ESTK’s Latest LP Could Be The Band’s Breakout Record

Courtesy:  Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Arizona based metalcore band Eyes Set to Kill released its latest full length album back in September.  Masks is not the band’s first album.  But it is the first for the band on its new home, Century Media Records.  And it is more proof of why Century Media has gradually become the rightful leading label in the rock community.  The band’s new album is so impressive because it actually stands out among the far too overcrowded metalcore field.  One listen through Masks reveals Eyes Set To Kill to present a sound that fuses elements of Lacuna Coil, Kittie, and even Evanescence to a lesser degree in terms of its sound.  Lyrically, the songs collected for this album come across as having come from a very personal place.  That mix of personal lyrics and equally powerful music make the band’s latest effort one that every member of the Metal Nation worldwide should hear at least once.

Masks is not the first album from Eyes Set To Kill.  But for those that might be new to this Arizona based band’s music, it is an excellent introduction.  Singer Alexia Rodriguez noted of the title to the band’s new album that it was the result of essentially feeling fake.  She said of dealing with certain people through the band’s history, ”I felt like we were wearing a bunch of masks to impress people. At one point, I had a bit of a revelation. We have gone through so many changes over the years, but it wasn’t about anybody else. It was about us – we’ve really found the band’s face at this point. We aren’t wearing masks anymore.”  She couldn’t be more right.  Her response to those people is made clear on this album’s opener/title track.  The song clocks in at less than two minutes.  In that short time, she throws no punches, singing, “I love the ways they tell us/This is who you should be/We put our faces on/Just like a mask/While they’re trying to make a fool out of me.”  Sadly, this is the case with so many record labels out there even today.  They are controlled by people that are more concerned with the bottom line than actually helping bands and artists develop their talent.  Her response is exactly what so many other bands have felt as far as memory serves.  Making the song even better is the fact that she didn’t just go the classless route and put any one person or label on blast.  She just made a blanket statement that still expressed what she and her band mates felt.  The manner in which the song starts off, eventually building to its peak makes the combination of music and lyrics hit even harder.

As short as it is, the title track from Eyes Set To Kill’s new album is a proper way to open the album.  It’s just one of the songs that listeners will find enjoyable.  Audiences that might be new to the music of Eyes Set To Kill will find that singer Alexis Rodriguez shares vocal duties with fellow band mate Cisko Miranda throughout the band’s new record.  The side-by-side of the two vocalists’ talents is certain to draw comparisons to certain other bands.  Yet the pairing still manages to help make the band’s music stand out at the same time.  One example of how the duo’s vocal pairing stands out comes early on in the album’s third track, ‘Lost and Forgotten.’  Miranda handles the song’s verses while he and Rodriguez share vocal duties in the song’s chorus.  Miranda exhibits quite the power in his vocals as he screams, “We are the scum of the Earth/The voice in the crowd/Of a thousand mouths/The ones who fight on/Because we’ll always fight on/Oh, we’ll never back down.”  That opening verse leaves no room for interpretation.  The song itself is a no nonsense, fist-pumping anthem much along the lines of Slipknot’s ‘Pulse of the Maggots’ or certain songs from Disturbed and other hard rock acts.  That is to say it is similar to those pieces in terms of its defiant lyrics.  It serves to carry on the long-standing tradition of hard rock bands flipping the proverbial bird to those that would look down their noses at the metal minions around the world.  For that fact alone, and for its equally impressive musical side, this song becomes another highlight to ESTK’s new album.

‘Lost and Forgotten’ is easily one of the best of the best from ESTK’s new record.  It should be emphasized here that it’s just one of the album’s highpoints.  There are so many songs from which listeners will find to call their favorite(s).  This critic will provide just one more song as another of that mass of high points offered in this record.  That song is ‘Infected.’  This song lyrically seems to come from a personal place, as with many of the album’s works.  Rodriguez sings on this song, “How does it feel on the outside/Looking inside/Till you feel rejected/I watch you to see what it looks like/On the inside/You’re the one infected.”  She goes on to sing with just as much anger, “Now/Now I feel ambitious/I’m giving away/Giving away your secrets/Just to watch you burn!”  This is a very telling verse.  There were obviously some hurt feelings by someone when these lines were written.  And set against the driving guitars and drums of her band mates, it would be no exaggeration to say that given the proper support, it could easily help to spread Eyes Set To Kill to the mainstream masses.  Those wanting to hear those other songs can do so now.  Masks is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered direct from the Century Media Records store at http://www.cmdistro.com/Item/Eyes_Set_To_Kill_-_Masks_-PRE-ORDER-/46364?Aff=cus.  After ordering or buying the album, fans can find out about the band’s latest tour dates and news online at http://www.facebook.com/eyessettokill.  And 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.

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McCartney Proves Old Dogs Can Learn “New” Tricks On His Latest LP

Courtesy:  Hear Music/mpL/Concord Music Group

Courtesy: Hear Music/mpL/Concord Music Group

Paul McCartney is an old dog.  But on his latest full length release, McCartney proves that he still has plenty of new tricks.  New comes just over a year after the release of his latest release, 2012’s Kisses on the Bottom.  McCartney showed his versatility with that album, branching out into the jazz world.  This time, he returns to the mainstream world with an album that offers listeners something old and something new.  Sorry, nothing borrowed and nothing blue.  Yes, that bad joke was fully intended.  All in all, McCartney has proven once more with this record that he is not afraid to take chances, unlike so many of his fellow musicians.  Whether it’s incorporating his older influences, a more modern vibe, or both together, it all works here to make New an album that proves once again why Sir Paul is an artist whose music transcends generations.

McCartney wastes no time on New showing that he remains fearless about taking chances.  That is evident right from the album’s opener, ‘Save Me.’  The staccato style guitar part mixed with the equally sharp drumming of Paul Epworth combine for a nice up-tempo modern rock style song.  Making the song truly interesting is the song’s urgent energy.  It is in direct contradiction to its lyrical content.  Lyrically speaking, McCartney writes a standard song based in a matter of a relationship.  He writes, “I can try to give you everything you ever wanted/You’re not hard to  please/And the only thing I’m asking/In return is something/You can give with ease/Keep on sending your love/IN the heat of battle/You got something that’ll/Save us/Save us now.”  Considering this lyrical content, the energy in the song’s musical side actually seems out of place.  Interestingly enough, the side by side of the two actually works when they are put together.  They come together to make ‘Save Me’ a good opener for New.

‘Save Me’ is a good start to New because it is new in every sense of the word.  The new material keeps coming in the songs that follow.  Each song will find its own special place for McCartney’s legions of fans.  One of the most notable of the album’s other new is one that actually looks back to the old, metaphorically speaking.  At the same time, it is also used as a response to critics’ words.  That song is simply titled, ‘Early Days.’  There is something very special about this song.  McCartney’s writing and his more subdued vocal style make this such an emotional moment among some rather interesting other pieces that comprise his new record.    He writes in this song, “They can’t take it from me if they try/I lived through those early days/So many times I had to change the pain to laughter/Just to keep from getting crazed/Dressed in black from head to toe/Two guitars across our backs/We would walk the city roads/Seeking someone who would listen to the music/That we were writing/Down at home/But they can’t take it from me if they tried/I lived through those early days/So many times I had to change the pain to laughter/Just to keep from getting crazy.”  McCartney makes visualizing these images so simple through his almost narrative style writing.  And his vocal style makes the song that much more of an emotional moment.  That combination of music and lyrics in this case make this song sure to be one of the surprising standout songs from New.

‘Early Days’ is easily one of the most surprising songs included in New.  The song’s combination of music and lyrics is certain to take listeners on a deeply emotional musical journey.  That being the case, it only makes sense that he would follow up that journey with a song that will take fans of both his solo work and his work with The Beatles back in time with the album’s title track.  From the moment this song starts, listeners will be transported back to their own childhood, hearing the “Fab Four” for the very first time.  It sounds like it would have been a perfect fit on the band’s hugely popular 1967 record, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, only it has been updated with a slight twenty-first century kick.  The song’s lyrical side is just as thought provoking and is sure to have listeners talking.  He leaves this song up to interpretation as he writes, “Don’t look at me/It’s way too soon to see/What’s gonna be/Don’t look at me/All my life/I never knew/What I could be/What I could do/Then we were new/You came along/And made my life a song/One lucky day/You came along/Just in time/While I was searching for a rhyme/You came along/Then we were new/We can do what we want/We can live as we choose/You see there’s no guarantee/We’ve got nothing to lose/Don’t look at me/I can’t deny the truth/It’s plain to see/Don’t look at me.”  On the surface this makes the song come across as having been written from the standpoint of someone that is rather unsure of himself or herself.  But again, that’s not entirely clear.  And that’s not a bad thing, either.  It will most certainly lead to plenty of discussion among McCartney’s fans for some time when they pick up New.  And it’s just one of so many other songs throughout this record that fans will find enjoyable for their own reason.  New is available now in stores and online.  It can be downloaded via iTunes at http://www.itunes.com/paulmccartney.  More information on this and other releases from Paul McCartney is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PaulMcCartney, http://google.com/+PaulMcCartney, http://twitter.com/PaulMcCartney, http://www.myspace.compaulmccartney, and http://www.paulmccartney.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Saga’s Latest Live Recording A Welcome Return For Fans

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/E.A.R. Music

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/E.A.R. Music

Veteran Canadian prog-rock band Saga has been making music for over thirty-five years.  The band has had its share of ups and downs through those three decades plus. From lineup changes to flying just under the mainstream radar, the band’s members have managed to stick it out the entire time and make album after album that fans have largely applauded.  Unlike its fellow and far more popular counterparts in Rush, Saga never found the success of Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, and Alex Lifeson.  The band did however find success in its home country and across Europe.  Now nearly four decades since the band originally formed and released its self-titled debut record, Saga is back once again with its latest live release, Spin It Again!: Live in Munich.  Most of Saga’s fan base will welcome this new live release first and foremost because it has been made available separately on Blu-ray and double-disc CD.  This separation gives fans the option to add the performance in either format or both.  Also worthy of note in this new release is its set list.  It would be impossible for the band to cover its entire catalogue of songs in just one performance.  But the songs included in this performance cover a healthy portion of the band’s material.  One more aspect of the release to take into consideration is that by and large, Saga has very rarely played any American dates.  So having both the double-disc CD and Blu-ray portion of the concert available for the band’s U.S. fans is the proverbial icing on the cake for this release.  It makes the whole presentation whole, and that much more worth adding to any fan’s collection.

Saga’s new live release, Spin It Again!: Live in Munich was recorded five years after the band’s last breakup.  Considering that so much time passed between that breakup and eventual reunion and concert, the band collectively sounds like it hadn’t missed a beat.  And thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment, the band’s fans have been given the choice of enjoying this performance either on Blu-ray or double-disc CD.  This is pretty much standard for every live recording released through Eagle Rock Entertainment.  There will always be those critics that would like to discredit such packaging methods.  They do so because of the costs to the consumer versus bundling.  That will always be an issue.  However, by splitting the recording into two separate formats, Eagle Rock is giving audiences options.  The most obvious hypothetical situation to consider is that perhaps one format is not available but the other is.  It’s better for fans to have something than nothing, right?  Right.  To that extent, Eagle Rock is worthy of applause once again for separating Saga’s reunion show rather than bundling it.  This is just one reason that fans of Saga will appreciate this new recording.

The availability of Spin It Again!: Live in Munich is just one reason that Saga’s more seasoned fans will appreciate this latest live recording.  The show’s set list is another reason for fans to applaud this new release.  The recording presents a respectable amount of material from the band’s expansive catalogue of material.  Fans of Dream Theater’s older material circa 1992 will appreciate the set list.  That’s because some of the material presented by Saga here will instantly conjure thoughts of Dream Theater’s breakout 1992 album Images and Words.  That’s especially the case with ‘The Perfectionist’and the concert’s opening number, ‘Anywhere You Wanna Go.’  The remainder of the band’s performance runs the gamut.  Fans will hear plenty of music that is more in line with material from the band’s American hair metal counterparts that rose to fame in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The songs chosen for Saga’s performance in Munich are just as important to the recording’s overall presentation as the fact that the show is presented in two separate formats.  Having the presentation in two separate formats is important in its own right.  On a deeper level, the very fact that Eagle Rock Entertainment has made this concert available for fans outside of Canada is highly important.  It is important because otherwise, fans of a band such as Saga would be severely limited in their options concerning experiencing the band’s live show.  That Eagle Rock Entertainment has made the show available not on one but two formats gives fans outside of the band’s more often toured regions the chance to experience the band live, too.  The resulting effect of this is that it could even help spread the word of Saga to other audiences that perhaps had never heard of the band themselves.  Yet again, Eagle Rock is more than deserving of any and all praise that it receives for taking the time to release this concert to the masses.  It is available now on Blu-ray and double-disc Blu-ray.  More information on this release and more on Saga is available online at http://www.eaglerockent.com, http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt, http://www.ear-music.net, and http://www.sagaontour.ca.  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.

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

Courtesy:  Paramount/CBS Blu-ray

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS Blu-ray

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

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

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

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

Thor 2 Is Fun, But Falls Short

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios

Courtesy: Marvel Studios

Sequels are very rarely as good as the movies that they follow.  This has been proven so many times in recent years by so many studios.  DC and Marvel have both proven this time and again with their big name franchises.  DC and Legendary proved that with its recent Batman franchise.  Marvel Studios’ first Spiderman trilogy was just one victim of that curse.  Now Marvel Studios has once again fallen victim to the “curse of the sequel” with its latest big screen offering, Thor: The Dark World.  This action packed late year blockbuster has plenty going for it.  Its special effects and its ability to balance its science fiction and fantasy elements are both positives.  The acting on the part of both Chris Hemsworth and Tim Hiddleston makes the movie even more fun.  However, it is hardly perfect.  It has one major issue that will be its downfall in the long run.  That one glaring negative is the story’s overall writing.  The movie itself clocks in at just under two hours.  However, because of the writing, it feels quite a bit longer.  As much positive as this movie has going for it, this one issue alone is going to ultimately be what keeps this movie from being one of Marvel’s most memorable offerings.

Thor: The Dark World is hardly the year’s best movie or even one of the year’s best.  To its defense, it isn’t the year’s worst movie, either.  One can openly admit about this sequel to Marvel Studios’ 2011 hit Thor, that it has some extremely impressive special effects.  From the backdrops to the fight scenes and one chase scene in particular, those charged with making the movie’s special effects work are deserving of applause.  It goes without saying that much of the movie was crafted using green screen effects.  That aside, those backdrops that were crafted by computer look just as impressive as those that were actually shot live.  Adding to that was the ability of those behind the cameras to blend the CG backgrounds with actual sets and shooting locales.  The computer generated effects in both cases never once felt overblown.  The same can be said of the effects used in the movie’s many fight scenes and the chase scene that follows Jane’s breakout from the palace early in the story.  Even the finest of details were tuned to make the special effects in each case collectively an effective part of the overall presentation.

The work done by those behind the cameras to keep Thor: The Dark World from being little more than another special effects extravaganza is very much an applause worthy aspect of this movie.  Their ability to balance its live action and CG elements is one of the most important aspects of the movie’s success, limited as that success proves to be in the grand scheme of things.  The ability of all involved to balance the movie’s fantasy and science fiction elements is just as important to the overall product.  Those that are less familiar with Marvel’s take on the God of Thunder and the first movie in his franchise might go into the movie thinking it will be just another fantasy epic a la The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.  Those same individuals are sure to be pleasantly surprised to see both elements smoothly combined.  On a bigger level, it shows once again how easy it is to blur genre lines on both the big screen and small screen, and how to do it right for that matter.

The balance of live action and CG elements and that of sci-fi and fantasy elements make Thor: The Dark World one more release that comic book fans of any age should see at least once.  They aren’t all that make the movie worth at least a single watch.  The acting on the part of lead stars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston also plays into the movie’s overall success, as limited as that success proves to be.  The duo’s chemistry has visibly grown over the course of the two movies in which it has already starred—Thor and The Avengers.  Their chemistry has developed so much and so well that it makes suspension of disbelief that much easier in watching the pair interact.  Whether on the verge of taking one another down, Thor having to endure Loki’s wisecracking, or other situations, Hiddleston and Hemsworth make for one of the movie industry’s better modern day odd couples for lack of better wording.  There has been much talk as to whether or not Loki will be back in the already anticipated third movie in the Thor franchise.  If he should be back once more, it goes without saying that his pairing with Hemsworth will be one more welcome addition to the movie’s cast.

As one can tell by now, there is plenty to applaud in Marvel Studios’ Thor: The Dark World.  For all of its positives, this movie is anything but perfect.  The one area in which this movie fails is also its most important.  That area is the story’s script/writing.  The movie’s script is one more prime example of what happens when there are too many hands in the proverbial pot.  No fewer than four individuals worked together to develop the script for this work.  The end result is a near two hour movie that feels a lot longer and schmaltzier than it should have been.  The script’s first problem is the tired and overly used issue of a character trying to find his place in his world and in the universe.  The character in question is Thor.  Audiences see him emotionally struggling to figure out where he belongs in Asgard and trying to balance that with his feelings for his love interest, Jane, who is once again played by Natalie Portman.  This is hardly the first time that audiences have ever seen this used.  The whole brooding character bit has already been done just this year alone in Man of Steel.  The end result of that was a movie that was met with mixed results.  Audiences will be just as mixed with this movie as a result of having Thor brooding in much the same style.

Thor’s brooding nature this time out is just one of the problems with Thor 2’s script.  Just as much a problem with this script is the fact that it feels more like one extended fight sequence than an actual movie with a story.  There are some story elements tossed in for good measure.  But it seems like action sequences dominate the script.  This is evident right from the moment that Jane is “saved” from her room at the palace.  From that moment on, the movie’s pace goes near full speed.  There are few breaks in that action, too.  The problem with this is that it forces audiences to struggle to even hope to keep up with what’s going on.  The story’s pace is that rapid fire.  The even bigger problem is that it goes on at that pace straight through to the final moments of the movie’s epic final battle between Thor and Malekith.  That final battle is the final nail in the coffin for the movie.  It simply runs too long.  It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin.  This and Thor’s brooding sub-story take away enough from all of the movie’s positives to ultimately make it one more of Marvel Studios’ largely forgettable films.  One can only hope that when it finally hits theaters, the franchise’s third film will make up for this movie and its predecessor.  Simply put, this movie is worth at least one watch.  But it’s more worth one watch on Netflix or Redbox than in theaters.

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.

League of Denial Is A Shocking Look At NFL Injuries

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

When one thinks of PBS, one doesn’t typically associate the network with football. But in one of the latest episodes of its news program Frontline, PBS “tackles” the NFL’s recent scandal centered on the battle over whether current and former NFL players suffer from a condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. This shows how big the scandal had become ever since the discovery of CTE in the late 1990s. Whether one is a PBS fan or a fan of the NFL, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis is a program that both audiences will want to watch. Audiences on both sides will want to watch this as it provides an in depth discussion on the scandal showing where it started and the eventual effect of the findings on the league as a whole. Audiences will find interesting, the interviews with both medical professionals and those with the league that paint the whole picture. The addition of vintage video of games helps to illustrate the subject matter even more.  Audiences are also presented with visual imagery of the brains that were studied by the noted medical professionals.   The imagery in question may be unfamiliar to most audiences.  But in its own way, it helps to illustrate the arguments made by those arguing that CTE does in fact affect NFL players.  This video, along with the vintage NFL game footage and the interviews on both sides make this episode of Frontline all the more intriguing for anyone with any interest in either the medical field or just the NFL.

PBS doesn’t typically delve into the world of professional sports with its programming.  So when producers decided to take on the issue of CTE in NFL players, one knew instantly that the subject was far more wide ranging than just what was going on with the players.  Audiences will see through the interviews culled for this episode of Frontline that CTE affects both current NFL players and those hoping to one day reach the ranks of the NFL.  The interviews provide a clear, unbiased look at the situation and how important it is as not just a sports issue, but a health issue, too.  Viewers will see how medical science was used to break open a scandal that continues to play a role in the NFL even today after the league paid out almost $800 million to former players and the families of former players that were found to have suffered from CTE as a result of their time in the NFL.  Dr. Bennett Omalu is the first medical professional interviewed during the program’s two-hour run time.  It was his autopsy of former Steelers legend Mike Webster that started the ball rolling in the case against the NFL covering up brain injuries to players.  On the other side, an interesting argument is made that if CTE does in fact affect players, why is it that it only affects some players and not others.  That’s not to say that it’s a strong argument.  But it is an interesting one nonetheless.

The interviews used throughout this program are hard hitting to say the least.  No pun intended.  Just as powerful is the companion video used to illustrate the arguments being made.  PBS uses footage from NFL films to show just how hard football players hit one another in the course of a normal game.  One interviewee shares that when players hit one another in a normal game, it’s equivalent to hitting a brick wall at thirty-five miles per hour.  This illustration combined with the provided footage from NFL Films puts quite well into perspective just how hard players hit one another again and again throughout just a single game.  One can’t help but lean more towards the side of CTE as a cause of players’ brain injuries over their careers, despite what certain groups might have people believe.  The footage of the dissected brains may not be the easiest thing for some viewers to handle.  That should be noted right now.  But much like the other video that accompanies the program’s interviews, it helps to illustrate even more the arguments being made by those that investigated them.  Not everybody will fully comprehend or appreciate what is shown.  Even this critic views the dissections as Latin so to speak. But for those that have any interest or experience in the medical field and/or forensic science, they play an extremely large role in the grand scheme of the program.  In simple terms, they add that much more value to the presentation.  And that added value makes this piece even more worth watching whether one is a hardcore NFL fan or not.  League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis is available now and can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=24432136&cp=&sr=1&kw=league+of+denial&origkw=League+of+Denial&parentPage=search.  More information on this and other releases from PBS 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.

Dean Martin Celebrity Roast Collection Is A Laugh Riot

Courtesy:  Time Life Entertainment/Star Vista/NBC Universal

Courtesy: Time Life Entertainment/Star Vista/NBC Universal

Groundbreaking and hilarious.  Those are the best two words that one can possibly come up with when one thinks of singer/actor Dean Martin’s celebrity roasts.  There was nothing else like this series on television when it was spun off from his equally entertaining Dean Martin’s Comedy Hour.  And even today, when one watches Comedy Central’s celebrity roasts, one can’t deny the influence of Martin’s show on today’s celebrity roasts.  Martin’s celebrity roasts were just as irreverent as anything broadcast on Comedy Central today.  Anyone that has any knowledge of classic movies and television will attest to that.  And that’s just one reason that audiences will appreciate the recent release of Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts: Collector’s Edition.  Decades have passed since these shows aired.  Despite that, the jokes are still as biting today as they were back then.  While the celebrities and jokes featured in each of this set’s shows are the most important aspect to the set, they’re only part of what audiences will appreciate about this new laugh riot collection from Time Life Entertainment and Star Vista.  Viewers will also appreciate the bonus features included in each of the set’s six discs.  And last but definitely not least, Time Life and Star Vista are more than deserving of praise for the packaging of this set.  The manner in which each of the set’s discs was placed protects each disc, and is ergonomic for any DVD rack.  When one takes into consideration everything noted here, one will see just how important it is to the history of television and movies that Star Vista and Time Life Entertainment have released this set.  It’s a set that any fan of true, pure comedy must see at least once.

The celebrities and jokes that fill each episode of Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts: Collector’s Edition are the most important aspect of the episodes culled for the set.  Audiences that are more familiar with classic television and movies will appreciate seeing big names such as Rich Little, Don Rickles, former President Ronald Reagan, Sammy Davis, Jr., and so many others.  Little’s impersonations of some of Hollywood’s biggest names are among the many highlights.  Audiences will roar with laughter as he impersonates Johnny Carson.  Carson does everything that he can to not do the mannerisms that Little lists off one at a time.  The funny thing is that he can’t help but do those same mannerisms.  It shows just how closely Little studied his subjects.  It’s just one of so many moments that will have audiences laughing so hard that they cry.  There’s actor Kirk Douglas’ joke comparing fellow actor Don Rickles to a weasel, Rev. Billy Graham’s golf joke about Bob Hope, and even Foster Brooks’ ever entertaining drunk act from one show to another.  Somehow that act never loses its shine, no matter how many times he does it.  There is plenty more material from which audiences will be able to call their favorite moments.  Everything listed here is just a small sampling of that to which audiences can look forward with this collection of hilarious roasts.

The celebrity lineups and jokes that fill each of Martin’s celebrity roasts easily make Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts: Collector’s Edition make it an easy contender for the top spot on this year’s list of the best new box sets.  One can’t make such a statement without examining the set’s bonus material.  Bonus is a word that is bandied about far too often with DVDs and Blu-rays today.  But the additional content included in this set couldn’t be more properly labeled than bonus material.  Audiences are offered interviews with those that shared the stage throughout Martin’s Celebrity Roasts and bonus shows, too.  The interviews with the likes of Carol Burnett, Rich Little, and others show just how honored the chosen celebrities were to have been chosen both for the celebrity panel, and as the subject of the roasts.  The celebrity interviews included across this set are definitely worthy of being called bonus material.  Audiences will also appreciate the bonus segments of The Dean Martin Show, as well as a comparison between Martin’s celebrity roasts and what is offered today on the likes of Comedy Central.  It’s very interesting to note Carol Burnett’s own words, stating how today’s comedy is “mean” versus Martin’s roasts being just good clean fun.  She makes a valid argument.  One can really tell that Martin’s celebrity roasts were really meant all in good fun.  There were some off color material.  But even back then, the comedians on the panels didn’t have to work blue unlike today’s comedians.  It’s a telling statement.  And when they order this set, audiences will see that and more for themselves.

The bonus material included in Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts: Collector’s Edition puts this set way over the top.  Unlike the extra material crammed into other sets by other companies, the extra material included in this set is more than deserving of the title of “Bonus.”  When set next to the celebrity lineups and their jokes, it makes this set one that any classic TV and movie fan absolutely must add to their own home library.  Those same fans will notice in adding this set to their home DVD library that the packaging is another plus.  The box itself takes up a small amount of room on one’s rack.  That’s because of how the discs inside the box were themselves packaged.  The discs are placed on either side of a group of “inserts” inside the box.  They are given their very own space on either side of each insert.  This not only saves space, but also protects the discs from scratching one another at the same time.  This means being able to share the laughs again and again for years to come.  They are laughs that will be welcome with every watch.  And they can be enjoyed when audiences order the set from Time Life Entertainment and Star Vista online at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D2UMI9Q/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0JVYS83R0PH9M3VZQVZP&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1630083502&pf_rd_i=507846.  More information on this and other releases from Time Life Entertainment and Star Vista is available online at http://timelife.com and http://www.facebook.com/TimeLIfeUs.  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.