PBS Celebrates Four Decades Of ACL With Special Anniversary Concert

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ Austin City Limits hit a major milestone this year.  The network’s hit music series celebrated forty-years with PBS.  In celebration, PBS is releasing a special DVD celebrating the long-running series next month.

PBS will release Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years on Tuesday, December 2nd.  Austin City Limits’ four-decade long run on PBS is especially important to both the network and to music lovers alike.  In the four decades that Austin City Limits has been on PBS, it remains the only TV series to be awarded the Medal of Arts.  Also in that time, MTV’s Unplugged and VH1′s Storytellers have gone by the wayside.  And even CMT’s on Crossroads series has failed to maintain the stability and reputation of ACL.  Throughout its now forty-years on television, ACL has seen and continues to see some of the industry’s biggest names take to the stage.  Those names include the likes of Elvis Costello, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, and so many others.  Many more names are sure to be added to that list as there appears to be no end to this landmark series.

In honor of the series’ fortieth anniversary, many of those same big names have come on board for this celebratory concert.  Bonnie Raitt joins Jimmie Vaughan, Gary Clark, Jr and Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes for a performance of the Sam & Dave classic ‘Wrap It Up’ to open the concert.  Howard returns later in the show alongside Gary Clark, Jr. for a special performance.  Willie Nelson, the red-headed stranger himself, joins Emmylou Harris for a performance of Nelson’s ‘Crazy.’  Singer/actor Kris Kristofferson and Sheryl Crow team up for a performance of Kristofferson’s ‘Me and Bobby McGee.  Foo Fighters even make an appearance to perform Roky Erickson’s ‘Two-Headed Dog.’  That performance was recorded at the original ACL television studio especially for the concert.  Actor Jeff Bridges hosts the night’s festivities.  He also performs a special rendition of ‘What A Little Bit Of Love Can Do’ from the late singer-songwriter Stephen Bruton.  Bruton was a big influence on Bridges’ Oscar-winning role in the movie ‘Crazy Heart.’  As if all of this isn’t enough, Joe Ely and fellow local legend Robert Earl Keen make an appearance.  Blues legend Buddy Guy rounds out the show with a performance of ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb.’  And finishing off the whole thing is a star-studded tribute to Buddy Holly and the one and only Stevie Ray Vaughan.  A who’s who of guitarists performs Holly’s ‘Not Fade Away’ and SRV’s ‘Texas Flood’ for the night’s biggest finish.

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years was taped live at the ACL Live at the Moody Theater and the show’s original studio, Austin PBS affiliate KLRU’s Studio 6A.  The complete list of performers is: Alabama Shakes, Doyle Bramhall II, Jeff Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., Sheryl Crow, Double Trouble, Joe Ely, Mike Farris, Foo Fighters, Grupo Fantasma, Buddy Guy, Emmylou Harris, Robert Earl Keen, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Randolph, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jimmie Vaughan.

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years will be available Tuesday, December 2nd.  It will retail for MSRP of $24.99.  It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=50214636&cp=&sr=1&kw=austin+city+limits&origkw=Austin+City+Limits&parentPage=search.  More information on Austin City Limits is available online at

Website: http://acltv.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/acltv

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Born To Race Fast Track Keeps Pace With Universal’s Fast And The Furious Franchise

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

One part The Fast and the Furious, one part Need for Speed and one part Top Gun, the second installment of Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Born to Race franchise is a movie the surprisingly enough holds its own against its bigger-named counterparts.  There’s no getting around the fact that the franchise, which started with Born to Race back in 2011, is not the first of its kind.  Universal beat Anchor Bay to that punch with its massively popular Fast and Furious franchise.  That aside, there is still plenty to enjoy in this latest installment in the Born to Race franchise.  The central point of the movie’s success is its script (I.E. its writing).  Unlike so many other movies backed by major studios out there, the script for this movie rips off neither its predecessor nor its bigger-named brethren.  Another reason that this movie works as well as it does is its pacing.  The movie moves fast.  But it doesn’t move so fast as to leave viewers struggling to keep up with the story.   And last but not least to consider is the movie’s casting.  The movie’s heads wiped the slate clean with this movie, casting a while new list of actors to fill its lead roles.  But those actors still get the job done well enough to keep the movie believable.  These three factors together make Born to Race: Fast Track a movie that despite being an independent release, is a movie that any fan of its genre should see at least once.

The central point of success in Born to Race: Fast Track is its script (I.E. its writing).  There’s no getting around the fact that it is not the first movie of its kind within the race-based action subgenre.  That aside, it actually holds its own surprisingly well against Need for Speed and Universal Studios’ Fast & Furious franchise.  Unlike so many bigger-named movies out there across the genres, Born to Race: Fast Track doesn’t attempt to rip itself off.  Nor does it try to be just another of the aforementioned bigger-named movies in its genre.  The only movie that one could even begin to say it does copy is Tom Cruise’s hit 1986 fighter jet flick Top Gun.  It goes so far as to put lead actor Brett Davern in a pair of aviator sunglasses alongside co-star Beau Mirchoff late in the movie, in a scene that almost directly mirrors one well-known scene from Top Gun.  Even with that blatant lifting, it doesn’t take away from the movie’s overall enjoyment.  As a matter of fact, one could even go so far as to argue that paying such homage to such a classic film without any sense of hamming it up only gives this movie even more credibility.  It would have been so easy for that moment to go overboard.  But it didn’t.  That combined with the fact that the movie’s writers opted to develop a story that didn’t blatantly rip off the Fast & Furious movies makes the movie’s script all the more enjoyable.

The script behind Born to Race’s latest installment is the central point of the movie’s overall enjoyment.  While it obviously does bear quite the semblance to Top Gun in terms of its plot, it doesn’t go so far as to try and be just another Fast & Furious or Need for Speed.  It does at least try to be its own story to a point.  Adding to the movie’s enjoyment is its pacing.  The writing team behind the movie wastes no time setting up the movie’s plot.  And once the plot is established, the writers keep the story moving.  They do so without missing a beat, too.  Most impressive of all is that as fast as the story progresses, it doesn’t move so fast as to leave viewers in its own proverbial dust (bad pun fully intended), wondering what they experienced by the end of the movie’s roughly ninety-minute run time.  It switches gears at all of the right points and never finds itself idling, either.  And yes, both of those bad puns were fully intended, too.  The end result of that smart pacing is a story that movies fast, but not as fast as the cars that take center stage throughout the movie.  Alongside the movie’s solid script, the pacing helps to make Born to Race: Fast Track that much more enjoyable for any fan of all of the racing movies out there.

The pacing of Born to Race: Fast Track’s story and the story itself work together to make the movie one that fans of fast cars will enjoy even with just one watch.  Both elements are important to the movie’s overall success and enjoyment.  There is still one more factor to consider in the movie’s enjoyment.  That factor is the movie’s casting.  The production’s heads wiped the slate clean with this second installment of the franchise.  None of the actors from the franchise’s first movie returned for this installment.  The reason for this happening is anyone’s guess.  It could have been the movie’s heads.  It could have also been that the cast didn’t want to return for a second movie or simply couldn’t due to other commitments.  Regardless, the cast tapped for this movie does its own part to make the movie work.  The new cast members are all quite young.  And most of the cast members are quite well-known in their own right, too.  Lead actor Brett Davern is best known for his time on MTV’s hit series Awkward alongside co-star Beau Mirchoff.  He also has dramatic experience, having acted in bit parts in CSI: Miami, In Plain Sight, and Cold Case.  Mirchoff has also filled roles on CSI: Miami and CBS’ other hit crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.  Younger viewers might also recognize him from his work on Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place TV movie The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex.  The movie’s other cast members have their own extensive resumes, too.  That collective experience shows through quite well here.  They are actually quite believable in their roles.  That the cast would take its roles with such seriousness even on a flick from an indie studio shows a great deal of respect both for the studio and for audiences.  It also makes suspension of disbelief that much easier for viewers. And in turn, it makes the movie even more worth at least one watch.

The casting of a group of up-and-coming stars for Born to Race: Fast Track and the cast’s seriousness with its roles goes a long way toward making the movie worth at least one watch.  The movie’s script and by connection its pacing add even more value to the overall presentation.  All three factors together make Born to Race: Fast Track a movie that while being an indie release, is one that any fan of movies with fast cars and young stars will enjoy even with just one watch.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Anchor Bay Entertainment’s online store at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?ProjectId=d3c94bf6-38e7-e311-877b-d4ae527c3b65.  More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at

Website: http://www.anchorbayent.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Rhino Records Re-Issuing R.E.M. MTV Unplugged Vinyls

Curtesy:  Rhino Records

Curtesy: Rhino Records

Rhino Records will re-issue R.E.M.’s classic MTV Unplugged performances this Tuesday.

R.E.M. is gone.  But the landmark Georgia-based band is certainly not forgotten.  That is evident in the upcoming re-issues of the band’s 1991 and 2001 performances on MTV’s live acoustic performance series.  The performances were originally released earlier this year on Record Store Day as a limited four-LP vinyl set.  That set sold out almost instantly.  Now R.E.M. fans that weren’t lucky enough to get their hands on a copy of the recordings this Tuesday, September 2nd via Rhino Records.

Unlike the previously released 4-LP set released earlier this year, this re-issue of the performances will make the 1991 show and the band’s 2001 performance available on two separate 2-LP sets.  Each set will retail for SRP of $39.98.  The complete track listing for both performances is noted below.

             Track Listing

1991 Unplugged

Side One

1.”Half A World Away”

2.”Disturbance at the Heron House”

3.”Radio Song”

4.”Low”

Side Two

1.”Perfect Circle”

2.”Fall on Me”

3.”Belong”

4.”Love Is All Around”

Side Three

1.”Its The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”

2.”Losing My Religion”

3.”Pop Song 89″

4.”Endgame”

Side Four

1.”Fretless”*

2.”Swan Swan H”*

3.”Rotary 11″*

4.”Get Up”*

5.”World Leader Pretend”*

2001 Unplugged

Side One

1.”All The Way To Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star)”

2.”Electrolite”

3.”At My Most Beautiful”

4.”Daysleeper”

Side Two

1.”So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)”

2.”Losing My Religion”

3.”Country Feedback”

4.”Cuyahoga”

Side Three

1.”Imitation of Life”

2.”Find the River”

3.”The One I Love”*

4.”Disappear”*

Side Four

1.”Beat a Drum”*

2.”I’ve Been High”*

3.”I’ll Take the Rain”*

4.”Sad Professor”*

* Not included in original television broadcast

 

This week’s vinyl re-issues are not the only new R.E.M. releases due out this year.  Another landmark R.E.M. recording tied in to MTV will be released before the year is out.  Audiences can keep up with news on the release and more news from the band online at http://www.remhq.com and http://www.facebook.com/REMhq.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebok.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Anchor Bay’s Born To Race Franchise Revs Up Again This Summer

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Born To Race: Fast Track, the latest movie in Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Born To Race franchise, will be released this summer. The movie stars Brett Davern and Beau Mirchoff, both of MTV’s Awkward. The pair star as small-town racing rivals Danny and Jake. The pair ends up being partnered together after summer scholarship to a top tier racing school. Danny also finds himself in a relationship with love interest played by Tiffany DuPont (Greek). Veteran actor Corben Bernsen (Psych, L.A. Law, Major League) co-stars along with Diogo Morgado (The Messenger, The Bible, Son of God), Grant Show (Devious Maids, Melrose Place, Private Practice, Big Love), and Sharon Lawrence (Rizzoli & Isles).

Director Alex Ranarivelo returns to helm this latest installment of the Born To Race franchise. He also directed the franchise’s previous film. He is joined by screenwriter Steve Sarno, who also crafted the script for the franchise’s previous film, and producer Ali Afshar. Afshar also produced the previous Born to Race film. He is also a professional race car driver.

Born To Race: Fast Track will be available for digital download via iTunes August 29th. It will be available on DVD, Blu-ray and OnDemand Tuesday, September 9th. The DVD will retail for SRP of $22.98 while the Blu-ray will retail for SRP of $26.99. More information on Born to Race: Fast Track is available online via Facebook and Twitter at http://www.facebook.com/BornToRaceMovie and http://twitter.com/borntoracemovie. More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay, http://www.anchorbayent.com and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay. 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 Crystal Method To Appear On Last Call With Carson Daly Tonight

Courtesy: Tiny E Records

Courtesy: Tiny E Records

The Crystal Method will appear live overnight tonight on Last Call with Carson Daly

The hugely popular electronic duo—Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland— recently performed ‘Difference’ featuring Franky Perez and ‘Over It’ featuring Dia Frampton as part of a sold out show at L.A.’s El Ray Theatre.  The duo’s performance of those songs will be used for tonight/tomorrow morning’s broadcast of Last Call with Carson Daly.  Both songs come from The Crystal Method’s new self-titled album, which has reached the top spot on iTunes’ Electronic Albums Chart.  Those that won’t be able to catch tonight/tomorrow morning’s performance can still see the group’s performance of ‘Over It’ now online at https://soundcloud.com/#the-crystal-method/over-it-ft-dia-frampton-live.  The official video for ‘Over It’ featuring Dia Frampton can be viewed online now via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9MpeKm-imE

Jordan and Kirkland were joined on their new album by some well-known names including: Danny Lohner (Nine Inch Nails) on bass, Brain (Primus, Guns N’ Roses) on drums and Richad Fortus (Guns N’ Roses, Gravity Kills, The Psychadelic Furs).  The Crystal Method is available now in store and online.  It can be ordered direct from The Crystal Method’s official website, http://thecrystalmethod.com.  And while the duo currently has no tour dates announced, fans can get the latest tour updates, news, and more on the group’s official website, Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/thecrystalmethod.  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

PBS Documentary As Good As Any MTV Rockumentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

The ukulele is one of the most misunderstood and disrespected instruments in the music universe.  Much like the bagpipes, the ukulele has been the butt of so many jokes through the ages.  But as audiences will see in the new PBS special, Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings, the ukulele is deserving of far more respect than it gets.  This semi-rockumentary is as good as anything that MTV used to run during its golden era in the 90s.  Though considering the fact that MTV hasn’t run actual music programming in some years, it’s one more documentary that proves the value of PBS not to just older audiences, but to younger audiences, too.  The near hour-long documentary follows the superstar Hawaiian musician as he traverses the globe, making appearances in support of his albums.  Along the way, audiences learn about the man’s roots and get a glimpse of the man behind the music. By the time the near one-hour program ends, audiences will hopefully have a new view of the ukulele as a valid instrument and by connection a new view of PBS as a network that’s just as wonderful to watch as MTV if not more so at this rate.

Life on Four Strings is, as noted, as good as any music documentary presented by MTV during its heyday of the 90s.  It presents a young musician playing an instrument that most would consider a joke and makes them into a performer and instrument to be taken seriously.  Audiences will enjoy watching Shimabukuro as he shares his story of how he rose from being just another Hawaiian to being a world renowned musician, playing on the likes of Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Today Show, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.  Most intriguing of all is that through it all, Shimabukuro remains humble in every situation.  And after his trip to the tsunami ravaged regions of Japan, audiences see just how humble he really is.  As a matter of fact, they hear first-hand from Shimabukuro himself as to the emotions he felt in seeing the destruction versus the joy that he was able to bring to the victims with just his music.  This is one of the documentary’s most moving of moments.  There are other moments that are other moments that are just as touching.  One of those moments is the story of the romance between Shimabukuro and his wife and their eventual announcement about expecting their first child.  Viewers will find their own favorite moments when they order this DVD for themselves.

The stories shared throughout the course of Life on Four Strings offer their own share of entertainment.  They would be nothing without video and solid production values to advance Shimabukuro’s story.  The transitions from one segment to another are solid and smooth.  And the ability of those behind the documentary to take the man’s material from his older days and transfer it to DVD is a credit to their work.  It’s that expert editing work that keeps viewers engaged throughout the presentation.  Again, this makes this feature just as good as anything produced by MTV in its glory days.  Being that MTV rarely plays that kind of documentary anymore, it shows that PBS can easily hold its own in its charge for younger audiences.  This isn’t the first time that PBS has released such an impressive documentary, either.  Last year’s release of a documentary centered on famed comedian John Leguizamo proved just as enjoyable.  If PBS keeps on this course, the network could very easily garner itself some of the biggest ratings that it’s had n a long time.  Here’s to hoping.  Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings is available now on DVD and can be ordered direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=20571686&cp=&kw=jake+shimabukuro+life+on+four+strings&origkw=Jake+Shimabukuro+Life+on+Four+Strings&sr=1.  More information on this and other PBS releases is available online via the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pbs and on the official PBS website at http://www.pbs.org.

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.

Tiny Toons’ Final Set A Lackluster End To A Classic Cartoon Series

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 4: Looney Links! Is allegedly the final installment of director Steven Spielberg’s hit Fox Kids cartoon franchise.  If this is indeed the final installment of the series, then it certainly is not the best way to end things.  While most of this set is presented in its entirety, there is one glaring problem with the set.  That issue comes in the episode, “Weekday Afternoon Live.” The episode in question actually splices the final minutes of the “Toon TV” in place of the final segment that aired in “Weekday Afternoon Live” in its original broadcast.  This is not like Warner Home Video to let such an error occur in its home releases.  This critic’s copy of Volume Four is not the only one that has done this either.  According to others who have purchased the set, they too have had the same thing happen to them.  That one major blunder aside, the remainder of the set will still bring enjoyment to long-time fans of this modern classic cartoon.

This new (and allegedly final) installment of Tiny Toon Adventures offers more than its share of laughs, poking fun at pop culture once again and even some former presidents.  This time around, Buster, Babs, and company take another stab at Batman (and director Tim Burton).  They also go after one of the biggest censorship groups of the time, the Parents Music Resource Council (PMRC).  Only instead of dealing with music, Buster and Babs have to face off certain parties that want to censor cartoons.  Long-time fans will recognize the episode “Toon TV.”  That’s because it’s quite similar to a previous episode from Season One titled, “Tiny Toons Music Television.”  It’s basically more music video spoofs.  This time, the Tiny Toons gang goes even further back in time, covering hits from The Coasters, The Contours, and Shirley Ellis and Lincoln Chase.  They even cover Tchaikovsky’s famed ‘Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies’ in this episode.  Of course, this is just a sample of what audiences can expect from this final collection of episodes.  Buster and Babs pay tribute once more to the golden days of animation by trying to save a group of “two-Tone” toons from an evil executive.  There is much more to enjoy from this final portion of the show’s final season.  But as noted already, the episodes contained in this final series of episodes aren’t entirely that original, thus making it less enjoyable than the series’ first two seasons.

For the seemingly decreased sense of originality in these final episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures and the problematic error created in ‘Weekday Afternoon Live’, there is at least one equally noticeable positive to this set.  That positive is an episode the directly addresses the problem of bullying.  To be more specific, it presents the situation in which Shirley The Loon is bullied by her classmates at her ballet class.  Upon telling Babs about the harassment from her swan classmates, Babs vows to get even with them, which she indeed does.  Of course getting even isn’t what people who have been bullied should do.  This is by no means the message.  But it does in its own way, go after bullies.  At the same time, it re-tells the story of The Ugly Duckling.  So in essence, it’s actually a doubly enjoyable episode for this.

The one major sequencing problem evident with Tiny Toon Adventures Volume 4: Looney Links! is something that will continue to plague this set unless the people at Warner Home Video make the effort to alleviate this issue.  Luckily, it does have its positives as noted already.  Looking at this set from the perspective of its packaging, the people charged with assembling this set at least got that right.  As with so many multi-disc sets being released now, WHV has released this final installment in a standard single disc case with an insert.  The insert included allows for the set’s first disc to be placed in its own spot, thus protecting the disc from scratching and, in turn, preserving the disc (along with the second disc) to be preserved much longer.  So it is for that reason, and for the laughs offered throughout this collection, that it is worthy of at least some praise.  But the massive error of having the wrong episode spliced into the end of another and the rehashed previous episodes will make any long-time fan of Tiny Toon Adventures take notice that this set is not perfect.  It is far from it by chance because of these issues.  Despite that, it is still a good addition to the collection of any Tiny Toons Adventures fan.  With any luck, Warner Brothers and Warner Home Video will take notice of all the complaints from fans, and re-issue this set as it should be presented.

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 keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.