Grown-Ups Got Plenty Of Alternatives To Theaters’ Offerings In 2015

This year’s big screen offerings brought big numbers for theaters. The problem is that the majority of those big numbers were the result of Hollywood’s (and audiences’) seemingly insatiable appetite for prequels, sequels, and remakes. It’s a sad statement when one really sits down and thinks about it. And thankfully more audiences are coming to their senses about it each year and staying home instead, taking in the variety of alternatives being offered on television and online. Given, far too many of those alternatives were (and still are) serials, dramas, and some mixture thereof. But for all of the serials and dramas out there, they were just a drop in the bucket in terms of just how much was offered to audiences this year in the way of home entertainment. Shout! Factory released two more volumes of episodes from the cult classic series Mystery Science Theater 3000 this year. It also released the final two seasons of the classic sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, the complete series run of The Saint, and much more. PBS has released all three current seasons of its hit reality/cooking show A Chef’s Life, and partnered once again with itv to release the third season of Mr. Selfridge. Timeless Media Group even gave audiences a good scare this year with the release of A Haunting: Season Seven. And for all of the conspiracy theorists out there, Lionsgate and History channel offered up the seventh season of Ancient Aliens. These are just some of the alternatives offered to audiences this year from the home entertainment realm. And they are all on the Phil’s Picks list of 2015’s Best New Box Sets for Grown-Ups. That is in comparison to box sets for the whole family. That is a whole other list. That list will be presented tomorrow. In explaining the choices for the list of this year’s top new box sets for grown-ups, the overall packaging of each set was taken into consideration alongside each set’s bonus materials (or lack thereof) and the writing that went into each presentation. The combination of each element in each set went into coming up with this list. Not every set had bonus material such as with Welcome Back, Kotter’s third and fourth season. But the writing behind each season made each season entertaining enough that they each stand quite well on their own merits. The bonus material featured in both volumes of MST3K played a big role in their presentations deserving them their own spots as did the bonus material in Time Life’s new Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts box set and that of Hell on Wheels’ fourth season. That should hopefully give at least some background on why each title was listed where it was listed. Keeping that in mind every title listed here is fully deserving of its spot on this list. So enough rambling. Without any further ado, I offer for your reading pleasure dear readers, the Phil’s Picks 2015 Top 10 New Box Sets for Grownups. As always, the Top 10 make up the main body of the list while the bottom five each receive special mention as they deserve to be on the list just as much. Here you go!

































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The Seventh Season Of A Haunting Is One Of The Series’ Best

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group

Everybody loves a good scare, right? Okay, maybe not everybody. But there are lots of people out there that do enjoy a good scare. For those that do, there are lots of choices out there that offer said scares both in the realm of movies and television. It could be argued that there are so many options in fact that it becomes difficult to decide which options deserve the watch and which ones don’t stand an ahem* ghost of a chance. Yes, that awful pun was fully intended. One piece that anyone wanting a good scare should check out is Timeless Media’s upcoming box set A Haunting Season 7. A Haunting Season 7 will be released on DVD next Tuesday, April 14th. This season of A Haunting was especially a surprise for many of the series’ fans considering the fact that Season Six only lasted a total of four episodes. That short run left a lot of people wondering if Season Six would be the end for the cult favorite paranormal series. And then late last year, fans were pleasantly surprised when Season 7 premiered. Season 7 consisted of sixteen episodes that offer some of the series’ best stories to date. They are stories that should A Haunting not be picked up for an eighth season, make for a good ending for the series. And should it in fact be renewed, audiences will enjoy these episodes just as much if not more while they wait for said season’s premiere. Regardless of what the future may or may not hold for A Haunting, it can definitely be said of Season 7 that its episodes are at the heart of its success. The work of the re-enactors is just as important to note in regards to the enjoyment of A Haunting Season 7. For the most part the re-enactments that make up this season are relatively entertaining. And of course what paranormal show would be complete without its special effects. The special effects used in this season actually prove to be relatively respectable. Together with the work of the re-enactors, they help make the stories presented across the set’s four discs entertainment in their own right. Together with the stories themselves, all three elements together make the seventh season of A Haunting a great collection for any of the series’ fans and for anyone looking for a good scare in general.

The seventh season of Destination America’s A Haunting may or may not be the last for the series. That is because at the time of this review’s posting, there is no word on whether or not the series has been renewed for an eighth season. If it isn’t picked up for another season, audiences will agree that this season is a good way for the series to finish off. If there is however an eighth season, Season 7 will still prove to be just as valuable for fans as they wait for Season 8’s premiere. The main reason that Season 7 proves to be so entertaining is its episode selection. The episodes chosen for this season are some of the best that the series has offered to date. Season 7’s lead disc proves this all by itself. Disc one presents a story of a house haunted by its former owner and an evil spirit that has kept the spirit of the original owner there in the disc’s opener “Demon’s Revenge.” “The Shadowman” is an aptly titled story. That is because it presents the story of two brothers that were terrorized by a shadow figure. The figure in question has been attracted to the home because of the anger exuded by their father. His anger is the result of his PTSD as he is a military veteran. “Demon Unearthed” presents the story of a man trying to cover up his infidelity even in death even if it means scaring a family out of its dream home. And in the disc’s final episode, a couple moves into a home that is haunted by the spirit of a former slave master. The man, whose name was Hal, does not want the couple there. And it leads to a showdown with Hal that leads to an unexpected ending. This is all just on the set’s first disc. The set’s second disc is highlighted by the story of a family haunted by the angry spirit of a woman murdered by her husband in “Ghost Fury.” Much like the story of “Evil never Dies,” the closer to disc one, “Ghost Fury” doesn’t have the ending some might expect, either. Not to give away too much, but sometimes those that are haunted don’t always come out on top. It’s especially interesting to note that in so many of the stories, the wives/girlfriends are the ones being haunted while the husbands/boyfriends don’t believe the women. It’s a sidebar. But an interesting one nonetheless. For all of the tales of terror offered up in Season 7, there is also a heartbreaking story in Disc three’s “Trapped in Terror.” This episode tells the story of a little girl who was murdered by a man after he had lost a poker game and murdered two other men. This is actually a story with a happy ending. The ending won’t be given away. But anyone not moved even slightly by the story simply has no heart. For those looking for something unlike the typical haunted house story, there is Disc four’s “Curse of the Mummy.” This story plays out like something right out of a really bad 1970s B-movie. A young man looks at a mummy in a museum one day and is subsequently haunted by the god/spirit that protected her even though he hadn’t done anything to the mummy. It all leads to a showdown between a priest and the being after it possesses the young man. Yes, it seems corny. But it’s so corny that it’s actually entertaining. And it’s one more way in which the episodes culled for this collection prove it to be so enjoyable for anyone that has any interest in the paranormal. The episodes not noted here are just as worth the watch, too. The combination of those episodes with the ones noted here shows clearly why Season 7’s episodes lie at the center of its success and enjoyment and why it deserves at least one more season.

The episodes that make up the body of A Haunting Season 7 show collectively that the series has definitely gotten its second wind and in turn that it deserves at least another chance by the heads at Destination America. They also show why fans of the series will undoubtedly enjoy this season especially if they weren’t able to catch them in their original broadcast. As intriguing as this season’s episodes prove to be in the long run, they would not be as impactful as they are without their companion re-enactments. That is the second important element to note of these episodes. The re-enactments used to help tell Season 7’s stories are relatively impressive. This is the case especially when they are compared to the re-enactments used in previous seasons of A Haunting and when compared to the re-enactments used in other paranormal series currently on television. Perhaps the only exception to that rule would be the gentleman playing the boys’ father in “The Shadowman.” He clearly tries a little too hard in his role. That aside, the work of the other actors this season overall does its own share to make the presented stories completely gripping and engaging and that much more enjoyable for fans of the show. It also helps once more prove the case why this series deserves at least another series, should the heads at Destination America be considering its fate.

The stories presented in the seventh season of A Haunting coupled with their re-enactments make for plenty of reason for the series’ fans to pick up its seventh season. It also proves again why it is deserving of at least one more season. The same can be said of the special effects used in this season’s stories. That is the last element of this season to note. Just as with the re-enactments in whole, there is no denying the comparison of these episodes’ special effects to those used in both other series’ re-enactments and to this series’ own previous seasons. The lighting and makeup used for the actors portraying the spirits. And rather than just have them appear with some over-the-top fade effect, those behind the cameras opted instead to actually have some of them come in as if they were living people. It’s nice to not have that unnecessary, over-the-top special effects used in that case. Even in the case of say the dark energies, those charged with handling the show’s special effects did a relatively respectable job. Believe it or not, there are those that can’t even handle a task such as crafting a shadow person properly whether for television or movies. It’s surprising yet true. Thankfully that wasn’t the case here. Whether for these noted special effects or for any of the season’s others, the special effects work in direct tandem with the work of the actors to make these episodes entirely worth the watch by any fan of A Haunting and by paranormal enthusiasts in general. It is also more proof of why this series deserves one more season at the very least.

So much can be said in regards to what makes A Haunting Season 7 one of the series’ best seasons to date. The stories that make up this season run the gamut. It boasts a solid mix of terror-filled tales, heart wrenching stories of lives lost too soon, and even some more extraordinary tales across its sixteen total episodes and four discs. The work of the stories’ re-enactors helps to illustrate just what makes each story so frightening, moving, and outrageous. The tasteful use of special effects across this season’s episodes adds even more enjoyment to the whole. All three elements together show without a doubt why both the series’ long-time fans will enjoy this box set and why having gotten its second wind, it deserves at least one more season whether on Destination or another network. It will be available on DVD next Tuesday, April 14th. More information on A Haunting is available online at:



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The Amish Shunned Shows The True Reality Of Amish Life

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS proved time and again throughout 2013 why it is the last true bastion of worthwhile educational programming. Where History Channel, Discovery Channel, and The Learning Channel have all allowed themselves to fall victim to the plague that is “reality television”,PBS has stayed the course, standing tall while the aforementioned networks have become but pale shells of what they once were. As 2014 is still in its infancy, PBS continues to prove to audiences why it sits atop the broadcast spectrum with the release of the latest piece in its American Experience series, The Amish Shunned. The first part of this presentation that audiences will appreciate is the stories shared by those on both sides of the divide. Audiences won’t find any Breaking Amish or Amish Mafia style stories here. What audiences get in this presentation is real reality. Just as key to this new documentary is its editing. The entire presentation runs roughly two hours. The manner in which the documentary was edited goes a long way toward keeping viewers engaged throughout the course of the program. The last piece of the whole that makes The Amish Shunned is the cinematography. The work of those behind the cameras works directly with the editing and the storytelling to make this piece another impressive presentation from PBS proving why it remains the last bastion of true worthwhile programming.


The stories presented in The Amish Shunned are the central piece of the whole that makes this program well worth watching. They are nothing like the overhyped, over the top drama ofAmish Mafia and Breaking Amish. Instead, viewers see the true emotional impact on young Amish individuals in their decisions to leave their communities. Right from the program’s outset, audiences are introduced to a young Amish girl that had made the decision to leave her community. It’s shocking to learn the lengths to which she had to go in order to make her escape. Just as eye-opening is the revelation of how she (and other Amish individuals) initially feel a certain amount of guilt for leaving the Amish church despite knowing they need to break away. Her story of her departure from the Amish church is just one of many that are shared over the course of this program’s roughly two hour run time. Each of the stories shared by those that have left the Amish church presents more drama than audiences will ever get from those shows on Discovery and TLC. They are far more moving, too.


The stories shared by the subjects in The Amish Shunned are in themselves quite moving and powerful. Making the stories so powerful in part is the program’s editing. Editor Rachel Clark is to be commended for her work. The transitions from one subject’s story to the next are clear and solid. On top of that, her ability to reach the emotional heart of each story with her editing is to be applauded. As audiences will notice throughout each story, footage of daily life within the Amish community is used to heighten the emotional depth of each story. And it works quite well. On a more subtle yet important level, audiences that watch closely will notice that the face of the program’s first subject is shown a little more each time she is re-introduced each time throughout the program. This editing illustrates how she is becoming increasingly open to her new lifestyle and feeling less guilty for having broken away from the Amish church and culture. As subtle as it is, it is a powerful statement. And it’s just one of so much expert editing done throughout this piece that audiences will appreciate about this new release.

The editing and storytelling both are integral pieces to the overall presentation that is The Amish Shunned. Just as key to the overall presentation is the camera work. The work of those behind the cameras works in direct connection with the documentary’s editing. The wide shots of the Amish countryside are outstanding to say the very least. The serenity portrayed in those shots in comparison to those of the city life that the program’s subjects have taken will actually lead some to wonder in the backs of their minds why in fact they would leave such peace and serenity.  That isn’t to say that they shouldn’t have.  But it definitely opens the door for some discussion.  It’s just one of so many examples of how effective the cinematography was in this piece.  There is much more worth noting in terms of the documentary’s cinematography.  And audiences will find out just how much more there is to note when they order the program for themselves.  It is available now on DVD and can be ordered direct from the PBS online store at  More information on this and other documentaries from PBS’ American Experience is available online at and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at