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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‘Incredibles II’ Is More Proof That The Sequel Is Rarely, If Ever, As Good As The Original

Courtesy: Disney/Pixar

Disney/Pixar’s new animated movie Incredibles II is one of the studios’ most anticipated movies since the studio released its debut animated movie Toy Story way back in 1995.  Fourteen years in the making, this sequel has been demanded by fans every year since the The Incredibles premiered, and hyped up quite a bit in the past year or so by Disney/Pixar in response to that demand.  That being the case, expectations were quite high for this latest offering from what is one of Hollywood’s leading studios in Pixar.  While this highly anticipated sequel largely lives up to those expectations – thanks to its story — it is not without at least one con – its pacing.  That will be covered later along with another of the movie’s positives, the work of the movie’s voice cast.  Keeping its pros and con in consideration, Incredibles II definitely lives up to the hype and is worth the watch, but is also more proof that the sequel is rarely if ever, as good as the original.

Incredibles II is an interesting new offering from Disney/Pixar.  While maybe not Disney/Pixar’s best effort, it is also not the studios’ worst offering either as is evidenced partly through its story.  The story at the center of Incredibles II picks up right where its predecessor left off, with the Parr family facing off against The Underminer.  The outcome of that instance sets up the remainder of the story, which sees the roles established in The Incredibles reversed.  This time, Bob stays at home and has to tend to the Violet and Dash while Helen goes out and gets to live the dream that she talked about all those years ago.  That continuity is, in itself a strong piece of the story.  The deeper evaluation of the family dynamic here, seeing Bob struggle (and eventually settle into a rhythm) as he tries to be “super” dad while Helen gets to live her dream this time is interestingly enough something to which so many couples can relate.  That’s because every husband and wife/mom and dad has gone through Bob and Helen’s situation at one point or another in life children aside.  From Bob trying to make sense of the “new math” with Dash to him chasing around little Jack Jack to Helen feeling like she has to run home at the drop of a hat, despite living her dream, every couple with kids has been there, trying to balance their lives.  This is just one part of what makes the story work as well as it does.  Writer/Director Brad Bird is to be commended for his use of a red herring to mislead audiences.  This is despite the fact that there is still a certain predictability to the story in regards to the villain’s true identity.  One has to appreciate how Bird managed to make even grown up viewers second guess themselves even just to a point in this aspect.  The only downside to the whole story is the revelation of how the villain’s plan was executed.  That revelation won’t be revealed here, but when audiences see for themselves, they will agree it is anything but original.  Rather it’s something that’s been done so many times.  Of course, in Bird’s defense, this movie is a super hero movie, so there are of course going to be some limitations in how the evil plot is executed as well as other elements.  Keeping all of this in mind, even with its pros and cons in itself, the story at the center of Incredibles II proves to form a relatively solid foundation for the movie’s overall presentation.  In turn, it alone makes for enough reason to watch this movie at least once.  While the story clearly does plenty to make Incredibles II at least somewhat watchable, it does suffer from one major problem.  That problem is its pacing.

The pacing of the movie’s story doesn’t make it unwatchable, but there is no denying that it does detract from the overall viewing experience at the same time.  The pacing really becomes most prominent as an issue around the final act of the roughly 2-hour story.  The final act takes place onboard Devtech’s ship, but is set up just beforehand.  That entire act could have been shortened without the story losing any of its depth.  It was as if Bird was trying too hard to appeal to hardcore viewers who had waited with baited breath for so many years for this story, and the end result was so much material going into the story that honestly could have been left out.  It leaves one wondering how many scenes, if any, ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor before it was all said and done.  Truth be told, the amount of material thrown into the final act (and even somewhat into the second act) makes the movie’s 1-hour, 58-minute run time feel every bit that long.  While it feels every bit that long, at least the pacing doesn’t make the movie feel any longer than that set time limit.  To that end, while the movie’s pacing is problematic in the grand scheme of things, it is not enough to leave the movie unwatchable.  It just means that when the movie eventually is released on DVD, BD and digital outlets, people will definitely find themselves thankful to be able to watch it at their speed.  Luckily for the movie’s sake, this is its only major con. Given, there’s also the issue of trying to figure out why no one saw Jack Jack’s powers in action at the end of The Incredibles in examining that pacing.  Were Bob and Helen not looking up when Jack Jack was fighting Syndrome?  Honestly, that is something else that deserves note.  That’s because of how much of the story is taken up by Bob dealing with Jack Jack’s growing powers.  They had to have seen what he was doing before Bob launched Helen up to catch Jack Jack after Syndrome’s plane was destroyed.  To that end, it makes the movie’s story and related pacing even more problematic.  Adding that issue to the overall presentation that is Incredibles II, it detracts from the movie’s presentation even more, and honestly does make one question the movie overall that much more.  Of course maybe Bob and Helen didn’t see Jack Jack or maybe they forgot.  It is conceivable.  Keeping that in mind, it still keeps the movie off of life support. To that end, the movie does have at least one more positive.  That positive is the work of the movie’s voice cast.

Audiences will note that save for maybe one character – Dash – the original voice cast from The Incredibles returned for this installment of the Parr family’s adventures.  This is important to note because it meant a certain level of familiarity and friendship among the cast.  That familiarity made for performances that were just as believable as those in The Incredibles.  Huck Milner is the only new addition to the cast this time out, as he took over from Spencer Fox as the voice of Dash, and even being the “new kid on the block,” Milner still held his own as the voice of the precocious young lad.  In fact, he makes Dash just as believable here as the rest of his family.  Audiences will laugh with joy as he tries to steal back Bob’s car (and eventually does, but for a good reason, not to give away too much) because of his enthusiasm and naivety.  In the same breath, Sarah Vowell’s presentation of the adolescent now teenager Violet is such that her character is just as believable.  Craig T. Nelson is spot on once again as the voice of Bob, who this time has found himself the stay at home dad, trying to control the kids.  His take on Bob as Bob struggles to settle into his new matrimonial role of sorts will have men and women alike laughing.  One of his best moments comes as Bob is falling asleep reading a story to Jack Jack, and Jack Jack ends up trying to wake up daddy.  Every dad out there knows that struggle.  The same applies as he is trying to make sense of the “new math” in order to help Dash with his homework.  When those performances are considered along with that of Holly Hunter (and even Brad Bird once again as Edna Mode), the collective performances of the voice cast gives audiences plenty in themselves to appreciate here, too.  Considering this along with the bigger story of the movie, which really could have used some more work (sadly) before being released, Incredibles II proves to be a movie that after 14 years of waiting maybe should have waited another year as it comes up short, at least in this critic’s view.

Disney/Pixar’s new animated feature Incredibles II took 14 years to finally see the light of day.  It was a movie that for so many, had been 14 years too long in the making.  The reality though, is that because of an issue with pacing and one major plot hole that could so easily negate most of this story, Incredibles II probably should have waited at least one more year, if not more.  Simply put, it’s a work that proves once again that the sequel is rarely if ever, as good as the original.

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Sherman’s Studio’ “Concert” Is A Performance Of A Lifetime

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

This year was another strong one for live recordings.  Between recordings released in bundles and those released either as standalone CDs or DVDs/BDs, the recordings that serve audiences who might have otherwise not been able to take in a live show, proved on both fronts to be largely solid offerings.  Given, there were some disappointments including Jane’s Addiction’s latest live recording Alive at Twenty-Five and the archived Les Paul tribute concert Live From Universal Studios Hollywood.  For the most part though, this year’s field of new live recordings — both on CD and DVD/BD — has proven to be quite impressive as has already been noted in the previous live recordings lists.  Keeping that in mind, it is only fair, having noted the best live CDs and best new live DVDs and Blu-rays to present one list of the year’s best new overall live recordings.

This year’s best overall live recordings pull from both audio and audio-visual fields, proving that recordings can be enjoyable in both arenas.  Topping this year’s list of best live overall recordings is PBS’ in studio “concert” from Richard Sherman, one half of the famed Sherman Brothers creative team, Songs of A Lifetime.  Slipknot’s new live recording Day of the Gusano is on this list, too thanks to the combined impact of its CD and Blu-ray presentation.  Of course while Alter Bridge, Jon Cleary and Experience Hendrix, LLC all released new recordings that were CD only, they deserve their own spot on the overall list.  Eagles of Death Metal’s new live recording Live at the Olympia Paris also deserves to be on that list along with The Rolling Stones’ new From The Vault offering Sticky Fingers Live at the Fonda Theatre 2015 — again because of the overall impact of its audio and audio/visual sides.  It’s just one more on that list.

As with every previous list, this entry offers this critic’s 10 best new titles in the category along with five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 titles.  Enough rambling.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2017 Top 10 New Live Recordings.

PHIL’S PICKS 2017 TOP 10 NEW LIVE RECORDINGS

  1. Richard ShermanSongs of a Lifetime
  2. Slipknot — Day of the Gusano
  3. Mumford & Sons — Live in South Africa
  4. Between The Buried & Me — Coma Ecliptic Live
  5. Jon Cleary — Live at Chickie Wah Wah
  6. Curtis Knight presents Jimi Hendrix — Live at George’s Club 1965 & 1966
  7. Eagles of Death Metal — Live at Olympia Paris
  8. The Rolling Stones — From The VaultSticky Fingers Live at The Fonda Theatre 2015
  9. Foghat — Live at the Belly Up
  10. Black Sabbath — The End
  11. Jeff Beck — Live at the Hollywood Bowl
  12. The Who — Live at the Isle of Wight 2014
  13. The Winery Dogs — Dog Years — Live at Santiago & Beyond 2013 – 2016
  14. The Who — Tommy Live at Royal Albert Hall
  15. The Dead Daisies — Live & Louder

That’s it finally for the live recordings categories.  Up next will be the year’s top new albums overall.  It’s going to be an interesting list, needless to say as it may well change before it even gets posted up in the next day or so, so stay tuned!  Also on the way is a handful of lists for the year’s new DVD and Blu-ray titles including box sets for families and for grown-ups as well as family DVDs and Blu-rays.  Stay tuned!

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PBS’ Richard Sherman Studio “Concert” Hits All The Right Notes For Phil’s Picks’ 2017 Top 10 New Live DVDs/BDs List

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

Experiencing a live performance by one’s favorite acts is a special experience.  The sights and sounds — from the performance itself to the enjoyment and excitement experienced alongside other fans — come together to make the live experience something almost as magical as it is memorable.  Of course it’s not always that easy to have that experience because of work, family or maybe other items.  Enter the live DVD and Blu-ray.  These recordings are pivotal for audiences the world over because people don’t always get to see their favorite acts.  They also often prove to give audiences an experience that is at least slightly different from that offered in their CD counterparts.  Keeping that in mind, it is fully justifiable for critics to present lists of the year’s top new live DVDs and Blu-rays as well as live CDs.  That is exactly what this critic is doing here.

This year, as with so many years past, Eagle Rock Entertainment has proven to have the majority of the year’s top new live DVDs and Blu-rays, once again proving why it is the leader in live recordings.  Of course it is not the only label represented in this critic’s list this year.  Live recordings from The Winery Dogs, The Dead Daisies, and even famed songwriter Richard Sherman (one half of the famed Sherman Brothers creative team) are all on the list, too alongside new material from Between The Buried and Me and Michael Schenker.  Those noted recordings are all from other labels.  In other words, this year saw a healthy range of new live DVDs and Blu-rays.  With that in mind, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2017 Top 10 New Live DVDs and Blu-rays.  As always, the list includes this critic’s Top 10 choices as well as five additional honorable mention titles, for a total of 15 titles.  Let’s go!

PHIL’S PICKS 2017 TOP 10 NEW LIVE DVDS/BDs

  1. Richard ShermanSongs of a Lifetime
  2. Tedeschi Trucks Band — Live From The Fox Oakland
  3. Slipknot — Day of the Gusano
  4. Mumford & Sons — Live From South Africa
  5. Between The Buried and Me — Coma Ecliptic
  6. Black Sabbath — The End
  7. Jeff Beck — Live at the Hollywood Bowl
  8. The Rolling Stones — Sticky Fingers Live at the Fonda Theatre 2015
  9. The Who — Tommy Live at the Royal Albert Hall
  10. The Winery Dogs — Dog YearsLive in Santiago and Beyond 2013 – 2016
  11. Eagles of Death Metal — I Love You All The Time — Live at the Olympia Paris
  12. Sting — Live at the Olympia Paris
  13. Spock’s Beard — Snow Live
  14. The Dead Daisies — Live & Louder
  15. Michael Schenker — Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo International Forum Hall

That’s all for this list and still not all for the live recordings.  Still to consider is the whole of the combo packs and the standalone recordings.  In other words, there is still a list of the year’s top new live recordings overall to consider.  Also still on the way are the year’s top new albums as well as a handful of DVD and Blu-ray lists.  As many as possible will be covered before the year lets out, so stay tuned for all of that.

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Something Old, Something New Makes ‘Power Rangers Jungle Fury’ A Hit for Power Rangers Devotees

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

The Power Rangers will go full throttle again this coming March when Shout! Factory releases the 16th season of the hit franchise, Power Rangers RPM: The Complete Series. The four-disc collection is currently set to be released March 27 in stores and online. That is still quite a long wait. Luckily though, Power Rangers fans do have another recently released installment to enjoy while they wait for its release — Power Rangers Jungle Fury: The Complete Series. Released just last week on DVD, the series is another interesting addition to the long-running Power Rangers franchise. One of its most important elements is its plot. The elements that are tied into the plot are just as important to note as the plot itself. They will be discussed later. Last but most definitely not least of note to examine here are the lessons tied into each of the episodes’ stories. Each noted element is key in its own right to the whole of Power Rangers Jungle Fury: The Complete Series. All things considered, they make this addition to the Power Rangers universe another installment that will give fans plenty to appreciate and enjoy.

Power Rangers Jungle Fury: The Complete Series is a welcome addition to any Power Rangers fan’s collection. That is due in part to the series’ plot, and by relation its setup. In the case of this series, the conflict is set off by an arrogant, power-hungry student of the Pai Zhua named Jarrod. When Jarrod kills his master, he inadvertently sets free an ancient, evil spirit. This season is not the first time that the Power Rangers franchise has ever used an ancient evil spirit’s release as the basis for its plot. That goes all the way back to the days of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. The manner in which the spirit, Dai Shi, was released is what makes the plot original here. What is really interesting to note here is that Dai Shi was released as a result of Jarrod’s arrogance and anger. It’s a sort of Star Wars sort of vibe. Given, it might not have necessarily been an intentional link to the long-running sci-fi franchise, but Jarrod being angry and arrogant, leading him to the proverbial dark side while the Rangers try to stop him makes arguing Star Wars’ influence on this series easy. Who ever would have thought there could be a link between Star Wars and the Power Rangers?

The plot at the center of Power Rangers Jungle Fury is in itself a critical aspect of the series’ presentation, as has been pointed out. Of course as important as the series’ plot proves to be to its presentation, one would be remiss to ignore the importance of the elements tied into the plot, as they play their own important part in the series’ presentation, too. One of the most important plot elements to note is how the Rangers gradually gain their new powers and tools. Over the course of the series, the Rangers learn new skills and, in turn, gain new tools and powers in the fight against Dai Shi and its minions. In seasons past, the Rangers gained their new powers and weapons when they were at their lowest. That sort of “earn as you learn” approach used here is a new approach for the franchise, strengthening the series’ plot that much more It is not the only one of the series’ most notable plot devices. Having the Rangers use a pizza place for their cover and their leader a man in his 20s are also key plot elements. In so many series past, the Rangers’ leader has been an older, wise figure. Having a young, carefree yet equally experienced figure as the Rangers’ leader adds a new touch to the franchise, breathing new life into the series. As if that is not enough, both the Rangers and even the bad guys get their own “teachers” throughout, essentially keeping the series fresh from start to finish, rather than just relying on one sort of conflict throughout. Audiences will agree that even with at least one somewhat familiar plot element, its new approach and the other new approaches taken this time out (including a number of other items not noted here) make the series’ plot and its setup pivotal to the series’ presentation. Those items, both noted and not, combine to make the series’ overall plot and setup clearly their own collectively important part of the series’ whole. They are not its only key elements. The series’ stories are just as important to the series as its plot.

The stories that make up the body of this series, and their lessons, are so important to the series because of how much they add to the series’ presentation. One of the most engaging and entertaining of the series’ stories comes as R.J. fights to keep his wolf spirit from getting out of control due to his battle with Dai Shi. It is in itself an original way for any Power Rangers season to introduce an extra Ranger. What’s more, keeping RJ from becoming that all-too-familiar reluctant hero that has been used far too many times before makes that story even more interesting. The Rangers’ own separate training stories that are added to the series are interesting in their own right, too. That is because they present the lessons of determination and perseverance while also serving as plot devices to help advance the series’ overall story. Other stories presented throughout the series feature lessons of friendship, teamwork and other familiar values while also not just rehashing stories from the franchise’s previous installments. The very fact that the series’ writers couple those fresh new stories with the familiar lessons instead of just rehashing previous stories and scenarios proves why those and so many of the series’ other stories and lessons are so important to the series’ presentation. They give audiences something new and something more familiar all in one package. When this is set alongside the series’ overall plot and its related plot elements, the whole of these elements does plenty to make this season of Saban’s Power Rangers another powerful installment of the franchise. That’s not even mentioning the work of the series’ cast in front of the cameras, the special effects and other items. All things considered, this collection is another that any Power Rangers fan will enjoy and appreciate whether waiting for the franchise’s next installment or just to have.

Power Rangers Jungle Fury: The Complete Series is a collection that any truly devout Power Rangers fan will appreciate and enjoy. That is due in part to a plot that while slightly familiar, is still original by and large. The elements used to advance the series’ overall plot add a second touch to the series. The stories and their lessons join with the cast’s work to make the series even more enjoyable. Each element is important in its own way to the series’ whole. All things considered, they make this latest addition to the Power Rangers universe yet another welcome release. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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“POTC 5” Is A Welcome Return to Form For Disney’s “Pirates Of The Caribbean” Franchise

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

More than 14 years ago, Disney brought to audiences what was one of the company’s biggest and best movies of its rich, decades-long history when it released Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. That nearly two-and-a-half-hour movie, based on a ride at one of the company’s theme parks, proved to be its own enjoyable and successful action packed cinematic ride. In the years since its July 9, 2003 theatrical debut, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has become less enjoyable with each entry. It fell so far from the glory of that first movie that when it was originally announced that Disney would make the franchise’s fifth film, Dead Men Tell No Tales, much speculation was raised along with plenty of eyebrows. Every bit of that speculation was justified considering the problems with the franchise’s second through fourth installments. The reality of the franchise’s latest (and hopefully last) installment is that it proves to be a surprisingly enjoyable addition to the series. that is due in part to its story, which will be discussed shortly. The movie’s stylistic approach is just as important to note in examining this movie as the story itself. It will be discussed later. The work of the movie’s cast puts the finishing touch on its presentation. Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s overall presentation. All things considered, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales proves itself a treasure in its own right even with its problems.

Pirates of the Caribbean : Dead Men Tell No Tales is a treasure of a movie, looking at the overall picture of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. That is because in comparison to the franchise’s second through fourth installments, its story brings the franchise full circle while also wrapping up the loose ends created over the course of the series’ previous entries. That includes its very first offering. This time out, Jack Sparrow has to evade yet another high seas villain who he wronged years ago all while trying to locate yet another powerful treasure. All the while, young Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites — Maleficent, Oculus, Gods of Egypt) is trying to lift the curse on his dad, Will Turner, much as Will tried in previous movies to lift his dad’s curse. Henry ends up meeting his own love interest Carina (Kaya Scoldelario — Moon, The Maze Runner 1 – 2) very much in the same fashion in which Will and Elizabeth met in the franchise’s first movie). The twist that the writers put on Carina’s back story is a positive because it doesn’t just outright repeat Will and Elizabeth’s love story, but gives it new life so to speak. Henry trying since his childhood to lift his father’s curse is just one of the loose ends that this movie’s writers wrap up this time out. It is directly connected to the reunion of Will and Elizabeth, which is also addressed in this story, in turn bringing the entire franchise full circle. What is truly interesting to note in those attempts to tie the franchise together, the writers even acknowledge, albeit briefly, the events of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. That very brief mention of that movie is actually a good thing considering how…well…strange it was.Considering all of this, the story at the center of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales forms a relatively solid foundation for the movie’s presentation.

Relatively is emphasized because there are some issues with the story that cannot be ignored. First and foremost is the fact that in the original trilogy, it was hinted that anyone who controlled Davy Jones controlled the seas. Yet in this story, anyone who wields Poseidon’s trident also controls the seas. It’s kind of misleading to have two separate ways to control the seas. Also of note is the number of scenes that likely could have been cut without harming the movie’s overall story. There was a handful of scenes throughout the two-hour, nine-minute movie that could have been cut, not only cutting down the movie’s run time, but also keeping the movie’s pacing from slowing at those points, too. The dual presentations of Salazar’s back story not once but twice is a prime example of material that could have been cut back. It would have made more sense to tell how Jack lured Salazar into the Devil’s Triangle when he was initially introduced rather than introducing him initially and then later telling his back story. Some of the early interactions between Carina and Henry could have been trimmed back, too. Given, two hours and nine minutes is not a bad run time for this installment of the POTC series, but the material that could have been axed made the movie feel almost two and a half hours, which became the series’ standard run time. Cutting the noted material would have easily cut the movie back to about two hours flat, but considering as quickly as the story already manages to progress, it would have progressed that much faster without losing anything along the way. Keeping that in mind, the movie’s story is not perfect, obviously, but it also is quite an improvement over the stories at the center of the series’ previous entries. To that end, this story forms, again, a relatively solid foundation for its presentation. It is not the movie’s only key element. The movie’s stylistic approach is just as important to note as its story.

The stylistic approach taken in this movie is so critical to note because it takes audiences back to the very first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The action is there throughout along with the comedic timing, prat falls and more that made Pirates of the Caribbean so surprisingly enjoyable in its first outing. The over-the-top drama of the franchise’s second and third films were largely absent this time out, too, making this stylistic return to form quite welcome. Jack’s unlikely re-introduction and the early island fight sequence between Jack, his crew and the British soldiers are prime examples of what makes the movie’s return to form so welcome. The big high seas battle scenes between Salazar’s ship and crew and those of Sparrow also show how this movie stylistically returned to the franchise’s roots. There are also the liens traded between Jack and Henry as well as other dialogue that returns to form just as much. Between the lines and scenes noted here and so many others not noted directly, viewers will find that the movie’s creative forces went to great lengths to stylistically take viewers back to POTC‘s roots in a new setting and story. Those efforts paid off greatly here, strengthening even more the movie’s overall presentation. When those efforts are coupled with the work of the movie’s cast, the movie’s presentation proves even more why it is worth the watch.

Johnny Depp and company entertain audiences throughout the course of POTC 5 with their performances. That includes funny moments such as Jack and Henry’s first meeting and even Barbosa’s men as they discuss Salazar’s escape from the Devil’s Triangle with Barbosa as well as so many other moments. What audiences will note in these interactions is that even these moments are themselves another stylistic return to form for the movie. The same can be said of the more emotional moments between Henry and Carina. Audiences familiar with the series’ history will agree very similar chops were shown between Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in the original trilogy. Thwaites and Scodalerio are just as impressive as the pair’s characters slowly fall for each other. Rather than just go over the top, the growth is gradual, keeping audiences fully engaged. That subtlety in the pair’s acting shows experience beyond its years, and shows the promise for each actor’s future. Even Geoffrey Rush deserves his own applause as he has to keep himself from being run through by Salazar. He shows a side of Barbosa that rarely had to be seen in any of the franchise’s previous entries, and did so professionally, too. It made those moments just as interesting as any other from himself and his fellow cast mates. Those moments in question, when joined with the moments noted here, make even clearer why the cast’s work in front of the cameras just as important to the movie’s presentation as its story and its stylistic approach. Speaking of those elements, when they are joined with the cast’s work, the whole of the noted elements keeps Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales afloat much more easily than its predecessors, and makes it honestly the series’ best entry since Curse of the Black Pearl. keeping that in mind, Dead Men Tell No Tales sees Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise sail off in style, putting a positive final note to an otherwise doomed franchise.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a positive final statement for Disney’s otherwise sunken high-seas series. It takes audiences back to the glory of the franchise’s first film both in terms of the cast’s acting and the movie’s stylistic approach. While the movie’s story does have at least one plot hole — which is more powerful, controlling Davy Jones or Poseidon’s trident? — and suffers from some minor pacing issues related to unnecessary scenes, it still is a fun story that easily allows audiences to suspend their disbelief. Each item noted here plays its own part into the movie’s overall presentation. Good and bad considered side by side, this movie sees thankfully, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise sail off in style, putting a much-needed positive final note to the otherwise maligned franchise. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Walt Disney Studios is available online now at:

Website: http://www.waltdisneystudios.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/DisneyStudios

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‘Cars 3’ Is A Fitting Final Lap For Disney/Pixar’s ‘Cars’ Franchise

Courtesy: Disney/Pixar

Cars 3, the latest entry in Disney/Pixar’s high-octane Cars franchise, was one of the most hotly anticipated movies of this year ahead of its nationwide theatrical debut this past June. That is because of just how disappointing the franchise’s second installment — released in 2011 — proved to be. That movie, which was essentially just an acting vehicle for Larry The Cable Guy, was little more than a cash grab for Disney and Pixar. While Cars 3 did make up for the wreck that was Cars 2, it didn’t do so without some issues. That is not to say that Cars 3 is unwatchable. As a matter of fact, one of the elements that makes it worth at least one watch is its story. At the same time, the story is also the movie’s primary negative. It will be discussed shortly. While the movie’s story makes up two of its most important elements, divided into two sides, it is only one of the movie’s most important elements. The work of the movie’s cast rounds out its most important elements. Both elements are critical to the movie’s overall presentation in their own fashion. All things considered, Cars 3 still manages to make it to the checkered flag, albeit on seven cylinders. Yes, that awful pun was intended. That aside, Cars 3 does go the mile and in turn proves itself worth at least one watch.

Cars 3 is a fitting finale for Disney/Pixar’s Cars franchise. It is not a perfect period to the franchise, but is still an enjoyable presentation that is worth at least one watch. That is due in part to the movie’s central story, which brings the franchise full circle. Eleven years after Lightning McQueen first debuted, he has become a beloved veteran of the Piston Cup Series in this movie — beloved both by fans and by his fellow race cars. However, he also finds that his heyday has passed and must come to terms with moving on and moving forward. If this sounds familiar, it should. A very similar story was presented approximately seven years ago in Toy Story 3, another Disney/Pixar flick. The movies’ writing teams are not the same, but the story is quite similar, just presented in a different scenario. It is also a story that, much like that of the franchise’s freshman entry, reminds audiences of racing’s roots. While Thomasville Speedway does not exist in the real world, it instantly conjures thoughts of North Wilkesboro and so many of the tracks that formed NASCAR’s foundation. It was nice to see the movie’s writing staff bring back this focus on the sport’s past (including its moonshining connection) once again, especially considering the direction that NASCAR has gone since the early 2000s under its current leadership regime.

Paying tribute once more to NASCAR’s roots while also presenting a message of letting go and moving forward are both key to making the story Cars 3‘s central story entertaining. They are only a portion of what makes it watchable. Not to give away too much for those who perhaps haven’t yet seen this movie, but there is also a surprise twist in the movie’s final scene that is just as certain to entertain audiences while still tying directly into that theme of progress. It makes the story that much stronger. Keeping all of this in mind, the movie’s central story forms a strong foundation for its presentation. While that foundation is strong though, it is not entirely solid. There are some noticeable cracks in that foundation thanks to the writing team’s apparent struggle to decide if they wanted to throw back to Cars or make this movie more a tribute to the voice of Doc Hudson, the late great Paul Newman.

Throughout the course of Cars 3‘s one-hour, 42-minute run time, the story references Doc Hudson so many times that it becomes easy to lose count of said references, even going so far as to use what must have been some material that never made it to Cars’ final cut in this case to try to advance the story. The problem here is that rather than advance the story, it leads the story to get sidetracked, ultimately slowing the story’s pacing. That pacing problem is in the end, the second of the movie’s most important elements to discuss. It almost makes one want to fast forward the movie at times as Lightning McQueen progresses on his journey of re-discovery just to make it through the movie’s traffic. Yes, that bad pun was intentional, too. Getting back on the subject at hand, the diversions created through the references to Hudson include extra scenes, such as Lightning’s discussion with Smokey about Doc and his recollections of his own conversations with Doc among others. Those extra scenes probably should have hit the cutting room floor as they do not do much to advance the movie’s central story. Considering all of this, it becomes clear why Cars 3‘s central story is both a positive and a negative. That duality is so important that it in itself gives audiences plenty of reason to watch this sequel at least once. Also making Cars 3 worth at least one watch is the work of its voice cast.

Owen Wilson returns once more as the voice of Lightning McQueen for this ride as do the original voice actors who brought life to Radiator Springs’ residents and even Dinoco owner Tex’s voice (Humpy Wheeler), that of Chick Hicks — Bob Peterson (Cars, Up, Finding Nemo) — and Lightning’s hauler Mack — John Ratzenberger (Cars, Cars 2, Toy Story 1 – 3). Both the seasoned cast and the new additions — Armie Hammer as the voice of Jackson Storm, Chris Cooper as the voice of Smokey, Cristela Alonzo as the voice of Cruz Ramirez and Kerry Washington as the voice of Natalie Certain — do their utmost to make the movie enjoyable for audiences of all ages. While Jackson Storm is the movie’s main villain, he is not really on camera very much. Keeping that in mind, Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) easily could have hammed it up as the self-centered, high-performance race car. He didn’t allow that to happen, though. Instead he showed his understanding and respect for his part in the story’s bigger picture each time, making Storm a villain that audiences will love to hate. To that end, Hammer is deserving of his share of applause for his work. Alonzo (Mind of Mencia, Cristela) is just as entertaining as Cruz. This includes both Cruz’s funnier moments — such as when she accidentally digs herself into the sand and when she is acting as the racers’ trainer — and her more emotional moments –such as her confrontation with McQueen following the demolition derby and the equally moving climax in the story’s final act (not to give away too much). Considering the situations into which the movie’s writers put Cruz, it would have been easy for Alonzo to go over the top, too. But She shows time and again so much talent, ensuring even more audiences entertainment and engagement. When her work and that of Wilson couples with work of the movie’s supporting cast (the Radiator Springs cast, announcers, etc.) the whole of their work strengthens the foundation formed by the movie’s story, and makes the movie that much more worth the watch. That is even considering the issues raised in the story’s balance. When this is considered along with the movie’s standout CGI, which has clearly been stepped up since the franchise first debuted 11 years ago, the whole of Cars 3 proves to be a surprisingly enjoyable watch. It doesn’t live up to the legacy left by Cars, but definitely does make up for Cars 2 while potentially even leaving the door open for a whole new series of Cars movies, leaving it a fitting finale for the Cars franchise.

The third and likely last entry in Disney/Pixar’s Cars franchise is a fitting final lap for the series. It proves in the long run that it really should have been Cars 2 instead of the movie that turned out to be Cars 2. That movie never should have even existed. Even with that movie having been made, Cars 3 will likely be considered the real rightful Cars 2 by most viewers. That is due in part to a story that despite struggling to balance its tribute to Paul Newman with an actual continuation of Cars, still proves to have some heart — enough heart to make it worth at least the occasional watch. The work of the movie’s voice cast — both main and support — strengthens the movie’s presentation even more. Add in some impressive CGI work that that clearly is another step up from the franchise’s freshman film, and audiences get a movie that definitely makes it to the checkered flag. It is available now in stores and online. More information on Cars 3 and other Disney/Pixar movies is available online now at:

Website: http://www.pixar.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/DisneyPixar

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