‘League Of Super Pets’ Is Not Super, But Still Worth Watching

Courtesy: Warner Brothers/Warner Animation Group/DC Entertainment

In 2005 when Warner Brothers brought Superman’s canine friend Krypto to the small screen in his own series, it marked the first time ever that any of the DC Entertainment Universe’s animal superheroes had ever gotten its own attention.  Prior to the series’ premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers had only focused on DC’s human and superhuman stars, so it was a key step in the companies’ attempt to expand DC’s comics to screen universe.  The series less than two years from March 2005 to December 2006, spanning just two seasons and even incorporated Krypto’s original Legion of Superheroes cohort Streaky the cat.  After the series ended, Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment largely abandoned any plans for any future Super Pets properties on TV and in theaters.  However, late last month, the companies brought some of DC’s super pets back to the screen again, this time in theaters in the form of League of Super Pets.  The movie, which made its theatrical debut July 29, is a mostly entertaining presentation, though is not perfect.  The main positive in this movie is its story, which will be discussed shortly.  While the story is enjoyable for the whole family (albeit not entirely accurate to the comics), the story does have one troubling aspect, that being the use of some adult language.  This will be discussed a little later.  It is not enough to doom the movie, so to that end, there is at least one more positive to note in the form of the cast’s work.  This will also be addressed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this movie.  All things considered they make League of Super Pets a mostly successful new take on DC’s Legion of Super Pets comic book and new family flick.

League of Super Pets, DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers’ latest addition to the ever-expanding DC Entertainment Universe, is a mostly successful overall presentation.  The movie’s story is really the key to its success.  The story in question finds Krypto, Superman’s canine friend having to assemble a group of super powered animals to help save the big blue boy scout after a guinea pig named Lulu (voiced by Kate McKinnon – Ghostbusters, Saturday Night Live, Bombshell) bent on world domination kidnaps him and the rest of the Justice League members.  The other animals (which are not original members of the League of Super Pets from the 1962 comic book), gained their powers thanks to some orange kryptonite that broke off of an orange kryptonite meteorite and was captured by said megalomaniacal guinea pig.  The unexpected group of heroes ends up saving the day after Lex Luthor turns on Lulu, and Krypto learns a valuable lesson about friendship along the way.  Meanwhile, the other Super Pets – Ace, Chip, Merton, and PB – all end up being rescued and adopted by the other Justice League members.  There is some accuracy and inaccuracy here.  Ace has always been known to be Batman’s dog, while Chip has had a tie to the Green Lantern Corps.  PB meanwhile was never Wonder Woman’s pet.  She was Circes’ pet in the comics, but that can be forgiven.  The very message about the importance of rescuing shelter pets that is clearly tied into the story makes that forgivable.  Shelter pets need forever homes, so having that accented here in a less than preachy fashion is so welcome.  The friendships between Krypto and the group will resonate with audiences of all ages as the group takes on Lulu and Lex.

While the story featured in League of Super Pets is engaging and entertaining, there is at least one problem within the story.  That problem is the use of some adult language throughout the movie.  The language in question comes from Merton (voiced by Natasha Lyonne – Orange is the New Black, American Pie, Slums of Beverly Hills).  Lyonne is not to blame here, but rather the movie’s writers.  There are points where Merton clearly is meant to be using a certain foul word since it is bleeped out.  At other points, she uses clearly other foul language that is also bleeped out.  Merton is not the only one who uses some questionable language.  There is a young kitten (yes, a kitten – IE child) who says to the super pets, “See you in heck” as it tries to kill them.  Considering that this movie is rated PG and is meant to be a family friendly flick, having that language in there, even censored, is still disappointing.  That the movie’s writers and creative heads felt the need to go blue in a family movie really does detract from the movie’s appeal, and parents need to be aware of this aspect. 

While the questionable language that is peppered throughout the movie is problematic, it is not enough to make the movie a failure.  The work of the movie’s cast works with the story to make for more appeal.  Dwayne Johnson leads the way as Krypto.  At first, the announcement that he was going to take on the role was questioned by many, and justifiably so.  That is because of his current body of work.  His current body of work is composed of action flicks and very specific tough guy type roles.  It leads one to imagine Johnson giving Krypto such style persona.  Thankfully that was not the case.  He actually made Krypto endearing, showing his ability to adapt to the role. 

On a related note, Kevin Hart, who has also developed himself into a very specific type of actor, pulls back here, too.  His typically annoying, over the top approach to his roles is nonexistent here, which is appealing.  The vulnerability that he brings to Ace as Ace talks abut how he ended up at the shelter balances well with Ace’s more confident side to make Ace a well-rounded character in his own right.  McKinnon really does well in her own right to bring out Lulu’s megalomaniacal nature, too.  She does so well to make Lulu’s diabolical nature so funny and believable at the same time.  Between the performances put on by Johnson, Hart, and McKinnon, and those of the rest of the cast, the whole makes the cast’s overall work just as engaging as the movie’s story.  Those two items together make the movie in general worth watching at least once, even with the concerns of the occasional unnecessary foul language in mind.

League of Super Pets, the latest addition to Warner Brothers and DC’s ever-expanding universe, is an interesting presentation.  It succeeds in part because of its story.  The story finds Krypto having to form a new group of furry super powered friends to save the Justice League.  Along the way, he also has to learn about friendship and teamwork, which will resonate with plenty of audiences. While the story featured in this movie is accessible for audiences of all ages, the occasional use of some questionable language is disappointing.  That is the case even with it being censored.  There was no need for the movie’s writers to go blue and ruin what is otherwise a family friendly atmosphere throughout the story.  It is not enough to doom the movie but is certainly a concern.  The cast’s work pairs with the story to make for more engagement and entertainment.  That is because the cast’s performances are so believable.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of this movie.  All things considered League of Super Pets proves maybe not super but still worth watching at least once.

League of Super Pets is playing now.  The movie’s home release date is under consideration.  More information on this and other titles from Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment is available at https://dc.com

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

‘The Batman’ Is The Most Unique Batman Movie To Date

Courtesy: Warner Brothers/DC Entertainment

More than 83 years ago, Batman, one of the world’s most famous comic book characters, made his first appearance in the May 1939 issue of Detective Comics (Issue #27).  In the nearly 85 years since the Dark Knight made his debut on the printed page, he has had countless stories told both in print and on screen.  Fans of all ages have their favorite version of the big, black bat (longtime fans will get that reference) throughout that time, too.  Audiences got a whole new story of Batman in March when Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment debuted The Batman.  This take of the Batman mythos is the most unique addition to the Batman universe to date.  That is due in large part to its collective presentation style and story, which will be discussed shortly.  The cast’s work on screen makes for its own interest and will be discussed a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in is recent home release is just as much of note as the movie’s primary content and will also be examined hater.  Each item noted here plays its own important part in the movie’s overall presentation.  All things considered they make this movie one more of this year’s top new theatrical releases.

The Batman, the latest addition to Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment’s decades-long series of Batman movies, is the single most unique entry in that realm.  It is completely separate unlike any of its predecessors both in terms of its stylistic approach and its story, both of which are tied together.  It is the first time in the franchise’s history that a Batman movie has been so gritty and that one of the franchise’s movies has focused more on story than say special effects and Batman’s gadgets (including the Batmobile).  As writer/director Matt Reeves points out in the movie’s bonus content (which will be discussed later), the intent here was to craft a movie that was in fact a detective story, not just another comic book to film tale.  It was meant to present Batman doing what he has done best for decades, solving mysteries.  In this case, it found Batman trying to solve the mystery of The Riddler’s sadistic, homicidal quest to bring his own justice to Gotham City before The Riddler can commit his crimes.  It is more of a hard-boiled film noir style presentation than the movies that audiences have come to know over the decades, and that is wholly a good thing.  There is no 1960s-era cheekiness here.  There is not even any of Tim Burton’s approach here.  If anything, this clearly Hush-esque story feels more like a natural progression of the gritty approach taken by Reeves’ predecessor, Christopher Nolan, in his Batman trilogy.  As noted, the focus is on Batman/Bruce Wayne’s abilities as a human detective and less on his toys (again, longtime Batman fans will get that reference), and that really is a nice change of pace.  That unique approach really gives the movie its own identity separate from the other Batman movies out there.  What’s more even being as long as it is (clocking in at just shy of 3 hours), the story still manages to keep audiences engaged and entertained even despite the issues posed by that length and related pacing.

Speaking of the movie’s run time and pacing, that really does collectively detract from the viewing experience.  From beginning to end, there is so much brooding, even more than ever before.  What’s more, there are so many plot elements and so many twists and turns that the story really does get bogged down in itself by the end.  Speaking of the end, it seems like Reeves and company could not seem to figure out how to end the movie.  From Falcone’s arrest to the chase with the Penguin, to Edward’s arrest and the long sequence that follows, there is just so much in the final act that it is too much.  Reeves and company could have ended the movie at so many points therein, but in going on as long as they did, it makes the story feel that much more like it just plods along.  Considering that the story already plods along at such a slow pace as is, that only hurts it that much more.  Keeping that in mind, the story is unique but is far from perfect.  It really requires audiences to fully immerse themselves in the story and be ready and willing to sit through it all.  Those who are ready and willing to sit through it all will agree that the story is, again, unique, just too long for itself.  It is not enough to doom the story, but certainly does detract from the movie’s overall presentation.

While the story featured in The Batman is a mixed bag, something that is more of a positive overall is the work of the movie’s cast.  Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga) plays the part of a troubled young Bruce Wayne surprisingly well here.  He is actually that believable as he takes on what is one of the most iconic roles in modern movie history.  There are no hints of that glittery vampire that he portrayed in the Twilight saga.  Here, audiences get from him a Bruce Wayne/Batman who is emotionally lost.  He is trying to make sense of the tragedy that had consumed Bruce for such a long time.  Perhaps part of the reason that he does so well is that this movie is not just another origin story.  This is not even a Year One story (which is also discussed in the bonus content).  This is Bruce Wayne at a pivotal point in his life and role as Gotham’s protector, coming of age in a manner of speaking.  Pattinson’s ability to interpret Bruce’s emotional and mental state here is so immersive, so kudos goes to him for his performance.

On another note, co-star Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood, 12 Years a Slave, Little Miss Sunshine) is just as noteworthy in his diabolical performance as The Riddler/Edward Nash (yes, they changed his last name here, more of a sign of how far this movie branches from the roots of the Batman mythos).  Edward’s performance, the killer instinct that he brings out in this portrayal, immediately conjures thoughts of the villain in Se7en.  From bludgeoning one official to death, to beating another within half an inch of his life and putting a bomb around his neck, to his maniacal sense that he and Batman were two sides of the same coin (wonder is that a foreshadowing of what is to come in the future for Batman?) as he sits on the other side of the glass in Arkham, Dano does so much right with this version of The Riddler.  He really is about as sociopathic and homicidal as the late great Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.  Yes, that is a lofty statement, but it is true.  The way in which he makes The Riddle rant to his followers in his internet posts really brings out that psychotic nature even more.  Overall, Dano is well-deserving of his own applause here.  He makes it that easy for audiences to be shocked by The Riddler and hate Edward.

Dano’s performance is just one more of the most notable in this movie.  Colin Farrell (Daredevil, S.W.A.T., In Bruges) puts on his own powerful performance.  Considering Farrell is not American (just like Pattinson), he makes his accent fully believable at the foundation of his performance.  That foundation is bolstered by his full-on mobster style take on Oswald Cobblepot.  Rather than making “Oz” just another comic book character, Farrell makes The Penguin more of a gangster type name than character with a bunch of bird-themed gadgets, etc.  Again, this is another way in which the movie continues to separate itself from all of the other Batman movies out there.  He makes Oz a character that audiences will love just as much as love to hate.  He is just that impressive in every one of his on-screen moments.  When his performance is considered along with those of Dano, Pattinson, and the rest of the cast, the overall work of the cast is so worthy of applause.  The cast’s work handling the script makes that extensively long, plodding story more bearable.  As a result, audiences will manage to remain engaged in the story to the end, so again, the cast’s work proves just as important here as the story.

The work of the cast interpreting the script in this movie is impressive to say the least.  It is the cast’s work alongside the unique hard-boiled noir detective story here that really makes The Batman worth watching.  This is especially important to note because of the movie’s run time and plodding pacing.  Those elements are just part of what makes the movie bearable.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its recent home release rounds out its most important elements.  The content is extensive, taking on the movie’s creation from pre-production to wrap in its longest feature, which runs just shy of an hour.  Also addressed through the various extras as the makeup and costuming for Selena Kyle/Catwoman, Edward/The Riddler, and Bruce/Batman.  Audiences are also treated to an in-depth examination of the Batmobile, from its creation to its testing and how the movie’s big chase scene came to life.  Audiences also get an interesting look at Batman’s “relationship” with The Riddler, how The Riddler’s view on justice and vengeance inadvertently leads Batman/Bruce to eventually change his view on whether Gotham City is worth saving.  Dano’s discussion here is really eye-opening.  That is because it shows Dano really has an understanding and in turn appreciation for that duality between the lead antagonist and protagonist.  The discussion on how Selena slowly transforms into what will become Catwoman is another interesting albeit brief discussion.  That is because it outlines the personal emotional issues that she faces, finding out the truth of her mother and the role of Falcone (who is played just as well by John Turturro – O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Quiz Show, Barton Fink) in what happened to her mother.  It makes audiences look forward to what star Zoe Kravitz (X-Men: First Class, Mad Max: Fury Road, Divergent) will bring to the role in the next Batman movie.  Each of the bonus features that come with the movie’s home release clearly offer audiences plenty to appreciate.  When they are all considered together, they offer just as much to appreciate if not more than that of the story itself.  Keeping that in mind, when the bonus content featured here is considered along with the movie’s story and the cast’s work therein, the whole makes The Batman a unique new addition to the Batman mythos that while not “your grandad’s Batman” is still well worth watching.

The Batman, Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment’s latest addition to the expansive Batman cinematic and TV universe, is a unique presentation.  Its uniqueness is partly due to its featured story.  The story here is not just another typical Batman movie that focuses on Batman’s gadgets and all of the cliché villain portrayals.  Rather, it is a deep hard-boiled crime noir story that is full of twists and turns.  Given there are perhaps too many of those twists and turns throughout, and too many endings in the final act, but the overall story is still worth watching for those who are ready and willing to sit through its nearly 3-hour run time thanks to that overall story and approach.  The cast’s work interpreting the extensive script is a saving grace.  From one actor to the next, every cast member does his and her own important part in making the otherwise plodding story bearable.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release rounds out the movie’s most important elements.  That is because of all of the background that it offers audiences.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of this movie.  All things considered they make the movie not the best of the year’s new theatrical releases, but still one of the best.

The Batman is available now.  More information on this and other titles from DC Entertainment is available at https://dc.com.

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

‘Lightyear’ Is A Surprisingly Entertaining Addition to Disney, Pixar’s ‘Toy Story’ Universe

Courtesy: Disney/Pixar

More than 25 years ago when Disney and Pixar debuted Toy Story in theaters nationwide, the companies forever changed the face of animation.  In the nearly 30 years since that movie’s debut, the Toy Story franchise has also gone on to become a favorite among audiences of all ages through its movies and shorts alike.  Given, the franchise’s third movie should have been the finale, but that is a discussion for another time.  Fast forward to this year and the debut of the franchise’s new spinoff, Lightyear.  The movie made its digital home debut Wednesday and will make its physical home debut Sept. 13.  The movie was met with mixed reviews when it made its theatrical debut and has since struggled since then, with critics giving the movie a score of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes and audiences giving it an only slightly higher score, at 84%.  With the movie out now on digital platforms and soon on physical platforms, it will be interesting to see what happens with those scores. One thing that is certain about the movie at this point is that it does deserve to be seen at least once.  That is due in part to its very approach, which will be discussed shortly.  The story within the movie also plays into the overall presentation and will be examined a little later.  The cast’s work rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered they make Lightyear a movie that audiences will find worth watching at least once.

Lightyear, the latest addition to Disney and Pixar’s already extensive Toy Story franchise, is another interesting addition to that universe.  It is a presentation that is worth watching at least once.  That is due in part to the movie’s general presentation.  What is interesting about the presentation is that it is a movie within a movie.  Right as the movie opens, audiences are presented with the message that the movie is the same movie that Andy (from the original Toy Story movies) watched and that got him interested in Buzz Lightyear in the first place.  So the fact that audiences are treated to a movie that is composed of a movie is a unique approach.  On a related note, IMDB lists as one of Lightyear’s goofs as being that Andy never had interest in Buzz Lightyear in the first place in the original Toy Story movie until his mom surprised him with the Buzz Lightyear toy.  It adds that in the second movie, Buzz as a toy wasn’t even based on a movie.  How does the person who wrote about Andy having no interest in Buzz Lightyear prior to getting the toy know for a fact that this is the case?  As excited as Andy was to get his Buzz Lightyear toy, one would imagine Andy had to have had some knowledge of the movie.  Even today in the real world, toy companies market toys based on movies to children all the time and children get excited.  Taking that into account, even if Andy hadn’t seen a Buzz Lightyear movie, he still could have been excited about the toy.  To that end, that goof posted to IMDB holds no water.  Getting back to the matter of the alleged goof in Toy Story 2, who is to say that was not just one of the characters saying Buzz wasn’t based on a movie just to make Buzz angry?  Now keeping everything noted in mind there, the very presentation of the Buzz Lightyear movie as a movie for audiences essentially makes this movie its own presentation.  Yes, it is essentially a spinoff from the Toy Story franchise, but it is still its own standalone presentation that is a valid presentation.

Going a little bit deeper, the story that is presented within the movie makes for its own interest.  The story is an all too familiar tale of personal growth.  Buzz’s growth comes as he has to learn about accepting help and the consequences of letting one’s self be consumed by one’s own personal drive and desire. From causing his ship to crash on the planet in the first place because he had to put everything on himself to being so obsessed with reaching hyperspeed in his attempt to find a way off of the planet, Buzz thought he had to do it all.  He did not want anyone’s help, and that caused him to lose his first partner and almost lose others along the way including that first partner’s granddaughter and her friends.

On a secondary note, audiences learn about the battle between Buzz and Emperor Zurg.  Out of respect for those who have yet to watch this movie, this critic will be careful in discussing the pair’s conflict.  However, audiences who are familiar with the story of how Buck Rogers came to be in the 25th century will find a clear influence there (whether intentional or not).  The conflict between the pair plays into the whole matter of the fabric of space and time and certain paradoxes (again not to give away too much).  Now this conflict between Buzz and Zurg also goes into another so-called good that IMDB has posted about the movie.  It is known that in Toy Story 2, Zurg said that he was Buzz’s father, and that negated the situation in Lightyear.  That little statement was meant wholly as a tongue-in-cheek spoof of Star Wars.  It was not meant to be serious, so again, whatever IMDB employee pointed out this continuity “issue” took that moment far too seriously.  To that end, audiences need to go into this movie’s story completely discounting the so-called goofs that IMDB has listed if they intend to have any appreciation for the story.  As long as they keep that in mind, audiences will find themselves surprisingly able to enjoy the story just as much as the movie’s very unique presentation style.

As much as the movie’s presentation style and story do to make the movie engaging and entertaining, they are just part of what makes the movie worth watching.  The cast’s work is also of note.  Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger, Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, etc.) leads the way, bringing Buzz to life on screen this time out.  He is clearly well-versed in the role of the hero, considering his time working with Marvel Studios.  His performance is entertaining but does not necessarily break a lot of ground for a character such as Buzz.  If anyone really stands out in terms of the cast, it is Peter Sohn (Ratatouille, Monsters University, The Good Dinosaur) as he voices Sox, the robot cat.  The subtle way in which he brings Sox to life is a prime example of less is more.  That deadpan delivery that he gives is just so entertaining throughout and really makes him the unsuspecting star of the cast.  Taika Waititi (Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, Jojo Rabbit) and Dale Soules (Orange is the New Black, The Messenger, Prism) bring their own comic touch to the movie as they bring life to Mo and Darcy.  Marcy’s initial declaration about not wanting to hold a gun because it would be a violation of her parole makes for such a great comedic moment putting Soules’ talents on display.  At the same time, that the writers would keep bringing up her criminal past makes the joke get old quick.  Thankfully Soules makes the best of it doing the best she can to try to keep the joke funny.  Waititi’s delivery as Mo makes Mo such an endearing character because he is so innocent.  He can’t help that he is such a clutz, and that constant uncertainty that Mo displays is another great part of how Waititi brings him to life.  They really do so much, as does Sohn and even Evans all things considered.  To that end, the work put in by the cast does its own share to make Lightyear engaging and entertaining, too.  When their work is considered along with the story and even the movie’s general presentation, the whole makes Lightyear a surprisingly engaging and entertaining new offering from Disney and Pixar.  It is not the companies’ best work ever.  That honor still belongs (at least to this critic) to Up.  That aside, it is still a movie that even being a spinoff from the initial Toy Story universe, is still worth watching.

Lightyear, Disney and Pixar’s new Toy Story spinoff, is an interesting addition to that universe.  The movie proves itself so intriguing in part because of its general presentation.  The general presentation is a double presentation of sorts.  It is a movie within a movie that is its own presentation within the bigger Toy Story universe.  That is a unique approach.  The movie’s story is relatively accessible, as it presents Buzz as a central character on a journey of personal growth.  That familiarity is certain to engage and entertain audiences throughout the movie.  The work of the movie’s cast rounds out its most important elements.  From familiar style acting from Evans to more comedic and heartfelt performances from his cast mates, the cast’s work does its own share to engage and entertain audiences.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the presentation that is Lightyear.  All things considered, they make Lightyear a surprisingly welcome addition to Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story universe that is actually worth watching at least once.

Lightyear is available on all digital platforms now.  It is scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-ray 13 through Disney and Pixar.  More information on this and other titles from Disney and Pixar is available at:

Websitehttps://www.pixar.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/Pixar

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/pixar

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

Kevin Cerovich’s New LP Is A Unique Addition To 2022’s Field OF New Independent Albums

Courtesy: CVJ Records

Kevin Cerovich has made quiet the career for himself over the years performing and recording with the Airmen of Note, a division of the U.S. Air Force Jazz Band.  Now Friday, the award-winning musician and composer will take a step out on his own Friday in his new album, Aging Millenial.  Set for release through CVJ Records, the 12-song release is a unique offering from Cerovich.  That is because of the diversity of the arrangements that make up the 44-minute presentation’s body.  From beginning to end, the album features compositions that lean heavily in the jazz direction at times, in a more hip-hop/funk direction at others, and even some pop, believe it or not.  Among the most notable of the record’s jazz entries comes early in the record’s run in the form of ‘Groove Merchant.’  This song will be discussed shortly.  ‘Slow Boat Reprise’ is among the most notable of the record’s hip-hop entries.  It will be examined a little later.  In terms of the more pop-centric work, the simply titled ‘Till’ is the most notable entry.  It will also be examined later.  When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and along with the likes of ‘Friday Afternoon,’ ‘Kill The Lights and Floor It’ and ‘Transatlantic Folk Piece,’ which closes the album, and the rest of the record’s entries, the whole becomes an unsuspecting success of a record.  It unquestionably deserves a spot among the best of this year’s top new independent albums.

Aging Millenial, the new forthcoming album from musician/composer Kevin Cerovich is a unique record that every music lover should hear at least once.  The diverse range of sounds and styles presented throughout the album makes that clear.  From jazz to hip-hop to pop and even something in-between, the record offers music for so many listeners, including the early jazz entry, ‘Groove Merchant.’  This song harkens back to the big band sounds of the 1950s and 60s with its horns and subtle but still rich bass line.  Listeners familiar with that sound and style will immediately think of great songs from the bands that backed the Rat Pack.  Audiences can just as much hear works from the likes of Count Basie and company.  It is such an enjoyable, immersive composition.  The subtle time keeping and the expert production here blends everything so perfectly throughout its nearly five-minute run time.  The solo, which comes from what sounds like a muted trombone, adds its own welcome touch to the mix.  It is not too flashy, giving just enough kick to the whole to make it its own enjoyable moment, even as brief as it is.  The overall opus is such a rich composition that is such an enjoyable work.  No question it is among the most notable of the album’s jazz offerings.

On the hip-hop side of things, ‘Slow Boat Reprise’ is among the most notable of those offerings.  The song is a companion piece to the song ‘Slow Boat’ which immediately precedes its presentation.  The steady, driving beat and the use of the low brass (tubas, trombones) and what sounds like a keyboard, makes the composition a perfect music bed for any old school hip-hop composition.  Audiences who are familiar with the works that actually involved the use of emcees and turntablists will really appreciate this work.  Interestingly enough, considering that the album’s title is ‘Aging Millenial,’ there really have not been many hip-hop acts of the sort around for a while.  The last great such act was Jurassic 5.  The way in which Cerovich throws in a vintage jazz approach and sound at the very end to mix things up gives the song a unique final statement that listeners will certainly remember, too.  The whole here makes the song overall yet another notable addition to Aging Millenial that further shows what makes the album stand out so much.

‘Till’ which comes almost halfway through the album, is yet another notable addition to the album.  This song is a full-on pop style composition.  The immediate comparison that comes to mind through the guitar-centric composition is to works from the likes of Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson.  It is one of only two songs featured in the album that features lyrics alongside the musical content.  The theme here is a simple love song.  It is sung from the vantage point of a person who loves being with his or her romantic interest.  He/she sings about how much he/she loves just watching that person sleep, just being with that person every day.  It is a light, happy composition that will appeal to so many listeners.  When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes the album overall a standout addition to this year’s field of new independent albums that everyone should hear at least once.

Aging Millenial, the new forthcoming album from musician/composer Kevin Cerovich, is a unique record that will appeal to a wide range of audiences.  That is proven throughout the course of the record’s nearly 45-minute run time.  The songs examined here make that clear.  When they are considered along with the other equally diverse range of compositions featured in the record, the whole makes Aging Millenial one of the best of this year’s new independent albums.

Aging Millenial is scheduled for release Friday through CVJ Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of Cerovich’s latest news at:

Website: https://kevincerovich.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevincerovich

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KevinCerovich

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

Devildriver’s New Box Set Offers Audiences Plenty To Applaud

Courtesy: BMG

Veteran metal band Devildriver has been in the headlines quite a bit in recent months.  The band announced last month, it had made a pair of lineup changes, welcoming original bassist Jon Miller back to the band in place of Diego Ibarra.  Along with that change, the band also announced the addition of new guitarist Alex Lee (Holy Grail) to the lineup.  Miller was one of the founding members of Devildriver and remained with the band until 2011, when he was replaced first by Aaron Patrick, then Chris Towning and then by Ibarra.  Lee is the band’s third rhythm guitarist behind Neil Tiemann most recently and founding member Jeff Kendrick before him.  The lineup changes make Miller and front man Dez Fafara the band’s only original members in its current lineup.

Only weeks prior to the announcement of Devildriver’s latest lineup change, the band announced June 8, that it would release its new five-disc box set, Clouds Over California.  Originally, the box set was scheduled for release Friday through BMG, but then an update to that date announced late last month stated the set’s release date had been pushed back to Aug. 19.  This despite the band claiming as recently as Friday, that the box set dropped Friday.  In other words, there remains no clarity at this point on the set’s exact release date.  That aside, the collection is a set that most Devildriver fans will find just as appealing as modern metal fans.  That is due in no small part to its featured albums, which will be examined shortly.  The platforms on which the collection is available are just as important to note as the albums themselves.  This will be examined a little later.  The records’ liner notes round out its most important elements and will also be examined later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the collection.  All things considered they make Clouds Over California a shining new offering from Devildriver.  Yes, that awful pun was fully intended.

Devildriver’s new five-album box set, Clouds Over California is a positive new offering from the veteran modern metal outfit.  Its appeal comes in part through its featured records.  The records featured here are the band’s first five albums, Devildriver, The Fury of Our Maker’s Hand, The Last Kind Words, Pray For Villains, and Beast.  All five albums were released through Roadrunner Records.  All of the albums that the band has released since then have come through Napalm Records.  So simply put, what audiences get in this collection is essentially the first chapter (so to speak) of Devildriver’s catalog.  To that end, maybe BMG should have called this new set, The Roadrunner Years.

The collection by itself is impressive in its general presentation.  There is an even deeper appeal to the records because what audiences get here is not just the albums’ standard releases, save for the band’s debut self-titled record, but three of the records in their expanded formats.  Devildriver did not have an expanded edition, and The Last Kind Words allegedly had an expanded edition released through Hot Topic stores nationwide that had a bonus track, ‘Damning The Heavens.’  That extra track is not included in the record’s presentation here, but the other three albums are all presented in their expanded formats.  To that end, audiences still largely get a very special presentation of the band’s Roadrunner Records catalog here.  Keeping that in mind, the albums that make up the main body of Clouds Over California are reason enough for diehard Devildriver fans to own this collection.  They are just part of what makes the collection worth adding to any fan’s library.  The platforms on which the collection is available add at least somewhat to that appeal.

The collection is available on CD and vinyl pressings.  This means that whether one is more a fan of vinyl and all of the problems that come with it, or more a fan of CDs, audiences on both sides of that proverbial aisle will be able to enjoy the collection.  This shows that Devildriver and officials with BMG made sure not to alienate any of the band’s audiences in this case. 

Of course, the pricing for the sets is clearly (and starkly) different between them.  That cannot be ignored. The CD set’s average price point is $45.39 while the set’s vinyl box averages in at $182.74.  Those prices were figured by averaging prices listed through Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble Booksellers.  Books-A-Million, another of this country’s biggest retailers, did not list the set on either platform.  Best Buy only listed the set on vinyl while the other outlets listed it on both platforms.  Between the set’s much more affordable price on CD and the CD set’s more compact nature, audiences are going to be much more inclined to purchase the collection on that platform than on vinyl.  Those who want to shell out the big bucks and make even more room for the vinyl set are welcome to do so but the CD set clearly is going to be more appealing, at least to this critic.  Moving on from this discussion, the liner notes that accompany the collection round out the collection’s most important elements.

The liner notes that come with the set were composed by Fafara and are presented in a 20-page booklet that is new to the set.  Along with that, each of the albums come with their original liner notes.  So what audiences get in terms of this secondary content is not just the original liner notes with lyrics but a whole new set of liner notes looking back at the albums and their place in Devildriver’s history.  All of this extra content pairs with the expansive presentation of the collection’s primary content to make the collection’s overall presentation that much more appealing.  Add in the fact that Devildriver and BMG made the collection available for fans of CDs and vinyls alike and the collection gains that much more appealing for a wide range of audiences.  All things considered, Clouds Over California makes for a good way to tide audiences over until Devildriver releases its next new album, which hopefully will come sooner rather than later.

Devildriver’s new five-album box set, Clouds Over California, is a strong new offering from the veteran metal band.  It will appeal to most of the band’s established audiences as well as more casual fans of the band.  That is due in no small part to its featured albums.  The albums in question are all of the records that Devildriver released through Roadrunner Records.  Those records make up the first half of the band’s catalog.  The second half, which is also composed of five records, has come through records released via Napalm Records.  Just as important here is that three of the five records featured here are presented in their expanded rather than their standard editions, so audiences get, for the most part, a special treat here.  The band’s debut self-titled record was only presented in a standard form in its initial release, so there are no worries there. The availability of the collection on both CD and vinyl ensures that none of the band’s fans have been ignored, though the cost of the vinyl set is far more cost prohibitive than that of the set’s CD platform.  The liner notes featured with the set round out its most important elements as there are some familiar liner notes and some equally in-depth new liner notes to boot.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the collection.  All things considered they make Clouds Over California a mostly positive way to tide Devildriver’s fans over until the band releases its next album.

More information on Clouds Over California is available along with all of Devildriver’s latest news at:

Website: https://devildriver.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/devildriver

Twitter: https://twitter.com/devildriver

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