‘Erstausgabe’ Takes Moka Efti Orchestra From Fictional House Band To Real, Enjoyable Jazz Collective

Courtesy: Six Degrees Records

When Babylon Berlin first premiered in 2017 on German television network Sky TV, few if any would have thought it would become an international hit.  More than four years after its premiere in its home nation though, it has gone on to become a hit among American audiences on Netflix, with all three of its current seasons streaming through that service.  The series has been certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 97 percent.  A big part of the period noir series’ success is its “house band,” the Moka Efti Orchestra.  The 14-piece organization has proven to be such a key part of the series’ success that it has gone from being just a collective element for the series to being a real recording and performing entity.  That just goes to show the collective’s popularity.  That popularity is likely to continue its growth when the organization releases its debut album, Erstausgabe Friday through Six Degrees Records.  Roughly translated, the title means “First Edition,” which is fitting, considering again, this is the group’s first full outing.  The 13-song offering is a presentation that will appeal equally to fans of Babylon Berlin and jazz fans.  That is due in part to the collection’s featured songs.  They will be discussed shortly.  The performances of said songs add their own touch to the presentation and will be discussed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out the album’s most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the album overall a surprisingly enjoyable new addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.

Moka Efti Orchestra’s debut album Erstausgabe is a strong first outing for the band, which started out as just a fictional collective that is part of a television series.  The 51-minute record helps the group take a big step from the screen to the real musical universe in part through its featured songs.  Some of the songs featured in the album are works that the band performed on Babylon Berlin while others are new, original compositions.  What’s more, some of the songs are instrumentals while others feature lyrics.  Some of those lyrical presentations are performed in German while others are presented in English.  Even more important to note is the diversity in the stylistic approach to the songs.  The whole thing opens with a composition in ‘Hollaender Mash Up’ that is one part 1920s swing and one part 1960s cool jazz.  That sounds like an odd combination, but it works.  On the other hand, a composition, such as Rainbow is a more modern style work that lends itself to comparison to works composed by Harry Connick Jr. and his big band.  On yet another hand, ‘Gloomy Sunday,’ the album’s penultimate song, is a deeply   moving blues style work that take audiences way back in time to the smoky night clubs of the 1920s and 30s with its controlled piano line, string arrangement and vocals.  It is one more example of that aforementioned stylistic diversity presented throughout this album, and it feels so real thanks to that real performance.  Speaking of performances, they will be discussed shortly.  Getting back to the subject at hand, the noted diversity in the arrangements’ stylistic approaches and sounds works with the diversity in the new, original tunes and songs composed for the series, and even the diversity in the instrumental and vocal performances to make the songs in whole, a strong, powerful foundation for Erstausgabe.  Building on that foundation and strengthening it is the band’s performances of the songs.

The performances in question are important to examine because of the impact that they have on the album’s general effect.  One of those performances – that of ‘Gloomy Sunday’ – has already been noted.  Singer Severija Janusauskaite’s smoky vocals and the gypsy style violin line pairs with the simple yet so rich piano performance, to make this performance so immersive.  The overall performance will keep listeners fully engaged and entertained.  The rest of the orchestra gets its chance to shine as the song progresses, with full horn and percussion ensemble joining.  The addition of those elements shows the arrangement’s evolution and makes the song even more immersive, even as short as it is.  The whole of the two “movements” makes the performance in whole so enjoyable and just one example of what makes the album’s performances notable.  On a completely opposite end of things, the performance presented in the instrumental track ‘Frenzy’ does its own share to show the importance of the group’s performances.

‘Frenzy’ clocks in at two minutes, 15 seconds.  That brief run time is fully utilized from start to end complete with the…well….frenetic yet controlled drumming and percussion from Larry Mullins and Tobias Backhaus, and equally energetic performance on clarinet from Gegoire Peters.  The strings and horns, which serve as support, are just as enjoyable to hear as they add their own flourishes to the whole.  All things considered here, the orchestra’s performance proves just as engaging and entertaining as its performance of ‘Gloomy Sunday.’  To that end, it is yet another example of what makes the group’s performances in whole important to the record’s presentation.  The band’s performance of ‘Zu Asche,  Zu Staub’ (‘To Ashes, To Dust’) is yet another example of what makes the band’s performances here so important.

The band’s performance of ‘Zu Asche, Zu Staub’ is a notable example of the overall importance of the group’s performance because the song itself is so much unlike anything  else featured in the  album.  It is another multi-part composition whose first movement is more modern classical than jazz.  The real jazz element comes into play in its second movement.  The drum solo that opens the movement lends itself to the work of the likes of Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.  The vintage 1960s style work that rises from here, complete with Janusauskaite’s powerhouse vocal performance makes for such a wonderful growth from the song’s first movement.  When it and the song’s first movement come together, the whole presents a performance that is just as engaging and entertaining as any of the other performances featured here.  Keeping those other performances in mind, when they are considered with this one, the whole makes clear why the performances are so important to the album’s presentation.  They enrich the listening experience just as much as the variety of arrangements that make up the album.  As much as the performances of the album’s featured arrangements do to make the album so appealing, they are just one more portion of what makes the album successful.  The album’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.

The sequencing of Erstausgabe is important to examine because of its impact on the album’s general effect.  Listeners will not a clear change of style and energies throughout the record, showing unquestionably that some thought went into the album’s sequencing.  The album’s first trio of songs is mostly up-tempo even as their styles change from one to the next.  From there, the sequencing pulls things back in ‘Snake – Together Alone’ and ‘Crocodile Blues’ before picking right back up in ‘Frenzy’ and ‘Lange Beene.’  ‘Zu Asce, Zu Staub’ serves as a real break point, changing the album’s mood completely through its unique arrangement and energy.  From there, the energy rises again in ‘Rainbow’ and “Wannasee Weise’ before easing off once again in the much more laid back ‘Die Nacht.’ 

‘Gloomy Sunday’ pulls the record’s energy back once more before the band closes out the album on a high note in ‘Tschuldigensemal.’  Looking back through all of this, it is clear, again, how much time and thought went into the sequencing.  The result of that time and thought results in an album here that impresses just as much through its general effect as its content.  When everything is considered together, the bigger picture makes the album a unique addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums that every jazz fan will agree holds its own against any release from the band’s American counterparts.

Moka Efti Orchestra’s debut album Erstausgabe is a unique presentation that makes quite the name for itself among this year’s field of new jazz offerings.  That is due in part to its featured musical arrangements.  The arrangements are diverse in their styles, ranging from ragtime, to klezmer, to even some classical jazz.  That diversity in itself guarantees listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  The performances of the featured songs build on the foundation formed by the arrangements, adding even more enjoyment.  That is due to the fact that the performances are themselves so rich.  They fully immerse listeners in the songs.  The sequencing of the songs puts the final touch to the album.  That is because of the impact that it has on the album’s general effect.  It ensures the album’s energy and styles avoid any redundancy while also providing just as much enjoyment through the band’s performances.  Each item noted here clearly has its own impact on this album’s presentation and enjoyment.  All things considered, the album stands out and holds its own among this year’s field of new jazz albums.  Erstausgabe is scheduled for release Friday through Six Degrees Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of Moka Efti Orchestra’s latest news at https://www.facebook.com/mokaeftiorchestra.  

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

Shout! Factory, Twitch Partner For ‘Reboot’ Marathon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Twitch

ABC’s classic Saturday morning cartoon Reboot is getting its own reboot on Netflix, and in celebration of that reboot’s premiere, Shout! Factory and Twitch have partnered for a marathon of the original series.

Shout! Factory and Twitch will present a 24-hour marathon of the original Reboot series starting Wednesday, March 28 at 3 p.m. It can be viewed online at Shout! Factory’s official Twitch channel.  The series’ full 47-episode run is just one reason audiences will want to check out the marathon.  Fast ForwardThe Making of Reboot and Alpha NumericLooking Back at Reboot with co-creator Gavin Blair will also be part of the marathon.  Audiences can see a trailer for the marathon online now here.

Reboot was television’s very first-ever fully computer-animated series, and debuted domestically on ABC Saturday mornings in 1994.  It followed the adventures of main character Bob (a guardian) and his friends as they work to keep Mainframe safe from the viruses Megabyte and Hexadecimal while also having to take part in games sent to Mainframe by “the user.”

All 47 episodes of the original Reboot are available on VOD via Shout! Factory TV.  Audiences can see the trailer for Netflix’s new Reboot redux here.  The new series is currently expected to air on Netflix March 30,17 years after the original ended with an unresolved cliffhanger.

More information on this and other programs offered by Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

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.

 

 

Netflix, Lionsgate Announce Release Date, Specs For Grace And Frankie Season One

Courtesy:  Netflix/Lionsgate

Courtesy: Netflix/Lionsgate

Netflix’s original comedy Grace and Frankie is coming to DVD this spring.

Lionsgate announced this week that it will release the first season of the original Netflix comedy Grace and Frankie on Tuesday, April 12th. The series centers on its title characters–played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin—who had been at odds with one another until their husbands—played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston–reveal one day that they are gay and want to marry one another. This leaves Grace and Frankie to turn to one another to get through it all. Season One’s thirteen will be spread across three discs in a DVD + Digital platform that will retail for MSRP of $29.98. Along with its thirteen episode-run , Season One will also feature a number of bonuses including but not limited to: audio commentaries, a sneak peek at Season Two, which is currently slated to premiere May 6th, and a gag reel.  The full list of the set’s bonus material is noted below.

 

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES*

  • “Beginning of the End” Featurette
  • Gag Reel
  • Audio Commentaries with the Cast and Crew
    • The Elevator – Commentary with Creators Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris
    • The Vows – Commentary with actors Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin and creators Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris
  • Season Two Sneak Peek

*Subject to Change

 

Grace and Frankie was created by Marta Kauffman (Friends) and Howard J. Morris (Home Improvement) and is co-executive produced by the pair. Along with Fonda, Tomlin, Sheen, and Waterston, Grace and Frankie also stars Brooklyn Decker (Battleship, Friends With Better Lives, Just Go With It), Ethan Embry (Sweet Home Alabama, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, Can’t Hardly Wait), June Diane Raphael (Bride Wars, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), and Baron Vaughn (Cloverfield, Fairly Legal, Black Dynamite).

More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

 

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Lionsgate Announces Release Date For Manhattan: Season One

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/WGN America

Courtesy: Lionsgate/WGN America

Manhattan is coming home this spring.

Lionsgate will release the first season of its hit drama Manhattan on Blu-ray+Digital, DVD+Digital, and Digital HD on Tuesday, April 7th. The serial, which currently airs on WGN, is a historically-based fiction that follows the events leading up to the creation of the world’s first atomic bomb. It focuses on the scientists that developed the bomb and their struggles to balance their secretive operations with their own personal lives. The series stars Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards, The Blacklist, Beautiful Creatures) and Michael Chernus (Orange Is The New Black, The Bourne Legacy, Love & Other Drugs).

Season One’s Blu-ray+Digital release will be a three-disc set and its DVD+Digital release a four-disc set. Both sets will feature the same bonus material. That material includes a making of featurette—“Ground Zero: Bringing The Bomb To Screen”—episode specific commentaries, a featurette on J. Robert Oppenheimer, and more. The full list of the box sets’ bonus material is noted below. The Blu-ray+Digital box set will retails for $49.97 and the DVD box set $49.98.

BLU-RAY/DVD SPECIAL FEATURES*

  • “Ground Zero: Bringing the Bomb to Screen” featurette
  • “P.O. Box 1663: Creating a City that Didn’t Exist” featurette
  • “‘Now I Am Become Death’: J. Robert Oppenheimer” featurette
  • “Recreating an Era: ‘Manhattan’Costume Design” featurette
  • Select episode audio commentaries with Cast and Crew

*Subject to change.

 

All the latest updates on Manhattan are available online at:

 

Website: http://wgnamerica.com/shows/manhattan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ManhattanWGNA/timeline

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ManhattanWGNA

 

All of the latest information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at:

 

Website: https://www.lionsgate.com

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

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

 

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.

Scream Factory To Release Hemlock Grove Season One This Fall

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Scream Factory/Netflix

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Scream Factory/Netflix

Officials with Scream Factory made a big announcement Tuesday about a new upcoming release.

The announcement was made Tuesday that Scream Factory will release the first season of Netflix’s hit original series Hemlock Grove. The first season of the Emmy© nominated series will be released on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, October 7th. All thirteen episodes from the series’ first season will be spread across three discs. Both box sets will also include exclusive bonus features not available through Netflix, including six new vignettes. More information on the set’s bonus material will be announced as the set’s release date nears. The complete list of the set’s bonus material is listed below.

Hemlock Grove: The Complete First Season Bonus Features

Vignettes:

“Dysfunctional In Every Way,”

“Anatomy of a Kill,

“Fairytales for Adults”

“The Rust Beneath the Surface”

“The Monster Within”

“It Hurts So Good”

Hemlock Grove is based on author Brian McGreevy’s novel. It is executive produced by Eli Roth (Cabin Fever) and was co-created by McGreevy and Lee Shipman. The series stars Famke Jenssen (XMen , X2: XMen United, X3: The Last Stand), Bill Skarsgard (Anna Karenina, The Crown Jewels, Simon & The Oaks), Landon Liboiron (Altitude, Degrassi: The Next Generation, The Howling: Reborn), Penelope Mitchell (The Vampire Diaries, The Joe Manifesto, 6 Plots), and Dougray Scott (Mission: Impossible II, Hitman, Ever After: A Cinderella Story). The series is produced by Gaumont International Television for Netflix.

Hemlock Grove: The Complete First Season can be pre-ordered online now via Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/hemlock-grove-season-one-0. More information including pricing on the DVD and Blu-ray box sets on this and other releases from Scream Factory is available online at http://www.screamfactorydvd, http://www.facebook.com/ScreamFactoryDVD, and http://twitter.com/@Scream_Factory. 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.

VSC Announces Release Date, Product Info For Portlandia Season Four

Courtesy:  Video Services Corporation

Courtesy: Video Services Corporation

Video Services Corporation (VSC) will release the fourth season of IFC’s hit comedy series Portlandia this summer.

Portlandia: Season 4 will be released on DVD Tuesday, August 26th. Armisen’s beloved characters Dave and Kath are back in Portlandia’s fourth season, as are Spike and his uptight girlfriend, Iris. Spike and Iris have to deal with a difficult situation at a Thai restaurant while Dave and Kath actually give relaxation a try. And then there is the couple, Nina and Lance. Nina and Lance have to recover from the trauma of losing a pet this season.

Season Four sees a who’s who of celebrity guests across its ten episodes. Among some of the more well-known guests that appear on the show this season are: k.d. lang, Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman 1 – 3), Joshua Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), Mark Proksch (The Office), and many others. Also returning from Portlandia’s previous seasons is an equally high profile list of stars including: Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park 1 &2, Independence Day), Ed Begley, Jr. (Arrested Development, Pineapple Express), Jason Sudeikis (How I Met Your Mother), and director Gus Van Sant (Promised Land, Milk) and just as many other big names.

Portlandia: Season Four was shot entirely in Portland, Oregon. It is co-created and co-written by Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, and Jonathan Krisel. Krisel is also the series’ director. The series is executive prodiced by Lorne Michaels (SNL) and produced by Broadway Video. Portlandia: Season Four is comprised of ten episodes on two discs. It will retail for SRP of $19.98. Portlandia has earned a Peabody © award and has been nominated for an Emmy ® award as well, and has run for four seasons exclusively on Independent Film Channel.

More information on this and other releases from Video Services Corporation is available online at http://www.facebook.com/videoservicescorp, http://www.videoservicescorp.com, and http://twitter.com/vidserv. 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.

Thor 2 Is Fun, But Falls Short

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios

Courtesy: Marvel Studios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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