Audiences Of All Ages Will “Dig” ‘Alpha & Omega: Dino Digs’

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Splash Entertainment

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Splash Entertainment

Lionsgate has officially released the latest installment in its long-running Alpha & Omega series, Alpha & Omega: Dino Digs.  The series’ sixth installment, it is another enjoyable addition to the family friendly animated franchise.  The movie’s writing is the most important of its elements.  This applies to the movie’s main story and to its underlying eco-friendly message.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as its writing.  Last but hardly last of note in this movie is its collective run time and pacing.  Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s presentation.  Altogether they make this movie another enjoyable installment in Lionsgate’s Alpha & Omega franchise and worth at least one watch.

The latest addition to Lionsgate’s Alpha & Omega franchise, Alpha & Omega Dino Digs is another enjoyable installment in the studio’s ongoing series of adventures from the wolfpack.  Its ranking from the series best to worst is up to each given viewer.  But it can be said in watching this forty-seven minute movie that it is worth at least one watch regardless of where viewers feel it fits into the franchise’s overall picture.  The main reason for this is the movie’s writing, courtesy of Tom Kane.  This applies both to the movie’s story and its underlying eco-friendly message.  Kate and Humphrey’s pups –Stinky, Claudette, and Runt—are once again at the fore of the franchise in this story. This time the trio discovers a prehistoric pal named Amy (voiced by Erin Fitzgerald – Ed, Edd, and Eddy, Sabrina: The Animated Series, Bleach) who has magically come to life when the site of her burial is dug up by an unscrupulous Native American and his henchman.  The group aims to turn sacred Native lands into a golf resort.  It’s up to the pups to get Amy back to the site of her burial so that her spirit can be returned to its rightful place.  It’s a pretty simplistic story.  Kane even goes so far at one point to poke fun at himself for its seemingly contrived nature, beating the critics to the punch instead of allowing them to throw their verbal and written punches.  It plays right into another element of the story’s writing that should be noted.  The element in question is the story’s underlying eco-friendly message.

The story at the heart of Alpha & Omega: Dino Digs is a very simple piece to follow.  It received quite a bit of criticism when the movie was accidentally streamed online in whole via Splash Entertainment’s website.  But the reality is that far more outrageous and unbelievable stories have been turned out by much bigger studios throughout Hollywood’s history.  To that extent, the story at the heart of this Alpha & Omega flick is actually worth at least one watch.  It is just one important part of what makes the movie’s writing so important to its presentation in whole.  The eco-friendly message that is embedded within the movie’s story is just as important to the movie’s presentation as the story itself.  The message in question is presented as the sacred land in which Kate and Humphrey plan to settle is being plundered by the previously noted (and unnamed) businessman.  His brother notes that what is happening should not be happening as nature will react in the same way that it is treated.  This sentiment is echoed at random points throughout the movie. But luckily it isn’t inserted so much as to be considered preachy.  Keeping that in mind, the eco-friendly message that essentially serves as the movie’s foundation proves to be just as important in the movie’s overall writing and presentation as its story.  As important as both elements are collectively to the movie, the writing in whole is not the only important part of the movie’s presentation.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note in the movie’s presentation as its overall writing.

Tom Kane’s work behind Alpha & Omega: Dino Digs is unquestionably important to the movie’s presentation.  The plot might seem somewhat outrageous on the surface.  But in reality it is no more outrageous than the plot of so many other movies (both for kids and adults).  The eco-friendly message that serves as the movie’s foundation strengthens the writing even more.  That is because it doesn’t come across as being preachy (again unlike so many other movies).  As important as the movie’s writing proves to be to its presentation it is just one part of the movie’s presentation that should be noted.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as the movie’s writing.  Once again, Kate and Humphrey’s pups Stinky, Claudette, and Runt are at the center of the story as with so many of the franchise’s recent installments.  Those behind the pups are to b commended for their work, too.  They are Kate Higgins, Hunter Swan, and Lindsay Torrance.  Higgins is the voice of not only Stinky but also the pups’ mom Kate.  Hunter Swan handles voice duties for Runt. And Lindsay Torrance brings voice to Claudette.  The trio’s initial reaction in discovering Amy is one example of what makes their work notable.  They do a good job of capturing the pups’ innocence in their curiosity.  Their reaction to discovering Amy is just as fun for the whole family as is their initial reaction to the new “cave” home.  Between these moments and others throughout the movie, it can be said of the trio’s work that it stands out in this otherwise standard offering from Lionsgate and Splash Entertainment.  Chris Smith is notable in his own right as the voice of the pups’ godfathers Marcel and Paddy.  Viewers will be entertained by the snooty, comical personality that Smith gives the pair.  Even with Smith being a supporting actor he still adds his own touch to the movie as the pair’s voice.  His work and that of his cast mates, when set against the work of the movie’s cast, to show even more why this movie is another Alpha & Omega story that the whole family will *ahem* dig.  The cast’s work is still not the only element that makes this movie worth at least one watch.  The story’s pacing is just as important to its presentation as its writing and the work of its voice cast.

The work of both writer Tom Kane and the voice cast behind Lionsgate’s latest Alpha & Omega installment are clearly important in their own way to the movie’s overall presentation.  Collectively they are even more important to the movie’s presentation as they are alone.  As important as they are to the movie’s presentation they are not the movie’s only important elements.  The movie’s collective run time and pacing is just as important to note in its overall presentation as the work of its writers and cast.  The movie clocks in at only forty-seven minutes.  That is about average for each of this franchise’s installments.  Thanks to the work, again, of the movie’s writer that time passes right by before audiences even realize it has ended.  It never lags or moves too fast at any one point throughout the movie.  Thanks to Kane’s concerted efforts, it keeps the action moving just enough from the movie’s opening setup to the pups’ first meeting with Amy all the way up to their bittersweet final farewell to the friendly female dino.  Thanks to that balance of energy audiences will never feel left behind or lost to any extent. It is because of this that the story’s pacing is deserving of being noted as one of its positives.  When it is set alongside the work of the movie’s cast and its writer, the movie proves to be a work that that the whole family will “dig.”

Alpha & Omega: Dino Digs has been received to quite the mixed reception by audiences and critics ever since its release in stores earlier this month.  It is not a perfect production.  That is clear through its computer-based animation.  The problems posed by the animation in question are not enough to overpower the positives presented by the movie.  Its eco-friendly story is simple enough for audiences of any age to follow.  And in all honesty it is no more outrageous than the fare presented by the likes of Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks or Lionsgate’s other counterparts.  What’s more the eco-friendly message that serves as the story’s foundation avoids becoming preachy at any point.  The work of the movie’s cast adds its own interest to the movie.  The story’s pacing never wavers from beginning to end.  Each of its three acts maintains receives the same energy and attention.  The end result is a story that will certainly keep audiences entertained and engaged if for that reason alone.  The acting and writing add to that mix to make the movie a whole that audiences of all ages will “dig” with just on watch or more.  Alpha & Omega: Dino Digs is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Lionsgate’s online store at  More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online now at:








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Hero Quest Is A Family Friendly Flick Worth At Least One Watch

Courtesy:  Cinedigm/New Video

Courtesy: Cinedigm/New Video

On Tuesday, March 29th Cinedigm will release its new family friendly CG feature Hero Quest in stores and online.  The movie, which clocks in at just under the ninety-minute mark (and is Dove-approved) will be available exclusively on DVD.  The movie’s fantasy/coming-of-age story is hardly anything new to the literary or cinematic world.  But it does not detract from the story.  Co-writers Max Fadeev, Gegory Poirier (The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride), and Alexander Krisyakov crafted a story—which is based on Fadeev’s book Savva: Heart of a Warrior—that will entertain the whole family.  The story contained within the movie’s script is the central reason for its success.  It gives its own take on the fantasy/coming-of-age plot used in a number of other similar movies.  The work of the movie’s all-star voice cast is to be noted, too.  While the cast is known for working much bigger pictures, its collective work here is just as professional as in those movies.  Last but hardly least of note is the movie’s CG-based animation.  It rounds out the movie’s presentation.  Each element is important in its own right to Hero Quest’s overall presentation.  Altogether they make Hero Quest a family friendly movie that is worth at least one watch.

Cinedigm’s new family friendly CG-based movie Hero Quest is hardly the first movie of its kind.  Its fantasy/coming-of-age story is one that has been churned out by any number of studios.  This includes Hollywood ’s “Big Six” studios (Disney, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Paramount , and Universal) and the many independent studios out there.  Even with the general plot having been presented in previous movies from said studios, it does not detract (at least too much) from the story presented here. The story in question involves ten-year old Savva’s journey to find a magician who he is told will introduce him to a warrior that will help him free his village from a group of evil coyote-looking creatures. Interestingly enough one of the coyotes looks somewhat like Dennis Hopper in Waterworld. That is just this critic’s own take on its look. Getting back on the topic, the story comes across in an almost Wizard of Oz style format. That can be argued as Savva doesn’t face his journey alone. Along the way, he meets a shape-shifting white wolf, a Baron who has been cursed by a witch and his mosquito “companion”, a cowardly monkey/rabbit looking creature named Puffy—Savva even tries to figure out what exactly Puffy is at one point—and a Creole-speaking native princess that resembles one of the ancient indigenous people of Latin America. It’s quite the interesting group of misfits. And each member of the group is headed to see the magician for its own reason. Again, this is very much like The Wizard of Oz. And where that movie had Dorothy and company face off against an evil witch in route to meeting the wizard, Fadeev and Poirier’s story sees Savva and his friends facing off against a three-headed (yes, three-headed) monkey queen voiced by Whoopi Goldberg that doesn’t want the group to reach its goal. So again, the similarities are there. However, even with the similarities so clear, Hero Quest still stands on its own merits. Those merits include the story’s pacing and its ability to seamlessly tie its secondary story lines into its primary story among others. All things considered the general writing behind Hero Quest’s script proves in its own right to be an important part of the movie’s presentation. This is the case even with the movie’s similarities to The Wizard of Oz and other hybrid fantasy/coming-of-age stories. It’s not even covering the whole of the movie’s writing. There are other aspects such as the subtle Christian message presented in one single scene and the references to other movies within its genre. It is collectively just one part of what makes this indie family flick worth the watch. The work of the movie’s all-star cast is just as worth noting as the movie’s writing.

The writing behind Hero Quest is in itself an important part of the movie’s overall presentation. Even with the similarities to The Wizard of Oz and certain other family friendly flicks past and present, the script still stands on its own merits, making it worth at least one watch. As important as the script and its writing is to the movie’s presentation it is just one part of what makes the movie worth at least one watch. The work of the movie’s all-star cast is just as notable to its presentation as its writing. It should be known that the cast, which includes the likes of Sharon Stone (Casino, Total Recall, Basic Instinct), Joe Pesci (Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Goodfellas), Whoopi Goldberg (Star Trek: The Next Generation, The View, Captain Planet and the Planeteers), Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, Curious George), Milla Jovavich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil 1 – 6, Ultraviolet), and a number of others is just as important to the movie as its writing. It should be noted here that the cast is not the movie’s original voice cast. That is because the movie originally premiered overseas. This is just the movie’s American voice cast. That aside, the American voice cast deserves its due credit. For starters, Goldberg is spot on as the three-headed Mama Zho Zi. Her portrayal of the maniacal monkey is so entertaining because of just how she handled each head’s personality. Between one head’s airheaded personality, another’s vain personality, and the third’s more level-headed yet diabolical personality, Goldberg handled each one with the fullest expertise. Her ability to balance all three polar opposites is impressive to say the least. Never once does she go over the top in her portrayal. What’s more, the fact that she took over the role from another actor and did so as well as she did says even more of her work. She’s just one of the voice actors whose work should be noted here. Lead star Milla Jovavich is just as notable as the voice of Savva. Considering that Savva is only ten years old, it would have been easy to overplay his determination to reach the magician and his reactions to various situations presented to him throughout his journey. But Jovavich is just as impressive in how she handled the role. One example of her ability to handle the role comes as Angee’s (voiced by Will Chase—Nashville, Rescue Me, One Life To Live) real identity is revealed. It would have been so easy to overact in the moment, tears and all flowing as Savva finds out Angee’s secret. But Jovavich handled the moment quite well. She caught Savva’s shock and feeling of betrayal in the moment very well. In the same vein Savva’s eventual feeling toward Angee at the story’s end is just as impressive. Once again she doesn’t ham it up where she easily could have done so. But she gets the moment just right, thus making audiences feel for Savva and feel even happier for him at the outcome. It’s just another way in which the voice cast’s work proves to be so integral to the movie in its presentation to American audiences. Sharon Stone’s take on Puffy the monkey/rabbit hybrid is just as entertaining. Some might even dispute this but hers is a portrayal that stands out among her cast mates. Maybe it’s just because Puffy is for all intents and purposes the story’s comic relief. But even as that comic character, Stone generates her own share of laughs. One of her brightest moments comes as Puffy is mistaken for a god by Shaman Shi-Sha’s people. The rain dance that Puffy does to try to prove his/her (Puffys’ gender is never really revealed in the story) status will put a smile on any viewer’s face and more than just one laugh from every viewer’s lips. Puffy’s constant fainting spells at the first sign of danger are just as funny for viewers. That is because it doesn’t take long for them to become a running gag. The way in which Stone handled those moments is just as entertaining. Yet again it’s one more way in which the work of the movie’s American voice cast proves integral to the movie’s presentation. The rest of the cast can be cited just as easily for its work, too. Regardless of which cast member(s) is/are cited the result proves the same. Each member of the case proves equally entertaining in his or her own fashion. Their work and that of the script’s scribes strengthens the movie even more making for even more reason for families to see the movie at least once. Even with this in mind there is still one more important element to note of this movie. That final element is the movie’s CG-based “animation.”

The work of Hero Quest’s writers and that of its American voice cast collectively give the movie plenty of reason to watch the indie family flick at least once. That is because of the attention paid to each role by the actors and to the script on both a micro and macro scale. While both elements exhibit their own importance to Hero Quest’s overall presentation, they are not the movie’s only notable elements. The movie’s CG-based “animation” is just as important in its own right to the movie’s presentation. The “animation” in question gives the movie in whole the look of something lifted right from a video game. The catch is that it looks like something taken from a modern video game on the PS4, X-box or other system more so than an older PC-style game. In other words even as much as it looks more like a video game than anything churned out by say Pixar, Dreamworks, or other studios, looking like a modern video game could actually be considered a good thing. That is because to a certain extent it could be argued that thanks to having that look it establishes its own stylistic identity separate from the movies turned out by those other, more well-known studios. It also doesn’t look like something that was just tossed together in slapdash fashion. Believe it or not there are CG-based features out there that look that bad. And they don’t come just from indie studios, either. Keeping this in mind Hero Quest’s look may not stand out entirely. But in comparison to other CG-based features it plays its own part in the whole of the movie. Together with the work of the movie’s American voice cast and that of the movie’s writers all three elements come together to make Hero Quest an animated indie family flick that is worth at least one watch.

Indie movie studio Cinedigm’s new CG-based family flick Hero Quest is not the first movie of its kind to be turned out by movie studios at any level. Its fantasy/coming-of-age plot line has been used before in other movies at every level. And there is no denying its similarity to The Wizard of Oz when one closely examines its story line. Even considering all of this it still does not detract from the movie’s script. That is because of the changes made to the script to make it stand out at least somewhat from those movies. The work of the movie’s American voice cast serves as its anchor. Between the expertise of stars Milla Jovavich, Jim Cummings, and Sharon Stone (among others), the movie’s American voice cast will keep audiences of all ages entertained. The movie’s video game style animation plays into its presentation, too. It stands out from the CG-based stories turned out by Pixar and Dreamworks just as much as it stands out from the slapdash pieces released by other studios both big and small. It rounds out the ways in which Hero Quest stands out in this year’s field of family friendly fare. Together with the previously noted elements all three make this presentation one that is worth at least one watch. It will be available next Tuesday, March 29th. More information on this and other titles from Cinedigm is available online now at:








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Lionsgate’s Latest Family Friendly CG Centerpiece Will Entertain The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s latest CG animated feature Jungle Master is one of the year’s more welcome family features to come along so far in 2014.  Unlike so many of the movies released in recent years by Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar, Jungle Master actually takes the road less travelled.  The movie’s animation is the most obvious way in which it takes that road less travelled.  Despite being a CG presentation, it doesn’t bare that cookie cutter appearance of the movies released by Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar.  Another reason that it stands out is its run time.  The movie’s run time comes in at just under the ninety-minute mark.  That’s a very good thing and will be discussed later.  Last but not least of all that makes this movie stand out is its script.  The story lifts lightly from The Wizard of Oz believe it or not and adds in a touch of Avatar for good measure as well as other sci-fi flicks.  The end result is a story that the while it may never be as big as anything from Dreamworks or Disney/Pixar, is still enjoyable in its own right.  It proves to be a movie that the whole family should watch together and will enjoy together when they do watch it together.

Jungle Master is not one of the most well-known family flicks to be released by any of Hollywood’s major studios this year.  That aside, it still proves in the long run to be one of the year’s more welcome family friendly flicks.  One reason for that is the movie’s “animation.”  Lionsgate’s CG features are completely unlike those of Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar in the realm of animation.  It’s almost impossible to tell Dreamworks’ CG movies from Disney/Pixar’s because they all look alike.  The only way to really differentiate the two studios’ works is by the studio names.  That speaks volumes.  Lionsgate on the other hand has strived to keep itself separate from the mold used by those studios in terms of its animation.  The look of Lionsgate’s CG movies is rawer for lack of better wording.  But it isn’t raw to the point of looking like some pieces from perhaps independent studio Engine 15 Media Group and others.  There is actually some attention paid to detail with Lionsgate’s CG movies, including this one.  That attention to detail helps Jungle Master maintain its own identity separate from its bigger name counterparts from Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar.  It even helps the movie to maintain its own identity from Lionsgate’s previously released CG features.  That mostly original look is just one of a number of positives that surround Jungle Master and make it stand out among this year’s crop of CG movies.

The largely original look of Jungle Master plays a key role in the movie’s ability to keep audiences engaged through its entire eighty-two minute run time.  That run time is another reason that families will enjoy this movie.  It doesn’t even reach the ninety-minute mark.  That relatively short run time drastically increases the chances of keeping audiences engaged from start to finish.  This is especially the case with the movie’s target younger audiences.  Most of the CG movies released since 1995—which is when Pixar broke the mold and released Toy Story—have averaged about ninety minutes.  There have been a small number of movies that have come in just under that time.  But most either reach the ninety-minute mark or go well over it as was the case with Toy Story 3.  That movie came in at almost forty-five minutes.  Luckily its story worked well enough that it still succeeded and quite well at that.  Speaking of story Jungle Master’s story works wonderfully with its run time.  Its story combines elements of a number of other movies to make a story that somehow actually works.  It’s one more way in which Jungle Master works and makes itself one of this year’s more welcome family films.

Both the look of Jungle Master and its run time are important to the movie’s overall success.  They each play their own important role to the overall presentation as they both have an impact on whether or not audiences are kept engaged.  Luckily, both factors succeed by themselves and together.  As much as they succeeded, the look of Jungle Master and its run time are not all that made this direct-to-DVD feature work.  One would be remiss to ignore the movie’s script as an equally important part of the whole.  The movie’s script centers on a twelve year-old girl named Rainie (pronounced rainy) who runs away from home ater her mother forgot about her birthday.  It is assumed by the fact that Rainie was upset enough to run away that her mother (who remains nameless throughout the movie) has probably left Rainie alone more than once.  Her decision to run away ends up taking her to al alien planet  and a much biger adventure that is directly linked to the company for which her mother works.  It’s thanks to her adventure that Rainie realizes her mom hasn’t intentionally ignored her, obviously leading to an eventual reconciliation between mother and daughter.  The central story of the parent/child relationship is obviously anything but new.  It’s been done more times than a person can count on his or her own two hands.  However, the story’s execution is what makes this plot work.  Screen writer Steve Kramer lifted liberally from the likes of The Wizard of Oz and Avatar to make this story.  While he obviously lifted from the noted movies, Kramer didn’t try to just remake them and mix them together.  He used them more as influences for his story about family.  What’s more he balanced said elements quite well; well enough in fact that audiences will be moved to overlook the references to said movies and enjoy the presented story.

Kramer’s re-telling of original writer/director Xu Kerr’s story is one of the most important of this movie’s aspects in considering its level of success.  He obviously used at least a couple of rather well-known movies that have come before as both influences and elements of this movie.  But he also didn’t try to just rip off either work.  He balanced them together to make a largely original story that centers on family.  That creativity and homage still is not all that makes this movie work.  One should also take into account the movie’s cast and even its bonus shorts.  Victoria Justice (Victorious, Victoria Justice, iCarly), Jane Lynch (Glee, Hollywood Game Night, WreckItRalph), David Spade (Just Shoot Me, The Benchwarmers, Tommy Boy), Josh Peck (Drake & Josh, Ultimate Spiderman, Ice Age: Continental Drift), Christopher Lloyd (Cyberchase, Back to the Future 1 3), and John Lovitz (Saturday Night Live, The Critic, Gorwn-Ups 1 & 2) make up the movie’s cast.  Lovitz proves to be the real star of the story with his comical antics voicing Mulla.  The fact that so many well-known names overall would feel confident enough about such a movie makes it even more worth the watch.  And the bonus shorts included with the movie will entertain children for a little while after the movie ends.  These extra positives combined with the positivews already noted make Jungle Master a movie well worth at least one watch together by any family.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at:




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Escape From Planet Earth A Fun Escape For Families

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Company

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Company

Escape from Planet Earth (Anchor Bay Entertainment/Weinstein Company) was released to theaters in February 2013.  Not surprisingly, it didn’t last very long in theaters after its premiere.  The reason(s) why it didn’t last are anyone’s guess.  But the most probable of reasons would be its comparison to the 2009 family friendly CG “animated” sci-fi comedy, Planet 51.  There is no denying the comparisons to said story.  But in its defense, Planet 51 isn’t the only movie from which Escape from Planet Earth lifted.  There are also influences from the likes of Monsters, Inc. and Monsters vs. Aliens throughout this movie.  And while it does lift from previous movies, it does have some originality in terms of its messages and its comic elements.  Those comic elements include the sci-fi and pop culture spoofs made much in the same vein as in Planet 51.  The spoofs aren’t the same as in Planet 51, either.  This makes them that much funnier and helps to make up for the story’s less original aspects.

It’s difficult to honestly write this and call Escape from Planet Earth the most original movie of its kind.  That’s because of the fact that it can so easily be compared to the 2009 family friendly sci-fi comedy, Planet 51.  On the surface, Escape From Planet Earth can so easily be considered to be Planet 51 in reverse.  Instead of the human astronaut trying to escape from the alien planet, this time, it’s the aliens trying to escape Earth.  It’s not the only movie to which this work can be compared.  It can also be compared to Disney/Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. (2001).  The comparison to that movie comes in the form of General Shanker’s (William Shatner—Star Trek) soldiers.  A close look at the men will bring viewers to note that his men are always running around in yellow, rubber hazmat suits that cover their entire bodies, including their faces.  This is very much in the same style as the agents of the Child Detection Agency from Monsters, Inc.  And the general story itself makes it just as easily compared to Dreamworks’ Monsters vs. Aliens.  It’s just that movie as much in reverse as Planet 51 in reverse.  Knowing all of these influences takes away quite a bit from the movie.  But for all that is taken away from it, Escape From Planet Earth isn’t without its positives.

Writers Cal Brunker and Bob Barlen (hmmmmm Bob, planet Bob…..coincidence?) did a lot of lifting from other previous CG based family friendly sci-fi flicks to make Escape from Planet Earth.  For all of the comparisons that can be made, what can be said of this creation is that it does still manage to save itself.  It saves itself thanks to its theme of family bonds and its pop culture and sci-fi spoofs made throughout the nearly ninety minute movie.  The theme of the family bond is something that those other family films don’t have.  So this serves to help set this movie apart from those movies and give it its own identity.

Just as the movie’s theme of family bonds helps to set it apart from other movies of its ilk, the pop culture and sci-fi references made throughout the movie help to set it apart even more.  The jokes are quite plentiful throughout the course of the movie’s run time.  There are jokes about classic 1950s sci-fi flicks, conspiracy theories and even a subtle stab at director James Cameron.  It’s so subtle that if a person isn’t really watching closely, one will miss it.  Those that catch it will truly appreciate it, considering Cameron’s reputation when it comes to science fiction movies.  There are far more subtle jokes and pokes that are peppered throughout the movie.  And those that give this movie a chance will appreciate the movie even more for them.  In turn, they will see that while it may not be the most original movie in its genre, it really is a movie that is worth at least one watch.  It is available now on DVD and Blu-ray in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from the Anchor Bay Entertainment website at  Fans can also check in on all of the latest updates on new releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment at

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Audiences Will “Love” Dreamworks’ New Madagascar Special

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Adventures Of Scooter The Penguin Is A “Cool” Family Flick

Courtesy: Engine 15 Media Group/Entertainment One

The Adventures of Scooter The Penguin combines the best pieces of Happy Feet and The Ugly Duckling for a story that the entire family will enjoy.  This Dove approved family story focuses primarily on the issues of bullying and social acceptance.  It also throws in a coming-of-age story to help things progress.  And at a time when bullying is such a vital topic of discussion stories such as this are always welcome.  Even better is that while it takes on a story similar to that of Happy Feet, it leaves out that movie’s “preachy” environmental message.  Rather, it takes the high road and focuses more on the messages of social acceptance and bullying.

Scooter faces an uncertain group of penguins after he is brought into town.  He’s the only blue penguin there.  And his general stature is different from that of the other penguins.  Because he is different from the other penguins, he also faces a bully at pre-school.  But thanks to the support of two other young penguins, Scooter never gets down.  Along the way, Scooter even makes some other friends who are there to support him, especially when he faces off against his bully in a big swimming race near the movie’s end.  When he beats the other penguins in the race, even the bully changes his view, and becomes Scooter’s friend.  It all leads up to a final confrontation with an evil walrus.  When Scooter stands up to him, the rest of the penguins join in and follow his example.  They show through this simple action that they’ve accepted him.  Scooter learns through it all that it’s okay for him to be who he is and that anyone who is really a friend and who cares will accept him no matter what.

The lesson of self acceptance is an important one for all young audiences.  It’s even an important one for adults, as kids model themselves after the behavior of the adults around them.  So many adults act like the penguins in this feature.  They instantly look down their noses at anyone that is different from them.  Luckily, Scooter didn’t act that way.  He just wanted to be accepted.  He didn’t judge the other penguins for looking different from him.  In a sense, one could even take that as a lesson about the golden rule.  Scooter treated everyone else as he would want to be treated.  Again, both kids and adults alike can benefit from this lesson.  All said, the lessons taught through this feature more than make up for the CG based “animation” used here.  The feature’s “animation” is more akin to a PC based video game than features from the likes of Pixar or Dreamworks.  But again, that can be forgiven as the feature has substance and heart.  And in a time when it seems so difficult to find good family friendly features out there today, that counts for something.

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Leguizamo’s New PBS Special Will Entertain And Move Audiences

Courtesy: PBS

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

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

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

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

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