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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Scholastic’s Latest Collection Is A True Treasure

Courtesy:  New Video Group/Scholastic

Courtesy: New Video Group/Scholastic

The latest installment in Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures series is another enjoyable collection of stories for kids and kids at heart.  The new fourth volume offers kids and parents twelve more short stories with loads of educational lessons and morals.  The new triple disc set opens with its best story, Robot Zot.  It’s just one of the many fun stories included in this set.  Audiences will also enjoy the entertaining and important story, Too Many Toys.  The set’s final disc provides parents and kids alike with a story that provides a very important message without being too preachy.  While it provides an important message, it also entertains just like the set’ other stories.  And a big reason for the entertainment isn’t so much just the story, but also the animation style, just as with the set’s other stories.  Together, they make for one more collection that any parent and child will love watching together any time.

The very first of the stories presented in the new Storybook Treasures is the fun rhyming story, Robot Zot.   Writer/illustrator David Shannon discusses the story in the interview included on disc one.  Parents will appreciate this story more in watching his interview.  He explains how he grew up a fan of classic sci-fi, and that that had an obvious influence on his enjoyment in helping bring this story to life both on the page and in screen.  Kids on the other hand will enjoy simply hearing it read aloud and watching the story’s illustrations as the story moves along.  Both parents and kids will enjoy seeing Robot Zot turn from wanna-be planet conqueror to hero.  The lesson about bravery and the original hand drawn animation style adds even more to the overall enjoyment of this story.  It comes together to understandably make for one of the best shorts of this new set.

David Shannon’s work on Robot Zot does a lot to make that story so fun.  He also provided much of the material for another of the set’s fun shorts.  The short in question is from another of Shannon’s books, titled, Too Many ToysToo Many Toys is an original story about a little boy named Spencer who has too many toys.  So his mom tells him that she’s going to start getting rid of them.  Shannon explains in the interview included with this story about how it was influenced by real life events on his part and to which any parent could relate.  What he has to say will have any parent laughing and agreeing with him.  Both parents and kids will enjoy the actual story.  Parents will appreciate the reality of the story and its original animation. Kids will love it for the narration by Jerry Trainor (iCarly, Drake & Josh).  Of course it’s total “coincidence” that Trainor also played a character named Spencer in iCarly.  The end result will have both kids and their parents laughing, making for yet another enjoyable story from this new set.

Scholastic’s new Storybook Treasures collection offers viewers loads of laughs with its stories. It also provides a very important lesson in one of its stories.  That story is Curious Garden, written by Peter Brown.  Just as with the previous stories, this one also includes an interview with its author.  Brown explains that his story actually came from a real life experience much like what is presented in the story.  Even more interesting is the irony of how the buildings in the story ended up with so much greenery.  This is an oft discussed topic in the business world because of its supposed ability to lower heating and cooling costs.  Brown notes in his interview that his view was the show how much better a community was with gardens everywhere.  There was no mention of economics.  But it is there.  For that subtlety and for the generally positive story about leading by example, Curious Garden proves to be one more impressive inclusion in Scholastic’s newest Storybook Collection.  Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures:  My First Collection Volume Four is available now.  It can be ordered online at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/my-first-scholastic-storybook-treasures-vol-4-featuring-robot-zot/.

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The Three Stooges Update Is Surprisingly Funny

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

The Farrelly Brothers’ take on everyone’s favorite comic trio is surprisingly entertaining.  On the surface, it would seem that it’s little more than the same style movie as Hollywood’s big screen reboot of Dennis The Menace or The Little Rascals.  But the reality is that those re-imaginings pale in comparison.  Sure the Farrelly Brothers have done much the same thing as what those flicks did.  But at the same time, it’s obvious that they really did attempt to pay homage to the original Stooges.

At first glance, the very thought of modernizing the Stooges makes no sense.  After the utter failures that were Dennis the Menace (and its equally awful sequels) and The Little Rascals, the natural reaction here is to shake one’s head that much the same has been done here.  And while the pop culture references abound (E.g. Jersey Shore, Geico Auto Insurance, etc.), somehow, the Farrelly Brothers managed to balance out the modernization without losing the heart that make the original Stooges so beloved to this day.  Yes, it would have been nice to see the Stooges in their original 1930s and 1940s element.  But at least in this case, the trio’s modernization doesn’t overpower the physical comedy for which Larry, Curly, and Moe became famous.

Sean Hayes (Larry), Chris Diamantopolous (Moe), and Will Sasso (Curly) weren’t the only stars of this big screen remake.  The trio’s interactions with co-stars Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), and Brian Doyle-Murray (Groundhog Day, SpongeBob Squarepants, etc.) harkens back to the original Stooges’ bits with its constant supporting cast.  It’s obvious through these interactions and the physical comedy together that despite being modernized, the Farrelly Brothers really were making a valid attempt to do more than just toss something up on screen for the sake of throwing it up on screen.  Unlike the people behind the reimaginings of The Little Rascals and Dennis the Menace, the intent behind this update was obviously to entertain and pay the deserved honor to the original Stooges and their fans, too.

The Farrellys succeeded in entertaining audiences nonstop with the combination of classic slapstick comedy.  It took center stage, rather than the updated surroundings.  The pair should also be commended for taking time immediately after the movie to warn all potentially young audiences that the gags used in the movie were not real.  They point out that the hammers, crowbars and other tools were all rubber.  And the sounds used in coordination with said tools were just that.  They were sound effects and nothing more.  They took the time to say to audiences please don’t try what they saw on screen themselves.  It’s all movie magic.  This might have been a minute factor in the grand scheme of things.  But taking such responsibility is deserving of great respect.  So thank you to the Farrellys for that.  And thank you to the Farrellys for this surprisingly entertaining update on a legendary comic act.

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Tweens and teens will rock to Radio Rebel

Courtesy: Image Entertainment/Disney

Disney Channel’s recent made for tv movie, “Radio Rebel”, is the network’s answer to Nickelodeon’s hit show iCarly.  In iCarly, everyone loves the show because they know who Carly and Sam are.  But unlike iCarly, no one knows who Radio Rebel is.  She is in reality, mild mannered high school junior, Tara (played by Debby Ryan).  However, when she leads her entire school to its own MORP after causing its prom to be cancelled, Tara has to come clean about her secret identity.  She has to reach down deep and find who she really is, and find out if people will still like her for who she really is.

The message of finding one’s self is commonplace among television shows and movies aimed at today’s tween and teen audiences who are looking for a voice for their generation.  “Radio Rebel” is the latest of the works for those audiences.  It’s also one of the more creative stories to come along in recent years.  It teaches its audiences that it’s okay to be themselves, rather than give in to the cliques that domainate life for tweens and teens.  In direct relation, it also teaches them that regardless of male or female, everyone has a strong, self confident person inside.  It teaches them to embrace who they are regardless of the seemingly overwhelming social pressures facing them today.  If Tara/Radio Rebel can be herself regardless of those pressures, so can everyone else.

“Radio Rebel” is backed by a catchy soundtrack that audiences will enjoy.  And they’ll really appreciate the music of “The G’s.”  “The G’s” is a made up band whose guitarist, Gavin, is Tara’s love interest.  So yes, the romance subplot is there, too.  That aside, the new dvd presentation of “Radio Rebel” includes a bonus feature in which the members of “The G’s” explain that it really is them playing.  They admit they had to learn the songs, so it’s not just them doing a music video style performance. 

Combine the catchy, poppy soundtrack with the story’s positive messages, and “Rebel Radio’s” viewers get a movie that will speak to them.  Even when those same audiences are adults and ahve their own teens, those factors will continue to be great for that audience, too.  “Radio Rebel” is available on dvd now.  Audiences can pick it up in store or online at amazon.com and at http://www.image-entertainment.com

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