Life Of Crime Is Anything But The Standard Crime Drama

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions/Hyde Park Entertainment/Image Nation/Starstream Entertainment/Abbolita Productions/The Gotham Group

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions/Hyde Park Entertainment/Image Nation/Starstream Entertainment/Abbolita Productions/The Gotham Group

Lionsgate’s new drama Life Of Crime is an interesting movie.  The movie, which is based on author Elmore Leonard’s book The Switch is the polar opposite of all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes being churned out by Hollywood’s ‘Power Five” studios today.  It stands out completely from everything else on theaters and in the realm of home entertainment primarily because of its story.  The story centers on the kidnapping of a woman that is married to a rather unpleasant man by two ex-cons, one of which just got out of jail.  That aspect is discussed in the movie’s bonus features.  So it will be touched on later.  The story though, is rather interesting in that it doesn’t necessarily turn out the way that audiences might think.  In fact it actually turns the classic crime story a bit on its ear as audiences will see.  Another reason that the movie works as well as it does is the acting on the part of the cast.  The cast’s acting really serves to highlight the character development that takes place over the course of the movie’s near two-hour run time.  Last but not least of note in this recent release is the movie’s bonus material.  The behind-the-scenes featurette and the discussion on how the movie came to be adapted from Leonard’s book both shed their own light on the movie, making the whole viewing experience all the richer.  That isn’t to take away from the movie’s bonus commentary.  It serves its own purpose in the grand scheme of things, too.  The end result is a movie that while it definitely walks off the beaten path is well worth the watch if only once.

Life of Crime is a welcome respite from all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes currently being churned out by Hollywood’s “Power Five” studios.  The central reason for this is its script.  While adapted from author Elmore Leonard’s book The Switch, it stays true to the source material, as audiences will learn in watching the movie’s bonus material.  The story centers on the kidnapping of well-to-do wife Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston).  Mickey is kidnapped by two ex-cons named Louis (John Hawkes—American Gangster, The Sessions, Lincoln) and Ordell (Yasiin Bey a.k.a. Mos Def—The Italian Job, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, 16 Blocks).  The pair originally sets out to kidnap her and extort $1 million from her husband Frank (Tim Robbins—The Shawshank Redemption, The Hudsucker Proxy, Mystic River).  There’s just one problem.  He is getting ready to file for divorce unbeknownst to both her and her captors.  As things progress, a friendship of sorts forms between Mickey and Louis.  On the other end, Ordell ends up with Frank’s mistress Melanie (Isla Fisher—Now You See Me, Rango, Wedding Crashers).  Considering all of this, one would think that the movie is a comedy.  But that isn’t the case.  Writer/Director Daniel Schecter took the story in a more dramatic direction, again staying true to the source material.  The only way that this is a bad thing is the story’s pacing.  It does tend to drag somewhat as the story progresses.  But it is still a story worth at least one watch despite this.

The story on which Life of Crime is centered is an important reason that audiences should give this movie at least one watch.  Again as Writer/Director Daniel Schecter notes in the movie’s bonus material, he wanted to stay true to the movie’s source material. That’s because, as he notes, he didn’t like all of the movies that changed the story in its adaptation from its source material.  The story itself would be nothing without a cast to carry out the story.  And the movie’s cast does quite the job of bringing the story to life.  Their interpretation of Schecter’s script makes up for the story’s issues with pacing.  Audiences will love the fact that Aniston’s Mickey is such a strong female lead.  This goes back to the fact that the story turns the typical crime drama genre on its ear.  Mickey isn’t afraid to stand up to her captors, which is what leads to her budding friendship with Louis.  Women especially will cheer as Mickey uses a lit cigarette to burn Richard (Mark Boone, Jr.) in his eye.  Her overall interactions with Louis and Ordell display so much character development throughout the story.  That mix of development and interaction will pull in audiences with ease and keep them engaged right to the end again despite the story’s pacing issue.  It’s one more way in which Life of Crime stands out from all of the other major blockbuster prequels, sequels, and remakes currently out there and that are on the way.  It still is not the last factor that makes the movie work, either.  The last factor that makes Life of Crime work as well as it does is the movie’s bonus material.

The last factor involved in Life of Crime’s home release is the bonus material included in the movie’s Blu-ray/Digital HD release.  The bonus behind-the-scenes featurette itself offers quite a bit of insight into the movie.  That insight includes the thoughts on the movie’s source material from both the cast and director.  Aniston also has the chance to discuss her character’s portrayal to some length in the behind-the-scenes featurette.  The companion featurette entitled “Envisioning The Big Picture: Shooting Crime” allows Schecter to discuss his reasoning for staying as close as possible to Leonard’s original book in adapting it and the surprise that Leonard actually liked Schecter’s script for his adaptation.  There is much more discussed in both features.  And audiences will find in taking in the rest of those discussions, they add even more interest to Life of Crime in whole.  The same can be said of the movie’s bonus commentary from Schecter and actor Will Forte (Saturday Night Live) who plays a slightly overbearing man trying to win over Mickey throughout the movie.  The end result of all of these discussions is a viewing experience that makes Life of Crime even more a story worth at least one watch.

Whether it be for the story, the acting on the part of the cast or the movie’s companion bonus material, every one of these factors plays an integral role in the overall success and enjoyment of Life of Crime.  All three factors together make it an unsuspecting and rather interesting work worth at least one watch and a potential candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of this year’s best new independent movies.  Life of Crime is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct through Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/search_results.asp?Search=life%20of%20crime.  More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgatefilms.com

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

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Giants World Series Blu-ray Collector’s Edition Is A Must Have For Any Hardcore Baseball Fan

Courtesy:  MLB Productions/A&E Home Video/Lionsgate

Courtesy: MLB Productions/A&E Home Video/Lionsgate

Major League Baseball’s 2014 season is officially in the books.  The trophy’s been raised, the champagne poured, and all the gear is hung up for the year.  It means baseball fans have to wait another six months to hear the crack of the bat and all of the great smells of the ballpark again.  Meanwhile, the people at MLB Productions, Lionsgate, and A&E Home Video have made available for baseball fans everywhere a great way to get their baseball fix in the meantime.  They have partnered to release Giants 2014 World Series Collector’s Edition.  This box set is a viable candidate for every sports writer and sportscaster’s best new releases this year.  The reasons for this are far more than any one person could ever discuss in a single setting.  So this critic will attempt to discuss at least some of the reasons that this box set is a win itself for baseball fans regardless of their team allegiance.  One reason that Giants 2014 World Series Collector’s Edition is a win is the fact that it presents every single inning of every game from the 2014 World Series.  Within the context of each game, audiences can choose which inning to watch and whether to watch the top or bottom of said inning.  This is the norm from Major League Baseball Productions.  So it is especially nice to see that carried on in this box set.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this box set is its companion booklet.  The companion booklet that comes with the Giants 2014 World Series Collector’s Edition offers a complete box score for each game.  It also includes little tidbits about each game including not only the hits, .ERAs, etc. but even the games’ attendance and temperature at first pitch.  It really is an in-depth companion for any hardcore baseball fan in the context of this set.  Last but hardly least important worth noting of the Giants 2014 World Series Collector’s Edition is its audio settings.  Audiences are not limited to just Fox’s broadcast team in following the game.  Fans can watch the game and listen to the game through the call of the Royals Radio Network and the Giants Radio Network.  That trio of choices is offered in every one of the World Series games, not just one.  Whether it be that choice of game audio, the set’s companion booklet, or the fact that all seven games are included in whole here, each factor plays its own important role in the success of the Giants 2014 World Series Collector’s Edition.  Together, they make this box set a must have for any hardcore baseball fan regardless of their team allegiance.

The first and most important reason for the success of the Giants 2014 World Series Collector’s Edition is the fact that presented in this set is the complete seven-game 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals.  Not one game is left out.  It even includes as a bonus for baseball fans, Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Giants and Cardinals.  That was the game that boosted the Giants into the World Series.  As with each of the World Series’ seven games, that game is also presented in its entirety.  The fact that the series (and Game Five of the NLCS) is shown in its entirety is just the tip of the iceberg that makes the complete collection a bonus.  MLB Productions has maintained its tradition of allowing audiences to choose the inning at which they want to start here.  Not only that, but they can choose whether they want to start at the top or bottom of the given inning.  This, too is something that MLB Productions has made a standard with each of its previous releases.  So the fact that MLB Productions has continued that tradition here is a wonderful thing.  It isn’t all that makes the Giants 2014 World Series Collector’s Edition a success.  Audiences should also take into account the set’s companion booklet.

The companion booklet that comes with the Giants 2014 World Series Collector’s Edition is a perfect addition to the box set.  It includes a complete, in-depth box score for each game.  It doesn’t just give the standard score information such as .ERAs, runs, hits, etc.  It also includes extra tidbits such as the game-time temperature at the time of each game’s first pitch, attendance at each game, and even specific details about certain players from both sides of the ball.  It’s like having a full series program for those that could only take in the game from their living rooms and bedrooms.  The fact that the people at MLB Productions would include this with the box set once again (it’s not the first time that MLB Productions has done this either) makes the box even more of a win.

The complete presentation of all seven games from the 2014 World Series is a key factor to the success of the Giants 2014 World Series Collector’s Edition.  The set’s in-depth companion booklet makes the experience all the richer for baseball fans.  That is because of the amount of information that is shared throughout the companion booklet.  It is like having a program for those that couldn’t be at any of the games.  The last factor that makes this box set a success is the trio of audio options for each game.  Audiences are not relegated to listening only to Fox’s broadcast team.  They are given the option of listening to the game through the call of the Royals Radio Network and the Giants Network.  There are those people who actually admit to turning off a game’s audio on television and taking in the game through the call of their local radio affiliate.  Now audiences can do just that without even having to turn on a radio.  Again whether one is loyal to the Royals or Giants, audiences can experience the call of each game through the network of their choice.  Even more impressive is that audiences can even switch between the two radio networks or Fox’s broadcast team throughout each game.  They are not forced to listen to just one broadcast audio option within any game.  That is a huge win for audiences even if they are not loyal to the Royals or Giants.  That factor rounds out the entire box set and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this box set is a must have for every sports writer and sports caster around the country.  It is just as much of a must have for any hardcore baseball fan regardless of team allegiance.

The full seven-game presentation of the Giants 2014 World Series Collector’s Edition and its in-depth companion booklet more than make this Blu-ray box set a must have for any lover of America’s past-time.  The fact that audiences can choose the inning and half of said inning at which they start viewing makes the box set even more of a hit.  The multi-functional  audio options offered to audiences throughout the course of those seven-games makes the box set a grand slam (bad pun fully intended).  It is available now and can be ordered online direct from MLB Productions’ website at http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=51967736.  More information on this and other releases from MLB Productions is available online at:

Website: http://mlbproductions.com

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

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IFC Films’ “Premature” Is As Good As Any Big Screen Teen Flick

Courtesy:  IFC FIlms

Courtesy: IFC FIlms

IFC Films’ teen comedy Premature is not only one of the best indie flicks of 2014, but it is one of the best movies of the year overall.  In comparison to the endless stream of prequels, sequels, and remakes churned out by Hollywood’s “Power 5″ studios, this movie is a complete breath of fresh air.  It balances just enough bawdiness and raunch with an equal amount of depth and heart to make it a surprisingly entertaining work.  The central reason for that is the movie’s script.  It isn’t just another standard, formulaic teen romp.  It actually teaches some important lessons; lessons that both male and female audiences will appreciate.  The movie’s script is at the heart of its enjoyment.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this movie is its bonus material.  Included as bonus material on the DVD are a number of interviews with the cast and crew, a fun little behind-the-scenes featurette, and even an alternate ending that proves to be just as good as the ending presented in the final product.  The last aspect of the movie that makes it enjoyable for audiences is the acting on the part of the cast.  The cast isn’t exactly A-listers just yet.  But its members already have quite the chops under their belts thanks to roles on some big movies and TV shows.  It shows quite well in this presentation, too.  It rounds out a movie that while being an indie flick, is one of this year’s best indie flicks and one of the year’s best movies overall.

At first glance, many critics have automatically panned IFC Films’ new teen comedy Premature.  Elizabeth Weitzman, of the New York Daily News, said of the movie that it is “a retreat of every lousy 80s high school comedy you never bothered watching.”  And Variety’s Joe Leydon had one of the harshest comments, attacking not only the movie but those that actually showed any appreciation of the movie.  He noted of the movie and its audiences that “only undiscriminating audiences with a pronounced taste for crotch-centric tomfoolery will sample this goulash.”  Really, Joe?  There was an equally scathing commentary from New York Times writer Nicolas Rapold, equating co-writers Dan Beers and Mathew Harawitz’s script to work from Family Guy head Seth McFarlane.  That is an insult of the highest degree. For all of its naysayers, Premature has also gotten positive marks, too.  Though, even those positive remarks have been tepid at best.  This means that most audiences and critics that saw this movie completely missed the mark in analyzing it.  The script itself does throw back to the teen romps of the 80s.  There’s no denying that.  But it throws back to more than just those movies.  Its script balances the crudeness of those movies with the heart–believe it or not–of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  To a lesser extent, those that are old enough to remember will see a comparison to the likes of Fox’s classic series Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, too.  That’s thanks in large part to the work of lead actor John Karna, who plays Rob Crabbe.  The movie sees Rob learn some valuable lessons about both life and love as the story progresses.  He learns about doing what makes him happy versus what makes his father happy through his interactions with his Georgetown recruiter and his father.  The lesson about love just happens to be tied in to Rob’s own full-throttle sex drive.  Audiences need to remember that in our adolescence, the human sex drive is actually much like what is portrayed here.  Hormones are going crazy in the adolescent brain and body.  Beer and Harawitz have just taken that fact and made humorous light of it as part of the bigger picture.  Keeping that in mind makes that aspect of the movie less crude and much funnier.  If audiences can accept that fact and enjoy it for what it is, they will enjoy Premature much more.  They will also enjoy the lessons incorporated into the script, too thus leading to a realization that this movie is far more enjoyable than what some would have others believe.

The script used for Premature is by itself more than enough reason to give this underrated indie flick worth at least one watch.  By itself, it makes Premature one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  The script is just part of what makes the movie worth watching.  The bonus material included with the movie makes the presentation in whole even more enjoyable.  There are interviews with the cast and crew that will inform and entertain audiences.  There is also a bonus alternate ending that proves to be just as entertaining as the ending presented in the final product if not more so.  And the bonus behind-the-scenes featurette will have audiences just as much in stitches.  [John] Karna takes audiences through the movie’s sets during this segment.  Throughout the featurette, Karna stays somewhat in character holding the same personality as Rob Crabbe without actually trying to portray Rob.  He playfully hits on every female that he finds as if he were Rob.  It really is fun and funny to watch.  Together with the bonus interviews and alternate ending, it shows even more what makes the movie’s bonus features even more important to the presentation in whole. They collectively make Premature that much more of a joy to watch.  They still aren’t the last of the factors that make Premature so enjoyable, either.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is just as important to the movie.  It rounds out the whole that is this surprisingly entertaining indie flick.

The acting on the part of Premature’s cast is one of the most important parts of this movie’s enjoyment.  Most audiences probably don’t know the cast’s names.  But Karna and his cast mates–Katie Findlay (How To Get Away With Murder, The Carrie Diaries, After The Dark), Alan Tudyk (Frozen, Wreck-it-Ralph ,i-Robot) Craig Roberts (Neighbors, 22 Jump Street, Jane Eyre), Steve Coulter (The Hunger Games, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Conjuring) , and Carlson Young (True Blood, The Dog Who Saved Christmas, Pretty Little Liars)–are each fully believable in their roles.  And that is thanks to their work on some rather well-known movies and TV series.  Katie Findlay plays Rob’s best friend Gabrielle.  She does quite the job in her role, although most audiences can tell as the story progresses what will happen between them.  It’s a classic partnering that has been used before.  But it still works quite well even in this case.  Alan tudyk plays the part of Rob’s Georgetown recruiter.  Tudyk is a laugh riot as he breaks down, crying like a little child as he interviews Rob.  His acting will by itself leave audiences laughing uproariously.  Craig Roberts plays Rob’s sex-crazed friend Stanley.  Even in the side-kick role, Roberts offers his own share of laughs.  One could really compare him to Stiffler from the famed American Pie franchise, only younger. Steve Coulter plays a minimal role as Rob’s dad Jim.  But he’s still entertaining as the standard subtly controlling father figure.  And Carlson Young is spot on as the stereotypical blonde sex kitten Angela Yearwood.  Her role is understated as it plays an important part in Rob’s personal development and self-realization.  But just as with her co-stars, Young pulls off her role expertly as do the rest of the cast members.  Their collective experience makes their portrayals here so enjoyable in their own right.  It makes suspension of disbelief so simple in this case.  The end result is a story that will keep audiences fully engaged from start to finish, laughing the whole way through.

Whether it be the movie’s script, the bonus features included as part of the whole, or the acting on the part of the cast, Premature proves in the end to have plenty of positives.  It proves to have far more positives than its critics would lead audiences to believe.  It proves to be one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  It is available in stores and online now.  More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available online at:

Website: http://www.ifcfilms.com

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

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.

Lionsgate’s Latest Power Rangers DVD A Good Watch Any Time Of The Year

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Saban/Saban Brands

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Saban/Saban Brands

Nickelodeon is set to close out the latest installment of Saban’s hugely popular Power Rangers franchise this weekend.  Power Rangers Super Megaforce will close out this Saturday on Nickelodeon.  Before it closes out Saban and Lionsgate have released a new featuring a holiday episode from this season.  Power Rangers Megaforce: Robo Knight Before Christmas brings to audiences yet another new holiday tale from what has over the years become a worldwide phenomenon.  What audiences will appreciate most of all in this episode is the fact that yet again, the people behind the franchise have switched things up in this episode instead of repeating the same story as in previous Power Rangers seasons.  This is especially important considering some of the redundancy that can be seen in the seasons that followed the franchise’s original seven-season run.  The lessons taught in the central episode tie directly in to that originality.  It’s another reason that audiences will appreciate this installment from the Megaforce Rangers.  Speaking of lessons being taught, the lessons taught in the companion episodes are just as important to the overall presentation.  The episodes themselves may not be Christmas-themed.  But the lessons shared in said episodes are just as applicable during the holidays as they are any other time of the year.  Those lessons coupled with the lessons taught in the DVD’s central episode and said episode’s originality combine to make this DVD one that any Power Rangers fan will enjoy whether during the holidays or any other time of the year.

Over the course of its now twenty-ne years on television, Saban’s Power Rangers franchise has made a tradition of running a new Christmas-themed episode in every season.  And every season’s Christmas episode has proven to be different from the last.  This applies both stylistically and in terms of their stories.  Power Rangers Megaforce: Robo Knight Before Christmas is no different in that fashion.  Given, it is for all intents and purposes a clip show.  And it’s not the first time that Saban has used clip shows in previous seasons of the Power Rangers.  But through the use of the various clips, the story is more than just another typical clip show.  For that matter, it’s also not just another piece telling about the “true meaning of Christmas.”  The show’s writers incorporate the values commonly associated with Christmas into Robo Knight’s own attempt to better understand humans.  The end result is something of a third person vantage point that helps to better illustrate the morals and values that are so important not just during the holiday season but during any time of the year.  The show’s writers accomplish this goal without being overly preachy about it, either.  Sure there’s some sappiness.  But it’s still a good non-traditional piece that focuses on the holiday season and its associated values.

The lesson centering on Christmas’ values and Robo Knight’s own attempt to understand those values couple to make Robo Knight Before Christmas another enjoyable Christmas episode of Saban’s Power Rangers franchise.  Staying on that same train of thought, the two Power Rangers episodes included as bonuses offer audiences their own positive lessons.  Neither episode takes place during Christmas or even the holiday season.  But they still teach invaluable lessons.  Power Rangers Wild Force’s episode “Team Carnival” teaches an important and invaluable lesson about self-worth.  The interesting thing of the episode is that the writers behind that season actually also took a non-traditional route in presenting said lesson.  In the case of this episode, that season’s writers presented the lesson through the use of the season’s villains Toxica (Sin Wong) and Jindrax (Danny Wayne).  When Jindrax sees that Toxica has her own family in the fight against the Power Rangers, it makes Jindrax feel worthless.  He ends up teaming up with his own family member to fight the rangers and still learns his own valuable lesson about self-worth in the long run.  It’s interesting to see any episode of the Power Rangers make a villain a sympathetic character.  But it works here.  That and the lesson centering on personal self-worth makes this episode its own invaluable addition to this DVD.  It’s one more reason that this latest Power Rangers is another *ahem* mega-hit for audiences.

The second of the bonus episodes included in the new Power Rangers Megaforce DVD, “The Spirit of Kindness,” comes from Power Rangers Jungle Fury.  The most important lesson taught through this episode could be argued to be that of the golden rule so to speak.  As audiences will see in this episode, Casey (Jason Smith)  finally wins over an old nemesis in Whiger (Jared Turner) and convinces Whiger to join him in fighting Whiger’s own former evil ally.  Whiger admits before disappearing that he fought alongside Casey because Casey was kind to him unlike the season’s other villains.  He finally realized in that final moment before his own demise the importance of kindness.  It taught Casey that kindness can be just as powerful as fighting, too.  That in itself is an extremely important lesson to be taken away from this episode.  It’s one more lesson that is just as important during the holiday season as any other time of the year.  This lesson combined with the others presented on this DVD shows once more how much the Power Rangers franchise has to offer audiences even two decades plus after it first debuted.

If the lessons taught in each of the DVD’s trio of episodes isn’t enough for audiences, then the fact that the DVD comes with a bonus digital copy will win over audiences.  Having that digital copy means that audiences can take all three of these episodes with them wherever they go.  So the lessons and the entertaining stories can be shared with any viewer without having to lug around the DVD.  It is the finishing touch to yet another DVD that any Power Rangers fan will appreciate.

Power Rangers Megaforce: Robo Knight Before Christmas is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=31609&TitleParentId=9994.  More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

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.

Parents, Educators Can Count On Leap Frog’s New DVD

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Parents and educators alike have so many tools at their disposal today with which to use to educate children.  Television and the internet are both key resources.  Even video games offer their own educational content.  It’s just a matter of finding the right games.  And then there is another standby in the form of DVDs and Blu-rays.  There are perhaps just as many DVDs and Blu-rays from which to choose as there are websites and TV programs combined.  There are so many in fact, that deciding which one(s) to use to educate children can be as stressful as holiday shopping.  Thankfully, Lionsgate and Leap Frog have made that choice just a little bit easier thanks to its recently released DVD Letter Factory Adventures: Counting on Lemonade.  It is the latest in a series of home releases from Lionsgate and Leap Frog.  And it is another great tool for parents and teachers alike that is just as valuable in the classroom as it is in the living room.  There is plenty to note that makes this DVD worth the watch, not the least of which being the presentation’s central story.  The story presented in this presentation sees the twins Lily and Tad deciding to raise money to buy books for their local library.  There is so much that can be said of this.  And it will be noted momentarily.  As important as the story is to the overall presentation, the combined lessons on both spelling and basic math are quite well balanced, making for even more enjoyment for young viewers.  The educational content and the presentation’s overall story that make up Letter Factory Adventures: Counting on Lemonade more than make this DVD worth the watch whether in the classroom or the living room.  Speaking of its usefulness, kids can watch the DVD not just in the classroom and the living room but on the go, too.  The DVD comes complete with a digital copy for kids to watch on any mobile platform.  That means kids can be entertained and educated at the same time any time of the day, anywhere.  That is not to discount the “Curriculum commentaries” for parents and educators or the sing-a-long videos for young audiences.  These are added in as bonus material.  They round out the entire presentation and show once more why this DVD is well worth checking out no matter where one intends to use it.

Letter Factory Adventures: Counting on Lemonade is not the first DVD to be released from Lionsgate and Leap Frog.  It is still a great tool for parents and educators, and an equally great watch for young audiences.  The reasons for this are so many that it would take too long to note them all.  One positive that can be noted though is the central story presented in the DVD.  The central story presented in this program focuses on Tad and Lily’s plans to raise money to buy new books for their local library.  We live in an age today in which books are increasingly going by the wayside in favor of all things digital.  So seeing that Leap Frog and Lionsgate are essentially promoting both books and literacy is by itself a huge positive.  The subtle promotion of community service to the story is worthy of applause, too.  It is great to see that not everybody has given over to the digital movement…at least not in full considering the promotion of actual physical books.  Whether or not Leap Frog and Lionsgate actually intended to promote physical books through the program’s central story is anyone’s guess.  Regardless, it is still nice to have that in there.  Children need to remember books.  For that matter, kids shouldn’t grow up knowing only digital books.  They should be able to experience the joys of actually holding a physical book versus the cold sterile e-readers out there.  Again, this aspect of the story may be subtle.  But it is an important and welcome addition to the whole that is the program’s central script.  The promotion of literacy is par for course from Leap Frog.  So Leap Frog and Lionsgate are to be applauded just as much for that.  The positives don’t end here, either.    The educational content contained in this program is just as noteworthy as its central story.

The educational content that is provided throughout Letter Factory Adventures: Counting on Lemonade’s roughly thirty-five minute run time is just as important to its enjoyment and success as the central story line.  This installment of Leap Frog’s rather popular series of DVDs balances elements of both math and spelling showing how the two work hand in hand just as much as they work separately.  Tad and Lily have to use basic math skills in order to make the perfect lemonade mix.  At the same time, they incorporate basic spelling skills when assembling their lemonade stand among other activities.  Many of the lessons are accompanied by short, catchy songs that are sure to have young viewers singing along.  And with any luck, the songs will help said young viewers have an easier time remembering the lessons taught throughout the program.  That balance of math and spelling lessons coupled with the catchy songs used to teach them makes for yet another reason that audiences will appreciate and enjoy this latest DVD regardless of age and where it is viewed.  Speaking of where it is viewed, this is one more reason that Letter Factory Adventures: Counting on Lemonade succeeds as much as it does.  The DVD comes coupled with a digital copy that can be viewed on any mobile web device. This is especially worth noting for any on-the-go family.  And even it in itself still isn’t all that makes this new DVD such a worthwhile watch.

The collective songs and lessons centered on basic math and spelling presented in Letter Factory Adventures: Counting on Lemonade are by themselves plenty of reason that audiences will enjoy this program.  The feature’s central story makes the whole thing even more enjoyable for parents, educators, and children alike.  As important as these factors are to the presentation in whole, they still are not all that makes it worth watching.  Parents and educators will note that it is presented both with a physical and digital copy. That means that young viewers can enjoy it anywhere and anytime.  In an age when families seem to be increasingly on the go, this is especially important to the DVD in whole.  It means kids can still enjoy the DVD whether coming or going from school, going on a family trip or in any other given situation when not at home.  It may not seem like much of an addition, especially considering that so many DVDs and Blu-rays come complete with digital copies.  But in the grand scheme of things, it is extremely important considering all of the distractions that children have today.  Having this program in digital form is one more way to keep young viewers away from said distractions and still entertain and educate them at the same time.  So for that reason alone , the people at Leap Frog and Lionsgate deserve a standing ovation here.  That isn’t to discount the DVD’s curriculum discussions for parents and educators or the sing-a-long feature included as bonus material.  They play their own role to the DVD, too.  They are topics for another discussion.  The factors noted here collectively prove in the end that Letter Factory Adventures: Counting on Lemonade is one of those rare children’s DVDs well worth the watch and the price.

Letter Factory Adventures: Counting on Lemonade is available now on DVD/Digital combo pack in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Leap Frog is available online at

Website: http://www.LeapFrog.com

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Ancient Aliens Box Set Is An Out Of This World Collection

Ancient Aliens The Complete Seasons 1 - 6The truth is out there.  Or is it?  For ages, people have claimed that beings from other worlds have visited Earth.  Those people have been knocked as nutjobs, crackpots, and much worse, much like those that have any belief in the paranormal.  What if there is something to their arguments, though?  What if beings from other worlds—aliens—have not only visited but have been here all along and have even played a role in the countless advances made by mankind for eons?  History Channel and H2’s hit series Ancient Aliens has pondered these questions for six seasons.  And the series’ seventh season is airing now on H2.  The series’ first six seasons run primarily right now on H2.  However, they do also run on History Channel at seemingly various times.  This can be a little bit troublesome for those that want to catch the series.  Thankfully, Lionsgate and History Channel are releasing the first six seasons in one complete box set for audiences tomorrow, November 11th.  Now audiences can see the series’ first six seasons anytime that they want.  That is the first and most important aspect of what makes this brand new box set a good addition to the collection of any of the series’ fans.  The episodes themselves are more than enough reason for audiences to pick up this box set.  Even if the episodes don’t win over everyone, one thing that can be said of them is that many of them will leave even the harshest skeptics questioning the world and the universe.  In direct connection to the content of the episodes included in this box set is the inclusion of twelve episodes that are new to DVD.  Each of these aspects by themselves make Ancient Aliens: The Complete Season 1 – 6 well worth adding to the collection of any sci-fi fan and any hardcore believer.  Collectively, they make this box set one of the best new box sets to binge on this weekend or any time this winter as the weather gets colder.

Ancient Aliens has proven to be quite the surprise for History Channel and its digital “sister station” H2.  Very few people expected this series to last more than one season when it premiered on History Channel back in 2009.  Since that time, it has gone on to be one of the networks’ biggest hits.  The problem is that not everybody gets H2.  And those that have History have to largely speculate as to when the network will run episodes.  This is a big problem for the show’s fans.  Enter the brand new six-season box set from Lionsgate and History Channel.  Six of the series’ current seven seasons are spread across twenty-three discs.  While the packaging is a little bit questionable, it is still nice to have them all in one place.  Having them all culled in one box means that audiences can watch any of the episodes anytime they want.  They can even binge on all six seasons without needing Netflix or any other streaming service.  That in itself is a huge plus as it’s an alternative both to cable AND streaming services.  So kudos are in order for both Lionsgate and History Channel for that.

The presentation of Ancient Aliens’ first six seasons in one box is by itself an important part of the box’s overall success.  It means being able to watch any episode from the series’ first six season any time that viewers want.  For those that so choose, it even means getting to do lots of binge watching since that seems to be something of a movement now.  And they can do so without the need for Netflix or any other streaming service.  By direct connection, the episodes themselves are just as important to the overall presentation that is Ancient Aliens: The Complete Seasons 1- 6.  From aliens beneath the sea to ancient alien treasures to the alleged genetic link between humans and aliens, audiences get plenty of interesting material.  Some of the stories and theories presented across the series’ six season set are thought provoking, while others are obviously rather laughable.  Regardless, the topics and concepts discussed across the set’s six seasons and eighty-two total episodes are enough to leave even the harshest critics at least questioning at a little bit the world and universe around them even if they still remain skeptical.  The fact that these episodes could leave even the harshest of nonbelievers questioning things even a little bit is quite a statement in favor of these episodes.  It is one more reason for any viewer(s) to pick up this brand new box set.

The episodes that make up Ancient Aliens: The Complete Seasons 1 – 6 are rather interesting to say the least.  Again, some of the topics and theories discussed leave a lot of room for discussion.  Others on the other hand are less likely to have audiences believing.  The very fact that the episodes in whole will leave even the harshest critics questioning the world and the universe (even a little) is a major positive for this box set. Speaking of the episodes culled for the box set, also included are twelve previously unreleased episodes. Those episodes all come from the series’ sixth season. They have not been released on the previously released stand-alone Season Six box sets. That means roughly twelve hours of deep, thought provoking material that was previously unavailable to audiences. It means twelve more hours of conspiracy theories, cover ups and supposedly hidden history that sci-fi fans and alien enthusiasts will love.

The bonus addition of twelve previously unreleased episodes coupled with the series’ already released episodes makes Ancient Aliens: The Complete Seasons 1 – 6 a great gift idea for any sci-fi fan or alien enthusiast. The very topics and theories discussed within every one of the set’s eighty-two total episodes makes this set even more worth the watch for its key audiences. And the fact that they are all combined into one single box set makes the deal even sweeter. Each factor alone makes this set a must for any fan of what has become one of History and H2’s most surprising series. Collectively, they make Ancient Aliens: The Complete Seasons 1 – 6 an *ahem* out of this world gift for any lover of all things extraterrestrial. Yes, that bad pun was fully intended. It will be available tomorrow, November 11th in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from History Channel’s online store at http://shop.history.com/ancient-aliens-seasons-1-6-dvd/detail.php?p=700074&v=history_show_ancient-aliens. More information on this and other History Channel Series is available online at:

 

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Step Up: All In Will Have Dance Fans All In

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/Summit Pictures

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Summit Pictures

Lionsgate and Summit Pictures releases the latest installment of the popular Step Up franchise tomorrow in stores and online.  This latest installment, the series’ sixth, is another fun little romp for anyone that is a fan of all things dance.  Those that are fans of the Step Up franchise will enjoy primarily the movie’s script.  The script is simple enough and doesn’t really require much thought.  It also lifts somewhat liberally from certain other flicks that have come before.  The movie’s overly abundant number of dance numbers will impress fans of the franchise, too.  On a completely separate note, there is the movie’s rating.  Yes, the movie’s rating.  This must be noted as part of the movie’s whole.  The movie received a PG-13 rating.  But in its defense, it really was not deserving of that rating.  That will be discussed later.  The undeserved rating aside, the combination of the story and the dance numbers together will impress any fan of the Step Up franchise and prove it to be a fitting finale for the series should it be the series’ last installment.

“Every step has led to this.”  That is the line used on the front of the box for Step Up: All In.  It hints that perhaps this installment is the finale for the hugely popular dance-centric franchise.  If it is the last of the series’ movies, then the series has gone out on a positive note….er….step.  Yes, that bad pun was fully intended.  The movie, which will be released in stores and online tomorrow, November 4th, is an interesting work.  The central reason for its interest is its script.  The movie’s script focuses on Sean (Ryan Guzman) in his attempts to break out of his work-a-day world and put his talents as a dancer to use in a huge dance competition in Las Vegas called “The Vortex.”  The ultimate reveal as to his intentions is what makes the story interesting.  Unlike so many cookie cutter movies of its ilk, this story’s central character isn’t out to become a major celebrity.  Rather, as he explains to his new crew late in the movie, he just wants to make something of himself.  He wants something better for himself and the rest of his crew.  He tells them he doesn’t care about being a TV star or anything like that.  He just wants to dance and use dance for a living.  It’s a nice change of pace from the movies that fill out this movie’s genre.  Speaking of those movies, audiences can easily see hints of movies such as Universal’s Pitch Perfect and Blues Brothers 2000 and Disney’s High School Musical franchise.  That is thanks to the story’s execution.  That includes the numerous dance sequences, which will be discussed later.

The surprise twist added to the story by the writing team of John Swetnam and Duane Adler makes the movie an interesting watch in itself.  Of course, the requisite romance subplot is there.  Swetnam and Adler have also included the mandatory inner conflict for Sean as he is forced to face off against an old friend when his new dance crew has to take on his old crew.  That crew just happens to be headed up by Sean’s old friend.  Luckily that latter element is kept to an extreme minimum so as to not overpower this movie’s central plot.  Had that happened, it would have made the movie unbearable even for those that are familiar with its predecessors and who enjoyed said movies.  Even the mandatory romance subplot is kept to a minimum.  It’s good to see that Swetnam and Adler balanced the story’s various elements as well as they did.  The end result is a story that actually allows audiences to suspend their disbelief, turn off their brains for about an hour and a half (actually just over that) and enjoy some talented dancing and its associated beats.

John Swetnam and Duane Adler’s script for Step Up: All In is the core of the movie’s ability to keep audiences engaged throughout the course of the movie’s almost two hour run time.  While Adler and Swetnam are to be commended for their script, the story itself is only part of the whole that makes the movie work.  It goes without saying that the Step Up franchise in whole is very much a niche franchise.  It won’t reach everybody.  But those that are into the dance arts will enjoy the dance sequences that are included throughout the movie.  There aren’t just a couple dance sequences, either.  This critic specifically stopped counting at five sequences.  There is no denying the talents of the dancers, either.  Even if one is not exactly a fan of dance, one must admit that the dancers themselves are quite talented.  The choreography of the sequences in whole is just as impressive.  It had to have taken endless hours for the choreographers and dancers to perfect each of the movie’s multitudes of sequences.  Taking that into account the dance sequences, which are essentially the collective core of the movie, prove to be another key part of why audiences will want to give Step Up: All In at least once.

The dance sequences and the script that make up Step Up: All In are collectively more than enough reason for any fan of the long-running franchise to check out its latest installment.  This is the case regardless of whether or not is proves to be the series’ finale.  Getting on a different path for a moment, the movie’s rating is perhaps a bit undeserved.  The movie received a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.  The reason given was “some language and suggestive material.”  There are perhaps only two instances throughout the course of the movie in which any foul language is used.  There is no nudity anywhere throughout any scene.  Given the outfits on both the side of the men and women are a bit skimpy.  But they are not to the level of being overly revealing.  The dancing is dancing.  Sure some of it may be a little bit risqué.  But compared to numbers in the likes of Cabaret and other works, it can hardly be considered suggestive at every point.  The only time that a PG-13 rating might be considered worthy is a dance sequence in “The Vortex” competition.  The sequence in question involves members of Sean’s crew simulating urinating on their opponent.  That would be the only time that a PG-13 rating would truly be justified.  Other than that one moment, very little of the material in this question would be considered overly questionable by today’s standards.  It’s one more reason that Step Up: All In proves in the end to be worth at least one watch. This is regardless of one’s own familiarity with the moves that came before this one.

The script behind Lionsgate’s new addition to the Step Up franchise and the movie’s multitude of dance sequences are both important factors to consider in the movie’s success. Audiences will find enjoyment out of both factors. Considering the fact that perhaps at only one point is there anything truly questionable (besides occasionally the dancers’ outfits), it all makes the movie’s PG-13 rating hold even less water. Could that one questionable dance move have been removed? Yes. It could have. But it really proves to be the only truly questionable moment in the entire movie. That being the case, it takes away very little from the rest of the movie and keeps it still worth at least one watch. It will be available tomorrow, Tuesday, November 4th on DVD +Digital HD combo pack and Blu-ray+Digital HD combo pack. More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at: