PBS Announces Release Date For “Finding Your Roots Season 2”

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS will release the second season of its hit celebrity-based historical series Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. this fall.

Officials with PBS announced this week that Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Season 2 will be released on Tuesday, December 16th.  Gates meets some of the country’s biggest names in the series and examines their ancestry in each hour-long episode.  In the series’ second season, Gates studies the ancestry of big names such as: Derek Jeter, Ben Affleck, Jessica Alba, Sting, Tina Fey, Sally Field, Stephen King, Nas, and many others.  In all, twenty-nine celebrities are featured throughout the course of Season Two.

Gates goes into even more depth with his guests in Season Two than was possible in the show’s premiere season. He studies his guests’ specific ethnic roots, cultural traditions, and the inner works of his guests’ families. New advancements in DNA testing even allows for study of genetic genealogy. The advancements allowed for revelations linked to questions of paternity, geographic origins of his guests’ ancestors, and even tribal Native America ancestry in other cases. It is all revealed over ten episodes spread across three discs.

Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Season Two will be available only on DVD Tuesday, December 16th. It will retail for MSRP of $39.99 and can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=46207086&cp=&sr=1&kw=finding+your+roots&origkw=Finding+your+roots&parentPage=search#Details. Audiences can access more information on the series, and watch videos from the show online now at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/finding-your-roots

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/henrylouisgates

 

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Warner Brothers’ Superman Reboot Anything But Invincible

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

Man of Steel was one of the most highly anticipated movies of 2013.  However, in the days following its premiere, neither the critics nor the fan boys and girls were overly kind to the movie.  Each had their own reason for disliking the movie.  Superman is without a doubt the single most iconic name in both the world of comic books and of movies based on comics.  The major problem with this new take on Superman’s origin story is its writing.  There is much to be said there.  Just as problematic with this movie is its new home release.  A simple change could have been made with the packaging to make it better.  But Warner Home Video didn’t even take that simple step, serving only to shoot itself in the foot so to speak.  Man of Steel had its share of problems, obviously.  In its defense, it did have at least some positives. One of those positives was the acting on the part of Henry Cavill and Michael Shannon.  Also to the movie’s benefit is the collective bonus features included in its home release.  The bonus features included in the movie’s home release are extensive to say the least.  But there are two that stand out among the others. They will be noted at a later time.  That bonus material along with the acting of Cavill and Shannon are the movie’s saving graces.  They balance out the whole presentation and make it worth at least one watch by any fan boy or girl of the original boy in blue.

Man of Steel wasn’t a terribly awful movie.  It isn’t even one of the worst of the year.  But thanks to its writing, it is also not one of the year’s best, either.  The writing behind Man of Steel is plagued with problems.  The most obvious of those problems lies the unbalanced character development and action elements.  Goyer and Snyder spend too much time both developing the movie’s backstory and on the conflict between Superman and General Zod.  Viewers didn’t really need as much of an in-depth look at Krypton as they got.  Given, it was good ot have a story of how Krypton met is untimely end.  But the constant transitions between Clark’s boyhood and his adult life were messy and unnecessary.   Rather than setting specific transition points, the story—written by David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Blade Trilogy, DaVinci’s Demons) and Zach Snyder (300), jumps back and forth between the present and Clark’s past at will.  The obvious attempt here was to fill in the gaps of Clark’s childhood without bogging down the overall story.  Goyer and Snyder are to be commended for making the effort.  But the end result was in fact that it caused the story to do just what they were attempting to avoid.  It’s just one part of what makes the movie’s writing problematic.  The movie’s dialogue is another problem with the writing.  It gets pretty campy at some points.  One of the worst of those moments comes when General Swanwick (Harry Lennix—Ray, The Matrix Revolutions, State of Play) states of Zod and his ship in its first sighting, “Whoever is piloting that ship plans on making a dramatic entrance.”  If ever there was a cheesy line, that line is it.  It’s a—pardon the term here—John Madden “no duh” type of statement.  And it’s just one of many really cheesy lines thrown in throughout a movie that otherwise tries pretty hard to be taken seriously.

The end result of Goyer and Snyder’s writing definitely caused its own share of problems for Man of Steel.  Now that the movie has been released to DVD, Blu-ray, and combo packs, it suffers from one more problem.  That problem is the movie’s packaging.  The discs included in the Blu-ray/DVD/VUDU combo pack were stacked on two spindles.  The primary disc containing the movie and primary bonus features was stacked on top of the set’s second disc containing the remaining bonus material.  There is nothing between the discs to protect them from one another.  The set’s third disc however, is set on its own spindle on the right inside side of the set’s case.  Why the people at Warner Home Video did not just include an extra plastic insert on which it could have placed either of the first two discs is questionable to say the least.  But it definitely takes away even more from the movie’s overall presentation and hurts the overall product in the long run.

Man of Steel had its share of problems, as one should be able to tell by now.  But it wasn’t without its positives, either.  The acting on the part of Henry Cavill and Michael Shannon was the most praiseworthy of the movie’s positives.  Shannon might not have exactly had the look of Terence Stamp’s Zod.  But he more than made up for that with his acting.  He is brutal, cold, and calculating.  Yet in his own eyes, he doesn’t see himself as a villain.  And Shannon (Take Shelter) expertly translated that personality style, too.  He made Zod’s character fully believable with his portrayal.  In the same vein, Cavill’s brooding nature as he attempts to come to terms with his powers and how he fits in with his world is just as believable.  He presents Kal-El as not so much the “god” type of figure but as being just as flawed as a human.  Much has been said of how he handles Zod at the end of their final battle.  What many people don’t seem to remember is that he shows real emotion at what unfolds.  It’s another example of what makes this Superman just as much a sympathetic character as any others previously portrayed on the big screen.

The acting on the part of Cavill and Shannon are collectively Man of Steel’s saving grace.  Both men are entirely believable in their roles.  Their acting is just one of so many aspects of the movie discussed in depth in the bonus features included in its home release.  Just as interesting to note in the bonus features is the fact that the crew went to every measure to make sure the cast was able to do its own stunts.  Audiences will see the rigorous workout regimen through which the primary cast members were put in order to be fit enough for that task.  To see actors and actresses doing their own stunts in the place of stunt doubles is something very rare in today’s movie industry.  For that reason alone, the movie gained a new respect at least by this critic.  Of course, it is only one of the extras that makes the movie even more worthy of a watch now that it has been released to DVD and combo pack.  The bonus “commentary” included in the second set of special features is the highlight of the movie’s bonus features.  It too is something that especially today, viewers don’t see much of, if at all.

The second disc included in the Man of Steel Blu-ray/DVD/VUDU combo pack includes a special second screen commentary that is a bonus feature in every sense of the term.  This second screen feature is something that today is typically reserved only for those with tablets, iPhones, etc.  Yet here, anyone with a Blu-ray player can watch this bonus hybrid commentary. It includes not just audio commentary, but visual, too.  Audiences get to hear and see from the cast and crew while watching the movie.  They can even watch the making of the movie all at the same time.  It brings everything full circle for viewers whether viewers are seeing the movie for the first time, the fifth or more.  It still doesn’t make Man of Steel one of the best movies of the year.  But with the movie’s other positives, it makes the movie one of the best home video releases of the year.  It is available now in stores and online at http://www.wbshop.com/search.do?query=Man+of+Steel.  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.

ITV Import Another Impressive Addition To PBS’ Programming Lineup

Courtesy:  PBS/itv Studios

Courtesy: PBS/itv Studios

It’s been said time and again that people love a good story.  People also like drama.  So if this is the case, then why is it that so few people are watching PBS?  The network’s recent import of itv Studios’ Mr. Selfridge offers viewers both a good story and more than its share of drama.  The ten-part mini-series is expertly led by veteran actor Jeremy Piven (Entourage, PCU).  His performance in the role of the famed retail magnate on which the mini-series is based is his finest yet.  The same can be said of co-stars Frances O’Connor (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Madame Bovary), Aisling Loftus (Page Eight), Zoe Tapper (Zen), Katherine Kelly (Coronation Street), Gregory Fitoussi (Spiral), and Trystan Gravelle (Anonymous).  Together with Piven (and the show’s writers), the ensemble crafted a work that fully immerses viewers both male and female into its world and keeps them engaged through each episode.  Of course, one would be remiss to omit any mention of the show’s production values in its success, too.  As viewers will note in the bonus “making of” featurette, painstaking work went into creating a historically accurate world.  The sets and costumes took massive amounts of time to get just right and accurate.  This understanding makes the final product that much more entertaining for those viewers whose minds are open enough.  By the time it’s all said and done, audiences will see that while it is a British import, much as with Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge shows even more the value and importance of PBS.

The choice of bringing in Jeremy Piven to lead the cast for this itv mini-series was the first positive choice in bringing to life Harry Gordon Selfridge’s story.  His portrayal of Selfridge was completely believable.  He presents a man that despite being a strong and self confident businessman on the surface was also emotionally fragile and complex beneath the surface.  He showed that while Selfridge was this larger than life character, he was just as human as anyone else.  It makes him deeply relatable to viewers.  That ability of viewers to relate to Selfridge is the starting point of the show’s success.   Viewers will see this for themselves when they watch the program for themselves.  On a side note, perhaps most intriguing of all about Piven being picked was why he was chosen.  It was noted in the included bonus features that an American actor was specifically wanted to portray Selfridge.  The woman that is interviewed tells viewers in her interview that while there were plenty of British actors that could easily handle an American accent, an American actor was wanted over a British actor for his role.  This is important considering how many British actors have played American roles recently.  Two prime examples would be Christian Bale and Henry Cavill as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman respectively.  There are others, but these are the first two that come to mind.  Keeping this choice in mind, it makes Piven, the show and its heads worthy of even more respect. 

The acting on the part of Jeremy Piven and his co-stars is one of the prime reasons for the success of Mr. Selfridge.  Their ability to interpret the writing will keep viewers fully engaged from the series’ opening minutes to its bittersweet end.  Staying on that note, the writing behind Mr. Selfridge is another reason for the show’s success.  So much goes on throughout the course of the ten episodes that make up this standout British import.  Despite the number of storylines that interweave throughout the primary story, the show’s writers don’t allow the story as a whole to get bogged down even once.  Rather, the script moves fluidly and at a fast pace.  It isn’t too fast to lose viewers, either.  The different storylines incorporated into the bigger picture make the whole thing even more successful in that they will entertain both men and women.  Men will appreciate watching Selfridge’s personal journey from upstart businessman to one of London’s biggest names to an emotionally broken man.  They will enjoy seeing him in his highest of highs and lowest of lows.  Women will enjoy the series’ more soap opera style elements.  There is infighting between the women working the displays.  The infighting is the result of power struggles and to a far greater degree, romantic interests.  Because the storylines are able to keep from bogging down the mini-series as a whole, it allows viewers in general to focus on one more factor that makes Mr. Selfridge even more believable.  That factor is the series’ production values.

Viewers will see the painstaking efforts taken to make every episode believable in the set’s bonus features.  The bonus features included in the set tell a little about a lot.  This isn’t a bad thing.  Those that are interested in set construction and related topics will enjoy the discussions on how a carpet warehouse was turned into the first Selfridge & Co. store.  It’s incredible to think that such an open space could be turned into such a stunning set.  And anyone that has any interest in fashion will appreciate the discussion on making sure that the costumes worn by both the men and women were precise for the period.  Viewers will especially appreciate the discussion on the use of the corsets for women’s attire.  One of the female cast members even states that she liked using the corset and wearing clothes from the period of the story.  Not many women would likely so openly admit this.  But she did.  It’s one more entertaining and enjoyable aspect of the set that proves programming on PBS is just as valuable as any mainstream American dramas.  It is available now and can be ordered from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=19273126&cp=&sr=1&kw=selfridge&origkw=Selfridge&parentPage=search.  And for all of the latest update on PBS’ Masterpiece series, fans can go online to http://www.facebook.com/masterpiecepbs and “Like” it. 

For all of 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.