‘The Flintstones’ Specials & Movies Set Is Enjoyable But Imperfect

Courtesy: Warner Brothers/Warner Home Video/WWE/Hanna-barbera

Hanna-Barbera’s animated series The Flintstones is a timeless franchise.  The show ran for a total of six seasons over the course of more than five years.  It also produced a handful of movies and TV specials, some of which proved more memorable than others of course.  The series has remained in syndication to at least some extent or another since its inception, and is readily available on separate standalone and full series sets, while its movies have been less available.  Early last month, Hanna-Barbera and Warner Home Video addressed that concern with a new collection of The Flintstones animated features.  Titled simply 2 Movies & 5 Specials, (which is problematic in itself), the collection is a mostly positive presentation, though is imperfect.  To the positive, the majority of the animated features are among the most well-known of the property’s most well-known and beloved.  There’s even one lesser-known but still enjoyable presentation featured as part of the collection.  For all that the inclusion of those features does for the set’s presentation, the inclusion of one other detracts notably in its own way, as does the complete lack of effort in titling the collection.  Keeping all of this in mind, the one other positive to this set is its average price point.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the set.  All things considered, they make the set a presentation that even with its negatives is still a collection that devotees of The Flintstones will welcome in their home video libraries.

The Flintstones 2 Movies & 5 Specials is a presentation that the most devoted fans of Hanna-Barbera’s beloved TV family will welcome into their home video libraries.  That is due in part to its featured specials and movies, the majority of which are well-known and beloved.  The Jetsons Meet The Flintstones is included in the collection, as are the equally well-known I Yabba-Dabba Do in which Pebbles and Bam-Bam finally get married, bringing together the Flintstones and the Rubbles at long last.  Even the 1993 special Hollyrock-A-Bye Baby is featured as part of the collection’s body.  It is in this prime-time special that Pebbles and Bam Bam become parents themselves, continuing their families’ collective lineage.  As if that is not enough, the lesser-known 1978 special Little Big League — which pits Fred and Barney against one another as opposing little league baseball coaches – and The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone – a Halloween-themed episode that finds Fred having to save Wilma from the clutches of Drac…er…Rockula —  are also part of the set.  This collection marks the first time ever that the noted classic specials have ever been released in one single box set.  The 2012 DVD collections from Hanna-Barbera were not official releases.  The specials were placed onto DVD-R discs in on-demand sets.  What’s more, those on-demand DVD-R sets were released separately, meaning audiences had to spend more money to own them in any fashion.  This plays into the set’s other major positive, its average price point, which will be discussed later.  Having all of these classics together in one official set for the first time is very much a selling point for the set.  Of course there is one other “movie” included in the collection that greatly detracts from that presentation.  That “movie” is the WWE-themed presentation Stone Age Smackdown.

Stone Age Smackdown was created through a partnership between Hanna-Barbera, Warner Home Video and WWE.  The “movie” is clearly little more than a cash grab for all involved.  It finds Fred trying to get his family’s vacation money back (after losing it himself) by creating a stone age wrestling mega event.  WWE superstars, such as John Cena, The Undertaker, and Mark Henry all provided their vocal talents to the direct-to-DVD and Blu-ray “movie.”  Its inclusion in place of another more well-known and beloved classic Flintstones special — A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994) – is bewildering.  Sure, A Flintstones Christmas Carol is just one more take on author Charles Dickens’ timeless novel, but there is still a certain heart to the holiday special because it takes a unique approach to the story.  It makes Fred a real Scrooge and Wilma the real star when everyone starring in Bedrock’s annual presentation of A Christmas Carol falls ill with “The Bedrock Bug.”  This use of a community putting on A Christmas Carol and making its lead into its own Scrooge is something that few if any adaptations of A Christmas Carol have done.   Stone Age Smackdown by comparison is clearly aimed at a very specific audience group.  Along with that, that it is aimed at a very specific audience base, it completely breaks up the sense of nostalgia and warm family messages featured in the other stories.  It really should have been omitted in favor of the noted holiday special (and maybe even its companion bonus holiday episode of The Flintstones).  Luckily, even with all of this noted, audiences do have the option to not watch that awful WWE-themed “movie” and the holiday specials are available on their own readily available standalone official DVD.  So the collection is not a total failure to that end.  It is not the set’s only con.  The fact that the set’s title is so lacking in any selling value detracts from its presentation, too.

The title of the new Flintstones specials and movies set is very simple:  2 Movies & 5 Specials.  The very use of the numbers hurts the title.  If it had stuck just with Movies & Specials, it would have worked, but that use of the numbers just does not work.  That is because the lines of what is defined a “special” and a “movie” are so blurred nowadays.  Case in point for comparison are the Peanuts primetime TV specials.  The only pure movie that has been produced from that property is The Peanuts specials.  The “Happiness Is…” DVDs and Blu-rays are just specials.  All of the classic holiday presentations are specials, not movies.  Taking that into account, the collection’s title does not ruin its presentation, but it cannot be ignored.  Together with the inclusion of that noted WWE-themed “movie,” this collection suffers plenty, but is not completely unwatchable.  They are just more examples of how the people at Warner Home Video continue to this day to come up short in their home releases.  The company has failed with its Hats Off To Doctor Seuss collection, its unnecessary recent re-issue of the Batman Beyond complete series set, some of its Tiny Toon Adventures DVD sets, the Scooby-Doo! and Scrappy-Doo: The Complete Season 1 set, and even its 2014 released Flintstones Kids collection.  Keeping that in mind, even with its failings, this set is not a complete failure.  It does have at least one other positive in the form of its average price range.

The average price range for The Flintstones: 2 Movies & 5 Specials is $14.87.  That price is obtained by averaging prices listed at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million.  Amazon and Walmart offer the least expensive listing at $9.96.  Target and Best Buy each list the set at $14.99, just above the noted average price point.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million have the set listed respectively at $19.31 and $19.98.  They are the retailers for audiences to avoid while the others still give audiences plenty of options.  Those four relatively affordable price options couple with the overall positive content to show why that financial aspect is so important to this set’s presentation.  Even with the one confusing addition to the set in the form of Stone Age Smackdown, that price is still a point that audiences will find appealing in its own right.  Hopefully one day, this collection will get its own re-issue with the Flintstones Christmas Carol in place of that awful WWE “movie.”  Until then though, this set is still a positive presentation for any true devotee of The Flintstones.

The Flintstones: 2 Movies & 5 Specials is a positive but imperfect presentation from Warner Home Video, Hanna-Barbera and WWE.  It succeeds in large part because of the inclusion of so many classic Flintstones movies and TV specials.  They reach all the way back to 1966 and all the way up to 1993.  For all of the good that those specials do for the set’s presentation, its one modern “movie,” 2015’s Stone Age Smackdown detracts considerably.  Thankfully it does not make the set a failure, since audiences do not have to watch that forgettable presentation.  The set’s title detracts from its presentation, too, but not so much that it makes the set unwatchable, either.  Considering that there is more positive content featured in this collection than bad, the average price point of less than $15 proves itself a positive investment for families.  That item, considered with the overall content, makes The Flintstones: 2 Movies & 5 Specials a welcome addition to the home DVD library of any devotee of The Flintstones.  More information on the DVD is available along with all of the latest Flintstones news at http://www.facebook.com/TheFlintstones.

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Arrow Video’s ‘Flash Gordon’ Re-Issue Is The Movie’s Best Presentation Yet

Courtesy: Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group

Arrow Video’s recently released Blu-ray re-issue of Universal’s classic sci-fi flick Flash Gordon is the new gold standard for the movie’s home release.  Released Aug. 18 on Blu-ray and 4KUHD, this latest re-issue of the 1980 comic strip adaptation is the movie’s first domestic re-issue since 2012, when it was re-issued alongside The Last Starfighter, Dune, and the pilot for the original Battlestar Galactica series in a four-disc DVD set.  The movie’s audio and video form the foundation for its latest re-issue, and will be discussed shortly.  The extensive bonus content that accompanies the movie’s home release builds so much on the foundation formed by the movie’s production values.  It will be discussed a little later.  Flash Gordon’s story 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 the movie’s latest re-issue a presentation that is without question one of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.

Arrow Video’s new Flash Gordon re-issue is a presentation that will appeal to a wide range of audiences.  From sci-fi fans to fans of comics to action movie aficionados to classic cinema connoisseurs, this movie’s appeal will find plenty of appreciative audiences.  That is proven in part through the production values presented in this re-issue.  The colors in the sets and the costumes are so rich, especially the reds (red was allegedly the favorite color of the movie’s famed Producer Dino De Laurentiis according to information provided in the movie’s bonus content) of Ming’s palace.  In comparison to footage from the movie in its original presentation (which is shown in the noted bonus content), it is clear that painstaking efforts were taken in order bring forth the true, rich color.  If De Laurentiis were alive today, he would be just as impressed by this aspect.  In the same vein, every laser blast and every note of rock band Queen’s feature-length soundtrack is expertly balanced, enhancing the viewing experience for audiences even more.  Even a minor touch, such as the ambient sounds of Planet Mongol and its moons get their own attention.  From that production aspect to the noted deep, rich colors and the balance in the music and sound effects, it is clear that painstaking efforts were made in order to offer viewers the best possible presentation once again.  It’s another way in which Arrow Video continues to prove itself one of the leading names in the home media world.  Those efforts also go a long way toward making this presentation so enjoyable for viewers.  It is just one of the most notable aspects of the movie’s new home re-issue, too.  Its bonus content adds even more enjoyment to its presentation.

The bonus content that is featured in Flash Gordon’s latest re-issue is extensive to say the absolute least.  Audiences get two separate feature length audio commentaries, — one from director Mike Hodges and the other from star Brian Blessed (who played Prince Vultan) – a series of interviews with the movie’s cast and crew, two episodes of the Flash Gordon cartoon series, and a vintage “making of” featurette as well as photo galleries from the movie’s creation.  The bonus content alone makes for literally hours of entertainment and engagement.  The vintage making of featurette reveals that creation of the set for Ming’s palace alone took four months.  That and the other sets were so extensive that production had to take place primarily in a six-million cubic foot aircraft hangar.  It was just one of the facilities that was used for the movie’s production.  As director Mike Hodges reveals (off the cuff) during his audio commentary, Elstree Studio was also used.  That is the same studio in which Star Wars was created by George Lucas.  This is especially important to note because it is also revealed in one of the bonus discussions, that George Lucas apparently wanted to make Flash Gordon before Star Wars, but could not afford the rights, so he ended up making Star Wars.  How is that for a little six-degrees of separation?

As if everything already noted here is not enough reason to check out the bonus content, viewers will learn that there apparently was quite a bit of tension behind the scenes during the movie’s creation.  Hodges points out during his commentary that De Laurentiis viewed the movie’s creation in a very serious fashion, even though Allin was extremely displeased with the final product.  The vintage making of featureette does point out that De Laurentiis was himself very much a Flash Gordon “fan boy” prior to producing the movie.  To that point, his “seriousness” was perhaps chalked up to that fandom, even though he might not have thought he was going to such extreme.  There is nothing wrong with his approach, either, since he wanted to pay proper tribute to the original, timeless Flash Gordon comic strip.

Allin, on the other hand, said during the new bonus featurette “Lost in Space: Nic Roeg’s Flash Gordon,” that he and Roeg wanted to make a serious film in Flash Gordon complete with sociopolitical commentary, but that De Laurentiis wanted to stay true to the original Flash Gordon comic strip, which ran daily from 1934 to ’92.  Its Sunday edition continued until 2003.  The movie does just that with its special effects and its overall look (what with its costumes and sets).  The short and simple here is that Allin and Roeg’s story would have been a good fit among today’s comics based movies (since dark, brooding stories are about all that audiences get nowadays in comics-based movies).  De Laurentiis’ version has remained a cult favorite for four decades meanwhile maybe because of his dedication to its source material.  Regardless of which side viewers take, all of the noted discussions are sure to engage audiences thoroughly and generate plenty of discussion among audiences.  All things considered here (along with the bonus content not directly noted – again the bonus content here in fully immersive) the bonus content featured with Arrow Video’s recent Flash Gordon re-issue more than makes the movie worth owning.  When it is considered with the outstanding production values presented in this re-issue, the two elements together make for so much enjoyment for audiences.  They are still not all of the positives provided in the movie.  The movie’s central story adds even more to that enjoyment.

The story at the center of Flash Gordon is relatively easy to understand.  It starts with Flash and Dale Arden taking a flight somewhere (it’s never pointed out where the pair is going interestingly enough) and ending up crashing in the lab of the mad scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov.  Zarov basically kidnaps the duo and the trio ends up flying into space where they end up rocketing to another galaxy that is ruled by the evil emperor Ming The Merciless.  Along the way Flash unites the peoples of the worlds ruled by Ming, befriending them in the process.  The story has a happy ending, but also leaves the door open for a sequel (which going back to the bonus content, could have happened, but never did).  It has to be assumed in the movie’s story that as the clock reaches zero near the movie’s end, Ming does stop his attack on Earth before his alleged death, though that is never made 100 percent certain.  The only way audiences can assume the Earth is safe comes in the final scene in which Dale tells Flash that she is a New York girl and would rather go home than stay on the planet Mongol.  Next to that note, the only other odd note from the story is centered on all of star Sam J. Jones’ constant costume changes.  It just so happens that everything he wears is Flash Gordon-themed.  It is never fully explained where he gets all of his attire, but oh well.  That aside, the story’s simple approach is very much in line with the original Flash Gordon comic strip.  Yes, comics often do have deep philosophical language, but they are also meant to entertain the masses, and that is what this story does.  It entertains while also presenting at least some philosophy.  To that end, the story succeeds just as much as the movie’s bonus content and its production values.  When all three elements are considered together, they make the movie in whole the best presentation yet of this cult classic flick.

Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of Flash Gordon is an applause-worthy presentation that will appeal to a wide ranger of viewers.  That is proven in part through the movie’s production, which fully brings out the deep, rich colors in the sets and costumes.  The same can be said of the movie’s sound, which is so well-balanced in terms of the soundtrack and special effects noises.  The bonus content featured with the movie’s new re-issue will immerse audiences even more in the movie.  From everything noted here to other items, such as the realization that Queen was not the first choice for the movie’s soundtrack, and the note that the movie never got the merchandising push that other movies have gotten over the years, the bonus content adds so much of its own appeal to the movie.  The movie’s simple story does its own part to appeal to audiences with its simple presentation.  All three items noted here are important in their own way to the whole of the movie’s latest re-issue.  All things considered, they make this presentation, the best yet for the movie.

More information on Arrow Video’s Flash Gordon re-issue is available along with all of the company’s latest news at:

 

Websitehttp://www.arrowfilms.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/ArrowVideo

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

 

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The Rolling Stones’ Latest Live Recording Is As Solid As Steel

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

The true greatest rock band in the world returned this week with another new archived live recording.  The band in question is The Rolling Stones and the recording in question is one of its three December 1989 concerts in Atlantic City, NJ in support of its then new album Steel Wheels.  The performance was part of the band’s “Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle” tour, which was the band’s first American tour since 1981.  The recording is another presentation that will appeal to The Rolling Stones’ fans just as much as rock fans in general just as much as the multitude of previous live recordings.  That count is almost at 20 counting (not counting this recording) if not right at said figure.  The main reason that audiences will appreciate the recording so much is its extensive set list. The list, which runs approximately two-and-a-half hours in length, will be discussed shortly.  The band’s performance thereof adds to the enjoyment in its own way.  This will be addressed a little later.  The recording’s production values round put the finishing touch to its presentation.  When it is considered along with the set list and the band’s performance, the elements collectively make the recording another welcome way to beat the live music blues this and any year.

The Rolling Stones’ latest live recording is another fully immersive, enjoyable presentation for the band’s most devoted fans and rock fans in general.  In an age when live music has been relegated to watching concerts online, this offering from the greatest rock band in the world is its own welcome offering and alternative to being glued to a computer or phone screen.  That is proven in part through the recording’s extensive set list.  The 28-song set list spans a run time of approximately two-and-a-half hours.  It takes audiences all the way back to 1965 and the band’s fourth album Out Of Our Heads and all the way up to its then most recent album, 1989’s Steel Wheels.  Given, not every album in-between is represented in the set list, but in comparison to the set lists featured in the band’s past live recordings, audiences do get some songs not featured in those presentations.  The band’s five nods to Steel Wheels are themselves works that have rarely if ever been featured in the noted previous live presentations.  The band’s cover of Bob & Earl’s ‘Harlem Shuffle’ and its performance of its own single ‘Undercover of the Night’ (from 1983) are in themselves live rarities.  So audiences have all of that to enjoy.  Along with the noted songs, audiences also get more familiar songs, such as ‘Honky Tonk Women,’ ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash,’ and ‘Tumblin’ Dice’ among others.  As if all of that is not enough, the band also pulls ‘2,000 Light Years From Home,’ ‘Happy,’ and ‘Salt of the Earth’ as some semi-rare works from its catalog.  Also making this set list so enjoyable are guest appearances from blues legend John Lee Hooker, who joins the band for a performance of his own hit song ‘Boogie Chillen’ and a guest appearance by fellow blues legend Eric Clapton on that song and ‘Little Red Rooster.’

The set list in itself does a lot to make Steel Wheels Live appealing to audiences.  The set list proves itself even more critical to the recording’s presentation in that it is the exact same in the recording’s DVD, CD, digital and vinyl platforms.  In other words, audiences get the same presentation from one platform to the next.  This is important to note because even today, there are some acts out there whose live recordings vary across platforms.  So to have the same thing from one platform to the next makes the set list that much more important to the recording.

Additionally, the set list’s sequencing plays its own part to the recording’s presentation.  From the show’s opening up until the band takes on ‘Terrifying,’ the show’s energy remains relatively high.  It is not until the noted point that the band pulls things back.  The noted relaxation lasts only momentarily.  After that song and ‘Salt of the Earth,’ which features a guest appearance by Guns N’ Roses members Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin, the show’s energy picks back up.  Their performance alongside Mick Jagger and company will be addressed a little later.  ‘Honky Tonk Women’ slows things down again, but still manages to keep the concert’s energy flowing solidly thanks to its swagger.  The same can be said of ‘Midnight Rambler,’ too.  That song comes immediately after ‘Honky Tonk Women.’  From that point on, the show’s energy rises and falls in all of the right points and ways, showing without question the amount of time and thought that went into assembling the set list.  That effort paid off, too.  When this aspect is considered along with the set list’s presentation across the recording’s platforms and its breadth and depth, those elements collectively make the set list the most important aspect of this recording.  It builds a solid foundation for the recording’s presentation on which the band’s performance rests easily.

The Rolling Stones’ performance of Steel Wheels Live’s set list is important to note because it does its own part to keep audiences engaged and entertained.  Those audiences who are familiar with the band’s live show style already has an expected standard from the band.  Those audiences will be glad to know that the band lives up to that expectation here just as much as in the band’s past performances.  Front man Mick Jagger is just as confident as ever as he struts his way across the stage and sings.  That swagger is on full display just as much.  Guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood keep the energy moving along with drummer Charlie Watts, the trio’s work just as engaging as ever in its own right.  Wood and Richards’ prowess on their instruments makes one forget the woes of the world, especially as they make their way through the blues classic ‘Little Red Rooster’ alongside Eric Clapton.  The group’s performance is just as solid as it supports Rose and Stradlin in the collective’s performance of ‘Salt of the Earth.’  On a similar note, viewers will be pleased to see that Rose shares the stage with Jagger and company in that performance rather than trying to steal the spotlight.  It shows that he knows he and Stradlin are the guests here, not the stars.  Even when he gets the spotlight in ‘Cant’ Be Seen,’ Richards shows once again, his talent as a performer and not just a guitarist.  He and the band’s longtime backing vocalists make for so much enjoyment and engagement in their own way.  Between that aspect and the rest of the presentation in the concert, the band’s performance in whole makes for a wonderful experience.  It builds on the foundation formed by the show’s set list to make the recording even more enjoyable.  When the two elements are considered together, they give audiences even more reason to take in this concert.  They are still only a portion of what makes the recording so impressive.  Its production puts the finishing touch to its presentation.

Just as with all of The Rolling Stones’ past live recordings released through Eagle Rock Entertainment, the production here gives home viewers the best seat in the house.  When the cameras go out beyond the sea of people, audiences get a full picture of just how many people attended the concert, and the sheer immensity of the band’s stage setup.  The on-stage footage immerses audiences into the performance even more as it takes viewers along for the ride up close with the band.  The transitions from shot to shot throughout and the sound enrich the experience even more.  From a more relaxed moment, such as in ‘Sympathy for the Devil to the more fiery cover of ‘Harlem Shuffle’ and everywhere else, the guitars and vocals are so well-balanced with Watts’ time keeping and the work of the band’s fellow musicians.  Each performer gets an equal share of time in the limelight.  Considering that and the smooth camera transitions, no doubt is left about the impact of the concert’s production.  When this is considered along with the band’s performance and the concert’s set list, the whole of these elements makes Steel Wheels Live a presentation that is another welcome addition to The Rolling Stones and Eagle Rock Entertainment’s ongoing series of live recordings from the band.

Eagle Rock Entertainment and The Rolling Stones’ latest live recording Steel Wheels Live is yet another welcome addition to the two sides’ ongoing series of live recordings.  That is proven in part through the recording’s expansive set list.  The set list runs 26 songs deep and spans a run time of two-and-a-half hours.  Given, it is not a career-spanning set even for its time, but does still present a relatively clear cross section of the band’s catalog up to that point.  The band’s performance of the featured set list is everything that audiences have come to expect from The Rolling Stones.  The swagger and the energy is there from beginning to end.  The concert’s production values play their own part to the recording’s presentation.  Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of this presentation.  All things considered, they make the recording as solid as steel.  Steel Wheels Live is available now.

More information on Steel Wheels Live is available along with all of its latest news at:

 

Websitehttp://www.rollingstones.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/therollingstones

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/RollingStones

 

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s latest news is available online at:

 

Websitehttp://www.eagle-rock.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

 

To keep up with the latest news and reviews, go online to http://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.

‘Endeavour’ Reaches A Low Point In Its Seventh Season

Courtesy: itv/PBS Distribution/PBS

British television company itv’s hit crime drama Endeavour will have an eight season. Star Shaun Evans, who portrays the series’ eponymous character, confirmed the information late last month after the series’ seventh season officially wrapped on PBS and released domestically to DVD and Blu-ray.  When Season Eight starts recording is anyone’s guess.  While audiences await the premiere of Season Eight, they do have Season Seven to take in – as noted – on DVD and Blu-ray.  The show’s seventh season was an interesting point in the series’ run.  That is due in part to its writing.  That item will be addressed shortly.  The bonus content that accompanies Season Seven in its home release is just as important to note in examining the season as the writing, so it will be discussed a little later.  Considering the content featured in this latest season, the set’s average price point is also of note.  It will be examined later, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the set.  All things considered, they make this latest season and its home release a key moment in the history of Endeavour.

The recently wrapped seventh season of itv’s hit crime drama Endeavour is an intriguing presentation.  That is due in part to its writing.  Unlike the series’ first six seasons, this season was presented in a serial fashion, according to Evans during a recent interview.  He pointed out that (thankfully) it is an approach that will not be taken again in the series’ eighth season.  The story opens and closes with Endeavour Morse attending the opera in Venice.  It is there that he first meets his new love interest Violetta (Stephanie Leonidas – Killjoys, Defiance, American Gothic).  Upon meeting Violetta, Morse becomes embroiled in what he thinks is an affair with a married woman, but is much more than that, as he eventually learns.  This critic will not reveal the end result of the duo’s tryst, but that the writers thought this plot element was needed is troubling.  Even his relationship issues in previous seasons with Joan Thursday (Sara Vickers – Watchmen, Privates, Shetland) were handled better than those with Violetta.  This latest romance story is just so contrived and overly commonplace for stories.  It felt so forced.  The revelation made in the season finale – which also is left here for audiences to discover for themselves – feels just as contrived as the romance subplot itself.  That revelation ties into the season’s overarching story about the homicides, which leads to even more contrivance because of how many people were involved in the crimes.  One can’t help but do a face palm as Endeavour traces all of the clues, which lead back to the ringmaster.

While the writing in general clearly caused its own share of problems this season, it did not doom the season.  Audiences will remain engaged throughout as they watch the working and personal relationship between Morse and Thursday become strained.  That strain is caused by the duo’s own distinct personalities and the related fashion in which they investigate the cases.  The only matter there is that considering how Season Seven ended, audiences were left wondering if Thursday and Morse had mended their proverbial fences.  At one point, the pair clashed, with Morse stating that he would put in for a transfer once the cases were solved.  However, it is unknown if that happened in the last scene of the season finale.  Thursday did search out Morse in that final episodes closing minutes, and he did find him.  However, audiences are still left hanging once Thursday locates Morse.  So considering that, there is a clear need for an eighth season if only for the purpose of tying up that loose end.

The only real strong writing point in this season comes in the season’s second episode, “Raga.”  It presents the rising tensions between the British community and Indian immigrants to Great Britain in the 1970s.  Now whether this matter is historically accurate is worth investigating.  That aside, it is a matter that echoes what is happening around the world today, with tensions rising everywhere against minority groups.  That makes suspension of disbelief relatively easy, at least until the killer reveals his motivation for committing his crime.  That revelation is a bit contrived in its own right.    Between this matter, the issue raised by the loose end between Morse and Thursday’s relationship, and the forgettable story involving Morse and Violetta, the writing this season just suffered all the way around.  One can only hope that the show’s writers will make up for those issues in the series’ eighth season.

The writing featured in the seventh season of Endeavour presents quite the quandary for the series, as it does something that has never been done.  Hopefully it will not be repeated in Season Eight, either.  It is just one of the concerns raised in this season, too.  The bonus features, or really lack thereof, poses its own problems.  Accompanying the episodes in this season is a series of vignettes in which various topics, such as the costuming and makeup, Morse’s relationship with Thursday, and Evans once again taking on a directorial role in the series are discussed.  Each discussion is very brief, running no more than a couple of minutes at best.  Little is really mentioned in the extra focus on Morse and Thursday that was not already known from the season’s writing.  Even the opening discussion about Morse’s evolution as a character offers little extra for viewers.  The most insightful of the bonus discussions come in the form of Evans’ discussion on directing and that of the costuming and makeup.  The other discussions are in reality, extraneous.  Viewers will be glad to see Evans’ own appreciation for what it takes to get the right angles, the impact of lighting for a scene’s mood, and other related topics.  His work behind the lens pays off, too, as is seen in the noted areas, as well as in the acting in the key episode.  The discussion on the costuming and makeup shows the lengths to which those behind the lens went to make sure that the series’ costumes and backdrops looked the part for the 1970s.  The mention of the effort to make Leonidas look like famed actress Sophia Loren in terms of her fashion shows even more, the attempts to maintain the look of the times.  It is just too bad that the discussion on making the show reflect the look of the times was not more in-depth.  For that matter, it’s too bad that none of the bonus content was more in-depth.  It would have been nice to have had some discussion on who made the decision to make Season Seven a serial season, why the writers decided to make that romance story between Violetta and Morse the center of the show, as well as where things will go between Morse and Thursday.  Sadly, that lack of extra information detracts from the show’s presentation in its recent home release even more.  Considering everything noted about the content featured in the seventh season of Endeavour, the set’s average point for its DVD and Blu-ray presentation makes for its own interest.

The average price point for Endeavour’s DVD presentation is $28.11 and its Blu-ray presentation, $33.25.  The DVD was not listed at Target, but the Blu-ray platform was.  Keeping all of that in mind, the DVD price point was obtained by averaging price listings at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Books-A-Million, and PBS’ online store.  The Blu-ray price point was reached by averaging prices at the noted retailers as well as at Target.  Amazon presents the least expensive listing at $22.99.  Best Buy and Barnes & Noble Booksellers offer prices below that average at $22.99 and $24.99 respectively.  Walmart’s listing of $28.23 is just above the average, while Books-A-Million far exceeds that number at $44.99.  PBS’ regular listing of $34.99 also far exceeds the average, as does its sale price of $29.99.  Books-A-Million also far exceeds the average price point for the season’s Blu-ray presentation, at $44.99 along with PBS’ listing of $39.99.  Amazon and Walmart, which each list the season’s Blu-ray set at $27.64 offer the least expensive pricing while Target and Best Buy offer a slightly higher price at $27.99.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers reaches the high end with a listing of $31.49.  Noting the set’s average and separate price listings here is important, again, because of the content featured (and not featured) in the set.  The DVD price listing would have been more attractive at maybe $25 and the Blu-ray $30 if not maybe a little less considering, again, how little bonus content is featured in the set, and how largely forgettable this season’s stories are in whole.  That is in comparison to the show’s first six seasons, each of which are so much more enjoyable in their own right.  Keeping everything noted here in mind, the seventh season of Endeavour is the series’ lowest point.  Thankfully there is at least one more season left, and hopefully it will make up for everything wrong with this season.

The seventh season of itv’s Endeavour is the least of the show’s seasons so far. That is due in part to the season’s writing.  The writing presents a season-long story that feels so forced and contrived from beginning to end.  It also leaves at least one major question unanswered.  That question is whether Morse and Thursday’s professional and personal relationship will heal following the season’s events.  The very limited bonus content poses its own problem for the set’s presentation, too.  They give viewers a glimpse behind the writing and lenses, but little more than that.  Considering everything noted here, the average price points for the season’s DVD and Blu-ray sets seem a bit high, as do the separate listings.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the season’s set.  All things considered, they make this season a presentation that hopefully will not be repeated in the series’ eighth season, whenever it launches.

More information on Endeavour is available online now at:

 

 

 

Websitehttp://www.pbs.org/masterpiece

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Twitterhttp://twitter.com/masterpiecepbs

 

 

 

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Viewers Of All Ages Will Want To “Explore” PBS Distribution’s Latest ‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’ DVD

Courtesy: PBS Distribution/PBS/PBS Kids

Five seasons is a relatively long time for any television series to last.  That is how long PBS/PBS Kids’ series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood has lasted since its premiere in 2012.  It just ran its fifth season in August 2019.  The program has continue Fred Rogers’ legacy, teaching young viewers lessons about topics, such as how to express their feelings, how to play well with others and appreciating the small things in the world.  Those lessons have also made their way to an expansive series of DVDs (23 single disc collections), the latest of is scheduled for release Tuesday in the form of Explore The Outdoors.  This latest offering is another enjoyable presentation for its target audiences.  That is proven in part through the set’s featured episodes.  The use of the episode separators while minor, is actually key in its own way to the viewing experience, too.  It will be discussed a little later.  The lessons that are incorporated into the episodes are another important part of the presentation’s whole.  They will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the DVD.  All things considered, they make Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Explore The Outdoors another positive addition to PBS Distribution’s ongoing series of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood DVDs.

Explore The Outdoors, the latest addition to PBS Distribution’s ongoing series of DVDs from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, is another enjoyable offering for the show’s target audiences.  That is proven in part through the collection’s featured episodes.  Six episodes are featured in this latest collection.  The majority of the episodes do well in sticking to the DVD’s central theme of exploring the outdoors.  The only exceptions to that rule come in the form of ‘Daniel Plays in A Gentle Way’ and ‘Daniel’s Toy.’  The episodes feature stories that do find Daniel and his friends outside, but are more about playing together outdoors than actually exploring the outdoors.  So they are a bit of a stretch, but do at least feature stories that take Daniel and company outdoors.  The other four featured episodes are more in line with the DVD’s theme.  From exploring the outdoors and appreciating all that nature has to offer in the title episode and in its companion, “Daniel’s Nature Walk,” to learning about lizards in another, to being active outdoors, playing with a kite in “Daniel Feels Two Feelings,” the DVD’s episodes largely stay true to its theme.

While not presented chronologically, the episodes present a snapshot of the series, as they are lifted from the program’s second, third and fourth seasons.  That in itself proves to be a positive for audiences.  That is because again, the episodes serve that latent function of showing various examples of the show’s writing over the course of its run.  To that extent, whether intended or not, the episodes play an even larger part in the DVD’s presentation.  When considered with the fact that the episodes do largely follow the DVD’s central title theme, they show even more why they are critical in their own right to the DVD’s presentation.  They are just one of the DVD’s key elements, to note.  The mid-show spacers that are featured with the episodes play their own important part to its whole.

The mid-show separators that are featured with Explore The Outdoors might not seem all that important to the DVD’s presentation on the surface.  However, their addition actually adds to the viewing experience.  Their inclusion with the episodes actually make it feel that much more like audiences are watching the episodes on TV rather than on DVD.  Keeping in mind that counterparts to the series, such as Let’s Go Luna, Curious George, and Arthur all have mid-show separators, but do not include them in the shows’ DVD releases makes for a clearer picture.  It’s an aesthetic element, but an element nonetheless that plays into the set’s presentation, and its inclusion here adds its own share of value to the DVD’s presentation, too.  It is not the last of the DVD’s most important elements, either.  The lessons that are tied into the featured episodes are key, too.

The lessons that are incorporated into the DVD’s featured episodes are important to note in that they will prove familiar to any of the series’ longtime viewers.  “Daniel Feels Two Feelings” presents audiences with yet another lesson about handling our feelings.  That is nothing new to the series, but still as welcome as ever.  “Daniel’s Toy” teaches young viewers that not everybody likes the same things, and that we should not degrade others just because they like different things.  That is a lesson that sadly adults need to learn over again.  The lesson about appreciating the importance of playing quietly and safely that is incorporated into “Daniel Plays In A Gentle Way” is reminiscent of the lesson in another story in while Daniel wanted to play loud, but his friend O The Owl wanted to play quietly.  Again, it is a lesson that deserves reminding.  The other three episodes featured in this DVD all present lessons about the wonder of nature, which will resonate with any child, and hopefully get said children outside and active.  All things considered, each lesson presents its own value and will certainly serve as a solid starting point for discussion between parents and their children about the noted topics.  When this is considered along with the importance of the DVD’s aesthetics and its episodes, the whole of the DVD becomes a presentation that is just as welcome in any family’s home DVD library as its predecessors.

PBS Distribution’s latest addition to its ongoing series of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood DVDs, Explore The Outdoors is another successful entry in that series.  It is a presentation that ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment just as much as those DVDs.  That is due in part to its featured episodes, which largely follow the DVD’s title theme.  The mid-show separators that come with the episodes add their own depth to the set’s presentation.  The same can be said of the lessons that are incorporated into the episodes.  Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of the DVD’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the DVD another successful offering that will be welcome in any family’s home library.

More information on this and other Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood DVDs is available online now along with activities, games, printouts and more at:

 

 

 

Websitehttp://pbskids.org/daniel

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/danieltigertv

 

 

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

‘Short Treks’ Is The First Fully Successful Presentation From The ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Universe

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS/CBS All Access

CBS All Access’ Star Trek series Discovery has proven over the course of its current two-season run.  The series, and its cast and crew are hoping to “right the ship” when the series’ third season debuts next month – Oct. 15 to be exact – on CBS All Access.  Until Season Three makes its debut, audiences have another way to pass the time in the form of Star Trek: Short Treks.  Released June 2 on DVD and Blu-ray, this latest addition to the Discovery universe is a rare ray of light for the otherwise maligned over-the-top series.  That is due in part to the shorts featured in the single-disc collection.  They will be addressed (along with the one short that did not make the final cut).  The bonus content featured along with the stories adds to its appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The collection’s average price point proves relatively worth the money, considering the featured content and its value.  It will also be addressed later.  Keeping all of this in mind, the collection proves to be the first truly successful offering so far in the Discovery universe.  It gives hope that maybe, just maybe, the series’ third season will be just as enjoyable.  Even if not, at least audiences will have this rare bright spot in the series.

Star Trek: Short Treks is the first great presentation that fans of Star Trek Discovery have received since the series made its debut in September 2017.  It is a presentation that gives hope for the series’ third season upon its debut Oct. 15.  That is due in part to the shorts that are featured in the single-disc collection.  The shorts in question have loose ties to the series, but are still their own unique stories in themselves.  One of the most notable of the nine total featured shorts comes in the form of “Ask Not.”  Directed by Anson Mount, who also plays Captain Pike in the series, this story focuses on Pike testing a young cadet named Thira Sidhu (Amrit Kaur – The D Cut, Kim’s Convenience)  to see if she is ready to serve on the Enterprise.  There is really little to no real connection to Discovery in this story.  Though considering that a spinoff series involving Pike’s time on the Enterprise is allegedly in the works, that short might in fact come into play somewhere down the line.  Getting back to the subject at hand, there is something compelling about this story.  Maybe it is the acting between Mount and Kaur.  Maybe it is the writing.  Maybe it is the production (which Mount mentions in his commentary – this will be discussed a little later).  Maybe it is all of the above.  Regardless, the approach that was taken in front of and behind the camera, made this story something unique that shows in its own way what make this collection worth watching.

“The Girl Who Made The Stars” is another key addition to the collection.  This story, which goes back to Michael’s childhood, finds her father having to come check on her after she has a bad dream.  Her father, by the way, is played here by Kenric Green (The Walking Dead, The Originals, Hawaii Five-O).  Green is the same man who played her father in the series.  In the case of this animated story, Mike (played by Green) tells a then young Michael Jr. the story of how the stars came to be.  The very act of a parent sharing a bedtime story with a child is something that will appeal to any viewer.  It is just a portion of what makes the short so appealing.  The other portion of the short’s appeal comes in the fact that Mike Sr. used the story to help Michael learn a valuable lesson while also connecting her to the rich history of her African ancestors.  In reality, there is no story of a girl who created the stars, though there is a myth from the Khoisan people of the Kalahari about a girl who threw embers from a fire into the sky and created the Milky Way galaxy, which included the stars.  So to that end, maybe Mike’s story was rooted to some extent from that real life African myth.

“The Trouble With Edward” is another key addition to Star Trek: Short Treks.  Like many of the other shorts, this one boasts no connection to Discovery.  In this case in fact, its connection is to the infamous Star Trek: TOS episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.”  The short and simple of the short’s story is that it tells how the Tribbles came to be so reproductive and hints at how they likely ended up on the Enterprise.  According to the story Federation scientist Edward Larkin (H. Jon Benjamin — Home Movies, Bob’s Burgers, Archer) was responsible for all of the problems.  Larkin tells his cohorts during a meeting that they actually reproduced slowly and that he was able to speed up their reproduction.  Larkin revealed the whole intent was to be able to do just that so as to use them as a food source for a non-human race of beings.  This just seems odd.  It’s right up there with the revelation in the second season of Discovery (***SPOILER ALERT) that the Federation black ops group Section 31 essentially created what would go on to become The Borg in what was then called “Control.”  It’s hard to imagine that an organization that was meant to bring the universe together would be responsible for two such destructive species (if one even wants to call the Borg a species).  While the story just seems so suspect Benjamin’s performance here is so entertaining to say the very least.  His demeanor as he talks about being able to use the tribbles as a food source is so unsettling, but all a person can do is laugh because he is so unsettling in his persona.  The same applies as he reveals whose DNA was combined with the tribble DNA to make them reproduce so quickly.  Even as he is being overtaken by the tribbles (not to giv away too much), he holds character.  That makes that moment just as hilarious even though it is supposed to be a tense moment.  It leads to the final scene being such a powerfully entertaining exclamation mark to the story.  It is hardly the last of the collection’s most notable stories.  “Calypso,” with its tie to the Greek myth of Odysseus, and its minimalist approach is another powerful work in its own right.  There is allegedly even a chance that it might end up having a tie to the third season of Discovery after all.  “The Escape Artist,” with its standalone story about the infamous Harry Mudd (who also appeared in an episode of Star Trek: TOS) makes for its own entertainment.  It allows for Rainn Wilson (who played Mudd in Discovery) to expand and really show his chops even more.

Now for all of the value that the noted shorts (and those not noted) offer audiences, it should be noted that there is at least one short not featured in this set.  That short is “Children of Mars.”  Why it was omitted from the collection is anyone’s guess.  Maybe it was a copyright issue.  Maybe it was an intentional saving for a second volume of shorts.  With those potentialities in mind, one cannot be but so displeased with that issue.  Hopefully it will end up on a second volume of shorts in the not too distant future.  Keeping all of this in mind, the shorts featured in this collection give audiences more than enough to appreciate in themselves.  For all of the value that the shorts themselves offer audiences, they are just a portion of what makes the collection stand out.  The set’s bonus content adds its own share of appeal for audiences.

The bonus content that accompanies the set’s shorts adds its own appeal because of the background that it offers audiences.  Case in point is the audio commentary in the episode “Ask Not.”  As previously noted, Anson Mount (who stars as Captain Pike in Discovery) directed the short “Ask Not.”  Mount talks in the short’s audio commentary about directing the short as well as its production values and tone.  He notes the use of the camera work as he and co-star Thira Sidhu circle one another in the simulation and his intention in using such an approach to help heighten the tension of the moment.  It was an approach that worked, too, as audiences are led to believe fully at first that what was happening was anything but a simulation.  He also addresses the sound balance, considering everything that was going on in the tight space, while also offering praise to Sidhu for her own portrayal.  Mount is so reserved as he talks about everything, and it serves to really draw audiences in that much more and appreciate everything he has to talk about.

Staying on the same track, Rainn Wilson directed his feature short “The Escape Artist.”  He talks in the bonus content “Covered in Mudd” about directing the short and everything that went into directing.  His humility in his discussion is refreshing.  It will please any longtime Star Trek devotee.  What’s more, Wilson talks about how the final scene was created.  It gives a new appreciation for the painstaking efforts that those responsible for special effects make to entertain audiences.  As if that is not enough, Wilson also addresses getting the chance to allow Harry Mudd to expand as a character through the short.  This goes back to Wilson’s humility as he discusses taking on the short in front of and behind the lens.  It really is a discussion that audiences will appreciate just as much as any other. It certainly is not the last of the most notable bonus features.  The bonus feature “Score!,” which is featured as a companion to the short “Ephraim & Dot” is yet another standout bonus feature.  When that feature, which explains the short’s connection to Discovery — ***Spoiler alert, Ephraim is the Tardigrade from Discovery) – is considered along with the other bonus content addressed here and the rest of the disc’s bonus content, the whole of said content adds even more reason for audiences to check out this presentation.  That whole, together with the disc’s primary content makes the collection’s average price point a positive in its own right.

Star Trek: Short Treks was released this past June on DVD and Blu-ray.  The average price point for the collection’s DVD presentation is $15.38.  Its average price point on Blu-ray is $22.44.  Those prices were reached by averaging listings through Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million.  Amazon and Walmart offer the least expensive DVD listing at $12.96 while Amazon offers the least expensive Blu-ray listing at $19.74.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million are the only major retailers listed whose prices — $28.96 and $25.99 respectively – exceed the average for the Blu-ray.  They are also the only retailers of those noted whose prices exceed the average for the DVD, at $18.39 and $17.99 respectively.  Keeping that in mind, they are the only retailers that audiences should avoid when ordering the collection on either platform.  All of the other retailers stay within the bounds of the averages on each platform.

The price itself is its own positive for audience.  Audiences should also take into account with the noted average prices that they are going to get the same presentation on each platform.  The primary and secondary content is the same on DVD and Blu-ray in other words.  Keeping that in mind and the fact that a DVD can play in a Blu-ray player, audiences really will do themselves more of a service purchasing this on DVD than Blu-ray.  That is especially considering that the DVD’s average price listing and its separate listings are all below the $20 mark.  As the sticker on the box notes, audiences get more than three hours of content (including the bonus content) for less than $20 on DVD.  That is a positive that cannot be ignored.  It puts the final touch on a presentation that in reality is the best Discovery presentation so far.

CBS All Access’ latest Star Trek: Discovery presentation Short Treks is the best presentation that the company has released to date.  That is important to note considering all the problems presented in the series’ first two seasons.  This standalone collection shines in part because of its featured shorts.  They exemplify acting and writing done right, in comparison to everything presented in Discovery.  It is known widely that a new creative force was brought in behind the lens during the second season of Discovery.  Maybe these shorts are a reflection of the stylistic change brought on by the new crew addition.  The bonus content featured with the shorts adds to the set’s appeal.  It offers background that enhances the experience even more.  The collection’s average price point (especially on DVD) adds even more appeal to the collection’s presentation.  Each noted item is important in its own way.  Collectively, they make Star Trek: Short Treks a welcome watch for any true Star Trek fan.  The collection is available now.

More information on Star Trek: Short Treks and Star Trek: Discovery is available online now at:

 

 

 

Websitehttp://cbs.com/shows/star-trek-discovery

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/StarTrekCBS

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/cbs

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://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.

PBS Distribution To Release New ‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’ DVD This Month

Courtesy: PBS Distribution/PBS/PBS Kids

PBS Distribution will release a new collection of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood episodes on DVD this fall.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Explore The Outdoors is scheduled for release Sept. 22.  The single-disc collection features six episodes of the beloved series, all of which center on the topic of going outside and appreciating all that the outdoors has to offer.

One of the most notable of the disc’s episodes — “Daniel Explores Nature” — finds Daniel and his parents spending the day outdoors.  Daniel discovers a bird, and in turn learn how birds build their nests.  The bird’s next falls out of the tree, so it’s up to Daniel and his parents to get the nest back in the tree.

“Daniel’s Nature Walk” is another episode featured in the DVD.  This episode’s story follows O the Owl and his uncle X The Owl as the duo goes for a nature walk in the forest.  Along the way, the pair sees all kinds of creatures, such as frogs and worms, and even gets to see a rainbow.

“Daniel Plays in a Gentle Way,” yet another of the DVD’s stories, reminds young viewers about the importance of being careful even when playing.  That lesson is taught as some of Daniel’s friends want to play fast, even though he wants to play slow and safe.

Daniel Tiger’s NeighborhoodExplore The Outdoors will retail for MSRP of $6.99.  Pre-orders are open now.

More information on this and other Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood DVDs is available online now along with activities, games, printouts and more at:

 

 

 

Websitehttp://pbskids.org/daniel

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/danieltigertv

 

 

 

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

‘Gunsmoke’ 65th Anniversary Set Is A Lackluster Celebration Of A Classic Series

Courtesy: CBS DVD/PAramount

CBS’ classic western series Gunsmoke is unquestionably one of the most respected and revered series of any genre in the modern history of television.  The series ran approximately 20 seasons on CBS, and went on to be nominated for 15 prime time Emmy awards, six of which it won.  That is almost half of its nominations, which is not bad, to say the very least.  The series has also never been off of television since it ended its historic run in 1975.  In fact, it still runs on Me-TV to this day.  The wife of a former CBS executive – Babe Paley – is really even to blame for the series’ survival past its 12th season and the demise of fellow CBS series Gilligan’s Island in its place.  Additionally, Gunsmoke has seen each of its 20 seasons released by themselves between 2007 and this year.  All of those standalone season sets’ releases culminated in May with what is seemingly its first-ever full-series set courtesy of CBS DVD and Paramount in the new 65th Anniversary edition box set.  Spread across a total of 143 discs, this extensive box set will appeal mainly to the most devoted of the series’ fans.  That is due in pat to the presentation of the set’s episodes.  This will be addressed shortly.  While the presentation of the set’s episodes proves a positive for its presentation, the set’s packaging proves to be a negative that cannot be ignored.  It will be addressed a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the episode’s primary content – its episodes – is at least slightly positive even though it still leaves audiences wanting for more.  Together with the presentation of the episodes, these two elements and the negative of the packaging make the set a presentation that only the most devoted Gunsmoke fans will appreciate.

CBS DVD and Paramount’s recently released Gunsmoke collection is a mixed bag of a presentation.  It is a presentation that while it does have its positives, it also has its negatives.  The most notable of the set’s positives is the presentation of its episodes.  Considering that the series was released in standalone sets leading up to this full series presentation, it should come as no surprise that the episodes look and sound just as good if not better as they do on television.  Sure, that grainy look is there, but even after being upscaled on a Blu-ray player, they still maintain their integrity, which is certain play well into viewers’ nostalgia.  The sound is impressive in its own right from one episode to the next.  Of course that is again little to no surprise.  That is because likely those behind the set’s assembly essentially just took the already released season sets and put them together into one large box.  That eliminated the need to go back and remaster either element.  So to that end, audiences get the same audio and video presentation here as they would have in the series’ previously released standalone season sets.  Now taking into mind the sets, this is where the set takes a turn for the worse.

Courtesy: CBS DVD/Paramount

The one clear negative to this set is its packaging.  All six of the cases that contain the series’ 635 total episodes are placed into the back of their larger box, which boasts its own artwork on the front and sides.  This is where the problem comes into play.  Audiences who fork over the $200-$300 for this set (depending on the retailer and time of year) will have the set on their DVD/BD racks for storage, or even on another shelf.  Having no backing on the box, it is so easy for the cases to fall out and break, and/or discs to fall out and get damaged in the process.  The bigger box’s artwork is great.  That should not be misunderstood.  The problem is that lack of backing.  It would have made much more sense for the cases to be placed into a box that has a bottom and full box around them.  That guarantees the safety of the separate cases and the boxes therein.  The primary artwork could have been used as a box topper that could have been lifted and replaced.  Sadly that was not the packaging decision made here.

Making things even more difficult in terms of the packaging is the way in which the series’ discs were placed.  Again, the standalone sets used for this full series set are just the previously released standalone season sets.  The discs, in many of the cases, are stacked on top of one another inside the plastic cases.  The old style of multi-disc packaging is used once again here, just as with CBS DVD/Paramount’s full series DVD sets of shows, such as I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, and even The Twilight Zone.  This packaging method greatly increases the chances that the discs will get damaged by scratching one another or even being scratched by the boxes as they are removed and replaced.  Yes, by using a more “modern” packaging method might have made the box even larger, but audiences likely would forgive that if it meant the safety of the discs.  Keeping all of this in mind, Gunsmoke: The Complete Series 65th Anniversary’s packaging detracts from the set’s presentation, but does not make the set a total failure.  Its bonus content works with the episodes’ presentation to make the set at least somewhat worth the money.

Courtesy: CBS DVD/Paramount

The bonus content that accompanies the Gunsmoke: The Complete Series 65th Anniversary set is sadly limited mostly to commercials in which the series’ starts took part and episode promos.  The positive doesn’t really come until Season 15.  It is in this season and each season that follows, that audiences get treated to some history of the show in a feature titled “Ben And Beckey Discuss…”  The low-budget segments are co-hosted by authors Ben Costello and Beckey Burgoine.  The duo sits in front of a drop screen that looks like one of those screens used by Olan Mills for its photos.  The backdrop is anchored by a pair of red curtains on either side, while the duo sits at a table and talks about Seasons 15-20.  Given, some of the content that the pair reveals is at least somewhat interesting, such as the lack of ego among the cast.  Burgoine points out in one of the latter season’s segments that the cast would often offer lines to one another during table reads and that the cast members cared just as much for one another’s safety on set.  The pair also talks briefly during its Season 16 segment, about how the show’s directors would just as often run shoots on single takes.  That is enlightening, and could just as easily serve as a starting point for audiences about directorial styles for directors past and present in television and movies.  During the pair’s discussion in Season 17, it is revealed that there is a direct connection between the Apollo 8 space mission and the series’ cast.  That anecdote will be left for audiences to discover on their own. Additionally, the duo discusses in the Season 20 segment, why Amanda Blake (who played Miss Kitty) did not return to the series in its final season and how that was handled in the writing.  Between all of this and more, the pair’s discussions between Season 15 and 20 will engage and entertain audiences in their own right.  The issue that all of this raises is the question of why there were no discussions in the sets for Seasons 1-14.  Up until that point, the bonus content was relegated to the noted vintage ads and episode promos.  Keeping all of this in mind, the bonus content is positive in its own right, but only to a point.  Even with this in mind, that limited content together with the episodes’ presentations comes together to make the set at least somewhat appealing to the noted Gunsmoke devotees.

Paramount and DBS DVD’s recently released Gunsmoke 65th anniversary DVD box set is an intriguing presentation.  The audio and video presentation in the episodes is positive.  Again, that is understood just because the content is in fact just the previously released standalone sets released together in one larger box for the first time ever.  The set’s packaging detracts greatly from its presentation, but does not make it a total failure.  The bonus content that accompanies the series’ set is positive in its own right because of the “background” information that is provided to audiences in Seasons 15-20.  The problem is that said bonus content is the set’s only positive bonus content.  One is left wondering why there were no season discussions on Seasons 1-14.  Taking all of this into mind collectively, this new full series presentation of Gunsmoke is sadly a lackluster presentation that will appeal mainly to the series’ most devoted fans, especially considering its price.

More information on this and other title from CBS DVD is available at:

 

Website: http://cbshomeentertainment.com

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

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://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.

Devin Townsend Debuts ‘Genesis’ Live Clip From New Live Recording; Announces Information For Upcoming Live Streaming Concert

Courtey: InsideOut Music

Devin Townsend is giving audiences their first taste of his new live recording.

Townsend debuted the live clip for his performance of ‘Genesis’ Friday.  The performance is featured in his forthcoming live recording Order of MagnitudeEmpath Live Volume 1.  The recording is scheduled for release Oct. 23 through InsideOut Music.

Townsend talked about the video and song in a recent interview.

“This song, ‘Genesis’ from my latest album Empath seemed an appropriate way to introduce this concert to the audience,” he said. “It’s kind of an example of ‘musical anarchy’ in some ways- as the song is all over the place structurally to begin with.  But to have a chaotic piece of music, played by these extraordinary musicians I had the honour of being with, in a no-holds-barred production, was really cathartic. It was about being free to do whatever we wanted in a time where rigid ideas of what is acceptable or not are stronger than ever.”

The concert featured in Order of MagnitudeEmpath Live Volume 1 was recorded in December 2019 in London, UK.  The concert was the penultimate show in Townsend’s tour in support of Empath.  Empath was re-issued June 5 through InsideOut Music with a bonus disc and two Blu-ray discs.

The first Blu-ray features a 5.1 Surround Sound mix of Empath crafted by Townsend himself, with visuals for the entire album, plus a stereo visualizer.  The second Blu-ray contains a bonus live performance titled Acoustically Inclined — Live in Leeds.  the concert, captured during Townsend’s April 2019 acoustic tour, features performances of some of Townsend’s most beloved songs, such as ‘Love?,’ ‘Deadhead,’ and ‘Things Beyond Things.’

Order of MagnitudeEmpath Live Volume 1 will release on a limited deluxe 2CD/Blu-ray/DVD artbook; Limited edition 2CD/DVD package; Blu-ray; gatefold 3LP/2CD vinyl box, and digital album.  The Blu-ray features a behind-the-scenes documentary and 5.1 surround sound mix.  The DVD features a 5.1 surround sound mix.  Pre-orders are open now.

The recording’s track listing is noted below.

The track-listing is as follows:
1.Borderlands
2.Evermore
3.War
4.Sprite
5.Gigpig Jam
6.Coast
7.Gato
8.Heavens End
9.Ain’t Never Gonna Win
10.Deadhead
11.Why?
12.Lucky Animals
13.Castaway/Genesis
14.Spirits Will Collide
15.Disco Inferno
16.Kingdom

 

Courtesy: InsideOut Music

In related news, Devin Townsend will hold a live, streaming by request set at 4 p.m. ET on Sept. 5.  Tickets are available here.  Fans can pre-order a shirt that celebrates the concert event here.  A trailer for the streaming show is itself streaming here.

More information on Devin Townsend’s upcoming streaming concert and his new live recording is available online along with all of his latest news at:

 

Websitehttp://www.hevydevy.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/dvntownsend

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/dvntownsend

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://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.

 

‘Arthur: The Ultimate Friendship Collection’ Is A Nearly Complete Success

Courtesy: PBS Distribution/PBS/PBS Kids

Friendship is one of the most important things that people can have in life.  Without friendships we as a species likely would have little chance of survival.  Friendships give us the experiences in life that help us become who we are.  They help keep us going in our highest and lowest points.  That is why they are central to almost every television show and movie ever created.  Early this month, PBS Distribution released a new collection of episodes from PBS/PBS Kids’ hit long-running series Arthur that focuses on the matter of friendship in the form of The Ultimate Friendship Collection.  While not perfect, the three-disc collection is largely a success.  That is due in part to its featured episodes.  They will be discussed shortly.  The episodes tie in to the set’s one negative, its lack of an episode guide.  This will be discussed a little later.  The stories that are featured within the stories add to the set’s appeal and couples with the episodes themselves to give audiences even more to appreciate even despite the concern raised by the lack of an episode guide.  Keeping all of this in mind, the set is one of this year’s top new family DVD/BD box sets.

PBS Distribution’s new Arthur box set is easily one of this year’s top new family DVD/BD box sets.  That is due in part to the set’s episodes.  The episodes in question take audiences from Season One all the way to Season 21.  It’s not a full series set, considering the series is in its 23rd season (with at least two more seasons already planned), but is still a deeply rich presentation in its own right.  It features specific episodes that focus on different issues of friendship.  There is the matter of teamwork, that of treating others as equals, and even not letting power go to one’s head among much more.  This will all be discussed in more depth later in the discussion on the stories featured in the episodes. Making the matter of the episods even better is that the set runs almost chronologically.  It starts in Season One with the episode “Poor Muffy” and runs all the way to Season 21’s episode, “Muffy Misses Out.”  Now that is not to say that every episode centers on Muffy.  The episodes feature stories that focus on her, Francine, George, Arthur, Buster and the rest of Arthur’s friends (including the Tough Customers) throughout.  Keeping all of this in mind, the episodes that are featured in this in-depth collection form a strong foundation for the set.

While the episodes that are featured in Arthur: The Ultimate Friendship Collection go a long way toward making the set an impressive presentation, the lack of an episode guide to accompany them detracts somewhat from the set’s presentation.  Yes, there are 48 episodes here, and that is a lot.  That is understandable.  Even with that in mind, those responsible for the collection’s assembly could have just as easily printed the corresponding episode titles and disc numbers inside the case, as many companies do with their box sets.  Another option would have been to print a booklet of sorts that outlines the episodes and their corresponding discs.  The added material might have meant the possibility of the set’s average price point of $16.07 (determined by averaging prices at PBS’ online store, Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble Booksellers – It was not listed through Target and Books-a-Million ) slightly higher, but still would not have made that price a budget breaker.  Yes, it is more of an aesthetic element, but the less time that audiences have to spend trying to decide which disc to watch, the more the enjoyment grows.  But in the case of this set, the episode titles are only available when each disc is played.  There is not even an episode summary.  To that end, this aspect does hurt the set’s presentation.  Luckily, the issues raised by the lack of an episode guide do not do enough damage to make the set a failure.  It is just something that hopefully will be taken into account with the next Arthur box set (or box set from any PBS Kids series).

Putting aside the concerns raised by the lack of any kind of episode guide here, there is still one more element to examine in PBS Distribution’s new Arthur DVD box set.  That element in question is the stories contained within the featured episodes.  As already noted, the episodes all follow the theme of friendship in one way or another, and rarely repeat their themes.  This adds even more appeal to the set.  One of the stories that audiences are sure to appreciate comes in the Season Seven episode “Prunella Sees the Light.”  This episode finds Prunella and her blind friend Marina butting heads after Prunella visits Marina’s house one day.  Prunella brings to light once too often, the fact that Marina is blind.  The problem is that Prunella thinks in her own mind that she is helping Marina.  Marina on the other hand, points out to Prunella that she does not need to be reminded that she is blind and that she is offended when she is treated as anything other than a person.  This is a time honored theme for children’s series (and even to an extent, for grown-up shows).  Saved By The Bell did this many years ago when Zack befriended a young woman in a wheelchair.  Other series have taken similar approaches.  It is a lesson that sadly even now in the 21st century, still bears repeating for audiences of all ages.  Making the episode even more enjoyable for audiences is the blatant spoof of the Harry Potter franchise, of which both young women are part.

“Buster and the Daredevils” (from Season 2) is another key example of what makes the set’s featured stories so important to this set.  It’s another story that focuses on a character other than Arthur, yet is so enjoyable in its own right.  It shows that while Arthur is the series’ title character, some of the best episodes are the ones that do not center on him.  Buster learns in this episode that real friends are those people who like you for you.  Real friends are not people who make you do embarrassing things in order to be accepted.  He learns this after he tries to make friends with one member of The Tough Customers and his own friend because he thinks at first that they are cool.  This is just one of those difficult lessons that everyone learns as part of their development.  It makes this story timeless in its own right.

In yet another important addition to the set, George (another of Arthur’s friends) has to learn the important lesson that it is okay to say no to people.  This happens as Buster keeps asking for everything that George has.  Buster essentially is taking advantage of George and his kindness.  It takes George losing his pencil, his jacket, and even a dessert at lunch one day for him to finally reach his breaking point.  What’s important to note here is that while George does in fact blow his top at one point, he is much calmer in handling Buster.  How he addresses the situation with Buster will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  It’s important because it shows it is possible for people to deal with conflict peacefully.  This is just one more of so many ways in which this box set proves such a success.  When all of the set’s stories are considered along with the episodes themselves, they make the set well worth watching.  Again, that is despite the one minor issue of the set’s missing episode guide.  Keeping all of this in mind, Arthur: The Complete Friendship Collection proves to be a nearly complete success.

PBS Distribution’s new Arthur DVD box set The Complete Friendship is an impressive presentation that even despite its one negative, is still an enjoyable set.  The success comes mainly from the set’s featured episodes.  The episodes take audiences from Season One to 21.  Not every single episode from the series is featured here (especially considering that the series is in its 23rd season).  Even despite that, the episodes certainly present a rich picture of the series’ beginnings and evolution while also featuring stories that maintain the set’s central theme of friendship.  For all that the episodes do positively for this set, the lack of any episode guide detracts from the set at least to a point.  It does not make the set a failure, but certainly would have added even more to the set’s appeal regardless.  The stories entertain and educate audiences of all ages from one to the next, putting the finishing touch to the set’s presentation.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the set.  All things considered, they make Arthur: The Complete Friendship Collection a nearly complete success.

More information on the new DVD set is available along with lots of printables, activities, games and more at:

 

 

 

Websitehttp://www.pbskids.org/arthur

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/ArthurPBS

 

 

 

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