PBS Announces Release Date For “Finding Your Roots Season 2″

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS will release the second season of its hit celebrity-based historical series Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. this fall.

Officials with PBS announced this week that Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Season 2 will be released on Tuesday, December 16th.  Gates meets some of the country’s biggest names in the series and examines their ancestry in each hour-long episode.  In the series’ second season, Gates studies the ancestry of big names such as: Derek Jeter, Ben Affleck, Jessica Alba, Sting, Tina Fey, Sally Field, Stephen King, Nas, and many others.  In all, twenty-nine celebrities are featured throughout the course of Season Two.

Gates goes into even more depth with his guests in Season Two than was possible in the show’s premiere season. He studies his guests’ specific ethnic roots, cultural traditions, and the inner works of his guests’ families. New advancements in DNA testing even allows for study of genetic genealogy. The advancements allowed for revelations linked to questions of paternity, geographic origins of his guests’ ancestors, and even tribal Native America ancestry in other cases. It is all revealed over ten episodes spread across three discs.

Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Season Two will be available only on DVD Tuesday, December 16th. It will retail for MSRP of $39.99 and can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=46207086&cp=&sr=1&kw=finding+your+roots&origkw=Finding+your+roots&parentPage=search#Details. Audiences can access more information on the series, and watch videos from the show online now at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/finding-your-roots

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/henrylouisgates

 

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EOne’s New Horror Comedy Is Full Of Frights And Fun

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

One part stoner flick, one part buddy comedy, and one part horror spoof, Entertainment One’s new horror comedy Knights of Badassdom (yes, that’s really its title) is an outrageously over-the-top  story that any of today’scollege frat boy audiences will enjoy watching at least once.  It’s obvious right from the story’s outset that it was not meant to be taken with a single grain of seriousness.  It centers on a group of twenty-something friends that have to face off against a succubus from Hell after their obsession with live action role playing (LARPing)—yes, that is a real thing, not just something cooked up for this movie—goes a little bit too far.  The completely outrageous script behind this story is central to its intended audiences being able to enjoy it.  Equally important to the story’s enjoyment is the acting on the part of the cast.  And of course, what home release is complete without its special features?  There are actually some interesting tidbits shared through the movie’s bonus features that make the movie more interesting.  Those tidbits, the cast’s acting and the outrageous, over-the-top story make this indie horror spoof a movie well worth watching at least once.

Co-writers Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wallhave crafted a story in Knights of Badassdom.  Dreyfuss and Wall have done so much with so little that it is difficult to know where exactly to begin in examining their script.  On the surface, Knights of Badassdom works because of its silly factor.  It is just a good, fun, and slightly gruesome turn-off-your-brain flick.  It’s one part stoner flick, one part buddy comedy, and one part horror spoof that has absolutely no intention of taking itself the least bit seriously.  On a deeper level, one could argue that there’s a story of a group of men forced to grow up if only a little because they got what they’d always wished for and then some during their make believe games.  That’s thanks to them having accidentally unleashMatted a succubus from Hell during one of their imaginary ceremonies.  At first the five friends think that they’re just taking part in a weekend of LARPing (Live Action Role Playing)—yes it is in fact real and not something conjured up for this story.  But when people start turning up dead, they start to realize that there is an evil force among them.  The friends—Hung (Peter Dinklage), Gwen (Summer Glau), Eric (Steve Zahn), Joe (Ryan Kwanten), and Ronnie Kwok (Jimmi Simpson)—end up having to face that evil force and stop it once and for all, essentially allowing them to finally live out their make believe fantasies for real.  Any viewer that can take this movie for the all-out nonsensical work that it is will appreciate all of the inanity (and insanity).  Those viewers will agree in watching the story that it is funny enough that it is worth at least one watch.

The story behind Knights of Badassdom has so many different facets about it that even as intentionally nonsensical as it was, it was still entertaining.  Helping the story’s entertainment was the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  Led by actor Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), the cast’s interaction with one another throughout the story made for more than a few laughs.  And their portrayals of the stereotypical people in the role playing culture are just as entertaining.  One can’t help but laugh watching Steve Zahn as the wanna-be wizard, casting his “spells.” And Jimmi Simpson’s portrayal of the controlling, somewhat egotistical “game master” Ronnie Kwok is a complete laugh riot. Both Summer Glau and Peter Dinklage add their own charm, to the mix, too. The whole cast together will have viewers laughing nonstop right to the final scenes.

The movie’s cast and its interpretation of the movie’s script work together to make it a surprisingly entertaining work. It’s the cast’s interpretation of the script that makes all of the total absurdity believable and entertaining all at once. There is still one remaining factor in this new release from Entertainment One that makes it the surprisingly enjoyable work that it is. That last factor is the movie’s bonus material. The interview with director Joe Lynch is the best of the bonus features. Lynch discusses in his interview his love of the classic 1980s horror flicks and how that influenced his direction on this movie. Even more interesting is his mention of special effects company Spectral Motion making the monster and handling all of the special effects for this movie. He discusses how he wanted to have an actual monster and real special effects versus the far too overused CG effects employed by Hollywood’s biggest studios. That devotion to using the physical versus the digital made a big difference in the movie. Sure the monster looked cheesy. But as Lynch notes in his interview, it was supposed to look cheesy.   It was part of that homage to the 80s monster movies that Lynch grew up watching. Audiences will be amazed even more to learn that Spectral Motion is the company behind the creatures seen in Hellboy and Hellboy II. That such a well-known and equally respected company would offer its services for an indie horror flick—an indie horror spoof even—speaks volumes. And it paid off in a big way. Audiences will appreciate Lynch’s interview when they see it in its entirety. They will also appreciate the acting on the part of the movie’s cast and the script, penned by co-writers Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall. Audiences will appreciate all of these factors and more that they will find for themselves when they order the movie on DVD and Blu-ray. It can be ordered online now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Knights-Badassdom-Blu-ray-Peter-Dinklage/dp/B00HOGRJQG/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1398801394&sr=1-2&keywords=knights+of+badassdom.

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Disney Oz Adaptation’s Bonus Features Give Movie New Life On Home Release

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  Who doesn’t know that old adage?  Not to spoil the movie too much for that have yet to see it, but it is this adage that serves as the basis for Disney’s new live action/CGI based Oz The Great and Powerful.  This latest big screen adaptation of author L. Frank Baum’s Oz books was met largely with mixed reviews when it premiered in early 2013.  The fact that it was released to DVD and Blu-ray only a couple months after didn’t bode well for this movie.  Luckily for the movie, the bonus features included in its home release have managed to save it and make it worthy of a second watch.

The hybrid live action/CGI origin story of the wizard and the witch does an impressive job in its attempts to pay homage to The Wizard of Oz.  The sets used for the Emerald City are just as impressive as those used in the earlier story.  That the film makers would try to stay as true as possible to Baum’s fantasy world is worthy of at least some praise.  Making their efforts even more worthy of praise is what is revealed in the behind-the-scenes feature, “Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas To Oz.”  Viewers learn in this feature that CGI was only one method of movie magic used in this movie.  It is revealed that actual puppets were used in conjunction with CGI elements in order to bring both the China Girl and Finley to life.  It isn’t very often in this era of largely computer driven special effects blockbusters see such a style of special effects used.  So even in this aspect, it is nice to see that those behind the cameras would go so far in paying tribute to classic film making.

The use of puppets was quite an impressive revelation about this story’s creation.  In connection, the use of CGI to put the faces of Joey King and Zach Braff onto the China Girl and Finley was just as worthy of praise.  It would have been easy to just use CGI based creations and had the pair voice them.  But instead, their faces were put onto the pair. There is something special about this.  Even Sweeter was that both king and Braff voiced their characters.  It shows again the drive to make the story as believable as possible.  It was very nice to see the charged with making this happen took their jobs so seriously.  It proves yet again the importance of bonus features in the home release of any movie.

Viewers that check out the feature focusing on the special effects and general production values of Oz The Great and Powerful will hopefully gain new respect for the film.  If it doesn’t achieve its intended goal, then perhaps the companion feature, “Walt Disney and the Road To Oz” will help in that effort.  It is a much shorter feature in comparison to the previously mentioned bonus feature.  But it goes quite well in companion to the behind-the-scenes feature.  Viewers learn in this companion piece that Walt Disney had actually wanted for years before his death, to bring to life his own take on Baum’s works in a movie titled, The Rainbow Road to Oz.  Yet for a variety of reasons, he never did see those efforts bear any fruit before his passing in 1966.  It wouldn’t be until 1985 that the company bearing his name would see the release of an Oz-centric story in Return to Oz.  This movie was nowhere near as family friendly as the hit 1939 blockbuster that was The Wizard of Oz.  Keeping all of this in mind in watching Oz The Great and Powerful, one can’t help but have at least some extra respect for everything that went into bringing this latest adaptation to life.  And with any luck, viewers will understand in watching these (and the movie’s other bonus features) that this latest film adapted from Baum’s books is worthy of at least one watch.  For those that saw it in theaters, they will hopefully see that it is worth a second watch.

Oz The Great and Powerful is available now on a variety of platforms.  It is available both in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Disney Store and Disney DVD store at http://www.disneystore.com and http://disney.go.com/thewizard/.

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Pawn Holds Its Own Against Other Crime Thrillers

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new crime thriller, Pawn is an interesting work.  For a movie that was filmed in roughly fifteen days, and helmed by a first time director—David A. Armstrong—it turned out to be not the standard crime thriller.  Rather, it’s a story that requires audiences to completely invest their attention on the story.  If viewers can do this, then they will find that despite some scripting issues, it still turns out to be a movie that is worth at least one watch.

One of the main positives to Pawn is that it wastes no time jumping right into the story.  The story is simple enough.  On one side, audiences get a crime thriller that’s front loaded with lots of crosses and double crosses; so many in fact that some viewers may need a program to follow exactly what’s going on.  In direct relation is the story of a young man who simply wants to turn around his life after having gotten out of jail only hours before the standoff at crime boss Yuri’s café.  The young man is used as a red herring for one specific aspect of the story.  Though, it becomes increasingly obvious that he is used in such role as the story advances.  Because of this one can’t help but cheer for him and hope that he gets out of the café alive and in one piece.

The writing behind Pawn forces viewers to fully engage and immerse themselves in its world.  It’s just one of the movie’s positives.  What can also be noted of the movie is that the acting on the part of both Chiklis and Common was expert once again.  This should come as no surprise, especially considering that Chiklis has quite the extensive resume when it comes to crime thrillers.  He worked for seven seasons on FX’s The Shield, not to mention an equally extensive stage resume, too.  And Common played the role of a crooked cop himself in the 2010 movie, Date Night.  What’s most interesting is hearing Chiklis pull off a British accent.  Typically American actors don’t have much success trying to pull off foreign accents.  But somehow, he pulled it off.  Though he did sound somewhat like Bob Hoskins as Smee in Hook.  And considering that Hoskins is a U.K. born actor, this is actually quite the compliment to Chiklis.

Next to the outstanding of the movie’s all-star cast, one can say of Pawn is its cinematography.  The angles and the fast paced shots help keep the suspense throughout the story.  Even in less action packed moments, the camera work does an impressive job of keeping viewers entirely engaged.  One such example comes late in the story when the unnamed “Man in the suit” (played by Ray Liotta) attempts to feel Amanda’s (Nikki Reed) baby bump after having spent quite an amount of time threatening her life and that of her husband and her unborn child.  The tension in the room is thanks in large part to the camera work.  The angle of the shot leaves viewers wondering what he’s about to do.  It’s just one of so many impressive shots achieved throughout this crime thriller.  And it’s just one of so many moments that make this a crime thriller that is worth at least one watch.

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