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

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Paramount

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/eOne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

·        Featurettes

·        Animated Storyboards

·        Trailers and TV Spots

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

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

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

Website: https://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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

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

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website: https://www.pbs.org

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PBS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Websitehttps://www.cbs.com/all-acess

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/CBSAllAccess

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/cbsallaccess

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.

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

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WGBH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/NOVApbs

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/novapbs

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

‘Nature: Big Bend — The Wild Frontier of Texas’ Continues To Show Why ‘Nature’ Is One Of PBS’ Prime Series

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

Big Bend National Park is one of the most stunning locations within North America’s national parks system.  Covering more than 1,200 square miles in Texas and Mexico, the park features geological structures that date back eons.  It is also home to countless animal species on two and four legs.  The park faced great peril in 2020 due to now former President Donald Trump’s attempts to have a border wall built on the land.  Thankfully, outcry from officials in the region and Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election prevented the delicate park — which was established in 1944 – from being upset by those plans. PBS took audiences on a powerful trip through the park in February in a then new episode of its long-running, hit wildlife series, Nature titled Big Bend: The Wild Frontier of Texas.  The episode was released on DVD last month through PBS’ home distribution arm, PBS Distribution.  For those who have yet to watch this episode of Nature, it is another welcome edition to the show’s already extensive body.  A big part of what makes this episode so engaging and entertaining is its central story.  It will be discussed shortly.  While the story itself is so engaging and entertaining, the cinematography leaves just a little bit to be desired.  That is not to say that the cinematography is a failure.  There is much to like here, but at the same time, it does have a bit of a shortcoming.  It will be discussed a little later.   Considering the impact of the noted content, the DVD’s average price point proves just as important to note as the content.  It will be discussed later,   too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this episode of Nature.  All things considered, they make Nature: Big BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas more proof of why Nature remains one of PBS’ most respected and beloved shows.

PBS’ long-running wildlife series Nature is and has been for a long time, one of the network’s most respected and revered shows.  Big BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas is yet another example of why the series has its noted positive reputation.  That is proven in part through its story.  The nearly hour-long story takes viewers on a cinematic journey through the park, which is one part of North America’s extensive national parks system.  It follows just some of the animal life that calls the park home over the course of a year, starting and ending with a black bear’s journey into the park.  Along the way, the story presents other life, such as an acorn woodpecker (Yes that is really the bird’s name), hummingbirds, bighorn sheep, and various lizard species.  The story, narrated by famed actor Thomas Haden Church (Spiderman 3, Sideways, Wings), also takes time to note the human impact on the park and its wildlife, as well as how the land on which it sits once belonged solely to the people of Mexico.  The discussion is a bit of a digression from the central story, but is still a necessary aspect of the overall story.  That is because as is noted, the land actually crosses international borders between Texas and Mexico, meaning the land still belongs at least partially to Mexico.  Getting back on topic, it should be noted that there is some footage of the bighorn sheep (and one of the lizard species) mating.  So some parental discretion is advised even here.  Overall, the story is relatively simple, and in turn, simple to follow.  That simplicity in itself and the equally simple topic makes for plenty of engagement and entertainment.  It is just one part of what makes this episode enjoyable.  The episode’s cinematography does its own share to impress viewers, too.

The cinematography exhibited throughout Big BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas is for the most part, impressive.  The rich colors of the expansive desert landscape, with all of its towering rocky structures, its river ecosystem, and all of its other aspects are so enthralling in themselves.  Watching thunderstorms make their way across the park, lightning and all, makes for its own powerful statement through the cinematography.  At the same time, the way in which the cameras capture a Pallid Bat (which is all white) capturing its prey under the cover of darkness is its own engaging visual, too.  On a similar note, the visual of a large bird of prey coasting through the air, the rich colors of the rocks in the distance behind the bird, is yet another powerful visual.  Between these visuals and so many others, the episode’s cinematography offers much for audiences to appreciate.

At the same time that the cinematography offers so much engagement and entertainment, it also poses one problem.  The problem in question comes from what feels like an overuse of slow motion videography.  There is a high usage of high-speed frame rates in the scenes involving the region’s winged creatures.  Those scenes are not the only ones in which the high frame rate approach is used, though.  The scenes in which the bighorn sheep are competing during mating season also see a lot of high frame rate usage.  This even happens as viewers watch raindrops from the noted thunderstorms fall on lizards that crawl along the park’s dusty ground.  It is one thing to adjust the cameras’ frame rates here and there.  Using this approach as much as was done in this episode though, came across as a bit of overkill, and in turn detracted significantly from the overall viewing experience.  Even with this in mind, it is not enough to ruin the episode, even though it cannot be ignored.  Taking all of this into account with the episode’s story, that collective content makes the average price point for its DVD presentation its own positive.

The average price point of Nature: Big BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas is $20.99.  That price was reached by averaging prices at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Books-A-Million, and PBS’ online store.  The listings at PBS, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million are the most expensive, with each listing the DVD at $24.99 while all of the other retailers list the DVD well below the noted average, at $17.99.  Considering that the majority of the major retailers list this episode at less than $20, viewers will definitely call this a positive.  That is especially considering, again, the story and its accessibility, and its overall enjoyable cinematography.  All things considered, the average price point for the episode’s DVD presentation, its cinematography and story make this new offering yet more proof of what makes Nature one of PBS’ most respected and revered shows.

NatureBig BendThe Wild Frontier of Texas is a largely engaging and entertaining episode of PBS’ long-running wildlife series.  The episode’s story is simple, straight forward, and as a result accessible for any viewer.  What’s more, save for a couple of moments requiring some viewer discretion, it is a presentation that audiences of all ages will enjoy.  The cinematography that is exhibited throughout the nearly hour-long episode is impressive in its own right, too.  That is even with what feels like an over use of high speed lens work.  Keeping all of this in mind, the average price point for the episode’s DVD presentation proves to be its own positive.  Its average price point is $20.99, but most major retailers list it for far less than that price.  That means it will not break any viewer’s budget.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the episode in its new home release.  All things considered, they make the episode another welcome entry in what is one of PBS’ prime series.  Nature: Big BendThe Wild  Frontier of Texas is available now.

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

Websitehttps://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/PBSNature

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/PBSNature

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‘Erstausgabe’ Takes Moka Efti Orchestra From Fictional House Band To Real, Enjoyable Jazz Collective

Courtesy: Six Degrees Records

When Babylon Berlin first premiered in 2017 on German television network Sky TV, few if any would have thought it would become an international hit.  More than four years after its premiere in its home nation though, it has gone on to become a hit among American audiences on Netflix, with all three of its current seasons streaming through that service.  The series has been certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 97 percent.  A big part of the period noir series’ success is its “house band,” the Moka Efti Orchestra.  The 14-piece organization has proven to be such a key part of the series’ success that it has gone from being just a collective element for the series to being a real recording and performing entity.  That just goes to show the collective’s popularity.  That popularity is likely to continue its growth when the organization releases its debut album, Erstausgabe Friday through Six Degrees Records.  Roughly translated, the title means “First Edition,” which is fitting, considering again, this is the group’s first full outing.  The 13-song offering is a presentation that will appeal equally to fans of Babylon Berlin and jazz fans.  That is due in part to the collection’s featured songs.  They will be discussed shortly.  The performances of said songs add their own touch to the presentation and will be discussed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out the album’s most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the album overall a surprisingly enjoyable new addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.

Moka Efti Orchestra’s debut album Erstausgabe is a strong first outing for the band, which started out as just a fictional collective that is part of a television series.  The 51-minute record helps the group take a big step from the screen to the real musical universe in part through its featured songs.  Some of the songs featured in the album are works that the band performed on Babylon Berlin while others are new, original compositions.  What’s more, some of the songs are instrumentals while others feature lyrics.  Some of those lyrical presentations are performed in German while others are presented in English.  Even more important to note is the diversity in the stylistic approach to the songs.  The whole thing opens with a composition in ‘Hollaender Mash Up’ that is one part 1920s swing and one part 1960s cool jazz.  That sounds like an odd combination, but it works.  On the other hand, a composition, such as Rainbow is a more modern style work that lends itself to comparison to works composed by Harry Connick Jr. and his big band.  On yet another hand, ‘Gloomy Sunday,’ the album’s penultimate song, is a deeply   moving blues style work that take audiences way back in time to the smoky night clubs of the 1920s and 30s with its controlled piano line, string arrangement and vocals.  It is one more example of that aforementioned stylistic diversity presented throughout this album, and it feels so real thanks to that real performance.  Speaking of performances, they will be discussed shortly.  Getting back to the subject at hand, the noted diversity in the arrangements’ stylistic approaches and sounds works with the diversity in the new, original tunes and songs composed for the series, and even the diversity in the instrumental and vocal performances to make the songs in whole, a strong, powerful foundation for Erstausgabe.  Building on that foundation and strengthening it is the band’s performances of the songs.

The performances in question are important to examine because of the impact that they have on the album’s general effect.  One of those performances – that of ‘Gloomy Sunday’ – has already been noted.  Singer Severija Janusauskaite’s smoky vocals and the gypsy style violin line pairs with the simple yet so rich piano performance, to make this performance so immersive.  The overall performance will keep listeners fully engaged and entertained.  The rest of the orchestra gets its chance to shine as the song progresses, with full horn and percussion ensemble joining.  The addition of those elements shows the arrangement’s evolution and makes the song even more immersive, even as short as it is.  The whole of the two “movements” makes the performance in whole so enjoyable and just one example of what makes the album’s performances notable.  On a completely opposite end of things, the performance presented in the instrumental track ‘Frenzy’ does its own share to show the importance of the group’s performances.

‘Frenzy’ clocks in at two minutes, 15 seconds.  That brief run time is fully utilized from start to end complete with the…well….frenetic yet controlled drumming and percussion from Larry Mullins and Tobias Backhaus, and equally energetic performance on clarinet from Gegoire Peters.  The strings and horns, which serve as support, are just as enjoyable to hear as they add their own flourishes to the whole.  All things considered here, the orchestra’s performance proves just as engaging and entertaining as its performance of ‘Gloomy Sunday.’  To that end, it is yet another example of what makes the group’s performances in whole important to the record’s presentation.  The band’s performance of ‘Zu Asche,  Zu Staub’ (‘To Ashes, To Dust’) is yet another example of what makes the band’s performances here so important.

The band’s performance of ‘Zu Asche, Zu Staub’ is a notable example of the overall importance of the group’s performance because the song itself is so much unlike anything  else featured in the  album.  It is another multi-part composition whose first movement is more modern classical than jazz.  The real jazz element comes into play in its second movement.  The drum solo that opens the movement lends itself to the work of the likes of Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.  The vintage 1960s style work that rises from here, complete with Janusauskaite’s powerhouse vocal performance makes for such a wonderful growth from the song’s first movement.  When it and the song’s first movement come together, the whole presents a performance that is just as engaging and entertaining as any of the other performances featured here.  Keeping those other performances in mind, when they are considered with this one, the whole makes clear why the performances are so important to the album’s presentation.  They enrich the listening experience just as much as the variety of arrangements that make up the album.  As much as the performances of the album’s featured arrangements do to make the album so appealing, they are just one more portion of what makes the album successful.  The album’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.

The sequencing of Erstausgabe is important to examine because of its impact on the album’s general effect.  Listeners will not a clear change of style and energies throughout the record, showing unquestionably that some thought went into the album’s sequencing.  The album’s first trio of songs is mostly up-tempo even as their styles change from one to the next.  From there, the sequencing pulls things back in ‘Snake – Together Alone’ and ‘Crocodile Blues’ before picking right back up in ‘Frenzy’ and ‘Lange Beene.’  ‘Zu Asce, Zu Staub’ serves as a real break point, changing the album’s mood completely through its unique arrangement and energy.  From there, the energy rises again in ‘Rainbow’ and “Wannasee Weise’ before easing off once again in the much more laid back ‘Die Nacht.’ 

‘Gloomy Sunday’ pulls the record’s energy back once more before the band closes out the album on a high note in ‘Tschuldigensemal.’  Looking back through all of this, it is clear, again, how much time and thought went into the sequencing.  The result of that time and thought results in an album here that impresses just as much through its general effect as its content.  When everything is considered together, the bigger picture makes the album a unique addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums that every jazz fan will agree holds its own against any release from the band’s American counterparts.

Moka Efti Orchestra’s debut album Erstausgabe is a unique presentation that makes quite the name for itself among this year’s field of new jazz offerings.  That is due in part to its featured musical arrangements.  The arrangements are diverse in their styles, ranging from ragtime, to klezmer, to even some classical jazz.  That diversity in itself guarantees listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  The performances of the featured songs build on the foundation formed by the arrangements, adding even more enjoyment.  That is due to the fact that the performances are themselves so rich.  They fully immerse listeners in the songs.  The sequencing of the songs puts the final touch to the album.  That is because of the impact that it has on the album’s general effect.  It ensures the album’s energy and styles avoid any redundancy while also providing just as much enjoyment through the band’s performances.  Each item noted here clearly has its own impact on this album’s presentation and enjoyment.  All things considered, the album stands out and holds its own among this year’s field of new jazz albums.  Erstausgabe is scheduled for release Friday through Six Degrees Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of Moka Efti Orchestra’s latest news at https://www.facebook.com/mokaeftiorchestra.  

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.  

Andre Comeau Debuts New Single, ‘Clean Break’

Courtesy: O’Donnell Media Group

MTV legend Andre Comeau unveiled his new single over the weekend.

Comeau and his band, which bears his name, premiered its new single, ‘Clean Break‘ Friday. ‘Clean Break’ is the first single and title track from Andre Comeau’s forthcoming album.

Comeau was part of the cast of the very first Real World installment, Real World: New York. Following his time on the show, he then went on to a successful career with the independent rock band Reigndance, which itself was featured in the then groundbreaking series.

The musical arrangement featured in Comeau’s new single is itself very much an indie-rock style composition. That is evidenced in the arrangement’s DIY sound, considering the guitar arrangement and vocals, and even the drums.

No information was provided about the song’s lyrical theme, though it would seem the song’s lyrical theme centers on the topic of a broken relationship.

More information on Andre Comeau’s new single is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: https://Andrecomeaumusic.com

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

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.worpress.com.

BBC One, PBS Distribution’s Presentation Of ‘The Long Song’ Is A Deeply Moving Historical Fiction

Courtesy: BBC One/PBS Distribution/NBC Universal International

It’s better to be late than never.  Everyone knows that old adage.  It is an adage that applies well for PBS Distribution’s DVD release of BBC One’s 2018 adaptation of author Andrea Levy’s novel, The Long Song.  PBS Distribution brought the drama to American audiences in February as part of PBS’ celebration of the 50th anniversary of its program, Masterpiece.  The nearly three-hour mini-series (two hours, 50 minutes to be exact) is a powerful and memorable work that while maybe not at the level of the cinematic adaptation of author Alex Haley’s novel Roots, it is sill moving, powerful and memorable.  That is proven in part through the historical fiction’s story.  This item will be discussed shortly.  The cast’s work on camera adds its own share of engagement and entertainment.  It will be discussed a little later.  The story’s general look (the backdrop and costuming) rounds out the program’s most important elements.  It will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the mini-series’ presentation.  All things considered, they make The Long Song a presentation that is well worth watching at least once.

BBC One’s adaptation of author Anrea Levy’s novel, The Long Song is a powerful story that audiences with any interest in the history of slavery (and especially Great Britain’s role in the slave trade) will find worth watching. That is due in part to its central story.  The central story is a historical fiction that is based on the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt of 1831-32.  The story in fact opens in the waning days of slavery in Jamaica, which was controlled by the British government.  The opening story in its three-episode run in fact takes place as the Great Slave Revolt essentially begins.  The difference here is that the slaves burned down portions of the region’s sugarcane fields right at Christmas as a group of British aristocrats meet at the Amity plantation.  In reality, the sugarcane fields were not burned, but certain estates in Jamaica.  That aside, the story here is still close enough to reality that viewers can forgive the fiction. 

The related story of the tension between the plantation workers and overseer Robert Goodwin (Jack Lowden – War & Peace, Small Axe, Fighting With My Family) adds to the overall story’s presentation.  It is so telling because what happens with Robert’s development is in reality, its own commentary on how so much of the white world is even today.  Even people who claim they are not racist still do have some racist tendencies because it has been ingrained into them by another generation.  It is a topic that the world really needs to address.  On a similar note, that moment when James (Ansu Kabia – Miss Scarlet & The Duke, Hobbs & Shaw, Murder on the Orient Express) tells Robert that he and his fellow emancipated friends refused to pay higher rent for their home and to work longer hours adds to the story involving Robert’s clearly deep-rooted racist tendencies.  This is a matter that will resonate with audiences even today, not just African-Americans.  Average workers everywhere are dealing with the issue today, of increases in the cost of living versus stagnant wages.  It makes this part of the overall story that much more engaging because it shows how far back this issue has reached in human history.

On yet another note, the love triangle between Roger, July (Tamara Lawrance – The Gurney, Kindred, On Chesil Beach), and Caroline (Hayley Atwell – Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man) adds   yet another layer of engagement and entertainment.  The love triangle between the trio is like something out of a trashy romance novel, so it is certain to bring in plenty of female audiences.  At the same time, July getting caught up in-between Robert and her fellow freedmen adds to the drama, and that will engage and entertain men and women alike.  Considering this story line and the other two noted here, it is clear that there is a lot going on over the course of The Long Song’s story.  All of the noted story elements go a long way toward making the story fully engaging and entertaining.  Considering how much is going on in the story, it is all well-balanced.  To that end, the story featured in The Long Song forms a strong foundation for the mini-series’ presentation.  The cast’s work in front of the camera builds on that foundation, making the presentational the better.

The work of The Long Song’s cast is so important to discuss because it is so impressive.  Atwell really steals the show here.  She makes it so easy to hate Caroline.  The way that Caroline treats July throughout the story and the way that she competes with her over Robert makes her that stereotypical spoiled bratty aristocrat.  It makes her a great antagonist.  Not to give away too much, but her behavior late in the second episode in regards to Emily (July’s infant daughter) is just plain despicable.  It makes her performance all the richer.  What’s more, considering her extensive time in the Marvel universe (and her overall resume), taking on the villainous role makes for an interesting turn.  She handled it expertly and makes for a clear example of why the cast’s work is so important.

Kabia’s performance is one of the surprise standouts in this story.  While some might consider his role supporting, he comes across more as a lead actor.  That is because of the lead that he takes among the plantation workers.  The noted confrontation that James has with Robert is just one way in which Kabia shows his chops.  What he does is what so many viewers wish they could do to their bosses. It is such a believable moment.  Throughout the story, his leadership of the plantation workers shows him as such a respected figure.  At the same time, the contrast of his presence to that of July really helps to build the tension.  Between his performance here and that in Miss Scarlet & The Duke, Kabia continues to show his talent.  Considering that, it will hopefully not be long before he gains his own even bigger role that finally really breaks him through.

Lawrance’s performance is just as notable as that of Atwell and Kabia.  There were plenty of points at which she easily could have chewed the scenery so to speak, considering all of the drama in the story.  Yet, her performance from beginning to end, Lawrance interprets each scene expertly in her own right.  Case in point is the moment when Caroline tells July that Robert is going to marry her.  The emotion that she brings out here is so moving and not too emotional.  That fateful moment in which the plantation workers refuse to work on Christmas and Robert storms off, nearly leaving her behind is another key example of Lawrance’s talents.  The way she stands there, trying to make sense of the situation showed July as someone who was just so torn.  And her vulnerability as she had to get Robert to stop the carriage added even more to the moment.  On a more subtle note, the way in which Lawrance handles July’s reaction to Caroline imagining kidnapping Emily is another example of Lawrance’s talent.  Rather than just go all out, freaking out, Lawrance instead brings out the mother in July, making her concern for her daughter evident.  It is yet another powerful presentation.

Lawrance’s performance is just one more that makes clear, the importance of the cast’s work.  That of Lowden is yet another prime example of that importance.  At first Robert comes in as this dashing, almost prince charming type figure.  However, his reaction at the very sight of a cockroach shows a certain weakness.  It is funny.  Also, it is a wonderful depiction of someone who clearly spent his upbringing being very coddled.  Lowden’s portrayal of Robert in this case does so much to really bring out that aristocratic side of Robert.  As the story progresses, Lowden’s display of Robert’s gradual breakdown does just as much to keep viewers engaged.  It makes viewers want to see to what point Robert will go.  What’s more, it slowly reveals Robert’s innate racist tendencies that he otherwise wants to deny and hide.  Audiences will find themselves wanting to watch his performance throughout just as much as the other noted cast’s work.  When all of that work is considered collectively, that whole makes clear the importance of the cast’s work.  When that work is considered along with the richness of the overall story, the two elements collectively make for so much engagement and entertainment.  They are just a portion of what makes The Long Song so enthralling.  The story’s general look rounds out its most important elements.

The Long Song’s look is important because it also plays into the presentation’s overall appeal and believability.  Audiences will find interesting that while it takes place in Jamaica, its visual presentation was captured in the Dominican Republic.  If audiences did not know that, they would just as easily believe their eyes.  The rich greens of the sugarcane fields and the look of the Amity House are so enveloping.  Even the look of the Brits and plantation workers is proper for the era.  From Caroline’s and July’s dresses to the plantation workers’ far simpler apparel, the overall look of the story proves correct.  That attempt to make the story believable through its look paid off just as much as the work that that cast and show’s heads put in.  All things considered, the overall presentation that is The Long Song proves a powerful story that deserves seeing at least once if not more.

BBC One’s presentation of The Long Song is a presentation that history buffs and drama fans alike will appreciate.  That is due in no small part to its story.  While the story is a historical fiction, it does have some reality incorporated into its whole.  That and the drama that is added to the story makes the story even more engaging.  The work of the cast in interpreting the scripts adds to the overall appeal.  The general look of the program’s presentation does its own share to make the whole appealing, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way in making this presentation appealing.  All things considered, they make the whole a powerful, memorable work that history and drama fans alike will find well worth watching at least once.  It is available now.  More information on this and other titles from BBC One is available online at:

Website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcone

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/BBCOne

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/BBC_One

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

Website:  https://www.pbsdistribution.org

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/PBSDistribution.org

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/PBSDistribution

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The First Season Of “All Creatures Great & Small’s” Reboot Is A Surprisingly “Great” Presentation

Courtesy: PBS Distribution/Channel 5/Screen Yorkshire/Playground/all3 media

Reboots have become in recent years, an all too common thing in television.  Paramount is rebooting Rugrats, NBC tried (and failed) with its reboot of Will & Grace, as did CBS with its reboot of Murphy Brown.  There are even so many game shows getting rebooted over on ABC, and none are nearly as entertaining and engaging as the original series.  So when it was announced that the British drama All Creatures Great & Small was getting the reboot treatment on Britain’s Viacom-owned Channel 5 last year, there was good reason for audiences to be tense.  The original series, which also aired on Channel 5 from 1978 – ’80 and again from 1988 – ’90, offered so much for audiences to enjoy, so needless to say the  bar was already set high, considering the simplicity, heart and warmth of the original series.  Now with the release of the rebooted series’ lead season available on DVD (it was released Feb. 9 on DVD), it can be said that this show is one of the very rare exceptions to the rule of reboots being less than their source material.  Rather, this update on the original series is just as enjoyable as the original show.  That is proven in part through the stories, which will be discussed shortly.  The presentation thereof plays its own subtle but important part to this presentation and will be discussed a little later.  The work of the show’s cast also does its own share to engage and entertain audiences.  It will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the first season of All Creatures Great & Small’s reboot.  All things considered, they make the lead season’s presentation one that makes this reboot stand out in the best way from so many other reboots being churned out on either side of the Atlantic.

Channel 5’s reboot of All Creatures Great & Small is a surprisingly entertaining and engaging presentation in its debut season, considering that it is, again, a reboot.  One of the items that makes this reboot shine in its lead season is its stories.  Given, the stories are loosely connected to the semi-autobiographical stories by James Herriot and just as loosely connected with the stories featured in the original series.  That aside, the stories bear so much heart and warmth from one to the next as they expertly balance drama and comedy alike for a fully immersive whole.  One episode that exemplifies the show’s powerful dramatic element finds James (Nicholas Ralph) facing the consequences of having to euthanize a horse that was suffering internally.  It would have been so easy for the show’s creative heads to go and make this moment early in Herriot’s career way schmaltzier than it needed to be.  That’s something that producers of any American drama might do with such a show, but thankfully was not allowed to happen here.  The way in which the story was handled, with James eventually gaining Siegfried’s (Samuel West) trust and  even respect, but still beating himself up, is so moving because of the control on all aspects therein.  That is also attributed to the work of the cast, which will be discussed later.  The result of that overall control is that said story becomes one of the series’ most moving and powerful moments in this its debut season.

By contrast, the story that finds James having to take part in the Dales’ annual fair balances drama and comedy together.  This story has equal parts drama and comedy as Siegfried, Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley), and Tristan (Callum Woodhouse) make a bet as to how long James will last at the fair before he finally snaps.  That these otherwise prim and proper types were gambling, and on the fate of their own friend no less, makes for so much laughter.  James’ own struggles to handle all of the pressure make for their own lighthearted moments, too.  It really serves to bring out that Buster Keaton type persona that Nicholas Ralph presents throughout the season. This will be discussed later.  Alongside with all of the laughs is James’ own inner struggle with having to decide whether to keep a secret involving a bull’s potency or lack thereof.  It is a simple matter, but the manner in which the show’s writers handled this story crates real engaging drama and ensures viewers’ engagement in its own way. That balance of lightheartedness and seriousness makes this story another memorable addition to this season.  It shows in its own right, what makes the show’s stories so important in its debut season.

Another story that shows the importance of the stories in this reboot actually stretches throughout the show’s debut season.  The story in question is that of Tristan’s personal growth.  He starts out as an indignant, snotty brat, but as his time at his brother’s office continues, audiences see him grow as a person.  It would have been easy in this case, to have just left Tristan a static character.  Thankfully that did not happen. His growth leads to scenes throughout that will lead to awe and laughter throughout.  The balance of dramatic chops and physical comedy that Woodhouse incorporates into his character as Tristan changes does so much to entertain audiences, too.  It is yet another example of how the stories featured in this season make it so appealing.  When these stories are considered along with the story of James’ romance with Helen (Rachel Shenton), James’ efforts to save a cow’s life, his near fatal mistake with another cow’s diagnosis, and even the powerful holiday-themed story that serves as the season finale, that whole makes clear why the stories featured in the first season of All Creatures Great & Small’s reboot surprisingly entertaining.  The manner in which the stories are presented here couples with the stories themselves to make for even more appeal.

The manner in which the stories are presented in the first season of All Creatures Great & Small’s reboot is important because by and large, it breaks from the norm of so much of today’s television.  The stories are presented as standalone works rather than as part of some serialized presentation.  Yes, there is a serial type aspect to the show in terms of the character development, but that is where that element stops.  This means that for the most part, audiences do not have to feel like they have to invest themselves in the show but so much.  In an age when far too much programming (on either side of the Atlantic) has become serialized, it is nice to return to a simple brand of programming if only for once.  Keeping that in mind, audiences who, like this critic, are beyond sick and tired of serialized shows will openly welcome this once familiar brand of story telling, making for even more appeal here.  This aspect is just one more that makes this season so enjoyable.  The cast’s work on camera puts the finishing touch to the presentation.

The work of All Creatures Great & Small is important to discuss because of the engagement and entertainment that it ensures.  As noted previously, newcomer Nicholas Ralph’s take on James gives James a new sort of identity this time out.  Not only does Ralph look somewhat like silent film legend Buster Keaton with his often stone-face emoting, but the personality that Ralph brings to James has that same sort of character type to the role.  That type in question is the innocent, underdog figure.  Whether Ralph set out to emulate Keaton is anyone’s guess.  Regardless, it makes Ralph’s performance and James that much more endearing and enjoyable.

Ralph is just one of the cast members, whose work on camera deserves attention and credit here.  Samuel West’s performance as Siegfried is entertaining in its own right.  Watching West develop Siegfried’s persona from the gruff, eccentric figure that he was in the season’s premiere to the more vulnerable, open type that he became by the season’s end is just as enjoyable as watching any of his cast mates.  West is fully believable in the role, and just as entertaining because viewers never know which side of Siegfried that they would see from one episode to the next.  The way in which West plays his character alongside/against Ralph’s own performance adds even more to each actor’s portrayal.  It shows there must have been some real chemistry between the pair off camera and on.

Much the same said of Ralph and West in regards to their performances can also be said of Callum Woodhouse’s presentation of Tristan.  At first, his take on Tristan’s snotty, arrogant behavior makes it so easy for audiences to dislike Tristan and write him off as just an antagonist to James (and even his own brother to a lesser extent).  However, as the season progresses, Woodhouse shows just as well, Tristan’s gradual desire to grow and become a better person.  The result is that audiences will find themselves surprised at their desire to actually pull for Tristan.  The reason being, that he manages to make Tristan a reflection of audiences.  He mirrors that desire that audiences have to better themselves because they know they, too, are imperfect.  Woodhouse’s clear understanding of that concept makes his portrayal just as strong as any other this season, and certainly not the last.  The one and only Anna Madeley is just as entertaining as her cast mates.

Madeley, who takes on the role of Mrs. Hall this time out, is the closest thing to a matriarch at Siegfried’s office.  She plays friend/confidant to Siegfried while taking on the part of a motherly figure to James and Tristan.  Her ability to be gentile with those two at times and firmer at others gives just the right balance of care and concern while also treating them as the adults that they are.  At the same time, the vulnerability that she allows Siegfried to see shows her softer side in a completely different fashion.  That is just a part of what audiences will enjoy watching from her.  There is a scene at the fair in which she silently but firmly goes toe to toe with a crooked carny who took a young girl’s money.  Her fortitude in that moment against the carny makes for another great performance on her part.  All things considered here, Madeley makes Hall just as great and beloved in this season of the show’s reboot as do her cast mates make their characters.  That is, again, the way in which she interprets each scene and Hall’s role in each circumstance.  That talent makes Hall unquestionably just as important to this show as her fellow characters.  Keeping that in mind, when Madeley’s performance is considered along with those of her cast mates, the result is performance after performance that fully immerses audiences into each story.  That immersion in turn results in appreciation for the stories and their own presentation style.  Keeping all of this in mind, there is no question in the end that all things considered, the lead season of Channel 5’s reboot of All Creatures Great & Small is a surprisingly entertaining presentation, especially being a reboot.

British network Channel 5’s reboot of the classic series All Creatures Great & Small is a surprisingly enjoyable new take on that original series.  It truly stands out among all of the otherwise forgettable reboots that have and do pollute the airwaves and ISPs.  That says a lot in itself.  Part of the reason that it stands out is its stories.  The stories, while loosely based on James Herriot’s books and the original series’ episodes at best, they are still enjoyable works that boast so much heart and depth.  The dramatic plot elements never get too extreme while the comedic elements get just enough time of their own.  At the same time, that the stories once again focus on James’ development at Siegfried’s office adds even more appeal to this aspect.  The fact that the stories are presented more as standalone stories than serial style tales makes for even more engagement and entertainment.  The work of the show’s cast within each episode puts the finishing touch to the whole.  When all three elements are considered together, they make Channel 5’s reboot of All Creatures Great & Small a rare exception to the rule of so many reboots being unnecessary and lacking in any entertainment and engagement.  They make this first season of the series’ reboot a surprisingly “great” presentation.  All Creatures Great & Small: Season 1 is available now.  More information on the series and other shows from Channel 5 is available online at:

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