Zee Avi To Release First Ever Family Album This Spring

Courtesy:  Little Monsters Records

Courtesy: Little Monsters Records

Malaysian-American singer/musician Zee Avi will release her latest album this Spring.

Night Light, which is a collection of covers of family favorite songs, will be released Tuesday, April 15th. It is the first ever family for the artist who has also released albums via Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records. The album includes covers of Louis Armstrong’s ‘Dream a Little Dream’, Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’, Joni Mitchell’s ‘The Circle Game’, and even ‘Colors of the Wind’ from Disney’s Pocahontas among many others. It was produced by Little Monster Records head Kevin Salem at his company’s studios in Woodstock, New York and conjures thoughts of Avi’s earliest releases. Salem noted of the overall fell of Night Light, “There’s a lot of soul and great musical nourishment here.”

Zee, who is a Malaysian native, has recognized her as one of the Top 10 Malaysians. She won the International Youth Award in her home country in 2011. These honors have led to numerous speaking engagements around the world and performances at some of the world’s biggest festivals. Those festivals include: Borneo’s Rain Forest World Music Festival, Australia’s Byron Bay Festival, San Francisco’s Noise Pop Fesitval, Austin’s SXSW Festival, New York’s Mountain Jam Festival, Lilith Fair, Bonnaroo, and San Diego’s Street Scene. She was also just recently tapped to perform at the KiddieComm family music festival in Philadelphia, PA on June 28th.

More information on Zee Avi’s upcoming performances and album is available online at http://www.zeeavi.com, http://www.facebook.com/zeeavi, and http://twitter.com/ZeeAvi. 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.

Shout! Factory Announces Release Date For The Shadow Re-Issue

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

The Shadow is one of the most famed crime fighters of all time.  He is the original caped crusader.  His adventures amazed radio audiences long before Batman came along.  Sadly, after Batman and his fellow comic book superhero friends came along, The Shadow seemed to be pushed aside.  But in 1994, the world was re-introduced to The Shadow thanks to Universal Pictures.  Two decades after The Shadow was introduced to a new generation of audiences, he is bring introduced to yet another new generation of fans thanks to a partnership between Universal Pictures and Shout! Factory.

The Shadow (Collector’s Edition) will be released on Blu-ray Tuesday, February 25th.  The movie, starring Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October, 30 Rock) in the starring role, tells the story of how The Shadow came to be.  It co-stars Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings, Kindergarten Cop), Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, The Santa Clause, Everybody Loves Raymond), Sir Ian McKellan (X-Men, X-2 X-Men United, X3 The Last Stand), and many others.

More information on this and other upcoming releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Danny Phantom Complete Series Set Is Loads Of Ghostly Fun For All

Courtesy:  Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Nickelodeon’s programming today is comprised largely of live action sitcoms aimed at teen viewers.  However, from the early 1990s up until the mid-2000s, the network was known more for its vast array of cartoons.  It’s “Nicktoons” were its heart and soul.  While Nickelodeon does have some cartoons today, the network’s sole remaining real Nicktoon is Butch Hartman’s hugely successful series Fairly OddparentsFairly Oddparents is a standout series, too.  Interestingly enough, it isn’t his first series to have the honor of being added to Nickelodeon’s list of beloved Nicktoons.  His first notable “Nicktoon” was the short-lived supernatural series Danny Phantom.  Now thanks to Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon, fans of Danny Phantom will be able to own the complete series in one box later this month.  Danny Phantom only ran for three seasons.  In its defense, it could be argued that this was because it was ahead of its time.  That aside, series creator Butch Hartman and his writers crafted a number of enjoyable episodes throughout the show’s short run.  Just as worth noting about this new upcoming box set is that is alleviates some minor problems raised in the box sets containing the series’ second season.  Lastly, those that know their Nicktoons history will appreciate the voice talent that made up the series’ cast.  That who’s who of voice actors combined with the enjoyable stories, and the fact that they are all available together for the first time collectively make this upcoming set well worth picking up for any Danny Phantom fan.

Fans of Danny Phantom: The Complete Series  will appreciate this new complete series set first and foremost because it presents the series’ entire three-season run in one complete box set.  Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have already released three complete series sets from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, and The Angry Beavers.  Those sets proved to actually take up far less space on DVD racks than the stand-alone season sets that had originally been released.  This set is no different.  All nine discs that make up all three seasons are included in this box.  Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have sweetened the deal even more for fans in that they have maintained the established wise packaging that was used in the aforementioned complete series sets.  The discs are placed inside the box on either side of their own “insert” with the ninth and final disc being placed in its own spot inside the back of the case.  As with the previously noted box sets, this protects the discs and allows the episodes contained within each one to be enjoyed much longer.  It is the starting point of what audiences will appreciate about Danny Phantom: The Complete Series.

The packaging for Danny Phantom: The Complete Series is a good starting point in discussing everything that makes this box set well worth its price.  The episodes contained across the set’s nine total discs make the presentation as a whole even more enjoyable.  It would be easy to say that because its main characters were high school students, Danny Phantom was just another program aimed at audiences of the same age. To a point, it could be seen how teen audiences would take an interest in the series.  Case in point, one of the series’ story arcs involved a potential inter-racial romance between Danny and black classmate named Valerie Gray (voiced by Cree Summer—The Cosby Show, Clifford The Big Red Dog, Codename: Kids Next Door, etc.).  It really is a sign of the times that the show’s writers would include this without making a big fuss over it, either.  It is a subtle, but nice addition to the series.  There are also the constant struggles to balance trying to be a regular teen with being a superhero. But the jokes that are tossed in each episode aren’t above some younger viewers, either.  So while teens might have been the primary audience, younger viewers would have obviously enjoyed the show, too.  The same applies to today’s teens and pre-teens, too.

The packaging and writing that make up Danny Phantom’s episodes are collectively a big part of what makes the series so enjoyable even for today’s younger audiences.  There is at least one more aspect of the series’ new set that audiences will appreciate in examining the presentation as a whole.  That aspect is the series’ voice cast.  The series’ primary cast reads like a who’s who of voice acting.  It has already been noted that veteran voice actress Cree Summer is part of the primary cast (even though she doesn’t come into play until the second season).  Along with Ms. Summer, Grey DeLisle (The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Clifford The Big Red Dog, Clifford: The Puppy Years, Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends, etc.) Kath Soucie (Futurama, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Beauty and the Beast, etc.), Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, etc.) and a whole slate of others each play roles in the series.  Fans will also recognize the voices of Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim, Hellboy & Hellboy II), Martin Mull (Roseanne), and the man who is perhaps the busiest male voice actor in the business, one Frank Welker (Curious George, The Real Ghostbusters, Scooby-Doo Where Are You, etc.)  Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), Taylor Lautner (the Twilight saga), and the late David Carradine even make appearances throughout the series among so many other big names.  If the massive list of A-listers that play roles in Danny Phantom isn’t reason enough to check out the new Danny Phantom: The Complete Series box set, then one need only set that alongside the enjoyable writing and the equally wise packaging to see just how worthwhile this set is for kids and kids at heart.  It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, January 28th.  It can be pre-ordered online now from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/danny-phantom-complete-series.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online 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.

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.

The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition Another Welcome Re-Issue From Disney

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Disney’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is one of the most popular of all of its fairy tales.  The story, which centers on the romance between a human and young mermaid, originally debuted in theaters almost twenty-four years ago.  November 17th will mark the twenty-fourth anniversary of the film’s debut.  And until this year, the last time that Disney had re-issued to the movie for home release was seven years ago in 2006.  Considering all of this, it comes as a little bit of a surprise that Disney decided to go ahead and re-issue the classic story well over a year ahead of what will be the twenty-fifth anniversary of its big screen debut.  That aside, it’s still a welcome addition for any fan of Disney’s princess franchise.  The most important aspect of this movie’s success (as with any movie) is its script.  Considering that well over thirty years had passed between the original debut of this movie and Disney’s last fairy tale feature before it, Sleeping Beauty, this movie actually has so much more depth than most viewers might see.  It is more than just a romantic drama.  It actually boasts plenty of comedy, too.  It also has both a coming of age story of sorts within its bounds as well as an allegory about acceptance and tolerance.  The movie’s new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack re-issue makes it even more interesting a watch.  That’s because of a pair of bonus features included in the package.  All of this together makes Disney’s adaptation of The Little Mermaid another of Disney’s most memorable movies in its modern era.

When Disney’s adaptation of The Little Mermaid premiered on November 17th, 1989, well over thirty years had passed between that premiere and the premiere of Disney’s last fairy tale feature, Sleeping Beauty.  Disney established its reputation on the back of not only that movie, but also the likes of Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Those features made Disney a leader in the movie business.  So much time having passed, it would have been easy for the people at Disney to slip up with The Little Mermaid.  But as the final product revealed, the studio did anything but slip up.  The script behind the movie is on the surface, a standard fairy tale story.  On a much deeper level though, it also includes a strong coming of age storyline.  Princess Ariel is a teenager.  She is sixteen years-old to be exact.  So it could be argued that her youth and naivety is what feeds the romantic drama that is to follow.  It also is what leads to her personal growth and love and respect for her father.  To that extent, it actually makes The Little Mermaid more than just another one of Disney’s princess movies.  It gives the story a certain amount of depth.

Ariel’s coming of age story is only part of what gives The Little Mermaid depth.  It could also be argued that the feature’s script hides in plain sight, an allegory about acceptance and understanding.  The allegory works in more than one way, too.  The allegory about acceptance and understanding comes in the form of King Triton having to learn to accept that his preconceived notions about humans are not entirely right.  Prince Eric proves that.  He eventually has to come to accept that despite being from another world of sorts, humans are not as bad as he had always led himself and his people to believe.  If viewers can allow themselves to take into consideration both of these story elements, they will see that The Little Mermaid in fact has more going for it than being just another princess movie.  It becomes even more worth watching at least once if not adding to one’s home library.

The subtle story elements tied into The Little Mermaid’s primary romantic drama storyline add a whole new depth and appreciation for the classic adaptation.  Now that the movie has been re-issued on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, viewers have even more reason to appreciate it.  That’s thanks to the inclusion of a pair of bonus features included in the new Blu-ray disc.  One of those features centers on producer/songwriter Howard Ashman.  “Howard’s Lecture” focuses on Ashman and how his experience with and love for musical theater helped make The Little Mermaid a *ahem* splash with audiences (bad pun fully intended).  The vintage footage of Ashman discussing the film’s different aspect add to the movie’s value because of the figure it portrayed.  Audiences see in Ashman someone who is the total antithesis of the stereotypical Hollywood type.  He comes across as having been down to earth and entirely humble.  Those that knew Ashman best also share their insights into the type of person he was.  And it corresponds perfectly with the figure presented in the lecture.  The fact that one of his friends would tear up in speaking about him shows just how valued he was not just to the movie but as a person.  That emotion and the feature as a whole make “Howard’s Speech” an invaluable addition to this new re-issue.  It makes the presentation in whole that much more impressive.

“Howard’s Lecture” is an invaluable addition to the bonus features included in this latest re-issue of The Little Mermaid.  There is one other feature included in this re-issue that audiences will agree makes the movie even more worth watching.  The feature in question explains in depth how those behind the movie maintained Disney’s long standing tradition of basing its animated features on live action actors.  It explains how just as with Alice In Wonderland, Snow White, and others those behind this movie based their storyboards on live action “models.”  This was done to get the most realism possible out of the animation.  This is something used to this day by Disney’s partner studio, Pixar.  Add in the fact that the movie was crafted entirely via hand drawn animation instead of computers makes this an even more important addition for viewers to check out.  And together with “Howard’s Lecture” and the subtle extra story elements tied into the story, it all comes together to make this twenty-fourth anniversary re-issue of The Little Mermaid that much more worth adding to any family’s home library or that of any true film buff.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via Disney’s online store at http://movies.disney.com/the-little-mermaid and http://www.disneystore.com/disney-princess/little-mermaid/mn/1000031/?searchRedirect=1&searchTerm=the+little+mermaid&catalogFromSearch=10002.  More information on this and other Disney releases is available via both websites, too.  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.

30 For 30 Series Continues With NHL Documentary “Big Shot”

 

Courtesy:  ESPN/ESPN Films

Courtesy: ESPN/ESPN Films

 

The next film in ESPN’s Peabody Award winning series, 30 for 30, airs next Tuesday.  Big Shot is the next film in the hugely popular series.  It is directed and narrated by Kevin Connolly. Mark Ciardi (Million Dollar Arm, Secretariat) and Ted Schillinger (Benji) produced the film.

Big Shot follows the issues that plagued the NHL’s New York Islanders after the team was bought by Dallas businessman John Spano in 1996.  Spano bought the beleaguered team for $165 million.  His purchase of the team looked like a good thing on the surface.  But, not everything was as it seemed for the Islanders and the team’s fans.  Big Shot presents as part of its presentation, the only interview that Spano ever gave about the Islanders deal.  Audiences will see in this film just how the scam went undetected by so many for so long.  A trailer for the film is available online at http://espn.go.com/30for30/film?page=bigshot.

Each film in the 30 for 30 series will be available online via iTunes and Amazon Instant Video the day after its broadcast.  A special collectible six-disc DVD set featuring the first fifteen films from 30 for 30 Volume II will be available in stores and online November 26th, 2013.  The remaining films in this season of ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 are listed below.

  • Tuesday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m. – Big Shot (Director: Kevin Connolly)
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29, 8 p.m. – This is What They Want (Directors: Brian Koppelman and David Levien)
  • Tuesday, Nov. 5, 8 p.m. – Bernie and Ernie (Director: Jason Hehir)

More information on this and all things 30 for 30 is available online at http://www.facebook.com/espn30for30 and http://twitter.com/30for30.  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.

New Disney Re-Issue Was Well Worth The Wait

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Walt Disney Studios’ home entertainment division has been very busy this year.  The company’s home division has released no fewer than ten of its classic and more recent movies to Blu-ray/DVD combo packs this year so far.  And even more are planned for release before the year’s end, including a handful of holiday themed features.  That makes for a very crowded field in terms of re-issues from Disney.  Families are thus left wondering which of the current crop of re-issues are the most worth adding to their home libraries.  One that is definitely worth adding to any family’s home library is the brand new re-issue of the 1977 classic, The Many Adventures of Winnie The PoohThe Many adventures of Winnie The Pooh is one of Disney’s most timeless works.  Taken from author A.A. Milne’s series of children’s books, this collection of stories is perfect for the entire family.  And it looks even better than ever now that it has finally been re-issued in high definition.  The quality of the footage hasn’t lost anything in the transfer from its most recent DVD release to its new Blu-ray release.  In connection, the movie’s animation style stands out as some of the most impressive of any true animated feature rooted in hand drawn animation.  Along with the beautifully hand-drawn animation, audiences will appreciate the inclusion of the fourth of the stories in the Winnie The Pooh franchise, A Day for Eeyore as a bonus feature.  Also included as bonuses, are a handful of mini-adventures and even the standard “Making of” featurette that adds more insight into how this feature was brought to life.  All of this taken into consideration, it all works hand-in-hand to make The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh a must have for any kid and kid at heart.

The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh is a must have for any kid or kid at heart.  It is a perfect piece from Disney to add to any family’s home library.  The first and most important reason for that is how the collected stories were culled for the overall presentation.  Instead of the current trend by film makers to try and pull a bunch of different stories for one presentation, this presentation clearly separates Pooh Bear’s adventures.  They did so expertly, making the transitions completely smooth.  Audiences will love how the directing team of John Lounsbery and Wolfgang Reitherman had Pooh (and later Tigger–voiced then by Sterling Holloway and Paul Winchell respectively) break down the fourth wall in interacting with the narrator (Sebastian Cabot) at different points in the story.  It’s a cute moment for the family, but also quite an ingenious way to separate the stories, too.  Just as ingenious was the manner in which Lounsbery and Reitherman had their animation team incorporate Pooh and company into the story, showing the text on the pages with the characters acting out everything being read.  This would eventually go on to be a staple for the features based on Milne’s books, and a welcome one at that.  It doesn’t necessarily break down the fourth wall.  But it adds a certain charm and individuality to the story.  That’s because no other studio at the time was doing this.    It’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what audiences will appreciate in this new re-issue.  This is especially the case for those seeing it for the first time or even the first time in years.  Audiences will appreciate just as much, the original hand drawn animation throughout the feature.

The man for whom Walt Disney Studios was named died in 1966.  That was eleven years before this adaptation of Milne’s works had even been considered by anyone at Disney.  Many critics agree that the quality of Disney’s releases went down after his death.  However, had he been alive to see that his legacy had been carried on in The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, he would have been very proud.  That is because the previously released movies that comprise this presentation—Winnie The Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too!—were each features in which Disney had a direct hand.  So seeing his previous works combined into one larger feature serves as a fitting memoriam to Disney’s legacy.

The animation and the writing in the stories culled for The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh work hand-in-hand to make this feature a truly fitting memoriam to Walt Disney’s legacy.  The brand new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack includes another feature that serves as just as much of a memoriam in the form of Eeyore’s Day Out.  The fourth release in the series of stories about everyone’s favorite bear follows the same formula as the stories culled for The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh.  There’s the fourth wall being broken down, the solid writing in general, and the equally impressive hand drawn animation.  The story of Eeyore’s Day Out centers on the eternally depressed donkey on his birthday.  Pooh, Rabbit, Piglet and the others had all forgotten, making Eeyore even sadder.  Of course, everything turns out just fine and will leave any viewer with that warm, fuzzy feeling that the previous Pooh tales so wonderfully do.  Making it even more enjoyable is its lessons of friendship and forgiveness.  It serves to make this a wonderful addition to the whole set that is the brand new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh.

The inclusion of the bonus Pooh tale is a great addition to this newly released re-issue.  There is still one more factor in this set that audiences will appreciate.  That final factor is the standard “Making of” featurette.  This bonus feature goes into full depth about how The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh came to life.  From the animation to the music and even the work of the voice cast, “The Story Behind The Masterpiece” shows just how much work went into making sure Walt Disney’s wish of making this feature happen was honored.  Audiences will love hearing the legendary Sherman Brothers discuss the feature’s musical numbers, including everyone’s favorite song about Tiggers.  Who out there knows the best thing about Tiggers?  The explanations of the old school animation style used to create every single movement of each character shows how much work used to go into making these works of art.  And it is sure to make any art lover and general viewer appreciate that work and its end result versus the far drier and sterile CG pieces that are created by every animation studio out there today.  It is the icing on the cake that is this deliciously wonderful new re-issue from Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.  Both the standard DVD and double disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack are available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online at http://movies.disney.com/the-many-adventures-of-winnie-the-pooh and http://www.disneystore.com/the-many-adventures-of-winnie-the-pooh-2-disc-combo-pack/mp/1341260/1000316/.  More information on this and other re-issues from Walt Disney Studios is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios.

To keep up with all of 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.

Monsters University A College Flick For A Younger Generation

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Every generation has its own college movie.  The 1970s boasted the timeless college comedy, Animal House.  In the 1980’s the social strata of college took another turn in the equally popular comedy, Revenge of the Nerds.  The 1990s saw art imitate life when Jeremy Piven (Entourage, Mr. Selfridge) and David Spade (Rules of Engagement, Tommy Boy, Saturday Night Live) went toe to toe in PCU.  The children of the 2000s even had their own college flicks in the Van Wilder franchise.  Sadly, that franchise was largely forgettable.  Now in the second decade of the 2000s, Disney/Pixar has released this generation’s college movie in the form of Monsters University.  It should come as no surprise to audiences that little more than four months after it premiered in U.S. theaters, Monsters University is already scheduled to be released on DVD, Blu-ray and BD/DVD/Digital combo pack.  It’s definitely not the worst movie of the year.  But it isn’t the year’s best, either.  Though in its defense, it does deserve at least a spot on the list of the year’s best movies.  The reason for this mixed response is that on one hand, it should be obvious to older audiences how this family friendly college flick is little more than an update of the previously noted movies.  This isn’t the movie’s only problem.  Just as Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 focused far too much on Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy), so did Monsters University have its share of problems with character development.  In its defense though, what can be said good about Monsters University is that it does teach some valuable lessons, which are just part of the heart that this story boasts.  That heart is just enough to make the movie worth at least one watch for those that have yet to see it.

The most obvious problem that rises with Monsters University is its general lack of originality.  Monsters, Inc. was such a wonderful film because it was original.  Not even the likes of the 1989 Fred Savage/Howie Mandel flick, Little Monsters could compare to Monsters, Inc.  In understanding this, Monsters University sadly pales in comparison to its forerunner in this avenue.  All it did was take elements of all of the previously mentioned college flicks and tone them down to make them into one family friendly movie.  Yes, it’s good that otherwise grown-up movies finally have a family friendly outlet.  But considering that Pixar has quite the history of being a front runner in the modern world of CG “animated” films thanks to its original movies, this mash-up of already made films knocks the studio (and Disney) down a notch.

The mash-up of so many already made films is only one of the problems from which Monsters University suffers.  Not only does it lift liberally from other much more classic movies, it even goes so far as to lift from its own predecessor.  That is obvious throughout the near two hour movie.  There’s even a scene in which Mike and Sully end up in the real world and have a heart to heart talk before their effort to return to the monster world.  This sort of writing behavior harkens right back to another Disney movie that goes by the name of Tron: Legacy.  That movie basically took the original and retold it for a new generation.  Monsters University has done much the same thing, just in reverse.  Yet again, points are taken off for that.  It doesn’t get much better from here.

Monsters University suffers quite a bit thanks to the fact that it lifts from so many other movies and tries to convince audiences that it’s something new.  What makes it worse is that its team of half a dozen writers do something that another previous Disney/Pixar movie had already done.  Just as Cars 2 ended up being more about Mater, Monsters University is more about Mike than his friendship with Sully.  Yes, audiences see how the friendship between the two originally formed.  But more time is spent focusing on Mike’s impact on the friendship than on the friendship as a whole.  Sully (John Goodman) ends up taking a back seat to Billy Crystal this time out, unlike the equal billing shared between the duo in Monsters, Inc.  Along with the story’s other problems, the collective issues noted here weigh down the story to the point that it makes it difficult to see beyond them.  Luckily though, there are some positives to the overall presentations that save it.

The first of the positives that saves Monsters University is its collective life lessons.  The story presented in this movie’s script includes lessons about acceptance, tolerance, and self-confidence.  They are taught as Mike ends up taking on the lead role of his monster fraternity and has to help them be accepted back into the university through a series of challenges.  Mike learns to have more self-confidence in himself through his experiences.  He also realizes a valuable lesson about how the differences in the monsters at Monsters, Incorporated were what made it such a legendary company.  Again, this goes back to that lesson of self-confidence.  It also ties in to the lessons of acceptance and tolerance in the bigger picture as he and his OK brothers fight to win their competitions and earn their way back into the university.  All of these lessons are important for viewers of any age.  So for all of the problems that weigh down this movie, it is these lessons that keep it afloat and worth at least one watch.  The movie will be available in stores and online on October 29th on DVD and DVD/Blu-ray/Digital combo pack.  More information on the home release of Monsters University is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios, http://movies.disney.com/watch-at-home, and http://www.disneystore.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.

Street Sharks Another Blast From The Past For Retro TV Fans

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The 1990s was the last real great era for television.  That decade-long span offered viewers of every age something that so few of today’s programs have.  One might ask what today’s shows lack.  They lack heart.  And they lack substance.  To quote Lois and Peter Griffin:  “All you see is violence in movies and sex on TV.”  Adults and families in general had great sitcoms such as The Cosby Show, Home Improvement, and Third Rock from the Sun.  There were even more wonderful shows for adults and families at the time worth watching.  This trio is just a sample of that mass of worthwhile shows that filled the networks.  Children had just as much from which to choose if not more.  Kids had multiple shows from which to choose on weekday mornings and afternoons across the Big 4.  And even Saturday mornings meant cartoons, too.  Not every one of those cartoons lasted.  But even the shorter-lived shows were worth an occasional watch.  Among the most notable of those short-lived shows was a little action series that went by the name of Street SharksStreet Sharks was DIC Entertainment’s (now dhx media) answer to the massively popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  There’s no denying the number of similarities between Street Sharks and TMNT.  But what can be said of Street Sharks that sets it apart from TMNT is the show’s animation.  Sure the story’s central plot is different.  But at its root, it is largely just a variant of the TMNT plot.  Keeping this in mind, the best place to start in examining this recently released set is to look at the transfer of the footage from VHS to DVD.

Nearly two decades have passed between the original premiere of this “little brother” to TMNT.  The footage has stood the test of time quite well as is evidenced in the set’s four discs.  A quick glance through all four discs contained in the set shows that.  What’s more, in watching through just some of the short-lived show’s forty episodes, one will notice something else that makes Street Sharks worth checking out at least once, if not more.  That other something is the show’s animation.  All forty episodes of Street Sharks were hand drawn.  And while the show might have had quite a few similarities to its “big brother”, one thing that can be said is that its animation style was completely different from TMNT and almost every other cartoon of its time.  Some might consider this to be minor.  But at a time when fully hand drawn cartoons are such a rarity, it proves to be far more important of a factor in the show’s success.  Its animation really made it look like it had jumped right off the pages of a comic book.  In the same breath, it reminds viewers of the importance of art being taught in public schools and colleges today.  Far too many of today’s “animated” features are created either entirely or in large part by computer.  It makes them all look like cookie cutter presentations.  Hand drawn features on the other hand, have more substance and soul about them.  Much the same argument could be made about the importance of Disney’s classic animated features being re-issued throughout 2013.  Keeping that in mind, this is a cartoon worth watching at least by those that grew up in the 90s.

Street Sharks’ animation was key in its ability to last as long as it did.  It isn’t the only positive to this release.  There are those that have criticized Mill Creek Entertainment’s continued use of paper sleeves to package its DVDs in this set.  Given, it isn’t the completely ideal packaging.  But in comparison to DVD sets such Syfy’s Ghost Hunters, at least the DVDs in this set aren’t stacked one on top of another with nothing between them.  It would be nice to have at least padded envelopes for the DVDs from Mill Creek, or even more standard packaging that other companies are using today.  But given the circumstances, viewers should be thankful that Mill Creek would take the time to try and protect the discs from each other if not entirely themselves.  Keeping this in mind, and the show’s old school animation style, the two factors make Street Sharks: The Complete 40 Episode Series worth checking out at least once for old school cartoon fans.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=Street+Sharks.  More information about releases from Mill Creek Entertainment is available on the company’s official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt and http://www.millcreekent.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.

Anchor Bay, Weinstein Company To Release Indie Dramedie Unfinished Song This Fall

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Company

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Company

Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein will release one of the year’s most talked about dramedies of 2013 this fall.  Unfinished Song will be released by Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company on Tuesday, September 24th.  The movie features a cast led by Academy Award nominee Terrence Stamp (Get Smart, Smallville, The Adjustment Bureau) and Vanessa Redgrave (Nip/Tuck, Howards End, Cars 2).

Unfinished Song centers on the story of Arthur (Terrence Stamp).  Arthur is an elderly gentleman who has become set in his ways over the course of his ways.  He is happy with his daily routine and his wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave).  But Arthur is thrown a curveball one day when Marion tricks him into joining a local singing group in the couple’s hometown.  The choir is led by the much younger and energetic Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton—Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time).  At first, Arthur is resistant to this new change in his daily routine.  But eventually, Arthur and Elizabeth develop a friendship that leads Arthur to realize his hidden passion for music.  The discovery adds a whole new spark to Arthur’s otherwise predictable schedule.  It also helps him to reconnect to those closest and most important to him in the process.

Writer/director Paul Andrew Williams shared his thoughts on the movie and the influences behind the story in an interview about the movie.  He said of how it came to life, “It’s a very personal story for me” and that he drew from his own family experience as a source for the story’s plot.

Unfinished Song will be available Tuesday, September 24th.  Its bonus features include deleted scenes and a gag reel.  To keep up with all of the latest updates on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company, audiences can “Like” both companies’ Facebook pages at http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay and http://www.facebook.com/weinsteinco.  Audiences can also check in at both companies’ official websites at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx and http://weinsteinco.com.

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.