Beetlejuice Compilation Is Loads Of Spooky Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Warner Home Video

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Warner Home Video

Everybody’s favorite “ghost with the most” is back once again.  That’s right! Beetlejuice is back again thanks to Shout! Factory and Warner Brothers Home Video.  This time, fans of the modern classic cartoon have gotten a special treat as Halloween gets closer, with the new compilation DVD, Beetlejuice: A Halloween Spooktacular.  This compilation is another great trip back in time for those that grew up watching this cartoon and for their own kids.  Its writing and animation were unlike anything else on TV in the show’s original broadcast.  And the same applies today.  That writing and animation help make it a good fit for any family Halloween party this year.  And for those that are true fans, it’s a good bridge for fans that are waiting to see if Shout! Factory and WHV will release any of the show’s other seasons, the first season and the complete series already having been released this year.  Suffice it to say that whether one is a kid or a kid at heart, Beetlejuice: A Halloween Spooktacular is great fun whether for that upcoming Halloween party or just to watch.

Beetlejuice: A Halloween Spooktacular is a great trip down memory lane for those audiences that grew up with the modern classic cartoon series, Beetlejuice.  It pulls eight episodes from the show’s original four-season run for a frightful yet fun time for both the kids that grew up with the series and today’s kids.  Audiences will love watching Beetlejuice go toe-to-toe with a Boris Karloff style character named Boris to Death in “Ghost to Ghost.”  Beetlejuice isn’t the only one that gets the spotlight in this collection of episodes.  BJ’s neighbor Jacques wants to become Mr. Neitherworld in “Raging Skull.”  But he doesn’t stand a chance without the help of Beetlejuice.  Any parent will appreciate the pop culture references both in the episode’s title and within the episode itself.  If this isn’t convincing enough, then maybe the inclusion of one of the series’ best episodes, “Laugh of the Party” will help convince fans to check out this compilation.  Lydia holds her own Halloween party in this episode as competition to her hated nemesis, Claire Brewster.  Being a Halloween party, Beetlejuice is actually able to come as himself.  There’s just one problem.  He brings some “party animals” to *ahem* liven up the party (ba-dump-bump-bump).These are just a few examples of what makes Beetlejuice: A Halloween Spooktacular so enjoyable for the show’s original audiences and their own kids.  There are five more episodes included loaded with family friendly jokes and more that remain unlike anything else on TV today for kids.

The scripts crafted for Beetlejuice made the show unlike anything else on TV in the series’ original run.  They continue to make the show unlike anything on television today for young viewers.  It’s even unlike the movie on which the series is based.  This is really a good thing.  It serves as a tribute to the series’ longevity.  It isn’t nearly as dark and creepy as its live action horror/comedy brother.  It’s been toned down to make it kid friendly.  And there is nothing wrong with this at all.  Just as the writing made this series more kid friendly, so did the animation.  To be more specific, the use of colors helped make it more kid friendly.  As subtle as it is, both the Neitherworld scenes and those scenes in Lydia’s home were animated using relatively bright colors.  This was a subtle element.  But it was an extremely important element at the same time.  It made the Neitherworld less scary to young viewers and more like just some funny fantasy world.  In the case of Lydia’s home, it helped to offset Lydia’s Goth personality and made her more relatable to viewers.

Keeping in account everything noted, Beetlejuice: A Halloween Spooktacular is a fun time both for today’s young viewers and for those that grew up with the series in its original run on TV.  It’s especially valuable for the show’s fans because the release of the entire series box set earlier this year was done strictly through Amazon as opposed to the release of the show’s first season.  So until or unless Shout! Factory and WHV release the series’ remaining three seasons, fans have in this compilation at least a taste of the entire series to enjoy.  It’s available now in stores and online.  Fans can order the single-disc compilation now online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/node/218183.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online now at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Beetlejuice Season One Reminds Viewers Why Beetlejuice is The Ghost With The Most

 

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

When it debuted in 1989, the Tim Burton helmed horror comedy Beetlejuice was one of the scariest, funniest, and most original movies of its time.  It wasn’t long after the movie debuted that Burton headed up an animated, kid friendly take on the movie that has turned out to be another of the best children’s cartoons of its time.  Even in only four seasons, this unlikely hit produced so many laughs both for kids and their parents who had likely seen the movie.  It has remained such a fan favorite because of its storylines and its entirely original animation style.  It also is so impressive thanks to voice actor Stephen Ouimette.  His portrayal of the “Ghost with the Most” successfully brought Michael Keaton’s character to the small screen.  His portrayal of Beetlejuice, along with the show’s writing and animation makes this another example of everything that was once right with children’s entertainment in the late 80s and 90s.  This is evident from early on in the series’ first season, which is available now on DVD.

Audiences that grew up with Beetlejuice: The Animated Series will remember this show fondly for a number of reasons.  One of the most notable of those reasons is the show’s writing.  Those that remember the movie on which this show was based remember how everything unfolded.  So they will recall that the animated series is quite different.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And keeping in mind the proposed plot for a long in the works sequel to the original movie, that Lydia and Beetlejuice would be friends in the series actually makes more sense in hindsight.  Having Lydia and Beetlejuice being friends is just one of the positives to the writing behind Beetlejuice: The Animated Series.  The physical comedy and the nonsensical plots add to each episode’s comic element.  For instance, having Beetlejuice taking on a babysitting service just to earn the money to buy Lydia a gift is completely against everything that Beetlejuice stands for.  So it goes without saying that this is a solid first episode to the series.  And the jokes that Beetlejuice pulls on Lydia’s dad, Charles, and her rival, Claire Brewster make for more than enough physical comedy for viewers of any age.  Suffice it to say that the show’s writers offered plenty more for viewers to enjoy whether for the first time or the first time again.  But to discuss all of it would take far too long.  So it would be best to go on to another factor behind the success of Season One.

From the show’s writing, the next sensible point of Beetlejuice: The Animated Series to discuss is its animation. Beetlejuice: The Animated Series had its own identifying mark thanks to its animation.  As a matter of fact, the way that the show’s artists combined actual hand drawn animation with computer based animation was something that no other cartoon at the time was doing at the time.  And it wouldn’t be done again for many years to come.  It can be argued that its animation style was quite the influence behind other cartoons crafted during the late 1990s and early 200s.  A prime example of that influence is Cartoon Network’s short-lived series, Courage the Cowardly Dog.  It’s just one of a handful of cartoons that have followed suit.  And it’s very possible that without the work of the animators behind Beetlejuice: The Animated Series, these later series might not have happened.  Or at least, they might not have been brought to life when they did.

The animation and writing behind Beetlejuice: The Animated Series did so much to make this show stand out from all of the other cartoons from which kids had to choose in its original airing.  And it still does to this day.  There’s one other factor that makes it so enjoyable, even in its debut season.  That last remaining factor is the voice talent of one Stephen Ouimette.  Ouimette was the man that brought Beetlejuice to life on the small screen.  And he did quite the job of it, too.  He expertly translated the character portrayed by Michael Keaton (Batman, Batman Returns, Mr. Mom) onto the small screen, making him just as entertaining as Keaton.  From the personality, right down to the voice itself, Ouimette was showed time and again that he did his research with this character.  There was no better choice for the role, since Keaton was unable to (or simply didn’t want to) voice the “ghost with the most.”  He might have only gotten to give voice to Beetlejuice for four seasons.  But in those four seasons, he helped make Beetlejuice one of the most entertaining and ironically kid friendly characters on television.  And along with the writing and the animation, the whole show proved to be one of the best on television at the time.  It proves even today, to be one of the best even on DVD.  It is available in stores and online and can be ordered direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217313.

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Tiny Toons’ Final Set A Lackluster End To A Classic Cartoon Series

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 4: Looney Links! Is allegedly the final installment of director Steven Spielberg’s hit Fox Kids cartoon franchise.  If this is indeed the final installment of the series, then it certainly is not the best way to end things.  While most of this set is presented in its entirety, there is one glaring problem with the set.  That issue comes in the episode, “Weekday Afternoon Live.” The episode in question actually splices the final minutes of the “Toon TV” in place of the final segment that aired in “Weekday Afternoon Live” in its original broadcast.  This is not like Warner Home Video to let such an error occur in its home releases.  This critic’s copy of Volume Four is not the only one that has done this either.  According to others who have purchased the set, they too have had the same thing happen to them.  That one major blunder aside, the remainder of the set will still bring enjoyment to long-time fans of this modern classic cartoon.

This new (and allegedly final) installment of Tiny Toon Adventures offers more than its share of laughs, poking fun at pop culture once again and even some former presidents.  This time around, Buster, Babs, and company take another stab at Batman (and director Tim Burton).  They also go after one of the biggest censorship groups of the time, the Parents Music Resource Council (PMRC).  Only instead of dealing with music, Buster and Babs have to face off certain parties that want to censor cartoons.  Long-time fans will recognize the episode “Toon TV.”  That’s because it’s quite similar to a previous episode from Season One titled, “Tiny Toons Music Television.”  It’s basically more music video spoofs.  This time, the Tiny Toons gang goes even further back in time, covering hits from The Coasters, The Contours, and Shirley Ellis and Lincoln Chase.  They even cover Tchaikovsky’s famed ‘Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies’ in this episode.  Of course, this is just a sample of what audiences can expect from this final collection of episodes.  Buster and Babs pay tribute once more to the golden days of animation by trying to save a group of “two-Tone” toons from an evil executive.  There is much more to enjoy from this final portion of the show’s final season.  But as noted already, the episodes contained in this final series of episodes aren’t entirely that original, thus making it less enjoyable than the series’ first two seasons.

For the seemingly decreased sense of originality in these final episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures and the problematic error created in ‘Weekday Afternoon Live’, there is at least one equally noticeable positive to this set.  That positive is an episode the directly addresses the problem of bullying.  To be more specific, it presents the situation in which Shirley The Loon is bullied by her classmates at her ballet class.  Upon telling Babs about the harassment from her swan classmates, Babs vows to get even with them, which she indeed does.  Of course getting even isn’t what people who have been bullied should do.  This is by no means the message.  But it does in its own way, go after bullies.  At the same time, it re-tells the story of The Ugly Duckling.  So in essence, it’s actually a doubly enjoyable episode for this.

The one major sequencing problem evident with Tiny Toon Adventures Volume 4: Looney Links! is something that will continue to plague this set unless the people at Warner Home Video make the effort to alleviate this issue.  Luckily, it does have its positives as noted already.  Looking at this set from the perspective of its packaging, the people charged with assembling this set at least got that right.  As with so many multi-disc sets being released now, WHV has released this final installment in a standard single disc case with an insert.  The insert included allows for the set’s first disc to be placed in its own spot, thus protecting the disc from scratching and, in turn, preserving the disc (along with the second disc) to be preserved much longer.  So it is for that reason, and for the laughs offered throughout this collection, that it is worthy of at least some praise.  But the massive error of having the wrong episode spliced into the end of another and the rehashed previous episodes will make any long-time fan of Tiny Toon Adventures take notice that this set is not perfect.  It is far from it by chance because of these issues.  Despite that, it is still a good addition to the collection of any Tiny Toons Adventures fan.  With any luck, Warner Brothers and Warner Home Video will take notice of all the complaints from fans, and re-issue this set as it should be presented.

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Tin Man Just As Good As Before In Its Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment/Syfy

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment/Syfy

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is preparing to launch the latest release in the legendary Oz franchise onto BD/DVD combo pack on June 11th.  Just in time for the home video release of this latest installment of L. Frank Baum’s, Mill Creek Entertainment has also re-issued Syfy’s Tin Man on Blu-ray and DVD.  This re-imagining of the 1939 fantasy classic was originally released to double-disc Blu-ray and DVD on July 20th, 2010.  This latest Blu-ray re-issue has taken that double-disc presentation and compressed it down to a single disc.  What’s interesting is that while the original double-disc presentation has been reduced to just one disc, little—if anything—has been lost in translation.

For those who perhaps have never seen it, Tin Man takes the classic 1939 big screen adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s classic fantasy story and turns it completely on its ear.  Though, in doing so, it actually manages somehow to maintain more than a fleeting connection to the 1939 original.  If anything, fans of the original will be thrilled to know that it actually maintains the connections quite well in its re-imagining.  The Scarecrow has become a character known as Glitch.  Imagine if you will an updated half-human take on the Scarecrow that looks like a cross between Tim Burton and Martin Short.  What’s more, while he has a brain, he does in fact have a little bit of a glitch in his brain, thus the name.  That glitch makes for a fun running gag throughout the story.  The Tin Man is no longer tin, but human.  Even the Tin Man name itself has been relegated to little more than a derogatory term used for the Wicked Witch’s (In this case, the Sorceress’) enforcers.  It’s explained in more depth within the context of the mini-series.  And don’t expect to see someone dressed up in a lion costume like Bert Lahr.  Even Toto has been somewhat re-imagined.  There’s even more that’s been changed, including the Yellow Brick Road, the Emerald City and so much more.  But viewers will have to check out this eye opening mini-series for themselves to see how much has been re-imagined.  This includes the very story, including the origin story of Dorothy/D.G (Zooey Deschanel).  It is one more element of the whole that is somehow actually believable enough to make the whole story believable and thus fully worth more than just one watch.

While so many elements of Baum’s classic tale have been re-imagined in Tin Man, it’s not such a bad thing.  As a matter of fact, being that this story debuted in 2007, one can’t help but wonder if it played at least a slightly influential role in the creation of Oz The Great and Powerful.  That’s because in comparing the two stories, there are at least some fleeting similarities between the pair in terms of origin stories.  This is about the extent of the similarities.  For that matter, with the mini-series’ success in its original run on Syfy (then Sci-Fi Channel), one can’t help but wonder if it was the success of Tin Man that led to the rise of fantasy based shows on NBC (Grimm), ABC (Once Upon a Time), and Fox (Sleepy Hollow).  It could be argued that it did in fact have an influence on their rise especially since little else was on TV or in theaters before these shows started becoming such hits.

Understanding and appreciating the influence (perceived or real) of Tin Man on other more recent movies and TV shows plays an important role in the enjoyment of this mini-series.  The story will keep viewers engaged throughout all three segments of the program.  It’s not all that will keep viewers engaged throughout the program.  Its special effects will, too.  Unlike so many of the really bad below-B grade movies that Syfy generally churns out, the special effects used throughout this mini-series are actually far less over the top than the aforementioned flicks.  It’s obvious that there is some CG work that was done with the special effects.  But it isn’t as sickly obvious as it is movies such as say, Sharktopus or other equally bad flicks.  In fact, the special effects used in Tin Man are just enough to serve as just enough extra spice to make this story that much more worth watching for anyone that is a fan of The Wizard of Oz.       

All of the work that went into making Tin Man resulted in a feature that stands out among the masses of movies, series, and mini-series churned out by Syfy.  And in the annals of works that have adapted and re-adapted L. Frank Baum’s classic fantasy tale, it stands out just as much.  Having taken into account the work that went into bringing this re-imagining to life, there is one more factor to be examined.  That factor is the packaging of the newly re-issued Blu-ray and DVD.  Viewers will be pleased to discover that with this latest re-issue of Tin Man, each segment of the mini-series is separated out into three separate segments.  This will allow audiences to watch each segment by itself or back to back without stopping.  Just as impressive concerning the overall presentation of the new re-issue is the packaging.  Those that purchase the Blu-ray will be happy to discover that instead of the standard envelope packaging used in most Mill Creek releases, the BD is actually placed in its own spot inside the case.  Mill Creek does this sometimes with its releases.  But it more commonly uses single disc envelopes for packaging.  So it’s nice to see this form of packaging once more from Mill Creek.  And it is that packaging in conjunction with everything else that went into the Tin Man mini-series that makes it a presentation that any fantasy and science fiction fan will appreciate.  It is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.

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Dark Shadows Fan Favorites collection boasts nine great episodes at a great price

Twilight.  The Vampire Diaries.  Supernatural.  Buffy The Vampire Hunter.  Ask any viewer is they know these franchises.  Odds are that the majority of those asked would know at least one of these franchises, if not more.  But ask them about a little gothic daytime drama by the name of Dark Shadows, and the number of people who know of it would likely be far less.  Next month though, that number may start to rise, as Tim Burton and Johnny Depp reteam once again for a big screen adaptation of the classic vampire drama.  Wait.  There was a vampire drama before all those others?  That’s right.  And in celebration, MPI home video is offering quite the treat for fans of this classic tv show.

MPI Home Video has released a pair of collections of classic Dark Shadows episodes, alongside a full series set with the full five year run in a special coffin shaped box.  Being that the full box set boasts a hefty six hundred dollar price tag, we’ll focus more on the new single disc sets, as they’re more affordable at roughly ten bucks a pop.  With any luck, next month’s resurrection of this classic series to the silver screen will also mean its re-birth on television, too.  It used to run on Syfy at one point many years ago.  Before that, it originally ran on ABC on weekday afternoons.  And it had more than its share of gripping episodes.  Nine of those episodes are included in the first of the two sets on which we’ll focus, “Dark Shadows:  The Greatest Episodes Collection.  Fan Favorites.”

The “Fan Favorites” collection includes episodes from 1967, 1969 and 1970.  One of the best fo this collection is Episode 212, which opens the set.  Episode 212 is one of the black and white episoeds from early in the show’s run.  In this episode, Barnabus returns to Collinwood for the first time and meets Elizabeth and a then young David.  At first Elizabeth and David are welcoming to Barnabus, despite the fact that he still looks the same as his picture that hangs in the house.  He does a good job keeping the pair from knowing it’s really him.  But eventually Elizabeth becomes very suspicious of Barnabus, and wishes she hadn’t let him in.  Meanwhile, as he looks around, Barnabas states that he was home and that he’d make Collinwood his again.  It’s a great start to the collection.

Episode 212 is just one of the great episodes in the “Fan Favorites” collection.  In what is considered one of the odder episodes, Episode 1065 sees Barnabas and Julia travel to 1995.  That in itself is what makes this episode such a standout.  It’s not the first tv show to wonder what the 1990′s and beyond would look like.  So seeing how the show’s heads decided to take that story was interesting.  In this episode, Barnabas and Julia discover that Collinwood in 1995 was in ruins and that both Carolyn and Quentin had gone insane.  Doctor Stokes is apprehensive at first about admitting this to them.  But he finally breaks down and tells them.  Though he adds he doesn’t know what drove the pair crazy. While he tries to get in to Carolyn’s mind for answers as to what happened, Barnabas and Julia encounter Quentin, and try to get answers from him.  Neither side results in answers in this episode.

The “Fan Favorites” compilation also includes another important favorite in Episode 370.  This episode aired November 24th, 1970.  This time out, audiences what really happens when the spurned Angelique unleashes her fury on Barnabas and Josette.  Angelique uses a voodoo doll of sorts and wraps a cloth around its neck, strangling it.  This causes Barnabas to be strangled.  He’s checked out by a  doctor who determines that Barnabas is fine, and can’t figure out why he’s choking.  Ultimately, when Barnabas is about to die from the strangulation, Angelique realizes the error of her ways.  So she runs to the doll and unwraps it just in time.  But she still vows to find a way to get revenge without killing him.  What makes this episode important is that Angelique is the one that turned Barnabas to a vampire.  She also plays a role in the new upcoming big screen adaptation of this classic show.

According to most of the material that’s out there, the big screen adaptation of Dark Shadows essentially takes a bunch of the show’s various episodes and mixes them together.  Bits and pieces of these are seemingly included in the overall plot for the new movie remake.  However the reviews turn out for the new movie, this “Fan Favorites” compilation is a great re-introduction for fans who haven’t gotten to see Dark Shadows in ages, and an equally impresive first impression for those audiences who’ve never seen it.