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

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/henrylouisgates

 

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Shout! Factory Announces Release Date For The Shadow Re-Issue

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

The Shadow is one of the most famed crime fighters of all time.  He is the original caped crusader.  His adventures amazed radio audiences long before Batman came along.  Sadly, after Batman and his fellow comic book superhero friends came along, The Shadow seemed to be pushed aside.  But in 1994, the world was re-introduced to The Shadow thanks to Universal Pictures.  Two decades after The Shadow was introduced to a new generation of audiences, he is bring introduced to yet another new generation of fans thanks to a partnership between Universal Pictures and Shout! Factory.

The Shadow (Collector’s Edition) will be released on Blu-ray Tuesday, February 25th.  The movie, starring Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October, 30 Rock) in the starring role, tells the story of how The Shadow came to be.  It co-stars Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings, Kindergarten Cop), Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, The Santa Clause, Everybody Loves Raymond), Sir Ian McKellan (XMen, X2 XMen United, X3 The Last Stand), and many others.

More information on this and other upcoming releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  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.

Admission Gets A “Passing” Grade

Courtesy:  Focus Features/Universal Studios

Courtesy: Focus Features/Universal Studios

Tina Fey’s latest starring vehicle, Admission is a surprisingly entertaining movie for a romantic dramedy.  The movie is on the surface just another typical boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end story.  But on a deeper level, it’s more than that.  Presented in this story, audiences are introduced to a woman who is quite the go-getter of an admissions officer at Princeton University, one of America’s elite universities.  She has no husband.  But she does have a long-term boyfriend.  And surprise surprise, she also has a long lost child.  Here’s where things get really interesting.  The identity of said child becomes just one of a handful of twists that no one would have ever seen coming.  And it is those twists, along with Portia’s own personal revelations that make this the surprising story that it is.  The movie’s cast is just as much to thank for the story’s enjoyment, too.  The current slate of sequels and otherwise brainless flicks that have polluted theaters this year only serve to heighten the enjoyment of this movie.  They heighten its importance and work with this last factor to explain even more why Admission is both a romantic dramedy and general movie worth at least one watch.

The main star of Admission is not so much any one member of the cast, but the writing.  Writer Karen Croner’s story was largely panned by critics and general audiences alike when it debuted in theaters in early 2013.  The seemingly common thread between the movie’s criticisms was its casting.  There’s no denying that the pairing of Tina Fey and Paul Rudd didn’t work.  Fey should be commended for making the effort, though.  That’s because she did in fact pull off her role relatively well.  But that will be discussed at a later point.  At this point, the movie’s writing takes center stage so to speak.  As touchy as the casting was, Karen Croner deserves some credit for having crafted a story that turns out to be anything but the standard romantic dramedy.  Sure, the boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end story.  And there’s even a reference to the far too over used romantic airport finale, even that turns out to be quite the surprise.  As the near two hour movie progresses, audiences learn that the movie is less about Portia’s growing romance with John and more about her own personal growth.  The main story is centered on Portia’s personal growth and having to come to terms with her past and how it is directly tied in to the woman that she had become.  The story takes a very realistic element of life and mirrors it in her life in this movie in a fashion that both entertains audiences and moves them.

There are plenty of laughs along the way over the course of Portia’s personal growth.  At one point, she even offers to go toe-to-toe with one of her co-workers over the file of a young man whom she believes to be her son.  The co-workers is one with whom she is competing for the chance to take over as Dean of Admissions at Princeton since their boss, Clarence (Wallace Shawn—The Incredibles, Chicken Little, The Princess Bride, The Cosby Show) is retiring at the end of the academic year.  It’s one of a handful of funny moments that is included throughout the story.  And Portia’s dialogue with her co-worker is what really makes the moment so funny.  She asks her co-worker if she wants to go outside and see just how touchy she is as she throws up her fists.  It’s a wonderfully hilarious moment that once again really exhibited Fey’s comic chops.  This scene is sure to get plenty of laughs from audiences.  By direct contrast, the more emotional moments written into the movie really hit hard as Portia begins to realize what she really gave up when she gave up her child for adoption.

The story’s more emotional moments are wonderful additions to Admission’s script.  They are a good juxtaposition to the more comical moments peppered throughout the story.  And Fey’s interpretation of those more emotional and comical moments plays right into another of the movie’s positives. She does an impressive job of interpreting the scripts in her acting, which is another of the movie’s positives.  She had already proven herself when she starred alongside Steve Carell in Date Night.  Now she’s taken her acting chops up a notch this time out.  This is even despite starring alongside Paul Rudd.  Rudd does next to nothing to enhance the movie.  This is the case even in scenes placing him alongside Fey.  By contrast, her partnership with Carell in Date Night worked far better.  Whereas Paul Rudd didn’t work by himself or even with Tina Fey, his young co-star, Travaris Spears, is a joy to watch.  Thank goodness for his inclusion in the story.  Both in his comedic moments and slightly more serious moments, Spears shines as John’s adopted son, Nelson.  Some of his best lines come with Portia.  Audiences won’t be able to help but laugh when Nelson makes jokes at Portia’s expense about her being dull and predictable.  There’s just something about his delivery that makes these jokes worth every laugh.  By comparison, his more serious moments are just as powerful.

Tina Fey and Travaris Spears are the real stars of Admission in terms of its cast.  That’s not to say that leading star Nat Wolff didn’t do a good job as Jeremiah.  His role was integral in the story.  But it felt difficult to connect to Jeremiah on an emotional level.  Thankfully his chemistry with Fey’s Porta offset that lack of connection, and helped audiences connect even more to her.  To that end, Wolff was a good choice to fill Jeremiah’s shoes.  His was a choice that along with Tina Fey and Travaris Spears, helped to make Admission more bearable than it could have been.

Admission is a movie that is worth at least one watch, whether one is a fan of rom-coms and romantic dramedies or not.  That is thanks in large part to the story’s writing and to its casting.  Sure, not the entire cast was too well cast.  But having Tina Fey and Travaris Spears on board was the right choice.  Their interpretation of the scripts really helped to move the story along.  There is one more factor to consider in this movie’s success.  It is a comparison of this movie to the rest of the movies that have been churned out so far in 2013.  Considering that most of the movies that have come to theaters in 2013 have been either sequels or generally dumbed down flicks, Admission actually holds its own quite well against them.  It’s a romantic dramedy.  But it’s less romantic dramedy than it is a story of one woman’s personal growth and revelations.  It doesn’t play out to the far too perfected formula of so many other movies in its genre.  That’s probably another reason that it was panned by viewers and critics.  But it’s also exactly what makes it so much better than its counterparts.  It doesn’t fit nicely into that mold.  Because of that and the acting and casting combined, it becomes a movie that is worth at least one watch whether alone or as a couple.

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Pawn Holds Its Own Against Other Crime Thrillers

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new crime thriller, Pawn is an interesting work.  For a movie that was filmed in roughly fifteen days, and helmed by a first time director—David A. Armstrong—it turned out to be not the standard crime thriller.  Rather, it’s a story that requires audiences to completely invest their attention on the story.  If viewers can do this, then they will find that despite some scripting issues, it still turns out to be a movie that is worth at least one watch.

One of the main positives to Pawn is that it wastes no time jumping right into the story.  The story is simple enough.  On one side, audiences get a crime thriller that’s front loaded with lots of crosses and double crosses; so many in fact that some viewers may need a program to follow exactly what’s going on.  In direct relation is the story of a young man who simply wants to turn around his life after having gotten out of jail only hours before the standoff at crime boss Yuri’s café.  The young man is used as a red herring for one specific aspect of the story.  Though, it becomes increasingly obvious that he is used in such role as the story advances.  Because of this one can’t help but cheer for him and hope that he gets out of the café alive and in one piece.

The writing behind Pawn forces viewers to fully engage and immerse themselves in its world.  It’s just one of the movie’s positives.  What can also be noted of the movie is that the acting on the part of both Chiklis and Common was expert once again.  This should come as no surprise, especially considering that Chiklis has quite the extensive resume when it comes to crime thrillers.  He worked for seven seasons on FX’s The Shield, not to mention an equally extensive stage resume, too.  And Common played the role of a crooked cop himself in the 2010 movie, Date Night.  What’s most interesting is hearing Chiklis pull off a British accent.  Typically American actors don’t have much success trying to pull off foreign accents.  But somehow, he pulled it off.  Though he did sound somewhat like Bob Hoskins as Smee in Hook.  And considering that Hoskins is a U.K. born actor, this is actually quite the compliment to Chiklis.

Next to the outstanding of the movie’s all-star cast, one can say of Pawn is its cinematography.  The angles and the fast paced shots help keep the suspense throughout the story.  Even in less action packed moments, the camera work does an impressive job of keeping viewers entirely engaged.  One such example comes late in the story when the unnamed “Man in the suit” (played by Ray Liotta) attempts to feel Amanda’s (Nikki Reed) baby bump after having spent quite an amount of time threatening her life and that of her husband and her unborn child.  The tension in the room is thanks in large part to the camera work.  The angle of the shot leaves viewers wondering what he’s about to do.  It’s just one of so many impressive shots achieved throughout this crime thriller.  And it’s just one of so many moments that make this a crime thriller that is worth at least one watch.

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