Transformers Fans Of All Ages Will Enjoy Shout! Factory Kids’ Latest Rescue Bots DVD

Courtesy:  Shout! Kids/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Kids/Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory Kids will release the latest addition to its kid friendly Transformers series Transformers Rescue Bots this Tuesday, February 10th. Transformers Rescue Bots: Jurassic Adventure is the sixth of the series’ collections released by Shout! Factory Kids and Hasbro Studios. Five previous collections having already been released, it is common sense that this DVD is just as worth the watch as the series’ previously released compilations. The central reason that it proves to be just as worth the watch as its predecessors is the collection of episodes chosen for the single-disc presentation. Six more episodes have been culled for the set starting with the series premiere “Family of Heroes.” The set also pulls in a second episode from Season One in the form of “Return of the Dinobot” that presents a Dinobot unlike anything most audiences know of from the Transformers’ previous incarnations. There is also a two-part episode from Season 2 and a pair of stand-alone episodes also from Season 2 to complement. All six episodes together make for plenty of enjoyment for Transformers fans of all ages. The same can be said of the writing behind each episode. Whether in the series premiere, the included two-part episode from Season 2, or for the remaining pair of episode, the writing in these episodes is to thank for their enjoyment. And last but hardly least worth noting of these episodes is work of the series’ all-star cast. Veteran actors LeVar Burton (Star Trek The Next Generation, Reading Rainbow, Captain Planet and the Planeteers), Jason Marsden (The Fairly Oddparents, The Garfield Show, Batman: The Brave and the Bold), and Mauriche LeMarche (The Simpsons, Futurama, Animaniacs) are joined by the likes of Parvesh Cheena (Outsourced, Sean Saves the World, A To Z), Steve Blum (Digimon: Digital Monsters, The Boxtrolls, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie), and Elan Garfias (Handy Manny, Chowder, Ni Hao Kai-Lam) among other names. And the interpretation of the episodes’ scripts rounds out the reasons that these episodes are so enjoyable. Regardless of the cast members’ level of experience, nothing but professionalism was shown in each episode, making easier suspension of disbelief and in turn the overall enjoyment of the episodes. By itself, the work of the cast in each of these episodes makes for its own level of enjoyment among audiences. Together with the work of the series’ writers and those charged with assembling the episodes, all three elements make Transformers Rescue Bots: Jurassic Adventure a great adventure for Transformers fans of all ages.

Transformers Rescue Bots: Jurassic Adventure is not the first collection of episodes that Shout! Factory Kids has released from Discovery Family’s family friendly update on Hasbro’s classic franchise following everyone’s favorite robots in disguise. It is however a fully enjoyable collection of episodes. It is a fully enjoyable collection both for those that are and those that are not so familiar with the series. The central reason for that enjoyment is the collection of episodes pulled for the DVD. Regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the series, every one of the series’ fans finally gets to see how the series started thanks to the inclusion of its premiere episode to open the whole thing. Audiences also get to see the writers’ vision of at least one of the legendary Dinobots as well as other early adventures of the Rescue Bots. The collection in whole offer loads of action and laughs for Transformers fans of all ages. The episodes by themselves offer loads of action and laughs for the whole family. That is thanks to the adventures that make up each episode. Keeping in that vein, the writing behind each of the episodes is to thank for making each episode so enjoyable.

The writing that went into each of the episodes on this DVD is just as noteworthy as the episodes themselves in considering what makes it so enjoyable. One way in which the writing proves so important is in the series’ premiere episode “Family of Heroes.” Audiences will note in this episode that at least one of the Rescue Bots—Heatwave—is not instantly fond of being on Earth. As a matter of fact, he would much rather take a mission on another planet than deal with humans who want to control them. Obviously they aren’t really trying to control the Rescue Bots. And eventually, Heatwave overcomes his mistrust as Cody and his family prove that they can be trusted. Yes, it’s a tried and true story element used in so many other series and movies. But especially in the case of this series, it’s interesting to see that things don’t start out with a full-on “happy-happy-joy-joy” vibe for the Rescue Bots or for the humans in terms of their relationship. It is just one example of why the writing in these episodes makes them so enjoyable. The writing in the two-part episode “What Lies Below”/”What Rises Above” is another good example of why the writing behind the episodes makes them so enjoyable. It could even be argued to be the best example of the disc’s episodes in terms of its writing. That is because of the amount of material that went into the episode in whole. Chief Burns and his brother Woodrow (voiced here by Mark Hamill—Star Wars, Batman: The Animated Series, Codename: Kids Next Door) have to come to terms with the tensions built between them ever since their childhood. At the same time, Heatwave exhibits his own personal growth as the leader of the Rescue Bots as he and Optimus Prime work to get back to the others and get out of the volcano. At the same time, the writers pay tribute to Jules Verne in this episode as a hidden prehistoric world is discovered along the way. Through the whole story, none of the noted elements overpowers the other. The end result is a story that easily keeps viewers fully engaged, wondering what will happen next. The writers’ tackling of myths in “In Search of the Griffin’s Nest” and the classic theme of AI becoming sentient (and dangerously so at that) in “Movers and Shakers” is as enjoyable as any sci-fi story. Whether for the solid work on the DVD’s included two-part episode, the series’ premiere, or even that in “In Search of the Griffin’s Nest,” the writing behind the episodes included on Transformers Rescue Bots: Jurassic Adventure shows time and again why it is so pivotal to the overall enjoyment of the DVD. Together with the episodes selected for the compilation, both elements strengthen even more the argument in favor of this latest addition to the series’ already-released compilations.

The episodes tapped for inclusion on Transformers Rescue Bots: Jurassic Adventure and the writing behind each episode make a strong argument in favor of this new DVD. The work of the series’ voice cast is just as worth mentioning in the overall enjoyment of these episodes. From the series premiere to the episodes that followed, the chemistry and professionalism between the cast is obvious. Considering the cast’s collective years of experience, that should come as no surprise. That’s especially the case with lead stars Jason Marsden and Mauriche LeMarche. Marsden, who voices lead character Kade Burns, and LeMarche, who voices Kade’s father Chief Charlie Burns, breeze through their roles. The same can be said of fellow veteran LeVar Burton as he voices supporting character Doc Greene. Even young Elan Garfias (Cody Burns) impresses in his own right. While Garfias might not have the years of experience as Burton, LaMarche, and Marsden, he still shines as the voice of Cody. He handles his role in every episode with the ease and professionalism of a seasoned veteran. And together with his older, more experienced co-stars–including those not noted here–the group as a whole proves to be the perfect choice for each role. The choices paid off in spades, too with each cast member alone and together keeping viewers just as fully engaged with its work as the stories behind each episode. It is the last part of the DVD’s whole that makes it so enjoyable for Transformers fans of all ages. Together with the work of the show’s writers and those tapped to select the DVD’s episodes, all three elements together show in full why Transformers Rescue Bots: Jurassic Adventure is yet another great collection of episodes from what is one of the greatest incarnations of the Transformers.

Transformers Rescue Bots: Jurassic Adventure will be available tomorrow, February 10th in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory Kids’ online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/kids/kids-animation/transformers-rescue-bots-jurassic-adventure. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Shout! Factory Kids is available online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

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Anime Fans Will Enjoy Shout! Factory’s Second Monsuno Collection

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Anime, when it first came to American shores, was a cult favorite genre.  It was one of those genres of TV and film that was relegated to group viewings at comic book shops around the country.  That was thanks to the stigma attached to the genre and its fans.  That stigma is still there.  But it is far less today than it was when it first started gaining fame here in the U.S.  Now years later, it has gone from being a genre seemingly enjoyed by only certain types to being its own cultural phenomenon.  Famed anime filmmaker Hayao Miyazake’s films gained more popularity than ever.  And any number of anime series found new fame among American audiences.  Series such as Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Digimon became some of the biggest names in the genre, leading some American companies to try their own hand at making their own anime series.  One of the surprises from that batch of today’s American anime series is Monsuno.  The series has already produced two seasons.  And a third is supposedly on the way.  And thanks to Shout! Factory, the first half of the series’ first season is available along with the first half of its second season.  They are presented over the course of three DVDs that were released in 2013.  And as audiences will see in the second of those DVDs, Monsuno: Power, there are a number of reasons that this series has worked as long as it has.  The first of those reasons is that Shout! Factory has maintained the series’ chronology in its DVD presentations.  The second reason is that it stylistically mirrors its imported Asian counterparts almost identically.  This includes the writing and animation.  And last but not least of all, is the inclusion of a voice cast that is itself quite familiar with the world of anime.  Audiences will agree that in considering each of these factors, any anime fan will find Monsuno: Power worth at least one watch.

Monsuno is not the big name anime series that Pokemon, Digimon, and Yu-Gi-Oh have all proven to be in their runs.  However, it has managed to churn out two full seasons, and a third is allegedly on the way.  While audiences wait to see if that alleged third season develops, they have the second volume f episodes to tide them over.  Audiences, whether new to the series or not, will appreciate that just as in the series’ previous DVD, the episodes included on this disc are presented in chronological order.  Together with Monsuno: Destiny, the episodes featured here comprise the first ten episodes of Season One.  Interestingly enough Shout! Factory apparently has not released the final sixteen episodes from Season One.  Yet, the first half of Season Two has been released on DVD.  So at least audiences know that in having Monsuno: Power and Monsuno: Destiny, they have just over half of this series’ first season.  Regardless of whether those final sixteen episodes should see the light of day in the near future, at least audiences have that much to take in.

Audiences that are familiar with the more popular anime series out there and who enjoy said series will appreciate Monsuno: Power especially if it is their first introduction to the series not just because of the episodes included and their organization, but also for the fact that the episodes are collectively a near identical mirror image of Digimon, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and others of that ilk.  That is speaking stylistically (I.E. writing and overall look).  Just as with those series, the episodes included in Monsuno: Power present a series in which a group of young people has access to extraordinary creatures with equally extraordinary powers.  They are kept in their own little containers, which the young people holding them keep as they search for a specific goal.  That overall writing is much the same as in its bigger name counterparts.  And the overall look (animation) is just as much the same as other anime series.    That combination of writing and the show’s overall look keeps the series right on par with its bigger name counterparts.  That’s especially the case when it is put alongside the chronlogically coorect episode listing in this set.

The episodes included in Monsuno: Power are in proper chronological order in relation to the original broadcast of the episodes n television.  The look of the episodes in this collection is also a near identical match to the its bigger name counterparts.  Both of these aspects play their own part in the success of the DVD among fans of the anime genre.  There is one more aspect to this collection that audiences will appreciate, rounding out the whole presentation.  That last factor is the cast tapped to voice the series’ characters.  Few may know the names of the actors brought in for these episodes.  However, the series and movies in which they have starred are quite well known.  Cam Clarke, Karen Strassman, Christopher Corey Smith, Keith Silverstein, and Kirk Thornton voice the primary roles of Chase, Jinja, Bren, Dax, and Bayal respectively.  They also voice the roles of the show’s various villains and other good guys.  While most people might not know their names, audiences will recognize Cam Clarke as the voice of Leonardo in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series from Fred Wolf Films.  He is also the voice of one of Clifford’s fellow dogs in the short lived PBS kids’ series Clifford.  Few may also realize that Clarke has previous experience in the anime realm.  He voiced the character of Kaneda in the anime import Akira.  Karen Strassman has her own previous experience in the world of anime, too.  She played a rather significant role in the American version of the anime series Bleach.  She voiced Soifon, Momo Hinamori, Cyan Sung-Sun and others throughout the series’ run from 2005 – 2012.  Before coming on board Monsuno, Christopher Corey Smith voiced Rojuro Otoribashi, Wonderweiss Margela, and Makoto Kibune during Bleach’s run on American television from 2007 – 2010.  He was joined on that series by fellow voice actor Keith Silverstein, who voiced Coyote Starrk, Tesra Lindocruz, and Mabashi.  Last but not least is Kirk Thornton.  Thornton’s anime resume is perhaps the most extensive of the Monsuno voice actors.  Thornton provided his talents to Bleach alongside Keith Silversten and Christopher Corey Smith.  He also worked on Digimon: Digital Monsters, Ninja Scroll, and Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro among a number of other anime series and features.  It would have been easy for Monsuno’s show runners to get a bunch of no-name actors with not experience in anime.  Instead they brought in a group of actors whose collective talents are quite extensive to say the least.  That would perhaps explain the characters’ believability.  That believability alongside Monsuno’s overall style and its properly ordered episodes collectively make Monsuno: Power a good first introduction to this anime series for those not so familiar with the series.  It is just as welcome for those that are familiar with the series and that are fans of the series, too.

Monsuno: Power is not the first and obviously not the last of the collections to be released from Shout! Factory.  Regardless of how long fans of the series have to wait for its next release, fans will agree that thanks to the factors noted here, they have plenty to appreciate in this collection.  Monsuno: Power is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/node/216947.  More information on this and other titles 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.

Transformers Cybertron Offers Entertainment For Fans Of All Ages

Courtesy:  Hasbro Studios/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Hasbro Studios/Shout! Factory

When it debuted earlier this summer the Michael Bay directed Transformers: Age of Extinction was met, as expected with rather mixed reviews.  And as audiences will note, it apparently didn’t last very long in theaters, either.  While it didn’t last very long, Shout! Factory has made up for the failure of that film by releasing earlier this month Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series.  There is plenty to say of why this box set will last far longer than its big screen counterpart.  The primary reason for the success of this “series” is its writing.  While it is its own series, it is actually just one part of larger story.  Another reason that many audiences will appreciate this latest installment of the beloved Transformers franchise is its mix of hand drawn anime style animation and CG elements.  And lastly, the packaging of the discs rounds out the whole thing.  It is even more proof of why Shout! Factory remains not only the leader in classic and modern classic series, but in home releases overall.

The central point of success behind Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series is its writing.  Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series is the final installment of a three-part series that started with Transformers Armada and continued with Transformers EnergonCybertron picks up right where Energon left off.  In this installment of the Unicron trilogy, the Autobots are trying to close a black hole created due to Megatron interfering with Cybertron’s new Energon sun.  The only way to close the black hole is to get a group of “Cyber Planet Keys” that will close it.  Along the way, the Autobots have to face off against their old foes the Decepticons time and again.  This aspect of the series will bring in even the oldest of fans that perhaps are more familiar with the Transformers than their younger counterparts.  Younger fans of this long-running franchise will be impressed as this latest installment incorporates certain elements of today’s hit anime series into its writing.  One of those elements is the use of “cyber keys” to “power up” the Autobots and Decepticons.  This is very similar to the way that characters in Pokemon, YuGi­Oh, Digimon and others of their ilk use their own special power ups for their characters.  The very fact that the Autobots and Decepticons are searching for very specific hidden objects is much in line with other current anime programs, too.  Given in the original Transformers animated series, the Autobots and Decepticons were searching for Energon cubes on Earth.  But the “Cyber Planet Keys” are more specific, almost legendary type of objects much like those hunted in those other anime series.  So again, the use of this element will certainly bring in today’s younger audiences.  With any luck, bringing in younger audiences will also get those same audiences interested in the original Transformers series that remains the gold standard for what is one of Hasbro’s most well-known properties.

Audiences of all ages will appreciate the writing behind Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series.  The writing incorporates elements of the franchise’s original series and those of more current anime favorites into one series that can in turn perhaps bring the whole family together.  Just as important to note of this installment in the Transformers franchise is its “animation.”  Just as it incorporates the writing elements of current anime series, so does it also incorporate the “animation” elements of today’s hit anime series.  Again, the similarities to the likes of Pokemon, Digimon, and even Yu-GiOh are quiet clear.  There’s even a similarity to the likes of Monsuno to a lesser degree.  That’s because that series and the others use both hand drawn anime and CG-based creations together, too.  While the use of such animation techniques will not grab everybody, it is sure to pull in audiences that are fans of those animation techniques.  And then having pulled in the fans of those techniques, hopefully those same fans will become even more interested in the original Transformers franchise through the inclusion once more of the Autobots and Decepticons, even if some of the characters have changed.  Yet again, audiences see just why Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series will be far more welcomed by audiences than Michael Bay’s recent big screen adaptations of the Transformers.

The animation techniques used throughout Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series and the writing that combines both the original Transformers series with its more recent incarnations are both important in their own right to the overall success of this box set.  There is one more aspect of the set overall that is worth noting when considering what will make audiences appreciate this set.  That last aspect is the set’s packaging.  For the longest time, Shout! Factory has proven to be the leader in multi-disc home releases not just for the content of their releases but also for their packaging.  The packaging of their sets has maintained a certain bar that has been the model to which so many other companies aspire to achieve.  Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series is no different.  The series is spread across seven discs.  Each of those discs is placed on its own spindle on either side of a group of “plates.”  One disc is placed at the top of said plate on one side, while the other disc is placed at the bottom of that same plate on the other side of that plate.  The set’s seventh disc is placed on the inside back of the box’s case on its own spindle, too.  This method of packaging multi-disc sets saves the discs from one another and it saves space on DVD racks.  It’s too bad that some other companies out there still don’t strive to achieve this model.  It only serves to exemplify once more why Shout! Factory is the leader in home releases.

The packaging used for Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series is a model to which every home entertainment company should aspire to achieve.  That model set alongside the animation techniques used in this series and the series’ writing make this box set even more enjoyable for those that are fans of both anime and the Transformers.  The three factors together make this a box set that as one can tell, so many audiences will appreciate and enjoy. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/transformers-cybertron-complete-series-0. 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.

Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors Vol. 2 More Nostalgic Fun For 80s Animation Fans

 

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The 1980s was one of the last great eras of children’s cartoons.  It was during this era that animators and networks gave kids shows the likes of The Real Ghostbusters, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and so many others.  The list could go on for days.  Something interesting to note of the 80s is that among all of the great children’s cartoons spawned during that era, many of those greats were forbears to what are today, examples of the de-evolution of anime.  Some of those great classic anime cartoons include:  Thundercats, Transformers, and the focus of this review, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.  Fans of today’s take on anime likely don’t even know about these and other classic anime cartoons.  But if not for these and other classics, much of the empty hulks that call themselves anime today might not even have existed.  Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors is proof of that.

Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors only lasted for one season with a total of sixty-five episodes.  In early 2013, Mill Creek Entertainment released the second half of those episodes in the second volume of episodes from this classic.  The second half of the show’s sole season sees Jayce and his friends continuing their journey to find Jayce’s father and rid the universe of Saw Boss and his minions.  The show’s writers largely do a good job with this final set of episodes.  Though, it should be noted that the series’ final episode does turn out to be rather anti-climactic.  Of course that is linked to the failure of the toy franchise on which this series was based.  Had the toy franchise succeeded, audiences might have gotten better closure.  Regardless, the show’s writers did craft some interesting episodes that its original audiences will enjoy just as much today as they did when they watched the show as children.

The scripts for Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors provided some pretty entertaining stories for the most part within each episode.  Just as interesting to note here in the second half of the show’s sole season is its continued similarity to certain other cartoons of its time both stylistically and musically.  Audiences that remember the original Thundercats, Transformers, and to a lesser degree, The Real Ghostbusters will see some similarities between those cartoons and this one, stylistically speaking.  The colors and forms are very similar when put next to one another.  Being that they were both creations of DiC (now Cookie Jar TV), the similarities between The Real Ghostbusters and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors is not so surprising.  There is even a similarity between the music in the pair.  Both being from DiC, they obviously shared those elements.  What is interesting is the comparisons to the likes of Thundercats and others of that ilk.  Anyone that is a fan of the Dragonball franchise will even see some very blatant similarities between certain characters from that franchise to the design of Saw Boss.  Both Dragonball and Thundercats are both from different companies than Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors and The Real Ghostbusters.  It goes to show even more the influence of this classic cartoon.

There is one more factor that fans of this short-lived classic should take into account that makes it more fan friendly.  That factor is the set’s packaging.  Mill Creek Entertainment has maintained the standard of packaging discs in its multi-disc sets in separate standard paper CD/DVD envelopes.  There are those that have chided Mill Creek for this standard.  The use of standard envelopes is slightly problematic.  But it has its positives.  The use of envelopes allows consumers to carry single discs with them instead of an entire box if they want to enjoy the episodes with their friends and family.  Perhaps something that Mill Creek should consider for future releases is the use of envelopes with padded backing so as to better protect the discs in their releases.  That aside, it is still a much wiser way to package DVDs than other companies.  And because of that, it’s one more positive overall to this classic cartoon’s release.  Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors Volume 2 is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/jayce-the-wheeled-warriors-volume-2-33-episode-set.html.    

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Fans Will Delight At New Digimon DVD Boxes

Courtesy:  New Video Group/Flat Iron Film Company

Courtesy: New Video Group/Flat Iron Film Company

Saban’s Digimon: Digital Monsters is one of the biggest hits among anime fans since the original Pokemon series.  It’s been roughly a year since the first half of Digimon’s first season was released.  Now fans of this show finally get the second half of season one in a complete eighteen episode, three-disc set.  The second half of Season One sees the “Digidestined” as they were called through many more battles and more dimensions.  At one point they have to fight to get out of the digital world when it’s blocked by an evil digimonster.  Also revealed in season two is the revelation of a hidden eighth “digidestined.”  That fans had to wait roughly a year for the continuation of season one makes it that much more worthwhile for true hardcore fans, even with only the American version being included.

The continued story in Volume two is just one part of what makes this set impressive for real fans of the anime genre and of Digimon.  The bright, vivid colors help to keep viewers’ attention.  There are those who might discount something as simple as coloring.  But the reality is that something as simple as colors can play a very pivotal role in keeping audiences engaged.  It’s purely a psychological issue.  Had the digital world been full of dark colors, then that would have created a foreboding feeling, and thus giving the characters’ journey a whole different meaning.  And it would have given audiences a whole different feeling in watching the show, too.  It makes the show less “scary” for lack of better wording, and thus more suitable for viewers of all ages.

Digimon Season 2Just as season one ends, fans of this hit anime have even more reason to celebrate as New Video Group and Saban have released the Complete Season two alongside Season One: Vol. Two.  Season Two picks up four years after the end of Season One.  Audiences get a whole new team of “Digidestined.”  There’s also a new threat in the digital world for this new group.  The writing is just as impressive for audiences as the animation.  It manages to live up to the expectations built from the show’s debut season, which would explain why the show went on for another three seasons after this one.

Season two comes in a full fifty episode, eight-disc set.  Among those fifty episodes is a handful that was banned from U.S. television following the events of September 11th, 2001.  That included the show’s landmark 100th episode, ‘Duel of the WarGreymon.’  That episode is here, as is the holiday themed episode, ‘A Very Digi-Christmas.’  Fans of the show will appreciate that those episodes previously banned from U.S. TV are included in this set.  Also to be appreciated just as with Season One Vol. Two is the set’s packaging.  Even with eight discs, those responsible for assembling it could have gone the old route with multi-disc packaging.  Instead, all eight discs are placed on either side of their own plastic insert.  This protects each disc, and preserves space on one’s DVD and/or Blu-ray rack.  New Video Group and Flat Iron could have easily gone another route and placed the discs one on top of another as other companies do.  The company could also have gone the slim package route in which discs are placed partially on top of each other.  Neither of these packaging fashions makes much sense.  Luckily for fans, New Video Group and Flat Iron went neither route.  The companies went the much smarter route, thus making one more reason for fans of this modern classic anime cartoon to be happy.  The same applies with its companion, Season One Vol. Two.  Together, the packaging, animation and writing make both Season Two and Season One Part Two of Digimon good companions for one another and equally good sets for any hardcore fan of this modern anime classic.

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Friedman Proves Again To Be One Of Rock’s Elite With New LP

Courtesy:  Prosthetic Records

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

Prosthetic Records recently re-issued famed guitarist Marty Friedman’s 2009 and 2011 records, Tokyo Jukebox I and II in a double disc set for his fans.  The recent release marked the first time that these two albums had ever been released stateside.  Fans know of Friedman’s work with the likes of Megadeth.  But how many know of his abilities on his own?  That question is answered loud and clear with this recently released double disc set.  The aptly titled album presents quite a bit of material that sounds like it came right from a Japanese Anime feature film.  Though, it does also offer heavier material such as its relentless opener, ‘Tsume Tsume Tsume.’  What’s so interesting about this song is that rather than just being one song, it actually splits itself into two separate movements within its near five and a half minute run time.  It goes from being a thrashing, speed metal opus to a slower, heavier work that will leave listeners breathless by the song’s end before moving into the first of the album’s more anime favoring songs in ‘Gift.’

‘Gift’ sounds just like a work that could have come right out of the likes of Dragonball Z or a similar anime work.  Any listener who has any knowledge of Japanese features will be able to hear it, too.  Even those who are less initiated into the world of anime will be able to hear it simply by closing their eyes and taking in the song.  The album continues in this fashion in the album’s next handful of songs before finally leaning more towards a mainstream sound in the much more subdued acoustic song, ‘Romance No Kamisama.’  Friedman truly shows his talents here proving that just as he can shred with the best of the industry’s guitarists, he can play just as amazingly with a slower song.  As the old adage states, anyone can play fast.  But it takes a true musician to be able to play slow.  That being the case, Friedman shows here that he definitely is a true musician.  The addition of some very gentle piano runs and what sounds like a flute add so much more emotion to the song right up to its fading final moments.

The second half of Tokyo Jukebox Vol. 1 & 2 movies back in the direction of Friedman’s heavier side through all five of its tracks.  The opener, ‘Yeah! Mecha Holiday’ does lean more toward the vein of something from an anime feature.  But it somehow manages to walk the line, balancing that side of the music with a more mainstream sound.  Even more interesting about the song is the guitar break late in the song.  Instead of being metal, Friedman tosses in his own take on a jazz/fusion sound, believe it or not.  It really makes for an interesting listen. 

Just as much of an interesting listen is Friedman’s take on Pachelbel’s Canon in D in ‘Canon A La Koto.’  The introduction of an Asian element and Friedman’s guitar work makes this a piece that would amaze even the members of Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  It doesn’t even run a full two minutes.  It comes up just shy of that.  But in that time, it proves to be one of the shining gems of this combo release as does the powerhouse ballad style song that follows, ‘I Love You.’  Friedman expertly captures the emotion of someone newly in the bonds of love in this opus.  To make another comparison, anyone who is familiar with Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci will appreciate this song as the similarity to Petrucci’s guitar work is evident here.  It makes for yet another high point to an album that is one of the best examples to date of Marty Friedman’s talents.  Tokyo Jukebox Vol. 1 & 2 is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Prosthetic Records store at http://www.indiemerch.com/prostheticrecords/item/16661.

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Mia And The Miggo Excellent Tool For Visual Art Students

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Thank goodness for hand drawn animation.  So many of today’s “animated” features are really just CGI based works that try to masquerade as actual cartoons.  While this reviewer personally is not a fan of anime style artwork, the newly imported French movie, Mia and the Migoo is a work that did impress.  Forget the fact that this movie carries a very heavy handed environmental message (one that may be too strong even for some younger audiences). The real star of Mia and the Migoo is its animation.  Audiences will appreciate the animation even more in watching the movie’s “making of” featurette.  It is, for the most part, just another “making of” featurette.  But there is one moment in this bonus feature that makes it all worth the near half hour watch.

One individual who is interviewed for the feature notes that bringing a movie to life using actual hand drawn animation gives the movie a more “human” feel versus the use of computers.  He states that animated features created through CGI are done mathematically.  It’s as if he was saying in a roundabout way that CGI animation is cold and really has no life.  That couldn’t be truer.  That this young artist has such an appreciation for the art of drawing, rather than sitting in front of a computer to make art makes Mia and the Migoo that much more enjoyable in hindsight.

Mia and the Migoo is a beautiful work of art, in terms of its animation.  But there is no denying that the movie’s content may not be suitable for some younger audiences.  The movie does get intense at times.  Audiences see Aldrin’s father use a mortar launcher to destroy the sacred tree.  The result of his actions is pretty intense.  Some younger viewers might be unsettled by this.  Also early on, while Mia is riding a bus to the construction site where her father works, the bus breaks down.  A heavy set woman on the bus proceeds to take off her shirt, and drench the bus’s engine in her sweat.  She is wearing undergarments.  Now while this is probably more socially acceptable in other nations’ cultures, some American audiences may find this not as suitable for younger audiences.  Thus, the mark on the DVD’s cover of being “Family Approved” may again be more aimed at audiences other than those in the United States. 

While some of the content in Mia and The Migoo may be unsuitable for certain younger audiences (parents should use their own discretion to determine if it’s too intense for their own children in other words), but that doesn’t mean that it’s inappropriate for all audiences.  Because it is such ha beautiful work of art, this movie serves as a wonderful teaching tool, believe it or not, for students studying the visual arts.  As noted in the press release for the now American release of the movie, the artwork in the movie will conjure thoughts of Van Gogh, Monet, and even Cezanne.  The colors throughout each scene are that rich and vibrant.  And the characters themselves are very much in the vein of anime legend Hayao Miyazaki.  For that, it is a movie that deserves its own praise, and at least a single viewing.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.