Captain America Sequel Another Largely Forgettable Flick From Marvel

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios/Disney

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was touted as one of the biggest hits of 2014 when it hit theaters earlier this summer. While it is enjoyable enough, the sad truth of this movie is that it really is not as great as some would like to believe. It all starts with the script. The issues with the script can be summed up in one word: predictability. In its defense, the writing trio of Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Ed Brubaker make one unpredictable move. That will be discussed at a later point. Getting back to the movie, another major issue from which the movie suffers is what this critic has coined as “whisper scenes.” They are exactly what they sound like. And together with the movie’s scripting issues, it serves to bring this movie down and leave it even less enjoyable. The final product is a movie that proves in the end to be more forgettable than fun. Sorry, fanboys and fangirls. It’s true.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier got a lot of hype leading up to its debut this past April. And while for many, it was considered a hit, a closer examination of Marvel’s latest in its endless river of prequels, sequels, and remakes proves it to be hardly as good as many would want it to be. The primary reason for this is the movie’s scripting. The issues with the movie’s scripting can be summed up in one word. That word is predictability. As soon as Nick Fury shows up in Rogers’ apartment, and secretly tells him that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been compromised, it was pretty obvious the direction in which the script was headed. The bad guys infiltrate the good guys’ headquarters and pretend to be good guys until a certain point at which a major conflict arises. Yeah, it’s pretty obvious. Even without the spoilers that had been “leaked” before the movie’s debut, it was pretty obvious who the real good guys were and who the real bad guys were. And even without those spoilers, it was pretty obvious that The Winter Soldier in question was a former good guy. That formula has been used far too many times before in far too many other action flicks that far exceed this one. Not to ruin the movie for those that haven’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet, but it’s also pretty obvious that the movie’s (and studio’s) heads were not going to kill off the biggest names in their franchises. Again, audiences are presented with so much predictability, greatly decreasing from the movie’s enjoyment.

For all of the issues of predictability that run throughout Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there is one unpredictable aspect to the script overall that deserves being noted. That aspect is that Markus, McFeely, and Brubaker actually opted not to let a romance develop between Natasha and Steve. There is a point at which Natasha tells Cap to kiss her so as to avoid detection by some Hydra agents. A conversation between the pair later leads some to believe that perhaps there is a potential for romance there. Luckily though, that doesn’t happen. And for that, the movie’s writers deserve at least some credit if no more. It is one of only two shining rays of light in a movie that lacks greatly in terms positives. The only other positive worth noting is the fact that it keeps the brooding to an extreme minimum unlike the movies that have been churned out over the years from DC. Even with Bucky’s own personal demons, his brooding is kept in check. It really helps the overall product. For that reason too, Captain America: The Winter Soldier manages to stay at least somewhat afloat.

Those behind the cameras on Captain America: The Winter Soldier did plenty of damage to the movie with just the massive amount of predictability throughout the script. They try to make up for all of that by filling the movie’s nearly two and a half-hour run time with all of the standard fight scenes, explosions, and chase scenes that are all too common with big screen action blockbusters. Thanks to the number of these elements crammed into the movie and the movie’s relatively long run time, it ends up having the same feel as its fellow Marvel sequel Thor: The Dark World. That feel is that it’s a movie that is just one explosion, chase scene and fight scene after another. Simply put, the imbalance of substance versus action flick filler hurts the movie even more. And coupled with the script’s predictability from start to finish, it becomes even less memorable.

It should be crystal clear at this point that Captain America: The Winter Soldier doesn’t exactly live up to its hype. For those not yet convinced, there is still one more aspect of the movie that while subtle still hurts it in its own way. That last aspect is what this critic has come to call “whisper scenes.” These scenes are exactly what they sound like (no pun intended). Actors talk in hushed tones so as to heighten the tension of a given scene. Those scenes are typically bookended by really loud action scenes or scenes that are otherwise the polar opposite of said scene. Whisper scenes aren’t bad. Don’t misinterpret that. The problem is that this movie is one more that uses them far too often throughout the course of its run time. It seems like an increasing number of directors have been relying on “whisper scenes” in recent years. Simply put, it is annoying. It’s as annoying as the number of lens flares thrown into director J.J. Abrams’ movies. Anyone that is familiar with Abrams’ works will understand this frustration. Anyone that has experienced such over use of “whisper scenes” will be just as able to relate. It is the last straw of a movie that ends up proving to be all but the enjoyable summer blockbuster that it was touted to be.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not a terrible movie. Anyone looking to just turn off their brains and enjoy a standard, mindless orgy of explosions, chase scenes, and fight scenes will enjoy this movie just as much as its predecessor. But those that give the movie a closer examination will see just how many problems it has. Its script is predictable. It relies largely on those aforementioned chase scenes, fight scenes and explosions to try and make up for its predictability and overall lack of substance. And the overload of “whisper scenes” that fill the movie’s run time only serve to hurt it more. The movie’s only shining rays of light are the fact that its team of writers didn’t allow for Steve and Natasha’s partnership to become a romance and it kept Bucky’s brooding to a bare minimum. Other than that, there is very little good that can be said of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s a movie that is fun for one watch, but little more.

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Nickelodeon, Shout! Factory Finishing Off Another Classic Nicktoon Next Month

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon established a partnership only a few years ago that has seen some of the network’s greatest classic series, called Nicktoons, get full, proper releases. Almost all of those classic Nicktoons has seen releases in separate seasons and complete series box sets. Now what is one of the last of those series sets will be released next month in the form of CatDog: The Complete Series.

CatDog: The Complete Series will be released on DVD Tuesday, October 14th. The series’ complete four-season, sixty-eight episode run will be released in one complete multi-disc set. It will retail for MSRP of $29.93. After this release, the only full series sets that are left to be released under the companies’ current partnership are The Wild Thornberrys: The Complete Series and Hey Dude: The Complete Series. Audiences can keep up with the latest on all of these releases online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

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Slugterra: Return Of The Elementals Will Impress Any Anime Fan

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Disney XD/Nerd Corps

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Disney XD/Nerd Corps

Disney X D’s Slugterra is one of the most popular series on the Disney Channel’s digital sister station today.  The CG-based series has drawn large numbers for the network and seen a handful of episode compilations since it first debuted.  This week, Shout! Factory released the series’ latest DVD, which is in fact the first non-compilation disc rom the series in the form of Slugterra: Return of the ElementalsSlugterra: The Return of the Elementals is the first “movie” spawned Disney X D’s series.  Those that might not be so familiar with this presentation will enjoy this story for more than one reason.   The first reason that audiences will enjoy this feature is the fact that while it is an anime series of sorts, it can only rightfully be compared to maybe one other series stylistically speaking.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this “movie” is its writing.  It is a bridge of sorts between the series’ previous episodes and those to come.  And unlike other features of its ilk, it doesn’t necessarily require viewers to come into the presentation with knowledge of the series up to this point.  Last to note of the note of the “movie” is the series’ exhibition of its stylistic difference from the likes of Beyblade, Pokemon, Digimon, Monsuno, and others within that realm.  All three factors taken into consideration, audiences will see in watching this latest release from Shout! Factory and Disney X D, that Slugterra actually proves worth watching by any anime fan.

Disney X D’s Slugterra has proven to be a big hit for the network in its now three seasons.  It is sure to grow in popularity now with the brand new release of its first full length “movie” Slugterra; Return of the Elementals.  The primary reason that this presentation will help increase Slugterra’s popularity is the fact that it can’t necessarily be compared to all of the other series out there today in terms of its look.  Series such as Monsuno, Pokemon, and Digimon have a very specific look about them.  The only series to which one could truly and justifiably compare Slugterra, as evidenced in this DVD, is the short-lived series Hot Wheels Battle Force 5.  This should come as no surprise as both series are produced by the Canadian animation studio Nerd Corps.  Viewers that are familiar with Hasbro Studios’ properties will see a similar trend among its series, too.  So the fact that Slugterra: The Return of the Elementals can be compared to only another series under the Nerd Corps umbrella and not other CG/anime hybrid series makes it stand out right from the start.  It’s only one aspect of this DVD that will impress especially audiences that are new to Slugterra, both in terms of the series and this DVD.

The look of Slugterra: The Return of the Elementals is an important part of this presentation especially among those audiences that are experiencing the series for the first time on this DVD.  Just as worth noting in this DVD is the writing behind the presentation’s story (I.E. its script).  The story behind this feature picks up where the events of the series’ second season leaves off.  The Shane Gang thought that they had gotten rid of Dr. Black and The Goon, and saved the caverns.  So, things seem okay at first.  But when all the slugs start essentially becoming possessed, Eli knows that something is very wrong.  It turns out that things are very bad and are about to get much worse as they didn’t finish the job after all at the end of the series’ second season.  It leads to a perilous hunt for the fabled Elementals, which are essentially the ancestors of all of the slugs in the caverns.  It makes for a fun story within itself and an equally enjoyable bridge between the events of the series’ first two seasons and the potential third season to come.   The inclusion of a series recap before the story even begins enhances the overall viewing experience even more both for viewers that are more familiar with the series than others.  It shows respect for those that might be coming on board for the first time and for those that had forgotten what had happened even having watched the series’ first two seasons.  It’s one more way that Slugterra: The Return of the Elementals proves to be worth the watch by any anime fan at least once.

The writing and the look of Slugterra: The Return of the Elementals are both important in considering the impact of this DVD among its key audiences.  They both help to set this movie apart from the extended features spawned from other series such as Digimon, Pokemon, and Monsuno just to name a few examples.  There is one more aspect of this presentation that makes it stand out from that crowd worth noting.  That last aspect is the “movie’s” stylistic approach.  The stylistic approach taken with Slugterra is rather different from those aforementioned series.  Whereas the series in question center on battles between characters, Slugterra: The Return of the Elementals presents a somewhat different approach.  The series’ characters do use super powered creatures and even keep them in their own special containers as with the other anime series out there.  But unlike those series, Eli and his friends in the Shane Gang, don’t necessarily engage in the same kind of battles per se.  Rather the slugs are used as part of the overall action of the story.  From saving Eli and company from a raging underground river by crafting a web to hold back rocks to protect them from evil attackers and even to heal a person, the slugs are more tools so to speak than the sort of creature used in the other anime series currently populating the television spectrum.   It’s one more aspect of this feature that makes it stand out and in turn makes it even more enjoyable for viewers new and old.  Together with the feature’s script and its overall style, all three elements collectively make Slugterra: the Return of the Elementals even more worth the watch by any anime fan.

The general style or look of Slugterra: The Return of the Elementals is one that can only be compared to its fellow Nerd Corps counterpart in Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 much as the series under Hasbro Studios are quite similar to one another.  The story that makes up Slugterra: Return of the Elementals is full of action and even humor that audiences old and new will appreciate.  Whether viewers are jumping on board for the first time with this DVD or are more familiar with the series at this point, its series recap before the presentation serves as an excellent addition to the overall program.  And rounding out the whole presentation is the “movie’s” stylistic approach. While it is fantastic in its own right and bears a slight similarity to other anime series out there, it still maintains its own identity from those series in how the creatures are used.  All three factors alone make this feature rather interesting in their own right.  Collectively, they prove Slugterra: The Return of The Elementals is a “movie” worth at least one watch whether one is new to the world of anime or is far more a fan of the genre.  Slugterra: Return of the Elementals is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via the Shout! Factory online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/film-animation/slugterra-return-of-the-elementals.  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.

Born To Race Fast Track Keeps Pace With Universal’s Fast And The Furious Franchise

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

One part The Fast and the Furious, one part Need for Speed and one part Top Gun, the second installment of Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Born to Race franchise is a movie the surprisingly enough holds its own against its bigger-named counterparts.  There’s no getting around the fact that the franchise, which started with Born to Race back in 2011, is not the first of its kind.  Universal beat Anchor Bay to that punch with its massively popular Fast and Furious franchise.  That aside, there is still plenty to enjoy in this latest installment in the Born to Race franchise.  The central point of the movie’s success is its script (I.E. its writing).  Unlike so many other movies backed by major studios out there, the script for this movie rips off neither its predecessor nor its bigger-named brethren.  Another reason that this movie works as well as it does is its pacing.  The movie moves fast.  But it doesn’t move so fast as to leave viewers struggling to keep up with the story.   And last but not least to consider is the movie’s casting.  The movie’s heads wiped the slate clean with this movie, casting a while new list of actors to fill its lead roles.  But those actors still get the job done well enough to keep the movie believable.  These three factors together make Born to Race: Fast Track a movie that despite being an independent release, is a movie that any fan of its genre should see at least once.

The central point of success in Born to Race: Fast Track is its script (I.E. its writing).  There’s no getting around the fact that it is not the first movie of its kind within the race-based action subgenre.  That aside, it actually holds its own surprisingly well against Need for Speed and Universal Studios’ Fast & Furious franchise.  Unlike so many bigger-named movies out there across the genres, Born to Race: Fast Track doesn’t attempt to rip itself off.  Nor does it try to be just another of the aforementioned bigger-named movies in its genre.  The only movie that one could even begin to say it does copy is Tom Cruise’s hit 1986 fighter jet flick Top Gun.  It goes so far as to put lead actor Brett Davern in a pair of aviator sunglasses alongside co-star Beau Mirchoff late in the movie, in a scene that almost directly mirrors one well-known scene from Top Gun.  Even with that blatant lifting, it doesn’t take away from the movie’s overall enjoyment.  As a matter of fact, one could even go so far as to argue that paying such homage to such a classic film without any sense of hamming it up only gives this movie even more credibility.  It would have been so easy for that moment to go overboard.  But it didn’t.  That combined with the fact that the movie’s writers opted to develop a story that didn’t blatantly rip off the Fast & Furious movies makes the movie’s script all the more enjoyable.

The script behind Born to Race’s latest installment is the central point of the movie’s overall enjoyment.  While it obviously does bear quite the semblance to Top Gun in terms of its plot, it doesn’t go so far as to try and be just another Fast & Furious or Need for Speed.  It does at least try to be its own story to a point.  Adding to the movie’s enjoyment is its pacing.  The writing team behind the movie wastes no time setting up the movie’s plot.  And once the plot is established, the writers keep the story moving.  They do so without missing a beat, too.  Most impressive of all is that as fast as the story progresses, it doesn’t move so fast as to leave viewers in its own proverbial dust (bad pun fully intended), wondering what they experienced by the end of the movie’s roughly ninety-minute run time.  It switches gears at all of the right points and never finds itself idling, either.  And yes, both of those bad puns were fully intended, too.  The end result of that smart pacing is a story that movies fast, but not as fast as the cars that take center stage throughout the movie.  Alongside the movie’s solid script, the pacing helps to make Born to Race: Fast Track that much more enjoyable for any fan of all of the racing movies out there.

The pacing of Born to Race: Fast Track’s story and the story itself work together to make the movie one that fans of fast cars will enjoy even with just one watch.  Both elements are important to the movie’s overall success and enjoyment.  There is still one more factor to consider in the movie’s enjoyment.  That factor is the movie’s casting.  The production’s heads wiped the slate clean with this second installment of the franchise.  None of the actors from the franchise’s first movie returned for this installment.  The reason for this happening is anyone’s guess.  It could have been the movie’s heads.  It could have also been that the cast didn’t want to return for a second movie or simply couldn’t due to other commitments.  Regardless, the cast tapped for this movie does its own part to make the movie work.  The new cast members are all quite young.  And most of the cast members are quite well-known in their own right, too.  Lead actor Brett Davern is best known for his time on MTV’s hit series Awkward alongside co-star Beau Mirchoff.  He also has dramatic experience, having acted in bit parts in CSI: Miami, In Plain Sight, and Cold Case.  Mirchoff has also filled roles on CSI: Miami and CBS’ other hit crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.  Younger viewers might also recognize him from his work on Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place TV movie The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex.  The movie’s other cast members have their own extensive resumes, too.  That collective experience shows through quite well here.  They are actually quite believable in their roles.  That the cast would take its roles with such seriousness even on a flick from an indie studio shows a great deal of respect both for the studio and for audiences.  It also makes suspension of disbelief that much easier for viewers. And in turn, it makes the movie even more worth at least one watch.

The casting of a group of up-and-coming stars for Born to Race: Fast Track and the cast’s seriousness with its roles goes a long way toward making the movie worth at least one watch.  The movie’s script and by connection its pacing add even more value to the overall presentation.  All three factors together make Born to Race: Fast Track a movie that while being an indie release, is one that any fan of movies with fast cars and young stars will enjoy even with just one watch.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Anchor Bay Entertainment’s online store at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?ProjectId=d3c94bf6-38e7-e311-877b-d4ae527c3b65.  More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at

Website: http://www.anchorbayent.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay

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.

Say Hello To Shalom Sesame Again This Fall

Courtesy:  SISU Home Entertainment

Courtesy: SISU Home Entertainment

SISU Home Entertainment will re-issue the Sesame Street series Shalom Sesame next month.

The twelve-episode series is spread across six discs with two episodes on each disc, all of which chronologically follow the Jewish calendar. It all starts with an introduction to Israel and Hebrew. From there, viewers are taken on a trip through the various important dates on the Jewish calendar with the whole thing culminating in a trip taken by beloved Sesame Street resident Grover and guest star Annelies van der Pol (That’s So Raven, Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast). Throughout the trip, the duo highlights the importance and richness of the Jewish culture and its associated traditions. Each half-hour episode pulls from those traditions and culture in general to teach young American audiences about the Jewish community. The episodes include lessons on Hebrew letters and words, unique sites in Israel, and Jewish values.

It was originally released on DVD October 11th, 2011. The new upcoming re-issue will see the series contained in a thin pack gift box, which will retail for MSRP of $99.95. It will include a free bonus DVD that features two episodes from the classic Shalom Sesame series—“Jerusalem” and “People of Israel.” Also included in this upcoming re-issue is a free 30-day trial of download of the program “Welcome to Israel.” That program is the first episode from the original Shalom Sesame series. It is currently available online at http://www.sisudigital.com.

Along with the main series and its bonus DVD, Shalom Sesame also includes a number of bonus features. There is a trailer for another series titled Grover’s Video Player, sing-alongs and a chance for young viewers to do their own karaoke with songs such as ‘Aleph Bet Song,’ ‘’Rosh Hashanah Hannah (a spoof of Disney’s Hannah Montana), and even the most beloved Sesame Street song of all, ‘Rubber Ducky.’ The catch with that final song is that it is done entirely in Hebrew. And Annelies van der Pol is not the only celebrity to make an appearance throughout the series. Fellow celebrities Jake Gyllenhaal, Debra Messing, Matisyahu, Eva Longoria, Christina Applegate, Greg Kinnear, Debi Mazar also make appearances throughout the series.

Shalom Sesame will be available Tuesday, October 14th on DVD. Parents and children can view trailers for the series online now via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/shalomesesame. More information on Shalom Sesame is available online at
Website: http://www.shalomsesame.org
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ShalomSesame
Parents can also order separate stand-alone episodes of Shalom Sesame online now at http://www.sisuent.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.

The Rescue Bots Are Back On The Job With Another Fun DVD For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids

The latest compilation of episodes from Hasbro Studios’ Transformers Rescue Bots is another great collection for any fan of this kid friendly series.  The compilation, which was released last Tuesday, September 2nd, is especially well-timed considering the proximity of its release to Halloween.  That is primarily because of the five episodes featured in the disc.  The episodes presented on this disc offer their own not so scary stories that are still a good fit for any child’s Halloween party.  For those that might be new to this series (like this critic), said audiences will also appreciate the series’ animation.  Being another product of Hasbro studios, it should come as no surprise that the series’ animation plays a role in its enjoyment, too.  And last but not least of all worth noting in the overall presentation is the series’ list of voice talents.  The actors charged with putting a voice to the series’ characters are largely well-known figures.  They are figures that have quite the resume when it comes to animated programs, children’s programs, and sci-fi shows, too.  Some have experience in all three realms, making their acting all the more believable and in turn enjoyable.  The combination of those experienced voice talents and the series’ animation and writing makes Transformers Rescue Bots: Mystery Rescue just as enjoyable for those that are new to this series as those that are more familiar with the show.

Transformers Rescue Bots: Mystery Rescue is the fifth compilation of episodes from the Hub network’s hit children’s series.  The compilation was released just last week in stores.  Its timing could not have been better taking into account its episodes and the fact that Halloween is a little more than a month away.  The episodes collected for this compilation each present their own not so scary but still entertaining story for kids at their Halloween parties this year.  The DVD opens with a mystery that sees everyone in Griffin Rock suddenly disappearing after a horde of robotic bugs infests the town.  It’s up to Cody, his friends, and the Rescue Bots to solve the mystery.  The second episode sees some “ghosts” suddenly appearing.  It turns out though, that things aren’t always what they appear to be when Cody and the Rescue Bots investigate the “hauntings.”  There’s even a little twist that parents and kids alike will like, regardless of whether or not they are believers.  “Spellbound” is the third episode chosen for the DVD.  One could argue that this episode lifts lightly from Stephen King’s novel Cell as cell phones are being used to take over the minds of the Griffin Rock’s citizens.  This is an especially enjoyable episode not only for this reason, but for its emphasis on caring for the environment.  “Blame The Gremlins” is another great addition that parents and children will appreciate as it offers its own frightful fun.  When Cody’s big brother Kade (voiced by Jason Marsden) starts having nightmares about gremlins, those nightmares become reality and invade Griffin Rock.  Parents that are familiar with Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone series will appreciate the subtle homage to the episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” in this episode.  One could even argue that there’s a subtle reference to a certain gremlin from Warner Brothers’ beloved Looney Tunes franchise.  “Feed The Beast” closes out the DVD with a little tale of Griffin Rock’s own version of the legendary Sasquatch.  As with the discs other episodes, it offers its own frightful fun for younger viewers.  All of the episodes together will keep young viewers fully engaged from start to finish.

Of the stories included on this disc are not enough enjoyment by themselves, audiences that might be new to Transformers Rescue Bots will appreciate the fact that the episodes are kid friendly.  They don’t have the level of violence and deep, thought provoking material that makes up the original Transformers franchise or any of its offshoots over the years.  It makes for a fun and safe way to ease younger viewers into the Transformers universe.  It could be argued that to that extent, it actually takes a page from the likes of Tiny Toon Adventures, The Flintstone Kids, Taz-Mania and others that came from that era.  That’s because while many critics came down hard on the series, the reality was that they were in fact a way to slowly and gently bring younger viewers into the likes of Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo and other classic franchises.  To that extent, the very concept of this franchise makes the writing all the more valuable and enjoyable to the overall presentation that is this latest compilation.

The writing that went into the episodes on this DVD makes them (and the franchise in whole) a joy for both children and adults.  Its mix of family friendly stories and its more grown-up pop culture references will make watching them as a family a fun time.  And especially today, families need as much time as possible together.  It’s not all that makes this collection enjoyable, either.  The series’ animation also makes the episodes presented here fun, too.  Audiences that are familiar with Hasbro Studios’ properties will find it no surprise that this series’ animation bears a somewhat similar animation style to that of both Pound Puppies and Littlest Pet Shop.  It is safe to suffice that the same individuals charged with crafting the artwork for those series were also behind Transformers Rescue Bots, too simply by watching these episodes.  Even with its similarities to those series, it does bear its own identity apart from them.  The differences lie mainly in little things like the contours of the characters and the backgrounds and even the coloring. Other than that, this series’ animation lies in the same category as those others from Hasbro Studios already noted. Even as similar as its animation is to those series, it still is nice to see animation today that can look so much like it was hand drawn instead of all of the cookie cutter CGI shows out there for younger audiences today. It’s just one more part of what makes this new DVD so welcome in any family’s DVD library.

The animation in Transformers Rescue Bots: Mystery Rescue and the writing in its episodes together make this latest collection of episodes welcome in any family’s DVD library. The last factor to note that makes it such a welcome addition to any family’s library is the series’ list of voice actors. Those behind the characters in this series are no strangers to voicing animated characters. The cast includes Jason Marsden, Kath Soucie, Levar Burton, Mauriche LaMarche, Tim Curry, Diamond White and so many others. While their episodes are not included in this DVD, Mark Hamill (Star Wars, Batman The Animated Series) and Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years) even offer their talents in a couple of episodes, too. Having such a who’s who of actors lending their talents to this series is a tribute to its popularity and the popularity of the Transformers franchise in whole. Jason Marsden is known for his work on Nickelodeon’s The Fairly Odd Parents and as the voice of Nermal in Cartoon Network’s The Garfield Show. He has worked on a number of other series and movies, too. These are just a couple examples of his body of work. Kath Soucie and Levar Burton both worked together on Captain Planet and the Planeteers early in the 1990s. Soucie is also known as the voice of Phil and Lil DeVille in Nickelodeon’s beloved Nicktoon Rugrats. Not to omit Mauriche LeMarche or Tim Curry, the resume of these two actors could fill pages and pages. Needless to say they are quite the well trained and well-respected actors. And having them on this series’ cast is quite the statement. Newcomer Diamond White has already started building up her own resume with voice acting credits including work on Disney’s Phineas and Ferb, and Sophia the First. She also plays the role of Sophie in Nickelodeon’s teen-centric series The Haunted Hathaways. Needless to say, the cast that was tapped for the roles in Transformers Rescue Bots more than did its job with this latest collection of episodes. Their years of training and experience helped them to interpret each episode’s script and in turn make it each story all the more enjoyable. The end result is a collection of episodes that the whole family will enjoy again and again while they wait for the next collection of episodes from this surprisingly entertaining show.

The A-list voice cast tapped to voice the characters in this latest collection of episodes from Hub’s Transformers Rescue Bots goes a long way toward validating it and the series in whole. Parents will note the celebrities’ names and want to check out the actors’ work for themselves. They will also appreciate some of the subtle pop culture references thrown in for good measure in some of the episodes included on the DVD. Kids will enjoy the animation and stories in general. All things considered, there is a lot that makes Transformers Rescue Bots: Mystery Rescue a hit for the whole family. So much in fact that it could potentially end up on this critic’s list of the year’s best new DVDs for children and families. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Shout! Factory’s website at https://www.shoutfactory.com/kids/kids-animation/transformers-rescue-bots-mystery-rescue. 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.

ESPN, Verizon Sign New Deal For SEC Network Broadcasts

Courtesy:  ESPN/SEC Network

Courtesy: ESPN/SEC Network

ESPN and Verizon have signed a new television deal.

The deal between ESPN and Verizon will allow Verizon to carry its brand new SEC Network on Verizon’s FiOS platform.  The terms of the deal will allow the SEC Network to air on Verizon FiOS beginning before August 28th.  Verizon customers in Florida and Texas that already receive ESPN as aprt of their FiOS TV package will be able to get the SEC Network on channels 75 and 575.  FiOS subscribers in all other markets who already receive FiOS Extreme and Ultimate will be able to pick up the SEC network on Channnel 75 upon the network’s launch through FiOS.

Terry Denson, Verizon’s VP for content acquisition and strategy, was optimistic about the new deal between Verizon and ESPN.  He noted the predictions for SEC teams in a number of preseason polls and ratings for SEC football games as reasons for Verizon’s deal with ESPN.  “We welcome the SEC Network to FiOS TV and look forward to carrying the studio content and athletic events it will offer, including the season-opening football doubleheader on Aug. 28,” he said.  “The preseason college poll lists eight SEC teams in the top 25; SEC football ratings are head and shoulders above other conferences; and SEC fans are extraordinarily and uniquely passionate about not only those teams but the entire conference as well. This deal with Disney-ESPN reinforces our already strong partnership with them which involves much more than this great new network.”

Sean Breen, Senior VP of affiliate sales for Disney and ESPN Media Networks also discussed the deal, noting that the deal means an even broader swatch of audiences will be able to receive the SEC Network.  “With the addition of Verizon FiOS, SEC Network is now available on nine of the top 10 multichannel video distributors in the country,” he said.  We look forward to serving their customers in time for college football season.”

Exact terms of the deal were not disclosed.  Thought, it is known that included in the deal is the rights to the FiOS Mobile app as well as live-viewing rights and additional live and on-demand content scheduled for both the SEC Network and various mobile platforms via WatchESPN and SECNetwork.com.  The FiOS mobile app will be available to FiOS customers in the near future.

More information on the SEC Network, its broadcast schedule and more is available online at http://www.facebook.com/SECNetwork and http://getsecnetwork.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.