‘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




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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.


  • 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

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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.