Automan: The Complete Series Will Be An Automatic Hit With True Sci-Fi Fans

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films

Science fiction has a very rich history in television’s annals. Looking back through the medium’s rich history, it is easy to find any number of series that have left their mark on that history. Those series include the likes of Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Star Trek, and so many others. While there are plenty of important, influential sci-fi series that have come and gone over the decades, there are just as many that sadly have come and gone without so much as a glance. Some of those series deserved to be cut short. Others, such as ABC’s short-lived series Automan, never really got the chance that they rightly deserved for one reason or another. Automan never really got a fighting chance because at the time of its original broadcast (1983 – 1984) there was little to nothing on television like it at the time. This includes other sci-fi series. It was at its core a series about an artificial intelligence that was also something of a superhero. On another level, it was also a buddy comedy of sorts. It only lasted for a total of thirteen episodes, though only twelve of those thirteen episodes ever actually made it to air. That is until recently. Thanks to the people at Shout! Factory and Fabulous Films, Automan has finally been given a new life in the four-disc DVD box set Automan: The Complete Series. Whether or not audiences are familiar with the short-lived series, they will agree in watching it that it was a series well ahead of its time and that this new box set is a welcome return for the series. The show’s writing (including its stories, character development, and dialogue) shows this. The work of the show’s cast is just as important to note of its overall presentation. Last but hardly least of note that makes this set worth the watch among sci-fi fans is its bonus material. All three elements are equally important to the whole of Automan: The Complete Series’ presentation. Altogether they make this series set one that every sci-fi fan will want to see and should see at least once if not more.

Automan is one of the most underrated and under-appreciated sci-fi series in the genre’s rich history on television. It only lasted a total of twelve episodes in its run from December 1983 to April 1984. Looking at other series (including other sci-fi series) on television at the time, there was little if anything like it on television at the time. So it is safe to say that it was ahead of its time. That is likely why it was cut short in its initial run. Thanks to Shout! Factory and Fabulous Films, though it has now been introduced to a whole new generation of audiences in the new box set Automan: The Complete Series. And those audiences that give this series a chance will find that there is plenty to like about it beginning with its writing. The writing behind Automan is the core of its presentation. This includes not only the stories that were crafted for the series but also the show’s dialogue and it character development. The episodes are, in all fairness, standard fare. The series premiere sees Walter and Automan globe hopping to stop an international crime ring and solve a kidnapping case in the process. Later in the series’ run Walter and Automan have to clear one of Walter’s partners in “Flashes and Ashes.” There is also a murder mystery to be solved in “Murder, Take One” when a former movie star is suspected of killing a gossip columnist. A crooked studio head is involved in the mystery, too. There’s even a standard story in which Walter and Automan have to stop a counterfeiter in “The Great Pretender.” These are just a few of the episodes that are featured through the course of the series. While they are standard fare that doesn’t take anything away from any of them or those not noted here. As a matter of fact the execution of each episode will keep viewers of any age fully engaged. There’s just a certain camp about the writing that is entirely 80s. And it makes each episode so fun. It’s just one aspect of the show’s writing that makes the writing stand out, too. The dialogue that is incorporated into each of the series’ episodes is just as worth noting as the stories.

The stories that were crafted for Automan are in themselves a collective prime example of the importance of the series’ writing. While the stories are by and large standard fare, there is still a certain campiness about the stories that makes them and their execution engaging and entertaining all at once. As important of an element as that is within the bigger picture of the series’ writing, it is just one part of the writing that makes the writing in whole so important to the series. The dialogue that is incorporated into each episode is just as important to note as the stories themselves. That is especially the case with Walter and Automan. Automan’s innocent defiance of Walter even as an artificial intelligence makes for plenty of laughs throughout the series. He happily declares in one episode that Walter is basically level-headed and would understand him going out even thought he was told to not go out. It’s not the only time that he makes such a declaration either. Walter’s surprised reactions to Automan’s abilities early on are even more example of the dialogue’s place in the show’s writing. Perhaps most interesting of the dialogue that is used in this show is that for all of his superhuman abilities and knowledge the writers never have him use any of the standard, pompous lines that were far too common among action heroes on TV and film in that era. Rather, he comes across more like Data, from Star Trek: The Next Generation with his constant curiosity and straight forward demeanor. It is just one more way in which the show’s dialogue proves to be just as important to the show’s writing as the stories themselves. And it is not the last example of the writing’s importance. The character development within the series is just as important to note as the stories and the show’s dialogue.

The stories that were crafted for Automan and the show’s dialogue are both important parts of the show’s writing in their own way. As important as both elements are to the whole of the writing they are only part of what makes the writing so important to the series. The character development within the series is just as important as the writing and dialogue. Audiences will note that as the series progresses, Walter actually becomes more welcoming of Automan taking part in the cases that he is working. There is also a growing friendship between the pair that becomes increasingly obvious in each episode. It starts off as an odd couple friendship. But then grows to become a real friendship that is centered not only on their pair’s drive to solve crimes but in their own differences. Audiences will love seeing Walter play both the straight man and the comic relief in one while Automan is the innocent yet still confident figure. The juxtaposition of the two totally different personality types makes for plenty of entertainment in each episode. Together with the dialogue incorporated into the show and the work put into crafting each episode’s story the character development within each script rounds out the ways in which the series’ writing displays its importance to the whole of the show. Of course the writing behind Automan is just one part of what makes the series well worth the watch by any sci-fi fan in its new DVD release. The work of the show’s cast is just as important to the show as its writing.

The writing that went into Automan clearly shows in each of its separate elements exactly why it is so important to the show. From each episode’s story to the dialogue within each episode to the very development of the characters (specifically Walter and Automan) the writing proves quite integral to the series. Of course the work of the show’s cast in interpreting the writers’ scripts is just as important to the series as the writing itself. Both Desi Arnaz, Jr. and co-star Chuck Wagner impress in their interpretations of the show’s scripts. Being a superhuman figure of sorts, it would have been so easy for Wagner to put on more of an air of superiority to Arnaz’s Walter. Yet he doesn’t go that route at any point. Rather, he takes the knowledge of Automan’s superiority and instead gives him a sense of humility and almost alien interest in everything. Yet he does still maintain a certain sense of confidence throughout each episode. That mix of confidence and innocent curiosity about the human world makes Wagner’s portrayal perfect with each episode. And when set against Arnaz the two make a pair that is so sorely missing from today’s television offerings. Speaking of Arnaz, he is just as entertaining as Walter Nebicher. His portrayal of the high-strung cop makes for plenty of laughs especially as Walter tries to keep Automan’s identity secret in so many different situations. That nervous energy set against Automan’s cooler, more collected demeanor is a wonderful juxtaposition of personalities. That applies both as the duo tries to solve the given cases and even when just the two are together on screen in general scenes. Taking all of this into consideration it can be said even more so that Arnaz and Wagner’s work in interpreting the series’ scripts is just as important to its presentation as the scripts. OF course even that is still not the do all end all for this first-time release. The bonus material that is included within the box set rounds out the box’s presentation.

The writing and acting behind Automan collectively does quite a bit in showing why this classic sci-fi action series was so far ahead of its time in its original run. As important as both elements are to the show, they are not all that makes it worth the watch in its new DVD box set release. The bonus material that is included in the set is just as important to its presentation as those noted elements. The standard cast and crew bios are there as are other little extras. At the heart of the bonus content is the near hour-long documentary “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature.” Audiences learn through the forty-two minute documentary plenty of interesting tidbits about the series. Most notably audiences learn that it might not have been ratings that doomed the show but the costs to produce the show. There is also an interesting little piece about star Chuck Wagner’s professional training in musical comedy and its influence in some of the bits incorporated into the show. And Wagner even admits that in auditioning for the part of Automan, he was worried he wouldn’t get it because of the other men auditioning for the role. Wagner explains how the look of the other candidates made him wonder if he had a chance at the role. As if that isn’t enough for audiences, Wagner and Arnaz jokingly discuss the car that Automan used in the show and how little the pair actually used it because it was such an exotic car. The duo reveals that most of the car scenes were actually shot with the pair in a scaled up model of the car’s interior on a sound stage. These are just a few of the items covered in “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature.” There is far more for audiences to discover for themselves over the course of the behind-the-scenes featurette. Those other extras combined with everything noted here shows in whole why “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature” is so important to the whole of Automan: The Complete Series. Those revelations add even more depth to the stories presented in each of the series’ episodes and to the show’s writing in whole. It adds just as much appreciation for the work of the series’ cast, too. All things considered Automan: The Complete Series’ shows in whole to be one of the most surprisingly enjoyable sci-fi series sets to be released this year. It proves to be one that actually deserves a reboot and unless or until that happens, one that every sci-fi fan should have in his or her own home DVD library.

Automan: The Complete Series is one of the most surprisingly enjoyable box sets for grown-ups to be released this year. The thirteen-episode series is one that even being more than three decades old is still one that every sci-fi fan should have in his or her own home DVD library. That is evident in large part to its in-depth writing. In watching the series’ thirteen total episodes, it is obvious that a lot of work and attention was put into each of the series’ scripts. That is just one part of what makes this box set so interesting. The work of the show’s main stars works in conjunction with the writing to make the series that much more enjoyable for every sci-fi fan. The bonus behind-the-scenes documentary “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature” rounds out the box set’s presentation. The revelations discussed within the course of the documentary’s near hour-long run time bring everything full circle and make for even more appreciation for this short-lived and under appreciated classic sci-fi series. That appreciation will leave audiences agreeing that Automan: The Complete Series is a must have for every sci-fi fan. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory and Fabulous Films is available online now at:




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Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions Are Also Some Of The Original Series’ Greatest Episodes

Courtesy:  CBS DVD/Paramount

Courtesy: CBS DVD/Paramount

When NBC first brought Star Trek to the airwaves in 1966, it was not the only sci-fi series to come to audiences at the time.  The Twilight Zone ran on CBS from 1959 – 1964.  ABC responded in 1963 with The Outer Limits.  From 1964 to 1968, ABC took audiences beneath the waves in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which itself stemmed from the 1961 big screen feature of the same name.  CBS also had Lost in Space from 1965 – ’68 and My Favorite Martian from 1963’66.  From 1967 – ’68, ABC also ran The Invaders.  Looking at all of this, it goes without saying that Gene Roddenberry’s series had its fair share of competition in its original run on television.  And interestingly enough, it actually ran for about the same amount of time—three seasons—as those other series.  In some cases, it ran longer than its competition.  Yet having only run three seasons it has gone on to become the most successful of all of the franchises that came before and after.  From the time of its original broadcast on NBC, Star Trek has gone on to spawn no fewer than six big screen features, five more series, four more movies linked to one of those series, and countless video games, books and box sets.  The latest of those box sets—Star Trek: The Original SeriesCaptain Kirk’s Boldest Missions—was just released this past March.  More specifically, it was released March 17th.  Regardless of audiences’ familiarity or loyalty to Star Trek: TOS, this latest collection of episodes proves itself a worthwhile addition to any fan’s Star Trek collection.  The main way in which it proves itself a worthwhile addition to any fan’s collection is through the episodes culled for the collection.  From playing a game of cat and mouse in “The Corbomite Maneuver” and “Balance of Terror” to facing off against a device that could destroy entire worlds, Kirk and company face some huge odds in the episodes collected for the set.  And these are just a few examples of what fans have to expect from this set.  There is much more for audiences to enjoy from these and the set’s other episodes in whole, proving why the episodes collected for the set are the foundation of its enjoyment.  The bonus commentary included with the set adds even more enjoyment to the set even as limited as it proves to be.  It is one more reason that audiences should check out Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions.  Last but not least worth noting of this collection is its collective production values.  The episodes presented here look and sound just as impressive as in their previous DVD and Blu-ray releases with the other episodes from the series’ full season sets.  That means that all eight episodes prove just as enjoyable to watch here as in the series’ full-season sets.  And it solidifies Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions as quite the bold outing itself.  It is a collection that Star Trek fans of all ages should have in their collection regardless of whether they already own the previously released stand-alone full season sets or not.

Star Trek: The Original SeriesCaptain Kirk’s Boldest Missions is obviously not the first collection of classic Star Trek episodes to have been released since the series first hit the airwaves in 1966.  It is however a great addition to any Star Trek fan’s personal collection regardless of their familiarity or loyalty to the series.  It holds its own quite well against all of the other TOS collections that have come before (including the stand-alone full-season sets).  The main way in which it holds its own so well is through its featured episodes.  It features eight total episodes spread across two discs.  The episodes culled for this set are not just some of Captain Kirk’s boldest missions but also some of the most memorable episodes of the series’ overall.  Disc one sees Kirk and company playing a high stakes game of cat and mouse in “The Corbomite Maneuver” and “Balance of Terror.”  They also come face to face with Khan for the first time in “Space Seed.”  “The Conscience of the King” features an interstellar murder mystery of sorts.  Disc Two presents just as much entertainment for audiences.  It offers up two alternate timeline/universe stories in the form of “The City on the Edge of Forever” and “Mirror.”  Both stories are classic alternate universe stories in their own right, too.  “Mirror Mirror’s” alternate story sees Kirk thrust into a universe in which the crew of the Enterprise is anything but honorable.  “The City on the Edge of Forever” sends Kirk and company back in time to an Earth that is ruled by the Nazi party.  And it’s up to them to change that.  “The Doomsday Machine” is just as gripping and thought provoking.  That is because the machine in question was a humanly created machine meant solely for warfare.  And it has gone rogue so to speak.  Now it’s yet again up to Kirk to lead his crew and stop the machine before it destroys the Enterprise.  “Return To Tomorrow” offers its own interest as it raises the question of whether or not beings from other worlds visited Earth eons ago. The manner in which the show’s writers raised this discussion is itself short. But it definitely opens up the door for that discussion. And it’s just another way in which the episodes featured in Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions prove themselves the most important part of the set’s enjoyment.

The episodes collected for Kirk’s Boldest Missions each offer audiences their own share of enjoyment, showing from one to the next why they sit at the center of this set’s enjoyment. As enjoyable as each episode proves itself to be, the episodes can only go so far on their own merits. Luckily for fans, there is additional commentary included with the set, too. Of course it is limited. There is no commentary within the episodes per se. But there is still commentary included on both discs. The most extensive commentary precedes “The City on The Edge of Forever.” William Shatner and co-star Joan Collins (who guest stars on the episode in question) discuss the importance of the episode and the implications of World War II’s outcome. It drives home the importance of what the Allied Forces accomplished in stopping Hitler’s Nazi regime. Didn’t think that sci-fi could be so deep? It most certainly can be. And as in this episode, it most certainly is deeper than many people think. Speaking of that depth, Shatner offers even more depth in the bonus commentary included in the set’s first disc as he discusses the importance of the captain keeping a log on Star Trek and how that mirrors a person keeping a personal journal in real life. He also relates the characteristics of a good captain to a good leader in real life, and the legacy left behind by Captain Kirk. Yet again, he makes a real world comparison to the legacy that people leave in their own lives. These discussions continue the depth presented in the one episodic commentary included in the set’s second disc. All of the commentaries combined, they offer their own insight and entertainment for audiences. Those commentaries added to the episodes prove even stronger why Kirk’s Boldest Missions is a great addition to any Star Trek fan’s collection even if said fan(s) already own the series’ stand-alone season sets.

The bonus commentary and episodes featured at the center of Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions collectively give Star Trek fans plenty of reason to add the compilation to their own DVD libraries. Having noted both elements, there is still one more element to note to its positive. That last element is the look and sound of the episodes, or its overall production values. The episodes culled for Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions look and sound just as good as they do alongside the series’ other episodes in its previously released stand-alone season sets. As lacking as this seems in terms of importance to the whole, it is actually rather important. There are some companies out there that try to churn out compilations such as this one for other series without trying at all to make them look or sound even presentable. Those companies will remain nameless here. But they do exist. Luckily for fans, those at Paramount and CBS Video have made certain to make these episodes look and sound their best once more for fans regardless of whether or not fans already own the series’ standalone sets. Because the episodes sound and look as good as they do, they make for all the reason for fans to watch the episodes and commentary and add this set to their personal Star Trek collections.

Star Trek: The Original SeriesCaptain Kirk’s Boldest Missions offers the series’ fans plenty of reason to add this collection to their own personal DVD libraries. It offers audiences eight episodes that are not only some of Captain Kirk’s greatest (and boldest) missions, but eight episodes that are also fan favorites. On top of that, it also includes some rather in-depth commentary form Captain Kirk himself. Topping of the ways in which this set proves itself worthy of Star Trek fans around the world is its collective production values. The episodes presented here look and sound just as good as in their previous presentations. All three elements combined together prove this double-disc set one that every Star Trek fan of every age will appreciate with every watch and should have in their own home DVD collection. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from CBS Home Entertainment at More information on this and other titles available from CBS Home Entertainment is available online now at:





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Timeless Media To Re-Issue Classic Crime Drama Next Month

Courtesy:  Timeless MEdia Group/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Timeless MEdia Group/Shout! Factory

Timeless Media will release one of television’s most beloved classic crime dramas next month.

Timeless Media, in partnership with Shout! Factory, will release M Squad: The Complete Series on Tuesday, November 4th. The series stars famed actor Lee Marvin (The Dirty Dozen, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Shout at the Devil). It ran for three seasons on NBC from 1957 to 1960. Over the course of those three seasons, the series produced a total of 117 episodes. Marvin starred as the series’ lead character Detective Lt. Frank Ballinger, a rather straight forward type of figure among the force’s officers. Marvin’s background made him a perfect choice for the role of Ballinger. Marvin was a highly decorated Marine veteran who served in the South Pacific during WWII. He earned the Purple Heart after the Battle of Saipan.

While Marvin was the star of the show, he was joined over the course of the show’s run by a handful of actors that would go on to be just as well-known in their own right. Dick Wilson and John Hoyt both make appearances in a handful of episodes. Both would go on to star in the hit WWII-based sitcom Hogan’s Heroes after starring in M Squad. And Star Trek co-stars Leonard Nimoy and DeForrest Kelley also made appearances in M Squad. They’re just some of the big names that made appearances throughout M Squad’s run on NBC. There are many others that audiences familiar with classic television and movies will recognize throughout the series’ episodes in its latest re-issue.

The upcoming release of M Squad: The Complete Television Series (Special Edition) is not the first time that the series has been released. Shout! Factory also released the series in a complete series box set in 2008. This latest re-issue includes a bonus disc featuring episodes of Wagon Train, Checkmate, The Virginian, and Lawbreaker. Marvin guest starred in the first three series and served as host of the latter. M Squad: The Complete Television Series (Special Edition) will be available on DVD box set Tuesday, November 4th. It can be pre-ordered now via Timeless Media Group’s online store at More information on this and other releases from Timeless Media Group is available online at:



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

Courtesy:  Paramount Studios

Courtesy: Paramount Studios

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

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

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

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

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

Anchor Bay’s The Midnight Game Is A Fright Filled, Fun Indie Horror Flick

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new horror flick The Midnight Game is a surprisingly entertaining work for an indie horror flick.  The central point of the movie’s success is its script.  One watch of this fright-filled story shows that it’s not just another teen slasher flick.  For that matter, there’s barely any blood shed throughout.  It will however leave audiences guessing right up to the end.  Another reason that horror fans will appreciate The Midnight Game is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  The cast knows that this movie is an indie flick.  And while the cast doesn’t necessarily ham it up per se, each cast member’s acting does come across as lightly poking fun at the whole teen horror sub-genre of the horror realm.  Last but not least of all worth mentioning about The Midnight Game is the fact that while it obviously lifts from certain other horror flicks, it doesn’t go so far as to blatantly rip off said movies unlike far too many movies out there regardless of their genre.  These three factors each play their own role in the overall success of The Midnight Game.  Together, they make this indie horror romp one that any fan of the genre will want to watch at least once now that the movie is officially available in stores and online.

The central point of The Midnight Game’s success lies in the movie’s script.  At first glance, one might think that this movie is going to be just another run-of-the-mill gore fest loaded with lots of references to people taking part in satanic rituals.  The reality of the movie is that it is anything but.  Sure, it is essentially another teen horror flick.  But at least it isn’t just another one of the standard gore-filled slasher/evil spirit flicks that are all too common nowadays from the world of horror.  Yes, there is some blood shed at points in the movie.  And there is one very brief moment of nudity.  But both elements have been kept to a minimum.  For that reason alone, the movie’s writing staff is deserving of a certain amount of credit.  There’s no denying that there is at least some predictability at certain points in the story.  But the writing staff makes up for that by throwing in a rather interesting twist ending, which will not be revealed here for the sake of those that haven’t yet seen this frightfully fun teen horror flick.  It is a twist though, that will leave audiences wondering and talking.  And that it will have that lasting effect is a fitting final testament to the talents of those behind the movie’s script.

The talents of those responsible for crafting the script behind The Midnight Game are definitely worth noting in the overall enjoyment of the movie in whole.  The work of those charged with crafting the story’s script goes a long way toward making the movie work.  The same can be said of the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  The cast—Renee Olstead (The Secret Life of the American Teenager13 Going on 30Still Standing), Shelby Young (The Social NetworkDays of Our LivesEverybody Hates Chris), Guy Wilson (Little Black BookDays of Our LivesThe Open Door), Valentina de Angelis (As The World TurnsGossip GirlBereavement), and Spencer Daniels (Star TrekThe Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonThis Is 40)—doesn’t necessarily ham it up.  But it’s obvious that the cast members had fun with their roles throughout the movie’s filming.  They did take their roles with a certain level of seriousness.  But they didn’t take them so seriously that they went over the top.  Their acting could be argued to have even been a little bit of a spoof of the teens in every teen-centric horror flick ever released to a point.  That’s really what made this aspect work so well.  They were just that spot on in their depictions of the stereotypes used in all the other teen horror romps already out there.  Audiences will know in watching the cast at work that they are watching a movie.  Yet thanks to that acting, audiences will still want to watch what happens to each “teen” next, even going so far as to laugh at their characters at some points.  Again, herein lies one more reason that any horror aficionado will want to see this movie if only once.  There is still more worth mentioning even after considering both this aspect of the movie and its script.

The script and acting that went into The Midnight Game are both key to the movie’s overall enjoyment and success.  Anyone that is familiar with the world of horror will note in watching though, that this movie bears quite the similarity to a number of other horror flicks out there.  Those flicks include the likes of: Fear Dot ComThe Ring, Shadow People and others of that ilk.  Audiences that give The Midnight Game will see the comparison rather early on and even in the story’s final minutes.  The catch is that while the similarity is there, The Midnight Game doesn’t go so far as to directly rip off those works.  Despite being loosely related to said movies, it still maintains its own identity against them, thus helping to maintain at least a certain sense of originality.  That is the final touch to this movie that makes it one of this year’s more surprising entertaining indie flicks.  It’s a movie that any horror aficionado should watch at least once whether this Halloween or any other time of the year.

The Midnight Game is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered directly online via the official Anchor Bay Entertainment website at  More information on this and other titles available from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at,, and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Star Trek TNG’s Sixth Season Is The Series’ Best Season Yet

Courtesy:  CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Paramount and CBS Blu-ray will release Star Trek: The Next GenerationSeason 6 on Tuesday, June 24th. This penultimate season of TNG (as it will henceforth be known here) is one of the best of the series’ seven-season run. The primary reason for that is the same reason that the series’ previous seasons remain so enjoyable to this day. The reason in question is the series’ writing. Another reason for the success of this latest box set is the inclusion of the standalone Blu-ray containing the two-part episode “Chain of Command.” This is not the first season to include a key episode as a standalone feature. And odds are that it won’t be the last with one more season to go. Last but not least in examining this latest season’s box set and its companion Blu-ray is the bonus commentary included in both features. Audiences will learn some interesting pieces of information in listening to the companion commentary included with certain episodes. All three factors noted here come together both on the Season 6 BD box set and companion BD to make them collectively one more must have for any Star Trek fan that has yet to add Season 6 to their library.

Writing, whether it be for television or movies, is key to the success of failure of a script. It is the heart of everything. That being the case, the writing behind Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation is to thank in large part for the series’ success. And in its penultimate season, TNG presented to audiences some of the series’ best writing to date. One of the key examples of the strength of the writing in Season 6 comes in the pivotal two-part story episode “Chain of Command.” This episode saw Captain Picard the victim of torture after being captured by the Cardassians. The performance on the part of Sir Patrick Stewart as he struggled to survive his horrible treatment was beyond believable. To an extent, it makes one think of what POWs in Vietnam and other settings of war must have gone through. That makes this even more of a powerful reflection of real life. It’s such a powerful episode that no matter how many years it’s been since audiences have seen it, it has just as much power today as it did in that original broadcast. It’s just one example of the wonderful writing exhibited in this season of TNG.

Audiences still needing convincing of the solid writing in Season Six need look no further than the episodes “Relics” and “Birthright.” These episodes are bookends of sorts for this season of TNG. “Relics” is a wonderful episode first and foremost because it brings back another member of the original Star Trek cast in the form of James Doohan. The commentary regarding this will be discussed later. But in learning how he was brought into the episode, audiences will see even more clearly why this minute aspect of writing is just part of what makes this episode so enjoyable. It might be a bit of a stretch, but one could potentially compare the writing in this episode to a religious allegory. That’s because Scotty (Doohan) was essentially a man brought back from the dead. He was resurrected in a manner of speaking. He is forced to come to terms with that fact that he is a man living on borrowed time and that he is completely out of place. The end result won’t be given away for the sake of those that have not seen this episode or haven’t seen it in years. Others might have a different interpretation of the script than that of this critic. But those that do prove even more the solidity of the writing in TNG’s sixth season.

One more example of the solidity of the writing in TNG’s sixth season lies in the season’s second two-part episode “Birthright.” Just as “Relics” brings back the original days of Gene Roddenberry’s beloved universe, “Birthright” presents in not so subtle fashion, the future of the Star Trek universe. Deep Space Nine is introduced along with one of the series’ lead characters, Dr. Julian Bashir. It even puts Worf onto the station, hinting at his future role in the series. This bookend is heightened even more thanks to the bonus commentary included on the previously discussed episode. Again, that commentary will be discussed later. But put simply, audiences will learn that the inclusion of Dr. Bashir and the station was no coincidence. Such willingness to show the future of the Star Trek universe at this point is key to TNG in terms of its writing as it showed that there was intent to end TNG’s run in the not too distant future. And of course as fans know, the series’ seventh season would be the last for this series. To that extent, one could easily argue that it was a respectful way of saying to TNG’s that the series would come to an end, but that they had no intent of just leaving viewers hanging. Once more, it is one more expert exhibition of how the writing in TNG’s sixth season was some of the series’ best.

On a more subtle note, audiences that pay close attention in the episode “Starship Mine” will notice actor Tim Russ capturing Captain Picard. Those more familiar with the Star Trek universe will recall that Russ would eventually go on to play Vulcan officer Tuvok aboard the starship Voyager. Of course he wasn’t Tuvok in this episode. But it’s one more interesting little tidbit proving one more time the strength of the writing in TNG’s sixth season.

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

The writing behind this season of TNG is some of the best that the series had seen to this point. That should be obvious by now. The episodes cited here are just parts of the proof of that. There are many more episodes that prove this argument. Moving on, Season Six is accompanied by the two-part episode “Chain of Command” on its own standalone Blu-ray disc separate from the primary box set. This episode was seen as being so pivotal because of its powerful story. Rarely had any TV show before or after tackled the entirely political topics of torture and war. And rarely had any series ever tackled them in such fashion. The bonus commentary included with this standalone episode makes it even more interesting. Audiences learn that there was apparently a certain amount of tension both in front of and behind the camera as a new Captain was brought in albeit temporarily as Picard was in the hands of the Cardassians. One of the individuals that discusses the episode compares the cast of TNG to a big family. So even bringing in a new cast member albeit for a short time can cause a feeling of being unsettled among the cast even behind the lens. That and the powerful writing show just why this was the proper episode to separate into its own disc versus the season’s other two-part episode, “Birthright.” It’s one more positive to a whole that every Star Trek fan will appreciate in this season.

The writing behind each of the episodes included in Season Six and the companion standalone episode are both important parts of the whole that makes this season another memorable piece of the Star Trek universe. There is still one last aspect of the whole set to note in examining this set. That aspect is the commentary included on various episodes. Audiences learn in the commentary that comes with “Relics” that it had been so long since the show’s writers and runners had kept from bringing members of the original series’ cast on to this series simply out of concern. It’s explained in the commentary that there had been an edict of sorts early on in the show’s run that there would be no mention of the previous series. It is ruminated that this was done out of fear that it would only heighten the comparisons between the two series. Yet purely out of chance, that episode in question came to life. And the inclusion of James Doohan happened organically. On another side, the commentary included in “Chain of Command” offers more depth than can even be touched upon here. Needless to say, that the commentary in question is quite in depth. And that depth serves to show once more what makes not just this episode, but the season in whole such a success. There is commentary included in other episodes of Season Six. What is noted here is only a glimpse of why the season’s commentary is a pivotal part of the season’s success. Audiences will find even more entertaining and informative commentary when they purchase TNG Season Six for themselves. In doing so, audiences will attain an even clearer view of why this season is one of the best from TNG’s seven total seasons, the set’s other factors aside.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Six will be available Tuesday, June 24th in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at The “Chain of Command” standalone Blu-ray can be ordered via Amazon at

More information on Star Trek: TNG Season 6 and other home releases from Paramount Studios is available online at and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series Is Loads Of Fun And Laughs

Courtesy:  MPI Home Video/Lucille Ball Productions, Inc./gab entertainment

Courtesy: MPI Home Video/Lucille Ball Productions, Inc./gab entertainment

The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) used to be one of the greatest networks on television.  Classic dramas and sitcoms such as: Route 66, Star Trek, Gilligan’s Island, and I Love Lucy among so many other greats.  Compared to the glut of crime and medical procedurals that clutter CBS’ weekly programming schedule, as well as the largely boring sitcoms—save for perhaps Big Bang Theory—it is increasingly clear that CBS’ best days are sadly behind it.  Of course those that would argue against this are likely also the same audiences that are fans of the cookie cutter programming currently filling CBS’ weekly schedule.  Thankfully MPI Home Video has given fans of CBS’ golden era yet another piece of that era in the form of Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series.  The six-season box set was released on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014.  And it is a box set that is fully worth the $100+ price tag.  The primary reason for this is the show’s writing.  Audiences will notice a brand of comedy very similar to that of the comedy from I Love Lucy.  Yet despite this, they writers managed to keep from simply recycling episodes of I Love Lucy in this series.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this set is the bonus material included throughout each season.  And last but not least, audiences will especially appreciate the box’s packaging.  Each of these factors by themselves carry their own weight in the series’ success.  Together, they make Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series a must have for anyone that is looking for an escape from all of the oversexed, overly violent programming currently dominating the broadcast and cable ranks.

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series is a welcome breath of fresh air from all of the oversexed and overly violent programming currently dominating so much of the broadcast and cable ranks today.  The main reason for this is the series’ writing.  The writing used throughout the series is quite similar to the writing that made I Love Lucy such a hit and keeps it a fan favorite today.  The physical comedy is there.  So are the wacky situations into which Lucy gets herself.  From losing an envelope full of money given to her by her boss and brother-in-law, and thinking her teenage daughter was going to get married to playing landlord and more, the scripts crafted for this show’s six season make for way more than their share of laughs.  Even more interesting about the writing is the fact that Lucy’s character, Lucille Carter, was a divorced, single mother.  It was a reflection of sorts of Lucy’s own personal life.  She and Desi had gotten divorced by the time that Here’s Lucy came on the air.  Even without Desi in the picture, the writers were able to find a fitting replacement for him in the part of Gale Gordon (Dennis The Menace).  Gale played Lucille Carter’s brother-in-law (and boss) Henry. So taking all of this into consideration, the writers behind Here’s Lucy clearly did their homework. The proverbial icing on the cake that is the series’ writing is the fact that the writers didn’t allow the series to become a serial. Lucy’s daily life working for Henry and her life at home are both chronicled throughout the series. But at no point do the writers allow the series to become a serial. In an era today when almost every series on television is a serial requiring people to watch every week, having such a stand-alone series is a breath of fresh air.

The solid and fully entertaining writing that went into Here’s Lucy is by itself plenty of reason for audiences to pick up the recently released six-season box set. It isn’t the only reason that audiences will want to check out this standout series. The set’s bonus features make the set even more enjoyable for audiences, whether they may be new to the series or not. All six seasons include brand new video introductions by Lucy’s children, Lucie and Desi, Jr. There are also introductions by other well-known starts who made guest appearances throughout the seasons. And they aren’t just introductions, either. There are also extra shared in the introductions. One example comes in the introduction to “Lucy Visits Jack Benny.” Lucy’s daughter Lucile shares with audiences the friendship that Lucy had with Jack Benny and other little extras. There is much more shared in the introduction of each episode. And audiences will get just as much entertainment from the introductions as the episodes themselves.

Also included throughout each season set in the box are segments from Lucy’s radio show, “Let’s Talk To Lucy.” The show was an interview style program in which Lucy interviewed not some of the biggest stars of the day. The segments included throughout all six seasons focus primarily on Lucy’s co-stars from the series. Along with these bonuses, there are also slide shows, original syndication promos for the show and much more added as bonus material. The noted bonus material is just the tip of the iceberg and the most important. It makes the overall viewing experience all the more enjoyable and the box set all the more worth picking up by anyone that is a fan of true classic and family friendly programming.

The writing that went into each episode of Here’s Lucy and the bonus features included in this recently released box set are both of equal importance in the set’s overall enjoyment. There is one last factor to consider in the set that viewers will agree seals the deal for the entire package. That final factor is the set’s packaging. While the set seems a bit bulky on the surface having all six seasons contained in one box, audiences will change their minds in looking at the packaging of each season. Each of the series’ six seasons received their own four-disc boxes. The discs themselves are separated from one another inside the cases on their own plastic inserts. They are placed on either side of the inserts with one disc on the top of one side and the other on the bottom of that same insert’s other side. While this is typically the standard for multi-disc sets nowadays, there are still companies out there that do not follow this rather wise ergonomic packaging model. It protects the discs from scratching each other. The end result is that it maintains the discs’ quality and in turn preserves the show for potentially a whole new generation to enjoy years down the road. Keeping this in mind, it makes this final factor in Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series just as important as those already noted. And alongside those previously noted features, the trio together makes this box set a must see for every family and every fan of classic television.

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered direct from MPI Home Video’s online store at More information on this and other releases from MPI Home Video is available online now at,, and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at