Fifth Harmony Gets Spooky With Hotel Transylvania 2 Soundtrack’s Lead Single

Courtesy:  Sony Pictures Animation

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Animation

Adam Sandler and company are back. Next month, Sony Pictures Animation will release Hotel Translyvania 2. And ahead of the highly anticipated movie’s release, the hit pop group Fifth Harmony has debuted the lead single from the movie’ s sound track ‘I’m In Love With A Monster’ and audiences can check it out online now via Vevo.

Courtesy:  Epic Records

Courtesy: Epic Records

Audiences can check out the video for ‘I’m In Love With A Monster’ online now via Vevo at The video mixes together footage of the group performing its song in various settings along with footage from the movie as well as appearances from some rather spooky guests. While many of the group’s songs are generally aimed at specific audiences, the infectious grooves and family friendly lyrical content are sure to make the song just one more part of the movie that families will enjoy.

Fifth Harmony is currently winding down its “Reflection Summer Tour.” It is currently scheduled to perform live at Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Maryland on Saturday, September 5th and at the Washington State Fair on Wednesday, September 16th. After those two dates, the group will take some down time, it will be back on Stage on Wednesday, December 2nd at the SAP Center in San Jose, California. All of the latest updates on Fifth Harmony’s tour is available online now along with all of the group’s latest news at:




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WHV Finally Gets One Right With Its New Peanuts Collection

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

This Thanksgiving, Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox will team up to bring audiences the first-ever big screen Peanuts adventure that (go figure) is simply titled The Peanuts Movie. Personal opinions aside, it is interesting to note that as the movie’s debut nears, so is Warner Brothers’ home entertainment division–Warner Home Video (WHV)–stepping up its re-issues of the classic Peanuts TV specials. Already released this year WHV has re-issued Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. Officials with WHV have also announced that the organization will also release Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back) and He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown along with the company’s new compilation set Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection. The latter of the trio is currently planne for a nationwide release on Tuesday, September 15th. Though, interestingly enough it has already been released through Target likely via a special deal between the retailer and the people at WHV. For those that were not lucky enough to pick up the dual-disc collection in its original release via Target will be pleased to add it to their personal collections. The main reason that audiences will be pleased to add it to their collections is its featured specials. It features eleven classic Peanuts TV specials that while previously released on one platform or another are now collected into this much more ergonomic collection. This will be discussed at more length shortly. Another reason that the collection proves so interesting and worth the purchase is the material presented within each special. Audiences actually get to hear an adult talk for the first time ever in one special (She’s A Good Skate, Charlie Brown). And while most audiences are familiar with the classic Peanuts holiday specials, some will be surprised that there is another holiday special of sorts that is just as deserving of attention in the form of What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? This special is a deeply moving Memorial Day special that will impact viewers of all ages. Last of note in regards to this collection’s positives is that classic hand-drawn animation style. The old school style of artwork is yet another example of what once made animated features truly animated and in turn truly entertaining. Each noted element shows in its own way that Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is a surprising new release from WHV. It would be nice to think that maybe it marks the beginning of WHV finally moving in the right direction after having slid in the wrong direction for the past couple of years or so. One can only hope. Even if it is just a random diamond in the rough from the once powerhouse studio, it proves through all three noted elements together, to be one that any Peanuts fan will happily welcome into his or her home DVD library.

Warner Home Video has been noticeably declining over the course of the past two years or more. That is evident through every one of its releases both for families and for select audiences. Said releases have shown that someone(s) at WHV apparently did not and does not care about providing audiences with quality home releases. For all of the problematic releases that WHV has put out in stores over the past couple of years or so, finally a random diamond in the rough from WHV will be released very soon in the form of the new Peanuts collection Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection. This collection of TV specials includes eleven classic Peanuts TV specials that some of which were nominated for Emmy Awards while certain others actually received the coveted trophy. It should be noted that all eleven of the specials featured in this new double-disc collection have each previously been released via one platform or another. Some have been released on VHS while others have previously been released on DVD. Others have even been issued and re-issued on one platform then another. Despite this, some viewers out there might not have been lucky enough to add one, another or more of the featured specials up until this point. That being the case, all eleven specials show collectively to be of the utmost importance for all viewers. That is because more than likely among the legions of Peanuts fans around the world few to any likely have all of the included specials.

The inclusion of each of its specials in one collection is good for Peanuts fans everywhere in large part because having them all in one place means just that. It means that for the first time ever each one of the specials has been finally released on one platform on which all audiences can watch them. No one is left behind. On another level, for those that had one or more of the specials in question from their previous releases can finally eliminate those platforms (or at least most of them if they own the original VHS copies of said specials). That will ultimately lead to saved space for many fans on their respective DVD racks. Again, this might not apply for every Peanuts fan. But it will definitely apply to many fans. And that being the case, it makes the collection’s ergonomic factor that much more important to the whole of its success and enjoyment.

The episodes presented in Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection show clearly why they are within themselves quite important to the whole of the collection. Examining the episodes on a closer level, ther writing shows to be just as important to the collection as the episodes themselves. In examining the specials’ writing it becomes clear why they were either nominated or in some cases even won an Emmy. That is most evident through the surprisingly moving special What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown. This sequel of sorts to Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back) follows Charlie Brown and company on their departure from France. Along the way, the Peanuts gang happens to arrive at Normandy and the site of the Allied landing on D-Day. The history lesson provided by Linus upon their arrival is unbiased and moving all at the same time. The writers don’t pull any punches here, revealing that the Allied attack on Normandy was in fact anything but perfect. Linus notes in his lesson that weather conditions had ruined the mission so much that Allied commanders even considered pulling back. That is a lesson that sadly very few history teachers and professors alike will teach in the classroom. So it is nice to have that historical truth noted in a special that is aimed at younger viewers.

In another of the collection’s episodes, She’s A Good Skate, Charlie Brown, audiences actually get to hear an adult speak for the first (and probably only)time in the history of the Peanuts TV specials. The adult in question is Peppermint Patty’s teacher. She continuously calls on Patty as Patty continues falling asleep in class thanks to her early morning skating practice. Yes, skating. That is another reason that the writing in this special proves so notable. Anyone that knows their Peanuts history knows that Peppermint Patty is more of a tomboy than a girly girl. Heck, she was even voiced by males in a number of the specials. So having Patty taking part in a sport that is traditionally more aimed at females than males shows a completely opposite side of Patty and to the Peanuts universe in whole.  It is a change that all audiences will agree now in the 21st century is a welcome change.  It shows that it’s okay for a girl to be girly and one of the boys.  Simply put, it really serves to defy those strict, standard gender roles established by society.  Whether or not that is the reason that it at least received an Emmy nomination, it is one more reason that the writing behind this special stands out so strongly as one more part of the whole of the collection’s writing.

Why, Charlie Brown, Why? is perhaps the strongest evidence of the importance of the writing behind the collection’s featured episodes. This episode tackles the issue of cancer. On a more specific level, it tackles the issue of childhood cancer and the impact of cancer on both the victim and his or her friends and family. Its story centers on a young girl named Janet who is diagnosed with leukemia. It just so happens that she is friends with Linus and the rest of the Peanuts gang. Though, Linus is the main character of this story. That side element of the story’s writing will be discussed shortly. Sticking on the main topic, the manner in which the writers tackled the subject is hugely worthy of applause. It was handled with the utmost gentility and in a fashion that also made the topic accessible even for much younger viewers. That in itself makes this special more than just a special. It is special in every sense of the word. It’s just one aspect of the special’s writing that makes it so notable among the others included in this set. The fact that Linus was made the story’s central character makes it even more worth the watch. It’s not the first time that Charlie Brown took a back seat to his Peanuts pals. But it is one of the most successful episodes that featured someone other than Charlie Brown at the center of the story. That is especially the case as audiences see Linus actually lose his cool in a very rare instance. He loses it when another child makes fun of Janet for having lost her hair right in front of him. Audiences will find themselves cheering Linus on and even doing so with the slightest tear in their eyes. That rare moment really exemplifies the pent-up feelings that not only children feel in a situation such as that presented here, but grown-ups, too. So for that reason too, the writing behind Why, Charlie Brown, Why? shows even more the importance of the episodes’ writing in whole in examining the set in whole. It is just one more example of the importance of the writing within each of the set’s episodes. The writing within each of the remaining eight specials shows in its own way why the writing in whole is so important to the episodes’ enjoyment and the success of the set in whole. And together with the episodes themselves, both elements together make a strong argument why every Peanuts fan should have this new collection in his or her own home DVD library. They still are just part of the whole of the collection’s positives. Last of note is the animation style within each episode.

Both the episodes featured throughout the body of Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection and the writing within each special makes for plenty of reason for Peanuts fans to appreciate this latest collection of Peanuts classics. Of course what examination of such a classic collection would be complete without mention of the specials’ animation style. Every one of the specials featured as part of Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection was drawn by hand. That means that endless hours were spent bringing to leave each and every second of each special. Now being that each special runs roughly in the range of about twenty minutes (or just a little more in some cases), the math adds up to quite a bit of time spent on bringing each special to life for broadcast. That says a lot when these specials are compared to the largely CG presentations out there today that try to claim themselves as being animated. They are animated in name only. These specials show everything that was once great about true, animated features. Each one of the specials boasts a similar look. But there are also minute details within each special that set them apart. Audiences that have eagle eyes will catch that minutia. The same can’t be said of today’s CG creations. It really gives these classic specials a real soul and heart. Together with the episodes’ impressive writing and the episodes themselves all three elements come together to make Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection a clear must have for any real devoted Peanuts fan.

Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is a must have for any real Peanuts fan. That is the case whether or not said fan already owns any of the specials presented here on their original release platforms. The collective writing presented within each of the collection’s makes the episodes and the collection in whole even more enjoyable. The standout animation style presented across each of the collection’s specials rounds out the presentation. It reminds audiences by comparison of what once made animation so great. The animation is original. Even the upcoming Peanuts Movie that is due out this Thanksgiving doesn’t entirely hold up to that style of animation despite the efforts of those behind the movie to make it look like the classics on which it is based. Each element in itself proves to be an important part of the collections’ whole. Altogether they make Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection a collection that any true-blooded Peanuts fan would himself or herself be honored to have in his or her home DVD library. Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection is available now exclusively in Target stores nationwide. It will allegedly be available nationwide in other stores beginning Tuesday, September 15th. More information on this and other upcoming Peanuts releases is available online now along with the latest Peanuts news at:




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Indiepix Import Ships Sails Despite Syncing Issues

Courtesy:  Indiepix Films

Courtesy: Indiepix Films

Earlier this year, independent movie studio Indiepix imported the Turkish foreign film Ships for American audiences. The movie, which originally debuted in its home country in January 2014, is quite the interesting work. Coming in at just over the ninety-minute mark, its script lies at the heart of its interest. The movie’s script follows a young man named Ali (Ugur Uzunel–El yazisi) as he ponders his life in the port town that is he calls home in regards to his own future, his relationship with his father, and much more. As the story, penned by writer/director Elif Refig, progresses, it becomes more than just a story ruminating on one’s place in the world but one that even boasts just the slightest amount of romance. Luckily that romance factor doesn’t overpower the movie’s main plot. Rather it plays into the movie’s overall plot, leading to a deep philosophical (and psychological) concept that will definitely have viewers talking after the movie ends. While the movie’s script plays a powerful part in its surprising enjoyment, it can’t be said that the movie is pefect. There is a clearly noticable problem with the movie’s sync. The movie is not dubbed in English. So this is not just the standard English voice actor dubbing over the foreign original. The audio and video is at the very least a good second and a half off from one another. To some this may not seem like that much. But it is noticeable. And while it doesn’t necessarily kill the movie (or the bonus short included with the movie–it also has a sync issue)it is a hindrance that must be noted. Having noted the painfully obvious issue with the movie’s sync (and that of the movie’s companion short film) that noted bonus companion short film adds even more to the movie’s overall presentation. That is the case even with its sync issue. It abrely tops the twenty-minute mark. But in the course of that time, it achieves plenty. And even despite it having its own syncing issue it still combines with the presentation’s main movie to make Ships a must see indie fick and one of this year’s top new independent films.

Indiepix Films’ recently imported independent foreign film Ships is a must see for anyone wanting to escape the monotony of the material being churned out by Hollywood’s “Power Five Studios.” It is also one of this year’s best new independent movies. The main reason that it is worthy of holding both titles is its script. Penned by writer/director Elif Refig, the script behind this movie isn’t just some overly artsy forieng film that is artsy for the sake of it. Rather it balances that art film approach with a mainstream style story and presentation that is just as accessible to audiences as any human drama churned out by Hollywood’s “Power Five studios” in the last twenty years or more. The story that lies within the movie script follows Ali as he ponders his place in the world and comes to the realization that he needs to get out of his hometown and branch out. That realization becomes even stronger when he meets what will become his female love interest Eda (M. Sitare Akbas–Ada, Not Worth A Fig, Dila Hanim), who also feels the need to get on one of the boats (there is one in particular called the Vamos of which Ali dreams and thus thinks will be the pair’s ticket out of their town) and sail away. What is really interesting about all of this is that Refig flips the standard gender roles used in the movie’s American counterparts in the development of both Ali and Eda. Ali is a dreamer while Eda is something of a bad girl figure, painting graffiti, wearing the dark hood, etc. early on. And it is in fact her growing relationship with Ali that leads her, not him, to change. This is a subtle element of Refig’s script. But it is an element that proves quite interesting to those that pay close enough attention to catch it. Even more interesting are the philosophical and even psychological discussions that are certain to be generated by Refig’s script by the time the movie ends. It will raise discussions on whether Ali’s dreams about the Vamos were n fact real signs or if perhaps they were just the catalyst for the relationship between he and Eda that forms over time. It’s just one more of so many elements within the movie’s script that make the script so important to the movie’s success and enjoyment. There is potentially more that this critic might have missed in regards to the scripting. That aside, the elements that were in fact noted here and the expert manner in which Refig balanced each element within the body of the script shows even more so why the script behind Ships is so important to its enjoyment and overall success.

For all of the positives that Ships’ script presents, it is painful to say that in watching this movie, the script is its one major positive. In other words the movie (and its companion bonus short film) does have a noticeable problem. Audiences will note that both the central presentation and its companion short film both suffer from a noticeable issue of the audio and video’s syncing. Before anyone gets upset, automatically thinking that it is just a dubbing issue, that is not the case. The cast’s speaking parts were not covered by English-speaking voice actors. Rather the cast’s speaking parts were handled via English subtitles. This makes it painfully clear that there is a problem with the movie’s syncing. It is not relegated to just those speaking parts either. The audio and video appear to be out of syn from the movie’s opening scene to its last. Some will attempt to argue that this is a non-issue since English-speaking viewers will probably spend most of their time reading the subtitles. However, the rebuttal to that argument is that even those audiences will still be watching the movie at the same time as reading the movie’s subtitles. This problem isn’t relegated to just Ships. It is just as obvious in the movie’s companion short film Man To Be. In defense of those behind both presentations, the synching issue doest not necessarily eliminate any reason to watch either film. but it does have a noticeable impact on the movies’ enjoyment. That being the case, both Ships and Man To Be are still worth at least one watch even with that painfully obvious issue thus leading again to the argument that Ships is at the very least one of 2015’s top new independent movies. It just can’t be said that it is the year’s best because of that issue.

Ships is one of this year’s best new independent movies. This is even despite the noticable issue of its syncing between its audio and video throughout. It is so well worth the watch because of its largely original and creative script. Thanks to writer/director Elif Refig’s attention to detail, it proves itself to be anything but just another existential coming of age piece. Rather it is something much deeper that will keep audiences engaged throughout the course of its ninety-two minute run time. It is just one part of the whole that makes this movie worth the watch. The inclusion of its companion bonus short film Man To Be is one more reason that this presentation proves so powerful. Just as with Ships, Man To Be proves so enjoyable thanks to its script. The acting of its cast adds even more enjoyment to this deeply human story. It presents its young lead actor having to grow up very fast because of some very difficult situations. He lives at home with his mother, grandmother, and uncle, who happens to be a not so nice person. He plays a direct role in him becoming a man at a far too young age, as he is forced into situations to which no one at his age should be exposed. From seeing the girl he is crushing going off with his uncle, to having to save his uncle from some very bad men, to having to do his uncle’s dirty work trying to convince his grandmother to sell her house, the young man in this movie faces some very difficult situations. He is even forced to make a literal life and death situation in the film’s climax that no one will see coming. The ending won’t be given away, but he comes out okay. Though it can be said that as is evidenced in the film’s final scene how okay is debatable. It and the rest of the film will leave viewers talking just as much as they will in watching Ships. This being the case, the combination of both movies together makes Ships even more clearly a must see. This is despite both films suffering from a painfully obvious issue with the synching of their audio and video. Even with that problem noted, the movie’s scripts and the work of each movie’s cast together proves Ships in whole to be a must see for anyone wanting to escape the monotony of Hollywood’s endless lust for prequels, sequels, and reboots and in turn one of the year’s best new independent movies.

While not perfect (thanks to the issues with its production values) Ships is not an altogether awful movie. Rather it is actually a surprisingly interesting film that any true lover of the film arts will want to see. Its script and the work of the movie’s cast coupled with both noted elements of Man To Be make the presentation in whole one of this year’s best new independent movies. It is available now and can be ordered online via Indiepix Films’ online store at More information on this and other titles from Indiepix Films is available online now at:




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Out Of The Vault: Halloween Is A Frightfully Fun Treat For Every Nicktoons Nostalgic

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Nickelodeon

August is almost over and September is about to begin. That can only mean one thing: Halloween is right around the corner. With the unofficial start of the annual holiday season nearing once again audiences are going to start seeing any number of seasonally-themed DVDs and Blu-rays hitting store shelves if they haven’t already. While many of the DVDs and Blu-rays are the same ones that are seen every year, there are some new additions each year. One of the most notable of this year’s crop of new holiday-themed DVDs is Nickelodeon’s new Out Of The Vault: Halloween collection. This new collection of Halloween-themed classic Nicktoons episodes is one that audiences of all ages. The main reason for this is the collection’s episodes. The collection features sixteen classic Nicktoons episodes pulled from five classic Nicktoons series. Their presentation is relatively well-balanced over the course of the disc’s roughly three and a half hour run time. The writing behind each of the featured episodes is just as important to the collection’s enjoyment as the episodes and their distribution. The writing incorporated into each of the episodes equal amounts and frights and fun. Rounding out the reasons that this brand new compilation is so much fun is the various animation styles of each series. It is a subtle factor. But it really shows in the bigger picture one of the most important parts of what once made cartoons great. That will be discussed at more length later. But it is just as important as any of the other reasons noted here. All things considered, Out Of The Vault: Halloween shows in the end to be one of the best of this year’s crop of new holiday DVDs and Blu-rays and one more collection that any “Nicktoons Nostalgic” will want to have in his or her own home collection.

Nickelodeon’s new holiday DVD Out Of The Vault: Halloween is one of the best of this year’s new crop of holiday DVDs and Blu-rays. Holidays aside, it is also another collection that any “Nicktoons Nostalgic” will want to have in his or her own home collection. The main reason that it is such an enjoyable watch is its featured episodes. The episodes are not limited to just a small handful from one classic Nicktoon. Rather they are pulled from a healthy spread of the network’s classic animated series. Those series include: Hey Arnold!, Angry Beavers, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, and CatDog. Each series is well-represented, too with four of the series being represented by three episode each and the fifth—Rocko’s Modern Life—being represented by four episodes. That brings the episode total to sixteen episodes and roughly three and a half hours of programming. In an even larger sense, what such a balanced representation does is give those that might otherwise not have any of the series’ previously released box sets the chance to finally own at least a part of the featured series and kick-start their collections. Keeping this in mind, the episodes presented in Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory’s new Nicktoons Halloween collection show that on their own, they collectively make a solid reason for this collection to be part of any Nicktoons Nostalgic’s home library.

The episodes featured in Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory’s new Nicktoons Halloween collection by themselves why this collection is one of the best of this year’s new crop of holiday DVDs and Blu-rays. Of course the episodes themselves are just one part of the reason that the collection proves to be so impressive. The writing that went into the episodes is another reason that this collection proves to be such a solid new release. “Arnold’s Halloween” is just one example of how the writing behind the collection’s episodes makes the collection in whole so much fun. This episode playfully pays homage to both to Orson Welles’ classic radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. It just adds a little bit of a spin that will have audiences of all ages laughing throughout the episode and will ultimately leave them wanting to watch it again not just during Halloween but during any time of the year. The Angry Beavers episode “The Day The World Got Really Screwed Up” shows doubly just how important the writing behind the collections episode is to the presentation in whole. The first way in which it does so with this episode is the very title of the episode. The title is a playful poke at the classic 1951 sci-fi flick The Day The Earth Stood Still. the episode itself pays tribute to all of the classic sci-fi/horror flicks that were churned out throughout the 1950s. Having Dag and Norbert actually become part of one of those classic films puts its own spin on those classics that will have older audiences and younger viewers alike laughing together at the inanity of it all. “This Is Your Brain on Ickis” is yet another example of how the episodes’ writing makes this collection so enjoyable. As with the noted Angry Beavers episode, the title of this episode of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters in itself an example of how its writing makes it so fun. The title is a playful homage to the 80s anti-drug campaign that told viewers “This is your brain on drugs” as it showed an egg frying in a pan. The episode itself shows the strength of its writing as Ickis shrinks down and takes over monster hunter Simon’s brain. The end result will have viewers laughing tears of joy. It is just one more example of how the writing behind the episodes featured in this collection makes the presentation in whole so enjoyable. There are plenty of other episodes featured throughout this collection that could be used as examples of the strength of the episodes’ writing. Those episodes and the ones noted here together show in whole why the writing behind each episode together with the episodes themselves makes Out of the Vault: Halloween a must have this Halloween for any Nicktoons Nostalgic.

The episodes featured as part of Out of the Vault: Halloween and the writing behind each episode both make for plenty of reason for any Nicktoons Nostalgic to add this DVD to their personal home DVD library. While both of the noted elements are clear reasons that this collection shines so brightly, the animation presented in each series proves to be just as important to the set in whole. Most people probably won’t pay that much attention to the animation style of each series presented in this DVD. But the reality is that the animation style of each series is just as important to the enjoyment of this collection as anything else. That is because it serves as a reminder of the artistic originality that once made cartoons so great. By comparison there is a troubling lack of that artistic creativity and originality in today’s cartoons. The series on television today by and large don’t even deserve to be called animated series being that they are cookie cutter creations made by computers rather than the human hand. Looking at the animation style of each presented series, it reminds audiences of the importance of putting one’s heart and soul into a cartoon rather than just moving a mouse and using a bunch of desktop tools. From the somewhat grainy look of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters to the softer design style of Hey Arnold! and CatDog to the rigidity of the animation in The Angry Beavers and even the almost free-flowing style of Rocko’s Modern Life the different animation styles within each series serves to give each series just as much of its own identity as the writing behind each series’ episodes. Both of those elements come together with the episodes themselves and their balance from one series to the next to make fully clear why Out of the Vault: Halloween is a must have for any Nicktoons Nostalgic and one of the best of this year’s crop of new holiday DVDs and Blu-rays.

Out of the Vault: Halloween is not the first Nicktoons compilation to be released this year by Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory. It is however, just as enjoyable as the companies’ previous compilation disc. The episodes featured in this collection and their balance from one series to the next are collectively one reason that it is so enjoyable. The largely laugh-inciting writing behind each series’ episodes is another reason that the collection proves so enjoyable. And the original, hand-drawn animation at the base of each episode rounds out the presentation. Each series’ animation reminds audiences of what once made cartoons so great. All three reasons considered together, they make Out of the Vault: Halloween one of the best of this year’s crop of new holiday DVDs and Blu-rays and a frightfully fun treat for every Nicktoons Nostalgic. It will be available next Tuesday, September 1st in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon is available online now at:




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2015’s First Family Film Is Also One Of Its Least Enjoyable Films

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Group/Dimension

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Weinstein Group/Dimension

Anchor Bay Entertainment is one of the biggest and most influential independent studios in the entertainment world today.  It is the driving force behind no fewer than three of AMC’s biggest series, one of which—The Walking Dead—is one of the biggest series on television today.  Its role in the Starz network has also led to the success of series such as Black Sails, Da Vinci’s Demons, and Blunt Talk.  It is also at least partially behind some of the biggest independent movies to come along in recent years.  Those movies include the likes of Henry Poole Is Here, Unfinished Song, and Shanghai Calling just to name a few.  For all of the impressive marks on the studio’s resume, it proved earlier this year with its new big screen adaptation of author Michael Bond’s Paddington books that it is not infallible.  While the movie is a fun little flick for the whole family it is hardly one of 2015’s most memorable movies.  That is thanks in large part to its unoriginal script, which can easily be compared to the equally forgettable 1992 canine-centered movie Beethoven.  Both movies’ scripts are so similar that it is impossible say that this work has any real originality.  This is even despite Paddington sticking to its source material.  As troubling as this is to the whole of Paddington, it would be unfair to say that the movie is a total loss just from this one element.  In the story’s defense, actress Nicole Kidman is to be commended for her work as the villainous taxidermist Millicent.  The movie’s makeup and costume departments are both just as much to applaud for their work in making Kidman into Millicent.  It is thanks to their work that she is nearly unrecognizable.  Sadly their work and that of Kidman herself are the only real shining gems of Paddington.  The special effects used to bring Paddington to life are nothing new.  They can easily be compared to the work of those behind Yogi Bear and so many other CG/live action hybrid flicks before it.  And as beautiful as the story’s backdrop is even it can’t save the movie.  That is even when it is set alongside the movie’s only other positives.  That being the case, the sad reality of Paddington is that even as entertaining as it is for the whole family, it is largely one of this year’s most forgettable theatrical releases.

Paddington was one of the most anticipated family movies of 2015 ahead of its release early this year.  Sadly the hype and anticipation over this new big screen release proved to be all for naught.  That is because it proved in the end to be in fact one of the year’s least memorable movies.  The main reason that it proved to be such an unforgettable work is its script.  In watching this movie, there is no denying its blatant similarities to the 1992 family flick Beethoven.  It’s almost as if the movie’s writing team of Paul King and Hamish McColl took Beethoven’s script and tweaked it to meet the needs of this story.  For all intents and purposes, Paddington was an orphan much like Beethoven when he [Paddington] was taken in by the Brown family.  Sure, Paddington wasn’t adopted from a pet store.  But it can be argued in regards to the character development exhibited through the story’s progression that he does in fact become “adopted” more or less.  It’s just a different scenario.  As the story progress, audiences see Paddington pursued by Kidman’s villainous Millicent only to ultimately meet a rather hilarious end just as Dr. Varnick (Dean Jones—The Love Bug, Clear and Present Danger, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes) does in Beethoven.  For the sake of those that have not seen either movie, neither character’s fate will be revealed here.  Getting back on the subject, it can be easily seen in putting the two scripts side-by-side just how similar the pair is to one another.  That being the case, it is difficult to take Paddington with much seriousness or even respect being that this is the case.

If the similarities between the two movie’s scripts aren’t enough to convince audiences of just how unforgettable Paddington proves to be, a comparison of some of the movie’s characters might help convince viewers.  We will start with a comparison of the stories’ father figures.  Charles Grodin’s George Newton character from Beethoven has been almost identically replicated in Paddington in the form of Hugh Bonneville’s Henry Brown.  That replication is right down to his original, gruff reluctance to take in Paddington when the Browns first meet Paddington.  George Newton was much the same way with Beethoven in that movie.  Young Judy Brown (Madeline Harris—The White Queen, Being Human, Man Down) is a near mirror image of Beethoven’s Ryce Newton (Nicholle Tom—The Nanny, Justice League, Beverly Hills, 90210).  Both actresses portrayed the moody daughter figure in their respective roles.  And just as Sarah Rose Karr’s (Kindergarten Cop, Father of the Bride, Beethoven’s 2nd) Emily was Beethoven’s best friend in that movie so is Jonathan Brown’s (Samuel Joslin—The Impossible) relationship with Paddington much that same in this movie.  Taking into consideration the overall lack of originality in regards to both the movie’s script and its characters (and their growth over the course of the movie’s progression), it should be clear as to why it is so difficult to call this movie anything more than perhaps a one-time watch at best.

The issues with Paddington’s script both in regards to its story and its characters and their development do plenty to keep the movie from being anything that families will remember for years to come.  For all of its problems Paddington is not a total loss.  It does have some positives.  One of those few, rare positives is the work of actress Nicole Kidman as the evil taxidermist Millicent.  Millicent takes the character established by Dean Jones in Beethoven and steps up that role even more.  What that means to say is that she really is believable in her delusions.  Yet at the same time there’s a certain comic element about Millicent that Kidman brings out on camera that audiences will love just as much.  The combination of those two elements together makes Kidman the real star of the movie interestingly enough.  It makes a person want to see the movie if only for her performance.  On a related note, those that were responsible for Kidman’s makeup and attire are worthy of their own credit.  That is the movie’s only other real, noticeable positive.

Nicole Kidman may have played the role of the villain in Anchor Bay’s new CG/live-action hybrid adaptation of Paddington.  But even playing the villain, she was the real shining gem of this otherwise forgettable flick.  That is because the movie’s script—both in regards to its story and characters and their development—is anything but original or even memorable.  Luckily she isn’t the only bright element of this movie.  Those that were responsible for Kidman’s makeup and costume are also to be commended.  That is because collectively, they made her nearly unrecognizable.  If viewers were to see her on screen in this movie without knowing it was her ahead of time, they would not have known at all that it was her.  That is unless they were to have sat through the movie’s credits or researched the character online via a website such as, or other similar sites.  From her hairdo (was that a wig or not?) to her costumes to even minute details such as her overall makeup, those responsible for bringing Millicent to life on screen (at least in terms of her look) are to be highly commended for their work.  Maybe that is why Kidman did so well in her portrayal.  She felt that said individuals had done such an impressive job in their charge that she felt that comfortable in her own acting.  That could well be just this critic’s own take of course.  But it is still something worth considering.  Regardless, it is safe to say that the work of those individuals along with Kidman’s own work are the only real elements of Paddington worth watching.  The movie’s script in every one of its aspects really does nothing to make the movie memorable.  That being the case, it is safe to say that while Paddington is not this year’s worst movie—that dishonor currently sits between Marvel’s new Avengers movie and Universal’s new Despicable Me spinoff Minions—it definitely is hardly one of the year’s best new big screen features.

It’s sad to say that Anchor Bay’s attempt to bring author Michael Bond’s beloved furry friend to life on the big screen.  That’s especially the case because its debut early this year marked the first time ever that Bond’s character had been adapted to the big screen.  Sure there was a TV show some decades ago.  But up until this year, no studio had had the gumption to adapt it for a big screen feature.  For that reason alone, Anchor Bay deserves at least some credit for having the bravery to give it a chance.  One can only hope that considering its weak, unoriginal script juxtaposed by the otherwise impressive work of actress Nicole Kidman and those charged with helping bring Kidman’s character to life, that the movie’s now rumored sequel will fare better.  That is because while this movie is not the year’s worst new theatrical offering, it is definitely not one of the year’s best either.  Here’s to hoping, Paddington.  Here’s to hoping.  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

Level 33 Entertainment’s Latest Release Is A Moving, Powerful Story

Courtesy:  Level 33 Entertainment

Courtesy: Level 33 Entertainment 

Every year, Hollywood’s major studios use the annual summer movie season to bring audiences its biggest cinematic offerings. However, if reactions to many of the prequels, sequels, reboots, and spinoffs being churned out in recent years is any indication, those studios do not and have not had much to offer audiences in the way of anything original. Thankfully the independent studios out there have clearly picked up the slack from their more well-known counterparts. They have done so in quite impressive fashion, too. Movies such as Butter (2011—The Weinstein Company), The Decoy Bride (2011—IFC Films), Shanghai Calling (2012—Anchor Bay Entertainment), My Uncle Rafael (2012—World Entertainment Connections), Life’s A Breeze (2013—Magnolia Pictures), The Voices (2014—Lionsgate), A Bet’s A Bet (2014—Cinedigm), and so many others have proven time and again in recent years just how much the independent movie industry has to offer audiences. Now independent studio Level 33 Entertainment has strengthened that argument even more with the U.S. release of Spike Island this past May. Spike Island is a powerful coming of age story that centers on a group of five young men trying to get their band’s demo tape to their favorite band, The Stone Roses. The display of the boys’ personal growth throughout the movie will at times move viewers to smile and laugh, and at other times cry. That ability to so easily keep audiences engaged and in turn move them so much says plenty of the writing behind this movie. It in turn makes the writing the key element to note of the movie’s success. Writer Chris Coghill’s script makes for plenty of reason for audiences to check out Spike Island. It is not, however, the only reason that audiences will appreciate this movie. The movie’s casting plays a dual role in its success. That dual role includes the very fact that the movie’s cast is in fact made up of actual teens instead of older actors trying unsuccessfully to portray teens, and the its members’ collective talents. Last but hardly least of note that makes the home release of Spike Island surprisingly interesting is its bonus material. The standard behind-the-scenes/Making of featurette is there. The standard cast interviews are interesting. That’s given. But most interesting to note of the bonus material are the “Shadowcaster Studio Session” and “Zippy Drumming” footage. Both of these elements show that the movie’s young cast members did in fact perform rather than pretend as if they were playing in a music video. This is a rarity when it comes to movies involving actors performing to that extent. So, it is nice to see and hear this approach used here. It is through this element as well as through the movie’s script, and casting that Spike Island proves in the end to more proof of the importance and value of the independent movie industry especially considering the current state of the mainstream movie industry.

Level 33 Entertainment’s new drama Spike Island is one of the best movies that the independent studio has released to date. It is another example of the increasing validity of the independent movie industry and its equally growing importance when compared to that of Hollywood’s major studios today. It proves this primarily through its script, which was crafted by screenwriter Chris Coghill. The script presents a story that centers on a group of young musicians living in Manchester, England that have dreams of being superstars. And their way of trying to hit it big is by going to see their favorite band, The Stone Roses, at an upcoming performance at Spike Island. Now it goes without saying that this is not the first time that any writer has ever used such a plot for a movie or even episode of a television program. However, Coghill did more than just make what would have otherwise been another stale, trite comedy. Rather he incorporated a much more dramatic element into the story to make it a work that will move audiences just as much as it will entertain them. The element in question is a balance of the boys’ sense of self-importance and the reality of their naivety. At no point does Coghill try to go over the top with this balance. Instead he makes certain to make them one hundred percent relatable to his viewers. This includes the attention paid to the boys’ having to balance the trials and tribulations of their personal lives with the happenings of their own intersecting lives as a “band.” Such a realistic plot and equally realistic portrayal of the story’s characters through the movie’s script make Spike Island’s script quite the impressive work and a solid foundation on which the rest of the movie’s elements rest. The second of those elements in question is its casting, speaking of the story’s characters.

Chris Coghill’s work on the script for Spike Island is exceptionally impressive to say the very least. Thanks to his creativity he has taken in his script a rather standard coming of age story and made it into a work that stands out from so many other works within that genre. For all that the script does for Spike Island it is just one of the movie’s positives worth noting. The movie’s casting does just as much for its success as its script. Its casting actually proves in not but two ways why it is so important to the movie. The central way in which it proves so important to the movie is the very fact that the cast is actually a group of teens. Casting director Jane Ripley is to be commended for paying attention to Coghill’s script and making sure to make the cast not only the proper age for the story but was talented, too. It would have been so easy for Ripley to take the easy road and bring in a group of older actors and have them play younger characters as far too many studios do. Thankfully she opted to not take that route. Being that she took the high road and actually brought in a group of teens to fill out the story’s roles, it made the story that much more believable. The collective talents of the cast in their roles took that believability and stepped it up even more. It is clear in watching this movie just how seriously the cast took its roles. Just as it would have been so easy for Ripley to take the easy road in casting the roles, it would have been just as easy for the cast to take the easy road and play up the teen stereotypes. But not one member of the cast did that. The result of that serious approach is a group of performances that is entirely believable and that audiences will in turn want to watch. It is yet another reason that audiences will agree that Spike Island is one of this year’s best new independent movies.

The work of writer Chris Coghill and that of Spike Island’s cast (and of casting director Jane Ripley in having chosen the movie’s cast) are both equally important to the success of this surprisingly entertaining and deeply touching story. While both elements play their own important part in the movie’s success and enjoyment, there is still one more element to note in that success and enjoyment. That final element is the movie’s bonus material. The standard “making of” featurette is there. And it goes without saying that getting to hear from the movie’s cast and crew adds its own extra insight into the movie. But most interesting to note of the bonus material are the “Shadowcaster Studio Session” and “Zippy Drumming” footage. Both of these bonuses go to show that the movie’s young cast actually was performing in the given segments. They weren’t just performing to some pre-recorded work as if they were in a music video. That is made especially clear as audiences get to see Zippy (Jordan Murphy) handling drumming duties. Murphy really holds his own, too as he performs. This is so important to note because so few movies that include musical numbers actually feature their casts performing the music. Being that this movie’s cast did in fact perform its given parts makes suspension of disbelief that much easier. It also serves to once again prove the importance of bonus materials in a movie. It shows that bonus material can make an otherwise forgettable movie into something worth the occasional watch, a good movie into an even better movie and a great movie into something even greater. In the case of this movie, these two bonuses come together with the work of the movie’s script and that of its cast (and casting director) to make it one of this year’s great independent movies. And in all honesty, they make it potentially one of this year’s best movies considering the lackluster offerings by Hollywood’s major studios so far this year.

Spike Island may not be one of the biggest movies to be released this year, being an indie flick. But in comparison to the offerings from Hollywood’s “Power Five” studios, it can be said that it is both one of this year’s best new independent movies and even one of the year’s best and most original movies overall. Its script takes a relatively oft-used plot element and expands on it to make a story that will keep audiences engaged from beginning to end, moving them quite deeply along the way. Thanks to casting director Jane Ripley and that of the movie’s cast, suspension of disbelief becomes quite easy. The bonus material included in the movie’s home release makes that suspension of disbelief all the easier as audiences see that the cast isn’t just performing to a pre-recorded track in the performance scenes. Rather the cast is proven to actually be performing itself. That is rare both in the mainstream movie world and that of independent releases. All three elements combined, they prove wholly why Spike Island is one of this year’s best new independent movies and potentially one of the best new domestic releases overall. Spike Island is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Level 33 Entertainment is available online now at:




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Pac-Man Fever Returns Just In Time For Pixels Premiere

Courtesy:  ABC PR

Courtesy: ABC PR

Adam Sandler’s latest big screen feature Pixels hits theaters across America today. In celebration of the movie’s nationwide premiere the classic hit song ‘Pac Man Fever’ has now gotten new life.

An updated version of Buckner & Garcia’s hit song debuted this week featuring film/game producer and personality Jace Hall. Audiences can check out the song’s lyric video online now via at

Courtesy:  ABCPR/

Courtesy: ABCPR/

The original take of ‘Pac-Man Fever’ sold an incredible 1.2 million copies in 1982. Of those 1.2 million copies, a sum of 10,000 copies was moved in the song’s first week of availability, pushing the song into the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles Chart. The surprising results of the song’s creation led to the release of a full album that took only two weeks for Buckner and Garcia to complete. The album, also titled Pac-Man Fever, sold more than two and a half million copies pushing the album all the way to the #9 spot on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart. Since that time the single, which started it all has gone on to sell more than two million copies. Audiences of all ages will be especially interested to note of this update that it retains the original vocal track by Gary Garcia, who passed away in 2011.

Audiences can see a performance of the original ‘Pac-Man Fever’ from a 1982 broadcast of American Bandstand online now via YouTube at

More information on ‘Pac-Man Fever’ and its subsequent album is available online now at:






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