Shout! Factory’s Latest MST3K Box Set Even More Fun For Movie Buffs

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory has done it again. The company that has brought audiences of all ages so many great classic TV series and movies has released yet another hit in Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXIX. The cult favorite TV series continues to show in its latest four-disc box set, why it remains such a beloved series even today. It shows this first through the skits that accompany the movies chosen to fill out this set. The movies in question are another reason that audiences will appreciate this latest collection of episodes. And the bonus material included in the set rounds out the set, making it complete. There is much more that could be discussed as to what makes this box set so great. The jokes and pop culture references made throughout each movie evidence this. Those jokes and references combine with the bonus features, selected movies, and skits to make Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXIX one of the potentially best box sets of the year.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXIX is potentially one of the best new box sets of 2014. One of the reasons for this label is the skits included in each of the set’s four episodes. Audiences get to see Mike and his robot pals deal with Pearl as she unsuccessfully tries to host her own ball as part of The Pumaman. And both Pearl and Mike have to deal with a trio of “superbeings” that think Pearl and Mike to be “as amoebas” to them in the skit accompanying The Thing That Wouldn’t Die. Joel has to deal with his boss at the Gizmonic Institute in Untamed Youth and Hercules and the Captive Women. The skits themselves are so cheesy. Much the same can be said of the acting on the part of all involved. And that it’s meant to be so cheesy makes it all so much more entertaining. Long-time fans of this cult favorite series will find themselves laughing hysterically at each skit as if it was the first time that they had seen them. Those that might be seeing the skits in each episode will find themselves laughing just as hard after scratching their heads in totally confused yet entertained disbelief.

The skits used to introduce each film in this set are worth more than their share of riotous laughter. One can’t help but wonder where the writers—who also served as the show’s cast—came up with the ideas for them. One can’t help but compare the skits to really bad drug trips. Regardless, they are hilarious. Just as hilarious as the skits, are the movies chosen for each episode. This box set includes Hercules and the Captive Women, Untamed Youth, The Thing That Wouldn’t Die, and The Pumaman. The Pumaman is easily the most entertaining the movies included in this set. It presents a professor named Tony Farms, played by Walter G. Alton, Jr., who starts out just an ordinary scientist and becomes The Pumaman after being located by the descendant of an ancient alien race named Vadinho. Vadinho gives Professor Farms a belt that turns him into the superhero Pumaman. Given, the movie was crafted and released in 1980. But even for the day, the movie’s production values and writing were horrendous. Thus it earned the distinction of being added to MST3K’s schedule. Alton notes in the movie’s bonus interview that he was genuinely not happy with the biting commentary on the movie on the part of Mike and his robot pals. But there’s no denying that as serious as the cast and crew took themselves in making the movie, the end result was anything but a movie that could have been taken seriously.

The movies included in MST3K Volume XXIX are just as important as those included in the series’ previously released box sets not just for their entertainment value, but for their historical value, too.   Those audiences that are more interested in the history of the movie industry will appreciate seeing one more example in this set, of how far the movie industry has come since its earliest days. It’s astonishing to see just how much things have changed since the days of these movies. It’s just as interesting to note how little has changed in that time, too. For that reason, this latest volume of MST3K is made even more enjoyable for audiences.

The skits and the movies featured in MST3K Volume XXIX together make this latest volume just as entertaining as the series’ previous box sets. The bonus material included in each episode puts the finishing touch on the set. Audiences that watch The Thing That Wouldn’t Die get an extra bit of Hollywood history when they watch the bonus feature, “The Movie That Couldn’t Die.” Audiences learn through this feature that the censors still had quite a bit of pull even back then. It’s noted that a particular flashback scene involving the antagonist being beheaded originally involved a priest damning the figure. Apparently, the censors didn’t like the thought of a priest condemning the antagonist. So his character was changed to that of a random man. And as noted previously, actor Walton G. Alton, Jr. expressed his displeasure with the zingers tossed at The Pumanman because he and his cast mates had taken the creation of that movie so seriously. It’s one more item that makes the viewing experience of the movie all the more enjoyable and richer. The same can be said of the interview with actress Mamie Van Doren in Untamed Youth. These bonus features are the final pieces of MST3K Volume XXIX that make the box set whole. Together with the skits and the movies themselves, they make this set one that fans new and old will love to watch over and over again. It is just as great an introduction to the series for new fans as it is a continuation for the show’s more seasoned fans.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXIX is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/mystery-science-theater-3000-volume-xxix. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutactoryofficial. 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.

EOne’s New Bella Sara DVD A Good Fit For Any Young Female Viewer

Courtesy:  Entertainment One/Foxfield Entertainment/The Bella Sara Company

Courtesy: Entertainment One/Foxfield Entertainment/The Bella Sara Company

Entertainment One released the latest adventure of Bella Sara last week. Bella Sara: Emma’s Wings is one more enjoyable watch for the young female audiences at whom it is aimed. That is the case first and foremost because unlike previous Bella Sara DVDs, this presentation is actually a full feature length presentation. Another reason that its intended audiences will appreciate this latest release in the Bella Sara series is its general writing. And lastly, the general content puts the final touch on this release. All these factors together make Bella Sara: Emma’s Wings a presentation that any young female viewer will enjoy.

The first aspect of Bella Sara: Emma’s Wings that its intended audiences will appreciate this presentation is a full-length piece. Previous releases in the Bella Sara series were presented in shorter form. So this presentation is the first in the ongoing series of releases that could consider itself a full length feature. While it is an independent release, it could easily compete with the likes of the full length straight to DVD Barbie features that are currently out there. That being the case, that factor alone would make it a good fit for any young female viewer’s slumber party, birthday party or other social event.

That Bella Sara: Emma’s Wings is presented as a full length feature is a good thing for this release in comparison to previous releases in the series. Just as important to the overall enjoyment for the feature’s viewers is its combined general writing and content. The story is simple enough for any viewer to follow. Presented here is what is essentially a coming-of-age story of sorts. Young teen Emma finds herself and literally her voice after discovering a secret that had been long-held by her mother through most of Emma’s youth. It is made obvious that Emma’s mother had died at the start of the story. It isn’t noted how she died. And that is in all honesty beside the point. Her mother being out of the picture actually helps to serve as a catalyst to the story’s progression. So in the long run, it is actually a good thing that the cause of her mother’s death wasn’t explained. Along her journey into the world that is North of North, Emma has to take on the evil Ivenna and her henchman who want to take over the land by taking away all of the “horse magic.” It’s through her own personal journey of self-discovery and realization that Emma is able to defeat Ivenna and save North of North. The general progression of the story is just as simple as the story itself. So that should help to keep young viewers fully engaged in the feature from start to finish.

The simple storyline contained in this new release from Entertainment One will definitely keep the feature’s intended audiences engaged throughout the course of tis roughly hour and fifteen-minute run time. In the same vein, one would be remiss to not mention the feature’s general content. The story is obviously fantasy based. And it centers on horses. This is a double whammy for all involved. The Bella Sara Company, Foxfield Entertainment and Entertainment One have collectively taken two items about which so many younger female viewers crazy and combined them into one. Add in the short musical numbers to the mix (and the overall writing) and viewers get a near complete package. All of this material packaged into what is a relatively full length presentation makes everything complete. It all combines to make Bella Sara: Emma’s Wings a feature that any young female viewer will enjoy whether by herself, with friends or even with her mother.

Bella Sara: Emma’s Wings is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HNTOYF8/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1V0JEAXF18XKCR96GP00&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846. 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.

Ireland’s Wild River Is An Example Of A Wildlife Documentary Done Right

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Ireland’s Wild River is one of the most enjoyable episodes of PBS’ beloved wildlife series Nature to come along in quite a while. This episode of Nature is such a joy first and foremost because of its approach. There is quite a bit to note on that matter alone. Another reason that audiences will enjoy this episode of Nature thanks to the beautiful cinematography. That plays directly into the episode’s approach. One more reason that viewers will enjoy this episode of Nature is its editing. Much like the cinematography, the editing plays directly in to the episode’s overall approach. All three factors together make this episode of Nature one that any viewer should see at least once.

PBS’ Nature has been a hit with viewers for years. That is because of its general approach. It has typically stayed as far as possible from all of the wildlife shows that are based more on personalities (whether on camera or off) than on the animals. Because they focus more on personalities, those same shows take more of an intrusive approach than Nature for lack of better wording. While this episode of Nature actually does have a host of sorts in Colin Stafford-Johnson, he is not the center of attention. Nor does he show any interest in taking center stage. The only time that he is shown is occasionally as he paddles (yes, paddles) along the Shannon. Even his own narration is apart from that of hosts of other wildlife program. That makes this episode even more enjoyable for true nature lovers. His narration isn’t the same high energy approach of so many nature show hosts. Much like the cinematography and companion editing of this episode, Stafford-Johnson’s own narration is low-key and non-intrusive. He takes the angle more of a full-on observer than the standard host that goes in and grabs everything in sight, trying to stay in the camera. It’s one part of the episode’s approach that makes the episode such a joy.

Host Colin Stafford-Johnson’s hands off, observer style approach to Ireland’s Wild River is just one part of what makes this episode of Nature so enjoyable for lovers of any wildlife programming on television. Another, more subtle aspect of the episode’s approach that makes it so enjoyable is in how Stafford-Johnson made his way along the Shannon River. Whereas shows like River Monsters and others are so quick to use motorized boats because they make the show more “sexy” for viewers, Stafford-Johnson gently paddles along in a canoe. It’s a nice change of pace. It shows that Stafford-Johnson isn’t trying to present that same spit-shined, “sexy” appearance of those other shows. And it shows a true reverence for the wildlife along the river, too. He is showing that he doesn’t want to do anything to disturb the wildlife. This is such a welcome alternative to what audiences are accustomed to seeing from nature shows. It makes the episode’s overall approach all the more entertaining for audiences.

The approach taken by Stafford-Johnson and those responsible for the final product here resulted in what is one of the series’ best episodes so far in 2014. That work is not all that makes this episode so enjoyable. Just as important to the overall enjoyment factor is the combined cinematography and editing used for the final product. The shots of Stafford-Johnson paddling gently along the river, and sitting in his canoe among the reeds create such a sense of serenity. There are no overdone pans setting him against the backdrop of the river or other unnecessary flourishes. It’s just straight forward camera work. In terms of flourishes, audiences will like the high speed photography capturing in flight, the many birds that populate the Shannon. Even here, it isn’t overdone. This effect is used just enough to add a little extra “oomph” to the program. And the editing used to transition from one bird to the next adds even more of that feeling.   Just as worth noting is one specific moment in which a shot of a bird on a reed fades to a show of Stafford-Johnson’s silhouette against the setting sun in the sky. Given, it’s a standard edit effect. But it’s the only time that audiences see this effect used, too. Simply put the editing and cinematography are minimized just as much as Stafford-Johnson’s time on camera. There’s no over the top anything here. Everything is balanced just right throughout the course of the program. In the end it’s that balance makes Ireland’s Wild River one of the best episodes of PBS’ Nature yet.

Ireland’s Wild River is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=31134566&cp=&sr=1&kw=irelands+wild+river&origkw=Ireland%27s+Wild+River&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature and http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature. 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.

PBS Marks 50th Anniversary Of Freedom Summer With New Episode Of American Experience

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS announced this week, the upcoming home release of another episode of its series American Experience.

PBS will release American Experience: Freedom Summer June 24th on DVD. The documentary takes viewers back to the Summer of 1964, recalling the events that would change America forever over a mere ten weeks. It was over those ten weeks that the civil rights movement took a big turn. Over seven hundred student volunteers joined forces with organizers and local members of the African American community in Mississippi to establish the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and Freedom Schools throughout the state. The goal of the movement was to challenge the state’s already established Democratic Party at the DNC in Atlantic City that year.

The efforts of Freedom Summer organizers and student volunteers were met with a lot of resistance. Three civil rights workers were killed that year. There were also numerous beatings. And some thirty-five churches were burned. A total of seventy homes and community centers were bombed in the process, too. Acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders, the Murder of Emmitt Till) directed this documentary. Till takes viewers through the dramatic events of the Freedom Summer, from the violence to the efforts to get African Americans registered to vote and everything in between. It shows the sheer complexity of the movement to end segregation in America.

American Experience: Freedom Summer retails for $24.99. It can be pre-ordered via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34894696&cp=&sr=1&kw=american+experience+freedom+summer&origkw=American+Experience+Freedom+Summer&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online at http://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperience, http://www.pbs.org/americanexperience, and http://twitter.com/AmExperiencePBS. 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 in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Anchor Bay’s In Fear Is One Of 2014′s Top Indie Flicks

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Independent movie studio Anchor Bay has crafted some of the industry’s most surprising and underrated movies since the start of the twenty-first century. Most recently, Anchor Bay was behind the moving human drama that is Unfinished Song and the more lighthearted romantic comedy Shanghai Calling. It was also behind the release of the equally under appreciated 6 Souls and Dark Skies. Now in 2014, Anchor Bay has released yet another impressive yet under appreciated movie to its ever growing stable in the form of In Fear. While it is an indie flick, In Fear proves to be yet another piece from Anchor Bay that holds its own against any of the major horror flicks and thriller features out there today. The primary reason for that is the movie’s writing. This includes its plot. Another reason for its success is the acting on the part of Iain De Caestecker (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures) and Allen Leech (Downton Abbey). And last but not least, In Fear works because of its cinematography and associated editing. All three of these factors together prove In Fear a work that will leave any open minded horror and thriller fan in happiness.

In Fear is not a major, big budget horror or thriller flick, obviously. What it is though, is a movie that any open-minded fan of both genres will enjoy. The main reason for this is the movie’s writing. The general plot starts out as one that has been done so many times before. Here, audiences see a young couple off on what is supposed to be a romantic weekend at a secluded hotel. But obviously, things eventually start to turn to the negative side of the needle for lack of better wording. This is where writer/director Jeremy Lovering takes the *ahem* high road (bad pun fully intended). It would have been so easy for Lovering to simply allow In Fear to descend to the dumbed down, overly violent level of so many major horror and thriller flicks from here. Instead, he kept the overt violence to a minimum by comparison. Where far too many major horror and thriller flicks fill their run times with unnecessary violence, blood and gore, Lovering has virtually eliminated those elements, using only what was absolutely necessary to help maintain the story’s grip on viewers. And the standard exploitative sexual content thrown in to those major motion pictures is totally nonexistent here. For that reason alone, Lovering deserves a lot of credit.

The minimized use of blood, gore and general violence and the complete lack of exploitive sexual content is just one part of what makes this movie’s writing work so well. Lovering keeps viewers wondering even after Tom and Lucy let Max into their car. Audiences have to admit that had they been in Tom and Lucy’s position, they too would be uncertain as to whether or not Max was good or bad. So any viewer that might like to claim the movie was predictable is proven wrong through this avenue alone. That unpredictability is heightened through the use of certain elements that also lead to some “a-ha” moments by the story’s end, too. Those “a-ha” moments illustrate even more the depth of Lovering’s writing in his script and in turn its enjoyment.

Jeremy Lovering’s script for In Fear is the cornerstone of the movie’s success. The acting on the part of Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert, and Allen Leech serves to strengthen the movie even more. The trio is entirely believable in its acting. Caestecker and Englert expertly exhibit the growing tension and fear felt by any normal person lost in unknown territory. Given, the odds of being lost and hunted by an unseen predator of sorts are slim to nil in reality. But the fear caused simply by being lost in unknown territory is very real as is the general fear of the unknown. And Caestecker and Englert have made that fear all the more real through their acting. Any viewer will be able to relate to them as they watch the pair try to reach the Kilairney Hotel thanks to the seriousness with which the pair took its roles. Together with the script, this aspect of In Fear makes the movie all the more gripping and enjoyable for viewers.

The acting and writing behind In Fear both are pivotal to the success of the movie. There is still one more aspect of the movie that adds to its enjoyment. That factor is the movie’s collective cinematography and editing. Some of the best shots of the entire movie come as Lucy is looking out of the car, waiting for she and Tom to reach the hotel. Audiences see trees hanging ominously overhead as the sky slowly darkens. These are such subtle shots. But they are so powerful because they are so powerful. It adds to the feeling of tension and being trapped in an enclosed environment for extended periods of time. The way that editor Jonathan Amos (A.C.E.) transitioned the two shots adds so much by doing so little. Those behind the cameras are just as worthy of applause for the solid yet short shots of the figure that seems to be hunting Tom and Lucy. Audiences get just enough of a glimpse to know that there is something outside that car that doesn’t want the pair around. And the shots are just plentiful enough to add to the movie’s fear factor, too. Again, it shows the expert work of Amos and his co-workers behind the cameras. There are far more examples of how the cinematography and editing make In Fear a horror/thriller worth seeing. Audiences will find even more examples when they purchase or rent the movie for themselves on DVD and Blu-ray.

Whether for the cinematography, the editing, the acting or for the general writing, any open-minded fan of the thriller and horror genres will find plenty of reasons to check out this latest underrated and under appreciated release from Anchor Bay Entertainment. The movie is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Anchor Bay Entertainment’s website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?projectID=2545b3bd-9d4b-e311-bba7-d4ae527c3b65. More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.anchorbayent.com, http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay, and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay. 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.

Shout! Kids’ Latest Pound Puppies Compilation Is Another Great Watch For The Whole Family

Courtesy;  Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Courtesy; Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Shout! Kids released the latest collection of episodes from Hub’s award-winning series Pound Puppies this week.  The latest collection of episodes from this update on the original 1980s series is just as much a jewel as the series’ previous compilation DVDs.  The episodes included in this compilation make it so enjoyable first and foremost because of the episodes’ writing.  By connection, audiences will appreciate the subtle lessons taught through some of the episodes.  Intentional or not, there are some subtle lessons taught through some of this set’s episodes.  It makes the set all the richer.  And last but not least, viewers (especially parents) will appreciate this latest compilation is the list of guest appearances.  Some very big names lend their talents to Pound Puppies in this collection.  Whether it be the guest talent, the lessons, the writing or all three factors together, Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match proves to be another wonderful set of episodes for the whole family.

The writing behind this collection of episodes is the central point of impact for this DVD.  Those that are familiar with this incarnation of Pound Puppies and with the original series from the 1980s know that both series emulate the classic WWII-themed sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in their theme songs.  The new Pound Puppies has taken things to a higher level, actually giving Ace and his canine friends an underground base just like Col. Hogan and his Allied forces friends in Hogan’s Heroes.  As viewers will see in this set’s opening episode, the writers even emulate Hogan’s Heroes in terms of the writing, too.  In “The Yipper Caper”, viewers see McLeash bring in a giant dog feeding machine just to impress his superiors much like Col. Klink would do in Hogan’s Heroes.  Klink was always taking on some wild, hair-brained scheme to impress his higher-ups.  On the other side of things, audiences hear Ace tell Yipper that the Pound Puppies have homes outside the shelter, but they stay there to help others.  Audiences familiar with Hogan’s Heroes will again recognize quite the similarity there.  This writing is a wonderful homage to the golden era of television and takes things one step farther than the original Pound Puppies series.  That homage is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes the writing so fun in these episodes.  Just as impressive to note is the fact that the show’s writers are able to time and again find ways for the Pound Puppies to complete their missions without McLeash ever knowing.  This is the case throughout all five episodes, not just the opener.  Again, this is an homage to Hogan’s Heroes.  It’s one more way to potentially get young viewers started on the road to an appreciation for television’s Golden Era.  And for that, the show’s writers are more than deserving of their applause.

As one should be able to tell by now, the writing behind the episodes included in the latest Pound Puppies compilation DVD is key to the collection’s overall enjoyment.  Even older viewers will appreciate the writing thanks to its throwback to what is one of television’s greatest ever sitcoms.  Just as important to these episodes are the lessons taught through the episodes.  “Hello Kitten” teaches a not so subtle lesson about the ability of people to get along and be friends despite opposing backgrounds.  It does this by having the youngest of the pound puppies help a kitten find his perfect person.  There’s just one problem.  The Pound Puppies’ feline counterparts, led by a feline mirror image of Ace is set out to keep the young kitten from becoming friends with dogs and finding a person for the kitten themselves.  In the end, the cats learn that it’s okay to be friends with dogs.  The secondary lesson taught here is that one must let go of things from the past.  All holding onto the past does is make a person bitter.  “Beauty is only Fur Deep” teaches a lesson about being one’s self when a much talked about dog comes to Kennel 17.  The Pound Puppies have their hands…*ahem*…paws full when the seemingly humble dog turns quite self-centered on getting a new coat of fur.  It creates lots of problems for the Pound Puppies especially when he shoots down the little girl they said was his perfect person. He of course learns a rather valuable lesson from this experience that viewers of all ages will appreciate.

The lessons taught through the episodes culled for Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match and the general writing that pays homage to Hogan’s Heroes both make this latest compilation of episodes just as enjoyable as previous Pound Puppies DVDs. There is one more factor to consider in this DVD that makes its episodes so fun. That final factor is the list of guest stars that lent its talents to each episode. J.K. Simmons (Spiderman 1 3) and Tress MacNeille both share their talents in the episodes included in this DVD. Go figure, Simmons voices a character in “Working K-9 To 5” that is a newspaper man. Hmmmmm, now where have we seen that before? His character is even presented much in the same vein as J. Jonah Jameson from director Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy. MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama) voices a fellow canine in another episode. It’s only a bit part. But parents that know McNeille’s voice will love hearing her voice here, too. And of course, the true queen of comedy herself, Betty White, returns once more as the voice of McLeash’s not so nice mother. These are just some of the guests that appear in the episodes collected for this DVD. Also on board on these episodes are: Tara Strong (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly Odd Parents), E.G. Daily (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Chalk Zone), Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Napoleon Dynamite, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy), Danny Cooksey (Salute Your Shorts, Diff’rent Strokes, Tiny Toon Adventures) and so many others. The fact that so many well-known actors and actresses would lend their talents to these episodes shows just how respected a series it proves to be. Parents will recognize most (if not all) of the names mentioned here. And that alone is enough to give the DVD just one watch if not more. And it is most definitely deserving of far more than just one watch.

Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/pound-puppies-perfect-match. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Shout! Kids 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.

The Okee Dokee Brothers Release Details For New Album

Courtesy:  Okee Dokee Music/Redeye

Courtesy: Okee Dokee Music/Redeye

Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander (a.k.a. The Okee Dokee Brothers) return this Summer with their brand new album.

Through The Woods, the duo’s second adventure album, will be released Tuesday, May 20th. It will be released in a special CD/DVD combo pack for SRP of $19.99. The album follows the duo’s journey along the Appalachian Trail and reflects the music that dominates the regions through which Lansing and Mailander crossed along their journey. It features guest appearances by some of the biggest names in  Americana and folk music including: Hubby Jenkins (Carolina Chocolate Drops), four-time Grammy award winner David Holt (Doc Watson/O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Rosie Newton, and two-time Grammy award winners Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer.

The companion DVD that comes with Through The Woods includes a forty-minute film that documents Lansing and Mailander’s trek. It includes educational segments, bloopers from the duo’s trip, music videos, and interviews with local mountain musicians that the duo met along the course of its journey. All hiking, songwriting, and camping footage was filmed on location along the Appalachian Mountains. It features the music of David Holt, Elizabeth LaPrelle, and Sparky and Rhonda Rucker.

More information on Through The Woods and other Okee Dokee Brothers albums, along with tour news and more on The Okee Dokee Brothers is available online now at http://www.facebook.com/okeedokeebros and http://www.okeedokee.org. Through The Woods can be pre-ordered now through the Okee Dokee Brothers’ official online store at http://www.okeedokee.org and via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Through-Woods-Appalachian-Adventure-Album/dp/B00IKCLHPW/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1397260142&sr=1-2&keywords=The+Okee+Dokee+Brothers. 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.

Disney’s Frozen Is A Warm, Entertaining Story

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Officials with Walt Disney Studios told audiences in 2010 that when it released its most recent fairy tale based movie Tangled that that movie would be the last of the studio’s “princess movies” for a while. Apparently, that didn’t last very long, as Disney introduced a new princess last year in its hugely touted movie Frozen. Walt Disney himself had wanted to do a movie based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Snow Queen during his life, according to one of the bonus features included in the movie’s new home release. Taking that into consideration, it would have been interesting to see how his adaptation would have looked had it ever come to fruition. In the absence of that potential imagining, audiences have been given Frozen. This take on Andersen’s fairy tale is not the worst of Disney’ s movies. On the other hand, it is also not one of the studio’s best, either. There are just as many positives about this movie as there are negatives. The combination of the good and bad make Frozen a movie at least worth a single watch with the family, but not much more.

Frozen is neither Disney’s best nor its best. There are just as many positives about this movie as there are negatives. So we’ll start with one of the positives. The main positive that Frozen boasts is its writing. Writer/Co-Director Jennifer Lee and her staff of writers—Chris Buck, Shane Morris, and Dean Wellins–crafted in her script a story that is a surprisingly refreshing breath of fresh air in comparison to Disney’s past fairy tale adaptations. So much can be noted of the writing behind this story. Audiences that enjoyed Disney’s last princess movie, Tangled, will enjoy this movie much for the same reasons as that story. It boasts a strong, self-confident female lead and nonstop laughs from the buddy comedy between Kristoff and his loyal moose Sven. More than anything though, audiences will appreciate the message of sisterhood and the surprise twist included in the story’s dual underlying romance subplot. Lee and company lead viewers to think they know what will happen with the romance subplot only to throw the proverbial monkey wrench in the works near the end. All of these elements collectively would have made Mr. Disney proud. It proves that Lee and he writers really thought about what they put into the story. They didn’t want to just make another princess movie. They wanted to make something that stood out. And it definitely does thanks to that attention to detail.

The attention to detail on the part of Frozen’s writing staff and lead Writer/Co-Director Jennifer Lee make this a movie worth at least one watch with the family. It makes the movie stand out in a good way. While their work makes the movie stand out in a good way, it also stands out in a not so good way. It stands out in a not so good way because of its musical numbers. It’s not so much the musical numbers that are at issue here. Rather, it is the number of musical numbers and the pace at which they come that is at issue. It seems like there is a musical number every few minutes or so. By comparison to Disney’s past musical adaptations, the amount of musical numbers in this movie and the pace at which they come is astounding. It’s very Broadway style. The obvious argument here is that some of Disney’s best movies have been turned into Broadway musicals. This is true. But those same musicals that were translated to the stage also didn’t have near as many musical numbers as this movie. So again, it becomes the story’s one central issue. Luckily, it is the only real noticeable negative to the overall presentation.

The musical numbers incorporated into Frozen and the pace at which they come are collectively the only truly noticeable negative to the movie’s overall presentation. That is a good thing for this movie. That means that the positives outweigh the negatives, and make the movie more worth the watch if only once. Now that it has been released on DVD and Blu-ray combo pack, there is one more positive worth noting about this movie. That positive is the bonus featurette outlining the history behind this movie and how Walt Disney had actually wanted to craft a movie based on The Snow Queen even some seventy years ago. The comparisons of the original concept art for that proposed movie to what was crafted for this movie are quite eye-opening. There are even discussions on the ride that would be spawned as a result of the originally proposed movie. There is much more in-depth material that comes from this central bonus feature. And audiences will get to find out just how much more when they purchase the movie for themselves on DVD and Blu-ray combo pack. That central bonus feature along with the movie’s central story, are enough to make up for the movie’s one glaring negative. And because of that, they make Frozen worth at least one watch, if no more.

Frozen can be purchased now in stores and online via the Disney store at http://www.disneystore.com/frozen-blu-ray-collectors-edition/mp/1349621/1000316/. More information on this and other releases from Walt Disney Studios is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios and http://twitter.com/disneypictures. 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.

PBS Documentary Proves Truth Is Sometimes Stranger (And Better) Than Fiction

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

American Experience: The Last outlaws – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is another wonderful addition to PBS’ hit series.  The documentary on the famed outlaw cowboy and his cohort (Sundance was not his sidekick despite how he was presented in various movies and TV shows) is so impressive first and foremost in that it presents the real history of the two infamous figures.  It doesn’t try to over glamorize the lives of the two men.  Viewers will enjoy this episode of American Experience because of its minimalistic use of actors and dramatization in telling the story of Butch and his friend.  This plays directly into the episode’s general presentation and refusal to over-glamorize their history.  And last but not least, the use of cinematography and vintage pictures help to illustrate the story.  That combined with the minimalist dramatization and the straight forward history makes this episode of American Experience more proof of just how interesting history can be.  And it makes the newly released DVD one that any history buffs or teacher will want to purchase and add to their own home library.

The first and most obvious reason that audiences will appreciate American Experience: The Last Outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is that it is a straight forward history of the two infamous outlaws.  So many movies and television programs through the decades have been crafted presenting depicting the men in one fashion or another.  In many of those depictions, The Sundance Kid (a.k.a. Harry Alonzo Longabaugh) is presented as Butch Cassidy’s sidekick.  But as audiences will learn through this episode of American Experience, the relationship between the men was more an equal friendship than one of a leader and sidekick.  What’s more, audiences not so familiar with the life and times of these infamous outlaws will appreciate learning that they were far more average than the noted movies and TV dramas have made them out to be.  It’s interesting just to learn that Cassidy (a.k.a. Robert Leroy Parker) actually started out in a very strict religious family from Utah before eventually leaving and making his way to Colorado where his life of crime truly began.  There is so much more to learn throughout this program.  The best summary of what is presented is that sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.  And in this case, that’s definitely a good thing (bad pun fully intended).

The true history of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid presented in this episode of American Experience is the central reason that audiences will enjoy the newly released DVD.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this DVD is its minimalist use of actors and dramatization. In most cases of historical pieces, dramatizations are necessary in order to help tell the story of the subject presented. In the case of this episode of American Experience, the use of actors and dramatization actually would have been overkill. That’s because the story itself is interesting enough without those extra elements. Audiences will find themselves fully engaged as they learn how two seemingly ordinary men became the virtual Robin Hood and Little John of the old west, stealing from major organizations, yet through it all, leaving only one person dead in their wake. Those behind the program perfectly balanced the minimalist dramatization approach with just enough history to make this episode even all the more enjoyable.

The balance of story and minimalist dramatization used throughout American Experience: The Last Outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid make this program one that any history buff and any history teacher will definitely want to add to their own home library. The last piece of the program that audiences will appreciate is the combination of the use of vintage photos and stunning cinematography. As narrator Michael Murphy discusses the “Outlaw Trail”, audiences are presented with stunning views of the areas where Cassidy and other outlaws would hide in order to evade law enforcement. The aerial shots of the canyons—some split by rivers, others lined by craggy overhangs—are incredible. The vintage photos of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid help to illustrate just how average the two legendary outlaws looked. It is a direct contradiction to how they are portrayed in movies and on television. The two elements are expertly balanced throughout the program, thus helping to pull viewers even more into the story of two of history’s most talked about figures. Those final two elements work in tandem with the aforementioned factors to make this new documentary from PBS’ American Experience so much more worth watching. It ends up proving to be one more excellent documentary that is just as useful and enjoyable in the living room as it is in the classroom.

American Experience: The Last OutlawsButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=32476546&cp=&sr=1&kw=butch+cassidy&origkw=Butch+Cassidy&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online now at http://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperience and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience. 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.

PBS Kids Announces Release Date, Info For Latest Arthur DVD

Courtesy:  PBS Kids/PBS

Courtesy: PBS Kids/PBS

PBS Kids will release the latest Arthur DVD next month.

Arthur Makes A Movie will be released on DVD Tuesday, May 13th. The DVD includes four more episodes of the family favorite series based on author Marc Brown’s beloved literary series. Those four episodes are: “Arthur Makes a Movie”, “Go To Your Room, D.W.”, “Agent of Change”, and “D.W. Unties The Knot.” The DVD will retail for an SRP of $9.99.

In the title episode of the new DVD, Arthur and his friends decide to make their very own movie since they’re not old enough to see a real “James Hound” movie. Muffy Crosswire takes the helm and taps Arthur to play the lead role in the kids’ movie. However, things don’t go exactly as planned when the kids try to put their plan in action.

“Go To Your Room D.W.” tackles a very familiar subject for audiences of all ages when four-year old D.W. is sent to her room by her parents. D.W. has to stay in her room for ten whole minutes! That’s a lot for a four-year old. And it’s just enough time for a four-year old to ruminate on his (or in this case her) difficult childhood, and plan a life away from home. D.W. finds out the reality of trying to run away when she tries to put her plan in action and the folly of her decision in this episode sure to entertain audiences of all ages.

“Agents of Change” is another episode that audiences of all ages will enjoy. It tackles the subject of gender inequality in the movie industry. After Francine and Muffy go to see a movie about a boy and his truck, they are left rather disenfranchised. So they set out to make their own movie that focuses on a strong female lead. They are joined by Molly, who helps to handle the movie’s artwork. With Molly on board, the trio set out to make their very own movie with interesting results.

Wedding season is just around the corner. So what better way to close out Arthur Makes A Movie than with an episode titled, “D.W. Unties The Knot?” In this episode, D.W. decides to get married after watching “The Wedding Channel.” There’s just one problem. D.W. being a child, she doesn’t fully graspt everything that goes into a wedding and what exactly a wedding is or what it represents. She ends up realizing she’s gotten herself in much deeper than she ever imagined. So she’s left to figure out how to get everything back to how it was.

Arthur Makes A Movie will be available Tuesday, May 13th. It can be pre-ordered now via the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=34129306&cp=&sr=1&kw=arthur+makes+a+movie&origkw=Arthur+Makes+A+Movie&parentPage=search. More information on this and other Arthur DVDs is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSArthur and http://www.pbskids.org/arthur. 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.