‘Short Treks’ Is The First Fully Successful Presentation From The ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Universe

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS/CBS All Access

CBS All Access’ Star Trek series Discovery has proven over the course of its current two-season run.  The series, and its cast and crew are hoping to “right the ship” when the series’ third season debuts next month – Oct. 15 to be exact – on CBS All Access.  Until Season Three makes its debut, audiences have another way to pass the time in the form of Star Trek: Short Treks.  Released June 2 on DVD and Blu-ray, this latest addition to the Discovery universe is a rare ray of light for the otherwise maligned over-the-top series.  That is due in part to the shorts featured in the single-disc collection.  They will be addressed (along with the one short that did not make the final cut).  The bonus content featured along with the stories adds to its appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The collection’s average price point proves relatively worth the money, considering the featured content and its value.  It will also be addressed later.  Keeping all of this in mind, the collection proves to be the first truly successful offering so far in the Discovery universe.  It gives hope that maybe, just maybe, the series’ third season will be just as enjoyable.  Even if not, at least audiences will have this rare bright spot in the series.

Star Trek: Short Treks is the first great presentation that fans of Star Trek Discovery have received since the series made its debut in September 2017.  It is a presentation that gives hope for the series’ third season upon its debut Oct. 15.  That is due in part to the shorts that are featured in the single-disc collection.  The shorts in question have loose ties to the series, but are still their own unique stories in themselves.  One of the most notable of the nine total featured shorts comes in the form of “Ask Not.”  Directed by Anson Mount, who also plays Captain Pike in the series, this story focuses on Pike testing a young cadet named Thira Sidhu (Amrit Kaur – The D Cut, Kim’s Convenience)  to see if she is ready to serve on the Enterprise.  There is really little to no real connection to Discovery in this story.  Though considering that a spinoff series involving Pike’s time on the Enterprise is allegedly in the works, that short might in fact come into play somewhere down the line.  Getting back to the subject at hand, there is something compelling about this story.  Maybe it is the acting between Mount and Kaur.  Maybe it is the writing.  Maybe it is the production (which Mount mentions in his commentary – this will be discussed a little later).  Maybe it is all of the above.  Regardless, the approach that was taken in front of and behind the camera, made this story something unique that shows in its own way what make this collection worth watching.

“The Girl Who Made The Stars” is another key addition to the collection.  This story, which goes back to Michael’s childhood, finds her father having to come check on her after she has a bad dream.  Her father, by the way, is played here by Kenric Green (The Walking Dead, The Originals, Hawaii Five-O).  Green is the same man who played her father in the series.  In the case of this animated story, Mike (played by Green) tells a then young Michael Jr. the story of how the stars came to be.  The very act of a parent sharing a bedtime story with a child is something that will appeal to any viewer.  It is just a portion of what makes the short so appealing.  The other portion of the short’s appeal comes in the fact that Mike Sr. used the story to help Michael learn a valuable lesson while also connecting her to the rich history of her African ancestors.  In reality, there is no story of a girl who created the stars, though there is a myth from the Khoisan people of the Kalahari about a girl who threw embers from a fire into the sky and created the Milky Way galaxy, which included the stars.  So to that end, maybe Mike’s story was rooted to some extent from that real life African myth.

“The Trouble With Edward” is another key addition to Star Trek: Short Treks.  Like many of the other shorts, this one boasts no connection to Discovery.  In this case in fact, its connection is to the infamous Star Trek: TOS episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.”  The short and simple of the short’s story is that it tells how the Tribbles came to be so reproductive and hints at how they likely ended up on the Enterprise.  According to the story Federation scientist Edward Larkin (H. Jon Benjamin — Home Movies, Bob’s Burgers, Archer) was responsible for all of the problems.  Larkin tells his cohorts during a meeting that they actually reproduced slowly and that he was able to speed up their reproduction.  Larkin revealed the whole intent was to be able to do just that so as to use them as a food source for a non-human race of beings.  This just seems odd.  It’s right up there with the revelation in the second season of Discovery (***SPOILER ALERT) that the Federation black ops group Section 31 essentially created what would go on to become The Borg in what was then called “Control.”  It’s hard to imagine that an organization that was meant to bring the universe together would be responsible for two such destructive species (if one even wants to call the Borg a species).  While the story just seems so suspect Benjamin’s performance here is so entertaining to say the very least.  His demeanor as he talks about being able to use the tribbles as a food source is so unsettling, but all a person can do is laugh because he is so unsettling in his persona.  The same applies as he reveals whose DNA was combined with the tribble DNA to make them reproduce so quickly.  Even as he is being overtaken by the tribbles (not to giv away too much), he holds character.  That makes that moment just as hilarious even though it is supposed to be a tense moment.  It leads to the final scene being such a powerfully entertaining exclamation mark to the story.  It is hardly the last of the collection’s most notable stories.  “Calypso,” with its tie to the Greek myth of Odysseus, and its minimalist approach is another powerful work in its own right.  There is allegedly even a chance that it might end up having a tie to the third season of Discovery after all.  “The Escape Artist,” with its standalone story about the infamous Harry Mudd (who also appeared in an episode of Star Trek: TOS) makes for its own entertainment.  It allows for Rainn Wilson (who played Mudd in Discovery) to expand and really show his chops even more.

Now for all of the value that the noted shorts (and those not noted) offer audiences, it should be noted that there is at least one short not featured in this set.  That short is “Children of Mars.”  Why it was omitted from the collection is anyone’s guess.  Maybe it was a copyright issue.  Maybe it was an intentional saving for a second volume of shorts.  With those potentialities in mind, one cannot be but so displeased with that issue.  Hopefully it will end up on a second volume of shorts in the not too distant future.  Keeping all of this in mind, the shorts featured in this collection give audiences more than enough to appreciate in themselves.  For all of the value that the shorts themselves offer audiences, they are just a portion of what makes the collection stand out.  The set’s bonus content adds its own share of appeal for audiences.

The bonus content that accompanies the set’s shorts adds its own appeal because of the background that it offers audiences.  Case in point is the audio commentary in the episode “Ask Not.”  As previously noted, Anson Mount (who stars as Captain Pike in Discovery) directed the short “Ask Not.”  Mount talks in the short’s audio commentary about directing the short as well as its production values and tone.  He notes the use of the camera work as he and co-star Thira Sidhu circle one another in the simulation and his intention in using such an approach to help heighten the tension of the moment.  It was an approach that worked, too, as audiences are led to believe fully at first that what was happening was anything but a simulation.  He also addresses the sound balance, considering everything that was going on in the tight space, while also offering praise to Sidhu for her own portrayal.  Mount is so reserved as he talks about everything, and it serves to really draw audiences in that much more and appreciate everything he has to talk about.

Staying on the same track, Rainn Wilson directed his feature short “The Escape Artist.”  He talks in the bonus content “Covered in Mudd” about directing the short and everything that went into directing.  His humility in his discussion is refreshing.  It will please any longtime Star Trek devotee.  What’s more, Wilson talks about how the final scene was created.  It gives a new appreciation for the painstaking efforts that those responsible for special effects make to entertain audiences.  As if that is not enough, Wilson also addresses getting the chance to allow Harry Mudd to expand as a character through the short.  This goes back to Wilson’s humility as he discusses taking on the short in front of and behind the lens.  It really is a discussion that audiences will appreciate just as much as any other. It certainly is not the last of the most notable bonus features.  The bonus feature “Score!,” which is featured as a companion to the short “Ephraim & Dot” is yet another standout bonus feature.  When that feature, which explains the short’s connection to Discovery — ***Spoiler alert, Ephraim is the Tardigrade from Discovery) – is considered along with the other bonus content addressed here and the rest of the disc’s bonus content, the whole of said content adds even more reason for audiences to check out this presentation.  That whole, together with the disc’s primary content makes the collection’s average price point a positive in its own right.

Star Trek: Short Treks was released this past June on DVD and Blu-ray.  The average price point for the collection’s DVD presentation is $15.38.  Its average price point on Blu-ray is $22.44.  Those prices were reached by averaging listings through Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million.  Amazon and Walmart offer the least expensive DVD listing at $12.96 while Amazon offers the least expensive Blu-ray listing at $19.74.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million are the only major retailers listed whose prices — $28.96 and $25.99 respectively – exceed the average for the Blu-ray.  They are also the only retailers of those noted whose prices exceed the average for the DVD, at $18.39 and $17.99 respectively.  Keeping that in mind, they are the only retailers that audiences should avoid when ordering the collection on either platform.  All of the other retailers stay within the bounds of the averages on each platform.

The price itself is its own positive for audience.  Audiences should also take into account with the noted average prices that they are going to get the same presentation on each platform.  The primary and secondary content is the same on DVD and Blu-ray in other words.  Keeping that in mind and the fact that a DVD can play in a Blu-ray player, audiences really will do themselves more of a service purchasing this on DVD than Blu-ray.  That is especially considering that the DVD’s average price listing and its separate listings are all below the $20 mark.  As the sticker on the box notes, audiences get more than three hours of content (including the bonus content) for less than $20 on DVD.  That is a positive that cannot be ignored.  It puts the final touch on a presentation that in reality is the best Discovery presentation so far.

CBS All Access’ latest Star Trek: Discovery presentation Short Treks is the best presentation that the company has released to date.  That is important to note considering all the problems presented in the series’ first two seasons.  This standalone collection shines in part because of its featured shorts.  They exemplify acting and writing done right, in comparison to everything presented in Discovery.  It is known widely that a new creative force was brought in behind the lens during the second season of Discovery.  Maybe these shorts are a reflection of the stylistic change brought on by the new crew addition.  The bonus content featured with the shorts adds to the set’s appeal.  It offers background that enhances the experience even more.  The collection’s average price point (especially on DVD) adds even more appeal to the collection’s presentation.  Each noted item is important in its own way.  Collectively, they make Star Trek: Short Treks a welcome watch for any true Star Trek fan.  The collection is available now.

More information on Star Trek: Short Treks and Star Trek: Discovery is available online now at:

 

 

 

Websitehttp://cbs.com/shows/star-trek-discovery

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‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Shows Some Growth In Its Second Season

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS/CBS All Access

Early next year, CBS All Access will debut the latest entry in the long-running Star Trek franchise in the form of Star Trek: Picard.  The series’ debut is set for April 2020.  According to information from multiple media outlets, the third season of the streaming service’s other Star Trek series, Discovery will premiere.  While audiences wait for the premiere of Discovery’s third season, they have the series’ to take in on DVD and Blu-ray.  Officially released Nov. 12, the series’ second season is a slight improvement from its debut season.  That is proven in part through the season’s writing, which will be addressed shortly.  At the same time that the writing has provided a certain improvement from the series’ first season, it also has proven to be a negative to the season.  This will also be addressed.  The season’s acting rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed here.  Between the writing and acting, audiences get in the second season of Discovery, an example of a show that is improving, but still has a very long way to go before it can be considered among the best of Star Trek’s series.Star Trek: Picard

The second season of Star Trek: Discovery is a small step up from the series’ debut season.  It shows that the series has some potential.  That is due in part to the series’ writing.  The writing offers audiences far more lighthearted moments this time out than in Season One.  There are more jokes and casual moments featured throughout the season’s 14 episodes this time around.  That could be perhaps because the crew of the Discovery has more breathing room, what with the war with the Klingons ended after Season One.  It is nice to see those more lighthearted moments, as it shows that the show’s writers apparently don’t constantly take themselves with a lot of seriousness and can offer some entertainment.

The writing offers entertainment not just through lots of lighthearted moments this season, but also in the more action packed moments.  Those moments are many throughout the season, too.  From the crew’s dealings with “Control,” which are essentially the ancestors of the Borg, to the fights with Capt. Leland to the final epic battle in the season’s two-part finale, there is just as much enjoyable action throughout the season as there is joking and lightheartedness.  The combination of those elements shows that clearly a lot of time and thought was put into improving the writing for this season.  The time and thought paid off, clearly.

For all of the payoff that the noted time and thought had in the writing, it also proved just as much a negative as a positive.  That is proven as there is an overabundance of unnecessary, over-the-top drama throughout the season, too.  From the season premiere to its exciting two-part finale, the show’s writing team gave star Sonequa Martin-Green more than her share of screen time and just as many opportunities to shed a river of tears and then some.  Between her personal moment with Saru when it appears he is going to die (not to give away too much here, but Saru doesn’t die), her nonstop emotional confrontations with Spock and her adopted parents, to her full-on emotional breakdown after another of her ship mates forced her to send her out of an airlock, killing her, Martin-Green gets plenty of crying time on screen.  As if all of that is not enough, Anson Mount’s extraordinarily (and unnecessarily) long speeches as the season nears its end make it quite easy for audiences to hit the fast forward button on their remotes.  The ongoing drama between Hugh and Stamets, and the seemingly never-ending drama between Michael and Ash adds to that overabundance of drama, too.  That overabundance of drama sadly detract quite a bit from the season’s overall general effect and make it difficult for audiences to take seriously.  Rather, they give the season more of a feel of one big supernova of an interstellar soap opera than an action, science fiction series.  Simply put, the overabundance of drama tied into Season two’s presentation does just as much to hurt this show even more as the more lighthearted moments do in order to make the show more enjoyable.  To that end, one can only hope that the show’s writers will continue to infuse more light dialogue next season than drama.  If they don’t go that route, odds are, it will just continue to alienate fans (no pun intended) and find itself ending sooner rather than later.

While the writing incorporated into Discovery’s second season is both a pro and a con, the one element that can be said to be a full positive is the work of the show’s cast.  Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels) is a wonderful addition to the cast.  His portrayal of Capt. Pike makes him one of the best additions to the cast.  He really conjures thoughts of Capt. Kirk as he directly contrasts the much harder-edged presence of Capt. Lorca.  Getting off topic for a moment, the writes mention Lorca in the opening episodes of the season, but still do nothing to explain away what happened to the prime universe Lorca, since it was revealed that Discovery’s Lorca was from the alternate universe.  Getting back on topic, Mount effortlessly makes Pike a character that every viewer loves just as much as the Discovery’s crew.  He cracks jokes with the bridge crew, shoots sarcastic remarks at Ash and Emporor Georgiou, and takes control when the heat is on, just as a good leader would.  He just shows so much charisma throughout.  It makes it too bad that he allegedly will not return for the series’ third season.

Another notable acting job from Season Two comes from newcomer Tig Notaro.  Notaro, who takes on the role of Federation Engineer Jett Reno plays expertly off of Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets).  The verbal barbs that Reno so willingly shoots at Stamets are among the best of the season’s lighthearted moments.  Her timing and general presence makes for some of the season’s best laughs.  In the same breath, she shows her own unique brand of care as she talks to Hugh about his relationship with Paul (yes, Hugh does return this season, albeit in a rather comic book-esque fashion, which is another issue with the writing that detracts from the season’s general effect).  She maintain’s Reno’s edge, but still manages to show Reno has a heart in the process.  It makes her quite the sympathetic character and talented actor.  Between her acting, that of fellow newcomer Anson Mount and Ethan Peck (who plays Spock – Peck’s take on the timeless, beloved figure is noteworthy in its own right), audiences have just as much reason to watch this season for its acting as for the growth exhibited in the show’s writing.  One can only hope that between the growth exhibited in the writing and the positive acting jobs of the cast, the improvements made in this season will continue in Season Three and continue to help this show prove its potential.

Paramount Pictures and CBS’ latest entry into the Star Trek universe, Discovery has show n significant growth in its second season from its debut season.  That is evident in part in the season’s writing, which attempts to offer more lighthearted moments to balance out its overabundance of unnecessary over the top drama.  Speaking of the drama, there is a lot of that, which seriously detracts from the season, along with the oftentimes dizzying cinematography.  Thankfully, as much as those items detract from the season’s presentation, they are not enough to make the season completely unwatchable.  The on-camera work of some of the show’s new cast members adds its own share of engagement and entertainment.  Each item is key in its own way to the whole of the season’s presentation.  All things considered, they show this season has the potential for growth, if only its creative heads won’t let it become the full-on interstellar soap opera that it largely become this season.  Here’s to hoping Season Three will avoid all that drama and instead opt for more action than overdrawn, overabundant and unnecessary tear-filled jaunts.  If they do that, it can make Season Three a major turning point for Discovery; if and only if they go that route.  Star Trek: Discovery Season Two is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  More information on the series is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://cbs.com/shows/star-trek-discovery

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cbs

 

 

 

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‘Hell On Wheels’ Final Episodes Are A Fitting Farewell To One Of TV’s Top Serials

Courtesy: eOne/AMC

Courtesy: eOne/AMC

AMC’s hit western drama Hell on Wheels finally reached the end of its tracks this summer (bad pun fully intended) with the end of its fifth season.  The series’ end had been announced well before Season 5 started.  That didn’t make it any less difficult to see such a standout series comes to its end.  For those who didn’t want the series to come to its end, its final episodes were released on DVD and Blu-ray at November’s opening.  There is plenty to say about the series’ final volume of episodes beginning with the work of the show’s writers.  That will be discussed shortly.  The work of the show’s cast is just as important to note here as that of the show’s writers.  The bonus material included in this final volume of episodes rounds out its most important elements.  Each element plays its own clearly important in the collection’s presentation.  All things considered, Hell on Wheels: Season 5 Volume 2 proves to be a fitting final farewell for one of the best serials to come along in recent memory.

Hell on Wheels: Season 5 Volume 2 is a fitting final farewell for a show that is one of the best serials to come along in recent memory.  That statement is supported in part through the work of the show’s writers.  Once again the series’ writers managed in these final seven episodes to keep audiences completely engaged as they wrapped up all of the loose ends left from the first half of the season.  Not to give away too much, one of those loose ends might leave some audiences really disliking Cullen even despite everything else.  The writers did a good job of showing the difficulty in Cullen’s decision here.  But it’s still difficult to not dislike Cullen’s choice or to not dislike Cullen himself for that choice.  It is truly a heart wrenching moment.  It’s just one of the loose ends that is wrapped up in these final episodes.  Viewers finally see the end of Thor Gundersen in these final episodes, too.  This is perhaps the one moment in which the writers slipped up.  Every time it seemed like Cullen had finally finished off Thor, he was still alive.  That is until he finally meets his fate.  That moment is brutal in itself to watch.  Getting back on topic, the fact that Thor just kept coming back up until that moment made it seem like the writers weren’t entirely certain how to finish off Thor, so they used the different scenarios to keep the story moving in hopes that audiences wouldn’t mind his multiple deaths.  At the same time, finally presenting Thor’s past served to illustrate why he had become such an angry person.  So that makes up for the issues of Thor’s many deaths up until his final death.  One of the most surprising moments in which the writers’ work shines comes as Cullen is called to testify against Thomas Durant in Washington, D.C.  Cullen’s reaction as he sits before the committee was completely surprising.  It also showed in its own way perhaps another realization by Cullen about who he was in comparison to Durant.  That deeper element makes this moment stand out even more.  It’s just one more moment that exhibits the importance of the series’ writers in these final seven episodes.  There are so many others that could be cited.  But there isn’t enough time or space to cover them all.  Audiences will have to find them for themselves when they purchase or order this final volume of Hell on Wheels’ episodes.  While the work of the series’ writers clearly exhibits its own importance in the collection’s presentation, it is not the only important element to note.  The work of the series’ cast is just as important to note as the work of the series’ writers.

The work put in by Hell on Wheels’ writers in its final episodes goes a long way toward making them entertaining and engaging.  That is evident through the moments discussed here and through so many other moments.  Even with this in mind, the writers’ work is not the only work that makes these episodes so entertaining.  The cast’s work interpreting each episode’s script is just as important to note as the writers’ work.  One of the most notable moments that exemplifies the importance of the cast’s work comes as Thomas Durant sees first hand the death of someone very close to him.  He finally saw for himself the impact of his schemes.  It was clear from that moment on that he was not the same man anymore.  Colm Meaney’s handling of the moment made that traumatic moment so powerful.  He didn’t try to ham it up and scream, “nooooo” or anything else.  He merely had to look at what had happened to fully display the impact that the moment had on him.  His narration of the events leading to the moment, so calm yet clearly so hurt, added to the moment’s emotion.  Meaney handled it all with such expertise.  As devious as Durant had been throughout, this one moment actually will lead audiences to feel some level of sympathy for him.  Again, that is thanks to Meaney’s handling of the situation.  He is to be so highly applauded for his work here.  Fellow star Anson Mount is to be just as applauded for his display as he handles his own emotional struggles.  For so long throughout this series, Cullen has proven to be a rock solid figure in terms of his emotions.  But here in these final episodes, that façade finally begins to crack as he is forced to make some very difficult decisions.  One of the most intriguing of those moments comes as he encounters a Native American at a stream.  The pair stares one another down, waiting to see what the other will do.  It is a short moment, but when one looks back, it explains why Cullen told Grant he wasn’t an indian killer.  The defiance in his voice as he makes that clear to Grant makes so much more sense when one considers that moment.  There were no words, only actions and emoting.  Yet it was such a powerful moment.  Both Mount and his co-star shined brightly in that simple moment, showing once more than importance of the cast’s work to these episodes’ presentation. As with the work of the show’s writers, there are so many other moments that could be cited in explaining the importance of the cast’s work.  But that would take far too much time and space.  So, again, audiences will find plenty of other examples when they purchase or order Hell on Wheels: Season 5 Volume 2 for themselves.  Keeping this in mind, the work of the series’ writers and cast are obviously both important to the episodes’ presentation here.  They are just two of the series’ most important elements.  The bonus material included in the episodes’ recent home release is just as important to note in their presentation as the writing and acting behind each episode.

The work of Hell on Wheels’ writers and cast are both pivotal to the series’ continued entertainment in its final episodes.  The writers managed to wrap up the show’s leftover loose ends relatively well and keep audiences entertained and engaged in the process.  The cast did just as much to entertain audiences as evidenced through the work of Colm Meaney and Anson Mount (and their cast mates).  While the work of the series’ cast and writers is undeniably important to the presentation of its final episodes, they are just two of the elements that make this collection’s presentation enjoyable.  The bonus material that is included with the collection is just as important to note as the writing and acting in these episodes.  As with each of the series’ previous installments each episode is coupled with its own “Inside the Episode” audio commentary.  Needless to say, that commentary is not to be missed.  The other bonus material is less extensive.  But it does a good job bringing everything full circle.  “Golden Spike” is the shortest of the bonuses. It last all of perhaps a couple of minutes, if that.  But audiences learn through this little piece that the golden spike was very real.  They also learn that allegedly every telegraph in the country was silenced on the day that the golden spike was hammered into the transcontinental railroad.  That was so that when the message was delivered—by the strike of the hammer—every person in the country would know that was the moment when the spike was being driven.  That is something that generally isn’t taught in history classes at any level, so it is interesting to learn.  “Wrap Up” and “A Look At The Final Episodes” are both interesting in their own way as they offer the cast and crew the chance to comment on the importance of the episodes’ stories as well as working on the final episodes.  Viewers will be most intrigued to learn of Anson Mount’s connection to Cullen as he discusses topics such as Cullen having to kill and bury Elam, who had become such a friend to Cullen.  Robin McLeavy also gets the chance to discuss Eva’s personal growth from the series’ opening to the final episode.  This discussion is just as important to take in because it reminds audiences that while Eva might not have been one of the series’ marquee characters, she was still very integral to its development in her own right.  It’s just one more discussion that exhibits the importance of this collection’s bonus material.  There are so many other discussions both in the shorter features and the episode-length commentaries that add their own depth to the collection.  When they are joined with the discussions noted here, the whole of that bonus material proves to be just as important to the collection as the episodes and their content.  When all three elements are combined, they make clear why Hell on Wheels: Season 5Volume 2 is a fitting final farewell for what is one of the best serials to come along in a long time.

Hell on Wheels: Season 5 Volume 2 is a fitting farewell for a series that is one of the best serials to come along in a long time.  Considering how many serials are out there today versus standalone series, that is saying a lot.  From day one, this series has proven to be a serial actually worth watching.  This collection is no different.  It shows just as much why the series is worth the watch whether one is a fan of dramas or a western fan.  That is evidenced primarily through the work of the series’ writers.  Even with perhaps one or two minor slip-ups here and there, the writers succeeded by and large in these final episodes.  The cast was just as entertaining as ever, too.  The bonus material that accompanies the work of the series’ cast and writers rounds everything out.  That is because it brings everything full circle all while keeping audiences just as engaged as ever.  Each element is important in its own right to the collection.  All things considered, Hell on Wheels: Season 5Volume 2 proves, again, to be a fitting farewell to a rare serial that is actually worth watching.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Hell on Wheels: Season 5 Volume 2 is available online now along with more information on Hell on Wheels at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.amc.com/shows/hell-on-wheels

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/hellonwheelsamc

 

 

 

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

AMC, eOne Announce Release Date, Specs For Hell On Wheels: The Complete Fourth Season

Courtesy:  AMC/eOne

Courtesy: AMC/eOne

This Saturday, AMC’s hit western serial Hell on Wheels returns for its fifth and final season. For those that perhaps might have missed out on the events of the hit drama’s fourth season and who in turn don’t want to spoil things for themselves, AMC and eOne have announced that those fans won’t have to wait much longer for Season Four to hit store shelves out online outlets.

AMC and eOne have announced that Hell on Wheels: The Complete Fourth Season will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, August 11th. Hell on Wheels’ fourth season picks up right where Season Three left off. Audiences find Cullen marrying the now pregnant Naomi and having to live in the Mormon fort where she and other Mormons currently live. Making things even more tense is the fact that The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl) is there, pretending to be the church leader Bishop Dutson. Thomas Durant (Colm Meaney) is back in charge of the Union Pacific Railroad, which had succeeded in its western expansion, making it all the way to Cheyenne. Elam (Common) has recovered from the injuries sustained in a bear attack at the end of Season Three, which happened as Elam had been searching for Cullen. Season Four sees the fallout from all of these events and more as the railroad continues its expansion. Audiences can check out a trailer for Season Four’s upcoming home release online now via Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/118781754.

Courtesy:  AMC/eOne

Courtesy: AMC/eOne

Along with its gripping story lines, Hell on Wheels: The Complete Fourth Season also boasts a handful of bonuses for fans including: a behind the scenes look at Season Four, an introduction to the new characters introduced in Season Four, episode specific featurettes, and much more. The complete list of bonuses featured in Hell on Wheels: The Complete Fourth Season is listed below.

BONUS FEATURES:

  • A Look at Season 4
  •  The New Characters of Season 4
  • Cheyenne Set Tour
  • Anson Mount Retrospective
  • On the Set with Colm Meaney
  • On the Set with Jake Weber
  • Episode Featurettes

As the days count down to the premiere of Hell on Wheels’ final season and the home release of Season Four, audiences can keep up with all of the latest from the show online at:

Website: http://www.amc.com/shows/hell-on-wheels

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/hellonwheelsamc

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

MLB World Series Takes Top Honors In The Phil’s Picks 2014 List Of Best New Box Sets For Grown-Ups

The days are officially ticking away to the end of another year. That means that all of the critics out there are now putting out their annual “Best Of” lists. This critic is still working on some of those lists while others are official. The jury’s still out on some right now such as the year’s Best New Documentaries, Independent Movies, Re-Issues, and Best New Movies overall. The lists for all the new music are still in the works, too. So while those lists are being completed, Phil’s Picks offers to everyone to start off the year, a look at the Top 10 Best New Box Sets for Grown-Ups. This year’s list is capped by a box set featuring the entire 2014 World Series, courtesy of Lionsgate, A&E Home Video, and MLB Productions. Also on this year’s list are some blasts from the past and some imports from our neighbors across the pond, and one surprise entry in the Honorable Mention list. The box sets’ packaging, bonus material and more were collectively taken into account in building this (and the other lists to come). Only 15 titles total could make the list. So there were some that didn’t make the list such as the sixth and seventh seasons of Star Trek The Next Generation on Blu-ray or the full six-season run of Ancient Aliens among others. It goes without saying that this was not an easy list to build. But it feels right. So without further ado, here is the list of 2014’s Top 10 New Box Sets For Grown-Ups.

2014 Best New Box Sets For Grown-Ups

1. 2014 MLB World Series Collector’s Edition

2. Endeavour: Series 2

3. Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series

4. The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crackups

5. The Dean Martin Show: Fully Roasted

6. The Roosevelts

7. Inspector Lewis: Series 7

8. Psych: The Complete Series

9. Secret Agent (A.K.A. Danger Man): The Complete Series

10. The Wonder Years: Season 1

Honorable Mention

11. The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years–1951 – 1955

12. The Almighty Johnsons: Season 1

13. Hell on Wheels: Season 3

14. The Definitive WWI & WWII Collection

15. I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 (BD Re-Issue)

Tomorrow, Phil’s Picks looks into the list of the year’s best new box sets for Children and Families. Stay tuned! To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

eOne Announces Release Date, Info For Hell On Wheels Season Three

Courtesy:  eOne/AMC

Courtesy: eOne/AMC

Hell will rise again this summer.

Hell on Wheels: The Complete Third Season will be released on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, July 15th. Season Three follows the continuing saga of former Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon as he works with the Union Pacific on its westward construction. Season Three picks up after the attack by a group of Native Americans on the railroad encampment that closed out Season Two. Also in Season Three, audiences see Cullen make his plans to take over the Union Pacific and get it across the country.

One of AMC’s top series, it has been credited for helping to modernize the once powerhouse Western genre on television. The upcoming complete third season’s release comes only weeks before the premiere of the series’ fourth season on Saturday, August 2nd.

Hell on Wheels: The Complete Third Season comes with its own compliment of bonus features along with every one of Season Three’s episodes. Those bonus features include: An inside look at Season Three, a recap of season two, a set tour with Common, Behind The Music featurettes, and an “Inside The Episode” featurette with each of Season Three’s ten episodes.

Season Four will retail for SRP of $39.98 on DVD and $49.98 on Blu-ray. More information on Hell on Wheels is available online at http://www.facebook.com/HellOnWheelsAMC, http://www.amc.com/shows/hell-on-wheels, and http://twitter.com/HellOnWheelsAMC. More information on this and other releases from eOne is available online via Twitter at http://twitter.com/eOneHomeVideo. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Hell On Wheels One Of TVs Elite Dramas In Its Second Season

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

AMC’s hit Western drama, Hell on Wheels is one of the best dramas on television today.  Yes, that’s rather cliché to say, since so many networks try to claim their dramas to be the best this and that.  But the fact of the matter is that few if any of those other shows live up to their hype.  Hell on Wheels on the other hand more than lives up to the hype.  If its first season was its A-game, then its second season was (and is now that it has been released to DVD and Blu-ray) its A Plus-game.  The show’s writers have taken the story started in Season One and stepped it up all the way around the second time out.  Whether one is new to the show or not, all ten of Season Two’s episodes are sure to keep audiences gripped from start to finish.  And yes, there is a slight soap opera aspect mixed in to the primary story line.  But that soap opera element was there in the show’s first season as with all of the other story lines that are present here.  What’s most impressive is that the show’s writers were able to keep all of the story lines separate from one another throughout the season, thus making it all the more enjoyable.  Add in top notch acting on the part of the cast and more equally expert cinematography, and audiences get more proof that drama on cable is just as good as anything on the “Big Four.”

The writers behind Hell on Wheels surprised a lot of people when the show debuted two seasons ago on AMC.  But two seasons in (and a third season preparing to premiere this Saturday night), it has more than proven itself, as have its writers.  The show’s second season is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.  And with Season Two’s home release, Hell on Wheels’ writers have proven yet again why it does in fact live up to the hype of being one of the best dramas on television today.  The show’s writers have taken what they started with in its debut season and stepped it up in big fashion in Season Two.  Audiences find out what became of Cullen Bohannon after he left Hell on Wheels at the end of Season One.  They also see everything that has transpired in the town, too.  The brothers Mcginnes have gone from being two young naïve Irish immigrants to being relatively successful businessmen with their own personal drama.  The relationship between Joseph Black Moon and his “father”, Reverend Nathaniel Cole has become very strained, to say the least.  And the on again/off again romance between Elam Ferguson and his love interest Eva has reached quite the interesting point, even though Eva is married to another man.  Let us also not forget Thor Gundersen (A.K.A. The Swede).  He reaches perhaps the lowest point possible in the show’s climactic final episodes that are sure to have major implications in Season Three.

One would assume just by seeing everything here, that there was an awful lot going on in Season Two.  That would be right.  It would be just as easy to assume that with so many storylines going on, they would end up stepping all over one another.  That assumption is wrong.  Somehow, the show’s writers were able to take each one of the storylines in Season Two, and keep them entirely separate of one another.  At the same time, they also managed to keep each story line tied into the other smoothly.  The connections were so smooth that audiences that have yet to see Season Two will have no trouble following them or how they tie into one another.  This solid writing is the crux of the continued success of Hell on Wheels.  There is much more that continued to make it successful in its second season, though.  Audiences will also find that the acting on the part of the main cast does its own part in making the show believable.        

The writers behind Hell on Wheels Season Two took the success of the show’s first season and amped things up this time out, developing each storyline clearly and at a pace that doesn’t leave viewers scratching their heads.  This is a major positive to Season Two.  It’s not the only positive.  Just as the writing was executed so well, so was the ability of the cast to interpret the scripts.  The cast’s acting was just as believable this season as it was in its debut season.  This is something rare in television’s current era.  Far too often, viewers know that they are watching a show on the screen.  But in the case of Hell on Wheels, the cast’s chemistry and its ability to interpret each episode’s script is at such a level that it makes suspension of disbelief so easy for audiences.  It’s so easy to be pulled in that audiences won’t want to stop watching from one episode to the next, even with this drama being so much less like other serials on TV today.  It’s one more sign of just how impressive Hell on Wheels remains in its second season.

The writing and acting in Hell on Wheels’ are integral parts of the show’s success.  This is just as evident in the show’s second season as it was in its first season.  They can only do so much by themselves, though.  The people charged with capturing the cast on camera and setting the tone in each scene are just as much to thank for the show’s success in its second season.  The cinematography is just important in the success of Hell on Wheels as the writing and acting.  And suffice it to say that the cinematography was just as expert in Season Two as it was in Season One.  The wide shots of the railroad being built set against the backdrop of the plains under clear blue skies were stunning.  The lack of civilization served to make the colors of the plains and sky even lusher.  And the exterior shots, setting the scene within the town created their own emotions.  The contrast of the muddy ground against the buildings and tents does something just as special.  Not only does it illustrate the colors, but it serves as a stark contrast to the scenes showing the railroad being built.  The camera crews did a wonderful job capturing the set shots throughout each episode.  The camera work during each episode’s shootouts and the deeper, more emotional moments were just as powerful as the rest of the camerawork throughout Season Two.  It’s one more factor that along with the drama’s writing and the acting, will fully immerse viewers in the story.  Together, all of these factors make Hell on Wheels Season Two more proof that cable based dramas are as good as the programming that spans the “Big Four” if not better than those shows.  And whether one is new to Hell on Wheels or not, all of these factors make this another must see season.  Season Two is available now on DVD and Blu-ray in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0075FF5QM/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=filmsiteorg-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0075FF5QM.  And fans can get up to speed up Hell on Wheels on the show’s official website, http://www.amctv.com/shows/hell-on-wheels.  Audiences can also keep up with the latest Hell on Wheels developments on the show’s official Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/HellonWheelsAMC

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

Seal Team Six An Underappreciated Military Thriller

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainmen

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainmen

Movies based on actual events make up one of the largest genres of movies in the modern movie industry.  From stories centered on legal cases to sports to everything else in between, movies based on actual events are more bountiful than the egos that fill the movie industry today.  That’s saying something.  Keeping this in mind, it’s easy to discount so many of those movies, whether they be big budget or independent.  And then there are those such as the recent megahit, Zero Dark Thirty that was anything but passable. It was a definite hit for a variety of reasons.  Ironically, as big of a hit as it was, it actually came after a far lesser known, but just as enjoyable story in Anchor Bay Entertainment’s, Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden.  It leaves one wondering what prevented this surprisingly entertaining story from gaining the fame and success of its big blockbuster brother.

The most obvious of reasons why Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden didn’t gain the fame of Zero Dark Thirty is that the prior was an indie flick, while the other was backed by a major studio.  Despite the fact that it was backed by an independent studio, Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden is surprisingly entertaining. Any viewer that was a fan of CBS’ short-lived military drama The Unit or Entertainment One’s more recent military action/thriller, Special Forces will enjoy this movie.  It may not have the deep drama-filled storyline of Zero Dark Thirty or the major special effects, etc.  But it still manages to hold its own against its big brother.  As was noted in the movie’s bonus “Making of” featurette, those behind the camera did not set out to make it another Zero Dark Thirty.  It’s obvious this statement was made after the movie in question had been released, considering that this movie was released before the other.  That aside, it’s good to know that it didn’t want to be about all the extra drama that surrounded the raid before and after.  That it focused mainly on the raid itself and the men that carried out the orders is perhaps another reason that it wasn’t as warmly welcomed as its big screen counterpart.

One of the most important factors pointed out in the “Making of” featurette that accompanies this movie is its tri-pointed story approach.  It’s noted that the story is told from the vantage point of not just the members of Seal Team Six, but also from the point of the CIA operatives in Washington, D.C., and from a pair of intelligence gatherers inside Pakistan.  The three points eventually intersect for the final action filled sequence that will have viewers on the edge of their seats.  What is most impressive of the three stories is that the melodrama between Cherry (Anson Mount – Hell on Wheels) and Stunner (Cam Gigandet—The O.C., Twilight, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Easy A) is kept to an extreme minimum.  This allows the story to progress much more smoothly and stay focused on the central story of the operation to take Bin Laden.  In turn, the story’s pacing never lets up, thus keeping viewers engaged throughout the story’s hour and a half run time. 

The script’s limited melodrama is the tip of the iceberg for Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden in keeping audiences engaged.  Keeping the melodrama to an extreme minimum allows for more time for action and focus on story development from all three perspectives.  Instead of wasting unnecessary amounts of time focusing on each member’s personal and family drama, it instead used that time to develop the characters themselves and build tension as preparations began for the operation to take Bin Laden.  Throughout the course of these developments, the script’s pacing never lets up.  This is the center of everything.  The pacing is never too fast or slow.  This combined with the minimalist drama and energy packed action scenes all come together to make this movie an underappreciated military action movie.  It proves, in the end, to be a movie that while it may be a TV movie, is still one that is worth at least one watch by fans of this genre now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray.  It can be ordered online direct from Anchor Bay’s official website at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/detail.aspx?projectID=78fae55b-2924-e211-a8d1-d4ae527c3b65.  Fans of this movie can keep up with even more from Anchor Bay on its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBayEntertainmentCanada

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

Hell on Wheels is one hell of a show in its first season

Serials seem to be all the rage on television nowadays.  All of the big four have at least one serial.  And even the big cable networks have their own serials.  Even cable movie channel, AMC saw some time ago that it couldn’t survive on modern movies alone.  So it picked up Breaking Bad.  Now, it’s got another hit on its hands with the new hit drama, “Hell on Wheels.” 

“Hell on Wheels” is a good fit for AMC.  That’s because its serial status aside, it comes across more as a movie than an actual television show.  That’s not an entirely bad thing, either.  It’s one more piece that shows–even as violent and sexually explicit as it got at times–that Westerns are still popular, even in the twenty-first century.  Season one sees Confederate Civil War veteran Cullen Bohannan joining Thomas Durant’s Union Pacific railroad as it makes its way westward across the United States.  Bohannan has joined the railroad in an attempt to hunt down the men who killed his wife and his son.  Things aren’t easy at all for Bohannan while he’s in the railroad town of Hell on Wheels.  The whole time he’s there, he’s constantly at odds with Durant’s head of security, Thor “The Swede” Gundersen.  That’s not all, either.  Not only does Bohannan have to deal with Gundersen, he also has to find Lily Bell, whose husband was working with Durant to plan the Union Pacific’s route.  He also has to help take down the renegade Native Americans who killed Lily’s husband and derailed a train.  There’s even what seems to be a bit of a budding romance between Bohannan and Lily.  One can’t help but wonder though if anything will happen, considering how Season One ended.

Season One’s finale in mind, the writing behind “Hell on Wheels” makes for stories that both male and female audiences will love.  There’s more than enough action amd beautiful cinematography throughout Season One to keep the attention of its male audiences.  The drama of Durant and Gundersen backstabbing each other for their own devious purposes and the possibility of romance between Bohannan and Lily will pull in female audiences.  There’s also the growing romance between Elam Ferguson and Eva that said audience will also grip said audiences.  Of course, it should be noted that considering the mix of explicit violence and sexuality, “Hell on Wheels” is not proper for younger audiences. 

The violence and sexuality aside, there’s something about “Hell on Wheels” that makes it stand out from other tv shows.  It’s been noted by one source that “Hell on Wheels” comes across more as a movie on television than a standard tv serial.  That’s actually a good description.  The combination of cinematography, stories and acting all combine for a serial that has its own identity.  Rather than doing the standard sparknotes style “previously on” opening, each time, each new episode picks up right where the previous episode left off.  That straight forward opening forces audiences to watch the previous episodes.  And audiences who do watch each episode are handsomely rewarded with a show that is one of the best serials on tv today.  Now with Season One on dvd and blu-ray, audiences can only hope that after such an outstanding first impression, the show will continue to hold up its reputation when it reutns later this year for its second season.

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