Paramount’s Ninja Turtles Reboot Proves To Be One Of 2014’s Worst New Movies

Courtesy:  Paramount Pictures

Courtesy: Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures’ updated take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the worst new movies of 2014. There is no way to sugarcoat it. Simply put, it is one more example of why Hollywood’s (and audiences’) seemingly insatiable appetite for prequels, sequels, and remakes can only mean a bleak future for the industry’s “Power Five” studios. The central reason for the failure of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is its writing. While the movie’s writers and the studio did back down on the original idea for the Turtles’ origin story, the story incorporated into the story proves to be just as bad. There is also the issue of the plot. While it can be said that the movie’s plot is not necessarily as cheesy as some of the plot lines from the animated series, there is still something about this movie’s plot that makes it unbearable. And dangling the proverbial carrot in front of old school audiences in the form of references to the original animated series (and movie) hurts the movie even more in terms of the movie’s writing. It’s one more example of why having multiple people working on a single script serves only to hurt said script. This has been proven time and again in a number of works before this one. TMNT is just the latest. Just as noteworthy is the acting. Credit should e given where credit is due. The actors behind the turtles are deserving of their due respect. However, the acting on the part of lead Meghan Fox and the movie’s supporting cast falls flat. Even actor Will Arnett comes up short as April’s photog Vernon Fenwick. He had the look. And he did make a valiant effort at his portrayal. But it still came up short in the end. Those issues with the cast’s acting coupled with the issues raised in the movie’s script hurt TMNT in a major way. They still are not all that hurt the movie. Last but hardly least of all that goes against the movie is its collective look and production values. Michael Bay wasn’t at the helm of TMNT. But in watching the movie, one may as well say that he was. That is because the movie’s look and its production values are quite similar to the much maligned Transformers franchise that he previously helmed. It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin, sealing the movie’s fate and proving once more why this movie is one of the worst of 2014.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was and is one of the best movies to leap from the pages of comic books. That is the original live action movie that debuted in 1990. This year’s new update on that modern classic is the polar opposite of that incarnation. It’s painfully obvious from start to finish, too beginning with the movie’s overall writing. The movie’s plot by itself does plenty to hurt the movie. And it all begins with the Turtles’ much mailgned origin story. Those that followed this movie from the days even before its pre-production started will recall that the origin story was going to have Leo, Raph, Don, and Mikey come in as aliens from another planet. Thankfully that didn’t happen. However, the origin story that took its place is just as problematic. That story won’t be revealed here for the sake of those that have yet to watch the movie. But it directly involves April O’Neil. And to a point, it takes a page from Sony’s latest incarnation of Spiderman. April’s revelation at her link to the Turtles’ origin story is cheesy enough. But the acting on the part of actress Megan Fox, who plays April, only serves to make that revelation even more unbelievable. The acting on the part of the cast will be discussed in more depth at a later point. For now, the focus will remain on the movie’s writing.

The origin story crafted for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is but one part of the writing that hurts this big screen reboot bust. The movie’s very plot plays its own role in the movie’s failure. The movie’s plot sees Shredder and the Foot Clan–which is made more into a pseudo militia group here instead of the old school, evil ninja group from the original movie and animated series–trying to spread a virus through New York City. In turn, they and Eric Sacks (William Fitchner) can use the mutagen that created the Turtles for their own financial gain. Yes, it’s true. In defense of this plot, those that are familiar with the original animated series, there was an episode in which Shreddder sent up a satellite-like device the changed the weather around the world as a means for him and Krang to take over the world. So keeeping that in consideration it isn’t too cheesy of a plot. There’s still something about it in the script’s writing though, that makes it not entirely believable. Speaking of the comparison between this incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the original animated series (and the franchise’s original movie), that is yet another issue in the writing that hurts this movie.

The issues raised through the origin story and plot incorporated into Paramount’s new take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles both make the movie’s writing rather problematic in their own way. One can’t ignore the fact that Applebaum, Nemec and Daugherty did try to please the fans of the franchise’s original animated series and 1990 movie with constant throwback references to both. They even made sure to include the skateboards used in both properties. The issue at hand with making such references is that through the script’s previously noted problems, adding in those references essentially becomes a slap in the face to the fans that grew up with those originals. It’s the same as dangling the carrot in front of a donkey (or rabbit) only to have it pulled away for lack of better wording. Simply put, it is disrespectful to said audiences.

The writing behind the script for Paramount’s new incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a big part of what has made this movie one of the worst of this year’s new releases. While the writing proves to be quite problematic, it is only the beginning of the movie’s problems. The work of the movie’s cast is just as problematic. Actress Megan Fox plays April O’Neil in this version of TMNT. Her reaction at discovering her role in the origin of the Turtles is awful. It is so over the top and hammy that one can only shake one’s hand. While Will Arnett deserves at least some credit for trying to properly portray Vernon Fenwick, even he comes up short. He is hit and miss at best. To the cast’s credit, the men behind the mean green machine–Johnny Knoxville (Bad Grampa, Men in Black 2, Jackass), Pete Ploszek (Parks & Rec, Shameless), Jeremy Howard (Men in Black 2, Galaxy Quest, How The Grinch Stole Christmas), Noel Fisher (Final Destination 2, Red, Battle Los Angeles), and Alan Ritchson (Fired Up, Blue Mountain State, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) are to be commended for their work. They did quite the job of establishing the attitude and comic element for which the Turtles have been known for decades in their protrayals. Sadly the same can’t be said for the duo of Tony Shahoub (Monk, Wings, Men in Black 1 – 3) and Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror, Employee of the Month, Death to Smoochy). The duo partnered to bring Splinter to life. Whether it is their own work (or lack thereof) or because of how Splinter was written into the story, their portrayals did little to make Splinter really stand out at any one point in the story. So simply put, the only positives that can be pointed out in terms of the acting in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the acting of the men that brought Leo, Don, Raph and Mikey to life. other than that, not much positive can be said of the rest of the cast’s work. It’s yet another example of why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up far short of its potential and proves in the end to be one of this year’s worst new releases.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up short in so many ways. its writing is the biggest offender when examining why the movie falls short. The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is another issue. Last but hardly least of note that damaged TMNT is the collective look and production values incorporated into the movie. Michael Bay did not helm this reboot of the classic franchise. But even as a producer, his influence is blatantly obvious throughout the movie. The fast-paced shots, the giant explosions, and of course Shredder’s Transformers-esque look show just how much influence he obviously had in this movie. The only positive to it all is April’s look. The use of a yellow jacket in place of a cheesy full body jumpsuit is the only fully acceptable update to the whole thing. Other than that one positive, one might as well just say that this was another Michael Bay film despite the fact that he was only a producer instead of director. And that considered along with all of the movie’s other negatives is the final nail in the movie’s coffin. One can only hope that whenever the already-in-the-works sequel debuts, it will make up for everything that this movie got wrong. Regardless, this reboot will remain among the worst new major motion pictures of 2014.

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MLB World Series Takes Top Honors In The Phil’s Picks 2014 List Of Best New Box Sets For Grown-Ups

The days are officially ticking away to the end of another year. That means that all of the critics out there are now putting out their annual “Best Of” lists. This critic is still working on some of those lists while others are official. The jury’s still out on some right now such as the year’s Best New Documentaries, Independent Movies, Re-Issues, and Best New Movies overall. The lists for all the new music are still in the works, too. So while those lists are being completed, Phil’s Picks offers to everyone to start off the year, a look at the Top 10 Best New Box Sets for Grown-Ups. This year’s list is capped by a box set featuring the entire 2014 World Series, courtesy of Lionsgate, A&E Home Video, and MLB Productions. Also on this year’s list are some blasts from the past and some imports from our neighbors across the pond, and one surprise entry in the Honorable Mention list. The box sets’ packaging, bonus material and more were collectively taken into account in building this (and the other lists to come). Only 15 titles total could make the list. So there were some that didn’t make the list such as the sixth and seventh seasons of Star Trek The Next Generation on Blu-ray or the full six-season run of Ancient Aliens among others. It goes without saying that this was not an easy list to build. But it feels right. So without further ado, here is the list of 2014’s Top 10 New Box Sets For Grown-Ups.

2014 Best New Box Sets For Grown-Ups

1. 2014 MLB World Series Collector’s Edition

2. Endeavour: Series 2

3. Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series

4. The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crackups

5. The Dean Martin Show: Fully Roasted

6. The Roosevelts

7. Inspector Lewis: Series 7

8. Psych: The Complete Series

9. Secret Agent (A.K.A. Danger Man): The Complete Series

10. The Wonder Years: Season 1

Honorable Mention

11. The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years–1951 – 1955

12. The Almighty Johnsons: Season 1

13. Hell on Wheels: Season 3

14. The Definitive WWI & WWII Collection

15. I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 (BD Re-Issue)

Tomorrow, Phil’s Picks looks into the list of the year’s best new box sets for Children and Families. Stay tuned! 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.

My Uncle Rafael Is Loaded With Laughs And Heart

Courtesy:  TNP Films

Courtesy: TNP Films

My Uncle Rafael is the best new independent movie of 2014.  And it is arguably one of the best new movies of the year, too.  Originally released in 2012, its release this week on DVD marks the first time that it has seen the light of day in home release format.  And while it obviously owes a certain amount of its success to Robin Williams’ 1993 hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire, it still manages to stand strong on its own merits as a movie that is at least somewhat original in its presentation.  That is the central point of the movie’s success.  It has all the heart and wit of Mrs. Doubtfire without Robin Williams’ cross-dressing and manic character portrayal.  And while it does maintain at least some similarity in its approach to the family-fixing plotline, it approaches the issue through a multi-cultural avenue rather than that of a desperate father. Sign of the times, it would seem.  Just as important to the movie’s enjoyment is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  It would have been so simple for the cast, which is relatively well-known and experienced to treat the movie like the independent movie that it is.  But each member of the cast approached this work with the same seriousness used in its other performances.  The professional approach taken by the cast of My Uncle Rafael adds so much enjoyment to the movie.  It adds so much especially considering the quality of the movie’s production values.  While released via an independent studio—TNP Films—the movie’s production values are just as quality as anything released by any of Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios.  That actor, along with the work of the cast and of the movie’s writers, makes My Uncle Rafael a complete joy for audiences of almost any age.  Again, it isn’t the first time that the story presented here has been utilized for a movie.  But its execution makes it a move well worth the watch.

The story that is presented in My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  It is the story of an outsider coming into a family’s home and fixing said family.  It has been used numerous times in the past.  In 1993, it was presented in the hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Two years prior, it was used in pro-wrestling legend Terry “Hulk” Hogan’s family comedy Suburban Commando.  And to a lesser extent it was also used in Vin Diesel’s 2005 flash-in-the-pan flick The Pacifier.  It could even be argued that a similar formula was used way back in the 1989 John Candy dramedy Uncle Buck.  Considering all of this, it leaves one wondering how many other ways in which the “family fix” formula could be used without it being stale and unoriginal.  Enter My Uncle Rafael.  My Uncle Rafael (not to be confused with Joe Pesci’s 1992 dramedy My Cousin Vinny—yes that bad pun was intended) takes the classic “family fix” formula and updates it by incorporating a multi-cultural theme into the story.  Most interesting here is the fact that the duo used an elderly Middle Eastern man as the movie’s central figure.  This was really interesting especially considering the tensions between Americans and those of Middle Eastern descent currently living in the United States.  It’s an angle that few if any writers would even begin to attempt.  For that alone, Pirhamzei and Yagemann are deserving of a certain amount of credit.  That the duo didn’t try to make a direct light of Rafael’s nationality as a soap box makes the script even more worthy of applause.  Omitting that from the script makes the rest of the story far more enjoyable and in turn more memorable.

The script behind My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  That goes without saying.  But there are aspects of the script that make it surprisingly enjoyable.  As enjoyable as the movie’s script proves to be in the long run, it would be nothing without the abilities of the movie’s cast.  John Michael Higgins (Yes Man, Happily Divorced, Bad Teacher) brings plenty of experience to the movie as do Missi Pyle (The Artist, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Gone Girl), Anthony Clark (Yes, Dear, Boston Common, Soul Man), Joe Lo Truglio (Role Models, Wreck-It-Ralph, Pineapple Express), Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory, The Last Song, In A World…), and Rachel Blanchard (Clueless—TV Series, 7th Heaven, Are You Afraid of the Dark).  The competition between Higgins’ Damon and Clark’s Jack makes for plenty of laughs.  It is a competition much like that seen in Mrs. Doubtfire.  Missi Pyle is just as entertaining as she becomes caught up in the movie’s central love triangle all while trying to maintain her place as mother to her children.  But it is really Vahik Pirhamzei’s portrayal of the loveable Uncle Rafael that really shines.  Pirhamzei’s portrayal gives Uncle Rafael so much heart and warmth.  He makes Rafael loveable not only to his fellow characters but to audiences, too.  One can’t help but agree in watching Rafael that maybe the uncle really is at the center of everything.  Only audiences that watch the movie or have watched it will get that reference.  In hindsight, Rafael’s portrayal makes that line make perfect sense.  That isn’t to take away from Pirhamzei’s cast mates by any means.  Both the more well-known actors and the lesser known cast members add their own enjoyment to the story in whole, too.  But it is his portrayal that holds everything together and makes each of his cast mates’ portrayals all the more entertaining with the end result of the cast in general doing its own part to show once again why My Uncle Rafael  is this year’s best new independent movie and one of the year’s best movies overall.

The writing that went into My Uncle Rafael and the acting on the part of the movie’s cast both play their own important part in the overall success of this surprisingly entertaining story.  Rounding out the presentation is its production values.  Being that this movie is independent, one would think that it would not have the production values of its bigger name family friendly counterparts that have come before.  But the reality is that its production values are quite high.  That includes the movie’s cinematography, its backdrops, costumes, and all other elements that went into bringing the movie to life.  Having such quality production values, it makes sense that the largely veteran cast would want its portrayals to be just as high quality.  The combination of that high quality acting and equally high quality production values adds to the ability of audiences to suspend their disbelief and in turn allow themselves to be immersed into the story and thus offer it the chance that it quite well deserves.  In giving it the chance that it deserves, audiences will agree that this movie is just as enjoyable as its more well-known predecessors and that it is one of this year’s best new movies as well as the year’s best new independent movie.

My Uncle Rafael is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/My-Uncle-Rafael-Anthony-Clark/dp/B00O1D3AN6/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1418861938&sr=1-2&keywords=my+uncle+rafael.  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.

Inspector Lewis’ Seventh Series Is A Welcome Return For One Of Television’s Greatest Crime Dramas

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Never say never.  Famous words.  Everybody has said or heard these words at one time or another.  That includes the world of popular entertainment.  So it goes without saying that when itv wrapped Inspector Lewis in its sixth series in 2013 the instant reaction was for audiences to say never say never.  Low and behold Inspector Lewis returned earlier this year overseas for its seventh series.  And PBS brought in Series Seven this fall.  Now, for those that weren’t lucky enough to see Series Seven, PBS and ITV have made it available both on DVD and Blu-ray.  Inspector Lewis Series Seven is a welcome return for what has become over the years one of the greatest crime dramas on television.  The proof lies first and foremost in the writing behind each of the series’ episodes.  The writing even in these three episodes is just as strong as in earlier episodes.  The acting on the part of lead stars Kevin Whaley and Laurence Fox.  The same can be said of new addition Angela Griffin as DS Lizzie Maddox.  Whately and Fox haven’t lost a step.  And Griffin brings in a whole new dynamic to the program that makes it even more enjoyable.  The writing and acting are of equal importance to the overall presentation of Inspector Lewis Series Seven.  Also to be considered to the success and enjoyment of this installment of Inspector Lewis is the fact that it maintains the standard set by the show years ago when Inspector Lewis in terms of not using overt sex, blood, and violence unlike the crime dramas that dominate American television.  That the show’s heads would maintain that standard all these years later is a testament to their dedication to the show’s fan base.  It rounds out the whole thing, making it again well deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets.

When itv wrapped Series Six of Inspector Lewis, it wasn’t too much of a forgone conclusion that somewhere along the line, Inspector Lewis would be back in some form or fashion regardless of whether or not it would be part of the series that made him such a beloved figure.  That’s especially the case considering the success of the series’ prequel series Endeavour.  So seeing Inspector Lewis’ return for a seventh series was quite the welcome return albeit not too surprising.  It goes without saying that expectations were high when it was even announced that Inspector Lewis would in fact return for a seventh season.  And thankfully this series has lived up to the hype.  It has lived up to the hype primarily through the writing behind each of the series’ three episodes.  One of the key examples of how the writing this time out keeps Inspector Lewis such a fan favorite comes in the episode “The Lions of Nemea.”  There are more than enough twists and turns in this episode to keep audiences guessing right up to the end.  The mystery starts right off the top when a well-respected professor is intentionally hit by a mystery driver while on his bike.  From there, the murder of a student at the same university where that professor works deepens the mystery even more.  The revelations of illicit affairs, literary fraud, and murder will keep audiences on the edge of their seats trying to solve the mystery themselves.  In the series’ closer, audiences’ minds are left twisted when one of Lewis’ most notorious cases comes back to haunt him and even threaten his career.  Surprisingly enough, the story’s closing moments leave the door wide open for another collection of episodes should the show’s heads opt for it to happen.  Even in the series’ opening episode “Entry Wounds” audiences will agree to the strength of the show’s writing.  Lewis’ desire to return to the force is made entirely believable thanks to the show’s writers.  What’s more, the growing relationship between Lewis and Hathaway and their new partner make this series all the more enjoyable.  Audiences will laugh at little jokes tossed in here and there in regards to Maddox’s having to answer to both detectives.  At one point, Maddox is asked by another officer how things are going with her boss. Her response is a flat “which one?”  One can’t help but laugh at her deadpan delivery of that simple line.  Again, the writers put the line at just the right moment to make it a good lighthearted break from the seriousness of investigating the crime at hand.  It’s just one of a number of moments that along with the stories themselves, exemplifies the strength of this series’ episodes.

Lewis and Hathaway built a strong working relationship and an equally solid friendship throughout the course of Inspector Lewis’ first six series.  The addition of Lizzie Maddox adds a whole new dynamic to the pair’s relationship.  It is highlighted expertly throughout the course of all three episodes in this series.  In terms of the show’s writing, the trio’s partnership and their friendship play a big role in the success of the episodes’ writing.  If not for the acting on the part of the trio though, the writing in regards to the trio’s personal and professional relationship would be moot.  Luckily, the chemistry developed by Laurence Fox and Kevin Whaley during the duo’s original run together had not lost anything in these episodes.  Whether sharing a joke in one of their more lighthearted moments or handling a tougher topic in one of their more serious moments, both men are fully believable.  Fox and Laurence even make believable even the slight tension in Lewis’ return before their characters reconnect as if not a day had been missed.  Angela Griffin is just as believable even in what very quickly becomes more of a supporting role.  Should Inspector Lewis pull off a miracle and see an eighth series, it would be interesting to see Maddox develop even more into her own character.  If an eighth series is not in the books, then it can at least be said of Griffin that she adds her own enjoyment to the overall product thanks to her own acting.  All three together pull viewers into their world, making suspension of disbelief so simple along the way.  The end result of the trio’s acting, and its interpretation of the scripts, is total immersion in and enjoyment of all three ninety-minute episodes.  It serves to show yet again why Inspector Lewis is just as enjoyable in its seventh series as in its first.

The scripts behind Inspector Lewis’ seventh series and the acting on the part of its veteran cast both play pivotal roles in the success of this series’ episodes.  Fox, Whately, and newcomer Griffin expertly interpret each episode’s script and in turn fully immerses viewers in each story.  The scripts themselves will keep audiences fully engaged and guessing right up to their final moments.  As if that isn’t enough, the episodes that make up Series Seven maintain the high standard set by the show’s previous series.  Simply put, Inspector Lewis remained in its seventh series the polar opposite of the crime dramas that populate American commercial networks.  There is no overt sexuality.  There is no unnecessary violence, gunplay, etc.  And the amount of blood and gore is kept to the same minimum as in the show’s previous series.  Again, this is the total opposite of all of the crime dramas that are so popular on American television.  Rather, the show continued here to focus on story and character development as is evident in the episodes’ scripts and the acting on the part of the cast.  Those factors, together with the continued high standard of content overall, round out the reasons that Inspector Lewis remains such a hit in its seventh series.  They collectively show once more why this series is quite well-deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets.

Inspector Lewis: Series Seven is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=46782166&cp=&sr=1&kw=inspector+lewis&origkw=Inspector+Lewis&parentPage=search.  More information on Inspector Lewis is available online now at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/lewis/

Facebook: http://twitter.com/masterpiecepbs

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.

PBS Investigates Effects Of Climate Change On Arctic Ecosystem In New Episode Of Nature

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS is giving audiences another reason to stay indoors and stay warm next month with the release of another episode of its hit wildlife series Nature on DVD.

PBS will release Nature: Invasion of the Killer Whales on Tuesday, January 20th. Nature: Invasion of the Killer Whales focuses on a major change in the ecosystem of the Arctic. It is a change that has resulted from global warming and the gradual disappearance of Arctic ice. As the once massive amounts of ice that one populated the Arctic disappear, so does the number of killer whales inordinately increase. The number of killer whales increases because they are being provided with more territory in which to hunt. By contrast, it also means that there is less territory in which polar bears—the once kings of the arctic—have to hunt.

Audiences are presented interviews with native Inuit who discuss the increasing number of killer whales in the Arctic and how it has actually helped them. At the same time, the other side of the proverbial coin is presented as scientists discuss how both humans and killer whales hunting the narwhal is not necessarily a good thing as it increases competition for resources. They go on to argue that this could greatly and negatively affect the lifestyle of the Inuit people. They go on to argue how the decrease in Arctic ice could lead to drastically negative effects on the polar bear population, too.

Nature: Invasion of the Killer Whales will retail for $19.99. It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=51197006&cp=1378003.2831221&sr=1&origkw=nature&parentPage=family. More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature

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.

Emperor’s Ghost Army Gives Audiences A Shocking, Surprising Look At China’s Terracotta Warriors

Courtesy: PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Ever since its original discovery in 1974, the terracotta army of emperor Qin Shi Huang Di has marveled people the world over.  From archaeologists to everyday people, the 2,200 year-old army has stood silent in the emperor’s massive underground mausoleum.   Even four decades after the army’s initial discovery, many questions have remained about the army.  Why was it built?  How was it constructed?  Was it built there in the mausoleum or moved there?  What did it look like originally?  Now thanks to PBS and its hit science-based series NOVA, at least some of those questions are finally being answered in NOVAEmperor’s Ghost Army.  Those answers in question are just a fraction of what makes NOVAEmperor’s Ghost Army such a worthwhile watch for any lover of history.  The study on the weaponry provided to the silent standing army is another piece of the program that will really surprise audiences.  Last but hardly least interesting in this program is the revelation concerning the human cost of building the army.  The information shared in regards to the human cost is shocking.  From the history behind the statues and their purpose to the story of their real weapons to the human cost, all three aspects of this episode of NOVA show once again why PBS is the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming on television.

PBS’ NOVA has shown time and again throughout its time on TV why it has remained so popular among audiences.  It has covered so many different topics throughout its life all without allowing itself to fall victim to the trappings of so many other history based series on television’s commercial networks.  NOVA: Emperor’s Ghost Army is no exception to that rule.  It proves this primarily through the information provided throughout the program, starting with explanations of the terracotta army’s creation and its cultural significance.  The program answers a number of questions that have puzzled researchers and others ever since the “army” was first discovered some forty-years ago.  Audiences learn that China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang Di (after whom China is named) had the army (and his mausoleum) constructed well before his death.  The obvious intention was for his afterlife, which is in itself interesting to consider as that sounds very much like Egyptian culture.  Audiences learn in watching the program that the army was built as a means to protect the emperor from his enemies even in the afterlife.  Just as interesting to note is that through research, it is revealed that no two warrior statues look the same.  The fact that such painstaking efforts were taken by laborers to send such a grand “force” along with the emperor into his afterlife is incredible.  Just as incredible is how the warriors were built and the revelation that they were even fully painted and designed in their original creation.  While the Pharoahs of Egypt made sure people remembered them eons after their deaths, they didn’t go to such lengths as Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di.  It’s quite the statement to his view of himself in regards to his place in history.  And that along with all of the other information shared on the “army” in whole is only the starting point of what makes NOVA: Emperor’s Ghost Army such an interesting feature.

The overall information shared in regards to the emperor’s “army” is an eye opener for anyone that has ever had any interest in its history and its legend.  The history presented about the terracotta warriors is itself an eye opener.  Even more of an eye opener is the revelation that the emperor was so serious about his “army of the afterlife” that he even made sure the warriors were armed with real weapons.  Audiences will learn in watching the program that the halberds, crossbows, and others were not just ceremonial.  They were the real deal.  They were meant to take down any enemies of the emperor even in the afterlife.  Again, even the greatest pharoahs of Egypt didn’t go to such lengths in preparing for life after they left their bodies.  That and the discussion on the warriors’ cultural significance are together the starting point for a whole other discussion-a dsicussion on the emperor himself and what would lead him to go to such lengths.  It’s yet another reason that NOVA: Emperor’s Ghost Army proves to be another wonderful addition to PBS’ hit science-based series.

The history of the famed terracotta warriors and their cultural significance prove to be more than a little bit enlightening.  The revelation concerning the warriors’ weaponry is even more eye-opening.  As if that isn’t enough, audiences will be shocked to learn of the human cost of making the emperor’s army.  It is revealed that the workers, which included both women and children, were governed with an iron fist.  Even the slightest error in the production of the warriors and their weaponry was allegedly punished harshly.  The workers were even forced to sign their names to each weapon solely for the purpose of accountability.  It made it easier to trace back who made each weapon if any weapon was imperfect.  As if the very creation of the army and its weaponry wasn’t enough to present the emperor as a figure with a god complex, then this factor most certainly drives home that thought.  It heightens even more the mystery around the emperor and makes even more worthwhile the discussion on an episode of NOVA that focuses solely on him.  It is that much of an accent to the presentation in whole.  Together with the discussions on the warriors themselves and their weaponry, it makes for a good final discussion point for another episode of NOVA that every lover of history will enjoy.

NOVA: Emperor’s Ghost Army is available now on DVD.  It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=50703636&cp=&kw=emperors+ghost+army&origkw=emperor%27s+ghost+army&sr=1.  More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NOVAonline

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.

Feast Of Friends Is Truly A Feast For The Eyes And Ears Of Any Doors Fan

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

The tour documentary is, in the music industry’s current era, one of the most overused recordings released by record labels and their roster of acts each year.  Next to those “making of the record documentaries” and singles collections that so many acts and labels like to call “greatest hits” records, the tour documentary has over the years become overly abundant that it has largely lost any importance that it might have previously had within the music industry.  The end result of so many labels and acts releasing tour documentaries is that the documentaries in question have become relatively bland and useless.  This is especially the case being that the world now lives in an era in which social media dominates almost every avenue of everyday life.  By comparison, bands that laid the groundwork for today’s music industry didn’t have any of today’s technology.  So the only glimpse that audiences had at said acts was the occasional live show that audiences could attend when said acts came to their towns.  That makes the rare documentaries released today on said acts all the more valuable for audiences.  Eagle Rock Entertainment released one of those important and valuable rarities late last month in the form of The Doors’ Feat of FriendsFeast of Friends was produced by and about The Doors.  It was also the only tour documentary ever produced by the band itself.  The catch is that it was never actually fully completed.  Until now, Feast of Friends has never been officially released to the public for purchase.  That within itself is a major reason for audiences to pick up this documentary.  It’s just one reason for audiences to check it out, too.  The amount of material presented to audiences within the documentary is just as important to the whole.  And last but not least of all is the quality of the footage itself throughout the presentation.  Considering how many decades have passed since the video presented in Feast of Friends was originally recorded.  But it looks surprisingly clean in its transfer from its masters.  Together with the documentary’s content and the fact that it has never before been released, it becomes a presentation that any fan of The Doors and any music historian will want to add to their collection.

One of the main reasons that today’s tour documentaries and making of presentations have become so annoying and useless is the fact that there are so many of them.  More often than not, many of the pieces that make up that mass are “documentaries” that have been released more than once over the years.  Given some might not have been.  But there are those that have been released and re-issued more than once.  Eagle Rock Entertainment’s release of The Doors’ Feast of Friends is the first time ever that this documentary has seen the light of day since its original recording during the band’s 1968 tour.  That means that at least the primary feature material contained within this Blu-ray is material that has not been seen before.  Given, there is one piece that looks like it was taken from the band’s 1968 show at the Hollywood Bowl. And “The Doors Are Open” has been previously released, too. It was released on DVD in 2002.  But other than that, the material presented in this documentary is material that has not been seen before by audiences.  That means that there is nothing to which this release can be compared in terms of The Doors’ previous releases.  That in itself is plenty of reason for any music historian and fan of The Doors to pick up this recording.  It also leads to another reason that audiences will appreciate Feast of Friends.  That second reason that audiences will appreciate Feast of Friends is its very breadth of material.

The fact that Eagle Rock Entertainment’s recent release of Feast of Friends marks the first time that the documentary has been released to the public for purchase is reason enough for any music historian or Doors fan to pick up this recording.  The amount of never before seen material that is shared throughout the recording is even more reason for audiences to check it out.  Audiences get to see the primary presentation after which the Blu-ray is titled for the first time.  Audiences get to see another side of Jim Morrison especially through the course of this feature.  They get to see his more well-known enigmatic side.  But they also get to see a more laid back Jim Morrison, playing a piano backstage at one of the band’s gigs.  They get to see him with his band mates and all of their friends and family at a lake, just enjoying time together.  They also see early on a man who was obviously a reluctant celebrity despite his ability to connect with the band’s fans on and off stage.  It is truly an interesting juxtaposition to see.  And it’s not all that audiences will enjoy seeing, either in this presentation.   Also included with Eagle Rock’s new release of Feast of Friends is a rather interesting look at the band from across the pond in the feature “The Doors Are Open.” This feature does has actually been released before. It does quite the job of juxtaposing the band’s concert footage against all of the unrest running through America at the time. There is also an impressive concert feature in the presentation’s closer “The End.” It shows the band’s performance of what is one of its greatest songs of all time in ‘The End.’ It is complemented by the inclusion of interviews with John Densmore, Ray Manzarek, and Danny Sugerman. Whether or not audiences are familiar with the Doors, the collective material featured throughout this Blu-ray is material that will enlighten and entertain anyone with any interest in classic rock and the foundations of today’s rock world. It is most definitely a collection of material that makes the presentation in whole well worth the watch.

 

The material culled for Feast of Friends will definitely enlighten and entertain audiences regardless of their familiarity with the Doors or even the history of classic rock in general. That Feast of Friends has never been released before, and that over ten years have passed since “The Doors Are Open” was last released makes this collection even more worth the watch for any true fan of The Doors and any music historian. As important as all of this is to the success and enjoyment of The Doors: Feast of Friends none of it would mean anything without the work of those charged with restoring the footage for its presentation here. In watching the Blu-ray in whole, it is obvious that while some of the material has been previously released, painstaking efforts were taken to ensure that Feast Of Friends maintained the high standard set by Eagle Rock with each and every one of its releases, whether it be a live concert recording or documentary. There are those Blu-rays out there that present classic concerts and movies in which the footage obviously hasn’t been touched. And those releases look awful to say the least. This Blu-ray however, is not on that level, thankfully. It maintains Eagle Rock’s high standard quite well. And because of that, it leaves no doubt in any viewer’s mind that Feast of Friends is indeed a feast for the eyes and ears of any Doors fan and music historian.

 

The Doors: Feast of Friends is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at:

 

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt

 

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.