Animaniacs Volume Four A Fitting Sendoff For The Warners

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

All good things must come to an end…or must they?  Thanks to the good people at Warner Brothers Home Video, fans of the modern classic cartoon, Animaniacs, the laughs never have to come to an end now that the show’s fourth and final volume has finally seen the light of day.  This latest volume of episodes is just as entertaining as the show’s previous volumes.  The writers take no prisoners, going after everyone in pop culture from Disney and Hanna Barbera to Universal and even Fox.  They’re not the only victims of the show’s witty writing.  Even the best movies in Hollywood’s modern history  aren’t safe as the show goes after the likes of The Maltese Falcon, Mary Poppins, and even The Sound of music just to name a few.  And that’s just on the set’s first disc.  The second and third discs are just as top heavy with laughs.  Audiences will love that the show’s writers make a farce of all the serious TV specials out there with its very own “Very, Very, Very, Very Special Show.”  The set’s third disc even includes a little holiday flavor in “The Christmas Tree.”  Everyone’s favorite sour squirrel Slappy, takes center stage here.  Her constant delivery makes for so many laughs.    

The jokes are nonstop throughout all three discs of this outrageously hilarious cartoon.  They’re just part of the show’s continued enjoyment.  Along with nonstop laughs provided by the razor sharp comedy, the show also continues to show heart throughout various episodes as well as some educational content believe it or not.  “Multiplication Song” teaches math and pokes fun at how drawn out it can be in the same breath.  It’s that same brand of comedy established with shorts such as “Chalkboard Bungle”, “Planets Song” and “The Senses” (all from Season One).  Audiences will love this continued tradition just as much as the show’s other laughs provided throughout all three discs in this set.    

Animaniacs Volume Four offers audiences laughs from beginning to end in every short.  Those laughs wouldn’t have been possible without solid writing and equally solid performance by the show’s cast who return once again in this final set of twenty-four episodes.  Mauriche LaMarche (The Simpsons, Futurama) is back yet again as the voice of The Brain.  And fellow veteran voice actor Frank Welker (Scooby Doo, The Real Ghostbusters, Tiny Toon Adventures, etc.) returns yet again as the voice of the dopey security guard Ralph, the equally dopey dog Runt (whose spoof of Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man character Raymond Babbitt is as hilarious as ever), and many others.  And even Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama) is back once more.  Having the whole team back again is a huge win as the chemistry built between cast members is a big part of its ability to effectively interpret the scripts and make them entertaining both for kids and parents even years after the show’s end.

The voice acting, the jokes, and heart from the first three volumes of Animaniacs episodes all remain in Animaniacs Volume Four.  There is one other factor that makes this show timeless.  That last factor is its animation.  Yet again reference must be made to the difference in today’s computer generated “animation” and that done by hand from actual human animators.  The animation that was a trademark of Animaniacs in previous seasons is just as solid in this new release.  Save perhaps for Steven Spielberg’s other hit cartoon, Tiny Toon Adventures no other shows looked like this one.  It really served as one more factor in developing the show’s identity, unlike so much “animated” content out there today.  Combined with the show’s comedy and its heart, its animation goes into making this a wonderful way for this wacky show to go out.  It’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from Warner Home Video’s online store at http://www.wbshop.com/product/steven+spielberg+presents+animaniacs+vol+4+1000023671.do?sortby=ourPicks&from=Search

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

New Clifford DVD A True Celebration For Every Fan

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/Scholastic/PBS Kids

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Scholastic/PBS Kids

Clifford the Big Red Dog is turning fifty years old.  Unbelievable!  Everyone’s favorite oversized furry friend is celebrating his birthday with a brand new DVD release next month.  Celebrate with Clifford is the first new Clifford release in two years.  It will be available in stores and online February 5th.  The new release is a special double disc release loaded with lots of fun, family friendly adventures from Clifford, his fellow canine friends, and his owner, Emily Elizabeth.  The two discs in this new release boast fifteen episodes from the hit series.  The set’s first disc, Celebrate with Clifford has seven of the show’s episodes included in the set.  All of the aforementioned episodes included in the first disc are full of family friendly fun and important life lessons that ring true for audiences of all ages.

Audiences learn a number of important lessons throughout the first seven episodes included in the set.  In the episode, “Clifford on Parade”, Emily Elizabeth (Grey DeLisle—The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy) and Charley (Gary Leroi Grey—The Cosby Show) both learn about working together and about compromise when they have to decide on an idea for the float that they’ll enter in the town’s annual parade.  Thanks to Clifford, they end up with one interesting float that even incorporates Clifford himself.  In another episode, “Team Sprit”, young viewers are introduced to the lesson of good sportsmanship and being kind to others.  The story here centers on young Vaz.  Vaz is friends with Emily Elizabeth and the other kids.  But he’s not the best soccer player.  And Jetta doesn’t help as she openly tells Vaz he’s not that great of a soccer player.  Of course she learns her lesson in the episode’s end.  Audiences can find out how she learns her lesson when they check out this new DVD set for themselves.

All seven episodes included in the set’s main disc offer plenty of enjoyment and lessons for viewers.  Luckily for viewers, they’re not all that viewers get in this new set. The eight bonus episodes included in the bonus disc also offer their own enjoyment.  Just in time for Valentine’s Day, there’s even a Valentine’s Day themed episode in “Clifford’s Big Heart.”  In this episode, Clifford is trying to make a Valentine for Emily Elizabeth, but things don’t exactly go as planned.  That is until he finally realizes the best idea for a special Valentine just for her.  His special gift will warm the hearts of both kids and their parents.  Still not enough?  How about the birthday and party themed episodes included in the set?  “Clifford’s Big Surprise”  sees Clifford getting his very own birthday surprise from Emily Elizabeth, her parents and his canine friends.  At first it seems like everybody is avoiding Clifford.  It leaves Clifford bored since there’s no one to play with.  Luckily he finds a way to play by himself.  Ironically, it’s right about then that Emily Elizabeth comes looking for Clifford so she and the others can surprise him with his birthday party.  It’s just one of a handful of birthday themed episodes included in the set’s bonus second disc.  The complete double disc set will be available February 5th in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Lionsgate online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=28180&TitleParentId=8311.

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

Futurama Vol. 7 Shows the “Future” is Bright For This Show

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Futurama is one of the best shows on Comedy Central today.  Thank goodness the network went out on a limb and listened to the fans of this little show that could.  After having been picked up and resurrected by Comedy Central, this hit show has shown time and again why it is the great show that it is.  Now with the release of its seventh volume, Futurama continues to show why it is one of the elite prime time animated sitcoms out there today.  In the show’s seventh volume, the show’s writers poke fun at the seemingly unending to do surrounding President Obama’s birth certificate in one episode.  In another episode, audiences see Fry and Leela rekindle their romance after Fry and Bender go in search of a frozen mammoth.  And in yet another, the show’s writers even poke fun at The Matrix when Fry goes to the Near Death Star to visit the professor’s parents.  These episodes make for just some of the laughs throughout this collection’s thirteen episodes largely for the jokes.  For those who really know their stuff, they’ll love just as much the inclusion of a pair of fellow veteran actors, as well as a reference to another late comic actor to this set.  Add in some hilarious commentary and some deleted scenes and audiences get another great set of episodes in the show’s seventh volume.  And all of that is just the beginning.  Viewers will find even more great references and jokes when they check out this new set for themselves.

One of the factors that have always made Futurama a great show is that while it does use topical humor in its episodes, it doesn’t bog itself down in that brand of comedy unlike certain other sitcoms.  However, when it does venture into the realm of topical humor, it still manages somehow to remain funny without trying to be too much above itself.  That’s proven in the episode, “Decision 3012.”  The show’s writers spoof the controversy raised by the “birthers” over President Barack Obama’s birth certificate in this episode.  In the place of the president, the writers use a character named Chris Travers, who is a Senator running for Earth President.  Long-time Futurama fans will appreciate the reference to the Futurama movie, Bender’s Big Score in this episode.  Even Matt Groening and David X. Cohen make light of it in the episode’s bonus commentary.  It’s that reference that ends up playing to the episode’s outcome, which viewers will have to find out for themselves when they pick up Futurama Vol. 7.

Futurama’s writers prove in Vol. 7 that they can tackle topical humor and still make funny episodes.  They have also proven again that they’re able to balance keeping the show successful with standalone episodes while also maintaining at least one ongoing storyline in the romance between Leela and Fry.  It would have been so easy for the show’s writers to let the show descend into a serial like so many others.  But thankfully it didn’t.  That’s evident in the episode, “Fun on a Bun.”  Having already broken up again before this episode, an accident with a sausage maker leads Leela to reveal her true feelings for Fry.  She shows her true feelings to Fry when the sausage maker accident leads to a revelation as to what really happened to Fry.  Again, the show’s writers are to be commended for this episode as it proves yet again their ability to maintain a specific storyline without letting the show become a serial.  Movie buffs and sci-fi buffs will especially appreciate the spoof of The Los World tossed into this episode.

As noted already, one of the biggest factors that has made Futurama so successful for so long is not just its ability to balance storylines and avoid becoming a serial, but also its ability to make completely outrageous random adventures for the Planet Express Crew.  In one of its funniest episodes yet, audiences learn a long held secret surrounding Professor Farnsworth after he visits his parents at the Near Death Star.  The writers take a playful stab at The Matrix trilogy both in dialogue and in visual form.  Any true sci-fi geek will love this little jab.    When the professor doesn’t show up at an awards ceremony that Fry is attending, Fry decides to go meet Hubert’s parents.  The result will leave audiences laughing as it kind of turns the whole concept of the “boomerang child” on its ear by reversing it.  This of course leads to a whole other revelation that will leave audiences laughing.  The secret is something that’s been used many times before in many other shows.  But the minimalist way in which it has been used here keeps it funny.

The episodes noted here are just samplings of the laughs audiences can expect to get from Futurama Volume Seven.  Every viewer will find their own laughs throughout the course of the double disc set.  It’s thanks to good writing and an equally able cast that every episode in this set is so enjoyable.  The main cast is profiled throughout each episode’s commentary.  Audiences will appreciate even more some of the bonus tidbits such as learning that fellow veteran voice actor Frank Welker (The Real Ghostbusters, What’s New Scooby Doo, etc.) joins the cast in a handful of episodes this time out.  Welker’s talent makes for even more enjoyment in the episodes in which his talents are profiled. 

The talent of the voice cast gives so much life to each episode.  What viewers get in the final product is proof that that.  That’s also just as evident in the deleted scenes included as bonuses to the set.  Regardless of whether or not the scenes would have fit into the final product, they are more examples of the talent and chemistry of the voice cast.  They serve to show how hard the cast and the writers alike work to offer viewers the best possible product, too so as to live up to the expectations of those audiences who helped so many years ago to show why this show deserved to be brought back.  And they more than do that, making for yet another great set of episodes for any long-time fan of Futurama or even for those who are new to this incredible animated sitcom.  One can only hope that considering this and everything else that makes this new set such a success, fans will see much more of this hit show in the very near “future.” 

Futurama Volume Seven is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online direct via 20th Century Fox’s online store at http://www.foxconnect.com.  After fans order the new set, they can also check out all the latest Futurama news online at http://www.facebook.com/Futurama and http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/futurama.

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

Sequel Or Not, The Rescuers Down Under Is One “Wild” Watch

Courtesy: Disney

The Rescuers Down Under, as noted by the staff at Variety, is and isn’t necessarily a sequel.  In the purist sense, it is.  But that’s only because it’s a continued story of Bernard and Miss Bianca.  But in the grand scheme of things, it certainly is not a sequel to The Rescuers because of that.  This is for all intensive purposes, an entirely new story.  It just so happens that it stars Bernard and Miss Bianca again.  Other than that, it has zero links to the original movie that had been released nearly fifteen years prior.  Now keeping that in mind, The Rescuers Down Under would likely be better described as a stand alone movie. 

As a stand alone movie, The Rescuers Down Under is actually a good work.  The grand scenes in which young Cody flies on the back of the eagle are among the greatest in the movie.  No doubt Pixar had a hand in these scenes.  Wait.  You didn’t know about that?  Those who sit through the credits will learn something very interesting about The Rescuers Down Under.  The company that has become one of the biggest names in digital animation today actually played a hand in bringing The Rescuers Down Under to life.  This is true.  Odds are that the flight scenes, along with a handful of others were constructed at least in some part by Pixar.  Whatever role they played, it reminds audiences that at one time, Pixar actually did work in hand drawn animation.  It would be nice to see the company release a hand drawn/CG hybrid on its own one day.

The addition of Pixar to The Rescuers Down Under was a big part of the movie’s success.  It was just one part of what made this movie enjoyable.  The return of both Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor as Bernard and Miss Bianca gave this installment of the adventures of The Rescuers almost as much heart as the original Rescuers.  Given, there is no beating the original.  That’s a rule of movies.  But the partnership of the pair in this movie was just as charming as before.

Speaking of Bernard, the story behind The Rescuers Down Under is really more about him than about Cody trying to save the eagle.  Audiences see Bernard grow as a character in this movie.  Whereas he was this timid little mouse in the first movie, he is forced to overcome his timidity in this movie and man…er…mouse up (ba-dump bump bump).  It shows that no matter how small a man (or mouse) is, what matters is that individual’s heart.  And Bernard definitely showed that while he might have been a mouse, he had the heart of a lion inside him, especially when he took that wild boar and commanded it.

The acting wasn’t all that made The Rescuers Down Under a fun watch.  The bonus making of featurette continues a theme that audiences have come to know from Disney movies that has always made them great.  Rather than simply draw their idea of an outback setting, the bonus making of featurette shows that the crew behind the film actually went to Australia themselves to get an idea of the region.  It shows yet again that those behind the art wanted to be as true as possible for audiences, rather than simply come up with some fantastical setting.  The crew even got a first hand look at animals that were native to the outback, so as to properly draw them, too.  That included the evil lizard Joanna (voiced by veteran actor Frank Welker–Scooby Doo, The Garfield Show, The Real Ghostbusters, etc.)

There are those who for their won reasons have decided to pan The Rescuers Down Under.  Perhaps those people didn’t take time to look into the finer details of how this movie was made.  The bonus making of featurette is one more example of the importance of bonus features on any blu-ray and/or DVD release.  And even watching the story’s end credits adds an extra level of appreciation in learning of Pixar’s involvement in the movie.  Any movie buff would appreciate this little tidbit of extra information.  All of this extra information put together with the cast’s splendid voice acting makes The Rescuers Down Under not so much an underappreciated sequel, but a movie by itself that deserves another watch by those who haven’t seen it in a long time, and a close watch for the new generation that is seeing it for the first time.

The Rescuers Down Under is available now on blu-ray as part of a triple-disc blu-ray/DVD combo pack alongside the original The Rescuers.  It’s available both in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct through Disney’s online store at http://www.disneystore.com.

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

New Garfield Compilation Has Loads Of Laughs And Heart For Families

Courtesy: Gaiam/Vivendi Entertainment

Everybody’s favorite flabby tabby is back yet again.  And it’s just in time for the holidays.  Gaiam-Vivendi will release a brand new single-disc compilation of holiday themed episodes tomorrow.  “The Garfield Show:  Holiday Extravaganza” contains six holiday themed episodes, one of which is a two-part Christmas episode.  Another of the episodes is a bonus episode that’s great for Halloween.  In this new compilation, Garfield, Odie, and Jon head to a haunted house so that Jon can work on a new comic book.  Also in the collection’s sole Thanksgiving episode, the guys have to deal with a certain animal in the style of another classic Garfield & Friends episode.  And, in what is the best of the compilation’s episodes, Odie comes up with a plan to get a group of stray animals adopted for Christmas. 

In the first episode in this brand new compilation, Jon is having troubles writing a new comic book for his boss, Mr. Parker.  He keeps getting distracted because of the phone.  So when he tells Mr. Parker, Mr. Parker tells Jon to go to a house that he just bought.  What Jon doesn’t know is that the house is haunted.  It could be argued that in a roundabout way, this episode kind of pays tribute to Stephen King’s The Shining, what with Jon trying to write in a haunted house.  Anyone who has seen the horror classic might catch the reference.  Except in this case, the story is much more family friendly.  The house does indeed turn out to be haunted.  There’s just one problem.  While the house is haunted, only Garfield and Odie can see the ghost because the ghost in question is a ghost cat.  He explains to Garfield that humans can’t see ghost cats.  But he has to make Jon believe in him so that he can finally be released from haunting the house, and cross over.  Through a series of funny tricks, Garfield finally gets Jon to believe, thus releasing the ghost cat.  Ironically, his new belief also becomes the subject of his new comic book, solving Jon’s writer’s block.

This new compilation of episodes also contains a Thanksgiving episode that’s fun for the whole family.  In “Turkey Trouble”, Jon invites Liz over for Thanksgiving.  He’s ordered a turkey.  There’s just one problem.  Jon discovers that when the turkey is delivered, it’s alive.  This is a throwback to a certain episode from the classic Garfield & Friends animated series.  It just has some minor tweaks.  Jon can’t bring himself to do what needs to be done, so he decides to make his signature spinach lasagna instead.  Meanwhile, Garfield has to figure out how to handle the turkey, eventually managing to take it back to the butcher shop.  But when the guys discover what would happen to the turkey, Garfield sneaks back in later to rescue the turkey.  Of course, the turkey ends up rescuing itself.  Viewers will laugh at how it does, too.  In the end, the guys bring the turkey to dinner, enjoying Jon’s spinach lasagna.  It’s revealed that the turkey will be sent to a petting zoo instead.

“The Garfield Show:  Holiday Extravaganza” has loads of family fun throughout each of its episodes.  As fun as each episode is here, there is one that stands out more than any of the others.  It’s one of the set’s group of Christmas-themed episodes.  The two part episode, “Home For The Holidays” is the best of the best in this compilation.   In this special episode, Garfield learns the true meaning of Christmas after running into Arlene one evening when he and Jon go grocery shopping.  Garfield thinks about what Arlene said to him.  So he and Odie come and surprise Arlene and the stray animals that she is helping with food and bedding.  While they are there, Odie comes up with an idea to get the pets all adopted for Christmas.  While Arlene isn’t sure the idea will work, Garfield compliments him, telling him he thinks Odie’s idea is brilliant.  The group takes on the task.  It means taking the Christmas tree and dinner from their house and taking it to the junkyard where the strays are staying.  They also take a truck and use it to light up a pile of junk at the yard.  The pile has a star on top that attracts people from all over the city.  It’s arguable that there’s a biblical reference with the light shining at the top of the pile, as it looks a little bit like the Star of Bethlehem.  And being that it drew everyone from all around adds to that similarity.  When the people come, they all adopt the animals at the junkyard, including Jon’s mother and even Liz’s parents.  It all makes for one of the show’s most heartwarming episodes so far, and what will be one of the favorite episodes for families in this compilation.

The episodes mentioned here are only a portion of what’s offered in “The Garfield Show:  Holiday Extravaganza.”  This brand new compilation also includes a second Christmas episode that indirectly pays tribute to another classic Garfield & Friends episode, as well as another pair of Halloween episodes.  Whether it be those episodes or the ones listed here, “The Garfield Show:  Holiday Extravaganza” has lots of laughs and lots of heart for the whole family to enjoy this holiday season.  It will be available in stores tomorrow.

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

Warner Home Video Finally Re-Issues Another 90’s Classic For Families

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

It’s here.  At long last, another piece of animation and television history has been re-issued thanks to Warner Home Video.  Tiny Toon Adventures How I Spent My Vacation is a wonderful addition to the library of anyone that grew up with the classic cartoon, Tiny Toon Adventures.  A lot of people thought that the show was little more than a “kid-ification” of the Looney Tunes franchise.  But in reality, it was a way to indoctrinate young audiences into the world of Looney Tunes.  And this hilarious almost hour and a half long movie was a wonderful extension of the show.

How I Spent My Vacation sees the Tiny Toons gang head out on Summer vacation at long last, each with different results.  Buster and Babs get swept away don a river thanks to Buster starting a squirt gun war with Babs.  Plucky goes on a road trip with his best pal Hampton that he ends up regretting ever taking.  And even Fifi and Shirley have their own problems to deal with. 

Kids might not get it.  And those audiences who were kids when this movie was originally released probably didn’t get it back then.  But the writers behind the story threw in some great pop culture references for parents throughout this feature.  Among the most noticeable was the reference to the 1972 classic Deliverance, when Buster and Babs are floating down the river with Byron.  And while it wasn’t a direct reference to the original National Lampoons movies, Plucky’s trip with Hampton and his parents could be equated to said movies.  At the same time, what viewer wouldn’t watch the group’s trip and say to themselves they’ve heard very realistic horror stories of family vacations that were either as bad as or worse than that one.  The trip even includes (perhaps) an indirect tongue-in-cheek reference to all the slasher flicks that Hollywood has ever churned out with the family trip storyline.

The hilarious and family friendly storyline is a major part of what made Tiny Too Adventures and this spinoff movie so great.  But it was also the hand drawn animation that played a role in how great this movie was.  So many movies and television shows today are made with the ease of CG.  And as so many critics and people inside the entertainment business have noted time and again, the use of CG has really caused so much work to lose its heart and soul.  The hand drawn animation of the Tiny Toons franchise gave it its very own heart, soul, and identity.  It stood out even from the classic Looney Tunes from which it was spawned.  And it stood out among the other great animated classics of the 90’s.  All said, now that it’s been re-issued on DVD, fans that saw it as kids can enjoy this classic from long ago once again with their own kids.  So kudos to Warner Home Video for that.  And here’s to hoping someone up there will see the success of this release and start releasing the original show’s remaining seasons soon.

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