Anchor Bay, Starz Conjure Up Second Season Of Da Vinci’s Demons On DVD, Blu-ray

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz Media

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz Media

Fans of the original drama Da Vinci’s Demons have reason to be excited this winter. That is thanks to Anchor Bay’s announcement Tuesday that it will release the hit drama’s second season next month.

Officials with Starz announced Tuesday that the second season of Da Vinci’s Demons will be released Tuesday, March 3rd. It will be released on Blu-ray + Digital HD and DVD. Season Two picks up where the series’ first season left off. Da Vinci continues to defend Florence against the powers that be in Rome. Meanwhile he also continues his quest for the fabled Book of Leaves and for answers about his mother. New enemies rise up along the way, too; forces that prove to be even more dangerous than even Pope Sixtus and his minions. Both the DVD and Blu-ray + Digital HD presentation of Da Vinci’s Demons include a handful of bonuses to complement its ten-episode run. Those bonuses include a “making of” featurette, a recap of Season One, a look at the new sets used in Season Two and more. The full list of bonus material included on Season Two’s box set is noted below.

New Bonus Features:

  • New Sets
  • Creating the World
  • A Closer Look

The Journey Begins: Season 1 Recap

Da Vinci’s Demons stars Tom Riley (I Want Candy, Return to House on Haunted Hill, Happy Ever Afters) as famed inventor Leonardo Da Vinci. He is joined by Laura Haddock (Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Inbetweeners Movie), Blake Ritson (Rock N Rolla, Titus, Red Cap), Elliot Cowan (Happy-Go-Lucky, Alexander, The Golden Compass), Lara Pulver (Edge of Tomorrow, True Blood, Sherlock), and James Faulkner (Downton Abbey, Bridget Jones’s Diary, X-Men: First Class). The Blu-ray + Digital HD box set will retail for $54.99 and the DVD box set for $44.98. All of the latest updates on Da Vinci’s Demons are available online at:

Website: https://www.davincisdemons.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davincisdemons.starz

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaVincis_Starz

All of the latest information on Da Vinci’s Demons and other titles from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at:

Website: https://www.anchorbayentertainment.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://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.

eOne’s “Cell 213” Is An Interesting Theological Thriller

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Paramount.  Disney.  MGM.  20th Century Fox.  Warner Brothers.  For the longest time, these studios were what made Hollywood and the movie industry great.  But somewhere along the way, something changed.  Something very bad happened.  Somewhere in the late 1990s and early 2000s, these five major studios went from churning out some of the greatest titles that audiences have ever seen to churning out nothing but prequels, sequels, and remakes.  Now in 2014, there seems to be no end in sight for this trend from Hollywood’s own “Power 5” (only sports fans will get that reference).  Thankfully, independent studios such as IFC Films, Level 33 Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment, and eOne Entertainment have picked up the slack, releasing some of the most original and entertaining movies that audiences have seen in years.  One example of that originality lies in eOne’s recently released thriller Cell 213.  The movie’s box art and description leads one to believe that it is a horror movie of sorts.  The reality is that it is in fact a rather deep and surprisingly original story.  The story behind Cell 213 is by itself more than enough reason for audiences to watch it at least once.  Veteran actor Michael Rooker’s (Guardians of the Galaxy, Days of Thunder, Cliffhanger) acting as the vile prison guard Ray Clement is another positive to the movie.  While the movie centers on Michael Grey (Eric Balfour), Rooker is the real star of this story.  And last but not least of all worth noting here is the movie’s run time versus its pacing.  At a time when it seems like Hollywood’s major studios are continuing to battle one another to see who can cram the most material into their movies within a given time span (more often than not that time span is about 2 1/2 hours or a little more), this roughly hour and forty-nine minute movie does plenty without even reaching the two-hour mark.    Each of these aspects by themselves play their own important role in the overall success of this interesting indie thriller.  Collectively, they make Cell 213 worth at least one watch and prove once more why indie movies are just as worth the watch as all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes being currently churned out by Hollywood’s “Power 5” if not more so.

At first glance, eOne and Alliance Films’ recently released thriller Cell 213 looks like another run-of-the-mill horror flick.  But as the old adage states, never judge a book (or in this case a DVD) by its cover.  The movie is in fact far more than just another one of the overly gory and violence laden flicks that Hollywood’s “Power 5” call a horror.  Rather, it proves to be more a thriller than a horror.  What’s more, it’s not just another thriller, either.  The movie’s script, which was crafted by Maninda Chana, combines traditional thriller elements with some rather deep theological discussions for a movie that will ultimately leave open-minded audiences really thinking.  As audiences learn, young up-and-coming lawyer Michael Grey himself ends up in jail after one of his clients kills himself, essentially framing Michael for his murder.  It is at this point that the movie’s biggest plot hole emerges.  The plot hole is big enough to drive a handful of semis through it.  Thankfully though, the theological discussions that make up the remainder of the movie more than make up for that glaring issue.  The discussions in question center on the battle between good and evil and on making the right choices in life before we die.  A close look at the story reveals these discussions and really makes the movie a lot more interesting than one might have originally thought at first glance.  The end result is a script that makes this indie thriller worth at least one watch.

The theologically based story behind Cell 213 is a big surprise.  By itself, the discussion raised on judgment of one’s soul, etc. is more than reason enough for audiences to check out this movie.  Another reason that Cell 213 is worth at least one watch is the acting on the part of Michael Rooker.  Rooker is most well-known for his work on the NASCAR-based drama Days of Thunder.  He has also worked on Marvel Studios’ latest hit blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, too.  So this movie is obviously not the first time that he has played the role of a villain. And he shows his experience as a villain quite well. Between showing no mercy to the inmates at the prison to putting a chokehold on another officer (a female no less) to showing something of a troubling, almost Norman Bates sort of personality at another point, Rooker makes Ray Clement an absolutely disturbed character that will disturb audiences and make them love to hate him at the same time. If for no other reason, audiences should watch this movie at least once to see just how diabolical and disturbed Rooker makes Clement. That portrayal together with the movie’s deep, theological themes, makes for even more reason for audiences to give it at least one watch.

The theological themes that make up most of Cell 213’s story and the work of veteran actor Michael Rooker are both key to making this movie worth at least one watch. That still leaves one more aspect worth noting—the movie’s run time. Anyone that has been to the theater in the past couple years or so has noticed that Hollywood’s major studios have been seemingly caught up in a competition to see who can shove the most amount of material into a roughly two and a half-hour movie without making it too mediocre. The problem is that movies like The Dark Knight Rises, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and even the recent Spiderman and Superman movies have been mostly mediocre. That’s because the people behind the cameras and the scripts have in fact crammed so much into each one of those movies that they have overpowered audiences. That’s hardly the case with Cell 213. The movie clocks in at just under the two-hour mark. Within the confines of that roughly hour and forty-nine minutes, writer Maninder Chana and director Stephen Kay waste no time ruminating on personal drama or any such related topics. The entire time is well-spent, focusing on the battle being waged for Michael’s soul and how he was essentially being tested, thus tying back in to the story’s theological themes. What’s more, at no point do those themes ever get so deep as to lose audiences. Viewers are kept engaged from start to finish thanks to that well-balanced mix of the movie’s run time and its overall content. That, coupled with Michael Rooker’s acting and the themes incorporated into the story, makes this movie complete. They collectively make Cell 213 a story well worth at least one watch whether one is a fan of the horror genre or has any interest in Christian theology. It all makes for a movie that is actually quite surprisingly interesting.

Cell 213 is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct online from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Cell-213-Michael-Rooker/dp/B00K2OBSI2/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1416580052&sr=1-2&keywords=cell+213. More information on this and other titles from Alliance and eOne is available online at:

 

Website: http://ca.eonefilms.com

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

 

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.

Captain America Sequel Another Largely Forgettable Flick From Marvel

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios/Disney

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was touted as one of the biggest hits of 2014 when it hit theaters earlier this summer. While it is enjoyable enough, the sad truth of this movie is that it really is not as great as some would like to believe. It all starts with the script. The issues with the script can be summed up in one word: predictability. In its defense, the writing trio of Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Ed Brubaker make one unpredictable move. That will be discussed at a later point. Getting back to the movie, another major issue from which the movie suffers is what this critic has coined as “whisper scenes.” They are exactly what they sound like. And together with the movie’s scripting issues, it serves to bring this movie down and leave it even less enjoyable. The final product is a movie that proves in the end to be more forgettable than fun. Sorry, fanboys and fangirls. It’s true.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier got a lot of hype leading up to its debut this past April. And while for many, it was considered a hit, a closer examination of Marvel’s latest in its endless river of prequels, sequels, and remakes proves it to be hardly as good as many would want it to be. The primary reason for this is the movie’s scripting. The issues with the movie’s scripting can be summed up in one word. That word is predictability. As soon as Nick Fury shows up in Rogers’ apartment, and secretly tells him that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been compromised, it was pretty obvious the direction in which the script was headed. The bad guys infiltrate the good guys’ headquarters and pretend to be good guys until a certain point at which a major conflict arises. Yeah, it’s pretty obvious. Even without the spoilers that had been “leaked” before the movie’s debut, it was pretty obvious who the real good guys were and who the real bad guys were. And even without those spoilers, it was pretty obvious that The Winter Soldier in question was a former good guy. That formula has been used far too many times before in far too many other action flicks that far exceed this one. Not to ruin the movie for those that haven’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet, but it’s also pretty obvious that the movie’s (and studio’s) heads were not going to kill off the biggest names in their franchises. Again, audiences are presented with so much predictability, greatly decreasing from the movie’s enjoyment.

For all of the issues of predictability that run throughout Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there is one unpredictable aspect to the script overall that deserves being noted. That aspect is that Markus, McFeely, and Brubaker actually opted not to let a romance develop between Natasha and Steve. There is a point at which Natasha tells Cap to kiss her so as to avoid detection by some Hydra agents. A conversation between the pair later leads some to believe that perhaps there is a potential for romance there. Luckily though, that doesn’t happen. And for that, the movie’s writers deserve at least some credit if no more. It is one of only two shining rays of light in a movie that lacks greatly in terms positives. The only other positive worth noting is the fact that it keeps the brooding to an extreme minimum unlike the movies that have been churned out over the years from DC. Even with Bucky’s own personal demons, his brooding is kept in check. It really helps the overall product. For that reason too, Captain America: The Winter Soldier manages to stay at least somewhat afloat.

Those behind the cameras on Captain America: The Winter Soldier did plenty of damage to the movie with just the massive amount of predictability throughout the script. They try to make up for all of that by filling the movie’s nearly two and a half-hour run time with all of the standard fight scenes, explosions, and chase scenes that are all too common with big screen action blockbusters. Thanks to the number of these elements crammed into the movie and the movie’s relatively long run time, it ends up having the same feel as its fellow Marvel sequel Thor: The Dark World. That feel is that it’s a movie that is just one explosion, chase scene and fight scene after another. Simply put, the imbalance of substance versus action flick filler hurts the movie even more. And coupled with the script’s predictability from start to finish, it becomes even less memorable.

It should be crystal clear at this point that Captain America: The Winter Soldier doesn’t exactly live up to its hype. For those not yet convinced, there is still one more aspect of the movie that while subtle still hurts it in its own way. That last aspect is what this critic has come to call “whisper scenes.” These scenes are exactly what they sound like (no pun intended). Actors talk in hushed tones so as to heighten the tension of a given scene. Those scenes are typically bookended by really loud action scenes or scenes that are otherwise the polar opposite of said scene. Whisper scenes aren’t bad. Don’t misinterpret that. The problem is that this movie is one more that uses them far too often throughout the course of its run time. It seems like an increasing number of directors have been relying on “whisper scenes” in recent years. Simply put, it is annoying. It’s as annoying as the number of lens flares thrown into director J.J. Abrams’ movies. Anyone that is familiar with Abrams’ works will understand this frustration. Anyone that has experienced such over use of “whisper scenes” will be just as able to relate. It is the last straw of a movie that ends up proving to be all but the enjoyable summer blockbuster that it was touted to be.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not a terrible movie. Anyone looking to just turn off their brains and enjoy a standard, mindless orgy of explosions, chase scenes, and fight scenes will enjoy this movie just as much as its predecessor. But those that give the movie a closer examination will see just how many problems it has. Its script is predictable. It relies largely on those aforementioned chase scenes, fight scenes and explosions to try and make up for its predictability and overall lack of substance. And the overload of “whisper scenes” that fill the movie’s run time only serve to hurt it more. The movie’s only shining rays of light are the fact that its team of writers didn’t allow for Steve and Natasha’s partnership to become a romance and it kept Bucky’s brooding to a bare minimum. Other than that, there is very little good that can be said of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s a movie that is fun for one watch, but little more.

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.

Starz, Anchor Bay Reveal Release Date, Info For Spartacus: The Complete Series

Courtesy: Starz

Courtesy: Starz

Officials with Starz and Anchor Bay Entertainment announced this week that the companies will release Spartacus: The Complete Series this fall.

Courtesy:  Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Spartacus: The Complete

Series will be released on DVD and Blu-ray +Digital HD with Ultraviolet on Tuesday, September 16th. The Blu-ray+Digital HD with

Ultraviolet edition of the box set will come in two formats. The first format will include three new audio commentaries for the series’ first season. The other will include a Spartacus collector’s figurine. All three of the box sets include a handful of bonus material. That bonus material is listed below.

New Bonus Features:           

  • SPARTACUS Fan Favorites With Liam McIntyre                     
  • Scoring A Hit: Composer Joseph LoDuca             
  • An Eye Full: Roger Murray                       
  • SPARTACUS: Paul Grinder                     
  • The Last Word: John Hannah       
Spartacus Special Edition BD Box Set

Courtesy: Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Series creator and executive producer Steven S. DeKnight commented on the series in a recent interview promoting the upcoming box set. He explained just how important the series remains to all that worked on it even today and added a note for audiences. “The gods finally bless us with the complete collection,” he said. “Spartacus was a true labor of love for everyone who worked on it and I’m incredibly proud to present all 39 episodes in stunning High-def for the fans to enjoy at their leisure, but make sure you watch them in the order they first aired to revel in the experience as originally intended.”

Spartacus originally starred Andy Whitfield in the series’ leading role. Whitfield would then be replaced in Seasons Two and Three by Liam Mcintyre. Also featured throughout the series are: John Hannah (The Mummy, Four Weddings and a Funeral), Peter Mensah (300, The Incredible Hulk), Manu Bennett (30 Days of Night), Nick E. Tarabay (Crash), Dustin Clare (Underbelly), Dan Feuerrigel (Home and Away), Simon Werrells (The Wolfman) Todd Lasance (Cloudstreet), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Flashforward), and Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess, Battlestar Galactica, Parks and Recreation).

The standard definition box set of Spartacus: The Complete Series retail for SRP of $119.98. Blu-ray+Digital HD with Ultraviolet set will retail for $149.99. The Blu-ray+Digital HD with Ultraviolet and bonus Spartacus collector’s figurine will retail for SRP of $199.99. More information on the upcoming release is available online at http://www.facebook.com/spartacus.starz, http://www.starz.com/spartacus, and http://twitter.com/spartacus_starz. 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.

Anchor Bay’s In Fear Is One Of 2014’s Top Indie Flicks

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Independent movie studio Anchor Bay has crafted some of the industry’s most surprising and underrated movies since the start of the twenty-first century. Most recently, Anchor Bay was behind the moving human drama that is Unfinished Song and the more lighthearted romantic comedy Shanghai Calling. It was also behind the release of the equally under appreciated 6 Souls and Dark Skies. Now in 2014, Anchor Bay has released yet another impressive yet under appreciated movie to its ever growing stable in the form of In Fear. While it is an indie flick, In Fear proves to be yet another piece from Anchor Bay that holds its own against any of the major horror flicks and thriller features out there today. The primary reason for that is the movie’s writing. This includes its plot. Another reason for its success is the acting on the part of Iain De Caestecker (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures) and Allen Leech (Downton Abbey). And last but not least, In Fear works because of its cinematography and associated editing. All three of these factors together prove In Fear a work that will leave any open minded horror and thriller fan in happiness.

In Fear is not a major, big budget horror or thriller flick, obviously. What it is though, is a movie that any open-minded fan of both genres will enjoy. The main reason for this is the movie’s writing. The general plot starts out as one that has been done so many times before. Here, audiences see a young couple off on what is supposed to be a romantic weekend at a secluded hotel. But obviously, things eventually start to turn to the negative side of the needle for lack of better wording. This is where writer/director Jeremy Lovering takes the *ahem* high road (bad pun fully intended). It would have been so easy for Lovering to simply allow In Fear to descend to the dumbed down, overly violent level of so many major horror and thriller flicks from here. Instead, he kept the overt violence to a minimum by comparison. Where far too many major horror and thriller flicks fill their run times with unnecessary violence, blood and gore, Lovering has virtually eliminated those elements, using only what was absolutely necessary to help maintain the story’s grip on viewers. And the standard exploitative sexual content thrown in to those major motion pictures is totally nonexistent here. For that reason alone, Lovering deserves a lot of credit.

The minimized use of blood, gore and general violence and the complete lack of exploitive sexual content is just one part of what makes this movie’s writing work so well. Lovering keeps viewers wondering even after Tom and Lucy let Max into their car. Audiences have to admit that had they been in Tom and Lucy’s position, they too would be uncertain as to whether or not Max was good or bad. So any viewer that might like to claim the movie was predictable is proven wrong through this avenue alone. That unpredictability is heightened through the use of certain elements that also lead to some “a-ha” moments by the story’s end, too. Those “a-ha” moments illustrate even more the depth of Lovering’s writing in his script and in turn its enjoyment.

Jeremy Lovering’s script for In Fear is the cornerstone of the movie’s success. The acting on the part of Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert, and Allen Leech serves to strengthen the movie even more. The trio is entirely believable in its acting. Caestecker and Englert expertly exhibit the growing tension and fear felt by any normal person lost in unknown territory. Given, the odds of being lost and hunted by an unseen predator of sorts are slim to nil in reality. But the fear caused simply by being lost in unknown territory is very real as is the general fear of the unknown. And Caestecker and Englert have made that fear all the more real through their acting. Any viewer will be able to relate to them as they watch the pair try to reach the Kilairney Hotel thanks to the seriousness with which the pair took its roles. Together with the script, this aspect of In Fear makes the movie all the more gripping and enjoyable for viewers.

The acting and writing behind In Fear both are pivotal to the success of the movie. There is still one more aspect of the movie that adds to its enjoyment. That factor is the movie’s collective cinematography and editing. Some of the best shots of the entire movie come as Lucy is looking out of the car, waiting for she and Tom to reach the hotel. Audiences see trees hanging ominously overhead as the sky slowly darkens. These are such subtle shots. But they are so powerful because they are so powerful. It adds to the feeling of tension and being trapped in an enclosed environment for extended periods of time. The way that editor Jonathan Amos (A.C.E.) transitioned the two shots adds so much by doing so little. Those behind the cameras are just as worthy of applause for the solid yet short shots of the figure that seems to be hunting Tom and Lucy. Audiences get just enough of a glimpse to know that there is something outside that car that doesn’t want the pair around. And the shots are just plentiful enough to add to the movie’s fear factor, too. Again, it shows the expert work of Amos and his co-workers behind the cameras. There are far more examples of how the cinematography and editing make In Fear a horror/thriller worth seeing. Audiences will find even more examples when they purchase or rent the movie for themselves on DVD and Blu-ray.

Whether for the cinematography, the editing, the acting or for the general writing, any open-minded fan of the thriller and horror genres will find plenty of reasons to check out this latest underrated and under appreciated release from Anchor Bay Entertainment. The movie is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Anchor Bay Entertainment’s website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?projectID=2545b3bd-9d4b-e311-bba7-d4ae527c3b65. More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.anchorbayent.com, http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay, and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay. 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.

Thor 2 Is Fun, But Falls Short

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios

Courtesy: Marvel Studios

Sequels are very rarely as good as the movies that they follow.  This has been proven so many times in recent years by so many studios.  DC and Marvel have both proven this time and again with their big name franchises.  DC and Legendary proved that with its recent Batman franchise.  Marvel Studios’ first Spiderman trilogy was just one victim of that curse.  Now Marvel Studios has once again fallen victim to the “curse of the sequel” with its latest big screen offering, Thor: The Dark World.  This action packed late year blockbuster has plenty going for it.  Its special effects and its ability to balance its science fiction and fantasy elements are both positives.  The acting on the part of both Chris Hemsworth and Tim Hiddleston makes the movie even more fun.  However, it is hardly perfect.  It has one major issue that will be its downfall in the long run.  That one glaring negative is the story’s overall writing.  The movie itself clocks in at just under two hours.  However, because of the writing, it feels quite a bit longer.  As much positive as this movie has going for it, this one issue alone is going to ultimately be what keeps this movie from being one of Marvel’s most memorable offerings.

Thor: The Dark World is hardly the year’s best movie or even one of the year’s best.  To its defense, it isn’t the year’s worst movie, either.  One can openly admit about this sequel to Marvel Studios’ 2011 hit Thor, that it has some extremely impressive special effects.  From the backdrops to the fight scenes and one chase scene in particular, those charged with making the movie’s special effects work are deserving of applause.  It goes without saying that much of the movie was crafted using green screen effects.  That aside, those backdrops that were crafted by computer look just as impressive as those that were actually shot live.  Adding to that was the ability of those behind the cameras to blend the CG backgrounds with actual sets and shooting locales.  The computer generated effects in both cases never once felt overblown.  The same can be said of the effects used in the movie’s many fight scenes and the chase scene that follows Jane’s breakout from the palace early in the story.  Even the finest of details were tuned to make the special effects in each case collectively an effective part of the overall presentation.

The work done by those behind the cameras to keep Thor: The Dark World from being little more than another special effects extravaganza is very much an applause worthy aspect of this movie.  Their ability to balance its live action and CG elements is one of the most important aspects of the movie’s success, limited as that success proves to be in the grand scheme of things.  The ability of all involved to balance the movie’s fantasy and science fiction elements is just as important to the overall product.  Those that are less familiar with Marvel’s take on the God of Thunder and the first movie in his franchise might go into the movie thinking it will be just another fantasy epic a la The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.  Those same individuals are sure to be pleasantly surprised to see both elements smoothly combined.  On a bigger level, it shows once again how easy it is to blur genre lines on both the big screen and small screen, and how to do it right for that matter.

The balance of live action and CG elements and that of sci-fi and fantasy elements make Thor: The Dark World one more release that comic book fans of any age should see at least once.  They aren’t all that make the movie worth at least a single watch.  The acting on the part of lead stars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston also plays into the movie’s overall success, as limited as that success proves to be.  The duo’s chemistry has visibly grown over the course of the two movies in which it has already starred—Thor and The Avengers.  Their chemistry has developed so much and so well that it makes suspension of disbelief that much easier in watching the pair interact.  Whether on the verge of taking one another down, Thor having to endure Loki’s wisecracking, or other situations, Hiddleston and Hemsworth make for one of the movie industry’s better modern day odd couples for lack of better wording.  There has been much talk as to whether or not Loki will be back in the already anticipated third movie in the Thor franchise.  If he should be back once more, it goes without saying that his pairing with Hemsworth will be one more welcome addition to the movie’s cast.

As one can tell by now, there is plenty to applaud in Marvel Studios’ Thor: The Dark World.  For all of its positives, this movie is anything but perfect.  The one area in which this movie fails is also its most important.  That area is the story’s script/writing.  The movie’s script is one more prime example of what happens when there are too many hands in the proverbial pot.  No fewer than four individuals worked together to develop the script for this work.  The end result is a near two hour movie that feels a lot longer and schmaltzier than it should have been.  The script’s first problem is the tired and overly used issue of a character trying to find his place in his world and in the universe.  The character in question is Thor.  Audiences see him emotionally struggling to figure out where he belongs in Asgard and trying to balance that with his feelings for his love interest, Jane, who is once again played by Natalie Portman.  This is hardly the first time that audiences have ever seen this used.  The whole brooding character bit has already been done just this year alone in Man of Steel.  The end result of that was a movie that was met with mixed results.  Audiences will be just as mixed with this movie as a result of having Thor brooding in much the same style.

Thor’s brooding nature this time out is just one of the problems with Thor 2’s script.  Just as much a problem with this script is the fact that it feels more like one extended fight sequence than an actual movie with a story.  There are some story elements tossed in for good measure.  But it seems like action sequences dominate the script.  This is evident right from the moment that Jane is “saved” from her room at the palace.  From that moment on, the movie’s pace goes near full speed.  There are few breaks in that action, too.  The problem with this is that it forces audiences to struggle to even hope to keep up with what’s going on.  The story’s pace is that rapid fire.  The even bigger problem is that it goes on at that pace straight through to the final moments of the movie’s epic final battle between Thor and Malekith.  That final battle is the final nail in the coffin for the movie.  It simply runs too long.  It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin.  This and Thor’s brooding sub-story take away enough from all of the movie’s positives to ultimately make it one more of Marvel Studios’ largely forgettable films.  One can only hope that when it finally hits theaters, the franchise’s third film will make up for this movie and its predecessor.  Simply put, this movie is worth at least one watch.  But it’s more worth one watch on Netflix or Redbox than in theaters.

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.