PBS Dominates The Documentary Ranks Again In 2015

The final hours of 2015 are officially here. And with the final hours ticking away, Phil’s Picks is helping you to pass the time with the last year-ender lists of the year for discussion. Phil’s Picks has already covered quite a bit of ground in the last week and a half or so of the year. But there is still a little bit of ground to cover before the final countdown begins. That ground includes the list presented here. As always, the Top 10 titles make up the main body of the list with the bottom five each receiving honorable mention. Enough rambling for now. Presented for your consideration dear readers, is the Phil’s Picks 2015 Top 10 New Documentaries.

















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Lionsgate, Others Offer Solid Alternatives To Hollywood’s Power Five Studios In 2015

Looking at numbers from the box office this year, one would imagine that theaters did quite well. In terms of financial figures, they did. But in terms of really worthwhile offerings, theaters and studios clearly did not do that well. That is because much like 2014 the major theatrical offerings churned out this year were prequels, sequels, and remakes. Next year looks to be sadly much the same in that aspect. Luckily for all of the brainless, unoriginal content churned out by Hollywood’s major studios this year, audiences were offered some viable alternatives. Many of those alternatives came courtesy of Lionsgate and other independent studios. Magnolia Films’ dramedy Life’s A Breeze is just one of the noted films that proved to be one of the year’s best new movies. The independently released buddy flick A Walk in the Woods is another of those great alternatives. IFC’s Match and Manglehorn aso proved to be viable alternatives to all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five Studios. And who would have thought that Shaun The Sheep: The Movie would prove to be so enjoyable, too? There’s no dialogue at all. What’s more it’s a claymation flick. But it has so much heart. It is one that the whole family should see together at least once. It is just one more movie that made it onto this critic’s list of the year’s Top 10 New Movies. Speaking of that list the following collection of titles makes up the Phil’s Picks 2015 Top 10 New Movies. And as always the top 10 make up the main body of the list while the bottom five each receive honorable mention for a total of fifteen titles. Enough rambling. Without any further ado, here for your consideration dear readers, is the Phil’s Picks 2015 Top 10 New Movies.

















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Jaco Is One Of 2015’s Top New Music, Overall Documentaries

Courtesy:  MVD Visual/Iron Horse Entertainment

Courtesy: MVD Visual/Iron Horse Entertainment

“He was our Hendrix.”  That one simple statement sums up what made bass legend Jaco Pastorius one of the most legendary figures to ever pick up the bass guitar if not the most legendary. It is a statement made by one of the interviewees in MVD Visual and Iron Horse Entertainment’s new documentary on Jaco Pastorius, or John Francis Pastorius III (as audiences learn in watching the new documentary about the famed bassist) and quite the powerful statement, too.  In watching through the nearly two-hour documentary audiences will agree that it is just one of the important statements made in reference to the brilliant yet troubled figure.  Speaking of the many statements made throughout the course of the documentary, the story presented via those statements lies at the center of the documentary.  It is just one of the elements that make the program worth the watch.  The footage and music incorporated into the story makes Jaco all the more engaging.  The bonus interviews included in the documentary’s second disc round out the program.  Together with the program’s central story and the footage and music used to flesh out the story, all three elements show in whole that Jaco is one of the year’s most important music documentaries and one of the year’s best documentaries overall.

MVD Visual and Iron Horse Entertainment’s new profile of Jaco Pastorius is one of 2015’s most important music documentaries.  It is also one of the year’s best documentaries overall.  The main reason for this is the very fact that it centers on a bass player — one of the most prolific bass players in modern music history no less.  That is just one part of what makes this documentary so important.  It is rare for bassists to get their own profile.  So that makes his presentation even more important.  At the center of the presentation is the story of a man with a brilliant yet troubled mind.  It was a mind troubled not by drugs and alcohol but by a mental disease.  To be more specific, he suffered from bipolar disorder.  As is noted in the interviews it wasn’t just bipolar disorder in general but a specific branch of bipolar disorder.  Considering this revelation made late in the program, the erratic behavior that those closest to him described make much more sense.  What’s really interesting to consider here is whether or not Pastorius himself knew that he suffered from the disorder or if anyone around him even had an inkling of it.  Considering that one of his friends alleges that Pastorius had told him that he [Pastorius] wanted to die, one can only assume that Pastorius knew that something was wrong with him.  Whether or not he knew specifically what it was and whether or not knowledge and treatment of bipolar disorder was available at the time is a whole other story in itself. These are just a couple aspects of the program’s main story that make Jaco such an interesting watch. There are also stories about an alleged rift between Pastorius and Joe Zawinul and some apparent issues with singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, too. Those are just a couple of the side stories featured in this documentary that will keep viewers engaged. Together with the main story of Pastorius’ brilliant yet troubled mind, the whole of Jaco’s main presentation gives viewers plenty of reason to watch it.

The central story presented in Jaco is in itself more than enough reason for music lovers and lovers of music history to watch the documentary. That is because it paints a rich picture of a brilliant yet troubled mind. The thing is that his was a mind troubled not by drugs and alcohol but by mental disorder. While his battle with bipolar disorder obviously complicated his life, it also led to some of the most brilliant and innovative works that the music community in whole has ever had the pleasure of experiencing. And audiences learn all about that through the course of Jaco’s nearly two-hour run time. Of course the story centered on Pastorius’ impact on the music community is just one part of what makes this documentary such an important addition to this year’s field of documentaries. The combination of the program’s footage and music makes up another of the program’s key elements. In regards to the footage that accompanies the interviews, the footage gives audiences a look into Pastorius at different avenues of his career both onstage and off. It serves to help illustrate the highs and lows that he experienced and how they affected both him and those that were closest to him. The use of music from Joni Mitchell, Weather Report, and from Pastorius himself helps in its own way to give some insight (in hindsight that is) into the struggle that Pastorius must have fought throughout his life. That is especially the case as it is finally revealed late in the program that he suffered from bipolar disorder. Pastorius is shown sitting in front of a piano at a live venue playing a rather interesting piece that really heightens the importance of the revelation. It is just one example of how the music serves its own important purpose in Jaco’s overall presentation. The changing styles exhibited throughout the course of the program both before and after the revelation of his diagnosis shows in hindsight the intensity of the battle going on inside Pastorius’ mind. When coupled with the footage used to flesh out the story of Pastorius’ life and career the two elements together work with the documentary’s main story (told through collected interviews with those closest to Pastorius) to exhibit even more exactly why Jaco is such a rare and important gem of a documentary. Even with all of this in mind, there is still at least one more element to examine in Jaco’s overall presentation. That final element is the bonus material included with the program.

Both the central story of Jaco Pastorius’ story life and career and the material used to flesh out the story (I.E. the music and footage, which also includes home movies of Pastorius and his family) are integral parts in their own right to the whole of Jaco. While both elements are equally important to the whole of the program, the bonus material included in the presentation’s second disc cannot be ignored in its importance. The bonus material in question is an hour and forty minutes of bonus interview footage in which those closest to Jaco and even those who were more acquaintances share their memories of Pastorius. They share insightful thoughts and happy memories of the legendary bassist. Joni Mitchell shares her thoughts on having to hunt down Pastorius in one interview, revealing that he was at a “rehearsal” with members of Weather Report. In reality, he was where she expected to find him. But he wasn’t practicing. Instead he was playing Frisbee with one of his fellow musicians. There is also a funny anecdote from Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea in which Flea outlines the reach of Pastorius’ body of work as he discusses a young Australian teen that made a bet with him about learning Pastorius’ work. While the bet that Flea and the young gentleman made is itself pretty funny, the outcome of the deal is just as funny. There are also some insights that are at times thought-provoking and at others moving from those that knew him best. Together with the other noted interviews, the whole of those interviews makes Jaco’s bonus material just as important as the presentation’s other noted elements. Audiences will especially agree with this sentiment as they realize that the interviews in question are extensions of the interviews featured in the main body of the documentary. This adds even more interest to the interviews as it allows audiences to get a fuller view of the picture painted by those interviewed. Together with those interview segments and the material that accompanies said segments (the footage and music), all three elements combine to make Jaco a program that will keep audiences completely engaged from beginning to end. And in keeping audiences so solidly engaged, audiences will agree that Jaco proves, in the end, to be one of this year’s most important music documentaries and one of the year’s best new documentaries overall.

Jaco is a rare gem of a documentary. It is just as rare in the realm of music documentaries. That is because of how few documentaries have ever been produced about bass players. That is just part of what makes this presentation so important. The story presented within the documentary makes it even more important. It isn’t just another run-of-the-mill bio piece. It doesn’t follow Pastorius from birth to death. Rather it picks up in his young adult life and goes from there. And unlike so many other music documentaries it reveals a man that was troubled not by drugs and alcohol but by mental disorder. Audiences get more than just a bunch of interviews here, too. They also get a well-edited program that utilizes both home movies and pictures from Pastorius’ life and career, and samples of his music to help better illustrate the story of who Jaco Pastorius was. There are even complete interview segments included as bonus material to make that picture whole and clear. Whether through said interviews, through the noted music samples and footage, or through the program’s main story, audiences get so much from this new profile of one of the music industry’s most prolific performers. All things considered Jaco proves in the end to be without argument one of the most important music documentaries to be released this year and one of the best overall documentaries to be released this year. It is available now in stores and online via MVD Visual’s online store at http://mvdb2b.com/?q=Jaco&s=t&site_id=search&boolean=IN+BOOLEAN+MODE. More information on this and other titles from MVD Visual is available online now at:



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Yardbirds Leave A Lasting Impression With Making Tracks

Courtesy:  MVD Visual

Courtesy: MVD Visual

When one thinks of the famed band, The Yardbirds, the names that instantly come to mind are:  Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page.  While this latest lineup of the iconic band may not boast those names, its new live release, Making Tracks shows that the band is still one of rock’s elite.  Original members Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty are still on board.  For its latest tour, the pair has brought on Ben King, Andy Mitchell, and Dave Smale.  And if the current lineup’s new release shows anything, it shows that this band’s torch is burning as bright as ever as it has been passed to a new generation of musicians.

Making Tracks is one of the absolute must see releases of the year for anyone who has any interest in classic rock or simply great music in general.  The band’s blues rock based sound throughout the double disc presentation encompasses where music has been and where it is still going.  It’s really a sound that transcends generations.  Audiences are offered so many great songs in this new release.  Among some of the band’s finest songs are the likes of the classic ‘Heartfelt Soul’, ‘For Your Love’ and the equally well known, ‘Train Kept Rolling.’  Most audiences might recognize this song for fellow classic rockers Aerosmith’s take on the song.  Who did this song better will be left up to audiences.  But there’s no denying that this incarnation of the Yardbirds smoked this song.  It’s one of those songs that translate quite well even on the small screen.  Even home audiences will find themselves singing along and tapping their feet to this piece.

The main concert alone makes this new release from one of rock’s most respected bands worth the watch.  The set’s second disc adds to the overall enjoyment with its in depth tour documentary.  It documents the work that goes into prepping for each of the tour’s shows and the rigors of life on the road in general.  There are also personal interviews with each of the new members of the band.  Audiences will raise their eyebrows as they learn from original member Chris Dreja that the rumor of him almost becoming the bassist for fellow legendary rockers Led Zeppelin was just that.  It was a rumor and nothing more.  He notes in his interview that he never had interest in any band other than the Yardbirds.  There is also the revelation that Dreja and McCarty never lost touch in all the time since the original Yardbirds band members went their separate ways.  That in itself is such a huge statement.

The band’s documentary adds so much extra enjoyment to this new release.  The band doesn’t leave things with the documentary, though.  What live release would be complete without an encore?  Also included to finish things off are bonus songs from the Jim McCarty band and even a pair of others.  One of the most interesting of the songs from the Jim McCarty band is the Edgar Allen Poe poem turned song, ‘Dream Within a Dream.’  This was first recorded by the Yardbirds’ original lineup.  It’s just one more wonderful part of the whole that is the new Yardbirds live release, Making TracksMaking Tracks is available in stores and online now.

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