“Dr. Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness” Is An Imperfect But Still Enjoyable Addition To The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Courtesy: Marvel Studios

A little more than two months after making its domestic theatrical debut, Marvel Studios/Disney’s Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is set for home release of 4K UHD and Blu-ray July 26.  The movie is director Sam Raimi’s first time heading a Marvel movie since helming Spiderman 3 in 2007 and while it is not perfect, it is still an entertaining new addition to the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU).  The movie’s success comes in part through its story, which while imperfect in itself still makes the movie worth watching occasionally.  This item will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast plays its own part into the movie’s success and will be addressed a little later.  The movie’s general effect rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered this latest addition to the MCU is a worthwhile story that any true Marvel fan will appreciate.

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the latest entry in the ever-expanding MCU (and second in the Dr. Strange world), is a mostly successful presentation.  The success that it enjoys comes in large part through its story that although imperfect is at least not too long at just over two hours in time.  The story is relatively simple: Dr. Strange meets a powerful young woman named America Chavez who has the ability to transcend Marvel’s various universes and has to protect her from Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. The Scarlet Witch.  He has to protect America from Wanda because Wanda wants to take America’s powers and use them to venture into the multiverse and find the one in which “her children” reside.  Quotation marks are used because Wanda created her children, so they are not her biological children.  This is tied back into Marvel’s small screen world, sadly forcing audiences to know about the story from Disney+’s Vision and the Scarlet Witch series.  This tie into the bigger MCU is nothing new but is still disappointing because it leaves audiences who have not seen that limited series in the dark so to speak.  On a side note, there is also mention of Marvel and Sony’s Spiderman No Way Home in the story albeit brief, therefore once again forcing audiences to have some knowledge of that movie before coming into this presentation.  All of this aside, the story does manage to stand as its own tale that is not tied too closely to the rest of the MCU, so it has that much going for it.

Getting back to the matter of Wanda’s quest to capture America, it really comes across as being cliché to a point.  It all just seems so formulaic considering that the misguided villain story has been done so many times in other superhero stories in various ways but is still the same sort of tale.  Yes, a mother’s love is powerful, and there are women who have been proven so crazy to have children that they would kidnap others’ children in the real world, but this is not the real world.  It is the world of comics on film, and again, Wanda’s story of a misguided villain is anything but new in that realm.  It all just seems too formulaic, and it does detract from the movie’s presentation to a point.  It is not enough to completely doom the movie, though for audiences who can overlook this issue.

Moving on from that aspect, in the process of trying to protect America from Wanda, America and Dr. Strange end up in one of the endless universes out there in the MCU.  In their attempt to get home, he and America find out that a magical book that they need to defeat Wanda is conveniently located in that universe.  The book is not the only point of interest in the universe in which Dr. Strange and America find themselves. Characters from many other Marvel comic books, including Black Bolt, Reed Richards, and the seemingly most powerful mutant in the world, Professor Charles Xavier, are also there.  This is clearly a way for Marvel and Disney to further expand the MCU and really just feels more like fan service than anything really relevant to the story.  Even more problematic is that as the story progresses, the attention tends to turn more toward Dr. Strange than his young charge.  Thankfully the focus does not turn too much and does make a clear attempt to balance the focus even as there is so much going on not only in that universe but in the many other universes, including what one has to assume is “Earth Prime”.  Considering everything that is going on in the two universes that become the center of the story, the movie’s writing team is to be commended for trying to transition fluidly back and forth between the worlds even with the clear contrivance and other issues in the story.  That writing thankfully keeps the movie’s pacing relatively stable throughout its two-hour run time, which is itself appealing, considering the number of movies out there today that seem ton consciously try to exceed the two-and-a-half-hour mark.  Keeping all of this in mind, the story featured in Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is far from perfect, but it is clear that those behind the story’s creation did make an attempt to pull every viewer into the tale.  Those efforts make the story a relatively stable starting point for the movie’s presentation.

Building on the relative stability of the movie’s story is the cast’s work interpreting the story’s script.  Benedict Cumberbatch leads the way as the movie’s titular character.  From beginning to end, Cumberbatch’s personality on screen is so much like that of fellow Marvel star Robert Downey Jr., who for such a long time, portrayed Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man.  That is evidence in the borderline cockiness that Cumberbatch brings out of Steven Strange throughout the movie.  At the same time, he does show a subtle vulnerability in Dr. Strange.  That balance of confidence (maybe overconfidence at times?) and vulnerability makes him a great new potential leader for the Marvel universe or at least a strong character of focus as the MCU enters its next phase.  It just makes him that much more endearing to audiences.

On another note, Elizabeth Olsen’s latest take as Wanda is just as notable in this movie.  There is a certain over the top nature in her subtle fury but also something engaging about her portrayal, too.  From early on, the casual way in which she talks about what happened to Vision in Vision and the Scarlet Witch shows that she has already left reality so to speak.  There is a certain sociopathic nature already peeking through.  As the story progresses, Olsen takes on more of a familiar crazed super villain role.  That familiarity will keep audiences engaged even as comfortable as such a portrayal has become in the comic book to film world.  That is not a slap at Olsen and her work.  It is just that her portrayal is so commonplace that it does not really break any new ground but is still engaging and entertaining in its own right.

On a completely different note, that America is supposed to be the center of Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, star Xochitl Gomez, who portrays America, makes the most of her moments on screen.  The vulnerability and lack of self-assurance that she gives America is something to which so many younger teen audiences will relate.  This even though American is technically a being that is centuries old (as Wanda points out at one moment in the story).  The vulnerability shows through as she sees a vision of her childhood in her home world while the lack of self-assurance shows through in her attempt to control her powers.  It is just too bad that she did not get as much screen time as she likely should have, considering the overall story.  Either way, she makes the most of her time on screen, too.  When her performance is considered alongside those of Cumberbatch and Olsen, the main cast’s work on screen adds to the movie’s appeal in its own right.

The main cast’s work on screen is just one more item of note in examining the movie’s presentation.  The general effect in the presentation is also worth examining.  Right from the movie’s introduction in which Steven is dreaming about being in another universe, fighting a monster as he is trying to get to a book, the look of the movie really has that same look that audiences came to know from Raimi’s work helming the original Spiderman trilogy.  The different worlds, the monsters, everything, they all have that trademark Sam Raimi touch.  That touch in question is that of more comic book than the gritty stuff that so many movies have come to use.  It really is a nice return to form so to speak and will certainly appeal to so many audiences.  The whole thing just has that really more comic book realm on screen feel and is so welcome.  When it is considered along with the work of the movie’s cast and the relatively engaging story, the whole makes the movie overall a mostly successful new addition to the MCU universe.

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a mostly positive new addition to Marvel Studios and Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It is hardly perfect but is also not a failure.  Its success comes in part through its featured story.  The story centers on Dr. Strange’s attempt to keep a powerful mutule-versal being from being kidnapped and essentially killed by The Scarlet Witch, who wants the being’s powers in order to venture into the multiverse and be with her children from one of those universes.  The whole thing is somewhat contrived when viewed in the overall picture, but is still worth taking in.  The main cast’s work on screen adds to the interest especially in the case of Benedict Cumberbatch’s work.  He showed he could potentially take the lead as the next Avengers head if he so wanted.  Elizabeth Olsen’s latest turn as Wanda Maximoff was engaging in its own right, too.  The general effect of the movie rounds out the movie’s most important element in that it really brings back the look of the Spiderman movies helmed by Sam Raimi.  That look is that true comic book to screen look.  It is somewhat cheesy but in an endearing way.  It really does leave audiences feel like they are looking at what they might see in the comic books and is just such a welcome accent to the whole.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the movie and when considered together, make the movie overall a movie that while imperfect is still entertaining.

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is scheduled for release on 4K UHD and BD July 28.  More information on this and other titles from Marvel Studios is available at:

Website: https://www.marvel.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/marvel

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

Visual Effects, Bonus Content Are The Saving Graces For ‘Eternals’ In Its New Home Release

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Marvel’s latest addition to the MCU official made it first home premiere this week in the form of the digital release of Eternals.  The movie is set for physical release Feb. 15.  Running more than two and a half hours, this new addition to the MCU is an interesting presentation that is worth watching at least once.  That is due to its visual effects, which will be discussed shortly.  The movie’s story, while interesting, is also very problematic.  This will be discussed more a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its digital and physical release works with the movie’s visual effects to make it a little more worth watching.  They will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Eternals imperfect, but still worth watching at least once.

Marvel Studios’ newest movie, Eternals, is an intriguing addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It is a presentation that is worth watching at least once now that it has made its way home through digital release.  The movie’s visual effects are the most prominent reason for its limited appeal.  The visual effects have taken the work that those at Marvel Studios have done throughout the company’s history and stepped it up even more.  Seeing the effects used to make Makkari the shockingly fast speedster that she is a prime example of that improved visual technology.  The CGI that was used to make it look like she was making her way through the fight scenes was minimalist in its approach, and because of that, there is something about it that makes it look so clean and believable.  The work used to make Ikaris the Superman-esque figure that he is, is just as impressive.  Again, there is a minimalist approach used to make the lasers shoot from his eyes that makes those moments so entertaining in their own right.  On another note, the work that was used to create the scenes in which Arishem discusses the Eternals’ role on Earth with Sersi is impressive in its own right.  The contrast of Arishem’s massive size to that of Sersi is so clear, and it makes the comparison so powerful in its own right.  Between all of that and the on-site shooting, the overall visual effects used throughout the movie make Eternals at least a treat for the eyes.  Sadly, where the visuals do so well, the movie’s story detracts from the viewing experience to a point.

The story featured in Eternals is important to note because of its inability to balance everything going on in terms of the themes and the general story.  The story is essentially a nearly three-hour rumination on the meaning of life and our purpose on this planet.  Along the way, there is a completely contrived love story element in the story’s finale, which will also not be given away here.  Along the way, the story goes back and forth in time, between early human history and present day as the Eternals reunite.  The whole back story and team rebuilding takes up the first roughly 90 minutes of the movie.  Yes, there is that much buildup before audiences finally get anything of substance.  That the story does go back and forth, even those who fully immerse themselves in the story will find themselves getting lost along the way.  Keeping this in mind with the realization of the story’s overarching philosophical and theological ruminations, and what audiences get here is a work that does little to keep audiences engaged.  Add in the story’s contrived finale, and the story becomes even more problematic.  As if that is not enough, when the one unnamed Deviant realizes what is really going on, one cannot help but wonder why it wanted to kill the Eternals rather than take the time to find out if maybe they were on the same page.  Maybe that could have led to a more classic story of the protagonists and antagonists teaming up to stop the greater evil.  It is all just so troubling, along with the realization that the story never explains away why Thena has her psychotic moments, that the story really just gives audiences little if anything to appreciate.  Perhaps the reason for all of the problems is that the story’s writers took from so many different eras of Eternals comics for the featured story.  This is part of the discussion in the movie’s “making of” featurette.

The “making of” featurette, as noted, reveals that the writers lifted not only from Jack Kirby’s early Eternals series, but also from other more modern runs, including that of famed Sandman creator, Neil Gaiman.  If the writers had just focused on one story from one era, maybe it would have all worked better.  Only time will tell.  Viewers also learn through the “making of” featurette, the intentional focus on diversity in the cast and how it plays into representation for viewers.  This discussion adds a little appreciation for the movie, but only a little. 

In regards to the deleted scenes, they are crucial in their own way to the movie’s presentation.  That is because in watching through the deleted scenes, audiences will agree that most of the scenes in question do not fit into the final cut.  Only one scene, titled “Nostalgia” really maybe should have stayed in the movie.  The scene finds Sprite and Makkari talking about whether humans deserve to be saved.  There had to have been a place in which it would have fit into the story, especially being so brief.  The other scenes though, clearly did not fit anywhere into the movie.  To that end, it shows the importance of this bonus featured.

The bonus gag reel is engaging and entertaining in its own right.  It does not really add to or detract from the overall presentation in any big way, but it is still entertaining.  That is because it kind of shows that things don’t always go right.  Seeing the cast, attached to wires, dancing around aimlessly as they wait for takes to start will make for plenty of laughs, for instance.  Seeing Angelina Jolie trying and failing to grab an orange with her “spear” is funny because it shows what she had to work with to pretend to grab it.

For those who appreciate production, the feature length audio commentary focuses a lot on the movie’s production, rounding out the bonus content.  When it is considered along with the rest of the movie’s bonus content, the whole becomes that clear in its importance to the movie’s presentation.  Together with the movie’s visual effects, these two elements make up for the problems posed by the story at least to a point and make the movie worth watching at least once.

Marvel Studios’ Eternals is an interesting presentation that will find the majority of its appeal among the most devoted Marvel Comics fans.  More casual audiences will find the movie worth watching at least once, but not really more than that.  Its appeal comes largely from its visual effects.  The visuals effects take the company’s special effects work up another step once more from what it has already offered audiences.  The movie’s story proves somewhat problematic to more casual audiences.  That is because it is really all over the place from beginning to end.  Its movement back and forth in time as it progresses and its philosophical and theological musings throughout make for so many problems.  The less than believable finale puts the final nail in the coffin.  That moment just is not believable, considering everything else that happens in the story.  It just seems so contrived.  The bonus content that comes with the movie’s home release works with its visual effects to give audiences at least a little more reason to take in the movie.  All things considered, this movie proves to be a presentation that is neither the best nor the worst of Marvel’s MCU entries to date.

Eternals is available now on digital.  It is scheduled to release on DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 15. More information on the home release of Marvel’s Eternals 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.

Families Have Lots Of Viewing Options As They Spend The Holidays Together

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/PBS Kids

It’s hard to believe, but there is officially a little more than a week left in the almost old year. For most of the country, it means winter break is here and kids are out of school, getting excited over Christmas and relaxing. That means lots of parents out there are struggling to find ways to entertain their kids and maybe also keep their brains growing at the same time. Phil’s Picks’ final “best of” list for this year will hopefully help with those efforts.

The last of this year’s “best of” lists focuses on the year’s top new single-disc family friendly DVDs and Blu-rays. It features new releases for families from PBS, Shout! Factory, and Nickelodeon, as well as Turner Broadcasting/Cartoon Network, and even 20th Century Studios. It runs the gamut from the educational to the entertaining, too.

Without any further ado, here is the last of Phil’s Picks’ “best of” lists for 2021, this year’s Top 10 New Family DVDs/BDs.


  1. Hero Elementary: Sparks’ Crew Animal Rescue
  2. Wild Kratts: Cats and Dogs
  3. Dinosaur Train: Adventure Island
  4. Molly of Denali: Molly & The Great One
  5. Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Curse of the Shadows
  6. Victor & Valentino: Folk Art Foes
  7. Ron’s Gone Wrong
  8. Jungle Cruise
  9. Paw Patrol: The Movie
  10. PBS Kids Christmas Collection
  11. Thomas & Friends All Engines Go!: Time For Teamwork
  12. Sesame Street: Things Elmo Likes
  13. Sesame Street: Wonderful World of Friends
  14. Baby Shark’s Big Show!
  15. PBS Kids 15 Girl Power Adventures

That’s it for this year, folks. Again though, there are lots of new titles already announced and scheduled for 2022, so Phil’s Picks is already looking forward to next year for all the new family DVDs and BDs and so much other content. Stay tuned!

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.

‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ Proves Just As Successful In Its Home Release As In Its Brief Theatrical Run

Courtesy: 20th Century Studios/Disney

Well, that sure didn’t take long.  Less than two months after making its theatrical debut, 20th Century Studios’ CG statement flicks Ron’s Gone Wrong made its way to digital and physical home release early this month (Dec. 7 to be exact).  The movie is no better or worse in its new home release than in its brief theatrical run, which according to Box Office Mojo, grossed more than $60 million worldwide during that time.  Attempts to find the movie’s production budget for comparison were unsuccessful.  For those who have yet to see the movie, its story is reason enough for audiences to give it a chance.  It will be discussed shortly.  While the movie’s story is unquestionably positive, the bonus content that comes with the movie’s home release is just as much a negative that audiences cannot ignore.  It will be discussed a little later.  The story’s pacing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of Ron’s Gone Wrong in its recent home release.  All things considered, they make the movie one of the best of this year’s new family DVDs/BDs even with its one primary concern.

20th Century Studios’ recent home release of its family friendly flick, Ron’s Gone Wrong, is a mostly successful offering.  The movie’s success comes in large part through its story.  The story is a two-part presentation that will appeal to younger and older viewers alike.  One half of the story is a clear indictment of big tech, its impact on young people’s mental health, and the unscrupulous measures that big tech will take to exploit those noted users.  The story’s other half centers on the all-too-important message of the importance of friendship and its related topics.  The two halves weave together seamlessly throughout the movie, and together with the pacing (which again, will be discussed a little later) make the story overall fully engaging and entertaining.  The overarching discussion on the invasive nature of social media and its negative impact on young people’s mental health is timeless.  This will remain a concern until such time as young people can pull themselves away from social media and its addictive clutches.  To that end, the story likely will not earn an Oscar®, but will remain timely, making it relatable for generations of audiences.  The movie’s writers clearly went after Apple, Facebook, and so much other big tech and social media in delivering this message.  The companies are not named, but rather spoofed so to speak, through the use of the company, “Bubble” and its antagonistic boss, Andrew.  Andrew is clearly a lifting of Steve Jobs while Marc Weidell is clearly an allusion to Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg.

The connected story about friendship ties directly into the indictment of big tech and social media as lead character Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer – ItLucaShazam) finds himself the only student in his middle school – Nonsuch Middle School – without a so-called B*Bot.  The B*bot, is a digital friend that knows everything about its user, and uses that information to help young people find new friends.  Marc (Justice Smith – Paper TownsThe Get DownJurassic World – Fallen Kingdom) even called the tech the “perfect friend” right in the story’s opening scene.  That immediate message lets people know that one of the key messages in this story is that friends are anything but perfect, but rather perfect in being imperfect.  Barney learns that invaluable lesson when his dad, Graham (Ed Helms – The OfficeVacationThe Hangover) gets Barney his own B-bot (albeit illegally).  In learning its serial number, Barney shortens the bot’s name to just Ron.  Ron is voiced here by Zach Galifianakis (Due DateThe HangoverThe Lego Batman Movie).  His work here is some of his best, and that is actually saying something considering the dumbed down performances that he has presented in the noted movies and others.  Getting back on the subject at hand, Barney and Ron eventually develop a real friendship because Ron is not like all of the other B-bots out there.  What develops will immediately ring a bell with those familiar with the 1986 movie, Short Circuit and its sequel, which came only two years later.  That buddy comedy centered on a robot that developed sentience and only wanted to protect and befriend people.  The good thing here is that this story element does not attempt to just simply rip off said movies, even despite the clear comparison.  What audiences eventually get here is that we should not let tech dominate our lives to the point that we are relying on it to make decisions for us.  We should not rely on it so much that it is doing everything for us, because we know better than technology who we are and what and who we like.  So yes, between this overarching message and that of the almost criminal nature of big tech, the overall story here will remain relevant for years to come.  It also boasts its own share of heart along the way, too.  It makes the story reason enough for audiences to give this movie a chance.

While the story does so much to make Ron’s Gone Wrong entertaining, the bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release detracts somewhat from the presentation.  That is because of how little content there is and the content itself.  The bonus content, which is featured only in the movie’s BD/DVD/Digital combo pack and 4K UHD/BD/Digital combo pack (no, it is not featured in the DVD platform) comes in the form of a brief sit-down with Galifianakis and Grazer, and a separate “making of” featurette.  The duo’s interview, which runs maybe about five minutes at most, just finds the pair sharing their thoughts on technology and how their generations vary in their views on technology and its role in society.  The slightly more lengthy “making of” featurette simply takes audiences behind the scenes of the movie’s creation.  Viewers learn of the motivation for the story’s creation from its writing team, as well as about how the cast members interacted as they recorded their lines.  It is in itself really a minimalist presentation that neither adds to or detracts from the movie’s presentation.  So audiences who maybe don’t own a Blu-ray player or one of those overly expensive 4K UHD TVs and players will not be missing out on anything without the bonus content on DVD.  For everyone else, the content is worth watching maybe once, but it really does not do anything either way for the presentation.  Keeping that in mind, the movie still stands strongly enough on the merits of its two-part story alone.  Staying on that note, the movie’s pacing is another positive that is worth noting.

The run time for Ron’s Gone Wrong is approximately one hour, 47 minutes.  That is actually a long run time for a family friendly flick.  Thankfully even being as long as the story is and with so much going on, the pacing remains solid.  This is the case even in the story’s final act in which it seems like the writers – Peter Baymham and Sarah Smith – seem to have had trouble deciding how to end the story.  The action and overall content is solid enough that the story keeps moving at a relatively solid pace throughout.  The result is that the pacing ensures the engagement and entertainment of younger viewers just as much as their older counterparts.  It makes the movie’s overall presentation that much more surprising in its appeal.  When this is considered along with the work of the movie’s cast, which is just as deserving of applause as the story’s pacing and the story itself, the whole makes the movie a mostly successful offering even in its home release.

20th Century Studios’ Ron’s Gone Wrong is a presentation that is just as successful in its recent home release as in its very brief theatrical run this fall.  That is proven in part through its story.  The story is a dual-pronged presentation that is both an indictment of big tech and its impact on society (specifically on young people) and a reminder about the need for people to make decisions and friends for themselves.  While the story is fully engaging and entertaining, the bonus content that comes with the movie’s home release (or rather the lack thereof) detracts from the movie’s home presentation at least to a point.  It is not enough to make the movie’s home release a failure by any means.  The story’s pacing (and also work of the movie’s cast) rounds out the movie’s most important elements.  When all of this is considered together, it makes the movie just as largely successful in its home release as in its brief theatrical run.

Ron’s Gone Wrong is available now on digital, DVD, Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, and 4K UHD/BD/Digital combo pack. More information on this and other titles from 20th Century Studios is available at:




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Bonus Content, Animation Save Disney/Pixar’s ‘Luca’

Courtesy: Disney/Pixar

Sea monsters are the stuff of Hollywood lore.  From the monster in Universal’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) to the giant, radioactive octopus in It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), to the one and only giant, radioactive lizard itself, Godzilla (1954) the giant radioactive lizard in Godzilla’s inspiration, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, they have been great fodder for Hollywood and audiences alike.  Yet for all of the success that sea monster movies have had over the course of Hollywood’s history, not every movie of that ilk succeeds or has succeeded.  The latest to come up short is Disney/Pixar’s Luca.  The 95-minute movie takes on the classic plot element to tell a story that while entertaining, falls short of expectation.  That is the case even with its welcome deeper social message.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the movie’s story is both positive and negative, its bonus content serves to make up for those problems at least to a point.  It will be discussed a little later.  The movie’s animation rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s new home presentation.  All things considered, Luca proves to be one of Disney/Pixar’s less memorable offerings.

Disney/Pixar’s Luca is not the best nor the worst of the cinematic offerings that the companies have released over their more than 25 years together.  It is neither a failure, nor is it a total success.  That is proven in part through its story.  The story centers on two young friends, Luca and Alberto, who happen to be “mer-boys”/sea monsters  The boys meet completely by chance one day while Luca is out herding (yes, herding) fish.  The boys’ chance meeting leads to an immediate friendship, when then leads to what is really the center of the story, Luca’s desire to grow up, and discover what else is out there beyond his own home.  It is a timeless story element that has been used in so many movies from Disney, Pixar, and other studios.  Finding Nemo (another Disney/Pixar movie) even uses this plot device as its basis.  Along with all of that is the deeper message (that some might call “woke”) about taking pride in who and what one is rather than hiding that reality.  Now all of this seems all good and fine on the surface (no pun intended).  The problem with it all is how the story begins and progresses.  The whole thing opens so abruptly with Alberto stealing stuff from a fisherman’s boat one night and getting partially caught in the process.  From there, the focus shifts to Luca in the real opening.  Audiences are introduced to Luca as he is herding the noted fish.  He discovers the things that Alberto had tried to steal from the fisher but lost in getting away from that secondary character.  As the boys’ friendship grows, they make their way to a nearby town that is known for its fishing and sea monster hunting. 

Over time, the boys learn that the townspeople have only hatred for sea monsters.  This is where one needs to back up a bit.  There is zero set-up in the story’s opening about this divide between humans and sea monsters.  Not even that brief nighttime preface to the story really sets it up.  Why is the hatred there?  That is never answered.  Though, ultimately at the story’s end, the humans and sea monsters do end up peacefully co-existing.  That’s not giving away too much, as no Disey/Pixar movie is going to have a sad ending.  Audiences are just expected to accept that the humans hate sea monsters.  Eventually, the story does somehow manage to right itself, even though the whole thing of the bicycle race and winning the Vespa just seems like a desperate attempt to justify the boys staying in the town.  For anyone who is confused at this point, good.  That is how the movie’s story will ultimately leave viewers feeling.  Simply put, the story overall just feels so contrived and lacking any real structure.  Add in the unbelievable aspect of Luca and Alberto’s friendship just happening so fast and audiences see even more, the problems posed by this story.  There is no denying here that Luca’s story is problematic but ultimately not a total failure.  The bonus content on the other hand proves well worth watching.

The bonus content that comes with the home release of Luca is important to discuss because of its role in understanding the movie’s final story.  Among the most important of the movie’s bonus features is its collection of deleted scenes.  It is understandable why many of the scenes featured here were cut from the final product.  That includes one of the movie’s original opening sequences.  The second opening on the other hand, is a different matter.  That opening in question really should have been examined and worked out more rather than omitted.  The sequence in question opens with Luca narrating the opening, a la Diego in Coco.  Luca’s voice is heard talking about the island as the camera closes in on an aged map showing the island’s location.  Luca talks about the island and its residents.  This is where things start to get iffy.  Rather than showing the island’s residents actually being the sea monsters, it would have made more sense if Luca had pulled a twist and said the island in question was beneath the waves.  The writers could have then had him talk about why the surface island’s residents hated sea monsters so much.  That brief setup would have done so much to make the rest of the movie so much more enjoyable.  Sadly, the movie’s writers and creative heads opted not to go that route, ultimately making the story that much less engaging and entertaining.  To the positive though, this and the other deleted scenes show in their own right, the importance of the movie’s bonus content.  They in themselves make for plenty of discussion among audiences.

Touching on another of the bonus features, the feature titled, “Our Italian Inspiration” makes for its own appeal (and to more appeal for the movie) because every local studied in this feature shows up in the movie.  Even the subtlety of the railroad tunnel going through the mountain is there, as well as the “marina” for the boats.  If there is one thing that Disney and Pixar have always done right, it is making every one of its movies as believable as possible in their look.  That has always been done by doing the fullest research into the subjects for the movies’ stories.  This story is no exception to that rule.  To that end, audiences will gain even more appreciation for the movie’s bonus content and at least a little more appreciation for the movie if only in terms of its aesthetic elements.

One more item that shows the importance of the movie’s bonus content comes in the form of “Secretly A Sea Monster.”  This roughly 30-minute feature delves into the movie’s animation and the painstaking efforts that went in to making that item believable.  Audiences, especially those with any interest and education in art, will find this discussion engaging and entertaining.  The mention of the animation styles used in Coco being carried over to this movie to a point is interesting, too.  When this feature and the others examined here are considered together, they make fully clear, the importance of the movie’s bonus content.  They work together to make the movie at least a little bit more worth watching at least once.  Keeping that in mind, the bonus content is just one more of the movie’s most notable elements.  Speaking of animation, that aspect rounds out the most important of the movie’s elements.

The animation featured in Luca because it marks a change in direction for Disney and Pixar.  It is more comparable to Aardman Animation’s movies (E.g. Shaun The Sheep, Timmy Time, Wallace & Gromit) than the more overly defined CG presents exhibited in every one of Pixar’s existing works.  The irony is that (again reaching back to that feature about the movie’s animation) where Aardman Animation’s movies are all stop motion/claymation, this movie was done fully through computers.  It shows that despite what so many studios would like to think, it is possible to give these modern animated movies some identity in this aspect.  To that end, Pixar, Dreamworks, and other studios need to take this to heart and see if they can create something more original if only in terms of its look.  It is just nice to have that change of pace from Pixar.  Keeping that in mind, this element is, next to the movie’s bonus content, Luca’s only other fully positive element.  The two elements join with the problematic but still somewhat engaging story to make Luca worth watching at least occasionally.

Disney/Pixar’s Luca is a presentation that is anything but perfect.  It is not a failure, though.  The movie’s story is problematic in terms of its general construction and its pacing.  However, the familiar plot element of the main character wanting to explore and find out more from the world is reason enough to give the movie a chance.  The welcome message about self acceptance also plays into the story’s appeal, making for at least a little more reason to watch.  For all of the problems posed through the movie’s story, its bonus content makes up for those issues at least to a point.  That is because they give more insight into the movie’s creation, including insight into what Luca could have been.  The movie’s animation style rounds out the most important of the movie’s elements.  It stands out because it shows that it is possible for studios to give their cookie cutter CG flicks actual identities separate from themselves since they refuse to use hand drawn animation, which gives even more identity to presentations.  All three noted items are important in their own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered, they leave Luca a movie that while not a failure, is also one of the less memorable sea monster based movies that Hollywood has ever turned out.  More information on this and other movies from Pixar is available at:

Website: https://www.pixar.com

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‘Under The Pepper Tree’ Is A Successful First Family Music Outing For Sara Watkins

Courtesy: New West

Singer-songwriter Sara Watkins has made quite the name for herself over the years as a member of the bluegrass group Nickel Creek and as part of the Watkins Family Hour and I’m With Her.  Now this Friday, Watkins will take her first step into another phase of her career with her debut family music album, Under the Pepper Tree.  The 15-song first outing is a presentation that will appeal to her fans and those of one Diana Panton.  That is due in part to the song’s that make up the album’s body.  They will be discussed shortly.  The musical arrangements that Watkins employs throughout the album add to its appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The sequencing of that overall content puts the finishing touch to the record and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, Sarah Watkins’ debut family music album is a successful offering that the whole family will indeed enjoy.

Sara Watkins’ debut family music album is a work that the whole family truly will enjoy.  That is due in part to its featured songs.  The songs in question are a selection of songs from various classic movies.  Bob Nolan’s ‘Tumblin’ Tumbleweed,’ from Gene Autry’s 1935 movie by the same name is featured here along with the likes of ‘Edelweiss’ from 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Rodgers &  Hammerstein’s musical, The Sound of Music (1965), and ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ from Disney’s classic Pinocchio (1940).  Also represented here is ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, Carousel (1956); ‘La la Lu’ from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (1955) and even ‘Moon River’ from Paramount Pictures’ 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  There is even an original tune in the form of the album’s title track along with everything else.  The songs will relate to listeners of all ages because they are all timeless works that the noted audiences will remember.  Given, parents will recognize some of the songs more than children, but that aside, those songs will still entertain younger listeners.

On another level, that some of the songs (and their related movies) will connect more with older audiences than with children. That in itself serves as a starting point for older audiences to offer younger listeners the most basic introduction to so many classic musicals and movies.  That early introduction could help lead to a lifelong love for said presentations.  So while on the surface, the songs make up a collective of soundtrack works, they actually can and do serve an even greater purpose, bringing families together while building a foundation and love for the great timeless works of stage and screen from entertainment’s golden age.  To that end, the songs featured in this compilation form a solid foundation for the record itself.  It is just one part of what makes the recording so enjoyable.  The arrangements that Watkins chose for these songs adds to the record’s overall appeal.

Watkins largely stays true to the source material in each song that she features in her new record, from one to the next.  For all of that honor that Watkins pays to the original works, she still gives them her own nice touch.  Case in point is her take on ‘Stay Awake.’  Originally featured as one of the songs from Disney’s 1964 musical adaptation of author P.L. Travers’ novel Mary Poppins, the song was a gentle lullabye crafted by  the famed Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert.  It featured Julie Andrews’ absolutely stunning vocal control alongside some even more subtle strings.  Watkins’ take on the song would have fit just as well into that movie.  It is just as moving with its piano line joining with the strings to make the song even richer.  Watkins’ over vocal delivery is so powerful in its simplicity here, too.  Ironically though being a lullaby, Watkins’ take on the song is enough to make even the most emotionally strong man blubber like a baby.  That is a telling statement. 

On a different note, Watkins’ take on Bob Nolan’s ‘Tumbling Tumblewood’ stays even truer to its source material, complete with fiddle and the slightest touch of a slide guitar.  Of course, gone are the clip-clop of the horse hoofs and the string arrangement featured in the original song performed by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers.  Instead, Watkins has opted here for the more spit-shined take that even what with everything in mind, the song still sounds quite a bit like something that one might hear playing in the old honky tonk joints of country music’s golden era.  To that point, it is still its own unique arrangement.

‘Moon River’ is another example of the importance of the musical arrangements featured in Watkins’ new record.  Her take on the song does stay true to its source material for the most part, stylistically.  Though there are some subtle differences between the original version composed by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, and sung by Audrey Hepburn, and Watkins’ take.  Right off the bat, the string arrangements and the harmonica featured in the original are absent in Watkins’ rendition.  They are replaced here by the subtle addition of a Hammond organ.  Watkins’ own vocal delivery bears its own identity here.  Her delivery is just as soft and gentle as that of Hepburn and almost as airy.  That whole set against the whole of the original makes Watkins’ take here just as interesting as the other covers featured in the compilation.  When those other songs are considered with this arrangement and the others examined here, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the recording’s overall musical content.  When that content is considered along with the featured songs themselves, that whole gives listeners even more to like.  When all of that is considered along with the record’s sequencing, the record is rounded out and completed.

The sequencing of Under the Pepper Tree keeps the album’s energy light from beginning to end of its 36-minute run time, starting off relaxed in her take of ‘Blue Shadows on the Trail.’  The energy really does not pick back up until late in the album’s run in Watkin’s take of ‘Blanket for a Sail.’  Up until that point, the energy remains relatively reserved.  It pulls back again from there right up to the album’s finale, ‘Good Night.’  So basically what audiences get overall due to the sequencing here, is a record that will serve to relax any listener.  As a matter of fact, one might even be able to use the record to help get to sleep being that the record’s energy is so gentle.  Between that, the unique takes on the songs and the very selection of songs, the whole makes the record in whole a work that is a truly successful family music album.

Sara Watkins’ debut family music album Under the Pepper Tree is a positive new offering that the whole family will indeed enjoy.  That is due in part to the record’s featured songs, the majority of which are timeless songs that are themselves featured in some of the most famous and beloved movies of all time.  The arrangements that Watkins presents here are themselves important to the record’s presentation.  They stay largely true to their source material but also give the songs the slightest of updates, making for even more appeal.  The sequencing of this overall content keeps the record’s energy relatively light and reserved throughout the record’s nearly 40-minute run time.  That means the record’s overall energy will keep listeners relaxed.  That will result in a positive mindset for any listener.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this record.  All things considered, they make the record in whole a successful first family music outing for Sarah Watkins.  Under the Pepper Tree is scheduled for release Friday through New West Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of Watkins’ latest news at:


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


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Bonus Content Is The Saving Grace For Arrow Video’s ‘Silent Running’ Blu-ray Re-Issue

Courtesy: Arrow Video/Universal Pictures

When Disney and Pixar released their movie WallE back in 2008, it was lauded by audiences and critics alike, even receiving a score of 95 from Rotten Tomatoes.  All of the accolades that the movie received are prime examples of how easily audiences really do forget the past.  The movie is a clear lifting of MGM’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as well as ruminations by the late great scientist Isaac Asimov.  On another level, it is also a lifting from another well-known sci-fi flick by the name of Silent Running.  As a matter of fact, one could argue that WallE pulls more from that movie than from 2001: A Space Odyssey with its overly preachy content.  That would go to show the influence of the latter, decidedly nihilistic flick, which in fact received the Blu-ray re-issue treatment last month thanks to Arrow Video.  Re-issued Nov. 17, the 1972 cult favorite sci-fi flick will appeal equally to its longtime fans and sci-fi fans who might be less familiar with the movie.  That is due in part to the movie’s central story, which will be discussed shortly.  While the story is certain to keep viewers engaged throughout the movie’s roughly 90-minute run time, the re-issue’s presentation does suffer from at least one concern, its production.  Most notably, the audio production proves somewhat problematic and will be addressed a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the re-issue adds to the presentation’s appeal and together with the story, makes for even more appeal.  The two items together make up for the concerns raised by the audio production and make the movie’s re-issue worth watching at least occasionally by the most devoted science fiction fans and of Silent Running.

Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1972 sci-fi statement flick Silent Running is a presentation that will appeal to the most devoted of the movie’s fans.  It will also appeal to the most devoted science fiction fans.  That is due in part to the movie’s story.  The story in question centers on Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern – The Burbs, Nebraska, The Hateful Eight) as he makes his way into space to (he thinks) protect a forest that he oversees in a bio-dome structure attached to his ship, the Valley Forge.  The flight happens after an order from Earth for all ships orbiting Earth to destroy their biodomes, which contain the last plant and animal life from Earth.  While no reason is ever given for the order, the script does manage to explain that by having one of Freeman’s soon-to-be deceased crewmates note that he did not understand the order either.  In a way, that lack of explanation is a sort of commentary about the oftentimes mind boggling actions of any government body.  Lowell’s development as the story progresses is really what makes the story engaging.  His focus on protecting the forest gradually declines as he increasingly falls victim to the psychological effect of isolation.  He eventually comes to the realization that being alone, there is no reason to keep trying to save the forest, leading to the story’s disturbing finale.  This critic will not reveal that finale here for those who have yet to see the story.  What can be said is that it will leave audiences unsettled, to say the very least.

On another note, there is one notable plot hole to this story that almost completely negates the whole thing.  That plot hole comes early on as one of Lowell’s crewmates makes mention that the Earth at the time was 75-degrees.  The companion booklet that comes with the movie’s recent re-issue points out that the degrees measure in question is Celsius, not Fahrenheit.  That Celsius measure equals to 167-degrees in Fahrenheit.  So it leaves one scratching one’s head that Lowell’s crew mates talk about returning to Earth when no human, let alone plant and animal, could survive such temperatures.  Humans even now struggle when summer temperatures in the real world get to the 100s, so there is no way humans could even begin to survive at a temperature of nearly 200-degrees year-round.  Audiences who can overlook this massive Earth-size plot hole will find themselves able to stay engaged.  However in hindsight, that noted realization detracts from the story’s enjoyment quite a bit.  The plot hole pointed out in the re-issue’s companion booklet is just one aspect of the bonus content that will be pointed out later.  It is also just one of the problems from which the movie itself suffers. The audio production presented in the movie is another concern.

Throughout the course of Silent Running’s 90-minute run time, its audio levels are problematic.  The dialogue plays out at a low volume while the music, crafted and performed by folk singer Joan Baez and composer Peter Schickele, is far too loud whenever it is used.  Whether that was the result of work done on the movie’s re-mastering or if it was originally like that is anyone’s guess.  It was not discussed in any of the movie’s bonus content.  Again, the bonus content will be discussed later.  Regardless, the constant volume adjustments that audiences will find themselves having to make as they take in the movie will become bothersome to say the least.  At least the video quality is worth its share of applause.  It makes up at least to a point for the problems posed by the problematic audio production.

For all of the problems posed by Silent Running’s story and its audio production, its re-issue does come with at least one undeniable positive, its bonus content.  As has already been noted, the movie’s bonus content makes for plenty of engagement and entertainment.  The companion booklet that comes with the re-issue is just one of the noted extras worth addressing.  Journalist Peter Tonguette points out on page 21 of the booklet, “In the screenplay by Deric Washburn, Michael Cimino, and Steven Bocho, the temperature of the Earth has  eached 75-degrees Celsius, apparently rendering it inhospitable to a wide assortment of plants and animals.”  A check of those credits on IMDB.com certifies they crafted the movie’s script.  Again referencing this, 75-degrees Celsius is equal to 165-degrees Fahrenheit.  How that would even be hospitable to any life is confusing.  Humans in reality can barely handle temperatures in excess of 100-degrees.  So for Lowell’s crew mate to be excited that the planet’s year-round temperature is 75-degrees leaves one wondering how humans have adapted to such high temperature.  It creates a massive plot hole about the size of the ships that orbit Earth.  It is just one of the interesting aspects pointed out in the movie’s companion booklet.  Audiences also learn from journalist Barry Forshaw, that director Douglas Trumbull’s turn helming Silent Running was not his first jaunt into space so to speak.  Forshaw points out in his essay, that Trumbull worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey prior to taking on Silent Running, and that it was his stint on the prior that led to the latter.  On an equally interesting note, WallE – as already noted – lifts liberally from both movies for its story.  Additionally, Forshaw points out in page 11 of the booklet, that famed Star Wars director George Lucas was so impressed by Trumbull’s use of sound in the open space scenes, that he was moved to incorporate the use of sound for space scenes, rather than just leave the outer space scenes outside the ships quiet.  That is quite the statement for Trumbull to have had such impact.  Between all of this and so much more noted in the booklet, it alone more than proves the importance of the movie’s bonus content.  It is just one part of the bonus content that is worth addressing.

The bonus content that is presented on disc ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment in that it does not just rehash the bonus content featured in the movie’s 2015 re-issue, its then most recent re-issue.  That content is featured here, but is joined by even more new content, such as a discussion on the movie’s soundtrack.  As is revealed in that discussion, Schickele’s turn on Silent Running was in fact his first time scoring a big screen feature.  Music historian Jeff Bond, who narrates the feature, points out that Schickele’s work with Baez stemmed oddly enough from Baez’s intent to work on a holiday music compilation of all things.  Additionally, Bond discusses the attention that Schickele paid to each scene, to ensure every note of every scene made for the utmost emotional impact on audiences.

“First Run,” another of the new bonuses featured in this re-issue, takes audiences through a look at the initial first scenes of Silent Running.  The comparison of those early scenes to the final product makes for more appreciation for that final product.

The archived “Making of” featurette joins with the newer content to make for even more engagement and entertainment.  Audiences learn firsthand from Dern in the vintage extra, that he ran “200 miles” on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Valley Forge (which was used for most of the movie’s principal shooting) during down time as a means to stay healthy.  That is a lot of running.  Audiences also learn in this extra that Trumbull did not even initially want to direct the movie, but do other things on the film.  Audiences will be left to learn that whole story for themselves.  Between this story, the other items noted here and the rest of the features extensive information, it and the rest of the equally extensive list of bonus content does much to entertain and engage audiences.  If for no other reason than the bonus content, audiences will find the movie worth watching at least once.  Audiences who can overlook the aforementioned plot hole involving the planet’s temperature in the story will find the rest of the movie’s ecologically-minded story worth watching, too.  The two items together give audiences reason to watch this movie at least occasionally. 

Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1972 sci-fi eco/space drama Silent Running is a presentation that will find enjoyment among the most devoted sci-fi fans and those of the movie.  That is due in part to the movie’s story.  The story, which does suffer from one massive plot hole, follows a botanist – Lowell — who goes rogue after being told that the forest for which he cared was going to be destroyed.  As a result of his actions, Lowell falls into a slow spiral of depression and despair, leading to the movie’s rather depressing finale.  That the movie’s script never addresses its one major plot hole greatly detracts from its presentation.  Audiences who can overlook that problem will find the movie engaging at least to a point.  The video quality of the movie’s re-issue is a positive in its own right, but the audio production proves problematic in its own right, as audiences will find themselves having to raise and lower the volume throughout the movie.  The extensive bonus content featured with the movie’s re-issue is its primary saving grace.  If for no other reason than that content, audiences will find the re-issue worth watching.  Even with that in mind, that content is more worth watching than the movie itself.  To that end, the movie in whole is going to find the most appeal among the movie’s most devoted audiences and sci-fi fans than general sci-fi fans and other audiences.  Silent Running is available now.

More information on Arrow Video’s Silent Runnning re-issue is available along with all of the company’s latest news at:




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Visual Effects, Pacing Save Disney/Lucasfilm’s Finale To The ‘Star Wars’ Skywalker Saga

Courtesy: Lucasfilm/Disney

So this is how it ends.  Not with a bang, but with a whimper.  Such is the case of Lucasfilm and Disney’s finale to the Star Wars universe’s Skywalker saga, The Rise of Skywalker.  Originally released in theaters Dec. 20 and to DVD/BD on March 31, this finale to the Skywalker saga is one of those presentations that is no better in its home release than its theatrical premiere.  It is not a total loss, though.  As has already been noted by various critics and audiences, the movie’s writing makes it near unwatchable, so it won’t be rehashed here.  What does deserve to be noted is the bonus content featured with the movie’s home release.  It does its own share of damage to the presentation as the movie’s script, and will be addressed a little later.  For all of the damage that the bonus content does, it doesn’t render the presentation completely unwatchable.  The movie’s visual effects make it worth at least one watch.  They will be discussed shortly.  For all of the problems that the movie poses with its bonus content and writing, one other positive that can be noted is the story’s pacing.  Together with the visual effects, the two elements collectively make Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a movie that despite being hardly the best entry in the franchise, still worth at least an occasional watch.

Disney and Lucasfilm’s final entry in the decades-spanning Star Wars Skywalker franchise is a difficult end to the saga.  It is not a complete loss, though.  Despite the problems posed by its plot hole-filled script, it does have at least a couple of positives, one of which is its visual effects.  The visual effects (special effects) incorporated into the Rise of Skywalker are to be applauded.  Given, a lot of CG content was used, just as much real sets were tied into that digital content.  One key instance in which the two elements were so well-balanced was in the final battle scene on Exegol.  A large physical set was actually constructed for that scene, and dozens of extras were used along with the main cast for that moment.  The precision in the look of that set, when placed along with its digital counterpart actually is surprisingly seamless.  The same applies with a situation, such as the Death Star battle scenes.  Again, there was a significant amount of digital presentation in this expansive scene, but it was also well balanced in its own right with the physical Death Star set that was created specifically for that crucial moment in the story.  Audiences will be just as pleasantly surprised by other physical sets created for the movie, such as Palpatine’s throne room, the miniatures of the sand people’s vehicle, D-O’s ship and the sand planet scene involving the massive “dance” number, complete with all of its various costumes.  The only downside to that scene is the speeder chase scene.  It looks like something right out of one of the Mad Max movies, just with a more “upped” sci-fi flare.  Of course all the CG content is not to be ignored.  Between the laser blasts, the massive fleet of star destroyers and the other minor details, they add their own touch to the movie’s presentation, too.  All things considered, audiences will be impressed by the dedication by those behind the lens to minimize the use of digital effects and make the movie look as real as possible throughout its nearly two-and-a-half-hour run time.  That balance of real and digital elements is surprisingly positive and does its share to make the presentation worth experiencing at least once.  Of course for all of the good that the visual effects do to make the movie worth watching, its bonus content counters that positive impact.

The bonus content featured with the home release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker detracts from the movie’s presentation because it is so targeted in its own presentation.  Given, the main feature, “The Skywalker Legacy” does give audiences a background in how the visual effects were created for this final chapter in the Shywalker saga.  The problem is that that’s all it does.  The feature’s title is “The Skywalker Legacy” but does next to nothing to actually discuss the legacy of Luke Skywalker and his sister Princess/General Leia Organa.  That name in itself brings about its own problems.  If she’s Luke’s sister (and Han Solo’s wife), why is her last name Organa?  That’s yet another writing matter that this critic will leave for others to discuss.  The fact that the feature, which runs well over an hour in time, is titled “The Skywalker Legacy” but focuses solely on the special/visual effects instead of the very story that led to this point is self-defeating.  Making matters worse is the fact that the featurette tries to justify itself (and the movie) by linking its own special effects to the special effects used in the original Star Wars trilogy.  It is a blithe approach for this presentation all the way around.  By comparison, MVD Entertainment Group’s surprisingly entertaining documentary Elstree 1976 does far more to honor the legacy of the original Star Wars trilogy, including its special effects.  Had “The Skywalker Legacy” had a different title that was more in line with its content, the outcome might have been different, but that wasn’t the case.  Making matters worse is that all of the movie’s other bonus features focus solely on its special effects, too.  Ironically, there is one mention by stars Jon Boyega and Naomi Ackie that they were the first African-American stars to lead a cavalry in such an epic final scene near the movie’s end.  That actually could have been used as a starting point for a much deeper discussion on diversity in the cinematic realm, but Disney and Lucasfilm officials completely missed the mark on this matter.  It’s just one more way in which the movie’s bonus content proves itself a detriment to the home release of The Rise of Skywalker.  Sure, the bonus content will appeal to those who have a love of and interest in movie production, but those viewers make up the only audience that will deeply appreciate its presentation.  To that end, the bonus content does little to help the movie, proving once more that while sometimes bonus features can make a bad movie better, other times, said content does little to nothing for a movie.  Luckily, for all of the impact that the movie’s bonus content has (and doesn’t have) on the movie’s overall presentation, it still does offer at least a tiny bit of appeal, if any.

While the impact of the bonus content featured in the home release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is minimal at best, one other item, the movie’s pacing can be said to be a definite positive.  Considering that the movie’s run time is just shy of two-and-a-half-hours (which seems to be the norm nowadays with major blockbusters), it actually moves at a surprisingly quick pace.  From the opening scenes to Ray continuing her training to the buildup to the final battle to that big moment, the movie’s scrip wastes little time on unnecessary items.  That’s not to say that the script doesn’t find some slow moments.  That desert planet scene does drag on a bit more than maybe it should have.  Also, the wait for re-enforcements in that final battle takes its time.  There is also the moment in which the Ray and company have to travel to one of the star destroyers to save Chewbacca, which is of note.  This sequence slows things down a bit in its own right, as doe the scene in which the rebels have to find a certain character who can help dive into C3PO’s data memory to get the location of one of the devices that will lead to another key moment.  This whole segment not only slows things down, but it also brings about the discussion on another of the plot holes, the very fact that C3PO’s memory could be wiped, but then later conveniently recovered by his longtime bot buddy R2-D2.  Luckily for viewers, such moments are rare and don’t do too much damage to the pacing.  To that end, the pacing actually is just enough to keep viewers watching from beginning to end, even with all of the plot holes and other problems that pose issues for the movie.  Keeping those issues in mind along with everything else mentioned here, the noted elements collectively make Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a work that while hardly a winning finale for this franchise, is not a complete loss.

Disney and Lucasfilm’s finale to Star Wars’ Skywalker franchise is an intriguing closer for the franchise that started out with such a bang more than four decades ago.  It is a work that is clearly hindered greatly by its writing, but is also saved at least somewhat by its visual effects.  The bonus content that is featured with the movie’s home release will appeal to a very targeted audience.  The primary bonus feature, “The Skywalker Legacy” is a completely improperly titled presentation, considering its content, detracting from its appeal even more.  There is also a missed opportunity in the opening for a discussion on the role of race in cinema, as has already been noted here.  The story’s pacing works with its visual effects to make up at least a little bit for the problems created by the story’s script and bonus content.  All things considered, this finale to the Star Wars Skywalker saga is a disappointing finish to the current leg of the franchise, but is not a complete loss.  It is worth at least one watch.  More information on the movie and all things Lucasfilm is available at:




Website: http://lucasfilm.com

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More information on the home release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is available at:




Website: http://www.starwars.com/films/star-wars-episode-ix-the-rise-of-skywalker

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Disney Announces Home Release Dates For ‘Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker’

Courtesy: Lucasfilm/Disney

The final chapter in Star Wars‘ “Skywalker Saga” ended last year, and now has a home release date.

Star WarsThe Rise of Skywalker is scheduled for release March 17 on digital and March 31 on Blu-ray and 4KUHD.  Earning more than $1 billion worldwide during its theatrical run, the finale of the “Skywalker Saga”  brings to a climax, the battle between the Resistance and the New Order.  Kylo Ren and Rey also face off one more time to bring the battle between the light and dark side to its supposed end.

The forthcoming home release of Star WarsThe Phantom Menace will feature a variety of extras, such as a profile of legendary composer John Williams’ work on the movie’s soundtrack (which is exclusive to the movie’s digital-only release), a making-of featurette, the creation of the Pasaana desert scenes and a profile of the creatures in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

The full list of the movie’s bonus content is noted below.

Bonus features include*:
  • The Skywalker Legacy – The story lives forever in this feature-length documentary that charts the making of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
  • Pasaana Pursuit: Creating the Speeder Chase – Dive into the making of the movie’s epic landspeeder chase and discover how this spectacular sequence was brought to the screen.
  • Aliens in the Desert – See what it took to create the Pasaana desert scenes, from the sheer scale and complexity of the shoot to its colorful details.
  • D-O: Key to the Past – Explore the ship that connects Rey to the mystery of her missing parents and get to know the galaxy’s newest, irresistible droid.
  • Warwick & Son – Warwick Davis, who played Wicket in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, dons the Ewok costume once more; this time joined by his son Harrison.
  • Cast of Creatures – The team behind the film’s memorable creatures reveal the puppetry, makeup, prosthetics and digital magic that bring them to life!
Digital Exclusive:
  • The Maestro’s Finale – Composer John Williams reflects on his body of work for the Star Wars saga and shares insights on scoring Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
* Digital bonus offerings may vary by retailer.

More information on the home release of Star WarsThe Rise of Skywalker is available online at:


Website: http://www.starwars.com/films/star-wars-episode-ix-the-rise-of-skywalker

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/starwars


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.

Galactic Empire Debuts ‘The Rise of Shredi’ Video

Galactic Empire is celebrating the alleged final chapter in the Star Wars Skywalker saga.

The band debuted the video for its Star Wars music compilation ‘The Rise of Shredi‘ Thursday.  The mashup features music taken from both of the theatrical group’s albums  Galactic Empire and its follow-up Episode II.

Courtesy: Rise Records

The completely tongue-in-cheek video for ‘The Rise of Shredi’ opens with one of the band members dressed as everyone’s favorite hated Star Wars character Jar Jar Binks walking up to the center screen, playing his guitar, before being utterly destroyed by Emperor Palpatine and a slew of other characters from the franchise.  At one point, a pair of stormtroopers tries to calm Palpatine down before he decides to run back and continue his wrath against Binks.

From there, audiences are presented with various shots of the band in full costume performing numbers, such as ‘Kylo Ren Arrives at The Battle,’ ‘The Emperor’s Theme and ‘Rey’s Theme.’  It is during ‘Rey’s Theme’ that audiences get one of the video’s biggest laughs, as a muscle-bound Kylo Ren, clad in only his helmet, tights and gloves, challenges Rey to a “shred-off” before the pair goes toe to toe in front of Palpatine.  The victor will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  There is even a spoof of NBC’s karaoke contest The Voice incorporated into that scene.

The whole thing ends with a look back at the result of the attack on Binks, with Palpatine attempting (and failing) to play guitar next to Darth Vader as Binks lays lifeless on the ground.

More information on Galactic Empire’s new video is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:



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