CBS, Paramount Surprise With New Andy Griffith Show Season One BD Re-Issue

Courtesy:  CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

The Andy Griffith Show is one of the single greatest sitcoms to ever grace television sets across the nation. There is not a sliver of doubt about that. It first made its debut on CBS nearly fifty-four years ago on CBS. It aired its final episode on April 1, 1968. That was over forty-six years ago. In the years since it ended its initial run on CBS, The Andy Griffith Show has remained a family favorite regardless of the network that has carried the series. All eight of its seasons have been released on separate DVD box sets, too. And last month, the series was given a new beginning once again thanks to the release of the series’ first season on blu-ray. The newly re-issued first season is a joy for viewers of any age, especially for those that have yet to start adding the series’ seasons to their own library. The main reason for this is that this re-issue contains every episode from the first season in its entirety. This actually is something important believe it or not. Just as important to the re-issue of the series’ first season is the clarity of the picture. The bonus material included in The Andy Griffith Show Season One is the final piece of the puzzle so to speak. Included among the bonus material in this newly re-issued season set are: An episode of The Danny Thomas Show, a vintage interview between Andy Griffith and Edward R. Murrow from his famed series Person to Person, and the hard to find movie Return To Mayberry among even more bonuses. The bonus material alone makes this set well worth the addition to any fan’s home library. The bonus features in conjunction with the re-mastered picture and the inclusion of every episode from Season One collectively make The Andy Griffith Show: Season One a wonderful re-birth for one of the greatest sitcoms in the history of television.

The Andy Griffith Show: Season One is a joy for every family first and foremost because it includes every episode of the series’ first season in a single box. From helping local Mayberry guitarist Jim Lindsey get his shot at stardom in “Guitar Player” to helping out his deputy and best friend Barney Fife in “Andy Saves Barney’s Morale” to the special holiday episode “Christmas Story” and more, there is so much to enjoy throughout the first season of The Andy Griffith Show. It just goes to show once more that television can be entertaining and family friendly at the same time. It’s too bad that such quality programming doesn’t exist anymore in any of the sitcoms that currently run on both broadcast and cable networks. Thankfully, audiences have this latest re-issue to make up for that. And especially being that TV Land either runs The Andy Griffith Show late at night now or doesn’t even run it at all—and apparently, neither do Me-TV, Antenna TV or the other retro networks—it becomes all the more important and valuable for any fan of truly worthwhile programming.

The people at Paramount and CBS Blu-ray have scored in a big way by including every original episode from the first season of The Andy Griffith Show on this newly re-issued box set. The inclusion of so many fun episodes is in itself a just the tip of the iceberg in the set’s success. On a deeper level, the very fact that every episode from Season One was included in a single set instead of split into multiple sets makes the set even more of a success. Far too often, people take such a factor for granted in purchasing box sets of their favorite television series. As many have seen though, there are some studios that have made a habit over the years of splitting certain shows up into multiple box sets. This causes viewers to have to spend more money over time. And such practice is anything but ergonomic. So to have every single episode of the series’ first season in one Blu-ray box set is a huge positive. Making it even more of a positive is the fact that each disc is placed on its own plastic “insert” within the box. This protects the discs from scratching one another and in turn allows for them to be enjoyed for many years as long as they are properly cared for. On another level, the new Blu-ray re-issue of Season One takes up far less space on DVD racks than its DVD counterpart.

Having examined the inclusion of the complete first season of the Andy Griffith Show, the next logical step is to examine the presentation of the episodes themselves. The automatic assumption of presenting a classic black and white television show in HD wouldn’t make that much difference in the look of the show. The surprise reality of the episodes in Season One is that there is a noticeable difference in the quality of the picture. While the original grainy quality of the show is still there, it is quite obvious that those charged with re-mastering these episodes did quite the job of cleaning them up. And they did so without losing any of the charm of the show’s original look. In short, it could be compared to transferring a classic vinyl record to CD. It is much cleaner, but it still maintains that vintage presentation at the same time. That that balance is present here only serves to make The Andy Griffith Show Season One all the more impressive of a re-introduction for audiences.

The inclusion of The Andy Griffith Show’s entire first season in a single box set and the laughs provided are both central to the success of this recently released Blu-ray box set. That those charged with re-mastering the episodes were able to enhance the picture without losing too much of the series’ original vintage look makes the set all the more of a success. Looking at these positives, there is only one positive left to examine in this set. That last remaining factor is the collective bonus features included with the episodes. Paramount and CBS Blu-ray have given audiences quite the impressive list of bonus features to finish off the viewing experience. The bonus material starts off small with the inclusion of a full episode of The Danny Thomas Show. Audiences will find the episode in question interesting as there are some slight changes to Mayberry here. Aunt Bea goes by a different name. And Otis the town drunk has been replaced. What’s more, Barney isn’t there, either. However, it is still Mayberry interestingly enough. Things step up a little bit more from here with the inclusion of an interview between legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow and Andy Griffith on Murrow’s famed interview series Person to Person. The pair discusses Griffith’s sitcom and more. And finishing off the whole presentation is the inclusion of the hard to find Andy Griffith Show spinoff movie, Return To Mayberry. This movie came nearly two decades after the original series ended. According to the movie, Sheriff Taylor was no longer the head lawman in Mayberry. His former deputy, the beloved bumbling Barney Fife was making a run for the town’s head officer. And Andy’s son Opie is now all grown up and about to become a father himself. Needless to say, it’s a happy reunion for all involved. Of course it isn’t without some bumps along the way. It is the final piece to the puzzle that is The Andy Griffith Show Season One a surprisingly impressive and welcome re-issue.

The Andy Griffith Show Season One is available now in stores and online. More information on this and upcoming seasons of The Andy Griffith Show on Blu-ray is available online at http://www.facebook.com/TheAndyGriffithShowTV and http://www.facebook.com/cbshomeentertainment. 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.

Timeless Media Group Announces Release Date, Details For I Spy Box Set

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group

Timeless Media Group will bring audiences yet another long lost piece of television history this Summer.

Timeless Media Group will release the classic series I Spy on Tuesday, June 24th. The classic dramedy series, starring Bill Cosby (The Cosby Show, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids) and character actor Robert Culp. It could be argued that the show’s witty writing and equally strong acting on the part of Cosby and Culp were the influence behind hit dramedies such as Monk and Psych. The series ran on NBC from 1965 to 1968 and produced a total of eighty-two episodes in that span. It won countless awards over the course of its three-year run including: the Golden Globe® for Best Dramatic Series in 1967, three consecutive Prime Time Emmys® for Outstanding Lead Actor for Bill Cosby, and the Prime Time Emmy ® for Outstanding Musical Composition for Earle Hagen. Cosby’s co-star received his own accolades for his work on the show. He was nominated for a number of Prime Time Emmy® Awards including: three Outstanding Lead Actor nominations and one for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama.

Along with its groundbreaking acting and writing, I Spy also featured a number of guest stars that would go on to be some of Hollywood’s biggest names. Those names include the likes of: Gene Hackman (Hoosiers, Enemy of the State, Unforgiven), Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo, Gilligan’s Island), Ron Howard (The Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days), Boris Karloff (Frankenstein, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Raven), Martin Landau (Ed Wood, North by Northwest, Mission: Impossible), George Takei (Star Trek), Don Rickles (Toy Story 1 3), and Eartha Kitt (Batman).

The upcoming release will have all eighty-two episodes of I Spy contained on eighteen discs. More information on this and other releases, including pricing and how to order the box set, is available online at http://www.timelessvideo.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

From Up On Poppy Hill Stands Out Successfully Among The Anime Masses

Courtesy:  Studio Ghibli/GKids

Courtesy: Studio Ghibli/GKids

From Up On Poppy Hill is a surprisingly interesting work from Hayao Miyazaki.  This latest re-issue of the story from one of the masters of modern Japanese anime stands out among the masses as it strays from the typically standard fantasy tales to which viewers have become accustomed from the anime film genre.  It also boasts an equally surprisingly enjoyable soundtrack.  And thanks to the new Special Edition re-issue, fans of this modern anime classic will get even more out of the story than in any previous release.  When set next to the other factors that play into the movie’s success, they come together to make a movie that any anime fan will appreciate no less with each watch.

The most commonly held belied about the anime genre is that its stories are centered in fantastical worlds with stories of equal level fantasy.  From Up On Poppy Hill completely breaks that mold, opting instead for a more real world situation that is sure to keep even the least of anime fans engaged throughout the story’s toughly ninety-minute run time.  The story in question centers on two young high school teenagers living in Yokohama, Japan in 1963.  Both children had lost their fathers when they were much younger.  This leads to a long-held secret that shocks both youths.  And because of just how real the situation is, it will surprise viewers just as much.  The reality of the story makes it so much easier for viewers to suspend their disbelief in watching the story unfold.  Audiences will appreciate the included booklet with story notes written by both Hayao Miyazaki that is included with the upcoming Special Edition re-issue of the movie.  The booklet in question adds even more insight into the movie, and is highly recommended reading before watching the movie.  It’s just one of the bonus features included in the Special Edition re-issue that anime fans will find to be an especially worthwhile addition to the overall package.  It explains both the original story’s concept and its evolution into the story that viewers will have before them in the movie’s Special Edition.

The story behind From Up On Poppy Hill is a very touching and moving tale.  Despite the fact that its main characters are teens, even adults will appreciate the story of the two youths who were ironically enough brought together as a result of a war that tore apart so many families’ lives.  It makes for one of Miyazaki’s more interesting stories.  Just as interesting as the story is the story’s soundtrack.  The largely swing-jazz heavy soundtrack is quite surprising considering the music that backs most of the film maker’s other works.  It fits, though.  This story came right on the early edge of the 1960s.  So the jazz movement that marked the 1950s still had some life.  It adds one more extra touch to a story that already stands out among so many other anime features and helps to make the movie that much more worth the watch.

The music and the story together work quite well in keeping viewers engaged from start to end in From Up On Poppy Hill.  There is one more aspect of the movie’s upcoming re-issue that anime fans will appreciate in taking in this modern anime classic.  That aspect is the collective bonus features included in the movie’s Special Edition.  The Special Edition includes not only the movie on DVD and blu-ray, but also in both English and its original Japanese presentation.  There is also an interview with director Goro Miyazaki included in the set’s bonus features that will both entertain and enlighten viewers.  In the nearly twenty-minute interview, Miyazaki discusses the comparison of the Yokohama that was created in this movie versus the real one.  He laughs as he discusses how those that lived in the real Yokohama disputed so many of the designs intended for the movie.  It leaves him laughing.  And it will leave viewers laughing, too.  In one of the interview’s more moving moments, he becomes introspective in discussing what life must have been like for those that lived in the real Yokohama during the 1960s.  He discusses the importance of getting a feel and respect for what life back then was like.  It shows that while Miyazaki has a sense of humor, he also is human and has emotions.  That would explain why From Up On Poppy Hill is more than just another anime movie.  It’s a movie that although it’s anime, has heart and is worth at least one watch whether one is an anime fan or not.  It will be available September 3rd from GKids and Studio Ghibli and can be pre-ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Poppy-Hill-Blu-ray-Combo-Pack/dp/B00CSYRHG6/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1377654658&sr=1-2&keywords=from+up+on+poppy+hill.  Audiences can find out about even more films from GKids online once they’ve pre-ordered From Up On Poppy Hill at http://www.facebook.com/GKidsfilms and http://www.gkids.tv/films.  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.

MST3K Vol. XXVII A Laugh Riot For Film Buffs

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

The latest installment of the cult classic, Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), keeps the laughs coming yet again.  MST3K Volume XXVII brings audiences four more episodes and four more movies that are so bad that they’re good.  And of course, what volume of MST3K episodes would be complete without the absolutely hilarious commentary by Mike, Joel, Crow, and Tom Servo?  It’s all here in one more collection that any fan of this classic series will love to watch again and again.  Audiences even get to see a young Ron Howard away from his more well-known role as Opie Taylor in one of the movies.

From giant dancing teens to Cold War propaganda to a giant killer bug to subterranean creatures coming to take over the surface world, this volume has more than its share of campy greatness in its four discs.  The set is anchored by what is one of Universal’s best of the bad in The Deadly MantisThe Deadly Mantis is just one of the many classic horror/sci-fi flicks that Universal Studios churned out after the success of its original monster movies (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon).  This terribly campy flick features a giant prehistoric praying mantis wreaking havoc on the world when the iceberg in which it was encased breaks loose from the arctic and thaws out in warmer waters.  This sci-fi classic was one of the campiest of Universal’s monster movies.  But by comparison to today’s over-the-top movies claiming themselves to be horror, it is a welcome inclusion for fans of real sci-fi and horror flicks.  Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo’s irreverent commentary makes it even better.  There are pop culture references, some slightly politically incorrect jokes, and even some that are so nonsensical that one can’t help but laugh at them.  The jokes are just part of what makes this movie the anchor to this new set.  Fans of classic movies will appreciate the bonus feature on the life of William Alland.  “Chasing Rosebud: The Cinematic Life of William Alland” explains the importance of Alland in the history of monster and sci-fi movies.  Whether viewers are watching this movie for the first time or for the first time again, this feature will make audiences appreciate his work and The Deadly Mantis even more as a campy yet highly important piece of movie history.

If a classic monster movie from Universal isn’t enough, then perhaps audiences will enjoy the Cold War era propaganda piece, Rocket Attack U.S.A.  This black and white movie was centered on tensions between the United States and Russia and what would happen if the two sides both launched their nuclear warheads.  It would be no surprise if this 1961 classic was at least partially the influence behind the far more influential 1964 drama, Failsafe.  The movie’s criticisms don’t’ stop during the film.  Just as with the other movies in this and previous volumes of MST3K episodes, this episode is presented exactly as it aired, complete with intermission segments.  The killing of the movie keeps going with its intermission segment as Joel and company go off on the evil Dr. Forrester about all of the movie’s inconsistencies.  It’s so funny hearing them filet the movie because viewers know that what Joel and company have to say is exactly what they themselves would have said.  That ability to relate to viewers event today makes both this flick and The Deadly Mantis (as well as the set’s other pair of movies) as enjoyable as they are campy. 

The movies included in this latest volume of MST3K episodes are funny and enjoyable.  It should be noted that Village of the Giants probably isn’t entirely proper for younger viewers.  If anything, it comes across as a little bit of an exploitation film, as the “teen” girls outgrow their clothes when they grow.  They do keep themselves covered.  But some parents might find this a little unsuitable for children.  That aside, there is one more factor to note in this new set of episodes.  That factor is the set’s packaging.  Each episode is set in its own slim case within the larger box.  And each box has its own hilarious artwork that goes along with the movie.  The artwork used on each episode’s box is just as campy as the movies themselves.  So even before viewers put in each disc, they get a good laugh from the artwork on each case.  That each disc has its own slim case, this protects each disc from scratching.  It’s one more positive—along with the set’s other factors–that will impress fans from the very first time they pull the wrapping from the box.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXVII will be available Tuesday, July 23rd.  It will be available in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217352.  Fans can find out about all of the latest releases from Shout! Factory on its official website, http://www.shoutfactory.com and its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

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.

Fan Favorites BD Re-Issue A Good Introduction To The Twilight Zone For New Fans

Courtesy:  Image Entertainment

Courtesy: Image Entertainment

Image Entertainment is preparing to re-issue the first three seasons of The Twilight Zone on DVD in May, June and July respectively.  Whether these new lower cost re-issues will be available in stores or exclusively via Amazon.com is still up in the air.  Even if they will be available exclusively online via Amazon, they are still sets that will be worth ordering considering that they will be far less expensive than their previously released DVD counterparts and will allegedly have much the same features as said sets.  In the meantime, audiences who are perhaps new to The Twilight Zone can check out last year’s Blu-ray release of The Twilight Zone Fan Favorites.

The Twilight Zone Fan Favorites is a good introduction for anyone that is new to the world of this classic series.  The recently released Blu-ray collection is a mirror image of its DVD counterpart.  It boasts all of the same episodes in the same order, only in high definition.  For this critic alone, this set is made enjoyable by no fewer than half of the included episodes.  The reason for that is the writing of said episodes.  Among the best of those episodes is: ‘The Monsters are Due on Maple Street ’,‘ The Lonely and what is in this critic’s eyes the series best episode hands down, ‘Night of the Meek.’  The writing on these episodes is just a small sample of what makes this classic show timeless.  In the case of ‘The Monsters are Due on Maple Street’, audiences get a commentary on human nature in dire circumstances that still stands true decades after it originally debuted.  ‘The Lonely’ offers viewers commentary on the basic human need for companionship and what it can do to a person.  And the most underrated of Twilight Zone episodes, ‘Night of The Meek’ is one of very few episodes from the series that has a happy ending.  It’s also the show’s only holiday themed episode.  Now, none of these episodes are the only ones from the series that offer such themes.  But they do offer a solid glimpse into everything that has made The Twilight Zone a hit to this day.

The writing behind The Twilight Zone goes a long way toward the show’s continued success for so many decades.  It’s just part of what makes this latest set of fan favorites a solid release.  Audiences get in this collection, a full set of episodes presented exactly as they had run in their original airings, complete with promo for the next week’s episode of The Twilight Zone and even for other shows on its home network, including The Andy Griffith Show and others.  That Image would strive to maintain the show’s episodes from their original airings in this set is a credit to this company and gives great hope for the upcoming DVD re-issues of the show’s first two seasons over the next two months.  The Twilight Zone Fan Favorites is available now and can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007FZ7LRI/ref=s9_psimh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0X7DGQ8H39NK7G3P4Q4X&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1389517282&pf_rd_i=507846.

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.