s the 75th anniversary of Bambi. That means that this film was the 5th animated feature from Walt Disney Studios and it also happened to be released during World War II (1942). This may explain that while we think of it as a classic, it was a failure at the box office. This makes sense given the time period (there was a major war going on) and its box office failings put it in good company with two other memorable Disney classics: Pinocchio and Fantasia (both released in 1940).

3. Not the Story I Thought it Was

I’ve always believed that Bambi’s mom got shot and killed by the Hunter at the beginning of the movie and the rest of the film is Bambi coping with her death with the help of Thumper, Flower, and the other animals of the forest. I was wrong, which to me is a good thing. This meant that I was actually more engaged with the story, and the tension of when Bambi’s mother would be shot and killed made the film all the more suspenseful to watch. I also didn’t know about the big fire that happens during the final act of the film. This, too, made the an unexpected surprise and one that shows that you never really know what a film is about until you’ve taken the time to watch it for yourself.

4. It’s Not a Musical

Along with the story, I was also surprised that there are no musical numbers sung or performed by the animal cast (which may have been a choice by Walt himself given that he wanted the animals to be more realistic…talking aside). Yes, there are songs and music, but knowing how Disney likes to have characters break into song in the majority of their animated films, it was an interesting discovery. In this instance it makes sense, much like in future Disney features like Tarzan, where music is a factor in the overall world of the film, but not in the lives of most of the characters that inhabit the story.

5. Shows a Pattern in Disney Storytelling Still Seen Today

The theme of the orphaned main character is a common story device that is used in the majority of Disney films. And like most of these features – The Lion King and Frozen being two exceptions – how the character copes with that death/loss is handled off-screen. But it is this wound inflicted on the character against their will that helps make them stronger and more independent in the long run as they make their way through the struggles and victories of the narrative. The same can be said for characters what only have one parent in the picture. How they deal with the loss of the other parent is never fully explored if it’s mentioned at all.

It’s also an interesting side note that many of the characters in the Marvel films and Star Wars films also share the orphaned/parentless theme with many of their Disney character counterparts.

6. Incited Controversy

How, you may ask? Well, believe it or not, hunters were very upset over their demonization in the film. According to a 2014 FilmInspector.com article by James Bjorkman: “American sportsmen naturally took offense at this negative imagery: in a 1942 edition of the magazine “Outdoor Life,” editor Raymond Brown denounced the film as “the worst insult ever offered in any form to American sportsmen.” Imagine if they had had a Twitter account back then!

Not only was this an issue for some, but the entire plot point of Bambi’s mother’s death was also a contentious area of debate, especially in the Disney household. Walt himself admitted in an interview that his daughter was horrified over the death of Bambi’s mother and she was not happy that it was in the film. Others who witnessed the off-screen death were drawn to animal conservation efforts and became animal activist in their adult years.

Along with the original theatrical version, the Blu-ray includes a and the following special features:

Studio Stories: Bambi
The Bambi Effect
Inside Walt’s Story Meetings
Bambi Fawn Facts
Short Film: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit – “In Africa Before Dark”
Deleted Scenes
Deleted Song: “Twitterpated”
The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born
Tricks of Our Trade (Excerpt)
Inside the Disney Archives
The Old Mill: Animated Short
The Golden Age

For a look at what truly was the first Golden Age of Disney animation, I highly recommend Disney’s Bambi: Anniversary Edition!

Disney’s Bambi: Anniversary Edition is available NOW on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Download.

What’s your favorite Disney animated feature? Leave a comment and let us know!

Max 2: White House Hero – Blu-ray Review

“Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.”

There’s a lot going on in Max 2: White House Hero. It’s a dog movie, a precocious kid movie, a political intrigue movie, and a political satire all rolled into one. And it’s family friendly on top of all of that! Max, the star of the film, was first seen in 2015’s Max about a military dog whose adopted by the family of one of the soldiers her assisted in Afghanistan. The sequel finds Max on a new mission as a White House Secret Service dog who quickly becomes the playmate and protector of the First Son.

You see, the Russians are coming to the White House (the movie is rather timely and topical) to discuss a new nuclear arms treaty between the two countries. The Russian President, Vladamir Bragov, brings along his young daughter Alex (Francesca Capaldi) who befriends First Son TJ (Zane Austin).

But something is amiss; in fact, there’s a sinister plot afoot that Alex, TJ, and Max uncover while the adults are completely oblivious to the badness on the horizon. Can Max and the kids prevent an international incident before it’s too late?

I can honestly say that I enjoyed this movie! It had its moments of action and suspense, it was well-acted, and the dog is pretty awesome. Directed by Brian Levant (Jingle All the Way, Beethoven), Max 2: White House Hero is a kid-friendly, family friendly movie that the whole family can enjoy together.

The Blu-ray includes two fast-paced and entertaining featurettes:

Kids on the Case: Making of Max 2

Take a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film with Francesca Capaldi and Zane Austin.

Max 2: A Ruff Life

It took four dogs to bring Max to the screen. See what it takes to train a dog for a movie like Max 2!

As I said above, I had a good time watching this movie. It’s upbeat, fun, and quite entertaining. I highly recommend it for family movie night!

Max 2: White House Hero is a available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Download!

What’s your favorite dog movie? Kid’s movie? Political satire? Leave a comment and let us know!

The Girl with All the Gifts – Blu-ray Review

Zombies. The concept of the flesh-eating undead hunting down and eating the living seems to be everywhere you look. From film to TV, comics to commercials, zombies have taken hold of the public interest and created a pop culture wave much like vampires and zombies did in years past. With every new iteration, these stories range from familiar to quite unique. The Girl with All the Gifts fits the latter category.

While there is plenty of blood, guts, and gore to go around, The Girl with All the Gifts spins a fresh narrative out of old cloth. Here, we have a female-driven zombie flick, with three strong female leads played excellently by Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, and Glenn Close. Nanua steals the show as Melanie, a young girl who possibly hold the cure for the current zombie apocalypse that has befallen the world. She and her classmates all have the potential to save the world from what are described as “hungries” by those around them.

With each passing day, the hungries become more determined, and their desire for flesh grows more rabid. It is Melanie who may hold the key to the cure within her, but is she willing to make the ultimate sacrifice before it’s too late?

The film is engaging for many reasons but primarily due to the way the story is presented and how we experience the world through Melanie’s eyes. It is her story that drives the film, and as she discovers new things about the world and the dangers it involves, we as an audience feel her fear, her curiosity, and her pain. Sennia Nanua delivers a wonderfully depth-filled performance that has her going toe-to-toe with acting heavyweight Glenn Close and keeping up scene after scene.

The Blu-ray includes a great featurette, Unwrap the Secret World of The Girl with All the Gifts, which is gives further insight into the genesis of the film and how it went from short story, to script, to screen.

I really enjoyed The Girl with All the Gifts. I highly recommend it!

The Girl with All the Gifts is available now on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital Download.

What’s your favorite zombie movie or TV show? Leave a comment and let us know!

Animal Kingdom: The Complete First Season – Blu-ray Review

“Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.”

Family. Loyalty. Distrust. Chaos. These are just some of the themes that permeate that world of Animal Kingdom. From the very first moments of the pilot to the final minutes of the season finale, you get a true sense that this working-class crime family is a lot like every other family.

Sure, we don’t all prosper from organized crime schemes, robberies, or physical altercations for the sake of monetary or personal gain, but we all have a circle of people whom we are loyal to. A group of people – whether they are family or close friends – with whom we confide, we commiserate, and we oftentimes collide. But no matter the inner turmoil within the circle, when an outside begins to cause problems, the interpersonal issues fade away; and animal instincts take over.

The first season of Animal Kingdom introduces us to the Cody family, led by matriarch Janine (Ellen Barkin) who doesn’t take crap from anyone – including her sons. She’s a tough-as-nails, strong-willed, yet compassionate heroine who can be your best friend one minute and your worst enemy the next. It is through her motherly manipulation that she’s able to control the criminal enterprise she has built with the help of her sons; a group of men with their own sets of issues and behavioral problems.

We initially see the series through “J” (Finn Cole) who is Janine’s grandson. After his mother passes away, he comes to live with the Codys and boy is he in for a surprise! What he thought would be a refuge from the drug-addled and impoverished world he left behind soon becomes a chaotic circus of criminal antics, wild parties, sex-filled debauchery, and gun, explosions, fist fights, and much more. It’s a lot for a 17-year-old to take in, and taking the journey with him is as much exhilarating as it is exhausting.

As for Janine’s four sons, there’s enough personality to go around with some to spare as the Cody boys ramp up the crimes, the violence, and the paranoia as events go from good, to bad, to worse as the family grapples with the potential of getting busted by the cops, impending arrests, and the fear that their empire could be shut down for good.

Animal Kingdom is great TV. It’s dark, edgy, exciting, amusing, and fast-paced. The blu-ray comes with a number of great special features, which include:

Inside Animal Kingdom

Producers and cast provide an inside look.

Animal Kingdom: Stunts

Exciting sports action from surfing to skydiving.

Meet the Codys

Reach into the heart of the diabolical family.

Getting Into Character

Creating the criminally cool characters.

Setting The Stage

Production designer Nina Ruscio and the team reveal the secrets of Smurf’s domain.

Family Comes First

Cast and producers explore Season One’s family dynamics.

Deleted Scenes

If you’re looking for a new series to begin, I highly recommend Animal Kingdom: The Complete First Season! It truly is the Golden Age of Television Drama!

Animal Kingdom is available now on Blu-ray and DVD!

Lion – Blu-ray Review

So, let’s talk about how awesome Sunny Pawar is who plays Young Saroo in Lion. From his first moments on screen, Pawar owns each scene he’s in; delivering a solid, realistic, and very touching performance that is mesmerizing and captivating to watch. Just from the first ten minutes of the film it’s easy to see why Lion was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress.

Lion is a powerful and moving film that – as I made clear above – draws you into its world in the first few moments thanks to the great performance of Sunny Pawar as Young Saroo. It is Saroo’s strength of will and his determination as a young child that makes him more than just a run-of-the-mill movie kid. It’s this strong set-up that leads us to Dev Patel’s portrayal of Saroo as an adult, which would not be as impactful if not for the framework created by the acting skill of Sunny Pawar. Pawar is indeed the foundation on which Lion is firmly planted. And this film is very lucky to have him on board.

Lion is first and foremost about a journey of discovery, and Saroo’s journey is one that many who have been adopted have taken. While Saroo knows his family and was torn away from them by accident when his was five, as an adult he yearns to reconnect with them despite being adopted by a loving Australian couple played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham. His desire to join his family in India once again is a strong and powerful force that once unleashed becomes a unstoppable goal of determination and tenacity. Will he succeed in his efforts to find the family he never meant to leave behind?

I won’t lie to you: this is a very emotional film – yes, I’ll admit I cried several times – and it’s thanks to the amazing performance of Sunny Pawar who captivates from the very beginning. Just stop reading this review now and go and watch it!

The special features include: Deleted Scenes; a Behind the Scenes Gallery; and the “Never Give Up” Performed by Sia – Official Lyric Video.

Rent it. Buy it. Watch it. Love it. Lion is a fantastic film that is an emotional journey from start to finish. I highly, highly recommend it!

Lion is available now of Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Blu-ray Review

Many people have a love-hate relationship with the Star Wars film series. Many love the original trilogy that kickstarted it all in 1977. The initial film was a worldwide phenomenon that created a new generation of sci-fi fans and some of the most dynamic merchandising ever for a film. Since A New Hope, the Star Wars brand has spawned seven additional films including three sequels and four prequels.

While Episodes One, Two, and Three are generally reviled by hardcore Star Wars fans, there was a sense of redemption with 2015’s The Force Awakens. And now with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, it’s clear that the series has righted itself with both stalwart fans and newcomers alike.

Did you ever watch A New Hope and wonder how the rebels actually stole the plans to the Death Star? Well, wonder no more. In Rogue One we see exactly how this courageous mission was executed, and how a small group of heroes was able to steal and eventually save a universe from a malicious Empire. But it’s not what they are doing or why they are doing it – if you’ve seen Star Wars you know all that by now – it’s how they pull it off that makes it so fun and entertaining.

Rogue One is filled with great action and amazing effects that have become a staple in all Star Wars films, but here it’s especially engaging since this particular film has to blend the technology seen in 1977’s A New Hope “modern technology” with the more modern effects of 2017. And it works beautifully and seamlessly creating a world that seems familiar but unique in its scope and style.

There are plenty of so-called Easter Eggs to be sought after over the course of the film, and tiny cameos from characters from future Star Wars movies help ground the movie in the universe that has been a staple in cinemas for 40 years.

With its eclectic and energetic cast of characters, Rogue One delivers a solid story driven by Jyn (Felicity Jones), a fugitive who quickly finds herself and her past at the forefront of one of the biggest intergalactic conflicts known to humankind (no pressure there!). With her scrappy band of rebels by her side, Jyn is tasked with stealing the plans for the ominously named Death Star in order for the Rebels to find its weakness and destroy it before it destroys all who defy the Empire and its primary leader: Darth Vader (yep, he’s in this, too!).

Rogue One is fun, action-packed, and has a tone that differs from the other Star Wars films, which makes it – as I said before – unique but familiar.

There are so many Special Features that they had to be given their own Blu-ray disc. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s included:

A Rogue Idea – Hear how ILM’s John Knoll came up with the movie’s concept – and why it’s the right film to launch the Star Wars stand-alone films.

Jyn: The Rebel – Get to know Rogue One’s defiant, resourceful survivor, and hear what it was like for Felicity Jones to bring her to life onscreen.

Cassian: The Spy – Diego Luna shares insights into his complex, driven character, who becomes a hero through selflessness, perseverance and passion.

K-2SO: The Droid – Explore the development of this reprogrammed Imperial droid, from initial pitch and character design through Alan Tudyk’s performance.

Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills – Go deeper into the relationship between these two very different characters, with Chinese superstars Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen.

Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary – Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed reflect on Saw Gerrera, the broken Rebel leader, and Bodhi Rook, the Imperial pilot who defects.

The Empire – Meet a dangerous new Imperial adversary…and cross paths once more with the most iconic villain of all time.

Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One – The filmmakers describe the challenges and thrills of developing a bold new look for the movie that can fit within the world of the original trilogy.

The Princess & The Governor – See what it took to bring the vibrant young princess of Star Wars: A New Hope – as well as one of her most memorable foes– – back to the screen.

Epilogue: The Story Continues – Filmmakers and cast celebrate Rogue One’s premiere and look forward into the future, to the Star Wars stories yet to be told.

Rogue Connections – Uncover Easter eggs and film facts hidden throughout the movie that connect Rogue One to the Star Wars universe.

I really, really enjoyed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I highly recommend it!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is available April 4, 2017 on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, and Combo Packs!

What’s your favorite Star Wars movie? Leave a comment and let us know!