ZZ Top Live @ Montreux Is One Of 2014′s Top New Live Recordings

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Eagle Rock Entertainment has, over the years, earned the title from this critic of being the “Leader in Live Recordings.” Eagle Rock has long been the gold standard for live recordings with releases from the likes of Paul McCartney, The Raconteurs, Elton John, Stone Temple Pilots, Slipknot, and so many others across the board. Now yet again, Eagle Rock has proven yet again why it is that gold standard thanks to the brand new release of ZZ Top Live at Montreux 2013. This latest release in Eagle Rock’s ongoing partnership with Montreux Sounds is one more of this year’s top live recordings. It offers audiences a concert loaded with all of the Texas-based trio’s greatest hits and some lesser-known pieces, among which is a fitting tribute to the famed festival’s late founder Claude nobs. The concert’s combined audio and video mix make taking in each of those songs even more of a joy for audiences of all ages. And rounding out the whole thing is a pair of interviews that while relatively short, provide so much insight into the band’s respect for the Montreux festival, music in general and more. All three of these factors together show once again why Eagle Rock remains to this day, the “Leader in Live Recordings,” and why every classic rock and rock fan in general, will enjoy this concert.

The central point of enjoyment in ZZ Top Live at Montreux 2013 is the show’s set list, point blank. The veteran trio—Dusty Hill (bass), Billy Gibbons (guitar), and Frank Beard (drums)—churns out hit after hit throughout the course of the concert’s seventeen-song, eighty-minute show. Among those hits are the likes of ‘Sharp Dressed Man,’ ‘Gimme All your Lovin’,’ and ‘Tush’ just to name a few. As much as audiences will enjoy those favorites, they will also enjoy the band’s cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Foxey Lady’ and the trio’s tribute to late Montreux Jazz Festival founder Claude Knobs in the bluesy/jazzy ‘Kiko.’ The band even brings in a pair of special guest musicians to join in on this number and one other song. The band’s live take of ‘I Gotsta Get Paid’ is another wonderful highlight from this concert. Throughout it all, the trio’s unassuming demeanor set against such solid, driving songs makes for such an interesting experience. It goes to show that a band doesn’t need pyro and loads of special effects and more to make a concert memorable. As long as the band can get the audience moving with its music, that’s the most important factor to the show. And that’s exactly what the members of ZZ Top do in this case. That factor alone makes this recording more than worth the watch.

The set list that makes up ZZ Top’s by itself more than makes this recording worth the watch. It makes it well worth buying for the band’s fans of all ages. Just as worth noting is the concert’s combined audio and video mix. The sound and video are both crystal clear throughout the show’s roughly eighty-minute run time. This is one of those standards that has for the longest time, made Eagle Rock the gold standard in live recordings. Those with home theater systems will especially appreciate the painstaking efforts that went in to bringing this concert to audiences. From the soaring shots above the crowd to the close ups of the band to those of the audience happily singing along, the camerawork in this concert is on par with every concert that Eagle Rock has released in recent years. And the audio mix is just as solid. Again, those with a home theater system will hear this for themselves. That expert audio and visual work together with the show’s set list pushes this recording even more to the top. Putting the recording at the top is the addition of a pair of interviews with Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill in which the pair discuss what the Montreux Festival means to them, their thoughts on Claude Nobs and more.

The finishing touch to ZZ Top’s new live recording is the inclusion of a pair of backstage interviews with Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill. The interviews are short. They run about three minutes or a little more each. But even within their short run times, the thoughts shared by the pair speak volumes. They discuss the festival itself and its history and how much it meant to have been invited to perform. They also discuss their relationship with the festival’s late founder Claude Nobs. They spoke very fondly of nobs and how those positive vibes led to the band’s musical tribute to the man. Just as eye and ear opening is the pair’s discussion on how the festival really brought together so many people of different musical backgrounds. It shows a love for music and respect for all different kinds of people. And that sentiment, as short as it may be, makes one look back through the concert once again, gaining a whole new appreciation not just for this recording, but for the members of ZZ Top as people. All things considered, this latest live recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment proves to be one more in this critic’s list of the year’s best new live recordings. It will be the favorite of any other music lover, too when they purchase the Blu-ray or DVD for themselves.

More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt and http://www.eagle-rock.com. And for the latest on ZZ Top’s updated tour schedule and more, fans can follow the band online at http://www.facebook.com/ZZTop and http://www.zztop.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Scream Factory, Anchor Bay Announce Bonus Features, Specs For Halloween Box Set

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Scream! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Scream! Factory

Anchor Bay Entertainment and Scream Factory announced Monday the latest chapter on the upcoming box set re-issues of the horror classic Halloween.

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Scream! Factory/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Scream! Factory/Anchor Bay Entertainment

The companies announced Monday, the bonus features and specs for the upcoming Halloween: Complete Collection 15-disc Blu-ray box set. The box set includes: Seven brand new featurettes, three new commentaries, and four new interviews, new transfers and audio specs and much more. The full details on all of those additions are listed below.

Disc 1 – John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978)

Bonus Features:

  • HD transfer supervised and approved by cinematographer Dean Cundey
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Director Of Photography Dean Cundey, Editor Tommy Lee Wallace And The Shape, Nick Castle
  • Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director John Carpenter and Actress Jamie Lee Curtis.
  • “The Night She Came Home” Featurette
  • “On Location: 25 Years Later” Featurette
  • TV Version Footage
  • Television Spots
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV and Radio Spots

 

Tech Specs:

1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1); Dolby TrueHD 7.1; Original 1978 Audio in Dolby TrueHD Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

 

Disc 2 – John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) (Exclusive to Deluxe Edition)

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary With Co-Writer/Director John Carpenter, Actress Jamie Lee Curtis and Co-Writer/Producer Debra Hill
  • Featurette: Halloween: A Cut Above The Rest
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV and Radio Spots

 

Tech Specs:

1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1); Dolby Surround 5.1; PCM 5.1; Original 1978 Mono Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

 

Disc 3 – Halloween II (1981)

Theatrical Version

Bonus Features:

  • Audio commentary with director Rick Rosenthal and actor Leo Rossi (Theatrical version)
  • Audio commentary with stunt co-ordinator/actor Dick Warlock (Theatrical version)
  • “The Nightmare Isn’t Over: The Making Of Halloween II” Featuring Rick Rosenthal, Lance Guest, Dick Warlock, Alan Howarth, Dean Cundey, Leo Rossi and Moore…
  • “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: The Locations of Halloween II” – Host Sean Clark revisits the original shooting locations of the film
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary from director Rick Rosenthal
  • Alternate Ending with Optional Audio Commentary from director Rick Rosenthal
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV and Radio Spots
  • Still Gallery

 

Tech Specs:

1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1); DTS-HD MA 5.1

 

Disc 4 – Halloween II TV Cut (1981) DVD (Exclusive to Deluxe Edition)

Television Cut With Added Footage Not Seen In The Theatrical Version

 

Tech Specs:

Standard Definition Full-frame 1.33:1; Dolby Digital Mono

 

Disc 5 – Halloween III: Season of The Witch (1982)

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary with director Tommy Lee Wallace
  • “Stand Alone: The Making Of Halloween III: Season Of The Witch” featuring Tommy Lee Wallace, Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dick Warlock, Dean Cundey and more
  • “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds” – Revisiting the original shooting locations
  • Still Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots

 

Tech Specs:

1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1); DTS-HD MA 5.1; Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0

 

Disc 6Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary with Actors Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris
  • Audio Commentary with Director Dwight H. Little and Author Justin Beahm
  • Theatrical Trailer

 

Tech Specs:

1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1); Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

 

Disc 7 — Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary with Actor Don Shanks and Jeffrey Landman
  • Audio Commentary with Director Dominique Othenin-Girard and Actors Danielle Harris And Jeffrey Landman
  • Halloween 5: On The Set
  • Halloween 5: Original Promo
  • Theatrical Trailer

 

Tech Specs:

1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1); Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

 

Disc 8 — Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) Theatrical Cut

Bonus Features:

  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

 

Tech Specs:

1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1); Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English

 

Disc 9 – Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) Producer’s Cut (Exclusive to Deluxe Edition)

Bonus Features:

  • NEW High Definition Master from the original inter-negative
  • NEW Audio Commentary with Screenwriter Daniel Farrands and Composer Alan Howarth (Producer’s Cut)
  • NEW “Jamie’s Story” – An Interview With The Original “Jamie” Actress Danielle Harris
  • NEW “The Cursed ‘Curse’” – An Interview With Producers Malek Akkad And Paul Freeman
  • NEW “Acting Scared “– A Look At The Film’s Cast With Actresses Mariah O’Brien And J.C. Brandy
  • NEW “The Shape Of Things” – A Look At Michael Myers’ Murders And Mayhem With Special Make-Up Effects Artists John Carl Buechler And Brad Hardin And Actor George P. Wilbur (Michael Myers)
  • NEW “Haddonfield’s Horrors” – The Sights of Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers With Director of Photography Billy Dickson And Production Designer Brad Ryman And Director of Photography (Additional Scenes) Thomas Callaway
  • NEW “Full Circle” – An Interview With Composer Alan Howarth
  • NEW Cast And Crew Tribute to Donald Pleasance
  • Archival Interviews And Behind-The-Scenes Footage
  • Behind-The-Scenes Footage (approx. 30 Minutes)
  • Alternate And Deleted Scenes (Not Present In Either Cut Of The Film)
  • Teaser Trailer: Halloween 666: The Origin Of Michael Myers

 

Tech Specs:

1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (1:78:1); DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Subtitles: English

 

Disc 10 — Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

Bonus Features:

  • Presented in the correct 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
  • NEW Commentary With Director Steve Miner And Jamie Lee Curtis, Moderated By Sean Clark
  • NEW “The Making of Halloween H20” Featuring Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Nancy Stephens, Adam Hann-Byrd, Tom Kane, Editor Patrick Lussier, Producer Malek Akkad, Producer Paul Freeman, Composer John Ottman, Chris Durand (Michael Myers), Writer Robert Zappia, Stunt Co-Ordinator Donna Keegan, Make-Up Brad Hardin And Cinematographer Daryn Okada
  • Vintage Interviews And Behind-The-Scenes Footage
  • Theatrical Trailer

 

Tech Specs:

1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1); DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

 

Disc 11 — Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary With Director Rick Rosenthal And Editor Robert A. Ferretti
  • Alternate Endings
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Featurette: “Head Cam”
  • Storyboard Analysis
  • Set Tour With Production Designer Troy Hansen
  • Set Interview With Jamie Lee Curtis
  • Vintage Interviews And Behind-The-Scenes Footage
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Home Video TV Spots

 

Tech Specs:

1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1); DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Subtitles: English

 

Disc 12 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)

Bonus Features:

  • Unrated Director’s Cut With Audio Commentary By Writer/Director Rob Zombie
  • Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary
  • Alternate Ending With Optional Commentary
  • Bloopers
  • Featurette: “The Many Faces Of Michael Myers”
  • Re-Imagining Halloween
  • Meet The Cast
  • Casting Sessions
  • Scout Taylor-Compton Screen Test
  • Theatrical Trailer

 

Tech Specs:

1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1); DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English, Spanish

 

Disc 13 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007) Bonus Disc (Exclusive to Deluxe Edition)

Bonus Features:

  • Documentary: “Michael Lives: The Making of Halloween (4 ½ hours)

 

Tech Specs:

Dolby Stereo

Subtitles: English

 

Disc 14 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 (2009)

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Rob Zombie
  • Deleted And Alternate Scenes
  • Audition Footage
  • Make-Up Test Footage
  • Blooper Reel
  • Captain Clegg And The Night Creatures Music Videos
  • Uncle Seymour Coffins’ Stand-Up Routines

 

Tech Specs:

1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1); DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1;

Subtitles: English

 

Disc 15 – Bonus Features (Exclusive to Deluxe Edition)

  • John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN – The Extended Version (In HD – TV Inserts Are In Standard Definition)
  • Interview with Moustapha Akkad about origin of HALLOWEEN
  • Featurette: HALLOWEEN UNMASKED 2000

·         Featurette: The Making Of HALLOWEEN 4: FINAL CUT

  • NEW The Making Of HALLOWEEN 4 Featuring Actors Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Kathleen Kinmont, Beau Starr, Raymond O’Connor, Erik Preston and Sasha Jensen, Stuntmen Tom Morga (Michael Myers) And George P. Wilbur (Michael Myers), Composer Alan Howarth, Writer Alan B. McElroy, Producers Malek Akkad And Paul Freeman, Special Make-Up Effects Artists John Carl Buechler And Ken Horn
  • Featurette: Inside HALLOWEEN 5
  • NEW The Making Of HALLOWEEN 5 Featuring Interviews With Actors Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Wendy Kaplan, Jeffrey Landman, Jonathan Chapin, Frankie Como, Tamara Glynn, Matthew Walker, Don Shanks (Michael Myers), Producer Malek Akkad, Line Producer Rick Nathanson And Composer Alan Howarth
  • NEW Interview With Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Burman On HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH
  • HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH Radio Spots
  • TV Spots – HALLOWEEN 4, HALLOWEEN 5, HALLOWEEN (2007) and HALLOWEEN II (2009)
  • Photo Galleries — HALLOWEEN, HALLOWEEN 4 and HALLOWEEN 5

Tech Specs:

1080p, 520p Full Frame, Anamorphic Widescreen 1:85:1, 2.35:1;

DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Stereo, Mono

 

Halloween: The Complete Collection will be available on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, September 23rd. According to Shout! Factory’s online store website, this box set has already sold out as only 500 copies were available. It will be available primarily in stores on September 23rd. More information on this and other releases from Scream Factory and Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online now at http://www.screamfactoryDVD.com, http://www.facebook.com/screafactoryDVD, http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay, http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay, and http://www.anchorbayent.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Cowabunga Classics Is A Must See For Any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Fan

Courtesy:  Fred Wolf Films/Lionsgate

Courtesy: Fred Wolf Films/Lionsgate

Excitement is building around the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot. Those heroes in a half-shell will return to the big screen for the first time since 1993’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III this summer.  It will be under the watch of Transformers director Michael Bay. In anticipation of the upcoming big screen live action reboot, Lionsgate and Fred Wolf Films have announced the upcoming release of a new compilation of episodes from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics. The single-disc compilation will be released Tuesday, July 29th. This latest compilation is a must for any hardcore fan of the series that started it all for those heroes in a half shell. It is a must have first and foremost because of the episodes collected for the set. Another reason that audiences will appreciate this set is its bonus material. Last but not least that audiences will appreciate is the compilation’s relatively affordable price. All three factors together make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics a compilation that more than deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new releases in the Family & Children category.

The episodes culled for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics collectively make up the primary reason that audiences will appreciate this latest release from Lionsgate and Fred Wolf Films. While not every season of the show’s ten total seasons is represented in this set, audiences that are familiar with the show will appreciate that the series’ first seven seasons are represented. And even on this presentation, each of the episodes included looks just as bright as they did in their original broadcasts. It all starts with Season 5’s “Planet of the Turtleoids” in which the guys are taken to a planet of nothing but turtles to help save some of its inhabitants. One of the best parts of the episode in whole is the turtleoid’s ship. It is shaped like a very familiar building. And then in “Night of the Rogues,” audiences are treated to a scenario very similar to that of both Marvel and DC. Leo, Raph, Donnie, and Mikey have to face Shredder’s “Rogue’s Gallery” of villains in his attempt to defeat them once and for all (yet again). Tempestra, The Rat King, Leatherhead, Scumbug, Antrax, Chrome Dome, and Slash are assembled in the series’ own version of Marvel’s Sinister Six or DC’s Legion of Doom. It all winds down with Season 1’s “Shreddered and Splintered.” This episode sees Splinter going after a retromutagen gun that could turn him back into a human. There’s just one problem—Krang and his new body.   It’s up to the guys to take him down and defeat both Krang and Shredder. These are just a few of the episodes that were collected for Cowabunga Classics. There are seven other episodes that span the series’ first seven seasons from which audiences will be able to choose their favorite(s) when they buy this DVD for themselves on July 29th.

The episodes that were collected for this latest compilation are the centerpiece in the DVD’s success and overall enjoyment. Audiences should also take into account with this DVD the bonus material chosen for the presentation. The bonus material collected for this DVD includes interviews with the men that original voiced the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in “The Turtles: A Ninjatastic Look Back.” It also includes discussions with three of the artists that worked on TMNT over the course of its run. And it closes out with a special bonus presentation that focuses on the fans. That presentation in question was produced in 2009 for the series’ 25th Anniversary. It wasn’t included on the 3-movie DVD set, either. This critic could be wrong, but it might not have been included in the Blu-ray set, either. So that makes it even more of a welcome addition to this compilation. Much like Saban’sPower Rangers franchise is a worldwide phenomenon, so does this feature prove just how popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are to audiences even today. One of the most interesting sentiments echoed through this feature AND through the interviews with the original voices is of the show’s impact on people of all ages. It obviously is important for more than just being a show. The show’s cultural importance shines through each feature. Audiences will be moved as the original voices of the turtles discuss how moved fans were and are to this day by the series. There are stories of how it helped someone whose parents had gotten divorced at the time and of how it uplifted a young child and said child’s parents as the child sat in the hospital among so much more. It all goes to show the importance of this series to not just television history but to America as a people. That understanding makes the enjoyment of this DVD even more. And along with the episodes, it makes the DVD even more a must see for any true TMNT fans.

The bonus material included on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics is collectively an important addition to this DVD. It is just as important as the episodes chosen for inclusion on the DVD. Considering the breadth of material presented in this compilation, its $14.99 SRP is a rather reasonable price. Just because that is the suggested retail price (SRP) doesn’t even mean that it will be that expensive when it hits store shelves later this month. Odds are though, that it won’t be any more expensive than that SRP. Because it could actually retail for less depending on the store, that relatively inexpensive starting point is the finishing touch to this compilation. Together with the bonus features and the episodes chosen to be featured, all three of these factors make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowbunga Classics a must see and even a must have for any true-blooded fan of what is one of the greatest children’s series of the late 20th Century.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics will be available Tuesday, July 29th. It can be ordered direct from Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/search_results.asp?Search=Cowabunga%20Classics. More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at http://www.facebook.com/lionsgate and http://www.lionsgate.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

 

Antboy Is Small, But Has The Heart Of Its Blockbuter Brethren

Courtesy:  Cinedigm

Courtesy: Cinedigm

Cinedigm’s Danish import Antboy is a surprisingly entertaining movie for anyone that is a fan of the superhero genre.  There is plenty to be said of this mostly family friendly flick beginning with the fact that it is indeed family friendly.  This ties directly in to the movie’s script, which will be discussed momentarily.  Just as noteworthy is the work put in to dub the movie’s originally Danish language into English.  Unlike other foreign films that have been dubbed for English audiences, this one actually impresses to a point.  And last but not least, the movie’s comic book on-screen look puts the finishing touch to the presentation.  The combination of all three of these factors together makes Antboy a movie that while hardly a blockbuster caliber work, one worth watching as a family at least once.

The most noticeable aspect of Antboy that audiences will appreciate is that unlike so many of its major blockbuster counterparts, it is actually a family friendly movie.  It seems an increasing trend nowadays for both Marvel and DC to make their movies dark and gritty.  Why?  If not that, then they are being rebooted with an eye specifically towards teen audiences.  The upcoming reboot of Marvel’s Fantastic Four movie and DC’s upcoming The Flash series are prime examples of that trend.  On the avenue of dark and gritty, one look at DC’s Man of Steel and Dark Knight Trilogy are proof of the trend towards darker and grittier movies.  They aren’t the only ones that are following that path, either.  Considering all of this, it’s nice to see a movie like Antboy come along.  It isn’t dark and gritty.  What’s more, it presents some wonderful themes of friendship and believing in one’s own self.  Even better is that the movie’s hero, Pelle, isn’t the standard brooding anti-hero figure that has become so popular among its big brothers in theaters and on television.  This factor alone makes Antboy well worth at least one watch by audiences of any age.

By direct relation to Antboy’s family friendly nature is its script.  It takes a cue from Marvel’s Spiderman.  But it doesn’t go so far as to directly rip off said franchise.  Instead, Pelle is bitten by a genetically modified ant, and ends up developing the powers of an ant.  And fittingly, his arch nemesis is a baddie by the name of “The Flea.”  “The Flea” is a former scientist whose research on ants had been cut by the head of his place of employment.  The story presented by “The Flea” on his origin is actually interesting in that it makes him something of a sympathetic character strangely enough.  He was just a good guy who had been poorly treated by those over him and was pushed too far, thus leading to becoming the villain that he was.  It’s just another part of the script that makes the whole story easier to believe.  Pelle’s eventual realization that it’s okay to not be popular through it all makes the script even better.  It’s another example of how this story at least strives to set itself apart from its big budget brethren.  Those movies see their main characters struggle with their dual identities and lives.  In the case of this story, the main figure embraces his two separate roles.  Having so much difference from all of the major superhero blockbuster is a big plus to this movie.  Add in the fact that it is family friendly and it gains even more footing.  There’s still more worth noting in the movie’s overall success, too.  Another factor to note in the movie’s success is its dubbing.

Audiences will note in watching Antboy that this movie is not originally American.  There are subtitles used in certain scenes.  That’s the first hint.  And watching the actors speak, audiences will note a discrepancy between the movement of the cast’s mouth movements and the actual words being heard.  At first one might think that it’s just a sync issue.  But a closer watch reveals that it’s actually dubbing.  This movie is Danish in origin.  So obviously the actors spoke in their native language.  To the credit of those charged with dubbing it into English, they did quite the impressive job of carrying out their duties.  As noted, the difference in the dubbing and original speaking parts is difficult to notice if one isn’t looking closely.  That is a tribute to the painstaking efforts of those responsible for translating the movie into English.  It’s yet another positive to a movie that while it will likely never be as big as its blockbuster counterparts, is just as good.

The translation of the original speaking parts from Danish to English was done with the utmost expertise. The same care as taken to separate Antboy from bigger name blockbusters. From making it family friendly to giving it its own identity, Cinedigm and all of the other companies responsible for bringing this story to American audiences are to be applauded for their efforts. There is still one more factor involved in this movie for which those companies deserve respect and applause. That final factor is the movie’s look. It was actually made to look like a comic book that had jumped right off the printed page. The animated panels and the movie’s very look together give this movie the truest feel of a real life comic book since 2002’s Sam Raimi helmed Spiderman ironically enough. That look combined with every factor previously noted becomes the final touch on this movie. It rounds out the entire presentation and makes it a movie that every family will enjoy even with just a single watch.

In the end, Antboy will never be as big as the films being churned out by Marvel and DC. But the reailty of the movie is that regardless of this, it is still a largely family friendly film. At the same time, it maintains its own place in the pantheon of superhero flicks. And in the arena of independently released superhero movies, it is one that any audience will appreciate whether it be in one watch or more.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

History Channel’s New WWI Program A Must See For Any Military, History Buff

Courtesy:  History Channel/Lionsgate

Courtesy: History Channel/Lionsgate

History Channel released this week its new military documentary 100 Years of World War I.  The documentary is a perfect fit for any high school and college level history course.  It is just as fitting for a class at any military academy.  The in-depth program spans two discs and eight separate segments.  The first four segments are the meat and potatoes of the program and are contained entirely on the set’s first disc.  That separation of material is the second part of this set that audiences will appreciate.  And rounding out the whole presentation is the incorporation of vintage footage and pictures, actual writings from those involved in combat, and computer simulations to help illustrate each segment’s topic.  These extras alongside the set’s organization and its expansive information collectively make 100 years Of WWI a viable candidate for a slot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new documentaries.

The primary factor that audiences will appreciate about this new documentary “series” is the depth of material included across each of its segments.  Audiences are treated to a history lesson primarily on the military tech that was first developed for use in World War I.  It all starts with a lesson of sorts on the evolution of a British farm tractor into the first tanks.  Audiences will be interested to see just how tight things were inside the tanks and the dangers that tank crews faced in those earliest versions of tanks.  What’s more, audiences will be interested to see just how imperfect they were despite their strengths.  From tanks, the main feature moves on to the development of the first chemical warfare and to the advent of aerial and submersible technology.  The program’s narrator explains that things weren’t perfect with any of this tech at first.  For instance, the gas used actually would blow back into the faces of the soldiers, leading many to be killed by accident.  And even the use of submarines was largely ineffective at first for British forces.  Even more interesting, audiences will learn that for the longest time, the U.S. actually stayed out of the war, until the German forces didn’t keep their word about not sinking American ships.  If all of this isn’t enough for audiences, there is even a history lesson of sorts on some of the most integral air battles in the history of World War I in the set’s bonus second disc.  These are just some examples of the extent of the in-depth information shared throughout the course of this program’s two discs.  The history shared throughout the course of this set’s two discs is central to its overall enjoyment.  The manner in which the overall program was separated is another reason that audiences will appreciate this set.

The organization of 100 Years of WWI is another important aspect of this set’s overall enjoyment.  Each of the four primary segments that comprise the main feature is presented in and of itself rather than all of them being jumbled together as one big program. This applies to the features included on the bonus second disc, too. The end result of this full separation of features is that viewers will be more apt to actually sit and watch through each one’s roughly forty plus minute run time. The only real connection per se that each of the features have to one another is the opening sequence. It tells audiences what the program covers in each part. The overall impact of this organization alongside the depth of material presented makes both aspects equally important. Together, they make this box set even more enjoyable for any history buff or military history buff.

The organization of 100 Years of WWI and the information included within each of the set’s eight total features together make this set well worth the purchase by any military history buff and history buff in general. There is one more factor to consider in this set’s enjoyment. That factor is its collective interviews, vintage footage and pictures, and computer simulations. Each one helps in its own way to make each discussion more accessible for viewers. There are computer generated clips showing how the blimps crafted by the German forces bombed England. There are also computer simulations used in the features centered on WWI’s most well-known dogfights. And the footage and pictures of the men fighting on the front lines drives home just how horrible it must have been to have been in those trenches. This is merely some of what audiences can expect from this program. Audiences will see much more when they order 100 Years of WWI for themselves. It can be ordered direct from History Channel’s online store at http://shop.history.com/detail.php?p=562013. More information on this and other releases from History Channel is available online at http://www.history.com, http://shop.history.com, and http://www.facebook.com/History. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Day Of Days Is One Of PBS’ Best WWII Documentaries To Date

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

June 6th is one of the most important dates in the history not only of America but of the world.  And this past June, the world stopped and recognized the seventieth anniversary of that day, also known as D-Day.  In honor of that day, many networks across the television spectrum presented their own programs, recalling the events of the day in question.  Few if any were as powerful as PBS’ Day of Days: June 6th, 1944American Soldiers Remember D­-Day.  This program is one of the most moving and powerful that PBS has premiered so far this year.  That is first and foremost because it is not just another documentary.  It is a group of firsthand recollections from just some of the men who fought on the beaches of Normandy on June 6th, 1944.  There are no animations.  There are no actors.  The only extras (if they are to be considered extras) are the collective snippets of the events from that day.  They are another part of what makes the entire experience in this program so powerful.  Of course, there is the “Beachhead to Berlin” newsreel.  That bonus is the final touch on a presentation that everybody should see at least once if not more.

Day of Days: June 6th, 1944American Soldiers Remember D­-Day is one of the most powerful WWII-centered pieces that PBS has ever premiered.  The central reason for that is the fact that it is anything but the steady stream of documentaries churned out by the various networks that handle such fare, PBS included.  There are no actors, “experts,” no special animations, or any other embellishments.  It is just a group of military veterans that were part of the Normandy invasion on June 6th, 1944.  The men recount the horrors that happened on those beaches.  Over the course of the program’s roughly hour –long run time.  In hearing their painful recollections, audiences will see and hear firsthand just why those that have served choose to not talk about what they experienced.  The tears that they shed as they recall the memories of those events are very real.  And they will deeply move anyone taking them in regardless of whether they are everyday viewers or themselves military veterans.

As has already been noted, Day of Days: June 6th, 1944—American Soldiers Remember D-Day is such a powerful piece from PBS because it isn’t just another documentary.  There are no “experts.”  There are no animations, re-enactments or any other embellishments.  The only “extra” of sorts that was partnered with the stories told by the veterans is a collection of actual footage shot as the Normandy invasion took place.  The footage itself is difficult to watch in its own right.  That is because audiences will actually see men being shot and falling, lifeless as they make their way onto the beach.  Again, this is not acting.  It is actual footage of those events.  There is footage of the firefight that took place from the sea off the French coast and much more.  That collection of footage partnered with the veterans’ stories make this program all the more powerful and memorable. It isn’t all that make the program memorable and powerful, either.

The vintage footage that accompanies the veterans’ recollections and the recollections themselves are both of the utmost importance to the presentation in whole. Just as important to the overall presentation is the bonus newsreel “Beachhead to Berlin.” This is an actual newsreel used to bolster patriotism among Americans in the days following the Normandy invasion. The newsreel uses much of the footage that is incorporated into the veterans recollections in the main feature. There is also footage not used in the main feature. The collective footage set against the voice over of a military officer writing a letter to the parent of a fallen soldier makes the newsreel truly powerful. It is later revealed that the officer writing the letter was himself a veteran and had received a purple heart for serving in the war. That final statement is the perfect closing moment for the newsreel. And together with the final thoughts of the veterans in the main feature, it becomes even harder hitting as a final moment for the entire presentation.

The primary feature presented in Day of Days: June 6th, 1944American Soldiers Remember D­-Day is by itself a program unlike anything that PBS has presented so far this year. The bonus newsreel that accompanies that feature is in itself just as moving. Both features together prove this program to be one that viewers of all backgrounds will appreciate, whether they be military or not. They prove the program to be one that everyone should see at least once if not more. It is available now and can be ordered direct via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=35620366&cp=&sr=1&kw=day+of+days&origkw=Day+of+Days&parentPage=search. More information on this and other releases from PBS is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

eOne’s New Found Footage Thriller Worth At Least One Watch

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

eOne’s new paranormal thriller The Jungle is a good fit or anyone that is a fan of the found footage genre.  One part Predator and one part The Blair Witch Project, the movie finds a group of filmmakers in a far flung jungle in search of a rarely seen big cat.  The cat in question is a fictional leopard breed apparently.  During their search for the cat, the men encounter a mythological creature of sorts that they did not set out to look for.  It’s definitely a deadly beast, too.  The use of such a script actually makes the movie worth at least one watch.  This will be discussed later.  Another aspect of the movie that makes it worth at least one watch is the overall lack of music.  Its most impactful moment comes not during the movie, but at the movie’s end, believe it or not.  And last but not least of all, despite the complaints of so many audiences, one can say of this movie that unlike certain other movies of its ilk, the figure being hunted is actually seen to a point.  All three factors together make The Jungle a movie that deserves at least a chance if no more.

Writer/Director Andrew Traucki’s script for The Jungle is not one that has exactly received the highest of praise.  The reality of Traucki’s script is that it is deserving of more respect than it has received thus far from critics and viewers alike.  That’s because a closer watch of the movie reveals that Traucki’s script, which is one part Predator and one part The Blair Witch Project, actually throws something of a twist into the story that makes it at least somewhat different from both of the aforementioned movies.  The story doesn’t start out with the main cast in search of some fabled creature.  Rather, they are in search of what is supposed to be a real creature that is simply rarely seen in nature.  Along the way, they just happen to come in contact with a deadly creature that they did not set out to find.  The catch is did they find it or did it find them?  The rest of the time, the men find themselves more focused on catching the creature on film than on their original subject.  The ending won’t be given away.  But it goes without saying that it doesn’t end well.  Audiences will find out for themselves just how badly it turns out when they check out this movie for themselves.

Andrew Traucki’s script for The Jungle is central to the ability of viewers to suspend their disbelief and give the movie a chance.  Another factor that viewers will appreciate in viewing this movie is its overall lack of soundtrack.  This doesn’t exactly play that much of a role during the course of the movie.  But considering the story’s events, the lack of any music even as the end credits roll makes for the biggest emotional impact of all.  Traucki is to be applauded here in his directorial role for such a decision.  It leaves viewers feeling a certain intended emptiness and shock at the events that unfolded over the course of the movie’s near ninety-minutes.  And that effect is perhaps far more long lasting than anything else presented throughout the movie.  That’s not to discount the script by any means.  Rather it just goes to show the often overlooked importance of a movie’s soundtrack or lack thereof in this case.  It’s a model which other movie makers should take into account when adding a soundtrack to their next films.

The last factor to take into consideration in examining The Jungle is subtle, but just as important as the factors already noted. That factor is the appearance of the creature that was being track (or was tracking the men). Unlike so many other movies within the found film genre, audiences actually do get a glimpse of the creature in question that is being followed. In the case of so many other films within this genre, audiences are only told about the subject of the search. They rarely actually get to see the subject being sought. The subject here is seen at least partially. It is seen in the same vein as those really bad videos from people searching in real life for Bigfoot and other such creatures. So as gripping as those sightings are, they are also worth their share of laughs, too believe it or not. They make the movie more worth the watch, even if only slightly so. And along with the movie’s script and wise absence of soundtrack, The Jungle is made all the more worth watching at least once.

The Jungle is available now on DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Jungle-Rupert-Reid/dp/B00J5BCV3E/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1405338674&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Jungle. More information on this and other releases from eOne is available online at http://www.entertainmentone.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Anchor Bay Announces Release Date For Ghost In The Shell Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment will re-issue one of the most well-known anime movies of all time this fall.

Anchor Bay Entertainment will re-issue Ghost in the Shell on Blu-ray Tuesday, September 30th. The movie broke new ground in its original release in 1995 thanks to its mix of hand-drawn animation and computer generated graphics. The story centers on a computer virus created by the fictional Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The virus has the capability of invading cybernetic brains and altering its victim’s memory. There’s just one problem. The virus, which was a prototype meant for specific purposes, has essentially gone rogue and sought safety in a new host body outside of the electronic net. So the hunt is on by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Internal Bureau of Investigations. The two agencies face off against each other in an attempt to stop the virus once and for all.

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s upcoming re-issue of Ghost in the Shell will be available Tuesday, September 30th. It will retail for SRP of $29.99. More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay is available online at http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay, http://www.anchorbayent.com, and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Olive Films Goes “Big Time” With New Mickey Rooney Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Olive Films

Courtesy: Olive Films

Officials with Olive Films announced this week that the classic cinema company will release Mickey Rooney’s 1959 crime thriller The Big Operator on DVD and Blu-ray this fall.

Olive Films will release The Big Operator on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, September 16th. The late actor, who was best known for his role as Andy Hardy in the Andy Hardy films, stars in this crime thriller as Little Joe Braun. Braun is a union boss who is the most crooked figure since Johnny Friendly in On The Waterfront. He is trying to get out of a federal corruption probe. And only two men can stop him—factory workers Fred MacAfee (Mel Torme—Night Court) and Bill Gibson (Steve Cochran—Private Hell 36). This movie was an attempt by Rooney to escape the shadow of his Andy Hardy figure and show that he could successfully play a more mature, grown up figure. It mixes classic film noir style film making with an A-List cast that includes the likes of Mamie Van Doren (High School Confidential), Vampira (Plan 9 From Outer Space), Jim Backus (Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Magoo), and Jackie Coogan (The Addams Family) for a film that has earned the title of being one of the best B-flicks ever made.

The Big Operator will retail for SRP of $29.95 on Blu-ray and $24.95 on DVD. More information on this and other releases from Olive Films is available online at http://www.facebook.com/olivefilms and http://www.olivefilms.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Hell On Wheels Remains One Of TV’s Top Dramas In Its Third Season

Courtesy:  eOne/AMC

Courtesy: eOne/AMC

eOne will release the third season of AMC’s hit western drama Hell on Wheels next Tuesday, July 15th. It goes without saying that the third season of this standout series is the show’s best yet. And being that the series’ fourth season debuts in just a few weeks, its release is perfectly timed. It gives audiences that have watched the show since the beginning the chance to catch up should they have missed any episodes of this season or the series’ first two seasons. And for those that have not yet seen even the first season, audiences that watch this season will the most important key to its success. That key is the series’ writing. While it is recommended that audiences new to the series watch from Season 1, the show’s writers have done such an expert job that they don’t necessarily need to watch those first two seasons in order to appreciate Season Three. The acting on the part of the cast is just as integral to the success of Hell on Wheels Season Three. The cast has become so accustomed to one another that it has made the acting all the more believable. In turn, it makes suspension of disbelief all the easier, too. And last but not least of all, the bonus material included in this set rounds out the whole package, proving once and for why Hell On Wheels Season Three is one of the year’s best box sets for adults.

Hell on Wheels: The Complete Third Season is one of the best new box sets for adults in 2014. There is so much to like about this set. The most obvious of this season’s positives is the show’s writing. Season Three sees some of the show’s strongest writing to date. That is evident in the character development on the parts of Cullen and especially Eva and Elam. Audiences start to see a much more emotional and human side of Cullen in Season Three. This is especially the case when Cullen is forced to make the choice to hang a young man at one point. The young man’s father tossed him to the proverbial woods after his father had shot the then head of railroad security. Cullen knew he was condemning an innocent boy to death for the sins of his father. The pain in his eyes as the young man was strung up is deeply telling. It shows that Cullen knew that hanging the young man was wrong and that it hurt him badly to see it happen. Such a scene adds to Cullen’s flawed yet sympathetic character. There is another scene shared between Cullen and Elam that shows just as much depth not just of Cullen’s character, but of Elam’s, too. That ties into what is perhaps the most powerful example of the show’s expert writing this season—the extended story arc involving the kidnapping of Elam and Eva’s daughter Rose.

Just as audiences see quite a bit of development in Cullen in each episode this season, so does the story arc involving the kidnapping of Rose help to develop both Elam and Eva. Elam’s softer yet more protective side comes out as he searches for whomever kidnapped his daughter. The story arc does have a positive outcome in the short run. That ending won’t be revealed here for the sake of those that haven’t yet had the chance to see this season. But it’s not all happy for long as things take a painful emotional turn. The turn in question ironically serves to flesh out Elam’s character even more than ever. One can’t help but feel for him in the long-term outcome. That audiences will left feeling so strongly about Elam exhibits once more why the writing in this season is some of the series’ best yet. There is plenty more that could be discussed in terms of how the writing in Season Three makes it a success. But there is neither time nor space enough for that without one losing interest in this review. So on to the next topic.

The second aspect of Hell on Wheels’ third season box set that makes it a success is the acting on the part of the show’s cast. Having worked together on the series’ first two hugely successful seasons, it is obvious that a certain amount of chemistry has developed between the cast members. That chemistry has made the acting even more natural in this season. The end result is acting that allows audiences to completely suspend their disbelief and be pulled into the world crafted collectively by the writers and the actors. There’s even some light humor thrown in for good measure to lighten the tension that runs throughout the town and its people. And people won’t be able to help but laugh at those brief moments of humor. Audiences will agree that this helps to solidify the cast’s acting as an important part of the whole. And together with the solid writing, it puts this season’s set at the tipping point. There is one final part of the whole that puts this box set over that proverbial tipping point—the bonus material.

The bonus material included in Hell on Wheels: The Complete Third Season continues the tradition established by eOne in the box sets containing Seasons One and Two. Audiences are offered a recap of Season Two in order to help viewers catch back up before Season Four starts next month. And as with the previously released box sets, this set also includes companion “Inside the Episodes” featurettes with each episode. And of course, the standard “Behind-The-Scenes” featurettes are there, too. So not only can viewers catch up before Season Four starts next month, but they are given a thorough look behind the cameras once again. They are allowed to see the work that went into bringing Season Three to life. That combination of elements works with the writing and acting in Season Three to put it over the top. Collectively, it shows once and for all why this box set is one of the year’s top new box sets for adults.

Hell on Wheels: The Complete Third Season will be available next Tuesday, July 15th in stores and online. It will be available both on DVD and Blu-ray. More information on Hell on Wheels is available online now at http://www.facebook.com/HellonWheelsAMC, http://www.amc.com/shows/hell-on-wheels, and http://twitter.com/HellonWheelsAMC. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.