Lionsgate’s “Wings” Sequel Holds Its Own Against Disney’s “Planes” Sequel

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate will release the latest installment in its family friendly Wings franchise next Tuesday, July 8thWings: Sky Force Heroes is the follow-up to Lionsgate’s 2012 CG-film Wings.  Ace and Colonel are both back in this latest installment.  But unlike the franchise’s first flick, neither is a fighter jet.  Colonel (voiced once again by Tom Skerritt) is a high performance biplane while Ace (voiced again by Josh Duhamel) is just as high tech as a double prop plane this time out.  The return of the entire voice cast from the first film in the series is only one of the positives to this high flying, family friendly flick.  Anyone that is familiar with Disney’s Planes franchise will appreciate that as with the previous Wings this latest installment bears its own story despite its close similarities to Disney’s franchise.  That is the primary plus to this story.  And last worth noting in this movie is its CG-based “animation” style.  While the story is similar to that of Disney’s new Planes sequel, its look is more closely akin to Fox Searchlight’s 2005 movie Robots than any more recent CG-based movies.  This includes Disney’s properties.  All three of these factors together make Wings: Sky Force Heroes a good family friendly flick that’s worth at least one watch.

There’s no denying that Wings: Sky Force Heroes bears a distinct similarity in its script to that of Disney’s recently premiered Planes sequel Planes: Fire & Rescue.  Despite the similarity in question, Wings: Sky Force Heroes does manage to establish its own identity separate from that of the previously noted movie.  Rather than trying to make this movie into a sequel, the movie’s writing team—Harry Glennon, Mychal Simka, and Jordan Winsen—made it its own movie, complete with its own world.  It just so happens that in this story’s case the two leads go by the same name as the leads in the first of the Wings franchise.  Accepting that, it makes suspension of disbelief much easier in a case such as this.  The ability of viewers to suspend their disbelief makes taking in the story much easier and more enjoyable.

The ability of the writers behind Wings: Sky Force Heroes to craft a story similar to yet dissimilar to Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue is central to the overall enjoyment of the story.  Just as worth noting in the presentation’s success is the return of the entire lead voice cast from the original installment in the Wings franchise.  This is one area in which Lionsgate has truly scored.  Lionsgate has scored in this aspect in that Disney’s animated sequels (and sequels in general) rarely re-unite the cast from their predecessors.  This means potentially entirely new casts must get to know one another.  And that can hinder said sequels greatly.   The chemistry developed between Duhamel (Transformers 1 3), Skerritt (Alien, Ted, Top Gun) and the rest of the Wings cast obviously carried over into this latest high-flying family friendly flick from Lionsgate. And because it did, the cast had no trouble interpreting the story’s script and working together.  The end result was a movie loaded with plenty of family friendly content worth at least one watch.

The return of the complete voice cast from Wings and the ability of the writers behind Wings: Sky Force Heroes to craft a story that established the movie’s own identity both play integral parts in the success of this latest movie from Lionsgate’s Wings franchise. Last but not least of all worth noting about this direct-to-DVD feature is its animation. The movie’s animation sets it apart from anything that Disney, 20th Century Fox, and any other studio has churned out in recent years. It’s tough to tell one studio from another nowadays because it is all so cookie cutter. The closest comparison that can be noted with Wings: Sky Force Heroes is perhaps to Fox Searchlight’s Robots. As forgettable as Robots proved to be, few other studios if any have attempted a movie with a similar look since then. That serves to make the look of this piece stand out even more. That mostly original look to the movie combined with its cast and script come together to make Wings: Sky Force Heroes a truly fun, high-flying, family friendly film worth at least one watch. One thing is for sure, one watch will have spirits soaring just as high as the planes in the movie, given that chance.

Wings: Sky Force Heroes will be available exclusively in Wal-Mart stores and online on DVD/VUDU combo pack next Tuesday, July 8th. More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at http://www.facebook.com/lionsgate, http://www.lionsgate.com, and http://twitter.com/lionsgatemovies. 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.

Wings Soars Again Thanks To Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment/CBS DVD

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment/CBS DVD

NBC used to be the leader among television’s “Big Four.” This statement was made in no uncertain terms this past Monday by NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt. Greenblatt made the statement at a conference hosted by Israel’s Keshet Media Group. Greenblatt cited a small handful of shows aired by the network during the 1980s and 1990s as examples of what made NBC the leader of the “Big 4” during those two decades. One of the shows not mentioned by Greenblatt—completely unintentionally—was a little sitcom called Wings. Wings was one of a trio of sitcoms that helped maintain the network’s place at the top of the broadcast networks throughout those twenty years. The other two series in that trio were The Golden Girls and Wings’ “twin” series, Cheers. Wings succeeded primarily for the same reason that the aforementioned sitcoms succeeded. That primary reason was its simplicity. It was simple in its writing, its sets, and its characters. The simplicity of the show’s writing was just one of the reasons for its success over the course of eight seasons. The writing behind Wings was not only simplistic, but it was also largely tame in terms of its content. And to a lesser extent, something else that makes the show so interesting is its theme song. That sounds odd. But the use of classical music for the show’s theme song makes it stand out even more. And now thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment, audiences of all ages will get to see all of this form themselves. That’s because Mill Creek Entertainment has re-issued the first two seasons of the classic sitcom in a three-disc set that is available now.

This new three-disc, two-season set is a blast from the past both for those that are seeing it for the first time and for the first time again. That is first and foremost because of its simplicity. Much like NBC’s other hit sitcoms of the time—Golden Girls and Cheers, which actually overlapped with Wings in terms of their broadcast years—Wings worked because of its simplicity. It was simple in its writing, its sets, and even its characters. The scripts center on the relationships between a small group of friends/co-workers at a small Nantucket airport. Because of their relationships, the stories always intertwine, but never overpower one another. Again, they are simplistic. What’s more, each episode stood solidly on its own two feet so to speak. This is something that is extremely rare with today’s TV shows. Whether it be dramas or even sitcoms, serials seem to be the way of things in this era of television. That the episodes in both of Wings’ first two seasons stand so well by themselves and that they are so simplistic is a double whammy for the show. It means that viewers don’t have to be completely wrapped up in the show to appreciate it.
The writing behind each episode of Wings’ first two seasons is the primary reason for the show’s success. It doesn’t require audiences to be completely involved in the show. Believe it or not, the sets are another part of the show’s success. Because the writing was so solid throughout each episode, it didn’t necessitate the need for lots of different sets for the scripts. The airport set consisted of maybe four different “rooms” at best. There were other sets used sparsely throughout the show’s run. But the majority of the show’s episodes took place inside the airport’s terminal. Again, that goes back to the show’s writing. It was so simple that there was no need for multiple sets, or even large scale sets. Those simple sets alongside the simple writing made the show easier to keep up with and thus enjoy. It’s one more positive that audiences will see here in the series’ first two seasons.
The writing and sets worked in tandem in every episode of Wings to make the show a success, even early on in its run. Just as simple were the characters. While Joe, his brother Brian, and Helen, Joe’s love interest may not have been entirely relatable, what was relatable was the sibling rivalry between Joe and Brian. Their rivalry was one to which both male and female viewers could and still can relate. It’s because of that, that viewers will enjoy watching what they would get into every episode. And along with the equally simple writing and sets, this is just one more simple aspect of the show that makes it so fun even today.
The use of the show’s characters, its writing, and its sets together makes Wings another welcome blast from the past. This is especially the case considering television’s current climate. The world needs classic shows such as this brought back. It doesn’t need them rebooted. It just needs them resurrected. There is one more aspect of Wings that proves this argument that most people likely would not consider. That aspect is the show’s opening theme music. How many television shows past or present have ever used actual classical music for their opening and closing credits? The answer to that question is very few if any. To that extent, this is quite the bonus. It is an original move by the show’s heads. And it’s honestly nice to hear versus some of the cheesy theme songs that have been crafted for shows through the years. Keeping this in mind, along with everything else noted here, viewers will see that Wings has so much to offer, even in its first two seasons. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from Mill Creek Entertainment at http://www.millcreekdirect.com/wings-seasons-1-2.html. More information on this and other releases from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at http://www.millcreekent.com and http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt. 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.

Live Kisses Another Gem From McCartney

Courtesy:  mpL/Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: mpL/Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Former Beatle and veteran musician Sir Paul McCartney has proven once more on his new release, Live Kisses, why he is still one of the music industry’s most respected names.  This live in-studio performance presents McCartney from Capitol Studios as he recorded the tracks for his most recent release, Kisses on the Bottom.  The recording session was recorded on February 9th of this year.  A lot went into making Live Kisses the enjoyable in-studio performance that it was and will be for any McCartney and Beatles fan this holiday season and well into the New Year.

Live Kisses takes audiences not so much behind the scenes of the recording of Kisses from the Bottom but into the recording process as it happened.  Watching the recording process at work is just as entertaining as listening to the finished product.  The whole mood of the “performance” is set through simple factors such as lighting, the use of older style microphones, and even recording pieces of the session in black and white.  That alone really helps to elevate the nostalgic vibe of the classic standards included in the record as each is being recorded.  If that isn’t enough, the very setting of the recording room at the legendary Capitol Records adds even more to the throwback feeling of the music.  Especially those who have any knowledge of the history behind Capitol Records will appreciate the session being filmed at the company’s headquarters.  There is even a note about the space in which the recording session took place in the booklet that accompanies this recording  Along with the session’s other factors, they all come together to make a performance that will create a strong sense of nostalgia in any listener’s mind.

The setting and general effect went a long way toward making this performance something very special.  They were just part of the overall enjoyment of Live Kisses though.  While enjoying the songs performed in this session, audiences are also presented with images of his own childhood as he sings, ‘Home (When Shadows Fall).  The combination of the two adds a truly emotional moment to McCartney’s performance here.  Famed jazz musician Diana Krall’s inclusion on the piano on this song makes it that much more of a joy to experience. 

Speaking of Mrs. Krall, both she and her husband Elvis Costello play a role throughout the recording session presented on this Blu-ray disc.  Costello shares with viewers both an introduction to the performance and a transcript of the conversation between himself and McCartney in the accompanying “book” in which the disc comes.  There’s even a joke shared between the two veteran musicians about the inclusion of Krall in the performance.  Of course, the comments regarding her are nothing but positive.  Audiences can find out for themselves what the pair discuss, and can also experience this amazing performance when they pick up this brand new Blu-ray release in store or online.  Live Kisses can be ordered direct online via Eagle Rock Entertainments, website, http://www.eagle-rock.com/product/EVB334289/Live+Kisses and at McCartney’s own official website, http://store.paulmccartney.com/livekisses/usd.php

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

3rd Rock From The Sun Season three is more out of this world fun

NBC is known historically for having some of the best programming on tv during the latter half of the twentieth century.  And much like Nickelodeon had its heydey during the 1990′s NBC also had its real heydey during that decade.  It ran strong on the shoulders of its Must See TV Thursday lineup.  Its Thursday lineup included major hits such as:  ER, Frasier, Seinfeld, and Friends.  The early 90′s on NBC also saw two other long time staples begin to wind down in The Cosby Show and Cheers.  By the latter half of the 90′s, NBC’s Thursday night lineup was visibly shaky.  Luckily, NBC did have one more trick up its sleeve with a little show that wasn’t in its Thursday lineup.  That show was the ensemble comedy, 3rd Rock From The Sun. 

3rd Rock From The Sun ran a total of six seasons on NBC.  It aired from 1996 – 2001.  There’s no argument that despite not being on the “Peacock Network’s” Thursday lineup, it was one of the most solid of the network’s shows in the latter half of the 90′s.  It really helped to ease NBC into the new millenium.  That’s because unlike most of its Thursday lineup, 3rd Rock From The Sun really appealed to a wide range of viewers.  It was a show that the entire family could really enjoy.  Having veterans John Lithgow and Jane Curtin leading the cast only served to make the show even funnier.  Now, thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment, that classic hit show is seeing the light of day once again.  The third and fourth seasons were released on dvd last month. And the laughs come just as fast in these two seasons as in the show’s first two seasons.

Season Three opens with Tommy, Sally, and Harry returning to Earth after the second season’s finale.  Season two ended with Harry, Tommy and Sally returning to their home planet after experiencing dreams.  Their dreams made them think that their brains were decomposing.  While they’re gone, Dick stays behind and plans his wedding with Mary.  When the trio return, they’re not alone.  They bring along a fellow alien named Janet, who is played by guest star Roseanne.  They tell Dick that Janet is his new wife, to which Dick obviously freaks out.  He freaks out not just because it throws a wrench in the works for his impending wedding with Mary.  It’s also because Janet is the niece of the Big Giant Head (William Shatner).  They tell Dick that if he gets rid of her, the Big Giant Head could get rid of them, literally.  This leads Dick to figure out any way that he can to make Janet want to leave.  Classic movie buffs will love the reference to A Streetcar Named Desire in one of Dick’s plans.  Needless to say, Janet ends up ruining things for Dick and Mary.  She thinks he’s been lying to her all along, and calls off the wedding.  Luckily, it does all end with a good laugh.

Also in Season Three, the Solomon’s (specifically Sally) learn about pregnancy after Sally goes to the gynecologist in the episode, “Pickles and Ice Cream.”  Sally meets a group of expectant mothers after leaving the exam room.  The moment in which she leaves the exam room is funny in itself.  When all the mothers start to talk about their pregnancies, it makes Sally jealous.  So she pretends to be pregnant.  This leads to all kinds of laughs.  It ties in to the episode’s secondary story.  The episode’s secondary story has Harry’s pet, Pickles, returning to the family.  There’s just one problem.  Pickles is in human form.  Pickles ties in to Sally’s pretend pregnancy because when Sally’s boyfriend, Don (Wayne Knight) finds out about her being allegedly pregnant through Dick, he thinks Pickles is the dad, not knowing Pickles isn’t human.  So when Sally returns home at the episode’s end, Don tells her that he wants to be the father of Sally’s baby.  That’s when she reveals that she’d been pretending all along.  Of course, for all the laughs, this episode does have its heartwarming moment.  Sally actually sees another woman giving birth.  She admits she wouldn’t mind having a child.  She’s just afraid she won’t be good enough because of the amount of time and dedication.  She says something that rings true for every expecting couple.  A baby is forever.  It shows that even female aliens have a certain motherly instinct.

Sally learns about pregnancy and motherhood in Season Three.  She also learns about the ins and outs of love.  In “Sally and Don’s First Kiss”, Don confronts Sally about why in the amount of time they’ve dated, they haven’t kissed yet.  So Sally starts reading romance novels to try and come up with the perfect scenario for their first kiss.  But when what she reads doesn’t work out in reality, she nearly breaks up with Don, until he takes charge of the situation.  That ignites the spark that they both need for romance.  While all this is going on, Dick is having to deal with a hateful lunchlady who is charging him for crackers every day during his lunch.  That is until Mary explains that he needs to take control of his situation.  And Tommy teaches Harry how to pass the test for his G.E.D. using random choice instead of studying.  Weirdly enough, that advice works.  This storyline ties in to Sally’s story, albeit very briefly.  That’s part of what makes this such a great episode.  Far too often, tv shows try to interweave too many storylines into an episode/episodes, thus bogging down said episode(s).  This episode of 3rd Rock is an example to students of the media arts of episode writing done right. While there are three entirely separate storylines here, they all work perfectly independently, making for lots of laughs from start to finish.

3rd Rock From The Sun was a great show when it originally aired on NBC.  Its writers had a wonderful grip of comedy.  For that matter, their writing gave the show a certain kind of heart, too.  That combination of heart and comedy made all six seasons of this show a hit.  And Season Three was just one part of the whole that made the show so great, as evidenced in the episodes listed.  Whether for those episodes, or any others not listed here, Season Three of 3rd Rock From The Sun is one more wonderful addition to the library of any fan of true worthwhile television.