Shout! Factory, Paramount’s ‘Explorers’ Blu-ray Re-Issue Is Fully Deserving Of Being Called A “Shout! Select” Presentation

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Paramount Pictures

When Paramount Pictures’ kid-centered science fiction flick, Explorers made its theatrical debut in 1985, the movie almost immediately bombed.  It was panned by multiple media outlets, with positive reviews few and far between. However as time went on and technology advanced, the creation of home video technology helped give the movie new life and appreciation among fans of the genre.  It has maintained that status quite well in the decades since, too.  This past May, the movie became one of the latest entries in Shout! Factory’s ongoing “Shout! Select” series, and re-issued on Blu-ray.  The re-issue, complete with an expansive amount of new bonus content, is certain to help build the movie’s status even more.  That appreciation will come in part thanks to the movie’s story, which will be discussed shortly.  The noted bonus content that accompanies the movie’s recent re-issue does its own share to build the movie’s appreciation even more. It will be discussed a little later.  The movie’s general presentation in its new re-issue also plays into its appeal and will also be examined later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the re-issue’s presentation.  All things considered, they make this presentation unquestionably one of this year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

Shout! Factory and Paramount’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of Paramount’s Explorers is a presentation that is well-deserving of its spot in Shout! Factory’s ongoing “Shout! Select” series.  It is just as deserving of a spot in any science fiction fan’s library.  Its story is just one way in which this is proven.  The story follows three young boys – Ben (Ethan Hawke – Training Day, Dead Poets Society, Before Midnight), Daren (Jason Pressen – Gremlins 2, Lady in White, The Stone Boy) and Wolfgang (River Phoenix – Stand By Me, My Own Private Idaho, The Mosquito Coast) – who travel into space and meet a pair of aliens who like themselves, are adolescents.  They also happen to be brother and sister.  The journey happens as a result of messages that the aliens sending messages to Ben in his sleep that instruct Ben on how to build the spacecraft that takes the boys to meet the aliens, Wak and Neek. Getting off topic a bit here, but audiences who watch History Channel’s Ancient Aliens will find this interesting since at least one episode has made the allegation tht aliens have been in telepathic connection with certain humans for centuries. It makes this aspect of the story, in hindsight, more interesting. Getting back on topic, Wak is played by Robert Picardo (Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek Voyager, Innerspace) while Need is played by Leslie Rickert.  The story is relatively simple.  There is no earth-shaking revelation, just a first contact between two species and of course the revelation as to why Ben and his friends were chosen and why Wak, his sister, and other alien beings stay hidden from humans.  That revelation comes as audiences find out that Wak and Neek know what they know as a result of watching human TV shows and movies.  This is really where things actually get interesting.  This statement is powerful because just like humans got a certain vision of aliens from movies, it was those same movies (and TV shows) that led Wak and Neek to believe humans were a certain way.  On a side note, Neek tells the boys that what they have seen of humans on TV and in movies is why they and other alien species have remained hidden from humans.  That in itself is a telling statement and rings so true today.  Sure, as Ben points out, those are just movies and TV shows, but looking at human society today, it would be no wonder that any beings from other worlds would continue to hide from humans.  Humans really are, largely, not ready to be introduced to beings from other worlds. So as simple as the whole story is, there is still some depth to the story.  The whole thing is really just a family friendly celebration of childhood innocence and wonderment about the world beyond Earth that will connect with grown-ups just as much as children even today.  The story’s finale is bittersweet but still happy and fulfilling, and considering how long the original finale was going to be, the featured finale makes for a fitting end to the movie.  This critic will avoid spoilers for those who have yet to watch the movie, but when those audiences watch, they will agree the ending works quite well even though Ben and company do not learn the secrets of the universe.  That finale is addressed in the new bonus content featured in the movie’s new re-issue.

The bonus content featured in the new re-issue of Explorers reveals that the movie’s original end was far different and longer than that presented in the final cut.  It involved the boys going to another planet and getting stranded there, according to the movie’s writer, Eric Luke in the feature, “A Science Fiction Fairy Tale: The Story of Explorers.”  It is a good thing that the noted third act did not happen, considering this.  That is because by Luke’s description, it would have ruined the movie.  On the same note, the deleted final ending cut that is presented in the deleted scenes just makes no sense.  Again, it makes the presented final cut’s ending far more fitting.  On a related note, one of the movie’s executive producers reveals that as the movie progressed, it apparently went over on time.  He never comes out and says it, but the figure in question seems to hint that the movie also went over on budget.  Those two items combined would explain why the movie presented in the final cut was what it was.  Again thankfully though, it is good that audiences got what they did even though allegedly the final cut was “unfinished.”  There are other, lighter notes in “The Story of Explorers” that add their own interest, such as the revelation that Luke’s father (no puns, please) actually worked at NASA when he was a boy, which clearly led to his love of all things science fiction.  It would also explain why this movie, even with its story, also really seems like a love letter to classic sci-fi cinema.  There are references, after all to great classics, such as War of the Worlds, It Came From Outer Space, This Island Earth, and even Forbidden Planet throughout the movie.  Additionally, Luke reveals that the use of the trash can on the Thunder Road came from something in his personal life. Audiences will be left to discover that story for themselves.  It is an anecdote that makes for plenty of smiles and laughs.  Additionally, he reveals that a letter that he wrote to none other than Bruce Springsteen resulted in the use of the name Thunder Road for the boys’ spaceship.  On yet another note, Director Joe Dante reveals through his own comments that this movie was Hawke’s acting debut, and that prior to being offered the role of Ben, Hawke had no acting experience, yet he was so much better to Dante than any of the “fake” (Dante’s own word) other child actors out there at the time.  Hawke’s own discussion on playing Ben and his reaction to the movie’s initial failure shows so much humility from himself.  It is just one more of so many items in “The Story of Explorers” that makes this bonus feature so enjoyable.  The new “Deleted Scenes” feature is also of note in examining the bonus content’s role in the movie.

As already noted, one of the deleted scenes featured in the movie’s new bonus “Deleted Scenes” feature is a long, drawn out finale that clearly while entertaining, was not needed.  It involved Ben and company taking on the bullies from the movie’s opening scene as well as some other items.  Ultimately, audiences will agree that the sequence in question simply was not needed and that the final presentation was a fitting end to the story.  Another deleted scene that really proved unnecessary was the brief family meal scene with Ben, his parents, and his brother.  It is through this scene that Dante reveals Ben’s brother is the same boy who is seen at the drive-in movie with his girlfriend, watching the cheesy “Starkiller” movie.  Though Dante alleges that he felt the scene was needed, this critic’s own view is that the scene was really unnecessary, especially since Ben’s unnamed brother did not even really notice that the Thunder Road was not part of the movie that he and his girlfriend were watching.  Also proving ultimately unnecessary was the birthday party scene and even the extended scene in which the police officers search the forest after the fair ride that became the Thunder Road went barreling past them down the road.  That is a scene that while it would have worked in the final cut, being so brief, was just as easily removed.  Keeping all of these scenes in mind, and Dante’s revelation that they were only some of many more scenes that did not make the final cut, the final presentation really gains even more traction and appreciation.  When everything presented in the “Deleted Scenes” feature and the expansive “The Story of Explorers” feature is considered together, that whole makes the movie’s new bonus content just as engaging and entertaining as the movie itself.  It makes the final cut all the more enjoyable, and is collectively just one more part of what makes this presentation so wonderful.  The movie’s general presentation works with everything noted to make for even more enjoyment and appreciation for the movie.

The general presentation of Explorers presents the movie in its home release and its original theatrical release.  The difference between the two cuts is subtle at best.  It is a difference of roughly three minutes give or take a few seconds here and there.  The two cuts are really separated only through Picardo’s improve “set” when Wak and Need first meet Ben and his friends.  As Dante reveals in “The Story of Explorers,” Picardo’s performance here was fully improve.  He adds that Picardo went on for a bit (as is now know, approximately three minutes or a little more), and that a good portion of that improv set had to be cut along with so many of the movie’s deleted scenes after studio execs pushed up the movie’s release date as a means to cut costs and production time.  This is such a subtle difference between the two cuts, but audiences who watch the “extended” cut will have that much more to enjoy from Picardo as well as the rest of the cast. That Shout! Factory and Paramount would include both versions of the movie here so as to allow audiences to compare the two versions adds that much more appeal to the presentation.  When this is considered along with the impact of the story and bonus content, the whole makes Explorers all the more enjoyable in its new presentation.

Shout! Factory and Paramount’s new Blu-ray re-issue of Explorers is a welcome addition to Shout! Factory’s “Shout! Select” series and to any true science fiction fan’s library.  That is proven in part through its story.  The story is simple and family friendly.  One part story of excitement about space travel and the unknown from a childhood vantage point and one part love letter to classic sci-fi, the whole makes for a relatively quick (but not too quick) take of space travel and friendship.  The new bonus content that accompanies the movie’s recent re-issue makes for its own appeal.  That is because of the background that it provides with the story.  It helps audiences realize what the story might have been and in some cases thankful it was not what it might have been.  The movie’s general presentation, showing the movie in its home video presentation and its original theatrical cut, puts things into even more perspective for audiences, even though the difference between the two cuts is so subtle.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s re-issue.  All things considered, they make the movie fully deserving of its place in Shout! Factory’s “Shout! Select” series and in any sci-fi fan’s library.

Shout! Factory and Paramount’s Blu-ray re-issue of Explorers is available now.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available at:




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Shout! Kids’ Latest Pound Puppies Compilation Is Another Great Watch For The Whole Family

Courtesy;  Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Courtesy; Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Shout! Kids released the latest collection of episodes from Hub’s award-winning series Pound Puppies this week.  The latest collection of episodes from this update on the original 1980s series is just as much a jewel as the series’ previous compilation DVDs.  The episodes included in this compilation make it so enjoyable first and foremost because of the episodes’ writing.  By connection, audiences will appreciate the subtle lessons taught through some of the episodes.  Intentional or not, there are some subtle lessons taught through some of this set’s episodes.  It makes the set all the richer.  And last but not least, viewers (especially parents) will appreciate this latest compilation is the list of guest appearances.  Some very big names lend their talents to Pound Puppies in this collection.  Whether it be the guest talent, the lessons, the writing or all three factors together, Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match proves to be another wonderful set of episodes for the whole family.

The writing behind this collection of episodes is the central point of impact for this DVD.  Those that are familiar with this incarnation of Pound Puppies and with the original series from the 1980s know that both series emulate the classic WWII-themed sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in their theme songs.  The new Pound Puppies has taken things to a higher level, actually giving Ace and his canine friends an underground base just like Col. Hogan and his Allied forces friends in Hogan’s Heroes.  As viewers will see in this set’s opening episode, the writers even emulate Hogan’s Heroes in terms of the writing, too.  In “The Yipper Caper”, viewers see McLeash bring in a giant dog feeding machine just to impress his superiors much like Col. Klink would do in Hogan’s Heroes.  Klink was always taking on some wild, hair-brained scheme to impress his higher-ups.  On the other side of things, audiences hear Ace tell Yipper that the Pound Puppies have homes outside the shelter, but they stay there to help others.  Audiences familiar with Hogan’s Heroes will again recognize quite the similarity there.  This writing is a wonderful homage to the golden era of television and takes things one step farther than the original Pound Puppies series.  That homage is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes the writing so fun in these episodes.  Just as impressive to note is the fact that the show’s writers are able to time and again find ways for the Pound Puppies to complete their missions without McLeash ever knowing.  This is the case throughout all five episodes, not just the opener.  Again, this is an homage to Hogan’s Heroes.  It’s one more way to potentially get young viewers started on the road to an appreciation for television’s Golden Era.  And for that, the show’s writers are more than deserving of their applause.

As one should be able to tell by now, the writing behind the episodes included in the latest Pound Puppies compilation DVD is key to the collection’s overall enjoyment.  Even older viewers will appreciate the writing thanks to its throwback to what is one of television’s greatest ever sitcoms.  Just as important to these episodes are the lessons taught through the episodes.  “Hello Kitten” teaches a not so subtle lesson about the ability of people to get along and be friends despite opposing backgrounds.  It does this by having the youngest of the pound puppies help a kitten find his perfect person.  There’s just one problem.  The Pound Puppies’ feline counterparts, led by a feline mirror image of Ace is set out to keep the young kitten from becoming friends with dogs and finding a person for the kitten themselves.  In the end, the cats learn that it’s okay to be friends with dogs.  The secondary lesson taught here is that one must let go of things from the past.  All holding onto the past does is make a person bitter.  “Beauty is only Fur Deep” teaches a lesson about being one’s self when a much talked about dog comes to Kennel 17.  The Pound Puppies have their hands…*ahem*…paws full when the seemingly humble dog turns quite self-centered on getting a new coat of fur.  It creates lots of problems for the Pound Puppies especially when he shoots down the little girl they said was his perfect person. He of course learns a rather valuable lesson from this experience that viewers of all ages will appreciate.

The lessons taught through the episodes culled for Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match and the general writing that pays homage to Hogan’s Heroes both make this latest compilation of episodes just as enjoyable as previous Pound Puppies DVDs. There is one more factor to consider in this DVD that makes its episodes so fun. That final factor is the list of guest stars that lent its talents to each episode. J.K. Simmons (Spiderman 1 3) and Tress MacNeille both share their talents in the episodes included in this DVD. Go figure, Simmons voices a character in “Working K-9 To 5” that is a newspaper man. Hmmmmm, now where have we seen that before? His character is even presented much in the same vein as J. Jonah Jameson from director Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy. MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama) voices a fellow canine in another episode. It’s only a bit part. But parents that know McNeille’s voice will love hearing her voice here, too. And of course, the true queen of comedy herself, Betty White, returns once more as the voice of McLeash’s not so nice mother. These are just some of the guests that appear in the episodes collected for this DVD. Also on board on these episodes are: Tara Strong (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly Odd Parents), E.G. Daily (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Chalk Zone), Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Napoleon Dynamite, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy), Danny Cooksey (Salute Your Shorts, Diff’rent Strokes, Tiny Toon Adventures) and so many others. The fact that so many well-known actors and actresses would lend their talents to these episodes shows just how respected a series it proves to be. Parents will recognize most (if not all) of the names mentioned here. And that alone is enough to give the DVD just one watch if not more. And it is most definitely deserving of far more than just one watch.

Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Shout! Kids is available online at and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at