Every Dark Comedy Fan Should See ‘Men & Chicken’ At Least Once

Courtesy: Drafthouse Films

Courtesy: Drafthouse Films

The dark comedy is one of the movie industry’s least appreciated genres.  That is likely because it isn’t a genre targeted at widespread audiences.  It is very much a niche genre.  Movies such as Fargo, The Cable Guy and others of that ilk are prime examples of that.  They are movies that will not appeal as widely as general comedies and rom-coms.  So it’s understandable that when Men & Chicken (from M&M Productions and DCM Productions) was imported to America early this year, it didn’t exactly make a big splash.  It had the cards stacked against it being an import and a foreign language flick and being a dark comedy.  But suffice it to say that fans of dark comedies whose minds are open enough will appreciate this movie.  It is potentially the most bizarre dark comedy that the genre’s fans will ever see, but still one that any dark comedy fan should see at least once.  That is due at least in part to its story, which is definitely original to say the very least.  The work of the movie’s cast can’t be ignored here either.  It is just as important to note.  The movie’s packaging in its recent home release (via Drafthouse Films) is also important to its presentation.  One could also note the bonus booklet and bonus digital download provided in the movie’s home release in examining its presentation, too.  All things considered, Men & Chicken shows itself to be a bizarre work of a dark comedy, but a work nonetheless, that every dark comedy fan should see at least once.  Fair warning to those fans, though:  Once it’s been seen, it can’t be unseen.

Late this past October, indie movie studio Drafthouse Films released the Danish dark comedy Men & Chicken for American audiences on DVD/BD/digital combo pack.  The movie was originally released in its home country early last year and imported to American theaters early this year.  In other words, it has been a long road for this movie to finally be available for American home viewers.  Truly open-minded dark comedy fans will agree that long wait was well worth it, too.  That statement is supported primarily via the movie’s story.  The story centers on two brothers, Gabriel and Elias, who find out that they are not related by blood after the death of their father.  As the duo heads out together in search of their birth mothers, they meet three other men who turn out to be half brothers, too.  However, the trio isn’t what Elias and Gabriel (or audiences) expect.  The men—Gregor, Franz and Josef—live in an empty mansion where they grew up.  When any of the trio does something really bad, he is put in a cage (yes, a cage) on the mansion’s property or is beaten with a random blunt object.  The physical comedy is disturbing to say the very least.  At the same time, one can’t deny the similarity between the trio’s physical comedy to that of the Three Stooges.  Sure, the comedy here is a little bit more violent to say the least.  But the similarity is there regardless.  It can’t be denied.  That’s just part of what makes the movie so bizarre and entertaining all at once.  The secrets that are revealed as Gabriel and Elias investigate the mansion will leave dark comedy fans laughing just as much as they will be left scratching their heads.  It sounds confusing, but that is perhaps the story’s purpose; to entertain dark comedy fans in a way that no other dark comedy ever has.  Throughout the process, audiences will laugh uproariously at the dinner scenes in which the brothers quarrel over (of all things) the dinner plates.  What is interesting here is that in hindsight, there is actually a connection between the plates and the secrets revealed through Gabriel and Elias’ investigation.  Audiences will only catch the connection if they make themselves sit through the entirety of the nearly two-hour movie.  That shouldn’t be tough for real dark comedy fans to do.  As an added note, audiences who watch through the whole movie will also agree that while the movie’s story is extremely bizarre and twisted, it also has a certain heart about it, too.  That is exhibited through the story’s emphasis on family.  There is a lot noted here in regards to the story presented in Men & Chicken.  Even with everything noted (and everything not noted) it should be clear that the story at the center of this movie is undeniably important to the movie’s presentation.  It is just one of the movie’s key elements.  The cast’s work on camera is just as important to note in examining the movie’s presentation as its story.

The story at the heart of Men & Chicken is undeniably an important piece of the movie’s presentation.  That is the case even as twisted and bizarre as it is.  It is original.  There’s no denying that.  And it has a fair balance of heart along with its dark comedic elements.  While the movie’s story is clearly an important part of the movie’s presentation, it is just one of the movie’s most important elements.  The work of the movie’s cast in front of the camera is just as important to note in examining the movie’s presentation as the movie’s story.  David Dencik (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, A Royal Affair, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) is outstanding both on his own and alongside his cast mates.  His very portrayal of Gabriel as the nerdy yet somewhat neurotic figure is so entertaining.  He makes Gabriel a fully sympathetic character as he has to deal with his newly found, almost feral (subtle hint here) half brothers.  Dencik’s balance of innocence and determination to find the answers about his birth mother is spot on from beginning to end.  Speaking of Dencik’s cast mates, they are just as entertaining in their own right.  Audiences will be especially interested to watch Soren Malling (A Royal Affair, Idealisten, A Hijacking) in the role of Franz.  Malling is a professionally trained comedic actor, so this role was a good fit for him.  He expertly tackles Franz’s serious demeanor in his portrayal.  At the same time, his tendencies toward using stuffed animals to beat his brothers (and apparently others) is just as hilarious, even as disturbing as it is.  It makes this seemingly serious character just as disturbed as his “brothers” and in turn, shows again the importance of the cast’s work.  Nicolas Bro and Nikolaj Lie Kaas are just as entertaining as Josef and Gregor, who live with Franz in the family mansion where Gabriel and Elias meet them.  The pair’s innocence and disturbed nature is handled just as expertly by Bro and Kaas as Malling’s take on Franz.  Mads Mikkelson’s take on Elias adds to the picture to make for even more hilarity.  Each man’s work is clearly important to the whole of the cast’s impact on the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, the cast’s work here proves to be just as important to the whole of Men & Chicken as the story at the center of the movie.

Both the story at the center of Men & Chicken and the work of the movie’s cast are important to the movie’s overall presentation.  That has hopefully been made clear by now.  While both elements are clearly important in their own right to the movie’s overall presentation, they are not its only key elements.  The movie’s packaging in its recent home release is just as important to note as its story and acting.  The movie was released late this past October on DVD/BD/digital combo pack.  The movie’s DVD and BD presentations each receive their own disc here.  The digital download is provided via a code included on an insert inside the movie’s case.  That is all well and good.  But what is truly intriguing about the movie’s packaging is the manner in which the movie’s DVD and BD discs are packaged.  They are packaged in a fashion similar to the older multi-disc packaging format, with one disc overlapping the other.  However, it is not directly identical to that format.  In fact the secondary package is placed in such fashion that while the primary disc still has to be removed in order to access it and replace it, that secondary disc won’t be damaged when replaced because of where the spindle is placed in comparison to the primary disc’s spindle.  It must be seen to be fully appreciated.  While the discs could have been better packaged (as in the form of most modern multi-disc DVD and BD sets), packaging the movie’s discs as they were handled here is still actually smart in its own way.  It still isn’t the last element that could be noted in examining the movie’s overall presentation, either.  The movie’s availability on digital download in the movie’s packaging and the companion booklet that comes with the movie’s packaging are both key in their own right, too.  All things considered, the overall presentation of Men & Chicken, with its bizarre yet original story and equally entertaining acting and packaging makes this movie a work that every dark comedy fan should see at least once.

Men & Chicken is one of the most twisted, bizarre dark comedies to come along in a very long time.  It is a work that may even surprise American dark comedy fans.  That is thanks to the clear influence of not only the Cohen Brothers but also because of the classic slapstick elements of The Three Stooges in the brothers’ interactions.  The incorporation of the dark elements of The Island of Dr. Moreau into the story makes it stand out even more.  It is quite the interesting hybrid to say the least.  But it works here, and because it works as well as it does, it will leave American audiences agreeing it is a story that every dark comedy fan should see at least once.  The story is just one element to note in examining the movie’s presentation.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note here as the story itself.  Both by themselves and alongside one another the movie’s cast shines superbly here.  The movie’s packaging in its recent domestic release via Drafthouse Films is just as important to note as anything else in examining what makes this indie import such a surprise hit.  The companion booklet that comes with the movie’s home release and its digital download round out the most important of the movie’s elements in its home release.  Each element proves important in its own right, as has already been proven here.  All together, they make Men & Chicken, once again, a work that every dark comedy fan should see at least once.  It is available now and can be ordered online direct via Drafthouse Films’ online store here.  More information on this and other titles from Drafthouse Films is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.drafthousefilms.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Drafthousefilms

 

 

 

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The Empire Will Rise This Winter

Courtesy: Rise Records/Velocity Records

Courtesy: Rise Records/Velocity Records

The empire will rise this winter.

Cosplay rock outfit Galactic Empire will release its debut album Friday, February 3, 2017.  The 11-song, self-titled record will be released via Rise Records.  It will feature the band’s own take on a number of songs featured in LucasFilms’s Star Wars movies.  Those movies are not limited to just the original trilogy of films.  The franchise’s latest installment, The Force Awakens gets a nod on this record in ‘Ben’s Death: Tie Fighter Attack.’

Also included in the band’s upcoming album are ‘Imperial March,’ ‘The Asteroid Field,’ and other re-imagined songs from the famed franchise.

The band recently released a joint statement announcing the album’s upcoming album in a manner only the Empire could.

“AT LONG LAST!  Our preparations are complete.  The mighty Galactic Empire will unleash our ultimate weapon in the battle to bring heavy metal to your galaxy,” the band said. “The puny humans at Velocity and Rise Records have succumbed to the crushing power of the Dark Side and will release out debut full-length album on which we pay tribute to Supreme Sith Overlord John Williams with 11 tracks of pure sonic devastation.  Join us, and together, we can rule the galaxy!”

The full track listing for the band’s upcoming album is noted below.

 

Track Listing:
01. Main Theme
02. Imperial March
03. Duel of the Fates
04. The Force Theme
05. The Asteroid Field
06. Battle of the Heroes
07. Cantina Band
08. Ben’s Death: Tie Fighter Attack
09. Across the Stars
10. The Forest Battle
11. The Throne Room: End Title

 

Velocity and Rise Records released videos for ‘The Imperial March’ and ‘Main Theme’ earlier this year.  The band has also been keeping audiences updated on the album through its own YouTube Channel.

Pre-orders are available for Galactic Empire now via iTunes and the band’s official website.

More information on Galactic Empire’s upcoming debut album is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:

 

 

 

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/GalacticEmpire8

 

 

 

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.

‘Star Paws’ Is A Stellar Miss For Ruthless Studios, MVD Visual

Courtesy: MVD Visual/Ruthless Studios

Courtesy: MVD Visual/Ruthless Studios

MVD Visual has a real knack for releasing impressive documentaries.  This year’s crop of new documentaries is proof of that.  It includes the likes of: Raiders: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, Zydeco Crossroads: A Tale of Two Cities and Back in Time just to name a few titles.  That’s just a few titles from this year.  It has released a number of enjoyable documentary titles in past years, too.  While MVD Visual has succeeded quite well in the documentary realm, its cinematic releases are another story.  Those releases have been hit and miss with its foreign import Men and Chicken being one of its rare hits most recently.  Later this month, MVD Visual will release a new children’s flick from indie studio Ruthless Studios called Star Paws that sadly is one of the company’s misses.  This CG/Live Action hybrid is a disappointment not just in the world of children’s movies but in general, too.  There is not a lot to say to the positive about this largely forgettable flick other than it is a good way to get young viewers interested in dinosaurs and paleontology.  Other than that, there is not much that can be said positive about this movie.

Star Paws, the new family flick from Ruthless Studios and MVD Visual is a real miss for MVD Visual in its lengthy list of cinematic features.  There is not a lot that can be said positive about this largely forgettable work.  While it does have at best one positive, that one positive isn’t enough to make up for its negatives, which begin with the very issues of its production values.  The movie’s production values (or lack thereof) make this work look like something that was crafted by a middle school student.  That is evident in an item such as the “time machine,” which is clearly just a box covered in tin foil.  This is only the tip of the massive iceberg that is the movie’s poor quality production values.  Even more troubling is the total imbalance in the movie’s CG elements and live action elements.  The dogs and chickens (yes, chickens) are the only actual animals that are used in the movie.  The dinosaurs and cats are all CG as are the space battle scenes and most of the backgrounds.  Sometimes, the backgrounds are little more than blue screens placed behind the dogs, which gives the movie an even cheaper, low-budget look.  That hurts the movie even more.  At other times, the movie’s crew just used random footage for scene shots.  It only gets worse from here, but that will be discussed later.  For all of the movie’s many negatives, it does have at least one positive.  That positive is the educational content centered on the dinosaurs.

Star Paws is marred by problems from the beginning to the end of its 78-minute run time.  From completely low-budget, amateurish production values to a total historical inaccuracy in its mention of the Civil War (audiences will have to see the movie to understand this) to the abhorrent voice acting, there is little to nothing that can be said to the positive about this movie.  Its one noticeable positive is its educational content centered on dinosaurs.  The movie is to be commended for teaching a very elementary level lesson about dinosaurs that will entertain 4 and 5-year-olds.  While those audiences likely won’t be able to properly pronounce the names of the dinosaurs presented, the information provided about them makes for a good starting point in lessons for teachers and parents about dinosaurs. Other than that one positive, there is nothing else that can be said about this movie, other than the fact that it at least doesn’t even come close to the 90-minute mark.

The educational dinosaur content that is presented in Star Paws is a good starting point both for teachers and parents in developing lessons about said creatures for 4 and 5-year-old audiences.  Other than that one element, there is honestly no other positive to this disappointing extremely low-budget family flick.  It has already been noted that the movie suffers greatly from its production values in so many ways.  The issues that it faces with its embarrassing production values are not the only issues from which it suffers.  It also suffers from poor writing; more specifically a poor story.  The story centers on the race between an evil cat called Adventure Cat and a group of dogs to get a magical prehistoric bone.  The bone in question gives its owner untold power.  Both parties have to travel back to prehistoric times to get the bone, all while dodging dinosaurs (CG dinosaurs for that matter who look like they came from a late 90s video game).  The story ties in the concept of a time loop as a means for Adventure Cat and the dogs to return to their own time.  Even that element’s use can be brought into question in the movie’s overall story.  So much more could be said here.  But the fact of the matter is that there is just not enough time or space to point out all of the problems with this movie’s story.  It is that problematic.  The same can be said of the voice cast’s work, which throughout feels so forced and cheesy to say the very least.  Between these issues, the issues associated with its cheap production values, and other issues, it can be determined that there is no saving Star Paws.  This is even with the one positive in its educational content.  It is a disappointing cinematic offering from MVD Visual and Ruthless Studios.

MVD Visual and Ruthless Studios’ new family flick Star Paws is a disappointing offering from the two independent organizations.  There is sadly little to nothing positive that can be said about this extremely low-budget, live action/CG hybrid story.  It suffers greatly from issues in its writing, its acting and its production values.  Between its writing, voice acting and production values, this movie feels like it is all over the place from start to finish.  Even the one positive—its educational dinosaur content—is not enough to save it, considering its overpowering negatives.  All things considered, Star Paws proves to be a disappointing offering from MVD Visual and Ruthless Studios.  It is more proof, considering MVD Visual’s record with cinematic release, that maybe it should stick with documentary films rather than cinematic works.  More information on this and other titles from Ruthless Studios is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.RuthlessStudios.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/RuthlessMovies

 

 

 

More information on this and other titles from MVD Visual is available online at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.MVDvisual.com

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

 

 

 

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.

CMG Shines Again With ‘Sudden Fear’ Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Cohen Media Group

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

Later next month, Cohen Media Group will re-issue Joseph Kaufman Productions’ 1951 noir thriller Sudden Fear on Blu-ray. The movie, an adaptation of author Edna Sherry’s book by the same name, is a surprisingly enjoyable cinematic work.  That is due in part to its story.  This will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s main stars—Joan Crawford, Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame—is just as important to note as the movie’s story to the overall presentation of the movie’s upcoming re-issue.  The bonus commentary included with the movie’s upcoming re-issue rounds out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own way to the presentation of the movie’s upcoming re-issue.  All things considered, Cohen Media Group’s re-issue of Sudden Fear proves to be one of 2016’s top new re-issues.

Cohen Media Group’s upcoming re-issue of Joseph Kaufman Productions’ 1952 hit noir thriller Sudden Fear is one of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.  This is proven in part through the movie’s story.  Sudden Fear’s story was adapted from a page turner by the same name written by author Edna Sherry.  It follows lead character Myra Hudson (Crawford) as she meets and falls in love with actor Lester Blaine (Palance).  As the story progresses, Myra marries Lester Blaine, but finds out later he hadn’t married her for love at all, but rather for money.  As she discovers by chance, he is plotting with another woman to murder her and take her money.  There’s a certain irony to the plot that audiences will appreciate in hindsight.  As it turns out because of his greed and short sightedness, he didn’t even know he could have had even more money.  It serves to show the old adage that crime never pays is very true, and is a great addition to the story, especially in its subtlety.  What’s even more interesting in dissecting the story is that being made in 1952, the story seemed pretty much run-of-the-mill back then.  But now in the 21st century, one need just watch an episode of 48 Hours, Dateline or 20/20 to see just how realistic such a story can be and is.  Add in relatively stable pacing over the course of the story’s near two-hour run time (the movie runs 110 minutes, just shy of the two-hour mark) and audiences get a story that forms a solid foundation for the movie’s presentation and that of its upcoming re-issue.  It is just one part of what makes the movie’s upcoming re-issue so enjoyable.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note here as the movie’s story.

The story at Sudden Fear’s base is a hugely important part of the movie’s presentation.  On one level, it does make some changes from author Edna Sherry’s original novel on which it is based.  But it still strives to stay at least somewhat true to its source material.  On another level, it is a simple story that audiences will have no trouble following, yet is still so gripping.  On its last level, its pacing makes its 110-minute run time pass by with relative ease, even in its somewhat slower moments. Keeping that in mind, the movie’s story, again, forms a solid foundation for its presentation.  While it is clearly an important piece of the movie’s presentation, it is just one of the movie’s key elements.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note here as that of its writers—Lenore J. Coffee, Robert Smith and Joan Crawford herself (this will be discussed later).  Crawford, as audiences will learn through the bonus commentary included in the movie’s upcoming re-issue, was hardly a rookie actor when she took on the role of Myra Hudson in this movie.  In fact, Turner Classic Movies writer and author Jeremy Arnold reveals that Crawford had starred in more than 70 (yes, 70 plus movies) at the time that she starred in Sudden Fear.  Her years of experience showed clearly in her performance here as she progressed from strong, confident, self-assured playwright to standard female romantic lead back to that strong, confident, self-assured figure in the end.  There were so many moments throughout where Crawford easily could have chewed some scenery such as when Myra first discovers by chance that Lester had only married her for her money or in the story’s final chase scene.  But she didn’t allow herself to do that, instead exhibiting clearly those years of experience.  That control made her acting so enjoyable to take in.  Her talent will make audiences across the board cheer her on as she defies Lester and makes her own plan to stop him.  Hers is just one example of what makes the cast’s wok so notable in this movie.  Palance is just as impressive in his portrayal of the evil, scheming Lester.

Joan Crawford’s portrayal of Myra in this movie is spot on from beginning to end.  Audiences will find themselves riveted by her performance as she journeys from a strong, confident woman to the standard female lead back to her strong, confident self.  Crawford’s years of experience help her shine throughout her performance here, as she remains the consummate professional even in scenes where it would have been so easy for her to ham it up and really chew the scenery so to speak.  This professionalism makes her portrayal of Myra completely believable.  Hers isn’t the only work that should be noted here.  Co-star Jack Palance’s work as Lester Blaine is just as notable.  Palance is likely known to most audiences as the hardened cowboy Curly from City Slickers (1991).  So his portrayal as the greedy Lester Blaine here is a surprising and entertaining change of pace.  He makes audiences love to hate Lester as Lester and Irene plot to kill Myra.  That’s not just because of his plotting but because of the personality that he gives Lester in his portrayal.  Audiences will note that as confident as Lester proves to be, he is also quite lacking in confidence and somewhat maniacal.  That is exhibited in the story’s final act as Lester and Irene’s plan (or technically Myra’s plan, not to give away too much) begins to unravel.  Lester’s reaction (including his emoting) as he chases Myra is the clearest example of that lack of confidence and maniacal nature.  Audiences will be enthralled as they watch Lester so determinedly chase her, to the point that he makes one fatal mistake (which won’t be given away here), leading up to the story’s finale.  Between his work on camera and that of Crawford, the pair shows with full clarity the importance of the cast’s work to the movie’s presentation.  The moments displayed here are just some of the moments in which their work shines.  Audiences will find plenty of other moments in which their work proves so important to the movie’s presentation when they purchase or order the movie’s re-issue for themselves.  Even when all of those moments are combined with the work of the movie’s writing team, they show themselves to be only two of the movie’s key elements.  The bonus commentary that is included in the movie’s upcoming re-issue rounds out the movie’s most important elements.

The work of Sudden Fear’s writers and cast members are both important in their own way to the movie’s presentation.  The writers’ work is so important because of the way in which they adapted author Edna Sherry’s novel for the big screen.  It changes some of the material in Sherry’s story, but still ends up presenting a gripping story that will keep viewers on the edge of their collective seats.  Lead stars Joan Crawford and Jack Palance are impressive, too as the movie’s leads.  Their cast mates as entertaining in their own right, too.  While the work of the movie’s cast and writers proves to be in key to the movie’s presentation in the end, they are only a couple of the elements that make the movie such a surprisingly entertaining work.  The bonus commentary that is included in the movie’s upcoming re-issue rounds out its most important elements.  Turner Classic Movies writer and author Jeremy Arnold provides the commentary for the movie in its upcoming re-issue.  It isn’t the first time that he has provided commentary for one of CMG’s classics re-issues.  He also provided commentary for the recent re-issues of Lured and A Scandal in Paris by CMG.  He offers plenty of important information in his commentary here, just as in the company’s previous re-issues.  Some of that important information includes the revelation that the idea to adapt Sherry’s novel to the big screen originally came from Crawford.  The problem with adapting it was that it couldn’t be done until Crawford could get out of her contract with Warner Brothers.  Arnold also reveals through his commentary the decision on the movie’s director even came from Crawford and that Sherry’s novel actually took place entirely in New York.  He explains Sherry’s story never involved San Francisco, a train ride or certain other elements incorporated into the story’s big screen adaptation.  He even gives viewers a little bit of a history lesson on Crawford’s early career in his commentary, revealing Crawford’s birth name and how she gained her screen name of Crawford.  That story in itself will give viewers a little bit of a laugh.  Between these revelations and so many others, Arnold provides viewers with lots of invaluable information throughout the movie.  That mass of material is one more example of the importance of audio commentary in any movie’s home release.  It can take a bad movie and potentially make it worth a second watch, or it can take a good movie (such as this work) and make it great.  Considering that along with the writing team’s adaptation of Sherry’s story and the cast’s work, the movie proves in whole to be a work that movie lovers and classic film buffs alike will enjoy.  It combines to make Sudden Fear one of this year’s top new re-issues.

Cohen Media Group’s upcoming re-issue of Joseph Kaufman Productions’ Sudden Fear is one of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.  That is evidenced in its story, adapted from Edna Sherry’s original novel.  While the story presents a number of differences from Sherry’s literary work, it is still an entertaining work in its own right.  There are a lot of moviemakers out there today who could take a lesson from the writing team’s approach to this story considering that.  The work of the movie’s cast on camera is just as important to note here, especially that of lead stars Joan Crawford and Jack Palance.  Their work will keep viewers just as engaged and entertained as the story itself.  The bonus commentary included in the movie’s upcoming re-issue rounds out the most important of its elements.  Jeremy Arnold once again offers a great depth of knowledge about and appreciation for the movie, even as robotic as his delivery seems at times.  Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s presentation here.  All things considered, CMG’s upcoming re-issue of Sudden Fear proves itself to be one of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.  It will be available Tuesday, December 13.  More information on this and other titles from Cohen Media Group is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://cohenmedia.net

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cohenmediagroup

 

 

 

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 Gilly Hopkins’ Is A “Great” Family Flick

Courtesy: Lionsgate Premium

Courtesy: Lionsgate Premium

Every year during the holiday season it seems that audiences are stuck watching the same fare both on television and in theaters.  Sure, tradition’s a good thing.  But how much tradition can people handle before it just becomes trite?  Thankfully, next month Lionsgate Premium will release a new offering to break that monotony.  It is the studio’s small screen adaptation of author Katherine Paterson’s children’s book The Great Gilly Hopkins.  The movie, which runs 99 minutes, is an interesting new holiday offering and an equally entertaining first-time adaptation of the book.  That is due in no small part to the story at the movie’s center.  That will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note in its presentation as its central story.  It will be discussed later.  The movie’s bonus “making of” featurette rounds out its most important elements.  Each element plays its own important part in the movie’s overall presentation.  All things considered, The Great Gilly Hopkins proves to be one of the biggest surprises of the 2016 holiday movie season.

Lionsgate Premium’s small screen adaptation of The Great Gilly Hopkins is one of the biggest surprises of the 2016 holiday movie season.  That is due in no small part to the movie’s story.  For the most part, this adaptation strives to stay loyal to its source material.  That’s a rarity both for big screen and small screen literary adaptations.  The fact that Paterson’s son David directly handled the adaptation of his mother’s book is likely why it stayed true to its source material.  Kudos are definitely in order considering this.  The story follows its pre-teen protagonist as she comes of age and learns to let love in again after being hurt so many times by being tossed around in the foster system.  She learns to let love in as she learns that a family doesn’t have to be a biological family.  What makes the story work is its ability to make audiences suspend their disbelief. It is so believable because it was presented in a realistic fashion instead of just being another run-of-the-mill saccharine sweet drama about family.  Considering that the movie centers on family and is so faithfully adapted, it is interesting that the story was adapted by a mother and son team.  It’s a parallel of sorts, and an interesting one that will generate its own share of discussion.  This is just one way in which the story stands out in this year’s field of holiday fare.  The fact that it only uses the holidays as a backdrop makes it stand out even more.

The story at the center of The Great Gilly Hopkins stands out in the movie’s presentation because of its faithful adaptation from its source material.  That is just one way in which it stands out.  It also stands out in the fact that its holiday material remains in the story’s  background rather than being at the story’s center.  There are scenes that take place on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  But for the most part, the story’s holiday material is little more than background.  Considering that, the movie could be considered a holiday movie and a general family drama that just uses the holidays as a backdrop.  It is a respectable balance, and when set alongside the story’s central story, adds even more depth and enjoyment to the movie’s overall presentation.  Keeping all of this in mind, this movie’s story proves an integral part of its presentation.  It isn’t the movie’s only important element, either.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to its presentation as its story.

The story at the center of The Great Gilly Hopkins is a key piece of the movie’s presentation.  It stays as true as possible to its source material.  That is rare for any literary work adapted to the big screen and small.  The fact that it keeps its holiday elements more in a supporting role than primary makes it even more enjoyable.  Considering all of this, the movie’s story proves to be a key piece of the movie’s presentation.  It is not the movie’s only key element.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as its story.  The work of the movie’s cast is so important to note because it is just as believable as the story.  Kathy Bates (The Blindside, Misery, Titanic) leads the cast in her role as Maime Trotter. She absolutely nails down Maime right down to the southern accent.  There are so many actors and actresses who try to get that accent but fail miserably because they try too hard.  In Bates’ case, she gets it just right.  Maime’s determination to make a difference in Gilly’s life despite Gilly’s behavior is just as powerful.  She had plenty of chances throughout the movie to really ham it up, but never took that opportunity.  Instead, she showed her years of experience.  In turn, she makes audiences absolutely love her as that surrogate mother figure.  Hers is just one of the performances that stands out here.  Fellow lead star Sophie Nelisse (The Book Thief, Endorphine, Pawn Sacrifice) is just as impressive as Bates.

Kathy Bates’ performance as Maime Trotter is one of the most enjoyable performances by this movie’s cast.  That is because she exhibits her years of experience here just as much as she has in her more well-known performances.  She makes Maime such a loveable and believable character.  Hers is just one of the performances that stands out in this movie.  Fellow cast mate Sophie Nelisse is just as enjoyable to watch as the movie’s title character.  Nelisse is just as believable as Bates as she portrays Hopkins’ naivety and emotional turmoil in her youth.  Just as in the case of Bates, it would have been so easy for Nelisse to overact as she brought Gilly to life.  But even at the tender age of 16, Nelisse handles her role with the expertise of a seasoned veteran.  Considering that, she again proves just as enjoyable to watch as Bates and the rest of the movie’s star-studded cast.  That cast includes the likes of Glenn Close (Damages, 101 Dalmations, The Shield), Octavia Spencer (The Help, Zootopia, Being John Malkovich), Bill Cobbs (Night at the Museum, The Bodyguard, The Color of Money) and Julia Stiles (10 Things I Hate About You, Silver Linings Playbook, Dexter).  The work of the movie’s cast works in partner with its story directly to make the movie even more enjoyable than considering the elements alone.  They are not its only key elements.  The movie’s bonus “making of” featurette is just as important to note in examining the movie’s overall presentation as its story and the cast’s ability to carry the story.

The story at the center of The Great Gilly Hopkins and the cast’s ability to carry the movie are both key to the movie’s overall presentation.  The story is key to the movie’s presentation because it stays true to its source material and expertly balances its story with its holiday elements.  The cast’s work as it carried the story is just as important to note in examining the movie’s presentation as its story.  That is because the cast’s work is so believable all the way around.  While both elements are key to the movie’s presentation, they are not its only key elements.  The movie’s bonus “making of” featurette is just as important to the movie’s presentation as its story and the work of its cast in interpreting the story.

The story at the center of The Great Gilly Hopkins and the cast’s work throughout that story are both critical to the movie’s overall presentation.  The story is critical to the movie’s presentation because of how closely it follows its source material.  The cast’s work is just as important to note due to the ease with which they make viewers suspend their disbelief.  While both elements are clearly pivotal to the movie’s presentation, they are not its only important elements.  The movie’s bonus making of featurette is just as important to note in examining the movie’s presentation as its story and the work of its cast.  The movie’s bonus “making of’ featurette isn’t necessarily long.  It averages about 15 minutes, if that.  But in that short time, audiences get to hear from the movie’s cast as well as its writer and director.  The discussions are on the characters themselves as well as the importance of the story.  Julia Stiles only appears for a couple of minutes near the movie’s end—not to give away too much—but she makes an important statement in her bonus interview.  She points out that she was drawn to the movie because it wasn’t too saccharine or too dark and moody.  That is something that this critic already pointed out, too.  Kathy Bates discusses her role as Maime and the role that she plays in the movie’s grand scheme.  Audiences even get to hear from Katherine Paterson and her son in this extra material.  The elder Paterson discusses the real life influence on the book that would become The Great Gilly Hopkins while son David discusses the story’s adaptation from printed page to small screen.  These discussions and so much more add yet another layer of depth to the movie’s presentation.  When the whole of the movie’s bonus “making of” featurette is set alongside the movie’s story and the work of the movie’s cast, all three elements join together to make The Great Gilly Hopkins a “great” family flick.

The Great Gilly Hopkins is a great family flick and one of the biggest surprises of the genre so far this year.  That is due in no small part to the movie’s story and the work of its superstar cast.  The movie’s bonus material adds just as much depth and enjoyment to the movie as those previously noted elements.  All things considered, this movie proves to be one of the most surprising of this year’s family offerings and one of the genre’s best offerings, too.  It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, December 6.  It can be pre-ordered online now via Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=34393&TitleParentId=10502.  More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online now at:

 

 

 

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‘The Last Reef’ Is Worth “Diving Into” At Least Once

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

This past September, Shout! Factory continued its series of IMAX recordings when it released the activist documentary The Last Reef: Cities Beneath The Sea to the masses.  The project, presented by Giant Screen Films, Yes/No Productions and Liquid Pictures, was released to Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD on September 13th by Shout! Factory.  While the presentation is clearly an activist work, audiences will be pleased to know that it activist element is kept to a minimum in its overall presentation.  That is among the program’s most important elements.  By direct connection, the information that is shared through the course of the program is just as important to note as the program’s control of its activist elements.  The program’s cinematography rounds out its most important elements.  Much as with every offering in Shout! Factory’s IMAX series the cinematography presented in this program is outstanding.  Each element is unquestionably important to the program’s overall presentation.  All things considered every viewer will want to *ahem* dive into The Last Reef: Cities Beneath The Sea at least once.

The Last Reef: Cities Beneath The Sea is a work into which every viewer will want to dive at least once.  That is due at least in part to the fact that those behind the program made a valid effort to balance its educational side with its activist side.  It is thanks to their work that despite the work clearly being an activist work, it is never allowed to become too much of an activist work.  In other words, despite having those elements, it never becomes too overly preachy.  Being that this is the case, audiences are more apt to remain engaged in the program than they would be had those behind the program allow it to become any more preachy.  It might seem like a minor detail on the surface.  But considering everything noted here, this detail is extremely important to the program’s overall presentation if not the program’s most important element.  Most important or not it is not the only important element that should be noted in examining the program’s overall presentation.  The information that is presented over the course of the program’s roughly 44-minute run time is just as important to its presentation as its balance of educational and not so educational content.

The balance of educational and non-educational material presented in The Last Reef: Cities Beneath The Sea is in itself a hugely important piece of the program’s presentation.  That is because it prevents the program, which is clearly an activist work, from becoming too preachy.  That, in turn, ensures viewers’ engagement throughout the course of the program’s 44-minute run time.  It is just one of the program’s elements that should be noted here, though.  The educational content that is presented within the program is just as important to note here as the balance of that material with the program’s more socially minded material.  The educational content provided within the program’s presentation includes discussions on the various species of fish and other life that calls coral reefs home.  That life includes not just fish but plants and other organisms, too.  There is also a discussion on the symbiotic relationship that many of those creatures maintain as well as an intriguing discussion on the ability of a coral reef to recover from human intervention when humans are in fact taken out of the equation.  This is one of the program’s preachy moments, obviously.  But it isn’t so preachy that the educational content is overpowered.  That reiterates the importance of the program’s balance of educational and non-educational content to its overall presentation.  There is so much more that could be cited here to explain the importance of the program’s educational content.  The material that is cited here is just a drop in the bucket in explaining the importance of the program’s educational content.  Keeping this in mind, the overall educational content presented throughout The Last Reef: Cities Beneath The Sea proves to be just as important to its overall presentation as the program’s ability to balance that material with its activist-aimed material.  It is not the last element to note in examining the program’s overall presentation, either.  The program’s cinematography is just as important to note in its overall presentation as the previously discussed elements.

The content that is presented throughout The Last Reef: Cities Beneath The Sea and its balance are both key elements to note in examining the program’s overall presentation.  Both elements work hand in hand with one another.  While each element is important in its own right to the program’s overall presentation, they are not its only important elements.  The program’s cinematography is just as important to note in examining the program’s presentation as its content and balance thereof.  Audiences will be awed at the beautiful footage captured of the undersea world of the coral reef from beginning to end.  The colors are rich and the angles capture the vastness of the reef.  There are also stunning close-up shots of the organisms that call the coral reef home throughout the course of the program that will impress audiences just as much as the other noted footage.  When those shots and so many are joined together, they are just as certain to keep audiences engaged as the educational material that is presented within this program.  When those two elements are joined together with the ability of the program to balance its educational and activist material, the overall program proves to be another enjoyable addition to Shout! Factory’s IMAX films series.  It proves to be a program into which audiences will want to dive at least once.

The Last Reef: Cities Beneath The Sea is another enjoyable addition to Shout! Factory’s IMAX films series.  That is even with the program clearly being something of an activist work along the lines of Humpback Whales.  That is because unlike that program, this program balances its activist content with its educational content in such fashion as to keep audiences engaged.  Speaking of the program’s educational content, it is just as certain to keep audiences engaged over the course of the program’s 44-minute run time.  That is because of the enlightenment that it offers.  The program’s cinematography rounds out its most important elements.  That is because of its power.  From the rich, deep colors to the various wide shots and close-ups, to so many other shots, the cinematography presented in this program stands out just as much as that of the other films presented in Shout! Factory’s IMAX series.  As can hopefully be seen by now, each element is important in its own right to the program’s overall presentation.  All things considered, it proves to be a work into which every viewer will want to dive at least once.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/documentary/the-last-reef-cities-beneath-the-sea.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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CMG’s Doulgas Sirk Re-Issues Collection Presents Two Of 2016’s Top New Re-Issues

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

Late this past September, Cohen Media Group released a new pair of classic crime flicks for fans of the crime genre and for all of the classic movie buffs in the form of A Scandal in Paris and Lured.  Chen Media Group’s focus in re-issuing the movies together is on their director, Douglas Sirk.  But there is so much more to note of these classic crime flicks than Sirk’s work.  Yes, his work at the helm of each work is important.  There is no denying that.  But his work is not the only important element of each movie.  The very story at the heart of each movie is the central element that should be noted.  The work of the movies’ cast is just as important to note as the stories at the center of each movie.  The bonus commentary included in each movie’s presentation is important to note, too.  One could even argue that the set’s packaging plays its own part in its presentation, too.  All things considered, Cohen Media Group’s presentation of A Scandal in Paris/Lured on Blu-ray easily makes the combo pack a candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

Cohen Media Group’s re-issue of A Scandal in Paris and Lured is a combo pack release, but even with that in mind, this dual-movie set easily makes itself a candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.  This is due in part to the story at the center of each movie.  In the case of A Scandal in Paris the story is taken to be a cinematic adaptation of crook turned cop Francois Eugene Vidocq’s life with star George Sanders in the starring role.  From beginning to end, the story is a classic in its own right.  That is because it sees Vidocq turn from his criminal ways to an honest man thanks to the influence of his romantic interest, played here by Carol Landis.  At its heart, the movie is less a crime flick than a romance story and an underdog story.  One can’t help but wonder if this movie played a role in influencing the creation of Cary Grant’s 1955 action/crime flick To Catch A Thief or even the very similar story presented in the 2002 movie Catch Me If You Can.  To that end, the movie is one that will reach audiences of so many interests, not just lovers of crime stories and classic film buffs.  It is just one way in which the stories behind the set’s featured movies show their importance in the set’s overall importance.  The story behind Lured is just as important to note in examining this collection as that of A Scandal in Paris.

The story at the center of A Scandal in Paris is in its own right a clearly important example of what makes the stories behind the movies so important to the set’s presentation.  It is not the only story worth noting here, either.  The story behind Lured is just as important to note in the set’s presentation as that of A Scandal in Paris.  The story behind Lured follows Lucille Ball—yes, that Lucille Ball—as dancer turned crime fighter (of sorts) Sandra Carpenter. Carpenter is enlisted by Scotland Yard in this story to help find a serial killer who has murdered seven innocent young women. It’s up to Sandra to help find the person responsible for the murders.  Along the way, Sandra falls for a gentleman named Robert Fleming (George Sanders—A Scandal in Paris, Batman, The Jungle Book).  As the story progresses, the romance between the pair grows, with Fleming obviously losing her and then getting her back in the end a la every romantic movie ever crafted.  It’s a relatively simplistic story, and as viewers will learn through the commentary not entirely original.  Yet audiences will also agree that even despite its lack of originality, is still so entertaining surprisingly enough.  The commentary will be discussed later.  When one considers the story behind each of this collection’s featured movies, there is no denying their importance in the collection’s overall presentation.  Of course the movies’ stories are just part of the set’s presentation worth noting.  The work of the case within each movie is just as important to note as the stories.

The stories that were crafted for A Scandal In Paris and Lured are clearly important elements to note in examining the overall presentation of this new classic cinema re-issue set from Cohen Media Group.  While the stories are extremely important to the set’s presentation, they are not its only collectively important element.  The work of the movies’ cast is just as important to note in the set’s presentation as the movies’ stories.  Since George Sanders is the lead in both movies, it suffices to say that he plays the same sort of character in both movies; a gentleman character.  While the two characters have distinctly different backgrounds, the character type is still the same.  And Sanders adapts to both characters with ease, allowing each to stand out from the other despite, again, the pair being the same type of character.  Sanders’ A Scandal in Paris cast mate Akim Tamiroff is just as enjoyable to watch in his role as Emile Vernet. Tamiroff’s take on Vernet is so enjoyable to watch because of his ability to balance the man’s gentlemanly side and his more comical side.  There’s a certain subdued nature to both that makes him so enjoyable to watch throughout the story.  It is something that must be seen to be fully appreciated.  One could dissect the work of each cast member within this movie in explaining the importance of their work in making A Scandal in Paris so enjoyable.  That would take far too long, though.  Suffice it to say that the work of the cast in whole is important to note in showing why its work is so important to the movie’s (and collection’s) overall presentation.  The work of Lured’s cast is just as important to note as that of A Scandal in Paris.

Sanders’ work in both movies—and that of Tamiroff in the set’s lead film—are wonderful examples of what makes the acting so important to note in examining this recently released collection’s overall presentation.  The work of Lucille Ball and company in Lured is just as important to note as that of A Scandal in Paris.  Most people know Lucille Ball for her comic genius in I Love Lucy and its spinoffs (The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy).  But she shows a completely different side of her talents in this movie.  Audiences will love seeing Ball as a strong, confident character here, and a lead no less.  She does show some vulnerability at times, but for the most part, is a strong, self-assured figure who handles herself quite well.  She is just as brilliant by herself as she is alongside her cast mates.  That is especially the case when she is on screen opposite Sanders and fellow cast mates George Zucco (The Pirate, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Scared to Death) and Charles Coburn (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Heaven Can Wait, Monkey Business). Her scenes with Zucco are in fact some of the movie’s best moments because of the chemistry between the pair.  Early on when the pair’s characters first meet and introduce, they exchange weapons in a moment that is so subtle yet so funny because of that subtlety.  There is also a scene in the park in which Sandra (Ball) tells Officer Barrett (Zucco) to hold her dog for her as she contacts Inspector Temple (Coburn) via phone.  Barrett’s reaction as he has to hold the dog, all while trying to fill out the crossword puzzle in his copy of the local newspaper, is just as entertaining to watch.  While his appearance is brief at best, horror master Boris Karloff is entertaining in his own right as the crazed fashion designer Charles van Druten. Noting again the movie’s bonus commentary, Karloff’s ability to so easily switch between sanity and insanity—even in such a short time on screen—makes him such a wonderful addition to movie.  He truly shows his years of experience and seriousness with which he took the role through that display.  Again, even as short as it may be, it adds to much enjoyment to the movie.  Even Sir Cedrick Hardwicke (Rope, The Ten Commandments, Richard III) is just as enjoyable to watch as Julian Wilde, Robert Fleming’s friend.  Not to give away too much, but Hardwicke plays his own important part in the movie.  Between his work, that of Ball, Sanders, Karloff and the rest of the cast, it should be easy to see by now why the work of Lured’s cast is just as important to note as that of A Scandal in Paris.  The work of each movie’s cast combines with the work of the movie’s writers to make for even more clear why this recently released collection of classic crime flicks from Cohen Media Group is so enjoyable to watch.  Even with all of this in mind, the movies’ stories and the work of their respective casts is, collectively speaking, still not all to note in examining the collection’s presentation.  The bonus commentary that is included in each movie is just as important to note as the previously noted elements.

The stories that were crafted for A Scandal in Paris and Lured are key elements to the overall presentation of their pair’s overall presentation in their new joint re-issue from Cohen Media Group. They are not the only the only elements to note in examining the set’s presentation.  The work of each movie’s cast is just as important to note as the movies’ stories.  Between the work of the movies’ main cast members and even the supporting cast, the work of each movie’s cast is just as important to note as the story behind each flick.  Having noted that, those two elements are not the only elements that should be examined here.  The bonus commentary that is included with each movie rounds out the set’s most important elements.  NPR Film Critic Wade Major offers an in-depth and entertaining study of A Scandal in Paris, offering a rich historical background of the movie.  He also offers a study of the movie’s relevance to similar movies and the film community in the 21st century along the way along with much more throughout.  The insight and entertainment offered via Wade’s commentary is more proof of the importance of commentary in any movie’s home release. It shows that good (or in this case great) commentary can take a run of the mill movie and make it something great.  That is because of the added level of appreciation that it creates for said movie.

Turner Classic Movies writer and film historian Jeremy Arnold’s commentary included in Lured is important to note in its own right, too.  Right from the outset of his commentary, audiences are presented with a rich background on the movie and its connection to the popularity of noir films at the time thanks to the work of director Douglas Sirk.  Arnold also points out through his commentary that the movie is not necessarily an original work.  He points out that the movie’s story contains elements of two (yes, two) other movies, essentially making the movie a double re-imagining of sorts.  Audiences will agree with Arnold that despite this realization, the movie is still somehow so entertaining from beginning to end.  Arnold also focuses attention on Karloff and even fellow supporting actor Alan Napier, offering some of Napier’s own words on his career before his death in 1988.  That is just a portion of the commentary offered up by Arnold throughout Lure.  In other words it is just a small sample of how much his commentary has to offer audiences and how much it has to add to the movie in whole.  Keeping this in mind and how much Major’s commentary adds to A Scandal in Paris it becomes increasingly clear just how much the movies’ overall commentary adds to this collection’s overall presentation. When the commentaries are set against the work of the movies’ casts and the story at the heart of each movie, the movies in whole prove to be works that will entertain not only fans of the crime genre but audiences across the board.  They combine to make this collection one that despite being a dual movie re-issue, one of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

Cohen Media Group’s recently released dual movie presentation of A Scandal in Paris and Lured is one of 2016’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.  This is even with the collection being a multi-movie collection.  The movies that are presented within the double-movie set are so enjoyable first and foremost due to the story behind each movie.  Even while one of the stories is not entirely original it is still enjoyable unlike so many of today’s reboots and re-imaginings. The work of the movies’ cast members is just as important to note as the work of the movies’ writers.  Their work makes each movie just as worth watching as that of the movies’ writers.  The bonus commentary that is included with each movie’s presentation rounds out the movies’ most important elements.  That is because each commentary adds so much depth to each movie.  Each element is important in its own right, as should be evident by now.  All things considered, Cohen Media Group’s Blu-ray re-issue of A Scandal in Paris and Lured is a must have for any lover of classic films and an easy candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.  More information on this and other titles from Cohen Media Group is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.cohenmedia.net

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cohenmediagroup

 

 

 

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.