Audiences Of All Ages Will “Dig” ‘Alpha & Omega: Dino Digs’

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Splash Entertainment

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Splash Entertainment

Lionsgate has officially released the latest installment in its long-running Alpha & Omega series, Alpha & Omega: Dino Digs.  The series’ sixth installment, it is another enjoyable addition to the family friendly animated franchise.  The movie’s writing is the most important of its elements.  This applies to the movie’s main story and to its underlying eco-friendly message.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as its writing.  Last but hardly last of note in this movie is its collective run time and pacing.  Each element is important in its own right to the movie’s presentation.  Altogether they make this movie another enjoyable installment in Lionsgate’s Alpha & Omega franchise and worth at least one watch.

The latest addition to Lionsgate’s Alpha & Omega franchise, Alpha & Omega Dino Digs is another enjoyable installment in the studio’s ongoing series of adventures from the wolfpack.  Its ranking from the series best to worst is up to each given viewer.  But it can be said in watching this forty-seven minute movie that it is worth at least one watch regardless of where viewers feel it fits into the franchise’s overall picture.  The main reason for this is the movie’s writing, courtesy of Tom Kane.  This applies both to the movie’s story and its underlying eco-friendly message.  Kate and Humphrey’s pups –Stinky, Claudette, and Runt—are once again at the fore of the franchise in this story. This time the trio discovers a prehistoric pal named Amy (voiced by Erin Fitzgerald – Ed, Edd, and Eddy, Sabrina: The Animated Series, Bleach) who has magically come to life when the site of her burial is dug up by an unscrupulous Native American and his henchman.  The group aims to turn sacred Native lands into a golf resort.  It’s up to the pups to get Amy back to the site of her burial so that her spirit can be returned to its rightful place.  It’s a pretty simplistic story.  Kane even goes so far at one point to poke fun at himself for its seemingly contrived nature, beating the critics to the punch instead of allowing them to throw their verbal and written punches.  It plays right into another element of the story’s writing that should be noted.  The element in question is the story’s underlying eco-friendly message.

The story at the heart of Alpha & Omega: Dino Digs is a very simple piece to follow.  It received quite a bit of criticism when the movie was accidentally streamed online in whole via Splash Entertainment’s website.  But the reality is that far more outrageous and unbelievable stories have been turned out by much bigger studios throughout Hollywood’s history.  To that extent, the story at the heart of this Alpha & Omega flick is actually worth at least one watch.  It is just one important part of what makes the movie’s writing so important to its presentation in whole.  The eco-friendly message that is embedded within the movie’s story is just as important to the movie’s presentation as the story itself.  The message in question is presented as the sacred land in which Kate and Humphrey plan to settle is being plundered by the previously noted (and unnamed) businessman.  His brother notes that what is happening should not be happening as nature will react in the same way that it is treated.  This sentiment is echoed at random points throughout the movie. But luckily it isn’t inserted so much as to be considered preachy.  Keeping that in mind, the eco-friendly message that essentially serves as the movie’s foundation proves to be just as important in the movie’s overall writing and presentation as its story.  As important as both elements are collectively to the movie, the writing in whole is not the only important part of the movie’s presentation.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note in the movie’s presentation as its overall writing.

Tom Kane’s work behind Alpha & Omega: Dino Digs is unquestionably important to the movie’s presentation.  The plot might seem somewhat outrageous on the surface.  But in reality it is no more outrageous than the plot of so many other movies (both for kids and adults).  The eco-friendly message that serves as the movie’s foundation strengthens the writing even more.  That is because it doesn’t come across as being preachy (again unlike so many other movies).  As important as the movie’s writing proves to be to its presentation it is just one part of the movie’s presentation that should be noted.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as the movie’s writing.  Once again, Kate and Humphrey’s pups Stinky, Claudette, and Runt are at the center of the story as with so many of the franchise’s recent installments.  Those behind the pups are to b commended for their work, too.  They are Kate Higgins, Hunter Swan, and Lindsay Torrance.  Higgins is the voice of not only Stinky but also the pups’ mom Kate.  Hunter Swan handles voice duties for Runt. And Lindsay Torrance brings voice to Claudette.  The trio’s initial reaction in discovering Amy is one example of what makes their work notable.  They do a good job of capturing the pups’ innocence in their curiosity.  Their reaction to discovering Amy is just as fun for the whole family as is their initial reaction to the new “cave” home.  Between these moments and others throughout the movie, it can be said of the trio’s work that it stands out in this otherwise standard offering from Lionsgate and Splash Entertainment.  Chris Smith is notable in his own right as the voice of the pups’ godfathers Marcel and Paddy.  Viewers will be entertained by the snooty, comical personality that Smith gives the pair.  Even with Smith being a supporting actor he still adds his own touch to the movie as the pair’s voice.  His work and that of his cast mates, when set against the work of the movie’s cast, to show even more why this movie is another Alpha & Omega story that the whole family will *ahem* dig.  The cast’s work is still not the only element that makes this movie worth at least one watch.  The story’s pacing is just as important to its presentation as its writing and the work of its voice cast.

The work of both writer Tom Kane and the voice cast behind Lionsgate’s latest Alpha & Omega installment are clearly important in their own way to the movie’s overall presentation.  Collectively they are even more important to the movie’s presentation as they are alone.  As important as they are to the movie’s presentation they are not the movie’s only important elements.  The movie’s collective run time and pacing is just as important to note in its overall presentation as the work of its writers and cast.  The movie clocks in at only forty-seven minutes.  That is about average for each of this franchise’s installments.  Thanks to the work, again, of the movie’s writer that time passes right by before audiences even realize it has ended.  It never lags or moves too fast at any one point throughout the movie.  Thanks to Kane’s concerted efforts, it keeps the action moving just enough from the movie’s opening setup to the pups’ first meeting with Amy all the way up to their bittersweet final farewell to the friendly female dino.  Thanks to that balance of energy audiences will never feel left behind or lost to any extent. It is because of this that the story’s pacing is deserving of being noted as one of its positives.  When it is set alongside the work of the movie’s cast and its writer, the movie proves to be a work that that the whole family will “dig.”

Alpha & Omega: Dino Digs has been received to quite the mixed reception by audiences and critics ever since its release in stores earlier this month.  It is not a perfect production.  That is clear through its computer-based animation.  The problems posed by the animation in question are not enough to overpower the positives presented by the movie.  Its eco-friendly story is simple enough for audiences of any age to follow.  And in all honesty it is no more outrageous than the fare presented by the likes of Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks or Lionsgate’s other counterparts.  What’s more the eco-friendly message that serves as the story’s foundation avoids becoming preachy at any point.  The work of the movie’s cast adds its own interest to the movie.  The story’s pacing never wavers from beginning to end.  Each of its three acts maintains receives the same energy and attention.  The end result is a story that will certainly keep audiences entertained and engaged if for that reason alone.  The acting and writing add to that mix to make the movie a whole that audiences of all ages will “dig” with just on watch or more.  Alpha & Omega: Dino Digs is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/search_results.asp?Search=dino%20digs.  More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online now at:

 

 

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lionsgatemovies

 

 

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Hero Quest Is A Family Friendly Flick Worth At Least One Watch

Courtesy:  Cinedigm/New Video

Courtesy: Cinedigm/New Video

On Tuesday, March 29th Cinedigm will release its new family friendly CG feature Hero Quest in stores and online.  The movie, which clocks in at just under the ninety-minute mark (and is Dove-approved) will be available exclusively on DVD.  The movie’s fantasy/coming-of-age story is hardly anything new to the literary or cinematic world.  But it does not detract from the story.  Co-writers Max Fadeev, Gegory Poirier (The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride), and Alexander Krisyakov crafted a story—which is based on Fadeev’s book Savva: Heart of a Warrior—that will entertain the whole family.  The story contained within the movie’s script is the central reason for its success.  It gives its own take on the fantasy/coming-of-age plot used in a number of other similar movies.  The work of the movie’s all-star voice cast is to be noted, too.  While the cast is known for working much bigger pictures, its collective work here is just as professional as in those movies.  Last but hardly least of note is the movie’s CG-based animation.  It rounds out the movie’s presentation.  Each element is important in its own right to Hero Quest’s overall presentation.  Altogether they make Hero Quest a family friendly movie that is worth at least one watch.

Cinedigm’s new family friendly CG-based movie Hero Quest is hardly the first movie of its kind.  Its fantasy/coming-of-age story is one that has been churned out by any number of studios.  This includes Hollywood ’s “Big Six” studios (Disney, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Paramount , and Universal) and the many independent studios out there.  Even with the general plot having been presented in previous movies from said studios, it does not detract (at least too much) from the story presented here. The story in question involves ten-year old Savva’s journey to find a magician who he is told will introduce him to a warrior that will help him free his village from a group of evil coyote-looking creatures. Interestingly enough one of the coyotes looks somewhat like Dennis Hopper in Waterworld. That is just this critic’s own take on its look. Getting back on the topic, the story comes across in an almost Wizard of Oz style format. That can be argued as Savva doesn’t face his journey alone. Along the way, he meets a shape-shifting white wolf, a Baron who has been cursed by a witch and his mosquito “companion”, a cowardly monkey/rabbit looking creature named Puffy—Savva even tries to figure out what exactly Puffy is at one point—and a Creole-speaking native princess that resembles one of the ancient indigenous people of Latin America. It’s quite the interesting group of misfits. And each member of the group is headed to see the magician for its own reason. Again, this is very much like The Wizard of Oz. And where that movie had Dorothy and company face off against an evil witch in route to meeting the wizard, Fadeev and Poirier’s story sees Savva and his friends facing off against a three-headed (yes, three-headed) monkey queen voiced by Whoopi Goldberg that doesn’t want the group to reach its goal. So again, the similarities are there. However, even with the similarities so clear, Hero Quest still stands on its own merits. Those merits include the story’s pacing and its ability to seamlessly tie its secondary story lines into its primary story among others. All things considered the general writing behind Hero Quest’s script proves in its own right to be an important part of the movie’s presentation. This is the case even with the movie’s similarities to The Wizard of Oz and other hybrid fantasy/coming-of-age stories. It’s not even covering the whole of the movie’s writing. There are other aspects such as the subtle Christian message presented in one single scene and the references to other movies within its genre. It is collectively just one part of what makes this indie family flick worth the watch. The work of the movie’s all-star cast is just as worth noting as the movie’s writing.

The writing behind Hero Quest is in itself an important part of the movie’s overall presentation. Even with the similarities to The Wizard of Oz and certain other family friendly flicks past and present, the script still stands on its own merits, making it worth at least one watch. As important as the script and its writing is to the movie’s presentation it is just one part of what makes the movie worth at least one watch. The work of the movie’s all-star cast is just as notable to its presentation as its writing. It should be known that the cast, which includes the likes of Sharon Stone (Casino, Total Recall, Basic Instinct), Joe Pesci (Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Goodfellas), Whoopi Goldberg (Star Trek: The Next Generation, The View, Captain Planet and the Planeteers), Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, Curious George), Milla Jovavich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil 1 – 6, Ultraviolet), and a number of others is just as important to the movie as its writing. It should be noted here that the cast is not the movie’s original voice cast. That is because the movie originally premiered overseas. This is just the movie’s American voice cast. That aside, the American voice cast deserves its due credit. For starters, Goldberg is spot on as the three-headed Mama Zho Zi. Her portrayal of the maniacal monkey is so entertaining because of just how she handled each head’s personality. Between one head’s airheaded personality, another’s vain personality, and the third’s more level-headed yet diabolical personality, Goldberg handled each one with the fullest expertise. Her ability to balance all three polar opposites is impressive to say the least. Never once does she go over the top in her portrayal. What’s more, the fact that she took over the role from another actor and did so as well as she did says even more of her work. She’s just one of the voice actors whose work should be noted here. Lead star Milla Jovavich is just as notable as the voice of Savva. Considering that Savva is only ten years old, it would have been easy to overplay his determination to reach the magician and his reactions to various situations presented to him throughout his journey. But Jovavich is just as impressive in how she handled the role. One example of her ability to handle the role comes as Angee’s (voiced by Will Chase—Nashville, Rescue Me, One Life To Live) real identity is revealed. It would have been so easy to overact in the moment, tears and all flowing as Savva finds out Angee’s secret. But Jovavich handled the moment quite well. She caught Savva’s shock and feeling of betrayal in the moment very well. In the same vein Savva’s eventual feeling toward Angee at the story’s end is just as impressive. Once again she doesn’t ham it up where she easily could have done so. But she gets the moment just right, thus making audiences feel for Savva and feel even happier for him at the outcome. It’s just another way in which the voice cast’s work proves to be so integral to the movie in its presentation to American audiences. Sharon Stone’s take on Puffy the monkey/rabbit hybrid is just as entertaining. Some might even dispute this but hers is a portrayal that stands out among her cast mates. Maybe it’s just because Puffy is for all intents and purposes the story’s comic relief. But even as that comic character, Stone generates her own share of laughs. One of her brightest moments comes as Puffy is mistaken for a god by Shaman Shi-Sha’s people. The rain dance that Puffy does to try to prove his/her (Puffys’ gender is never really revealed in the story) status will put a smile on any viewer’s face and more than just one laugh from every viewer’s lips. Puffy’s constant fainting spells at the first sign of danger are just as funny for viewers. That is because it doesn’t take long for them to become a running gag. The way in which Stone handled those moments is just as entertaining. Yet again it’s one more way in which the work of the movie’s American voice cast proves integral to the movie’s presentation. The rest of the cast can be cited just as easily for its work, too. Regardless of which cast member(s) is/are cited the result proves the same. Each member of the case proves equally entertaining in his or her own fashion. Their work and that of the script’s scribes strengthens the movie even more making for even more reason for families to see the movie at least once. Even with this in mind there is still one more important element to note of this movie. That final element is the movie’s CG-based “animation.”

The work of Hero Quest’s writers and that of its American voice cast collectively give the movie plenty of reason to watch the indie family flick at least once. That is because of the attention paid to each role by the actors and to the script on both a micro and macro scale. While both elements exhibit their own importance to Hero Quest’s overall presentation, they are not the movie’s only notable elements. The movie’s CG-based “animation” is just as important in its own right to the movie’s presentation. The “animation” in question gives the movie in whole the look of something lifted right from a video game. The catch is that it looks like something taken from a modern video game on the PS4, X-box or other system more so than an older PC-style game. In other words even as much as it looks more like a video game than anything churned out by say Pixar, Dreamworks, or other studios, looking like a modern video game could actually be considered a good thing. That is because to a certain extent it could be argued that thanks to having that look it establishes its own stylistic identity separate from the movies turned out by those other, more well-known studios. It also doesn’t look like something that was just tossed together in slapdash fashion. Believe it or not there are CG-based features out there that look that bad. And they don’t come just from indie studios, either. Keeping this in mind Hero Quest’s look may not stand out entirely. But in comparison to other CG-based features it plays its own part in the whole of the movie. Together with the work of the movie’s American voice cast and that of the movie’s writers all three elements come together to make Hero Quest an animated indie family flick that is worth at least one watch.

Indie movie studio Cinedigm’s new CG-based family flick Hero Quest is not the first movie of its kind to be turned out by movie studios at any level. Its fantasy/coming-of-age plot line has been used before in other movies at every level. And there is no denying its similarity to The Wizard of Oz when one closely examines its story line. Even considering all of this it still does not detract from the movie’s script. That is because of the changes made to the script to make it stand out at least somewhat from those movies. The work of the movie’s American voice cast serves as its anchor. Between the expertise of stars Milla Jovavich, Jim Cummings, and Sharon Stone (among others), the movie’s American voice cast will keep audiences of all ages entertained. The movie’s video game style animation plays into its presentation, too. It stands out from the CG-based stories turned out by Pixar and Dreamworks just as much as it stands out from the slapdash pieces released by other studios both big and small. It rounds out the ways in which Hero Quest stands out in this year’s field of family friendly fare. Together with the previously noted elements all three make this presentation one that is worth at least one watch. It will be available next Tuesday, March 29th. More information on this and other titles from Cinedigm is available online now at:

 

 

Website: http://www.newvideo.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cinedigm

 

 

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.

My Uncle Rafael Is Loaded With Laughs And Heart

Courtesy:  TNP Films

Courtesy: TNP Films

My Uncle Rafael is the best new independent movie of 2014.  And it is arguably one of the best new movies of the year, too.  Originally released in 2012, its release this week on DVD marks the first time that it has seen the light of day in home release format.  And while it obviously owes a certain amount of its success to Robin Williams’ 1993 hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire, it still manages to stand strong on its own merits as a movie that is at least somewhat original in its presentation.  That is the central point of the movie’s success.  It has all the heart and wit of Mrs. Doubtfire without Robin Williams’ cross-dressing and manic character portrayal.  And while it does maintain at least some similarity in its approach to the family-fixing plotline, it approaches the issue through a multi-cultural avenue rather than that of a desperate father. Sign of the times, it would seem.  Just as important to the movie’s enjoyment is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  It would have been so simple for the cast, which is relatively well-known and experienced to treat the movie like the independent movie that it is.  But each member of the cast approached this work with the same seriousness used in its other performances.  The professional approach taken by the cast of My Uncle Rafael adds so much enjoyment to the movie.  It adds so much especially considering the quality of the movie’s production values.  While released via an independent studio—TNP Films—the movie’s production values are just as quality as anything released by any of Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios.  That actor, along with the work of the cast and of the movie’s writers, makes My Uncle Rafael a complete joy for audiences of almost any age.  Again, it isn’t the first time that the story presented here has been utilized for a movie.  But its execution makes it a move well worth the watch.

The story that is presented in My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  It is the story of an outsider coming into a family’s home and fixing said family.  It has been used numerous times in the past.  In 1993, it was presented in the hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Two years prior, it was used in pro-wrestling legend Terry “Hulk” Hogan’s family comedy Suburban Commando.  And to a lesser extent it was also used in Vin Diesel’s 2005 flash-in-the-pan flick The Pacifier.  It could even be argued that a similar formula was used way back in the 1989 John Candy dramedy Uncle Buck.  Considering all of this, it leaves one wondering how many other ways in which the “family fix” formula could be used without it being stale and unoriginal.  Enter My Uncle Rafael.  My Uncle Rafael (not to be confused with Joe Pesci’s 1992 dramedy My Cousin Vinny—yes that bad pun was intended) takes the classic “family fix” formula and updates it by incorporating a multi-cultural theme into the story.  Most interesting here is the fact that the duo used an elderly Middle Eastern man as the movie’s central figure.  This was really interesting especially considering the tensions between Americans and those of Middle Eastern descent currently living in the United States.  It’s an angle that few if any writers would even begin to attempt.  For that alone, Pirhamzei and Yagemann are deserving of a certain amount of credit.  That the duo didn’t try to make a direct light of Rafael’s nationality as a soap box makes the script even more worthy of applause.  Omitting that from the script makes the rest of the story far more enjoyable and in turn more memorable.

The script behind My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  That goes without saying.  But there are aspects of the script that make it surprisingly enjoyable.  As enjoyable as the movie’s script proves to be in the long run, it would be nothing without the abilities of the movie’s cast.  John Michael Higgins (Yes Man, Happily Divorced, Bad Teacher) brings plenty of experience to the movie as do Missi Pyle (The Artist, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Gone Girl), Anthony Clark (Yes, Dear, Boston Common, Soul Man), Joe Lo Truglio (Role Models, Wreck-It-Ralph, Pineapple Express), Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory, The Last Song, In A World…), and Rachel Blanchard (Clueless—TV Series, 7th Heaven, Are You Afraid of the Dark).  The competition between Higgins’ Damon and Clark’s Jack makes for plenty of laughs.  It is a competition much like that seen in Mrs. Doubtfire.  Missi Pyle is just as entertaining as she becomes caught up in the movie’s central love triangle all while trying to maintain her place as mother to her children.  But it is really Vahik Pirhamzei’s portrayal of the loveable Uncle Rafael that really shines.  Pirhamzei’s portrayal gives Uncle Rafael so much heart and warmth.  He makes Rafael loveable not only to his fellow characters but to audiences, too.  One can’t help but agree in watching Rafael that maybe the uncle really is at the center of everything.  Only audiences that watch the movie or have watched it will get that reference.  In hindsight, Rafael’s portrayal makes that line make perfect sense.  That isn’t to take away from Pirhamzei’s cast mates by any means.  Both the more well-known actors and the lesser known cast members add their own enjoyment to the story in whole, too.  But it is his portrayal that holds everything together and makes each of his cast mates’ portrayals all the more entertaining with the end result of the cast in general doing its own part to show once again why My Uncle Rafael  is this year’s best new independent movie and one of the year’s best movies overall.

The writing that went into My Uncle Rafael and the acting on the part of the movie’s cast both play their own important part in the overall success of this surprisingly entertaining story.  Rounding out the presentation is its production values.  Being that this movie is independent, one would think that it would not have the production values of its bigger name family friendly counterparts that have come before.  But the reality is that its production values are quite high.  That includes the movie’s cinematography, its backdrops, costumes, and all other elements that went into bringing the movie to life.  Having such quality production values, it makes sense that the largely veteran cast would want its portrayals to be just as high quality.  The combination of that high quality acting and equally high quality production values adds to the ability of audiences to suspend their disbelief and in turn allow themselves to be immersed into the story and thus offer it the chance that it quite well deserves.  In giving it the chance that it deserves, audiences will agree that this movie is just as enjoyable as its more well-known predecessors and that it is one of this year’s best new movies as well as the year’s best new independent movie.

My Uncle Rafael is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/My-Uncle-Rafael-Anthony-Clark/dp/B00O1D3AN6/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1418861938&sr=1-2&keywords=my+uncle+rafael.  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 in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Lionsgate’s Latest Family Friendly CG Centerpiece Will Entertain The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s latest CG animated feature Jungle Master is one of the year’s more welcome family features to come along so far in 2014.  Unlike so many of the movies released in recent years by Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar, Jungle Master actually takes the road less travelled.  The movie’s animation is the most obvious way in which it takes that road less travelled.  Despite being a CG presentation, it doesn’t bare that cookie cutter appearance of the movies released by Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar.  Another reason that it stands out is its run time.  The movie’s run time comes in at just under the ninety-minute mark.  That’s a very good thing and will be discussed later.  Last but not least of all that makes this movie stand out is its script.  The story lifts lightly from The Wizard of Oz believe it or not and adds in a touch of Avatar for good measure as well as other sci-fi flicks.  The end result is a story that the while it may never be as big as anything from Dreamworks or Disney/Pixar, is still enjoyable in its own right.  It proves to be a movie that the whole family should watch together and will enjoy together when they do watch it together.

Jungle Master is not one of the most well-known family flicks to be released by any of Hollywood’s major studios this year.  That aside, it still proves in the long run to be one of the year’s more welcome family friendly flicks.  One reason for that is the movie’s “animation.”  Lionsgate’s CG features are completely unlike those of Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar in the realm of animation.  It’s almost impossible to tell Dreamworks’ CG movies from Disney/Pixar’s because they all look alike.  The only way to really differentiate the two studios’ works is by the studio names.  That speaks volumes.  Lionsgate on the other hand has strived to keep itself separate from the mold used by those studios in terms of its animation.  The look of Lionsgate’s CG movies is rawer for lack of better wording.  But it isn’t raw to the point of looking like some pieces from perhaps independent studio Engine 15 Media Group and others.  There is actually some attention paid to detail with Lionsgate’s CG movies, including this one.  That attention to detail helps Jungle Master maintain its own identity separate from its bigger name counterparts from Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar.  It even helps the movie to maintain its own identity from Lionsgate’s previously released CG features.  That mostly original look is just one of a number of positives that surround Jungle Master and make it stand out among this year’s crop of CG movies.

The largely original look of Jungle Master plays a key role in the movie’s ability to keep audiences engaged through its entire eighty-two minute run time.  That run time is another reason that families will enjoy this movie.  It doesn’t even reach the ninety-minute mark.  That relatively short run time drastically increases the chances of keeping audiences engaged from start to finish.  This is especially the case with the movie’s target younger audiences.  Most of the CG movies released since 1995—which is when Pixar broke the mold and released Toy Story—have averaged about ninety minutes.  There have been a small number of movies that have come in just under that time.  But most either reach the ninety-minute mark or go well over it as was the case with Toy Story 3.  That movie came in at almost forty-five minutes.  Luckily its story worked well enough that it still succeeded and quite well at that.  Speaking of story Jungle Master’s story works wonderfully with its run time.  Its story combines elements of a number of other movies to make a story that somehow actually works.  It’s one more way in which Jungle Master works and makes itself one of this year’s more welcome family films.

Both the look of Jungle Master and its run time are important to the movie’s overall success.  They each play their own important role to the overall presentation as they both have an impact on whether or not audiences are kept engaged.  Luckily, both factors succeed by themselves and together.  As much as they succeeded, the look of Jungle Master and its run time are not all that made this direct-to-DVD feature work.  One would be remiss to ignore the movie’s script as an equally important part of the whole.  The movie’s script centers on a twelve year-old girl named Rainie (pronounced rainy) who runs away from home ater her mother forgot about her birthday.  It is assumed by the fact that Rainie was upset enough to run away that her mother (who remains nameless throughout the movie) has probably left Rainie alone more than once.  Her decision to run away ends up taking her to al alien planet  and a much biger adventure that is directly linked to the company for which her mother works.  It’s thanks to her adventure that Rainie realizes her mom hasn’t intentionally ignored her, obviously leading to an eventual reconciliation between mother and daughter.  The central story of the parent/child relationship is obviously anything but new.  It’s been done more times than a person can count on his or her own two hands.  However, the story’s execution is what makes this plot work.  Screen writer Steve Kramer lifted liberally from the likes of The Wizard of Oz and Avatar to make this story.  While he obviously lifted from the noted movies, Kramer didn’t try to just remake them and mix them together.  He used them more as influences for his story about family.  What’s more he balanced said elements quite well; well enough in fact that audiences will be moved to overlook the references to said movies and enjoy the presented story.

Kramer’s re-telling of original writer/director Xu Kerr’s story is one of the most important of this movie’s aspects in considering its level of success.  He obviously used at least a couple of rather well-known movies that have come before as both influences and elements of this movie.  But he also didn’t try to just rip off either work.  He balanced them together to make a largely original story that centers on family.  That creativity and homage still is not all that makes this movie work.  One should also take into account the movie’s cast and even its bonus shorts.  Victoria Justice (Victorious, Victoria Justice, iCarly), Jane Lynch (Glee, Hollywood Game Night, WreckItRalph), David Spade (Just Shoot Me, The Benchwarmers, Tommy Boy), Josh Peck (Drake & Josh, Ultimate Spiderman, Ice Age: Continental Drift), Christopher Lloyd (Cyberchase, Back to the Future 1 3), and John Lovitz (Saturday Night Live, The Critic, Gorwn-Ups 1 & 2) make up the movie’s cast.  Lovitz proves to be the real star of the story with his comical antics voicing Mulla.  The fact that so many well-known names overall would feel confident enough about such a movie makes it even more worth the watch.  And the bonus shorts included with the movie will entertain children for a little while after the movie ends.  These extra positives combined with the positivews already noted make Jungle Master a movie well worth at least one watch together by any family.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lionsgatemovies

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.

Disney Earns Its Own Wings With Cars Spinoff

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

 

 

 

 

 

Disney’s Planes is not as terrible as many critics (this critic admittedly included) had previously considered it to be.  However, it is also not one of the year’s best.  One has to take into account the comments made by co-writers Klay Hall and John Lasseter in the movie’s bonus material to fully appreciate what Planes actually offers audiences.  Their comments play directly into the movie’s overall plot.  The resultant effect is that Planes’ story comes across more as its own story and less of a rip-off of Pixar’s Cars.  The end result is a movie with just enough heart to make it worth at least one watch.

Walt Disney Studios was lambasted by audiences and critics alike (this critic included) when the studio announced that it would be releasing a spinoff of Pixar’s hugely successful Cars franchise.  The very fact that Disney would simply title the new spinoff Planes was to thank for that reaming of the studio. The instant reaction was to say that this movie was just Cars in the air.  While it largely is that, the movie is also worthy of at least some defense.  In its defense, the bonus features included in the movie’s new home release help it to earn at least a slight respect.  Pixar head and Planes co-writer John Lasssetter discusses the movie in a sit-down interview.  He explains in his interview that there had been a proposal to spin off Cars with a movie about trains.  Yes, a movie about trains.  All they would have needed were Steve Martin and someone to take the place of the late John Candy.  Anyone that gets this reference should stand up and take a bow right now.  Getting back on the subject, Lasseter explains wisely that a movie centered on planes instead of trains made more sense.  He explains in his own wording that a movie on planes obviously gave more story options, which makes sense.  That sentiment alone makes the movie more bearable.

Lasseter’s Planes co-writer Klay Hall is also interviewed in the movie’s bonus features.  He explains in his bonus interview that the idea for a story centered on planes was largely thanks to his own late father being a Navy pilot.  The result was a lifelong love for all things aerial.  He explains in depth how his love for all things aerial led to the precise details used throughout the movie, too.  He explains that he wanted to make the movie as factual as possible.  And he did just that.  Anyone that has ever watched the likes of the Red Bull Air Race World Series will appreciate the shots down the long axis of the planes during the qualifying sessions for the big round-the-world air race.  They will also appreciate the technical jargon tossed about throughout the movie’s run time, which barely tops the ninety-minute mark.

The interviews with both Lasseter and Hall earn Planes a new respect that without which, it might not have earned.  Also worthy of note is the plot behind this continuation of Pixar’s Cars franchise.  The writing team of Lassetter, Hall, and Jeffery M. Howard have crafted in Planes, a standard underdog story complete with underlying romance subplot.  This is not the first time that such a story has been done, just as Pixar’s Monsters University was hardly the first college based comedy ever crafted.  In Planes’ defense though, it didn’t directly rip off either of the Cars movies.  It actually does have its own story.  To that extent, it develops even more its own identity.  Add in the fact that comedian Dane Cook has proven that he can actually handle more mature—anyone that has seen Cook’s standup act understand how immature and boring he comes across as being—material, and Planes actually proves that it has not only its own identity, but also has heart.  All of this being noted, Planes proves to be a movie that while hardly one of Disney’s best or even one of 2013’s best, is worth at least one watch with the family.

Planes is available now on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  It can be ordered online direct from the Disney online store at http://www.disneystore.com/planes-3d-blu-ray-2-disc-combo-pack/mp/1346514/1000316/?cmp=OTL-Dcom&att=Dcom_FS_Planes3DBluRay_Home_BuyMovie and http://www.disneystore.com/planes-dvd-digital-copy/mp/1346520/1000316/.  More information on this and other releases from Walt Disney Studios is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios and http://www.waltdisneystudios.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.

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.