CBS All Access’ New ‘Star Trek’ Series Fails In Its First Season

Courtesy: CBS Television Studios/Paramount

In a little more than a month, CBS All Access’ latest entry into the Star Trek universe – Star Trek: Discovery — returns for its second season.  While audiences count the days until the fledgling series returns, they have its debut season to take in on DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of CBS Television Studios and Paramount Home Entertainment.  Released in stores Nov. 13 on separate DVD and Blu-ray sets, Season One’s home release offers both pros and cons to note, beginning with the series’ very writing.  It will be discussed shortly.  The set’s bonus content is its own positive, and will be discussed a little later.  The set’s average price point is also important to discuss, and will be addressed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own right to the whole of the season’s presentation.  All things considered, the debut season of Star Trek: Discovery proves to be a new start for the Star Trek universe that is worth at least one watch, but sadly not much more.

The debut season of CBS All Access’ new Star Trek offering, Star Trek: Discovery is a rough new start for the Star Trek universe’s latest offering.  It is not the franchise’s worst entry, but definitely is not the franchise’s best entry, either.  That is due in part to the writing, which like Paramount’s 2009 big screen Star Trek reboot, is little more than just another revisiting of the Star Trek universe’s past.  It takes audiences into the past, attempting to show what led to the never-ending tensions between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.  The result is a presentation that conjures thoughts more of SyFy Channel’s most recent Battlestar Galactica reboot than any Star Trek entry, either on the big or small screen.  This is just the beginning of the problems with the writing, because the set-off is actually somewhat ambiguous.  Were the Klingons already planning to rise up before the incident with Michael Bernham and the Klingon warrior, or did it only happen after that incident?  Audiences know that said incident played at least in part to the conflict, but because of the dialogue featured throughout the early episodes of Season One, audiences will be left scratching their heads to a point as to that setup.

As season one progresses, it resurrects some ST story elements that are all too familiar to longtime ST fans.  One of those elements is a time loop arc. Another is the alternate universe story arc.  The time loop has been done already in Star Trek: The Next Generation while the alternate universe arc was used in Star Trek: TOS.  This series’ writers try to freshen up the time loop arc by setting it off through a character that fans of TOS will recognize, and while it does work to a point, the story starts to plod along after a while, getting lost in itself along the way.  The alternate universe arc proves even more problematic not only because it’s already been done, but also because it creates its own share of plot holes.  Not to give away too much for the sake of those who haven’t yet seen Season One, but if the alternate universe has the evil twins of the Discovery “prime” universe – the term “prime” is actually used by Berham in this arc – then where is the “good” twin of Capt. Lorca and the “evil” twin of Bernham?  Bernham’s doppelganger is mentioned by the “evil” Phillipa, but the writers never address where she is in a bigger sense.  Nor is it mentioned where the “good” Capt. Lorca is or if there even is a “good Capt. Lorca.  The writers try to explain it away in an early scene in the arc between Discovery’s Bernham and Lorca, but it is still ultimately left up in the air.  Even Paul Stamets’ double is introduced as he sits in a coma.  This is its own problem as one can’t help but make comparison to so many soap operas, as every major soap opera has done the coma “dream sequence” way too many times.  Getting back on track, even as Discovery gets back to its own universe, the whereabouts of the “evil” Discovery ship is not addressed, either.  Where is it?  Did it go back to its universe when Discovery jumped back to its universe?  Again, here audiences have a plot hole that is left wide open even as the writers struggle to address the situation in the story arc’s finale.

Another plot hole that is left wide open involves Bernham’s adoptive father, (who also proves to be the father of another even more well-known Star Trek character) Sarek.  Again, not to give away too much, but Sarek is rescued after his ship is sabotaged (in a moment that makes one think of something from Iron Man 3), but after his rescue, his character is ignored until the season’s final two episodes.  Audiences don’t hear from him after Bernham leaves him laying in sick bay, recovering from his wounds.  Next time he’s seen, he’s in full health.  This is problematic as it doesn’t take long after that instance for the problems to start again for Discovery.  Was Sarek still on the ship at that point?  When did he leave the ship?  Again, this is a plot hole that simply cannot be ignored.  It proves the writing that much more problematic.  This still is not the last of the issues raised through an examination of the writing.  The introduction of Lt. Tyler creates its own issue.

The introduction of Lt. Tyler is a direct comparison to Battlestar Galactica.  This critic will attempt to not give away too much information here, but the revelation about who and what Tyler is makes that comparison far too easy.  The recent reboot of Battlestar Galactica saw the Cylons infiltrate the humans’ ranks by making them look like the humans.  This in itself was a lifting from Terminator 2 (if not other previous movies and TV shows).  What the writers did here with Tyler is very similar, but instead of making him a robot, they made him something else.  Audiences who have yet to see this season will be left to make that discovery themselves, but it goes without saying that it has been done before.  In this case, it is the same thing, just altered slightly and in more gory fashion.

As if the general story elements, the plot holes and that they create, and the rehashing of another element are not enough, the smaller items of the writing prove just as problematic for this presentation.  There is lots of overt bloodshed, gore, sexual content and foul language.  Given, maybe her and there, there has been some mildly suggestive material in previous Star Trek incarnations, but never was it to the point that it is here.  There are flashes of a sex scene between one of the lead Klingon characters and another character late in the season’s run.  There is also enough bloodshed and overt violence to appease the most bloodthirsty person.  It’s a disappointment because none of the Star Trek universe’s other series’ needed any of that in order to be even mildly entertaining.  So, why did the writers think it was needed here?  Have audiences really become that dependent on violence and sexuality?  If so, then that is in itself is a troubling statement.

While the writing exhibited in the debut season of Star Trek: Discovery does a lot to detract from its presentation, the set is not a total loss.  That is thanks to the bonus content featured throughout the set.  Throughout the set, audiences are treated to featurettes, which focus on the series’ sets, costumes, makeup and even the philosophical aspects of the storylines as well as other items.  The discussions on the stories’ deeper ruminations are interesting, and do create at least a little bit of appreciation for the work that the writers put in.  After all, this is not the only Star Trek entry that has striverd to use its stories to create dialogues on certain deep topics.  However, it sadly is not enough to make up for the bigger problems posed through the writing.  The discussions on the sets and costumes make for fun glances behind the cameras,  Audiences will be interested to see how the costume and makeup departments used modern 3D printing technology alongside more traditional methodology to create the look of the Klingons.  In the same vein, the thought and effort put into the sets is just as interesting.  This feature will appeal just as much to theater production specialists as it will to general audiences.

As the season comes to an end, audiences are treated to another, different type of feature in the season retrospective, “The Journey of Season 1.”  This roughly 20-minute featurette features discussions from the show’s cast and creative heads about their favorite episodes and the importance of those episodes to the season’s overall presentation.  This brings everything full circle in regards to the bonuses.  It brings back those discussions on the season’s philosophical elements while also letting more people offer their own perspective on those themes.  Of course it is just one more of the bonus features worth watching.  The bonuses, including deleted scenes (at least one of which gives a hint about Season 2), are spread throughout the season’s discs.  This is important in that it shows Paramount and CBS Television Studios did not try to just cram a bunch of random featuerettes onto the last disc, unlike what so many other studios do.  It shows the companies wanted to give audiences the biggest bang for their buck.  They succeeded at that, too.

Speaking of bang for the buck, the set’s average price point is respectable.  The average price point for the season’s Blu-ray presentation – using prices listed at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million – comes to $39.86.  In other words it comes in at just under $40.  The DVD set’s average price – using those same outlets – comes to $32.14.  Both sets feature the same bonus content and the same episodes.  There is no real difference between the two platforms in terms of content.  Considering this, the pricing here is on part with other DVD and Blu-ray sets for other TV series, so there is that to appreciate.  Considering the entertainment that the bonus material (and to a slightly lesser degree, the primary content) offers, that makes both platforms’ average pricing respectable.  When this is considered alongside the noted bonus and primary content, the whole of Discovery: Season One proves worth at least one watch, but sadly, no more.

CBS All Access’ latest journey into the Star Trek universe, Star Trek: DiscoverySeason 1 is a presentation that is nothing like its predecessors.  More akin to Syfy’s most recent Battlestar Galactica reboot and Disney’s most recent Star Wars movies, this latest revisiting of the Star Trek universe history’s past (it has already been done in 2009 with Paramount’s big screen Star Trek reboot) suffers severely from writing problems, such as lagging story arcs that are often times overflowing with plot holes and general lack of creativity.  Additionally, the overall cinematic nature of the season, and the knowledge that the series is a serial (unlike its predecessors) makes this season feel more like one big movie than a general TV series.  Some people will like it, but others – like this critic – will very much dislike these aspects.  The bonus content spread across the set’s discs does at least a little bit to make up for the problems posed by the writing.  The average price point for the set’s separate DVD and Blu-ray platforms lets audiences know that their money spent was not entirely wasted.  Despite that affordable price point and the positives in the bonus material, the problems posed by the writing are just too much to overcome.  In general, the positives of the pricing and secondary content makes this set worth at least one watch, but sadly no more than that.  Star Trek: DiscoverySeason 1 is available now in stores and online.  More information on Star Trek: Discovery is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.cbs.com/shows/star-trek-discovery

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cbs

 

 

 

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.

PBS Announces Release Date, Specs For Grantchester Home Release

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ hit series Masterpiece brings to audiences another gripping murder mystery this spring when it releases Grantchester on DVD and Blu-ray.

Grantchester will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, April 7th. The story is based on author James Runcie’s novel Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death. It picks up just after the end of World War II. Elizabeth II had just become queen. And Grantchester’s local priest was one of the town’s most respected figures. A lawyer in nearby Cambridge is found dead. A suicide note, a gun, and alcohol point directly to an open and shut case. But confessions to local priest Sidney Chambers reveals much more than Inspector Geordie Keating had thought. The confessions lead the pair to team up solve what turns out to be a murder. Audiences can check out a trailer for Grantchester online now via YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3tzFp5CeAU.

Grantchester stars James Norton (Rush, Death Comes to Pemberly, Mr. Turner) as Sidney Chambers. He is joined by Robson Green (Being Human, Mount Pleasant, Strike Back) as Inspector Geordie Keating. Also on board for this mystery are: Morven Christie (The Young Victoria, Death in Paradise, Sirens) as Amanda Kendall, Tessa Peake-Jones (Only Fools and Horses, Casualty, Doctors) as Mrs. Maguire, Al Weaver (Sherlock, Me and Orson Welles, Doom) as Leonard Finch, and Pheline Roggan (Soul Kitchen, Chiko, Kebab Connection) as the widow of lawyer Stephen Staunton, the series’ first victim.

Grantchester will be available Tuesday, April 7th on DVD and Blu-ray. The series is spread across six episodes for a total run time of 360 minutes. It is spread across two discs on both its DVD and Blu-ray release. The DVD set will retail for MSRP of $34.99 and the Blu-ray set for $39.99. Both can be ordered online along with a DVD/Book combo and Blu-ray book combo via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/search/index.jsp?kwCatId=&kw=grantchester&origkw=grantchester&sr=1.

More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org

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

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.

MLB World Series Takes Top Honors In The Phil’s Picks 2014 List Of Best New Box Sets For Grown-Ups

The days are officially ticking away to the end of another year. That means that all of the critics out there are now putting out their annual “Best Of” lists. This critic is still working on some of those lists while others are official. The jury’s still out on some right now such as the year’s Best New Documentaries, Independent Movies, Re-Issues, and Best New Movies overall. The lists for all the new music are still in the works, too. So while those lists are being completed, Phil’s Picks offers to everyone to start off the year, a look at the Top 10 Best New Box Sets for Grown-Ups. This year’s list is capped by a box set featuring the entire 2014 World Series, courtesy of Lionsgate, A&E Home Video, and MLB Productions. Also on this year’s list are some blasts from the past and some imports from our neighbors across the pond, and one surprise entry in the Honorable Mention list. The box sets’ packaging, bonus material and more were collectively taken into account in building this (and the other lists to come). Only 15 titles total could make the list. So there were some that didn’t make the list such as the sixth and seventh seasons of Star Trek The Next Generation on Blu-ray or the full six-season run of Ancient Aliens among others. It goes without saying that this was not an easy list to build. But it feels right. So without further ado, here is the list of 2014’s Top 10 New Box Sets For Grown-Ups.

2014 Best New Box Sets For Grown-Ups

1. 2014 MLB World Series Collector’s Edition

2. Endeavour: Series 2

3. Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series

4. The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crackups

5. The Dean Martin Show: Fully Roasted

6. The Roosevelts

7. Inspector Lewis: Series 7

8. Psych: The Complete Series

9. Secret Agent (A.K.A. Danger Man): The Complete Series

10. The Wonder Years: Season 1

Honorable Mention

11. The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years–1951 – 1955

12. The Almighty Johnsons: Season 1

13. Hell on Wheels: Season 3

14. The Definitive WWI & WWII Collection

15. I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 (BD Re-Issue)

Tomorrow, Phil’s Picks looks into the list of the year’s best new box sets for Children and Families. Stay tuned! 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.

PBS, Syfy Announce Release Date, Specs For The Almighty Johnsons Season One

Courtesy:  PBS/Syfy

Courtesy: PBS/Syfy

The Almighty Johnsons are coming to DVD and Blu-ray this fall.

The first season of the hit sci-fi/fantasy dramedy The Almighty Johnsons will be released on DVD and Blu-ray this fall.  The series focuses on the brothers Mike, Anders, and Axl, who just happen to be descendants of Norse gods.  Each of the three brothers becomes himself a Norse god on his 21st birthday.  But there’s just one catch.  While each of the brothers does get his own powers upon becoming a god, those powers are not as powerful as they would hope.  The reason that their powers are far less than hoped for is that Odin has been separated from Frigg, effectively taking down the house of Asgard.  As luck would have it, Odin has been reincarnated as Axl.  And it won’t be until Axl and Frigg are reunited that the house of Asgard will be rebuilt and the brothers’ powers brought to full strength.  So it is up to Axl and his brothers to defeat their nemeses, the evil power-hungry Goddesses, and reunite Odin and Frigg.  Adding to the series’ interest is that Axl is not yet at his 21st birthday.  He is still only 20-years old.  So the combination of his every day pressures coupled with those of becoming a god plays a major role in what happens to both him and his brothers along the way in this series’ first season.

The Almighty Johnsons: Season 1 will be available on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, October 7th.  The DVD box set will retail for SRP of $39.99.  The Blu-ray box set will retail for SRP of $44.99.  It will also be available for digital download.  Both the DVD and Blu-ray box set will include commentary from Tim Balme (Mike) and Emmett Skilton (Axl) and director Mark Beesly on the series’ first episode.  There will also be a bonus cast interview.  Both the DVD and Blu-ray can be ordered online via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org.

Fans of The Almighty Johnsons can keep up with all of the latest news about the show online at http://www.facebook.com/almightyjohnsons, http://thealmightyjohnsons.com, and http://www.syfy.com/almightyjohnsons.  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.

The Quiet Ones Proves Low-Budget Horror Flicks Can Be As Scary As Their Big Budget Brothers

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

The Quiet Ones, the latest horror/thriller from Lionsgate Films, is one of the scariest movies that horror fans will see this year if not the single scariest.  The phrase edge-of-your-seat is tossed around far too often in various film genres.  However in the case of The Quiet Ones, that far too oft term is quite properly used to describe this story.  It will keep viewers on the edge of their seats from start to finish even with the movie coming in at just over an hour and a half.  It all starts with the script.  The script is one that while based on actual events, has crafted a story that successfully creates its own story.  It will leave viewers questioning quite a bit right up to the story’s twist ending.  The script is but one part of what makes The Quiet Ones work.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast makes the story even scarier.  There is something about the cast’s acting that will pull viewers in and at times, even send chills up viewers’ spines, thus leading to the edge-of-your-seat term even more justified here.  Last but hardly least worth noting that makes this movie work now in its home release is the bonus “Making of” documentary.  Much like the far too oft used phrase noted already, “Making of” featurettes hardly ever live up to the expectation of being bonus material.  The “Making of” featurette here only serves to deepen the overall experience and in turn makes the movie even scarier.  These three factors are but the tip of the iceberg that can be noted in what makes The Quiet Ones one of 2014’s scariest movies.  Audiences will find plenty more for themselves when they purchase this movie for themselves.  And when they do, said audiences will themselves be making quite the noise (yes, bad pun intended) about The Quiet Ones.

So much can be said of the script behind The Quiet Ones.  This script isn’t just another one of those run-of-the-mill, over-the-top slasher flicks or even just another ghost story.  The movie’s script writers have crafted in this piece a story that combines an absolutely terrifying tale of the occult with an unexpected human drama, both of which combine to make a story that will leave even the hardest of unbelievers questioning what they believe right up to the story’s twist ending.  And the script itself is only part of what makes the story work as surprisingly well as it does.  The movie’s trailers made it come across as just another found footage film.  The reality of this movie is that it in fact is not just another one of those works.  Audiences will note that while there is an element of the found footage genre, it isn’t just another found footage flick.  That element is used more as part of the story rather than as the story itself, if that makes any sense.  It is used to help advance the story at various points rather than being used as the crux of the script, to hopefully make that clearer.  This is all discussed at length in the bonus “Making of” featurette that has been included in the movie’s new home release.  The discussions on those and so many other topics add even more depth to the movie.  The end result is a respect for the movie that some viewers might not have previously had should they have seen the movie while it was in theaters early this year.

The deep and deeply terrifying script crafted for The Quiet Ones is the center of the movie’s terrifying success.  It’s just one element of what makes the movie work.  Also worth taking into account is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  The Quiet Ones is a low budget film.  Going back to the in-depth bonus “Making of” featurette, this is noted in that featurette.  The thing is that typically, when one thinks of low budget films (such as the ones churned out by Syfy), one thinks of everything wrong with the movie industry.  But in the case of The Quiet Ones both the script itself and the acting on the part of the cast made this movie a success.  Actress Olivia Cooke (The Signal, Bates Motel, Ouija) steals the spotlight as the troubled young Jane Harper.  Viewers can’t help but watch her as the movie progresses.  At no one point does she ever try to take things over the top.  There is just something on which a finger can’t be placed about her acting that makes it work.  Perhaps as (again) noted in the bonus “Making of” featurette, it is her ability to go from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye.  Her cast mates—Jared Harris (Natural Born Killers, Lincoln, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), and Erin Richards (Open Grave, Breaking In, Gotham) feed off of that energy and serve to heighten the story’s tension and terror.  Audiences will see that in their gradual transition from believers in science to believers in something much darker and less capable of being explained away.  They expertly interpret the script and present a fear that audiences can almost feel as they watch the story unfold.  It proves to be a feeling of terror that audiences will find it hard to shake even after the movie ends.   That is one more sign of acting done right.  So, kudos are in order for the cast of The Quiet Ones for doing their part to make this movie a terror in the best possible way.

The acting and writing that went into bringing The Quiet Ones to life are both key to the movie’s success.  Despite the work of the scribes charged with bringing the movie to life and that of the movie’s cast, this underrated horror was largely lambasted by audiences and critics alike.  Now that it is being released to DVD and Blu-ray/VUDU, audiences will see it for its true value especially thanks to the movie’s bonus “Making of” featurette.  Far too often, moviemakers and studios try to throw in these additions to movies in hopes that they will make their movies more accepted.  The problem is that hardly often enough does that actually happen.  That’s not to say that it doesn’t always work.  The case with The Quiet Ones proves that it can and does at times make a movie more worthy of respect.  Audiences get an in-depth look at the movie’s script, the location shooting, acting, and so much more.  There are discussions on the inspiration behind the script, why the house in question was chosen and even on the choice of Olivia Cooke as the movie’s lead.  Audiences will learn why this story isn’t just another movie that is based on actual events.  They will learn about the terror factor in the house and Cooke’s ability to simply turn her emotions on and off for the cameras with ease.  There is so much to note that audiences would be best served to watch this featurette for themselves.  In doing so, both those that have and haven’t already seen The Quiet Ones will have a new respect for a movie that is one of the year’s scariest movies, hands down.

The Quiet Ones will be available tomorrow, Tuesday, August 19th on DVD and Blu-ray/VUDU combo pack.  It can be ordered direct from the Lionsgate online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/search_results.asp?Search=The%20Quiet%20Ones.  More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at http://www.facebook.com/linosgate, http://www.lionsgate.com, and 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.

MST3K Keeps Real Comedy Alive In Its Thirteth Volume Of Episodes

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory will release the thirtieth (yes, thirtieth!) volume of episodes from the classic cult hit series Mystery Science Theater 3000 later this month.  This latest grouping of episodes is one more welcome addition to the library of any MST3K fan and an equally welcome way to beat the heat this summer.  For that matter, it’s just as welcome an alternative to the seemingly endless stream of prequels, sequels, and remakes currently polluting the nation’s theaters right now.  The main reason for the enjoyment of this set is obviously the movies featured in the set.  As with every single previous box set, the writing for Mike, Joe, and all the rest is just as sharp and hilarious as ever.  And last but definitely not least, the bonus features included in each disc round out the whole thing.  All three pieces together make MST3K: Volume XXX one more must have both for any fan of this cult favorite and for any true-blooded classic film buff.

The first and most obvious reason for the success of MST3K: Volume XXX is the grouping of movies chosen for the collection.  Four more movies from Hollywood’s golden era have been chosen for this collection.  And they feature some of the most legendary names in the history of the movie industry.  One of those names in question is none other than Willis O’Brien, who was the mentor to fellow legend Ray Harryhausen.  O’Brien’s famed stop-motion techniques were used in The Black Scorpion (1957), which is the first of the set’s movies.  Also included in the set are Outlaw of Gor (1988), It Lives By Night (1974), and The Projected Man (1966).  Audiences may or may not recognize a very young Jack Palance (City Slickers, City Slickers II, Batman) in Outlaw of Gor.  And while they may not have ever become as big as Palance, the cast members of each of the other movies included in this set each put forth their best effort, which will potentially make them memorable in their own right. And now thanks to the movies seeing the light of day once again thanks to this new box set, those cast members both famous and not so much will get new notoriety. What’s more, audiences that might never have heard of these movies will receive a film history lesson from the movies themselves. That featuring of some of Hollywood’s biggest names alongside some of the lesser known names and movies shows why the movies themselves are key to the enjoyment of this latest volume from Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The movies included in this volume of MST3K are the biggest reason for the collection’s enjoyment. On a somewhat deeper level, the show’s writing holds its own importance. Whether it be in the outrageous skits that bookend the movies or the biting commentary itself made during the movie, the show’s writing in these episodes is hilarious. The barbs aimed at the movies include countless pop culture references that the show’s original audiences will appreciate. From the Three Stooges and the Smashing Pumpkins to Cosmo magazine to classic movies and television shows other than the movies being exhibited, the writers (and the delivery of the jokes) will have audiences laughing tears of joy. The writing in the show’s skits is just as entertaining as the commentary that fills each of the movies. This time out, Pearl discovers her evil lineage in one episode. In another, Dr. Forrester’s experiment ends up badly, with both his assistant and himself altered in unexpected ways. There are plenty more laughs from the skits that will leave audiences in stitches. Those laughs will come when audiences purchase this box set for themselves.

The writing that went into the skits and commentary along with the movies themselves chosen for this volume of episodes together more than put the box set over the top by themselves. The bonus features included with each of the movies collectively finish off the set. Just one example of how the bonus features put that finishing touch on this set is the bonus “Making of” featurette included with The Black Scorpion. That featurette is more a history lesson about the history of stop motion in film than a documentary on how the movie in question came to life. Audiences learn where stop motion started in the movie industry and its significance in the overall picture of The Black Scorpion. Audiences will enjoy just as much the interviews with the heads of Outlaw of Gor. Included as bonus material in this movie are interviews with the movie’s director and producer. There is also a feature on author John Norman and his books from which Outlaw of Gor was adapted. It all definitely makes for its own added entertainment. And that entertainment together with each episode’s solid writing and the movies themselves puts the finishing touch on one more volume of films and comedy that every MST3K fan will definitely want to add to their own home library.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXX will bbe available Tuesday, July 29th. It can be pre-ordered now on DVD at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/mystery-science-theater-3000-volume-30. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online now at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Starz, Anchor Bay Reveal Release Date, Info For Spartacus: The Complete Series

Courtesy: Starz

Courtesy: Starz

Officials with Starz and Anchor Bay Entertainment announced this week that the companies will release Spartacus: The Complete Series this fall.

Courtesy:  Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Spartacus: The Complete

Series will be released on DVD and Blu-ray +Digital HD with Ultraviolet on Tuesday, September 16th. The Blu-ray+Digital HD with

Ultraviolet edition of the box set will come in two formats. The first format will include three new audio commentaries for the series’ first season. The other will include a Spartacus collector’s figurine. All three of the box sets include a handful of bonus material. That bonus material is listed below.

New Bonus Features:           

  • SPARTACUS Fan Favorites With Liam McIntyre                     
  • Scoring A Hit: Composer Joseph LoDuca             
  • An Eye Full: Roger Murray                       
  • SPARTACUS: Paul Grinder                     
  • The Last Word: John Hannah       
Spartacus Special Edition BD Box Set

Courtesy: Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Series creator and executive producer Steven S. DeKnight commented on the series in a recent interview promoting the upcoming box set. He explained just how important the series remains to all that worked on it even today and added a note for audiences. “The gods finally bless us with the complete collection,” he said. “Spartacus was a true labor of love for everyone who worked on it and I’m incredibly proud to present all 39 episodes in stunning High-def for the fans to enjoy at their leisure, but make sure you watch them in the order they first aired to revel in the experience as originally intended.”

Spartacus originally starred Andy Whitfield in the series’ leading role. Whitfield would then be replaced in Seasons Two and Three by Liam Mcintyre. Also featured throughout the series are: John Hannah (The Mummy, Four Weddings and a Funeral), Peter Mensah (300, The Incredible Hulk), Manu Bennett (30 Days of Night), Nick E. Tarabay (Crash), Dustin Clare (Underbelly), Dan Feuerrigel (Home and Away), Simon Werrells (The Wolfman) Todd Lasance (Cloudstreet), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Flashforward), and Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess, Battlestar Galactica, Parks and Recreation).

The standard definition box set of Spartacus: The Complete Series retail for SRP of $119.98. Blu-ray+Digital HD with Ultraviolet set will retail for $149.99. The Blu-ray+Digital HD with Ultraviolet and bonus Spartacus collector’s figurine will retail for SRP of $199.99. More information on the upcoming release is available online at http://www.facebook.com/spartacus.starz, http://www.starz.com/spartacus, and http://twitter.com/spartacus_starz. 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.

Starz Acquires Rights To Hawkins Brothers’ Directorial Debut

Courtesy:  Starz Media

Courtesy: Starz Media

Kevin Kasha, Head of Acquisitions for Starz, announced this week that the company has acquired the award-winning movie We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.  The movie, which was the directorial debut of the Hawkins Brothers, premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and won the Audience Award at AFI Fest.  The deal, signed this week, gives Starz Digital Media exclusive rights to the movie in both Canada and the United States.

Kasha was upbeat in discussing acquiring the film from the up-and-coming directing duo.  “I love when our team discovers films by talented new filmmakers,” he said.  “Set in a dead-end Texas town, Zeke and Simon Hawkins offer audiences a gritty thriller that presents a fresh, sometimes surreal take that will appeal to film fans everywhere. We’re excited they’ve partnered with Starz to share their debut film.”

We Gotta Get Out Of This Place is a gritty crime drama that centers on a trio of teens in Texas that gets pulled into the world of organized crime after the young men go partying with some stolen money.  The movie stars Jeremy Allen White (Shameless), Mackenzie Davis (That Awkward Moment, AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire), Mark Pellegrino (Being Human), and William Devane (The Dark Knight).  The story was written by Dutch Southern and produced by Rough & Tumble Films.

More information on new releases from Starz and Starz Digital Media is available online at http://www.starz.com, http://www.facebook.com/Starz, and http://twitter.com/starz_channel.  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.

Syfy’s Primeval Spinoff A Truly Underrated,Undervalued Sci-fi Series

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and zombies are all the rage right now across the entertainment spectrum. True Blood, Being Human, The Walking Dead, and so many others are a big draw across the television spectrum.  And even now another vampire based movie has hit theaters called Vampire Academy.  With all of the emphasis on such content, it should come as no surprise that Syfy’s spinoff to the hit British sci-fi series Primeval lasted no more than a single season.  That is not a swipe at Primeval or its spinoff, Primeval: New World.  Rather, it is an observation on why exactly this show didn’t last.  Primeval: New World is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  And those that actually sit down and give this series a chance will see just why it deserved more of a chance than it received.  First and foremost, it deserves more chance than it got in its original broadcast in that its writers were doing something that no other show was doing.  It was proposing the question of what would happen if by some odd circumstance, a means appeared for dinosaurs to enter the modern human world.  The end result of that is quite the adventure across the three discs that make up the set. The writing for each episode of this short-lived series is one part of what makes it worth a watch.  The special effects and on-location sets also help to make the series’ episodes enjoyable.  And let us also not forget about bonus material included in the recently released sets.  They play their own part in the success of the overall presentation. Together with the special effects and the writing, they complete the set, proving even more than ever why this set is worth the watch by any sci-fi purist.

Primeval: New World only lasted one season in its original run on Syfy and on Canadian television.  Many people (critics and audiences alike) have speculated as to why exactly this series ran only one season.  The real reason that most people would much rather not admit for whatever reason is because of the ratings being pulled in by all of the paranormal-centered shows and movies that currently permeate the entertainment spectrum.  Werewolves, ghosts, zombies, and vampires are all the rage right now on TV and in theaters.  So sadly, this show just didn’t stand a snowball’s chance.  But now with its release on DVD and Blu-ray, more audiences will see on what they missed out on in the show’s original run. The show’s writers crafted in Primeval: New World a show that is science fiction at its most pure. The whole concept of a time/space rift opening and allowing creatures from another time to invade the twenty-first century is as sci-fi as it gets. Add in a bunch of high tech gadgets to subdue the creatures in question, and audiences get a full dose of pure science fiction.  And considering that Syfy has seemingly strayed so far from its science fiction roots in recent years, having a show with so much science fiction was a welcome return to form for the network.

The writing behind each of the series’ stories is certain to keep any audience that gives the series a chance fully engaged.  Also to the show’s credits are those charged with bringing to life those fearsome creatures that Evan Cross (Nial Matter—Eureka) and his team hunt, as well as the show’s other special effects.  That along with the on-site shooting in Canada helped to make the show even more enjoyable.  It would have been so easy for those behind the cameras and computer screens to just make some really bad computer generated dinosaurs and other effects.  Believe it or not, there are some film and TV studios that to this day don’t care about quality effects.  This show’s crew wasn’t one of them.  It’s just part of the behind-the-lens work that makes the show stand out even more among the crowd.  One would be remiss to ignore the work by the cast and crew with the on-site shooting.  That plays a role, too.  That the cast and crew would be so willing to work with all of the weather changes throughout each episode’s shooting adds to the ability of viewers to suspend their disbelief.  As audiences will see in the recently released box set’s bonus features, it seemed to rain a lot during the series shooting. Yet the cast and crew worked with the weather regardless.  It actually heightened the action and emotion of some scenes, interestingly enough.

The bonus material included in this set has already been briefly mentioned.  Audiences get to see the impact of the weather on the series’ shooting throughout the bonus behind-the-scenes featurette.  What is most interesting about these featurettes is that they are actually episode specific. Rather than getting one large bundle package of sorts, each episode comes with its own introduction and discussion that can be watched before or after the episode in question.  They are somewhat brief.  But that’s actually a good thing.  It means that audiences don’t have to invest a whole block of time to each one.  Each bonus synopsis gives just enough information to set the stage for its companion episode. Each one also gives a little bit of insight into the work that went into bringing each episode to life.  So that enhances each episode even more.  For those reasons, the bonus material included in this box set becomes the set’s finishing touch and brings everything full circle.  It is that last piece that helps show why a show such as Primeval: New World is still so underrated today.  It solidifies just what makes this series stand out from the glut of paranormal based shows that clog the airwaves and theaters to this day.  Primeval: New World is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Primeval-New-World-Complete-Blu-ray/dp/B00ECXJC1O/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1390796896&sr=1-2&keywords=primeval+new+world+complete+series.  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.

Being Human Stands Out Among TV’s Serials In Its Third Season

Courtesy:  Entertainment One/Syfy

Courtesy: Entertainment One/Syfy

Werewolves and vampires and ghosts, oh my! Werewolves and vampires and ghosts, oh my! That’s right. The werewolves, vampires, and ghosts are back for another season in Being Human Season Three. Syfy and Entertainment One have partnered to release the third season of the hit horror based prime time soap opera just in time to count down the days to the premiere of the series’ fourth season on Syfy. Season Three has been lauded both by fans and the cast alike as being the best so far for the series. And it is made even better now that Season Three has been released to DVD and Blu-ray. First and foremost, it is a serial , like so many other shows out there right now. But unlike so many serials, one doesn’t come into Season Three feeling like one needs a program to follow the show. That’s something rare to find especially among the overwhelming glut of serials that fill television’s Big 4 and the cable networks. Staying in that same vein (no pun intended), audiences will appreciate just as much the “built-in”episode guide included in the box. Each episode is listed within the box set. And each episode comes with a brief but concise summary, helping to set the stage for each episode. If the episode listing and summaries aren’t enough for fans, then perhaps the included bonus features will get audiences excited. All of these factors together make the new DVD and Blu-ray box set release of Being Human Season Three one that any fan of the show will enjoy as they count the days to Season Four’s premiere.

The first thing that audiences should take into consideration with the third season of Being Human—whether seeing it for the first time or not in its third season—is its writing. On the surface, this series is just one more of so many serials that crowd the airwaves in this era. But on a deeper level, it is a series that is largely easy to follow. There is no need for a program to keep up with this plot or that one or even another one. It actually maintains in large part, the same characters and same developing storyline that it started out with in the show’s first season. Far too many other serials on TV today continue to get that formula wrong. Their writers try so hard to keep things going that they end up writing themselves into the proverbial corner. In the case of this series, that hasn’t happened, even in the show’s third season. Audiences that have any knowledge of television’s other serial offerings will concur with this fact.

The writing involved in each of this season’s episodes is the foundation for the overall success of Season Three. Resting on that foundation of sorts is another aspect that audiences will appreciate in its new home release. That second aspect is the episode listing and summaries included inside both the season’s DVD and Blu-ray case. On the inside front and back of the case is a complete listing of each episode. Also included with the episode listing are brief but concise summaries of each episode. The summaries collectively are a positive for those that are more familiar with this season in that they serve as a refresher for said audiences. For those same audiences, maybe said audiences missed one episode or another. Then the summaries serve an even greater purpose. For those that are seeing Season Three for the first time, the episode list and summaries will set the stage for the episodes contained on the set’s four discs. As little attention as some audiences might give such a factor, this just goes to show how important the included episode list and summaries become in the bigger picture of things.

The last factor that audiences should take into consideration with this new DVD and Blu-ray box set is the included bonus features. Included in this set is a rather in-depth behind-the-scenes featurette, a standard blooper reel, and for those (like this critic) that have never had the pleasure of attending the famed San Diego Comic Con, the complete Being Human panel from said event. Fans of the show will enjoy the Comic Con panel. It’s a nice lighthearted moment from the cast that will leave audiences applauding and laughing along with those in attendance. The Behind-The-Scenes featurette is the key bonus feature among the bonuses. It advances the writing, the episode list and summaries even more. It expands on the events of Season Three while also offering some first person commentary from the cast on set. There are also segments highlighting the show’s special effects, the makeup work, and much more. Each of the segments in question is separated from the others by its own slate. Again, this seems like something minor at first glance. But on a deeper level, it helps to keep audiences’ attention and keep up with what is being discussed through the course of each segment. Far too few shows do this with the bonus features on their home releases.  So audiences will appreciate this being done here.  It is one more part of the whole in the complete Being Human Season Three that fans of the show will appreciate when they pick up their own copy.  It is available in stores and online now.  More information on Being Human is available online at http://www.facebook.com/beinghuman.  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.