Timeless Media Group Announces Release Date, Details For I Spy Box Set

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group

Timeless Media Group will bring audiences yet another long lost piece of television history this Summer.

Timeless Media Group will release the classic series I Spy on Tuesday, June 24th. The classic dramedy series, starring Bill Cosby (The Cosby Show, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids) and character actor Robert Culp. It could be argued that the show’s witty writing and equally strong acting on the part of Cosby and Culp were the influence behind hit dramedies such as Monk and Psych. The series ran on NBC from 1965 to 1968 and produced a total of eighty-two episodes in that span. It won countless awards over the course of its three-year run including: the Golden Globe® for Best Dramatic Series in 1967, three consecutive Prime Time Emmys® for Outstanding Lead Actor for Bill Cosby, and the Prime Time Emmy ® for Outstanding Musical Composition for Earle Hagen. Cosby’s co-star received his own accolades for his work on the show. He was nominated for a number of Prime Time Emmy® Awards including: three Outstanding Lead Actor nominations and one for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama.

Along with its groundbreaking acting and writing, I Spy also featured a number of guest stars that would go on to be some of Hollywood’s biggest names. Those names include the likes of: Gene Hackman (Hoosiers, Enemy of the State, Unforgiven), Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo, Gilligan’s Island), Ron Howard (The Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days), Boris Karloff (Frankenstein, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Raven), Martin Landau (Ed Wood, North by Northwest, Mission: Impossible), George Takei (Star Trek), Don Rickles (Toy Story 1 3), and Eartha Kitt (Batman).

The upcoming release will have all eighty-two episodes of I Spy contained on eighteen discs. More information on this and other releases, including pricing and how to order the box set, is available online at http://www.timelessvideo.com. 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.

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

Courtesy:  Paramount/CBS Blu-ray

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS Blu-ray

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

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

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

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

The World’s End Soundtrack A Fun Musical Trip Back In Time

Courtesy:  ABKCO Records

Courtesy: ABKCO Records

Writer/Director Edgar Wright notes in the liner notes of the soundtrack of his movie, The World’s End that in writing the movie’s script alongside actor Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Room on the Broom), that the pair listened to a playlist consisting of some three hundred songs.  He writes in the very first page of the soundtrack’s liner notes, “When Simon Pegg and myself wrote the screenplay for the film, we listened to a 300 strong playlist of songs, mainly from 1988 to 1993…It powered our writing as much as it power’s Gary’s [King] quest.”  King is the character played by Pegg in the new movie in question.  This single statement from Wright in the very first page of the soundtrack’s liner notes perfectly explain why the songs included in the compilation bear influences from 80’s Brit-pop and synth-pop.  Right off the top, Primal Scream’s ‘Loaded; conjures thoughts of George Michaels’ hit, ‘Freedom’ with its mix of horns and piano.  It’s not a direct lifting of Michaels’ song.  But the similarity is obvious.  It’s just the start of things on this compilation.

The energy established by Primal Scream on the soundtrack’s opener is kicked up another notch as Blur picks up where Primal Scream left off.  Blur’s entry, ‘There’s No Other Way’ is a fitting track for this soundtrack considering the story behind the movie.  Front man Damon Albarn sings in the song’s only verses, “You’re taking the fun out of everything/And making me run when I don’t want to think/You’re taking the fun out of everything/I don’t’ want to think at all…You’re taking the fun out of everything/You’re making it clear when I don’t want to think/You’re taking me up when I don’t’ want to go up anymore/I’m just watching it all.”  This is so fitting in that the plot of the movie centers on Pegg’s character, Gary King.  Gary doesn’t want to have to be an adult and face the adult world, which ends up leading to everything that happens in the story.  Keeping this in mind, it actually becomes quite clear how this song would fit so well into the movie, even with its high energy.  Suffice it to say that it’s just one of so many songs that fans of the old school synth-pop and Brit-pop sounds will appreciate on this compilation.

Just as Blur’s ‘There’s No Other Way’ is a fitting addition to the soundtrack of The World’s End, so is the Soup Dragons’ ‘I’m Free.’  The song, from the Scottish band’s 1990 album, Lovegod, is just as catchy as the compilation’s first two songs.  And in the same fashion, it’s just as fitting lyrically.  The band sings in this song, “I’m free to do what I want/Any old time.”  This would seem to once again mirror Gary’s mindset.   It would be easy to see this song used as part of the pub crawl originally undertaken by Gary’s friends in the movie’s two prequels of sorts, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.

If the songs noted here aren’t enough for fans of the old school Brit-pop and synth-pop sounds of the late 80s and early 90s, then there is no reason to worry.  The World’s End soundtrack has more than its share of classics for fans of that genre including the likes of Pulp’s ‘Do You Remember the First Time?’, The Stone Roses’ ‘Fools Gold’, and British rapper Silver Bullet’s ’20 Seconds to Comply (World’s End Bomb Squad Mix Re-edit’, which in its own way shows where The Prodigy might have gotten the influence for its first big hit, ‘Firestarter.’  Whether for these songs, the previously mentioned songs or any of the others included in this compilation, it offers something for any music lover that grew up in the late 80s and early 90s.  It will prove to be a fun musical trip back in time for those listeners when they pick it up now in stores or order it online.

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.

Redemption Is One Of Star Trek: TNG’s Best Story Arcs

Courtesy:  CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Star Trek: Redemption is a good companion piece to the newly released fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The two-part episode that bridged the fourth and fifth seasons of is one of the strongest episodes from the still young life of the hit science fiction series.  It is such a strong episode because of its writing.  Season Three really saw Star Trek: TNG’s writing improve by leaps and bounds from its first two seasons.  This episode was a prime example of how far the show’s writing had come since the show’s inception.  It is one of a handful of episodes focuses more on character development, which was the key in getting viewers to better identify with not just the characters, but the show, too.

The most interesting aspect of this two-part bridge episode is the fact that according to the bonus commentary and bonus feature, “Survive and Succeed: An Empire at War” series creator Gene Roddenberry was completely against this storyline originally.  Ronald D. Moore and company note in the bonus episode commentary that Roddenberry’s initial thought on Worf was that Worf was not a main character.  The result was that he believed that Worf did not deserve an episode of such level.  Go figure, it’s gone on to become one of the best episodes in the series’ seven-season run.  It proves exactly why Worf did in fact deserve to be considered a main character even that early in the show’s run.  After all, the show’s writers had written other episodes for him in the previous seasons.  This was merely the culmination (also as noted in the bonus commentary) to those episodes.

That this two-parter solidified Michael Dorn’s place as a primary cast member on Star Trek: The Next Generation is only one part of what makes “Redemption” a great episode.  It also takes the time to flesh out the Klingon world, just as much as Worf’s own story.  Audiences had already been introduced in small ways in previous episodes to the Klingon way of life.  But this was really the first time that audiences were taken deeper into the Klingon culture.  It’s an eye opener that even a child could face the death penalty in the Klingon culture for certain crimes.  By connection, it’s just as powerful to see that while he is a Klingon, Worf was willing to go against that norm.  Audiences that watch this episode with commentary will appreciate how this decision came about.  Yet again, it’s proof of the value of a feature’s bonus commentary.

Audiences that watch this episode with commentary are treated to some very enlightening details that tie directly into the episode.  Some movies and TV episodes’ commentaries are not all that useful.  They are there more for entertainment’s sake than anything meaningful.  “Redemption” is the exact opposite of that, as detailed here.  In terms of the entertainment factor, audiences do find out in the commentary that some of the cups used in this episode were allegedly used in the massively major motion picture (say that three times fast), The Ten Commandments.  There is also a little tidbit revealing that the bridge of one of the Klingon ships had in fact been used in some of the original movies in the Star Trek franchise.  And even the hall in the Klingon High Council building was remodeled from the episode, “Sins of the Father.”  It’s these bonus facts and general insight from the creation of the episode that audiences will appreciate from this special stand-alone release.  It is available now on Blu-ray in stores and online at the official Star Trek website at http://shop.startrek.com/detail.php?p=452626.  Star Trek fans can keep up with all of the latest Star Trek news and more on the show’s official website, http://www.startrek.com.

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Star Trek: TNG Gets Even Better In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy:  CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of the greatest incarnations of Gene Roddenberry’s beloved franchise.  Considering that it started in the late 1980s, it was unlike roughly anything else on television at the time.  So for audiences to say that its first two seasons were shaky is somewhat unfair.  The show’s first two seasons were enjoyable in their own right.  And it only got better from there.  Season Three proved how far the show had come since its premiere.  And now, with Season Four officially out on Blu-ray, audiences can see how much more developed the show had become in its run.  Season Four shines first and foremost for its writing.  From wrapping up the hugely popular Best of Both Worlds cliffhanger that started at the end of Season three to the introduction of Data’s “brother” in “Brothers” to the season finale that sees Worf  stepping down from Starfleet this season sees more than its share of storylines that will keep audiences engaged.  The writing involved in each episode was the major sticking point for Season Four.  In terms of the overall presentation, much more can be said that makes Season Four work.  The set’s bonus features and its packaging play just as much a part in its success, too.  Together with the solid writing, the packaging and bonus features help to make Star Trek The Next Generation: Season Four another great addition to the home library of any Star Trek fan.

The writing involved in each episode of Star Trek’s fourth season is some of the best that the show saw in its seven-season run.  It really helped to validate Star Trek literally for a new generation.  The resultant effect was that its validation also validated, in turn, science fiction in general on television.  Because the writing progressively got better through Star Trek: TNG’s fourth season, it could be argued that it really helped open the door for more science fiction shows to make their way onto mainstream television.  Prime examples of this would be in the rise of shows such as: Babylon 5, The X-Files, Earth 2, etc.  There are many more that could be listed that came not long after Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four.  These are just a handful of that mass that came possibly as a result of this season.  To make such a claim as this is a very powerful statement.  So it raises the question, what made the writing in Season Four so impressive and important?  The answer to that is that the show’s writers were able to balance strong stories with personal character development.  Data, Dr. Crusher, Capt. Picard, and Worf all became the central focus of their own episodes.  Even Dr. Crusher’s son, Wesley, got his own share of face time through this season.  In the case of Capt. Picard, audiences got to see him face being human again after being saved from the Borg.  And later, he is forced to face some old demons when he takes a vacation to see his own family.  Dr. Crusher has to watch her son grow up and go off on his own to Starfleet Academy.  Thanks to the show’s writers, she also has to face the philosophical question of what reality is in the episode, “Remember Me.”  Who would have ever thought that science fiction and philosophy would work so well together?  But it worked.  Even Worf has his own moments as he is forced to consider some very difficult decisions as the season closes.  Here is an individual that audiences have come to know as being a very strong individual both physically and emotionally.  So seeing him have to do such deep soul searching in a manner of speaking shows so much more depth to his character.  And it makes audiences want to see more from him.

The personal character development balanced with the storylines in Season Four are the anchors to this season.  This is clear.  Thanks to the people at Paramount and CBS Home Video, viewers have gotten in this season’s box set (as with the previous three seasons) even more understanding and appreciation for the writing thanks to the season’s bonus interviews.  As with the previous seasons, the writing staff as well as members of the cast are interviewed this season.  Audiences will appreciate the insight on the episodes included in Season Four.  The gag reel included in Season Four adds even more enjoyment.  There’s something about science fiction that makes gag reels even better than others.  Maybe it’s the use of blue/green screen forcing the cast to essentially play pretend.  Maybe it’s just the camaraderie between the cast members.  But the gag reel will have viewers laughing hysterically.  And as minor as it may seem, including the episodic promos as an option with each episode is that icing on the cake.  There’s something about having the original episodic promos both by themselves and along with the episodes themselves that generates a full sense of nostalgia for those that remember watching the show on television.  It makes the whole viewing experience that much better, and worth watching every time.

The bonus features and the writing included in Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four work together to make the overall viewing experience a win.  There is one more part of this season’s set that makes everything complete for the show’s fans.  That one last part of the puzzle is the set’s packaging.  Season Four is comprised of six discs in its Blu-ray release.  It would have been so easy to package that many discs in a larger box.  But Paramount and CBS Home Video didn’t do that.  They maintained the standard set in the previous three seasons’ release.  The discs were placed inside the case in a fashion that is both ergonomic and that protects them from scratching one another.  This both saves space on racks and in cabinets as well as preserves the discs for future viewings.  It is the final piece of the puzzle that makes Star Trek: The Next Generation Four one of the year’s best box sets.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Season-Blu-ray/dp/B00CKYHH6O/ref=sr_tr_sr_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1376406257&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+season+4.  After ordering Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Four, fans can keep up with all of the latest releases from CBS Home Entertainment on its official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/cbshomeentertainment.  

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.

Room on the Broom An Entertaining, Touching Story For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  NCircle Entertainment

Courtesy: NCircle Entertainment

The new “animated” take on author Julia Donaldson’s children’s book, Room on the Broom is a wonderful piece for families and even churches as the country starts to look towards October and Halloween.  Donaldson, who also wrote The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child, co-wrote the book on which this feature is based, with Axel Scheffler.  This latest feature is much like its predecessors first and foremost because of its run time. It comes in at just under half an hour, much like those features.  Also like those features, this story features its share of lessons, too.  Speaking of the small screen adaptation of The Gruffalo, audiences will appreciate this new release even more as the animated presentation of said book is included on this disc along with a pair of pleasant bonus features to complete the overall positive viewing experience.

The very first aspect of this latest feature from NCircle Entertainment is its run time.  Much like both the Gruffalo and its sequel, this feature is not that long.  It comes in at just under half an hour in length.  There are those that have criticized this feature for the fact that it is as short as it is.  One can’t help but wonder if these same people watched the adaptations of Donaldson’s other books.  If so, did they feel that those features were too short, too?  That run time only serves to make this feature even more kid friendly, along with the lush, beautiful colors and positive lessons.  That is because most young viewers’ attention span doesn’t exceed half an hour.  So this is right on par with any children’s feature.  So whoever would think the run time is a bad thing should perhaps watch it again with more of an open mind.

The lessons taught throughout the short run time of Room on the Broom are another aspect of the feature that viewers of all ages will appreciate.  Throughout the course of the story, it teaches so many important lessons.  It teaches lessons about friendship, acceptance, sharing, respect, teamwork, loyalty, and tolerance.  And it does it all in less than half an hour without making everything seem jumbled together.  For that alone, this adaptation of the modern classic children’s story deserves very high marks.  The lessons are taught via interactions between the witch’s cat, a dog, a bird, and a slightly neurotic frog with a penchant for cleanliness.  The bird’s story of having been rejected by its fellow birds just because of how it looked teaches an invaluable lesson and starting point for discussions on tolerance and acceptance.  What’s more, it will touch very deeply, any viewer with a heart.  On the other side of things, the frog’s penchant for cleanliness will have adults and parents alike laughing.  And the dog’s simple innocence and loyalty adds one more element of joy to the story.  Together, this motley crew illustrates the intended lessons in a way that is accessible both to children and their parents, making the story all the more entertaining and touching.    

The “animated” adaptation of Room on the Broom is very similar in style to its counterparts in The Gruffalo and the Gruffalos Child.  However, it isn’t pointed out in this feature’s bonuses as to whether or not the same mix of claymation and CG was used in bringing the book to life on the screen.  There were elements of CG shown in the behind-the-scenes bonus.  But there was no mention of any claymation.  So it would have been interesting to find out if this indeed was used once again considering how close it looks to those features, stylistically speaking.  For once, this reviewer finds himself noting that regardless of whether it was primarily CG or a mix of both, the visual presentation of the story was absolutely beautiful.  The colors were so rich and vibrant.  Considering the fact that it’s a story about a witch, the bright colors used throughout each scene help to illustrate that this was no ordinary witch and that she didn’t live in the stereotypical world of a witch.  She was a good witch who appreciated everything and everyone around her.  Again, there is one of a handful of positive lessons that parents, teachers, and pastors will appreciate in the story.  Many audiences don’t take into account a factor as minute as colors used in the success or failure of a movie or feature.  But they really do play an integral role, at last on a psychological level.  And that is proven here, just as with so many children’s features.  Combined with the music, the bright colors maintain the feature’s positive vibe, thus in its own way, helps to make Room on the Broom that much more entertaining and family friendly. 

The aspects noted already noted here do so much to make Room on the Broom such a joy.  But no proper review of this new release would be complete without mention of its bonus features.  There are few bonus features this time around.  Audiences get a slightly different behind-the-scenes featurette in this presentation than in its counterparts in The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child.  It makes the extra live performance of the book by author Julia Donaldson stand out even more.  Audiences actually get to see Donaldson perform a reading of the book along with some young friends to help her along the way.  Her performance brings the book to life in an entirely different, but just as entertaining fashion.  It’s something that parents and children will love to take in together.  And even younger viewers will appreciate the performance just as much as the children that were in attendance at the taping of her performance of the book.  This standout bonus serves as the icing on the sweet cake that is this feature.  It will be available in stores and online next Tuesday, August 6th on DVD.  It can be ordered direct from the NCircle online store at http://www.ncircleentertainment.com/room-on-the-broom/843501008041.  To find out about even more releases from NCircle Entertainment, parents can go online to http://www.facebook.com/NCircleEntertainment or the company’s official website, http://www.NCircleEntertainment.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.

PBS Box Set A Must For Any College Science Class

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ Space, Time and The Universe is a must have box set for any higher level college physics instructor.  This four disc set encompasses the complete NOVA presentation of The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos.  The two presentations are taken from author and scientist Brian Greene’s books by the same name.  Greene even hosts both programs, making the program even more interesting.  This is a major bonus in that rather than hear from a bunch of academics (which does happen in both presentations), audiences get to hear from Greene himself in his own words.  Audiences that have yet to see either feature yet will understand why in watching these two programs for themselves.  The transition from episode to episode helps to make the overall presentation even easier on audiences.  Add in ergonomic packaging, and audiences get in Space, Time and the Universe, a set that any science nut will appreciate.

Space, Time and The Universe is a success for PBS’ NOVA series right off the bat because of the inclusion of author and scientist Brian Greene.  Greene is joined by a number of others within the science field.  But he is the real star of the four-disc set.  He brings the concepts discussed in the set’s four discs as much into layman’s terms as possible without overly dumbing them down.  String Theory and the concept of parallel universes dominate the set’s first pair of discs.  It is tied into Einstein’s search for Unified Theory and the possibility that the Big Bang was in fact not a singular event, but one of many events brought on by the intersection of parallel universes.  Both sides of these concepts are discussed by Greene and his fellow scientists.  And those that can pay attention will find everything discussed quite interesting.

The second pair of discs included in Space, Time and The Universe expands on the String Theory by going into discussions on teleportation, multiple galaxies and much more.  Having this pair of discs accompany the prior pair was entirely fitting.  Just as String Theory has increasingly become mainstream thought, so have the concepts of teleportation and multiple galaxies and universes.  They are no longer just fodder for science fiction fans and TV shows.  Most enlightening from this half of the set is the reality of what would be required for teleportation to be a reality.  In simple terms it explains that as of right now, teleportation isn’t humanly feasible. As with the presentation of The Elegant Universe (contained on the first pair of discs in this set), this and other concepts are presented in a way that is just enough for those with the slightest of interest in science to understand and appreciate.

The general presentation of both halves of Space, Time and The Universe makes the whole a DVD worthy of any college level physics class.  The explanations behind the topics discussed are simplified just enough to be at viewers’ level.  Greene and the other scientists and academics interviewed talk to viewers on their level rather than talking at them or even down to them.  This makes it much easier for the intended viewers to remain engaged in both features.  It’s the most important part of the set’s success.  There is one other aspect of this set that viewers will appreciate.  It is the set’s packaging.  PBS has packaged all four discs in a safe and ergonomic fashion.  Each disc contained inside the case is given its own spot on either side of two inserts.  This is increasingly becoming the standard across the board for multi-disc boxes both on DVD and Blu-ray.  Not only does it protect the discs from becoming scratched, but it also conserves space on a person’s DVD rack.  In an age in which less is more, this is a solid positive for this set.  And combined with the features’ overall presentation, it all makes Space, Time and The Universe enjoyable for any science lover of any level, whether student, professor or even novice.  It’s available online now via the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=13262334&cp=&sr=1&kw=space+time+and+the+universe&origkw=Space%2C+Time+and+The+Universe&parentPage=search.

Once audiences have ordered this DVD set, they can get the latest NOVA news online at http://www.facebook.com/NOVAonline and http://www.pbs.org/nova

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

Star Trek Sequel One Of Summer 2013′s Best

Courtesy:  Paramount

Courtesy: Paramount

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

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

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

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

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Star Trek TNG Season Three Even Better On Blu-Ray

Courtesy:  Paramount

Courtesy: Paramount

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

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

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

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

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

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3rd Rock At Its Best In Its Fifth Season

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment/NBCUniversal

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment/NBCUniversal

NBC’s hit sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun was one of the greatest sitcoms of the 90s.  Now nearly twenty years after it first debuted, it still stands as one of the funniest sitcoms to have ever been created, despite what some critics might want audiences to believe.  And thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment, fans can now own all six seasons of this laugh riot comedy.  Audiences who remember the series in its original airings will each have their own favorite season(s) and episode(s).  But there’s no denying that of the series’ six seasons, its fifth season marks one of the series major high points.  From the general writing to the guest spots, 3rd Rock From The Sun Season Five is an example of everything that used to make sitcoms great in television’s modern era.

3rd Rock’s fifth season is an exemplar of great comedic writing and timing right from the get-go.  The triple-disc set’s first disc offers what are two of the series’ best episodes in “Dial M For Dick” and “Sex and the Sally.”  In the first of the pair of episodes Dick and the others attend a mystery dinner theater.  Obviously being aliens from another world, they have no idea that the murders in question are just an act.  That is, they don’t know until something quite unexpected happens.  Audiences will have to find out what exactly that is for themselves.  Along the way, Dick thinks himself a sleuth and tries to pin the blame for the murders on one of his own group.  This alone will leave audiences laughing no less with each watch.  Speaking of laughing, audiences might find themselves laughing so hard that they’re crying in “Sex and the Sally.”  Sally discovers the dangers of sex and ways to keep from getting pregnant.  Along the way, the side effects of her using birth control will undoubtedly leave audiences laughing uncontrollably.

The set’s first disc offers more than its share of laughs, as is already noted.  But the laughs don’t end there.  The second and third discs are also front-loaded with more than enough comedy for audiences to enjoy over and over.  The return of guest star William Shatner as The Big Giant Head in “The Big Giant Head Returns” leads to a love triangle as Harry admits to Mamie that he loves her.  At the same time, Tommy tries to hypnotize Sally in order to get her to stop buying shoes.  It doesn’t work.  But it does work on Harry, resulting in some hilarious physical comedy on his part. 

If the solid writing and the physical comedy aren’t enough to keep audiences engaged, then maybe the bevy of guest stars will.  William Shatner returns not once, but twice this season.  Also Star Trek TNG star Jonathan Frakes makes an appearance along with then WWF/WWE wrestler Chyna, Larisa Oleynick (The Secret World of Alex Mack), “The Hoff” himself, David Hasselhoff (Baywatch, America’s Got Talent, The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, Pirana 3DD), and many others.  The continued revolving door of guest stars proves just how popular the show was.  Though, Shatner shined brighter than any others with both appearances this season.  Audiences will love seeing Shatner poke fun at himself when he brings Dick (John Lithgow) to a club and The Big Giant Head decides to do some “singing.”  This is just one of so many moments that will stick with both long-time audiences and newer audiences.

Whether for this moment or the loads of others peppered throughout all three discs of Season Five, 3rd Rock From The Sun has proven once more that it is still one of the greatest sitcoms in modern television history.  It’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via Mill Creek Entertainment’s online store at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/3rd-rock-from-the-sun-season-5.html

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.