Cinematography, Acting Not Enough To Save Cinedigm’s ‘Hickok’

Courtesy: Cinedigm

This past Tuesday, independent movie studio Cinedigm released its new Western offering Hickok to audiences on 4KHD/BD combo pack.  While the movie is loaded with impressive cinematography and a cast composed of well-known actors, it still sadly falls short both within the Western genre and in the bigger picture of this year’s new cinematic offerings, both on the big and small screen.  That is due primarily to a story that is rife with problems.  This will be discussed later.  The work of lead stars Luke Hemsworth and Trace Adkins’ is one more saving grace for this otherwise forgettable entry in the Western world.  Keeping all of this in mind Hickok proves ultimately to be worth at least one watch, but sadly not much more.

Hickok, Cinedigm’s new addition to the lengthy list of movies telling Wild Bill Hickok’s story is a work that Western fans will agree is worth watching at least once, but sadly not much more than that.  That is due at least in part to the movie’s cinematography.  From the movie’s Civil War opening scene to the seemingly constant shootout scenes that fill the movie’s 88-minute run time (it seems like the movie relies on those scenes more than anything else on a side note, which will be discussed later) to the simplicity of the jail scenes and more, those behind the cameras are to be applauded for their work in making the movie bearable.  That is because they manage so well to capture the energy and the emotion of each scene, whether the scene be something light-hearted, something tense or outright energetic.  The movie’s opening scene, which presents Bill Hickok as a Union Commander during the Civil War, is a prime example of the talent of those abilities.  The movie’s camera crew expertly captured the tension and energy of what it must have been like to be combatant in the war.  The problem with that scene is that it really has almost no bearing on the rest of the movie.  Audiences are left to wonder about the scene’s role until much later in the movie’s run.  This, too will be discussed later.

The scenes inside the Bull’s Head Saloon, while not as action packed as other scenes, are more prime examples of the talents of the movie’s camera crew.  While the scenes are relatively simple, the camera crew’s work does a good job of capturing what is believed to have been everyday life in an old west saloon.  From the guys playing poker to the women working the building as the men drank and played cards to other mundane items, their work expertly captured those scenes, which are among some of the movie’s best moments.

The movie’s constant shoot-out scenes are just as notable as the other noted scenes in explaining the importance of Hickok’s cinematography.  That is because those scenes evoke a certain amount of tension without much effort.  From one scene to the next, the camera crew’s talents are on constant display, even when no shots are fired.  That is saying a lot, too.  It shows yet again just how much work was put into this movie’s cinematography.  When it is joined with the other noted examples and so many other moments, the whole of those moments makes fully clear why this movie’s cinematography carries it—at least in part—on its back.  Keeping this in mind, the movie is not without at least one major flaw.  That flaw is its writing.

From its start to its end, Hickok’s script, crafted by Michael Lanahan, presents so many problems including a complete lack of any back story to set the stage for this presentation.  Audiences know, thanks to the movie’s opening Civil War scene, that allegedly Bill Hickok served as a Union Commander during the conflict.  From there, the movie jumps randomly to a scene of Hickok being awoken, naked, in a tub by a pair of lawmen for apparently stealing a horse.  There’s no back story here, either.  If that is the past that he is trying to escape (the premise on the back of the movie’s box states he is trying to escape his past), then that is not much of a bad past.  That in itself becomes extremely problematic since it doesn’t give audiences much reason to sympathize with Hickok.  The only real hint of a bad past that audiences get comes late in the story as it is revealed that Hickok might have been a Union spy.  Even that though doesn’t play into who Hickok is in this movie.  As if all of this is not bad enough, Hickok’s meeting with evil saloon owner Phil Poe (Trace Adkins) seems to happen as randomly as Hickok becoming the Marshal of Abilene, Kansas as does the revelation of Hickok’s previous relationship with Mattie, who apparently is engaged to Poe.  The problems with the movie’s script don’t end with the items noted here.  From seemingly random scene and mood shifts to other plot holes that the story barely attempts to fill, this script leaves the movie’s nearly 90-minute run time feel like it is far longer.  Thankfully, the work of Hemsworth and Adkins works on its own to make those problems bearable if not forgivable.

Hemsworth, who is most well-known for his work on Westworld, The Anomaly and Infini slides into his role as the infamous old west gunslinger just as expertly as those who recorded his work.  His cool-natured approach to the famed figure echoes back to the days of Gary Cooper in ‘High Noon’ and even somewhat to Ed Harris’ take of Virgil Cole in Appaloosa.  It shows his ability to handle even this kind of role, even despite what little he had to work with in the movie’s script.  It’s just too bad that he had to show that ability while having to tackle his character’s presentation in that script.

On a similar note, Trace Adkins, who is himself no stranger to Westerns—he previously starred in Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story, Traded and The Virginian—is spot on as the vile Phil Poe.  It would have been so easy for him to overact here, which he has done in his previous efforts.  In this case though, his portrayal of the suave yet villainous saloon owner leaves one easily hating Poe, which is a tribute to his talents.  It shows finally that maybe, just maybe, he does indeed have some potential as an actor.  Considering this, his work shows just as much as that of Hemsworth to be critical in making this movie bearable if only for one watch.  When the duo’s work is joined with the movie’s cinematography, the two elements do just enough to save Hickok.

Cinedigm’s latest jaunt into the Western world is a movie that is worth at least one watch by those who are fans of the genre.  Sadly though, it is not worth much more than that.  That is due in large part to a story that suffers from problems of plotholes, pacing and so much more.  Luckily, the movie’s cinematography and the work of its lead stars makes up for the shortcomings of that script.  One could even argue that the movie’s production crew, responsible for the movie’s sets, and those behind the costumes and makeup, deserve some credit, too.  While their contributions do serve to help the movie some more, the whole of those elements and the previously noted elements still are not enough to make up for a story that misses every one of its marks.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other titles from Cinedigm is available online now at:










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Nickelodeon, Paramount’s ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ 5-Season Set Re-Issue Is Imperfect, But Fun

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Paramount

This past May, Nickelodeon and Paramount brought the first five seasons of Nickelodeon’s hit animated series Spongebob Squarepants home once again in a massive 14-disc, 100 episode collection simply titled Spongebob Squarepants: The First 100 Episodes.  It marked the first time the collection had been re-issued, and came a little more than a month ahead of the premiere of the series’ 11th (yes, eleventh) season.  Not even the network’s classic Nicktoons – as wonderful as so many of them still are today – lasted that long, with most running their course at four or five seasons.  That is an aside.  Getting back on track, this recent reissue of the box set, which was originally released to the masses in 2009 as part of the celebration of the series’ 100th episode’s airing, is a largely impressive reissue, albeit not perfect.  The set’s episode listing is its most obvious positive, and will be discussed shortly.  The set’s one negative, its packaging, will be discussed later.  Last but most definitely not least of note here is the bonus material included in the set.  Each element is important in its own right to the set’s overall presentation this time out.  All things considered, they make the first re-issue of Spongebob Squarepants: The First 100 Episodes one of this year’s top new DVD & BD Re-Issues.

Nickelodeon and Paramount’s recent reissue of Spongebob Squarepants: The First 100 Episodes is a surprisingly enjoyable presentation for true hardcore fans of the beloved Nicktoon.  That is due in part to the set’s episode listing.  The 100 episodes presented in this collection make up the series’ first five seasons. Not a single episode from that first half of the series’ current run is missing either.  Even the roughly 2:30 short “Reef Blower,” which was part of the series’ very first episode is included here.  This is something important to note due to its tie to the set’s average price point.  Stores nationwide right now are carrying nearly every one of the series’ current seasons either in single-season sets and in some cases as bundle packs, that include single season sets together at a set price.  The cost of those sets eventually adds up.  In the case of the series’ first five seasons, the average cost of the sets runs approximately $50 both by themselves and in standalone form regardless of the outlet.  In the case of this set, its average price point is $34.73, with most of the major retailers – Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Amazon – selling it at a price point of 32.96.  Target is the only standout with a price point of $39.99.  Add in the fact that most of the noted retailers sold the set at roughly $38 in its 2009 release, that indicates a noticeable price drop this time around.  Considering all of this, audiences will see that this collection is, for the relation between its primary content and average price point, a welcome addition to their collections.  While this is clearly a positive for the set, it is not without at least one glaring problem.  That problem is its packaging.

The packaging in this set is problematic in that its 14 discs overlap each other, two to each side of the set’s plates.  While this may be a positive ergonomically speaking, the size of the set has not been reduced that much in comparison to the set’s previous release.  What’s more, by making the discs overlap in that effort to save space, it also greatly increases the odds of the discs being scratched both when they are taken out for play and when they are replaced.  To that end, this is just not smart packaging.  Audiences would probably settle for bulkier packaging if only for the reduced chance of the discs being damaged.  Even worse, this is not the first time that Paramount has gone this route in recent memory.  The company has used the same packaging method for its recent re-issues of Star Trek The Original Series: The Complete Series, The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Series, I Love Lucy: The Complete Series, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.: The Complete Series, Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete Series and The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series.  Considering this, one would have thought the people at Paramount would have learned their lesson by now, but apparently not, and that is disappointing.  Maybe if Nickelodeon and Paramount release a “mega-set” for the series’ second half, they will take this issue into consideration.  Again, while another method might be bulkier, it would be worth it if it meant decreased odds of discs being damaged.  Luckily, it is the set’s only negative and doesn’t completely ruin the collection.  The bonus material included in the set rounds out its most important elements.

The bonus material included in this presentation of Spongebob Squarepants: The First 100 Episodes is important to note because it is the same material presented in the set’s 2009 presentation.  The nearly hour-long VH1 special Square Roots: The Story of Spongebob Squarepants is the most important of that bonus material. It takes audiences through the series’ history up through its fifth season from its unlikely roots in series creator Seth Hillenburg’s early career at an aquarium to the religious right’s attempt to slander Spongebob to Hillenburg’s eventual departure from the series.  The 40-minute-plus doc presents the series’ humble roots on Nickelodeon to its surprising rise to worldwide fame all while looking ahead to its future, which obviously has proven to be quite bright.

As if that extensive history lesson isn’t enough, the set also includes a multi-lingual presentation of the series’ debut episode ‘Help Wanted’ as a bonus.  The episode includes the series’ theme song being sung in Spanish, Chinese, French, German and other languages for the opening segment.  The episode itself continues in a variety of languages, showing even more Spongebob Squarepants’ far-reaching popularity.

The “Life Lessons From Bikini Bottom” brings its own entertainment as it is in reality just a character profile of Bikini Bottom’s most beloved (and not so beloved) inhabitants. It’s a relatively short segment, running about five minutes, but is still entertaining thanks to the work of the editors who pieced the program together.  The timing of the profiles and the show clips makes for plenty of laughs even in this short presentation.

The short “Kick-Wham-Pow-Bob” music video, which crosses music from Pantera and video from the series, adds its own enjoyment to the set’s presentation.  No worries about hearing from the band’s former front man either.  The musical portion of the video is all instrumental.  Audiences will recognize the music as the same musical base used in the episode “Prehibernation Week.”

Each of the bonus elements discussed here is an important piece of this set’s presentation in its own way.  All things considered, they show in whole why the set’s bonus material is so important to its overall presentation.  When that material is joined with the set’s episode listing, its related price point, and even that one negative that is the set’s packaging, the whole proves to be a collection that while not perfect, is still enjoyable in its own right.  That packaging prevents it from being the year’s top new DVD or Blu-ray re-issue, but also doesn’t keep it from being one of the year’s best in that category.

Nickelodeon and Paramount’s recent re-issue of Spongebob Squarepants: The First 100 Episodes is one of this year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.  That is the case even when one takes into account the set’s problematic packaging.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this set, other Spongebob Squarepants collections and all of the series’ latest news and more is available online now at:









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Leprous Premieres ‘Illuminate’ Single, Video

Courtesy: InsideOut Music

Leprous is giving audiences yet another preview of its fifth full-length studio release only days ahead of the album’s release.

The band unveiled ‘Iluminate,’ the third single from its forthcoming album Malina this week along with the single’s companion video.  Shot in Romania and directed by Costin Chioreanu for Twilight 13 Media, the video puts the band performing its new single in a very darkly lit background in order to help illustrate the song’s message.

The band explained that in a collective statement about the song.

“‘Illuminate’ is one of the most groovy songs we’ve ever made!  It’s the Leprous people know, but in a fresh version,” the statement reads.  “The abstract and dark video from Costin underlines the atmosphere of the song perfectly.”

Prior to this single and video, the band also released the singles and videos for ‘From The Flame’ and ‘Stuck.’  Other songs included in Malina’s 11-song body include ‘’Mirage,’ ‘The Weight of Disaster,’ ‘Captive’ and others.  The album’s full track listing is noted below.

LEPROUS – “Malina”:
1. Bonneville
2. Stuck
3. From The Flame
4. Captive
5. Illuminate
6. Leashes
7. Mirage
8. Malina
9. Coma
10. The Weight Of Disaster
11. The Last Milestone

Malina will be available in stores and online Friday, Aug. 25 via InsideOut Music on CD, digital, deluxe expanded CD and 2LP platforms.  Pre-orders are open now.

Leprous will embark on an extensive European tour this fall in support of Malina that begins Oct. 28 in Copenhagen, Denmark and currently runs through Nov. 25 in Oslo, Norway.  The tour also currently includes performances in Lyon, France; Dublin, Ireland; London, U.K. and other cities across Europe.

More dates are expected to be added to that schedule in the coming days and weeks.  The band’s current tour schedule is noted below.

LEPROUS, Agent Fresco, AlithiA & Astrosaur – European Tour:
Presented in Germany by Eclipsed,, Guitar &
28.10.2017 Copenhagen (Denmark) – Pumpehuset
29.10.2017 Hamburg (Germany) – Logo
30.10.2017 Cologne (Germany) – Luxor
31.10.2017 Esch (Luxembourg) – Rockhal
01.11.2017 Haarlem (The Netherlands) – Patronaat
02.11.2017 London (UK) – The Dome
03.11.2017 Dublin (Ireland) – Voodoo Lounge
04.11.2017 Leeds (UK) – Damnation Festival
05.11.2017 Vosselaar (Belgium) – Biebob
06.11.2017 Paris (France) – Trabendo
07.11.2017 Nantes (France) – Barakason
08.11.2017 Bordeaux (France) – Rocher Palmer
11.11.2017 Toulouse (France) – Le Metronum
12.11.2017 Marseille (France) – Le Moulin
13.11.2017 Milan (Italy) – Magnolia
14.11.2017 Lyon (France) – CCO Villeurbanne
15.11.2017 Winterthur (Switzerland) – Salzhaus
16.11.2017 Colmar (France) – Grillen
17.11.2017 Munich (Germany) – Backstage Halle
18.11.2017 Vienna (Austria) – Szene
19.11.2017 Budapest (Hungary) – A38
20.11.2017 Prague (Czech Republic) – Rock Café
21.11.2017 Warsaw (Poland) – Proxima
22.11.2017 Berlin (Germany) – Musik & Frieden
23.11.2017 Aarhus (Denmark) – Atlas
25.11.2017 Oslo (Norway) – Vulkan Arena
And more dates to be announced soon…

More information on Leprous’ new single, video, tour and more is available online now at:










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‘Masterpiece Mystery: Endeavour’ Returns Sunday

Endeavour returns tomorrow.

The fourth season of Masterpiece Mystery: Endeavour begins at 9 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide.  The series’ fourth season opens with yet another major mystery for Endeavour Morse to solve.  This time, the clock is ticking as Endeavour tries to solve the connection between a drowning and a chess-playing “thinking” machine.

Audiences can view a trailer for Season 4’s premiere episode online now here.

Courtesy: PBS/itv

Support for Masterpiece Mystery: Endeavour is provided by Viking River Cruises and Farmers Insurance.

More information on Masterpiece Mystery: Endeavour is available online now along with all of the series’ latest news at:










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Pre-Orders Now Open For Madonna’s ‘Rebel Heart Tour’ Recording

Courtesy: Eagle Vision/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Pre-orders are officially open for Madonna’s next new live recording Rebel Heart Tour.

The veteran pop performer’s latest live recording will be released Sept. 15 in stores and online on DVD, Blu-ray, CD, 2CD, and digital download.  The DVD and Blu-ray platforms also come with an audio CD featuring highlights from the tour.  It features performances recorded throughout the tour, which saw Madonna perform 82 shows in 55 cities worldwide on four continents over seven months.

The extensive set list varies from one platform to the next, though each platform includes performances of a number of Madonna’s hits including ‘Living For Love,’ ‘Burning Up,’ ‘Holiday’ and others.  The full track listing for each platform is noted below.  Those who pre-order the recording now will receive the recording with exclusive merchandise bundles.

DVD / Blu-ray Tracklisting CD Tracklisting
01. Rebel Heart Tour Intro 01. Rebel Heart Tour Intro
02. Iconic 02. Iconic
03. Bitch I’m Madonna 03. Bitch I’m Madonna
04. Burning Up 04. Burning Up
05. Holy Water / Vogue 05. Holy Water / Vogue
06. Devil Pray 06. Devil Pray
07. Messiah (Video Interlude) 07. Deeper and Deeper
08. Body Shop 08. HeartBreakCity
09. True Blue 09. Living For Love
10. Deeper and Deeper 10. La Isla Bonita
11. HeartBreakCity 11. Rebel Heart
12. Like A Virgin 12. Candy Shop
13. S.E.X. (Video Interlude) 13. Unapologetic Bitch
14. Living For Love 14. Holiday
15. La Isla Bonita
16. Dress You Up / Into The Groove
17. Rebel Heart
18. Illuminati (Video Interlude)
19. Music
20. Candy Shop
21. Material Girl
22. La Vie En Rose
23. Unapologetic Bitch
24. Holiday
01. An Excerpt from “Tears Of A Clown”
02. Like A Prayer
CD1 Tracklisting CD2 Tracklisting
01. Rebel Heart Tour Intro 01. Living For Love
02. Iconic 02. La Isla Bonita
03. Bitch I’m Madonna 03. Dress You Up / Into The Groove
04. Burning Up 04. Rebel Heart
05. Holy Water / Vogue 05. Music
06. Devil Pray 06. Candy Shop
07. Body Shop 07. Material Girl
08. True Blue 08. La Vie En Rose
09. Deeper and Deeper 09. Unapologetic Bitch
10. HeartBreakCity 10. Holiday
11. Like A Virgin 11. BONUS TRACK: Like A Prayer
Digital Tracklisting
01. Rebel Heart Tour Intro
02. Iconic
03. Bitch I’m Madonna
04. Burning Up
05. Holy Water / Vogue
06. Devil Pray
07. Messiah (Video Interlude)
08. Body Shop
09. True Blue
10. Deeper and Deeper
11. HeartBreakCity
12. Like A Virgin
13. S.E.X. (Video Interlude)
14. Living For Love
15. La Isla Bonita
16. Dress You Up / Into The Groove
17. Rebel Heart
18. Illuminati (Video Interlude)
19. Music
20. Candy Shop
21. Material Girl
22. La Vie En Rose
23. Unapologetic Bitch
24. Holiday
01. An Excerpt from “Tears Of A Clown”
02. Like A Prayer

Along with the extensive set lists, the DVD and Blu-ray platforms will also include exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and unreleased footage including a performance from her fan club show in Melbourne, Australia.  The show marked Madonna’s first time performing in Melbourne in 23 years.

The Rebel Heart Tour was produced by Live Nation Global Touring.  The upcoming live recording was directed by Jamie King with musical direction by Kevin Antunes (with band keyboardist Ric’key Pagot, drummer Brian Frasier-Moore, guitarist Monte Pittman and background vocalists Kiley Dean and Nicki Richards).  Choreography was directed by Megan Lawson.

Andy LeCompte handled hair while Aaron Henrikson was in charge of makeup.  Arianne Phillips led the tour’s costume design department.

More information on Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour recording is available online along with her latest news and more at:










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Voiceplay Releases New ‘Moana’ Medley Video

Fans of Disney’s hit movie Moana have new reason to celebrate.

A cappella outfit Voiceplay has just released a video of the group performing a medley of songs from the movie’s soundtrack via Yahoo! Music.  The group was joined by Broadway star Rachel Potter (The Addams Family, Evita) for the performance.

Courtesy: Reybee, Inc.

Voiceplay member Eli Jacobson discussed the new medley and its partnership with Potter for the video in a recent interview with Yahoo! Music’s Lyndsey Parker.  He said during the interview that developing its take on the songs and bringing Potter on for the project was natural.

“The music is just truly inspirational and we individually felt connections to the characters,” Jacobson said.  “We also all share the dream of providing music and voicing for an animated film and knew that Rachel would have a great take on Moana.  The fact that our kids and families love the music is just really just a huge plus.”

Potter said she was just as excited to work with Voiceplay as the group was to work with her.

“I was just so elated to get to do a Moana medley with these guys,” Potter said.  “It really captures the emotions throughout the entire film in just a few minutes and it’s something Jude (Potter’s son) and I can enjoy for years to come.”

Potter’s collaboration with Voiceplay on its new medley is not the first time that she has worked with the group.  She also worked with the quintet on The Phantom of the Opera and Charlie Puth’s Attention.   Voiceplay itself has already crafted a medley of popular Disney showtunes including numbers from The Little Mermaid, The Lion King and Aladdin as part of Disney’s celebration of its 20th anniversary on Broadway.

More information on Voiceplay’s new Moana medley is available online now along with all of the group’s latest news and more at:










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Revolution Saints Unveils New Single, Video

Courtesy: Frontiers Music Srl

Revolution Saints has unveiled the video for its latest single.

The band debuted the video for its new single ‘Freedom’ Friday.  The song is taken from the band’s forthcoming sophomore album Light in the Dark, which is currently scheduled to be released Oct. 13 via Frontiers Music Srl.  Pre-orders are available now via Frontiers Records Srl, Amazon, iTunes and Google Play.

The song’s video is a hybrid presentation that mixes footage of the band’s live performances with lyrics and the song itself for an experience that stands solidly on its own merits. Musically speaking, the song throws back to the power rock compositions of the late 80s and early 90s from the likes of Def Leppard and so many others.

Drummer and singer Deen Castronovo said of the song’s lyrics that they were born during his recovery from addiction at the Betty Ford Clinic in June 2015.

“They’re just a powerful reminder of where my head and heart were at the time,” Castronovo said.  “It was the last song that Doug [Aldrich], (producer/songwriter) Alessandro Del Vecchio and I wrote and recorded.  The whole lyric came to me in about 10 minutes.  When I was at Hazelden Betty Ford, we would journal after each day to reflect on what we were feeling throughout the day.  At the end of each day, I’d written the words “FREEDOM, COMING MY WAY.”  It was the first thing that hit me and thought it’d be a great chorus for a song.  So when Doug brought the song idea in, his music just fit too perfectly.  I moved some things around and the entire lyric fit into the song!  It was totally effortless.”

Aldrich agreed.

“The inspiration came when Deen and I were listening to what we had so far for the record and we wanted to write something different that we hadn’t done yet,” Aldrich said.  One day Deen sent me a MP3 of him jamming on guitar. There were a bunch of parts going and I thought, ‘how cool is that? Deeno C throwing down!!’ I can just see Deen jammin’ and I didn’t expect that. I picked up the guitar and tried to play some stuff in the same tempo with the vibe he had. Basically on accident, I found a riff that I thought could be OK. When we all got to Milano, me, Deen and Alessandro talked about some ideas. We started talking about a jungle beat type of song, and I remembered the riff. The three of us did a rough demo and sent it off for label approval. Jack’s bass is super creative and fresh. Alessandro’s keyboards and production are stunning, and I love how it turned out. The lyric is very inspirational. I’m so impressed with Deen on this record! Let’s go! Freedom for all!”

More information on Revolution Saints’ new single and video is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:









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