MLB World Series Takes Top Honors In The Phil’s Picks 2014 List Of Best New Box Sets For Grown-Ups

The days are officially ticking away to the end of another year. That means that all of the critics out there are now putting out their annual “Best Of” lists. This critic is still working on some of those lists while others are official. The jury’s still out on some right now such as the year’s Best New Documentaries, Independent Movies, Re-Issues, and Best New Movies overall. The lists for all the new music are still in the works, too. So while those lists are being completed, Phil’s Picks offers to everyone to start off the year, a look at the Top 10 Best New Box Sets for Grown-Ups. This year’s list is capped by a box set featuring the entire 2014 World Series, courtesy of Lionsgate, A&E Home Video, and MLB Productions. Also on this year’s list are some blasts from the past and some imports from our neighbors across the pond, and one surprise entry in the Honorable Mention list. The box sets’ packaging, bonus material and more were collectively taken into account in building this (and the other lists to come). Only 15 titles total could make the list. So there were some that didn’t make the list such as the sixth and seventh seasons of Star Trek The Next Generation on Blu-ray or the full six-season run of Ancient Aliens among others. It goes without saying that this was not an easy list to build. But it feels right. So without further ado, here is the list of 2014’s Top 10 New Box Sets For Grown-Ups.

2014 Best New Box Sets For Grown-Ups

1. 2014 MLB World Series Collector’s Edition

2. Endeavour: Series 2

3. Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series

4. The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crackups

5. The Dean Martin Show: Fully Roasted

6. The Roosevelts

7. Inspector Lewis: Series 7

8. Psych: The Complete Series

9. Secret Agent (A.K.A. Danger Man): The Complete Series

10. The Wonder Years: Season 1

Honorable Mention

11. The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years–1951 – 1955

12. The Almighty Johnsons: Season 1

13. Hell on Wheels: Season 3

14. The Definitive WWI & WWII Collection

15. I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 (BD Re-Issue)

Tomorrow, Phil’s Picks looks into the list of the year’s best new box sets for Children and Families. Stay tuned! 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.

eOne’s “Cell 213″ Is An Interesting Theological Thriller

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Paramount.  Disney.  MGM.  20th Century Fox.  Warner Brothers.  For the longest time, these studios were what made Hollywood and the movie industry great.  But somewhere along the way, something changed.  Something very bad happened.  Somewhere in the late 1990s and early 2000s, these five major studios went from churning out some of the greatest titles that audiences have ever seen to churning out nothing but prequels, sequels, and remakes.  Now in 2014, there seems to be no end in sight for this trend from Hollywood’s own “Power 5″ (only sports fans will get that reference).  Thankfully, independent studios such as IFC Films, Level 33 Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment, and eOne Entertainment have picked up the slack, releasing some of the most original and entertaining movies that audiences have seen in years.  One example of that originality lies in eOne’s recently released thriller Cell 213.  The movie’s box art and description leads one to believe that it is a horror movie of sorts.  The reality is that it is in fact a rather deep and surprisingly original story.  The story behind Cell 213 is by itself more than enough reason for audiences to watch it at least once.  Veteran actor Michael Rooker’s (Guardians of the Galaxy, Days of Thunder, Cliffhanger) acting as the vile prison guard Ray Clement is another positive to the movie.  While the movie centers on Michael Grey (Eric Balfour), Rooker is the real star of this story.  And last but not least of all worth noting here is the movie’s run time versus its pacing.  At a time when it seems like Hollywood’s major studios are continuing to battle one another to see who can cram the most material into their movies within a given time span (more often than not that time span is about 2 1/2 hours or a little more), this roughly hour and forty-nine minute movie does plenty without even reaching the two-hour mark.    Each of these aspects by themselves play their own important role in the overall success of this interesting indie thriller.  Collectively, they make Cell 213 worth at least one watch and prove once more why indie movies are just as worth the watch as all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes being currently churned out by Hollywood’s “Power 5″ if not more so.

At first glance, eOne and Alliance Films’ recently released thriller Cell 213 looks like another run-of-the-mill horror flick.  But as the old adage states, never judge a book (or in this case a DVD) by its cover.  The movie is in fact far more than just another one of the overly gory and violence laden flicks that Hollywood’s “Power 5″ call a horror.  Rather, it proves to be more a thriller than a horror.  What’s more, it’s not just another thriller, either.  The movie’s script, which was crafted by Maninda Chana, combines traditional thriller elements with some rather deep theological discussions for a movie that will ultimately leave open-minded audiences really thinking.  As audiences learn, young up-and-coming lawyer Michael Grey himself ends up in jail after one of his clients kills himself, essentially framing Michael for his murder.  It is at this point that the movie’s biggest plot hole emerges.  The plot hole is big enough to drive a handful of semis through it.  Thankfully though, the theological discussions that make up the remainder of the movie more than make up for that glaring issue.  The discussions in question center on the battle between good and evil and on making the right choices in life before we die.  A close look at the story reveals these discussions and really makes the movie a lot more interesting than one might have originally thought at first glance.  The end result is a script that makes this indie thriller worth at least one watch.

The theologically based story behind Cell 213 is a big surprise.  By itself, the discussion raised on judgment of one’s soul, etc. is more than reason enough for audiences to check out this movie.  Another reason that Cell 213 is worth at least one watch is the acting on the part of Michael Rooker.  Rooker is most well-known for his work on the NASCAR-based drama Days of Thunder.  He has also worked on Marvel Studios’ latest hit blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, too.  So this movie is obviously not the first time that he has played the role of a villain. And he shows his experience as a villain quite well. Between showing no mercy to the inmates at the prison to putting a chokehold on another officer (a female no less) to showing something of a troubling, almost Norman Bates sort of personality at another point, Rooker makes Ray Clement an absolutely disturbed character that will disturb audiences and make them love to hate him at the same time. If for no other reason, audiences should watch this movie at least once to see just how diabolical and disturbed Rooker makes Clement. That portrayal together with the movie’s deep, theological themes, makes for even more reason for audiences to give it at least one watch.

The theological themes that make up most of Cell 213’s story and the work of veteran actor Michael Rooker are both key to making this movie worth at least one watch. That still leaves one more aspect worth noting—the movie’s run time. Anyone that has been to the theater in the past couple years or so has noticed that Hollywood’s major studios have been seemingly caught up in a competition to see who can shove the most amount of material into a roughly two and a half-hour movie without making it too mediocre. The problem is that movies like The Dark Knight Rises, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and even the recent Spiderman and Superman movies have been mostly mediocre. That’s because the people behind the cameras and the scripts have in fact crammed so much into each one of those movies that they have overpowered audiences. That’s hardly the case with Cell 213. The movie clocks in at just under the two-hour mark. Within the confines of that roughly hour and forty-nine minutes, writer Maninder Chana and director Stephen Kay waste no time ruminating on personal drama or any such related topics. The entire time is well-spent, focusing on the battle being waged for Michael’s soul and how he was essentially being tested, thus tying back in to the story’s theological themes. What’s more, at no point do those themes ever get so deep as to lose audiences. Viewers are kept engaged from start to finish thanks to that well-balanced mix of the movie’s run time and its overall content. That, coupled with Michael Rooker’s acting and the themes incorporated into the story, makes this movie complete. They collectively make Cell 213 a story well worth at least one watch whether one is a fan of the horror genre or has any interest in Christian theology. It all makes for a movie that is actually quite surprisingly interesting.

Cell 213 is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct online from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Cell-213-Michael-Rooker/dp/B00K2OBSI2/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1416580052&sr=1-2&keywords=cell+213. More information on this and other titles from Alliance and eOne is available online at:

 

Website: http://ca.eonefilms.com

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

 

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Overkill Doesn’t Need New Tricks, Sounds To Impress On Its Latest LP

Courtesy:  eOne Music

Courtesy: eOne Music

Veteran thrash metal band Overkill has been making its own brand of rock for nearly forty years. Ever since the band released its debut album way back in 1984, the New Jersey-based band has built its fan base by sticking to what it knows best. Typically, producing the same kind of record with every release is a formula for a band’s demise. But somehow, Overkill has managed to disprove that formula with every release. That includes its latest full length studio effort White Devil Armory. This album, the band’s seventeenth (yes, seventeenth) presents a band with just as much drive and fire within its members as when it first started out all those years ago. Every one of the songs included in the recently released deluxe edition of White Devil Armory exemplifies just how much this band seems to still have in its tank. Collectively, they show that this band still has plenty of fuel left in its tank. It is definitely a candidate for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new hard rock and metal albums.

A close examination of White Devil Armory reveals that this band still has plenty left to offer the metal community in whole. The thrash sound that audiences have come to know on the band’s previous releases is just as prevalent here as in those records. One of the best examples of why that sound makes this record works comes in the form of ‘Pig.’ This full throttle rocker will make any true metalhead proud. The full-on assault of guitarists Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer is the heart of this song. It displays what once made metal great. It is just solid shredding. Period. There is no down-tuned, crunchy sound here (or anywhere throughout the album). It’s like taking a musical trip back to a better era of music. And vocalist/found member Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth’s vocals are just as strong as he sings, “Listen to the horn blow/Up against the night glow/Someone left the bodies in the garden of the war show/Dig a grave or foxhole/Pile up the dead souls/Someone saw the bodies/Call damage control/Better get to know my name.” That first section of the song’s opening verse comes across as a not so lightly veiled commentary about the war in the Middle East. That could very well be wrong of course. It is, as always, just this critic’s own interpretation. The second half of the verse strengthens that argument, though. Ellsworth sings in the verse’s second half, “The big celebration is getting me high/Feel the sensation of just getting by/Don’t know the answer/But I know the game/Treat them well/Give them hell/Buy and sell/Welcome to the rodeo-Pig.” It almost comes across as making commentary about politicians orchestrating everything as he sings, “Treat them well/Give them hell/Buy and sell.” That line alone makes one think about the backhanded politics and politicians that lead the wars into which American forces are thrown. The ferocity of the song in its own way adds even more fuel to that fire. Again this is just one critic’s own interpretation of this song. It would definitely be interesting to learn whether or not that was what the band was trying to get across to audiences. Regardless, it is without a doubt one of the best moments on this album because of that ability to create such discussion regarding its lyrical content and its balls-to-the-walls sound.

‘Pig’ is one of Overkill’s moments on White Devil Armory. That is thanks to its combination of thought provoking lyrics and no nonsense music. The band presents even more of that no nonsense, full throttle sound in what is another of the album’s high points in ‘Where There’s Smoke.’ This song is another that harkens back to the golden era of speed and thrash metal. It conjures thoughts of classic Anthrax and Metallica with its musical side. On its lyrical side, the song Ellsworth and company create just as much discussion as Ellsworth sings, “Did a lot of damage in a little bit of time/I was running out of smiles/With two feet inside the crime/Finger pointing at me in the name of good and right/When I’m standing in the darkness/Turn on the f&%#!&% light.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “I was solid locked and loaded/Ready for the brawl/Standing in the killing field/Just outside the wall/Caught the scent of devil/Burning in the night/So I’m waiting in the shadows/Turn out that f&%#!&% light.” There is almost a sense of introspection about Ellsworth’s past here. The lines “Left the trouble back there in Jersey/Left the rubber just below the chrome” makes the song feel as if Ellsworth is saying his past is his past and he’s only looking straight forward. It’s almost like he’s saying, “Yes, these are things I did. But that’s the past.” This could again be a completely incorrect interpretation. It is just this critic’s own interpretation. Right or wrong, it proves in the long run to be one more excellent example of what makes White Devil Armory just as solid as any of Overkill’s previous records.

‘Pig’ and ‘Where There’s Smoke’ are both key examples of why White Devil Armory deserves to at least be considered for a spot on this and every critic’s year-end list of the year’s best new hard rock and metal albums. One more song that easily qualifies this album for said list is the album’s lead single and semi-title track ‘Armorist.’ It’s no wonder that this song was chosen as the album’s opener and its lead single, too.   Ron Lipnicki’s machine gun-fast drumming and the solid shredding on the part of Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer make this song an instant hit. On a random note, any Doctor Who fans out there will laugh at the fact taht Bobby Ellsworth sounds a lot like one of the Daleks here. The band produced this album itself and was joined by Greg Reely for mixing and mastering. Regardless of who was responsible for this aspect, that effect is a nice touch in this song. Audiences can check out the song’s official video online now via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_c3GBrWsao. It is a solid opener for the band on this its latest album. And for those that might be new to the music of Overkill, it is just as solid a first impression from what is one of the most legendary bands in the metal community.

‘The Armorist,’ ‘Where There’s Smoke,’ and ‘Pig’ are each great additions to White Devil Armory. Each song proves in its own way why Overkill is still one of the most revered bands in the metal community. They are only a small collective handful of examples of why Overkill is still so popular. The deluxe edition of White Devil Armory includes a total of thirteen tracks. That leaves ten more songs from which audiences can choose as their favorite(s). Regardless of which track(s) audiences choose as their favorite(s), the one thing on which every listener will be able to agree in listening to this album is that it definitely deserves to be included on any critic’s year-end list of the best new hard rock and metal albums. The band is currently wrapping up the North American leg of its tour in support of its new album. It will wrap up the U.S. leg of its tour with a pair of dates at the Palladium in Worcester, MA next Thursday and Friday, October 16th and 17th before taking some time off to recharge in preparation for the European leg of its tour. That leg begins Thursday, October 30th in Barcelona, Spain. Audiences can get a full listing of the band’s tour dates as well as the latest updates from the band online at:

Website:   http://www.wreckingcrew.com

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

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.

Tesla’s Tenth Album More Than Lives Up To Its Title

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Veteran rock band Tesla has maintained its place in the pantheon of rock for nearly three decades. Throughout the course of that time, so many other bands have come and gone leaving little to no mark on the world.  Tesla meanwhile has continued to create memorable songs on its own terms with each one of its albums, increasing its fan base with each album thanks to that continued display of talent and ingenuity on each record.  The band’s latest album, Simplicity, proves that continued ingenuity once again, providing listeners with songs that perfectly match the album’s title both in terms of its music and its lyrics from start to finish.  The album’s opener, ‘MP3′ is proof of that.  The song uses the seemingly endless stream of technological advances seen each year as the basis for a commentary about how technology has done more harm than good for the world.  The equally socially conscious powerhouse rocker ‘Time Bomb’ proves that this band can still hold its own with today’s younger bands and do so with ease for that matter.  Those that might want something softer but still holding some substance need look no further than the moving but still thought provoking ‘Life is a River.’  It’s one more example of how Simplicity more than lives up to its title with its mix of gentle music and inspiring lyrics.  Each one of the songs noted here proves in its own way why Simplicity lives up to its title.  Each one also proves why Simplicity could be a contender for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s top new rock records.  And that isn’t to discount the album’s other songs, either.  Every song on this record proves those arguments, too.  Together with the songs that are noted, this album proves to be very much a sleeper hit of a record.

Tesla’s new record Simplicity–its tenth overall full length studio effort–is a sleeper hit of a work.  The album mixes deep and thought provoking lyrics in every one of its fourteen total tracks with music that will have fans both on their feet rocking along at some points, and almost shedding tears of joy in others.  The album’s opener, ‘MP3′ is one example of that balance of substance in its lyrics and music together.  Front man Jeff Keith sings in this socially conscious song, “Reachin’ out to a friend in need/Is more important than a text from a cell phone screen/All these sounds of complication/In the cloud communication/Oh my god it’s taking me/From the phonograph record to the MP3/All the world is overrun with technology/Oh my God it seems to me/We gotta get back to simplicity/It’s plain to see/Rewind now!”  Keith makes no bones here about the topic being raised.  He is saying that technology has done more harm to the world than good.  He isn’t necessarily trying to preach and say technology is bad.  Don’t misinterpret that.  What he is saying is that humans have allowed technology to control their lives and the end result being a drastic depersonalization of people’s relationships on every level.  That Keith would present such a deep concept in such a simple (there’s that word again) makes the song the perfect choice to open this album.  The song’s equally simple and accessible musical backing adds to that argument, too.  Both aspects together make ‘MP3′ just part of the argument as to why Simplicity is an aptly titled release and also one of this year’s sleeper hit records.

Tesla’s members–Jeff Keith (vocals), Frank Hannon (guitar, vocals, piano, bass), Dave Rude (guitar, vocals, bass), Brian Wheat (bass, piano, vocals), and Troy Lucketta (drums and percussion)–prove right from the beginning of this record why it more than lives up to its title and why it is one of the year’s sleeper hits, thanks to ‘MP3.’  The combination of the song’s simple to understand yet still deep lyrics alongside its equally simple, accessible musical backing make it the perfect first statement from the band on this record.  Just as strong of an argument in support of Simplicity is ‘Time Bomb.’  This hard rocker is one part social statement and one part call to arms.  Keith sings in this song, “It’s like the lights are on but nobody’s home/There’s no other choice/Just one solution/So load up your guns/Cause freedom is won/It’s time we’ve begun a revolution/We’re ready to fight to save our lives/And willing to die/Oh no.”  He goes on to sing along with his band mates in the song’s chorus, “Let’s go deep into the fire/Screamin’ hell no we ain’t gonna run/Let’s go united all together/Cuz I know divided we’re done.”  He comes across as saying that Americans have got to put all of this political and other turmoil aside; that there are much more important things that unless we band together, will most certainly take us all down thanks to our division.  Just as with ‘MP3,’ that lyrical and musical simplicity serves once again to prove how much Simplicity lives up to its name in more ways than one.  Even more, it proves once more why this record is one of the year’s sleeper hits within the rock world.

Tesla proves throughout the course of Simplicity’s fourteen total tracks just why it lives up to its name with plenty of hard and hard-hitting songs.  That’s evident in the songs already noted and in the likes of the equally socially conscious ‘Flip Side!’   For all of that heavy lyrical and musical content, Simplicity proves that it can be hard and hard-hitting without actually being hard, too.  Case in point is the moving inspirational song ‘Life is a River.’  This song epitomizes the statement made years ago by Black Label Society front man Zakk Wylde when he noted that a song can be heavy without actually being heavy in terms of its music.  It presents the message that just because someone sees something one way doesn’t necessarily make it so.  As he notes in the song’s second verse, “What you think is just a dog/Is one of my best friends/What you see as sawed up logs/Is the house that I live in/What you call a pile of stones/Is the foundation of my home/And we all know there’s nothing sweet as home sweet home.”  He is saying that everything in life is a matter of perception.  And that one’s perception is never the same as another’s.  From there, he gets to the core of the song, telling those listeners that might be suffering emotionally for whatever reason, their perception of life being worthless is their own perception and that life is so much more beautiful than they think.  He sings, “You’ve been left out once again/Standing in the rain/Now you feel you’ve reached the end/And you just can’t stand the pain/Even though you still remain/You’re God’s creation/This I know/Cuz’ life can be so beautiful.”  The ballad-style song perfectly builds up to that conclusion, making the song’s lyrical content so hard hitting even in its simplicity.  Once again, there is the argument as to Simplicity more than living up to its title.  The lyrics are simple to understand. And the music is so powerful in its own simplicity.  The two elements together make for one more outstanding statement from Tesla on this sleeper hit of a record.  Together with the previously noted songs (and those not noted directly), Tesla’s members have shown that they still have plenty of fire and that they, too have one of the year’s most surprisingly enjoyable rock records.

Simplicity shows from start to finish just why it more than lives up to its name.  The lyrics and music that make up each of the album’s fourteen tracks are simple in terms of understanding them and understanding what message they are conveying.  Each of the songs on this record are just as enjoyable thanks to their simple yet wonderfully entertaining music.  That combination makes for so much depth and substance.  That’s something that one can rarely say about albums churned out by today’s younger bands and artists.  Keeping that in mind, it proves Simplicity to be one of the year’s most surprisingly enjoyable records and potentially one of the year’s best new rock records.  Simplicity is available in stores and online now. The band currently is scheduled to perform as part of the Monsters of Rock Cruise Miami next spring from April 18th – 22nd.  While fans wait for spring to return, they can keep up with all of the latest tour updates and news from Tesla online at http://www.TESLAtheBand.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.

 

eOne’s New Peppa Pig Compilation Another Welcome DVD For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  eOne/Nick Jr.

Courtesy: eOne/Nick Jr.

eOne and Nick Jr. released the latest compilation of episodes from Nick Jr.’s family favorite series Peppa Pig this week. Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride was released Tuesday. As with the series’ previous releases, it’s another collection of episodes that the series’ young viewers will thoroughly enjoy. Parents will appreciate it just as much. The main reason that both parents and children alike will appreciate this latest compilation is the episodes’ short run time and collective run time. Another reason that audiences will value this compilation is the same reason as before. That reason is its writing. And last but most definitely not least of all is its ability to connect with its viewers. All these factors together make Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride one more welcome addition to any family’s home library.

The primary reason that audiences will appreciate Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride is the collective run time of the episodes culled for the collection. The total run time listed on the DVD’s case is one hour. There are twelve shorts total included on this disc. That equals to roughly five minutes per short. That is perfect for the show’s younger viewers as it is just long enough to keep the attention of the said audiences. Any longer and young audiences might become disinterested and in turn bored. This would lead parents to have to find other ways to entertain children. Coming full circle, that means that once more the short run time of each short will keep young viewers thoroughly entertained even if only for an hour. Any parent will agree that an hour of having a child entertained is an eternity of peace and quiet. So, kudos are in order for eOne and Nick Jr. for that. By direct connection, the writing in each of the short is another big part of why they will keep young viewers entertained.

The run time of the shorts both by themselves and collectively is just the tip of the iceberg that makes Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride another welcome addition to the home library of any family with young children. The writing continues in these shorts to be another reason for the compilation’s enjoyment. Rather than write shorts that teach moral lessons, the series’ writers continue to write short stories that teach basic concepts for younger audiences. Those concepts include learning how to whistle, learning how to ice skate, and valuing what one has rather than always having to have new and shiny things among many other concepts. The latter of those noted lessons comes in the short “The New Car” while the lesson about ice skating lies in the aptly titled short “Ice Skating.” And “Whistle” teaches young viewers how to whistle. These are simple concepts to adults, obviously. But to a toddler and even pre-school age viewers, these are largely alien concepts. The writers have presented them in ways that make them easy for said viewers to grasp. That applies to the shorts not noted, too. That ease of understanding coupled with the lessons taught in each short add even more value to this DVD. And partnered with the ability of the shorts to connect with viewers, this compilation gains even more value for families with young children.

eOne and Nick Jr. offer parents and children plenty of reason to enjoy Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride thanks to the writing that went into each short and the shorts’ collective run time. The ability of the series’ writers to connect with the show’s young viewers through each short is the cherry on the top of this treat for the whole family. Each episode is written not necessarily from the perspective of Peppa. She is however, the central figure in each short. The resultant effect is that younger viewers will be able to relate more to both her and her brother. As with the writing and run times of each episode, this final factor will help that much more to keep young viewers engaged. And together with those factors, it rounds out the entire presentation, making it again, one more DVD that the whole family will appreciate.

Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride is available now on DVD in stores and online. More information on this release and others, as well as the Peppa Pig series is available online at http://www.facebook.com/OfficialPeppaPigUS and http://www.peppapig.com/us. 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.

Babar Update Series Compilation Is Wild Fun For Families

Courtesy: eOne/Nelvana

Courtesy: eOne/Nelvana

eOne and Nelvana recently released the first compilation of episodes from Disney Jr.’s children’s series Babar and the Adventures of BadouGone Wild is the first compilation of episodes from Disney Jr.’s continuation of the classic Babar animated series.  And as a first impression, this collection of episodes is a good first impression for those that might perhaps have not even known about this series.  The primary reason that it is such a good first impression is the writing of the included episodes.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this new DVD is the lessons taught in each of the episodes, which ties directly in to the episodes’ writing.  And last to consider in the overall success of these episodes is their “animation” style.  All three factors put alongside one another reveal why both children and their parents will appreciate this latest incarnation of the classic Babar franchise even if they don’t get Disney Junior on their channel lineup.

The primary reason that audiences of all ages will appreciate Babar and the Adventures of Badou: Gone Wild is the writing incorporated into each of the collection’s eight episodes.  Anyone that has any knowledge of the original Babar series will recall that in the original Babar series, that series’ episodes would consist mainly of stories told by Babar to his children.  They would be in reference to his own childhood.  In the case of this latest series, which originally aired in 2010 on YTV in Canada and on ABC2 in Australia, Babar is there.  But he generally takes a back seat to his 8-year old grandson Badou.  From time to time, the now much older Babar would offer some insight to Badou.  So the show’s creators made sure to not completely stray from the original source material for this series.  Older audiences will appreciate this factor.  Younger audiences will appreciate the fact that the series focuses more on younger figures whereas the younger figures in the original Babar series were merely part of recollections told by Babar.  That balance of the old and new alongside Badou’s own family friendly adventures in the kingdom of Celesteville with his friends shows just how much care the show’s writers took with the series despite its short run.  That result is eight solid episodes whose writing is reason enough by itself to check out this new DVD.

The writing by itself serves as plenty of reason for families to check out this new DVD from eOne and Nelvana.  It pays homage to the original Babar franchise while also advancing the story without losing anything in the process.  On a similar note, parents and children alike will appreciate that some of the episodes in this compilation also include invaluable life lessons.  One example of those lessons comes in the episode “Copy Cat.”  Young zebra Zawadi learns an important lesson about accepting one’s own self for who one is, rather than trying to change one’s own self just to be different from the masses.  On a similar note, “Monkey Camp” teaches young viewers about the differences between people and how those differences make everybody special in their own way.  One last example of those lessons comes in the DVD’s second episode, “Operation Secret Suitcase.”  This episode deals with a very common issue among younger viewers.  It deals with the issue of children losing friends due to moving away.  It’s definitely something to which audiences of all ages can relate.  It also teaches young viewers about jumping to conclusions without all the information on a given subject within the course of the episode.  So, that one is actually a dual hit.

The writing and the themes tied into said writing for the episodes included on this disc are both key factors to its overall enjoyment.  Together, they prove the episodes presented here to have a certain amount of heart and substance.  There is still one factor left to examine in the overall enjoyment and success of Babar and the Adventures of Badou: Gone Wild.  That final factor is the show’s “animation.”  Given, each episode is computer generated rather than hand drawn.  That is the trend in the current era of animation.  In the case of this series though, the computer generated graphics actually stand out if only a little bit from all of the cookie cutter CG-based children’s shows currently filling the television spectrum.  The closest comparisons that can be made here are perhaps to the graphics used in The Garfield Show and Jungle Junction, which is another show currently on Disney Junior’s schedule .  And that is being generous.  That is not meant in a negative connotation, either.  It is simply nice to see that while this incarnation of Babar has long since ended its short run, it is one of few shows out there for kids today that has at least some individuality and originality in its “animation” style.  Together with the themes incorporated into each episode’s script and the writing itself, the show’s graphics are collectively the final piece in the overall presentation of the DVD that makes it worth a watch by viewers of any age.

Babar and the Adventures of Badou: Gone Wild is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Babar-Adventures-Badou-Gone-Wild/dp/B00K2OBZZ8/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1407546469&sr=1-2&keywords=babar+and+the+adventures+of+badou+-+gone+wild.  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.

BLS, Judas Priest Tied For The Top Spot On The Year’s Top New Hard Rock, Metal Albums List

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Zakk Wylde and his Black Label brethren released early this year what is without a doubt one of the year’s most thought provoking albums.  Musically speaking, the album is classic Black Label Society from start to finish.  Lyrically, it proves to be a work that will most definitely have listeners paying close attention.  Those that have already picked up the album’s deluxe edition will understand why.  Throughout most of the course of the album, listeners are presented with songs centered on some rather deep themes.  By the time the album reaches its end in ‘The Nomad’ however, those themes have turned to a more positive light.  And it all starts with the album’s opener, ‘Fields of Unforgiveness.’  With its mix of heavy guitars and equally heavy lyrics, it makes for quite the opener to the record.  Things eventually take a sharp turn with the equally hard rocking yet rather angry song ‘Damn The Flood’, which seems to see Wylde writing about all the people out there that would try to spit lies as easily as a snake spitting its venom.  By the album’s ultimate end though, the outcome is more positive, with Wylde singing about moving on with life wherever it may lead.  Whether all of these songs came from a personal place or simply as a concept idea, they combine with the album’s musical side to make what is one of the most powerful records that Wylde and his band mates have written to date.

Catacombs of the Black Vatican opens on a powerful note in the form of ‘Fields of Unforgiveness.’  This first impression from the band is what leads one to wonder if this album is indeed a concept album of sorts or if it came from personal experience.  Wylde sings in this piece, “So you think that it’s over/So you think that it’s done/The fields of unforgiveness never die/They’ve just begun/You thought you’d elude life’s sorrow/emptiness and grief/The oceans of life’s contempt/Drown the liars and the thieves.”  That one line concerning liars and thieves is the center point of this song.  It almost comes across as addressing someone that has done something really bad.  The person in question thinks that he (?) has gotten away with said deed.  But as the chorus notes, it’s never over.  “The fields of unforgiveness never die.”  Such a searing indictment set against an equally hard rocking musical backing makes this song one heck of a first impression from the members of Black Label Society on its latest record.

As hard hitting as ‘Fields of Unforgiveness’ proves to be with its mix of Wylde’s trademark shredding and equally searing lyrics, it isn’t the album’s only heavy piece. Just as heavy and hard hitting is ‘Damn The Flood.’ With its equally driving sludge rock sound and its indictment of the proverbial snakes out there, this song stands out as one of the album’s most powerful moments. Wylde sings against the song’s solid, southern sludge sound, “This flood of snakes/The breeding lies/Existence of unjust/Spewing falsehoods as they crawl/Assassins of one’s trust…Poisoned blood manipulates/The bending of one’s will/Assassins of your sacred words/For trust it shall be killed.” These verses could be applied to so many situations. It could be applied to this nation’s political leaders. It could apply to an everyday basis in terms of those that call themselves friends, only to kill others’ trust once those backs are turned. As pessimistic as the song sounds, it’s actually positive as listeners will note in the song’s chorus. Wylde sings in the song’s chorus of dealing with those people and their evil ways. Yet again, it proves in the end to be one of the album’s best moments with that combination of musical and lyrical heaviness. It shows once more Wylde’s long ago argument that a song can be heavy without being heavy.

Through all of the lyrical and musical heaviness that makes up Catacombs of the Black Vatican, those that have the album’s deluxe edition will note that these is a message that through all of the negativity in the world, one can persevere through it all. He sings in ‘The Nomad’ of facing one’s past but moving on at the same time. As audiences will hear, he sings, “I’ve left the past behind/So much more to see/Like a feather to the wind/Wherever it may lead/Wherever it may lead/Where I’ll never know/For I can’t be tied down/I can hear it call.” He is singing about accepting the past and knowing it’s there, but not letting it weigh down an individual on one’s journey in life. Wylde and company exhibit such talent musically in this song. It isn’t the driving, hard rocker that the previously noted songs prove to be. It is more controlled. That more controlled nature makes this song a fitting end to an album that boasts just as much heaviness in its finale as in its beginning. That solid heaviness from start to finish both musically and lyrically prove why Catacombs of the Black Vatican is one of this year’s top two new hard rock and metal albums of 2014.

Catacombs of the Black Vatican is available now in stores and online. It can be downloaded via iTunes here. It can also be purchased at any BLS live show including tonight’s show at the Vogue Theatre in Indianapolis, IN. The band’s current tour schedule and all of the latest news from the band are available online at http://www.facebook.com/blacklabelsociety and http://www.blacklabelsociety.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.