CNN Films, Magnolia Pictures Start 2019 On A Strong Note With New Gilda Radner Doc

Courtesy: CNN Films/Magnolia Pictures

Once you reach the top, there’s nowhere to go but down.  Who hasn’t heard or repeated this old adage at one point or another in life?  Well, CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures have started 2019 at the top with their brand new documentary Love, Gilda.  Keeping that in mind, here’s to hoping that the nearly 90-minute documentary, which focuses on the life and career of the late, great Gilda Radner will not be the only great new offering from the two studios this year.  That aside, this presentation is such a strong start for each side partly because of its main feature.  This will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content that comes with the DVD strengthens its presentation even more, and will be discussed a little bit later.  The DVD’s average price point rounds out its most important elements, and will also be discussed later.  Each item is important in its own right to the whole of Love, Gilda.  All things considered, they make Love, Gilda the first great documentary of the new year.

CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures’ new documentary Love, Gilda is the first great new documentary of the new year.  That is proven in part through the documentary’s main feature.  The primary content is a standard presentation, following the life and career of the late great entertainer, providing a look not just at the woman on camera, but the woman behind the lens, too.  Needless to say, that in-depth examination of Radner’s life and career is a fitting tribute to Radner.  It is such, that it will leave even the most emotionally steeled person tearing up to a point.  Audiences learn over the course of the doc’s 86-minute run time, that her comedic roots were in here childhood.  Even more surprising is the apparent long-term impact of her being bullied for her weight during her childhood.  It would appear in watching this program, that Radner suffered from anorexia throughout the majority of her life as a result of that bullying.  Of course, that is entirely assumption, but it would seem that there is a link there.  Even more interesting (and sad) is her battle with ovarian cancer, which eventually is what took her life.  She did not die as a result of drugs or alcohol, but from something far more unexpected.  Her brave battle with the disease will keep those unfamiliar with her story completely engaged, and agreeing that the way in which she passed was so tragic.  On a happier, note, audiences get a first hand telling of Radner and second husband Gene Wilder’s true love story along with clarification that she was never married to John Belushi.  Wilder and Radner’s love story will move any viewer in the best way possible.  On a related note, the revelation that Radner was married to former Saturday Night Live band leader G.E. Smith prior to her marriage to Wilder adds its own share of interest to the overall story, too.  The readings from Radner’s own autobiography It’s Always Something and the highlights of her own personal notes adds yet more interest to the story.  That is because they show even more clearly, the woman behind the lens.  They reveal her to be such a fragile person, emotionally, but not just some diva type figure.  Rather, they make her a figure to whom so many people can relate.  She was just an average person going through emotional turmoil that every person goes through even today.  These revelations add even more appreciation for Radner not just as an entertainer, but as a person.  When one considers everything noted here, along with the vintage footage of Radner performing on SNL, The National Lampoon Show and even her earliest days working with a stage troupe, what audiences get through this doc’s main feature is a story that rivals any overly embellished story that Hollywood’s “Big Six” could ever develop.  Hopefully none of those studios will ever try to tell their own unnecessary story of Radner’s life and career, but even if one were to make such a thoughtless move, this doc’s main feature would still outperform said presentation, proving again why docs are far better than said biopics.  Now, keeping all of this in mind, it should be clear why the main feature of Love, Gilda is so important to the doc’s overall presentation.  That presentation follows a standard formula, yes, but at the same time, it tells a powerful and moving story that will keep any viewer engaged and entertained.  Of course, that primary content is only a portion of what makes the doc such a strong new offering from CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures.  The bonus content strengthens even more, the foundation formed through the doc’s main feature.

The bonus content that is included with Love, Gilda strengthens the doc’s presentation even more primarily through its extensive bonus interview segments.  The interview segments in question are more in-depth presentations that were segmented throughout the course of the main feature.  They are with the likes of Martin Short (with whom Radner worked early in her career), SNL producer Lorne Michaels, SNL alums Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader and Radner’s family and friends. Poehler spoke warmly of Radner, saying that next to Carol Burnett, Radner was one of the most influential female entertainers in her own life and career.  Additionally, Poehler states in her extended interview, that she regretted never having gotten to meet Radner because of Radner’s impact on her life and career.

Short talks during his extended interview that Radner’s “command of a room” and her “originality” were among the most important aspects of Radner’s personality.  Additionally, he smiles as he recalls that Radner never tried to compete with other entertainers, but rather enjoyed just being with other entertainers.  Short said of that nature that “it was an amazing aura.  It wasn’t even stardom.  It was something beyond that.”

As if all of these fond recollections are not enough, audiences also learn through another of the extended interviews where Radner actually got her name.  It is revealed by one of those closest to Radner that she allegedly was named after the title character from actress Rita Hayworth’s 1946 starring vehicle Gilda.  That story alone is certain to bring plenty of smiles and even some fond laughs.  Between this revelation, the others noted here and so many others presented in the extended interviews, the story and picture that audiences get of Radner here is just as engaging and entertaining as that presented in the doc’s main feature.

The “home movies” and “gallery’ bonuses are not exactly the most standout additions in terms of bonuses.  Even with that in mind, they help audiences to see even more, the importance of those extended interview segments.  To that end, audiences will agree that the extended interviews are just as critical to this doc as the doc’s main feature.  When those interviews and the main feature are paired together, their whole creates a presentation that proves even more why it is such a strong first effort from CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures.  Keeping that strength in mind, it makes the doc’s price point money well-spent.

Love, Gilda’s average price point is $22.89.  That number is obtained by averaging prices from Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble Booksellers.  It should be noted that the “buy” link at the doc’s official website takes audiences back to Amazon, and that while information on the film is listed at CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures’ websites, no “buy” link is available.  Additionally, the doc is not listed at Books-A-Million’s website.  Keeping this in mind, Love, Gilda can be ordered via the country’s biggest retailers, and at a price that will not break the bank.  What’s more, the mode price of $22.39 means that the average price point is only barely above that most commonly listed price.  That is even more of a positive for audiences.  When one takes into consideration the depth and breadth of the information shared throughout the course of Love, Gilda, both prices prove to be equally affordable and worth spending.  When one keeps all of this in mind, Love, Gilda proves in whole to be a strong start to 2019 for CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures, and easily the year’s first great new documentary.

CNN and Magnolia Pictures’ first new documentary of 2019 is also the year’s first great new documentary.  Go figure, it has been released today, on the very first day of the new year.  The doc’s main feature easily supports these statements, as it presents the story of someone who might have been a celebrity, but who never made herself like so many celebrities past or present.  It presents Radner as someone to whom any everyday person can relate even today.  It is a touching story that easily rivals any biopic that Hollywood’s “Big Six” might ever try to create.  Again, hopefully none of those studios will ever try to ruin her life and legacy, but if they should ever go that low, this doc will still outdo anything they churn out.  The bonus extended interviews included with the doc deepen Radner’s story even more, adding even more appreciation for her as a person and entertainer.  The DVD’s average price point proves to be money well-spent, considering the appreciation that the main and secondary content creates.  Each item is important in its own way to the whole of Love, Gilda.  All things considered, they make Love, Gilda a great start to 2019 for documentary fans, and the year’s first great new documentary. More information on Love, Gilda is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.lovegilda.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/LoveGildaFilm

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Website: http://www.magnoliapictures.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/MagnoliaPics

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Website: http://www.cnn.com/shows/cnn-films

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cnnfilms

 

 

 

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.

Make A Bet, Enter For A Chance To Win “A Bet’s A Bet” From Phil’s Picks

Courtesy:  Cinedigm

Courtesy: Cinedigm

Independent movie and television studio Cinedigm will release its new rom-com A Bet’s A Bet next Tuesday, January 20th. And one lucky person will win a copy of the movie on DVD for free courtesy of Phil’s Picks this Friday, January 16th. Anyone that wants to enter for a chance at a free copy of the movie just needs to go to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/philspicks, “Like” it, and then write on the page that they want to be entered for a chance to win the movie.   It’s that easy. A review of the movie is available online now via the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/the-opposite-sex-is-an-edgy-entertaining-rom-com/.

A Bet’s A Bet, which also goes by the title The Opposite Sex, is an independent release. But it boasts a superstar cast. Daytime Emmy© Award winner Jennifer Finnigan (The Bold and the Beautiful, Tyrant) co-directed and co-starred with Jonathan Silverman (Weekend at Bernie’s, Weekend at Bernie’s II, Close to Home). Kristin Chenoweth (Rio 2, Stranger Than Fiction, Glee) makes an appearance early on in the movie. Also on board are Josh Hopkins (G.I. Jane, Cougar Town, The Perfect Storm) opposite lead star Geoff Stults (She’s Out Of My League, Wedding Crashers, The Break-Up). Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live, Kenan & Kel, All That) appears in a supporting role along with Dana Ashbrook (Twin Peaks, Dawson’s Creek, Crash) and Josh Cooke (I Love You, Man, Hart of Dixie, Manhattan). Debra Jo Rupp (That 70s Show, She’s Out of My League, Big) makes an appearance as Vince’s (Geoff Stults) secretary. And Eric Roberts (The Expendables, The Dark Knight, The Cable Guy), brother of actress Julia Roberts, stars as Vince’s boss Mr. Campbell. Even former N’Sync member Joey Fatone makes a cameo as a delivery man. Actress Mena Suvari (Chicago Fire, American Beauty, Six Feet Under) rounds out the cast as Vince’s love interest. It is her relationship with Vince that serves as the basis for the movie’s script.

The script behind A Bet’s A Bet centers on high-powered divorce attorney Vince (Stults) and his budding relationship with equally strong-willed divorcee Jane (Suvari). Vince is a self-proclaimed bachelor for life who is more focused on sleeping with every woman that he can get. On the other side of things, Jane is going through a nasty divorce. When the pair is introduced through a couple of mutual friends who just happened to be married, a series of hilarious bets plays out. The end result is a budding relationship that neither expected as both Vince and Jane are such headstrong characters. Jane’s own divorce case plays a role in the pair’s growing relationship, too. It offers its own share of laughs as audiences will see in watching the movie.

A Bet’s A Bet (The Opposite Sex) will be available on DVD next Tuesday, January 20th. It will retail for $14.93. It runs ninety-seven minutes counting end credits. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, and giveaways from Phil’s Picks, 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, and giveaways in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

PBS Announces Release Date For “Finding Your Roots Season 2”

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS will release the second season of its hit celebrity-based historical series Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. this fall.

Officials with PBS announced this week that Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Season 2 will be released on Tuesday, December 16th.  Gates meets some of the country’s biggest names in the series and examines their ancestry in each hour-long episode.  In the series’ second season, Gates studies the ancestry of big names such as: Derek Jeter, Ben Affleck, Jessica Alba, Sting, Tina Fey, Sally Field, Stephen King, Nas, and many others.  In all, twenty-nine celebrities are featured throughout the course of Season Two.

Gates goes into even more depth with his guests in Season Two than was possible in the show’s premiere season. He studies his guests’ specific ethnic roots, cultural traditions, and the inner works of his guests’ families. New advancements in DNA testing even allows for study of genetic genealogy. The advancements allowed for revelations linked to questions of paternity, geographic origins of his guests’ ancestors, and even tribal Native America ancestry in other cases. It is all revealed over ten episodes spread across three discs.

Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Season Two will be available only on DVD Tuesday, December 16th. It will retail for MSRP of $39.99 and can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=46207086&cp=&sr=1&kw=finding+your+roots&origkw=Finding+your+roots&parentPage=search#Details. Audiences can access more information on the series, and watch videos from the show online now at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/finding-your-roots

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/henrylouisgates

 

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.

Lionsgate’s Latest Family Friendly CG Centerpiece Will Entertain The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s latest CG animated feature Jungle Master is one of the year’s more welcome family features to come along so far in 2014.  Unlike so many of the movies released in recent years by Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar, Jungle Master actually takes the road less travelled.  The movie’s animation is the most obvious way in which it takes that road less travelled.  Despite being a CG presentation, it doesn’t bare that cookie cutter appearance of the movies released by Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar.  Another reason that it stands out is its run time.  The movie’s run time comes in at just under the ninety-minute mark.  That’s a very good thing and will be discussed later.  Last but not least of all that makes this movie stand out is its script.  The story lifts lightly from The Wizard of Oz believe it or not and adds in a touch of Avatar for good measure as well as other sci-fi flicks.  The end result is a story that the while it may never be as big as anything from Dreamworks or Disney/Pixar, is still enjoyable in its own right.  It proves to be a movie that the whole family should watch together and will enjoy together when they do watch it together.

Jungle Master is not one of the most well-known family flicks to be released by any of Hollywood’s major studios this year.  That aside, it still proves in the long run to be one of the year’s more welcome family friendly flicks.  One reason for that is the movie’s “animation.”  Lionsgate’s CG features are completely unlike those of Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar in the realm of animation.  It’s almost impossible to tell Dreamworks’ CG movies from Disney/Pixar’s because they all look alike.  The only way to really differentiate the two studios’ works is by the studio names.  That speaks volumes.  Lionsgate on the other hand has strived to keep itself separate from the mold used by those studios in terms of its animation.  The look of Lionsgate’s CG movies is rawer for lack of better wording.  But it isn’t raw to the point of looking like some pieces from perhaps independent studio Engine 15 Media Group and others.  There is actually some attention paid to detail with Lionsgate’s CG movies, including this one.  That attention to detail helps Jungle Master maintain its own identity separate from its bigger name counterparts from Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar.  It even helps the movie to maintain its own identity from Lionsgate’s previously released CG features.  That mostly original look is just one of a number of positives that surround Jungle Master and make it stand out among this year’s crop of CG movies.

The largely original look of Jungle Master plays a key role in the movie’s ability to keep audiences engaged through its entire eighty-two minute run time.  That run time is another reason that families will enjoy this movie.  It doesn’t even reach the ninety-minute mark.  That relatively short run time drastically increases the chances of keeping audiences engaged from start to finish.  This is especially the case with the movie’s target younger audiences.  Most of the CG movies released since 1995—which is when Pixar broke the mold and released Toy Story—have averaged about ninety minutes.  There have been a small number of movies that have come in just under that time.  But most either reach the ninety-minute mark or go well over it as was the case with Toy Story 3.  That movie came in at almost forty-five minutes.  Luckily its story worked well enough that it still succeeded and quite well at that.  Speaking of story Jungle Master’s story works wonderfully with its run time.  Its story combines elements of a number of other movies to make a story that somehow actually works.  It’s one more way in which Jungle Master works and makes itself one of this year’s more welcome family films.

Both the look of Jungle Master and its run time are important to the movie’s overall success.  They each play their own important role to the overall presentation as they both have an impact on whether or not audiences are kept engaged.  Luckily, both factors succeed by themselves and together.  As much as they succeeded, the look of Jungle Master and its run time are not all that made this direct-to-DVD feature work.  One would be remiss to ignore the movie’s script as an equally important part of the whole.  The movie’s script centers on a twelve year-old girl named Rainie (pronounced rainy) who runs away from home ater her mother forgot about her birthday.  It is assumed by the fact that Rainie was upset enough to run away that her mother (who remains nameless throughout the movie) has probably left Rainie alone more than once.  Her decision to run away ends up taking her to al alien planet  and a much biger adventure that is directly linked to the company for which her mother works.  It’s thanks to her adventure that Rainie realizes her mom hasn’t intentionally ignored her, obviously leading to an eventual reconciliation between mother and daughter.  The central story of the parent/child relationship is obviously anything but new.  It’s been done more times than a person can count on his or her own two hands.  However, the story’s execution is what makes this plot work.  Screen writer Steve Kramer lifted liberally from the likes of The Wizard of Oz and Avatar to make this story.  While he obviously lifted from the noted movies, Kramer didn’t try to just remake them and mix them together.  He used them more as influences for his story about family.  What’s more he balanced said elements quite well; well enough in fact that audiences will be moved to overlook the references to said movies and enjoy the presented story.

Kramer’s re-telling of original writer/director Xu Kerr’s story is one of the most important of this movie’s aspects in considering its level of success.  He obviously used at least a couple of rather well-known movies that have come before as both influences and elements of this movie.  But he also didn’t try to just rip off either work.  He balanced them together to make a largely original story that centers on family.  That creativity and homage still is not all that makes this movie work.  One should also take into account the movie’s cast and even its bonus shorts.  Victoria Justice (Victorious, Victoria Justice, iCarly), Jane Lynch (Glee, Hollywood Game Night, WreckItRalph), David Spade (Just Shoot Me, The Benchwarmers, Tommy Boy), Josh Peck (Drake & Josh, Ultimate Spiderman, Ice Age: Continental Drift), Christopher Lloyd (Cyberchase, Back to the Future 1 3), and John Lovitz (Saturday Night Live, The Critic, Gorwn-Ups 1 & 2) make up the movie’s cast.  Lovitz proves to be the real star of the story with his comical antics voicing Mulla.  The fact that so many well-known names overall would feel confident enough about such a movie makes it even more worth the watch.  And the bonus shorts included with the movie will entertain children for a little while after the movie ends.  These extra positives combined with the positivews already noted make Jungle Master a movie well worth at least one watch together by any family.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lionsgatemovies

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.

IFC’s Portlandia is As Solid As Ever Now In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy:  IFC

Courtesy: IFC

When it first debuted on IFC almost four years ago in 2011, Portlandia was little more than an unknown sketch comedy show.  Now three years later, it has gone on to quite the unexpected success.  It has garnered itself a nomination for an Emmy award and even a Peabody award win; this despite the show still being largely a cult favorite.  Now with the recent release of the show’s fourth season on DVD, audiences that might still be unfamiliar with Portlandia will be able to see for themselves just what has made this little show that could a fan favorite for four seasons now.  The first and most obvious reason that Portlandia has garnered such a fan following over the course of its run is its writing.  The writing behind this show is the sort of writing that will impress any fan of The Kids in the Hall and The Upright Citizens Brigade.  Also worth noting of this season is the acting on the part of lead stars Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein along with their co-stars and guest stars.  Speaking of the guest stars, the guest stars lined up for Season Four add their own comedic element that audiences will appreciate, rounding out the whole presentation.  All three factors together make the fourth season of IFC’s Portlandia a presentation that audiences new and not so new to the show will enjoy from start to finish.

The central point in the enjoyment of Portlandia Season Four is the show’s writing.  This season’s writing is a laugh riot.  Armisen and Brownstein take no prisoners with co-writer Jonathan Krisel throughout this season.  From social media to organized religion to horror movies, pet adoption agencies and so much more, nothing is off limits this season.  There’s even a spoof of the classic 1993 Robert Redford/Demi Moore drama Indecent Proposal in one episode.  The episode in question features none other than the star of HBO’s hit drama Boardwalk Empire, Steve Buscemi.  The pokes at all things pop culture alone make Season Four well worth the watch.  They’re just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in what makes this season’s writing work.  As with the series’ previous three seasons, each episode is split into multiple segments with one skit serving as the hub of each episode.  That hub is sandwiched by a group of other stand-alone sketches.  This aspect of the writing is likely thanks in large part to SNL head Lorne Michaels also playing a role in this series, too.  And it proves to work quite well surprisingly enough even here.

Directly related to the writing behind Portlandia’s fourth season is the acting on the part of the both Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.  The characters that have become so familiar and beloved by fans throughout the show’s first three seasons are back once again.  And the way that Armisen and Brownstein handle their portrayals makes for more than its share of laughs.  Those that might not be so familiar with the duo’s brand of comedy might see the duo’s acting as being aimed at a very specific audience.  The reality is that their acting is meant entirely to poke fun at certain groups of people.  They do so by going completely over the top in their stereotypical presentation of said characters.  It works perfectly with the scripts in general to make each of the sketches even more of a laugh riot.  Armisen and Brownstein’s acting combines with the season’s writing to make each of this season even more entertaining, regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the series.

Both the writing and acting that went into the fourth season of Portlandia play their own part in the overall enjoyment of this cult hit series.  Adding even more enjoyment to the overall presentation that is the series’ fourth season is the inclusion of a who’s who of guest stars.  It has already been noted that Boardwalk Empire star Steve Buscemi is on board this season.  Joining him are the likes of Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman 1,23), Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic ParkIndependence DayHoly Man), and singer k.d. Lang among others.  Goldblum actually makes multiple appearances throughout this season’s sketches.  And Dunst opens the season in a hilarious episode that pokes fun at all of the really bad horror movies polluting theaters, store shelves and online retailers.  It is certain to leave any viewer laughing so hard that they cry.  k.d. Lang’s appearance later in the season is just as funny.  She appears in a skit about a group of lesbians on a nature retreat.  The retreat just happens to be led by an older man.  Needless to say that things turn rather interesting for him and Lang’s character.  These are just some of the laughs offered by the guest stars throughout Portlandia’s fourth season.  Audiences will find their own favorite moments when they pick up this season’s box set.

The guest stars tapped to appear in Portlandia’s fourth season make for plenty of laughs.  The same can be said of the acting both on their part and that of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (as well as their cat mates).  And the writing in general makes a solid cornerstone on which rests the equally solid acting and A-list guest list.  All things considered, Porlandia Season 4 proves in the end to be a collection of episodes that anyone looking for a good laugh will enjoy.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Portlandia is available online at http://www.facebook.com/portlandia and http://www.ifc.com/portlandia.  More information on this and other releases from IFC is available online at http://www.facebook.com/IFC and http://ifc.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

StarVista’s New Carol Burnett Show Box Set Will Have Viewers Cracking Up

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life

StarVista Entertainment has done it yet again. On Tuesday, April 15th, StarVista Entertainment will release the latest collection of episodes from The Carol Burnett Show in the form of The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crack Ups. This six-disc box set is one of the few box sets this year that has earned itself a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best overall new box sets. From the episodes collected for this set, to the equally hilarious bonus material, to the video’s once again high quality footage and the packaging, so much was done right concerning this set. So much was done right in fact that there is simply not enough time or space to discuss every single positive aspect of the set. All of these factors and more make The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crack Ups a box set well worth purchasing for any fan of The Carol Burnett Show and more than worthy of a place on this critic’s list of the year’s best overall new box sets.

The primary reason for any fan of The Carol Burnett Show to pick up this latest compilation of episodes from Burnett’s landmark show is the episodes themselves. Each of the set’s seventeen total episodes is jam packed with hilarious jokes and gags, and enjoyable musical numbers. Make the deal even sweeter, StarVista Entertainment has once again given audiences the ability to choose not only given shows, but the separate segments within each show. While the jokes and gags have a certain edge about them, they are quite tame in comparison to the majority of what’s out there today. Their edge proves that comedy can still be funny even in the 21st century without being overtly blue. One of the prime examples of this comes in the bonus skit, “The Oldest Man: Firefighter.” This skit sees Tim Conway playing his familiar “Old Man” character once again. This time the old man is a firefighter dispatched to stop a fire at the home of Korman’s unnamed character. The physical comedy and the jokes shared throughout the skit will leave any viewer laughing so hard that they cry. It certainly did that with this critic. Bonus skit or not, it shows just why The Carol Burnett Show is still such a beloved show even decades after it ended its original eleven-season run on CBS.

The largely family friendly humor shared throughout each episode in this latest box set is just part of what makes the episodes the cornerstone of the set’s success. Audiences will enjoy just as much, the musical numbers included in each episode. The Carol Burnett Show was not the first, nor the last to incorporate musical numbers into its overall structure. The Smothers Brothers—Tom and Dick—incorporated musical numbers into their show in the late 1960s as did Sonny and Cher in their variety programs—The Sonny & Cher Show and The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. This then raises the question what would make the musical numbers in The Carol Burnett Show so enjoyable. The answer to that is the same answer to what made the musical numbers in the other variety shows so enjoyable. Unlike a show such as Saturday Night Live, The Carol Burnett Show and its fellow variety shows didn’t stick just to pushing the most current radio hits of the day. The radio hits were there. But they weren’t all that got the focus. So simply put, the musical numbers were so fun because they weren’t part of the massive marketing machine that today’s talk shows are. The musical numbers included in The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crack Ups sees the likes of And y Griffith (The Andy Griffith Show, No Time For Sergeants, Matlock) Gloria Swanson, Ruth Buzzi and more singing songs that are just as enjoyable today as they were decades ago. Those songs include: ‘Just Squeeze Me/Oh, You Beautiful Doll’, ‘Turn Your Radio On’ and ‘I’ve Been Around/A New-Fangled Tango.’ Those songs and all of the others included in each show serve to add even more enjoyment for viewers of all ages as they make their way through all six of the set’s discs.

The comedy and the musical numbers included in each of the seventeen total episodes on this set make for so much enjoyment. Making things even better for viewers is the fact that StarVista Entertainment has once again given viewers the option to choose not just from the episodes on each disc, but also to choose from specific skits and musical numbers within each episode. This option means that viewers will once again not have to sit through the entire episodes in order to their favorite segment in each episode. That in itself could be argued a bonus feature separate from the bonus features which will be discussed later. It is the finishing touch that makes the episodes included in this set such a joy to watch.

The episodes included in The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crackups are the foundation of the success of the set in question. The bonus features included in the set make that foundation even more solid for audiences. This time out, StarVista has included as bonus material, special separate looks at the impact of both Tim Conway and Harvey Korman on The Carol Burnett Shows. Those examinations include footage of other classic Carol Burnett Show skits that really exhibit their talents both by themselves and together. Among the most memorable of those skits are “The Dentist” and Conway’s now famed “Elephant Skit” from The Family. It’s too bad that neither of those skits was included in this set in their entirety. That’s because of their level of hilarity. It was so funny to learn that in “The Dentist”, Tim Conway made Harvey Korman laugh so hard that he wet himself. And the bonus discussion on “The Peeping Tom” is definitely not for children, ironically enough. Carol and company discuss the comedy in guest star Dick Van Dyke and Tim Conway switching places in the skit and how Carol used a body suit with fake breasts to flash the peeper. Yes, that is what she did. And she shows the body suit, too. Again, it is not for children. It’s one of the rare moments that is not kid friendly. The other bonus material included in this box set is relatively safe for all viewers. And it is sure to have anyone watching laughing just as hard as ever.

Having discussed the role of the episodes themselves and the bonus features in The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crack Ups, there is one last part of the set to examine in the set’s success. That last factor is its packaging. StarVista Entertainment has once again wisely packaged its set, placing each of the six discs on either side of three separate “plates” inside the box. Bizarrely enough, there is actually a fourth plate, which has been left empty. Perhaps this is only the case with review copies. But it was very much the case with previous Carol Burnett Show box sets, too. So it is definitely a head scratcher of sorts. That aside, the fact that StarVista has maintained that high standard of packaging, protecting the discs is one more reason the company is quite deserving of its share of applause. It is the last touch on a set that is more than worth the purchase for any viewer whether new to The Carol Burnett Show or not.

The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crack Ups will be available Tuesday, April 15th. It can be pre-ordered now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Carol-Burnett-Show-Carols-Crack-Up/dp/B00HXWV2JQ/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1396874564&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=The+Carol+Burnett+Show+Carol%27s+Crack+Ups. More information on this and other Carol Burnett Show DVD sets is available online at http://timelife.com and http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUS. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty A Surprisingly Enjoyable Story For A Reboot

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/Samuel Goldwyn Pictures

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/Samuel Goldwyn Pictures

More often than not, Hollywood’s seemingly undying hunger for prequels, sequels, and remakes has led to some of the movie industry’s worst movies in memory in recent years. However, the 2013 remake of the 1947 Danny Kaye classic The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has proven to be the rare exception to that rule. One part Death of a Salesman and one part Forrest Gump, this last movie of 2013 is also the year’s best. This is despite the fact that it is just one more on the industry’s ever-growing list of prequels, sequels, and remakes. The very first factor in the success of this updated story is its writing. Writer Steve Conrad has taken author James Thurber’s original story and updated it in a way that works even despite being changed around so much.  Also to be taken into consideration is the acting of the cast.  Veteran actress Shirley MacClaine (Downton Abbey), comedienne Kristen Wiig (SNL), and Adam Scott (Parks & Rec) each expertly carry out their roles and make the story all the richer.  The same can also be said of surprise guest stars Patton Oswalt and Sean Penn.  The last aspect of the movie to consider in its success is its cinematography.  The scenes shot in Greenland and Iceland were beautiful to say the very least.  The same can be said of so many other scenes that make up Walter’s fantasies and his real life adventures.  That aspect comes together with the cast, its acting, and the general writing to make this movie one of the biggest surprises of 2013.

Writer Steve Conrad’s adaptation of author James Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is not the first time that the story has been adapted to the big screen.  Its first big screen adaptation was in 1947.  Little changed from that story–penned by writers Ken Englund, Everett Freeman, and Philip Rapp–and this latest take on Thurber’s story.  The one big difference between the two stories is that the original adaptation was a rom-com.  Conrad’s update is more of a human drama that centers on overcoming the fear of life’s uncertainties and taking risks.  Typically, making such a drastic change is a formula for disaster.  But this case is a very rare exception to the rule.  Somehow, Conrad has managed to make his story work.  And he has managed to do so in so many ways.  What he offers audiences in this adaptation is the story of a man that sets out to find a photograph, but ends up finding himself in the long run.  It’s all brought on as Life magazine, the magazine he works for is preparing to release its very last print issue before it becomes an entirely online entity.  This is another aspect of Conrad’s script that makes it work so well.  That’s because it is such a real story element.

The use of Life magazine transitioning from a print outlet to an entirely online entity is a hugely useful tool to advance this story.  That’s because of its realism.  So many branches of the print media have transitioned mainly to an online presence in order to survive in the digital age.  That transition makes for a lot of uncertainty in any number of individuals’ lives including the story’s lead character.  It’s that uncertainty of the future that forces Walter to make his daydreams become reality.  And Stiller’s take on Walter as he grows through his adventures serves to make the story all the richer.

Steve Conrad’s updated take on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is surprisingly enjoyable despite being an update on one of Hollywood’s classic movies.  The human drama that makes up the story’s main plot does so much to make the story work.  The same can be said of the acting of lead Ben Stiller and his cast mates.  He makes his take on his character one that is entirely believable as Walter grows from a socially awkward wallflower type of figure to a more self-confident man.  His isn’t the only portrayal that makes the story work, either.  Surprise guest star Patton Oswalt is spot on as a tech rep with e-harmony.  He interacts with Walter solely via phone throughout most of the story.  Even over the phone, those moments make for so many laughs.  Just as funnier is the reveal of Oswalt’s character late in the movie.  His joke of what he thought Walter would look like compared to his own looks makes for one of so many classic moments throughout the story.  Adam Scott plays the story’s antagonist, Ted Hendricks, that comes in to Life as a “cleaner” of sorts responsible for downsizing the magazine’s staff.  He was just as much on spot in his role as the rest of the cast in its roles.  He is a completely cold, despicable figure that cares only about his own advancement.  He makes audiences cheer happily for Walter both when he confronts him in his daydream and for real later in the story.  That’s the sign of an actor fully grasping his character and getting the job done.  The same can be said of supporting actress Shirley MacClaine as Walter’s mom.  She is Walter’s only real source of support among everyone around him.  And one can feel the love that Walter’s mom has for him, too.  Anyone that doesn’t laugh and smile at the pair’s personal moments have no heart.  That ability of the cast to reach audiences on so many emotional levels is just as important as the script itself in this story’s success.  The story’s success doesn’t end here, either.  There is one more aspect of this movie that makes it successful.  That aspect is the movie’s cinematography.

The cinematography of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is beyond belief.  From Walter’s imaginary fight scenes with Ted to his real life adventure across Greenland, Iceland, and Afghanistan, the camera crews and editors went beyond the call of duty.  The contrast of Walter set against the giant magazine covers that lined the halls of Life make for their own statement.  That’s because as Walter runs past the covers, audiences see the figures on each cover turn to Walter’s face.  It makes for a statement of his dreams potentially becoming reality.  And in its own right, it is also a foreshadowing of sorts, not to reveal too much for those that haven’t yet seen.  These are just some of the examples of the expert cinematography that is exhibited throughout the course of the story.  There is much more for audiences to see for themselves.  And they will indeed find so much when they watch this story for themselves.  And together with its casting and writing, audiences will find so much to applaud in this movie; so much in fact that they will agree that despite being a reboot, it still proves to be 2013’s best new movie.

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.