20 Million Miles To Earth Is A Must See For Any Lover Of Classic Cinema And Sci-Fi

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The annual countdown to Halloween is on once again. With Halloween only a few more weeks away at the time of this review, everyone’s busy looking for a way to bring some frights and fun to their yearly celebrations. Mill Creek has given audiences two more wonderful options for their Halloween parties thanks to its release of the Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature. This new double dose of classic monster movies includes two of Ray Harryhausen’s great sci-fi/horror classics in the form of 20 Million Miles to Earth and It Came From Beneath The Sea. The second of the features will be discussed at a later date. For now, the focus will be solely on the first in the pair. 20 Million Miles To Earth is a wonderful watch not only for those Halloween parties this year, but for anyone that is a lover of classic cinema in general. The main aspect of this classic sci-fi flick that makes it work is its script. Yes, there’s at least one minor issue with the writing. That will be noted later. But by and large, the script for this movie is a big part of why audiences will love it. Just as important to the whole are the movie’s special effects. Compared to nearly every one of today’s way-over-the-top special effects blockbusters, the effects used in this piece are outstanding. And last but most definitely not least of all worth noting is the movie’s cast. The movie’s lead actors were no strangers to their crafts. They were quite versed as a matter of fact. The importance of this aspect will also be noted later. Suffice it to say that all three of these factors together make 20 Million Miles to Earth a must see whether at this year’s Halloween get together or any other time of the year by any lover of classic cinema. And together with its companion piece It Came From Beneath The Sea, it makes Mill Creek’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature an absolute must see.

Mill Creek Entertainment’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature is an absolute must see by any lover of classic cinema. While not the first time that the movies in this set have seen the light of day, they are very difficult to find on DVD or Blu-ray. So taking that into consideration, anyone with any love for the golden age of cinema will appreciate this double movie presentation. Looking specifically for now at the first of the features, 20 Million Miles to Earth, this movie works so well here for a number of reasons. One reason that it works so well is its writing. The story behind this movie was nothing new for the film industry when it debuted in June 1957. It sees an ever-growing lizard creature from Venus terrorizing the Sicilian countryside after having been released by a young boy named Pepe. The end result is the hunt and eventual killing of the unnamed creature. Legendary B-movie director Roger Corman had already churned out ten sci-fi classics when this movie debuted. And It Came From Beneath The Sea, the other film featured in this collection, had already debuted two years previous. Adding in to the believability of the story, the birth of the “space race” was only months away as Russia went on in October of that year to release Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. So it goes without saying that the fascination with worlds and beings other than our own was at an all-time high when this movie made its premiere. That makes the movie’s very plot so fun.

The plot behind 20 Million Miles to Earth, when set against the other B-movies of its era, is just as enjoyable as those churned out by fellow sci-fi legend Roger Corman and by Harryhausen himself. The plot is just one minute part of what makes this script work, too. The manner in which the movie’s writing team executed the story adds to the overall enjoyment. If not for young Pepe’s greed (he even tries to extort money from the American military officers when they come to investigate the crash), none of what happened might have happened. In turn there might not have been a story. One could argue that if not a child, then an adult might have done the same thing as Pepe. That’s true, too. So taking this aspect of the movie’s writing into consideration, one can’t help but wonder if the writers were trying to make a statement about the cost and danger of human nature a la 1951’s The Day The Earth Stood Still.   In the same vein, Col. Calder (played wonderfully here by William Hopper) makes a statement regarding the creature being docile unless provoked right before provoking the creature so as to capture it. That is so subtle but so powerful a statement about human nature, too. If Calder knew the creature was docile, why not try a peaceful means to corral it? Some might argue this to be a major plot hole. A more thoughtful analysis though, reveals that it could have been another lightly veiled commentary about the contradictory nature of humans in terms of their behaviors and thought processes. It’s really something to think about. It is that writing and commentary (intended or not) that along with the script makes 20 Million Miles to Earth such a wonderful watch.

The seemingly lightly veiled commentary aside, another reason that the script’s writing works so well is that the movie’s writing team even made certain to explain how the unnamed lizard creature managed to grow so fast. As was explained by one character, the Earth’s atmospheric make up was to blame for the creature’s growth. As long as it was breathing the air on Earth, it would keep growing every day. That most important of all of the story’s aspect is answered so quickly and easily. It’s one more way in which the movie’s writing team made sure to cover all of its bases when crafting the story. It’s the final part of the movie’s writing that makes the script (and the movie in whole) so enjoyable so many years after its premiere.

The writing that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth is a big reason for the movie’s success nearly sixty years after it debuted. That should be obvious by now. Another reason that the movie continues to be so beloved to this day is its special effects. Special effects have evolved so much throughout the history of the movie industry. While the special effects used in movies such as this might be considered simplistic by some, it is that simplicity that makes them so wonderful. The special effects of today’s major name blockbusters have completely jumped the shark for lack of better wording. They are almost entirely created via computer. Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion special effects in this movie (and others that he worked on) were done entirely by hand. Sure there was some movie magic incorporated along the way to help. But again in comparison to so many of today’s special effects extravaganzas, those effects are a product of their time. They are used as a part of the overall story rather than as the star of the film. Today’s action blockbusters are the polar opposite. That factor alone makes 20 Million Miles to Earth worth the watch. Together with its outstanding writing, the movie’s special effects make this movie even more of a must see for any lover of classic cinema and sci-fi.

The writing and the special effects that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth both play their own important role in the movie’s overall enjoyment and success. As important as both factors are to the whole presentation, there is still one more aspect worth noting in examining the movie. That final aspect is the movie’s lead cast. Anyone with any love of classic movies and television will appreciate the history lesson presented through just the movie’s cast. William Hopper leads the movie’s cast as Col. Robert Calder. Hopper is best known for his role of Private Detective Paul Drake in the classic courtroom drama Perry Mason. Drake was a major character in that series as he helped Mason solve a number of cases throughout the show’s run. Perry Mason, by the way, can still be seen today on Me-TV. He also starred opposite film legend James Dean in the 1955 hit drama Rebel Without A Cause. He starred alongside a then young Natalie Wood as the father to her Judy. On a side note, Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo, Gilligan’s Island) also starred in that movie. Adding to Hopper’s resume, 20 Million Miles to Earth wasn’t Hopper’s first creature feature. He starred in another well-known creature feature that premiered only months before this one. That movie, released by Universal Pictures, is called The Deadly Mantis. For those that haven’t seen that movie, imagine Godzilla with a giant, radioactive praying mantis in place of the giant, radioactive lizard. Yeah. And instead of taking place in Japan, the giant mantis thaws out in the North Pole and comes to America to cause all kinds of havoc. It’s still a great watch, regardless. These are just some of the pieces in which Hopper starred. It goes without saying that Hopper’s experience in both action and drama roles proved him to be a good choice for his role. His wasn’t the only good choice, either. Hopper’s co-stars Joan Taylor, Thomas Browne Henry, and John Zaremba starred together in another of Ray Harryhausen’s hits Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers in 1956. So they were both just as natural for their roles in this film, too. It was probably Zaremba’s work on these sci-fi favorites that led to his casting in the cult hit sci-fi series Time Tunnel. That series ran for only one year from 1966 – 1967. It is still a fan favorite to this day, though. The movie’s other cast members each starred in some of the movie industry’s biggest names, too. Arthur Space played the supporting role of Dr. Sharman in 20 Million Miles to Earth. Only months before, he starred alongside famed actor James Stewart in The Spirit of St. Louis as Donald Hall, the chief engineer of Ray Airlines. There are plenty of other actors whose resumes add plenty of credit to 20 Million Miles to Earth. But it would take far too long to note each one and their resume. Needless to say, one should have quite the clear picture by now of just how important the cast of 20 Million Miles to Earth was to the movie’s success. The cast’s collective experience shines through from start to finish here making it entirely clear once more just why this movie is still one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films in modern film history and why this movie was a wise addition to Mill Creek’s newly released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature.

20 Million Miles to Earth is one of the greatest sci-fi flicks in modern movie history. So much went into the movie in such a small span of time. Its writing was simple yet so in-depth. The special effects headed up by screen legend Ray Harryhausen are so much better than those presented in today’s major blockbusters. Harryhausen’s special effects are part of the story rather than the star. They do so much to help advance the story. And last but not least of all is the movie’s cast. The cast—both the lead and supporting cast—came into the movie with quite the collective resume. That vast amount of experience shared between the movie’s cast shines through here from start to finish. It is the last touch in a movie that any lover of classic cinema and of sci-fi in whole must see at least once. Now that Halloween’s on its way again, that’s one more reason to pick up this new release from Mill Creek Entertainment. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from Mill Creek Entertainment at http://www.millcreekent.com/20-million-miles-to-earth-it-came-from-beneath-the-sea-ray-harryhausen-double-feature.html. More information on this and other titles from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at:

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Denver The Last Dinosaur The Complete Series Was Well Worth The Wait

Courtesy:  Cinedigm/VCI Entertainment

Courtesy: Cinedigm/VCI Entertainment

Children’s programming today is nothing like it was in its golden era.  One quick scan through any carrier’s channel lineup proves that.  Children’s programs of the 80s and 90s actually had heart.  They had substance, too.  By comparison, that heart and substance is nearly nonexistent in programs aimed at tweens and teens today.  Thank goodness some companies out there have stepped up and released those classic cartoons from the golden era of children’s programming to show today’s youth what real kids’ shows look and sound like.  Mill Creek has stepped up and released most of the original animated Dennis The Menace series.  Shout! Factory has more than stepped up in its own right with planet of classic kids’ shows.  And now Cinedigm and VCI Entertainment have stepped up and added their own contribution with the release of Denver The Last Dinosaur: The Complete SeriesDenver The Last Dinosaur didn’t last too long in its original broadcast.  It ran for a grand total of fifty-two episodes.  But even in that short run, it offered audiences so much enjoyment.  And audiences of all ages will see that for themselves when Denver The Last Dinosaur: The Complete Series is released September 16th on DVD box set.  The main factor in the overall enjoyment of this series is its writing.  As with so many children’s series of that era, the writers mixed fun adventures with subtly placed lessons for young viewers.  Also worth noting of this box set is the original presentation of the episodes.  And last but hardly least of all that makes this set so enjoyable is the companion booklet.  The booklet includes not only a full episode listing, but also a short summary of each episode from start to finish.  The companion booklet works alongside the full, proper presentation of the episodes and the episodes’ writing to make Denver The Last Dinosaur: The Complete Series an absolute must for viewers of any age.  That isn’t to discount the set’s packaging, its bonus interviews, or its bonus cartoons.  They are all well worth noting, too.  They round out the whole presentation to make Denver The Last Dinosaur: The Complete Series one of the definite best new box sets for children and families this year.

While it might not have lasted nearly as long as some of the other cartoons that made the 80s and 90s so great, Denver The Last Dinosaur was still an enjoyable piece in its own right.  The central reason for its success lies in tis writing.  WEP president Ted Koplar puts it best in his bonus interview that what really makes Denver The Last Dinosaur work so well is that presented here is a fish out of water story.  Denver is for all intents and purposes, an outsider trying to find his place in the world with all of its technology and its mores and values.  Even with the series being as old as it is, that theme of finding one’s own self and one’s  place in the world is one to which even today’s young audiences can relate.  And as Bob Koplar, WEP VP notes, kids can also relate to Denver because he is this figure that gets into so much trouble yet he gets away with it every time.  Koplar notes in his interview that every kid wishes that he or she could get away with Denver’s antics.  That couldn’t be more right, even today years after it ended its original run on television.  Add in the fact that these episodes have been endorsed by the National Education Association (NEA) for their nonviolent themes and general story, lines, and audiences see even more why the writing behind this series is so important and successful.  This is extremely important to consider especially when comparing this classic series to so much of what is available for younger viewers today.  Hopefully other parents out there will take all of this into consideration and give Denver The Last Dinosaur a try for the first time or for the first time again when it is released later this month. If the bonus interviews included in this set are any indication, the writing behind this series may very well entertain today’s younger viewers just as much as those other programs if not more so.

The writing behind Denver The Last Dinosaur is a solid starting point in the discussion regarding what makes the series’ new box set so enjoyable.  No discussion on the series is complete without a note on the set’s presentation.  A slate is included before the episodes noting that the episodes have been re-mastered for this presentation.  Those charged with re-mastering the footage are to be commended for their painstaking efforts.  That is first and foremost because their efforts resulted in no footage being lost in the process.  This means that every single episode from the series’ original broadcast has been included in this box set.  And every episode is presented in its original video format, too.  They haven’t been squeezed down.  And they are just as bright and vibrant as ever.  The audio is just as clear, too.  To some the re-mastering of a show’s video and audio is a minor issue.  But the reality of the situation is that there are some companies out there that don’t put the necessary effort into properly re-working various shows to make them appear as they appeared in their original broadcasts.   The end result is a product hardly worth the purchase. VCI Entertainment and Cinedigm are not among those companies in this case.  It’s one more factor that makes the set in whole all the more enjoyable for viewers of all ages.  There is still more that has gone into this set making it worth the purchase by any now grown-up child of the 80s, including the companion booklet.

The writing and re-mastering work undertaken by those at VCI Entertainment and Cinedigm are both equally integral parts of the whole that is Denver The Last Dinosaur: The Complete Series.  Eve having taken these factors into consideration, VCI Entertainment and Cinedigm didn’t stop there.  They paid great tribute to the series’ original fans in so many ways with this set.  Those are two a couple ways in which they did so.  Another way in which the companies paid tribute to the show’s original fans is in the inclusion of a companion booklet.  The booklet outlines the series’ entire episode list from start to finish.  It shows the set includes the episodes here are presented exactly as they originally ran on television.  It also gives a short summary of every episode.  This allows viewers to look back and say, “Oh, I remember this episode” or “that episode.”  So not only does this allow audiences to decide which episode(s) that they want to watch, but it even helps maintain that sense of nostalgia already full established thanks to the full, proper re-mastering of the episodes and the inclusion of every episode.  It still isn’t the end of what makes Denver The last Dinosaur: The Complete Series such a hit for audiences.  There are the bonus interviews, which have been noted in small part already.  And there are even bonus episodes culled from other VCI Entertainment collections included as bonus material.  They give a glance into other series with which some viewers might or might not be familiar, adding even more of a sense of nostalgia.  It makes the set complete and a complete joy.

VCI Entertainment and Cinedigm have gone to painstaking efforts to make Denver The Last Dinosaur: The Complete Series the release that fans of this classic series have wanted for so many years.  Needless to say, their efforts were definitely not in vain.  The writing proves even to this day to be enjoyable and relatable for audiences of all ages.  The painstaking efforts taken to bring back to life every episode of the series makes things even better.  And the full, proper episode guide included in the set’s companion booklet is a fitting final piece to the presentation.  That is not to discount the in-depth bonus interviews and the bonus episodes of other releases from VCI Entertainment.  They add their own enjoyment to the set in whole, too.  All things considered, Denver The Last Dinosaur: The Complete Series proves in the long run to be a wonderful alternative to all of the material claiming today to be children’s programming.  It is everything that the series’ original fans have waited for so long to hold in their hands and watch on their televisions once again.  Simply put, this box set proves itself in the end to be one of the best new box sets for children and families this year.

Denver The Last Dinosaur: The Complete Series will be available on DVD, Tuesday, September 16th.  It can be ordered online direct from VCI Entertainment’s website at http://www.vcientertainment.com/DENVER-THE-LAST-DINOSAUR-COMPLETE-SERIES/Film-Categories?keyword=denver.  More information on this and other releases from VCI Entertainment is available online at http://www.vcientertainment.com, http://www.facebook.com/VCIClassicMovies, and http://twitter.com/vciclassicfilms.  All the latest news from Cinedigm is available online at http://www.cinedigm.com and http://www.facebook.com/Cinedigm.  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.

Lights! Camera! Menace! Is Another Must Have For Any Classic Cartoon Fan

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Dennis The Menace is one of the most beloved icons in the history of American pop culture.  What started out as a comic strip crafted by Hank Ketcham in March of 1951 went from there to become what is today a cultural phenomenon.  That comic strip spawned a live action series starring Jay North, which ran for nearly four years from October 1959 to July 1963.  It would later go on to spawn an animated series that while it ran only two seasons, remains one a favorite among audiences of all ages even today.  Earlier this year, Mill Creek Entertainment finally rewarded the patience of that series’ fans with the first half of the series’ first season on DVD.  The multi-disc set’s release marked the first time ever that the series had received a proper release.  And it proved to be a box set well worth the wait, too.  The same can be said of the new box set Lights! Camera! Menace!  Lights! Camera! Menace! is essentially Dennis The Menace Volume 2.  Why Mill Creek chose to give it a different title is anyone’s guess. Regardless, anyone that grew up with this standout cartoon series will appreciate and enjoy this latest collection of episodes just as much as its predecessor. The primary reason for that is that this set properly finishes off the series’ first season, despite what its title might lead one to think. Also, the continued family friendly writing makes this one of those rare gems that families can and should watch together. And last but not least is the series’ original hand-drawn animation. In an age when anime and CG-based children’s shows dominate the airwaves, this original true animation style serves as a reminder of the value of such animation. All three factors are important in their own right. Together, they make Lights! Camera! Menace! another must-have collection for any kid and kid at heart. They also collectively make this set another valid contender for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets for children and families.

Typically, the most obvious starting point for examination of any box set would be the episodes’ scripts (I.E. the writing).  However, being that this box set and its predecessor mark the first time that this installment of the Dennis The Menace franchise has ever been released, the smarter starting point is the set’s episode listing.  Audiences will note that Lights! Camera! Menace! finishes off the first season of this classic kids’ cartoon series.  Every episode from the second half of Season One is here. The episodes are for the most part presented in the same order as they were presented in their original broadcasts.  There are some slight variances in the episode listing.  But those variances are so few that they can easily be brushed aside, making even more valuable the fact that every one of the episodes from the second half of Season One is present here.  Again, knowing this, it is anyone’s guess why this box set wasn’t simply titled Dennis The Menace Volume 2.  That’s anyone’s guess.  Regardless, the fact that it is the first time that these episodes have received a proper release and that they have all been included is the central point of this set’s success.  And it’s a solid central point at that.

That Lights! Camera! Menace! fully finishes off the first season of Dennis The Menace is a solid starting point for the newly released triple-disc box set.  Rising from that solid foundation is the writing incorporated into each of the scripts.  Dennis more than lives up to his moniker in the episodes included in this compilation.  He gets both Mr. Wilson and his own dad arrested in the set’s opening short “Sounds of the Night.”  They get arrested after being suspected of being a couple of robbers.  Of course Mr. Wilson’s argument that it was Dennis’ fault doesn’t help at all.  When Dennis’ dog Ruff accidentally runs amok on one of Mr. Wilson’s paintings, a famed art critic sees the painting and mistakes Mr. Wilson’s work for the work of someone else.  Of course, Mr. Wilson can’t convince the critic in question that the painting was his. That leads to plenty of laughs. He creates plenty of laughs as he causes trouble for Mr. Wilson and others throughout these episodes. There are also just as many laughs as he goes on various adventures with his friends and even gets them into some tight situations that ultimately come out alright, too. Whether it be his troublemaking ways with Mr. Wilson, his wildly fun adventures with his friends or even stopping spies (yes, he even stops a bad guy or two in this volume), Dennis’ adventures in Lights! Camera! Menace! will take the show’s original audiences back on a wonderful trip down memory lane. They will also show today’s young audiences what real cartoons are all about.

The fact that the episodes culled for Lights! Camera! Menace! completely finish off the first season of the classic series is a solid base for this collection. It’s great to see that the first season was finished off in full instead of just having this collection be a compilation of random episodes. Its title is a wholly different issue in itself. The writing that went into each of the episodes presented here makes this collection all the more enjoyable for viewers. The writing proves that it is possible to write good, solid cartoons without relying on crass humor. It proves that among all of the teeny-bopper and tweeny-bopper live action series out there on the networks of Nickelodeon and Disney, true worthwhile children’s programming such as Dennis The Menace still has a very relevant place in today’s television spectrum. It’s still just as entertaining today as it was in its original broadcast. The last factor that makes Lights! Camera! Menace! so enjoyable is its animation. The animation style used in this series was entirely done by hand. Just as the episodes’ writing proved to be fully original, so does that hand-drawn animation style. The only shows that came close to Dennis The Menace at the time were perhaps Heathcliff and The Real Ghostbusters.   Even as close as those shows might have been to Dennis The Menace in their animation, there were obvious stylistic differences between them, too. The key difference was the sharpness of detail. This series didn’t have that certain definition of the art in the other noted series. It was more raw for lack of better wording. A side-by-side comparison of the shows makes this much clearer. And in seeing that difference, as subtle as it is, audiences will see once more just why these classic episodes are so valuable. If audiences don’t appreciate the episodes’ writing or the fact that Mill Creek paid true tribute to the series by finishing off Season One in full, then this is sure to generate a certain appreciation for the series and the set among audiences.

Lights! Camera! Menace! is a wonderful presentation for audiences of all ages, as one should be able to tell by now. The episodes are literally family friendly in every sense. That’s thanks to solid writing that boasts so much heart. The full complement of Season One’s second half episodes makes the set even better. And the use of real hand-drawn animation finishes off this set. All three factors by themselves are important to the set’s success. Together, they make Lights! Camera! Menace! another impressive release from Mill Creek Entertainment, the packaging aside. They combine to make this set a valid contender at least for this critic’s list of the year’s best new box sets for children and family. Lights! Camera! Menace! is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Mill Creek Entertainment online at http://www.millcreekdirect.com/dennis-the-menace-lights-camera-menace-32-episodes.html. More information on this and other releases from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at http://www.millcreekent.com, http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt, and http://twitter.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 in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Classic Cartoon’s First Proper Release Is A Joy For Audiences Of All Ages

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Dennis The Menace is one of the most beloved characters in the history of America’s various entertainment mediums. Any number of newspapers still proudly run the famed comic strip every day. At least two movies have been crafted based on Dennis The Menace. And even the original live action, black-and-white series has received a proper release over the course of four separate box sets courtesy of Shout! Factory. Certain TV stations even still run that series every day. One of those networks is one that goes by the name of Antenna TV. Yes, that’s a cheap pop for that network. For all of the love that Dennis The Menace has continued to receive today, there is one part of this classic character’s life that has never received proper treatment. That part of his life is the animated series, which ran from 1986 – 1988. Various companies have released bits and pieces of the animated series. But it hasn’t been until this year that it has received a proper release. That is thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment. Mill Creek Entertainment released on March 11th, Dennis The Menace: Volume One on DVD. This set is everything that the show’s now grown up fans have wanted for so many years. Of the series’ seventy-eight total episodes, this collection of episodes boasts thirty-three full length episodes. That’s nearly half of the series’ episodes. Making the set even more impressive is that not only does it boast almost half of the series’ episodes, a close look reveals that the order of episodes in the set was taken directly from the original series. This is a very important part of the success of the set. And last but definitely not least in the triple-disc set is the quality of the footage. The footage still looks as good as it did in its original broadcast nearly three decades ago. These three factors combine to make Dennis The Menace: Volume One among the year’s best new home releases for children and families.

Various companies have tried their hand at releasing bits and pieces of Dennis The Menace: The Animated Series ever since the show went off the air in 1988. Different episodes have seen the light of day on both VHS and DVD before the release of Dennis The Menace: Volume One. None of those releases were anywhere near the level of this collection of episodes. This is the most complete collection of episodes that the series has ever seen. There has been one release in particular that tried to pass off a small handful of episodes as more than it really was, essentially deceiving customers. Applause goes to Mill Creek for not doing the same thing. Mill Creek has in fact released thirty-three episodes from the original seventy-eight in their entirety. The company didn’t just toss in a bunch of shorts and try to call them episodes. They actually presented thirty-three complete episodes to comprise the triple-disc set.

The inclusion of thirty-three complete episodes in Dennis The Menace: Volume One is the tip of the proverbial iceberg for this set. Audiences will appreciate that those episodes included in the set are presented in precise chronological order from the original schedule of episodes. It would have been so easy for Mill Creek to just assemble episodes from the series’ two seasons at random. That’s precisely what far too many companies do with their releases today. Mill Creek didn’t go that route, though. Its people actually showed respect for the show’s fans by presenting the first thirty-three episodes as they originally aired. As rare as this is for some indie companies to do, it’s nice to see that Mill Creek has done just that in this case. It makes this set all the more enjoyable for fans.

That Mill Creek has presented the episodes in exactly the same chronological order in which they originally aired is a major bonus for Dennis The Menace: Volume One. That this set contains nearly half of the series episodes in their entirety is just as much of a bonus for viewers. There is one remaining factor to the set that audiences will appreciate. That final factor is the quality of the footage presented. Nearly four decades have passed since Dennis The Menace: The Animated Series originally aired. Technology has changed a lot since then. So it’s nice to see that the show’s original tapes have stood the test of time so well. Even nicer to see is the care that was taken in transferring the original tapes to DVD. The coloring in each episode is as bright today as it was nearly three decades ago. And the sound is just as high quality. Both the audio and video quality of the transfer is impressive. Their quality proves that those at Mill Creek took their jobs seriously in presenting the best possible product to fans of this modern classic. And together with the episodes included in the set, it makes the set complete. It makes this one of the best new releases of the year for children and families.  Here’s to hoping that when and if Mill Creek releases the series’ remaining episodes, they will be just as much of a joy.

Dennis The Menace: Volume One is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Mill Creek Entertainment online at http://www.millcreekdirect.com/dennis-the-menace-volume-one-33-episodes.html.  More information on this and other releases from Mill Creek 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.

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.