Paramount’s Ninja Turtles Reboot Proves To Be One Of 2014’s Worst New Movies

Courtesy:  Paramount Pictures

Courtesy: Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures’ updated take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the worst new movies of 2014. There is no way to sugarcoat it. Simply put, it is one more example of why Hollywood’s (and audiences’) seemingly insatiable appetite for prequels, sequels, and remakes can only mean a bleak future for the industry’s “Power Five” studios. The central reason for the failure of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is its writing. While the movie’s writers and the studio did back down on the original idea for the Turtles’ origin story, the story incorporated into the story proves to be just as bad. There is also the issue of the plot. While it can be said that the movie’s plot is not necessarily as cheesy as some of the plot lines from the animated series, there is still something about this movie’s plot that makes it unbearable. And dangling the proverbial carrot in front of old school audiences in the form of references to the original animated series (and movie) hurts the movie even more in terms of the movie’s writing. It’s one more example of why having multiple people working on a single script serves only to hurt said script. This has been proven time and again in a number of works before this one. TMNT is just the latest. Just as noteworthy is the acting. Credit should e given where credit is due. The actors behind the turtles are deserving of their due respect. However, the acting on the part of lead Meghan Fox and the movie’s supporting cast falls flat. Even actor Will Arnett comes up short as April’s photog Vernon Fenwick. He had the look. And he did make a valiant effort at his portrayal. But it still came up short in the end. Those issues with the cast’s acting coupled with the issues raised in the movie’s script hurt TMNT in a major way. They still are not all that hurt the movie. Last but hardly least of all that goes against the movie is its collective look and production values. Michael Bay wasn’t at the helm of TMNT. But in watching the movie, one may as well say that he was. That is because the movie’s look and its production values are quite similar to the much maligned Transformers franchise that he previously helmed. It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin, sealing the movie’s fate and proving once more why this movie is one of the worst of 2014.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was and is one of the best movies to leap from the pages of comic books. That is the original live action movie that debuted in 1990. This year’s new update on that modern classic is the polar opposite of that incarnation. It’s painfully obvious from start to finish, too beginning with the movie’s overall writing. The movie’s plot by itself does plenty to hurt the movie. And it all begins with the Turtles’ much mailgned origin story. Those that followed this movie from the days even before its pre-production started will recall that the origin story was going to have Leo, Raph, Don, and Mikey come in as aliens from another planet. Thankfully that didn’t happen. However, the origin story that took its place is just as problematic. That story won’t be revealed here for the sake of those that have yet to watch the movie. But it directly involves April O’Neil. And to a point, it takes a page from Sony’s latest incarnation of Spiderman. April’s revelation at her link to the Turtles’ origin story is cheesy enough. But the acting on the part of actress Megan Fox, who plays April, only serves to make that revelation even more unbelievable. The acting on the part of the cast will be discussed in more depth at a later point. For now, the focus will remain on the movie’s writing.

The origin story crafted for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is but one part of the writing that hurts this big screen reboot bust. The movie’s very plot plays its own role in the movie’s failure. The movie’s plot sees Shredder and the Foot Clan–which is made more into a pseudo militia group here instead of the old school, evil ninja group from the original movie and animated series–trying to spread a virus through New York City. In turn, they and Eric Sacks (William Fitchner) can use the mutagen that created the Turtles for their own financial gain. Yes, it’s true. In defense of this plot, those that are familiar with the original animated series, there was an episode in which Shreddder sent up a satellite-like device the changed the weather around the world as a means for him and Krang to take over the world. So keeeping that in consideration it isn’t too cheesy of a plot. There’s still something about it in the script’s writing though, that makes it not entirely believable. Speaking of the comparison between this incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the original animated series (and the franchise’s original movie), that is yet another issue in the writing that hurts this movie.

The issues raised through the origin story and plot incorporated into Paramount’s new take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles both make the movie’s writing rather problematic in their own way. One can’t ignore the fact that Applebaum, Nemec and Daugherty did try to please the fans of the franchise’s original animated series and 1990 movie with constant throwback references to both. They even made sure to include the skateboards used in both properties. The issue at hand with making such references is that through the script’s previously noted problems, adding in those references essentially becomes a slap in the face to the fans that grew up with those originals. It’s the same as dangling the carrot in front of a donkey (or rabbit) only to have it pulled away for lack of better wording. Simply put, it is disrespectful to said audiences.

The writing behind the script for Paramount’s new incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a big part of what has made this movie one of the worst of this year’s new releases. While the writing proves to be quite problematic, it is only the beginning of the movie’s problems. The work of the movie’s cast is just as problematic. Actress Megan Fox plays April O’Neil in this version of TMNT. Her reaction at discovering her role in the origin of the Turtles is awful. It is so over the top and hammy that one can only shake one’s hand. While Will Arnett deserves at least some credit for trying to properly portray Vernon Fenwick, even he comes up short. He is hit and miss at best. To the cast’s credit, the men behind the mean green machine–Johnny Knoxville (Bad Grampa, Men in Black 2, Jackass), Pete Ploszek (Parks & Rec, Shameless), Jeremy Howard (Men in Black 2, Galaxy Quest, How The Grinch Stole Christmas), Noel Fisher (Final Destination 2, Red, Battle Los Angeles), and Alan Ritchson (Fired Up, Blue Mountain State, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) are to be commended for their work. They did quite the job of establishing the attitude and comic element for which the Turtles have been known for decades in their protrayals. Sadly the same can’t be said for the duo of Tony Shahoub (Monk, Wings, Men in Black 1 – 3) and Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror, Employee of the Month, Death to Smoochy). The duo partnered to bring Splinter to life. Whether it is their own work (or lack thereof) or because of how Splinter was written into the story, their portrayals did little to make Splinter really stand out at any one point in the story. So simply put, the only positives that can be pointed out in terms of the acting in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the acting of the men that brought Leo, Don, Raph and Mikey to life. other than that, not much positive can be said of the rest of the cast’s work. It’s yet another example of why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up far short of its potential and proves in the end to be one of this year’s worst new releases.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up short in so many ways. its writing is the biggest offender when examining why the movie falls short. The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is another issue. Last but hardly least of note that damaged TMNT is the collective look and production values incorporated into the movie. Michael Bay did not helm this reboot of the classic franchise. But even as a producer, his influence is blatantly obvious throughout the movie. The fast-paced shots, the giant explosions, and of course Shredder’s Transformers-esque look show just how much influence he obviously had in this movie. The only positive to it all is April’s look. The use of a yellow jacket in place of a cheesy full body jumpsuit is the only fully acceptable update to the whole thing. Other than that one positive, one might as well just say that this was another Michael Bay film despite the fact that he was only a producer instead of director. And that considered along with all of the movie’s other negatives is the final nail in the movie’s coffin. One can only hope that whenever the already-in-the-works sequel debuts, it will make up for everything that this movie got wrong. Regardless, this reboot will remain among the worst new major motion pictures of 2014.

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Bengals Host Broncos Monday Night On ESPN In Pivotal Playoff Game

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Next Monday night, Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals will play what is one of the most important games of the season for the team when it plays host to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Cincinnati and Denver will face off at Paul brown Stadium Monday night on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The Broncos (11 – 3) have already clinched the AFC West title. So for Denver, Monday night’s game will be a tune-up for the playoffs. For Cincinnati though, Monday night’s game means much more. Cincinnati currently sits at 9 – 4 – 1 on the season coming into Monday night’s game. And even if the Bengals win, it doesn’t guarantee a playoff spot for the team or even the division title. A handful of scenarios have to play out for Cincinnati to get the AFC North division title. And almost all of them require Cincinnati to win out at least Monday night.

The first way that Cincinnati can snag the AFC North title is to win out both Monday night and against the Steelers in Week 17. The second way that the Bengals can clinch the division title is to win at least one game between this week and next week and losses by both the Steelers and Ravens. In order to clinch a playoff spot, one of two scenarios has to happen. The first scenario is a win at least this week or next week against Pittsburgh. The other scenario would allow Cincinnati to lose both this week and next ONLY IF Kansas City, San Diego and Buffalo all lose at least once between this week and next. Making Monday night’s game all the more important for Cincinnati is the teams prime time record. Cincy is 18 – 41 all time in prime-time and 10 – 20 on Monday Night.  Taking an even deeper look at the teams’ numbers, Denver is only 4 – 3 on the road versus going undefeated at home. The team has gone 4 – 1 – 0 in its last five game. Cincy has only one more win on the road than at home, going 5 – 2 – 0 on the road and 4 – 2 – 1 at home. It is also 4 – 1 – 0 in its last five games. So it goes without saying that Monday night’s game will be one of the most important of the season for Cincinnati.

Adding to the interest of Monday’s games is talk of long term impacts of hits on Peyton this season and what it might mean in regards to his off season surgery. Manning will sit down with ESPN Monday Night Football play-by-play man Mike Tirico to discuss that and more as part of the night’s pre-game broadcast.  Sideline reporter Lisa Salters will have a discussion with Bengals QB Andy Dalton on the other side of the ball. She and Dalton will discuss what a win tonight would mean both for him and his teammates and getting over the playoff hurdles of the past three seasons among other topics. Both interviews are part of Monday’s pre-game show Monday Night Countdown. Suzy Kolber will anchor Monday night’s broadcast. She will be joined by NFL analysts Trent Dilfer, Ray Lewis, and Steve Young live on-site. Chris Berman will anchor live from ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut. He will be joined by NFL analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, and Keyshawn Johnson and ESPN NFL Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Monday Night Countdown kicks off at 6pm ET.

Kickoff for Monday night’s game is scheduled for 8:15pm ET. Mike Tirico will have the call from the booth. He will be joined by Jon Gruden, who just last week agreed to a contract extension with ESPN. The extension will keep Gruden in the booth alongside Mike Tirico through 2021, when ESPN’s next contract with the NFL comes up. Lisa Salters will be on the sidelines for Monday night’s game with all of the latest in-game news and reports. Monday Night Football is available for ESPN’s Spanish-speaking fans on ESPN Deportes and online via WatchESPN for those with video subscriptions from affiliated providers. More information on Mondays’ game and on all things NFL is available online at:

Website: http://espn.go.com/nfl/mnf
http://espn.go.com/nfl

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MNF
http://www.facebook.com/NFLonESPN

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.

The Magic Show Act II Proves To Be Just The Beginning For The Members Of We Are The Finale

Courtesy: Houndstooth productions

Courtesy: Houndstooth productions

Typically when people think about Nashville, Tennessee, the first thing that comes to mind is country music.  Nashville is the home of country music.  Its Ryman Auditorium and Grand Ole Opry are shrines to the legends of country music for all intents and purposes.  So the thought that a rock band–a punk band no less–would rise among the country ranks and make a name for itself among that mass of counrty acts no less comes as something of a surprise. But when audiences hear the new EP The Magic Show Act II: The Turn from We Are The Finale, they will agree that this Nashville, TN-based band is set to finally start turning the tide in Music  City, USA and help make the city known for being more than just the capital of country music.  The Magic Show Act II: The Turn totals only five songs and sixteen minutes.  Throughout the course of the EP’s technically four full-length songs–the EP’s opener only runs fifty-one seconds and isn’t technically a song–front man Daniel John Schafer and band mates Bradley Gwinn, Brandon Keysey, Freddy March, and Ronnie Mills show quite a bit of diversity and talent.  They take listeners on a ride through some of rock’s sub genres throughout the record from the pop punk style of the EP’s first full track ‘Well Enough Alone’ to a semi-post hardcore sound in ‘…And Scene’ and an almost seemingly 80s influenced sound on the EP’s closer ‘The Honeymoon Phase.’  It’s tough especially in the indie rock world to find a record that crosses so many sounds within the course of its songs (Whether it be an LP or EP). But the members of We Are The Finale have done just that here.  Keeping that in mind, it helps to make this EP one that is deserving of at least one listen by audiences.

The members of We Are The Finale have crafted a record in its new EP The Magic Show At II: The Turn that is well worth at least one listen.  The reason being that through the course of the EP’s four full-length songs, the band refuses to stick to just one of rock’s various sub genres.  it switches things up from one song to the next, thus keeping audiences engaged from start to finish.  The record’s lead song ‘Well Enough Alone’ is proof of that.  The song’s slower, almost bluesy sound instantly hints at an influence from the likes of Set It Off.  Front man Daniel John Schafer’s lyrics add a certain depth to that musical side, too. He hits on a topic that quite a few men have dealth with in life in the form of a woman that causes a man no end of problems inside.  He sings, “Your eyes are telling lies/That your mouth is trying to hide/So now I gotta decide if it’s worth it/To keep this dragging on.”  Schafer writes in the song about how his subject is going crazy over the female in question, writing, “Girl, you got me faded (Whoa, I’m so smooth girl)/And now the groudn is shaking (Let me move you)/Now I feel like I’m six feet deep (You shouldn’ve known, too)/And the top of my headstone reads Leave well enough alone.”  In other words, the woman in question is killing his subject, metaphorically speaking of course.  What man hasn’t been in this situation at least once in life?  And while the song’s subject is obviously male, one could argue and flip it to have a female as the lead subject singing about a guy driving her crazy as that does happen, too.  That interchangability and the song’s musical side colletively make ‘Well Enough Alone’ a fitting opener for the band on its new record.

‘Well Enough Alone’ is a good first impression from We Are The Finale on its new EP.  This is especially the case for those that might not be so familiar with the band’s music.  That’s thanks to its mix of relatable lyrical content and equally interesting musical side.  Audiences that pick up the band’s EP will note that as enjoyable as this song proves to be, the band doesn’t resteasy on its laurels.  Rather it switches things up from here as is evidenced in the semi-post hardcore sound of ‘…And Scene.’  The song opens with the sound of an old film reel setting the stage for what is to come much like was done with old movies.  It is a fitting addition to this song, considering the song’s lyrical content.  Shafer sings in the song’s chorus, “All you ever wanted was to bust out on the scene/But I won’t let the scene change me/And all you ever wanted was a reason to feel this way/So now I’ll stay away/Away from you for a while.”  Before this, he sings, “My face fills with blood/Your face is so smug/So now I’ll take some steps away/This life you sell/It can’t be real.”   The song seems to come across as highliting the frustration felt by someone that has to deal with one of those overly annoying people who lives solely to bring others down one way or another.  Hopefully that interpretation is right as it is just the interpretation of this critic.  The song’s second verse strengthens the argument for this interpretation as Shafer sings, “I’ve heard these lies before/Back when I was young/And I am moving on my way/Now that I’m older I see all the things that I want/And I’m ready to plead my case.”  Again, Schafer comes across as targeting the people that would say whatever they want to others, knowing others would believe them and in turn allow themselves to be torn down emotionally.  It will be interesting to find out whether or not this interpretation is correct. Hopefully it is correct.  Regardless, the very fact that it could generate such discussion and thought by itself makes it well worth hearing.  The balance of Schafer’s clean vocals and his screams set against the song’s guitars and drums adds even more depth to the song, proving again what makes ‘…And Scene’ another part of a whole that any indie punk and rock fan will enjoy.

We Are The Finale shows throughout the course of both ‘Well Enough Alone’ and ‘…And Scene’ its musical versatility and its lyrical versatility, too.  The band exhibits just as much musical versatility in ‘The Honeymoon Phase’ which closes the EP.  The band’s use of keyboards throughout the song and the rather bombastic guitar solo incorporated into the song’s bridge adds its own share of depth to the song.  They collectively show something of an 80s influence.  There’s also a bit of a Fall Out Boy influence here, too.  Such a juxtaposition of sounds shows even more than ever the versatility of the band’s abilities and influences.  That versatility by itself makes the song one more good example of what makes The Magic Show Act II: The Turn well worth the listen.  The song’s lyrical side gives it even more depth as Schafer sings, “I’ll rip the ties that bind me to your walls/And I will grab hold of everything and try/To stay on my feet while you’re chasing afer me/Because this war torn heart can’t beat anymore/And I’ve lost my want to pick you off the floor/So stay on your knees and stop chasing after me.”  He goes on to sing of his subject taking the chance to tell a significant other that he/she loves someone in particular.  Yet in the song’s end, he sings, “Now we’ll stay forever broken-hearted/And destined to feel this way.”  It’s almost as if he is saying in regards to his subject that said subject will take the chance to express his/her love for a certain person even though it may be too late and regardless of not getting that chance again.  It’s something of a bittersweet song, when considered from this lyrical angle.  The song’s musical side complements that bittersweet feel, too. the two elements together make for a song that is just as solid as the EP’s opener.  It will leave audiences wanting more in the best possible way.  Audiences will get to hear more as the band has a pair of live dates currently scheduled.

Audiences can hear more from We Are The Finale live now as the band currently has a pair of live dates confirmed.  The band is scheduled to peform a live home town show tomrrow at Rocketown.  It is also schedule to perform at Exit/In in Nashville, TN on January 17th.  Audiences can purchase tickets for both shows online now and get the latest news from the band at http://www.facebook.com/WeAreTheFinaleband. Audiences can also keep up with all of the latest from the band online via Twitter at http://twitter.com/wearethefinale.  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.

SEC Network Releases Christmas Day Programming Schedule

The SEC Network is giving sports fans a special gift this Christmas.

The fledgling sports network will take the holiday standard yule log video and turn it on its ear by adding in some rather well-known music with the video. The music in question won’t only be the standard Christmas music that everybody knows. Along with that music, the SEC Network will also feature the fight songs of the SEC’s schools. But it won’t run all morning. The selection of college fight songs will run from 6am – 10am ET. And it will all be commercial free. The schools and their fight songs to be featured are:

  • Courtesy:  ESPN/SEC Network

    Courtesy: ESPN/SEC Network

    Yea Alabama

 

  • Arkansas Fight

 

  • War Eagle (Auburn)

 

  • Orange & Blue (Florida)

 

  • Glory, Glory (Georgia)

 

  • On! On! U of K (Kentucky)

 

  • Fight for LSU

 

  • Forward Rebels (Ole Miss)

 

  • Hail State (Mississippi State)

 

  • Fight, Tiger (Missouri)

 

  • Step to the Rear (South Carolina)

 

  • Down the Field (Tennessee)

 

  • Aggie War Hymn (Texas A&M)

 

  • Dynamite (Vanderbilt)

 

Beginning at 10am, the SEC Network will run a total of ten hours of SEC Storied programming interlaced with a pair of other specials from ESPN. Those specials are 30 for 30: You Don’t Know Bo presented by Buick at 12:30pm ET and Nine for IX: Pat XO at 9pm ET. The complete broadcast schedule for the day is listed below.

Date Time (ET) Program
Thu, Dec. 25 6 a.m. SEC Yule Log
10 a.m. SEC Storied: The Book of Manning presented by Chick-fil-A
11:30 a.m. SEC Storied: Herschel Walker
12:30 p.m. 30 for 30: You Don’t Know Bo presented by Buick
2 p.m. SEC Storied: The Play That Changed College Football
3 p.m. SEC Storied: The Stars Are Aligned
4 p.m. SEC Storied: The Believer
5:30 p.m. SEC Storied: It’s Time
7 p.m. SEC Storied: Bo, Barkley & The Big Hurt presented by Regions Bank & Chick-fil-A
8 p.m. SEC Storied: Miracle 3
9 p.m. Nine for IX: Pat XO
10 p.m. SEC Storied: Abby Head On
11 p.m. SEC Storied: Lolo Jones

 

More information on the SEC Network’s Christmas Day programming schedule and all things SEC is available online now at:

Website: http://secnetwork.com

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

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspick 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.

My Uncle Rafael Is Loaded With Laughs And Heart

Courtesy:  TNP Films

Courtesy: TNP Films

My Uncle Rafael is the best new independent movie of 2014.  And it is arguably one of the best new movies of the year, too.  Originally released in 2012, its release this week on DVD marks the first time that it has seen the light of day in home release format.  And while it obviously owes a certain amount of its success to Robin Williams’ 1993 hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire, it still manages to stand strong on its own merits as a movie that is at least somewhat original in its presentation.  That is the central point of the movie’s success.  It has all the heart and wit of Mrs. Doubtfire without Robin Williams’ cross-dressing and manic character portrayal.  And while it does maintain at least some similarity in its approach to the family-fixing plotline, it approaches the issue through a multi-cultural avenue rather than that of a desperate father. Sign of the times, it would seem.  Just as important to the movie’s enjoyment is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  It would have been so simple for the cast, which is relatively well-known and experienced to treat the movie like the independent movie that it is.  But each member of the cast approached this work with the same seriousness used in its other performances.  The professional approach taken by the cast of My Uncle Rafael adds so much enjoyment to the movie.  It adds so much especially considering the quality of the movie’s production values.  While released via an independent studio—TNP Films—the movie’s production values are just as quality as anything released by any of Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios.  That actor, along with the work of the cast and of the movie’s writers, makes My Uncle Rafael a complete joy for audiences of almost any age.  Again, it isn’t the first time that the story presented here has been utilized for a movie.  But its execution makes it a move well worth the watch.

The story that is presented in My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  It is the story of an outsider coming into a family’s home and fixing said family.  It has been used numerous times in the past.  In 1993, it was presented in the hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Two years prior, it was used in pro-wrestling legend Terry “Hulk” Hogan’s family comedy Suburban Commando.  And to a lesser extent it was also used in Vin Diesel’s 2005 flash-in-the-pan flick The Pacifier.  It could even be argued that a similar formula was used way back in the 1989 John Candy dramedy Uncle Buck.  Considering all of this, it leaves one wondering how many other ways in which the “family fix” formula could be used without it being stale and unoriginal.  Enter My Uncle Rafael.  My Uncle Rafael (not to be confused with Joe Pesci’s 1992 dramedy My Cousin Vinny—yes that bad pun was intended) takes the classic “family fix” formula and updates it by incorporating a multi-cultural theme into the story.  Most interesting here is the fact that the duo used an elderly Middle Eastern man as the movie’s central figure.  This was really interesting especially considering the tensions between Americans and those of Middle Eastern descent currently living in the United States.  It’s an angle that few if any writers would even begin to attempt.  For that alone, Pirhamzei and Yagemann are deserving of a certain amount of credit.  That the duo didn’t try to make a direct light of Rafael’s nationality as a soap box makes the script even more worthy of applause.  Omitting that from the script makes the rest of the story far more enjoyable and in turn more memorable.

The script behind My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  That goes without saying.  But there are aspects of the script that make it surprisingly enjoyable.  As enjoyable as the movie’s script proves to be in the long run, it would be nothing without the abilities of the movie’s cast.  John Michael Higgins (Yes Man, Happily Divorced, Bad Teacher) brings plenty of experience to the movie as do Missi Pyle (The Artist, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Gone Girl), Anthony Clark (Yes, Dear, Boston Common, Soul Man), Joe Lo Truglio (Role Models, Wreck-It-Ralph, Pineapple Express), Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory, The Last Song, In A World…), and Rachel Blanchard (Clueless—TV Series, 7th Heaven, Are You Afraid of the Dark).  The competition between Higgins’ Damon and Clark’s Jack makes for plenty of laughs.  It is a competition much like that seen in Mrs. Doubtfire.  Missi Pyle is just as entertaining as she becomes caught up in the movie’s central love triangle all while trying to maintain her place as mother to her children.  But it is really Vahik Pirhamzei’s portrayal of the loveable Uncle Rafael that really shines.  Pirhamzei’s portrayal gives Uncle Rafael so much heart and warmth.  He makes Rafael loveable not only to his fellow characters but to audiences, too.  One can’t help but agree in watching Rafael that maybe the uncle really is at the center of everything.  Only audiences that watch the movie or have watched it will get that reference.  In hindsight, Rafael’s portrayal makes that line make perfect sense.  That isn’t to take away from Pirhamzei’s cast mates by any means.  Both the more well-known actors and the lesser known cast members add their own enjoyment to the story in whole, too.  But it is his portrayal that holds everything together and makes each of his cast mates’ portrayals all the more entertaining with the end result of the cast in general doing its own part to show once again why My Uncle Rafael  is this year’s best new independent movie and one of the year’s best movies overall.

The writing that went into My Uncle Rafael and the acting on the part of the movie’s cast both play their own important part in the overall success of this surprisingly entertaining story.  Rounding out the presentation is its production values.  Being that this movie is independent, one would think that it would not have the production values of its bigger name family friendly counterparts that have come before.  But the reality is that its production values are quite high.  That includes the movie’s cinematography, its backdrops, costumes, and all other elements that went into bringing the movie to life.  Having such quality production values, it makes sense that the largely veteran cast would want its portrayals to be just as high quality.  The combination of that high quality acting and equally high quality production values adds to the ability of audiences to suspend their disbelief and in turn allow themselves to be immersed into the story and thus offer it the chance that it quite well deserves.  In giving it the chance that it deserves, audiences will agree that this movie is just as enjoyable as its more well-known predecessors and that it is one of this year’s best new movies as well as the year’s best new independent movie.

My Uncle Rafael is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/My-Uncle-Rafael-Anthony-Clark/dp/B00O1D3AN6/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1418861938&sr=1-2&keywords=my+uncle+rafael.  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 in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Inspector Lewis’ Seventh Series Is A Welcome Return For One Of Television’s Greatest Crime Dramas

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Never say never.  Famous words.  Everybody has said or heard these words at one time or another.  That includes the world of popular entertainment.  So it goes without saying that when itv wrapped Inspector Lewis in its sixth series in 2013 the instant reaction was for audiences to say never say never.  Low and behold Inspector Lewis returned earlier this year overseas for its seventh series.  And PBS brought in Series Seven this fall.  Now, for those that weren’t lucky enough to see Series Seven, PBS and ITV have made it available both on DVD and Blu-ray.  Inspector Lewis Series Seven is a welcome return for what has become over the years one of the greatest crime dramas on television.  The proof lies first and foremost in the writing behind each of the series’ episodes.  The writing even in these three episodes is just as strong as in earlier episodes.  The acting on the part of lead stars Kevin Whaley and Laurence Fox.  The same can be said of new addition Angela Griffin as DS Lizzie Maddox.  Whately and Fox haven’t lost a step.  And Griffin brings in a whole new dynamic to the program that makes it even more enjoyable.  The writing and acting are of equal importance to the overall presentation of Inspector Lewis Series Seven.  Also to be considered to the success and enjoyment of this installment of Inspector Lewis is the fact that it maintains the standard set by the show years ago when Inspector Lewis in terms of not using overt sex, blood, and violence unlike the crime dramas that dominate American television.  That the show’s heads would maintain that standard all these years later is a testament to their dedication to the show’s fan base.  It rounds out the whole thing, making it again well deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets.

When itv wrapped Series Six of Inspector Lewis, it wasn’t too much of a forgone conclusion that somewhere along the line, Inspector Lewis would be back in some form or fashion regardless of whether or not it would be part of the series that made him such a beloved figure.  That’s especially the case considering the success of the series’ prequel series Endeavour.  So seeing Inspector Lewis’ return for a seventh series was quite the welcome return albeit not too surprising.  It goes without saying that expectations were high when it was even announced that Inspector Lewis would in fact return for a seventh season.  And thankfully this series has lived up to the hype.  It has lived up to the hype primarily through the writing behind each of the series’ three episodes.  One of the key examples of how the writing this time out keeps Inspector Lewis such a fan favorite comes in the episode “The Lions of Nemea.”  There are more than enough twists and turns in this episode to keep audiences guessing right up to the end.  The mystery starts right off the top when a well-respected professor is intentionally hit by a mystery driver while on his bike.  From there, the murder of a student at the same university where that professor works deepens the mystery even more.  The revelations of illicit affairs, literary fraud, and murder will keep audiences on the edge of their seats trying to solve the mystery themselves.  In the series’ closer, audiences’ minds are left twisted when one of Lewis’ most notorious cases comes back to haunt him and even threaten his career.  Surprisingly enough, the story’s closing moments leave the door wide open for another collection of episodes should the show’s heads opt for it to happen.  Even in the series’ opening episode “Entry Wounds” audiences will agree to the strength of the show’s writing.  Lewis’ desire to return to the force is made entirely believable thanks to the show’s writers.  What’s more, the growing relationship between Lewis and Hathaway and their new partner make this series all the more enjoyable.  Audiences will laugh at little jokes tossed in here and there in regards to Maddox’s having to answer to both detectives.  At one point, Maddox is asked by another officer how things are going with her boss. Her response is a flat “which one?”  One can’t help but laugh at her deadpan delivery of that simple line.  Again, the writers put the line at just the right moment to make it a good lighthearted break from the seriousness of investigating the crime at hand.  It’s just one of a number of moments that along with the stories themselves, exemplifies the strength of this series’ episodes.

Lewis and Hathaway built a strong working relationship and an equally solid friendship throughout the course of Inspector Lewis’ first six series.  The addition of Lizzie Maddox adds a whole new dynamic to the pair’s relationship.  It is highlighted expertly throughout the course of all three episodes in this series.  In terms of the show’s writing, the trio’s partnership and their friendship play a big role in the success of the episodes’ writing.  If not for the acting on the part of the trio though, the writing in regards to the trio’s personal and professional relationship would be moot.  Luckily, the chemistry developed by Laurence Fox and Kevin Whaley during the duo’s original run together had not lost anything in these episodes.  Whether sharing a joke in one of their more lighthearted moments or handling a tougher topic in one of their more serious moments, both men are fully believable.  Fox and Laurence even make believable even the slight tension in Lewis’ return before their characters reconnect as if not a day had been missed.  Angela Griffin is just as believable even in what very quickly becomes more of a supporting role.  Should Inspector Lewis pull off a miracle and see an eighth series, it would be interesting to see Maddox develop even more into her own character.  If an eighth series is not in the books, then it can at least be said of Griffin that she adds her own enjoyment to the overall product thanks to her own acting.  All three together pull viewers into their world, making suspension of disbelief so simple along the way.  The end result of the trio’s acting, and its interpretation of the scripts, is total immersion in and enjoyment of all three ninety-minute episodes.  It serves to show yet again why Inspector Lewis is just as enjoyable in its seventh series as in its first.

The scripts behind Inspector Lewis’ seventh series and the acting on the part of its veteran cast both play pivotal roles in the success of this series’ episodes.  Fox, Whately, and newcomer Griffin expertly interpret each episode’s script and in turn fully immerses viewers in each story.  The scripts themselves will keep audiences fully engaged and guessing right up to their final moments.  As if that isn’t enough, the episodes that make up Series Seven maintain the high standard set by the show’s previous series.  Simply put, Inspector Lewis remained in its seventh series the polar opposite of the crime dramas that populate American commercial networks.  There is no overt sexuality.  There is no unnecessary violence, gunplay, etc.  And the amount of blood and gore is kept to the same minimum as in the show’s previous series.  Again, this is the total opposite of all of the crime dramas that are so popular on American television.  Rather, the show continued here to focus on story and character development as is evident in the episodes’ scripts and the acting on the part of the cast.  Those factors, together with the continued high standard of content overall, round out the reasons that Inspector Lewis remains such a hit in its seventh series.  They collectively show once more why this series is quite well-deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets.

Inspector Lewis: Series Seven is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=46782166&cp=&sr=1&kw=inspector+lewis&origkw=Inspector+Lewis&parentPage=search.  More information on Inspector Lewis is available online now at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/lewis/

Facebook: http://twitter.com/masterpiecepbs

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 Investigates Effects Of Climate Change On Arctic Ecosystem In New Episode Of Nature

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS is giving audiences another reason to stay indoors and stay warm next month with the release of another episode of its hit wildlife series Nature on DVD.

PBS will release Nature: Invasion of the Killer Whales on Tuesday, January 20th. Nature: Invasion of the Killer Whales focuses on a major change in the ecosystem of the Arctic. It is a change that has resulted from global warming and the gradual disappearance of Arctic ice. As the once massive amounts of ice that one populated the Arctic disappear, so does the number of killer whales inordinately increase. The number of killer whales increases because they are being provided with more territory in which to hunt. By contrast, it also means that there is less territory in which polar bears—the once kings of the arctic—have to hunt.

Audiences are presented interviews with native Inuit who discuss the increasing number of killer whales in the Arctic and how it has actually helped them. At the same time, the other side of the proverbial coin is presented as scientists discuss how both humans and killer whales hunting the narwhal is not necessarily a good thing as it increases competition for resources. They go on to argue that this could greatly and negatively affect the lifestyle of the Inuit people. They go on to argue how the decrease in Arctic ice could lead to drastically negative effects on the polar bear population, too.

Nature: Invasion of the Killer Whales will retail for $19.99. It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=51197006&cp=1378003.2831221&sr=1&origkw=nature&parentPage=family. More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

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

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.