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Fowler’s Flix 08.05.19: The Yari Film Group Goes Blu-ray

Yari Film Group
Edward Norton casts images from beyond in "The Illusionist."
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The Yari Film Group, founded by producer Bob Yari a few years ago, attempted to become a major player in the Hollywood scene, releasing mostly above-average flicks to mainly below-average audiences.

With their output dwindling around 2009, many of their somewhat solid films have finally been released on the Blu-ray format, a handful of which we’ll take a look at in this week’s Fowler’s Flix.

Released concurrently with the far more popular The Prestige, Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti star in the elusive tale of master magician Eisenheim in The Illusionist. Set in Vienna in 1889, Eisenheim (Norton) is taking the Austrian theater world by storm with his unbelievable acts of mind-bending visuals.

When an old love of his is about to marry the vile Crown Prince Leopold, with disastrous results, he must go to the ethereal otherworld to prove the Prince’s guilt and win his love back.

Guilt is the main theme in the moderately cloying Winter Passing, from 2005. Zooey Deschanel puts her “adorkable” persona on hold for a couple of hours to create a self-harming daughter of a popular—yet dysfunctional—pair of writers. When she’s offered money for old letters between the two of them, she travels home to discover a dead mother, a reclusive father and a pair of quirky people living in the house.

Most notable for Will Ferrell’s role of an ex-Christian rocker with possible mental problems, it’s worth a watch, even if it is mostly dated these days.

Never released it theaters—and only now released on home video—the 2003 update of The Devil and Daniel Webster, here entitled Shortcut to Happiness, is merely an okay film, but unreleaseable? Hardly.

Starring Alec Baldwin as a young writer hungry for success, along with an out-of-her-depth Jennifer Love Hewitt as the Devil; she grants him his bestseller-laden wish, for, of course, his eternal soul. With an easy paycheck from Anthony Hopkins in a decent turn as Webster, this movie is definitely a sustainable time- killer.

Finally, in the true story of Resurrecting the Champ, the mussy-haired Josh Hartnett is sportswriter Erik Kernan, who desperately wants to be taken seriously as a writer like his pops; he usually achieves this with lies to his kid about being best buds with various Denver Broncos.

When he meets a homeless boxer (Samuel L. Jackson), without too much fact-checking, he runs a story on the guy which, as you can probably guess, causes some trouble. With capable direction from Rod Lurie, Champ really shines in Jackson’s pathetic characterization of “Battling” Bob Satterfield, as well as the painful depiction of bad journalism.

In retrospect, the Yari Film Group wasn’t that bad of an outlet. Surely, over the past few years, we’ve seen far more odious Hollywood types go for Oscar gold—at the very least, The Illusionist should have earned a few fans in its day…maybe now it’ll get a second chance on Blu-ray, a thrilling illusion if there ever was one.

Next week: Criterion Rules!

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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