[Fresh On Blu-ray] ‘EMMA’ gets fancy, ‘SONIC’ and ‘FLASHDANCE’ provide a healthy dose of nostalgia

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James Clay// Film Critic

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG

Rated PG, 98 minutes
Director: Jeff Fowler
Cast: Ben Schwartz, James Marsden,Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter

By all accounts, a SONIC THE HEDGEHOG should not have worked as an on-screen character. But taking a look at the Blu-ray special features, it was easy to see this giant corporate mascot’s big-screen debut was made with love. After the fits and starts of redesigning the electric blue ball of energy, director Jeff Fowler pulled off a wholly enjoyable family film filled with positivity.

Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) was raised to be wary of his powers and the dangers that follow him. After escaping his mysterious homeland after a group of ravagers kill his guardian Owl, he makes his way to Earth by way of teleportation through those classic gold rings, and what better place to end up than Green Hills, Montana. 

Moving at breakneck speed, Sonic encounters a local cop (James Marsden) who tries to help Sonic find his way before Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) blows them to smithereens. 

Utterly delightful, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG is a fun-loving experience, led by Schwartz’s voice work and Marsden’s uncanny ability to play the foil to a little CGI creature. And that Jim Carrey guy isn’t half bad either.

This release is loaded with content. Here are a few highlights:

Commentary by Jeff Fowler and Ben Schwartz: Listen up Sonic geeks, this commentary lays down all the Sega easter eggs hidden in the film. 

For The Love of Sonic: As the title states, it a love fest for Sonic as the creative team details their excitement for the film. 

Building Robotnik with Jim Carrey: The comic legend is a madman unleashed in this feature. Random fact is revealed that Jim Carrey is somebody’s grandpa. 

The Blue Blur: The Origin of Sonic: Details the lineage of Sonic’s debut in 1991 to his big-screen debut. 

FLASHDANCE

Rated R, 94 minutes.
Director: Adrian Lyne
Cast: Jennifer Beales, Michael Nouri

The latest classic re-release from Paramount, complete with premium packaging, is FLASHDANCE. Directed by Adrian Lyne, the film is the template for the traditional 1980s movie we come to think of today. From the cheesy montages to the frizzy hair and the neon lights, this dance classic may be lacking in the story department. Yet, its star, Jennifer Beals, emerges with an incredibly dynamic performance.

The setup is simple, as sung in the song “Maniac” by Michael Sembello: “Just a steel town girl on a Saturday night. Looking for the fight of her life in the real-time world. No one sees her at all; they all say she’s crazy.” 

Alex (Beals) is a welder by day who aspires to be a classical dancer by night. That aspiration is going to become a reality as she inflects her infectious dancing style to all those who come into her orbit. 

The music by dance legend Giorgio Moroder may be a little bit too familiar to the ears. However, there are moments of brilliance in the compositions. Namely, with the music drop of “Lady, Lady, Lady” by Joe Esposito cues an intimate moment between Alex and her love interest/boss Nick (Michael Nouri), it’s ’80s pop brilliance. 

FLASHDANCE is an experience that grows upon you relying on the charism of Beals and the atmosphere created by Lyne’s keen eye for sexiness and Moroder’s ear for groundbreaking music. 

Special Features: 

NEW For Paramount Presents: Filmmaker Focus Director Adrian Lyne: The filmmaker takes a look back nearly 40 years into the past and breaks down what the imagery of the film means to him today and why it became apart of the cultural consciousness. 

Original Features Include: 

The Look of Flashdance: There was something about Flashdance that captured a moment in blue-collar America that was longing for something more. This feature from he film’s original blu ray release focuses on the aesthetic of the film. 

Releasing the Flashdance Phenomenon: Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson’s legendary producing partnership began with this template. They took a setting rather it be a dance school, a flight academy, stock car racing, and turned into a world that audiences could inhabit, if only for two glorious hours. Their work has its faults no doubt, but they had the audience’s interest at the center of their collaborations that ended up birthing the career of Michael Bay. For better or worse they changed the way we films are made today. 

This is the beginning of that story. 

Grade: B+

EMMA. 

Rated PG, 125 minutes.
Director: Autumn de Wilde
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny FlynnBill Nighy, Mia Goth, Callum TurnerJosh O’ ConnorTanya Reynolds and Miranda Hart

EMMA boasts a cast of up-and-coming actors who have been popping up in indie – each on the verge of their breakout role. Led by THE WITCH’s Anya Taylor-Joy, the 23-year-old actor stars as the titular Emma Woodhouse, an aristocrat with a razor tongue who’s in desperate need of some personal growth. She lives with her father, Mr. Woodhouse (Bill Nighy), a simple widower who’s constantly paranoid about coming down with a cold after he lost his wife on a snowy night.

The father-daughter duo entertains the locals in their quaint town of Hartford, Highbury, where their chief concern in life is who’s courting who. Emma is content with her life and refuses to get married. Instead, she’s preoccupied with playing matchmaker despite having a slight flirtation with gentleman farmer George Knightley (a devastatingly handsome Johnny Flynn), who appears to be more interested in what’s between her ears rather than any social status the Woodhouse name carries.

Special Features: 

Gag Reel: As somebody who was on the fence about this movie tonally, the gag reel is an unexpected treat that isn’t a typical feature for a costume drama. On the contrary, EMMA isn’t just a costume drama, it’s identifying itself as a comedy that’s searching for escapism. The gag reel isn’t the typical improv style “line-o-Rama” that you’d see on a Judd Apatow Blu-ray. The 10-minute feature shows how director Autumn de Wilde and the actors were searching for an incredibly specific tone, and hitting that bullseye is more complicated than it looks. 

A Playful Tease: Just as the title suggests, it’s a jaunty little five-minute peek into the film. Just adorable enough to prime you for two hours of gorgeous pettiness. 

The Autumn Gaze: de Wilde’s mind is one that employs loads of symmetry. This feature has the cast doting on their director while discussing the immersive experience collaborating with her creatively. 

Crafting A Colorful World: If you just watched The Autumn Gaze, then you can easily guess that enacting this vision is no small feat for any creative. Take a look at this feature because the colors are popping, and the craft is impressive. 

Feature Commentary: Feature commentaries are always a gift from he home video overlords. Any time you get the filmmakers and cast in a room to discuss the film, anything can happen. It can be informative, a little boozy, or sometimes a two-hour joke where nothing of importance is ever said. Either way, this one will be worth diving into. 

Grade: B-