‘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:

Websitehttp://www.cbs.com/allaccess

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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.

Kids, Grown-Ups Alike Had Lots To Like From 2021’s New DVD/BD Box Sets

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Between families and grown-ups, plenty of positive content has been released this year on DVD and Blu-ray in the form of newly released box sets. Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon’s full series presentation of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, Arrow Video’s classic creature feature collection, Cold War Creatures, and the latest collection of classic Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood do well to support the noted statements. Between them and so many others, there is more than enough to create a list of this year’s top new DVD/BD box sets overall. Enter Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New DVD/BD Box Sets.

As with every other list from Phil’s Picks, this list features the top 10 titles from this year as well as five honorable mention titles for a total of 15. There’s already some positive news about new releases coming in the new year about new box sets, but in the meantime, the titles on this list will help people pass the time. Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New DVD/BD Box Sets list.

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

1.Cold War Creatures

2. The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: The Complete Series

3. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: Mister Rogers Meets New Friends Collection

4. All Creatures Great & Small: Season 1

5. The Watch

6. How To Train Your Dragon: Ultimate Collection

7. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Tigertastic 50 Pack

8. Jekyll & Hyde

9. Spongebob Squarepants: Season 12

10. Rugrats: The Complete Series

11. Star Trek Discovery: Season 3

12. Doom Patrol: Season 2

13. Josie & The Pussycats In Outer Space: The Complete Series

14. Human: The World Within

15. Thundarr The Barbarian: The Complete Series

Okay that it’s for this list. There is still one more list to go for this year. It will come tomorrow in the form of the year’s top new family friendly DVDs/ 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.

Shout! Factory, Arrow Video, Others Offer Audiences Plenty Of Alternatives To All The Prequels, Sequels, and Remakes Hitting Theaters, Streaming Services

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

It seems like ever year, audiences everywhere are seeing an increase in the number of classic TV shows and movies that were once popular everywhere they go.  It really is a sad state of affairs.  Of course that is not the only avenue in which older content is getting renewed so to speak.  The originals also get new life every now and then on DVD and Blu-ray through various distributors, sometimes in better form than others and vice versa.  This year saw a handful of classic TV shows and movies get some laudable re-issues and some less so. 

What is most interesting about this year’s field of top new DVD and BD re-issues is the wide range of companies that released said titles.  It shows that along with the likes of Shout! Factory – which has made quite the name for itself over the years in the home entertainment field – other familiar and up-and-coming names are really working to make their names known in that field, too, such as Arrow Video and Corinth Films, making for so much more variety.

From Shout! Factory’s re-issue of Explorers, to Arrow Video’s re-issue of the original Dune, to even Mill Creek Entertainment’s re-issue of the classic, short-lived animated series, The Critic, this year’s re-issues and the companies that released them offered audiences plenty of alternatives to the never-ending ocean of prequels, sequels, and reboots that filled theaters and streaming services this year.  As with every list from Phil’s Picks, this list features the Top 10 titles in the given category with five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15.  This year’s list was not easy to compile but is complete.

Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New DVD/BD Re-Issues.

PHIL’S PICKS’ 2021 TOP 10 NEW DVD/BD RE-ISSUES

  1. Explorers
  1. Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Series
  1. The Final Countdown
  1. The Belles of St. Trinian’s
  1. Ken Burns’ Baseball
  1. The Rolling Stones: A Bigger BangLive at Copacabana Beach
  1. Dune
  1. Motorhead: No Sleep Till Hammersmith
  1. The Interrogation
  1. The Snake Girl and the Silver Haired Witch
  1. The Transformers: The Movie
  1. Superman: The Animated Series
  1. The Critic: The Complete Series
  1. Star Trek: The Original Series
  1. Emergency: The Complete Series

It should be stressed here that in the case of Emergency and Star Trek, those two series sets are intentionally set at the bottom of this year’s list as, their positives are few.  They are the least of the year’s best new re-issues.  Audiences would do well to largely avoid these sets.  There is a reason they are at the bottom of even the honorable mention titles.  Keeping that in mind, this year’s list of top new DVD and BD re-issues is officially wrapped.  There are still plenty of other lists coming, such as the year’s top new box sets for grown-ups, families, and even family DVDs/BDs.  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.  

‘Are You Afraid Of The Dark?: Curse Of The Shadows” Is A Mostly Successful Offering From Nickelodeon, Paramount

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Paramount

Halloween is the unofficial start of the annual holiday season.  Whether people want to admit that is up to them, but that is just the reality.  In anticipation of Halloween’s return, Nickelodeon and Paramount brought the latest installment of its Are You Afraid of the Dark? reboot to DVD this month.  Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Curse of the Shadows was released on DVD Aug. 10, a little less than six months after the latest installment first aired on Nickelodeon.  This “second season” (Nickelodeon is actually calling it a season, but not this critic) is entertaining but imperfect in its new home presentation.  Its primary positive comes through its main feature, which will be discussed shortly.  While the six-part presentation does plenty to engage and entertain audiences, the lack of any bonus content with this season detracts from its presentation to a point.  It is not enough to make the presentation a failure, though.  It will be discussed a little later.  Considering the DVD’s content and lack thereof, its pricing proves important in its own way to the whole of the presentation, too, and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the DVD.  All things considered, they make this latest installment of Are You Afraid of the Dark? a mostly positive presentation.

Nickelodeon and Paramount’s recent home release of Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Curse of the Shadows is a mostly positive addition to the companies’ latest installment of the franchise’s reboot.  Its appeal comes primarily through its main feature (which is actually its only feature).  The main feature follows a new group of teens who take on the mantle of the Midnight Society as they fight for their own lives after being cursed in the “Haunted Woods” of their hometown, Shadow Bay.  Yes, that is really the town’s name.  This six-part story finds the teens trying to escape the clutches of the evil “Shadowman.”  It is appealing in part because unlike the story in the reboot’s first installment, it is actually its own story.  It is not one member’s story coming to life.  This in itself makes suspension of disbelief a lot easier.  Adding to the appeal is that the whole conflict centers on what the teens and so many others in the town thought was just an urban legend, but turned out to be real, as the Midnight Society’s members learn for themselves.  This leads to so much great, immersive horror.  As the story progresses, it provides plenty of surprises as to how the “Shadowman” came to be, and incorporates a lot of aspects that those in the paranormal enthusiast community will appreciate, such as demons and evil spirits being able to take on human form (especially that of children) in order to deceive people, the dangers of using dark magic, and how séances work.  Through it all, those responsible for the writing make everything so believable while also managing somehow to be able to balance the feel of the original series with this very creepy story.  There is even the matter of demonic possession in this story (not to give away too much), which is very scary in is own way.  All things considered, what audiences get here is a story that is a huge step up from the first “season” of the reboot of Are You Afraid of the Dark?


As if the story overall is not enough, but the cast’s interpretation of the scripts adds its own share of appeal.  Horror movies centered on teens are nothing new to the cinematic world.  The teens cast for this movie do an excellent job of interpreting the script and adding to the story’s believability.

The cherry on the top (so to speak) is that audiences are able to watch the story at their own pace.  Viewers can choose to watch the show one episode at a time or all in one.  That option to watch at one’s own pace plays even more to the appeal.  It will encourage viewers that much more, to fully engage themselves in the show, and in turn appreciate all that went into this story.  When then is considered along with the cast’s work interpreting the script and the fully immersive, believable story, that whole more than gives audiences reason to watch this installment of Are You Afraid of the Dark?  Of course for all of the positives presented through the presentation’s main feature, this DVD offering is not perfect.  Its one main shortfall comes in the lack of any bonus content.

Unlike the DVD presentation of the first installment of the Are You Afraid of the Dark? reboot, this presentation features no episodes of the original Are You Afraid of the Dark? series.  That presentation offered at least three episodes.  By naming the episodes of this “season” “The Tale Of…”, those behind the franchise were being misleading.  It leads viewers to think that there are bonus episodes, when in fact they are just the titles for this story’s episodes.  Add in the fact that to this day, the original series still has received no official release either in standalone sets or even full series, and it just makes that lack hit even harder.  Yes, audiences can get the original series’ seasons through DVD-R sets made available on-demand through a partnership between Nickelodeon and Amazon, but to this day, no true official sets have seen the light of day.  Now the lack of any episodes from the original series here is not enough to doom the season, but it certainly would have been nice to have had that in there for fans of their original series and their children.  To that end, this is a negative, but not enough to doom this DVD presentation.  Keeping this in mind along with the content provided through the DVD’s main feature, it leads the DVD’s pricing to be its own positive point.

The average price point of Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Curse of the Shadows is $12.76.  That price was obtained by averaging prices listed through Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million.  The most commonly occurring listing is $11.99.  It is listed through Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy.  That is well below the noted average, and even farther below the $20 mark, showing even more, its affordability.  Target lists the DVD at $12.99 while Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million list the DVD at $13.59 and $13.99 respectively, well above the noted average price point.  Regardless, even those prices are below the $20 price point, which means that even they will not break audiences’ budgets.  Again, considering all that the main feature offers viewers even against the lack of bonus original episodes, these figures show that the DVD’s pricing is still a positive in its own right.  Taking all of this into account, it makes Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Curse of the Shadows a mostly positive presentation that will appeal just as much to fans of the original series as to horror fans in general and fans of the new series.

Nickelodeon and Paramount’s recent home release of Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Curse of the Shadows is a surprisingly engaging and entertaining new entry in the reboot of the classic teen-centered horror show.  Its appeal comes in large part through its story.  The story at that heart of this “season” really steps things up from the reboot’s first “season.”  The story is scarier and more believable because it takes a completely different approach than that used in the first “season.”  It also works because of the work of the new cast on camera.  They and the writers incorporate elements of the original series alongside a darker, more gripping approach to make for a great balance in this case.  While the main feature does so much to make this set so engaging and entertaining, the lack of any bonus episodes from the original series this time detracts from the presentation’s appeal to a certain point.  The negative impact of that omission is not enough to make the presentation a failure, but it certainly would have been nice to have had that element featured here since it was also featured in the first “season” in its DVD release.  That is also the case considering that to this day, the original series still has not received an official release either in single series sets or a full series release.  All things considered here, the set’s pricing proves to be its own positive.  The average and separate listings are all below the $20 mark, and considering how much entertainment is offered through the story here, that is actually money well spent.  Add in that the most commonly occurring listing is $11.99, audiences will agree even more, that it is a positive.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the DVD.  All things considered, they make the DVD a mostly positive presentation that will appeal widely to fans of the Are You Afraid of the Dark? franchise and to horror fans in general.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Curse of the Shadows is available now. More information on the DVD and all of the series’ latest news is available at http://www.facebook.com/AreYouAfraidOfTheDark.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://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.  

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Paramount’s Not-So-New ‘Peanuts’ Movie Collection Is A Disappointing Presentation

Courtesy: Paramount

It goes without saying that Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang are among the most beloved figures in America’s pop culture history.  Their adventures on the printed page and on screen have brought together generations of audiences and have been seen around the world.  Now this week, four classic Peanuts feature-length films were re-issued yet again by Paramount on Blu-ray in what the studio has dubbed the Snoopy Collection.  That title for the collection is the starting point for what is otherwise a very problematic presentation from Paramount.  It will be discussed shortly.  The collection of the movies in this platform makes for its own share of problems and will be discussed a little later.  The average price point of this collection rounds out its most important elements and will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted is key in its own way to the whole of Paramount’s latest Peanuts movie collection re-issue.  All things considered, they make this re-issued set a dishonor to the legacy of Charles Schulz and to Peanuts fans.

Paramount’s newly re-issued Peanuts 4-Movie Collection is a disappointing presentation from the famed movie studio.  The concern comes right off the top in the set’s titling.  Paramount is marketing the re-issued collection as the Snoopy Collection instead of simply using the original title of the Peanuts 4-Movie Collection.  Such a title infers that all four movies in the collection focus on Snoopy, rather than the whole Peanuts gang.  The reality is that only one movie in the collection – Snoopy, Come Home – centers mainly on Snoopy.  The other three movies – A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown, and Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown, And Don’t Come Back –focus on the whole group.  So in using the new title, Paramount is essentially lying to audiences.  That is, in itself very disappointing.  It is as if someone at Paramount set out to intentionally mislead consumers, expecting them to buy the set just because it has Snoopy on the cover and title; this even though audiences might already own the movies featured in the set.  Speaking of the movies featured in the set, they make up another concern surrounding the collection.

The movies featured in Paramount’s Snoopy Collection were already released together on DVD in 2016, also through Paramount.  What’s more, that single-disc collection is also widely available to purchase online and in stores.  The quality of the footage between the two collections is roughly the same.  There was no re-mastering in this latest case.  So to that end, audiences who might already own that single-disc collection have no reason to purchase this not-so-new collection.  As if that is not enough, all four movies are available by themselves.  A Boy Named Charlie Brown and Snoopy Come Home were re-issued by themselves in September 2016 on Blu-ray.  They were also re-issued in 2015 on DVD alongside this set’s other two movies.  So audiences who already own the aforementioned Blu-ray releases would essentially be buying those same two movies on Blu-ray again along with the DVD movies, except this time on BD, too.  Maybe audiences don’t own any of the movies or some mix and match, then sure, the set will be worth the purchase.  Those audiences who perhaps (like this critic) already own all four movies have zero reason to buy, though.  That applies whether audiences own the movies in their collection or in their standalone platforms.  Simply put, the presentation of all four movies here is just as little reason for most audiences to buy the set as the deceptive titling for the collection. 

Continuing from the set’s general presentation, its average price point is one more reason that audiences should leave this one on the shelves (physical and digital).  The average price point for the new BD presentation of the Peanuts 4-Movie Collection is $42.  That price was obtained by averaging prices at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million.  Amazon, Walmart, Target each list the set below that price, at $36.97, $38.99, and $29.96 respectively.  Audiences will note that Walmart’s listing is the lowest of that group, while the other two noted retailers’ prices are just below that point.  That is telling in itself.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Books-A-Million meanwhile list the set at an extraordinary $57.99 and $44.99 respectively.  Keep in mind here that each set spreads the movies across four discs, so Paramount cannot use the excuse of extra material used to make the set for the exorbitantly high pricing.

By comparison, the average price point for the noted single-disc DVD collection is $11.19. That price was obtained by averaging prices at the same retailers used to get the average price point for the collection’s BD presentation.  Keeping this in mind, the average price point for the collection’s BD set is more than three times that of the collection’s DVD set.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers once again far exceeds the average, this time at $21.99.  Target and Amazon actually present the least expensive of the set’s listings in this case, at $7.59.  The short and simple of everything here is that the comparison of the DVD collection’s pricing to that of the collection’s new BD re-issue is stark and all the more reason for audiences to lean more toward the DVD collection than the BD set.  When this aspect is considered along with everything else noted here and the fact that both sets spread the movies across four discs, it all makes the not-so-new presentation among the most disappointing of this year’s new family DVD and BD box sets.

Paramount’s new Blu-ray re-issue of the Peanuts 4-Movie Collection is a disappointing presentation.  It does nothing but disrespect fans of the timeless franchise and the legacy of Charles Chulz, the creator of Good Ol’ Charlie Brown and company.  The problems with this set start before audiences even place any of the discs in the Blu-ray player’s tray.  Instead of just going with the same name as that used in the set’s 2016 DVD presentation, someone at Paramount instead tried to deceive audiences and change the set’s title to Snoopy Collection.  This is even considering the fact that the set features the same movies as those in the DVD set.  Only one of the set’s movies centers mainly on Snoopy, while the other three focus on the whole Peanuts gang.  So again, here is proof that someone at Paramount thought it smart to act like this set is something new when clearly it isn’t.  Speaking of the featured movies, they have – again – been presented together in a four-disc DVD set that is still widely available to this day.  Those movies are also available as standalone presentations, with two – A Boy Named Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Come Home – already available on Blu-ray by themselves.  The other two movies are available mainly on DVD.  Simply put, what all of this adds up to (no pun intended) is that Paramount is trying to pressure audiences to put that aside and let their fandom control them.  Audiences should not give in to this pressure if they already have these movies in their collective or standalone presentations.  The exorbitant price for this set is just one more reason that audiences should leave this set on the shelves if they already own its featured movies.  This set’s average price point is more than three times that of the set’s DVD presentation.  The separate listings are just as stark in their comparisons.  Keeping that in mind along with everything else noted, the people at Paramount should be ashamed for having dishonored Peanuts’ fans and the legacy of Peanuts’ creator, Charles Schulz with this set.  It all combines to paint Paramount as a company that (like Disney and Warner Home Entertainment) cares more about its bottom line than about actually entertaining audiences.  More simply put, it is a presentation that makes it look like Paramount cares more about quantity (how much money it can make) than about quality (actually offering content worth buying).

More information on these and other Peanuts releases is available online now along with all of the latest Peanuts news and more at:

Websitehttp://www.PEANUTS.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/snoopy

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/snoopy

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‘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

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‘Under The Pepper Tree’ Is A Successful First Family Music Outing For Sara Watkins

Courtesy: New West

Singer-songwriter Sara Watkins has made quite the name for herself over the years as a member of the bluegrass group Nickel Creek and as part of the Watkins Family Hour and I’m With Her.  Now this Friday, Watkins will take her first step into another phase of her career with her debut family music album, Under the Pepper Tree.  The 15-song first outing is a presentation that will appeal to her fans and those of one Diana Panton.  That is due in part to the song’s that make up the album’s body.  They will be discussed shortly.  The musical arrangements that Watkins employs throughout the album add to its appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The sequencing of that overall content puts the finishing touch to the record and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, Sarah Watkins’ debut family music album is a successful offering that the whole family will indeed enjoy.

Sara Watkins’ debut family music album is a work that the whole family truly will enjoy.  That is due in part to its featured songs.  The songs in question are a selection of songs from various classic movies.  Bob Nolan’s ‘Tumblin’ Tumbleweed,’ from Gene Autry’s 1935 movie by the same name is featured here along with the likes of ‘Edelweiss’ from 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Rodgers &  Hammerstein’s musical, The Sound of Music (1965), and ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ from Disney’s classic Pinocchio (1940).  Also represented here is ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, Carousel (1956); ‘La la Lu’ from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (1955) and even ‘Moon River’ from Paramount Pictures’ 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  There is even an original tune in the form of the album’s title track along with everything else.  The songs will relate to listeners of all ages because they are all timeless works that the noted audiences will remember.  Given, parents will recognize some of the songs more than children, but that aside, those songs will still entertain younger listeners.

On another level, that some of the songs (and their related movies) will connect more with older audiences than with children. That in itself serves as a starting point for older audiences to offer younger listeners the most basic introduction to so many classic musicals and movies.  That early introduction could help lead to a lifelong love for said presentations.  So while on the surface, the songs make up a collective of soundtrack works, they actually can and do serve an even greater purpose, bringing families together while building a foundation and love for the great timeless works of stage and screen from entertainment’s golden age.  To that end, the songs featured in this compilation form a solid foundation for the record itself.  It is just one part of what makes the recording so enjoyable.  The arrangements that Watkins chose for these songs adds to the record’s overall appeal.

Watkins largely stays true to the source material in each song that she features in her new record, from one to the next.  For all of that honor that Watkins pays to the original works, she still gives them her own nice touch.  Case in point is her take on ‘Stay Awake.’  Originally featured as one of the songs from Disney’s 1964 musical adaptation of author P.L. Travers’ novel Mary Poppins, the song was a gentle lullabye crafted by  the famed Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert.  It featured Julie Andrews’ absolutely stunning vocal control alongside some even more subtle strings.  Watkins’ take on the song would have fit just as well into that movie.  It is just as moving with its piano line joining with the strings to make the song even richer.  Watkins’ over vocal delivery is so powerful in its simplicity here, too.  Ironically though being a lullaby, Watkins’ take on the song is enough to make even the most emotionally strong man blubber like a baby.  That is a telling statement. 

On a different note, Watkins’ take on Bob Nolan’s ‘Tumbling Tumblewood’ stays even truer to its source material, complete with fiddle and the slightest touch of a slide guitar.  Of course, gone are the clip-clop of the horse hoofs and the string arrangement featured in the original song performed by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers.  Instead, Watkins has opted here for the more spit-shined take that even what with everything in mind, the song still sounds quite a bit like something that one might hear playing in the old honky tonk joints of country music’s golden era.  To that point, it is still its own unique arrangement.

‘Moon River’ is another example of the importance of the musical arrangements featured in Watkins’ new record.  Her take on the song does stay true to its source material for the most part, stylistically.  Though there are some subtle differences between the original version composed by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, and sung by Audrey Hepburn, and Watkins’ take.  Right off the bat, the string arrangements and the harmonica featured in the original are absent in Watkins’ rendition.  They are replaced here by the subtle addition of a Hammond organ.  Watkins’ own vocal delivery bears its own identity here.  Her delivery is just as soft and gentle as that of Hepburn and almost as airy.  That whole set against the whole of the original makes Watkins’ take here just as interesting as the other covers featured in the compilation.  When those other songs are considered with this arrangement and the others examined here, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the recording’s overall musical content.  When that content is considered along with the featured songs themselves, that whole gives listeners even more to like.  When all of that is considered along with the record’s sequencing, the record is rounded out and completed.

The sequencing of Under the Pepper Tree keeps the album’s energy light from beginning to end of its 36-minute run time, starting off relaxed in her take of ‘Blue Shadows on the Trail.’  The energy really does not pick back up until late in the album’s run in Watkin’s take of ‘Blanket for a Sail.’  Up until that point, the energy remains relatively reserved.  It pulls back again from there right up to the album’s finale, ‘Good Night.’  So basically what audiences get overall due to the sequencing here, is a record that will serve to relax any listener.  As a matter of fact, one might even be able to use the record to help get to sleep being that the record’s energy is so gentle.  Between that, the unique takes on the songs and the very selection of songs, the whole makes the record in whole a work that is a truly successful family music album.

Sara Watkins’ debut family music album Under the Pepper Tree is a positive new offering that the whole family will indeed enjoy.  That is due in part to the record’s featured songs, the majority of which are timeless songs that are themselves featured in some of the most famous and beloved movies of all time.  The arrangements that Watkins presents here are themselves important to the record’s presentation.  They stay largely true to their source material but also give the songs the slightest of updates, making for even more appeal.  The sequencing of this overall content keeps the record’s energy relatively light and reserved throughout the record’s nearly 40-minute run time.  That means the record’s overall energy will keep listeners relaxed.  That will result in a positive mindset for any listener.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this record.  All things considered, they make the record in whole a successful first family music outing for Sarah Watkins.  Under the Pepper Tree is scheduled for release Friday through New West Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of Watkins’ latest news at:

Websitehttps://sarawatkins.com

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

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/SaraWatkins

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