DC, WB’s ‘Scooby-Doo,’ ‘Batman’ Crossover Is A Largely Forgettable Addition To Each Franchise’s History

DC/Warner Brothers/Warner Brothers Animation

Almost five decades have passed since Warner Brothers first teamed the Dynamic Duo with Mystery Inc. for the Scooby Doo Movie, Scooby Doo Meets Batman.  The movie also went by the title The Dynamic Scooby-Doo Affair.  That “movie” saw Mystery Inc. partner with Batman and Robin to stop a counterfitting ring set up by the Joker and the Pengin.  September 16 will mark 46 years since that “movie” first debuted.  Now all those years later, Scooby, Shaggy and the gang have teamed up with the Caped Crusader again, this time to face another of Gotham’s bad guys in Scooby-Doo and Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  While the 75-minute “movie” does present an interesting story at its core, the writing therein proves ultimately to be the movie’s downfall.  While the writing ruins any chance of this “movie” being one of the more memorable of WB’s so many Scooby Doo movies, it can at least be said that the voice cast deserves its own share of credit in the final presentation.  When that work is considered along with the movie’s central story, the two elements together worth at least one watch, but sadly no more than that.

Scoob-Doo and Batman: The Brave and the Bold marks the first time in almost 46 years that Warner Brothers and Hanna Barbera have partnered Batman with Mystery Inc.  The story at the center of the “movie,” which is essentially an extended episode of Cartoon Network’s short-lived series (it lasted only three seasons from 2008-2011) is one of the only saving graces for a presentation that is otherwise a sadly forgettable addition to both franchises.  That is because of its simplicity.  The story follows Mystery Inc. as “the gang” joins an “elite mystery solving group” made up of other well-known DC characters – Black Canary, The Question, Jon Jonzz (The Martian Manhunter) and Plastic Man – after being tested by Batman and Martian Manhunter.  The catch is that the meddling kids didn’t know they were being tested until after the fact.  This is one of the problems with the movie’s writing that will be discussed a little later.  When the group decides on a case for the organization to solve, that quest turns into a journey to solve what is Batman’s only unsolved case.  Making things difficult for everyone along the way is none other than one Det. Harvey Bullock, who fans of Batman The Animated Series will recognize.  What audiences will appreciate about this story is that it shows that more human side of Batman even as he wears his “uniform.”  It shows he can be (and does get) affected by trying to solve cases.  It’s a rarely seen side of Batman that is nice to see.  Obviously the case does get solved, with a surprise twist, which audiences will appreciate, too.  While that twist is something that audiences will appreciate, it leads into a deeper discussion on the writing at the center of the story.  The writing proves problematic throughout the “movie.”

The story’s writing proves so problematic because of the plot holes and pacing issues that arise throughout the movie.  Right from the movie’s outset, one of those many plot holes appears as the gang is investigating a crime (or so they think) at an abandoned theater.  Obviously things are not quite as they seem.  This is only revealed after Batman just randomly appears on the theater’s rooftop to “help” the gang.  Freddy asks Batman what he’s doing there, and in an attempt to explain things away, Batman simply responds that he goes where crime is.  There’s no back story on how the gang came to investigate the “crime,” which obviously was just a test for the gang.  It would have been nice to have had some back story there, considering the outcome.  Had this been any other case, opening so abruptly might have worked, but not here.  As the story progresses, Batman’s super detective friends side with Bullock, just agreeing that Batman appeared guilty in the original case, not even questioning him.  Considering the connection between the group, one would have thought the group would have sided with Batman, not Bullock.  This becomes problematic, too since they just outright believe Bullock.  In the final act, audiences get a resolution as the real villain is revealed.  That is perhaps one of the few positives of the writing because the writing team behind the “movie” does admittedly at least do a good job keeping viewers guessing about the identity of The Crimson Cloak.”  The problem is that it would have made so much more sense to just wrap up the story where it was.  Sadly though, the 13-member writing team couldn’t let go.  They instead lead the story to go on well past where it should have ended, leaving viewers asking when it is going to end and why it didn’t end when it should have.  In the same breath, that final scene that should have been the final scene leads to yet another pot hole involving The Question.  Why did he disappear for such a long time after the bank heist, despite the explanation?  Why did he not rejoin the group and tell them what happened?  That was never explained.  If he had just re-appeared earlier and that point been explained away, it would have created the standard evil twin plot, given.  At the same time, though maybe it would have shortened up the movie, too, but the writers didn’t want to go that route.  Instead they take a route that even in the end leaves more questions than answered.  Even with all of the references to all of the classic Batman franchises (including the beloved series starring the late great Adam West thanks to the gang hanging out in the original Batcave and even an appearance by King Tut) these plot holes and the pacing problems leave so much to be desired here.  To that end, the writing in this story does more damage to Scooby-Doo and Batman: The Brave and the Bold than any good.  The damage is, in fact, so intense that it leaves this story largely forgettable among the endless stream of Scooby-Doo movies.

While the writing at the center of Scooby-Doo and Batman: The Brave and the Bold does significant damage to its presentation, the “movie” does have at least one more saving grace other than just its story.  That other factor is the work of the voice cast.  Matthew Lillard, who played Shaggy in every Scooby-Doo presentation since 2002’s live action/CG hybrid movie, once again returns to voice Shaggy this time out, and he shines again in his role, offering plenty of laughs, even as he don’s Nightwing’s old costume.  Freddy, voiced once more by none other than Frank Welker could have phoned it in, having voiced Freddy for so many decades, yet he gave it his all once again throughout.  The way he handled Freddy’s infatuation with Black Canary makes for plenty of laughs.  His act as he dons Batman’s “Year One” costume makes for one of the best moments as Freddy really does try to take on the strong persona that is Batman.  Freddy obviously fails to have that persona, yet is so endearing because of his effort to be so heroic.  Again, this is an example of a voice actor who fully understands and appreciates his character.  That makes his performance all the more entertaining.  Kate Micuci (Lego Batman: The Movie, Big Bang Theory, Steven Universe) is entertaining in her own right, too as the voice of Velma.  This is not her first time taking on the role, either.  She voiced Velma in the short-lived Scooby-Doo series Be Cool, Scooby-Doo and in the Scooby-Doo movies Scooby-Doo! Shaggy’s Showdown, Scooby-Doo! And WWE: Curse of the Speed Demon and other Scooby-Doo properties.  The way that Micucci handled Velma’s starstruck behavior toward Batman adds even more entertainment to the presentation.  Her reaction to working with Batman is like a child getting to meet his or her favorite celebrity.  That especially comes through as Velma learns that the gang is joining Batman at the Batcave.  Her interactions with Detective Chimp (played by Kevin Michael Richardson – Lilo & Stitch, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Batman) make for even more entertainment as the two clearly talented sleuths try to outdo one another in their investigations.  Those are some subtle yet fun moments that audiences will remember, too.  Between those moments, the moments presented by Welker, Lillard and the rest of the main voice cast, that work offers its own collective enjoyment for audiences.  When the voice cast’s otherwise memorable collective work is coupled with the story at the center of the “movie” the two elements do just enough to save the movie, but not enough to make it more than just one watch.

Scooby-Doo and Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a fun watch for the whole family, whether for everyone’s favorite K-9 case solver and his friends, for Batman and company or for both.  That is thanks to the story at the center of the “movie” and the work of the voice cast.  While those elements do plenty to make the movie an interesting watch, its writing creates its own share of problems thanks to its pacing problems and plot holes.  When this is all considered together, the end result is a presentation that while maybe fun, is regrettably an otherwise forgettable addition to the ongoing Scooby-Doo movies series.  It is available now in stores and online.

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.

Advertisements

CMG’s Doulgas Sirk Re-Issues Collection Presents Two Of 2016’s Top New Re-Issues

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

Late this past September, Cohen Media Group released a new pair of classic crime flicks for fans of the crime genre and for all of the classic movie buffs in the form of A Scandal in Paris and Lured.  Chen Media Group’s focus in re-issuing the movies together is on their director, Douglas Sirk.  But there is so much more to note of these classic crime flicks than Sirk’s work.  Yes, his work at the helm of each work is important.  There is no denying that.  But his work is not the only important element of each movie.  The very story at the heart of each movie is the central element that should be noted.  The work of the movies’ cast is just as important to note as the stories at the center of each movie.  The bonus commentary included in each movie’s presentation is important to note, too.  One could even argue that the set’s packaging plays its own part in its presentation, too.  All things considered, Cohen Media Group’s presentation of A Scandal in Paris/Lured on Blu-ray easily makes the combo pack a candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

Cohen Media Group’s re-issue of A Scandal in Paris and Lured is a combo pack release, but even with that in mind, this dual-movie set easily makes itself a candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.  This is due in part to the story at the center of each movie.  In the case of A Scandal in Paris the story is taken to be a cinematic adaptation of crook turned cop Francois Eugene Vidocq’s life with star George Sanders in the starring role.  From beginning to end, the story is a classic in its own right.  That is because it sees Vidocq turn from his criminal ways to an honest man thanks to the influence of his romantic interest, played here by Carol Landis.  At its heart, the movie is less a crime flick than a romance story and an underdog story.  One can’t help but wonder if this movie played a role in influencing the creation of Cary Grant’s 1955 action/crime flick To Catch A Thief or even the very similar story presented in the 2002 movie Catch Me If You Can.  To that end, the movie is one that will reach audiences of so many interests, not just lovers of crime stories and classic film buffs.  It is just one way in which the stories behind the set’s featured movies show their importance in the set’s overall importance.  The story behind Lured is just as important to note in examining this collection as that of A Scandal in Paris.

The story at the center of A Scandal in Paris is in its own right a clearly important example of what makes the stories behind the movies so important to the set’s presentation.  It is not the only story worth noting here, either.  The story behind Lured is just as important to note in the set’s presentation as that of A Scandal in Paris.  The story behind Lured follows Lucille Ball—yes, that Lucille Ball—as dancer turned crime fighter (of sorts) Sandra Carpenter. Carpenter is enlisted by Scotland Yard in this story to help find a serial killer who has murdered seven innocent young women. It’s up to Sandra to help find the person responsible for the murders.  Along the way, Sandra falls for a gentleman named Robert Fleming (George Sanders—A Scandal in Paris, Batman, The Jungle Book).  As the story progresses, the romance between the pair grows, with Fleming obviously losing her and then getting her back in the end a la every romantic movie ever crafted.  It’s a relatively simplistic story, and as viewers will learn through the commentary not entirely original.  Yet audiences will also agree that even despite its lack of originality, is still so entertaining surprisingly enough.  The commentary will be discussed later.  When one considers the story behind each of this collection’s featured movies, there is no denying their importance in the collection’s overall presentation.  Of course the movies’ stories are just part of the set’s presentation worth noting.  The work of the case within each movie is just as important to note as the stories.

The stories that were crafted for A Scandal In Paris and Lured are clearly important elements to note in examining the overall presentation of this new classic cinema re-issue set from Cohen Media Group.  While the stories are extremely important to the set’s presentation, they are not its only collectively important element.  The work of the movies’ cast is just as important to note in the set’s presentation as the movies’ stories.  Since George Sanders is the lead in both movies, it suffices to say that he plays the same sort of character in both movies; a gentleman character.  While the two characters have distinctly different backgrounds, the character type is still the same.  And Sanders adapts to both characters with ease, allowing each to stand out from the other despite, again, the pair being the same type of character.  Sanders’ A Scandal in Paris cast mate Akim Tamiroff is just as enjoyable to watch in his role as Emile Vernet. Tamiroff’s take on Vernet is so enjoyable to watch because of his ability to balance the man’s gentlemanly side and his more comical side.  There’s a certain subdued nature to both that makes him so enjoyable to watch throughout the story.  It is something that must be seen to be fully appreciated.  One could dissect the work of each cast member within this movie in explaining the importance of their work in making A Scandal in Paris so enjoyable.  That would take far too long, though.  Suffice it to say that the work of the cast in whole is important to note in showing why its work is so important to the movie’s (and collection’s) overall presentation.  The work of Lured’s cast is just as important to note as that of A Scandal in Paris.

Sanders’ work in both movies—and that of Tamiroff in the set’s lead film—are wonderful examples of what makes the acting so important to note in examining this recently released collection’s overall presentation.  The work of Lucille Ball and company in Lured is just as important to note as that of A Scandal in Paris.  Most people know Lucille Ball for her comic genius in I Love Lucy and its spinoffs (The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy).  But she shows a completely different side of her talents in this movie.  Audiences will love seeing Ball as a strong, confident character here, and a lead no less.  She does show some vulnerability at times, but for the most part, is a strong, self-assured figure who handles herself quite well.  She is just as brilliant by herself as she is alongside her cast mates.  That is especially the case when she is on screen opposite Sanders and fellow cast mates George Zucco (The Pirate, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Scared to Death) and Charles Coburn (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Heaven Can Wait, Monkey Business). Her scenes with Zucco are in fact some of the movie’s best moments because of the chemistry between the pair.  Early on when the pair’s characters first meet and introduce, they exchange weapons in a moment that is so subtle yet so funny because of that subtlety.  There is also a scene in the park in which Sandra (Ball) tells Officer Barrett (Zucco) to hold her dog for her as she contacts Inspector Temple (Coburn) via phone.  Barrett’s reaction as he has to hold the dog, all while trying to fill out the crossword puzzle in his copy of the local newspaper, is just as entertaining to watch.  While his appearance is brief at best, horror master Boris Karloff is entertaining in his own right as the crazed fashion designer Charles van Druten. Noting again the movie’s bonus commentary, Karloff’s ability to so easily switch between sanity and insanity—even in such a short time on screen—makes him such a wonderful addition to movie.  He truly shows his years of experience and seriousness with which he took the role through that display.  Again, even as short as it may be, it adds to much enjoyment to the movie.  Even Sir Cedrick Hardwicke (Rope, The Ten Commandments, Richard III) is just as enjoyable to watch as Julian Wilde, Robert Fleming’s friend.  Not to give away too much, but Hardwicke plays his own important part in the movie.  Between his work, that of Ball, Sanders, Karloff and the rest of the cast, it should be easy to see by now why the work of Lured’s cast is just as important to note as that of A Scandal in Paris.  The work of each movie’s cast combines with the work of the movie’s writers to make for even more clear why this recently released collection of classic crime flicks from Cohen Media Group is so enjoyable to watch.  Even with all of this in mind, the movies’ stories and the work of their respective casts is, collectively speaking, still not all to note in examining the collection’s presentation.  The bonus commentary that is included in each movie is just as important to note as the previously noted elements.

The stories that were crafted for A Scandal in Paris and Lured are key elements to the overall presentation of their pair’s overall presentation in their new joint re-issue from Cohen Media Group. They are not the only the only elements to note in examining the set’s presentation.  The work of each movie’s cast is just as important to note as the movies’ stories.  Between the work of the movies’ main cast members and even the supporting cast, the work of each movie’s cast is just as important to note as the story behind each flick.  Having noted that, those two elements are not the only elements that should be examined here.  The bonus commentary that is included with each movie rounds out the set’s most important elements.  NPR Film Critic Wade Major offers an in-depth and entertaining study of A Scandal in Paris, offering a rich historical background of the movie.  He also offers a study of the movie’s relevance to similar movies and the film community in the 21st century along the way along with much more throughout.  The insight and entertainment offered via Wade’s commentary is more proof of the importance of commentary in any movie’s home release. It shows that good (or in this case great) commentary can take a run of the mill movie and make it something great.  That is because of the added level of appreciation that it creates for said movie.

Turner Classic Movies writer and film historian Jeremy Arnold’s commentary included in Lured is important to note in its own right, too.  Right from the outset of his commentary, audiences are presented with a rich background on the movie and its connection to the popularity of noir films at the time thanks to the work of director Douglas Sirk.  Arnold also points out through his commentary that the movie is not necessarily an original work.  He points out that the movie’s story contains elements of two (yes, two) other movies, essentially making the movie a double re-imagining of sorts.  Audiences will agree with Arnold that despite this realization, the movie is still somehow so entertaining from beginning to end.  Arnold also focuses attention on Karloff and even fellow supporting actor Alan Napier, offering some of Napier’s own words on his career before his death in 1988.  That is just a portion of the commentary offered up by Arnold throughout Lure.  In other words it is just a small sample of how much his commentary has to offer audiences and how much it has to add to the movie in whole.  Keeping this in mind and how much Major’s commentary adds to A Scandal in Paris it becomes increasingly clear just how much the movies’ overall commentary adds to this collection’s overall presentation. When the commentaries are set against the work of the movies’ casts and the story at the heart of each movie, the movies in whole prove to be works that will entertain not only fans of the crime genre but audiences across the board.  They combine to make this collection one that despite being a dual movie re-issue, one of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

Cohen Media Group’s recently released dual movie presentation of A Scandal in Paris and Lured is one of 2016’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.  This is even with the collection being a multi-movie collection.  The movies that are presented within the double-movie set are so enjoyable first and foremost due to the story behind each movie.  Even while one of the stories is not entirely original it is still enjoyable unlike so many of today’s reboots and re-imaginings. The work of the movies’ cast members is just as important to note as the work of the movies’ writers.  Their work makes each movie just as worth watching as that of the movies’ writers.  The bonus commentary that is included with each movie’s presentation rounds out the movies’ most important elements.  That is because each commentary adds so much depth to each movie.  Each element is important in its own right, as should be evident by now.  All things considered, Cohen Media Group’s Blu-ray re-issue of A Scandal in Paris and Lured is a must have for any lover of classic films and an easy candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.  More information on this and other titles from Cohen Media Group is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.cohenmedia.net

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cohenmediagroup

 

 

 

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.

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:

Website: http://www.wbshop.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wbshop

Twitter: http://twitter.com/wbshop

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.

Timeless Media Group Announces Release Date, Details For I Spy Box Set

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group

Timeless Media Group will bring audiences yet another long lost piece of television history this Summer.

Timeless Media Group will release the classic series I Spy on Tuesday, June 24th. The classic dramedy series, starring Bill Cosby (The Cosby Show, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids) and character actor Robert Culp. It could be argued that the show’s witty writing and equally strong acting on the part of Cosby and Culp were the influence behind hit dramedies such as Monk and Psych. The series ran on NBC from 1965 to 1968 and produced a total of eighty-two episodes in that span. It won countless awards over the course of its three-year run including: the Golden Globe® for Best Dramatic Series in 1967, three consecutive Prime Time Emmys® for Outstanding Lead Actor for Bill Cosby, and the Prime Time Emmy ® for Outstanding Musical Composition for Earle Hagen. Cosby’s co-star received his own accolades for his work on the show. He was nominated for a number of Prime Time Emmy® Awards including: three Outstanding Lead Actor nominations and one for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama.

Along with its groundbreaking acting and writing, I Spy also featured a number of guest stars that would go on to be some of Hollywood’s biggest names. Those names include the likes of: Gene Hackman (Hoosiers, Enemy of the State, Unforgiven), Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo, Gilligan’s Island), Ron Howard (The Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days), Boris Karloff (Frankenstein, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Raven), Martin Landau (Ed Wood, North by Northwest, Mission: Impossible), George Takei (Star Trek), Don Rickles (Toy Story 1 3), and Eartha Kitt (Batman).

The upcoming release will have all eighty-two episodes of I Spy contained on eighteen discs. More information on this and other releases, including pricing and how to order the box set, is available online at http://www.timelessvideo.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Thor 2 Is Fun, But Falls Short

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios

Courtesy: Marvel Studios

Sequels are very rarely as good as the movies that they follow.  This has been proven so many times in recent years by so many studios.  DC and Marvel have both proven this time and again with their big name franchises.  DC and Legendary proved that with its recent Batman franchise.  Marvel Studios’ first Spiderman trilogy was just one victim of that curse.  Now Marvel Studios has once again fallen victim to the “curse of the sequel” with its latest big screen offering, Thor: The Dark World.  This action packed late year blockbuster has plenty going for it.  Its special effects and its ability to balance its science fiction and fantasy elements are both positives.  The acting on the part of both Chris Hemsworth and Tim Hiddleston makes the movie even more fun.  However, it is hardly perfect.  It has one major issue that will be its downfall in the long run.  That one glaring negative is the story’s overall writing.  The movie itself clocks in at just under two hours.  However, because of the writing, it feels quite a bit longer.  As much positive as this movie has going for it, this one issue alone is going to ultimately be what keeps this movie from being one of Marvel’s most memorable offerings.

Thor: The Dark World is hardly the year’s best movie or even one of the year’s best.  To its defense, it isn’t the year’s worst movie, either.  One can openly admit about this sequel to Marvel Studios’ 2011 hit Thor, that it has some extremely impressive special effects.  From the backdrops to the fight scenes and one chase scene in particular, those charged with making the movie’s special effects work are deserving of applause.  It goes without saying that much of the movie was crafted using green screen effects.  That aside, those backdrops that were crafted by computer look just as impressive as those that were actually shot live.  Adding to that was the ability of those behind the cameras to blend the CG backgrounds with actual sets and shooting locales.  The computer generated effects in both cases never once felt overblown.  The same can be said of the effects used in the movie’s many fight scenes and the chase scene that follows Jane’s breakout from the palace early in the story.  Even the finest of details were tuned to make the special effects in each case collectively an effective part of the overall presentation.

The work done by those behind the cameras to keep Thor: The Dark World from being little more than another special effects extravaganza is very much an applause worthy aspect of this movie.  Their ability to balance its live action and CG elements is one of the most important aspects of the movie’s success, limited as that success proves to be in the grand scheme of things.  The ability of all involved to balance the movie’s fantasy and science fiction elements is just as important to the overall product.  Those that are less familiar with Marvel’s take on the God of Thunder and the first movie in his franchise might go into the movie thinking it will be just another fantasy epic a la The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.  Those same individuals are sure to be pleasantly surprised to see both elements smoothly combined.  On a bigger level, it shows once again how easy it is to blur genre lines on both the big screen and small screen, and how to do it right for that matter.

The balance of live action and CG elements and that of sci-fi and fantasy elements make Thor: The Dark World one more release that comic book fans of any age should see at least once.  They aren’t all that make the movie worth at least a single watch.  The acting on the part of lead stars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston also plays into the movie’s overall success, as limited as that success proves to be.  The duo’s chemistry has visibly grown over the course of the two movies in which it has already starred—Thor and The Avengers.  Their chemistry has developed so much and so well that it makes suspension of disbelief that much easier in watching the pair interact.  Whether on the verge of taking one another down, Thor having to endure Loki’s wisecracking, or other situations, Hiddleston and Hemsworth make for one of the movie industry’s better modern day odd couples for lack of better wording.  There has been much talk as to whether or not Loki will be back in the already anticipated third movie in the Thor franchise.  If he should be back once more, it goes without saying that his pairing with Hemsworth will be one more welcome addition to the movie’s cast.

As one can tell by now, there is plenty to applaud in Marvel Studios’ Thor: The Dark World.  For all of its positives, this movie is anything but perfect.  The one area in which this movie fails is also its most important.  That area is the story’s script/writing.  The movie’s script is one more prime example of what happens when there are too many hands in the proverbial pot.  No fewer than four individuals worked together to develop the script for this work.  The end result is a near two hour movie that feels a lot longer and schmaltzier than it should have been.  The script’s first problem is the tired and overly used issue of a character trying to find his place in his world and in the universe.  The character in question is Thor.  Audiences see him emotionally struggling to figure out where he belongs in Asgard and trying to balance that with his feelings for his love interest, Jane, who is once again played by Natalie Portman.  This is hardly the first time that audiences have ever seen this used.  The whole brooding character bit has already been done just this year alone in Man of Steel.  The end result of that was a movie that was met with mixed results.  Audiences will be just as mixed with this movie as a result of having Thor brooding in much the same style.

Thor’s brooding nature this time out is just one of the problems with Thor 2’s script.  Just as much a problem with this script is the fact that it feels more like one extended fight sequence than an actual movie with a story.  There are some story elements tossed in for good measure.  But it seems like action sequences dominate the script.  This is evident right from the moment that Jane is “saved” from her room at the palace.  From that moment on, the movie’s pace goes near full speed.  There are few breaks in that action, too.  The problem with this is that it forces audiences to struggle to even hope to keep up with what’s going on.  The story’s pace is that rapid fire.  The even bigger problem is that it goes on at that pace straight through to the final moments of the movie’s epic final battle between Thor and Malekith.  That final battle is the final nail in the coffin for the movie.  It simply runs too long.  It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin.  This and Thor’s brooding sub-story take away enough from all of the movie’s positives to ultimately make it one more of Marvel Studios’ largely forgettable films.  One can only hope that when it finally hits theaters, the franchise’s third film will make up for this movie and its predecessor.  Simply put, this movie is worth at least one watch.  But it’s more worth one watch on Netflix or Redbox than in theaters.

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.

Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle Is A SUper Documentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Comic books are big business today.  One look across the TV spectrum and through theaters in recent years shows just how massive a money maker it has become.  The problem is that so many people today still think that comic books past and present are just that.  Thankfully, PBS recently released a new documentary centered on comic books that proves that commonly held belief is completely wrong.  It reveals just how closely comic books and everyday life have been ever since the first comic heroes hit the printed page way back in the 1930s.  Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle follows the history of not just superheroes, but the comic industry from its earliest days in newspapers to its current era.  It splits the history of the business into three separate segments beginning with its earliest days in 1938 to the present.  Each of the three segments clearly explains how the comics industry and American society affected one another.  Interviews with those that created some of the greatest superheroes to those charged with bringing those characters to life help to illustrate these stories, as does the inclusion of vintage video and audio showing the impact of the pair on each other.  The interview segments included with the main feature are collectively a real bonus to the presentation.  That is because audiences get to hear from great names such as Stan Lee, Linda Carter, and even Adam West as they expand on the topics raised in the main feature.  Their thoughts are quite enlightening and make the documentary’s overall presentation all the more worth watching whether one is a comic book fan or not.

Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle is quite the documentary.  Whether or not one is a comic book fan, audiences will appreciate it as it shows one more way in which art and real life can and do affect one another.  It dispels the beliefs about the comics industry that have been held for far too long by those that are less knowledgeable about the industry.  The entire documentary comes in at a total run time of roughly three hours.  Those three hours are split in three separate roughly hour-long presentations.  The first takes audiences from 1938 – 1958.  The second takes viewers through some of America’s most turbulent years from 1959 – 1977.  And the last of the three segments runs from 1978 up to the present.  Over the course of each segment, viewers get an in-depth look at just how closely world culture and the comics industry are connected.  One of the most interesting facts that audiences will learn is the uphill battle the comics industry has faced against the government from early on.  Even as late as the late 1970s, the comics industry remained under fire from government bodies.  Just as interesting is the seeming up and down trend that the comics industry has experienced from its earliest days.  There is much more that audiences will be able to take away from each of the documentary’s three segments.  Each viewer will find something for himself or herself when they order the DVD direct from PBS’ online store.

The information shared through each of the documentary’s three segments is in-depth and at times eye opening.  But it would be nothing with the vintage video and photos to help illustrate the many subjects discussed within the course of each segment.  Audiences actually get to see and hear former President Jimmy Carter voicing his negative opinion of the comic book industry.  There is also footage of the classic Batman TV series starring none other than Adam West and Burt Ward as part of a discussion on its connection to the era in which it aired.  There’s even a discussion on the most beloved of the Superman movies complete with footage from said movie, and footage of soldiers reading comic books during World War II.  It shows collectively just how important the comic industry has been to America throughout the ages even in its lower points.    It’s one more aspect of this documentary that viewers will appreciate regardless of whether or not they are comic book aficionados.

From the information shared throughout the whole of Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle to the accompanying video and audio footage, this documentary is another success from PBS.  But no documentary would be complete without at least some bonus content.  And this DVD more than offers that.  It offers as bonus content, interviews with the likes of Adam West, Stan Lee, Linda Carter and others within the comics industry.  Stan Lee shares his thoughts on how his characters came to be.  One of the funniest moments is his anecdote about how students in a college level course were discussing the Silver Surfer at a deep philosophical level.  Carter discusses the role of Wonder Woman in feminism.  And West discusses the role that his Batman played in the country’s nuclear age and how that led to its campiness.  As with the in-depth information shared throughout each of the documentary’s three segments, there is even more to discover from the bonus interviews.  There is even a remembrance of sorts for animation legend Jack Kirby.  That and so much more is contained on one disc that audiences can order now online from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=23148226&cp=&sr=1&kw=superheroes&origkw=Superheroes&parentPage=search.  More information on this and other releases from PBS is available online at http://www.facebook.com/pbs and http://www.pbs.org.  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.

PBS’ Superhero Docu-Series Will Impress Any Fan Boy Or Girl

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS is the last true bastion of worthwhile programming on television today.  That includes both cable and non-cable networks.  The once powerhouse networks that are History, Discovery, and TLC have been almost completely polluted by reality television in recent years.  This has left them nonfactors to anyone looking for programming with any substance.  And while it may not be the first network to present a special on the comic book industry, PBS has still proven with its new special, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, why it remains the last true bastion of quality programming.  The special takes a look at the formative years of the comic book industry, and how some of the most beloved characters in the comic book industry went from the pages of newspapers to being their very own entity.  It examines the impact of comic books on the war effort during World War II and vice versa, and the effect of television on the future of comic book characters, among so many other topics.  Perhaps the only downside to the entire presentation would be the DVD’s box art.  It’s pretty obvious that this is only the first of an ongoing series of specials on the comic industry.  Keeping that in mind, it is a good start for anyone that has ever had any interest in the history of the comic book industry but didn’t know where to begin.

Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle is a good starting point for anyone that has ever had any interest in the comic book industry, but did not know where to begin with their research.  The first of what looks to be three hour long installments, it covers the comic book industry’s first twenty years, beginning with the advent of comic strips in newspapers.  Audiences will be interested to discover that Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster didn’t gain immediate success with their Superman comic strip.  Rather, it took five years before the pair’s strip was finally picked up by any newspaper.  Because this first installment is painted with a broad brush, the controversy that would follow is largely omitted.  There is a passing reference to it.  But it is at least made.  Perhaps that will be included in the second installment.  The advent of Batman and Wonder Woman were just as interesting subjects about which to learn.  Even the most well-rounded comic enthusiasts probably never gave much thought to how different Batman and Superman were both in terms of their characters and their how they rose to fame.  And the controversy surrounding Wonder Woman (and the role of women in comic books) is just as intriguing.  The discussion is raised on the presentation of Wonder Woman as a symbol of a strong woman in a very male dominated society versus that of a standard damsel in distress because she was always being caught and handcuffed, tied up, etc.  The term “fetishy” is even thrown out in the discussion on her negative presentation to readers.  It definitely makes for quite the discussion point for anyone regardless of whether one is a comic book fan or not.

The creation and controversy surrounding Wonder Woman is just one of the points in which audiences will take an interest during the first portion of this documentary.  Also discussed is how the outbreak of WWII led to the creation of one Captain America, and even got Superman almost involved in the war.  Those that might be novices in the world and history of comic books will take interest by connection just how popular comic books were among America’s armed forces during the days of the war.  And that is likely thanks to the fact that both Marvel and DC offered Americans of every calling someone for whom they could cheer in the war against the Nazis.  By direct contrast, it is even more interesting to note how the popularity of comic books actually declined after the war, and how the industry even came under fire thanks to the rise of the “Red Scare” brought on by Joseph McCarthy.  That is one that even the most devout comic book enthusiasts might not know.  Of course, it was the “Red Scare” that eventually led to the “comics code” that many readers know of today.  The first of this three-part series ends up discussing not just the censorship that followed McCarthyism, but the rise of television as a new outlet to regain audiences that had been lost by that movement.  It will be interesting to see where PBS takes viewers in the second and third installments of its comic book based documentary.  The entire series will be released on DVD October 15th.  It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=23148246&cp=&sr=1&kw=superheroes&origkw=Superheroes&parentPage=search.  More information on this and other PBS programs is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs.  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.