Overkill Proves It Can Still “Wreck” It With Its New Live Recording

Courtesy: Nuclear Blast Records

Late this past May, veteran thrash metal band Overkill unleashed its latest live recording, Live in Overhausen, to the masses.  The recording, presented in a Blu-ray/CD combo pack platform, is not the band’s first live recording by any means.  In fact, it is the New Jersey-based band’s fourth live recording.  Wrecking EverythingAn Evening in Asbury Park was released separately on CD and on DVD in 2002 while the band’s first ever live recording Wrecking Your Neck was released in 1995.  Live at Wacken Open Air 2007 would go on to be released in 2008.  Now, audiences have this latest live offering from the band, and it proves to be another positive addition to the band’s live catalog.  That is proven in large part through the recording’s set list, which will be addressed shortly.  The

recording’s audio mix is somewhat problematic, sadly.  This cannot be ignored.  Luckily, as problematic as they are, they are not enough to make the recording completely unwatchable.  This will be discussed a little bit later.  Keeping that in mind, it is the recording’s only negative.  The band’s performance of the extensive set list rounds out its most important elements.  Each element is critical in its own way to the overall presentation of Live in Overhausen.  All things considered, they make this recording another welcome addition to any Overkill fan’s music library even despite the audio issues.

Overkill’s latest live recording Live in Overhausen, released just this past May, is not the veteran New Jersey-based thrash metal outfit’s first-ever live recording.  It is however, unarguably, a welcome addition to the music library of any of the band’s fans.  That is due in no small part to the recording’s set list.  The set list presents the band performing not one, but two of its classic albums – Feel The Fire, its debut 1985 record, and 1991’s Horrorscope – in their entirety.  This is not the first time that any band has used a live performance to present a studio album in whole, and not the first time this year, either.  However, getting two albums in their entirety takes things up another notch.  What makes this so important is that in a weird way, it actually saves audiences who might not already own those two classic Overkill albums the time and strain of trying to find those albums, and instead not only presents them here, but in a live setting.  It’s really a way of sweetening the proverbial pot so to speak while presenting two key moments in the band’s life.  It’s a more than 110-minute experience that audiences across the board will enjoy if only for the set list.  Staying on the matter of the set list, audiences will note that the recording’s CD presentation comes sans the interview segments included in the Blu-ray presentation.  That might not necessarily be a bad thing because those segments included in the recording’s Blu-ray presentation present the recording’s one negative, its audio.

As the concert progresses on its course on the Blu-ray presentation, the audio finds itself constantly rising and falling throughout.  In other words, audiences will find themselves holding their remotes in hand, finger (or thumb) on the volume button ready to adjust the volume.  This is the same issues that so negatively affected Styx front man Tommy Shaw’s latest live recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment, too.  It really serves to show that while audio mixes are so often overlooked in the importance of live recording’s they are far more important than one might think.  Getting back on track, considering that audiences get the same set list on the recording’s 2CD presentation as on the Blu-ray presentation of Overkill’s, one can’t help but wonder why if the audio on the recording’s CD was so well-balanced, such attention was not paid to the audio’s balance on the audio-visual presentation that included the interview segments.  Again, while definitely an annoyance in the viewing experience, it is not such that it makes the recording unwatchable.  Of course, hopefully those behind the recording’s production – both on site and in the post production process – will take into account this element for the band’s next live recording.  The interviews are positive additions to the recording, but because their volume is at a different level from the main feature, maybe they would have been better served as bonus material.  Again, it’s something for future consideration.  Keeping this in mind, the variations in the recording’s audio, while not debilitating for the recording, it does not make the recording unwatchable.  To that end, the recording still has one more positive to note.  That last positive is the band’s performance of its extensive set list.

Overkill has been making music and entertaining audiences around the world for nearly 40 years.  That’s a long time for any band.  Yet for as many years as this high-intensity act has been at it, a performance such as this shows that the band has no plans to slow down any time soon.  Front man Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth commands the stage with the same power as any of his younger counterparts throughout the show.  This is especially evident early on between ‘Blood Money’ and ‘Thanx For Nothin’’as he tells the crowd, “I’m in f****** charge tonight because I say so!”  That’s a pretty telling statement about his own presence.  That energy is just as high throughout the rest of the show, too.  Simply put, even as old as Ellsworth is, his presence is that of a much younger man, in turn making for plenty of entertainment.  His band mates – guitarists Dave Linsk and Derek Taylor — shred their way through ‘Live Young, Die Free,’ ‘There’s No Tomorrow,’ ‘Hammerhead’ and the rest of the recording’s extensive 21-song set.  Meanwhile, bassist D.D. Verni and drummer Jason Bittner solidly hold each song’s rhythm and time together, putting the finishing touch to each performance.  Overall, what audiences get in the band’s performance from start to end is a high-energy performance that rivals anything that the band’s younger counterparts put on today, proving that the veteran thrash outfit still has plenty in the tank.  With any luck it still will for at least the foreseeable future, as the world needs bands such as Overkill, who can continue to put on such engaging and entertaining performances.  When the power noted here in the band’s performance is coupled with the extensive two-album, 21-song set, they give audiences more than enough reason for fans to add this recording to their music libraries.  That is even with the issues raised by the audio variances between the concert and interview segments.

Overkill’s new live recording Live in Overhausen is a welcome addition to the home music library of any Overkill fan.  That is due in no small part to a two-album, 21-song set list that takes audiences back to the band’s early days in its debut album and another key moment in its 1991 album Horrorscope.  The band’s performance of those two album in this setting presents Overkill as a band that still has plenty left in the proverbial tank; a band that can rival any of its current younger metal counterparts on the stage.  While both elements do plenty to the positive for the recording, one still can’t ignore the audio issue in the interview segments and main concert feature.  The lack of balance there is problematic, but still not enough to make it unwatchable.  Hopefully this will be taken into account in the band’s future live recordings so that it doesn’t become an issue again. To that end, the positive overall effect of the recording’s set and the band’s performance thereof makes this recording a presentation that while not perfect, is still a welcome addition to any Overkill fan’s music library.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Live in Overhausen is available online now along with all of Overkill’s latest news and more at:




Website: http://www.wreckingcrew.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/OverkillBand




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Shout! Factory To Re-Issue ‘Saved By The Bell’ This Fall

Courtesy: NBC/Shout! Factory

It’s time to go back to Bayside!

For the first time in almost five years, NBC’s classic Saturday morning series Saved By The Bell is getting a full-series set on DVD, and it’s all thanks to Shout! Factory.  Saved by the BellThe Complete Collection is scheduled to be released Oct. 2, and for true devotees of the timeless series, this set gets right what the show’s previous series offerings have gotten wrong.

Whereas previous sets — including the most recent from Lionsgate — omitted the college years, this set includes those episodes and the previously omitted “Good Morning, Miss Bliss.”  The full, 86-episode series run spans 2,790 minutes across 16 discs and even includes the rare Saved by the Bell movies as an added bonus. They were previously omitted from the series’ most recent release.

Pre-orders are open now for the set at Amazon.  More information on Saved by the BellThe Complete Collecion and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:


Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory


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Styx Fans Will “Sing” The Praises Of Shaw’s New Live Recording, Despite Its Audio Issues

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Almost 50 years ago, the British hard rock band Deep Purple broke new ground for the rock industry when it partnered with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the band’s now landmark Concerto for Group and Orchestra recording.  In the near half-century that has passed since that groundbreaking performance and recording, rock bands performing with professional orchestral groups has become an increasingly commonplace occurrence.  Other great names such as Eric Clapton, Yes, Metallica, KISS and others have since gone on to perform with such groups in a live setting.  Styx is one of the most recent of those others, having performed live in 2006 with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra for its live recording, One With Everything.  In 2016, Styx vocalist Tommy Shaw returned to Ohio to mark the 10th anniversary of that performance with a new performance with the same group (made up by then of a new group of young musicians).  That performance with the high school orchestra and chorus was released June 29 of this year through Eagle Rock Entertainment in the form of the new recording Sing for the Day.  Released separately on Blu-ray and CD, the recording is a positive offering despite having one notable problem – its audio.  This problem will be discussed a little later.  That’s because it also boasts its share of positives, beginning with its set list, which will be discussed shortly.  The group’s performance is another of the recording’s most notable positives.  When it is coupled with the set list, the two positives prove the recording to be one that Styx fans will still welcome in their home music libraries.

Styx vocalist Tommy Shaw’s new live recording Sing For The Day is a recording that any Styx fan will welcome in his or her music library.  That is due in part through the recording’s set list.  Composed of 13 songs (and 4 bonus audio tracks), the set list takes audiences through Shaw’s career including his work with Styx, his solo work and even his time as a member of Damn Yankees.  Counting the bonus audio tracks – included only in the recording’s Blu-ray presentation – the set list focuses largely on Shaw’s work with Styx, with eight total Styx songs presented in the set.  Shaw’s solo work is represented with four songs.  That’s including the bonus audio tracks.  The Damn Yankees tracks come in at a count of just two songs while Shaw’s classic tracks with fellow Damn Yankees member Jack Blades sits at the same number.  In all, the set list totals 14 songs and lifts from some of the most notable of Shaw’s works.  In other words, it paints a relatively rich picture of Shaw’s career, which his most devout fans are certain to appreciate.  Something that audiences will really appreciate in taking in the set (at least the audio-visual portion) is that each song is noted specifically on screen with what is known as a “super” to distinctly present each song’s title.  It makes following the show that much easier and more enjoyable.  The performance of those songs is coupled with short interview segments at certain points throughout the concert to add their own interest and insight to the overall experience, thus making the experience that much more enjoyable.  However, they also lead to the discussion of the recording’s one glaring negative – its audio.

As the interview segments and concert segments go back and forth throughout the presentation, the audio level consistently rises and falls between the two elements.  The result is that audiences are forced to constantly adjust the volume on their TVs.  This applies even for audiences watching on home theater systems, but should not be a factor.  It’s a rare instance in which an Eagle Rock recording has suffered from an audio issue.  Even within the concert segments themselves, there are moments in which audiences will find themselves having to make minor, yet constant, adjustments to the volume.  While it doesn’t make the recording in whole unwatchable, it can’t be denied that this issue does detract from the overall viewing experience in this instance.  Again, while it is an undeniable problem for the recording, it is not so bad that it makes the recording unwatchable.  Keeping that in mind, there is at least one more positive to discuss here – the group’s overall performance.

The energy in the group’s performance, which is addressed in one of the concert’s companion interview segments, is evident throughout the concert both from Shaw and his teen counterparts.  That applies both as the kids play and as they add visuals to songs such as ‘Boat on the River’ and ‘Renegade.’  The smiles on the young musicians’ faces, and the power in each song shows that the group in whole truly enjoyed taking part in the performance.  Even with the recording’s audio issues, that enjoyment could be heard just as well as it could be seen.  It translates that well overall on screen from the highest moments, such as at the end of ‘Renegade,’ when Shaw is joined on stage by a young violin soloist for a riveting conclusion to that song and in a more emotional moment such as the whole of ‘Boat on the River.’  Between those notable moments and so many others throughout this concert, the performance put in by the group in whole offers just as much to appreciate as the show’s rich set list.  When those two elements are coupled, they make the recording in whole well worth the watch, even with the constant up and down of the audio between the concert and interview segments.  Keeping this in mind, the recording in whole still proves to be another welcome addition to any Styx fan’s home music library.

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new Styx/Tommy Shaw live recording Sing for the Day is a live recording that any Styx fan will appreciate.  That is proven in part through a set list that reaches deep into vocalist Tommy Shaw’s rich career, including his time with Styx, Damn Yankees and even his solo work.  Counting the four bonus audio-only tracks, the recording’s total set list equals out to 14 songs from that rich catalog.  Shaw’s performance with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra is one that is full of energy and emotion from start to end.  That energy and emotion is certain to keep audiences just as engaged as the concert’s set list.  The one negative to the whole thing is the constant up and down of the volume between the concert and interview segments.  Audiences should not have to have remote in hand so as to constantly increase and decrease the volume throughout the recording.  It isn’t enough to make the recording unwatchable, but does detract from the recording’s overall presentation.  Even with that in mind, the combination of the group’s performance and the show’s set list is still just enough to make the recording a welcome addition to any Styx fan’s home music library.  It is available now on separate Blu-ray and CD platforms.  More information on Sing for the Day is available online now along with all of the latest Styx and Tommy Shaw news at:




Website: http://www.styxworld.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/STYXtheband




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‘Jasper Jones’ Is One Of This Year’s Best Foreign Imports

Courtesy: Film Movement/Screen Australia

Murder mysteries and coming of age tales are among the most overly common story plots used today in literature and cinema.  From the U.S. to the U.K. to points around and between, both plots – both alone and combined – they seem to be among the most popular story types among viewers and readers alike.  Yet it seems in so many cases that between the genres, that there is little variance from one story to the next.  Luckily though, every now and then, a little variance does happen along.  Enter the Australian import Jasper Jones.  Originally released in Australia on March 2, 2017, this powerfully moving human drama made its domestic debut this past April courtesy of the independent movie studio Film Movement.  Billed as “Australia’s Stand By Me,” this deeply engrossing story can also be likened in part to To Kill A Mockingbird.  That is evident in the movie’s writing, which forms the foundation of the movie’s presentation.  It will be discussed shortly.  The cast’s on-screen work adds to the movie’s presentation, too and will keep viewers just as engaged as the movie’s central story.  It will be discussed a little later.  The bonus cast interviews put the final touch to the movie’s home presentation.  It will also be discussed later.  Each element is critical in its own way to the whole of this story.  All things considered, they make Jasper Jones a movie that fans of murder mysteries and coming-of-age flicks alike will appreciate from its home country all the way to America and points in-between.

Film Movement and Screen Australia’s gripping human drama Jasper Jones is a powerful cinematic work that crime drama and coming-of-age fans around the globe will appreciate.  That includes American audiences who maybe are looking for something different from the constant run-of-the-mill gory crime dramas that so permeate television and theaters here in this country.  That is due in no small part to its story.  Unlike so many American movies and television crime dramas, this story relies solely on writing instead of blood and gore (which is what it seems so many American crime dramas rely on today) to keep viewers engaged.  Here, audiences find a young boy named Charlie who…well…comes of age after being pulled into the mystery of a young girl’s death by a young man who the whole town dislikes.  The townspeople dislike Jasper, it would seem, purely out of some personal bias.  That bias comes into play later when the family of Charlie’s friend Jeffrey Lu is harassed by white members of the community in retaliation for Jeffrey helping his cricket team win a match.  That’s getting off topic.  Getting back on topic, Charlie is forced to keep secret what Jasper has revealed to him as the pair tries to figure out who killed the girl.  It just so happens that the girl is the sister of Charlie’s love interest, Eliza (played here by Angourie Rice – Spiderman: Homecoming, The Nice Guys, The Beguiled).  This complicates things even more until Eliza herself reveals a troubling truth about her sister’s death that puts everything on its ear, especially after the revelation of the red herring.  What’s interesting about the red herring (who won’t be revealed here) is that the inclusion of the character in question, is where the comparison to Harper Collins’ great novel To Kill A Mockingbird comes into play.  The character and its inclusion can so easily be likened to the use of Boo Radley in the novel in question.  While all of this is going on, Charlie (who honestly, in this critic’s view looks like Joshua Jackson from his time in Disney’s Mighty Ducks franchise when he was around that age) also has to deal with family issues at home.  His parents are constantly fighting, his mother is cheating on his dad (played by Dan Wyllie – The Hunter, No Activity, Muriel’s Wedding), and he is just trying to navigate it all.  One can’t deny that at times, the balance between this element and the main story does cause the movie to get bogged down in itself a little bit, but thankfully it’s not so much that it makes the movie unwatchable.  Rather, it could have perhaps been a little bit better balanced as it seems at times to bounce back and forth as part of the overall story.  Either way, this plot element and the story’s main plot still work well enough together to keep audiences engaged throughout the course of the roughly 103-minute (1-hour, 43-minute) movie.  Of course when it’s all said and done, audiences will also agree that the story overall is so powerful that one absolutely must be in a certain mindset in order to appreciate the movie’s emotional depth.  It’s not one of those stories that one can just turn on any time.  It really demands that much and that kind of emotional attention and connection in order to fully appreciate it’s depth.  Keeping that in mind, the movie’s story is a key piece of its presentation that forms a strong foundation for its presentation.  That foundation is strengthened even more through the cast’s on-camera work.

The cast’s work on camera throughout this story is so critical to note because of the story’s emotional depth.  It is not an easy story to take in, being so deep.  That being the case, it was key for the cast to do its utmost to help illustrate that emotional depth.  Each cast member did just that, beginning with lead star Levi Miller, who plays Charlie.  Miller, who is a relative newcomer to the movie industry according to IMDB (it lists no film or TV credits to his name) is to be commended for his handling of Charlie as Charlie has to come to terms with everything going on in his life.  One of the moments in which he shows he deserves such credit is the subtle moment early on when Jeffrey (Kevin Long – another relative newcomer to the business — is asking Charlie a bunch of “would you rather” questions on the pair’s ride to school.  Charlie is clearly lost in his thoughts of what Jasper revealed to him, and it would have been so easy for Miller to go over the top in his handling of Charlie’s mentality at the moment.  Instead though, he made Charlie’s mindset fully believable as someone who has really got too much for someone of such age on his mind.  Miller’s handling of Charlie as he continues to struggle to tell Eliza what he discovered of her sister is another good example of what makes his work so endearing.  Again, it would have been so easy for him to ham up those dramatic moments, yet his subtle acting in those moments added to the story’s tension.  Even how he handled his growing frustration toward his mother, Ruth (Toni Collette – Little Miss Sunshine, The Sixth Sense, Muriel’s Wedding) shows so much talent for such a young actor.

Miller’s performance throughout the story here is definitely worthy of applause.  His isn’t the only applause-worthy performance, though.  Collette’s work as Ruth Bucktin, Charlie’s mom, cannot and should not be overlooked.  As Collette noted in the movie’s bonus interviews (the interviews will be discussed a little later), Ruth is in a place in this story in which she is trying to make sense of her life.  The thing is, Ruth trying to make sense of her life makes it so easy for viewers to hate Ruth.  From over reacting to the local death mystery (including forcing her son to do unnecessary back-breaking manual labor, which likely would have gotten her arrested today) to her cheating ways, Ruth is just a completely troubled character who has got a lot of problems.  There is just no defending her, which it would seem is what the story was aiming for.  It helped to illustrate the emotional strife that Charlie was going through and having to navigate as he also dealt with the knowledge of the girl’s death.  So kudos goes to Mrs. Collette for her portrayal of Ruth.  She really proves to be one of this story’s unsung stars.  Hers is still not the last of the notable performances included in this movie.  Aaron L. McGrath (The Code, Around The Block, Ready For This) who plays the movie’s title character, deserves his own share of attention, too.

Considering that the movie is named after Jasper, but it is never explained why everyone instantly assumes he’s responsible for the disappearance of Eliza’s sister or why he appears so little on camera, McGrath does a good job of adding his own tension to the story when he is on camera.  His best moment comes as he confronts Mad Jack and is forced to face a certain dark reality that will surprise everyone.  The way in which McGrath presents Jasper’s mix of pained emotion as he points the rifle at Mad Jack makes one really feel for Jasper.  That’s because it shows how much Jasper really cared about Eliza’s sister.  This is another one of those moments in which an actor could so easily go way too far over the top, yet McGrath didn’t.  Rather, he handled the moment expertly, pulling audiences in and holding them through the whole sequence.  It’s just one more way in which the cast’s on-camera work here is so critical to the movie’s presentation.  Each of the other cast members could just as easily be cited here, but there’s not enough time or space to pay each one the time they deserve.  Keeping that in mind, the cast’s work, as shown here, couples with the story’s writing to do plenty to keep audiences completely engaged in the story from start to end.  It still is not the last element to note in examining the movie’s whole.  The bonus cast interviews included in the movie’s home release are also of note.

Miller’s sit-down is one of the more notable of the cast interviews.  His discussion on Charlie’s relationship with his parents shows the seriousness of that element of Charlie’s personal growth.  The same can be said of his understanding of Charlie’s own growth from the beginning of the story to the end.  His appreciation for author Craig Silvey (who wrote the book on which Jasper Jones is based) shows just as much his maturity in handling his on-screen responsibilities.  One must remember in taking in these and other discussions brought up during his interview, that this is a young man who apparently had little to no screen credits coming into his role.  So to hear such frank and mature discussion shows this young man is certain to have a solid acting career if given the chance.  Director Rachel Perkins’ discussion on balancing the movie’s dark and light elements shows a real focus on that key detail.  It’s refreshing to hear such serious attention so as to not let the movie be too depressing.  Her discussions on the cast, and what made each cast member the right choice adds even more appreciation for each cast member’s work, speaking again of the cast’s work.  Her discussion on the movie’s reach and accessibility is jus as enlightening because she shows she understands the importance of properly adapting a literary work to the cinematic world.  She notes that Craig Silvey approved the script’s final draft, which clearly lifted a great burden from her.  It’s a fun, yet clearly appreciative moment that shows how serious she took getting the adaptation right.  The discussion on how the movie addresses race relations at the time at that part of the country is enlightening in its own right.  Between these discussions and others that she shares, Perkins’ discussions show yet again the importance of the movie’s bonus interviews.  They really add their own strength to the overall foundation of the movie’s presentation.  That is shown through the other noted interviews and those not directly noted.  When all of the interviews are considered along with the movie’s story and the cast’s work throughout, the end result is a work that drama fans – not just crime drama fans – the world over will appreciate.

Jasper Jones might not be one of the best-known human/crime dramas to be released in recent years.  Yet, it is a human/crime drama that clearly deserves more attention than it has already gotten.  That is because it has so much to offer fans of both genres beginning with its gripping story.  The story follows its young protagonist as he has to navigate the waters of keeping a dark secret while also dealing with what is a difficult home life.  Yes, it does get a little bogged down at time, but not to the point that it makes one want to skip through any scenes.  That’s a tribute to those charged with adapting the original literary work to the screen.  The cast’s work adds to the story, giving audiences just as much to appreciate, as has been noted.  The bonus interviews included in the movie’s home release strengthen the movie’s foundation even more, and in turn, show once more the importance of bonus material to any movie, domestic or otherwise.  When all three elements are jointly considered, they present Jasper Jones as one of this year’s best unknown foreign import flicks.  It is available now.  More information on this and other titles from Film Movement is available online now at:




Website: http://www.filmmovement.com

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/Film_Movement




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Viewers Of All Ages Will Enjoy “Diving” Into PBS Kids’ Debut ‘Nature Cat’ DVD

Courtesy: PBS Distribution/PBS/PBS Kids

PBS Kids’ animated series Nature Cat is one of the network’s newest shows with now just two seasons under its belt.  The series’ second season officially wraps in just two weeks on July 16 with the show’s new “movie” The Return of Bad Dog Bart.  In the short time that the series has been on the air, it has also quickly become quite popular among audiences.  It’s become so popular, in fact, that early last month (June 5 to be exact), it saw the release of its debut DVD, Onward & Pondward.  The DVD’s title is a toss of the hat to Nature Cat’s catch phrase — “Onward and yonward!” – and also hints at the DVD’s central theme, that of all things water.  That theme and the connection of said theme to the DVD’s seven (technically six episodes, as the final episode is a two-part episode) forms the foundation of the DVD’s presentation.  The lessons tied into the stories are collectively just as important to discuss as the stories, and will be discussed a little later.  The disc’s pricing rounds out its most important elements.  Each element plays into this debut DVD offering from Nature Cat in its own way.  All things considered, they make Onward & Pondward a fully successful first effort and hopefully just the series’ first collection.

Onward & Pondward, the debut DVD offering from PBS Kids’ hit animated series Nature Cat is a fully successful first collection of episodes from said show.  Hopefully it is just the series’ first episode compilation, too.  The stories featured in this collection are, collectively, a big part of the DVD’s success.  By and large, the episodes – all of which are lifted from the series’ first season — follow the DVD’s water-themed title with each tale taking Nature Cat and his friends Hal the dog, Squeaks the mouse and Daisy the bunny on new, unique adventures each time.  “Welcome to Vernal Pond’ takes Nature Cat and company to a pond that appears every spring and is gone by fall.  In that span of time, dozens of creatures use the seasonal pond to spawn, including salamanders, toads and even fairy shrimp of all things.  “Puddle Pool Party” takes the group to a special pool party, only to find out that it can only happen under a certain circumstance – a circumstance that leads to an easily accessible lesson about the water cycle, which will be discussed later.  “Stream and Shout” takes Nature Cat and his friends on a journey to find where streams start and end (making for another easily accessible lesson) while “Swamp Thing” is a fun story that families will enjoy especially on Halloween while also learning yet another key lesson.  “There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills” finds the group panning for gold in a stream (again, the water link is there, although it’s slightly lesser than the other episodes).  “Earth Day Today” links the water theme as the group tries to retrieve a water bottle floating in a river.  Again, it is a loose connection, but a connection nonetheless.  That episode’s companion, “Earth Day Every Day” doesn’t touch on the water theme, but being that it is part of the overall Earth Day episode, it gets the pass.  Keeping that in mind, it’s good to see here that the episodes in general follow that noted central theme while also making their lessons just as original and accessible.  It creates a solid foundation for the DVD’s presentation.  The lessons tied into the stories strengthen that foundation even more.

As noted already, the stories included in this DVD present lessons that are both accessible for young viewers and are original from one to the next.  The term “original” means here that they don’t repeat from one episode to the next.  Case in point, the lesson presented in the DVD’s opening episode, “Welcome To Vernal Pond.”  This episode is essentially a story that teaches a basic biology lesson about ecosystems.  The very use of the seasonal pond in itself explains that ecosystems can exist seasonally.  On the slightly deeper level, it teaches about the animals that live within the given ecosystem.  In the case of the vernal pond, the seasonal pond was used by toads, ducks, salamanders and even fairy shrimp.  The shrimp themselves are good to note in that most adults (this critic included) probably have never heard of them.  Apparently they do in fact live in vernal ponds, and are even eaten by birds (in this case, likely ducks).  So to that end, including these tiny creatures might catch older viewers’ interest just as much as younger viewers and could, in turn, lead to family research.  In other words, it could be a catalyst for family learning and by connection, family togetherness.  Considering this, having such a seemingly simple lesson that clearly has a farther reach shows quite clearly the importance of the stories’ lessons.  It is just one way in which the lessons prove so important.  “Puddle Pool Party” presents an accessible lesson about the water cycle through the use of Squeaks’ attempt to have a pool party.  When it’s found that the puddle she saw was gone, this leads to the discussion about evaporation and condensation, and how the two are key parts of that cycle.  It’s a great and easily accessible lesson that is sure to stick with the series’ young viewers thanks to fun and easy way in which it is explained.  The geology lesson presented in “There’s Gold In Them Thar Hills” – one has got to love how the show’s writers used that old-time phrase for the episode’s title – centers on Squeaks’ discovery of gold in a stream.  This leads everyone to return to the stream to pan for even more gold.  At first, they find what’s known as “fool’s gold,” and determine it to be so because of certain classifications.  Those classifications are in fact the lesson.  They tell the difference between real and false gold.  Of course, it leads to the fun story that finds Nature Cat having to get the gold back from Ronald in the process.  Yes, it has a happy ending.  But again, the originality and accessibility of the lesson presented here shows yet again the importance of the stories’ lessons.  The lesson about waterways presented in “Stream & Shout,” the lesson centered on swamp life in “Swamp Thing” and the equally key lesson about ecology in the two-part Earth Day episode each show in their own ways, too, the importance of the stories’ lesson.  They cannot be ignored in discussing that importance.  When they are considered along with the lessons more directly noted here, the whole of the lessons proves without doubt the importance overall of the lessons tied into each episode’s story.  When the stories and lessons are joined together, they make for plenty of reason for elementary educators and families alike to own this DVD.  Of course they still are not the DVD’s only positives.  Its relatively affordable average price point also proves to be a positive.

Using the nation’s four major retailers – Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Amazon – alongside PBS’ own pricing, the average price point of Nature Cat: Onward & Pondward proves to be approximately $9.70.  That makes the unit price approximately $1.39 per episode.  Given, that’s a little more expensive than the cost of PBS Kids’ recently released Dinosaur Train DVD, Meeting New Friends, but is still relatively affordable at under $10 overall.  The noted unit price for one episode is less than the cost of a single-night DVD rental from Redbox, by comparison.  That shows how affordable this DVD is in the bigger picture.  As if that isn’t enough positive, buying this DVD also supports PBS.  That is more than enough reason for any family that values education and entertainment to own this DVD.  When all of this is considered along with the lessons, which are clearly valuable for a young person’s education (and entertainment), and the entertaining stories themselves, the whole of the elements makes Onward & Pondward a DVD into which any family will want to dive.  Yes, that terrible pun was fully intended.

Onward & Pondward is a wonderful first home offering from PBS Kids’ animated series Nature Cat.  It is an offering that audiences familiar and not so familiar with the show will all enjoy.  That is proven in part through seven stories that stand out from one another in their originality and that entertain audiences of all ages in the process.  The lessons tied into the episodes are just as engaging as the fun, family-friendly stories.  They strengthen the foundation of the DVD’s presentation even more.  The DVD’s relatively affordable average price point puts the finishing touch to the collection.  Given, even when tax is added, the price point does top $10, but only barely.  To that point, seven episodes at only $1.39 per episode is affordable.  This cannot be denied.  When this is considered along with the entertainment and education offered through the disc’s 88-minute run time, one can’t deny that this first home Nature Cat release is a successful debut DVD from the series.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store.  More information on Onward & Pondward is available online now along with plenty of Nature Cat activities, games, printables and more at:




Website: http://pbskids.org/naturecat

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




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‘National Parks Adventure’ Is A Powerful, Moving Cinematic Adventure

Courtesy: Shout! Factory.MacGillivray Freeman Films

The United States today has roughly 400 national parks spread from one end of the country to the other.  That includes parks not only in the lower 48 states, but in Alaksa and Hawaii, too.  They are among America’s greatest collective natural treasures.  Sadly though, many of America’s parks are at risk thanks to the nation’s current ruling body.  They need to be protected.  That message is driven home in stunning fashion in MacGillivray Freeman Films’ new national parks doc National Parks Adventure.  Scheduled to be released July 17 via Shout! Factory, this powerful 43-minute presentation effectively drives home that message, too.  That is done in part through the story at the center of the doc.  It will be discussed shortly.  The doc’s cinematography adds to its impact even more, and will be discussed a little later.  Its bonus material puts the finishing touch to its presentation.  Each element is important in its own way to the whole of its presentation.  When these elements are coupled with the doc’s packaging and pricing, the whole of these elements makes the program in whole a strong, important reminder of why America’s national parks are great getaways and in turn, why they must be protected from those who would set out to let them be destroyed.

MacGillivray Freeman Films’ new documentary National Parks Adventure is a beautiful, loving tribute to America’s national parks system.  It is a strong reminder of why the parks system must be protected and preserved from the forces that set out to let any harm come to them, such as those in office today.  That message is presented so strongly in part through the story at the doc’s center.  The story follows a trio of adventurers who make their way from the redwood forests of California up to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, climbing and exploring various parks along the way.  Viewers get to see for themselves along the way, the beauty of some of the nation’s greatest national wonders.  The only downside to the story is the fact that for the mention of the parks that span the nation, the trio’s adventure spanks only half (if that much) of the country.  To that end, maybe there will be a “sequel” of sorts that will take the trio (or another trio) across the other half of the country on to the East coast.  After all, audiences get a glimpse into Everglades National Park, so it would make sense to give a little more thorough look at that and other parks on the East coast.  That aside, the journey that is undertaken here is still one that is certain to keep viewers engaged, regardless if only for the journey.  Of course, the journey at the center of the doc is only one part of what makes the doc engaging.  Its cinematography is really the program’s cornerstone.

National Parks Adventure’s cinematography is stunning to say the absolute least.  Shot entirely on 15perf 65mm 3D cameras, the parks presented in their full beauty from the ground and the air.  The redwood forests’ full presentation is moving, especially as the program takes viewers back in time to the creation of the national parks system by President Roosevelt.  The national parks of the southwest present some of the most awe-inspiring visuals of the program.  The rich contrast of the sun and shade against the rocks in various shots will leave viewers saying wow.  This applies just as much as the trio rides its bikes down the sheer cliffs of one of the parks on their journey.  The shots of the ice cave in Michigan is itself strong in its visuals.  Maybe it’s the way the light hits the ice and snow that hangs from the cave’s surface.  Maybe it’s just the protruding structures themselves.  Maybe it’s all of that combined.  Either way, it is another memorable moment that again clearly displays the expert talent of those behind the cameras.  One can only imagine what these (and the program’s other various stunning shots) must have looked like on a full IMAX screen if one was not lucky enough to catch the program on said screen.  Considering how rich the visuals are on the small screen (of course small is relative, since screens can reach upwards of 60-inches — if not more today) they must have looked so much more enthralling on an IMAX screen.  When the depth that the cinematography is considered along with the very importance of this program’s story, the two elements obviously give the program quite the depth overall, and in turn gives audiences reason to watch this doc at least once.  Even as much as the noted elements do to the positive for National Parks Adventure, they are not its only key elements.  The bonus material plays into the doc’s presentation, too

The bonus material included with the program’s home release includes separated “making of” featurette segments that focus on different shooting locations as well as commentary on the making of from those behind the camera.  Audiences learn through the “making of” segments that filming the Michigan shoot happened actually because a shoot at another location did not play out how the crew and director had wanted, and that things only got more difficult with that shoot.  Not to give away too much, but that difficulty included technical issues raised by the weather.  Viewers also learn that the crew filmed far more parks than were shown.  In all, it’s revealed, that the crew filmed at 25 of the nation’s national parks.  So obviously not all of the footage was used.  It’s too bad that none of the unused footage was included as deleted scenes.  It would have been interesting to see some of that footage.  The bonus interviews included with the bonuses includes a brief interview with narrator and veteran actor Robert Redford.  Yes, that Robert Redford.  He states outright during his interview that “national parks are extremely important to protect and preserve.”  He explains his love for the parks and for mother nature in general started when he was 11, after he survived polio and that “there is something almost spiritual in the power of the parks.”  That in itself makes for its own share of interest.  As if that devotion to this program (and to nature) isn’t enough for audiences, director Greg MacGillivray himself seconds Redford’s thoughts in his own words.  Those statements give firm certainty as to the purpose of this program.  It was made as a means to call attention to the importance of protecting the parks so that future generations will be able to appreciate them.  Considering this, and the depth added to the program through the bonus making of featurettes, the appreciation will be not only for the parks, but for the work put into making a program aimed at calling people to want to protect the parks, too.  That being the case, it will leave audiences agreeing that this doc in whole is a successful call to action as well as a tribute to some of America’s greatest natural wonders, especially when the bonus material is considered alongside the program’s main story and its cinematography.

National Parks Adventure is not the first program of its kind, aimed at bringing attention to a certain issue while also trying to entertain audiences.  Even despite this, it success at doing both without letting that awareness factor overpower the entertainment.  This is proven in part through the story, which follows three people making their way through some of America’s national parks.  The cinematography used in each park does plenty to make that journey engaging and entertaining.  The bonus material adds its own depth to the program especially through the bonus commentary.  That’s because that commentary certifies that this program is in fact an activist doc of sorts.  Even with this revelation, audiences will note that it doesn’t overpower the program’s entertaining elements.  That balance of awareness and entertainment makes the program in whole an adventure that audiences will definitely enjoy.  It will be available July 24 and can be pre-ordered online via Shout! Factory’s online store.  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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Rolling Stones Fans Will Feel “Secure” In Buying The Rolling Stones’ Latest Live Recording

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Eagle Rock Entertainment has pulled another classic archived Rolling Stones concert from the vaults.  This latest live recording from what is one of the music industry’s greatest acts (not just one of rock’s greatest names) –  From The Vault: No Security San Jose 99 is another enjoyable jaunt back into the 1990s, but much later than the band’s last recording from the 90s, Live at the Tokyo Dome 1990.  That recording was released October 30, 2015.  This time, Eagle Rock is taking audiences back to the band’s 1999 performance in San Jose, California, the city that originally hosted the band way back in 1965.  The recording’s 20-song set, which is split between a DVD and CD (and on separate platform Blu-ray and CD), sets the recording’s foundation.  It will be discussed shortly.  The band’s performance of that set list is just as important as the set list itself, and will, in turn, be discussed a little bit later.  The recording’s production values round out its most important elements.  Each element is key in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, the noted elements make From The Vault: No Security No Security99 yet another must have live recording for any and every Rolling Stones fan.

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s latest entry in its ongoing Rolling Stones From The Vault series is another impressive offering that any Rolling Stones devotee will feel “secure” adding to his or her music library.  Yes, that awful pun was fully intended.  It proves to be such a strong effort in part through its set list.  This extensive 20-song set list is split between the recording’s CD and its DVD/BD (depending on which platform one purchases).  The set list stands out because it doesn’t just play it safe and offer all of the same songs that have been presented in each of the band’s previous entries in the From The Vault series.  Rather, it goes off the proverbial beaten path this time and offers performances of some far lesser performed tunes including the title track from the band’s 1978 album Some Girls, the band’s take on songwriter Bobby Troup’s timeless song ‘Route 66,’ which was included in the Stones’ self-titled 1964 album, ‘Get Off My Cloud,’ which is taken from the band’s 1965 album December’s Children and so many other rarities.  Yes, there are some familiar tunes included in this set list such as ‘Paint It Black,’ ‘Honky Tonk Woman,’ ‘Midnight Rambler’ and of course ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ but by and large, this time the concert’s set list gives listeners a certain amount of variety in comparison to the set lists of the band’s previous live recordings.  It’s a nice change of pace this time out.  On top of that, the very fact that the band’s original performance presented here was split between two days, odds are that the split presented here between the recording’s CD and DVD/BD sides likely mirrors that two-day run that the band had in San Jose.  That adds even more reason to appreciate this set list and its division.  Keeping this in mind, the set list presented here creates a strong foundation for the recording, and is certainly not the only item that makes the recording worth experiencing. The band’s performance of the set list is just as important to this recording’s presentation as its set list.

The performance put on by Mick Jagger and company in this latest archived recording from The Rolling Stones will keep audiences just as engaged as the set list itself.  This is exemplified at least in part in the band’s performance of ‘Saint of Me,’  This performance features not only Jagger and company, but all of the familiar backing musicians, too right down to the backing vocalists.  What’s really great in the group’s collective performance here is that no one really has to do much other than just play the song to so effectively keep audiences entertained and engaged.  The energy in Jagger’s vocal delivery, both as he stands before the audience, playing his guitar and as he makes his way across the stage, delivers such energy in itself.  Meanwhile the backing vocalists add their own power to the performance as they sway and sing.  Even Jagger’s band mates, Ron Wood and Keith Richards don’t have to do much to make their performances enjoyable as they make their way through the song.  The same can be said of drummer Charlie Watts as he keeps time through it all.  It’s amazing to see someone of his age (at that time) still able to do what he does with so much energy.  It’s a testament, perhaps, to just good, clean living.  What’s more, the fact that the song was the seventh of the set’s 20 total songs, yet the band still had so much in them collectively, says plenty in itself.  One of the most interesting moments of the band’s performance comes early on – just before the band launches into ‘You Got Me Rocking’ – as Jagger apologizes to the audiences for what he called “a change of plans.”  He notes something about something happening to him at some point.  It seems to hint that maybe the concert was split into two nights because something happened to him physically in the first night, leading to a cancellation and re-scheduling for a second night.  Again, it’s such a brief moment, but does a lot to explain why the concert is spread across two nights.  Even more notable is Jagger’s sincerity in his apology to the audience.  One can tell that he really appreciated the audience coming back for a second night with the band.  It shows a real appreciation for the fans, and is just one more way in which the performance stands out here, even as brief as it is.  The band’s performance of the decidedly reserved ‘I Got The Blues’ is another wonderful example of the importance of the band’s performance overall in this recording.  Considering all of the energy that is exuded throughout the course of the concert, this rare moment is a huge departure for the band.  The whole band (including the backing musicians) fully embraces the song’s emotion from start to end.  Jagger’s vocal delivery is a clear example of that embrace.  There is such a pained sound in his delivery as he sings, and the depth of emotion in the song’s instrumental portion on every part, adds its own depth with all of the crescendos, decrescendos and dynamics in general.  It makes this song another of the concert’s most standout moments and key moments that shows the importance of the band’s performance of the show’s set list.  When these moments are taken into consideration along with the rest of the performance – including especially the powerhouse performance of ‘Paint It Black’ — the whole of the performance makes the concert just as fun to take in at home as it must have been at its original recording.  When this is considered along with the show’s set list the whole of those two elements does more than enough to make this recording a welcome addition to any Rolling Stones fan’s home music and video library.  It still is not the last of the recording’s most important elements to discuss.  The concert’s production values round out its most important elements.

In considering the fact that the concert presented in San Jose ’99 was recorded in 1999, right at the turn of the century, the major advancements in recording technology that are available today were not available at that time, including high-definition and 4K.  Despite that, the audio and video mix exhibited here are surprisingly positive.  The video isn’t the crystal clear of so many of today’s concerts, but it still is clear enough in its own right.  The sound meanwhile is just as impressive as is in any live recording that has been released since.  The vocals and music are expertly balanced throughout the show.  As has been noted so many times before, this is key because – believe it or not – it has and does happen where concert audio has been anything but expertly mixed.  Luckily such instance has always been extremely rare for Eagle Rock Entertainment live recordings.  This recording is no exception to that rule either.  Simply put, the audio and video mix are top-notch again, giving audiences an experience that is just as enjoyable at home as it was in its original presentation, if not better.  In other words, it gives audiences the best seat in the house and then some.  That is especially the case when this element is considered along with the recording’s set list and the band’s performance thereof.  It makes both elements that much more worth experiencing.  That being the case, the recording in whole proves to be a recording that is not only a great Rolling Stones live experience, but one that every Rolling Stones fan will want to own.

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s latest addition to its Rolling Stones From The Vault series, No Security — San Jose ’99 is a welcome addition to any Rolling Stones fan’s home music and video library.  That is due in no small part to a set list that stands out distinctly from the set lists in the series’ previous entries.  While there are some familiar tunes included here, the roughly two-hour, 20-song set list is made up largely of songs not presented in the series’ previous offerings.  The band’s performance of that set list is everything that audiences have come to expect of Mick Jagger and company.  Much the same can be said of the recording’s production values.  Once again, the production values give home viewers the best seat in the house.  Each element is critical in its own right to the whole of this recording.  All things considered, they make No Security — San Jose ’99 one of this year’s top new live recordings, one of the year’s top new live CDs and live DVDs/BDs.  It will be available next Friday, July 13.  It can be pre-ordered on DVD/CD, Blu-ray/CD, 3LP and digital video now.

More information on From The Vault: No SecuritySan Jose 99 is available online along with all of The Rolling Stones’ latest news and more at:


Website: http://www.rollingstones.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/RollingStones


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 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.