‘Star Trek Picard: Season 2’ Struggles To Survive

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS DVD

Hardcore fans of the seemingly ever-expanding Star Trek universe got some good news this year when it was announced that Star Trek Picard, which focuses on legendary Federation Captain turned Admiral Jean Luc Picard, would get a third season run.  The wait for the series’ third and final season will not be too long for said audiences, either, as it is currently planned to stream on Paramount+ from Feb. 16 to April 20, 2023 over 10 episodes.  While audiences wait for the series’ final season, they can take in the series’ second season on DVD and Blu-ray now in a new three-disc set released through CBS DVD.  Of course, this latest installment in the series sadly has little to applaud, save for a couple of high points.  The most notable of the high points is the fact that it relies far less on the foul language and blood and gore of the first season.  This will be discussed shortly.  On the other hand, though, there is a lot to dislike about the season’s story and the packaging for the season’s home release.  This will be examined a little later. The only other positive to this season is the surprise season finale, which will be discussed but not given away here.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the season’s presentation.  All things considered they make the second season of Picard an intriguing presentation that is worth watching at least once regardless of audiences’ devotion to the Star Trek universe.

Star Trek Picard: Season 2 is an intriguing continuation of the series, which focuses on the one and only Jean Luc Picard.  That is because of its overall mixed presentation.  One of the few positives to this season is that it relies so much less on the violence and foul language that was incorporated into the series’ debut season.  The writers relied far too much on that content in Season One, almost as if they knew that otherwise Season One would not work.  Yes, there are some moments of foul language peppered throughout the season, but its presence is so much less in this case than in Season One.  The worst of the bloodshed comes late in the season’s run this time as Seven is run through by the Queen Borg/Agnes (not to give away too much for those who have yet to see this season).  Rios gets injured by one of the borg drones that Dr. Soong uses, but even in that case, the writers kept the bloodshed to a minimum.  It is a nice change of stylistic approach that while still could have been minimalized even more, was still a welcome change in comparison to the level of violence in Season 1.

While the clearly decreased level of violence and foul language incorporated into the second season of Picard makes it more worth watching, this season still fails in so many ways, not the least of which is its story.  The story in question finds Q (John De Lancie) sending Jean Luc and his friends back in time to the 21st century, apparently out of his own bizarre sense of something.  He admits in the end that he just wanted Jean Luc to learn a lesson about forgiving himself (once again, not to give away too much), but he does this at the risk of history being changed forever.  Yes, there is even an alternate timeline bit tied into the season.  What’s more, there is even an indirect reference to none other than Quantum Leap as part of the story.  That really is what audiences get here.  Picard and company go back in time and have to ensure history’s safety, this time all because Q has some quirky fascination with Jean Luc even as he (Q) is dying. 

Complicating matters even more is that Picard and his rogue’s gallery of friends have to ensure that the borg queen, who essentially possesses Agnes, does not manage to take over 21st century Earth and turn it into a borg planet.  Adding even more to the complication is Dr. Soong and his role in everything.  He lets his selfish desire for fame and immortality (literal and figurative) blind him and makes things even more difficult for Jean Luc and company.  Considering that Jean Luc already had to battle the Borg in Star Trek First Contact in order to preserve history, this whole story arc becomes all the less original.  The only difference is that instead of making sure that first contact is made, he has to ensure that his ancestor precedes that moment and joins the flight to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

As if all of this was not problematic enough, the writers incorporate a completely cheesy and unnecessary romance subplot between Rios and a young, single mother who runs her own clinic in Los Angeles.  Obviously, Rios’ own future is set early on and audiences know what will happen here.

The fact that the writers drag out this season’s story as much as they do over 10 episodes, ensuring that Jean Luc keeps getting into so many tough spots, using so much exposition as he recalls his childhood that led him to become the stoic person her became known as during his life, makes for even more problem.  It makes the season feel so much longer than it really is.  To that end, if Season One failed to live up to expectations, then all of this together makes this season fail to live up to expectations even more so because of its overall

The writing is just one of the very problematic issues that Season Two faces.  The season’s packaging proves problematic in its own way.  The three discs over which the season’s 10 episodes are spread are poorly packaged for starters.  Disc One sits on its own spot inside the Blu-ray case while Disc two sits atop Disc three with nothing to protect Disc two from getting marred by Disc 3.  This greatly decreases the potential longevity of at least one of the discs if not both, depending on which one ends up sitting atop the other from one point to another.

Adding to the problems of the packaging is the fact that there is no hint of an episode guide anywhere in the packaging.  The episode titles are printed on the discs, but that is the extent of what audiences get here.  The result is that audiences who have not yet seen Season Two will just have to sit and wait to find out what happens from one episode to the next.  What’s more, even those who are familiar with the series might forget each episode specifically, so even they might end up having to go through just to remember which episode has what aspect of the story.  This greatly diminishes the general effect of Season Two along with the massive writing problems that plague this season.

Keeping all of this in mind, there is at least one aspect of the story that does work.  That aspect is the season’s surprising finale, which actually ties (at least indirectly) back to the story element from Season One involving the Borg.  Audiences who have seen Season One will recall that Jean Luc made the revelation that the Borg were more victims than the monsters that they were made out to be for so much time.  That realization likely led to Picard to ultimately make the decision to give talks with the Borg the chance to talk in the first place in the season premiere (and finale).  The revelation that is made at season’s end is sure to play into the coming third and final season.  It makes all of the slow boil buildup to that point at least somewhat bearable.  Keeping that in mind, this final aspect of the season works with the lessened violence and foul language to make the season worth watching at least once.

The second season of Star Trek Picard is hardly the presentation that it clearly could have been.  It could have done so much right, but sadly did so much else.  That is not to say that it is a total failure.  It succeeds in that it uses far less foul language and overt violence (including bloodshed) than was used in Season One.  The surprise finale to Season Two makes for its own interest, too.  It is certain to shock plenty of longtime Star Trek fans.  These two elements make up at least somewhat for all of the failures that are so prevalent throughout Season Two’s writing and packaging, which are so problematic in themselves and collectively.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the second season of Picard.  All things considered they make Star Trek Picard: Season 2 come up even shorter than the series’ first season.

Star Trek Picard: Season 2 is available now on DVD and Blu-ray. More information on Star TrekPicard is available along with all of CBS All Access’ latest news at:

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Season 2 of ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Sees Noted Improvement From The Series’ Debut Season

Courtesy: Paramount/Paramount+/CBSDVD

Paramount+’s animated Star Trek series, Lower Decks is set to make its streaming debut Aug. 25.  That means that fans of the series will not have to wait but so long to find out what happened to Capt. Freeman after her arrest by the Federation.  While audiences wait, they can take in the series’ second season now on DVD and Blu-ray, after it was released July 12 on both platforms.  The show’s second season is an improvement on its debut season in terms of its writing.  This will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content that accompanies Season 2 in its home release is engaging in its own way and will be examined a little later.  The packaging for the standalone presentation rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the presentation.  All things considered they make the second season of Star Trek: Lower Decks an overall success.

The second season of Paramount+’s Star Trek: Lower Decks is an impressive new addition to the animated series.  The season’s success comes in large part through its writing.  That is because the writing seems to have more heart in each of its 10 total episodes.  Right from the season premiere, “Strange Energies,” the writing improves on what was offered in Season 1.  The episode finds a…well…strange energy impacting everyone on board the Cerritos after Mariner “cleans off” a structure on a planet that the Cerritos visits.  Commander Ransom becomes an all-powerful interstellar being, leading Capt. Freeman to have to learn to be much nicer to her second-in-command.  Along the way, the bridge crew and the lower decks crew alike learn some valuable lessons about friendship and respect for others.  Whether that secondary theme was put there intentionally is anyone’s guess, but it is there, and it adds even more to the story.

On another note, the ship’s crew overall learns a valuable lesson about understanding and respecting what the other does in ‘I Excretus.’  A Starfleet trainer is sent to the Cerritos to make the crew take part in some holodeck style training to determine if the ship and its crew should even be in commission.  Boimler is the only member of the crew who succeeds in the training, and his neurotic desire for perfection along the way ends up being the saving grace for the ship and its crew, unexpectedly.  It is another surprisingly enjoyable story and further exhibits what makes this season’s writing so enjoyable.

‘First First Contact,’ Season 2’s finale, is yet another example of the strength of this season’s writing.  That is because it has all of the heart and action of a classic TSO and even TNG episode.  This as the Cerritos is forced to save another ship after an asteroid is destroyed by a solar flare.  The ship’s crew has to remove all of the Cerritos’ outer hull in order to navigate through the debris field left by the destruction, and to save its fellow Federation ship.  What happens following the brave rescue makes for an even bigger surprise.  Viewers will find out what happens as a result of the surprise when Season 3 debuts later in August.  Between this episode’s story, the stories in the other episodes examined here, and those in the rest of the season’s offerings, the whole makes clear why the writing this season proves so strong this time out.  It is just one part of what makes Season 2 so engaging and entertaining.  The bonus content that accompanies this season’s home release adds to that engagement.

The bonus content that accompanies Season 2’s home release is notable because of the background that it offers.  The “Lower Decktionary” special feature for instance is an in-depth near episode-by-episode examination of this season.  The show’s creative heads talk about many of the season’s episodes, explaining the time and thought that went into making each episode warmer and more accessible to audiences.  Some of the cast also talk about recording their lines for certain episodes remotely because of the pandemic.  In listening to them talk about each story, it is clear that much more time and thought went into bringing this season to life than the stories in the series’ debut season.  The discussion on the attempt to tell the stories of the bridge crew just as much as the lower decks crew while also paying homage to fans of Star Trek: TOS and Star Trek: TNG (as well as even those of Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise) with certain elements shows that the show’s creative heads better understood the need to connect with as many viewers as possible.

The secondary bonus feature, “A Sound Foundation” is interesting in its own way, too.  In this equally in-depth presentation, audiences are presented discussions on the work that went into all of the sound throughout the series’ second season.  This seems something minor on the surface, but when audiences listen to the discussion, it is clear that just as much time and work went into making the series’ sounds just as connecting to other Star Trek series as the stories.  Taking that into account along with the background offered through this season’s “Lower Decktionary” featurette and even with some of the episode-length audio commentaries, the overall bonus content adds plenty of appeal for the season and enhances the viewing experience even more.  That overall bonus content is just one more part of what makes the season’s presentation appealing.  Its packaging rounds out its most important content.

This season’s packaging is important to address for a pair of reasons.  First and foremost, it ergonomic.  The two discs on which the season’s 10 episodes are contained are each placed on their own plate inside the case.  This protects the discs from one another, thus increasing their longevity.  At the same time, the case itself is the size of a case holding a single disc, so it will save space on any viewer’s DVD/BD rack. 

On another note, the episode listing is printed inside the case.  Some of the brief but concise episode summaries are a little difficult to read because of their placement, but otherwise are not too problematic.  Those brief but concise introductions make it easier for audiences to decide which episode(s) they want to watch.  The result is even more positive general effect for the viewing experience since audience do not have to otherwise search through the episodes one by one on the discs.  That positive impact of the episode summaries being listed in the case and the season’s space-saving presentation makes fully clear, the positive impact of the packaging overall.  When this is considered along with the impact of the season’s writing and its bonus content, the whole makes this season of Star Trek: Lower Decks quite the improvement from the series’ debut season and gives hope for the show’s third season.

The second season of Paramount+’s Star Trek: Lower Decks is a step up from the series’ debut season.  That is proven in large part through the writing in its episodes.  The writing gives each episode so much more heart and depth than that of the episodes in the series’ debut season.  The bonus content that accompanies that writing makes for even more engagement.  That is because it allows the series’ creative heads to talk about the work and thought that went into the writing (and the sound engineering and editing).  The season’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and puts the finishing touch to the set’s presentation.  That is because of the space-saving nature of the packaging and the presentation of the brief but concise episode summaries presented inside the case.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of this season’s set.  All things considered they make the presentation a welcome improvement overall from the debut season of Star Trek: Lower Decks.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  More information on this and other titles from CBS DVD and Paramount+ is available at:

Website: https://paramountplus.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/paramountplus

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.

Grown-Ups Had Just As Much To Enjoy As Younger Audiences In All The New TV Box Sets

Courtesy: Arrow Video

This year offered lots for families to enjoy together in the way of television and movies.  It also offered plenty for older viewers, whether those audiences needed the occasional break from the more family friendly fare or just needed and wanted something to enjoy.  Between imports and domestic releases, this year’s field of new viewing options for grown-ups offered much to appreciate. 

DC and Warner Brothers’ second season of Doom Patrol, BBC America’s The Watch (It is sadly still unknown if the show will get a renewal for a second season) offered plenty of enjoyment in their own right.  Meanwhile, CBS/Paramount’s third season of Star Trek: Discovery finally got that ship righted.  Along with so many domestic and import releases from PBS and other sets from WB and DC, this year’s field of new offerings for older audiences helped audiences escape and relax every day.  So much new content was released that it gave Phil’s Picks more than enough for another annual list of the year’s top new offerings in said field. 

As with every list from Phil’s Picks, this list offers the Top 10 new entries in said field alongside five additional honorable mentions for a total of 15 titles.  Each entry in this list is deserving of applause in its own right, too.  Without further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2021 Top 10 New Grown-Up DVD/BD Box Sets.

PHIL’S PICKS’ 2021 TOP 10 NEW GROWN-UP DVD/BD BOX SETS

  1. Cold War Creatures
  1. All Creatures Great & Small: Season 1
  1. Doom Patrol: Season 2
  1. The Watch
  1. Miss Scarlet & The Duke: Season 1
  1. Human: The World Within
  1. Jekyll & Hyde
  1. Star Trek Discovery: Season 3
  1. Black Lightning: Season 4
  1. Superman & Lois: Season 1
  1. Star Trek Lower Decks: Season 1
  1. Finding Your Roots: Season 6
  1. Finding Your Roots: Season 7
  1. The Twilight Zone: Season 2
  1. Star Trek Discovery: Seasons 1-3

That’s it for this list, but before the attention turns from the box sets, there is still one more category to check in on tomorrow.  That category is the year’s top new DVD/BD box sets overall between the stuff for families and that for older audiences.  From there, later this week, the attention will turn toward the year’s top new family DVDs and BDs to finish this year’s field of year-end lists.  So there’s still plenty to come.  That means as always, stay tuned!

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

‘The Spongebob Squarepants Movie: Sponge On The Run’ Is Among The Worst Of 2021’s New Movies And The Franchise’s Presentations

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Paramount

Nickelodeon and Paramount’s latest Spongebob Squarepants cinematic offering, Sponge on the Run, is the absolute worst of the franchise’s movie offerings.  Originally planned for big screen release in 2020, those plans were scrapped as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  It ended up going straight to streaming before being released to Blu-ray and DVD last month.  There is really nothing about this movie that makes it memorable.  Its story is the first of its failings and will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home physical release is just as problematic as the story itself.  It will be discussed a little later.  The movie’s animation style is also problematic and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted shows in its own way what makes this movie so disappointing.  All things considered, they are going to make this movie the most forgettable of the Spongebob Squarepants movies to date.

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run is hopefully going to be the absolute last of the movies from the series that started as a little show that could so many years ago on Nickelodeon.  There is nothing redeeming about this movie.  The movie’s story is the most glaring of its concerns.  The story, at its heart, is just another story about Plankton trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula from Mr. Krabs.  It essentially plays out as follows:  Plankton’s computer wife, Karen, makes him realize that it has been not Mr. Krabs, but Spongebob who has ultimately prevented Plankton from getting the formula.  So in finally realizing and accepting this, he uses King Poseidon’s hunt for snail slime (which he apparently uses to cure facial issues like lines, bags, etc.) and kidnaps Spongebob’s snail pal Gary and takes him to King Poseidon.  This leads Spongebob and pal Patrick Star to go on a road trip to find Gary.  With Spongebob out of the way, Plankton finally gets the formula, but of course his victory is short-lived.  Mr. Krabs, Sandy, and Squidward eventually go in search of Spongebob and have to save him from an untimely end because Spongebob had tried to save Gary from Poseidon’s grasp.  That final act (and much of the movie) throws in plenty of promotion for the new CG-based Spongebob Squarepants series, Camp Coral.  Keeping all of that in mind, on the one hand, this is just another story about Plankton trying to get the Krabby Patty formula.  It has been the basis of so much of the series’ content on television and in the franchise’s other movies.  On the other hand, it is also clearly a blatant way for Nickelodeon and Paramount to promote the noted series, which completely ignores canon of the original Spongebob Squarepants television series.  Taking all of that into account with the equally unnecessary celebrity cameos (Snoop Dogg, Mickey Rourke, and Keanu Reeves) and the equally unnecessary musical numbers, and what audiences get is a story that felt like it was just tossed together with hope that audiences would overlook it all.  Given, this critic’s 8 year-old son is proof that children will definitely overlook all the noted problems, but adults with any common sense will see all the problems and realize just how dumbed down and awful this presentation becomes overall.

The problematic story at the heart of this movie is just part of its failing.  The bonus content (or really lack thereof) makes the movie even less enjoyable.  Every one of the bonus features in the movie’s home physical release focuses in one way or another on Camp Coral, yet again proving that this movie is ultimately just one big way for Nickelodeon and Paramount to promote that series, which is itself completely forgettable.  There are art segments that show how Spongebob is drawn for that series.  There is also a feature about Spongebob’s Camp Coral pals, and even a “mini-movie” taken from the series.  That those behind this movie’s presentation would even call this feature a “mini-movie” is disappointing.  It is a short.  Even when it is played, it is called a short on screen.  That is a far cry from a mini-movie.  Mini-movie hints that it would be about half the time of the movie, which runs approximately 91 minutes.  This “mini-movie” runs maybe six or seven minutes.  Yet again, this is just so problematic, especially considering that this and the other bonus content clearly is just another blatant marketing means for Camp Coral.  It is just more disappointment for this overall presentation.  It is still not the last of the problems presented in this presentation.  The animation style poses its own problem.

The animation style of Sponge on the Run is full on CG.  It just does not look nearly as wonderful as that rough style used in the series’ infancy.  Given, it is hardly the first time that the franchise’s creative heads have gone this route.  Some of the latest Spongebob TV holiday specials (mainly Halloween and Christmas) have all used their own stop motion/CG hybrid approaches.  The result of those approaches is really appealing in its own way, but the approach taken here is just ugly throughout.  It shows that some things simply should not go the CG route.  That aesthetic element may seem minor on the surface, but the reality is that the look makes it hard in itself to watch.  When the difficulty wanting to keep watching that unappealing look is joined with a story that is just as awful and forgettable, and equally forgettable bonus content, the whole becomes a presentation that is absolutely the worst of the Spongebob Squarepants franchise’s cinematic offerings and one of this year’s worst movies, too.

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run is the absolute worst entry yet in the Spongebob Squarepants cinematic series.  It does nothing to help build the legacy of the series, which really stopped being enjoyable after its fifth season.  That is proven in large part through its story.  The story is just another tale of another of Plankton’s efforts to steal the Krabby Patty formula.  On a secondary note, it is also a blatant machine for Nickelodeon and Paramount officials to market the new Spongebob Squarepants series, Camp Coral.  That in itself is pathetic.  Add in the fact that Camp Coral does not even stick to canon from the original series, and it makes that aspect even more disappointing and worthy of criticism.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home physical presentation is even more marketing for Camp Coral, making for even more criticism.  It makes it seem even more, that this movie was really just an excuse for Nickelodeon and Paramount officials to market the noted streaming series.  The animation style used in the movie rounds out the most important of this movie’s problems.  Its aesthetic effect makes it just as difficult to watch this movie as the movie’s content.  Each item examined here is important in its way in showing why this movie is so bad.  All things considered, they make Sponge on the Run the worst of the Spongebob Squarepants movies yet and one of this year’s worst movies overall.

The Spongebo Movie: Sponge on the Run is available now on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  More information on this and all things Spongebob Squarepants is available at:

Website: https://nick.com/shows/spongebob-squarepants  

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/spongebob

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.  

‘Star Trek Discovery’ Improves Noticeably In Its Third Season

Courtesy: Paramount+/CBS DVD

Paramount+’s Star Trek series Discovery is a property that has struggled to find its place in the bigger Star Trek universe over the course of its first two seasons.  Of course, the series did show some growth in its second season, offering some hope for the show.  Now in its third season, which is scheduled for release Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray, that growth has continued even more, showing even more potential for its own future.  That is exhibited mainly through its writing, which while not perfect is still key to this season’s success.  While the writing does much to make Season Three a continued improvement for the Discovery franchise, the bonus content detracts slightly from the season’s forthcoming home presentation.  This will be addressed a little later.  Luckily, the detraction that the season’s bonus content causes is not enough to make this season’s presentation a failure.  The acting works with the writing to continue showing the noted growth.  It will also be addressed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Star Trek Discovery: Season Three’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the season such that longtime Star Trek fans will agree is another improvement in this series.

Paramount+ and CBS DVD’s forthcoming home release of Star Trek Discovery: Season Three is a presentation that brings the series another step forward in its ongoing growth.  That is due in large part to the season’s writing.  The writing stands out because while it ensures the season is still serialized, there is more going on within the season.  Instead of just one central story, the writers create two central stories – Burham’s efforts to reunite with the Discovery crew, the crew’s efforts to find the source of “the burn,” and the crew’s efforts to rebuild the Federation.  Along the way, the writers also developed story lines within those larger stories that allow the rest of the crew to shine (E.g. Lt. Detmer’s dealing with what is essentially PTSD, Tilly’s own personal growth as she comes into her own on board the Discovery, and Emperor Girgio’s own growth and change).  Given, the writers still make Burnham something of a Christ-like figure, ensuring she is at the center of the bigger stories (and crying as much as possible yet again along the way), but seeing the rest of Discovery’s main crew getting their own time in the spotlight is a nice growth.  That the writers were able to keep everything balanced and keep the whole from getting bogged down in itself is definitely worth its own share of applause.

Adding onto everything already noted is the fact that the writers also worked hard this season to bring Discovery into the bigger Star Trek canon through items, such as the introduction of Andorians and Orions, and even Carl (a.k.a. the Guardian of Forever).  The Guardian of Forever reaches all the way back to Star Trek The Original Series, showing once again the attempt to pull this series into canon.  As if all of that is not enough, the discussion of Spock’s attempts to reunite the Vulcans and Romulans is a direct throw back to The Next Generation.  Captain Picard’s name is even directly used in this discussion, which will make even the most devoted viewers happy.  There is even a tribute to Star Trek Voyager at another point, adding for even more appeal.  That the writers did everything noted here without making any of it feel forced is even more impressive.  It results in each episode being that much more engaging and entertaining.

While the writers’ work in this season is unquestionably important to its presentation, the lack of any real discussion on that work in the bonus content detracts somewhat from the season’s presentation on DVD.  That is not to say that the events of Season Three are not addressed.  Quite the opposite is true as a matter of fact.  They are discussed in the home release’s only real worthwhile bonus, “The Voyage of Season 3.”  Audiences are taken from the season premiere to its finale, outlining how the crew grows and changes, and how everything happens.  The one thing that it does not do however, is offer commentary from the cast or crew on how the course was set (no pun intended) throughout the season.  It would have been nice to have known from the show’s creative heads why the surprising source of the burn was chosen for instance.  That one is a bit of a head scratcher with all due respect.  The source of “The Burn” will not be revealed for those who have yet to see Season Three, but again, it just feels like the writers, in this case, just decided to throw something against the wall and see if it sticks.  It is just a little disappointing at least in the mind of this critic.  It is the only real downside to the writing, though.  Considering how much the writers brought Discovery into Star Trek canon this season, it also would have been nice to have received comment from the writers and creative heads about that.  That sadly is absent in this bonus feature, too.  Did the creative heads do this out of reaction to audiences or was this all planned long term?  Audiences are left not knowing this.

Looking at the rest of the bonus content featured this time out, the “Bridge Building” bonus is entertaining in its own right.  Considering how much more the Discovery’s bridge crew is featured this season, this profile of the crew from the actors themselves is a nice added nod to those actors.

Speaking of cast profiles, the profile of cast member Kenneth Mitchell is engaging in its own right, even if it is not necessarily memorable.  Audiences get to hear from Mitchell himself here and learn of how many roles he has played over the course of the series’ now three seasons.  His discussion on being diagnosed with ALS will grip and move audiences, certainly.  It adds a little more appreciation for the character development and widening character portrayals this season too. 

Looking at all of this (and the mostly forgettable “Writer’s Log” bonus feature), the bonus content adds some appeal to this season in its home presentation at best, but because of what it lacks, it also detracts from that presentation.  Luckily, that balance of pro and con here is enough to keep the presentation still mostly positive.

One more item that makes the third season of Star Trek Discovery positive is the acting.  Every cast member serves his or her own positive part in terms of the acting.  That includes Mitchell.  While Mitchell only appears near the season finale, his subtle performance as part of the Emerald Chain and his realization as to what the Emerald Chain is really all about is powerful in its simplicity.  Mitchell shows here a real appreciation for his time on screen, making audiences really connect with him.  On another note, Michelle Yeoh is once again one of the real highlights in terms of the acting.  Her role as Emperor Giorgio, that hard-nosed figure is just so great to take in.  Even the crew appreciated that snappy nature.  Audiences will be left for audiences to figure that out for themselves. On a more subtle note, Linus (David Benjamin Tomlinson) makes for some great subtle comic relief as he tries to figure out how the new Federation badges work, even accidentally breaking up a romantic moment between Burnham and Book.  Yes, she falls in love again, but that development was obvious right from the duo’s meeting in the season premiere.  Tomlinson may not be a key member of the cast, but he is used so well even as a lesser member of the crew and deserves his own share of applause.  Between his work, that of the other cast members addressed here and that of the rest of the cast, the overall acting does a lot to make this season enjoyable in its own right.  When it is considered along with the positives of the writing and even some of the positives in the bonus content (as few as they are), the whole makes the third season of Star Trek Discovery a cast improvement on the series from its first two seasons.  One can only hope that the improvements continue in the now apparently planned fourth season.

The third season of Star Trek Discovery is a noticeable improvement on the series from its first two seasons.  That is evidenced in large part through its writing.  The writing has expanded this season, incorporating more story elements rather than just focusing on one item.  That means also allowing stars other than Sonequa Martin-Green to have the spotlight.  It is a nice change of pace.  Add in the more clear effort by all involved to tie Discovery into Star Trek canon, and the writing creates even more appeal.  While the writing does a lot to make this season appealing, the bonus content that accompanies the season’s home release detracts from the presentation.  That is because while it does offer some background on the season, that background is limited.  Luckily, the character profiles make up for that shortcoming at least to a point.  Keeping that in mind, the few positives in the bonus content make up for the shortcomings to keep the bonus content from dooming the presentation.  Those positives work along with the wholly positive acting to rounds out the most important of the season’s elements.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the season.  All things considered, they make the third season of Star Trek Discovery largely a win and clear improvement on the show from its first two seasons.

Star Trek Discovery Season Three is scheduled for release Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray. More information on the series is available online now at:

Websitehttps://cbs.com/shows/star-trek-discovery

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/StarTrekCBS

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/cbs

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.

Paramount, Nickelodeon’s ‘Rugrats: Complete Series’ Presentation Is Entertaining, But Imperfect

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Paramount

Almost fifteen years have passed since Rugrats finally ended its run on Nickelodeon.  The timeless, beloved series has remained a favorite among its viewers since that time.  The thing is that until 2009, audiences had been left waiting and wondering if this series would ever receive an official release on DVD.  The constant questions and requests were finally answered in 2017 when Paramount and Nickelodeon released the series’ debut season in a two-disc set in stores.  Seasons 2-4 followed later in 2017 and 2018 respectively.  That is where the official releases ended.  More than three years later, audiences’ pleas were finally heard again though, as Paramount and Nickelodeon released the series’ full nine season run on a 26-disc DVD set May 18, complete with the series’ hour-long specials.  Those extras are their own positive to discuss and will be addressed later.  The fact that audiences finally get the full series in an official release is itself a positive.  Now, staying on the topic of the number of discs, the packaging of those discs proves somewhat problematic.  This will be discussed a little later.  When this negative is considered along with the positives of the set’s very presentation and its bonus content, the whole still keeps the collection as one of the year’s top new family DVD/BD box sets.

Paramount and Nickelodeon’s brand new release of Rugrats: The Complete Series is a presentation that longtime Rugrats fans will find mostly positive.  The appeal begins with the presentation of the series in full, just as advertised.  This is important to note because some of the on-demand standalone season sets that Nickelodeon released in partnership with Amazon allegedly were not full seasons.  Rather they were allegedly portions of seasons assembled on-demand on DVD in many cases.  In the case of this set though, audiences get the whole of all nine seasons of the show in precise chronological order within the precise confines of their seasons.  What’s more, the most commonly occurring price listing for the set is $49.95 through Amazon and Walmart while Best Buy barely tops that number at $49.99.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers far exceeds each of those prices, listing the set at $79.99.  So even with tax and (thankfully) no added shipping & handling, audiences pay just over $50 for the set at its more economic prices.  Considering audiences are getting the series’ full run here, and in quite good quality, that price is well worth it.

While the series’ full run and relatively affordable price are clearly positives that audiences will appreciate, the set is not perfect.  That is evidenced through the set’s packaging.  The clamshell case that is used to house the set saves space on audiences’ DVD/BD racks.  At the same time though, that he discs are stacked as much as three high from one season to the next is anything but positive.  What’s more, that the stacks overlap one another throughout the case makes the packaging even less appealing.  That is because this packaging method greatly increases the odds that the discs will damage one another at some point by scratching one another.  Again, yes, it is ergonomic in its design.  At the same time though, true, longtime audiences will agree that a long box format with each standalone season would have made more sense and been more acceptable despite the less ergonomic packaging.  That is because it would have better protected the discs.  Maybe somewhere down the line, Paramount and Nickelodeon will take this into account and re-issue the set in such packaging.  In the meantime though, audiences are left to be so gentle with the discs in hopes that they do not inadvertently damage them as they have to constantly move them.  Keeping this in mind, anyone who owns the series’ first four seasons in their standalone sets (like this critic) are recommended to keep those sets just so they can avoid having to constantly move the discs around in this bigger set, and instead just worry about Seasons Five through Nine.

This is just one of the problems posed by the packaging.  Along with the concerns raised about the discs’ packaging, there is no note as to which discs contain the aforementioned bonus specials.  As a result, audiences will be left having to go through each season to find them.  This goes right back to the discussion on the discs being stacked and risking damage as a result.  So this is in itself another insult to longtime Rugrats fans.  To save audiences that trouble, here is a guide to follow:  “Runaway Reptar” is located on the third disc of Season 6.  The All Grown Up pilot, “All Growed Up” is located on the third disc of Season Eight.  The ‘Tales from the Crib” specials are located on the fourth disc of Season Nine along with the holiday special, “Babies in Toyland.”  Now, keeping the bonus content in mind, it rounds out the most important of the set’s elements.


As noted, all of the Rugrats specials are featured here.  The “Tales from the Crib” specials are available on a standalone DVD at a relatively low price while “Runaway Reptar” is available as part of another standalone Rugrats DVD.  “Babies in Toyland” is also featured in the Rugrats holiday DVD box set.  Until now, those DVDs were the only way to own those stories.  So in essence, audiences get for the first time here, the entirety of the Rugrats series from beginning to end.  While the musical numbers in the “Tales from the Crib” specials are forgettable, the stories themselves are entertaining.  Audiences will love the breaking down of the fourth wall in “Snow White” as Queen Angelica tries to figure out how to get rid of Snow White (played in this case by Susie Carmichael).  The reminder from the announcer that what was done in the original story cannot be done in this story because it is family friendly will have plenty of audiences laughing.  The jokes about three jacks in the Rugrats take on Jack and the Beanstalk makes for its own laughs, too.  In the case of “Runaway Reptar,” Tommy and company’s use of their imaginations as they try to figure out why Reptar has gone bad in a movie is itself moving.  Classic sci-fi fans will love the spoof of the original Godzilla vs. Kong and Godzilla vs. Mecha Godzilla here, too. The babies’ wonderings about what the future will be like for them in the All Grown Up pilot is entertaining in its own right, considering that the series had shown them as babies for so many years up to the point at which it originally aired.  All things considered here, the bonus specials add their own enjoyment to the presentation of the series here.  They and the full run of episodes make for plenty of reason to own this set.  That is even considering the highly problematic issue of the set’s packaging.  Even with that in mind, the set still proves itself among the best of this year’s new family DVD and BD box sets.

Paramount and Nickelodeon’s recently released official full series presentation of Rugrats is an entertaining but imperfect presentation.  That audiences finally get the full series in one, official set will appeal to any of the series’ longtime fans.  That is because up until its release May 18, audiences only had the series’ first four seasons available in official box sets.  It shows that someone(s) at Paramount and Nickelodeon finally listened to audiences’ pleas.  While the presentation of the series in full is positive, the packaging thereof detracts considerably from its appeal.  The packaging presents all nine seasons in a clamshell package with each season’s discs stacked as many as three high.  This greatly increases the chances of damage to the discs, especially considering each stack overlaps another in each season.  This means the discs have to be moved far more than necessary.  That increased movement of the discs increases, again, the odds of the discs getting invariably scratched.  A long box presentation with each standalone season therein would have been far more proper here.  Time will tell if the people at Paramount and Nickelodeon heed that advice and eventually re-issue the collection in that more proper setting.

The lack of a guide for the bonus content makes the set’s packaging even more problematic.  That is because it will lead audiences to have to otherwise search through the discs, moving them just as much, just to find the extras.  That they are so spread out across the set’s seasons makes things even more problematic.

On the opposite hand, the fact that the bonus content is collected here together for the first time ever adds to the appeal again.  That is because the specials have only been available separate of one another up until now.  So to have them culled here along with the series’ run puts the finishing touch to this presentation.  The collective content’s presentation makes the set at least one of the year’s top new family DVD and BD box sets, but not its best.  It is available now.  More information on all things Rugrats is available online at https://www.facebook.com/Rugrats.  

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.  

‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Neither Succeeds Nor Fails In Its Debut Season’s Home Release

Courtesy: Paramount/Paramount+/CBS Studios/CBS All Access

Paramount+’s latest addition to the ever-expanding Star Trek universe, Star Trek: Lower Decks, is scheduled to launch its second season this summer, roughly a year after the series saw its debut season premiere.  As audiences wait for the series’ second season to air, they can take in the show’s first season on DVD and Blu-ray beginning Tuesday.  The debut season of this newest addition to the Star Trek universe is an intriguing presentation even in its new home release.  While Lower Decks is not a complete disappointment or failure in its debut season, it also is not a total success.  That is proven in part through its writing, which is itself both a positive and negative.  It will be discussed shortly.  For all that the writing does to both benefit and detract from the series’ presentation, it is just one of the elements to examine in addressing the home release of the series’ debut season.  The bonus content featured in the home release of the show’s lead season is a positive in its own way.  It will be discussed a little later.  The two-disc set’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the home release of the series’ lead season.  All things considered, they make the presentation such that Star Trek fans will find it worth watching at least once.

Paramount+’s home presentation of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 presents the series as neither an improvement on nor a lessening of the long-running franchise that is Star Trek.  That is proven in large part through its writing.  The writing benefits the show first and foremost in the fact that each episode is only half an hour instead of a full hour.  What’s more, the writing brings the franchise back to the episodic presentation style that was once the franchise’s norm.  Every episode finds the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos going from planet to planet facing all kinds of adventures.  The whole thing opens with a zombie plague overcoming the Cerritos in “Second Contact” and Ensign Boimler inadvertently being the one to save the day.  “Moist Vessel” keeps the action on board entertaining as Captain Freeman (who is revealed early on to be Ensign Mariner’s mother) teachers Mariner a lesson about maturity as she continues to cause trouble for her mother and much of the ship’ senior staff.  “Veritas” meanwhile presents audiences with a familiar twice-told tale type plot element that is so common to sitcoms.  It’s a surprisingly funny story that, as with the other noted episodes and the rest of the season’s stories, boast a certain stylistic similarity to the writing used in Futurama.  To that point, the writing does a lot to make the debut season of Lower Decks worth at least a chance.  At the same time, the writing also suffers from one major downfall, that being that it takes itself too seriously in trying to not be serious.

Yes, the stories featured throughout the first season of Lower Decks are original and funny, the dialogue that is used therein proves very problematic.  The snarkiness and the amount of foul language that is used throughout each episode proves very problematic.  Considering that the series is the creation of Rick & Morty writer Mike McMahan, that should come as no surprise.  Things like Mariner getting drunk, Captain Freeman essentially cussing out lower ranking officers, and the overtly over the top silliness as the ensigns testify before a court for something that happened, and more, the writing just suffers in terms of its general content.  That against the enjoyment brought by the less serious nature of the stories and that the episodes are standalone presentations offsets one another.  It works together to once more show why the writing makes this season worth watching at least once.  While the writing featured in the first season of Lower Decks proves both good and bad, the bonus content is featured in Season 1’s home release proves positive, somewhat offsetting the  concerns raised in the writing.

The bonus content presented in the home release of Lower Decks Season 1 is positive in that it gives audiences a look behind the show’s scenes.  The most notable of the bonuses comes in “Hiding in Plain Sight.”  This roughly six minute bonus featurette presents just some of the items used in past Star Trek series that are tossed in here.  The shows’ creative heads point out in this segment that the inclusion of the classic items was intentional as a means to add to appeal for fans of those shows.  Any diehard Star Trek fan will agree that there is something special in seeing this generation of Star Trek so lovingly throwing back to the franchise’s early days.  As with the writing, this follows in the shoes of the writing of Futurama.  It is interesting to see the tasteful way in which so many classic Star Trek items and characters were thrown into this series, not just to generate nostalgia, but to use them as story elements, too.

“Hiding in Plain Sight” is just one of the set’s notable bonuses.  The “Lower Decktionary” segments give even more insight into the show’s creative process.  From the animation, to the title credits (which themselves throw back to the look of TNG’s credits), to the show’s music, audiences get brief but in-depth discussions on so much of the show’s “secondary” content.  Those discussions, along with the talks on the throwbacks to classic Star Trek will add its own level of engagement and entertainment for audiences in this presentation.  Together with the more positive side of the show’s writing, the two aspects collectively make the show slightly more worth watching.

The bonus and content and writing featured in the home release of Lower Decks Season 1 does well to make this debut season of the Star Trek universe’s latest addition worth watching at least once.  They are just a portion of what works to the presentation’s positive.  The set’s packaging rounds out its most important elements.  Audiences will note that a brief but concise episode summary list is printed inside the case’s front and rear box art.  This inclusion allows audiences to make a quick decision as to which episode they want to watch.  Making this aspect even more appealing is the fact that the episodes are aligned specifically with each of the set’s two discs.  This means that audiences immediately know which episodes are on which disc, and in the process, will be that much more capable of deciding which episode to watch.  Those behind the presentation in this aspect are to be commended for this move.

Making the packaging even more of a positive is the fact that the set’s discs are wisely presented inside the case.  Disc one is placed on a leaf inside the case by itself while Disc Two is placed on its own spindle on the box’s rear inside.  This protects the discs from marring one another.  On yet another level, the smart placement of the discs also makes the packaging ergonomic.  This will appeal to any viewer who prefers the physical object to streaming.  Keeping this in mind along with the positive impact of the packaging’s episode listing, there is no doubt that the packaging proves important in its own way to the whole of the set’s presentation.  When this element is considered along with the positive impact of the set’s bonus content, and the mixed impact of the writing, all three elements make the home release of Lower Decks’s debut season somewhat engaging and entertaining, but still neither an improvement nor lessening of the Star Trek universe’s overall legacy.

Paramount+’s new home release of Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 is an intriguing first outing for the latest addition to the ever-growing Star Trek universe.  The show is neither an outright win nor a total failure.  That is proven in part through the season’s writing.  The writing brings together the best elements of Star Trek and Futurama, but the worst elements of shows, such as Rick & Morty and Family Guy at the same time.  That whole makes the writing somewhat entertaining, but also equally lacking.  The bonus content that accompanies the season in its new home release makes up for the writing’s concerns.  That is because of the background that it offers on the show in its lead season.  The packaging of Season 1 in its home release rounds out the set’s most important elements.  It enhances the viewing experience because it makes choosing an episode easy for viewers while also protecting each of the set’s two discs.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this set’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the debut season of Star Trek: Lower Decks worth watching at least occasionally, but not much more.  Star Trek Lower Decks Season 1 is scheduled for release Tuesday through Paramount, Paramount+, CBS Studios and CBS All Access.

More information on this and other content from CBS All Access is available online at:

Websitehttps://www.cbs.com/all-acess

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/CBSAllAccess

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/cbsallaccess

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.