The Walking Dead Is At Its Best In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

AMC’s The Walking Dead was little more than a cult favorite when it first *ahem* came to life back in 2010. Now four seasons later the comic book-based series has become more of a cultural phenomenon than just the shot in the dark that it started as four years ago. Fans are waiting rabidly for the premiere of the series’ fifth season next month. Those fans still have a little time to wait. And while they do, they can finally get caught back up thanks to the release of The Walking Dead Season 4 last Tuesday, August 26th. Audiences’ familiarity aside, audiences will all agree that one of the key factors to the enjoyment of Season 4 is the show’s writing. The series’ writers answered in this season one of the biggest questions and concerns that had been posed by audiences from early on. In doing so, they also advanced the story and made it even more gripping.   It’s just one part of what makes the writing this season such a solid sticking point for the overall presentation. Also making this season work is the acting on the part of the cast. The cast, having expanded even more from the series’ first three seasons, has offered more chances for the writers to present the show’s real heart. And now that Season 4 has been released via multiple formats, one cannot ignore the inclusion of a bevy of bonus features. These additions aren’t just the standard gag reel, “Making of” featurette and deleted scenes. There is much more here that rounds out the entire set.   The rich depth of bonus material included in Season 4 set alongside the cast’s acting and the writing behind each episode shows exactly why this show is more than just another zombie-based series. It is a human drama. Considering that, Season 4 becomes full proof of why every fan of the drama genre should allow at least one chance.

When The Walking Dead first premiered four years ago, it was considered largely a cult hit. That’s because the comic book-based series focused on the attempt by the living to survive a zombie apocalypse of sorts. Since then, the show’s popularity seems to have skyrocketed. Why it has skyrocketed was anyone’s guess at first glance. However, the reason for the series’ success is more evident than ever with the release of the series’ fourth season in its various home formats. The primary reason in question for the series’ popularity lies in its writing. Audiences finally get one of the series’ most important questions and concerns at least somewhat answered this season. The noted question and concern center on how the zombie outbreak began in the first place. While the answer given doesn’t necessarily make things 100% clear, it does open up a whole new door that is certain to make the series even more interesting when its fifth season kicks off next month. That semi-answer also leads to another important aspect of this season’s writing. It leads to the series’ more human element. As the outbreak continues, it forces the survivors of the outbreak to face some very difficult situations both within their confined setting and in the grand scheme of things. To see the survivors have to face the growing emotional challenges before them will keep even the newest of viewers engaged throughout each episode. That element of human drama is really what makes this series work even now in its fourth season. Those viewers that have watched the series from day one will agree with that just as much as those that are just now jumping on. Sure, there’s the whole zombie/horror aspect on the surface. But the show’s writers keep the human drama just as much in the forefront. And it is that aspect of the writing more so than anything that keeps the series fresh even now through its fourth season. It also ties in to another aspect of what makes Season 4 work—the acting on the part of the cast.

The multifaceted writing that is used throughout the fourth season of The Walking Dead makes it surprisingly watchable even by those less familiar with the series. Also making The Walking Dead so surprisingly watchable now in its fourth season is the acting on the part of the cast, which has now expanded even more. The psychological impact of Carol (Melissa McBride) having to tell two of the girls that their father had been infected and was turning is a prime example of how the acting makes this season so powerful. It would have been so easy for the girls to ham it up as they were forced to confront the unspeakable act of having to kill their own father just to protect themselves and everyone else. But they took the moment and really went with it. They made simply watching the moment in question painful. And the coldness on The Governor’s face when he shoots Meghan late in the season will leave viewers torn emotionally. As difficult as it is to watch, one can’t help but feel at least somewhat sorry for him having to take that measure. Audiences that haven’t yet seen any part of Season 4 will understand in watching this season’s episodes. But it is acting such as that that makes this season all the more gripping. These are just a couple examples of how the acting on the part of the show’s cast makes this season perhaps one of the series’ best so far if not the best so far. Audiences will find plenty of other instances in which the cast’s work makes this season work when they purchase Season 4 for themselves.

The writing and acting that make up the fourth season of The Walking Dead are both of equal importance to the overall success and enjoyment of this newly released full season box set. Whether they are familiar with this season or seeing it for the first time, audiences will agree that both factors make this season one definitely worth watching. Now that it has been released via various formats in its home release, there is one more factor worth noting that makes Season Four worth the watch. That final factor is the inclusion of the set’s bonus material. Season Four doesn’t come with the standard gag reel, deleted scenes, etc. Rather, audiences are offered a vast array of bonuses. Most of the episodes this season receive their own behind-the-scenes featurette. There are also a number of commentaries included throughout the season. There is also a character profile on The Governor, and a look at “Society, Science and Survival” among so many other extras included with this season. There are in fact so many bonuses that in order to watch them all would add likely another whole day of viewing for fans as they count down to the premiere of this now hit series’ fifth season. And fans will agree in watching these bonuses that that is definitely a good thing (to use a familiar line).

The bonus material added in to Anchor Bay Entertainment’s newly released The Walking Dead Season 4 box sets more than live up to their collective title. And together with this season’s acting and writing, audiences will agree fully that The Walking Dead Season 4 proves to be an installment that fans familiar and not so familiar with this series will appreciate. It is available now in stores and online in a number of formats. It can be ordered direct from Anchor Bay Entertainment’s website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?projectID=bed5b3a5-06a3-e311-b062-d4ae527c3b65. More information on this and other releases is available online now at http://www.anchorbayent.com, http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay. Walking Dead fans can keep up with the latest news on the show online at http://www.facebook.com/TheWalkingDeadAMC, http://www.amc.com/shows/the-walking-dead, and http://twitter.com/WalkingDead_AMC. 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 keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN To Release New 30 For 30 Anniversary Collection This Fall

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN will release a very special box set for fans of its hit 30 for 30 series this fall.

ESPN announced this week that it will release a very special collection of films from its hit 30 for 30 series on Tuesday, November 25th. The box set celebrates the fifth anniversary of the series’ first broadcast and is loaded with plenty of positives for fans of both ESPN and 30 for 30.  It features a total of one hundred films spread across thirty-two discs.  Online retailer Groupon will make the collection available in a specially packaged metal locker box.  It also includes a 30 for 30 shirt, hat, and limited edition book and poster.  The specially packaged metal locker edition of the 30 for 30 Fifth Anniversary Collection will be available online via Groupon beginning Saturday, November 1st for SRP of $249.99.  The collection will also be available on Blu-ray beginning Tuesday, November 25th for SRP of $199.95.  the Blu-ray set will be featured in a special 30 for 30 ticket box.

The films included in the upcoming 30 for 30 Fifth Anniversary Collection include films not only from its primary 30 for 30 series, but also from its 30 for 30 Soccer Stories and Nine for IX series.

The films included in the “30 for 30 Fifth Anniversary Collection” are:

 

30 for 30 

  1. Kings Ransom
  2. The Band That Wouldn’t Die
  3. Small Potatoes: Who Killed The USFL?
  4. Muhammad & Larry
  5. Without Bias
  6. The Legend of Jimmy The Greek
  7. The U
  8. Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs The New York Knicks
  9. Guru of Go
  10. No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson
  11. Silly Little Game
  12. Run Ricky Run
  13. The 16th Man
  14. Straight Outta LA
  15. June 17th 1994
  16. The Two Escobars
  17. The Birth of Big Air
  18. Jordan Rides The Bus
  19. Little Big Men
  20. One Night in Vegas
  21. Unmatched
  22. The House of Steinbrenner
  23. Into The Wind
  24. Four Days in October
  25. Once Brothers
 

  1. Tim Richmond: To The Limit
  2. Fernando Nation
  3. Marion Jones: Press Pause
  4. The Best That Never Was
  5. Pony Excess
  6. Broke
  7. 9.79*
  8. There’s No Place Like Home
  9. Benji
  10. Ghosts of Ole Miss
  11. You Don’t Know Bo
  12. Survive and Advance
  13. Elway to Marino
  14. Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau
  15. Free Spirits
  16. No Más
  17. Big Shot
  18. This Is What They Want
  19. Bernie and Ernie
  20. The Book of Manning
  21. Youngstown Boys
  22. The Price of Gold
  23. Requiem for the Big East
  24. Bad Boys
  25. Slaying the Badger

 

 ESPN Films
 

  1. Fab Five
  2. Catching Hell
  3. Renée
  4. The Dotted Line
  5. The Real Rocky
  6. Charismatic
  7. Unguarded
  8. Roll Tide/War Eagle
  9. The Marinovich Project
  10. The Announcement
  11. The Streak
 30 for 30 Soccer Stories
  1. Hillsborough
  2. White Blue and White
  3. The Opposition
  4. Maradona ‘86
  5. Ceasefire Massacre
  6. The Myth of Garrincha
  7. Mysteries of The Rimet Trophy
  8. Barbosa: The Man Who Made Brazil Cry
 Nine for IX
  1. Venus VS
  2. Pat XO
  3. Let Them Wear Towels
  4. No Limits
  5. Swoopes
  6. The Diplomat
  7. Runner
  8. The 99ers
  9. Branded
  10. Coach (Nine for IX Short)
 SEC Storied
  1. Abby Head On
  2. Herschel
 30 for 30 Shorts
  1. Here Now
  2. Jake
  3. Arnold’s Blueprint
  4. Holy Grail
  5. The Irrelevant Giant
  6. Cutthroat
  7. Tommy and Frank
  8. Wilt Chamberlain: Borscht Belt Bellhop
  9. Arthur & Johnnie
  10. Collision Course
  11. Schedule Makers
  12. Great Imposter
  13. Judging Jewell
  14. The Deal
  15. Posterized
  16. Think Normal
  17. Ronda Rousey
  18. Mecca
  19. High Five

More information on this upcoming release and all of the news on the latest additions to ESPN’s 30 for 30 series is available online at http://www.facebook.com/espn30for30 and http://www.espn.com30for30.  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 http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

PBS To Release New Al Capone Documentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS Distribution will release a brand new documentary entered on one of the most infamous criminal figures in American history this fall.

Al Capone: Icon will be released Tuesday, September 30th. The program examines Capone, his life, and why Americans remain so captivated by him to this day. It does so by examining his rise and fall from his early days in New York’s gangs to his days as one of the biggest crime bosses in America to his eventual downfall following the events of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. He is analyzed both in terms of how the public viewed him and how he was viewed by others in the country’s various criminal circles.

Capone was a polarizing figure both in his own life and in today’s America. Through this program, audiences will see his impact on the world of organized crime as well as on law enforcement. Audiences will also see how his legend has kept him such a big name in the world of pop culture and in everyday life in Chicago.

Al Capone: Icon will be available Tuesday, September 30th on DVD. It will retail for SRP of $24.99. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=43506236&cp=&kw=al+capone+icon&origkw=Al+Capone+Icon&sr=1. More information on this and other PBS programs is available online at http://www.facebook.com/pbs and http://www.pbs.org. 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 http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Lights! Camera! Menace! Is Another Must Have For Any Classic Cartoon Fan

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Dennis The Menace is one of the most beloved icons in the history of American pop culture.  What started out as a comic strip crafted by Hank Ketcham in March of 1951 went from there to become what is today a cultural phenomenon.  That comic strip spawned a live action series starring Jay North, which ran for nearly four years from October 1959 to July 1963.  It would later go on to spawn an animated series that while it ran only two seasons, remains one a favorite among audiences of all ages even today.  Earlier this year, Mill Creek Entertainment finally rewarded the patience of that series’ fans with the first half of the series’ first season on DVD.  The multi-disc set’s release marked the first time ever that the series had received a proper release.  And it proved to be a box set well worth the wait, too.  The same can be said of the new box set Lights! Camera! Menace!  Lights! Camera! Menace! is essentially Dennis The Menace Volume 2.  Why Mill Creek chose to give it a different title is anyone’s guess. Regardless, anyone that grew up with this standout cartoon series will appreciate and enjoy this latest collection of episodes just as much as its predecessor. The primary reason for that is that this set properly finishes off the series’ first season, despite what its title might lead one to think. Also, the continued family friendly writing makes this one of those rare gems that families can and should watch together. And last but not least is the series’ original hand-drawn animation. In an age when anime and CG-based children’s shows dominate the airwaves, this original true animation style serves as a reminder of the value of such animation. All three factors are important in their own right. Together, they make Lights! Camera! Menace! another must-have collection for any kid and kid at heart. They also collectively make this set another valid contender for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets for children and families.

Typically, the most obvious starting point for examination of any box set would be the episodes’ scripts (I.E. the writing).  However, being that this box set and its predecessor mark the first time that this installment of the Dennis The Menace franchise has ever been released, the smarter starting point is the set’s episode listing.  Audiences will note that Lights! Camera! Menace! finishes off the first season of this classic kids’ cartoon series.  Every episode from the second half of Season One is here. The episodes are for the most part presented in the same order as they were presented in their original broadcasts.  There are some slight variances in the episode listing.  But those variances are so few that they can easily be brushed aside, making even more valuable the fact that every one of the episodes from the second half of Season One is present here.  Again, knowing this, it is anyone’s guess why this box set wasn’t simply titled Dennis The Menace Volume 2.  That’s anyone’s guess.  Regardless, the fact that it is the first time that these episodes have received a proper release and that they have all been included is the central point of this set’s success.  And it’s a solid central point at that.

That Lights! Camera! Menace! fully finishes off the first season of Dennis The Menace is a solid starting point for the newly released triple-disc box set.  Rising from that solid foundation is the writing incorporated into each of the scripts.  Dennis more than lives up to his moniker in the episodes included in this compilation.  He gets both Mr. Wilson and his own dad arrested in the set’s opening short “Sounds of the Night.”  They get arrested after being suspected of being a couple of robbers.  Of course Mr. Wilson’s argument that it was Dennis’ fault doesn’t help at all.  When Dennis’ dog Ruff accidentally runs amok on one of Mr. Wilson’s paintings, a famed art critic sees the painting and mistakes Mr. Wilson’s work for the work of someone else.  Of course, Mr. Wilson can’t convince the critic in question that the painting was his. That leads to plenty of laughs. He creates plenty of laughs as he causes trouble for Mr. Wilson and others throughout these episodes. There are also just as many laughs as he goes on various adventures with his friends and even gets them into some tight situations that ultimately come out alright, too. Whether it be his troublemaking ways with Mr. Wilson, his wildly fun adventures with his friends or even stopping spies (yes, he even stops a bad guy or two in this volume), Dennis’ adventures in Lights! Camera! Menace! will take the show’s original audiences back on a wonderful trip down memory lane. They will also show today’s young audiences what real cartoons are all about.

The fact that the episodes culled for Lights! Camera! Menace! completely finish off the first season of the classic series is a solid base for this collection. It’s great to see that the first season was finished off in full instead of just having this collection be a compilation of random episodes. Its title is a wholly different issue in itself. The writing that went into each of the episodes presented here makes this collection all the more enjoyable for viewers. The writing proves that it is possible to write good, solid cartoons without relying on crass humor. It proves that among all of the teeny-bopper and tweeny-bopper live action series out there on the networks of Nickelodeon and Disney, true worthwhile children’s programming such as Dennis The Menace still has a very relevant place in today’s television spectrum. It’s still just as entertaining today as it was in its original broadcast. The last factor that makes Lights! Camera! Menace! so enjoyable is its animation. The animation style used in this series was entirely done by hand. Just as the episodes’ writing proved to be fully original, so does that hand-drawn animation style. The only shows that came close to Dennis The Menace at the time were perhaps Heathcliff and The Real Ghostbusters.   Even as close as those shows might have been to Dennis The Menace in their animation, there were obvious stylistic differences between them, too. The key difference was the sharpness of detail. This series didn’t have that certain definition of the art in the other noted series. It was more raw for lack of better wording. A side-by-side comparison of the shows makes this much clearer. And in seeing that difference, as subtle as it is, audiences will see once more just why these classic episodes are so valuable. If audiences don’t appreciate the episodes’ writing or the fact that Mill Creek paid true tribute to the series by finishing off Season One in full, then this is sure to generate a certain appreciation for the series and the set among audiences.

Lights! Camera! Menace! is a wonderful presentation for audiences of all ages, as one should be able to tell by now. The episodes are literally family friendly in every sense. That’s thanks to solid writing that boasts so much heart. The full complement of Season One’s second half episodes makes the set even better. And the use of real hand-drawn animation finishes off this set. All three factors by themselves are important to the set’s success. Together, they make Lights! Camera! Menace! another impressive release from Mill Creek Entertainment, the packaging aside. They combine to make this set a valid contender at least for this critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets for children and family. Lights! Camera! Menace! is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Mill Creek Entertainment online at http://www.millcreekdirect.com/dennis-the-menace-lights-camera-menace-32-episodes.html. More information on this and other releases from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at http://www.millcreekent.com, http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt, and http://twitter.com/millcreekent. 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 in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Shout! Factory Resurrecting Sgt. Bilko And The Phil Silvers Show

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

The classic comedy series Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show will finally see the light of day on DVD this fall.

Shout! Factory will release the series in a full twenty-disc collection DVD box set on Tuesday, November 4th. The series, which was created by Nat Hiken, features a hilarious cast including: Harvey Lembeck, Allan Melvin, Joe E. Ross, and Paul Ford. It also featured some of the biggest names in television and movies as guest stars. That stars include the likes of: Dick Van Dyke, Alan Alda, Dean Martin and Lucille Ball.

The comedy served up by Silvers, his cast mates and guest stars is just the tip of the iceberg in the enjoyment of this upcoming release from Shout! Factory. The box also boasts a bevy of bonus material including the show’s original opening from its broadcast days, various audio commentaries, and even a bonus episode of The Lucy Show among much more. The complete list of bonus materials included on Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show is noted below.

Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show – The Complete Series Bonus Features:

  • Lost Audition Show
  • Original Network Opening
  • Original Cast Commercials
  • Photo Gallery
  • Audio commentaries with Allan Melvin, George Kennedy, Mickey Freeman, Larry Storch and Dick Van Dyke
  • “Lucy and the Efficiency Expert” (from The Lucy Show season 5)
  • Allan Melvin (Cpl. Henshaw) Episode Introductions
  • Promo for The New Phil Silvers Show
  • “Harry, the Good Neighbor” from The New Phil Silvers Show
  • Interviews with Phil Silvers (includes rare interview from The Paul Ryan Show)
  • Phil Silvers and Jack Benny on The Dick Cavett Show
  • Footage from the 1959 TV Special Keep In Step
  • The Cast of Phil Silvers On Broadway
  • New interviews with daughters Cathy, Tracey and Nancey Silvers

 

Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show will be available in stores and online Tuesday, November 4th. It can be pre-ordered now via the Shout! Factory online store at https://sneakpeek.shoutfactory.com/tv/comedy/sgt-bilko-the-phil-silvers-show-the-complete-series. Audiences that pre-order the box set now will get free shipping and will have their copy shipped out on October 7th, a full four weeks before the box set hits store shelves. More information on this and other titles available 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 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 http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Transformers Cybertron Offers Entertainment For Fans Of All Ages

Courtesy:  Hasbro Studios/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Hasbro Studios/Shout! Factory

When it debuted earlier this summer the Michael Bay directed Transformers: Age of Extinction was met, as expected with rather mixed reviews.  And as audiences will note, it apparently didn’t last very long in theaters, either.  While it didn’t last very long, Shout! Factory has made up for the failure of that film by releasing earlier this month Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series.  There is plenty to say of why this box set will last far longer than its big screen counterpart.  The primary reason for the success of this “series” is its writing.  While it is its own series, it is actually just one part of larger story.  Another reason that many audiences will appreciate this latest installment of the beloved Transformers franchise is its mix of hand drawn anime style animation and CG elements.  And lastly, the packaging of the discs rounds out the whole thing.  It is even more proof of why Shout! Factory remains not only the leader in classic and modern classic series, but in home releases overall.

The central point of success behind Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series is its writing.  Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series is the final installment of a three-part series that started with Transformers Armada and continued with Transformers EnergonCybertron picks up right where Energon left off.  In this installment of the Unicron trilogy, the Autobots are trying to close a black hole created due to Megatron interfering with Cybertron’s new Energon sun.  The only way to close the black hole is to get a group of “Cyber Planet Keys” that will close it.  Along the way, the Autobots have to face off against their old foes the Decepticons time and again.  This aspect of the series will bring in even the oldest of fans that perhaps are more familiar with the Transformers than their younger counterparts.  Younger fans of this long-running franchise will be impressed as this latest installment incorporates certain elements of today’s hit anime series into its writing.  One of those elements is the use of “cyber keys” to “power up” the Autobots and Decepticons.  This is very similar to the way that characters in Pokemon, Yu-Gi­-Oh, Digimon and others of their ilk use their own special power ups for their characters.  The very fact that the Autobots and Decepticons are searching for very specific hidden objects is much in line with other current anime programs, too.  Given in the original Transformers animated series, the Autobots and Decepticons were searching for Energon cubes on Earth.  But the “Cyber Planet Keys” are more specific, almost legendary type of objects much like those hunted in those other anime series.  So again, the use of this element will certainly bring in today’s younger audiences.  With any luck, bringing in younger audiences will also get those same audiences interested in the original Transformers series that remains the gold standard for what is one of Hasbro’s most well-known properties.

Audiences of all ages will appreciate the writing behind Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series.  The writing incorporates elements of the franchise’s original series and those of more current anime favorites into one series that can in turn perhaps bring the whole family together.  Just as important to note of this installment in the Transformers franchise is its “animation.”  Just as it incorporates the writing elements of current anime series, so does it also incorporate the “animation” elements of today’s hit anime series.  Again, the similarities to the likes of Pokemon, Digimon, and even Yu-Gi-Oh are quiet clear.  There’s even a similarity to the likes of Monsuno to a lesser degree.  That’s because that series and the others use both hand drawn anime and CG-based creations together, too.  While the use of such animation techniques will not grab everybody, it is sure to pull in audiences that are fans of those animation techniques.  And then having pulled in the fans of those techniques, hopefully those same fans will become even more interested in the original Transformers franchise through the inclusion once more of the Autobots and Decepticons, even if some of the characters have changed.  Yet again, audiences see just why Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series will be far more welcomed by audiences than Michael Bay’s recent big screen adaptations of the Transformers.

The animation techniques used throughout Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series and the writing that combines both the original Transformers series with its more recent incarnations are both important in their own right to the overall success of this box set.  There is one more aspect of the set overall that is worth noting when considering what will make audiences appreciate this set.  That last aspect is the set’s packaging.  For the longest time, Shout! Factory has proven to be the leader in multi-disc home releases not just for the content of their releases but also for their packaging.  The packaging of their sets has maintained a certain bar that has been the model to which so many other companies aspire to achieve.  Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series is no different.  The series is spread across seven discs.  Each of those discs is placed on its own spindle on either side of a group of “plates.”  One disc is placed at the top of said plate on one side, while the other disc is placed at the bottom of that same plate on the other side of that plate.  The set’s seventh disc is placed on the inside back of the box’s case on its own spindle, too.  This method of packaging multi-disc sets saves the discs from one another and it saves space on DVD racks.  It’s too bad that some other companies out there still don’t strive to achieve this model.  It only serves to exemplify once more why Shout! Factory is the leader in home releases.

The packaging used for Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series is a model to which every home entertainment company should aspire to achieve.  That model set alongside the animation techniques used in this series and the series’ writing make this box set even more enjoyable for those that are fans of both anime and the Transformers.  The three factors together make this a box set that as one can tell, so many audiences will appreciate and enjoy. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/transformers-cybertron-complete-series-0. More information on this and other 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 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 http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Kids Will Love Going Back To School With Arthur

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

PBS Kids recently released its latest collection of episodes from the family favorite animated series Arthur. Arthur Goes Back To School is an especially fitting addition to any family’s home DVD library now that many children are themselves headed back to school this week. Arthur Goes Back To School boasts plenty of positives. The first of those positives is its writing. The writing behind each of the four episodes is the cornerstone of the overall presentation. The quality animation is another factor to consider in the overall enjoyment of this presentation. Last but not least of all is the bonus material included with this collection of episodes. Each of the factors noted here stand by themselves with their own importance. Altogether, they make Arthur Goes Back To School one more wonderful addition to any family’s home DVD library whether at the start of the school year or any other time of the year.

The writing that went into each of the four episodes featured in Arthur Goes Back To School is the cornerstone of the DVD’s overall presentation. There are many reasons that this sole factor is the cornerstone to this DVD, too.   The primary reason for that is the themes incorporated into each of the episodes. “To Eat Or Not To Eat,” the first of the DVD’s episodes, presents a theme of healthy eating. When a new candy bar catches the attention of all the kids in Elwood City, Buster becomes wary of the candy bar because of its effects. His investigation leads him all the way to the head of the company responsible for making the candy bar. That is because of the chemicals he finds in the candy bar. When he and his mother confront the company’s head representative, Buster’s mother breaks the story in the city’s newspaper. This effectively shuts down the company. In an age when childhood obesity remains such a hot button topic, such an episode becomes increasingly important for children and their parents to watch together. That’s because it could serve as a starting point for a very important discussion about healthy eating. It’s just one of the important themes included in Arthur Goes Back To School.

Being that so many youths are headed back to school this week, the show’s writers tackle the stresses of standardized testing in a way to which the show’s young audiences will be able to relate in “S.W.E.A.T.” The writers also take on the much maligned subject of math education in “Brain’s Biggest Blunder.” Brain has a big chore in getting Binky ready for the school’s annual “Arithmattack” competition in this episode. The writers make the episode relatable to young viewers by showing that math isn’t as bad as they think here. There’s even a nice stand-alone episode in “Baseball Blues” that has come along just in time for the countdown to the MLB postseason. Not only does it promote baseball and athletics, it also teaches young viewers that everybody has a special talent. Even if someone isn’t good at one thing doesn’t mean that a person isn’t good at something else.

On a superficial level, Arthur’s writers are to be commended for crafting four episodes to which young viewers will definitely be able to relate given that so many children are now headed back to school this week. On another, deeper level, anyone familiar with Arthur will appreciate that the writers have actually maintained a certain amount of continuity with the inclusion of Harry Mills in “Baseball Blues.” Harry is a former romantic interest of Buster’s mom, as Buster’s parents are divorced. There’s even a reference to the initial episode in which Harry was introduced here. It’s so subtle. But older audiences will potentially catch this. And those that do catch it will appreciate that inclusion.

The writing that went into each of the episodes on this DVD is the most important factor of all in the overall presentation of Arthur Goes Back To School. Whether it be for its more superficial aspect or the deeper issue of continuity, it should be clear by now why the writing in these episodes is the cornerstone of the entire presentation. Just as important to the DVD’s overall presentation is the animation used in each of the episodes. The episodes included on this disc have been pulled from Arthur’s more recent seasons. That means that the animation used in each episode is actually flash animation instead of the hand-drawn animation used in the series’ early seasons. Despite the use of flash animation, the episodes still maintain the look of the original fully hand-drawn episodes. There are those that have complained about the series’ increased use of flash animation. The reality though, is that it would have been just as easy for the show’s heads to go the full-on CG route. This critic personally is thankful that that didn’t happen. Audiences should be thankful that these episodes still have that classic look. That the show’s animators and heads would go this direction couples with the solid writing to make Arthur Goes Back To School all the more enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

The writing and animation that went into the episodes included in Arthur Goes Back To School. Are both important elements to the overall presentation on this DVD. The activities and coloring pages included with the DVD round out the whole thing. One of the key activities included on the DVD is the “Definition of Cool” activity. This activity is directly related to the stand-alone episode “Baseball Blues.” Adults can use this activity to build self-esteem among young viewers. They do so by having children come up with a list of talents and attributes that they think are “cool.” After they come up with their lists, children can talk about why they think that the attributes and talents of other children in a group are cool, instead of their own. It is a wonderful activity for children especially with the current climate of bullying in schools today. The standard “Crazy Bus” activity is included here, as on previous Arthur DVDs as are the trading card and “Groove It” activities. If these activities aren’t enough for viewers, the coloring pages featuring Arthur and his friends will also make audiences happy. Whether audiences prefer the included coloring pages or the activities on this DVD, there is plenty of bonus material included on the disc to make any viewer happy here.

The bonus material included on Arthur Goes Back To School is the final touch to a DVD that every family will appreciate both now in the start of a new school year and any time of the year. Together with the writing and animation featured in all four episodes included on this disc, it makes this DVD a solid choice for any fan of Arthur whether they be kids or kids at heart. Arthur Goes Back To School is available now on DVD. It can be ordered directly from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=41615676&cp=&sr=1&kw=arthur+goes+back+to+school&origkw=Arthur+Goes+Back+to+School&parentPage=search. More information on Arthur is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSARthur. More episodes of Arthur are available online at http://www.pbskids.com/arthur along with more activities and games for the whole family. 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 http://philspicks.wordpress.com.