Geronimo Stilton Sniffs Out More Family Fun In New DVD

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express and Other Adventures, the latest home release from the short-lived Canadian TV series, is another fun collection of episodes for the whole family. The new DVD contains four more episodes from the series’ twenty-six total episodes. Whether or not one is familiar with the Geronimo Stilton literary series or the TV series spawned from the books, viewers will all agree that there is plenty to say of this new home release. The first aspect worth noting in this group of episodes is its writing. The TV series is an import. But it will translates well enough for audiences of any age to enjoy it. The next factor to be taken into consideration in this compilation’s success is its animation style. One part hand-drawn and seemingly one part flash/CG, it still manages to maintain its own identity among the masses of full-on CG series that pollute the television spectrum today. Last but definitely not least worth noting is the show’s voice cast. Most viewers likely don’t know the cast’s names. But they will definitely recognize the cast’s voices. That who’s who of voice actors, the animation, and the writing all come together to make this DVD another from Entertainment One that is worth at least one watch regardless of how familiar one is with the series or the books on which it is based.

The first aspect of the new compilation from Geronimo Stilton that viewers will appreciate is its writing. The series is an import from Canada. Few may realize it, but there is a difference in the writing (and overall structure) of Canadian-based series and American television series in general. The case with this series is different, though. American audiences will enjoy the episodes on this disc just as much as their Canadian counterparts. It translates so well primarily because of all the action and comic relief tied into each of the four episodes. Geronimo’s globe hopping adventures echo hints of both Indiana Jones and James Bond in one. And parents will appreciate the pop culture references tied into each script.  Those pop culture references include spoofs of Agatha Christie and so many classic kung-fu flicks of the 1960s just to name a couple.  The Agatha Christie spoof comes in the DVD’s opening episode, “Intrigue on the Rodent Express.  It’s a reference to the famed story, Murder on the Orient Express.  The original story was written by Agatha Christie and is not only one of the most famous detective novels of all time, but was also adapted into an equally famous big screen feature.  The spoof of all the classic kung-fu flicks comes in “The Mask of the Rat-Jitsu.”  This one sees Geronimo getting caught up in a web of intrigue centered around a group of ninjas led by an evil mastermind bent on stealing a priceless mask.  Younger audiences won’t get the references.  But their parents (and potentially even grandparents) will appreciate the attempts by the show’s writers to reach them as well as their children and grandchildren.  It’s all a collective example of what makes the writing in this group of episodes central to the success of this DVD.

The writers that worked on all four episodes included in Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express and Other Adventures are to be commended for crafting stories that will entertain audiences of all ages.  The series’ animators are just as deserving of applause with these episodes.  They are deserving of applause in that they have largely crafted the cartoon through hand-drawn animation.  There were some potentially computer generated elements to each episode.  But by and large, it looks as if this cartoon was in fact crafted by hand.  There are still hand-drawn cartoons out there today.  But as many studios over utilize computers for their “animated” series, this series incorporating more hand-drawn animation than computer generated gives its episodes more of their own identity, which in turn makes them stand out even more among the masses.  The closest comparison that can be made in terms of the animation in these episodes is perhaps to DC’s short-lived series, Krypto The Superdog.  That it can only be loosely compared to one other series solidifies the originality of these episodes’ animation.  It’s one more reason that this new DVD is worth at least one watch.

The writing and animation that make up this latest compilation of episodes from the Geronimo Stilton animated series are both key to the overall enjoyment of this new DVD release.  There is one more factor that older audiences will appreciate in this latest collection of episodes from the Canadian import.  That factor is the series’ voice cast.  Most audiences might not know the names of the people that make up the series’ voice cast.  But they will recognize the various series on which the cast members work/have worked.  Patricia Drake is one example of this.  Most people don’t know her name.  She voiced the scheming Sally Rasmaussen (pronounced Ras-mousen) in Geronimo Stilton.  She has also worked on the cult favorite anime series Dragonball Z.  She also starred alongside Mandy Moore and Macauly Culkin in Saved as well as voicing characters in recent Barbie CG based features just to name a handful.  And fellow cast member Lee Tockar, who voiced a number of characters through each of the four episodes also has voiced characters in Johnny Test, Slugtera, and Max Steel and a number of others.  Having such experienced cast is important to the episodes on this DVD.  It is important in that it means the ability to properly interpret scripts and present the best possible performance.  That top notch performance means more enjoyment for audiences in the long run, which is exactly the case with these episodes.

Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express and Other Adventures is available now ins ores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FWQAOUS/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0N4SB5TCEE2XTG37PZRG&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.

Scholastic’s Latest Storybook Treasures Collection A Great Gift For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo

Scholastic’s new Christmas and Winter-themed collection of stories set to the small screen is another impressive set for the whole family.  Not only does it entertain audiences, but it also educates.  The collection is highlighted by a small screen adaptation of author Rob Scotton’s Merry Christmas, Splat.  This story is a fun piece that is actually much deeper than what some might see on the surface.  It’s just one reason that parents, students, and teachers will appreciate the set as a whole.  Viewers will discover in watching all four of the stories that each one has an important message for everybody.  That’s not the only reason that viewers will enjoy this latest set from Scholastic.  Viewers will also appreciate each story’s animation.  Each story boasts its own animation.  By direct connection, the set’s bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette reveals a little known secret about at least one story’s animation.  And what DVD compilation from Scholastic would be complete without the standard Read-Along option?  Yet again that option has been included for all young audiences.  Together with everything else previously noted, it plays just as important a role in the success of the set.

The lessons taught through this collection are nothing new to Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures collections.  That’s not to say that the lessons included her are old.  Rather, the inclusion of stories with valuable lessons is nothing new.  And that Scholastic has continued to include such content is a big reason that its Storybook Treasures collections have been so successful.  It’s a big reason for the success of this latest collection, too.  Viewers are taught through the set’s first story that one’s family will love them even if they haven’t been completely perfect.  In its own way, it also helps to dispel the time honored belief that Santa will only bring gifts if one has been good.  It’s a much better lesson to teach kids instead of telling them that they’ll only get gifs from Santa if they’re good.  That lesson is one that parents should not use on their children, especially in the country’s current economic state.

The lesson taught in Merry Christmas, Splat is just one of the valuable lessons taught in this set of stories.  There is also a lesson of appreciating the little things in life in two of the stories.  Those stories are: Owl Moon and Snowflake BentleyOwl Moon teaches young viewers to appreciate the little things in life as a young girl goes out into the forest with her father to see a Great Horned Owl.  The way in which the forest and the moon are both described shows how much reverence author Jaqueline Briggs Martin has for something as simple as the way that snow reflects the light of the moon.  It’s truly something beautiful to think about in seeing the illustrations of Mary Azarian.  Snowflake Bentley is made even more interesting in that it does more than just teach a life lesson.  It also teaches a history lesson.  It teaches a lesson about William Bentley, who first used microscopic photography to take pictures of snowflakes.  Bentley’s name is not one that is very well known among most circles.  But his is a life and career that is definitely worth learning about by viewers of every age.  It’s interesting to learn how Bentley became so famous among scientific and academic circles, yet never gained any real major fame or fortune from his work.

The lessons taught through the stories noted here are important parts of Scholastic’s latest Storybook Treasures collection.  Just as important to note is the artwork in each story.  The artwork used for each story gives each one its own identity.   Again, this is another tradition held by Scholastic with its Storybook Treasures collections.  It’s nice to see the original drawings from each story’s book used in each story, instead of computer generated graphics.  Given, a little bit of computer use is incorporated, as audiences will see in this set’s bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette.  But as audiences will also see, the amount of computer use is minimal at most.  And that is a very good thing.

The bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette included in this latest of Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures collection is the final piece of the puzzle for viewers.  Anyone that has any experience in the use of Adobe’s Creative Suite or that has any interest in graphics work will appreciate this bonus.  Audiences learn how the artwork of Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas was actually pulled directly from the book and used in the small screen adaptation.  It has already been noted how minimal the use of computers was in each story’s animation.  And this featurette proves that.  It shows how the art from the book was scanned into the computer, and actually brought to life thanks to the use of the Adobe Creative Suite.  It is definitely something that older audiences will appreciate.  And along with the stories themselves, it is a fitting final piece for the overall presentation that is Merry Christmas Splatand more winter stories.  It is available now and can be ordered online from New Kideo’s website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/merry-christmas-splat-and-more-winter-stories/.  More information on this and other releases from Scholastic is available online at http://www.newkideo.com, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo, http://www.scholastic.com, and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com 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.

Lost And Found An Entertaining And Moving Story Of Friendship

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

The need for companionship is among the most basic of human needs.  Ironically enough, it is also among the most important of human needs.  Because of its importance, it has been the basis for countless movies and TV shows.  Even The Twilight Zone, one of television’s most beloved series, used this need as the basis for its very first ever episode in “Where Is Everybody?”  Now Entertainment One has teamed up with Studio AKA to release a story about companionship that will both entertain and move audiences of all ages.  The story, Lost and Found, is based on the children’s book by author Oliver Jeffers.  It follows the story of a young boy and a penguin that become friends.  The most interesting aspect of the story is the adaptation’s script.  Audiences that are not so familiar with Jeffers’ book will learn through the “Making of” featurette that the script for the small screen adaptation is different from the book.  But that’s forgiveable.  That’s because of the story behind the book itself.  Just as worthy of note is the adaptation’s animation.  Reference must be made to the story’s bonus “Making of” featurette again here.  It is obvious in watching the story itself that the near Claymation style animation was in fact CG.  But that the line was so blurred is just as impressive as the story itself.  And having noted the bonus “Making of” featurette twice already, it would be pointless to not note that feature as another reason to check out this new DVD.  All three of these factors taken into consideration, they combine to make Lost and Found a must see for any family.

Studio AKA’s adaptation of Lost and Found is not a direct translation of author Oliver Jeffers’ book.  This is noted in the DVD’s bonus “Making OF” featurette.  Just as interesting to note is that at first, Jeffers didn’t even want to have his book adapted to the small screen.  Ironically enough, the original story on which Jeffers’ own book is based came from a story that allegedly happened at a Scotland zoo according to Jeffers.  He explains the story in the DVD’s bonus “Making of” featurette in fell detail.  It’s so unbelievable that one can’t help but laugh.  What audiences get in this take on Jeffers’ book is a story that shows that friendships can begin in the most unexpected of ways.  It also displays the timeless message that one doesn’t know what one has until it’s gone.  How the boy comes to realize this will be left to viewers to find out for themselves.  But his moment of realization is one of the short story’s most moving of moments.  Anyone that is not left even slightly teary-eyed at this moment doesn’t have a heart.  It’s just part of what makes this story so wonderful for the whole family.

The primary story of Lost and Found is both moving and entertaining.  It is a wonderful piece for the entire family to watch together.  Just as noteworthy about this story is its animation.  At first its animation looks slightly similar to that of Room on the Broom, The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child.  But it doesn’t take long to realize that it was in fact done entirely via CG graphics.  What’s so interesting here is that while it doesn’t take long to realize this, those behind its creation should be commended for making it unlike all the other cookie cutter CG based children’s features currently on the market.  It actually does look like Claymation.  This proves how much work went into giving this story the maximum amount of originality.  It goes without saying that it definitely was original.  It was original both in terms of its animation and its story, making it even more enjoyable.

The animation and the story behind Lost and Found both make this small screen adaptation of Oliver Jeffers’ book a joy for viewers of all ages.  The DVD’s bonus “Making of” featurette plays its own role in the overall presentation, too.  As has already been noted, Jeffers explains in the “Making of” featurette how he came up with his literary take on the story.  Viewers will also learn what went into bringing the story to life as well as much more.  Those that have any experience and or interest in video production and graphics production will appreciate the discussions on how the world of Lost and Found was created.  There is much more discussed.  And again, audiences will discover everything that is discussed in this feature for themselves when they pick up the DVD in stores or order it online.  It can be ordered direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Found-Jim-Broadbent/dp/B00DP4AH5Q/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1384615898&sr=1-2&keywords=Lost+and+Found.  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.

EOne’s Translation Of McBratley’s Books A Wonderful Collection For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Guess how much I love you!  Every child loves to hear those words from their parent and vice versa.  They are among the most powerful words that can be spoken between parents and their children.  So it only made sense that author Sam McBratney would use those words as the title of his hugely popular books about family.  Now, parents and children that have enjoyed those books together for years can share McBratney’s on DVD thanks to Entertainment One.  McBratney’s stories are brought to full life in EOne’s new compilation of stories that parents and children alike will want to watch time and again.  One reason for the enjoyment of this compilation is that the stories included in the compilation include wonderful life lessons.  Also noteworthy is the collective run time of the stories.  The stories are short enough to easily keep young viewers engaged so that they will take in the lessons incorporated into each story.  Just as important to note about the episodes included in this single-disc compilation is the animation of each story.  The animation is original.  And it is difficult to tell if the stories were hand-drawn or CG.  This is a positive, believe it or not.  And alongside the stories’ short run times and life lessons, it all comes together to make Guess How Much I Love You: The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare a family favorite.

The very first thing that makes Guess How Much I Love You: The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare so impressive is the life lessons tied into each of the stories.  It’s nice to see that the heart of McBratney’s children’s stories have been carried over to the small screen.  Just as nice to see is that the lessons and the stories themselves have translated so well.  The compilation’s opening story, “Hidden Treasure” is a good example of how well McBratney’s stories translated.  It’s a good starting point because it teaches more than just one lesson.  It teaches first and foremost that treasure is what one makes of it.  To a lesser extent, it teaches the classic lesson of not judging a book by its cover.  This is done when it’s revealed that Little Nutbrown Hare’s dull looking rock actually hides quite the stunning treasure when it accidentally falls and breaks open.  Both of these lessons together teach a much larger lesson.  It teaches young viewers to appreciate the little things in life and that one doesn’t have to have flashy things to have treasure.  This is a wonderful message to send to young viewers.

Another lesson that this collection of stories teaches is one of practice and perseverance.  That lesson is taught in the short story, “Slip, Slop, Slide.”  When Little Nutbrown tries to go skating with his friends in this episode, he ends up falling down.  His friends laugh.  But as his father tells him, they weren’t laughing at him.  In its own way, this is another example of how McBratney’s stories so successfully interweave lessons to make the wonderful stories presented both in his books and on screen.  Little Nutbrown Hare talks to his father, Big Nutbrown Hare, who then takes Little Nutbrown Hare and tries to teach him how to skate.  Both end up falling down in the process.  While it was entirely accidental that they both fell, it helped Little Nutbrown Hare learn that all he needs is practice.  He also learns that it’s okay to fall down.  Yet again, audiences are presented with wonderful lessons and an equally entertaining story.  It’s just one more example of what makes this collection of stories so fun for any family.  It’s not all that families will enjoy about this set, either.  Parents and kids alike will appreciate the short run time of each story.

This single-disc compilation is comprised of seven different episodes.  The total run time of those episodes comes in at roughly eighty minutes.  That puts the total run time of each individual episode at just over ten minutes.  Taking into consideration that the stories included in this set are likely aimed at viewers age 4 – 6, this is just about right for the attention span of said viewers.  Had they been longer, it might have risked said viewers’ attention.  In turn, those same viewers might not have had the patience or the attention to grasp the lessons being taught.  Luckily, that didn’t become an obstacle.  Quite the opposite, was the reality.  The end result is a collection of stories that will keep young viewers’ full attention all while entertaining and teaching valuable lessons.  It’s a double whammy that makes these episodes even more valuable for any parent of a young child.

The run times of the episodes culled for this compilation and their lessons are important parts of the overall presentation that is Guess How Much I Love You: The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare.  There is one more aspect of the episodes that will likely be overlooked by many.  That aspect is the episodes’ animation.  It is difficult to tell whether the episodes collected were hand-drawn or CG.  This is actually a good thing.  So many CG children’s features are cookie cutter presentations.  There is no originality to them.  However, with the case of this presentation, the animation gives the episodes their own identity.  The colors and angles of the characters and backdrops combine to look like both CG and hand-drawn elements were used.  If this is indeed the case, they were done in perfect balance, making for a fitting final touch to the compilation of shorts.

Guess How Much I Love You: The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ECIS4BI/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-3&pf_rd_r=0QV41WYWVJXZGSMGWHR7&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1630083502&pf_rd_i=507846.  Audiences can also win a free copy of the DVD courtesy of Phil’s Picks.  Phil’s Picks will be giving away three free copies of the DVD to three lucky winners this Friday, November 15th.  A Person need only enter at the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/philspicks by writing on the page’s timeline that one wants to be entered for a chance at a free copy.  It’s that simple.  Fans can also “Like” the Phil’s Picks FB page while there for all of the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news.  And the can also get all the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Halloween Stories Collection Vol. 2 Scares Up Lots Of Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Scholastic’s latest installment in its hugely popular Storybook Treasures series “scares” up lots of fun for the whole family just in time for Halloween.  This set boasts so many positives that there simply isn’t time to go into depth concerning each one.  The very first thing that audiences will appreciate in this latest box set is a collection of not only stories but songs, too.  The collective stories and songs will appeal to audiences of all ages.  Not every story or song is appropriate for all viewers.  So parents should use their discretion in deciding which stories and songs their children can watch.  Parents will appreciate that Scholastic has included songs and stories for viewers of all ages in this set.  And by connection, parents will also appreciate that Scholastic has also included once again, the standard read-along feature that can be toggled on or off depending on their young readers’ ages.  This and the inclusion of the stories of songs together make this set another success from Scholastic.

Scholastic has made a tradition of including some wonderful, family friendly stories in each of its previous Storybook Treasures Collections.  The stories culled for its previous releases have run the gamut from classic fairytales to more socially relevant stories to everything in between.  This latest collection is a little different from those sets, though.  And that’s not a bad thing, either.  This collection includes not only some fun and scary stories, but a collection of songs, too.  The interesting thing about the stories collected for this set is that they don’t really fit into the set’s overall Halloween theme.  Again, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It makes for a nice change of pace in the grand scheme of things for viewers.  Most audiences will recognize the classic ‘Hush Little Baby.’  Perhaps less familiar are the songs, ‘The Erie Canal’ and ‘The Fox Went Out on A Chilly Night.’  So for some, hearing them here might be the first time for just as many audiences.  Audiences of all ages will especially enjoy the Dixieland feel of the prior of the two.  The latter of the two might not be entirely suitable for all audiences.  That’s both because of the song’s lyrics and its imagery.  It involves the fox hunting and killing some geese.  Some younger viewers might actually be unsettled by such imagery.  So parents should use their discretion in terms of this piece.

The songs included in The Halloween Stories Collection: Volume 2 are a nice addition to this set, even though one of them might not be suitable for all viewers.  In that same vein, Scholastic has offered viewers of all ages a grouping of stories that will appeal to viewers of different ages.  This is major boon to this set as parents can pick and choose which stories they want their young readers to take in regardless of age.  One of the best of the stories is the set’s anchor, “The Day of the Dead.”  This short story is fitting for audiences of any age.  It is so important in that it presents Halloween from a perspective with which many young viewers might not be so familiar.  It presents Halloween from the perspective of the Hispanic culture.  Young viewers will learn in this story that unlike in American culture, Hispanics use October 31st to November 2nd to honor the loved ones who have moved on in the previous year.  They honor their loved ones by baking good food and lighting candles that will attract home the spirits of their loved ones.  Viewers will learn that this is done not just in Mexico but in many Latin American and Central American countries.  It serves as an excellent starting point for a discussion with young audiences over what is known as cultural relativity.  Whether in the living room or the classroom, young viewers need to learn that not everybody does things the way that they do things.  So what better way than to use a holiday to explain this concept?

Where “Day of the Dead” is a great story for any younger viewer, the much scarier “Teeny-Tiny and the Witch-Woman” is more fitting for older audiences.  The story, which is somewhat similar to the Brothers Grimm’s story of “Hansel and Gretel”, follows three young boys that go off into the forest and encounter an evil witch despite the youngest of the three having tried to keep his brothers from going in the first place.  The boys had been told about the legend of the witch-woman.  The combination of the narration and the illustrations in this story make it an especially scary story.  Scare factor aside, it does have a happy ending.  Parents should still use their discretion with this story.  It is up to parents to decide if their children are old enough to take in such a scary story.

Scholastic’s The Halloween Stories Collection: Volume 2 offers plenty of fun and scares for the entire family.  Each of the set’s three discs offers stories and songs for young viewers of every age.  And because parents will enjoy them all too, they can sit down with their kids and decide which of the stories are fitting for their young viewers.  Something else that parents and young viewers will appreciate in this set is that Scholastic has once again included the read-along feature that has become standard on each of its Storybook Treasures collections.  This feature can be toggled on or off depending on a child’s reading ability.  It is a wonderful tool to help children develop their reading ability.  It makes this latest set one more invaluable learning tool for any young viewer.  It is available now and can be ordered direct via the New Kideo website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-halloween-stories-collection-volume-2/.  More information on this and other Scholastic releases is available via the New Kideo website and Facebook page, http://www.newkideo.com and http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo.  More information is also available on the Scholastic Facebook page and website, http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic and http://www.scholastic.com.  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.

Children Make Terrible Pets…And More Stories About Family Is Anything But Terrible

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video/Cinedigm

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video/Cinedigm

Children Make Terrible Petsand more stories about family is the second of the latest pair of releases in Scholastic’s ongoing Storybook Treasures series.  This latest collection of stories offers parents, children, and teachers alike four more short pieces that each group will enjoy every time the pop the single-disc compilation into their DVD or Blu-ray payers.  The compilation is anchored by its title tale, which tells the story of a young female bear that takes in a little boy as a pet.  She leans some very valuable lessons as a result of taking him in, too.  It’s a wonderful example of art imitating life.  And because of its ability to so humorously and truthfully reflect real life, parents especially will appreciate this short story.  On the opposite end, families in whole will appreciate author Lois Lowry’s story Crow Call.  This is a touching story about the relationship between a father and his daughter.  Parents will appreciate this story not just for its central plot but also because it does something interesting.  It challenges the gender roles established by Western society in presenting the pair’s relationship.  It’s one more of the four total stories that make this collection one more joy to watch from Scholastic.

The stories culled for Children Make Terrible Petsand more stories about family work hand-in-hand to make the entire presentation enjoyable for viewers of any age with every watch.  Audiences that are familiar with Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures series will also appreciate this release because as with previous releases in the series, it also boasts the series’ standard Read-Along feature.  Together with the compiled short stories, this compilation is anything but terrible *ba-dump-bump-bump.*

The title story of Children Make Terrible Petsand more stories about family is the best of the stories culled for the compilation.  It is such an enjoyable reflection on real life.  Every parent was once a child.  As someone once said, adults are just grown up kids.  Keeping this in mind, any parent will watch the young bear as she begs her mother to let her keep the little boy and laugh uproariously as she becomes frustrated at the responsibilities of being a “pet owner.”  Among her most frustrating moments is her inability to potty train the boy.  This and other moments are entirely real.  Parents are sure to laugh out loud at this moment.  And just as the compilation’s title story offers its share of laughs, it also has its own share of heart.  That heart shows when the young bear discovers that the little boy has a family of his own.  She comes to the understanding in her discovery that she needs to let him go.  It’s a touching moment that does a great job of balancing out the story’s funnier moments.  Author Peter Brown doesn’t waste much time with emotional content here.  Right after the young bear’s moment of maturity and emotion, Brown leaves audiences laughing when the bear finds yet another “pet.”  Anyone that is familiar with Steven Spielberg’s Tiny Toon Adventures could so easily compare her to Elmyra at this point, again leading to plenty of laughs.

Brown’s story about responsibility and maturity is a great way to kick off this compilation.  It’s a wonderfully comical story that also boasts enough heart to make it even more enjoyable.  It’s not the set’s only enjoyable story.  Along with this one, author Lois Lowry offers readers a much deeper and more emotional story in the small screen adaptation of her book, Crow Call.  This story sees an unnamed father and daughter going on a hunting trip in the hills of Pennsylvania.  That in itself is a wonderful setup for a family centered story.  But that Lowry would have a father take his daughter hunting is in itself, a break from the social norms established through Western culture.  And it’s just one of a handful of social norms that Lowry challenges in her story.  That Lowry would have the guts to do this (whether intentional or not) is bold.  She’s not even preachy in presenting her message.  That makes the presentation even better.  And it becomes one more reason for parents to want to order this collection of family friendly short stories.

Both of the stories noted here are impressive additions to Scholastic’s latest release in its Storybook Treasures series.  As enjoyable as the stories presented here prove to be, they are just that without one more factor.  That last factor is the inclusion once again of the standard Read-Along feature.  Scholastic has included the option to include captioning of sorts for young viewers to follow along with has long been a standard for the Storybook Treasures series.  So it’s a welcome addition to have it included once more.  It both teaches and entertains the younger viewers in question.  It’s just one more piece of the whole that makes Children Make Terrible Petsand more stories about family one more must have for any family with young children.  It is available now and can be ordered online direct from the New Kideo website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/children-make-terrible-pets-and-more-stories-about-family/.  Parents can get more information on this and other releases from Scholastic online at http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic, http://www.scholastic.com, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo and http://www.newkideo.com.

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.

New Mo Willems Collection Another Fun Addition To Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures Series

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems is one of two new collections of stories from Scholastic’s beloved Storybook Treasures series.  This half of Scholastic’s two new releases is the third collection of stories from the famed children’s author.  Despite the collection’s title, it is in fact anchored not by its title story but by the second of the stories.  The second of the set’s trio of stories is the latest and supposedly last of the Knuffle Bunny stories.  That’s not to say that the trio’s other two stories don’t have value.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  There’s just a certain something about this story that makes it the most memorable of the trio.  The bonus chocolate chip cookie recipe from Edwina the Dinosaur “sweetens” (pun fully intended) the set, as does the bonus interview with Willems.  It all works together to makes this one of two more great sets from Scholastic.

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion is not the lead story in Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems.  But it is the most memorable and most enjoyable of the trio of stories included in this new set.  That’s not to say that the set’s other pair of stories is any less enjoyable.  It just bears so much heart and is such a wonderful reflection of real life.  According to Willems in his bonus interview, this story is the last in his stories about Knuffle Bunny.  The heart in the story comes as young Trixie finally reaches the point at which she learns that it’s time to let Knuffle Bunny go.  It’s an extremely difficult choice for her, emotionally speaking.  But she knows it’s the right choice.  Much like in the case of Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3, this is a touching story about growing up and letting go, but never forgetting.  Any viewer that doesn’t tear up even in the slightest doesn’t have a heart.  Even this critic has to admit that it brought about a little tearing up.  It is that touching of a story.

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion is a wonderful addition to the latest collection of Mo Willems’ stories.  That’s not to say that the other two stories in the set are any less enjoyable.  They have their own heart and soul.  This one is simply the most memorable of the trio.  If the stories culled for this set aren’t enough for audiences, the bonus recipe for Edwina’s Chocolate Chip Cookies is just as enjoyable of an addition to the collection.  This isn’t the first time that Scholastic has included such a tasty bonus treat for audiences.  Scholastic’s release from earlier this year of The Red Hen included a recipe for the hen’s cake.  There is only one minor problem with the recipe for the chocolate chip cookies.  That one problem is that once the cookie dough is on the baking sheet, there is no mention of how long the cookies should bake or at what temperature they should bake.  Everything else is there, though.  So this could lead to parents having to guess at those last two factors.  For future consideration, this is something important to consider for future recipes.

The recipe for Edwina’s cookies sounds really tasty.  It is a good bonus feature for this latest set.  Parents will enjoy making the cookies.  And trying to guess at the baking temp and time can be fun in its own right despite the potential difficulties associated therewith.  They will enjoy the interview with Mo Willems, too.  Willems shares some interesting insights as well as some funny thoughts throughout the course of his interview.  It only lasts a little over eight minutes.  But in that time, parents and children alike get plenty of entertainment.  He starts off talking to his young audiences, telling them how they had come up with such great ideas for the pigeon’s adventures.  Audiences of all ages will love his anecdote about the pigeon’s thoughts on Willems drawing any book that doesn’t include him in it.  And his revelation that he doesn’t set out to draw books that can be adapted to the small screen is just an interesting to note.  He adds in this discussion that it just so happens that it all worked out that way.  These little nuggets are just part of what audiences will appreciate in Willems’ interview.  There is much more to take away from his interview.  But audiences will just have to find out what other thoughts he shares when they pick up or order this DVD themselves.  Along with those thoughts, audiences will get to enjoy all three of the stories and choose which one is their favorite.  They will also get to try and make Edwina’s chocolate chip cookies with their parents.  It all works together to once again make Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems one more collection from Scholastic that any parent and child will love with every watch.  It is available now and can be ordered direct from the New Kideo web store at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/dont-let-the-pigeon-stay-up-late-and-more-stories-by-mo-willems/.  More information on this and other releases from Scholastic and New Kideo is available online at http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo, http://www.scholastic.com, and http://www.newkideo.com.

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.

Rapunzel Update A Fun Read For The Whole Family

 

Courtesy:  Eifrig Publishing, LLC

Courtesy: Eifrig Publishing, LLC

Green Golly & her Golden Flute sounds like quite the silly name for a book, right?  It’s a silly name, but a fun read for parents and their children.  And it’s just as fun for teachers of younger readers.  The new book by Keith Torgan and Barbara Siesel is an enjoyable story that while it bears obvious similarity to the classic fairytale, Rapunzel, it also manages to maintain its own identity with its own fun and funny additions that are sure to get both children and adults alike laughing.  Readers will enjoy the illustrations by artist Suzanne Langelier-Lebeda as much as the funny updates to the classic story.  And the story’s bonus CD makes it even more enjoyable.  Not only does it tell the story orally, but it also serves as an equally wonderful introduction to the world of classical music.  This makes the pair’s new book even better for parents, teachers, and children.

Green Golly & her Golden Flute is a joy for readers of all ages.  It is quite the obvious update to the classic story of Rapunzel.  But Keith Torgan and Barbara Siesel have partnered with illustrator Suzanne Langelier-Lebeda to make a story that while being an update is its own fun story.  It’s a far less dark story than the original tale on which it is based.  Torgan and Siesel will have readers laughing uproariously as they write of Golly that she was “the kind of girl who could always make a pocketbook from a pig’s ear, lemonade from a lemon, or fertilizer from a small pile of doo-doo.”  And the inclusion of a little Asian rodent friend named “Mousey Tongue” is a nice touch, too.  Young readers won’t get this joke.  But parents definitely will.  Torgan and Siesel even toss in a little modern touch to the story that is sure to have parents and teachers laughing.  It’s a touch very similar to old cartoons such as the famed Fractured Fairytales shorts from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.  Readers will have to find out what that funny modern touch is for themselves when they purchase the book.

The story itself contained in the pages of Green Golly & her Golden Flute is a joy for readers of all ages.  It’s not all that readers will enjoy about this new book, though.  The original illustrations drawn by artist Suzanne Langelier-Lebeda have a genuine cartoon feel to them.  Just as hand drawn animation in cartoons gives said features more of an identity over CG created films and TV shows, so does the art in a book.  And Mrs. Langelier-Lebeda’s artwork definitely gives this book its own identity among any other children’s book in much the same fashion.  The manner in which the narrator is drawn into each page of the story helps to point out his position as a third party of sorts.  Instead of just being another invisible voice, readers get to see what he looks like.  It makes him a character all his own.  In turn, it makes the story that much more accessible and enjoyable to readers.

The story and animation included in Green Golly & her Golden Flute make this book enjoyable in itself.  Readers will also appreciate the book’s audio companion just as much as the book.  Parents and teachers will especially appreciate the audio companion because of its ability to even better present the story’s funny similarity to the classic Fractured Fairytales shorts from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.  The narration and acting on the part of both Torgan and Siesel will have any reader laughing and smiling from start to finish.  On a completely separate level, the audio companion is an excellent addition to the book as it makes an excellent introduction to the world of classical music for young listeners.  In an age when young listeners are being exposed to a seemingly endless stream of hollow, soulless pop and rock acts that sound far too similar to one another, any salvo in the battle in support of classical music is deeply appreciated.  Listeners are introduced to the music of Mozart, Mendelssohn, Bizet, and others as she learns how to play her flute.  Listeners even get to hear the full songs featured in Green Golly’s lessons as a postlude of sorts.  This is a positive because any listeners whose interest might be piqued by the original classical compositions presented will get to hear them in their entirety, rather than just as small snippets.  This makes the book’s accompanying CD that much more of a bonus for readers of all ages.  And together with everything included in the book, the package as a whole proves to be a wonderful experience for the whole family.  The entire package can be ordered online direct from the Green Golly Project website at http://www.greengolly.com/flute/index.html.  Parents can get even more information on the Green Golly Project at http://www.greengolly.com and http://www.facebook.com/GreenGolly.

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.

Scholastic Releasing Two New “Storybook Treasures” Compilations

Scholastic will release two new additions to its highly successful and family favorite Storybook Treasures collection this Summer.

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems will be released Tuesday, August 27th alongside Children Make Terrible Pets…and more stories about family.  Both DVD sets will include the standard Read-a-long feature, allowing children to read the story while they listen to it at the same time.  They will both also include author interviews.  And as an added bonus Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems will include a recipe for Edwina’s Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Edwina’s Chocolate Chip Cookies take center stage in the story of Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct.  It’s just one of the stories included in first collection of the pair.  Parents, teachers, and kids will also get to enjoy in this collection, Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion,  and the collection’s lead story.  Mo Willems and Cher Willems both serve as narrators for these stories along with John Sczieska.

Children Make Terrible Pets…and more stories about family is the second release in the pair from Scholastic, New Video and New Kideo.  This compilation’s lead story is a funny but cautionary tale for little ones.  It tells the story of a young female bear that brings home a little boy one day and wants to keep the boy as a pet.  The little bear is warned by her mother that “children make terrible pets.”  But the little bear, named Lucy, sets out to disprove her mother and show that she can be a good “pet” owner to the little boy.  The result will have parents, teachers, and children laughing.  This story is joined by the companion stories, All The World, Crow Call, and Elizabeth’s Doll.  Authors Peter Brown, the man behind Children Make Terrible Pets and Lois Lowry, author of Crow Call, are interviewed in this set’s bonus features as is illustrator Marla Frazee.  Frazee is the illustrator behind the book, All The World.

More information on both of these releases is available online at the New Kideo website, http://www.newkideo.com and the Scholastic website, http://www.scholastic.com as well as their Facebook pages, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.

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 Oz Adaptation’s Bonus Features Give Movie New Life On Home Release

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  Who doesn’t know that old adage?  Not to spoil the movie too much for that have yet to see it, but it is this adage that serves as the basis for Disney’s new live action/CGI based Oz The Great and Powerful.  This latest big screen adaptation of author L. Frank Baum’s Oz books was met largely with mixed reviews when it premiered in early 2013.  The fact that it was released to DVD and Blu-ray only a couple months after didn’t bode well for this movie.  Luckily for the movie, the bonus features included in its home release have managed to save it and make it worthy of a second watch.

The hybrid live action/CGI origin story of the wizard and the witch does an impressive job in its attempts to pay homage to The Wizard of Oz.  The sets used for the Emerald City are just as impressive as those used in the earlier story.  That the film makers would try to stay as true as possible to Baum’s fantasy world is worthy of at least some praise.  Making their efforts even more worthy of praise is what is revealed in the behind-the-scenes feature, “Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas To Oz.”  Viewers learn in this feature that CGI was only one method of movie magic used in this movie.  It is revealed that actual puppets were used in conjunction with CGI elements in order to bring both the China Girl and Finley to life.  It isn’t very often in this era of largely computer driven special effects blockbusters see such a style of special effects used.  So even in this aspect, it is nice to see that those behind the cameras would go so far in paying tribute to classic film making.

The use of puppets was quite an impressive revelation about this story’s creation.  In connection, the use of CGI to put the faces of Joey King and Zach Braff onto the China Girl and Finley was just as worthy of praise.  It would have been easy to just use CGI based creations and had the pair voice them.  But instead, their faces were put onto the pair. There is something special about this.  Even Sweeter was that both king and Braff voiced their characters.  It shows again the drive to make the story as believable as possible.  It was very nice to see the charged with making this happen took their jobs so seriously.  It proves yet again the importance of bonus features in the home release of any movie.

Viewers that check out the feature focusing on the special effects and general production values of Oz The Great and Powerful will hopefully gain new respect for the film.  If it doesn’t achieve its intended goal, then perhaps the companion feature, “Walt Disney and the Road To Oz” will help in that effort.  It is a much shorter feature in comparison to the previously mentioned bonus feature.  But it goes quite well in companion to the behind-the-scenes feature.  Viewers learn in this companion piece that Walt Disney had actually wanted for years before his death, to bring to life his own take on Baum’s works in a movie titled, The Rainbow Road to Oz.  Yet for a variety of reasons, he never did see those efforts bear any fruit before his passing in 1966.  It wouldn’t be until 1985 that the company bearing his name would see the release of an Oz-centric story in Return to Oz.  This movie was nowhere near as family friendly as the hit 1939 blockbuster that was The Wizard of Oz.  Keeping all of this in mind in watching Oz The Great and Powerful, one can’t help but have at least some extra respect for everything that went into bringing this latest adaptation to life.  And with any luck, viewers will understand in watching these (and the movie’s other bonus features) that this latest film adapted from Baum’s books is worthy of at least one watch.  For those that saw it in theaters, they will hopefully see that it is worth a second watch.

Oz The Great and Powerful is available now on a variety of platforms.  It is available both in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Disney Store and Disney DVD store at http://www.disneystore.com and http://disney.go.com/thewizard/.

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.