Bonus Content, Animation Save Disney/Pixar’s ‘Luca’

Courtesy: Disney/Pixar

Sea monsters are the stuff of Hollywood lore.  From the monster in Universal’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) to the giant, radioactive octopus in It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), to the one and only giant, radioactive lizard itself, Godzilla (1954) the giant radioactive lizard in Godzilla’s inspiration, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, they have been great fodder for Hollywood and audiences alike.  Yet for all of the success that sea monster movies have had over the course of Hollywood’s history, not every movie of that ilk succeeds or has succeeded.  The latest to come up short is Disney/Pixar’s Luca.  The 95-minute movie takes on the classic plot element to tell a story that while entertaining, falls short of expectation.  That is the case even with its welcome deeper social message.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the movie’s story is both positive and negative, its bonus content serves to make up for those problems at least to a point.  It will be discussed a little later.  The movie’s animation rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s new home presentation.  All things considered, Luca proves to be one of Disney/Pixar’s less memorable offerings.

Disney/Pixar’s Luca is not the best nor the worst of the cinematic offerings that the companies have released over their more than 25 years together.  It is neither a failure, nor is it a total success.  That is proven in part through its story.  The story centers on two young friends, Luca and Alberto, who happen to be “mer-boys”/sea monsters  The boys meet completely by chance one day while Luca is out herding (yes, herding) fish.  The boys’ chance meeting leads to an immediate friendship, when then leads to what is really the center of the story, Luca’s desire to grow up, and discover what else is out there beyond his own home.  It is a timeless story element that has been used in so many movies from Disney, Pixar, and other studios.  Finding Nemo (another Disney/Pixar movie) even uses this plot device as its basis.  Along with all of that is the deeper message (that some might call “woke”) about taking pride in who and what one is rather than hiding that reality.  Now all of this seems all good and fine on the surface (no pun intended).  The problem with it all is how the story begins and progresses.  The whole thing opens so abruptly with Alberto stealing stuff from a fisherman’s boat one night and getting partially caught in the process.  From there, the focus shifts to Luca in the real opening.  Audiences are introduced to Luca as he is herding the noted fish.  He discovers the things that Alberto had tried to steal from the fisher but lost in getting away from that secondary character.  As the boys’ friendship grows, they make their way to a nearby town that is known for its fishing and sea monster hunting. 

Over time, the boys learn that the townspeople have only hatred for sea monsters.  This is where one needs to back up a bit.  There is zero set-up in the story’s opening about this divide between humans and sea monsters.  Not even that brief nighttime preface to the story really sets it up.  Why is the hatred there?  That is never answered.  Though, ultimately at the story’s end, the humans and sea monsters do end up peacefully co-existing.  That’s not giving away too much, as no Disey/Pixar movie is going to have a sad ending.  Audiences are just expected to accept that the humans hate sea monsters.  Eventually, the story does somehow manage to right itself, even though the whole thing of the bicycle race and winning the Vespa just seems like a desperate attempt to justify the boys staying in the town.  For anyone who is confused at this point, good.  That is how the movie’s story will ultimately leave viewers feeling.  Simply put, the story overall just feels so contrived and lacking any real structure.  Add in the unbelievable aspect of Luca and Alberto’s friendship just happening so fast and audiences see even more, the problems posed by this story.  There is no denying here that Luca’s story is problematic but ultimately not a total failure.  The bonus content on the other hand proves well worth watching.

The bonus content that comes with the home release of Luca is important to discuss because of its role in understanding the movie’s final story.  Among the most important of the movie’s bonus features is its collection of deleted scenes.  It is understandable why many of the scenes featured here were cut from the final product.  That includes one of the movie’s original opening sequences.  The second opening on the other hand, is a different matter.  That opening in question really should have been examined and worked out more rather than omitted.  The sequence in question opens with Luca narrating the opening, a la Diego in Coco.  Luca’s voice is heard talking about the island as the camera closes in on an aged map showing the island’s location.  Luca talks about the island and its residents.  This is where things start to get iffy.  Rather than showing the island’s residents actually being the sea monsters, it would have made more sense if Luca had pulled a twist and said the island in question was beneath the waves.  The writers could have then had him talk about why the surface island’s residents hated sea monsters so much.  That brief setup would have done so much to make the rest of the movie so much more enjoyable.  Sadly, the movie’s writers and creative heads opted not to go that route, ultimately making the story that much less engaging and entertaining.  To the positive though, this and the other deleted scenes show in their own right, the importance of the movie’s bonus content.  They in themselves make for plenty of discussion among audiences.

Touching on another of the bonus features, the feature titled, “Our Italian Inspiration” makes for its own appeal (and to more appeal for the movie) because every local studied in this feature shows up in the movie.  Even the subtlety of the railroad tunnel going through the mountain is there, as well as the “marina” for the boats.  If there is one thing that Disney and Pixar have always done right, it is making every one of its movies as believable as possible in their look.  That has always been done by doing the fullest research into the subjects for the movies’ stories.  This story is no exception to that rule.  To that end, audiences will gain even more appreciation for the movie’s bonus content and at least a little more appreciation for the movie if only in terms of its aesthetic elements.

One more item that shows the importance of the movie’s bonus content comes in the form of “Secretly A Sea Monster.”  This roughly 30-minute feature delves into the movie’s animation and the painstaking efforts that went in to making that item believable.  Audiences, especially those with any interest and education in art, will find this discussion engaging and entertaining.  The mention of the animation styles used in Coco being carried over to this movie to a point is interesting, too.  When this feature and the others examined here are considered together, they make fully clear, the importance of the movie’s bonus content.  They work together to make the movie at least a little bit more worth watching at least once.  Keeping that in mind, the bonus content is just one more of the movie’s most notable elements.  Speaking of animation, that aspect rounds out the most important of the movie’s elements.

The animation featured in Luca because it marks a change in direction for Disney and Pixar.  It is more comparable to Aardman Animation’s movies (E.g. Shaun The Sheep, Timmy Time, Wallace & Gromit) than the more overly defined CG presents exhibited in every one of Pixar’s existing works.  The irony is that (again reaching back to that feature about the movie’s animation) where Aardman Animation’s movies are all stop motion/claymation, this movie was done fully through computers.  It shows that despite what so many studios would like to think, it is possible to give these modern animated movies some identity in this aspect.  To that end, Pixar, Dreamworks, and other studios need to take this to heart and see if they can create something more original if only in terms of its look.  It is just nice to have that change of pace from Pixar.  Keeping that in mind, this element is, next to the movie’s bonus content, Luca’s only other fully positive element.  The two elements join with the problematic but still somewhat engaging story to make Luca worth watching at least occasionally.

Disney/Pixar’s Luca is a presentation that is anything but perfect.  It is not a failure, though.  The movie’s story is problematic in terms of its general construction and its pacing.  However, the familiar plot element of the main character wanting to explore and find out more from the world is reason enough to give the movie a chance.  The welcome message about self acceptance also plays into the story’s appeal, making for at least a little more reason to watch.  For all of the problems posed through the movie’s story, its bonus content makes up for those issues at least to a point.  That is because they give more insight into the movie’s creation, including insight into what Luca could have been.  The movie’s animation style rounds out the most important of the movie’s elements.  It stands out because it shows that it is possible for studios to give their cookie cutter CG flicks actual identities separate from themselves since they refuse to use hand drawn animation, which gives even more identity to presentations.  All three noted items are important in their own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered, they leave Luca a movie that while not a failure, is also one of the less memorable sea monster based movies that Hollywood has ever turned out.  More information on this and other movies from Pixar is available at:

Website: https://www.pixar.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pixar

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‘Under The Pepper Tree’ Is A Successful First Family Music Outing For Sara Watkins

Courtesy: New West

Singer-songwriter Sara Watkins has made quite the name for herself over the years as a member of the bluegrass group Nickel Creek and as part of the Watkins Family Hour and I’m With Her.  Now this Friday, Watkins will take her first step into another phase of her career with her debut family music album, Under the Pepper Tree.  The 15-song first outing is a presentation that will appeal to her fans and those of one Diana Panton.  That is due in part to the song’s that make up the album’s body.  They will be discussed shortly.  The musical arrangements that Watkins employs throughout the album add to its appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The sequencing of that overall content puts the finishing touch to the record and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, Sarah Watkins’ debut family music album is a successful offering that the whole family will indeed enjoy.

Sara Watkins’ debut family music album is a work that the whole family truly will enjoy.  That is due in part to its featured songs.  The songs in question are a selection of songs from various classic movies.  Bob Nolan’s ‘Tumblin’ Tumbleweed,’ from Gene Autry’s 1935 movie by the same name is featured here along with the likes of ‘Edelweiss’ from 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Rodgers &  Hammerstein’s musical, The Sound of Music (1965), and ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ from Disney’s classic Pinocchio (1940).  Also represented here is ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, Carousel (1956); ‘La la Lu’ from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (1955) and even ‘Moon River’ from Paramount Pictures’ 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  There is even an original tune in the form of the album’s title track along with everything else.  The songs will relate to listeners of all ages because they are all timeless works that the noted audiences will remember.  Given, parents will recognize some of the songs more than children, but that aside, those songs will still entertain younger listeners.

On another level, that some of the songs (and their related movies) will connect more with older audiences than with children. That in itself serves as a starting point for older audiences to offer younger listeners the most basic introduction to so many classic musicals and movies.  That early introduction could help lead to a lifelong love for said presentations.  So while on the surface, the songs make up a collective of soundtrack works, they actually can and do serve an even greater purpose, bringing families together while building a foundation and love for the great timeless works of stage and screen from entertainment’s golden age.  To that end, the songs featured in this compilation form a solid foundation for the record itself.  It is just one part of what makes the recording so enjoyable.  The arrangements that Watkins chose for these songs adds to the record’s overall appeal.

Watkins largely stays true to the source material in each song that she features in her new record, from one to the next.  For all of that honor that Watkins pays to the original works, she still gives them her own nice touch.  Case in point is her take on ‘Stay Awake.’  Originally featured as one of the songs from Disney’s 1964 musical adaptation of author P.L. Travers’ novel Mary Poppins, the song was a gentle lullabye crafted by  the famed Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert.  It featured Julie Andrews’ absolutely stunning vocal control alongside some even more subtle strings.  Watkins’ take on the song would have fit just as well into that movie.  It is just as moving with its piano line joining with the strings to make the song even richer.  Watkins’ over vocal delivery is so powerful in its simplicity here, too.  Ironically though being a lullaby, Watkins’ take on the song is enough to make even the most emotionally strong man blubber like a baby.  That is a telling statement. 

On a different note, Watkins’ take on Bob Nolan’s ‘Tumbling Tumblewood’ stays even truer to its source material, complete with fiddle and the slightest touch of a slide guitar.  Of course, gone are the clip-clop of the horse hoofs and the string arrangement featured in the original song performed by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers.  Instead, Watkins has opted here for the more spit-shined take that even what with everything in mind, the song still sounds quite a bit like something that one might hear playing in the old honky tonk joints of country music’s golden era.  To that point, it is still its own unique arrangement.

‘Moon River’ is another example of the importance of the musical arrangements featured in Watkins’ new record.  Her take on the song does stay true to its source material for the most part, stylistically.  Though there are some subtle differences between the original version composed by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, and sung by Audrey Hepburn, and Watkins’ take.  Right off the bat, the string arrangements and the harmonica featured in the original are absent in Watkins’ rendition.  They are replaced here by the subtle addition of a Hammond organ.  Watkins’ own vocal delivery bears its own identity here.  Her delivery is just as soft and gentle as that of Hepburn and almost as airy.  That whole set against the whole of the original makes Watkins’ take here just as interesting as the other covers featured in the compilation.  When those other songs are considered with this arrangement and the others examined here, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the recording’s overall musical content.  When that content is considered along with the featured songs themselves, that whole gives listeners even more to like.  When all of that is considered along with the record’s sequencing, the record is rounded out and completed.

The sequencing of Under the Pepper Tree keeps the album’s energy light from beginning to end of its 36-minute run time, starting off relaxed in her take of ‘Blue Shadows on the Trail.’  The energy really does not pick back up until late in the album’s run in Watkin’s take of ‘Blanket for a Sail.’  Up until that point, the energy remains relatively reserved.  It pulls back again from there right up to the album’s finale, ‘Good Night.’  So basically what audiences get overall due to the sequencing here, is a record that will serve to relax any listener.  As a matter of fact, one might even be able to use the record to help get to sleep being that the record’s energy is so gentle.  Between that, the unique takes on the songs and the very selection of songs, the whole makes the record in whole a work that is a truly successful family music album.

Sara Watkins’ debut family music album Under the Pepper Tree is a positive new offering that the whole family will indeed enjoy.  That is due in part to the record’s featured songs, the majority of which are timeless songs that are themselves featured in some of the most famous and beloved movies of all time.  The arrangements that Watkins presents here are themselves important to the record’s presentation.  They stay largely true to their source material but also give the songs the slightest of updates, making for even more appeal.  The sequencing of this overall content keeps the record’s energy relatively light and reserved throughout the record’s nearly 40-minute run time.  That means the record’s overall energy will keep listeners relaxed.  That will result in a positive mindset for any listener.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this record.  All things considered, they make the record in whole a successful first family music outing for Sarah Watkins.  Under the Pepper Tree is scheduled for release Friday through New West Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of Watkins’ latest news at:

Websitehttps://sarawatkins.com

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

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/SaraWatkins

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

Bonus Content Is The Saving Grace For Arrow Video’s ‘Silent Running’ Blu-ray Re-Issue

Courtesy: Arrow Video/Universal Pictures

When Disney and Pixar released their movie WallE back in 2008, it was lauded by audiences and critics alike, even receiving a score of 95 from Rotten Tomatoes.  All of the accolades that the movie received are prime examples of how easily audiences really do forget the past.  The movie is a clear lifting of MGM’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as well as ruminations by the late great scientist Isaac Asimov.  On another level, it is also a lifting from another well-known sci-fi flick by the name of Silent Running.  As a matter of fact, one could argue that WallE pulls more from that movie than from 2001: A Space Odyssey with its overly preachy content.  That would go to show the influence of the latter, decidedly nihilistic flick, which in fact received the Blu-ray re-issue treatment last month thanks to Arrow Video.  Re-issued Nov. 17, the 1972 cult favorite sci-fi flick will appeal equally to its longtime fans and sci-fi fans who might be less familiar with the movie.  That is due in part to the movie’s central story, which will be discussed shortly.  While the story is certain to keep viewers engaged throughout the movie’s roughly 90-minute run time, the re-issue’s presentation does suffer from at least one concern, its production.  Most notably, the audio production proves somewhat problematic and will be addressed a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the re-issue adds to the presentation’s appeal and together with the story, makes for even more appeal.  The two items together make up for the concerns raised by the audio production and make the movie’s re-issue worth watching at least occasionally by the most devoted science fiction fans and of Silent Running.

Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1972 sci-fi statement flick Silent Running is a presentation that will appeal to the most devoted of the movie’s fans.  It will also appeal to the most devoted science fiction fans.  That is due in part to the movie’s story.  The story in question centers on Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern – The Burbs, Nebraska, The Hateful Eight) as he makes his way into space to (he thinks) protect a forest that he oversees in a bio-dome structure attached to his ship, the Valley Forge.  The flight happens after an order from Earth for all ships orbiting Earth to destroy their biodomes, which contain the last plant and animal life from Earth.  While no reason is ever given for the order, the script does manage to explain that by having one of Freeman’s soon-to-be deceased crewmates note that he did not understand the order either.  In a way, that lack of explanation is a sort of commentary about the oftentimes mind boggling actions of any government body.  Lowell’s development as the story progresses is really what makes the story engaging.  His focus on protecting the forest gradually declines as he increasingly falls victim to the psychological effect of isolation.  He eventually comes to the realization that being alone, there is no reason to keep trying to save the forest, leading to the story’s disturbing finale.  This critic will not reveal that finale here for those who have yet to see the story.  What can be said is that it will leave audiences unsettled, to say the very least.

On another note, there is one notable plot hole to this story that almost completely negates the whole thing.  That plot hole comes early on as one of Lowell’s crewmates makes mention that the Earth at the time was 75-degrees.  The companion booklet that comes with the movie’s recent re-issue points out that the degrees measure in question is Celsius, not Fahrenheit.  That Celsius measure equals to 167-degrees in Fahrenheit.  So it leaves one scratching one’s head that Lowell’s crew mates talk about returning to Earth when no human, let alone plant and animal, could survive such temperatures.  Humans even now struggle when summer temperatures in the real world get to the 100s, so there is no way humans could even begin to survive at a temperature of nearly 200-degrees year-round.  Audiences who can overlook this massive Earth-size plot hole will find themselves able to stay engaged.  However in hindsight, that noted realization detracts from the story’s enjoyment quite a bit.  The plot hole pointed out in the re-issue’s companion booklet is just one aspect of the bonus content that will be pointed out later.  It is also just one of the problems from which the movie itself suffers. The audio production presented in the movie is another concern.

Throughout the course of Silent Running’s 90-minute run time, its audio levels are problematic.  The dialogue plays out at a low volume while the music, crafted and performed by folk singer Joan Baez and composer Peter Schickele, is far too loud whenever it is used.  Whether that was the result of work done on the movie’s re-mastering or if it was originally like that is anyone’s guess.  It was not discussed in any of the movie’s bonus content.  Again, the bonus content will be discussed later.  Regardless, the constant volume adjustments that audiences will find themselves having to make as they take in the movie will become bothersome to say the least.  At least the video quality is worth its share of applause.  It makes up at least to a point for the problems posed by the problematic audio production.

For all of the problems posed by Silent Running’s story and its audio production, its re-issue does come with at least one undeniable positive, its bonus content.  As has already been noted, the movie’s bonus content makes for plenty of engagement and entertainment.  The companion booklet that comes with the re-issue is just one of the noted extras worth addressing.  Journalist Peter Tonguette points out on page 21 of the booklet, “In the screenplay by Deric Washburn, Michael Cimino, and Steven Bocho, the temperature of the Earth has  eached 75-degrees Celsius, apparently rendering it inhospitable to a wide assortment of plants and animals.”  A check of those credits on IMDB.com certifies they crafted the movie’s script.  Again referencing this, 75-degrees Celsius is equal to 165-degrees Fahrenheit.  How that would even be hospitable to any life is confusing.  Humans in reality can barely handle temperatures in excess of 100-degrees.  So for Lowell’s crew mate to be excited that the planet’s year-round temperature is 75-degrees leaves one wondering how humans have adapted to such high temperature.  It creates a massive plot hole about the size of the ships that orbit Earth.  It is just one of the interesting aspects pointed out in the movie’s companion booklet.  Audiences also learn from journalist Barry Forshaw, that director Douglas Trumbull’s turn helming Silent Running was not his first jaunt into space so to speak.  Forshaw points out in his essay, that Trumbull worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey prior to taking on Silent Running, and that it was his stint on the prior that led to the latter.  On an equally interesting note, WallE – as already noted – lifts liberally from both movies for its story.  Additionally, Forshaw points out in page 11 of the booklet, that famed Star Wars director George Lucas was so impressed by Trumbull’s use of sound in the open space scenes, that he was moved to incorporate the use of sound for space scenes, rather than just leave the outer space scenes outside the ships quiet.  That is quite the statement for Trumbull to have had such impact.  Between all of this and so much more noted in the booklet, it alone more than proves the importance of the movie’s bonus content.  It is just one part of the bonus content that is worth addressing.

The bonus content that is presented on disc ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment in that it does not just rehash the bonus content featured in the movie’s 2015 re-issue, its then most recent re-issue.  That content is featured here, but is joined by even more new content, such as a discussion on the movie’s soundtrack.  As is revealed in that discussion, Schickele’s turn on Silent Running was in fact his first time scoring a big screen feature.  Music historian Jeff Bond, who narrates the feature, points out that Schickele’s work with Baez stemmed oddly enough from Baez’s intent to work on a holiday music compilation of all things.  Additionally, Bond discusses the attention that Schickele paid to each scene, to ensure every note of every scene made for the utmost emotional impact on audiences.

“First Run,” another of the new bonuses featured in this re-issue, takes audiences through a look at the initial first scenes of Silent Running.  The comparison of those early scenes to the final product makes for more appreciation for that final product.

The archived “Making of” featurette joins with the newer content to make for even more engagement and entertainment.  Audiences learn firsthand from Dern in the vintage extra, that he ran “200 miles” on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Valley Forge (which was used for most of the movie’s principal shooting) during down time as a means to stay healthy.  That is a lot of running.  Audiences also learn in this extra that Trumbull did not even initially want to direct the movie, but do other things on the film.  Audiences will be left to learn that whole story for themselves.  Between this story, the other items noted here and the rest of the features extensive information, it and the rest of the equally extensive list of bonus content does much to entertain and engage audiences.  If for no other reason than the bonus content, audiences will find the movie worth watching at least once.  Audiences who can overlook the aforementioned plot hole involving the planet’s temperature in the story will find the rest of the movie’s ecologically-minded story worth watching, too.  The two items together give audiences reason to watch this movie at least occasionally. 

Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1972 sci-fi eco/space drama Silent Running is a presentation that will find enjoyment among the most devoted sci-fi fans and those of the movie.  That is due in part to the movie’s story.  The story, which does suffer from one massive plot hole, follows a botanist – Lowell — who goes rogue after being told that the forest for which he cared was going to be destroyed.  As a result of his actions, Lowell falls into a slow spiral of depression and despair, leading to the movie’s rather depressing finale.  That the movie’s script never addresses its one major plot hole greatly detracts from its presentation.  Audiences who can overlook that problem will find the movie engaging at least to a point.  The video quality of the movie’s re-issue is a positive in its own right, but the audio production proves problematic in its own right, as audiences will find themselves having to raise and lower the volume throughout the movie.  The extensive bonus content featured with the movie’s re-issue is its primary saving grace.  If for no other reason than that content, audiences will find the re-issue worth watching.  Even with that in mind, that content is more worth watching than the movie itself.  To that end, the movie in whole is going to find the most appeal among the movie’s most devoted audiences and sci-fi fans than general sci-fi fans and other audiences.  Silent Running is available now.

More information on Arrow Video’s Silent Runnning re-issue is available along with all of the company’s latest news at:

Websitehttp://www.arrowfilms.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/ArrowVideo

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

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Visual Effects, Pacing Save Disney/Lucasfilm’s Finale To The ‘Star Wars’ Skywalker Saga

Courtesy: Lucasfilm/Disney

So this is how it ends.  Not with a bang, but with a whimper.  Such is the case of Lucasfilm and Disney’s finale to the Star Wars universe’s Skywalker saga, The Rise of Skywalker.  Originally released in theaters Dec. 20 and to DVD/BD on March 31, this finale to the Skywalker saga is one of those presentations that is no better in its home release than its theatrical premiere.  It is not a total loss, though.  As has already been noted by various critics and audiences, the movie’s writing makes it near unwatchable, so it won’t be rehashed here.  What does deserve to be noted is the bonus content featured with the movie’s home release.  It does its own share of damage to the presentation as the movie’s script, and will be addressed a little later.  For all of the damage that the bonus content does, it doesn’t render the presentation completely unwatchable.  The movie’s visual effects make it worth at least one watch.  They will be discussed shortly.  For all of the problems that the movie poses with its bonus content and writing, one other positive that can be noted is the story’s pacing.  Together with the visual effects, the two elements collectively make Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a movie that despite being hardly the best entry in the franchise, still worth at least an occasional watch.

Disney and Lucasfilm’s final entry in the decades-spanning Star Wars Skywalker franchise is a difficult end to the saga.  It is not a complete loss, though.  Despite the problems posed by its plot hole-filled script, it does have at least a couple of positives, one of which is its visual effects.  The visual effects (special effects) incorporated into the Rise of Skywalker are to be applauded.  Given, a lot of CG content was used, just as much real sets were tied into that digital content.  One key instance in which the two elements were so well-balanced was in the final battle scene on Exegol.  A large physical set was actually constructed for that scene, and dozens of extras were used along with the main cast for that moment.  The precision in the look of that set, when placed along with its digital counterpart actually is surprisingly seamless.  The same applies with a situation, such as the Death Star battle scenes.  Again, there was a significant amount of digital presentation in this expansive scene, but it was also well balanced in its own right with the physical Death Star set that was created specifically for that crucial moment in the story.  Audiences will be just as pleasantly surprised by other physical sets created for the movie, such as Palpatine’s throne room, the miniatures of the sand people’s vehicle, D-O’s ship and the sand planet scene involving the massive “dance” number, complete with all of its various costumes.  The only downside to that scene is the speeder chase scene.  It looks like something right out of one of the Mad Max movies, just with a more “upped” sci-fi flare.  Of course all the CG content is not to be ignored.  Between the laser blasts, the massive fleet of star destroyers and the other minor details, they add their own touch to the movie’s presentation, too.  All things considered, audiences will be impressed by the dedication by those behind the lens to minimize the use of digital effects and make the movie look as real as possible throughout its nearly two-and-a-half-hour run time.  That balance of real and digital elements is surprisingly positive and does its share to make the presentation worth experiencing at least once.  Of course for all of the good that the visual effects do to make the movie worth watching, its bonus content counters that positive impact.

The bonus content featured with the home release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker detracts from the movie’s presentation because it is so targeted in its own presentation.  Given, the main feature, “The Skywalker Legacy” does give audiences a background in how the visual effects were created for this final chapter in the Shywalker saga.  The problem is that that’s all it does.  The feature’s title is “The Skywalker Legacy” but does next to nothing to actually discuss the legacy of Luke Skywalker and his sister Princess/General Leia Organa.  That name in itself brings about its own problems.  If she’s Luke’s sister (and Han Solo’s wife), why is her last name Organa?  That’s yet another writing matter that this critic will leave for others to discuss.  The fact that the feature, which runs well over an hour in time, is titled “The Skywalker Legacy” but focuses solely on the special/visual effects instead of the very story that led to this point is self-defeating.  Making matters worse is the fact that the featurette tries to justify itself (and the movie) by linking its own special effects to the special effects used in the original Star Wars trilogy.  It is a blithe approach for this presentation all the way around.  By comparison, MVD Entertainment Group’s surprisingly entertaining documentary Elstree 1976 does far more to honor the legacy of the original Star Wars trilogy, including its special effects.  Had “The Skywalker Legacy” had a different title that was more in line with its content, the outcome might have been different, but that wasn’t the case.  Making matters worse is that all of the movie’s other bonus features focus solely on its special effects, too.  Ironically, there is one mention by stars Jon Boyega and Naomi Ackie that they were the first African-American stars to lead a cavalry in such an epic final scene near the movie’s end.  That actually could have been used as a starting point for a much deeper discussion on diversity in the cinematic realm, but Disney and Lucasfilm officials completely missed the mark on this matter.  It’s just one more way in which the movie’s bonus content proves itself a detriment to the home release of The Rise of Skywalker.  Sure, the bonus content will appeal to those who have a love of and interest in movie production, but those viewers make up the only audience that will deeply appreciate its presentation.  To that end, the bonus content does little to help the movie, proving once more that while sometimes bonus features can make a bad movie better, other times, said content does little to nothing for a movie.  Luckily, for all of the impact that the movie’s bonus content has (and doesn’t have) on the movie’s overall presentation, it still does offer at least a tiny bit of appeal, if any.

While the impact of the bonus content featured in the home release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is minimal at best, one other item, the movie’s pacing can be said to be a definite positive.  Considering that the movie’s run time is just shy of two-and-a-half-hours (which seems to be the norm nowadays with major blockbusters), it actually moves at a surprisingly quick pace.  From the opening scenes to Ray continuing her training to the buildup to the final battle to that big moment, the movie’s scrip wastes little time on unnecessary items.  That’s not to say that the script doesn’t find some slow moments.  That desert planet scene does drag on a bit more than maybe it should have.  Also, the wait for re-enforcements in that final battle takes its time.  There is also the moment in which the Ray and company have to travel to one of the star destroyers to save Chewbacca, which is of note.  This sequence slows things down a bit in its own right, as doe the scene in which the rebels have to find a certain character who can help dive into C3PO’s data memory to get the location of one of the devices that will lead to another key moment.  This whole segment not only slows things down, but it also brings about the discussion on another of the plot holes, the very fact that C3PO’s memory could be wiped, but then later conveniently recovered by his longtime bot buddy R2-D2.  Luckily for viewers, such moments are rare and don’t do too much damage to the pacing.  To that end, the pacing actually is just enough to keep viewers watching from beginning to end, even with all of the plot holes and other problems that pose issues for the movie.  Keeping those issues in mind along with everything else mentioned here, the noted elements collectively make Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a work that while hardly a winning finale for this franchise, is not a complete loss.

Disney and Lucasfilm’s finale to Star Wars’ Skywalker franchise is an intriguing closer for the franchise that started out with such a bang more than four decades ago.  It is a work that is clearly hindered greatly by its writing, but is also saved at least somewhat by its visual effects.  The bonus content that is featured with the movie’s home release will appeal to a very targeted audience.  The primary bonus feature, “The Skywalker Legacy” is a completely improperly titled presentation, considering its content, detracting from its appeal even more.  There is also a missed opportunity in the opening for a discussion on the role of race in cinema, as has already been noted here.  The story’s pacing works with its visual effects to make up at least a little bit for the problems created by the story’s script and bonus content.  All things considered, this finale to the Star Wars Skywalker saga is a disappointing finish to the current leg of the franchise, but is not a complete loss.  It is worth at least one watch.  More information on the movie and all things Lucasfilm is available at:

 

 

 

Website: http://lucasfilm.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jointheforce

 

 

 

More information on the home release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is available at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.starwars.com/films/star-wars-episode-ix-the-rise-of-skywalker

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/starwars

 

 

 

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Disney Announces Home Release Dates For ‘Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker’

Courtesy: Lucasfilm/Disney

The final chapter in Star Wars‘ “Skywalker Saga” ended last year, and now has a home release date.

Star WarsThe Rise of Skywalker is scheduled for release March 17 on digital and March 31 on Blu-ray and 4KUHD.  Earning more than $1 billion worldwide during its theatrical run, the finale of the “Skywalker Saga”  brings to a climax, the battle between the Resistance and the New Order.  Kylo Ren and Rey also face off one more time to bring the battle between the light and dark side to its supposed end.

The forthcoming home release of Star WarsThe Phantom Menace will feature a variety of extras, such as a profile of legendary composer John Williams’ work on the movie’s soundtrack (which is exclusive to the movie’s digital-only release), a making-of featurette, the creation of the Pasaana desert scenes and a profile of the creatures in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

The full list of the movie’s bonus content is noted below.

Bonus features include*:
  • The Skywalker Legacy – The story lives forever in this feature-length documentary that charts the making of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
  • Pasaana Pursuit: Creating the Speeder Chase – Dive into the making of the movie’s epic landspeeder chase and discover how this spectacular sequence was brought to the screen.
  • Aliens in the Desert – See what it took to create the Pasaana desert scenes, from the sheer scale and complexity of the shoot to its colorful details.
  • D-O: Key to the Past – Explore the ship that connects Rey to the mystery of her missing parents and get to know the galaxy’s newest, irresistible droid.
  • Warwick & Son – Warwick Davis, who played Wicket in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, dons the Ewok costume once more; this time joined by his son Harrison.
  • Cast of Creatures – The team behind the film’s memorable creatures reveal the puppetry, makeup, prosthetics and digital magic that bring them to life!
Digital Exclusive:
  • The Maestro’s Finale – Composer John Williams reflects on his body of work for the Star Wars saga and shares insights on scoring Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
* Digital bonus offerings may vary by retailer.

More information on the home release of Star WarsThe Rise of Skywalker is available online at:

 

Website: http://www.starwars.com/films/star-wars-episode-ix-the-rise-of-skywalker

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/starwars

 

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Galactic Empire Debuts ‘The Rise of Shredi’ Video

Galactic Empire is celebrating the alleged final chapter in the Star Wars Skywalker saga.

The band debuted the video for its Star Wars music compilation ‘The Rise of Shredi‘ Thursday.  The mashup features music taken from both of the theatrical group’s albums  Galactic Empire and its follow-up Episode II.

Courtesy: Rise Records

The completely tongue-in-cheek video for ‘The Rise of Shredi’ opens with one of the band members dressed as everyone’s favorite hated Star Wars character Jar Jar Binks walking up to the center screen, playing his guitar, before being utterly destroyed by Emperor Palpatine and a slew of other characters from the franchise.  At one point, a pair of stormtroopers tries to calm Palpatine down before he decides to run back and continue his wrath against Binks.

From there, audiences are presented with various shots of the band in full costume performing numbers, such as ‘Kylo Ren Arrives at The Battle,’ ‘The Emperor’s Theme and ‘Rey’s Theme.’  It is during ‘Rey’s Theme’ that audiences get one of the video’s biggest laughs, as a muscle-bound Kylo Ren, clad in only his helmet, tights and gloves, challenges Rey to a “shred-off” before the pair goes toe to toe in front of Palpatine.  The victor will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  There is even a spoof of NBC’s karaoke contest The Voice incorporated into that scene.

The whole thing ends with a look back at the result of the attack on Binks, with Palpatine attempting (and failing) to play guitar next to Darth Vader as Binks lays lifeless on the ground.

More information on Galactic Empire’s new video is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/galacticempireofficial

Instagramhttp://www.instagram.com/galacticempireofficial

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Disney’s Latest ‘Aladdin’ Re-Issue Offers More Magical Fun For The Whole Family

Walt Disney Studios’ modern classic movie Aladdin is coming back to Blu-ray and DVD again.  The animated feature, originally released in 1992, is set to be re-issued Sept. 10 alongside the home release of Disney’s live action/CG reboot of that movie.  The upcoming Signature Collection re0issue of Aladdin is an interesting new presentation of the movie in large part because of its bonus content, which will be addressed shortly.  The story at the center of the movie strengthens the re-issue’s presentation even more.  The movie’s average price point rounds out the most notable of the movie’s elements and will also be addressed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Aladdin.  All things considered, they make this latest re-issue of Aladdin a piece that is while not perfect, still a positive new re-issue of what is one of Disney’s most timeless movies.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s upcoming Blu-ray/DVD re-issue of Aladdin (1992) is a mostly positive new presentation of the movie.  That is due in part to the bonus content featured with the movie.  The bonus content is being addressed first in that the movie’s story itself is obviously not changed from its original 1992 presentation.  The bonus content featured in this latest re-issue (which comes approximately three years after the release of the movie’s Diamond Edition re-issue) give viewers a little something old and something new.  The old content carried over to this re-issue are the features about Aladdin’s life on stage, the brief segment featuring Robin Williams’ genie outtakes and the Disney Channel special “Unboxing Aladdin.”  The new extras introduced in this re-issue, the singalong version of the movie, star Scott weinger’s retrospective on the movie and the introduction of two alternate endings that never made the final cut.  For those who have never seen the bonus features from the previous Diamond Edition re-issue of Aladdin, the focus on Aladdin’s stage life is interesting considering its worldwide success.  As is revealed in this feature, the musical almost didn’t happen because of the growing pains that it (and its cast) endured.  Viewers learn that that play didn’t start on Broadway, but went from Seattle and on to Toronto before finally making its way to Broadway.  Seattle and Toronto were used as test markets for all intents and purposes for the play.  The extensive discussions with the lead cast and the musical’s creative heads give a lot of insight into the growing pains that were endured on stage and behind the curtains, such as the evolution of the flying carpet aspect and how to address the comparison between James Iglehart’s Genie and that of Robin Williams.  Viewers will be interested to learn that Alan Menken and his creative partner Howard Ashman originally had plans to make a character for Genie more in the vein of a Cab Calloway/Fats Waller hybrid for him instead of the portrayal that Williams brought to the character.  That approach is what was used for the stage Genie, and ended up proving successful.

The Genie Outtakes segment is brief, but still entertaining, especially for older viewers who will get the references.  Viewers see firsthand here, the many impersonations that Williams did during the movie, but ended up on the cutting room floor.  There are impersonations of Richard Nixon, John Wayne, Elmer Fudd, Wolfman Jack and Michael Jackson just to name a handful of famous figures spoofed throughout the movie, which ended up being removed or replaced.  It serves to show even more, Williams wide range of talent in terms of comedic impersonation.

In terms of the movie’s new bonus content, one of the most notable new features is Scott Weinger’s retrospective “Aladdin on Aladdin.”  Weinger, who was the speaking voice of the movie’s titular character, talks with his fellow cast mates from the movie, as well as his mom and the movie’s creative heads (including Alan Menkin) about the movie’s creation, everyone’s roles and their favorite memories of making the movie.  Viewers will be interested to learn through this bonus that Weinger audition for Aladdin’s speaking voice and his singing voice, but failed the singing audition.  Jonathan Freeman, the voice of Jafar jokes about having wanted to voice a villain for many years before taking on the role of Jafar while Gilbert Gottfriend talks with Weinger via phone and jokes about taking on the role of Iago.  By connection, Ron Clements, one of the movie’s co-writers reveals that Gottfriend was not the first choice for the role.  He reveals Iago was originally going to be British, but after Gottfried auditioned, that all changed.  As if all of that is not enough, Weinger’s discussion with Menken reveals the song which Weinger auditioned and failed.  That song was Howard Ashman’s “Proud of Your Boy,” Which was cut from the final movie, but is featured to this day in Aladdin’s stage presentation.  This is where the bonus content turns somewhat downward.

There is so much discussion in the bonus features about the song in question – “Proud of Your Boy – but the song itself is not featured in whole as a bonus this time.  It is presented however, in the movie’s 2015 Diamond Edition re-issue along with a group of other songs cut from the final presentation.  With all the talk of that song and its impact on the movie’s cast and crew, it would have made so much sense to have included that as one of the carry-overs from the 2015 re-issue.  To that end, it makes no sense why it and the other deleted songs were not included in this re-issues bonuses list.  Hopefully they will be brought over with the next re-issue whenever it is released.

As much as Weinger’s retrospective does to make this latest re-issue interesting for viewers, it is just one of the re-issue’s most notable extras.  The two brief alternate endings included as extras are important in their own right.  That is because they actually serve to make the initial opening for Disney’s 2019 Aladdin reboot make sense.  What’s more, they are certain to lead viewers to discuss whether they would have added anything to the 1992 movie had one or the other been included.  On the one hand, they might not have, but on the other hand, either one could have put even more of a period to the story.  To that end, it is nice to have those alternate endings.  Between this brief extra and the more in-depth retrospective from Weinger and company, these two new bonuses and the inclusion of the previous bonuses collectively make a strong foundation for this latest re-issue of Aladdin.  Sure, they leave viewers thinking they will probably have to keep the Diamond Edition (if they already own it) if only for the deleted songs feature, but that aside, they still make this a positive new collection of bonuses that audiences will enjoy.

The engagement and entertainment offered through the bonus content featured in Aladdin’s latest re-issue is just one part of what makes this presentation so appealing to the movie’s key viewers.  Its story adds to that engagement and enjoyment.  The story, presents plenty of comedy, action and romance for viewers of all ages.  It’s a buddy comedy thanks to Aladdin’s friendship with Genie.  It is also a coming of age story for Aladdin, and also a story about letting go of tradition that even promotes female independence and self-confidence.  This aspect of Aladdin is a big part of the story’s success in its own right.  That is because while it was presented in subtle fashion, that subtle approach of giving Princess jasmine such confidence and inner strength makes it that much more powerful.  It is what Guy Ritchie’s re-write got wrong.  Where Jasmine in the ’92 version was already a great role model for women (especially young women) everywhere, the Jasmine presented in the 2019 version was a way over-the-top, hear me roar, preachy Jasmine who was clearly a response to the MeToo movement.  There is nothing wrong with female empowerment.  Female empowerment is wonderful.  However, the extent to which that empowerment went in Guy Ritchie’s version was far too extreme.  It made her seem more like an uber feminist than just a straight out, strong, confident woman that viewers saw in the 1992 version of Jasmine.  It makes this aspect of the ’92 version’s story that much more integral to its success.  Even as Jafar reveals the true identity of Prince Ali and casts him to the ends of the earth, that is a big moment, but it is not so dark that it might be unsettling, so it is nice to keep that in mind, too.  Simply put, every element of this movie’s story and how each plot element interweaves with one another makes this story unforgettable and honestly timeless.  When this is considered with the importance of the re-issue’s bonus content, that primary and secondary content collectively makes for plenty for the movie’s target audience to appreciate.  It also makes the movie’s average price point such that the noted viewers will find no problem paying that price.

The average price point of Aladdin is $27.99.  That price was obtained by averaging prices at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Amazon and Books-A-Million.  A the time of this review’s posting, the movie was not listed at Barnes & Noble Booksellers’ online store.  The price listed at Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Amazon is $24.99 while Books-A-Million’s price is  the most expensive at $39.99.  In other words, save for that one listing, viewers will find the re-issue’s price the same at each of the other noted outlets.  Those prices are all below the movie’s average price and on par with so many of Disney’s other home releases in recent years.  To that end, the movie’s price is money well spent by its most devoted audiences, considering that price comparison and the collective primary and secondary content featured in the movie’s new re-issue.  When this is all considered together, the whole of Aladdin in its new Signature Edition re-issue proves to offer its own enjoyable magical spell for the whole family even despite the lack of one key bonus feature.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s upcoming re-issue of Aladdin (1992) is a positive new presentation of the modern classic musical movie.  That is due in part to the collection of new and old bonus content featured in the movie’s new re-issue.  There is one bonus not carried over that really should have been carried over from the movie’s 2015 Diamond Edition re-issue, but it does not kill the presentation.  It cannot however, be ignored in its absence.  The movie’s story is far more enjoyable than that of the movie’s new 2019 live action/CG reboot, and simply cannot be improved upon (or duplicated.  Yes, that Robin Williams reference was intentional).  The whole of the movie’s primary and secondary content makes the movie’s average price point, which is on par with Disney’s other home releases, money well spent by the most devoted fans of Aladdin.  Each item is important in its own way to the whole of this re-issue’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the movie a presentation that casts its own wonderful magic for the whole family.  It will be available Sept. 10 on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  More information on the movie is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://Movies.Disney.com/Aladdin

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/DisneyAladdin

 

 

 

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Disney’s ‘Dumbo’ Reboot Will Appeal To The Movie’s Most Devoted Audiences

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios is bringing its reboot of its animated classic Dumbo to DVD and Blu-ray later this month.  The movie is scheduled for release June 25, just under three months after the movie made its theatrical debut.  The movie was met with lackluster reactions from viewers and critics alike during its theatrical run, according to figures from Rotten Tomatoes and Box Office Mojo.  The lackluster reaction is justified, considering the reboot’s story.  This will be addressed a little bit later.  The bonus content that is featured with the movie’s home release does make up at least a little bit for the problems posed through the movie’s story.  It will be discussed shortly.  The movie’s average price point in its home release is another notable element to consider in examining its whole.  Each item noted here is key in its own way to the whole of the upcoming home release of Dumbo.  All things considered, the movie’s home release is a presentation that the most devoted Dumbo fans will appreciate.

Walt Disney Studios’ forthcoming home release of its reboot of Dumbo is a presentation that will appeal mostly to the most devoted fans of the classic movie.  That is due in part to the bonus content that is featured with the movie.  Among the most notable of the featured extras that make up the movie’s bonus content are featurettes that examine the movie’s costumes, set design and story.  Audiences learn through the bonus content, the train used in the update was in fact a real, scale model of the train featured in the animated 1941 movie.  There is even footage showing the train in front of a green screen to prove the train is real, and not just another CG item.  Viewers also learn through the noted features, the amount of work that went into making the movie look as close to the period as possible in which it was set.  That includes the costumes and the look of the train and sets.  That adds a certain level of appreciation to the movie, if only a little.  Another interesting addition to the movie’s bonus content list is a group of interviews with the movie’s cast and director Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Batman, Batman Returns).  Burton reveals in his interview segments that he had not in fact worked with Michael Keaton (Batman, Batman Returns, Spiderman: Homecoming) and Danniy DeVito (Matilda, Batman, Batman Returns) since the trio last worked on Batman Returns (1992).  That is a long span of time apart.  DeVito and Keaton do share their own entertaining anecdotes about the comparison of that movie to Dumbo, joking about how the roles have changed and how Keaton loves elephants in reality, and its role in his acting.  Fellow Dumbo co-star Eva Green (Casino Royale, Penny Dreadful, Kingdom of Heaven) reveals an equally intriguing note of her own fears and how they were connected to her inexperience in acrobatics in her own interview.  That is just one more item that makes the bonus content so interesting here.  All of the items noted here will certainly engage and entertain audiences when Dumbo makes its home debut later this month.  They are just some of the interesting commentaries featured in the movie’s bonus content.  The note of Burton’s attention to detail with the sets and costumes adds its own interst, as the discussions lead to thoughts of another of Burton’s works – Big Fish.  The movie is not mentioned directly, but the latent effect is the noted thoughts and comparisons of Big Fish.  Stylistically, one cannot help but make a comparison between the movies.  To that end, audiences – even those who might not like this latest take on Dumbo – will appreciate the look of Dumbo.  Keeping that and everything else noted here in mind, the bonus content featured in the upcoming home release of Dumbo proves to be the movie’s saving grace, and more proof of the importance of a movie’s bonus content.  Staying on this train of thought, Disney’s updated take of Dumbo leaves a lot to be liked in terms of its story, the movie’s most prominent negative aspect.

The story at the center of Disney’s new Dumbo reboot is a near complete re-imagining of the 1941 movie.  In place of the original story in which Dumbo has to learn to believe in himself rather than luck, is a story that finds Dumbo basically being used by two businessmen for their own selfish purposes.  Given, DeVito’s Max Medici does ultimately prove to have a good heart, but he has to go through his own personal lesson to get there.  To that end, Max and V.A. Vandevere are both really just money-grubbers.  Max is just the lesser of two evils.  Add in the unnecessary romance subplot between Holt (Farrell) and Colette (Green) and things get even worse.  Things get worse not just because of the unnecessary romance subplot, but the very fact that said plot was so predictable.  It did not take a genius to know from early on that Colette’s character turn would happen.  As if this is not enough, the very fact that Dumbo knew just which knobs to turn and levers to pull (and could even do the noted tasks) to shut down Dreamland is just not believable.  The overly preachy animal rights message at the story’s end, and the overly preachy female empowerment messages also tied into the story do little to help the story.  That is not to say that female empowerment is a bad thing.  In fact it is a very good thing.  However, the way in which that message was delivered here was a bit more preachy than powerful, if that makes any sense.  When all of this is taken into consideration, the reality sets in that the story at the center of Disney’s new Dumbo reboot does a lot to detract from its presentation.  Keeping that in mind, it makes the movie’s average price point quite important to consider.

The average price point for the upcoming home release of Dumbo is $26.88.  That price is obtained using prices at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million.  At the time of this review’s posting, the movie was not listed at Disney’s official store.  The movie’s listing at movies.disney.com links to Best Buy, Target and Walmart.  While the average price point is almost $30, the movie’s pricing is right on par with every other movie that Disney has released in recent memory.  Its most inexpensive listing is through Amazon and Walmart at $24.96 while Barnes & Noble Bookseller’s price of $31.32 is the most expensive.  The continuity (of sorts) of the movie’s price in comparison to Disney’s other movies is something that viewers will applaud, especially considering the problems posed by the movie’s primary content versus the positives of its bonus content.  Keeping that in mind, while the primary content featured in Disney’s reboot of Dumbo is problematic, the movie’s most devoted fans will find it worth at least one watch.  Its bonus content does at least a little bit to make up for the story’s problems.  The pricing, for those noted devotees, is right in the same price range as Disney’s other home releases.  To that end, the movie in whole proves to be a release that will certainly appeal to a certain targeted audience

The forthcoming home release of Disney’s Dumbo reboot is an intriguing new offering from Disney.  Its bonus content is certain to keep audiences in general engaged and entertained.  Its story, on the other hand, will appeal to a much more specific viewer base.  Keeping all of this in mind, the average price range for the movie’s home release – which is in keeping with the range of Disney’s other home releases – proves to be its own positive for the movie.  Keeping all of this in mind, Dumbo’s upcoming home release will certainly appeal to a very distinct group of the movie’s audiences.  It is scheduled for release June 25.  More information on Dumbo is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://movies.disney.com/dumbo-2019

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Dumbo

 

 

 

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‘The Railway Children’ “Steams Ahead” Of The Competition In Phil’s Picks’ 2018 Top 10 New Family DVDs/BDs List

Courtesy: Film Movement

This critic, for those who might not know, is a parent and is married.  It makes finding time to go through everything needed difficult at times.  It also means trying to find ways to keep a child entertained quite often.  Keeping a child entertained includes finding DVDs and Blu-rays that will entertain and educate at the same time.

Thankfully, that part of doing this job is not too difficult, as companies, such as Public Media Distribution, Film Movement and Shout! Factory Kids have offered again this year, plenty of options.  Those options include, and are not limited to two new (and seemingly the last) Transformers Rescue Bots DVDs, two more fun-filled collections of episodes from Nature Cat and more new material from Wild Kratts and Dinosaur Train.

Of course that new material is just some of the fun new fare offered for families this year.  Film Movement’s release of The Railway Children live is a welcome new take on a stage presentation that also honors its literary source material, and Nickelodeon’s long-awaited Hey ArnoldThe Jungle Movie is a bit of a disappointment, but still worth at least one watch thanks to some major writing problems.

The top spot in this year’s Top 10 new Family DVDs/BDs list goes to the noted stage adaptation of The Railway Children.  This adaptation honors its source material while also presenting a one-of-its kind stage presentation that is unlike almost anything that American audiences have ever seen from stage plays.

The number two and three spots on this year’s list go to Public Media Distribution’s two new Nature Cat DVDs, Onward & Pondward and Winter Dance Party.  Each DVD’s episodes follow a specific theme while also teaching lessons that are directly linked with the themes.

Also included in this year’s list, as noted already are the new Wild Kratts  DVDs and those from Transformers Rescue Bots along with the new Hey Arnold! movie, just to name a handful of titles.  As always, the top 10 pics are the best while the five that follow are honorable mention titles.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2018 Top 10 New Family DVDs & BDs list.

PHIL’S PICKS 2018 TOP 10 NEW FAMILY DVDs & BLU-RAYs

  1. The Railway Children
  2. Nature CatOnward & Pondward
  3. Nature CatWinter Dance Party
  4. Transformers Rescue BotsOutdoor Adventures
  5. Transformers Rescue BotsTeam Rescue Bots
  6. Dinosaur TrainMaking New Friends
  7. Wild KrattsAdventures on the African Savannah
  8. Wild KrattsMdagascar Madness
  9. Littlest Pet ShopBest Pet Friends
  10. Ready Jet Go!Jet’s First Halloween
  11. Super WhyThe Adventures of Little Bo Peep & Her Sheep
  12. Arthur: D.Wand the Beastly Birthday
  13. Hotel Transylvania 3
  14. Disney Pixar Short FilmsVolume 3
  15. Hey Arnold!The Jungle Movie

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Listeners Of All Ages Will Enjoy “Diving Into” ‘Splash And Bubbles” Season 1 Soundtrack

Courtesy: Varese Sarabande/Music Film Recordings/The Jim Henson Company/PBS/PBS Kids/Herschend Studios

Fourteen years ago, one of the worst moves that could have ever happened to the film and television worlds became a reality when the family of Jim Henson sold the rights to the Muppets and so many other related properties to Disney.  The result of that sale has proven to be anything but successful with a handful of Muppet movies that have flopped as well as an equally unsuccessful TV series on ABC.  The irony here is that allegedly Jim Henson wanted to sell to Disney way back in 1990, even farther back in time.  Even Disney’s recent attempt to reboot Muppet Babies has proven to be anything but enjoyable.  One can’t help but wonder how Henson would feel today if he were around and had sold to Disney all those years ago.  For all the damage that Disney has done to Jim Henson’s legacy and that of his creations, it luckily didn’t get full control of everything that The Jim Henson Company does.  That is evidenced in the form of the PBS Kids series Dinosaur Train, Sid The Science Kid and its newest creation, Splash and Bubbles.  The latter of that group debuted on PBS Kids only two years ago and has already gone on to become one of the network’s top 5 most popular series, even finally seeing its first DVD release last week.  The relatively young series even received its own soundtrack accompaniment as the month of June opened thanks to Music Film Recordings, Varese Sarabande, The Jim Henson Company and Herschend Studios.  The 22-song record is the first of its kind for any PBS Kids series.  Keeping that in mind, it shows that the network’s other shows could easily compete with Disney’s TV show soundtracks.  This is proven in part through the record’s musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly.  The record’s lyrical themes also support that statement and will be discussed later.  The record’s sequencing supports that statement just as much as the lyrical themes and musical arrangements.  Each element is pivotal in its own right in proving the viability of soundtracks from PBS Kids’ shows.  All things considered, they make Splash and Bubbles: Rhythm of the ReefSongs From Season One a strong first ever effort in what could be a bright musical future for PBS and PBS Kids.

Splash and Bubbles: Rhythm of the ReefSongs From Season One is an intriguing new offering for fans of the family favorite PBS Kids series.  That is especially the case considering that its release early this month marked the first time that any PBS Kids series has seen a soundtrack accompaniment to the show released.  Considering that this is the first time that such a recording has been released, it is a strong first effort that will entertain the whole family.  That is due in part to the musical arrangements within each of its 22 songs.  The arrangements, from start to end, are fun, old school r&b and doo-wop style works.  That is evident right from the compilation’s opener, the series’ title song.  The fund definitely doesn’t end there.  Case in point ‘I Never Knew About You,’ with its bass-driven arrangement.  It conjures thoughts of some of the great songs included in the Blues Brothers movies, especially considering the inclusion of the keyboards and horns.  To that end, this song’s arrangement is just as certain as any other to entertain listeners of all ages.  ‘Hangin’ With Friends’ meanwhile conjures thoughts of Jackson 5, K.C. and the Sunshine Band among others.  As if that isn’t enough, ‘Living It Up’ instantly conjures thoughts of Tina Turner while ‘One Small Ripple’ leads to thoughts of Diana Ross and the Supremes with its gentle, flowing arrangement and harmonies.  One could even reach even farther back with ‘Only in the Ocean’ and compare its arrangement to the likes of The Trammps’ ‘Disco Inferno’ and Rose Royce’s ‘Car Wash.’  That’s the case even despite the fact that this song is only one-minute, 41-seconds long.  Stylistically speaking, there’s no denying the comparisons.  Between these comparisons, the others noted here and so many others that could be made throughout the record – including comparisons to works from Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament Funkadelic and so many others – the clear old school r&b style sounds exhibited throughout this record are sure to entertain adults just as much as their younger counterparts, if not more so.  To that end, one must admit that the record’s collective arrangements are critical in their own right to its presentation.  While they obviously play a key part in the album’s whole, they are not – again, collectively – its only important element.  The album’s lyrical themes are just as important to note here as the record’s arrangements.

The lyrical themes expressed throughout Splash and Bubbles: Rhythm of the Reef Songs From Season One present their own share of variance, just as with the record’s arrangements.  ‘My Best Friend Ever’ and ‘Hangin’ With Friends’ obviously present the theme of friendship.  ‘I Never Knew About You’ promotes diversity and taking the time to learn about others (I.E. tolerance).  In a time when it seems that xenophobia and racism have so overtly returned to the fore of society, such a theme is not just welcome, but needed as a reminder for children and adults alike.  On a much lighter note, ‘I Don’t Know What I’m Doing,’ – in its own way – seems to promote taking life as it comes and not being so serious about every little thing.  It’s not saying to be carefree about everything, but to not be so serious about everything because being a little bit looser makes life better.  While there are plenty of life lessons presented in the featured songs, there is also an emphasis on caring for the environment in the form of ‘Reeftown Rangers’ and ‘Keep It Clean.’  There are even biology lessons of sorts in the forms of ‘So Many Kinds of Fish,’ ‘Catch a Current,’ ‘The Changing Tide’ and ‘Seasonal Pond.’  Simply put, the lyrical themes featured throughout the record offer just as much to appreciate as the album’s musical arrangements thanks to their own variance.  This makes the album even more welcome in both the home and the classroom.  The compilation’s sequencing puts the final touch to its presentation, proving once more what makes this first-time effort a welcome recording from the involved parties.

Considering that Splash and Bubbles: Rhythm of the ReefSongs From Season One spans 22 songs and 27 minutes, plenty of thought had to have been put into its sequencing.  This is the case even despite the fact that the songs are not very long.  The longest of the featured songs – the southern gospel-tinged ‘Dark in the Deep’ – clocks in at only one minute, 42 seconds and the shortest – ‘Only in the Ocean’ – at 33 seconds.  By and large, the record keeps the energy flowing from one song to the next, slowing things down only three times – early in its run in ‘One Small Ripple,’ later in ‘And So We Celebrate (Coral Day)’ and in the album’s closer ‘Seasonal Pond.’  Other than those three moments, the record keeps things moving fluidly from one song to the next with plenty of mid-tempo and up-tempo arrangements.  It also works hard to keep the lyrical topics varied, so as to ensure even more, listeners’ engagement.  Keeping this in mind, the stability offered through the record’s arrangements does just as much to make this record a welcome companion to its TV series as its arrangements themselves and the album’s lyrical themes.  When all three elements are jointly considered, they make this compilation a fun, welcome accompaniment to its broadcast companion.

Splash and Bubbles: Rhythm of the ReefSongs From Season One is an enjoyable accompaniment to its broadcast counterpart that is just as certain to entertain grown-ups as it is children.  That is proven in part through musical arrangements that are deeply rooted in the old Motown sounds of the 60s and 70s.  Its lyrical themes present just enough variance – from friendship to environmental concern to general biology – to keep young listeners engaged and entertained.  The sequencing of those themes and arrangements shows that plenty of time and thought was put into keeping listeners engaged and entertained in this aspect, too.  When that thought is taken into consideration along with the thought put into the arrangements and lyrical themes, the whole of these elements makes the album in whole an enjoyable companion to the Splash and Bubbles series.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Splash and Bubbles is available online along with plenty of games, activities, printables and more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://pbskids.org/splashandbubbles

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

 

 

 

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