‘Humpback Whales’ Is Another Successful Entry In Shout! Factory’s IMAX Series

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Humpback whales are among the most beautiful, stunning creatures on the face of the Earth.  One would be hard pressed to find someone who would disagree with that sentiment.  One need only look at the number of documentaries and movies made about humpback whales to see just the level of reverence that people have for them.  Earlier this month, yet another entry was added to the field in the form of the new IMAX offering, simply titled Humpback Whales.  This latest entry in Shout! Factory’s ongoing series of IMAX documentaries doesn’t necessarily teach anything new about the whales in question.  That has to be noted right up front.  Rather, it is more of an activist film than documentary.  That is beside the point.  The program’s most important feature is its cinematography. It is a stunning visual treat for the eyes.  The bonus material that is included in the program is just as important to note in examining the program’s presentation as its cinematography.  The program’s central story rounds out the most important of its elements.  Each element is important in its own way to the program.  When they are combined into one presentation, they make Humpback Whales another enjoyable offering in Shout! Factory’s IMAX series.

Shout! Factory’s latest IMAX offering Humpback Whales is another enjoyable offering from the company’s IMAX series.  Most notable of the program’s presentation is its cinematography.  Recorded entirely in IMAX and in 3D audiences are taken on an incredible visual trip throughout the course of the program’s 40-minut run time thanks to the work of its cinematographers.  The footage of the whales surfacing so as to feed is incredible to experience even in standard 2D hi-def.  Even in standard 2D such a moment still pulls audiences into the program. The footage presenting the whales breaching is just as powerful in its own right.  The aerial views of this action and the closer, sea level views are just as incredible to experience as is the footage of the mother whale with her young calf.  Of course there is also some more stirring footage, too that some might be unsuitable for younger viewers as the program addresses how certain nations still skirt international whaling laws and get away with killing the whales.  That should be mentioned right now.  That aside, the program’s overall cinematography stands out as its key element in examining its overall presentation.  If for no other reason, audiences should see this program—whether in 3D or 2D—for its cinematography.  The cinematography is in itself just one reason that the program is worth the watch.  Its bonus material actually compliments its cinematography.

The cinematography that is presented throughout the course of Humpback Whales is in itself an important part of the program’s presentation.  It is not the program’s only important element, though.  The bonus material that is included in the program’ home release is just as important as the program’s cinematography.  That is because the bonus material takes audiences behind the lens.  It presents to audiences just how much time and effort went in to bringing the cinematography in question to life.  The filming crew had to weather storms in order to catch all of the right shots.  It had to figure out where the whales would be feeding to get just the right shots of them in action for other footage.  And in another case, they had to work with members of a whale rescue group as it tailed a whale in distress to capture the group trying to save the whale from a bunch of netting.  These are just some of the examples of what audiences get to see in terms of the program’s creative process thanks to the program’s bonus material.  There is much more presented in the program’s bonus material that will keep audiences just as engaged as that which is noted here.   All in all, the bonus material included in Humpback Whales’ home release proves just as important to the program as its stunning cinematography.  That is because it creates an appreciation for the amount of time and work that went into capturing the footage for the program and assembling it for its presentation.  It still is not the last remaining element to consider in examining the program’s presentation.  The story that is presented at the heart of the program rounds out its presentation.

The cinematography that is presented throughout Humpback Whales and the bonus material that is included in the program are both key to the program’s presentation.  That is because of how closely the two elements work together.  While both elements are undeniably important to the program’s presentation they are not its only important elements.  The story at the heart of the program is just as important to note as those elements.  It doesn’t try to pass itself off as a documentary a la those presented by PBS or even like its predecessors—Rocky Mountain Express, Journey To Space, Flight of the Butterflies.  Rather it makes clear that it is an activist story aimed at raising awareness about the dangers that still face humpback whales today.  Most of those dangers are, as it points out, man-made.  Some are intentional while others are not.  In whole, though those dangers are there and people should be aware of said dangers.  It doesn’t allow itself to become as preachy as some other activist presentations either.  That makes the story stand on its own merits, too.  It makes the program in whole that much more worth at least one watch.  When this element is set against the program’s cinematography and its bonus material all three elements present Humpback Whales as a program that animal rights activists and filmmakers alike will appreciate.

Humpback Whales, the latest of Shout! Factory’s new IMAX releases, is a presentation that animal rights activists and filmmakers alike will appreciate.  That is due in part to the program’s cinematography.  The footage that is presented throughout the forty-minute program is stunning in its angles, its lighting and so many other aspects.  The bonus material included in the program’s home release is just as important to the program because it shows how much time and effort went in to bringing the footage to the screen.  It will create a whole new appreciation for even those that are not deeply involved in the world of filmmaking.  The story at the heart of the program is an activist story.  There is no getting around that.  That aside, it is nowhere near as preachy as some other activist programs out there.  Keeping that in mind it makes the program even more worth at least one watch.  When it is set alongside the program’s cinematography and its bonus material, all three elements combine to make this program ultimately, another successful entry in Shout! Factory’s IMAX series.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/documentary/humpback-whales.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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Every Horror Movie Purist Should “See” ‘I Saw What You Did’

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Hollywood’s horror genre has come a long way from what it once was and not for the better either.  It seems like every other horror flick churned out by Hollywood today is either an overly dark and violent movie centered on demons and the like or it is an equally violent (and gory) slasher flick.  That wasn’t so much the case in Hollywood’s golden age.  It was wholly possible for studios in that age to make horror flicks—regardless of their specific subgenre—without being so dark, bloody, and violent.  Alfred Hitchcock’s classic slasher flick Psycho is proof of this as is the 1963 nightmare-inducing ghost story The Haunting and Allied Artists’ 1959 fright fest House on Haunted Hill.  All three of these movies are examples of what once made horror such a great genre.  They are also examples, when set against their newer counterparts, of just how far the genre has fallen from its pedestal.  The comparison is stark to say the very least.  Earlier this year Scream Factory, Shout! Factory’s horror division released another example of what once made Hollywood’s horror realm so great when it released the classic slasher flick I Saw What You Did on Blu-ray.  This 1965 flick from William Castle Productions (which was also behind House on Haunted Hill) and Universal Pictures is a must have for any horror fan looking to escape the glut of cookie cutter slasher flicks and ghost stories currently being churned out by Hollywood’s Big Six studios.  That is due in no small part to the movie’s story.  That will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note in its presentation as its story.  Last but hardly least of note in the movie’s presentation is its general lack of blood, gore, and violence.  This element rounds out the movie’s most important elements and is no less important than the movie’s story or the work of the movie’s cast.  Keeping that in mind, each element does its own part to make this movie an entertaining work of horror.  Altogether they make this movie another must see for any horror purist.

Universal Pictures’ 1965 slasher flick I Saw What You Did is a must see for any horror movie purist.  That is because like so many horror flicks of its age it is the antithesis of everything that Hollywood’s horror genre has become.  That is clear in examining the story at the center of the movie.  The story centers on the antics of teenagers Libby Mannering (Andi Garrett—The Wild Wild West, Black Sheep Squadron) and Kit Austin (Sarah Lane—The Virginian, The Trial of Billy Jack, Billy Jack Goes To Washington) and the eventual terror that comes as a result of what they think are harmless phone pranks.  The pair’s prank calls end up having a rather far-reaching effect, causing (indirectly) the murder of Judith  Marek (Joyce Meadows—The Brain From Planet Arous, Two Faces West, The Girl in Lovers Lane) by her husband Steve (John Ireland—Spartacus, All The King’s Men, Red River).  Libby calls Steve’s number, pretending to be another woman, which leads Judith to confront Steve while he’s showering.  What’s interesting is that when Judith goes to confront Steve, she notices that their bathroom is a shambles.  It is clear that Steve’s intent was to murder Judith regardless and make it look like someone else did it.  But her confrontation leads Steve to murder her in the shower and then get rid of the body.  When Libby calls back later, she tells Steve, “I saw what you did and I know who you are,” he thinks that she is serious, which leads to even more tension.  What’s really interesting in all of that tension is that in adapting author Ursula Curtiss’ novel Out of the Dark to cinematic form, writer William P. McGivern unknowingly included a story element that is wholly relevant today.  The element in question involves the young, naïve Libby actually going to meet Steve because she thinks he actually wants to meet her, not knowing that he is a murderer.  This is an issue that the world faces even more today than ever before due to the advent of online messaging services, chat rooms, etc.  Who would have thought a story crafted more than fifty years ago would have such a relevant element within its script?  This revelation makes the movie’s story all the more believable, and in turn engaging.  Of course the movie becomes somewhat cheesy in its final act.  That aside, the rest of the story will still keep audiences on the edge of their seats.  That being the case, the story in whole shows just how important it is to the movie’s overall presentation.  It is just one of the elements that make the movie such an entertaining work of horror.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as its story in examining what makes the movie a must see for horror purists.

William P. McGivern’s cinematic adaptation of Ursula Curtiss’ novel Out of the Dark is an important part of the presentation of I Saw What You Did.  That is because it is by and large, a thriller that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.  It manages to do so even without the use of any overt violence and bloodshed.  That is not to say that there is no violence or bloodshed.  It is there.  Don’t mistake that.  But it is kept to an extreme minimum since censors at the time didn’t allow but so much of said elements.  It shows that horror can be enjoyable even without blood, gore, or overt violence.  Of course the movie’s story is just one of the most important elements to examine in McGivern’s adaptation of Curtiss’ novel.  The work of the movie’s cast in interpreting McGivern’s script is just as important to examine here as his story.  Garrett and Lane are completely entertaining as lead stars Libby and Kit.  The pair makes audiences shake their heads in disbelief at Libby and Kit.  That is because the actresses fully embrace the girls’ lack of forethought in their actions.  While teens today might not make prank calls for their own fun that lack of foresight, teens today still act just as thoughtlessly even if in different ways.  And it gets them into their own share of trouble, too.  On the other end of the spectrum John Ireland is just as entertaining to watch as the villainous Steve Marak.  Steve’s actions might not seem all that believable on the surface.  But anyone that has ever watched an episode of 48 Hours or Dateline knows that what he did is in fact rather commonplace in real life crimes.  He does such an impressive job in presenting Steve’s paranoia about having been seen.  That is especially considering that only two people saw what he was doing over the course of the movie.  Each of the movie’s other cast members do their own part in adding to the movie’s enjoyment.  But it is really the trio noted here that most shines through.  Their work in interpreting their parts (and McGivern’s script) is just as important to the movie’s presentation as McGivern’s own work.  It still is not the last remaining element to note in examining what makes this classic slasher flick so surprisingly entertaining.  The general lack of overt violence and bloodshed, as slightly mentioned earlier, plays a part in the movie’s presentation that is just as important to note as the movie’s story and the work of the movie’s cast.

The story at the center of I Saw What You Did and the work of the movie’s cast are both important in examining what makes this classic slasher flick so entertaining.  Each element plays its own part in making it a movie that any horror purist should see as has already been noted.  They are not the only elements that make the movie so surprisingly enjoyable either.  The movie’s general lack of blood, gore, and overt violence is just as important to note in examining the movie’s presentation as its story and the work of its cast.  There is some blood and violence incorporated into the movie.  But most of it comes when Steve Marak murders his wife and his mistress.  Even when he does this, the bloodshed is virtually nothing when compared to most of the slasher flicks that are available to audiences today.  Rather it is more comparable to the bloodshed used in the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960).  Given that is the result of standards set by censors and the MPAA at that time.  But it is a good thing.  That is because it forced McGivern (as with every other writer at the time) to actually rely on story more so than on the violence factor (I.E. quality versus quantity).  It is a standard to which this critic personally wishes horror movies would return.  McGivern did an admirable job in focusing on the movie’s quality.  He showed that a story can stand on its own literary merits even in a horror setting without having to rely on blood, gore, and violence.  It really serves as a model for today’s horror screen writers.  It shows that a horror movie can be fun without being overly violent, bloody, gory or even nightmare-inducing.  Keeping this in mind, it rounds out the movie’s most important elements.  Together with McGivern’s work and that of the movie’s cast all three elements join together to make the movie in whole a surprisingly fun ride for any horror movie purist.

Scream Factory’s recent re-issue of I Saw What You Did is a surprisingly fun ride for any true horror movie purist.  That is because it shows that it is possible for horror flicks to be fun without being overly violent and sexualized.  That is evident most prominently in the movie’s story, written by William P. McGivern.  The story relies more on its literary elements than its actual visual content to keep audiences entertained and engaged.  The movie’s cast is just as notable in its work in front of the camera.  Garrett, Lane, and Ireland are completely believable in their respective roles and in turn envelope audiences in the story.  The story’s general lack of blood, gore, violence, and sexual content is Just as important to note here as the story itself and the work of the movie’s cast.  It brings everything full circle and shows together with the previously noted elements that it is possible for a horror flick to be entertaining without being questionable in its content.  All things considered the recent re-issue of this classic horror flick proves to be a surprisingly enjoyable ride for any true horror movie purist.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/film-horror/i-saw-what-you-did.  More information on this and other titles from Scream Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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‘Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation’ Is An Interesting Piece Of ‘TMNT’ History

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Saban

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Saban

Thirty two years ago Mirage Studios first introduced American audiences to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The “heroes on the half shell” were created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.  In the years since their creation, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo (and their rodent sensei Splinter) have gone on to become a worldwide phenomenon with various incarnations on both the silver screen and the small screen.  Some have been hugely popular such as the original 1987 animated series (perhaps the franchise’s most successful incarnation) and the 1990 big screen adaptation of the comic book.  That incarnation even spawned three sequels.  Other incarnations have not been so successful, such as the 2014 big screen reboot and its new sequel Out of the Shadows.  They are not the franchise’s only lesser installments.  In 1997 Saban tried its hand at its own take on the everyone’s favorite reptile heroes in the form of Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation.  That incarnation ultimately proved to be a bust for the company.  It only lasted one season and a total of twenty-eight episodes.  Now thanks to Shout! Factory fans of this short-lived series can own it for themselves on DVD.  That is because Shout! Factory released the series in its entirety early this past May.  While the series was obviously one of the least successful of the TMNT franchise it still is a good addition to any hardcore TMNT fan’s collection.  That is because it serves as a historical document of sorts showing everything that was done right and wrong with the series.  In examining those pros and cons in whole audiences will agree that while it might not be the best of the TMNT franchise’s installments it also is not its worst.  That (dis)honor still goes to Paramount and Nickelodeon’s 2014 big screen take on the turtles.  Keeping that in mind, this installment proves once more to be a worthwhile addition to any TMNT fan’s collection if only for historical purposes.

Saban’s 1997 live-action take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise is by no means the franchise’s best incarnation.  In all fairness it is also not the franchise’s worst incarnation either.  Keeping that in mind, it is a welcome (and important) addition to any TMNT fan’s collection.  That is because it shows through its twenty-eight total episodes that Saban, with all of its successes, was not invincible at the time of the series’ run.  That is not entirely the fault of the people at Saban, though.  In examining for instance the timing of the series’ debut it had a lot working against it.  The series was meant to follow the events of the franchise’s original cinematic trilogy.  The problem is that that trilogy wrapped in 1993 with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.  Saban’s live action series didn’t start until four years later in 1997, which was also only a year after the original animated series came to its own end.  When the story lines presented in each are taken into consideration and the timing of their beginnings and endings, they worked wholly against Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation.  Had Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation come earlier—perhaps during the animated series’ run as an alternate universe series of sorts—then it might have had more of a fighting chance.  But because of the timing of its debut and its plot line it is clear why it failed in the long run.  That is just one important part of the show that should be noted in examining what the series in whole.  the series’ writing, in the bigger picture of its presentation, played its own integral part in the series’ failure.  The same can be said of the look and the feel of the series.

The timing of Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation’s debut is a big part of what might have made the series’ run so short.  The timing of its release, when considered alongside the events of the franchises cinematic trilogy and its animated series, put a rather large nail in the series’ proverbial coffin.  The series’ writing is just as problematic as the timing of its release.  The series’ writers opened this series by introducing its key villain—Dragon Lord–early on.  The problem is that he wasn’t the series’ only villain starting out.  The writers incorporated Shredder into the story, too.  However, they wasted very little time taking him out of the story, too.  The way in which they wrote him out was rather anticlimactic to say the very least, too.  It almost leaves one asking why he was even used in the overall story considering how little impact his elimination had on the series’ overall story.  It could be argued that in so randomly eliminating Shredder, the writers were just throwing something out there just to see if it would work and make the series in whole anywhere near feasible.  While the overall story did work, it still ended up being relatively lackluster at best.  The same thing happened when the writers behind the TMNT animated series tried to keep that series going after the turtles eliminated Shredder.  They introduced a new villain—an alien from another world—but it just didn’t work, which ultimately led to the series’ end in Season Ten.  The same sort of mindset led to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III’s failure, too.  With Shredder out of the way at the end of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II it was as if the writers were asking where to go from there.  One can only assume that someone just said, “hey, let’s send them back in time on a quest and see how audiences react.”  While the end result was entertaining in its own right, it is still obvious that the movie’s writers struggled to come up with something to keep the movie (and the franchise) going.  This, again, goes back to the obvious practice of the writers behind Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation.  It is as if, again, the writers went into the series blindly and just threw in what they could as the series advanced.

The timing of Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation and its writing are both key elements that worked against the series in its short run on FOX Kids from 1997 – 1998.  They are not the only elements that should be considered in examining what the series got right and what it got wrong.  The look and the feel of the series are just as important to note as the timing of its run and its writing.  The look of the series will be examined first.  The costumes and the sets that were used in Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation are a stark contrast to those used by Saban’s Power Rangers franchise at the time.  That series had come a long way in terms of its look from the days of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.  Some of the camp was still there in terms of its look.  But that look had also clearly evolved to a point since those days, too.  By comparison Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation took audiences back to the days of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers thanks to the campy look of its sets and costumes.  No effort was made by the people at Saban to make this series look anything like the franchise’s original cinematic trilogy, which again this series was supposed to be linked. Even the look of Shredder’s outfit barely made him look menacing.  He looked more like one of the then WWF’s costumed bad guys than any truly menacing villain.  That is thanks to the design of his outfit.  Even the look of the turtles was a complete change of pace from their look on the big screen and its previous small screen incarnation.  This is again even with the series’ alleged connection to the franchise’s cinematic trilogy.  The only part of the series that really bore any similarity (and that term is used very loosely here) to that trilogy is that of the turtles’ subway lair.  It is obvious that whoever designed their lair for this series did in fact make a concerted effort to connect the two universes.  Sadly it is about the only thing that actually connects the two universes in terms of the series’ look.  The rest of the sets and costumes are more akin to the MMPR series than anything seen on the big screen or any other TMNT incarnations.  By relation, the feel of the series is linked just as directly to MMPR as its look.

The look of Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation is an undeniably important part of the series’ life span.  That is because of how starkly it stands out from that of the rest of the offerings in the TMNT universes and even from that of Saban’s Power Rangers universes at the time.  The series’ feel is just as important to note as its look.  That is because its feel stands out just as starkly as its look.  The feel includes the series’ cinematography and the acting.  The cinematography throws back to the days of MMPR just as much as the costumes and sets that were used throughout this series.  That is evident in the scene transitions, the angles used within given scenes, and even the speed of the shot changes within the scenes, too.  The transitions from the general scenes to those of the dragons’ lair are key examples of that throwback look.  MMPR used very similar transitions when its scenes transitioned from Angel Grove to Rita (and later Zedd’s) moon base.  That is something that was gradually phased out as the Power Rangers franchise evolved over time.  The acting on the part of both Shredder and Dragon Lord plays its own part in the series’ feel.  The same can be said of those that brought Leo, Raph, Donnie, Mikey, and even Venus to life.  The camp in their collective work gives the series a fun, cheesy feel that interestingly enough will keep audiences entertained because of that cheese factor.  Again it is all a noticeable throwback to the days of MMPR.  Again in comparing this to the feel presented in the likes of Power Rangers in Space, the current installment of Saban’s Power Rangers franchise at the time, it is a completely different feel.  Good or bad is in the eye of the beholder.  In all fairness it likely played its own part in the series’ downfall since few programs if any had that same campy feel at the time.  So that probably hurt the series even more.  Between that and the show’s equally campy look, it becomes even more evident why the series’ combined look and feel might have hurt the series more than it helped.  That is especially considering the time at which the series was on television.  Speaking of the time at which the series debuted, it plays its own part in the series’ problems.  The writing behind the series plays its own part in the series, too.  Each element plays its own part in the series’ short run.  That goes without saying.  All things considered it becomes wholly clear why Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation is one of the least successful entries in the TMNT universe.  But when it is compared to those other entries in it still is not the franchise’s worst installment.  Keeping that in mind, it is still a welcome and important addition to any TMNT fan’s home collection if only for its historical value.

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation is hardly the best offering in the TMNT universe.  It is not the franchise’s worst offering, either.  That (dis) honor belongs, to this day, to Paramount and Nickelodeon Studios’ 2016 big screen reboot of the original cinematic franchise.  Given, this series had (and has) a lot working against it.  But still in comparison to other offerings from the TMNT universe it could have been a lot worse.  Considering all of this it is still a welcome addition to any true TMNT fan’s collection whether for entertainment or for historical value.  It is available exclusively via Wal-Mart and can be ordered online via Wal-Mart at http://www.walmart.com/ip/Ninja-Turtles-The-Next-Mutation-The-Complete-Series/51301759.   More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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‘Endgame’ Makes Plenty Of Smart Moves

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

The underdog story is one of the most overly story types in the movie industry today.  From Rudy to Rocky to Remember The Titans and beyond Hollywood loves visiting the underdog arena.  In all honesty, it is the view of this critic that Hollywood loves the underdog arena way too much.  That is because of the genre’s overall lack of creativity and originality. It seems that nine out of every ten underdog stories offered to audiences today present roughly the same story just in a different setting.  While that is a somewhat disheartening number to consider, it does at least mean that every now and then there is one underdog story that makes up for the other nine that are otherwise forgettable.  Earlier this month Shout! Factory released one of those standout offerings in the form of the indie underdog story Endgame.  The movie, originally released nationwide on September 25th, 2015, was released earlier this month on DVD and Blu-ray by Shout! Factory.  While it might not be the most memorable movie of its kind to ever be released it is still a worthwhile alternative to all of the other run-of-the-mill stories within that arena.  That is especially true in considering the movie’s story, which is just one of its key elements.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note here.  That will be discussed later.  The bonus material that is included with the movie’s new home release rounds out the most important of its elements.  It completes the movie’s presentation in its new home release and shows once more why this indie underdog story is just as inspirational and moving as its more well-known counterparts and in turn, is worth at least one watch.

Endgame is hardly the first underdog story to ever be presented to audiences in cinematic history.  It is however, an underdog story that is just as inspirational as its more well-known counterparts.  In turn it is an underdog story that is worth at least one watch as is evidenced in the movie’s central story.  The story follows a young Latino boy named Jose (Rico Rodriguez—Modern Family, The Muppets, Epic Movie) who happens to be quite the talented chess player.  Growing up in the poor community of Brownsville, Texas, chess is the only thing that brings him any joy in life other than his grandmother (Ivonne Coll—Jane The Virgin, Lean on Me, The Godfather: Part II).  That is because he is living in the shadow of his older brother Miguel (Xavier Gonzalez—Between Us, Walk Away, Stories of the Paranormal).  Miguel is a rising soccer star and everybody knows and loves him.  They expect Jose to be just like Miguel.  But when Miguel is killed in a late night car crash, life changes for everyone, including Jose and his divorcee mother.  Chess becomes even more Jose’s escape and his source of strength.  The story eventually sees Jose and his team mates in his school’s chess team inspire each other and their entire community as they make their way to the state chess championships.  Even Jose’s mother and grandmother are inspired and moved in their own way.  What is most interesting of the whole story is that while the story does end at least somewhat as expected there is a surprise of sorts in the end, too.  That unexpected ending element is actually a pleasant surprise.  It won’t be revealed here for the sake of those who haven’t yet seen the movie.  But it is nice to see that writer/director Carmen Marron didn’t let the story remain formulaic even in its end.  Staying on that train of thought, Marron’s approach to her adaptation of the real life events on which this movie are based is to be just as commendable as the story itself.

The story at the center of Endgame is in itself worth at least one watch.  That is because it isn’t just another underdog story centered on a boxer, football player (or team), or sports team in whole.  Rather it focuses on one community’s banding together behind an unsuspecting middle school chess team in one of Americas most underprivileged school districts.  While the story’s “nothing to something” story line is ultimately not that original the story is still original in its own right since few if any underdog stories have ever centered on such subjects.  That is just part of what makes the story stand out.  Writer/director Carmen Marron’s approach to the story is just as important to note in considering the story as the story itself.  That is because unlike other screenwriters, Marron didn’t try to make Endgame into yet another run-of-the-mill, over-the-top epic underdog stories of which audiences are all too familiar.  Rather she made sure that the story maintained a certain sense of humility throughout instead of letting it become one of those almost pompous presentations that are so common among its more well-known counterparts.  At the same time, being a Dove Foundation approved movie it also didn’t have that overly cheesy vibe of so many other movies given the okay by the Christian-based film rating organization.  Rather it has more the feel of a general independent movie than one of its over-the-top big brothers or one of its cheesier indie counterparts.  In other words, it boasts its own approach, and in turn identity thanks to Marron’s approach.  When this is taken into consideration along with the story itself the two elements combine to show why Endgame’s story makes its worth at least one watch.

The story at the center of Endgame and the approach taken in creating the movie are both important pieces of the movie’s presentation.  Both by themselves and together, they make the movie worth at least one watch.  They are not the only important elements to note in examining the movie’s presentation.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as that of Marron in developing the story.  Rodriguez, Coll, and Justina Machado are among the most notable of the cast members in considering the cast’s work.  Whether alone or together, each actor puts forth an admirable performance throughout the movie.  Thanks to Rodriguez’s performance, so many younger audiences will be able to relate to Jose regardless of nationality.  Even older audiences may find themselves being able to relate to Jose.  That is because so many people have faced the same sibling issues that Jose faced and the related frustrations.  It makes Jose’s frustrations completely understandable.  Rodriguez’s handling of those emotions is just as relatable to many viewers.  Given, probably not every has broken a sibling’s trophy out of anger, but they have likely broken something belonging to a sibling out of anger towards said figure.  In the same breath, likely fewer people have ever had to deal with the death of a sibling (or even a child) at such a young age.  But there sadly are those few that have dealt with it.  Being that there are those who have, they will appreciate the pure emotion exhibited by all three actors.  It would have been so easy for each to go over the top in their portrayal of their respective characters’ sadness of Miguel’s death.  In a much bigger budgeted film, that might have even happened.  That’s especially the case since this has in fact happened in said movies.  But none of the trio went to that length.  It makes each individual’s performance all the more believable and engaging.  On a different note, the relationship between Jose and his grandmother is just as enjoyable to see.  Coll and Rodriguez have such wonderful chemistry when they are on screen together.  It is clear in watching them that thy really enjoyed working together.  Because they had so much fun together audiences will enjoy their performances just as much.  There are so many other performances that could be cited here in explaining why the cast’s work is just as important to the movie’s presentation as its story.  They include that of Rodriguez’s cast mate Alina Herrera (Marrying God, The Little Samaritan, Caribe Road) as Jose’s frien Dani, Efran Ramirez’s (Crank, Napoleon Dynamite, Eastbound & Down) take on Jose’s teacher Mr. Alvarado, and Jon Gries’ (Napoleon Dynamite, Taken, Men in Black) take on Principal Thomas.  Each actor puts forth his (or her) impressive performance throughout the movie.  Their performances couple with those of Rodriguez, Coll, and Machado to show even more clearly why the work of the movie’s cast is just as important to its presentation as that of Marron in crafting the story.  They are not the movie’s only important elements, though.  The bonus material that is included in the movie’s home release is just as important to note as its story and the work of its cast.

Writer/director Carmen Marron’s work in developing Endgame’s story and the work of the movie’s cast in interpreting Marron’s scripts are both important in their own right to the movie’s presentation.  Each element makes the movie worth at least one watch.  They are not the movie’s only important elements, though.  The bonus material that is included with the movie in its new home release is just as important to the movie’s presentation as its writing and acting.  The most notable of those bonus materials is the movie’s bonus behind-the-scenes featurette.  This is important to note because it is rare for a behind-the-scenes featurette to add any real value to a movie’s presentation.  More often than not they are little more than space fillers regardless of the studio.  But in the case of this movie it actually adds quite a bit to the movie’s presentation.  Audiences learn in watching this featurette that lead star Rico Rodriguez actually came into the movie with at least some knowledge of chess.  He openly admitted that he was hardly a professional.  But he did have at least a certain amount of knowledge and understanding of the game.  So being involved in the movie, he states in his interviews that has in fact served to strengthen his interest in the centuries-old board game.  That is quite the statement.  On a related note, audiences will be just as interested to learn in this feature that the movie was recorded in just 19 days, many of which couldn’t even be full, eight-hour days.  That is due to labor laws preventing minors from working eight hours in a single day.  Most of the 19 days in question turned out to be about 6 hour days because of those labor laws.  All of this is so notable because of how the movie turned out in the long run.  Again, it boasts its very own identity both within the underdog arena and within the Dove-nominated field.  It stands out in both fields both in terms of its look and its feel.  This is the case even with the movie having been recorded in just 19 days.  That is truly extraordinary especially for an independent movie.  Just as interesting to note is the fact that the movie was filmed completely on-site in Brownsville, Texas.  That adds even more to the movie’s believability.  By direct connection the revelation of the community’s welcoming nature towards the movie’s cast and crew is just as interesting to learn.  It echoes the togetherness exhibited by the community in the movie.  This shows once more the importance of the movies bonus material in regards to the movie’s overall presentation.  Even Marron’s own audio commentary throughout the movie adds its own interest to the movie.  When that engaging bonus material is set alongside the movie’s story and the work of the movie’s cast, the presentation in whole proves why it is, again, worth at least one watch.

Endgame is not the first underdog story to ever be presented to audiences either independently or on a major scale.  It is however, just as inspiring and moving as its more well-known counterparts past and present.  That is due to its largely original story and the approach taken in presenting the story.  The work of the movie’s cast plays its own part in making the movie worth seeing.  The same can be said of the bonus material included in the movie’s recent home release.  Each element plays its own important part in the movie’s overall presentation.  All things considered they make the movie more than just another underdog story.  They make it an underdog story that is worth at least one watch.  It is available in stores and online now and can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/film-drama/endgame. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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‘Flight Of The Butterflies’ Is A “Soaring” Success

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

The butterfly is one of nature’s most incredible creatures.  From one species to the next there the butterfly inspires so much awe.  That is because of the process that it goes through to become the winged being that people of all ages love.  It is also because of the beautiful rainbow of colors displayed by each species post metamorphosis.  There is also the contrast of their fragility and endurance to consider among so many other topics in considering what makes them such wonderfully interesting creatures.  Now thanks to Shout! Factory and SK Films audiences are getting a very special look at what makes just one species of butterfly so incredible in the new IMAX presentation Flight of the Butterflies.  This roughly forty-five minute documentary follows what is perhaps the most well-known of the butterfly species in the form of the Monarch Butterfly.  It reveals in its re-enactment/documentary hybrid style presentation the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly including its epic (for lack of better wording) migratory pattern.  That story and presentation style makes up the central focus of the documentary’s presentation.  The program’s cinematography is just as important to note as the story and its format.  The bonus material included in the program’s home release rounds out its most important elements.  One can’t ignore the program’s audio here either.  That is especially when comparing it to the audio of the company’s previously released IMAX presentations.  It is just as important as the programs story, its cinematography, and bonus material.  All things considered, they make Flight of the Butterflies the best of Shout! Factory’s new IMAX presentations so far this year.

Flight of the Butterflies is Shout! Factory’s best new IMAX offering so far this year. That statement is supported through a number of elements that make up the program’s presentation beginning with its story.  This includes the format in which the story is presented, too.  Unlike its predecessors—Journey to Space and Rocky Mountain Express—this story turns the focus from technology to nature.  More specifically it focuses on the Monarch Butterfly, perhaps the most well-known and revered of the thousands of butterfly species.  The story takes audiences through the life cycle of the butterfly from a tiny egg all the way to its final stop in the mountains of Mexico and even back to Canada.  Along the way, the story notes subtly the impact that humans are having on the Monarch Butterfly population through urban sprawl, the elimination of resources such as milkweed, and other related actions.  That the filmmakers kept the program’s more preachy material to a minimum is deserving of its own applause.  It makes the overall story even more engaging for audiences of all ages.  The manner in which the story is presented plays its own important part in the program’s presentation, too.  It is presented more in the style of Hollywood’s major bio pics than the docs that have come before.  What is important to note here is that even being presented in such fashion, it doesn’t go full on in the way that those movies have and do go.  Rather it maintains a certain sense of simplicity and humility in that presentation style.  On the other side of that proverbial coin it doesn’t try to copy the re-enactment style presentations used by History Channel or PBS either.  What this means is that it presents the story in its own fashion even being a familiar style format.  It is just one way in which Fight of the Butterflies shows itself to be the best of Shout! Factory’s IMAX programs so far this year.  The cinematography that is used throughout the program is just as important to note as the story and its format in examining what makes it work.

The story at the center of Flight of the Butterflies and its format are both key pieces of the program’s presentation.  The story goes in a direction that is entirely opposite that of Journey to Space and Rocky Mountain Express. The format used to present the story stands out just as much as the story itself.  That is because neither of those programs used the format that is used here.  It even stands out from the format used in documentaries from PBS and History Channel.  This is even with the familiarity of the format.  Keeping all of this in mind, the program’s story and its format are just part of what makes the program stand out among its counterparts.  Its cinematography is just as important to note in its presentation as its story and format.  One of the most stunning pieces of footage presented in the program comes as the camera crew pans across an abandoned farm.  The farm, as the narrator notes, is shelter for the Monarch Butterflies.  It stands out both because of the shooting style and because of the contrast of colors in the footage.  The grass around the abandoned barn is a deep green.  The paint on the barn had obviously long ago worn away, leaving a bleak white/grey tint to its boards.  Meanwhile the sky off in the distance indicates trouble (I.E. a storm).  So much discussion can rise from this contrast.  That includes a statement about the safety and life offered by the barn even in its bleakness because of the deep green around the barn and.  The barn stands tall against the dark clouds in the distance, strengthening that statement about it serving as a safe haven for the butterflies.  The zoom effect used to show a butterfly’s path to a backyard haven, full of flowers, is another key example of what makes the program’s cinematography stand out.  It makes audiences feel as if they are the butterflies, making their way into the garden.  The way in which this shot was captured is explained in the program’s bonus material.  That will be discussed later.  Getting back on the subject at hand, the footage in this scene is stunning to say the very least.  One cannot ignore the absolutely incredible footage of the Monarch Butterflies in the mountains of Mexico, the final point of their migration.  There is something about the footage that is so beautiful.  This includes those moments in which the butterflies go about their lives alone an as they surround Doctor Urquhart and his wife.  It is just like something out of a major motion picture and must simply be seen to be fully appreciated.  It is just one more way in which the progam’s cinematography shines as part of the program’s overall presentation.  There is much more footage that could be cited here in explaining the importance of the program’s cinematography.  When audiences see it all for themselves they will agree that the program’s cinematography is indeed just as important to its presentation as its story. It still is not the last of the program’s most important elements.  The bonus material that is included in the doc’s home release is just as important to its presentation as its story and cinematography.

The story at the center of Flight of The Butterflies and the manner in which it is presented form a solid foundation for the program.  The cinematography that is used to help tell that story is just as important to the program’s presentation as its story.  They are not its only important elements, though.  The bonus material that is included in the documentary’s home release is just as important as its story and cinematography.  The most important of the included bonus material is its behind-the-scenes featurette.  More often than not the behind-the-scenes material included in most movies and documentaries amount to nothing and are typically useless to said presentations.  However in the case of this documentary it adds so much the program’s presentation.   Audiences will be surprised to learn in this feature that Gordon Pinsent (Babar and the Adventures of Badou, Babar, Away From Her) came into the role of Dr. Urquhart knowing little to nothing about Monarch butterflies or even lepidopterology (the study of butterflies).  He admits this himself. He also openly states how much his view on both changed as a result of his work on the documentary.  On another level audiences will be just as surprised to learn the lengths to which the filming crew went to capture the butterflies in their winter home.  What’s more the revelation that filming took an entire year is just as interesting to learn.   That is because it reveals the dedication on the part of the movie’s crew to fully capturing the life and migration of the butterflies.  On a related note, the respect that the crew showed the butterflies as it captured them on camera is just as enlightening and moving.   This is directly discussed and shown in this feature, too.  The discussion on the program’s cinematography is just as interesting as the feature’s other discussions.  One of the most interesting aspects of this discussion involves the butterflies’ discovery of a backyard haven that was developed specifically for butterflies.  Audiences learn that the crew used both a camera mounted on a helicopter and a boom arm camera to capture this moment, and that the two elements were melded together in order to present the sequence shown in the program.  The revelation about the regulations that led to this shooting style add even more interest to the discussion.  It would be understandable that the crew wouldn’t be able to get but so close to the residential sanctuary with a massive aircraft.  The combination of the chopper-mounted footage and the boom-mounted footage makes this sequence alone so memorable in its own right.  It is just one more way in which the bonus material shines in the documentary’s new home release.  There are plenty of other discussions that will interest viewers in the feature.  Altogether the discussions presented in the program’s behind-the-scenes footage make this bonus just as important to the documentary’s overall presentation as its story and its cinematography.  All things considered this latest IMAX entry from Shout! Factory proves to be the best of its IMAX offerings so far this year.

Flight of the Butterflies is the best of Shout! Factory’s current offerings in its new IMAX series.  That is due in large part to the story at the heart of its presentation.  The cinematography that is used to help tell the story stands out just as much in the program’s presentation.  The bonus behind-the-scenes featurette that is included in the program’s home release rounds out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own way.  Altogether they make Flight of the Butterflies the best of Shout! Factory’s IMAX offerings so far this year.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/documentary/flight-of-the-butterflies.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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Rocky Mountain Express Is An Enjoyable Cinematic Ride

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

The story of the Trans-Continental Railroad is one of the most well-known stories in North America’s rich transportation history.  Thousands labored and lost their lives in the building of the railroad.  Its creation marked the end of one era of for America and the beginning of a broad new era.  As well-known as the history of the Trans-Continental railroad is, it is not North America’s only great railway.  Canada has its own Trans-Continental Railway whose creation boasts its own gripping tale.  Now thanks to Shout! Factory the story of that railway is finally being told in the new IMAX presentation Rocky Mountain Express.  Originally shown in museum theaters across America, audiences can now own the documentary for themselves on Blu-ray + Digital and 4K UHD + Blu-ray combo pack.  That dual presentation is in itself just one of the many key elements to note in this documentary’s presentation.  The story at the center of the documentary is the program’s key element.  It will be discussed shortly.  The cinematography that is presented throughout the course of the program’s 45-minute run time is just as important to the program’s presentation as the story that forms the program’s foundation.  The bonus material that is included with the program in its new home release is just as important to the program’s presentation as its story, cinematography, and available platforms.  Each element is important in its own way to the program’s presentation in its new home release.  All things considered it is a wonderful ride for any lover of transportation history and lover of trains.

Shout! Factory’s new home release of Rocky Mountain Express is a wonderful ride for any lover of transportation history and lover of trains in general.  Originally released in Canada in 2011, this 45-minute documentary has received new acclaim as it has recently been making the rounds in IMAX theaters at many of America’s museums.  It offers its key audiences plenty to appreciate beginning with its central story.  The story at the center of the program is that of Canada’s Trans-Continental Railroad.  It is a story that despite being part of North America’s transportation history has received far less attention than that of America’s own Trans-Continental Railroad.  Yet it is just as gripping and engaging of a story as that of the construction of Americas Trans-Continental Railroad.  Audiences will be interested to lean not only of the men who built Canada’s “Rocky Mountain Railroad” but also of the perils faced by those men in bringing it to fruition.  What’s more viewers will be just as interested to learn the very way in which the railroad was planned before construction even began.  Apparently two routes were presented for the railroad—an easy route and a much more difficult and dangerous root.  For whatever reason, railroad head William Van Horne opted for the much more dangerous, mountainous route, in turn costing thousands of lives along the way.  One can only imagine how different things would have been for the railroad’s history and its workers had Van Horne opted for the easier, more stable route that had been presented.  Sadly, that will never be known.  Though, at least the world can look back and say that Van Horne got lucky since the railroad was eventually completed.  Regardless, the cost in human lives and damage to equipment along the way is stunning to say the very least.  That consideration puts things into their own interesting perspective looking at the end result of that work put in to construct the railroad.  It will likely create its own share of discussion among transportation history buffs and railroad aficionados.  Considering the awe and discussion that the program’s central story is certain to generate its importance becomes wholly clear in the grand scheme of the program.  It is not the program’s only key element either.  The cinematography that is presented throughout the course of the program’s 45-minute run time is just as important to its presentation as its story.

The story at the center of Rocky Mountain Express is a key part of the program’s presentation.  It tells a story that has needed to be told for any ages.  That is especially the case considering that it shows America’s Trans-Continental Railroad wasn’t North America’s only great railway.  The story of the men who made the railroad happen is just as interesting as the story of the railroad’s very construction.  Of course the overall story of the railroad’s construction is just one of the program’s most important elements.  The cinematography that is presented throughout the program is just as important to note as the story itself.  The footage that is presented is stunning to say the absolute least.  The program combines stunning aerial footage with various shots captured on board the 2816 (the engine that viewers follow on its journey along the railroad) for a visual experience that is absolutely breathtaking in every scene.  The aerial footage was captured using cameras mounted aboard various helicopters and includes powerful footage of snow-covered mountains, fly byes of the 2816, wide shots of the 2816 against beautiful nature backdrops, and so many other angles.  The footage capture from aboard the 2816 includes footage showing the power of the engine’s mechanical components, the majesty of its very size, and much more.  Every angle and ever second of footage is beautiful, stunning, and awe-inspiring to say the very least.  All things considered here, audiences will agree in taking in the program’s cinematography that it was completely deserving of its awards.  Even with its importance the program’s cinematography is still not the program’s last notable element.  The bonus material that is included in the program is just as important to note in its presentation as its cinematography and story.

The story at the center of Rocky Mountain Express and the cinematography used to help tell the story are both key to the program’s overall presentation.  As important as they are to the program’s presentation they are not its only important elements.  The bonus material that has been included in the program’s home release is just as important to its presentation as its story and cinematography.  The most notable of the bonuses included in the program is the 22-minute mini-documentary Railroaders.  It provides even more depth to the story presented in the program’s main feature.  It tells the story not of the men who built the railroad but the men who maintained it in its earlier days.  There was apparently a lot of work that went into keeping the railway running in its earlier days.  This included not only keeping the snow and ice off of the rails but also keeping it off of the communication lines along the railroad’s route.  It also involved walking the tracks every day to make sure that not even one track was out of place.  And as viewers will see, this process went on essentially 24-7 regardless of the weather (or in some cases because of the weather).  The much shorter, 1-minute animated The Romance of Transportation in Canada is entertaining in its own right.  It provides a brief history of the evolution of transportation in Canada.  Believe it or not it adds its own historical significance to the story presented in Rocky Mountain Express’ main feature.  The historical significance and depth that both features add to the program’s main feature shows even more their importance to the program’s presentation in whole.  They show that they are just as important to the program’s presentation as its central story and its companion cinematography.  Together with the program’s central story and cinematography they round out the program’s most important elements and show in whole why Rocky Mountain Express is a wonderful ride for transportation history buffs and lovers of trains alike.  That is not even counting the dual platforms on which the program is available.  It is worth noting in its own right.  When this element is set against all of the other noted elements the program in whole becomes a must see for any transportation history buff and for any lover of trains.

Shout! Factory’s new IMAX documentary Rocky Mountain Express is a must see for any transportation history buff and train lover.  That is due in part to the program’s central story.  The story presents the history of the construction of Canada’s Trans-Continental Railroad.  It is a story that is rarely, if ever, taught in American schools today or even history books in general.  This is despite the fact that it is obviously an important part of North America’s transportation history in whole.  The award-winning cinematography exhibited throughout the course of the program is just as important to its presentation as its story.  That is because from one angle to the next it is so awe-inspiring.  The bonus material and dual platform availability of the program are notable in their own right in examining this documentary’s presentation.  Each piece of the whole is important in its own right.  All in all this program proves itself to be a must see for any transportation history buff and any lover of trains in general.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/documentary/rocky-mountain-express.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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LPS: Making Friends Is A “Little” Collection That Boasts Big Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Hasbro Studios/Discovery Family

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Hasbro Studios/Discovery Family

The Littlest Pet Shop is officially open for business once again.  That is because Shout! Factory Kids has released yet another new compilation of episodes from the family favorite animated series.  Littlest Pet Shop: Making Friends was released in stores and online earlier this month.  And there is plenty for parents and children alike to appreciate about this latest collection beginning with its episodes.  They are collectively just one of the collection’s important elements.  The writing behind each episode is just as important as the episodes.  Last but not least of note within these episodes are the musical numbers presented throughout.  Each element proves important in its own right to the whole of Littlest Pet Shop: Making Friends.  Altogether they make this latest collection of episodes another little collection that once again boasts lots of big fun for the whole family.

Shout! Factory Kids’ new Littlest Pet Shop DVD Littlest Pet Shop: Making Friends is another little collection that once again boasts lots of big fun for the whole family.  This is due at least in part to the episodes that make up the body of the collection. This new DVD, the series’ tenth, features five more (technically four since one of the episodes is a two-part episode) episodes loaded with fun for the whole family.  What especially makes the episodes themselves so important to the collection is that each one follows the same underlying theme of making friends.  That theme is presented in different ways from one episode to the next and will be discussed shortly.  That is tied into the episodes’ writing.  The continuous theme presented throughout these episodes is just one part of what makes the episodes important to note in this collection.  Audiences will be just as happy to note in this collection that all five (or four, whichever side of that argument one chooses) episodes come from the same season—Season 3.  Adding to that all they are presented in chronologic order for all intents and purposes.  Obviously not every episode from Season 3 is here.  But in examining the order of the episodes presented on the disc, they are presented in the same order as they appeared in their original broadcast.  All that was missing was the episodes in between.  Though, many of those other episodes have already been presented in previous LPS collections.  One can only hope that eventually after the series’ full four seasons have been presented in its standalone sets, the whole of Season 3 (and the series’ other three seasons) will see a proper complete release for true fans of the series.  That is a discussion for another time.  Getting back on track, the episodes presented in LPS: Making Friends prove in the end to be hugely important to the set’s presentation.  They are collectively not the set’s only important element.  The actual writing within the episodes is just as important to note as the episodes themselves.

The episodes that are presented in Shout! Factory Kids’ new LPS collection are in their own right hugely important to the set’s presentation.  One reason for that is that all of the set’s featured episodes follow one continuous theme.  The theme in question is indeed that of making friends.  Adding to that is the fact that the episodes each come from the same season.  As if that isn’t enough, the episodes are also presented in an order that is at least partially chronological.  Given, it’s not entirely chronological since the episodes that separate them aren’t there.  But in general, they are presented in the same order in which they appeared in their original broadcast.  All things considered here, the episodes prove hugely important to this latest LPS collection. Of course the episodes would be nothing without their writing.  The writing is what connects the friendship theme from one episode to the next.  At the same time, the stories presented from one episode to the next stand on their own merits.  In the set’s opener “Sleeper,” Blythe’s furry friends meet a new raccoon friend named Mr. Von Fuzzlebutt.  Yes, that’s really his name.  Everybody really likes him, especially one specific member of the group.  The thing is that this new friend is nocturnal.  So he spends much of his time at LPS sleeping.  This leaves Sunil and Vinnie to have to make it appear that MR. Von Fuzzlebutt is awake when he’s not.  The result is a story that has been done so many times before in so many different TV shows and movies.  One of the most notable of those others is the famed 80s buddy comedy Weekend at Bernie’s.  Keeping that in mind, the story at the center of this episode is one that will definitely entertain today’s parents (many of whom grew up in the 80s) just as much as their children.  The story behind this episode is just one example of what makes the writing within LPS: Making Friends so important to the set’s presentation.  The story behind “Why Can’t We Be Friends” is another example of the importance of the episodes’ writing.

“Sleeper” is a key example of what makes the writing behind this set’s episodes so important.  It is just one key example of what makes the writing so important, too.  The work behind “Why Can’t We Be Friends” is another example of what makes the writing so important.  Yet again here is that theme of friendship.  At the same time, the story stands on its own merits.  In the case of this episode the LPS pets meet a friendly spider named Webber.  Only not everybody is a fan of Webber at first.  Sunil, as it turns out, is deathly scared of Webber because of his own fear of spiders.  This is funny in itself considering that Sunil is a mongoose, who is much bigger than Webber.  It’s like the stereotype of an elephant being afraid of a mouse.  Of course over time Sunil learns those all-too-important lessons about stereotypes and pre-judging others.  Thanks to that lesson Sunil and Webber become friends in the end.  That story and lesson make this episode stand out clearly from the set’s other episodes even as it carries the set’s underlying, connective theme.  It is hardly the last episode that can be cited in proving the importance of the episodes’ writing, too.  The set’s two-part closer “It’s The Pet Fest!” is one more prime example of what makes the writing in these episodes so important to its presentation.

The writing within “Sleeper” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends” clearly shows why the writing in this set’s episodes is so important.  The stories stand out from one another but the underlying theme of friendship is clear and present.  It is just presented in different fashion within each episode.  That is a great thing, too.  They are not the only episodes to show the importance of the set’s writing.  The set’s two-part closer “It’s The Pet Fest” shows that importance just as much as “Sleeper” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends.”  This episode sees Blythe organizing a fundraising concert for a good animal cause.  There’s just one problem.  She didn’t file for the necessary permits in time.  As a result she has to make friends with her mortal enemies, the Biskit Twins for help.  It is yet another familiar plot element that has been used in so many movies and television shows before as is the case of a young person arranging a benefit concert.  Even though they are not exactly new plot elements, the show’s writers still manage to successfully keep both lot elements fresh and entertaining in this episode.  They do so by not only having Blythe bring in a band that is world-famous in the LPS universe, but also by having the LPS pets put on their own concert, too.  In the end Blythe and the Biskit twins do end up working and existing together.  And the benefit proves to be a huge success.  Blythe even gets a big new honor as a result while the Biskit twins are left literally high and dry to wrap up the episode on a high note.  Again, the episode presents that underlying, recurring theme of friendship yet still holds its own against its counterparts here.  That being the case, the episode’s story and its theme come together to show just as much here the importance of the episodes’ writing as “Sleeper” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends.”  “Room Enough” shows that importance, too.  Together with the set’s other noted episodes it shows even more the importance of the writing within these episodes.  All in all, the writing within every one of these episodes shows with full clarity the importance of the writing within the episodes.  They show why the writing is just as important to the set’s presentation as the episodes themselves.  The episodes and their writing are together not the set’s only important elements.  The musical numbers that have been incorporated into the episodes are important to the set’s presentation, too believe it or not.

The episodes that are featured in Shout! Factory Kids’ new LPS collection are undeniably important to the set’s presentation.  The same can be said of the writing within each of the featured episodes.  As important as both elements prove to be to the set’s overall presentation they are not its only important elements.  The musical numbers that are incorporated into these episodes are—believe it or not—just as important to the set as the writing and the episodes themselves.  The musical numbers are so important because of how rare they are in the grand scheme of the series’ four-season run.  It is obvious in the case of the numbers featured here that they musical numbers were intentionally incorporated into the episodes.  They were actually intentional parts of the story rather than just random mini-numbers thrown in for the sake of it.  They actually added to each story.  There’s a full-on pop punk piece in the set’s closer, and a more “poppy” number in “Room Enough” that will have viewers tapping their toes just as much.  For the rockers out there, the writers even incorporated a solid rock tune into “Sleeper’s” story.  In a weird way, it sort of conjures thoughts of certain musical numbers presented in Disney’s Phineas and Ferb.  Coincidence or not the similarity is there.  And it is fun regardless.  It is just as fun as those numbers and the others presented in this set, too.  Keeping that in mind, it should be clear just why the musical numbers incorporated in this set’s featured episodes are just as important to note as the episodes’ stories and the episodes themselves.  Each element is important in its own right.  That is obvious.  All things considered though, they make this DVD in whole yet another little collection that boasts once again lots of big fun for the whole family.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

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