The Thief of Bagdad Re-Issue A Must For Any Classic Film Fan

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

The Raoul Walsh helmed 1924 silent film that is The Thief of Bagdad is a classic in every sense of the word.  Almost ninety years ater it originally debuted, this timeless classic still proves to be everything that is right with movie making.  Just as the modern classic, The Artist recently brought the glory of silent films back to the forefront, now Cohen Media Group has brought back to the forefront one of the original movies that really was and is a frontrunner of the action movie genre.  It is all summed up in a single line taken directly from the movie:  Happiness is earned.

Happiness is earned.  Those who had a hand in bringing this timeless classic to life and their famlies have more than earned that happiness thanks to this movie.  In comparison to so many of today’s big budget Summer blockbusters, this is one of the purest and most enjoyable action movies out there.  It has action for the guys and it has romance for its female audiences.  The central point of the story is of the thief in question who starts out as a rogue type of character.  That is until he meets the Princess (played by Julanne Johnston).  It’s love at first sight for the young thief.  And he vows to go to any lengths to be with her.  Along the way he has to face dangerous creatures, flames and even an evil Mongol leader who wants to take over the Princess’ kingdom.  And being a silent film, it can only rely on the special effects that it had at the time, thus making for much more emphasis on the script and acting.  Because of that reltiance on writing and acting, both turn out to be so impressive that they effortlessly lead audiences to suspend their disbelief and allow themselves to be pulled into the movie’s fantastical world.

Now that The Thief of Bagdad has been re-issued on Blu-ray, a whole new generation of audiences can be taken back to a time when movies were at their youngest and best.  This generation will get to experience the outstanding script writing and acting for he first time.  And thanks to the painstaking work that went into restoring the original film used to record the movie, it looks and sounds just as incredible as ever.  The same grainy quality of the original film is still there.  But it’s been touched up just enough to preserve the original without making it look spit-shined.  And the soundtrack centered on the musical works of Rimsky-Korsikov is just as impressive as the quality of the film itself.  The music and the film quality comes together so well that if Raoul Walsh were still with us today, he would most certainly be happy and impressed to see what has been done with this masterwork of movie making.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordred online through Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Thief-Bagdad-Blu-ray-Douglas-Fairbanks/dp/B00AFQSZB0/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1361844075&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Thief+of+Bagdad.  To keep up with all the latest news from the Cohen Media Group, just go online to the Cohen Media Group’s official website, http://cohenmedia.net or its Facebook page,  http://www.facebook.com/CohenMediaGroup.

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The Okee Dokee Brothers’ New LP Not Just For Kids

Courtesy:  Okee Dokee Music

Courtesy: Okee Dokee Music

The Okee Dokee Brothers’ most recent album, Can You Canoe?, is a wonderful album not just for children but for the whole family.  While it was marketed as a children’s album, even parents will find this Grammy award winning album enjoyable with its mix of Americana, Dixieland, and even a touch of semi-Celtic sound.  The bonus DVD included with the CD is an excellent companion piece as the visuals expertly bring to life the images that are likely to run through listeners’ minds as they listen to the songs, right from the album’s opener and title track.

The album’s opener is a wonderful, relaxing song that evokes images of a canoe trip with sunny skies overhead and the sounds of nature all around.  That is exactly what audiences see in the bonus DVD as it opens.  What’s more it’s quite the first impression.  Again, one reminds one’s self that this album was marketed as a children’s album.  But the reality of the song is that it could just as easily double as a general folk song, with its themes of enjoying the simple things in life.  For instance, the duo sings on not needing candy bars and car toys, and of needing only the sound of the water instead of amplifiers.  These are themes that both kids and their parents will appreciate and that will never grow old with each listen.

The gentle vibes of the album’s title track are broken only slightly as the duo launches into the semi-Celtic sea shanty style song that is ‘Haul Away Joe’ before moving into more of a Dixieland sound in the fun little song, ‘Mr. & Mrs. Sippy.’  This song will no doubt have kids singing along as the pair spell out Mississippi through song and a story about Mr. and Mrs. Sippy.  From the fun and goofiness of ‘Mr. & Mrs. Sippy’, listeners are transported back to the album’s original, gentler vibe in the album’s fourth track, ‘Bullfrog Opera.’  Much like the album’s opener, the guys sing of the simple things in its chorus.  They sing in the chorus, “The moon becomes a streetlight in Central Park/And the river is a train/Brooklyn bound/The stars turn into pearls/On high heeled girls/Getting ready for a night on the town/Let’s take ‘em to the/Bullfrog opera/And the raccoon’s masquerade ball/We’ve got Broadway tickets to see a chorus line of crickets/and the loons are playing Carnegie Hall.”  These are such simple lines.  But it is their simplicity that makes imagining such visuals so easy.  And for younger listeners, it will hopefully ignite their imaginations enough to make them want to turn off their televisions and electronics and want to experience these same visuals for themselves.  The Okee Dokee Brothers are definitely to be commended for making a song that is both so deep and simple all at the same time here.

The first small portion of Can You Canoe? is front loaded with lots of wonderful material for both kids and their parents.  The fun doesn’t end after the first quarter of the album though.  There are fun songs about a mosquito named Rosita, taking a ride on a train, and lots more for the whole family to enjoy.  They can enjoy them together now as the duo’s album is available now both in stores and online.  The album can likely be purchased at the Okee Dokee Brothers’ shows, including the group’s upcoming show in Carrboro on April 13th.  Fans can get a full listing of the guys’ tour schedule on its official website, http://www.okeedokee.org and on its Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/okeedokeebros

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Monsters, Inc. Proves Again Why It’s A Modern Classic With BD/DVD Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Disney-Pixar

Courtesy: Disney-Pixar

Disney/Pixar’s fourth cg-based family film, Monsters, Inc. is one of the biggest hits from the two companies.  The pair has taken one of the most common of childhood fears and turned it into a big, soft fuzzy memory that kids and adults alike will love to encounter again and again.  Monsters, Inc. isn’t the first time that Hollywood has tackled the issue of things that go bump in the night.  Though, in comparison to the 1989 movie, Little Monsters, Monsters, Inc. it is far more memorable.  And now that Disney and Pixar have re-issued this modern classic on Blu-ray/DVD and 3D BD/DVD combo packs, audiences can enjoy it all over again.  Those who still have yet to add this flick to their family library are rewarded for having waited, too.  For the most part, this latest re-issue carries everything that was on the movie’s original double-disc DVD release right down to the audio commentary.  There are some new additions though.  And of course, the clarity of the picture is that much better this time around, too.  So is it worth picking up if one already owns the DVD set?  That’s up to the general consumer.  But for those who have yet to own it, this is a wonderful reason to finally do just that.

The latest re-issue of Monsters, Inc. is largely carried over from the original 2002 double-disc DVD release.  However, included in this new re-issue is a second disc that includes some extra entertainment for kids.  One of the best of the new inclusions is “Roz’s 100 Door Challenge.”  This bonus Blu-ray trivia game requires young audiences to answer trivia questions in order to open all of the doors put before them in order to become a Monsters, Inc. employee.  The questions come in sets of ten at a time.  So at one hundred doors, this game will keep young audiences engaged and occupied for quite some time.  This is great for parents who are looking for a way to distract their kids and get some time for themselves.

“Roz’s 100 Door Challenge” is not the only extra bonus included with this latest re-issue of Monsters, Inc.  But it is a nice addition.  Just as entertaining as the noted bonus game is the included Toy Story short, “Party-saurus Rex.”  The entire original cast from the Toy Story franchise has come back for this short in which Rex (voiced by Wallace Shawn – The Incredibles, The Princess Bride) is accused of being a party pooper.  But then he ends up surprising them after the toys’ new young owner takes him to the bath with her.  He ends up becoming the life of the party.  This is a wonderfully entertaining short from this fully solidified franchise.  As entertaining as it is, it’s even more of a bonus in that it shows should Disney and Pixar ever decide to re-visit the gang in a larger sense, it is one franchise whose sequels or even reboot would be welcomed by audiences. 

The new bonus features do a lot in making the new Monsters, Inc. BD/DVD combo pack a good addition to any family’s home library.  The story itself plays just as much of a role in its success, too.  The story includes no less than two very important lessons for all of its viewers.  The first of those lessons centers on stereotypes.  It tackles this subject matter right from the story’s opening moments, presenting the monster world not as a dark and evil place, but just as happy and sunny as the human world.  And even the monsters themselves are crafted in an equally family friendly fashion.  Just as “Boo” calls him, Sully (John Goodman) is a big, mean looking monster.  But underneath all that fur, he’s just a big fuzzy “kitty”…or whatever animal one might want to use in comparison.  Both the kids and monsters believed stereotypes of the other that had been handed down and passed on.  But in giving Boo a chance, Sully and Mike prove that the stereotyped belief of children being evil, life threatening to be just that.  And Boo in her own way proves to her own self that not all monsters are bad as she grows closer to Sully in a sort of surrogate parent-child relationship.  It’s something of a tangent, but in presenting this relationship, Disney and Pixar have once more crafted a story that continues Disney’s long running tradition of emphasizing family in its movies.  Getting back to the original statement, what this movie’s writers have done is they have sent a message that it doesn’t matter who one is.  Unless one has proof of stereotypes, then one shouldn’t simply automatically believe said stereotypes.  Rather, one should take the time to find out for one’s own self how much truth they have, and not let them prevent friendships in the mean time.  It’s one more positive to what is already a fun, family friendly movie.    

In relation to the emphasis on family, Monsters, Inc. also presents the message of the importance of a child’s laughter.  Sure it’s an exaggeration.  But that a single child’s laughter could power a whole city really is a wonderful metaphorical illustration.  It illustrates how one child’s smile and laughter can brighten the lives of so many.  Yes it is a bit schmaltzy.  But the world needs something positive for young audiences.  And that’s exactly what this message and movie is.  For that and the rest of the positivity in this new re-issue, it is a movie worth adding to any family’s home library.  It is available now in stores and can be ordered online at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/monsters-inc.html

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Special Forces Offers Nonstop Action For Military Movie Fans

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

EOne’s latest action thriller, Special Forces, is a solid work that will impress any fan of the military movie genre.  It is a gripping story that follows a group of French Special Forces commandos who are sent behind enemy lines to rescue a kidnapped journalist played by Diane Kruger.  On the surface, one might glance at this story and think that it’s just another run of the mill military action flick along the lines of perhaps Delta Force, Seal Team Six, The Expendables, and Zero Dark Thirty.  But a much closer look shows that it’s more than that.  Yes it’s a story about good versus bad.  But it’s more than that.  It’s also a story of man versus himself and man versus nature.  The entire thing is set against the backdrop of the Afghan/Pakistani border.  At the same time that the commandos have to fight a group of relentless Taliban fighters along the way, they also must battle the elements and their own wills in order to survive.  The script’s writing will keep viewers engaged as will its cinematography and its backdrop.  By the story’s end it is that writing, cinematography, and backdrop that will make this movie one more in the military genre that is worth at least one watch.

Special Forces wastes no time moving the story forward.  Right off the bat, audiences are presented with the central plot.  That plot is that young reporter Elsa Casanova (Diane Kruger) has been kidnapped by a ruthless Taliban fighter who threatens to kill her because of something that she wrote about him in a newspaper.  Considering the recent headlines concerning a young girl who was gunned down by Taliban fighters and by some miracle survived the shooting, this simple plot is actually quite believable.  That believability will instantly pull viewers in and allow them to suspend their disbelief.  That’s all the script writers needed as audiences will be hooked by the nonstop action throughout the rest of the story.

The writing keeps the movie’s action moving at a rapid fire pace early on.  The cinematography does much the same.  That’s especially the case during the shootout scenes between the commandos and the Taliban fighters.  There are those who might complain that it moves too fast.  But the point in the quick pacing of the shots is to emphasize the adrenaline levels of the commandos.  One can only imagine if that’s what military forces currently fighting the Taliban and Muslim insurgents actually feel when they are actually in the process of firefights.  The firefight scenes make for some of the best throughout the movie’s near two-hour run time.    Just as impressive is the work of the camera crews in capturing the landscape which the commandos must navigate in their journey to get Elsa back to Afghanistan.  Not to give away too much but it is that same cinematography that helps heighten the drama of the man versus nature element of this action/drama.  Audiences see just how much adversity the soldiers have to overcome throughout their journey.  Whether it be against the Taliban forces that are constantly on their heels, or against the vast Middle Eastern mountains and plains, Elsa and her protectors are never really safe.  The camera crews and director Stephane Rybojad are to be commended for their interpretation of the script in this aspect.

As one can hopefully tell by now, Special Forces is not just another military action thriller.  There is more to it than one would realize from simply watching it.  But hopefully in understanding everything noted here, viewers who give the movie at least one watch will have more understanding and appreciation for it.  It is available now on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and can be ordered online direct via Amazon.com at http://amzn.com/B00AFQSYMU.  The Phil’s Picks Facebook page is also holding a drawing for copies of the movie.  Fans can get into the drawing for the movie at the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/philspicks.  A trailer for the movie is also available now.  It can be viewed at http://youtu.be/tIe7Vvt0jDA

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Scholastic’s Latest A Delectable Dish Of A DVD

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/Weston Woods

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/Weston Woods

Scholastic’s latest collection from its Storybook Treasures series is another hit for audiences of all ages.  This single disc compilation offers four more stories that not only entertain but also teach very important life lessons.  It’s all anchored by the famed children’s story, The Red HenThe Red Hen makes this compilation well worth the compilation’s price.  Though, it isn’t all that makes it so enjoyable.  Veteran actress Lily Tomlin (The Magic School Bus, Prairie Home Companion, Malibu Country) adds her touch to the short story, Bread Comes to Life.  And while it isn’t animated, this short story offers a nice little lesson how bread is made that easily understandable for younger audiences and just as entertaining.  Along with the entertainment factor of Bread Comes to Life, the other features on this disc offer their own entertainment from both their genuine animation and their lessons.  And as with Scholastic’s previous releases, this one also offers the option to toggle the read-along feature, depending on the age of one’s child/children.  It’s one more continued tradition that parents will enjoy whether they are first time audiences or more experienced.  And of course, let us also now forget the bonus recipe for Simply Splendid Cake that kids and parents can make together.  That recipe, along with the four features included here all come together for a compilation that will leave a great “taste” in any viewer’s mouth (ba-dump-bump-bump). Thank you, thank you.  I’ll be here all week!

The Red Hen…and More Cooking Stories is anchored by its title story.  The Red Hen is a story that both children and parents will enjoy because of its ability to connect to viewers.  The Red Hen wants to make a cake.  But no one will help her.  So she is left to do all the work of making a cake all alone.  When the work is all done and the cake is decorated, the cat, the rat, and the frog all offer to help her eat it, but get none.  There’s a very valuable lesson to be taught here.  It’s a lesson of cooperation and responsibility.  The cat, the rat, and the frog learned the hard way that no work means no reward.  This applies not just in the kitchen but in everyday life.  One reaps the rewards of the work that one does whether with a team or by one’s own self.  Considering this factor, “The Red Hen” instantly becomes that much more of a fit to start off this new set of shorts. 

The lesson on cooperation and teamwork makes for a wonderful start to this most recent set.  It’s not the only lesson taught.  “How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food” also teaches another important lesson for children.  It teaches a lesson about manners.  What young child doesn’t love dinosaurs?  By using that connection, it teaches children that while they may be wild creatures, even dinosaurs have manners.  So if dinosaurs can have manners, so can children.  They should use the dinosaurs as an example of what behavior is right and wrong.  And that it features actual animation instead of CG based visuals makes it that much more enjoyable, especially in an age when so much children’s programming is CG-based.

“The Red Hen” and “How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food” are both enjoyable additions to Scholastic’s latest Storybook Treasures compilation.  The other pair of shorts is entertaining for its own purposes, too.  And just as they make for their own entertainment, so will the bonus feature, teaching kids and adults how to make The Red Hen’s Simply Splendid Cake.  The Red Hen takes viewers through the process of making the cake in this bonus feature. She even makes certain to point out to younger viewers that they should not try to make the recipe on their own.  They should have adult supervision in making it whether for cupcakes or for an entire cake.  So not only does the Red Hen teach about cooperation and teamwork, she also teaches young viewers about safety in the kitchen.  It makes for one more positive to this already enjoyable set for the whole family.

The Red Hen…and More Cooking Stories is available now.  It can be ordered online at the New Kideo online store at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-red-hen-and-more-cooking-stories/

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ESPN Releases 2013 MLS Broadcast Schedule, Details

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Major League Soccer and ESPN are set to “kick” off their 18th season together.  The league’s 18th season on the ESPN family of networks is set to begin Sunday, March 3rd.  The new season’s premiere matchup pits the Portland Timbers against the New York Red Bulls from JELD-WEN Field in Portland, Oregon.  It will air live on ESPN2, ESPN 3D, and ESPN Deportes at 7:30pm EST.  The inter-conference competition will be the first of 20 regular season matches to be broadcast.  18 of those matches will be Sunday games, making it MLS’ most consistent broadcasting schedule on ESPN.  All 19 regular season matches will be broadcast in HD.  Twelve of those matches will air on ESPN2.  Seven will run on ESPN.  One extra match that is currently TBD will also run on ESPN2. 

 All matches broadcast on the ESPN family of networks will also be simulcast live on ESPN Deportes Radio.  Eight of the season’s matches will be broadcast on ESPN 3D, the world’s very first 24/7 all-sports 3D network.  Seven of those eight will be broadcast live.  It marks the first time that MLS soccer matches will be shown in 3D.  All regular season matches will also be available to fans online courtesy of WatchESPN.

Adrian Healey will offer play-by-play commentary.  Healey will be joined by analysts Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas in studio.  Reporter Monica Gonzales will handle English-language commentaries.  Richard Mendez and former New York/New Jersey (New York Red Bulls) striker Giovanni Savarese both return to call the matches in Spanish for ESPN Deportes.  Kenneth Garay, Elmer Polanco, and Diego Cora will be in the booth for ESPN Deportes Radio. 

MLS fans have a lot to look forward to this season.  Along with expanded coverage on television and online, ESPN will broadcast the only regular-season meeting of the New York Red Bulls and Los Angeles Galaxy.  That matchup is scheduled for Sunday, May 19th.  It will broadcast live from the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.  It’s just one of many big matches expected for this season.  To get a full schedule of games, just go online to http://espnfc.com/fixtures/_/league/usa.1/major-league-soccer?cc=5901.

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ESPN NASCAR Coverage Continues With Special Interview

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN’s team of Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree, and Allen Bestwick sat down with Julie Sobieski (ESPN VP – Programming & Acquisitions) and Rich Feinberg (ESPN VP – Motorsports, Production) during Wednesday’s media Day at Daytona International Speedway to discuss ESPN’s past, present and future with NASCAR, as well as other topics.  Included here is a full transcript of the group’s discussion courtesy of ESPN and NASCAR.  Thank you to both companies for allowing this transcript to be posted.  Enjoy!

 

JULIE SOBIESKI: There’s a tremendous buzz and excitement for the start of the season and for ESPN, we’re really thrilled to be a part of it this year, as we were six years ago, getting back into the sport, and as we’ve been for over the last 20 plus years as an integral part of the NASCAR sport.

 

The value to ESPN still starts with the great racing on the track and the drivers themselves, but as a media company, for us it now extends far beyond the telecast of the races themselves, across our multitude of platforms, from news and information to ESPN.com and ESPN Mobile, ESPN W initiative that we have.  The new women’s initiative is now actively following the story with Danica and also with Johanna Long, ESPN Radio and ESPN Magazine.  We’re just thrilled with all the buzz and excitement heading into this weekend and happy to be here.

 

RICH FEINBERG:  As always, it’s a privilege for our production team to be here in Daytona.  It’s a special place for a lot of people, and that includes every one of us.

 

Really it’s been a short 13 week off season for us as it has been for many of you, where Brad K won his first championship in Homestead, as well as Roger Penske winning his first Sprint Cup championship, that was an exciting time for us and our team to broadcast to all race fans and ESPN fans.

 

Over the past 13 weeks, our team has been working hard to make all our plans for the 2013 season.  Delighted that our entire talent group will be returning again this year, the same group that we’ve had last year, and that includes Carl Edwards will be joining us as a booth analyst for several Nationwide races throughout the season.  We’re delighted to have Carl with us.

 

NASCAR and ESPN continues to be an important partnership for our company and our weekly productions of both the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series are by far the largest technical productions our company does on any sport that we cover.  We’re proud to take on that challenge, and we think that our efforts manifest itself on the air quite well.

 

We kick it all off this Saturday at noon with ESPN coverage of the Nationwide race.  As many of you know, last year’s Nationwide race here at Daytona was a great start to our season, and in fact it was the most viewed Nationwide race ever on cable television, delivering over 4.4 million viewers, so we hope that we will continue that energy going into 2013. We’re really looking forward to the season, and thank you all for being here.

 

Q. Allen Bestwick, there’s been a lot of talk during the winter with all the announcements about who’s competing in the Nationwide Series, about what a stacked field it is, what are your thoughts on that?

 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  I know everyone’s attention has been focused on the Gen 6 car and everything that’s been going on in the Sprint Cup Series, but we had a conversation on Tuesday as we got ready to come down here thinking about the Nationwide Series and what are the stories.  And my two partners here, one of them, Andy (Petree), said, you know, really this is shaping up to be the best season ever for the Nationwide Series, and Dale (Jarrett) jumped in and said, and I think this is shaping up to be the best ever Nationwide race at Daytona.

 

Now, think about their history at this race and in this sport, and they’re not prone to overstatement.  So for them to say this could be the best season ever for the Nationwide Series ever, and this could be the best Daytona race ever for the Nationwide Series, in my admittedly somewhat sleepy mode with our morning conference call, I sat up and said, whoa, that’s a big deal, and I look forward to seeing how it all plays out.

 

Q. For Andy, along those lines, the rules differences between the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series.  Can you talk a little bit about how the races are going to be so different?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Yeah, this race here at Daytona I think for the Nationwide Series is going to be a lot different than what we’re going to see on Sunday.  I think it’s going to be a lot like what we saw last year with the Nationwide cars, a lot of pushing, a lot of tandem drafting, the finish was incredible last year, let’s hope it’s not quite that incredible with so many cars getting tore up.  But that’s what you’re going to see in the Nationwide race, you’re going to see a lot of that, and I think you’re going to see a whole different style of drafting on Sunday with the new Gen 6 car, so I think the fans are going to be a lot of variety this weekend, a lot of different style of racing.

 

This is my seventh season now with ESPN, and like Allen said, I think it really does have the potential to be the best Nationwide season we’ve ever seen, and I’m really excited to cover it.  I always get excited for Daytona, and I can’t wait for Saturday.

 

MODERATOR: Both Andy and Dale Jarrett have 20 year anniversaries going on.  This is the 20th anniversary of Dale’s first of three Daytona 500 wins.  He won the ’93 race for Joe Gibbs Racing and Andy was the crew chief of the car that he passed right at the end with Dale Earnhardt, and he’s still sore about that.  And also this is the 20th anniversary of the first Sprint Cup championship that Andy won as a crew chief with Dale Earnhardt.  And one more for Dale Jarrett, this is five years since he drove his last Daytona 500 in ’08, so a lot going on for you, Dale.

 

DALE JARRETT:  Yeah, there is a lot going on, but just glad to be back here and a lot of exciting things happening and going on.  We are excited about the Nationwide Series.  As you look at the lineup, it’s just incredible to think what it could come down to whenever we get back to Florida in November as to the championship battle that we may be seeing.  But it’s all going to start here Saturday, and I do believe that we have potential to see something maybe that we haven’t seen before.  We kind of saw that last year, and I don’t know what you do to top that with the guy running 11th coming out of Turn 4 wins the race, but I think the potential is there to be even more exciting, so really looking forward to that, and it’s been nice, kind of reliving that 20 years ago that it happened with Joe Gibbs Racing, Andy not so much maybe, but it was a very, very special day, and this has been tremendously successful place and proud place for the Jarrett family over the years, and just glad to be back here.

 

 

Q.  For Rich, how many races do you think Carl is going to be doing, and what makes Carl what do you like about him in the booth?

 

RICH FEINBERG:  Right now looks to be about three.  We’re still kind of finalizing the schedule, and it’s one of those things that evolves as the season goes on.  Obviously his priority is competition.  What I like about him is the currency.  He’s currently racing in the series and is a competitor on the track, and the ability to speak to that in real time to our viewers as a driver as well as the charisma that I think he brings to the screen is something that we value in our telecast.

 

Q.  But you don’t know which three yet?

 

RICH FEINBERG:  We’re still working on that.

 

Q.  And for Andy or Dale or anybody, what’s going to make this Nationwide season so good?  What guys are you looking at?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Well, I think the championship battle in particular you’ve got Regan Smith that’s coming over to JR Motorsports.  We saw what he could do in the last racer at Homestead.  I expect him to be a really tough competitor for the championship.  We’ve got Travis Pastrana that’s going to run.  We’ve got so many different storylines.  I just think we’ve got a lot of strength out there.  You’ve got Elliott Sadler now with Gibbs, still hungry to win that championship.  I just think we’re going to see a really great championship battle.

 

DALE JARRETT:  You’ve got Vickers over there at Gibbs.  You’ve got Austin Dillon obviously last year showed he could be a part of that championship battle.  Kyle Larson is coming in and nothing but good things being said about him, really looking forward to watching him move along here and seeing that progress.

 

The last few years the championship battle has been good between Stenhouse and Sadler, but I think we’re going to see a lot more company up front, and that always is more exciting.

 

Q.  Dale, I’m sure you’re aware that all three winners over here crashed somebody on the last lap without penalty.  Does that send a message to Nationwide drivers and Cup drivers and Truck drivers that last lap, white flag, anything goes, if they can do it over there, why can’t we do it?

 

DALE JARRETT:  Well, I don’t know about how NASCAR will view that, and as a driver, I don’t know that you just take something that you see out there and say    I think it’s kind of how you grew up and the situation that you’re in.  Trying to do that on the two and a half mile racetrack here obviously creates a lot more danger than doing it back there on four tenths of a mile track at the speeds that they were running.  I think you have to pick and choose that.

 

But I think NASCAR over the last few years has kind of opened that up.  I’m not going to steal Robin’s line, let the boys have at it or whatever, but I think that they’ve opened it up to where they like that aggression.  That’s what got this sport where it is.  I’m not saying that what took place back there was all okay.  And I think that sometimes there’s ways of doing it without it being so noticeable, but I think that it’s    that that opportunity is out there, but you’re putting yourself in a position.

 

I think that there’s a lot that NASCAR will let go by, but you’re also putting yourself in a position for them to make a call, and sometimes that call will go for you and you have to be willing to accept the penalty if it does come down.

 

Q.  For Rich, how closely are you watching this track drying apparatus be developed, and how big a deal is it for TV to get back to racing quicker?

 

RICH FEINBERG:  I’ve seen the equipment, but I haven’t really been involved or been asked my opinion about it.  From a broadcasting and production point of view, it’s really amazing how long NASCAR fans will stay with a telecast during a rain delay.  Obviously less rain delays and more competition on the track is what fans want to see.

 

But it’s always amazed me, I think back maybe 15, 16 years ago when there were extensive rain delays, our network would go to standby programming, perhaps a race from the week before or the race from the year before, and what we hear from the audiences these days is they don’t want that, they want continuing live coverage.  We get tremendous cooperation from the teams, the drivers, from NASCAR, and the access is unbelievable in this sport.  So it does give us a chance to sort of dive deeper into stories and talk to the drivers more and offer their thoughts.  But at the end of the day, if the track drying process can be expedited and we can get back to competition quicker, we know that’s what the fans want to see.

 

DALE JARRETT:  I think our pit reporters and probably pit studio will be glad that it’s going to happen a little quicker, although they do a terrific job.

 

Q.  Dale and Andy, as former driver, former crew chief, former car owner, what’s the conversation like tomorrow, the gamble versus going all out and try to win the thing?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Well, I’ll speak from a crew chief/car owner’s point of view, I’ve never put a car on the racetrack that I didn’t want to go win, no matter what.  That would be my mindset is to go win that 150 mile race, and everything else takes care of itself.  Now, there is going to be some risk to do that it looks like.  I still want to go win.  There’s good cars in the truck; I’m sure you can win from the back, and starting on the front row is kind of nice.  You don’t lose the prestige of actually qualifying on the front by having to go to a backup car, but it does make your job Sunday a little tougher, but I’ve never put a car out there that I didn’t go try to win.

DALE JARRETT:  The great thing is for Danica and that team for three days they’ve had the wonderful opportunity to talk about being the fastest car here and her the fastest driver.  It’s been a great thing for our sport.  Now comes the issues with that very same thing that got you there and got you all of this attention is how do you handle this.  It would be a real letdown if something were to happen.  But these cars are difficult to drive here, and the drivers that I’ve talked to    but with the limited experience that she has, she needs to be out there practicing today, and she needs to run in the race on Thursday as much as she can, and if something should happen, then they’ll just have to deal with that.  They still know they won the pole and they had the fastest car.  She needs the experience out there in race conditions as much as she possibly can to get herself ready for Sunday, to get the best finish and opportunity to get herself in the best position.

 

As much drafting as she probably, she has a lot of experience in stock cars here and was really showing a lot of potential here, but these cars drive so differently by what these drivers are telling me that there’s a lot more for her to kind of learn now, unlearn some of the things that she did learn there, and get with what it takes to drive this Gen 6 car and be fast.  They’ve just got to throw that aside.  They won the pole, they were the fastest car, they built the fastest car, now they’ve got to get her ready to race on Sunday.

 

Q.  For Andy, as a former car owner, years ago the Nationwide Series financially, the teams were in a lot of trouble, but as you said, you pointed out the number of drivers, the number of farm teams for the Cup teams, the standalone teams, what’s changed, and especially in a time of economic distress for the Cup teams?  Why is this field so full from an economic standpoint?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Well, you’re probably digging into it a little deeper than I have.  I don’t really know.  I don’t have a good answer for that.  But I know the economics are different in the Nationwide Series than they are in the Cup Series.  There might be some sponsors out there, a lot of sponsors that maybe can participate at that level, and it’s a high level in the Nationwide Series where it wouldn’t necessarily be gnat Sprint Cup Series.

 

Maybe that’s some of it.  We’ve got great talent that has kind of found themselves out in the Sprint Cup garage, like Regan Smith.  He’s a great talent.  Now he’s over here in the Nationwide Series.  That’s good for the Nationwide Series.  I don’t really have a good answer for the economics of it.  Maybe it’s a sign of good times to come.

 

Q.  Julie, what’s ESPN’s position on renegotiating the television contracts with NASCAR?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  Well, I said in my opening statement, we have a long history with this sport.  We’re certainly interested in continuing our relationship with NASCAR.  There’s no secret we want to continue that conversation with these guys.  We still have two years left of the deal that we’re in now.  Our negotiating window doesn’t begin until later this year.  So right now we’re excited about the start of the season and we’re putting all of our efforts toward that.

 

Q.  I know there’s three television partners.  Would you want to pick up that middle section of six races?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  I think right now our opportunity is to look at the package that we have now, and that’s the conversation that’s looking in front of us.  Depending on how that conversation goes, there’s certainly lots of different ways to have discussions.  We don’t know what NASCAR’s interests are, but right now we’re looking at that for the first conversation that we have.

 

Q.  And then the second question is about the ratings, particularly the Chase ratings.  I figure that finale probably was disappointing considering it was a good championship race, so the ratings effort was disappointing considering it was a great race and you had a great new champion.  What does ESPN want to see happen coming off the year before when you had the big impressive number and the great Chase?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  I mean, certainly back in 2011, that was a huge number for us, and the stars perfectly aligned for that number to sort of come together.  I think we all want the ratings to be bigger and better on any sport, on any given occasion.  We’re never satisfied, and I don’t think NASCAR ever is, either.  But the ratings are still extremely strong week in and week out, particularly at that time of year with a tremendous amount of competition.  Brad is a great champion, and we think he’s going to continue to serve in that role all year.  We think there’s going to be another great championship battle, but there’s been several great battles now over the last few years.  We’re looking forward to that continuing.  Competition on the track ultimately is what gets people interested and star power and storylines that transcend sport, and we’re looking at one of those right now with Danica leading CNN and The Today Show and others.  I mean, we couldn’t be asking for more now.  We just have to hope for a fantastic race on Sunday, and the season will take care of itself.

 

Q.  Julie, you guys have not started negotiations with NASCAR yet; is that fair?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  Yeah, we’re always in conversations with NASCAR.  We’ve been in conversations with them since the day we started our relationship, but our formal window has not begun.

 

Q.  The scuttlebutt is that you and NBC are kind of the ones being talked about for the remainder of the schedule after the FOX block.  Would it make sense for ESPN maybe to move up a little bit and do like the midseason range versus the late season range because you guys have so much stuff in late season, and do you feel as if the Nationwide Series and the job you’ve done there, does that give you some leverage with NASCAR to say, hey, you can keep that platform there and we’ll take whatever chunk you want to give us for Cup?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  I’m going to let you do the speculating.  Like I said, we’re happy with the relationship that we have with NASCAR.  We want to continue those conversations.  Carving up a package is not necessarily our role.  We’re going to have discussions with NASCAR over the year and as we get closer, Nationwide is a fantastic property.  It’s very strong.  The ratings have been strong since the moment we got it and it continues to get stronger, and everything that our great hosts and analysts here have said about this season continues to make it that much stronger, but so is the Cup Series.  And so we’re going to look at this as one large discussion that extends across all of our platforms, and we’ll have that discussion with NASCAR outside of the press.

 

Q.  Andy, Danica obviously has a lot to learn here over the next week or so, but she’s got a team made up of a lot of guys who have won a lot of races, guys who have won Daytona 500s.  In terms of being one thing she doesn’t have to worry about, how big of a comfort do you think that is?

 

ANDY PETREE:  I think that’s a comfort, that she’s got a great team and team owner, all those good people around her, and I think every driver in the garage is trying to help her.  But she’s got more experience here than any other track that she’s raced at in a stock car.  I think it’s going to serve her well.  Nobody has more experience in this Gen 6 car than she does, and everybody has got to learn how to handle it, and this next practice is going to tell a lot about that.

 

But I think she’s got a big advantage here.  I think this is one of her best tracks to really shine and to have a legitimate shot at winning.  I think to say she’s a favorite, I wouldn’t say that, but she is on the pole, she’s got a chance to win.  And I think she’s got a chance just like anybody, but I think this is probably her best track to do that.

 

Q.  Julie, as far as the Nationwide Series goes, what is the challenge of trying to juggle schedules with a series on four networks throughout the year, and then Andy, can you talk about Tony Gibson and where you think his strengths are and why you think he might be successful with Danica?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  I think to start with the juggling, we’re fortunate enough at ESPN to have multiple platforms to carry our programming.  I don’t look at that as a disadvantage, I look at that as a strong advantage for us to be able to do that.

 

ANDY PETREE:  You’re talking about Tony Gibson, and I’m a big fan of his.  He’s a real seat of the pants type crew chief, a lot like I was.  I think he’s a great people motivator.  I think he’s got a lot of confidence in Danica’s ability.  He’s had a lot of experience with different drivers, and I think he’s got a lot to bring to the table.  He’s very good technically and just has a way of getting a car right, and I think he’ll do a really good job for Danica.

 

Q.  Andy and Dale, is it difficult for you guys as you become further removed from the car and it has continued to evolve?  How do you stay up on what you would assume the car is doing or what guys are having to do to the cars to make them competitive today?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Well, it’s just the relationships that we have in the garage area.  I’ve got a lot of good friends in there, a lot of guys that have been crew chiefs for a long time and actually a lot of the new guys.  And I’ve tried to stay very involved technically in the cars.

 

In my retirement, after I was a team owner and crew chief, I was building these suspension test rigs for all the Cup teams and Nationwide teams, and almost all of them now have it.  So I’ve been in these shops a lot.  I deal with a lot of the engineering staffs, a lot of the crew chiefs.  I talk to them on a technical level when I’m in the garage area.  It’s my passion.  I really enjoy the cars, so I really stay up on it.

 

I mean, just last year I built one of these modified cars because I wanted to build one.  Never driven one.  I built one, tried to go race it a time or two, and then sold it.  That’s the way I do it.  I really like to be hands on, so I do that some.  But I do stay very connected in the garage.

 

DALE JARRETT:  Yeah, my way is just fortunately I’ve made more friends than enemies from the driver standpoint through my career.  So I can go and call these guys, go to their bus, talk to them.  I try not to bother them too much in the garage area because they’re working there.  But they give me a lot of information there.  And even though the race cars have changed certainly now with this new car in particular, I can understand when they’re telling me something about the cars and get that.  As they’ve changed some of these racetracks, they’re very good to sit down with me and tell me about what used to be the feel and what used to happen at these tracks.  So yeah, I’ve been removed now a little over five years from actually being inside these race cars and these tracks, I still drive my school car some just to have an idea of that.  But that doesn’t give me the idea of what they’re going through, but it is those relationships and friendships that I think help me keep kind of current with that so I can undertand what they’re talking about.  So fortunately these drivers are very good at giving me information and those friendships mean a lot to Andy and I both.

 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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN The Magazine’s “Analytics” Issue Hits Newsstands Friday

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

The latest issue of ESPN The Magazine will have a special new feature piece.  The second annual “Analytics” issue examines the rise of “wins above replacement” in Major League Baseball in the article War is the Answer.”  The article, written by Baseball Prospectus writer Sam Miller, gives readers an in-depth look at how next level metrics are changing what we think we know about sports.  This is thanks in large part to last season’s AL MVP debate centered on Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout.  Miller’s article encourages fans to embrace, not fight Wins Above Replacement, arguing that it is MLB’s signature stat.

Miller’s article is one of the key features in the new issue of EPN The Magazine.  As a companion piece of sorts, it will also include a piece on how the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers use advanced metrics to rebuild its franchise.  That’s all in Jordan Brenner’s article, “You Can Call Them Trailblazers.”  Morty Ain’s article, “The Year analytics Took Over The World” brings everything together for this issue.  It adds stats and figures to show their impact on hirings, firings and even in-game decisions last year around the sports world.  That’s all in the new article, due to hit store shelves this Friday, February 22nd.  Stories from the world of NASCAR and the NHL highlighting how analytics affects each are also included in this new issue. That and much more are all available in the new issue of ESPN The Magazine.

An added note for readers:  ESPN The Magazine is sponsoring the Research Paper of the Year Award for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.  The conference was founded in 2006.  Co-Chaired by Daryl Morley and Jessica Gelman, it offers professionals and students a platform to discuss the ever growing role of analytics throughout the world of competitive sports.  Over 100 papers have been submitted for this year’s conference.  And now, readers can read each of the finalists and vote on them via SportsNation.  The fan’s choice will be announced at the next conference, next Friday and Saturday, March 1st and 2nd

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Releases Card For Feb. 22nd Edition Of FNF

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN’s Friday Night Fights is back again tomorrow night, February 22nd with another new edition.  Tomorrow night’s new edition is anchored by a 12-round IBF title fight between Junior Welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson (30 -1 – 1, 15 KOs) and former Junior Welterweight titlist Kendall “Rated R” Holt (28 – 5, 16 KOs).  It will air live from the nation’s capitol at 9pm EST on ESPN2 HD and will also be available online through WatchESPN.com and the WatchESPN app on smart phones and tablets.  For Hispanic fans, it will also air live on ESPN Deportes+, the new digital extension of ESPN Deportes.  It will run tape delayed on ESPN Deportes at 10:30pm EST.  The fight is promoted by Gary Shaw Productions.

Peterson is the hometown favorite for tomorrow night’s fight.  He won the IBF Junior Welterweight title from Amir Khan in the pair’s previous 12-round matchup in a split-decision.  Along with Khan, Peterson also comes into Friday’s fight with wins under his belt against Victor Ortiz, and Timothy Bradley, Jr.  Peterson explained his strategy when asked about the upcoming match.  “The game plan against Holt is to stay busy,” he said.  “He really doesn’t try to fight the whole three minutes of each round.  He kind of picks and chooses when he fights, so we just plan to keep him working and wear him down.”

On the other side of the matchup is Holt.  Holt comes into Friday’s matchup fresh off the heels of a second-round TKO over Tim Coleman.  Holt had a different view of how to handle Friday’s matchup, opting to let the pressure on Peterson to play to his aid.  “Lamont’s a good fighter,” he said.  “One big difference in this fight is that none of the pressure is on me – I’m not fighting at home, it’s not my championship title.  All the pressure’s on him and that pressure builds up in a person’s mind.  He may come out there and try to impress the crowd and if he gets a little overanxious or overzealous, it could be an early night for him.”

Before the main event, the show kicks off with an eight-round co-feature that pits Junior Featherweights Roman Morales (14 – 0, 7 KOs) and Jesus Hernandez (10 – 0 – 3, 2 KOs) against one another.  Morales comes into tomorrow night’s fight on the heels of a fifth-round KO win over Jose Iniguez while Hernandez is looking to redeem himself after his most recent match in which he faced Edwin Solis ended in a drawn 

Friday’s show will be anchored on site by Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas.  The pair will be on hand ringside to call all of the action for ESPN2 HD.  Studio host Todd Grisham will also be on site with all of the latest boxing news and highlights.  ESPN .com boxing writer Dan Rafael will also be on hand to provide analysis for the fights.  Alex Pombo and Delvin Rodriguez will call the match for ESPN Deportes with Leopoldo Gonzalez and Pablo Viruega in studio.  Bernardo Osuna (@osunaespn) will have live interviews and reports for both ESPN2 HD and ESPN Deportes.  The whole show is presented by Corona Extra.

To get all the latest news on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights, fans can go follow the show on Twitter at @ESPNFNF and @ESPNBoxeo or like its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/espn.fnf.  Fans can score the fights themselves at home round-by-round with the Facebook Voting App on the Friday Night Fights Facebook page. 

To keep up with all of the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can get all the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.