WHV Finally Gets One Right With Its New Peanuts Collection

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

This Thanksgiving, Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox will team up to bring audiences the first-ever big screen Peanuts adventure that (go figure) is simply titled The Peanuts Movie. Personal opinions aside, it is interesting to note that as the movie’s debut nears, so is Warner Brothers’ home entertainment division–Warner Home Video (WHV)–stepping up its re-issues of the classic Peanuts TV specials. Already released this year WHV has re-issued Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. Officials with WHV have also announced that the organization will also release Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back) and He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown along with the company’s new compilation set Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection. The latter of the trio is currently planne for a nationwide release on Tuesday, September 15th. Though, interestingly enough it has already been released through Target likely via a special deal between the retailer and the people at WHV. For those that were not lucky enough to pick up the dual-disc collection in its original release via Target will be pleased to add it to their personal collections. The main reason that audiences will be pleased to add it to their collections is its featured specials. It features eleven classic Peanuts TV specials that while previously released on one platform or another are now collected into this much more ergonomic collection. This will be discussed at more length shortly. Another reason that the collection proves so interesting and worth the purchase is the material presented within each special. Audiences actually get to hear an adult talk for the first time ever in one special (She’s A Good Skate, Charlie Brown). And while most audiences are familiar with the classic Peanuts holiday specials, some will be surprised that there is another holiday special of sorts that is just as deserving of attention in the form of What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? This special is a deeply moving Memorial Day special that will impact viewers of all ages. Last of note in regards to this collection’s positives is that classic hand-drawn animation style. The old school style of artwork is yet another example of what once made animated features truly animated and in turn truly entertaining. Each noted element shows in its own way that Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is a surprising new release from WHV. It would be nice to think that maybe it marks the beginning of WHV finally moving in the right direction after having slid in the wrong direction for the past couple of years or so. One can only hope. Even if it is just a random diamond in the rough from the once powerhouse studio, it proves through all three noted elements together, to be one that any Peanuts fan will happily welcome into his or her home DVD library.

Warner Home Video has been noticeably declining over the course of the past two years or more. That is evident through every one of its releases both for families and for select audiences. Said releases have shown that someone(s) at WHV apparently did not and does not care about providing audiences with quality home releases. For all of the problematic releases that WHV has put out in stores over the past couple of years or so, finally a random diamond in the rough from WHV will be released very soon in the form of the new Peanuts collection Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection. This collection of TV specials includes eleven classic Peanuts TV specials that some of which were nominated for Emmy Awards while certain others actually received the coveted trophy. It should be noted that all eleven of the specials featured in this new double-disc collection have each previously been released via one platform or another. Some have been released on VHS while others have previously been released on DVD. Others have even been issued and re-issued on one platform then another. Despite this, some viewers out there might not have been lucky enough to add one, another or more of the featured specials up until this point. That being the case, all eleven specials show collectively to be of the utmost importance for all viewers. That is because more than likely among the legions of Peanuts fans around the world few to any likely have all of the included specials.

The inclusion of each of its specials in one collection is good for Peanuts fans everywhere in large part because having them all in one place means just that. It means that for the first time ever each one of the specials has been finally released on one platform on which all audiences can watch them. No one is left behind. On another level, for those that had one or more of the specials in question from their previous releases can finally eliminate those platforms (or at least most of them if they own the original VHS copies of said specials). That will ultimately lead to saved space for many fans on their respective DVD racks. Again, this might not apply for every Peanuts fan. But it will definitely apply to many fans. And that being the case, it makes the collection’s ergonomic factor that much more important to the whole of its success and enjoyment.

The episodes presented in Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection show clearly why they are within themselves quite important to the whole of the collection. Examining the episodes on a closer level, ther writing shows to be just as important to the collection as the episodes themselves. In examining the specials’ writing it becomes clear why they were either nominated or in some cases even won an Emmy. That is most evident through the surprisingly moving special What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown. This sequel of sorts to Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back) follows Charlie Brown and company on their departure from France. Along the way, the Peanuts gang happens to arrive at Normandy and the site of the Allied landing on D-Day. The history lesson provided by Linus upon their arrival is unbiased and moving all at the same time. The writers don’t pull any punches here, revealing that the Allied attack on Normandy was in fact anything but perfect. Linus notes in his lesson that weather conditions had ruined the mission so much that Allied commanders even considered pulling back. That is a lesson that sadly very few history teachers and professors alike will teach in the classroom. So it is nice to have that historical truth noted in a special that is aimed at younger viewers.

In another of the collection’s episodes, She’s A Good Skate, Charlie Brown, audiences actually get to hear an adult speak for the first (and probably only)time in the history of the Peanuts TV specials. The adult in question is Peppermint Patty’s teacher. She continuously calls on Patty as Patty continues falling asleep in class thanks to her early morning skating practice. Yes, skating. That is another reason that the writing in this special proves so notable. Anyone that knows their Peanuts history knows that Peppermint Patty is more of a tomboy than a girly girl. Heck, she was even voiced by males in a number of the specials. So having Patty taking part in a sport that is traditionally more aimed at females than males shows a completely opposite side of Patty and to the Peanuts universe in whole.  It is a change that all audiences will agree now in the 21st century is a welcome change.  It shows that it’s okay for a girl to be girly and one of the boys.  Simply put, it really serves to defy those strict, standard gender roles established by society.  Whether or not that is the reason that it at least received an Emmy nomination, it is one more reason that the writing behind this special stands out so strongly as one more part of the whole of the collection’s writing.

Why, Charlie Brown, Why? is perhaps the strongest evidence of the importance of the writing behind the collection’s featured episodes. This episode tackles the issue of cancer. On a more specific level, it tackles the issue of childhood cancer and the impact of cancer on both the victim and his or her friends and family. Its story centers on a young girl named Janet who is diagnosed with leukemia. It just so happens that she is friends with Linus and the rest of the Peanuts gang. Though, Linus is the main character of this story. That side element of the story’s writing will be discussed shortly. Sticking on the main topic, the manner in which the writers tackled the subject is hugely worthy of applause. It was handled with the utmost gentility and in a fashion that also made the topic accessible even for much younger viewers. That in itself makes this special more than just a special. It is special in every sense of the word. It’s just one aspect of the special’s writing that makes it so notable among the others included in this set. The fact that Linus was made the story’s central character makes it even more worth the watch. It’s not the first time that Charlie Brown took a back seat to his Peanuts pals. But it is one of the most successful episodes that featured someone other than Charlie Brown at the center of the story. That is especially the case as audiences see Linus actually lose his cool in a very rare instance. He loses it when another child makes fun of Janet for having lost her hair right in front of him. Audiences will find themselves cheering Linus on and even doing so with the slightest tear in their eyes. That rare moment really exemplifies the pent-up feelings that not only children feel in a situation such as that presented here, but grown-ups, too. So for that reason too, the writing behind Why, Charlie Brown, Why? shows even more the importance of the episodes’ writing in whole in examining the set in whole. It is just one more example of the importance of the writing within each of the set’s episodes. The writing within each of the remaining eight specials shows in its own way why the writing in whole is so important to the episodes’ enjoyment and the success of the set in whole. And together with the episodes themselves, both elements together make a strong argument why every Peanuts fan should have this new collection in his or her own home DVD library. They still are just part of the whole of the collection’s positives. Last of note is the animation style within each episode.

Both the episodes featured throughout the body of Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection and the writing within each special makes for plenty of reason for Peanuts fans to appreciate this latest collection of Peanuts classics. Of course what examination of such a classic collection would be complete without mention of the specials’ animation style. Every one of the specials featured as part of Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection was drawn by hand. That means that endless hours were spent bringing to leave each and every second of each special. Now being that each special runs roughly in the range of about twenty minutes (or just a little more in some cases), the math adds up to quite a bit of time spent on bringing each special to life for broadcast. That says a lot when these specials are compared to the largely CG presentations out there today that try to claim themselves as being animated. They are animated in name only. These specials show everything that was once great about true, animated features. Each one of the specials boasts a similar look. But there are also minute details within each special that set them apart. Audiences that have eagle eyes will catch that minutia. The same can’t be said of today’s CG creations. It really gives these classic specials a real soul and heart. Together with the episodes’ impressive writing and the episodes themselves all three elements come together to make Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection a clear must have for any real devoted Peanuts fan.

Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is a must have for any real Peanuts fan. That is the case whether or not said fan already owns any of the specials presented here on their original release platforms. The collective writing presented within each of the collection’s makes the episodes and the collection in whole even more enjoyable. The standout animation style presented across each of the collection’s specials rounds out the presentation. It reminds audiences by comparison of what once made animation so great. The animation is original. Even the upcoming Peanuts Movie that is due out this Thanksgiving doesn’t entirely hold up to that style of animation despite the efforts of those behind the movie to make it look like the classics on which it is based. Each element in itself proves to be an important part of the collections’ whole. Altogether they make Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection a collection that any true-blooded Peanuts fan would himself or herself be honored to have in his or her home DVD library. Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is available now exclusively in Target stores nationwide. It will allegedly be available nationwide in other stores beginning Tuesday, September 15th. More information on this and other upcoming Peanuts releases is available online now along with the latest Peanuts news at:

Website: http://www.peanuts.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Snoopy

Twitter: http://twitter.com/snoopy

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20th Century Fox’s Night At The Museum Series Goes Out On A Low Note With Its Last Installment

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

When it originally debuted in theaters late in 2014, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb ended up being pulled not long after its original run. It comes across as no surprise that it was pulled so quickly. That’s because it is just a hollow shell of the movie that kicked off 20th Century Fox’s Ben Stiller-led franchise some eight years ago with Night at the Museum. The movie is alleged to have had a production budget of approximately $127 million. By comparison, its total domestic take at the box office was rumored to be around $113,531,745. On the surface that may seem like it was a relative success despite coming up short of its budget. It’s deceiving, though. That’s because the box office sales number is the movie’s gross rather than net. After 20th Century Fox recouped its production budget that left the movie to actually keep only $13,468,255. That is a massive loss to say the least. Put more simply, the movie hemorrhaged money. Given, the total domestic plus foreign sales actually garnered the movie a healthy net profit. But it doesn’t make up for the movie’s lackluster domestic sales. It’s even more proof that American audiences are in fact growing weary of Hollywood’s constantly running river of prequels, sequels, and remakes. So what caused this movie to perform so poorly at least at the American box office? The primary issue with the movie is its script. The script breaks absolutely no new ground in comparison to the franchise’s first two movies. As a matter of fact it goes so far as to rehash much of the material from those movies in hopes that audiences would fall for the writing team’s pathetic overall lack of originality and creativity.  The acting is another issue that should be noted in considering what doomed this movie. Having seen the same sort of comic performances twice over in both NATM and NATM 2, Stiller’s acting here—and that of his cast mates—has become old hat and is just as uninspired as the movie’s script. For all of the movie’s cons, there is one saving grace to the whole thing That saving grace is the fact that the movie continues to push the values of the world’s museums and on a larger scale, learning about the history of the world. In simpler terms, it continues to promote the importance of education albeit history education. That is certainly laudable considering that today’s youths are more concerned with the latest video games and the next big viral video than the excitement of the world’s history. Is it enough to save this movie? Sadly, the answer is no. But at least it doesn’t try to fictionalize history and make it something it isn’t in its efforts to entertain young audiences. Taking into account each of its noted elements, NATM 3 (as it will henceforth be known) proves to be just as forgettable in its new home release as its big screen release last year.

20th Century Fox’s third and hopefully truly last installment in its Night at the Museum franchise is the worst of the studio’s three-movie series. There is by and large very little that makes this movie memorable or even enjoyable. The movie’s script is the main reason that it suffers and in turn makes audiences suffer. The script is laughable especially considering that the trilogy first kicked off eight years ago. The story presented in this movie’s script sees Larry (once again played by Ben Stiller) and all of his friends from the original Night at the Museum movie go on a trip across the Atlantic to return the magical tablet at the center of the trilogy to Ahkmenrah’s father in “Egypt.” The trip has to be made because *gasp* the tablet has been away from its proper place for too long. Apparently it hadn’t already sat in the Museum of Natural History in New York for far too long at the time of the trilogy’s first installment. Go figure. So instead of any new story, it all centers on the tablet once again. And not to ruin things for those that haven’t yet seen the movie now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray combo pack, but the group’s “epic” quest isn’t quite as epic as one might think. Instead of actually going to Egypt, they travel to London’s major museum and have to get to the museum’s Egypt wing so as to return the tablet to Ahkmenrah’s father (played in little more than a cameo role by Sir Ben Kingsley). With a budget allegedly topping $127 million one would have thought that Larry and company might have actually somehow made the trip to Egypt or the country’s main museum instead of the Egypt wing of London’s central history museum. Add in the fact that Larry and his friends have to hunt for their pint size pals Jedediah and Octavius (once again played by Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan respectively) and also have to get the tablet back from a misguided Sir Lancelot along the way all while maneuvering their way through the museum, and audiences get a script that when examined in such full detail, can only be described as completely contrived, unoriginal, and completely lacking in any creativity. That’s not even to mention the underlying plot of Larry’s relationship with his now teenage son who wants to travel the world instead of go off to college. It is all too much.

The script thrown together by NATM 3’s writing team does more than its own share of damage to this movie. The very fact that multiple parties played a role in the script’s creation could in fact be to blame for its numerous issues. As much damage as the movie’s script does to the movie’s overall presentation, it’s just one of the movie’s major setbacks. The work of the movie’s cast does its own share of damage, too. Larry’s back and forth with Dexter and Laa is all too familiar for those that have watched NATM and NATM 2. It’s been done. It’s one of those situations that proves to be anything but funny this time around because it has already been done so much before. Even Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan felt slightly like they were just “phoning it in” during their parts. It was almost like they themselves had grown somewhat tired of the roles and were trying hard to not show it. On a lesser note, Rebel Wilson is just as annoying in her role of Tilly as Jonah Hill was as security guard Brandon in NATM 2. To be totally frank, having a similar character type used as the secondary guard twice over shows yet again the writers’ lack of creativity or enlightenment. They obviously didn’t learn from Hill’s failures as is evident in Wilson’s portrayal of Tilly. For all of the damage that the cast does with its work in front of the camera, it can at least be said that Robin Williams didn’t disappoint in what is one of his final roles before his untimely death. It’s easy to tell that once again he put in his whole effort from beginning to end. The same can be said of Patrick Gallagher in his return as Attila The Hun. While he is not the lead star, he is still just as entertaining as ever. To that extent one can argue that at least the movie has that as its single, shining ray of light in an otherwise dark cloud of a sequel.

The writing that went into NATM 3 and the work of the cast by does a lot to prove this movie to be one more sequel that never should have seen the light of day. Though, not the entire cast is so disappointing. Robin Williams and Patrick Gallagher both shine in their own right. Sadly, their work in front of the camera is the movie’s only fully noticeable saving grace in terms of the movie’s intrinsic value. For all of the problems that show up throughout NATM 3, there is at least one positive that can be noted when looking at the movie from a larger scale. That positive is the series’ continued push for history education and the support of the world’s museums. In an age when the world’s youths are increasingly being distracted by social media, video games, and their cell phones, the continued push to get those same younger audiences interested in history and the houses that keep said history is actually welcome. After all, it has been said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Not only that but those who forget the past won’t have an appreciation for what they have today, either. NATM 3 does a good job of reminding audiences both young and old alike of how far the world has come over the centuries. And when coupled with the series’ first two movies, it does in fact make this installment more worth the watch if only for that one reason. Sadly though, it is the only reason other than the work of Robin Williams and Patrick Gallagher that NATM 3 is worth the watch. Other than those two reasons, there is no reason to watch this otherwise forgettable flick.

There is not much positive to say about NATM 3. Other than the work of two of its cast members and the continued solid push for history education and the buildings that house the world’s history, there is not much that can be noted to the movie’s positive side. The script was completely unoriginal and contrived. That is likely because of the number of people working on the script. It just feels like it has all been done before. The same can be said of the cast’s acting, even in the case of new cast member Rebel Wilson. There is no new ground broken in this avenue, either. One could even say that seeing even more museum figures coming to life is anything but new, too. On the other hand though, introducing new historical figures also continues the series’ push for history education and support for the world’s museums. To that extent, NATM 3 has at least that much to its credit. Sadly that is all that it has to its credit. That means that while it’s worth at least a watch, it’s not worth much more than that.

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NYPD Blue Hasn’t Lost A Step In Its Eighth Season

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/ABC/20th Century Fox

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/ABC/20th Century Fox

Shout! Factory will release the eighth season of ABC’s hit crime drama NYPD Blue next Tuesday, January 13th. Even eight seasons in, this modern classic series continues proving itself to be just as gripping and entertaining as it was in its groundbreaking first season. The main reason for this is the show’s continued impressive writing. The stories that make up the show’s eighth season are no less entertaining than those in its previous seven seasons. The same can be said of the cast’s acting this season. The cast continues to pull in audiences and make suspension of disbelief effortless. It’s even more reason that audiences will enjoy these episodes whether watching them for the first time or for the first time again. Last but not least of all worth noting to Season Eight’s credit is its list of guest stars. Denise Crosby (Star Trek the Next Generation, The Walking Dead, Ray Donovan), Taryn Manning (Orange is the New Black), Kerry Washington (Scandal), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Eric Balfour (24), and Greg Grunberg (Heroes) all make appearances throughout Season Eight. Because they were not the major household names then that they are today, their appearances makes for a certain amount of appreciation for their history and the history of NYPD Blue in whole. Each of the factors noted here play their own important role in the success of NYPD Blue: Season 8. Collectively, they show why in comparison to every other crime drama on television then and now, NYPD Blue remains one of the greatest crime dramas in modern television history, even eight seasons in.

Eight seasons is a long run for a television show by today’s standards. There are not many series today that can say they survived eight seasons or more. Most of the shows that surpassed that mark have largely gone by the wayside, making room for the much shorter-lived serials and reality series that now dominate the broadcast and cable realms of television. The main reason that those bygone series worked as long as they did is the same reason that NYPD Blue worked eight seasons and beyond. The reason in question is their writing. The series’ writers were always aware of the danger of writing themselves into those proverbial corners. And because of that awareness, they always managed to keep that from happening. the eighth season of NYPD Blue is proof of that awareness. From the season premiere to its finale, the series’ writers continued to expertly balance the cast’s own stories with crime tales that are both gripping and entertaining. One prime example of that balance comes late in Season Eight in the episode “Everyone Into The Poole.” The writers tackle the very relevant issue of race relations when Jones and Medavoy investigate the murder of a Chinese restuarant’s owner. A young black brother and sister are linked to the murder, which leads their parents to express quite the frustration at Jones, alleging that he should be showing solidarity with the black community, not trying to put their kids in jail. It shows that the issue of race relations reaches not just black and white Americans but even minorities with one another. Their indirect indictment of Medavoy–who is white–makes its own statement about racial tensions still being alive even then regardless of skin color. It’s one of those episodes that will definitely have audiences talking long after it ends, proving the continued strength of the show’s writing.

“Everyone Into The Poole” is a prime example of the writers’ talents when it comes to crafting stories that so clearly hit home with audiences even now in the twenty-first century. On another level, “Flight of Fancy” sees Lt. Fancy preparing to leave the squad after being promoted to Captain. The introduction of a power hungry Lt. played by Denise Crosby (Star Trek The Next Generation, The Walking Dead, Ray Donovan) is just as capable of relating to audiences. That’s because for all of the squad’s differences, a certain respect among the detectives is shown when she cracks the whip and instantly alienates herself from everyone.  Even in the real life workplace, this kind of solidarity exists even when people don’t want to admit that it exists. It’s a solid example of the continued abilities of the show’s writers to craft believable and equally gripping person stories for the cast. Even more impressive is that it showed the writers’ continued ability to maintain a clear balance between the show’s primary and secondary stories and still make them equally without losing anything about them.

Season Eight’s premiere episode “Daveless in New York” is one more example of the writers’ continued ability to keep audiences gripped. The writers tackled the subjectof child abuse albeit indirectly in this episode afer an addict gives up his own chidl as collateral for an overdue loan. Such a story line even tackles the dangers associated with drug abuse. While someone giving up their child may be a little over the top, the lengths to which some drug users will go to get their fix are rather shocking to say the least. Because it comes close to showing those shocking lengths, this episode proves to be one more way in which the writing behind NYPD Blue shows itself the most important aspect of the season’s success. There are plenty of other episodes contained across Season Eight’s four discs that audiences will find just as hard-hitting. And that isperfectly fine. The fact that they will find such episodes only shows that much more why the show’s writing is so important to its success eight seasons in.

The writing behind the eighth season of NYPD Blue is the cornerstone of the season’s success. That should go without saying at this point. The work of the cast to interpret the season’s writing adds an extra layerof enjoyment to each episode. Having already worked together for seven seasons most of the show’s cast had already developed a visible chemistry that made its work entirely believable. Even those that didn’t come on board until a little later in the show’s run (by this point) had develped their own chemistry with the rest of the cast. Dennis Franz’s acting as Sippowitz realizes he needs to give marriage anotherchance is one of the brightest examples of how the cast’s acting pulls in audiences and makes Season Eight more enjoyable. There is a certain reluctance in Sippowitz’s realization. At the same time, he shows that he knows it’s the right thing for his son and for himself. On another level, the reaction by Jones as he faces the accusations about being a modern day Uncle Tom (for lack of better wording) is just as powerful. There is to this day a divide even within the black community in terms of support of its own. So something as simple as that reaction speaks volumes. The reactions on the part of the couple that played the parents is just as powerful. On a siimlar note, the reaction of the squad to Fancy’s first replacement speaks just as loudly. It really exhibits the underlying connection that the squad members have to one another even despite its differences on the surface. These are just a few examples of how the work of the cast’s acting made NYPD Blue’s eighth season enjoyable by itself. The season’s other episodes each show their own examples of how the cast’s acting enhanced the season. And audiences will find those other examples for themselves when they purchase this season for themselves. In doing so, audiences will agree that the cast’s acting is just as important to the season’s enjoyment as the work of the show’s writers.

The writing and acting that went into the eighth season of NYPD Blue are equally important to the season’s success and enjoyment. While they are both understandably important to the presentation in whole, the series’ list of guest stars this season is just as important. Denise Crosby (Star Trek the Next Generation, The Walking Dead, Ray Donovan), Taryn Manning (Orange is the New Black), Kerry Washington (Scandal), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Eric Balfour (24), and Greg Grunberg (Heroes) all make appearances throughout Season Eight. While none of the guest stars at the time of their appearance were the household names that they have become today, it still goes to show the impact that appearing on the show potentially had on their futures. Perhaps the only one that could really be argued as a real star of sorts at the time would have been Denise Crosby. That is thanks to her time on Star Trek The Next Generation years before. Because of that show’s success and its longevity, she became well-known in her own right. Whether for her appearance or for those of the others noted this season, seeing so many of today’s biggest celebrities in their earlier days makes this season itself a piece of television history for all intents and purposes. And because it proves to be an important piece of television history, it makes this season even more enjoyable and a success. It’s the last part of the whole that makes NYPD Blue Season Eight a must have for any fan of this series or any lover of crime dramas. Together with the work of the cast and the series’ writers, it proves without a shadow of a doubt why NYPD Blue: Season Eight is an early candidate for 2015’s best new box sets for grown-ups.

NYPD Blue: Season Eight will be available next Tuesday, January 13th. It will retail for MSRP of $34.99. It can also be pre-ordered online now via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/crime/nypd-blue-season-eight at a discounted price of $29.99. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

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Batman: The Complete First Season Is A Good, Not Great Debut For Fans Of ABC’s Classic Series

Courtesy:  Warner Home Video/FOX

Courtesy: Warner Home Video/FOX

ABC’s live action series Batman was anything but a hit when it originally aired on CBS from 1966 to 1968.  The series, which starred Adam West in the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman lasted all of three seasons in its original run. Since its cancellation, it has become a cult hit with audiences of all ages.  It has run on syndication on a number of networks and is currently running on Me-TV every Saturday night at 7pm ET.  Throughout all the years that it has been on television since its cancellation, it has not received a proper release on DVD or Blu-ray.  That is until this year.  Warner Home Video and FOX released the first season of the cult favorite last month alongside the show’s full series box set.  The complete box set is rather pricy both on DVD and Blu-ray.  That means that most fans of this hit series will be more interested in picking up the complete first season box set.  Batman: The Complete First Season boasts plenty of positives.  But it also has its own hare of negatives that can’t be ignored, either.  On the positive end, audiences will appreciate the fact that every Season One episode is presented here.  So audiences weren’t short-changed there.  What’s more, every one of the episodes is presented exactly as they originally aired on ABC so many years ago.  And rather than make each half of each episode a separate episode, they are each presented as one full episode.  Of course for every positive, there is a negative.  This recent release is no exception to that rule.  The people at WHV got the issue of the episodes one hundred percent right.  In terms of the bonus material though, both companies struck out swinging.  Batman: The Complete First Season comes with no bonus material to compliment the episodes.  The bonus material has all been saved for the full-series box sets.  WHV and FOX try to entice audiences into buying one of the two boxes by including a coupon for ten dollars off of either the Blu-ray or DVD series set.  That is not a positive by any means and will be discussed at more length later.  As glaring as the noted negative in question proves to be, audiences can at least be happy about the presentation of the episodes.  The footage looks wonderful in its transfer to DVD.  And each episode is presented in full 16:9 format rather than the 4:3 in which most classic series were presented.  It is one more way in which Batman: The Complete First Season impresses with this its debut DVD release.  It’s just too bad that it wasn’t released on Blu-ray.   Maybe audiences would have had the option of at least some bonuses in a Blu-ray box set. A fan can dream, right?  Right.  That aside, the end result of these positives and negatives is a box set that while anything but perfect, is still a good addition to any Batman fan’s home library.

There is a lot to like and just as much to not like in the debut release of Batman: The Complete First Season as should be clear by now.  Luckily for fans, the positives far outweigh the negatives, beginning with the episodes themselves.  Audiences that are familiar with Batman will recall that within the context of this series, each episode was split into two parts.  While the series only ran for three seasons, this made the show really last.  It was a formula that made audiences want to tune in from week to week.  The people at WHV and FOX have paid proper tribute to that formula–and the fans of the show that lived week to week by the formula–by combining both halves of every Season One episode into one complete episode.  It would have been just as easy to spread out each half of each episode and call them “episodes.”  That would have been purely deceptive marketing as it would have meant both companies trying to fool audiences into thinking there was more than really was there.  Luckily they didn’t go that route.  And for that reason alone, WHV and FOX are deserving of at least some credit.  It’s at least one reason to applaud the debut release of Batman: The Complete First Season.

The presentation of Season One’s episodes is by itself plenty of reason for audiences to applaud the debut release of Batman: The Complete First Season.  But as anyone knows, for every positive there is a negative; a yang for every yin so to speak.  And this box set is no exception.  Audiences will be displeased to discover that while WHV and FOX have included every episode from Batman’s first season in this box, they have clearly omitted any bonus material at all.  All of the bonus material has been saved for both the Blu-ray and DVD presentation of the show’s complete series boxes.  In turn, WHV and FOX have included in Batman: The Complete First Season a coupon for ten dollars off the purchase of either the Blu-ray or DVD full series set.  This is hardly a positive.  And here is the reason why:  Audiences that actually would use the coupon would still pay nearly $150 for the DVD box set.  They would still be paying well over $200 for the Blu-ray set.  Keep in mind that 20th Century Fox was able to release its complete series run of Futurama in a single box for under $100 on DVD.  There is no Blu-ray option there.  That is about seven or eight seasons.  So how can 20th Century Fox do that, yet WHV and FOX expect people to shell out exorbitant amounts of money for a three-season box set by comparison?  This is a losing situation for fans who have waited decades for Batman to finally receive a proper release on DVD or Blu-ray.  It is an insult to those same fans.  WHV and FOX should be ashamed of themselves for this.  Keeping that in mind, it knocks off major points for Batman: The Complete First Season and for both of the full series sets.

Still not enough to consider?  How about the fact that WHV is looking to split up the second season of Batman into two separate volumes beginning in February 2015?  That’s right.  What this means is the possibility of WHV doing the same thing with Season 3.  That means that Season One could be the only one that audiences and long-time fans see in a single set. It’s probably the only factor that would even begin to make purchasing either the Blu-ray or DVD full series set more worth the purchase than Season One.  It doesn’t make such practice any more ethical, regardless. Obviously, WHV isn’t the only company guilty of this practice.  20th Century Fox has done this with its home releases of Family Guy’s various seasons over the years.  It’s a way to stretch things out and for WHV to make more money from audiences.  That goes without saying.  But the people at WHV know that people such as this critic will still shell out the money for it.  It’s just a shameful practice regardless of the company releasing the box set.  And it is something that had to be noted here if only or context.

Now, having finished on the soap box, it’s time to turn back to the positive side of Batman: The Complete First Season.  There is at least one more positive worth noting about this box set for fansto consider.  That factor is the look of the episodes themselves.  The footage looks surprisingly clean even on DVD.  It shows that those charged with transferring the masters from tape to DVD and Blu-ray went to painstaking measures to insure the footage looked its best for fans.  For that alone, WHV and FOX are to be applauded.  Even more interesting about the episodes’ presentation is that each episode is presented in full 16:9 format rather than the 4:3 format in which so many shows of its era were presented.  In sizing the resolution up to 16:9 none of the episodes’ quality was sacrificed.  So it looks just as good as it did in its original broadcast format.  Together with the fact that every one of Season One’s episodes are presented here in their entirety, it is one more positive that helps to perhaps not outweigh the negatives of the set but at least equal their weight.  And in equalling the weight of the set’s negatives, it serves to make Batman: The Complete First Season a welcome addition to the library of of long-time Batman fan.  It is hardly the best that WHV and FOX could have offered fans.  But for those that can’t afford the unethically exorbitant cost of the full series sets, it is still a good piece to have.

Batman: The Complete First Season is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Warner Home Video is available online at:

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EOne’s New Horror Comedy Is Full Of Frights And Fun

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

One part stoner flick, one part buddy comedy, and one part horror spoof, Entertainment One’s new horror comedy Knights of Badassdom (yes, that’s really its title) is an outrageously over-the-top  story that any of today’scollege frat boy audiences will enjoy watching at least once.  It’s obvious right from the story’s outset that it was not meant to be taken with a single grain of seriousness.  It centers on a group of twenty-something friends that have to face off against a succubus from Hell after their obsession with live action role playing (LARPing)—yes, that is a real thing, not just something cooked up for this movie—goes a little bit too far.  The completely outrageous script behind this story is central to its intended audiences being able to enjoy it.  Equally important to the story’s enjoyment is the acting on the part of the cast.  And of course, what home release is complete without its special features?  There are actually some interesting tidbits shared through the movie’s bonus features that make the movie more interesting.  Those tidbits, the cast’s acting and the outrageous, over-the-top story make this indie horror spoof a movie well worth watching at least once.

Co-writers Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wallhave crafted a story in Knights of Badassdom.  Dreyfuss and Wall have done so much with so little that it is difficult to know where exactly to begin in examining their script.  On the surface, Knights of Badassdom works because of its silly factor.  It is just a good, fun, and slightly gruesome turn-off-your-brain flick.  It’s one part stoner flick, one part buddy comedy, and one part horror spoof that has absolutely no intention of taking itself the least bit seriously.  On a deeper level, one could argue that there’s a story of a group of men forced to grow up if only a little because they got what they’d always wished for and then some during their make believe games.  That’s thanks to them having accidentally unleashMatted a succubus from Hell during one of their imaginary ceremonies.  At first the five friends think that they’re just taking part in a weekend of LARPing (Live Action Role Playing)—yes it is in fact real and not something conjured up for this story.  But when people start turning up dead, they start to realize that there is an evil force among them.  The friends—Hung (Peter Dinklage), Gwen (Summer Glau), Eric (Steve Zahn), Joe (Ryan Kwanten), and Ronnie Kwok (Jimmi Simpson)—end up having to face that evil force and stop it once and for all, essentially allowing them to finally live out their make believe fantasies for real.  Any viewer that can take this movie for the all-out nonsensical work that it is will appreciate all of the inanity (and insanity).  Those viewers will agree in watching the story that it is funny enough that it is worth at least one watch.

The story behind Knights of Badassdom has so many different facets about it that even as intentionally nonsensical as it was, it was still entertaining.  Helping the story’s entertainment was the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  Led by actor Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), the cast’s interaction with one another throughout the story made for more than a few laughs.  And their portrayals of the stereotypical people in the role playing culture are just as entertaining.  One can’t help but laugh watching Steve Zahn as the wanna-be wizard, casting his “spells.” And Jimmi Simpson’s portrayal of the controlling, somewhat egotistical “game master” Ronnie Kwok is a complete laugh riot. Both Summer Glau and Peter Dinklage add their own charm, to the mix, too. The whole cast together will have viewers laughing nonstop right to the final scenes.

The movie’s cast and its interpretation of the movie’s script work together to make it a surprisingly entertaining work. It’s the cast’s interpretation of the script that makes all of the total absurdity believable and entertaining all at once. There is still one remaining factor in this new release from Entertainment One that makes it the surprisingly enjoyable work that it is. That last factor is the movie’s bonus material. The interview with director Joe Lynch is the best of the bonus features. Lynch discusses in his interview his love of the classic 1980s horror flicks and how that influenced his direction on this movie. Even more interesting is his mention of special effects company Spectral Motion making the monster and handling all of the special effects for this movie. He discusses how he wanted to have an actual monster and real special effects versus the far too overused CG effects employed by Hollywood’s biggest studios. That devotion to using the physical versus the digital made a big difference in the movie. Sure the monster looked cheesy. But as Lynch notes in his interview, it was supposed to look cheesy.   It was part of that homage to the 80s monster movies that Lynch grew up watching. Audiences will be amazed even more to learn that Spectral Motion is the company behind the creatures seen in Hellboy and Hellboy II. That such a well-known and equally respected company would offer its services for an indie horror flick—an indie horror spoof even—speaks volumes. And it paid off in a big way. Audiences will appreciate Lynch’s interview when they see it in its entirety. They will also appreciate the acting on the part of the movie’s cast and the script, penned by co-writers Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall. Audiences will appreciate all of these factors and more that they will find for themselves when they order the movie on DVD and Blu-ray. It can be ordered online now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Knights-Badassdom-Blu-ray-Peter-Dinklage/dp/B00HOGRJQG/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1398801394&sr=1-2&keywords=knights+of+badassdom.

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

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

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

The Shadow (Collector’s Edition) will be released on Blu-ray Tuesday, February 25th.  The movie, starring Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October, 30 Rock) in the starring role, tells the story of how The Shadow came to be.  It co-stars Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings, Kindergarten Cop), Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein, The Santa Clause, Everybody Loves Raymond), Sir Ian McKellan (XMen, X2 XMen United, X3 The Last Stand), and many others.

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

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

Courtesy:  Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

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

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

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

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