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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

4K Ultra HD Review: A Quiet Place: Mondo X SteelBook

March 10, 2020

By John Corrado

John Krasinski’s monster movie A Quiet Place, a surprise hit at the box office when it came out in 2018, is being reissued on 4K Ultra HD this week in a brand new Mondo X SteelBook edition. It’s timed perfectly to coincide with the theatrical release of A Quiet Place Part II on March 20th.

Starring writer-director Krasinski alongside his real life wife Emily Blunt, the film itself is a pretty entertaining creature feature that is built around the gimmick of a family that must stay silent in order to not be attacked by alien creatures that rely solely on hearing.

The package comes with a see through plastic slipcover that will be familiar to anyone who has any other Mondo X SteelBooks in their collection, which features film information printed on the back and pulls off to fully reveal the striking black and red design on the front and back of the steel case itself.

The case features stylish artwork by Matt Ryan Tobin on both the outside and inside, with the glowing strings of red lights seen in the film serving as the main focal point. Along the side, we have the title of the film as well as spine number “038”, a convenient detail for those who like to organize their SteelBook collections numerically. This is overall a very attractive package that holds great appeal for both fans of the film A Quiet Place and physical media collectors alike.

The 4K disc has no additional bonus features, but the package also comes with a regular Blu-ray that includes the three production featurettes Creating the Quiet, The Sound of Darkness, and A Reason for Silence. These are the exact same bonuses that were included on the initial release of the film, my review of which can be found right here. A digital copy is also included.

A Quiet Place: Mondo X SteelBook is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. It’s 90 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: March 10th, 2020

Review: Run This Town

March 7, 2020

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

In Run This Town, a Canadian political satire that serves as the feature debut of writer-director Ricky Tollman, a young upstart journalist named Bram (Ben Platt) tries to track down a video of the Mayor of Toronto smoking crack cocaine, as the mayor’s handlers led by “special assistant” Kamal (Mena Massoud) try desperately to keep the unravelling politician in check.

If all of this sounds familiar, that’s because Run This Town is based on the real life saga of the late Rob Ford, only it offers a somewhat fictionalized version of events. For starters, the film erases Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle, the Toronto Star reporters who chased the story in real life, replacing them with Platt’s composite character, who also has elements of The Star’s Daniel Dale and reporter Jonathan Goldsbie worked in.

At the start of the film, Bram has just graduated from university with a degree in journalism, only to end up working for a local website writing puff pieces and listicles about “the best hotdogs in the city,” under the tutelage of an editor, David (Scott Speedman), who seems reluctant to assign his eager new recruit more important stories. But as rumours start to swirl around about Mayor Rob Ford (Damian Lewis) acting drunk and disorderly, both at public events and in private with staff, this leads Bram to take an active interest in Toronto’s leader.

With the mayor’s office treating the media with hostility and not providing them with Ford’s daily itinerary, Bram starts to work out where the mayor has been through social media. This leads to him getting a tip about a video floating around of Ford hanging out with drug dealers and smoking crack cocaine. Bram becomes obsessed with chasing the story, and his editor reluctantly agrees in hopes that it will bring clicks to the site, but those who have the video are demanding thousands of dollars for it.

The film also heavily focuses on two other made up millennials; the aforementioned Kamal, a young immigrant who serves as Ford’s closest advisor and is left to clean up many of his messes; and Ashley (Nina Dobrev), a young woman in his office who describes herself as the “token gay” and is also forced to endure increasingly uncomfortable encounters with Ford. Those familiar with the story will find it pretty easy to figure out who Dobrev’s character is modelled after.

The basic and most well known elements of the Rob Ford crack tape scandal are worked in here one way or another, but the film is told almost entirely through the lens of these fictional characters. The absence in the film of Rob’s brother Doug Ford, (who is incidentally now the Premier of Ontario, with the Ford family fancying themselves as a Canadian political dynasty akin to the Kennedys), is also noticeable, especially considering how many viewed the two siblings as “co-mayors.”

Much of what Bram does in the film is what Doolittle actually did in real life, and there is something uncomfortable about the fact that we are essentially watching a fictionalized male reporter taking over the role of a real life female one. On this note, I would recommend reading Doolittle’s 2014 book Crazy Town, on which this film seems loosely based, to get better insight into Rob Ford and the real players involved. It’s also worth balancing it out with Rob and Doug’s own book Ford Nation, which is named for their block of supporters and, while obviously slanted in their favour, offers a gut-wrenching account of Rob Ford’s final months and days as he succumbed to cancer, cutting his political career short.

Since it went into production, the biggest selling point of this film has been the stunt casting of British actor Damien Lewis as Rob Ford, with the trailers only offering glimpses of his portrayal. Lewis is almost unrecognizable under the heavy prosthetics, but the layers of makeup don’t quite look right on his slim frame. From certain angles, it ends up looking like a fat suit around his middle with slender legs coming out the bottom. The prosthetics also limit the expressiveness of his face, making him appear almost frozen in close ups, and Lewis’ attempt at copying the late mayor’s voice comes out like a bad stereotype of a Canadian accent.

If Chris Farley were still alive, he would have made an ideal Rob Ford, and the same could be said for the late John Candy, both actors who not only had the right physicality but also would have recognized the inherent pathos beneath Ford’s exterior. Ford is presented here almost entirely as a cruel, mean boss, and while he was troubled and did have these moments mostly under the influence, it’s also far from a nuanced or even necessarily fair portrayal. Aside from a revealing moment when he seems most worried about the crack tape meaning that he will no longer be allowed to coach his beloved high school football team, what Run This Town all too rarely shows is his inherent humanness, which is precisely the thing that endeared many supporters to him, warts and all.

The film also ignores another crucial fact about Rob Ford; and that’s that his story is ultimately a more tragic and much sadder one than the salacious headlines would suggest. If you wanted to tell his story right, it would be the story of a man embattled by addiction, only to die of cancer at what should have been the peak of his career after desperately trying to get clean. While Ford’s infamous reputation is being used as the tantalizing hook to get audiences in the door, the film’s portrayal of him doesn’t quite work and is ironically one of the weakest aspects of Run This Town.

But, while it doesn’t get everything right, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy watching Run This Town, and I think there is enough here to make it worth seeing, especially for fellow Torontoians and political junkies. Tollman’s screenplay is filled with snappy, Sorkin-inspired dialogue, and there are sharp barbs throughout, as his script offers pointed critiques of privilege, entitlement, clickbait journalism, and other aspects of millennial culture.

The film opens with a fiery scene in the council chamber of Toronto City Hall in which Kamal and other assistants hold a mock debate about office expense accounts. It’s a fun scene that ironically gets to the heart of why Rob Ford became so popular in the first place, with his promise to root out the wasteful spending at City Hall, or stopping the “Gravy Train” as he famously called it, holding great appeal for a lot of particularly suburban voters who felt alienated from the downtown core.

In the leading role, Platt nicely demonstrates his ability to handle non-musical dramatic roles, with his stage background shining through in his ability to deliver the at times rapid fire dialogue. Massoud is also quite good here and the real breakout star for me, delivering a performance that serves as a much more compelling calling card for the young actor than his starring role in Disney’s live action Aladdin, which was supposed to be his big break. While many will go to the film out of perverse curiosity to see Lewis as Rob Ford, Platt and Massoud are the real reasons to see Run This Town.

Those of us who know the real Rob Ford story pretty much inside and out will find incongruities in this fictionalized retelling and, like the recent Bombshell which also added made up characters to a fact-based story, this makes Run This Town an at times frustrating viewing experience. But if the film isn’t entirely successful at what it sets out to do, it is also consistently entertaining as a political satire, and filled with sharply worded dialogue exchanges. Clocking in at a brisk 94 minutes, Run This Town is also uncommonly slick and fast-paced in its assembly, and serves as a mostly promising debut for Tollman.

Run This Town is now playing at Cineplex Cinemas Varsity in Toronto. It will be expanding to Vancouver and Montreal on March 13th, before going wider on March 20th, including to more theatres in the GTA. Please check local listings.

Review: Sorry We Missed You

March 6, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The latest social realist drama from veteran English filmmaker Ken Loach, Sorry We Missed You explores many of the same themes of systemic poverty and the struggles faced by those who aren’t at the top of the economic ladder as his Palme d’Or-winning previous film I, Daniel Blake.

This film follows Ricky (Kris Hitchen), the patriarch of a working class English family. Desperate for work, Ricky becomes a driver for a delivery company that promises independence, but imposes strict rules upon its employees and has steep fees in order to buy into the company.

Ricky convinces his wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood), who works as a home-care nurse for seniors and other high needs clients, to sell her car in order to purchase the truck that he needs for the job, starting an escalating series of symbolic Catch-22 type trade offs.

This is the first of many things that puts them on a downward spiral, leaving them struggling to support their troubled teenaged son Seb (Rhys Stone) and their young daughter Lisa Jane (Katie Proctor), who wants nothing more than for her family to stay together. But no matter what they try to do, Ricky and Abbie keep working harder and falling further behind, with hidden costs that keep cropping up, which puts them deeper and deeper into debt, and further destabilizes their family unit.

They are trapped in a viscous, seemingly endless cycle which is all too common in this gig economy that is built around precarious work and fuelled by corporate greed. The story that Loach is telling in Sorry We Missed You feels bleak, yet it’s sadly very believable. The film doesn’t offer much in the way of hope, but if it had than that would have betrayed its very credibility. The result is an interesting and well acted, if admittedly depressing, look at the struggles faced by the working class.

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

Sorry We Missed You is now playing in limited release at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

Review: Onward

March 5, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 22nd feature from Disney and Pixar, Onward is an entertaining and emotionally resonant animated adventure that imagines a “suburban fantasy world” that has lost its sense of wonder and magic.

You see, in days of yore real magic used to exist in this world, but it has long since been replaced by the conveniences of technology, from light bulbs to electric stoves and smartphones, removing the need for wizards and spells. The world is populated by blue, pointy-eared elves and other fantastical creatures who have become essentially human in their existence.

Minotaurs now drive instead of gallop, pixies have forgotten how to fly and have taken to the streets on motorcycles, dragons are house pets, and flying unicorns are now reduced to raccoon-like creatures who forage through trash cans for food. This high concept premise of how the industrial and technological revolutions would have impacted a magical world, which is not unlike The Good Dinosaur‘s “what if the meteor missed?” setup, provides the backdrop for Onward. But, in true Pixar fashion, it’s the heart of the story, as well as the touching, believable sibling relationship at its centre, that makes the film a winner.

The main characters are two teenaged elf brothers named Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt), whose father died when Barley was young and before Ian was born. While Barley has a few memories of their father, Ian never got to meet him and has grown up always wondering what his dad was like, only knowing him through photographs and an old cassette tape. The story begins on Ian’s 16th birthday, when their mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) gifts them with a wizard staff left behind by their late father for when his boys both came of age. Lo and behold, their dad was a wizard, and he has granted them a visitation spell that will bring him back for one day.

But when the Phoenix Gem needed for the spell malfunctions, and only dad’s legs are brought back, the brothers set out on a quest in Barley’s beloved purple van, Guinevere, to track down another stone and bring back the rest of dad before the 24 hours are up. The fact that the film is able to build an emotional bond with a pair of legs in khaki pants moving around without a torso is an example of that old Pixar magic. In need of a map, the boys’ journey first takes them to the film’s best supporting character, a once-powerful creature named The Manticore (Octavia Spencer), who describes herself as a “winged lion-scorpion lady.” The Manticore’s Tavern, which was once the place where all quests began, has now been turned into a family theme restaurant that she runs as a hurried manager.

The premise of two siblings trying to reunite with their deceased father, but only having limited time to do so, is itself enough to get you choked up, and Onward delivers on an emotional level. A big part of this is due to the fact that Dan Scanlon, the film’s director and co-writer, based elements of the story on his own life. Scanlon and his older brother also grew up without a father, who died when the filmmaker was a baby. Like Ian in the film, Scanlon only ever knew his dad’s voice through an old audio recording and has always wondered what it would be like if he could actually spend time with him.

Scanlon previously directed the Pixar prequel Monsters University, and there are some similarities between the fantastical worlds and diverse character designs of both films. The animation in Onward is expectedly eye-popping, and filled with wonderful visual vistas and little details. The film is built around the believable sibling dynamic between Ian and Barley, and the relationship between them is quite well developed. Holland and Pratt, both Avengers alums, do a good job of voicing them and have appealing chemistry together, bringing elements of their own distinct personalities to the characters.

Ian is shyer and more tentative, but viewed by others as a bright kid, where as Barley is rambunctious and outgoing, but is seen by the rest of society as a perpetual screw-up. This is aggravated by the fact that Barley keeps finding himself on the wrong side of the law due to his activist work of trying to save historic architectural sites by chaining himself to old ruins that the town is trying to tear down, drawing the ire of their mom’s new minotaur cop boyfriend, Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez).

If Ian is the one preoccupied with finally meeting his father, Barley is also quite literally stuck in the past, obsessed with his world’s magical history and continuously living it out through the “historically accurate” role-playing game Quests of Yore. While it goes by another name in the film, Dungeons & Dragons is well represented here. Barley is an unemployed metalhead who still lives at home. He’s on the “longest gap year ever,” his mother moans at one point. Barley’s lack of direction and his interest in the past, like Ian’s lack of self-confidence, stems from the pain of losing his father.

If Onward as a whole isn’t quite as richly fleshed out as we have come to expect from Pixar, and the story itself ends up feeling a bit predictable at times, Scanlon makes up for it with his deeply personal connection to the material. The film has likeable leading characters and a lot of fun moments, as well as a beating heart that ultimately becomes its defining feature. The strength of the film lies in its powerful emotional core, building towards a moving ending that is almost guaranteed to get you misty eyed.

Onward opens tonight in theatres across Canada.

Review: Disappearance at Clifton Hill

February 28, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Set in Clifton Hill, the tacky, tourist trap area of Niagara Falls that the film is named after, Disappearance at Clifton Hill follows a woman named Abby (Tuppence Middleton), who returns to her hometown of Niagara Falls after her mother dies to help facilitate the sale of their family motel, and becomes obsessed with solving a long-buried mystery.

As a child, Abby witnessed a “one-eyed” boy being beaten and stuffed into the trunk of a car, a memory that has stuck with her for over two decades. With others being reluctant to believe her, including her own sister Laure (Hannah Gross), Abby starts her own investigation, and ends up falling into a dark and twisted web, as she becomes convinced that she has stumbled into a vast conspiracy involving those who run the town.

Following up his haunting debut feature In Her Place, a slow burn dramatic thriller that premiered at TIFF in 2015 and played with a similar if more subdued sense of foreboding, Canadian director Albert Shin delivers a different sort of mystery in Disappearance at Clifton Hill. Shin’s sophomore effort, which had its world premiere at TIFF just last year under the shorter title Clifton Hill, plays as a mix of neo-noir, psychological drama, and conspiracy thriller.

The film is clearly inspired by the work of both David Lynch and David Cronenberg, with Cronenberg himself even having a small but memorable supporting role in the film as a conspiracy theorist podcast host. Because Abby is a compulsive liar and therefore an unreliable narrator, it’s hard to know exactly where the truth lies, which is one of the most interesting and intriguing aspects of Disappearance at Clifton Hill. This is also what makes me curious to watch the film again at some point.

Similar to how last year’s vastly underrated Under the Silver Lake presented the idea of a conspiratorial mystery at the heart of Los Angeles, Disappearance at Clifton Hill compellingly suggests sinister forces at play beneath the shimmering surface of this tourist attraction in Niagara Falls, Ontario. While I’m not sure on first viewing if the story quite all adds up, I really liked the eery, unsettling vibe of the film, and it’s never less than engaging to watch. The cinematography by Catherine Lutes is stylish and has an often noirish feel to it, and the film is complimented by an oddly fitting soundtrack of old country songs.

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

Disappearance at Clifton Hill is now playing in limited release in theatres across Canada.

Blu-ray Review: Frozen II

February 25, 2020

By John Corrado

Disney’s Frozen II, which is arriving on Blu-ray this week, is a darker, more mature sequel that has aged with fans of the first one, and for my money it’s a follow up that is nearly if not just as good as its predecessor.

This is already one of the highest grossing animated films of all time, with over a billion dollars worldwide, which really isn’t surprising considering how much of a pop culture juggernaut the first film was in 2013. This sequel takes the characters in compelling new directions, backed by gorgeous animation and excellent new songs. For more on the film itself, my full review can be found right here.

The Blu-ray also includes a decent selection of bonus material, starting with a highlight reel of outtakes featuring footage of the actors in the recording studio flubbing their lines alongside clips from the film. This is followed by three featurettes. Did You Know??? presents bits of trivia about the film; The Spirits of Frozen 2 is the longest of the bunch and dives deep into how they animated the different “spirits” in the film – wind, fire, earth and water; and Scoring a Sequel is a short piece that features composer Christophe Beck talking about crafting his score and tying in elements of the original songs by Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

Next up are five deleted scenes (Prologue, Secret Room, Elsa’s Dream, Hard Nokk’s, and A Place of Our Own), which are presented in storyboard form and feature introductions by co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee explaining why they were cut and how they would have fit into the film. The scenes are interesting to watch, and are complimented by the two deleted songs “Home” and “I Wanna Get This Right,” which also feature similar intros by Buck and Lee.

Finally, the disc has two short animation tests for the character Gale, an invisible wind spirit that presented unique challenges to portray onscreen; the Oscar-nominated song “Into the Unknown” being sung in 29 different languages; and music videos for Panic! At the Disco’s end credits version of “Into the Unknown” and Weezer’s cover of “Lost in the Woods.” The disc also has a song selection feature, allowing viewers to jump right to the film’s musical numbers.

Frozen II is a Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment release. It’s 103 minutes and rated G.

Street Date: February 25th, 2020

Blu-ray Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

February 25, 2020

By John Corrado

There are some casting choices that just make sense, and such is the case with Tom Hanks being cast as children’s television show host Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood. It’s only fitting to have one beloved American icon portraying another, and Hanks received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his role in the film, which arrived on Blu-ray last week.

Told from the perspective of a cynical journalist (Matthew Rhys) being hired to interview Mr. Rogers, the film works because it is not a biopic but rather a moving character drama that gets to the essence of the meaningful impact Rogers was able to have upon so many lives. It’s beautifully directed by Marielle Heller, who cleverly structures it like an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. For more on the film itself, my full review can be found right here.

The Blu-ray also includes a commentary track with Heller and director of photography Jody Lee Lipes, followed by eight deleted and extended scenes (Heroes Must Die, You Just Had a Full Interview, Mr. Rogers’ Archives, A Trip to the Hospital, Are You Still Feeling Agitated?, Did You Know About Me?, I Asked You For Two Paragraphs, and Mitzi), which feature some nicely acted moments, as well as a blooper reel that showcases Hanks as Rogers struggling to get the timing of zipping his cardigan just right during the opening song over and over again.

This is followed by a trio of featurettes. Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers offers an in-depth look at his portrayal, and the choice not to use any prosthetics aside from a subtle wig and fake eyebrows; The People Who Make a Neighborhood: The Making Of offers an illuminating overview of the production, including shooting in the real WQED studios; and lastly Dreaming Big, Building Small: The Puppets & Miniatures provides a fascinating look at how the production team painstakingly recreated the classic sets and puppets from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe for the film.

Finally, the disc includes a short piece entitled Daniel Tiger Explains: Practice Makes Perfect, which expands upon the footage from the blooper reel to offer a lesson in how even grown ups make mistakes sometimes. The package also comes with a regular DVD of the film.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 109 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: February 18th, 2020

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