Life’s A Breeze Is A Dramedy Well Worth The Watch

Courtesy:  Magnolia Pictures/Magnolia Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Magnolia Pictures/Magnolia Home Entertainment

Money, it’s often said, is the root of all evil. However, the reality is that it is not money but the want of money that is the source of all evil. It is that want of money that drives man to do bad things. Those bad things include putting their own well-being over that of their own friends and family. And that message is at the core of Life’s A Breeze, the new dramedy from indie studio Magnolia Home Entertainment. It’s also a message that is presented without being preachy. For that reason alone, it makes Life’s A Breeze well worth the watch. The story behind which that message rests is just as important to the movie’s success. It centers on a group of adult children who start out just trying to help their elderly mother. But in learning of the mattress and the alleged fortune stashed within, things change very quickly. The end result reveals a message just as deep as the central message of human greed. That secondary message is one of how the elderly are viewed and treated by younger adults and even young people. Both of those messages coupled with the movie’s story make for plenty of reason for audiences to check out Life’s A Breeze now that it’s available on DVD and Blu-ray. While each element proves its importance in its own way, there is still one remaining element worth noting to the movie’s benefit. That element is the work of the movie’s cast. Being an import from Ireland, American audiences won’t recognize any of the cast in this movie. But that’s beside the point. That’s because every member of the cast is equally entertaining. Pat Shortt’s portrayal of the dopey, somewhat scheming Colm, young Kelly Thornton’s presentation of Emma, and Fionnula Flanagan’s take on the family’s underappreciated matriarch Nan are all spot on. The rest of the cast is just as entertaining in its supporting roles. The cast’s acting is so surprisingly entertaining that it makes suspension of disbelief quite easy. That ability of audiences to so easily suspend their disbelief leads to even easier grasp of the movie’s central story and its messages. Those whose minds are open enough will find themselves appreciating all of these elements together and agreeing that while not necessarily the “Feel-good film” that the Irish Times claimed it to be, it is still a movie that is as deep as it is funny and touching. That being the case, it proves to be yet another independent release that is just as worth the watch as anything churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five studios.

Hollywood in its current era has become increasingly a wasteland over the course of the past two decades or more thanks to the fact that those at the heads of the major studios have become afraid to take chances and back anything original and creative. Even the audiences that one supported Hollywood’s endless river of prequels, sequels, and remakes are becoming increasingly vocal against this practice. They are starting to chomp at the bit for something with real substance that doesn’t require involvement in more than one movie. They want the mainstream movie world to step out and take those chances again. Where Hollywood has struggled to offer anything along those lines, smaller, independent companies such as Magnolia Home Entertainment have picked up the slack and given those audiences exactly what they want and need. The most recent example of this comes from its new Irish import Life’s A Breeze. Its message about the emphasis that we as people put on money versus that of our own loved ones lies at the center of the movie’s enjoyment. Thanks to the efforts of the movie’s writer/director Lance Daly, that message is presented without being overly preachy. Its rather serious nature is balanced with just enough moments of comic relief to keep it from overpowering audiences while still remaining at the story’s forefront. The message itself is presented through the movie’s story, which sees a group of adult children hunting for a missing matress that belongs to their mother. The mattress in question allegedly has almost a million Euros, which is equal to a little more than a million dollars American currency. It isn’t until their mother tells them about the mattress that they even start to care. Even then, they care more about the money for themselves than for her. It’s such a sad, telling and true statement that transcends nations. And because of its ability to reach so many different audiences, the story proves itself to be another of the movie’s most important positives.

The central message of man’s greed that lies within Life’s A Breeze is itself plenty of reason for audiences to check out this surprisingly worthwhile watch. There is no preachy nature involved in the message’s delivery. It is delivered with class thanks to the Daly’s work. Its value to the movie in whole can’t be denied. And neither can the value of the story itself. The story that is used to deliver the movie’s message is just as important to the whole. The story is centered on a group of adult children who are cleaning up the home of their mother Nan (Fionnula Flanagan–The Others, Yes Man, Four Brothers), which is something almost akin to that of a hoarder. In the process, Nan’s childre end up throwing out her mattress, which she alleges contained close to a million Euros. That is, on the current market, a little less than a million dollars in U.S. currency. The problem is that they are not trying to find the money for her. Rather, they want it for themselves. When the people of the city are called upon by Colm to help, they prove even more the emphasis put on money over others. The only person that treats Nan with any real civility and humanity through it all is her grand-daughter Emma (Kelly Thornton–Clean Break, Love/Hate). The bond that grows between Nan and Emma throughout the course of the movie will bring audiences both to laughter and tears. And speaking of Emma, her final scene, which also closes the movie, will move audiences just as much. Itdrives home once and for all the message of human greed and how we as people should value who and what we have. Most amazing of all is the fact that this is done all within two short shots. Those shots won’t be given away here for the sake of those that haven’t yet seen the movie. But alongside the rest of the movie, they make for a powerful close to a movie that more than proves itself just as enjoyable as any big name blockbuster.

There are a lot of deep, thought-provoking moments throughout the course of Life’s A Breeze. For all of those moments that are shared, there are plenty of laughs along the way, too. They come courtesy of Colm’s (Pat Shortt–Calvary, The Guard, Rory O’Shea) buffoonery in his hunt. One of his best moments comes when he thinks that Nan has won the nation’s lottery. This is another moment that won’t be given away. But it involves shaving cream and his fellow grown-up siblings. There is another moment when Colm has to chase down a bunch of kids who have stolen Nan’s wheeled shed so as to burn it in a bonfire. He is essentially accused by one mother of being a pedophile when he confronts one of the kids. It’s one more of so many great moments provided by Shortt that will leave audiences laughing. Those moments collectively set against the movie’s more in-depth, emotional moments make the movie’s story that much more enjoyable and prove why the story is just as important to the enjoyment of the whole as its central message.

The pairing of the story behind Life’s A Breeze and the delivery of its message of human greed makes this independent dramedy a work that is just as worth the watch as any of its counterparts released by Hollywood’s major studios. In fact, it could be argued to be even better than those movies as it doesn’t try to dumb itself down, unlike those movies. It still offers its own share of laughs and deeper moments for a presentation that any true movie lover should see at least once. While the work put into Life’s a Breeze in terms of its script and its central message both play their own pivotal roles in the movie’s enjoyment, one would be remiss to ignore the work of the movie’s cast. It’s already been noted that lead star Pat Shortt is a laugh riot as Nan’s son Colm. His comic timing as he struggles to find Nan’s mattress make for plenty of laughs. He is wholly believable in his portrayal of the oafish, almost middle-aged man who leads his siblings in the search for Nan’s money. Fionnula Flanagan is just as entertaining in her portrayal of Nan. Nan isn’t just some helpless, elderly woman. She proves to be pretty sharp even in her old age. She will have audiences laughing plenty when she and Emma set out to find the matress themselves without telling her own children. Her reaction to the male stripper (yes, there’s even a male stripper) at her 80th birthday party is timeless and will have anyone laughing just as uproariously. And then there’s Emma. Kelly Thornton’s take on Emma makes the story just as rich in its own way. Emma is the only one that show’s any real respect and love for Nan. Seeing Thornton handle Emma’s growth as Emma’s relationship with her grandmother grows adds even more depth to the story. Emma really is that hope for mankind among all of the selfish, short-sighted individuals that fill the world. She reminds audiences that it is possible to show care and concern for others over money, but that one must first care more for people than for money for that to happen. It is one more wonderful job of acting from the movie’s cast. And together with the work of her cast mates, it makes for one more equally wonderful reason to watch Life’s A Breeze at least once. It also shows once more why this deep, funny, and moving indie flick should be an early pick for any critic’s list of the year’s best new indie flicks.

The work of the cast in Life’s A Breeze, its central story, and its primary message together make it an early candidate for any critic’s list of the year’s best new indie flicks. It proves thanks to all of these elements that it is just as enjoyable as any dramedy churned out by Hollywood’s major studios. It is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Magnolia Home Entertainment online at More information on this and other releases from Magnolia Home Entertainment is available online at:




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Every Family Will Enjoy PBS Kids’ Newly Re-Issued Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood DVD

Courtesy:  PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS Kids

Fans of PBS Kids’ hit series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood are getting a special double treat early this year. Next Tuesday, February 3rd, PBS Distribution will release the new DVD Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Big Brother Daniel. The DVD contains eight episodes, one of which is a double episode, which follows the Tiger family’s welcoming of its newest addition. Before that DVD hits store shelves and oline outlets, families can also enjoy the recently re-issued Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood DVD Daniel Tiger’s Niehgborhood: Welcome to the Neighborhood. Families that do not already own Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Welcome to the Neighborhood have plenty of reason to add it to their personal collections. The main reason that any family will want to add it to their collection is the writing behind the episodes included on the DVD. While there are only three episodes included on this disc in comparison to the standard eight that are on the series’ other DVDs, the writing still stands out. Also worth noting of the new re-issue is its bonus jigsaw puzzle. Just as with PBS Kids’ other select re-issues, the puzzle is easily detached from the DVD’s case and its sticky backing. It is just as easily re-assembled together with a parent. And last worth noting of the DVD is its bonus material. All of the bonuses included on the DVD’s original release have been included on this re-issue. All things considered, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Welcome to the Neighborhood proves that it is another welcome addition to any family’s home DVD collection.

The writers behind Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood have shown time and again throughout the show’s current run why it is one of the most beloved family friendly series on television today. The lessons taught throughout every episode have carried on Fred Rogers’ legacy with the utmost honor to what he created so many decades ago. The episodes contained in the episodes on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Welcome to the Neighborhood are no different. In the first of the DVD’s episodes, sees Daniel going to get the cake for his birthday party. But when the cake gets messed up on the way back to his house, his dad helps him understand that just because something seems bad doesn’t necessarily mean it actually is. Simply put, he helps Daniel to understand that there’s a silver lining to every dark cloud. Speaking of clouds, that episode’s companion, “Daniel’s Picnic” sees Daniel and his friends having to find that proverbial silver lining when their picnic is rained out and forces them to take their picnic indoors. On the surface, both episodes teach viewers that there is always some good to life’s various negatives. On a deeper level, they teach viewers to never give up even when things seem impossible to overcome. The disc’s closer “Neighbor Day” is even more proof of why the writing in these episodes is so important. The writers behind this episode crafted a story that audiences of all ages should watch. It teaches the importance and value of being a good neighbor to one another. Sadly, this is something that far too many adults today have forgotten how to do. And being that children learn more from their adult counterparts than from anyone else, it makes this lesson all the more important. The episode’s secondary lesson about simply being kind to one another is just as invaluable for viewers of all ages. It is a lesson that everybody will appreciate. Maybe if more people would take heed to the lessons raised in this episode and those in the previous pair of episodes, the world would be a better place in which to live, proving once more just why the work put in by the series’ writers is the cornerstone of the DVD’s success.

The work of the writers put in to the episodes culled for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Welcome to the Neighborhood is undoubtedly the most important aspect of this re-issue in terms of its success and enjoyment for the whole family. While it is undoubtedly the most important aspect of the DVD’s success, the companion jigsaw puzzle that has been included with the re-issue is just as important to the whole. As with PBS Kids’ other recent re-issues from Dinosaur Train, Caillou, and Super Why, the puzzle included with this DVD is just as much a positive as the writing that went into the included episodes. The puzzle’s pieces are not so small that they could be considered choking hazards. At the same time, they are also just small enough that they will help young viewers build their problem solving skills whether assembling the puzzle themselves or with their parents. The puzzle comes fully assembled and attached to a sticky backing that is itself attached to the front of the case with rubber cement. So it is easily detached from the box in whole and from its backing just as easily. Even better is the fact that it also boasts the same artwork as that one the case’s cover. So once the puzzle is removed from the case and its backing, young viewers can assemble the puzzle right on top of the case, using the case’s artwork as a map. And as if all of that is not enough, the puzzle is the exact same height and width of the case. So the comparison of the puzzle to the cover in assembling the puzzle is made that much easier and cleaner. All of this taken into consideration, the puzzle that is included with the new re-issue of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Welcome to the Neighborhood becomes all the more important of an addition to the whole. It still isn’t all that makes this DVD so enjoyable, either. The last factor to note in the DVD’s success is the inclusion of its original bonus material.

The writing behind the DVD’s episodes and the companion jigsaw puzzle that was included as a bonus together make Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Welcome to the Neighborhood well worth adding to any family’s DVD library. While both elements are of their own importance to the presentation in whole, the inclusion of the DVD’s original bonus material in this re-issue is just as important. It’s important in that it means whether or not audiences already own the DVD’s previous release, no one will feel shorted by PBS and PBS Kids with this re-issue. The bonus material in question includes printable coloring sheets that feature Daniel and his friends both by themselves and together, and a pair of activities that young viewers can do together. The first of the activities teaches young people to share and take turns by making a pretend train with chairs, belts, and “tickets” made with construction paper. Parents can help children design and cut out the tickets and then set up the “train” so that the children can take turns conducting the train. The activity goes hand-in-hand with “Neighbor Day” thanks to its lessons about sharing and being kind to one another. “Feeling Faces,” the second of the disc’s activities, coincides with “Daniel’s Picnic.” It teaches the importance of healthy eating just like Daniel and his friends did in their picnic. It also serves as a wonderful way to teach young audiences about sharing their feelings. While not necessarily a direct tie to any of the DVD’s episodes, teaching young people to share how they feel is important in itself. That it helps develop communication skills, too is just as important. Together with the lesson on healthy eating it shows even more why the inclusion of this bonus feature is important, just as much as the lesson about sharing in “All Aboard.” That all of the lessons in question have been included with the multifaceted lessons shared in the DVDs included episodes strengthens the DVD even more and proving once and for all why the re-issue of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Welcome to the Neighborhood is a welcome addition to any family’s home library.

Whether for the inclusion of the DVD’s original bonus material, its newly included jigsaw puzzle, or for the inclusion of the original DVD’s episodes, the newly re-issued Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Welcome to the Neighborhood offers audiences of all ages plenty to enjoy. The DVD is available in stores and online now and can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at More information on this and other DVDs from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is available online along with more episodes and games at:



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The Bullhounds’ Debut Re-Issue Is One Of This Year’s Best

Courtesy:  MVD Entertainment Group

Courtesy: MVD Entertainment Group

Rock is not dead.  To quote AC/DC front man Brian Johnson, “rock and roll will never die.”  And the upcoming re-issue of rock and roll super group The Bullhounds’ 2014 album Protector is proof of that. The band, whose members have recorded and performed with the likes of Sheryl Crow, Georgia Satellites, and Izzy Stradlin, released the band’s debut album overseas last year.  And on March 10th it will finally get a proper U.S. courtesy of MVD Entertainment Group.  The album’s title is quite fitting considering the musical and lyrical content that makes up the album’s twelve tracks.  From start to finish, this record is pure old school rock and roll.  It reminds listeners of everything that once made rock great and still does today, even among all of the down-tuned, crunching guitars and indecipherable cookie monster growls, and oh-woe-is-me lyrics that are out there.  It shows that even among all of those cookie cutter acts that make up the rock and metal communities, real, pure rock and roll is still very much alive and well.  Among the album’s dozen songs and forty-five minutes, there is not one bad moment.  The bluesy ‘If You Got No One’ is one of the strongest of the album’s moments thanks both to its music and to its uplifting lyrics.  Right after that song is the contemplative ‘What Makes A Man.’  This track is just as rich in its blues roots musically speaking.  Lyrically speaking, it is just as interesting as it makes its own statement without being overly preachy unlike so many of today’s younger bands.  And then there is the even deeper ‘Moments.’  This song is one of the most surprising of the album’s songs.  That is because it is the total antithesis of anything else on this record.  By its lyrics and the album’s overall musical style, one would expect it to be a huge ballad.  But it is not even that.  It is an emotional piece that offers so much both musically and lyrically.  It is just one more example of what makes Protector an early, clear candidate for both the year’s best new rock records and best new independent records.  That isn’t to take away anything from the album’s other songs, either.  Pieces such as ‘Mean, Mean Girl,’ ‘Little Lady,’ and ‘Drunk Tired’ are just as noteworthy as are the six songs that remain  after all of those.  Collectively, all twelve songs make Protector an album that any rock and roll purist should hear at least once.

The Bullhounds’ debut record Protector is an easy candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new rock records and independent records, too.  Every one of the album’s twelve tracks offers its own argument as to why the album is deserving of this honor.  Between the old school blues/rock sound that dominates most of the album and its softer moments, there is more than enough material on this record to put a smile on the face of any rock and roll purist.  One of the best examples of what makes this record so enjoyable comes in the form of ‘If You Got No One.’  ‘If You Got No One’ comes in just after the album’s midway point.  It is a fun, solid, straight forward blues-rock piece that offers just as much enjoyment from its musical side as its lyrical side.  Drummer Mauro Magellan’s solid, driving tempo teams with guitarist Rick Richards to create the song’s musical foundation.  Front man Erling Daell adds his own touch to the song with his positive lyrics.  Daell sings “Life can be really tough I know/But you gotta hang in there/Although things don’t always turn out the way you want/But don’t ever let that get to you/I know it can be hard/But all you gotta do/Is always look on the bright side of life.”  From there, Daell returns to the refrains of the song’s lead verse singing, “If you got no one to lean on/If you got no one to turn to/If you got no one to tell your troubles to/Yeah, if you got a whole lotta trouble/If you can’t make nobody see/You know my friend you can always lean on me.”  Daell’s almost Mike Neff style vocals add even more to the song, making it even more enjoyable and a prime example of why this album is well worth the listen.

‘If You Got No One’ is a great example of what makes The Bullhounds debut album one of the best new rock records and best new independent releases of 2015.  As impressive as the song proves to be against Protector’s other songs, it is just one of the album’s high points.  The band shows in ‘What Makes A Man’ that it doesn’t rest easily on its laurels.  ‘What Makes A Man’ slows things down considerably without losing any of the album’s musical or lyrical punch.  Daell sings in this song, “Customers of God!/File out of the churches/Casting me glances/With eyes that are sold on thinly veiled curses/They cut holes where my heart is/And I’m left asking/What makes a man/What makes a man/Is it logic/Is it faith/Is it skin and bones/What makes a man/What makes a man/Is it saying I don’t know when I don’t know/Well I don’t know.”  One would think that considering these lyrics, ‘What Makes A Man’ would be a much softer ballad-style piece in terms of its music.  But instead it holds the blues roots exhibited throughout the album’s other songs.  Its tempo is slower than that of many of the album’s other songs.  But it doesn’t let itself become the stereotypical introspective ballad that it easily could have become.  It’s yet another way in which Protector proves to be such an impressive record both as a rock record and an independent record.

The members of The Bullhounds go well beyond proving on Protector that it is indeed possible to teach old dogs some new tricks. And yes, that bad pun was fully intended. That is exhibited both in ‘If You Got No One’ and ‘What Makes A Man.’ It is exhibited in every one of the album’s other songs, too. One more new trick that the veteran musicians show off on this record is the album’s only real ballad, ‘Moments.’ What is truly intriguing about this song is that while it is a ballad, it is not necessarily the sort of song one typically thinks of when one thinks of ballads in the typical sense. It is very much a gentle, controlled song. But it isn’t the sappy, over-the-top sort of song that one typically associates with the term “ballad.” It is actually a very moving piece, musically speaking. And that coupled with its lyrics validates it even more. Daell reminds listeners in this song to not take any moment for granted no matter how big or small as he sings, “Feel it now/Feel for the moment/It will not allow/Any lingering/First it comes/And then it’s gone/And even memories will fade/So feel the moment/Before it slips away.” That is illustrated even more as he sings, “Let it go you fool/Cause you don’t know/When a precious moment passes on/A new one’s born.” He then goes on to sing in the song’s closing verse, “All you get/A string of moments/That is all you get/But you will find/That what you got/Is quite a lot/And that is all you need to know/So feel the moment/And let it go.” The band’s musical approach to the song coupled with its lyrical take make a perfect match. The emotional impact of the partnering is one that will hopefully keep in listeners’ minds to find something special in every moment every day. Such positive lyrics and touching music is difficult to find in today’s mainstream musical universe. That general lack of musical and lyrical positivity makes even clearer why this song is another welcome addition to Protector. It shows yet again, too why Protector is one of this year’s early candidates for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new rock and independent records lists.

‘If You Got No One,’ ‘What Makes A Man,’ and ‘Moments’ are all prime examples of why Protector is one of this year’s best new rock and independent records. That is not to take away from the album’s other songs, either. Whether for the old school rock sound of ‘Fugitive,’ the swagger of ‘Little Lady,’ the Americana-infused ‘Drunk Tired,’ or any of the album’s other songs not noted here, audiences will find something to like about Protector. Speaking of ‘Drunk Tired,’ any fans of Hank III will appreciate that song as it definitely mirrors some of his work to some extent. But that’s a story for another time. All of those songs and the pieces directly noted here show without a doubt why any rock and roll purist should give Protector at least one listen. One listen may very well lead to more and a new favorite rock and roll record this year.

Protector will be available for every rock and roll purist to hear Tuesday, March 10th. More information on Protector and all of the latest news from The Bullhounds is available online now at:



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Audiences Of All Ages Will “Love” Shout! Factory Kids’ New Pound Puppies DVD

Courtesy:  Shout! Kids/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Kids/Shout! Factory

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner yet again.  For many that means the annual barrage of candy, flowers, and cards.  For children, it means the annual “holiday” parties if they still have them.  Regardless of whether or not schools still hold the parties in question, Shout! Factory Kids has a new DVD on the way next Tuesday that the whole family will *ahem* love to watch together to celebrate the big day.  Pound Puppies: Puppy Love will be released next Tuesday, February 3rd on DVD.  The compilation, the sixth from the hit Discovery Family series, offers plenty for audiences to enjoy beginning with the writing behind the episodes.  The Pound Puppies face some of their biggest challenges in this compilation.  From having to get the most puppies adopted ever in one episode to facing off against a megalomaniacal dog catcher voiced by Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) and having to navigate a nasty dispute between two neighbors in order to unite a puppy with its perfect child, the writing in each episode is more than enough reason for audiences to pick up this collection.  As if those challenges aren’t enough, love is also in the air for Niblet and Lucky.  Twice over, Lucky and Cookie have to admit their feelings for one another.  And in another episode, Niblet has to face a big decision when he meets a female sheep dog.  Collectively, the writing in the episodes culled for this DVD more than makes it worth adding to any family’s home library.  As impressive as the writing is, the work of the voice actors adds even more enjoyment to the presentation.  This includes the extensive list of guest stars that make appearances.  Last worth noting of this new compilation that makes it so enjoyable is its bonus printable valentine.  The DVD’s box art is used for the dual-sided card.  And audiences need only have Adobe Reader to open the card and print it out.  After printing it out, young audiences can give the card to their favorite pet or to their own parents or even a friend.  Regardless of who receives the bonus printable card, it proves to be one more reason for any family to add Pound Puppies: Puppy Love to their own home library.  Together with the work of the voice actors and of the show’s writers, it proves to be another great new release from Shout! Factory Kids.

Shout! Factory Kids’ latest collection of episodes from the hit Discovery Family series Pound Puppies is a welcome addition to any family’s home library.  This is the case whether on Valentine’s Day or any time of the year.  The central reason for its enjoyment is the writing behind its episodes.  The episodes culled for this compilation see the Pound Puppies face some of their biggest challenges yet.  The simply titled episode “The General” presents just one of those challenges.  This episode sees the Pound Puppies facing the massive challenge of getting some sixty-seven puppies adopted.  Of course it just so happens that McLeish is forced to hold an adoption fair by the mayor.  Even with the perfect opportunity there, things don’t exactly go fully as planned when Cookie decides to start acting like The General.  The central story is enjoyable within itself because of the challenge facing the Pound Puppies.  The underlying message sent to young viewers about being proud of who they are makes the episode even more enjoyable.  It is a message that viewers of all ages will appreciate.

In another episode, “McLeish Unleashed,” the Pound Puppies have and equally big challenge as they have to face off against the megalomaniacal Milton Feltwaddle (Jim Parsons—The Big Bang Theory) and get McLeish back as the head of Shelter 17.  Milton takes over Shelter 17 when McLeish is promoted to a management position in the city’s wastewater management department.  Any viewer familiar with the classic sitcom Hogan’s Heroes will love the direct tribute to that series as Feltwaddle turns Shelter 17 into a virtual concentration camp.  It the most direct throwback to Hogan’s Heroes yet with Feltwaddle even donning a military uniform, looking almost like Colonel Klink.  Of course the Pound Puppies end up defeating Feltwaddle.  The catch is that they have to rely on some unlikely help.  Fellow veteran voice actor Frank Welker makes an appearance, too albeit in a bit role.  Even in a bit role, Welker shows such expertise and respect for his cast mates.  Of course that will be discussed at more length later.  Whether for the direct throwback to Hogan’s Heroes or for the story itself, it proves to be one more great addition to the compilation, showing even more its value in any family’s home library.

One more major challenge that the Pound Puppies face comes in the form of “Rebound’s First Symphony.”  Veteran Actress Betty White joins comedienne Margaret Cho and veteran voice actresses Cree Summer (Clifford The Big Red Dog, Codename: Kids Next Door, Tiny Toon Adventures) and Grey DeLisle (Clifford The Big Red Dog, Curious George, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy) in this episode that sees the Pound Puppies trying to unite a musically gifted puppy named Yo Yo with a girl named Sumalee.  Sumalee is a gifted violinist.  But pressure from her mom is making her not enjoy playing her violin.  What’s worse, Agatha’s (Betty White—Hot in Cleveland, The Golden Girls) dog Rebound (Brooke Goldner—Pound Puppies, Littlest Pet Shop) enjoys Sumalee’s playing, too.  Her love for Sumalee’s talents is so much that it leads to a growing fight between Agatha and Sumalee’s mother Mrs. Wattana (Margaret Cho).  The fight in question doesn’t make the Pound Puppies mission to unite Sumalee and Yo Yo any easier.  But they do bring them together.  The fight between Agatha and Mrs. Wattana is pretty funny in itself.  It will have audiences of all ages laughing.  And the story that sees the Pound Puppies’ mounting challenge makes this episode even more enjoyable.  The secondary message about the pressure placed on young people is something to which so many viewers will be able to relate.  It makes the episode even more welcome an addition to this compilation, thus making even more reason for any family to add the DVD to their home library.

The challenges faced by the Pound Puppies in their latest group of adventures make for more than their share of reason for audiences to check out Pound Puppies: Puppy Love.  Being a Valentine’s Day-themed compilation, there are a couple episodes that see love in the air.  Cookie and Lucky finally have to admit to their feelings for each other not once but twice in this collection in “The General” and “When Niblet Met Giblet.”  The latter of the two episodes also sees Niblet falling for a female sheep dog named Giblet (Ashley Johnson—Ben 10: Omniverse, Teen Titans Go!, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien).  This episode presents something of a bittersweet story Niblet ends up having to make a very difficult decision. As bittersweet as the story proves to be in the end, it still reminds viewers that love is possible.  Cookie has to admit her feelings for Lucky in the prior of the pair when the General, who turns out to be a female dog, calls on the Pound Puppies.  These two episodes in conjunction with the others already noted show once and for all just why the writing in the episodes more than makes Pound Puppies: Puppy Love worth adding to any family’s home library.

The work that went into the writing in each of this disc’s episodes is more than enough reason for audiences to make it the latest addition to their home libraries. As impressive as the writing proves to be, the work of the show’s voice cast is also worth noting. Whether it be the series’ main cast or the extensive list of guest actors enlisted for these episodes everyone involved in bring the episodes to life is well deserving of their applause. Jim Parsons’ portrayal of the megalomaniacal Milton Feltwaddle is hilarious. Any viewer that is familiar with Parsons’ portrayal of Sheldon Cooper on the Big Bang Theory will love seeing that same character style expressed in this setting. Parsons shows not once but twice in this set why he is one of the most respected comedic actors out there today in his role as Feltwaddle. Betty White’s Agatha is a recurring character in Pound Puppies. White’s work with famed comedienne Margaret Cho in “Rebound’s First Symphony” is just as entertaining. It’s obvious that White and Cho had fun working together on this episode as their characters’ conflict increases. There is something about the pair’s back and forth as the conflict escalates that shows how much fun the women had making the episode. It is just as obvious when Mrs. Wattana is forced to rely on Agatha in order to get her daughter. On another note, veteran voice actor Frank Welker appears in a bit role as a young girl’s father in “McLeish Unleashed.” Even in a bit role, he is still entertaining. He doesn’t try to ham up his few lines, instead letting his cast mates hold the spotlight. Considering that Welker (Curious George, Scooby-Doo Where Are You, The Real Ghostbusters) has spent most of his career voicing central roles, his control in this episode shows his professionalism. In turn, it makes it even greater to see and hear him at work in this setting. Lauren Tom (Futurama, Friends, The Joy Luck Club) makes an appearance in one episode, too. And it goes without saying that she is just as entertaining in her role. Her acting and that of the rest of the voice cast in these episodes adds to the episodes’ overall enjoyment. Together with the work of the show’s writers, both the writing and acting make for plenty of enjoyment in these episodes and even more proof of why this new DVD is a welcome addition to any family’s home library.

The work put in by the voice cast and the writers in the episodes culled for Pound Puppies: Puppy Love collectively makes for plenty of reason for any family to add this DVD to their home library. For all of the enjoyment that they garner, they still are not all that make it worth the purchase. The DVD’s bonus printable valentine rounds out the entire package. The double-sided card uses the DVD’s box art for its artwork. And the message that “you’re top dog, Valentine” will put a smile on anybody’s face whether it be another child or a parent. All a person needs to print out the valentine is Adobe Reader. It’s that easy. All a person has to do to get there is open the disc from “My Computer” and open it manually to get to the valentine. The valentine comes complete with specific folding instructions to make things even easier. Parents can help children fold the card once it’s printed out. Or if parents think their children are old enough, kids can print out the card and fold it themselves before giving it to a friend or to their parents. It’s the finishing touch on a DVD that even without it would still have been a great valentine from any parent to any child. The addition of the valentine just makes it that much more enjoyable. Together with the work of the show’s writers and the voice actors, it is the last part of the whole proving why any family will want to add the DVD to their home library this Valentine’s Day.

Whether for the work of the show’s writers or that of the voice cast, the work of both shine in their own way in every episode culled for Pound Puppies: Puppy Love. The addition of a bonus printable valentine adds an extra touch to the presentation in whole. It is an extra touch that will allow parents and their children to spent even more time together and could even bring them together emotionally too after the valentine is printed out and assembled. The combination of all of these elements makes Pound Puppies: Puppy Love yet another solid release from Shout! Factory Kids. They show without a bit of doubt why Pound Puppies: Puppy Love is one more welcome addition to any family’s home library. It will be available on DVD next Tuesday, February 3rd. It can be pre-ordered now direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory Kids is available online at:





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Sci-Fi Fans and ET Enthusiasts Alike Will Enjoy In Search Of Aliens Season 1

Courtesy:  A&E Home Video/Lionsgate/History/H2

Courtesy: A&E Home Video/Lionsgate/History/H2

History Channel and H2’s hit sci-fi/history hybrid series Ancient Aliens has proven to be quite the hit among audiences ever since it debuted in 2009. Since that time, it has gone on to run seven seasons and is currently in the midst of its eighth full season on H2. The success of that series led to the premiere of a spinoff in the form of Searching For Aliens last summer. Since not everybody has access to H2, History Channel and A&E Home Video made available to audiences the full first season of In Search of Aliens on DVD last month. The three disc season set is a good addition to the library of any sci-fi fan and even any true believer. The central reason that it is a welcome addition to said audiences’ libraries is its episodes. The episodes that make up the series’ first season both throw back to the topics covered in Ancient Aliens and introduce new topics. And while some of host Girogio Tsoukalos’ theories seem somewhat far-fetched, others make at least a certain amount of sense. To that extent, the theories and arguments raised in each episode aren’t just the standard “oh it’s got to be aliens” argument. Though, Tsoukalos does always find a way to argue that every mystery is answered by alien intervention. And last of note in this box set is are the graphic illustrations used to help explain each of Tsoukalos’ theories. While they don’t necessarily do anything to convince skeptics, they do help to illustrate Tsoukalos’ theories. And that makes each of this season’s episodes all the more watchable. All three factors together show exactly why In Search of Aliens Season One is a welcome addition to the collection of any sci-fi fan and alien enthusiast.

At first glance, one might assume that History and H2’s new extraterrestrial series In Search of Aliens is just a rehashing of Ancient Aliens. But any viewer that gives it a chance will note that In Search of Aliens is in fact not that. There are episodes that seem familiar since their subject mater was already discussed in previous episodes of Ancient Aliens. But there are also episodes that feature subject matter that was not handled in the aforementioned series, too. That is the central aspect of In Search of Aliens Season One that audiences will appreciate. The series re-visits the mystery of the Nazca lines, the alleged alien influence on America’s founding, and the Nazis’ attempt at time travel in its first season. It also goes into more depth, examining the potential link between alien life and some of the world’s most legendary creatures in Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. There is also an examination into what is known as “The Roswell Rock.” The rock in question is a magnetized stone that was allegedly left behind by the military at the site of the infamous Roswell UFO crash site. This episode especially is certain to create discussion as it is shown just how easily the raised symbol on the rock could have been man-made. The examination of what makes the rock a natural magnet is even more interesting. On one side, it could easily argued that it just happened to be a natural phenomenon that someone found and used to carve the formation that appears on it. There are naturally occurring items such as “The Roswell Rock” out there. So it is sure to keep create its own share of discussion alongside the other episodes included in this season’s set. Whether it be for that single episode, any of the others or all of them together, the fact that these episodes balance familiar theories with less familiar theories is reason enough for any sci-fi fan and UFO enthusiast to check out In Search of Aliens Season One.

The mix of old and new theories that make up the whole of In Search Of Aliens Season One is within itself plenty of reason for ay sci-fi fan and UFO enthusiast to check out this box set. The arguments expounded by host Giorgio Tsoukalos make for another reason for audiences to check out this collection of episodes. Given, some of his theories seem far-fetched. But others do leave some room for thought. Many of his arguments are made through interviews with “experts” in specific fields related to each topic. In the case of the legendary Nazca lines, his interview with a construction expert reveals how the iconic “mountaintop landing strip” would have entailed countless blast operations, paving and much more over the course of two to three decades at least. Considering that and what looks obviously like a modern set of airport runways, one can’t deny that the possibility of something other than humans was responsible for its construction. On the other hand, the episode centered on “The Roswell Rock” leaves plenty of room for doubt. It is shown just how easy it would have been re-create the symbol on the rock. What’s more, if the man who owned the rock came out as having it, wouldn’t the government have come in and taken it at some point? Even more worth noting is that naturally occurring items such as the magnetic rock have been found around the world. So for Tsoukalos to just say, “oh it’s alien, I don’t care what anyone says!” is a bit close-minded. The theories and arguments raised in Season One’s other episodes are sure to generate their own share of discussion. The discussion in question coupled with Tsoukalos’ theories and arguments show even more why any sci-fi fan and UFO enthusiast will appreciate the first season of In Search of Aliens.

The episodes that make up the first season of In Search of Aliens and the theories and arguments therein make for plenty of reason for sci-fi fans and UFO enthusiasts alike to check out this recently released box set. While the theories and arguments raised in each episode help move the episodes along, the video and graphic illustrations used to ground each theory and argument play theory own part in the episodes’ enjoyment. In the case of the episode centering on the Nazi time travel experiment, audiences are presented the sight of the experiments. There is also footage showing Tsoukalos with a group of scientists who test the bell-shaped craft allegedly created by the Nazis for their time travel experiments. that is set alongside footage of the spacecraft used by NASA over the years. It makes a good case for the possibility of some influence from somewhere. And in presenting the case of the Nazca lines, audiences are presented a graphic illustration as part of the argument for its link to extraterrestrials that will definitely have some audiences talking. A CG graphic is shown, illustrating the efforts that would had to have been taken in terms of blasting, etc. to make the mountaintop “landing strip” become a reality. Seeing first hand what was being explained makes the amount of work really mind boggling especially considering how long ago the landing strip and figures around it were crafted. The illustrations incorporated into this season’s episodes make them just as interesting in their own right, too. The end result of the collective illustrations, the arguments and theories themselves is a group of episodes that is a solid extension of Ancient Aliens and a series that has the potential to stand on its own two feet in the long run. It is a group of episodes that any sci-fi fan and UFO enthusiast will happily welcome into their own home DVD library.

Whether it be for the theories familiar and new to audiences, the arguments tied in to the theories or the video and graphics used to illustrate said arguments and theories, all three elements noted make In Search of Aliens a collection of episodes that any sci-fi fan and UFO enthusiast will want to see at least once. The episodes included in this season re-introduce the topics covered through the current eight season-run of Ancient Aliens. The theories and arguments within each episode are sure to create their own share of discussion among skeptics and true believers alike. And the combination of graphics and video used to illustrate each theory and argument helps to advance each episode even more, thus keeping audiences engaged. The combination of all of the noted elements makes this collection a welcome addition to the library of any sci-fi fan and UFO enthusiast regardless of whether or not it gets picked up for a second season. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online at More information on this and other series from History and H2 is available online at:




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New Live Coletrane Recording Coming This Spring From MVD Entertainment Group

Courtesy:  MVD Entertainment Group

Courtesy: MVD Entertainment Group

Jazz lovers celebrate! This spring, MVD Entertainment Group is going to release a new archived live recording from legendary saxophonist John Coletrame.

MVD Entertainment Group will release So Many Things: The European Tour 1960 on Tuesday, March 10th. The four-disc set is a “sequel” of sorts to Miles Davis and John Coletrane “All of You”: The Last Tour 1960. It follows the band’s performances from its Fall 1961 tour of Europe and features performances of some of Coletrane’s greatest hits including: ‘My Favorite Things,’ ‘Blue Train,’ and ‘Naima’ that Coletrane performed alongside band mates Eric Dolphy (alto sax, bass clarinet, flute), McCoy Tyner (piano), Reggie Workman (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums). There is also a bonus for fans as the quintet performed what is Coletrane’s only recording of Victor Young’s ‘Delilah.’ It also includes photographs, concert memorabilia, and news articles as well as a full-length essay in the set’s liner notes from award-winning British saxophonist and writer Simon Spillett. The complete track listing for the upcoming recording is noted below.
CD 1:
L’Olympia, Paris, November 18th 1961 (First House)
1. Blue Train (Coltrane)
2. I Want To Talk About You (Eckstine)
3. Impressions (Coltrane)
4. My Favourite Things (Rodgers, Hammerstein)

L’Olympia, Paris, November 18th 1961 (Second House)
5. I Want To Talk About You (Eckstine)
6. Blue Train (Coltrane)

CD 2:
L’Olympia, Paris, November 18th 1961 (Second House, cont.)
1. My Favourite Things (Rodgers, Hammerstein)

Falkconercentret, Copenhagen, Denmark, November 20th 1961
2. Announcement
3. Delilah (Young)
4. Everytime We Say Goodbye (Porter)
5. Impressions (Coltrane)
6. Naima (Coltrane)

CD 3:
Falkonercentret, Copenhagen, Denmark, November 20th 1961 (cont.)
1. My Favourite Things (false starts)
2. Announcement by John Coltrane
3. My Favourite Things (Rodgers, Hammerstein)

Kulttuuritalo, Helsinki, Finland, November 22nd 1961 (Second House)
4. Blue Train (Coltrane)
5. I Want To Talk About You (Eckstine)
6. Impressions (Coltrane)
7. My Favourite Things (Rodgers, Hammerstein)

CD 4:
Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden, November 23rd 1961 (First House)
1. Blue Train (Coltrane)
2. Naima (Coltrane)
3. Impressions (Coltrane)
4. My Favourite Things (Rodgers, Hammerstein)

Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden, November 23rd 1961 (Second House)
4. My Favourite Things (Rodgers, Hammerstein)

More information on this and other releases from MVD Entertainment Group is available online at:




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Phil’s Picks Is Giving Away Two Great Grammy-Nominated Albums For The Whole Family

The 2015 awards season is officially underway. The Golden Globes has come and gone and so has the annual People’s Choice Awards show. Next up is the biggest night of the year for the music industry–Grammy night. The Grammys will be broadcast live Sunday, February 8th on CBS. Obviously there are varying opinions on the legitimacy of the annual awards show. That is mainly because it focuses mainly on the mainstream acts that everyone knows about. Sadly, that leaves out the acts that really deserve some coverage, including artists and bands in the realm of children’s music. This year, a number of the bands and artists in the children’s music genre that have been nominated are also acts whose releases this critic personally reviewed throughout 2014. And in honor of their nominations, Phil’s Picks is giving away CDs from two of this year’s nominees in the Children’s music genre. Those acts are The Okee Dokee Brothers, and The Pop Ups. Both acts released albums that in their own way have proven to be anything but albums solely for children. If anything, both The Okee Dokee Brothers’ Through The Woods and The Pop Ups’ Appetite For Construction prove to be albums that are just as much for children as for their parents. And now two lucky families will get a chance to win one of those CDs courtesy of Phil’s Picks. For those that haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing either of them, a short overview of both albums follows.

Through The Woods

Courtesy:  Okee Dokee Music

Courtesy: Okee Dokee Music

Through The Woods is a wonderful album not just for children but for adults, too. That’s first and foremost because of its music. It is clear that it isn’t aimed just at children. In the same vein, older audiences will recognize the likes of David Holt, Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, and Hubby Jenkins of the Carolina Chocolate Drops on this record. The inclusion of older musicians, music, and lyrical themes that are aimed more at general audiences than specifically at children goes even farther to prove just how enjoyable this record is for listeners of all ages. It serves to show that Lansing and Mailander are perhaps branching out of their niche realm without alienating the parents and children that they entertained early on. It’s even more reason to applaud this album.

The music and special guest appearances on the album’s songs collectively create a solid foundation for Through The Woods. That foundation having been established, Lansing and Mailander make their latest album even more enjoyable for audiences thanks to the inclusion of a bonus companion DVD that comes with the CD. The album’s bonus DVD documents the journey undertaken by Lansing and Mailander. Along the course of their trip, the men interview a number of individuals who share the history of Appalachian/Mountain Music in their given region. As noted previously, well-known North Carolina musician David Holt is one of those individuals. He makes the interesting statement that he prefers to call Appalachian music “Mountain Music.” That’s because as he puts it, it encompasses the music of every region along the Appalachian Trail. It makes sense. The other interviews featured through the pair’s journey are just as interesting as they come from ordinary people who live along the trail. Audiences will be able to relate to these average, every day figures. And because of that ability to relate, audiences will enjoy the presentation even more.

The documentary following the Okee Dokee Brothers included on the album’s bonus DVD is a wonderful addition to the disc. It’s not all that the bonus DVD offers audiences. The Okee Dokee Brothers sweeten the deal even more by including their album in its entirety on the DVD, too. So not only do listeners get to hear Through The Woods on CD, they also get to hear it on DVD. It makes the bonus DVD that much more of a true bonus and welcome companion to the album. It seals the deal for this album that has justifiably earned itself a spot on the list of this year’s nominees for “Best Children’s Album.”

Appetite For Construction

Courtesy:  Pop Up City Records

Courtesy: Pop Up City Records

Appetite for Construction, the latest new release from kindie-pop rock band The Pop-Ups is an interesting work. The twelve-track album from the Brooklyn, NY based band will take parents all the way back to the 1970s and 80s with its mix of sounds all while celebrating the joys of childhood with its lyrical side. That lyrical side will also entertain parents as it will take them back to their own childhoods with songs such as ‘Craft Night,’ ‘Costume Party,’ and ‘All These Shapes.’ That these songs and those not mentioned could reach audiences of so many ages and entertain them at the same time proves once more why children’s music can be and often is just as good as anything crafted specifically for grown-ups.

In ‘Craft Night’ The Pop Ups—Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein—sing about the fun of creating a picture collage. The duo sings about sitting at a table, taking those old tubes of glue, and gluing pictures to sheets of construction paper. Any grown-up that ever did this as a kid will understand and appreciate this song just as much as any child today provided schools still teach children about making collages. Any parent that ever took part in such craft making as children will be taken back in time thanks to the song’s vivid imagery provided via its lyrical content. And any children that actually still take part in such activities in schools today—apparently there are children that focus more on computer-based learning than on arts and crafts—will relate to it just as much. The addition of an old school 1970s/80s sound will entertain parents just as much. The end result is a song that as already noted, is just one prime example of what makes ‘Craft Night’ one of so many examples of the joy offered on this record.

Sitting down and making arts and crafts has been a time-honored tradition for children for generations. Hopefully it hasn’t become an entirely extinct tradition considering the increased emphasis being placed on computer-based learning in schools across the country. Just as much of a time-honored tradition among children is that of the costume party. Boys and girls alike dress up all the time. And their parents did, too. Such a tradition crossing generations, it makes for another great topic for a children’s song. Thus the aptly titled ‘Costume Party’ in which the duo sings of getting dressed up in different outfits. It’s one that both boys and girls will enjoy. That’s because there’s mention of girls getting dressed up in princess dresses and of boys getting dressed in a relative’s clothes. That set against the song’s 80s pop vibe will help the song to connect both with kids and their parents. Speaking of 80s pop, parents that grew up in the 80s will also appreciate the equally creative ‘All These Shapes.’ That song is one more piece from this album that serves as a solid example of what audiences have to expect from this record.

‘All These Shapes’ is another piece that is set against a 1980s era sound for all the grown-up children of the 80s out there. Stein and Rabinowitz sing in this song about all the possible things that could be drawn from the shapes. Parents will appreciate how this song really encourages thinking and creativity. And they will also appreciate that in its own right, that emphasis on creativity makes the song itself creative. It’s just one more piece that shows the extent of creativity and originality that fills this record. There are nine other tracks that display that creativity and originality just as much as this song and those previously noted. Audiences will be able to hear those songs for themselves when Appetite for Construction is released next month.

All three songs are prime examples of what makes Appetite for Construction worth the listen by both children and their parents. And together with the album’s other works the album in whole has also justifiably made a solid case for its nomination to this year’s Grammy category of the Year’s Best New Children’s albums, just as The Okee Dokee Brothers’ Through The Woods. Regardless of who takes this year’s trophy, it can be said that both acts are equally qualified and deserving of the title. They are yet more proof of why children’s music is just as good as music for adults if not more so. For that mater it proves to be just as enjoyable for adults as for children.

Before the Grammys goes live February 8th, Phil’s Picks will give away one copy of each album Friday, January 30th. One family will win a copy of one album while the other will win the other. It is up to the winning families which CD they want when they win. The winning families’ names will be drawn Friday, January 30th at 5pm ET and their names will be announced on the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at Any family that wants the chance to win one of these CDs need only go to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page, “Like” it and write on the Phil’s Picks FB page, noting that they want to enter for a chance at one of the CDs. It’s that simple. So don’t let this chance to win a Grammy nominated band slip away. Enter now! Spread the word and good luck!

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