Watkins Glen Hosting The NNS And NSCS This Weekend On ESPN, ABC

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Watkins Glen International plays host to the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will be on track at Watkins Glen this weekend for the Zippo 200 At The Glen. JR Motorsports drivers Chase Elliot and Regan Smith currently sit 1-2 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver standings coming into this weekend’s race. The race will air live this Saturday, August 9th on ABC with the green flag expected to fly at 2:33pm ET. Fans can catch qualifying live at 9:30am ET the same day with qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series following at 11:30am ET.

The countdown to the Sprint Cup Series’ Chase for the Cup inches closer as the Sprint Cup Series hits the track Sunday afternoon for the Cheez-It 355 AT The Glen. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. currently leads the standings in the “Race for the Chase” thanks to his win last weekend at Pocono. Earnhardt’s win coupled with Jimmy Johnson’s troubles and Brad Kesilowski’s 23rd place finish following the race’s fourteen-car pileup helped catapult “Little E” into the top spot in the standings as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series inches closer to its “second season.” Sunday’s race will be preceded by its weekly NASCAR Countdown broadcast hosted by Nicole Briscoe. NASCAR Countdown will air live at noon eastern time. She will be joined by NASCAR legend and ESPN analyst Rusty Wallace and team owner/ESPN analyst Brad Daugherty.

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Allen Bestwick will have the call for this weekend’s races. He will be joined in the booth by fellow NASCAR legends and ESPN analysts Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Dave Burns will be in the pits this weekend along with Dr. Jerry Punch, Mike Massaro, and Vince Welch. More information on ESPN’s NASCAR 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.

Shout! Factory, Nickelodeon Announce Release Date For New Nicktoons Box Set

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have announced that the companies will release Hey Arnold!: The Complete Series on DVD box set later this month.

Hey Arnold!: The Complete Series will be released Tuesday, August 19th on DVD box set from Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory. The box set comes on the heels of the recently released fifth and final season of the classic series. The new sixteen-disc set will retail for SRP of $29.93.

Hey Arnold! features a who’s who list of voice talents across its ninety-nine episode. Among some of the series’ more notable voice talents are: Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons), Francesca Smith (Disney’s Recess), Toran Caudell (Disney’s Recess), Jamil Walker Smith (Stargate: Universe), Jim Belushi (Life according to Jim, The Blues Brothers), Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama, Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs) and many others.

More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon is available online at http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial and http://www.shoutfactory.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Releases Preliminary Big Ten Football Schedule For SNF Broadcasts

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN has released the current 2014 Big Ten Football schedule for its weekly Saturday Night Football schedule.

This season’s Big Ten Saturday Night Football schedule opens with a matchup between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday, September 6th. The game is scheduled for an 8pm ET start time. The Buckeyes were ranked number seven overall in an ESPN pre-season poll. The current schedule has one of the biggest matches in college football on Saturday, November 8th with Ohio State facing off against The Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes last year 34-24 in the Big Ten Championship. That game is schedule for an 8pm ET start time.

Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will have the call for the matchup between the Hokies and Buckeyes on September 6th. The current schedule of games includes coverage across the ESPN family of networks each week. It is listed below.

2014 Big Ten Schedule on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 (as of July 10)

Date Time (ET) Game Network
Sat, Sep 6 8 p.m. Virginia Tech at No. 7 Ohio State ESPN
Sat, Sep 20 8 p.m. Miami (Fla.) at Nebraska ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Oct 4 8 p.m. Nebraska at No. 4 Michigan State ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Oct 11 7 p.m. Penn State at No. 21 Michigan ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Oct 25 8 p.m. No. 7 Ohio State at Penn State ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Nov 1 8 p.m. Illinois at No. 7 Ohio State ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Sat, Nov 8 8 p.m. No. 7 Ohio State at No. 4 Michigan State ABC

More additions to this schedule are expected. Fans can keep up with the latest updates on ESPN’s Big Ten Football coverage schedule online at http://www.facebook.com/CFBonESPN, http://twitter.com/espncfb, and http://espn.go.com/ncf/index. 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.

Lionsgate’s “Wings” Sequel Holds Its Own Against Disney’s “Planes” Sequel

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate will release the latest installment in its family friendly Wings franchise next Tuesday, July 8thWings: Sky Force Heroes is the follow-up to Lionsgate’s 2012 CG-film Wings.  Ace and Colonel are both back in this latest installment.  But unlike the franchise’s first flick, neither is a fighter jet.  Colonel (voiced once again by Tom Skerritt) is a high performance biplane while Ace (voiced again by Josh Duhamel) is just as high tech as a double prop plane this time out.  The return of the entire voice cast from the first film in the series is only one of the positives to this high flying, family friendly flick.  Anyone that is familiar with Disney’s Planes franchise will appreciate that as with the previous Wings this latest installment bears its own story despite its close similarities to Disney’s franchise.  That is the primary plus to this story.  And last worth noting in this movie is its CG-based “animation” style.  While the story is similar to that of Disney’s new Planes sequel, its look is more closely akin to Fox Searchlight’s 2005 movie Robots than any more recent CG-based movies.  This includes Disney’s properties.  All three of these factors together make Wings: Sky Force Heroes a good family friendly flick that’s worth at least one watch.

There’s no denying that Wings: Sky Force Heroes bears a distinct similarity in its script to that of Disney’s recently premiered Planes sequel Planes: Fire & Rescue.  Despite the similarity in question, Wings: Sky Force Heroes does manage to establish its own identity separate from that of the previously noted movie.  Rather than trying to make this movie into a sequel, the movie’s writing team—Harry Glennon, Mychal Simka, and Jordan Winsen—made it its own movie, complete with its own world.  It just so happens that in this story’s case the two leads go by the same name as the leads in the first of the Wings franchise.  Accepting that, it makes suspension of disbelief much easier in a case such as this.  The ability of viewers to suspend their disbelief makes taking in the story much easier and more enjoyable.

The ability of the writers behind Wings: Sky Force Heroes to craft a story similar to yet dissimilar to Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue is central to the overall enjoyment of the story.  Just as worth noting in the presentation’s success is the return of the entire lead voice cast from the original installment in the Wings franchise.  This is one area in which Lionsgate has truly scored.  Lionsgate has scored in this aspect in that Disney’s animated sequels (and sequels in general) rarely re-unite the cast from their predecessors.  This means potentially entirely new casts must get to know one another.  And that can hinder said sequels greatly.   The chemistry developed between Duhamel (Transformers 1 3), Skerritt (Alien, Ted, Top Gun) and the rest of the Wings cast obviously carried over into this latest high-flying family friendly flick from Lionsgate. And because it did, the cast had no trouble interpreting the story’s script and working together.  The end result was a movie loaded with plenty of family friendly content worth at least one watch.

The return of the complete voice cast from Wings and the ability of the writers behind Wings: Sky Force Heroes to craft a story that established the movie’s own identity both play integral parts in the success of this latest movie from Lionsgate’s Wings franchise. Last but not least of all worth noting about this direct-to-DVD feature is its animation. The movie’s animation sets it apart from anything that Disney, 20th Century Fox, and any other studio has churned out in recent years. It’s tough to tell one studio from another nowadays because it is all so cookie cutter. The closest comparison that can be noted with Wings: Sky Force Heroes is perhaps to Fox Searchlight’s Robots. As forgettable as Robots proved to be, few other studios if any have attempted a movie with a similar look since then. That serves to make the look of this piece stand out even more. That mostly original look to the movie combined with its cast and script come together to make Wings: Sky Force Heroes a truly fun, high-flying, family friendly film worth at least one watch. One thing is for sure, one watch will have spirits soaring just as high as the planes in the movie, given that chance.

Wings: Sky Force Heroes will be available exclusively in Wal-Mart stores and online on DVD/VUDU combo pack next Tuesday, July 8th. More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at http://www.facebook.com/lionsgate, http://www.lionsgate.com, and http://twitter.com/lionsgatemovies. 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.

Andy Grammer Performs New Single On ABC’s GMA

Courtesy:  S-Curve Records/MSO PR

Courtesy: S-Curve Records/MSO PR

Andy Pop star Andy Grammer performed his new single ‘Back Home’ live yesterday on ABC’s Good Morning America. The song is the lead single from Grammer’s upcoming sophomore album Magazines or Novels. Those that missed Grammer’s performance can check it out online now thanks to ABC, Yahoo and Good Morning America. Grammer’s performance can be viewed online at https://gma.yahoo.com/video/andy-grammer-performs-back-home-134332533.html?vp=1.

Grammer was joined by his band mates and even a full drumline for an energetic performance of the song. Magazines or Novels is currently scheduled to be released Tuesday, August 5th via S-Curve Records. Grammer is currently touring in support of his upcoming album. He is scheduled to perfrom today at the House of Blues in Chicago, IL. He has a handful of Midwest dates scheduled for the first half of July before making a westward swing beginning July 11th in Denver, Colorado. From there, he will head to Utah before making his way to the Pacific Northwest and down through California before making his way back to the east coast by way of Overland Park, Kansas on July 24th. Grammer’s current tour schedule is available online now along with all of the latest news from the man himself at http://www.facebook.com/andygrammer, http://www.andygrammer.com, and http://twitter.com/andygrammer.

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.

Andy Grammer To Perform On GMA This Morning

Courtesy:  S-Curve Records/MSO PR

Courtesy: S-Curve Records/MSO PR

Andy Grammer will be on ABC’s Good Morning America, this morning.

Grammer and his band mates will perform during the 8:30am half hour of the show’s broadcast. They will perform Grammer’s new single ‘Back Home.’ The song is the lead single from Grammer’s upcoming sophomore album Magazines or Novels. The album is due out Tuesday, August 5th on S-Curve Records. It is the follow-up to Grammer’s 2011 self-titled debut. That record spawned the hits ‘Keep Your Head Up,’ ‘Fine By Me,’ and ‘Miss Me.’

Audiences can check out the music video for ‘Back Home’ online now via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REHfRCYvie8&feature=youtu.be.

Andy Grammer is currently touring in support of his upcoming album. He is scheduled to perform today in Millvale, PA and Chicago, IL tomorrow. The most current list of Grammer’s tour dates is available online along with all of the latest news from Andy Grammer at http://www.facebook.com/andygrammer, http://www.andygrammer.com, and http://twitter.com/andygrammer. 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 Sixth Season One Of The Series’ Best

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory released the sixth season of ABC’s crime drama NYPD Blue today.  NYPD Blue was one of the most polarizing series on television over the course of its run on ABC from beginning to end.  The series’ sixth season is no less powerful than the seasons that had come before.  That’s not only because of the drama surrounding the cases in each episode, either.  The writing has shown a different side of the characters this season, especially in one particular story arc.  And that growth in the series’ writing is just part of what makes Season Six enjoyable for the show’s fans. The acting on the part of the series’ cast ties directly in to the writing. The cast expertly interprets the scripts for each episode, adding even more depth to the series this time out. The acting and writing that bring Season Six together are of equal importance to its success. On another level, the show’s overall production values—its gritty look, its cinematography, and music—round out the whole package, making NYPD Blue: Season Six another win for fans of this landmark series and for Shout! Factory.

One of the major reasons that NYPD Blue managed to remain on the air for so long was its writing staff. While Dick Wolf’s Law & Order franchises relied largely on the headlines for storylines, the storylines that ran through NYPD Blue were far more hard hitting. They showed that it was possible to craft a solid story without just re-enacting the weekly news headlines. And that expert writing continued well into this season. The season-opening story arc is proof positive of this. Season Six opens with Simone (Jimmy Smitts) ending up in the hospital due to a heart problem. It is that heart problem that eventually leads to a very difficult decision for his wife and to a very deep reaction from Sipowicz along the way. It’s definitely one of the series’ most moving and powerful story arcs as it shows that Sipowicz is human after all. Add in the discussion on the right-to-life and audiences get what is simply put a very powerful story arc; one of the best that the series had seen to date. This is just one example of the talents of the series’ writers this season. There are equally deep stories included in this season such as racism within the police force, and even the announcement of a new life coming into the world among much more. Audiences, again, will find out all of this for themselves when they purchase Season Six. Every story written for Season Six is proof of why this series was able to continue as a fan favorite for six more seasons after this one.

The writing that went into making NYPD Blue: Season Six was some of the best for any drama on television at its time. Just as key to this season’s success was the acting on the part of the cast. Dennis Franz’s acting in the season-opening story ac is some of the most powerful that any of the cast members had presented to that point. Franz presented a far more vulnerable and human side to Sipowicz as Sipwicz tried to maintain his hard-nosed façade, albeit unsuccessfully. It was, in an odd way, heart wrenching to see Sipowicz break down. Yet it was moving to see that he had that side. It makes him an even deeper character. The reaction of all of Bobby’s fellow officers was just as moving. It showed that for everything that they had to deal with, even the strongest people have to mourn. Anyone left dry-eyed after seeing this simply isn’t human. Of course, there were also the reactions in the much happier announcement in the season of a new life coming into the world late in this season. After everything that the force had dealt with since the season’s opener, the acting here proved to be just as powerful and moving. Those moments all together made Season Six all the more worth watching by any of the series’ original fans.

The writing and acting that went into bringing NYPD Blue: Season Six to life exhibited exactly why the series was still so successful this far into its run. One would be remiss to ignore one more factor that made Season Six a success. That final factor would be the show’s production values. The collective production values—its cinematography, music, and its overall gritty look—set the series apart from Dick Wolf’s Law & Order franchises from early on. The rapid fire camera work, the original music and gritty look were the antithesis of Wolf’s series. Those series always had more of a spit-shined look. Their music and the use of cameras gave those series too perfect of a look. By comparison, the collective production values used even in the sixth season of NYPD Blue made watching the series like seeing the late Robert B. Parker’s novels on television, just without Jessie Stone as the lead. That is truly something special. It really feels like a hard-boiled detective novel put to the small screen. And together with the writing and acting, it makes NYPD Blue: Season Six a completely welcome addition to the library of any fan of this series.

NYPD Blue: Season Six is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online now direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/nypd-blue-season-six. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online now 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.