Stiller’s Latest Indie Outing Is One Of This Year’s Best New Independent Movies

While Were Young BD Box ArtBen Stiller is one of the most accomplished actors in Hollywood’s modern history. Having starred in countless movies and TV series, and worked behind the lens in just as many projects with plenty more in the works. One of those countless projects, While We’re Young was released direct to DVD and Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack earlier this summer. The movie, which also co-stars Naomi Watts (King Kong, Mullholland Drive, The Ring), Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables, Mama Mia, Dear John) and Adam Driver (Inside Llewyn Davis, This is Where I Leave You, What If), is not Stiller’s first jaunt into the indie movie world. In 2010, Stiller starred in the largely forgettable indie flick Greenberg. That movie was forgettable for good reason. While We’re Young however, proves to be more worth viewers’ time than Greenberg. It should be noted that while it is more worth viewers’ time than the prior movie, it is still very much an acquired taste. Though, that is the case with most Noah Baumbach movies. Now having noted that, While We’re Young is an interesting new entry for Stiller and the people at Lionsgate that is worth at least one watch. The main reason for that is its script, crafted by Baumbach. The script follows a couple played by Stiller and Watts that upon meeting a young twenty-something couple begins ruminating on years lost and in turn starts trying to reclaim and relive those years. Yes it’s an oft-used story element. But Baumbach takes an approach in his script that gives the story a new identity in the case of this movie. The additional commentary on the connection between technology and culture that is intertwined into the script is another reason that viewers will enjoy this movie. It is neither preachy nor unnecessarily comic. The bonus material included with the movie rounds out the reasons that While We’re Young proves worth the watch. It is made up mostly of interviews with Baumbach and the movie’s cast. It is one of those rare cases in which the standard bonus addition actually proves to actually be a bonus. And together with the aforementioned elements, all three show together why While We’re Young is one of the best of this year’s new independent movies.

While We’re Young is one of this year’s best new independent movies. It is a movie that stands out both among the endless sea of prequels, sequels, and remakes filling theaters and its fellow independent counterparts alike. It shows this mainly through its script. The script, crafted by writer/director Noah Baumbach, centers on a married couple played by veteran actor and actress Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts. Josh (Stiller) and Cornelia (Watts) are married and both in their forties. After a chance meeting with the much younger Jamie (Driver) and Darby (Seyfried), Josh and Cornelia start ruminating on lost years and lost chances. The resultant effect leads to plenty of laughs and even some moments of deep introspection. It is that balance of humor and contemplation that sets Baumbach’s script apart from every one of the previous instances in which this oft used plot has appeared. Rather than being the typical shmaltzy, slapstick story about people trying to reclaim their youth (E.g. Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2), it offers a solid balance of both humor and depth that few if any other stories of its kind present. That mix of humor and depth is exhibited especially through the blatant cultural differences (of sorts) between the two couples. There’s a lot of truth to the behaviors presented by both pairs. There’s also just enough humor shared between the couples to keep viewers entertained and engaged from beginning to end thus showing again exactly why Baumbach’s script in itself makes While We’re Young worth at least one watch.

The central story presented in Baumbach’s script presents a strong reason why the movie’s script in whole makes this movie worth at least once watch. It is just one reason that this surprisingly interesting independent movie is worth at least that one watch. Along with its central story, there is also an intended commentary on the connection between technology and culture tied into the central story that will have viewers laughing and thinking just as much as the movie’s main story. The commentary regarding the acceptance of technology’s overly intrusive nature (I.E. cell phones being used for everything all the time) is just once example of how the commentary tied into the story helps to make the story all the more enjoyable. There is also a commentary centered on one generation trying to keep up with technology while the other (today’s younger generation) is bringing back everything that was once cool years ago and calling it cool by their own self-serving judgement. It really serves as another example of art clearly imitating real life thus showing yet again why the commentaries included in the movie’s script make the movie all the more entertaining for its target audiences. They are just a couple of the commentaries that are tied in to the script, too. Audiences will see for themselves that there are even more commentaries when they see the movie for themselves. Once again, here is reason that While We’re Young stands out both among the year’s new releases overall and the year’s new independent releases.

Both the central story presented in Baumbach’s script for While We’re Young and the commentaries that accompany the movie’s main story present plenty of reason for viewers to watch this movie at least once. Both elements are of equal importance to the movie’s success and enjoyment. However, they are only a portion of what makes the movie worth the watch. The bonus material included with the movie make its overall presentation all the more worth the watch. The bonus material in question here is largely composed of interviews with Baumbach as well as the movie’s cast. This is a pretty standard bonus included in most movies’ home releases. The difference between these interviews and those included in so many other movies is that the interviews included with this movie actually present a certain value believe it or not. Baumbach and company actually offer some valuable insight into the movie, its script, commentaries and more. It’s quite the change of pace from those other, lesser interviews that try to pass themselves off as “bonuses” with other movies. In the case of this movie, they are in fact bonuses; bonuses that every viewer will find quite insightful. The insight offered by the bonus interviews along with the script’s main story and its companion commentaries make While We’re Young a movie that in whole while not for everyone is still one of the best of this year’s new independent film field and a movie worth at least one watch.

While We’re Young may not have gotten the coverage from media outlets as the major motion pictures released this summer by Hollywood’s “Power Five Studios.” But in comparison to those largely unoriginal, uncreative, prequels, sequels, and remakes, it holds its own quite well. It even holds its own quite well among its fellow independent counterparts. That is thanks to the movie’s script, which includes a new take on a classic story line and some equally entertaining yet in-depth commentaries that will have viewers talking and laughing long after the movie ends. The bonus interviews included with the movie make the overall viewing experience of this movie even richer for fans. All three elements combined, they prove While We’re Young to be one of this year’s best new independent movies and potentially even one of the year’s best overall new movies. It is available now in stores on DVD + Digital and Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack.

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PBS Kids’ New Super Why Collection Is Another Magical Must Have For Teachers, Parents, And Children

Courtesy: PBS Distribution/PBS Kids/PBS

Courtesy: PBS Distribution/PBS Kids/PBS

Earlier this August PBS Kids and PBS Distribution released its latest collection of episodes from its hit vocabulary-building series Super Why: Cinderella and Other Fairytale Adventures. Just the latest in an expansive series of releases, this new collection is one more magical (terrible pun fully intended) collection for the whole family. The main reason that it is such an enjoyable collection of episodes is the writing within each of its five episodes. The episodes, on the surface, take Whyatt and the rest of the Super Readers on five more wonderful stories into the world of books in order to solve problems within the books and in turn problems in their own lives. On another level, the work of the episodes’ writers pays off as it teaches some more subtle lessons along the way that tie in to the episodes. Those more subtle lessons could easily be used as starting points for discussions between children and grown-ups on some very real and very important issues. That is another reason that this latest collection of Super Why episodes proves to be yet another enjoyable collection for the whole family. It will be discussed at more length later. Staying on the topic of lessons being taught, Super Why: Cinderella and Other Fairytale Adventures also comes with some starting points for equally important and invaluable lessons included inside the DVD’s case that are equally valuable in the classroom and the living room. All three elements together make Super Why: Cinderella and Other Fairytale Adventures yet another must have for every educator, parent, and child.

Super Why: Cinderella and Other Fairytale Adventures is hardly the first collection of episodes to be released from PBS Kids’ hit vocab building series. That aside it still is no less enjoyable for audiences. As a matter of fact, considering its title and collection of episodes, it could be said that it is in fact quite the magical collection of episodes. The main reason for that is the work of the series’ writers in crafting each of the collection’s episodes. That is exemplified through the fun adaptations of the five classic fairtytales presented in the collection. Snow White is presented as are Cinderella, The Boy Who Cried Wolf and The Prince and the Pauper and even Cinderella as told from the Prince’s vantage point. While the writers don’t necessarily stick completely to the original stories–which is the norm with any Super Why episode–but the presented adventures do stick just closely enough to the source material to make the Super Readers’ adventures enjoyable. On another level, they make the adventures enjoyable that they leave young readers wanting to read the original stories from which the adventures were lifted. What’s more, the writers clearly and efficiently manage to tie in the Super Readers’ problems with the stories’ problems. This makes both concepts easily accessible for the show’s young viewers. It is yet another way in which the writing behind each episode proves to be so important to the whole of the presentation that is Super Why: Cinderella and Other Fairytale Adventures. It is just one aspect of the whole that makes the DVD so enjoyable, too. The more subtle lessons that are tied into each of the DVD’s episodes are collectively another important part of the disc’s whole.

The primary lessons that are tied into each of the DVDs episodes in themselves gives this presentation plenty of reason to be watched. However, they make up only one part of what makes this DVD worth the watch. There are some more subtle lessons tied into each episode that makes for even more reason to watch each episode. Now not every lesson might have been intentionally inserted into the episodes. But they are there regardless. One example of those more subtle, secondary lessons comes in “Snow White.” The Super Readers jump into the episode’s title book here and meet its lead character as she encounters the evil queen in her guise of the elderly woman. Those familiar with this story know that the evil queen is in disguise as part of her attempt to kill Snow White. On the surface, this ties directly into the episode’s main topic. On a more subtle level, it could be argued that this episode serves as a starting point for a discussion on the topic of “stranger danger” as it is typically called. That is because Snow White didn’t necessarily know the old woman. She was a stranger. And she didn’t have the best intentions for Snow White. So to that extent it could easily be argued that said topic is there. On another level, the episode’s main topic in which Princess Pea has a stomach ache and has to decide whether or not to take Goldilocks’ offer for some popcorn presents a chance to talk about overeating. This could also lead to a whole other discussion on healthy eating, too. To that extent, it can be said yet again that even if the lessons in question were not intentionally placed in any of the episodes, they are there. And this episode alone is just one way in which that argument can be made. “The Prince and the Pauper” teaches a subtle lesson that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side. This can lead to a discussion on jealousy (wanting what others have and whether or not it’s really worth it). It could even be argued that a discussion centered on appreciating what one has could be started from this episode, too. Yet again, here is another example of how the secondary, more subtle lessons featured in this disc serve to enhance the overall viewing experience of the presentation in whole. It is not the end of the positives boasted by this latest collection of episodes, either. The bonus lesson ideas included inside the DVD’s case round out the presentation, showing in whole why it is in fact yet another must have for any educator, parent, and child.

The lessons–both primary and secondary–that are presented throughout each episode included in PBS Kids’ new Super Why compilation make this disc by themselves a must have for any educator, parent, and child. While both elements prove equally important to the overall viewing experience here, they are not the only reasons that educators, parents, and children alike will enjoy and appreciate this collection. Along with those lessons, there are also some extra ideas for lessons included inside the case itself that are just as valuable in their own right. One of the lessons in question centers on the story of Cinderella. It utilizes the concept of Cinderella having to keep track of time as a starting point for a lesson on telling time. And it’s not just a lecture lesson either. It encourages educators and parents to actually make a clock together and in turn learn about telling time. From The Boy Who Cried Wolf there is a lesson that not only allows children to have a party but learn at the same time by throwing a party that is centered on a specific letter of the alphabet. The catch is that all of the food, decorations, etc. must center around said letter. This has possibilities beyond just learning letters. It could lead to lessons on manners and maybe even more. There is also a vocab building game that uses musical chairs as its base, and even an invaluable lesson about appreciating and celebrating the things that make us different. This lesson brings everything full circle as it is centered on the Super Readers’ second meeting with Cinderella. Not every one of those lessons will reach every young viewer. But it can be guaranteed that every one of the noted bonus lessons will reach at least one specific group of viewers. That being the case, each one of the bonus lessons included inside the DVD’s case prove in full why they are just as important as the lessons presented within the episodes. Together with those episodes, they serve to show completely why Super Why: Cinderella and Other Fairytale Adventures is a definite must have for any educator, parent, and child.

Super Why: Cinderella and Other Fairytale Adventures is not the first collection of Super Why episodes to be released by PBS Kids and PBS Distribution. That aside, it proves in whole thanks to its enjoyable stories and equally invaluable lessons to be yet another magical must have for any educator, parent, and child. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=66322776&cp=&sr=1&kw=super+why&origkw=Super+Why&parentPage=search. More information on this and other Super Why collections is available online now along with all of the latest Super Why news and even Super Why games and activities at:

Website: http://pbskids.org/superwhy

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

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Welcome Back, Kotter Season Four Is A Fond Farewell For A Great Series

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

The end of the road is finally here for ABC’s timeless sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter.  Late last month, Shout! Factory released the final season of the classic series on DVD.  And Welcome Back, Kotter: The Complete Fourth Season is quite the interesting way for this one of-a-kind series to go out.  As viewers will note in going through each of the season’s twenty-three total episodes, the writers are to be very highly commended for handling the drastic changes to the series’ landscape.  That is the central aspect of the season’s success.  It will be discussed shortly.  In connection to the work of the writers, the work of the series’ cast is just as important to its whole.  After the near complete departure of one-time star John Travolta and series head Gabriel Kaplan, Robert Hegyes, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, and Ron Palillo carried on quite well alongside Marcia Strassman and John Sylvester White.  Last but hardly least of note is the series’ overall production values.  Audiences will appreciate that once again the show looks and sounds surprisingly good even as more than three decades have passed since the show ended its run on ABC.  All things considered, Welcome Back, Kotter goes out on a high note in its fourth and final season.  The proverbial waters were not easy to tread considering the show’s changes.  But somehow all involved managed to navigate them.  The end result is a collection of episodes that every Kotter fan will want to have in his or her own DVD library even though it really is in its final season Welcome Back, Kotter in name only.

Welcome Back, Kotter is in its final season Welcome Back, Kotter in name only.  That is because in this the series’ final season, Mr. Kotter (Gabe Kaplan) is written almost entirely out of the show after the season’s first three episodes.  After those first three episodes, the only mentions of Mr. Kotter come in the part of his wife (played by Marcia Strassman) mentioning him being at this conference or that–as he is now the school’s Vice Principal–whenever now Principal Woodland is looking for him.  She essentially becomes the Kotter in Welcome Back, Kotter.  All of this aside, Season Four still manages to be just as entertaining as the series’ previous three seasons.  The main reason for that enjoyment is the work of the show’s writers.  The work of the series’ writers in the final season of Welcome Back, Kotter is one of the most important reasons for the show’s success.  With what can only assume was the departure of star Gabe Kaplan from the show and the all but nonexistent John Travolta (Travolta appears in this season only in a handful of episodes), the writers had a lot to handle.  That’s because it forced the writers to either adjust to the changes or completely overhaul the show.  Luckily, they did the prior and did so with the utmost professionalism.  They crafted twenty-three episodes that stylistically were familiar both to the cast and crew, and to viewers.  They also exhibited the writers’ collective ability to show that the series could still float even without two of its main stars.  Sure there were some changes here and there.  But by and large, the emphasis on education, friendship and other serious subjects were just as appreciable as the laughs that were tied into every one of the season’s episodes.  Some of the best examples of that balance and solid writing come in the form of “Washington’s Clone,” “The Gang Show,” and “Once Upon A Ledge.”  The prior of the trio takes a similar tone as that of the season’s two-part premiere in its emphasis on the importance of education.  The difference between the two is that “Washington’s Clone” tackles the subject by having Washington having to address a straight-A student named Arthur who wants to be just like him instead of the student everybody had come to know him to be.  Arthur goes so far as to steal watches from his father’s store in order to try and impress Washington.  What’s really interesting here is that for all of the “coolness” for which he is normally known, Washington is forced to show an unfamiliar, serious side in which he has to play counselor to Arthur in his attempt to get Arthur back on the right track.  It’s a surprising yet welcome change to see from Washington.  “The Gang Show” is more light-hearted but still tackles some serious issues in the process.  That light-hearted approach begins right at the episode’s title, which playfully pokes fun at the one-time hit game show The Gong Show.  Beau and Arnold become judges for the school’s annual talent show in this episode.  Fittingly Epstein and Washington team up for their own act.  This forces Arnold and Beau to balance loyalty and friendship with honesty and honor as judges.  The result is absolutely comical but still presents a good message that even today’s younger viewers will appreciate.  Those same viewers will appreciate the writers’ tackling of teen suicide as new character Mary Johnson threatens suicide because she feels unnoticed and unappreciated by anyone else at school.  Go figure, she would go on to be a key character in the season’s advancement.  These are just a few examples of how the writing that went into Season Four make it work so well even with the seeming departure of Kaplan in front of the camera at least and the near full departure of John Travolta.  Each of the season’s remaining twenty episodes could just as easily be used as examples of the writers’ talents, too.  For instance, the handling of alcohol abuse (and more specifically teen alcohol abuse) in “Come Back, Little Arnold,” the lessons of friendship and truth in media in “The Sweat Smell of Success” and the still hot button topic of sex education in “X-Rated Education.” Whether through these episodes, the ones more directly addressed, or through any of the season’s others, it can be said that the episodes in whole prove clearly the importance of the show’s writing even with the changes that came with the season. They are just part of what makes this season work as well as it does, too. The work of the show’s cast proves just as pivotal to its success and enjoyment.

The work of the writers behind Welcome Back, Kotter shows throughout each of this season’s episodes makes this season just as enjoyable as the series’ previous three seasons. That is the case even despite the changing landscape of the show in its final run. In connection to the work of the show’s writers, the work of the show’s cast is just as pivotal to its continued enjoyment. This is key to note because of the noted changes. Stars Ron Palillo, Robert Hegyes, and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs were forced into the spotlight after [Gabe] Kaplan was essentially written out along with Travolta’s Vinnie Barberino. The trio handled their new roles with just as much professionalism as the show’s writers. There were plenty of laughs from the trio’s mix of physical comedy and almost Three-Stooges style back and forth throughout each episode. Even when it was time for the trio to step up and be more serious, such as when they get Norman to admit to his trouble with alcohol and when they had to get Arthur back on the right track, they did so with an equal level of expertise. Interestingly enough, Beau (Stephen Shortridge) was rather underutilized after his introduction as the newest member of the Sweathogs. It’s almost as if he was brought in without full forethought. Even considering this, Palillo, Hegyes, and Hilton-Jacobs hold their own and create plenty of laughs and moving moments through this season, showing time and again why their work was so important to the season’s success.

Both the work of the writers behind Welcome Back, Kotter and that of the show’s cast are of equal importance to the enjoyment and overall success of the series’ final season. As important as both elements are to the whole of the recently released box set neither would be worth the mention without mention of the set’s production values. Specifically speaking none of it would be worth mentioning without mention of the footage’s audio and video mix. In regards to its video mix, the footage looks just as impressive as that in the series’ previous standalone season sets. The season has been restored to its original condition. And once again, the grainy look of the footage has been cleaned up without losing that original look that the show presented in its original run. The sound is just as enjoyable. Considering the recording tech available at the time, that says quite a bit. When set alongside the work of the show’s cast and writers, the work of those charged with restoring Season Four’s footage makes this final installment of Welcome Back, Kotter one last must have for Kotter fans and classic TV fans alike.

The fourth and final season of Welcome Back, Kotter is one last must have both for fans of the classic series and for classic television fans alike. That is proven through the work of the series’ writers and cast, and through the work of those charged with restoring the footage for its presentation here. Season Four is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/comedy/welcome-back-kotter-the-final-season. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

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WHV Finally Gets One Right With Its New Peanuts Collection

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

This Thanksgiving, Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox will team up to bring audiences the first-ever big screen Peanuts adventure that (go figure) is simply titled The Peanuts Movie. Personal opinions aside, it is interesting to note that as the movie’s debut nears, so is Warner Brothers’ home entertainment division–Warner Home Video (WHV)–stepping up its re-issues of the classic Peanuts TV specials. Already released this year WHV has re-issued Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. Officials with WHV have also announced that the organization will also release Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back) and He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown along with the company’s new compilation set Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection. The latter of the trio is currently planne for a nationwide release on Tuesday, September 15th. Though, interestingly enough it has already been released through Target likely via a special deal between the retailer and the people at WHV. For those that were not lucky enough to pick up the dual-disc collection in its original release via Target will be pleased to add it to their personal collections. The main reason that audiences will be pleased to add it to their collections is its featured specials. It features eleven classic Peanuts TV specials that while previously released on one platform or another are now collected into this much more ergonomic collection. This will be discussed at more length shortly. Another reason that the collection proves so interesting and worth the purchase is the material presented within each special. Audiences actually get to hear an adult talk for the first time ever in one special (She’s A Good Skate, Charlie Brown). And while most audiences are familiar with the classic Peanuts holiday specials, some will be surprised that there is another holiday special of sorts that is just as deserving of attention in the form of What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? This special is a deeply moving Memorial Day special that will impact viewers of all ages. Last of note in regards to this collection’s positives is that classic hand-drawn animation style. The old school style of artwork is yet another example of what once made animated features truly animated and in turn truly entertaining. Each noted element shows in its own way that Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is a surprising new release from WHV. It would be nice to think that maybe it marks the beginning of WHV finally moving in the right direction after having slid in the wrong direction for the past couple of years or so. One can only hope. Even if it is just a random diamond in the rough from the once powerhouse studio, it proves through all three noted elements together, to be one that any Peanuts fan will happily welcome into his or her home DVD library.

Warner Home Video has been noticeably declining over the course of the past two years or more. That is evident through every one of its releases both for families and for select audiences. Said releases have shown that someone(s) at WHV apparently did not and does not care about providing audiences with quality home releases. For all of the problematic releases that WHV has put out in stores over the past couple of years or so, finally a random diamond in the rough from WHV will be released very soon in the form of the new Peanuts collection Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection. This collection of TV specials includes eleven classic Peanuts TV specials that some of which were nominated for Emmy Awards while certain others actually received the coveted trophy. It should be noted that all eleven of the specials featured in this new double-disc collection have each previously been released via one platform or another. Some have been released on VHS while others have previously been released on DVD. Others have even been issued and re-issued on one platform then another. Despite this, some viewers out there might not have been lucky enough to add one, another or more of the featured specials up until this point. That being the case, all eleven specials show collectively to be of the utmost importance for all viewers. That is because more than likely among the legions of Peanuts fans around the world few to any likely have all of the included specials.

The inclusion of each of its specials in one collection is good for Peanuts fans everywhere in large part because having them all in one place means just that. It means that for the first time ever each one of the specials has been finally released on one platform on which all audiences can watch them. No one is left behind. On another level, for those that had one or more of the specials in question from their previous releases can finally eliminate those platforms (or at least most of them if they own the original VHS copies of said specials). That will ultimately lead to saved space for many fans on their respective DVD racks. Again, this might not apply for every Peanuts fan. But it will definitely apply to many fans. And that being the case, it makes the collection’s ergonomic factor that much more important to the whole of its success and enjoyment.

The episodes presented in Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection show clearly why they are within themselves quite important to the whole of the collection. Examining the episodes on a closer level, ther writing shows to be just as important to the collection as the episodes themselves. In examining the specials’ writing it becomes clear why they were either nominated or in some cases even won an Emmy. That is most evident through the surprisingly moving special What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown. This sequel of sorts to Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back) follows Charlie Brown and company on their departure from France. Along the way, the Peanuts gang happens to arrive at Normandy and the site of the Allied landing on D-Day. The history lesson provided by Linus upon their arrival is unbiased and moving all at the same time. The writers don’t pull any punches here, revealing that the Allied attack on Normandy was in fact anything but perfect. Linus notes in his lesson that weather conditions had ruined the mission so much that Allied commanders even considered pulling back. That is a lesson that sadly very few history teachers and professors alike will teach in the classroom. So it is nice to have that historical truth noted in a special that is aimed at younger viewers.

In another of the collection’s episodes, She’s A Good Skate, Charlie Brown, audiences actually get to hear an adult speak for the first (and probably only)time in the history of the Peanuts TV specials. The adult in question is Peppermint Patty’s teacher. She continuously calls on Patty as Patty continues falling asleep in class thanks to her early morning skating practice. Yes, skating. That is another reason that the writing in this special proves so notable. Anyone that knows their Peanuts history knows that Peppermint Patty is more of a tomboy than a girly girl. Heck, she was even voiced by males in a number of the specials. So having Patty taking part in a sport that is traditionally more aimed at females than males shows a completely opposite side of Patty and to the Peanuts universe in whole.  It is a change that all audiences will agree now in the 21st century is a welcome change.  It shows that it’s okay for a girl to be girly and one of the boys.  Simply put, it really serves to defy those strict, standard gender roles established by society.  Whether or not that is the reason that it at least received an Emmy nomination, it is one more reason that the writing behind this special stands out so strongly as one more part of the whole of the collection’s writing.

Why, Charlie Brown, Why? is perhaps the strongest evidence of the importance of the writing behind the collection’s featured episodes. This episode tackles the issue of cancer. On a more specific level, it tackles the issue of childhood cancer and the impact of cancer on both the victim and his or her friends and family. Its story centers on a young girl named Janet who is diagnosed with leukemia. It just so happens that she is friends with Linus and the rest of the Peanuts gang. Though, Linus is the main character of this story. That side element of the story’s writing will be discussed shortly. Sticking on the main topic, the manner in which the writers tackled the subject is hugely worthy of applause. It was handled with the utmost gentility and in a fashion that also made the topic accessible even for much younger viewers. That in itself makes this special more than just a special. It is special in every sense of the word. It’s just one aspect of the special’s writing that makes it so notable among the others included in this set. The fact that Linus was made the story’s central character makes it even more worth the watch. It’s not the first time that Charlie Brown took a back seat to his Peanuts pals. But it is one of the most successful episodes that featured someone other than Charlie Brown at the center of the story. That is especially the case as audiences see Linus actually lose his cool in a very rare instance. He loses it when another child makes fun of Janet for having lost her hair right in front of him. Audiences will find themselves cheering Linus on and even doing so with the slightest tear in their eyes. That rare moment really exemplifies the pent-up feelings that not only children feel in a situation such as that presented here, but grown-ups, too. So for that reason too, the writing behind Why, Charlie Brown, Why? shows even more the importance of the episodes’ writing in whole in examining the set in whole. It is just one more example of the importance of the writing within each of the set’s episodes. The writing within each of the remaining eight specials shows in its own way why the writing in whole is so important to the episodes’ enjoyment and the success of the set in whole. And together with the episodes themselves, both elements together make a strong argument why every Peanuts fan should have this new collection in his or her own home DVD library. They still are just part of the whole of the collection’s positives. Last of note is the animation style within each episode.

Both the episodes featured throughout the body of Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection and the writing within each special makes for plenty of reason for Peanuts fans to appreciate this latest collection of Peanuts classics. Of course what examination of such a classic collection would be complete without mention of the specials’ animation style. Every one of the specials featured as part of Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection was drawn by hand. That means that endless hours were spent bringing to leave each and every second of each special. Now being that each special runs roughly in the range of about twenty minutes (or just a little more in some cases), the math adds up to quite a bit of time spent on bringing each special to life for broadcast. That says a lot when these specials are compared to the largely CG presentations out there today that try to claim themselves as being animated. They are animated in name only. These specials show everything that was once great about true, animated features. Each one of the specials boasts a similar look. But there are also minute details within each special that set them apart. Audiences that have eagle eyes will catch that minutia. The same can’t be said of today’s CG creations. It really gives these classic specials a real soul and heart. Together with the episodes’ impressive writing and the episodes themselves all three elements come together to make Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection a clear must have for any real devoted Peanuts fan.

Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is a must have for any real Peanuts fan. That is the case whether or not said fan already owns any of the specials presented here on their original release platforms. The collective writing presented within each of the collection’s makes the episodes and the collection in whole even more enjoyable. The standout animation style presented across each of the collection’s specials rounds out the presentation. It reminds audiences by comparison of what once made animation so great. The animation is original. Even the upcoming Peanuts Movie that is due out this Thanksgiving doesn’t entirely hold up to that style of animation despite the efforts of those behind the movie to make it look like the classics on which it is based. Each element in itself proves to be an important part of the collections’ whole. Altogether they make Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection a collection that any true-blooded Peanuts fan would himself or herself be honored to have in his or her home DVD library. Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is available now exclusively in Target stores nationwide. It will allegedly be available nationwide in other stores beginning Tuesday, September 15th. More information on this and other upcoming Peanuts releases is available online now along with the latest Peanuts news at:

Website: http://www.peanuts.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/snoopy

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.

Indiepix Import Ships Sails Despite Syncing Issues

Courtesy:  Indiepix Films

Courtesy: Indiepix Films

Earlier this year, independent movie studio Indiepix imported the Turkish foreign film Ships for American audiences. The movie, which originally debuted in its home country in January 2014, is quite the interesting work. Coming in at just over the ninety-minute mark, its script lies at the heart of its interest. The movie’s script follows a young man named Ali (Ugur Uzunel–El yazisi) as he ponders his life in the port town that is he calls home in regards to his own future, his relationship with his father, and much more. As the story, penned by writer/director Elif Refig, progresses, it becomes more than just a story ruminating on one’s place in the world but one that even boasts just the slightest amount of romance. Luckily that romance factor doesn’t overpower the movie’s main plot. Rather it plays into the movie’s overall plot, leading to a deep philosophical (and psychological) concept that will definitely have viewers talking after the movie ends. While the movie’s script plays a powerful part in its surprising enjoyment, it can’t be said that the movie is pefect. There is a clearly noticable problem with the movie’s sync. The movie is not dubbed in English. So this is not just the standard English voice actor dubbing over the foreign original. The audio and video is at the very least a good second and a half off from one another. To some this may not seem like that much. But it is noticeable. And while it doesn’t necessarily kill the movie (or the bonus short included with the movie–it also has a sync issue)it is a hindrance that must be noted. Having noted the painfully obvious issue with the movie’s sync (and that of the movie’s companion short film) that noted bonus companion short film adds even more to the movie’s overall presentation. That is the case even with its sync issue. It abrely tops the twenty-minute mark. But in the course of that time, it achieves plenty. And even despite it having its own syncing issue it still combines with the presentation’s main movie to make Ships a must see indie fick and one of this year’s top new independent films.

Indiepix Films’ recently imported independent foreign film Ships is a must see for anyone wanting to escape the monotony of the material being churned out by Hollywood’s “Power Five Studios.” It is also one of this year’s best new independent movies. The main reason that it is worthy of holding both titles is its script. Penned by writer/director Elif Refig, the script behind this movie isn’t just some overly artsy forieng film that is artsy for the sake of it. Rather it balances that art film approach with a mainstream style story and presentation that is just as accessible to audiences as any human drama churned out by Hollywood’s “Power Five studios” in the last twenty years or more. The story that lies within the movie script follows Ali as he ponders his place in the world and comes to the realization that he needs to get out of his hometown and branch out. That realization becomes even stronger when he meets what will become his female love interest Eda (M. Sitare Akbas–Ada, Not Worth A Fig, Dila Hanim), who also feels the need to get on one of the boats (there is one in particular called the Vamos of which Ali dreams and thus thinks will be the pair’s ticket out of their town) and sail away. What is really interesting about all of this is that Refig flips the standard gender roles used in the movie’s American counterparts in the development of both Ali and Eda. Ali is a dreamer while Eda is something of a bad girl figure, painting graffiti, wearing the dark hood, etc. early on. And it is in fact her growing relationship with Ali that leads her, not him, to change. This is a subtle element of Refig’s script. But it is an element that proves quite interesting to those that pay close enough attention to catch it. Even more interesting are the philosophical and even psychological discussions that are certain to be generated by Refig’s script by the time the movie ends. It will raise discussions on whether Ali’s dreams about the Vamos were n fact real signs or if perhaps they were just the catalyst for the relationship between he and Eda that forms over time. It’s just one more of so many elements within the movie’s script that make the script so important to the movie’s success and enjoyment. There is potentially more that this critic might have missed in regards to the scripting. That aside, the elements that were in fact noted here and the expert manner in which Refig balanced each element within the body of the script shows even more so why the script behind Ships is so important to its enjoyment and overall success.

For all of the positives that Ships’ script presents, it is painful to say that in watching this movie, the script is its one major positive. In other words the movie (and its companion bonus short film) does have a noticeable problem. Audiences will note that both the central presentation and its companion short film both suffer from a noticeable issue of the audio and video’s syncing. Before anyone gets upset, automatically thinking that it is just a dubbing issue, that is not the case. The cast’s speaking parts were not covered by English-speaking voice actors. Rather the cast’s speaking parts were handled via English subtitles. This makes it painfully clear that there is a problem with the movie’s syncing. It is not relegated to just those speaking parts either. The audio and video appear to be out of syn from the movie’s opening scene to its last. Some will attempt to argue that this is a non-issue since English-speaking viewers will probably spend most of their time reading the subtitles. However, the rebuttal to that argument is that even those audiences will still be watching the movie at the same time as reading the movie’s subtitles. This problem isn’t relegated to just Ships. It is just as obvious in the movie’s companion short film Man To Be. In defense of those behind both presentations, the synching issue doest not necessarily eliminate any reason to watch either film. but it does have a noticeable impact on the movies’ enjoyment. That being the case, both Ships and Man To Be are still worth at least one watch even with that painfully obvious issue thus leading again to the argument that Ships is at the very least one of 2015’s top new independent movies. It just can’t be said that it is the year’s best because of that issue.

Ships is one of this year’s best new independent movies. This is even despite the noticable issue of its syncing between its audio and video throughout. It is so well worth the watch because of its largely original and creative script. Thanks to writer/director Elif Refig’s attention to detail, it proves itself to be anything but just another existential coming of age piece. Rather it is something much deeper that will keep audiences engaged throughout the course of its ninety-two minute run time. It is just one part of the whole that makes this movie worth the watch. The inclusion of its companion bonus short film Man To Be is one more reason that this presentation proves so powerful. Just as with Ships, Man To Be proves so enjoyable thanks to its script. The acting of its cast adds even more enjoyment to this deeply human story. It presents its young lead actor having to grow up very fast because of some very difficult situations. He lives at home with his mother, grandmother, and uncle, who happens to be a not so nice person. He plays a direct role in him becoming a man at a far too young age, as he is forced into situations to which no one at his age should be exposed. From seeing the girl he is crushing going off with his uncle, to having to save his uncle from some very bad men, to having to do his uncle’s dirty work trying to convince his grandmother to sell her house, the young man in this movie faces some very difficult situations. He is even forced to make a literal life and death situation in the film’s climax that no one will see coming. The ending won’t be given away, but he comes out okay. Though it can be said that as is evidenced in the film’s final scene how okay is debatable. It and the rest of the film will leave viewers talking just as much as they will in watching Ships. This being the case, the combination of both movies together makes Ships even more clearly a must see. This is despite both films suffering from a painfully obvious issue with the synching of their audio and video. Even with that problem noted, the movie’s scripts and the work of each movie’s cast together proves Ships in whole to be a must see for anyone wanting to escape the monotony of Hollywood’s endless lust for prequels, sequels, and reboots and in turn one of the year’s best new independent movies.

While not perfect (thanks to the issues with its production values) Ships is not an altogether awful movie. Rather it is actually a surprisingly interesting film that any true lover of the film arts will want to see. Its script and the work of the movie’s cast coupled with both noted elements of Man To Be make the presentation in whole one of this year’s best new independent movies. It is available now and can be ordered online via Indiepix Films’ online store at http://www.indiepixfilms.com/film/5945#.VeC0HvZViko. More information on this and other titles from Indiepix Films is available online now at:

Website: http://www.indiepixfilms.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/IndiePixFilms

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.

Shout! Factory To Resurrect Another Hidden Classic This Fall

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films

This fall, Shout! Factory will resurrect another piece of hidden television history that was long thought forgotten when it releases the short-lived ABC action-comedy Automan.

Shout! Factory, in partnership with Fabulous Films, will release Automan: The Complete Series on Tuesday, November 10th. The 13-episode series originally ran on ABC from December 15th, 1983 to April 2nd, 1984. It starred Desi Arnaz, Jr. (The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy) in the series’ lead role of Walter Nebicher. Nebicher was an IT professional with dreams of being more than just a tech man for his local police department. Though, his superiors have other ideas. So he creates the artificial intelligence program Automan (Chuck Wagner—General Hospital, All My Children) to help fight crime in his city. Automan is accompanied by a small, floating droid named Cursor much as Clu did in Disney’s surprise hit 1982 movie Tron. Speaking of the similarities between Automan and Tron they are not coincidental. Automan was co-produced by Donald Kushner (Tron, Tron: Legacy).

Automan: The Complete Series will be accompanied by a handful of extras for even more enjoyment including a forty-two-minute documentary titled: “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature,” which includes interviews with series stars Chuck Wagner, Glen A. Larson, Desi Arnaz, Jr., and heather McNair. There will also be a feature focusing on “The Story of Automan,” a trailer for Manimal: The Complete Series, which will be released alongside Automan: The Complete Series by Shout! Factory and Fabulous Films, a number of picture galleries and more. The complete list of bonus features included in Automan: The Complete Series is noted below.

Special Features:

  • “Calling Automan” – The Auto Feature – 42 minutes

An all-new documentary featuring interviews with Chuck Wagner, Glen A. Larson, Desi Arnaz Jr. and Heather McNair

  • The Story of Automan
  • Feature Story
  • Original Cast and Crew Biographies
  • Collectables Gallery
  • Stills Gallery
  • Manimal Trailer

Automan: The Complete Series will be available on DVD in stores and online on Tuesday, November 10th. It will retail for MSRP of $26.99 but can be pre-ordered for a discounted price of $21.99 via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/tv-sci-fi/automan-the-complete-series. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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.

Lenny Kravitz Teams Up With Eagle Rock Entertainment For New Live Recording

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Forget that song from Disney’s megahit movie Frozen. This fall, veteran rocker Lenny Kravitz will release his latest live recording Just Let Go.

Just Let Go will be released Friday, October 23rd via Eagle Rock Entertainment. It will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital formats. The twelve-song recording features a collection of performances was recorded throughout Fall of 2014 during the European leg of Kravitz’s world tour. The tour was in support of his latest full-length studio recording Strut. It was released September 23rd, 2014 via Roxie Records/Kobalt Label Services.

Just Let Go includes some of his biggest hits and some lesser known pieces including: ‘Fly Away,’ ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way,’ ‘It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over,’ ‘Let Love Rule,’ and his cover of The Guess Who’s hit song ‘American Woman’ among others. The complete song listing for the recording is noted below.

The tracklisting for ‘Just Let Go’:

1) Fly Away

2) Dirty White Boots

3) American Woman

4) Dancin’ ‘Til Dawn

5) Strut

6) It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

7) New York City

8) The Chamber

9) Sister

10) Dig In

11) Let Love Rule

12) Are You Gonna Go My Way

Along with performances by Kravitz and his band mates, there is also behind-the-scenes footage included in the presentation, interviews, and soundcheck footage. Eagle Rock Entertainment has also included as bonuses for Kravitz’s fans live takes of ‘Sister,’ ‘Always on the Run,’ ‘Sex,’ ‘I Belong To You,’ ‘New York City,’ and ‘Let Love Rule.’ In discussing the upcoming recording, Kravitz noted that it gives fans a good look at his relationship with his band mates and the effect of touring on their lives both as individuals and as a traveling family of sorts. “I am a solo artist but Just Let Go reflects on the relationship with my band and the camaraderie that develops between us while out on the road,” he said. “The film takes a deeper look into what it’s like to be on tour and also gives an intimate perspective into my life with my band, both on and off the stage.”

Just Let Go will be available in stores and online on Friday, October 23rd. It will be available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats. Pricing information on each platform will be announced as its release date nears.  Audiences can check out a trailer for the upcoming release via Youtube now at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjeNHfoNX1Y&feature=youtu.be. More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

 

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.