The Beginning Of The End Is Here For Saban’s Original Power Rangers Franchise

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Saban Brands

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Saban Brands

The countdown to the end of the original Power Rangers franchise is on.

Shout! Factory, in conjunction with Saban Brands, released Power Rangers in Space: Volume 1 this week. The first of two volumes, this collection of episodes begins the countdown to the end of what is dubbed by many as the “Zordon era” or in layman’s terms, the original Power Rangers franchise. Not only does this latest collection episodes mark the end of an important era in the Power Rangers franchise, it also marks the end of the show runners’ practice of employing a set group of actors for multiple seasons. After the end of Power Rangers in Space audiences would see each team of Rangers in a different setting within each season.

Power Rangers in Space: Volume 1 is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online now direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/power-rangers-space-vol-1. More information on this and other releases is available online now at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/officialshoutfactory. 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.

Power Rangers Turbo Vol. 2 To Be Released Next Week

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Saban/Saban Brands

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Saban/Saban Brands

The countdown to the end of Saban’s original Power Rangers franchise is on. Shout! Factory will release Power Rangers: TurboVolume 2 next week.

Power Rangers: TurboVolume Two will be released Tuesday, June 3rd on DVD. Volume Two picks up right where Volume One left off. Tommy, the last of the original Power Rangers and Kat, the second Pink Ranger both depart and are replaced by new Rangers as are Yellow Ranger Tanya and Green Ranger Adam. With a whole new team in place, it’s up to them to stop Divatox once and for all before it’s too late. The Rangers’ battle against Divatox and her evil brother General Havoc leads to what would be the final, epic chapter in the original “Zordon Era” of Saban’s Power Rangers franchise.

Power Rangers: TurboVolume Two will retail for SRP of $19.93. It can be ordered direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/power-rangers-turbo-vol-2. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

American Jesus Gives A Whole New Face To Christianity In America

Courtesy:  Shelter Island/glass eye pix/TDC Entertainment

Courtesy: Shelter Island/glass eye pix/TDC Entertainment

American Jesus, the new documentary from Shelter Island and Glass Eye Pix, is an interesting look at Christianity in America.  On the surface, it offers viewers an unbiased look at the varied ways in which Americans today express their beliefs and worship.  On another level, it’s interesting in that it shows that Christians in America have increasingly embraced the understanding that a church is just a building, not necessarily its congregation.  This is perhaps the central discussion point of this documentary.  The documentary’s open-ended question of “what if” is the perfect closure for the documentary.  It is not so much an atheistic question so much as it is a question of faith in general.  Much as with the rest of the topics covered throughout this DVD, it is certain to be a point of both discussion and contention for viewers.  And that’s a good thing, provided viewers are open minded enough to politely discuss said topic.  Said open-minded audiences will find in their discussions of this and every topic in American Jesus, that this is definitely a documentary that is well worth the watch.

The ways in which Christians worship today is vastly different from the ways in which older Christians worship and worshipped.  It used to be that Christians worshipped primarily in church buildings.  They worshipped in a very set, formal setting and manner.  By comparison, Christianity today does not have to necessarily include worshipping in a traditional setting or manner.  Viewers see in American Jesus that Christians today worship in “cowboy Church”, as part of Christian Motorcycle gangs, and even at skate parks and other rather nontraditional settings among others.  They don’t do the traditional stand, sing, sit, pray format, either.  Yet they do study scripture and try to live their lives the best they can.  This expansion of how Christians worship is just one of so many discussion points (and points of contention) for viewers through the documentary.  That’s because there actually is something of a divide even among the Christian faith in regards to “new age” worship.  Another discussion point that makes this such an interesting piece to watch is the very concept of what a “church” actually is.

The traditional view of a church is that it is the physical building and the congregation that fills said building.  To others, a church is just a building.  And as viewers will see in American Jesus, the latter mentality is increasingly taking hold across the country.  The church has increasingly become more about the gathering of people to worship than the building itself.  This ties back directly to the traditional versus “new age” manner in which Christians worship.  There are those holdouts that believe unless one is worshipping in a physical church, then one is not actually attending real worship.  What’s more, there are those that believe that pastors of non-traditional churches aren’t even properly trained and ordained individuals.  Given, this may be true in many cases.  But in other cases, some might in fact hold degrees in divinity and be ordained.  It brings the discussion on what a church is full circle and in turn, makes the discussion all the richer.

Both the discussions on the definition of a church and the ways in which the church body worships today are important discussion points raised over the course of American Jesus’ hour-plus run time.  The documentary closes with a question that is more than certain to become a point of contention for viewers.  The documentary closes by pondering why exactly it is that Christians worship.  It doesn’t do so in any negative, antagonistic manner.  Rather, it merely ponders the question of “what if.” It ponders the question of “what if” everything Christians do today even in having branched out from traditional worship is for not.  That in itself is certain to open a whole new can of worms among viewers.  However, those that can keep a cool, level head and discuss this concept on a mature, adult level (It seems a contradiction in terms at times,yes) will find quite a bit of enlightenment.  Those same mature viewers will find that this topic and those already noted make American Jesus a documentary that is just as important a discussion tool in a church setting as it is in the classroom or elsewhere.  It is a documentary that everyone should see at least once, regardless of whether one’s religious background.  It will be available May 13th and can be pre-ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/American-Jesus-Aram-Garriga/dp/B002DY9K48/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1395667102&sr=1-1&keywords=American+Jesus.

More information on American Jesus and other releases from Shelter Island is available online at http://www.shelterisland.net, http://www.facebook.com/ShelterIslandFilm, and http://twitter.com/ShelterIsl.  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.

Shout! Factory Announces Release Date For Power Rangers Zeo: Volume 2

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Saban Brands

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Saban Brands

The Power Rangers are back once again.  Power Rangers Zeo: Volume 2 will be available in stores and online Tuesday, February 11th on DVD.  The second volume from the Power Rangers’ Zeo incarnation sees Tommy, Katherine, and the rest step up their Zeo powers once again in order to defeat King Mondo and his Machine Empire minions.  Fans can also expect to see some familiar faces return on both sides of the battle in this volume of adventures.

Along with more high-energy battles and incredible new zords, Power Rangers Zeo: Volume 2 also continues Saban’s long-running tradition of tying important life lessons into each episode.  Volume 2 teaches lessons about teamwork, believing in one’s self, friendship and much more throughout its twenty-five total episodes.  There are also plenty more laughs courtesy of Bulk and Skull (Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy).

Power Rangers Zeo: Volume 2 will be available in a three-disc set for SRP of $19.93. It can be pre-ordered now via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/power-rangers-zeo-volume-two.  More information on this and other upcoming releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Power Rangers Zeo Volume 2 A “Powerful” Way To Wrap Up Season 4

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Saban Brands

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Saban Brands

Saban’s Power Rangers franchise is one of the most successful mainstream children’s program’s in modern television history.  It is currently celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year.  And it’s doing so in a big way thanks to a partnership with Shout! Factory.  While the new mega Power Rangers DVD collection might be out of the price range of many Power Rangers fans, the latest stand-alone collection from Shout! Factory and Saban is right up the alley for any old school Power Rangers fan.  The new collection in question is Power Rangers Zeo: Volume 2Power Rangers Zeo: Volume 2 (or Power Rangers: Season 4 Volume 2) finishes off the latest incarnation of the franchise.  It is also one more wonderful collection for those yearning for the franchise’s golden era.  The writing in Season 4 Volume 2 is the key to this collection of episodes.  Just as worth noting is the acting carried on the part of the cast.  The packaging is the final touch that makes Season 4 Volume 2 work.  All three factors come together to make Power Rangers Zeo: Volume 2 another hit for any old school Power Rangers fan.

The first thing that stands out about Power Rangers Zeo: Volume 2 is the writing.  Season 4 Volume 2 contains the final twenty-five episodes of the Rangers’ Zeo incarnation. Within that set of episodes, the show’s writers crafted no fewer than three separate extended story arcs.  There is also a stand-alone Christmas episode in “A Season to Remember” that was previously only available as a bonus episode in one of Lionsgate’s previously released Power Rangers Samurai compilations.  The story arcs included in this volume are prime examples of what made the Power Rangers franchise so enjoyable in its early days.  That’s because they were used as a means to keep the show fresh and keep it moving forward without losing any of the ground that it had gained over the course of its first three seasons.  One of those storylines sees the introduction of the very first Gold Ranger (played by returning original star Austin St. James). Another sees the return of Lord  Zedd and Rita after the eventual defeat of King Mondo.  And even after King Mondo is defeated, he does return again.  This leads to another ongoing story arc late in the collection that eventually leads into the Power Rangers’ next incarnation, Power Rangers RPM.

The extended story arcs written into the second half of Season Four are a big part of this collection’s success.  The stand-alone episodes do their own part in making Volume 2 a success.  One example of that is in the Christmas themed episode, “A Season To Remember.”  This episode is a “what if” scenario of sorts.  It presents Tommy as an old man telling his grandson about the Power Rangers, remembering fondly his adventures as a young man.  It continues the series’ long-standing tradition of including positive messages within each episode. This episode includes the message of tolerance towards others.  It’s not the only positive message shared in this collection of episodes, either.  “Mondo’s Last Stand” teaches viewers that it’s okay to ask for help.  This lesson is taught as Rocky tries to take on King Mondo himself because he feels like he has been essentially replaced upon Jason’s return to the Rangers.  It’s just one more example of how the writing in Season 4 Volume 2 makes this collection one more that every old school Power Rangers fan will appreciate.

The writing behind the episodes in Power Rangers Zeo: Volume 2 is the biggest part of this collection’s success.  It isn’t all that audiences will applaud in this set.  The acting on the part of the cast is just as enjoyable as ever.  A big part of that is the cast’s familiarity with one another thanks to the series’ various story arcs.  The chemistry between the cast members made for better and more believable acting.  This especially applies in the case of Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy (A.K.A. Bulk and Skull).  The pair’s Lauren & Hardy style comedic acting is as entertaining as ever.  While they were only supporting cast, their physical comedy and gags made them the real stars of the show.  That’s not to say that the Rangers themselves weren’t believable in their roles.  Despite some lineup changes over the course of the franchise’s first three seasons and its fourth season, the story arcs crafted for the show kept the core cast together long enough to establish its own chemistry.  That chemistry meant that the core cast had more reason to take its acting seriously.  And that is visible throughout each of the episodes in this volume. A prime example of this comes in “King for a Day Part II.”  The Rangers have to convince Tommy that he’s not the Machine King.  And Kat (the Pink Ranger) takes the lead in that effort.   It would have been so easy for her to ham it up.  She took the moment with full seriousness instead.  That led this to be one of Season 4’s most memorable of moments.  It isn’t the only memorable moments in terms of the cast’s acting, either.  Audiences will find even more memorable acting on the part of the cast when they purchase this set for themselves.

Writing and acting are pivotal to any movie and TV series.  And that is proved time and again in Power Rangers Zeo:  Volume Two.  There is still one factor in this new set that audiences will appreciate.  The factor in question is the set’s packaging.  Season 4 Volume 2 has already been included in a pair of Power Rangers box sets.  Not every Power Rangers fan is a fan of every Power Rangers series.  So on Tuesday, February 11th, this collection will be available for fans of PRZ as a stand-alone, triple-disc set. This means that fans of this specific incarnation won’t have to shell out the money that they would otherwise had to have spent on the previously released box set just to have this set. The three discs that make up the set each have their own spot inside the case. This means that each disc is protected from the other, thus making them enjoyable even longer.  While it will not be available until Tuesday, February 11th, it can be pre-ordered now from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/power-rangers-zeo-volume-two.  More information on this and other Power Rangers collections is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers An Underappreciated Addition To The Power Rangers Universe

Courtesy:  Saban Brands/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Saban Brands/Shout! Factory

Saban Brands and Shout! Factory released early this year, a massive box set containing all seven seasons of Saban’s original Power Rangers series.  The multi-disc set took viewers from the birth of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers all the way through the Rangers’ journey to the Lost Galaxy.  That mega-box set is the ultimate experience for any fan of the Power Rangers’ original series.  For some though, the cost of the set might have been a bit much.  That’s okay.  For those fans, Saban and Shout! Factory have also released each season in its own standalone box set.  The two companies have released the original series all the way up through the first volume of Power Rangers Zeo.  Even the ten-episode “mini-series”, Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers has been released to the masses.  This connector series is one of the least remembered among the franchise’s legions of fans.  Why this is the case is anybody’s guess.  But the reality of the short-lived series is that it is just as important a part of the franchise’s early days as its previous seasons.  It is just as important as the previous seasons and the one that follows first and foremost because it is a solid bridge between the two seasons.  It is also an important addition to the overall franchise because it was a branching out from the original Power Rangers franchise.  All things considered, whether taken as its own attempted spinoff or a bridge between seasons, it showed that the show’s writing was just as strong as ever.  And now audiences that grew up with this “series” can re-live it any time they want thanks to Saban and Shout! Factory having released it to DVD by itself.

Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers is one of the more underrated installments of Saban’s hugely popular franchise.  The reasons for this are varied.  But as deeper look at the “series” shows that it is just as important an addition to the franchise as any of the show’s other seasons.  The first reason for the “series’” success is it is a solid bridge between the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers series and the franchise’s next evolution.  Those that grew up with the original series will recall that this “series” was not the first time that the Rangers had lost their powers.  That means that the show’s writers had to figure out a way to keep the franchise fresh while still maintaining its original ongoing story.  It can be said that they did just that and that they did it well.  By bringing in a whole new team of Power Rangers from another world, the show’s writers achieved two goals.  The first of those goals being that it presented a new “what if” scenario to the show.  It put the responsibility of saving the planet on a team of Rangers not of this Earth.  The second goal achieved through this story arc was that it showed the potential of a whole new Power Rangers spinoff, which is what the real reason was for this “season.”

The introduction of the Aquitian Rangers was a nice additional story arc for the Power Rangers franchise.  The show’s writers achieved their goal of keeping the franchise fresh with the “series” while maintaining the franchise’s integrity.  It also proved the potential of a new spinoff in the Power Rangers universe.  That was the real goal of this installment.  And it’s another reason that it is such an important addition to the property.  While the Rangers of Aquitar obviously didn’t seem to grab audiences enough to mandate a spinoff, the writers are to be commended for even having taken the risk with them.  As viewers have seen over the course of some twenty years, a massive number of spinoffs have been crafted from the original series.  Taking that into consideration, it can be argued that Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers was a groundbreaker.  That’s because next to one other very small early story arc, it is one of the very first spinoffs of the Power Rangers franchise.  That makes this an even more important piece of Power Rangers history.

Whether one sees Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers as a spinoff, a bridge between seasons in the ongoing evolution of the Power Rangers, or a little bit of both, it’s clear that despite its underrated and undervalued status, this addition to the Power Rangers universe was just as important as any other installment.  It showed that the show’s writing was just as solid as it was in the very first season of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.  It also was a groundbreaker for the franchise, and proved that the franchise had the ability to branch out, as it later would and has since.  All things considered it proves to be that much more valuable an addition to the library of any Power Rangers fan and fanatic.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  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.

Power Rangers Zeo Volume One Another Success From Saban, Shout! Factory

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Saban Brands

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Saban Brands

Thank goodness for Shout! Factory. This critic has said that of the company many times before. And this critic will continue to do so as long as it keeps releasing titles such as the latest in Saban’s classic Power Rangers franchise. Power Rangers: Zeo Volume 1 picks up where the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangersmini-series “spinoff”, Mighty Morphin’Alien Rangers left off. The Rangers’control center had been destroyed and new Yellow Ranger Tanya had been added to the team. She would be the third person to don the Yellow Ranger’s outfit in only a matter of three seasons. The Command Center being destroyed, the Rangers were left without their powers, albeit temporarily, which leads to the first important aspect of this latest incarnation of Saban’s hit franchise. The first important aspect ofPower Rangers: Zeo Volume 1 is the writing in the episodes culled for this volume. In direct connection to the writing, the episodes in this volume do something that the episodes from MMPR didn’t do nearly as much. They developed the characters more. This includes the show’s comic relief, Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy (Bulk and Skull). And one can’t ignore that the special effects used throughout MMPR were carried over into this “season”,too. This too helped maintain the feel of MMPR thus doing even more to help keep fans from MMPR on board. And together with the writing and character development, it shows even more why this latest release is a must have for any longtime Power Rangers fan.

The writers responsible for the first incarnation of the Power Rangers series did an impressive job with that series. They wrote plenty of solid stories. Those scripts did an excellent job of balancing their action with the team’s development. They also had plenty of comedy thanks to Schrier and Narvy. The pair’s Laurel& Hardy style comedy was stepped up throughout Power Rangers: Zeo Volume 1, making for even more enjoyment. From trying to save Detective Stone’s roses to their antics with Goldar and Rito, Bulk and Skull get more camera time this time out. And it makes for plenty of laughs. Their increased comedic additions to the series are just part of what makes this incarnation of the Power Rangers franchise fun to watch. Fans of the series will also appreciate in this volume how the writers handled the transition of both villains and team members among the Rangers. The story arcs used throughout MMPR were good in their own way. There’s no denying that. But fans will appreciate that the writers hit the ground running this time. Even starting the new “series” with an extended story arc, the transitions still moved particularly rapidly. So the writers didn’t waste any time getting the new series moving. The only other real extended story arc in this volume is “There’s No Business Like Snow Business.” It’s a three-part arc. And while it isn’t a major story arc, it does do something important. It helps to illustrate the increased character development that took place in this series.

The writers on Power Rangers Zeo handled the transition from its predecessor quite well, all things considered. They developed new story lines and grew the show, too. That’s thanks to the increased character development in this series. Tommy Oliver (Jason David Frank) is fleshed out even more as he takes over the lead role in the show. He takes over the role of the Red Ranger as Billy (David Yost) steps down and takes more of a “tech assistant” position in the team’s new command center. Audiences see more of the confident, heroic side of Tommy as he takes over the team. But he also presents a more human side after getting a breakup letter from former love interest and Pink Ranger, Kimberly (Amy Jo Johnson) in the three-part story arc, “There’s No Business Like Snow Business.” Audiences also get more view of Tommy’s softer side in a two-part episode that sees Tommy introduced to his long lost brother. That more vulnerable side is something that he didn’t really show a lot of throughout MMPR. So it makes for an interesting look at this character. Newcomer Tanya also gets her time in the spotlight in this volume. She gets the chance of a lifetime when she is discovered by a record producer after singing at the Angel Grove Youth Center. It was the final episode in Volume One. But what better way to close out the volume than to focus on her again. Just as she was introduced in the volume’s opening three-part story arc, she was re-introduced in the volume’s final episode. So she really got her time to develop as a character and as a member of the team.

Both Tommy and Tanya get more time to develop personally as characters in Power Rangers Zeo: Volume One. Their development helps to make this “season” more interesting for viewers. They aren’t the only characters that get to show more of themselves. Both Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy (Bulk and Skull) get to show that they are more than just comic relief, too. Although they still offer plenty of laughs. The pair is now working even more to try and be junior police officers.  While their segments are still largely for comedic relief, it’s nice to see that they are getting to be more than just lowly comic support.  They actually get to be more involved in the show at this point.  Again this goes back to the show’s writers.  It’s just one more positive to the show.

The writing and related character development that takes place in the episodes collected for Power Rangers Zeo: Volume 1 do a lot to make this underrated incarnation of the Power Rangers enjoyable in hindsight.  There is still at least one more factor that audiences will appreciate in this set.  That factor is the special effects.  Whereas so many of the “seasons” since (E.g. Power Rangers Samurai, Power Rangers Power Rangers Ninja Storm, Power Rangers Mystic Force) became more spit shined and slickly produced, the more raw special effects and general production values of PRZ were more akin to those of MMPR.  The show’s creators and staff made do with what they had.  And it showed, too.  Sure, they might have been slightly cheesy.  But there’s something more special about them because of that.  And it’s that special something combined with the writing and the character development that make this “season” of Power Rangers definitely worth having for any true fan of the franchise.  It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, November 12th.  It can be ordered online direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/node/218412.  More information on this and other Power Rangers releases from Saban and Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  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.