Power Rangers In Space Volume Two Is A Fitting Finale For Saban’s Original Power Rangers Franchise

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Fox/Saban/Saban Brands

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Fox/Saban/Saban Brands

The end is finally here for Saban’s original Power Rangers franchise.  What started out in 1993 lasted a grand total of six seasons.  Rangers came and Rangers went as did powers and incarnations.  Now in the long-awaited finale to the franchise that started it all, every one of the Rangers from the franchise’s first five seasons join the current team as they face off against every villain that the Rangers have faced up to this point in a battle for not just Earth but also the Universe.  This collection of episodes effectively ends the original Power Rangers franchise before it got re-booted in early 1999 in the form of Power Rangers Lost Galaxy.  Power Rangers In SpaceVolume Two is one of the absolute best groupings of episodes from the original series.  The primary reason for that is of course the writing.  While the final two episodes are the key focus of the collection, there was also the multi-episode story arc involving the Psycho Rangers.  Audiences also see something of a personal growth from Andros (Christopher Kayman Lee) in some episodes.  One in particular sees him take on a father-like presence when he saves the “servant” of an evil alien.  The stock footage and special effects that made the series so wonderfully campy continued on through this season, too.  That is another factor in this set that audiences will appreciate in viewing these episodes.  Rounding out the whole thing is the presentation of the episodes.  The episodes presented in this collection are much like those of the previous collections.  They are presented exactly as they were in their original broadcasts on Fox’s FOX Kids afternoon programming block.  Nothing was edited out.  And the footage looks just as it did in the episodes’ original broadcasts, too.  That factor rounds out the presentation in whole that is Power Rangers in SpaceVolume Two.  Together with the writing and the character development displayed throughout the episodes, it makes clearly visible why Power Rangers in SpaceVolume Two a fitting finale to one of the greatest children’s franchises in modern television history.

Power Rangers in SpaceVolume Two is a fitting finale to what is one of the greatest franchises in the modern history of television.  The franchise lasted a grand total of six seasons before being rebooted in 1999 in the form of Power Rangers Lost Galaxy.  What started as a cult hit in 1993 proved to be one of the biggest cultural phenomena by its end five years later.  One of the key reasons for that was the franchise’s writing.  That is evidenced clearly in the finale to Saban’s original franchise.  Most audiences will agree that the franchise’s two-part finale, “Countdown to Destruction” is the central point of this collection.  However, a closer look at the episodes shows that the buildup to that point is really what makes the collection work.  The writers build up to that final epic battle by forcing the Rangers to use all of their resources to face the Psycho Rangers multiple times.  They also face quite the test when their main resources are destroyed in their attempts to destroy Ecliptor and Tankenstein.  Audiences that grew up with this franchise will love seeing again how the Rangers tackle the situation with teamwork and the help of all of the previous Rangers.  The fact that the writers could interweave each story arc into one whole story without losing audiences along the way is a testament to their efforts.    On a side note, those that have continued watching the various incarnations of the Power Rangers up to this point can’t help but see a rather close similarity between “Countdown to Destruction” and the upcoming mega-battle in the Power Rangers Super Megaforce universe.  It would be no surprise if this is where that show’s writers got their motivation for the franchise’s next upcoming mega battle.  Again that being a possibility it goes to show once more the strength of the writers’ work even all those years ago.  It’s just one part of what makes this (final?) collection of episodes such a fitting finale for the original Power Rangers franchise.

The writing behind the episodes culled for Power Rangers in SpaceVolume Two is a solid starting point in an examination of what makes this collection so enjoyable.  In direct relation, the growth of the characters—Andros specifically—helps move this collection forward.  Audiences see him become increasingly welcoming to his fellow Rangers as the season progresses.  This is especially noticeable in “Andros and the Stowaway” in which he saves an alien that looks a lot like an anglerfish with legs from its evil master.  The care and concern given to the creature exhibits quite the emotional growth for him.  To an extent, one could almost argue that the creature—dubbed Seymour by the Yellow Ranger—is somewhat representative of his sister, who obviously turns out to actually be Astronema.  He cares for Seymour the way that he had never been able to look after his sister.  It’s subtle, but it’s there.   There is also the budding relationship between Ashley (The Yellow Ranger) and Andros in terms of character development.  The writers can be applauded here as they didn’t let that take too much of the time in any episode.  Whereas Tommy’s relationship first with Kimberly and then with Kat later in the original franchise, this relationship was kept more as an undertone of sorts.  It was another way for the writers to exhibit Andros’ personal growth from the standard lone wolf figure to the warmer, more…..human character.  One could argue even that it was one more way for Andros to heal from what happened and to give him a purpose to fight on and find his sister, whom he doesn’t realize, is actually Astronema, until these episodes.  Looking back on the balance of character development and the overall writing, audiences that grew up with these episodes will appreciate them even more when watching these episodes again.  The end result will be a heightened sense of nostalgia and in turn overall enjoyment.

The balance of character development and overall writing in these final episodes of Saban’s original Power Rangers franchise is of the utmost importance.  Those behind the show expertly balanced the two to make them some of the most enjoyable to watch.  The writers really show in their balance of the elements just how much this team of Rangers has grown together and how their battles against Astronema have shaped them both personally and by themselves.  It collectively makes for quite the interesting watch.  As important as these elements are to the overall enjoyment and success of Power Rangers in Space: Volume Two, there is one last element to examine.  That last element is the presentation of the episodes.  What audiences get in this set is one more collection of episodes presented exactly as they were presented in their original broadcast on Fox’s FOX Kids afternoon programming block back in 1998.  There has been no re-mastering or anything of the sort.  The stock footage from the Japanese series that inspired the Power Rangers’ various incarnations is here as are the campy but oh-so-fun special effects.  As a matter of fact, those that have HDTVs will love seeing the wires/strings used to make Ecliptor fly in various episodes.  And just as interesting is the appearance in Ecliptor’s final battle against the Rangers of a mysterious figure in the background of their battle.  A close look reveals what looks like a female villain in the background as the Rangers face Ecliptor for the final time.  But even when he is defeated, there is no mention of that figure.  One can’t help but wonder if that was the editors’ attempt to mix the Japanese footage with that of the American series as there’s no mention of said figure at all.  She is there, though.  Regardless, the original editors behind these episodes did an applause-worthy job mixing the elements.   And those responsible for transferring the original tapes to DVD are just as worthy of applause, too.  Their collective work alongside the work of the writers to develop the characters and storylines makes Power Rangers in Space: Volume Two all the more enjoyable for today’s kids and those kids at heart that remember watching these episodes as kids themselves.

A lot of work went into making the final episodes of Saban’s original Power Rangers franchise memorable for audiences.  That work was not lost on its fans.  And those that have not seen these episodes since their original broadcast will recall just how memorable they were and are when they purchase this box set and watch these episodes again for the first time for themselves or with their own kids.  Whether for the writing, the associated character development, or the original broadcast presentation of the episodes, audiences will see that there is a lot to like about Power Rangers in Space: Volume Two.  They will then see that this is truly a fitting finale for what is one of the greatest children’s series in modern television history.  It will be available in stores and online next Tuesday, October 7th and can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/kids/kids-action-adventure/power-rangers-in-space-vol-2.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at:

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

 

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ESPN’s E:60 Returns Tonight

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ESPN’s E: 60 returns with a whole new season tonight.

ESPN kicks off its Fall 2014 season of E: 60 tonight beginning at 8pm ET.  Tonight’s season premiere presents two in-depth feature that come from the NFL.  The first of the pair focuses on Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles and the second on the Seattle Seahawks’ polarizing cornerback Richard Sherman.

On the heels of the Ray Rice case, E: 60’s Jeffri Chadiha sits down with Jamaal Charles and discusses the murder of his wife’s cousin Kasandra Perkins.  Perkins was murdered by her husband Jovan Belcher, who was also a teammate to Charles.  Belcher turned the gun on himself after killing his wife in December of 2012.  It is now believed that Belcher’s actions may have been the result of CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.  Charles discusses the terrible tragedy as well as his own tough childhood, growing up as part of a large family and more in that interview.

In the second of the night’s premiere features, Kenny Mayne talked with Richard Sherman.  The outspoken Seattle Seahawks cornerback has made headlines since the buildup to last season’s Super Bowl.  But as Kenny Mayne reveals, there is a whole other side to Sherman that few if any know of.  Mayne reveals in his talk with Sherman that he [Sherman] demands success of himself not just on the gridiron but off the field, too.  Sherman reveals in his interview with Mayne that much of his drive for excellence goes back to his younger days growing up in Compton, California.  He also discusses how his days playing at Stanford played a role in his development, too.  It is an intimate portrait of a man much deeper than the one most people know of.

Along with the interviews with Sherman and Charles, there is also a feature on “Morganna, The Kissing Bandit.”  The famed figure rose to fame in the 1970s and 80s, well before the rise of Youtube and viral videos as she would run out onto the field at MLB games, kissing players.  She disappeared suddenly in the 90s.  Now fifteen years after she disappeared, “Morganna, The Kissing Bandit” has re-emerged.  She sat down with E: 60’s Wright Thompson to discuss her reputation and how it was a troubled personal life that led her to become the famed figure.

The figures scheduled to appear on tonight’s season premiere of ESPN’s E: 60 are but a handful of the names set to come on the network’s hit show this season.  Also expected to appear this season are: Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer, NFL superstar Gerald McCoy, famed pitcher Randy Johnson, Dallas Cowboys’ tight end Jason Witten, and New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.  The complete schedule for this season is noted below.

Fall Highlights of E:60

Date and Time (ET) Scheduled stories include*
Tue. Sept. 30 (8:00pm) Jamaal Charles, Richard Sherman
Tue. Oct. 7 (8:00pm) Max Scherzer,
Tue. Oct. 14 (7:00pm) Gerald McCoy, Randy Johnson
Tue, Oct. 21 (8:00pm) Jason Witten
Tue. Oct. 28 (8:00pm) Rob Ryan
Tue, Nov. 4 (8:00pm) Cam Newton

*Air dates & stories subject to change

 

More information on this season of E: 60 is available online now at:

Website: http://e60.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/espne60

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.

Inspector Lewis Returns For His Seventh Season This Fall On DVD And Blu-ray

Inspector Lewis is back.  That’s right.  Everyone thought that the end of the road had come in the sixth season of the hit itv crime drama when Inspector Lewis called it a career.  Low and behold, he’s back.  And it wasn’t his own choice to return as audiences learn in the season premiere.  This fall, fans of the hit crime drama series will find out the circumstances of Inspector Lewis’ return when the series’ seventh season is released in whole.

Masterpiece Mystery!: Inspector Lewis 7 will be released Tuesday, November 25th on DVD and Blu-ray.  Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox both return to reprise their iconic roles as DI Robert Lewis and newly promoted Inspector James Hathaway in the show’s seventh season/series (different terms for the same thing depending on which side of the pond on which one lives).  Masterpiece Mystery!: Inspector Lewis 7 is comprised of three episodes, spanning a total of 270 minutes (or 4 ½ hours roughly).  The DVD will retail for MSRP of $29.99 and the Blu-ray for MSRP of $34.99.  It will also be available for digital download.   It can be ordered online direct from the PBS online store at:

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Blu-rayhttp://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=46782166&cp=&sr=1&kw=masterpiece+mystery+inspector+lewis&origkw=Masterpiece+Mystery+Inspector+Lewis&parentPage=search

Courtesy:  PBS/itv

Courtesy: PBS/itv

DVDhttp://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=46782146&cp=&sr=1&kw=masterpiece+mystery+inspector+lewis&origkw=Masterpiece+Mystery+Inspector+Lewis&parentPage=search

The episode listing for Masterpiece Mystery: Inspector Lewis 7 is included below complete with episode summaries.

Entry Wounds

Hathaway gets to work on his first case as an Inspector, with the help of his new partner, DS Lizzie Maddox. The crime is a complicated one that bridges the worlds of neurosurgery, blood sports and animal rights. Lewis, struggling to adapt to retired life, jumps at the chance to rejoin the force when Superintendent Innocent seeks his help. With Lewis back on the team, will they be able to solve the mystery?

 

The Lions of Nemea

After a difficult start, Lewis and Hathaway seem to have settled back into their former relationship, and Maddox has become integral to the team. Their abilities are tested as they investigate the brutal murder of Rose, an American Classics student. Suspicion immediately falls on a young professor who had recently broken off an affair with her, but as the detectives delve further into the case, they only find more secrets and murky motives.

 

Beyond Good and Evil

Thirteen years after Lewis’ first successful arrest as a Detective Inspector, the forensics have been called into question and the case re-opened for appeal. Lewis fears the worst – but nothing can prepare him for a new string of murders resembling the original murders with the original weapon. Did he arrest an innocent man? With Lewis’ reputation in jeopardy, Hathaway and Maddox race to catch the killer.

 

More information on Masterpiece Mystery!: Inspector Lewis 7 is available online at :

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/lewis

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/masterpiecepbs

Twitter: http://twitter.com/masterpiecepbs

 

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.

Timeless Media To Release New Red Skelton Show Box Set Next Month

Courtesy: Timeless Media/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Timeless Media/Shout! Factory

Timeless Media will release another piece of television history next month when it releases The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years 1951 1955.

Timeless Media will release The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years 1951 1955 on Tuesday, October 21st on DVD.  The box set contains ninety episodes spread across eleven discs.  The release of this box set marks the first time that the episodes contained therein have been seen since their original broadcast some six decades ago.  Among the eleven DVDs is one disc that includes a number of bonus features.  Among those features is the documentary feature “America’s Clown: An Intimate Biography of Red Skelton,” behind the scenes rehearsal footage, and even a pair of bonus episodes.

Along with all of the classic episodes and bonus features, The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years 1951 1955 also features guest appearances from a number of the biggest stars of the day.  The list of those guest stars includes the like of: Jackie Gleason, Johnny Carson—who called Skelton “one of the great clowns of our time”—Diahann Carroll, John Wayne, Bob Hope, Peter Lorre and many others.

The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years 1951 1955 will retail for MSRP of $59.97.  More information on this and other releases from Timeless Media is available online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com/tentpoles/timeless-media-group

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Timeless-Media-Group/358391474233364

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.

Timeless Media Announces Release Date For A Haunting: The Television Series

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group/Shout! Factory/Discovery Channel/Discovery Communications/Destination America

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group/Shout! Factory/Discovery Channel/Discovery Communications/Destination America

Timeless Media will release a special collection of episodes of A Haunting next month.

A Haunting: The Television Series will be released Tuesday, October 14th on DVD.  The box set will contain all six current seasons of the series, which ran first on Discovery Channel and then on Discovery’s digital sister station Destination America.  They will be spread across nine DVDs contained in one box.  The seventh season of A Haunting premiered last month and ran its most recent episode “Devil Inside Me” on September 7th.  Two more episodes are scheduled to air in early December.

A Haunting: The Television Series will retail for MSRP of $29.93.  More information on this and other releases from Timeless Media is available online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com/tentpoles/timeless-media-group

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Timeless-Media-Group/358391474233364

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.

Paramount’s Latest Installment In The Jack Ryan Franchise Falls Flat

Courtesy:  Paramount Studios

Courtesy: Paramount Studios

2014 has not been a good year for movies.  As a matter of fact, one could argue that this year has been one of the worst years for movies in recent years.  Marvel and DC spent the summer trying hard to one-up the other on a bigger scale than ever before.  And both of Michael Bay’s big screen blockbusters failed to reach audiences in the way that had been hoped.  And the summer season wasn’t the only disappointing part of the year, either.  Paramount tried to make a hit with its latest installment in the Jack Ryan franchise in the form of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  Sadly, even putting that movie at the start of the year didn’t help this largely disappointing, formulaic flick.  Compared to the big name films that filled out (and flopped) the summer movie season this year, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is not much better.  The most obvious of reasons for its failure is the fact that it’s not just a continuation of the late author Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan franchise, but that it is yet another complete re-working of that franchise.  That is nothing new from the Jack Ryan franchise.  Another reason that this movie fails is its writing.  Rather than paying homage to the stylistic approach of previous Jack Ryan films, this one is more of a formulaic action flick than one with the substance of say The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games or Clear and Present Danger.  The one positive to the whole thing is believe it or not the acting on the part of veteran actor Kevin Costner.  That’s the biggest surprise of all considering how overrated he and the movies in which he has starred throughout his career have proven to be over the years.  It’s the one shining light in a movie that does absolutely nothing to honor the legacy of Tom Clancy’s one great franchise.  Had this movie been any other movie and not part of the Jack Ryan franchise, it might have worked.  But sadly that wasn’t the case.  And as a result, it will ultimately end up becoming a largely forgettable film.

When Paramount Studios decided to back Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the studio’s heads had to have known that this movie was a major gamble.  The last time that audiences heard from Jack Ryan was in 2002’s largely forgettable film The Sum Of All Fears.  That movie failed for many of the same reasons that this latest installment in the Jack Ryan franchise failed, too. The primary reason for that failure is the fact that it is obviously set on a completely different timeline than the franchise’s previous installments—The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger.  Those that remember that far back will recall that according to the original canon, Ryan was injured in a  helicopter accident in Vietnam or Korea.  This movie sees Jack being injured after his chopper was shot down in Afghanistan.  And the movie itself is set not long after the events of September 11th, 2001.  So right from the beginning, audiences are introduced to a story that is set on yet another completely different time line.  At least the transition between the original Jack Ryan movies (The Sum of All Fears not included) was believable.  This isn’t the first time that lead actor Chris Pine has starred in a reboot, either, sadly enough, either.  Anyone remember the recently rebooted Star Trek franchise?

The fact that Paramount has not only rebooted the Jack Ryan franchise, but put it on a completely different timeline is bad enough.  But that’s only the beginning of the problems for this movie.  Things get even worse when taking into consideration the movie’s script.  This movie’s script hardly echoes the quality scripts presented in the original movies in the Jack Ryan franchise.  It is a formulaic action flick rife with car chases, explosions, the standard hero and villain roles, and equally standard chase to save the damsel in distress.  The damsel in question is Ryan’s love interest Dr. Cathy Muller, played well enough by Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean 1 – 3).  It’s all set against a story that is anything but original.  As a matter of fact, it lifts liberally from some all too familiar events from the early 1990s.  The original Jack Ryan movies didn’t need to rely on actual events to be enjoyable.  The people behind their scripts crafted stories that were both original and enjoyable all in one.  This movie sadly doesn’t do that.  The result is yet again a story that will in the long run be anything but memorable.

For all of the negatives that weigh down Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, there is at least one positive to the whole thing, albeit a small positive.  But good is good, right? The one positive to the entire presentation is the work of veteran actor Kevin Costner.  Those that are familiar with Seth McFarlane’s hit animated Fox sitcom Family Guy will recall the joke asking “How does he keep getting work?”  The joke is fully substantiated considering Costner’s own acting and the movies in which he has starred throughout his career.  In this critic’s own view, the only good movie in which Kevin Costner has ever starred was Field of Dreams (1989).  His acting was good.  And the story was just as good.  Other than that, he hasn’t really landed a memorable role or starred in a memorable movie.  In the case of this movie, Kostner takes a back seat to the much younger Pine.  He doesn’t try to hog the screen as some sort of mentor or anything to that extent.  He is just someone older with more experience.  He passes on some knowledge to Pine’s younger Ryan at one point.  Other than that, he is largely a supporting character.  And he does quite well in that role, too. He is actually believable in that role, interestingly enough.  That being said, his acting is about the only thing to which audiences have to be excited in this movie.  Other than that, it is mostly a forgettable movie.

When Paramount Studios decided last year to release Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit at the back end of the annual winter movie season, the studio’s hopes were obviously that it would bring in better numbers, not being jumbled in with the far too overcrowded summer blockbuster season.  Sadly, even now in its home release, audiences will see that no matter when the movie was released, it was doomed to failure.  It could be argued that in examining the movie’s script, it is little more than a fictionalized and modernized story “based on actual events.”  That’s especially the case for those that remember certain events from the early 1990s.  The fact that the movie places Jack Ryan in a wholly different timeline once again takes away from its enjoyment even more.  Even the star power of veteran actor Kevin Costner couldn’t help the movie even though he actually succeeded in his supporting role.   Keira Knightley does very little to help the story, either.  Her character Dr. Cathy Muller comes across as little more than the helpless love interest to Pine’s Jack.  All things considered, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit proves to be one more in a long line of prequels, sequels, and reboots churned out this year that will ultimately end up being forgotten amid that mass of other equally forgettable  films.  Here’s to hoping that should audiences ever see any new adventures of Jack Ryan, Paramount and company will get it right next time.

AFC Foes Pats, Chiefs Face Off In A Battle Of East Versus West Monday Night On ESPN

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

This Monday night on ESPN, Alex Smith and the struggling Kansas City Chiefs host Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a battle of East versus West in the AFC.  Monday night’s edition of Monday Night Football on ESPN will be an important one for the Chiefs who are currently winless at home. The Pats on the other hand, are even at 1 – 1 on the road.  Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski said this week that he is looking forward to taking on a more active role with the Pats. So fans can potentially expect to see him in a much more active role Monday night when New England comes to Arrowhead Stadium. And that means the possibility of an even more tough fight for the Chiefs Monday night.

Looking at things on an even deeper level, the Chiefs and Pats are almost even in terms of total points scored so far this season and total yardage, too. And Tom Brady has the second-highest winning percentage on Monday Night Football, with a record of 13 – 5.  That is second only to Payton Manning, whose MNF record sits at 13 – 4.  The Patriots have scored more points than the Chiefs so far this season.  But the Chiefs have outperformed the Patriots in terms of Passing Yards, Rushing Yards, and total yardage overall.  But that lead is minimal at best. Taking all of this into consideration, Monday night’s edition of Monday Night Footabll on ESPN could prove to be a close one for both teams in this battle of the AFC East and AFC West.

Mike Tirico will have the call for Monday night’s game.  He will be joined by Jon Gruden in the booth and Lisa Salters on the sidelines for additional commentary.  Before kickoff of Monday night’s game, the Monday Night Countdown crew will recap all of the action from Sunday’s games.  Suzy Kolber will host the broadcast, which will come live from Arrowhead Stadium.  She will be joined by NFL analysts Trent Dilfer, Ray Lewis, and Steve Young.  Chris Berman will join the broadcast live from ESPN’s headquarters alongside ESPN NFL analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, and Keyshawn Johnson and ESPN NFL Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.  It all starts at 6pm ET.  Kickoff is scheduled for 8:15pm ET.

The topics slated for Monday night’s edition of Monday Night Countdown are listed below.

  • Gruden’s Grill Session with Alex Smith: Super Bowl-winning coach and MNFanalyst Jon Gruden visits with Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.
  • Rick Reilly – Drew Bledsoe: If not for an injury to then-Patriots starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe in 2001, the Tom Brady era in New England may never have happened.  In his weekly feature, Countdown’sRick Reilly looks at where Bledsoe is now, 13 years after losing his starting job to Brady and eight years since retiring from the NFL.
  • Soundtracks – Best of Brady and Gronk: As the Patriots look to get their offense turned around, Countdownlooks back at the best of in-game audio between quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski in Soundtracks.

Monday Night Football is available to all Spanish-speaking audiences on ESPN Deportes.  And anyone that can’t be near a television Monday night can still catch the game online via WatchESPN.

More information on ESPN’s Monday Night Football is available online at:

Website: http://espn.go.com/nfl.mnf

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MNF

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.

NYPD Blue’s Seventh Season Is The Series’ Best So Far

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory will release the seventh season of ABC’s former hit crime drama NYPD: Blue next Tuesday, September 30th.  The series’ complete seventh season is one more example of just why it remained so popular for so many years.  Regardless of whether one is new to the series or is more familiar with it, all audiences will agree in watching these episodes that the main reason it remained so popular in its seventh season is its writing.  Unlike Dick Wolf’s now mostly defunct Law & Order franchise, the writers behind NYPD: Blue continued to craft wholly original stories that didn’t have to be “ripped from the headlines.”  At the same time, the series’ writers managed to balance that with continued focus on character development and storylines within the department.  And in this season, there are most definitely some interesting developments among the show’s characters.  The ability of the show’s writers to balance these aspects so expertly is key to its continued success in its seventh season.  Just as important to the series’ success in its seventh season is its trademark look.  Even years after it started, audiences will see that it still maintained a certain gritty look that helped to set it apart from its counterpart over on NBC.  Where the season’s writing left off, that look picked up and continued to make suspension of disbelief even easier and in turn the show’s enjoyment all the greater.  The series’ writing and its look both play pivotal roles in the success of NYPD: Blue’s seventh season.  Last but hardly least worth noting is the show’s camera work.  That, too is something that had been established early on in the series’ run.  And much like the writing and look of the series, it too continued to set the series apart from the likes of Law & Order and other crime dramas.  All these factors taken into consideration, NYPD: Blue’s seventh season is one more must have for any fan of this modern classic crime drama.

The seventh season of NYPD: Blue has what proves to be some of the best writing that the series had seen up to this point.  That writing is the core of what makes NYPD Blue just as successful at this point as when the series kicked off so many years ago.  The stories presented throughout the series’ seventh season continued to separate NYPD: Blue apart from its crime drama counterpart on NBC as it didn’t use stories “ripped right from the headlines.”  Rather the stories continued to be wholly original.  Ironically enough, as original as the stories prove to be, the fact that they weren’t just adapted from actual headlines makes them all the more believable.  Case in point is the season premiere episode, “Loogie Nights.”  This episode sees Sipowicz and Sorenson handling a case of a fatal police beating.  Considering recent headlines and the focus today on criminal cops, it’s proof positive as to why the series’ writers didn’t need to take stories from the news and adapt them for their “own” works.  There is also a case of a young woman being gang-raped in another episode.  And a close examination of this season also reveals that while the series’ writers continued to craft wholly original and gripping stories in each episode, it also reflected the real world as there seemed to be more focus on and acceptance of the gay community throughout this season.  That is just this critic’s thought.  But it seems to be more prevalent than in previous seasons of the series.  That in itself is a starting point in another discussion, proving once more just how important the writing is to this series.

The work put into the episodes that make up Season Seven is by itself a major reason for the show’s continued success.  The stories themselves though are just part of what makes the writing work so well.  Audiences that are familiar with this series see even more development among the characters both by themselves and within their daily interactions.  Audiences will especially enjoy seeing Sipowicz’s personal growth as a father and a person after his wife’s death in the series’ sixth season.  He hasn’t lost any of his edge while on the job.  But while spending time with his son, he exhibits so much humanity.  He encourages his son and actually acts like a father should.  It’s enough to make even the hardest person smile and tear up.  Sipowicz’s personal relationship with Sorenson matures, too.  While their working relationship continues to appear as dysfunctional as ever, those that know Sipowicz’s history and personality know that things have actually gotten between the two detectives.  Even more impressive about this is that the writers didn’t let either of these character development factors overtake the rest of the show.  They balanced the character developments expertly with the stories with the end result being another group of stories that by themselves prove once more why the writing by itself makes Season Seven well NYPD: Blue’s best season yet.

The work of the writers behind NYPD: Blue shows exactly why this crime drama remained a hit among viewers even well into its seventh season.  Their work was just part of why the series continued to be so successful seven seasons in.  The work of those responsible for the show’s look deserve their own applause, too in this season.  The gritty, more realistic look of NYPD: Blue established early on in the series’ run is maintained even here in its seventh season.  Much like the show’s writing, that look helped to maintain the series’ separate identity from the other crime dramas that were on television at the time; more specifically from NBC’s Law & Order franchise.  It’s one more element that continued to help maintain suspension of disbelief, and in turn, enjoyment of the series.  It’s one more way in which the series continued to shine even in its seventh season.

The writing behind Season Seven’s episodes goes a long way toward making this season another hit for the series’ fans.  The continued realistic, gritty look and feel of the show also helps in its own way.  Last but not least of all is the series’ camera work.  To some, camera work is something minor.  But those that are more production minded will take note of the show’s short, fast paced shots throughout each episode.  Again, this is something that other crime dramas on TV at the time were not doing.  Such use of the cameras helped to heighten the tension within each episode.   It also helped with the scene transitions, too. Those scene transitions set NYPD: Blue apart from its counterparts just as much as the series writing and its look.  The fact that the series’ heads and those behind the cameras maintained this aspect of the series, too only serves to make Season Seven all the richer and more enjoyable for audiences.  Together with the noted writing and gritty look, it makes Season Seven just as much of a must have for fans of the show as the show’s previous full season sets.

The camera work incorporated into the seventh season of NYPD: Blue is one aspect of the show that had been there from the series’ first season.  It’s nice to see this element of the show maintained so far into the show’s run. The same can be said of the show’s gritty look.  The two elements, along with the wholly original stories and character development come together in this season to make it another collection that any fan of the series will welcome in their collections just as much as the series’ previous season sets.  NYPD: Blue Season Seven will be available next Tuesday, September 30th on DVD.  It can be ordered online via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/crime/nypd-blue-season-seven.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

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Motown 25 Is A Musical Diamond In The Rough

Courtesy:  StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Television in America possesses a rich history in its modern era.  The moon landing, JFK’s assassination, The Korean and Vietnam wars, presidential elections, 9/11 and so many other events fill the history of television in its modern era.  While it would seem that many of the most important events broadcast on television in its modern history are memorable because they are tragic, there are positive events recorded in television’s modern history, too.  Some of the most memorable of those more positive events are concerts that have brought people together from all walks of life.  Live Aid, The Concert For New York, and the Beatles’ first ever live performance on American television each make the list of television’s top live broadcast draws.  Next Tuesday, September 30th, Time Life Entertainment and StarVista Entertainment will add another concert to that list of television’s greatest live concerts when they release Motown 25YesterdayTodayForever.  Motown 25: YesterdayTodayForever was originally broadcast on NBC on May 16th, 1983.  This new three-disc DVD presentation marks the first time since its original VHS release in 1983 that the concert has seen the light of day.  Being that this is the first time in just over three decades that it has been released to the public, this edition of Motown 25Yesterday– Today.-Forever is well worth the price and the watch.  The central reason for that is the sheer magnitude of material included in the overall presentation.  Audiences don’t just get the original broadcast.  They get to hear from the concert’s original heads and some of the artists that performed on that night.  Audiences also get a brief yet still insightful history on the famed “Hitsville USA” as a bonus.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this recording is the overall audio and video mix.  The painstaking efforts undertaken by those charged with restoring the concert’s footage paid off in spades.  Both the audio and video presented here sound and look just as good as the concert’s original broadcast if not better.  Completing the set is its companion booklet.  The booklet includes a brief yet thorough history on the concert and its lasting impact by author Nelson George and Motown 25 EP Suzanne De Passe.  Also included in the companion booklet is a complete guide to the concert’s lineup and bonus material along with full credits listing those behind the show.  The booklet is the final touch to a package that any old school r&b fan and lover of music and music history will appreciate.

Motown 25YesterdayTodayForever is one of the most enjoyable live recorded concerts in the modern history of television.  As enjoyable as it proves to be even today, it sadly is not one that most people think of when they think of major broadcast concerts.  That view will hopefully change though, after watching this presentation.  The amount of material included in this three-disc set alone is more than enough reason for viewers to change their view of Motown 25YesterdayTodayForever.  That vast amount of material includes not just the original concert recording, but a number of bonuses to go along with it.  Those bonuses include roundtable interviews with both the show’s heads and some of the performers, a brief but still thorough history of Hitsville, USA, and even an in-depth look at the very creation of the concert from pre-production to the finished product.  Audiences will be moved to hear the emotion as the show’s heads discuss their favorite memories from the concert.  There are plenty of laughs along the way.  And there are some tears, too.  The history lesson on Hitsville, USA is especially enjoyable for those that might not be so familiar with the history of the label that started it all for so many legends.  And the insight into the concert’s creation will interest anyone with any interest in television production.  Collectively, those bonuses along with the concert itself more than make Motown 25YesterdayTodayForever worth the watch whether one is a lover of old school lover of r&B, a music lover in general or even an individual with a love for music history.  And it is just part of what makes the collection worth the watch, too.  There is far more worth nothing that audiences will appreciate and enjoy just as much.  Another aspect worth noting is the overall quality of the concert’s footage (I.E. its audio and video mix).

The vast amount of material that makes up the body of Motown 25 is by itself more than enough reason for every lover of music.  It is just one part of the whole that makes the viewing experience a joy for audiences within this presentation.  The presentation’s collective audio and video mix adds to the presentation’s enjoyment.  StarVista Entertainment and Time Life Entertainment included a disclaimer before Motown 25’s central concert presentation begins stating the footage may have some minor discrepancies at various points throughout the concert.  But audiences will see that if there are any such discrepancies, they are too minute to see with the naked eye.  Those charged with restoring the footage for its presentation in this set are to be commended for their painstaking efforts as they paid off in spades.  That applies both to the audio and video mix.  Every note comes through crystal clear as does every single camera shot.  Again, kudos go out to those responsible for bringing the footage back to life as it most definitely looks and sounds as good as it must have in its original broadcast.

The work that went into restoring the footage from the Motown 25 concert and the amount of material included in the new upcoming box set collectively makes it such an enjoyable experience for anyone that has any love for the classics and for music history in general.  As enjoyable as they make the experience together, the people at Star Vista and Time Life didn’t stop there.  They also included a companion booklet with the set that adds even more depth to the presentation.  The companion booklet included with this three-disc set features its own look back at the Motown 25 concert from the show’s EP, Suzanne De Passe as well as one from author Nelson George, who wrote The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Dance and Style.  Their shared insights offer a look at the concert that echoes the sentiments shared in the round table discussions that were included as bonus features.  Along with the additional insight and background on the concert, the set’s companion booklet also includes a complete song-by-song guide to the concert and bonus features.  And closing it out is a full listing of the names of those responsible for both the original concert and its re-working for its presentation here.  It finishes off a set that is arguably one more of this year’s best new archived live recordings.

Motown 25: YesterdayTodayForever is a diamond in the rough. With its full concert experience, bonus interviews and retrospective roundtable discussions, it offers audiences a concert experience unlike most others released so far this year.  The painstaking efforts on the part of those charged with re-mastering the concert’s original footage make the concert even more enjoyable for audiences.  And the bonus booklet added as a companion to the concert adds even more depth and insight to the show and its importance to the history of both r&b and the music world in whole.  All three factors together make Motown 25: YesterdayTodayForever one of this year’s best new archived live recordings and one that every lover of music will enjoy.  It will be available next Tuesday, September 30th and can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Motown-25-Yesterday-Today-Forever/dp/B00L9OPA56/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1411671053&sr=1-1&keywords=motown+25th+anniversary+television+special.  A special limited edition six-disc set and an expanded limited edition six-DVD/eight-CD set online via the Time Life online store at http://timelife.com/products/motown-25-yesterday-today-forever.  More information on these and other releases from Time Life and StarVista is available online at

Website: http://timelife.com

Facebook: 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.

Tesla’s Tenth Album More Than Lives Up To Its Title

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Veteran rock band Tesla has maintained its place in the pantheon of rock for nearly three decades. Throughout the course of that time, so many other bands have come and gone leaving little to no mark on the world.  Tesla meanwhile has continued to create memorable songs on its own terms with each one of its albums, increasing its fan base with each album thanks to that continued display of talent and ingenuity on each record.  The band’s latest album, Simplicity, proves that continued ingenuity once again, providing listeners with songs that perfectly match the album’s title both in terms of its music and its lyrics from start to finish.  The album’s opener, ‘MP3’ is proof of that.  The song uses the seemingly endless stream of technological advances seen each year as the basis for a commentary about how technology has done more harm than good for the world.  The equally socially conscious powerhouse rocker ‘Time Bomb’ proves that this band can still hold its own with today’s younger bands and do so with ease for that matter.  Those that might want something softer but still holding some substance need look no further than the moving but still thought provoking ‘Life is a River.’  It’s one more example of how Simplicity more than lives up to its title with its mix of gentle music and inspiring lyrics.  Each one of the songs noted here proves in its own way why Simplicity lives up to its title.  Each one also proves why Simplicity could be a contender for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s top new rock records.  And that isn’t to discount the album’s other songs, either.  Every song on this record proves those arguments, too.  Together with the songs that are noted, this album proves to be very much a sleeper hit of a record.

Tesla’s new record Simplicity–its tenth overall full length studio effort–is a sleeper hit of a work.  The album mixes deep and thought provoking lyrics in every one of its fourteen total tracks with music that will have fans both on their feet rocking along at some points, and almost shedding tears of joy in others.  The album’s opener, ‘MP3′ is one example of that balance of substance in its lyrics and music together.  Front man Jeff Keith sings in this socially conscious song, “Reachin’ out to a friend in need/Is more important than a text from a cell phone screen/All these sounds of complication/In the cloud communication/Oh my god it’s taking me/From the phonograph record to the MP3/All the world is overrun with technology/Oh my God it seems to me/We gotta get back to simplicity/It’s plain to see/Rewind now!”  Keith makes no bones here about the topic being raised.  He is saying that technology has done more harm to the world than good.  He isn’t necessarily trying to preach and say technology is bad.  Don’t misinterpret that.  What he is saying is that humans have allowed technology to control their lives and the end result being a drastic depersonalization of people’s relationships on every level.  That Keith would present such a deep concept in such a simple (there’s that word again) makes the song the perfect choice to open this album.  The song’s equally simple and accessible musical backing adds to that argument, too.  Both aspects together make ‘MP3’ just part of the argument as to why Simplicity is an aptly titled release and also one of this year’s sleeper hit records.

Tesla’s members–Jeff Keith (vocals), Frank Hannon (guitar, vocals, piano, bass), Dave Rude (guitar, vocals, bass), Brian Wheat (bass, piano, vocals), and Troy Lucketta (drums and percussion)–prove right from the beginning of this record why it more than lives up to its title and why it is one of the year’s sleeper hits, thanks to ‘MP3.’  The combination of the song’s simple to understand yet still deep lyrics alongside its equally simple, accessible musical backing make it the perfect first statement from the band on this record.  Just as strong of an argument in support of Simplicity is ‘Time Bomb.’  This hard rocker is one part social statement and one part call to arms.  Keith sings in this song, “It’s like the lights are on but nobody’s home/There’s no other choice/Just one solution/So load up your guns/Cause freedom is won/It’s time we’ve begun a revolution/We’re ready to fight to save our lives/And willing to die/Oh no.”  He goes on to sing along with his band mates in the song’s chorus, “Let’s go deep into the fire/Screamin’ hell no we ain’t gonna run/Let’s go united all together/Cuz I know divided we’re done.”  He comes across as saying that Americans have got to put all of this political and other turmoil aside; that there are much more important things that unless we band together, will most certainly take us all down thanks to our division.  Just as with ‘MP3,’ that lyrical and musical simplicity serves once again to prove how much Simplicity lives up to its name in more ways than one.  Even more, it proves once more why this record is one of the year’s sleeper hits within the rock world.

Tesla proves throughout the course of Simplicity’s fourteen total tracks just why it lives up to its name with plenty of hard and hard-hitting songs.  That’s evident in the songs already noted and in the likes of the equally socially conscious ‘Flip Side!’   For all of that heavy lyrical and musical content, Simplicity proves that it can be hard and hard-hitting without actually being hard, too.  Case in point is the moving inspirational song ‘Life is a River.’  This song epitomizes the statement made years ago by Black Label Society front man Zakk Wylde when he noted that a song can be heavy without actually being heavy in terms of its music.  It presents the message that just because someone sees something one way doesn’t necessarily make it so.  As he notes in the song’s second verse, “What you think is just a dog/Is one of my best friends/What you see as sawed up logs/Is the house that I live in/What you call a pile of stones/Is the foundation of my home/And we all know there’s nothing sweet as home sweet home.”  He is saying that everything in life is a matter of perception.  And that one’s perception is never the same as another’s.  From there, he gets to the core of the song, telling those listeners that might be suffering emotionally for whatever reason, their perception of life being worthless is their own perception and that life is so much more beautiful than they think.  He sings, “You’ve been left out once again/Standing in the rain/Now you feel you’ve reached the end/And you just can’t stand the pain/Even though you still remain/You’re God’s creation/This I know/Cuz’ life can be so beautiful.”  The ballad-style song perfectly builds up to that conclusion, making the song’s lyrical content so hard hitting even in its simplicity.  Once again, there is the argument as to Simplicity more than living up to its title.  The lyrics are simple to understand. And the music is so powerful in its own simplicity.  The two elements together make for one more outstanding statement from Tesla on this sleeper hit of a record.  Together with the previously noted songs (and those not noted directly), Tesla’s members have shown that they still have plenty of fire and that they, too have one of the year’s most surprisingly enjoyable rock records.

Simplicity shows from start to finish just why it more than lives up to its name.  The lyrics and music that make up each of the album’s fourteen tracks are simple in terms of understanding them and understanding what message they are conveying.  Each of the songs on this record are just as enjoyable thanks to their simple yet wonderfully entertaining music.  That combination makes for so much depth and substance.  That’s something that one can rarely say about albums churned out by today’s younger bands and artists.  Keeping that in mind, it proves Simplicity to be one of the year’s most surprisingly enjoyable records and potentially one of the year’s best new rock records.  Simplicity is available in stores and online now. The band currently is scheduled to perform as part of the Monsters of Rock Cruise Miami next spring from April 18th – 22nd.  While fans wait for spring to return, they can keep up with all of the latest tour updates and news from Tesla online at http://www.TESLAtheBand.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.