‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Proves To Be One Of The Best ‘Star Trek’ Series In Years In Its Debut Season

Courtesy: CBS/Paramount+/Paramount

Fans of CBS and Paramount+’s latest addition to the ever expanding Star Trek universe – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds — got some good news about the series late last month.  The news in question was the announcement that the series has been renewed for a third season, this despite the fact that the fledgling series’ second season has not even premiered yet.  Its premiere date is scheduled for June 15.  Such a statement from higher ups at CBS and Paramount is quite the statement of faith in the series.  For those who have yet to even take in the series’ first season, it may well be justified.  That is because as the recently released first season shows, it is the best installment of the Star Trek universe since…well…The Next Generation.  The writing that went into this season makes that clear.  It will be discussed shortly.  While the writing does plenty to make the show fully engaging and appealing, Season One’s recent home physical release does have some issue, that being its packaging.  This will be discussed a little later.  The packaging is not enough to doom the new release.  To that end, there is still one more positive to note, and it comes in the form of the cast’s work interpreting the writing.  This will also be addressed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the new home physical release of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.  All things considered, the recent home physical release of this standout series’ debut season largely a successful presentation despite its packaging concerns.

Late last month, CBS and Paramount+ brought their latest addition to the ever expanding Star Trek universe home on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray steel book.  The recent home physical release proves to be largely a welcome addition to the home library of any Star Trek fan.  That is saying a lot, considering it took its predecessor, Discovery, three seasons to finally prove itself a worthy addition to the Star Trek universe and it took another of its predecessors, Lower Decks, two seasons to finally become appealing.  Picard only barely improved from its first season to its second, but not by much, too.  The immediate positive impact of Strange New Worlds comes in large part through its writing.  Unlike so many series out there today (including so many Star Trek series), this series brings audiences back to the days of episodic writing.  This means that audiences do not feel like they have to invest so much of their time into the series to really appreciate the show.  This even despite the fact that each episode opens with the standard “previously on…” introduction.  The show’s writers are to be applauded for their work throughout the season, even from early on.  Season premiere episode “Strange New Worlds” takes audiences back to the golden age of Star Trek as Captain Pike and the crew of the Enterprise have to hide their identities in order to rescue first officer Una Chin-Riley (Rebecca Romijn – X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand) from an alien world where she is being held prisoner.  Things don’t go quite as planned as the genetic change used to hide the crew’s identity wears off on Spock and they are revealed to not be from the planet.  Ultimately it leads to a powerful climax when Captain Pike (Anson Mount – Hell on Wheels, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Crossroads) stands at a tense political meeting of the planet’s representatives, offering them to join the Federation or destroy each other using the technology they have gained.  As it so happens, the writers reveal the warp technology the planet’s people have obtained was the result of the events of Star Trek: Discovery Season 3.  The tie-in there is handled expertly by the writers, who allow the reference but do not let it overpower the bigger story line.  The result is that said reference will likely get newer audiences to go back and watch Season 3 of Discovery

Another example of the power of the writing comes much later in the season in the form of the episode, “Spock Amock.”  In the case of this episode, Spock (Ethan Peck – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, In Time, The Midnight Sky) and his fiancée, T’Pring (Gia Sandhu – A Perfect Plan, The Moth Diaries, A Simple Favor) accidentally change bodies when going through part of their courtship.  Yes, it’s the old familiar plot device that’s been used in so many science fiction series.  The thing is that in this episode, the writers do not allow it to fall into all of the trappings that those series have used and allowed to make the plot device to trite.  Watching Sandhu (who is supposed to be Spock through most of the episode_ lay out another Vulcan makes for such a hilarious moment.  That is because as serious as Spock is all the time, seeing that surprise moment is just so shocking and lighthearted.  Meanwhile, T’Pring, in Spock’s body, has to help Pike navigate negotiations to being another alien race into the federation.  The way in which Peck presents T’Pring handling Spock in the moment makes for an equally engaging juxtaposition to how Sandhu took on Spock being in her body.  The whole is a surprisingly engaging comedy of errors, so to speak.  How the pair finally return to their own bodies will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  It is a little bit too familiar, but still kind of funny in its own right.  The whole here shows that even with an all too familiar plot device, the series’ writers are able to bring audiences something fresh, engaging and entertaining.

Another familiar plot device that has been used in previous Star Trek series (and other science fiction series) is that of a mystery ailment making its way through the Enterprise.  One of the most notable times then happened was in TNG when a virus spread through the ship that essentially acted like alcohol, inhibiting the crew’s actions and judgements.  The Enterprise is almost destroyed as a result.  It all happened after the Enterprise’s crew went to investigate the death of another ship’s crew.  In the case of “Ghosts of Illyria,” the virus gets onboard the Enterprise after the crew is beamed up from the surface of another planet that was ravaged by the effect of ion storms.  The whole story will not be revealed here, but the virus infects the Enterprise’s crew and makes them crazy for light, to the point that they nearly destroy the ship, right down to Chief Engineer Hemmer (Bruce Horak – Warehouse 13, Transplant, In The Dark) trying to transport part of the planet onto the ship.  Had Hemmer succeeded, it most certainly destroyed the ship.  The tension that the writers create throughout the story makes this familiar matter fully original and in turn just as engaging and entertaining as the stories in the other episodes discussed here and the rest of the season’s episodes.  The whole of that content and the bonus feature-length commentaries that accompany some of the episodes pair to make for plenty of appeal for viewers.

While the general content featured in the new home physical release of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season One does plenty to make this season a strong start for the series, the packaging thereof detracts from that appeal to a point.  Speaking specifically about the season’s DVD packaging, the season’s 10 total episodes are spread across four discs.  The discs overlap each other on the inside front and back of the case, with two discs on either side.  One cannot help but wonder why all involved would use such an archaic packaging method, considering how easy it would have been to place one disc inside on the front, on inside on the back, and then put the other two discs on either side of a leaf inside the case.  That would protect the discs while also allowing at least slightly more access to the welcome episode guide printed inside the case’s wrap.  Instead, by placing them in overlapping style, viewers lose out.  That is because they have to remove both discs on either side to get to just one disc.  In the process of removing and replacing the discs, this packaging format dramatically increases the odds of the discs marring one another, in turn potentially reducing their life span.  Keeping that in mind, this packaging used for Season One’s home physical release is very problematic.  It is not enough to doom the season’s home physical presentation, but hopefully when the series’ second season becomes available to home viewers, all involved with rethink the packaging and do something…well…smarter (for lack of another word) with that season’s packaging.  Knowing that the packaging is clearly problematic but not enough to doom the set, there is still one more positive to note.  That positive is the cast’s work on camera.

Mount leads the way in terms of the performances as he returns to the role of the famed Capt. Pike.  For those who might not be too familiar with the latest Star Trek series, Mount took on the role of Pike in the third season of Discovery in a standalone episode that threw back to the original Star Trek series, what with the whole issue of Harry Mudd and the Tribbles.  He stood out just as much in that performance, too and it was likely that it was that performance that led to the creation of Strange New Worlds.  The confidence that Mount brings to Mount in the needed moments and the controlled vulnerability that he displays as he faces his own mortality makes him just as enjoyable to watch as William Shatner (Capt. Kirk) and Sir Patrick Stewart (Cpt. Jean-Luc Picard) in their respective series.  The moment when he sits down with the bridge crew and welcomes a young Uhura (played by relative newcomer Celia Rose Gooding) throws back to the performances of Stewart and Shatner in its own enjoyable way, too.  Gooding herself presents her own impressive performance as the then cadet Uhura.  The growth that she brings to Uhura as a persona makes her a fully sympathetic character because of the growing confidence that Uhura gradually displays.  Her performances in the role are fully believable and enjoyable to watch during those formative years of Uhura’s career even as Uhura doubts her place aboard the Enterprise.

Peck deserves his own share of credit, too, as Spock.  He is not the same Spock portrayed by the late great Leonard Nimoy, but his presence in the role really does its own share to mirror Nimoy’s performances, both in his more serious moments and at least one lighter moment.  In similar fashion, Horak’s gruff Chief Engineer Hemmer is so lovable because he is that persona who still does have a certain amount of heart.  Horak does so well balancing those sides of Hemmer throughout the season as does Babs Olusanmokun as ship’s doctor M’Bega.  M’Bega is no Bones, but his moments on screen allow him to portray some personality, too.  Speaking of medical staff, Jess Bush (Home and Away, Playing For Keeps, Skinford: Chapter 2) surprises as the young nurse, Christine Chapel.  Chapel is essentially M’Bega’s second in command, yet every time she is on camera, the duality that she brings to the pair with her energy makes for its own share of engagement and entertainment, too.  That is because of the comic appeal that she creates opposite M’Bega’s more serious tone.  It is just one more example of the importance of the cast’s work here in SNW’s debut season.  Between the performances examined here and those of the rest of the cast (all of which are just as deserving of praise in their own right), the overall work of the cast throughout Season One makes for so much engagement and entertainment.  When the overall work of the cast is paired with the work of the series’ writers, the whole makes watching each episode so fully engaging and entertaining.  That overall content makes Season One’s home physical presentation all the more deserving of praise, even considering the issue of the packaging.  All things considered, the home physical release of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season One proves to be one of the best of this year’s new DVD and Blu-ray releases for grown-ups.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season One’s recent home physical release is a mostly successful presentation and start for the series.  Its success comes in large part through its writing.  The writing brings viewers something new and something familiar throughout its 10 total episodes.  The writing makes the new stories fully engaging and entertaining because of their originality.  The more familiar story lines are given equally, welcome new life thanks to the writing staff’s work.  While the stories that were crafted for Season One are enjoyable, one can only hope that viewers will be able to watch them for years to come.  That hope is due to the issue of the packaging method used for the set’s four discs.  The overlapping of the discs greatly increases the risk of the discs scratching one another during removal and replacement of each disc, greatly increasing the risk of the discs’ life begin reduced.  Thankfully this is not such an issue that it will doom the set.  Keeping that in mind, there is one more positive to Season One’s presentation.  It comes in the form of the cast’s work.  From the bridge crew to the Engineering staff and others in-between, each cast member brings his or her own flair to the show that is enjoyable in its own right along with the writing.  When the writing and performances are considered together, they ensure Season One is a strong start for Strange New Worlds and even despite the packaging issues, is one of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray box sets for grown-ups.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season One is available now on DVD, Blu-ray and steel book Blu-ray.  More information on the series is available along with all of the series’ latest news at:

Website: https://paramountplus.com/shows/star-trek-strange-new-worlds

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cbs

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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’ Reboot Is Surprisingly Engaging, Entertaining

Courtesy: Netflix/capelight Pictures/American Park Film/mpi Media Group

Rebooting movies and crafting movies about war seem to be favorite hobbies of movie makers.  From the advent of the motion picture to the modern era, Hollywood’s major movie studios have churned out countless reboots, many of which have been movies about war.  In 1930, studios’ habit of rebooting movies took an important new turn when Universal Pictures released the first cinematic adaptation of author Eric Maria Remarque’s now timeless novel, All Quiet on the Western Front.  At the time, the movie broke new ground with its explicit depictions of the horrors of war.  That was because it was not until 1934, when the Hays Code — also known as the Motion Picture Production Code – was established that any real regulation was in place to monitor movies’ content.  Almost half a century would pass before the movie would see the light of day again – in 1979 on CBS — with a made for TV rendition of the story that starred Richard Thomas (ItBattle Beyond The StarsThe Waltons) and Ernest Borgnine (Spongebob SquarepantsThe Poseidon AdventureAirwolf) in the lead roles.  Late last year, the movie received what is only its second reboot, courtesy of Netflix, capelight Pictures and Amusement Park Film.  The new take on the story – which came more than four decades after the 1979 made for TV movie take on the story — earned nine Oscar® nominations and won in six of the categories for which it was nominated.  Now Tuesday, the award-nominated and winning movie will be released on 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo pack through the noted companies and mpi Media Group.  The movie is just as engaging and entertaining in its physical home release as in its streaming debut last year, if not more so.  That is due in part to its extensive bonus content, which will be discussed shortly.  In examining the movie itself, there is plenty to appreciate, not the least of which being its cinematography, which will be discussed a little later.  The work of the movie’s cast rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered they make the new home release of All Quiet on the Western Front one of the best of this year’s new home movie releases.

Netflix/capelight Pictures/Amusement Park Film’s brand new 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo pack release of the new All Quiet on the Western Front reboot is a powerful, engaging new take on the timeless story from author Eric Maria Remarque.  It is not an easy presentation to take in because it is so intense, and requires audiences truly to be in a specific mindset in order to fully be appreciated.  That needs to be noted right off the top.  Having noted that, there is a lot to appreciate for those who take the time to take in the movie in its new physical release, not the least of which is its bonus content.  The most important of that bonus content comes in the form of the printed interviews in the movie’s companion 24-page booklet.  The interviews are with director Edward Berger and historian/professor Daniel Schonpflug.  The information that each man shares in his respective interview is important to the movie because of the background that it adds to the movie’s presentation.

Berger, for instance, talks during his interview, about how he and the movie’s other creative heads developed the fight scenes online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic preventing them from meeting in person.  He notes in this discussion, those involved in the movie’s creation were spread across three continents, so coming together to develop the battle scenes was not an easy feat.  On the matter of developing the story for the reboot, Berger also addresses the noted heavy emotional sense that permeates the movie.  He said making the story so emotionally heavy was intentional because of how the war impacted Germany and its citizens.  Speaking of that impact, Berger notes the fallout of the war, including how the kaiser ended up abdicating his rule and thus left the country essentially in a state of anarchy.  This is something that is rarely if ever taught in American classrooms at any level. 

As if all of this is not enough for audiences, Berger also discusses working with actor Felix Kammerer, who played the role of Paul in this outing.  He had only positive comments about Kammerer in that discussion, and justifiably so.  This will be addressed a little bit more later.  He also talks about keeping himself grounded and focused while making the movie.  In simple terms, this is a discussion on not letting his ego get the better of himself, which clearly paid off in watching the movie.  There is even a mention of fellow famed movie maker Stanley Kubrick in these discussions that is certain to engage audiences.

Schonpflug’s discussions build even more on those from Berger.  Schonpflug takes on topics, such as Remarque’s own experience as a conscripted soldier in the German army as it relates to his timeless novel.  That is another item that few if any American teachers bring into discussions on this novel when they introduce the book to students.  The revelation that Schonpflug makes here is enlightening to say the least.  On an equally interesting note, Schonpflug also notes that in Germany, All Quiet on the Western Front was actually censored – and even burned – by the government at different points because of its overarching anti-war message.  Yet again here is something that is rarely if ever taught about the book in American classrooms at any level.  The shock of the realization is engaging in its own right and is just as certain to get audiences to start doing their own deeper research into the book. 

As if all of this is not enough, Schonpflug also addresses how much of the war Remarque left out of the book, and his praise for Berger’s take on the novel in two more separate discussions.  In regards to how Remarque presented the war in his novel, Schonpflug changed a number of scenes from his early drafts at the request of his then publisher.  He gives the example of the moment Paul kills a French soldier, and the impact that it has on him.  Berger adds that moment into this reboot, but changes it in his own way from the novel’s presentation.  Schonpflug notes other changes Berger made to his take on the story in his thoughts on how Berger handled the movie, speaking of the changes.  In the end, he praises Berger, saying Berger has fully succeeded in his imagining of the story.  He is definitely right in that commentary.

Between the commentary addressed here and so much more, the overall commentaries provided by Berger and Schonpflug in their respective interviews makes for so much engagement, entertainment and appreciation for this latest take on All Quiet on the Western Front.  The interviews are just some of the bonus content that audiences will appreciate, too.  The in-depth “making of” featurette and the feature-length audio commentary builds even more on the foundation even more that was established through the interviews.  All things considered, the bonus content that accompanies All Quiet on the Western Front in its new 4K UHD/Blu-ray presentation more than makes for reason for audiences to take in this movie in its new physical presentation.

The bonus content that accompanies the movie’s new physical release is just part of what makes the movie worth watching.  Its cinematography makes for its own share of engagement and entertainment.  This is clearly exhibited in the noted battle scenes on the front.  The way the cameras move through the trenches and capture the frantic nature of the battles is so powerful in its own right.  Seeing the smoke of the gas and from the shots fired as the soldiers make their way across the battlefield is just as intense and gripping.  On the same note, a calmer moment, such as when Paul, Kat, Tjaden and the other soldiers are relaxing, enjoying the cooked goose is just as rich in its color and angles.  Seeing the men admiring the French woman from a distance as they pass by really goes to show such a nice wide shot of the land.  On a related note, Schonpflug also addresses the reality of sexual violence committed against French women by German soldiers in his interview.  That is another eye-opening revelation that is never taught here in the U.S. about World War I.  Even the opening scene of Paul and his friends planning to join the German Army is strong in its own right.  That is because of the peacefulness and color of the buildings and streets in their hometown.  It is a subtle, perhaps unintended, message, but becomes deep when one considers how such a town likely looked after the war.  When audiences take into account Berger’s statements about his deliberate approach to getting every shot right, it adds even more to the appreciation for the work that went into the cinematography.  Between these examples and so many others available to note, the whole of the movie’s cinematography makes for its own exceptional presentation and experience for viewers.  The result is a foundation that is strengthened all the more for the presentation.

The work of the cast strengthens that foundation even more, beginning with and not limited to the work of Kammerer.  To think that Kammerer’s first day in the movie industry was the first day of principal photography for the movie, he ended up presenting quite the talent throughout the movie.  From a bright-eyed young recruit who lied to get into the German Army to a very quickly more seasoned soldier, hardened by combat, to eventually, a young man who realized the fallacy of what he was doing, Kammerer is to be applauded throughout the story.  Case in point is Paul’s shock of having to collect dog tags from other, dead soldiers in his first experience in the trenches.  One of those soldiers was one of his own friends.  The tears that he shed, and having to keep going were the beginning of that change that Paul underwent.  Thankfully, Kat took him under his wing and helped him to retain a certain amount of his humanity before things got even worse as the story progressed.  The look of shock as he stabs the French soldier and then realizes what he had done, resulting in so much sadness and shame, is another of the most powerful moments in Paul’s change.  That is because it is really at that moment he realized the fallacy of what he and the rest of the army were doing.  That epiphany humanized Paul all the more, and continued to show Kammerer’s talent as an actor.  Kammerer’s portrayal as Paul and another new group of soldiers is sent back to the front near the war’s end continues to show that talent, too.  He portrays Paul as someone who is just fed up with it all and wants to go home like everyone else but knows he has a job to do.  The way in which Kammerer carries himself in the moment makes a person feel so much for him at that very moment.  What happens to Paul in the impending battle (which will not be revealed here for the sake of those who have not yet seen the movie) makes the outcome all the more hard hitting, emotionally. 

Albrecht Schuch (System CrasherBerlin AlexanderplatzMitten in DeutschlandNSU), who plays the part of Kat – Stanislaus Katczinsky – is also to be applauded for his own work opposite Kammerer.  That is because of the way in which he manages to help keep Paul grounded. The focus that he brings out of Kat even in the intensity of battle helps to show the experience that Kat already had by the time Paul came into the war.  His sensitivity as he talks about wanting to be back with his wife and the vulnerability that he brings out of Kat as he addresses his son’s death from smallpox makes him an even more endearing figure.  To a point, audiences can actually argue that Schuch’s portrayal of Kat makes Kat something of, perhaps, a father figure to Paul even more than just a friend.  It is that presence that helps to make Kat and Paul so enjoyable to watch together throughout the movie and just another example of the importance of the cast’s work.

On yet another note, the cast members who took on the role of the German and French officials on board the train deserve their own applause.  Yes, they were largely supporting cast in the case of this movie, but the tension that they manage to create amongst themselves when they are on screen is fully believable, even though it is known that this moment was somewhat fictionalized.  They include Daniel Bruhl as German diplomat Matthias Erzberger and Thibault de Montalembert as French General Ferdinand Foch.  Devid Striesow (The CounterfeitersBefore The FallDownfall) is just as deserving of applause in his role as General Friedrichs.  That is because of the contrast that he creates to the more level-headed approach of Erzberger, who was determined to bring the conflict to an end and save Germany any more suffering.  Now, Friedrichs is not a real person.  He was a character created for this take on the timeless anti-war protest story, but that aside, the way in which Striesow brings Friedrichs to life is so worthy of applause.  That is because he shows that insistence that Germany fight on even as peace is being negotiated.  Even before then, there is another scene in which Striesow leaves audiences wondering if Friedrichs is going to take his own life as he recalls the military successes of his father and grandfather.  Interestingly he does not end up taking his own life, but that moment is so powerful in its simplicity and Striesow’s performance.  Between his work and that of Bruhl, de Montalembert, and other supporting cast, their work proves just as important as that of the lead cast.  When all of that work is collectively considered the result is a group of performances that makes for just as much engagement as the work of those behind the cameras, bringing the story to life.  When all of that work is considered alongside the movie’s bonus content, the whole therein together with the overall story makes the new home physical release of All Quiet on the Western Front a must see, at least once, and a rare reboot that is actually worth watching.

Netflix/capelight Pictures/Amusement Park Film’s 2022 reboot of All Quiet on the Western Front is a surprisingly engaging presentation.  That is because it proves itself a reboot that is actually worth watching.  Its appeal comes in part through the bonus content that accompanies the movie’s new physical home release.  The interviews with its director Edward Berger and historian/professor Daniel Schonpflug are among the most interesting of the bonus features.  That is because of the background and history that the pair offer regarding the new movie, the book, and how each stacks up against the real story of Germany’s role in the first World War.  The feature-length audio commentary and the standard “making of” featurette build on the foundation formed by the interviews to make for even more engagement and entertainment.  The overall foundation formed therein is strengthened even more through the movie’s cinematography, which is just as engaging, what with the angles, the use of lighting and even something as simple as filters.  The gritty portrayal of the battles and the contrast of the calm of the countryside make that clear.  The work of the movie’s cast, both lead and supporting, builds even more on that foundation and puts the finishing touch to the presentation.  That is because each actor’s work is so believable.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered they make this new physical home release of All Quiet on the Western Front one of the surprisingly best of this year’s new home releases.

All Quiet on the Western Front is scheduled for release Tuesday on 4K UHD/Blu-ray. The trailer for the new reboot of All Quiet on the Western Front is streaming here. More information on this and other titles from Netflix is available at:



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

Audiences Of All Ages Had Lots Worth Watching On TV And Streaming in 2022

Courtesy: PBS Distribution

Hollywood’s major movie studios offered audiences little to enjoy this year both in regard to theatrical and streaming content.  This year’s crop of new cinematic presentations has just been more of the same prequels, sequels, reboots, and movies based on actual events and books.  The last of those categories – the movies based on actual events and books – change so much from the source material that they are really that unworthy of watching and always have been.  Anyone that wants the real stories behind those movies based on actual events would do better watching PBS’ American Experience and American Masters series.

Speaking of PBS, PBs is also known for importing shows from overseas that really are so much better than even what major American networks have to offer, as in the case of Endeavour and the surprisingly enjoyable rebooted series, All Creatures Great & Small.  Both those series saw their latest seasons released to DVD and BD this year, and those seasons are included in this year’s list of the year’s top new DVD/BD box sets for grown-ups.  Also on this year’s list is the recently released full series release of Seaquest DSV: The Complete Series.  DC also had a number of notable home releases this year from series, such as Doom Patrol, The Flash, and Lois & Superman, all of which also made it onto this year’s list.

As with each list from Phil’s Picks, this one features the year’s top 10 titles in the given category and five honorable mention titles, for a total of 15 titles.  From dramas to comedies to action and more, this year’s collection of new box sets for grown-up audiences offers so much enjoyment and engagement.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2022 Top 10 New DVD/BD Box Sets For Grown-Ups.


  1. All Creatures Great & Small: Season 2
  2. Endeavour: Season 8
  3. Seaquest DSV: The Complete Series
  4. Abbott Elementary: Season 1
  5. Star Trek Discovery: Season 4
  6. The Flash: Season 8
  7. Lois & Superman: Season 2
  8. Doom Patrol: Season 3
  9. The Honeymooners Specials: The Complete Collection
  10. Peacemaker: The Complete First Season
  11. Spiderman: Far From Home/Homecoming/No Way Home
  12. James Bond: Daniel Craig 5-Film Collection
  13. Star Trek Lower Decks: Season 2
  14. Halo: Season 1
  15. Titans: Season 3

Grown-ups were not the only audiences who received lots of enjoyable offerings this year in regard to home releases.  Families in general also had lots to like this year in the way of home releases.  Only 10 titles made Phil’s Picks list this year, instead of 10, just because there were not enough new family releases for families.  This year’s field of notable family releases includes the 2022 World Series Collector’s Edition set, The Batman: The Complete Series, and even the complete series run of Ed, Edd, & Eddy.  That Seaquest DSV set is technically family friendly, too, in comparison to so many action shows out there today.  Keeping all of that in mind, here is the list of this year’s top new Family Friendly DVD/BD Box Sets.


  1. The Batman: The Complete Series
  2. The Proud Family Original Series: Anniversary Edition
  3. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood: Kindness Collection
  4. World Series 2022: Collector’s Edition
  5. Seaquest DSV: The Complete Series
  6. Ed, Edd & Eddy: The Complete Series
  7. Rugrats: Season 1, Volume 1
  8. Kamp Koral: Season 1, Volume 1
  9. The Patrick Star Show: Season 1, Volume 1
  10. Scooby Doo & Guess Who: The Complete Second Season

That is it for this year.  Work is already underway for new titles being released in 2023.  The second season of the Rugrats reboot is due out in March, for instance.  Strange New Worlds: Season 1 is due out around the same time.  Lots of new music, movie, and TV reviews are coming as 2022 gives way to 2023, so stay tuned!

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

MPI Home Video’s New ‘Honeymooners’ Collection Is Loaded With Laughs, Insight

Courtesy: mpi home video

The Honeymooners is one of the most iconic and important series in the history of television. Given, it only lasted for 39 episodes over the course of less than a year (October 1955-September 1956), but in the course of that time and in the years since it ended, the impact that it has had remains fully evident. It is well-known that it is the source material for The Flintstones, and there is no denying it had to have had at least some influence in the creation of All In The Family. It has also been spoofed by countless other TV series since its end, and even remained so popular that it apparently has a new reboot in the works, with famed actor Damon Wayans Jr. executive producing.

As if all of that is not enough to show its place in America’s (and the world’s) television pantheon, the show remained so popular following its short run in the late 50s that the cast was brought back in the late 70s for four live specials recorded at a studio in Miami Beach, Florida. Those specials — Second Honeymoon, Valentine Special, Christmas Special, and A Christmas Carol — have each seen their own standalone releases over the years, but have not been collected into one set. That is until last month. MPI Home Video, which also has released the original series in full on DVD, released those four specials on DVD March 22 in a two-disc collection. The set is another win for any devotee of The Honeymooners. That is due in no small part to the stories featured in each special. This will be discussed shortly. The bonus content that accompanies the collection makes for its own positive and will be discussed a little later. The set’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be addressed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of The Honeymooners Specials: The Complete Collection. All things considered, they make the collection a must for any fully devoted fan of The Honeymooners and even any casual fan of the iconic series.

MPI Home Video’s recently released DVD collection, The Honeymooners Specials: The Complete Collection is an impressive presentation that will appeal just as much to the most devoted fan of The Honeymooners as it will to the series’ more casual fans. The set’s success comes in part through its featured stories. Second Honeymoon is funny in its own right as Ralph (played then by a much older Jackie Gleason) thinks Alice (played by a much older Audrey Meadows) is pregnant when he finds a knitted warmer for his bowling ball and a pair of knitted mitts that Alice had made. Ralph is not smart enough to realize that the holes in the ball warmer are for the holes in his bowling ball. The rest of the time, Ralph leans how to put a diaper on a baby, even thinking a list titled “Mother’s Diet” is a list of what Alice is eating for herself and the baby that does not exist. Gleason’s acting chops are just as sharp throughout the episode as are those of his longtime partner, Art Carney, and their female counterparts. Watching this hilarious story unfold and climax at a meeting of Ralph and Ed’s lodge meeting makes for so many laughs from beginning to end. It is a story that itself has been spoofed so many times by so many other shows, including The Flintstones and other sitcoms.

Another great example of the importance of the stories is that featured in Valentine Special. Ralph gets suspicious of Alice when he finds a list of phone calls that she has taken during her time as an operator. Seeing the names, he thinks Alice is cheating on him. The discovery of a life insurance policy, and Ed mentioning how everything was playing out like an episode of Kojack (which was nearing the end of its run when this special was recorded — it ended in 1978) does not ease Ralph’s nerves any more, especially when Alice has Ralph lay on the floor face down in order to measure him for his new surprise Valentine’s Day gift. The whole thing is yet another fully engaging and entertaining comedy of errors that thrives in its physical and verbal comedy. It shows even to this day that it is possible for comedy to be enjoyable without going full blue. When these two episodes are considered with the two Christmas specials that are also featured in the set (the Christmas Carol story, by the way, is clearly the inspiration for the story at the center of A Flintstones Christmas Carol), the whole of the stories makes for plenty of engagement and entertainment.

Going back to the matter of how the stories manage to show that it is possible for comedy to work without going full blue, one of the bonus features included in the collection proves that even more. The bonus in question is an episode of the series’ reboot from 1967 in which Alice is played by Sheila MacRae. The episode’s story centers on women’s liberation. The writing was clearly an attempt by those behind the cameras to try to make the show relevant to the times, but it sadly fell flat. All of the humor was so opposite of the topics and writing on which the original series rested. It is a clear example of the importance of the collection’s bonus content. That is because it allows viewers to see the contrast of the original series to at least one of its reboots.

On a similar note, Jane Keane, who plays Trixie in the featured specials, is featured in a behind the scenes featurette in which she speaks of Gleason’s apparent dislike of working with MacRae because she was so starkly different than Audrey Meadows. Keane mentions specifically as an example, that Gleason did not like that MacRae wanted to make Alice softer than the portrayal made so famous by Meadows throughout her own career. In comparing the two women, Meadows really is better than MacRae. That is just this critic’s own take on that discussion. This bonus is yet another example of the collection’s overall bonus content.

The two skits that spoof The Honeymooners further show the bonus content’s importance because they show how far the show’s impact reached even long after its original end. One of the skits features Ralph and Alice as an interracial couple, Ralph being black and Alice being white. It shows that the show’s influence even reached into the social climate of the time yet was not preachy in that fashion. The other skit, featured in an episode of The Hollywood Palace, features Ray Bolger alongside Meadows as Ralph and Meadows once again as Alice, except in this case, Alice is the bus driver and Ralph as the stay-at-home spouse. It is a subtle social statement even here, but not overly preachy, thankfully. If anything, it makes for its own share of laughs. When this and the other skit are considered along with the other noted bonus content, the whole of the set’s bonus features makes its overall importance clear. It adds its own share of engagement and entertainment to the overall presentation, making the viewing experience that much more enjoyable.

Moving from the bonus content, there is one more item to note in examining this collection’s overall presentation. That item is the set’s packaging. The collection’s two discs each sit inside the standard size DVD case on their own “plates.” This protects the discs from marring one another, and in turn ensures their longevity. Those responsible for this packaging item are to be commended for going that route. In similar fashion, the smart packaging also means the collection will take up the same amount of space on any rack as any DVD case containing just one disc, making for even more aesthetic appeal. When all of this is considered along with the positives of the stories featured in each of the set’s specials, and with the bonus content that accompanies them, the whole makes this collection a fully engaging and entertaining presentation.

MPI Home Video’s newly released The Honeymooners Specials: The Complete Collection is a thoroughly enjoyable presentation. Whether one is an established fan of the series or more casual, there is plenty for viewers on both sides to appreciate, beginning with the specials’s stories (and the cast’s work presenting them live on stage). The stories and the cast’s work presenting them make for so much engagement and entertainment, showing that the show still had some gas left in the proverbial tank, even nearly two decades after it had ended its initial run. The bonus content that accompanies the collection adds to the engagement and entertainment because of the secondary level of content that it brings. It really leads to so much discussion through everything presented. The set’s packaging rounds out its most important items. It is ergonomic, which is appealing for any physical media fan. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of this collection. All things considered, they make the set one of the best of this year’s new DVD/BD box sets for grown-up audiences.

The Honeymooners Specials: The Complete Collection is available now. More information on this and other titles from mpi home video is available at:



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Paul Warren Goes Back To The Future For His New Single

Courtesy: Paul Warren

Guitarist Paul Warren is taking on a classic TV theme song for his latest single.

Warren premiered his take on the theme song from the classic TV series, Mission: Impossible and a companion video Tuesday. The song is the lead single from Warren’s new project, Light Theory. He most recently worked with another project, Infinite Eve, and performed on the group’s single, ‘2020.’

Warren’s take on the song gives the timeless theme song an amped up take on the song. It blends heavy metal guitar with a subtle keyboard line to give it a sound more akin to that of the rendition used for the Tom Cruise-led MI movies than that used in the original series.

Warren’s take on the Mission: Impossible theme song is available to stream and download through Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon.

The video that accompanies the song is also similar to what one might expect from a trailer for one of the series’ big screen adaptations. There is footage of a tech specialist at his desk, tracking something or someone, footage of exotic locales, such as the pyramids of Egypt, mountainous regions of Europe, and busy city streets throughout to add to the presentation.

This all pairs with footage of Warren performing his take on the song. Lights illuminate Warren from behind, leaving him fully silhouetted as he performs. The visual is meant to create its own air of mystery to echo the sense of mystery in the arrangement.

More information on Paul Warren’s take on the Mission: Impossible theme song and his new project, Light Theory, is available along with all of his latest news at:

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/paulwarrenmusic

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

Champlin’s New LP Is A Presentation That Most Audiences Will “Love”

Courtesy: Imagen Records

It goes without saying that singer-songwriter Bill Champlin is one of the most respected figures in the music industry today.  A one-time member of the world renowned band Chicago, Champlin has also worked on hits from  the likes of Donna Summers, Kenny Rogers, and Elton John just to name a few.  He has even worked on the theme song for CBS’ prime time drama In The Heat of the Night.  On top of all of those accolades, Champlin has also released 10 solo records, many of which have themselves generated some hit singles.  Now this Friday, Champlin will add another proverbial notch to his belt when he releases his new album Livin’ for Love.  The 14-song record will release physically and digitally through Imagen Records.  The 64-minute album is a presentation that will appeal to Champlin’s fans, what with its musical arrangements and lyrical themes, many of which follow the central theme of relationships, as hinted by the album’s title.  There are other songs featured in the album that break from the familiar and focus on other topics.  One of those songs comes late in the album’s run in the form of ‘Losin’ Ground.’  The socially conscious composition will be addressed shortly.  ‘A Stevie Song,’ which immediately follows ‘Losin’ Ground’ is another one of the rare works that avoids the album’s overarching theme of relationships.  It will be addressed a little later.  In regards to the mass of songs featured in this record that present the noted overarching theme, the least blatant of those works comes early in the album’s run in the form of ‘Especially Me.’  That song will also be addressed later.  Each song noted here plays its own important part to the album’s presentation.  The variance that they offer amongst the overwhelming songs of love is enough to make the album worth hearing at least once.

Bill Champlin’s latest album Livin’ for Love (his 11th album) is a presentation that will appeal equally to his own fans and those of classic rock in general.  That is due in part to the musical arrangements and to its lyrical themes, most of which focus on the central theme of relationships.  That theme is hinted at directly through the album’s title.  Now for those who want at least some lyrical variety, the album does offer that in a small handful of songs, one of which being the late entry ‘Losin’ Ground.’  The musical arrangement featured in ‘Losin’ Ground’ is a catchy, vintage blues style composition, complete with Hammond organ, soulful vocals (including backup vocals).  What’s interesting here is that the sound and style in  Champlin’s vocals lend themselves to comparisons to vocal performances from the likes of Dr. John.  It sounds odd, yes, but it is there at least in this critic’s ears and mind, and it works well.  The bluesy guitar line, while more of a supporting role here, adds its own nice touch to the overall arrangement, too.  Even more interesting is that the bluesy approach to the song’s musical arrangement works well here considering the social commentary featured in the song’s lyrical content. 

The lyrical content featured in ‘Losin’ Ground’ is somewhat mournful and rueful in its own right, making it a good fit with the song’s musical arrangement.  That is considering that the blues is meant to help alleviate negative feelings and thoughts.  The commentary here will resonate with listeners with its accessible wording.  Champlin opens the song, stating, “You can bet your bottom dollar/The lies are gonna come/An they’ll wrap it in ribbons and bows/And tell you we’re gonna have fun/We’ll scream and we’ll holler/And search for somebody to blame.”  He adds in the song’s chorus, “The same things always happen/When history’s ignored/It’s time to pay attention/We’ve all been here before/And we’re calling out for more.”  The commentary continues in the song’s second verse, “So fasten your seat belts/Here comes the same old thing/There’s just one destination/These promises will bring/Of course, the only answer/Is that we give up everything.”  Champlin continues from there/For someone else’s power/That’s what it’s always been/That same someone will tell you/It’s you who’s gonna win/So we let the games begin again.”  The message is clear here.  This is, as noted, a commentary on what is happening in the world.  Again, the bluesy musical arrangement that goes with the commentary is a good fit.  The two elements together will ensure listeners’ engagement and entertainment and in turn make this song stand out among the bigger body of Champlin’s album.  It is just one of the most notable of the album’s entries.  ‘A Stevie Song’ is another of the album’s most notable works.

As with ‘Losin’ Ground,’ ‘A Stevie Song’ avoids the overly common lyrical theme of love and relationships that abounds so much in this album.  Rather, this song is more about the power of music.  It is about the ability of music to help people’s emotional health.  Champlin even states in the song’s final line, “Music is the perfect path to love.”  It is just one of the lines that helps prove this song gives listeners an alternative on this record.  Champlin opens the song singing, “It doesn’t really matter who you are/You’e  never gonna travel very far alone/A melody you’re hearing comes across/Something on the radio and you’re lost/Somewhere deep inside a Stevie song.”  Now the mention of “Stevie” leads one to assume maybe Champlin is referencing Stevie Wonder.  Champlin does not come out and say it, but considering the R&B style musical arrangement featured in this song.  This will be addressed shortly.  Champlin continues after the lead verse, to continue, “Music is the perfect path to love/Poetry belongs just because it does/How’re you gonna break somebody’s heart/When you’ve just heard a really soulful part/Somewhere deep inside a Stevie song?”  Again, it is not confirmed that Champlin is referencing Stevie Wonder here, but one can’t deny the impact that Wonder’s music has.

Getting now to the song’s musical arrangement, the slow jam approach taken here lends itself to thoughts of Wonder’s 1974 hit song ‘Creepin.’  Yes, Wonder’s song is slightly more upbeat, but the similarities are there.  At the same time, the use of the soprano sax conjures thoughts of Kenny G.  Of course, that element is more supporting than main.  To that end, the overall arrangement still boasts some similarities to works from Stevie Wonder, and it does in fact leave listeners feeling good.  Keeping that in mind, the song’s lyrical content does prove true.  Collectively, the two sides leave no doubt as to why this song stands out.  It is just one more of the songs that manages to break the mold of the love song standard set throughout so much of this record.  ‘Especially Me’ is another key song to examine.

‘Especially Me’ stands out because its lyrical theme largely seems to break from the norm of most of the album.  This song comes across more as a song about someone who is trying to deny who and how she (in this case) really is.  That is evident right from the song’s lead verse, which finds Champlin singing, “I wanted to tell you/Whatcha, whatcha already know/Here comes that same old overused phrase/”I told you so.”  This is the song’s subject being blunt right from the get go, telling the woman he saw what was coming, coming.  He adds in the song’s second verse, “You make believe you weren’t in school/The day they handed out the rules/So you choose to play the fool/Every time you turn around/It’s like you’re reading a book full of lies/’Bout whatcha need/And you’re  eating it up/Tryin’ to love every man that you see/So, you’re eating it up just because  you wanna be free/You’re only cheating yourself/And all your friends/Especially me.”  This all seems to point, again, at someone who is trying to get a friend to see the light of what she is doing.  The content that follows is very much in the same vein.  To that end, this is the one remaining rare songs featured in this record that lyrically diverges from the more overarching theme of relationships.  Adding to its interest is the musical arrangement that pairs with the statement.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Especially Me’ is a funky, mid-tempo composition.  The energy in the song, does well to help illustrate the confidence, and even slight snarkiness in the main subject’s discussion with the secondary subject.  That energy is exuded through the combination of the solid time keeping and even the slight force in the delivery of the verses.  Simply put, the musical arrangement featured in this song and its companion lyrical content work well to make this song stand out.  Together with the other two songs noted here, this trio of songs does well to keep things at least somewhat interesting for Champlin’s new album and worth hearing at least once.

Bill Champlin’s latest album Livin’ for Love is an album whose overall body is largely composed of songs that, as noted by the title, are about relationships.  Fans of such content will certainly enjoy those songs.  Those who prefer a little more variety get that here, too, as noted by the songs examined here.  From a song that addresses the current state of the world, to a song about the soothing power of music, to a song in which the main subject tries to help a friend see the error of her ways, the record does offer some variance.  Between that variance and the album’s more overarching content, the whole of the album becomes more appealing for more audiences.  All things considered, the album proves itself worth hearing at least once.  Livin’ for Love is scheduled for release Friday through Imagen Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of Bill Champlin’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.billchamplin.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/billchamplin

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

Grown-Ups Got Plenty Of TV To Enjoy In 2020

Courtesy: itv/PBS Distribution/PBS

Families nationwide got a lot of worthwhile ways to spend time together during the COVID-19 pandemic this year, thanks to all of the new DVDs, Blu-rays and box sets.  Of course while families got plenty to watch together, grown-ups also needed something of their own to enjoy.  Thankfully this year produced just as much for grown-ups to enjoy as children.  That is why Phil’s Picks is taking a look at what were among the best of this year’s new DVD and Blu-ray box sets for grown-ups.  This year saw a bunch of new content from Warner Brothers and DC, some better than others (E.g. the new Swamp Thing reboot and new seasons of Black LightningBlack Lightning proved better this year than Swamp Thing, but the latter still proved worth watching at least once.  Itv and PBS presented a rather intriguing new season of itv’s crime drama Endeavour.  The season was okay but left something to be wanted.  The short-lived deep comedy The Good Place finally met its end this year and also received its only full-series release on Blu-ray thanks to the folks at Shout! Factory.  In an even more surprising move, ABC’s hit comedy Modern Family got a full series release this month exclusively through Target.  While not inexpensive, it is a presentation that devotees will appreciate.  It is just one more entry in Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New DVD & Blu-ray Box Sets For Grown-ups category. 

As with every other list from Phil’s Picks, this list features the Top 10 titles in the category along with five honorable mentions for a total of 15 titles.  Without further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 new DVD & Blu-ray Box Sets for Grown-Ups.


  1. Endeavour: Season Seven
  2. The Good Place: The Complete Series
  3. Modern Family: The Complete Series
  4. Doctor Who: Season 12
  5. The Expanse: Season 4
  6. Black Lightning: The Complete Second Season
  7. Black Lightning: The Complete Third Season
  8. Stargirl: The Complete First Season
  9. Mission: Impossible: The Complete Series
  10. Gunsmoke: The Complete Series 65th Anniversary Set
  11. Gunsmoke: The Movies
  12. Penny Dreadful: City of Angels Season 1
  13. Swamp Thing: The Complete Series
  14. Star Trek Picard: Season 1
  15. The Twilight Zone: Season 1

One more list is up to finish up this year’s lists.  That list is the year’s top new re-issues.  Stay tuned for that.

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

‘Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels’ Is Not Dreadful, But Tough To Watch

Courtesy: CBS DVD/Paramount/Showtime/Sky

Showtime and Sky’s Penny Dreadful spin-off City of Angels is an interesting addition to the franchise.  The 10-episode series, which ran for approximately two months this year from April 26 to June 28, is an interesting presentation.  While it only ran for one season, it is a presentation that will find its specific audiences.  That is due in part to the story featured in the program.  This element will be discussed shortly.  While the story does give audiences reason to watch, the general content that accompanies the story unarguably detracts from the show’s presentation to a point.  This will be addressed a little later.  The work of the series’ cast puts the finishing touch to the show’s program.  Together with the story, those two elements are enough to make up for the show’s somewhat overly gritty content and make it worth watching at least once.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is an interesting addition to Showtime and Sky’s original Penny Dreadful franchise, which originally launched in 2014 and ran for three seasons. It is a presentation that fans of hard boiled crime dramas will find at least somewhat appealing.  That is proven in part through its expansive story line, which spans the show’s 10-episode run.  Unlike the original series, which is based on a series of Victorian-era monsters and their experiences, City of Angels is centered more on the real world.  The gritty, hard-boiled crime drama takes place in pre-World War II Los Angeles, California.  It follows the murder of a well-to-do white family in Los Angeles.  The murder is initially blamed on members of the city’s Hispanic community, but of course the truth is eventually revealed at the series’ end, not to give away too much.  This frame-up highlights the racial tensions that did in fact exist between the white members of the city’s citizenry and its immigrant population, especially in the interactions between the city’s all-white police force and the members of the city’s Hispanic population.  Adding to the mix is the impact of the Nazi party in the region at the time.  As if that is not enough, Magda, in all of her various forms, keeps the tension high throughout each of the story lines that interweave throughout the series, adding even more intrigue to the story.  Her actions add to the never-ending discussion on whether human behavior and thoughts are innate or are influenced by external factors (I.E. the sociological discussion of nature versus nurture).  This is discussed in the bonus content that accompanies the series’ home release.  That overarching aspect makes for so much interest in this series.  Of course it cannot be denied that through it all, there are moments when all of the story lines do cause the series to get bogged down in itself.  Each of the story lines do ultimately tie together, but because there is so much going on, it was clearly easy for the writers to get lost in their project.  As a result, audiences end up getting a little lost, too.  Luckily that is not enough to completely ruin the series’ presentation, but it also cannot be ignored.  The fact that the story occasionally gets bogged down in itself is just one of the problems from which this series suffers.  Its general content creates its own problem for the its presentation.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels was intentionally presented as a gritty, hard boiled crime drama.  There is no denying that.  This brand of crime story is nothing new to audiences.  It has been around since at least the early to mid 1920s and 30s.  The thing is that this series takes the general elements of hard boiled crime to a new and somewhat controversial level.  The gruesome fate of the family that was killed is explicit to say the least.  It is reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s look of the Joker in The Dark Knight only far more extreme, complete with blood and gore, oh and nudity.  This is just one over-the-top element of the show’s content.  The overt displays of homosexual (and bi-sexual) intercourse are completely unnecessary, and another way in which the show’s content goes way too far over the top.  As if that is not enough, a moment, such as that in which a police officer’s neck is slashed with a razor and his body left naked and covered in blood (yes, this really is shown) is far too explicit, too.  Between these moments and all of the unnecessary foul language that is used throughout, the general content featured in Penny Dreadful: City of Angels proves to be anything but angelic.  Maybe that is because the show’s heads could get away with it, being on Showtime after all.  Regardless, the noted content (and more) does a great deal to detract from what could have otherwise been a great classic crime hard boiled style crime drama.

For all that the content displayed in Penny Dreadful: City of Angels does to detract from the series’ presentation, it is not enough to make the series completely unwatchable.  The work of the series’ cast on camera works with the story to help save it at least somewhat.  Most notable of the cast is star Nathan Lane.  The veteran actor, Lane serves as a supporting cast member here.  Even as a supporting cast member, he still shines both by himself and alongside fellow cast member Daniel Zovatto (It Follows, Lady Bird, Don’t Breathe).  Lane is known typically as a comedic actor, but his dramatic turn here is so powerful.  When he’s by himself, he stands out so much because he takes the full chance to let Michener’s personality develop.  His years of experience on stage and screen comes through fully and fully entertaining.  When he is working alongside Zovatto, who shines in his own right as Tiago, he never tries to outdo the younger actor.  Rather, the duo works so well together, sort of building their characters’ personalities together.  Natalie Dormer meanwhile shines in her own way as Magda as she takes on her various roles.  Among the best of her moments comes as she portrays Alex, clerk to Councilman Townsend.  The way in which she basically plays him is classic clerk to an evil business.  At the same time, she makes her evil intentions just barely noticeable enough really balance things out and make her character so wonderfully despicable.  Going back to Zovatto, the way he presents Tiago’s personal identity struggles as he works with the police and tries to balance that with his identity as a Latino is moving in its own right.  There are moments when he hams it up a little too much, but for the most part, he takes on his portrayal quite well.  In the same vein, the way in which Tiago’s police counterparts take on their roles is fully believable, too.  There is no way that doing and saying what they did could have possibly been easy, but sadly there is a lot of reality about those racial tensions even in that era.  To that point, the actors made it easy to have a strong dislike for their characters and their awful behavior.  That means that they did a good job of showing the vile nature of how horribly they treated minorities even back then, so they are to be commended for that, as difficult as it must have been, morally.  Taking in the performances noted here, that of Lane’s fellow veteran actor Brent Spiner (who does well in a rare non-Star Trek role), and those of all others involved, it can be said easily that the work of the series’ cast plays well into the overall presentation of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels.  Together with the story, they do just enough to counter the questionable content featured within the story, and make the series worth watching at least once.

Showtime and Sky Network’s short-lived series Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is an interesting addition to the franchise, which started six years ago as a fantasy type series.  Its overall story, which incorporates multiple story lines does relatively well to engage audiences.  Given those story lines do bog the series down at times, but not enough to make the series a failure.  The content that is displayed throughout the series does quite a bit to make it difficult to watch, as has been noted here.  It goes way above and beyond the content presented in classic hard boiled detective novels and movies, basically throwing it all out the window just for the sake of having something shocking.  It really is the series’ biggest detractor and makes the series difficult to watch more than once.  The work of the series’ cast works with the story to make up for the problems created by the content at least somewhat.  Those two elements are positives, and do make up for the problems posed through the content to a point.  Taking everything noted here collectively, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is a powerful addition to Showtime and Sky Network’s franchise that crime drama fans will find worth watching at least once.  Hopefully if another addition to the franchise comes along, it will not be as explicit as this series and worth far more.  If not, then the franchise has closed out on a difficult note.  It is available now.

More information on this and other programs from Showtime is available online at:

Website: http://www.sho.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Showtime

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

‘Mission: Impossible’ BD Re-issue Will Appeal To Series’ Most Devoted Fans

Courtesy: CBS DVD/Paramount

Retro television networks are among the greatest networks out there today.  They are free and they offer audiences who grew up during television’s golden age (which ended, sadly in the late 90s) a great, safe alternative to all of the garbage that currently pollutes the airwaves.  From the likes of The Munsters and Emergency! to Betwitched, Black Sheep Squadron, and The Flintstones, networks, such as Me-TV, CoziTV, H&I, and Antenna TV have grown in popularity as worthwhile viewing options steadily decline on broadcast television (and even streaming outlets).  While the retro networks that are out there offer so much great programming, there are still some shows from TV’s golden age that are still not on any of those networks.  One of those shows is the timeless action/adventure series Mission: Impossible.  Luckily though, the series has gotten new life on Blu-ray thanks to the folks at Paramount and CBS DVD.  The series was re-issued Dec. 1 on Blu-ray marking the first time that the series has ever received the Blu-ray treatment.  Its release last week comes more than seven years after the series’ most recent DVD release in 2012.  This latest presentation is as good as the series’ most recent DVD release if not a little better.  That is proven in part through the presentation’s collective audio and video quality, which will be discussed shortly.  The one negative to the set is its lack of any bonus content.  This does detract from the set’s presentation at least to a point.  It will be discussed a little later.  The collection’s packaging is a slight positive that deserves its own examination.  It will be addressed later, too.  All things considered, the new Blu-ray presentation of Mission: Impossible The Original TV Series a presentation that every vintage television fan will appreciate.

Paramount and CBS DVD’s new Blu-ray re-issue of Mission: ImpossibleThe Original TV Series is a mostly positive presentation that will appeal easily to fans of real television.  That is proven in part through its production values; its audio and video.  Considering the age of the footage (the show ran from 1966 – 1973 over seven seasons), the audio and video is largely impressive.  There are a few moments here and there in which audiences will find themselves having to adjust the volume as the episodes progress, but those moments are so few that it cannot be said that they really detract from the series’ presentation.  The explosions, car chases and everything else are well-balanced with the dialogue throughout the series.  Adding to the pleasure brought by the audio is the largely high quality in the video.  The colors that were used in the scenery are so rich.  The explosions (everyone’s favorite part of the show) are bright and fully capturing for viewers.  Even ordinary scenes, such as jail cells, hotel rooms in which the team stays on its missions, and car scenes look full.  This is a tribute to those who transferred the footage from the series’ previous standalone season sets and its most recent full-series set.  The full impact of the set’s production sets a strong foundation for this re-issue.  Considering the strength of this aspect and the award-winning series’ equally enjoyable writing, those aesthetic elements collectively give this classic series’ fans plenty to appreciate. 

While the audio and video presentation in Mission: ImpossibleThe Original TV Series (and the series’ writing) goes a long way toward making the series’ re-issue a success, the set is not perfect.  It is missing any bonus content.  Considering the series’ legacy and impact in America’s pop culture realm, it would have been common sense to have at least discussions on the writing (E.g. how did the writers develop the ideas for the Impossible Missions Force’s adventures).  On another note, the series saw cast changes as it progressed, along with a variety of guest stars.  The series’ first season saw guest appearances from at least two actors who appeared in timeless episodes of The Twilight Zone.  Discussions by the series’ creative heads and/or writers would have enriched this aspect even more for the series’ most devoted fans.  Considering that Mission: Impossible was yet another product of Desilu Productions (which was also responsible for other timeless series, such as The Untouuchables, Star Trek, and of course I Love Lucy) a discussion on those shows and the overall legacy of Desilu Productions would have enhanced the viewing experience even more.  All things considered here, there is so much extra content that could have been included for audiences in this latest iteration of Mission: ImpossibleThe Original TV Series.  The lack thereof does not make the series’ re-issue a failure, but there is no denying how much it does detract from the series.  Without that content, the re-issue is essentially a bare bones presentation.  Thankfully though, the content in the episodes does manage to make up for that lack of still keep viewers fully engaged and entertained.  Keeping all of this in mind, there is still one more aspect of the set to examine.  That aspect is its packaging.

The packaging for the new Blu-ray re-issue of Mission: ImpossibleThe Original TV Series is another interesting aspect of the set.  That is because while it is an improvement over that of the series’ DVD release, it is still imperfect.  The previous set contained all of the series’ discs on their own discs inside cans that are themselves inside a bigger package shaped like a stick of dynamite.  The overall packaging was bulky and anything but ergonomic.  What’s more, getting the discs in and out of the inner cases was problematic in its own right.  By comparison, this set’s packaging uses gatefold style packaging for each season.  The slim cases open up to reveal the discs placed inside in their own spots.  This does make the overall packaging less bulky and more space conservative.  The problem here is that while the packaging is more ergonomic, there is nothing securing the discs inside their respective season “cases.”  The result is that the discs can easily slide right out of the “cases.”  That, in turn, increases the chances that the discs can be damaged by scratching.  Yes, it is – again – something of an improvement over the packaging for the series’ DVD set, but still does leave something to be wanted. 

Keeping everything noted here in mind, this latest presentation of Mission: Impossible proves to be such that the most devoted of the series’ fans will enjoy regardless of whether they own the previous DVD set.  That is especially considering the average price point of $118.37.  That price was obtained by taking prices from Amazon, Target, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble Booksellers.  It was not listed at Walmart or Books-A-Million at the time of this posting.  Amazon’s price listing of $99.99 is the least expensive while Target’s listing of $132.99 easily topped that average price.  Best Buy was able to join Amazon in staying below the average price point, listing the set at $109.99.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers meanwhile was well above the average, listing the set at $130.49.  That low price of $99.99 is a welcome aspect considering, again, the aesthetic value of the primary content and the lack of bonus content.  The series did run, after all, for 171 episodes over seven seasons.  So even without bonus content, audiences will still get their money’s worth at that lowest price.  What’s more considering the series’ long run, there likely will be no perfect answer to the packaging issue.  It will always be there.  All things considered here, Paramount and CBS DVD’s latest presentation of Mission: ImpossibleThe Original TV Series proves itself to be, again, a welcome presentation for the series’ most devoted fans. 

CBS DVD and Paramount’s new Blu-ray re-issue of Mission: ImpossibleThe Original TV Series is an interesting new presentation. Audiences will assuredly appreciate the high quality of the show’s audio and video in this presentation. The lack of any bonus content does detract from the series’ presentation in this iteration, but does not ruin the set’s presentation. At the same time, that needed bonus content definitely would have benefited the set’s appeal. The packaging of this set is a step up from that of the series’ DVD set, but still poses its own problem. Keeping all of this in mind, the set’s average price point and separate listings play (primarily those at Best Buy and Amazon) make for some more appeal. Hopefully when and if the series gets its next re-issue, there will be bonus content and more improved packaging.  Regardless, it is not *ahem* impossible (yes, that awful pun was intended) to appreciate this latest presentation of a timeless series that still is not on any of the major retro TV networks.

More information on this and other titles from CBS Home Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.viacomcbsexpress.com/cbs-home-entertainment

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CBSHE

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Greta Van Fleet To Perform Live Tonight

Courtesy: Lava/Republic Records

Greta Van Fleet is scheduled to be on television tonight.

The band is scheduled to perform its new single ‘My Way, Soon’ on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. The song is the lead single from the band’s forthcoming album The Battle at Garden’s Gate, which is scheduled for release April 16 through Lava/Republic Records.

In anticipation of the album’s pending release, the band debuted its second single, ‘Age Of Machines‘ Dec. 3. The single’s premiere last week came less than two months after the band debuted the album’s lead single ‘My Way, Soon’ and its companion video.

The ‘My Way, Soon’ video’s production is most of note in that its production is meant to make the presentation look like something right from the 1960s and 70s, as if it was shot on an 8mm camera. The effect plays into the continued neo-classic sound that has defined the band since its rise to fame more than three years ago.

Speaking of musical content, the song’s musical arrangement helps the band expand away from the Led Zeppelin comparisons that audiences made early on. While the comparisons between front man Joshua Kiszka and Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant are unavoidable, the song’s overall sound is less comparable. The song’s arrangement is grounded in the pairing of its guitar and bass line, whose juxtaposition makes for its own memorable impact. The production even gives the drums a fuller, richer vintage sound than the tight, spit shined sound of so much modern music.

The result of the noted elements is that the song’s arrangement boasts its own unique neo-classic rock sound while also exhibiting the band’s growth as a unit.

The lyrical content featured in ‘My Way Soon’ came from a personal point, according to Kiszka.

“This song was inspired by what three years of touring did by opening so many doorways,” he said. “ This is my truth, how I feel about all of our travels, but I know it echoes the experiences and changes of perspectives for Jake, Sam, and Danny as well.”

Greg Kurstin (Adele, Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney) produced The Battle at Garden’s Gate.

More information on Greta Van Fleet’s new singles and videos is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:




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