Shout! Factory’s Latest MST3K Box Set Even More Fun For Movie Buffs

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory has done it again. The company that has brought audiences of all ages so many great classic TV series and movies has released yet another hit in Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXIX. The cult favorite TV series continues to show in its latest four-disc box set, why it remains such a beloved series even today. It shows this first through the skits that accompany the movies chosen to fill out this set. The movies in question are another reason that audiences will appreciate this latest collection of episodes. And the bonus material included in the set rounds out the set, making it complete. There is much more that could be discussed as to what makes this box set so great. The jokes and pop culture references made throughout each movie evidence this. Those jokes and references combine with the bonus features, selected movies, and skits to make Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXIX one of the potentially best box sets of the year.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXIX is potentially one of the best new box sets of 2014. One of the reasons for this label is the skits included in each of the set’s four episodes. Audiences get to see Mike and his robot pals deal with Pearl as she unsuccessfully tries to host her own ball as part of The Pumaman. And both Pearl and Mike have to deal with a trio of “superbeings” that think Pearl and Mike to be “as amoebas” to them in the skit accompanying The Thing That Wouldn’t Die. Joel has to deal with his boss at the Gizmonic Institute in Untamed Youth and Hercules and the Captive Women. The skits themselves are so cheesy. Much the same can be said of the acting on the part of all involved. And that it’s meant to be so cheesy makes it all so much more entertaining. Long-time fans of this cult favorite series will find themselves laughing hysterically at each skit as if it was the first time that they had seen them. Those that might be seeing the skits in each episode will find themselves laughing just as hard after scratching their heads in totally confused yet entertained disbelief.

The skits used to introduce each film in this set are worth more than their share of riotous laughter. One can’t help but wonder where the writers—who also served as the show’s cast—came up with the ideas for them. One can’t help but compare the skits to really bad drug trips. Regardless, they are hilarious. Just as hilarious as the skits, are the movies chosen for each episode. This box set includes Hercules and the Captive Women, Untamed Youth, The Thing That Wouldn’t Die, and The Pumaman. The Pumaman is easily the most entertaining the movies included in this set. It presents a professor named Tony Farms, played by Walter G. Alton, Jr., who starts out just an ordinary scientist and becomes The Pumaman after being located by the descendant of an ancient alien race named Vadinho. Vadinho gives Professor Farms a belt that turns him into the superhero Pumaman. Given, the movie was crafted and released in 1980. But even for the day, the movie’s production values and writing were horrendous. Thus it earned the distinction of being added to MST3K’s schedule. Alton notes in the movie’s bonus interview that he was genuinely not happy with the biting commentary on the movie on the part of Mike and his robot pals. But there’s no denying that as serious as the cast and crew took themselves in making the movie, the end result was anything but a movie that could have been taken seriously.

The movies included in MST3K Volume XXIX are just as important as those included in the series’ previously released box sets not just for their entertainment value, but for their historical value, too.   Those audiences that are more interested in the history of the movie industry will appreciate seeing one more example in this set, of how far the movie industry has come since its earliest days. It’s astonishing to see just how much things have changed since the days of these movies. It’s just as interesting to note how little has changed in that time, too. For that reason, this latest volume of MST3K is made even more enjoyable for audiences.

The skits and the movies featured in MST3K Volume XXIX together make this latest volume just as entertaining as the series’ previous box sets. The bonus material included in each episode puts the finishing touch on the set. Audiences that watch The Thing That Wouldn’t Die get an extra bit of Hollywood history when they watch the bonus feature, “The Movie That Couldn’t Die.” Audiences learn through this feature that the censors still had quite a bit of pull even back then. It’s noted that a particular flashback scene involving the antagonist being beheaded originally involved a priest damning the figure. Apparently, the censors didn’t like the thought of a priest condemning the antagonist. So his character was changed to that of a random man. And as noted previously, actor Walton G. Alton, Jr. expressed his displeasure with the zingers tossed at The Pumanman because he and his cast mates had taken the creation of that movie so seriously. It’s one more item that makes the viewing experience of the movie all the more enjoyable and richer. The same can be said of the interview with actress Mamie Van Doren in Untamed Youth. These bonus features are the final pieces of MST3K Volume XXIX that make the box set whole. Together with the skits and the movies themselves, they make this set one that fans new and old will love to watch over and over again. It is just as great an introduction to the series for new fans as it is a continuation for the show’s more seasoned fans.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXIX is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/mystery-science-theater-3000-volume-xxix. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutactoryofficial. 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 Seasons 13 – 17 Another Welcome Addition To Any Diehard Power Rangers Fan’s Collection

Courtesy:  SHout! Factory/Saban Brands

Courtesy: SHout! Factory/Saban Brands

Just over two decades ago, Saban Brands brought to young American audiences a little special effects laden, live action children’s series called Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Little did anyone think at the time that the original Power Rangers franchise would last a total of seven seasons. Even more surprising is the fact that those seven seasons would also not be the last for the Power Rangers franchise. Thirteen seasons later, the Power Rangers franchise is still among the most successful in children’s programming. Even those adults that were kids when Mighty Mrophin’ Power Rangers first debuted in 1993 are still fans of the franchise today. And thanks to Saban Brands and Shout! Factory, those same fans will get to enjoy five more seasons of the Power Rangers franchise with the brand new box set, Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17. The very first and most obvious positive to this set is that it includes Seasons 13 – 17 in one large box set. The set’s second most important factor is that while it doesn’t mark the end of the road for the Power Rangers releases from Shout! Factory, fans won’t be seeing Seasons 18 – 20 from Shout! Factory. That’s thanks to a deal between Saban and Lionsgate. And last but not least, audiences will appreciate that once again, Saban and Shout! Factory have included a load of bonus material both on a bonus disc and in the set’s companion booklet. That booklet and bonus DVD are the finishing touches to one more box set that any hardcore Power Rangers fan will want to add to their collection.

The first and most obvious factor that makes Power Rangers: Seasons 13 –17 is the fact that includes all five seasons in one full box. True diehard fans will agree that despite what seems like a hefty price tag, it is cheaper to own Seasons 13 – 17 in one box than paying separate costs for each separate season set. Odds are that eventually Shout! Factory will release each season in its own stand-alone box as the seasons progress. The collective costs of those stand-alone sets will likely be more expensive than that of all five seasons bundled together. That’s just part of what makes Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17 worth buying. The space taken up on a DVD rack by Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17 is another reason fans will appreciate this set. The total space taken up by the complete set is going to be nearly equal to that of the separate stand-alone season sets put side by side. The only X-factor here is that the box set includes both a bonus disc loaded with extra features and a bonus booklet. Even with their inclusion, the extra space taken up is minimal at best. So again, true diehard Power Rangers fans that want to complete their collections will benefit just as much from this box set as they would from the stand-alone season sets that will likely come later. The previous Power Rangers box set containing Seasons 8 – 12 also contained the bonus features disc and bonus booklet. So any doubts about the set’s ergonomics will be cleared up by comparing the two sets to what will be their stand-alone counterparts.

The cost and ergonomic factors tied to Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17 are central to why the most diehard members of the “Ranger Nation” will want to add this set to their collections. By direct connection, fans will be pleased to know that this set is not the end of the road for Shout! Factory’s Power Ranger sets. It goes without saying that more than likely all five seasons of this set will eventually get their own stand-alone releases over time. But before they get their release, Shout! Factory will also take fans back in time again. Shout! Factory will release Power Rangers Turbo in two separate sets this Spring. It would be no surprise if sets for Power Rangers in Space and Power Rangers Lost Galaxy will follow before Shout! Factory releases stand-alone sets for Seasons 8 – 17, too. So those that perhaps can’t afford to pick up this new box set or just don’t want to shell out the money will more than likely be able to pick up their personal favorite season(s) over time. On a side note, it’s too bad that Shout! Factory didn’t get the distribution rights for the more recent Power Rangers Samurai, Power Rangers Super Samurai, and Power Rangers Megaforce. That is because Lionsgate as proven time and again that rather than respecting the “Ranger Nation”, all it cares about it releasing compilation after compilation rather than building anticipation and releasing proper full season sets. Shout! Factory has shown time and again with its Power Rangers releases that it has the utmost respect for the franchise’s fans and the series’ legacy. So it would have been interesting to see what Shout! Factory would have done with the newer seasons. They did plenty with Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17 and its all previous Power Rangers sets.

Shout! Factory has proven time and again the respect that it has for the “Ranger Nation” and for the legacy of the Power Rangers franchise as a whole with all of its releases up to this new box set. The inclusion of a bonus features disc and companion booklet with the set makes the presentation and viewing experience with this set all the richer for fans. The bonus DVD includes even more in-depth bonus material than what was presented in Power Rangers: Seasons 8 – 12. Audiences are treated in this set’s bonus disc to discussions on the props used throughout Seasons 13 – 17. Stories on the props are shared by both those behind the cameras and by the cast members. Fans will really appreciate that those stories aren’t relegated to just the seasons included in this set. They go as far back as stories from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Also shared by cast members are stories of the cast’s favorite and least favorite sets as well as general fond memories of working on each series among so much more bonus material. The most intriguing factor that fans will take away from all of these stories is the fact that many of the actors that filled each season’s cast were themselves Power Rangers fans before Power Rangers cast members. Fans will appreciate the respect that said cast members have and had for the franchise both before being cast and during their time on their respective seasons.

The stories and other bonuses included in the set’s bonus DVD makes the overall viewing experience of this set so much richer for fans. The same can be said of the companion booklet included as a final bonus to the set. As with Power Rangers: Seasons 8 – 12, the companion booklet included in this set includes a comprehensive character guide and episode guide all in one. Both the Rangers (as characters and actors) are introduced as are each season’s villain. The episode guide for each season includes short but concise summaries of each episode from each season. It gives audiences just enough information to effectively set the stage for each episode. Those summaries, the episodes themselves, and all of the other bonuses included in the set make Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17 one more welcome addition to the library of any true diehard Power Rangers fan. It will be available next Tuesday, April 1st and can be pre-ordered now through the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/power-rangers-seasons-13-17.
More information on Power Rangers: Seasons 13 – 17 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.

Raise The Titanic Is Unsinkable In Its New Re-Issue

Courtesy: itv Studios/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: itv Studios/Shout! Factory

The sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic is one of the most talked about tragedies in the history of transportation.  The ship, said to be unsinkable, went down on its maiden voyage in 1912.  Over a century after that doomed cruise, that tragic event remains at the forefront of so many people’s minds.  That is thanks in large part to the countless documentaries and movies that have been churned out by movie studios and television networks over the past half century, the least of which being 1997’s story of a doomed romance, Titanic.  Thankfully there have been more enjoyable stories such as the famous The Band Played On and the 1980 drama that was Raise The Titanic.  Now twenty-four years after that movie debuted, it has been resurrected for the masses by itv Studios and Shout! Factory.  The movie, based on author Clive Cussler’s novel by the same name, uses the Cold War as a backdrop for its plot.  It’s just part of the writing that makes this movie worth watching at least once.  The movie’s script is just part of what makes Raise The Titanic worth at least one watch.  The movie’s soundtrack is another important aspect of the overall presentation.  John Williams’ score captures and creates so much emotion throughout the story.  And the special effects used throughout the movie are minimalist at best.  It actually makes the movie that much better.  It’s discussed in the bonus “Making of” featurette that’s included in this re-issue.  Each of the noted factors plays a role in the success of Raise The Titanic especially now in its new life.  Together, they make this a movie that any classic movie buff will want to check out at least once.

The first aspect of Raise The Titanic that audiences will agree to be a positive is the movie’s script.  Theories about what led to the Titanic’s sinking and how to potentially raise the ship have run rampant for ages.  However author Clive Cussler’s book based on those theories was the first of its kind to gain major success.  The same can be said of the final product crafted by screenwriter Adam Kennedy and his writing partner Eric Hughes.  To that extent, it can be argued that both the book and the script that it spawned were both quite original in their own right.  In hindsight, it’s interesting to see how prophetic this story turned out to be, even if it did change some things from Cussler’s original book.  Not that many years ago, the Costa Concordia wrecked off the Italian coast.  It sat there until recently when means were undertaken to lift the half-sunken ship and get it away from its crash site.  In the same way that many of the theories on how to raise the Titanic were deemed impossible (among other words), the method ultimately used to raise the Costa Concordia seemed impossible until one of those theories worked.  Having seen the Costa Concordia raised from its wreck site, one can’t help but wonder if it could be the foundation of a way to raise other ships as impossible as it might seem.

Raise The Titanic’s script is an important piece of the whole that is the movie’s success.  Just as important to the movie’s overal enjoyment is its music.  Legendary composer and maestro John Williams created a score for the movie that captures and creates so much emotion.  Nowhere is this truer than the scene in which the Titanic finally breaks the surface of the North Atlantic waters.  The moments as it makes its way into New York’s harbor are just as emotional, musically speaking.  Williams more than exhibits his ability to interpret any scene with these moments alone.  They are but a pair of moments that show how important the movie’s score is to the whole presentation.  There are far more moments throughout the movie’s near two-hour run time that exhibit just as much of Williams’ talent and that of the musicians that bring the movie’s soundtrack to life.  Audiences will find their own favorite moments when they buy or order the movie’s new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack re-issue from Shout! Factory.

The script and the soundtrack of Raise The Titanic both play pivotal roles in the movie’s success.  There is one more aspect of this movie that could be argued to trump those previously noted aspects.  That aspect is the movie’s special effects.  Watching this movie, one can’t help but make a quick comparison to the likes of The Hunt for Red October, Crimson Tide, and to a lesser degree, The Abyss.  The latter of that trio is perhaps the closest comparison.  The difference is that where James Cameron went completely overboard with his special effects, Raise The Titanic used minimalist special effects for even its biggest scene.  A couple prime examples of this less-is-more approach are the subs used to find the Titanic and the ship itself.  It turns out that the subs used in the movie were actually r/c subs.  The mock-up of the Titanic, it turns out, was actually a fifty-five foot “model” that weighed roughly ten tons.  And the methods used to raise the ship were just as interesting.  That minimalist approach to its special effects actually made the movie even more enjoyable because it forced its writers to focus on story development.  The end result was a movie that is just as rich in its special effects as it is in its story.  It makes Raise The Titanic a movie worth at least one watch by anyone that has never seen it before.

The special effects used throughout Raise The Titanic played a big role in the movie’s success thanks to the less-is-more approach taken by those behind the special effects.   There is much more worth noting, including the in-depth commentary on the movie shared in its bonus “Making of” featurette.  The commentary includes a rather damning statement regarding the over use of special effects in today’s major motion pictures.  The statement in question is made by one of the individuals that helped bring the movie’s special effects to life.  Fans can check out this statement and more when they purchase or order the movie now from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/node/218884.  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.

New Beetlejuice Box Set Makes Its Case To Be Another Of 2014′s Best Box Sets For Family And Children

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Warner Brothers Home Video

Shout! Factory landed no fewer than four of its releases on this critic’s list of the year’s best new DVDs and Blu-rays for families in 2013. 2014 is still very much in its infancy. And already Shout! Factory has landed one of its new releases as a definite on this critic’s list in the recently released The Red Skelton Show:The Lost Episodes. Now this critic can say that Shout! Factory has landed another potential on that list for this year in the form of Beetlejuice: Seasons Two & Three. Shout! Factory will release this two season set in partnership with Warner Brothers Home Video on March 18th, 2014. Whether one recalls this standout toon from their own childhood or is brand new to the series, Beetlejuice: Seasons Two& Three will impress any viewer. It will impress any viewer first and foremost because of its writing. Another reason that audiences will appreciate this season is its animation. And lastly, one must make note of the set’s packaging. All of these factors together make Beetlejuice: Seasons Two & Three another must see both for kids and kids at heart.

The writing in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice is central to the success of this new box set.  The series’ writers maintained the same writing style established in its first season throughout every episode of Seasons Two and Three.  The pop culture spoofs are there.  So are the moments in which the writers break down the fourth wall.  Even more impressive is that despite the fact that while the episodes take place in the Netherworld, the writers continued to make each episode kid friendly rather straight up spooky.  Audiences will love the spoof of Sherlock Holmes in ‘A-Ha.’  And those that are old enough to remember the show will love just as much the spoof of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse in ‘Uncle B.J.’s Roadhouse.’  In this same episode, the writers incorporate that breaking down of the fourth wall.  This is a comic element that far too few animation studios use in today’s “cartoons.”  Its use in this episode is a prime example of how much hilarity it can add to a cartoon, especially when done right.  So while it is wonderfully entertaining on the surface, it serves an even deeper purpose in comparison to the “cartoons” that populate the television spectrum today.  It serves as a lesson on how much writing has changed in children’s programming from the 80s and 90s up to where it is today.  If anything, one could argue that such an example shows how much writing for today’s mainstream children’s programming has de-evolved.  That being the case, it makes this collection of episodes all the more enjoyable.

The pop culture spoofs and breaking down of the fourth wall are both integral parts of the writing in Beetlejuice: Seasons 2 & 3 that are rarely used in today’s mainstream children’s programming.  Just as integral to the show’s success in its second and third seasons is the fact that the show’s writers could take a spooky world and craft kid friendly adventures centered in that world.  Those adventures made the Netherworld not seem as spooky as it did in the movie on which the animated series is based.  The adventures are so kid friendly that they almost make the Netherworld feel like the human world for lack of better wording.  One can’t help but wonder if perhaps that approach to writing Lydia and Beetlejuice’s adventures was an inspiration behind the world of Disney Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. at least to some point.  That writing works with the show’s animation to make these two seasons just as enjoyable as the series’ first season.

The writing in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice goes a long way toward making these two seasons just as enjoyable as the series’ first season.  In direct relation, the animation (especially that of the Netherworld) makes Seasons Two & Three even more enjoyable.  It serves as a companion to the writing and makes the Netherworld that much less spooky for even today’s younger viewers.  The colors used in the Netherworld scenes are actually relatively bright.  This creates more of a welcoming and upbeat feel to that world.  On an even deeper level,  so much of today’s children’s programming is crafted by either flash animation or by full on computer generated graphics.  Beetlejuice by comparison was, like most real cartoons of its era, created entirely by hand.  For those that grew up with this modern hand-drawn classic, seeing that hand-drawn animation is a breath of fresh air among the stale, cookie cutter style excuses for cartoons that are out there today.  It’s just one more reason that any true cartoon lover and any original fan of this series will want to pick up this dual-disc set when it hits store shelves next month.

Both the writing and animation in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice are important to the success of each season.  Just as important as the writing and animation in the box set’s upcoming release is its packaging.  Because both the second and third seasons were so short, each one received its own disc inside a single standard-sized case.  It would have been so easy for Shout! Factory and Warner Home Video to split up the seasons regardless.  That seems to be the trend among so many studios today with home releases of their programs.  So it’s nice to see that Shout!  Factory and WHV didn’t take that route with this release.  It presents a certain level of ethics between the two companies.  The episode listing for each season is also provided as part of the set’s packaging.  Each season’s episode list is included inside the case on one side.  There is little left to note of this set, if anything, after noting all of the positives of the packaging.  The packaging, together with the animation and writing, combine to make Beetlejuice: Seasons Two and Three yet another certifiable candidate for a spot on this critic’s annual list of the year’s best new DVDs and Blu-rays for kids and families.  It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, March 18th and can be pre-ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/beetlejuice-seasons-two-three.  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.

The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes Is One Of 2014′s Best Box Sets For Families

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Timeless Media

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Timeless Media

Comedy today is a far cry from what it once was in the golden era of television.  Families could gather together and enjoy great shows such as Burns & Allen, The Jack Benny Show, and The Abbott & Costello Show just to name a few.  By comparison, so many of today’s sitcoms rely on sex and other material that is anything but family friendly to entertain audiences.  Thankfully, Timeless Media and Shout! Factory have partnered to counter all of that with the upcoming release of The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes.  The double-disc set will be released next Tuesday, February 11th.  And it is quite the welcome release.  Whether or not viewers are familiar with The Red Skelton Show or even Skelton’s comedy in general, this set is certain to have viewers of every age laughing uproariously.  That’s because the comedy contained in the episodes culled for this set is appropriate for every viewer.  This is just the beginning of what makes this set such a joy.  Just as important to the overall enjoyment of The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes is the quality of the episodes’ footage.  The episodes culled for this set obviously came from the show’s early days.  And they look and sound quite good considering their age.  The last part of the whole the audiences will appreciate is the set’s packaging.  Timeless Media and Shout! Factory continue to maintain their high standard of packaging with this collection of episodes.  That and the aforementioned factors work together to make The Red Skelton Show:  The Lost Episodes a must have for anyone looking for true quality and family friendly comedy.

The episodes collected for The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes are collectively an excellent example of what once made comedy great.  Maybe it is the dad in this critic.  Maybe it’s just this critic’s more conservative side talking.  But in comparison to so much of what is on television today, the comic elements of The Red Skelton Show make it far more entertaining than much of what fills the television spectrum today.  The sketches that Skelton would use are loaded with wonderful physical comedy for the whole family as well as some commentary that while sharp for its time, is still tame by comparison to what is out there today.  A prime example would be commentary about Kennedy in one of Skelton’s Freddie the Freeloader skits.  That same skit also offers some great jokes about Freddie being healthy despite living in poor conditions.  The jokes that make up the dialogue in this skit are just as hilarious as the physical comedy.  The other skits included in this set are each loaded with their own jokes and gags, too.  They are certain to have any viewer laughing out loud with every watch.

The jokes and gags that make up the episodes in this set are a joy for the entire family.  Just as worth noting is the quality of the footage.  The vintage footage of these classic episodes looks wonderful.  So it goes without saying that the painstaking efforts undertaken to restore and resurrect these episodes more than paid off.  It paid off both for viewers and for those charged with bringing the episodes back to life once again.  It’s the visual equivalent of putting a classic vinyl onto a turntable and listening to it.  It just brings back such a sense of nostalgia.  Making the deal even sweeter, Timeless Media and Shout! Factory took the high road with this set, letting viewers know that the footage was re-mastered as best as possible.  Both companies are to be applauded for including the disclaimer.  It shows that both companies know some people simply can’t be pleased.  So the use of a disclaimer is the only feasible answer.  For that, those responsible for collecting the episodes for this set and dusting them off for a whole new generation are more than deserving of applause.

The quality of the episodes’ footage and their content are both excellent reasons that any pure comedy fan or even comic will want to check out this new set.  There’s still at least one more factor to this set that makes it so pleasant to take in.  That final factor is the set’s packaging.  Both discs are placed in their own spot inside the case.  Even more interesting (and this may not be the case with other copies) to note is that this critic’s copy of the set also included a pad of sorts inside the case that kept the two discs from touching each other even on their “faces.”  This protects the discs from one another even more.  It might be a bit of overkill.  But it proves yet again just how much Timeless Media and Shout! Factory care about presenting the best product possible for consumers.  That concern for presenting the best product possible is the proverbial icing on the cake for this brand new set.  It led to top notch packaging for another new release from both companies.  It also led to impressively restored vintage footage, which  also made it easier to take in the family friendly comedy.  It all makes The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes a must have for anyone that wants true, pure comedy.  It will be available next Tuesday, February 11th and can be pre-ordered online now via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/red-skelton-show-lost-episodes.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Timeless Media is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com, http://www.timelessvideo.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.

Shout! Factory Gives The Scarlet And The Black Its Due Respect In New Re-Issue

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Actor Gregory Peck was one of Hollywood’s biggest names during his career thanks to roles in films such as To Kill A Mockingbird, Roman Holiday, and Cape Fear.  However, when Peck starred in the 1982WWII-themed movie The Scarlet and the Black, the movie largely fell on deaf ears. To this day, Peck’s role as Monsignor O’Flaherty has been overshadowed by his other previously mentioned movies.  Despite being overshadowed, true movie lovers will agree that this 1982 period piece is in fact one of Peck’s most underrated works.  Viewers will also agree in watching the movie that it is not only one of Peck’s most underrated films, but one of the most underrated WWII-themed movies in general.  The first thing that stands out about this movie is its script.  It isn’t just another WWII-themed movie full of dogfights, sea battles, and romance.  It is very much the human drama.  If one delves deeper into this movie’s script, one will see that the story itself is only part of what makes The Scarlet and the Black well worth the watch.  The symbolism used throughout the movie and even in its title will pull in those that really let themselves be immersed in the story.  While it is hardly the last of the aspects that make the movie worth watching, audiences will also appreciate the commentary tied into the script in terms of man’s ability to commit violence on his fellow man.  These are just a few of so many parts of the whole that makes The Scarlet and the Black a movie worth the watch now that it has been re-issued on DVD by Timeless Media and Shout! Factory.

The Scarlet and the Black is one of the most underrated movies of Gregory Peck’s film career.  It is also one of the most underrated and underappreciated WWII-era movies ever made.  That’s because it doesn’t fit nicely into the mold created by Hollywood for movies centered in that era.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The story behind this movie wasn’t meant to be like all the other WWII-era movies churned out from the 1940s and beyond.  It is a human drama about one man’s courage and determination in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds.  Peck’s O’Flaherty stood for his beliefs and his convictions.  He stood so strong in his convictions that he was even willing at one point to sneer at Nazi snipers ready to shoot him in the blink of an eye.  It takes a truly strong person to stand up to such odds.  Even in the story’s closing minutes, he shows just how strong he stood.  That moment, which won’t be revealed here, shows just how courageous and how morally strong he truly was.  That display of moral and emotional strength is just as powerful to see today as it was over thirty years ago when the movie debuted.

The central story of human courage and strength in The Scarlet and the Black is the most important part of the movie.  It isn’t the only part of what makes this such an enjoyable work.  The symbolism used throughout the movie is just as important in its success.  Symbolism is evident even in the story’s very title.  The Scarlet and the Black is representative of the struggle between O’Flaherty and his Nazi foes.  As audiences will note, both the Nazis and O’Flaherty wear scarlet and black.  It’s just one piece of symbolism that audiences will catch in watching this movie.  The use of chalk to separate Vatican City territory from the Nazi occupied sections of Rome is also symbolic.  In a manner of speaking, the use of the chalk turned the sacred territory that is Vatican City into a virtual prison for those living within its walls.  Such symbolism is simple.  That less is more mentality embraced by writer David Butler keeps the story from becoming too entrenched in itself and in turn all the more enjoyable.  The positives don’t end here.

The central story behind The Scarlet and the Black and the symbolism are both pivotal to the movie’s success.  There is still at least one more factor that makes this underappreciated modern classic well worth watching.  That factor is the commentary tied into the movie.  Butler makes commentary about human nature and man’s free will when a group of Italian soldiers is ordered to shoot one of their own countrymen.  The result is quite eye opening.  At another point, Col. Kappler’s son points a toy gun right at him and pretends to shoot him.  That is very blatant commentary on how easily young minds are influenced.  The use of both scenes is the most basic level of commentary.  And both are perfect starting points for any high school and college level philosophy classes.  This aspect and those already mentioned collectively prove why The Scarlet and the Black is just as deserving as respect as any other WWII era film and any of Gregory Peck’s other more well-known pieces.  Viewers will find much more to note for themselves when they purchase the newly re-issued movie for themselves.  It is available in stores and online at the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/scarlet-and-black.  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.

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.

Shout! Factory Announces Release Date For The Shadow Re-Issue

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

The Shadow is one of the most famed crime fighters of all time.  He is the original caped crusader.  His adventures amazed radio audiences long before Batman came along.  Sadly, after Batman and his fellow comic book superhero friends came along, The Shadow seemed to be pushed aside.  But in 1994, the world was re-introduced to The Shadow thanks to Universal Pictures.  Two decades after The Shadow was introduced to a new generation of audiences, he is bring introduced to yet another new generation of fans thanks to a partnership between Universal Pictures and Shout! Factory.

The Shadow (Collector’s Edition) will be released on Blu-ray Tuesday, February 25th.  The movie, starring Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October, 30 Rock) in the starring role, tells the story of how The Shadow came to be.  It co-stars Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings, Kindergarten Cop), Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, The Santa Clause, Everybody Loves Raymond), Sir Ian McKellan (X-Men, X-2 X-Men United, X3 The Last Stand), and many others.

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.

NYPD Blue’s Fifth Season Proves Why Series Still Stands As One Of TV’s Best Dramas

Courtesy:  ABC/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: ABC/Shout! Factory

NYPD Blue was one of the biggest and most talked about crime dramas on television over the course of its twelve years on ABC.  The reason for that is that in comparison to the likes of Dick Wolf’s Law & Order franchises and CBS’ CSI series, it was far grittier than any of those programs.  One could easily argue that the success of NYPD Blue is to thank for FX’s The Shield rising to fame.  Of course, that series was itself based on a British series from the 1970s known as The Sweeney.  So it goes without saying that NYPD Blue was a groundbreaking series for its time.  And now thanks to Shout! Factory, the fifth season of the hit crime drama is now available in its entirety on DVD box set.  NYPD Blue Season Five is one of the favorites of fans everywhere.  That’s because it really exhibited the talent of the show’s writers at their peak.  The writing is just the starting point for the success of Season 5.  While it’s somewhat minor, audiences will agree that Season Five maintains the show’s image totally separate from the other crime dramas on television.  That will be explained later.  Just as much worth noting is the show’s music.  The music goes right along with the show’s image.  It wasn’t that perfect spit-shined sound that all of the other crime dramas used (and still use today).  These factors and so many more make NYPD Blue Season Five a fantastic trip down memory lane for any true fan of what was and still is one of ABC’s most revered series.

The fifth season of NYPD Blue stands out as one of the series’ best to date.  It is such an exceptional season first and foremost because of its writers.  The writers proved yet again with Season Five their ability to tell multiple stories without letting them get bogged down in each other.  This is something that still remains problematic for so many crime dramas today.  It was especially the case for the CSI franchise for many years.  The show’s writers relied more on sex appeal to try and cover up the fact that their stories were relatively shallow and had a tendency to get caught in themselves.  Just as much to the credit of NYPD Blue’s writers, their stories had substance.  Sure, there was some sex appeal.  But it largely took a back seat to the storylines that leave audiences on the edge of their seats right up to the end without audiences even realizing it.  A prime example of this was the season opener, “This Bud’s For You.”  This episode finishes off the cliffhanger that was started in Season Four’s finale.  The Joey Salvo homicide is finally figured out. And in the process, audiences see some personal character development among the cast. There’s more than enough drama to go around.  But none of it overpowers any other part of the episode.  That is a true sign of a well-written show.  And audiences will see that, again, throughout Season Five.  It’s just the starting point of this season’s success, too.

The writing behind NYPD Blue in its fifth season is the primary reason for the show’s success thus far into its run.  Another reason for the show’s success five seasons in is the show’s image. When put alongside its competition, NYPD Blue didn’t have the spit shined and streamlined look of perhaps a CSI or even any of the Law & Order series across the NBC family of networks at the time.  Those that are familiar with Dick Wolf’s varied series will agree with that argument.  The series in question attempted for years to have a certain grit and realism about them.  But they could never escape the more standard look established by Wolf’s company. Even today, Law & Order: SVU still suffers from that issue.  For lack of better wording, it’s almost as if Wolf’s series always held back.  NYPD Blue on the other hand took the road less travelled even five seasons in.  It wasn’t afraid to show a meaner, tougher side of police work.  Both then and now, few if any shows try their hand at such realism.  It continues to stand today as a tribute to the show’s ability to stand out in the crowd, even today.  Audiences will agree when they check out Season Five for themselves.

The writing and the look of NYPD Blue in its fifth season are both important elements in the show’s success.  There is still one more aspect of the series that while minor stands out among crime dramas of its time.  And it is related directly to the show’s image. That aspect is the show’s soundtrack.  Again, one has to note NYPD Blue’s competition at the time to understand why it is in fact so important.  The CSI’s, Without A Traces, and so many others had a specific soundtrack to go along with their relatively spit shined looks. NYPD Blue on the other hand, had a more generic soundtrack.  The show’s writers and creative forces used a soundtrack of music that one might hear on an inner city street, instead of paying royalty fees for a set of catchy tunes or just having a general marketable sound.  It helped even five seasons into its run, to prove how pretentious those other crime drams really were.  On the same branch, it showed once more how hard the show’s writers and creative heads tried to make NYPD Blue stand out.  It did just that.  And set alongside the show’s look and feel, and its writing, it is one more piece proving why even years after its initial run, NYPD Blue’s fifth season remains one of the show’s best. It is available now on DVD and can be ordered online direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/nypd-blue-season-five. 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 reviews and news 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.