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.

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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.

Josh & The Jamtones’ New Album A Fun New Take On A Children’s Classic

Bear Hunt

Courtesy: Waldmania PR

Boston based children’s band, Josh & The Jamtones describes itself on its Facebook page as being an “exciting and hilarious interactive dance party kids’ band geared towards 2 – 10-year olds and parents of all ages.”  This could not have been a more proper description for the band, fronted by songwriter Josh Shriber.   Simply put, this band’s music is fun for the whole family.  The band’s new album, Bear Hunt more than lives up to the reputation of being exciting and hilarious from start to finish.  Listeners of all ages will enjoy and appreciate both the songs and the skits performed by Shriber and band mate Patrick Hanlin.  The whole presentation is one that easily makes its case for being one of the year’s best children’s albums.

Bear Hunt takes its name from the classic children’s song by the same name. It’s not the “Bear Hunt” that most parents remember.  Shriber and company take the classic “song” and turn it on its ear thanks to its skits.  There are only four skits across the album.  The album’s other ten tracks are music tracks.  Even numbering only four, the skits included in Bear Hunt will have both children and parents alike laughing hysterically.  This is especially the case in the first of the skits.  Shriber’s character makes a call to a hotel to reserve a room for himself and his friend for their bear hunting trip.  The “woman” that answers sounds like Howard Walowitz’s mother from CBS’ Big Bang Theory.  That is to say, “she” sounds like Howard’s mother, only older and without the yelling.  Any parent that watches Big Bang Theory will get that reference.  What it is that makes this personality style so fun to impersonate and just as funny is anyone’s guess.  But the back and forth between this Josh’s character and the receptionist makes for so many laughs.  It is something that must be heard to be fully appreciated and enjoyed.

The opening skit in the Bear Hunt story is a laugh riot.  Parents will especially enjoy this moment.  The fun doesn’t end there.  Josh and his friend have to make their way through the Death Valley Cornfield of Doom and the Lightning Lake of 1,000 Sea Monsters in order to finally reach their goal.  The banter between the pair makes for its own share of laughs.  For instance, there is a funny bit about one of the guys hugging a giant purple bear.  Parents and kids will both laugh at this moment both for their own reasons.  Children will enjoy it simply because of its absurdity.  Parents will enjoy this moment because they will know that adults do in fact over-embellish their accomplishments on a near daily basis.  This is just a reflection of that behavior.  The absurdity of Patrick trying to cover up that he didn’t really hug a giant bear, but a teddy bear only makes it that much funnier.  Again, there’s a certain amount of realism here.

The end result of the pair’s bear hunt is just as hilarious as the previous trio of skits that built up the punch line that is the final scene.  That punch line won’t be revealed here since this album won’t hit stores until this Fall.  But suffice it to say, it will again have both parents and children alike laughing.  They do meet a bear.  But it’s what happens when they meet the bear that will have listeners laughing just as uproariously as they did in the story’s first segment.  The whole thing is so hilarious, that it would be interesting to see Josh & The Jamtones make a full video feature on the story to accompany it.  It absolutely begs for a full video.  Even without a video, it’s still an entertaining group of skits that kids will enjoy with every listen.

The skits included in Bear Hunt are a joy to listen to.  As enjoyable as they are, they’re only part of what makes up Bear Hunt.  There is also plenty of music that will have young listeners dancing.  It boasts a fun mix of ska and reggae set right next to a touch of bluegrass, believe it or not.  One generally would not associate ska and reggae with bluegrass.  But somehow Shriber and company have made it work.  They have made it work quite well at that.  The energy laden ‘Everybody Dance!’ is one of the most enjoyable of songs on this album.  It’s a catchy tune that boasts influences the likes of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones among others.  And what parent wouldn’t look back on their own childhood in hearing ‘Snow Day’ without smiling?  Snow days were the best.  And that nostalgia is echoed clearly through this song.  Seeing their own children dance and sing along with this song will no doubt put a smile on parents’ faces as they will bring back those happy memories.  And of course, who doesn’t love pirates?  Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has proven that everybody does.  So what better fit in this fun collection of songs than a pirate song in the aptly titled, ‘Pirate’s Life?’  These songs are just a tiny portion of what parents and children can expect from Bear Hunt.  There are no motivational songs or anything like that here.  It’s just a fun record with poppy tunes that the whole family will enjoy with every listen.  And there’s not one thing wrong with that.  Bear Hunt will be available October 1st.  The band will hit the road this fall for a tour in support of its new album beginning with a pair of performances at the Life is Good Festival in Canton, MA on Sunday and Monday September 21st and 22nd.  More information on the band’s tour and its upcoming album are available on its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/joshandthejamtones and its official website, http://joshandthejamtones.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.

The Magic School Bus Box Set Will “Rev Up” Viewers Of All Ages

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video Group/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video Group/New Kideo

The history of television is rife with programs that most audiences will agree are timeless.  Among some of the most well known are the likes of: The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle & Friends, Looney Tunes, and The Flintstones just to name a few.  These classics have transcended generations and gone on to become family favorites decades after they ended their runs.  Now in the twenty-first century, a whole new crop of cartoons has gone on to be added to that list.  Among the newer cartoons deserving of the title of “timeless” are most of Nickelodeon’s modern classic Nicktoons from the 1990s and the focus of today’s review, Scholastic’s The Magic School BusThe Magic School Bus has been broadcast on a number of networks.  It has run on PBS, TLC, and most recently, Qubo.  It would seem that Qubo has dropped the classic cartoon though, sadly.  Thankfully, Scholastic has teamed up with New Video and New Kideo in the past year or so to release this modern classic on DVD for both its original audiences and a whole new generation of young fans.  The companies have already put out a number of compilations containing episodes from the justifiably timeless show including the complete fifty-two episode collection. Most recently, the single-disc compilation, The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle was released alongside another new triple-disc collection, The Magic School Bus: Revving Up.  The prior of the two new compilations is impressive in its own right.  The latter of the pair offers just as much enjoyment as the prior, if not more.

The Magic School Bus: Revving Up takes twelve more of the original series’ fifty-two episodes and compiles them for this collection.  The twelve episodes culled for this set are each spread across three more sing-disc compilations within the larger box.  And just as The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle does, the episodes contained on each disc of The Magic School Bus: Revving Up follow a given theme.  The first of the compilations within the box is The Magic School Bus: Under Construction.  This compilation contains the title episode of the larger box.  The kids have to save the Magic School Bus in this episode as it’s in danger of being condemned by their school district’s Vehicle Maintenance Inspector, Junkett.  Get it?  Junkett? Junk It?  Ba-dump-bump-bump.  The late Sherman Hemsely (The Jeffersons, All in The Family, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) voiced the character of Inspector Junkett.  Junkett wants to condemn the bus because he claims it has so many problems.  So it’s up to the kids to find out what’s making the bus sick and in turn save it from being condemned.  It’s one more fun filled episode that parents and kids alike will love watching again and again.  And as with every episode of this modern classic series, it’s another great tool for kids to learn at home or in the classroom. 

The title episode from the new triple-disc set, The Magic School Bus: Revving Up is a joy for parents, teachers and students.  The same can be said of its companion episodes in this first of the set’s discs.  All four episodes on this disc take a look at the different ways in which technology works.  There’s a lesson on how computers work, and even one on construction technology that is just as relevant today as it was in its original broadcast.  These episodes are just part of the whole that makes this set so enjoyable.  Also included across the three-disc set are episodes that teach about how electricity works, and about animals and their habitats.  Whether one is a parent, teacher, or youth, every one of these episodes will entertain viewers of every age.

All twelve episodes culled for this latest multi-disc set are enjoyable in their own way.  They are so enjoyable thanks to the show’s writing staff.  Each episode contained here maintains the standard established in prior collections of simple writing.  The episodes’ writing is simple, but it doesn’t leave viewers feel like they are being talked down to (including adults).  It makes viewers feel like they’re actually watching Ms. Frizzle’s class learning each lesson rather than themselves.  At the same time, they know that they too are learning a lesson without the educational aspect being too overt.  It’s one more of so many positives that can be discussed.  To point out all the positives would take far too much time and too much time.  So suffice it to say that the writing, along with the animation and lessons in general make this latest compilation of episodes one more must in the living room or the classroom.  It is available now in stores and online.  Parents and teachers can order it online via the New Kideo website, http://www.newkideo.com.  And to keep up with all of the latest releases from Scholastic and New Kideo, parents and teachers can go online to the New Kideo website or the official Scholastic website, http://www.scholastic.com or each company’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo 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/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

Hearts Afire An Interesting Trip Back In TV History

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The history of modern television is rife with wonderful, memorable series.  Every genre has its own share of interesting programs.  And then there are those that for whatever reason were not as memorable despite having their own flare.  One of the shows that fits into that latter category is the short-lived political satire, Hearts Afire.  This series, starring Markie Post and the late John Ritter lasted all of fifty-four episodes.  It ran from 1992 – 1995, right around the peak of its more successful counterpart, Murphy Brown.  It was likely the similarities to Murphy Brown that forced this sitcom to the curb.  It could also be argued that while it did have its share of funny jokes, a good share of the show’s writing felt somewhat forced.  Making things even more difficult for the show was the circumstances under which its cast came into it.  These factors alone were enough to doom the show after just three seasons and make it disappear into the mists of television history.  That is, until this year, when Mill Creek Entertainment resurrected the show in its entirety.

Hearts Afire ran a total of fifty-four episodes over the course of its three seasons.  In that time, it had its own level of success.  Though, it never reached the level of its counterpart in Murphy Brown.  CBS ran both shows in the network’s prime time lineup.  This is where the trouble for Hearts Afire begins.  Hearts Afire came along right around the peak of Murphy Brown’s run.  It was pretty obvious the network heads figured if one show about a strong female news personality would work, then another would if a couple minor tweaks were made.  Thus, Hearts Afire was born.  The tweak with this show was that instead of Candace Bergen, Markie Post was introduced as a former news figure who works at a politician’s office.  Post’s Georgie Ann Lahti is a strong female figure along the lines of Murphy Brown.  And that’s a good thing.  The problem is her character’s lines (and those of the entire cast).  The show had its own share of funny lines in each episode.  And the chemistry between Ritter and Post was solid.  But for every truly funny line, there were just as many lines that felt forced.  It isn’t subtle, either.  It’s pretty obvious where the lines become are forced.  This taken into account alongside the blatant similarities to Murphy Brown did a disservice to the show.

The writing behind Hearts Afire was not terrible.  But it was problematic.  It caused some problems for the show.  This problematic aspect aside, the show does deserve a certain amount of defense.  The show’s casting came in under some difficult circumstances.  The term difficult is not meant with a bad connotation here.  Rather, it is meant more in the case of the actors already having established themselves in previous roles made making these new roles all the harder to portray to audiences who had come to know the actors in different roles.  In the case of Markie Post, audiences already knew her as Christine Sullivan in NBC’s Night Court.  And because he had not any major acting since the end of Three’s Company years before, most people knew him for the role of Jack Tripper.  The only major acting that Ritter had done since then was the largely forgettable Problem Child movies in 1990 and 1991.  This same kind of problem plagues so many actors to this day.  Both Ritter and Post had both been pigeonholed of no fault of their own.  The resultant effect was it made these new roles less believable to audiences that knew them for completely different roles. 

If audiences can take into account that both actors were trying to branch out into something different, that will make it easier to put aside beliefs about the pair’s previous roles.  And with any luck, it will allow viewers to let themselves get past some of the show’s writing problems, too.  Getting past both of these obstacles, viewers will find that Hearts Afire has its own charm, and is worth an occasional watch.  It is available now on DVD courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment. 

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Viva Pictures Releasing New Top Cat Animated Adventure

Courtesy:  Viva Pictures

Courtesy: Viva Pictures

Top Cat is back!  One of Hanna Barbera’s most beloved creations returns this summer courtesy of Viva Pictures in a new CG based story.  Top Cat’s new adventure in sees him facing off against a new police chief.  The chief is bent on controlling everybody in his city through big brother style methods and a robotic police force.  But if Top cat has anything to say about it, the chief won’t be getting his way.  The story features the voices of veteran actor and comedian Rob Schneider and Danny Trejo.

A theatrical release is being planned for the return of Top Cat in order to celebrate the movie’s release.  It will also be released to DVD and digital format.  Tickets for the theatrical release are expected to be very family friendly. 

Victor Elizalde, a Viva Pictures representative expressed the company’s excitement at resurrecting this classic cartoon character for a new generation.  “We’re so excited to have the talent of Rob and Danny involved with this project,” he said.  “They truly bring the characters to life in the story!  We’re eager to bring Top Cat: The Movie to theaters in August.”

Audiences can view the trailer for the new movie now online at http://www.vivafilmco.com/topcat_trailer.html.  Fans can find out about all of the latest releases from Viva Pictures online at http://www.vivafilmco.com

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Us Weekly: Segel’s New Romantic Interest Identified

Courtesy:  Us Weekly Magazine

Courtesy: Us Weekly Magazine

Actor Jason Segel has recently been seen out and about with a new mystery woman.  The actor, who is best known for his role on CBS’ How I Met Your Mother, parted ways with former girlfriend Michelle Williams this past February.  Now, the identity of Segel’s new mystery companion has been revealed.  Her name is Bojana Novakovic.  The 31-year old Serbian/Australian actress is best known for her role in The Edge of Darkness.  She was spotted with Segel on June 9th.  She and Segel were seen out and about shopping and sharing lunch together in Hollywood.  Reports are that the photographs saw Segel affectionately wrapping his arm around Novakovic during the couple’s outing.

A source close to Segel noted of Segel and his new love interest that she definitely holds a special place in his heart.  “He had been dating some girls, a few. But think it may be a little more serious with this one,” the source said.  “He wanted to date, but he did learn that down the road he does want something more stable and serious.”

Segel and Williams broke up this past February after dating about a year.  Reports are that the parting of ways was mutual as the couple wasn’t able to make its long distance relationship work.  Williams is currently living in New York with her seven-year old daughter, Matilda.  Segel currently resides in Los Angeles.  In the time since the couple broke up, Williams has allegedly been seen out and about with artist Dustin Yellin.  The couple had been spotted at a park in Brooklyn on June 4th with Williams’ daughter.

More information on this and even more is available online at http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/jason-segels-mystery-girl-identified-bojana-novakovic-2013126#ixzz2W14waVmU.

To keep up with all of the latest celebrity news and more from Us Magazine, go to the magazine’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/UsWeekly and “Like” it.  Fans can also keep up with all the latest celebrity news and more on the Us Magazine website, http://www.UsMagazine.com.  Fans can also keep up with all the latest from Us Magazine on Twitter at http://twitter.com/usweekly.

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SUperhuman Samurai Syerb-Squad Season 1.5 A Fun, Campy Trip Down Memory Lane

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad is perhaps one of the campiest of the shows from the 90s wave of shows adapted from Japan’s super-powered kids’ shows.  The show only lasted one season from September 12, 1994 – April 11, 1995; right at the internet’s infancy.  That is evident through the fight sequences that take place inside the digital world.  The sets are just as campy as the writing and acting.  But for anyone that grew up during the early 90’s, that campy vibe was something great in that era.  So now that Mill Creek Entertainment has re-issued the first half of the show’s only season, fans of this classic kids’ action series can re-live their childhood while introducing their own kids to part of their own childhood at the same time.

While this competitor to Saban’s hugely popular Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers only lasted a single season, it had some similarities to the aforementioned show, it can at least be said of this cross between Ultraman and MMPR that had some originality.  For starters, Sam and his friends were more believable and relatable to younger viewers at the time.  That’s because they looked and acted more like average teens, unlike the cast of MMPR. Also, rather than facing off against interstellar baddies, Sam (played by a then very young Matthew Lawrence) and his friends have to go into the digital world to face off against Kilokahn and the viruses created by his human helper, Malcolm Frank.  Many of the battles fought by Sam and his friends are the result of Malcolm’s hatred for Sam.  Malcolm’s intentions are largely as a competitor for the affections of a young lady.  Kilokahn’s intentions are the standard world domination schemes.  So both having evil intentions, it only made sense for the pair to team up and do so much damage to the digital world, and in turn, the real world.

The acting of the show’s cast and the show’s storylines are campy to say the least.  But they’re not as over the top as those in certain other Japanese imports, either.  The same can be said of the show’s sets and special effects, too.  The show’s sets and special effects are just as campy as the acting and writing.  But just as the campy acting and writing make this a guilty pleasure for any viewer that grew up with this show, so are the sets and special effects.  Together with the acting and writing, and even the relatable teen challenges tied into each episode, this re-issue of Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad Season 1 Volume 1 a great addition to the library of any child of the 90s.

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