Danny Phantom Complete Series Set Is Loads Of Ghostly Fun For All

Courtesy:  Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Nickelodeon’s programming today is comprised largely of live action sitcoms aimed at teen viewers.  However, from the early 1990s up until the mid-2000s, the network was known more for its vast array of cartoons.  It’s “Nicktoons” were its heart and soul.  While Nickelodeon does have some cartoons today, the network’s sole remaining real Nicktoon is Butch Hartman’s hugely successful series Fairly OddparentsFairly Oddparents is a standout series, too.  Interestingly enough, it isn’t his first series to have the honor of being added to Nickelodeon’s list of beloved Nicktoons.  His first notable “Nicktoon” was the short-lived supernatural series Danny Phantom.  Now thanks to Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon, fans of Danny Phantom will be able to own the complete series in one box later this month.  Danny Phantom only ran for three seasons.  In its defense, it could be argued that this was because it was ahead of its time.  That aside, series creator Butch Hartman and his writers crafted a number of enjoyable episodes throughout the show’s short run.  Just as worth noting about this new upcoming box set is that is alleviates some minor problems raised in the box sets containing the series’ second season.  Lastly, those that know their Nicktoons history will appreciate the voice talent that made up the series’ cast.  That who’s who of voice actors combined with the enjoyable stories, and the fact that they are all available together for the first time collectively make this upcoming set well worth picking up for any Danny Phantom fan.

Fans of Danny Phantom: The Complete Series  will appreciate this new complete series set first and foremost because it presents the series’ entire three-season run in one complete box set.  Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have already released three complete series sets from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, and The Angry Beavers.  Those sets proved to actually take up far less space on DVD racks than the stand-alone season sets that had originally been released.  This set is no different.  All nine discs that make up all three seasons are included in this box.  Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have sweetened the deal even more for fans in that they have maintained the established wise packaging that was used in the aforementioned complete series sets.  The discs are placed inside the box on either side of their own “insert” with the ninth and final disc being placed in its own spot inside the back of the case.  As with the previously noted box sets, this protects the discs and allows the episodes contained within each one to be enjoyed much longer.  It is the starting point of what audiences will appreciate about Danny Phantom: The Complete Series.

The packaging for Danny Phantom: The Complete Series is a good starting point in discussing everything that makes this box set well worth its price.  The episodes contained across the set’s nine total discs make the presentation as a whole even more enjoyable.  It would be easy to say that because its main characters were high school students, Danny Phantom was just another program aimed at audiences of the same age. To a point, it could be seen how teen audiences would take an interest in the series.  Case in point, one of the series’ story arcs involved a potential inter-racial romance between Danny and black classmate named Valerie Gray (voiced by Cree Summer—The Cosby Show, Clifford The Big Red Dog, Codename: Kids Next Door, etc.).  It really is a sign of the times that the show’s writers would include this without making a big fuss over it, either.  It is a subtle, but nice addition to the series.  There are also the constant struggles to balance trying to be a regular teen with being a superhero. But the jokes that are tossed in each episode aren’t above some younger viewers, either.  So while teens might have been the primary audience, younger viewers would have obviously enjoyed the show, too.  The same applies to today’s teens and pre-teens, too.

The packaging and writing that make up Danny Phantom’s episodes are collectively a big part of what makes the series so enjoyable even for today’s younger audiences.  There is at least one more aspect of the series’ new set that audiences will appreciate in examining the presentation as a whole.  That aspect is the series’ voice cast.  The series’ primary cast reads like a who’s who of voice acting.  It has already been noted that veteran voice actress Cree Summer is part of the primary cast (even though she doesn’t come into play until the second season).  Along with Ms. Summer, Grey DeLisle (The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Clifford The Big Red Dog, Clifford: The Puppy Years, Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends, etc.) Kath Soucie (Futurama, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Beauty and the Beast, etc.), Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, etc.) and a whole slate of others each play roles in the series.  Fans will also recognize the voices of Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim, Hellboy & Hellboy II), Martin Mull (Roseanne), and the man who is perhaps the busiest male voice actor in the business, one Frank Welker (Curious George, The Real Ghostbusters, Scooby-Doo Where Are You, etc.)  Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), Taylor Lautner (the Twilight saga), and the late David Carradine even make appearances throughout the series among so many other big names.  If the massive list of A-listers that play roles in Danny Phantom isn’t reason enough to check out the new Danny Phantom: The Complete Series box set, then one need only set that alongside the enjoyable writing and the equally wise packaging to see just how worthwhile this set is for kids and kids at heart.  It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, January 28th.  It can be pre-ordered online now from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/danny-phantom-complete-series.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Dancing: A Man’s Game Will Have Gene Kelly Fans Dancing With Joy

Courtesy:  Entertainment One/Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc./Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation

Courtesy: Entertainment One/Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc./Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation

The art of dance is something that has been traditionally associated more with women than with men.  Any man that has ever openly admitted to being a dancer or even a fan of the dance arts has been stigmatized.  Terms such as “sissy” and worse have been commonly used for said men.  It’s a sad reality even now into the 21st Century. Thanks to Entertainment One’s brand new re-issue of Omnibus: Gene KellyDance: A Man’s Game though, one can hope that the fight to make dancing socially acceptable among men. This is the biggest and most important of the positives in this new re-issue from E1.  Just as important to the documentary is its historical aspect.  This is just one episode from one of television’s most revered series. It’s also an example of what once made NBC a powerhouse among television’s very limited options during its day.  In watching the near hour-long presentation, one must also take into account the actual presentation of the episode.  Considering the age of this episode’s footage and its quality, one can’t help but be impressed.  That along with the bonus booklet brings everything full circle and makes Omnibus: Gene KellyDance: A Man’s Game a piece of entertainment history that any viewer will appreciate for one reason or another.

Omnibus: Gene Kelly—Dance: A Man’s Game is an important piece of entertainment history.  It’s important first and foremost because it touches on a topic that still is very pertinent to society even today.  Simply put, it transcends generations.  It also crosses the lines in terms of its key viewer base. It manages to reach not just one but many different audience groups by having a famous actor discuss said topic. So whether audiences are fans of Gene Kelly the actor, Gene Kelly the dancer, dancers themselves, fans of the dance arts, or even athletes, this episode of one of television’s groundbreaking series reaches so many audiences without even trying.  Kelly makes an argument in support of dance that has been used countless times since this episode.  It had even been used at the time of this episode, obviously, and before.  The argument in question ties together the movements of athletes into the world of dance. The argument in question is used in hopes to dispel the long-held stereotypes centered around men that dance.  Unlike all of the other times that this argument has been used, Kelly enlists some rather famous friends to help illustrate how the two separate worlds are in fact more closely related than one might otherwise think.  The value of this episode of Omnibus is crystal clear from this factor alone.  But there is even more to appreciate in this near hour-long episode of NBC’s landmark series.  The historical value of this episode is just as important as the episode’s content.

The content of this episode of Omnibus reveals that it is timeless to say the very least.  It covers a topic that is still very relevant even now in the 21st Century.  That is just the beginning of this re-issue’s value to viewers.  Looking at this episode from a larger historical side, its value is increased even more. Viewers today are offered so many channels thanks to cable and satellite.  Yet despite the massive number of channels, viewing options are actually quite limited.  Television today is limited largely to crime and medical dramas, reality (voyeur) TV, countless awful rip-offs of Star Search, and just as many news magazine shows that are front loaded with real life crime stories.  PBS is television’s only network today that offers any programming even remotely near the level of Omnibus.  That’s because even the once powerhouse Discovery Communications networks (Discovery Channel, TLC) and History Channel have fallen victim to the reality show virus.  To that extent, it goes without saying that any television history buff will appreciate this episode of Omnibus if only for the fact that it serves as a reminder of what once made television great.

Any television history buff will appreciate this episode of Omnibus first and foremost because it serves as a reminder of what once made television great.  On a deeper level, television history buffs will appreciate this episode because of the quality of the footage.  Gene Kelly’s episode of Omnibus was originally broadcast on December 21st, 1958.  That is a span of nearly fifty-five years.  Audiences see in this episode the original footage from that broadcast.  There are some audio jumps throughout the course of the episode’s near sixty-minute run time.  And the footage itself is quite grainy.  But all of this is a good thing.  It’s a good thing because it means viewers today are seeing this episode almost exactly as it was in its original broadcast.  For some, that will certainly generate a warm and happy feeling of nostalgia.  For others, it will be appreciated as that audio and video mix shows just how far television has come since its infancy.  Regardless of the effect of the footage on viewers, the general positive emotional and historical appreciation felt by viewers pushes this episode of Omnibus even higher.

Everything that went into resurrecting Gene Kelly’s episode of Omnibus makes it a wonderful watch.  But one would be remiss to note, too the bonus booklet included with the DVD. The booklet included with this DVD is a bonus in every sense of the word.  It offers an in-depth look at Kelly’s own career, as well as everything that went into bringing this episode to life.  There is even a copy of the episode’s script included as a visual aid for viewers among so much more.  That much more includes photos taken from the set of this episode, publicity photos, newspaper reviews of the original broadcast, and even Kelly’s own words in which he explains his view of society’s stereotype of men and dancing.  That mass of information brings everything full circle in this brand new release from Entertainment One and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation.  It will be available on DVD Tuesday, December 17th, just in time for Christmas.  Audiences can get even more information on this release and all things Gene Kelly on the official Gene Kelly website, http://www.GeneKelly.com and the official Gene Kelly Legacy Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/GeneKellyTheLegacy.  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.

Pound Puppies’ Latest Compilation One Of The Show’s Best Yet

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Hub Network/Hasbro Studios

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Hub Network/Hasbro Studios

Shout! Factory has teamed up with Hasbro Studios and the Hub network once again another compilation of episodes from Hub’s Pound PuppiesPound Puppies: Holiday Hijinks is one of the best compilations from this family and kid favorite series to be released yet.  That is largely because of each episode’s writing.  This compilation offers viewers some of the series’ most heartfelt episodes to date.  Just as noteworthy in this compilation is the guest voice talent.  Both parents and kids alike will recognize the celebrity voices that are included in some of the episodes in this set.  Something more subtle, but just as worth noting in this collection of episodes is that each one features its own musical number.  It’s something that hadn’t been seen (or rather heard) in previous collections.  It’s a nice touch to the episodes in question.  The reason for that will be discussed later.  All things considered, Holiday Hijinks is one more great addition to any family’s home DVD library, whether it’s their first introduction to the new Pound Puppies or not.

The latest compilation of Pound Puppies episodes includes five more episodes from the Hub network’s hit children’s series.  This follows the same format as the previous DVD compilations that have been released.  The episodes collected for this collection stand out because they are some of the series’ most heartwarming episodes yet.  The collection’s opener, “I Heard The Barks on Christmas Eve” is the collection’s only actual holiday themed episode.  It’s still a wonderful story, nonetheless.  For the first time ever, viewers see that Mr. McLeish actually has a heart and isn’t the mean middle aged man that he comes across as being in most episodes.  It presents those classic messages that everybody needs somebody and that everybody deserves somebody, especially during the holidays.  Audiences will appreciate how writer Joe Ansolabehere expanded on the show’s central theme of family in the set’s second episode, “I Never Barked For My Father.”  Lucky meets his long lost father and brother for the first time ever in this episode.  These are two of the collection’s finest.  What’s more, older audiences will appreciate the guest vocal talent shared here.  That is another positive to this set of episodes.

The episodes collected for Pound Puppies: Holiday Hijinks offer plenty of heart and laughs.  The writers behind the show are to be applauded for their work.  Just as worth noting of these episodes is the guest vocal talent recruited for these episodes.  Lucky’s father is voiced by none other than Gary Cole in “I Never Barked For My Father.”  And his long lost brother is voiced by one Gary Cooksey.  Cooksey is best known for his time on Diff’rent Strokes as well as voicing Montana Max on Tiny Toon Adventures and portraying Robert “Buddy” Budnick on Nickelodeon’s hit 90s series, Salute Your Shorts.  Older audiences will recognize Gary Cole from his roles in Office Space, Dodgeball, Talladega Nights, and Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law just to name some of his work.  Cole and Cooksey are just a couple of the well-known names that grace this collection of episodes.  Fred Stoller (Wordgirl, Everybody Loves Raymond) guests on the collection’s opener as the voice of Ralph.  Ralph is a stray that has lost his Christmas spirit because he has never had a single owner.  That all changes thanks to the Pound Puppies.  Wayne Knight (Seinfeld, Scooby-Doo & The Goblin King, Jurassic Park, The Exes) also shares his talents as the voice of Ralphie, Mr. McLeish’s old friend in “Good Dog, McLeish.”  If that isn’t enough, then the addition of both Tress MacNeille (Futurama, The Simpsons) and Charles Shaughnessy (The Nanny) as guest talent in “Prince and the Pupper” will certainly convince parents to check out this latest collection of Pound Puppies episodes with their kids.  The list of guest talent included in Pound Puppies: Holiday Hijinks is only a glimpse of the big name actors and actresses that have lent their talents to this series over the course of three seasons.  And it’s just one more reason for families to enjoy this collection together.  There is one more reason that families will enjoy the episodes presented in this set.  That reason is that each of the set’s five episodes includes its own musical number.  It would have been so easy for the writers to go over the top considering the history of musical numbers in shows that aren’t known for musical numbers.  Instead, the show’s writers made each episode’s musical number respectable and within limitations.  They didn’t make them big, cheesy tongue-in-cheek numbers.  They actually add a certain amount of emotion and comic relief where necessary.  Just as with the guest vocal talent and the equally enjoyable writing overall, the musical number become one more part of the whole that makes Pound Puppies: Holiday Hijinks well worth the watch any time of the year.  It is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/pound-puppies-holiday-hijinks.  More information on this and other Pound Puppies DVDs 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.

Cloudy 2 Is A Rare Ray Of Light Among 2013′s Sea Of Sequels

Courtesy:  Sony Pictures Animation

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Animation

Everyone knows the old adage that a movie’s sequel is never as good as the original. Everyone also knows the old adage that one should never say never. That’s because there are exceptions to the rule. Sony Pictures’ Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 is one of those exceptions to the rule. While it might not have been a necessary sequel, it is still a fun movie for the whole family. The movie picks up right where its forerunner left off, even going so far as to highlight the events of that movie in the outset of this story. The writing team of Phil Lord, Chris Miller and Erica Rivinoja are to be applauded for this. It’s not all for which they are worthy of applause, either. The trio has crafted in this story that while predictable, also has its own share of heart and humor.  The mediations on friendship and environmentalism make the story even more entertaining.  For all the work put in by the script’s writing team, viewers can’t ignore the work put into bringing the “Lost World” style environment to life.  This element makes the movie even richer.  It is especially the case for those with an interest in computer graphics. When they take all of this into consideration, audiences of all ages will find that Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 is one of the surprisingly rare worthwhile sequels churned out by Hollywood’s major studios in 2013.

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 seems on the surface to be an unnecessary and even unbelievable story. Much like its precursor, this movie has no link whatsoever to the book on which it was lifted. Rather, it is more akin to Jurassic Park than the book on which it is based. But once audiences allow themselves to get past this factor, they will find that it has real entertainment value.  The script picks up right where the previous movie left off. It even catches up audiences that have yet to have seen said movie.  This isn’t something that’s commonly seen among the masses of sequels that currently jam theaters.  To that extent, the story’s writers deserve a certain amount of credit.  They are also deserving of credit for the fact that despite their script being predictable, it also bears its own share of heart and humor.  The central message in this script is one of friendship and its importance.  Lord and company make the statement that friends are some of the most important people that anyone can have.  This couldn’t be truer.  Any parent will appreciate that this message was included in the script.

The message of friendship made for plenty of heart throughout the roughly ninety-five minute run time of Cloudy 2.  That heart is something that viewers of any age will appreciate.  It’s just part of the whole presentation, though.  There is just as much of a comic element to the movie as there is heart.  The comedy comes in the form of countless pop culture references and jokes.  Younger audiences won’t catch all of the jokes included in the script.  But parents definitely will.  And they will be surprised to find themselves laughing at those jokes.  One could go so far as to argue that the “Live” company and its founder are a spoof of Apple.  That argument could be made considering Apple’s reputation.  Set against the “Live” Company and its loyal legions, the similarities are too obvious to ignore.  Regardless of whether or not a given viewer is an Apple loyalist, any viewer that recognizes this similarity will appreciate the jab at the company.

The mix of heart and humor does so much to make Cloudy 2 fun for the entire family.  There is one more aspect of the movie that as subtle as it is, is just as important to note in its success.  That aspect is the movie’s Jurassic Park style world.  The world crafted by those behind the movie is absolutely stunning.  Yes, the movie as a whole is just another crafted via CG rather than by hand.  This critic will never dismiss that argument.  However, one can’t ignore the detail and depth given to Swallow Falls.  The world crafted for this movie is so lush and rich in color and style.  It actually stands out in its own way against so many other CG features.  This is exemplified by all of the jungle scenes and the inner workings of the Big Rock Candy Mountain.  Yes, Lord and his co-writers went there.  That’s just one of so many of the pop culture references that only parents will get and appreciate.  The colors and detail of the rock candy crystals and walls inside the mountain were so precise and bright.  The same can be said of the onion/brontosaurs type creatures.  It’s obvious in their case that their scenes were modeled precisely after the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.  They moved and acted just like the dinosaurs in question.  There is so much more that could be noted.  But it would be a disservice to audiences to ramble on about all of it here.  Audiences will appreciate what they find when they check out this rare worthwhile sequel for themselves.  It is in theaters now.  More information on Cloudy 2 and other Sony Pictures releases is available online at http://www.facebook.com/SonyPictures, http://www.facebook.com/SONYPicturesAnimation, http://www.sonypictures.com, http://www.sonypicturesanimation.com, http://twitter.com/#!/sonyanimation, and http://twitter.com/sonypictures.

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 Haunting Hour Volume Six Offers Audiences Even More Scary Fun

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/The Hub Network

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/The Hub Network

The sixth and latest volume of episodes from R.L. Stine’s hugely popular series, The Haunting Hour offers four more frightful tales of terror for viewers off all ages.  And it’s not the end for fans of the hit series, either.  Volume Six brings home even more episodes from the series’ second season just in time for the start of the series’ fourth season.  Volume Six is another fright-filled joy for viewers not only because it continues the tradition of offering wonderfully fright-filled stories, but also because it carries on the traditions established throughout the series’ previous volumes.  From the disclaimer encouraging parents to be parents and watch the show with their kids to including young well-known guest stars, it’s all here once more, making Volume Six one more must have for any kid and kid at heart.

The Haunting Hour Volume Six brings to viewers four more episodes from the series’ second season.  And just as with Volume Five, the first of those episodes is split into two parts.  The episode in question, titled “Creature Feature” is also one of the best from this set.  This episode sees a young classic film buff named John (Joel Courtney—Super 8) discovering that sometimes it isn’t just a movie.  He discovers this after being accidentally pulled into one of his favorite classic B-flicks at a haunted drive-in.  The twist comes when he escapes the movie.  It turns out that the movie was much more real than he or even his friends could have imagined.  In another of the season’s best episodes, the show’s writers pay homage in their own way to Rod Serling’s classic series, The Twilight Zone in “Brush With Madness.”  This episode sees teen comic book aficionado Corey (Dylan Minnette–Awake) getting to meet his favorite comic book artist, Allan Miller (Mackenzie Gray) at a comic book convention.  After being blown off by Miller, Corey takes Miller’s brushes, which leads to an ever more tense fight to stay alive.  These two stories are just a couple of examples of the scary fun offered up by R.L. Stine in Volume Six of The Haunting Hour.  There is much more in the remaining episodes that audiences will enjoy.  And it’s not the only reason that parents and kids alike will enjoy this latest release.

Volume Six is just as impressive as the series’ previous releases because it continues the traditions established in said compilations.  One of those traditions is the inclusion of a straight forward disclaimer before each episode.  The disclaimer states in no uncertain terms that the show may not be suitable for children under the age of seven, and that young viewers should only watch the show with their parents.  This is a polite yet straightforward way of telling parents that they need to step up and be parents, rather than just leave their kids to watch anything.  They need to take an active role in their children’s lives and make their own decision on what they think their children should watch.  This is a standard established from early on by The Hub network.  And it is good to see that those behind the show have continued it six volumes in.

The inclusion of a polite yet straightforward disclaimer at the start of each episode is an important part of the whole presentation.  It’s not the only important part of the whole.  Also continued in Volume Six is the tradition of bringing in famous young celebrities in select episodes.  This time out, Super 8 stars Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths guest star in two of the compilation’s best episodes.  Also on board this time out are Julia Benson (SGU: Stargate Universe) and Dylan Minnette (Awake).  While some younger viewers may not recognize all of these names, parents are more apt to know who they are, thus helping to encourage parents to take an active role in their kids’ lives and watch the show with them.  Along with the disclaimer before each episode, it’s one more ingenious way to get parents to get involved in what their kids are watching.  For that, those responsible for bringing the guest stars for these episodes are to be commended.  Those behind the show as a whole are to be commended.  Not just for these brilliant methods, but for crafting four more episodes full of fright-filled for the entire family.  Volume Six is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/node/217799.  More information on this and other shows from Shout! Factory and The Hub Network is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com, http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial and http://www.hubworld.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.

Time Life, StarVista Deserve Applause For Mama’s Family Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Time Life/StarVista/Warner Home Video

Courtesy: Time Life/StarVista/Warner Home Video

Television today is a pale shadow of what it once was.  It used to have so much heart and substance.  But somewhere along the way, something changed.  Both the heart and substance were thrown out the window in favor of programming overly laden with sex and violence.  Thankfully StarVista, Time Life and Warner Home Video have officially released another nugget of television’s past in the form of Mama’s Family Season 1 that reminds audiences of what once made television great.  The first season of this spinoff from The Carol Burnett Show is front loaded with so many laughs that even audiences not familiar with the iconic comedy will agree it’s a welcome re-issue.  It also boasts some wonderful acting on the part of star Vicky Lawrence and her co-stars.  On a more extrinsic level, audiences will appreciate Season One’s packaging.  The packaging for the discs is right along the lines of most other companies.  All things considered, Mama’s Family Season One proves in its new re-issue to be just as fun as it has ever been.  It is a highly recommended piece for anyone looking for a change of pace from what TV studios offer today.

The debut season of Mama’s Family is the funniest of the show’s six total seasons.  It offered some of the greatest writing of any sitcom of the twentieth century.  It was completely unlike anything else on the air at the time.  It took the classic nuclear family setup from older family based sitcoms and completely turned it on its ear.  Even more interesting, it did so without being too racy or edgy.  By comparison to today’s programming, that speaks volumes for this sitcom.  Mama’s Family walked a very fine line even during the 80s.  But it never crossed that line.  It’s just part of the writing that made (and still makes) it such a cult hit.  Season One also offered its share of pure laughs.  A prime example of that lies in an episode that sees Thelma and company make an appearance on the hit game show, Family Feud.  Then host Richard Dawson was even on hand for the laugh riot episode.  This was such a funny episode in that it took that dysfunctional family element and took it outside the walls of Thelma’s house into a wholly new environment.  The result is one of the funniest episodes of Season One and of the entire series.

The writing behind Mama’s Family made this sitcom unlike anything else on television at the time.  It continues to do so today.  But what is good writing without a cast to bring the scripts to life?  Luckily, the cast that made “The Family” a hit on The Carol Burnett Show were also the cast here in Season One of Mama’s Family.  It would have been so easy to replace any of the core cast with new actors for the series.  Luckily that didn’t happen.  In turn, the chemistry developed among the original cast members was allowed to develop here.  It was obvious just how much chemistry the cast had, too.  This is especially the case between Burnett and Lawrence.  Audiences will be laughing nonstop as they watch the pair argue so convincingly as if they really were mother and daughter.  The episode, “Cellmates” is proof of that.  When the pair end up in jail together, it leads to one of the funniest moments between the pair in Season One.  The occasional appearances of Betty White and Rue McClanahan as Fran and Ellen added their own extra comic element, too.  Ironically enough, the pair would go on to star together in The Golden Girls only a couple years later.  That aside, the acting of both women and the rest of the show’s cast in Season One proves to be one more reason that any true fan of comedy should watch at least this season.

Writing and acting are obviously the most important part of any television program’s success.  Both elements have made Mama’s Family a huge success even roughly three decades after it first premiered.  There is one more piece of the puzzle to examine in what makes  the newly re-issued first season of Mama’s Family a success.  That piece to the puzzle is its packaging.  Season One’s packaging follows the standard used so commonly today for multi-disc box sets.  Two of the set’s three discs are placed on either side of a plastic “insert” while the third is placed in its own spot on the back side of the case.  This standard packaging format helps to protect the integrity of the discs.  It also is more ergonomic.  Packaging usually doesn’t get much credit for DVD and blu-ray sets.  But it really is an important part of any release’s full presentation.  And in this case, it’s the icing on the cake of a much welcomed and needed blast from the past that is available now on DVD.  It can be ordered along with the larger complete set online at http://timelife.com/products/mama-s-family-the-complete-series.

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.

Twilight Zone Fans Will Appreciate Show’s New Re-Issue

Courtesy:  RLJ Entertainment/CBS Home Entertainment

Courtesy: RLJ Entertainment/CBS Home Entertainment

Rod Serling’s classic series The Twilight Zone is one of the most beloved series in modern television history.  Decades after the show first debuted on CBS, it is still watched by millions of audiences the world over.  It has become a pop phenomenon, being referenced by any number of movies and television shows since its initial run.  The series has already been released to audiences in full on DVD in 2006.  Before that, the show’s single season sets began being released in 2004.  And in 2010, it saw release on Blu-ray.  Now nearly a decade after it was first released on DVD by Image Entertainment, fans of this timeless classic have gotten the chance to own the series once more as all five of the show’s seasons have been re-issued on DVD.  So with the show having been re-issued three years ago on Blu-ray, why would one want to own the series on DVD?  The answers to that are simple.  First and foremost, fans of The Twilight Zone will appreciate its cost effectiveness.  Secondly, these new DVD re-issues are far more ergonomically designed than the original DVD sets.  And third, audiences will get largely the same video quality on these new DVD re-issues as they would on the Blu-ray re-issues.  Me-TV and on Syfy, both networks run The Twilight Zone.  The problem is that they run it at times at which most audiences are asleep or getting ready for work.  Keeping this in mind, it makes the new re-issues even more of a must have for any Twilight Zone fan that has yet to own any of the show’s seasons, beginning with its first season.

The first season of the new Twilight Zone re-issues is far more cost effective for fans of the show than the previous DVD release and the more recent Blu-ray re-issues.  The original DVD release of Season 1 is listed on Amazon for a cost of nearly thirty dollars.  The new DVD re-issue of Season One (and the season to follow) are listed at nearly half that price.  And a look at in-store prices reveals roughly the in-store price is roughly half of that original price, too.  The blu-ray re-issues by comparison are listed via Amazon at nearly fifty dollars with a comparable list price of roughly one hundred dollars just for one season.  So suffice it to say that audiences have in the series’ new DVD re-issues five season sets that are far more affordable than any of the previous re-issues.  The cost effectiveness of the new Season One (and Season Two through five) set is a big factor in the decision as to whether or not to buy this set.  Also to take into account with this set is its packaging.

The packaging of the new Twilight Zone Season One box set is far more ergonomic than that of the first season’s original DVD release.  All five discs that contain Season One’s thirty-six episodes are placed into a standard size DVD case in the new DVD re-issue.  By comparison, the original DVD box set was much more bulky.  The new Season One box set is packaged much more in the newer packaging method used by most companies.  That method places discs on their own spot on either side of a given number of inserts.  And if necessary, discs are placed on either the inside front or back of the case.  This not only saves space all the way around, but it also protects the discs from one another.  The discs are prevented from touching one another, thus greatly reducing the chance of the discs being scratched up.  It is increasingly becoming the standard for every company that releases multi-disc DVD and Blu-ray sets.  So it is a wonderful thing to see that RLJ Entertainment and CBS Home Entertainment have followed this same path.  It is one more positive to Season One’s new re-issue.  It isn’t the last, either.

There is one more factor to consider in whether or not to order or buy the new DVD re-issue of The Twilight Zone Season One.  That factor is the show’s footage.  One of the great things about owning any movie or TV show on Blu-ray is getting to see said show or movie in full clarity.  There’s just one problem.  Not every show re-issued on Blu-ray was originally recorded in High Definition.  Such is the case with The Twilight Zone.  Audiences watching the DVD played back on a Blu-ray player and HDTV will get the same result as those watching the Blu-ray re-issues.  The Blu-ray player and HDTV will upconvert the footage on the DVDs to HD quality.  This goes back to the set’s cost effectiveness.  It makes the new DVD re-issue of Season One all the more worth picking up or ordering.   And for those that still have CRT monitors, the new Season One DVD re-issue will still have that same classic quality that audiences get with its TV broadcast.  Simply put, it all adds up to the same end.  Keeping this factor and the previously mentioned factors in the new Twilight Zone Season One DVD re-issue in mind, one will see just why it is one of five DVD sets a must have for any true purist Twilight Zone fan.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and future Twilight Zone re-issues is available online at http://www.facebook.com/TheTwilightZoneTV.

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Monsters University A College Flick For A Younger Generation

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Every generation has its own college movie.  The 1970s boasted the timeless college comedy, Animal House.  In the 1980’s the social strata of college took another turn in the equally popular comedy, Revenge of the Nerds.  The 1990s saw art imitate life when Jeremy Piven (Entourage, Mr. Selfridge) and David Spade (Rules of Engagement, Tommy Boy, Saturday Night Live) went toe to toe in PCU.  The children of the 2000s even had their own college flicks in the Van Wilder franchise.  Sadly, that franchise was largely forgettable.  Now in the second decade of the 2000s, Disney/Pixar has released this generation’s college movie in the form of Monsters University.  It should come as no surprise to audiences that little more than four months after it premiered in U.S. theaters, Monsters University is already scheduled to be released on DVD, Blu-ray and BD/DVD/Digital combo pack.  It’s definitely not the worst movie of the year.  But it isn’t the year’s best, either.  Though in its defense, it does deserve at least a spot on the list of the year’s best movies.  The reason for this mixed response is that on one hand, it should be obvious to older audiences how this family friendly college flick is little more than an update of the previously noted movies.  This isn’t the movie’s only problem.  Just as Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 focused far too much on Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy), so did Monsters University have its share of problems with character development.  In its defense though, what can be said good about Monsters University is that it does teach some valuable lessons, which are just part of the heart that this story boasts.  That heart is just enough to make the movie worth at least one watch for those that have yet to see it.

The most obvious problem that rises with Monsters University is its general lack of originality.  Monsters, Inc. was such a wonderful film because it was original.  Not even the likes of the 1989 Fred Savage/Howie Mandel flick, Little Monsters could compare to Monsters, Inc.  In understanding this, Monsters University sadly pales in comparison to its forerunner in this avenue.  All it did was take elements of all of the previously mentioned college flicks and tone them down to make them into one family friendly movie.  Yes, it’s good that otherwise grown-up movies finally have a family friendly outlet.  But considering that Pixar has quite the history of being a front runner in the modern world of CG “animated” films thanks to its original movies, this mash-up of already made films knocks the studio (and Disney) down a notch.

The mash-up of so many already made films is only one of the problems from which Monsters University suffers.  Not only does it lift liberally from other much more classic movies, it even goes so far as to lift from its own predecessor.  That is obvious throughout the near two hour movie.  There’s even a scene in which Mike and Sully end up in the real world and have a heart to heart talk before their effort to return to the monster world.  This sort of writing behavior harkens right back to another Disney movie that goes by the name of Tron: Legacy.  That movie basically took the original and retold it for a new generation.  Monsters University has done much the same thing, just in reverse.  Yet again, points are taken off for that.  It doesn’t get much better from here.

Monsters University suffers quite a bit thanks to the fact that it lifts from so many other movies and tries to convince audiences that it’s something new.  What makes it worse is that its team of half a dozen writers do something that another previous Disney/Pixar movie had already done.  Just as Cars 2 ended up being more about Mater, Monsters University is more about Mike than his friendship with Sully.  Yes, audiences see how the friendship between the two originally formed.  But more time is spent focusing on Mike’s impact on the friendship than on the friendship as a whole.  Sully (John Goodman) ends up taking a back seat to Billy Crystal this time out, unlike the equal billing shared between the duo in Monsters, Inc.  Along with the story’s other problems, the collective issues noted here weigh down the story to the point that it makes it difficult to see beyond them.  Luckily though, there are some positives to the overall presentations that save it.

The first of the positives that saves Monsters University is its collective life lessons.  The story presented in this movie’s script includes lessons about acceptance, tolerance, and self-confidence.  They are taught as Mike ends up taking on the lead role of his monster fraternity and has to help them be accepted back into the university through a series of challenges.  Mike learns to have more self-confidence in himself through his experiences.  He also realizes a valuable lesson about how the differences in the monsters at Monsters, Incorporated were what made it such a legendary company.  Again, this goes back to that lesson of self-confidence.  It also ties in to the lessons of acceptance and tolerance in the bigger picture as he and his OK brothers fight to win their competitions and earn their way back into the university.  All of these lessons are important for viewers of any age.  So for all of the problems that weigh down this movie, it is these lessons that keep it afloat and worth at least one watch.  The movie will be available in stores and online on October 29th on DVD and DVD/Blu-ray/Digital combo pack.  More information on the home release of Monsters University is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios, http://movies.disney.com/watch-at-home, and http://www.disneystore.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.

Shout! Factory, Nickelodeon To Release Classic Nicktoon’s Full Series Set This Fall

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Fans of Nickelodeon’s classic 90s Nicktoons are getting a special treat just in time for Halloween courtesy of Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon.  Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon will release Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: The Complete Series on Tuesday, October 8th, just in time to plan those Halloween get-togethers.  The entire series’ four-season run is contained on eight discs in the upcoming release.  The first two hundred people to order the set will receive a free 12” x 18” collectible lithograph.  It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/218263.     

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters follows the adventures of monster friends Ickis, Oblina, and Crumb as they attend scare school and learn how to properly and effectively scare humans.  The classic Nicktoon ran for a total of four seasons from 1994 – 2000.  During its run on Nickelodeon, it received a nomination for a Daytime Emmy in the category of “Outstanding Achievement in Animation.”  The show boasted an all-star voice cast, too.  Charlie Adler (Rocko’s Modern Life, Tiny Toon Adventures, Aladdin), Christine Cavanaugh (Rugrats, Dexter’s Laboratory, Recess), Gregg Berger (Garfield & Friends, The Garfield Show, The Transformers), Tim Curry (Clue, Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, The Rocky Horror Picture Show), and James Belushi (Life According to Jim, Hey Arnold!, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius) round out the cast. 

For more information on previous and future releases from Shout! Factory, audiences can go to the official Shout! Factory website, http://www.shoutfactory.com or the official Shout! Factory Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Liberty’s Kids Makes History Fun For Viewers Of All Ages

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Liberty’s Kids is a wonderful way to get young audiences into history.  The series follows a group of youths through America’s formative years, from the days of the Revolutionary War to America’s eventual full independence.  While its key audience is youths age 7 to 14, even teachers and parents will enjoy it because it does more than just focus on names and dates.  Rather, it takes those names and dates, and puts them into a visual format for young eyes and minds.  It obviously wasn’t going to last too long, considering that it was based on America’s younger years.  But even in lasting only forty episodes, those forty episodes are still episodes that teachers and parents will want to use for more years than it took for America to go from Declaration to full independence.

The very first factor in the success of Liberty’s Kids is that it takes history out of the classroom.  Though, it can be used in the classroom.  Rather than just sitting at their desks, writing down notes, teachers can pop in the four discs that contain the show’s forty episodes, and use them as a way to reach their students.  Parents can even use the set in their homes regardless of whether their children are home schooled or are in public school.  That dual use is a major positive, especially considering what is currently happening with public schools today.  It takes all the names and dates, and puts them into short half hour episodes that can be used over the course of nearly an entire school year, using one episode per week. A couple of weeks might require a couple episodes to make it fully pan out right.  That at least applies for schools not on block scheduling.  Children need every educational aid that they can get to get them interested in history.  Because its episodes are short, and have writing that reaches its intended audiences, it already has two checks in its favor.

The ability of Liberty’s Kids to relate to its audiences through its writing and being an equally wonderful visual aid is key in the success of this short-lived children’s educational series.  There is more to consider in what makes it worth more than a couple watches, though.  So many of today’s children’s “cartoons” are cartoons in name only.  That’s because they are brainless shows based in CGI, rather than true animation.  The thing is that because so few children’s shows are hand drawn today, that when they do show up, very little thought is given to them.  Liberty’s Kids is one of those rare modern cartoons that keep the art of actual art alive.  Given, its style is much like that of the more modernized take on Archie.  But it still manages to maintain some identity separate from that cartoon, and other Cookie Jar titles.  It serves as one more reminder for today’s young audiences how much work goes into bringing hand drawn art to life on screen, and how important it is to have said style of art versus the colder, stale and soulless computer generated children’s shows that are out there today.  Again, it is one more positive to this set that makes it worth more than just a couple watches.  Sure, it’s a minor factor in the grand scheme of things.  But it is no less important to consider in the set’s success.

The animation involved in Liberty’s Kids is a minor factor in the grand scheme of things.  But it is no less important than any other factor in the show’s success.  The same can be said of the guest voice talents that make appearances of sorts throughout the series.  Throughout the show’s forty episodes, veteran actors such as: Dustin Hoffman, Michael Douglas, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg make appearances as famous historical figures from America’s infancy.  One might ask how in the world veteran acting talents are important in the success of a children’s cartoon.  The answer is quite simple.  The inclusion of such big names will potentially influence parents to sit down and watch the show with their children.  Most adults won’t admit it to themselves or others just how much they have lost since their own school days.  So maybe the use of big Hollywood names will be enough to get parents interested and in turn, refresh their own knowledge of American history.  The latent effect of this interest is that it could serve as a starting point for parents to discuss the actors and actresses that make appearances and their film histories both good and bad.  And perhaps when those young audiences that watch Liberty’s Kids today grow up to be adults themselves, they will have an appreciation for movies that will be in their time classics.  So in a roundabout manner, this is a far more important factor in the success of Liberty’s Kids than any viewer would have otherwise realized.  Along with the other factors that went into bringing it to life, it’s one more factor that makes Liberty’s Kids a hit both in the classroom and the living room.  And chances are, it will be for many more years to come.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/liberty-s-kids-the-complete-series.html.

Parents and children can keep up with all of the latest family friendly releases from Mill Creek Entertainment online at http://www.MillCreekDirect.com and http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.