‘Green Acres: The Complete Series’ Is A Must Have For Any Classic TV Fan

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory is going “Green” next month.  That is because for the first time ever, the renowned home entertainment company will release to the masses Green Acres: The Complete Series.  The six-season set is currently expected to be released in stores and online Tuesday, Oct. 17.  Those fans who have waited for so long for its release will be happy to know that with this forthcoming release, the wait was well worth it.  That is due in no small part to the episodes.  This will be discussed shortly.  The set’s packaging is another important part of its presentation that cannot and should not be ignored, and will be discussed later.  The bonus material included in this package rounds out its most important elements. Each element is important in its own right to the set’s presentation.  All things considered, the first-ever run of Green Acres: The Complete Series proves, again, to have been well worth the wait and one that is easily one of this year’s best new box sets for grown-ups.

Shout! Factory’s forthcoming release of Green Acres: The Complete Series is a set that fans of the classic sitcom will find was well worth the wait.  That is especially the case considering that its release next month will mark the first time that the show has ever received a full-series treatment.  That is due in part to the episodes presented here.  From start to finish, audiences get all 170 episodes of the classic series, including the series’ rare pilot episode, which even has its own audio commentary track featuring thoughts from pop culture historian Russell Dyball.  That commentary is just one of the bonuses included in the set that will be discussed later.  Getting back on the subject, this set marks the first time that all 170 episodes of the largely family friendly series have ever been released together or otherwise.  What’s more, each episode looks and sounds just as good as they did in their original broadcasts if not better.  This is a real tribute to the series’ fans on the part of Shout! Factory and MGM, and both companies are to be commended for those efforts.  That is just one of the reasons that both companies should be commended here.  The set’s packaging is deserving of just as much praise as the episodes and their presentation.

The packaging used for Green Acres: The Complete Series is once more everything that audiences have come to expect from box sets released via Shout! Factory.  All six seasons of the classic sitcom are set in their own cases with the discs themselves being placed on their own plates inside the boxes.  Even with four discs being placed inside each case (for a total of 24 discs), the cases are still standard single-disc DVD size cases, showing once again how much thought was obviously put into the set’s packaging.  While separating the seasons out into separate cases might have expanded the set’s overall packaging, it is a sacrifice worth having to make in order to preserve the discs, and in turn, the series.  What’s more, even while this method might expand the packaging, it still in essence doesn’t expand it too much.

The physical aspect of the set’s packaging is only one part of what makes this element stand out.  Once again, Shout! Factory has included inside each season’s case, a chronological episode listing for audiences that includes a short but concise summary for each episode, the episode’s original air date and title.  The result here is two-fold.  One on level, the episode title and summary helps audiences decide which episode(s) they want to watch at one point or another.  On another level, the air date serves as its own starting point for perhaps a history lesson on the episode and even the series.  In other words, the set’s packaging is pleasing not just for its physical aspect but for its aesthetic aspect, too.  Keeping all of this in mind, it becomes clear why this collection’s packaging is just as important as its episodes, if not more important.  Of course it is not the last of the set’s most important elements.  The set’s bonus material forms the set’s cornerstone.

The bonus material included with Green Acres: The Complete Series offers just as much entertainment as the series’ episodes if not more.  That is because of its quantity and quality.  As previously noted, the series’ pilot episode can be viewed both by itself and with an isolated audio commentary track from pop culture historian Russell Dyball.  Dyball’s commentary both entertains and informs audiences of all ages with his insight.  The Granby’s Green Acres radio broadcasts, which are also briefly discussed in the bonus featurette Green Acres Is The Place To Be.  Audiences get to experience for themselves here just some of the episodes from the short-lived radio broadcast series, which was the foundation for Green Acres.  After taking in those broadcasts and learning about them through the aforementioned bonus discussion with author Stephen Cox, audiences gain a whole new respect and appreciation for the series in both incarnations.  Speaking of Cox’s discussion, his discussion about Green Acres’ radio roots is just one of so many topics that he covers in his featurette. Along with that discussion, he also touches on the series’ connections to I Love Lucy, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and other series through casting, production and other topics.  That is just the tip of the iceberg, too.  He also goes into depth about the off-screen friendship between the series’ stars, Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor—there was nothing romantic there, so no one should get their hopes up for any gossip—the fact that Albert and Gabor were not the original picks for the show’s leads and why, the series’ animal stars and their training and even the importance of the series’ theme song as a scene setter for the show among so much more.  Between his in-depth discussions and those from Dyball, audiences get more than they could have hoped for in terms of engagement and entertainment.  The radio broadcasts and Merv Griffin Show appearances starring Albert and Gabor collectively add even more entertainment.  From one item to the next, it is clear that the bonus material included with Green Acres: The Complete Series is pivotal to this set’s presentation.  It collectively succeeds, too.  When it is considered alongside the series’ full 170-episode presentation and the continued standard-setting packaging, all three elements join to make this first-time release one that was well worth the wait and the money.  They join to make the set one of the year’s top new box sets for grown-ups.

Shout! Factory’s upcoming release of Green Acres: The Complete Series is definitely one that was well worth the wait.  It is also one of the year’s top new box sets for grown-ups (and maybe even families in whole, which the world needs more of in this day and age).  From the presentation of its full 170-episode run to its continued bar-setting packaging to its equally entertaining and engaging bonus material, it offers plenty for audiences to appreciate.  Considering that, audiences will agree when they experience it for themselves–once more-that it was well worth the wait and the cost.  It can be pre-ordered online now via Shout! Factory’s online store.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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Robot Jox Is One Of 2015’s Top New Reissues

Courtesy/Shout! Factory/Empire Pictures/MGM/Orion Pictures

Courtesy/Shout! Factory/Empire Pictures/MGM/Orion Pictures

The 1980s was one of the movie industry’s best eras and one of its worst. That is because a lot of great classic movies were born in that era. However, just as many really bad movies came out of that decade. There was also a handful of movies that while seemed bad at the time, have since proven to be so far ahead of their time and underappreciated in hindsight. Orion Pictures’ 1989 sci-fi action flick Robot Jox is one of the latter of those movies. And thanks to Shout! Factory, Robot Jox a new generation of moviegoers will see for themselves just how underappreciated the movie has been ever since its debut some twenty-six years ago. That is because Shout! Factory’s horror division Scream Factory re-issued the modern classic b-movie on Blu-ray this summer. Audiences that give this movie a chance will see for themselves that there is a lot that makes this movie well worth the watch, its script being the most important of its elements. The script presents a story that is more than just two men facing off in a pair of giant, fighting robots. Rather it is something deeper. That something deeper will be discussed at more length shortly. Its special effects are, colletively speaking, another important part of the movie’s whole. In comparison to both action movies from that era and from today’s age of big budget special effects blockbusters, Robot Jox boasts special effects that are surprisingly impressive. They are impressive both in themselves and in juxtaposition to the movie’s story. That will be discussed at more length later. Last but hardly least worth noting of the movie’s re-issue is its bevy of bonus material. Audiences get an extensive amount of interviews with those that worked behind the cameras in order to bring the movie to life. It adds plenty of insight and in turn enjoyment to the overall viewing experience. The result of that enjoyment is the agreement that Robot Jox is in fact one of the most underrated movies of its time and perhaps even of its genre and in knowing this, it proves itself to be one of the best of this year’s crop of new re-issues.

Scream Factory’s (Shout! Factory’s horror division) recent re-issue of the classic sci-fi B-flick Robot Jox is one of the best of this year’s crop of new re-issues. The main reason for the honor is the movie’s script. On the surface, it would seem to the untrained eye that the script presents a story that is just another movie about giant, fighting robots. But in reality it is far more than that. The script presents a story with just as much commentary and drama as with enjoyable fight scenes. The commentary in question can be argued to be the product of then Cold War tensions between the U.S. and Russia as Achilles–an American robot jock–faces off against Alexander–who interestingly enough is a Russian character played by an American actor–in a battle for the rights to Alaska and its resources. It is interesting to note that writer/director Stuart Gordon never makes clear which countries are on which side of the two post-WWIII factions. So it can only be assumed from this subtlety and the use of the movie’s two main characters that in fact Stuart was reflecting tensions in the real world as a model for the tensions divisions within the world of Robot Jox. It is just one part of what makes the movie’s script such an important part of the movie’s whole. The human drama element incorporated into the movie makes for even more interest and enjoyment. Achilles’ (Gary Graham–Alien Nation, All The Right Moves, Star Trek: Enterprise) personal drama was nothing new to the world of movies and television then nor is it now. But the fact that Gordon was able to keep that element overtake the story’s other elements or even become too schmaltzy is a tribute to Gordon’s attention to detail. The same can be said of his ability to prevent the action sequences from overpowering the script, too. In comparison to so many of today’s major action flicks, too many of those movies rely more on the quantity of explosions than the quality of the story in whole. Thankfully Gordon’s creation wasn’t and isn’t one of those movies, even having been released in 1989. It balances that element with the movie’s commentary and human drama to make a script that ensures audiences’ engagement from beginning to end. In turn, that balance proves the movie’s script to be one of its most important elements if not its most important.

Stuart Gordon’s script is one of the most important elements of Robot Jox’s presentation. It balances each of its elements so well that it will assuredly keep audiences fully engaged. On a side note, considering the amount of foul language peppered throughout the script and Athena’s short scene featuring her bare backside, it is a surprise that this movie got a “PG” rating. Maybe that’s just the sign of changing times. Regardless, the script behind Robot Jox is just one part of what makes the movie such a welcome re-issue. The special effects utilized in Robot Jox are just as important to the whole of the movie as the movie’s script. The special effects are such an important element in that in comparison to action flicks churned out in the 80s, few if any relied on models and stop motion photography in the same fashion or extent of this movie. Rather, most action flicks of the time were beginning to rely on bigger budget special effects including what was then the earliest incarnations of computer generated special effects and other movie magic. To see that those behind the cameras went the low-fi (for lack of better wording) route instead in this case just makes it all the more enjoyable. That is because it throws back to the days of Roger Corman’s classic B-flicks. It shows that such an approach could at the time still result in a movie that looked surprisingly impressive and that movie makers didn’t necessarily have to use the more modern approach to entertain audiences. For that matter moviemakers could probably use such an approach today and it would still look better than most of the explosion-laden action flicks that currently pollute American theaters. That in mind, the special effects used in Robot Jox, which are themselves discussed at more length in the bonus commentary included in the reissue’s bonus material, show just how important they are to the whole of the movie even nearly four decades after the movie’s original debut.

The script behind Robot Jox and its special effects are both equally important in considering what makes this movie such a welcome return. As important as both elements are, they are only a couple of parts of the whole of the movie’s enjoyment. The extensive commentaries from those behind the cameras are just as important as the movie’s script and it special effects in considering its enjoyment. Audiences will note of the movie’s bonus commentaries, that they get to hear from the movie’s writer/director Stuart Gordon as well as others behind the cameras including members of the movie’s special effects and visual effects department. Audiences learn through the interviewees’ discussions about the work that went into assembling the robot models used in the fight scenes, and the work put in to hide the wires on which the miniatures were mounted as well as the very work put in to bring the robots to life per se among so many other topics. Those and all of the other topics tackled along with the bonus gag reel and interview with star Paul Koslo (Joe Kidd, The Omega Man, Vanishing Point) combine to show why the bonus material included in the movie’s new Blu-ray re-issue is just as important to the movie’s script and special effects. It gives an in-depth look at just how much work went in to bringing to life not just the robots, but the movie in whole. According to one of the interviewees, the movie actually took some four years to be completed. That is a lot of time and work; time and work that paid off quite well in the end as the movie’s re-issue reveals. It paid off so well that the result is, again, one of the best of this year’s crop of re-issues.

Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray re-issue of Robot Jox is one of the best of this year’s crop of new re-issues. It is more than just another cheesy 80s action flick. Rather it is a movie with a script that seems to reflect the world’s political climate at the time of its debut and boasts special effects that are surprisingly impressive compared to both those of other 80s action flicks and those released in recent years. The discussions on those special effects and other aspects of the movie’s creation in the reissue’s new bonus commentaries rounds out the movie’s presentation makes for even more appreciation for the movie. In the end, all three elements together show clearly why Scream Factory’s re-issue of Robot Jox is one of the best of the year’s crop of new re-issues. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/action-adventure/robot-jox. More information on this and other titles from Scream! Factory is available online now at:

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Shout At The Devil Is Well Deserving Of Its Recent DVD/BD Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group/MGM/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group/MGM/Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory re-issued this Spring a movie that is perhaps one of the lesser known wartime period pieces to have been released during the 20th Century. The movie in question is the World War I period piece Shout at the Devil. This 1976 film, starring Roger Moore (For Your Eyes Only, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker) and Lee Marvin (M Squad, The Dirty Dozen, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), is a movie that deserves a second chance and rightfully has gotten one thanks to the people at Shout! Factory. The story’s script is the central reason for it to get that look that it otherwise might not have gotten in its original release. The script’s premise is pretty simple to follow, which leaves plenty of time for action throughout its length. Also worth noting is the acting on the part of both Marvin and Moore. The duo’s on screen presence makes suspension of disbelief quite easy, thus making the movie that much more enjoyable whether one is seeing it for the first time or the first time in a long time. And last but not least is the movie’s special effects department. While the movie is at its heart an action flick, the over-the-top explosions and other special effects that are overly used in today’s movies are nowhere to be found here. It seems like a minor detail. But reality is that it is quite important in the overall scheme of things. Each of the factors noted here are important at their own level. Altogether, they show just why Shout at the Devil is one of the 20th Century’s more underrated action flicks and war-time period pieces.

When asked to name some of the greatest war-time movies ever crafted during the 20th Century, most audiences will likely rattle off movie titles such as The Great Escape, Schindler’s List, Patton, and other big name movies. The likely reason for this is that movies centered on World War I are so few and far between. Next to Shout at the Devil perhaps the only other movie centered on that World War I that most audiences will come up with when asked to name any is All Quiet on the Western Front. Odds are few people will name Shout at the Devil as a matter of fact. Given the chance to watch this movie, word might finally spread now that it has been re-issued in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. And one reason that word might spread is the movie’s script. The script behind this movie is pretty simple. It sees Marvin and Moore as Colonel Flynn O’Flynn and Sebastian Oldsmith respectively. The pair goes toe to toe with German officer Herman Fleischer (Reinhard Kolldehoff) in a game of cat and mouse across Africa. After Fleishcer and his men set fire to the village where O’Flynn and Oldsmith are staying with Oldsmiths’ wife and child things get very personal. That’s because Oldsmith’s newborn is killed in the process. The pair is then given reason to join forces with the British Navy to hunt down Fleischer’s battleship and sink it. It’s as simple as that. So it leaves one wondering why some viewers didn’t like this movie. Perhaps those are the viewers that should give this movie another watch now that it has been re-issued on Blu-ray/DVD box set courtesy of Shout! Factory. Perhaps a second watch will allow those audiences to see it more clearly and in turn appreciate it for that script, if nothing else.

The script penned for Shout at the Devil is central to the overall enjoyment of this period piece. Working in direct connection with the script is the acting on the part of its lead cast. There is obvious chemistry between Moore and Marvin throughout the movie. Their interactions show that. From their first scene to their fight when O’Flynn’s daughter announces that she and Oldsmith are going to get married, to Oldsmith’s reaction to being volunteered for the mission to find Fleischer’s battleship, their interactions with one another pull viewers effortlessly into the movie. Audiences will find themselves laughing quite a bit at the contradiction of personalities between the duo at so many points throughout the story. And even in the story’s few more emotional moments, they both pull off their parts expertly. That ability to interpret each scene and properly emote will easily keep audiences engaged and entertained. In turn, they make the movie’s roughly two-and-a-half hour run time fly by thus proving once more why this little-known movie so rightly deserved its re-issue from Shout! Factory.

The acting on the part of Lee Marvin and Roger Moore in Shout at the Devil and the movie’s script are both important parts of the movie’s enjoyment. There is one more factor to examine in the movie’s overall presentation that makes it a movie worth watching. That final factor is the movie’s special effects. Those that give this movie a chance will note that it is both a drama and an action flick. No action flick is complete without a certain amount of special effects. The problem with Hollywood today is that it relies far too much on special effects to make up for what is an otherwise boring film that lacks any real substance. The case with Shout at the Devil is the exact opposite as today’s movies. Given, studios didn’t have access to the resources in 1976 to which they have access today. Regardless, those behind the movie’s special effects used the resources at their disposal at a minimum. The flight scenes were obviously filmed in front of a blue screen as was the scene early on in which Fleischer’s battleship rams the tiny boat carrying O’Flynn and Oldsmith. But in comparison to other movies released in the late 70s, these special effects were actually respectable. They didn’t look so deliberate that one would end up simply shaking their heads at said scenes. And even the final scene, which will not be revealed here, kept the explosions to a minimum. They weren’t the over-the-top flash-bang-boom trips on which filmmakers such as Michael Bay and James Cameron go in their movies. Simply put, the special effects used in Shout at the Devil were used as part of the story rather than to make up for lack of story. And that balance with the writing and acting serves as part of the whole that once more makes Shout at the Devil a movie that any movie buff and military movie buff should see. This is regardless of whether said individuals will see the movie for the first time or for the first time in a long time.

Shout at the Devil is available now in stores and online in a double-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo pack courtesy of Shout! Factory. It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/shout-devil. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Timeless Media is available online at http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial, http://www.shoutfactory.com, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Timeless-Media-Group/358391474233364, and http://www.timelessvideo.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and “Like” it at 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.

The Producers Sure To Produce As Many Laughs As Ever In New Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/MGM

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/MGM

In 1968, director/comedian Mel Brooks debuted a movie that would go on decades later to be one of the greatest comedies ever put to screen.  That comedy was the Gene Wilder/Zero Mostel led farce of the theater industry, The Producers.

The Producers was Mel Brooks’ big screen directorial debut.  And boy was it ever a debut?  It’s proof that in an industry that has become so overloaded with overly gritty and violent crime dramas, crime can be funny.  For that matter, it even makes criminals funny and–to a point–endearing.  It is outrageously irreverent and politically incorrect even by today’s standards.  It is so irreverent and outrageous that even those that are now old enough to take it in will find themselves laughing tears of joy from beginning to end. It serves as an example of everything that was once right with the movie industry and everything that the movie industry has lost since its premiere so many decades ago.  So what makes it such a great movie?  Let’s start with its writing.

The writing of The Producers is uproariously hilarious.  There is not one moment in this debut from Mel Brooks that won’t have audiences laughing uproariously even today.  The Nazis would go on to be the butt of many of Mel Brooks’ jokes in his movies, justifiably.  So being that this movie would be the first time audiences got a taste of his humor, it makes his jokes that much funnier.  His jokes about the Nazis were only part of what made Brooks’ writing in this movie so hilarious.  At its most basic of levels, this movie was a buddy comedy that doubled as a farce of how the theater industry works.  Go figure, he would go on decades later to remake this movie both for the stage and then later would be adapted to the big screen and then small screen.  The jokes centered on the auditions and the very discussions between Leo and Max on which play to use for their scheme will leave people holding their sides as they laugh.  And looking at how people audition for reality shows today such as American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and others, it’s incredible just how much truth there was to the audition scenes in this movie.  It’s that truth factor that makes these jokes that much funnier and in turn, the overall movie that much funnier.  It proves that there would be no Seth McFarlane or anyone else of that ilk without Mel Brooks.

Brooks’ writing in The Producers is one part of the whole that makes this movie one of the best comedies of all time.  The jokes and gags are wonderful.  They are no less entertaining with each watch.  Viewers should also take into account Brooks’ ability within the script to balance its dual story lines.  On one side, The Producers is a buddy comedy.  On another, it’s a farce of how the theater business works.  Somehow some way, Brooks was able to take both of these and marry them seamlessly together.  The choice of Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel for the central roles was perfect.  Their chemistry made for one of the greatest comedic duos of all time.  The scene in which Mostel’s Max takes Leo’s (Wilder) blanket is just one example of this.  His almost neurotic reaction is one of the movie’s absolutely funniest moments.  Ironically enough, viewers will learn in watching the movie’s bonus features (which were carried over from the original DVD release) that Wilder in fact was genuinely freaking out over the blanket.  What led to this is something that viewers will have to discover for themselves when they pick up the movie in its new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release from Shout! Factory.

Staying on the matter of the new re-issue’s bonus features, the features on this latest release were carried over from the previous DVD release.  Because they have been, now a whole new generation of comedy lovers can learn the secrets of the movie’s casting and how some of its funniest moments came about such as the now infamous blanket scene between Wilder and Mostel.  Just as interesting to learn about is that if not for the hit movie The Graduate, fellow veteran actor Dustin Hoffman might have actually filled the role of Leo Bloom and not Gene Wilder.  No one will ever know what the might have been like.  But the fact of the matter is that Gene Wilder was the perfect choice to fill the role in Hoffman’s departure.  And in what is one of the most eye opening of revelations, one of the female extras used in the play segments protested wearing certain Nazi symbols anywhere on her even though the attire was meant as part of the overall joke making fun of the Nazis.  According to the interviews included, the woman in question proclaimed that she had worked far too hard to get to where she was, so she refused to wear what the movie’s heads wanted.  That’s pretty brave for someone who was just an extra.  The reveal as to what she ended up wearing is just as funny considering it was a “compromise.”  As minor as this little factoid is, it’s this and so many other interesting notes that make the movie even funnier.  And along with its solid writing and acting, and ability to balance its dual story lines, it proves yet again on its latest re-issue why it is still one of the best comedies of all time, if not the greatest.  It’s now available on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory store online at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217373.  While waiting for the new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack to come in, audiences can keep up with all the latest on Shout! Factory’s other upcoming releases on its website, http://www.shoutfactory.com and its official Facbeook page, http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.

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.

Hope Springs A Funny, Heartfelt Rom-Com For Every Married Couple

Courtesy:  MGM/Escape Artists/Mandate Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: MGM/Escape Artists/Mandate Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Hope Springs is one of Meryl Streep’s most heartfelt, moving performances of her entire career.  Despite what many might want to believe, it isn’t just another chick flick.  It’s a movie that every married couple should see no matter how long they have been married.  Co-star Tommy Lee Jones has been typecast once again as another gruff personality in a power of authority.  Typically, he stars as a police officer or another similar authority figure in his movies.  This time, he stars as a high powered businessman.  Ironically enough, while he has been typecast yet again, his character Arnold is a fitting counterpoint to Streep’s Kay.  The couple has gotten far too comfortable in its marriage, and has completely grown apart.  It’s a simple story.  Yet it’s such a realistic story, unlike so many rom-coms that Hollywood has churned out over the years.

Many audiences seem to have had a belief that Hope Springs was aimed largely at older audiences.  But the reality of the story is that it mirrors life for younger married couples just as much as for those with years of experience.  The story is less about Kay and Arnold’s sex life or lack thereof than it is about simply how the pair has forgotten who the other is.  As a result Kay and Arnold are more strangers to each other than a married couple.  Again, this is something that is just as easy for younger couples to have happen as for those who have been marred for decades.  Maybe that is why the audiences and critics that panned it did so.  Perhaps, just perhaps, those that panned it didn’t like seeing the reality of their own lives playing out on screen.  This sort of denial and rejection is exemplified through Arnold’s own refusal and denial to talk to Doctor Feld (played here by Steve Carell in what is one of his most impressive roles yet, too).  No one likes to have to admit when things aren’t the way they are in life.  This is especially the case when it comes to relationships and marriages.  If viewers can get past their own pride—as Arnold was forced to do—they will see just how much value this story has, even if watched just once and that it is okay to admit that no one’s marriage is perfect.  It’s something that couples have to work at throughout their lives.  As John Lennon and his band mates in The Beatles sang, “All you need is love.”

The central story of Hope Springs is one to which any married couple can relate.  For all of its deep, heartfelt moments, audiences can’t possibly ignore the story’s funnier moments.  The way in which Doctor Feld candidly talks about Kay and Arnold’s sexual relationship and the couple’s reaction to his candid discussion.  This is just one more factor that makes Hope Springs so enjoyable for any married couple.  The very thought of discussing what goes on behind closed doors or in the deepest recesses of a person’s mind is still considered very taboo by most Americans.  Keeping this in mind in seeing the reaction of both Kay and Arnold will leave any viewer laughing.  It’s obvious how uncomfortable both Kay and Arnold felt in discussing their sex life…or in their case, the lack thereof.  For all of the comic elements of these moments, the deeper more emotional root of the couple’s lack of intimacy reminds audiences how serious this can be on a marriage.  It’s just one more aspect of the near two hour movie that makes it surprisingly enjoyable.

The acting and the writing of Hope Springs are both important to the movie’s success.  There is one more factor that should be given note here in the story’s success.  That factor is the work of the movie’s makeup department.  In so many of the movies in which Streep has starred, she has managed to look different from her previous role.  This movie is one more of those cases.  This movie’s makeup department is to be highly commended for making Meryl look so believable as an older woman.  From the makeup to the hair, there was something about her look that was completely different from her previous roles.  It was done so expertly that one can’t help but wonder, is this perhaps what she would look like off-screen without her makeup?  In other words, the hair and makeup looked natural.  And to look natural is a success.  It makes Kay that much more believable as a character.  And along with the acting of both Streep and Jones, and the story’s writing, Hope Springs turns out as a whole, to be a movie that any married couple should see at least once in their marriage.  It is available now in stores and online.

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.

The Great Escape Is A Great War Movie

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/MGM

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/MGM

The world celebrated what is one of the most important dates in history last week with the remembrance of VE Day.  That was the day that the war in Europe ended.  Interestingly enough, last Tuesday, MGM and 20th Century Fox released the fiftieth anniversary edition of what is one of the most talked about films centered on the war in Europe in The Great Escape.  This is hardly the shortest movie made about events from the war.  It clocks in at nearly three hours long.  And even with certain fictionalized portions as noted in the movie’s bonus features, it still proves almost half a century later to be one of the greatest WWII themed movies to ever be crafted.

What makes The Great Escape enjoyable, despite its run time, is that while it is on the surface a story based in WWII, it is more a story about the power of teamwork and of the human spirit to survive.  Having so many P.O.W.s from so many different backgrounds in one confined area could be argued to be a microcosm of the nations of the world.  This likely wasn’t the primary intent of script writers James Clavell and W.R. Burnett.  But seeing this and the ability of the men to work together for a singular cause despite their varied backgrounds helps to illustrate the power of teamwork and the human spirit to survive.  Those messages are made even more powerful when juxtaposed against the ideologies of the Nazi party.  It shows that no matter how great the odds, even ordinary people can do extraordinary feats when they come together.

The messages of teamwork and the human spirit are integral to the enjoyment of The Great Escape.  Those same messages are illustrated even more through the movie’s main storyline and its action sequences.  The movie’s main storyline is not that difficult to follow.  A group of P.O.W.s is sent to what is supposed to be an inescapable P.O.W. camp created by the Nazis.  The allied prisoners find every way to hide their “great” escape plan from the Nazi guards manning the camp.  The ways in which the plan is covered up are funny.  From singing Christmas music to using special code, it all seems so outrageous.  But it’s that outrageousness that is so entertaining.  As soon as audiences allow themselves to be pulled into the story, and get over the fact that some of the story was in fact fictionalized, they will find themselves appreciating the story even more.

Staying on the matter of the fictionalized portions of The Great Escape, the bonus features included in the movie’s fiftieth anniversary Blu-ray edition do a lot to justify the fictionalized portions of the story.  It is noted in the bonus features that portions of the story were in fact added that didn’t happen, such as Steve McQueen’s famous motorcycle chase.  It is noted that he made the demand that unless this scene was added, he was not going to star in the movie based.  Perhaps most interesting to note in the included bonus features is that despite some changes and additions here and there, the men that actually escaped from Stalag Luft III were quite accepting of the movie and even tried to claim that this character and that was based on him.  One can’t help but laugh at the pride brought out in those men when they shared their stories and joked about being the influence behind given characters in the movie.  The pride of the men on whom the movie was based is the most important reason for the movie having been made.  And it’s the most important reason for the movie to be seen to this day.  It is a tribute to just one more group of individuals of what former newsman Tom Brokaw properly called “The Greatest Generation.”  With members of this generation passing away each day, a movie like this is increasingly necessary in order to keep the memory of that generation alive.  It’s a movie that members of every generation should see at least once.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online via the Fox store at http://www.foxconnect.com

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Skyfall One Of 2013’s Top Home Releases

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

There’s an old adage that states something to the effect of the third time is the charm.  That adage has never been truer than in the case of Daniel Craig’s take on the revered Bond franchise.  When Casino Royale first debuted, it was met with mixed reviews.  That is because it came across more as a movie that was struggling to deal with the expectations placed on it by critics and the public.  In trying so hard, it lost its identity, and became more of a melodrama than a classic Bond flick.  Then came Quantum of Solace.  The second of Craig’s Bond films wasn’t bad.  It was just misunderstood.  Its problem was that it was more a sequel to Casino Royale than its own standalone movie.  Enter Skyfall.  This is the Bond flick that fans have wanted from the very beginning.  That’s even more the case now that this modern classic has been released on Blu-ray, DVD and digital.

Skyfall is the movie that long-time Bond fans have waited for since the release of Casino Royale.  This movie is a throwback to the glory days of James Bond in every sense of the word.  Right from the beginning of the movie, audiences are taken back in time with a classic Bond style opening credit sequence complete with musical number.  This time the opening musical number is provided courtesy of pop star Adele who recently won a Golden Globe for her performance of the movie’s theme song.  And go figure, she sings in the song’s chorus, “This is the end.”  For those who haven’t seen Skyfall yet, this single line is far more prophetic than anyone could realize until the story’s surprise ending.  In between the classic opening and the surprise ending, the rest of the movie is entirely classic style Bond, complete with a wild opening chase scene, and nonstop action throughout the story’s first two acts.  The story’s final act is the only downside to the entire presentation.  The buildup to the final confrontation between Bond and Silva drags on more than it really should have.  But the story’s surprise epilogue makes that slow boil forgivable.

The meat and potatoes of Skyfall is classic James Bond in every sense of the phrase. The action is much the same as old school Bond flicks.  And fans will thrill at the inclusion of a certain classic Bond car complete with ejector seat and guns in the headlights.  Yes, that car.  And then of course there is the classic Bond attitude on the part of Daniel Craig.  Rather than being the finely trained killer/agent with emotional baggage that audiences came to know from the franchise’s previous efforts, what audiences get here is a mix of Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery and his own attitude, too complete with the occasional semi-cheesy one-liners.  Combined with the story’s non-stop action and the constant references to the Golden Days of Bond, Skyfall quickly becomes the first true definitive Bond film for this generation.  All of these factors are discussed at length in the bonus features included in the movie’s brand new Blu-ray/DVD/Vudu combo pack.  Everything from the action scenes to the new Bond girl to the gadgets and more are discussed in the combo pack’s bonus features.  Those dicussions are made even more interesting with the inclusion of not one, but two separate audio commentaries that audiences can enjoy.  Both commentaries add their own extra insight into everything that went into making the movie.  For example, audiences will be surprised to discover that Craig himself took part in the movie’s initial train scene as it went through a tunnel.  That wasn’t a stunt double.  That was really Daniel Craig.  How many stars today are so willing to do their own stunts next to one Jackie Chan.  The commentaries offer so much more that audiences will enjoy as they watch this new home release themselves.  Keeping all of this in mind, it goes without saying that just as this was one of the best movies of 2012 in theaters, it is now one of the best movies of 2013 in its home release.  It is available in stores and online now and can be ordered online direct via the Fox online store at http://www.foxconnect.com/skyfall-14987.html.

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

Skyfall Is Bond Done Right

Courtesy: MGM/Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures

There’s an old adage that states something to the effect of the third time is the charm.  That adage has never been truer than in the case of Daniel Craig’s take on the revered Bond franchise.  When Casino Royale first debuted, it was met with mixed reviews.  That is because it came across more as a movie that was struggling to deal with the expectations placed on it by critics and the public.  In trying so hard, it lost its identity, and became more of a melodrama than a classic Bond flick.  Then came Quantum of Solace.  The second of Craig’s Bond films wasn’t bad.  It was just misunderstood.  Its problem was that it was more a sequel to Casino Royale than its own standalone movie.  Enter Skyfall.  This is the Bond flick that fans have wanted from the very beginning.

Skyfall is the movie that long-time Bond fans have waited for since the release of Casino Royale.  This movie is a throwback to the glory days of James Bond in every sense of the word.  Right from the beginning of the movie, audiences are taken back in time with a classic Bond style opening credit sequence complete with musical number.  This time the opening musical number is provided courtesy of pop star Adele.  And go figure, she sings in the song’s chorus, “This is the end.”  For those who haven’t seen Skyfall yet, this single line is far more prophetic than anyone could realize until the story’s surprise ending.  In between the classic opening and the surprise ending, the rest of the movie is entirely classic style Bond, complete with a wild opening chase scene, and nonstop action throughout the story’s first two acts.  The story’s final act is the only downside to the entire presentation.  The buildup to the final confrontation between Bond and Silva drags on more than it really should have.  But the story’s surprise epilogue makes that slow boil forgivable.

The meat and potatoes of Skyfall is classic James Bond in every sense of the phrase. The action is much the same as old school Bond flicks.  And fans will thrill at the inclusion of a certain classic Bond car complete with ejector seat and guns in the headlights.  Yes, that car.  And then of course there is the classic Bond attitude on the part of Daniel Craig.  Rather than being the finely trained killer/agent with emotional baggage that audiences came to know from the franchise’s previous efforts, what audiences get here is a mix of Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery and his own attitude, too complete with the occasional semi-cheesy one-liners.  Combined with the story’s non-stop action and the constant references to the Golden Days of Bond, Skyfall quickly becomes the first true definitive Bond film for this generation.  Keeping that in mind, it also has made its argument for consideration to be one of the year’s top movies.  With any luck, now that the people behind Skyfall have crafted a movie for ALL Bond fans, those same people will realize that “the end” is just the beginning for this Bond.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Princess Bride Still Timeless After A Quarter Century

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment/MGM

Twenty-five years ago, audiences were introduced to a movie that has become one of the greatest and most beloved romantic comedies of all time in The Princess Bride.  This cinema classic has stood the test of time.  It’s still just as enjoyable today as it was when it originally debuted in theaters in 1987.  Whether one is a fan of the comedy drama or fantasy and romance, The Princess Bride is able to appease audiences of all three genres.  So what is it that makes it such a timeless work?  It all starts with the writing.  It’s a simple love story with more than enough romance, sword fighting, and satire to appease both male and female audiences.  Along with the writing, the acting of Cary Elwes and Robin Wright (and their supporting cast) and the directing of Hollywood legend Rob Reiner play their own role in the movie’s success.  And now in its twenty-fifth year as one of the movie industry’s greatest movies, the bonus features included in the latest re-issue make it that much better.The writing behind The Princess Bride is one of the biggest factors in the success of the movie.  This movie isn’t the first time that a movie has ever been adapted from a book.  That the story would actually be told from the book in the movie itself is in itself a funny joke.  [Rob] Reiner doesn’t mention anything about this in the additional commentary, but one can’t help but laugh at the thought that here is a story being told on screen within the context of a movie that has been adapted from the same book being read to the then very young Fred Savage.  Staying in that same vein, the movie does change a few things here and there.  But for the most part, it makes a valiant effort to stay true to author William Golding’s book by the same name.  Knowing this serves to make the movie that much more enjoyable.

The writing behind The Princess Bride is enjoyable as it tries to stay so close to the original book by William Golding.  Add in the acting of an all-star cast and the movie becomes even more enjoyable.  The chemistry and comedic timing of Cary Elwes and his castmates makes for so much laughter throughout the course of the movie’s near two hour run time.  Those laughs brought on by the cast’s acting are clean laughs.  As Reiner notes in the commentary, it’s clean enough for audiences of all ages to enjoy, which is part of the reason for the story’s longevity.  Audiences will also thrill at Rob Reiner’s comment in the bonus feature, “True Love: The Princess Bride Phenomenon” that no one but Cary Elwes and Robin Wright could play the roles of Wesley and Princess Buttercup.  And audiences will agree with that sentiment, too in watching the new interview included in this new edition.

Reiner’s commentary and his sit down with Elwes and Wright add so much more context to the acting and the writing that makes The Princess Bride such a wonderful adaptation.  His sit down with Elwes and Wright are new additions to this newest edition of the classic flick.  Along with it, this edition also culls the special features from the movie’s previous DVD releases for the first time.  There’s also a new feature title, “Love is Like a Storybook.”  It offers a more in depth look at specific elements of the story, making for that much more appreciation for the whole thing.  All combined, the bonus features and the commentary make this classic story that much better.  Add in great acting and equally impressive writing, and it goes without saying that The Princess Bride will continue to be a fan and family favorite for another quarter of a century.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.