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Punching Henry Blu-ray Review

Punching Henry (2017) movie poster Punching Henry

Theatrical Release: February 24, 2017 / Running Time: 99 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Gregori Viens / Writers: Gregori Viens, Henry Phillips

Cast: Henry Phillips (Henry Phillips), Tig Notaro (Jillian), J.K. Simmons (Jay Warren), Ellen Ratner (Ellen Pinsky), Mark Cohen (Stupid Joe), Sarah Silverman (Sharon Levine), Stephanie Allynne (Zoe), Michaela Watkins (Mara), Jim Jefferies (Charlie), Mike Judge (Ed), Al Madrigal (Officer Delgado), Clifton Collins, Jr. (Dramatic Actor), Doug Stanhope (EZ Cab Dispatcher), Wayne Federman (Carl Rohman), Matt Kirshen (Matt), Myq Kaplan (Zack), Ashley Johnson (Danielle), Adam Nee (Funny Guitar Boy)

Buy Punching Henry from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Instant Video

There are so many different ways to measure "making it" in the entertainment business. Take Henry Phillips. The 47-year-old comedian is not a household name. He has a page on Wikipedia
that's a little longer than a single-paragraph biography. But mentioned in that paragraph is Punching the Clown, a 2010 independent film that he co-wrote and starred in, playing a somewhat fictionalized version of himself. Critically acclaimed but under the general public's radar (it has drawn fewer than 1,000 user votes on IMDb), Clown was evidently successful enough to elicit something of a sequel in Punching Henry.

Once again, Phillips plays a fictionalized version of himself: a musical comedian who mostly plays to small, unpredictable audiences in dumpy venues in unremarkable locales. His manager Ellen (Ellen Ratner) hypes him as a "rambling troubadour extraordinaire." We get enough of Phillips playing on stage to know he's actually funny but he puts a self-deprecation act to good use.

Accomplished Hollywood director and producer Jay Warren (J.K. Simmons) has heard about the bad luck that ran Phillips out of town five years earlier. He sees television show potential in the down and out comedian and invites him back to Los Angeles. There, Henry reconnects with his old friend Jillian (Tig Notaro), who asks him to help her and her girlfriend Zoe (Stephanie Allynne) expedite their child adoption process the old-fashioned way. Henry's car is stolen shortly after arriving, which sets up some humorous clashes with a cab company for whom "Uber" is a bad word.

Henry Phillips plays a semi-fictionalized version of himself in the offbeat indie comedy "Punching Henry", a sequel to "Punching the Clown."

Warren brings his show idea to NOWW network, where it's pitched as "Sisyphus meets Charlie Brown." It is there that Henry learns about the importance of social media and "alpha-stacking", real practices that are perfectly ripe for the satire they're served up as here.

Warren, whose story is fleshed out via a podcast interview (with a host played by Sarah Silverman), gets heckled off the stage. He deals with an improperly booked hotel room and technical challenges. He becomes a viral sensation for the dumbest of reasons. And he can't even turn that into success or good fame. But his car does turn up, so not all is lost.

Punching Henry has a tricky act to pull off. It has to satirize the business that the real Phillips is more than on the fringe of and it has to paint him as a loser, without letting him seem bitter about that. Phillips and his returning director/co-writer Gregori Viens manage to achieve that. The lead has everyman appeal that reminded me of
Ron Livingston's Office Space protagonist (whose writer-director Mike Judge appears here unrecognizably). Phillips is down, but he's not out and not willing to surrender to the setbacks and obstacles he faces.

The film is episodic and not as sharp and taut as studio fare. But it's also not as predictably written or structured. Phillips seems content with and practically grateful for his life on the road and trying to make people laugh. Despite the warm reviews, his first film didn't lead to more than a little-known web series, an appearance in Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk with Me and a couple of guest spots on HBO's "Silicon Valley." But now he has a second film and one that has attracted an in-demand recent Oscar winner and an Emmy-winning comedian to fill supporting roles (neither of whom phones in this low-stakes, low-paying job). Not a lot of people have seen it since it opened in a few theaters in late February. But now it's on Blu-ray (but strangely not DVD?) from Well Go USA, hoping to find an audience including those like me who are encountering this without already seeing or knowing Punching the Clown.

Though not rated by the MPAA, Punching Henry would earn an R for language and a sex scene.

Punching Henry Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

You never know how low-budget movies from small studios will look on Blu-ray, but Punching Henry looks good. The 1.85:1 presentation isn't the most cinematic, but the Blu-ray raises no concerns with its clean, sharp picture and 5.1 DTS-HD master audio.

After learning of Henry Phillips, Hollywood producer Jay Warren (J.K. Simmons) promptly looks him up on his smart phone in this deleted bar scene. There's more of Mark Cohen's amusing club owner in the short bonus called "Stupid Joe."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Punching Henry is joined by a modest selection of HD extras that should nonetheless satisfy most viewers.

First up are two deleted scenes.

The first sees Henry performing his country "Threesome Song" (3:32), while the other one (1:29) has Jay Warren (J.K. Simmons) learn about Henry from a bartender, information conveyed differently in the film.

"Brendon Walsh Suffers for His Art" (1:31) preserves multiple takes of a bit part actor hitting his head into a parking meter for one of the film's first laughs.

"Stupid Joe" (1:45) preserves unused ad libs and performance introductions from the very entertaining club owner played by Mark Cohen.

Finally, Punching Henry's trailer (2:21) is preserved.

A Previews section supplies individual access to the disc-opening trailers for Buster Mal's Heart, Mine, and Baked in Brooklyn.

The main menu animates shadows on the wall in a mildly retooled, screen-filling take on the poster/cover art, while two verses of end credits song "I'm in Minneapolis (You're in Hollywood)" play. If you don't choose to play the movie, it will do it on its own soon, sparing you the joy of having those verses looped.

No inserts or slipcover accompany the full-color disc inside the side-snapped keepcase.

Henry Phillips's musical comedy may make him a troubadour extraordinaire, but one still trying to find a following in "Punching Henry."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Punching Henry is more consistently entertaining than many comedies that will be seen by millions of more people. Henry Phillips' follow-up to Punching the Clown amuses as a self-deprecating look at a comedian who hasn't quite made it. Well Go USA's Blu-ray is basic but agreeable. I recommend a rental, whether or not you've heard any of Phillips' material.

Buy Punching Henry from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / Instant Video

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Reviewed April 20, 2017.



Text copyright 2017 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2017 Permut Presentations, Titled Windmill Productions, Whitewater Films, Lola's Productions, Kandoo Films, Tunnel Post, and Well Go USA.
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