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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unifier Exhibits Great Creative Depth On Its New EP

Courtesy:  Spartan Records

Courtesy: Spartan Records

North Carolina-based rock act Unifier recently released its latest EP Gutted. The five-track disc, released via independent label Spartan Records, offers audiences eighteen minutes of music that emo fans and of the noise rock genre will assuredly appreciate. They will appreciate the record both for its musical side and its deep lyrical content which, as front man/guitarist Aslan Freeman notes on the band’s Facebook page, is meant to reflect the band’s re-invention both collectively and as individuals. It is one of those listens that rather than instantly grabbing listeners’ ears, will instead grow on audiences with each listen. Freeman goes on to note that he and his band mates–Luke Rayson (bass, vocals), and Mike Kane (drums)–wanted to go in a “heavier and darker direction” as part of that re-invention. And in listening to each of the EP’s five tracks, it definitely did that, delving into the emotions felt with some not so happy situations. Simply put, the material included on this record is quite heavy in its own way both musically and lyrically. So it is not one of those records that audiences can just pop in and take in any time. It is one of those pieces that calls for listeners to be in a certain mindset if they are to fully comprehend and appreciate it. This is obvious right from the disc’s opener ‘Fall.’ ‘Break,’ the disc’s second song makes this just as clear as does its closing number ‘Forget.’ ‘Mend’ and ‘Sink’ each offer their own interest as part of the disc’s whole, too. All five songs taken together show that Gutted lives up to everything that Unifier’s members have noted of their new creation. That in mind, the depth and heaviness presented through the course of this record proves it to be a work that both the band’s original fans and those not so familiar with the band’s music alike will appreciate more with each listen.

Unifier’s new EP Gutted is an aptly titled release from the North Carolina-based band. The five tracks and approximately eighteen minutes that make up this new record successfully echo the sentiment of front man Aslan Freeman in regards to the emotions that it is meant to evoke. This is evident right from the disc’s opener ‘Fall.’ Musically speaking, it creates a certain, raw emotion among listeners right from its opening moments. The way that it builds to a climax before pulling back in those opening moments shows a real attention to detail and appreciation for the impact of dynamics in music. This is especially true as Freeman sings over his own reserved guitar line and Mike Lane’s time keeping, “It’s been wrong all along/throw them out/The thoughts you knew then/Wasted time/the place that you’d been/Changing minds and clothes again.” Freeman seems to go on to admit in the song’s closing lines that the uncertainties felt by the song’s subject are on him. At least that is this critic’s interpretation. That can be inferred as he sings in those closing lines, “Just a little less talk and a little more action/Now that you never walk/The blame has been all mine.” He even seems to express his own uncertainties about the presented situation as he sings in the song’s chorus, “Standing in the back/And watching as you take the fall/So what/A better way to say that I just wanna write you off.” Like so many songwriters across the genres out there, Freeman writes seemingly in metaphors. So even if these interpretations are incorrect, the sheer depth of Freeman’s writing in this case shows why it was such a wise choice as an addition to the record.

The raw, powerful emotion generated by the combination of ‘Fall’s’ music and lyrics makes clear why this song was chosen as one of the songs to be included on Unifier’s new EP. They show just as much why the song was chosen to open the EP. ‘Break’ the EP’s second track proves in its own way to be just as worthy an addition to Gutted. Musically speaking, this song could be argued to be the disc’s best song. It is the closest that the band comes to a radio ready single on the record. That is thanks to its relatively catchy hooks and choruses. Its thought-provoking lyrical content will have listeners talking just as much as Freeman sings, “Failed enough/I know it’s all for fun/Just a little closer/You know I’ll do anything/I’m ready to break/I keep holding on at times I should walk away/I can’t ask you to stay/But I’ll keep holding on/I’m holding on for/So much for right now/If I come down/Do you need doubt from everyone/Show up and get loud/Cause I’ll do anything.” Again, Freeman comes across as writing in metaphors again here. But the first inclination is that the song is rooted in relationship issues. That thought is raised as he writes, “I keep holding on at times I should walk away/I can’t ask you to stay/But I’ll keep holding on.” The tension in Freeman’s voice as he sings makes the song’s emotion all the stronger and in turn makes even stronger the argument in regards to the song’s lyrical topic. Regardless of the topic, one thing can once again be agreed upon in listening to the song’s lyrical and musical side: the depth of both its lyrical and musical side together makes clear why this song is another good addition to Unifier’s new EP and why it makes Gutted in whole a record that any of the band’s fans new and old alike will enjoy.

‘Break’ is a definite contender to represent Unifier on the band’s new EP. That is because of the depth of both its musical and lyrical content. The band members’ talents considered alongside the song’s thought-provoking lyrics will have audiences talking in the best way possible. It isn’t the disc’s only high point, either. ‘Forget,’ the disc’s closer, is just as much a candidate for a representative single, too. That is obvious right from the song’s first thirty seconds. Freeman, Rayson, and Kane exhibit what this critic feels to be direct influences from Jimmy Eat World in this case. Because of that influence, Unifier is certain to hold audiences’ ears not just through the song’s first thirty seconds but straight through its near four-minute run time. The song’s musical side managing to hold listeners’ ears, its lyrics will most certainly engage audiences just as much. This song perhaps more so than any of the EP’s others, comes across as echoing the disc’s title and the band’s explanation behind the title. Freeman sings in this song, “Tear it all up/Everything/You’re not a one in ten/You never were/You’ve never been/Can you live with it/They won’t call you anything/Is that what you intended/Never wrong, never right/Blending in/Are you fitting in?” Freeman comes across as addressing someone here. Maybe a former band mate or friend, considering the language and references used throughout the song. Or of course he could simply be writing in metaphors yet again, using the live performance imagery to get across another message. Once again, here is an example of Freeman’s attention to detail and that of his band mates, too. Considering the lyrical content that makes up most songs on mainstream radio and those songs’ musical side, a comparison of those songs to this composition and its possible lyrical message proves without doubt why this song is another positive addition to Gutted. It shows, too why this song along with the disc’s other songs makes Gutted in whole yet another solid work from Unifier.

‘Forget,’ ‘Break,’ and ‘Fall’ are each clear examples of how much Unifier has to offer audiences on its new EP. Each song exhibits quite the depth both musically and lyrically. The disc’s remaining songs–‘Mend’ and ‘Sink’–each exhibit their own value to Gutted, too. All five songs taken fully into consideration, they show collectively and clearly that while it may not be as well-known as certain other bands of its ilk, it still proves itself a band worth the listen with a new record worth at least one listen. Gutted is available now and can be ordered direct from Spartan Records’ official online store at http://spartanrecords.limitedrun.com/products/546661-unifier-gutted-ep. More information on Gutted is available online now along with all of the latest updates from the band at:

Website: http://unifiermusic.com

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

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Ryan Reynolds Shines In Lionsgate’s New Horror/Thriller

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Ryan Reynolds’ new horror flick The Voices is one of the most disturbing and unsettling movies in its genre to be released so far this year. The movie is billed as a dark comedy. But on a deeper level, it is a much deeper, troubling story that stands completely apart from all of the other slasher flicks that crowd theaters each year. What’s more, it isn’t just another CSI, Criminal Minds, or Law & Order: CI, either. It is something far more disturbing. So disturbing in fact that it puts even the likes of Psycho to shame. That is just one part of what makes The Voices a piece that even horror fans will find so unsettling that they can’t help but watch. Star Ryan Reynolds’ work in the role of Jerry adds even more interest to the movie. Being that he is more familiar with comedies and action flicks than horrors in large part, this movie was a big risk for him. And he succeeded in a big way here. Simply put, his work in this movie is the kind of work that will give audiences nightmares. Rounding out the movie in whole is its bonus material. The standard “making of” featurette is there. There is also a look at how Reynolds brought to life the voices of Jerry’s dog and cat as well as deleted and extended scenes among other bonuses. All three elements pose their own part in the strange success of this so grotesque and troubling that one can’t ignore it movie. Collectively, they make this movie one of the most original and strangely entertaining movies of this year.

The Voices is one of the most unsettling and disturbing horror flicks to come along in a very long time. The story follows Jerry (Ryan Reynolds), a schizophrenic who murders a trio of his female co-workers. It is obvious in committing the murders that Jerry’s schizophrenia has almost completely overtaken him as he has almost no sense of morals in regards to his horrible, grotesque acts. While he does show great separation from reality throughout most of the story, he shows that he does have some sense of what he’s doing albeit not until the story’s thrilling climax. It is one of the most original stories to come along within the horror genre this year if not the most original. Instead of just being another run-of-the-mill, cookie cutter slasher flick that throws out a bunch of blood and gore for shock value, it uses it to illustrate just how far gone Jerry proves to be. The comic elements are darkly funny. And audiences will find themselves to be ashamed of themselves for laughing at the comic elements in question. But they serve, too to illustrate the depth of Jerry’s mentality or rather lack thereof. Considering all of this, the script behind The Voices proves that it is not only not just another carbon copy slasher flick but that it even stands out from the likes of Criminal Minds, Law & Order: CI, CSI, Dexter, and any of those TV crime dramas. It proves to be something much deeper and more unsettling right to the end. It is a work that is so deep, unsettling and grotesque that audiences won’t be able to help but watch it.

The story behind The Voices proves undoubtedly that this movie is one of the year’s most original horror flicks if not the best of the genre. It stands out completely from its big screen slasher flick counterparts and even all of the crime dramas that over-populate television’s broadcast and cable networks today. It is just one part of the whole of this movie that makes it one of those works that audiences can’t help but watch. Lead star Ryan Reynolds’ work in the role of Jerry adds even more reason to watch this movie. Anyone that is familiar with Reynolds’ body of work know that he is more commonly associated with comedy and action flicks than horror. Aside from this new movie, Reynolds is also starring in another new thriller from Lionsgate titled The Captive. Other than that movie, the only other well-known experience that he has in the horror/thriller genre is the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror. Considering his overall lack of experience in the horror/thriller realm in comparison to his work in comedies and actions, Reynolds is to be highly commended for his work in this movie. His performance as Jerry makes Norman Bates look like a saint as he basically chops up and disembowels (yes, disembowels) the three women and puts their remains in Tupperware and pizza boxes. This is the kind of behavior that puts even the crimes from Se7en and Silence of the Lambs to shame. Reynolds is especially frightening as he finally begins to realize (without his medications) that there is something seriously wrong with him and confronts his psychotherapist Dr. Warren (Jacki Weaver–Silver Linings Playbook, Gracepoint, The Five-Year Engagement) in the movie’s climax. He knows what he has done and is now desperate for some kind of help, any help. His reaction here is especially interesting because it shows that Jerry is not entirely gone and has at least some sense of humanity left in him. It is just one more of so many moments in which Reynolds shines in his role and proves his surprising versatility as an actor. That surprisingly entertaining portrayal shows both Reynolds’ potential as an actor worthy of being taken seriously and one more reason that audiences won’t be able to help but watch The Voices.

The script behind The Voices and lead actor Ryan Reynolds’ portrayal of schizophrenic killer Jerry are two clear reasons that audiences won’t be able to help but watch this sleeper hit of a horror flick. Both are solid reasons that audiences won’t be able to help but watch, too. They are not all that should be taken into consideration in what makes this movie surprisingly worth the watch, either. The material included with the movie as bonus features makes it even more worth the watch. More specifically, the bonus “Making of” featurette and (surprisingly) deleted scenes make the movie more worth the watch. Audiences learn in the bonus “making of” featurette how those behind the cameras brought Jerry’s four-legged friends to life and the real feelings of the cast among many other tidbits. It’s interesting to learn that those behind the cameras actually took a real dog and cat, and completely reconstructed their heads via CG to make them talk. They didn’t just go the cheesy route and make it look like they were talking. The special effects crew discussed how they went to painstaking efforts to make the animals look as real as possible as they talked. Those efforts paid off in spades. Just as interesting to hear is that most of the cast echoed the sentiment that they were drawn to the movie because of its original script. That is a powerful statement considering that Lionsgate is not typically thought of as one of Hollywood’s Power Five Studios. The deleted scenes hold their own importance as bonus material. There are some scenes presented that audiences will agree deserved to be cut. In another case such as when Jerry meets his now deceased, abusive father and discusses his [Jerry’s] fate, one can’t help but wonder if maybe such a scene should have been left in the movie. The same can be said of the scene in which Fiona’s remains are discovered by the police. It is actually a scene that really could have been left in or taken out. Its removal neither hinders nor boosts the story in any way. But it is a good part of the whole story even in its short few moments. It’s one more example of how the deleted scenes presented here help to enhance The Voices and prove that sometimes a movie’s bonus material can in fact make a movie better and even as worth the watch as any major name horror and/or thriller.

The bonus material included with Lionsgate’s home release of The Voices actually goes a long way toward making this movie so surprisingly worth the watch even as unsettling and grotesque as it proves to be. The same can be said of lead actor Ryan Reynolds’ portrayal of Jerry, and of course the movie’s script. All three elements combined, The Voices proves itself to be one of the most surprisingly intriguing and original works to be released so far both in the horror world and in terms of movies overall. It is a movie that because of not just its unsettling nature but its depth that audiences won’t be able to help but watch. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from Lionsgate’s online store both on DVD and Blu-ray at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/search_results.asp?Search=The%20Voices. More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online now at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

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Blackberry Smoke Holds All The Roses Among So Many Other Albums With Its Latest LP

Courtesy:  Rounder Records

Courtesy: Rounder Records

Atlanta, Georgia has been known for decades as one of America’s major hotbeds for musical talent. Much like Austin, Seattle, and Los Angeles it has produced some of the biggest names in the industry over the years. Those names come from nearly every genre of the music world. They include the likes of: Sevendust, Stuck Mojo, Collective Soul, Zac Brown Band, Black Crowes, and so many others. The list goes on and on. It could take days or even weeks to name them all. For the case of this review, the focus is set on the Southern Rock Band Blackberry Smoke. For roughly fifteen years now, the members of Blackberry Smoke–Charlie Starr (vocals/guitar), Richard Turner (bass/vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar/vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards)–have been making music and touring. Of those roughly fifteen years together, Blackberry Smoke has released three full-length albums, the most recent of which–The Whippoorwill–was released on Zac Brown Band’s own Southern Ground Records in 2012. This past February, the band released its fourth full length album titled Holding All The Roses. The album was released via Rounder Records. For those that might not be so familiar with the band’s body of work, Holding All The Roses serves as a good introduction to the band. And it is just as enjoyable for those that are more familiar with its work up to this point. The sound spread across the album’s dozen tracks shows influences from some of the greatest southern rock bands of the 20th Century including: The Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Crowes, Doobie Brothers, and others of that ilk. While the influence of said bands is there from start to finish on this record, Blackberry Smoke still maintains its own identity in each song. That is evident right from the album’s opener ‘Let Me Help You (Find The Door).’ The same can be said of the album’s title track and the somewhat sexually charged ‘Rock and Roll Again.’ These three works in themselves more than exemplify what makes Holding All The Roses such a joy. By themselves they are just a minute fraction of what makes it such an enjoyable record, too. There are nine other tracks from which audiences will find their own favorite(s) on this record. Those songs, coupled with the trio noted here, prove Holding All The Roses in the end to be one of the best new rock and country records of 2015.

Blackberry Smoke’s fourth full length album Holding All The Roses is one of this year’s best new rock and country records. There are some issues here and there throughout the record in terms of its production values. But they are not enough to make HATR unworthy of being heard. From the album’s opener to its end, the songs that make up this album make it one of those rare records that audiences will actually want to listen to without skipping even one song. That is evident right from the album’s opener ‘Let Me Help You (Find The Door).’ On the song’s musical side, audiences will hear a clear influence from famed classic rock band Black Crowes throughout the song. It could even be argued that the song’s bridge, which features quite the guitar solo, bears a rather noticeable Lynyrd Skynyrd influence. Lyrically, it offers audiences just as much of a punch with front man Charlie Starr seemingly addressing certain types who simply don’t want to change their ways. Whether it be those musical acts that refuse to change and those that push said albums or the sheep that give in to everything that is fed to them whether in terms of music, politics, etc.–as front man Charlie Starr sings about in both the song’s first and second verse– it is a clear statement that hits quite a few chords, no pun intended. One could even argue that it even indirectly addresses those audiences that expected this album to be just like the band’s previous released. As Starr sings in the song’s opening verse, “Why’s it got to be the same damn thing/Same damn song and everybody wants to sing/Same sons of b****** still riggin’ the game/They sell the same old faces with brand new names/No matter if I’m wrong or right/I ain’t losin’ sleep tonight/I’ve heard it all before/I can’t take it anymore/If that’s all you got/Let me help you find the door.” The song’s second verse seems to address those sheep that believe everything that is fed to them, from music to news, to politics and more with Starr singing, “Here we go diggin’ the same damn ditch/Just line ’em up/Can’t tell you which one’s which/Standin’ in the back with a s***-eating grin/They were buyin’ it once/I bet they’ll buy it again.” Starr hits on so many subjects with so few words in this song. And he hits the nail right on the head, too. It’s a sharp, yet in an odd way, slightly lighthearted indictment of said subjects that ironically will in fact have Blackberry Smoke’s own fans singing along. One can only hope that in singing along, the band’s own fans will catch the message being presented by Starr and his band mates here rather than just taking the song for its musical side. Those that take both the song’s musical and lyrical side into full consideration will agree just how important it is both in itself and to the album in whole.

‘Let Me Help You (Find The Door) is a solid opener for Blackberry Smoke’s latest full-length record. Its statement urging people and bands who refuse to change to go away is sharp yet witty at the same time. And it ironically will have the band’s own fans singing along every time. One can only hope that said fans will catch the message embedded within the song and take it to heart in catching it. Those fans that do catch the message in question, coupled with the song’s infectious musical side will agree that it is just one part of the whole that makes HATR one of this year’s best new rock and country records. The album’s title track is just as important to the whole of the record. Much like the album’s opener, it boasts its own classic rock influences yet still continues to maintain the band’s own identity, too. The song’s driving, 2/4 tempo will instantly have audiences dancing and clapping along. Having hooked audiences with it musical side, Starr and company–Richard Turner (bass, vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards) make just as powerful a statement with the song’s lyrical side. Starr sings in the song’s first verse about a subject overcoming all of his or her odds and coming out on top, fittingly “holding all the roses” just as a winner would. Starr Sings, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost/I don’t think it’s even gonna be close/Your rabbit’s foot and your four-leaf clover/Throw them all away and start all over/Here I am see me coming around/Swinging out wide with the hammer down/There I go watch me leave you behind/Holding all the roses on the other side.” The subject here is addressing those that called the odds against him or her, proving all those people wrong as he or she holds the proverbial roses of a winner. Speaking of those odds, Starr goes on to sing of overcoming the odds as he sings, “The odds against me were 20 to 1/Carry that weight like it weighs a ton/Ain’t no luck in a gasoline rainbow/Come on, drop that rag/Away we go.” He comes across as saying his subject is using the weight of those odds as motivation to keep pushing on to the very end. Such lyrics are words that will reach so many listeners and potentially have quite the impact. It will leave listeners saying if Starr’s subject can press on against all odds then so can the band’s fans. The song’s driving musical side added to the mix, the song in whole shows once more exactly why it is one more enjoyable and equally important part of the whole that leaves Holding All The Roses in fact holding all the roses on any critic’s list come year’s end.

For all of the seriousness of HATR’s opener and its title track, Blackberry Smoke isn’t all work and no play on its new album. It also boasts some fun moments, too. One example of that lies in the song ‘Rock and Roll Again.’ The song’s musical side shows obvious influence from The Marshall Tucker Band, The Allman Brothers Band and others of that ilk yet once again maintain’s Blackberry Smoke’s own identity along the way. Lyrically, it will put just as much of a smile on listeners’ faces as the music alone. Starr sings about a woman who definitely gets the subject going in all the right ways so to speak. He writes of said woman, “She knows me well and never fails/She knows just how to put the wind back in my sails/She’s got the key to set me free/It’s just so easy to see/The way she makes me rock and roll again/Put the dirty in my mind again/Ain’t nothin’ to it/But she pulls me back in/My baby made me rock and roll again/Yes, she made me rock and roll again.” The rest of the song goes on in much the same fashion, lyrically speaking, with Starr noting of that same woman putting a swagger back in the subject’s step, and gets him moving. The song’s musical side boasts its own swagger, which perfectly complements Starr’s lyrics. Both sides of the song taken into full consideration, they show that Blackberry Smoke can be just as fun as it can be serious. Because of this, it proves to be one more example of what makes HATR such an enjoyable work for every rock and country fan. Taken into consideration with the likes of the album’s title track, its opener, and those pieces not noted here, it proves to be one more piece of an album that again, holds all of its own roses among the masses so far this year.

Blackberry Smoke is currently touring in support of HATR. It is in the last leg of the North American leg of its tour, which wraps up May 24th in Monteagle, Tennessee. The band will take a few days off to rest and recharge after before heading overseas for the European leg of its tour, which kicks off May 29th in Munchen, Germany. After finishing off that leg, the band will return stateside again on June 19th in Alpharetta, Georgia. Fans will be able to pick up HATR at any of the band’s upcoming live dates. In hearing the band live and on its new album, audiences that haven’t yet heard the band’s music will agree, too that HATR more than deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new rock and country albums come December. Fans can check out Blackberry Smoke’s latest tour dates online now, along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: http://blackberrysmoke.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/blackberrysmoke

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.

ESPN Announces 2015 Monday Night Football Broadcast Schedule

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

The NFL announced its full season schedule last night. And in accordance ESPN has announced its Monday Night Football broadcast schedule, too.

ESPN kicks off its 46th season of Monday Night Football with an NFC double-header on Monday, September 14th. The Atlanta Falcons open the night as they host the Philadelphia Eagles and their latest addition, DeMarco Murray. The broadcast is scheduled for a 7pm ET start time. The Vikings head into San Francisco to face the 49ers in the second game of the night in an NFC West/NFC North matchup. Broadcast for that game is set for 10:15pm ET/7:15pm PT. There is a strong likelihood that embattled player Adrian Peterson will be back on the field with the Vikings for the game, too, making this game even more intriguing for fans. Mike Tirico will have the call for the early game. He will be joined by analyst Jon Gruden–who just re-upped with ESPN last season–in the booth. Lisa Salters will be on the sidelines for additional commentary and interviews. The broadcast team for the late game will be announced at a later date.

The complete ESPN Monday Night Football schedule, including pre-season, is listed below.

ESPN’s 2015 Monday Night Football Schedule


Date Time (ET) Teams

Aug. 20 8 p.m. Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns

Aug. 24 8 p.m. Cincinnati Bengals vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Regular Season

Sept. 14 7 p.m. Philadelphia Eagles vs. Atlanta Falcons

10:15 p.m. Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers

Sept. 21 8:15 p.m. New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts

Sept. 28 8:15 p.m. Kansas City Chiefs vs. Green Bay Packers

Oct. 5 8:15 p.m. Detroit Lions vs. Seattle Seahawks

Oct. 12 8:15 p.m. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Diego Chargers

Oct. 19 8:15 p.m. New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Oct. 26 8:15 p.m. Baltimore Ravens vs. Arizona Cardinals

Nov. 2 8:15 p.m. Indianapolis Colts vs. Carolina Panthers

Nov. 9 8:15 p.m. Chicago Bears vs. San Diego Chargers

Nov. 16 8:15 p.m. Houston Texans vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Nov. 23 8:15 p.m. Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots

Nov. 30 8:15 p.m. Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns

Dec. 7 8:15 p.m. Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins

Dec. 14 8:15 p.m. New York Giants vs. Miami Dolphins

Dec. 21 8:15 p.m. Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints

Dec. 28 8:15 p.m. Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos

Every MNF game broadcast on ESPN will also be available on a variety of online platforms including: Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360, and Xbox One via WatchESPN. Audiences can also access additional MNF “game around the game” content throughout day across a variety of ESPN platforms including ESPN’s MNF pre-game show Monday Night Countdown and post-game coverage on SportsCenter. ESPN will also carry its MNF broadcasts on ESPN Deportes for its Spanish-speaking audiences. All of the latest information on ESPN’s MNF schedule is available online now along with all of the latest NFL news at:

Website: http://espn.go.com/nfl/mnf

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

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.

No Mystery Here: Mysteries Of The Unseen World Is A Fun Film For Audiences Of All Ages

Courtesy:  Virgil Films/National Geographic/Lockheed Martin/FEI/National Science Foundation

Courtesy: Virgil Films/National Geographic/Lockheed Martin/FEI/National Science Foundation

National Geographic officially released its new documentary film Mysteries of the Unseen World this week. The film, which runs barely over the half-hour mark, is just as good a fit for any family’s home collection as it is a science class at any level of education. The film’s aforementioned run time is the central reason that it is such a good fit in both the living room and the classroom. By association, its pacing plays its own role, too. It’s just part of what makes it so worth the watch. Its clear presentation of two separate yet similar topics adds to its enjoyment. For those that might actually have a 3D Blu-ray player and 3D TV will also appreciate the fact that National Geographic has presented the film in both standard 2D and 3D format. Both formats are both Blu-ray presentations, too. So regardless of whether or not audiences have the equipment for a 3D presentation, every viewer will have reason to be happy when they pick up the film in its 2D/3D Blu-ray combo pack. Whether for this reason, for the fact that it clearly separates the topics into two separate segments or for its relatively short run time, audiences will see in the end that there is plenty to like about Mysteries of the Unseen World.

National Geographic’s new documentary Mysteries of the Unseen World is a good fit for the living room and the classroom alike. As a matter of fact, watching through this program, it proves to be a piece that audiences of any age will enjoy whether in the living room or the classroom. That is saying quite a bit. It is just as valuable for a junior high science class as a freshman level college science course. One reason for this vast reach is the program’s run time. Its total run time comes it at just over the half hour mark. To be more precise, its run time comes in at approximately thirty-nine minutes. That time seems to fly by, too even with the amount of information shared through the course of the film’s two segments. That is a credit to those charged with editing and assembling the film. As much information is shared through the course of the program–the wonders of the microscopic world and slow motion photography, and its history and impact–at no one point does it spend too much or too little time on the subjects or their related topics. Speaking of those topics, they are another reason that audiences of all ages will appreciate this film.

The run time and pacing of Mysteries of the Unseen World collectively make this presentation well worth the watch in and of themselves. No time is wasted on either end of the clock covering any of the material presented throughout the course of the film’s thirty-nine minute run time. It’s just part of what makes this documentary feature worth the watch regardless of audiences’ age. The material itself adds even more enjoyment to the program in whole. It examines the world first through the lens of a high-speed camera, showing specific situations both slowed and sped up. Those situations include a balloon being popped, a rose decaying, a glass and pitcher of milk falling and breaking and more. Anyone that remembers Discovery’s short-lived series Time Warp and who might have actually watched it will appreciate this segment. The second segment, which is clearly separated from the first, takes viewers into the microscopic world, introducing viewers to otherwise invisible objects. Those objects are both good and bad. For instance, there is a close up look at a butterfly egg and at a highly bendable material that–as narrator Forest Whitaker notes–could one day be used to build the long talked about elevator to space. On another level, there’s a note of the bumpy microscopic surface of a lily pad which could be used as a model to keep planes’ wings from icing over one day. To these extents, the things that we can’t see become that much more incredible. And they make for an especially welcome starting point for just such a discussion, again, in a science class at any level. On the other side of the discussion is a microscopic look at some not so nice objects such as head lice and even a mite that lives on people’s eyelashes. It’s unsettling but so intriguing that one can’t help but look. And it’s one more way that the content presented in Mysteries of the Unseen World makes this documentary worth the watch whether in the living room or the classroom. Coupled with the film’s run time and pacing, the content adds even more punch to the whole, making it that much more of a must have at least for any science teacher and lover of science in general.

The run time and pacing of Mysteries of the Unseen World taken into consideration with the overall content and its arrangement makes collectively for more than enough reason for audiences to check out the new documentary from National Geographic. While the noted elements are each equally important to the whole that is Mysteries of the Unseen World, there is still one more element to note of the film that should be noted that makes it a worth the watch. The element in question is the very fact that the documentary has been presented in a 2D/3D Blu-ray combo pack. The 2D/3D Blu-ray combo pack obviously presents the documentary both in its 2D presentation and enhanced 3D presentation. Those that have the necessary equipment to take in the 3D presentation will see for themselves just how amazing the microscopic world and the smaller world in whole look. It is the finishing touch to a documentary that along with its overall content, run time, and pacing shows to be a surprisingly fun and entertaining piece for audiences of all ages.

Mysteries of the Unseen World is available now in stores and online. The 2D/3D combo pack can be ordered online direct from Virgil Films’ online store and National Geographic’s online store. More information on this and other titles from Virgil Films is available online at:

Website: http://www.virgilfilmsent.com

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

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 reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Networks Carrying Extensive NBA Playoffs Coverage This Weekend

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Round one of the NBA Playoffs is officially under way. Both the Warriors and Bulls have taken 2 – 0 leads in their series against the Pelicans and Bucks respectively. The Grizzlies, Clippers, Rockets, Hawks, Wizards, and Cavaliers each lead their series 1 – 0 over their respective opponents. And this weekend as the playoffs advance, fans will get their fill of playoff coverage thanks to the worldwide leader in sports.

ESPN and the ESPN family of networks will have extensive coverage of the playoffs this weekend beginning with a triple-header on ESPN and ESPN2. The Rockets and Mavericks kick off Friday’s triple-header coverage as they face off in Game Three of their series at 7pm ET on ESPN and WatchESPN. The Raptors and Wizards follow at 8pm ET on ESPN2 in Game Three of their Eastern Conference matchup. The Clippers and Spurs round out the night in San Antonio with tipoff scheduled for 9:30pm ET. That game will be broadcast on ESPN and WatchESPN.

The action doesn’t stop at Friday’s last buzzer. Things pick right back up Saturday night with a Western Conference double-header. First up Saturday night are the Warriors and Pelicans in Game Three of their Western Conference series at 8pm on ESPN, WatchESPN and ESPN Radio. Kevin Calabro will have the call for ESPN Radio’s broadcast. He will be joined by P.J. Carlesimo in the booth. The Grizzlies are on the road in the second of the night’s matchups as they face off against their Western Conference opponents the Portland Trailbazers. Tipoff for that game is scheduled for 10:30pm ET on ESPN and WatchESPN.

ABC takes the reigns on the NBA Playoffs coverage as the weekend winds down with its own double-header presentation. First up in that schedule are the Cavs and Celtics in Game Four of their Eastern Conference series. Tipoff is scheduled for 1pm ET on ABC and ESPN3. ABC heads back out west for the second game of the day as the Spurs and Clippers face off in Game Four of their western Conference series. The game is scheduled for a 3:30pm ET start time on ABC and ESPN3. Before the first tipoff takes place Sunday, Sage Steele, Jalen Rose, and Doug Collins will have all of the latest news from around the league in the networks’ NBA pre-game show NBA Countdown at 12:30pm ET on ABC and ESPN3. The full schedule for this weekend’s coverage of the NBA Playoffs on ESPN and the ESPN family of networks is listed below:

Date Time (ET) Show / Commentators Network (s)

Wed, Apr 22

1 a.m. NBA Tonight: Cassidy Hubbarth, Brad Daugherty ESPN2, WatchESPN

Fri, Apr 24

1 a.m. NBA Tonight: Cassidy Hubbarth ESPN2, WatchESPN

7 p.m. Game 3: Houston Rockets (2) at Dallas Mavericks (7) ESPN, WatchESPN

8 p.m. Game 3: Washington Wizards (5) at Toronto Raptors (4) ESPN2, WatchESPN

9:30 p.m. Game 3: Los Angeles Clippers (3) at San Antonio Spurs (6) ESPN, WatchESPN

Sat., Apr 25

1 a.m. NBA Tonight: Cassidy Hubbarth, Bruce Bowen ESPN2, WatchESPN

8 p.m. Game 3: Golden State Warriors (1) at New Orleans Pelicans Cavaliers (8)

ESPN Radio: Kevin Calabro, P.J. Carlesimo ESPN, WatchESPN, ESPN Radio

10:30 p.m. Game 3: Memphis Grizzlies (5) at Portland Trail Blazers (4) ESPN, WatchESPN

Sun, Apr 26

12:30 p.m. NBA Countdown: Sage Steele, Jalen Rose, Doug Collins ABC, ESPN3

1 p.m. Game 4: Cleveland Cavaliers (2) at Boston Celtics (7) ABC, ESPN3

3:30 p.m. Game 4: Los Angeles Clippers (3) at San Antonio Spurs (6) ABC, ESPN3

Tue, Apr 28

1 a.m. NBA Tonight: Cassidy Hubbarth, Brad Daugherty ESPN2, WatchESPN

All of the latest scores and news from around the league is available online now at:

Website: http://espn.go.com/nba

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

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.