Twilight Zone Fans Will Appreciate Show’s New Re-Issue

Courtesy:  RLJ Entertainment/CBS Home Entertainment

Courtesy: RLJ Entertainment/CBS Home Entertainment

Rod Serling’s classic series The Twilight Zone is one of the most beloved series in modern television history.  Decades after the show first debuted on CBS, it is still watched by millions of audiences the world over.  It has become a pop phenomenon, being referenced by any number of movies and television shows since its initial run.  The series has already been released to audiences in full on DVD in 2006.  Before that, the show’s single season sets began being released in 2004.  And in 2010, it saw release on Blu-ray.  Now nearly a decade after it was first released on DVD by Image Entertainment, fans of this timeless classic have gotten the chance to own the series once more as all five of the show’s seasons have been re-issued on DVD.  So with the show having been re-issued three years ago on Blu-ray, why would one want to own the series on DVD?  The answers to that are simple.  First and foremost, fans of The Twilight Zone will appreciate its cost effectiveness.  Secondly, these new DVD re-issues are far more ergonomically designed than the original DVD sets.  And third, audiences will get largely the same video quality on these new DVD re-issues as they would on the Blu-ray re-issues.  Me-TV and on Syfy, both networks run The Twilight Zone.  The problem is that they run it at times at which most audiences are asleep or getting ready for work.  Keeping this in mind, it makes the new re-issues even more of a must have for any Twilight Zone fan that has yet to own any of the show’s seasons, beginning with its first season.

The first season of the new Twilight Zone re-issues is far more cost effective for fans of the show than the previous DVD release and the more recent Blu-ray re-issues.  The original DVD release of Season 1 is listed on Amazon for a cost of nearly thirty dollars.  The new DVD re-issue of Season One (and the season to follow) are listed at nearly half that price.  And a look at in-store prices reveals roughly the in-store price is roughly half of that original price, too.  The blu-ray re-issues by comparison are listed via Amazon at nearly fifty dollars with a comparable list price of roughly one hundred dollars just for one season.  So suffice it to say that audiences have in the series’ new DVD re-issues five season sets that are far more affordable than any of the previous re-issues.  The cost effectiveness of the new Season One (and Season Two through five) set is a big factor in the decision as to whether or not to buy this set.  Also to take into account with this set is its packaging.

The packaging of the new Twilight Zone Season One box set is far more ergonomic than that of the first season’s original DVD release.  All five discs that contain Season One’s thirty-six episodes are placed into a standard size DVD case in the new DVD re-issue.  By comparison, the original DVD box set was much more bulky.  The new Season One box set is packaged much more in the newer packaging method used by most companies.  That method places discs on their own spot on either side of a given number of inserts.  And if necessary, discs are placed on either the inside front or back of the case.  This not only saves space all the way around, but it also protects the discs from one another.  The discs are prevented from touching one another, thus greatly reducing the chance of the discs being scratched up.  It is increasingly becoming the standard for every company that releases multi-disc DVD and Blu-ray sets.  So it is a wonderful thing to see that RLJ Entertainment and CBS Home Entertainment have followed this same path.  It is one more positive to Season One’s new re-issue.  It isn’t the last, either.

There is one more factor to consider in whether or not to order or buy the new DVD re-issue of The Twilight Zone Season One.  That factor is the show’s footage.  One of the great things about owning any movie or TV show on Blu-ray is getting to see said show or movie in full clarity.  There’s just one problem.  Not every show re-issued on Blu-ray was originally recorded in High Definition.  Such is the case with The Twilight Zone.  Audiences watching the DVD played back on a Blu-ray player and HDTV will get the same result as those watching the Blu-ray re-issues.  The Blu-ray player and HDTV will upconvert the footage on the DVDs to HD quality.  This goes back to the set’s cost effectiveness.  It makes the new DVD re-issue of Season One all the more worth picking up or ordering.   And for those that still have CRT monitors, the new Season One DVD re-issue will still have that same classic quality that audiences get with its TV broadcast.  Simply put, it all adds up to the same end.  Keeping this factor and the previously mentioned factors in the new Twilight Zone Season One DVD re-issue in mind, one will see just why it is one of five DVD sets a must have for any true purist Twilight Zone fan.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and future Twilight Zone re-issues is available online at http://www.facebook.com/TheTwilightZoneTV.

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Redemption Is One Of Star Trek: TNG’s Best Story Arcs

Courtesy:  CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Star Trek: Redemption is a good companion piece to the newly released fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The two-part episode that bridged the fourth and fifth seasons of is one of the strongest episodes from the still young life of the hit science fiction series.  It is such a strong episode because of its writing.  Season Three really saw Star Trek: TNG’s writing improve by leaps and bounds from its first two seasons.  This episode was a prime example of how far the show’s writing had come since the show’s inception.  It is one of a handful of episodes focuses more on character development, which was the key in getting viewers to better identify with not just the characters, but the show, too.

The most interesting aspect of this two-part bridge episode is the fact that according to the bonus commentary and bonus feature, “Survive and Succeed: An Empire at War” series creator Gene Roddenberry was completely against this storyline originally.  Ronald D. Moore and company note in the bonus episode commentary that Roddenberry’s initial thought on Worf was that Worf was not a main character.  The result was that he believed that Worf did not deserve an episode of such level.  Go figure, it’s gone on to become one of the best episodes in the series’ seven-season run.  It proves exactly why Worf did in fact deserve to be considered a main character even that early in the show’s run.  After all, the show’s writers had written other episodes for him in the previous seasons.  This was merely the culmination (also as noted in the bonus commentary) to those episodes.

That this two-parter solidified Michael Dorn’s place as a primary cast member on Star Trek: The Next Generation is only one part of what makes “Redemption” a great episode.  It also takes the time to flesh out the Klingon world, just as much as Worf’s own story.  Audiences had already been introduced in small ways in previous episodes to the Klingon way of life.  But this was really the first time that audiences were taken deeper into the Klingon culture.  It’s an eye opener that even a child could face the death penalty in the Klingon culture for certain crimes.  By connection, it’s just as powerful to see that while he is a Klingon, Worf was willing to go against that norm.  Audiences that watch this episode with commentary will appreciate how this decision came about.  Yet again, it’s proof of the value of a feature’s bonus commentary.

Audiences that watch this episode with commentary are treated to some very enlightening details that tie directly into the episode.  Some movies and TV episodes’ commentaries are not all that useful.  They are there more for entertainment’s sake than anything meaningful.  “Redemption” is the exact opposite of that, as detailed here.  In terms of the entertainment factor, audiences do find out in the commentary that some of the cups used in this episode were allegedly used in the massively major motion picture (say that three times fast), The Ten Commandments.  There is also a little tidbit revealing that the bridge of one of the Klingon ships had in fact been used in some of the original movies in the Star Trek franchise.  And even the hall in the Klingon High Council building was remodeled from the episode, “Sins of the Father.”  It’s these bonus facts and general insight from the creation of the episode that audiences will appreciate from this special stand-alone release.  It is available now on Blu-ray in stores and online at the official Star Trek website at http://shop.startrek.com/detail.php?p=452626.  Star Trek fans can keep up with all of the latest Star Trek news and more on the show’s official website, http://www.startrek.com.

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Star Trek: TNG Gets Even Better In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy:  CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of the greatest incarnations of Gene Roddenberry’s beloved franchise.  Considering that it started in the late 1980s, it was unlike roughly anything else on television at the time.  So for audiences to say that its first two seasons were shaky is somewhat unfair.  The show’s first two seasons were enjoyable in their own right.  And it only got better from there.  Season Three proved how far the show had come since its premiere.  And now, with Season Four officially out on Blu-ray, audiences can see how much more developed the show had become in its run.  Season Four shines first and foremost for its writing.  From wrapping up the hugely popular Best of Both Worlds cliffhanger that started at the end of Season three to the introduction of Data’s “brother” in “Brothers” to the season finale that sees Worf  stepping down from Starfleet this season sees more than its share of storylines that will keep audiences engaged.  The writing involved in each episode was the major sticking point for Season Four.  In terms of the overall presentation, much more can be said that makes Season Four work.  The set’s bonus features and its packaging play just as much a part in its success, too.  Together with the solid writing, the packaging and bonus features help to make Star Trek The Next Generation: Season Four another great addition to the home library of any Star Trek fan.

The writing involved in each episode of Star Trek’s fourth season is some of the best that the show saw in its seven-season run.  It really helped to validate Star Trek literally for a new generation.  The resultant effect was that its validation also validated, in turn, science fiction in general on television.  Because the writing progressively got better through Star Trek: TNG’s fourth season, it could be argued that it really helped open the door for more science fiction shows to make their way onto mainstream television.  Prime examples of this would be in the rise of shows such as: Babylon 5, The X-Files, Earth 2, etc.  There are many more that could be listed that came not long after Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four.  These are just a handful of that mass that came possibly as a result of this season.  To make such a claim as this is a very powerful statement.  So it raises the question, what made the writing in Season Four so impressive and important?  The answer to that is that the show’s writers were able to balance strong stories with personal character development.  Data, Dr. Crusher, Capt. Picard, and Worf all became the central focus of their own episodes.  Even Dr. Crusher’s son, Wesley, got his own share of face time through this season.  In the case of Capt. Picard, audiences got to see him face being human again after being saved from the Borg.  And later, he is forced to face some old demons when he takes a vacation to see his own family.  Dr. Crusher has to watch her son grow up and go off on his own to Starfleet Academy.  Thanks to the show’s writers, she also has to face the philosophical question of what reality is in the episode, “Remember Me.”  Who would have ever thought that science fiction and philosophy would work so well together?  But it worked.  Even Worf has his own moments as he is forced to consider some very difficult decisions as the season closes.  Here is an individual that audiences have come to know as being a very strong individual both physically and emotionally.  So seeing him have to do such deep soul searching in a manner of speaking shows so much more depth to his character.  And it makes audiences want to see more from him.

The personal character development balanced with the storylines in Season Four are the anchors to this season.  This is clear.  Thanks to the people at Paramount and CBS Home Video, viewers have gotten in this season’s box set (as with the previous three seasons) even more understanding and appreciation for the writing thanks to the season’s bonus interviews.  As with the previous seasons, the writing staff as well as members of the cast are interviewed this season.  Audiences will appreciate the insight on the episodes included in Season Four.  The gag reel included in Season Four adds even more enjoyment.  There’s something about science fiction that makes gag reels even better than others.  Maybe it’s the use of blue/green screen forcing the cast to essentially play pretend.  Maybe it’s just the camaraderie between the cast members.  But the gag reel will have viewers laughing hysterically.  And as minor as it may seem, including the episodic promos as an option with each episode is that icing on the cake.  There’s something about having the original episodic promos both by themselves and along with the episodes themselves that generates a full sense of nostalgia for those that remember watching the show on television.  It makes the whole viewing experience that much better, and worth watching every time.

The bonus features and the writing included in Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four work together to make the overall viewing experience a win.  There is one more part of this season’s set that makes everything complete for the show’s fans.  That one last part of the puzzle is the set’s packaging.  Season Four is comprised of six discs in its Blu-ray release.  It would have been so easy to package that many discs in a larger box.  But Paramount and CBS Home Video didn’t do that.  They maintained the standard set in the previous three seasons’ release.  The discs were placed inside the case in a fashion that is both ergonomic and that protects them from scratching one another.  This both saves space on racks and in cabinets as well as preserves the discs for future viewings.  It is the final piece of the puzzle that makes Star Trek: The Next Generation Four one of the year’s best box sets.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Season-Blu-ray/dp/B00CKYHH6O/ref=sr_tr_sr_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1376406257&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+season+4.  After ordering Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four, fans can keep up with all of the latest releases from CBS Home Entertainment on its official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/cbshomeentertainment.  

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Top 10 Major Motion Pictures Of 2012

Top 10 Movies of 2012

 

Courtesy:  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

1.  The Artist:  While it originally made its debut overseas in 2011, it wasn’t until January 20th of this year that The Artist actually made its nationwide debut in theaters across the U.S.  Before then, only the lucky few at the big festivals got to see it.  That being the case, it should be considered a 2012 release.  So what makes it 2012’s best?  So much could be said.  At a time when so much of what Hollywood churns out is prequels, sequels, and remakes, this story—distributed by Sony Pictures—went the total opposite.  How simple and ingenious is it to make a silent film in a movie of major flash-bang-boom films?  Because the movie’s only sound is its music, viewers are forced to watch.  And the cast was force to really put on its best possible performance, rather than rely on everything else that most movies use to distract audiences from poor performances.  The music is quite enjoyable, too.  And of course, the general cinematography is just as impressive.  It all combines to make for a movie that any movie lover should see at least once.

Mirror Mirror BD2.  Mirror, Mirror:  Some of you might shake your heads at this pick.  But the reality is that this is really a fun and family friendly movie.  Both boys and girls will enjoy it as will parents.  While young Lily Collins (the daughter of superstar Phil Collins) is billed as the lead star here, it’s the dwarves who are really the story’s stars.  Their antics make for more than their share of laughs.  Though watching Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer—The Lone Ranger) put under the evil queen’s puppy love spell is pretty funny, too.  It’s obvious that this spoof of the classic fairy tale was aimed both at boys and girls.  With its mix of wit and charm, it will always be one of the best takes on the old Snow White story.

Courtesy:  Disney Studios

Courtesy: Disney Studios

3.  The Odd Life of Timothy Green:  This is another truly enjoyable family movie.  The general story is one to which any parent can relate and will enjoy because of that.  Though the concept of what happens with Timothy might be a little bit tough to discuss with younger viewers.  The beautiful backdrop adds even more warmth to the story.  And the cast’s acting makes suspension of disbelief so easy.  Sure it’s sappy, emotional, and all that jazz.  But that can be forgiven as it’s such an original and heartwarming story.       

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

4.  Skyfall:  This is where things begin to get a little bit touchy.  Skyfall is by far the best Bond flick to come along in a very long time.  That’s not to say that the previous two were bad.  But this one brought back memories of the old school James Bond that everybody knows.  It’s got the gadgets and the humor and none of the melodrama that weighed down the previous two Bond flicks.  The only downside to the movie is that it tends to drag in the final act.  Other than that, it is a nice return to form for the Bond franchise and gives hope for any future Bond films….that is at least if Christopher Nolan doesn’t get his hands on the franchise.

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Video

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Video

5.  The Avengers:  The Avengers was a very nice way to cap off the build-up created by Marvel Studios with the recent bevy of comic book based movies.  It had great special effects.  Its story was simple and solid.  And the shooting was equally impressive.  Considering all the action going on, audiences weren’t left feeling dizzy to the point of wanting to walk out (or in the case of home release, just turn it off).  But like so many ensemble cast movies, it suffered from a common problem.  That problem was the movie’s run time.  Most of the characters in The Avengers had already been introduced through their own separate movies.  So there was no reason to re-introduce them all over again this time.  A lot of that extra time could have been spared.  Hopefully those involved have learned from that and will present viewers with a shorter movie in the second of the Avengers movies.

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

6.  The Dark Knight Rises:  I am just as much a comic book fan as anyone else out there.  So it goes without saying that I was excited to see this movie.  It did a good job of wrapping up the trilogy.  The problem is that it did too much of a good job, as David Goyer and the Nolans tried too hard to cram everything into one movie.  Word is that this latest installment of the Batman franchise left many people checking their watches when it was in theaters.  It might have been better served to have been split up into at least one more movie because of everything added into the mix.  And having what seems to be a lack of commentary on the new home release, fans can only guess what the logic was in cramming so much into one story.  Much like The Avengers, the shooting and the special effects were great.  So it has that going for it.  But the writing was the story’s big problem.  Here’s to hoping that whoever takes over the Batman franchise next (whenever it’s re-launched) won’t make the same mistake as Christopher Nolan and company.

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

7.  Prometheus:  This semi-prequel to Ridley Scott’s hit Alien franchise was met with mixed reviews.  There seemed to be no gray area here.  Audiences either loved it or hated it.  Truth be told, it worked quite well as both a prequel and as its very own stand-alone movie.  Sure the special effects are different from those used in the original movies.  But times are different.  So viewers should take that into account.  And the shooting was just as impressive.  While it may not be as memorable as Scott’s previous works, at least audiences can agree that it’s better than the movies in the AvP franchise.

Courtesy:  Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

8.  Les Miserables:  This latest reboot of Victor Hugo’s classic story of love and redemption in one of history’s darkest eras is not bad.  But it’s not great, either.  Audiences who know the stage play will thrill at how director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and his staff of writers paid tribute to the stage play both in its writing and its shooting.  At the same time, Hooper tried so hard to pay tribute with his shooting style and the transitions that the whole movie felt dizzying to say the least.  The shooting and transitions felt like nothing more than a bunch of cuts from one shot to the next.  There was never a total sense of fluidity anywhere in the story.  It was almost as if despite staying true to the stage play, the script for this latest big screen adaptation was written by someone with ADHD.  Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway did a superior job with their performances.  But despite that, odds are that the movie will sadly be remembered more for its flawed shooting and transitions than for its award-worthy performances.  Nonetheless, it’s still a good movie for any fan of Les Miserables or for fans of musicals in general to see at least once.

Courtesy:  CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

9.  Salmon Fishing in the YemenSalmon Fishing in the Yemen is without a doubt an original story.  It’s next to impossible to find anything like it out there or present.  But it suffers greatly from an identity crisis.  It doesn’t know whether it wants to be a drama, a romance, or a little bit of both.  It’s nice to see the simple message of something as simple as fishing being able to bring the world’s people together peacefully.  But it really seemed to let the romance factor get too much involved.  As a result, it got bogged down in itself.  Had it not had the romance subplot, it might have been better.

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

10. Arbitrage:  It was once noted that three factors more than any other are the causes of crime.  Those factors are:  money, power, and sex.  Arbitrage has all three of these.  It’s an interesting movie.  And it definitely wastes no time noting the latter of the trio of factors, as it lets audiences know that Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is having an affair with another woman.  And also, Miller’s boss has a very firm talk with him early on letting him know that he knows about the financial inaccuracies that he’s causing.  It doesn’t take long to know where this story goes.  It’s something of a tried and true story.  Add in this critic’s pet peeve of movies, the “whisper scenes” and it makes for a movie that as good as it is it could have been better.  For those wondering, the “whisper scene” is exactly as it sounds (bad pun there).  The “whisper scene” is one in which actors essentially whisper throughout the scene against overpowering music to make the scene more emotional and powerful.  But put against the sudden transition to normal volume scenes (and above normal volume scenes), it becomes rather annoying as one has to constantly change the volume on one’s TV as a result of that.  It’ll be interesting to see if it gets the Golden Globe for which it was nominated.

There you have it folks.  That is my personalist of the year’s ten best major motion pictures.  You are more than welcome to share whether you agree or disagree and what your top 10 list would look like.  2013′s already shaping up to be an interesting year.  As the movies start to come out, I’ll have reviews of them, too.  To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Salmon Fishing Will “Hook” Audiences

Courtesy: CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

For a movie that is one more piece based on a book, one can only hope that the paper take on this story is better than the movie.  Salmon Fishing in The Yemen isn’t the worst movie of the year.  That *honor* belongs to Nichols Cage’s Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance.  But it isn’t the best, either.  It manages to sort of linger somewhere in the middle.  That’s because it can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a romance or a satire on foreign policy by the British government.  The plot of this movie starts off after the bombing of a mosque in a Middle East nation.  Upon seeing it on the news, Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) sets out on a PR campaign of sorts, in order to try and maintain ties between the Yemeni and British governing bodies.  In looking for a way to build some sort of good will between the two bodies, Patricia stumbles on the salmon fishing idea proposed by Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked).  Thus ensues what comes across as the seeming satire on the absurdity of political inner workings.

Had the story maintained its seeming political roots, it would have been a much stronger work.  The problem is that it continued to tie in a romance story between Alfred (Ewan McGregor) and Harriet (Emily Blunt).  The constant romantic interludes throw off the story’s pacing and do little to really advance the primary story any.  It’s another classic boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end romance.  The addition of this storyline almost makes the story feel as if it’s suffering from an identity crisis.  Though through all the romance, there is at least one bright moment.  That moment comes as Alfred comes across as a little bit neurotic.  He tells Harriet at lunch one day that he only drinks on the weekend, and he only drinks certain drinks.  That makes him come across as at least slightly neurotic.  Audiences who pay close enough attention will get a kick out of that.

Courtesy: CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

For all the problems caused by the interweaving romance subplot, Salmon Fishing’s main political storyline is both moving and worth its own share of laughs.  While the main story may not center on American issues, it’s one to which even American audiences can relate.  The absurdity of political pandering is something that’s obviously universal.  By contrast though, that something as simple as fishing could bring two men from two entirely different ethnic backgrounds and two entirely different sides of the world is a bold statement.  It serves that much more to make all the political maneuvering of the world’s governments that much more pathetic. Sheikh Muhammed’s statement to Alfred makes that maneuvering that much more pathetic.  He says to Alfred, “For fishermen, the only virtues are patience, tolerance, and humility.”  He is saying in simple terms that a man can learn more of the world from fishing than all the political lessons combined.  Sure, it’s a metaphor.  But anyone who has ever gone fishing can vouch for this statement’s truth.

When it’s all said and done, Salmon Fishing in The Yemen proves to be anything but the year’s best movie.  However, neither is it the year’s worst.  But at a time when so many movie studios are relying increasingly on prequels, sequels, and remakes, all involved with this story get bonus points for taking the old school road and adapting a book to the big screen.  For that matter, all involved get even more points for adapting a book with a largely original story, save for the romance.  That being said, this is definitely one of the year’s most underrated movies.  And it’s one that’s worth at least one watch.

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