Couple 3 Films’ ‘Lapsis’ Is A Disappointing Addition To This Year’s New Indie Films Field

Courtesy: Couple 3 Films/Film Movement

When Couple 3 Films’ independent movie Lapsis made its way across the indie movie festival circuit last year, it earned a number of honors at those events.  It brought home the Jury’s Choice Award at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival in South Korea.  It was nominated for the Grand Jury Award at last year’s SXSW Festival.  It was even named an official selection of the Cleveland International Film Festival in Cleveland, OH and the Nantucket Film Festival in Nantucket, MA.  It was even nominated for the Best First Screenplay Award at the Indie Spirit Awards.  For all of the accolades that the movie received, the reality is that it is in fact not a movie that will connect with every viewer.  That is due largely to the fashion in which the movie’s creative heads presented the movie’s apparent commentary-laden story.  This will be discussed later.  Luckily for audiences, the bonus content that accompanies the movie in its recent DVD release (it was released May 11 through independent distributor Film Movement), serves to clear things up at least slightly.  This will be discussed shortly.  The cinematography featured in the movie rounds out its most important elements.  It works with the bonus content to make the movie at least slightly more engaging.  Keeping all of this in mind, Lapsis proves worth watching at least once, but sadly no more than that.

Couple 3 Films’ statement flick Lapsis is an intriguing but problematic presentation from the independent movie studio.  Apparently, the movie is meant to be a commentary on the division between the haves and have nots in the business realm.  More simply put, it is apparently meant to be a commentary about the division between the suits who make millions annually on the backs of workers who make far less, and those workers in question.  The thing is that this would not even be fully clear if not for the bonus content that accompanies the movie in its recent DVD release.  The movie’s creative heads make a passing comment early on in the feature-length audio commentary about that division being at the heart of the movie while the “Making of” featurette also makes mention of the role of the machines in the movie and in today’s largely automated business world.  Other than those passing statements, little other commentary is really offered as to this matter.  Audiences are otherwise forced to watch through the plodding, nearly two-hour movie to get any sense of that statement.  Go figure, those two very brief mentions are just enough to make the movie worth watching even once.

Those viewers who do watch the movie will find that understand why the noted commentary is so difficult to grasp without the noted brief statements in the bonus commentary.  The whole thing starts off with Ray (Dean Imperial) trying to find a way to pay for care for his little brother, Jamie (Babe Howard – yes that is really his name).  This leads him to agree to take on a job as a “cabler,” laying cable for the growing information technology industry.  As Ray makes his way through his routes, going from cube to cube, he realizes more and more that something is not right.  The “medallion” (which is basically an online identity) that he uses to get paid (or so he thinks) is that of someone that the other cable layers apparently did not and do not like.  Yet, the other cable layers will not initially tell Ray what is going on.  A sense of tension is built throughout the story, leading viewers to expect things to reach a real head, but sadly that never really happens.  There is a climax of sorts when Ray, Jamie and the other cable layers manage to disable all of the robots that lay cable, though one robot does get away.  That is perhaps meant as a statement that even though the “little guy” might think he has won, the battle will never end because big business will always be there, looming.  The story ends very abruptly, leaving viewers ultimately feeling unfulfilled.  As another critic noted, it is as if the writers ran out of ideas (and money) and just decided to let the story be how it was.  Ultimately, the story comes up short because of the overall manner in which it was delivered.  It is as if the writers could not decide if they wanted the story to be a drama, a thriller, or a little of both.  To that end, the story only gains any real interest after audiences have taken in the noted, brief commentary in the movie’s bonus content.  Keeping all of this in mind, the movie proves only slightly more worth watching at the most.

While the bonus content helps at least slightly to make Lapsis worth watching, that encouragement is minimal at best.  The movie’s cinematography adds slightly more motivation to watch.  Considering that the bulk of the movie takes place in forested settings, the cinematography had to be taken especially into account because of the color balances, and that of light and dark.  Additionally, there had to be emphasis on specific angles within given scenes to help heighten the emotions of all involved.  The distortion of the backgrounds (which honestly is slightly overused) does help to heighten the tension as Ray makes his way through his routes and tries to figure out what is going on.  The use of the panavision lenses (as noted in the audio commentary) definitely helps with this aspect overall.  Simply put, the work of those behind the lenses is to be applauded because it helps to set the mood in each scene.  When this is considered along with the slight positive of the movie’s bonus content, the two elements combine to make Lapsis worth watching at least once, but sadly no more than that.

Couple 3 Films’ statement movie Lapsis is a problematic presentation from the independent studio.  Its bonus content serves as its main positive.  Without the bonus content, viewers would be left guessing as to the story’s plot and message.  Speaking of that, the story itself is, again, ambiguous because of the manner in which the story is presented.  Audiences are led to believe the story one kind of tale, but ultimately find out it is something else.  Making things even more difficult is the story’s abrupt ending.  Overall, the whole thing comes across as some kind of odd sci-fi noir flick that attempts to deliver a message but ultimately fails in that effort.  Luckily, the movie’s cinematography works with the bonus content to give viewers at least a little more reason to give the movie a chance.  That is thanks to the color balances, the angles and other aspects.  All things considered here, Lapsis proves to be one of the lesser of this year’s crop of new independent movies.  Lapsis is available now.

More information on this and other titles from Film Movement is available at:

Websitehttps://www.filmmovement.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/FilmMovement

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/Film_Movement

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Paramount, Nickelodeon’s ‘Rugrats: Complete Series’ Presentation Is Entertaining, But Imperfect

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Paramount

Almost fifteen years have passed since Rugrats finally ended its run on Nickelodeon.  The timeless, beloved series has remained a favorite among its viewers since that time.  The thing is that until 2009, audiences had been left waiting and wondering if this series would ever receive an official release on DVD.  The constant questions and requests were finally answered in 2017 when Paramount and Nickelodeon released the series’ debut season in a two-disc set in stores.  Seasons 2-4 followed later in 2017 and 2018 respectively.  That is where the official releases ended.  More than three years later, audiences’ pleas were finally heard again though, as Paramount and Nickelodeon released the series’ full nine season run on a 26-disc DVD set May 18, complete with the series’ hour-long specials.  Those extras are their own positive to discuss and will be addressed later.  The fact that audiences finally get the full series in an official release is itself a positive.  Now, staying on the topic of the number of discs, the packaging of those discs proves somewhat problematic.  This will be discussed a little later.  When this negative is considered along with the positives of the set’s very presentation and its bonus content, the whole still keeps the collection as one of the year’s top new family DVD/BD box sets.

Paramount and Nickelodeon’s brand new release of Rugrats: The Complete Series is a presentation that longtime Rugrats fans will find mostly positive.  The appeal begins with the presentation of the series in full, just as advertised.  This is important to note because some of the on-demand standalone season sets that Nickelodeon released in partnership with Amazon allegedly were not full seasons.  Rather they were allegedly portions of seasons assembled on-demand on DVD in many cases.  In the case of this set though, audiences get the whole of all nine seasons of the show in precise chronological order within the precise confines of their seasons.  What’s more, the most commonly occurring price listing for the set is $49.95 through Amazon and Walmart while Best Buy barely tops that number at $49.99.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers far exceeds each of those prices, listing the set at $79.99.  So even with tax and (thankfully) no added shipping & handling, audiences pay just over $50 for the set at its more economic prices.  Considering audiences are getting the series’ full run here, and in quite good quality, that price is well worth it.

While the series’ full run and relatively affordable price are clearly positives that audiences will appreciate, the set is not perfect.  That is evidenced through the set’s packaging.  The clamshell case that is used to house the set saves space on audiences’ DVD/BD racks.  At the same time though, that he discs are stacked as much as three high from one season to the next is anything but positive.  What’s more, that the stacks overlap one another throughout the case makes the packaging even less appealing.  That is because this packaging method greatly increases the odds that the discs will damage one another at some point by scratching one another.  Again, yes, it is ergonomic in its design.  At the same time though, true, longtime audiences will agree that a long box format with each standalone season would have made more sense and been more acceptable despite the less ergonomic packaging.  That is because it would have better protected the discs.  Maybe somewhere down the line, Paramount and Nickelodeon will take this into account and re-issue the set in such packaging.  In the meantime though, audiences are left to be so gentle with the discs in hopes that they do not inadvertently damage them as they have to constantly move them.  Keeping this in mind, anyone who owns the series’ first four seasons in their standalone sets (like this critic) are recommended to keep those sets just so they can avoid having to constantly move the discs around in this bigger set, and instead just worry about Seasons Five through Nine.

This is just one of the problems posed by the packaging.  Along with the concerns raised about the discs’ packaging, there is no note as to which discs contain the aforementioned bonus specials.  As a result, audiences will be left having to go through each season to find them.  This goes right back to the discussion on the discs being stacked and risking damage as a result.  So this is in itself another insult to longtime Rugrats fans.  To save audiences that trouble, here is a guide to follow:  “Runaway Reptar” is located on the third disc of Season 6.  The All Grown Up pilot, “All Growed Up” is located on the third disc of Season Eight.  The ‘Tales from the Crib” specials are located on the fourth disc of Season Nine along with the holiday special, “Babies in Toyland.”  Now, keeping the bonus content in mind, it rounds out the most important of the set’s elements.


As noted, all of the Rugrats specials are featured here.  The “Tales from the Crib” specials are available on a standalone DVD at a relatively low price while “Runaway Reptar” is available as part of another standalone Rugrats DVD.  “Babies in Toyland” is also featured in the Rugrats holiday DVD box set.  Until now, those DVDs were the only way to own those stories.  So in essence, audiences get for the first time here, the entirety of the Rugrats series from beginning to end.  While the musical numbers in the “Tales from the Crib” specials are forgettable, the stories themselves are entertaining.  Audiences will love the breaking down of the fourth wall in “Snow White” as Queen Angelica tries to figure out how to get rid of Snow White (played in this case by Susie Carmichael).  The reminder from the announcer that what was done in the original story cannot be done in this story because it is family friendly will have plenty of audiences laughing.  The jokes about three jacks in the Rugrats take on Jack and the Beanstalk makes for its own laughs, too.  In the case of “Runaway Reptar,” Tommy and company’s use of their imaginations as they try to figure out why Reptar has gone bad in a movie is itself moving.  Classic sci-fi fans will love the spoof of the original Godzilla vs. Kong and Godzilla vs. Mecha Godzilla here, too. The babies’ wonderings about what the future will be like for them in the All Grown Up pilot is entertaining in its own right, considering that the series had shown them as babies for so many years up to the point at which it originally aired.  All things considered here, the bonus specials add their own enjoyment to the presentation of the series here.  They and the full run of episodes make for plenty of reason to own this set.  That is even considering the highly problematic issue of the set’s packaging.  Even with that in mind, the set still proves itself among the best of this year’s new family DVD and BD box sets.

Paramount and Nickelodeon’s recently released official full series presentation of Rugrats is an entertaining but imperfect presentation.  That audiences finally get the full series in one, official set will appeal to any of the series’ longtime fans.  That is because up until its release May 18, audiences only had the series’ first four seasons available in official box sets.  It shows that someone(s) at Paramount and Nickelodeon finally listened to audiences’ pleas.  While the presentation of the series in full is positive, the packaging thereof detracts considerably from its appeal.  The packaging presents all nine seasons in a clamshell package with each season’s discs stacked as many as three high.  This greatly increases the chances of damage to the discs, especially considering each stack overlaps another in each season.  This means the discs have to be moved far more than necessary.  That increased movement of the discs increases, again, the odds of the discs getting invariably scratched.  A long box presentation with each standalone season therein would have been far more proper here.  Time will tell if the people at Paramount and Nickelodeon heed that advice and eventually re-issue the collection in that more proper setting.

The lack of a guide for the bonus content makes the set’s packaging even more problematic.  That is because it will lead audiences to have to otherwise search through the discs, moving them just as much, just to find the extras.  That they are so spread out across the set’s seasons makes things even more problematic.

On the opposite hand, the fact that the bonus content is collected here together for the first time ever adds to the appeal again.  That is because the specials have only been available separate of one another up until now.  So to have them culled here along with the series’ run puts the finishing touch to this presentation.  The collective content’s presentation makes the set at least one of the year’s top new family DVD and BD box sets, but not its best.  It is available now.  More information on all things Rugrats is available online at https://www.facebook.com/Rugrats.  

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‘Raya And The Last Dragon’ Is A Surprisingly Positive Presentation From Disney

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Audiences looking for a worthwhile movie to watch last year had a hard time of things as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The pandemic forced the shutdown of countless movies in production around the world, and delayed the release of others that were already completed.  That extensive list of movies delayed due to the pandemic’s impact includes Walt Disney Studios’ latest CG-flick, Raya and the Last Dragon.  The movie was originally planned for release Nov. 25, 2020 (the week of Thanksgiving), but ended up making its theatrical debut months later, March 12, 2021.  More than two months later – May 18 to be exact — the movie has made its way to home audiences on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UHD/BD combo pack.  The movie itself is just as enjoyable in its home release as in its theatrical release.  Its bonus content adds to that appeal.  Though at the same time, it also raises at least one concern that deserves some attention.  That concern will be addressed later.  The pacing of the story featured here works with the story itself to make for even more appeal  It will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie and its presentation in its new home presentation.  All things considered, they make Raya and the Last Dragon a surprisingly welcome new offering from Disney.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a surprisingly welcome new offering from Walt Disney Studios.  The enjoyment comes in the fact that it is an original story.  It is not based on some book and is not yet another of the countless reboots that Disney has churned out in the past couple of years or so.  The story featured here centers on a young woman – Raya – who sets out on a quest to reassemble the “Dragon Gem” years after representatives of the nations of Kumandra fought over the gem and cracked it into multiple pieces, unwittingly freeing a group of evil beings known as the Druun.  The Druun turn everything they touch into stone, including Raya’s father.  That set-up leads to Raya’s quest, which is in her mind, solely focused on bringing her father back to life so to speak.  In the process, Raya meets Sisu, the last dragon, and a motley crew of friends from the nations of Kumandra.  Her new friends’ own strife, which was also caused by the Druun, leads her to increasingly realize the need to trust and to trust in the good in people.  While this (and the message of the need for unity and peace) is at the heart of the story, the movie’s creative heads do not allow any of that content to overpower the enjoyable action and adventure that makes up the rest of the story.  What’s more, the story does well in avoiding being just another coming-of-age tale (which is what Moana, Disney’s most recent “princess” movie, was).  Rather, it just culminates in Raya’s own personal realization and acceptance that she was limiting herself.  Given, that self realization is a familiar plot element that is used in other movies from other studios, but it is presented in a unique, fresh fashion here.  Keeping everything noted here in mind, the story featured in Raya and the Last Dragon serves as a strong starting point for the movie’s presentation.  It is just one part of what makes the movie so surprisingly positive.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new home release enhances the viewing experience even more.

The bonus content featured in the home release of Raya and the Last Dragon is important to its new presentation because of the background that it provides to the story.  The background in question is largely the story of how the movie’s creative heads and cast overcame limitations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic to make the movie still happen.  The cast and crew discuss working from home in the feature “Raya” Bringing It Home.”  They talk about the difficulties of trying to balance their work and home life as a result of being forced to work on the movie from home.  From the issue of everyone trying to log onto one of Disney’s systems all at once so as to work on the movie (risking bogging down the system), to dealing with the presence of family while working, to the very mental impact of having to stare at a computer screen for eight (and sometimes more) hours a day just to make the movie happen, the group addresses here, a variety of obstacles that it faced in bringing the story to life.  That alone makes for even more appreciation for the end product.

The noted bonus feature is just one of the key extras featured in the movie’s home release.  “We Are Kumandra” and “Martial Artists” serve to show the dedication that all involved had to making the story true to its source material so to speak.  Viewers learn through “We Are Kumandra” that the movie’s creative heads and voice cast traveled to Southeast Asia pre-pandemic as part of the movie’s pre-production to lean about the culture of the region so as to properly and accurately display it on screen.  “Martial Artists” meanwhile profiles the martial arts expert who displayed the martial arts used across Southeast Asia for the fight scenes.  Again, here is an example of the movie’s creative heads making sure the region, its people, and culture were honestly and honorably displayed.  This is hardly the first time that a Disney movie and its staff have gone to such lengths to make one of its movies as accurate as possible.  It just shows even more, that continued dedication.  That, in turn, leads to even more appreciation for the movie.

On yet another note, the deleted scenes bonus are important to the overall presentation, too.  They are important because in watching them, viewers will agree that they are scenes that were not needed considering what made the final cut versus that content.  What’s more, that the deleted scenes show the Druun as some kind of supernatural entity type creature that can inhabit suits of armor and become evil warriors is also troubling.  It creates the sense of some kind of anime type presentation, especially as Raya uses her sword (which is also part axe in the deleted scenes) to break through the Druun’s armor and “kill” them.  The more subdued use of the Druun in the final product is so much better by comparison.  So here again is more proof of the positive impact of the bonus content. 

As a final touch, the “Taste of Raya” virtual dinner adds its own touch to the bonus content.  The cast and creative heads enjoy a virtual dinner via Zoom as they talk about the work that went into the movie’s creation.  The dinner in question features real Southeast Asian dishes as part of the event. Learning about those dishes and the importance of the representation of Asian culture and peoples in the movie industry adds its own touch to the presentation.  All things considered, the bonus content featured in this movie adds quite a bit of engagement and entertainment to the movie and the viewing experience.

While the bonus content featured with the movie’s home release is its own overall positive, there is a concern tied to the bonus content.  That concern comes in the reality that it is not featured in the movie’s DVD presentation.  That is the only platform on which it is not presented.  This leads one to feel that this is Disney trying to force viewers who want to watch the bonus content to have to pay even more mainly for that content.  This is hardly the first time that Disney has gone this route, either.  Keeping that in mind, it makes for even more frustration toward Disney on top of the frustration already caused by the company basically double charging viewers to watch certain movies on its streaming service, Disney+.  It paints Disney even more as a company that cares more about money than the audiences.  Maybe one day, Disney’s officials will come to their senses about all of this.  In the meantime, audiences who want to watch the movie’s bonus content will have to pay anywhere from $25-$30 (and more counting sales tax).  Even with that in mind, it thankfully is not enough to make the movie’s home presentation a failure.  It is just something that really needs to be addressed by Disney.  The pacing of the movie’s story rounds out its most important elements.

Raya and the Last Dragon clocks in at one hour, 47 minutes.  That is just under the two hour mark.  For families with young children, that is important to note because of the attention span of those younger viewers.  Thankfully, the movie’s creative heads must have taken that into consideration.  That is because even at that run time, the story moves along at a relatively stable pace.  Even in the “slower” moments in which Raya and her growing group are on board Boun’s boat, the story manages to make the dialogue engaging and entertaining.   The result of that solid pacing is that audiences of all ages will remain engaged and entertained throughout.  That maintained engagement and entertainment results in that much more enjoyment in and appreciation for the original, action-filled story.  That, coupled with the engagement and entertainment ensured through the movie’s bonus content, makes the overall presentation a rare positive presentation from Disney that actually deserves a spot among this year’s best new movies.

Walt Disney Studios’ movie Raya and the Last Dragon is a surprisingly enjoyable offering from the studio.  That is due in part to its featured story.  The story is an original work that follows a young woman’s quest to bring her father back to life.  In the process, she learns a valuable lesson about trust and trusting in the good in people.  The story also incorporates an equally important message about the need for peace and unity.  This is all done without either aspect becoming preachy, and overpowering the rest of the story.  What’s more, the story does not just rehash Moana’s whole coming-of-age story.  All things considered here, the story proves to be a solid starting point for the movie.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release adds its own enjoyment to the viewing experience.  That is because of the background that it offers audiences.  The story’s pacing rounds out the most important of its elements.  It ensures that even though the movie runs almost two hours, even young audiences will remain engaged and entertained throughout.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this movie in its home release.  All things considered, they make the movie a surprisingly enjoyable offering from Disney.  Raya and the Last Dragon is available now on DVD, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack, and 4K UHD/BD/Digital combo pack.

More information on this and other titles from Disney is available online at:

Website: https://waltdisneystudios.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/disneystudios

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Shout! Factory, eOne Partner For 35th Anniversary Re-Issue of ‘Transformers: The Movie’

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/eOne

Shout! Factory will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the original release of Transformers: The Movie this summer.

The home entertainment company, which last re-issued the movie on Blu-ray in 2016, is scheduled to re-issue it again Aug. 3 on a new 4K UHD/BD steelbook presentation. It marks the first time that the movie has seen release on that platform. Additionally, the movie will see release on a standard edition 4K UHD/BD package and separate 35th anniversary BD combo pack platform.

The BD and 4K UHD/BD combo packs will feature the movie in separate HD fullscreen and widescreen presentation. Additionally, the 4K UHD/BD combo pack will feature new bonus content that was not featured in the movie’s previous 2016 BD re-issue as well as the bonus content featured in that release.

The full list of the movie’s bonus content is noted below.

   *New Feature-Length Storyboards, including deleted, alternate and extended sequences

·        *New Fathom Events 30th Anniversary Featurette, including Stan Bush’s acoustic performances of “The Touch” and “Dare”

·        ‘Til All Are One – A comprehensive documentary looking back at THE TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE with members of the cast and crew, including story consultant Flint Dille, cast members Gregg Berger, Neil Ross, Dan Gilvezan, singer/songwriter Stan Bush, composer Vince Dicola and others!

·        Audio Commentary with Director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille and star Susan Blu

·        Featurettes

·        Animated Storyboards

·        Trailers and TV Spots

*exclusive to the Limited Edition SteelBook and 4K UHD releases

Audiences in theUK will see the movie’s re-issue come in September. An exact release date is under consideration. Viewers who pre-order the movie now will receive a bonus 18″X24″ lithograph with new art by Matt Ferguson while supplies last.

More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available along with the company’s latest news at:

Website: https://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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

Problematic Pacing Aside, PBS’ Hemingway Profile Proves To Be A Strong Presentation

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

It goes without saying that Ernest Hemingway is among the most polarizing figures in the history of American literature.  The same applies to the books and short stories that he crafted during his life.  Audiences either strongly like or dislike him and his works and strongly dislike them.  There is no in-between.  Period.  Now thanks to PBS and PBS Distribution, Hemingway and his works are getting renewed attention in the simply titled documentary, Hemingway.  Helmed by famed documentarians Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, the documentary originally aired on PBS stations nationwide April 5-7.  Its home DVD presentation followed on May 4.  Whether one is a Hemingway devotee or literary lover in general, audiences on both sides of the Hemingway discussion will find this three-part documentary a powerful presentation.  That is proven in part through its deep, rich examination of Hemingway and his works.  This will be discussed shortly. While Burns and Novick are to be commended for the depth that they offer in showing Hemingway warts and all, the six-hour show’s pacing proves somewhat problematic.  It does not make the show a failure, but does detract from the presentation to a point.  This will be discussed a little later.  The documentary’s average price point on its DVD and Blu-ray platform is its own positive, considering the depth of the show overall.  This element will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the documentary.  All things considered, Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick proves itself a presentation that audiences on both sides of the Hemingway discussion will agree deserves its own spot among this year’s top new documentaries and DVD/BD box sets for grown-ups.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s presentation of Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is a deep, powerful presentation.  It is a work that continues to cement Burns’ and Novick’s place among America’s elite documentarians and historians.  Those on both sides of the Hemingway discussion will agree after watching this six-hour (yes, it runs six hours total) examination of the myth and reality of Ernest Hemingway and his literary works.  The documentary’s story is deserving of praise from both sides because of its depth.  It shows Hemingway warts and all.  From his five total marriages, to his alcoholism, to the highs and lows in his literary career, it is all here.  Burns and Novick go all the way back to Hemingway’s childhood upbringing in a household controlled clearly by two very different parents.  His father, while conservative, was far less extreme in his views than his mother.  In looking at his relationship with his mother, one cannot help but imagine that relationship played at least partially into his unstable relationship with women in his adult life.  At the same time, his relationship with a certain young nurse during World War I (which is also examined here) and how it ended, likely also played into that aspect of his life, too.  He could not control how his mother treated him and his siblings, nor could he control that nurse’s love (or lack thereof) for him, so in compensation, he went from woman to woman as an act of control.  On a related topic, one of the many academics interviewed for the documentary makes her own interesting point that Hemingway’s braggadocious behavior and claims likely stemmed from his own insecurities.  Those insecurities likely were deep seated from his own life experiences.  It would make them more compensation to try and hide things.  This makes for even more interest.

Staying on the topic of the richness in this presentation, audiences will remain just as interested as they learn how Hemingway’s own life experiences played into his novels.  This in itself will lead to plenty of their own discussions.  That is because Hemingway is hardly the only author to go that route.  Fellow author Thomas Wolfe did much the same, and came under fire for doing so, too. 

On yet another note, the examination of Hemingway’s waning days is powerful in its own way.  Audiences who might not have already known (such as this critic) will be surprised to learn that electroshock therapy was used in those final days, as a means to try to cure his depression.  Interestingly enough, the use of that treatment likely led to Hemingway’s increasingly declining mental state and eventual suicide.  Between this discussion, everything else noted here, and other topics, such as Hemingway’s own lack of connection with his sons and the impact thereof, and his own apparent sexual preferences, the overall presentation here offers a lot to keep audiences engaged and entertained.  To that end, the in-depth presentation at the center of Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick gives audiences more than enough reason to watch, regardless of which side they take on their love or lack thereof for Hemingway.

While the story at the center of PBS’ new Ernest Hemingway documentary is in-depth (to say the least), it is not without at least one concern.  That concern comes in the story’s pacing.  The six-hour program does have a tendency to drag from beginning to end.  Maybe that is due to the decidedly somber mood set throughout the story.  Hemingway’s life was rather troubled instead of glorious, so the overall tone here is slow and somber.  Maybe it was just a lack of focus on the part of Burns and Novick, but that generally would not be the case.  Keeping that in mind, the story’s pacing does create some difficulty, even for the most devoted Hemingway fans.  While this is clearly a concern, it is not enough to make the presentation a failure.  Rather, it is just something that audiences must keep in mind and expect, going into the presentation.

The detraction caused through the pacing of Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is problematic, but again is not enough to make the program a failure.  Keeping that in mind, there is at least one more positive to address, that being the average price point for the documentary.  The average price point for the documentary in its DVD presentation is $31.42.  The average price point for the documentary’s average price point on Blu-ray is slightly more expensive, at $39.28.  Those prices were reached by averaging prices listed at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million, among the nation’s biggest major retailers.  Looking at those prices, they are about at the same level as other multi-disc sets on each platform.  As a matter of fact, there are some Blu-ray box sets out there with more discs (and the same number of discs) that top the $40 mark.  Many box sets with the same or more number of discs on DVD are typically in the $35-$40 range.  Additionally, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble all list the DVD set at $27.99 and the Blu-ray set at $34.99.  That is rare, that so many retailers list a DVD and/or BD at the same price.  Books-A-Million and PBS each list the set at $39.99 and $49.99, well above the noted average price points.  To that end, the majority of the retailers charging the same price makes for even more motivation for audiences to purchase the set on either platform.  Going back to the depth of the story at the documentary’s center, that makes the two averages that much more appealing for audiences.  Keeping all of this in mind, the average price point for this set pairs with that content to make for even more reason for Hemingway fans and bibliophiles alike to watch this latest offering from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.  That is even with the problem of the program’s pacing in mind.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s presentation of Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is a strong new offering from all parties involved.  Regardless of audiences’ fondness for Hemingway and his work, those on both sides will agree the documentary is an in-depth presentation that goes well beyond what anyone might learn from any literary history course.  That alone is reason enough to watch this documentary at least once.  While the presentation’s rich history gives audiences much to appreciate, the documentary’s pacing proves problematic.  From start to end, the documentary moves relatively slowly.  Regardless of what caused this to happen, the fact of the matter is that audiences on both sides of the Hemingway discussion will agree that this is problematic.  It is not enough to make the documentary a failure.  However, it does make engagement and entertainment more difficult (again regardless of audiences’ love for Hemingway and his works).  The average price point for the program on DVD and Blu-ray pairs with its depth and richness of content to make for its own appeal.  That is because both each platform’s price point is right on par (and in some cases even lower than) other box sets with the same number of discs.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the documentary in its new home release.  All things considered, they make the documentary among the best of its category.  Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is available now.

More information on this and other titles from PBS is available at:

Website: https://www.pbs.org

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Paramount’s Not-So-New ‘Peanuts’ Movie Collection Is A Disappointing Presentation

Courtesy: Paramount

It goes without saying that Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang are among the most beloved figures in America’s pop culture history.  Their adventures on the printed page and on screen have brought together generations of audiences and have been seen around the world.  Now this week, four classic Peanuts feature-length films were re-issued yet again by Paramount on Blu-ray in what the studio has dubbed the Snoopy Collection.  That title for the collection is the starting point for what is otherwise a very problematic presentation from Paramount.  It will be discussed shortly.  The collection of the movies in this platform makes for its own share of problems and will be discussed a little later.  The average price point of this collection rounds out its most important elements and will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted is key in its own way to the whole of Paramount’s latest Peanuts movie collection re-issue.  All things considered, they make this re-issued set a dishonor to the legacy of Charles Schulz and to Peanuts fans.

Paramount’s newly re-issued Peanuts 4-Movie Collection is a disappointing presentation from the famed movie studio.  The concern comes right off the top in the set’s titling.  Paramount is marketing the re-issued collection as the Snoopy Collection instead of simply using the original title of the Peanuts 4-Movie Collection.  Such a title infers that all four movies in the collection focus on Snoopy, rather than the whole Peanuts gang.  The reality is that only one movie in the collection – Snoopy, Come Home – centers mainly on Snoopy.  The other three movies – A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown, and Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown, And Don’t Come Back –focus on the whole group.  So in using the new title, Paramount is essentially lying to audiences.  That is, in itself very disappointing.  It is as if someone at Paramount set out to intentionally mislead consumers, expecting them to buy the set just because it has Snoopy on the cover and title; this even though audiences might already own the movies featured in the set.  Speaking of the movies featured in the set, they make up another concern surrounding the collection.

The movies featured in Paramount’s Snoopy Collection were already released together on DVD in 2016, also through Paramount.  What’s more, that single-disc collection is also widely available to purchase online and in stores.  The quality of the footage between the two collections is roughly the same.  There was no re-mastering in this latest case.  So to that end, audiences who might already own that single-disc collection have no reason to purchase this not-so-new collection.  As if that is not enough, all four movies are available by themselves.  A Boy Named Charlie Brown and Snoopy Come Home were re-issued by themselves in September 2016 on Blu-ray.  They were also re-issued in 2015 on DVD alongside this set’s other two movies.  So audiences who already own the aforementioned Blu-ray releases would essentially be buying those same two movies on Blu-ray again along with the DVD movies, except this time on BD, too.  Maybe audiences don’t own any of the movies or some mix and match, then sure, the set will be worth the purchase.  Those audiences who perhaps (like this critic) already own all four movies have zero reason to buy, though.  That applies whether audiences own the movies in their collection or in their standalone platforms.  Simply put, the presentation of all four movies here is just as little reason for most audiences to buy the set as the deceptive titling for the collection. 

Continuing from the set’s general presentation, its average price point is one more reason that audiences should leave this one on the shelves (physical and digital).  The average price point for the new BD presentation of the Peanuts 4-Movie Collection is $42.  That price was obtained by averaging prices at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million.  Amazon, Walmart, Target each list the set below that price, at $36.97, $38.99, and $29.96 respectively.  Audiences will note that Walmart’s listing is the lowest of that group, while the other two noted retailers’ prices are just below that point.  That is telling in itself.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million meanwhile list the set at an extraordinary $57.99 and $44.99 respectively.  Keep in mind here that each set spreads the movies across four discs, so Paramount cannot use the excuse of extra material used to make the set for the exorbitantly high pricing.

By comparison, the average price point for the noted single-disc DVD collection is $11.19. That price was obtained by averaging prices at the same retailers used to get the average price point for the collection’s BD presentation.  Keeping this in mind, the average price point for the collection’s BD set is more than three times that of the collection’s DVD set.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers once again far exceeds the average, this time at $21.99.  Target and Amazon actually present the least expensive of the set’s listings in this case, at $7.59.  The short and simple of everything here is that the comparison of the DVD collection’s pricing to that of the collection’s new BD re-issue is stark and all the more reason for audiences to lean more toward the DVD collection than the BD set.  When this aspect is considered along with everything else noted here and the fact that both sets spread the movies across four discs, it all makes the not-so-new presentation among the most disappointing of this year’s new family DVD and BD box sets.

Paramount’s new Blu-ray re-issue of the Peanuts 4-Movie Collection is a disappointing presentation.  It does nothing but disrespect fans of the timeless franchise and the legacy of Charles Chulz, the creator of Good Ol’ Charlie Brown and company.  The problems with this set start before audiences even place any of the discs in the Blu-ray player’s tray.  Instead of just going with the same name as that used in the set’s 2016 DVD presentation, someone at Paramount instead tried to deceive audiences and change the set’s title to Snoopy Collection.  This is even considering the fact that the set features the same movies as those in the DVD set.  Only one of the set’s movies centers mainly on Snoopy, while the other three focus on the whole Peanuts gang.  So again, here is proof that someone at Paramount thought it smart to act like this set is something new when clearly it isn’t.  Speaking of the featured movies, they have – again – been presented together in a four-disc DVD set that is still widely available to this day.  Those movies are also available as standalone presentations, with two – A Boy Named Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Come Home – already available on Blu-ray by themselves.  The other two movies are available mainly on DVD.  Simply put, what all of this adds up to (no pun intended) is that Paramount is trying to pressure audiences to put that aside and let their fandom control them.  Audiences should not give in to this pressure if they already have these movies in their collective or standalone presentations.  The exorbitant price for this set is just one more reason that audiences should leave this set on the shelves if they already own its featured movies.  This set’s average price point is more than three times that of the set’s DVD presentation.  The separate listings are just as stark in their comparisons.  Keeping that in mind along with everything else noted, the people at Paramount should be ashamed for having dishonored Peanuts’ fans and the legacy of Peanuts’ creator, Charles Schulz with this set.  It all combines to paint Paramount as a company that (like Disney and Warner Home Entertainment) cares more about its bottom line than about actually entertaining audiences.  More simply put, it is a presentation that makes it look like Paramount cares more about quantity (how much money it can make) than about quality (actually offering content worth buying).

More information on these and other Peanuts releases is available online now along with all of the latest Peanuts news and more at:

Websitehttp://www.PEANUTS.com

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‘God Of The Piano’ Is Interesting, But Imperfect

Courtesy: Film Republic/Film Movement

Parents should never pressure their children to take part in activities in which they really have no interest.  Sadly, far too many parents out there heed that warning.  Pressuring children to do things in which they are not interested serves only to harm them mentally and emotionally.  Such is the essential premise for independent movie studio Film Republic’s 2019 drama God of the Piano.  It is a premise that is certain to resonate with plenty of audiences, even being presented in a foreign independent import that was brought to domestic audiences this past February on DVD.  The story to which that premise is connected makes this movie worth watching at least once if no more than that.  For all of the engagement established through this movie’s premise and story, the story is not without at least one fault.  That fault comes through some writing issues within the story.  This will be discussed a little later.  While the story featured in God of the Piano presents both pros and cons, the bonus short film presented with the movie’s domestic DVD release this year makes up for that mixed presentation, rounding out the DVD’s most important elements.  It will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the DVD’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the DVD worth watching at least once if no more.

Film Movement’s new domestic DVD presentation of Film Republic’s 2019 movie, God of the Piano is one that is an interesting option for audiences who are perhaps looking for an alternative to the endless river of prequels, sequels, reboots, and movies based on actual events flowing from mainstream American studios.  Its interest comes primarily from its story.  The story in question follows Anat (Naama Preis — The GraveTel AvivAzimuth) a one time piano prodigy who is so obsessed with being in her piano virtuoso father’s shadow that she ends up living vicariously through her “son,” who also turns out to be quite talented on the piano.  The term “son” is used in quotes because there is a catch.  Aidan, her “son” is not really her son.  Anat is so mentally and emotionally scarred by everything that her father did as she herself was growing up that when she gives birth to a deaf son, she switches her biological son with another couple’s son.  That act in itself makes it easy to dislike Anat more than connect with her.  Her desperation does not stop there.  Not to give away too much, but in her attempt to live up to her father’s expectations, she cheats on her husband and sleeps with another man just so that he would make a composition for Aidan to use in an audition for an elite school.  It just so happens that her father is on the board that decides which students get into the school.  Between this extreme act of desperation and the very fact that she would basically abandon her own biological son at birth and take someone else’s child goes a long way toward exhibiting the long-term emotional and mental impacts of parents pressuring their children and placing undue expectations on them.  It may seem unbelievable but any viewer will agree they have seen parents in real life living vicariously through their children.  They just don’t see the full impacts of those parents’ actions.  To that end, the story is actually believable.  While the story is gripping and very clearly heavy, it is not without some faults.

The faults in God of the Piano’s story begin with the very premise presented about the story.  According to information provided about the movie by Film Republic and Film Movement, Anat’s very desperate actions are the result of her relationship with her father.  The information states that Anat lived in her father’s shadow for years, and by result was negatively impacted by this aspect.  Even with this noted as the deeper premise for the story, this part of the story is never actually addressed within the story.  It is insinuated to a point, but never actually addressed within the story that viewers follow within the movie.  All audiences have to go by is that premise for her extreme behavior.  Yes, it would have made the movie longer, but at the same time, would have also made the movie more entertaining. 

On a related note, the information provided on the movie’s box alleges that Anat eventually confronts her father about his role in and impact on her throughout her life.  This was supposed to have come as a result of everything that she does and that happens with Aidan.  That is deceiving because (again not to give away too much) in reality there is no real confrontation.  The only real confrontation comes as she questions her father as to why Aidan was not accepted into the elite school for which he auditioned.  It again is anything but what audiences expected considering the premise presented on the movie’s case.

On yet another note, audiences know that Anat switched her biological son (who is never even named) with another couple’s son.  Yet throughout everything, this part of the story is not re-visited until the movie’s final act.  How it is re-visited will not be revealed here.  Regardless, that her biological son is completely ignored and that she does not even begin to think about him until such point makes it that much more difficult to sympathize with Anat.  Rather, it makes it that much easier to see her as a villain just as much as a victim.  That is because it makes it look like she does not have even the slightest regret over what she has done to that child, to Aidan, and even to his biological parents.  These plot holes of sorts really should have been addressed before this movie even went into production.  That they exist noticeably detracts from the viewing experience.  Luckily they are not enough to make the movie a complete failure.  They just combine to counter the more believable side of the story.

Keeping everything noted about God of the Piano’s story in mind, the story is interesting, but also imperfect.  Thankfully, the story featured in the bonus short film that comes with the movie’s DVD release makes up the failings of the main feature.  The bonus short film, The Audition, is a simple story about a cellist named Sarah who by chance ends up performing at the wedding of what is believed to be her ex-husband.  The story never fully states that Sarah and the man were married, but it is known that the pair was romantically connected at one point.  The 22-minute presentation seamlessly transitions between Sarah’s performance along her fellow musicians and what led up to the pair’s split seamlessly as the story progresses.  The outcome will not be revealed here, but makes for its own interest.  The short story ultimately outshines it counterpart what with its believable and accessible story, and the noted seamless transitions.  When the short is considered along with God of the Piano, in all of its pros and cons, the two stories together make the overall presentation worth watching at least once.

Film Movement’s domestic DVD presentation of Film Republic’s God of the Piano is an interesting but imperfect presentation.  It is not a failure, but is also not a complete success.  That is proven in part through the story in the main feature.  The story is an examination of sorts of the impact of parents’ pressuring their children to do things in which they might not be interested.  The story in itself is interesting because it is believable to a point.  It is also an emotionally heavy story.  That in itself makes for reason enough to give the movie a chance.  While the movie’s general premise makes for reason to watch, the script ignores some key matters, detracting from its presentation to a point.  That is not enough to make the movie a failure.  The bonus short film that accompanies God of the Piano makes up for that story’s shortcomings.  That is even considering the fact that the short runs only 22 minutes.  Each item noted here plays its own important part to the overall DVD presentation of God of the Piano.  All things considered, they make the movie’s domestic DVD presentation worth watching at least once, but sadly not much more than that.

More information on this and other titles from Film Movement is available at:

Websitehttps://www.filmmovement.com

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‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Neither Succeeds Nor Fails In Its Debut Season’s Home Release

Courtesy: Paramount/Paramount+/CBS Studios/CBS All Access

Paramount+’s latest addition to the ever-expanding Star Trek universe, Star Trek: Lower Decks, is scheduled to launch its second season this summer, roughly a year after the series saw its debut season premiere.  As audiences wait for the series’ second season to air, they can take in the show’s first season on DVD and Blu-ray beginning Tuesday.  The debut season of this newest addition to the Star Trek universe is an intriguing presentation even in its new home release.  While Lower Decks is not a complete disappointment or failure in its debut season, it also is not a total success.  That is proven in part through its writing, which is itself both a positive and negative.  It will be discussed shortly.  For all that the writing does to both benefit and detract from the series’ presentation, it is just one of the elements to examine in addressing the home release of the series’ debut season.  The bonus content featured in the home release of the show’s lead season is a positive in its own way.  It will be discussed a little later.  The two-disc set’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the home release of the series’ lead season.  All things considered, they make the presentation such that Star Trek fans will find it worth watching at least once.

Paramount+’s home presentation of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 presents the series as neither an improvement on nor a lessening of the long-running franchise that is Star Trek.  That is proven in large part through its writing.  The writing benefits the show first and foremost in the fact that each episode is only half an hour instead of a full hour.  What’s more, the writing brings the franchise back to the episodic presentation style that was once the franchise’s norm.  Every episode finds the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos going from planet to planet facing all kinds of adventures.  The whole thing opens with a zombie plague overcoming the Cerritos in “Second Contact” and Ensign Boimler inadvertently being the one to save the day.  “Moist Vessel” keeps the action on board entertaining as Captain Freeman (who is revealed early on to be Ensign Mariner’s mother) teachers Mariner a lesson about maturity as she continues to cause trouble for her mother and much of the ship’ senior staff.  “Veritas” meanwhile presents audiences with a familiar twice-told tale type plot element that is so common to sitcoms.  It’s a surprisingly funny story that, as with the other noted episodes and the rest of the season’s stories, boast a certain stylistic similarity to the writing used in Futurama.  To that point, the writing does a lot to make the debut season of Lower Decks worth at least a chance.  At the same time, the writing also suffers from one major downfall, that being that it takes itself too seriously in trying to not be serious.

Yes, the stories featured throughout the first season of Lower Decks are original and funny, the dialogue that is used therein proves very problematic.  The snarkiness and the amount of foul language that is used throughout each episode proves very problematic.  Considering that the series is the creation of Rick & Morty writer Mike McMahan, that should come as no surprise.  Things like Mariner getting drunk, Captain Freeman essentially cussing out lower ranking officers, and the overtly over the top silliness as the ensigns testify before a court for something that happened, and more, the writing just suffers in terms of its general content.  That against the enjoyment brought by the less serious nature of the stories and that the episodes are standalone presentations offsets one another.  It works together to once more show why the writing makes this season worth watching at least once.  While the writing featured in the first season of Lower Decks proves both good and bad, the bonus content is featured in Season 1’s home release proves positive, somewhat offsetting the  concerns raised in the writing.

The bonus content presented in the home release of Lower Decks Season 1 is positive in that it gives audiences a look behind the show’s scenes.  The most notable of the bonuses comes in “Hiding in Plain Sight.”  This roughly six minute bonus featurette presents just some of the items used in past Star Trek series that are tossed in here.  The shows’ creative heads point out in this segment that the inclusion of the classic items was intentional as a means to add to appeal for fans of those shows.  Any diehard Star Trek fan will agree that there is something special in seeing this generation of Star Trek so lovingly throwing back to the franchise’s early days.  As with the writing, this follows in the shoes of the writing of Futurama.  It is interesting to see the tasteful way in which so many classic Star Trek items and characters were thrown into this series, not just to generate nostalgia, but to use them as story elements, too.

“Hiding in Plain Sight” is just one of the set’s notable bonuses.  The “Lower Decktionary” segments give even more insight into the show’s creative process.  From the animation, to the title credits (which themselves throw back to the look of TNG’s credits), to the show’s music, audiences get brief but in-depth discussions on so much of the show’s “secondary” content.  Those discussions, along with the talks on the throwbacks to classic Star Trek will add its own level of engagement and entertainment for audiences in this presentation.  Together with the more positive side of the show’s writing, the two aspects collectively make the show slightly more worth watching.

The bonus and content and writing featured in the home release of Lower Decks Season 1 does well to make this debut season of the Star Trek universe’s latest addition worth watching at least once.  They are just a portion of what works to the presentation’s positive.  The set’s packaging rounds out its most important elements.  Audiences will note that a brief but concise episode summary list is printed inside the case’s front and rear box art.  This inclusion allows audiences to make a quick decision as to which episode they want to watch.  Making this aspect even more appealing is the fact that the episodes are aligned specifically with each of the set’s two discs.  This means that audiences immediately know which episodes are on which disc, and in the process, will be that much more capable of deciding which episode to watch.  Those behind the presentation in this aspect are to be commended for this move.

Making the packaging even more of a positive is the fact that the set’s discs are wisely presented inside the case.  Disc one is placed on a leaf inside the case by itself while Disc Two is placed on its own spindle on the box’s rear inside.  This protects the discs from marring one another.  On yet another level, the smart placement of the discs also makes the packaging ergonomic.  This will appeal to any viewer who prefers the physical object to streaming.  Keeping this in mind along with the positive impact of the packaging’s episode listing, there is no doubt that the packaging proves important in its own way to the whole of the set’s presentation.  When this element is considered along with the positive impact of the set’s bonus content, and the mixed impact of the writing, all three elements make the home release of Lower Decks’s debut season somewhat engaging and entertaining, but still neither an improvement nor lessening of the Star Trek universe’s overall legacy.

Paramount+’s new home release of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 is an intriguing first outing for the latest addition to the ever-growing Star Trek universe.  The show is neither an outright win nor a total failure.  That is proven in part through the season’s writing.  The writing brings together the best elements of Star Trek and Futurama, but the worst elements of shows, such as Rick & Morty and Family Guy at the same time.  That whole makes the writing somewhat entertaining, but also equally lacking.  The bonus content that accompanies the season in its new home release makes up for the writing’s concerns.  That is because of the background that it offers on the show in its lead season.  The packaging of Season 1 in its home release rounds out the set’s most important elements.  It enhances the viewing experience because it makes choosing an episode easy for viewers while also protecting each of the set’s two discs.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this set’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the debut season of Star Trek: Lower Decks worth watching at least occasionally, but not much more.  Star Trek Lower Decks Season 1 is scheduled for release Tuesday through Paramount, Paramount+, CBS Studios and CBS All Access.

More information on this and other content from CBS All Access is available online at:

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Blue Underground’s Re-Issue Of ‘The Final Countdown’ Proves This Movie Deserves A Second Chance From Audiences, Critics

Courtesy: Blue Underground/United Artists

The 1980s is one of the most unique eras in the modern era of movies.  It was this era that turned out so many timeless movies helmed by the late, great John Hughes.  It was also the era that turned out great movies, such as Back to the Future, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Shining among so many others.  For all of the great movies released throughout the 1980s, that era also turned out its own share of movies that while enjoyable, did not get the recognition that maybe they deserved.  One such movie was United Artists’ 1980 action/drama The Final Countdown.  This star-studded movie was largely panned by critics and audiences alike.  The movie, has also mostly been compared to 1984’s The Philadelphia Experiment, which itself received far more acclaim and better response.  That aside, the movie really is an underappreciated presentation, and thanks to independent movie studio Blue Underground, it received new life last month in a new Blu-ray/4KUHD presentation.  The new re-issue is well-deserved and will hopefully earn the movie a new appreciation among science-fiction fans in its new release.  The story featured in the movie serves as the most important of its elements.  It will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie’s new re-issue is certain to help establish that new appreciation.  It will be discussed a little later.  The set’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make this presentation such that every science fiction should watch at least once.

Blue Underground’s recently released re-issue of The Final Countdown is a presentation that most science fiction fans will find surprisingly entertaining and engaging.  That is proven in part through its story.  The story in question is simple.  A United States Navy aircraft carrier goes back in time when a bizarre storm comes upon the ship.  It sends the aircraft carrier and its crew back to December 6, 1941, the day before Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese navy.  At first the carrier’s heads do not believe they could possibly have traveled back in time, but when they come to terms with the reality, the discussion comes up as to whether the lone naval vessel and its crew should take on the Japanese navy by itself and prevent the attack from ever happening.  It is a timeless (no pun intended) plot element used in science fiction.  That aside, it still works here.  The whole thing runs just short of the two hour mark (one hour, 42 minutes to be exact).  It was also presented on a limited budget and limited scheduling (this will be discussed in the examination of the re-issue’s bonus content), but even with those constraints, everything actually turned out well.  Given, there are not a lot of explosions.  There is thankfully not any sexual content, either.  Maybe that lack of such common content is what made people dislike the movie considering there is more talking than action.  In reality though, that required the cast, led by famed actors Kirk Douglas (Spartacus, Lust for Life, Ace in the Hole), Martin Sheen (The West Wing, Apocalypse Now, Spawn), and Charles Durning (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Dog Day Afternoon, The Muppet Movie) to really put forth their best job acting.  Their interactions really serve to keep the story engaging and entertaining.  The trio’s work echoes their personalities behind the scenes, which will also be addressed in the examination of the movie’s bonus content.  All things considered, the story is simple, but that simplicity, together with the acting (and cinematography) works to make the movie deserving of more credit than it has received.

The story featured at the heart of The Final Countdown is an underrated presentation in its own right.  Sure, it isn’t the action-packed blockbuster that maybe audiences had hoped for from a summer blockbuster (the movie debuted Aug. 1, 1980 as part of that year’s summer blockbuster crop), but is still engaging and entertaining in its own right.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new re-issue shows even more why the movie deserves its own share of respect.  One of the most notable of the bonus features is the movie’s feature-length audio commentary with the movie’s Director of Photography, Victor J. Kemper.  Kemper shares a variety of interesting items in his discussions, one of which being the noted limitations under which the movie’s cast and crew had to work.  He points out that during the scenes in which the Nimitz was at sea, the carrier’s skipper severely limited the cast and crew’s movement throughout the ship and that the movie was shot under a tight budget.  He stressed that the budget was so tight, that by the end of shooting, the organization was out of money.  Audiences must take these statements into account before just criticizing the movie.  Considering how little the organization had to work with, they made the best of a bad situation.

Additionally, Kemper points out that the at sea shooting schedule was limited.  He notes in his commentary that the company spent only eight days shooting at sea while it spent approximately a week-and-a-half shooting in port in Norfolk, VA.  That has to be taken into account, too.  It shows again, what those involved had to work with in order to make the movie happen.  Considering this, all involved are to be commended for what they produced.  That is the case even considering how things were behind the scenes.  Associate Producer Lloyd Kaufman talks about what went on behind the scenes in his own bonus interview.

Kaufman alleges in his 14-minute interview that few people involved in the movie (including cast and crew) really took the whole production serious.  He alleges that much of the crew was more concerned with the catering than actually focusing on proper shooting, etc.  Additionally, he alleges that star James Farentino was more concerned with his bedding on board the ship than his acting at another point, adding that if not for Douglas and his son Peter, who served as the movie’s main Producer, the movie likely would not have even been completed.  Kaufman even lodges some rather harsh comments against the movie’s director, Don Taylor.  Audiences will be left to take in those comments for themselves.  Sheen and Durning meanwhile were among the only cast members with whom Kaufman claimed to have enjoyed working.  Considering all of Kaufman’s allegations and the limitations faced in terms of just recording the movie, all involved faced a perfect storm (pardon that pun) in getting this underappreciated movie done.  To that end, it proves again that this movie is deserving of the second chance that it has received from Blue Underground.  It is just as deserving of a second chance from audiences and critics alike.  That is even clearer when audiences read through the “Pilot’s Journal” that is included with the movie’s re-issue.  It points out some conflicts that happened behind the scenes, too, between the people who flew the Zeros and military officials.  It is yet another example of all the problems that this movie apparently faced during production.  In turn, it makes for even more appreciation for what was produced.

Taking into account all that this movie’s story and bonus content offers audiences, there is still one more item to examine in regards to its recent re-issue.  That item is its packaging.  The packaging houses three discs – the movie’s soundtrack (its own bonus for the most devoted audiences), the movie’s Blu-ray presentation, and in its 4K UHD presentation.  The soundtrack sits on its own spindle inside the front of the movie’s case.  The BD and 4K UHD discs sit uniquely in the other side, one under the other.  Now that sounds like the “old” way of packaging multi-disc sets, and to a point it is.  What Blue Underground has done in the case of the BD and 4K UHD presentation however is what makes it unique.  Rather than just overlaying the discs, a plastic cover of sorts separates the discs in the overlay.  This essentially prevents the discs from marring one another when one or the other is removed and replaced.  That unique approach is to be applauded.  Given, it would have made more sense to just use an insert with one spindle on either side for the BD and 4K UHD discs.  That is the more common and equally safe packaging format, but that one minor aspect here does its own share to protect the discs.  What’s more, not every viewer has both a Blu-ray player and 4K UHD player and/or monitor.  To that end, whichever viewers have, they can simply place that disc on top and ignore the other.  That means even more so that the discs will receive less damage.  So once more, audiences see why the packaging is just as much a positive to this presentation as the presentation’s story and its companion bonus content.  When the positive of the packaging is considered along with the story and the movie’s bonus content, the whole of these items makes this re-issue a presentation that science fiction fans will agree is surprisingly engaging and entertaining.  It combines to prove, again, this movie is deserving of its second life and a second chance.

Blue Underground’s recently released re-issue of The Final Countdown is a presentation that every science fiction fan should see or see again.  That is due in part to its story.  Sure, there’s not lots of explosions and sexual content, even with it being a summer blockbuster in its initial release.  Regardless, it is a story that offers an interesting, thoughtful take on a familiar science fiction topic.  The extensive bonus content that accompanies the movie in its re-issue adds its own interest to the whole.  That is because it shows how many obstacles the movie faced in even being recorded.  It makes for even more appreciation considering how much worse it could have turned out, considering all of those obstacles.  The re-issue’s packaging rounds out its most important elements.  It shows just as much thought was put into this aspect as the bonus content and general presentation.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s re-issue.  All things considered, they make the movie a surprisingly engaging and entertaining presentation that proves this movie is deserving of its second life and of a second chance from audiences and critics alike.

More information on this and other titles from Blue Underground is available along with all of the company’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://blue-underground.com

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

‘NOVA: Beyond The Elements’ Goes Beyond The Enjoyment Of Its Predecessor

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WGBH

Science, like math, is at the heart of everything.  Science can be and is also cooler than most people realize.  Just ask David Pogue, the host of PBS’ NOVA: Hunting the Elements and its recent follow-up, NOVA: Beyond The Elements. Released on DVD April 6 following its nationwide airing in February, NOVA: Beyond the Elements is a presentation that proves just how prevalent and fun science really is.  That is proven through the episode’s main feature.  This will be discussed shortly.  The three-part episode’s presentation style ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment in its own way.  It will be discussed a little later.  The episode’s packaging 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 episode’s presentation in its new home release.  All things considered, they make this episode of NOVA an unquestionably positive addition to this year’s field of new documentaries.

PBS and PBS Distribution’s recently released home presentation of NOVA: Beyond the Elements is a presentation that fans of the popular, long-running, science-based series will enjoy.  That is proven in part through its main content.  The content here refers to host David Pogue’s experiences showing how the elements play into our everyday lives.  From partaking in a chili eating contest (no, not chili as in the stuff with beans and meat, but actually chilis), to watching stuff explode (who doesn’t love a good explosion?) to examining how glass can actually be unbreakable (truth is stranger than fiction), Pogue puts in layman’s terms how the elements work together play into our everyday lives in so many ways.  In the case of the chili eating contest (which will have audiences laugh uproariously), it is used to show how molecules in chilis actually act as a “defense mechanism” for the vegetables.  Pogue discovers in his discussion with a scientist that the molecules in question actually trick the human brain into thinking chilis are spicy when in fact they really are not.  It makes for a really interesting exploration and discussion in itself.  In regards to the explosions, the discussion turns to talks on how molecules in certain elements come together to make explosives, such as ammonium nitrate and C4.  The discussions are presented in an effort to show how construction resources are obtained at their base from quarries.   It is yet another clear, accessible discussion on how the elements play into our daily lives, and is certain to keep viewers engaged and entertained in its own right.  The noted exploration of how glass can possibly be unbreakable is used to show how elements and their molecules play together to create glass, another item which we use daily.  Audiences will be surprised here to watch as a super hot piece of molten glass is cooled quickly in water and made virtually unbreakable.   Throughout the experiments noted here and so many others, Pogue maintains a certain humility.  He never tries to be more than he is, making for even more  enjoyment.  His everyman presence makes him more relatable to audiences, sort of like fellow media personality Mo Rocca.

While the experiments featured throughout NOVA: Beyond The Elements go a long way towards making science so enjoyable and accessible, they are just a portion of what makes this episode’s primary feature so entertaining and engaging. The discussions about the ecological effects of products created by the elements make for their own interest.  What’s more, the discussions on the efforts that are being made to counter the noted effects makes for even more interest.  All things considered here, the primary feature of NOVA: Beyond the Elements makes for a strong starting point for the episode.   Building on the foundation formed by the main feature is the episode’s presentation style.

NOVA: Beyond the Elements runs just shy of the three-hour mark (two hours, 50 minutes to be exact).  Being that this episode is so long, it is divided into three separate segments in its DVD presentation, just as was done in the episode’s original broadcast early this year.  The segmentation seems minimal on the surface, but taking into account all of the information delivered through each segment, it is necessary.  It allows audiences to watch the episode at their pace.  In watching at their own pace, audiences will find themselves that much more inclined to remain engaged.  That increased engagement means that viewers will in turn more easily comprehend and remember the topics discussed in each segment.  Keeping all of this in mind, the way in which this episode of NOVA was presented proves important in its own right.

Moving from the matter of the episode’s presentation, the packaging of the episode in its home release proves important in its own right.  The packaging stands out primarily in that a brief but concise summary of each segment is provided on the back of the episode’s box.  What’s more, it lets audiences know before they even put the DVD in their DVD/BD player, that it is separated into each segment.  This is an aesthetic element, but is important in its own way.  It allows viewers to decide for themselves which segment to watch before they even start watching.  The decision might take a moment, but that moment will take less time than having to learn the topic of each episode one at a time by playing out the start of each episode.  The positive mindset that will result from the use of   the segment summaries will play greatly into the overall engagement and enjoyment in its own right.  When that impact is considered along with the impact of the episode’s main feature and its presentation style, the whole of that content completely rounds out the episode and makes it completely enjoyable.

NOVA: Beyond the Elements is a welcome follow-up/companion presentation or NOVA: Hunting the Elements.  As a matter of fact, one could argue that it is in fact an improvement from its predecessor.  That is due in part to the episode’s main feature.  The main feature is accessible because it presents so much heavy science content in a fashion that is accessible to the most average viewer.  That in itself will hopefully help viewers see the fun in and importance of science.  The fact that the episode is separated into its three segments here just as it was in the episode’s initial airing makes the episode even more appealing.  That is because the separation will encourage viewers to remain engaged and appreciate the whole even more.  The episode’s packaging in its new DVD presentation puts the finishing touch to the episode.  It does so through the brief but concise segment descriptions on the box’s rear artwork.  The summaries allow viewers to decide which segment to watch before they even place the disc into their DVD/BD players.  This in itself will give viewers a positive mindset, too.  When the positive mindset ensured by the packaging is considered along with the positive mindset generated by the episode’s content and its segmentation, that whole makes this episode of NOVA one more of this year’s top new documentaries.  NOVA: Beyond the Elements is available now.

More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online now at:

Websitehttps://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/NOVApbs

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/novapbs

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