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Butter (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

December 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The storyline for “Butter” was OK, and the film is made more interesting by its ensemble cast of really well-known talents, but its the unknown talent, young Yara Shahidi that made this film worthwhile. Because among the amoral characters featured in “Butter”, her character Destiny, is the most respectable, innocent character of the entire the film. And you can’t help but want to root for her character. Overall, “Butter” is an average popcorn comedy, nothing more, nothing less.

Image courtesy of © 2011 Carving Films, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Butter

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 91 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Anamorphic Widescreen 2:35:1, Japanese and English Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Anchor Bay Entertainment

RATED: R (Language, Sexual Content and Some Drug Use)

Release Date: December 4, 2012

Directed by Jim Field Smith

Written by Jason A. Micallef

Produced by Michael De Luca, Jennifer Garner, Juliana Janes, Alissa Phillips

Executive Producer: Kelly Carmichael, Ben Ormand, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein

Associate Producer: Lisa C. Satriano

Music by Mateo Messina

Cinematography by  Jim Denault

Edited by Matt Garner, Dan Schalk

Casting by Carmen Cuba

Production Design by Tony Fanning

Art Direction by Greg Richman

Set Decoration by Cynthia La Jeunesse

Costume Design by Susie DeSanto

Starring:

Ashley Greene as Kaitlen Pickler

Hugh Jackman as Boyd Bolton

Olivia Wilde as Brooke Swinkowski

Jennifer Garner as Laura Pickler

Alicia Silverstone as Julie Emmet

Kristen Schaal as Carol-Ann Stevenson

Ty Burrell as Bob Pickler

Rob Corddry as Ethan Emmet

In Iowa, butter carving is as cut-throat as a Presidential election, plagued with scandal, greed, blackmail, and sex—except with butter! When long-reigning champion butter sculptor, Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell), is forced to step down, his zealous wife, Laura (Jennifer Garner) enters the competition herself, to fight for their status as butter royalty. A win seems virtually guaranteed for the poised and studied candidate when a formidable contender emerges: the fresh-faced, effortlessly charismatic 10-year-old Destiny (Yara Shahidi), an African-American foster child of local couple, Jill and Ethan (Alicia Silverstone and Rob Corddry).  Suddenly, it‘s anybody‘s game and Laura will do anything to win—even if it means resorting to sabotage and seducing her foolish ex-boyfriend Boyd (Hugh Jackman) as a co-conspirator.

From the director Jim Field Smith (“She’s Out of My League”, “School of Horrors”) and writer Jason A. Micallef comes an ensemble comedy known as Butter.

Featuring a talented cast which includes Jennifer Garner (“Alias”, “Juno”, “Daredevil”), Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”), Ashley Greene (“Twilight” films), Hugh Jackman (“X-Men” films, “The Prestige”, “Les Miserables”), Olivia Wilde (“TRON: Legacy”, “House M.D.”, “The Change-Up”), Alicia Silverstone (“Clueless”, “Batman & Robin”, “Vamp”) and Kristen Schaal (“Toy Story 3″, “Shrek Forever After”, “Dinner for Schmucks”, “The Muppets”).

The film focuses on two different storylines that are connected.

Destiny (portrayed by Yara Shahidy) is a 10-year-old orphan in Iowa who has been bounced around from foster family after foster family and is now placed with Ethan (portrayed by Rob Corddry) and Jill Emmet (portrayed by Alicia Silverstone).  She has an enormous talent of sculpting butter, a major attraction at the Iowa State Fair.  And when she starts designing a cup, it catches the eye of Bob Pickler who is happy to spot the young talent, to the point where he puts her cup sculpture right next to his prize winning sculptures.

Bob Pickler (portrayed by Ty Burrell) is the 15-year champion of the butter sculpture contest and he and his wife Laura (portrayed by Jennifer Garner) have enjoyed the limelight, especially his wife who loves the prestige. Bo has a daughter named Kaitlin (portrayed by Ashley Greene), who doesn’t get along with her stepmother.

But because of Bob’s dominance at the popular butter sculpting contest, the fair has asked him to step down and let someone else be champion.  Bob sees it as a positive of giving back but his wife Laura who is very competitive, is distraught and angry and sees the request by the fair judges as an attack of her family.  She berates her husband Bob for listening to them and is so upset that she wants to talk to the fair judges about what they did.

Bob, distraught of his wife’s behavior, ends up going to a strip club where he meets stripper Brooke (portrayed by Olivia Wilde), has sex with her and makes her think that he will be taking care of her financially.  But while having sex with Brooke, his wife Laura rams her car at them.

So, upset with her husband’s behavior and his decision to step down, she decides to enter the country’s preliminary sculpture competition and imagines the social status she will achieve if she wins.  But also entering the contest is the talented 10-year-old Destiny and also Brooke, the stripper.

But desperately wanting the prestige that comes with being a butter sculpting champion, how far will Laura Pickler go to win the butter sculpting contest?

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Butter” is presented in anamorphic widescreen 2:35:1 and in English Dolby Digital 5.1.   It’s important to note that any one wanting the best video and audio quality will want to purchase the Blu-ray release of “Butter”.  But on DVD, picture quality for this film looks very good.  Colors are really good and I didn’t detect any excessive artifacts or any problematic issues during my viewing of the film.  Audio quality is good as one can expect for a dialogue driven-film.  There is some ambiance use of the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH and in Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Butter” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (9:04) Featuring six deleted and extended scenes.
  • Gag Reel – (5:15) The Bloopers from the film “Butter”.

EXTRAS:

“Butter” comes with a cardboard slipcover.

“Butter” is the first film from actress Jennifer Garner’s production company, Vandalia Films and also is the first screenplay written by Jason Micallef.

The independent film premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and it features a solid cast which includes Jennifer Garner, Ty Burrell, Hugh Jackman, Olivia Wilde, Ashley Greene, Alicia Silverstone to name a few.

And what best than to create a drama around butter sculpting competitions?

Featuring the American family of the mid-west and story about one woman wanting the prestige and becoming more than a trophy wife, while a 10-year-old African-American girl who has been bounced around from foster family to foster family and finds a family that she likes but also shows off her ability to craft with butter.

And when you put these two against each other in a butter competition, the storyline becomes too predictable.  But with a talented line-up, you expect bigger things and sure enough, you get to see talents taken on roles that they have never been in before.  Olivia Wilde as a demanding stripper, Alicia Silverstone as an adoptive mother, Ashley Greene as the stepdaughter who despises her stepmother but loves getting intimate with the female stripper that had sex with her father and Hugh Jackman as a car salesman who hooks up with his former high school flame.

So, the film benefits from its supporting cast but pretty much the film rides on the shoulders of Jennifer Garner, the domineering trophy wife who can’t fathom losing the publicity when the Iowa State Fair asks her husband to step down from the annual butter sculpting competition because he’s too good.  And unfortunately, the character of Laura Pickler (becomes a character you despise).  If anything, the only character that the viewer hopes would become successful is young Destiny (portrayed by Yara Shahidi).

Destiny may have had the problematic life as an orphan but for this film, she is the shining character.  The young African-American girl who doesn’t know where her real mother or family are but yet aspires to be a good foster child and also the best butter sculptist that she can be and win against the bitchy Laura Pickler.

Both Garner and Shahidi do a great job portraying their characters but there is no way of saving this film from its very average screenplay.

The film also goes far to show that despite the Pickler’s looking like the ideal family, they are actually not.  Bob Pickler has an affair with a prostitute, his daughter gets intimate with the prostitute and Laura has a fling with her ex-boyfriend as an opportunity to compete at the Iowa State Fair.  Suffice to say, this “perfect family” is messed up.  And as you hope for some redeeming factor within this family, you realize, that you stop caring for either of them.  And the person you end up rooting for is young Destiny.

Sure the film has a political message of a conservative vs. liberal storyline.  But it’ also a film that plays things too safe and is too predictable.

As for the DVD, the DVD has a few special features but for those wanting the best in picture and audio quality, will want to go for the Blu-ray release instead.

As for “Butter”, I found the whole Butter sculpting competition to be intriguing and like any competition out there, there will always be individuals who are too competitive and love the spotlight.  But while the storyline for “Butter” was OK, and the film is made more interesting by its ensemble cast of really well-known talents, but its the unknown talent, young Yara Shahidi that made this film worthwhile. Because among the amoral characters featured in “Butter”, her character Destiny, is the most respectable, innocent character of the entire the film. And you can’t help but want to root for her character.

Overall, “Butter” is an average popcorn comedy, nothing more, nothing less.

Vamps (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Hilarious, fun and cheesy but yet in a good way… filmmaker/writer Amy Heckerling has made us laugh with her films such as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Clueless” and she will definitely make you laugh in “Vamps”, a comedy film parodying vampire films/television series.   Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Vamps, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Vamps

FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Anchor Bay Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Violent Images, Some Drug Material, Sexual Content and Language)

Release Date: November 13, 2012

Directed by Amy Heckerling

Screenplay by Amy Heckerling

Produced by Maria Teresa Arida, Adam Brightman, Stuart Cornfeld, Molly Hassell

Co-Executive Producer: James Belfer, Peter Fruchtman, Kevin Ragsdale, Mike Shevell, Noel Tyra, Lance Vervack

Co-Producer: Marek Gabryjelski, Anna Rozalska

Associate Producer: Lee Kramer, Brock LaBorde

Music by David Kitay

Cinematography by Tim Suhrstedt

Edited by Debra Chiate

Casting by Amanda Mackey Johnson, Cathy Sandrich

Production Design by Dan Leigh

Art Direction by Erick Donaldson

Set Decoration by Ron von Blomberg

Costume Design by Mona May

Starring:

Alicia Silverstone as Goody

Krysten Ritter as Stacy

Dan Stevens as Joey

Richard Lewis as Danny

Sigourney Weaver as Cisserus

Wallace Shawn as Dr. Van Helsing

Justin Kirk as Vadim

Malcolm McDowell as Vlad

Zak Orth as Renfield

Marilu Henner as Angela

Scott Thomson as Erik

Todd Barry as IVan

Kristen Johnson as Mrs. Van Helsing

Goody (Silverstone) and Stacy (Krysten Ritter) are addicted to the night life, clubbing, hooking up and always looking for the next thrill, all the while keeping a big a secret-they happen to be modern-day vampires. But even with lifetimes of dating experience behind them, the duo realizes they still have a lot to learn about love when Stacy unexpectedly falls for the son of a vampire hunter, and Goody runs into the man of her dreams from decades earlier.

It has been awhile since we have last hard of Amy Heckerling, the renown director for creating popular films such as “Clueless”, “Loser”, “European Vacation”, “Johnny Dangerously” and most notably for her directorial debut with “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”.

While Heckerling has been busy with directing and writing for television series, in 2012, the filmmaker went to work on a vampire comedy known as “Vamps”.  Instead of going the same route as many other vampire films, Heckerling injects humor and life about two vampires who don’t want to suck on human blood but enjoy the good life.

The film reunites Heckerling with her “Clueless” actress Alicia Silverstone, 16-years later and the film features a talented cast which includes Krysten Ritter (“Confessions of a Shopaholic”, “She’s Out of My League”, “What Happens in Vegas”), Sigourney Weaver (“Aliens”, “Avatar”), Dan Stevens (“Hilde”, “Dracula”), Richard Lewis (“Robin Hood: Men in Tights”, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, “Anything But Love”), Wallace Shawn (“The Princess Bride”, “Toy Story” films), Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”, “Easy A”, “The Artist”), Marilu Henner (“Taxi”, “L.A. Story”), Zack Orth (“Romeo + Juliet”, “Music and Lyrics”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), Justin Kirk (“Weeds”, “Angels in America”) and Kristen Johnson (“3rd Rock From the Sun”, “Bride Wars”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment in November 2012.

“Vamps” revolves around two friends, Goody (portrayed by Alicia Silverstone) is a vampire who has been around since the mid-1800′s and remembers the ’20s and the ’30s of New York City as her golden years, but to keep up with her young friend Stacy (portrayed by Krysten Ritter), who was turned into a vampire back in the ’80s, Goody tries to be youthful and learn the lingo and fashion of today’s world.

Both socialites love to have fun by going to the local vampire bar and hanging out with their technological savvy human friend Renfield (portrayed by Zak Orth) but unlike other vampires, they don’t suck on human blood, nor do they attack humans.  In order to feed, both work at a company that captures rats in the city and they feast on the animals for blood.

But Goody is a kind and compassionate vampire and she has taught Stacy how to use her abilities for good and for Stacy, she is happy to have a good friend like Goody watching over her and giving her a second chance at life, having been a drug addict in the past.  But both Goody and Stacy must follow the direction of her stem (the person who turned her to a vampire), the vampire queen known as Ciccerus (portrayed by Sigourney Weaver).

While the two try to live normal lives (knowing that they can’t partake in daytime activities), both attend their local vampire meetings (with other vampires who try to live normal lives) and Stacy attends college, taking night classes with Joey (portrayed by Dan Stevens).

When Joey invites her to his home, she is ecstatic.  But she suddenly finds out at the home that Joey’s last name is Van Helsing, the family descended of vampire hunters.  And his parents Dr. Van Helsing (portrayed by Wallace Shawn) and Mrs. Van Helsing (portrayed by Kristen Johnson) are aware that she is a vampire and may try to hurt her.

Meanwhile, Goody sees her old ex-boyfriend Danny (portrayed by Richard Lewis) from when they used to do anti-war protests in the late ’60s.  When Danny is shocked to see someone that looks exactly like the Goody he knew back in the ’60s, Goody tells Danny that she is her daughter.  While it’s a shock for her to see Danny again, Danny is busy trying to take care of his wife Angela (portrayed by Marilu Henner) who has terminal cancer.

But as the two try to enjoy their lives, Ciccerus is on a killing spree and the vampires start to worry that the vampire queen may give all vampires a bad name.  And to make things even more difficult, what happens when both women must reveal to the men that they are actually vampires.

VIDEO:

“Vamps” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen presentation 1:78:1).  The picture quality for the film is actually quite wonderful as skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep and while the special effects were a bit cheesy at times and sometimes certain green screen utilization of New York City backdrops look a bit fake, these imperfections actually work for a film such as “Vamps” as the film is somewhat parodying vampire films/series.

But scenes in New York City look fantastic and for the most part, “Vamps” is a film that looks great on Blu-ray!  I didn’t notice any artifacts, banding or DNR issues while watching the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Vamps” is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  The film features crisp dialogue and because the film is primarily a dialogue-driven film (with a short action scene at the end), it’s primarily front-channel driven.  I didn’t really hear surround sound utilization throughout the film that caught my attention but for the most part, dialogue is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Vamps” comes with the no special features.

I absolutely love Amy Heckerling films.  Not only does she capture the life of adolescents with efficacy but she is able to craft films that are hilarious and fun!

“Vamps” is a film that is so cheesy, but yet so hilarious, you can’t help but laugh and be entertained by it.

Right off the bat, I just loved how “Vamps” takes a storyline of vampires and injects it to a storyline of two New York socialites.  But the twist is not only are these two vampires but you have Goody, who tries to act young but having grown up in the 1800′s and experience the good life of the early 1900′s, she is wise woman that is over a 100-years-old but never reveals her true age, even to her good friend Stacy.

As for Stacy, she’s a woman stuck in the ’80s.  She is also very naive and takes everything Goody says as golden.

But these two women are just so fun to watch because they are unlike any vampire you have seen on film and television.  Sure, there are shows like “Angel” where the protagonist tries to feed on animal blood, but with “Vamps”, what is hilarious is the way the two handle their vampire life.  From picking up dead rats and plopping a straw into them, how these two young women try to have a “good morning” sleep with soil in their coffins yet trying to take care of their skin with moisturizer and most importantly, trying to live a socialite life by venturing into bars and just having fun.

Also, as a cinema fan, you can’t help but love Goody’s taste in silent films and films of the ’30s.  With images of silent films to the playing of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” or even seeing the famous “eye” scene from Luis Bunuel’s “Un Chien Andalou”, for a film that is so fun and kitschy, you just don’t expect to see these films show up as clips throughout the film.

And the film also has its fair share of talent from the past such as Sigourney Weaver, Malcolm McDowell, Richard Lewis, Wallace Shawn, Marilu Henner, etc.  And these talents are not wasted on screen.  Sigourney Weaver’s as a vampire queen is just hilarious and fun to watch, especially at the end.

But there is also some scenes that have you do a second take because there is someone doing something crazy or foolish in the background.  For instance, during one vampire meeting, a woman in the background can be seen trying to gnaw on a rat.

The film does have violence, I suppose if you call it that.  There are body limbs that are featured and severed heads, but the way they are presented is hilarious.  For example, one pizza delivery person who is pretty much found scattered all over an alley and found by police, the face of the man is just hilarious.  The violence is never shown as scary at all, if anything, you just feel like laughing.

If anything, Amy Heckerling has created a comedy that is meant to be kitschy and an interesting take on the whole vampire genre, but does it her way, with her humor and for the most part, I enjoyed the film!

While the Blu-ray release looks and sounds great, unfortunately there are no special features included.

Overall, fans of Amy Heckerling films will surely want to give “Vamps” a try.  As long as they know they are about to watch a film that is not meant to be taken seriously but for those who have an odd sense of humor and just wants to sit back and laugh because of the ridiculous situations that are presented in throughout the film.  “Vamps” is one of those, so cheesy but yet so entertaining films that you find once in awhile.

Hilarious, fun and cheesy but yet in a good way… filmmaker/writer Amy Heckerling has made us laugh with her films such as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Clueless” and she will definitely make you laugh in “Vamps”, a comedy film parodying vampire films/television series.   Recommended!

It’s a baby boy for Alicia Silverstone and Christopher Jarecki

May 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Congratulations to actress Alicia Silverstone and husband Christopher Jarecki! The actress gave birth to a baby boy last Thursday, the couple’s first.

The couple named their son Bear Blu Jarecki and the baby weighed at 7 lbs., 15 oz.

Alicia Silverstone is pregnant

January 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Alicia Silverstone's "The Kind Diet" Book Release Party

PEOPLE Magazine has received confirmation that actress Alicia Silverstone is pregnant! Congratulations to the Alicia Silverstone and Christopher Jarecki!

Alicia Silverstone speaks during the 15th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA

April 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

15th Annual Los Angeles Times Festival Of Books - Day 1

Actress/author Alicia Silverstone speaks during the 15th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA on April 24, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Content © 2010 Getty Images All rights reserved.

Alicia Silverstone attends ‘THE KIND DIET: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet’ book release party

October 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Actress Alicia Silverstone attends ‘THE KIND DIET: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet’ book release party at Candle 79 on October 8, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images). Content © 2009 Getty Images All rights reserved.

Alicia Silverstone's "The Kind Diet" Book Release Party

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