Disney Earns Its Own Wings With Cars Spinoff

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

 

 

 

 

 

Disney’s Planes is not as terrible as many critics (this critic admittedly included) had previously considered it to be.  However, it is also not one of the year’s best.  One has to take into account the comments made by co-writers Klay Hall and John Lasseter in the movie’s bonus material to fully appreciate what Planes actually offers audiences.  Their comments play directly into the movie’s overall plot.  The resultant effect is that Planes’ story comes across more as its own story and less of a rip-off of Pixar’s Cars.  The end result is a movie with just enough heart to make it worth at least one watch.

Walt Disney Studios was lambasted by audiences and critics alike (this critic included) when the studio announced that it would be releasing a spinoff of Pixar’s hugely successful Cars franchise.  The very fact that Disney would simply title the new spinoff Planes was to thank for that reaming of the studio. The instant reaction was to say that this movie was just Cars in the air.  While it largely is that, the movie is also worthy of at least some defense.  In its defense, the bonus features included in the movie’s new home release help it to earn at least a slight respect.  Pixar head and Planes co-writer John Lasssetter discusses the movie in a sit-down interview.  He explains in his interview that there had been a proposal to spin off Cars with a movie about trains.  Yes, a movie about trains.  All they would have needed were Steve Martin and someone to take the place of the late John Candy.  Anyone that gets this reference should stand up and take a bow right now.  Getting back on the subject, Lasseter explains wisely that a movie centered on planes instead of trains made more sense.  He explains in his own wording that a movie on planes obviously gave more story options, which makes sense.  That sentiment alone makes the movie more bearable.

Lasseter’s Planes co-writer Klay Hall is also interviewed in the movie’s bonus features.  He explains in his bonus interview that the idea for a story centered on planes was largely thanks to his own late father being a Navy pilot.  The result was a lifelong love for all things aerial.  He explains in depth how his love for all things aerial led to the precise details used throughout the movie, too.  He explains that he wanted to make the movie as factual as possible.  And he did just that.  Anyone that has ever watched the likes of the Red Bull Air Race World Series will appreciate the shots down the long axis of the planes during the qualifying sessions for the big round-the-world air race.  They will also appreciate the technical jargon tossed about throughout the movie’s run time, which barely tops the ninety-minute mark.

The interviews with both Lasseter and Hall earn Planes a new respect that without which, it might not have earned.  Also worthy of note is the plot behind this continuation of Pixar’s Cars franchise.  The writing team of Lassetter, Hall, and Jeffery M. Howard have crafted in Planes, a standard underdog story complete with underlying romance subplot.  This is not the first time that such a story has been done, just as Pixar’s Monsters University was hardly the first college based comedy ever crafted.  In Planes’ defense though, it didn’t directly rip off either of the Cars movies.  It actually does have its own story.  To that extent, it develops even more its own identity.  Add in the fact that comedian Dane Cook has proven that he can actually handle more mature—anyone that has seen Cook’s standup act understand how immature and boring he comes across as being—material, and Planes actually proves that it has not only its own identity, but also has heart.  All of this being noted, Planes proves to be a movie that while hardly one of Disney’s best or even one of 2013’s best, is worth at least one watch with the family.

Planes is available now on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  It can be ordered online direct from the Disney online store at http://www.disneystore.com/planes-3d-blu-ray-2-disc-combo-pack/mp/1346514/1000316/?cmp=OTL-Dcom&att=Dcom_FS_Planes3DBluRay_Home_BuyMovie and http://www.disneystore.com/planes-dvd-digital-copy/mp/1346520/1000316/.  More information on this and other releases from Walt Disney Studios is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios and http://www.waltdisneystudios.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.

Identity Thief A Mere Shadow Of Hughes’ Classic Road Trip Comedy

Courtesy:  Universal Studios

Courtesy: Universal Studios

Universal Studios’ latest attempt at a buddy comedy comes up far short of the John Hughes classic which it tries to emulate. This road trip buddy comedy is a mere shadow of Hughes’ 1987 classic, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Where Hughes did everything right with his movie, writer and director Steve Conrad and Seth Gordon have combined to make a movie in Identity Thief that struggles at best to come across as an update of what is a much better story. Thank goodness for veteran actor Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, Extract, etc.). If not for his acting chops, this movie might have completely sunk. He manages throughout the story to pick up the slack left by co-star Melissa McCarthy whose character is annoying in herself, while she as an actress falls flat in her attempt to be funny. It would be interesting to find out if other actresses had been considered for the role or even another actor before the higher ups decided on her. Even the inclusion of guest stars Robert Patrick (T2, The Unit) and rapper T.I. didn’t do a lot to help the movie.

Identity Thief has more than its share of problems. But for all of its negatives, it would be unfair to ignore the few funny and at least semi-heartfelt moments that are peppered throughout the story (as few as they are). The story does offer at least a tiny amount of heart in that McCarthy’s Diana does reach a point where she begins to realize how she is and begins to change ever so slowly. Audiences see hints of Diana’s change when she decides not to take Sandy’s (Bateman) car one night at a hotel. Eventually her own growth leads Sandy to his own point of self-discovery and realization. That realization leads to his own personal growth. The personal growth of both Sandy and Diana does help move the story. And thankfully there are some equally enjoyable moments of physical comedy that help move the story along. Sadly though, those moments aren’t enough to make up for the mass of slower moments that bog down this near two hour movie. Those slower moments leave a movie that clocks in at just under two hours feel more like a near two and a half hour movie. Needless to say that considering this, it’s the final nail in the coffin for this failed attempt at an update of a classic. It’s one more movie that proves there’s nothing better than the original.

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New Carol Burnett Show Re-Issue A Great Piece of TV Nostalgia

Courtesy: Time Life/Star Vista

Television today is largely anything but family friendly.  As Peter and Lois Griffin joke in the opening to Seth McFarlane’s hit cartoon, Family Guy, “all you see is violence in movies and sex on TV.”  While that line is meant entirely in a tongue-in-cheek manner, there’s a certain modicum of truth to it in today’s television culture.  Thank goodness for companies such as Time Life.  Time Life officially released yesterday what is one of the greatest sketch comedy/variety programs of all time and one of the greatest family friendly programs in television history in The Carol Burnett Show.

Time Life released “The Carol Burnett Show:  Carol’s Favorites” yesterday.  The six-disc compilation contains seventeen episodes considered among the “best” of the show’s roughly eleven year run on CBS.  The episodes compiled for this new set leave no doubt that Burnett’s show was one of the influences behind NBC’s Saturday Night Live.  The sketches from this show clearly hint at the bits that would come from the latter.  The Carol Burnett Show even spawned a little show called “Mama’s Family” that would last a total of six seasons on television.  Saturday Night Live, on the other hand, has tried multiple times to spin off its sketches to both the big and small screen with little success.  That goes to show the importance and staying power of The Carol Burnett Show to this day.  It’s even been spoofed by a number of television shows that have come since.  And after all, it is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

“The Carol Burnett Show:  Carol’s Favorites” is a wonderful collection for those who are unable to pick up the complete twenty-two disc collection.  That collection was released yesterday alongside this compilation.  It contains every episode from the show’s run.  Among some of the best episodes included in the six-disc “Carol’s Favorites” are the ones that include the hilarious skit, “The Family.”  That skit was the precursor to Vicki Lawrence’s hit TV sitcom, “Mama’s Family.”  Fans of “Mama’s Family” will be happy to know that on this set is the very first episode of “The Family.”  Guest star Roddy McDowall even gets his own role in the skit.  McDowall is just one of a bevy of guest stars to make appearances on the show.  Also appearing on the show in this compilation are the likes of:  Joan Rivers, Johnny Cash, The Jackson 5, Steve Martin, Betty White, Vincent Price and loads more.

From the original skits to the guest stars, The Carol Burnett Show offered so much great entertainment for the entire family.  That’s not all that makes this set such a great addition to the library of any classic television fan.  The set’s packaging is another bonus.  While the box may seem slightly bulky, the packaging for the discs themselves is very impressive.  Three inserts hold all six discs inside the box.  Each disc has its own spot on the inserts, thus protecting them and increasing their longevity.  This may come across as something minor.  But the longer the discs last, the more families will get to enjoy this TV classic.

The packaging goes a long way to making “The Carol Burnett Show:  Carol’s Favorites” a joy for families and fans alike.  But one would be remiss to ignore the most obvious factor of this set that makes it such a joy.  That factor would be the footage itself.  There are those who would speak badly of the footage quality.  But as with so many shows from that era, watching it from its original airing recordings is like listening to an original classic jazz song on vinyl.  The static on those old original vinyls creates a certain sense of nostalgia.  In the same vein, seeing this show as it originally aired will bring back that sense of nostalgia, too.  Trying to enhance it would only decrease that sense of nostalgia.  So kudos to Time life for keeping it how it was. 

There are shows that deserve to be resurrected on DVD and blu-ray.  And then there are those that are better left dead.  The Carol Burnett Show is one of those shows that belong in the prior category.  Despite what some critics may have to say, this newest reintroduction of this classic show is quite welcome.  Now a whole new generation can experience what is an example of television with real heart.  “The Carol Burnett Show:  Carol’s Favorites” is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Time Life’s website, http://timelife.com.

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New Steve Martin Box Set Is One Wild And Crazy Retrospective

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory has proven time and again throughout 2012 why it is one of the leaders in home entertainment.  With releases of so many classic Nicktoons and even the entire original G.I. Joe series alongside the release of the horror classic, They Live, and so many great music releases, one can only wonder what Shout! Factory will do next to top itself.  What to do?  What to do?  How about a triple disc DVD box set profiling the early career of entertainment legend Steve Martin?  Bingo!

“Steve Martin:  The TV Stuff” is the latest release from Shout! Factory’s stable of top notch releases.  Anyone who is a fan of this veteran comedian/actor/musician/author (heck, just call him a jack of all trades), will find this to be an invaluable addition to their own home library.  The triple-disc set follows Martin’s career from 1978 – 2005.  While audiences won’t find much in the way of his work on Saturday Night Live, they will love seeing his 1978 stand-up act taken from HBO archives.  This nearly hour-long performance is funny.  There’s no arguing that.  But audiences should also know that it isn’t meant for younger audiences due to language and other content.  That aside, it’s still a great piece of nostalgia for any comedy fan or fan of Martin himself.  Some of the best moments in this performance include his banjo playing and his magic (yes, magic) act.  On a similar note, audiences will really enjoy the commentary included on each disc. 

The commentary included on this first disc of the set includes some history from Martin himself.  He explains how he eventually came to work in front of the camera versus behind it.  He explains that he originally wanted to be a magician when he was growing up.  That would account for the addition of the little magic act in his original 1978 stand up set.  He also adds some interesting other tidbits such as how he started his early television career writing for very famous television shows including:  The Smothers Brothers, Sonny & Cher, and The Cher Show.  There’s even mention of where is now famed bit with the fake arrow through the head came from.  Each disc contains its own commentary from Martin.  This is just a tiny sample of what audiences can expect.  And as this reviewer has pointed out so many times before, factors such as this are more proof of the importance of bonus features on DVD’s and blu-rays.  This is one of those cases where the bonus commentary adds so much more to the entire viewing experience.  So kudos once more to Shout! Factory for this inclusion.

His 1978 HBO stand-up act and the commentary are just a couple elements that make this box set enjoyable for any Steve Martin fan.  Also included in the set are his NBC television specials.  Those specials include many of the skits from throughout the years that he’s done.  Fans will love the likes of “Turtle Boy.”  And hearing country legend Johnny cash discussing astrophysics with Steve in his Steve Martin Variety Show skit is hilarious.  There are even appearances by Martin’s SNL cast mates in one of his later TV specials. 

“Steve Martin:  The TV Stuff” may only be comprised of three discs.  But in those three discs, Shout! Factory has managed to compile so much footage from Martin’s career.  Whether it be the skits, the interviews, the standup material, or even the bonus commentary by Martin, this triple-disc set is a wonderful retrospective on his career on the small screen.  The new set will be available in stores and online tomorrow.  It can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s website at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com.

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