Anchor Bay’s In Fear Is One Of 2014′s Top Indie Flicks

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Independent movie studio Anchor Bay has crafted some of the industry’s most surprising and underrated movies since the start of the twenty-first century. Most recently, Anchor Bay was behind the moving human drama that is Unfinished Song and the more lighthearted romantic comedy Shanghai Calling. It was also behind the release of the equally under appreciated 6 Souls and Dark Skies. Now in 2014, Anchor Bay has released yet another impressive yet under appreciated movie to its ever growing stable in the form of In Fear. While it is an indie flick, In Fear proves to be yet another piece from Anchor Bay that holds its own against any of the major horror flicks and thriller features out there today. The primary reason for that is the movie’s writing. This includes its plot. Another reason for its success is the acting on the part of Iain De Caestecker (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures) and Allen Leech (Downton Abbey). And last but not least, In Fear works because of its cinematography and associated editing. All three of these factors together prove In Fear a work that will leave any open minded horror and thriller fan in happiness.

In Fear is not a major, big budget horror or thriller flick, obviously. What it is though, is a movie that any open-minded fan of both genres will enjoy. The main reason for this is the movie’s writing. The general plot starts out as one that has been done so many times before. Here, audiences see a young couple off on what is supposed to be a romantic weekend at a secluded hotel. But obviously, things eventually start to turn to the negative side of the needle for lack of better wording. This is where writer/director Jeremy Lovering takes the *ahem* high road (bad pun fully intended). It would have been so easy for Lovering to simply allow In Fear to descend to the dumbed down, overly violent level of so many major horror and thriller flicks from here. Instead, he kept the overt violence to a minimum by comparison. Where far too many major horror and thriller flicks fill their run times with unnecessary violence, blood and gore, Lovering has virtually eliminated those elements, using only what was absolutely necessary to help maintain the story’s grip on viewers. And the standard exploitative sexual content thrown in to those major motion pictures is totally nonexistent here. For that reason alone, Lovering deserves a lot of credit.

The minimized use of blood, gore and general violence and the complete lack of exploitive sexual content is just one part of what makes this movie’s writing work so well. Lovering keeps viewers wondering even after Tom and Lucy let Max into their car. Audiences have to admit that had they been in Tom and Lucy’s position, they too would be uncertain as to whether or not Max was good or bad. So any viewer that might like to claim the movie was predictable is proven wrong through this avenue alone. That unpredictability is heightened through the use of certain elements that also lead to some “a-ha” moments by the story’s end, too. Those “a-ha” moments illustrate even more the depth of Lovering’s writing in his script and in turn its enjoyment.

Jeremy Lovering’s script for In Fear is the cornerstone of the movie’s success. The acting on the part of Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert, and Allen Leech serves to strengthen the movie even more. The trio is entirely believable in its acting. Caestecker and Englert expertly exhibit the growing tension and fear felt by any normal person lost in unknown territory. Given, the odds of being lost and hunted by an unseen predator of sorts are slim to nil in reality. But the fear caused simply by being lost in unknown territory is very real as is the general fear of the unknown. And Caestecker and Englert have made that fear all the more real through their acting. Any viewer will be able to relate to them as they watch the pair try to reach the Kilairney Hotel thanks to the seriousness with which the pair took its roles. Together with the script, this aspect of In Fear makes the movie all the more gripping and enjoyable for viewers.

The acting and writing behind In Fear both are pivotal to the success of the movie. There is still one more aspect of the movie that adds to its enjoyment. That factor is the movie’s collective cinematography and editing. Some of the best shots of the entire movie come as Lucy is looking out of the car, waiting for she and Tom to reach the hotel. Audiences see trees hanging ominously overhead as the sky slowly darkens. These are such subtle shots. But they are so powerful because they are so powerful. It adds to the feeling of tension and being trapped in an enclosed environment for extended periods of time. The way that editor Jonathan Amos (A.C.E.) transitioned the two shots adds so much by doing so little. Those behind the cameras are just as worthy of applause for the solid yet short shots of the figure that seems to be hunting Tom and Lucy. Audiences get just enough of a glimpse to know that there is something outside that car that doesn’t want the pair around. And the shots are just plentiful enough to add to the movie’s fear factor, too. Again, it shows the expert work of Amos and his co-workers behind the cameras. There are far more examples of how the cinematography and editing make In Fear a horror/thriller worth seeing. Audiences will find even more examples when they purchase or rent the movie for themselves on DVD and Blu-ray.

Whether for the cinematography, the editing, the acting or for the general writing, any open-minded fan of the thriller and horror genres will find plenty of reasons to check out this latest underrated and under appreciated release from Anchor Bay Entertainment. The movie is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Anchor Bay Entertainment’s website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?projectID=2545b3bd-9d4b-e311-bba7-d4ae527c3b65. More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.anchorbayent.com, http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay, and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay. 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.

Power Rangers Seasons 13 – 17 Another Welcome Addition To Any Diehard Power Rangers Fan’s Collection

Courtesy:  SHout! Factory/Saban Brands

Courtesy: SHout! Factory/Saban Brands

Just over two decades ago, Saban Brands brought to young American audiences a little special effects laden, live action children’s series called Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Little did anyone think at the time that the original Power Rangers franchise would last a total of seven seasons. Even more surprising is the fact that those seven seasons would also not be the last for the Power Rangers franchise. Thirteen seasons later, the Power Rangers franchise is still among the most successful in children’s programming. Even those adults that were kids when Mighty Mrophin’ Power Rangers first debuted in 1993 are still fans of the franchise today. And thanks to Saban Brands and Shout! Factory, those same fans will get to enjoy five more seasons of the Power Rangers franchise with the brand new box set, Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17. The very first and most obvious positive to this set is that it includes Seasons 13 – 17 in one large box set. The set’s second most important factor is that while it doesn’t mark the end of the road for the Power Rangers releases from Shout! Factory, fans won’t be seeing Seasons 18 – 20 from Shout! Factory. That’s thanks to a deal between Saban and Lionsgate. And last but not least, audiences will appreciate that once again, Saban and Shout! Factory have included a load of bonus material both on a bonus disc and in the set’s companion booklet. That booklet and bonus DVD are the finishing touches to one more box set that any hardcore Power Rangers fan will want to add to their collection.

The first and most obvious factor that makes Power Rangers: Seasons 13 –17 is the fact that includes all five seasons in one full box. True diehard fans will agree that despite what seems like a hefty price tag, it is cheaper to own Seasons 13 – 17 in one box than paying separate costs for each separate season set. Odds are that eventually Shout! Factory will release each season in its own stand-alone box as the seasons progress. The collective costs of those stand-alone sets will likely be more expensive than that of all five seasons bundled together. That’s just part of what makes Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17 worth buying. The space taken up on a DVD rack by Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17 is another reason fans will appreciate this set. The total space taken up by the complete set is going to be nearly equal to that of the separate stand-alone season sets put side by side. The only X-factor here is that the box set includes both a bonus disc loaded with extra features and a bonus booklet. Even with their inclusion, the extra space taken up is minimal at best. So again, true diehard Power Rangers fans that want to complete their collections will benefit just as much from this box set as they would from the stand-alone season sets that will likely come later. The previous Power Rangers box set containing Seasons 8 – 12 also contained the bonus features disc and bonus booklet. So any doubts about the set’s ergonomics will be cleared up by comparing the two sets to what will be their stand-alone counterparts.

The cost and ergonomic factors tied to Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17 are central to why the most diehard members of the “Ranger Nation” will want to add this set to their collections. By direct connection, fans will be pleased to know that this set is not the end of the road for Shout! Factory’s Power Ranger sets. It goes without saying that more than likely all five seasons of this set will eventually get their own stand-alone releases over time. But before they get their release, Shout! Factory will also take fans back in time again. Shout! Factory will release Power Rangers Turbo in two separate sets this Spring. It would be no surprise if sets for Power Rangers in Space and Power Rangers Lost Galaxy will follow before Shout! Factory releases stand-alone sets for Seasons 8 – 17, too. So those that perhaps can’t afford to pick up this new box set or just don’t want to shell out the money will more than likely be able to pick up their personal favorite season(s) over time. On a side note, it’s too bad that Shout! Factory didn’t get the distribution rights for the more recent Power Rangers Samurai, Power Rangers Super Samurai, and Power Rangers Megaforce. That is because Lionsgate as proven time and again that rather than respecting the “Ranger Nation”, all it cares about it releasing compilation after compilation rather than building anticipation and releasing proper full season sets. Shout! Factory has shown time and again with its Power Rangers releases that it has the utmost respect for the franchise’s fans and the series’ legacy. So it would have been interesting to see what Shout! Factory would have done with the newer seasons. They did plenty with Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17 and its all previous Power Rangers sets.

Shout! Factory has proven time and again the respect that it has for the “Ranger Nation” and for the legacy of the Power Rangers franchise as a whole with all of its releases up to this new box set. The inclusion of a bonus features disc and companion booklet with the set makes the presentation and viewing experience with this set all the richer for fans. The bonus DVD includes even more in-depth bonus material than what was presented in Power Rangers: Seasons 8 – 12. Audiences are treated in this set’s bonus disc to discussions on the props used throughout Seasons 13 – 17. Stories on the props are shared by both those behind the cameras and by the cast members. Fans will really appreciate that those stories aren’t relegated to just the seasons included in this set. They go as far back as stories from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Also shared by cast members are stories of the cast’s favorite and least favorite sets as well as general fond memories of working on each series among so much more bonus material. The most intriguing factor that fans will take away from all of these stories is the fact that many of the actors that filled each season’s cast were themselves Power Rangers fans before Power Rangers cast members. Fans will appreciate the respect that said cast members have and had for the franchise both before being cast and during their time on their respective seasons.

The stories and other bonuses included in the set’s bonus DVD makes the overall viewing experience of this set so much richer for fans. The same can be said of the companion booklet included as a final bonus to the set. As with Power Rangers: Seasons 8 – 12, the companion booklet included in this set includes a comprehensive character guide and episode guide all in one. Both the Rangers (as characters and actors) are introduced as are each season’s villain. The episode guide for each season includes short but concise summaries of each episode from each season. It gives audiences just enough information to effectively set the stage for each episode. Those summaries, the episodes themselves, and all of the other bonuses included in the set make Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17 one more welcome addition to the library of any true diehard Power Rangers fan. It will be available next Tuesday, April 1st and can be pre-ordered now through the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/power-rangers-seasons-13-17.
More information on Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17 and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial. 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.

WHV, Hanna-Barbera Off To A “Rocky” Start in 2014 With New Flintstone Kids Compilation Set

Courtesy:  Hanna-Barbera/Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Hanna-Barbera/Warner Brothers Home Video

Warner Home Video had a tough time through much of 2013 thanks to issues with a number of its new releases. It did manage to get itself at least somewhat righted by year’s end. But if the release of The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock is any sign, it looks like that ship is starting to list yet again. The release of the new double-disc DVD set marks the first time that this “kiddie-fied” version–as many media critics called it in its original airing in the 80s–of The Flintstones has ever received even a semi-proper home release. Previous compilation sets from Warner Home Video that also included other well-known cartoons of the era included episodes of The Flintstone Kids. But until now, it had never received any solo release. And while this release isn’t terrible, it also doesn’t do full justice to what was just one of a handful of spinoffs from The Flintstones.
The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock is not the best way to re-introduce this short-lived Flintstones spinoff. But it is also not the worst way to reintroduce the series to the generation that grew up watching the series, either. To the set’s credit, the episodes contained in this set look just as good today as they did when they originally aired nearly thirty years ago on ABC. That being noted, those charged with transferring the original content from tape to disc are to be applauded for their efforts. The colors are especially rich and vibrant when the set’s episodes are viewed via a Blu-ray player and HDTV. On an even deeper level, the very fact that these episodes have been resurrected for a whole new generation is a positive in itself. In an era when it seems that children’s programs are increasingly created through computers, this blast from the past is a welcome return. It serves as one more example of the creativity that once existed among animators. There is still some creativity among animators today. But sadly, it is far less as is evidenced by all of the computer generated programs that now fill the TV spectrum. So again, to the credit of Warner Home Video, Hanna-Barbera, and those charged with transferring these episodes from tape to disc, there is at least one positive to The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock.
That the episodes included in The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock look as good as they do in their transfer is definitely a positive. The quality of the footage will help bring back a certain sense of nostalgia for those that grew up with this short-lived series. And for those that are seeing it for the first time, it serves as another example of what once made children’s programming on the “Big 4” so great. This aside, The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock is not without its faults. The most glaring of those faults is the obvious omission of the companion shorts that were included in the series’ original airing. The shorts in question were: Captain Caveman and Son, Dino’s Dilemmas, and Flintstone Funnies. Given, all ten of the central episodes in the set were the full length episodes, rather than the shorter episodes. But considering that there’s no telling how long it might be before (or if) audiences get another collection of episodes, it would have been nice to have those companion shorts included as perhaps bonus material. Sadly, that didn’t happen. Instead what audiences get is a bare bones compilation that boasts only ten of the series’ original episodes. That leaves the series’ now grown up fans wondering when or if the remaining fourteen episodes will see the light of day.
The omission of the series’ original companion shorts is just one of the problems plaguing The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock. One more problem about this set is its lackluster disc art. Fred and Barney are presented in the disc art for the set’s lead disc, while Rocky and Dino are splashed across the set’s second disc. It was nice to see them exactly as they were presented in the included episodes. However, they are all presented in a single, flat color. In this case, that flat color was a flat red. Some might ask why this has any significance to the set. The answer is that it shows a continued lack of effort on the part of Warner Home Video to present a physical product that is appealing to the eye at least on an extrinsic level. WHV followed this same formula in 2013 with the releases of Animaniacs: Volume Four and Tiny Toon Adventures: Volume Four. The latter of the two had another even worse issue. But that’s a story for another time. The fact that WHV would continue to use a bare bones approach with its disc art as well as with its content hurts the set even more.
The disc art and bare bones presentation of the set collectively do their own share of damage to the overall presentation that is The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock. While they do their share of a disservice to the overall presentation, there is at least one more saving grace that makes up for these issues. The saving grace in question is the set’s packaging. Both of the set’s discs are presented on their own insert in the standard single-disc case. The separate inserts protect the discs from scratching one another. The end result here is increased life of each disc. That both discs are placed wisely into a single disc case saves space on audiences’ DVD racks. That smart packaging and the high quality of the video in its transfer that make up for the set’s poor disc art and bare bones presentation. It makes up for those negatives just enough to make The Flintstone Kids: Rockin’ in Bedrock at least somewhat worth purchasing or ordering. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from WHV’s online store at http://www.wbshop.com/product/the+flintstone+kids-+rockin%27+in+bedrock+dvd+1000406690.do?sortby=bestSellers&refType=&from=Search.
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NCAA Div. I Women’s Basketball Championship Brackets To Be Revealed On ESPN

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Women’s college basketball fans will find out which teams will make this year’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Division I tournament next week.

ESPN will reveal the complete field for this year’s tournament next Monday, March 17th on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Special Presented by Capital One.  The special presentation will air live on ESPN and online via WatchESPN.  Kevin Negandhi will anchor the broadcast.  He will be joined by veteran analysts Kara Lawson and Rebecca Lobo in studio for in-depth analysis of the team selections.  The trio will interview Baylor’s Kim Mulkey and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw as part of the evening’s broadcast.

Also joining the discussion will be espnW.com writer Mechelle Voepel.  She will offer extra insight on ESPNU’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Special Extended Coverage Presented by Capital One.  That special will air on ESPNU at 8pm ET.  ESPNU’s extended coverage special will feature an exclusive interview with Carolayne Henry, chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee among a number of interviews included in the broadcast.

ESPNU will follow up its special Monday night broadcast with a special two hour-long edition of College Basketball Live Tuesday, March 18th at 1pm ET.  College Basketball Live: NCAA Women’s Special will follow up Monday night’s bracket announcement with an in-depth analysis of the tournament.  It will also feature live interviews with some of the top names in women’s college basketball.  Beth Mowins and Cara Capuano will co-host the special extended edition of College Basketball Live.  They will be joined by analysts Debbie Antonelli, Maria Taylor and Brooke Weisbrod.

Both ESPN and ESPNU will offer much more for audiences in their respective broadcasts.  More information on each is available online at http://espn.go.com/womens-basketball/ and http://espn.go.com/espnw/.  Along with the extensive coverage offered by ESPN and espnW, cast members from ABC’s hit drama Nashville will add their own touch to the broadcast, too.  Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere will open ESPN’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Special Presented by Capital One live from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN.  In addition to their opening segment, ESPN will feature Britton’s take on Jason Aldean’s hit song ‘The Only Way I Know’ throughout the selection special’s broadcast.  The song, which featured Luke Bryant and Eric Church, will also be used throughout ESPN’s NCAA Women’s Division I tournament coverage.  Nashville airs Wednesday nights at 10pm ET on ABC.

ESPN and the ESPN family of networks will have full coverage of the 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship beginning March 22nd.  The networks’ full broadcast schedule is expected to be released soon.  More information on this year’s tournament and coverage is available online at http://espn.go.com/espnW, http://espn.go.com/womens-basketball, and http://www.facebook.com/espnW.  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, go online to http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

NNS Series “Heats Up” This Weekend In Phoenix

Courtesy:  NASCAR/ESPN/ESPN2/ABC

Courtesy: NASCAR/ESPN/ESPN2/ABC

NASCAR’s next generation heads out west this weekend.  The second race of the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ 2014 season takes the series to Phoenix International Speedway for the Blue Jeans Go Green 200.  ABC will have all of the action beginning with NASCAR Countdown at 3:30pm.  The green flag is expected to drop at 4pm ET/1pm PT.

All eyes will be on the current NNS points leader Regan Smith when the NASCAR Nationwide Series takes to the track at Phoenix International Speedway this weekend.  Smith, who has been an underdog since his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut at the 2007 Daytona 500, looks to keep his momentum going from last weekend’s huge win.  He currently sits atop the NNS points standings, six points ahead of Trevor Bayne, who won the 2011 Daytona 500.

Allen Bestwick will call all of the lap-by-lap action for Saturday’s broadcast.  He will be joined by former Winston Cup Champion and ESPN analyst Dale Jarrett and former crew chief Andy Petree.  More information on this weekend’s coverage is available online at http://espn.go.com/racing/nascar.

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.

New Beetlejuice Box Set Makes Its Case To Be Another Of 2014′s Best Box Sets For Family And Children

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Warner Brothers Home Video

Shout! Factory landed no fewer than four of its releases on this critic’s list of the year’s best new DVDs and Blu-rays for families in 2013. 2014 is still very much in its infancy. And already Shout! Factory has landed one of its new releases as a definite on this critic’s list in the recently released The Red Skelton Show:The Lost Episodes. Now this critic can say that Shout! Factory has landed another potential on that list for this year in the form of Beetlejuice: Seasons Two & Three. Shout! Factory will release this two season set in partnership with Warner Brothers Home Video on March 18th, 2014. Whether one recalls this standout toon from their own childhood or is brand new to the series, Beetlejuice: Seasons Two& Three will impress any viewer. It will impress any viewer first and foremost because of its writing. Another reason that audiences will appreciate this season is its animation. And lastly, one must make note of the set’s packaging. All of these factors together make Beetlejuice: Seasons Two & Three another must see both for kids and kids at heart.

The writing in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice is central to the success of this new box set.  The series’ writers maintained the same writing style established in its first season throughout every episode of Seasons Two and Three.  The pop culture spoofs are there.  So are the moments in which the writers break down the fourth wall.  Even more impressive is that despite the fact that while the episodes take place in the Netherworld, the writers continued to make each episode kid friendly rather straight up spooky.  Audiences will love the spoof of Sherlock Holmes in ‘A-Ha.’  And those that are old enough to remember the show will love just as much the spoof of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse in ‘Uncle B.J.’s Roadhouse.’  In this same episode, the writers incorporate that breaking down of the fourth wall.  This is a comic element that far too few animation studios use in today’s “cartoons.”  Its use in this episode is a prime example of how much hilarity it can add to a cartoon, especially when done right.  So while it is wonderfully entertaining on the surface, it serves an even deeper purpose in comparison to the “cartoons” that populate the television spectrum today.  It serves as a lesson on how much writing has changed in children’s programming from the 80s and 90s up to where it is today.  If anything, one could argue that such an example shows how much writing for today’s mainstream children’s programming has de-evolved.  That being the case, it makes this collection of episodes all the more enjoyable.

The pop culture spoofs and breaking down of the fourth wall are both integral parts of the writing in Beetlejuice: Seasons 2 & 3 that are rarely used in today’s mainstream children’s programming.  Just as integral to the show’s success in its second and third seasons is the fact that the show’s writers could take a spooky world and craft kid friendly adventures centered in that world.  Those adventures made the Netherworld not seem as spooky as it did in the movie on which the animated series is based.  The adventures are so kid friendly that they almost make the Netherworld feel like the human world for lack of better wording.  One can’t help but wonder if perhaps that approach to writing Lydia and Beetlejuice’s adventures was an inspiration behind the world of Disney Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. at least to some point.  That writing works with the show’s animation to make these two seasons just as enjoyable as the series’ first season.

The writing in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice goes a long way toward making these two seasons just as enjoyable as the series’ first season.  In direct relation, the animation (especially that of the Netherworld) makes Seasons Two & Three even more enjoyable.  It serves as a companion to the writing and makes the Netherworld that much less spooky for even today’s younger viewers.  The colors used in the Netherworld scenes are actually relatively bright.  This creates more of a welcoming and upbeat feel to that world.  On an even deeper level,  so much of today’s children’s programming is crafted by either flash animation or by full on computer generated graphics.  Beetlejuice by comparison was, like most real cartoons of its era, created entirely by hand.  For those that grew up with this modern hand-drawn classic, seeing that hand-drawn animation is a breath of fresh air among the stale, cookie cutter style excuses for cartoons that are out there today.  It’s just one more reason that any true cartoon lover and any original fan of this series will want to pick up this dual-disc set when it hits store shelves next month.

Both the writing and animation in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice are important to the success of each season.  Just as important as the writing and animation in the box set’s upcoming release is its packaging.  Because both the second and third seasons were so short, each one received its own disc inside a single standard-sized case.  It would have been so easy for Shout! Factory and Warner Home Video to split up the seasons regardless.  That seems to be the trend among so many studios today with home releases of their programs.  So it’s nice to see that Shout!  Factory and WHV didn’t take that route with this release.  It presents a certain level of ethics between the two companies.  The episode listing for each season is also provided as part of the set’s packaging.  Each season’s episode list is included inside the case on one side.  There is little left to note of this set, if anything, after noting all of the positives of the packaging.  The packaging, together with the animation and writing, combine to make Beetlejuice: Seasons Two and Three yet another certifiable candidate for a spot on this critic’s annual list of the year’s best new DVDs and Blu-rays for kids and families.  It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, March 18th and can be pre-ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/beetlejuice-seasons-two-three.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  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.

China Beach Even Better In Its Second Season

Courtesy:  StarVista/Time Life/Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: StarVista/Time Life/Warner Brothers Home Video

ABC’s China Beach only lasted four seasons in its original broadcasts.  But in that short span of time, the military medical drama became a favorite among viewers, critics, and even Vietnam veterans alike.  The series’ second season proves even more than its debut season just why it was (and still is today) a favorite among its audiences.  That is first and foremost because of the show’s writing.  Audiences will see in this season that the writing is even more character driven than before.  Now that it has been released to the masses on DVD, audiences will appreciate the bonus featurette “Voices of the War: The Real China Beach.”  This piece goes into some depth explaining why the series was especially a favorite not just among general audiences but vets, too.  And making the recently released DVD set complete is its packaging.  StarVista and Warner Home Video are to be commended for the set’s packaging.  Together with the writing and the bonus featurette, the three factors come together to make China Beach Season 2 another must have for any of the show’s original audience base.

The very first aspect of China Beach’s second season that makes it work is its writing.  The series’ first season spent most of its time setting the scene for the series.  It spent much of its time introducing the characters and their chemistry, as well as the series’ backdrop.  To the defense of the series’ heads, there’s not a thing wrong with that.  That early establishment was solid in its own right.  Now in its second season, the series’ writers have begun to delve more into the characters themselves.  They begin to show how working in Vietnam is affecting them personally and in their interactions with one another.  Most interesting about this is that the stories of the doctors and nurses at China Beach are in fact based on stories collected from those that actually served and worked in Vietnam.  That explains why the stories are so gripping.  This leads to the second aspect of the success of Season Two’s recently released box set.  That aspect is the bonus featurette, “Voices of the War: The Real China Beach.”

The recently released DVD box set of China Beach Season 2 includes as an extra, a bonus featurette titled “Voices of War: The Real China Beach.”  This featurette takes viewers behind the writing that comprised Season Two.  It does so by presenting interviews with the show’s heads and cast.  Spliced into the cast and crew interviews are interviews with nurses that actually worked at the medical camps in Vietnam.  The combined interviews display in full detail just what made the series work so well for so long.  Audiences will laugh along as one of the series’ heads tells an anecdote of how one veteran told him something in one episode didn’t happen a certain way but then did a full 180 the following week, asking how in the world the crew knew that said situation had happened.  On another level, audiences will be moved seeing lead cast member Dana Delaney brought to tears in recalling her interactions with the nurses on whom the series was based.  These are just a couple examples of what makes this featurette so important.  Perhaps the most important part of the whole featurette is the recurring sentiment among the cast and crew that the intent with the show was to honor those that served.  They wanted the memory of those that served to be properly honored especially considering how soldiers at the time had been treated by their fellow Americans upon returning from the front lines.   Such sentiment is difficult to find among cast and crew of any of today’s shows.  Audiences don’t hear the cast and crew of any medical and crime dramas sharing such sentiment towards the police officers or EMTs that put themselves on the line every day.  It makes this sentiment all the more powerful.  And in the bigger picture, it makes Season Two even more worth the watch.

The writing and the bonus featurette included in China Beach Season Two are equally important to the overall enjoyment of this recently released box set.  There is one more aspect of this set that audiences will appreciate, making it complete.  That aspect is its packaging.  StarVista and Warner Home Video have given proper respect to audiences with the set’s packaging.  Each of the set’s five discs have been given their own spot inside the standard DVD case.  Four of the set’s discs are placed on their own spot on either side of two “leafs” inside the case.  The fifth disc gets its own spot on the back of the case on its own spindle.  This protects each of the discs from one another and from themselves.  The result is the capability of watching this season for a long time.  It is the final touch on an already impressive box set from a show that proves especially in its second season that it is deserving of more respect from a whole new generation.  China Beach Season 2 is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GLT2TR6/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1VZVGYAGEKD2Q93H5722&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846.  More information on this and other releases from StarVista is available online at http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUS and http://www.timelife.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 news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Fitz And The Tantrums Perform New Single On ‘Ellen’

Courtesy:  BBGun Press

Courtesy: BBGun Press

L.A.-based pop sensation Fitz & The Tantrums performed on The Ellen Show this week.  The group performed its new single, ‘The Walker’ on Degeneres’ talk show as part of her birthday show.  The performance can be viewed online now at http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/index.php/extwidget/openGraph/wid/0_1imrwh3t.  ‘The Walker’ is taken from the group’s new Elektra Records release, More Than A Dream.

To add to the honor of performing for Ellen’s birthday show, the group’s new single was also hand-picked for the trailer for Ellen’s new Oscars trailer. Degeneres is scheduled to host the 2014 Oscars.  The trailer can be viewed online now at http://www.oscars.org/herewego/.  More information on Fitz and the Tantrums is available online now at http://www.facebook.com/fitzandthetantrums and http://fitzandthetantrums.com.

More information on The Ellen Degeneres Show is available online at http://www.facebook.com/ellentv, http://www.ellentv.com, and http://twitter.com/theellenshow.

More information on The Oscars is available online at http://www.facebook.com/TheOscars2014 and http://twitter.com/OscarCeremony.

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.

NYPD Blue’s Fifth Season Proves Why Series Still Stands As One Of TV’s Best Dramas

Courtesy:  ABC/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: ABC/Shout! Factory

NYPD Blue was one of the biggest and most talked about crime dramas on television over the course of its twelve years on ABC.  The reason for that is that in comparison to the likes of Dick Wolf’s Law & Order franchises and CBS’ CSI series, it was far grittier than any of those programs.  One could easily argue that the success of NYPD Blue is to thank for FX’s The Shield rising to fame.  Of course, that series was itself based on a British series from the 1970s known as The Sweeney.  So it goes without saying that NYPD Blue was a groundbreaking series for its time.  And now thanks to Shout! Factory, the fifth season of the hit crime drama is now available in its entirety on DVD box set.  NYPD Blue Season Five is one of the favorites of fans everywhere.  That’s because it really exhibited the talent of the show’s writers at their peak.  The writing is just the starting point for the success of Season 5.  While it’s somewhat minor, audiences will agree that Season Five maintains the show’s image totally separate from the other crime dramas on television.  That will be explained later.  Just as much worth noting is the show’s music.  The music goes right along with the show’s image.  It wasn’t that perfect spit-shined sound that all of the other crime dramas used (and still use today).  These factors and so many more make NYPD Blue Season Five a fantastic trip down memory lane for any true fan of what was and still is one of ABC’s most revered series.

The fifth season of NYPD Blue stands out as one of the series’ best to date.  It is such an exceptional season first and foremost because of its writers.  The writers proved yet again with Season Five their ability to tell multiple stories without letting them get bogged down in each other.  This is something that still remains problematic for so many crime dramas today.  It was especially the case for the CSI franchise for many years.  The show’s writers relied more on sex appeal to try and cover up the fact that their stories were relatively shallow and had a tendency to get caught in themselves.  Just as much to the credit of NYPD Blue’s writers, their stories had substance.  Sure, there was some sex appeal.  But it largely took a back seat to the storylines that leave audiences on the edge of their seats right up to the end without audiences even realizing it.  A prime example of this was the season opener, “This Bud’s For You.”  This episode finishes off the cliffhanger that was started in Season Four’s finale.  The Joey Salvo homicide is finally figured out. And in the process, audiences see some personal character development among the cast. There’s more than enough drama to go around.  But none of it overpowers any other part of the episode.  That is a true sign of a well-written show.  And audiences will see that, again, throughout Season Five.  It’s just the starting point of this season’s success, too.

The writing behind NYPD Blue in its fifth season is the primary reason for the show’s success thus far into its run.  Another reason for the show’s success five seasons in is the show’s image. When put alongside its competition, NYPD Blue didn’t have the spit shined and streamlined look of perhaps a CSI or even any of the Law & Order series across the NBC family of networks at the time.  Those that are familiar with Dick Wolf’s varied series will agree with that argument.  The series in question attempted for years to have a certain grit and realism about them.  But they could never escape the more standard look established by Wolf’s company. Even today, Law & Order: SVU still suffers from that issue.  For lack of better wording, it’s almost as if Wolf’s series always held back.  NYPD Blue on the other hand took the road less travelled even five seasons in.  It wasn’t afraid to show a meaner, tougher side of police work.  Both then and now, few if any shows try their hand at such realism.  It continues to stand today as a tribute to the show’s ability to stand out in the crowd, even today.  Audiences will agree when they check out Season Five for themselves.

The writing and the look of NYPD Blue in its fifth season are both important elements in the show’s success.  There is still one more aspect of the series that while minor stands out among crime dramas of its time.  And it is related directly to the show’s image. That aspect is the show’s soundtrack.  Again, one has to note NYPD Blue’s competition at the time to understand why it is in fact so important.  The CSI’s, Without A Traces, and so many others had a specific soundtrack to go along with their relatively spit shined looks. NYPD Blue on the other hand, had a more generic soundtrack.  The show’s writers and creative forces used a soundtrack of music that one might hear on an inner city street, instead of paying royalty fees for a set of catchy tunes or just having a general marketable sound.  It helped even five seasons into its run, to prove how pretentious those other crime drams really were.  On the same branch, it showed once more how hard the show’s writers and creative heads tried to make NYPD Blue stand out.  It did just that.  And set alongside the show’s look and feel, and its writing, it is one more piece proving why even years after its initial run, NYPD Blue’s fifth season remains one of the show’s best. It is available now on DVD and can be ordered online direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/nypd-blue-season-five. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and 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 reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Anchor Bay To Release New Psychological Thriller

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment will release the new indie-horror flick In Fear this Spring.  The movie, starring Iain de Caestecker (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures), and Allen Leech (Downton Abbey), it is the feature film debut for writer/director Jeremy Lovering.  In Fear has already made waves at international film festivals in nine countries including: Toronto After Dark (Canada), the Rosebud Entertainment Fantasy Festival (Germany), Fancine – Festival de Cine Fantastico (Spain), and the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (South Korea).

In Fear follow’s the plight of a young couple being tracked in their car by an unseen predator.  The couple is trapped in its car as it travels a number of country roads in an attempt to escape its seemingly invisible assailant.  The couple’s car is its only protection.  The story combines the fear of the dark and of the unknown.  It will be available March 11th on Blu-ray, DVD and Video on Demand.  The Blu-ray presentation will be available for SRP of $29.99.  The DVD will be available for SRP of $24.98.

More information on In Fear and other films from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.anchorbayent.com and http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay.  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.