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Review: Sonic the Hedgehog (Early Digital Release)

March 31, 2020

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

We are currently in uncharted territory. With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world, the economy has been brought to its knees, and one of the big casualties of this are movie theatres. Due to medical recommendations to practise social distancing and stay at home, all theatres have been forced to close their doors for the foreseeable future, upending the movie industry as we know it.

This has forced distributors to either delay major blockbusters, and there have already been a lot of casualties of this, or look into different ways to get their films seen, namely making them available to watch at home through various digital channels. This has caused the traditional theatrical window of several months to shrink and, in some cases, disappear completely.

I will admit that this all seems like an odd way to preface a review of Sonic the Hedgehog, an otherwise innocuous family movie, but it’s needed background for why this modest blockbuster from Paramount is being pushed on demand today after only opening in theatres a mere six weeks ago. The flipside to this unfortunate situation is, of course, that many people and families are now stuck at home and looking for things to watch. And from this perspective, Sonic the Hedgehog is a solid choice to watch while in self-isolation.

The film opens with Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) being chased through the streets of San Francisco by the evil Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). Sonic then offers a rapid rewind back to the beginning to show us how he got there, a somewhat clever narrative device that sets the manic pace for what is to come. After being forced to flee his home planet by way of a portal, the spiky blue alien hedgehog ended up on Earth in the small town of Green Hills, Montana, where he has spent years in hiding watching the locals and living vicariously through them, growing ever more lonely and yearning for real friends.

When Sonic is letting off steam one night by running laps at the baseball diamond, his emotions go wild and he causes an electrical surge that knocks out power across the Pacific Northwest and attracts the attention of the government, who send the reclusive, eccentric Dr. Robotnik to investigate. This causes Sonic to go into hiding at the home of Sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), a local police officer that he watches whom he has named “The Donut Lord.” When the ensuing panic causes Sonic to lose the gold rings he needs to transport between worlds, with them falling through a portal to San Francisco, he guilts Tom into taking him on a road trip in order to get them back. But Robotnik is hot on their trail, seeking to harness Sonic’s power.

Even before COVID-19 sent it to an early digital release, Sonic the Hedgehog already had a storied production history. To recap, when the first trailer for the film was released last April, fans complained about the slightly creepy initial design of the title character, with his eyes being too small and his legs too long and skinny. This prompted the studio to delay the movie from November 2019 to February of this year, and put the animators and visual effects artists to work to completely redesign the character in a tight timeframe. The updated design does look much better, and the Sonic in the final film is actually pretty cute, greatly improving the finished product.

Directed by Jeff Fowler, who previously made the Oscar-nominated animated short film Gopher Broke in 2004 and is making his feature debut here, Sonic the Hedgehog is an appropriately fast-paced film that doesn’t exactly break any new ground in terms of story but is consistently, divertingly entertaining to watch. Similar to the other recent video game adaptation Detective Pikachu, which was also better than it had any right to be, the film strikes a good balance between being winking and self-referential, while still serving as a respectful adaptation of the material.

Aside from the nostalgia bait of seeing the title SEGA character himself, the other big draw for ’90s kids is the opportunity to see Carrey getting back to his manic, rubber-faced antics, with the actor channeling his vintage, over-the-top performances in films like Ace Ventura, The Mask and Liar Liar. Those of us who grew up watching his usual schtick will have fun seeing him back in action in this role. Schwartz delivers an appealing vocal performance as Sonic, and Marsden plays well alongside the animated critter, something that he has practise with from Hop.

The film reaches its high points with a couple of visually inventive sequences where Sonic is moving so fast that everyone else seems to be standing still, reminiscent of the scenes with Quicksilver in the X-Men movies, including a particularly fun set-piece at a western bar. Overall, Sonic the Hedgehog is an amusing, slightly better than expected video game adaptation that makes good use of its title character, providing decent entertainment for families and fans.

Sonic the Hedgehog is now available for early purchase on digital platforms as of today, and will be coming to Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD on May 19th.

Blu-ray Review: Tommy Boy: Holy Schnike Edition (25th Anniversary)

March 31, 2020

By John Corrado

Exactly 25 years ago today, on March 31st, 1995, the road trip comedy Tommy Boy was released in theatres in North America. In honour of the occasion, Paramount sent me over a copy of the 2017 Blu-ray re-release, dubbed the Holy Schnike Edition, for review. I had seen the film before, and watching it again was an absolute pleasure.

Directed by Peter Segal, directly following his debut feature The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, and produced by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, Tommy Boy stars the mismatched comedy duo of Chris Farley and David Spade, appearing at what was the height of their stardom on SNL in the 1990s.

At the start of the film, Thomas Callahan III (Farley) finally graduates college after nearly a decade with a D+, and he is the type of person who is completely happy with this grade, because it means he didn’t fail. Tommy returns to his hometown of Sandusky, Ohio, (the film was incidentally actually shot in Toronto and surrounding area), where he is heir to his father’s (Brian Dennehy) auto manufacturing company, Callahan Auto Parts.

Tommy’s father has just taken a new wife, Beverly (Bo Derek), who brings with her an adult son (Rob Lowe, uncredited), whom Tommy is excited to have as a brother. When Tommy’s father unexpectedly dies, and the bank is reluctant to renew a loan on the factory, Tommy sets out on a road trip with his father’s former right hand man Richard (Spade) to try and sell enough brake pads in order to save the company, before it can be bought out by slick Chicago salesman Zalinsky (Dan Aykroyd).

Like many comedies that are now considered classics, Tommy Boy didn’t get the greatest reviews when it was first released, but it was a modest success at the box office that proved popular with audiences, gaining in stature as the years went on. It’s now rightfully ranked among the best comedies of the 1990s, and the great chemistry between Farley and Spade is its defining feature. Spade is the snarky, uptight straight man to Farley’s freewheeling screwup, and the two of them trade barbs back and forth, (“You know, a lot of people go to college for seven years,” Tommy protests. “I know, they’re called doctors,” Richard fires back), while also developing a bond throughout the film.

Yes, Tommy is a screwup, but he also remains completely sincere, and there is something deeply satisfying about watching him blossom into a persuasive salesman. The film is super enjoyable to watch, working as a sort of cinematic comfort food. It’s filled with iconic little comic moments (i.e., “Fat Guy in a Little Coat”), and is often really funny, but it’s also twinged with bittersweetness and has just the right dose of sentimentality. The film’s emotional pull is made greater by the fact that Farley passed away two years after its release at the age of 33, and to say that his death was untimely and that he was taken from us far too soon is a vast understatement.

In addition to showcasing his sharp comedic skills and great physicality as a performer, never shying away from pratfalls and moments of outsized physical humour, Farley also handles the film’s dramatic moments quite well, revealing his range as an actor and bringing a good deal of heart to Tommy Boy. In many ways, this should have just been the prelude to what was shaping up to be a promising film career, and I will remain forever curious how Farley would have done in a straight up dramatic role, something that, from the glimpses we get here, I’m sure he would have handled brilliantly.

While Farley went on to star in a few more movies, including reuniting with Spade for Black Sheep a year later in 1996, Tommy Boy will live on as his finest work. It’s a shining testament to his strengths as an actor, as well as a wonderfully entertaining showcase for a comedic talent whose light went out far too early. It’s a road trip comedy and a buddy movie that not only still holds up a quarter-century later, but is perhaps better in hindsight than many initially gave it credit for.

The Blu-ray also includes a good deal of bonus material, starting with a commentary track by Peter Segal. This is followed by four featurettes, about an hour in total. Tommy Boy: Behind the Laughter is a half-hour piece that offers a good overview of the film’s production; Stories From the Side of the Road sheds light on how some of the film’s most iconic moments came to be; Just the Two of Us examines the onscreen and real life chemistry between Farley and Spade, including the epic fights they had on set; and Growing Up Farley features Chris’ brothers John and Kevin sharing stories from their childhood.

These are followed by storyboard comparisons, a selection of deleted and extended scenes as well as alternate takes, a gag reel, a photo gallery, TV spots, and the original theatrical trailer for the film. It’s a good amount of content to back up an already solid feature presentation.

Tommy Boy: Holy Schnike Edition is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. It’s 97 minutes and rated PG.

Blu-ray Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

March 31, 2020

By John Corrado

The ninth and final chapter in the Skywalker Saga, J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now available to watch digitally, and it’s being released on Blu-ray today.

While I personally found the film to be a bit disappointing, especially as the conclusion to a saga over forty years in the making, it still has enough fun and enjoyable moments to make it worth seeing, and the Blu-ray should earn a spot on your shelf alongside the other films. For more on the film itself, my full review can be found right here.

The Blu-ray also includes a second disc that is loaded with bonus features, the centrepiece of which is a feature length documentary entitled The Skywalker Legacy. At just over two hours long, the piece offers a thorough look behind the scenes at the production of The Rise of Skywalker, touching upon the story, character motivations, stunt work, special effects and set building, with specific focus on how this final chapter ties in to the eight films that came before it.

As an added bonus, the piece brings things full circle by working in bits of archival footage from the making of the original trilogy and vintage interviews with the original cast members, beginning quite appropriately with footage of fans on the set of Return of the Jedi in 1982. While some chapter breaks might have been nice to help divide the lengthy piece, The Skywalker Legacy is far above average in terms of a Blu-ray bonus feature. It’s an excellent and engaging documentary that often flies by despite the 126 minute running time.

This is followed by five additional featurettes. Pasaana Pursuit: Creating the Speeder Chase takes us behind the scenes of the film’s big speeder chase set-piece, from designing the speeders to shooting in the desert. Aliens in the Desert offers a look at shooting in Jordan, and the help the crew received from the locals, including the Jordanian Army. D-O: Key to the Past offers a closer look at the new wheel-and-cone droid D-O. Warwick & Son looks at veteran Star Wars actor Warwick Davis’ return to his role as Wicket the Ewok from Return of the Jedi, this time joined by his son Harrison.

Finally, Cast of Creatures introduces us to some of the many alien creatures in the film, revealing the makeup and effects work that brought them to life, including a healthy dose of old fashioned practical effects. Disney has gone above and beyond with this release, delivering a superior supplemental package to back up a film that, regardless of your personal feelings, fans will want to add to their collections.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment release. It’s 143 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: March 31st, 2020

DVD Review: SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete Eleventh Season

March 31, 2020

By John Corrado

Created by the late Stephen Hillenburg, the talking yellow sea sponge named SpongeBob SquarePants first made his debut on TV in 1999, and the wildly popular cartoon is still going strong over twenty years later. Now the complete eleventh season of the show is being released on DVD this week, in a three disc set that includes all 26 episodes from the season that first aired on TV between 2017 and 2018.

The first disc features the nine episodes Cave Dwelling Sponge/The Clam Whisperer; Spot Returns/The Check-Up; Spin the Bottle/There’s a Sponge in My Soup; Man Ray Returns/Larry the Floor Manager; The Legend of Boo-Kini Bottom; No Pictures Please/Stuck on the Roof; Krabby Patty Creature Feature/Teacher’s Pests; Sanitation Insanity/Bunny Hunt; and Squid Noir/Scavenger Pants.

The nine episodes on the second disc include Cuddle E. Hugs/Pat the Horse; Chatterbox Gary/Don’t Feed the Clowns; Drive Happy/Old Man Patrick; Fun-Sized Friends/Grandmum’s the Word; Doodle Dimension/Moving Bubble Bass; High Sea Diving/Bottle Burglars; My Leg!/Ink Lemonade; Mustard O’ Mine/Shopping List; and Whale Watching/Krusty Kleaners.

Finally, the third disc holds the eight episodes Patnocchio/ChefBob; Plankton Paranoia/Library Cards; Call the Cops/Surf N’ Turf; Goons on the Moon; Appointment TV/Karen’s Virus; The Grill is Gone/The Night Patty; Bubbletown/Girls’ Night Out; and Squirrel Jelly/The String. I was able to watch through the entire season over the past few days, and it’s a lot of fun, filled with the usual manic energy, offbeat sensibility and moments of wonderful visual humour that are a staple of SpongeBob SquarePants.

Some of the highlights here include a trio of freeloading hippies living behind the Krusty Krab who take up residence in a pot of soup (There’s a Sponge in My Soup), a parody of The Twilight Zone dubbed The Tidal Zone (No Pictures Please), a black and white riff on the film noir genre (Squid Noir), Gary taking on the voice of Keith David through a translator collar (Chatterbox Gary), and the return of DoodleBob (Doodle Dimension). Other highlights include the two double episodes Goons on the Moon and The Legend of Boo-Kini Bottom, a nicely done stop-motion Halloween special which had previously gotten its own standalone DVD release.

The DVD set also includes the bonus mini episode Plankton’s Color Nullifier on the third disc, which is the sole special feature on this release.

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete Eleventh Season is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. It’s 591 minutes and rated G.

Street Date: March 31st, 2020

Blu-ray Review: 1917

March 24, 2020

By John Corrado

Sam Mendes’ 1917 was not only one of the finest movies of 2019 but also one of the year’s most technically brilliant, with the entire film assembled to appear as a single take, putting us in the trenches right alongside two young soldiers (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) in World War I. The film is now available to watch digitally, and is being released on Blu-ray this week.

The film was up for ten Oscars last month, including Best Picture. It even seemed like the frontrunner for a little bit, and would have been a respectable choice too, had it not been competing against the eventual winner Parasite, with this being the first year that the top prize finally went to an international film.

But 1917 still took home a trio of much deserved trophies in below the line categories for its sound mixing, visual effects and cinematography, with cinematographer Roger Deakins winning his second Oscar for his stunning and absolutely flawless work. In addition to its first rate merits as a superb technical achievement, the film itself is thrilling, dramatically satisfying, and carried by excellent performances, adding up to a fully immersive viewing experience. For more on the film itself, my full review of 1917 can be found right here.

The Blu-ray also includes a pair of feature commentary tracks, the first with Mendes and the second with Deakins, as well as five featurettes. First up, The Weight of the World: Sam Mendes features the director and co-writer talking about basing the story on his own grandfather’s experiences in WWI. Next is Allied Forces: Making 1917, which offers an incredible look at Deakins’ cinematography and the amount of planning that went into setting up the shots and figuring out the geography of the locations so the entire film could be stitched together to look like a single take. We also get to see the different rigs that were used to carry the camera between locations without stopping for long stretches of time.

This is followed by The Score of 1917, which looks at Thomas Newman’s music, and how the composer closely collaborated with the filmmakers throughout the production. Next is In the Trenches, which introduces us to MacKay and Chapman, the two relatively unknown young actors who lead the film, as well as the familiar faces (Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Richard Madden) who flesh out the cast with their brief supporting roles. Finally, Recreating History features production designer Dennis Gassner talking about scouting outdoor locations and designing sets for the film with period accuracy in mind, including digging over a mile of trenches.

1917 is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 119 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: March 24th, 2020

Blu-ray Review: Richard Jewell

March 17, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Richard Jewell was a security guard in Atlanta who always dreamed of being in law enforcement, and finally got his moment when he saved countless lives while he was on duty at Centennial Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics, and spotted a suspicious bag under a bench that turned out to be concealing three pipe bombs.

Jewell helped police officers secure the area, mitigating the impact of the deadly explosion. He was rightfully lauded as a hero, until the FBI started investigating him for planting the bomb, which leaked to the media, and caused him to be crucified in the court of public opinion, effectively ruining his life despite being an innocent man.

The true story of Richard Jewell (played by Paul Walter Hauser) is told in director Clint Eastwood’s eponymous film, Richard Jewell. The first part of the film depicts the lead up to and the bombing itself, meticulously recreating the events surrounding it through gripping scenes filmed at the actual locations. We then shift focus to the aftermath of this life-changing event, as Jewell and his mother Bobbi (Kathy Bates), whom he lived with at the time, are forced into the middle of an insane media circus.

Things start snowballing out of control when the FBI agent, Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm), who is heading up the investigation against him, leaks the story to Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who, in the film at least, seduces Shaw into giving her the tip that Jewell is being treated as a suspect. Working alongside his lawyer, Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell), who keeps advising him to keep quiet as he has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth as he eagerly tries to help the law enforcement officers that he has spent his life looking up to, Jewell works to prove his innocence.

Working from a screenplay by Billy Ray, (which was adapted from Marie Brenner’s article American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell and Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen’s book The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle), Eastwood uses the story of Richard Jewell to craft a timely film about the failures of law enforcement officers who would rather convict an innocent man without adequate evidence rather than admit they can’t find the real culprit, and a news media that is more concerned with being first rather than being right.

What makes Richard Jewell so effective is that it’s the story of a man who fundamentally does the right thing, only to then get blamed for it, and this well told tale of a hero who was made out to be the villain by law enforcement and the media makes for compelling drama. The film is very well acted by the whole ensemble cast, with character actor Paul Walter Hauser moving out of the supporting roles he has come to be known for in acclaimed films like I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman to deliver a believable and, most importantly, empathetic performance in the lead. This is his best work yet.

Hauser is backed up by strong turns in particular from Rockwell and Bates, who got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role as Richard’s headstrong mother. I do think that Wilde’s role could have been fleshed out more, and the portrayal of Scruggs has been one of the main points of contention that critics have had with the film. But overall, Richard Jewel is a sturdy and engaging adult drama from Eastwood, that often plays with a sense of rightful indignation as it serves to right some of the wrongs committed against its maligned title subject, building towards an emotional final few scenes.

The Blu-ray also includes the two worthwhile featurettes The Making of Richard Jewell and The Real Story of Richard Jewell.

Richard Jewell is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 131 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: March 17th, 2020

Review: Extra Ordinary

March 13, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The Irish ghost comedy Extra Ordinary, which was the opening night film at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival last year where it played extremely well with the packed audience of horror fans, offers a fun and surprisingly charming twist on the supernatural genre.

Laced with a quirky and uniquely Irish sense of dry humour, the film follows Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins, in a nicely understated comic performance). Rose is a modest driving instructor in rural Ireland, whose late father Vincent (Risteard Cooper) was a ghost hunter with a low budget television show where he investigated mundane local hauntings, right up until his untimely death.

While Rose shares her father’s gift of being able to communicate with the other side, she tries to ignore it in favour of living a quiet life. But Rose must tap into her supernatural abilities when she is contacted by mild-mannered single dad Martin (Barry Ward), who needs Rose’s help to lift a curse that has been put upon his teen daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman) by Christian Winter (Will Forte, having a blast going over the top), a Satan-worshipping former rock star who wants to sacrifice the virgin girl to the pits of Hell in order to reignite his musical career.

The feature debut of co-directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, Extra Ordinary is an enjoyable little film that delivers pretty much everything you could want from a low budget supernatural comedy, right down to some delightfully old school special effects. It’s funny, a little gross, and not too scary, with a wild finale that offers some highly amusing twists on the “sacrificing a virgin” trope. Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed Extra Ordinary, and the film plays very well with a crowd, making it the sort of thing that could easily gain somewhat of a cult following down the line.

Extra Ordinary is now playing in limited release at Imagine Cinemas Carlton Cinema in Toronto.

Review: Hope Gap

March 13, 2020

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Written and directed by British screenwriter William Nicholson, who based the story on his own parents, Hope Gap is the sort of quiet drama that gets by almost entirely on its performances.

The main characters are Grace (Annette Bening) and Edward (Bill Nighy), an old married couple who bicker constantly, but have stayed together for over thirty years. Edward is very quiet, and Grace is neurotic by nature, which makes their relationship somewhat volatile.

In her attempts to elicit the sort of emotional responses from him that she craves, Grace often chews out her husband, and even resorts to physical violence just to get a reaction out of him, as he stands idly by not wanting to further rock the boat.

But when their young adult son, Jamie (Josh O’Connor), returns home to visit from London, Edward drops a bombshell; he intends to leave Grace that afternoon and go to live with another woman, and wants Jamie there to help pick up the pieces. While Edward happily goes to pursue his new life, Grace is left devastated, and has an increasingly hard time accepting the breakup, despite the fact that her and Edward were clearly wrong for each other.

Bening and Nighy are both quite good in their own ways, bringing interesting shades to their very different characters, with O’Connor portraying their son as a mixture of his parents. Similar to how certain viewers reacted differently to Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story in terms of who they related to more in that film’s decaying relationship, it’s easy to imagine audience members taking different “sides” when watching Hope Gap in terms of who they most strongly sympathize with. For me, it was Nighy’s character, but Nicholson had the audience do a show of hands after the film’s TIFF premiere, and the theatre was pretty evenly split between the two sides.

Because of his personal connection to the material, Nicholson is fairly even handed in his portrayals of both Bening and Nighy’s characters, and his screenplay does feature a few insights, even if the dialogue is also a bit too on the nose at times. This is ultimately a fine but somewhat unremarkable portrait of a disintegrating marriage, that feels conventional in its construction but is elevated by its central trio of performances.

A version of this review was originally published during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.

Hope Gap is now playing in limited release at Cineplex Cinemas Varsity in Toronto.

Review: My Spy

March 13, 2020

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

Dave Bautista tries to pull a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in My Spy, seemingly copying the career choices of his fellow wrestler turned actor to star in this kids action comedy as a CIA agent who becomes the unlikely father figure to a precocious child.

And if Bautista doesn’t quite have Johnson’s charisma, he still does a decent job in the role, carrying the film alongside support from bright young star Chloe Coleman as said child. The result is a clichéd but at times mildly entertaining film that falls squarely into the mediocre middle ground of being neither terrible nor particularly great.

After an undercover bust on a weapons deal in Russia goes horribly awry, operative JJ (Bautista) is reassigned by his boss at the CIA, David Kim (Ken Jeong), and sent with his assistant Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) to do surveillance on Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley), a widowed nurse who has just moved back to Chicago from Paris with her 9-year-old daughter Sophie (Coleman). You see, Kate was previously involved with a high level weapons dealer and his brother, Marquez (Greg Byrk).

Sophie was the product of that relationship, and there is evidence that her uncle is plotting something and might be in contact with Kate. JJ and Bobbi set up their stake out in an empty unit in the family’s apartment building, and install cameras to keep watch on them. When Sophie discovers they have been spying on her by following the signal from an unidentified WiFi network, she blackmails JJ into teaching her how to be a spy and acting as her parental guardian to take her to a skating party, in exchange for not blowing his cover. A bond soon forms between the two, and he becomes like a father to her.

Directed by Peter Segal, who also made the spy spoof Get Smart over a decade ago, My Spy is the sort of film that works well enough at what it sets out to do, but never really rises above an agreeable midlevel, either. Bautista is essentially doing what Arnold Schwarzenegger already did in Kindergarten Cop and Vin Diesel did in The Pacifier, and it’s obvious that the film is following a pretty similar mold as those earlier films about tough guys turned caretakers.

A lot of the humour here feels sitcomish, and while the film does get points for trying to be inclusive by featuring a gay couple, Carlos (Davere Rogers) and Todd (Noah Danby), as Sophie’s neighbours, the film is nowhere near as progressive as it seems to think it is. The characters are presented as little more than outdated gay stereotypes, and even though “let’s laugh at how gay they are!” might have been a thing back in the 1990s or 2000s, it feels stale by current standards.

But there are still a few amusing moments in this Toronto-shot comedy, which are matched by some fairly decent action scenes. It’s predictable and clichéd and we know exactly where it’s going to end up, but My Spy still isn’t the worst thing out there for families and is kept mostly watchable thanks to the likeable interplay between Bautista and Coleman.

My Spy is opening today in theatres across Canada, with the United States release date recently being pushed back to April 17th.

Blu-ray Review: The Ten Commandments: 1923 & 1956 Feature Films DigiBook

March 11, 2020

By John Corrado

Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 Bible epic The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston in one of his most iconic roles as Moses and based on stories from the Old Testament, remains among the most famous Biblical films of all time.

The film is being reissued on Blu-ray this week in a limited edition DigiBook package from Paramount, which features the nearly four hour film spread over two discs along with a variety of bonuses. The set also comes with a third disc that includes DeMille’s earlier black and white silent film version of The Ten Commandments from 1923, which stars Theodore Roberts as Moses.

The 1923 film is divided into two parts, with the first section set in Biblical times and the second offering a parable about two brothers in present day San Francisco. DeMille copied elements of the 1923 film practically shot for shot in his more famous 1956 Technicolor version, which uses its epic running time to focus solely on the story of Moses. The result is a true blockbuster of its time, that is remembered for its excellent costumes, massive cast of extras, still impressive production design, and Oscar-winning special effects.

This includes the iconic and groundbreaking Parting of the Red Sea sequence, a version of which appears in the earlier film as well. The main selling point of this release is obviously the DigiBook packaging itself. Made out of thick cardboard, with plastic trays at the front and back to hold the discs, the package opens up like a book to reveal several pages of production photos and film information in the middle. I’ve always been a fan of this sort of packaging, and while those who already have one or more copies of this film in their collection might not want to double dip, this is an affordable and attractive way to get both films in high definition on Blu-ray.

Bonus features on the three-disc set are identical to what was offered on the previous Blu-ray release, starting with a commentary track by Katherine Orrison, author of the book Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic, The Ten Commandments, spread over the first two discs to accompany the 1956 version. This is followed by vintage newsreel footage from the film’s New York premiere and a selection of theatrical trailers for it on the second disc.

The third disc includes hand-tinted footage of the 1923 version’s Exodus and Parting of the Red Sea sequence and a colourized clip from the film presented in Two-Color Technicolor. This is followed by the feature length documentary The Ten Commandments: Making Miracles, which offers an in-depth look at the production of the 1956 film, as well as photo galleries for both films.

The Ten Commandments: 1923 & 1956 Feature Films DigiBook is a Paramount Home Media release. The 1923 version is 136 minutes and rated G, and the 1956 film is 231 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: March 10th, 2020

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