PBS Bringing British Murder Mystery To American Audiences This Spring

Courtesy:  PBS Distribution/PBS/Starz/BBC/BBC Two

Courtesy: PBS Distribution/PBS/Starz/BBC/BBC Two

This spring, PBS distribution will release a gripping new miniseries for all the mystery lovers out there.

Dancing on the Edge will be release on DVD an Blu-ray on Tuesday, May 5th. The story focuses on a group of black jazz musicians living and performing in London in the 1930s. The group, known as The Louis Lester Band is becoming increasingly popular all around London, even being asked to perform for the royal family. Along the way, American businessman Walter Masterson and his employee Julian catch the group and become very interested in it. It seems that everything is coming up roses for The Louis Lester Band. But then tragedy strikes. A series of challenges follows that threatens to end the group’s rise to stardom. The story was written by famed writer and director Stephen Poliakoff (The Lost Prince). It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, American Gangster, Children of Men), John Goodman (Monsters, Inc., Monsters U, Argo) Matthew Goode (The Imitation Game, Watchmen, The Good Wife), Jacqueline Bisset (Bullitt, Murder on the Orient Express, The Deep), Tom Hughes (Page Eight, About Time, Cemetery Junction), Angel Coulby (Merlin, Imagine Me and You, Magicians), Wummi Mosaku (Philomena, Citadel, I Am Slave) and many others.

The mini-series’ six episodes bring its total run-time to roughly seven hours. Those episodes are spread across three discs both in its DVD and Blu-ray presentation. Audiences can check out a trailer for the mini-series online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcqnCz5chXs. The DVD set will retail for MSRP of $34.99 and the Blu-ray for $39.99.
The Blu-ray can be ordered online at: http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=58647396&cp=&sr=1&kw=dancing+on+the+edge&origkw=dancing+on+the+edge&parentPage=search#AdditionalInfo.

The DVD can be ordered online at: http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=58647376&cp=&sr=1&kw=dancing+on+the+edge&origkw=dancing+on+the+edge&parentPage=search.

More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org

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

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

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 http://www.facebook.com/portlandia and http://www.ifc.com/portlandia.  More information on this and other releases from IFC is available online at http://www.facebook.com/IFC and http://ifc.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

New Beetlejuice Box Set Makes Its Case To Be Another Of 2014’s Best Box Sets For Family And Children

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Warner Brothers Home Video

Shout! Factory landed no fewer than four of its releases on this critic’s list of the year’s best new DVDs and Blu-rays for families in 2013. 2014 is still very much in its infancy. And already Shout! Factory has landed one of its new releases as a definite on this critic’s list in the recently released The Red Skelton Show:The Lost Episodes. Now this critic can say that Shout! Factory has landed another potential on that list for this year in the form of Beetlejuice: Seasons Two & Three. Shout! Factory will release this two season set in partnership with Warner Brothers Home Video on March 18th, 2014. Whether one recalls this standout toon from their own childhood or is brand new to the series, Beetlejuice: Seasons Two& Three will impress any viewer. It will impress any viewer first and foremost because of its writing. Another reason that audiences will appreciate this season is its animation. And lastly, one must make note of the set’s packaging. All of these factors together make Beetlejuice: Seasons Two & Three another must see both for kids and kids at heart.

The writing in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice is central to the success of this new box set.  The series’ writers maintained the same writing style established in its first season throughout every episode of Seasons Two and Three.  The pop culture spoofs are there.  So are the moments in which the writers break down the fourth wall.  Even more impressive is that despite the fact that while the episodes take place in the Netherworld, the writers continued to make each episode kid friendly rather straight up spooky.  Audiences will love the spoof of Sherlock Holmes in ‘A-Ha.’  And those that are old enough to remember the show will love just as much the spoof of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse in ‘Uncle B.J.’s Roadhouse.’  In this same episode, the writers incorporate that breaking down of the fourth wall.  This is a comic element that far too few animation studios use in today’s “cartoons.”  Its use in this episode is a prime example of how much hilarity it can add to a cartoon, especially when done right.  So while it is wonderfully entertaining on the surface, it serves an even deeper purpose in comparison to the “cartoons” that populate the television spectrum today.  It serves as a lesson on how much writing has changed in children’s programming from the 80s and 90s up to where it is today.  If anything, one could argue that such an example shows how much writing for today’s mainstream children’s programming has de-evolved.  That being the case, it makes this collection of episodes all the more enjoyable.

The pop culture spoofs and breaking down of the fourth wall are both integral parts of the writing in Beetlejuice: Seasons 2 & 3 that are rarely used in today’s mainstream children’s programming.  Just as integral to the show’s success in its second and third seasons is the fact that the show’s writers could take a spooky world and craft kid friendly adventures centered in that world.  Those adventures made the Netherworld not seem as spooky as it did in the movie on which the animated series is based.  The adventures are so kid friendly that they almost make the Netherworld feel like the human world for lack of better wording.  One can’t help but wonder if perhaps that approach to writing Lydia and Beetlejuice’s adventures was an inspiration behind the world of Disney Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. at least to some point.  That writing works with the show’s animation to make these two seasons just as enjoyable as the series’ first season.

The writing in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice goes a long way toward making these two seasons just as enjoyable as the series’ first season.  In direct relation, the animation (especially that of the Netherworld) makes Seasons Two & Three even more enjoyable.  It serves as a companion to the writing and makes the Netherworld that much less spooky for even today’s younger viewers.  The colors used in the Netherworld scenes are actually relatively bright.  This creates more of a welcoming and upbeat feel to that world.  On an even deeper level,  so much of today’s children’s programming is crafted by either flash animation or by full on computer generated graphics.  Beetlejuice by comparison was, like most real cartoons of its era, created entirely by hand.  For those that grew up with this modern hand-drawn classic, seeing that hand-drawn animation is a breath of fresh air among the stale, cookie cutter style excuses for cartoons that are out there today.  It’s just one more reason that any true cartoon lover and any original fan of this series will want to pick up this dual-disc set when it hits store shelves next month.

Both the writing and animation in the second and third seasons of Beetlejuice are important to the success of each season.  Just as important as the writing and animation in the box set’s upcoming release is its packaging.  Because both the second and third seasons were so short, each one received its own disc inside a single standard-sized case.  It would have been so easy for Shout! Factory and Warner Home Video to split up the seasons regardless.  That seems to be the trend among so many studios today with home releases of their programs.  So it’s nice to see that Shout!  Factory and WHV didn’t take that route with this release.  It presents a certain level of ethics between the two companies.  The episode listing for each season is also provided as part of the set’s packaging.  Each season’s episode list is included inside the case on one side.  There is little left to note of this set, if anything, after noting all of the positives of the packaging.  The packaging, together with the animation and writing, combine to make Beetlejuice: Seasons Two and Three yet another certifiable candidate for a spot on this critic’s annual list of the year’s best new DVDs and Blu-rays for kids and families.  It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, March 18th and can be pre-ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/beetlejuice-seasons-two-three.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Hey Arnold! Goes Out On Top In Its Fifth Season

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

The end is finally here for another of Nickelodeon’s beloved classic Nicktoon, Hey Arnold! The final season of Hey Arnold! is finally available to the masses. And it goes without saying that Hey Arnold! has gone out on top in its final season. In fact, it was at the same level as the series’ third season. That is primarily because of the solid writing throughout all twenty-three of Season Five’s episodes. Also to note in this season are more guest spots. Both Andy Dick and Tim Curry offer their voice talents this season. And of course, one can’t ignore that as with the series’ previous season releases, Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have continued to lead the pack in multi-disc sets. This season’s packaging was done just as the series’ previous seasons, making it that much more worthy of applause. And together with the solid writing and guest appearances, it all comes together to make Season Five a fitting send off for Hey Arnold!

The writing behind the final season of Hey Arnold! is some of the best writing in the show’s five total seasons. Being that this season was the show’s final run, the show’s writers sent the show off on top of its game. This season, the show’s writers spoof all the big name crime fighters with one of their own. They also take on the political machine when a local businessman in Arnold’s neighborhood takes on one of the city’s politicians. And in what are some of the series’ absolute best episodes, the show’s writers finally offer hints at who were Arnold’s parents in a pair of episodes. One of those episodes was a two-part episode that is certain to make even the strongest viewer tear up. This is just a small sampling of what makes Season Five so enjoyable. Audiences will also enjoy seeing Arnold and Eugene take on a bitter playwright in their annual school play. If that’s not enough, there’s even a bonus Halloween episode that sees Arnold and his friends take on the legend of a female spirit that murdered her fiancé. It sounds violent. But it’s entirely family friendly. There is still much more to enjoy this season, including an episode using the classic plot element of a young person learning the reality of germs. It makes for plenty of laughs every time. These episodes and the others from the show’s original run are all here. And whether one grew up with this classic series or one is a new fan, audiences will find what makes these episodes some of the series’ best.

Hey Arnold! goes out on top in Season Five. That’s primarily because of its writing. Season Five boasts not just solid writing but two great guest spots. Celebrities Andy Dick and Tim Curry make appearances this season. Andy Dick voices of a vigilante named Monkeyman in the season premiere. Monkeyman learns some very valuable lessons about both himself and those that he protects after meeting Arnold. And in “Eugene, Eugene”, Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Wild Thornberrys, Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties) stars as a bitter playwright that make his own version of a well-known play for the annual P.S. 118 fourth grade class play. When Arnold and Eugene discover the revisions made by Curry’s character, they confront him and then set the play on the right course despite the changes. The guest spots by both Curry and Dick aren’t the only ones made over the show’s five seasons. Jim Belushi (Life According to Jim, K9) and Jennifer Tilly (Family Guy, Monsters Inc.) also appear in the show. Tilly appears in Season Five’s episode, “Ernie in Love.” Having such big names appear in Hey Arnold!just goes to show that even into its fifth season, it had quite the high level of credibility. It adds even more to appreciate about both the series’ fifth season and the series as a whole.

The guest spots and the writing that went into Hey Arnold! Season Five both do so much to make this season one of the series’ best. The set’s packaging should also be taken into account in examining it as a whole. Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have packaged Season Five exactly as the previous seasons of Hey Arnold!  The set’s first pair of discs each get their own spots on “plates” inside the standard size DVD case.  The third disc is placed on the inside back of the case on its own spindle.  This protects the discs from scratching one another and in turn allows them to be enjoyed with every watch.  It’s the crowning touch on a near perfect set for any true Nicktoons Nostalgic.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/node/217616.  More information on this and other Shout! Factory releases is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Nicktoons Nostalgics Will “Scream” With Joy for Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: The Complete Series

 

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Halloween is right around the corner once again.  That means that lots of people are looking for entertainment for their annual parties.  This includes parents looking for entertainment for their children’s parties.  Next Tuesday, Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory will release one more new fun release for the whole family that is a perfect fit for those parties in the form of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: The Complete Series.

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: The Complete Series is great fun for both new young audiences and for those that grew up with the series.  It is one of Nickelodeon’s famed Nicktoons that brought Arlene Klasky and Klasky Csupo to fame during the 1990s and early 2000s.  And just as the pair set itself apart from the crowd with its groundbreaking series, Rugrats and the equally innovative Wild Thornberrys, it did so just as much with this series, too.  Klasky Csupo showed just how far ahead of its time it was with this series.  To an extent, one could argue that it might well have been the influence behind Disney/Pixar’s 2001 movie, Monsters, Inc.  That’s because the movie in question didn’t come into being until at least three years after Aaahh!!! Real Monsters had ended in 1998.  This is just one part of what makes the series so important for any fan of Nickelodeon’s golden era.  In direct connection, audiences will appreciate the show’s writing.  Again, a comparison to both Klasky Csupo’s other cartoons and to Monsters, Inc. is necessary to show how far ahead of the times and quick the writing was in this series.  A third factor to consider in deciding whether or not to buy or order this new set is its packaging.  Yet again, Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have set the bar with another box set’s packaging in this collection.  What can be said that hasn’t already been said about that?  But that’s a good thing.  And it seals the deal on what is another great trip back in time for any purist Nicktoons Nostalgic.

Klasky Csupo was the Pixar of the television world from the early 1990s to the early 2000s.  That is thanks to its long strain of original hit cartoons that would be the backbone of Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons programming.  Those hits included the likes of Rugrats, The Wild Thornberrys, and what would end up being the studio’s last Nicktoon, All Grown Up.  Throughout all of the cartoons created by the studio, each one was entirely different from the last.  And Aahhh!!! Real Monsters was one that definitely stood out.  It stood out among both other Nicktoons and other cartoons in general.  The only other studio doing anything remotely similar at the time was DiC Enterprises with its claymation based Bump in the Night.  Between the two, Klasky Csupo’s cartoon still stood out and in a good way, as it lasted well past the latter of the two toons.  No one at the time had thought of the concept of a trio of young monsters living in a dump, learning how to scare humans.  Even the characters themselves were original.  One look at David Eccles’ Krumm makes one wonder if he in fact wasn’t an influence behind Mike Wazowski.  Both of these factors (and others) show just how far ahead of its time this series was.

Aahhh!!! Real Monsters was well ahead of its time in so many ways.  From the general story and characters to other smaller aspects, its cast and writers proved that in so many ways.  In direct connection, it is just as impressive thanks to its writing.  From learning how to scare and avoiding the wrath of their teacher, The Gromble (Gregg Berger—Garfield & Friends, The Angry Beavers, The Garfield Show) to trying to escape capture by Simon the Monster Hunter (Jim Belushi—Life According to Jim, Hey Arnold!, the Adventures of Jimmy Neutron), the writers found so many ways to keep the show fresh through all four of its seasons.  There was even a hunt for a pail that sends Ickis on a wild chase that will leave audiences laughing.  It’s one more of so many wonderfully entertaining moments that make this new set so fun for anyone that grew up with the series and for their kids, too.

The writing and general ingenuity of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters went a long way toward making it one more of Klasky Csupo’s most beloved cartoons.  The same can be said of what made it one of the best Nicktoons of Nickelodeon’s golden era.  There is one last factor in this new set that fans of the show will appreciate in its upcoming release.  That factor is the set’s packaging.  Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have already released both Rocko’s Modern Life and The Angry Beavers in complete series sets.  Those sets both managed somehow to contain eight discs in a box that only takes up the space of two standard DVD cases on any DVD rack.  The same can be said of this set’s box, too.  Each of the set’s discs are placed on either side of their own “plate” within the case.  As large as it may make the box seem, it actually manages to conserve space in the long run.  For that, both companies are more than deserving of even more credit.  What’s more, this form of packaging also protects the discs from being scratched up.  So it serves as a double whammy in the best possible manner.  Keeping this in mind along with the original writing and the generally original concept behind the show, audiences are presented with another welcome shining release from Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory.  One can only hope that from here, the two companies will eventually strike a deal to release Klasky Csupo’s other classic Nicktoons next.  Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: The Complete Series will be available online and in stores Tuesday, October 8th.  It can be ordered direct online from Shout! Factory’s store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/node/218263.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon is available on the official Shout! Factory website, http://www.shoutfactory.com and Shout! Factory Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Offers Sneak Peek at New Documentary, More In NFL Sunday Countdown Week 2

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN has a change to its NFL Week 2 schedule to pass on to audiences.  Broadcast of the network’s weekly Sunday NFL Countdown will air this week Sunday, September 15th beginning at 10am on ESPN.  Chris Berman will anchor the broadcast.  He will be joined by NFL analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson, and Ray Lewis.  Also on board for this week’s three-hour pre-game show will be senior fantasy sports analyst Matthew Berry, NFL analyst Ron Jaworski, and NFL insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.  Berry brings to the table this week the discussion of a rather unique punishment instated by one fantasy league.  The story is just one of many stores shared in Berry’s new book.

Berman and company will focus on five more matchups in week two with insight from reporters at each game.  The first of those games is a matchup of the Washington Redskins and Green Bay Packers.  Reporter Suzy Kolber and NFL analyst Merril Hoge will have all the latest information on that matchup.  In coordination with coverage of the game, ESPN will also have a special feature on the Redskins’ team name and the controversy surrounding it Sunday morning on Outside The Lines.  Bob Holtzman will have the story.  Audiences can catch the special edition of Outside The Lines  at 8am on ESPN2.

Something else to watch for in week 2 is the annual “Manning Bowl.”  Eli and brother Peyton face off as the Broncos take on the G-Men this week.  ESPN reporter  Josina Anderson will have all the latest from that game. Leading up to the game, Sunday NFL Countdown will feature a sneak peek at ESPN’s new documentary on the brothers, The Book of Manning.  The documentary kicks off the third season of ESPN Films’ SEC Storied series.  It focuses on the legendary Manning family, from father Archie to his equally famed sons.  Veteran actor John Goodman (Monsters UniversityMonsters, Inc., Roseanne) narrates the special, which will feature home movies of the Manning brothers in their youth, interviews with those closest to the Manning family and more.  It airs Tuesday, September 24th at 8PM ET on ESPN.

The third of the matchups on which NFL Sunday Countdown will focus is the week two matchup of the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.  Dominguez and company will look at the pump fake of Seattle QB Russell Wilson.  Audiences will get to hear from Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell as he discusses how he helped the former NC State University QB on the use of the technique.

Also planned for coverage in week 2 are matchups between the Cowboys and Chiefs, and the Eagles and Chargers.  More information on all of this week’s coverage from NFL Sunday Countdown is available online at http://www.facebook.com/ESPN and http://espn.go.com/nfl/notebook/_/page/sundaycountdown11/your-weekly-nfl-guide.

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

Monsters University A College Flick For A Younger Generation

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Every generation has its own college movie.  The 1970s boasted the timeless college comedy, Animal House.  In the 1980’s the social strata of college took another turn in the equally popular comedy, Revenge of the Nerds.  The 1990s saw art imitate life when Jeremy Piven (Entourage, Mr. Selfridge) and David Spade (Rules of Engagement, Tommy Boy, Saturday Night Live) went toe to toe in PCU.  The children of the 2000s even had their own college flicks in the Van Wilder franchise.  Sadly, that franchise was largely forgettable.  Now in the second decade of the 2000s, Disney/Pixar has released this generation’s college movie in the form of Monsters University.  It should come as no surprise to audiences that little more than four months after it premiered in U.S. theaters, Monsters University is already scheduled to be released on DVD, Blu-ray and BD/DVD/Digital combo pack.  It’s definitely not the worst movie of the year.  But it isn’t the year’s best, either.  Though in its defense, it does deserve at least a spot on the list of the year’s best movies.  The reason for this mixed response is that on one hand, it should be obvious to older audiences how this family friendly college flick is little more than an update of the previously noted movies.  This isn’t the movie’s only problem.  Just as Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 focused far too much on Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy), so did Monsters University have its share of problems with character development.  In its defense though, what can be said good about Monsters University is that it does teach some valuable lessons, which are just part of the heart that this story boasts.  That heart is just enough to make the movie worth at least one watch for those that have yet to see it.

The most obvious problem that rises with Monsters University is its general lack of originality.  Monsters, Inc. was such a wonderful film because it was original.  Not even the likes of the 1989 Fred Savage/Howie Mandel flick, Little Monsters could compare to Monsters, Inc.  In understanding this, Monsters University sadly pales in comparison to its forerunner in this avenue.  All it did was take elements of all of the previously mentioned college flicks and tone them down to make them into one family friendly movie.  Yes, it’s good that otherwise grown-up movies finally have a family friendly outlet.  But considering that Pixar has quite the history of being a front runner in the modern world of CG “animated” films thanks to its original movies, this mash-up of already made films knocks the studio (and Disney) down a notch.

The mash-up of so many already made films is only one of the problems from which Monsters University suffers.  Not only does it lift liberally from other much more classic movies, it even goes so far as to lift from its own predecessor.  That is obvious throughout the near two hour movie.  There’s even a scene in which Mike and Sully end up in the real world and have a heart to heart talk before their effort to return to the monster world.  This sort of writing behavior harkens right back to another Disney movie that goes by the name of Tron: Legacy.  That movie basically took the original and retold it for a new generation.  Monsters University has done much the same thing, just in reverse.  Yet again, points are taken off for that.  It doesn’t get much better from here.

Monsters University suffers quite a bit thanks to the fact that it lifts from so many other movies and tries to convince audiences that it’s something new.  What makes it worse is that its team of half a dozen writers do something that another previous Disney/Pixar movie had already done.  Just as Cars 2 ended up being more about Mater, Monsters University is more about Mike than his friendship with Sully.  Yes, audiences see how the friendship between the two originally formed.  But more time is spent focusing on Mike’s impact on the friendship than on the friendship as a whole.  Sully (John Goodman) ends up taking a back seat to Billy Crystal this time out, unlike the equal billing shared between the duo in Monsters, Inc.  Along with the story’s other problems, the collective issues noted here weigh down the story to the point that it makes it difficult to see beyond them.  Luckily though, there are some positives to the overall presentations that save it.

The first of the positives that saves Monsters University is its collective life lessons.  The story presented in this movie’s script includes lessons about acceptance, tolerance, and self-confidence.  They are taught as Mike ends up taking on the lead role of his monster fraternity and has to help them be accepted back into the university through a series of challenges.  Mike learns to have more self-confidence in himself through his experiences.  He also realizes a valuable lesson about how the differences in the monsters at Monsters, Incorporated were what made it such a legendary company.  Again, this goes back to that lesson of self-confidence.  It also ties in to the lessons of acceptance and tolerance in the bigger picture as he and his OK brothers fight to win their competitions and earn their way back into the university.  All of these lessons are important for viewers of any age.  So for all of the problems that weigh down this movie, it is these lessons that keep it afloat and worth at least one watch.  The movie will be available in stores and online on October 29th on DVD and DVD/Blu-ray/Digital combo pack.  More information on the home release of Monsters University is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios, http://movies.disney.com/watch-at-home, and http://www.disneystore.com.

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