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 https://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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

NC University’s Theatre Event Returns For Sixth Year

Courtesy:  Fayetteville State University

Courtesy: Fayetteville State University

Fayetteville State University is bringing back its hugely popular “24 Hour Theatre” for the sixth straight year.  The annual event will run this year from Friday, September 13th to Saturday, September 14th.  The university welcomes participation from not just students at Fayetteville State University, but from university staff and faculty, high school students, and members of the community.  The yearly event allows participants to create plays, and then design and rehearse them before putting them on over the course of twenty-four hours.

This year’s event will kick off on Friday, September 13th at 7:30pm.  The opening events will be followed by an overnight playwriting session.  There will also be movies, theatre games, and training sessions for others.  The scripts crated during the overnight playwriting session will be collected the following mornings by directors, actors, designers, managers, and technicians.  They will then be rehearsed through the event’s second day before putting on the plays at 7:30pm Saturday, September 14th.  Those that attend the event will be able to take part in the plays both in front of and behind the curtain.  Participation in the plays is limited.  Participation in writing and producing roles is extremely limited.  Applications to participate can be downloaded and printed out online at http://www.uncfsu.edu/arts/FSU-Theatre.  Applicants can choose on their application in which of the productions area they want to take part by way of ranking them according to preference.  Participation in the “24 Hour theatre” is not a twenty-four hour commitment.  Special circumstances can be considered.  However, all participants will be expected to take part in the event’s kickoff as production teams and casts will be signed during the event.

The ultimate goal of the annual “24 Hour Theatre” project is to teach those with an interest in theater arts the stresses and processes involved with the creation of plays.  Each play will last anywhere from five to fifteen minutes.  It also helps to build bonds between those that take part in the event.  And it is a boon for Fayetteville State University as it serves as an effective tool for the university’s theatre program.  Performances begin on Saturday, September 14th at 7:00pm at Fayetteville State University’s Butler Theater.  Audiences should note that new plays may not be suitable for all audiences.  Discretion should be exercised.  Admission to this year’s event is two dollars, or one dollar plus a canned good.  All canned goods collected at this year’s event will be donated to a local charity.

More information on the “24 Hour Theatre” is available on the Fayetteville State University website and Facebook page at http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCsQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.uncfsu.edu%2Farts%2Ftheatre-and-dance-home&ei=ioMgUvvxHIzUsASh4oGgCg&usg=AFQjCNE_hxgLIZ4Kxq6toI8FMhmzCUqxxA&bvm=bv.51495398,d.cWc and http://www.facebook.com/Admissions.FSU.

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

IFC Films To Release New Documentary On Kubrick’s Adaptation Of The Shining

Courtesy:  IFC FIlms

Courtesy: IFC FIlms

IFC Films releases the next documentary in its IFC Films Midnight series next month.  Room 237 will be released on double-disc DVD and Blu-ray on September 24th,  the same day that Doctor Sleep will be released.  Doctor Sleep is the long-awaited follow-up to author Stephen King’s hugely popular horror novel, The Shining.  The upcoming novel follows a now grown up Danny Torrance as he uses his “shining” as he works with elderly patients at a nursing home.

Most people know that The Shining was adapted for the big screen with famed director Stanley Kubrick at the helm.  What some might not know is King’s opinion of Kubrick’s take on his novel.  For those that don’t, King was never pleased by the treatment, thus leading him to helming an adaptation of his own for the small screen.  Now thanks to IFC Films, audiences will get a deeper look at Kubrick’s adaptation of King’s novel, and the hotel that would be the inspiration for the hotel in the movie.

Directed by Rodney Ascher, Room 237 attempts to decode the hidden meanings, symbols, and theories that viewers believe are strewn throughout the movie through first-hand interviews with a variety of figures.  The alleged meanings, symbols and theories were developed by audiences, scholars, and critics alike and have lived on since the movie’s original debut over three decades ago.  The new documentary was named an Official Selection at the 2012 Sundance, Cannes, and Toronto film festivals.  It took home the Best Director Prize at the Fantastic Fest.  Its upcoming double-disc DVD and Blu-ray presentation comes with a handful of special features, listed below.

* “The mastermind Speaks: Commentary with Kevin McLeod.” McLeod is a key figure in the online examination of Kubrick’s film.

* “Secrets of The Shining,” an hour-long panel discussion from the first Stanley Film Festival, an event at Colorado’s historic Stanley Hotel, which inspired one-time guest Stephen King to write his novel.

* 11 Deleted Scenes

* The Making of the Music Featurette

* Mondo Poster Design Discussion with Artist Aled Lewis

* Trailers

Room 237 will be available on double-disc DVD and Blu-ray September 24th for an MSRP of $27.98 and $29.98 respectively. More information on Room 237 and other releases from IFC Films is available online at http://www.facebook.com/IFCFilmsOfficial and http://www.IFCFilms.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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Writing, Makeup, More Make The Walking Dead Season Three A Hit For Any Viewer

Courtesy:  Starz/Anchor Bay/AMC

Courtesy: Starz/Anchor Bay/AMC

Serials are big business in today’s television industry.  They are some of the most popular shows on television today.  And one of the most popular of the serials currently populating television today is AMC’s hit series, The Walking Dead.  This hugely popular series, which is based on a comic book, has garnered legions of fans the world over since it first debuted on AMC in 2010.  The question that is still raised by those not so familiar with the series is “what makes it so popular?”  On the surface, it could be easily answered.  It’s violent, bloody, and gory.  That wouldn’t be entirely false.  But it’s not the whole answer to that question.  The full answer to the question is much deeper than that.  On a deeper, more analytical level, what drives the series is its writing, just like any other television series and movie.  Of course one shouldn’t dismiss the work done by the show’s makeup crew, either, as a source of success for The Walking Dead.  Those individuals also deserve full credit for *ahem* bringing the show’s zombies to life.  And yes, that bad joke was entirely intended.  Audiences that might be new to the Walking Dead will see the importance of these factors first hand now that the show’s third season is available in stores and online on Blu-ray and DVD.

The most obvious reason for the success of The Walking Dead three seasons in is the fact that it is violent, bloody, and gory.  Humans have a natural bloodlust.  This is why (as much as they’d love to deny it) they slow down and rubberneck when they go by a bad wreck on an interstate highway.  They secretly hope to see death and destruction.  They can deny it all they want.  But everybody has that bloodlust in them.  And it is that same bloodlust that leads audiences to watch The Walking Dead even in its third season.  It feeds that deep seeded bloodlust that audiences would rather deny having.  It’s all so shocking.  Yet despite the shock value, audiences can’t help but watch.  This is even exhibited within the context of one of the episodes of Season Three when Daryl is captured and forced to fight his own brother in a fight to the death that also involved some very hungry zombies.  The people witnessing the moment even wanted to see it all unfold in its full gruesome details.  There’s not a lot of blood and gore in this sequence.  But there is plenty of violence.  And together with Season Three’s other episodes, there is more than enough of those elements to make any fan of the zombie genre squeal with glee like a kid in a candy store.

The massive gallons of blood that’s shed and the violence doled out through Season Three are the most obvious of reasons for the success of this season.  On a deeper level, the show has maintained its fan base because of its writing.  The show isn’t just about the violence, blood, and gore.  Audiences are kept engaged in the series because of the human drama tied in to the overall story.  Audiences see personal relationships grow between the survivors of the zombie plague (which still receives no explanation as to how it started even three seasons in).  New characters are also introduced this season, adding to each episode’s drama and tension.  Loyalties are tested on both the human level and the family level throughout this season time and again.  Even if a person isn’t big on the whole zombie craze currently sweeping the country, there’s no denying the continued solidity of the show’s writing in its third season.

The writing in the third season of The Walking Dead is quite sold throughout each of the season’s episodes.  The gore and violence this season is just as certain to appease any zombie fan.  Speaking of the zombies, credit where credit is due.  Those responsible for turning ordinary actors into some of the creepiest creatures in the history of film and television history did quite the job.  By the time that the makeup is done, the actors behind the masks and makeup look just as creepy as those in legendary writer/director George A. Romero’s zombie 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead if not better than them.  That says quite a bit about the talent of the makeup artists.  The convincing work done by the makeup staff, along with the show’s writing and the most obvious of factors, each play their own role in the third season of The Walking Dead’s success.  Together with the commentary included on select episodes of Season Three, it all works in unison to make Season Three one of the series’ best yet.  Season Three of The Walking Dead is available now on Blu-ray and DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from the Anchor Bay Entertainment website at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/detail.aspx?projectID=04bea624-b064-e211-924c-d4ae527c3b65.

More information on The Walking Dead Season Three and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment and Starz is available online at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com and http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay.  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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

NHRA Racing Onto ESPN Family Of Networks This Weekend

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

This coming weekend is going to be a very big one for racing fans.  NASCAR Nation has Sunday night’s Atlanta race to look forward to.  Fans of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series have reason to be excited, too.  That’s because this weekend, the NHRA will hold its biggest event of the season in the annual Chevrolet U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.  ESPN will have eleven hours of coverage of the event, and even more coverage online.  ESPN will have extended coverage of qualifying and eliminations.  It all culminates with six hours of coverage on Monday, September 2nd, the final day of eliminations on ESPN2.  ESPN3, ESPN’s live multi-screen live sports network, will have live qualifying coverage this Friday, August 30th and full coverage of Monday’s final eliminations.

Dave Rieff will anchor the weekend’s broadcasts.  He will be joined by analyst Mike Dunn and special guest analyst, four-time NHRA champion Gary Scelzi.  Gary Gerould, Jamie Howe, and John Kernan will have all of the latest news from the pits for this weekend’s broaddcast.  Paul Page will be on hand to provide a historical essay on the U.S. Nationals through the years.  Rieff shared his thoughts on the importance of the U.S. Nationals in an interview about the upcoming NHRA major.  “It’s The Big Go, the one race you just want to be a part of,” he said.  “It’s one of those deals where you’re just part of something special.”  He expanded on this thought, adding “It’s the one that if you can’t win the championship, you want to say you’ve won Indy.  “Simply by winning the U.S. Nationals, that makes you a part of drag racing history immediately.”

Along with the weekend’s extensive racing coverage, NHRA fans will also get to hear NHRA veterans Alan Johnson, John Force, and Tony Schumacher discuss their success at Indy and how they feel about this weekend’s events.  Along with this, Ron Capps and Antron Brown will both be on hand to discuss racing at Indy from two different angles.  Capps has never won at Indy, while Brown is the only driver to take wins at Lucas Oil Speedway both in Pro Stock and Nitro class.  So viewers will get to find out what these two drivers think about racing at Indy, and what a win would mean to them this weekend.  And for all the movie buffs out there, ESPN will offer viewers a sneak peek at the upcoming movie Snake and Mongoose as part of its extended coverage over the weekend.

All coverage on ESPN2 and ESPN3 will also be available online on WatchESPN through all mobile outlets as well as Xbox and Apple TV for those that get their video subscription from an affiliate provider including:  Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Verizon FiOS TV, Comcast Xfinity TV, Midcontinent Communications, Cablevision, Cox, Charter Communications and AT&T U-verse (coming soon to NRTC members’ customers).

The weekend’s full schedule is available below.

Date Time Event Network
Friday, Aug. 30 6 p.m. Qualifying ESPN3, WatchESPN
Sunday, Sept. 1 1 p.m. Qualifying ESPN2, WatchESPN
Monday, Sept. 2 11 a.m. Eliminations ESPN3, WatchESPN
Monday, Sept. 2 Noon Eliminations ESPN2, WatchESPN

 

To keep up with the latest racing news from ESPN, go online to http://www.facebook.com/ESPN and http://espn.go.com/racing.

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 https://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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Scorpions’ New Archived Live Recording Will Impress Band’s Long Time Fans

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Veteran rock band Scorpions announced a couple of years ago that it would embark on one final tour before calling it a career.  Apparently that tour has become quite extended as the band is still touring today.  Those that don’t or won’t have the chance to see the band on its current tour can still see the band live thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment.  Eagle Rock Entertainment has released a new archived live performance from the veteran musicians from 2000.  The new release, titled Moment of Glory, features a recorded performance by the band with special guests, the Berlin Philharmonic, at the 2000 Expo in Hanover.

The band’s new live recording isn’t the first of its kind.  Metallica first did the “metal symphony” act in 1999.  Despite not having been the first to perform alongside a group of classical musicians, this doesn’t take anything away from the performance presented by Scorpions and the Berlin Philharmonic.  The concert’s opener gives the band’s classic hit ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ a whole new life.  The way that the orchestra builds into the song makes the song so much livelier than it was in its original form.  It’s just one of so many moments throughout the overall performance that audiences will appreciate.  The enthusiasm of the youths that sing behind the band during ‘We Don’t Own The World’ will have any viewer smiling.  At one point, audiences see a teen boy in the choir coming close to rocking out in time to the band as he sings with his fellow teens.  It just goes to prove the influence of the band even three decades after it first broke out in the mainstream.  And the performance’s final major number, ‘Deadly Sting Suite’ is certain to have any viewer watching in awe.  This three-movement opus is so powerful both in its most quiet opening moments and in its harder final climactic notes.  Everything in between is just as well balanced.  Speaking of that balance, the balance of the performance’s other songs is just as solid.  Audiences get plenty of heavier material such as ‘We’ll Burn The Sky’ and ‘Big City Nights’ and more reserved moments such as the performance’s title song and ‘Here in My Heart.’  All in all, the performance’s set list alone is enough to make any original Scorpions fan proud.  There is more that should be considered in this set, though, than just its set list.  One other factor to be considered in this new release is its audio and video mix.

The audio and video mixes in this performance are relatively solid.  At times, the audio does seem to get a little bit muddy.  But one must take into consideration the fact that this performance was held indoors.  The combined sound of the band set against the orchestra had nowhere to go.  It could only echo throughout the concert hall.  So to those that had complaints about the audio mix should definitely take that into consideration in viewing the performance.  Also to be taken into consideration is the fact that this performance is presented on an SD blu-ray.  Simply put, that means that the original standard def recording was upconverted and placed on this disc.  Considering that what audiences see is the original standard def presentation of the concert, it doesn’t look that bad upconverted and presented on an HDTV.  As a matter of fact, much of the performance looks quite impressive.  And that along with the equally solid set list makes the performance all the more worth checking out for anyone that is a fan of this world renowned rock band.

The audio and video mix alongside the performance’s set list go a long way toward making Moment of Glory and impressive recording for any Scorpions fan.  There is still one more aspect of the performance that audiences will especially take notice.  That aspect is the performance’s camera work.  Every camera shot throughout the concert is standard rock concert fare.  The crane mounted cameras get some impressive sweeping shots across the stage, taking in both the band and the orchestra in full.  Most interesting is that whereas most live shows around 2000 used robotic cameras on tracks at a stage’s front, audiences will see actual camera operators following the band across the stage.  This is important to note because of just how stable the shots were from this angle.  Whereas the shots there could have been quite unstable, the exact opposite was the reality.  It helps to make the concert experience fuller.  And along with the audio and video mix, and the general set list, it works to help make this concert recording one that any long time Scorpions will enjoy every with every watch.  The concert is available now in stores and online.  Audiences can get more information on this release and order it online direct from the Eagle Rock Entertainment website at http://www.eagle-rock.com/artist/FAFE73/Scorpions.  And for all of the latest news and more from the band, fans can go online to http://www.facebook.com/Scorpions and “Like” it.

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

From Up On Poppy Hill Stands Out Successfully Among The Anime Masses

Courtesy:  Studio Ghibli/GKids

Courtesy: Studio Ghibli/GKids

From Up On Poppy Hill is a surprisingly interesting work from Hayao Miyazaki.  This latest re-issue of the story from one of the masters of modern Japanese anime stands out among the masses as it strays from the typically standard fantasy tales to which viewers have become accustomed from the anime film genre.  It also boasts an equally surprisingly enjoyable soundtrack.  And thanks to the new Special Edition re-issue, fans of this modern anime classic will get even more out of the story than in any previous release.  When set next to the other factors that play into the movie’s success, they come together to make a movie that any anime fan will appreciate no less with each watch.

The most commonly held belied about the anime genre is that its stories are centered in fantastical worlds with stories of equal level fantasy.  From Up On Poppy Hill completely breaks that mold, opting instead for a more real world situation that is sure to keep even the least of anime fans engaged throughout the story’s toughly ninety-minute run time.  The story in question centers on two young high school teenagers living in Yokohama, Japan in 1963.  Both children had lost their fathers when they were much younger.  This leads to a long-held secret that shocks both youths.  And because of just how real the situation is, it will surprise viewers just as much.  The reality of the story makes it so much easier for viewers to suspend their disbelief in watching the story unfold.  Audiences will appreciate the included booklet with story notes written by both Hayao Miyazaki that is included with the upcoming Special Edition re-issue of the movie.  The booklet in question adds even more insight into the movie, and is highly recommended reading before watching the movie.  It’s just one of the bonus features included in the Special Edition re-issue that anime fans will find to be an especially worthwhile addition to the overall package.  It explains both the original story’s concept and its evolution into the story that viewers will have before them in the movie’s Special Edition.

The story behind From Up On Poppy Hill is a very touching and moving tale.  Despite the fact that its main characters are teens, even adults will appreciate the story of the two youths who were ironically enough brought together as a result of a war that tore apart so many families’ lives.  It makes for one of Miyazaki’s more interesting stories.  Just as interesting as the story is the story’s soundtrack.  The largely swing-jazz heavy soundtrack is quite surprising considering the music that backs most of the film maker’s other works.  It fits, though.  This story came right on the early edge of the 1960s.  So the jazz movement that marked the 1950s still had some life.  It adds one more extra touch to a story that already stands out among so many other anime features and helps to make the movie that much more worth the watch.

The music and the story together work quite well in keeping viewers engaged from start to end in From Up On Poppy Hill.  There is one more aspect of the movie’s upcoming re-issue that anime fans will appreciate in taking in this modern anime classic.  That aspect is the collective bonus features included in the movie’s Special Edition.  The Special Edition includes not only the movie on DVD and blu-ray, but also in both English and its original Japanese presentation.  There is also an interview with director Goro Miyazaki included in the set’s bonus features that will both entertain and enlighten viewers.  In the nearly twenty-minute interview, Miyazaki discusses the comparison of the Yokohama that was created in this movie versus the real one.  He laughs as he discusses how those that lived in the real Yokohama disputed so many of the designs intended for the movie.  It leaves him laughing.  And it will leave viewers laughing, too.  In one of the interview’s more moving moments, he becomes introspective in discussing what life must have been like for those that lived in the real Yokohama during the 1960s.  He discusses the importance of getting a feel and respect for what life back then was like.  It shows that while Miyazaki has a sense of humor, he also is human and has emotions.  That would explain why From Up On Poppy Hill is more than just another anime movie.  It’s a movie that although it’s anime, has heart and is worth at least one watch whether one is an anime fan or not.  It will be available September 3rd from GKids and Studio Ghibli and can be pre-ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Poppy-Hill-Blu-ray-Combo-Pack/dp/B00CSYRHG6/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1377654658&sr=1-2&keywords=from+up+on+poppy+hill.  Audiences can find out about even more films from GKids online once they’ve pre-ordered From Up On Poppy Hill at http://www.facebook.com/GKidsfilms and http://www.gkids.tv/films.  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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Up-And-Coming Pop Star Releases First Single From Her Debut EP

Courtesy:  Fresh Tracks Marketing

Courtesy: Fresh Tracks Marketing

Up-and-coming Latin pop star LVictoria is set to release her new EP, No Limites this Summer.  The Venezuelan-born starlet has already released the first single from her EP.  The song, the EP’s title track, is a high-energy song that is sure to impress any dance and electronica fan.  The song’s video, which can be viewed online via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eVNiI-NlAo&feature=youtu.be, helps to illustrate its energy.  The video sees Ms. Victoria (Laura Victoria Ojeda Bustillos) performing her song in some exotic locations. 

Victoria explained the concept behind the song in a recent interview.  She explained how it exemplifies her personal growth as a musician.  My soul wants to keep growing and evolving,” she said.  “I just want to express myself and let the music take control; I don’t want to have limits, but always experiment and let my heart speak for itself in order to share my energy to the audience. The message and energy is what matters, what people feel.”  The song is just one of more songs to come that are building up to the release of her debut record next year.  Audiences can expect among other songs on her upcoming debut LP, what is dubbed a “dark rock-dubstep take on INXS’ ‘Need You Tonight.’”  The song in question features her singing against some heavy guitar riffs. 

Fans can keep up with all of the latest information on both LVictoria’s upcoming EP and LP online at http://www.lvictoria.com, http://twitter.com/lvictoriamusic, and http://www.facebook.com/lvictoriarocks

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com