Anchor Bay’s The Midnight Game Is A Fright Filled, Fun Indie Horror Flick

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new horror flick The Midnight Game is a surprisingly entertaining work for an indie horror flick.  The central point of the movie’s success is its script.  One watch of this fright-filled story shows that it’s not just another teen slasher flick.  For that matter, there’s barely any blood shed throughout.  It will however leave audiences guessing right up to the end.  Another reason that horror fans will appreciate The Midnight Game is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  The cast knows that this movie is an indie flick.  And while the cast doesn’t necessarily ham it up per se, each cast member’s acting does come across as lightly poking fun at the whole teen horror sub-genre of the horror realm.  Last but not least of all worth mentioning about The Midnight Game is the fact that while it obviously lifts from certain other horror flicks, it doesn’t go so far as to blatantly rip off said movies unlike far too many movies out there regardless of their genre.  These three factors each play their own role in the overall success of The Midnight Game.  Together, they make this indie horror romp one that any fan of the genre will want to watch at least once now that the movie is officially available in stores and online.

The central point of The Midnight Game’s success lies in the movie’s script.  At first glance, one might think that this movie is going to be just another run-of-the-mill gore fest loaded with lots of references to people taking part in satanic rituals.  The reality of the movie is that it is anything but.  Sure, it is essentially another teen horror flick.  But at least it isn’t just another one of the standard gore-filled slasher/evil spirit flicks that are all too common nowadays from the world of horror.  Yes, there is some blood shed at points in the movie.  And there is one very brief moment of nudity.  But both elements have been kept to a minimum.  For that reason alone, the movie’s writing staff is deserving of a certain amount of credit.  There’s no denying that there is at least some predictability at certain points in the story.  But the writing staff makes up for that by throwing in a rather interesting twist ending, which will not be revealed here for the sake of those that haven’t yet seen this frightfully fun teen horror flick.  It is a twist though, that will leave audiences wondering and talking.  And that it will have that lasting effect is a fitting final testament to the talents of those behind the movie’s script.

The talents of those responsible for crafting the script behind The Midnight Game are definitely worth noting in the overall enjoyment of the movie in whole.  The work of those charged with crafting the story’s script goes a long way toward making the movie work.  The same can be said of the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  The cast—Renee Olstead (The Secret Life of the American Teenager13 Going on 30Still Standing), Shelby Young (The Social NetworkDays of Our LivesEverybody Hates Chris), Guy Wilson (Little Black BookDays of Our LivesThe Open Door), Valentina de Angelis (As The World TurnsGossip GirlBereavement), and Spencer Daniels (Star TrekThe Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonThis Is 40)—doesn’t necessarily ham it up.  But it’s obvious that the cast members had fun with their roles throughout the movie’s filming.  They did take their roles with a certain level of seriousness.  But they didn’t take them so seriously that they went over the top.  Their acting could be argued to have even been a little bit of a spoof of the teens in every teen-centric horror flick ever released to a point.  That’s really what made this aspect work so well.  They were just that spot on in their depictions of the stereotypes used in all the other teen horror romps already out there.  Audiences will know in watching the cast at work that they are watching a movie.  Yet thanks to that acting, audiences will still want to watch what happens to each “teen” next, even going so far as to laugh at their characters at some points.  Again, herein lies one more reason that any horror aficionado will want to see this movie if only once.  There is still more worth mentioning even after considering both this aspect of the movie and its script.

The script and acting that went into The Midnight Game are both key to the movie’s overall enjoyment and success.  Anyone that is familiar with the world of horror will note in watching though, that this movie bears quite the similarity to a number of other horror flicks out there.  Those flicks include the likes of: Fear Dot ComThe Ring, Shadow People and others of that ilk.  Audiences that give The Midnight Game will see the comparison rather early on and even in the story’s final minutes.  The catch is that while the similarity is there, The Midnight Game doesn’t go so far as to directly rip off those works.  Despite being loosely related to said movies, it still maintains its own identity against them, thus helping to maintain at least a certain sense of originality.  That is the final touch to this movie that makes it one of this year’s more surprising entertaining indie flicks.  It’s a movie that any horror aficionado should watch at least once whether this Halloween or any other time of the year.

The Midnight Game is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered directly online via the official Anchor Bay Entertainment website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?ProjectId=8e063eb4-72ab-e311-b062-d4ae527c3b65.  More information on this and other titles available from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.anchorbayent.com, http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay, and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay.  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 TNG’s Sixth Season Is The Series’ Best Season Yet

Courtesy:  CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Paramount and CBS Blu-ray will release Star Trek: The Next GenerationSeason 6 on Tuesday, June 24th. This penultimate season of TNG (as it will henceforth be known here) is one of the best of the series’ seven-season run. The primary reason for that is the same reason that the series’ previous seasons remain so enjoyable to this day. The reason in question is the series’ writing. Another reason for the success of this latest box set is the inclusion of the standalone Blu-ray containing the two-part episode “Chain of Command.” This is not the first season to include a key episode as a standalone feature. And odds are that it won’t be the last with one more season to go. Last but not least in examining this latest season’s box set and its companion Blu-ray is the bonus commentary included in both features. Audiences will learn some interesting pieces of information in listening to the companion commentary included with certain episodes. All three factors noted here come together both on the Season 6 BD box set and companion BD to make them collectively one more must have for any Star Trek fan that has yet to add Season 6 to their library.

Writing, whether it be for television or movies, is key to the success of failure of a script. It is the heart of everything. That being the case, the writing behind Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation is to thank in large part for the series’ success. And in its penultimate season, TNG presented to audiences some of the series’ best writing to date. One of the key examples of the strength of the writing in Season 6 comes in the pivotal two-part story episode “Chain of Command.” This episode saw Captain Picard the victim of torture after being captured by the Cardassians. The performance on the part of Sir Patrick Stewart as he struggled to survive his horrible treatment was beyond believable. To an extent, it makes one think of what POWs in Vietnam and other settings of war must have gone through. That makes this even more of a powerful reflection of real life. It’s such a powerful episode that no matter how many years it’s been since audiences have seen it, it has just as much power today as it did in that original broadcast. It’s just one example of the wonderful writing exhibited in this season of TNG.

Audiences still needing convincing of the solid writing in Season Six need look no further than the episodes “Relics” and “Birthright.” These episodes are bookends of sorts for this season of TNG. “Relics” is a wonderful episode first and foremost because it brings back another member of the original Star Trek cast in the form of James Doohan. The commentary regarding this will be discussed later. But in learning how he was brought into the episode, audiences will see even more clearly why this minute aspect of writing is just part of what makes this episode so enjoyable. It might be a bit of a stretch, but one could potentially compare the writing in this episode to a religious allegory. That’s because Scotty (Doohan) was essentially a man brought back from the dead. He was resurrected in a manner of speaking. He is forced to come to terms with that fact that he is a man living on borrowed time and that he is completely out of place. The end result won’t be given away for the sake of those that have not seen this episode or haven’t seen it in years. Others might have a different interpretation of the script than that of this critic. But those that do prove even more the solidity of the writing in TNG’s sixth season.

One more example of the solidity of the writing in TNG’s sixth season lies in the season’s second two-part episode “Birthright.” Just as “Relics” brings back the original days of Gene Roddenberry’s beloved universe, “Birthright” presents in not so subtle fashion, the future of the Star Trek universe. Deep Space Nine is introduced along with one of the series’ lead characters, Dr. Julian Bashir. It even puts Worf onto the station, hinting at his future role in the series. This bookend is heightened even more thanks to the bonus commentary included on the previously discussed episode. Again, that commentary will be discussed later. But put simply, audiences will learn that the inclusion of Dr. Bashir and the station was no coincidence. Such willingness to show the future of the Star Trek universe at this point is key to TNG in terms of its writing as it showed that there was intent to end TNG’s run in the not too distant future. And of course as fans know, the series’ seventh season would be the last for this series. To that extent, one could easily argue that it was a respectful way of saying to TNG’s that the series would come to an end, but that they had no intent of just leaving viewers hanging. Once more, it is one more expert exhibition of how the writing in TNG’s sixth season was some of the series’ best.

On a more subtle note, audiences that pay close attention in the episode “Starship Mine” will notice actor Tim Russ capturing Captain Picard. Those more familiar with the Star Trek universe will recall that Russ would eventually go on to play Vulcan officer Tuvok aboard the starship Voyager. Of course he wasn’t Tuvok in this episode. But it’s one more interesting little tidbit proving one more time the strength of the writing in TNG’s sixth season.

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

The writing behind this season of TNG is some of the best that the series had seen to this point. That should be obvious by now. The episodes cited here are just parts of the proof of that. There are many more episodes that prove this argument. Moving on, Season Six is accompanied by the two-part episode “Chain of Command” on its own standalone Blu-ray disc separate from the primary box set. This episode was seen as being so pivotal because of its powerful story. Rarely had any TV show before or after tackled the entirely political topics of torture and war. And rarely had any series ever tackled them in such fashion. The bonus commentary included with this standalone episode makes it even more interesting. Audiences learn that there was apparently a certain amount of tension both in front of and behind the camera as a new Captain was brought in albeit temporarily as Picard was in the hands of the Cardassians. One of the individuals that discusses the episode compares the cast of TNG to a big family. So even bringing in a new cast member albeit for a short time can cause a feeling of being unsettled among the cast even behind the lens. That and the powerful writing show just why this was the proper episode to separate into its own disc versus the season’s other two-part episode, “Birthright.” It’s one more positive to a whole that every Star Trek fan will appreciate in this season.

The writing behind each of the episodes included in Season Six and the companion standalone episode are both important parts of the whole that makes this season another memorable piece of the Star Trek universe. There is still one last aspect of the whole set to note in examining this set. That aspect is the commentary included on various episodes. Audiences learn in the commentary that comes with “Relics” that it had been so long since the show’s writers and runners had kept from bringing members of the original series’ cast on to this series simply out of concern. It’s explained in the commentary that there had been an edict of sorts early on in the show’s run that there would be no mention of the previous series. It is ruminated that this was done out of fear that it would only heighten the comparisons between the two series. Yet purely out of chance, that episode in question came to life. And the inclusion of James Doohan happened organically. On another side, the commentary included in “Chain of Command” offers more depth than can even be touched upon here. Needless to say, that the commentary in question is quite in depth. And that depth serves to show once more what makes not just this episode, but the season in whole such a success. There is commentary included in other episodes of Season Six. What is noted here is only a glimpse of why the season’s commentary is a pivotal part of the season’s success. Audiences will find even more entertaining and informative commentary when they purchase TNG Season Six for themselves. In doing so, audiences will attain an even clearer view of why this season is one of the best from TNG’s seven total seasons, the set’s other factors aside.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Six will be available Tuesday, June 24th in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Season-Blu-ray/dp/B00IURL19Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1402717281&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+season+6. The “Chain of Command” standalone Blu-ray can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Command-Blu-ray/dp/B00IUR3YI0/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1402717308&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+chain+of+command.

More information on Star Trek: TNG Season 6 and other home releases from Paramount Studios is available online at http://www.facebook.com/ParamountMovies and http://www.paramount.com/movies/home-media. 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.

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series Is Loads Of Fun And Laughs

Courtesy:  MPI Home Video/Lucille Ball Productions, Inc./gab entertainment

Courtesy: MPI Home Video/Lucille Ball Productions, Inc./gab entertainment

The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) used to be one of the greatest networks on television.  Classic dramas and sitcoms such as: Route 66, Star Trek, Gilligan’s Island, and I Love Lucy among so many other greats.  Compared to the glut of crime and medical procedurals that clutter CBS’ weekly programming schedule, as well as the largely boring sitcoms—save for perhaps Big Bang Theory—it is increasingly clear that CBS’ best days are sadly behind it.  Of course those that would argue against this are likely also the same audiences that are fans of the cookie cutter programming currently filling CBS’ weekly schedule.  Thankfully MPI Home Video has given fans of CBS’ golden era yet another piece of that era in the form of Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series.  The six-season box set was released on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014.  And it is a box set that is fully worth the $100+ price tag.  The primary reason for this is the show’s writing.  Audiences will notice a brand of comedy very similar to that of the comedy from I Love Lucy.  Yet despite this, they writers managed to keep from simply recycling episodes of I Love Lucy in this series.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this set is the bonus material included throughout each season.  And last but not least, audiences will especially appreciate the box’s packaging.  Each of these factors by themselves carry their own weight in the series’ success.  Together, they make Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series a must have for anyone that is looking for an escape from all of the oversexed, overly violent programming currently dominating the broadcast and cable ranks.

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series is a welcome breath of fresh air from all of the oversexed and overly violent programming currently dominating so much of the broadcast and cable ranks today.  The main reason for this is the series’ writing.  The writing used throughout the series is quite similar to the writing that made I Love Lucy such a hit and keeps it a fan favorite today.  The physical comedy is there.  So are the wacky situations into which Lucy gets herself.  From losing an envelope full of money given to her by her boss and brother-in-law, and thinking her teenage daughter was going to get married to playing landlord and more, the scripts crafted for this show’s six season make for way more than their share of laughs.  Even more interesting about the writing is the fact that Lucy’s character, Lucille Carter, was a divorced, single mother.  It was a reflection of sorts of Lucy’s own personal life.  She and Desi had gotten divorced by the time that Here’s Lucy came on the air.  Even without Desi in the picture, the writers were able to find a fitting replacement for him in the part of Gale Gordon (Dennis The Menace).  Gale played Lucille Carter’s brother-in-law (and boss) Henry. So taking all of this into consideration, the writers behind Here’s Lucy clearly did their homework. The proverbial icing on the cake that is the series’ writing is the fact that the writers didn’t allow the series to become a serial. Lucy’s daily life working for Henry and her life at home are both chronicled throughout the series. But at no point do the writers allow the series to become a serial. In an era today when almost every series on television is a serial requiring people to watch every week, having such a stand-alone series is a breath of fresh air.

The solid and fully entertaining writing that went into Here’s Lucy is by itself plenty of reason for audiences to pick up the recently released six-season box set. It isn’t the only reason that audiences will want to check out this standout series. The set’s bonus features make the set even more enjoyable for audiences, whether they may be new to the series or not. All six seasons include brand new video introductions by Lucy’s children, Lucie and Desi, Jr. There are also introductions by other well-known starts who made guest appearances throughout the seasons. And they aren’t just introductions, either. There are also extra shared in the introductions. One example comes in the introduction to “Lucy Visits Jack Benny.” Lucy’s daughter Lucile shares with audiences the friendship that Lucy had with Jack Benny and other little extras. There is much more shared in the introduction of each episode. And audiences will get just as much entertainment from the introductions as the episodes themselves.

Also included throughout each season set in the box are segments from Lucy’s radio show, “Let’s Talk To Lucy.” The show was an interview style program in which Lucy interviewed not some of the biggest stars of the day. The segments included throughout all six seasons focus primarily on Lucy’s co-stars from the series. Along with these bonuses, there are also slide shows, original syndication promos for the show and much more added as bonus material. The noted bonus material is just the tip of the iceberg and the most important. It makes the overall viewing experience all the more enjoyable and the box set all the more worth picking up by anyone that is a fan of true classic and family friendly programming.

The writing that went into each episode of Here’s Lucy and the bonus features included in this recently released box set are both of equal importance in the set’s overall enjoyment. There is one last factor to consider in the set that viewers will agree seals the deal for the entire package. That final factor is the set’s packaging. While the set seems a bit bulky on the surface having all six seasons contained in one box, audiences will change their minds in looking at the packaging of each season. Each of the series’ six seasons received their own four-disc boxes. The discs themselves are separated from one another inside the cases on their own plastic inserts. They are placed on either side of the inserts with one disc on the top of one side and the other on the bottom of that same insert’s other side. While this is typically the standard for multi-disc sets nowadays, there are still companies out there that do not follow this rather wise ergonomic packaging model. It protects the discs from scratching each other. The end result is that it maintains the discs’ quality and in turn preserves the show for potentially a whole new generation to enjoy years down the road. Keeping this in mind, it makes this final factor in Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series just as important as those already noted. And alongside those previously noted features, the trio together makes this box set a must see for every family and every fan of classic television.

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered direct from MPI Home Video’s online store at http://www.mpihomevideo.com/Store/Detail.asp?ProdID=11176. More information on this and other releases from MPI Home Video is available online now at http://www.mpihomevideo.com, http://www.mpimedia.com, and http://www.facebook.com/pages/MPI-Home-Video/58189629179. 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.

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.

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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