‘Jasper Jones’ Is The Cream Of 2018’s Independent Movies Crop

Courtesy: Film Movement/Screen Australia

As the last hours of 2018 near, Phil’s Picks has one final year-ender list to present.  This final list is that of the year’s top new independent movies.

For those who might not follow this critic’s ramblings on a daily basis, this critic has a very strong aversion to mainstream Hollywood and its offerings.  That is because the mainstream movie industry tends to offer so little in terms of originality.  Nowadays, Hollywood’s “Big Six” studios feed audiences a steady diet of nothing but prequels, sequels, reboots, biopics and movies based on actual events.  There is just little to no originality from the mainstream.

Thankfully, the independent industry offers audiences something to enjoy for those looking for that escape.  Level 33 Entertainment offered the touching Running For Grace while Cohen Media Group’s biopic of sculptor Rodin offers its own interest.  Mill Creek Entertainment’s Flora proved to be a surprisingly entertaining watch, and so did Film Movement’s Bye Bye Germany, even with its massive plot hole, that this critic considered in hindsight.  Why would a Jewish prisoner-of-war work with a Nazi officer?  it does kind of negate a big part of that story.

Taking the top spot in this critic’s list of 2018’s top new independent movies is the Australian import, Jasper Jones.  This movie was met with mixed reviews, but this critic’s own view is that it is a powerful watch that addresses (in intended fashion or not) issues of racism even down under in the 1960s.

Second place in this year’s list goes to the noted Mill Creek release Flora.  The movie is a surprisingly enjoyable watch as it takes the classic man vs. nature story and gives an unsuspecting twist that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

Third place in this year’s list goes to the previously noted Level 33 Entertainment movie Running For Grace.  Released in early November, is set in Hawaii and finds its main protagonist as he falls in love with a young white woman.  It stars some well-known names, too in the form of Matt Dillon and Jim Caviezel alongside Ryan Potter, Juliet Mills, Olivia Ritchie and Nick Boraine.

Also featured in this year’s list are the Japanese imports, The Third Murder and Outrage Coda along with the Afghan import, An Afghan Love Story just to name some more titles.  As always, this final year-ender features 10 best titles and five honorable mention titles for a total count of 15.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2018 Top 10 New Independent Movies.

PHIL’S PICKS 2018 TOP 10 NEW INDEPENDENT MOVIES

  1. Jasper Jones
  2. Flora
  3. Running For Grace
  4. Oh Lucy!
  5. I Am Not A Witch
  6. Rodin
  7. In Between
  8. An Afghan Love Story
  9. The Third Murder
  10. Outrage Coda
  11. Bye Bye Germany
  12. Un Traductor
  13. Midaq Alley
  14. Death and the Maiden
  15. La Boyita

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‘Saved By The Bell’ Rings Loud In Phil’s Picks 2018 top 10 New DVD/BD Re-Issues List

Courtesy: Shout! FactoryNBC

Box sets and standalone DVDs and Blu-rays are always critical to examine each year when it comes to year-ender lists.  That is because they really are their own categories.  They are not the only important categories to examine, though, when developing year-ender lists.

One of the most under appreciated lists that every critic should consider is the list of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.  This critic’s list is chock full of interesting titles this year, such as the Blu-ray re-issue of the classic action series MacGuyver‘s debut season, Saved By The Bell and even the classic biopic The Glenn Miller Story. Yes, this critic even included a biopic in the list, despite not exactly being a fan of the genre.

The top spot on this year’s list goes easily to none other than Saved By The BellThe Complete Series.  The original series has been released previously, however, never to the extent that it was presented in this new box set.  Add in solid pricing and extensive bonus material, and fans of the classic NBC series get a top notch set.

The second spot on this year’s list goes to the Blu-ray re-issue of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.  This so-campy-that-it’s-great modern classic is incredible in its story, acting and special effects.  The addition of its bonus material makes it an even greater investment for movie buffs.

Third Place in this year’s list of top new DVD & BD Re-Issues goes to the re-issue of MGM’s Get Shorty.  The spoof of Hollywood’s many mob movies and Hollywood insider flicks couples with enjoyable bonus content and an affordable price point for a presentation that every movie buff will enjoy.

Also featured in this year’s list are re-issues of Bill & Ted’s Bogus JourneyDragnetBill & Ted’s Excellent AdventureCity Slickers and The Wasp Woman just to name a handful of titles.  The list’s top 10 titles are the best of the year, while the five that follow are honorable mention titles.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2018 Top 10 New DVD/BD re-issues.

PHIL’S PICKS 2018 TOP 10 NEW DVD/BLU-RAY RE-ISSUES

  1. Saved By The BellThe Complete Series
  2. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
  3. Get Shorty
  4. Dragnet
  5. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
  6. Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
  7. Cold Turkey
  8. The Wasp Woman
  9. MacGuyverThe Complete First Season
  10. City Slickers
  11. Dr. Detroit
  12. GarfieldNine Lives
  13. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure
  14. The Glenn Miller Story
  15. The Sandlot

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PBS’ ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ Set Is The Most Beautiful Of 2018’s Family DVD & BD Box Sets

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

Time is quickly ticking away for 2018.  As the hours tick by, Phil’s Picks is trying to get everything done before the old year is out and the new year is in.  Next up as this finally day of 2018 winds down is the year’s top new DVD/BD box sets for families.

Just as grown-ups has plenty of options this year in regards to DVD and BD box sets, so did families in whole.  Some of this year’s top family box sets also made their way to the grown-ups box sets list, as (E.G. Milk StreetSeason One and Finding Your RootsSeason 4).  That is because they really can be just as entertaining for the whole family as for grown-ups.

The top spot in this year’s list goes to PBS’ Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood collection, It’s A Beautiful Day.  The multi-disc set offers hours of entertainment from a variety of classic Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood series.  Considering how hard it is to find the series even on PBS stations nationwide, and the lessons that the episodes teach, this new collection hopefully will not be the only one from the series to be released.

Second Place in this year’s list belongs to Gravity FallsThe Complete Series.  While its creator openly said it was intentionally short-lived, it has made one heck of an impact on audiences, and rightfully so.  Whether one owns the collector’s edition or the standard set, which features episode-length commentaries with each episode, the series stands out.  With any luck there will be a third season one day.  One can only hope.

The third spot in this year’s list goes to RugratsSeason Three, and it is followed up by the series’ fourth season.  The land mark series’ writing was absolutely outstanding in both seasons.  One can only hope that Nickelodeon will continue giving proper releases for the rest of the series’ seasons every year as it has done up to this point.

Also featured in this year’s list are the fifth season of CBS’ timeless fish out of water sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, which was released on DVD this fall, alongside the full release of Fraggle RockThe Animated Series and the ninth season of Spongebob Squarepants.

Whereas this critic’s previous lists all featured 15 total titles, this list will only feature 10 titles.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2018 Top 10 New Family DVD/BD Box Sets.

PHIL’S PICKS 2018 TOP 10 NEW FAMILY DVD/BD BOX SETS

  1. Mister Rogers’ NeighborhoodIt’s A Beautiful Day Collection
  2. Gravity FallsThe Complete Series
  3. RugratsSeason 3
  4. RugratsSeason 4
  5. The Beverly HillbilliesThe Complete Fifth Season
  6. Courage The Cowardly DogThe Complete Series
  7. Fraggle RockThe Complete Animated Series
  8. Milk StreetSeason One
  9. Finding Your RootsSeason Four
  10. Big Box Of Kids Favorites (Mill Creek Entertainment set)

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No Joke, Time Life’s Robin Williams Retrospective Is 2018’s Top New Box Set For Grown-Ups

Courtesy: Time Life

The final hours of 2018 are upon us, and with those final hours nearing their end, so do Phil’s Picks’ annual year-ender lists.  One of this year’s final yea-enders examines the year’s top new box sets for grown-ups.

Grown-up audiences have quite a few options from which to choose this year in regards to box sets.  From the multitude of dramas turned out by CBS to the wider variety of titles released via PBS to material released via Time Life, audiences had plenty to enjoy this year.

This year’s list was actually relatively easy to develop even with the number of titles released for grown-ups.  Taking the top spot in this year’s list of best new DVD/BD Box Sets for Grown-Ups is Time Life’s Robin Williams retrospective, Comic Genius.  The multi-disc set, which spans two separate volumes, offers hours of entertainment while chronicling Williams’ evolution as a comedian.  This set is well worth the money and time.

The second spot in this year’s list goes to the second season of PBS’ British import crime drama Endeavour.  From its debut season years ago to this season, the prequel series to Inspector Morse has proven to be so infectious and head and shoulders above its American counteraprts.  That is thanks to its strong writing.

The bronze in this year’s list goes to the debut season of The CW’s Black Lightning.  The CW is filled out by so many superhero series today that it should re-brand itself as “The DC/Superhero Network” — note the sarcasm here — and even with all of the shows that it airs, this series stood out proudly in its first season thanks to its writing, acting and bonus material.

Along with these three titles, is a bevy of other wide-ranging titles, such as the second season of NBC’s The Good Place, the debut season of PBS’ new cooking series Milk Street and the fourth season of the network’s family history series Finding Your Roots along with Shout! Factory’s recently released Super SentaiGojin Sentai Jetman — The Complete Series and plenty of other titles.  As always, the top 10 titles on the list are just that, while the five that follow are honorable mentions, making a total of 15 titles.

Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2018 Top 10 New Grown-Up DVD/BD Box Sets.

PHIL’S PICKS 2018 TOP 10 NEW GROWN-UP DVD/BD BOX SETS

  1. Robin WilliamsComic Genius
  2. EndeavourSeason Five
  3. Black LightningSeason One
  4. Finding Your RootsSeason Four
  5. Milk StreetSeason One
  6. The Good PlaceSeason Two
  7. Super SentaiGojin Sentai Jetman — The Complete Series
  8. The Durells in Corfu: Season Three
  9. Rowan & Martin’s LaughInThe Complete Series
  10. Star Trek DiscoverySeason One
  11. Rowan & Martin’s LaughInThe Complete Second Season
  12. Rowan & Martin’s LaughInThe Complete Third Season
  13. Rowan & Martin’s LaughInThe Complete Fourth Season
  14. Rown & Martin’s LaughInThe Complete Fifth Season
  15. Rowan & Martin’s LaughInThe Complete Sixth Season

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‘The Railway Children’ “Steams Ahead” Of The Competition In Phil’s Picks’ 2018 Top 10 New Family DVDs/BDs List

Courtesy: Film Movement

This critic, for those who might not know, is a parent and is married.  It makes finding time to go through everything needed difficult at times.  It also means trying to find ways to keep a child entertained quite often.  Keeping a child entertained includes finding DVDs and Blu-rays that will entertain and educate at the same time.

Thankfully, that part of doing this job is not too difficult, as companies, such as Public Media Distribution, Film Movement and Shout! Factory Kids have offered again this year, plenty of options.  Those options include, and are not limited to two new (and seemingly the last) Transformers Rescue Bots DVDs, two more fun-filled collections of episodes from Nature Cat and more new material from Wild Kratts and Dinosaur Train.

Of course that new material is just some of the fun new fare offered for families this year.  Film Movement’s release of The Railway Children live is a welcome new take on a stage presentation that also honors its literary source material, and Nickelodeon’s long-awaited Hey ArnoldThe Jungle Movie is a bit of a disappointment, but still worth at least one watch thanks to some major writing problems.

The top spot in this year’s Top 10 new Family DVDs/BDs list goes to the noted stage adaptation of The Railway Children.  This adaptation honors its source material while also presenting a one-of-its kind stage presentation that is unlike almost anything that American audiences have ever seen from stage plays.

The number two and three spots on this year’s list go to Public Media Distribution’s two new Nature Cat DVDs, Onward & Pondward and Winter Dance Party.  Each DVD’s episodes follow a specific theme while also teaching lessons that are directly linked with the themes.

Also included in this year’s list, as noted already are the new Wild Kratts  DVDs and those from Transformers Rescue Bots along with the new Hey Arnold! movie, just to name a handful of titles.  As always, the top 10 pics are the best while the five that follow are honorable mention titles.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2018 Top 10 New Family DVDs & BDs list.

PHIL’S PICKS 2018 TOP 10 NEW FAMILY DVDs & BLU-RAYs

  1. The Railway Children
  2. Nature CatOnward & Pondward
  3. Nature CatWinter Dance Party
  4. Transformers Rescue BotsOutdoor Adventures
  5. Transformers Rescue BotsTeam Rescue Bots
  6. Dinosaur TrainMaking New Friends
  7. Wild KrattsAdventures on the African Savannah
  8. Wild KrattsMdagascar Madness
  9. Littlest Pet ShopBest Pet Friends
  10. Ready Jet Go!Jet’s First Halloween
  11. Super WhyThe Adventures of Little Bo Peep & Her Sheep
  12. Arthur: D.Wand the Beastly Birthday
  13. Hotel Transylvania 3
  14. Disney Pixar Short FilmsVolume 3
  15. Hey Arnold!The Jungle Movie

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PBS’ ‘Native America’ Is This Year’s — And One Of PBS’ — Best New Docs

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

This critic has said time and again, that movies “based on actual events” are not the way to learn about history.  That is because it is clear with said movies, there are any number of overly embellished stories.  That being the case, this critic prefers to learn about history through the bevy of more trustworthy documentaries turned out annually by PBS and other relatively reliable resources.

The noted outlets have released yet again this year, quite the impressive crop of new documentaries.  From stories of  the evolution of the American circus,  the role of jazz in the Cold War and the role of Native Americans and their ancestors to today’s world to profiles of American legends, such as Teddy Roosevelt, Bob Hope and Fred Rogers and more, this year’s crop of new documentaries has given audiences plenty of stories that are just as good as — if not better than — any of those stories “based on actual events” churned out by Hollywood.

Topping this year’s list of new notable documentaries is the simply-titled Native America.  This four-part doc is the presentation that Native Americans have deserved and needed for ages.  It clearly outlines how their advancements have played a critical part in  America’s own development while also outlining in depth, the atrocities committed against Native Americans.  The pairing of the positive from their contributions and the negative of the damning story of how they were so horribly mistreated makes for a powerful program that everyone should see at least once.

Coming in second in this year’s list of the year’s best new documentaries is NOVA: The Impossible Flight.  The story at the center of this doc follows the round-the-world flight of a famed solar plane, and is just as gripping as any Hollywood drama that could ever be churned out — again — if not more gripping.  Audiences will be on the edge of their seats to see if the plane completes its journey.

Third Place belongs to American Experience: Into The Amazon.  The story at the center of this doc is another Hollywood-ready story that thankfully Hollywood has not yet ruined.  It follows Teddy Roosevelt as he journeys into one of the world’s most dangerous realms, the Amazon jungle.  It is revealed that the journey comes after his defeat for the presidency in his final run for the White House.  It is a gripping dual “man vs. nature”/”man vs himself” story that history buffs and action movie fans alike will appreciate.

Along with the titles noted here, this year’s list also features other new docs, such as a look back at Hannibal’s legendary trek over the Alps, a profile of the Jews who joined America’s military and played a critical part in the Allies’ victory in WWII and a touching profile of a blind magician who refuses to let his disability stop him along with the previously noted docs.

As always, the top 10 titles are the best of the year, while the five that follow are honorable mention titles.  Without any further ado, here is  Phil’s Picks 2018 Top 10 New Documentaries.

PHIL’S PICKS 2018 TOP 10 NEW DOCUMENTARIES

  1. Native America
  2. NOVAThe Impossible Flight
  3. American ExperienceInto The Amazon
  4. American ExperienceThe Circus
  5. Dealt
  6. Line 41
  7. American MastersThis is Bob Hope
  8. G.I. Jews
  9. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
  10. Mr. Rogers: It’s You I Like
  11. Secrets of the DeadHannibal in the Alps
  12. The Jazz Ambassadors
  13. NOVADecoding The Weather Machine
  14. American ExperienceThe Secret of Tuxedo Park
  15. The Paris Opera

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Viking Metallers Amon Amarth Are Victorious In Phil’s Picks 2018 Top 10 New Live DVDs & Blu-rays List

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

As the final few days of 2018 wind down, there is still some work to be done by critics putting in their year-ender lists.  That includes this critic.

This critic’s most recent year-ender focused on the year’s top new live CDs.  In a gradual transition to movies and television, there is still one more music list to present — the year’s top new live DVDs/BDs.  As has been noted previously, there are some live recordings that translate in  relatively acceptable fashion, but there are also others that can and should only be experienced with the full audio-visual experience.

Keeping this in mind, it is only fair to examine the year’s best new live DVDs and Blu-rays.  Topping this year’s list is Amon Amarth’s The Pursuit of Vikings25 Years in the Eye of the Storm.  There is nothing negative to say about this presentation.  The extensive documentary outlines the band’s career from the band’s own mouths, showing the group as a hard-working, blue-collar outfit that has earned its place in the metal and music communities.  The equally expansive two-night, 30-song set pulls from almost every one of the band’s albums.  The performance is great, as are the production values.

Second Place in this year’s list of the year’s best new live DVDs/BDs goes to Devin Townsend Project’s Ocean Machine Live at the Ancient Roman Theatre Plovdiv.  This performance features Townsend performing Ocean Machine live in its entirety along with an equally extensive by-request set.  That combination makes for a great set list.  As with Amon Amarth’s live recording, the group’s performance ensures audiences’ maintained engagement and entertainment, even at home.  The same can be said of the production values.  The whole makes the recording yet another that is best experienced with the full audio-visual presentation versus just the audio alone.

Third Place in this year’s list of the top new live DVDs and Blu-rays goes to The Rolling Stones’ San Jose, California ’99 show from Eagle Rock Entertainment.  The recording is everything that audiences have come to expect from one of the elite of the elite acts in the music industry today.  The extensive 20-song set list doesn’t play it safe, instead giving audiences material that is less common in the band’s previous live recordings from Eagle Rock Entertainment.  The group’s performance (including that of the touring musicians) couples with the production values to make the performance yet another must have for any true fan of The Rolling Stones.

Also featured in this year’s list are the new live recordings from Anthrax, The Robert Glasper Experiment and Opeth, just to name a few more acts.  As always, the first 10 titles in the last are the best, while the next five are honorable mention titles.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks’ 2018 Top 10 New Live DVDs & Blu-rays.

PHIL’S PICKS 2018 TOP 10 NEW LIVE DVDS & BLU-RAYS

  1. Amon Amarth — The Pursuit of Vikings25 Years in the Eye of the Storm
  2. Devin Townsend Project — Ocean Machine Live at the Ancient Roman Theatre Plovdiv
  3. The Rolling Stones — No Security: San Jose ’99
  4. The Rolling Stones — Voodoo Lounge Uncut
  5. Accept — Symphonic Terror
  6. Opeth — Garden of the TitansLive at Red Rocks
  7. Anthrax — Kings Among Scotland
  8. The Sound of Music Live
  9. Steven Wilson — Home Invasion Live at the Royal Albert Theatre
  10. Norah Jones — Live at Ronnie Scott’s
  11. Tommy Shaw & The Contemporary Youth Orchestra — Sing For The Day!
  12. The Moody Blues — Days of Future Passed Live
  13. Overkill — Live in Overhausen
  14. Robet Glasper Experiment — Live
  15. Lacuna Coil — The 119 Show Live in London

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