Out Of The Vault: Halloween Is A Frightfully Fun Treat For Every Nicktoons Nostalgic

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Nickelodeon

August is almost over and September is about to begin. That can only mean one thing: Halloween is right around the corner. With the unofficial start of the annual holiday season nearing once again audiences are going to start seeing any number of seasonally-themed DVDs and Blu-rays hitting store shelves if they haven’t already. While many of the DVDs and Blu-rays are the same ones that are seen every year, there are some new additions each year. One of the most notable of this year’s crop of new holiday-themed DVDs is Nickelodeon’s new Out Of The Vault: Halloween collection. This new collection of Halloween-themed classic Nicktoons episodes is one that audiences of all ages. The main reason for this is the collection’s episodes. The collection features sixteen classic Nicktoons episodes pulled from five classic Nicktoons series. Their presentation is relatively well-balanced over the course of the disc’s roughly three and a half hour run time. The writing behind each of the featured episodes is just as important to the collection’s enjoyment as the episodes and their distribution. The writing incorporated into each of the episodes equal amounts and frights and fun. Rounding out the reasons that this brand new compilation is so much fun is the various animation styles of each series. It is a subtle factor. But it really shows in the bigger picture one of the most important parts of what once made cartoons great. That will be discussed at more length later. But it is just as important as any of the other reasons noted here. All things considered, Out Of The Vault: Halloween shows in the end to be one of the best of this year’s crop of new holiday DVDs and Blu-rays and one more collection that any “Nicktoons Nostalgic” will want to have in his or her own home collection.

Nickelodeon’s new holiday DVD Out Of The Vault: Halloween is one of the best of this year’s new crop of holiday DVDs and Blu-rays. Holidays aside, it is also another collection that any “Nicktoons Nostalgic” will want to have in his or her own home collection. The main reason that it is such an enjoyable watch is its featured episodes. The episodes are not limited to just a small handful from one classic Nicktoon. Rather they are pulled from a healthy spread of the network’s classic animated series. Those series include: Hey Arnold!, Angry Beavers, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, and CatDog. Each series is well-represented, too with four of the series being represented by three episode each and the fifth—Rocko’s Modern Life—being represented by four episodes. That brings the episode total to sixteen episodes and roughly three and a half hours of programming. In an even larger sense, what such a balanced representation does is give those that might otherwise not have any of the series’ previously released box sets the chance to finally own at least a part of the featured series and kick-start their collections. Keeping this in mind, the episodes presented in Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory’s new Nicktoons Halloween collection show that on their own, they collectively make a solid reason for this collection to be part of any Nicktoons Nostalgic’s home library.

The episodes featured in Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory’s new Nicktoons Halloween collection by themselves why this collection is one of the best of this year’s new crop of holiday DVDs and Blu-rays. Of course the episodes themselves are just one part of the reason that the collection proves to be so impressive. The writing that went into the episodes is another reason that this collection proves to be such a solid new release. “Arnold’s Halloween” is just one example of how the writing behind the collection’s episodes makes the collection in whole so much fun. This episode playfully pays homage to both to Orson Welles’ classic radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. It just adds a little bit of a spin that will have audiences of all ages laughing throughout the episode and will ultimately leave them wanting to watch it again not just during Halloween but during any time of the year. The Angry Beavers episode “The Day The World Got Really Screwed Up” shows doubly just how important the writing behind the collections episode is to the presentation in whole. The first way in which it does so with this episode is the very title of the episode. The title is a playful poke at the classic 1951 sci-fi flick The Day The Earth Stood Still. the episode itself pays tribute to all of the classic sci-fi/horror flicks that were churned out throughout the 1950s. Having Dag and Norbert actually become part of one of those classic films puts its own spin on those classics that will have older audiences and younger viewers alike laughing together at the inanity of it all. “This Is Your Brain on Ickis” is yet another example of how the episodes’ writing makes this collection so enjoyable. As with the noted Angry Beavers episode, the title of this episode of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters in itself an example of how its writing makes it so fun. The title is a playful homage to the 80s anti-drug campaign that told viewers “This is your brain on drugs” as it showed an egg frying in a pan. The episode itself shows the strength of its writing as Ickis shrinks down and takes over monster hunter Simon’s brain. The end result will have viewers laughing tears of joy. It is just one more example of how the writing behind the episodes featured in this collection makes the presentation in whole so enjoyable. There are plenty of other episodes featured throughout this collection that could be used as examples of the strength of the episodes’ writing. Those episodes and the ones noted here together show in whole why the writing behind each episode together with the episodes themselves makes Out of the Vault: Halloween a must have this Halloween for any Nicktoons Nostalgic.

The episodes featured as part of Out of the Vault: Halloween and the writing behind each episode both make for plenty of reason for any Nicktoons Nostalgic to add this DVD to their personal home DVD library. While both of the noted elements are clear reasons that this collection shines so brightly, the animation presented in each series proves to be just as important to the set in whole. Most people probably won’t pay that much attention to the animation style of each series presented in this DVD. But the reality is that the animation style of each series is just as important to the enjoyment of this collection as anything else. That is because it serves as a reminder of the artistic originality that once made cartoons so great. By comparison there is a troubling lack of that artistic creativity and originality in today’s cartoons. The series on television today by and large don’t even deserve to be called animated series being that they are cookie cutter creations made by computers rather than the human hand. Looking at the animation style of each presented series, it reminds audiences of the importance of putting one’s heart and soul into a cartoon rather than just moving a mouse and using a bunch of desktop tools. From the somewhat grainy look of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters to the softer design style of Hey Arnold! and CatDog to the rigidity of the animation in The Angry Beavers and even the almost free-flowing style of Rocko’s Modern Life the different animation styles within each series serves to give each series just as much of its own identity as the writing behind each series’ episodes. Both of those elements come together with the episodes themselves and their balance from one series to the next to make fully clear why Out of the Vault: Halloween is a must have for any Nicktoons Nostalgic and one of the best of this year’s crop of new holiday DVDs and Blu-rays.

Out of the Vault: Halloween is not the first Nicktoons compilation to be released this year by Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory. It is however, just as enjoyable as the companies’ previous compilation disc. The episodes featured in this collection and their balance from one series to the next are collectively one reason that it is so enjoyable. The largely laugh-inciting writing behind each series’ episodes is another reason that the collection proves so enjoyable. And the original, hand-drawn animation at the base of each episode rounds out the presentation. Each series’ animation reminds audiences of what once made cartoons so great. All three reasons considered together, they make Out of the Vault: Halloween one of the best of this year’s crop of new holiday DVDs and Blu-rays and a frightfully fun treat for every Nicktoons Nostalgic. It will be available next Tuesday, September 1st in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon is available online now at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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Dodgers, Cubs Take Center Stage This Weekend On ESPN’s SNB

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

This Sunday night, ESPN’s flagship baseball broadcast returns to the west coast once more for a matchup of the Dodgers and Cubs.

ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell will come live from Dodgers Stadium this Sunday night as the Dodgers host the Chicago Cubs in the closer of a three-game series between the NL foes that kicks off Friday night. Currently no information is available about who will take the mound for either team in Sunday’s game. The Dodgers currently lead the NL West division by a game and a half over the Giants while the Cubs sit third in the NL Central six and a half games back from the division leading St. Louis Cardinals. St. Louis also leads the league overall at 79 – 45. Speaking of the NL Central, before the Dodgers take on the Cubs this weekend, they will look to end their five-game skid as they kick off a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds tonight in Ohio’s Queen City. Cincinnati is currently in the basement in the NL Central at 52 – 71 having just ended its nine game skid last night with a come-from-behind 12 – 5 win against the Detroit Tigers. Los Angeles is 25 – 36 on the road so far this season verses its far more impressive home record of 42 – 20 and has gone 4 – 6 in its last ten games.

ESPN’s SNB team of Dan Shulman, Curt Schilling, and John Kruk will b in the booth for the call for Sunday’s game. They will be joined on the field by reporter Buster Olney for additional commentary. Sunday night’s broadcast will be preceded, as always by Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown presented by Chevrolet. Adnan Virk will anchor the broadcast. He will be joined at the desk by analyst Aaron Boone and ESPN MLB Insider Tim Kurkjian.

Those that won’t be near a television Sunday night can still catch that game live online via WatchESPN.

As an additional note, the rubber match in this weekend’s series between the Dodgers and Cubs will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio affiliates across the country Saturday evening at 8pm ET. Jon Sciambi will have the call for Saturday night’s game. He will be joined in the booth by Chris SIngleton for the broadcast.

All of the latest information on ESPN’s MLB coverage is available online now at:

Website: http://espn.go.com/mlb

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

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

ESPN To Carry Arena Bowl XXVIII Live This Weekend

Courtesy:  Arena Football League

Courtesy: Arena Football League

The Arena Football League will wrap up its 2015 season this weekend.

The AFL’s 2015 season comes to a close this weekend as the Jacksonville Sharks take on the San Jose Sabercats in Arena Bowl XXVIII. ESPN will have full coverage of the annual AFL title game. It will air this Saturday, August 29th at 7pm on ESPN.

San Jose dominated the AFL this season, finishing the season with a record of 17-1-0 while Sharks had a harder road to run. The Sharks finished the season second in the American Conference’s South Division with a record of 10-8-0. That was also good enough to put the Sharks in third overall in the American conference behind the Philadelphia Soul (15-3-0) and the Orlando Predators (12-6-0). Its rough road aside, Jacksonville still looks to be a valid challenger to the Sabercats. QB Tommy Grady finished the season third in passing in the league, throwing for 4,660 yards and going 402 of 597 passes with only 11 INTs. Derrick Ross led the league in rushing, compiling a total of 586 yards and 33 TDs while San Jose’s Erik Meyer finished a distant ninth just ahead of Orlando’s Bran Thompkins with 142 yards and 6 TDs. Jacksonville also led the league in receiving (Anothony Jones–2,087 yards, 38 TDs) and Sacks (Joe Sykes–18.5 sacks, 117 yards). the Sabercats on the other hand far outperformed the Sharks in tackles, INTs, and kicking on both sides of the ball. So this weekend’s AFL title game is apt to be an evenly matched game.

Coverage of this weekend’s season-ending title game is scheduled to begin at 7pm ET on ESPN. More information on the AFL and ESPN’s coverage of the AFL is available online now at:

Website: http://www.arenafootball.com

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

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com. 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.

Moock’s New Album Is All Kinds Of Enjoyable

Courtesy: Moockshake Music

Courtesy: Moockshake Music

2015 has been quite the fruitful year for the world of children’s music. New releases from veteran acts such as Recess Monkey, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, and Josh and the Jamtones have joined releases from others such as Jazzy Ash, The Bazillions, and fellow veteran performers Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer among others to form a field that has offered up quite the selection of music for audiences of all ages. Now another veteran artist by the name of Alastair Moock has added yet another new release to this year’s field, making things even more interesting for those keeping track. The album in question, All Kinds of You And Me, comes only a few months after fellow veteran entertainers Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer released a similar album in the form of Dancin’ in the Kitchen: Songs For All Families. While the two acts’ new albums are similar in their lyrical topics, it can be said that Moock’s new album manages to maintain its own identity apart from that of Frink and Marxer’s new album thanks to the fact that it takes the foundation established by Fink and Marxer’s lyrics and builds on it with even more interesting topics. It also builds on the pair’s foundation with its mix of musical styles. That is the second reason that audiences will enjoy this album. Last but hardly least of note of this album is its run time. The album doesn’t even hit the one-hour mark. Rather it clocks in at forty-five minutes. The album’s longest track, its closer ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ comes in at just over five minutes. And the shortest comes in at just under the three-minute mark. That each of the album’s songs runs at a relatively normal time makes each one all the more apt to keep listeners of all ages locked in from the album’s opener to its end. Moock’s lyrical and musical approach to each number does just as much to keep listeners engaged. All three elements considered together show All Kinds of You and Me to be one of this year’s bravest and most confident children’s records. What’s more that confidence and bravery pay off in spades, proving it to be one more of this year’s best new children’s albums.

Veteran singer/songwriter Alastair Moock’s latest full-length studio recording All Kinds of You and Me is one of this year’s best new children’s albums. The twelve-track, forty-five minute recording is not the first of its kind to be released this year. Fellow veteran performers Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer released an album in Dancin’ in the Kitchen: Songs For All Families only months before this album’s release. While the two albums are similar in regards to their lyrical content, they are also quite different. That is proven first through the fact that Moock doesn’t stick to just the concept of the different kinds of families that make up America’s population. He does cover this topic. That can’t be ignored. However, he doesn’t stop there. Instead he branches out paying tribute to Malala Yousefzai in ‘I Am Malala’ and even to Woody Guthrie in his cover of ‘This Land is Your Land’ and its narrative intro ‘You and Me.’ There’s even a playful little piece about the different holidays in the simply titled ‘Every Day’s A Holiday.’ While those songs each help to make Moock’s new album stand out among this year’s field of new children’s releases, the songs about families and America’s social norms do just as much to help it stand out. Moock tackles the rigid social norms and gender roles that dominate American families in the album’s opener ‘It Takes All Kinds,’ and in the two songs that follow, ‘PEOPLE’ and ‘You Might Be A Girl.’ These songs are brave to say the least. They take a similar track as that taken by Fink and Marxer. But unlike them he takes more of stand against those norms established by American culture in these songs. Every one of the songs noted here shows in its own way to play an important part in what makes All Kinds of You and Me a standout recording. While each of the noted songs plays its own role, that is not to say that the others don’t play a role, too. Quite the opposite actually. Each one of the album’s twelve total tracks plays its own part in the whole of the album’s impact with all twelve showing clearly why the lyrical approach to this album makes it one that every family should take in together. Any family that does will be glad that it did. That is because of the foundation for discussion that each song’s lyrical content forms. It’s just the starting point of what makes this record such an interesting listen. The musical approach taken by Moock throughout the record is just as important to its success and enjoyment.

The lyrical content of Alastair Moock’s latest LP is within itself plenty of reason for audiences of all ages to hear this record. That is because of the number of topics covered by Moock throughout the course of the album’s twelve tracks and forty-five minutes. He tackles the strict gender roles and social norms established within American culture in the album’s first three songs before going a little more playful as the album advanced. He even pays tribute to human rights and women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai and to folk legend Woody Guthrie in the album’s closer among much more content. It is just one portion of what makes this record so enjoyable, though. The album’s musical content makes it just as enjoyable. By and large, Moock presents a folksy, bluegrass style sound throughout the record. Though, he does break off at a few random points. The album’s opener presents a fun, rockabilly sound while ‘PEOPLE’ boasts a lighthearted Dixieland style sound. ‘You Might Be A Girl’ is just as enjoyable in regards to its music as it boasts something of an old school R&B influence. That is of course this critic’s own interpretation. And then there’s the dreamy, dulcet tones of ‘My Life(Is A Lot Like Yours)’ that will conjure thoughts of Allison Kraus and Norah Jones. That is a tribute to vocalist Jennifer Kimball’s extraordinary talents. ‘All In A Day’ also boasts that old school R&B influence. It conjures thoughts of Otis Redding. For all of the interest that the noted songs generates, the most intriguing of the album’s songs (in terms of their musical content) is ‘I Am Malala.’ The song largely boasts a gentle, beachy sound that conjures thoughts of Jimmy Buffett by and large. Though, interestingly enough the song switches things up in its final bars, sounding more like the opening bars of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ than that beachy sound that makes up the rest of its body. All of these examples together paint a rich musical picture that is just as certain to keep listeners engaged as that painted by the album’s lyrical content. The album’s musical and lyrical content taken jointly into consideration, they give listeners of all ages plenty of reason to hear this brave, enjoyable record.

Both the lyrical and musical content presented throughout the course of Alastair Moock’s new album make for plenty of reason for families to hear this record. While both elements are equally important to the whole of the record’s success and enjoyment, there is still one last element that should be examined in the whole of its presentation. That element is the record’s overall run time. The album clocks in at forty-five minutes. That is actually a relatively standard length both in regards to the realm of children’s music and that of music for adults. The album’s longest song is its closer, the cover of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land is Your Land.’ It comes in at five minutes and three seconds. The album’s shortest song is its second track ‘PEOPLE.’ That song comes in at two minutes and twenty-two seconds. Some might ask what significance any of this plays in the grand scheme of the album. It significance is that when set against the songs’ musical and lyrical content together, it can help to determine just how long the songs (and the album in whole) are likely to keep listeners engaged. Being that the songs’ musical and lyrical content is not over the heads of its intended audiences and the songs themselves are in fact really standard length, it means a greater chance of keeping audiences’ ears from beginning to end. Sure, five minutes for a song–especially a children’s album–might seem like a lot. But the simple redundancy of the song’s chorus makes it (‘This Land is Your Land’) one that will definitely keep young listeners’ ears for the full length of its run time. That, friends, is the importance of the album’s run time. And on a smaller scale the run time of each of the album’s songs. Those run times, set against the songs’ musical and lyrical content, make one whole record that stands out against its counterparts within the realm of children’s music this year. In turn, the combination of all three elements makes this record one of this year’s best new children’s records.

All Kinds of You and Me is a record that can be said to be all kinds of enjoyable from beginning to end. That is thanks to the album’s mix of musical stylings and lyrical themes. The run times of each of the album’s twelve total songs makes a total run time that together with the album’s musical and lyrical content is sure to keep listeners fully engaged regardless of their ages. All things considered, All Kinds of You and Me proves in the end to be all kinds of enjoyable for listeners of all ages and in turn one of this year’s best new children’s records. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via Alastair Moock’s official website at http://www.moockmusic.com. More information on All Kinds of You and Me is available online now along with all of the latest news from Alastair himself at:

Website: http://www.moockmusic.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alastair-Moock-Music/43677062968

Twitter: http://twitter.com/AlastairMoock 

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PBS Kids’ Second Reading Rainbow Collection Will Hopefully Not Be Its Last

Courtesy:  PBS Kids/PBS Distribution

Courtesy: PBS Kids/PBS Distribution

PBS’ programming has changed a lot over the years since the network first hit the air. Through all of the changes in its programming lineup, there have been some shows that have remained fan favorites among the network’s legions of fans. Those shows include the likes of Wishbone, Sesame Street, and Reading Rainbow are just a few of those shows. There are plenty of other classics that remain favorites among audiences today. The specifically noted shows are just a few of the network’s most popular series to date. The latter of that trio of series went off the air almost ten years ago. Though, it did make its somewhat triumphant return online roughly a year or so ago much to the surprise and even dismay of some. Thankfully for those hoping for its return to television, PBS Kids and BS Distribution released a pair of DVDs this summer containing a handful of classic Reading Rainbow episodes. The first of the DVDs, Reading Rainbow: If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, was released this past May. The second collection, Reading Rainbow: Animal Café, was released June 30th. This collection is even more of a must have for long-time Reading Rainbow fans as the prior release. The main reason for this is its episodes. Three of the collection’s four episodes originally aired in 1985. That was when Reading Rainbow was still very much in its infancy. Older audiences will get a sense of nostalgia watching those episodes. That is especially the case in seeing the fashions from that era as well as hearing the music and the show’s overall production values. The episodes themselves are just part of what makes Reading Rainbow: Animal Café enjoyable for audiences. Some of the books teach even more invaluable lessons and others present some simple, enjoyable stories that will put a smile on any viewer’s face. Last but not least that makes this latest collection of episodes so fun for the whole family is the “teaching guide” included with the set. The “guide” serves as a starting point for teachers and parents alike to present lessons about ecology, conservation, and simply giving thanks. It is a great addition that can go a long way for teachers and parents alike. And together with the set’s episodes and their content contained therein, it makes the collection complete. It works with those elements to make this collection one more than every family should have in their home DVD library.

Reading Rainbow: Animal Café is only the second official collection of classic Reading Rainbow episodes to be released by PBS Distribution since the series went off the air in 2006. That is saying quite a bit. Being only the second official collection released from the one-time home of the family favorite series, it proves itself to be one more welcome new collection and hopefully not the last either. It proves itself so valuable primarily through its featured episodes. Four more classic episodes are presented in the body of the DVD. Three of those episodes come from 1985. That is the when the series was still in its infancy. It would have only been on the air for two years at that time. And it shows through the fashions and music in each episode as well as the hairstyles and production values. It might leave some audiences laughing including the series’ now grown-up original viewers looking back on how much things have changed since then. In the process, looking back at the days gone by, watching these episodes may even create a sense of nostalgia for those same audiences. It will remind those audiences of what once made PBS great and by comparison what still makes it so great even today. The children of those viewers will enjoy the episodes not for the nostalgia but for the general content of the episodes. They and their parents will all enjoy LeVar’s comedy makeover and classic slapstick routine in connection with the book Ludlow Laughs. The “Rainbow Classic” bicycle race set against the beautiful, tropical backdrop of Hawaii in the collection’s second episode and the race itself will entertain audiences of all ages just as much. And the throwback to New York City of the 1980s is still as relevant today as it was in 1985. That is because there are still people both there and across the country that work overnight. So it is still just as worthwhile an episode today as it was in its original broadcast. It is just one more example of what makes the episodes featured in this collection so important to the success of the set’s presentation in whole. Together with the collection’s other episodes, all four episodes show in whole why they are so important to the success and enjoyment of Reading Rainbow: Animal Café.

The episodes featured in PBS Kids’ latest Reading Rainbow collection do plenty to make this new collection a must have for any of the show’s original fans and for the next generation of Reading Rainbow fans. They are collectively only one part of what makes this latest collection so enjoyable for the whole family. The content of the episodes and the books presented in relation to the episodes make for even more enjoyment. The episode centered on The Tortoise and the Hare teaches the invaluable lesson of perseverance and hard work and its related results while Giving Thanks teaches exactly that. It teaches young viewers to be appreciative of everything that they have. Being that we seemingly live increasingly in a me first world today, this is an especially important lesson for young viewers to learn. Such a timeless lesson is yet another example of why audiences of all ages will appreciate this latest collection of Reading Rainbow episodes. Set against the collection’s more straight forward, fun-filled episodes, the material featured in all four episodes makes this collection all the more enjoyable. Collectively, all of the material presented in each of the disc’s four episodes shows just as much as the episodes themselves why this latest collection is a must have for Reading Rainbow fans of all ages.

The episodes that were chosen for Reading Rainbow: Animal Cafe and the material contained therein are both key reasons that audiences of all ages will want to add this latest Reading Rainbow collection to their home DVD libraries. They are not the only reasons that audiences will appreciate it, either. Along with the centrally featured episodes, Reading Rainbow: Animal Cafe also includes a “teaching guide” of sorts inside the DVD’s case. The “teaching guide” serves as a good starting point for teachers and parents alike. That is because it forms a foundation for the lessons presented throughout each of the presented episodes. Teachers and parents can drive home the lessons of Giving Thanks by having children form a “cleanup party” that with permission from a city or town government, would clean up designated areas of said town or city. The lessons presented by The Tortoise and the Hare are driven home by presenting an interactive activity that would see children grow their own plants. It would teach them the rewards of patience, hard work, and perseverance. There are even activities included in the “guide” that give parents and educators a starting point to teach children about appreciating not just Earth but all that Earth has to offer in its natural beauty. Teachers and parents could go from here and build lessons about appreciating other things (or people) that children have. As if that is not enough, there is also a lesson that lets children make their own pots just like the Native Americans presented in “Giving Thanks.” Each of the lessons in themselves offers its own enjoyment for adults and children alike. Together, they provide yet one more solid reason that this DVD should be in every living room and classroom even despite the episodes’ ages. And when set alongside the episodes themselves and the episodes’ content in whole, all three elements together show in whole why Reading Rainbow: Animal Cafe is not just another must have for any family and educator but one of the year’s best new DVDs for children and families.

Reading Rainbow: Animal Cafe is one of this year’s best new DVDs for children and families. It proves this through the combination of its episodes, their featured content and the DVD’s companion “lesson guide.” Whether used in the classroom or the living room, it proves to have something for audiences of all ages and will no matter how many times viewers watch it. Audiences can only hope that it will not be the last of PBS Kids’ Reading Rainbow compilations to see the light of day. With any luck it and its companion DVD Reading Rainbow: If You Give A Mouse A Cookie will prove successful enough that maybe PBS Kids and PBS Distribution will release this classic series in its own standalone season sets rather than smaller four-episode collections. Time will tell. And while audiences wait to see if anymore classic Reading Rainbow episodes will see the light of day, they can purchase this DVD in stores or order it online now via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=60650596&cp=&sr=1&kw=reading+rainbow&origkw=Reading+Rainbow&parentPage=search. More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org

Facebook: 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.

Pop Evil Sits Among Rock’s Elite Again With Its Latest LP

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Last Friday, veteran rock band Pop Evil released its latest full-length studio recording Up. The album, the band’s fifth (and its third released via eOne), continues the band’s long-running tradition of producing top-notch mainstream rock albums. The album’s mix of hard rock arena anthems and equally radio-ready rock songs together make it an album that just as with its predecessors is one of this year’s best new rock records. That is evident right from the album’s outset. ‘Footsteps’ is one of those radio ready rock songs whose catchy hooks and choruses come together with its equally thoughtful verses to make for a solid opener for the album and an equally solid example of what makes Up yet another enjoyable new release from one of the biggest names today in mainstream rock. ‘Take It All’ is another solid example of what makes Up another success for Pop Evil. It is one of those aforementioned hard rock arena anthems that is sure to have fans singing along just as proudly by themselves as they would in an arena with thousands of their fellow fans. That is thanks both to its high-energy musical content and its equally inspiring lyrical content. Just as ‘Footsteps’ and ‘Take It All’ both show in their own way what makes Up such a solid slab of rock so does the ballad style song ‘If Only For Now’ show in its own way what makes this record so enjoyable, too. These are just a few examples of what makes Up yet another enjoyable recording from one of today’s leading names in mainstream rock. There are other songs included in this record such as the hard rock opuses ‘Vendetta’ and ‘Dead in the Water’ and the rather emotionally moving acoustic work ‘Seattle Rain.’ These three songs each do just as much by themselves and collectively why Up is yet another impressive album from Pop Evil. Whether for these songs, the prior trio noted or any of the others not more directly noted, fans and audiences in general will agree that this album in whole is one of the best of this year’s new rock records.

Counting August, there are only five more months left in 2015. Over the course of the past seven months, audiences have seen quite a few impressive new mainstream rock records released in stores and online. Artists and acts such as Joe Satriani, Finger Eleven, Everclear, Barenaked Ladies and others have already proven themselves worthy of being added to the list of the year’s best new rock albums with their new recordings. That’s a pretty wide swath of names. So it is safe to say that Pop Evil is in pretty comfortable company with its latest full-length studio recording Up. That’s right. This album is, just as with Pop Evil’s previous albums, one of this year’s best new mainstream rock records. That is proven through every one of the album’s thirteen total tracks (fifteen in the case of the album’s Deluxe Edition) including its opener and latest single ‘Footsteps.’ ‘Footsteps’ is a solid opener and just one clear example of what makes Up one of this year’s top new albums. Just as with songs included in previous Pop Evil albums ‘Footsteps’ is one of those songs that is a perfect fit for any mainstream rock radio station. It isn’t one of those standard, formulaic, copycat pieces that sounds like so many others. For that reason alone, it is well worth the listen. It also doesn’t just rehash any stylistically similar songs from Pop Evil’s previous LPs either. It is just a good, solid mainstream rock song that will entertain audiences from its musical content alone. Its lyrical content gives it even more punch. Front man Leigh Kakaty and Dave Bassett teamed up to write this song’s lyrical content. Their efforts led to some rather inspiring material. The pair wrote for this song, “Starting over once again/This is where it all begins/It’s right in front of me/Down is not where I belong/This aching heart won’t turn to stone/There’s a fire inside these bones/It was meant to be/I see a world still full of light/How could I’ve ever been so blind/I still haven’t lost my fight/That haunts ne in my sleep.” Examining these lines alone audiences see just how powerful and inspiring these lyrics are. They are just part of that proof, too. The song’s closing verse is just as inspiring with Kakaty and Bassett writing of staying optimistic despite the uncertainty of the future. That parallel of that positive message and the song’s upbeat musical content makes clear why this song was chosen to open Pop Evil’s new album and why it is just the latest representation for the band’s new album, too. Audiences can hear the song for themselves and see the song’s new video online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXvkTuMyZpM.

‘Footsteps’ is in itself a solid example of why Up is one of 2015’s top new rock records. The mix of its upbeat musical content and optimistic lyrical content makes this clear. It is just one example of what makes Up such a solid collection of songs, too. ‘Take It All’ is another clear example of what makes Up so enjoyable. This high-energy song is an instant fan favorite that is just as certain to be a favorite at the band’s live shows as on disc. That is thanks to its own mix of musical and lyrical content. Musically speaking, ‘Take It All’ is the polar opposite of ‘Footsteps.’ It shows another side of the band with its much heavier riffs, low-end from bassist Matt DiRito, and concrete strong drumming from Chaci Riot. It shows musically that once again, the band refuses to rest easy on its laurels, opting instead to show the breadth of its abilities. While this song proves to be the polar opposite of ‘Footsteps’ stylistically, its lyrical approach is very much the same, which is in this case not a bad thing. Kakaty and Bassett co-wrote this song’s lyrical content, too. Kakaty sings here, “You got that fire burning your eyes/LIghting up the sky I see you coming/You got desire running through your brain/Ice in your veins I see you coming/So what do you say.” Kakaty and Bassett leave little room for doubt in examining this verse. It is someone addressing a rather strong-willed individual, motivating said person. It’s one of those pieces that is perfect for a workout session or game prep session especially with football season now under way at every level. If there is in fact any doubt left in any listener’s mind from that verse, the song’s second verse makes even clearer the message being presented by Kakaty and Bassett. That is the case as Kakaty sings in said verse, “Got that drive way deep inside/Keeping you alive it’s all or nothing/There ain’t no shame just playing the game/No pain and no game just rise about it/So what do you say.” The energy in those lyrics coupled with the energy in the song’s driving musical content is sure to get any listener’s blood and body moving. The same can be said of the partnering of the song’s lead verse and its musical content. All things considered here, ‘Take It All’ proves to be one of the best examples of what makes Up so enjoyable if not the single best example. Even as great of an example as it is, it still is not the last example of why Up is one of this year’s best new rock albums. The more reserved ‘If Only For Now’ is one more example of what makes it a solid record.

‘Footsteps’ and ‘Take It All’ each serve in their own way to show just how much Up has to offer audiences. It is not the first time that the band has ever included a ballad-style song in any of its albums. And while not being the first time that the band has ever included a ballad on any of its albums, listeners that are familiar with the band’s body of work will be happy that the band avoided repeating its previous ballads all the way around in the case of this song. That is made clear first and foremost through the song’s lyrical approach. The song, co-written by Kakaty, Bassett, Joshua Marunde, and bassist Matt DiRito, the song surprises by tackling the subject of a person hoping for love. As Kakaty sings, “Streets crowded with voices/Thousands of faces but you’re all I wanna see/Lights reflections of yesterday/Days thrown away cause you’re all I wanna keep.” These are the words of someone not longing for a lost love but of someone singing to another of his or her yearning for another. That person goes on in the song’s second verse to say to that person, “Here the world’s at our fingers/So live in the moment I’m not gonna say goodbye/So why don’t we for now forget tomorrow/Let me be the only thing you need/If only for now.” The song’s subject is saying, “Let me make this moment about us if only for now.” Sure, it’s mushy. But it could have been even more so. Thankfully Kakaty and company didn’t let that happen in the case of this song. because they didn’t it makes the song all the more enjoyable. Being that the subject of a person hoping for love is tackled far less than the subject of love lost, it becomes that much more enjoyable. The attention paid to the song’s musical content adds another level of enjoyment to the song. The band builds the song in each verse right up to the song’s chorus to make for the fullest possible emotional impact. It succeeds in this goal, too. The attention to the tone of the song’s musical content gives the song even more of a positive impact. It serves to even better illustrate the song’s upbeat, optimistic outlook. And in doing so it rounds out the ways in which this song shows itself to be another solid example of what makes Up so impressive in whole.

‘Footsteps,’ ‘Take It All,’ and ‘If Only For Now’ are all prime examples of what makes Up yet another impressive release from Pop Evil. All three songs show a different side of the band both musically and lyrically. They are only a small handful of examples of that diversity, too. ‘Vendetta,’ ‘Dead in The Water,’ and the emotionally moving ‘Seattle Rain’ could just as easily be used to exemplify how much this record has to offer fans. The same could be said of any of the album’s other songs not directly noted here. Regardless of which songs one choose, listeners and long-time fans alike will agree that all things considered, Up proves to be not just another enjoyable record from Pop Evil but another one of this year’s best new rock records overall. Up is available now in stores and online. And the band is currently touring in support of Up. Its next slated date is Tuesday, September 8th at the Rose Music Hall (formerly Mojo’s) in Colombia, Missouri. The band is also scheduled to perform live at The Fillmore in Charlotte, North Carolina alongside Three Days Grace on Wednesday, September 16th. Tickets for that and all of the band’s other shows are available now. All of the band’s latest tour dates are available online now along with all of the latest news from the band at:

Website: http://www.PopEvil.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/popevil

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.

Jimi Hendrix: Live At The Atlanta Pop Festival Is One Of 2015’s Top New Live CDs

Courtesy:  Experience Hendrix, LLC/Legacy Recordings

Courtesy: Experience Hendrix, LLC/Legacy Recordings

On July 4th, 1970 legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix stood on a stage in Byron, Georgia before an audience estimated to be anywhere from 300,000 to 400,000 people at the city’s Second Atlanta International Pop Festival. He was joined on stage by then band mates Billy Cox (bass) and Mitch Mitchell (drums) for what would go on to be the biggest audience for which the trio would ever perform before Hendrix’s untimely death a little more than two months later. While it is the biggest performance that Hendrix and company had ever held, it has never seen the light of day. That is until now. Thanks to the efforts of the people at Experience Hendrix, LLC and Legacy Recordings, this classic concert will finally be available to audiences this Friday, August 28th. Needless to say this new, upcoming live recording is one more welcome addition to any Hendrix fan’s music library. The main reason that it is such an enjoyable recording is its set list. The show’s set list totals sixteen songs and tops off at roughly an hour and twenty-two minutes. It features both a number of Hendrix’s biggest hits up to that point and even a number of lesser-known pieces. The combination of both those bigger hits and lesser-known pieces makes for a set list that both the most hardcore Hendrix fans will enjoy and those that might not be so familiar with the music that made Hendrix rock royalty. As important as the concert’s set list is to its presentation in whole, it is just one part of what makes the show so enjoyable. Hendrix’s stage presence and that of his band mates plays its own role in the concert’s enjoyment. Last but hardly least important in the concert’s enjoyment is its audio mix. Considering the changes in recording technology over the course of the past forty-five years the quality of this concert’s audio mix is surprisingly impressive. Sure, it’s tough to hear Hendrix talking and joking with the audience between songs without pumping the volume almost to max. But that’s a minor issue when looking at the audio mix in general. That being the case, the audio mix passes the test and rounds out what is yet another archived show that any Hendrix fan will want to have in his or her own music library.

Jimi Hendrix: Live at the Atlanta Pop Festival is hardly the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s first archived live show to be released by Experience Hendrix, LLC and Legacy Recordings. That aside, it is still another great addition to the home music library of any Hendrix fan out there regardless of his or her familiarity with Hendrix’s body of work and his live shows. The main way in which it proves so enjoyable is its set list. The set list is not entirely different from previous Jimi Hendrix Experience concert recordings. However, it does show at least some differences from those recordings. It shows differences by including a number of lesser-known songs including the likes of: ‘Lover Man,’ ‘Spanish Castle Magic,’ ‘Room Full of Mirrors,’ ‘Message To Love,’ and ‘Freedom’ just to name a handful. While the inclusion of those lesser-known songs is in itself important to the enjoyment of this recording the performance of the band’s more well-known songs should not be played down. Audiences will love the band’s laid back take of ‘Red House.’ And fittingly the band’s performance of the show-opening ‘Fire’ will have listeners even today feeling the energy exuded by the band and by the audience in attendance all those decades ago. Feeling that energy, listeners will feel it running through themselves, too. Just as interesting is the band’s performance of ‘Hey Joe,’ one of its biggest hits of all. Unlike with so many other performances of this song–and even the song’s original recording–it shows to be more up-tempo than in those recordings. That’s not to say that it is a really fast paced rendition of the song. It is just not as slow as audiences are accustomed to in regards to this song. It’s yet another interesting way in which the set list shows to be just one important element in the whole of Live at the Atlanta Pop Festival. The rest of the songs featured in the show’s set list could each be used as examples, too. These examples within themselves are just a few of the clearest examples of why the show’s set list is so important to its success and enjoyment.

The set list featured at the heart of Live at the Atlanta Pop Festival is a key element of the recording’s success. It is of course just one element in a much larger picture. The band’s stage presence–especially that of Hendrix himself–is just as important to its success and enjoyment. Audiences that are familiar with Hendrix’s history both on and off the stage will find his stage presence just as enjoyable as ever. This includes both his performance of each song and his rapport with his audience. During the course of each of the band’s songs, Hendrix feels just as at ease as ever. His performance feels completely natural and organic. Listeners will especially notice this in some of the concert’s more spur of the moment jam session moments. The same can be said of [Billy] Cox and [Mitch] Mitchell. They feel just as natural in their performances. Mitchell sounds as if his drumsticks are natural extensions of his arms as he flows through each song while Cox is just as smooth, offering up just enough low-end to perfectly compliment both Mitchell’s rhythms and Hendrix’s main line. It makes for a great harmony opposite Hendrix’s work. All three musicians’ talents together make for a nearly ninety minute set that is still just as enjoyable today as it was forty-five years ago. Hendrix’s rapport with the audience plays into that, too. Although listeners will have to pump the volume on their stereos or MP3 players in order to hear him between songs, they will hear for themselves in doing so just how natural he was even when not performing. It’s really interesting to note especially considering his nature off-stage. He was just as nice off-stage as he was in front of a crowd. But he was also somewhat shy around people when he wasn’t performing. So keeping that in mind, it makes his interactions with the audience here just as enjoyable and incredible as in any of the band’s other performances. It really goes to show why his ability to overcome that shyness is so important both to the enjoyment of this and other performances from the band, and why he is himself one of the most important front men in modern rock history.

The stage presence of both Hendrix and his band mates throughout the course of Live at the Atlanta Pop Festival shows in the long run to be a hugely important element in its overall success and enjoyment. That is because all three musicians’ performances feel just as natural and organic as in any of the band’s previous performances. That natural, organic approach to each song make the set list in whole that much more important to the recording’s success, too. For all of the importance of both noted elements, neither would be of any worth noting without noting the concert’s audio mix. Thankfully, those charged with restoring the concert’s audio mix stepped up and accomplished their task with the utmost expertise. Sure, it would have been nice if listeners didn’t have to jack up the recording’s volume in between songs. But that is a minor price to pay for a recording that sounds as good as it does in this case. It speaks volumes of not only the abilities of those that re-mastered the concert’s sounds but of those that originally recorded the concert and of the recording tech from the era. It is thanks to both that tech and the abilities of all involved that both the show’s set is so easy on the ears and why the band’s stage presence throughout the whole show comes across just as well even with the issue of the moments between the songs. It is the foundation for the concert in whole and in turn makes the concert complete. It is the final touch in the concert’s examination, proving exactly why it is yet another welcome addition to any Hendrix fan’s music library.

Jimi Hendrix: Live at the Atlanta Pop Festival is not the first live Hendrix concert recording to be released to audiences. That aside, it still proves in the end to be another fully welcome addition to any Hendrix fan’s music library. That is thanks to the show’s near ninety-minute set list, made up of songs that all of Hendrix’s fans will recognize. The band’s stage presence and the work of those responsible for re-mastering its sound are just as much to note. All three elements combined make Live at the Atlanta Pop Festival one more welcome addition to the music library of any Jimi Hendrix fan and one more of this year’s best new live CD recordings. It will be available in stores and online this Friday, August 28th. More information on this and other Jimi Hendrix recordings is available online now at:

Website: http://www.jimihendrix.com

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

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.

2015’s First Family Film Is Also One Of Its Least Enjoyable Films

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Group/Dimension

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Group/Dimension

Anchor Bay Entertainment is one of the biggest and most influential independent studios in the entertainment world today.  It is the driving force behind no fewer than three of AMC’s biggest series, one of which—The Walking Dead—is one of the biggest series on television today.  Its role in the Starz network has also led to the success of series such as Black Sails, Da Vinci’s Demons, and Blunt Talk.  It is also at least partially behind some of the biggest independent movies to come along in recent years.  Those movies include the likes of Henry Poole Is Here, Unfinished Song, and Shanghai Calling just to name a few.  For all of the impressive marks on the studio’s resume, it proved earlier this year with its new big screen adaptation of author Michael Bond’s Paddington books that it is not infallible.  While the movie is a fun little flick for the whole family it is hardly one of 2015’s most memorable movies.  That is thanks in large part to its unoriginal script, which can easily be compared to the equally forgettable 1992 canine-centered movie Beethoven.  Both movies’ scripts are so similar that it is impossible say that this work has any real originality.  This is even despite Paddington sticking to its source material.  As troubling as this is to the whole of Paddington, it would be unfair to say that the movie is a total loss just from this one element.  In the story’s defense, actress Nicole Kidman is to be commended for her work as the villainous taxidermist Millicent.  The movie’s makeup and costume departments are both just as much to applaud for their work in making Kidman into Millicent.  It is thanks to their work that she is nearly unrecognizable.  Sadly their work and that of Kidman herself are the only real shining gems of Paddington.  The special effects used to bring Paddington to life are nothing new.  They can easily be compared to the work of those behind Yogi Bear and so many other CG/live action hybrid flicks before it.  And as beautiful as the story’s backdrop is even it can’t save the movie.  That is even when it is set alongside the movie’s only other positives.  That being the case, the sad reality of Paddington is that even as entertaining as it is for the whole family, it is largely one of this year’s most forgettable theatrical releases.

Paddington was one of the most anticipated family movies of 2015 ahead of its release early this year.  Sadly the hype and anticipation over this new big screen release proved to be all for naught.  That is because it proved in the end to be in fact one of the year’s least memorable movies.  The main reason that it proved to be such an unforgettable work is its script.  In watching this movie, there is no denying its blatant similarities to the 1992 family flick Beethoven.  It’s almost as if the movie’s writing team of Paul King and Hamish McColl took Beethoven’s script and tweaked it to meet the needs of this story.  For all intents and purposes, Paddington was an orphan much like Beethoven when he [Paddington] was taken in by the Brown family.  Sure, Paddington wasn’t adopted from a pet store.  But it can be argued in regards to the character development exhibited through the story’s progression that he does in fact become “adopted” more or less.  It’s just a different scenario.  As the story progress, audiences see Paddington pursued by Kidman’s villainous Millicent only to ultimately meet a rather hilarious end just as Dr. Varnick (Dean Jones—The Love Bug, Clear and Present Danger, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes) does in Beethoven.  For the sake of those that have not seen either movie, neither character’s fate will be revealed here.  Getting back on the subject, it can be easily seen in putting the two scripts side-by-side just how similar the pair is to one another.  That being the case, it is difficult to take Paddington with much seriousness or even respect being that this is the case.

If the similarities between the two movie’s scripts aren’t enough to convince audiences of just how unforgettable Paddington proves to be, a comparison of some of the movie’s characters might help convince viewers.  We will start with a comparison of the stories’ father figures.  Charles Grodin’s George Newton character from Beethoven has been almost identically replicated in Paddington in the form of Hugh Bonneville’s Henry Brown.  That replication is right down to his original, gruff reluctance to take in Paddington when the Browns first meet Paddington.  George Newton was much the same way with Beethoven in that movie.  Young Judy Brown (Madeline Harris—The White Queen, Being Human, Man Down) is a near mirror image of Beethoven’s Ryce Newton (Nicholle Tom—The Nanny, Justice League, Beverly Hills, 90210).  Both actresses portrayed the moody daughter figure in their respective roles.  And just as Sarah Rose Karr’s (Kindergarten Cop, Father of the Bride, Beethoven’s 2nd) Emily was Beethoven’s best friend in that movie so is Jonathan Brown’s (Samuel Joslin—The Impossible) relationship with Paddington much that same in this movie.  Taking into consideration the overall lack of originality in regards to both the movie’s script and its characters (and their growth over the course of the movie’s progression), it should be clear as to why it is so difficult to call this movie anything more than perhaps a one-time watch at best.

The issues with Paddington’s script both in regards to its story and its characters and their development do plenty to keep the movie from being anything that families will remember for years to come.  For all of its problems Paddington is not a total loss.  It does have some positives.  One of those few, rare positives is the work of actress Nicole Kidman as the evil taxidermist Millicent.  Millicent takes the character established by Dean Jones in Beethoven and steps up that role even more.  What that means to say is that she really is believable in her delusions.  Yet at the same time there’s a certain comic element about Millicent that Kidman brings out on camera that audiences will love just as much.  The combination of those two elements together makes Kidman the real star of the movie interestingly enough.  It makes a person want to see the movie if only for her performance.  On a related note, those that were responsible for Kidman’s makeup and attire are worthy of their own credit.  That is the movie’s only other real, noticeable positive.

Nicole Kidman may have played the role of the villain in Anchor Bay’s new CG/live-action hybrid adaptation of Paddington.  But even playing the villain, she was the real shining gem of this otherwise forgettable flick.  That is because the movie’s script—both in regards to its story and characters and their development—is anything but original or even memorable.  Luckily she isn’t the only bright element of this movie.  Those that were responsible for Kidman’s makeup and costume are also to be commended.  That is because collectively, they made her nearly unrecognizable.  If viewers were to see her on screen in this movie without knowing it was her ahead of time, they would not have known at all that it was her.  That is unless they were to have sat through the movie’s credits or researched the character online via a website such as imdb.com, or other similar sites.  From her hairdo (was that a wig or not?) to her costumes to even minute details such as her overall makeup, those responsible for bringing Millicent to life on screen (at least in terms of her look) are to be highly commended for their work.  Maybe that is why Kidman did so well in her portrayal.  She felt that said individuals had done such an impressive job in their charge that she felt that comfortable in her own acting.  That could well be just this critic’s own take of course.  But it is still something worth considering.  Regardless, it is safe to say that the work of those individuals along with Kidman’s own work are the only real elements of Paddington worth watching.  The movie’s script in every one of its aspects really does nothing to make the movie memorable.  That being the case, it is safe to say that while Paddington is not this year’s worst movie—that dishonor currently sits between Marvel’s new Avengers movie and Universal’s new Despicable Me spinoff Minions—it definitely is hardly one of the year’s best new big screen features.

It’s sad to say that Anchor Bay’s attempt to bring author Michael Bond’s beloved furry friend to life on the big screen.  That’s especially the case because its debut early this year marked the first time ever that Bond’s character had been adapted to the big screen.  Sure there was a TV show some decades ago.  But up until this year, no studio had had the gumption to adapt it for a big screen feature.  For that reason alone, Anchor Bay deserves at least some credit for having the bravery to give it a chance.  One can only hope that considering its weak, unoriginal script juxtaposed by the otherwise impressive work of actress Nicole Kidman and those charged with helping bring Kidman’s character to life, that the movie’s now rumored sequel will fare better.  That is because while this movie is not the year’s worst new theatrical offering, it is definitely not one of the year’s best either.  Here’s to hoping, Paddington.  Here’s to hoping.  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.

Transformers Rescue Bots’ New DVD Is “Roaring” Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Hasbro Studios

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Hasbro Studios

Shout! Factory and Hasbro Studios will release the latest collection of episodes from Discovery Family’s hit Transformers series Rescue Bots next week. The collection, Transformers Rescue Bots: Dino Bots will be released next Tuesday, August 25th. The ninth collection of episodes from the hit series, it is also one of the best to be released so far. The main reason for that is that its episode list doesn’t just lift randomly from the series’ so far three seasons. Rather it keeps its five episodes limited to just one season. What’s more the episodes in question are presented in mostly chronological order than a random order. As important as both of the noted elements are to this disc, they are just small parts of what makes it so enjoyable for viewers. The writing behind each of these episodes is just as important as the episodes and their ordering. The series’ writers are to be commended for their efforts to make each of the stories as believable as possible and as enjoyable as possible, too. It can be said that they succeeded quite well in both arenas, leading this collection to be one more that Transformers fans of any age will want to add to their own home library.

Transformers Rescue Bots: Dino Bots is one of the best collections to be released from Discovery Family’s hit animated series to date. There are multiple reasons for this, the least of which being its episode list. The episode list featured in this collection stands out among those of Shout! Factory’s previous Transformers Rescue Bots collections by and large because it actually lifts from just one of the series’ current three season run. The series’ previous collections each lift randomly from each of the series’ seasons at the time in order to match their collective titles. So in the case of this collection, its title Dino Bots actually is far more fitting than any of the series’ previous compilations. That is not to say that the series’ previous sets are any less enjoyable for that reason. Rather it just means that for the first time audiences actually get a full complement of episodes thoughtfully assembled from one source rather than a group of random episodes tossed together for the sake of making a compilation. It’s just the starting point in the examination of what makes this compilation so much fun for the whole family. The sequencing of the featured episodes also plays an important part in its overall success and enjoyment.

The fact that the episodes featured in Transformers Rescue Bots: Dino Bots are all pulled from just one of the series’ three current seasons is in itself a major positive to the disc. On a related note, the sequencing of the episodes is just as important to the compilation’s presentation. Audiences will note in this compilation that all five episodes are presented in the same chronological order as they appeared in their original airings on Discovery Family. As far as this critic can tell, this set marks the first time since Shout! Factory started releasing the series’ sets three years ago. It shows even more the dedication on the pat of all involved to finally bring audiences a true, proper compilation. Some might ask why this is so important. The answer is that pulling randomly placing episodes into a set produces the potential of having bits and pieces of story arcs being picked and chosen thus leaving open ends. Even in a series based in standalone episodes such as this one, there are some small story arcs incorporated into the series such as the two-part story arc presented in this set in which the Rescue Bots have to face off against Colonel Quarry. And having them piecemealed such as in the series’ previous sets tends to throw things off. So having five episodes presented here in largely the same order as they appeared on television helps to maintain a certain level of enjoyment. It is an element that far too few people consider in compilations, period. But it is something that deserves notation as clearly exhibited here. For all of the importance of the episodes’ sequencing in this set and of the episodes themselves, they are not the compilation’s only important elements. The writing behind each of the episodes is yet another important element in the collection’s success and enjoyment.

The writing that went into each of this collection’s episodes is just as important to the collection’s overall success and enjoyment as the episodes themselves and their sequencing. That is because it shows the writers’ attempts to make each episode just as believable and entertaining as possible for viewers. One way in which those efforts are exhibited is in the Rescue Bots’ acquisition of their new forms. The writers don’t just let the Rescue Bots get them and have them. Audiences will note that the Rescue Bots in fact have a little bit of trouble getting accustomed to their new forms almost being taken over by the primal behaviors of the dinosaurs that they scanned. At more than one point Optimus is overcome by those behaviors after having used his new form in order to help save the Rescue Bots. Even Boulder begins to fall victim to them at another point. On a more specific note, the set’s opening episode sees both Cade and Dr. Green using life vests while making their way on-bard Heatwave to the island to investigate it. These are just a few ways in which the writing proves so important to these episodes. They aren’t the only examples of what makes it so impressive, either. There are great references to Jurassic Park and Godzilla peppered into the episodes for good measure. And having the Rescue Bots, who are themselves still learning human culture having to teach an unfrozen caveman about modern life is itself well worth its share of laughs. It is one more way in which the writing behind these episodes proves to be so important in the overall success and entertainment value of Transformers Rescue Bots: Dino Bots. The writing, together with the collection’s episodes and their sequencing, make the collection whole. All together, they make this collection one more impressive collection of Transformers Rescue Bots episodes if not the series’ best collection of episodes yet.

Transformers Rescue Bots: Dino Bots is one of the best collections of episodes to be released from the hit Discovery Family series to date. It could even be argued to be the best of the series’ collections to date. That is thanks in large part to its episodes and their sequencing. The writing behind each of the set’s episodes is just as pivotal to their success and enjoyment. All things considered this latest collection shows in the end to be one more that Transformers fans of all ages will want to add to their home DVD libraries. It will be available next Tuesday, August 25th in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/kids/kids-animation/transformers-rescue-bots-dinobots. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory and Shout! Factory Kids is available online now at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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From The Vault: The Marquee Club Live in 1971 Is One Of 2015’s Marquee Live Recordings

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

This past June, Eagle Rock Entertainment continued its “From The Vault” series with the first of two more archived Rolling Stones concerts with it released From The Vault: The Marquee Club Live in 1971. The classic recording is yet another impressive release in the ongoing series of concert recordings. And there are a number of reasons that this recent release proves itself such an impressive new archived recording not the least of which being its multiple formats. It is available on a number of platforms including: DVD, SD Blu-ray, DVD + CD combo pack, SD Blu-ray + CD combo pack, and even DVD + LP combo pack. Having so many options in terms of its platforms, audiences will all be on the same level regardless of which option they choose. The set list chosen for this recording is just as important to its success as its availability on multiple platforms. And last but hardly least worth mentioning is the recording’s companion booklet. Richard Havers’ liner notes and the additional notes included in the booklet add an additional insight into the recording that makes for even more enjoyment for audiences. All three elements taken together make From The Vault: The Marquee Club Live in 1971 yet another impressive addition to Eagle Rock’s Rolling Stones “From The Vault” series. They also make it one more of this year’s top new live Blu-rays, DVDs, and CDs.

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new addition to its Rolling Stones “From The Vault” series is yet another impressive addition to that series. It is also one of the year’s best new live Blu-rays, DVDs, and CDs. That it fits into not one or two but three categories is the central reason that it is such an impressive release. Eagle Rock has paid tribute both to the band and its legions of fans around the world in having made it available in so many platforms. Those platforms include: DVD, SD Blu-ray, DVD + CD combo pack, SD Blu-ray + CD combo pack, and even DVD + LP combo pack. What this means is that fans will all be largely on the same level regardless of which platform they choose to take in the concert. That is because each platform presents the concert in exactly the same order with all of the same songs. Nothing has been added or removed from any of the concert’s varied presentations. It is hardly the first time that Eagle Rock has done this for fans. And it more than likely won’t be the last. The DVD and SD Blu-ray platforms both feature video that when played back in any standard Blu-ray player will look the same. That is because the SD Blu-ray footage has already been upscaled. Any DVD played back on a Blu-ray player will be upscaled when played back on said device. The audio is the same on both presentations, too as is the set list, which is the next reason that that this recording proves to be yet another impressive addition to Eagle Rock’s “From The Vault” series of releases.

The various platforms in which The Rolling Stones’ latest “From The Vault” recording are collectively one very important aspect of its success and enjoyment. They put the band’s legions of fans around the world largely on the same level regardless of which platform they choose to purchase. It is just one aspect of the set that fans and audiences alike will appreciate. The show’s set list is another reason the audiences will appreciate and enjoy this recording. The primary set list only totals eight songs. That totals a little more than thirty-six minutes. However, thanks to the people at Eagle Rock Entertainment, they are complemented with two extra pairs of bonus tracks, one being a pair of alternate takes of ‘I Got The Blues’ and the other a pair of alternate takes of ‘B****.’ That is a total of four additional songs, which push the show’s total run time to fifty-four minutes. It is fifty-four minutes that audiences won’t even realize has passed by the time the whole thing ends. It includes songs that were at the time the band’s older material–including the Stones standard (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’–and more recent material such as ‘Let It Rock’ from the then most recent Stones’ 1969 record Let It Bleed. It also includes four songs from what was then the band’s next album Sticky Fingers in the form of ‘Brown Sugar,’ ‘Dead Flowers, ‘I Got The Blues,’ and ‘B****.’ Of those four songs, only three were originally planned for the set presented here. The fourth, ‘I Got The Blues’ was a last-minute addition. As audiences will learn in reading through the show’s booklet, it was added to the show’s set list that night. In hearing it in all three of its takes, fans will agree that it was a good thing that it was added to the show. That is because it stands out so starkly from the rest of the set’s songs stylistically speaking. As Havers notes in the recording’s liner notes, it is reminiscent of Otis Redding. As audiences will note, it really forces Jagger to push himself in regards to his vocal range. It is definitely an interesting change of pace for the band both in terms of this concert and in terms of the band’s overall body of work at the time. It is just one more way in which this recording’s set list shows itself to be so important to the whole of the recording. It is not the last way in which the recording shows itself to be so impressive either. As previously noted, the companion booklet that comes with the recording in each of its platforms includes in-depth liner notes by Richard Havers as well as other intriguing notes. That combination of notes plays directly into the set list and the recording in whole, proving once and for all why From The Vault: The Marquee Club Live in 1971 is one more must have for any Rolling Stones fan and fanatic and why it is one of the best of this year’s new live recordings overall.

The availability of The Rolling Stones’ new recording on a variety of platforms does plenty to make it another impressive addition to Eagle Rock Entertainment’s ongoing series of archived Rolling Stones concert recordings. The set list that makes up the body of the concert is just as important to its success and enjoyment. That is because it features a group of songs that at the time exhibited a rather large swath of the band’s catalogue including one song that almost didn’t make it into the concert. While both elements prove to be equally important to the overall success and enjoyment of this new Rolling Stones recording, there is still one more element to examine in its presentation. That final element is the concert’s companion booklet. Writer Richard Havers includes some in-depth liner notes in the booklet, which are themselves complemented by some equally in-depth additional smaller notes. Havers’ notes include a mention of ‘I Got The Blues’ almost not making the concert’s set list and of the band’s decision to include a cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Let It Rock.’ The latter was added because, again as Havers notes, the band had quite the affinity for the famed guitarist’s body of work. It is well-documented that much of The Rolling Stones’ music was influenced by the blues. But this additional note regarding the band’s respect for Berry’s style of rock and roll is an interesting tidbit for fans who perhaps might not have known about it. In the same breath, Havers also makes mention of the band’s first performance of ‘Midnight Rambler’ at Hyde Park in 1969. Ironically enough, Eagle Rock just released that recording last month. Or rather, it released the presentation that ended up being recorded and presented for broadcast. The mention is made because the band also included ‘Midnight Rambler’ in its performance at The Marquee Club, too. It’s just one more example of how Havers’ liner notes add more interest and enjoyment to From The Vault: The Marquee Club Live in 1971.

In regards to the additional material included by the people at Eagle Rock, fans learn that the concert itself was a rather intimate performance with only 150 – 200 guests invited to the show. Among the guests in attendance, according to those additional notes, were none other than Eric Clapton and Jimmy page. What’s more fans also learn via the companion booklet that the band used its own mobile recording equipment to capture the concert as well as its then upcoming album Sticky Fingers and later to record Exile on Main Street. That the band used its own recording equipment to capture the concert’s audio is actually a very telling statement. It might not have captured every little nuance of the band’s show, but it definitely did a relatively impressive job of capturing the energy of the band’s show so long ago. There is even more interest added thanks to the original news article printed at the time included in the booklet. Fans that read the article will catch that the band actually recorded not one but two takes of the show. They were recorded simultaneously. That is because the original twenty-eight minute set would air on British television. The longer, fifty-two minute concert would air across Europe. This echoes the presentation that would become Hyde Park 1969 and would also explain why audiences get two takes of ‘I Got The Blues’ and two of ‘B****.’ Or at least it would safe to assume that that would be the reason why those additional takes are included in the recording. All of this information alongside the notes provided by Richard Havers show in full detail just why the companion booklet that comes with From The Vault: The Marquee Club Live in 1971 is just as important to the package in whole as the show’s set list and the varied platforms in which it is presented for audiences. Those varied presentations alongside the concert’s very set list and the in-depth information provided in its companion booklet show together once and for all why From The Vault: The Marquee Club Live in 1971 is not just another impressive addition to Eagle Rock’s “From The Vault” series of recordings but one of this year’s best new live recordings overall.

The Rolling Stones From The Vault: The Marquee Club Live in 1971 is one of this year’s best new live recordings overall as well as another impressive addition to Eagle Rock’s continued series of live Rolling Stones recordings. That is shown over and over again through the varied platforms in which it is presented, through its set list and even through the concert’s companion booklet. All three elements provide their own element of enjoyment to the whole of the concert. Collectively, they make this recording one that Rolling Stones fans of all ages should have in their own home music library. From The Vault: The Marquee Club Live in 1971 is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

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.