Lionsgate’s Latest Family Friendly CG Centerpiece Will Entertain The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s latest CG animated feature Jungle Master is one of the year’s more welcome family features to come along so far in 2014.  Unlike so many of the movies released in recent years by Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar, Jungle Master actually takes the road less travelled.  The movie’s animation is the most obvious way in which it takes that road less travelled.  Despite being a CG presentation, it doesn’t bare that cookie cutter appearance of the movies released by Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar.  Another reason that it stands out is its run time.  The movie’s run time comes in at just under the ninety-minute mark.  That’s a very good thing and will be discussed later.  Last but not least of all that makes this movie stand out is its script.  The story lifts lightly from The Wizard of Oz believe it or not and adds in a touch of Avatar for good measure as well as other sci-fi flicks.  The end result is a story that the while it may never be as big as anything from Dreamworks or Disney/Pixar, is still enjoyable in its own right.  It proves to be a movie that the whole family should watch together and will enjoy together when they do watch it together.

Jungle Master is not one of the most well-known family flicks to be released by any of Hollywood’s major studios this year.  That aside, it still proves in the long run to be one of the year’s more welcome family friendly flicks.  One reason for that is the movie’s “animation.”  Lionsgate’s CG features are completely unlike those of Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar in the realm of animation.  It’s almost impossible to tell Dreamworks’ CG movies from Disney/Pixar’s because they all look alike.  The only way to really differentiate the two studios’ works is by the studio names.  That speaks volumes.  Lionsgate on the other hand has strived to keep itself separate from the mold used by those studios in terms of its animation.  The look of Lionsgate’s CG movies is rawer for lack of better wording.  But it isn’t raw to the point of looking like some pieces from perhaps independent studio Engine 15 Media Group and others.  There is actually some attention paid to detail with Lionsgate’s CG movies, including this one.  That attention to detail helps Jungle Master maintain its own identity separate from its bigger name counterparts from Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar.  It even helps the movie to maintain its own identity from Lionsgate’s previously released CG features.  That mostly original look is just one of a number of positives that surround Jungle Master and make it stand out among this year’s crop of CG movies.

The largely original look of Jungle Master plays a key role in the movie’s ability to keep audiences engaged through its entire eighty-two minute run time.  That run time is another reason that families will enjoy this movie.  It doesn’t even reach the ninety-minute mark.  That relatively short run time drastically increases the chances of keeping audiences engaged from start to finish.  This is especially the case with the movie’s target younger audiences.  Most of the CG movies released since 1995—which is when Pixar broke the mold and released Toy Story—have averaged about ninety minutes.  There have been a small number of movies that have come in just under that time.  But most either reach the ninety-minute mark or go well over it as was the case with Toy Story 3.  That movie came in at almost forty-five minutes.  Luckily its story worked well enough that it still succeeded and quite well at that.  Speaking of story Jungle Master’s story works wonderfully with its run time.  Its story combines elements of a number of other movies to make a story that somehow actually works.  It’s one more way in which Jungle Master works and makes itself one of this year’s more welcome family films.

Both the look of Jungle Master and its run time are important to the movie’s overall success.  They each play their own important role to the overall presentation as they both have an impact on whether or not audiences are kept engaged.  Luckily, both factors succeed by themselves and together.  As much as they succeeded, the look of Jungle Master and its run time are not all that made this direct-to-DVD feature work.  One would be remiss to ignore the movie’s script as an equally important part of the whole.  The movie’s script centers on a twelve year-old girl named Rainie (pronounced rainy) who runs away from home ater her mother forgot about her birthday.  It is assumed by the fact that Rainie was upset enough to run away that her mother (who remains nameless throughout the movie) has probably left Rainie alone more than once.  Her decision to run away ends up taking her to al alien planet  and a much biger adventure that is directly linked to the company for which her mother works.  It’s thanks to her adventure that Rainie realizes her mom hasn’t intentionally ignored her, obviously leading to an eventual reconciliation between mother and daughter.  The central story of the parent/child relationship is obviously anything but new.  It’s been done more times than a person can count on his or her own two hands.  However, the story’s execution is what makes this plot work.  Screen writer Steve Kramer lifted liberally from the likes of The Wizard of Oz and Avatar to make this story.  While he obviously lifted from the noted movies, Kramer didn’t try to just remake them and mix them together.  He used them more as influences for his story about family.  What’s more he balanced said elements quite well; well enough in fact that audiences will be moved to overlook the references to said movies and enjoy the presented story.

Kramer’s re-telling of original writer/director Xu Kerr’s story is one of the most important of this movie’s aspects in considering its level of success.  He obviously used at least a couple of rather well-known movies that have come before as both influences and elements of this movie.  But he also didn’t try to just rip off either work.  He balanced them together to make a largely original story that centers on family.  That creativity and homage still is not all that makes this movie work.  One should also take into account the movie’s cast and even its bonus shorts.  Victoria Justice (Victorious, Victoria Justice, iCarly), Jane Lynch (Glee, Hollywood Game Night, Wreck-It-Ralph), David Spade (Just Shoot Me, The Benchwarmers, Tommy Boy), Josh Peck (Drake & Josh, Ultimate Spiderman, Ice Age: Continental Drift), Christopher Lloyd (Cyberchase, Back to the Future 1 - 3), and John Lovitz (Saturday Night Live, The Critic, Gorwn-Ups 1 & 2) make up the movie’s cast.  Lovitz proves to be the real star of the story with his comical antics voicing Mulla.  The fact that so many well-known names overall would feel confident enough about such a movie makes it even more worth the watch.  And the bonus shorts included with the movie will entertain children for a little while after the movie ends.  These extra positives combined with the positivews already noted make Jungle Master a movie well worth at least one watch together by any family.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lionsgatemovies

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Shout! Kids’ Latest Pound Puppies Compilation Is Another Great Watch For The Whole Family

Courtesy;  Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Courtesy; Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Shout! Kids released the latest collection of episodes from Hub’s award-winning series Pound Puppies this week.  The latest collection of episodes from this update on the original 1980s series is just as much a jewel as the series’ previous compilation DVDs.  The episodes included in this compilation make it so enjoyable first and foremost because of the episodes’ writing.  By connection, audiences will appreciate the subtle lessons taught through some of the episodes.  Intentional or not, there are some subtle lessons taught through some of this set’s episodes.  It makes the set all the richer.  And last but not least, viewers (especially parents) will appreciate this latest compilation is the list of guest appearances.  Some very big names lend their talents to Pound Puppies in this collection.  Whether it be the guest talent, the lessons, the writing or all three factors together, Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match proves to be another wonderful set of episodes for the whole family.

The writing behind this collection of episodes is the central point of impact for this DVD.  Those that are familiar with this incarnation of Pound Puppies and with the original series from the 1980s know that both series emulate the classic WWII-themed sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in their theme songs.  The new Pound Puppies has taken things to a higher level, actually giving Ace and his canine friends an underground base just like Col. Hogan and his Allied forces friends in Hogan’s Heroes.  As viewers will see in this set’s opening episode, the writers even emulate Hogan’s Heroes in terms of the writing, too.  In “The Yipper Caper”, viewers see McLeash bring in a giant dog feeding machine just to impress his superiors much like Col. Klink would do in Hogan’s Heroes.  Klink was always taking on some wild, hair-brained scheme to impress his higher-ups.  On the other side of things, audiences hear Ace tell Yipper that the Pound Puppies have homes outside the shelter, but they stay there to help others.  Audiences familiar with Hogan’s Heroes will again recognize quite the similarity there.  This writing is a wonderful homage to the golden era of television and takes things one step farther than the original Pound Puppies series.  That homage is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes the writing so fun in these episodes.  Just as impressive to note is the fact that the show’s writers are able to time and again find ways for the Pound Puppies to complete their missions without McLeash ever knowing.  This is the case throughout all five episodes, not just the opener.  Again, this is an homage to Hogan’s Heroes.  It’s one more way to potentially get young viewers started on the road to an appreciation for television’s Golden Era.  And for that, the show’s writers are more than deserving of their applause.

As one should be able to tell by now, the writing behind the episodes included in the latest Pound Puppies compilation DVD is key to the collection’s overall enjoyment.  Even older viewers will appreciate the writing thanks to its throwback to what is one of television’s greatest ever sitcoms.  Just as important to these episodes are the lessons taught through the episodes.  “Hello Kitten” teaches a not so subtle lesson about the ability of people to get along and be friends despite opposing backgrounds.  It does this by having the youngest of the pound puppies help a kitten find his perfect person.  There’s just one problem.  The Pound Puppies’ feline counterparts, led by a feline mirror image of Ace is set out to keep the young kitten from becoming friends with dogs and finding a person for the kitten themselves.  In the end, the cats learn that it’s okay to be friends with dogs.  The secondary lesson taught here is that one must let go of things from the past.  All holding onto the past does is make a person bitter.  “Beauty is only Fur Deep” teaches a lesson about being one’s self when a much talked about dog comes to Kennel 17.  The Pound Puppies have their hands…*ahem*…paws full when the seemingly humble dog turns quite self-centered on getting a new coat of fur.  It creates lots of problems for the Pound Puppies especially when he shoots down the little girl they said was his perfect person. He of course learns a rather valuable lesson from this experience that viewers of all ages will appreciate.

The lessons taught through the episodes culled for Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match and the general writing that pays homage to Hogan’s Heroes both make this latest compilation of episodes just as enjoyable as previous Pound Puppies DVDs. There is one more factor to consider in this DVD that makes its episodes so fun. That final factor is the list of guest stars that lent its talents to each episode. J.K. Simmons (Spiderman 1 3) and Tress MacNeille both share their talents in the episodes included in this DVD. Go figure, Simmons voices a character in “Working K-9 To 5” that is a newspaper man. Hmmmmm, now where have we seen that before? His character is even presented much in the same vein as J. Jonah Jameson from director Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy. MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama) voices a fellow canine in another episode. It’s only a bit part. But parents that know McNeille’s voice will love hearing her voice here, too. And of course, the true queen of comedy herself, Betty White, returns once more as the voice of McLeash’s not so nice mother. These are just some of the guests that appear in the episodes collected for this DVD. Also on board on these episodes are: Tara Strong (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly Odd Parents), E.G. Daily (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Chalk Zone), Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Napoleon Dynamite, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy), Danny Cooksey (Salute Your Shorts, Diff’rent Strokes, Tiny Toon Adventures) and so many others. The fact that so many well-known actors and actresses would lend their talents to these episodes shows just how respected a series it proves to be. Parents will recognize most (if not all) of the names mentioned here. And that alone is enough to give the DVD just one watch if not more. And it is most definitely deserving of far more than just one watch.

Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/pound-puppies-perfect-match. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Shout! Kids 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.

New Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts DVD Another Example Of Comedy Done Right

Courtesy:  StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

The world is in a tough place, right now.  Political and economic strife dominate the news every day.  And television and movies are more dominated by sex and violence than ever before.  Thankfully, StarVista has stepped up once again to offer audiences what is a great escape from all the death, destruction, sex and violence dominating television and movies.  StarVista Entertainment has stepped up and offered an escape from it all in the form of the latest Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts box set.  This collection, the second in a set of three boxes, is just as worthy of applause as the first Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts box set.  That is the case first and foremost because of the laughs that fill each episode in this set.  Audiences will also appreciate that the episodes contained in this set are presented just as they originally aired.  And last but definitely not least, the packaging itself is well worth mentioning, too.  StarVista Entertainment has once again quite wisely packaged each of the six discs that comprise this box set.  The company has also included as part of the packaging, a bonus booklet that serves as an episode guide for viewers.  That inclusion as part of the set’s packaging, along with the equally impressive quality of the show’s footage and the nonstop laughs, makes The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Fully Roasted one of this year’s best new box sets for adults.

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Fully Roasted is one of the year’s best new box sets for adults.  The primary reason for that is the fact that these roasts are just as funny today as they were in their original broadcasts so many decades ago.  Given, some of the jokes are a little bit off color.  Case in point, actress Lawanda Page’s (Sanford & Son) jokes aimed at her fellow roasters in the roast of Betty White (Password, Golden Girls, Hot in Cleveland).  But there are just as many jokes that are pure laugh riots throughout each of the set’s sixteen total episodes.  One great example of this is in the celebrity roast of George Washington.  Yes, George Washington.  Famed historical impersonator Jan Leighton played the role of the nation’s first president.  And Audrey Meadows filled the role of George’s wife, Martha.  This roast is one that every viewer will love.  Whether it be the roast of George Washington, Betty White, or any of the others included in this box set, every one of the included roasts will most certainly leave viewers in stitches.  They will find themselves laughing so hard that they cry.  And that’s just the starting point of what makes this box set so fun.  The quality of each show’s footage makes the set even more enjoyable.

The jokes churned out throughout each of this set’s sixteen total episodes are certain to leave viewers laughing tears of joy.  If not for the work of those charged with restoring and transferring each episode, the set (and its predecessor) would not be worth the purchase.  Thanks to their work, the decades old footage still looks just as good as it did in its original broadcast.  StarVista made certain to include a disclaimer on each disc informing viewers that there may be some issues with the footage quality.  But this critic will attest to the fact that any issues with the quality of the episodes’ footage are minute at best and barely noticeable.  To that extent, the quality of each episode’s footage will create a welcome sense of nostalgia for older viewers that order this box set.  That sense of nostalgia in turn adds even more overall charm to the set, making it even more of a must have for any classic TV lover.

The impressively restored footage and the nonstop laugh riot roasts together are the collective cornerstone to The Dean Martin Roasts: Fully Roasted.  They aren’t all that make this new release such a joy.  There is still one more factor to consider in the success of this set.  That factor is the overall packaging of the set.  StarVista Entertainment  established a tradition of smart, quality packaging with previous box sets including the previous Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts set and all of its current Carol Burnett Show sets.  That tradition has been carried on in this set.  Each of the set’s six discs receives its own spot on either side of a handful of “inserts” inside the set’s box.  This protects the discs from scratching one another and it helps to save a certain amount of space on any viewer’s DVD rack.  Add in a bonus booklet that serves as an episode guide and gives background information on each episode, and viewers have what is another complete and completely impressive package from StarVista Entertainment and Time Life.  They flesh out a package that is in the eyes of at least this critic, one of the year’s best new box sets for adults.

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Fully Roasted is available now on DVD and can be ordered online direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HHVFW6M/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=11FD228VXVZ0KKRE2FY4&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846.  More information on this and other releases from StarVista Entertainment is available online at http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUS and http://timelife.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Wild Thornberrys Season Three Another Welcome Addition To Any Nicktoons Nostalgic’s DVD Library

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon’s The Wild Thornberrys—Eliza, Nigel, Maryanne, Donny, Darwin, and Debbie—have returned once again for another season of globetrotting adventures.  After seeing the previous season chopped into three separate volumes, Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have released season three in its entirety to audiences as it should be.  This last of Nickelodeon’s great classic Nicktoons is on cruise control in its third season as it offers more lessons about different cultures, about geography, and life lessons, as well as laughs.  It offers just as much enjoyment for audiences of all ages as the show’s previous two seasons.  One change that is noticeable here is the inclusion of Eliza’s cousin Tyler.  Tyler joins the cast in the season’s third episode, ‘Tyler Tuck, I Presume.’  After having two seasons of sisterly conflicts between Eliza and Debbie, Tyler’s introduction added a nice new dynamic to the Thornberry family.  All of this along with the show’s continued animation standard combine to make The Wild Thornberrys Season Three another welcome addition to any “Nicktoons Nostalgic’s” home DVD library.

When it first started out in 1998, The Wild Thornberrys did something that no other cartoon at its time was doing.  At least this was the case with mainline cartoons.  What it did was it entertained at the same time that it educated. It taught the importance of geography and biological diversity through the family’s adventures.  The use of a locator on a map to set the scene taught about the different locations of countries across the globe.  The stories themselves taught about the different flora and fauna of each region by having Eliza have to help the different animals from different situations.  The manner in which the show’s writers executed this educational content was genius.  It was done covertly, thus not even letting on to viewers that it was actually educating them.  This same standard has been carried into the show’s third season.  It’s nice to see that the show’s creators and writers maintained this core standard once again.  It’s just the tip of the iceberg in what makes Season Three so enjoyable.

The educational content carried into Season Three is just the starting point of what makes The Wild Thornberrys Season Three such a joy.  Another factor that made this season as enjoyable as the shwo’s first two seasons is its valuable life lessons and lessons of cultural diversity.  One of the most valuable life lessons taught in Season Three is the simplest of lessons.  It is the lesson of the importance of family.  That lesson is taught in the holiday themed episode, ‘A Family Tradition.’  Eliza and Debbie learn the importance and value of family when they are given the chance to return to the United States to spend Thanksgiving with their grandmother, Sophie (voiced by veteran actress Betty White—Hot in Cleveland, Golden Girls).  As is the tradition with holiday themed episodes of TV shows everything turns out well in the end.  Those that have yet to see this episode, will have to find out just how it all plays out when they pick up this new box set themselves or order it online at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com

Audiences will appreciate the lessons of cultural diversity just as much as the life lessons contained throughout each episode of Season Three.  One of the best examples of an episode that teaches this lesson is the episode, ‘Spirited Away.’  The Thornberrys travel to Mexico in this episode right as the people there are celebrating the famed Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  Viewers learn through this episode, the traditions of the Day of the Dead and of the Mexican people.  And of course, what Thornberrys episode would be complete without Debbie having to chase down Donnie yet again?  The continued antics of Donnie provide plenty of laughs for viewers, making each episode complete.  What’s more, this episode also offers a little bit of a kid friendly ghost story that will leave viewers more with a warm feeling than that of fear.  It’s one more episode out of so many this season that makes Season Three even more enjoyable for fans seeing this season for the first time and for the first time again.

As evidenced already, The Wild Thornberrys remains enjoyable this season thanks to the fact that it continues to do what made it successful all along.  This also includes the original animation style established from early in the show’s life.  The Wild Thornberrys was just one of many cartoons created by Klasky-Csupo.  And while it was just one of a handful of cartoons crafted by the company, its animation was only slightly similar to the studio’s other creations.  The studio’s art department managed to continue establishing the show’s identity through its animation in Season Three.  And as slight as it is, one can see that the animation has been honed a little bit more this season.  The outlines of the characters, animals, and general scenery are more defined.  It’s just slight enough to maintain the more rough style established from the show’s beginning.  It’s just one more factor that, along with the continued wise packaging of the set, makes Season Three even more worth adding to any fan’s DVD rack.  The Wild Thornberrys Season Three is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217077.

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The New Pound Puppies Is Fun For The Whole Family

Shout! Factory/Hasbro Studios/Hub

Dog is man’s best friend, it’s often said.  Well dogs are also every child’s friends.  And after seeing the new compilation DVD from Hasbro Studios and Shout Factory, the dogs of the new Pound Puppies will be a favorite of every child, and maybe even some adults out there, too.  In this new single disc compilation, audiences get five episodes from the new series that will leave both parents and kids alike smiling and watching over and over again.  In the first of the set’s five episodes, pound manager Leonard and his flunky Olaf have to track down his mother’s dog.  Megastar Betty White guests in this episode.  The compilation’s second episode is a heartwarming episode both for adults and kids alike as Cookie learns a valuable lesson about being a parent.  Lauren Tom, Maurice LaMarche, and Cree Summer all add their guest vocal talents to this episode.  And in one more episode, a new pup named Patches joins the gang.  He looks up to the Pound Puppies so much that he, Cupcake, and Rebound form their own group called The Super Secret Pup Club.  Of course, lots of laughs and mayhem ensue.This five-episode collection opens with the episode, “Bone Voyage.”  Betty White (Golden Girls, Hot in Cleveland) guest stars as the voice of Agatha, the mother of the pound’s manager, Leonard.  Agatha has brought her puppy, Rebound, to the pound so that Leonard will look after Rebound while she goes on vacation.  While Lucky and the others try to get Rebound to understand that Agatha will be back, Rebound sees Agatha leave and freaks out.  She takes off after Agatha, causing not only the Pound Puppies to take chase, but so do Leonard and Olaf.  They all end up on board the cruise liner on which Agatha has taken her vacation.  Of course, lots of mayhem and laughs ensure.  Viewers will have to see for themselves how things unravel.  It does, of course, have a happy ending.

In one of the set’s deeper, more emotional episodes, Cookie learns a valuable lesson about being a parent when a young new pup named Cupcake is brought to the pound.  This is one that parents will appreciate in their own way.  Cookie becomes emotionally attached to Cupcake.  So much so that she doesn’t want Cupcake getting adopted.  In its own way, this is somewhat representative of parents letting their own children go as they get older.  That likely wasn’t the primary intent.  But parents will be able to relate to Cookie’s emotional ordeal.  They may even be left a little bit teary eyed by the episode’s end.  Lauren Tom (Futurama), Maurice Lamarche (Futurama, The Simpsons, Animaniacs, etc.) and Cree Summer (Rugrats, Codename:  Kids Next Door, etc.) all add their guest vocals to this episode.

Once parents get over the emotional moments of “Mutternal Instincts”, they’ll find themselves laughing in “The Super Secret Pup Club.”  Cree Summer returns again as Cupcake.  Rebound is back again.  The two team up with another new puppy named Patches.  Patches is a young Dalmatian.  He really looks up to the Pound Puppies.  He tells them of the stories he’s heard of the Pound Puppies, and how he wants to be as great as them.  So the trio forms its club and tries to emulate the Pound Puppies.  But as is the course with any new puppy, the run off, forcing the others to hunt them down.  This causes all sorts of trouble for the Pound Puppies.  It also causes lots of laughs for audiences.  Audiences will have to see for themselves what happens.  Pound Puppies:  Super Secret Pup Club will be available in stores and online Tuesday.  It can be ordered online at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com.

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