Visual Effects, Bonus Content Are The Saving Graces For ‘Eternals’ In Its New Home Release

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Marvel’s latest addition to the MCU official made it first home premiere this week in the form of the digital release of Eternals.  The movie is set for physical release Feb. 15.  Running more than two and a half hours, this new addition to the MCU is an interesting presentation that is worth watching at least once.  That is due to its visual effects, which will be discussed shortly.  The movie’s story, while interesting, is also very problematic.  This will be discussed more a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its digital and physical release works with the movie’s visual effects to make it a little more worth watching.  They will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Eternals imperfect, but still worth watching at least once.

Marvel Studios’ newest movie, Eternals, is an intriguing addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It is a presentation that is worth watching at least once now that it has made its way home through digital release.  The movie’s visual effects are the most prominent reason for its limited appeal.  The visual effects have taken the work that those at Marvel Studios have done throughout the company’s history and stepped it up even more.  Seeing the effects used to make Makkari the shockingly fast speedster that she is a prime example of that improved visual technology.  The CGI that was used to make it look like she was making her way through the fight scenes was minimalist in its approach, and because of that, there is something about it that makes it look so clean and believable.  The work used to make Ikaris the Superman-esque figure that he is, is just as impressive.  Again, there is a minimalist approach used to make the lasers shoot from his eyes that makes those moments so entertaining in their own right.  On another note, the work that was used to create the scenes in which Arishem discusses the Eternals’ role on Earth with Sersi is impressive in its own right.  The contrast of Arishem’s massive size to that of Sersi is so clear, and it makes the comparison so powerful in its own right.  Between all of that and the on-site shooting, the overall visual effects used throughout the movie make Eternals at least a treat for the eyes.  Sadly, where the visuals do so well, the movie’s story detracts from the viewing experience to a point.

The story featured in Eternals is important to note because of its inability to balance everything going on in terms of the themes and the general story.  The story is essentially a nearly three-hour rumination on the meaning of life and our purpose on this planet.  Along the way, there is a completely contrived love story element in the story’s finale, which will also not be given away here.  Along the way, the story goes back and forth in time, between early human history and present day as the Eternals reunite.  The whole back story and team rebuilding takes up the first roughly 90 minutes of the movie.  Yes, there is that much buildup before audiences finally get anything of substance.  That the story does go back and forth, even those who fully immerse themselves in the story will find themselves getting lost along the way.  Keeping this in mind with the realization of the story’s overarching philosophical and theological ruminations, and what audiences get here is a work that does little to keep audiences engaged.  Add in the story’s contrived finale, and the story becomes even more problematic.  As if that is not enough, when the one unnamed Deviant realizes what is really going on, one cannot help but wonder why it wanted to kill the Eternals rather than take the time to find out if maybe they were on the same page.  Maybe that could have led to a more classic story of the protagonists and antagonists teaming up to stop the greater evil.  It is all just so troubling, along with the realization that the story never explains away why Thena has her psychotic moments, that the story really just gives audiences little if anything to appreciate.  Perhaps the reason for all of the problems is that the story’s writers took from so many different eras of Eternals comics for the featured story.  This is part of the discussion in the movie’s “making of” featurette.

The “making of” featurette, as noted, reveals that the writers lifted not only from Jack Kirby’s early Eternals series, but also from other more modern runs, including that of famed Sandman creator, Neil Gaiman.  If the writers had just focused on one story from one era, maybe it would have all worked better.  Only time will tell.  Viewers also learn through the “making of” featurette, the intentional focus on diversity in the cast and how it plays into representation for viewers.  This discussion adds a little appreciation for the movie, but only a little. 

In regards to the deleted scenes, they are crucial in their own way to the movie’s presentation.  That is because in watching through the deleted scenes, audiences will agree that most of the scenes in question do not fit into the final cut.  Only one scene, titled “Nostalgia” really maybe should have stayed in the movie.  The scene finds Sprite and Makkari talking about whether humans deserve to be saved.  There had to have been a place in which it would have fit into the story, especially being so brief.  The other scenes though, clearly did not fit anywhere into the movie.  To that end, it shows the importance of this bonus featured.

The bonus gag reel is engaging and entertaining in its own right.  It does not really add to or detract from the overall presentation in any big way, but it is still entertaining.  That is because it kind of shows that things don’t always go right.  Seeing the cast, attached to wires, dancing around aimlessly as they wait for takes to start will make for plenty of laughs, for instance.  Seeing Angelina Jolie trying and failing to grab an orange with her “spear” is funny because it shows what she had to work with to pretend to grab it.

For those who appreciate production, the feature length audio commentary focuses a lot on the movie’s production, rounding out the bonus content.  When it is considered along with the rest of the movie’s bonus content, the whole becomes that clear in its importance to the movie’s presentation.  Together with the movie’s visual effects, these two elements make up for the problems posed by the story at least to a point and make the movie worth watching at least once.

Marvel Studios’ Eternals is an interesting presentation that will find the majority of its appeal among the most devoted Marvel Comics fans.  More casual audiences will find the movie worth watching at least once, but not really more than that.  Its appeal comes largely from its visual effects.  The visuals effects take the company’s special effects work up another step once more from what it has already offered audiences.  The movie’s story proves somewhat problematic to more casual audiences.  That is because it is really all over the place from beginning to end.  Its movement back and forth in time as it progresses and its philosophical and theological musings throughout make for so many problems.  The less than believable finale puts the final nail in the coffin.  That moment just is not believable, considering everything else that happens in the story.  It just seems so contrived.  The bonus content that comes with the movie’s home release works with its visual effects to give audiences at least a little more reason to take in the movie.  All things considered, this movie proves to be a presentation that is neither the best nor the worst of Marvel’s MCU entries to date.

Eternals is available now on digital.  It is scheduled to release on DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 15. More information on the home release of Marvel’s Eternals is available at:

Websitehttps://marvel.com/movies/eternals

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Disney’s ‘Encanto’ Home Release Does Little To Make The Movie An “Anniversary” Worth Celebrating

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

For some reason, humans have a fixation on numbers ending in the numbers five and zero.  They seem to make a big deal on this numbers, whether in the case of anniversaries or in general.  To that end, one would think that when Disney released its 60th animated feature, Encanto, late this year, it would have been a hugely memorable work from the studio.  Sadly that did not prove to be the case.  Now Disney is hoping to give the movie a new life with its upcoming home release Dec. 24 on digital and Jan. 26.  The movie’s home release on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, and 4K UHD/BD combo pack) adds slightly to its appeal, but only slightly.  That is due in large part to its featured bonus content, which will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content is in fact both a positive and a negative, leading into the movie’s one major unavoidable negative, its story, which will be addressed a little later.  The musical numbers and cast’s voice work comes together to make things even more concerning for the movie.  Sadly when these items are considered collectively, they make Disney’s Encanto just as forgettable in its home release as in its recent theatrical run.

Walt Disney Studios’ Encanto is an anniversary mark for the studio that could have been so much better.  That was already proven in the movie’s theatrical run.  The movie’s forthcoming home release further supports that statement.  That is proven in part through the bonus content featured in said presentation.  The bonus content is expansive to say the least.  There is lots of background in the way of explaining the story’s focus on family.  The is also plenty of focus on Disney’s continued drive to make one of its movies as true to the culture that it represents as possible.  That bonus content that centers of mirroring the people and culture of Colombia is engaging and entertaining.  The content that centers on family is where the problems start to appear.  In watching this content (which is extensive in itself) the movie’s creative heads talk plenty about the noted focus.  If in fact the story is all about family, then one cannot help but wonder why so much of the story is spent focused on the Madrigal family’s “ugly duckling,” Mirabel.  Not to get too far off track here, but the story spends quite a bit of time on her and making her extended family more background dressing than actually important cast.

On another note, the bonus content spends what feels like an inordinate amount of time focusing on the movie’s musical content.  Now for those who have not already seen Encanto, Lin Manuel Miranda (who had his stamp on Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns as well as the uber popular Hamilton and In The Heights among many other stories) plays a big role in this movie’s musical content.  As a matter of fact, one cannot help but wonder how much creative control he had in the movie’s musical side, since it gets more time than the movie’s story, getting back on the subject at hand.  So much of the movie’s bonus content centers on the movie’s musical side, that viewers cannot help but feel like Disney and all involved were just trying to distract viewers from all of the plot holes and other problems posed throughout the story.  This shows in its own way how the bonus content does offer some engagement, but is also just as problematic as it is positive.

Encanto’s trailers made it seem like the movie was going to be some big adventure for its lead character, Mirabel.  The reality is that the story is anything but.  Rather, the story is in question more a coming-of-age piece than action.  Mirabel has to figure out why on the night that the youngest member of the Madrigal family receives his magical gift, the magic in the family’s candle starts to fade.  No one believes what she tells them at first, leading her to go on her mission of sorts.  As it turns out (no to give away too much), the reason for the fade is linked back to the clan in general.  Again not to give away too much here, but audiences realize that perhaps the reality is that the Madrigals who had magical gifts were taking their gifts for granted and just had to come to that realization in the end. 

This is where things get problematic.  In setting up the story, the movie’s writers fail to really fully explain how the candle got its magic.  Audiences know that the candle came into being after Abuela Alma’s (Maria Cecilia Botero) husband was killed by some not so nice people.  From there though, there is no explanation of the magic’s candle.  Was it something tied to the culture of Colombia?  We do not know.  What’s more, the identities of the men who killed Abuela Alma’s husband is never fully revealed, either.  As if this is not problem enough, the whole issue of Bruno and his psychic gift playing into the story just seems so random in itself.  It is as if the writers were just putting all of this together as they went along and hoped that it would stick, which sadly it did not. 

Adding even more to the problems is what happens in the story’s end.  The candle is not there, but the magic is back, as are the magical powers of the Madrigal clan.  So then was the candle never magic to begin with?  Again, those who have praised this movie either ignored this and so many other problems, or they were paid for positive reviews.  Yes, this critic went there. 

If all of this is not enough, the semi-climactic moment when Maribel and Abuela Alma confront one another, and then later share their feelings, leading to the final act, just seems so contrived.  Maribel stood up to Alma and told her that everything that happened was her (Alma’s) fault.  Alma then later tells Maribel that she was right, to which Maribel – after hearing Alma’s sob story – backed down and said she was in the wrong.  This is just so contrived.  The young woman had become empowered, only to stand down from the family’s matriarch.  This is just not believable nor realistic.  Between this and everything else noted here, it should be crystal clear why this movie’s story is in itself just so much a failure.  There is little if anything to like other than the subtle, nearly hidden messages about appreciating ourselves and others regardless of who we are and what are our “gifts.”  Of course for all of the problems that the story poses in itself, things only get worse from here.

Looking at all of this, it should be clear why the story featured in Encanto is just as problematic as the bonus content that accompanies it in its home release.  The story centers on one character even though in the bonus content, the movie’s creative heads reiterate time and again that the story is all about family.  Add in all the musical cues tossed in (again they are the central focus among the bonus content) and the story’s plot holes and problems become even more concerning, as do the bonus features themselves.  All of this in mind, it is still only a part of the trouble with the movie’s presentation.  The noted musical cues and the cast’s voice work are also problematic.

As noted, the musical numbers featured throughout the movie are everywhere.  Sometimes they show up at such random times, as if Miranda and the movie’s crew and creative heads just decided to throw them in for what they thought was “good measure” since they didn’t have any other ideas to flesh out the story. 

The voice cast’s work is troubling in that none of the cast’s work does anything to make any of the characters memorable.  Yes, Maribel is supposed to be the story’s lead.  Yes, voice actress Stephanie Beatriz deserves applause for her work as she makes Maribel a strong lead.  Other than that though, she doesn’t do much to make her memorable.  Though, that circles back to the writing.  The script does not really give Maribel much to develop as a character.  Even the work of John Leguizamo (the Ice Age franchise, SpawnMoulin Rouge) here when he is finally introduced does little to help the story.  Though, again, that is because he is brought in so late and is given so little screen time from there on.  It is like the Madrigal family is there, but that is about it.  None of the voice cast really brings anything major and memorable to the table, but again that is because the story does not really provide much if any opportunity for character development.  So once again we see the problems with the story.  It is all tied in together, and in considering this along with the movie’s other problems and the problems, the whole makes the movie overall such a disappointment in comparison to much of what Disney has released in recent years.

Walt Disney Studios’ forthcoming home release of Encanto does little to improve on the movie from its recent, brief theatrical run.  The improvement is minimal, with the movie’s bonus content proving only slightly engaging and entertaining.  At the same time, they prove problematic because it seems like the extensive focus on the movie’s musical content is an attempt by all involved to distract audiences from all of the plot holes and problems in the story.  Speaking of those problems and plot holes, they are everywhere throughout this story.  The noted musical content and the issues raised through the cast’s voice work add their own problems.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the movie a work that sadly is not the “anniversary” presentation that it could have been for Walt Disney Studios.

More information on this and other movies from Walt Disney Studios is available at:

Websitehttps://waltdisneystudios.com

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

‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ Proves Just As Successful In Its Home Release As In Its Brief Theatrical Run

Courtesy: 20th Century Studios/Disney

Well, that sure didn’t take long.  Less than two months after making its theatrical debut, 20th Century Studios’ CG statement flicks Ron’s Gone Wrong made its way to digital and physical home release early this month (Dec. 7 to be exact).  The movie is no better or worse in its new home release than in its brief theatrical run, which according to Box Office Mojo, grossed more than $60 million worldwide during that time.  Attempts to find the movie’s production budget for comparison were unsuccessful.  For those who have yet to see the movie, its story is reason enough for audiences to give it a chance.  It will be discussed shortly.  While the movie’s story is unquestionably positive, the bonus content that comes with the movie’s home release is just as much a negative that audiences cannot ignore.  It will be discussed a little later.  The story’s pacing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of Ron’s Gone Wrong in its recent home release.  All things considered, they make the movie one of the best of this year’s new family DVDs/BDs even with its one primary concern.

20th Century Studios’ recent home release of its family friendly flick, Ron’s Gone Wrong, is a mostly successful offering.  The movie’s success comes in large part through its story.  The story is a two-part presentation that will appeal to younger and older viewers alike.  One half of the story is a clear indictment of big tech, its impact on young people’s mental health, and the unscrupulous measures that big tech will take to exploit those noted users.  The story’s other half centers on the all-too-important message of the importance of friendship and its related topics.  The two halves weave together seamlessly throughout the movie, and together with the pacing (which again, will be discussed a little later) make the story overall fully engaging and entertaining.  The overarching discussion on the invasive nature of social media and its negative impact on young people’s mental health is timeless.  This will remain a concern until such time as young people can pull themselves away from social media and its addictive clutches.  To that end, the story likely will not earn an Oscar®, but will remain timely, making it relatable for generations of audiences.  The movie’s writers clearly went after Apple, Facebook, and so much other big tech and social media in delivering this message.  The companies are not named, but rather spoofed so to speak, through the use of the company, “Bubble” and its antagonistic boss, Andrew.  Andrew is clearly a lifting of Steve Jobs while Marc Weidell is clearly an allusion to Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg.

The connected story about friendship ties directly into the indictment of big tech and social media as lead character Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer – ItLucaShazam) finds himself the only student in his middle school – Nonsuch Middle School – without a so-called B*Bot.  The B*bot, is a digital friend that knows everything about its user, and uses that information to help young people find new friends.  Marc (Justice Smith – Paper TownsThe Get DownJurassic World – Fallen Kingdom) even called the tech the “perfect friend” right in the story’s opening scene.  That immediate message lets people know that one of the key messages in this story is that friends are anything but perfect, but rather perfect in being imperfect.  Barney learns that invaluable lesson when his dad, Graham (Ed Helms – The OfficeVacationThe Hangover) gets Barney his own B-bot (albeit illegally).  In learning its serial number, Barney shortens the bot’s name to just Ron.  Ron is voiced here by Zach Galifianakis (Due DateThe HangoverThe Lego Batman Movie).  His work here is some of his best, and that is actually saying something considering the dumbed down performances that he has presented in the noted movies and others.  Getting back on the subject at hand, Barney and Ron eventually develop a real friendship because Ron is not like all of the other B-bots out there.  What develops will immediately ring a bell with those familiar with the 1986 movie, Short Circuit and its sequel, which came only two years later.  That buddy comedy centered on a robot that developed sentience and only wanted to protect and befriend people.  The good thing here is that this story element does not attempt to just simply rip off said movies, even despite the clear comparison.  What audiences eventually get here is that we should not let tech dominate our lives to the point that we are relying on it to make decisions for us.  We should not rely on it so much that it is doing everything for us, because we know better than technology who we are and what and who we like.  So yes, between this overarching message and that of the almost criminal nature of big tech, the overall story here will remain relevant for years to come.  It also boasts its own share of heart along the way, too.  It makes the story reason enough for audiences to give this movie a chance.

While the story does so much to make Ron’s Gone Wrong entertaining, the bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release detracts somewhat from the presentation.  That is because of how little content there is and the content itself.  The bonus content, which is featured only in the movie’s BD/DVD/Digital combo pack and 4K UHD/BD/Digital combo pack (no, it is not featured in the DVD platform) comes in the form of a brief sit-down with Galifianakis and Grazer, and a separate “making of” featurette.  The duo’s interview, which runs maybe about five minutes at most, just finds the pair sharing their thoughts on technology and how their generations vary in their views on technology and its role in society.  The slightly more lengthy “making of” featurette simply takes audiences behind the scenes of the movie’s creation.  Viewers learn of the motivation for the story’s creation from its writing team, as well as about how the cast members interacted as they recorded their lines.  It is in itself really a minimalist presentation that neither adds to or detracts from the movie’s presentation.  So audiences who maybe don’t own a Blu-ray player or one of those overly expensive 4K UHD TVs and players will not be missing out on anything without the bonus content on DVD.  For everyone else, the content is worth watching maybe once, but it really does not do anything either way for the presentation.  Keeping that in mind, the movie still stands strongly enough on the merits of its two-part story alone.  Staying on that note, the movie’s pacing is another positive that is worth noting.

The run time for Ron’s Gone Wrong is approximately one hour, 47 minutes.  That is actually a long run time for a family friendly flick.  Thankfully even being as long as the story is and with so much going on, the pacing remains solid.  This is the case even in the story’s final act in which it seems like the writers – Peter Baymham and Sarah Smith – seem to have had trouble deciding how to end the story.  The action and overall content is solid enough that the story keeps moving at a relatively solid pace throughout.  The result is that the pacing ensures the engagement and entertainment of younger viewers just as much as their older counterparts.  It makes the movie’s overall presentation that much more surprising in its appeal.  When this is considered along with the work of the movie’s cast, which is just as deserving of applause as the story’s pacing and the story itself, the whole makes the movie a mostly successful offering even in its home release.

20th Century Studios’ Ron’s Gone Wrong is a presentation that is just as successful in its recent home release as in its very brief theatrical run this fall.  That is proven in part through its story.  The story is a dual-pronged presentation that is both an indictment of big tech and its impact on society (specifically on young people) and a reminder about the need for people to make decisions and friends for themselves.  While the story is fully engaging and entertaining, the bonus content that comes with the movie’s home release (or rather the lack thereof) detracts from the movie’s home presentation at least to a point.  It is not enough to make the movie’s home release a failure by any means.  The story’s pacing (and also work of the movie’s cast) rounds out the movie’s most important elements.  When all of this is considered together, it makes the movie just as largely successful in its home release as in its brief theatrical run.

Ron’s Gone Wrong is available now on digital, DVD, Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, and 4K UHD/BD/Digital combo pack. More information on this and other titles from 20th Century Studios is available at:

Websitehttps://20thcenturystudios.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/20thCenturyStudios

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/20thcentury

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

Sabaton’s Recently Released Double Live Collection Will Appeal To The Band’s Most Devoted Audiences

Courtesy: Nuclear Blast Records

Sabaton is scheduled to release its next album, The War to End All Wars early next year.  The band’s 10th album, it is scheduled for release March 4 through Nuclear Blast Records.  The band has already released the album’s lead single, ‘Christmas Truce’ to build anticipation for the record.  More music is likely on the way, too.  In the meantime, the band’s most diehard fans have another way to pass the time.  It comes in the form of the band’s recently released limited edition live box set, The 20th Anniversary Show/The Great Show.  Released Nov. 19 through Nuclear Blast Records in limited quantities, the two-concert collection is an interesting presentation.  Among the most notable items that makes it interesting is its set lists.  They will be discussed shortly.  The band’s performances thereof are also of interest and will be discussed a little later.  The concerts’ production rounds out their most important items and will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the box set.  All things considered, they make The 20th Anniversary Show/The Great Show a presentation that, again, Sabaton’s most devoted audiences will appreciate.

Sabaton’s recently released limited edition live box set, The 20th Anniversary Show/The Great Show is an intriguing new addition to the band’s live catalog.  Only the band’s fourth live recording, the set proves itself worth experiencing occasionally.  That is due in part to the set lists featured in each of the collection’s two concerts.  The set list for The 20th Anniversary Show is especially intriguing in that it is a career-spanning set list for the most part.  The only records not represented in this set are the band’s 2007 album, Metalizer and its 2010 record, Coat of Arms.  That means in all, seven of the band’s nine current albums are featured in this set list.  The thing is that the set list leans heavily on the band’s more recent works, with 2008’s The Art of War getting the most nods at five.  The band’s 2016 album, The Last Stand and its follow-up, 2019’s The Great War get four nods each.  Meanwhile, the band’s first two records, Primo Victoria (2004) and Attero Dominatus (2006) each get only one nod each here.  Heroes (2014) is represented in this set list with three songs while Carolus Rex (2013) is represented through two songs.  The band’s 2019 non-album single, ‘Bismarck’ is also here, bringing the set list’s total to 21 songs (22 if audiences count the “Drum-off” between Hannes Van Dahl and Daniel Mullback).  That set list spans more than two hours.  So again, considering that the band was celebrating its 20th anniversary at this headlining show, the set list is impressive.  It just would have been nice to have seen even more diversity in the set list to even more fully represent the band’s body of work.

Much of the set list featured in the band’s 20th Anniversary concert is also featured in the set list for the second concert in the band’s new live box set, The Great Show.  In the case of this concert’s set list, the list is shorter, featuring 17 songs instead of the more than 20 that make up the other concert’s set list.  So while audiences get many of the same songs between the set lists, there is at least some variance between the two lists.  To that end, the set lists are certain to entertain a wide range of Sabaton’s established fan base.

The set lists featured in each of the band’s concerts form a strong foundation for this collection’s presentation and are just one part of what makes the set worth experiencing.  The band’s performance thereof is of its own note.  That is because of the energy that the band exudes throughout the course of each concert.  There is some banter between the band and audience in each show, but for the most part, the band lets its performances do the talking.  The audience fully feeds off of the band’s energy, which is clearly exhibited in the concerts’ production.  That item will be discussed a little later.  Getting back on the subject at hand, even the mostly minimalist use of the pyro throughout the shows plays into the band’s performance, too.  Yes, pyro is used, but the band uses it tastefully, again, letting its performance take center stage.  As a result, the band’s talents and abilities are put that much more on display, making the overall performances that much more engaging and entertaining.  When this is considered along with the appeal ensured through the concerts’ set lists, the whole makes the collection all the more appealing for the noted audiences.  It is just one more part of what makes the collection a piece that said audiences will welcome, too.  The noted production rounds out the collection’s most important elements.

The production presented in each concert puts the finishing touch to the collection’s overall presentation.  The concerts’ production is worth noting because it gives audiences something more than just a pair of typical concert experiences.  Rather, there are certain fade effects, shots, and angles that really give the concerts a semi-cinematic sense.  From the wide aerial shots showing the immensity of the crowd at Wacken, to the black-and-white effect used in portions of the band’s show in Prague, to the various angles used in the on-stage and crowd shots, and the connected fade effects, the production gives audiences at home the best seat in the house.  What’s more, each concert’s audio makes for its own appeal within each concert.  Audiences get the full concert effect (especially those with home theater systems) with all of the subtle echoes balanced with the crown noise and balance in the vocals and instrumentation.  All things considered here, the production presented in each concert is just as laudable as the set lists and the band’s performances thereof.  It completes the concerts’ presentation and shows that much more what Sabaton’s most diehard fans have to expect from these concerts. 

Satabton’s recently released live collection, The 20th Anniversary Show/The Great Show is a presentation that the band’s most devoted audience base will appreciate.  That is proven in part through its featured set lists.  The set lists are largely the same from one to the next.  The first concert’s set list is a career-spanning presentation, even though it tends to lean more heavily on the band’s more recent albums than its earlier records.  The second concert’s set list mirrors that of the first set list for the most part.  Considering the set lists were part of concerts that were part of the same tour, that is not surprising.  The band’s performance of said set lists adds its own enjoyment to the whole.  That is because of the energy that the band exudes through out concert.  The band feeds off of that energy and gives it right back to the band.  The result is that all involved fully enjoy the show, and leave audiences at home enjoying just as much as the band and those who were there at the concerts.  The production puts the final touch to the presentation, giving home viewers the best seat in the hose, what with the expert audio and video mixes.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the collection.  All things considered, they make the set a mostly successful new presentation that, again, Sabaton’s most devoted audiences will enjoy.

The 20th Anniversary Show/The Great Show was released Nov. 19 in limited quantities.  Very limited quantities of the collection might still be available. More information on Sabaton’s new live collection and forthcoming album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://www.sabaton.net

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/sabaton

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/sabaton

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

Marvel’s ‘Eternals’ Coming Home Soon

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Marvel Studios’ latest addition to the MCU is scheduled for home release this winter.

Eternals is scheduled for release Jan. 12 on digital and Feb. 15 on Blu-ray. The announcement was made Thursday through a news release. A trailer for the movie is streaming here.

Eternals follows a group of heroes that has watched and protected Earth ever since the dawn of man, unseen and also avoiding involvement along the way as much as possible. That all changes when a group of evil beings called Deviants returns to Earth, the Eternals’ hands are forced, causing the group to reunite and protect the planet.

Eternals‘ forthcoming home physical release features a handful of extras, all of which are noted below.

Bonus Features*

  • Audio Commentary – View the film with audio commentary by Chloé Zhao, Stephane Ceretti, Mårten Larsson
  • Immortalized – Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe launches into the cosmos with the Eternals. In this behind-the-scenes documentary, dive deep into the reasons why Marvel wanted to immortalize these superheroes for the MCU.
  • Walks of Life – Eternals unveils Marvel’s biggest and most diverse lineup of Super Heroes in one film. Hear reactions from the cast on being involved in the film and the instant sense of camaraderie that was felt on the day they all joined each other in their costumes.
  • Gag Reel – Watch some of the hilarious mishaps of the charming cast and crew.
  • Deleted Scenes
    • Gravity – Phastos and Jack have a conversation that leads to a breakthrough.
    • Nostalgia – Sprite and Makkari reminisce about humankind while overlooking the ruins of Babylon.
    • Movies – Gligamesh and Kingo connect over movies while crossing the Amazon River with the rest of the team.
    • Small Talk – Sprite confronts Dane in the museum about his interactions with Sersi.

*bonus features vary by product and retailer

More information on the forthcoming home release of Marvel’s Eternals is available at:

Website: https://marvel.com/movies/eternals

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

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

Shout! Factory, Arrow Video, Others Offer Audiences Plenty Of Alternatives To All The Prequels, Sequels, and Remakes Hitting Theaters, Streaming Services

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

It seems like ever year, audiences everywhere are seeing an increase in the number of classic TV shows and movies that were once popular everywhere they go.  It really is a sad state of affairs.  Of course that is not the only avenue in which older content is getting renewed so to speak.  The originals also get new life every now and then on DVD and Blu-ray through various distributors, sometimes in better form than others and vice versa.  This year saw a handful of classic TV shows and movies get some laudable re-issues and some less so. 

What is most interesting about this year’s field of top new DVD and BD re-issues is the wide range of companies that released said titles.  It shows that along with the likes of Shout! Factory – which has made quite the name for itself over the years in the home entertainment field – other familiar and up-and-coming names are really working to make their names known in that field, too, such as Arrow Video and Corinth Films, making for so much more variety.

From Shout! Factory’s re-issue of Explorers, to Arrow Video’s re-issue of the original Dune, to even Mill Creek Entertainment’s re-issue of the classic, short-lived animated series, The Critic, this year’s re-issues and the companies that released them offered audiences plenty of alternatives to the never-ending ocean of prequels, sequels, and reboots that filled theaters and streaming services this year.  As with every list from Phil’s Picks, this list features the Top 10 titles in the given category with five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15.  This year’s list was not easy to compile but is complete.

Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New DVD/BD Re-Issues.

PHIL’S PICKS’ 2021 TOP 10 NEW DVD/BD RE-ISSUES

  1. Explorers
  1. Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Series
  1. The Final Countdown
  1. The Belles of St. Trinian’s
  1. Ken Burns’ Baseball
  1. The Rolling Stones: A Bigger BangLive at Copacabana Beach
  1. Dune
  1. Motorhead: No Sleep Till Hammersmith
  1. The Interrogation
  1. The Snake Girl and the Silver Haired Witch
  1. The Transformers: The Movie
  1. Superman: The Animated Series
  1. The Critic: The Complete Series
  1. Star Trek: The Original Series
  1. Emergency: The Complete Series

It should be stressed here that in the case of Emergency and Star Trek, those two series sets are intentionally set at the bottom of this year’s list as, their positives are few.  They are the least of the year’s best new re-issues.  Audiences would do well to largely avoid these sets.  There is a reason they are at the bottom of even the honorable mention titles.  Keeping that in mind, this year’s list of top new DVD and BD re-issues is officially wrapped.  There are still plenty of other lists coming, such as the year’s top new box sets for grown-ups, families, and even family DVDs/BDs.  Stay tuned!

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

Walt Disney Studios’ ‘Encanto’ Is A Weak Finale For The Studio In 2021

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios debuted its latest CG flick this weekend in theaters nationwide in the form of Encanto.  While the weekend is all about being thankful, this movie sadly gives audiences little for which to be thankful.  This is despite all the praise that so many have given the movie.  One cannot The reality of Encanto is that it gets everything wrong that its predecessors Coco (2017) and Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) got right beginning with the story, which will be discussed shortly.  The various musical cues thrown into the story add to the story’s problems and will be examined a little later.  Last but hardly least of import here is work of the voice cast.  All three items noted are key in their own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the movie a forgettable offering from Disney.

Walt Disney Studios’ brand new CG movie, Encanto is a disappointing new offering from the once fabled (no pun intended) studio.  The movie is rife with problems, beginning with its story.  The movie’s trailers made it seem like the movie was going to be some big adventure for its lead character, Mirabel.  The reality is that the story is anything but.  Rather, the story is in question more a coming-of-age piece than action.  Mirabel has to figure out in this story, why on the night that the youngest member of the Madrigal family receives his magical gift, the magic in the family’s candle starts to fade.  No one believes what she tells them at first, leading her to go on her mission of sorts.  As it turns out (no to give away too much), the reason for the fade is linked back to the clan in general.  Again not to give away too much here, but audiences realize that perhaps the reality is that the Madrigals who had magical gifts were taking their gifts for granted and just had to come to that realization in the end. 

This is where things get problematic.  In setting up the story, the movie’s writers fail to really fully explain how the candle got its magic.  Audiences know that the candle came into being after Abuela Alma’s (Maria Cecilia Botero) husband was killed by some not so nice people.  From there though, there is no explanation of the magic’s candle.  Was it something tied to the culture of Colombia?  We do not know.  What’s more, the identities of the men who killed Abuela Alma’s husband is never fully revealed, either.  As if this is not problem enough, the whole issue of Bruno and his psychic gift playing into the story just seems so random in itself.  It is as if the writers were just putting all of this together as they went along and hoped that it would stick, which sadly it did not. 

Adding even more to the problems is what happens in the story’s end.  The candle is not there, but the magic is back, as are the magical powers of the Madrigal clan.  So then was the candle never magic to begin with?  Again, those who have praised this movie either ignored this and so many other problems, or they were paid for positive reviews.  Yes, this critic went there. 

If all of this is not enough, the semi-climactic moment when Maribel and Abuela Alma confront one another, and then later share their feelings, leading to the final act, just seems so contrived.  Maribel stood up to Alma and told her that everything that happened was her (Alma’s) fault.  Alma then later tells Maribel that she was right, to which Maribel – after hearing Alma’s sob story – backed down and said she was in the wrong.  This is just so contrived.  The young woman had become empowered, only to stand down from the family’s matriarch.  This is just not believable nor realistic.  Between this and everything else noted here, it should be crystal clear why this movie’s story is in itself just so much a failure.  There is little if anything to like other than the subtle, nearly hidden messages about appreciating ourselves and others regardless of who we are and what are our “gifts.”  Of course for all of the problems that the story poses in itself, things only get worse from here.

The musical cues that are thrown into the story make matters even worse for the presentation.  The musical cues in question are handled in this movie by none other than Lin Manuel Miranda.  His trademark influence on the music that is so familiar in other movies on which he has worked is just as evident here.  There are musical numbers that blend elements of hip-hop and singing.  There are also moments in which they also exhibit such clear similarity to works from Moana (another Disney movie on which Miranda worked and did much better, too).  The thing here is that at some points, the musical numbers are just so random in their placement.  As if the lack of fluidity in the story was not enough, those often random cues throw things off even more.  What’s more, they just pale in comparison stylistically to the song cues crafted by the famed Sherman brothers – Robert and Richard – who crafted songs for some of Disney’s greatest classic movies.  Making things even more problematic here is that the cues are so many that they make the movie’s one hour, 49 minute run time seem even longer.  This is nothing new for Miranda, either.  His equally multitudinous song cues in another Disney movie, Mary Poppins Returns (2018) bogged that movie down, too and caused it to drag so much.  So again, the musical content featured in this movie do more to hurt its presentation just as much as the story itself.  It still is not the last of the movie’s problems, either.  The work of the voice cast is problematic in its own right to the story.

The voice cast’s work is troubling in that none of the cast’s work does anything to make any of the characters memorable.  Yes, Maribel is supposed to be the story’s lead.  Yes, voice actress Stephanie Beatriz deserves applause for her work as she makes Maribel a strong lead.  Other than that though, she doesn’t do much to make her memorable.  Though, that circles back to the writing.  The script does not really give Maribel much to develop as a character.  Even the work of John Leguizamo (the Ice Age franchise, Spawn, Moulin Rouge) here when he is finally introduced does little to help the story.  Though, again, that is because he is brought in so late and is given so little screen time from there on.  It is like the Madrigal family is there, but that is about it.  None of the voice cast really brings anything major and memorable to the table, but again that is because the story does not really provide much if any opportunity for character development.  So once again we see the problems with the story.  It is all tied in together, and in considering this along with the story’s other problems and the problems posed by the story’s musical numbers, the whole makes the movie overall such a disappointment in comparison to much of what Disney has released in recent years.

Walt Disney Studios’ new CG family flick Encanto has had a lot of hype behind it ahead of its debut this weekend.  Sadly though, the movie does not live up to the hype even though so many critics out there have lauded it so much.  Either those who have lauded ignored all of its problems, or they were paid to provide positive reviews.  The movie fails in large part because of its story.  The story is just all over the place and is rife with plot holes.  It is like the writers just threw the story together and hoped people would overlook everything that went wrong therein.  The movie’s musical numbers make for even more problems for its presentation.  That is because they bog down the movie and leave it feeling longer than it is, which again is nothing new for a movie in which Lin Manuel Miranda is involved.  The work of the movie’s voice cast puts the final nail in the coffin so to speak.  While the cast does a good job in its respective roles, no one actor’s part really stands out.  The thing is that is also because the script does not really do anything to allow for any real character development among the Madrigal family.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered, they leave the movie a disappointment in comparison to much of what Disney has produced by itself in recent years.

More information on this and other movies from Walt Disney Studios is available at:

Websitehttps://waltdisneystudios.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/disneystudios

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

Attack Of The Rising’s ‘Game Changer’ Is Not A Game Changer, But Still Enjoyable

Courtesy: Weapon Records/Vanity Music Group

“Today with all the hard competition in the music business, it’s impossible to come up with anything original.  So, we haven’t – however this album was made with the accent on loud, hard and heavy music.”  That is the statement made by the members of the independent hard rock band Attack of the Rising noted on the rear of the packaging for the band’s recently released album, Game Changer about the 10-song record. The album’s title and the band’s noted statement are both key in examining the record.  That’s because the record is in fact not necessarily a game changer by any way for the band or within the bigger picture of this year’s new hard rock albums.  At the same time though, the album is still an enjoyable presentation.  That is proven through its musical content and lyrical themes alike.  The record’s opener, ‘On The Horizon’ is a prime way in which this is proven, too.  It will be examined shortly.  ‘Fear No Evil,’ which comes later in the 50-minute record’s run, is another example of how the album’s overall content makes it so interesting.  It will be discussed a little later.  ‘Opus X,’ an even later entry in the record, is yet another interesting addition to the album.  It musical and lyrical content makes it notable in its own right, too.  When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and with the rest of the album’s songs, the whole makes Game Changer hardly a game changer, but still a presentation that scores plenty of points.

Attack of the Rising’s recently released album, Game Changer, is anything but in the bigger picture of the hard rock community.  That aside, it is still an enjoyable offering.  The record’s opener, ‘On The Horizon’ is just one of the works that serves to support that statement.  The song stands out in part through its featured musical arrangement.  The arrangement in question is a direct throwback to the sound and stylistic approach that made (and continues to make) Judas Priest a fan favorite.  It is that familiar, full-on power metal approach and sound, complete with the operatic vocals, this time from single-named front man Mandrake.  The song’s production – handled by famed producer Bill Metoyer (Slayer, Sacred Reich, Armored Saint) – adds even more to the infectious classic rock feel and sound in this song.  The richness in the drums sounds like they came right out of the genre’s golden age.  The vocals even have their own touch, as does each other part here.  Again, credit to Metoyer for his work giving the overall arrangement that sound that comes across like something that came right from a time capsule buried in another age.

As much as the song’s arrangement and its production does to make this song stand out, the song’s companion lyrical content makes for its own interest.  Having no lyrics sheet to reference here, some of the lyrics are slightly difficult to decipher.  However, enough is able to be deciphered that at least an initial interpretation can be made.  The mention of the “one million soldiers marching” and “One people” in the song’s chorus against what sounds like Mandrake asking, “How many more lies?” seems to make the song come across as a commentary of sorts.  The very mention of something being “on the horizon” considering everything noted here, would seem to hint even more at the inferred theme.  The same can be said considering the mention of taking control and of the need for world peace.  Having a lyrics sheet would definitely help with a clearer interpretation, but again from what can be understood, it would seem that the song is making a statement perhaps about the state of the world in terms of global warfare and its impact on the world.  Considering this seeming theme and the song’s musical arrangement together, the whole of the song makes the presentation a strong first impression for the band in this outing, and just one of many songs that shows the album’s strength.  ‘Fear No Evil’ is another example of how the album’s overall content makes it worth hearing.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Fear No Evil’ is one part of what makes the song stand out among the record’s entries.  Where ‘On The Horizon’ boasts a clear influence from Judas Priest, this song’s arrangement takes a sharp right turn, opting for a sound that is more akin to works from the likes of Rush.  That is especially evidenced through the pairing of the song’s guitar and bass line.  Mandrake’s operatic vocals remain here and make for an interesting contrast against the more mainstream-prog style arrangement.  It gives the song’s musical content its own unique touch that is certain to engage and entertain audiences just as much as that featured in ‘On The Horizon’ and the album’s other songs.  It is just one part of what makes the song stand out.  The song’s lyrical content makes for its own interest.


As with ‘On The Horizion’ (and the rest of the album’s songs) no lyrics sheet is available for reference.  From what can be deciphered, the song’s lyrical theme seems to address perhaps dealing with the darker thoughts in our minds.  This as Mandrake makes mention early on in the song about “synapses raging out of control” and trying not “to lose control.”  The mention of rising above “the torment and pain” in the song’s second verse seems to build on that seeming theme just as much.  Add in the refrain in the song’s chorus to “fear no evil” and audiences get that seeming theme that much more.  If in fact the theme interpreted here is correct, then it would also account for the positive, upbeat nature in the song’s musical arrangement.  That energy and positive feel is sure to make listeners feel just as good as the noted inferred message.  Keeping all of that in mind, the song in whole makes itself that much more proof of what makes Game Changer worth hearing.  It is just one more of the songs that serves that end, too.  ‘Opus X’ does its own share to add to the album’s interest.

‘Opus X’ stands out from its counterparts in part because of its musical arrangement.  In the case of this song, the arrangement boasts something of a sludge/doom sound and approach a la vintage Black Sabbath, showing even more, the diversity in the record’s musical arrangements.  Again, Metoyer deserves his own share of credit for giving the song that sense and sound.  The overall arrangement is even more example of how the album’s musical arrangements in general make the album worth hearing.  As with the other songs examined here, the song’s musical arrangement is just one part of what makes the song stand out, too.  Its lyrical content makes for its own share of appeal, too.

On one hand, what sounds like mentions of a full moon early in the song gives the thought of it being a fantasy type piece that one might expect from Black Sabbath during the Dio years.  On the other hand, the chorus, which finds the subject saying, “I never wanted to be this way/Somehow I ended up this way/When I fall into this again/Pray for me old friend” points at maybe a relationship that has gone sour.  This is inferred even more as the chorus repeats, adding, I did everything I could/to help you understand/But there’s nothing else to say/I never wanted to be this way/Somehow I ended up this way/When I fall into this again/Pray for me, old friend.”  Whether this has to do with a friendship/relationship or something more in the fantasy realm, it is sure to engage audiences in its own right.  To that end, this aspect of the song proves just as important to the whole as the song’s musical arrangement.  Taking the song in whole into consideration along with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the album’s songs, the whole makes the record in whole a work that any hard rock and classic rock fan will find worth hearing at least once.

Attack of the Rising’s recently released album, Game Changer, is a presentation that will appeal widely to hard rock and classic rock fans.  That is proven through its musical and lyrical content.  All three of the songs that are examined here do well to support the noted statements.  When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s songs, the entirety of the record becomes a solid new offering from the band.  While not a game changer in itself, it still proves to be worth hearing at least once.

Game Changer is available now through Weapon Records/Vanity Music Group.  More information on the album is available along with all of Attack of the Rising’s latest news at:

Website: https://attackoftherising.com

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

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

‘Deep Blues’ Re-Issue Will Appeal To Audiences Across The Musical Universe

Courtesy: Dave Stewart Entertainment/Film Movement Classics/Bay Street Records

Director Robert Mugge has made quite the name for himself over the years heading documentaries that tell the history of America’s music.  More specifically, they present the roots of music, such as zydeco and the blues.  The most recent of those docs came in 2018 the form of Ship to Shore: Launching the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Review, which focused on the famed cross country music tour.  Now Tuesday, one of his even older docs — 1991’s Deep Blues — will get renewed attention when it is re-issued through Dave Stewart Entertainment/Film Movement Classics/Bay Street Records.  The documentary will appeal to a wide range of audiences in part through its main feature, which will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content that accompanies the doc adds even more to the record’s appeal.  That all taken into account, it makes the re-issue’s pricing important in its own right.  That item will also be examined later.  Each item noted is key in its own way to the whole of the re-issue’s presentation.  All things considered, they make this doc a welcome addition to the library of any blues aficionado who might not already own it or any of Mugge’s music docs.

The forthcoming Blu-ray re-issue of the Robert Mugge-helmed 1991 documentary, Deep Blues is a presentation that any blues aficionado will find entertaining.  Set for release Tuesday through Dave Stewart Entertainment/Film Movement Classics/Bay Street Records, the 91-minute documentary (which is actually adapted from journalist Robert Palmer’s book, Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History of the Mississippi Delta) focuses on the music of the Mississippi Delta and deep south.  It follows the same format of so many of Mugge’s documentaries in its main feature, which audiences will especially appreciate.  For those maybe less familiar with Mugge’s work, he does not present his docs as some slow, extended lecture about the music’s history, but rather, he immerses audiences in that history with first hand interviews and performances with and by the figures who helped make said music great.  Here, audiences hear from the likes of R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and Big Jack Johnson along with so many other greats.  The humility and genuine personality that each figure presents both just talking and performing is so enthralling.  The simple, humble venues where the performances take place adds to that sense of humility.  It and the almost guerilla style cinematography and editing (again for which Mugge is known) further immerses audiences in the history, really making for even more engagement and entertainment.  The overall feature here is a great half and half of history and entertainment that, again, follows a familiar format from Robert Mugge.  That familiarity will appeal just as much to those who are familiar with his documentaries and those who are new to his works.  It makes this presentation just as much a history lesson about the blues as it is a love letter to the genre.  To that end, it is reason enough in itself for audiences to take in the documentary.  It is only one part of what makes the documentary so engaging and entertaining in its new re-issue, too.  The bonus content that accompanies the documentary adds even more to that noted appeal.

The bonus content that accompanies the documentary is not necessarily expansive per se.  It consists mainly of a feature-length audio commentary provided by Mugge, as well as some bonus performances that did not make the final cut for the main feature.  Additionally, the essay penned by Rolling Stone magazine contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis serves as its own bonus content through the background that it provides, too.  Mugge offers quite a bit of insight throughout the course of the documentary’s 91-minute run time.  Right from the feature’s outset, he reveals that Eurythmics star Dave Stewart did not want to appear in the documentary, but that he [Mugge] convinced Stewart to appear as a means to broaden the documentary’s audience.  He points out in his commentary here that Stewart’s appearances in the film would help pull in more than just the typical blues devotees.  That was a wise move on Mugge’s part. Another interesting revelation made by Mugge during his commentary is that when now legend R.L. Burnside was originally interviewed and featured in this documentary, he was not the star that he would go on to be.  He points out that a documentary that Mugge did about famed blues label Fat Possum Records actually played into Burnside’s rise to fame.  It is an unintended pat on the back, but really helps audiences to understand why Burnside was living in such a humble setting at the time that his performance and interview was filmed.  This is, again, something that longtime blues fans will especially appreciate in their understanding, and yet more proof of the importance of Mugge’s commentary.  In yet another interesting note, Palmer (who serves as a semi-host of sorts throughout the documentary) sits in a hotel room at one point, singing a note in the hotel about why the water there was brown.  What he has to say afterward versus what Mugge reveals is somewhat troubling to be honest.  Mugee reveals the real reason that the water in the hotel (and town in which the hotel sat) was dark brown.  The revelation is enough to make anyone second guess drinking it despite Palmer’s light hearted joke.  Between these discussions that Mugge brings up, and his multitude of discussions on the filming for the performances, audiences get so much insight throughout the documentary that was not available in the doc’s original presentation.  That in-depth background offered by Mugge builds on the appeal established through the main feature to make the presentation that much more engaging and entertaining.

The bonus performances noted here build even more on that engagement and entertainment.  The sound is expertly produced (just as with the performances that made the final cut).  That they are so intimate adds even more to their appeal.  It leaves one wondering why they were not added to the final cut.  Regardless, that they were included here completes the original presentation and in turn makes the presentation truly complete.

DeCurtis’ notes add their own appeal to the whole by building even more on everything discussed by Palmer and Mugge in the main feature and audio commentary.  At one point in his essay, for instance, DeCurtis points out the roots of the blues really go back to the days of slavery.  He additionally sets the stage for the experience that audiences will have as they watch, painting such a rich picture through his written tapestry.  What’s more, DeCurtis also points out that the majority of the figures featured in this documentary all went on to some level of stardom as the years went on, not just R.L. Burnside, adding that at the time though, none of the featured performers were stars. This is interesting to note because audiences never get a sense of ego from any of them.  It is all pure humility; Humility that would continue on through their respective careers.  It really serves to strength Palmer’s statement at one point that at the time of the documentary’s debut, blues was still not a major genre, but that it was beginning to see a rebirth of sorts in that popularity.  One can only imagine then, that the documentary served to help bring more attention to each figure and to the blues and its importance as a major form of American music.  Considering everything noted here and so much more, it should be clear at this point that the bonus content featured with Deep Blues is just as important to its presentation in its re-issue as the documentary itself.  Keeping in mind the overall impact of the documentary’s main and secondary content, it makes the Blu-ray’s pricing positive in its own right.

The average price point of Deep Blues – using prices listed through Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Best Buy – is $29.12.  It was not listed through Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million.  However, Barnes & Noble Booksellers did list the documentary on DVD along with Walmart and Best Buy at an average price of $26.63.  Again, considering the breadth and depth of the content discussed here, those averages are not that bad, especially being that this is an independent release.  In the case of the re-issue’s DVD listings, Best Buy lives up to its name, giving audiences the best buy with a listing of $22.99.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers has the most expensive of the DVD’s listings at $29.99 while Walmart’s listing of $26.92 is the middle ground here.

In the case of the documentary’s Blu-ray platform, Target offers the least expensive listing, at $26.59.  Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy each list the documentary’s Blu-ray presentation at $29.99, so it is more expensive overall than the doc’s DVD presentation.  At the same time though, that noted listing through Target is still less than $30, and that really brings this discussion to its crux.  The point of all of this is that while the averages are a bit high, the separate listings do have some relatively affordable price points that will not break anyone’s budget.  Adding that realization to the amount of content featured in the re-issue and that content’s impact, the whole makes this overall presentation such a positive new take of one of Robert Mugge’s many music documentaries.

Dave Stewart Entertainment/Film Movement Classics/Bay Street Records’ upcoming re-issue of Deep Blues is a wonderful new take of the 1991 documentary from director Robert Mugge.  It will resonate with audiences in part through its main feature.  That is because just like with all of Mugge’s other music docs, it immerses audiences in the music and its history, rather than just presenting it as some long-winded lecture.  This is the kind of presentation that is certain to keep audiences engaged and entertained.  The breadth of the content in the main feature builds on that appeal and ensures even more, viewers’ maintained engagement and entertainment.  The secondary (bonus) content that accompanies the documentary this time builds on the appeal ensured through the main feature.  That is because of the added background and other information that it provides through each bonus feature and item.  Keeping in mind the noted overall content and its impact, it makes the documentary’s pricing its own understandable positive, even looking at the slightly higher averages.  The separate listings are, by comparison, mostly affordable and will not break any viewer’s budget.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the documentary’s new re-issue.  All things considered, they make this re-issue a work that will appeal to audiences across the musical universe.

Deep Blues is scheduled for re-issue Tuesday through Dave Stewart Entertainment/Film Movement Classics/Bay Street Records. More information on this and other titles from Film Movement is available at:

Websitehttps://www.filmmovement.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/FilmMovement

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/Film_Movement

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

Arrow Video’s Re-Issue Of ‘The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch’ Will Appeal To Horror, Manga Fans Alike

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Halloween has come and gone for another year, and the world is once again going headlong into Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s.  However, this latter part of the holiday season is not for everyone.  For those who would rather avoid everything related to this time of year, Arrow Video has something to pass the time in the form of the new re-issue of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch.  Originally adapted from a classic manga “comic,” the movie debuted in 1968 through Japanese studio Daiei Studios.  Originally scheduled for release Sept. 21, Arrow Video is apparently now scheduled to re-issue the movie Tuesday for Western audiences on Blu-ray, more than half a century after its premiere.  Arrow Video’s recent re-issue is a strong new presentation of the cult classic movie and will appeal to the movie’s fans as well as to horror and fantasy fans.  Its appeal comes in part through its central story, which will be addressed shortly. The expansive bonus content that accompanies the re-issue is just as important to the movie’s new presentation as the story if not more so.  To that end, it will be examined a little later.  The re-issue’s pricing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later, taking into consideration all the noted content.  It will also be examined later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the re-issue’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the movie one more of the best of this year’s new DVD/BD re-issues.

Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of Daiei’s 1968 horror flick, The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is a surprisingly engaging and entertaining presentation especially for those who perhaps have never seen the cult classic.  The movie’s appeal comes in part through its story.  The story is adapted from a manga “comic” that was originally crafted by famed manga writer/artist Kazuo Umezo.  The publication in question is identified in one of the bonus features added to the re-issue.  It and more background will be addressed in the examination of the re-issue’s bonus content.  The story here in question centers on the innocent “orphan,” Sayuri (Yachie Matsui) as she is randomly reunited with her parents, following so much time spent at an orphanage.  The reason for her being in the orphanage is never explained away.  This will also be addressed in the bigger discussion on the movie’s bonus content.  As Sayuri settles into her home, she starts to discover that the home is plagued by a very negative force, this after she tells her amnesiac mother that she wants her sister Tamami (Mayumi Takahashi) to be allowed to leave the home’s attic room where she lived for however many years.  Tamami starts to terrorize Sayuri, apparently unhappy that this new person is in the house.  As the story progresses, Tamami shows that she is willing to go to great lengths (including the threat of murder) to get Sayuri to leave.  She wants Sayuri out that badly.  Eventually the revelation is made that Tamami and Sayuri are not in fact sisters and that there is much more at play.  That will be left for audiences to discover for themselves. Tamami is not the only threat, either.  There is also another person in the house who does not want Sayuri there.  The two end up working together to a point to try and get rid of Sayuri, though there is a surprise as the story reaches its climax and finale.  This will also be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  The whole of the story is well worth watching, even if one is not a fan of manga or Japanese cinema in general, but into horror.  The appreciation for the story is enhanced as audiences take in the expansive bonus content featured in the movie’s re-issue.

The bonus content consists of a new feature-length audio commentary presented by film historian David Kalat and a separate 27-minute featurette, “This Charming Woman,” which finds manga and folklore cholar Zach Davisson.  There is also an in-depth look at the movie in the presentation’s companion booklet that was penned by author Raffael Coronelli to expand on everything discussed in the other noted bonus content.  Kalat’s commentary points out a number of plot holes in the story, not the least of which being why Sayuri was in the orphanage to begin with.  He also makes note of how Sayuri’s mother got amnesia in the first place.  He gives credit to the explanation that her mother was involved in an accident, but also points out there the story never even explains what accident led to the amnesia.  As if that is not enough, he also brings up the issue of why the back door of the cab that Sayuri hails late in the story opens but no one gets in or out.  Ironically, for all the problems that Kalat points out in the story, he openly supports them, stating in his own words, that he feels they add to the story’s presentation in a unique way.  That in itself is sure to get audiences talking.  On a separate note, Kalat also uses his commentary to share the connection that the movie has to another famous Japanese cinema franchise, that of Gamera and its sequels.  As it turns out, director Noriaki Yuasa is directly tied to that franchise, according to Kalat’s information.  That is sure to generate even more appreciation for this movie among fans of the Gamera franchise.  On yet another interesting note, Kalat opens a discussion on the fairy tale aspect of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch, but does not go into full depth about that connection.  Davisson expands on Kalat’s comments in his separate featurette.

Davisson expands on Kalat’s comments by pointing out the connection that the movie has, going all the way back to the stories of the Brothers Grimm.  He notes that while this story is based on a manga “comic,” it still incorporates the “feared mother” aspect by making Ms. Shige (Sachiko Meguro – Warning From Space, The Precipice, Kurotokage) the feared mother/step mother figure since Sayuri’s biological mother is “incapacitated” by her amnesia.  His commentary on this topic makes a person look back in hindsight and say “aha” in the best way possible.  Additionally, Davisson offers audiences some history on Umezo’s career in manga, noting that Umezo started his career at the young age of 18, and that he would go on to be a groundbreaker of sorts in the genre of body horror in manga.  As if all of that is not enough, Davisson, like Kalat, points out that this movie was not the ony one of its kind.  He stresses that in Japanese cinema, movies involving half animal figures was hardly abnormal and that in fact the movie came out a a time when monster movies were at the height of their popularity in Japan.  Davisson points out here that as a result, the movie has never been considered a ground breaker, but is still a cult favorite among the bigger monster movie genre in Japanese cinema.  That is sure to bring about its own share of discussion.  Between these discussions and others that he delves into over the course of his nearly half-hour featurette (including that of the role of women in cinema in Japan at the time), Davisson adds even more engagement and entertainment to the overall presentation, showing even more why the re-issue’s bonus content is so important.

Where Davisson and Kalat leave off, Coronelli picks up.  He adds to the overall bonus content by making note of the role of snakes in the Japanese occult belief system.  He compares it to the role of the fox, which according to him, is the more common occult “familiar” figure in Japan.  From there, Coronelli goes into a deeper discussion, explaining the role that each animal has in the Japanese occult, and then ties that discussion back into the snakes’ appearances in the movie.  This makes for its own share of interest.  This is the most important of Coronelli’s discussions as much of the other content in his notes echoes what Kalat and Davisson have already touched on in their discussions.  All things considered, the overall bonus content here makes for such a rich background to the story and enhances the re-issue’s overall presentation so much.  When the primary and secondary content is considered together, the whole makes the re-issue’s pricing just as important to examine.  That is because of how much the content offers audiences to appreciate.

The average price point for the forthcoming BD re-issue of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is $29.76.  That price was reached by averaging prices through Amazon, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and MVD Entertainment Group’s store (the company is working with Arrow Video to distribute the re-issue in the United States).  The re-issue was not listed through Walmart and Books-a-Million.  As an added note, Barnes & Noble is currently listing the re-issue at a sale price of $19.99 rather than its normal listing of $39.99.  If one were to consider that price, it would being the average to $33.76, and would make the listing of $27.99 (at Target and Best Buy) the least expensive and well below both averages.  Amazon’s listing of $32.88 is below the upper average, but above the lesser of the two averages.  Considering that the movie is technically an import, those higher prices are to be expected.  Keeping that in mind, they are less hard hitting, and regardless, it makes those $27.99 listings still just as affordable and worth the price, considering the noted overall content.  To that end, the pricing for this re-issue is still its own positive, since there are some prices that while up there, are still relatively affordable, even with the movie being an import.  Keeping this in mind along with the engagement and entertainment that the movie’s story and bonus content will offer audiences, the whole once more shows why this movie is another of this year’s best new BD/DVD re-issues.

Arrow Video’s forthcoming Blu-ray re-issue of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is a surprisingly impressive new presentation from the home entertainment company.  Its appeal comes in part through its story, which is one part horror and one part fairy tale a la The Brothers Grimm.  It will leave audiences guessing throughout about so many items, but in the best way possible.  That and the general story itself does plenty to keep audiences watching.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new re-issue adds even more to the presentation’s appeal.  That is because of the history and background that it adds to the movie.  That background and history gives the movie so much more depth through everything discussed.  Keeping the content in mind, it makes the re-issue’s pricing its own positive.  While not hugely inexpensive, the pricing will not break any viewer’s budget.  That is especially understood when audiences keep in mind that the movie is an import.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch.  All things considered, they make the re-issue one more of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.

The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is scheduled for release Tuesday through Arrow Video.  More information on this and other titles from Arrow Video is available at:

Websitehttps://www.arrowfilms.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/ArrowVideo

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

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