EOne’s New Bella Sara DVD A Good Fit For Any Young Female Viewer

Courtesy:  Entertainment One/Foxfield Entertainment/The Bella Sara Company

Courtesy: Entertainment One/Foxfield Entertainment/The Bella Sara Company

Entertainment One released the latest adventure of Bella Sara last week. Bella Sara: Emma’s Wings is one more enjoyable watch for the young female audiences at whom it is aimed. That is the case first and foremost because unlike previous Bella Sara DVDs, this presentation is actually a full feature length presentation. Another reason that its intended audiences will appreciate this latest release in the Bella Sara series is its general writing. And lastly, the general content puts the final touch on this release. All these factors together make Bella Sara: Emma’s Wings a presentation that any young female viewer will enjoy.

The first aspect of Bella Sara: Emma’s Wings that its intended audiences will appreciate this presentation is a full-length piece. Previous releases in the Bella Sara series were presented in shorter form. So this presentation is the first in the ongoing series of releases that could consider itself a full length feature. While it is an independent release, it could easily compete with the likes of the full length straight to DVD Barbie features that are currently out there. That being the case, that factor alone would make it a good fit for any young female viewer’s slumber party, birthday party or other social event.

That Bella Sara: Emma’s Wings is presented as a full length feature is a good thing for this release in comparison to previous releases in the series. Just as important to the overall enjoyment for the feature’s viewers is its combined general writing and content. The story is simple enough for any viewer to follow. Presented here is what is essentially a coming-of-age story of sorts. Young teen Emma finds herself and literally her voice after discovering a secret that had been long-held by her mother through most of Emma’s youth. It is made obvious that Emma’s mother had died at the start of the story. It isn’t noted how she died. And that is in all honesty beside the point. Her mother being out of the picture actually helps to serve as a catalyst to the story’s progression. So in the long run, it is actually a good thing that the cause of her mother’s death wasn’t explained. Along her journey into the world that is North of North, Emma has to take on the evil Ivenna and her henchman who want to take over the land by taking away all of the “horse magic.” It’s through her own personal journey of self-discovery and realization that Emma is able to defeat Ivenna and save North of North. The general progression of the story is just as simple as the story itself. So that should help to keep young viewers fully engaged in the feature from start to finish.

The simple storyline contained in this new release from Entertainment One will definitely keep the feature’s intended audiences engaged throughout the course of tis roughly hour and fifteen-minute run time. In the same vein, one would be remiss to not mention the feature’s general content. The story is obviously fantasy based. And it centers on horses. This is a double whammy for all involved. The Bella Sara Company, Foxfield Entertainment and Entertainment One have collectively taken two items about which so many younger female viewers crazy and combined them into one. Add in the short musical numbers to the mix (and the overall writing) and viewers get a near complete package. All of this material packaged into what is a relatively full length presentation makes everything complete. It all combines to make Bella Sara: Emma’s Wings a feature that any young female viewer will enjoy whether by herself, with friends or even with her mother.

Bella Sara: Emma’s Wings is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HNTOYF8/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1V0JEAXF18XKCR96GP00&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846. 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.

Avi’s ‘Night Light” Is a Bright Musical Light

Courtesy:  Little Monster Records

Courtesy: Little Monster Records

Singer Zee Avi’s latest album Night Light is available today. The third album from the Malaysian born singer, it is also the first family album that she has ever released. It goes without saying that her first venture into that realm has produced what is one of the most intriguing records of the year in the realm of family and children’s music. The nine-track disc is comprised primarily of covers from some of the most well-known names in the music industry, including: Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, and Bobby McFerrin. There is also a cover of the famed ‘Rainbow Connection’ from Jim Henson’s original Muppet Movie that any Muppets fan will enjoy. And audiences will agree that her cover of the Louis Armstrong hit ‘Dream A Little Dream’ is absolutely beautiful, even if they aren’t fans of jazz. It all closes with a medley of well-known children’s songs aptly titled ‘Nightlight Medley.’ It’s a fitting closer for the album that will leave a smile on the face of any listener young and old alike. Having been left with that smile, listeners will agree that Night Light is an album that any family should hear at least once this year.

Night Light opens with what can best be described as the most intriguing cover of Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ that this critic has ever heard. Avi’s take on the song gives it a decidedly different identity than McFerrin’s original tune. She incorporates what sounds like a tabla and a rather interesting bass instrument. The combination of the two instruments set against Avi’s almost siren-like singing sets her take on McFerrin’s song completely apart from any other cover of the song currently out there. Even as she sings, listeners will note that Avi doesn’t simply try to cover McFerrin’s original work. Rather she actually makes it her own without completely losing the original altogether. It definitely is something that must be heard to be fully understood and appreciated.

Avi’s cover of ‘Don’t Worry, He Happy’ is definitely original. That goes without saying. On the other side of the proverbial coin, she sticks more to the original work when in her cover of ‘Dream a Little Dream’ The song, originally made famous by jazz legend Louis Armstrong, is made even more interesting with what sounds like a ukulele. Even with the combination of Avi’s gentle vocals and ukulele in the place of Armstrong’s famed trumpet and gravelly voice, the song is still as wonderful as ever. The true irony of Avi’s vocal style here is its similarity to that of Billie Holiday. Some might call it a stretch. But a close side by side comparison reveals the similarity. It is slight. But once listeners hear it, they will agree as to Avi’s high level of talent, being compared to such a great.

The album’s closer, ‘Nightlight Medley’ offers listeners a pair of classic children’s tunes. It is is the perfect closer for listeners. It starts with Avi’s rendition of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.’ She starts off by singing it in English before proceeding to sing the song in her native tongue. There’s something special about hearing this song known around the world in a language completely unknown to most listeners. From ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’, Avi moves on to ‘Four and Twenty Black Birds Baked in a Pie.’ She gives even this song its own twist as she sings. As with the other covers included in this album, it is one that absolutely must be heard in order to understand and appreciate the new life and identity that Avi has given the song.

Night Light is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered online now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00J566VDA/ref=s9_simh_gw_p15_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=03S45350NRFN0W5ATJBW&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846. Audiences can keep up with the latest from Zee Avi after ordering her CD online at http://www.facebook.com/zeeavi and http://www.zeeavi.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 reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

30 For 30: Soccer Stories Kicks Off April 15th

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

April 15th is perhaps the single most hated day of the year every year. It is the deadline to file taxes on time. This year however, ESPN and ESPN Films are giving everyone reason to be happy on April 15th. That’s because ESPN Films will present the latest addition to its award-winning 30 for 30 film series as a reward for enduring tax day.

ESPN Films will present Hillsborough, the first in the 30 for 30: Soccer Stories series, on April 15th at 8pm ET on ESPN.  Hillsborough examines what is the single worst sporting disaster in the history of the United Kingdom. The film examines the events in the years, months, weeks, and days leading up to the tragedy, which left ninety-six people dead and hundreds more injured at an FA Cup Semifinal matchup between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England.

Hillsborough tells the story of the tragedy through first-hand accounts of fans in attendance and from police officers. Many of those that appeared on camera to share their stories did so for the first time since the horrific events of that day a quarter of a century ago. Many of those interviewed for Hillsborough are still seeking justice for their loved ones to this day.

ESPN Films’ 30 for 30: Soccer Stories is a mix of feature-length films and 30-minute long documentary films promoting ESPN’s coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The series of films is presented by an award-winning group of filmmakers. It tells stories from around the world of soccer both from the United States and around the world. The complete schedule of films in ESPN Films’ is available online at http://es.pn/1aOGWre. More information on ESPN Films’ 30 for 30: Soccer Stories is available online at http://espn.go.com/30for30/soccer.

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.

Ireland’s Wild River Is An Example Of A Wildlife Documentary Done Right

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Ireland’s Wild River is one of the most enjoyable episodes of PBS’ beloved wildlife series Nature to come along in quite a while. This episode of Nature is such a joy first and foremost because of its approach. There is quite a bit to note on that matter alone. Another reason that audiences will enjoy this episode of Nature thanks to the beautiful cinematography. That plays directly into the episode’s approach. One more reason that viewers will enjoy this episode of Nature is its editing. Much like the cinematography, the editing plays directly in to the episode’s overall approach. All three factors together make this episode of Nature one that any viewer should see at least once.

PBS’ Nature has been a hit with viewers for years. That is because of its general approach. It has typically stayed as far as possible from all of the wildlife shows that are based more on personalities (whether on camera or off) than on the animals. Because they focus more on personalities, those same shows take more of an intrusive approach than Nature for lack of better wording. While this episode of Nature actually does have a host of sorts in Colin Stafford-Johnson, he is not the center of attention. Nor does he show any interest in taking center stage. The only time that he is shown is occasionally as he paddles (yes, paddles) along the Shannon. Even his own narration is apart from that of hosts of other wildlife program. That makes this episode even more enjoyable for true nature lovers. His narration isn’t the same high energy approach of so many nature show hosts. Much like the cinematography and companion editing of this episode, Stafford-Johnson’s own narration is low-key and non-intrusive. He takes the angle more of a full-on observer than the standard host that goes in and grabs everything in sight, trying to stay in the camera. It’s one part of the episode’s approach that makes the episode such a joy.

Host Colin Stafford-Johnson’s hands off, observer style approach to Ireland’s Wild River is just one part of what makes this episode of Nature so enjoyable for lovers of any wildlife programming on television. Another, more subtle aspect of the episode’s approach that makes it so enjoyable is in how Stafford-Johnson made his way along the Shannon River. Whereas shows like River Monsters and others are so quick to use motorized boats because they make the show more “sexy” for viewers, Stafford-Johnson gently paddles along in a canoe. It’s a nice change of pace. It shows that Stafford-Johnson isn’t trying to present that same spit-shined, “sexy” appearance of those other shows. And it shows a true reverence for the wildlife along the river, too. He is showing that he doesn’t want to do anything to disturb the wildlife. This is such a welcome alternative to what audiences are accustomed to seeing from nature shows. It makes the episode’s overall approach all the more entertaining for audiences.

The approach taken by Stafford-Johnson and those responsible for the final product here resulted in what is one of the series’ best episodes so far in 2014. That work is not all that makes this episode so enjoyable. Just as important to the overall enjoyment factor is the combined cinematography and editing used for the final product. The shots of Stafford-Johnson paddling gently along the river, and sitting in his canoe among the reeds create such a sense of serenity. There are no overdone pans setting him against the backdrop of the river or other unnecessary flourishes. It’s just straight forward camera work. In terms of flourishes, audiences will like the high speed photography capturing in flight, the many birds that populate the Shannon. Even here, it isn’t overdone. This effect is used just enough to add a little extra “oomph” to the program. And the editing used to transition from one bird to the next adds even more of that feeling.   Just as worth noting is one specific moment in which a shot of a bird on a reed fades to a show of Stafford-Johnson’s silhouette against the setting sun in the sky. Given, it’s a standard edit effect. But it’s the only time that audiences see this effect used, too. Simply put the editing and cinematography are minimized just as much as Stafford-Johnson’s time on camera. There’s no over the top anything here. Everything is balanced just right throughout the course of the program. In the end it’s that balance makes Ireland’s Wild River one of the best episodes of PBS’ Nature yet.

Ireland’s Wild River is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=31134566&cp=&sr=1&kw=irelands+wild+river&origkw=Ireland%27s+Wild+River&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature and http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature. 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.

PBS Marks 50th Anniversary Of Freedom Summer With New Episode Of American Experience

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS announced this week, the upcoming home release of another episode of its series American Experience.

PBS will release American Experience: Freedom Summer June 24th on DVD. The documentary takes viewers back to the Summer of 1964, recalling the events that would change America forever over a mere ten weeks. It was over those ten weeks that the civil rights movement took a big turn. Over seven hundred student volunteers joined forces with organizers and local members of the African American community in Mississippi to establish the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and Freedom Schools throughout the state. The goal of the movement was to challenge the state’s already established Democratic Party at the DNC in Atlantic City that year.

The efforts of Freedom Summer organizers and student volunteers were met with a lot of resistance. Three civil rights workers were killed that year. There were also numerous beatings. And some thirty-five churches were burned. A total of seventy homes and community centers were bombed in the process, too. Acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders, the Murder of Emmitt Till) directed this documentary. Till takes viewers through the dramatic events of the Freedom Summer, from the violence to the efforts to get African Americans registered to vote and everything in between. It shows the sheer complexity of the movement to end segregation in America.

American Experience: Freedom Summer retails for $24.99. It can be pre-ordered via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34894696&cp=&sr=1&kw=american+experience+freedom+summer&origkw=American+Experience+Freedom+Summer&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online at http://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperience, http://www.pbs.org/americanexperience, and http://twitter.com/AmExperiencePBS. 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 in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Little Rockers Band Debuts Video For Latest Single

Courtesy:  Waldmania PR/Little Rockers Music

Courtesy: Waldmania PR/Little Rockers Music

The Little Rockers Band recently released the video for its new single, ‘Wild Wild West.’

The video puts husband and wife duo Chris and Jessie Apple as a pair of Wild West figures as they sing their new single. Parents and kids will enjoy seeing the pair in the various situations into which they are put throughout the video. It can be viewed online now at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5_p9dAkais&feature=youtu.be.

Audiences will get to hear this song and many more from The Little Rockers Band when the band takes the stage in Bethlehem, PA on Saturday, May 3rd. That performance will be followed up the next day at The Downtown, RB. More information on The Little Rockers Band, its live shows, its upcoming new album, and more is available online at http://www.littlerockersmusic.com, http://www.facebook.com/littlerockersmusic, and http://twitter.com/2LittleRockers.

The band’s new album Count Me In will be available next Tuesday, April 15th.

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.

Saliva’s New LP Is One Of 2014′s Top Ten Best New Rock Records

Courtesy: Rum Bum Records

Courtesy: Rum Bum Records

Tennessee based hard rock band has been through a lot in recent years. The band parted ways with now former front man Josey Scott in 2011 after the release of what would become its last album on Island Records, Under Your Skin. Scott allegedly left the band in order to follow a career as a Christian musician. He was subsequently replaced by new front man Bobby Amaru in 2012. The band’s first new album with Amaru at the helm, In It To Win It (Rum Bum Records) stayed in print for only a short time. In its place, Saliva will release its ninth full length album—Rise Up–later this month, which boasts many of the songs from In It To Win It. Considering this and everything that Saliva has been through since 2011, the album’s title and songs are quite fitting. Together, they make what is one of the best new rock albums of 2014.

Saliva opens its new album in proper fashion with the album’s title track. The anthemic song presents a carpe diem message of sorts through its lyrical side. This is evident as Amaru sings in the song’s chorus, “Rise up/Come face to face/Rise Up/Let’s make a change/Tomorrow could be the end/Rise up/You’d better take a shot/Rise up/When it’s all you got/Tomorrow could be the end/Rise up!” The song’s second verse is just as convincing in presenting the song’s message as Amaru sings, Now when I go back to yesterday/So close/But still/I’m so far away/You know/We all gotta learn from our mistakes/I can’t die young/I won’t fade away/It’s time we choose a side/Some things are worth the fight/It’s time to set it off.” The message here is clear. Amaru and company seem to be responding to the adversity that the band had faced up to the time that Amaru joined its ranks. The irony is that if this is indeed the case, this song could still so easily apply to so many situations for any listener. That being the case, its lyrics, and the fire in its musical accompaniment makes this song the perfect opener and re-introduction for the band on this record.

‘Rise Up’ is the perfect opener for Saliva’s return. It’s not the only positive addition to the band’s album, either. Just as powerful, is the band’s defiant and equally anthemic song ‘Army.’ It’s songs such as this that have helped so many people get through some tough times. Amaru sings in this song, “Runnin’ your lip/Got a grin on your face/Boy, you better quit/’Fore I give you a taste/Come on/Come on/Say I’m going down/With my crown in the mud/But you’re just another boy/And you can’t back it up/Come on!” Everybody has dealt with someone such as the subject presented in this song in their life. Anyone that hasn’t is very lucky. It’s thanks to songs such as this one that a person is able to deal with said individuals without either getting expelled, fired, or sent to jail. The collective chants behind Amaru as he sings later in the song, “You and what army’s gonna take my throne/Break my bones/steal my soul/Ain’t no army gonna climb these walls/Ten feet tall/I won’t fall” followed by the song’s wailing guitar are certain to get any listener’s adrenaline flowing. All assembled, this song proves once more just how serious Saliva’s members are about what they do. It’s one more example proving that Saliva is still alive and kicking.

Rise Up boasts more than its share of heavy, fist-pumping pieces that are certain to be fan favorites even if they aren’t used as radio singles. There are also some more reserved songs throughout the course of this album’s twelve total tracks. Simply put, this album’s songs boast quite the musical and lyrical range. In between the extreme energy and the more subdued songs that fill out this album, there is one that stands out more than any other. It stands out because while it is a high energy piece, its proud defiance is different from anything else on this record. The song in question is ‘Redneck Freakshow.’ It’s another proverbial musical middle finger in which Amaru and company present a Southern Pride of sorts. As a matter of fact, Amaru and company even make mention of the middle finger in the song’s chorus. Amaru sings in the song’s chorus, “It’s the live wild lifestyle/In our face/It might be crazy/But it keeps us sane/White trash/Cold beer/The party never stops here/That’s how we roll in the redneck freakshow/Throw down/get high/middle finger to the sky/That’s how it goes in the redneck freakshow!” Every one of Saliva’s fans are certain to sing along to this chorus and the rest of the song whether they be in their car, apartment, home or even at a live Saliva show. If this song doesn’t become a radio single for Saliva, it would be quite the surprise. For that matter, if any of the songs on Rise Up don’t become radio singles, it would be a surprise. There is something positive to say about every track on this record. And fans will find that out for themselves when the album hits store shelves Tuesday, April 26th.

Saliva is currently touring in support of Rise Up. The band is in Iowa this weekend. It will hit the stage at L.A.’s famed Whiskey A Go Go Wednesday, April 16th. Fans can get the band’s most up-to-date tour schedule and keep up with all the latest news from the band now online at http://www.facebook.com/Saliva and http://www.saliva.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 reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Band Schedule, Pre-Party Announced For Welcome To Rockville Festival

Courtesy:  Ashton-Magnuson Media

Courtesy: Ashton-Magnuson Media

The organizers of the annual Welcome to Rockville festival have announced the complete schedule for this year’s festival, including performance times for each act on the bill.

Courtesy:  Ashton-Magnuson Media

Courtesy: Ashton-Magnuson Media

Digital Summer and World Gone kick off this year’s festival. Digital Summer and World Gone are schedule to open the festival at 11:15am on the Monster Energy Fire Museum Stage and Jagermeister Stage respectively. Cathercist, winner of the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands, is up next at 11:45am ET on the Ernie Ball Stage. Within Reason and Ghost of War will open the festival’s second day at noon on the Monster Energy Fire Museum Stage and Jagermeister Stage respectively. The complete performance schedule for the weekend’s events is included below.

Performance times for Monster Energy’s Welcome To Rockville are as follows (subject to change):

Saturday, April 26

Monster Energy Fire Museum Stage

11:15 AM         Digital Summer

12:30 PM         Rev Theory

2:00 PM           Adelitas Way

3:30 PM           Hellyeah

5:15 PM           Chevelle

7:15 PM           A Day To Remember

9:40 PM           Avenged Sevenfold

Monster Energy Metropolitan Park Stage

11:45 PM         Gemini Syndrome

1:15 PM           Middle Class Rut

2:45 PM           Chiodos

4:15 PM           Alter Bridge

6:15 PM           Volbeat

8:20 PM           The Cult

Jägermeister Stage

11:15 AM         World Gone

12:30 PM         Silvertung (Jägermeister Band)

2:00 PM           Evergreen Terrace

3:30 PM           Smile Empty Soul

5:15 PM           Memphis May Fire

7:15 PM           We Came As Romans

Ernie Ball Stage

11:45 AM         Cathercist (Ernie Ball Battle Of The Bands Winner)

1:15 PM           Monster Truck

2:45 PM           We As Human

4:15 PM           Devour The Day

6:15 PM           Fozzy

Sunday, April 27

Monster Energy Fire Museum Stage

Noon                Within Reason

1:15 PM           Sick Puppies

2:35 PM           Black Label Society

4:15 PM           Seether

6:25 PM           Five Finger Death Punch

8:50 PM           Korn

Monster Energy Metropolitan Park Stage

12:35 PM         The Pretty Reckless

1:55 PM           Black Stone Cherry

3:25 PM           Theory of a Deadman

5:15 PM           Staind

7:35 PM           Rob Zombie

Jägermeister Stage

Noon                Ghost Of War (Jägermeister Band)

1:15 PM           Kyng

2:35 PM           Lacuna Coil

4:15 PM           Emmure

6:25 PM           Motionless In White

Ernie Ball Stage

12:35 PM         Twelve Foot Ninja

1:55 PM           Nothing More

3:25 PM           Butcher Babies

5:15 PM           Trivium

Courtesy:  Ashton-Magnuson Media

Courtesy: Ashton-Magnuson Media

Before the bands take to their respective stages, audiences will be treated to Monster Energy’s Welcome to Rockville Official Pre-Party Friday, April 25th. The Pre-Party is presented by X102.9 and Bud Light and will feature performances by Rev Theory and more. It will be held at 1904 Music Hall (19 N. Ocean Street in downtown Jacksonville, FL). It is free to ticketholders that are 21 and older. Ticketholders that want to attend the Pre-Party must show their festival tickets at 1904 Music Hall to get a Pre-Party wristband in advance. Wristbands are in limited quality. So they will be first come first serve beginning at 12pm ET on Friday, April 25th. Doors open at 8pm. The show will start at 9pm.

More information on the fourth annual Welcome to Rockville Festival is available online at http://www.WelcomeToRockvilleFestival.com, http://www.facebook.com/welcometorockville, and via Twitter at @RockvilleFest. 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.

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.

Shout! Kids’ Latest Pound Puppies Compilation Is Another Great Watch For The Whole Family

Courtesy;  Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Courtesy; Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Shout! Kids released the latest collection of episodes from Hub’s award-winning series Pound Puppies this week.  The latest collection of episodes from this update on the original 1980s series is just as much a jewel as the series’ previous compilation DVDs.  The episodes included in this compilation make it so enjoyable first and foremost because of the episodes’ writing.  By connection, audiences will appreciate the subtle lessons taught through some of the episodes.  Intentional or not, there are some subtle lessons taught through some of this set’s episodes.  It makes the set all the richer.  And last but not least, viewers (especially parents) will appreciate this latest compilation is the list of guest appearances.  Some very big names lend their talents to Pound Puppies in this collection.  Whether it be the guest talent, the lessons, the writing or all three factors together, Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match proves to be another wonderful set of episodes for the whole family.

The writing behind this collection of episodes is the central point of impact for this DVD.  Those that are familiar with this incarnation of Pound Puppies and with the original series from the 1980s know that both series emulate the classic WWII-themed sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in their theme songs.  The new Pound Puppies has taken things to a higher level, actually giving Ace and his canine friends an underground base just like Col. Hogan and his Allied forces friends in Hogan’s Heroes.  As viewers will see in this set’s opening episode, the writers even emulate Hogan’s Heroes in terms of the writing, too.  In “The Yipper Caper”, viewers see McLeash bring in a giant dog feeding machine just to impress his superiors much like Col. Klink would do in Hogan’s Heroes.  Klink was always taking on some wild, hair-brained scheme to impress his higher-ups.  On the other side of things, audiences hear Ace tell Yipper that the Pound Puppies have homes outside the shelter, but they stay there to help others.  Audiences familiar with Hogan’s Heroes will again recognize quite the similarity there.  This writing is a wonderful homage to the golden era of television and takes things one step farther than the original Pound Puppies series.  That homage is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes the writing so fun in these episodes.  Just as impressive to note is the fact that the show’s writers are able to time and again find ways for the Pound Puppies to complete their missions without McLeash ever knowing.  This is the case throughout all five episodes, not just the opener.  Again, this is an homage to Hogan’s Heroes.  It’s one more way to potentially get young viewers started on the road to an appreciation for television’s Golden Era.  And for that, the show’s writers are more than deserving of their applause.

As one should be able to tell by now, the writing behind the episodes included in the latest Pound Puppies compilation DVD is key to the collection’s overall enjoyment.  Even older viewers will appreciate the writing thanks to its throwback to what is one of television’s greatest ever sitcoms.  Just as important to these episodes are the lessons taught through the episodes.  “Hello Kitten” teaches a not so subtle lesson about the ability of people to get along and be friends despite opposing backgrounds.  It does this by having the youngest of the pound puppies help a kitten find his perfect person.  There’s just one problem.  The Pound Puppies’ feline counterparts, led by a feline mirror image of Ace is set out to keep the young kitten from becoming friends with dogs and finding a person for the kitten themselves.  In the end, the cats learn that it’s okay to be friends with dogs.  The secondary lesson taught here is that one must let go of things from the past.  All holding onto the past does is make a person bitter.  “Beauty is only Fur Deep” teaches a lesson about being one’s self when a much talked about dog comes to Kennel 17.  The Pound Puppies have their hands…*ahem*…paws full when the seemingly humble dog turns quite self-centered on getting a new coat of fur.  It creates lots of problems for the Pound Puppies especially when he shoots down the little girl they said was his perfect person. He of course learns a rather valuable lesson from this experience that viewers of all ages will appreciate.

The lessons taught through the episodes culled for Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match and the general writing that pays homage to Hogan’s Heroes both make this latest compilation of episodes just as enjoyable as previous Pound Puppies DVDs. There is one more factor to consider in this DVD that makes its episodes so fun. That final factor is the list of guest stars that lent its talents to each episode. J.K. Simmons (Spiderman 1 3) and Tress MacNeille both share their talents in the episodes included in this DVD. Go figure, Simmons voices a character in “Working K-9 To 5” that is a newspaper man. Hmmmmm, now where have we seen that before? His character is even presented much in the same vein as J. Jonah Jameson from director Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy. MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama) voices a fellow canine in another episode. It’s only a bit part. But parents that know McNeille’s voice will love hearing her voice here, too. And of course, the true queen of comedy herself, Betty White, returns once more as the voice of McLeash’s not so nice mother. These are just some of the guests that appear in the episodes collected for this DVD. Also on board on these episodes are: Tara Strong (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly Odd Parents), E.G. Daily (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Chalk Zone), Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Napoleon Dynamite, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy), Danny Cooksey (Salute Your Shorts, Diff’rent Strokes, Tiny Toon Adventures) and so many others. The fact that so many well-known actors and actresses would lend their talents to these episodes shows just how respected a series it proves to be. Parents will recognize most (if not all) of the names mentioned here. And that alone is enough to give the DVD just one watch if not more. And it is most definitely deserving of far more than just one watch.

Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/pound-puppies-perfect-match. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Shout! Kids 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.