Shout! Factory Announces Release Date For NYPD Blue: Season Six

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory will release the sixth season of the hit crime drama NYPD Blue this Summer.

NYPD Blue Season Six will be released on June 24th, 2014. Season Six of the Emmy® and Peabody award-winning series will be released in a six-disc DVD set containing all twenty-two episodes from the series’ sixth season. The series’ sixth season sees the addition of actor Rick Schroder to the show’s cast. Schroder plays the part of detective Danny Sorenson. Sorenson is Sipowicz’s (Dennis Franz) new partner this season. But he isn’t fully trusted by everybody in the department. That is thanks to his questionable methods. His arrival is just one of a number of major events that arise in Season Six.

The arrival of a new detective on the force and the major events that flush out Season Six are just part of what makes it one of the show’s more talked about seasons. This season also sees a who’s who of guest stars throughout its episodes. Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow, Iron Man, Crash), Daniel Benzali (General Hospital), Mos Def (The Italian Job, Dexter, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Kevin Dillon (Entourage), and Emile Hirsch (Twice Born, Into The Wild, Milk) all make appearances.

NYPD Blue Season Six can be pre-ordered now via Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/nypd-blue-season-six. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial. 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.

South Of The Earth A Welcome Return From Iron Man

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records/Rise Above Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records/Rise Above Records

The Baltimore, Maryland based four-piece known as Iron Man has been making music for a number of years, flying just below the mainstream radar all along.  The band has been classified as a “doom rock” band for most of its career. However, its new album, South of the Earth is more akin to the sludge rock sound of Black Label Society, Brand New Sin, and the band’s label mates in Horisont.  The only real link to the “doom” genre would be the lyrical side of the band’s new album.  That being the case, this new nine-track release is one that any purist metal head will enjoy no less with each listen.

South of the Earth opens solidly with the album’s title track.  Whether one is familiar with the band’s sound or not, it is a powerful first impression from the band on this record.  Front man Screaming Mad Dee’s vocals sound like a cross between King’s X vocalist/bassist dUg Pinnick and legendary Black Label Society front man/guitarist Zakk Wylde.  That is quite the statement for anyone that is familiar with either singer.  For those that aren’t so familiar with either vocalist, suffice it to say that Dee is a powerhouse vocalist.  That his voice can go from almost guttural depths to ear-piercing screams in the blink of an eye without sounding like so many cookie monster growling figures makes an even bolder statement.  Bassist Louis Strachan and guitarist Alfred Morris III add even more punch to this song with their full-on one-two attack.  Morris’ solos in this song are the stuff that young guitarists dream of doing one day.  And drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann’s performance behind the kit shows such control in this slower song.  That show of control also shows just how much talent he boasts.  And along with his band mates, the whole unit makes the album’s opener one that will have listeners’ horns high instantly.

The energy doesn’t let up once the album’s opener ends.  The band picks right back up and keep things moving in the album’s second track, ‘Hail to The Haze.’  When Dee sings in the song’s chorus, “How much longer/How much longer/How much longer inside/Can this monstrosity hide/How much longer/How much longer/How much longer/Must I wait/To release my hate” the power in his voice does quite the job of exhibiting his subject’s personal inner struggle.  Again, add in the musicianship of his band mates, and listeners get what is one more shining gem off of South of the Earth.

South of the Earth is loaded with songs from start to finish that any true metal head will appreciate.  It boasts, as noted, both slower, heavier songs and pieces that are more up-tempo.  For all of its hard-hitting songs, there is one song that stands out among them all.  That song is the instrumental break that is ‘Ariel Changed The Sky.’  This roughly two-minute plus acoustic piece is a total contrast to everything else on this record.  It is a gentle, airy opus that gives listeners just enough time to catch their collective breath before the band launches into its full-on musical assault again on the record’s second half.  It is a perfectly placed break.  And it is equally beautiful.  It’s one more show of talent from the band, and one more example of what makes South of the Earth a record that any purist metal head will appreciate no matter how old.

South of the Earth is available now in stores and online on Metal Blade Records and Rise Above Records.  The band will be playing a hometown show next Sunday, October 13th in support of its new album.  It will be performing at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore alongside St. Vitus, Pallbearer, and Hookers.  The band has more dates to follow.  Fans can check them out on the band’s official website, http://www.ironmanband.com.  Fans can also get more information from the band on its official Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Iron-Man-Band/146118265408361.

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WWII From Space An Excellent Introduction To The History Of World War II

Courtesy:  History Channel/A&E Home Video

Courtesy: History Channel/A&E Home Video

History Channel’s latest WWII documentary, WWII From Space is a good jumping off point for anyone that has ever had any interest in the…well…history of World War II.  Much like last year’s release of History of the World in Two Hours, this documentary is not intended to go into the massively in-depth discussions of perhaps Vietnam in HD or WWII in HD just to name a couple of other History Channel war documentaries.  Rather, this feature scratches the surface in the war’s history.  It does so over the course of roughly an hour and a half.  And it does so largely thanks to its mass of CG based visual aids employed throughout the presentation.

Some audiences have criticized WWII From Space because of its use of CG based visual aids.  The reality is that this is not such a bad thing.  Rather, it along with the feature’s relatively short run time that is solidly segmented makes it a wonderful addition for any high school and entry level college history course.  The CG based maps of the earth present the movement of both the Allied and Axis forces throughout WWII.  It also employs the use of what would be the equivalent today of military spy tech to present the different movements and weaponry of forces on both sides of the war.  It’s like something out of the recent Iron Man movies.  And keeping this in mind, it is sure to entertain not just younger audiences, but older audiences, too that are enamored by the ever changing scape of technology.

The CG based maps make for excellent visual aids in following the course of the war.  Adding even more interest to this feature is the use of CG based graphics to illustrate the battles both on the land and in the air.  One good example of this would be the comparison of U.S. forces killed in Pearl Harbor as compared to Japanese forces that were killed.  Audiences learn the massively wide ratio of U.S. forces killed in comparison to Japanese dead.  It uses helmets highlighted to show each side’s dead and points out the ratio clearly on screen.  This is just one time that this strategy is used.  It is used throughout the course of the program.  Again, there is nothing wrong with such a method being used.  Instead of simply filling people’s ears and minds with facts and figures, these illustrations help to drive home the sheer magnitude of the seemingly overwhelming odds that Allied forces faced over the course of the war.

The CG based graphics are the biggest part of this introductory level WWII documentary.  Those behind its creation should also be applauded for touching on more than just the facts and figures of the war’s numbers in terms of casualties and force sizes, etc.  Throughout the feature, audiences will notice the constant subtle note that the war was largely economic both in the Pacific and European theater.  It takes the time to note that it was in fact an embargo on Japan that eventually led to the island nation’s military forces to attack American forces in Pearl Harbor.  Anyone that has any interest in this side of the war would be well recommended to read author Evan Thomas’ book, Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941 – 1945.  This book clearly notes the effect of the embargo on Japan and how it led to the decision by the Japanese government to attack U.S. forces in Hawaii.  Even more interesting to learn in reading this book is something echoed by actor/director Clint Eastwood’s 2006 WWII foreign language movie, Letters From Iwo Jima.  This movie, much like the aforementioned book actually points out that not all Japanese citizens wanted to go to war with the United States, nor did certain members of the Japanese government and military.  Again these much more in depth discussions are all started by History Channel’s WWII From Space.  So it proves just how valuable this documentary is even at an introductory level.

While the program and those behind it are to be applauded for their work providing introductory information concerning the economic influences of the war, there are other factors that are left untouched.  For instance, the late mention of Truman making the call to drop the atomic bombs on Japan was more than merely Truman making the call.  As anyone that has seen any of History Channel’s other documentaries will recall, Truman didn’t merely make the call.  He offered Japan more than one opportunity to surrender before making the call.  What’s more Truman took over during the course of the war after Roosevelt died.  History Channel’s multi-disc set focusing on some of our nation’s most well-known presidents goes into depth about this very subject.  Again, this goes back to the importance of this feature as an introductory level feature.

That WWII largely takes an introductory level is a very good thing for audiences of all levels despite what some might want to believe or say.  It doesn’t attempt to go into too much depth.  And yes it does move at a relatively fast pace.  But it also is segmented as if it was a televised feature.  There are breaks throughout the course of the documentary that will allow for audiences to stop, take breaks, and come back to the show at their own pace.  This is especially helpful both in the living room and in the classroom as teachers won’t be forced to decide where to stop for the sake of class time.  And home viewers can simply take the program at their own casual pace.  What’s more, the Blu-ray presentation of WWII From Space will allow viewers to stop the program, take it from one Blu-ray player to another and bring it back to the original player, and pick it up from where it was stopped on said Blu-ray player if so desired.  This is a minor detail on the surface.  But in the grand scheme of things, it proves to be one more nice addition to the overall presentation.  It prevents audiences from having to go through the scene selection menu on the main menu or from even having to search through the program to get back to where they originally stopped.  Again, this is subtle but impressive.  And combined with everything else already noted concerning this feature—from its CG based visual aids, to its introductory level information about the war, and its segmented presentation—it proves to be a great feature both for teachers and home viewers at any level and an enjoyable watch for anyone that has ever had any interest in the history of one of the world’s biggest conflicts.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online from the History Channel store at http://shop.history.com/detail.php?p=450976&SESSID=30040cc7fc45da7ca4832f41ee690e27&v=history.

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New Iron Man DVD A Solid Season Closer, Lead-In To Iron Man 3 Movie

Courtesy:  Marvel Animation

Courtesy: Marvel Animation

Marvel Animation releases the latest in its “animated” series, Iron Man: Armored Adventures next Tuesday, April 23rdIron Man: Armored Adventures Season 2 Volume 4 follows the continuing journey of the teenage Tony Stark and his friends as they face the forces of evil.  This time out, Tony finally discovers that his father is actually alive only to have to save his life again.  Also in this finale to the show’s second season, Iron Man and his friends also have to face off against the evil Dr. Doom, and Pepper Potts even gets her own suit of armor.  And what action series would be complete without an alien invasion?  The season closes out with an epic battle against the Makluans.  All of this and more spans eight episodes in one more disc that finishes off the second season of Iron Man: Armored Adventures.  The show’s cg-based “animation” continues to stand out from the rest of the crop of CG-based kids’ shows, continuing to help maintain its identity.  This is especially the case considering that the recent Hot Wheels animated series and Stormhawks have gone by the wayside.  Both of those shows used very similar cg based animation.  Together with the packaging and the action packed episodes, audiences get another set of episodes that makes for a nice lead-in to the upcoming theatrical debut of Iron Man 3.

Iron Man Armored:  Adventures Season 2 Vol. 4 succeeds as a continuation of the season’s previous volumes and as a lead in to the upcoming theatrical release of Iron Man 3 thanks to its writing.  This final portion of Season Two leads up to an epic faceoff with the Makluans.  The faceoff in question is a result of actions by the teenage Mandarin in his search for the tenth ring.  Viewers get an origin story not of just The Mandarin, but also of the rings.  According to the legend presented here, the rings are actual alien in descent, and were used by an evil alien warlord to enslave other alien beings.  In the process of everything, Pepper plays a role and is introduced as “Rescue” having gotten her own armor in the buildup to the battle with the Makluan.  Keeping this in mind, the writing of the episodes included in this set, and the timing of its release will really help to build hype for the latest upcoming big screen feature.  All involved with the series and its release are definitely to be commended for all of this.

The writing and the timing of this set’s release make it a success.  This goes without saying.  Its form of CG-based “animation” adds to its success.  There have been few modern “animated shows” that have used and use the form of CG-based art that this show uses.  Two that come to mind immediately are: Stormhawks and Hot Wheels battle Force 5.  Both shows have gone by the wayside.  By comparison, the current success level of Marvel’s properties would seem to suggest that this program still has some life left in itself.  And if that truly is the case, then fans can expect even more adventures from Tony, Pepper and Roady set against this largely unique CG-based animation style art.  Until then, fans can check out all the adventures from this final quarter of the show’s second season when it hits stores next Tuesday alongside, Iron Man: Armored Adventures: The Complete Season 2.  And for all things Iron Man and Marvel, fans can get all the latest when they “Like” Marvel on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Marvel or check in at the official Marvel website at http://www.marvel.com.

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Iron Man Season 2.5 Offers Even More Action For Fans

Courtesy: Gaiam/Vivendi/Marvel

Iron Man is one of the biggest stars of the comic book world right now thanks to his two most recent solo movies and the brand new Avengers ensemble movie from Marvel.  He’s just as big on the small screen as he is on the small screen, too, thanks to Marvel’s “Iron Man:  Armored Adventures.”  This series, which currently airs on Nicktoons, is a big hit with teen audiences.  That’s because the series focuses on a teen-aged Tony Stark.  He and his fellow young co-stars have to face off against an equally aged Justin Hammer among so many other foes.  Next week, audiences and fans of this CG-based series will be able to watch the second half of the show’s second season any time they want as “Iron Man:  Armored Adventures Season Two Part Two” will be available in stores and online.

“Iron Man:  Armored Adventures Season Two Part Two” finishes off the second season of this hit teen-centric super powered show.  This time out, Tony meets what is almost his match in “Titanium vs. Iron.”  Also, the young Tony meets fellow future Avengers Hawkeye and Black Widow in “The Hawk and The Spider.”  And in one of the season’s most interesting episodes, Tony learns a valuable lesson about having to balance his responsibilities as Iron Man with those of Tony Stark, student, in “All The Best People Are Mad.”  These are just half of the six new episodes included in the new single disc compilation that the show’s fans will enjoy.

Season Two Part Two opens with Tony Stark’s foe, Justin Hammer getting ready to reveal his new armor suit to the military thanks to designs that he stole from Tony.  When Hammer opens the capsule that would have held the suit, he and the others are surprised to see nothing there, setting off Justin.  It’s revealed that the suit has disappeared (along with many of the stolen designs) thanks to Tony.  Just one problem, Tony is eventually discovered as he is trying to delete the design for Hammer’s Titanium Man suit.  That suit comes in to play later when Tony has to face it, not knowing it’s really Hammer in the suit.  Tony and War machine are nearly defeated by Titanium Man.  But thanks to a little help from Pepper, another suit is sent, allowing Tony to defeat Titanium Man.  What happens along the way in this episode is left for viewers to find out for themselves.

Hammer’s not the only problem that Tony has to face in the second half of Season Two.  Tony meets two of his future fellow Avengers in “The Hawk and The Spider.”  When Tony is trying to get his hands on a UI chip that Obadiah Stain has, it’s abruptly stolen from him by Hawkeye, with the help of Black Widow.  Even after they get the chip from Tony, things don’t go too well for them, either.  Hammer comes after them in his Titanium Man suit, and steals the chip from them, forcing Tony, Hawkeye, and Black Widow to team up in order to defeat Hammer.  The end result leaves the door wide open for another encounter later on with both characters.  But to find out what that result is, again, audiences will have to see for themselves.

Fans who have watched Iron Man:  Armored Adventures know that as a teenager, Tony Stark has to face the trials and tribulations not only of facing evil villains, but also of high school.  And in “All The Best People Are Mad”, Tony’s late nights catch up with him when an evil teenage genius (who just happens to be a former classmate of Tony) captures him and his friends in what can only be described as something of an homage to the Saw movie franchise.  Tony is forced to answer a series of questions related to his classes in order to save his friends.  On another angle, this is a good episode in that it also promotes the importance of education in a young person’s life.  Sure it may not be a life or death situation.  But education is still important in every person’s life.  This is just a creative way to sort of illustrate that.  All involved with this episode’s creation are to be commended for including that note without being preachy about it.

Tony faces a lot of challenges as Iron Man, as evidenced here.  Of course, there are even more adventures for audiences to check out for themselves.  This single disc collection of episodes will be available next Tuesday, September 25th

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Superhero Squad’s Latest (And Last?) Release Is More Kid Friendly Comic Based Fun

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Comic books today aren’t meant for younger readers.  Being a grown up comic book geek, I’ve seen the content in comic books change dramatically over the years.  Perhaps it’s a product of the time, but even the movies on which the comics are based are anything but kid friendly.  Thankfully, Marvel has crated a line of comics that is kid friendly.  And in accordance, there’s even a comics based cartoon called The Superhero Squad Show that is great for young comics fans.

The Superhero Squad Show is great for kids because while it has all the great adventures that have made the characters great over the ages, the general content of those adventures is entirely kid friendly.  It doesn’t have any harsh language, sexuality, etc.  Add in bright, vivid, hand drawn animation, and audiences get another positive in an era when so many “cartoons” are really just a bunch of CG based visuals.   On top of the great artwork and the kid friendly content is a fun comedy element that both kids and parents alike will love, including constantly breaking down the fourth wall.  There are even pop culture references tossed in throughout the show that parents will love, including a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in what seems to be the series finale.

Yes, Season Two Volume Four seems to be the finale volume from this family and kid friendly comic based series.  All research done on the show seems to point out that the show has ended.  If that’s the case, then it has been wrapped up nicely in this volume.  Volume Four picks up where Volume three left off.  Captain America, Mr. Fantastic, and Ms. Marvel are trying to bring the rest of the squaddies back after being captured.  But it’s not as easy as it seems, as they have to face Baron Mordo, when he breaks into the Squad’s base and captures Captain America.  Eventually, the evil Baron is beaten, and Mr. Fantastic gets the base’s satellite dish fixed and brings back the rest of the squad.

Once the whole team’s reassembled, everything eventually leads up to the final confrontation between the Dark Surfer and the squaddies.  And who would have thought, even Dr. Doom inadvertently helps out, though only for his own benefit.  When both Dr. Doom and the squaddies face off against the Dark Surfer, the Squad is able to get each of the stones away from the Surfer’s duplicates and defeat him…or so they think.  Everything comes down to one final battle between Iron man and Dr. Doom over the Infinity Sword.  The conflict leads them to accidentally destroy the sword.  It’s that destruction that finishes off the Surfer once and for all, and returns him to the form of the Silver Surfer.  And while Surfer admits guilt for what he’d done and the Squad still backs him, knowing he was under a spell, he is still taken away by Ronan (voiced by Michael Dorn).  The squad goes back to Earth, where everything is finally back to normal, and the Scarlet Witch is even accepted as a member of the squad.

The Superhero Squad Show is a great kid friendly introduction to the world of comics.  Given, it may upset some hardcore fan boys as it has no link to the comics in general.  But in an age when so many comics are anything but kid friendly, this seemingly final volume from The Superhero Squad Show makes for one more great introduction for young fans to the world of comics.  It’s action packed without being too edgy.  It has lots of bright hand drawn colors, which is equally appealing.  And the comedy and pop culture references are enough for young and old comics fans alike.  Season two Volume Four is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered direct from Shout! Factory online at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com.

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The Avengers gets an “A” for effort

Marvel’s The Avengers is a good start to the Summer movie season this year.  The build up for the movie has been nearly as immense as that for the finale of DC’s current Batman franchise.  And the end result definitely lives up to all the hype.  It’s translated to the big screen as if it were actually a live action comic book.  Some comic books over history haven’t translated to the big screen so well.  But this one did.  However, for all the greatness that was this highly anticiapted seasonal opener, it wasn’t without its flaws.

Anticipation has been growing over the newest of Marvel’s comics-to-film franchise, The Avengers.  From toys to promos to everything in between, The Avengers have been everywhere.  And it’s paid off with over $200 million in its opening weekend.  This movie is everything that a Summer blockbuster should be.  It has all the requisite explosions and action that audiences look for in their attempts to escape the mundacity of the every day world.  Thanks to writer/director Joss Whedon and co-writer Zak Penn, they’ve somehow managed to bring the action from the pages of the famed comic series and make it feel like audiences are actually seeing the comic book itself on the big screen, without going the Joel Schumacher route a la DC’s Batman & Robin and Batman Forever.  The chemistry between the cast was obvious too.  It was funny to see Tony Stark and Dr. Banner interacting.  The banter between the two was worth its share of laughs in and of itself.  The same applies even more so when the full Avengers team is together in one room.  The one-liners from each team member make for plenty of laughs throughout.

For all the laughs and great action, The Avengers is not without its faults.  The sexual innundo that is typical of Tony Stark is there.  And one can’t help but wonder if his subtle joke about Banner potentially using marijuana to stay calm was entirely necessary.  What’s more, do audiences really need preachiness about military buildup?  Audiences are bombarded with such stories every day on the news.  Having the Avengers quarreling with Director Fury over S.H.I.E.L.D.’s real intentions takes a certain amount of escapism from the movie.  It’s not the first movie to go that route, either.  What’s more, that the movie is an ensemble piece, it does tend to drag on a little bit too long.  Whether it’s telling backstory of each member of the Avengers team, or from other areas, Whedon and Penn could have found a way to shave off twenty to thirty minutes from this roughly two and a half hour movie.  Keeping that in consideration, one can only hope that when the already anticipated Avengers 2 makes its debut, whomever writes and helms that movie will have taken the good and bad from this one to make a sequel that defies common logic of sequels.