Lenny Kravitz Teams Up With Eagle Rock Entertainment For New Live Recording

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Forget that song from Disney’s megahit movie Frozen. This fall, veteran rocker Lenny Kravitz will release his latest live recording Just Let Go.

Just Let Go will be released Friday, October 23rd via Eagle Rock Entertainment. It will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital formats. The twelve-song recording features a collection of performances was recorded throughout Fall of 2014 during the European leg of Kravitz’s world tour. The tour was in support of his latest full-length studio recording Strut. It was released September 23rd, 2014 via Roxie Records/Kobalt Label Services.

Just Let Go includes some of his biggest hits and some lesser known pieces including: ‘Fly Away,’ ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way,’ ‘It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over,’ ‘Let Love Rule,’ and his cover of The Guess Who’s hit song ‘American Woman’ among others. The complete song listing for the recording is noted below.

The tracklisting for ‘Just Let Go’:

1) Fly Away

2) Dirty White Boots

3) American Woman

4) Dancin’ ‘Til Dawn

5) Strut

6) It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

7) New York City

8) The Chamber

9) Sister

10) Dig In

11) Let Love Rule

12) Are You Gonna Go My Way

Along with performances by Kravitz and his band mates, there is also behind-the-scenes footage included in the presentation, interviews, and soundcheck footage. Eagle Rock Entertainment has also included as bonuses for Kravitz’s fans live takes of ‘Sister,’ ‘Always on the Run,’ ‘Sex,’ ‘I Belong To You,’ ‘New York City,’ and ‘Let Love Rule.’ In discussing the upcoming recording, Kravitz noted that it gives fans a good look at his relationship with his band mates and the effect of touring on their lives both as individuals and as a traveling family of sorts. “I am a solo artist but Just Let Go reflects on the relationship with my band and the camaraderie that develops between us while out on the road,” he said. “The film takes a deeper look into what it’s like to be on tour and also gives an intimate perspective into my life with my band, both on and off the stage.”

Just Let Go will be available in stores and online on Friday, October 23rd. It will be available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats. Pricing information on each platform will be announced as its release date nears.  Audiences can check out a trailer for the upcoming release via Youtube now at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjeNHfoNX1Y&feature=youtu.be. More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

 

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Shout! Factory To Begin Releasing The Nanny’s Standalone Season Sets Next Month

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/CBS

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/CBS

Late this spring Shout! Factory ended a long wait for fans of CBS’ modern classic sitcom The Nanny when it released the series in its entirety in the form of The Nanny: The Complete Series. For fans that might not have been lucky enough to get their hands on that set, Shout! Factory has announced that it will begin releasing the series’ standalone season sets next month beginning with the series’ fourth season.

Shout! Factory will release The Nanny: Season Four on Tuesday, September 22nd. The twenty-six-episode run includes plenty of laughs and just as many big-name guest stars including: Bette Midler, Donald Trump, Pamela Anderson, Celine Dion, Jon Stewart, Jason Alexander, and Joan Collins among many others. One of those guest stars–Jason Alexander (Seinfeld)–appears in the season premiere “The Tart With A Heart.” Alexander plays a blind man named Jack in this episode. Fran picks up Jack at a singles bar after tensions rise between herself, Mawell, and C.C. The tensions in question rise from the revelation that Maxwell in fact hired Fran only for her looks. Of course things don’t go quite as Fran planned with Jack in the long run leading to an interesting outcome between Fran and Maxwell. There’s an equally classic story line later in the season in “Kissing Cousins” in which guest star Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) plays Frans cousin. The catch is that Fran doesn’t realize that Stewart’s character is in fact her cousin. This leads to plenty of laughs thanks to a battle of the sexes of sorts between Fran and Maxwell. In “You Bette Your Life” famed singer/actress Bette Midler appears as herself when Maxwell decides to assemble a charity auction. The auction leads to Fran becoming the babysitter for a talented young 10-year old piano player. Things don’t exactly go as planned for Fran and Maxwell in this episode as the sight of an elderly person dying while he performed at a nursing home puts a multi-million dollar deal from the boy’s father in jeopardy. There are plenty more laughs for fans throughout the season’s twenty-six total episodes. And audiences will get to enjoy them for themselves when The Nanny: Season Four is released next month.  Season Four’s complete episode listing is noted below.

Episodes

EPISODE EPISODE TITLE
1 The Nanny: The Tart With Heart
2 The Nanny: The Cradle Robbers
3 The Nanny: The Bird’s Nest
4 The Nanny: The Rosie Show
5 The Nanny: Freida Needa Man
6 The Nanny: Me And Mrs. Joan
7 The Nanny: The Taxman Cometh
8 The Nanny: An Affair To Dismember
9 The Nanny: Tattoo
10 The Nanny: The Car Show
11 The Nanny: Hurricane Fran
12 The Nanny: Danny’s Dead And Who’s Got The Will?
13 The Nanny: Kissing Cousins
14 The Nanny: The Fifth Wheel
15 The Nanny: The Nose Knows
16 The Nanny: The Bank Robbery
17 The Nanny: Samson, He Denied Her
18 The Nanny: The Facts Of Lice
19 The Nanny: Fran’s Roots
20 The Nanny: The Nanny And The Hunk Producer
21 The Nanny: The Passed-Over Story
22 The Nanny: No Muse Is Good Muse
23 The Nanny: You Bette Your Life
24 The Nanny: The Heather Biblow Story
25 The Nanny: The Boca Story
26 The Nanny: Fran’s Gotta Have It

The Nanny: Season Four will be released in stores and online on Tuesday, September 22nd. It will retail for MSRP of $34.99. It can be pre-ordered online now at a discounted price of $29.99 via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/comedy/the-nanny-season-four. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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

Hot Air Is One Of 2015’s Best New Children’s Albums

Courtesy:  Recess Monkey

Courtesy: Recess Monkey

Veteran kindie rock band Recess Monkey released its latest full-length studio effort Hot Air last week. The twelfth full-length release from the Seattle, Washington-based trio, it is one of the band’s best works to date. That is thanks in large part to the mix of its indie-rock style musical content and its original lyrical topics. From a song about the joy of taking in a thunderstorm to an equally entertaining piece about speaking “penguin-ese” to a piece that every Star Wars fan ou there (yes, the band even has a song centered on the Star Wars universe), and more Hot Air proves from start to finish just what makes it such a fun record and even one of the year’s best new children’s records.

Nearly a year to the day after it released its 2014 album Wired, Recess Monkey has released its twelfth full-length album Hot Air. Twelve albums is a lot for any musical act regardless of genre. For any musical act to maintain its creativity, energy, and originality over such a span is just as much of a feat. Somehow though, the members of Recess Monkey–Drew Holloway (vocals, guitar), Jack Forman (bass, keys), and Korum Bischoff (drums)–have managed to do just that. That is clear in the songs that make up Hot Air. The album’s mix of indie-rock musical styling coupled with its original, creative lyrical topics will have listeners of all ages enjoying it from start to finish, even singing along (and maybe even dancing along, too). One of the songs that serves to prove this is the album’s song about the joy of thunderstorms, ‘Thunder & Lightning.’ While not the first song ever crafted about thunderstorms, the band’s approach to the song makes it stand out quite well among those other songs. The band wastes no time jumping right into the song, offering up an up-tempo piece set against the rumbling of thunder. What’s really interesting here is that the band uses not only an up-tempo musical backing for the song, but plays in a major tone, too. Even more interesting of the song’s musical side is that one could actually call it avante garde to a point. That is because of its non-standard style especially in its verses. This seems minor on the surface. But on a deeper level, it helps lay a positive foundation for the song. It’s not the standard emotional approach used by so many other children’s entertainers in handling the subject. Nor is it an ominous sound. Rather it is somewhat playful for lack of better wording. It is a really smart approach used by the band in this song. Holloway sings over that upbeat foundation, “The sky is a canvas for each lightning bolt/It’s painted so lovely and it gives me a jolt/Yeah, hear a big old rumblin’ all across the sky/Watch it light up like the fourth of July.” The picture painted by Holloway as he sings is not one of something ominous or scary but rather one of something truly incredible to behold. The lightning bolts are equated to giant electrical paint brushes (doesn’t that sound like the name for some kind of indie garage rock band?) that paint their way across the canvas of the sky. It’s a great way to both get young listeners to appreciate the beauty and power of storms and show them that there’s no reason to fear storms. Being such a multi-faceted song, it proves quite well within itself to be one of Hot Air’s best tracks and just one example of why Hot Air is one of Recess Monkey’s best LPs to date.

‘Thunder & Lightning’ is within itself one of the best songs included in the body of Hot Air. It also proves in the grand scheme of things to be one piece proving what makes Hot Air one of Recess Monkey’s best albums to date. It’s just one song that proves both arguments. The album’s lead single, ‘Penguinese’ also serves to show that Recess Monkey still has not lost its touch or its originality and creativity even twelve albums in. The song is about exactly what one might think. It is a fun, nonsensical piece about learning to speak “Penguinese,” the supposed language of penguins. It’s such a nonsensical song, yes. Yet it is that nonsensical approach that makes it so fun. Think for a brief moment and try to name one band in the mainstream or even kindie rock world that has written such a song. Can’t think of one? Exactly. Holloway sings over Bischoff’s infectious 2/4 disco-style beat, “Just got a new kid/A new kid at school/He’s a little bit different/But a lot of bit cool/He’s not from around here/He’s from far away/Doesn’t speak the language/But you really oughtta hear him say his penguinese. The sound effect in the background that is apparently supposed to be a penguin “talking” adds to the song’s hilarity and creativity. Holloway goes on to sing of the penguin, “Folks don’t understand him/He don’t act like they do/Take a look in his lunchbox/And they give a big “Ewwwww/But he’s a snappy dresser/With a tux every day/He doesn’t speak the language/But you really oughtta hear him speak his penguinese.” The recorders (yes, the band even uses recorders in this song. That’s just as original) somehow work in some odd way. Who would have thought? Recorders actually serving a real musical purpose. It’s okay to laugh. Don’t be ashamed. It’s so nonsensical yet so fun that listeners of all ages will find themselves unable to deny just how fun it is. In having to admit how fun it proves to be, listeners will agree that it is one more example of what makes Hot Air one of Recess Monkey’s best albums to date. It also shows itself to be one of the best of the album’s songs overall.

Both ‘Thunder & Lightning’ and ‘Penguinese’ are high points to Hot Air in their own right as well as points proving why Hot Air is one of Recess Monkey’s best albums to date. They are just a couple of examples of what makes this album so enjoyable, too. The album’s penultimate opus ‘Oh Lando,’ which is a direct tribute to George Lucas’ classic Star Wars franchise, is another of the album’s high points. It is also one more prime example of what makes Hot Air one of Recess Monkey’s best records to date. Yet again, how many bands out there either the world of kindie rock or mainstream music have crafted any songs in tribute to one of science fiction’s greatest properties? Exactly. For that reason alone, grown-ups will want to hear this song just as much as their younger counterparts. The song, which centers on the events that happen in Cloud City in Star Wars: Episode V–The Empire Strikes Back. The song’s bass-driven musical side is infectious and will instantly have listeners tapping their toes. Considering that Disney is preparing to release the next chapter in the Star Wars franchise this winter, it makes this song a fitting way to remind audiences of where the Star Wars franchise has come from as audiences prepare to see where it is going. It is original. And it is fun. Ergo, it is one more great addition to Recess Monkey’s new album and yet more proof of why Hot Air is one of Recess Monkey’s best albums to date. Set alongside the likes of ‘Thunder & Lightning’ and ‘Penguinese,’ all three songs show in their own right why Recess Monkey remains one of the best acts in the world of kindie-rock today. That is not to discount the album’s other tracks by any means. ‘Hand Me Downs’ lets listeners know it’s okay to have hand me downs. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in wearing them. The Benny Goodman-esque clarinet work on ‘Carry A Tune’ is sure to impress jazz lovers. And the indie rock style of ‘Lighter Than Air’ coupled with its bright lyrics about soaring among the clouds will put just as much of a smile on listeners’ faces. Whether for those songs, the compositions more directly noted here or any of the album’s other tracks not noted here, it can be said with ease that considering each of the album’s tracks, Hot Air is full of anything but hot air. It is one of Recess Monkey’s best albums to date and one of the best new children’s albums of 2015.

Hot Air proves from start to finish to be one of Recess Monkey’s best albums to date and one of the best new children’s alums of 2015. That is thanks in large part to the creativity and originality displayed throughout the course of the album’s fifteen tracks and thirty-eight minutes. It is available now in stores and online, and can be purchased online via Recess Monkey’s online store at http://www.recessmonkeytown.com. More information on Hot Air is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and tour schedule updates online now at:

Website: http://www.recessmonkeytown.com

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

Twitter: http//twitter.com/recess_monkey

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

Famed ESPN Broadcaster Berman Named To Cable Hall Of Fame

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

There’s big news for one of ESPN’s biggest names today.

Chris Berman will be inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame Today. Yes, there really is such a thing. Since joining the worldwide leader in sports roughly thirty-six years ago, Berman has gone on to become the face of the network. Fellow Cable HOF inductee and former ESPN President Bodenheimer had nothing but good things to say about Berman in discussing his latest honor, noting that it is a well-deserved honor that has been a long time coming. “Chris has contributed so much to ESPN’s success in reaching sports fans for more than three decades,” he said. “It is only fitting that one of the most important figures in ESPN’s history is being inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame.”

John Skipper is ESPN’s current President and Co-Chair of Disney Media Networks. He noted what Berman’s presence on air has meant not just for ESPN but for audiences of all ages throughout his career saying, “Fans love Boomer. He’s a special talent who brings sports to life for dads and daughters, mothers and sons, grandparents who remember when, and little leaguers who have big dreams for their futures.” Skipper added of Berman the impact that Berman has had not just on the growth of ESPN and the ESPN family but on the broadcasting community in whole, noting, “Chris has played a significant role in making our ESPN family what it is today, and along the way he helped build an entire industry.”

Berman is host of ESPN’s Emmy-nominated NFL pre-game show Sunday NFL Countdown and is Master of Ceremony for the NFL Hall of Fame. He has also been announced that Berman will have the call for the second of ESPN’s season-opening Monday Night Football games in the network’s double-header schedule for the night. Berman just wrapped his 35th Consecutive NFL Draft this past weekend and will even host MLB’s annual Home Run Derby this year on ESPN.

More information on Chris Berman’s induction into the Cable Hall of Fame is available online along with all of the latest sports headlines at:

Website: http://espn.go.com

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

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

Guardians Of The Galaxy Is 2014’s Best New Movie

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios/Disney

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy is the best new movie of 2014 hands down.  This diamond in the rough is a solid answer to director Tim Burton’s recent declaration that he wanted to see a happy superhero movie.  Given, the “guardians” aren’t exactly superheroes.  But at a time when the fare offered by Marvel and DC has become increasingly dark and dominated by damaged, anti-hero figures, this movie shines as the antithesis of those movies.  One part action and one part fantasy it is the breath of fresh air that the superhero/comic book genre has needed for some time and could not have come at a better time.  The movie’s multifaceted script lies at the center of its success.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is just as important to its success.  And last but hardly least worth noting of the movie’s success is its collective look and feel.  That includes both its backdrops and its special effects.  The combination of all of these elements proves exactly why Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is one of this year’s best new movies if not the year’s best new movie.  One can only hope that Marvel won’t abandon everything that made this movie great when its sequel comes along in 2017.  Time will tell.  Until such time, audiences will agree that this movie more than deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new movies.

When Warner Brothers debuted its Tim Burton-helmed take on Batman in 1989, it proved to be something of an anomaly.  No movie at the time or even before had taken the route taken by this movie.  It was dark and brooding, just as Bob Kane had first envisioned him.  It wouldn’t be until 2005’s Batman Begins that audiences would see the rebirth of the brooding superhero.  Some will argue that 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, which started in 2000, would qualify in that category.  But that’s only because of the inclusion of one Wolverine.  That being said, Batman Begins is to thank and to blame for what has become of the superhero/comic book genre.  That being said, the debut of Guardians of the Galaxy is a breath of fresh air.  It is the antithesis of those movies in every sense.  And that is thanks first and foremost to the movie’s multi-faceted script.  The script, crafted by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, avoids every one of the trappings of the movies churned out by both Marvel and DC in recent years.  One of those trappings is the brooding superhero approach used by both Marvel and DC throughout the studios’ ongoing competition.  The script keeps the brooding to an extreme minimum with the extent of it being centered on Peter’s own thoughts of his mother’s death when he was a boy.  The brooding on the part of Drax and Gamora on the loss of their own families at the hands of Thanos and Ronan is kept to just as much of a minimum.  Because Gunn and Perlman keep the characters’ brooding in question, it allows for the movie’s related themes, jokes, and story to take center stage.  The end result is a script that while hardly timeless is still one of the most entertaining to come along in a long time both within the superhero/comic book genre and within the action drama in whole.

Gunn and Perlman are more than deserving of applause because of the fact that they took the road less traveled in their script, opting to keep the story’s brooding to an extreme minimum.  In comparison to the rest of the movies churned out by Marvel and DC in recent years, it really is the single most important factor of the duo’s script. It isn’t the only reason that the script works, either.  The themes of family and friendship that the pair incorporated into the story are even more reason for applause.  They go hand in hand with that lack of brooding.  Throughout the course of the story’s script, Gunn and Perlman note the importance of family and friendship.   Gunn and Perlman essentially tell audiences through their script that friends and family don’t have to be just like one another to come together.  They don’t always have to completely like one another, either.  They even go so far as to jokingly say through the quartet’s interactions that the least likely of friends and families can come together when one least expects it.  This message is driven home in the movie’s final minutes, which won’t be given away for the sake of those that have yet to see the movie.  It is something of a cheesy moment, given.  But again in comparison to the previous releases from Marvel and DC, it’s a refreshingly cheesy moment.  It’s yet another aspect of the Guardians’ script that makes the movie such a success.  The jokes that are tossed around throughout the movie is yet another aspect of the movie’s script that adds to its enjoyment.

The contrast of the positive themes and overall lack of brooding in the Guardians’ script is a hugely important aspect of the script that makes it a success.  The jokes that are tossed around throughout the script make it even more of a joy for audiences.  Whether it be the jokes added to Peter Quill and Rocket Raccoon’s banter or the pop culture references used as jokes, or other jokes in general, Gunn and Perlman did an outstanding job in this area, too.  The banter between Peter and Rocket is a laugh riot.  Of course the acting on the part of Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper respectively doesn’t hurt that banter and its jokes, either.  It’s classic back and forth that audiences haven’t seen in a very long time.  There are also plenty of pop culture references used themselves as jokes, including constant references to the hit 1984 Kevin Bacon starring vehicle Footloose.  And Peter’s attempt at a dance-off in order to distract Ronan at one point (again that moment won’t be revealed here) is itself a reference to Michael Jackson if one watches closely.  It’s one thing to use pop culture references in a movie or TV show by themselves to get laughs.  But to use them as jokes (especially as running gags) is rather smart writing.  There are also plenty of stand-alone jokes that will have audiences laughing along the way, too.  The jokes in question aren’t right in audiences’ faces.  But they are clear enough that there’s no missing them.  Again, such placement is very smart writing.  It still is not the end of what makes the script’s writing the key point of success behind Guardians of the Galaxy.  Last but not least worth noting in considering the strength of the Guardians’ script is the story itself.

The story behind Guardians of the Galaxy is the last element of its writing that makes it the hit that it has deservedly proven to be.  The reason that the story works as well as it does is its simplicity.  It seems on the surface that there is a lot involved in the story.  That is because of the amount of backstabbing that goes on.  But the story, at its heart, centers on one fanatical madman’s attempts to destroy an entire race of people and their home world because of his own personal beliefs.  It was used in J.J. Abrams’ recent reboot of Star Trek most recently.  It’s a tried and true plot that has been used any number of times before in other action movies.  And even here it still manages to work in its given setting.  This is especially worth noting considering the story’s extra elements—the chase for Peter Quill and the Orb, Gamora backstabbing Ronan, etc.  There is a lot of extra backstory that is thrown into the mix.  That extra could easily have bogged down the central story.  But even with two people handling the script, that didn’t happen, amazingly enough.  Because those extras don’t bog down the movie’s central plot, said plot is that much easier to grasp and follow, thus keeping viewers engaged from start to finish.  That, alongside the other noted factors that went into the script, shows once and for all why the movie’s writing makes it the best new movie of 2014.

A lot of work went into the writing behind Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.  The painstaking efforts that were taken to make this blockbuster stand out against its competition were not for naught, either.  Rather it collectively paid off and then some.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast should not be ignored as a reason for its success, either.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is just as much to thank for its enjoyment and success as the writing behind the movie.  The constant back and forth banter between Bradley Cooper and Chris Pratt makes for plenty of laughs throughout the movie.  At no one point does the duo’s arguing feel forced.  It feels entirely natural, which is what makes it so entertaining.  Cooper’s portrayal of Rocket set against Vin Diesel’s Groot is just as funny.  Both situations are classic comedy brought into the 21st century. Pro wrestler Dave Bautista’s own interactions with his cast mates on screen make for their own laughs, too as audiences will see when they watch the movie for themselves. One would be remiss to ignore Pratt’s own comic timing both by himself and set against the talents of others. Audiences will laugh uproariously at his comic timing when he distracts Ronan with his “dance off.” It’s yet another way that the cast’s acting makes Guardians of the Galaxy such a surprisingly entertaining work. Yet it still is not all that makes this movie so enjoyable, either. The movie’s look and feels make the movie even better. They collectively round out the movie’s positives and prove once and for all why any lover of action movies and the superhero/comic book genre will love this movie. Together with the cast’s acting and the movie’s overall writing, it proves once and for all why Guardians of the Galaxy is the best new movie of 2014.

It seems like almost every one of the movie spit out by Marvel and DC in recent years have become increasingly dark and gritty in their stories but in their look and feel, too. Thankfully Guardians of the Galaxy is the polar opposite of those movies in this aspect, too. It incorporates some dark elements in terms of its look and feel, yes. But there are also rather bright, colorful backdrops used throughout the movie. And thanks to all of the comic elements incorporated into both the movie’s script and the cast’s acting, the movie’s feel is just as colorful, light, and light-hearted. It is such a welcome change of pace from all of the movies released by Marvel and DC in recent years and even harkens back to the likes of Iron Man in its own interesting way. Not only does it have that same sort of light hearted, comedic feel, but it also has that same sort of playful edge about it, too. That mix of the movie’s fun feel and its balance of light and dark backdrops is perfectly balanced from the movie’s opening flashback to its final minutes. The end result of that mix leaves audiences wanting to see more in the best way possible. With any luck, Guardians 2 will have just as much of a positive look and feel. For that matter hopefully it will have just as solid a script and acting. If it does, then it will prove the success of this movie to be far more than just a fluke.

So much work went into bringing Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy to life. And that work more than paid off. The movie’s multifaceted writing is its cornerstone. It incorporates themes of family and friendship that audiences of all ages will appreciate. It also avoids all of the brooding that has been a trademark of so many of Marvel and DC’s other previous releases. And the story itself is simple in every sense of the word. The acting on the part of the movie’s cast makes the movie all the more entertaining. It will leave audiences laughing nonstop from beginning to end. The look and feel of the movie is the polar opposite of so many movies that have come before, too from Marvel and DC. Each noted element makes Guardians of the Galaxy a memorable and entertaining movie in its own right. Together, they make it the single best new movie of 2014 fluke or not.

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

My Uncle Rafael Is Loaded With Laughs And Heart

Courtesy:  TNP Films

Courtesy: TNP Films

My Uncle Rafael is the best new independent movie of 2014.  And it is arguably one of the best new movies of the year, too.  Originally released in 2012, its release this week on DVD marks the first time that it has seen the light of day in home release format.  And while it obviously owes a certain amount of its success to Robin Williams’ 1993 hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire, it still manages to stand strong on its own merits as a movie that is at least somewhat original in its presentation.  That is the central point of the movie’s success.  It has all the heart and wit of Mrs. Doubtfire without Robin Williams’ cross-dressing and manic character portrayal.  And while it does maintain at least some similarity in its approach to the family-fixing plotline, it approaches the issue through a multi-cultural avenue rather than that of a desperate father. Sign of the times, it would seem.  Just as important to the movie’s enjoyment is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  It would have been so simple for the cast, which is relatively well-known and experienced to treat the movie like the independent movie that it is.  But each member of the cast approached this work with the same seriousness used in its other performances.  The professional approach taken by the cast of My Uncle Rafael adds so much enjoyment to the movie.  It adds so much especially considering the quality of the movie’s production values.  While released via an independent studio—TNP Films—the movie’s production values are just as quality as anything released by any of Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios.  That actor, along with the work of the cast and of the movie’s writers, makes My Uncle Rafael a complete joy for audiences of almost any age.  Again, it isn’t the first time that the story presented here has been utilized for a movie.  But its execution makes it a move well worth the watch.

The story that is presented in My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  It is the story of an outsider coming into a family’s home and fixing said family.  It has been used numerous times in the past.  In 1993, it was presented in the hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Two years prior, it was used in pro-wrestling legend Terry “Hulk” Hogan’s family comedy Suburban Commando.  And to a lesser extent it was also used in Vin Diesel’s 2005 flash-in-the-pan flick The Pacifier.  It could even be argued that a similar formula was used way back in the 1989 John Candy dramedy Uncle Buck.  Considering all of this, it leaves one wondering how many other ways in which the “family fix” formula could be used without it being stale and unoriginal.  Enter My Uncle Rafael.  My Uncle Rafael (not to be confused with Joe Pesci’s 1992 dramedy My Cousin Vinny—yes that bad pun was intended) takes the classic “family fix” formula and updates it by incorporating a multi-cultural theme into the story.  Most interesting here is the fact that the duo used an elderly Middle Eastern man as the movie’s central figure.  This was really interesting especially considering the tensions between Americans and those of Middle Eastern descent currently living in the United States.  It’s an angle that few if any writers would even begin to attempt.  For that alone, Pirhamzei and Yagemann are deserving of a certain amount of credit.  That the duo didn’t try to make a direct light of Rafael’s nationality as a soap box makes the script even more worthy of applause.  Omitting that from the script makes the rest of the story far more enjoyable and in turn more memorable.

The script behind My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  That goes without saying.  But there are aspects of the script that make it surprisingly enjoyable.  As enjoyable as the movie’s script proves to be in the long run, it would be nothing without the abilities of the movie’s cast.  John Michael Higgins (Yes Man, Happily Divorced, Bad Teacher) brings plenty of experience to the movie as do Missi Pyle (The Artist, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Gone Girl), Anthony Clark (Yes, Dear, Boston Common, Soul Man), Joe Lo Truglio (Role Models, Wreck-It-Ralph, Pineapple Express), Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory, The Last Song, In A World…), and Rachel Blanchard (Clueless—TV Series, 7th Heaven, Are You Afraid of the Dark).  The competition between Higgins’ Damon and Clark’s Jack makes for plenty of laughs.  It is a competition much like that seen in Mrs. Doubtfire.  Missi Pyle is just as entertaining as she becomes caught up in the movie’s central love triangle all while trying to maintain her place as mother to her children.  But it is really Vahik Pirhamzei’s portrayal of the loveable Uncle Rafael that really shines.  Pirhamzei’s portrayal gives Uncle Rafael so much heart and warmth.  He makes Rafael loveable not only to his fellow characters but to audiences, too.  One can’t help but agree in watching Rafael that maybe the uncle really is at the center of everything.  Only audiences that watch the movie or have watched it will get that reference.  In hindsight, Rafael’s portrayal makes that line make perfect sense.  That isn’t to take away from Pirhamzei’s cast mates by any means.  Both the more well-known actors and the lesser known cast members add their own enjoyment to the story in whole, too.  But it is his portrayal that holds everything together and makes each of his cast mates’ portrayals all the more entertaining with the end result of the cast in general doing its own part to show once again why My Uncle Rafael  is this year’s best new independent movie and one of the year’s best movies overall.

The writing that went into My Uncle Rafael and the acting on the part of the movie’s cast both play their own important part in the overall success of this surprisingly entertaining story.  Rounding out the presentation is its production values.  Being that this movie is independent, one would think that it would not have the production values of its bigger name family friendly counterparts that have come before.  But the reality is that its production values are quite high.  That includes the movie’s cinematography, its backdrops, costumes, and all other elements that went into bringing the movie to life.  Having such quality production values, it makes sense that the largely veteran cast would want its portrayals to be just as high quality.  The combination of that high quality acting and equally high quality production values adds to the ability of audiences to suspend their disbelief and in turn allow themselves to be immersed into the story and thus offer it the chance that it quite well deserves.  In giving it the chance that it deserves, audiences will agree that this movie is just as enjoyable as its more well-known predecessors and that it is one of this year’s best new movies as well as the year’s best new independent movie.

My Uncle Rafael is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/My-Uncle-Rafael-Anthony-Clark/dp/B00O1D3AN6/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1418861938&sr=1-2&keywords=my+uncle+rafael.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

IFC Films’ “Premature” Is As Good As Any Big Screen Teen Flick

Courtesy:  IFC FIlms

Courtesy: IFC FIlms

IFC Films’ teen comedy Premature is not only one of the best indie flicks of 2014, but it is one of the best movies of the year overall.  In comparison to the endless stream of prequels, sequels, and remakes churned out by Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios, this movie is a complete breath of fresh air.  It balances just enough bawdiness and raunch with an equal amount of depth and heart to make it a surprisingly entertaining work.  The central reason for that is the movie’s script.  It isn’t just another standard, formulaic teen romp.  It actually teaches some important lessons; lessons that both male and female audiences will appreciate.  The movie’s script is at the heart of its enjoyment.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this movie is its bonus material.  Included as bonus material on the DVD are a number of interviews with the cast and crew, a fun little behind-the-scenes featurette, and even an alternate ending that proves to be just as good as the ending presented in the final product.  The last aspect of the movie that makes it enjoyable for audiences is the acting on the part of the cast.  The cast isn’t exactly A-listers just yet.  But its members already have quite the chops under their belts thanks to roles on some big movies and TV shows.  It shows quite well in this presentation, too.  It rounds out a movie that while being an indie flick, is one of this year’s best indie flicks and one of the year’s best movies overall.

At first glance, many critics have automatically panned IFC Films’ new teen comedy Premature.  Elizabeth Weitzman, of the New York Daily News, said of the movie that it is “a retreat of every lousy 80s high school comedy you never bothered watching.”  And Variety’s Joe Leydon had one of the harshest comments, attacking not only the movie but those that actually showed any appreciation of the movie.  He noted of the movie and its audiences that “only undiscriminating audiences with a pronounced taste for crotch-centric tomfoolery will sample this goulash.”  Really, Joe?  There was an equally scathing commentary from New York Times writer Nicolas Rapold, equating co-writers Dan Beers and Mathew Harawitz’s script to work from Family Guy head Seth McFarlane.  That is an insult of the highest degree. For all of its naysayers, Premature has also gotten positive marks, too.  Though, even those positive remarks have been tepid at best.  This means that most audiences and critics that saw this movie completely missed the mark in analyzing it.  The script itself does throw back to the teen romps of the 80s.  There’s no denying that.  But it throws back to more than just those movies.  Its script balances the crudeness of those movies with the heart–believe it or not–of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  To a lesser extent, those that are old enough to remember will see a comparison to the likes of Fox’s classic series Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, too.  That’s thanks in large part to the work of lead actor John Karna, who plays Rob Crabbe.  The movie sees Rob learn some valuable lessons about both life and love as the story progresses.  He learns about doing what makes him happy versus what makes his father happy through his interactions with his Georgetown recruiter and his father.  The lesson about love just happens to be tied in to Rob’s own full-throttle sex drive.  Audiences need to remember that in our adolescence, the human sex drive is actually much like what is portrayed here.  Hormones are going crazy in the adolescent brain and body.  Beer and Harawitz have just taken that fact and made humorous light of it as part of the bigger picture.  Keeping that in mind makes that aspect of the movie less crude and much funnier.  If audiences can accept that fact and enjoy it for what it is, they will enjoy Premature much more.  They will also enjoy the lessons incorporated into the script, too thus leading to a realization that this movie is far more enjoyable than what some would have others believe.

The script used for Premature is by itself more than enough reason to give this underrated indie flick worth at least one watch.  By itself, it makes Premature one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  The script is just part of what makes the movie worth watching.  The bonus material included with the movie makes the presentation in whole even more enjoyable.  There are interviews with the cast and crew that will inform and entertain audiences.  There is also a bonus alternate ending that proves to be just as entertaining as the ending presented in the final product if not more so.  And the bonus behind-the-scenes featurette will have audiences just as much in stitches.  [John] Karna takes audiences through the movie’s sets during this segment.  Throughout the featurette, Karna stays somewhat in character holding the same personality as Rob Crabbe without actually trying to portray Rob.  He playfully hits on every female that he finds as if he were Rob.  It really is fun and funny to watch.  Together with the bonus interviews and alternate ending, it shows even more what makes the movie’s bonus features even more important to the presentation in whole. They collectively make Premature that much more of a joy to watch.  They still aren’t the last of the factors that make Premature so enjoyable, either.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is just as important to the movie.  It rounds out the whole that is this surprisingly entertaining indie flick.

The acting on the part of Premature’s cast is one of the most important parts of this movie’s enjoyment.  Most audiences probably don’t know the cast’s names.  But Karna and his cast mates–Katie Findlay (How To Get Away With Murder, The Carrie Diaries, After The Dark), Alan Tudyk (Frozen, Wreck-it-Ralph ,i-Robot) Craig Roberts (Neighbors, 22 Jump Street, Jane Eyre), Steve Coulter (The Hunger Games, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Conjuring) , and Carlson Young (True Blood, The Dog Who Saved Christmas, Pretty Little Liars)–are each fully believable in their roles.  And that is thanks to their work on some rather well-known movies and TV series.  Katie Findlay plays Rob’s best friend Gabrielle.  She does quite the job in her role, although most audiences can tell as the story progresses what will happen between them.  It’s a classic partnering that has been used before.  But it still works quite well even in this case.  Alan tudyk plays the part of Rob’s Georgetown recruiter.  Tudyk is a laugh riot as he breaks down, crying like a little child as he interviews Rob.  His acting will by itself leave audiences laughing uproariously.  Craig Roberts plays Rob’s sex-crazed friend Stanley.  Even in the side-kick role, Roberts offers his own share of laughs.  One could really compare him to Stiffler from the famed American Pie franchise, only younger. Steve Coulter plays a minimal role as Rob’s dad Jim.  But he’s still entertaining as the standard subtly controlling father figure.  And Carlson Young is spot on as the stereotypical blonde sex kitten Angela Yearwood.  Her role is understated as it plays an important part in Rob’s personal development and self-realization.  But just as with her co-stars, Young pulls off her role expertly as do the rest of the cast members.  Their collective experience makes their portrayals here so enjoyable in their own right.  It makes suspension of disbelief so simple in this case.  The end result is a story that will keep audiences fully engaged from start to finish, laughing the whole way through.

Whether it be the movie’s script, the bonus features included as part of the whole, or the acting on the part of the cast, Premature proves in the end to have plenty of positives.  It proves to have far more positives than its critics would lead audiences to believe.  It proves to be one of this year’s best new indie flicks and one of the year’s best new movies overall.  It is available in stores and online now.  More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available online at:

Website: http://www.ifcfilms.com

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

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