Sonar Entertainment’s Take On Verne’s Classic Is Entertaining Despite Its Changes

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment/Hallmark Entertainment/Sonar Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment/Hallmark Entertainment/Sonar Entertainment

Jules Verne is one of the literary world’s greatest names.  If he were alive today, he would be proud to see that so much of what he crafted in his books has ages later become reality.  One can’t help but wonder though, how he would react to the countless adaptations that have arisen from his books ever since the dawn of the moving picture.  There have been some good adaptations, some that are…well…we’ll say forgettable.  And then there are those rare few that somehow manage to fit more into a middle ground between the two.  Sonar Entertainment’s 1999 take on Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of those adaptations that fit more into the latter of the three.  And like so many adaptations that came before and that have come after, it doesn’t stay entirely true to the original book.  Despite that, it’s still an entertaining story nonetheless.  Audiences should take this into account first and foremost with this adaptation.  Also to be taken into account with this this take on Verne’s classic story is that it isn’t the big budget version released to theaters in 2008.  Believe it or not, that’s actually a good thing. That will be discussed later, too.  Because the story runs roughly three hours in length, its composition is just as important as any other factor in this take on Verne’s story.    Splitting the mini-series up especially on DVD will help viewers to not feel drained by the story’s end.  Along with the story itself and the production values, it helps to make Sonar Entertainment’s take on Verne’s story that much more worth checking out at least once.

The central story of Journey to the Center of the Earth in this adaptation is anything but true to the original story written by Jules Verne.  There are those that have discredited this take on the story for that.  But the reality of the situation is what movie ever crafted from a book ever stays entirely true to the original source material?  Keeping that in mind, the story presented here is actually surprisingly entertaining.  It incorporates more action into the story as well as the standard romance subplot for specifically aimed audiences.  From angry subterranean pre-historic natives to deadly lizard creatures, dinosaurs and fiery caverns, Theodore Lytton (Treat Williams), his nephew Jonas (Jeremy London) and their travelling companions have lots to face on their journey.  Writer Thomas Baum’s script spaces all of these dangers out just enough to keep viewers engaged throughout each of the mini-series’ segments.  In the same vein, Baum didn’t allow the script’s dual romantic subplot  to overpower the primary story.  This helps to keep the story moving at a reasonable pace.  There are certain comic elements included in the story that add to its entertainment value, too.  One of those instances comes when Theodore, Jonas, and their friends meet a group of natives in New Zealand.  There are some jokes involving whether or not their king is a cannibal that will most certainly have any viewer laughing if only slightly.  It is still a nice touch to the story.

The mix of action, comedy and yes, even romance, make Baum’s take on Verne’s classic an entertaining story.  Audiences should also take into account with this adaptation of Verne’s novel, its production values and special effects.  It’s pretty obvious in watching this mini-series that this take on the story likely didn’t have that large of a budget.  That’s obvious in the sets, the special effects, and even the costumes.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, either.  In fact, there’s something somewhat endearing about the fact that the special effects, the sets, and the costumes were more low-budget.  It goes right back to the writing.  Much like classic movies from Hollywood’s golden era, the lower grade sets, costumes, and special effects forced Miller and his cast to focus more on Baum’s story.  The result is acting that will actually keep viewers engaged in both the character development and by connection, story development, too.  So in the mini-series’ defense, it’s actually nice to see these lower-budget pieces, instead of something more over-the-top.  It’s one more part of the whole that makes this take on Journey to the Center of the Earth worth at least one watch.

The overall production values and story in Sonar Entertainment’s Journey to the Center of the Earth make this take on the timeless story worth at least one watch.  They alone don’t make this adaptation work, though.  Just as important as the production values and the story itself is how the story is how the story is built.  The full run time of the mini-series is roughly three hours.  It only makes sense with such a long run time that it would be separated into separate segments.  Had the story been one long piece along the lines of the Lord of the Rings, it might not have been so easy to stomach.  But it didn’t go that route.  It took the other route.  And to top it off, it made each segment enjoyable to watch even though this take on the original story might not be entirely true to the source material.  And it’s because of all of this tied in together that this adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth is worth at least one watch by any fan of Verne’s original work and by any science fiction fan in general.  It is available now and can be ordered online in a special two-movie bonus pack along with Hallmark’s Dinotopia at http://www.millcreekdirect.com/dinotopia-journey-to-the-center-of-the-earth-fantasy-double-feature.html.  More information on this and other releases from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at http://www.millcreekent.com and http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt.  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.

Heathcliff Season One Volume Two Mostly A Successful Release From Mill Creek

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

George Gatley created in 1973 what has become one of America’s most beloved comic strip characters in Heathcliff.  Roughly eleven years after that flabby feline made his comic strip debut, DiC Entertainment brought Heathcliff to life on the small screen along with famed voice actor Mel Blanc (Looney Tunes, The Flintstones).  While Healthcliff’s animated series only lasted for two seasons, it is still a favorite among audiences of all ages.  It’s right up there with its counterpart, Garfield & Friends.  Thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment, audiences can finally get their hands on the second half of Heathcliff’s first season.  Heathcliff: Season One Volume Two is another wonderful addition to any family’s home library.  Mill Creek is deserving of credit with this latest set because the episodes collected are presented exactly as they were in their original broadcasts.  The writing behind the episodes included in the first half of Season One is just as fun and funny as those in the season’s first half.  And making this half of Season One even more valuable for viewers of all ages is its original hand-drawn animation.

Right from its outset, audiences will note of the episodes collected for this half of season one, that not one episode is missing.  What’s more, the episodes collected in Season One Volume Two are presented exactly as they were presented in their original broadcasts.  This may seem like a given.  But many might be surprised to find out that some classic TV shows aren’t so lucky in their re-issues.  A prime example would be NCircle Entertainment’s  release of The Super Mario Brothers Super Show Volume One.  The episodes included in that set completely omit the live action sequences, while flashing pieces of the commercial segues that lead the episodes in and out of commercial breaks.  It’s just one of a handful of box sets out there that suffer from improper editing in their redistribution.  Keeping that in mind, it makes this box set that much more impressive and valuable for anyone that is a fan of both this series and classic animation in whole.

The presentation of Volume Two’s episodes is definitely something for fans of the show to note.  Each episode even comes complete with its post-show pet care tips segment, opening Lorimar-Television slate, and closing slate from DiC Entertainment.  As important as this is to the overall presentation of Season One Volume Two, one would be remiss to ignore the show’s writing.  Season One Volume Two sees Heathcliff being taken to pet obedience training and of course, turning the place upside down.  Viewers will laugh nonstop watching Heathcliff turn the military boot camp style obedience school on its ear as well as the neighborhood as a result of his time there.  In another of the volume’s funniest moments, Heathcliff becomes the “Phantom of the Garbage” when a local restaurant owner and chef gets a pair of dogs to protect his garbage cans from being raided by the flabby feline.  The physical comedy that ensues between Heahtcliff and the dogs is what makes this episode so fun.  It’s all classic physical comedy from start to finish.  The funniest moment though, isn’t one of physical comedy.  It comes when it’s revealed that for all of their bravado, the restaurant owner’s dogs are afraid of one creature much smaller than themselves.  Just as funny is the episode, “Soap Box Derby.”  This episode sees Heathcliff getting talked into a soap box derby race against Spike after Iggy beats Mugsy, Spike’s owner, in a race.  When the Catillac Cats put themselves into the race, things get dicey.  Of course, Heathcliff outsmarts both Spike and the Catillac Cats and gets the royal treatment from all of them as a result.  It just goes to prove that cheaters never win.  And it’s just one more of so many funny moments that viewers will enjoy throughout all three discs in this set.

Mill Creek has done quite a bit right with the release of Heathcliff: Season One Volume Two.  The episodes are presented exactly as they were presented in their original broadcast.  They are still as funny today for those that grew up with the cartoon series as they were then, too.  There is one more aspect of this collection that viewers will appreciate.  That aspect is the show’s animation.  Much like so many other cartoons of its era, Heathcliff’s animation gave it identity.  The show’s artists did an expert job of translating the two-dimensional character from the comic strip to the small screen all while crafting a world that looked unlike any other animated series at the time.  The same is rarely noted of today’s children’s programming.  The show’s artists are to be applauded for creating such a rich and vivid world for Heathcliff and his friends.  Even more so, they are to be commended for trying to stay true to George Gatley’s original creation.  Their work was the finishing touch on the show.  And it makes this half of the show’s first season all the more worth watching whether one is seeing the series for the first time or the first time again.  It is available now on DVD and can be ordered online direct from Mill Creek Entertainment at http://www.millcreekdirect.com/heathcliff-season-1-volume-2-33-episodes.html.  More information on this release and others from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at http://www.millcreekent.com and http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt.  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.

Teachers, Viewers Will Appreciate America’s National Parks: An Eagle’s View

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Mill Creek Entertainment’s America’s National Parks: An Eagle’s View is a fitting presentation for any high school biology or geography class.  The sixty-four minute feature finishes what was started with the company started some time ago with its separate National Parks Blu-ray series by taking viewers back through the nation’s park system not from the ground, but from the air.  The trip starts in the Northeast in the Acadia National Park before heading south to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and then into the Everglades National Park before heading west to the Voyageurs National Park.  The journey doesn’t stop there, either.  Audiences are taken all the way through each of the nation’s parks through the Midwest and West on their journey.  The cross country journey is only a portion of what audiences will appreciate about this latest video post card from Mill Creek.  The footage shot through each park is comparable to anything that Travel Channel or Discovery Channel once released in their heyday.  And unlike so many nature based documentaries churned out the narrator doesn’t overpower the stunning aerial shots of each major park.  At a time when America’s National Parks System is closed due to the government shutdown, this aerial tour of those parks couldn’t be more valuable.  Perhaps when the time comes the government re-opens for business, this feature could even serve as inspiration for some viewer’s next vacation.  Even if not, it serves to establish a new respect for one of this nation’s greatest assets and the need to protect them.

America’s National Parks: An Eagle’s View is a fitting presentation both in the classroom and in the living room.  It is an invaluable tool for those individuals teaching both biology and geography.  It is an especially useful visual aid for those teaching high school level geography classes. It will help to better connect with the concepts being taught about a given region of the country.  A teacher might be discussing the specific physical makeup of the Badlands National Park, the Everglades, or a specific mountain range.  Said teacher can simply put on this feature, select the chapter for the given region being discussed, and allow students to take in for themselves exactly what is being discussed.  It will help to truly put into perspective what makes the given region so impressive and important.  In turn, it will potentially help students gain a whole new appreciation for this nation’s parks.

Geography teachers will certainly find use for America’s National Parks: An Eagle’s View in their classroom.  In the same vein, biology teachers can potentially find use for this feature in their classrooms, too.  Just as each national park has a different physical makeup, so does it have different ecosystems.  With its forested hills and valleys, Yosemite is said to have at least three different regions from its basin all the way up to its highest peaks.  This means that it supports a large variety of animals.  By direct contrast, Death Valley National Park is arid and barren.  So it would suffice to say that it probably doesn’t have much life.  These and all of the other parks offer a wonderful starting point on the different ecosystems that span the country from one coast to the other, again proving the value of the feature in the classroom.

The value of America’s National Parks: AN Eagle’s View should be clear to viewers by this point.  The footage shot for this feature is impressive to say the least.  It is a good piece for those that perhaps haven’t picked up the previous National Parks features released on Blu-ray by Mill Creek Entertainment.  It’s just as valuable for every day viewers, especially at a time when this nation’s National Parks System has been closed thanks to the government shutdown.  Since the parks are currently closed, it serves as a cheap way to travel to those parks without having to spend the money or the stress to get there.  The footage presented here captures all of the major highlights of each park.  And whenever the time should come that the parks re-open along with the rest of the government, it could serve as a starting point for those trying to choose their next vacation spot.  From the mountains and forests of Yosemite, to the waterfalls, hot springs, and geysers of Yellowstone, to the snow-capped mountains of the Great Smoky Mountains, there is so much from which to choose and so much worth protecting so that others can one day experience its beauty.  Understanding and appreciating that all starts with this latest nature based documentary from Mill Creek Entertainment.  It is available now and can be ordered direct from Mill Creek Entertainment at http://www.amazon.com/National-Parks-Exploration-Eagles-Blu-ray/dp/B00BUWD77U/ref=sr_sp-atf_image_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1381420113&sr=1-1&keywords=America%27s+National+Parks%3A+An+Eagle%27s+View.  More information on this and other releases from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at http://www.millcreekent.com and http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt.  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.

Dinotopia Re-Issue One Of Mill Creek’s Best Releases Of 2013

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment/Hallmark Entertainment/Sonar Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment/Hallmark Entertainment/Sonar Entertainment

Hallmark Entertainment’s Dinotopia is one of the best unknown mini-series released during the first decade of the new millennium.  This hybrid live action/CG based fantasy flick is unlike almost any other fantasy tale out there today.  It follows the journey of two young men—Karl (Tryon Leitso—Being Erica) and David (Wentworth Miller—Prison Break) as they discover a mystical land in which dinosaurs and humans live together in harmony after their plane crashes in the ocean.  The story is just one part of what makes Dinotopia such an enjoyable family presentation.  Just as impressive as the story is its CG dinosaurs and backdrops.  And despite the fact that this is an indie presentation, one must note not just the backdrops and dinosaurs, but also the acting.  Even the cast’s acting plays its own role (pun totally intended here) in the overall presentation of the mini-series.  The three factors together make Dinotopia a mini-series worth watching at least once by any family, especially now that it has been re-issued in a double-disc DVD pack by Mill Creek Entertainment.

On the surface, the concept of two individuals discovering a world in which man and dinosaur isn’t entirely original.  The concept has been raised before.  But with author James Gurney working with writer Simon Moore, the pair have crafted a story based on Gurney’s books that has a charm all its own.  Audiences that allow themselves to suspend their disbelief will be amazed at how easily the script pulls them into the magical world that is Dinotopia and into Karl and David’s own personal growth.  Viewers will appreciate watching Karl grow from a rebellious young man into a caring parent of sorts as he cares for the young “26” and even try to look out for the people of Dinotopia in his own way.  Most of all, audiences will enjoy the manner in which Moore and Gurney adapt the oft used plot element of characters challenging the norms of a given people, and eventually coming out on top as heroes in the end.  That element more than any other will keep viewers engaged throughout each of the three parts into which the mini-series is split.

Dinotopia’s script plays one of the most important roles in the success of the series.  Audiences should also take into account the balance of the series’ live action elements and CG dinos and backdrops that make up the world of Dinotopia.  Considering the fact that this is an independently produced and presented story, the combination of live action set against CG backdrops and dinosaurs could have been far worse.  Surprisingly enough, the combination of the two elements is on par with any series or movie backed by a major studio.  It’s obvious that Hallmark and those with whom the company worked wanted to give viewers the best possible viewing experience that they could just by looking at the balance of the noted elements.  One of the best examples of how well the elements were blended comes late in the story when David and Karl end up on a high energy water raft ride as they elude Dinotopian authorities.  It’s obvious what is real and what CG in this sequence.  But even in telling the difference, the elements are solidly balanced, thus making suspension of disbelief even easier for viewers.

It should be clear by now just how seriously Hallmark Entertainment and its partners took the creation of Dinotopia.  The script and the balance of live action and special effects work in tandem to make this mini-series truly enjoyable for any family.  For all of their positive influence, there is still one more factor to observe in analyzing the story’s presentation and what makes it the surprise that it is.  That final factor is the acting on the part of the cast.  Again, one must reference the fact that Dinotopia is an independent work in analyzing the acting on the part of its cast.  Just as its script is surprisingly impressive, so is the cast’s acting.  Leitso and Miller both clearly took their jobs with the utmost seriousness from start to finish.  Their interpretation of the scripts makes suspension of disbelief even easier.  In turn, the story becomes even more enjoyable with each watch along with the other noted factors.  It becomes a story that while it may go on relatively unknown by audiences will prove to those that give it a chance, to be a very underrated family presentation.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from Mill Creek Entertainment at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/dinotopia-journey-to-the-center-of-the-earth-fantasy-double-feature.html.  More information on this and other releases from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at http://www.millcreekent.com and http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt.

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.

Street Sharks Another Blast From The Past For Retro TV Fans

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The 1990s was the last real great era for television.  That decade-long span offered viewers of every age something that so few of today’s programs have.  One might ask what today’s shows lack.  They lack heart.  And they lack substance.  To quote Lois and Peter Griffin:  “All you see is violence in movies and sex on TV.”  Adults and families in general had great sitcoms such as The Cosby Show, Home Improvement, and Third Rock from the Sun.  There were even more wonderful shows for adults and families at the time worth watching.  This trio is just a sample of that mass of worthwhile shows that filled the networks.  Children had just as much from which to choose if not more.  Kids had multiple shows from which to choose on weekday mornings and afternoons across the Big 4.  And even Saturday mornings meant cartoons, too.  Not every one of those cartoons lasted.  But even the shorter-lived shows were worth an occasional watch.  Among the most notable of those short-lived shows was a little action series that went by the name of Street SharksStreet Sharks was DIC Entertainment’s (now dhx media) answer to the massively popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  There’s no denying the number of similarities between Street Sharks and TMNT.  But what can be said of Street Sharks that sets it apart from TMNT is the show’s animation.  Sure the story’s central plot is different.  But at its root, it is largely just a variant of the TMNT plot.  Keeping this in mind, the best place to start in examining this recently released set is to look at the transfer of the footage from VHS to DVD.

Nearly two decades have passed between the original premiere of this “little brother” to TMNT.  The footage has stood the test of time quite well as is evidenced in the set’s four discs.  A quick glance through all four discs contained in the set shows that.  What’s more, in watching through just some of the short-lived show’s forty episodes, one will notice something else that makes Street Sharks worth checking out at least once, if not more.  That other something is the show’s animation.  All forty episodes of Street Sharks were hand drawn.  And while the show might have had quite a few similarities to its “big brother”, one thing that can be said is that its animation style was completely different from TMNT and almost every other cartoon of its time.  Some might consider this to be minor.  But at a time when fully hand drawn cartoons are such a rarity, it proves to be far more important of a factor in the show’s success.  Its animation really made it look like it had jumped right off the pages of a comic book.  In the same breath, it reminds viewers of the importance of art being taught in public schools and colleges today.  Far too many of today’s “animated” features are created either entirely or in large part by computer.  It makes them all look like cookie cutter presentations.  Hand drawn features on the other hand, have more substance and soul about them.  Much the same argument could be made about the importance of Disney’s classic animated features being re-issued throughout 2013.  Keeping that in mind, this is a cartoon worth watching at least by those that grew up in the 90s.

Street Sharks’ animation was key in its ability to last as long as it did.  It isn’t the only positive to this release.  There are those that have criticized Mill Creek Entertainment’s continued use of paper sleeves to package its DVDs in this set.  Given, it isn’t the completely ideal packaging.  But in comparison to DVD sets such Syfy’s Ghost Hunters, at least the DVDs in this set aren’t stacked one on top of another with nothing between them.  It would be nice to have at least padded envelopes for the DVDs from Mill Creek, or even more standard packaging that other companies are using today.  But given the circumstances, viewers should be thankful that Mill Creek would take the time to try and protect the discs from each other if not entirely themselves.  Keeping this in mind, and the show’s old school animation style, the two factors make Street Sharks: The Complete 40 Episode Series worth checking out at least once for old school cartoon fans.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=Street+Sharks.  More information about releases from Mill Creek Entertainment is available on the company’s official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt and http://www.millcreekent.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.

Beverly Hills Teens A “Rich” Classic From Mill Creek

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Mill Creek Entertainment’s release of Beverly Hills Teens Volume One is a blast from the past for anyone that grew up during the 1980s.  This classic cartoon is one of a handful that rose to popularity on the original Family Channel.  For those that don’t know, there actually used to be a Family Channel before ABC Family and even Fox Family.  It was just The Family Channel.  Getting back on topic, Beverly Hills Teens was originally aimed at a very niche audience.  Despite that, it was still an important program in its own right.  It was important in that it could be argued that it was one of the influences behind the hit 90s teen-centric drama, Beverly Hills 90210.    This is just one factor to consider in viewing this classic series.  Something else to consider with Beverly Hills Teens is its writing.  And its animation style was one more example of what used to make anime an interesting animation genre to watch.  Now, those audiences that grew up with this “old school” toon can share those positives with their own kids.  And that’s thanks also to the fact that the transfers from VHS to DVD were handled so well.  That factor works with the show’s animation and writing to make Beverly Hills Teens Volume One one more that any classic animation fan will appreciate.

It could very easily be argued that Beverly Hills Teens played at least a partial role in the eventual hit 90s primetime drama that was Beverly Hills 90210.  Yes, there is a vast difference in the storylines in the two shows.  But the fact that only three years separated the two shows’ debuts only serves to cement that argument even more.  Considering how long it would have taken to write the scripts for the latter, shop the show around to networks, cast the show, and record the episodes, it would make sense that the same audiences that watched Beverly Hills Teens would be the same people to watch the more teen-centric Beverly Hills 90210.  That’s because the same audiences that watched the prior would have been old enough to be more interested in the latter of the two by the time it premiered in 1990.  If there is any credence to this possibility, then it would prove without a doubt what makes Beverly Hills Teens at least a slightly important piece of modern television history.

The potential influence that Beverly Hills Teens had on the creation of Beverly Hills 90210 makes the prior important in any discussion of the latter of the pair of TV shows aimed at young viewers.  The writing makes Beverly Hills Teens just as interesting to watch, at least in hindsight.  The adventures that the kids embark on through the show’s first thirty-two episodes are much like that of so many other cartoons at the time.  That familiarity made the show more accessible to its younger audiences.  A prime example would be the episode, “Camp Camping.”  Wilshire ends up becoming “slave” to Pierce after Pierce “saves” him.  This is a story that had been done many times before on other shows, and had been done just as many times after this episode.  There’s also a playful stab at the far more classic cartoon, Woody Woodpecker in this episode.  The short-lived series (it only lasted for one season) even has the standard kid friendly Halloween episode in “Halloween in the Hills.”  While there’s no paranormal activity in this episode, it does teach two lessons.  It teaches the lesson of not letting one’s self be bullied by others and about responsibility when Bianca throws a house party when her parents go out of town.  As with the previous episode, the lessons taught in this episode are both more common fare for children’s programs of that era.  Again, that ability to relate to young audience maintained the show’s importance that much more. 

Beverly Hills Teens’ potential influence on the creation of any later shows and the writing behind this short-lived show both exhibit what made it such a hit in its original run among its key audiences.  Both factors continue to do so today.  There is one more factor to consider in watching this first set of episodes that made the show popular during its run.  That factor is the show’s animation.  Audiences will note that the animation of Beverly Hills Teens was very much like that of The Littles, which also happened at the time, to run on the original Family Channel.  It also bears at least a slight resemblance to the animation used in The Real Ghostbusters.  The similarity isn’t full on.  But it is there.  This form of animation was anime before it became the over the top bizarre art form that it is today.  It serves as an example of anime when it was still respectable.  It’s something that any of today’s anime fans truly need to see in order to see how anime has de-evolved over time.  It’s animation done right.  And it is this factor along with the show’s writing and its potential influence as a TV show that it is a classic worth watching once again for those that were fans of the show in its original run on TV.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Mill Creek Direct store at http://www.millcreekent.com/beverly-hills-teens-volume-1-32-eps.html.  And for all of the latest from Mill Creek Entertainment, audiences can go online to the Mill Creek Entertainment Facebook page and “Like” it at http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt

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.

Liberty’s Kids Makes History Fun For Viewers Of All Ages

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Liberty’s Kids is a wonderful way to get young audiences into history.  The series follows a group of youths through America’s formative years, from the days of the Revolutionary War to America’s eventual full independence.  While its key audience is youths age 7 to 14, even teachers and parents will enjoy it because it does more than just focus on names and dates.  Rather, it takes those names and dates, and puts them into a visual format for young eyes and minds.  It obviously wasn’t going to last too long, considering that it was based on America’s younger years.  But even in lasting only forty episodes, those forty episodes are still episodes that teachers and parents will want to use for more years than it took for America to go from Declaration to full independence.

The very first factor in the success of Liberty’s Kids is that it takes history out of the classroom.  Though, it can be used in the classroom.  Rather than just sitting at their desks, writing down notes, teachers can pop in the four discs that contain the show’s forty episodes, and use them as a way to reach their students.  Parents can even use the set in their homes regardless of whether their children are home schooled or are in public school.  That dual use is a major positive, especially considering what is currently happening with public schools today.  It takes all the names and dates, and puts them into short half hour episodes that can be used over the course of nearly an entire school year, using one episode per week. A couple of weeks might require a couple episodes to make it fully pan out right.  That at least applies for schools not on block scheduling.  Children need every educational aid that they can get to get them interested in history.  Because its episodes are short, and have writing that reaches its intended audiences, it already has two checks in its favor.

The ability of Liberty’s Kids to relate to its audiences through its writing and being an equally wonderful visual aid is key in the success of this short-lived children’s educational series.  There is more to consider in what makes it worth more than a couple watches, though.  So many of today’s children’s “cartoons” are cartoons in name only.  That’s because they are brainless shows based in CGI, rather than true animation.  The thing is that because so few children’s shows are hand drawn today, that when they do show up, very little thought is given to them.  Liberty’s Kids is one of those rare modern cartoons that keep the art of actual art alive.  Given, its style is much like that of the more modernized take on Archie.  But it still manages to maintain some identity separate from that cartoon, and other Cookie Jar titles.  It serves as one more reminder for today’s young audiences how much work goes into bringing hand drawn art to life on screen, and how important it is to have said style of art versus the colder, stale and soulless computer generated children’s shows that are out there today.  Again, it is one more positive to this set that makes it worth more than just a couple watches.  Sure, it’s a minor factor in the grand scheme of things.  But it is no less important to consider in the set’s success.

The animation involved in Liberty’s Kids is a minor factor in the grand scheme of things.  But it is no less important than any other factor in the show’s success.  The same can be said of the guest voice talents that make appearances of sorts throughout the series.  Throughout the show’s forty episodes, veteran actors such as: Dustin Hoffman, Michael Douglas, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg make appearances as famous historical figures from America’s infancy.  One might ask how in the world veteran acting talents are important in the success of a children’s cartoon.  The answer is quite simple.  The inclusion of such big names will potentially influence parents to sit down and watch the show with their children.  Most adults won’t admit it to themselves or others just how much they have lost since their own school days.  So maybe the use of big Hollywood names will be enough to get parents interested and in turn, refresh their own knowledge of American history.  The latent effect of this interest is that it could serve as a starting point for parents to discuss the actors and actresses that make appearances and their film histories both good and bad.  And perhaps when those young audiences that watch Liberty’s Kids today grow up to be adults themselves, they will have an appreciation for movies that will be in their time classics.  So in a roundabout manner, this is a far more important factor in the success of Liberty’s Kids than any viewer would have otherwise realized.  Along with the other factors that went into bringing it to life, it’s one more factor that makes Liberty’s Kids a hit both in the classroom and the living room.  And chances are, it will be for many more years to come.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/liberty-s-kids-the-complete-series.html.

Parents and children can keep up with all of the latest family friendly releases from Mill Creek Entertainment online at http://www.MillCreekDirect.com and http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt.

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.

3rd Rock’s Season 6 A Funny Finale For Former Standout NBC Sitcom

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Today’s sitcoms are anything family friendly.  They have become increasingly over laden with sexual innuendo, foul language, and completely dumbed down humor.  These are the main complaints that are received by many audiences about many of the sitcoms currently airing on television’s “Big 4”, and even on some cable based comedies.  Thank goodness for companies Mill Creek Entertainment for offering audiences an alternative to the mostly blue humor that pollutes today’s comedies.  One of the most recent of those alternatives from Mill Creek Entertainment is the release of NBC’s hit sitcom, 3rd Rock from the Sun Season Six.

The sixth and final season of the once powerhouse NBC comedy is just as funny as the show’s previous five seasons thanks once again to the show’s writers.  The Solomon family continues trying to learn the ways of humans in its ongoing mission, all while creating its own share of laughs along the way.  Dick learns in the show’s final season that he’s *gasp* Canadian.  The Solomon family also temporarily takes on new lives in an alternate universe.  And Tommy experiences the human experience that is college.  These are just a few of the funny moments that fill out the final season of 3rd Rock from the Sun.  That’s not all that makes this season such a joy.  A who’s who of guest stars appears throughout Season six, too, adding to the laughs.  A whole slew of fellow NBC stars come in this season including former Saturday Night Live cast members Darrell Hammond, Tracy Morgan, and Ana Gasteyer.  Richard Belzer (Law & Order: SVU) and Mark McKinney (The Kids in the Hall) and singer Elvis Costello also show up this season.  Even as small as their parts are, the guest stars add their own comic element to the show, making it even more entertaining.

The writing in 3rd Rock’s final season is just as entertaining as it was in the series’ premiere season.  Some might have considered it a bit of a cheap thing to do a Saturday Night Live crossover and a slight pump for Law & Order: SVU.  But it all works quite well in the two-part episode, “Dick’ll Take Manhattan.”  The writers, probably knowing it was the show’s last season, take a playful stab at then fellow NBC hit, Saturday Night Live and even the NBC brass as Harry becomes the head of the network.  The writers didn’t just take a stab at NBC.  They even poked fun at HBO’s then hit show, Sex and the City, with Sally (Kristen Johnston) taking the place of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie.  It gets even funnier, with each member of the cast having their own hilarious moments.  This standout episode was just one that served as a tribute to the wit of the show’s writers.  Fans will also love the semi-political comedy of “Red, White & Dick.”  This episode sees Dick discovering that he is Canadian in his quest to become more American.  What it is about this kind of joke that makes it so funny is anyone’s guess.  Canada seems to be the butt of so many jokes in American entertainment.  But it is hilarious nonetheless, and it serves as a solid cornerstone for Dick’s attempts to become more American and in the same vein, more human.  It will have any viewer laughing till they cry.

The writing behind each episode of 3rd Rock’s final season offers nonstop laughs in every episode.  It’s a prime example of what used to make NBC a powerhouse network during the 1990s.  The cameo guest spots don’t hurt, either.  Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) appears as Mary’s (Jane Curtin) sister Renita Albright this season.  She sets out to steal Dick from Mary purely out of sibling rivalry.  That adults could be such strong rivals goes back to the show’s solid writing.  Audiences will love watching Mary and Renita going back and forth, sniping at one another like two little children.  Mullally is just one of the many guest stars that made an appearance this season.  Richard Belzer, Tracy Morgan, and Ana Gasteyer—all NBC stars—made appearances, as did singer Elvis Costello.  Costello made an appearance in the series finale.  The others all appeared in the two-parter, “Dick’ll Take Manhattan.”  Watching a then young Joseph Gordon-Levitt go toe to toe with the then rising SNL stars is a laugh riot.  Who ever would have thought that Tommy would date Ana Gasteyer.  And his moments with Tracy Morgan are just as funny.

The writing and the guest spots together make this final season a fitting way to close out what is by this critic’s view, one of the greatest sitcoms of the 20th century.  The DVD release of this season has one more aspect that while not being perfect, is still good in its own right.  Mill Creek has packaged all three discs of this set in their own envelope.  Mill Creek Entertainment is the only company that packages DVDs in this fashion.  It isn’t a perfect packaging method, considering that the envelopes are not padded.  That would make them perfect.  But having them in envelopes allows audiences to take as many discs as they want when travelling instead of having to take an entire DVD case.  This is actually quite smart in its own right.  If the higher ups at Mill Creek would maintain its form of packaging and simply make the envelopes padded, it would make this packaging fashion quite impressive and the overall presentation of its multi-disc sets that much more impressive.  3rd Rock from the Sun Season Six is available now on DVD.  It can be ordered online via the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/3rd-rock-from-the-sun-season-6.html. After ordering the three-disc set, audiences can find out about more releases from Mill Creek Entertainment on its official website, http://www.millcreekentertainment.com or its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at 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.

Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors Vol. 2 More Nostalgic Fun For 80s Animation Fans

 

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The 1980s was one of the last great eras of children’s cartoons.  It was during this era that animators and networks gave kids shows the likes of The Real Ghostbusters, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and so many others.  The list could go on for days.  Something interesting to note of the 80s is that among all of the great children’s cartoons spawned during that era, many of those greats were forbears to what are today, examples of the de-evolution of anime.  Some of those great classic anime cartoons include:  Thundercats, Transformers, and the focus of this review, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.  Fans of today’s take on anime likely don’t even know about these and other classic anime cartoons.  But if not for these and other classics, much of the empty hulks that call themselves anime today might not even have existed.  Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors is proof of that.

Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors only lasted for one season with a total of sixty-five episodes.  In early 2013, Mill Creek Entertainment released the second half of those episodes in the second volume of episodes from this classic.  The second half of the show’s sole season sees Jayce and his friends continuing their journey to find Jayce’s father and rid the universe of Saw Boss and his minions.  The show’s writers largely do a good job with this final set of episodes.  Though, it should be noted that the series’ final episode does turn out to be rather anti-climactic.  Of course that is linked to the failure of the toy franchise on which this series was based.  Had the toy franchise succeeded, audiences might have gotten better closure.  Regardless, the show’s writers did craft some interesting episodes that its original audiences will enjoy just as much today as they did when they watched the show as children.

The scripts for Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors provided some pretty entertaining stories for the most part within each episode.  Just as interesting to note here in the second half of the show’s sole season is its continued similarity to certain other cartoons of its time both stylistically and musically.  Audiences that remember the original Thundercats, Transformers, and to a lesser degree, The Real Ghostbusters will see some similarities between those cartoons and this one, stylistically speaking.  The colors and forms are very similar when put next to one another.  Being that they were both creations of DiC (now Cookie Jar TV), the similarities between The Real Ghostbusters and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors is not so surprising.  There is even a similarity between the music in the pair.  Both being from DiC, they obviously shared those elements.  What is interesting is the comparisons to the likes of Thundercats and others of that ilk.  Anyone that is a fan of the Dragonball franchise will even see some very blatant similarities between certain characters from that franchise to the design of Saw Boss.  Both Dragonball and Thundercats are both from different companies than Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors and The Real Ghostbusters.  It goes to show even more the influence of this classic cartoon.

There is one more factor that fans of this short-lived classic should take into account that makes it more fan friendly.  That factor is the set’s packaging.  Mill Creek Entertainment has maintained the standard of packaging discs in its multi-disc sets in separate standard paper CD/DVD envelopes.  There are those that have chided Mill Creek for this standard.  The use of standard envelopes is slightly problematic.  But it has its positives.  The use of envelopes allows consumers to carry single discs with them instead of an entire box if they want to enjoy the episodes with their friends and family.  Perhaps something that Mill Creek should consider for future releases is the use of envelopes with padded backing so as to better protect the discs in their releases.  That aside, it is still a much wiser way to package DVDs than other companies.  And because of that, it’s one more positive overall to this classic cartoon’s release.  Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors Volume 2 is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/jayce-the-wheeled-warriors-volume-2-33-episode-set.html.    

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.

Tex Avery Collection An Underrated Tribute To An Animation LEgend

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Animator Tex Avery is one of the greatest and most respected names in the history of television.  It was Avery that was responsible for some of the most famed characters ever to grace the big and small screen.  Those characters include the likes of: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Droopy Dog, Screwy Squirrel, and so many others.  Avery’s teaming with Mel Blanc and other voice talents have made these creations as popular as they still are today.  His characters were sarcastic in personality.  They could bounce back from anything from a bomb going off in their hands to being electrocuted to being hit with mallets and more.  Since his passing, so many artists and shows have tried to emulate Avery’s style.  One of those shows is the short lived show, The Wacky World of Tex Avery.  The show’s main character, Tex, is named after Avery.  Its classic style gags, and wacky stories and characters do their best to pay homage to Avery’s memory, too.  No cartoon since his classic will ever fully live up to the bar set by Avery.  But this one does at least make an admirable effort to do so.

It’s easy to see why people might think that in purchasing or ordering this set that they would expect it to be Tex Avery’s classics.  Even though it is in fact not those classic cartoons (many have already been released on DVD and Blu-ray) this collection does deserve some respect. They deserve respect because they do attempt to pay homage to Avery’s groundbreaking animation style.  While animation has been fine tuned since Avery’s day, viewers will see that the animators behind this modern series did make the attempt to make the show’s characters and backgrounds much in the same vein as Avery.  Viewers will see this especially in the characters and backgrounds.  They were all drawn with that classic feel in mind.  When one takes into account the current state of animation and its lack thereof, it really is nice to have this series and its animation resurrected.  So much programming for young people is either live action material aimed at tweens and teens or it’s crudely drawn animation that is half drawn at best.  There are still hand drawn cartoons out there.  But there seems to be more CG based programming than actual hand drawn cartoons.  When one takes this into account, it makes these classic         

The animation style used in each episode of The Wacky World of Tex Avery is something that viewers should really take into account in viewing the first forty-episodes released so far of this series.  The animation style makes a valid attempt to pay tribute to Tex Avery’s style.  That’s not all that this series does.  Avery’s classic style physical gags are there in each episode of this new collection.  This includes the standard bouncing back from falling objects, eyes shooting from characters’ heads in excitement and so much more.  It’s all here.  As with the show’s classic style animation, these gags are rarely seen on the few real cartoons that are left on television.  The few real cartoons left on television today don’t even make the attempt to make these laugh riot gags.  The brand of comedy used by today’s “cartoons” is less physical comedy and more crude jokes.  That in itself is a real sign of how animation has gone downhill.  So keeping this in mind, too, it makes this first set of episodes in this series even more worth at least one watch. 

The animation style used in The Wacky World of Tex Avery and its old school physical gags are both factors that add at least some value to this show.  There is at least one more factor in this series that makes it worthy of some interest.  That factor is its characters.  With names like Freddy the Fly, Einstone, Power Pooch, etc. the people behind the show obviously wanted to go to as much length as possible to pay tribute to Tex Avery’s memory.  The outlandish names of the show’s characters are something that none of today’s few real cartoons has.  These outlandish names are the icing on the cake of this undervalued cartoon series.  It’s that one extra touch that makes this recently released set more enjoyable than one might have believed without having seen it.  Viewers can check it all out now. The four-disc set is available now both in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/wacky-world-of-tex-avery-volume-1-40-eps.html.

To keep up with the latest 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.