‘Ragtime’ Coming to Paramount Presents Blu-ray Line Nov. 16

Director Milos Forman’s epic Ragtime arrives for its 40th anniversary in a limited-edition two-disc Blu-ray as part of the Paramount Presents line on Nov. 16 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Based on E.L. Doctorow’s best-selling novel, Ragtime tells the story of disparate characters in New York City in the early 1900s. From the emerging New York suburb of New Rochelle to the flashy spectacle of Atlantic City, a family faces racial tensions, scandals and violence that will test everything they believe in. With music by Randy Newman, the film stars James Cagney, Brad Dourif, Moses Gunn, Elizabeth McGovern, Kenneth McMillan, Pat O’Brien, Donald O’Connor, James Olson, Mandy Patinkin, Howard E. Rollins, Jr., Mary Steenburgen, Debbie Allen, Jeff Daniels, Fran Drescher, Samuel L. Jackson, Norman Mailer and John Ratzenberger.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The film has been remastered from a 4K film transfer and is presented in collectible packaging featuring a foldout image of the film’s theatrical poster and an interior spread with key movie moments. The two-disc Blu-ray includes a newly discovered director’s cut workprint version of the film (along with the theatrical version), deleted and extended scenes, a look back at Ragtime with Larry Karaszewski and screenwriter Michael Weller, access to a digital copy of the theatrical version, and commentary by Forman and executive producer Michael Hausman.

Monsters at Work

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Animated;
Not rated.
Voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Ben Feldman, Mindy Kaling, Henry Winkler, Lucas Neff, Alanna Ubach, Bonnie Hunt, Curtis Armstrong, Jennifer Tilly, Bob Peterson, Stephen Stanton, John Ratzenberger.

The “Monsters at Work” animated series streaming on Disney+ is a delightful continuation of the franchise that started with Pixar’s 2001 film Monsters, Inc.

The film focused on a world of monsters and a power plant that harnessed the screams of children to power the city. Two of the monsters, Mike and Sulley (voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman) eventually learn that the laughter of children is 10 times more powerful than screams.

“Monsters at Work” serves as a sequel to the film, showing how the power plant transitioned from scream power to laugh power. It also cleverly weaves together bits of world-building not only from the original film, but also its 2013 prequel, Monsters University, which focused on Mike and Sulley’s time in college.

While the show does continue the adventures of Mike and Sulley, the focus is primarily on a different department of the power plant, the Monsters Incorporated Facilities Team (MIFT), which is tasked with the maintenance of the equipment used to collect the power.

The main character is Tyler Tuskmon (voiced by Ben Feldman), who just graduated from Monsters U. and was recruited to join the Monsters, Inc. scare team just before the events of the first film. On his first day he learns of the transition to laugh power, but being a scarer and not very funny, he is assigned to the MIFT team.

Meanwhile, Mike takes charge of recruiting a new team of “jokesters” to replace the scarers who are now obsolete, and begins teaching comedy classes, which Tyler attends as he yearns to move out of the MIFT basement.

Follow us on Instagram!

The 10-episode first season details Tyler’s adventures with his fellow MIFT employees, which occasionally intersect with Mike and Sulley’s attempts to keep the plant afloat using laugh power. The show actually takes place during the epilogue of the first film, so it could be considered a bit of a sidequel as well.

Episodes two through nine also include a brief “Mike’s Comedy Class” vignette that gives the show a chance for more gags.

The series ties in well with established “Monsters” lore while making its own worthwhile contributions to the canon, which should entertain kids and make any fan of the franchise happy.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Toy Story 4

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 10/8/19;
Disney;
Animated;
Box Office $433.06 million;
$39.99 Blu-ray/DVD, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘G.’
Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, June Squibb, Carl Weathers, Jeff Garlin.

While the prospect of a fourth “Toy Story” movie was exciting news for fans of the franchise, there were some questions about whether the adventures of Woody, Buzz and the gang might have run their course. After all, the third movie from 2010 was an emotional rollercoaster that seemed to provide a decent, if bittersweet, sense of closure for the characters.

Of course, the question about what stories were left to tell had already been answered long before the fourth movie was announced, not only through three short films, but also two half-hour television specials. So, yeah, there’s more than enough material to mine.

There would still be the challenge of making any new film feel like an event worthy of the franchise. The movies should at least be somewhat transformational, redefining the status quo of the characters beyond what can be accomplished in a short film.

Well, the team at Pixar Animation Studios certainly achieved that goal, and then some. Toy Story 4 isn’t the best film in the franchise, but it might be the most cathartic. Where the previous film was a bit of a gut punch, this one offers more of a natural progression for the characters.

After a flashback that shows how Woody’s love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts) was given away (mentioned in Toy Story 3), we check in to see how the toys are doing with their new owner, Bonnie. While she exhibits a rich imagination, she tends to leave Woody (Tom Hanks) sidelined, leaving him to wonder what his place in her life is.

Bonnie then creates a new toy, named Forky (Tony Hale), out of trash at school, and when he would rather return to the garbage than play with Bonnie, Woody assigns himself the task of educating the new toy and making sure he’s available for her. Woody’s task gets more complicated when Forky manages to jump out of the RV on a family road trip. In retrieving him, Woody comes across an antique shop and reunites with Bo. But Forky is captured by a doll at the shop who wants to trade him for Woody’s pull-string voice box to replace her own defective one, hoping the fix will help entice a kid to want to play with her.

Bo, on the other hand, presents another option for life as a toy: roaming free, with no owner, never worrying about being played with or not and determining her own fate. Meanwhile, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) sets out on a mission to find Woody, bolstered by a hilarious running gag of him activating his own voice feature so he can get advice from his “inner voice.”

So, yes, the movie does return to the “recover a lost character” motif that has been a staple of the franchise (and, indeed, most Pixar films), putting a few new spins on the formula along the way. The antique shop and a nearby carnival are wonderful settings for toy-level adventures with inventive new characters, such as Canadian motorcycle-jumping daredevil Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and a pair of game-prize plushes voiced by Key & Peele.

The only area of concern, really, is that each passing movie runs the risk of potentially piercing the suspension of disbelief about the toys being alive, which some of the characters actually joke about in this one. One need to simply look no further to the living vehicles of the world of “Cars” to see how much such questions can distract, and detract, from the narrative.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The “Toy Story” movies have all been visual marvels, and the fourth one is no exception, advancing the state of CGI to render fantastic textures and details on the toys and their environments. The carnival offers a great excuse for bright colors and warm lights, while the antique shop provides a trove of subtle references.

The Blu-ray is loaded with a lot of great behind-the-scenes material, including an insightful feature-length commentary track by director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen in which they discuss all sorts of challenges to crafting a fourth “Toy Story” film.

Some of the more pivotal sequences get their own callout in the form of “Anatomy of a Scene” videos in which the filmmakers discuss and joke about making them. The disc includes a nine-and-a-half-minute look at the playground scene, while a seven-minute deconstruction of the prologue serves as a digital exclusive.

The disc also includes 28 minutes of deleted scenes, still in storyboard form, that show some of the unused concepts for the film, including an unused ending that would have pretty much negated the film’s message of finding your own place in the world.

The digital version of the film includes an additional seven-minute alternate opening sequence depicting Bonnie’s playtime fantasy using the toys.

The various featurettes included offer interesting glimpses of the production with the usual interviews with cast members and filmmakers, but often show them interacting in ways not typically presented in such videos.

There is a six-minute “Bo Rebooted” video about how Bo’s character was expanded into a major role for the film. Another, three-and-a-half-minute piece, spotlights the relationship between Woody and Buzz.

The new characters are shown off in a series of “Toy Box” videos that run 13 minutes, while an additional six-minute featurette focuses on new castmember Ally Maki and her pint-sized character.

One of the more nostalgia-infused featurettes is a five-and-a-half-minute “Toy Stories” piece in which several of the cast and crew recall the toys they played with as children.

Among some of the more random video bits are a few minutes of animation showing off the carnival and the antique shop roof from the toys’ perspectives, plus a series of promotional videos including character vignettes and trailers from around the world.

Some digital retailers, such as Vudu, also offer a two-and-a-half-minute “Toy Story Rewind” video in which the cast and crew reflect on the previous movies.