StarVista’s New Carol Burnett Show Box Set Will Have Viewers Cracking Up

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life

StarVista Entertainment has done it yet again. On Tuesday, April 15th, StarVista Entertainment will release the latest collection of episodes from The Carol Burnett Show in the form of The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crack Ups. This six-disc box set is one of the few box sets this year that has earned itself a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best overall new box sets. From the episodes collected for this set, to the equally hilarious bonus material, to the video’s once again high quality footage and the packaging, so much was done right concerning this set. So much was done right in fact that there is simply not enough time or space to discuss every single positive aspect of the set. All of these factors and more make The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crack Ups a box set well worth purchasing for any fan of The Carol Burnett Show and more than worthy of a place on this critic’s list of the year’s best overall new box sets.

The primary reason for any fan of The Carol Burnett Show to pick up this latest compilation of episodes from Burnett’s landmark show is the episodes themselves. Each of the set’s seventeen total episodes is jam packed with hilarious jokes and gags, and enjoyable musical numbers. Make the deal even sweeter, StarVista Entertainment has once again given audiences the ability to choose not only given shows, but the separate segments within each show. While the jokes and gags have a certain edge about them, they are quite tame in comparison to the majority of what’s out there today. Their edge proves that comedy can still be funny even in the 21st century without being overtly blue. One of the prime examples of this comes in the bonus skit, “The Oldest Man: Firefighter.” This skit sees Tim Conway playing his familiar “Old Man” character once again. This time the old man is a firefighter dispatched to stop a fire at the home of Korman’s unnamed character. The physical comedy and the jokes shared throughout the skit will leave any viewer laughing so hard that they cry. It certainly did that with this critic. Bonus skit or not, it shows just why The Carol Burnett Show is still such a beloved show even decades after it ended its original eleven-season run on CBS.

The largely family friendly humor shared throughout each episode in this latest box set is just part of what makes the episodes the cornerstone of the set’s success. Audiences will enjoy just as much, the musical numbers included in each episode. The Carol Burnett Show was not the first, nor the last to incorporate musical numbers into its overall structure. The Smothers Brothers—Tom and Dick—incorporated musical numbers into their show in the late 1960s as did Sonny and Cher in their variety programs—The Sonny & Cher Show and The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. This then raises the question what would make the musical numbers in The Carol Burnett Show so enjoyable. The answer to that is the same answer to what made the musical numbers in the other variety shows so enjoyable. Unlike a show such as Saturday Night Live, The Carol Burnett Show and its fellow variety shows didn’t stick just to pushing the most current radio hits of the day. The radio hits were there. But they weren’t all that got the focus. So simply put, the musical numbers were so fun because they weren’t part of the massive marketing machine that today’s talk shows are. The musical numbers included in The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crack Ups sees the likes of And y Griffith (The Andy Griffith Show, No Time For Sergeants, Matlock) Gloria Swanson, Ruth Buzzi and more singing songs that are just as enjoyable today as they were decades ago. Those songs include: ‘Just Squeeze Me/Oh, You Beautiful Doll’, ‘Turn Your Radio On’ and ‘I’ve Been Around/A New-Fangled Tango.’ Those songs and all of the others included in each show serve to add even more enjoyment for viewers of all ages as they make their way through all six of the set’s discs.

The comedy and the musical numbers included in each of the seventeen total episodes on this set make for so much enjoyment. Making things even better for viewers is the fact that StarVista Entertainment has once again given viewers the option to choose not just from the episodes on each disc, but also to choose from specific skits and musical numbers within each episode. This option means that viewers will once again not have to sit through the entire episodes in order to their favorite segment in each episode. That in itself could be argued a bonus feature separate from the bonus features which will be discussed later. It is the finishing touch that makes the episodes included in this set such a joy to watch.

The episodes included in The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crackups are the foundation of the success of the set in question. The bonus features included in the set make that foundation even more solid for audiences. This time out, StarVista has included as bonus material, special separate looks at the impact of both Tim Conway and Harvey Korman on The Carol Burnett Shows. Those examinations include footage of other classic Carol Burnett Show skits that really exhibit their talents both by themselves and together. Among the most memorable of those skits are “The Dentist” and Conway’s now famed “Elephant Skit” from The Family. It’s too bad that neither of those skits was included in this set in their entirety. That’s because of their level of hilarity. It was so funny to learn that in “The Dentist”, Tim Conway made Harvey Korman laugh so hard that he wet himself. And the bonus discussion on “The Peeping Tom” is definitely not for children, ironically enough. Carol and company discuss the comedy in guest star Dick Van Dyke and Tim Conway switching places in the skit and how Carol used a body suit with fake breasts to flash the peeper. Yes, that is what she did. And she shows the body suit, too. Again, it is not for children. It’s one of the rare moments that is not kid friendly. The other bonus material included in this box set is relatively safe for all viewers. And it is sure to have anyone watching laughing just as hard as ever.

Having discussed the role of the episodes themselves and the bonus features in The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crack Ups, there is one last part of the set to examine in the set’s success. That last factor is its packaging. StarVista Entertainment has once again wisely packaged its set, placing each of the six discs on either side of three separate “plates” inside the box. Bizarrely enough, there is actually a fourth plate, which has been left empty. Perhaps this is only the case with review copies. But it was very much the case with previous Carol Burnett Show box sets, too. So it is definitely a head scratcher of sorts. That aside, the fact that StarVista has maintained that high standard of packaging, protecting the discs is one more reason the company is quite deserving of its share of applause. It is the last touch on a set that is more than worth the purchase for any viewer whether new to The Carol Burnett Show or not.

The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crack Ups will be available Tuesday, April 15th. It can be pre-ordered now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Carol-Burnett-Show-Carols-Crack-Up/dp/B00HXWV2JQ/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1396874564&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=The+Carol+Burnett+Show+Carol%27s+Crack+Ups. More information on this and other Carol Burnett Show DVD sets is available online at http://timelife.com and http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUS. 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.

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty A Surprisingly Enjoyable Story For A Reboot

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/Samuel Goldwyn Pictures

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/Samuel Goldwyn Pictures

More often than not, Hollywood’s seemingly undying hunger for prequels, sequels, and remakes has led to some of the movie industry’s worst movies in memory in recent years. However, the 2013 remake of the 1947 Danny Kaye classic The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has proven to be the rare exception to that rule. One part Death of a Salesman and one part Forrest Gump, this last movie of 2013 is also the year’s best. This is despite the fact that it is just one more on the industry’s ever-growing list of prequels, sequels, and remakes. The very first factor in the success of this updated story is its writing. Writer Steve Conrad has taken author James Thurber’s original story and updated it in a way that works even despite being changed around so much.  Also to be taken into consideration is the acting of the cast.  Veteran actress Shirley MacClaine (Downton Abbey), comedienne Kristen Wiig (SNL), and Adam Scott (Parks & Rec) each expertly carry out their roles and make the story all the richer.  The same can also be said of surprise guest stars Patton Oswalt and Sean Penn.  The last aspect of the movie to consider in its success is its cinematography.  The scenes shot in Greenland and Iceland were beautiful to say the very least.  The same can be said of so many other scenes that make up Walter’s fantasies and his real life adventures.  That aspect comes together with the cast, its acting, and the general writing to make this movie one of the biggest surprises of 2013.

Writer Steve Conrad’s adaptation of author James Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is not the first time that the story has been adapted to the big screen.  Its first big screen adaptation was in 1947.  Little changed from that story–penned by writers Ken Englund, Everett Freeman, and Philip Rapp–and this latest take on Thurber’s story.  The one big difference between the two stories is that the original adaptation was a rom-com.  Conrad’s update is more of a human drama that centers on overcoming the fear of life’s uncertainties and taking risks.  Typically, making such a drastic change is a formula for disaster.  But this case is a very rare exception to the rule.  Somehow, Conrad has managed to make his story work.  And he has managed to do so in so many ways.  What he offers audiences in this adaptation is the story of a man that sets out to find a photograph, but ends up finding himself in the long run.  It’s all brought on as Life magazine, the magazine he works for is preparing to release its very last print issue before it becomes an entirely online entity.  This is another aspect of Conrad’s script that makes it work so well.  That’s because it is such a real story element.

The use of Life magazine transitioning from a print outlet to an entirely online entity is a hugely useful tool to advance this story.  That’s because of its realism.  So many branches of the print media have transitioned mainly to an online presence in order to survive in the digital age.  That transition makes for a lot of uncertainty in any number of individuals’ lives including the story’s lead character.  It’s that uncertainty of the future that forces Walter to make his daydreams become reality.  And Stiller’s take on Walter as he grows through his adventures serves to make the story all the richer.

Steve Conrad’s updated take on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is surprisingly enjoyable despite being an update on one of Hollywood’s classic movies.  The human drama that makes up the story’s main plot does so much to make the story work.  The same can be said of the acting of lead Ben Stiller and his cast mates.  He makes his take on his character one that is entirely believable as Walter grows from a socially awkward wallflower type of figure to a more self-confident man.  His isn’t the only portrayal that makes the story work, either.  Surprise guest star Patton Oswalt is spot on as a tech rep with e-harmony.  He interacts with Walter solely via phone throughout most of the story.  Even over the phone, those moments make for so many laughs.  Just as funnier is the reveal of Oswalt’s character late in the movie.  His joke of what he thought Walter would look like compared to his own looks makes for one of so many classic moments throughout the story.  Adam Scott plays the story’s antagonist, Ted Hendricks, that comes in to Life as a “cleaner” of sorts responsible for downsizing the magazine’s staff.  He was just as much on spot in his role as the rest of the cast in its roles.  He is a completely cold, despicable figure that cares only about his own advancement.  He makes audiences cheer happily for Walter both when he confronts him in his daydream and for real later in the story.  That’s the sign of an actor fully grasping his character and getting the job done.  The same can be said of supporting actress Shirley MacClaine as Walter’s mom.  She is Walter’s only real source of support among everyone around him.  And one can feel the love that Walter’s mom has for him, too.  Anyone that doesn’t laugh and smile at the pair’s personal moments have no heart.  That ability of the cast to reach audiences on so many emotional levels is just as important as the script itself in this story’s success.  The story’s success doesn’t end here, either.  There is one more aspect of this movie that makes it successful.  That aspect is the movie’s cinematography.

The cinematography of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is beyond belief.  From Walter’s imaginary fight scenes with Ted to his real life adventure across Greenland, Iceland, and Afghanistan, the camera crews and editors went beyond the call of duty.  The contrast of Walter set against the giant magazine covers that lined the halls of Life make for their own statement.  That’s because as Walter runs past the covers, audiences see the figures on each cover turn to Walter’s face.  It makes for a statement of his dreams potentially becoming reality.  And in its own right, it is also a foreshadowing of sorts, not to reveal too much for those that haven’t yet seen.  These are just some of the examples of the expert cinematography that is exhibited throughout the course of the story.  There is much more for audiences to see for themselves.  And they will indeed find so much when they watch this story for themselves.  And together with its casting and writing, audiences will find so much to applaud in this movie; so much in fact that they will agree that despite being a reboot, it still proves to be 2013’s best new movie.

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Cloudy 2 Is A Rare Ray Of Light Among 2013′s Sea Of Sequels

Courtesy:  Sony Pictures Animation

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Animation

Everyone knows the old adage that a movie’s sequel is never as good as the original. Everyone also knows the old adage that one should never say never. That’s because there are exceptions to the rule. Sony Pictures’ Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 is one of those exceptions to the rule. While it might not have been a necessary sequel, it is still a fun movie for the whole family. The movie picks up right where its forerunner left off, even going so far as to highlight the events of that movie in the outset of this story. The writing team of Phil Lord, Chris Miller and Erica Rivinoja are to be applauded for this. It’s not all for which they are worthy of applause, either. The trio has crafted in this story that while predictable, also has its own share of heart and humor.  The mediations on friendship and environmentalism make the story even more entertaining.  For all the work put in by the script’s writing team, viewers can’t ignore the work put into bringing the “Lost World” style environment to life.  This element makes the movie even richer.  It is especially the case for those with an interest in computer graphics. When they take all of this into consideration, audiences of all ages will find that Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 is one of the surprisingly rare worthwhile sequels churned out by Hollywood’s major studios in 2013.

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 seems on the surface to be an unnecessary and even unbelievable story. Much like its precursor, this movie has no link whatsoever to the book on which it was lifted. Rather, it is more akin to Jurassic Park than the book on which it is based. But once audiences allow themselves to get past this factor, they will find that it has real entertainment value.  The script picks up right where the previous movie left off. It even catches up audiences that have yet to have seen said movie.  This isn’t something that’s commonly seen among the masses of sequels that currently jam theaters.  To that extent, the story’s writers deserve a certain amount of credit.  They are also deserving of credit for the fact that despite their script being predictable, it also bears its own share of heart and humor.  The central message in this script is one of friendship and its importance.  Lord and company make the statement that friends are some of the most important people that anyone can have.  This couldn’t be truer.  Any parent will appreciate that this message was included in the script.

The message of friendship made for plenty of heart throughout the roughly ninety-five minute run time of Cloudy 2.  That heart is something that viewers of any age will appreciate.  It’s just part of the whole presentation, though.  There is just as much of a comic element to the movie as there is heart.  The comedy comes in the form of countless pop culture references and jokes.  Younger audiences won’t catch all of the jokes included in the script.  But parents definitely will.  And they will be surprised to find themselves laughing at those jokes.  One could go so far as to argue that the “Live” company and its founder are a spoof of Apple.  That argument could be made considering Apple’s reputation.  Set against the “Live” Company and its loyal legions, the similarities are too obvious to ignore.  Regardless of whether or not a given viewer is an Apple loyalist, any viewer that recognizes this similarity will appreciate the jab at the company.

The mix of heart and humor does so much to make Cloudy 2 fun for the entire family.  There is one more aspect of the movie that as subtle as it is, is just as important to note in its success.  That aspect is the movie’s Jurassic Park style world.  The world crafted by those behind the movie is absolutely stunning.  Yes, the movie as a whole is just another crafted via CG rather than by hand.  This critic will never dismiss that argument.  However, one can’t ignore the detail and depth given to Swallow Falls.  The world crafted for this movie is so lush and rich in color and style.  It actually stands out in its own way against so many other CG features.  This is exemplified by all of the jungle scenes and the inner workings of the Big Rock Candy Mountain.  Yes, Lord and his co-writers went there.  That’s just one of so many of the pop culture references that only parents will get and appreciate.  The colors and detail of the rock candy crystals and walls inside the mountain were so precise and bright.  The same can be said of the onion/brontosaurs type creatures.  It’s obvious in their case that their scenes were modeled precisely after the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.  They moved and acted just like the dinosaurs in question.  There is so much more that could be noted.  But it would be a disservice to audiences to ramble on about all of it here.  Audiences will appreciate what they find when they check out this rare worthwhile sequel for themselves.  It is in theaters now.  More information on Cloudy 2 and other Sony Pictures releases is available online at http://www.facebook.com/SonyPictures, http://www.facebook.com/SONYPicturesAnimation, http://www.sonypictures.com, http://www.sonypicturesanimation.com, http://twitter.com/#!/sonyanimation, and http://twitter.com/sonypictures.

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Monsters University A College Flick For A Younger Generation

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Every generation has its own college movie.  The 1970s boasted the timeless college comedy, Animal House.  In the 1980’s the social strata of college took another turn in the equally popular comedy, Revenge of the Nerds.  The 1990s saw art imitate life when Jeremy Piven (Entourage, Mr. Selfridge) and David Spade (Rules of Engagement, Tommy Boy, Saturday Night Live) went toe to toe in PCU.  The children of the 2000s even had their own college flicks in the Van Wilder franchise.  Sadly, that franchise was largely forgettable.  Now in the second decade of the 2000s, Disney/Pixar has released this generation’s college movie in the form of Monsters University.  It should come as no surprise to audiences that little more than four months after it premiered in U.S. theaters, Monsters University is already scheduled to be released on DVD, Blu-ray and BD/DVD/Digital combo pack.  It’s definitely not the worst movie of the year.  But it isn’t the year’s best, either.  Though in its defense, it does deserve at least a spot on the list of the year’s best movies.  The reason for this mixed response is that on one hand, it should be obvious to older audiences how this family friendly college flick is little more than an update of the previously noted movies.  This isn’t the movie’s only problem.  Just as Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 focused far too much on Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy), so did Monsters University have its share of problems with character development.  In its defense though, what can be said good about Monsters University is that it does teach some valuable lessons, which are just part of the heart that this story boasts.  That heart is just enough to make the movie worth at least one watch for those that have yet to see it.

The most obvious problem that rises with Monsters University is its general lack of originality.  Monsters, Inc. was such a wonderful film because it was original.  Not even the likes of the 1989 Fred Savage/Howie Mandel flick, Little Monsters could compare to Monsters, Inc.  In understanding this, Monsters University sadly pales in comparison to its forerunner in this avenue.  All it did was take elements of all of the previously mentioned college flicks and tone them down to make them into one family friendly movie.  Yes, it’s good that otherwise grown-up movies finally have a family friendly outlet.  But considering that Pixar has quite the history of being a front runner in the modern world of CG “animated” films thanks to its original movies, this mash-up of already made films knocks the studio (and Disney) down a notch.

The mash-up of so many already made films is only one of the problems from which Monsters University suffers.  Not only does it lift liberally from other much more classic movies, it even goes so far as to lift from its own predecessor.  That is obvious throughout the near two hour movie.  There’s even a scene in which Mike and Sully end up in the real world and have a heart to heart talk before their effort to return to the monster world.  This sort of writing behavior harkens right back to another Disney movie that goes by the name of Tron: Legacy.  That movie basically took the original and retold it for a new generation.  Monsters University has done much the same thing, just in reverse.  Yet again, points are taken off for that.  It doesn’t get much better from here.

Monsters University suffers quite a bit thanks to the fact that it lifts from so many other movies and tries to convince audiences that it’s something new.  What makes it worse is that its team of half a dozen writers do something that another previous Disney/Pixar movie had already done.  Just as Cars 2 ended up being more about Mater, Monsters University is more about Mike than his friendship with Sully.  Yes, audiences see how the friendship between the two originally formed.  But more time is spent focusing on Mike’s impact on the friendship than on the friendship as a whole.  Sully (John Goodman) ends up taking a back seat to Billy Crystal this time out, unlike the equal billing shared between the duo in Monsters, Inc.  Along with the story’s other problems, the collective issues noted here weigh down the story to the point that it makes it difficult to see beyond them.  Luckily though, there are some positives to the overall presentations that save it.

The first of the positives that saves Monsters University is its collective life lessons.  The story presented in this movie’s script includes lessons about acceptance, tolerance, and self-confidence.  They are taught as Mike ends up taking on the lead role of his monster fraternity and has to help them be accepted back into the university through a series of challenges.  Mike learns to have more self-confidence in himself through his experiences.  He also realizes a valuable lesson about how the differences in the monsters at Monsters, Incorporated were what made it such a legendary company.  Again, this goes back to that lesson of self-confidence.  It also ties in to the lessons of acceptance and tolerance in the bigger picture as he and his OK brothers fight to win their competitions and earn their way back into the university.  All of these lessons are important for viewers of any age.  So for all of the problems that weigh down this movie, it is these lessons that keep it afloat and worth at least one watch.  The movie will be available in stores and online on October 29th on DVD and DVD/Blu-ray/Digital combo pack.  More information on the home release of Monsters University is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios, http://movies.disney.com/watch-at-home, and http://www.disneystore.com.

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.

3rd Rock’s Season 6 A Funny Finale For Former Standout NBC Sitcom

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Today’s sitcoms are anything family friendly.  They have become increasingly over laden with sexual innuendo, foul language, and completely dumbed down humor.  These are the main complaints that are received by many audiences about many of the sitcoms currently airing on television’s “Big 4”, and even on some cable based comedies.  Thank goodness for companies Mill Creek Entertainment for offering audiences an alternative to the mostly blue humor that pollutes today’s comedies.  One of the most recent of those alternatives from Mill Creek Entertainment is the release of NBC’s hit sitcom, 3rd Rock from the Sun Season Six.

The sixth and final season of the once powerhouse NBC comedy is just as funny as the show’s previous five seasons thanks once again to the show’s writers.  The Solomon family continues trying to learn the ways of humans in its ongoing mission, all while creating its own share of laughs along the way.  Dick learns in the show’s final season that he’s *gasp* Canadian.  The Solomon family also temporarily takes on new lives in an alternate universe.  And Tommy experiences the human experience that is college.  These are just a few of the funny moments that fill out the final season of 3rd Rock from the Sun.  That’s not all that makes this season such a joy.  A who’s who of guest stars appears throughout Season six, too, adding to the laughs.  A whole slew of fellow NBC stars come in this season including former Saturday Night Live cast members Darrell Hammond, Tracy Morgan, and Ana Gasteyer.  Richard Belzer (Law & Order: SVU) and Mark McKinney (The Kids in the Hall) and singer Elvis Costello also show up this season.  Even as small as their parts are, the guest stars add their own comic element to the show, making it even more entertaining.

The writing in 3rd Rock’s final season is just as entertaining as it was in the series’ premiere season.  Some might have considered it a bit of a cheap thing to do a Saturday Night Live crossover and a slight pump for Law & Order: SVU.  But it all works quite well in the two-part episode, “Dick’ll Take Manhattan.”  The writers, probably knowing it was the show’s last season, take a playful stab at then fellow NBC hit, Saturday Night Live and even the NBC brass as Harry becomes the head of the network.  The writers didn’t just take a stab at NBC.  They even poked fun at HBO’s then hit show, Sex and the City, with Sally (Kristen Johnston) taking the place of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie.  It gets even funnier, with each member of the cast having their own hilarious moments.  This standout episode was just one that served as a tribute to the wit of the show’s writers.  Fans will also love the semi-political comedy of “Red, White & Dick.”  This episode sees Dick discovering that he is Canadian in his quest to become more American.  What it is about this kind of joke that makes it so funny is anyone’s guess.  Canada seems to be the butt of so many jokes in American entertainment.  But it is hilarious nonetheless, and it serves as a solid cornerstone for Dick’s attempts to become more American and in the same vein, more human.  It will have any viewer laughing till they cry.

The writing behind each episode of 3rd Rock’s final season offers nonstop laughs in every episode.  It’s a prime example of what used to make NBC a powerhouse network during the 1990s.  The cameo guest spots don’t hurt, either.  Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) appears as Mary’s (Jane Curtin) sister Renita Albright this season.  She sets out to steal Dick from Mary purely out of sibling rivalry.  That adults could be such strong rivals goes back to the show’s solid writing.  Audiences will love watching Mary and Renita going back and forth, sniping at one another like two little children.  Mullally is just one of the many guest stars that made an appearance this season.  Richard Belzer, Tracy Morgan, and Ana Gasteyer—all NBC stars—made appearances, as did singer Elvis Costello.  Costello made an appearance in the series finale.  The others all appeared in the two-parter, “Dick’ll Take Manhattan.”  Watching a then young Joseph Gordon-Levitt go toe to toe with the then rising SNL stars is a laugh riot.  Who ever would have thought that Tommy would date Ana Gasteyer.  And his moments with Tracy Morgan are just as funny.

The writing and the guest spots together make this final season a fitting way to close out what is by this critic’s view, one of the greatest sitcoms of the 20th century.  The DVD release of this season has one more aspect that while not being perfect, is still good in its own right.  Mill Creek has packaged all three discs of this set in their own envelope.  Mill Creek Entertainment is the only company that packages DVDs in this fashion.  It isn’t a perfect packaging method, considering that the envelopes are not padded.  That would make them perfect.  But having them in envelopes allows audiences to take as many discs as they want when travelling instead of having to take an entire DVD case.  This is actually quite smart in its own right.  If the higher ups at Mill Creek would maintain its form of packaging and simply make the envelopes padded, it would make this packaging fashion quite impressive and the overall presentation of its multi-disc sets that much more impressive.  3rd Rock from the Sun Season Six is available now on DVD.  It can be ordered online via the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/3rd-rock-from-the-sun-season-6.html. After ordering the three-disc set, audiences can find out about more releases from Mill Creek Entertainment on its official website, http://www.millcreekentertainment.com or its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at 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.

Wigg, Moretti Call It Quits

Courtesy:  Us Weekly Magazine

Courtesy: Us Weekly Magazine

Actress Kristen Wiig and boyfriend Fabrizio Moretti are through.  According to sources close to Us Weekly Magazine, the couple has called it quits after only eighteen months together.  Wiig, 39 and Moretti, 33 were first confirmed as a couple when they were spotted together in a rather amorous public display of affection at a Black Keys concert in December 2011. 

A source has said of the breakup that “It was very amicable and they will remain friends.”  While Wiig has typically kept her personal life and work life separate from each other, she did openly note in a cover story for Marie Claire magazine in August 2012 about her relationship with Moretti that “I’m happier than I’ve ever been and I feel very lucky right now.” 

Wiig, best known for her work on NBC’s Saturday Night Live and Bridesmaids, has been very busy this Summer.  She lent her talents for the big screen CG-based sequel, Despicable Me 2 and co-starred in the indie dramedy, Girl Most Likely.  Both movies were released this month.  Moretti, drummer of the rock band The Strokes, also dated Drew Barrymore from 2002 to 2007.  He is celebrating the release of his band’s fifth full length studio release, Comedown Machine.

The full article is available online at http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/kristen-and-fabrizio-split-2013257#ixzz2a64hbZrt

Readers can keep up with all of the latest celebrity news on the Us Weekly magazine Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/UsWeekly and at Us Weekly’s official website, http://www.UsMagazine.com.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news, 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.

Viva Pictures Releasing New Top Cat Animated Adventure

Courtesy:  Viva Pictures

Courtesy: Viva Pictures

Top Cat is back!  One of Hanna Barbera’s most beloved creations returns this summer courtesy of Viva Pictures in a new CG based story.  Top Cat’s new adventure in sees him facing off against a new police chief.  The chief is bent on controlling everybody in his city through big brother style methods and a robotic police force.  But if Top cat has anything to say about it, the chief won’t be getting his way.  The story features the voices of veteran actor and comedian Rob Schneider and Danny Trejo.

A theatrical release is being planned for the return of Top Cat in order to celebrate the movie’s release.  It will also be released to DVD and digital format.  Tickets for the theatrical release are expected to be very family friendly. 

Victor Elizalde, a Viva Pictures representative expressed the company’s excitement at resurrecting this classic cartoon character for a new generation.  “We’re so excited to have the talent of Rob and Danny involved with this project,” he said.  “They truly bring the characters to life in the story!  We’re eager to bring Top Cat: The Movie to theaters in August.”

Audiences can view the trailer for the new movie now online at http://www.vivafilmco.com/topcat_trailer.html.  Fans can find out about all of the latest releases from Viva Pictures online at http://www.vivafilmco.com

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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.

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Mad Men Actor Tapped To Host 2013 ESPYS

Courtesy: ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Mad Men actor Jon Hamm has been announced as the host of this year’s annual ESPY Awards broadcast.  Hamm, who plays Don Draper on the hit AMC series, was announced as this year’s host this morning on LIVE With Kelly and Michael.  Hamm already has quite the resume.  He has already earned himself a Golden Globe Award, a Television Critics Association Award, and a Critics’ Choice Television Award.  He has also been nominated for awards at the Emmys and the Screen Actors Guild. 

Hamm will be in comfortable company for this year’s ESPYs broadcast.  He will be joined by some of the best of the best in the sports world.  This year’s list of celebrity athlete presenters will be announced at a later date.  He himself has quite the sports pedigree.  Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Hamm is an avid fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Blues.  He played in the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Games in 2009 and 2012.  His role in the games allowed him to play third base, right next to his childhood idol, Ozzie Smith.  He will also be working on a new film from Walt Disney Pictures and Mayhem Pictures this summer titled, Million Dollar Arm.  The movie is about a disillusioned sports agent who is in search of professional pitching talent through a reality show set in India.

Hamm commented in a recent interview on the announcement of his being named to host the ESPYS this year.  “I’m very excited to be hosting the ESPYS.  As a longtime sports fan and a marginally successful high school athlete I feel my skill-set jibes well with a host’s duties,” he said.  “I now have to figure out what cleats to wear with a tuxedo.” 

ESPY Executive Producer Maura Mandt shared Mann’s thoughts about his appointment.  “The ESPYS is designed to showcase the year’s best sports moments in a sharp, fun and entertaining manner and Jon’s the perfect host for this year’s show.  His appearances on shows like 30 Rock and SNL show that humor and creativity are two of his main strengths,” she said.  “The combination of Jon’s dry wit with his passion for sports will give fans a unique and original view of the year in sports.”   

The ESPYS are scheduled to air live Wednesday, July 17th at 9pm EST/8pm CT/6pm PST on ESPN/ESPNHD from the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.  This year’s broadcast will be more interactive than ever for fans.  All categories except for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award and other special awards will be chosen by the fans.  Voting can take place before and during the live show.  Voting will be open from June 28th – July 17th at 9pm EST on ESPN.com/ESPYS.  Voting during the show will be open during the show beginning at 9pm July 17th.  Voting for “Best Team” will be open only on Twitter.  Fans can vote for “Best Team” on Twitter during the show using hashtag ESPYSBestTeam and the team name.

For all the latest ESPYS news, fans can follow the ESPYS on Twitter at @ESPYS.

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.

IFC Closes 2012 On A High Note With Why Stop Now

Courtesy:  IFC Films/mpi media group/BCDF Pictures/120 db films

Courtesy: IFC Films/mpi media group/BCDF Pictures/120 db films

IFC Films’ latest release, Why Stop Now is everything that makes indie flicks great.  This debut film from co-directors Philip Dorling and Ryan Nyswaner is quirky and zany.  At the same time, it has just enough heart to make it endearing and memorable among fans of the indie movie world.  The heart of the story comes in form of Eli Bloom’s (Jesse Eisenberg—The Social Network) attempt to break away from his own family’s dysfunctional world as he has been given the chance to audition for a major music conservatory in Boston, which would allow him to escape from said dysfunction.  At the same time that he’s trying to escape from that world, it is obvious that he has his own flaws, too.  But it’s that imperfection that makes Eli such a sympathetic character.  Ironically enough, one also can’t help but root for Eli’s mom, Penny (Melissa Leo—The Fighter).  Yes, Penny’s a drug addict, but she shows that she is trying to do the best that she can as a mother to Eli and his sister.  It’s Penny’s addiction that leads to everything that happens in this quirky yet heartfelt story.  From meeting his mom’s drug dealer (and his drug dealer) to trying to make his audition all while having to pick up his sister and so much more, the whole story keeps “rolling” and will keep audiences just as entertained both in the story’s funny and more moving moments.

The concept of a young person trying to break away and start his or her own life is nothing new to the movie industry.  But there is no denying that the manner in which this time honored story has been presented here is in itself quite original.  To that extent, those critics who….well…criticized it for this originality are likely the same ones who refused to see the story’s balance of comedy and drama.  Much of that balance comes from the rather dysfunctional relationship between Eli and Penny.  And it’s also that balance that makes it the underrated indie flick that it is.  The introduction later of Sprinkles (Tracy Morgan—30 Rock, SNL) adds even more comedy and drama to the already entertaining story.  When he’s funny, he’s funny.  But he also shows that he can be taken seriously as a dramatic actor thanks to this movie too when he talks to Eli about everything he’s given up.  He tries to point out to Eli that he still has his life ahead of him and to not give up.  It’s only a momentary dramatic moment.  But even in that moment, Morgan shines as a dramatic actor.  It shows that even he can bring his own amount of heart to a story.  It would be interesting considering this, to see how he would do if he were to take a risk and branch out into more serious roles.

As funny and heartwarming as Morgan is throughout his time on camera, it’s the relationship between Eli and Penny that really gives Why Stop Now the heart and laughs that viewers will appreciate and enjoy most of all.  It’s obvious that Eli cares about Penny being his mother.  But he also sees that she seriously needs help.  Ironically enough, he needs his own help.  And even Penny points that out late in the movie in a conflict between the two.  Penny yells at Eli, pointing out his issues with alcohol.  But the thing of it is that it seems hinted that Eli’s problem with alcohol is a result of having to deal with his mother and sister.  Despite that, audiences are left with a warm feeling as Eli and his mother finally come to terms with everything and with each other by the story’s finale.  They are left knowing that the pair will be just fine, as will his sister.

Perhaps the main reason that the relationship between Eli and his mother works is the chemistry between Eisenberg and Leo.  Audiences will note in the movie’s “behind-the-scenes featurette how much the cast enjoyed working together.  While the movie doesn’t necessarily need bonus features to make it any better, viewers will enjoy hearing the cast’s take on their parts and on the story as a whole.  There is no commentary directly connected to the main feature.  But again, as enjoyable and original as the story is, it doesn’t really need that either, to make the overall viewing experience any better.  The story itself is really all audiences need in this movie.  It is simply put, a story that anyone looking for an original script will enjoy.  It is available now in stores and online on DVD and Blu-ray.

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