Denver The Last Dinosaur Is Extinct No More

Courtesy:  Cinedigm/VCI Entertainment

Courtesy: Cinedigm/VCI Entertainment

Denver The Last Dinosaur is extinct no more!

Courtesy:  Cinedigm/VCI Entertainment

Courtesy: Cinedigm/VCI Entertainment

Cinedigm and VCI Entertainment will release Denver The Last Dinosaur: The Complete Series on Tuesday, September 16th. The series ran a total of fifty-two episodes from 1988 to 1990. It follows the adventures of Denver—a Corythosaurus—and his human friends who discovered him after he unexpectedly hatches from a fossilized egg. The series received a recommendation from the National Education Association for its engaging and nonviolent story lines. The series features the talents of some of today’s most well-known voice talents including: Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama, Hey Arnold!), Frank Welker (The Real Ghostbusters, Curious George, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse), Kath Soucie (Dexter’s Lab, The Real Ghostbusters, Tiny Toon Adventures), June Foray (The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Garfield & Friends), Brian Cummings (Duck Tales, Garfield & Friends, Adventures of the Gummi Bears) and three of the voice talents from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series in Cam Clarke, Townsend Coleman, and Rob Paulsen among so many others.

The upcoming box set will contain not only the series’ complete fifty-two episode run but also a handful of bonus materials, too. Those bonus materials include interviews with the series’ Creative Director Jeremy Corray, image galleries, and even a glimpse at other classic cartoons including the likes of Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs. The six-disc set will retail for SRP of $59.99. More information on this and other releases from Cinedigm is available online at http://www.facebook.com/Cinedigm, http://twitter.com/cinedigm and

http://www.cinedigm.com. 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.

MST3K Keeps Real Comedy Alive In Its Thirteth Volume Of Episodes

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory will release the thirtieth (yes, thirtieth!) volume of episodes from the classic cult hit series Mystery Science Theater 3000 later this month.  This latest grouping of episodes is one more welcome addition to the library of any MST3K fan and an equally welcome way to beat the heat this summer.  For that matter, it’s just as welcome an alternative to the seemingly endless stream of prequels, sequels, and remakes currently polluting the nation’s theaters right now.  The main reason for the enjoyment of this set is obviously the movies featured in the set.  As with every single previous box set, the writing for Mike, Joe, and all the rest is just as sharp and hilarious as ever.  And last but definitely not least, the bonus features included in each disc round out the whole thing.  All three pieces together make MST3K: Volume XXX one more must have both for any fan of this cult favorite and for any true-blooded classic film buff.

The first and most obvious reason for the success of MST3K: Volume XXX is the grouping of movies chosen for the collection.  Four more movies from Hollywood’s golden era have been chosen for this collection.  And they feature some of the most legendary names in the history of the movie industry.  One of those names in question is none other than Willis O’Brien, who was the mentor to fellow legend Ray Harryhausen.  O’Brien’s famed stop-motion techniques were used in The Black Scorpion (1957), which is the first of the set’s movies.  Also included in the set are Outlaw of Gor (1988), It Lives By Night (1974), and The Projected Man (1966).  Audiences may or may not recognize a very young Jack Palance (City Slickers, City Slickers II, Batman) in Outlaw of Gor.  And while they may not have ever become as big as Palance, the cast members of each of the other movies included in this set each put forth their best effort, which will potentially make them memorable in their own right. And now thanks to the movies seeing the light of day once again thanks to this new box set, those cast members both famous and not so much will get new notoriety. What’s more, audiences that might never have heard of these movies will receive a film history lesson from the movies themselves. That featuring of some of Hollywood’s biggest names alongside some of the lesser known names and movies shows why the movies themselves are key to the enjoyment of this latest volume from Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The movies included in this volume of MST3K are the biggest reason for the collection’s enjoyment. On a somewhat deeper level, the show’s writing holds its own importance. Whether it be in the outrageous skits that bookend the movies or the biting commentary itself made during the movie, the show’s writing in these episodes is hilarious. The barbs aimed at the movies include countless pop culture references that the show’s original audiences will appreciate. From the Three Stooges and the Smashing Pumpkins to Cosmo magazine to classic movies and television shows other than the movies being exhibited, the writers (and the delivery of the jokes) will have audiences laughing tears of joy. The writing in the show’s skits is just as entertaining as the commentary that fills each of the movies. This time out, Pearl discovers her evil lineage in one episode. In another, Dr. Forrester’s experiment ends up badly, with both his assistant and himself altered in unexpected ways. There are plenty more laughs from the skits that will leave audiences in stitches. Those laughs will come when audiences purchase this box set for themselves.

The writing that went into the skits and commentary along with the movies themselves chosen for this volume of episodes together more than put the box set over the top by themselves. The bonus features included with each of the movies collectively finish off the set. Just one example of how the bonus features put that finishing touch on this set is the bonus “Making of” featurette included with The Black Scorpion. That featurette is more a history lesson about the history of stop motion in film than a documentary on how the movie in question came to life. Audiences learn where stop motion started in the movie industry and its significance in the overall picture of The Black Scorpion. Audiences will enjoy just as much the interviews with the heads of Outlaw of Gor. Included as bonus material in this movie are interviews with the movie’s director and producer. There is also a feature on author John Norman and his books from which Outlaw of Gor was adapted. It all definitely makes for its own added entertainment. And that entertainment together with each episode’s solid writing and the movies themselves puts the finishing touch on one more volume of films and comedy that every MST3K fan will definitely want to add to their own home library.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXX will bbe available Tuesday, July 29th. It can be pre-ordered now on DVD at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/mystery-science-theater-3000-volume-30. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online now at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment 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.

Virgin Mobile Recruits Exmortus For New Ad Campaign

Courtesy:  Prosthetic Records/Virgin Mobile

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records/Virgin Mobile

Prosthetic Records’ own Exmortus is starring in a new ad campaign for Virgin Mobile.

The new TV spot is a fully tongue-in-cheek piece that sees the L.A.-based four-piece applying its own brand of metal to espouse the benefits of Virgin Mobile. It was directed by Paul B. Cummings (Conan, The Colbert Report). It can be viewed online now at http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7yMf/virgin-mobile-galaxy-s5-metal-band. Drummer Mario Moreno shared his thoughts on the shoot, saying that “We had a great time shooting with Paul and it was an awesome experience, especially breaking all the gear at the end!”

Exmortus will be back on the road again this summer in support of its latest album Slave to the Sword.” It will tour alongside veteran metal band Flotsam and Jetsam on that band’s tour. The current tour itinerary is listed below.

UPCOMING TOUR DATES
7/9     West Hollywood, CA – Whisky A Go Go #
7/10   San Francisco, CA – Slim’s #
7/11   Sacramento, CA – The Boardwalk #
7/12   Portland, OR – Tonic Lounge #
7/13   Seattle, WA – Studio Seven #
7/15   Spokane, WA – Club 412 #
7/16   Boise, ID – The Shredder #
7/17   Salt Lake City, UT – LoFi Cafe #
7/18   Las Vegas, NV – LVCS #
7/19   Mesa, AZ – Club Red #
8/2     Los Angeles, CA – Black Castle (w/ Morbid Saint)
8/22   Santa Ana, CA – Malone’s (w/ Gypsyhawk)
# with Flotsam & Jetsam

More information on Exmortus, its upcoming tour, its new album and more is available online now at http://www.facebook.com/exmortusofficial. 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.

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.

MST3K The Movie A Fabulous Farewell For Cult Sci-Fi Show

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Universal Studios Home Entertainment/Gramercy Pictures

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Studios Home Entertainment/Gramercy Pictures

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie is an absolutely funny final farewell for this cult classic TV show.  The movie was already extremely difficult to find in its original release some years ago.  Now thanks to a partnership between Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Shout! Factory fans of the show and its big screen finale can finale add this piece of movie history to their home libraries.  And they can do so in proper fashion on Shout! Factory and USHE’s release of the movie in a double-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release.  The movie itself is reason enough to pick up this new re-issue.  The choice of movies to be*critiqued* by Mike and his robot friends was another positive.  And in turn, the feature on the making of both This Island Earth and on the history of MST3K: The Movie seal the deal for fans.  Together with the movie and the movie within the movie, the whole package becomes one of the best re-issues of 2013.

The story behind MST3K: The Movie will impress any hardcore fan of this cult show.  It plays out just as if it was an extended episode from the show itself.  Ironically enough, as audiences will learn in the bonus feature, “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie: The Motion Picture Odyssey”, that actually was not the intent of those behind the cameras and the movie’s script.  That aside, all of the irreverent humor that made the television series so funny is here.  The same can be said of the hilariously intentional low-grade sets and special effects that made the original series so funny, too.  It was obvious that despite being a big screen feature, the people behind the cameras wanted to make sure that this feature entertained the show’s core audiences just as much as the original show did.  And it did just that.  The interesting fact here is that as hilarious as the movie was, those behind it faced a lot of contention from Universal in its creation.  This is revealed in interviews in the extremely in-depth bonus feature that is “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie: The Motion Picture Odyssey.”

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie: The Motion Picture Odyssey” is one of two bonus features included in the movie’s new re-issue that make it even more enjoyable this time around.  This feature actually should have been the “Making of Feature” rather than the “Making of” feature that was included.  That’s because of just how in depth this feature turned out to be.  It offers a glimpse into the movie from its conceptual stage all the way to its premiere.  Along the way, audiences are presented with both the good and the bad of the movie’s eventual creation.  Some of the most interesting of the stories involve creative conflicts between Universal’s brass and those in charge of the movie itself.  One of the most notable of those anecdotes involved a joke centered on the alien creature crafted for the story.  The joke involved comparing it to one Bootsy Collins.  According to the story shared by Trace Beaulieu, the studio brass didn’t want the joke in the movie because they thought that no one knew who Bootsy Collins was at that time.  So the joke ended up being pulled.  It’s wasn’t the only conflict those behind the cameras had with Universal, either.  According to the stories shared, there were a number of conflicts between the two groups.  And viewers will get to find out just how many there were when they pick up this re-issue for themselves when it is released on September 3rd.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie: The Motion Picture Odyssey” is the heart of the bonus features in the new re-issue of this release.  However, just as with the previous MST3K box sets, this one also includes a fully in-depth analysis of the movie screened within the main feature.  And this analysis is no different.  “This Island Earth: 2 ½ Years in the Making” offers audiences a complete look at the work that went into making the movie in question.  In offering the discussion, it also goes into a certain amount of depth as to what makes the movie so important in the overall picture of 1950s science fiction flicks.  One of the most notable facts shared in this special is that had the mutant used to move the story not been included, the movie would have been considered a movie for adults.  And it was Universal’s brass that insisted the mutant be included as it would bring in young audiences.  Speaking of the mutant, those interviewed for this feature actually go into depth about the mutant, even going so far as to share some laughs about it.  As with the previously mentioned bonus feature, there is so much more for viewers to take in here, too.  Together with the previously mentioned feature and with the movie itself, the whole package proves in the end to be another joy from Shout! Factory and one more of the best of the year’s re-issues.  It will be available Tuesday, September 3rd and can be ordered online direct via the Shout! Factory website at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217794.  Audiences can find out more about this release and other upcoming releases from Shout! Factory on the official Shout! Factory website at http://www.shoutfactory.com and the official Shout! Factory Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebok.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.

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

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shout! Factory Re-Issuing MST3K The Movie This Fall

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

For years, Shout! Factory has released to audiences twenty-six volumes of episodes from the hit cult comedy/sci-fi series, Mystery Science Theater 3000 (otherwise known by fans as MST3K).  This summer, fans will see a twenty-seventh volume hit store shelves and online outlets.  And this fall, fans get even more of a treat when Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie will be re-issued by Shout! Factory on a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie originally debuted in theaters in 1996.  The movie was centered on the 1955 sci-fi classic, This Island Earth.  Now fans of the cult favorite show and its subsequent movie will get to add this modern classic to their libraries when the movie is re-issued on Tuesday, September 3rd.  This time out, it’s not just Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo that could be subjected to the best of the worst of Hollywood’s sci-fi flicks.  The evil scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester explains in the movie’s opening that he plans to torture the people of the whole planet to the movies that for years Mike and company have had to endure.  Who can stop them?  Leave it to Mike, Crow and Tom Servo….perhaps.  Audiences will have to find out for themselves when Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie is released on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack Tuesday September 3rd.

The following bonus features and specs included in the upcoming re-issue are below:

Special Features:

  • The Making Of Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie
  • The Making Of Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie : The Motion Picture Odyssey
  • This Island Earth: 2 ½ Years In the Making
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Presentation

  • Blu-ray: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.85:1)/DTS-HD Master Audio
  • DVD: Anamorphic Widescreen/Dolby Digital
  • Color/74 minutes/Rated PG

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Pound Puppies Mission: Adoption Offers Audiences Five More Episodes Of Fun And Lessons

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Hub

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Hub

The latest release from the Hub network’s Pound Puppies series is just as fun as the previous pair of DVDs.  This new release offers audiences five more episodes filled with entertainment and important lessons for both kids and their parents.  Also included in this new collection of episodes is an adoption certificate that kids can print out and fill out for their very own.  Just as impressive as the set’s episodes is the continued original artwork used throughout the series.  Anyone that remembers Cartoon Network’s Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends, will recognize the animation used for this series once again.  Altogether, these factors make Pound Puppies Mission: Adoption just as fun as the previous collections of episodes from this update of the classic 80s series.

This latest release is so much enjoyable first and foremost because of the mix of entertainment and life lessons in each of its five episodes.  Of course the inclusion of some well-known voice actors doesn’t hurt, either.  This time out, audiences learn that even the smallest dog…er…person can accomplish great feats.  This lesson is taught in the episode, “Snow Problem.”  When a young husky puppy named Tundra ends up with the Pound Puppies, he and the others take on a group of bigger, tougher dogs in a sled race that ends up with the young pup winning the heart of one of the racers and being adopted.  The spoof of the famed song, ‘Chariots of Fire’ is a nice addition to this episode.  Viewers also learn that superstitions are superstitions for a reason in “Taboo.”  When they meet the puppy named Taboo, the Pound Puppies discover why it is that he’s had such a hard time finding his person.  Viewers will have to find out the truth behind his adoption problems for themselves when they pick up this new release.  Viewers will especially enjoy the Wizard of Oz reference in this episode.  In the disc’s opener, “King of the Heap”, one of the Pound Puppies is adopted by Junkyard Jim, instead of the newest additions to the pound named Elvis (voiced by Clancy Brown—Mr. Krabs from Spongebob Squarepants).  This episode teaches viewers that it’s best to be themselves, rather than something that they’re not.  Being one’s own self is what people admire most.  The show’s writers are to be commended for these lessons, and the others included here along with its more fun moments.  On a side note, voice actor John DiMaggio is back again as the voice of Niblet.  Considering that Futurama is coming to an end yet again, hopefully Hub will keep this show around as he does quite the job as Niblet’s voice.

The collection of fun moments and lessons culled for the episodes in this latest set make it fun for the whole family.  Older audiences will appreciate this set for more than just those factors, though.  They will also enjoy the animation style used throughout the series.  It’s quite similar to Cartoon Network’s former cartoon, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.  What makes this animation style so impressive is that even if it was done via computer, its quality is such that it’s difficult to tell if it was done by hand, by computer, or a combination of both.  If it was done by both computer and by hand, then it proves that the two animation styles can exist side by side.  And that both styles can exist side by side, one can only hope that audiences will get much more of this style of animation and mix of fun and lessons in even more volumes of Pound Puppies episodes.  Pound Puppies Mission: Adoption is available now in stores and online.  It can be purchased online direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216951.

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Audiences Will “Love” Dreamworks’ New Madagascar Special

Courtesy:  Dreamworks Home Entertainment/Dreamworks Animation SKG/20th Century Fox/ 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Dreamworks Home Entertainment/Dreamworks Animation SKG/20th Century Fox/ 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Dreamworks Animations’ Madagascar movies comprise one of the company’s most successful franchises.  It’s so successful in fact that it has even spawned a holiday special titled, Merry Madagascar.  Now the Madagascar gang is back again for yet another holiday special.  This time, love is in the air for the gang as Valentine’s Day nears.  Ironically enough King Julian (once again voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen) gets his hands on a perfume called “Love Potion #9” that makes anyone that wears it irresistible.  When the “love potion” is used on Marty, it leads to an unintended effect, which ends up in Marty and the rest of Alex’s friends learning a very valuable lesson about friendship and love.  The moral lesson and the laughs together will keep audiences engaged throughout the course of the special’s near half-hour run time.  To be exact, Madly Madagascar’s run time is closer to twenty-five minutes than thirty.  Though chances are if it is ever run on television, it will reach the half-hour mark thanks to commercials. 

The run-time aside, much of the reason for the enjoyment in this special comes from the special’s writing staff and the voice cast’s ability to interpret the script.  The entire cast from the previous Madagascar movies is back once more, with one more addition.  Phil LaMarr (Futurama) joins the cast as the voice of a wildlife official at a Safari camp who has to chase after the infamous penguins of Madagascar.  That’s right, even the penguins are back, creating their own mischief as the love bug has hit their leader, too.  The original voice actors behind the penguins have returned, too.  Keeping all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that interpreting the script for this special was so simple for the cast as it had to have been old hat for everybody. 

The cast’s interpretation of the writers’ script plays its own role (no pun intended) in the success of this latest special.  Audiences will also appreciate that the CG-based “animation” used in all of the previous Madagascar installments was used in this special, too.  That familiarity of sorts—as minor as it may be—will help make this new installment a welcome return for audiences of all ages.  The pop culture references to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Robert Palmer, The Black Eyed Peas, and The Clovers also make for their own laughs.  All of this combined with the script writing and voice acting will make Madly Madagascar a Valentines special that the whole family will enjoy year after year.

The main feature included in this new DVD release is enjoyable enough for the whole family.  It’s only part of the overall enjoyment that families will get from this new release.  Just as enjoyable are the bonus shorts included with it.  Two bonus shorts are included on the disc.  The first of the pair is a touching Pixar style piece titled, “First Flight” in which a rather unhappy man learns the meaning of happiness when a baby bird falls from its nest and he ends up teaching the young avian how to fly.  It truly is a moving story as short as it is.  And it will leave both kids and adults smiling and shedding at least some tears of joy.  Being that the only dialogue here so to speak is the man and bird “talking” to each other through bird song, the music played a big role in the success of the story.  It came through in a big way, too.  It added so much emotion to the entire story.  It goes to prove that Pixar just might have some competition next awards season if Dreamworks continues to try its hand with more animated shorts.  And from the viewpoint of this critic, if this short is any indication, more shorts from Dreamworks would be welcome.

The second short of the pair is far less emotional.  Instead it’s on the exact opposite end of the spectrum.  It’s taken from Dreamworks’ Over The Hedge movie franchise.  The short, titled, “Hammy’s Boomerang Adventure” is a laugh-a-minute short that follows Hammy and his friends in their discovery of a video camera.  Hammy’s friends use it to play a prank on Hammy.  The writing for this short harkens back to the days of the old Warner Brothers Looney Tunes shorts with its physical comedy between Hammy and the Boomerang.  And as with the short’s companion Madagascar feature, the original voice actors from Over The Hedge have returned here adding to the hilarity.  Adding even more enjoyment to the short is a little musical number from pop star Ben Folds.  Folds performs a song titled, ‘Heist’ for the short’s end credits.  It’s not that long, obviously.  But it’s still a catchy little tune that will have viewers tapping their toes.  It might even be enough to get audiences interested in hearing more of his music.  His music combined with the equally enjoyable shorts and main feature from the Madagascar gang come together to make for a DVD that any audience will want to check out when it hits store shelves next Tuesday, January 29th.  It will also be available online.  It can be ordered direct online via the 20th Century Fox store at http://www.foxconnect.com/madly-madagascar.html.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Futurama Vol. 7 Shows the “Future” is Bright For This Show

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Futurama is one of the best shows on Comedy Central today.  Thank goodness the network went out on a limb and listened to the fans of this little show that could.  After having been picked up and resurrected by Comedy Central, this hit show has shown time and again why it is the great show that it is.  Now with the release of its seventh volume, Futurama continues to show why it is one of the elite prime time animated sitcoms out there today.  In the show’s seventh volume, the show’s writers poke fun at the seemingly unending to do surrounding President Obama’s birth certificate in one episode.  In another episode, audiences see Fry and Leela rekindle their romance after Fry and Bender go in search of a frozen mammoth.  And in yet another, the show’s writers even poke fun at The Matrix when Fry goes to the Near Death Star to visit the professor’s parents.  These episodes make for just some of the laughs throughout this collection’s thirteen episodes largely for the jokes.  For those who really know their stuff, they’ll love just as much the inclusion of a pair of fellow veteran actors, as well as a reference to another late comic actor to this set.  Add in some hilarious commentary and some deleted scenes and audiences get another great set of episodes in the show’s seventh volume.  And all of that is just the beginning.  Viewers will find even more great references and jokes when they check out this new set for themselves.

One of the factors that have always made Futurama a great show is that while it does use topical humor in its episodes, it doesn’t bog itself down in that brand of comedy unlike certain other sitcoms.  However, when it does venture into the realm of topical humor, it still manages somehow to remain funny without trying to be too much above itself.  That’s proven in the episode, “Decision 3012.”  The show’s writers spoof the controversy raised by the “birthers” over President Barack Obama’s birth certificate in this episode.  In the place of the president, the writers use a character named Chris Travers, who is a Senator running for Earth President.  Long-time Futurama fans will appreciate the reference to the Futurama movie, Bender’s Big Score in this episode.  Even Matt Groening and David X. Cohen make light of it in the episode’s bonus commentary.  It’s that reference that ends up playing to the episode’s outcome, which viewers will have to find out for themselves when they pick up Futurama Vol. 7.

Futurama’s writers prove in Vol. 7 that they can tackle topical humor and still make funny episodes.  They have also proven again that they’re able to balance keeping the show successful with standalone episodes while also maintaining at least one ongoing storyline in the romance between Leela and Fry.  It would have been so easy for the show’s writers to let the show descend into a serial like so many others.  But thankfully it didn’t.  That’s evident in the episode, “Fun on a Bun.”  Having already broken up again before this episode, an accident with a sausage maker leads Leela to reveal her true feelings for Fry.  She shows her true feelings to Fry when the sausage maker accident leads to a revelation as to what really happened to Fry.  Again, the show’s writers are to be commended for this episode as it proves yet again their ability to maintain a specific storyline without letting the show become a serial.  Movie buffs and sci-fi buffs will especially appreciate the spoof of The Los World tossed into this episode.

As noted already, one of the biggest factors that has made Futurama so successful for so long is not just its ability to balance storylines and avoid becoming a serial, but also its ability to make completely outrageous random adventures for the Planet Express Crew.  In one of its funniest episodes yet, audiences learn a long held secret surrounding Professor Farnsworth after he visits his parents at the Near Death Star.  The writers take a playful stab at The Matrix trilogy both in dialogue and in visual form.  Any true sci-fi geek will love this little jab.    When the professor doesn’t show up at an awards ceremony that Fry is attending, Fry decides to go meet Hubert’s parents.  The result will leave audiences laughing as it kind of turns the whole concept of the “boomerang child” on its ear by reversing it.  This of course leads to a whole other revelation that will leave audiences laughing.  The secret is something that’s been used many times before in many other shows.  But the minimalist way in which it has been used here keeps it funny.

The episodes noted here are just samplings of the laughs audiences can expect to get from Futurama Volume Seven.  Every viewer will find their own laughs throughout the course of the double disc set.  It’s thanks to good writing and an equally able cast that every episode in this set is so enjoyable.  The main cast is profiled throughout each episode’s commentary.  Audiences will appreciate even more some of the bonus tidbits such as learning that fellow veteran voice actor Frank Welker (The Real Ghostbusters, What’s New Scooby Doo, etc.) joins the cast in a handful of episodes this time out.  Welker’s talent makes for even more enjoyment in the episodes in which his talents are profiled. 

The talent of the voice cast gives so much life to each episode.  What viewers get in the final product is proof that that.  That’s also just as evident in the deleted scenes included as bonuses to the set.  Regardless of whether or not the scenes would have fit into the final product, they are more examples of the talent and chemistry of the voice cast.  They serve to show how hard the cast and the writers alike work to offer viewers the best possible product, too so as to live up to the expectations of those audiences who helped so many years ago to show why this show deserved to be brought back.  And they more than do that, making for yet another great set of episodes for any long-time fan of Futurama or even for those who are new to this incredible animated sitcom.  One can only hope that considering this and everything else that makes this new set such a success, fans will see much more of this hit show in the very near “future.” 

Futurama Volume Seven is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online direct via 20th Century Fox’s online store at http://www.foxconnect.com.  After fans order the new set, they can also check out all the latest Futurama news online at http://www.facebook.com/Futurama and http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/futurama.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.