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

Courtesy:  Cinedigm

Courtesy: Cinedigm

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

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

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

A Bet’s A Bet (The Opposite Sex) will be available on DVD next Tuesday, January 20th. It will retail for $14.93. It runs ninety-seven minutes counting end credits. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, and giveaways from Phil’s Picks, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, and giveaways in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Old School Action Flick Fans Will Enjoy Lionsgate’s Latest Expendables Outing

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s new action flick The Expendables 3 is one of the best new movies of 2014. The third installment in the studio’s fan favorite franchise, it held its own quite well against the rest of the annual summer blockbusters that filled theaters this year. While it might not have exactly performed as expected domestically in theaters, those numbers mean nothing. The only reason that it didn’t pull in the numbers of its counterparts from Marvel Studios and others is that it didn’t have the notoriety of those properties. This is despite the fact that it was front loaded with some of the greatest names in the world of action flicks. That in itself is actually one of the reasons that audiences who haven’t yet seen this movie will enjoy it. It will be discussed later. The central reason for the movie’s enjoyment is its writing. This includes the movie’s story and its dialogue. Both elements are classic action flick elements in every sense of the word. Together, they make for plenty of reason for every lover of the action genre to watch The Expendables 3. The acting on the part of the cast adds even more reason for audiences to check out this throwback to Hollywood’s golden era of action flicks. Last of note to the movie’s positive is its pacing. The movie’s run time is just over two hours. To be precise, it is listed at two hours and six minutes. Over the course of that time, the story’s pacing rarely lets up. The rare times when it does it is only in moments that help to advance the story. The end result of that solid pacing coupled with the cast’s wholly entertaining acting and the movie’s writing overall is a movie that is one more great trip down memory lane for any fan of classic action flicks. In turn it proves itself to justifiably be one of the best new movies of 2014.

The Expendables 3 is, on the surface, just one more sequel among seemingly countless others churned out over the course of 2014. While few if any of the sequels thrown out there this year were really worth seeing, Lionsgate’s The Expendables 3 is an exception to that rule. This movie is a fun outing for any lover of action movies. It is especially so for anyone that grew up in the golden age of action flicks. It proves to be so fun thanks in large part to its writing. At the heart of the movie’s writing is the movie’s story. The movie’s story is a time honored element that any classic action flick fan will appreciate. It sees Barney and his team having to hunt down former Expendables co-founder turned bad guy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) for war crimes. Believe it or not, this is something from which writers seem to have increasingly strayed in the current era of film making. Whether it be action flicks, dramas, or otherwise, writers today seem to be trying to outdo one another in who can churn out the most convoluted and overly busy script possible. It’s nice to see that lead actor Sylvester Stallone and co-writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedict were able to work together and keep the story behind this movie so simple. It’s also nice to see other classic elements incorporated into the story such as the script’s dialogue.

The story that was crafted by Stallone, Rothenberger, and Benedict is a full-on old school action flick story. The story itself isn’t all that’s old school about the trio’s script. The dialogue that is incorporated into the script is a throwback in itself. There are classic one-liners peppered throughout the course of the movie’s run time. And then there is also Stonebanks’ equally classic soliloquy explaining his motives for having gone rogue. Conrad explains that he joined the bad guys’ side because of his hatred for the people that sent The Expendables to clean up their messes and the human cost associated with said missions. That is within itself another throwback. It is a throwback to so many classic action movie villains before. Considering the classic action flick dialogue and the equally classic story line that are used in The Expendables 3’s script, one can’t help but make a slight comparison to another movie released this year. The movie in question is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The reason for the aside is that where that movie teased old school Ninja Turtles fans with references to their childhood favorite series and movies, The Expendables 3 has done the exact opposite, which is why TMNT failed and The Expendables 3 succeeded even if it didn’t do as well as hoped at the box office. It didn’t tease audiences with references to the golden era of action movies or the action movies that some audiences grew up with. It goes for the jugular, giving audiences of all ages another example of what once made action movies so great and what can still make them great again.

As if the direct throwbacks to the action genre’s old days wasn’t enough for audiences, there is one more element to the script that solidifies its success. That element is the commentary on the place of the classic action star in today’s movie market. At one point, the commentary makes for some great self deprecating humor with the younger members of the team throwing out verbal barbs at the team’s older members and vice versa. At another point before that, Barney ruminates on the place of himself and his team mates in their line of work. This is in essence the other side of that discussion on whether or not the old school action star still has a place in today’s action movies. It is a rather interesting moment especially when juxtaposed against the more light-hearted moment that later follows. The ultimate revelation is that there is and always will be a place for action stars of the past and of the future in today’s world of action flicks. Stallone and company don’t come right out and say it with these moments. But it’s pretty obvious that this existential discussion of sorts is what they were using. It just so happened that it worked both as its own discussion and as part of the story in whole, too. And it is a nice addition to the movie’s script. Together with the previously noted factors, it helps to prove once and for all why the writing behind The Expendables 3 is the most important aspect to the movie. While it is the most important aspect of the movie’s success, it isn’t the only factor that makes the movie enjoyable for lovers of real action flicks. The work of the cast in terms of its acting is just as notable to the movie’s enjoyment.

The writing behind The Expendables 3 is a solid foundation for the movie’s success. Resting just as easily on that foundation is the cast’s acting. The cast’s acting is just as enjoyable as the writing. Watching Barney (Stallone) and Hunter (Schwarzenegger) go was itself like watching a time capsule being opened up. At no one point do either of the duo’s portrayals feel forced. And even Drummer (Harrison Ford) is entertaining in a supporting role. Audiences that grew up watching Ford as Indiana Jones and Han Solo will be pleased that Ford wasn’t entirely relegated to the back burner in his role. And Blade himself, Wesley Snipes was just as entertaining in his portrayal of Doc. Watching Doc is just like Watching Blade, especially early on when he is first broken off of the train. While the performances by Snipes, Ford, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger were each impressive in their own right, it is Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Stonebanks that is most notable. Gibson has his own experience in the action realm. But his portrayal here is peculiar. That’s not to say that Gibson did a bad job. Rather, he walks a fine line throughout the movie. He never really goes full classic, hammy action movie villain. Nor does he go the route of say Heath Ledger’s Joker a la The Dark Knight or any other villain. It’s almost like he tried to really channel certain classic action movie villains and those of recent years all into one for his portrayal. While a little bit uneasy, the end result is still a villain that remains believable enough. And set against Stallone and the rest of his team, Stonebanks becomes even more entertaining. The rest of the team is just as enjoyable in its own right. But it really is these core actors that make the acting in The Expendables 3 so enjoyable and an important part of the movie’s enjoyment.

The writing and acting that went into The Expendables 3 are both important in their own right to the movie’s overall success and enjoyment. The last element that makes the movie work as well as it does is the movie’s pacing. Over the course of the movie’s two hour run time, the movie rarely lets up. The only time at which it slows even slightly is when Barney is telling his team mates about breaking up the team. Even in a later moment when they–Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Doc (Wesley Snipes), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and Toll Road (Randy Couture)–sit ruminating on the development, the pacing doesn’t let up. It would have been so easy to go over the top with this moment. But Stallone and his co-writers don’t allow that to happen. They keep the story moving, allowing for the bulk of the story to be spent on its more important moments. And it is because of this that the movie never loses a step. Because it never loses a step, it allows for more enjoyment of the cast’s acting and of the elements incorporated into the movie’s script. It connects everything, making the movie complete and proving once more why it stands out proudly among Hollywood’s current forgettable crop of prequels, sequels, and remakes.

Hollywood’s current crop of prequels, sequels, and remakes is largely forgettable. They are movies that were churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five studios more for the sake of making money than actually entertaining audiences. The Expendables 3 is not one of those movies. It has proven through the combination of its in depth writing, the acting by its cast, and its pacing, that it actually sets out both to make money and to entertain audiences. It succeeded in both areas thanks to its global ticket sales total and despite being largely covered up by the rest of the blockbusters churned out this summer. Those flash-in-the-pan flicks will largely be forgotten. But this modern blast from the past is one that every true lover of action flicks will remember and want to watch again and again proving once and for all why it is one of the best new movies of 2014.

The Expendables 3 is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered on DVD + Digital via Lionsgate’s online store at More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at:



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Paramount’s Ninja Turtles Reboot Proves To Be One Of 2014’s Worst New Movies

Courtesy:  Paramount Pictures

Courtesy: Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures’ updated take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the worst new movies of 2014. There is no way to sugarcoat it. Simply put, it is one more example of why Hollywood’s (and audiences’) seemingly insatiable appetite for prequels, sequels, and remakes can only mean a bleak future for the industry’s “Power Five” studios. The central reason for the failure of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is its writing. While the movie’s writers and the studio did back down on the original idea for the Turtles’ origin story, the story incorporated into the story proves to be just as bad. There is also the issue of the plot. While it can be said that the movie’s plot is not necessarily as cheesy as some of the plot lines from the animated series, there is still something about this movie’s plot that makes it unbearable. And dangling the proverbial carrot in front of old school audiences in the form of references to the original animated series (and movie) hurts the movie even more in terms of the movie’s writing. It’s one more example of why having multiple people working on a single script serves only to hurt said script. This has been proven time and again in a number of works before this one. TMNT is just the latest. Just as noteworthy is the acting. Credit should e given where credit is due. The actors behind the turtles are deserving of their due respect. However, the acting on the part of lead Meghan Fox and the movie’s supporting cast falls flat. Even actor Will Arnett comes up short as April’s photog Vernon Fenwick. He had the look. And he did make a valiant effort at his portrayal. But it still came up short in the end. Those issues with the cast’s acting coupled with the issues raised in the movie’s script hurt TMNT in a major way. They still are not all that hurt the movie. Last but hardly least of all that goes against the movie is its collective look and production values. Michael Bay wasn’t at the helm of TMNT. But in watching the movie, one may as well say that he was. That is because the movie’s look and its production values are quite similar to the much maligned Transformers franchise that he previously helmed. It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin, sealing the movie’s fate and proving once more why this movie is one of the worst of 2014.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was and is one of the best movies to leap from the pages of comic books. That is the original live action movie that debuted in 1990. This year’s new update on that modern classic is the polar opposite of that incarnation. It’s painfully obvious from start to finish, too beginning with the movie’s overall writing. The movie’s plot by itself does plenty to hurt the movie. And it all begins with the Turtles’ much mailgned origin story. Those that followed this movie from the days even before its pre-production started will recall that the origin story was going to have Leo, Raph, Don, and Mikey come in as aliens from another planet. Thankfully that didn’t happen. However, the origin story that took its place is just as problematic. That story won’t be revealed here for the sake of those that have yet to watch the movie. But it directly involves April O’Neil. And to a point, it takes a page from Sony’s latest incarnation of Spiderman. April’s revelation at her link to the Turtles’ origin story is cheesy enough. But the acting on the part of actress Megan Fox, who plays April, only serves to make that revelation even more unbelievable. The acting on the part of the cast will be discussed in more depth at a later point. For now, the focus will remain on the movie’s writing.

The origin story crafted for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is but one part of the writing that hurts this big screen reboot bust. The movie’s very plot plays its own role in the movie’s failure. The movie’s plot sees Shredder and the Foot Clan–which is made more into a pseudo militia group here instead of the old school, evil ninja group from the original movie and animated series–trying to spread a virus through New York City. In turn, they and Eric Sacks (William Fitchner) can use the mutagen that created the Turtles for their own financial gain. Yes, it’s true. In defense of this plot, those that are familiar with the original animated series, there was an episode in which Shreddder sent up a satellite-like device the changed the weather around the world as a means for him and Krang to take over the world. So keeeping that in consideration it isn’t too cheesy of a plot. There’s still something about it in the script’s writing though, that makes it not entirely believable. Speaking of the comparison between this incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the original animated series (and the franchise’s original movie), that is yet another issue in the writing that hurts this movie.

The issues raised through the origin story and plot incorporated into Paramount’s new take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles both make the movie’s writing rather problematic in their own way. One can’t ignore the fact that Applebaum, Nemec and Daugherty did try to please the fans of the franchise’s original animated series and 1990 movie with constant throwback references to both. They even made sure to include the skateboards used in both properties. The issue at hand with making such references is that through the script’s previously noted problems, adding in those references essentially becomes a slap in the face to the fans that grew up with those originals. It’s the same as dangling the carrot in front of a donkey (or rabbit) only to have it pulled away for lack of better wording. Simply put, it is disrespectful to said audiences.

The writing behind the script for Paramount’s new incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a big part of what has made this movie one of the worst of this year’s new releases. While the writing proves to be quite problematic, it is only the beginning of the movie’s problems. The work of the movie’s cast is just as problematic. Actress Megan Fox plays April O’Neil in this version of TMNT. Her reaction at discovering her role in the origin of the Turtles is awful. It is so over the top and hammy that one can only shake one’s hand. While Will Arnett deserves at least some credit for trying to properly portray Vernon Fenwick, even he comes up short. He is hit and miss at best. To the cast’s credit, the men behind the mean green machine–Johnny Knoxville (Bad Grampa, Men in Black 2, Jackass), Pete Ploszek (Parks & Rec, Shameless), Jeremy Howard (Men in Black 2, Galaxy Quest, How The Grinch Stole Christmas), Noel Fisher (Final Destination 2, Red, Battle Los Angeles), and Alan Ritchson (Fired Up, Blue Mountain State, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) are to be commended for their work. They did quite the job of establishing the attitude and comic element for which the Turtles have been known for decades in their protrayals. Sadly the same can’t be said for the duo of Tony Shahoub (Monk, Wings, Men in Black 1 – 3) and Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror, Employee of the Month, Death to Smoochy). The duo partnered to bring Splinter to life. Whether it is their own work (or lack thereof) or because of how Splinter was written into the story, their portrayals did little to make Splinter really stand out at any one point in the story. So simply put, the only positives that can be pointed out in terms of the acting in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the acting of the men that brought Leo, Don, Raph and Mikey to life. other than that, not much positive can be said of the rest of the cast’s work. It’s yet another example of why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up far short of its potential and proves in the end to be one of this year’s worst new releases.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up short in so many ways. its writing is the biggest offender when examining why the movie falls short. The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is another issue. Last but hardly least of note that damaged TMNT is the collective look and production values incorporated into the movie. Michael Bay did not helm this reboot of the classic franchise. But even as a producer, his influence is blatantly obvious throughout the movie. The fast-paced shots, the giant explosions, and of course Shredder’s Transformers-esque look show just how much influence he obviously had in this movie. The only positive to it all is April’s look. The use of a yellow jacket in place of a cheesy full body jumpsuit is the only fully acceptable update to the whole thing. Other than that one positive, one might as well just say that this was another Michael Bay film despite the fact that he was only a producer instead of director. And that considered along with all of the movie’s other negatives is the final nail in the movie’s coffin. One can only hope that whenever the already-in-the-works sequel debuts, it will make up for everything that this movie got wrong. Regardless, this reboot will remain among the worst new major motion pictures of 2014.

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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,, and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Warner Brothers’ Superman Reboot Anything But Invincible

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

Man of Steel was one of the most highly anticipated movies of 2013.  However, in the days following its premiere, neither the critics nor the fan boys and girls were overly kind to the movie.  Each had their own reason for disliking the movie.  Superman is without a doubt the single most iconic name in both the world of comic books and of movies based on comics.  The major problem with this new take on Superman’s origin story is its writing.  There is much to be said there.  Just as problematic with this movie is its new home release.  A simple change could have been made with the packaging to make it better.  But Warner Home Video didn’t even take that simple step, serving only to shoot itself in the foot so to speak.  Man of Steel had its share of problems, obviously.  In its defense, it did have at least some positives. One of those positives was the acting on the part of Henry Cavill and Michael Shannon.  Also to the movie’s benefit is the collective bonus features included in its home release.  The bonus features included in the movie’s home release are extensive to say the least.  But there are two that stand out among the others. They will be noted at a later time.  That bonus material along with the acting of Cavill and Shannon are the movie’s saving graces.  They balance out the whole presentation and make it worth at least one watch by any fan boy or girl of the original boy in blue.

Man of Steel wasn’t a terribly awful movie.  It isn’t even one of the worst of the year.  But thanks to its writing, it is also not one of the year’s best, either.  The writing behind Man of Steel is plagued with problems.  The most obvious of those problems lies the unbalanced character development and action elements.  Goyer and Snyder spend too much time both developing the movie’s backstory and on the conflict between Superman and General Zod.  Viewers didn’t really need as much of an in-depth look at Krypton as they got.  Given, it was good ot have a story of how Krypton met is untimely end.  But the constant transitions between Clark’s boyhood and his adult life were messy and unnecessary.   Rather than setting specific transition points, the story—written by David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Blade Trilogy, DaVinci’s Demons) and Zach Snyder (300), jumps back and forth between the present and Clark’s past at will.  The obvious attempt here was to fill in the gaps of Clark’s childhood without bogging down the overall story.  Goyer and Snyder are to be commended for making the effort.  But the end result was in fact that it caused the story to do just what they were attempting to avoid.  It’s just one part of what makes the movie’s writing problematic.  The movie’s dialogue is another problem with the writing.  It gets pretty campy at some points.  One of the worst of those moments comes when General Swanwick (Harry Lennix—Ray, The Matrix Revolutions, State of Play) states of Zod and his ship in its first sighting, “Whoever is piloting that ship plans on making a dramatic entrance.”  If ever there was a cheesy line, that line is it.  It’s a—pardon the term here—John Madden “no duh” type of statement.  And it’s just one of many really cheesy lines thrown in throughout a movie that otherwise tries pretty hard to be taken seriously.

The end result of Goyer and Snyder’s writing definitely caused its own share of problems for Man of Steel.  Now that the movie has been released to DVD, Blu-ray, and combo packs, it suffers from one more problem.  That problem is the movie’s packaging.  The discs included in the Blu-ray/DVD/VUDU combo pack were stacked on two spindles.  The primary disc containing the movie and primary bonus features was stacked on top of the set’s second disc containing the remaining bonus material.  There is nothing between the discs to protect them from one another.  The set’s third disc however, is set on its own spindle on the right inside side of the set’s case.  Why the people at Warner Home Video did not just include an extra plastic insert on which it could have placed either of the first two discs is questionable to say the least.  But it definitely takes away even more from the movie’s overall presentation and hurts the overall product in the long run.

Man of Steel had its share of problems, as one should be able to tell by now.  But it wasn’t without its positives, either.  The acting on the part of Henry Cavill and Michael Shannon was the most praiseworthy of the movie’s positives.  Shannon might not have exactly had the look of Terence Stamp’s Zod.  But he more than made up for that with his acting.  He is brutal, cold, and calculating.  Yet in his own eyes, he doesn’t see himself as a villain.  And Shannon (Take Shelter) expertly translated that personality style, too.  He made Zod’s character fully believable with his portrayal.  In the same vein, Cavill’s brooding nature as he attempts to come to terms with his powers and how he fits in with his world is just as believable.  He presents Kal-El as not so much the “god” type of figure but as being just as flawed as a human.  Much has been said of how he handles Zod at the end of their final battle.  What many people don’t seem to remember is that he shows real emotion at what unfolds.  It’s another example of what makes this Superman just as much a sympathetic character as any others previously portrayed on the big screen.

The acting on the part of Cavill and Shannon are collectively Man of Steel’s saving grace.  Both men are entirely believable in their roles.  Their acting is just one of so many aspects of the movie discussed in depth in the bonus features included in its home release.  Just as interesting to note in the bonus features is the fact that the crew went to every measure to make sure the cast was able to do its own stunts.  Audiences will see the rigorous workout regimen through which the primary cast members were put in order to be fit enough for that task.  To see actors and actresses doing their own stunts in the place of stunt doubles is something very rare in today’s movie industry.  For that reason alone, the movie gained a new respect at least by this critic.  Of course, it is only one of the extras that makes the movie even more worthy of a watch now that it has been released to DVD and combo pack.  The bonus “commentary” included in the second set of special features is the highlight of the movie’s bonus features.  It too is something that especially today, viewers don’t see much of, if at all.

The second disc included in the Man of Steel Blu-ray/DVD/VUDU combo pack includes a special second screen commentary that is a bonus feature in every sense of the term.  This second screen feature is something that today is typically reserved only for those with tablets, iPhones, etc.  Yet here, anyone with a Blu-ray player can watch this bonus hybrid commentary. It includes not just audio commentary, but visual, too.  Audiences get to hear and see from the cast and crew while watching the movie.  They can even watch the making of the movie all at the same time.  It brings everything full circle for viewers whether viewers are seeing the movie for the first time, the fifth or more.  It still doesn’t make Man of Steel one of the best movies of the year.  But with the movie’s other positives, it makes the movie one of the best home video releases of the year.  It is available now in stores and online at  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

Thor 2 Is Fun, But Falls Short

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios

Courtesy: Marvel Studios

Sequels are very rarely as good as the movies that they follow.  This has been proven so many times in recent years by so many studios.  DC and Marvel have both proven this time and again with their big name franchises.  DC and Legendary proved that with its recent Batman franchise.  Marvel Studios’ first Spiderman trilogy was just one victim of that curse.  Now Marvel Studios has once again fallen victim to the “curse of the sequel” with its latest big screen offering, Thor: The Dark World.  This action packed late year blockbuster has plenty going for it.  Its special effects and its ability to balance its science fiction and fantasy elements are both positives.  The acting on the part of both Chris Hemsworth and Tim Hiddleston makes the movie even more fun.  However, it is hardly perfect.  It has one major issue that will be its downfall in the long run.  That one glaring negative is the story’s overall writing.  The movie itself clocks in at just under two hours.  However, because of the writing, it feels quite a bit longer.  As much positive as this movie has going for it, this one issue alone is going to ultimately be what keeps this movie from being one of Marvel’s most memorable offerings.

Thor: The Dark World is hardly the year’s best movie or even one of the year’s best.  To its defense, it isn’t the year’s worst movie, either.  One can openly admit about this sequel to Marvel Studios’ 2011 hit Thor, that it has some extremely impressive special effects.  From the backdrops to the fight scenes and one chase scene in particular, those charged with making the movie’s special effects work are deserving of applause.  It goes without saying that much of the movie was crafted using green screen effects.  That aside, those backdrops that were crafted by computer look just as impressive as those that were actually shot live.  Adding to that was the ability of those behind the cameras to blend the CG backgrounds with actual sets and shooting locales.  The computer generated effects in both cases never once felt overblown.  The same can be said of the effects used in the movie’s many fight scenes and the chase scene that follows Jane’s breakout from the palace early in the story.  Even the finest of details were tuned to make the special effects in each case collectively an effective part of the overall presentation.

The work done by those behind the cameras to keep Thor: The Dark World from being little more than another special effects extravaganza is very much an applause worthy aspect of this movie.  Their ability to balance its live action and CG elements is one of the most important aspects of the movie’s success, limited as that success proves to be in the grand scheme of things.  The ability of all involved to balance the movie’s fantasy and science fiction elements is just as important to the overall product.  Those that are less familiar with Marvel’s take on the God of Thunder and the first movie in his franchise might go into the movie thinking it will be just another fantasy epic a la The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.  Those same individuals are sure to be pleasantly surprised to see both elements smoothly combined.  On a bigger level, it shows once again how easy it is to blur genre lines on both the big screen and small screen, and how to do it right for that matter.

The balance of live action and CG elements and that of sci-fi and fantasy elements make Thor: The Dark World one more release that comic book fans of any age should see at least once.  They aren’t all that make the movie worth at least a single watch.  The acting on the part of lead stars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston also plays into the movie’s overall success, as limited as that success proves to be.  The duo’s chemistry has visibly grown over the course of the two movies in which it has already starred—Thor and The Avengers.  Their chemistry has developed so much and so well that it makes suspension of disbelief that much easier in watching the pair interact.  Whether on the verge of taking one another down, Thor having to endure Loki’s wisecracking, or other situations, Hiddleston and Hemsworth make for one of the movie industry’s better modern day odd couples for lack of better wording.  There has been much talk as to whether or not Loki will be back in the already anticipated third movie in the Thor franchise.  If he should be back once more, it goes without saying that his pairing with Hemsworth will be one more welcome addition to the movie’s cast.

As one can tell by now, there is plenty to applaud in Marvel Studios’ Thor: The Dark World.  For all of its positives, this movie is anything but perfect.  The one area in which this movie fails is also its most important.  That area is the story’s script/writing.  The movie’s script is one more prime example of what happens when there are too many hands in the proverbial pot.  No fewer than four individuals worked together to develop the script for this work.  The end result is a near two hour movie that feels a lot longer and schmaltzier than it should have been.  The script’s first problem is the tired and overly used issue of a character trying to find his place in his world and in the universe.  The character in question is Thor.  Audiences see him emotionally struggling to figure out where he belongs in Asgard and trying to balance that with his feelings for his love interest, Jane, who is once again played by Natalie Portman.  This is hardly the first time that audiences have ever seen this used.  The whole brooding character bit has already been done just this year alone in Man of Steel.  The end result of that was a movie that was met with mixed results.  Audiences will be just as mixed with this movie as a result of having Thor brooding in much the same style.

Thor’s brooding nature this time out is just one of the problems with Thor 2’s script.  Just as much a problem with this script is the fact that it feels more like one extended fight sequence than an actual movie with a story.  There are some story elements tossed in for good measure.  But it seems like action sequences dominate the script.  This is evident right from the moment that Jane is “saved” from her room at the palace.  From that moment on, the movie’s pace goes near full speed.  There are few breaks in that action, too.  The problem with this is that it forces audiences to struggle to even hope to keep up with what’s going on.  The story’s pace is that rapid fire.  The even bigger problem is that it goes on at that pace straight through to the final moments of the movie’s epic final battle between Thor and Malekith.  That final battle is the final nail in the coffin for the movie.  It simply runs too long.  It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin.  This and Thor’s brooding sub-story take away enough from all of the movie’s positives to ultimately make it one more of Marvel Studios’ largely forgettable films.  One can only hope that when it finally hits theaters, the franchise’s third film will make up for this movie and its predecessor.  Simply put, this movie is worth at least one watch.  But it’s more worth one watch on Netflix or Redbox than in theaters.

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Da Vinci’s Demons A Surprise Hit In Its Debut Season

Courtesy:  Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Da Vinci’s Demons is not the first historically based drama on television today.  It is however, one of the best.  And now thanks to Starz and Anchor Bay, those that aren’t lucky enough to have Starz network can experience the first season of this hit series for themselves on DVD and Blu-ray.  The first season of Da Vinci’s Demons is so entertaining first and foremost because of its clever writing. Unlike so many other historical dramas, this one is more centered on action and adventure than drama.  It’s one part Indiana Jones and one part…well…Da Vinci’s Code tied into one.  Audiences will also appreciate the work on the part of the show’s cast throughout all eight of Season One’s episodes.  And of course what box set would be complete without at least some bonus features?  The bonus features included in Da Vinci’s Demons Season One are relatively brief.  But they play their own part in making the overall presentation of Season One enjoyable.  These aspects taken into consideration, they work in tandem to make this debut season one that is a must see for any fan of historical dramas.

The most important element of Da Vinci’s Demons Season One is its writing.  Credit where credit is due.  Series creator and writer David S. Goyer (Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Blade Trilogy) has crafted in the series’ first season that is a more akin to Indiana Jones than say Game of Thrones.  It just used setting in question as the backdrop for all of the action.  Goyer and his staff of writers are more than deserving of respect for balancing the story of his search for the “Book of Leaves” with his being wrapped up in the political and religious turmoil of the time.  It would have been so easy for the two separate story lines to step on one another, especially considering the depth of each story line.  Keeping in mind the depth of the story arcs throughout Season One, viewers will have to be fully invested in each episode in order to fully appreciate them.  One cannot simply have any of Season One’s episodes playing while one does housework, etc. and expect to have a full appreciation for the writing.  This is a good thing, too.  It is good because in being fully invested in each episode, audiences will see the value of and originality in each episode and the first season overall.

The writing behind any TV show and movie is the backbone of each.  It can make or break the given TV show or movie.  By direct correlation, the work of the show’s cast makes the show even more of a joy to watch.  Actor Tom Riley aptly fills the role of a young Leonardo Da Vinci opposite his equally talented cast mates.  He shows his acting chops quite well with this subtle wit and control over his character’s deeper emotions.  There are those actors that tend to ham it up on both ends of that spectrum.  But Riley doesn’t do that.  It makes him all the more fun to watch.   He and his cast mates collectively make suspension of disbelief easy, too.  This should come as no surprise considering the resumes of some of the main cast.  The cast is comprised of rather well trained theater actors that are just as experienced in their craft as they are trained.  Elliot Cowan (Lorenzo Medici) is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.  He also holds a degree in Drama from Birmingham University.  He has starred in a number of major films including Alexander (2004) and The Golden Compass (2007).  Viewers will recognize Gregg Chillin (Zoroaster) from his roles in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  And those that have seen Nanny McPhee Returns will likely recognize actor Eros Vlahos.  Vlahos played Cyril Gray in that movie.  He has also starred in none other than Game of Thrones as Lommy Greenhands.  The collective resume of the cast of Da Vinci’s Demons goes on for quite some time.  But one can tell from this microscopic look at that resume just why suspension of disbelief was so easy and why the cast gelled so well together.  It’s one more aspect of the show that makes it such a surprise hit.

The casting and writing behind Da Vinci’s Demons are integral to the show’s success.  Also noteworthy in this triple-disc box set is the bonus features.  The primary bonus features included in the set take viewers into the recording studio, where the show’s soundtrack was recorded.  Also included among the bonus features are the standard deleted scenes, and a look behind the scenes of the show.  Each feature is a short vignette.  But they do their own part to make the overall experience richer.  Even more important to Season One is the inclusion of bonus commentary as well as the option to play each episode with a recap of the previous episodes.  The recap is especially helpful regardless of whether or not one missed any of the episodes presented in this set.  Even if a person has seen each episode, a recap helps remind viewers of what has already happened.  Considering that each episode is just over an hour in length, it makes the recaps even more important an addition to each episode.  It is the proverbial cherry on the sundae that makes Season One of Da Vinci’s Demons such a surprise hit.  Along with the show’s writing and its acting, it makes this box set all the more worth picking up.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from Anchor Bay Entertainment’s website at  More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment and Starz 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