Science Channel DVD Makes A “Splash” In The Classroom And The Living Room

Courtesy:  Gaiam/The Science Channel

Courtesy: Gaiam/The Science Channel

The Science Channel is everything that its sister network, The Discovery Channel, used to be.  Where The Discovery Channel has shifted largely to reality programming, Science Channel provides the more educational content that The Discovery Channel once ran in the mid to late 1990s.  It is a network for anyone that has any love of all things science and for anyone that loves everything that The Discovery Channel once was.  And the recent DVD release of the network’s documentary, Aquarius: Living Beneath The Sea is proof of that. 

The recently released DVD contains five episodes, beginning with the title episode.  From there, viewers are taken on a journey into the depths of the season over the course of two documentaries.  Next up is a piece that examines the robots that help scientists study the creatures that inhabit the depths.  It all closes out with the story of one of New England’s most infamous shipwrecks.  The wreck in question is that of the steamer, Portland.  The dual paddles wheel ship went down off the New England coast in a bad storm.  Now thanks to a group of scientists, audiences finally get to see the last resting place of what is considered by many to be the Titanic of New England.  A lot of work went into bringing audiences the final product in these episodes.  It was that work and the order of episodes that makes this final product so enjoyable for anyone that has any love of the marine sciences or for science in general.  It’s just as enjoyable for anyone that has any love for all things nautical.

The first thing that audiences will notice in watching “Aquarius: Undersea Lab” is the beautiful undersea cinematography.  Sure, the program is obviously dated.  But seeing the reef that has grown on Aquarius over the years and the fish that inhabit it are incredible.  The lab itself is based off the southern coast of Florida.  The footage looking up from beneath the waves as the sun shines down into the water, scuba divers swimming by is beautiful.  As impressive as the footage for this program is, viewers will also be impressed by the fact that while it does note the impact of humans on the environment—specifically a coral reef—it isn’t preachy about it.  The discussion on human impact centers on global warming as the biggest factor on the survival or lack thereof coral.  It doesn’t get preachy, trying to say this or that needs to be done.  It only points out that humans have played a role and in turn so has global warming.  So that in itself is sure to create some level of discussion among viewers, considering that such factors are always and will always be hot button issues. 

The footage in the main feature and the discussion on human impact is certain to entertain viewers.  The feature doesn’t stop there though.  Also discussed are the dangers of living and working at such depths.  It includes footage in a story of one diver who died decades ago who had worked on Sealab III.  Also discussed is the effect of what is called Nitrogen Narcosis or “beer buzz.”  This happens from living undersea for extended periods of time.  It’s just as entertaining as other portions of this feature.  It is also very eye opening, as it shows how dangerous living beneath the sea can be.  Along with the program’s other interesting facts and impressive footage, it makes for a fitting opening piece for this new release from The Science Channel.

Where “Aquarius: Undersea Lab” ends, the other features that follow are sure to keep viewers engaged.  Audiences go from inside the Aquarius to the open sea in the next trio of features, “Mid-Water Mysteries”, “The Hostile Deep” and “Robots of the Deep.”  The first two features center on the creatures that live around coral reefs and other regions of the sea, while the latter of the trio focuses on the machines created to help make investigating that sea life easier.  They also help to make investigating things like a shipwreck easier, which makes the transition into the DVD’s final feature, “Wreck of the Portland” all the more fitting. 

“Wreck of the Portland” is a roughly hour long feature that tells the story of the ill-fated journey of the Paddle Wheel Steamer, Portland.  It expands on the use of the robots of the deep as it examines what eventually led to the ship’s demise.  Much of the time is spent focusing on the design of the ship, much as those documentaries on the Titanic have done.  It incorporates CG models of the ship’s final journey as well as pictures of the captain to illustrate what likely happened that dark and stormy night.  When the wreck is discovered, audiences get to see what it looks like now, covered in barnacles and more, serving as a home to so much undersea life.  Viewers get to see images of the original boat, undisturbed superimposed over the sunken relic.  This helps show how the ship settled after sinking.  In its own way, showing the ship’s final resting place, and comparing it to what it looked like brings the entire DVD full circle.  Those who discovered the wreck pay tribute with a wreath, and the narrator notes that for its protection, the location of the ship has been kept secret to this day.  While it may be a secret, there will always be other ship wrecks and other undersea phenomena to investigate.  Knowing this serves as solid closure for viewers.  With this closure, audiences—whether in the living room or the classroom—will agree that this latest release from The Science Channel makes quite the splash and will with each watch.  It is available now and can be ordered online at http://store.discovery.com/detail.php?p=445899.

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Martha & Friends’ Latest DVD Another “Magnificent” Holiday Themed Release

Courtesy:  A Squared/Vivendi Entertainment/Gaiam

Courtesy: A Squared/Vivendi Entertainment/Gaiam

The new Martha & Friends Easter themed DVD, Martha’s Magnificent Egg is another entertaining feature for the entire family.  The new release finds young Martha and her friends working on designs for Easter eggs that will be entered for a chance to present one winning egg to the President himself at the annual White House Egg Roll.  But what story would be complete without conflict?  When Martha and her friends present a webcast on how to design eggs, her classmate Samantha copies her designs verbatim.  Martha’s friends aren’t too impressed by the young lady’s general lack of creativity, especially when it leads to a tie between Martha and Samantha in the contest.  But on the eve of the tie-breaking contest, Martha’s basket goes missing.  The kids find the basket the next morning, which leads to a happy ending for both Samantha and for Martha.  Kids and parents alike will enjoy and appreciate the morals of friendship and that winning isn’t everything presented at the story’s conclusion.

The friendship moral is just one positive to this latest release.  While it is entirely CG-based, the bright colors used both in the main feature and the companion webisodes will keep young viewers engaged.  The features’ music also plays its own role as it’s just subtle enough to help set each scene’s mood.  Among the bonus webisodes included on this disc is another Easter themed short as well as a Valentine’s Day short.  Both shorts and the other two each show audiences some crafty things to do from making cupcakes themed for each month of the year to making an armoire for cheap that will help keep one’s stuff organized.  And it can be made from stuff right in one’s own home.  This saves time and money, just as young Martha points out. 

The bonus webisodes make a nice addition to this disc just as with the previous Halloween themed 2012 release.  Though there is one more bonus that kids and parents will enjoy.  That bonus is another of “Martha’s Craft Corner.”  This time, parents and kids can learn how to make a bunch of Easter themed crafts including: Chick Cakes, an Egg Wreath, Eggshell Flower Pots and plenty more.  Though, it should be noted that this feature might not work on some computers when put into their DVD drives. Parents would be well advised to try this feature on one’s own DVD player first since the compatibility issue might arise from one computer to the next.  That aside, it’s still nice to see that Vivendi and Gaiam have included Martha’s Craft Corner yet again.  It’s a great way to get kids into crafts and engaging their creative side.  On a deeper level, it’s a great way to get kids and parents interacting together.  In an age when the divide between kids and their parents is growing ever wider, this bonus is one more salvo in the fight to lessen that divide.  So, kudos is in order once again for Vivendi and Gaiam for this icing on a fun and festival holiday special.  It’s available now in stores and online.

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The Garfield Show Shows More Promise On New DVD

Courtesy: Vivendi/Gaiam/Paws, Inc./Dargaud Media

Courtesy: Vivendi/Gaiam/Paws, Inc./Dargaud Media

The latest DVD release from The Garfield Show hits stores today.  The Garfield Show: Spring Fun Collection—the show’s seventh new DVD compilation–offers audiences six more adventures from the hit CG based show.  It also includes a handful of PSAs for kids that teach everything from the importance of exercise to proper pet care, and even accepting people’s differences.  The PSAs and the episodes all work together to make this latest release another enjoyable set of episodes for any Garfield fan of any age.

The Garfield Show: Spring Fun Collection opens with the episode, “The Big Sneeze.”  Long-time Garfield fans might recognize this episode as it is a subtle throwback to the Garfield & Friends episode, “Nothing to Sneeze At.”  Whereas that episode was centered on Jon’s less than fashionable wardrobe as the source of Garfield’s allergies, “The Big Sneeze” turns the tables.  This time out, it’s Jon who has sneezing problems.  What’s really causing them is left to audiences to discover. The answer to the mystery will have audiences laughing as will the episode’s subtle jokes.  The show’s writers take on the old joke about everything on the internet being true with a comment from Jon as he researches his symptoms.  In the same vein, the writers also take on a classic cartoon bit in the episode, “Stealing Home” which in itself is also a massive throwback to the original Garfield & Friends episode, “Pest of a Guest.”  The classic bit in question sees Garfield turning a trash dumpster into a “home” as a means to get a pesky cat out of his own house.  The use of a trash dumpster is just one variation of the classic cartoon bit.  But having the small confined space made up as if it’s something else goes as far back as certain classic Looney Tunes shorts.  That the writers would take the time to honor animation’s golden era is enough to make any viewer smile. 

The homage to animation’s early days is just one part of what makes “Stealing Home” so fun.  Adding in the reference to the classic “movie” Kung Fu Creatures on The Rampage is a double whammy for audiences.  Not only will old school audiences appreciate the reference to the original show here, but movie lovers will appreciate the somewhat biting commentary about Hollywood’s current fad of re-issuing classic movies to theaters in 3-D, too.  As one can already see, so much is going on in this episode alone.  But somehow, the show’s writers managed to assemble it all together in a script that audiences of all ages will appreciate.  It’s one more part of the whole that audiences will appreciate as they watch it any time they want when they pick up this new release.

The writers behind the episodes are to be commended for honoring Garfield’s roots in this collection of episodes.  They are to be just as commended for making new episodes, too in the form of “Farm Fresh Feline”, “The Bluebird of Happiness”, “The Mole Express” and “Parrot Blues.”  These episodes are more original and will entertain audiences just as much as the set’s throwback episodes.  The “Garfield Shorts” included in the set aren’t necessarily shorts.  They’re not the “quickies” from Garfield & Friends.  But parents will appreciate that they are PSAs intended to entertain and educate young audiences.  They are the icing on the cake that is this single disc compilation.  It’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online at the Paws, Inc. online store at http://garfield.com/shopping/dvd_collection/collection.html?cat=5.

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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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New Garfield Compilation Has Loads Of Laughs And Heart For Families

Courtesy: Gaiam/Vivendi Entertainment

Everybody’s favorite flabby tabby is back yet again.  And it’s just in time for the holidays.  Gaiam-Vivendi will release a brand new single-disc compilation of holiday themed episodes tomorrow.  “The Garfield Show:  Holiday Extravaganza” contains six holiday themed episodes, one of which is a two-part Christmas episode.  Another of the episodes is a bonus episode that’s great for Halloween.  In this new compilation, Garfield, Odie, and Jon head to a haunted house so that Jon can work on a new comic book.  Also in the collection’s sole Thanksgiving episode, the guys have to deal with a certain animal in the style of another classic Garfield & Friends episode.  And, in what is the best of the compilation’s episodes, Odie comes up with a plan to get a group of stray animals adopted for Christmas. 

In the first episode in this brand new compilation, Jon is having troubles writing a new comic book for his boss, Mr. Parker.  He keeps getting distracted because of the phone.  So when he tells Mr. Parker, Mr. Parker tells Jon to go to a house that he just bought.  What Jon doesn’t know is that the house is haunted.  It could be argued that in a roundabout way, this episode kind of pays tribute to Stephen King’s The Shining, what with Jon trying to write in a haunted house.  Anyone who has seen the horror classic might catch the reference.  Except in this case, the story is much more family friendly.  The house does indeed turn out to be haunted.  There’s just one problem.  While the house is haunted, only Garfield and Odie can see the ghost because the ghost in question is a ghost cat.  He explains to Garfield that humans can’t see ghost cats.  But he has to make Jon believe in him so that he can finally be released from haunting the house, and cross over.  Through a series of funny tricks, Garfield finally gets Jon to believe, thus releasing the ghost cat.  Ironically, his new belief also becomes the subject of his new comic book, solving Jon’s writer’s block.

This new compilation of episodes also contains a Thanksgiving episode that’s fun for the whole family.  In “Turkey Trouble”, Jon invites Liz over for Thanksgiving.  He’s ordered a turkey.  There’s just one problem.  Jon discovers that when the turkey is delivered, it’s alive.  This is a throwback to a certain episode from the classic Garfield & Friends animated series.  It just has some minor tweaks.  Jon can’t bring himself to do what needs to be done, so he decides to make his signature spinach lasagna instead.  Meanwhile, Garfield has to figure out how to handle the turkey, eventually managing to take it back to the butcher shop.  But when the guys discover what would happen to the turkey, Garfield sneaks back in later to rescue the turkey.  Of course, the turkey ends up rescuing itself.  Viewers will laugh at how it does, too.  In the end, the guys bring the turkey to dinner, enjoying Jon’s spinach lasagna.  It’s revealed that the turkey will be sent to a petting zoo instead.

“The Garfield Show:  Holiday Extravaganza” has loads of family fun throughout each of its episodes.  As fun as each episode is here, there is one that stands out more than any of the others.  It’s one of the set’s group of Christmas-themed episodes.  The two part episode, “Home For The Holidays” is the best of the best in this compilation.   In this special episode, Garfield learns the true meaning of Christmas after running into Arlene one evening when he and Jon go grocery shopping.  Garfield thinks about what Arlene said to him.  So he and Odie come and surprise Arlene and the stray animals that she is helping with food and bedding.  While they are there, Odie comes up with an idea to get the pets all adopted for Christmas.  While Arlene isn’t sure the idea will work, Garfield compliments him, telling him he thinks Odie’s idea is brilliant.  The group takes on the task.  It means taking the Christmas tree and dinner from their house and taking it to the junkyard where the strays are staying.  They also take a truck and use it to light up a pile of junk at the yard.  The pile has a star on top that attracts people from all over the city.  It’s arguable that there’s a biblical reference with the light shining at the top of the pile, as it looks a little bit like the Star of Bethlehem.  And being that it drew everyone from all around adds to that similarity.  When the people come, they all adopt the animals at the junkyard, including Jon’s mother and even Liz’s parents.  It all makes for one of the show’s most heartwarming episodes so far, and what will be one of the favorite episodes for families in this compilation.

The episodes mentioned here are only a portion of what’s offered in “The Garfield Show:  Holiday Extravaganza.”  This brand new compilation also includes a second Christmas episode that indirectly pays tribute to another classic Garfield & Friends episode, as well as another pair of Halloween episodes.  Whether it be those episodes or the ones listed here, “The Garfield Show:  Holiday Extravaganza” has lots of laughs and lots of heart for the whole family to enjoy this holiday season.  It will be available in stores tomorrow.

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