Geronimo Stilton Sniffs Out More Family Fun In New DVD

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

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

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

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

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

Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express and Other Adventures is available now ins ores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FWQAOUS/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0N4SB5TCEE2XTG37PZRG&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.   Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Thor 2 Is Fun, But Falls Short

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios

Courtesy: Marvel Studios

Sequels are very rarely as good as the movies that they follow.  This has been proven so many times in recent years by so many studios.  DC and Marvel have both proven this time and again with their big name franchises.  DC and Legendary proved that with its recent Batman franchise.  Marvel Studios’ first Spiderman trilogy was just one victim of that curse.  Now Marvel Studios has once again fallen victim to the “curse of the sequel” with its latest big screen offering, Thor: The Dark World.  This action packed late year blockbuster has plenty going for it.  Its special effects and its ability to balance its science fiction and fantasy elements are both positives.  The acting on the part of both Chris Hemsworth and Tim Hiddleston makes the movie even more fun.  However, it is hardly perfect.  It has one major issue that will be its downfall in the long run.  That one glaring negative is the story’s overall writing.  The movie itself clocks in at just under two hours.  However, because of the writing, it feels quite a bit longer.  As much positive as this movie has going for it, this one issue alone is going to ultimately be what keeps this movie from being one of Marvel’s most memorable offerings.

Thor: The Dark World is hardly the year’s best movie or even one of the year’s best.  To its defense, it isn’t the year’s worst movie, either.  One can openly admit about this sequel to Marvel Studios’ 2011 hit Thor, that it has some extremely impressive special effects.  From the backdrops to the fight scenes and one chase scene in particular, those charged with making the movie’s special effects work are deserving of applause.  It goes without saying that much of the movie was crafted using green screen effects.  That aside, those backdrops that were crafted by computer look just as impressive as those that were actually shot live.  Adding to that was the ability of those behind the cameras to blend the CG backgrounds with actual sets and shooting locales.  The computer generated effects in both cases never once felt overblown.  The same can be said of the effects used in the movie’s many fight scenes and the chase scene that follows Jane’s breakout from the palace early in the story.  Even the finest of details were tuned to make the special effects in each case collectively an effective part of the overall presentation.

The work done by those behind the cameras to keep Thor: The Dark World from being little more than another special effects extravaganza is very much an applause worthy aspect of this movie.  Their ability to balance its live action and CG elements is one of the most important aspects of the movie’s success, limited as that success proves to be in the grand scheme of things.  The ability of all involved to balance the movie’s fantasy and science fiction elements is just as important to the overall product.  Those that are less familiar with Marvel’s take on the God of Thunder and the first movie in his franchise might go into the movie thinking it will be just another fantasy epic a la The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.  Those same individuals are sure to be pleasantly surprised to see both elements smoothly combined.  On a bigger level, it shows once again how easy it is to blur genre lines on both the big screen and small screen, and how to do it right for that matter.

The balance of live action and CG elements and that of sci-fi and fantasy elements make Thor: The Dark World one more release that comic book fans of any age should see at least once.  They aren’t all that make the movie worth at least a single watch.  The acting on the part of lead stars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston also plays into the movie’s overall success, as limited as that success proves to be.  The duo’s chemistry has visibly grown over the course of the two movies in which it has already starred—Thor and The Avengers.  Their chemistry has developed so much and so well that it makes suspension of disbelief that much easier in watching the pair interact.  Whether on the verge of taking one another down, Thor having to endure Loki’s wisecracking, or other situations, Hiddleston and Hemsworth make for one of the movie industry’s better modern day odd couples for lack of better wording.  There has been much talk as to whether or not Loki will be back in the already anticipated third movie in the Thor franchise.  If he should be back once more, it goes without saying that his pairing with Hemsworth will be one more welcome addition to the movie’s cast.

As one can tell by now, there is plenty to applaud in Marvel Studios’ Thor: The Dark World.  For all of its positives, this movie is anything but perfect.  The one area in which this movie fails is also its most important.  That area is the story’s script/writing.  The movie’s script is one more prime example of what happens when there are too many hands in the proverbial pot.  No fewer than four individuals worked together to develop the script for this work.  The end result is a near two hour movie that feels a lot longer and schmaltzier than it should have been.  The script’s first problem is the tired and overly used issue of a character trying to find his place in his world and in the universe.  The character in question is Thor.  Audiences see him emotionally struggling to figure out where he belongs in Asgard and trying to balance that with his feelings for his love interest, Jane, who is once again played by Natalie Portman.  This is hardly the first time that audiences have ever seen this used.  The whole brooding character bit has already been done just this year alone in Man of Steel.  The end result of that was a movie that was met with mixed results.  Audiences will be just as mixed with this movie as a result of having Thor brooding in much the same style.

Thor’s brooding nature this time out is just one of the problems with Thor 2’s script.  Just as much a problem with this script is the fact that it feels more like one extended fight sequence than an actual movie with a story.  There are some story elements tossed in for good measure.  But it seems like action sequences dominate the script.  This is evident right from the moment that Jane is “saved” from her room at the palace.  From that moment on, the movie’s pace goes near full speed.  There are few breaks in that action, too.  The problem with this is that it forces audiences to struggle to even hope to keep up with what’s going on.  The story’s pace is that rapid fire.  The even bigger problem is that it goes on at that pace straight through to the final moments of the movie’s epic final battle between Thor and Malekith.  That final battle is the final nail in the coffin for the movie.  It simply runs too long.  It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin.  This and Thor’s brooding sub-story take away enough from all of the movie’s positives to ultimately make it one more of Marvel Studios’ largely forgettable films.  One can only hope that when it finally hits theaters, the franchise’s third film will make up for this movie and its predecessor.  Simply put, this movie is worth at least one watch.  But it’s more worth one watch on Netflix or Redbox than in theaters.

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Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle Is A SUper Documentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Comic books are big business today.  One look across the TV spectrum and through theaters in recent years shows just how massive a money maker it has become.  The problem is that so many people today still think that comic books past and present are just that.  Thankfully, PBS recently released a new documentary centered on comic books that proves that commonly held belief is completely wrong.  It reveals just how closely comic books and everyday life have been ever since the first comic heroes hit the printed page way back in the 1930s.  Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle follows the history of not just superheroes, but the comic industry from its earliest days in newspapers to its current era.  It splits the history of the business into three separate segments beginning with its earliest days in 1938 to the present.  Each of the three segments clearly explains how the comics industry and American society affected one another.  Interviews with those that created some of the greatest superheroes to those charged with bringing those characters to life help to illustrate these stories, as does the inclusion of vintage video and audio showing the impact of the pair on each other.  The interview segments included with the main feature are collectively a real bonus to the presentation.  That is because audiences get to hear from great names such as Stan Lee, Linda Carter, and even Adam West as they expand on the topics raised in the main feature.  Their thoughts are quite enlightening and make the documentary’s overall presentation all the more worth watching whether one is a comic book fan or not.

Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle is quite the documentary.  Whether or not one is a comic book fan, audiences will appreciate it as it shows one more way in which art and real life can and do affect one another.  It dispels the beliefs about the comics industry that have been held for far too long by those that are less knowledgeable about the industry.  The entire documentary comes in at a total run time of roughly three hours.  Those three hours are split in three separate roughly hour-long presentations.  The first takes audiences from 1938 – 1958.  The second takes viewers through some of America’s most turbulent years from 1959 – 1977.  And the last of the three segments runs from 1978 up to the present.  Over the course of each segment, viewers get an in-depth look at just how closely world culture and the comics industry are connected.  One of the most interesting facts that audiences will learn is the uphill battle the comics industry has faced against the government from early on.  Even as late as the late 1970s, the comics industry remained under fire from government bodies.  Just as interesting is the seeming up and down trend that the comics industry has experienced from its earliest days.  There is much more that audiences will be able to take away from each of the documentary’s three segments.  Each viewer will find something for himself or herself when they order the DVD direct from PBS’ online store.

The information shared through each of the documentary’s three segments is in-depth and at times eye opening.  But it would be nothing with the vintage video and photos to help illustrate the many subjects discussed within the course of each segment.  Audiences actually get to see and hear former President Jimmy Carter voicing his negative opinion of the comic book industry.  There is also footage of the classic Batman TV series starring none other than Adam West and Burt Ward as part of a discussion on its connection to the era in which it aired.  There’s even a discussion on the most beloved of the Superman movies complete with footage from said movie, and footage of soldiers reading comic books during World War II.  It shows collectively just how important the comic industry has been to America throughout the ages even in its lower points.    It’s one more aspect of this documentary that viewers will appreciate regardless of whether or not they are comic book aficionados.

From the information shared throughout the whole of Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle to the accompanying video and audio footage, this documentary is another success from PBS.  But no documentary would be complete without at least some bonus content.  And this DVD more than offers that.  It offers as bonus content, interviews with the likes of Adam West, Stan Lee, Linda Carter and others within the comics industry.  Stan Lee shares his thoughts on how his characters came to be.  One of the funniest moments is his anecdote about how students in a college level course were discussing the Silver Surfer at a deep philosophical level.  Carter discusses the role of Wonder Woman in feminism.  And West discusses the role that his Batman played in the country’s nuclear age and how that led to its campiness.  As with the in-depth information shared throughout each of the documentary’s three segments, there is even more to discover from the bonus interviews.  There is even a remembrance of sorts for animation legend Jack Kirby.  That and so much more is contained on one disc that audiences can order now online from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=23148226&cp=&sr=1&kw=superheroes&origkw=Superheroes&parentPage=search.  More information on this and other releases from PBS is available online at http://www.facebook.com/pbs and http://www.pbs.org.  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.

Da Vinci’s Demons A Surprise Hit In Its Debut Season

Courtesy:  Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Da Vinci’s Demons is not the first historically based drama on television today.  It is however, one of the best.  And now thanks to Starz and Anchor Bay, those that aren’t lucky enough to have Starz network can experience the first season of this hit series for themselves on DVD and Blu-ray.  The first season of Da Vinci’s Demons is so entertaining first and foremost because of its clever writing. Unlike so many other historical dramas, this one is more centered on action and adventure than drama.  It’s one part Indiana Jones and one part…well…Da Vinci’s Code tied into one.  Audiences will also appreciate the work on the part of the show’s cast throughout all eight of Season One’s episodes.  And of course what box set would be complete without at least some bonus features?  The bonus features included in Da Vinci’s Demons Season One are relatively brief.  But they play their own part in making the overall presentation of Season One enjoyable.  These aspects taken into consideration, they work in tandem to make this debut season one that is a must see for any fan of historical dramas.

The most important element of Da Vinci’s Demons Season One is its writing.  Credit where credit is due.  Series creator and writer David S. Goyer (Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Blade Trilogy) has crafted in the series’ first season that is a more akin to Indiana Jones than say Game of Thrones.  It just used setting in question as the backdrop for all of the action.  Goyer and his staff of writers are more than deserving of respect for balancing the story of his search for the “Book of Leaves” with his being wrapped up in the political and religious turmoil of the time.  It would have been so easy for the two separate story lines to step on one another, especially considering the depth of each story line.  Keeping in mind the depth of the story arcs throughout Season One, viewers will have to be fully invested in each episode in order to fully appreciate them.  One cannot simply have any of Season One’s episodes playing while one does housework, etc. and expect to have a full appreciation for the writing.  This is a good thing, too.  It is good because in being fully invested in each episode, audiences will see the value of and originality in each episode and the first season overall.

The writing behind any TV show and movie is the backbone of each.  It can make or break the given TV show or movie.  By direct correlation, the work of the show’s cast makes the show even more of a joy to watch.  Actor Tom Riley aptly fills the role of a young Leonardo Da Vinci opposite his equally talented cast mates.  He shows his acting chops quite well with this subtle wit and control over his character’s deeper emotions.  There are those actors that tend to ham it up on both ends of that spectrum.  But Riley doesn’t do that.  It makes him all the more fun to watch.   He and his cast mates collectively make suspension of disbelief easy, too.  This should come as no surprise considering the resumes of some of the main cast.  The cast is comprised of rather well trained theater actors that are just as experienced in their craft as they are trained.  Elliot Cowan (Lorenzo Medici) is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.  He also holds a degree in Drama from Birmingham University.  He has starred in a number of major films including Alexander (2004) and The Golden Compass (2007).  Viewers will recognize Gregg Chillin (Zoroaster) from his roles in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  And those that have seen Nanny McPhee Returns will likely recognize actor Eros Vlahos.  Vlahos played Cyril Gray in that movie.  He has also starred in none other than Game of Thrones as Lommy Greenhands.  The collective resume of the cast of Da Vinci’s Demons goes on for quite some time.  But one can tell from this microscopic look at that resume just why suspension of disbelief was so easy and why the cast gelled so well together.  It’s one more aspect of the show that makes it such a surprise hit.

The casting and writing behind Da Vinci’s Demons are integral to the show’s success.  Also noteworthy in this triple-disc box set is the bonus features.  The primary bonus features included in the set take viewers into the recording studio, where the show’s soundtrack was recorded.  Also included among the bonus features are the standard deleted scenes, and a look behind the scenes of the show.  Each feature is a short vignette.  But they do their own part to make the overall experience richer.  Even more important to Season One is the inclusion of bonus commentary as well as the option to play each episode with a recap of the previous episodes.  The recap is especially helpful regardless of whether or not one missed any of the episodes presented in this set.  Even if a person has seen each episode, a recap helps remind viewers of what has already happened.  Considering that each episode is just over an hour in length, it makes the recaps even more important an addition to each episode.  It is the proverbial cherry on the sundae that makes Season One of Da Vinci’s Demons such a surprise hit.  Along with the show’s writing and its acting, it makes this box set all the more worth picking up.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from Anchor Bay Entertainment’s website at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/detail.aspx?projectID=fd093f1f-88ae-e211-b6d4-d4ae527c3b65.  More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment and Starz is available online at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com and http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay.  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.

Iron Man 3 Fun, Even With Some Kinks In The Armor

Courtesy:  Paramount/Marvel

Courtesy: Paramount/Marvel

When is a man not a man?  A man is not a man only when he gives up.  That is what those who have not yet seen Marvel’s new blockbuster Iron Man 3 need to remember when going into this movie.  Many of those who have seen this movie have complained that the movie didn’t feature enough of Tony in his suit; that it was essentially more melodrama than movie.  Here’s the thing.  Just as start Robert Downey Junior noted in recent reviews, he can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again.  He meant that in terms of playing Iron Man/Tony Stark again in a potential Iron Man 4 and/or Avengers 2.  But the reality is that those comments apply within the context of Iron Man 3 itself, too.  Fans have seen Tony Stark don his armor time and again in the first two movies in this franchise.  And for the most part, his armor has done the same sort of feats.  So seeing Tony lose everything, including his suits (albeit temporarily) and forced to rely on just his wits was actually a nice change of pace.  It showed that while he may not have been a superhero for much of the movie, he was still a hero and no less a man.   That’s because he didn’t give up.  He didn’t even let anxiety attacks hold him down.  These are messages that any viewer, comic book fan or not, should take away from this movie.

The messages contained within Iron Man 3 are just one positive aspect to this movie.  While it’s hardly perfect, the fan boys and fan girls that have lambasted it for its surprise regarding The Mandarin and the Extremis story arc have gone into the movie with too much of a closed mind.  They perhaps didn’t catch that Writer/Director Shane Black and his Co-Writer Drew Pearce did in fact poke fun at themselves indirectly concerning this matter.  When the truth is revealed about The Mandarin, Rhodey asks Tony, “This is The Mandarin?!”  Tony retorts with one of so many wisecracks that audiences have come to love from him.  Those that are open minded enough will appreciate that this short moment is actually Pearce and Black’s way of beating the fan boys and fan girls to the punch in hopes that it will get them to laugh at the story changes with them.  Though, in defense of the fan boys and fan girls, it is a bit of a slap in their faces to turn The Mandarin into the minor figure that Black and Pearce did.  Maybe in any future installments, audiences will get The Mandarin that they deserve.

Any viewer that can accept the story changes to Iron Man 3 will appreciate the eventual reward in the movie’s final climactic battle scene between Tony, Rhodey, and Killian.  There are those that say this final showdown is the movie’s only real good part.  But as already noted there is much more to be taken away from the movie.  Seeing all the armor from Tony’s “Hall of Armor” lets audiences know that regardless of whether RDJ returns for Iron Man 4 or Avengers 2, odds are audiences will still see Iron Man return with much more armor and action in future installments.  After all, certain parties noted that the most recent take on The Incredible Hulk would be the last one for a while.  But obviously that’s now been proven false as the not so Jolly Green Giant is apparently back on the table again for Marvel’s next phase.  So even if RDJ is done (as he seemed to note even within the context of the movie), it would be no surprise if Shellhead returns with someone else donning the Iron Man suit….or suits?

As one can tell by now, there is plenty for which Iron Man 3 should be applauded.  For all of its positives, there are some negatives.  The first of those negatives is the movie’s pacing.  Its run time is roughly two hours and fifteen minutes.  But it feels like it is much longer.  Unlike its competitor, Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3 felt like (just as with DC’s The Dark Knight Rises), Black and Pearce were trying way too hard to cram everything they could into this one last installment so as to close the trilogy.  What’s more, incorporating multiple villains, as so many of the comic based movies have done in recent years, only added to the movie’s length.  It would have been much easier to simply stick with Killian as the main villain.  After all, audiences are hand delivered early on the fact that Killian would be the main villain.  The extra storyline may lead some viewers to find themselves checking their watches every now and then, wondering when the two hour plus movie will finally end.  And because of this, it will ultimately leave some viewers realizing that this key issue has and will forever keep Iron Man 3 from being the movie that it was hyped up to be.  Rather, it will keep Iron Man 3 little more than another transition point to Marvel’s next property, just like its comic books.

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Fleischer’s Superman Flies Higher Than Ever In New Blu-Ray Re-Issue

Courtesy: Gaiam

Superman is flying again.  And this time it’s thanks not to DC, but to a little company called Gaiam.  Thanks to Gaiam, Max Fleischer’s classic Superman cartoons have been restored and made available once again to the public.  These classic cartoons are an example of everything that was once right with animation.  And now not only can the generation that grew up with these classics enjoy them once more, but so can a whole new generation.  At a time when DC and Marvel are increasingly going toe to toe with one another, churning out feature after feature (both on the big and small screen), this double disc collection is a welcome breath of fresh air for comic book fans the world over.

While there may have been only a grand total of seventeen episodes of Superman created by Max Fleischer between 1941 and 1942, those seventeen episodes are some of the finest animation to ever grace any television screen.  As with so many early pieces of animation, Fleischer and his team of nearly six hundred (yes, nearly six hundred) animators gave Superman its own identity through their work.  This is something that has so sadly been lost in today’s “animated” features.  Being that so many “cartoons” are created via computer, they all look alike.  They’re sterile.  They have no real identity, compared to the likes of Superman.  Sure, older cartoons such as these took massive amounts of time, money, and staff.  But the end result is well worth it.  That is evidenced here.

One might ask how it’s known that Fleischer used nearly six hundred animators and large amounts of money to create Superman.  The answer to that is simple.  The commemorative booklet included in this double disc set gives a full in-depth history lesson on how Fleischer came to ring one of the greatest superheroes of all time to the small screen.  Dr. Thomas R. Reich, Ph.D. explains in the culled information that the shorts collected in this set were the result of discussions between Paramount and Fleischer Studios over a Superman movie.  Because of the costs that the movie would have incurred, the two sides agreed that instead of a Superman movie, Fleischer would break up its movie proposal into what is now one of the earliest of the Superman TV series.  Dr. Reich explains with excruciating detail how the series eventually came to life, and just as soon came to its end.  There are also discussions on Fleischer Studios’ early days creating the likes of Gulliver’s Travels, Betty Boop, and even Popeye.  The bonus booklet even includes a full episode listing with equally in-depth synopsis for each episode.

The bonus booklet included in this new Superman Set offers loads and loads of trivia for audiences.  The story of how these seventeen shorts came to be is enlightening to say the least.  Just as enlightening is the revelation that it’s Fleischer and company who are to be credited with the now famous lines, “Faster than a speeding bullet” and “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”  This is just one more example of the value of this set to audiences.  Valuable information such as this, along with the equally impressive animation and storylines make this Blu-ray re-issue of Max Fleischer’s one of the best kids’ releases of the year.  It also makes it one of the year’s best in the category of general DVD’s and Blu-rays.  It will be available in stores and online on Tuesday, October 30th.

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Leguizamo’s New PBS Special Will Entertain And Move Audiences

Courtesy: PBS

John Leguizamo has become one of Hollywood’s big names thanks to his time as the voice of the loveable Sid the Sloth from the Ice Age movie franchise.  What a lot of people don’t know though is that Leguizamo has been making audiences laugh for years.  Thanks to the new documentary from PBS, Tales from a Ghetto Klown, audiences will get to learn about Leguizamo’s comedy roots, and about everything that went into bringing his latest project, “Ghetto Klown” to life.

Tales from a Ghetto Klown profiles Leguizamo’s rise to stardom, from his early days up to his most recent one-man show.  Viewers see how far he’s come through interviews with his family and friends, including other comedians.  Archived footage of his previous work adds even more depth to his story.  In watching this documentary, audiences may be somewhat surprised to see a man with two very different sides.  On stage, audiences see a man who is entirely in control and self confident.  But on the other side, Leguizamo admits himself that he’s nervous just trying out his material in a rehearsal with a very small invited audience.  It shows just how serious Leguizamo takes his craft.  Understanding that makes for that much more appreciation for him both as a person and an entertainer.  On another note, viewers will note that perhaps Leguizamo is a comic book geek.  In some of his interviews and even in his on-stage performances, he’s seen wearing comic book based shirts.  He’s got both an X-Men shirt and a Batman shirt.  Audiences who are fans of both DC Comics and Marvel will appreciate the shout outs even if they are just coincidental.

Leguizamo really comes across as something of an underdog in this presentation.  So when it begins to follow the journey to bring his latest show to life, audiences will find themselves rooting for him.  First there was an issue with having lost a contract for a theater in which to perform his show.  And then his prep show in Chicago was nearly shut down thanks to a massive snow storm.  Luckily though, he does finally see the fruits of his labor.  And even despite negative reviews from some critics, his show was obviously a hit among audiences.  It was such a hit that when it closed in the U.S., he ended up even going a Spanish language version of his show in Colombia.  The road to making that show happen was just as interesting.  Audiences can find out for themselves everything that he went through to make that show happen.  There are moments here that will amaze some audiences.  Those moments will also move audiences as they show Leguizamo getting back in touch with his roots.

The journey from dream to stage will keep audiences’ eyes and attention through the near hour long presentation contained on this documentary’s single disc.  Audiences will also laugh at the snippets of his act included as bonus features.  And for those who want even more depth to the presentation, there are even more interviews with those involved with the show’s birth and life included as bonus features.  They all come together with the main presentation to both move and entertain audiences.

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The Avengers gets an “A” for effort

Marvel’s The Avengers is a good start to the Summer movie season this year.  The build up for the movie has been nearly as immense as that for the finale of DC’s current Batman franchise.  And the end result definitely lives up to all the hype.  It’s translated to the big screen as if it were actually a live action comic book.  Some comic books over history haven’t translated to the big screen so well.  But this one did.  However, for all the greatness that was this highly anticiapted seasonal opener, it wasn’t without its flaws.

Anticipation has been growing over the newest of Marvel’s comics-to-film franchise, The Avengers.  From toys to promos to everything in between, The Avengers have been everywhere.  And it’s paid off with over $200 million in its opening weekend.  This movie is everything that a Summer blockbuster should be.  It has all the requisite explosions and action that audiences look for in their attempts to escape the mundacity of the every day world.  Thanks to writer/director Joss Whedon and co-writer Zak Penn, they’ve somehow managed to bring the action from the pages of the famed comic series and make it feel like audiences are actually seeing the comic book itself on the big screen, without going the Joel Schumacher route a la DC’s Batman & Robin and Batman Forever.  The chemistry between the cast was obvious too.  It was funny to see Tony Stark and Dr. Banner interacting.  The banter between the two was worth its share of laughs in and of itself.  The same applies even more so when the full Avengers team is together in one room.  The one-liners from each team member make for plenty of laughs throughout.

For all the laughs and great action, The Avengers is not without its faults.  The sexual innundo that is typical of Tony Stark is there.  And one can’t help but wonder if his subtle joke about Banner potentially using marijuana to stay calm was entirely necessary.  What’s more, do audiences really need preachiness about military buildup?  Audiences are bombarded with such stories every day on the news.  Having the Avengers quarreling with Director Fury over S.H.I.E.L.D.’s real intentions takes a certain amount of escapism from the movie.  It’s not the first movie to go that route, either.  What’s more, that the movie is an ensemble piece, it does tend to drag on a little bit too long.  Whether it’s telling backstory of each member of the Avengers team, or from other areas, Whedon and Penn could have found a way to shave off twenty to thirty minutes from this roughly two and a half hour movie.  Keeping that in consideration, one can only hope that when the already anticipated Avengers 2 makes its debut, whomever writes and helms that movie will have taken the good and bad from this one to make a sequel that defies common logic of sequels.