Audiences Will “Love” Dreamworks’ New Madagascar Special

Courtesy:  Dreamworks Home Entertainment/Dreamworks Animation SKG/20th Century Fox/ 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Dreamworks Home Entertainment/Dreamworks Animation SKG/20th Century Fox/ 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Dreamworks Animations’ Madagascar movies comprise one of the company’s most successful franchises.  It’s so successful in fact that it has even spawned a holiday special titled, Merry Madagascar.  Now the Madagascar gang is back again for yet another holiday special.  This time, love is in the air for the gang as Valentine’s Day nears.  Ironically enough King Julian (once again voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen) gets his hands on a perfume called “Love Potion #9” that makes anyone that wears it irresistible.  When the “love potion” is used on Marty, it leads to an unintended effect, which ends up in Marty and the rest of Alex’s friends learning a very valuable lesson about friendship and love.  The moral lesson and the laughs together will keep audiences engaged throughout the course of the special’s near half-hour run time.  To be exact, Madly Madagascar’s run time is closer to twenty-five minutes than thirty.  Though chances are if it is ever run on television, it will reach the half-hour mark thanks to commercials. 

The run-time aside, much of the reason for the enjoyment in this special comes from the special’s writing staff and the voice cast’s ability to interpret the script.  The entire cast from the previous Madagascar movies is back once more, with one more addition.  Phil LaMarr (Futurama) joins the cast as the voice of a wildlife official at a Safari camp who has to chase after the infamous penguins of Madagascar.  That’s right, even the penguins are back, creating their own mischief as the love bug has hit their leader, too.  The original voice actors behind the penguins have returned, too.  Keeping all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that interpreting the script for this special was so simple for the cast as it had to have been old hat for everybody. 

The cast’s interpretation of the writers’ script plays its own role (no pun intended) in the success of this latest special.  Audiences will also appreciate that the CG-based “animation” used in all of the previous Madagascar installments was used in this special, too.  That familiarity of sorts—as minor as it may be—will help make this new installment a welcome return for audiences of all ages.  The pop culture references to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Robert Palmer, The Black Eyed Peas, and The Clovers also make for their own laughs.  All of this combined with the script writing and voice acting will make Madly Madagascar a Valentines special that the whole family will enjoy year after year.

The main feature included in this new DVD release is enjoyable enough for the whole family.  It’s only part of the overall enjoyment that families will get from this new release.  Just as enjoyable are the bonus shorts included with it.  Two bonus shorts are included on the disc.  The first of the pair is a touching Pixar style piece titled, “First Flight” in which a rather unhappy man learns the meaning of happiness when a baby bird falls from its nest and he ends up teaching the young avian how to fly.  It truly is a moving story as short as it is.  And it will leave both kids and adults smiling and shedding at least some tears of joy.  Being that the only dialogue here so to speak is the man and bird “talking” to each other through bird song, the music played a big role in the success of the story.  It came through in a big way, too.  It added so much emotion to the entire story.  It goes to prove that Pixar just might have some competition next awards season if Dreamworks continues to try its hand with more animated shorts.  And from the viewpoint of this critic, if this short is any indication, more shorts from Dreamworks would be welcome.

The second short of the pair is far less emotional.  Instead it’s on the exact opposite end of the spectrum.  It’s taken from Dreamworks’ Over The Hedge movie franchise.  The short, titled, “Hammy’s Boomerang Adventure” is a laugh-a-minute short that follows Hammy and his friends in their discovery of a video camera.  Hammy’s friends use it to play a prank on Hammy.  The writing for this short harkens back to the days of the old Warner Brothers Looney Tunes shorts with its physical comedy between Hammy and the Boomerang.  And as with the short’s companion Madagascar feature, the original voice actors from Over The Hedge have returned here adding to the hilarity.  Adding even more enjoyment to the short is a little musical number from pop star Ben Folds.  Folds performs a song titled, ‘Heist’ for the short’s end credits.  It’s not that long, obviously.  But it’s still a catchy little tune that will have viewers tapping their toes.  It might even be enough to get audiences interested in hearing more of his music.  His music combined with the equally enjoyable shorts and main feature from the Madagascar gang come together to make for a DVD that any audience will want to check out when it hits store shelves next Tuesday, January 29th.  It will also be available online.  It can be ordered direct online via the 20th Century Fox store at http://www.foxconnect.com/madly-madagascar.html.

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New MLB DVD Takes Mets Fans Through Team’s Half-Century History

Courtesy: MLB Productions/A&E Home Video

The 2012 MLB Playoffs are in full “swing.”  Get it?  Swing?  Ahhhhhh, thank you, thank you.  I’ll be here all week.  In all seriousness though, this past weekend saw lots of baseball action.  Among that action is the now two games to none lead that the Cincinnati Reds have over the San Francisco Giants.  The Reds second win came Sunday night thanks to the pitching of Bronson Arroyo and a pair of relievers.  Arroyo along with Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, and Joey Votto make up some of the best known players in the Reds’ current history.  However, this legendary team has had so many other great names.  Among that list of famed names is a man who played not just for the Reds but also for another equally beloved team in the New York Mets.  His name is Tom Seaver.

Tom Seaver is most well known in Cincy for pitching a 4-0 perfect game against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 16, 1978.  That’s just one of many games that made him so well known during his entire career.  While he earned some fame in Cincinnati, Seaver is best known for his time with the New York Mets.  He along with the likes of Mike Piazza, Dwight Gooden, and Carlos Delgado have made the Mets one of the league’s most beloved teams.  Now thanks to MLB Productions and A&E Home Video, Mets fans and baseball fans alike can find out where Piazza, Seaver, Gooden, and Delgado fit on the list of The New York Mets’ Fifty Greatest Players

The New York Mets Fifty Greatest Players is simply titled, a countdown of the fifty greatest players from the first half century of this NY squad’s history.  The list was compiled by a group of broadcasters and sports historians.  Interviews with broadcaster Howie Rose, comedian/actor Chris Rock, and a number of former Mets players help to illustrate why each player was placed where he was on the list.  As each player is introduced, fans are given figures about each one’s career.  Archived footage from Major League Baseball’s vaults help to further illustrate what makes each player deserving of a spot on this first half century list. 

Also included with this single disc presentation are a number of bonus features also included in the Mets 50th Anniversary Collector’s Set.  So fans that aren’t able to pick up that set will still be able to enjoy most of its features.  Some of the additional pieces included in this presentation are included as bonus features.  Others are included as additional main features that play immediately after the countdown.  Among the bonus features included here are the team’s origins and some of its greatest games.  There are also some other great Mets players and moments included as part of the disc’s main feature.  All together, these extras and the countdown itself combine to make another great piece for the Mets’ legions of fans and for baseball fans in general.  It’s available now and can be ordered online at http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=13156463

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