My Uncle Rafael Is Loaded With Laughs And Heart

Courtesy:  TNP Films

Courtesy: TNP Films

My Uncle Rafael is the best new independent movie of 2014.  And it is arguably one of the best new movies of the year, too.  Originally released in 2012, its release this week on DVD marks the first time that it has seen the light of day in home release format.  And while it obviously owes a certain amount of its success to Robin Williams’ 1993 hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire, it still manages to stand strong on its own merits as a movie that is at least somewhat original in its presentation.  That is the central point of the movie’s success.  It has all the heart and wit of Mrs. Doubtfire without Robin Williams’ cross-dressing and manic character portrayal.  And while it does maintain at least some similarity in its approach to the family-fixing plotline, it approaches the issue through a multi-cultural avenue rather than that of a desperate father. Sign of the times, it would seem.  Just as important to the movie’s enjoyment is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  It would have been so simple for the cast, which is relatively well-known and experienced to treat the movie like the independent movie that it is.  But each member of the cast approached this work with the same seriousness used in its other performances.  The professional approach taken by the cast of My Uncle Rafael adds so much enjoyment to the movie.  It adds so much especially considering the quality of the movie’s production values.  While released via an independent studio—TNP Films—the movie’s production values are just as quality as anything released by any of Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios.  That actor, along with the work of the cast and of the movie’s writers, makes My Uncle Rafael a complete joy for audiences of almost any age.  Again, it isn’t the first time that the story presented here has been utilized for a movie.  But its execution makes it a move well worth the watch.

The story that is presented in My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  It is the story of an outsider coming into a family’s home and fixing said family.  It has been used numerous times in the past.  In 1993, it was presented in the hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Two years prior, it was used in pro-wrestling legend Terry “Hulk” Hogan’s family comedy Suburban Commando.  And to a lesser extent it was also used in Vin Diesel’s 2005 flash-in-the-pan flick The Pacifier.  It could even be argued that a similar formula was used way back in the 1989 John Candy dramedy Uncle Buck.  Considering all of this, it leaves one wondering how many other ways in which the “family fix” formula could be used without it being stale and unoriginal.  Enter My Uncle Rafael.  My Uncle Rafael (not to be confused with Joe Pesci’s 1992 dramedy My Cousin Vinny—yes that bad pun was intended) takes the classic “family fix” formula and updates it by incorporating a multi-cultural theme into the story.  Most interesting here is the fact that the duo used an elderly Middle Eastern man as the movie’s central figure.  This was really interesting especially considering the tensions between Americans and those of Middle Eastern descent currently living in the United States.  It’s an angle that few if any writers would even begin to attempt.  For that alone, Pirhamzei and Yagemann are deserving of a certain amount of credit.  That the duo didn’t try to make a direct light of Rafael’s nationality as a soap box makes the script even more worthy of applause.  Omitting that from the script makes the rest of the story far more enjoyable and in turn more memorable.

The script behind My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  That goes without saying.  But there are aspects of the script that make it surprisingly enjoyable.  As enjoyable as the movie’s script proves to be in the long run, it would be nothing without the abilities of the movie’s cast.  John Michael Higgins (Yes Man, Happily Divorced, Bad Teacher) brings plenty of experience to the movie as do Missi Pyle (The Artist, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Gone Girl), Anthony Clark (Yes, Dear, Boston Common, Soul Man), Joe Lo Truglio (Role Models, Wreck-It-Ralph, Pineapple Express), Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory, The Last Song, In A World…), and Rachel Blanchard (Clueless—TV Series, 7th Heaven, Are You Afraid of the Dark).  The competition between Higgins’ Damon and Clark’s Jack makes for plenty of laughs.  It is a competition much like that seen in Mrs. Doubtfire.  Missi Pyle is just as entertaining as she becomes caught up in the movie’s central love triangle all while trying to maintain her place as mother to her children.  But it is really Vahik Pirhamzei’s portrayal of the loveable Uncle Rafael that really shines.  Pirhamzei’s portrayal gives Uncle Rafael so much heart and warmth.  He makes Rafael loveable not only to his fellow characters but to audiences, too.  One can’t help but agree in watching Rafael that maybe the uncle really is at the center of everything.  Only audiences that watch the movie or have watched it will get that reference.  In hindsight, Rafael’s portrayal makes that line make perfect sense.  That isn’t to take away from Pirhamzei’s cast mates by any means.  Both the more well-known actors and the lesser known cast members add their own enjoyment to the story in whole, too.  But it is his portrayal that holds everything together and makes each of his cast mates’ portrayals all the more entertaining with the end result of the cast in general doing its own part to show once again why My Uncle Rafael  is this year’s best new independent movie and one of the year’s best movies overall.

The writing that went into My Uncle Rafael and the acting on the part of the movie’s cast both play their own important part in the overall success of this surprisingly entertaining story.  Rounding out the presentation is its production values.  Being that this movie is independent, one would think that it would not have the production values of its bigger name family friendly counterparts that have come before.  But the reality is that its production values are quite high.  That includes the movie’s cinematography, its backdrops, costumes, and all other elements that went into bringing the movie to life.  Having such quality production values, it makes sense that the largely veteran cast would want its portrayals to be just as high quality.  The combination of that high quality acting and equally high quality production values adds to the ability of audiences to suspend their disbelief and in turn allow themselves to be immersed into the story and thus offer it the chance that it quite well deserves.  In giving it the chance that it deserves, audiences will agree that this movie is just as enjoyable as its more well-known predecessors and that it is one of this year’s best new movies as well as the year’s best new independent movie.

My Uncle Rafael is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/My-Uncle-Rafael-Anthony-Clark/dp/B00O1D3AN6/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1418861938&sr=1-2&keywords=my+uncle+rafael.  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.

Secret Agent: The Complete Series Is Another “Timeless” Hit

Courtesy;  Shout! Factory/Timeless Media Group

Courtesy; Shout! Factory/Timeless Media Group

Timeless Media and Shout! Factory have established themselves in recent years as two of the leading companies in the realm of home entertainment.  Releases ranging from the Power Rangers to The Gene Autry Show to Nickelodeon’s classic 90s Nicktoons and classic Red Skelton collections have put both companies at the forefront of home entertainment.  They will continue to maintain that mantle with next Tuesday’s release of Secret Agent: The Complete SeriesSecret Agent: The Complete Series is another hit for Timeless Media and Shout Factory in part for its writing. Unlike every one of today’s action based series (E.g. The Blacklist) this U.K. series shows even today that a show doesn’t need loads of explosions, overt sexuality and violence in general to be entertaining.  All it needs is good writing.  Another reason that this latest box set is such a hit for both companies is its collective packaging and its look.  A little more than five decades have passed since Secret Agent first came to U.K. audiences. Even with that span of time passing, the footage looks just as impressive as in its original broadcasts.  And while the series has seen its half hour and hour-long episodes released in their own collections, Timeless Media’s upcoming release of Secret Agent: The Complete Series marks the first time that the entire original U.K. Danger Man series has been released in one complete set.  Its half-hour and full-hour episodes have been released in separate sets over the years.  But this set marks the first time that the entire series has been released in one box.  And there is plenty to note in regards to that, too.  It still isn’t all that makes this box set so welcome for any fan of classic TV and real action series.  One more factor worth noting is the bonus interview with star Patrick McGoohan’s daughter Catherine McGoohan.  It is a truly enlightening interview that reveals not just Steve McGoohan the celebrity, but the loving family man, too.  There are even some tidbits about his acting career late in his life that she reveals that might surprise a lot of people.  That’s not to discount the bonus commentary on select episodes, either.  The commentary adds its own touch to the presentation in whole, too.  All things considered, Secret Agent: The Complete Series is yet more proof of why Timeless Media and Shout! Factory remain today at the forefront of home entertainment.

Secret Agent (a.k.a. Danger Man) is a wonderful piece of television history.  Regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the series, it proves to be a welcome escape from all of the overly violent and overtly sexualized action/drama series on television today.  One of the most important ways in which it proves this is through its writing.  From stopping an international drug ring in “Position of Trust” to uncovering who is blackmailing officials with the British Embassy in “The Black Book” to going toe-to-toe with an East German spymaster in “Fair Exchange,” and more, every episode is original and fun in its own right.  The series’ writers never required Drake to use a gun.  He always used his intelligence over any weapon.  He also used his suave demeanor to achieve his goals whether when dealing with men or women.  And at no point is there any overt sexuality or even unnecesary levels of violence thrown in, either.  Sure, it’s a product of its time.  But it’s too bad that such writing doesn’t exist in today’s action and drama series.  It’s just one part of what makes Secret Agent: The Complete Series another welcome addition to the collection of any classic TV lover or lover of truly great action series.

The writing that went into Secret Agent: The Complete Series is an important piece of the whole that makes this box set so welcome in the collection of any lover of classic television.  Just as important to the whole is the set’s overall packaging and the quality of the footage.  Timeless Media’s upcoming release marks the first time ever that this series has been released in one complete box set.  It has seen its half hour and hour-long episodes released in separate box sets over the years.  But none of them have ever been compiled into one box until now.  Timeless Media has done an outstanding job packaging the set into one box.  All seventeen discs that make up the series are packaged into three separate cases.  And within each case, the discs are placed on their own spindles and “leaves” inside the case, protecting the discs from one another.  This is a standard that was set by Timeless Media and Shout! Factory years ago.  it is a model that thankfully other companies adopted not too long after, either.  Making the packaging even better for audiences is a little history lesson on the show contained on the back of each of the three volumes.  Each volume also presents a full episode list on the back of its case.  That combination of elements proves yet again that the packaging for Secret Agent: The Complete Series is just as important as the writing behind the episodes themselves in the success of this box set. The positives still don’t end here, either.

The writing behind Secret Agent’s episodes and the packaging of Secret Agent: The Complete Series are both integral parts of the whole in their own way.  As important as they are to the whole, they would be moot points if the footage itself was not quality.  Luckily, that isn’t the case.  The footage contained throughout the set’s seventeen total discs looks just as good as it did in its original broadcasts in the 1960s.  Those that watch the series via a Blu-ray player will especially agree with that statement when they see the quality in its up-conversion.  Given, the series has been released previously by other companies.  But that doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality footage in their cases.  In the case of Timeless Media’s full series release, it is guaranteed from the series’ first episode to its last.  The same applies even for audiences watching the series through a DVD player.  Such quality restoration is one more reason that this latest full-series release from Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory proves to be such a success.

The packaging and look of Secret Agent: The Complete Series are two of the most important factors in the set’s overall success.  They are just as important as the writing behind the show’s episodes.  As if that isn’t enough for audiences, there is a bonus interview with Patrick McGoohan’s daughter Catherine that sheds quite a light on McGoohan the actor and the family man.  Audiences will be surprised to learn through her interview that McGoohan did his own stunts throughout Danger Man’s original run.  Just as intriguing is her note that her father was the antithesis of the typical TV star.  He was more focused on his family than his career.  She speaks so lovingly and warmly of him when she discusses her one-on-one talks with her father when she was young and his desire to maintain a strong bond with his whole family, thus the comment about him being married to her mother for almost sixty years before his passing.  She goes on to note near the interview’s end to also note very surprisingly that her father was (believe it or not) the first choice to play Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings franchise and Professor Dumbledore in the hugely popular Harry Potter franchise.  Apparently, the reason he turned down both roles was his dedication to his family.  It’s really a deep statement.  It’s a refreshing statement that shows not every star is all about fame and fortune.  She discusses so much more throughout the course of her roughly half-hour interview.  But that is for audiences to see and hear for themselves when they purchase this box set.  Together with the set’s packaging, the quality of the footage, and the episodes’ writing, it all comes together to make Secret Agent: The Complete Series a big hit for any lover of classic television and action/drama series.

The bonus first-person interview with Catherine McGoohan is itself a true bonus for audiences in this set regardless of their familiarity with Danger Man or Secret Agent.  In the same vein, the commentary included with select episodes adds its own value to the set, too.  While not every episode boasts commentary, those that do include commentary are made all the more interesting thanks to said commentary.  It is commentary that at times even links to other episodes.  Taking that into account, it is the final touch to a series that in the end proves to be just as valuable for lovers of classic television as previous releases from Timeless Media and Shout! Factory.

Secret Agent: The Complete Series will be available Tuesday, December 9th on DVD in stores and online.  Audiences can order it online direct from Timeless Media’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/tv-action-adventure/secret-agent-aka-danger-man-the-complete-series for a reduced priec of $63.97 versus the MSRP of $79.97.  More information on this and other titles from Timeless Media Group is available online at:

Website: https://www.shoutfactory.com/tentpoles/timeless-media-group

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Timeless-Media-Group/358391474233364?ref=br_tf

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.

Lionsgate’s Latest Power Rangers DVD A Good Watch Any Time Of The Year

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Saban/Saban Brands

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Saban/Saban Brands

Nickelodeon is set to close out the latest installment of Saban’s hugely popular Power Rangers franchise this weekend.  Power Rangers Super Megaforce will close out this Saturday on Nickelodeon.  Before it closes out Saban and Lionsgate have released a new featuring a holiday episode from this season.  Power Rangers Megaforce: Robo Knight Before Christmas brings to audiences yet another new holiday tale from what has over the years become a worldwide phenomenon.  What audiences will appreciate most of all in this episode is the fact that yet again, the people behind the franchise have switched things up in this episode instead of repeating the same story as in previous Power Rangers seasons.  This is especially important considering some of the redundancy that can be seen in the seasons that followed the franchise’s original seven-season run.  The lessons taught in the central episode tie directly in to that originality.  It’s another reason that audiences will appreciate this installment from the Megaforce Rangers.  Speaking of lessons being taught, the lessons taught in the companion episodes are just as important to the overall presentation.  The episodes themselves may not be Christmas-themed.  But the lessons shared in said episodes are just as applicable during the holidays as they are any other time of the year.  Those lessons coupled with the lessons taught in the DVD’s central episode and said episode’s originality combine to make this DVD one that any Power Rangers fan will enjoy whether during the holidays or any other time of the year.

Over the course of its now twenty-ne years on television, Saban’s Power Rangers franchise has made a tradition of running a new Christmas-themed episode in every season.  And every season’s Christmas episode has proven to be different from the last.  This applies both stylistically and in terms of their stories.  Power Rangers Megaforce: Robo Knight Before Christmas is no different in that fashion.  Given, it is for all intents and purposes a clip show.  And it’s not the first time that Saban has used clip shows in previous seasons of the Power Rangers.  But through the use of the various clips, the story is more than just another typical clip show.  For that matter, it’s also not just another piece telling about the “true meaning of Christmas.”  The show’s writers incorporate the values commonly associated with Christmas into Robo Knight’s own attempt to better understand humans.  The end result is something of a third person vantage point that helps to better illustrate the morals and values that are so important not just during the holiday season but during any time of the year.  The show’s writers accomplish this goal without being overly preachy about it, either.  Sure there’s some sappiness.  But it’s still a good non-traditional piece that focuses on the holiday season and its associated values.

The lesson centering on Christmas’ values and Robo Knight’s own attempt to understand those values couple to make Robo Knight Before Christmas another enjoyable Christmas episode of Saban’s Power Rangers franchise.  Staying on that same train of thought, the two Power Rangers episodes included as bonuses offer audiences their own positive lessons.  Neither episode takes place during Christmas or even the holiday season.  But they still teach invaluable lessons.  Power Rangers Wild Force’s episode “Team Carnival” teaches an important and invaluable lesson about self-worth.  The interesting thing of the episode is that the writers behind that season actually also took a non-traditional route in presenting said lesson.  In the case of this episode, that season’s writers presented the lesson through the use of the season’s villains Toxica (Sin Wong) and Jindrax (Danny Wayne).  When Jindrax sees that Toxica has her own family in the fight against the Power Rangers, it makes Jindrax feel worthless.  He ends up teaming up with his own family member to fight the rangers and still learns his own valuable lesson about self-worth in the long run.  It’s interesting to see any episode of the Power Rangers make a villain a sympathetic character.  But it works here.  That and the lesson centering on personal self-worth makes this episode its own invaluable addition to this DVD.  It’s one more reason that this latest Power Rangers is another *ahem* mega-hit for audiences.

The second of the bonus episodes included in the new Power Rangers Megaforce DVD, “The Spirit of Kindness,” comes from Power Rangers Jungle Fury.  The most important lesson taught through this episode could be argued to be that of the golden rule so to speak.  As audiences will see in this episode, Casey (Jason Smith)  finally wins over an old nemesis in Whiger (Jared Turner) and convinces Whiger to join him in fighting Whiger’s own former evil ally.  Whiger admits before disappearing that he fought alongside Casey because Casey was kind to him unlike the season’s other villains.  He finally realized in that final moment before his own demise the importance of kindness.  It taught Casey that kindness can be just as powerful as fighting, too.  That in itself is an extremely important lesson to be taken away from this episode.  It’s one more lesson that is just as important during the holiday season as any other time of the year.  This lesson combined with the others presented on this DVD shows once more how much the Power Rangers franchise has to offer audiences even two decades plus after it first debuted.

If the lessons taught in each of the DVD’s trio of episodes isn’t enough for audiences, then the fact that the DVD comes with a bonus digital copy will win over audiences.  Having that digital copy means that audiences can take all three of these episodes with them wherever they go.  So the lessons and the entertaining stories can be shared with any viewer without having to lug around the DVD.  It is the finishing touch to yet another DVD that any Power Rangers fan will appreciate.

Power Rangers Megaforce: Robo Knight Before Christmas is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=31609&TitleParentId=9994.  More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

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.

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

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

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

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

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

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

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

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lionsgatemovies

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.

CatDog: The Complete Series Is Another Welcome Addition To Any Classic Cartoon Lover’s Library

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Next Tuesday, October 14th, Shout! Factory will release its latest complete Nicktoons box set thanks to its partnership with Nickelodeon and Viacom.  CatDog: The Complete Series follows Shout! Factory’s most recent complete Nicktoons box set Hey Arnold!: The Complete Series.  That box set was released August 19th.   And as with that series, CatDog: The Complete Series will be available exclusively via Wal-Mart stores nationwide.  This latest box set is another wonderful addition to the home library of Nicktoons Nostalgic that grew up in Nickeldeon’s golden era.  The most obvious reason that any grown up fan of this series will appreciate this new complete series set is the same as Shout! Factory’s previous full series Nicktoon sets.  It contains every episode from the series’ original run on Nickelodeon.  In connection to the episodes, they are contained on the same total number of discs from the previously released stand-alone sets.  The difference is that the twelve discs that make up the series are contained within only two boxes.  This saves space on any DVD rack.  It’s one  more reason that audiences will appreciate this set regardless of whether they have already purchased any of said the said stand-alone boxes.  And last of note that makes CatDog: The Complete Series another welcome release from Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon is the writing that went into the episodes.  Together with the set’s packaging and the inclusion of every one of the series’ episodes, it completes the box set and makes it all the more welcome an addition to the home collection of any Nicktoons Nostalgic.

CatDog is one of the last of Nickelodeon’s great series that earned the title Nicktoon.  Next to the likes of Hey Arnold!, Rugrats, and Doug, it was one of the last of a special breed of cartoons for kids.  After it ended its initial run on Nickelodeon, it ran in re-runs for a while until the network’s heads decided to move the kid favorite series over to Nickelodeon’s digital “sister station” Nicktoons.  Most cable and satellite carriers general keep Nicktoons on their upper digital tiers, thus making it a premium channel that costs extra for subscribers.  Suddenlink made things even more difficult for audiences recently when its dispute with Viacom led the carrier to drop not just Nicktoons but all of the Viacom networks that it once carried for customers across the country.  This means that for possibly thousands of audiences, there is now no way to see CatDog on television.  This makes CatDog: The Complete Series even more of a positive for anyone that grew up with this series and other Nicktoons.  So now regardless of whether or not audiences can get Nicktoons for one reason or another, Shout! Factory have made it possible for every Nicktoons Nostalgic to own one more piece of television greatness in its entirety.  Things only get better from here, too.  The set’s overall packaging should be taken into consideration, too in its overall success and enjoyment.

The inclusion of CatDog’s complete series in Shout! Factory’s new full series set is something that most definitely should not be taken for granted.  There are those that get Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons network and actually get to see this modern classic cartoon, given.  But there are also those that don’t get the network for one reason or another.  Whether it be because of the cost of subscribing to extra digital tiers on their carriers or their carrier not even carrying the network (as with Suddenlink’s dispute with Viacom), there are in fact those that don’t get to see these episodes.  That makes the release of this set quite the welcome addition to those individuals’ home libraries.  The set’s overall packaging makes it all the more welcome an addition to audiences regardless of whether or not they already own any of the series’ previously released stand-alone box sets.  All sixty-eight episodes that made up the series are spread across twelve discs inside two boxes.  Compared to those aforementioned stand-alone box sets, the packaging of the discs in this format takes up much less space on DVD racks than those sets by themselves.  So not only do audiences get the complete series in this set, but they also get the complete series in yet another ergonomic package.  Once again, the employees of Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon are deserving of their own share of applause for these efforts.  It still is not the last of the factors worth noting that makes this latest full series set from Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon a win for fans.  The final factor that makes this set a welcome addition to any classic Nicktoons fan’s home library is the series’ animation.  It separates the series not only from other Nicktoons of its time but from every other children’s program on television today.

The last piece of the puzzle that makes CatDog: The Complete Series such a welcome addition to the library of any classic Nicktoons fan is the series’ animation.  There are still a few children’s shows out there today on cable the feature at least some amount of hand drawn animation.  But by and large, most of today’s children’s programs are more based in computer generated “animation” than actual hand-drawn art.  Unlike those shows CatDog was created largely by hand.  If there was any computer usage in this series, it was minimal at best.  Other than that, it gives the show its own identity much like its fellow Nicktoons and those series that came before it in the golden era of the “Big 4.”  Taking this into account and the fact that true cartoons have officially gone by the wayside—weekday and weekend—such actual art work becomes increasingly valuable.  It serves as one more example of what once made children’s programming so great and still could again one day given the opportunity.  And together with both the overall packaging of this set and the inclusion of its full sixty-eight episode run, it makes this set a must have for any Nicktoons Nostalgic and for any fan of real cartoons.

The partnership between Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon has produced a number of wonderful releases up to this point.  CatDog: The Complete Series is just one more addition to that long line of proper classic Nicktoons released thanks to that partnership.  The set’s packaging and the inclusion of the series’ full sixty-eight episode run works alongside its original animation to make it a joy for any lover of classic cartoons.  It may or may not be the last of the complete series releases from Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory.  At this time, there is no deal in place for releases of Rugrats, Doug, or even Rocket Power.  And there’s no word on when or if Hey Dude! and The Wild Thornberrys will see full series releases.  Whether or not any of these series ever get proper releases from Shout! Factory, at least audiences will have CatDog: The Complete Series.  It will be available next Tuesday, October 14th.  It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Nickelodeon, Shout! Factory Finishing Off Another Classic Nicktoon Next Month

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon established a partnership only a few years ago that has seen some of the network’s greatest classic series, called Nicktoons, get full, proper releases. Almost all of those classic Nicktoons has seen releases in separate seasons and complete series box sets. Now what is one of the last of those series sets will be released next month in the form of CatDog: The Complete Series.

CatDog: The Complete Series will be released on DVD Tuesday, October 14th. The series’ complete four-season, sixty-eight episode run will be released in one complete multi-disc set. It will retail for MSRP of $29.93. After this release, the only full series sets that are left to be released under the companies’ current partnership are The Wild Thornberrys: The Complete Series and Hey Dude: The Complete Series. Audiences can keep up with the latest on all of these releases online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Rescue Bots Are Back On The Job With Another Fun DVD For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids

The latest compilation of episodes from Hasbro Studios’ Transformers Rescue Bots is another great collection for any fan of this kid friendly series.  The compilation, which was released last Tuesday, September 2nd, is especially well-timed considering the proximity of its release to Halloween.  That is primarily because of the five episodes featured in the disc.  The episodes presented on this disc offer their own not so scary stories that are still a good fit for any child’s Halloween party.  For those that might be new to this series (like this critic), said audiences will also appreciate the series’ animation.  Being another product of Hasbro studios, it should come as no surprise that the series’ animation plays a role in its enjoyment, too.  And last but not least of all worth noting in the overall presentation is the series’ list of voice talents.  The actors charged with putting a voice to the series’ characters are largely well-known figures.  They are figures that have quite the resume when it comes to animated programs, children’s programs, and sci-fi shows, too.  Some have experience in all three realms, making their acting all the more believable and in turn enjoyable.  The combination of those experienced voice talents and the series’ animation and writing makes Transformers Rescue Bots: Mystery Rescue just as enjoyable for those that are new to this series as those that are more familiar with the show.

Transformers Rescue Bots: Mystery Rescue is the fifth compilation of episodes from the Hub network’s hit children’s series.  The compilation was released just last week in stores.  Its timing could not have been better taking into account its episodes and the fact that Halloween is a little more than a month away.  The episodes collected for this compilation each present their own not so scary but still entertaining story for kids at their Halloween parties this year.  The DVD opens with a mystery that sees everyone in Griffin Rock suddenly disappearing after a horde of robotic bugs infests the town.  It’s up to Cody, his friends, and the Rescue Bots to solve the mystery.  The second episode sees some “ghosts” suddenly appearing.  It turns out though, that things aren’t always what they appear to be when Cody and the Rescue Bots investigate the “hauntings.”  There’s even a little twist that parents and kids alike will like, regardless of whether or not they are believers.  “Spellbound” is the third episode chosen for the DVD.  One could argue that this episode lifts lightly from Stephen King’s novel Cell as cell phones are being used to take over the minds of the Griffin Rock’s citizens.  This is an especially enjoyable episode not only for this reason, but for its emphasis on caring for the environment.  “Blame The Gremlins” is another great addition that parents and children will appreciate as it offers its own frightful fun.  When Cody’s big brother Kade (voiced by Jason Marsden) starts having nightmares about gremlins, those nightmares become reality and invade Griffin Rock.  Parents that are familiar with Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone series will appreciate the subtle homage to the episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” in this episode.  One could even argue that there’s a subtle reference to a certain gremlin from Warner Brothers’ beloved Looney Tunes franchise.  “Feed The Beast” closes out the DVD with a little tale of Griffin Rock’s own version of the legendary Sasquatch.  As with the discs other episodes, it offers its own frightful fun for younger viewers.  All of the episodes together will keep young viewers fully engaged from start to finish.

Of the stories included on this disc are not enough enjoyment by themselves, audiences that might be new to Transformers Rescue Bots will appreciate the fact that the episodes are kid friendly.  They don’t have the level of violence and deep, thought provoking material that makes up the original Transformers franchise or any of its offshoots over the years.  It makes for a fun and safe way to ease younger viewers into the Transformers universe.  It could be argued that to that extent, it actually takes a page from the likes of Tiny Toon Adventures, The Flintstone Kids, Taz-Mania and others that came from that era.  That’s because while many critics came down hard on the series, the reality was that they were in fact a way to slowly and gently bring younger viewers into the likes of Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo and other classic franchises.  To that extent, the very concept of this franchise makes the writing all the more valuable and enjoyable to the overall presentation that is this latest compilation.

The writing that went into the episodes on this DVD makes them (and the franchise in whole) a joy for both children and adults.  Its mix of family friendly stories and its more grown-up pop culture references will make watching them as a family a fun time.  And especially today, families need as much time as possible together.  It’s not all that makes this collection enjoyable, either.  The series’ animation also makes the episodes presented here fun, too.  Audiences that are familiar with Hasbro Studios’ properties will find it no surprise that this series’ animation bears a somewhat similar animation style to that of both Pound Puppies and Littlest Pet Shop.  It is safe to suffice that the same individuals charged with crafting the artwork for those series were also behind Transformers Rescue Bots, too simply by watching these episodes.  Even with its similarities to those series, it does bear its own identity apart from them.  The differences lie mainly in little things like the contours of the characters and the backgrounds and even the coloring. Other than that, this series’ animation lies in the same category as those others from Hasbro Studios already noted. Even as similar as its animation is to those series, it still is nice to see animation today that can look so much like it was hand drawn instead of all of the cookie cutter CGI shows out there for younger audiences today. It’s just one more part of what makes this new DVD so welcome in any family’s DVD library.

The animation in Transformers Rescue Bots: Mystery Rescue and the writing in its episodes together make this latest collection of episodes welcome in any family’s DVD library. The last factor to note that makes it such a welcome addition to any family’s library is the series’ list of voice actors. Those behind the characters in this series are no strangers to voicing animated characters. The cast includes Jason Marsden, Kath Soucie, Levar Burton, Mauriche LaMarche, Tim Curry, Diamond White and so many others. While their episodes are not included in this DVD, Mark Hamill (Star Wars, Batman The Animated Series) and Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years) even offer their talents in a couple of episodes, too. Having such a who’s who of actors lending their talents to this series is a tribute to its popularity and the popularity of the Transformers franchise in whole. Jason Marsden is known for his work on Nickelodeon’s The Fairly Odd Parents and as the voice of Nermal in Cartoon Network’s The Garfield Show. He has worked on a number of other series and movies, too. These are just a couple examples of his body of work. Kath Soucie and Levar Burton both worked together on Captain Planet and the Planeteers early in the 1990s. Soucie is also known as the voice of Phil and Lil DeVille in Nickelodeon’s beloved Nicktoon Rugrats. Not to omit Mauriche LeMarche or Tim Curry, the resume of these two actors could fill pages and pages. Needless to say they are quite the well trained and well-respected actors. And having them on this series’ cast is quite the statement. Newcomer Diamond White has already started building up her own resume with voice acting credits including work on Disney’s Phineas and Ferb, and Sophia the First. She also plays the role of Sophie in Nickelodeon’s teen-centric series The Haunted Hathaways. Needless to say, the cast that was tapped for the roles in Transformers Rescue Bots more than did its job with this latest collection of episodes. Their years of training and experience helped them to interpret each episode’s script and in turn make it each story all the more enjoyable. The end result is a collection of episodes that the whole family will enjoy again and again while they wait for the next collection of episodes from this surprisingly entertaining show.

The A-list voice cast tapped to voice the characters in this latest collection of episodes from Hub’s Transformers Rescue Bots goes a long way toward validating it and the series in whole. Parents will note the celebrities’ names and want to check out the actors’ work for themselves. They will also appreciate some of the subtle pop culture references thrown in for good measure in some of the episodes included on the DVD. Kids will enjoy the animation and stories in general. All things considered, there is a lot that makes Transformers Rescue Bots: Mystery Rescue a hit for the whole family. So much in fact that it could potentially end up on this critic’s list of the year’s best new DVDs for children and families. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Shout! Factory’s website at https://www.shoutfactory.com/kids/kids-animation/transformers-rescue-bots-mystery-rescue. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online now at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.