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Light the Fuse for Adventure with Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation Tom Cruise Critical Blast

The hunt is on for Ethan Hunt in the latest installment of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchise. With recent events in the IMF history, the CIA, headed up by Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), is keen to have the force defunded and folded into CIA operations. But Hunt (Tom Cruise) is now personally involved in unmasking the existence of an anti-IMF team calling itself The Syndicate. No one believes that this Syndicate exists, and when Hunt is callled in, he goes to ground, becoming the CIA's most wanted.

When Hunt is finally ready to make a move against the Syndicate leader (Sean Harris), he needs to call in favors from his friends, Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) -- all of whom live under constant and intense scrutiny by the CIA for any chance that they might betray Hunt's location.


So, Frosty The Snowman, Santa Claus, and Rudolph all walk into a box set. Have you heard this one?

Christmas Classics Rudolph Frosty Santa

Growing up, the holiday season was a time to look forward to for all of the obvious reasons.  Receiving gifts was a huge part of childhood, all the decorations, visiting Santa, and spending time with extended family was something to look forward to.  Another big thing were all of the holiday specials on television.  When I grew up, especially in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, you didn’t get but one chance to see these shows each year.  It might seem impossible to people even a little younger than me, but there was no DVR, and I didn’t have a VCR until 1983, so I had to check my TV GUIDE and get my arse in front of the television at the appropriate time.  If you missed your favorite there simply wasn’t a second chance!


Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas Adaptation of Adaptation -- But Winner with Kids

Elf Buddy Musical Christmas Jim Parsons Ed Asner Santa

If you've already seen Will Ferrell's ELF, then you will notice very quickly that ELF: BUDDY'S CHRISTMAS MUSICAL is the condensed version of the same story, squeezed into a lesser running time by eliminating extraneous characters like Bob Newhart's Papa Elf and merging other characters into single ones, as is the case with Mr. Greenway, who is the publisher but with the characteristics of Peter Dinklage's author character.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does make the grown-up viewer walking away feeling as though they were given less than expected.


HBO's The Leftovers Takes Time to Warm Up

HBO Leftovers Season One Critical Blast Dennis Russo

THE LEFTOVERS, an HBO series, is a complex story that takes place three years after an “event” happens where 120 million people -- 2% of the world’s population -- disappeared in an instant. It centers on the town of Mapleton, New York where 100 people disappeared and the local sheriff, Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), is trying to hold his family together while simultaneously trying to keep the peace and help people get on with their lives.

Some people said, and still say, that the event was the Rapture, while some say it isn’t that because not everyone was a good person that disappeared. Others still look to some sort of scientific physics-based explanation to the phenomenon.


Disney Pixar Delivers Understanding of Personality from the INSIDE OUT

Inside Out Disney Pixar Amy Poehler Critical Blast RJ Carter

I was going to say that INSIDE OUT is not your average cartoon. But then, what Disney*Pixar film ever is? Rather, then, INSIDE OUT is not your average movie, period. It's subject matter is funny, easy to relate to, and completely captivating from beginning to end. However, on an even deeper level, INSIDE OUT is a film worthy of study for a college psychology course.

The majority of the film takes place in the mind of a prepubescent girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), where we meet our main characters: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). These are the core emotions Riley has, and their interactions form her young personality. However, there's an imbalance; Riley believes that she must be happy all the time for the sake of her parents, therefore Joy takes charge, and pushes Sadness to the fringe. After all, what good does Sadness bring? Who wants to feel that emotion?


You'll Be Glad You Had This Time Together with Carol Burnett's Lost Episodes

Carol Burnett Lost Episodes Classic Television

One of the staples of my childhood television schedule was THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW. I was often too young to get some of the humor, and I'd sometimes watch the dance numbers and wonder what was supposed to be funny about them (because I expected the entire thing was meant to be comedy, not variety). But even so, it was something I watched as often as I could catch it.

Now grown (and with a greater appreciation of the arts), I can catch it whenever I wish, thanks to the sorcery of digital video discs. And while the entire series has yet to see any sort of collection, TIME LIFE has put together quite a few mini-collections, including this one: THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW: THE LOST EPISODES -- so called because they come from the first five seasons, and are episodes that had very few -- if any -- reruns.


Look Out Gotham: Here Comes Batkid!

Batkid Begins Batman Make-A-Wish Foundation San Francisco

BATKID BEGINS isn't an overly lengthy documentary. However, it did take me several atempts to watch it. I blame a manufacturer's defect in the disc, that caused the image to go blurry after five minutes or so of watching it (and which somehow made everything else I looked at blurry as well until I wiped my eyes).

Okay, I admit it -- I'm turning into a lachrymose old softie in my old age. Part of it has to do that I have a young boy of my own now, and when I see stories like this it's easier to put myself into their roles.

The story centers on young Miles, a little boy diagnosed with leukemia. During his treatment, he ends up qualifying for the Make-A-Wish program, and his wish is to be the real Batman. Superhero wishes are things that Make-A-Wish has worked out in the past, but this time they decided to think big -- and transform San Francisco into Gotham City for a day.


Fifty Years Later, My Favorite Martian Still Out of This World!

Favorite Martian Ray Walston Bill Bixby MPI DVD Critical Blast

Never mind Matt Damon. The Martian at the top of my list will always be Exigius 12 and a half -- but every else just calls him Uncle Martin.

With his lengthy and historical life span, his pithy wisdom of the ages, and his technology that was so advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic (HT: Arthur C. Clarke), MY FAVORITE MARTIAN was a trendsetting show. While it only lasted three seasons, it predated both BEWITCHED and I DREAM OF JEANNIE -- shows with similar constructs, similar effects, and featuring producers and directors whose names also conveniently appear from time to time in the credits of MY FAVORITE MARTIAN. (In the third season, Martin's "levitating finger" is put out of commission, so he decides to try using his nose -- something he says he saw on one of our American television shows.)


THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE Comes to Blu-ray and You Need to Own It!

In the past few weeks Paramount announced they were developing a remake of the THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.  Say what you want about all of the remakes cinema churns out these days, most of them are pale copies of the originals.  Occasionally, though, you get a film that’s of comparable quality or even superior to the original.  I don’t know what the future holds for the VALANCE remake, but I’ll tell you, if the producers make a film that even approaches the original, well, look out, there’s a spectacular film in the offing.


Mysteries, Mispronunciations and Misadventures: The Mike Tyson Mysteries

Mike Tyson Mysteries Cartoon Network Adult Swim Critical Blast

Cartoon Network's Adult Swim knows how to blend nostalgia with cutting edge (some might even say 'inappropriate' humor). With MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES, the team has successfully mixed the opening of JONNY QUEST with the framework of SCOOBY-DOO (although I lean more toward THE FUNKY PHANTOM). And bringing the actual Mike Tyson in to voice himself was just icing on the cake. Mike Tyson: Voice Actor. There's a job description nobody saw coming.


Few Faults with San Andreas

San Andreas Blu-Ray Dennis Russo Critical Blast Dwayne Johnson

SAN ANDREAS on Blu-ray and DVD is a non-stop action movie that takes place basically in San Francisco and areas along the…you guessed it, San Andreas Fault line.

There is not a lot of back story here, as the movie starts with tremors happening within the first couple of minutes. Then the basics of the story are revealed through a college classroom dissertation on seismic activity by Caltech Seismologist Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti), talking about the biggest earthquakes in history, and that it is more important than ever to be able to predict where they will happen to save lives. A young associate of the professor figures out how the tremor felt at the beginning of the movie could possibly predict a larger one by using the model they developed, and while testing it at Hoover Dam…well, I don't want to spoil things, but I bet you can guess what happens next.


The Peanuts Gang Hits Europe in Feature-Length Animated DVD

Bon Voyage Charlie Brown DVD Charles Schulz Peanuts Snoopy Critical Blast

The Peanuts gang may not be the most intricately animated group of cartoon kids, but they're certainly enduring. Their somewhat sedate pacing and thoughtful observations have made them a mainstay of our Halloweens, Thanksgivings and Christmases for decades.

In 1980, the team of Bill Melendez and Phil Roman brought Charles Schulz's comic strip tykes to the big screen (although not for the first time) in a full length adventure, BON VOYAGE, CHARLIE BROWN (AND DON'T COME BACK). It's a tale that finds Charlie Brown, Linus, Peppermint Patty and Marcie (and, of course, Snoopy and Woodstock) traveling to France as part of a student exchange program. This comes just after Charlie Brown has received a mysterious letter from a French girl named Violette, inviting him to come stay at the Chateau Mal Voisin -- the Home of the Bad Neighbor.


What's Going On Gives "Taste" of Blues Rock at its Best

Taste What's Going On Live Isle Wight Eagle Rock Entertainment

Taste, founded and fronted by the legendary guitarist Rory Gallagher, was an Irish blues/rock band, and arguably one of the greatest power trios ever to hit the stage. I would easily put them up there with Cream, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Blue Cheer, Grand Funk Rail Road and The Jimi Hendrix Experience as the best ever; certainly, in my opinion, playing by far the best rock ever to come out of the Emerald Isle. Yes, I said ever –  e.v.e.r – ever, by anyone.

What made them so good to me was the sheer raw energy with which Rory Gallagher played the guitar. He could stand to-to-toe with any other great guitarist. Doubt me? His performance was so well-received at the show that when Jimi Hendrix was asked what it was liked to be the best guitar player in the world, he replied, “I don’t know, why don’t you go and ask Rory Gallagher." Need a better recommendation than that?


Oct 13th Brings My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Friendship Games

Prepare yourselves for the Friendship Games! The Mane 6, and their new friends, will participate in a long-standing competition between rival schools Canterlot High and Crystal Prep! And soon you can own this musical adventure to enjoy time and again!

Available nationwide on October 13th, 2015 in Blu-Ray and DVD format you'll be able to meet the brilliant cast and creators behind this magical film. Experience the journey as Twilight expresses her struggles to make friends at school, in a film about being yourself and building valuable friendships.


Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron Moves Almost Faster Than Quicksilver

Marvel Avengers Age of Ultron Blu-ray Digital Critical Blast

I'm probably the only person in the world who sat down to watch the Blu-ray release of MARVEL'S AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON who had, in fact, not seen the movie in theaters (or, indeed, at all). But I was excited! All that hype, all that action, all those heroes!

And it certainly delivered the spectacle. The dialogue was spot-on for the banter I would expect from this team, the visual effects were stunning, the choreographed fight scenes were amazing.


Eighth Season of The Big Bang Theory Distills Comedy onto High Definition Blu-ray Discs

Big Bang Theory Season 8 Blu-ray Critical Blast

In the annals of television comedy, some pairings are simply classic to the point of everlasting. I thus posit that the partnership of Leonard and Sheldon has already made that list (although Sheldon might point out that it would be more proper to call the team Cooper and Hofstadter, because traditionally comic pairings are known by their last names, the listing would be alphabetical, and -- most importantly -- it would list him first).

However, to simply reduce THE BIG BANG THEORY to nerdy roommates Leonard and Sheldon (Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons) would be grossly unfair, because the show's success is due to its ensemble nature. The science squad would be woefully incomplete without the acerbic man-child Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and innocently naive Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar).


THE FLASH Season One Races Onto Blu-Ray

The Flash Season One Blu-Ray Grant Gustin Tom Cavanagh CW

His name is Barry Allen. And he is the fastest man alive.

When CW's SMALLVILLE began to introduce additional DC Universe characters, the trend was to stay away from anything that looked like a costume if a hoodie could suffice, finally giving way to the traditional Superman costume in the final episode. When ARROW debuted, it was, to a degree, still the hoody look, with some leather armor and facepaint added. It seemed the super-suits were definitely a no-go area for the network. So when they announced THE FLASH was coming, I was wondering what the new outfit would look like. I was ecstatic to see that it looked very Silver Age -- and that Grant Gustin was able to pull the look of Barry Allen off without it appearing to be a convention cosplay (which I love, but not in a television show).


Pre-Batman GOTHAM an Engrossing Crime Drama with Mass Appeal

Gotham Season One Fox Batman James Gordon Bruce Wayne Ben McKenzie Critical Blast

There's an interesting, long-standing trope in comic books that posits a superhero creates his own villains; that before the arrival of the superhero, there were no super-threats to the city he calls home, and that they are attracted there solely because the hero exists there to fight them.

The theme of GOTHAM runs counter to that proposition, putting forth the story of the titular city at least a decade prior to the arrival of the Dark Knight who would make Gotham City a name known around the world. It's a grim place, where the forces of law and order and the forces of the criminal underworld aren't pitted against each other but rather are entangled so much as to be indistinguishable one from the other.


The Road for the Brothers Winchester remains compelling in Season Ten!

Supernatural Season 10 Winchester Brothers Critical Blast CW

I've been a fan of SUPERNATURAL for a very long time. I still remember when I first watched the show. My future wife, Patti, and I were in the midst of a cross country journey, and we stopped in Missouri for a couple days to visit my close friend Daron. He got us hooked by watching several episodes of the fledgling show's first season DVD. We picked up our own copy of the season as the journey took us to states further on down the road, and a love for the series was built traveling much the way Sam and Dean Winchester do in the series.


THE WIRE on Blu-ray Makes for Compelling, Depressing Binge-Watching

The Wire Complete Series Blu-ray HBO Critical Blast

HBO's police procedural, THE WIRE, is a wholly engrossing departure from the norm. There are no mysteries to be solved here -- the viewer is let in on the criminal activities as well as the police activities, so the 'whodunnit' aspect isn't there.


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