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Movie Review Monday: POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

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Mike Finkelstein woke up inspired one day, and ventured out to write the Greatest Movie Review Ever Written. Flipping through the newspaper for show times, he found the perfect choice.  Here is his review…the Greatest Review Ever Written…of “Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”.

PLOT: Morgan Spurlock (director of SUPER SIZE ME and Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?) exposes the inner workings of product placement in the mass-media, all through a documentary funded solely by said product placement with corporate partners.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: We are all familiar with the idea of product placement.  You have your favorite television shows and movies and music videos that will showcase a product they want to sell you, and they get paid thousands or millions of dollars to do it.  It may have nothing to do with the movie, or it may have everything to do with it.  It may be as small as a character drinking a particular soda with the label turned toward the camera, or as big as the damn plot in HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE.  Product placement makes us laugh, think, want, shrug salivate, crave and yearn.  But with all those feelings, have we ever realized how much work, thought, and money go into this business?

This is what Morgan Spurlock is for.

Here’s the idea: Spurlock wants to raise $1.5 Million for his movie.  How will he get it?  Through selling ad space.  Corporations like Ban, Pom Wonderful, JetBlue and Sheetz want to get their name out there and have people see and want to use their brand.  How will they do it?  By paying Spurlock money to get into his movie.  It is the ultimate help-me-help-you bit that’s been going around Hollywood for decades.  Expect, as Spurlock shows through tests and many meetings with experts, there is a strict science to the entire business.  You have to know how to promote.  You have to be funny and smart.  You could be completely subtle or completely over-the-top, but whatever you do, you have to be memorable.  And you have to sign a hell of a lot of contracts.

It’s amazing how much of a hold companies wanted to have on their image.  Some companies, like Sheetz, were very hesitant to be involved, especially with Spurlock’s reputation.  Other food brands, like Amy’s Kitchen and POM Wonderful, made sure that their brand be the only source of food/drink used in the movie (It didn’t hold just to food…Hyatt would be the only hotel used, JetBlue the only airline, etc).  That’s completely understandable…it’s like the branding version of “Risk”.  However, that wasn’t the end of it…among many other demands, one potential sponsor even insisted on having say over the final cut.  And that’s where the question of artistic integrity comes into play.

When one wants to make a film, but needs to do product placement for funding, how far does one let his ideals and image slide?  Spurlock goes to a few directors and explores this question, giving us three completely separate opinions from three big name Hollywood directors: Peter Berg, Brett Ratner, and Quentin Tarantino (who has a really funny story about always wanting to get a Denny’s into one of his movies).  We also get interviews with Ralph Nader (he and Spurlock play so well off each other, like old friends), and experts in the field who have had directors change entire scenes because a company didn’t like how their product was being portrayed.  While there is always a fine line, that’s the amount of power and leverage that you have to deal with when making a Blockbuster: scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.  Is it worth it?

Unlike a Michael Moore, Spurlock stays pretty neutral on this entire topic and just takes us on a ride of discovery…and a very entertaining one at that.  We see the advertising Meccas that are New York and Los Angeles, and on the other side of the spectrum, given a taste of a world without advertisement in Sao Paulo, Brazil: a city in which all outside advertisement is banned.  Both are beautiful to behold, but in two completely separate ways.  It’s up to the viewer to decide which one they appreciate more.  Or maybe the point is that they don’t have to decide at all…

To his credit, Spurlock never made anyone look bad.  His job was not to bash his funders, but to promote them and their product.  (That’s what he was technically being hired to do when they handed over the check!) If certain executives made themselves look bad on their own, that’s a different story.  There were so many companies that did not give the film a chance because of Spurlock’s reputation (leading to over 600 cold calls, mind you).  There was even one meeting where we see the nicely dressed exec say he wants to be involved, shake Spurlock’s hand, and then ask for the camera to be shut and completely take back everything he just said.  That executive made a bad choice, and anyone who was actually involved made a good one.  Seeing the nervous, yet willing executives in the board room for brands like POM Wonderful, Sheetz and Ban made me like them more, just because they were free people who were willing to give it a shot.  (Oh, and for the record, POM Wonderful made a great choice being the title sponsor, because now all I want to do is try a POM drink.  However I still wished they would have loosened up just a tad and let Spurlock do his proposed idea…it would have been absolutely hysterical!)

Overall, I really enjoyed THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD.  For an hour and a half documentary, the film was fast paced and fun, and more like playing a game than anything else.  Every time there was a little advertisement, I giggled, because I felt like I was in on the joke, and I was learning at the same time.  I would have liked to see more about the smaller donations…how much money got you what, why only that little, etc, and more about the 600 calls, but that was only a little speed bump on an overall interesting and eye-opening documentary.

GRADE: A-

Mike’s LIKES:

1) 30 SECOND COMMERCIALS: When these were first mentioned near the beginning of the film, I thought they’d stand out like a sore thumb.  Luckily, every time one of the three 30 Second Commercials came on, they made me smile because of how smoothly the transition was.  Now if only BAN was able to let loose a bit, I’d be buying their deodorant in a second!

2) RALPH NADAR: The man may be 77 years old, but he still knows how to go with a joke.  He and Spurlock played so well off of each other when it came to a pair of shoes…you’ll see what I mean.

3) PEOPLE’S REAL REACTIONS: It’s amazing how companies could be so afraid of how they are perceived.  They are so careful not to offend anybody and protect their image, that sometimes it holds them back from having that riskier persona that would push them into another category of awesome, especially for a younger crowd (eg. POM Wonderful).  And with that…

4) SHUT OFF THE CAMERA: I love how one executive had the nerve to say on camera that he’d be involved, and then asked for the camera to be shut, only to say he didn’t want anything to do with the movie.  Nicely done, fellow.  Again, people…

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SMALLER COMPANIES?: POM Wonderful spent $1 Million on it’s product placement.  JetBlue, Sheetz, Ban and Amy’s Kitchen were seen often, among others.  But what about the smaller companies that were seen for maybe a few minutes or one mention?  How much did that cost them for the movie?

2) 600 COLD CALLS: I would have liked to see this more in detail.  How much time did it take them to make the cold calls?  How many people were making them?  Would it take one call weeks to be passed up the ladder to the right person, or were they usually transferred fairly quickly, and either way, did the name “Morgan Spurlock” have anything to do with it? And speaking of Morgan Spurlock, why is it that none of the connections worked, and cold calling did?  Just a little more clarification would be perfect.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) OK Go wrote the theme song, called “The Greatest Song I Ever Heard”

2) For 60 days beginning April 27, 2011, the city of Altoona, Pennsylvania (home of Sheetz, the gas station and one of the movie’s major sponsors) officially changed its name to POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Pennsylvania to help Spurlock promote the film.

3) Just for you:

I swear, right after watching this, I went into my kitchen and had a bowl of Cheerios

A smart way of product placement…at least it gets how ridiculously obvious it is

Entertainment

REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod

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“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

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What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.

SHARE YOU PICKS BELOW! AND TWEET YOUR FAVORITES TOO!

For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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Movie Reviews

MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.

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world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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