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SONY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Will Gluck
Cast:
Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Quvenzhane Wallis, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale
Writing Credits:
Will Gluck and Aline Brosh McKenna

Tagline:
It's a Hard Knock Life.

Synopsis:
A foster kid who lives with her mean foster mom sees her life change when business tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$15,861,939 on 3,116 Screens.
Domestic Gross
$85,570,056.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Stereo
English Audio Descriptive Service
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish

Runtime: 118 min.
Price: $30.99
Release Date: 3/17/2015

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Will Gluck
• “The Making of Annie” Featurette
• Music Video
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Annie (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 9, 2015)

When I reviewed the 1982 screen adaptation of Annie, I described it as a “perfectly dreadful dud”. With such a low bar, 2014’s Annie has to be better, right? Man, I hope so.

Annie Bennett (Quvenzhane Wallis) lives in a foster placement with bitter, unpleasant Miss Colleen Hannigan (Cameron Diaz) and other kids. When her parents abandoned her as a four-year-old, they promised they’d come back for her, so Annie maintains hope in the face of adversity.

One day, Annie stumbles in the street and almost gets hit by a van, but technology mogul/mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) rescues her. Footage of this goes viral and boosts his languishing campaign.

In a cynical attempt to court more votes, Stacks agrees to let Annie stay with him. However, this becomes more personal than he anticipated, as Stacks and Annie build a bond – a connection that becomes threatened by various parties.

As I mentioned at the start of the review, I couldn’t stand the 1982 Annie, so it wouldn’t take much for this 2014 version to surpass it. Because of that, I didn’t feel surprised that I enjoyed this Annie a lot more than the 1982 take.

However, I was a bit taken aback by how much more I liked it. Though I don’t think Annie 2014 becomes a great movie, it delivers a charming and peppy affair that makes it way more endearing than I anticipated.

Another surprise came when I checked out director Will Gluck’s filmography. His name sounded vaguely familiar, but I didn’t realize I’d seen all three of his earlier directorial efforts. Those include 2009’s Fired Up, 2010’s Easy A and 2011’s Friends With Benefits.

I probably didn’t remember Gluck because I wasn’t wild about any of those films. They offered some entertainment value but none of them stood out as terrific - and neither does Annie, but it does manage to bring us a perky, likable musical comedy.

On the negative side, Gluck doesn’t do well with the song and dance numbers. While kinetic, the actual musical scenes don’t flow and mesh especially well. This means they’re lively but they don’t soar like they should.

Also, the ugly specter of Autotune does harm to the songs. I don’t know how well any of the actors can sing on their own, but the recordings feature enough Autotune to damage to the vocals. Everyone sounds so robotic that it becomes a distraction.

This ends the formal “complaint” aspect of my review, for I think much of the rest of the movie works pretty well. One key comes from the manner in which Gluck both embraces the Annie legacy but has fun with it as well. The movie opens with a character named Annie who fits our preconceived notion of the character; indeed, “Red-Haired Annie” comes played by Taylor Richardson, a youngster who did the part in a more traditional stage version.

The 2014 Annie ladles on slightly snarky humor and it works. This tone doesn’t go too far, though; it keeps matters ensconced in the clean “PG” world, so Gluck doesn’t turn the movie in something inappropriate.

And even at its snottiest, the comedy remains fairly gentle. Still, it’s funnier than I would’ve expected. I figured a new Annie would be watered down and squeaky clean, but this one generates some actual laughs. This doesn’t mean Annie lacks the sentimentality we anticipate, but at least we find some self-mocking “subversiveness” along the way. That helps make the gooey moments go down easier.

I like the fact this Annie updates matters but still feels true to the source. Apparently fans were aghast because they thought this would be “Hip-Hop Annie”, but that doesn’t occur. Sure, the songs get a little bit of a modern touch, but they remain wholly recognizable as the tunes from the stage show.

I feel happy the movie brought the tale into the 21st century as well. The basic story matches the original pretty well, but it gets a bit of a makeover, so it’s not stuck in the 1930s. Not that there’s anything wrong with an Annie that takes place during the Depression, but we already got a movie like that. It’s good the new one varies the template.

At no point does Annie threaten to become a classic movie musical, but it doesn’t need to be one. It offers light, funny family entertainment, and that’s good enough.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

Annie appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Given the limitations of SD-DVD, this became a terrific presentation

Sharpness looked good. A handful of wider shots tended to be a little soft, but those examples weren’t intrusive so the majority of the film appeared pretty accurate and concise. No concerns with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained minor. Source flaws also failed to create problems.

In terms of colors, Annie veered toward a “modern movie standard” palette of orange and teal. Those choices didn’t overwhelm, though, and the hues came across as pretty peppy and full. Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows showed good delineation. Overall, this was a surprisingly strong presentation that’s one of the best-looking DVD transfers I’ve seen in a while.

Though not as strong, I felt pleased with the good Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Annie. The soundscape delivered an involving experience in which the various musical scenes offered a nice sense of impact. Overall, the mix filled out the room in a satisfying manner, especially when it involved those song and dance numbers.

Audio quality was positive. Speech came across as natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music showed good range, and effects offered a good sense of impact with reasonable punch and clarity. This was a positive soundtrack.

The DVD comes with a handful of extras, and these open with an audio commentary from director Will Gluck. He presents a running, screen-specific look at the adaptation of the source and nods toward it, story/character areas, sets and locations, cast and performances, music and choreography, editing, visual design, editing, and related topics.

This track differs from Gluck's prior commentaries in two ways. For one, it puts him on his own, as he chatted with actors on the other pieces. In addition, Gluck focuses more on the production that he did in the past.

Which I regard as a positive. I enjoyed Gluck's other commentaries, as they tended to be fun and entertaining, but they didn't tell us a ton about the movies, so they tended to be limited.

Gluck's Annie discussion gets into the production really well. He touches on all the requisite subjects and does so with wit and eagerness. Heck, he even alludes to critics of the movie as he explains why he made changes to the source. Gluck delivers a thoroughly satisfying chat.

The Making of Annie goes for 14 minutes, 36 seconds and includes notes from Gluck, producer Caleeb Pinkett, original song composer Charles Strouse, production designer Marcia Hinds, and actors Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, David Zayas, Stephanie Kurtzuba, and Quvenzhane Wallis. The show looks at adapting the source and Gluck’s take on the material, music and choreography, cast and performances, and shooting in NYC. A few details materialize here but mostly this remains a fluffy promotional reel.

Finally, we find a Music Video for “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile”. In this piece, Wallis and her young co-stars spread cheer on the streets of NYC. The video threatens to become too cutesy, but it stays on the right side of that street and offers a clever piece of promotion,

The disc opens with ads for Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and Smurfs 2. No trailer for Annie appears here.

Although I don’t think Annie becomes a great film, it accomplishes its goals. The movie packs a nice mix of comedy, sentiment and music to end up as a likable, charming effort. The DVD offers excellent picture along with good audio and an informative commentary. Chalk up Annie as a surprisingly winning flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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