Trouble With The Heights More Proof Of The Power Of Indie Flicks

Courtesy:  Viva Pictures

Courtesy: Viva Pictures

Viva Pictures’ crime drama, Trouble in the Heights is an interesting movie.  This is not exactly what one would think about when one thinks about crime dramas.  And it’s also not the standard shoot-‘em-up action movie, either.  Rather than letting itself descend into the standard action subgenre, Writer/Director Jonathan Ullman offers audiences a story that is a deeply emotional piece that will instantly pull in audiences and keep them engaged right to the end of the story’s roughly ninety-minute runtime.       

The story at the center of Trouble in the Heights focuses on the theft of drug dealer Nevada’s (Raul Esparza) ill gotten money by main character Diego’s little brother Javy (Antonio Ortiz) and his friend, Robby (Cruz Santiago).  Because of the actions of Javy and Robby, Diego (Rayniel Rufino) is forced to make some tough decisions.  Those tough decisions only make this hard working man’s life even more difficult, especially in finding out that his girlfriend Ana (Alexandra Metz) is carrying his child.  Diego’s personal struggles both as a result of his brother’s actions and news that he gets from Ana make him a sympathetic and far more believable character than any of the anti-hero stereotypes from other closely related crime thrillers.  Because he is such a believable character, audiences will find it so much easier to root for him.  And because viewers will find it so easy to root for Diego, they will in turn find themselves becoming increasingly engaged in the overall story right to its surprise conclusion.

Ullman’s writing and acting on the part of Rayniel Rufino in Trouble in the Heights are both important parts of the movie’s success.  Just as important to its success was its general lack of violence.  This may come across as a minor factor.  But one would be remiss to ignore this factor.  While guns are brandished, not a single shot is fired and not a single drop of blood is shed throughout the course of the story.  The most extreme level that the violence reaches comes early in the story when Nevada has two of his men throw Robby over a bridge in front of an oncoming train for having stolen his money.  The actual act is never actually shown.  But it is understood that this is what happens to Robby.  Aside from this vile act, the only other extreme included in Trouble in the Heights is the movie’s coarse language.  The language is obviously not suitable for younger viewers.  But it helps to make the characters and story that much more believable.

The general lack of violence, the solid acting of Rayniel Rufino, and writing throughout Trouble in the Heights help to make the movie stand on its own feet against the endless flow of fare more violence and sex laden movies within the crime drama/thriller genre.  There is at least one more factor that viewers should take into account in considering the movie’s success.  The movie’s cast in general has plenty of acting chops under its belt.  But none of the cast members are major name stars.  Case in point: Dominic Colon.  Colon plays Diego’s friend, Junior, which is a small role.  Colon is known largely for his role of Manny Spamboni on PBS’ re-imagined take on the classic educational show, The Electric Company.  He has also had roles in the hit movies, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, August Rush, and We Own The Night just to name a few.  Keeping in mind that the cast is largely unknowns, they have collectively put on performances that play their own role in the overall success of the story.  This, along with the story’s other previously mentioned factors makes Trouble in the Heights a surprisingly interesting movie within the annals of recently released crime dramas/thrillers.  It turns out to be a movie that is deserving of at least one watch.  It is available in stores and online now.  It can be purchased online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BF7FGOM/ref=s9_csaiv_gw_p318_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1AEJPXX8M7XCJ271FKKV&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1389517282&pf_rd_i=507846.  A trailer for the movie can be viewed via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flqzhEXyNdI.

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Bailey’s Latest Adventure One Fun Roundup For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Entertainment One/Engine 15 Media Group

Courtesy: Entertainment One/Engine 15 Media Group

The latest release from Engine 15 Media Group’s Adventures of Bailey series takes the beloved Golden Retriever down south to the Lone Star State in a mix of young love and literal puppy love and a madcap canine caper.  A Night in Cowtown centers on a bumbling criminal that accidentally steals an elderly woman’s dog named Felix after losing Frankie, his boss’s dog.  The theft happens as a result of a case of mistaken identity.  This leads to the intertwining stories of young love between Bailey and Trixie, and that of his teenage owner, Abbi (Christine Galyean) and Marc (Mason Dye).  The resultant hunt for Felix offers plenty of laughs and warm moments for the whole family.

The story behind this latest of Bailey’s adventures is a pretty simple one to follow.  And much like many of Engine 15 Media Group’s other releases, this story too offers some slight Christian undertones.  During one scene, audiences find Ski Bidwell (Mark Hanson) in a small church, holding Felix, and contemplating his personal future.  This is the only moment throughout the course of the movie’s near hour and a half run time in which any religious imagery is presented.  This is actually a very good thing for church groups as it keeps the story from being too preachy.  It offers the remainder of its time to plenty of moments that make it a fun, family friendly movie that is worth the occasional watch.

While A Night in Cowtown is not a major motion picture, it holds its own with Disney’s releases in its Buddies franchise.  Sure, the dog’s mouths don’t move with the Bailey movies.  But other than that, Bailey’s latest adventure has just as much heart as Disney’s Buddy movies.  Its production values, cinematography, and acting are at about the same level as the aforementioned series.  Rick Shew, Trey Bumpass, and Christine Galyean have all returned for this third installment of the series as are Kenzie Pallone and Liz Franke who just happens to be directly related to director Steve Franke.  That so much of the cast from the series’ second installment has returned for this film is largely to credit for the on screen performances.  The performances from the cast are but one part of what held this direct-to-DVD movie together.  Its cinematography was just as nice as the series’ previous installments.  David Pinkston headed up the movie’s cinematography.  He is the series third head of cinematography.  And while each movie has now had someone different heading up that department, the shooting for this movie was just as solid as that of the previous installments.  That leads to the movie’s production values.  These are just as positive as everything else that went into bringing this installment of Bailey’s adventures to life. 

Any viewer that is a fan of Disney’s Buddy movies or PBS’ classic series, Wishbone, will enjoy Adventures of Bailey: A Night in Cowtown.  It isn’t as well known as the previously mentioned movies and series.  But young viewers will enjoy this movie (and the previous adventures of Bailey) just as much as them.  Its cast does a good job in its own right.  The camera work, production, and scenery are just as good, too.  All said and done, for a straight-to-DVD feature, it’s an enjoyable feature.  It will be available in stores and online next Tuesday, May 21st.  It can be purchased online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Bailey-Night-Cowtown/dp/B009X66EP2/.  The Phil’s Picks Facebook page is also giving away three copies of the movie on DVD this week for three lucky fans.  Fans need only “Like” the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and write on the page’s timeline, noting that they want to be entered in the drawing for a copy of the movie. 

To keep up with the latest news from Entertainment One on its latest releases, fans can go online to http://entertainmentone.com/home.  And to keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, fans can go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always get the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

PBS Kids Debuting New Episode Of Curious George

Courtesy:  PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS Kids

PBS Kids debuts a brand new episode of Curious George next Monday, February, 4th.  The new episode includes two brand new shorts that teach some very valuable lessons about different kinds of safety.  The first of the two new shorts in Monday’s new episode teaches about pet care and pet safety in “Where’s The Firedog?”  The second of the new shorts couldn’t come at a better time as we enter the homestretch of Winter and the annual flu season.  “Toot Toot Tootsie Goodbye” re-introduces the blues-singing germ, Toots.  It teaches young viewers about health safety and ways to keep from spreading germs and especially germs that can cause colds and the flu.

The first half of Monday’s new episodes introduces two brand new friends to George.  He meets Blaze the firehouse dog and his fellow probationary, Sam.  One of Sam’s tests to pass is to keep Blaze from running away, as that’s the biggest problem that Blaze has; he likes to run off, causing Sam to have to chase him.  Eventually it leads Blaze to be caught by the dogcatcher and sent to the local animal shelter.  This is where kids and parents can learn a valuable lesson together.  Sam and George pick up Blaze and in order to keep him from being caught again, they take him to the local pet shop to get a leash and his very own collar and dog tag.  The tag has Blaze’s name, Sam’s name and all the information to the firehouse including phone number.  This is a very important lesson to teach young viewers; especially young viewers who might be first time pet owners.  An equally valuable lesson taught is that some dogs do better with others.  In the end, it turns out that it was Blaze wanting to connect with another dog that was leading him to run out.  So instead of one dog, the firehouse welcomed two dogs.  And thanks to that, not only did Blaze stay at the firehouse, but Sam also become a full fledged firefighter.

In short, the first half of this episode teaches younger viewers the importance of being a responsible pet owner.  Pet owners have to keep track of their pets to keep their pets safe and keep them from being taken to a shelter.  The weather across the country will be turning warmer in the next couple of months.  So what better time than before the weather gets warm to teach potential new pet owners about being responsible and keeping their pets safe and keeping track of them?

The second half of Monday’s new episode is equally well timed, as the nation is coming down the home stretch of Winter and its associated flu season.  When the man in the yellow hate comes down with the flu, George tries to help him get better.  When George nearly eats from the same spoon that the man had just used, George learns about how germs spread and how to keep them from spreading.  Along the way, there’s a dream sequence that leads George to chase down an old foe named Toots.  Toots is a germ whose only goal is to make everyone sick.  George has to stop Toots from infecting everybody around the man.  Kids learn two very important ways to prevent the spread of germs in this short.  One is obvious.  The other one is more subtle.  The more obvious way in which George learns to keep germs from spreading is through washing his hands.  The other way is more subtle.  As the doctor comes to visit the man in the yellow hat, he sneezes.  Rather than sneezing into his hands, the man sneezes into his sleeve.  This is the more commonly used manner to keep germs from spreading if one doesn’t have a tissue immediately at hand.  As subtle as it is, this is in itself just as important for young viewers to learn, so that they can help prevent the spread of germs both at home and at school.

The lessons taught in both halves of Monday’s new episode teach some very important lessons to viewers.  They’re lessons that offer excellent opportunities for both parents and teachers to use as discussion points with children.  Given they cover different topics.  But there is one theme that runs through both episodes.  That central theme is responsibility.  Responsible pet ownership keeps pets safe.  And responsible personal hygiene care keeps a person and everyone around said person safe and healthy.  It makes for one more wonderful reason for kids and their parents and even teachers to sit down and check out Monday’s new episode of Curious George.  Viewers should check their local listings for exact air times for Monday’s new episode.  And to keep up with all the latest from Curious George and other PBS Kids shows, parents and kids can “Like” the PBS Kids Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PBSKIDS.

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

New Clifford DVD A True Celebration For Every Fan

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/Scholastic/PBS Kids

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Scholastic/PBS Kids

Clifford the Big Red Dog is turning fifty years old.  Unbelievable!  Everyone’s favorite oversized furry friend is celebrating his birthday with a brand new DVD release next month.  Celebrate with Clifford is the first new Clifford release in two years.  It will be available in stores and online February 5th.  The new release is a special double disc release loaded with lots of fun, family friendly adventures from Clifford, his fellow canine friends, and his owner, Emily Elizabeth.  The two discs in this new release boast fifteen episodes from the hit series.  The set’s first disc, Celebrate with Clifford has seven of the show’s episodes included in the set.  All of the aforementioned episodes included in the first disc are full of family friendly fun and important life lessons that ring true for audiences of all ages.

Audiences learn a number of important lessons throughout the first seven episodes included in the set.  In the episode, “Clifford on Parade”, Emily Elizabeth (Grey DeLisle—The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy) and Charley (Gary Leroi Grey—The Cosby Show) both learn about working together and about compromise when they have to decide on an idea for the float that they’ll enter in the town’s annual parade.  Thanks to Clifford, they end up with one interesting float that even incorporates Clifford himself.  In another episode, “Team Sprit”, young viewers are introduced to the lesson of good sportsmanship and being kind to others.  The story here centers on young Vaz.  Vaz is friends with Emily Elizabeth and the other kids.  But he’s not the best soccer player.  And Jetta doesn’t help as she openly tells Vaz he’s not that great of a soccer player.  Of course she learns her lesson in the episode’s end.  Audiences can find out how she learns her lesson when they check out this new DVD set for themselves.

All seven episodes included in the set’s main disc offer plenty of enjoyment and lessons for viewers.  Luckily for viewers, they’re not all that viewers get in this new set. The eight bonus episodes included in the bonus disc also offer their own enjoyment.  Just in time for Valentine’s Day, there’s even a Valentine’s Day themed episode in “Clifford’s Big Heart.”  In this episode, Clifford is trying to make a Valentine for Emily Elizabeth, but things don’t exactly go as planned.  That is until he finally realizes the best idea for a special Valentine just for her.  His special gift will warm the hearts of both kids and their parents.  Still not enough?  How about the birthday and party themed episodes included in the set?  “Clifford’s Big Surprise”  sees Clifford getting his very own birthday surprise from Emily Elizabeth, her parents and his canine friends.  At first it seems like everybody is avoiding Clifford.  It leaves Clifford bored since there’s no one to play with.  Luckily he finds a way to play by himself.  Ironically, it’s right about then that Emily Elizabeth comes looking for Clifford so she and the others can surprise him with his birthday party.  It’s just one of a handful of birthday themed episodes included in the set’s bonus second disc.  The complete double disc set will be available February 5th in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Lionsgate online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=28180&TitleParentId=8311.

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New PBS DVD “Wild” Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Chris and Martin Kratt, the famed Kratt brothers, are back with another new DVD.  The fourth new DVD from the hit series features two more half hour episodes from the siblings’ hit PBS Kids show, Wild Kratts.  This time out the Kratts head into the deep blue sea where they learn to speak the language of the dolphins in the first of the episodes.  And then Chris and Martin have to help save a blowfish from the evil Donita Donata.  The episodes themselves are fun for the whole family.  That they’re shown in their entirety along with the companion live action segments makes for even more enjoyment for the entire family.  And of course the hand drawn animation adds one more touch of enjoyment to this latest pair of “wild” adventures from the Kratt brothers.

The first of the pair of adventures included in the new Wild Kratts DVD takes Martin and Chris undersea where they meet up with a group of dolphins.  Long-time fans of Wild Kratts will appreciate right off the bat the continued excellence of the show’s animators.  In an age when even so much of children’s programming has gone the route of cg-based “animation”, it’s nice to see that real animated cartoons still exist.  The original hand drawn style has always given this show a big part of its identity.  And it continues to do so here.  This applies not only to the general style of art, but also to the use of bright colors.  This is subtle.  But its use helps to maintain the show’s positive vibe for younger audiences.  The animation of both this episode and its companion piece is just a tiny fraction of what makes this another outstanding DVD for the family.  As subtle as it is, the show’s writers did something that adds its own share of enjoyment to the first of the episodes presented here.  That subtle act was tied directly tied in to the brothers’ quest to learn the language of the dolphins.

In the first of the DVD’s two episode, the show’s writers pair the Kratts with a group of dolphins so as to learn the dolphins’ language.  It would have been so easy to go the standard route and suddenly have the dolphins speaking human.  But thankfully, the writers didn’t take that route.  Instead, they went a more realistic direction and had Martin and Chris have to figure out by mere chance what every sound meant that the dolphins were using.  This semi-realistic take makes this episode enjoyable by itself.  Just as interesting is the subtle addition of Aviva switching back and forth between English and Spanish.  It might not have been the immediate intent, but what the writers have done in incorporating this is noting the importance of learning a second language.  Ergo, those behind the scenes of this episode are to be applauded for such subtlety. 

The subtle inclusion noted and the animation make “Speaking Dolphinese” an enjoyable episode all its own.  The enjoyment doesn’t end with this episode though.  Audiences will also appreciate the DVD’s second episode, “Blowfish Blowout.”  Sure, there’s a bit of fantasy in Chris and Martin taking a little trip on an ocean current.  That can easily be forgiven.  Just as with the previous episode, the bright colors and original hand drawn animation continue to make for their own elements of enjoyment.  What really makes episodes such as this one so enjoyable for all audiences is its balance of teaching an important message and entertaining audiences at the same time.  It teaches ecological conservation without being preachy.  This balance of infotainment is something that other shows have gotten wrong, but that Wild Kratts continues to get right even here.  Adding to that balance is a villain in Donita Donata who is more entertaining than she is evil.  Versus villains from the likes of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, she and the villains in Wild Kratts are interestingly enough just as entertaining as Chris and Martin.  Audiences know they’re villains.  But she [Donita] and the show’s other villains somewhat harkens back to the days of cartoon villains from television’s early days.  They come across as bumbling clowns of sorts.  In simple terms, they’re more entertaining than threatening.  That minor element is actually pretty big in that it makes the show that much more family friendly.  And mixed with all of its other positive elements, they all join together to make for one more DVD that the whole family will enjoy it.  One can only hope that with future Wild Kratts DVD releases, audiences will get more than just two episodes.  That aside, it’s still a fun feature for the whole family.  And it will be available Tuesday, January 22nd.  It can be ordered online via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org.

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Curious George Premieres New Season Dec. 3rd

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids/PBS Kids Go!

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids/PBS Kids Go!

PBS and PBS Kids are bringing back Curious George for a seventh season.  Everybody’s favorite little primate pal comes back with a whole new season of adventures, fun and learning beginning this Monday, December 3rd.  The first new episode of the season sees Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat taking a trip down under.  It will guest star Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late Steve Irwin.  The young Irwin even gets her chance to spread her vocal wings as she gets her own song in this episode.  When the pair goes down under to the Aussie Outback, they meet Bindi and her mom.  George discovers kangaroos for the first time and even learns how to make a home-made watering hole while the Man with the Yellow Hat goes off with Bindi and her mom to take pictures of sea cows.

In the second half of Monday’s season premiere, George and his friends Bill and Allie learn about the Persied meteor shower.  “Bright Lights, Little Monkey” starts off with Allie telling George and Bill about “The Perseids.”  She tells them they’re nocturnal creatures and tells them she’s going to go hunt for them.  In the process of searching for the elusive “Perseids”, the trio also learns about communication through Morse code and other non-verbal means.  In the end, it turns out that the three had seen the Perseids after all.  That’s all on Monday, December 3rd.

On Tuesday, December 4th, George and the Man with the Yellow Hat go on a nature outing that leads George to make friends with a young otter pup.  He also has to get a very important key back from the young otter when the two get to playing too much.  The key is so important because it’s the last of a group of keys that had all fallen down drains.  What’s funny about those keys is where they turn up in the episode’s end.

The second half of Tuesday’s new episode sees George taking part in his very first ever community theater event.  It’s a medieval play.  As George helps out with the play, he falls asleep and dreams the he really is in medieval times and that he has to fend off a “dragon.”  This gives George an idea about how to keep the “dragon” away in the play that he is helping with.  The idea in question is something that kids and their parents will have to discover together for themselves as “Sir George and the Dragon” airs this Tuesday, December 4th on PBS Kids.

Last up in next week’s trio of new episodes is a pair of new episodes slated to air Wednesday, December 5th.  George’s canine companion, Hundley makes friends with a caterpillar in the first half of this episode in “Hundley, Jr.”  The caterpillar is on a bouquet of flowers that is delivered for one of the tenants in Hundley’s building.  At first, Hundley doesn’t like the caterpillar.  But then realizing how similar the two were in his mind, the more he likes the caterpillar.  So he does everything he has to in order to protect the now named “Hundley, Jr.”  IN the long run, it teaches a valuable lesson about letting go and about responsibility in general.  It makes for a great episode for parents and kids to watch together.

Next week’s brand new episodes finish off with the second half of Wednesday’s brand new show in “Curious George Gets Winded.”  This is a clever name for this episode as it’s an episode that teaches about problem solving skills.  When George’s friend Bill sets out to win a special paper delivery award, George helps Bill figure out the best way to deliver the newspaper in the snow.  It involves a sled and a sail, along with learning how to steer the sled.  Both kids and their parents will cheer on George and Bill as they figure out how to beat the clock as they deliver the paper to everyone.  It’s a nice finish for the week’s new episodes and a perfect fit being that the weather is beginning to turn colder.  Together with the week’s other episodes, all three days’ new episodes are a great chance for kids and parents to sit down together and enjoy another of PBS Kids’ best shows.  Parents can check their local listing for air times in their area online at http://pbskids.org/curiousgeorge/tv_schedule/

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Clifford celebrates a “big” birthday

Courtesy: PBS/Scholastic Media/Scholastic, Inc.

Clifford the Big Red Dog is celebrating a “big” birthday.  Beginning September 24th, Scholastic Media and Scholastic, Inc. will kick off a birthday celebration that will span the entire 2012-2013 school year.  The party will celebrate Clifford’s 50th birthday.  It all leads up to a huge party on February 14th, 2013, the official birthday of Clifford The Big Red Dog. 

The entire year long event will kick off with a “Biggest Birthday Party Ever”/Live Classroom Webcast on September 24th.  The webcast will be run at 10am that morning live from Scholastic Inc.’s New York headquarters.  it will be broadcast to classrooms across the country.  The webcast will include lots of interactive events for kids in attendance and for those watching from school.

The celebration will also include the publication of Norman Bridwell’s Clifford Collection.  The collection will compile Bridwell’s six original Clifford stories published from 1963 -1977.  the collection will include some very special bonuses for those who pick it up.  There will also be a publication of a brand new Clifford book, “Clifford’s Bedtime Story” next Spring, along with the publication of “CLifford’s Birthday Party.” 

Publication won’t be the only celebratory avenue for Clifford’s coming year.  There will be a release of brand new apps, a brand new sweepstakes, and the brodcast of of Clifford’s Really Big Movie in December.  To find out more about this year’s upcoming “big” Clifford events, go online to http://www.scholastic.com/clifford, http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/clifford, http://www.facebook.com/officialclifford, and http://PBSKIDS.org/clifford.

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NCircle, PBSKids come “To The Rescue” for parents this summer

Courtesy: NCircle Entertainment/PBSKids

Every year, we see the ads on television about kids losing months of learning during Summer vacation and putting them into this or that learning center for whatever exorbitant amount of money.  In a time when parents and families in general are trying to save money any way they can, those centers are less and less of a logical choice.  Not that they are that logical to begin with.  So what are parents to do if they want to educate their children during the Summer?  Thanks to NCircle Entertainment and PBSKids, a brand new dvd featuring four new WordWorld episodes will hit stores August 21st.

WordWorld:  To The Rescue features four more fun filled episodes for young audiences from the hit PBSKids show.  WordWorld is a wonderful learning tool for preschoolers and Kindergartners.  It literally shows how letters come together to form words, and what those words are.  It’s especially great for those young audiences who are visual learners.  One of the best examples of the show’s genius included in this collection is the opening episode, “Firefighters to the Rescue.”  In “Firefighters to the Rescue”, Duck and Fly are helping Frog build a firetruck.  When Frog tells Duck and Fly what firefighters are and what they do, Duck and Fly ask Frog if they can be firefighters.  Frog tells them that they need to be trained first.  Of course, they don’t go through the rigorous training that real firefighters go through.  But Frog does teach them about spotting smoke.  The problem is that after Frog tells them about spotting smoke, they think that they see smoke everywhere.

At first, Duck and Fly spot steam coming from a train, and mistake it for smoke.  So they run to Frog and tell him they’ve spotted smoke.  The trio get to the train and Frog has to explain that what they’ve seen is steam, not smoke.  And then they spot fog around the lighthouse, and mistake it for smoke.  Again, they go to Frog and tell him about it.  Frog has to correct the pair on this, too.  But then finally, Duck and Fly earn their badges when they really do spot smoke coming from a campfire.  Pig has accidentally set his marshmallows on fire.  The flames are sending up smoke.  So the trio goes to put out the fire.  Once everything’s good, they re-light the campfire safely, and Duck and Fly get their firefighters badges.

On the surface, “Firefighters to the Rescue” is a wonderful way to teach children new words.  On another level, though, parents and/or can use this episode for perhaps Kindergartners to lead in to a discussion of firefighters and fire safety.  It’s a great introduction for fire safety week at a school or simply to teach kids at home about fire safety and what to look for.  So kudos to NCircle and PBSKIds for that.

Another of the really great episodes from this collection also stars Duck.  That episode is “The Best Nest.”  Duck wants to take his nest to school for show & tell in this episode.  But when he tries to pull his nest to school, the letters for the nest come apart because it’s too heavy.  So Duck has to hunt down the letters that make his nest.  He gets the “N” off of his head.  He has to swim after Turtle because the “E” is on Turtle’s shell.  And the “S” is in a branch right above him when he gets back on land.  Last, he catches the “T” just as it’s beginning to head out to sea, only to lose it again on a train car.  When the train stops, Duck falls out.  But luckily, he has the “T” with him.  So he goes in and puts the word together to re-form his nest and show it to his classmates.

The episodes included in this collection are just one part of what makes it a great collection.  When parents put the disc into the dvd drive of their computer, they can link to the PBSKids website.  There’s also a fold out poster that parents and kids can hang together in a bedroom.  Overall, this is a wonderful collection for young audiences.  It’s a great watch for kids whether during the Summer or any other time of the year.

Parents and/or teachers who might be interested in purchasing this dvd can pick it up in stores August 21st, or order it online at http://shop.pbskids.org/?utm_source=PBS.ORG&utm_medium=Main_Nav_Shop_Tab&utm_campaign=Shop_PBS_KIDS_Shop

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PBS Kids Celebrates Tobey’s Robot Summer Week June 11th – 15th

PBS Kids is celabrating a special week of Word Girl episodes next week.  From June 11th – 15th, PBS Kids is celebrating “Tobey’s Robot Summer Week.”  All week, the network will feature a different Word Girl episode starring the evil boy genius Tobey, and his robots.  Kicking the whole week off Monday will be the classic episode, “By Jove, You’ve Wrecked My Robot.”  It’s joined by the companion episode, “Road Rage, Anger and Fury.”  And of course, what Word Girl episode is complete without episodes of May I Have a Word?

In the first of the week’s Tobey themed episodes, Becky’s mom sets up a playdate with Tobey, while she’s relaxing with Bob.  When Tobey comes in, he tells Becky that he’s made a new game of skill and savvy.  It’s called, “By Jove, You’ve Wrecked My Robot.”  It’s a funny little takeoff of the classic board game, Battleship.  After being confronted by Becky about the game, Tobey admits that his game is asavvy ruse to try and destroy the city.  Tobeyrealizes that Becky is Wordgirl during their dialogue.  In the process, Beckyrealizes that Tobey nearly tricked her into admitting his suspicions.  As the pair are going back and forth, Becky’s mom comes in.  When Becky tries to catch Tobey and get her mom to see Tobey’s robots, it turns out that he’s hidden them.  So becky’s mom doesn’t see them…at first.  Becky tells Tobey that hiding them was asavvy move.  When Becky’s mom comes back in, she catches Tobey just in time.  And as in every Tobey-centric episode, Tobey is hauled away by the ear by his mother.

In the companion episode to the week’s first classic Tobey episode, Wordgirl has to face off against Lady Redundant Woman in “Road Rage, Anger and Fury.”  The episode starts off at the Botsford househld.  Tim Botsford is practicing to be a crossing guard.  Meanwhile, Becky has made a mechanical double of herself so that she can slip away and change into Wordgirl easier.  The double comes in handy when the Botsfords decide to go see Pretty Princess on ice.  On the way there, though, they get stuck in a traffic jam.  It just so happens that Lady Redundant Woman is stuck in the traffic jam, too.  When Lady Redundant Woman gets fed up with the traffic jam, she makes copies of herself to clear out the traffic.  Mr. Botsford tries to get around Lady Redundant woman’s car, but it’s anobstacle.  Lady Redundant Woman’s copies becomeobstacles, too.  Becky gets Bob to activate her mechanical double so that she can slip out and take on Lady Redundant Woman.  When the two meet face to face, Lady Redundant Woman proceeds torantabout the traffic always making her late.  And then she goes on to any number of tangents as sherants.  Just when things sem bleakest for Wordgirl, she yells out asking about any crossing guards.  Her dad hears it and comes to the rescue.  He takes on his crossing guard duties, leading Lady Redundant Woman to be arrested.

Both of the episodes in Monday’s edition of Wordgirl are great episodes.  But no Wordgirl episode is complete without everyone’s favorite vocab building gameshow, May I Have a Word?  In the first half of the show, the contestants have to find the best example of the wordsmudge.  Phil wins that round.  As a result, he has to define the word.  He gets the definition right.  As a result, he wins a giant cutout of the show’s host, Bo Handsome. 

The whole thing wraps up with Captain Huggyface showing the definition of the wordattentive.

Monday’s episode of Word Girl is just one of an entire week’s worth of special Tobey themed episodes of Wordgirl.  So parents and kids who have PBS Kids can stay tuned for lots more all week.  And to get a full schedule and more information on Wordgirl, parents and kids can log on to http://www.pbskids.org.

To keep up with all the latest entertainment reviews and news, parents and kids can follow the Phil’s Picks blog at http://www.philspicks.wordpress.com and “Like” the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PhilsPicks or its companion page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.