PBS Distribution, Magic Light Pictures Partner To Release New Family Holiday Flick

Courtesy: Magic Light Pictures/PBS/PBS DIstribution

Courtesy: Magic Light Pictures/PBS/PBS DIstribution

PBS Distribution has a new DVD on the way just in time to get the whole family into the holiday spirit.

PBS Distribution announced this week that it will release the animated feature Stick Man next month in partnership with Magic Light Pictures. The presentation, from the makers of The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom, follows its title character as he makes his way through the seasons as he tries to make his way home to be with his family in time for Christmas.

Stick Man’s journey through the seasons is anything but easy. From being thrown into a river to having to escape a swan’s nest to even escaping a fire, Stick Man’s journey is wrought with peril.  There is even a visit by Santa himself (voiced by Hugh Bonneville—Downton Abbey, Notting Hill, The Monuments Men) along the way.  The story, based on author Julia Donaldson’s beloved children’s book, is narrated by Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous, Coraline, Shrek 2).

The story’s title character is voiced by Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Sherlock, Hot Fuzz). Rob Brydon (Cinderella, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) lends his talents to the presentation, too along with Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky, Paddington, Blue Jasmine), and Russell Tovey (Being Human, Grabbers, The Pirates! Band of Misfits) to bolster the presentation even more.

As an additional bonus for audiences, the story also comes with a behind-the-scenes featurette that presents the process of how Donaldson’s book was brought to life on the small screen. The 20-minute presentation tells that story through interviews with Donaldson as well as director Jeroen Jaspert, composer Rene Aubry, and others who worked on the adaptation.

Stick Man will be released on Tuesday, November 8 and will be available exclusively on DVD via PBS Distribution.  It will retail for MSRP of $12.99 and can be pre-ordered online now via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:




Website: http://www.pbs.org

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/pbs




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Mr. Holmes Is An Intriguing Portrayal Of Sherlock Holmes

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

On November 20th, 1886 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle brought to the world one of the greatest figures in literary history when he published his novel A Study in Scarlet. The book was the debut of none other than Sherlock Holmes. In the nearly one hundred and thirty years that have passed since that novel was first published, Holmes has become one of the greatest detectives in the realm of fictional crime and in the literary world in whole. Holmes’ many adventures have been published and republished countless times over that time. Just as many movies and even TV series have been spawned from Doyle’s “best man” so to speak. There has even been a number of new, original stories crafted by modern authors in the past fifty years or so that have been influenced by Holmes’ adventures. In 2015 Lionsgate Studios released a new Sherlock Holmes story unlike any out there. The story, Mr. Holmes, is based on one of those new, original literary tales that goes by the title of A Slight Trick of the Mind. The book was authored by Mitch Cullin. Despite being marketed as a suspense/thriller piece, it is in fact neither one. In reality it is more drama than anything else as its story reveals. That story is this movie’s central element. The work of veteran actor Ian McKellan is just as important as the movie’s story. Last but hardly least of note in this movie is its cinematography. The various shots of the British countryside in which McKellan’s Holmes resides are stunning to say the very least. Each element is in its own right important to the whole of Mr. Holmes. Altogether they make Mr. Holmes a story that any Sherlock Homes fan should see at least once both because of its differences from Doyle’s original Holmes stories and despite those differences.

When Lionsgate brought author Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of The Mind to the big screen last year in the form of Mr. Holmes it is safe to say that up to that point, few if any stories like it had been crafted about the world’s most famous detective. That central-most element of Mr. Holmes makes it worth the watch if not more. The movie was originally marketed as a thriller/suspense tale. But in reality it is neither. It is in fact a drama that follows Sherlock Holmes in the twilight of his life as he struggles to remember the events of his final case so as to put them to paper. That, essentially, is the movie’s plot. As audiences soon learn in watching the story unfold, McKellan’s Holmes is battling the growing effects of dementia as he tries to recall the events of the case in question. At the same time Holmes is also having flashbacks to a meeting with a man in Japan whose father the man claims met Holmes years before and left his family as a result. It doesn’t initially make any sense but does eventually tie back in to Holmes’ attempts to recall the events of that final case. At first the story jumps around with few clear transition points, forcing audiences to give the movie their full attention. And it does move slowly at first, too. But as the story unfolds it becomes somewhat easier to follow. And perhaps it could be argued that this was intentionally done so as to accent Holmes’ growing mental struggles. If that is the case then kudos to writer Jeffrey Hatcher for taking such an approach. Regardless it must be mentioned. Even with all of this in mind Mr. Holmes still proves to be a story that is worth at least one watch especially among true fans of Holmes’ many adventures. It is not the only reason that Mr. Holmes is worth a watch either. Lead star Ian McKellan’s work on camera is the movie’s real shining bright spot.

The story behind Mr. Holmes is unlike almost any story that has ever been crafted about Holmes since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first introduced Holmes to the world nearly one hundred and thirty years ago. It presents a story of a Holmes at his worst so to speak rather than his best as he battles the onset of dementia. It is a story that is worth at least one watch. While its separation from so many other Holmes stories makes it well worth at least one watch, lead actor Sir Ian McKellan’s work on camera makes the movie even more worth the watch. He fully embraces the portrayal from beginning to end, creating a character whose struggles make viewers’ hearts hurt for him. It is clear that this Holmes is so quickly slipping away and trying to pass on his love of deduction to a younger generation in his friendship with the young Roger (Milo Parker — Robot Overlords, Ghosthunters on Icy Trails, The Durrells). It would have been so easy for McKellan to go over the top with his portrayal. But being the consummate professional that he is, he avoids that trapping and in turn puts in an Oscar-worthy performance. Even with the Academy voters not giving that credit where it is due, audiences that watch his performance will agree that McKellan has once again put in an award-worthy performance here and single-handedly saved the movie.

Sir Ian McKellan’s portrayal of the aging Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes is the movie’s single brightest element. His performance is one that was just as deserving of an award as any of the others throughout his career. That is not to take anything away from the movie’s central story. As a matter of fact McKellan’s performance and the movie’s original story are both reasons in themselves for audiences to see this movie at least once. While both elements give audiences reason enough to watch this movie at least once, they are not the movie’s only notable elements. Its cinematography rounds out its presentation. Audiences will be blown away by the shots of the famed White Cliffs as McKellan and Parker go for a swim in the ocean. The shots of the British countryside where Holmes lives are just as powerful. This is especially to note considering just how few sets were actually used in the grand scheme of the movie. And the footage of the train traversing that countryside is especially powerful. Who cares that the engine and its cars might not have been exactly from 1947. That is beside the point. Watching the engine as it steamed along the countryside is still something that will leave any viewer in awe. There’s something about the contrast of its power against the calm, gentle countryside that just makes it stand out. It’s something that must be seen to be fully understood and appreciated. The same applies with the other noted shots and so many others. Considering this, the cinematography is one more saving grace for Mr. Holmes. together with McKellan’s expert work on camera and the intriguing new portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in this story, the movie in whole proves to be worth at least one watch.

Lionsgate’s new Sherlock Holmes story Mr. Holmes is a take on the world-famous detective that is definitely brave to say the very least. It isn’t just another Sherlock Holmes crime story. It is in its own right a tribute to the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as audiences will note in watching the story. But even more so it is a story of the world-famous detective at his weakest. It shows a man whose mental greatness has all but fled him. He is a pale shadow of his former self. Yet even in the twilight of his life he still has just enough left in the tank to finish off his final case and correct at least one of the stories that he claimed Mr. Watson improperly recalled. That story in itself makes the movie worth at least one watch. The work of Sir Ian McKellan adds even more interest to the story. As a matter of fact his portrayal of the aging Holmes is the brightest of spots in this movie. It is just as award-worthy as his work in his other films. The movie’s cinematography is just as impressive as McKellan’s work. It really accents the emotion established by the story’s script. It rounds out the movie’s most notable elements. Together with McKellan’s work and that of scriptwriter Jeffrey Hatcher, all three elements combine to make this intriguing portrayal of Sherlock Holmes one that is worth at least one watch. It is available now in stores and online on DVD + Digital combo pack and Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack.

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Peg + Cat’s New DVD Is Yet Another Great Treat For The Whole Family This Halloween

Courtesy:  PBS Kids/PBS Distribution

Courtesy: PBS Kids/PBS Distribution

The countdown is officially on, everyone. September is finally in its final days. This Thursday, October will finally be here. And that means that it won’t be long before Halloween is finally here, too. And with it will be plenty of offerings for audiences of all ages to get into the festive mood. The problem is that it seems that most of those offerings are the same ones that are released every year. So what is a person to do in the search for something new? Well for those festive families out there, PBS Kids has an answer in the form of its latest collection of episodes from its math-based series Peg + Cat. Peg + Cat: A Totally Awesome Halloween is another fun new offering for any family this Halloween. That’s especially the case for those families looking for options for their kids’ Halloween parties. It only boasts four episodes. But even with those four episodes, there is plenty to like about it starting with the writing behind each episode. Obviously basic math skills lie at the heart of each episode. But there is far more to each episode’s script than just that such as the writers’ direct tribute to The Twilight Zone in “The Highlight Zone Problem” all the way down to the episode’s twist ending and the not so subtle pro-ecology lesson tied in to “The Parade Problem.” Those are just a couple of examples of how the writing behind each episode makes this collection a joy for every family. The work of the series’ cast is another positive to the set. Voice actors Hayley Faith Negrin and Dwayne Hill (Mean Girls, Jimmy 2 Shoes, Arthur) are just as enjoyable together in these episodes as ever. Last but hardly least worth noting of this set’s positives is its pairing of activities included inside the DVD’s case. While there are only two activities, both are great ways to keep kids and their parents busy together for quite a while. And to quote the one and only Martha Stewart, that’s a good thing. Yes, that bad joke was fully intended. Whether for those activities, for the work of the show’s voice cast, the work of the show’s writers or for all three elements together, viewers of all ages will agree in watching this collection, which is available now on DVD, that it is indeed another great fit for any family’s Halloween party this year and any year. It is also more proof as to why PBS Kids is the last bastion of truly worthwhile children’s programming on television today.

PBS Kids’s new collection of episodes from its math-centered series Peg + Cat is not the first of its kind to be released this year. Even with that being the case it is still its own great addition to any family’s Halloween party this year and any year. The central reason for its enjoyment is the work of the series’ writers. The basic math skills and their ability to reach the show’s target audience are all there as with every other one of the series’ episodes. That goes without saying. What really makes the writing in these episodes so enjoyable is that the writers have incorporated elements that will entertain viewers of all ages. That is made clear right in the collections’ lead episode “The Parade Problem.” This episode is aimed in general at younger viewers with its lessons about organizing things into groups and of recycling. “The Highlighter Zone on the other hand targets audiences of all ages. Younger viewers are targeted through the lesson teaching them about finding things that are different. Grown ups are targeted with the episode’s direct tribute to The Twilight Zone. The writers even pay tribute to series creator Rod Serling as they have Ramone (Thamela Mpumlwana–The Gabby Douglas Story, The Warrior and The Savior, Group Home) open the episode. The writers also go so far as to present the story in black and white (at least until Peg and Cat find things that are different, thus bringing everything back into full color) and tie in a double twist ending to the story. “The Bermuda Triangle” problem is another great example of how the writers target adults and children alike in these episodes. This episode sees Peg and her four-legged friend get caught in the Bermuda Triangle after trying to save Pig (Tommy Wazelle–Noah). Children will appreciate the basic geometry lesson taught as they try to escape. Adults will appreciate the presentation of one of so many theories about the infamous area of the Atlantic. There are those that believe there is actually something inside the Bermuda Triangle, including a whole other dimension of sorts. And that is somewhat presented here, just in its own original manner. In the case of this story, it is hypothesized–playfully–that the Bermuda Triangle is actually a solid, tangible thing and place. That in itself is worth its share of laughs. It is just another example of what makes the writing behind these episodes so great for the whole family. That is not to take away from the set’s fourth episode “The Halloween Problem.” This episode teaches its own equally important lessons about counting, organizing, and even sharing. Altogether, the writing presented in all four of this collection’s episodes shows in whole exactly why it is so important to the whole of the collection’s enjoyment. It is just one part of what makes this collection so enjoyable for the whole family, too. The work of the show’s voice cast is just as noteworthy.

The work of the writers behind Peg + Cat is one of the big reasons that this family friendly math-centered series has proven time and again to be such a welcome addition to PBS Kids’ daily lineup. That is evident in all four of the episodes featured in the show’s new Halloween-themed collection A Totally Awesome Halloween. It is just one part of what makes this collection so enjoyable. The work of the show’s voice cast is just as impressive as ever, too. Every one of the show’s young female viewers will love Hayley Faith Negrin once again as Peg. There s just something loveable about her that will put as much of a smile on parents’ faces as on those of their children. And Dwayne Hill proves once again to be just as entertaining as ever. Hill makes Cat such a comical character throughout each episode. From those moments in which Cat gets angry to his happier moments, Hill will leave audiences laughing together just as much as in the series’ other episodes. On another level, Thamela Mpumlwana is just as great taking the place of Rod Serling in The “Highlight Zone Problem.” It’s just one more example of how the work of the show’s voice cast adds to the collection’s enjoyment. Even with the enjoyment added to the episodes through the work of the show’s voice cast in each episode, there is still one more element to note to the set’s positive. That final element is the bonus material included inside the DVD’s case.

The work of both Peg + Cat’s writers and voice cast within each of the episodes in the series’ new Halloween-themed collection go a long way toward making it enjoyable for the whole family. While both elements together do plenty to make this collection so enjoyable for viewers of all ages, they are still not all that make it worth the watch. The bonus lessons included inside the DVD’s case round out the presentation. There are only two lessons. but both are Halloween-themed and are sure to have parents and children interacting together for quite a while. The first of the lessons uses pumpkin seeds to drive home those basic counting skills. It requires adults to cut open a pumpkin and get a little messy first and foremost. Of course they can encourage kids to get messy, too. From there, parents and kids can pull out the seeds inside the pumpkin. And kids can estimate just how many seeds they think are there after grouping the seeds. From there, kids can count for themselves just how many seeds were actually pulled from the pumpkin. The lesson is furthered with a push for author Margaret McNamara’s book How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? The second of the bonus lessons advances those sorting skills while also helping drive home the recycling lesson taught in “The Parade Problem.” It does so by showing parents and children how to make their own homemade recycling bins and sorting out anything that can be recycled. There is even a bonus within the bonus encouraging adults to take kids on a trip to a recycling center so that ids can learn even more about the recycling process and those that make the process happen. There is even a suggestion to find out about volunteering as a family at a recycling center. So not only is this a way to encourage recycling but a way for any family to do things together at the same time. It’s a win-win for all involved. And together with the lesson centered on sorting and counting pumpkin seeds, the two lessons together are the finishing touch on a set that every family will enjoy not just this Halloween but every Halloween.

PBS Kids’ new Peg + Cat DVD A Totally Awesome Halloween offers audiences of all ages so much to enjoy even with just four episodes and two bonus lessons. The writing will entertain grown ups just as much as it will their children within each episode. The voice cast’s work is just as entertaining here for viewers of all ages as it is in other episodes of the family favorite series. And the bonus lessons included inside the DVD’s case put the finishing touch on the presentation especially considering that they not only help drive home the episodes’ lessons but also encourage that all-too important family interaction once again. All three of the noted elements by themselves make this collection another great addition to any family’s Halloween party this and every year. Together, they show once again why this series is such a hit in general and why, again, PBS Kids is the last bastion of truly worthwhile children’s programming on television today. Peg + Cat: A Totally Awesome Halloween is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=66322766&cp=&sr=1&kw=peg++cat&origkw=Peg+%2B+Cat&parentPage=search. More information on this and other Peg + Cat collections is available online now along with lots of Peg + Cat games and activities at:

Website: http://pbskids.org/peg

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

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Lionsgate Announces Release Date, Specs For Child 44

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s big screen adaptation of author Tom Rob Smith’s book Child 44 didn’t stay in theaters very long when it made its theatrical debut back on April 17th. Thankfully though, audiences that wanted to see it but didn’t get the chance will now finally get that chance as Child 44 will come home this summer.

Child 44 will be available in stores and online on Tuesday, July 21st. It will be available both on Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack and DVD + Digital combo pack. Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Lawless), Gary Oldman (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises) and Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Prometheus, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) star in the movie, which centers on Hardy’s Soviet secret police officer Leo Demidov. After the son of Leo Demidov’s friend is killed, Demidov suspects that his superiors are covering up what really happened to the boy. When he starts investigating what really happened, he is quickly demoted and sent off to a provincial outpost with his wife Raisa (Rapace). It is there that Leo discovers that the death of his friend’s son was not the only one of its kind that has happened recently. So it is up to Leo to convince his new boss General Mikhail Nesterov (Oldman) that a crazed serial killer is on the loose and must be stopped before he takes another innocent life.

Both combo packs will include a bonus behind-the-scenes featurette titled “Reflections of History” that examines the work that went into re-creating the Soviet Union circa the 1950s. The DVD + Digital combo pack will retail for MSRP of $19.98 and the Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack for $24.99. More information on Child 44 and other titles from Lionsgate is available online now at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

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 http://phislpicks.wordpress.com.

Parents, Children Alike Will Enjoy Grist’s New Book/CD Combo Set

Courtesy:  The Secret Mountain

Courtesy: The Secret Mountain

This June, children’s entertainer Hilary Grist will release her new book Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over. The book, which is set to be released Monday, June 1st via The Secret Mountain, is a great bedtime story for any young reader and his or her parents. The main reason for this is the story itself. The story centers on two young children–Ira and Isabelle–who can’t get to sleep. The brother and sister can’t sleep because of the noise from the city outside their room. So they end up using their imaginations to sail off to another place, a relaxing place, that leads them to relax and fall asleep. It’s a short story but a wonderful and imaginative story nonetheless. The story by itself is just one part of what parents and chidlren will appreciate about this book. The illustrations (so to speak) add to the story’s enjoyment. That’s because they aren’t necessarily even illustrations in the classic sense of the word. And last but not leat worth noting of the book is its companion CD. The companion CD isn’t just an audio reading of the book. It does feature an audio reading of the book. But along with that reading are ten musical tracks that will lull any young child to sleep. Each element on its own gives plenty of reason for audiences to add this book to their child’s library. Collectively, they make Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over one of this year’s best new releases for children overall.

Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over is one of this year’s best new releases for children. It is a great addition to any child’s personal library of books. In examining the book in whole, it proves this in a number of ways. The main way that it proves this is through the story itself. Grist doesn’t just come out and say it, but her main aim with the story presents is to motivate young children to close their eyes and dream of a calm, quiet place as a means to relax and go to sleep. She does this by telling how Ira and his sister Isabelle go off to their own quiet place to escape the noise of the city. What is most interesting about Grist’s story is that she doesn’t clearly explain that the kids have closed their eyes and in reality used their imaginations to create that quiet place. But any grown up will easily make the connection. Just as interesting is how Grist wrote the book. She didn’t just write a short story about two children relaxing in their own quiet place. Her writing style and use of words together especially encourage young children to relax and go to sleep. She wrote of their journey, “Waves rose and fell as miles drifted by. Lit by a lantern and a moon-kissed sky. ” The rising and falling of the waves is insinuated as being gentle. The imagery of the soft light of the moon in the sky and the lantern in the boat is equally calming. It’s just one example of how her writing style and use of words work so well in settling children at bed time. The rest of the story is ripe with examples. Parents and children will see those examples for themselves when they add this book to their own child’s personal library. They will also see that said writing style and use of words is just part of what makes the book so enjoyable. The book’s “illustrations” play their own part in the book’s enjoyment, too.

The story presented in Grist’s new book by itself will impress parents thanks to Grist’s smart writing style and use of calming imagery and words overall. The “illustrations” play an interesting part in the book’s enjoyment, too. That is because the illustration’s aren’t necessarily illustrations in the classic sense of the word. Ira and Isabelle look more like small dolls or even claymation figures. Their surroundings look like model sets. The two elements are set together and photographed to help bring the story to life. It’s an interesting approach that admittedly this critic has never really seen used for a book, children’s or otherwise. It is possible that such an approach has been used before. But at least in the case of this critic, it comes across as something quite original. That originality makes the experience of the story even fuller. They don’t really do much in the way of helping children fall asleep more easily. But they will entertain said young audiences. So to that extent, the pictures used to “illustrate” the story and bring it to life prove themselves just as important to the story in whole as the story itself.

Both the story and the pictures incorporated into Hilary Grist’s new book play their own important parts in the book’s enjoyment as parents will see for themselves in reading this book to their own children. They will also fin that the companion CD that comes with the book is just as important to the whole presentation. The disc features not just an audio reading of the book but ten separate musical tracks to boot. The audio reading is just as enjoyable as the book for so many reasons. Grist actually reads the book to her young audiences herself in the CD’s lead track. The gentility in her approach is itself so calming in its own right. The equally subtle use of music and sound effects in the background makes the story all the richer and more enjoyable for children and parents alike. The stand-alone musical tracks offer their own enjoyment, too. There are folk elements to the songs as well as soft lullabies and even a light jazz piece among so much more. Through it all, Grist’s own vocal style and the equally soft music together maintain such a soft tone that the two together will have any young listeners asleep in no time. It may even cause some parents to start yawning, too. That is meant in the most positive manner possible. That ability to encourage sleep among both grown-ups and children alike more than makes Dream Songs a welcome addition to Grist’s new book. Everything noted here taken into consideration, Dream Songs shows along with Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over that the two elements together make this set one of the best new children’s releases of the year.

Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over will be available in stores Monday, June 1st. Parents can pre-order the book online now via Hilary Grist’s official website at http://hilarygrist.com. More information on the book/CD set is available along with her latest tour dates and news both there and her official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/hilarygristmusic. 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.

Kurtzman-Counter’s Miles Books Are Excellent Teaching Tools For Parents, Educators

Courtesy:  The Mother Company

Courtesy: The Mother Company

Raising children is one of the biggest challenges that anyone will face in their lives.  This critic is learning that every day being the parent of a toddler.  Other more experienced parents will agree with this statement, too.  It is a challenge because parents themselves have to find inventive ways to keep children’s attention and to reach them on their levels without really talking down to them at the same time.  Thankfully, there are any number of tools and methods for parents in their efforts to do just that.  Some of those tools and methods work relatively well.  While others not so well, obviously.  Last month, a company known as Ruby’s Studio released a pair of books for parents, children and educators that every parent and educator will find quite useful and effective and that will relate to every child.  Simply put, the books—Miles is the Boss of His Body and When Miles Got Mad—are two very effective tools in raising children both at home and in an educational setting.  The central reason that both books are such impressive tools is the fact that they are books.  In an age when even children are being groomed to be part of a digital world, it’s nice to know that some out there still believe in the physical object.  Also worth nothing is that the books have been written in such fashion as to easily reach young readers.  Audiences will also appreciate the look of the books.  Their look is very similar to a series of books written by another very well-known author of children’s books.  All three factors noted here work together to make both of these books works that prove to be just as valuable in the home as in an educational setting.


Parents and teachers today have so many tools and resources at their disposal for teaching children.  From CDs and video games to play computers for kids, there are so many options.  Parents and educators will note that each of those tools prepares children to be part of an increasingly digital world.  Yes, there are still books out there for children.  But increasingly those books are becoming rarer or they are moving more towards the realm of e-readers and tablets.  Some schools out there don’t even use textbooks anymore.  They have been replaced by either students or teachers with tablets and online learning.  Even parents are increasingly being encouraged by the big tech companies to teach their children using the latest, hottest tech tool.  It’s really disheartening.  So both books (and Ruby’s Studio) win major marks for this factor alone.  Children need to know what true, physical books are versus just having a cold, battery operated object in their hands, staring at a monitor all the time.  Hopefully within the context of this aspect, Ruby’s Studio won’t fall victim to that trend and will remain a company that releases books in physical form only.


Courtesy:  The Mother Company

Courtesy: The Mother Company

The fact that Ruby’s Studio has made both books available in physical form is the key aspect to why parents and educators alike will appreciate them.  That is parents and educators that are not afraid of using a physical book over the digital object.  Examining both books on a closer level, they have been crafted in a way that makes their topics easily accessible to young audiences.  The topics in question are themselves extremely important.  The first of the books discusses people putting their hands on children.  It lets children know that it is okay for them to set limits on how people touch them.  It goes on to let kids know that it’s okay to tell people that they don’t like to be touched one way or another.  The other book focuses on children’s feelings.  More specifically, it touches on their feelings of frustration and anger.  It emphasizes to young audiences that they should use their words instead of using their actions.  The manner in which these topics are covered makes them easily accessible for those younger audiences.  Miles and Max look and do things that any kids do.  And they aren’t in some magical land.  They are placed in real world settings.  There aren’t lots of words involved, either.  What words are used are simple enough for younger readers to grasp.  So Kurtzman-Counter has actually established a way to keep the attention of her readers and make the concepts being discussed easy to understand.  It’s a double whammy in the best way.  It means an increased chance of these topics really sinking in with kids.  Any parent or educator will admit that it takes a lot to really get certain topics to sink in with children.  Kurtzman-Counter has found one of the best ways to do so in a long time with these presentations.  It’s one more aspect of the books that makes them an important tool whether at home or a given educational setting.


The accessibility that Kurtzman-Counter’s books offers  her young readers is something that so many children’s authors overlook.  Believe it or not, there are some authors of children’s books that make valiant attempts to reach this audience or that.  In some cases they do succeed.  But in just as many cases, the end result is a product that is far too broad in its attempt to reach as many audiences as possible.  In turn, said book(s) present topics that only children of certain ages will grasp and enjoy.  These two books are the polar opposite.  They are a couple that succeed in entertaining and reaching children anywhere from ages three to five and maybe even six.  The fact that these topics have been broached in physical books makes them even more enjoyable.  While both aspects of Kurtzman-Counter’s books are equally important in their overall success and enjoyment, one factor remains to be noted.  That final factor is their look.  Anyone that is familiar with the work of fellow author Mo Willems will recognize the look of his Knufflebunny books in these books.  It presents young Miles as a hand drawn figure set against real life pictures as backgrounds.  This is exactly the same format used by Willems and his publishing company in the Knufflebunny books.  Whether or not the appearance of that influence was intentional, it is visible.  And it serves as even more reason for audiences of all ages to check out these books.


Samantha Kurtzman-Counter’s children’s books based around her fictional character Miles and his brother Max are wonderful resources for parents and teachers alike. Both books by themselves offer plenty of reason for them and younger readers alike to appreciate and enjoy them. Collectively, their positives—noted above—make both books all the more valuable whether they are used at home or in an educational setting. Both books are available now and can be ordered online http://www.rubysstudio.com/. More information on these books and others from Ruby’s Studio is available online at:


Website: http://www.RUBYsStudio.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheMotherCo


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.

When Santa Fell To Earth Is A Holiday Tale Unlike Almost Every Other

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new Christmas-themed movie When Santa Fell To Earth is one of the best holiday-themed movies to come along in a very long time. The movie, which is based on author Cornelia Funke’s 1994 book by the same name, is actually surprisingly entertaining. This is the even with the movie being just another adaptation of a book. The main reason for the movie’s success is that despite being adapted from a book, its story actually stands out quite a bit from all of the other cookie cutter Christmas-themed movies. It follows the formula used by so many major studios lightly at best. Another reason for the movie’s success is its minimal use of special effects. And while it was originally done in German or another European language, the work of those responsible for dubbing the film made that dubbing nearly invisible. It may seem like a minor factor. But in the grand scheme of things, dubbing foreign films whether foreign to English or vice versa is very important. Good dubbing results in a movie such as this. Bad dubbing can make a movie into a third rate product not worth even finishing let alone watching. Luckily for this movie, that poor dubbing didn’t work. The end result is a movie that along with its somewhat original script and its minimal use of special effects proves to be as enjoyable as any other holiday-themed movie released each year.

The central reason for the success of When Santa Fell To Earth is its writing. More specifically, the script is to thank for its success. Given, it is based on a two-decades old book. But that book in question is not one that most would consider well-known. What’s more, while there are some alterations in the transfer from the printed page to small screen, they aren’t nearly as much as some adaptations of other more well-known literary works. The story itself also stands out from other holiday movies out there. Most Christmas-themed movies see an average person saving Christmas by filling in for Santa or getting others to realize the “true meaning of Christmas” through a series of events. Those are the most common plot lines in most Christmas-themed movies. This movie takes a road not just less taken but a road no one else saw, period. According to this story, there are actually multiple Santas. But they’ve all been frozen by an evil figure that wants to rule Christmas and turn it into a fully corporate holiday. Enter Nikklas Julebukk (pronounced YULE-uh-buck). Nikklas is the last Santa standing between the evil Gerald Geronimus Goblynch. It’s up to Nikklas to stop Gerald and his henchman, and save Christmas. Nikklas crashes to Earth in his flight from Gerald and his henchman, leading to his meeting Ben and Charlotte, who help him to stop Gerald. There are no big red sleighs. The only reindeer in the movie is one that audiences definitely won’t recognize. Its name is Twinklestar. And instead of the North Pole, Nikklas is trying to keep the story’s villain from taking over Yuleland. Some names and places have been changed in the transition from the printed page to the small screen. But by and large, the story has been kept the same. That and the fact that this story is unlike nearly any other out there within the Christmas-themed genre is more than enough reason to see this movie at least once.

The overall originality of this movie’s script even in its transition from the printed page to the small screen is the most important factor in the movie’s success. Another reason that audiences will enjoy this movie is its minimalist use of special effects. The only special effects come courtesy of some CG work to create a pair of “Christmas elves” and a pair of tiny angels who serve as Nikklas’ companions. The elves are entirely CG. The angels (yes, they actually incorporate angels alongside Santa—a very young Santa at that) are live actors. But their wings and flying effects were obviously created via CG and green screen. Even Gerald’s evil giant nutcracker “soldiers” looked like they had been crafted by hand. Other than that, everything else within this movie looks to be live action. Again, one can’t help but make a comparison to other holiday movies out there today. Set against most American holiday movies its balance of live action elements and special effects gives it a rare feel that audiences of all ages will appreciate. It’s one more way in which When Santa Fell To Earth stands out among the already overcrowded market of Christmas-themed movies currently on the market. And together with the its largely original adaptation from its literary companion, this foreign import becomes even more enjoyable.

The balance of live action elements and CG-based special effects in When Santa Fell To Earth and the largely original story adapted from the book of the same name are both important to the overall success of this straight-to-DVD feature. Rounding out the entire presentation is the movie’s dubbing. It would seem that the movie’s original presentation was German simply by observing the movie’s credits and its setting. That would make sense considering that the author of the book on which this movie is based is herself German.   Those charged with dubbing the movie into English are to be commended for taking such painstaking efforts to present a clean product. There are movies dubbed into English that don’t exactly translate very well. The end result is something that looks like the old school kung-fu flicks and Godzilla movies imported from Japan and China. That’s not a good thing. Luckily in this case that poor translation didn’t happen. Audiences almost can’t tell that what they are hearing is in fact American voices speaking over European actors. There are points here and there where audiences will be able to catch the dubbing. But it’s nowhere near as obvious as in those noted old school Asian imports. The end result is a movie well worth watching at least once this holiday season when taken into consideration along with the movie’s story and its balance of live action and CG elements.

The story presented in When Santa Fell To Earth is one of the most original holiday stories presented to audiences in a long time. Given, it is based on a book that was originally published two decades ago. But in comparison to all of the other holiday movies out there it still stands out. And for the most part, it actually stays largely true to its literary link. Only a few minor items were changed in the story’s small screen adaptation. The minimalist use of special effects makes the story even more worth the watch. In an age when even holiday movies seem to rely increasingly on special effects and CG elements, this movie’s balance of live action to special effects makes it all the more worth the watch. Rounding out the presentation is the dubbing process. It’s assumed that the movie, in its original 2011 release, was presented in German. Those charged with dubbing the movie into English for its release this year carried out their duties expertly. The end result of these factors together is a movie that every family should see at least once this holiday season. It will be available on DVD Tuesday, October 14th. It can be ordered direct online now via Anchor Bay Entertainment’s website at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/detail.aspx?projectID=bd0b8d9a-21f7-e311-a502-d4ae527c3b65. More information on this and other titles from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay

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.