Fleischer’s Superman Flies Higher Than Ever In New Blu-Ray Re-Issue

Courtesy: Gaiam

Superman is flying again.  And this time it’s thanks not to DC, but to a little company called Gaiam.  Thanks to Gaiam, Max Fleischer’s classic Superman cartoons have been restored and made available once again to the public.  These classic cartoons are an example of everything that was once right with animation.  And now not only can the generation that grew up with these classics enjoy them once more, but so can a whole new generation.  At a time when DC and Marvel are increasingly going toe to toe with one another, churning out feature after feature (both on the big and small screen), this double disc collection is a welcome breath of fresh air for comic book fans the world over.

While there may have been only a grand total of seventeen episodes of Superman created by Max Fleischer between 1941 and 1942, those seventeen episodes are some of the finest animation to ever grace any television screen.  As with so many early pieces of animation, Fleischer and his team of nearly six hundred (yes, nearly six hundred) animators gave Superman its own identity through their work.  This is something that has so sadly been lost in today’s “animated” features.  Being that so many “cartoons” are created via computer, they all look alike.  They’re sterile.  They have no real identity, compared to the likes of Superman.  Sure, older cartoons such as these took massive amounts of time, money, and staff.  But the end result is well worth it.  That is evidenced here.

One might ask how it’s known that Fleischer used nearly six hundred animators and large amounts of money to create Superman.  The answer to that is simple.  The commemorative booklet included in this double disc set gives a full in-depth history lesson on how Fleischer came to ring one of the greatest superheroes of all time to the small screen.  Dr. Thomas R. Reich, Ph.D. explains in the culled information that the shorts collected in this set were the result of discussions between Paramount and Fleischer Studios over a Superman movie.  Because of the costs that the movie would have incurred, the two sides agreed that instead of a Superman movie, Fleischer would break up its movie proposal into what is now one of the earliest of the Superman TV series.  Dr. Reich explains with excruciating detail how the series eventually came to life, and just as soon came to its end.  There are also discussions on Fleischer Studios’ early days creating the likes of Gulliver’s Travels, Betty Boop, and even Popeye.  The bonus booklet even includes a full episode listing with equally in-depth synopsis for each episode.

The bonus booklet included in this new Superman Set offers loads and loads of trivia for audiences.  The story of how these seventeen shorts came to be is enlightening to say the least.  Just as enlightening is the revelation that it’s Fleischer and company who are to be credited with the now famous lines, “Faster than a speeding bullet” and “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”  This is just one more example of the value of this set to audiences.  Valuable information such as this, along with the equally impressive animation and storylines make this Blu-ray re-issue of Max Fleischer’s one of the best kids’ releases of the year.  It also makes it one of the year’s best in the category of general DVD’s and Blu-rays.  It will be available in stores and online on Tuesday, October 30th.

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Leguizamo’s New PBS Special Will Entertain And Move Audiences

Courtesy: PBS

John Leguizamo has become one of Hollywood’s big names thanks to his time as the voice of the loveable Sid the Sloth from the Ice Age movie franchise.  What a lot of people don’t know though is that Leguizamo has been making audiences laugh for years.  Thanks to the new documentary from PBS, Tales from a Ghetto Klown, audiences will get to learn about Leguizamo’s comedy roots, and about everything that went into bringing his latest project, “Ghetto Klown” to life.

Tales from a Ghetto Klown profiles Leguizamo’s rise to stardom, from his early days up to his most recent one-man show.  Viewers see how far he’s come through interviews with his family and friends, including other comedians.  Archived footage of his previous work adds even more depth to his story.  In watching this documentary, audiences may be somewhat surprised to see a man with two very different sides.  On stage, audiences see a man who is entirely in control and self confident.  But on the other side, Leguizamo admits himself that he’s nervous just trying out his material in a rehearsal with a very small invited audience.  It shows just how serious Leguizamo takes his craft.  Understanding that makes for that much more appreciation for him both as a person and an entertainer.  On another note, viewers will note that perhaps Leguizamo is a comic book geek.  In some of his interviews and even in his on-stage performances, he’s seen wearing comic book based shirts.  He’s got both an X-Men shirt and a Batman shirt.  Audiences who are fans of both DC Comics and Marvel will appreciate the shout outs even if they are just coincidental.

Leguizamo really comes across as something of an underdog in this presentation.  So when it begins to follow the journey to bring his latest show to life, audiences will find themselves rooting for him.  First there was an issue with having lost a contract for a theater in which to perform his show.  And then his prep show in Chicago was nearly shut down thanks to a massive snow storm.  Luckily though, he does finally see the fruits of his labor.  And even despite negative reviews from some critics, his show was obviously a hit among audiences.  It was such a hit that when it closed in the U.S., he ended up even going a Spanish language version of his show in Colombia.  The road to making that show happen was just as interesting.  Audiences can find out for themselves everything that he went through to make that show happen.  There are moments here that will amaze some audiences.  Those moments will also move audiences as they show Leguizamo getting back in touch with his roots.

The journey from dream to stage will keep audiences’ eyes and attention through the near hour long presentation contained on this documentary’s single disc.  Audiences will also laugh at the snippets of his act included as bonus features.  And for those who want even more depth to the presentation, there are even more interviews with those involved with the show’s birth and life included as bonus features.  They all come together with the main presentation to both move and entertain audiences.

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The Avengers gets an “A” for effort

Marvel’s The Avengers is a good start to the Summer movie season this year.  The build up for the movie has been nearly as immense as that for the finale of DC’s current Batman franchise.  And the end result definitely lives up to all the hype.  It’s translated to the big screen as if it were actually a live action comic book.  Some comic books over history haven’t translated to the big screen so well.  But this one did.  However, for all the greatness that was this highly anticiapted seasonal opener, it wasn’t without its flaws.

Anticipation has been growing over the newest of Marvel’s comics-to-film franchise, The Avengers.  From toys to promos to everything in between, The Avengers have been everywhere.  And it’s paid off with over $200 million in its opening weekend.  This movie is everything that a Summer blockbuster should be.  It has all the requisite explosions and action that audiences look for in their attempts to escape the mundacity of the every day world.  Thanks to writer/director Joss Whedon and co-writer Zak Penn, they’ve somehow managed to bring the action from the pages of the famed comic series and make it feel like audiences are actually seeing the comic book itself on the big screen, without going the Joel Schumacher route a la DC’s Batman & Robin and Batman Forever.  The chemistry between the cast was obvious too.  It was funny to see Tony Stark and Dr. Banner interacting.  The banter between the two was worth its share of laughs in and of itself.  The same applies even more so when the full Avengers team is together in one room.  The one-liners from each team member make for plenty of laughs throughout.

For all the laughs and great action, The Avengers is not without its faults.  The sexual innundo that is typical of Tony Stark is there.  And one can’t help but wonder if his subtle joke about Banner potentially using marijuana to stay calm was entirely necessary.  What’s more, do audiences really need preachiness about military buildup?  Audiences are bombarded with such stories every day on the news.  Having the Avengers quarreling with Director Fury over S.H.I.E.L.D.’s real intentions takes a certain amount of escapism from the movie.  It’s not the first movie to go that route, either.  What’s more, that the movie is an ensemble piece, it does tend to drag on a little bit too long.  Whether it’s telling backstory of each member of the Avengers team, or from other areas, Whedon and Penn could have found a way to shave off twenty to thirty minutes from this roughly two and a half hour movie.  Keeping that in consideration, one can only hope that when the already anticipated Avengers 2 makes its debut, whomever writes and helms that movie will have taken the good and bad from this one to make a sequel that defies common logic of sequels.