PBS Adds New Depth To Shakespeare Identity Discussion In New Documentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

William Shakespeare is one of the greatest writers in literary history if not the single greatest.  His plays have been studied by students and academics of nearly every level and age.  They have been the basis for countless dramas and comedies churned out by Hollywood’s major name studios through the ages.  Throughout it all, there has remained one lingering question underlying all of Shakespeare’s credits.  That question is who really wrote the plays that have been so timeless?  The question of authorship has beguiled authors, critics, academics, and readers in general for many years.  Now thanks to PBS this discussion has been put into a whole new light in the new documentary, Last Will. & Testament.  This documentary is one that will interest anyone that has ever had any interest in the works of Shakespeare because of the new light given to the discussion.  Not only does it discuss who really crafted Shakespeare’s plays, but who the legendary bard might have actually been.  The two arguments are combined with acting equal to that of other recent documentaries from PBS to make for one more impressive work proving the value and importance of PBS.

Last Will. & Testament is one of the most documentaries on William Shakespeare and his plays in many years.  Whether or not Shakespeare was actually the man behind great plays such as Much Ado About Nothing, The Twelfth Night, and Julius Caesar, has been discussed among academic circles of every level for ages.  Now PBS puts the discussion into a whole new light in this documentary.  It does so through interviews with a handful of academics that specialize in the life and history of Shakespeare and his works.  The most common argument that these individuals tackle is that someone other than Shakespeare wrote his plays.  Not many names are thrown out.  Though, it is argued indirectly that Shakespeare might have taken his plays as inspiration from another playwright.  That writer’s name was Benjamin Johnson.  It focuses on the relationship between the two, pointing out the similarities between the pair’s works.  Even more interesting is that it is all explained in a manner simple enough for any reader of any age, making it fitting for any English course from high school through college and beyond.

The discussion on who really wrote Shakespeare’s works is just the tip of the iceberg in Last Will. & Testament.  From this early discussion, director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Stargate, The Patriot) takes viewers even deeper into the discussion, raising the topic that maybe, just maybe Shakespeare himself didn’t really exist, but that “he” was just a pen name for someone else.  It goes into this discussion by explaining how a play such as Hamlet was in fact a political satire of the time.  The argument is made that through such a play, a figure such as Edward Devere, the 17th Earl of Oxford was in fact Shakespeare.  The argument goes on to say that Devere used the Shakespeare name so that no one in England’s hierarchy would know it was him making fun of them.  It is an argument that would make sense.  Had political leaders realized that a play such as this was a satire, rather than a tragedy, the bard’s acting company would have been shut down. The discussion goes into even more depth from here, even arguing that the queen herself could have been behind the plays.  Anyone that is a true fan of Shakespeare’s works will find something to appreciate in these arguments.  They’re not all that audiences will appreciate, either.  Audiences will also appreciate the acting incorporated into the documentary.

Last Will. & Testament raises some interesting points throughout the course of its near two-hour runtime.  Any true aficionado of Shakespeare’s works will find plenty to discuss as long as they keep an open mind.  They are the center of this documentary.  But one would be remiss to ignore the acting segments tied in to the documentary.  This isn’t the first time this year that PBS has presented a documentary that incorporates actual acting.  And hopefully it isn’t the last, either.  The addition of these segments helps to drive home the arguments being made in regards to Shakespeare’s times and how they might have affected the reality of his identity.  These are expertly acted scenes that are right up there with the documentaries once crafted for the likes of History Channel.  It’s the crowning touch on what could potentially be one of the year’s best documentaries.  Teachers and parents can pre-order the DVD direct through PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=23500946&cp=&sr=1&kw=last+will.++testament&origkw=Last+Will.+%26amp%3B+Testament&parentPage=search.  It will be available on October 15th on DVD.

More information on this and other documentaries from PBS is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs.

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Room 237 An Interesting Tribute to Kubrick’s Genius

Courtesy:  MPI Home Video/IFC Films

Courtesy: MPI Home Video/IFC Films

Strange.  Twisted.  Bizarre.  Odd.  Any and every one of these terms are perfectly fitting for the new documentary Room 237.  The documentary, which focuses on director Stanley Kubrick’s vision of author Stephen King’s novel by the same name, has been met with relatively mixed reviews.  Most of those reviews have been anything but positive.  It’s easy to see just why the reactions to Room 237 would be so negative.  Those that share their thoughts throughout the near two hour documentary echo the idea that Kubrick’s idea not just with The Shining but with the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey was to make audiences think.  And just as those movies make audiences think, so does this latest release from IFC Films Midnight.  Yes, the ideas presented here are about as out there as those presented on History Channel’s Ancient Aliens, but in the bigger picture of things, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, as out there as they might be, they really help to illustrate Kubrick’s brilliance.

Those that are familiar with Stephen King’s books (and the movies based on his books) know just how much distaste King had for Kubrick’s take on his book.  But in Kubrick’s defense, his adaptation of King’s book stood quite well on its own two feet even as its own work.  It stood so well that some three decades plus after its debut, conspiracy theories continue to abound over its imagery.  That is where Room 237 comes into play.  Fair warning to those that take the time to sit down and watch this documentary, the conspiracy theories that are bandied about throughout this program are pretty out there to say the least.  There are theories about the imagery in The Shining hiding secret holding meaning about the genocide of different groups.  There are crackpot theories centered on mythology, numerology and somehow even the supposed faking of the moon landing.  Yes, somehow, someone even found time to link The Shining to the conspiracy theory about whether or not the moon landing even happened.  These people obviously had far too much time on their hands.  But that’s beside the point.  In defense of the faceless conspiracy theorists, they do manage to defend their arguments, as wild as they may be.  That much can be said of them even if their theories are completely out there.

The theories thrown around throughout the course of Room 237 are definitely as out there as conspiracy theories can be.  This is the case even for theories brought about from a movie.  But the very fact that so many theories have been dreamed up makes an even bolder statement that audiences should consider.  It makes the statement that Stanley Kubrick really was the genius that everyone said he was behind the camera.  Even though he is no longer with us, it shows why he is still the respected individual today that he was today.  Not many directors have an eye like he did for details.  For that matter, few directors could generate so much discussion to this day.  Did Kubrick really intend for people to find everything that they have found?  Did he really have some hidden agenda in moving a chair or a sticker of one of the seven dwarves?  And really, did he intend to send a message about Jack being sexually confused?  What?  It’s all in Room 237.  Regardless of what one believes, the fact that Kubrick could lead so many people to come up with such wild ideas makes this a documentary entirely worth watching at least once.  It is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from MPI Home Video and IFC Films.  It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Room-237-Blu-ray-Bill-Blakemore/dp/B00D6I7CSQ/ref=sr_1_3?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1380408584&sr=1-3&keywords=room+237.

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Metallica Proves It Still Has Plenty Of “Fuel” On New Concert Soundtrack

Courtesy:  Blackened Recordings

Courtesy: Blackened Recordings

The soundtrack to veteran rock band Metallica’s new live movie/concert Through The Never is another solid live recording from the Bay area rock band. Having come only months after the release of Quebec Magnetic, it might leave some wondering if it’s worth the money. The answer is yes. This compilation of Metallica’s songs is one that fans of the band’s older material will appreciate. That’s because by and large, the songs culled for this soundtrack come more from the band’s earlier records than its more recent releases. The production values on the soundtrack are relatively solid, too. Though hearing all of the explosions throughout the performance, and the massive mechanical breakdown at the show’s end (not to spoil too much), one would definitely be inclined to find a way to experience the movie firsthand when it makes its grand debut after hearing its soundtrack. It’s all enough to make Through The Never a potential contender for a spot on the list of the year’s best new live recordings.

 

The very first thing that audiences will notice about the soundtrack to Metallica’s Through The Never is that the band reached way back in its catalogue to set up this performance. Front man James Hetfield and company take audiences all the way back to the band’s 1983 debut record, Kill ‘Em All for its show. Audiences will love the inclusion of hits such as ‘Hit The Lights’, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, Battery, and so many other classic fan favorites. That’s not to say that the band omitted its more modern hits. ‘Enter Sandman’ and ‘Nothing Else Matters’ are both there, too off of the famed “Black Album.” The band even went out on a limb and included from its 1997 album Reload, ‘Fuel’ and ‘The Memory Remains.’ Noticeably absent from the concert were any numbers from St. Anger and Load. Who made the final call on this is anyone’s guess. However, it might have been for the better, considering the mixed reaction that both of those albums received from fans and critics alike.  Making a set list from a catalogue as vast as that of Metallica, it can’t be easy which songs to choose though.  This is especially true considering that the band wanted to make more than just another run-of-the-mill concert documentary.  Keeping this in mind, it makes the set list chosen for the show even more impressive.

 

The set list chosen for Through The Never is sure to impress most of Metallica’s fans base, even being based heavily in its formative years.  Those were the band’s best years.  The set list having been taken into consideration, there’s still another factor to take into account in this live recording.  That factor is the actual performance of the band members.  Suffice it to say that roughly three decades after this legendary act released its debut record, Kill ‘Em All and toured behind it, not one of the band’s original trio of members has lost a single bit of steam.  Guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield still commands the stage with the same swagger that he had in the band’s early days.  The way that he asks the crowd in attendance, “Are you having fun yet?!” shows just how much energy and enthusiasm he has for what he does.  His general interactions throughout the show continue to do so, too.  And drummer Lars Ulrich’s hands and feet move just as fast as any of his much younger counterparts.  This is especially evident when the band blows through ‘Battery’ and ‘One.’  It’s incredible to hear his rapid-fire playing, not missing a single beat.  Even in the slightly more reserved, ‘The Memory Remains’, he shows the extent of his control and how much it adds to even that song.   Kirk Hammett shows why he is still one of rock’s most respected guitarists throughout every solo and every song.  Together with Former Black Label Society bassist Robert Trujillo—the band’s third bassist—the band as a whole impresses nonstop throughout all sixteen songs chosen for the performance.  And since the band currently has no tour dates scheduled, this latest live release is one more wonderful way for Metallica’s legions around the world to enjoy their favorite band live once more.  The concert film’s soundtrack is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered director from the official Metallica website at http://www.metallica.com/products/metallica-through-the-never-soundtrack-cd.asp.  Fans can also get more information on this release, future tour dates and more from the band on its official website, http://www.metallica.com and its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/Metallica.

 

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King, Cowherd, Schaap To Fill In For Olbermann Beginning Next Week

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

The “King” of talk is coming to ESPN.  Larry King will fill in for ESPN’s Keith Olbermann on Olbermann next Tuesday – Thursday, October 1st – 3rd. King will fill in while Olbermann takes a temporary leave of absence to host TBS’ Major League Baseball post season studio show.  Olbermann will be gone from his namesake show from next Monday, September 30th to October 2oth.  He will return October 21st.  King will fill in for Olbermann each night at 11pm ET when the show airs.  He is also scheduled to make an appearance on Olbermann this Friday, September 27th.  King, who hosts his own show, Larry King Now, discussed filling in for Olbermann when asked about his temporary assignment.  “I am a great admirer of Keith Olbermann who I think is the quintessential sports host,” said King.  “Sports have always been my avocation – they’re part of my being.  Having the chance to come back to my hometown of New York and host Keith’s show for several days is a terrific joy for me and a return to my first love.”

ESPN Executive VP of Programming and Acquisitions Norby Williamson was just as pleased that King accepted the offer to fill in for Olbermann.  “Olbermann is designed specifically around Keith’s one-of-a-kind personality so having a guest host like Larry, who can deliver a similar level of editorial expertise and intellectual commentary to entertain sports fans, fits the bill perfectly,” said Williamson.  “Larry is so popular and well-known to television viewers but being able to bring them his unique perspective on sports topics is a new twist and we’re excited to have him.”

Once King’s turn is up on Olbermann ESPN’s own Jeremy Schaap and Colin Cowherd will each have a turn hosting the show with Schaap hosting first from October 8th – 10th.  Cowherd will fill in for Olbermann from October 15th – 17th.  Jamie Horovitz, ESPN VP of Original programming and production was optimistic in discussing having two ESPN veterans filling in for Olbermann in his absence.  “Both Jeremy and Colin have distinctive personalities and points of view that will bring a different perspective to the program while Keith is away,” said Horowitz.  “While we’ll certainly miss Keith in the coming weeks, we’re also looking forward to producing some fun and entertaining shows for sports fans with our guest hosts.”

King’s new web only series, Larry King Now, is much like his previous hit CNN show, Larry King Live.  He continues interviewing some of the most important names in the news and world of entertainment in his show, which can be seen on Hulu and Ora TV.

Colin Cowherd can be heard regularly on ESPN and ESPN radio on his show, The Herd with Colin Cowherd.  It runs daily from 10am ET – 1pm ET.  The former host of SportsNation, Cowherd also now hosts Colin’s New Football every Sunday morning at 9am.  Cowherd shares his personal thoughts on football and life in general.

Jeremy Schaap hosts ESPN Radio’s The Sporting Life and serves as correspondent for ESPN’s E:60.  He also contributes to ESPN’s Outside The Lines, NFL Countdown, and College Game Day.  His interviews and commentary are featured each week on ESPN’s flagship show, SportsCenter.

More information on each of these shows and more is available online at http://www.espn.com and http://www.facebook.com/ESPN.  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.

The Dan LeBatard Show Premieres September 30th On ESPN Radio

Courtesy:  ESPN/ESPN Radio

Courtesy: ESPN/ESPN Radio

The countdown is on.  The Dan LeBatard Show premieres next Monday on as part of ESPN Radio’s new Fall lineup.  LeBatard’s show will premiere Monday afternoon at 4pm on ESPN Radio affiliates across the country.  The daily three-hour sports talk program will cover all of the major sports issues of the day.  His current local Miami-based show will continue to be heard each day at 3pm ET.  He will also continue to host ESPN2’s Highly Questionable.  Along with himself and co-host Jon “Stugotz” Weiner, a series of rotating guest hosts will make appearances on the show.  That list of guests hosts includes Bomani Jones and Greg Cote.  They will appear on the show to share with LeBatard and Weiner their own experience in relation to the hot button sports issues.

LeBatard recently sat down to discuss expectations for his new show.  He was upbeat and just as funny as ever in his thoughts, noting, “I am very excited to take our show to a national audience for the two days before the suits come after us.”  Along with being broadcast across the country on ESPN Radio, The Dan LeBatard show will also be available online at ESPNRadio.com and via the ESPN Radio app.  Audiences with Sirius satellite radio can pick up the show at Sirius Channel 84.

ESPN Radio’s newly revamped late afternoon/evening lineup includes not just the new Dan LeBatard show.  It also includes Sedano & Stink at 7pm and The Freddie Coleman Show at 10pm.  Sedano & Stink is hosted by Jorge Sedano and Mark Schlereth.

More information on ESPN Radio’s new late afternoon/evening lineup is available online at http://www.ESPNRadio.com and http://www.facebook.com/ESPNRadio.  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.

New Live BD Completes Sedaka’s U.K. Concert Experience

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

The newly released Blu-ray release of Neil Sedaka’s The Song Goes On: Live at the Royal Albert Hall is an excellent companion piece to its CD companion released in 2012.  The Blu-ray completes the concert experience started with the double-disc CD release in question.  It does so by giving audiences the visual recording that they otherwise had not had until now.  And Sedaka’s fans will most definitely appreciate getting to not just hear but see him perform so many of his hits.  The experience is completed not just through the main performance, but also through the bonus interview included with the new Blu-ray release of this concert.  The interview sees Sedaka sitting down one-on-one with fellow songwriter Paul Gambaccini.  The pair discusses Sedaka’s music, his career, and his influence in their in-depth interview.  It’s both insightful and entertaining as the men make their way through many of the songs featured in the main performance.  The main performance and the bonus interview do so much to make this new release a completion for fans of Neil Sedaka that had been hoping for a video companion to the already released CD recording of his performance from the U.K.  One can’t look at this new release (or any live release) without examining said performance’s audio and video mix.  Those charged with manning the boards both for the concert and for the final product put the finishing touch here on what is one more expert live recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment and Eagle Vision.

The Blu-ray companion to the audio release of Sedaka’s live performance from the Royal Albert Hall completes the concert experience started last year.  That’s because it is a video recording, and not just an audio recording.  Instead of just hearing the performance, audiences get the full effect of the concert with this presentation.  It allows viewers that were not there to make a full emotional connection both with Sedaka and with those that were in attendance for the taping.  One prime example of that ability to connect lies in Sedaka’s performance of ‘I Go Ape.’  The excitement and energy on Sedaka’s face as he channels Jerry Lee Lewis can be felt even just watching at home.  By direct contrast, the emotional depth of ‘The Hungry Years’ is sure to move even the strongest person to tears.  That’s thanks again to being able to not just hear the motion in Sedaka’s voice, but also to see it in his face.  One can tell that he really felt the music and the lyrics as he sang.  These are just a pair of examples of how the show’s recording makes this concert experience complete.  There are plenty more songs from which fans will be able to choose.  They’ll be able to do so when they pick up this new Blu-ray themselves.

The main performance included in Neil Sedaka’s new live Blu-ray is the main component of what makes the entire concert experience complete.  There is more to consider in what makes it complete, though.  Audiences will also appreciate the bonus interview between Sedaka and his songwriter friend Paul Gambaccini.  The in-depth interview sees the pair discussing Sedaka’s own career, his music, and his influence on today’s pop music culture.  Through the course of the interview, the pair shares some laughs when they bring up Sedaka’s history with Carol King.  There’s also a humorous moment shared in the discussion over the song, ‘Stairway to Heaven.’  Sedaka laughs as Gambaccini asks him wouldn’t he love to have Led Zeppelin’s royalty checks for the song, even though they are two entirely different songs.  That in itself raises another interesting discussion topic in the inability of songwriters to copyright song titles.  Apparently, songs themselves can have a copyright, but not a song title.  There is also a discussion on whether Neil would have the hungry years or the successful years.  This is one of the more insightful moments shared by Sedaka in his interview, and will definitely have audiences thinking.  Again, these moments and the interview as a whole collectively make the interview between the old friends make for one more way this Blu-ray makes Sedaka’s live performance from the Royal Albert Hall complete.

Sedaka’s live performance at the U.K.’s Royal Albert Hall is a complete experience now thanks to the main performance and the bonus interview between Sedaka and friend Paul Gambaccini.  There is still one more factor that fans and audiences should consider in the concert experience presented here.  That factor is the show’s audio and video mix.  Those charged with balancing both the audio and video are to be commended for the job that they did with the recording.  This applies both to the original live recording and the final post-produced product.  The audio and video presented here are just as impressive as any recording released by Eagle Rock Entertainment and Eagle Vision.  Those with a surround sound home theater system will appreciate the mix just as much as those without one.  From the high notes to the low notes and everything in between, every song is crystal clear both in terms of its video and audio.  Along with the main performance and the bonus interview it brings everything full circle and makes this one more top notch live recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment and Eagle Vision.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock and Eagle Vision is available online at http://www.eagle-rock.com and http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt.  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.

Lishy Lou and Lucky Too Another Contender For One Of 2013’s Best Children’s Albums

Courtesy:  Sugar Mountain PR

Courtesy: Sugar Mountain PR

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band return next Tuesday with the group’s third full length studio release.  Lishy Lou and Lucky Too! The L.A. based five-piece’s new album comes only months after the release of its first ever EP, fantastico!  It is yet another fun and original release from Lucky and company.  Even more, it serves as more proof of what makes children’s albums just as viable as “grown-up” albums if not more so.  That is primarily because much like so many other children’s acts, the band has managed to come up with a new sound on each of its albums so far.  Even its sole EP bears a style and sound different from its previous pair of full length releases.  It has continued that tradition with this album, too opting for something unlike any other children’s or grown-up act.

Lishy Lou and Lucky Too! Is nothing like fantastico! or its previous full length releases.  This time, the band takes listeners of all ages way back in time.  It goes back to the golden days of broadcasting when radio was the only means of broadcast entertainment for audiences.  It does this with its own family friendly “radio comedy.”  For those that perhaps might not know, the days of radio broadcasting “saw” some of the greatest ever programming make its debut.  And the “show” put on by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band is just as entertaining as any original family friendly radio show put on during that great era.  It might be a bit of a stretch, but the closest comparison that can be made in this era is perhaps to that of PRI’s (Public Radio International) “A Prairie Home Companion.”   Those that are familiar with that landmark radio show are welcome to debate that comparison.  That’s just the view of this critic.  Perhaps for those that are not so familiar with the work of Garrison Keillor and company, maybe this review will be the catalyst to get said individuals interested not just in this new album, but also in “A Prairie Home Companion” and other public radio programs.

The overall presentation of Lishy Lou and Lucky Too! is wonderful fun for the entire family.  The jokes are groaners, obviously.  That’s not a bad thing.  Any grownup that allows themselves to do so will find them such groaners that they’ll laugh at them, much like those told by Svengoolie’s rubber chicken friend, Kerwyn (BERWYN!).  Any Me-TV fans will get that reference.  The jokes aren’t all that audiences will appreciate in this new record.  The introduction of new characters Pockets, Time Travelling Tina, Milt, Alistair, and Chantal is a great touch to the record.  New friend Pockets is a wonderful throwback to the late great Harpo Marx.  He only talks through sound.  And his skits are among the funniest on the entire album.  Parents and children alike will love how he gets tricked into introducing a song all about him after having just gotten into a little argument with Alistair.  It would be a surprise if this moment doesn’t leave listeners of all ages laughing to some extent.

Lucky and company offer listeners of all ages so much enjoyment throughout the course of the band’s new album.  It pays homage to old time radio with its overall presentation.  This is wholly original and more than deserving of praise.  It’s nice to see someone trying to develop a starting point to get today’s audiences interested in broadcasting’s golden era.  This critic challenges anyone to find another act—children’s or otherwise—that has done what Lucky Diaz and company have done here.  Of course for the homage paid to classic radio on this record, the band also pays tribute to the golden days of film, too.  It does this through the inclusion of its own acoustic take on Meredith Wilson’s ‘Till There Was You.’  The gentle acoustic guitar set against the song’s vocals and the harmonica part will bring back fond memories of the Morton DaCosta directed 1962 classic, The Music Man.  It is played with the same gentility as when it was sung between Marian (Shirley Jones) and Professor Hill (Robert Preston) as they stood on that bridge under the moonlight.  For all of the funny moments offered to audiences throughout this record, this one moment stands out like a shining beacon unlike anything else included in its sequencing.  And it makes the rest of the record that much better.  For that matter, it makes one wonder what a full album of jazz covers would sound like form Lucky and company.  Yes, that’s a hint to Lucky and company should they read this critic’s review.

Lishy Loud and Lucky Too! has so much heart and so much substance to listeners, as one should be able to tell at this point.  Whether one is familiar with the band or not, this is still a solid record from beginning to end.  Its skits are wholly entertaining.  Its cover of a jazz classic adds even more heart to the album.  And with any luck, because of the overall presentation, it could even serve as a starting point to get listeners of any age interested in classic radio and the history of radio entertainment in general.  So much more could likely be noted of this album.  But that would entail aimless rambling for days.  Keeping that in mind, the album will be available next Tuesday, October 1st.  It can be ordered direct from the band’s website at http://luckydiazmusic.com/merchandise/lishy-lou-and-lucky-too-by-lucky-diaz-and-the-family-jam-band.  More information on this and all of the band’s albums is available online at http://luckydiazmusic.com, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucky-Diaz-and-the-Family-Jam-Band/182600891967, and http://twitter.com/Lucky_Diaz.

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.

Halloween 35th Anniversary BD One Of 2013’s Best Re-Issues

Courtesy:  Trancas Films/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Trancas Films/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Thirty-five years.  That is how much time will have passed since John Carpenter’s modern horror flick Halloween originally premiered as of this October.  In the three decades plus that have passed since this modern horror classic made its debut, it has not lost any of its luster.  Rather, it has garnered who new generations of fans the world over.  It has seen multiple sequels and re-issues over those years.  It’s even been re-made with honor by horror aficionado Rob Zombie.  And now in celebration of its upcoming thirty-fifth anniversary, Anchor Bay Entertainment is rewarding the loyalty of the movie’s fans with a brand new thirty-fifth anniversary Blu-ray re-issue.  The upcoming Blu-ray re-issue will be available in stores and online this Tuesday, September 24th.  There are those that might have their say about this latest re-issue of Halloween, complaining about this or that about it.  What those complainers might not realize is that over the decades, the movie has garnered so many new fans, thus making re-issues necessary.  No one re-issue is going to be perfect.  Audiences on both sides of the fence need to keep this in mind before complaining.  That is in itself a massive statement about this movie.  And directly tied in to that is this generation and previous generations getting to potentially learn new facts about the movie possibly never before known thanks to the movie’s bonus features.  More than anything else, this latest re-issue is a welcome addition to any horror fan’s home library because by comparison, so many of today’s horror flicks are dry, shallow shadows of this classic.  They pale in comparison.  Having this one still available to the masses is a huge boon not only to movie lovers and horror lovers, but to the movie industry itself.  It serves to all as a reminder of horror done right.  All this kept in mind, this brand new thirty-fifth anniversary Blu-ray re-issue of Halloween is one not just for one generation but for a whole new generation.

The thirty-fifth anniversary Blu-ray re-issue of Halloween is a re-issue for not just one generation but for the generations that have all grown up with this slasher horror flick.  There are so many people out there that seem to make it their duty to do nothing but complain about it.  Those people are obviously not true fans of the movie.  Only so much bonus material can be crammed into a movie with each re-issue before it’s been seen before.  That needs to be understood right here, right now.  Anyone that already owns the movie in its previous releases will likely see many of the same bonus features in this re-issue as those re-issues.  But there are those that have never before had the chance to add this movie to their home library.  So keeping that in mind, for those people this re-issue is a brand new experience save for the movie.  Even with the movie alone, it could be like taking a trip back in time to a better time in some audiences’ eyes.

Watching the movie itself on a brand new re-issue for some may not seem like much.  For others, it’s a wonderful trip back in time, as some of the fans point out in this re-issue’s bonus documentary, “The Night She Came Home.”  Those fans really show just what the movie means to them years later.  They even talk about it with their own children right there.  These testimonials are just part of what makes this a welcome addition to this re-issue’s bonus features list.  Audiences discover through this bonus feature that star Jamie Lee Curtis is in fact not a horror movie fan.  She openly admits this early on in the documentary.  That’s a huge surprise to this critic at least.  There’s even more historical perspective added to the movie thanks to the book style case in which the Blu-ray is packaged.  The “book” style packaging includes copious notes written by Stef Hutchinson.  The notes in question take viewers even deeper into the movie’s history alongside the vintage set photos.

It should be clear by now just what makes the new thirty-fifth anniversary Blu-ray re-issue of John Carpenter’s Halloween such an important re-issue.  This is especially the case being that not only is the thirty-fifth anniversary of this landmark horror movie right around the corner, but because Halloween itself is right around the corner.  So many movies since Halloween have tried, but failed to live up to the legend that surrounds this classic.  Those movies pale in comparison.  And now with its in depth bonus features, a whole new generation will discover just how important and timeless this classic horror movie is and always will be.   It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Anchor Bay website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?ProjectId=972a6546-4a98-459c-81a2-9c0800e596f5#.  More information on this and other titles from Anchor Bay is available at the Anchor Bay website, http://www.anchorbayent.com and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBayEnt.  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.

Unfinsihed Song A Complete Joy

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Everybody knows the story of The little Engine That Could.  Well now, people are going to start learning the story of the little movie studio that could.  That’s thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment’s latest home release, Unfinished Song.  This latest release is one more from Anchor Bay that has found its way onto this critic’s list of the year’s best independent movies.  The other is the recently released rom-com, Shanghai CallingUnfinished Song is nothing like Shanghai Calling.  It is also entirely unlike 20th Century Fox’s geriatric drama, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  Despite attempts by some to make a comparison, there is no comparison as the two are wholly separate stories.  Unfinished Song is its own story.  And it is a story that will both entertain and move audiences just as much as the aforementioned works.

Unfinished Song boasts so much heart throughout its roughly ninety-minute plus runtime.  It is centrally a story about family.  On a deeper level, one could argue that it is also a story about appreciating life.  Throughout both story elements, writer/director Paul Andrew Williams throws in more than enough laughs to keep audiences of any age laughing, too.  His ability to balance both the story’s dramatic and comedic elements is to be highly commended, especially considering the story’s length.  Also to be considered in the success of Unfinished Song is the story’s casting.  Terrence Stamp (Superman II, Get Smart, The Adjustment Bureau) was the perfect choice to fill the role of grumpy old Arthur Harris.  And Vanessa Redgrave (Howard’s End, Mission: Impossible, Cars 2), was just as solid a choice to play Arthur’s wife Marion.  The two play off of each other so well.  Their interpretation of Williams’ scripts draws viewers in even deeper, and thus makes suspension of disbelief that much easier.  The resultant effect of both of that acting prowess and the general writing make this movie one more surprise hit from Anchor Bay, and one of the year’s surprise hits.

The writing behind Unfinished Song is, as already noted, one of the keys to the movie’s success.  Despite attempts by some to compare this movie to the likes of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the two stories are total opposites.  The latter is centered more on the elderly acquaintances’ personal journeys of self realization.  Unfinished Song is its own story in that it is more centered on family.  Audiences are introduced in this story to Arthur Harris, a very Scrooge-like character that doesn’t want to have a good time or smile.  He’s just a crotchety old man.  But underneath that rough exterior, Arthur is very much the sympathetic character, as audiences will learn as the story progresses.  The change that he eventually undergoes as the result of a tragic event completely envelops audiences and makes them cheer even more for him; perhaps even more than his fellow choir members.  By the story’s end, Arthur’s transformation is complete so to speak.  And audiences will realize just how deeply they have been pulled into the story thanks to Williams’ writing and by Stamp’s acting.

The acting on the part of the veteran Stamp was perfect from start to finish.  Though, his wasn’t the only acting that audiences will appreciate.  The passion in Redgraves’ voice when Marion sang ‘True Colors’ to Arthur will bring even the strongest person to tears.  And his reaction to what happens after the fact is even more powerful.  Of course there are some funnier moments that come from the supporting cast.  Audiences will find themselves laughing uproariously as the members of the elderly choir perform Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ and Salt ‘N Pepa’s ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ to an audience made up of people of various ages.  There is just something hilarious about a group of older people trying to rock out to Motorhead.  And one would think that older people would be more conservative when approached with the idea of singing Salt ‘N Pepa seductive song.  Yet, they were entirely open and enthusiastic about it.  Their reactions are more than worth the laughs that are generated.  And countered by Arthur’s view of the song, it makes this moment even funnier.  Paul Andrew Williams has given audiences quite the story, as is evidenced here.  He has written a story that boasts a perfect balance of comedy and heart.  It is a story with equally excellent acting.  Whether for the acting, the writing, or both factors, both work hand-in-hand to make Unfinished Song a story that will leave viewers feeling entirely complete.  It will be available this Tuesday, September 24th on DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered direct online from the Anchor Bay Home Entertainment website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?ProjectId=3967a252-b0ce-e211-838a-d4ae527c3b65.  More information on this release is also available here and through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBayEnt.

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.

PBS’ Superhero Docu-Series Will Impress Any Fan Boy Or Girl

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS is the last true bastion of worthwhile programming on television today.  That includes both cable and non-cable networks.  The once powerhouse networks that are History, Discovery, and TLC have been almost completely polluted by reality television in recent years.  This has left them nonfactors to anyone looking for programming with any substance.  And while it may not be the first network to present a special on the comic book industry, PBS has still proven with its new special, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, why it remains the last true bastion of quality programming.  The special takes a look at the formative years of the comic book industry, and how some of the most beloved characters in the comic book industry went from the pages of newspapers to being their very own entity.  It examines the impact of comic books on the war effort during World War II and vice versa, and the effect of television on the future of comic book characters, among so many other topics.  Perhaps the only downside to the entire presentation would be the DVD’s box art.  It’s pretty obvious that this is only the first of an ongoing series of specials on the comic industry.  Keeping that in mind, it is a good start for anyone that has ever had any interest in the history of the comic book industry but didn’t know where to begin.

Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle is a good starting point for anyone that has ever had any interest in the comic book industry, but did not know where to begin with their research.  The first of what looks to be three hour long installments, it covers the comic book industry’s first twenty years, beginning with the advent of comic strips in newspapers.  Audiences will be interested to discover that Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster didn’t gain immediate success with their Superman comic strip.  Rather, it took five years before the pair’s strip was finally picked up by any newspaper.  Because this first installment is painted with a broad brush, the controversy that would follow is largely omitted.  There is a passing reference to it.  But it is at least made.  Perhaps that will be included in the second installment.  The advent of Batman and Wonder Woman were just as interesting subjects about which to learn.  Even the most well-rounded comic enthusiasts probably never gave much thought to how different Batman and Superman were both in terms of their characters and their how they rose to fame.  And the controversy surrounding Wonder Woman (and the role of women in comic books) is just as intriguing.  The discussion is raised on the presentation of Wonder Woman as a symbol of a strong woman in a very male dominated society versus that of a standard damsel in distress because she was always being caught and handcuffed, tied up, etc.  The term “fetishy” is even thrown out in the discussion on her negative presentation to readers.  It definitely makes for quite the discussion point for anyone regardless of whether one is a comic book fan or not.

The creation and controversy surrounding Wonder Woman is just one of the points in which audiences will take an interest during the first portion of this documentary.  Also discussed is how the outbreak of WWII led to the creation of one Captain America, and even got Superman almost involved in the war.  Those that might be novices in the world and history of comic books will take interest by connection just how popular comic books were among America’s armed forces during the days of the war.  And that is likely thanks to the fact that both Marvel and DC offered Americans of every calling someone for whom they could cheer in the war against the Nazis.  By direct contrast, it is even more interesting to note how the popularity of comic books actually declined after the war, and how the industry even came under fire thanks to the rise of the “Red Scare” brought on by Joseph McCarthy.  That is one that even the most devout comic book enthusiasts might not know.  Of course, it was the “Red Scare” that eventually led to the “comics code” that many readers know of today.  The first of this three-part series ends up discussing not just the censorship that followed McCarthyism, but the rise of television as a new outlet to regain audiences that had been lost by that movement.  It will be interesting to see where PBS takes viewers in the second and third installments of its comic book based documentary.  The entire series will be released on DVD October 15th.  It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=23148246&cp=&sr=1&kw=superheroes&origkw=Superheroes&parentPage=search.  More information on this and other PBS programs is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs.  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.