Star Trek: TNG’s Fifth Season Is One Of The Series’ Best

Courtesy:  Paramount/CBS Blu-ray

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS Blu-ray

Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of the great science fiction series of the twentieth century. It took what was started by its predecessor and carried it to a whole new level. Thanks to Paramount and CBS Home Video, fans of this modern classic series have already gotten to enjoy all seven seasons of the hit series on DVD. And now it is being re-issued to DVD once again alongside first-time ever Blu-ray releases. Paramount and CBS Home Video just recently released the series’ fifth season in its entirety to Blu-ray. Season Five is one of the best from Star Trek: TNG (as it will henceforth be titled). The season itself is so impressive first and foremost because of its episodes. Season Five’s episodes offer audiences some of the series’ most substantial material of any of the series’ seven total seasons. Season Five’s Blu-ray release ups the ante, presenting each of the season’s episodes exactly as they originally aired. This makes this collection even more worth picking up for the Trek fan in any household. And what Blu-ray re-issue would be complete without the mandatory bonus features. Paramount and CBS Home Video have impressed once again with the bonus features included in this set. They are the finishing touch on the six-disc collection. They make this collection a definite must have for any hardcore Trek fan while he or she waits for the release of the show’s penultimate season.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Five is one of the series best first and foremost because of its episodes. To be more precise, Season Five is such an impressive season because of its writing. One excellent example of the strong writing in Season Five is the season’s second episode, “Darmok.” Captain Picard is forced to survive in the wild alongside a representative of The Children of Tama. There’s just one problem. There is quite the language gap between them to say the least. In order to survive, Captain Picard is forced to learn the representative’s language. In learning the language of another people, he better understands his new found friend and his culture. This leads to an even deeper appreciation for The Children of Tama. This is an episode to which audiences can clearly relate. Audiences can relate to this storyline as it teaches viewers that only by having an open mind about other cultures can mankind achieve any progress towards peace. Understanding the language of other cultures is just the starting point in that path. On a similar note, “I, Borg” relates to audiences just as much as it sees a young Borg learning about individualism after having being separated from the Borg collective. This is a lesson to which any viewer can relate. To a lesser extent, audiences will appreciate just as much the second half of the season bridging, “Redemption.” There is no lesson here. It is just a solid continuation of the story started at the end of Season Four. Audiences finally see the outcome of Worf having left the Federation to join in family in dealing with the Klingon High Command as a new leader is chosen for the Klingon people. Much as with so many of the series’ episodes, it is a character driven episode. It showed once and for all that while Michael Dorn was a supporting cast member, he could still hold his own in his own story arc. These are just a few of the episodes that make Star Trek: TNG Season Five another must have for any Star Trek loyalist. There are plenty more from which fans will call their own. And they’re just the starting point of what makes Season Five so enjoyable.

The writing behind the fifth season of Star Trek: TNG is the most important part of its success. Audiences will appreciate also that Paramount and CBS Home Video have continued their high standard of presenting each of the episodes as they were presented in their original broadcasts. The commercial segues are one hundred percent clean. Also noteworthy is that each episode is presented in its original 4:3 format. However those with HDTVs may be able to use their remotes to switch from the classic 4:3 format and switch to a full 16:9 cinema style presentation if they so choose.  There is something about seeing each season in a full widescreen presentation that makes it even better than in standard 4:3 style.  It just adds a certain charm so to speak about each episode. What’s more, no one part of any episode has been removed from any of the season’s episodes. Believe it or not, there are some companies that cut portions of movies and TV shows in their home releases. Luckily, neither Paramount nor CBS Home Video has done that here. And it’s just one more positive to the set’s overall presentation.  Added in the season’s strong writing, it makes this season all the more worth the money.

The writing and overall presentation of Star Trek: TNG Season Five are the most important elements of this season’s home release.  It wouldn’t be complete without the mandatory bonus features, though.  The bonus features included in Season Five are impressive to say the least.  But the amount of features and their content is only part of the whole to this aspect of the set.  Audiences will especially appreciate that the bonus features have been spread across all six of the set’s discs.  A general overview of what makes Season Five’s episodes great opens the bonus features on disc one.  Audiences will be interested to hear the back story on specific episodes, and their significance in the relation to real life.  It’s followed up on discs two and three with examinations of the show’s production values and visual effects respectively.  From there, audiences are offered a tribute to series creator Gene Roddenberry on the set’s fifth disc along with a look at Season Five’s big name guest stars.  Fittingly, the set’s final disc takes a look back at the series just as with the previous four seasons.  The cast and crew give even more insight into what made the show so great up to its fifth season.  One could ramble on aimlessly for some time about the bonus features.  But suffice it to say that each of the features included across the set’s discs are bonuses in every sense of the word.  And they put Season Five over the top.  They are the final argument proving exactly why this set is a must have for Star Trek fans of any age.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the official Star Trek website at http://shop.startrek.com/detail.php?p=464253.  More information on this and all things Star Trek is available online at http://www.startrek.com and http://www.facebook.com/StarTrek.  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.

Iron Man 3 Fun, Even With Some Kinks In The Armor

Courtesy:  Paramount/Marvel

Courtesy: Paramount/Marvel

When is a man not a man?  A man is not a man only when he gives up.  That is what those who have not yet seen Marvel’s new blockbuster Iron Man 3 need to remember when going into this movie.  Many of those who have seen this movie have complained that the movie didn’t feature enough of Tony in his suit; that it was essentially more melodrama than movie.  Here’s the thing.  Just as start Robert Downey Junior noted in recent reviews, he can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again.  He meant that in terms of playing Iron Man/Tony Stark again in a potential Iron Man 4 and/or Avengers 2.  But the reality is that those comments apply within the context of Iron Man 3 itself, too.  Fans have seen Tony Stark don his armor time and again in the first two movies in this franchise.  And for the most part, his armor has done the same sort of feats.  So seeing Tony lose everything, including his suits (albeit temporarily) and forced to rely on just his wits was actually a nice change of pace.  It showed that while he may not have been a superhero for much of the movie, he was still a hero and no less a man.   That’s because he didn’t give up.  He didn’t even let anxiety attacks hold him down.  These are messages that any viewer, comic book fan or not, should take away from this movie.

The messages contained within Iron Man 3 are just one positive aspect to this movie.  While it’s hardly perfect, the fan boys and fan girls that have lambasted it for its surprise regarding The Mandarin and the Extremis story arc have gone into the movie with too much of a closed mind.  They perhaps didn’t catch that Writer/Director Shane Black and his Co-Writer Drew Pearce did in fact poke fun at themselves indirectly concerning this matter.  When the truth is revealed about The Mandarin, Rhodey asks Tony, “This is The Mandarin?!”  Tony retorts with one of so many wisecracks that audiences have come to love from him.  Those that are open minded enough will appreciate that this short moment is actually Pearce and Black’s way of beating the fan boys and fan girls to the punch in hopes that it will get them to laugh at the story changes with them.  Though, in defense of the fan boys and fan girls, it is a bit of a slap in their faces to turn The Mandarin into the minor figure that Black and Pearce did.  Maybe in any future installments, audiences will get The Mandarin that they deserve.

Any viewer that can accept the story changes to Iron Man 3 will appreciate the eventual reward in the movie’s final climactic battle scene between Tony, Rhodey, and Killian.  There are those that say this final showdown is the movie’s only real good part.  But as already noted there is much more to be taken away from the movie.  Seeing all the armor from Tony’s “Hall of Armor” lets audiences know that regardless of whether RDJ returns for Iron Man 4 or Avengers 2, odds are audiences will still see Iron Man return with much more armor and action in future installments.  After all, certain parties noted that the most recent take on The Incredible Hulk would be the last one for a while.  But obviously that’s now been proven false as the not so Jolly Green Giant is apparently back on the table again for Marvel’s next phase.  So even if RDJ is done (as he seemed to note even within the context of the movie), it would be no surprise if Shellhead returns with someone else donning the Iron Man suit….or suits?

As one can tell by now, there is plenty for which Iron Man 3 should be applauded.  For all of its positives, there are some negatives.  The first of those negatives is the movie’s pacing.  Its run time is roughly two hours and fifteen minutes.  But it feels like it is much longer.  Unlike its competitor, Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3 felt like (just as with DC’s The Dark Knight Rises), Black and Pearce were trying way too hard to cram everything they could into this one last installment so as to close the trilogy.  What’s more, incorporating multiple villains, as so many of the comic based movies have done in recent years, only added to the movie’s length.  It would have been much easier to simply stick with Killian as the main villain.  After all, audiences are hand delivered early on the fact that Killian would be the main villain.  The extra storyline may lead some viewers to find themselves checking their watches every now and then, wondering when the two hour plus movie will finally end.  And because of this, it will ultimately leave some viewers realizing that this key issue has and will forever keep Iron Man 3 from being the movie that it was hyped up to be.  Rather, it will keep Iron Man 3 little more than another transition point to Marvel’s next property, just like its comic books.

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Star Trek Sequel One Of Summer 2013′s Best

Courtesy:  Paramount

Courtesy: Paramount

Star Trek Into Darkness is one of the best movies of the Summer 2013 movie season.  However, for all of its successes, there is no denying that it is not a perfect work.  The movie, which clocks in at just over two hours keeps audiences engaged from the story’s opening moments.  And that is thanks in large part to following the standard Summer blockbuster formula.  Here’s where things get dicey, and some of this critic’s fellow Trek fans might be angered.  To those potentially angered readers, please read this entire review before attacking.

One of the biggest factors in the success of Star Trek Into Darkness is that much like its predecessor, audiences don’t have to know the rich history of Gene Roddenberry’s creation that started with Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS).  Its references to the movie franchise’s reboot were so few that audiences that have yet to see that movie need not worry about having seen it in order to enjoy this story.  Director J.J. Abrams and his staff of writers did an impressive job in keeping this tradition alive from the movies based on both TOS and TNG.  Though, those that are long-time fans of both Star Trek TOS and the long running movie franchise will enjoy it just as much as TOS and the movie franchise’s reboot.  Long-time fans will enjoy the reference in this movie to the famed Troubles with Tribbles episode from TOS.  Long-time fans will enjoy seeing actor Leonard Nimoy reprise his role as the original Spock just as much (not to reveal too much).  That’s right.  Leonard Nimoy is back once again.  And long-time fans will love how Abrams and company poke fun at themselves with his re-appearance.  How they go about doing so will be kept under wraps so as to not spoil another positive moment from an overall impressive work.

Director J.J. Abrams and his staff of writers did an impressive job making a story that much like the movies from TOS and TNG, doesn’t require knowledge of the previous movie to be enjoyed.  This and the references to TOS played important roles in this movie’s success.  Just as much cause for success was the personal growth of Chris Pine’s Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock.  Kirk starts off in this movie the same brash almost Tom Cruise “Maverick” style figure as they were introduced to in the series’ 2009 reboot.  It would be impossible to explain this without spoiling at least one aspect of the movie.  That aspect would be that Admiral Pike is killed off.  In his death, audiences finally see Kirk grow as a person.  They see what was obviously the relationship of a son and his (for all intents and purposes) surrogate father in Pike.  Audiences also see the relationship between Spock and Kirk grow even more from their initial meeting in the 2009 reboot.  This is perhaps one of very few aspects of this work that would require viewers to have seen the previous film in order to appreciate it.  Theirs are the only relationships that show any growth from the previous installment in the franchise.  That’s not an entirely bad thing.  Simon Pegg is as funny as ever in his role as Scotty.  And the relationship between Scotty, Kirk, Spock and Bones produces more than its share of laughs once again.

For everything that makes Star Trek Into Darkness such a success, it isn’t without its faults.  This story has plenty of comical moments between cast members; enough that they would make quite the blooper reel in the movie’s home release.  But one can’t help but look back on the movie and realize just how much running around and yelling filled most of the story.  There was so much that in hindsight, it makes for more than enough fodder for Saturday Night Live’s writers to spoof.  Thankfully for the movie’s staff of writers, all the running around and yelling wasn’t enough to overpower the story’s main plot that while not overly original, is still nicely updated.  It’s a story that is well worth its time overall, whether one is an experienced Star Trek fan or not.

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Star Trek TNG Season Three Even Better On Blu-Ray

Courtesy:  Paramount

Courtesy: Paramount

One of the most anticipated movies of the Summer 2013 movie season is the upcoming sequel to the 2009 reboot of Star Trek.  Just in time for the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, Paramount Studios and CBS Home Entertainment have released the third season of the highly acclaimed series, Star Trek The Next Generation.  From here on out, it will be shortened to Star Trek TNGStar Trek TNG Season Three is considered by many fans of the show to be one of its best.  It is where the show started to turn around and start to take off.  That is thanks in large part to the leadership of head writer Michael Piller.  It was under his leadership that great episodes including: “The Offspring”, “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “Sins of The Father” came about.  And who can forget what is considered one of television’s best ever episodes in the two part episode, “Best of Both Worlds?”  These episodes are just part of the whole that make Season Three so great now that it is available on a five-disc blu-ray box set.  The bonus features included also play a role in this new set’s success.  And of course, one has to also take into account the set’s packaging, which is just as impressive as every other aspect of the box.  All assembled together, it makes for a box set that any true hardcore fan of Star Trek TNG will appreciate and enjoy with every viewing.

The episodes included in the third season of Star Trek TNG are some of the series finest.  A prime example of this comes in the form of “The Offpspring”, “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “Sins of The Father.”  In “The Offspring”, Data has one of his first tastes of being human when he creates an android child for which he can care.  This episode is a wonderful example of art imitating life.  Just as Data didn’t know what to expect as a parent, neither do real parents.  And Captain Picard’s reaction to Data on Data’s announcement was just like that of a parent to perhaps his or her own child announcing the expectation of a new child.  Data is forced to learn his “offspring” and she is forced to learn about the world around her.  Again, it is such a mirror image of actual life.  Much the same can be said of the episode, “Sins of the Father.”  This episode gave the show’s writers more chance to show a more “human” side to Worf when he is forced to return to the Klingon home world and answer for charges placed against his father.  This episode also introduces Worf’s brother.  It is those family interactions with his brother and standing up for his father that shows a largely hidden side of Worf.  Again, this is art imitating life.  There are people much like Worf who would prefer to keep their gentler, more caring side hidden so as to maintain a certain reputation.  Again, this mirror image of life makes the suspension of disbelief that much easier, and thus enjoyment of the episode that much easier in turn.

Both “Sins of the Father” and “The Offspring” are episodes to which audiences can relate so easily.  That’s because of the ability to relate to these episodes.  Season Three also offers audiences episodes that are less related to regular life and more related to scientific theory.  Such is the case of “Yesterday’s Enterprise.”  Audiences get in this episode the concept of whether wormholes exist and whether they are more closely related to black holes or are perhaps extraterrestrial passageways between time and space.  Yes, this is a deep concept.  And the writers obviously knew this.  That’s because they didn’t present the theory in a fashion that would be above the heads of casual sci-fi fans and not too much below those that are far more deeply involved in scientific theory.  This episode also sees the return of Tasha Yar, who in herself presents another theory linked to the interconnectivity of events at given points in time.  That, along with the general storytelling, makes this another wonderful addition to the hit sci-fi show’s most integral season.

The writing for the episodes noted here (and the others not listed) makes Star Trek TNG Season Three the best in the show’s seven season run.  Audiences will understand and appreciate this even more in the bonus three part feature, “Resistance is Futile – Assimilating Star Trek: The Next Generation.”  Audiences get to hear from the writers and the main cast of Star Trek TNG in this feature.  Viewers will be quite interested to hear just how much went on behind the scenes in order to bring Season Three’s episodes to life.  There apparently was a lot of turmoil among the show’s staff of writers; so much so that at one point, there might have been either a mutiny or an all out walk-out.  There are also discussions from members of the main cast, including: Patrick Stewart, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, and Brent Spiner.  McFadden discusses coming back to the show after having been away for a season.  Marina Sirtis, who played Counselor Troi, adds her own thoughts on McFadden returning to the show.  She shares that she was quite happy to have her friend back.  Brent Spiner’s thoughts on being addressed by the public as Data instead of Mr. Spiner are definitely worth checking out.  He makes perfect sense in what he shares.  And Michael Dorn sharing some funny moments in taping episodes of the show will have audiences rolling with laughter.  Again, it is one more positive to a set that already has so much going for it.

The episodes written for Star Trek TNG Season Three and the discussions about the writing processes together make this latest box set another must have for any true Trek fan.  There is at least one more aspect of the set that viewers will appreciate.  That aspect is the set’s packaging.  The set is comprised of five Blu-ray discs.  Each disc is placed in its own spot inside the case in what is increasingly becoming the standard for multi-disc box set packaging.  Following this model protects the discs, thus preserving them for a much longer period of time than those sets from other shows that might have otherwise been packaged in a less ergonomic style.  That is another positive to the set’s packaging.  Because of the style in which this set was packaged, it takes up less room on a DVD and/or Blu-ray rack than more traditional box sets.  This is an example of the adage that less is more.  This combined with everything else presented in the new Star Trek TNG Season Three box set, makes this set an absolute must have for those who perhaps would rather see the show in high definition rather than standard def.  It is available now in stores and online.

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Fluffy Definitely Did It Again With His Show’s Second Season

Courtesy:  Comedy Central/Paramount/Fluffy, Inc.

Courtesy: Comedy Central/Paramount/Fluffy, Inc.

Gabriel Iglesias is back.  And he didn’t just do it again.  He is doing it again.  He is making audiences laugh till they cry with his irreverent brand of comedy.  And he’s not alone.  He’s brought some friends along for the ride in the second season of his show, Stand-Up Revolution.  Some of the comics presenting this season were on board for the show’s inaugural season.  Others are new to the show.  Regardless of whether they’re new or not, Gabriel’s fellow comics bring down the house with their acts.  Trevor Noah starts things off with some of the biggest laughs of Season Two.  This child of a Swiss father and black mother jumps right into the deep end, making jokes about his own mixed heritage and uses it for his act.  There are cultural jokes that to say the least, will likely offend some.  To those with an open mind, those individuals will be left laughing so hard they cry.  He even makes a joke about the status of other mixed celebrities in America such as Tiger Woods, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, and even the President himself.  Iglesias and the show’s heads made the right choice starting off season Two with Noah.

Noah’s standup act is well worth its own laughs.  Iglesias adds even more laughs when he comes up on stage after Noah is done.  He shares a story about a joke that he and some immigration officers played on Noah when the pair were touring together.  That story is something that audiences simply have to hear for themselves.  Much like so much of what audiences are offered throughout Season Two’s six episodes, this story is hilarious, and will leave audiences rolling with laughter.

The laughs keep rolling from there throughout Season Two’s six half hour episodes.  While Trevor Noah was a fitting open to Season Two, his act was only a precursor to some even bigger laughs from the likes of Ian Bagg, Wyl Sylvince and Alfred Nobles.  Both Bagg and Nobles have their own jokes about the Catholic church’s child molestation scandal.  Nobles takes things one step farther, making a joke about how to get more people into a church that he had to go to as a result of trying to get his girlfriend back.  What that is certainly won’t be repeated here.  But again, anyone who appreciates a joke will be left laughing and almost out of breath at his suggestion.  It doesn’t do justice to say that it is politically incorrect.

While Wyl Sylvince doesn’t touch on religious issues, his act stands out as one of the best from Season Two.  What better fodder is there for a stand up act than one’s own family?  And Sylvince takes full advantage of that, sharing a laugh riot anecdote about his Haitian family.  He especially goes after his parents.  Again, the material in this act is not something that can be repeated here.  But to put it politely, Sylvince makes fun of his father’s accent, using it to illustrate why he had trouble in his English classes as a boy growing up in the U.S.  The anecdote that he uses is something that is not entirely appropriate for younger viewers.  But it will leave older audiences in stitches.  There’s even a joke about how his mother would talk to him and his siblings when she wanted something.  Anyone not laughing at this joke has no sense of humor whatsoever.

Wyl Sylvince, Ian Bagg, and Trevor Noah make for countless laughs throughout the course of Stand-Up Revolution Season Two.  They aren’t the only ones to create so much comedy.  Audiences will also enjoy the different brands of comedy from the likes of Dov Davidoff, Nick Guerra, Pablo Francisco and Gina Yashere.  Each one brings their own original material that everyone will enjoy in one way or another.  And audiences can enjoy each comedian’s act now in this laugh riot single disc presentation as it’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Comedy Central store at http://shop.comedycentral.com/Gabriel-Iglesias-Presents-StandUp-Revolution-Season/A/B009K23LOQ.htm.  Whether ordering online or buying it in store, fans can also get all the latest news and more from Gabriel Iglesias online at his official website, http://fluffyguy.com or on his official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/GabrielIglesias

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Fleischer’s Superman Flies Higher Than Ever In New Blu-Ray Re-Issue

Courtesy: Gaiam

Superman is flying again.  And this time it’s thanks not to DC, but to a little company called Gaiam.  Thanks to Gaiam, Max Fleischer’s classic Superman cartoons have been restored and made available once again to the public.  These classic cartoons are an example of everything that was once right with animation.  And now not only can the generation that grew up with these classics enjoy them once more, but so can a whole new generation.  At a time when DC and Marvel are increasingly going toe to toe with one another, churning out feature after feature (both on the big and small screen), this double disc collection is a welcome breath of fresh air for comic book fans the world over.

While there may have been only a grand total of seventeen episodes of Superman created by Max Fleischer between 1941 and 1942, those seventeen episodes are some of the finest animation to ever grace any television screen.  As with so many early pieces of animation, Fleischer and his team of nearly six hundred (yes, nearly six hundred) animators gave Superman its own identity through their work.  This is something that has so sadly been lost in today’s “animated” features.  Being that so many “cartoons” are created via computer, they all look alike.  They’re sterile.  They have no real identity, compared to the likes of Superman.  Sure, older cartoons such as these took massive amounts of time, money, and staff.  But the end result is well worth it.  That is evidenced here.

One might ask how it’s known that Fleischer used nearly six hundred animators and large amounts of money to create Superman.  The answer to that is simple.  The commemorative booklet included in this double disc set gives a full in-depth history lesson on how Fleischer came to ring one of the greatest superheroes of all time to the small screen.  Dr. Thomas R. Reich, Ph.D. explains in the culled information that the shorts collected in this set were the result of discussions between Paramount and Fleischer Studios over a Superman movie.  Because of the costs that the movie would have incurred, the two sides agreed that instead of a Superman movie, Fleischer would break up its movie proposal into what is now one of the earliest of the Superman TV series.  Dr. Reich explains with excruciating detail how the series eventually came to life, and just as soon came to its end.  There are also discussions on Fleischer Studios’ early days creating the likes of Gulliver’s Travels, Betty Boop, and even Popeye.  The bonus booklet even includes a full episode listing with equally in-depth synopsis for each episode.

The bonus booklet included in this new Superman Set offers loads and loads of trivia for audiences.  The story of how these seventeen shorts came to be is enlightening to say the least.  Just as enlightening is the revelation that it’s Fleischer and company who are to be credited with the now famous lines, “Faster than a speeding bullet” and “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”  This is just one more example of the value of this set to audiences.  Valuable information such as this, along with the equally impressive animation and storylines make this Blu-ray re-issue of Max Fleischer’s one of the best kids’ releases of the year.  It also makes it one of the year’s best in the category of general DVD’s and Blu-rays.  It will be available in stores and online on Tuesday, October 30th.

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