Arrow Films’ New Harryhausen Doc Is A Must See For Any True Cinephile

Courtesy:  Arrow Films

Courtesy: Arrow Films

Ray Harryhausen is one of the greatest and most influential figures in Hollywood’s history.  It is thanks to his vision and his work that audiences today can enjoy classic movies such as 20 Million Miles To Earth, It Came From Beneath The Sea, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, and so many other greats.  He and his movies have been the influence for countless filmmakers and special effects experts over the years with his sequences and movies being rebooted in various ways.  So it is no surprise that considering the massive footprint left by the cinematic “titan” that so many documentaries and books have been released over the years centered on him and his work.  The problem with those documentaries and books there is very little variance in the material presented in each one from one to the next.  Enter Arrow Films’ new Ray Harryhausen retrospective Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan.  This presentation is the best Harryhausen documentary to be released to date.  That is due in part to it being such a deeply comprehensive presentation.  This will be discussed shortly.  The information and material that makes up the body of the program is just as important to the documentary if not more so.  It will be discussed later.  The bonus material that is included in the documentary’s Special Edition Blu-ray rounds out the documentary’s most important elements.  It joins with the program’s story and information to make the presentation in whole one that is a must see for any true cinephile.

Arrow Films’ new Ray Haryhausen retrospective Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan is a must see for any true cinephile.  It is the best Harryhausen documentary to be released to date.  That is due in part to its story.  It is the most comprehensive look at Harryhausen’s life and impact that has yet been produced.  Unlike so many other previously released Harryhausen docs, it focuses on more than just his major movies.  Rather it follows Harryhausen’s life from his youth to his earliest work making stop motion fairy tale films all the way up to the height of his popularity and eventual retirement.  Audiences (even those that are largely familiar with his work) might find themselves in awe at the “giant” (bad pun fully intended) footprint left by the film legend even today in taking in this program.  That is due to the discussions on the standards that he created and his adaptation to the changing course of movies and its impact on his success as well as discussions on the reach of his influence on filmmakers across the film world and so much more.  The discussions include some very candid one-on-one interviews with Harryhausen himself before his passing in 2013 as well as some of the most well-known filmmakers and special effects experts in the business today.  Between those discussions and the focus on each of his feature films, the comprehensive nature of this doc proves it to be unquestionably the best presentation on the film legend to be released yet.  Its comprehensive nature is just part of what makes it such a standout documentary.  The information and material that makes up the body of the program is just as important to its presentation as its overall story.

The story at the center of Arrow Films’ new Ray Harryhausen documentary is in itself an important part of the program’s presentation.  That is because it is the most comprehensive look at the film legend’s life and career that has been released to date.  It is not the program’s only important element, though.  The information and material that makes up the body of the program is just as important to its presentation as its story if not more so.  The information and material that is presented throughout the program is just as awe-inspiring as the story itself.  One of the most interesting of the program’s revelations is that it is thanks to Harryhausens creature features—specifically The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms—that the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park move the way that they do.  It is openly stated by many of the interviewees that before that movie was created no one knew how dinosaurs moved.  And ever since then every dinosaur-centric movie that has been made has used Harryhausen’s work as a model for its own creations.  On a related note, there is a subtle yet powerful statement made by Harryhausen himself that he never made “monsters.”  Rather he made “creatures.”  It is a statement that said he didn’t want to make scary, horror style movies.  Rather he wanted to make movies with creations that the whole family could enjoy without fear of anyone having nightmares.  It is a statement that cannot be ignored.  On another related note, audiences will be just as intrigued to learn that Mr. Harryhausen was the one responsible for the term “dynamation.”  He used that term as Hollywood was transitioning from black and white movies to color films.  He reveals in his interview that many people were beginning to use the term “animation/animated” to describe his movies.  He notes that this gave an incorrect perception of his movies, so he came up with the term “dynamation” in order to maintain the perception that his movies weren’t just children’s movies.  He wanted them to be taken more seriously.  This is just some of the program’s key information.  There are also some very interesting revelations about the influence of not only his movies but the sequences that were used in his movies, too.

The information that is revealed in the program’s interviews is enlightening to say the very least.  It is just some of the program’s most important information and material.  As the program progresses audiences will be just as interested to learn of the influence of the very sequences used in Harryhausen’s movies on so many more modern movies.  It is One of the most notable of the presented sequences is that of the creature in The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms eating its victims.  The motions are directly mirrored in a similar scene from Jurassic Park in which the T-Rex knocks over a bathroom and eats the man inside.  On another note, audiences will be just as interested to see the influence of the sword fight scene between Sinbad and Kali in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and that of Obi Wan Kenobi and one of the key light saber battles in Star Wars: Episode II.  Here are two totally different movies from two wholly different eras yet even with such a span of time and genres Harryhausen’s influence is felt just as strongly even there.  It is just one more of so many examples of the far-reaching influence of Harryhausen’s sequences presented throughout the program.  There are so many other examples presented over the course of the program.  They collectively show why the material that is presented within the program’s story is just as important to the story’s presentation as its information.  Both elements join with the program’s story to make the documentary in whole an even more interesting program.  Even as interesting as the story and its content make this program, they are not its only key elements.  The bonus material that is included in the documentary’s special edition Blu-ray is just as important to its presentation as its story and related content.

The story at the center of Arrow Films’ new Ray Harryhausen documentary and its content are both important pieces of the program’s presentation.  The story itself is the most far-reaching retrospective on the film legend that has been released to date.  The information and material that makes up the body of the program adds even more interest and enjoyment to the program.  That is because the collective mass includes some very insightful one-on-one interviews with Harryhausen as well as some equally insightful interviews with those who he influenced to work in the movie industry.  As much as the story and its content do for this documentary they are not its only key elements.  The bonus material included in its new home release is just as important to its presentation as those noted elements.  There is a feature-length audio commentary from those behind the program’s lens that offers even more insight for viewers as well as a number of outtakes that didn’t make the film’s final cut, and a pair of Q&A session with some of the interviewees just to name a few items.  One of the most notable mentions made in the bonus commentary is that of the reason for the program’s opening sequence.  It is noted that in opening with recent movie titles, younger audiences will hopefully see that those movies were influenced directly by Harryhausen’s movies.  It is a way to connect those younger viewers to the foundations of their favorite flicks.  The outtakes are each preceded with their own slates explaining in no uncertain terms why each was cut from the final product.  This in turn leaves no question as to the intentions of each outtake.  It also creates its own share of discussion among viewers as to whether or not they personally feel that the outtakes should have been outtakes.  It is another wonderful way to keep viewers entertained and engaged in the program’s overall presentation.  The live Q&A sessions with the interviewees are just as entertaining because of their light-hearted nature.  There are plenty of laughs to be shared even through the conversations and questions.  The questions and conversations include which of Harryhausen’s creations is his favorite, how did the filmmakers get the footage for the documentary (which is in itself rather eye-opening) and Harryhausen’s own thoughts on his legacy among so much more.  Between the two sessions audiences will find themselves just as engrossed in them as those that were there in attendance.  This is just scraping the top of the proverbial iceberg.  The “Treasure Trove” feature is simple.  But it is one of the most powerful of the bonuses included with the program.  It follows curators of the Harryhausen exhibit in London as they un-crate the models that the legendary filmmaker used in creating his movies.  Those models include the UFOs from Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, the Pegasus from Clash of the Titans, the Brontosaurus from Evolution, and so many others.  The reverence shown for the models as they are removed from their crates is so moving.  It shows the understanding and respect that those removing them have for what Harryhausen created.  It shows an understanding and respect for the amount of time spent making them, too.  In essence that respect and understanding shows that there is still a very real respect for Harryhuasen’s work in general and the influence that he still has today.  It is just one more of the in-depth bonuses included in the program that makes the program’s presentation so enjoyable.  Together with those other noted bonuses, the program’s story and its content, all three elements come together to make it a must see for any true cinephile.

Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan is a must see for any true cinephile.  That is because it is the most in-depth and comprehensive presentation to be released to date about the film legend’s life and career.  That depth is exhibited directly through the program’s story and its content.  It follows Harryhausen’s  life from his childhood all the way to the height of his career and eventual retirement, touching on parts of his career that few if any previous Harryhausen documentary has touched on.  The content presented throughout the program adds to that depth as it shows the reach of his influence even to this day.  The bonus material included in the program rounds out the ways in which the program exhibits its depth.  It adds even more interest and insight through the bonus audio commentary, Q&A sessions, interview outtakes, and much more.  Each element plays its own important part in showing what makes this documentary such an impressive presentation.  All things considered they join together to make it, again, a must see for any true cinephile.  It is available now in stores and online, and can be ordered online direct via Arrow Films’ online store at  More information on this and other titles from Arrow Films is available online now at:










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IFC’s Portlandia is As Solid As Ever Now In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy:  IFC

Courtesy: IFC

When it first debuted on IFC almost four years ago in 2011, Portlandia was little more than an unknown sketch comedy show.  Now three years later, it has gone on to quite the unexpected success.  It has garnered itself a nomination for an Emmy award and even a Peabody award win; this despite the show still being largely a cult favorite.  Now with the recent release of the show’s fourth season on DVD, audiences that might still be unfamiliar with Portlandia will be able to see for themselves just what has made this little show that could a fan favorite for four seasons now.  The first and most obvious reason that Portlandia has garnered such a fan following over the course of its run is its writing.  The writing behind this show is the sort of writing that will impress any fan of The Kids in the Hall and The Upright Citizens Brigade.  Also worth noting of this season is the acting on the part of lead stars Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein along with their co-stars and guest stars.  Speaking of the guest stars, the guest stars lined up for Season Four add their own comedic element that audiences will appreciate, rounding out the whole presentation.  All three factors together make the fourth season of IFC’s Portlandia a presentation that audiences new and not so new to the show will enjoy from start to finish.

The central point in the enjoyment of Portlandia Season Four is the show’s writing.  This season’s writing is a laugh riot.  Armisen and Brownstein take no prisoners with co-writer Jonathan Krisel throughout this season.  From social media to organized religion to horror movies, pet adoption agencies and so much more, nothing is off limits this season.  There’s even a spoof of the classic 1993 Robert Redford/Demi Moore drama Indecent Proposal in one episode.  The episode in question features none other than the star of HBO’s hit drama Boardwalk Empire, Steve Buscemi.  The pokes at all things pop culture alone make Season Four well worth the watch.  They’re just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in what makes this season’s writing work.  As with the series’ previous three seasons, each episode is split into multiple segments with one skit serving as the hub of each episode.  That hub is sandwiched by a group of other stand-alone sketches.  This aspect of the writing is likely thanks in large part to SNL head Lorne Michaels also playing a role in this series, too.  And it proves to work quite well surprisingly enough even here.

Directly related to the writing behind Portlandia’s fourth season is the acting on the part of the both Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.  The characters that have become so familiar and beloved by fans throughout the show’s first three seasons are back once again.  And the way that Armisen and Brownstein handle their portrayals makes for more than its share of laughs.  Those that might not be so familiar with the duo’s brand of comedy might see the duo’s acting as being aimed at a very specific audience.  The reality is that their acting is meant entirely to poke fun at certain groups of people.  They do so by going completely over the top in their stereotypical presentation of said characters.  It works perfectly with the scripts in general to make each of the sketches even more of a laugh riot.  Armisen and Brownstein’s acting combines with the season’s writing to make each of this season even more entertaining, regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the series.

Both the writing and acting that went into the fourth season of Portlandia play their own part in the overall enjoyment of this cult hit series.  Adding even more enjoyment to the overall presentation that is the series’ fourth season is the inclusion of a who’s who of guest stars.  It has already been noted that Boardwalk Empire star Steve Buscemi is on board this season.  Joining him are the likes of Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman 1,23), Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic ParkIndependence DayHoly Man), and singer k.d. Lang among others.  Goldblum actually makes multiple appearances throughout this season’s sketches.  And Dunst opens the season in a hilarious episode that pokes fun at all of the really bad horror movies polluting theaters, store shelves and online retailers.  It is certain to leave any viewer laughing so hard that they cry.  k.d. Lang’s appearance later in the season is just as funny.  She appears in a skit about a group of lesbians on a nature retreat.  The retreat just happens to be led by an older man.  Needless to say that things turn rather interesting for him and Lang’s character.  These are just some of the laughs offered by the guest stars throughout Portlandia’s fourth season.  Audiences will find their own favorite moments when they pick up this season’s box set.

The guest stars tapped to appear in Portlandia’s fourth season make for plenty of laughs.  The same can be said of the acting both on their part and that of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (as well as their cat mates).  And the writing in general makes a solid cornerstone on which rests the equally solid acting and A-list guest list.  All things considered, Porlandia Season 4 proves in the end to be a collection of episodes that anyone looking for a good laugh will enjoy.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Portlandia is available online at and  More information on this and other releases from IFC 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

VSC Announces Release Date, Product Info For Portlandia Season Four

Courtesy:  Video Services Corporation

Courtesy: Video Services Corporation

Video Services Corporation (VSC) will release the fourth season of IFC’s hit comedy series Portlandia this summer.

Portlandia: Season 4 will be released on DVD Tuesday, August 26th. Armisen’s beloved characters Dave and Kath are back in Portlandia’s fourth season, as are Spike and his uptight girlfriend, Iris. Spike and Iris have to deal with a difficult situation at a Thai restaurant while Dave and Kath actually give relaxation a try. And then there is the couple, Nina and Lance. Nina and Lance have to recover from the trauma of losing a pet this season.

Season Four sees a who’s who of celebrity guests across its ten episodes. Among some of the more well-known guests that appear on the show this season are: k.d. lang, Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman 1 – 3), Joshua Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), Mark Proksch (The Office), and many others. Also returning from Portlandia’s previous seasons is an equally high profile list of stars including: Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park 1 &2, Independence Day), Ed Begley, Jr. (Arrested Development, Pineapple Express), Jason Sudeikis (How I Met Your Mother), and director Gus Van Sant (Promised Land, Milk) and just as many other big names.

Portlandia: Season Four was shot entirely in Portland, Oregon. It is co-created and co-written by Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, and Jonathan Krisel. Krisel is also the series’ director. The series is executive prodiced by Lorne Michaels (SNL) and produced by Broadway Video. Portlandia: Season Four is comprised of ten episodes on two discs. It will retail for SRP of $19.98. Portlandia has earned a Peabody © award and has been nominated for an Emmy ® award as well, and has run for four seasons exclusively on Independent Film Channel.

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Pound Puppies’ Latest Compilation One Of The Show’s Best Yet

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Hub Network/Hasbro Studios

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Hub Network/Hasbro Studios

Shout! Factory has teamed up with Hasbro Studios and the Hub network once again another compilation of episodes from Hub’s Pound PuppiesPound Puppies: Holiday Hijinks is one of the best compilations from this family and kid favorite series to be released yet.  That is largely because of each episode’s writing.  This compilation offers viewers some of the series’ most heartfelt episodes to date.  Just as noteworthy in this compilation is the guest voice talent.  Both parents and kids alike will recognize the celebrity voices that are included in some of the episodes in this set.  Something more subtle, but just as worth noting in this collection of episodes is that each one features its own musical number.  It’s something that hadn’t been seen (or rather heard) in previous collections.  It’s a nice touch to the episodes in question.  The reason for that will be discussed later.  All things considered, Holiday Hijinks is one more great addition to any family’s home DVD library, whether it’s their first introduction to the new Pound Puppies or not.

The latest compilation of Pound Puppies episodes includes five more episodes from the Hub network’s hit children’s series.  This follows the same format as the previous DVD compilations that have been released.  The episodes collected for this collection stand out because they are some of the series’ most heartwarming episodes yet.  The collection’s opener, “I Heard The Barks on Christmas Eve” is the collection’s only actual holiday themed episode.  It’s still a wonderful story, nonetheless.  For the first time ever, viewers see that Mr. McLeish actually has a heart and isn’t the mean middle aged man that he comes across as being in most episodes.  It presents those classic messages that everybody needs somebody and that everybody deserves somebody, especially during the holidays.  Audiences will appreciate how writer Joe Ansolabehere expanded on the show’s central theme of family in the set’s second episode, “I Never Barked For My Father.”  Lucky meets his long lost father and brother for the first time ever in this episode.  These are two of the collection’s finest.  What’s more, older audiences will appreciate the guest vocal talent shared here.  That is another positive to this set of episodes.

The episodes collected for Pound Puppies: Holiday Hijinks offer plenty of heart and laughs.  The writers behind the show are to be applauded for their work.  Just as worth noting of these episodes is the guest vocal talent recruited for these episodes.  Lucky’s father is voiced by none other than Gary Cole in “I Never Barked For My Father.”  And his long lost brother is voiced by one Gary Cooksey.  Cooksey is best known for his time on Diff’rent Strokes as well as voicing Montana Max on Tiny Toon Adventures and portraying Robert “Buddy” Budnick on Nickelodeon’s hit 90s series, Salute Your Shorts.  Older audiences will recognize Gary Cole from his roles in Office Space, Dodgeball, Talladega Nights, and Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law just to name some of his work.  Cole and Cooksey are just a couple of the well-known names that grace this collection of episodes.  Fred Stoller (Wordgirl, Everybody Loves Raymond) guests on the collection’s opener as the voice of Ralph.  Ralph is a stray that has lost his Christmas spirit because he has never had a single owner.  That all changes thanks to the Pound Puppies.  Wayne Knight (Seinfeld, Scooby-Doo & The Goblin King, Jurassic Park, The Exes) also shares his talents as the voice of Ralphie, Mr. McLeish’s old friend in “Good Dog, McLeish.”  If that isn’t enough, then the addition of both Tress MacNeille (Futurama, The Simpsons) and Charles Shaughnessy (The Nanny) as guest talent in “Prince and the Pupper” will certainly convince parents to check out this latest collection of Pound Puppies episodes with their kids.  The list of guest talent included in Pound Puppies: Holiday Hijinks is only a glimpse of the big name actors and actresses that have lent their talents to this series over the course of three seasons.  And it’s just one more reason for families to enjoy this collection together.  There is one more reason that families will enjoy the episodes presented in this set.  That reason is that each of the set’s five episodes includes its own musical number.  It would have been so easy for the writers to go over the top considering the history of musical numbers in shows that aren’t known for musical numbers.  Instead, the show’s writers made each episode’s musical number respectable and within limitations.  They didn’t make them big, cheesy tongue-in-cheek numbers.  They actually add a certain amount of emotion and comic relief where necessary.  Just as with the guest vocal talent and the equally enjoyable writing overall, the musical number become one more part of the whole that makes Pound Puppies: Holiday Hijinks well worth the watch any time of the year.  It is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory store at  More information on this and other Pound Puppies DVDs 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