Win “Life of Pi” On BD/DVD/Vudu Combo Pack

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Life of Pi is one of the biggest movies from 2012.  Now it has finally been released to multiple formats.  Thanks to 20th Century Fox and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, the Phil’s Picks blog has three copies of the movie to give away on Blu-ray/DVD/Vudu combo pack. 

Next Monday – Wednesday, I’ll be giving away one copy each day on the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/philspicks.  But I’m not just going to do any drawing.  Those of you who have already “Liked” my FB page have to recruit more people to “Like” it in order to win.  It will start Monday, March 18th.   Here’s how it’ll go down.  The first person to get just five (5) people to “Like” my page each day will win that day’s copy of “Life of Pi” on Blu-ray/DVD/Vudu.  The people that you get to “Like” my page have to post to my timeline noting that you got them to “Like” my page.  That way I can count each person’s recruits under your name.  Make sense?  Let me know if it doesn’t and I’ll try to explain it in simpler terms.  I’ll announce the winner of each copy each afternoon at 4pm.  Again, that’s the first person Monday – Wednesday to get 5 people to “Like” my page.  And it doesn’t start until Monday.  So that means that you need to get out there and spread the word about the Phil’s Picks FB page if you really want to win!  I’m going to run the contest for these copies of “Hitchcock” the same way the following week

And if you’re not one of the people to enter, you can pick up your copy in store or online now.  It can be ordered online at http://www.foxconnect.com.

To keep up with all the latest sports and entertainment news and the latest giveaways, 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, as well as giveaways at the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

New PBS DVD “Wild” Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Chris and Martin Kratt, the famed Kratt brothers, are back with another new DVD.  The fourth new DVD from the hit series features two more half hour episodes from the siblings’ hit PBS Kids show, Wild Kratts.  This time out the Kratts head into the deep blue sea where they learn to speak the language of the dolphins in the first of the episodes.  And then Chris and Martin have to help save a blowfish from the evil Donita Donata.  The episodes themselves are fun for the whole family.  That they’re shown in their entirety along with the companion live action segments makes for even more enjoyment for the entire family.  And of course the hand drawn animation adds one more touch of enjoyment to this latest pair of “wild” adventures from the Kratt brothers.

The first of the pair of adventures included in the new Wild Kratts DVD takes Martin and Chris undersea where they meet up with a group of dolphins.  Long-time fans of Wild Kratts will appreciate right off the bat the continued excellence of the show’s animators.  In an age when even so much of children’s programming has gone the route of cg-based “animation”, it’s nice to see that real animated cartoons still exist.  The original hand drawn style has always given this show a big part of its identity.  And it continues to do so here.  This applies not only to the general style of art, but also to the use of bright colors.  This is subtle.  But its use helps to maintain the show’s positive vibe for younger audiences.  The animation of both this episode and its companion piece is just a tiny fraction of what makes this another outstanding DVD for the family.  As subtle as it is, the show’s writers did something that adds its own share of enjoyment to the first of the episodes presented here.  That subtle act was tied directly tied in to the brothers’ quest to learn the language of the dolphins.

In the first of the DVD’s two episode, the show’s writers pair the Kratts with a group of dolphins so as to learn the dolphins’ language.  It would have been so easy to go the standard route and suddenly have the dolphins speaking human.  But thankfully, the writers didn’t take that route.  Instead, they went a more realistic direction and had Martin and Chris have to figure out by mere chance what every sound meant that the dolphins were using.  This semi-realistic take makes this episode enjoyable by itself.  Just as interesting is the subtle addition of Aviva switching back and forth between English and Spanish.  It might not have been the immediate intent, but what the writers have done in incorporating this is noting the importance of learning a second language.  Ergo, those behind the scenes of this episode are to be applauded for such subtlety. 

The subtle inclusion noted and the animation make “Speaking Dolphinese” an enjoyable episode all its own.  The enjoyment doesn’t end with this episode though.  Audiences will also appreciate the DVD’s second episode, “Blowfish Blowout.”  Sure, there’s a bit of fantasy in Chris and Martin taking a little trip on an ocean current.  That can easily be forgiven.  Just as with the previous episode, the bright colors and original hand drawn animation continue to make for their own elements of enjoyment.  What really makes episodes such as this one so enjoyable for all audiences is its balance of teaching an important message and entertaining audiences at the same time.  It teaches ecological conservation without being preachy.  This balance of infotainment is something that other shows have gotten wrong, but that Wild Kratts continues to get right even here.  Adding to that balance is a villain in Donita Donata who is more entertaining than she is evil.  Versus villains from the likes of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, she and the villains in Wild Kratts are interestingly enough just as entertaining as Chris and Martin.  Audiences know they’re villains.  But she [Donita] and the show’s other villains somewhat harkens back to the days of cartoon villains from television’s early days.  They come across as bumbling clowns of sorts.  In simple terms, they’re more entertaining than threatening.  That minor element is actually pretty big in that it makes the show that much more family friendly.  And mixed with all of its other positive elements, they all join together to make for one more DVD that the whole family will enjoy it.  One can only hope that with future Wild Kratts DVD releases, audiences will get more than just two episodes.  That aside, it’s still a fun feature for the whole family.  And it will be available Tuesday, January 22nd.  It can be ordered online via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org.

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.

Prep & Landing Double Feature Holiday Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Disney’s new Pre & Landing Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is a great holiday set for the whole family.  It includes not just the original adventure of Lanny and Wayne in Pre & Landing but also its half-hour follow-up, Pre & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice

Most audiences have likely already seen both of these enjoyable holiday shorts. But for those who have yet to see them, they’re both entertaining and heartwarming.  They both teach very valuable life lessons.  One even carries on Disney’s long-running tradition of emphasizing the importance of family.  In the original Prep & Landing, audiences first meet Lanny and Wayne when Wayne is teamed up with Lanny after being turned down for a long coveted promotion.  Wayne isn’t too jolly after finding out that he had lost his promotion to another elf.  So when he’s teamed up with the young, inexperienced Lanny, he’s anything but enthused.  But through a series of misadventures, Wayne learns a very valuable lesson about appreciating what one already has and where one is in life, regardless of which stage of life.  It’s a lesson that both parents and kids can learn together.

Equally valuable to the lesson taught in Prep & Landing is the lesson about valuing family taught in that feature’s sequel, Pre & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice. The follow-up to Prep & Landing re-introduces Wayne and Lanny to audiences.  This time the pair has to trace down a conduct calculator lost by another elf a year before at the house of a naughty child.  The child in question wants to use the calculator to break into the elves’ database of naughty kids so as to make a slight alteration.  In the process, audiences are also introduced to Wayne’s brother, Noel, as he joins Wayne and Lanny in their mission.  The long held issues between Wayne and his brother alone makes for a very important lesson about letting go of the past and forgiving.  Those same messages are taught when audiences discover who exactly the naughty child is that the elves have to face off against.  Audiences will have to discover for themselves the secret of the naughty child.  The revelation of the child makes the lesson of family that much more important, relatable, and heartwarming.

The main features presented in this new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack make for a great viewing experience for the whole family.  They’re just part of what parents and kids will enjoy in this set.  Families also get a bonus short in the Emmy award winning short, “Operation: Secret Santa.”  The elves have to help Mrs. Clause get something special from Santa’s office for her.  Why?  Again, audiences will have to find out for themselves if they haven’t already had the pleasure of seeing it.  Even Tiny gets his own little short that will have the whole family laughing.  And the retro style newsreels that teach the elves all about their duties are just as entertaining as bonus features here.  They, along with the pair of bonus shorts included in this new set, are the icing on the cake that is the Prep & Landing double feature BD/DVD combo pack.  Families can pick up the set in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online direct via the Disney store at http://www.disneystore.com/prep-landing-naughty-vs-nice-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1323107/1000316/ or at the official Disney DVD website at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/home.html

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.

D.O.A. Re-Make Another Product Of Its Time

Courtesy: Touchstone Pictures/Mill Creek Entertainment

Touchstone Pictures’ take on the 1950 crime thriller D.O.A. is a near total re-imagining of the original, right down to the movie’s end.  While there are some hints of the original such as the protagonist being poisoned after a night at a bar and going to the hospital, those similarities are fleeting at best, as even they have been altered, too.  Whereas the original 1950 rendition starring Edmond O’Brien focused on accountant Frank Bigelow, the 1988 remake focused on star Dennis Quaid, who played college English professor Dexter Cornell.  Almost the entire story has been changed in the near forty years between the two versions. 

Touchstone’s take on D.O.A. is a product of its time, much like the 1950 original.  Stories written in the era of D.O.A. were stories in every sense of the word.  The 1988 remake is also like movies of its era.  While it does have a story, its story is nothing like the original.  Like so many other crime/action/dramas of its time, it relies more on overt violence and sexuality to attract audiences than story.  That’s not to say that there isn’t a story.  But apparently, those behind the script for the story seemed to think that audiences wouldn’t watch the story without the amount of sex and violence that is existent there.  There is even a moment when one of the story’s main characters is shot in the head while driving a car in one of the movie’s many amped up action scenes.  Audiences see the woman shot in the head, and are even given more than one opportunity to see the rather large bullet hole left in her head from the gunshot as she drives off a road, gunman on the car’s hood the whole time.  Are the people behind this rendition of D.O.A. to blame for the level of violence in the movie?  Yes.  But again, this is just one more story that is a product of its time.  And movie makers from that era (and ever since) have seemed to think that using such methods is what sells tickets.

While the 1988 re-make of D.O.A. is a product of its time, what it really does is serve as a reminder of the larger picture of movie making, and how it has changed since the release of the original work.  The story behind the remake is a gripping one.  But it doesn’t necessarily need the amount of violence and sexuality that was added in.  In that same vein, perhaps the ultimate function of this remake will be to be one more reminder of movies made during Hollywood’s golden era.  It will remind movie makers and audiences alike of what made movies great.  The stories made them great, not the special effects and everything else.  Keeping all of this in mind, touchstone Pictures 1988 remake of D.O.A. isn’t D.O.A. itself.  But it will sadly never have the “life” of the 1950 original.     

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PBS’ “Mexico: The Royal Tour” is a fun family adventure

Courtesy: PBS

Forget the passports.  Forget the plane tickets.  Forget the packing and currency exchange rates.  Thanks to PBS, now viewers can take a trip to Mexico from the comfort and safety of their own home.  And this tour of our neighbors to the south isn’t one of those standard guided history tours that viewers might expect.  Rather it’s a special tour through some of the most amazing and beautiful points across Mexico guided by CBS’ Peter Greenberg and now former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

The tour doesn’t begin right away.  Greenberg first sits down with Calderon and discusses Mexico’s image thanks to the ongoing drug war between the cartels in Mexico.  Thos interested in politics will find this discussion interesting.  The pair’s interview consisted of more than politics, though.  The disc’s bonus features include Greenberg’s full interview with Calderon in which he describes his upbringing and influence in getting involved in politics.  Because the full interview is saved for the bonus features, viewers are given more time to tour the country with the pair.

After the initial interview is completed, Greenberg and Calderon head out on the tour of the country.  First Calderon takes Chiapas, where the men tour the Temple of the Inscriptions.  Calderon shows Peter the tomb of an ancient Mayan ruler inside the temple.  It’s interesting in seeing this, to note how similar this burial method was tot that of the ancient Egyptians.  From the temple in Chiapas, viewers follow the pair to Chichen Itza, where they climb the famed El Castillo pyramid.  The duo has to climb it in a serpent like style.  Viewers will find it just as funny as they did.  After reaching the top, Greenberg is shown the “Jaguar Throne” at the top of the pyramid on which it is believed that a ruler would sit.  The columns in the Temple of a Thousand Warriors are absolutely amazing.  They’re proof that not only were the Mayans expert architects, but apparently just as proficient in ornithology and audiology.

The tour has barely begun after the pair visit Chichen Itza.  From Chicen Itza, viewers are whisked away to Michoacan, where the men encounter the annual migration of the Monarch butterflies.  To say that seeing this is stunning would be an understatement.  Audiences are then taken to Calderon’s home town of Morelia, where he introduces Peter to his family, including his mother.  He explains that Morelia was originally established as a colony in 1541.

The stay in Morelia is short, as the next day, the pair makes their way to the Baja Peninsula and the Laguna Ojo de Liebra.  Calderon is joined by his wife and children here.  This is perhaps the most intriguing stop on the entire tour of Mexico.  That is because as they are whale watching, Calderon explains that the grey whales that migrate there each year are drawn by the sound of children singing.  And sure enough, as soon as Calderon’s children begin to sing, the whales come over as if on command.  They are so docile, letting everybody touch them.  It’s absolutely amazing to behold.

The whale watching at Laguna Ojo de Liebra is an amazing moment in the tour across Mexico.  But there is so much more for viewers to see in the roughly hour long presentation, thanks to Calderon and PBS.  Viewers get to see what’s it’s like to go cave diving, and even scale the wall of one of the world’s deepest spots, along with even seeing the famed Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan by hot air balloon.  Add in the equally enjoyable bonus features, and viewers have what is one of the best guided tours of the world to be released in a very long time.  Rather than simply being a tour guided by a faceless narrator, audiences go right along with Greenberg and Calderon on the journey across the country.  It all has such a different feeling from other presentations out there.  It’s more adventure and less documentary.  That makes it perfect for the classroom and the home viewer.  The DVD is available in stores now and online at http://www.shoppbs.org

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go 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.

Duran Duran better than ever three decades in

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

New Wave rockers Duran Duran have been making music for roughly three decades.  In that time, these Brit rockers have built audiences the world over, even after the band’s 1980′s heyday.  With the release of its 2011 album, “All You Need is Now”, though, the band showed that even with thirty years since the release of its 1981 delf-titled debut, it hasn’t lost its fire or its audience.  Now, the band has a brand new live release that will entertain its long time fans and evenbring in new fans.

“Duran Duran Live:  A Diamond in The Mind 2011″ documents just one stop on the band’s 2011 European tour in support of “All You Need is Now.”  Just as with the band’s new album, this concert proves that Duran Duran is still at the top of its game.  This show offers so much to viewers.  It boasts a largely high energy show throughout.  Though there are some slower moments, too.  The visuals incorporated into the live recording are another bonus to the show.  And the general cinematography mixed in with the visuals will hold viewers from the opening notes of the show to the last.  All combined, they make for an enjoyable show for fans of Duran Duran new and long-time.

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

The show recorded here starts off showing the band as it preps for the show backstage.  As subtle aqs it may be, there is a moment showing a woman recording one of the band members on an iPad.  It really is a sign of the times.  In the past, it would haev been a video camera or even DVD cam.  It shows where recording technology is at today.  From those opening preperatory moments, the band opens the show with the slow, moody, ‘Return to Now.’  As frontman Simon LeBon notes in the bonus interviews inclduded in the show, it is the perfect opener, especially considering everything that the band went through in 2011.  Fans will have to watch the bonus features to get the full story there.

From ‘Return to Now’, the band kicks things up.  And the camera crews recording the event do an expert job of capturing the energy throughout the packed house.  The energy and enthusiasm shared between the band and the audiences was obvious thanks to the camera crew’s work during the entire performance.  Home viewers will be spellbound as the cameras catch every moment of the audience’s positive reaction to the band’s performance.  It will make the entire show fly by, leaving those home viewers with the same sense of fulfillment that the audience must have felt after the concert ended.

The camera crews that captured this moment in time did an excellent job.  Their work combined with the special effects incorporated into the show makes for an even more amazing performance.  The effects in general are difficult to explain.  Audiences will simply have to see that for themselves.  However, as a hint, there are four large heads mounted above the stage that “sing” throughout the show.  This is just one small part of the special effects that home audiences will really appreciated.  It blends together to make for an experience that even the audiences who attended the show won’t get.  Needless to say, that in itself is a bonus, even though it’s not a “bonus feature.”

For all of the high energy songs and high tech special effects, there are some slower, more subdued moments such as in the classic, ‘Ordinary World.’  This song is slipped in late in the show as a means to give the audience a short break.  That break gives the audience just enough time to catch its breath before the band kickstarts things again.  From ‘Ordinary World’, the band gets the energy moving again with ‘Notorious.’  And of course, what Duran Duran show is complete without its signature breakthrough hit, ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’?  That one’s here, too.  So fear not Duran Duran fans.

The band members note in the bonus interview included in the show that considering everything that it faced in 2011, the band is better than ever now.  The band proved that to be true with this show.  And after watching it, both long time and new fans will agree with that sentiment.  “Duran Duran Live:  A Diamond in The Mind 2011″ hits stores tomorrow, July 10th.  It can be bought in stores or online at http://www.eagle-rock.com or at Duran Duran’s website, http://www.duranduran.com.  Fans can also keep up with all the latest from the band there or on its Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/duranduran, on Twitter at http://twitter.com/duranduran, and on Myspace at http://www.myspace.com/duranduran.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page at 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.

NOVA’s newest special is as good as a three hour tour

Courtesy: PBS

It’s Summertime again.  that means that millions of people worldwide will take to the high seas on the many cruise liners that traverse the world’s oceans.  For the most part, cruise liners are safe.  But the capsizing of the  Costa Concordia earlier this year brought back memories of another ill fated cruise liner called the Titanic.  When the Costa Concordia capsized off of the Italian coast earlier this year, it was only months removed from the one hundredth anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking.  Now, PBS’ NOVA takes a look at what led to the demise of not only the Titanic and the Costa Concordia, but cruise liners in general.

In trying to answer the question of why ships sink, NOVA looks at a  variety of possible causes.  It starts off its hour long investigation by looking at the construction of the Titanic versus that of the Costa Concordia.  The program notes how Titanic was built using riveted metal.  The Costa Concordia, on the other hand, was constructed in an entirely different fashion.  That difference in general construction is one of the possibilities examined in what led to the two ships going down. 

In relation to the two ships’ general construction, NOVA also examines how many of today’s cruise liners are being built with a much higher center of gravity.  That center of gravity is in direct relation to the shape of the ships’ hulls.  This is very similar to a discussion on the shape of Titanic’s hull having an impact on its sinking in one History Channel special centered on the liner.  NOVA’s investigation points out the newer design of today’s cruise liners causes an increase in the risk of ships capsizing and potentially sinking.  It points out that the risk has increased because the different shape of the hull changes the ship’s water displacement, thus increasing the chance of the ship capsizing and/or sinking in rough waters.

The newer, high-centered design of today’s cruise liners has likely posed a big threat in safety of ships.  However, for all the possible issues with construction, human error is always a possibility, too.  NOVA looks into that in the course of this special, too.  It ties the higher centered design of today’s cruise ships to the choice made by the captain of the Costa Concordia as one example of possible human error leading to a ship going down.  The special notes that because of the ship’s high center of gravity, the captain’s last second choice to turn away from the rocks off of the Italian coast could have led the ship to list to one side.  It doesn’t say that was the cause.  It only questions if that could have contributed to the ship capsizing.   

“Why Ships Sink” goes in to much more detail than what is noted here.  The in depth investigation examines not only the Titanic and Costa Concordia, but other cruise disasters, too.  It seamlessly ties those disasters in to the overall presentation, making for a special that will keep audiences’ attention over the course of its hour long run time.  “Why Ships Sink” is available on dvd, beginning today.  It can be purchased in stores or online at http://www.shoppbs.org

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news at the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.