MPI Media Group’s New Gerry Anderson Collection Is Imperfect But Entertaining

Courtesy: mpi media group/MPI Home Video

MPI Home Video this week unearthed a special new collection of material from Gerry Anderson, one of the legendary names from television’s early eras when it released the new two-disc collection The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson.  The collection presents to audiences what was essentially the evolution of Anderson’s work from supermarionation to live action.  The presentation of that evolution is the set’s most critical element.  As important as that collection proves to be, the set in whole sadly is not perfect.  It lacks any physical content guide in its packaging, leaving audiences to essentially have to memorize the material included in each disc.  That is a con that cannot be ignored here. Getting back to the set’s overall material, while a pro, it is both a pro and a con (but more pro than con).  That will be discussed later.  Each element is key in its own way to this collection’s whole.  All things considered, The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson proves to be a collection that while enjoyable, comes up just short in its first outing.

MPI Home Video’s brand new release of The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson is a relatively enjoyable first outing for this collection of Anderson rarities, but one that leaves room for improvement should it ever get another release.  The set’s main positive is its primary content.  Audiences get to see in the set’s main body, another attempt at a supermarionation series in the form of The Investigator alongside the live action series The Day After Tomorrow and Space Police.  There is also an attempt at an adult-oriented claymation presentation in the form of Dick Spanner, P.I.  There is even a very old almost Howdy Doody type presentation in Kandy, which is basically a show about a foolish koala.  Though some of the set’s presented material makes clearly obvious why it did not survive, other material such as Space Police leaves one wondering why it didn’t last.  The juxtaposition of the live action and animatronic material presented in the series’ pilot episode is exactly the kind of presentation that would go on to be used for decades by Japan’s Super Sentai series.  It would also end up being used in the Americanized version of that franchise, the famed Power Rangers franchise.  Keeping that in mind, such a show – even in just one episode – shows how far ahead of its time it was.  Simply put, it shows how ground breaking and innovative Anderson was even as he moved away from puppets to live action.

As if the live action and other material is not enough for audiences, there is even a documentary style presentation in the form of Blue Skies Ahead.  This short presentation takes audiences on a jaunt across Europe, showing its key locations while also advertising for Blue Cars bus lines.  It is very much in the same vein as the old color newsreels that audiences might see today on Turner Classic Movies, showing Anderson’s ability to make legitimate nonfiction programming just as much as his abilities in the fiction realm.  Considering this along with the discussion on the featured fiction material included in the set, it becomes clear why the set’s material is so critical to the set’s overall presentation.  It is not the set’s only critical element, though.  The lack of a physical content guide is a negative that cannot and should not be ignored.

Opening up the set’s standard-sized case audiences will note that there is no sign of a content guide anywhere inside or outside the case.  On the surface, this might not seem overly important.  On a deeper level though, it is very important.  There might be those out there who are at least somewhat familiar with the material, but maybe haven’t seen it in decades.  They would be nearly on the same level as those who have not yet seen these presentations.  Keeping that in mind, having a content guide would have made for a solid introduction (or re-introduction) for audiences to that material before they play either of the set’s discs.  Not having that introduction makes for a somewhat uneasy introduction, and in turn detracts from the set’s presentation to a point.  Thankfully, it is the set’s only truly impacting negative.  The Space Police test footage, while perhaps a bit too extensive, presents its own positive to the set’s presentation.

The Space Police test footage included in The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson is for all intents and purposes little more than bonus material.  It takes audiences behind the scenes of the featured episode “Star Laws.”  Throughout the course of the footage, audiences see that the scenario presented in the final product was not the only considered scenario.  Nor were the actors in that final product the only actors who had test screenings.  The comparison of the two scenarios and the actors is key because it adds to the appreciation for the final product.  The scenarios presented in the test footage show that that material was just too campy even despite some impressive animatronic and prosthetics work with the aliens.  Even the lead actors presented in the test footage were a bit over the top cheesy in their presentation.  Keeping that in mind, the presentation used in the final product proves to be much more fitting for the show, even being a cop drama.

At the same time that the show’s test footage proves integral to this set’s presentation, it also is somewhat disappointing in just how much test footage is shown.  So much of the material takes place in an alleyway scene, and shows time and again the actors handling the same scenario.  There is also a bevy of in-car test footage with the lead actors that honestly gets boring after a while.  All of this material honestly could have (in this critic’s eye) been cut back, and should have for that matter.  Considering this, the intrinsic value of the test footage shows the importance of Space Police to Anderson’s career, and its place within its genre.  However, it is too much of a good thing even in its use of comparing scenarios and actors.  With this in mind, the test footage included in this set is both a positive and a negative.  When it is set alongside the set’s primary material, the whole of that material becomes a presentation that is enjoyable, but honestly leaves something to be desired in the end.  That is not to say that it is a total loss, but there is room to grow if this set is ever re-issued or if it is ever included in another Anderson collection.

The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson is an interesting new collection of rarities from the famed figure’s career.  It shows a part of his career that has rarely if ever been seen thanks to the primary material presented in its lead disc.  The lack of a content guide of any sort is a detractor for this collection, though.  It takes away from the overall presentation and viewing experience, but does not make the presentation a total loss.  The bonus Space Police test footage adds back what is taken away by the lack of a content guide thanks to the insight that it adds to that one episode.  At the same time, there is such an abundance of that test footage that it really feels like overkill and should have been shaved back.  Each element noted here is important in its own right to this set’s whole.  All things considered, they make the set a collection that while not a total loss, one that leaves room for growth in the next Gerry Anderson collection.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other titles from mpi media group and MPI Home Video is available online now at:

 

 

 

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MPI Media Group To Release Gerry Anderson Rarities Collection Next Month

Courtesy: mpi media group/MPI Home Video

Fans of Gerry Anderson are going to get an early Christmas present next month courtesy of mpi Media Group.

The World of Gerry Anderson is currently scheduled to be released Nov. 14 on DVD.  The new release is a collection of rare classic Gerry Anderson films and other features including his never-before-seen early puppet film Here Comes Kandy, the final segment of the 1980s stop-motion comedy series Dick Spanner, P.I., The Investigator and The Day After Tomorrow, which has no connection to the 2004 big screen blockbuster.

Along with the noted titles, the new two-disc collection of rarities will also feature the pilot Space Police, which would go on to be the template for Space Precinct.

The World of Gerry Anderson will retail for MSRP of $24.98.  Its total run time is 354 minutes.  More information on this and other titles from mpi Media Group is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.mpimedia.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/MPIMediaGroup

 

 

 

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.

‘Ali & Nino’ Is A Rare Miss For IFC Films, mpi media group

Courtesy: IFC Films/mpi media group

War flicks and romance movies are two of the most popular genres in the cinematic realm. The two genres have been combined more than once both in theaters and on the small screen.  In some of those cases, the result has been a success (Casablanca, The Sun Also Rises, From Here To Eternity).  In other cases, the result isn’t so positive (Pearl Harbor, Flyboys).  Late last month IFC Films and mpi media group released a new wartime romantic drama titled Ali & Nino that despite beautiful shooting locations and cinematography, fits into the latter of the two noted categories.  That is because this nearly two-hour movie suffers from a story line that is not exactly original.  This will be discussed shortly.  The story’s pacing is even more problematic as it leads the movie, which comes in at approximately an hour and forty-one minutes, feel far longer.  Luckily though, the previously noted cinematography and the movie’s shooting locations combine to save this presentation and make the movie worth at least one watch.

Ali & Nino is hardly the first time that any studio major or independent has ever released a romantic drama that is set against a wartime era.  As already noted, this latest addition to that field is worth at least one watch, but sadly not much more.  That is due in part to its story line.  The movie’s story line is anything but original.  It is a Romeo & Juliet style story that sees a man and woman from two totally different backgrounds (Ali is Muslim and Nino is Christian) falling in love and getting married all while facing the perils of World War I and the Bolsheviks.  Not to give away too much here, but it doesn’t have a happy ending despite thousands of miles separating the young star-crossed lovers more than once throughout the story.  This creates, in itself, its own share of problems.  Audiences know that the couple will be reunited each time it is separated.  What’s more, when Ali tells Nino in the story’s final act that he is staying behind the help fight the Bolsheviks, one doesn’t need to be a genius to know the predicted outcome.  Considering all of this, the movie’s story does somehow manage to keep audiences engaged, albeit tenuously because of its pacing, which will be discussed later. Before touching on that problem, it is only fair to also discuss the movie’s saving grace—its collective cinematography and its shooting locations.

The shooting locations used in filming Ali & Nino and its cinematography are by themselves and collectively its most important elements.  If not for these inter-related elements this otherwise formulaic wartime romance would be just another forgettable run-of-the-mill wartime romance.  Audiences will be awed at the wide, sweeping shots of Azerbaijan’s Caucasus Mountains and the streets of Turkey that were used to set the movie’s scenes.  The aerial shots of the mountains as Ali is being led to safety are stunning thanks to the contrast of the white caps of the mountains to the gravel road used to take him to his safe haven.  The city settings, which were likely filmed in Turkey, are used for just as many scenes and are just as impressive as the mountain scenes.  That includes the peaceful scenes and the battle scenes.  The angles that are used within each scene will keep audiences rapt with awe.  If not for the power of that work behind the cameras, the story’s pacing within each scene would be completely unbearable.

Ali & Nino’s pacing is bearable.  However, is should be noted that it is bearable only because of the power of the movie’s cinematography and related shooting locations.  The movie’s run time is listed at an hour and forty-one minutes.  However, its pacing makes it feel like it runs well over the two hour mark.  The movie’s pacing is so problematic that audiences will find themselves begin to feel restless no less than an hour into the movie.  It seems the pacing is so problematic because the story spends so much time keeping its main characters separated and having them worry about how to re-unite.  When they do, the story sees them spending more time in bed together than anything else.  In other words, there really is no real substance to this story.  That lack of substance combines with the story’s lack of originality to make it a work that is worth watching only for the work put in behind the cameras than in front of them.  Other than those related elements, Ali & Nino gives audiences little other reason to watch this movie.

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My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series Is An Out Of This World Success

Courtesy: mpi media group

Courtesy: mpi media group

CBS at one point in time was the single greatest network on television. It had such variety in regards to its offerings. From classic variety shows such as The Carol Burnett Show, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour to powerful dramas and dramedies such as Maude, M.A.S.H. and Murder She Wrote to equally great sitcoms including: I Love Lucy, Gilligan’s Island, The Bob Newhart Show, The Jeffersons, Good Times, The Andy Griffith Show and so many others, CBS offered programming for everyone. Its programming transcended limitations of viewers’ age, gender, and even race. By comparison it seems that the majority of the once powerhouse network’s programming is made up of crime dramas, medical dramas, and “reality television” series. The variety of offerings that once made CBS so great, it seems, has gone completely by the wayside. Thankfully though, a number of those classic shows have been resurrected on DVD and Blu-ray thanks to the efforts of just as many home entertainment companies. The latest of those classic series to finally see the light of day—My Favorite Martian—saw all three of its season released in their own standalone season sets between 2012 and 2014 courtesy of MPI Home Video. Luckily for fans of the standout sitcom MPI Home Video didn’t stop there. The studio released the series in a complete three-season box set this week. And for those that were not lucky enough to add the series to their home DVD libraries in their previous releases, this box set is just as enjoyable and a must have. For those that perhaps will see the series for the first time or even the first time again in purchasing this box set it is so enjoyable first and foremost thanks to the work of its writers. The writing behind the series’ 107 total episodes will put a smile on any classic TV buff’s face. That will be discussed shortly. In direct connection to the writing, the work of the series’ lead actors—Bill Bixby and Ray Walston—is just as entertaining. Their interpretation of each episode’s script makes for more than its share of laughs from one episode to the next. That will be discussed in more depth later. Last but hardly last of note in regards to this box set is the inclusion of its bonus material. The bonus material spread across the series’ three separate season setsis extensive to say the least. There are no fewer than three pilot episodes, one which was for My Favorite Martian, and the other two for a pair of series which sadly never went past their pilots. There is also a full-length clip of Ray Walston on the classic game show I’ve Got A Secret, interviews with Lucille Ball on her show Let’s Talk To Lucy and so much more. These bonuses together with those not named here round out the core of My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series’ positives. They are hardly the only positives worth noting, too. One would be remiss to ignore the set’s packaging or even its production values. All things considered, My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series proves in the end to be a piece that every classic TV buff should have in his or her collection and a collection that is one of the best of this year’s family friendly box sets.

MPI Home Video’s brand new release of My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series is a collection that every single classic TV buff should have in his or her own home DVD library. It is also one of the best of this year’s family friendly box sets (versus those box sets featuring TV shows and movies that are aimed more at grown up audiences). This is most obvious through the writing behind the series’ three season run. Over the course of the show’s 107 total episodes, it presents plenty of classic story lines that while familiar to the buddy comedy genre, have been tweaked to be fully original in their presentation here. “The Memory Pill,” which is presented in the show’s second season is a prime example of the writers ability to take one of those classic story lines and make them fresh and funny. Tim, wanting to forget a certain woman that he keeps thinking of, takes one of Martin’s memory pills, leading him to develop amnesia of sorts in this episode. So it is up to Martin to get Tim back to his old self. What ensues in the process of the episode is what really makes it funny. Martin brings in a doctor who is played by David White, who was also Darren’s boss in ABC’s classic supernatural sitcom Bewitched. The antics that play out will have audiences of all ages laughing uproariously as Tim continues to try (in his state of amnesia) to convince the doctor that Martin is in fact a Martian. “How To Be A Hero Without Really Trying” (Season One) is another example of the talent of the show’s writers. That is because this episode sees the bachelor Tim trying once again to impress a young woman (which in itself becomes part of the show’s comedy right up to its finale) by taking her and her young brother out for a day trip. The trip is in reality also to help Martin find an element that he needs in order to work on his ship. Thanks to Martin, though the young boy ends up stuck high up on a cliff and has to be rescued. Tim, trying to impress the boy’s sister decides to save her brother. Needless to say plenty of antics come from this decision that will once again have audiences laughing just as much as with any of the series’ other episodes. What’s really funny about the story in whole is that for all of its entertainment that entertainment in question comes about from Tim and Martin having to clean up the other’s mess again and again throughout the course of the episode’s script. Season Three is just as packed with laughs as Tim goes back in time in the season finale, causing quite the disruption in the time space continuum. Also in Season Three, Tim helps Mrs. Brown’s brother build a robot that does household chores. That is a theme that had and has been used so many times before and since in other classic sitcoms including Gilligan’s Island. It’s just one more of so many throughout the course of the series’ original run of the writers’ talents. There are 104 other examples from which viewers can choose throughout the series’ three seasons. In finding their own favorites, audiences will agree that the writing behind My Favorite Martian is one of the series’ most important elements. Through it all, the buddy comedy element never gets old at any point in the series’ run. And that is just the tip of the iceberg in the series’ enjoyment. The work of lead actors Bill Bixby and Ray Walston in interpreting the scripts adds even more enjoyment to the series.

The work of the writers behind My Favorite Martian lies at the center of its success even despite it having just a three-season run on television. The scripts that were crafted by this show’s writers is the kind of material that is so sorely missed today. It’s the kind of material that parents can feel good about letting their kids watch for the most part. It’s the kind of writing that parents will feel just as good about watching with their kids, too without feeling uncomfortable at any point. It is just one element of the show’s enjoyment, of course. The work of lead actors Bill Bixby and Ray Walston in interpreting the writers’ scripts adds even more enjoyment to the show. Bixby’s manic behavior, for instance, in “The Memory Pill” is reminiscent of Cary Grant’s Mortimer Brewster in the classic 1944 comedy Arsenic And Old Lace. He is just so frenzied in his state of amnesia. On the other end of the spectrum, one can’t help but wonder to a point if Walston’s deadpan demeanor as Martin was any influence on Harvey Korman’s portrayal of The Great Gazoo in The Flintstones. For those that might not know, The Great Gazoo was introduced to The Flintstones two years after the start of My Favorite Martian. So it would, again, be interesting to find out if there might have been any connection between the two actors if at all. Getting back on the subject, that deadpan persona that is most prominent throughout the series, set alongside Bixby’s own Dick York meets Alan Young look and persona, makes for its own share of laughs throughout each episode. On a related noted, Walston does break that self-righteous, snooty persona that that audiences love so much. One of the best moments in which Walston breaks that person comes early in Season One in the episode “There Is No Cure For The Common Martian.” Martin gets a cold for the first time ever in this episode and it sort of knocks him down off of his proverbial high horse and makes him no better than any human. It forces him at least for the moment to see that and just makes for a great break from the norm in terms of Walston’s general performance. In its own way, it could be argued that both because of their personas and how they handle them (and the scripts), both Bixby and Walston could be argued to be the straight man and the comedian believe it or not. That is something that audiences just don’t see in comic performances today. It really is something original. And that originality makes for so many great, memorable performances throughout the course of the series’ run. It’s yet more proof of why the work of both Bixby and Walston was (and is) so important to the success of My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series. It still is not the final factor in the set’s success. The set’s bounty of bonus material adds even more enjoyment for audiences.

The work of both My Favorite Martian’s writers and its lead actors makes for a great deal of enjoyment for audiences as they make their way through the course of the classic sitcom’s three seasons and 107 episodes. For all of the enjoyment that both elements bring to the series, they are not all that makes this set complete. The collection’s bevy of bonus material adds extra points to the newly released box set. And it is not an understatement to say that there are a lot of bonuses for fans included here. MPI has included in Season One the original pilot episode of My Favorite Martian, the pilot episode for the never-aired series The Reluctant Eye, and even a full appearance by Ray Walston on the game show I’ve Got A Secret. Walston’s appearance on the game show even includes the original TV spots (commercials) that ran in the specific episode between segments. So it really is complete in every sense of the word. On a side note, the episode in question features Walston trying to fool the show’s panels in regards to how he lights a jack-o-lantern. So this bonus is a great fit with Halloween only days away at the time of this posting. In regards to the pilot episode of My Favorite Martian, it should be noted that this is a little bit misleading. That is because episode #1 is in fact the series’ pilot episode. It hasn’t been separated out as a bonus episode. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. It maybe just shouldn’t have been listed under the “bonus” section since it is not listed actually within the list of bonus materials when Season 1 Disc 5 is played. What is listed is that appearance on I’ve Got A Secret and all of the season’s other bonuses, including a complete soundtrack album containing music from My Favorite Martian as well as the season’s bonus photo gallery, and separate sponsor spots along with one of Walston’s own commercials. MPI Home Video’s people didn’t stop here with the bonus material. Season Two boasts interviews with the show’s cast as well as original billboards and ads featuring the show’s cast. Season Three adds even more enjoyment as it features a slew of bonuses. Those bonuses include: interviews with Bill Bixby and Ray Walston on Lucille Ball’s Let’s Talk To Lucy program, home movies filmed by the cast on the set of the show, and a pilot for the also never-aired series The Man in the Square Suit along with other bonus footage. There is so much that there is simply not enough room to list or even discuss it all. But it goes without saying that when audiences purchase this box set for themselves, they will be blown away by the vast amount of bonus material included with this box set. That extensive amount of bonus material coupled with the work of both the show’s writers and lead actors makes for an experience that helps My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series live up to its title. They make it not just a complete series set in name but in experience and in turn they collectively make it one of he best of this year’s family friendly box sets.

The writing and acting that went into My Favorite Martian across its short three season run paid off in spades for the series even with it having run only three seasons. They combine with the bonus material included in this collection to make My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series compete in every sense of the word and in turn one of the best of the year’s family friendly box sets. That is not to discount the set’s packaging, which while it looks bulky on the outside is actually quite ergonomic in and of itself. Each of the series’ three seasons has been presented within its own standalone season set once more. Each set’s discs are placed in what is the norm today in multi-disc packaging–placing discs on either side of a given number of “plates” and in some cases even on the inside front and back of the case. This conserves space within each set and ultimately in the bigger picture of the set’s packaging. Considering the route that the people at MPI Home Video could have taken, this was the smartest possible route for the set’s presentation. Even better for audiences is that an episode guide has been included inside the case for Season One and Season Two. Each guide includes a precise listing of the season’s episodes along with a short yet concise summary of each featured episode. In regards to Season Three, the episode guide only features a listing of the episodes with their original broadcast dates. While it would have been nice to have gotten a complete episode summary as in Season One and Two, it is still nice to at least have an episode guide, period. To that extent, the packaging is yet another positive to a set that is sure to be among any classic TV buff’s favorites this year. Add in the highly impressive look and sound of each episode and audiences once again get a viewing experience that is just as complete as the set itself. It is an experience that will leave audiences of all ages agreeing that this collection of episodes will be a favorite not just of classic TV buffs but even more specifically fans of this beloved classic. All things considered My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series proves unlike collections from so many other series to be truly complete in every possible sense of the word. My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via MPI Home Video’s online store at http://www.mpihomevideo.com/products/my-favorite-martian-the-complete-series. More information on this and other titles from MPI Home Video is available online now at:

Website: http://www.mpihomevideo.com

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MPI Media Group Releasing Classic Sitcom Series Set Just In Time For Halloween

Courtesy:  mpi media group

Courtesy: mpi media group

On October 30th, 1938 Orson Welles and the members of the Mercury Theatre sent America into a nationwide panic with their broadcast of The War of the Worlds. Almost twenty-five years later, CBS introduced an E.T. of another kind to the world when it premiered the classic sitcom My Favorite Martian. The series ran for three seasons on the once powerhouse network from 1963 – 1966. Since then the series has gone on to see all three seasons in their own standalone sets both on VHS and DVD. It has also been re-made into an animated series and a big screen feature starring Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future 1 – 3, Cyberchase, Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and Jeff Daniels (Tron, Tron: Legacy, The Big Lebowski). It has even been nominated for three TV Land awards. But despite its longevity and fame the series has never seen the light of day in one complete series set. That is until now.

Next month mpi media group will release My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series on DVD. The fifteen-disc box set will be released in stores and online on Tuesday, October 20th. The classic buddy comedy sitcom starred Ray Walston (Picket Fences, The Sting, Fast Times at Ridgemont High) as the loveable alien Uncle Martin and Bill Bixby (The Incredible Hulk, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father–TV series, The Magician–TV series) as Tim O’Hara, Martin’s “nephew.” Also along for the ride was Pamela Britton (D.O.A., Anchors Aweigh, Blondie–TV series) as Tim’s nosy landlady Mrs. Lorelei Brown. The series debuted as one of television’s top ten programs in its first season. Over the course of its short run, My Favorite Martian also featured a number of well-known guest stars. Among those stars were: Linda Evans, Marlo Thomas, Alan Hale Jr., Gavin MacLeod, Jamie Farr, Stafford Repp, Richard Deacon, Madge Blake, Bernie Kopell, Butch Patrick, Henry Gibson, Allan Melvin, Michael Constantine, Pat Priest, David White and Madge Redmond.

All 107 episodes featured in the series’ three-season run are featured in the upcoming box set along unedited and digitally re-mastered for the set. Also included in the collection will be a number of bonus features, which will be announced soon.

My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series will be available Tuesday, October 20th in stores and online exclusively on DVD. It will retail for MSRP of $99.98. It can be ordered online direct from mpi media group’s online store at http://www.mpihomevideo.com/products/my-favorite-martian-the-complete-series. More information on this and other titles from MPI is available online now at:

Website: http://www.mpihomevideo.com

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Coogan And Brydon’s Second Outing Is Another Entertaining And Delectable Trip

Courtesy:  IFC Films/mpi Media Group

Courtesy: IFC Films/mpi Media Group

IFC Films’ latest outing from actors Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan is one of 2014’s best new independent releases. The “sequel” to the duo’s 2011 feature simply (and aptly) titled The Trip, The Trip To Italy stands out unlike any other production released in 2014. It stands out primarily in its approach. It isn’t necessarily a movie in the most traditional sense. Though there is a sense of a buddy road trip to the story. That buddy comedy element is crossed with something that could almost be considered a reality TV sort of approach. The end result is a presentation that one can’t help but watch if only for that reason. The approach taken by those behind the cameras in presenting The Trip To Italy is just part of the whole that makes this rather intriguing and entertaining work so well worth the watch. Brydon and Coogan’s (sounds like a law firm doesn’t it?) jokes and impersonations throughout the trip make for their own share of entertainment. Nothing is off limits to the pair. No doubt the duo’s comic bits and discussions will have any open-minded viewer laughing uproariously. The last element of The Trip To Italy that makes it such a joy is its backdrops. There is no green screen here. There is no movie magic. Everything that audiences see is really the Italian countryside. In its own way, it could be argued that it is a throwback to the golden era of moviemaking. Together with the movie’s comic element and its overall presentation, all three elements make The Trip To Italy a movie that while not a movie in the traditional sense, a production that still stands firm on its own laurels and is one of the best new independent releases of 2014.

The Trip To Italy is one of the best new independent film releases of 2014. The movie, which ironically enough is itself a sequel, proves to be far better than any of the mass of sequels churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five studios last year. The central reason that it outperforms those movies is the manner in which it is presented. The “movie” isn’t necessarily a movie in the traditional sense. Yet the classic buddy comedy/road trip aspect is there. To be more precise, it blends that element with something along the lines of a reality TV show to make for a production that completely stands out from that mass of major name equels. What’s more, being that Coogan and Brydon spend most of their time either eating and driving, one could even compare it to the likes of PBS’ Rick Steves Europe. Go figure, Coogan and Brydon go after so many pop culture figures, movies, and more. But they don’t poke fun at Rick Steves even being in a setting that only encourages such jabs. That will be discussed later. Getting back to the subject at hand, the duo’s travels through Europe was compltely unscripted. It was just them touring Italy, checking out some of the country’s finest cuisine and taking in the sights all while making jokes and trying out their best impersonations. There’s no scripting. So while yes it is a movie, it also shows to be one third documentary and one third reality TV. That The Trip To Italy comes across as such an intriguing hybrid is plenty of reason within itself for audiences to check out this latest release from IFC Films. It’s just one reason to watch it, too. The jokes and impersonations shared throughout the its near two-hour run time make The Trip To Italy even more worth the watch.

The hybrid presentation of The Trip To Italy offers audiences plenty of reason within itself for audiences to watch the “movie” at least once. The jokes and impersonations that are thrown around throughout the course of its near two-hour run time add even more reason for audiences to check it out. Nothing is off limits to Coogan and Brydon, either. From Alanis Morissette to Sean Connery and Roger Moore to Al Pacino and more, Coogan and Brydon go after everyone that they can think of. There’s even a joke aimed at famed Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor. Speaking of public broadcasting, it is interesting that there was no mention of PBS’ travel series Rick Steves Europe anywhere in this production since the duo spent the length of the movie travelling the Italian countryside. Perhaps that was just too easy and too expected. It’s anyone’s guess. Regardles, the jokes and impersonations that are included throughout the “movie”–including a lighthearted jab at Americans’ tendency to use overblown names for themselves and their posessions–make for plenty of laughs and in turn, just as much entertainment. It’s yet another way in which The Trip To Italy proves itself worth the watch. It still isn’t all that makes the production worth the watch, either. The backdrops throughout the presentation round out the reasons to watch The Trip To Italy.

The comic element of The Trip To Italy and its original hybrid presentation are both key to its enjoyment. Both aspects play their own important role in the production’s enjoyment. While both are equally important, they still are not all that make the presentation worth the watch. The “movie’s” backdrops round out the whole thing and make it all the more enjoyable. As noted previously, it would have been so easy for audiences to make a comparison between The Trip To Italy and PBS’ Rick Steves Europe in watching this work since Coogan and Brydon were travelling the Italian countryside. It would have been just as easy for Coogan and Brydon to make jokes at that show’s expense. Of course that didn’t happen. Perhaps that’s because it would have been too expected and easy. Regardless, the backdrop of the Italian countryside is a major positive to the whole of The Trip To Italy. As subtle as it is and as little as some might think about it, seeing that countryside is just like watching Rick Steves Europe. It’s like watching a video postcard. There is no green screen. There are no special effects. It is really the duo travelling the countryside. It is more proof of the duo’s (and of IFC Films’) dedication to making the experience 100 real and believable for audiences. It is that reality of the “movie” alongside its original hybrid presentation, and its laugh riot jokes and impersonations that makes The Trip To Italy a trip that audiences will want to take more than once.

The Trip To Italy is available online now in stores and online now. It can be downloaded via iTunes now at https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-trip-to-italy/id900191598. More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available online at:

Website: http://www.ifcfilms.com

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

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

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series Is Loads Of Fun And Laughs

Courtesy:  MPI Home Video/Lucille Ball Productions, Inc./gab entertainment

Courtesy: MPI Home Video/Lucille Ball Productions, Inc./gab entertainment

The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) used to be one of the greatest networks on television.  Classic dramas and sitcoms such as: Route 66, Star Trek, Gilligan’s Island, and I Love Lucy among so many other greats.  Compared to the glut of crime and medical procedurals that clutter CBS’ weekly programming schedule, as well as the largely boring sitcoms—save for perhaps Big Bang Theory—it is increasingly clear that CBS’ best days are sadly behind it.  Of course those that would argue against this are likely also the same audiences that are fans of the cookie cutter programming currently filling CBS’ weekly schedule.  Thankfully MPI Home Video has given fans of CBS’ golden era yet another piece of that era in the form of Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series.  The six-season box set was released on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014.  And it is a box set that is fully worth the $100+ price tag.  The primary reason for this is the show’s writing.  Audiences will notice a brand of comedy very similar to that of the comedy from I Love Lucy.  Yet despite this, they writers managed to keep from simply recycling episodes of I Love Lucy in this series.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this set is the bonus material included throughout each season.  And last but not least, audiences will especially appreciate the box’s packaging.  Each of these factors by themselves carry their own weight in the series’ success.  Together, they make Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series a must have for anyone that is looking for an escape from all of the oversexed, overly violent programming currently dominating the broadcast and cable ranks.

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series is a welcome breath of fresh air from all of the oversexed and overly violent programming currently dominating so much of the broadcast and cable ranks today.  The main reason for this is the series’ writing.  The writing used throughout the series is quite similar to the writing that made I Love Lucy such a hit and keeps it a fan favorite today.  The physical comedy is there.  So are the wacky situations into which Lucy gets herself.  From losing an envelope full of money given to her by her boss and brother-in-law, and thinking her teenage daughter was going to get married to playing landlord and more, the scripts crafted for this show’s six season make for way more than their share of laughs.  Even more interesting about the writing is the fact that Lucy’s character, Lucille Carter, was a divorced, single mother.  It was a reflection of sorts of Lucy’s own personal life.  She and Desi had gotten divorced by the time that Here’s Lucy came on the air.  Even without Desi in the picture, the writers were able to find a fitting replacement for him in the part of Gale Gordon (Dennis The Menace).  Gale played Lucille Carter’s brother-in-law (and boss) Henry. So taking all of this into consideration, the writers behind Here’s Lucy clearly did their homework. The proverbial icing on the cake that is the series’ writing is the fact that the writers didn’t allow the series to become a serial. Lucy’s daily life working for Henry and her life at home are both chronicled throughout the series. But at no point do the writers allow the series to become a serial. In an era today when almost every series on television is a serial requiring people to watch every week, having such a stand-alone series is a breath of fresh air.

The solid and fully entertaining writing that went into Here’s Lucy is by itself plenty of reason for audiences to pick up the recently released six-season box set. It isn’t the only reason that audiences will want to check out this standout series. The set’s bonus features make the set even more enjoyable for audiences, whether they may be new to the series or not. All six seasons include brand new video introductions by Lucy’s children, Lucie and Desi, Jr. There are also introductions by other well-known starts who made guest appearances throughout the seasons. And they aren’t just introductions, either. There are also extra shared in the introductions. One example comes in the introduction to “Lucy Visits Jack Benny.” Lucy’s daughter Lucile shares with audiences the friendship that Lucy had with Jack Benny and other little extras. There is much more shared in the introduction of each episode. And audiences will get just as much entertainment from the introductions as the episodes themselves.

Also included throughout each season set in the box are segments from Lucy’s radio show, “Let’s Talk To Lucy.” The show was an interview style program in which Lucy interviewed not some of the biggest stars of the day. The segments included throughout all six seasons focus primarily on Lucy’s co-stars from the series. Along with these bonuses, there are also slide shows, original syndication promos for the show and much more added as bonus material. The noted bonus material is just the tip of the iceberg and the most important. It makes the overall viewing experience all the more enjoyable and the box set all the more worth picking up by anyone that is a fan of true classic and family friendly programming.

The writing that went into each episode of Here’s Lucy and the bonus features included in this recently released box set are both of equal importance in the set’s overall enjoyment. There is one last factor to consider in the set that viewers will agree seals the deal for the entire package. That final factor is the set’s packaging. While the set seems a bit bulky on the surface having all six seasons contained in one box, audiences will change their minds in looking at the packaging of each season. Each of the series’ six seasons received their own four-disc boxes. The discs themselves are separated from one another inside the cases on their own plastic inserts. They are placed on either side of the inserts with one disc on the top of one side and the other on the bottom of that same insert’s other side. While this is typically the standard for multi-disc sets nowadays, there are still companies out there that do not follow this rather wise ergonomic packaging model. It protects the discs from scratching each other. The end result is that it maintains the discs’ quality and in turn preserves the show for potentially a whole new generation to enjoy years down the road. Keeping this in mind, it makes this final factor in Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series just as important as those already noted. And alongside those previously noted features, the trio together makes this box set a must see for every family and every fan of classic television.

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered direct from MPI Home Video’s online store at http://www.mpihomevideo.com/Store/Detail.asp?ProdID=11176. More information on this and other releases from MPI Home Video is available online now at http://www.mpihomevideo.com, http://www.mpimedia.com, and http://www.facebook.com/pages/MPI-Home-Video/58189629179. 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.