‘Under The Pepper Tree’ Is A Successful First Family Music Outing For Sara Watkins

Courtesy: New West

Singer-songwriter Sara Watkins has made quite the name for herself over the years as a member of the bluegrass group Nickel Creek and as part of the Watkins Family Hour and I’m With Her.  Now this Friday, Watkins will take her first step into another phase of her career with her debut family music album, Under the Pepper Tree.  The 15-song first outing is a presentation that will appeal to her fans and those of one Diana Panton.  That is due in part to the song’s that make up the album’s body.  They will be discussed shortly.  The musical arrangements that Watkins employs throughout the album add to its appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The sequencing of that overall content puts the finishing touch to the record and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, Sarah Watkins’ debut family music album is a successful offering that the whole family will indeed enjoy.

Sara Watkins’ debut family music album is a work that the whole family truly will enjoy.  That is due in part to its featured songs.  The songs in question are a selection of songs from various classic movies.  Bob Nolan’s ‘Tumblin’ Tumbleweed,’ from Gene Autry’s 1935 movie by the same name is featured here along with the likes of ‘Edelweiss’ from 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Rodgers &  Hammerstein’s musical, The Sound of Music (1965), and ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ from Disney’s classic Pinocchio (1940).  Also represented here is ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, Carousel (1956); ‘La la Lu’ from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (1955) and even ‘Moon River’ from Paramount Pictures’ 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  There is even an original tune in the form of the album’s title track along with everything else.  The songs will relate to listeners of all ages because they are all timeless works that the noted audiences will remember.  Given, parents will recognize some of the songs more than children, but that aside, those songs will still entertain younger listeners.

On another level, that some of the songs (and their related movies) will connect more with older audiences than with children. That in itself serves as a starting point for older audiences to offer younger listeners the most basic introduction to so many classic musicals and movies.  That early introduction could help lead to a lifelong love for said presentations.  So while on the surface, the songs make up a collective of soundtrack works, they actually can and do serve an even greater purpose, bringing families together while building a foundation and love for the great timeless works of stage and screen from entertainment’s golden age.  To that end, the songs featured in this compilation form a solid foundation for the record itself.  It is just one part of what makes the recording so enjoyable.  The arrangements that Watkins chose for these songs adds to the record’s overall appeal.

Watkins largely stays true to the source material in each song that she features in her new record, from one to the next.  For all of that honor that Watkins pays to the original works, she still gives them her own nice touch.  Case in point is her take on ‘Stay Awake.’  Originally featured as one of the songs from Disney’s 1964 musical adaptation of author P.L. Travers’ novel Mary Poppins, the song was a gentle lullabye crafted by  the famed Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert.  It featured Julie Andrews’ absolutely stunning vocal control alongside some even more subtle strings.  Watkins’ take on the song would have fit just as well into that movie.  It is just as moving with its piano line joining with the strings to make the song even richer.  Watkins’ over vocal delivery is so powerful in its simplicity here, too.  Ironically though being a lullaby, Watkins’ take on the song is enough to make even the most emotionally strong man blubber like a baby.  That is a telling statement. 

On a different note, Watkins’ take on Bob Nolan’s ‘Tumbling Tumblewood’ stays even truer to its source material, complete with fiddle and the slightest touch of a slide guitar.  Of course, gone are the clip-clop of the horse hoofs and the string arrangement featured in the original song performed by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers.  Instead, Watkins has opted here for the more spit-shined take that even what with everything in mind, the song still sounds quite a bit like something that one might hear playing in the old honky tonk joints of country music’s golden era.  To that point, it is still its own unique arrangement.

‘Moon River’ is another example of the importance of the musical arrangements featured in Watkins’ new record.  Her take on the song does stay true to its source material for the most part, stylistically.  Though there are some subtle differences between the original version composed by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, and sung by Audrey Hepburn, and Watkins’ take.  Right off the bat, the string arrangements and the harmonica featured in the original are absent in Watkins’ rendition.  They are replaced here by the subtle addition of a Hammond organ.  Watkins’ own vocal delivery bears its own identity here.  Her delivery is just as soft and gentle as that of Hepburn and almost as airy.  That whole set against the whole of the original makes Watkins’ take here just as interesting as the other covers featured in the compilation.  When those other songs are considered with this arrangement and the others examined here, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the recording’s overall musical content.  When that content is considered along with the featured songs themselves, that whole gives listeners even more to like.  When all of that is considered along with the record’s sequencing, the record is rounded out and completed.

The sequencing of Under the Pepper Tree keeps the album’s energy light from beginning to end of its 36-minute run time, starting off relaxed in her take of ‘Blue Shadows on the Trail.’  The energy really does not pick back up until late in the album’s run in Watkin’s take of ‘Blanket for a Sail.’  Up until that point, the energy remains relatively reserved.  It pulls back again from there right up to the album’s finale, ‘Good Night.’  So basically what audiences get overall due to the sequencing here, is a record that will serve to relax any listener.  As a matter of fact, one might even be able to use the record to help get to sleep being that the record’s energy is so gentle.  Between that, the unique takes on the songs and the very selection of songs, the whole makes the record in whole a work that is a truly successful family music album.

Sara Watkins’ debut family music album Under the Pepper Tree is a positive new offering that the whole family will indeed enjoy.  That is due in part to the record’s featured songs, the majority of which are timeless songs that are themselves featured in some of the most famous and beloved movies of all time.  The arrangements that Watkins presents here are themselves important to the record’s presentation.  They stay largely true to their source material but also give the songs the slightest of updates, making for even more appeal.  The sequencing of this overall content keeps the record’s energy relatively light and reserved throughout the record’s nearly 40-minute run time.  That means the record’s overall energy will keep listeners relaxed.  That will result in a positive mindset for any listener.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this record.  All things considered, they make the record in whole a successful first family music outing for Sarah Watkins.  Under the Pepper Tree is scheduled for release Friday through New West Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of Watkins’ latest news at:

Websitehttps://sarawatkins.com

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Twitterhttps://twitter.com/SaraWatkins

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Shout! Factory To Re-Issue Second ‘Power Rangers’ Movie On Blu-Ray

Courtesy: Saban Brands/Shout! Factory/20th Century Fox

Shout! Factory is bringing The Power Rangers’ second movie to Blu-ray.

TurboA Power Rangers Movie is scheduled for release July 30.  Its upcoming release marks the first time that the movie will see a Blu-ray release.  The story at the center of the movie breaks a little bit from canon, but unlike its predecessor, is more closely linked with the television series of the same name.

In the case of this entry in the Power Rangers cinematic universe, the latest team of rangers faces off against the space pirate Divatox.  Divatox wants to free the evil Maligore from his volcanic prison, but she can’t do that without the powers of the kindly Lerigot.  Lerigot has fled to Earth to avoid Divatox and ask for protection from the Power Rangers.

The upcoming Blu-ray re-issue of TurboA Power Rangers Movie will include the featurette “Ranger Tales: A Look Back At TurboA Power Rangers Movie as an added bonus.  It is complimented by the movie’s original, shorter featurette and movie trailer as bonus content.

More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

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‘MMPR: The Movie’ Re-Issue Will Appeal To Franchise’s Most Devoted Fans

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Almost 24 years ago, 20th Century Fox brought one of the most beloved kids’ series in television history to the big screen in the form of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie.  When it was originally released, the big-screen adaptation of the high-action sci-fi series was met with largely negative reviews, and with good reason.  Even as bad as the movie was (and still is today), it is still a presentation that the most devoted Power Rangers fans will appreciate.  As the 24th anniversary of the movie’s debut nears, Shout! Factory and Saban are celebrating the anniversary with a new Blu-ray re-issue of the movie complete with a new in-depth bonus featurette.  While the movie is largely a failure, there are still certain elements of the movie that do work.  This will be addressed shortly.  The new bonus commentary, which runs approximately 44-minutes in length, is the re-issue’s most notable positive.  It will be addressed a little bit later.  The Blu-ray’s average price point is not a budget breaker for those MMPR devotees who want to add the movie to their collections.

Shout! Factory and Saban Brands have been doing quite a bit in recent years to make Power Rangers fans with lots of Power Rangers and Super Sentai box sets.  On June 4, the companies will do something a little bit different for fans of both series when they re-issue the 1995 big screen adaptation of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers on Blu-ray.  Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie was resoundingly panned by viewers and critics alike in its initial release.  Now almost 24 years later, it has not improved in its footing.  That is due in part to the fact that its story completely breaks canon from the original series.  Its look is also a far cry from that of the original series, right down to the over-the-top CG zords.  For all of the negatives exhibited in the movie’s story, the story is not a total loss.  It does present some positives, such as the camp elements that made the TV series so enjoyable (and that still do today).  That includes the comic support from Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy – Bulk and Skull – and the ever-the-top cheesiness of Ivan Ooze (Paul Freema – Hot Fuzz, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Centurion) in terms of his personality. The work of the supporting cast that played the parents of Angel Grove also echoed the feel of the movie’s source material.  Keeping in mind that overall feel of the movie, it makes up for the issue of the movie’s story, at least a little bit.  That in itself makes the movie worth an occasional watch among Power Rangers’ most devoted fans now that it is being re-issued on Blu-ray.  The movie’s throwback to the camp feeling of the MMPR TV series is just one of the most notable elements presented in the upcoming Blu-ray re-issue of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie.  The bonus content is just as notable as that feel.

The bonus content is notable because audiences get not only the relatively short original featurette included with the movie’s initial DVD release, but a new 44-minute featurette that takes audiences even deeper into the movie’s background and history.  Audiences learn through the movie’s new bonus featurette – “A Look Back At Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie – lots of items not featured in the movie’s original bonus featerutte.  Viewers learn, through discussions with the movie’s director Bryan Spicer, that there was lots of discussion on the script between himself and the heads at 20th Century Fox during the movie’s pre-production.  Viewers also get an interesting anecdote from Spicer about how the newspapers in Australia allegedly mid-identified one of the movie’s Assistant Directors as the Director, thus incorrectly giving that AD the credit for helming the movie instead of Spicer.  On a related note, Spicer also talks about filming in Australia during his interview segments and why the filming took place there instead of in the United States.  That’s not all that audiences get.  Viewers also receive a very interesting tidbit about a well-known actress who was initially wanted by Fox’s executives to fill the role of Dulcea and how she was replaced by the woman who ended up in the role.  The movie’s cast members get plenty of their own time throughout the featurette, too.  They talk about topics, such as the pace of shooting each scene for the movie versus shooting for the TV series, the stunts and the visual effects among other topics.  Between everything noted here and the rest of the discussions featured in the movie’s new bonus featurette, said featurette proves to be the true foundation for the movie’s new Blu-ray re-issue.  When it is considered along with the fact that the movie’s creative heads did at least try to give the story the same camp feel of the MMPR series, those two elements together give viewers even more reason to check out this latest presentation of MMPR: The Movie.  Considering those elements, the average price point of the movie’s re-issue proves to be not too expensive.

The average price point of MMPR: The Movie – based on prices listed at Shout! Factory’s store, Walmart, Target and Amazon – is $15.52.  At the time of this review’s posting, it was not listed at Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million.  However, the movie’s original DVD release was listed at those sites.  By comparison, the DVD’s average price point was $7.33.  That includes prices listed not just at Books-A-Million, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble Booksellers, but also at Walmart and Amazon.  While the original DVD release’s average price point is obviously less expensive than that of the movie’s new BD re-issue, the DVD does not boast the new bonus featurette that is featured in the new re-issue.  To that end, the price for the movie’s re-issue is not too bad.  Keeping all of this in mind, this new re-issue of MMPR: The Movie proves a piece that the most devoted MMPR fans will want to add to their libraries.

Shout! Factory’s upcoming Blu-ray re-issue of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie is a piece that the most devoted fans of the timeless sci-fi action series will appreciate.  That is due in part to the fact that while the movie’s story clearly breaks from the series’ canon, it does at least maintain the campy feel of its source material.  That alone makes the movie worth at least an occasional watch.  The new 44-minute bonus featurette featured in this re-issue makes the presentation even more appealing for the noted fans.  The re-issue’s average price point of less than $20 is relatively affordable, and not wasted, considering the movie’s primary and secondary content.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie.  All things considered, the movie’s upcoming Blu-ray re-issue is one that the most devoted MMPR fans will enjoy especially if they do not already own the movie on DVD.  It will be available June 4.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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itv’s TV Take Of ‘The Sound Of Music’ Will “Score” With Musical Fans

Courtesy: itv/Shout! Factory

Sixty years have passed this year since Rodgers & Hammerstein’s timeless musical The Sound Of Music made its stage debut.  The timeless musical, which was based on the memoir of Maria Von Trapp went on to earn five Tony® awards.  This is despite the historical inaccuracies in the story.  The story won the awards — and went on to spawn an equally famed big-screen musical in 1965, that starred actress Julie Andrews – because of its musical numbers and performances by its cast.  20th Century Fox’s 1965 film adaptation of the play was just one of countless adaptations of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s timeless work that have been crafted on stage and screen around the world.  British broadcasting network itv produced its own TV take on the play in the form of The Sound of Music Live in 2015. Its broadcast was followed early last November with a Blu-ray home release of the production, courtesy of Shout! Factory.  The presentation is one that any die-hard fan of The Sound of Music will appreciate. That is due in part to its story, which will be discussed shortly.  Its very presentation also plays into its appeal, and will be discussed a little later.  The bonus content included with the show’s home release is important to its appeal, too, and will be discussed later as well.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the home release of The Sound of Music Live.  All things considered, they make The Sound of Music Live a good addition to the library of any musical fan’s library and to that of any devotee of The Sound of Music.

British broadcaster itv’s 2015 small-screen take of The Sound of Music is a work that is certain to appeal to musical theater fans just as much as devotees of The Sound of Music.  That is thanks in part to its story.  The story presented here uses Rodgers & Hammerstein’s original musical, which made its stage debut in 1959, as its source more so than the 1965 big screen adaptation, which starred Julie Andrews as Maria. However, much of what is included in the cinematic take is also included in the stage version, so audiences get here, the best of both worlds.  Given there are some slight alterations between the 1965 version and this take, such as how the Von Trapp family ultimately escapes the Nazis (not to give away too much) and the initial ‘Do-Re-Me’ scene.  That number’s setting is different in the two versions.  The execution of the ‘Edelweiss’ number is also slightly different between the two versions, especially considering that in itv’s take, there is only one performance of the song while in the 1965 version, the song is performed twice in two separate settings.  This is just one of the few differences that exist between itv’s live version of The Sound of Music and 20th Century Fox’s 1965 presentation of the story.  There are other minute variances between each take.  The fact that the differences are so minute ensures even more, that this version will still appeal to fans of the original play and those who are more loyal to the story’s cinematic standard.  The story is just one part of what makes this performance of The Sound of Music so widely-appealing to audiences.  The show’s very presentation adds to its appeal even more.

The presentation of The Sound of Music Live is important to address in examining the movie in that it adds to the ability of audiences to suspend their disbelief.  This includes the sets and cinematography.  Audiences get a behind-the-scenes look at the sets in the presentation’s bonus material.  This will be discussed a little later.  The sets give the feeling that they could just as easily have been used in an actual stage presentation of the classic musical, yet are just enough to give the show a little bit of a cinematic feel at the same time.  That attention to detail and balance makes the show’s set designers worthy of their own share of applause.  The equally sharp camera work throughout gives even more, that feeling of a stage presentation on screen without being too much over the top.  The movements and the shots themselves couple with the sets to give audiences the best seat in the house.  It’s like being in a theater watching the musical take place, but not having to deal with the noise and congestion created by other people.  In other words, the sets and cinematography presented in The Sound of Music Live do just as much for the show’s overall presentation as its story.  That collective is not the last of the presentation’s most important elements.  The bonus content featured in its Blu-ray release is key in its own way to the whole package.

The bonus content featured as part of The Sound of Music Live’s home release is made up of a full-length audio commentary track featuring lead stars Kara Tointon and Julian Ovenden, as well as the previously noted behind-the-scenes featurette.  The behind-the-scenes featurette is enlightening in its own right, as it shows viewers the intensity of the preparations for the show (roughly two months worth of preps to be exact).  It also shows how hard it was to actually put on the show once the proverbial curtain lifted.  That alone makes for more appreciation for the show.  The bonus feature-length commentary adds its own share of enlightenment and interest.  That is thanks to the variety of items that Tointon and Ovenden discuss.  The pair addresses items, such as Tointon’s lack of knowledge about playing guitar, thee difficulty of shooting a stage presentation for the small screen and commentary that the cast and crew received from audiences in Austria.  They note that the noted audiences were not happy with The Sound of Music in general because of the story’s historical inaccuracies.  That’s just a sampling of what was discussed in the commentary.  The pair also talks briefly about the use of the stock footage as part of the show, the humility of the younger cast members and the success of the casting for other parts, just to name a little bit more.  Between all of this and the items not mentioned in reference to the bonus commentary (and the behind-the-scenes featurette), the bonus content featured in this Blu-ray adds even more appeal for the overall presentation.  When it is considered along with the story and the show’s aesthetic elements, the whole proves to be a presentation that will appeal to plenty of audiences.

itv’s small-screen iteration of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic musical The Sound of Music Live is a work that will appeal easily to musical fans in general as well as to devoted fans of the noted musical.  That is due in part to the show’s story with includes elements of the 1965 cinematic adaptation from 20th Century Fox and of the original stage musical.  The sets and cinematography presented in the show collectively add more interest and appeal to the presentation.  The bonus content featured in the show’s Blu-ray release adds its own share of interest to the presentation, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own right to the whole of The Sound of Music Live.  All things considered, the show is one that, again, is certain to appeal to musical devotees across the board.  The Sound of Music Live is available now.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

 

 

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Pricing, Packaging Saves 20th Century Fox’s Latest ‘Lost In Space’ Release

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

Early this month, 29th Century Fox re-issued CBS’ classic science fiction action adventure series Lost In Space on DVD.  This new re-issue came a little more than three years after the series’ Blu-ray release, which was also distributed by 20th Century Fox.  It sadly is proof, though, that 20th Century Fox is itself still a little bit lost when it comes to giving this timeless series a fully proper home release.  It is not a total loss, however. The biggest positive of all to this set is its pricing.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the set’s pricing is clearly a positive, the bonus content proves to be a negative, compared to the bonus content presented in the series’ Blu-ray set.  This will be discussed a little later.  While the bonus content proves an issue for this re-issue of Lost in Space’s complete series presentation, it is not enough to make the set unwatchable.  Keeping this in mind, it is really the set’s only true con.  The set’s packaging is another positive to note, again in comparison to the series’ previous Blu-ray release.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the set.  All things considered, 20th Century Fox’s new DVD re-issue of Lost in Space: The Complete Series is an improvement over the company’s previous Blu-ray release of the series.

20th Century Fox’s recent re-issue of Lost in Space: The Complete Series is a sign that while the company itself still seems slightly lost on how to finally give fans of the classic series a proper release of the show, it is at least a move in the right direction for the organization.  This is proven in part through the average price point of the series.  The DVD set’s average price point is $29.49.  That is in comparison to the average price point of $74.52 for the Blu-ray set.  The DVD’s price point was a little tricky to pinpoint as the set is not listed on Walmart’s web store, yet it is available in store at Walmart’s brick and mortar stores.  It is however, listed online at the stores for Amazon, Best Buy and Books-A-Million.  The Blu-ray set, which was met with quite a bit of blowback for its packaging – which will be discussed a little later – is listed at the stores at Amazon and Walmart.  The DVD set’s price in store at Walmart is only $19.99.  With tax, that puts the set’s price at just over $20, which is not a bad price at all considering the primary and bonus content presented in the DVD set.  The primary content featured here is the series’ full 83-episode run, complete with previously unaired pilot episode.  That unaired pilot is also included in the set’s BD release.  The bonus content is relatively limited, especially in comparison to the series’ BD set, but the bonus “Lost in Space Forever” featurette is entertaining and enlightening in its own right.  All of the bonus content will be discussed a little later.  Getting back on topic, the collective primary and secondary content presented in the DVD re-issue of Lost in Space: The Complete Series makes the set’s average price point not too bad.  That is especially in comparison to the average price point of its BD counterpart and so many of its counterparts and contemporaries currently available in stores and online.

The average price point of the DVD re-issue of Lost in Space: The Complete Series is a positive for consumers as it is a point that is affordable for any fan of the series.  The bonus content presented here – or rather, not presented – likely plays into that price.  It is limited here in comparison to the bonus content presented in the set’s BD release back in 2015.  The only real notable bonus content presented in the new DVD set is the roughly half-hour-long featurette “Lost in Space Forever.”  It features famed actor John Laroquette (Night Court) as the host, taking audiences through the history of the series and the movie that eventually followed from New Line Cinema in 1998.  Audiences will be interested to learn through this featurette what led Lost in Space the series to eventually become as campy as it did in its second and third seasons.  Not to give away too much, but it has to do with competition at the time from another show on another network.  Audiences also learn what eventually led to the series’ cancellation: the same factors that leads to so many series’ ending.  If that is not enough, audiences also learn through this featurette, who the actors were behind one of the series’ most beloved characters, the robot, and about the change of characters’ focus in the writing as the series progressed.  Between all of that and much more, the program proves quite entertaining.  Sadly, it is really the only positive bonus content featured in this set, other than the previously noted unaired pilot.  Other than those two bonuses, there is little else to appreciate here.  The rest of the bonuses are just TV spots for the series.  In comparison, the Blu-ray set featured the series’ 1973 animated special (which is also discussed in this set’s bonus material), an audio interview with the series’ creator Irwin Allen and two full-length documentaries about the series, along with the noted pilot and even more bonus content.  One cannot help but wonder why 20th Century Fox did not transfer those bonuses over to this DVD set for audiences who perhaps could not afford the BD set or who do not own a Blu-ray player.  It definitely detracts from the set’s presentation.  Luckily though, it does not detract from the set’s presentation so much that it makes the set a complete loss.  That is because it is the set’s only con.  One area in which this set improved over its BD counterpart is its packaging.  That packaging, together, with the pricing, does just enough to save the set.

The packaging used in the DVD presentation of Lost in Space: The Complete Series is critical to note because it takes a completely different path from that of the series’ BD set.  The 17 discs that make up this set are housed in a clamshell case, inside which are plates on which the discs sit on either side.  One disc is placed on one side while another is on the other side.  One is on the top of the plate, and the other on the bottom.  This is crucial because it is actually wise packaging.  It might make for a bulky package, but it protects the discs from any potential of damage.  In comparison, the discs housed in the BD set were placed in cardboard sleeves inside the case, which offered absolutely no protection at all for the discs.  This is multi-disc packaging done right, and a sign that maybe 20th Century Fox took a cue from Shout! Factory, considering that said company has led the way for years in multi-disc packaging.  Now if only CBS and Paramount would follow suit since they have released so many of their series lately in large clamshell cases.  Simply put, the packaging for this set might not be overly flashy, unlike that of the series’ BD release, but it is smart this time around.  20th Century Fox can be commended for making that move for audiences.  When one considers this along with the set’s relatively affordable price point, the end result is a set that while still not a perfect presentation of a timeless series, is an improvement from its predecessor.  That is despite the issues raised by its bonus content.

20th Century Fox’s recently released DVD box set of Lost in Space: The Complete Series is an improvement over the company’s previous 2015 Blu-ray release of the series.  It shows that while the company is still slightly lost over how to present a proper release of the timeless series, it is at least moving in the right direction.  That is proven in part through the set’s average price point, which is affordable for any viewer in comparison to the price of the series’ Blul-ray release.  The packaging, also in comparison to that BD set, is another move in the right direction.  The only real con to the whole thing is its overall lack of worthwhile bonus content.  Keeping all of this in mind, this set is a slight improvement over its predecessor, but still leaves one wanting for more.  More information on this and other titles from 20th Century Fox is available online now at:

 

 

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Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb Is A Great Find For Any History Buff

Courtesy:  PBS/Public Media Distribution

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

Cleopatra is one of the most well-known figures in recorded history.  The famed “Queen of the Nile” has fascinated people the world over for centuries.  20th Century Fox (one of Hollywood’s “Big Six”) even turned out a biopic of sorts centered on Cleopatra in 1963.  The movie, starring Elizabeth Taylor (Father of the Bride, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Giant) in the lead role, earned nine Oscar® nominations and four trophies along with four Golden Globe® nominations and many other accolades.  Women to this day even dress up as Cleopatra every Halloween thanks in no small part to that movie.  For all of the interest that Cleopatra has maintained throughout the centuries some might find it interesting to know that to this day, no one actually knows where she is buried.  Many have tried and none have succeeded.  However one woman recently came closer than anyone in the search for Cleopatra’s final resting place.  And her story was recently told in a new episode of PBS’ Secrets of the Dead.  That episode, Secrets of the Dead: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb will be available on DVD Tuesday, July 5th.  This new episode of SOTD is just as welcome in the classroom as the living room.  That is due in large part to the episode’s story.  The story is just one of the elements that make this program so interesting.  The information that is presented over the course of the nearly hour-long program is just as important to note as the story itself.  The program’s pacing rounds out the program’s most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the program.  Altogether they make Secrets of the Dead: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb a presentation a must have for any history buff whether in the classroom or the living room.

Secrets of the Dead: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb is a must have for any history buff whether in the classroom or in the living room.  That is due in large part to the program’s story.  The story centers on the efforts of lawyer-turned-archaeologist Dr. Kathleen Martinez as she searches for Cleopatra’s tomb.  While the program is a documentary, one can’t help but be interested in this story because it is a sort of underdog tale.  As is noted in the program both in narration and by Dr. Martinez, she had quite a number of detractors when she turned from law to archaeology.  That is because of how little professional experience she had in archaeology.  What’s more she chased leads and theories that most others had ignored because they felt that those leads were so impossible.  Yet in following those leads, she came closer in her search than any researcher ever had or even has.  The progress and success that she had in her search surprised everybody including both her now former detractors and herself.  So while the story is on the surface, a documentary, it is also a story that audiences will enjoy and that will especially empower female viewers.  In whole, the story presented in this episode of SOTD is an important element in the episode’s presentation.  It isn’t the episode’s only key element, though.  The information shard throughout the course of the program is just as important as the episode’s story.

The story at the center of SOTD: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb is unquestionably an important part of the episode’s presentation.  On the surface, it is a documentary.  On another level, it is an underdog story of sorts that will keep audiences engaged and entertained.  It will also potentially empower female audiences because of the woman at the center of the story and her accomplishments.  As important as the story is to this episode of SOTD it is only one of the episode’s key elements.  The information provided over the course of the episode is just as important to note as the episode’s story.  One of the most interesting pieces of information that is shared in this episode is the note about 20th Century Fox’s take on Cleopatra’s life.  While the movie earned an impressive amount of accolades, it is apparently anything but historically accurate.  That should be no surprise at all considering how few of Hollywood’s bio pics past and present boast any full accuracy.  It is still interesting to learn just how far off the mark the movie was.  Just as interesting to learn from this episode is just how far off the mark previous excavations might have been in the search for Cleopatra’s burial place.  That is supported by the amount of evidence uncovered by Dr. Martinez in her efforts.  On a related note the revelation about the many believed sites where Cleopatra might be buried.  It is intriguing to find out the vast spread of potential burial sites.  These are just a few of the interesting pieces of information shared over the course of this episode of SOTD.  There is much more for audiences to discover for themselves in watching this episode.  Needless to say, those other pieces of information join with the material noted here to prove in full why the content provided in SOTD: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb is just as important to this program as its story.  It still is not the last remaining key element either.  The program’s pacing rounds out its presentation.

Both the story at the center of SOTD: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb and its content are both key to the program’s presentation.  While both elements are undeniably important to the program’s presentation they are not its only key elements.  The program’s pacing is just as important to its presentation as those elements.  Viewers will note that the program’s pacing is relatively stable from beginning to end.  From the time that viewers are introduced to Dr. Martinez and presented with her back story to her search for the legendary queen’s final resting place, each part of the story receives just enough attention.  Even as the program focuses on Cleopatra’s own back story, that story isn’t allowed to dominate the program.  Each segment is expertly balanced against the others.  The end result is a program that will keep audiences fully engaged from beginning to end.  In turn audiences will see for themselves the importance of the program’s story and its overall content, too.  They will see that in whole all three elements make this program a must have for any history buff both in the classroom and the living room.

Secrets of the Dead: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb is a must have for any history buff whether in the classroom or in the living room.  It is an impressive new addition to the already extensive list of programs produced by PBS about Egypt and its rich history.  That is due in part to the program’s dual-part story.  The content that makes up the body of the story is just as important to note in its presentation.  The overall pacing of the program rounds out the program’s most important elements.  Each element is important in its own way to the program’s presentation.  Altogether they make Secrets of the Dead: Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb a program that is, again, a must have for any history buff whether in the classroom or in the living room.  It will be available Tuesday, July 5th and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other episodes of Secrets of the Dead is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://pbs.org/secrets

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SecretsPBS

 

 

 

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Shout! Factory Shines Again In Phil’s Picks’ 2015 Top New DVD/BD Re-Issues List

Every year, dozens of albums get the re-issue treatment courtesy of record labels (and sometimes bands) that are either trying to fulfill contractual obligations or just trying to make a quick buck off of consumers gullible enough to blindly pick up copies of said albums. Sadly most of those albums are anything but worth the price. Though, there are some diamonds in the rough. The same applies in the realm of DVD and Blu-ray re-issues. Every year just as many DVDs and Blu-rays hit store shelves all over again. And just as with the noted albums, most are not worth the price. On the other hand there are some that surprise and show to actually be worth the purchase. This year is no different. Warner Home Video re-issued the classic Peanuts TV specials Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back) and Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. Both are good specials. But considering the overall lack of bonus material (save for a bonus documentary included in the prior) neither are outstanding. Though, for real Peanuts fans that might not already own either one, they are both at least somewhat worth the purchase if not entirely. On the other end of the spectrum, Timeless Media Group (which is part of the Shout! Factory corporate family) re-issued Gerry Anderson’s classic Supermarionation series Thunderbirds both on DVD and Blu-ray. In comparison to the series’ previous release on DVD back in 2008, this one shines both in terms of its packaging and overall presentation. So it is definitely a great new re-issue. The same applies to CBS DVD’s re-issue of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.: The Complete Series and MPI’s re-issue of My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series. These are just some of the re-issues that made the Phil’s Picks 2015 Top 10 New DVD/BD Re-Issues. They explain how this critic went about deciding on this list. Packaging was taken into effect along with pricing, bonus material, and the presentations’ production values. Also on this year’s list is Shout! Factory’s re-issue of The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, 20th Century Fox’s new BD re-issue of Garfield: The Movie, and Cohen Media Group’s re-issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s little known thriller Jamaica Inn among others. These titles and others are all on this year’s list of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues. As always the Top 10 titles make up the main body of the list while the bottom five were all worth mentioning for at least one reason. They each received honorable mention. So without any further ado I offer for your consideration dear readers the Phil’s Picks 2015 Top 10 New DVD and Blu-ray Re-Issues.

 

PHIL’S PICKS 2015 TOP 10 NEW DVD/BD RE-ISSUES

  1. THUNDERBIRDS: THE COMPLETE SERIES 

    2. GARFIELD: THE MOVIE

    3. JAMAICA INN

    4. STAR TREK THE ORIGINAL SERIES: THE COMPLETE SERIES

    5. MY FAVORITE MARTIAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES

    6. GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C.: THE COMPLETE SERIES

    7. I LOVE LUCK: THE ULTIMATE SEASON TWO

    8. THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE

    9. THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER

    10. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

    11. I LOVE LUCY: THE COMPLETE SERIES

    12. ROBOT JOX

    13. ALADDIN

    14. BON VOYAGE, CHARLIE BROWN (AND DON’T COME BACK)

    15. RACE FOR YOUR LIFE, CHARLIE BROWN

 

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WHV Finally Gets One Right With Its New Peanuts Collection

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website: http://www.peanuts.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/snoopy

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20th Century Fox’s Night At The Museum Series Goes Out On A Low Note With Its Last Installment

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

When it originally debuted in theaters late in 2014, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb ended up being pulled not long after its original run. It comes across as no surprise that it was pulled so quickly. That’s because it is just a hollow shell of the movie that kicked off 20th Century Fox’s Ben Stiller-led franchise some eight years ago with Night at the Museum. The movie is alleged to have had a production budget of approximately $127 million. By comparison, its total domestic take at the box office was rumored to be around $113,531,745. On the surface that may seem like it was a relative success despite coming up short of its budget. It’s deceiving, though. That’s because the box office sales number is the movie’s gross rather than net. After 20th Century Fox recouped its production budget that left the movie to actually keep only $13,468,255. That is a massive loss to say the least. Put more simply, the movie hemorrhaged money. Given, the total domestic plus foreign sales actually garnered the movie a healthy net profit. But it doesn’t make up for the movie’s lackluster domestic sales. It’s even more proof that American audiences are in fact growing weary of Hollywood’s constantly running river of prequels, sequels, and remakes. So what caused this movie to perform so poorly at least at the American box office? The primary issue with the movie is its script. The script breaks absolutely no new ground in comparison to the franchise’s first two movies. As a matter of fact it goes so far as to rehash much of the material from those movies in hopes that audiences would fall for the writing team’s pathetic overall lack of originality and creativity.  The acting is another issue that should be noted in considering what doomed this movie. Having seen the same sort of comic performances twice over in both NATM and NATM 2, Stiller’s acting here—and that of his cast mates—has become old hat and is just as uninspired as the movie’s script. For all of the movie’s cons, there is one saving grace to the whole thing That saving grace is the fact that the movie continues to push the values of the world’s museums and on a larger scale, learning about the history of the world. In simpler terms, it continues to promote the importance of education albeit history education. That is certainly laudable considering that today’s youths are more concerned with the latest video games and the next big viral video than the excitement of the world’s history. Is it enough to save this movie? Sadly, the answer is no. But at least it doesn’t try to fictionalize history and make it something it isn’t in its efforts to entertain young audiences. Taking into account each of its noted elements, NATM 3 (as it will henceforth be known) proves to be just as forgettable in its new home release as its big screen release last year.

20th Century Fox’s third and hopefully truly last installment in its Night at the Museum franchise is the worst of the studio’s three-movie series. There is by and large very little that makes this movie memorable or even enjoyable. The movie’s script is the main reason that it suffers and in turn makes audiences suffer. The script is laughable especially considering that the trilogy first kicked off eight years ago. The story presented in this movie’s script sees Larry (once again played by Ben Stiller) and all of his friends from the original Night at the Museum movie go on a trip across the Atlantic to return the magical tablet at the center of the trilogy to Ahkmenrah’s father in “Egypt.” The trip has to be made because *gasp* the tablet has been away from its proper place for too long. Apparently it hadn’t already sat in the Museum of Natural History in New York for far too long at the time of the trilogy’s first installment. Go figure. So instead of any new story, it all centers on the tablet once again. And not to ruin things for those that haven’t yet seen the movie now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray combo pack, but the group’s “epic” quest isn’t quite as epic as one might think. Instead of actually going to Egypt, they travel to London’s major museum and have to get to the museum’s Egypt wing so as to return the tablet to Ahkmenrah’s father (played in little more than a cameo role by Sir Ben Kingsley). With a budget allegedly topping $127 million one would have thought that Larry and company might have actually somehow made the trip to Egypt or the country’s main museum instead of the Egypt wing of London’s central history museum. Add in the fact that Larry and his friends have to hunt for their pint size pals Jedediah and Octavius (once again played by Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan respectively) and also have to get the tablet back from a misguided Sir Lancelot along the way all while maneuvering their way through the museum, and audiences get a script that when examined in such full detail, can only be described as completely contrived, unoriginal, and completely lacking in any creativity. That’s not even to mention the underlying plot of Larry’s relationship with his now teenage son who wants to travel the world instead of go off to college. It is all too much.

The script thrown together by NATM 3’s writing team does more than its own share of damage to this movie. The very fact that multiple parties played a role in the script’s creation could in fact be to blame for its numerous issues. As much damage as the movie’s script does to the movie’s overall presentation, it’s just one of the movie’s major setbacks. The work of the movie’s cast does its own share of damage, too. Larry’s back and forth with Dexter and Laa is all too familiar for those that have watched NATM and NATM 2. It’s been done. It’s one of those situations that proves to be anything but funny this time around because it has already been done so much before. Even Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan felt slightly like they were just “phoning it in” during their parts. It was almost like they themselves had grown somewhat tired of the roles and were trying hard to not show it. On a lesser note, Rebel Wilson is just as annoying in her role of Tilly as Jonah Hill was as security guard Brandon in NATM 2. To be totally frank, having a similar character type used as the secondary guard twice over shows yet again the writers’ lack of creativity or enlightenment. They obviously didn’t learn from Hill’s failures as is evident in Wilson’s portrayal of Tilly. For all of the damage that the cast does with its work in front of the camera, it can at least be said that Robin Williams didn’t disappoint in what is one of his final roles before his untimely death. It’s easy to tell that once again he put in his whole effort from beginning to end. The same can be said of Patrick Gallagher in his return as Attila The Hun. While he is not the lead star, he is still just as entertaining as ever. To that extent one can argue that at least the movie has that as its single, shining ray of light in an otherwise dark cloud of a sequel.

The writing that went into NATM 3 and the work of the cast by does a lot to prove this movie to be one more sequel that never should have seen the light of day. Though, not the entire cast is so disappointing. Robin Williams and Patrick Gallagher both shine in their own right. Sadly, their work in front of the camera is the movie’s only fully noticeable saving grace in terms of the movie’s intrinsic value. For all of the problems that show up throughout NATM 3, there is at least one positive that can be noted when looking at the movie from a larger scale. That positive is the series’ continued push for history education and the support of the world’s museums. In an age when the world’s youths are increasingly being distracted by social media, video games, and their cell phones, the continued push to get those same younger audiences interested in history and the houses that keep said history is actually welcome. After all, it has been said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Not only that but those who forget the past won’t have an appreciation for what they have today, either. NATM 3 does a good job of reminding audiences both young and old alike of how far the world has come over the centuries. And when coupled with the series’ first two movies, it does in fact make this installment more worth the watch if only for that one reason. Sadly though, it is the only reason other than the work of Robin Williams and Patrick Gallagher that NATM 3 is worth the watch. Other than those two reasons, there is no reason to watch this otherwise forgettable flick.

There is not much positive to say about NATM 3. Other than the work of two of its cast members and the continued solid push for history education and the buildings that house the world’s history, there is not much that can be noted to the movie’s positive side. The script was completely unoriginal and contrived. That is likely because of the number of people working on the script. It just feels like it has all been done before. The same can be said of the cast’s acting, even in the case of new cast member Rebel Wilson. There is no new ground broken in this avenue, either. One could even say that seeing even more museum figures coming to life is anything but new, too. On the other hand though, introducing new historical figures also continues the series’ push for history education and support for the world’s museums. To that extent, NATM 3 has at least that much to its credit. Sadly that is all that it has to its credit. That means that while it’s worth at least a watch, it’s not worth much more than that.

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NYPD Blue Hasn’t Lost A Step In Its Eighth Season

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/ABC/20th Century Fox

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/ABC/20th Century Fox

Shout! Factory will release the eighth season of ABC’s hit crime drama NYPD Blue next Tuesday, January 13th. Even eight seasons in, this modern classic series continues proving itself to be just as gripping and entertaining as it was in its groundbreaking first season. The main reason for this is the show’s continued impressive writing. The stories that make up the show’s eighth season are no less entertaining than those in its previous seven seasons. The same can be said of the cast’s acting this season. The cast continues to pull in audiences and make suspension of disbelief effortless. It’s even more reason that audiences will enjoy these episodes whether watching them for the first time or for the first time again. Last but not least of all worth noting to Season Eight’s credit is its list of guest stars. Denise Crosby (Star Trek the Next Generation, The Walking Dead, Ray Donovan), Taryn Manning (Orange is the New Black), Kerry Washington (Scandal), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Eric Balfour (24), and Greg Grunberg (Heroes) all make appearances throughout Season Eight. Because they were not the major household names then that they are today, their appearances makes for a certain amount of appreciation for their history and the history of NYPD Blue in whole. Each of the factors noted here play their own important role in the success of NYPD Blue: Season 8. Collectively, they show why in comparison to every other crime drama on television then and now, NYPD Blue remains one of the greatest crime dramas in modern television history, even eight seasons in.

Eight seasons is a long run for a television show by today’s standards. There are not many series today that can say they survived eight seasons or more. Most of the shows that surpassed that mark have largely gone by the wayside, making room for the much shorter-lived serials and reality series that now dominate the broadcast and cable realms of television. The main reason that those bygone series worked as long as they did is the same reason that NYPD Blue worked eight seasons and beyond. The reason in question is their writing. The series’ writers were always aware of the danger of writing themselves into those proverbial corners. And because of that awareness, they always managed to keep that from happening. the eighth season of NYPD Blue is proof of that awareness. From the season premiere to its finale, the series’ writers continued to expertly balance the cast’s own stories with crime tales that are both gripping and entertaining. One prime example of that balance comes late in Season Eight in the episode “Everyone Into The Poole.” The writers tackle the very relevant issue of race relations when Jones and Medavoy investigate the murder of a Chinese restuarant’s owner. A young black brother and sister are linked to the murder, which leads their parents to express quite the frustration at Jones, alleging that he should be showing solidarity with the black community, not trying to put their kids in jail. It shows that the issue of race relations reaches not just black and white Americans but even minorities with one another. Their indirect indictment of Medavoy–who is white–makes its own statement about racial tensions still being alive even then regardless of skin color. It’s one of those episodes that will definitely have audiences talking long after it ends, proving the continued strength of the show’s writing.

“Everyone Into The Poole” is a prime example of the writers’ talents when it comes to crafting stories that so clearly hit home with audiences even now in the twenty-first century. On another level, “Flight of Fancy” sees Lt. Fancy preparing to leave the squad after being promoted to Captain. The introduction of a power hungry Lt. played by Denise Crosby (Star Trek The Next Generation, The Walking Dead, Ray Donovan) is just as capable of relating to audiences. That’s because for all of the squad’s differences, a certain respect among the detectives is shown when she cracks the whip and instantly alienates herself from everyone.  Even in the real life workplace, this kind of solidarity exists even when people don’t want to admit that it exists. It’s a solid example of the continued abilities of the show’s writers to craft believable and equally gripping person stories for the cast. Even more impressive is that it showed the writers’ continued ability to maintain a clear balance between the show’s primary and secondary stories and still make them equally without losing anything about them.

Season Eight’s premiere episode “Daveless in New York” is one more example of the writers’ continued ability to keep audiences gripped. The writers tackled the subjectof child abuse albeit indirectly in this episode afer an addict gives up his own chidl as collateral for an overdue loan. Such a story line even tackles the dangers associated with drug abuse. While someone giving up their child may be a little over the top, the lengths to which some drug users will go to get their fix are rather shocking to say the least. Because it comes close to showing those shocking lengths, this episode proves to be one more way in which the writing behind NYPD Blue shows itself the most important aspect of the season’s success. There are plenty of other episodes contained across Season Eight’s four discs that audiences will find just as hard-hitting. And that isperfectly fine. The fact that they will find such episodes only shows that much more why the show’s writing is so important to its success eight seasons in.

The writing behind the eighth season of NYPD Blue is the cornerstone of the season’s success. That should go without saying at this point. The work of the cast to interpret the season’s writing adds an extra layerof enjoyment to each episode. Having already worked together for seven seasons most of the show’s cast had already developed a visible chemistry that made its work entirely believable. Even those that didn’t come on board until a little later in the show’s run (by this point) had develped their own chemistry with the rest of the cast. Dennis Franz’s acting as Sippowitz realizes he needs to give marriage anotherchance is one of the brightest examples of how the cast’s acting pulls in audiences and makes Season Eight more enjoyable. There is a certain reluctance in Sippowitz’s realization. At the same time, he shows that he knows it’s the right thing for his son and for himself. On another level, the reaction by Jones as he faces the accusations about being a modern day Uncle Tom (for lack of better wording) is just as powerful. There is to this day a divide even within the black community in terms of support of its own. So something as simple as that reaction speaks volumes. The reactions on the part of the couple that played the parents is just as powerful. On a siimlar note, the reaction of the squad to Fancy’s first replacement speaks just as loudly. It really exhibits the underlying connection that the squad members have to one another even despite its differences on the surface. These are just a few examples of how the work of the cast’s acting made NYPD Blue’s eighth season enjoyable by itself. The season’s other episodes each show their own examples of how the cast’s acting enhanced the season. And audiences will find those other examples for themselves when they purchase this season for themselves. In doing so, audiences will agree that the cast’s acting is just as important to the season’s enjoyment as the work of the show’s writers.

The writing and acting that went into the eighth season of NYPD Blue are equally important to the season’s success and enjoyment. While they are both understandably important to the presentation in whole, the series’ list of guest stars this season is just as important. Denise Crosby (Star Trek the Next Generation, The Walking Dead, Ray Donovan), Taryn Manning (Orange is the New Black), Kerry Washington (Scandal), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Eric Balfour (24), and Greg Grunberg (Heroes) all make appearances throughout Season Eight. While none of the guest stars at the time of their appearance were the household names that they have become today, it still goes to show the impact that appearing on the show potentially had on their futures. Perhaps the only one that could really be argued as a real star of sorts at the time would have been Denise Crosby. That is thanks to her time on Star Trek The Next Generation years before. Because of that show’s success and its longevity, she became well-known in her own right. Whether for her appearance or for those of the others noted this season, seeing so many of today’s biggest celebrities in their earlier days makes this season itself a piece of television history for all intents and purposes. And because it proves to be an important piece of television history, it makes this season even more enjoyable and a success. It’s the last part of the whole that makes NYPD Blue Season Eight a must have for any fan of this series or any lover of crime dramas. Together with the work of the cast and the series’ writers, it proves without a shadow of a doubt why NYPD Blue: Season Eight is an early candidate for 2015’s best new box sets for grown-ups.

NYPD Blue: Season Eight will be available next Tuesday, January 13th. It will retail for MSRP of $34.99. It can also be pre-ordered online now via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/crime/nypd-blue-season-eight at a discounted price of $29.99. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online at:

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