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.

Shout! Factory Announces Release Date For NYPD Blue Season Eight

Courtesy:  Shout! FactoryABC

Courtesy: Shout! FactoryABC

ABC’s hit crime drama NYPD Blue was one of the biggest shows on television during the course of its twelve years on the air. And thanks to Shout! Factory, fans of the modern classic series have already been treated to seven of its seasons. Next month, Shout! Factory will continue that trend when it releases the series’ eighth season in its entirety on DVD.

NYPD Blue: Season Eight will be released on DVD Tuesday, January 13th. Next month’s release marks the first time that Season Eight has been made available to the public in its entirety. Season Eight will keep viewers just as much on the edge of their seats as the series’ previous seven seasons. Detective Danny Sorenson (Rick Schroeder) starts to show signs that the job is effecting him emotionally even more than ever. And new faces join the squad. But they aren’t necessarily trusted upon their arrival. The squad also says goodbye to its long-time leader Lieutenant Fancy (James MacDaniel) in this season.

NYPD Blue: Season Eight will retail for MSRP of $34.99. Fans can pre-order this season now for a discounted price of $29.99 via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/crime/nypd-blue-season-eight. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

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.

StarVista, Time Life Announce Release Date, Specs For The Wonder Years Season 2

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Kevin, Paul, Winnie and the rest of the characters from ABC’s beloved classic drama The Wonder Years are coming back.

StarVista Entertainment announced Monday that it will release the complete second season of The Wonder Years on DVD on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015. The series’ second season consists of seventeen half-hour episodes spread across four discs. Also included in the upcoming second season set are a number of bonuses for fans. There are also more than four dozen classic songs from artists such as: Bob Dylan, Carol King, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, Cream, Bing Crosby, Joni Mitchell, Simon & Garfunkel, Traffic, Diana Ross and the Supremes, James Taylor, Nat King Cole, The Miracles, Judy Collins, Donovan, and a number of others. The full list of songs and artists featured in season Two is noted below.

“Heart of Darkness”

  • You Make Me Feel So Young
  • Sunshine of Your Love-Cream

“Our Miss White”

  • Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)-The Temptations
  • The Times They Are A-Changin’-Bob Dylan

“Christmas”

  • Jingle Bell Rock-Instrumental
  • White Christmas-Bing Crosby
  • River-Joni Mitchell
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas-Instrumental

“Steady as She Goes”

  • Yellow Bird-On-Screen Character Performance
  • Somewhere-On-Screen Character Performance
  • Ooo Baby Baby-The Miracles
  • The Thrill Is Gone-B.B. King
  • Will You Love Me Tomorrow-Carole King

“Just between Me and You and Kirk and Paul and Carla and Becky”

  • I Am a Rock-Simon & Garfunkel
  • Someday We’ll Be Together-Diana Ross and the Supremes
  • Some Enchanted Evening-On-Screen Character Performance

“Pottery Will Get You Nowhere”

  • It’s Not Unusual
  • When I Fall in Love-Nat King Cole

“Hiroshima, Mon Frère”

  • Wild Thing-The Troggs
  • Brother, Brother-Carole King

“Loosiers”

  • You’ve Got a Friend-James Taylor
  • Sweet Georgia Brown-Brother Bones

“Walk Out”

  • I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man-Muddy Waters
  • The Tracks of My Tears-The Miracles
  • I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die-Rag-Country Joe and the Fish
  • Give Peace A Chance-On-Screen Character Performance

“Nemesis”

  • My Girl-The Temptations
  • Theme from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

“Fate”

  • Born under a Bad Sign-Cream
  • Respect-Aretha Franklin

“Birthday Boy”

  • Happy, Happy Birthday Baby-The Tune Weavers
  • Bookends-Simon & Garfunkel
  • Yummy, Yummy, Yummy-On-Screen Character Performance
  • Hava Nagila-Karmon Israeli Singers

“Brightwing”

  • Subterranean Homesick Blues-Bob Dylan
  • In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida-Iron Butterfly
  • You Can All Join In-Traffic
  • Catch the Wind-Donovan

“Square Dance”

  • Star Flicker-Houston Ramblers
  • Turkey In The Straw-Ralph Pierce
  • Comin’ round the Mountain-The Sundowners Band

“Whose Woods Are These?”

  • Happy Days Are Here Again-The Banjo Barons
  • In My Life-Judy Collins

“How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation”

  • The Theme from “A Summer Place”-Percy Faith and His Orchestra
  • Smoke Gets in Your Eyes-The Platters
  • Never on Sunday-The Chordettes
  • I Only Have Eyes for You-The Flamingos
  • La Vie En Rose-Edith Piaf
  • Scarborough Fair/Canticle-Simon & Garfunkel

The second season of The Wonder Years sees Kevin, his friends, and his family all grow together as throughout all of the turmoil of the age. Kevin’s personal growth comes as he starts standing up to his older brother Wayne (Jason Hervey) and as he takes part in a class walkout to protest the Vietnam War. He, Paul (Josh Saviano), and Winnie (Danica McKellar) also fight to stop developers from plowing over Harper Woods, where the trio shared many of their favorite childhood memories.

The bonus materials included on the upcoming Season 2 box set are noted below.

BONUS FEATURES 

  • School Days: Roundtable with Danica McKellar, Fred Savage and Josh Saviano
  • Featurette: The Times They Are A-Changin': The Era
  • Interviews with: Dan Lauria (Jack Arnold), Alley Mills (Norma Arnold), Daniel Stern (Narrator)

The Wonder Years: Season Two will retail for MSRP of $39.95. More information on the box set’s upcoming release and other titles from Star Vista Entertainment and Time Life Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://timelife.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimeLifeUS

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.

Batman: The Complete First Season Is A Good, Not Great Debut For Fans Of ABC’s Classic Series

Courtesy:  Warner Home Video/FOX

Courtesy: Warner Home Video/FOX

ABC’s live action series Batman was anything but a hit when it originally aired on CBS from 1966 to 1968.  The series, which starred Adam West in the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman lasted all of three seasons in its original run. Since its cancellation, it has become a cult hit with audiences of all ages.  It has run on syndication on a number of networks and is currently running on Me-TV every Saturday night at 7pm ET.  Throughout all the years that it has been on television since its cancellation, it has not received a proper release on DVD or Blu-ray.  That is until this year.  Warner Home Video and FOX released the first season of the cult favorite last month alongside the show’s full series box set.  The complete box set is rather pricy both on DVD and Blu-ray.  That means that most fans of this hit series will be more interested in picking up the complete first season box set.  Batman: The Complete First Season boasts plenty of positives.  But it also has its own hare of negatives that can’t be ignored, either.  On the positive end, audiences will appreciate the fact that every Season One episode is presented here.  So audiences weren’t short-changed there.  What’s more, every one of the episodes is presented exactly as they originally aired on ABC so many years ago.  And rather than make each half of each episode a separate episode, they are each presented as one full episode.  Of course for every positive, there is a negative.  This recent release is no exception to that rule.  The people at WHV got the issue of the episodes one hundred percent right.  In terms of the bonus material though, both companies struck out swinging.  Batman: The Complete First Season comes with no bonus material to compliment the episodes.  The bonus material has all been saved for the full-series box sets.  WHV and FOX try to entice audiences into buying one of the two boxes by including a coupon for ten dollars off of either the Blu-ray or DVD series set.  That is not a positive by any means and will be discussed at more length later.  As glaring as the noted negative in question proves to be, audiences can at least be happy about the presentation of the episodes.  The footage looks wonderful in its transfer to DVD.  And each episode is presented in full 16:9 format rather than the 4:3 in which most classic series were presented.  It is one more way in which Batman: The Complete First Season impresses with this its debut DVD release.  It’s just too bad that it wasn’t released on Blu-ray.   Maybe audiences would have had the option of at least some bonuses in a Blu-ray box set. A fan can dream, right?  Right.  That aside, the end result of these positives and negatives is a box set that while anything but perfect, is still a good addition to any Batman fan’s home library.

There is a lot to like and just as much to not like in the debut release of Batman: The Complete First Season as should be clear by now.  Luckily for fans, the positives far outweigh the negatives, beginning with the episodes themselves.  Audiences that are familiar with Batman will recall that within the context of this series, each episode was split into two parts.  While the series only ran for three seasons, this made the show really last.  It was a formula that made audiences want to tune in from week to week.  The people at WHV and FOX have paid proper tribute to that formula–and the fans of the show that lived week to week by the formula–by combining both halves of every Season One episode into one complete episode.  It would have been just as easy to spread out each half of each episode and call them “episodes.”  That would have been purely deceptive marketing as it would have meant both companies trying to fool audiences into thinking there was more than really was there.  Luckily they didn’t go that route.  And for that reason alone, WHV and FOX are deserving of at least some credit.  It’s at least one reason to applaud the debut release of Batman: The Complete First Season.

The presentation of Season One’s episodes is by itself plenty of reason for audiences to applaud the debut release of Batman: The Complete First Season.  But as anyone knows, for every positive there is a negative; a yang for every yin so to speak.  And this box set is no exception.  Audiences will be displeased to discover that while WHV and FOX have included every episode from Batman’s first season in this box, they have clearly omitted any bonus material at all.  All of the bonus material has been saved for both the Blu-ray and DVD presentation of the show’s complete series boxes.  In turn, WHV and FOX have included in Batman: The Complete First Season a coupon for ten dollars off the purchase of either the Blu-ray or DVD full series set.  This is hardly a positive.  And here is the reason why:  Audiences that actually would use the coupon would still pay nearly $150 for the DVD box set.  They would still be paying well over $200 for the Blu-ray set.  Keep in mind that 20th Century Fox was able to release its complete series run of Futurama in a single box for under $100 on DVD.  There is no Blu-ray option there.  That is about seven or eight seasons.  So how can 20th Century Fox do that, yet WHV and FOX expect people to shell out exorbitant amounts of money for a three-season box set by comparison?  This is a losing situation for fans who have waited decades for Batman to finally receive a proper release on DVD or Blu-ray.  It is an insult to those same fans.  WHV and FOX should be ashamed of themselves for this.  Keeping that in mind, it knocks off major points for Batman: The Complete First Season and for both of the full series sets.

Still not enough to consider?  How about the fact that WHV is looking to split up the second season of Batman into two separate volumes beginning in February 2015?  That’s right.  What this means is the possibility of WHV doing the same thing with Season 3.  That means that Season One could be the only one that audiences and long-time fans see in a single set. It’s probably the only factor that would even begin to make purchasing either the Blu-ray or DVD full series set more worth the purchase than Season One.  It doesn’t make such practice any more ethical, regardless. Obviously, WHV isn’t the only company guilty of this practice.  20th Century Fox has done this with its home releases of Family Guy’s various seasons over the years.  It’s a way to stretch things out and for WHV to make more money from audiences.  That goes without saying.  But the people at WHV know that people such as this critic will still shell out the money for it.  It’s just a shameful practice regardless of the company releasing the box set.  And it is something that had to be noted here if only or context.

Now, having finished on the soap box, it’s time to turn back to the positive side of Batman: The Complete First Season.  There is at least one more positive worth noting about this box set for fansto consider.  That factor is the look of the episodes themselves.  The footage looks surprisingly clean even on DVD.  It shows that those charged with transferring the masters from tape to DVD and Blu-ray went to painstaking measures to insure the footage looked its best for fans.  For that alone, WHV and FOX are to be applauded.  Even more interesting about the episodes’ presentation is that each episode is presented in full 16:9 format rather than the 4:3 format in which so many shows of its era were presented.  In sizing the resolution up to 16:9 none of the episodes’ quality was sacrificed.  So it looks just as good as it did in its original broadcast format.  Together with the fact that every one of Season One’s episodes are presented here in their entirety, it is one more positive that helps to perhaps not outweigh the negatives of the set but at least equal their weight.  And in equalling the weight of the set’s negatives, it serves to make Batman: The Complete First Season a welcome addition to the library of of long-time Batman fan.  It is hardly the best that WHV and FOX could have offered fans.  But for those that can’t afford the unethically exorbitant cost of the full series sets, it is still a good piece to have.

Batman: The Complete First Season is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Warner Home Video is available online at:

Website: http://www.wbshop.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wbshop

Twitter: http://twitter.com/wbshop

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.

IFC Films’ “Premature” Is As Good As Any Big Screen Teen Flick

Courtesy:  IFC FIlms

Courtesy: IFC FIlms

IFC Films’ teen comedy Premature is not only one of the best indie flicks of 2014, but it is one of the best movies of the year overall.  In comparison to the endless stream of prequels, sequels, and remakes churned out by Hollywood’s “Power 5″ studios, this movie is a complete breath of fresh air.  It balances just enough bawdiness and raunch with an equal amount of depth and heart to make it a surprisingly entertaining work.  The central reason for that is the movie’s script.  It isn’t just another standard, formulaic teen romp.  It actually teaches some important lessons; lessons that both male and female audiences will appreciate.  The movie’s script is at the heart of its enjoyment.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this movie is its bonus material.  Included as bonus material on the DVD are a number of interviews with the cast and crew, a fun little behind-the-scenes featurette, and even an alternate ending that proves to be just as good as the ending presented in the final product.  The last aspect of the movie that makes it enjoyable for audiences is the acting on the part of the cast.  The cast isn’t exactly A-listers just yet.  But its members already have quite the chops under their belts thanks to roles on some big movies and TV shows.  It shows quite well in this presentation, too.  It rounds out a movie that while being an indie flick, is one of this year’s best indie flicks and one of the year’s best movies overall.

At first glance, many critics have automatically panned IFC Films’ new teen comedy Premature.  Elizabeth Weitzman, of the New York Daily News, said of the movie that it is “a retreat of every lousy 80s high school comedy you never bothered watching.”  And Variety’s Joe Leydon had one of the harshest comments, attacking not only the movie but those that actually showed any appreciation of the movie.  He noted of the movie and its audiences that “only undiscriminating audiences with a pronounced taste for crotch-centric tomfoolery will sample this goulash.”  Really, Joe?  There was an equally scathing commentary from New York Times writer Nicolas Rapold, equating co-writers Dan Beers and Mathew Harawitz’s script to work from Family Guy head Seth McFarlane.  That is an insult of the highest degree. For all of its naysayers, Premature has also gotten positive marks, too.  Though, even those positive remarks have been tepid at best.  This means that most audiences and critics that saw this movie completely missed the mark in analyzing it.  The script itself does throw back to the teen romps of the 80s.  There’s no denying that.  But it throws back to more than just those movies.  Its script balances the crudeness of those movies with the heart–believe it or not–of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  To a lesser extent, those that are old enough to remember will see a comparison to the likes of Fox’s classic series Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, too.  That’s thanks in large part to the work of lead actor John Karna, who plays Rob Crabbe.  The movie sees Rob learn some valuable lessons about both life and love as the story progresses.  He learns about doing what makes him happy versus what makes his father happy through his interactions with his Georgetown recruiter and his father.  The lesson about love just happens to be tied in to Rob’s own full-throttle sex drive.  Audiences need to remember that in our adolescence, the human sex drive is actually much like what is portrayed here.  Hormones are going crazy in the adolescent brain and body.  Beer and Harawitz have just taken that fact and made humorous light of it as part of the bigger picture.  Keeping that in mind makes that aspect of the movie less crude and much funnier.  If audiences can accept that fact and enjoy it for what it is, they will enjoy Premature much more.  They will also enjoy the lessons incorporated into the script, too thus leading to a realization that this movie is far more enjoyable than what some would have others believe.

The script used for Premature is by itself more than enough reason to give this underrated indie flick worth at least one watch.  By itself, it makes Premature one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  The script is just part of what makes the movie worth watching.  The bonus material included with the movie makes the presentation in whole even more enjoyable.  There are interviews with the cast and crew that will inform and entertain audiences.  There is also a bonus alternate ending that proves to be just as entertaining as the ending presented in the final product if not more so.  And the bonus behind-the-scenes featurette will have audiences just as much in stitches.  [John] Karna takes audiences through the movie’s sets during this segment.  Throughout the featurette, Karna stays somewhat in character holding the same personality as Rob Crabbe without actually trying to portray Rob.  He playfully hits on every female that he finds as if he were Rob.  It really is fun and funny to watch.  Together with the bonus interviews and alternate ending, it shows even more what makes the movie’s bonus features even more important to the presentation in whole. They collectively make Premature that much more of a joy to watch.  They still aren’t the last of the factors that make Premature so enjoyable, either.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is just as important to the movie.  It rounds out the whole that is this surprisingly entertaining indie flick.

The acting on the part of Premature’s cast is one of the most important parts of this movie’s enjoyment.  Most audiences probably don’t know the cast’s names.  But Karna and his cast mates–Katie Findlay (How To Get Away With Murder, The Carrie Diaries, After The Dark), Alan Tudyk (Frozen, Wreck-it-Ralph ,i-Robot) Craig Roberts (Neighbors, 22 Jump Street, Jane Eyre), Steve Coulter (The Hunger Games, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Conjuring) , and Carlson Young (True Blood, The Dog Who Saved Christmas, Pretty Little Liars)–are each fully believable in their roles.  And that is thanks to their work on some rather well-known movies and TV series.  Katie Findlay plays Rob’s best friend Gabrielle.  She does quite the job in her role, although most audiences can tell as the story progresses what will happen between them.  It’s a classic partnering that has been used before.  But it still works quite well even in this case.  Alan tudyk plays the part of Rob’s Georgetown recruiter.  Tudyk is a laugh riot as he breaks down, crying like a little child as he interviews Rob.  His acting will by itself leave audiences laughing uproariously.  Craig Roberts plays Rob’s sex-crazed friend Stanley.  Even in the side-kick role, Roberts offers his own share of laughs.  One could really compare him to Stiffler from the famed American Pie franchise, only younger. Steve Coulter plays a minimal role as Rob’s dad Jim.  But he’s still entertaining as the standard subtly controlling father figure.  And Carlson Young is spot on as the stereotypical blonde sex kitten Angela Yearwood.  Her role is understated as it plays an important part in Rob’s personal development and self-realization.  But just as with her co-stars, Young pulls off her role expertly as do the rest of the cast members.  Their collective experience makes their portrayals here so enjoyable in their own right.  It makes suspension of disbelief so simple in this case.  The end result is a story that will keep audiences fully engaged from start to finish, laughing the whole way through.

Whether it be the movie’s script, the bonus features included as part of the whole, or the acting on the part of the cast, Premature proves in the end to have plenty of positives.  It proves to have far more positives than its critics would lead audiences to believe.  It proves to be one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  It is available in stores and online now.  More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available online at:

Website: http://www.ifcfilms.com

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

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.

Lionsgate’s Latest Power Rangers DVD A Good Watch Any Time Of The Year

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Saban/Saban Brands

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Saban/Saban Brands

Nickelodeon is set to close out the latest installment of Saban’s hugely popular Power Rangers franchise this weekend.  Power Rangers Super Megaforce will close out this Saturday on Nickelodeon.  Before it closes out Saban and Lionsgate have released a new featuring a holiday episode from this season.  Power Rangers Megaforce: Robo Knight Before Christmas brings to audiences yet another new holiday tale from what has over the years become a worldwide phenomenon.  What audiences will appreciate most of all in this episode is the fact that yet again, the people behind the franchise have switched things up in this episode instead of repeating the same story as in previous Power Rangers seasons.  This is especially important considering some of the redundancy that can be seen in the seasons that followed the franchise’s original seven-season run.  The lessons taught in the central episode tie directly in to that originality.  It’s another reason that audiences will appreciate this installment from the Megaforce Rangers.  Speaking of lessons being taught, the lessons taught in the companion episodes are just as important to the overall presentation.  The episodes themselves may not be Christmas-themed.  But the lessons shared in said episodes are just as applicable during the holidays as they are any other time of the year.  Those lessons coupled with the lessons taught in the DVD’s central episode and said episode’s originality combine to make this DVD one that any Power Rangers fan will enjoy whether during the holidays or any other time of the year.

Over the course of its now twenty-ne years on television, Saban’s Power Rangers franchise has made a tradition of running a new Christmas-themed episode in every season.  And every season’s Christmas episode has proven to be different from the last.  This applies both stylistically and in terms of their stories.  Power Rangers Megaforce: Robo Knight Before Christmas is no different in that fashion.  Given, it is for all intents and purposes a clip show.  And it’s not the first time that Saban has used clip shows in previous seasons of the Power Rangers.  But through the use of the various clips, the story is more than just another typical clip show.  For that matter, it’s also not just another piece telling about the “true meaning of Christmas.”  The show’s writers incorporate the values commonly associated with Christmas into Robo Knight’s own attempt to better understand humans.  The end result is something of a third person vantage point that helps to better illustrate the morals and values that are so important not just during the holiday season but during any time of the year.  The show’s writers accomplish this goal without being overly preachy about it, either.  Sure there’s some sappiness.  But it’s still a good non-traditional piece that focuses on the holiday season and its associated values.

The lesson centering on Christmas’ values and Robo Knight’s own attempt to understand those values couple to make Robo Knight Before Christmas another enjoyable Christmas episode of Saban’s Power Rangers franchise.  Staying on that same train of thought, the two Power Rangers episodes included as bonuses offer audiences their own positive lessons.  Neither episode takes place during Christmas or even the holiday season.  But they still teach invaluable lessons.  Power Rangers Wild Force’s episode “Team Carnival” teaches an important and invaluable lesson about self-worth.  The interesting thing of the episode is that the writers behind that season actually also took a non-traditional route in presenting said lesson.  In the case of this episode, that season’s writers presented the lesson through the use of the season’s villains Toxica (Sin Wong) and Jindrax (Danny Wayne).  When Jindrax sees that Toxica has her own family in the fight against the Power Rangers, it makes Jindrax feel worthless.  He ends up teaming up with his own family member to fight the rangers and still learns his own valuable lesson about self-worth in the long run.  It’s interesting to see any episode of the Power Rangers make a villain a sympathetic character.  But it works here.  That and the lesson centering on personal self-worth makes this episode its own invaluable addition to this DVD.  It’s one more reason that this latest Power Rangers is another *ahem* mega-hit for audiences.

The second of the bonus episodes included in the new Power Rangers Megaforce DVD, “The Spirit of Kindness,” comes from Power Rangers Jungle Fury.  The most important lesson taught through this episode could be argued to be that of the golden rule so to speak.  As audiences will see in this episode, Casey (Jason Smith)  finally wins over an old nemesis in Whiger (Jared Turner) and convinces Whiger to join him in fighting Whiger’s own former evil ally.  Whiger admits before disappearing that he fought alongside Casey because Casey was kind to him unlike the season’s other villains.  He finally realized in that final moment before his own demise the importance of kindness.  It taught Casey that kindness can be just as powerful as fighting, too.  That in itself is an extremely important lesson to be taken away from this episode.  It’s one more lesson that is just as important during the holiday season as any other time of the year.  This lesson combined with the others presented on this DVD shows once more how much the Power Rangers franchise has to offer audiences even two decades plus after it first debuted.

If the lessons taught in each of the DVD’s trio of episodes isn’t enough for audiences, then the fact that the DVD comes with a bonus digital copy will win over audiences.  Having that digital copy means that audiences can take all three of these episodes with them wherever they go.  So the lessons and the entertaining stories can be shared with any viewer without having to lug around the DVD.  It is the finishing touch to yet another DVD that any Power Rangers fan will appreciate.

Power Rangers Megaforce: Robo Knight Before Christmas is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=31609&TitleParentId=9994.  More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

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.

Fitz & The Tantrums Performing Live This Morning On ABC’s GMA

Courtesy:  Elektra Records

Courtesy: Elektra Records

Fitz & The Tantrums will be live on TV this morning.

Fitz & The Tantrums is scheduled to perform live on ABC’s Good Morning America this morning. The group will perform its new single ‘Fools Gold’ on the national broadcast. The performance is scheduled for 8:45am ET. The performance is part of the group’s current North American tour in support of its latest album More Than Just a Dream.

Fans can check out the group’s current tour schedule and get all of the latest updates from the band online now at:

Website: http://fitzandthetantrums.com

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

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.