When Santa Fell To Earth Is A Holiday Tale Unlike Almost Every Other

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new Christmas-themed movie When Santa Fell To Earth is one of the best holiday-themed movies to come along in a very long time. The movie, which is based on author Cornelia Funke’s 1994 book by the same name, is actually surprisingly entertaining. This is the even with the movie being just another adaptation of a book. The main reason for the movie’s success is that despite being adapted from a book, its story actually stands out quite a bit from all of the other cookie cutter Christmas-themed movies. It follows the formula used by so many major studios lightly at best. Another reason for the movie’s success is its minimal use of special effects. And while it was originally done in German or another European language, the work of those responsible for dubbing the film made that dubbing nearly invisible. It may seem like a minor factor. But in the grand scheme of things, dubbing foreign films whether foreign to English or vice versa is very important. Good dubbing results in a movie such as this. Bad dubbing can make a movie into a third rate product not worth even finishing let alone watching. Luckily for this movie, that poor dubbing didn’t work. The end result is a movie that along with its somewhat original script and its minimal use of special effects proves to be as enjoyable as any other holiday-themed movie released each year.

The central reason for the success of When Santa Fell To Earth is its writing. More specifically, the script is to thank for its success. Given, it is based on a two-decades old book. But that book in question is not one that most would consider well-known. What’s more, while there are some alterations in the transfer from the printed page to small screen, they aren’t nearly as much as some adaptations of other more well-known literary works. The story itself also stands out from other holiday movies out there. Most Christmas-themed movies see an average person saving Christmas by filling in for Santa or getting others to realize the “true meaning of Christmas” through a series of events. Those are the most common plot lines in most Christmas-themed movies. This movie takes a road not just less taken but a road no one else saw, period. According to this story, there are actually multiple Santas. But they’ve all been frozen by an evil figure that wants to rule Christmas and turn it into a fully corporate holiday. Enter Nikklas Julebukk (pronounced YULE-uh-buck). Nikklas is the last Santa standing between the evil Gerald Geronimus Goblynch. It’s up to Nikklas to stop Gerald and his henchman, and save Christmas. Nikklas crashes to Earth in his flight from Gerald and his henchman, leading to his meeting Ben and Charlotte, who help him to stop Gerald. There are no big red sleighs. The only reindeer in the movie is one that audiences definitely won’t recognize. Its name is Twinklestar. And instead of the North Pole, Nikklas is trying to keep the story’s villain from taking over Yuleland. Some names and places have been changed in the transition from the printed page to the small screen. But by and large, the story has been kept the same. That and the fact that this story is unlike nearly any other out there within the Christmas-themed genre is more than enough reason to see this movie at least once.

The overall originality of this movie’s script even in its transition from the printed page to the small screen is the most important factor in the movie’s success. Another reason that audiences will enjoy this movie is its minimalist use of special effects. The only special effects come courtesy of some CG work to create a pair of “Christmas elves” and a pair of tiny angels who serve as Nikklas’ companions. The elves are entirely CG. The angels (yes, they actually incorporate angels alongside Santa—a very young Santa at that) are live actors. But their wings and flying effects were obviously created via CG and green screen. Even Gerald’s evil giant nutcracker “soldiers” looked like they had been crafted by hand. Other than that, everything else within this movie looks to be live action. Again, one can’t help but make a comparison to other holiday movies out there today. Set against most American holiday movies its balance of live action elements and special effects gives it a rare feel that audiences of all ages will appreciate. It’s one more way in which When Santa Fell To Earth stands out among the already overcrowded market of Christmas-themed movies currently on the market. And together with the its largely original adaptation from its literary companion, this foreign import becomes even more enjoyable.

The balance of live action elements and CG-based special effects in When Santa Fell To Earth and the largely original story adapted from the book of the same name are both important to the overall success of this straight-to-DVD feature. Rounding out the entire presentation is the movie’s dubbing. It would seem that the movie’s original presentation was German simply by observing the movie’s credits and its setting. That would make sense considering that the author of the book on which this movie is based is herself German.   Those charged with dubbing the movie into English are to be commended for taking such painstaking efforts to present a clean product. There are movies dubbed into English that don’t exactly translate very well. The end result is something that looks like the old school kung-fu flicks and Godzilla movies imported from Japan and China. That’s not a good thing. Luckily in this case that poor translation didn’t happen. Audiences almost can’t tell that what they are hearing is in fact American voices speaking over European actors. There are points here and there where audiences will be able to catch the dubbing. But it’s nowhere near as obvious as in those noted old school Asian imports. The end result is a movie well worth watching at least once this holiday season when taken into consideration along with the movie’s story and its balance of live action and CG elements.

The story presented in When Santa Fell To Earth is one of the most original holiday stories presented to audiences in a long time. Given, it is based on a book that was originally published two decades ago. But in comparison to all of the other holiday movies out there it still stands out. And for the most part, it actually stays largely true to its literary link. Only a few minor items were changed in the story’s small screen adaptation. The minimalist use of special effects makes the story even more worth the watch. In an age when even holiday movies seem to rely increasingly on special effects and CG elements, this movie’s balance of live action to special effects makes it all the more worth the watch. Rounding out the presentation is the dubbing process. It’s assumed that the movie, in its original 2011 release, was presented in German. Those charged with dubbing the movie into English for its release this year carried out their duties expertly. The end result of these factors together is a movie that every family should see at least once this holiday season. It will be available on DVD Tuesday, October 14th. It can be ordered direct online now via Anchor Bay Entertainment’s website at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/detail.aspx?projectID=bd0b8d9a-21f7-e311-a502-d4ae527c3b65. More information on this and other titles from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay

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.

eOne’s Latest Geronimo Stilton DVD Is More Mousy Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Geronimo Stilton is back again.  Everyone’s favorite rodent reporter is back in a brand new DVD courtesy of eOne.  Geronimo Stilton: Going Down To Chinatown And Other Adventures is available now on DVD in stores and online.  There is just as much to enjoy about this new DVD as eOne’s previous Geronimo Stilton compilations.  The first factor worth noting is of course the writing that went into each of the four episodes included on this disc.  Also worth noting is the series’ animation.  The original style animation to which audiences have become accustomed on previous Geronimo Stilton DVDs is present here, too.  And rounding out the whole thing is the return of the series’ voice cast once more.  All three of these factors, when taken into consideration both by themselves and collectively, show why any family will want to watch Geronimo Stilton: Going Down To Chinatown And Other Adventures.

The central reason for the overall enjoyment of Geronimo Stilton’s latest DVD compilation is the writing that went into each of the episodes included on the disc.  Stilton is essentially Scholastic’s answer to Indiana Jones.  While he’s a mild mannered reporter by day, he is also quite the adventure seeker.  In the disc’s title episode, audiences see Geronimo and his friends go on an adventure that leads to quite the unexpected end after finding a mysterious old letter and map.  What makes this episode really enjoyable is that it actually incorporates a light history lesson along the way.  That lesson is taught so covertly that young audiences wouldn’t even know.  The series’ writers are to be commended for balancing that educational content so well with the show’s more entertaining side.  The surprising end result will leave a smile on any viewer’s face as it in itself teaches quite the valuable life lesson.  And it’s just one of the wonderful lessons shared throughout these episodes that make them such a joy.  It’s just one lesson taught in this collection of episodes.  The overlying lesson that runs through each episode is that it’s perfectly fine to have a love of knowledge.  That is key to the enjoyment of these episodes more so than any other lesson.  Being that this lessons isn’t shoved down audiences throats, the end result is even more enjoyment of each of the compilation’s episodes.

The writing used in each of this set’s episodes is of the utmost importance in considering what makes the collection work.  As important as the writing is to the overall presentation, it isn’t the only factor to be taken into consideration in the presentation’s overall enjoyment and success.  One would be remiss to omit any mention of the original animation style used in this collection of episodes.  The animation style used throughout the Geronimo Stilton animated series looks to have been actually hand drawn.  While it is possible that there might have been some computer usage, it isn’t clearly evident.  If anything, the animation used in this series is similar to that of the short-lived DC series Krypto The Superdog.  Whether or not there was some computer usage, the fact remains that in an age of cookie cutter CG-based children’s shows, animation such as this stands head and shoulders above the rest.  And together with the continued solid writing, that animation makes this box set stand out among this year’s current crop in its own right.

The animation and writing that went into each of the episodes in this set both play their own role in making Geronimo Stilton: Going Down To Chinatown And Other Adventures enjoyable for audiences of all ages.  Having examined both factors, there is still one factor left to examine that makes this DVD worth the watch.  That final factor is the voice cast.  Included among the talents that worked on the series were the likes of: Brian Drummond, Erin Matthews, Sarah Edmonson, Richard Ian Cox and many other. The significance of the series’ voice cast is that many of them have also worked together on the likes of the hit anime series Inuyasha and Dragonball Z among other TV shows and movies. So, that familiarity with one another helped in its own way here as it helped to create a certain chemistry among much of the cast. The end result of that chemistry is an easily suspended disbelief among audiences. The ability of the show’s cast to make suspension of disbelief easy for audiences couples with the series’ animation and writing to make even clearer why any family not yet familiar with Geronimo Stilton will want to check out this DVD.

Geronimo Stilton: Going Down To Chinatown And Other Adventures is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00K2OBWTM/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1WPBH8WP2DTRA82510SA&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846. More information on all of the latest Geronimo Stilton books and DVDs is available online at http://www.geronimostilton.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

PBS Kids Releases Release Date, Info For New WordGirl DVD

Courtesy:  PBS Kids/PBS/Scholastic

Courtesy: PBS Kids/PBS/Scholastic

PBS kids will release another new DVD featuring episodes of its family favorite series WordGirl this summer.

Wordgirl: Monkey Business will be released Tuesday June 10th. The upcoming DVD will feature four more shorts from the hit animated vocabulary-building series from Scholastic Media. The first of the DVD’s four new shorts sees WordGirl’s trust sidekick Captain Huggyface having to face Chuck The Evil Sandwich Making Guy on his own after having accidentally been left behind by WordGirl early in their day. Huggyface decides to do what he wants after being left behind (again), which leads to his face off with Chuck.

“The Meaty Dimension”, the second of the DVD’s shorts features The Butcher. In this episode, WordGirl and Captain Huggyface have to face off against The Butcher once again. What they don’t know is that The Butcher has a plan to trap them and take over the city after discovering a portal to the dimension where all of his meat is stored. It’s up to them to outsmart The Butcher and close the portal in hopes of stopping The Butcher once and for all.

WordGirl and Captain Huggyface have to stop The Whammer from ruining Mr. and Mrs. Botsford’s anniversary in “Whammer Anniversary”, the third of the shorts included in the new WordGirl DVD. Becky is left to babysit her brother TJ when their parents go out for their anniversary. But then Becky has to figure out how to keep her identity secret after The Whammer starts whamming at the same ice cream parlor where Becky’s parents are enjoying their anniversary. This is another “sweet treat” short for viewers.

In the last of the shorts included in the new WordGirl DVD, WordGirl has to once again face off against Chuck The Evil Sandwich Making Guy. This time, Chuck has added a new weapon to his growing arsenal. His weapon? Peanut butter! When he shoots it at his victims, a giant ball of peanut butter envelops them. And WordGirl becomes one of his victims. So she and Captain Huggyface have to figure out how to get her out of her *ahem* sticky situation and save the day once again.

WordGirl: Monkey Business will be available Tuesday, June 10th on DVD. It can be pre-ordered now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Wordgirl-Monkey-Business-Tom-Kenny/dp/B00IVLRBHU/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1400375319&sr=1-1&keywords=wordgirl+monkey+business. More information on WordGirl is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WordGirl, http://www.pbskidsgo.org/wordgirl, and http://www.scholastic.com/wordgirl. Parents and kids can also go to http://www.pbskids.org/wordgirl to check out more episodes of WordGirl and to play WordGirl games. 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.

Geronimo Stilton Sniffs Out More Family Fun In New DVD

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express and Other Adventures, the latest home release from the short-lived Canadian TV series, is another fun collection of episodes for the whole family. The new DVD contains four more episodes from the series’ twenty-six total episodes. Whether or not one is familiar with the Geronimo Stilton literary series or the TV series spawned from the books, viewers will all agree that there is plenty to say of this new home release. The first aspect worth noting in this group of episodes is its writing. The TV series is an import. But it will translates well enough for audiences of any age to enjoy it. The next factor to be taken into consideration in this compilation’s success is its animation style. One part hand-drawn and seemingly one part flash/CG, it still manages to maintain its own identity among the masses of full-on CG series that pollute the television spectrum today. Last but definitely not least worth noting is the show’s voice cast. Most viewers likely don’t know the cast’s names. But they will definitely recognize the cast’s voices. That who’s who of voice actors, the animation, and the writing all come together to make this DVD another from Entertainment One that is worth at least one watch regardless of how familiar one is with the series or the books on which it is based.

The first aspect of the new compilation from Geronimo Stilton that viewers will appreciate is its writing. The series is an import from Canada. Few may realize it, but there is a difference in the writing (and overall structure) of Canadian-based series and American television series in general. The case with this series is different, though. American audiences will enjoy the episodes on this disc just as much as their Canadian counterparts. It translates so well primarily because of all the action and comic relief tied into each of the four episodes. Geronimo’s globe hopping adventures echo hints of both Indiana Jones and James Bond in one. And parents will appreciate the pop culture references tied into each script.  Those pop culture references include spoofs of Agatha Christie and so many classic kung-fu flicks of the 1960s just to name a couple.  The Agatha Christie spoof comes in the DVD’s opening episode, “Intrigue on the Rodent Express.  It’s a reference to the famed story, Murder on the Orient Express.  The original story was written by Agatha Christie and is not only one of the most famous detective novels of all time, but was also adapted into an equally famous big screen feature.  The spoof of all the classic kung-fu flicks comes in “The Mask of the Rat-Jitsu.”  This one sees Geronimo getting caught up in a web of intrigue centered around a group of ninjas led by an evil mastermind bent on stealing a priceless mask.  Younger audiences won’t get the references.  But their parents (and potentially even grandparents) will appreciate the attempts by the show’s writers to reach them as well as their children and grandchildren.  It’s all a collective example of what makes the writing in this group of episodes central to the success of this DVD.

The writers that worked on all four episodes included in Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express and Other Adventures are to be commended for crafting stories that will entertain audiences of all ages.  The series’ animators are just as deserving of applause with these episodes.  They are deserving of applause in that they have largely crafted the cartoon through hand-drawn animation.  There were some potentially computer generated elements to each episode.  But by and large, it looks as if this cartoon was in fact crafted by hand.  There are still hand-drawn cartoons out there today.  But as many studios over utilize computers for their “animated” series, this series incorporating more hand-drawn animation than computer generated gives its episodes more of their own identity, which in turn makes them stand out even more among the masses.  The closest comparison that can be made in terms of the animation in these episodes is perhaps to DC’s short-lived series, Krypto The Superdog.  That it can only be loosely compared to one other series solidifies the originality of these episodes’ animation.  It’s one more reason that this new DVD is worth at least one watch.

The writing and animation that make up this latest compilation of episodes from the Geronimo Stilton animated series are both key to the overall enjoyment of this new DVD release.  There is one more factor that older audiences will appreciate in this latest collection of episodes from the Canadian import.  That factor is the series’ voice cast.  Most audiences might not know the names of the people that make up the series’ voice cast.  But they will recognize the various series on which the cast members work/have worked.  Patricia Drake is one example of this.  Most people don’t know her name.  She voiced the scheming Sally Rasmaussen (pronounced Ras-mousen) in Geronimo Stilton.  She has also worked on the cult favorite anime series Dragonball Z.  She also starred alongside Mandy Moore and Macauly Culkin in Saved as well as voicing characters in recent Barbie CG based features just to name a handful.  And fellow cast member Lee Tockar, who voiced a number of characters through each of the four episodes also has voiced characters in Johnny Test, Slugtera, and Max Steel and a number of others.  Having such experienced cast is important to the episodes on this DVD.  It is important in that it means the ability to properly interpret scripts and present the best possible performance.  That top notch performance means more enjoyment for audiences in the long run, which is exactly the case with these episodes.

Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express and Other Adventures is available now ins ores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FWQAOUS/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0N4SB5TCEE2XTG37PZRG&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846.  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.

Scholastic’s Latest Storybook Treasures Collection A Great Gift For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo

Scholastic’s new Christmas and Winter-themed collection of stories set to the small screen is another impressive set for the whole family.  Not only does it entertain audiences, but it also educates.  The collection is highlighted by a small screen adaptation of author Rob Scotton’s Merry Christmas, Splat.  This story is a fun piece that is actually much deeper than what some might see on the surface.  It’s just one reason that parents, students, and teachers will appreciate the set as a whole.  Viewers will discover in watching all four of the stories that each one has an important message for everybody.  That’s not the only reason that viewers will enjoy this latest set from Scholastic.  Viewers will also appreciate each story’s animation.  Each story boasts its own animation.  By direct connection, the set’s bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette reveals a little known secret about at least one story’s animation.  And what DVD compilation from Scholastic would be complete without the standard Read-Along option?  Yet again that option has been included for all young audiences.  Together with everything else previously noted, it plays just as important a role in the success of the set.

The lessons taught through this collection are nothing new to Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures collections.  That’s not to say that the lessons included her are old.  Rather, the inclusion of stories with valuable lessons is nothing new.  And that Scholastic has continued to include such content is a big reason that its Storybook Treasures collections have been so successful.  It’s a big reason for the success of this latest collection, too.  Viewers are taught through the set’s first story that one’s family will love them even if they haven’t been completely perfect.  In its own way, it also helps to dispel the time honored belief that Santa will only bring gifts if one has been good.  It’s a much better lesson to teach kids instead of telling them that they’ll only get gifs from Santa if they’re good.  That lesson is one that parents should not use on their children, especially in the country’s current economic state.

The lesson taught in Merry Christmas, Splat is just one of the valuable lessons taught in this set of stories.  There is also a lesson of appreciating the little things in life in two of the stories.  Those stories are: Owl Moon and Snowflake BentleyOwl Moon teaches young viewers to appreciate the little things in life as a young girl goes out into the forest with her father to see a Great Horned Owl.  The way in which the forest and the moon are both described shows how much reverence author Jaqueline Briggs Martin has for something as simple as the way that snow reflects the light of the moon.  It’s truly something beautiful to think about in seeing the illustrations of Mary Azarian.  Snowflake Bentley is made even more interesting in that it does more than just teach a life lesson.  It also teaches a history lesson.  It teaches a lesson about William Bentley, who first used microscopic photography to take pictures of snowflakes.  Bentley’s name is not one that is very well known among most circles.  But his is a life and career that is definitely worth learning about by viewers of every age.  It’s interesting to learn how Bentley became so famous among scientific and academic circles, yet never gained any real major fame or fortune from his work.

The lessons taught through the stories noted here are important parts of Scholastic’s latest Storybook Treasures collection.  Just as important to note is the artwork in each story.  The artwork used for each story gives each one its own identity.   Again, this is another tradition held by Scholastic with its Storybook Treasures collections.  It’s nice to see the original drawings from each story’s book used in each story, instead of computer generated graphics.  Given, a little bit of computer use is incorporated, as audiences will see in this set’s bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette.  But as audiences will also see, the amount of computer use is minimal at most.  And that is a very good thing.

The bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette included in this latest of Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures collection is the final piece of the puzzle for viewers.  Anyone that has any experience in the use of Adobe’s Creative Suite or that has any interest in graphics work will appreciate this bonus.  Audiences learn how the artwork of Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas was actually pulled directly from the book and used in the small screen adaptation.  It has already been noted how minimal the use of computers was in each story’s animation.  And this featurette proves that.  It shows how the art from the book was scanned into the computer, and actually brought to life thanks to the use of the Adobe Creative Suite.  It is definitely something that older audiences will appreciate.  And along with the stories themselves, it is a fitting final piece for the overall presentation that is Merry Christmas Splatand more winter stories.  It is available now and can be ordered online from New Kideo’s website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/merry-christmas-splat-and-more-winter-stories/.  More information on this and other releases from Scholastic is available online at http://www.newkideo.com, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo, http://www.scholastic.com, and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com 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.

The Scary Fun Keeps Coming In The Haunting Hour Volume Five

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/The Hub Network

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/The Hub Network

The fifth volume in author R.L. Stine’s spine tingling series, The Haunting Hour is another spine tingling compilation that is just as much scary fun for kids as it is for adults.  Right from the outset of each episode, parents will be smiling thanks to a small but important addition.  That addition is a disclaimer about just how scary each episode can potentially be depending on a viewer’s age.  From there, kids and parents will enjoy watching all four episodes included in this compilation (one of the episodes is split into two parts) because of how scary they are.  As an added bonus, parents will appreciate the episodes because of the lessons that are taught in such subtle fashion.  All said and done, The Haunting Hour Volume Five is one more wonderful and wonderfully scary addition to any young horror fan’s collection.

Ever since its inception years ago, the ratings system used for television shows has come under a lot of fire.  It has come under fire because of its inconsistencies and ambiguous nature.  So the inclusion of a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode is an important addition to the compilation.  The disclaimer spells out in no uncertain terms that some of the included episodes may be too scary for some younger viewers.  And rather than just using the standard “parents discretion is advised” line, the people behind the show took another road in telling parents and children that they should watch the show together.  Believe it or not, this is HUGE.  It’s saying without saying that parents need to be more involved with their children and be parents.  It’s saying that parents need to see what their kids are watching so that they can make a responsible decision on what they think their children should or shouldn’t watch.  All parties involved in making this happen are to be highly commended for this subtle yet at the same time blatant statement.

Having been told that they should watch the show with their children, parents and children will both appreciate the scares and chills offered in each episode.  Even parents will have to admit that even in Volume Five, there are some scary stories, starting with the two-part episode, “Scary Mary.”  This episode sees young Hanna (Eva Allen) and her friends learning the dangers of peer pressure.  It all starts when she and her friends decide to play what they think is a harmless paranormal based game called “Scary Mary.”  It just so happens that the game is just like a certain paranormal game that some people try to play in real life, which is just as dangerous and should not be attempted.  It also plays on a very real belief about the paranormal linked to mirrors and spirits.  Anyone with any understanding of the paranormal will appreciate that inclusion.    The set’s second episode, “Swarmin’ Norman” teaches another valuable lesson to young viewers.  It teaches the lesson that revenge is a dish best served cold.  On top of that it teaches about the dangers of getting power hungry.  It offers both through the story of a young boy named Norman (Bobby Coleman) who learns that he can control insects after being bullied one time too many.  He had great power.  But he didn’t use it responsibly.  The result was quite deadly to say the least.  These episodes are just a couple of examples of why parents will love to use The Haunting Hour Volume Five this Halloween for their children’s Halloween parties.  Of course, there is still another reason that this set is such a scary joy.  That reason is the guest spots.

The people behind The Haunting Hour have made a tradition of including young well-known guest stars to help drive the show’s popularity.  The episodes culled for Volume Five are no different.  This time out, Frankie Jonas (Jonas L.A.), Liam James (The Killing), Dakota Goyo (Real Steel), and Jean-Luc Bilodeau (Kyle XY) make appearances.  Goyo stars as a young boy named Josh on a flight sharing a seat with a ghost that only he can see.  The problem is that the ghost in question is trying to get away from the Grim Reaper, who is also on board the flight.  Liam James and Frankie Jonas share the screen in the set’s closing episode, “Pumpkinhead.”  And Jean-Luc Biloddeau guests in the set’s opening episode.  This continued inclusion of younger stars will definitely help to bring in younger viewers.  And together with the aforementioned factors, the total presentation that is The Haunting Hour Volume Five turns out to be another welcome addition to any young horror lover’s home collection.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/node/217796.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Hub Network is available online at http:/www.shoutfactory.com, http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial, and http://www.hubworld.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Halloween Stories Collection Vol. 2 Scares Up Lots Of Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Scholastic’s latest installment in its hugely popular Storybook Treasures series “scares” up lots of fun for the whole family just in time for Halloween.  This set boasts so many positives that there simply isn’t time to go into depth concerning each one.  The very first thing that audiences will appreciate in this latest box set is a collection of not only stories but songs, too.  The collective stories and songs will appeal to audiences of all ages.  Not every story or song is appropriate for all viewers.  So parents should use their discretion in deciding which stories and songs their children can watch.  Parents will appreciate that Scholastic has included songs and stories for viewers of all ages in this set.  And by connection, parents will also appreciate that Scholastic has also included once again, the standard read-along feature that can be toggled on or off depending on their young readers’ ages.  This and the inclusion of the stories of songs together make this set another success from Scholastic.

Scholastic has made a tradition of including some wonderful, family friendly stories in each of its previous Storybook Treasures Collections.  The stories culled for its previous releases have run the gamut from classic fairytales to more socially relevant stories to everything in between.  This latest collection is a little different from those sets, though.  And that’s not a bad thing, either.  This collection includes not only some fun and scary stories, but a collection of songs, too.  The interesting thing about the stories collected for this set is that they don’t really fit into the set’s overall Halloween theme.  Again, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It makes for a nice change of pace in the grand scheme of things for viewers.  Most audiences will recognize the classic ‘Hush Little Baby.’  Perhaps less familiar are the songs, ‘The Erie Canal’ and ‘The Fox Went Out on A Chilly Night.’  So for some, hearing them here might be the first time for just as many audiences.  Audiences of all ages will especially enjoy the Dixieland feel of the prior of the two.  The latter of the two might not be entirely suitable for all audiences.  That’s both because of the song’s lyrics and its imagery.  It involves the fox hunting and killing some geese.  Some younger viewers might actually be unsettled by such imagery.  So parents should use their discretion in terms of this piece.

The songs included in The Halloween Stories Collection: Volume 2 are a nice addition to this set, even though one of them might not be suitable for all viewers.  In that same vein, Scholastic has offered viewers of all ages a grouping of stories that will appeal to viewers of different ages.  This is major boon to this set as parents can pick and choose which stories they want their young readers to take in regardless of age.  One of the best of the stories is the set’s anchor, “The Day of the Dead.”  This short story is fitting for audiences of any age.  It is so important in that it presents Halloween from a perspective with which many young viewers might not be so familiar.  It presents Halloween from the perspective of the Hispanic culture.  Young viewers will learn in this story that unlike in American culture, Hispanics use October 31st to November 2nd to honor the loved ones who have moved on in the previous year.  They honor their loved ones by baking good food and lighting candles that will attract home the spirits of their loved ones.  Viewers will learn that this is done not just in Mexico but in many Latin American and Central American countries.  It serves as an excellent starting point for a discussion with young audiences over what is known as cultural relativity.  Whether in the living room or the classroom, young viewers need to learn that not everybody does things the way that they do things.  So what better way than to use a holiday to explain this concept?

Where “Day of the Dead” is a great story for any younger viewer, the much scarier “Teeny-Tiny and the Witch-Woman” is more fitting for older audiences.  The story, which is somewhat similar to the Brothers Grimm’s story of “Hansel and Gretel”, follows three young boys that go off into the forest and encounter an evil witch despite the youngest of the three having tried to keep his brothers from going in the first place.  The boys had been told about the legend of the witch-woman.  The combination of the narration and the illustrations in this story make it an especially scary story.  Scare factor aside, it does have a happy ending.  Parents should still use their discretion with this story.  It is up to parents to decide if their children are old enough to take in such a scary story.

Scholastic’s The Halloween Stories Collection: Volume 2 offers plenty of fun and scares for the entire family.  Each of the set’s three discs offers stories and songs for young viewers of every age.  And because parents will enjoy them all too, they can sit down with their kids and decide which of the stories are fitting for their young viewers.  Something else that parents and young viewers will appreciate in this set is that Scholastic has once again included the read-along feature that has become standard on each of its Storybook Treasures collections.  This feature can be toggled on or off depending on a child’s reading ability.  It is a wonderful tool to help children develop their reading ability.  It makes this latest set one more invaluable learning tool for any young viewer.  It is available now and can be ordered direct via the New Kideo website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-halloween-stories-collection-volume-2/.  More information on this and other Scholastic releases is available via the New Kideo website and Facebook page, http://www.newkideo.com and http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo.  More information is also available on the Scholastic Facebook page and website, http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic and http://www.scholastic.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.