I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two More Than Lives Up To Its Title

Courtesy:  Paramount/CBS DVD

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS DVD

Next Tuesday, Paramount and CBS DVD will release the second season of CBS’ classic sitcom I Love Lucy on Blu-ray. It comes a little more than a year after the release of the series’ first season on Blu-ray. Its release marks the first time ever that Season Two has been released in this format. Now, it is easy to question the importance of the show’s fans having this collection in their home collections considering the number of networks on which it currently airs–TV Land, Hallmark Channel, Me-TV, and possibly others. That is a lot of coverage. However, not everybody out there has access to each of the noted networks for one reason or another. That being the case and that it’s not always that easy to find the DVD box sets at the likes of Wal-Mart or Target (one has to be lucky enough to find them at either retail outlet), it increases the importance of this latest collection by quite a bit. It is just one element worth noting in regards to why audiences will appreciate this latest release even despite the one major issue of its price. The writing behind each of the set’s thirty-one episodes is one more reason and by relation the work of the series’ cast within each episode. Last but most definitely not least worth noting to the set’s positives is the massive amount of bonus material included throughout the five-disc set. From the episode-specific commentaries to the multiple viewing options of the set’s timeless season premiere “Switching Jobs” to the multiple viewing options of each episode overall, these bonuses and many more complete the positive viewing experience of I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two. Each element in its own makes this collection well worth the addition to any I Love Lucy fan’s home collection. Collectively, they make it an ultimate tribute to a series and the series’ fans even despite its rather high price tag.

Paramount and CBS DVD’s upcoming release of I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two marks the first time ever that the series’ second season has seen the light of day on Blu-ray (say that two times fast). Being that the series has already been released both in a full-series set and in its own standalone season sets, one can’t help but wonder why one would want to add this new standalone season set to one’s home collection. The answer is simple. It is the first of a number of reasons that it is worth the purchase even despite the relatively high price tag. While the noted DVD sets are currently available for purchase, one must get lucky to find any of the sets in question in any retail outlet. This means that it is easier for audiences to purchase said sets online. Here’s the problem with that. Not everybody shops online. Whether it be for concerns of security, which are fully justified especially in this day and age, or simply for lack of internet access, shopping online is not for everybody. The next argument is one of the show’s coverage on television today. Currently, I Love Lucy runs on no fewer than three networks–Hallmark Channel, TV Land, and Me-TV–on television. That could be argued to be plenty of reason for audiences to not pick up this set. The rebuttal here is that as with the online shopping option, not everybody has access to one or more of said networks. In some regions, issues with certain carriers has eliminated access to Viacom’s networks, thus eliminating TV Land. In others, a network such as Hallmark Channel is considered a premium channel available only via a digital tier. And in regards to Me-TV, it is growing every day in its reach. However still not every household in America has access to Me-TV. Considering all of this, it makes the presentation of Season Two in its complete all the more important for fans of all ages. Add in the fact that not everybody shops online and its upcoming release in stores makes it all the more important while it is available. These issues are in themselves strong arguments in favor of adding I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two to fans’ collections. It is hardly the only argument in favor of the brand new box set. The work of the series’ writers in Season Two adds even more fire to the argument in its favor.

The issues with the access to I Love Lucy’s DVD box sets both in stores and online make a solid argument in favor of adding I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two to audiences’ personal home libraries. Those issues are only the tip of the iceberg in the argument in favor of the brand new box set. The work of the series’ writers this season and by correlation the series’ cast adds even more strength to that argument. Season Two sees some of the most memorable episodes of the series’ entire six-season run including the beloved, timeless season premiere “Job Switching” and the multi-part story arc that follows Lucy’s pregnancy. “Job Switching” is one of the most beloved of I Love Lucy’s one hundred and eighty episodes if not its single-most beloved and timeless episodes. It is a clear example of why the work of the show’s writers is just as pivotal in Season Two as any of the series’ other seasons. This classic battle-of-the-sexes episode sees Ricky and Fred change places with Lucy and Ethel. The prior become the stay-at-home figures while the latter go out to find work. While Lucy and Ethel’s scenes trying their hands as candy makers are the episode’s most memorable of the episode, they are just part of what makes this episode such a laugh riot. The writers’ ability to make Ricky and Fred into just as much a pair of bumblers keeps the men and women on the same level. Audiences will be left in stitches as they see Fred completely char a cake he was trying to bake and Ricky completely losing track and control of a pot of rice. In the same vein, Ricky trying to clean the chickens (yes, he actually tries to clean them) makes for just as many laughs. On the other side of the proverbial coin, watching Lucy and Ethel sitting at the employment agency, trying to get a job in the first place is well worth its share of laughs, too. On another level, the manner in which the writers switched up the couples’ gender roles even before everything unravels (both literally and figuratively) will have viewers laughing just as uproariously. Fred and Ricky both sporting frilly aprons is hilarious in itself. Lucy reading the paper, drinking her coffee and ignoring Ricky is even funnier. And then there is Fred’s comment about Ethel not kissing him goodbye as she and Lucy leave. This is yet another great moment. The commentary about this moment and so many others throughout the episode show even more why the efforts of the show’s writers make this episode such a laugh riot. Said commentary will be discussed later. Getting back on topic, this episode is just one, rich example of how the work of the show’s writers makes this season of I Love Lucy well worth the watch. The multi-part story arc following Lucy’s real life pregnancy is another pivotal example of the importance of the writers’ work.

“Job Switching” is in itself a clear example of why the work of I Love Lucy’s writers is so important to the show’s overall success and enjoyment. It is just one example of why their work is so important, too. The multi-part story arc that follows Lucy’s pregnancy is another prime example of the importance of their work. Lucy’s real life pregnancy marked the first time ever that a TV series’ heads had allowed an actress’ pregnancy to be played out on television. Discussing pregnancy in general at the time was considered a major taboo for TV. Men and women at the time couldn’t even sleep in the same bed on television thanks to the censors. So to have her pregnancy directly addressed and even tied into the series is in itself is hugely important. The manner in which the writers handled her pregnancy makes these episodes even more key. Audiences will find themselves laughing just as much in the arc’s lead episode “Lucy Is Enceinte” as they will any of the arc’s others. There is a lot of truth even today in “Pregnant Women Are Unpredictable.” Lucy gets mad at Ricky here because she thinks he loves their baby more than her only to turn and get mad at the episode’s end because he had made no mention of the baby. The setting in which this moment happens makes for its own share of laughs even today. Men and women both will laugh because, again, they know that there is a lot of truth here. Even more to the positive is the fact that the writers handled the issue with such tact and playfulness. Much as with “Job Switching” the writers poked fun at both the mood swings that many women experience in pregnancy and the general inability of men to comprehend or even handle them. It is yet another example of everything that was once great about comic writing, proving again why the work of the show’s writers is so important to the overall enjoyment and success of I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two. It is not the last example of the importance of their work, either. “Lucy Becomes A Sculptress” is yet another example of what makes Season Two such a hit.

“Lucy Becomes A Sculptress” is another prime example of the importance of the work of I Love Lucy’s writers for not just one reason but two. The first reason is that it is actually a two-part episode in itself. It is part of that multi-part story arc that followed Lucy’s pregnancy. But it is also its own standalone episode that put Lucy into one of so many outrageous situations. In the case of this episode, Lucy decides to try her hand at sculpting art and even goes so far as to get an art critic to come in and judge her *ahem* work. As any fan knows, she becomes her work, leading to what is one of the all-time greatest episodes in the history of both “I Love Lucy” and of television in whole. Lucy’s initial attempts at creating art are in themselves worthy of more than their share of laughs, again putting the talents of the series’ writers on full display. It is just one more of so many ways throughout Season Two’s thirty-one total episodes in which the writers’ talents are put on full display. All thirty-one episodes considered together, they show with the fullest clarity why the writing behind the second season of I Love Lucy is so important to its general effect. Even with all of the laughs that the writing brings in each episode, the work of the writers is just one element that is worth noting. The work of the show’s cast is just as worth noting.

The work of I Love Lucy’s writers in the show’s second season led to what are considered today to be largely some of the series’ best episodes and some of the most timeless episodes in television’s history in whole. Of course, as impressive as the writing proves to be , it would have been nothing without the work of the show’s cast yet again. The work of the cast–Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley–is perfect from the season’s premiere to its finale. That is obvious in the season premiere when Lucy and Ethel struggle to keep the chocolates from getting past them on the conveyor belt. It is just as evident in this episode when Lucy and Ricky switch their household gender roles. Lucy is spot on as she sits at the table reading the paper and drinking her coffee, not paying any attention to Ricky as he talks. There is a lot of truth to that scene even today some six decades plus later. The truth is on both sides. The back and forth between Ball and Vance as Lucy and Ethel vie for head of the Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League is another example of the importance of the cast’s work. The lengths that the pair reaches in its attempts to obtain that elusive leadership position is so hilarious not so much because it is this pair in question but because it is a situation that could apply both to women and men alike. It just so happened that in the case of this episode it was Lucy and Ethel that went toe to toe over the group’s position of leadership. Another example of the importance of the cast’s work this season comes early on in Lucy’s pregnancy as Lucy wants to initially tell Ricky that they are going to be parents. His reaction after learning he has to sing a song to an expecting couple is wonderful. He goes from table to table, singing happy birthday, becoming increasingly nervous as he tries to find out who the lucky couple is. The ultimate reveal that it is in fact him and Lucy will put a smile on any viewer’s face both from joy and the laughter at his reaction as he tries to solve the riddle so to speak. It is one more way that the work of the show’s cast throughout this season makes the season so enjoyable and a must have for any of the series’ fans.

Everything noted already in regards to I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two makes a solid argument why fans of this timeless sitcom should have the brand new Season Two standalone box set in their own home libraries. For all of the importance of each already noted element, there is still one more element worth noting in regards to this set. That final element is the massive amount of bonus material included with the set. As with the previously released Season One box set, Season Two includes among its bonus features: multiple episode-specific commentaries for starters. One of the commentaries in question centers on the season premiere. Audiences will be interested to learn in this episode that Ricky’s bumbling around in the kitchen was just an act. He was, as is revealed, in fact quite the accomplished chef. Just as interesting is the scene in which Lucy and Ethel prepare to leave and look for a job. Fred tells Ethel that she forgot to kiss him goodbye here. It is a great switching of gender roles. Even more interesting is the revelation in the commentary is that this moment was actually wiped from the episode. According to the commentary, it was not the censors that had it eliminated. Rather it is inferred that it might have been Vivian Vance herself who had it removed. If in fact it was her who had it removed, one can’t help but wonder why. Perhaps there was tension off camera between her and co-star William Frawley. It’s anyone’s guess. Regardless, it is definitely an intriguing tidbit to learn. These are just a couple of extras that make the work of the series’ writers so enjoyable this season. It is just one more reason that the commentary included in this episode proves to be a bonus in every sense of the word. It is not the only episode that receives the bonus commentary treatment, either. There are others throughout the season’s run that get their own commentary, too. The commentaries are only the tip of the iceberg in regards to the bonus material included in this box set. Audiences get to see “Job Switching” both in their own standalone black-and-white presentation and color presentation. There is also an option to watch the episode with its own French-Canadian presentation, which included its own special opening and closing graphics, and French-Canadian audio track. This is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the set’s bonus material. There is far more to discuss including other episode viewing options.

The multiple viewing options offered for Season Two’s premiere are bonuses in their own right and fully deserving of being called bonuses. They are however anything but the only bonuses included in this set. Audiences are also treated to the option of watching every episode with or without their original opening and closing sponsor segments from Phillip Morris. The Phillip Morris segments even include a clear disclaimer noting the now known dangers of smoking and that neither Paramount nor CBS DVD advocate smoking in any form. Both companies are to be highly commended for taking this measure along with giving viewers the season’s run in its original presentation. On the same note, audiences can watch each episode with or without their original “heart” openings. As if all of this isn’t enough, Paramount and CBS DVD have also included with this set, the entire story arc involving Lucy’s pregnancy in the special Lucy movie I Love Lucy: The Movie as well as even more installments of the beloved radio series My Favorite Husband. Audiences will note in the select commentaries included throughout this season that it was My Favorite Husband that led to many of its episodes as well as episodes from other seasons of I Love Lucy. There is much more to note, including a sketch from the Red Skelton Show, guest profiles, an episode guide printed on the indie front and back of the set’s case, and so much more. But to go into each one would take far more time and space than is available. Considering that and everything already noted, it is safe to say that the bonus material included in I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two more than lives up to its title and in turn shows yet again why this season in whole also lives up to its name even despite its rather high price tag.

I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two shows in so many ways why it lives up to its title. Its very availability versus that of the series’ previous DVD releases lies at the heart of the ways in which it lives up to its name. The collective work of the show’s writers and cast once again makes for so many laughs and even heartfelt moments from beginning to end. The material included in the set as bonuses more than lives up to its title, too. The end result of all of these factors together is a box set that is in fact the ultimate Season Two experience for any fan of I Love Lucy. I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two will be available in stores and online Tuesday, August 4th. More information on this and other titles from Paramount and CBS DVD is available online now at:

CBS HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Website: http://www.cbshomeentertainment.com

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

PARAMOUNT STUDIOS HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Website: http://www.ParamountMovies.com

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

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.

Kruger, Wahlberg Give New Life To Paramount’s Transformers Franchise

Courtesy:  Paramount Studios

Courtesy: Paramount Studios

Paramount’s big screen Transformers franchise has been the center of a lot of discussion ever since the series kicked off seven years ago.  Ever since the series’ first installment was released in 2007, the reactions from fans and critics alike have been either hate or great.  There has been no gray area at all from audiences.  The reason for that clear division is that unlike other action flicks past and present, the Michael Bay-led series has ignored up to this point any real story and substance in favor of an overload of the action genre’s other standard elements.  Where those works fell, Transformers: Age of Extinction actually makes up for its predecessors if only slightly.  The reason that it works is the same reason that those movies didn’t work.  It doesn’t sacrifice story for standard action fare.  And perhaps the biggest reason of all for that is that writer Ehren Kruger had sole control of the movie’s script.  Kruger actually included some interesting elements to the story to balance out the standard action sequences and elements.   On the other hand, while Kruger’s writing actually made Transformers: Age of Extinction work better than the previous movies in the Transformers franchise, it also did just as much damage to the end product, too.  Making up for that is the surprisingly enjoyable acting on the part of lead actors Mark Wahlberg and Jack Reynor.  The duo’s back and forth makes for its own share of laughs as an occasional break from the more brainless elements of this flick.  If not for those more lighthearted moments Transformers: Age of Extinction might not have actually turned out to be as bearable as it did.  Thankfully though, that wasn’t the case.  It’s one more way in which Transformers: Age of Extinction outperforms its predecessors and proves to be worth at least one watch.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is an interesting work.  In comparison to both its own predecessors and all of the other prequels, sequels, and remakes that have been churned out this year, it surprises.  It actually proves to be a movie worth at least one watch.  The central reason for this is its writing.  Perhaps the biggest reason of all that the movie’s writing actually succeeds (even remotely) is the fact that only one person handled the movie’s script.  All three of the movies that came before this one in Paramount’s rather divisive franchise were developed by teams of writers, rather than one single person.  This time, Ehren Kruger, who also played a role in the franchise’s third film, was the sole individual handling the movie’s script.  The end result is a movie that has all of the trappings of the series’ previous installments, but also adds actual substance.  The story’s substance comes in the form of both Optimus’ and Cade’s own inner struggles.  Cade is struggling with having to let his daughter grow up and move on with life all while trying to keep from losing his family’s farm.  One the other side, Optimus must come to terms with his own feelings toward humans as a result of the events post Chicago (taken from the series’ third film).  While Yeager’s own personal struggles have no direct link to the movie’s central story, it serves as a nice diversion from all of the constant standard action flick elements.  The same can be said of Prime’s own struggles.  The only difference is that Prime’s personal struggles are directly linked to the story and do quite a bit to help him and the story evolve.

The addition of the inner struggles on the part of Cade and Optimus is one part of Kruger’s writing that makes this story work.  Another reason that the movie works as well as it does is that audiences aren’t made to feel like they have to have invested themselves in the series’ previous films.  Yes, it makes mention of the series’ third installment.  It also makes light reference to the events of the series’ first two films.  But thanks to Kruger’s writing, the movie actually standsjust as well on its own two proverbial feet as it does as part of the whole series.  This is something that every viewer will appreciate in this movie.  It also goes to show how right things can go when only one person has his or her hands in the pot.

Kruger did a lot right with the script for this latest installment in Paramount’s Transformers franchise.  For all of the positives to the movie’s script, there were also some blaring negatives, too.  the most obvious of the script’s negatives is the overt use of the standard action fare.  The nonstop chase scenes, fight scenes, and explosions are all there.  So is the standard damsel in distress figure.  This is the 21st Century.  America has come a long way since the days of women’s liberation.  So audiences should be offended (especially female viewers) that a female lead is once again shown as being helpless, cowering in fear, and in need of being saved while the men go out and save her and the universe.  Such writing does only a disservice to a story that otherwise is actually relatively enjoyable.  Hopefully if Micheal Bay and Paramount come to terms on another installment in the Transformers franchise, this is something that will be taken into account for said story.  If not, it would be no surprise if audiences take notice and start speaking up even more.

Paramount Studios and director Michael Bay giving full creative control of Transformers; Age of Extinction’s script was the best thing that could have happened for this movie and the franchise in whole.  Sure, the standard elements that weighed down the series’ previous movies are still present here.  But Kruger actually injects some real substance into this movie with the personal stories centering on Cade and Optimus.  Those stories add at least some depth to the movie.  Adding even more enjoyment to the movie’s enjoyment is the constant back and forth bickering between Cade and his daughter’s boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor).  It adds a little bit of a buddy comedy element to the story to help lighten the story’s otherwise rather tense mood.  Those that have seen Wahlberg’s work alongside Will Ferrell in The Other Guys will see a little bit of that same chemistry with Reynor here.  Taking into consideration Wahlberg’s other overly serious roles, this rare comedic take is a welcome breath of fresh air from Wahlberg.  Even in the movie’s big fight scenes, the pair still find time to bicker between one another.  Those moments make for some rather interesting moments that believe it or not are entertaining in their own right.  Their acting along with Ehren Kruger’s writing more than make up for this movie’s biggest downfalls.  The end result is a movie that will leave audiences agreeing that should Paramount not take another chance on the Transformers, Age of Extinction makes up for the series’ previous films and is a good way for the franchise to go out.  If Paramount should take another chance on the franchise one can only hope that Paramount and Michael Bay will bring back Kruger and Wahlberg once more as the pair has given hope that there is still life left in this franchise.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is available now in stores and online.  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.

Paramount’s Latest Installment In The Jack Ryan Franchise Falls Flat

Courtesy:  Paramount Studios

Courtesy: Paramount Studios

2014 has not been a good year for movies.  As a matter of fact, one could argue that this year has been one of the worst years for movies in recent years.  Marvel and DC spent the summer trying hard to one-up the other on a bigger scale than ever before.  And both of Michael Bay’s big screen blockbusters failed to reach audiences in the way that had been hoped.  And the summer season wasn’t the only disappointing part of the year, either.  Paramount tried to make a hit with its latest installment in the Jack Ryan franchise in the form of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  Sadly, even putting that movie at the start of the year didn’t help this largely disappointing, formulaic flick.  Compared to the big name films that filled out (and flopped) the summer movie season this year, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is not much better.  The most obvious of reasons for its failure is the fact that it’s not just a continuation of the late author Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan franchise, but that it is yet another complete re-working of that franchise.  That is nothing new from the Jack Ryan franchise.  Another reason that this movie fails is its writing.  Rather than paying homage to the stylistic approach of previous Jack Ryan films, this one is more of a formulaic action flick than one with the substance of say The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games or Clear and Present Danger.  The one positive to the whole thing is believe it or not the acting on the part of veteran actor Kevin Costner.  That’s the biggest surprise of all considering how overrated he and the movies in which he has starred throughout his career have proven to be over the years.  It’s the one shining light in a movie that does absolutely nothing to honor the legacy of Tom Clancy’s one great franchise.  Had this movie been any other movie and not part of the Jack Ryan franchise, it might have worked.  But sadly that wasn’t the case.  And as a result, it will ultimately end up becoming a largely forgettable film.

When Paramount Studios decided to back Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the studio’s heads had to have known that this movie was a major gamble.  The last time that audiences heard from Jack Ryan was in 2002’s largely forgettable film The Sum Of All Fears.  That movie failed for many of the same reasons that this latest installment in the Jack Ryan franchise failed, too. The primary reason for that failure is the fact that it is obviously set on a completely different timeline than the franchise’s previous installments—The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger.  Those that remember that far back will recall that according to the original canon, Ryan was injured in a  helicopter accident in Vietnam or Korea.  This movie sees Jack being injured after his chopper was shot down in Afghanistan.  And the movie itself is set not long after the events of September 11th, 2001.  So right from the beginning, audiences are introduced to a story that is set on yet another completely different time line.  At least the transition between the original Jack Ryan movies (The Sum of All Fears not included) was believable.  This isn’t the first time that lead actor Chris Pine has starred in a reboot, either, sadly enough, either.  Anyone remember the recently rebooted Star Trek franchise?

The fact that Paramount has not only rebooted the Jack Ryan franchise, but put it on a completely different timeline is bad enough.  But that’s only the beginning of the problems for this movie.  Things get even worse when taking into consideration the movie’s script.  This movie’s script hardly echoes the quality scripts presented in the original movies in the Jack Ryan franchise.  It is a formulaic action flick rife with car chases, explosions, the standard hero and villain roles, and equally standard chase to save the damsel in distress.  The damsel in question is Ryan’s love interest Dr. Cathy Muller, played well enough by Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean 1 – 3).  It’s all set against a story that is anything but original.  As a matter of fact, it lifts liberally from some all too familiar events from the early 1990s.  The original Jack Ryan movies didn’t need to rely on actual events to be enjoyable.  The people behind their scripts crafted stories that were both original and enjoyable all in one.  This movie sadly doesn’t do that.  The result is yet again a story that will in the long run be anything but memorable.

For all of the negatives that weigh down Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, there is at least one positive to the whole thing, albeit a small positive.  But good is good, right? The one positive to the entire presentation is the work of veteran actor Kevin Costner.  Those that are familiar with Seth McFarlane’s hit animated Fox sitcom Family Guy will recall the joke asking “How does he keep getting work?”  The joke is fully substantiated considering Costner’s own acting and the movies in which he has starred throughout his career.  In this critic’s own view, the only good movie in which Kevin Costner has ever starred was Field of Dreams (1989).  His acting was good.  And the story was just as good.  Other than that, he hasn’t really landed a memorable role or starred in a memorable movie.  In the case of this movie, Kostner takes a back seat to the much younger Pine.  He doesn’t try to hog the screen as some sort of mentor or anything to that extent.  He is just someone older with more experience.  He passes on some knowledge to Pine’s younger Ryan at one point.  Other than that, he is largely a supporting character.  And he does quite well in that role, too. He is actually believable in that role, interestingly enough.  That being said, his acting is about the only thing to which audiences have to be excited in this movie.  Other than that, it is mostly a forgettable movie.

When Paramount Studios decided last year to release Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit at the back end of the annual winter movie season, the studio’s hopes were obviously that it would bring in better numbers, not being jumbled in with the far too overcrowded summer blockbuster season.  Sadly, even now in its home release, audiences will see that no matter when the movie was released, it was doomed to failure.  It could be argued that in examining the movie’s script, it is little more than a fictionalized and modernized story “based on actual events.”  That’s especially the case for those that remember certain events from the early 1990s.  The fact that the movie places Jack Ryan in a wholly different timeline once again takes away from its enjoyment even more.  Even the star power of veteran actor Kevin Costner couldn’t help the movie even though he actually succeeded in his supporting role.   Keira Knightley does very little to help the story, either.  Her character Dr. Cathy Muller comes across as little more than the helpless love interest to Pine’s Jack.  All things considered, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit proves to be one more in a long line of prequels, sequels, and reboots churned out this year that will ultimately end up being forgotten amid that mass of other equally forgettable  films.  Here’s to hoping that should audiences ever see any new adventures of Jack Ryan, Paramount and company will get it right next time.

Olive Films’ Operation Petticoat Re-Issue Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time

Courtesy: Olive Films

Courtesy: Olive Films

Cary Grant and Tony Curtis’ 1959 military-based rom-com Operation Petticoat is a wonderfully entertaining story that any true lover of film will appreciate. And now thanks to the people at Olive Films, audiences get to see for themselves just why this classic is a must see for audiences new and old alike. That is because Olive Films re-issued the classic comedy earlier this week. This classic comedy could not have come along at a better time. In an era when originality and creativity in Hollywood have become all but extinct, this re-issue serves as an economic and entertaining alternative to all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes currently polluting theaters across the country. The first and most obvious reason that Operation Petticoat works so well is its script. And the acting especially on the part of Curtis and Grant makes for more than its share of laughs. Lastly, audiences will appreciate in this re-issue that the movie looks exactly as it did in its original premiere. These three factors together make this new re-issue of Operation Petticoat an absolute must-have for any true classic movie lover even without any bonus material.

Military movies and rom-coms were two of the most prominent genre of films released in the golden era of Hollywood’s major studios. Unlike in the current era of movies though, those movies actually served a purpose. That aside, few studios even then could boast films that blended both genres into one work. There were military dramas that mixed in a romantic drama. But finding one that mixes the rom-com and military is difficult to say the least. Enter Operation Petticoat. Co-writers Stanley Shapiro and Mauriche Richlincrafted a story with their script that successfully blends both genres into one. The success comes mainly in the ability of both writers to have balanced the elements of both genres without letting one overpower the other. Even with part of the story being a rom-com, the romance is kept to an extreme minimum. Yet there is still a slight level of romance there that some audiences will appreciate. The script’s comedic element is more prominent and will most certainly have audiences of all ages laughing uproariously. Audiences won’t be able to help but laugh as Grant and Curtis face off against one another, and even have to deal with the women brought on board by Lt. JG Nicholas Holden. Their ability to interpret the script makes the movie even more worth watching.

Cary Grant (Arsenic and Old Lace, North By Northwest, Notorious) and Tony Curtis (Some Like it Hot, The Defiant Ones, The Great Race) make Operation Petticoat even more enjoyable thanks to their ability to interpret Shapiro and Shiplin’s script for this movie. Neil Simon’s famed buddy comedy The Odd Couple was still some nine years away when Operation Petticoat premiered. Yet Grant and Curtis become their own Odd Couple of sorts as they face off. Audiences will find themselves laughing hysterically at the contradiction of Holden’s naïve yet rather devious personality set against Grant’s far more straight-laced Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman. And as straight-laced as Sherman shows himself to be, he has his own wit about himself that will have audiences laughing just as much. This is especially obvious as he takes Holden’s personal belongings to make up for Holden stealing a man’s pig at one point. This is one of the most entertaining of the duo’s moments on screen together. He also breaks up an attempt by Holden to woo one of the women that Holden brings on board, making for another of so many wonderfully entertaining moments tossed into the movie. Audiences will find plenty more such moments when they purchase this DVD for themselves. It isn’t the last of the positives that audiences will appreciate in this new re-issue, either. Last but not least of this re-issue’s positives is the overall look of the film.

The overall presentation of Operation Petticoat in its re-issue from Olive Films is the last piece of this movie that audiences will appreciate. Watching the movie, audiences will see that it looks just as it did in its original presentation some fifty-five years ago. And thanks to today’s technology, its DVD presentation is automatically upconverted on any Blu-ray player. It is available on both DVD and Blu-ray. But those that purchase the DVD will be just as impressed with the movie’s look when it is upconverted. Audiences can spot every little nuance of the original movie’s quality whether on DVD or Blu-ray. It’s like watching a movie on Turner Classic Movies without having to turn on the television. Even without any bonus material, the movie’s overall look alongside the acting on the part of its lead actors, and the script collectively make Olive Films’ re-issue of Operation Petticoat a true must see for any true lover of classic films.

Olive Films’ brand new re-issue of Operation Petticoat is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Olive Films’ online store at http://www.olivefilms.com/?s=Operation+Petticoat&submit=. More information on this and other titles available from Olive Films is available online at http://www.olivefilms.com, http://www.facebook.com/olivefilms and http://twitter.com/twitter.com/olivefilms. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The World’s End Soundtrack A Fun Musical Trip Back In Time

Courtesy:  ABKCO Records

Courtesy: ABKCO Records

Writer/Director Edgar Wright notes in the liner notes of the soundtrack of his movie, The World’s End that in writing the movie’s script alongside actor Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Room on the Broom), that the pair listened to a playlist consisting of some three hundred songs.  He writes in the very first page of the soundtrack’s liner notes, “When Simon Pegg and myself wrote the screenplay for the film, we listened to a 300 strong playlist of songs, mainly from 1988 to 1993…It powered our writing as much as it power’s Gary’s [King] quest.”  King is the character played by Pegg in the new movie in question.  This single statement from Wright in the very first page of the soundtrack’s liner notes perfectly explain why the songs included in the compilation bear influences from 80’s Brit-pop and synth-pop.  Right off the top, Primal Scream’s ‘Loaded; conjures thoughts of George Michaels’ hit, ‘Freedom’ with its mix of horns and piano.  It’s not a direct lifting of Michaels’ song.  But the similarity is obvious.  It’s just the start of things on this compilation.

The energy established by Primal Scream on the soundtrack’s opener is kicked up another notch as Blur picks up where Primal Scream left off.  Blur’s entry, ‘There’s No Other Way’ is a fitting track for this soundtrack considering the story behind the movie.  Front man Damon Albarn sings in the song’s only verses, “You’re taking the fun out of everything/And making me run when I don’t want to think/You’re taking the fun out of everything/I don’t’ want to think at all…You’re taking the fun out of everything/You’re making it clear when I don’t want to think/You’re taking me up when I don’t’ want to go up anymore/I’m just watching it all.”  This is so fitting in that the plot of the movie centers on Pegg’s character, Gary King.  Gary doesn’t want to have to be an adult and face the adult world, which ends up leading to everything that happens in the story.  Keeping this in mind, it actually becomes quite clear how this song would fit so well into the movie, even with its high energy.  Suffice it to say that it’s just one of so many songs that fans of the old school synth-pop and Brit-pop sounds will appreciate on this compilation.

Just as Blur’s ‘There’s No Other Way’ is a fitting addition to the soundtrack of The World’s End, so is the Soup Dragons’ ‘I’m Free.’  The song, from the Scottish band’s 1990 album, Lovegod, is just as catchy as the compilation’s first two songs.  And in the same fashion, it’s just as fitting lyrically.  The band sings in this song, “I’m free to do what I want/Any old time.”  This would seem to once again mirror Gary’s mindset.   It would be easy to see this song used as part of the pub crawl originally undertaken by Gary’s friends in the movie’s two prequels of sorts, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.

If the songs noted here aren’t enough for fans of the old school Brit-pop and synth-pop sounds of the late 80s and early 90s, then there is no reason to worry.  The World’s End soundtrack has more than its share of classics for fans of that genre including the likes of Pulp’s ‘Do You Remember the First Time?’, The Stone Roses’ ‘Fools Gold’, and British rapper Silver Bullet’s ’20 Seconds to Comply (World’s End Bomb Squad Mix Re-edit’, which in its own way shows where The Prodigy might have gotten the influence for its first big hit, ‘Firestarter.’  Whether for these songs, the previously mentioned songs or any of the others included in this compilation, it offers something for any music lover that grew up in the late 80s and early 90s.  It will prove to be a fun musical trip back in time for those listeners when they pick it up now in stores or order it online.

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.

Redemption Is One Of Star Trek: TNG’s Best Story Arcs

Courtesy:  CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Star Trek: Redemption is a good companion piece to the newly released fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The two-part episode that bridged the fourth and fifth seasons of is one of the strongest episodes from the still young life of the hit science fiction series.  It is such a strong episode because of its writing.  Season Three really saw Star Trek: TNG’s writing improve by leaps and bounds from its first two seasons.  This episode was a prime example of how far the show’s writing had come since the show’s inception.  It is one of a handful of episodes focuses more on character development, which was the key in getting viewers to better identify with not just the characters, but the show, too.

The most interesting aspect of this two-part bridge episode is the fact that according to the bonus commentary and bonus feature, “Survive and Succeed: An Empire at War” series creator Gene Roddenberry was completely against this storyline originally.  Ronald D. Moore and company note in the bonus episode commentary that Roddenberry’s initial thought on Worf was that Worf was not a main character.  The result was that he believed that Worf did not deserve an episode of such level.  Go figure, it’s gone on to become one of the best episodes in the series’ seven-season run.  It proves exactly why Worf did in fact deserve to be considered a main character even that early in the show’s run.  After all, the show’s writers had written other episodes for him in the previous seasons.  This was merely the culmination (also as noted in the bonus commentary) to those episodes.

That this two-parter solidified Michael Dorn’s place as a primary cast member on Star Trek: The Next Generation is only one part of what makes “Redemption” a great episode.  It also takes the time to flesh out the Klingon world, just as much as Worf’s own story.  Audiences had already been introduced in small ways in previous episodes to the Klingon way of life.  But this was really the first time that audiences were taken deeper into the Klingon culture.  It’s an eye opener that even a child could face the death penalty in the Klingon culture for certain crimes.  By connection, it’s just as powerful to see that while he is a Klingon, Worf was willing to go against that norm.  Audiences that watch this episode with commentary will appreciate how this decision came about.  Yet again, it’s proof of the value of a feature’s bonus commentary.

Audiences that watch this episode with commentary are treated to some very enlightening details that tie directly into the episode.  Some movies and TV episodes’ commentaries are not all that useful.  They are there more for entertainment’s sake than anything meaningful.  “Redemption” is the exact opposite of that, as detailed here.  In terms of the entertainment factor, audiences do find out in the commentary that some of the cups used in this episode were allegedly used in the massively major motion picture (say that three times fast), The Ten Commandments.  There is also a little tidbit revealing that the bridge of one of the Klingon ships had in fact been used in some of the original movies in the Star Trek franchise.  And even the hall in the Klingon High Council building was remodeled from the episode, “Sins of the Father.”  It’s these bonus facts and general insight from the creation of the episode that audiences will appreciate from this special stand-alone release.  It is available now on Blu-ray in stores and online at the official Star Trek website at http://shop.startrek.com/detail.php?p=452626.  Star Trek fans can keep up with all of the latest Star Trek news and more on the show’s official website, http://www.startrek.com.

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.

G.I. Joe Sequel Another Of 2013’s Worst Movies

Courtesy:  Paramount Studios

Courtesy: Paramount Studios

2013 has been a rough year for the movie industry.  It has been either feast or famine for the big studios.  That is thanks in large part to the glut of sequels churned out by the industry’s major studios.  From the upper echelons all the way down to the general movie-goer, those same studios have been lambasted for their increasing reliance on sequels.  The latest movie in the G.I. Joe franchise justifies those darts even more.  Sure it has lots of flash-bang-boom action sequences and its share of special effects, and an easy to understand storyline, it doesn’t have much else.  Some might consider this a good thing for an action movie.  But the reality is because of this, it turns out to be one more movie that won’t take long to end up in the discount bins at retail outlets now that it is officially out on DVD and Blu-ray.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation isn’t the worst of the year’s movies.  It isn’t the worst of the record thirty-seven sequels that will have hit theaters by the year’s end.  But it isn’t one of the year’s best movies, either.  The question remains then, what is it about this movie that has left it in movie limbo so to speak?  To answer that isn’t easy.  But it isn’t impossible, either.  The best place to begin with the movie is its writing.  The story’s writing is for the most part, relatively simplistic.  It is also very predictable.  Right from the story’s opening minutes, audiences learn that at the end of the franchise’s first flick, Cobra Commander and Destro had both been captured and placed in special suspended animation tanks of sorts.  It is pretty obvious from this point where the story would progress.  It doesn’t get much better.  From here, audiences are introduced to the story’s secondary plot, the evil twin plot headed by the evil Zartan.  Simple math, right?  Yes.  Two plus two equals four.  Yet another world domination plot on the part of Cobra, which at least goes along with the old cartoon series from the 80s and early 90s.

The predictability of the story in G.I. Joe: Retaliation is just one microscopic part of the problem with its writing.  Just when one thinks the writing couldn’t get any worse, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick make the story even more convoluted by adding in a third storyline involving Snake Eyes’ (one of the few remaining Joes after Cobra’s attack on the Joes) hunt for his arch nemesis, Stormshadow.  Snake Eyes has to nab Stormshadow and bring him back to answer for the murder of his sensei, of which he was accused of committing as a child.  This additional storyline really wasn’t necessary to the overall outcome of the movie.  Wernick and Reese must have known this as they tried to justify it by making sure that only Stormshadow would know the full extent of Cobra’s evil plans this time out.  They could have still had him be a key player without the extra drama.  Had all of this extra fluff been cut, it would have saved a lot of time and maybe even made all of the movie’s over-the-top fight scenes and explosions justified.  But no, they couldn’t leave well enough alone.  Instead, they left it in.  And to make matters even worse, they made the story drag on even more by adding in unnecessary elements of melodrama both on the part of Stormshadow and the remaining Joes.  There is the whole aspect of Stormshadow having to come to terms with Zartan being the real killer and tricking him when he was a child.  And then there is Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) coming to terms with taking over the Joes after Duke’s (Channing Tatum) death early on.  Let us also not forget Lady Jaye’s own drama involving her father issues, too.  It’s all extra fat that could have been trimmed from the whole thing to make it at least more bearable.

Had the unnecessary elements noted above been removed from the movie’s final script, that removal would have made G.I. Joe: Retaliation more bearable.  Sadly, that didn’t happen.  Even the choice of the movie’s title is problematic.  The very inclusion of the word “retaliation” in the title hurts the movie even more.  It’s an ambiguous subtitle.  That’s because in reality, both Cobra and the remaining Joes are retaliating against one another for everything that had happened in the course of the franchise’s first film.  More than likely, the intent was for the subtitle to be aimed more at the retaliation of G.I. Joe against Cobra for its actions against its forces.  But again, the ambiguity is there; too much of it in fact to make such a subtitle work.  And along with the already poor writing, it reduces the movie’s credibility even more.

There is so much that went wrong with G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  However, it would be unfair to ignore the only shining rays of hope that this largely forgettable Summer action flick does have.  Those rays of hope lie in the movie’s really cool gadgets and its action sequences.  Again, had the gadgets and action sequences been left with the predictable writing, the movie would not have been half as bad as it turned out to be.  But because that didn’t happen, the action sequences come across as little more than an excuse to try and distract viewers from the poor writing.  This is most clearly evident in the ironic fact that the most exciting of the action sequences was one that itself might not have even been necessary.  It involves Snake Eyes and his protégé, Jinx, facing a horde of ninjas along a sheer cliff face after having recovered Stormshadow in the aforementioned equally unnecessary extra story line.  As impressive as this sequence was, the only way that it (and its companion story line) could be justified is the fact that so many of the cast members from the previous film didn’t return this time out for whatever given reason.  So something was needed (in the minds of the writers) to advance the storyline.  Thus this sequence and its associated story line were inserted.  Had both elements been removed in the end, G.I. Joe: Retaliation still could have survived.  Sure it probably would have still ended up being forgotten in the grand scheme of things.  But it still would have survived and even taken more seriously.  As enchanted as studio heads continue to be with franchises, it would be no surprise if audiences eventually see another sequel or even a franchise reboot already.  When either of these scenarios plays out, one can only hope that whoever writes its script will learn from all of this and will make a movie that will return honor to the name and legacy that is G.I. Joe.

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.