The Image Revolution Is Not Just For Comic Book Fans

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

With great power comes great responsibility. Regardless of whether or not a person is a Spiderman fan or even a fan of comic books in general, most people know that timeless line spoken by Peter Parker’s uncle Ben.  It is also a piece of knowledge that would have served the founders of Image Comics well when they founded the independent comics company.  That is evident in watching Shout! Factory’s new documentary on Image Comics The Image Revolution.  While it is a documentary that centers mainly on the rise, fall, and re-emergence (of sorts) of Image Comics it is more than just a documentary about a comics company.  It is a documentary about a business.  That being the case, it is a presentation that will reach not just comic book lovers but even those with any interest and/or experience in the business world.  That is the central element of program that makes it worth the watch.  The manner in which the documentary was presented is another element worth noting.  That includes the interviews with those that founded Image Comics and the comic book panel style transitions and the vintage footage incorporated into the documentary.  Last but hardly least of note in this presentation is its bonus interview segments.  The bonus material in question presents the interview material not included in the program’s main presentation.  So basically they round out the documentary in whole.  It’s one more part of the Image Revolution’s whole that makes it such an interesting watch whether one is a comic book fan, an artist, or a business person.  Altogether, all three elements make The Image Revolution an early candidate for a spot on 2016’s list of Best New Documentaries.

The Image Revolution is an early candidate for a spot on 2016’s list of the year’s Best New Documentaries.  The documentary’s subject matter is the main element that makes it such a worthwhile watch.  The documentary’s subject matter centers on the history of independent comic book publisher Image Comics.  It follows the company’s meteoric rise to fame (and that of the men that started the company), its fall, and eventual return to greatness.  The story is one that will appeal not just to lovers of comic books and graphic novels but to artists of all types and even those with any interest and/or experience in the business world.  It is not just a niche presentation despite its subject matter.  It shows how a group of men working for America’s two biggest comic book companies left those companies in order to form a company that was to be the antithesis of those companies yet in its own way became everything that it stood against.  In turn it ended up struggling to a point before enjoying a revival that has continued to this very day.  Those that are lovers of comic books and graphic novels will appreciate the story of how far Image Comics has come as well as the collective story of the men that started Image and the titles that each used to launch the company.  Those that are experienced in art in its various forms will appreciate the discussions on how each man started out drawing his respective title but then found himself growing away and relegating that duty in large part to someone else.  Those that have any experience and/or interest in the business world will find interesting the very story of the financial irresponsibility of the company’s founders.  That irresponsibility would of course serve as a lesson for each as the men grew both by themselves and together.  Whether one focuses on the business aspect of the story, that of the men and titles that launched Image Comics, or the different art styles of each artist, there is something for a number of audiences.  This is just one way in which The Image Revolution proves itself to be such a worthwhile watch and standout documentary.  It isn’t the only element that makes it stand out so well either.  The manner in which the documentary was presented is another important element in the whole of its presentation.

The story that lies at the center of The Image Revolution is in itself an important part of this documentary.  It is a multi-faceted story that will reach more than just the obvious audience base.  This is just one element that stands out in The Image Revolution’s overall presentation.  The manner in which the documentary is presented is just as important to its presentation as the story at the center of the program.  The program is presented through a mix of interviews with Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, and the rest of Image Comics’ founders, classic footage from the company’s vaults, and transitions presented in the fashion of comic book page panels.  The interviews allow McFarlane and company to tell the company’s story in their own words.  While each man chooses his words wisely, none minces words at the same time.  Audiences will laugh as Rob Liefeld does his best impersonations of McFarlane from time to time.  On another note, Jim Lee’s discussion on being asked to take part in Rob Liefeld’s removal from Image is just as interesting.  Audiences can hear it in Lee’s voice and see it in his face how much it pained him to have to be part of that change.  Savage Dragon creator Erik Larson and The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman have their own interesting anecdotes over the course of the documentary.  Audiences will laugh as Kirkman reveals how he got Image to take a chance on The Walking Dead.  That won’t be revealed here.  That is because of its link (so to speak) to The Walking Dead series.  Audiences will actually laugh at Kirkland’s ultimate revelation.  At the same time, said revelation will keep audiences watching the TV series just as rabidly as a result.  Erik Larson’s humility in discussing how he handled the fame and fortune early on and even later on is refreshing.  It shows that he didn’t and hasn’t let any of what he does go to his head.

The interviews that are featured throughout the course of The Image Revolution’s eighty-three-minute run time are their own important part of the approach to the documentary’s presentation.  The classic footage that is incorporated into the documentary adds even more interest to its overall presentation, too.  It is clear that the footage was recorded via VHS camcorder.  That is because it is obvious no attempt was made to clean up the footage.  The footage in question features McFarlane and company at comic book signings that were jam packed with fans at every stop.  There is also footage of how things went in the Image offices on an everyday basis along with much more.  Audiences will love watching all of the vintage footage.  It will transport viewers back to Image’s golden age and really serve to show how high things were for all involved at the time.  At the same time, it helps to heighten the story as it advances.  Speaking of that advancement, the transitions are just as important to the program’s presentation as its interviews and vintage footage.

The transitions that are used throughout the course of The Image Revolution might not seem like all that important of an element to its presentation.  But believe it or not they are in fact quite important to its presentation.  The transitions are presented as panels from the pages of a comic book right down to their animation.  They serve a special purpose in the story.  That is because they really increase the story’s emotion in both directions, thus keeping audiences fully engaged.  Together with the interviews and vintage footage all three elements combine to make the presentation of The Image Revolution rock solid.  Of course they are still not all that makes this documentary worth the watch.  The extended interviews that are included as bonus material round out the documentary.

The approach that was taken in presenting The Image Revolution is in itself a powerful element in the whole of this new documentary from Shout! Factory.  So much thought and work obviously went into its thorough presentation.  That set alongside the documentary’s central story gives audiences plenty of reason to watch this program.  As much reason as they give viewers to watch this documentary, they are not its only notable elements.  The extended interviews that are included as bonus material round out the presentation’s positives.  The interviews in question are, as labeled, extended.  They feature more in-depth discussion than what is presented in the main body of the documentary.  Liefeld, Lee, and Kirkland are all featured in the interviews.  They discuss a variety of topics, too.  From the success of AMC’s The Walking Dead to working on specific books and more, there is plenty for audiences to appreciate here.  There is even a secondary set of interviews with those close to Image comics that adds even more interest for audiences.  Those collected interviews combine with the work put into the documentary’s presentation and the documentary’s primary story to make a nearly ninety-minute presentation that comic book fans will love just as much as artists and even those in the business world.

Whether it be for the story of Image Comics itself or for the manner in which the story was presented, or even for the bonus extended interviews, The Image Revolution presents plenty for audiences of all types to appreciate. In having so much to appreciate, that wide range of audiences will agree in watching this program, that it is easily an early candidate for any critic’s list of 2016’s top new documentaries. 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/the-image-revolution. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

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Paramount’s Ninja Turtles Reboot Proves To Be One Of 2014’s Worst New Movies

Courtesy:  Paramount Pictures

Courtesy: Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures’ updated take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the worst new movies of 2014. There is no way to sugarcoat it. Simply put, it is one more example of why Hollywood’s (and audiences’) seemingly insatiable appetite for prequels, sequels, and remakes can only mean a bleak future for the industry’s “Power Five” studios. The central reason for the failure of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is its writing. While the movie’s writers and the studio did back down on the original idea for the Turtles’ origin story, the story incorporated into the story proves to be just as bad. There is also the issue of the plot. While it can be said that the movie’s plot is not necessarily as cheesy as some of the plot lines from the animated series, there is still something about this movie’s plot that makes it unbearable. And dangling the proverbial carrot in front of old school audiences in the form of references to the original animated series (and movie) hurts the movie even more in terms of the movie’s writing. It’s one more example of why having multiple people working on a single script serves only to hurt said script. This has been proven time and again in a number of works before this one. TMNT is just the latest. Just as noteworthy is the acting. Credit should e given where credit is due. The actors behind the turtles are deserving of their due respect. However, the acting on the part of lead Meghan Fox and the movie’s supporting cast falls flat. Even actor Will Arnett comes up short as April’s photog Vernon Fenwick. He had the look. And he did make a valiant effort at his portrayal. But it still came up short in the end. Those issues with the cast’s acting coupled with the issues raised in the movie’s script hurt TMNT in a major way. They still are not all that hurt the movie. Last but hardly least of all that goes against the movie is its collective look and production values. Michael Bay wasn’t at the helm of TMNT. But in watching the movie, one may as well say that he was. That is because the movie’s look and its production values are quite similar to the much maligned Transformers franchise that he previously helmed. It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin, sealing the movie’s fate and proving once more why this movie is one of the worst of 2014.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was and is one of the best movies to leap from the pages of comic books. That is the original live action movie that debuted in 1990. This year’s new update on that modern classic is the polar opposite of that incarnation. It’s painfully obvious from start to finish, too beginning with the movie’s overall writing. The movie’s plot by itself does plenty to hurt the movie. And it all begins with the Turtles’ much mailgned origin story. Those that followed this movie from the days even before its pre-production started will recall that the origin story was going to have Leo, Raph, Don, and Mikey come in as aliens from another planet. Thankfully that didn’t happen. However, the origin story that took its place is just as problematic. That story won’t be revealed here for the sake of those that have yet to watch the movie. But it directly involves April O’Neil. And to a point, it takes a page from Sony’s latest incarnation of Spiderman. April’s revelation at her link to the Turtles’ origin story is cheesy enough. But the acting on the part of actress Megan Fox, who plays April, only serves to make that revelation even more unbelievable. The acting on the part of the cast will be discussed in more depth at a later point. For now, the focus will remain on the movie’s writing.

The origin story crafted for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is but one part of the writing that hurts this big screen reboot bust. The movie’s very plot plays its own role in the movie’s failure. The movie’s plot sees Shredder and the Foot Clan–which is made more into a pseudo militia group here instead of the old school, evil ninja group from the original movie and animated series–trying to spread a virus through New York City. In turn, they and Eric Sacks (William Fitchner) can use the mutagen that created the Turtles for their own financial gain. Yes, it’s true. In defense of this plot, those that are familiar with the original animated series, there was an episode in which Shreddder sent up a satellite-like device the changed the weather around the world as a means for him and Krang to take over the world. So keeeping that in consideration it isn’t too cheesy of a plot. There’s still something about it in the script’s writing though, that makes it not entirely believable. Speaking of the comparison between this incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the original animated series (and the franchise’s original movie), that is yet another issue in the writing that hurts this movie.

The issues raised through the origin story and plot incorporated into Paramount’s new take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles both make the movie’s writing rather problematic in their own way. One can’t ignore the fact that Applebaum, Nemec and Daugherty did try to please the fans of the franchise’s original animated series and 1990 movie with constant throwback references to both. They even made sure to include the skateboards used in both properties. The issue at hand with making such references is that through the script’s previously noted problems, adding in those references essentially becomes a slap in the face to the fans that grew up with those originals. It’s the same as dangling the carrot in front of a donkey (or rabbit) only to have it pulled away for lack of better wording. Simply put, it is disrespectful to said audiences.

The writing behind the script for Paramount’s new incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a big part of what has made this movie one of the worst of this year’s new releases. While the writing proves to be quite problematic, it is only the beginning of the movie’s problems. The work of the movie’s cast is just as problematic. Actress Megan Fox plays April O’Neil in this version of TMNT. Her reaction at discovering her role in the origin of the Turtles is awful. It is so over the top and hammy that one can only shake one’s hand. While Will Arnett deserves at least some credit for trying to properly portray Vernon Fenwick, even he comes up short. He is hit and miss at best. To the cast’s credit, the men behind the mean green machine–Johnny Knoxville (Bad Grampa, Men in Black 2, Jackass), Pete Ploszek (Parks & Rec, Shameless), Jeremy Howard (Men in Black 2, Galaxy Quest, How The Grinch Stole Christmas), Noel Fisher (Final Destination 2, Red, Battle Los Angeles), and Alan Ritchson (Fired Up, Blue Mountain State, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) are to be commended for their work. They did quite the job of establishing the attitude and comic element for which the Turtles have been known for decades in their protrayals. Sadly the same can’t be said for the duo of Tony Shahoub (Monk, Wings, Men in Black 1 – 3) and Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror, Employee of the Month, Death to Smoochy). The duo partnered to bring Splinter to life. Whether it is their own work (or lack thereof) or because of how Splinter was written into the story, their portrayals did little to make Splinter really stand out at any one point in the story. So simply put, the only positives that can be pointed out in terms of the acting in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the acting of the men that brought Leo, Don, Raph and Mikey to life. other than that, not much positive can be said of the rest of the cast’s work. It’s yet another example of why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up far short of its potential and proves in the end to be one of this year’s worst new releases.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up short in so many ways. its writing is the biggest offender when examining why the movie falls short. The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is another issue. Last but hardly least of note that damaged TMNT is the collective look and production values incorporated into the movie. Michael Bay did not helm this reboot of the classic franchise. But even as a producer, his influence is blatantly obvious throughout the movie. The fast-paced shots, the giant explosions, and of course Shredder’s Transformers-esque look show just how much influence he obviously had in this movie. The only positive to it all is April’s look. The use of a yellow jacket in place of a cheesy full body jumpsuit is the only fully acceptable update to the whole thing. Other than that one positive, one might as well just say that this was another Michael Bay film despite the fact that he was only a producer instead of director. And that considered along with all of the movie’s other negatives is the final nail in the movie’s coffin. One can only hope that whenever the already-in-the-works sequel debuts, it will make up for everything that this movie got wrong. Regardless, this reboot will remain among the worst new major motion pictures of 2014.

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

Courtesy:  IFC

Courtesy: IFC

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

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

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

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

The guest stars tapped to appear in Portlandia’s fourth season make for plenty of laughs.  The same can be said of the acting both on their part and that of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (as well as their cat mates).  And the writing in general makes a solid cornerstone on which rests the equally solid acting and A-list guest list.  All things considered, Porlandia Season 4 proves in the end to be a collection of episodes that anyone looking for a good laugh will enjoy.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Portlandia is available online at http://www.facebook.com/portlandia and http://www.ifc.com/portlandia.  More information on this and other releases from IFC is available online at http://www.facebook.com/IFC and http://ifc.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Antboy Is Small, But Has The Heart Of Its Blockbuter Brethren

Courtesy:  Cinedigm

Courtesy: Cinedigm

Cinedigm’s Danish import Antboy is a surprisingly entertaining movie for anyone that is a fan of the superhero genre.  There is plenty to be said of this mostly family friendly flick beginning with the fact that it is indeed family friendly.  This ties directly in to the movie’s script, which will be discussed momentarily.  Just as noteworthy is the work put in to dub the movie’s originally Danish language into English.  Unlike other foreign films that have been dubbed for English audiences, this one actually impresses to a point.  And last but not least, the movie’s comic book on-screen look puts the finishing touch to the presentation.  The combination of all three of these factors together makes Antboy a movie that while hardly a blockbuster caliber work, one worth watching as a family at least once.

The most noticeable aspect of Antboy that audiences will appreciate is that unlike so many of its major blockbuster counterparts, it is actually a family friendly movie.  It seems an increasing trend nowadays for both Marvel and DC to make their movies dark and gritty.  Why?  If not that, then they are being rebooted with an eye specifically towards teen audiences.  The upcoming reboot of Marvel’s Fantastic Four movie and DC’s upcoming The Flash series are prime examples of that trend.  On the avenue of dark and gritty, one look at DC’s Man of Steel and Dark Knight Trilogy are proof of the trend towards darker and grittier movies.  They aren’t the only ones that are following that path, either.  Considering all of this, it’s nice to see a movie like Antboy come along.  It isn’t dark and gritty.  What’s more, it presents some wonderful themes of friendship and believing in one’s own self.  Even better is that the movie’s hero, Pelle, isn’t the standard brooding anti-hero figure that has become so popular among its big brothers in theaters and on television.  This factor alone makes Antboy well worth at least one watch by audiences of any age.

By direct relation to Antboy’s family friendly nature is its script.  It takes a cue from Marvel’s Spiderman.  But it doesn’t go so far as to directly rip off said franchise.  Instead, Pelle is bitten by a genetically modified ant, and ends up developing the powers of an ant.  And fittingly, his arch nemesis is a baddie by the name of “The Flea.”  “The Flea” is a former scientist whose research on ants had been cut by the head of his place of employment.  The story presented by “The Flea” on his origin is actually interesting in that it makes him something of a sympathetic character strangely enough.  He was just a good guy who had been poorly treated by those over him and was pushed too far, thus leading to becoming the villain that he was.  It’s just another part of the script that makes the whole story easier to believe.  Pelle’s eventual realization that it’s okay to not be popular through it all makes the script even better.  It’s another example of how this story at least strives to set itself apart from its big budget brethren.  Those movies see their main characters struggle with their dual identities and lives.  In the case of this story, the main figure embraces his two separate roles.  Having so much difference from all of the major superhero blockbuster is a big plus to this movie.  Add in the fact that it is family friendly and it gains even more footing.  There’s still more worth noting in the movie’s overall success, too.  Another factor to note in the movie’s success is its dubbing.

Audiences will note in watching Antboy that this movie is not originally American.  There are subtitles used in certain scenes.  That’s the first hint.  And watching the actors speak, audiences will note a discrepancy between the movement of the cast’s mouth movements and the actual words being heard.  At first one might think that it’s just a sync issue.  But a closer watch reveals that it’s actually dubbing.  This movie is Danish in origin.  So obviously the actors spoke in their native language.  To the credit of those charged with dubbing it into English, they did quite the impressive job of carrying out their duties.  As noted, the difference in the dubbing and original speaking parts is difficult to notice if one isn’t looking closely.  That is a tribute to the painstaking efforts of those responsible for translating the movie into English.  It’s yet another positive to a movie that while it will likely never be as big as its blockbuster counterparts, is just as good.

The translation of the original speaking parts from Danish to English was done with the utmost expertise. The same care as taken to separate Antboy from bigger name blockbusters. From making it family friendly to giving it its own identity, Cinedigm and all of the other companies responsible for bringing this story to American audiences are to be applauded for their efforts. There is still one more factor involved in this movie for which those companies deserve respect and applause. That final factor is the movie’s look. It was actually made to look like a comic book that had jumped right off the printed page. The animated panels and the movie’s very look together give this movie the truest feel of a real life comic book since 2002’s Sam Raimi helmed Spiderman ironically enough. That look combined with every factor previously noted becomes the final touch on this movie. It rounds out the entire presentation and makes it a movie that every family will enjoy even with just a single watch.

In the end, Antboy will never be as big as the films being churned out by Marvel and DC. But the reailty of the movie is that regardless of this, it is still a largely family friendly film. At the same time, it maintains its own place in the pantheon of superhero flicks. And in the arena of independently released superhero movies, it is one that any audience will appreciate whether it be in one watch or more.

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.

VSC Announces Release Date, Product Info For Portlandia Season Four

Courtesy:  Video Services Corporation

Courtesy: Video Services Corporation

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

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

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

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

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

Shout! Kids’ Latest Pound Puppies Compilation Is Another Great Watch For The Whole Family

Courtesy;  Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Courtesy; Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Shout! Kids released the latest collection of episodes from Hub’s award-winning series Pound Puppies this week.  The latest collection of episodes from this update on the original 1980s series is just as much a jewel as the series’ previous compilation DVDs.  The episodes included in this compilation make it so enjoyable first and foremost because of the episodes’ writing.  By connection, audiences will appreciate the subtle lessons taught through some of the episodes.  Intentional or not, there are some subtle lessons taught through some of this set’s episodes.  It makes the set all the richer.  And last but not least, viewers (especially parents) will appreciate this latest compilation is the list of guest appearances.  Some very big names lend their talents to Pound Puppies in this collection.  Whether it be the guest talent, the lessons, the writing or all three factors together, Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match proves to be another wonderful set of episodes for the whole family.

The writing behind this collection of episodes is the central point of impact for this DVD.  Those that are familiar with this incarnation of Pound Puppies and with the original series from the 1980s know that both series emulate the classic WWII-themed sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in their theme songs.  The new Pound Puppies has taken things to a higher level, actually giving Ace and his canine friends an underground base just like Col. Hogan and his Allied forces friends in Hogan’s Heroes.  As viewers will see in this set’s opening episode, the writers even emulate Hogan’s Heroes in terms of the writing, too.  In “The Yipper Caper”, viewers see McLeash bring in a giant dog feeding machine just to impress his superiors much like Col. Klink would do in Hogan’s Heroes.  Klink was always taking on some wild, hair-brained scheme to impress his higher-ups.  On the other side of things, audiences hear Ace tell Yipper that the Pound Puppies have homes outside the shelter, but they stay there to help others.  Audiences familiar with Hogan’s Heroes will again recognize quite the similarity there.  This writing is a wonderful homage to the golden era of television and takes things one step farther than the original Pound Puppies series.  That homage is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes the writing so fun in these episodes.  Just as impressive to note is the fact that the show’s writers are able to time and again find ways for the Pound Puppies to complete their missions without McLeash ever knowing.  This is the case throughout all five episodes, not just the opener.  Again, this is an homage to Hogan’s Heroes.  It’s one more way to potentially get young viewers started on the road to an appreciation for television’s Golden Era.  And for that, the show’s writers are more than deserving of their applause.

As one should be able to tell by now, the writing behind the episodes included in the latest Pound Puppies compilation DVD is key to the collection’s overall enjoyment.  Even older viewers will appreciate the writing thanks to its throwback to what is one of television’s greatest ever sitcoms.  Just as important to these episodes are the lessons taught through the episodes.  “Hello Kitten” teaches a not so subtle lesson about the ability of people to get along and be friends despite opposing backgrounds.  It does this by having the youngest of the pound puppies help a kitten find his perfect person.  There’s just one problem.  The Pound Puppies’ feline counterparts, led by a feline mirror image of Ace is set out to keep the young kitten from becoming friends with dogs and finding a person for the kitten themselves.  In the end, the cats learn that it’s okay to be friends with dogs.  The secondary lesson taught here is that one must let go of things from the past.  All holding onto the past does is make a person bitter.  “Beauty is only Fur Deep” teaches a lesson about being one’s self when a much talked about dog comes to Kennel 17.  The Pound Puppies have their hands…*ahem*…paws full when the seemingly humble dog turns quite self-centered on getting a new coat of fur.  It creates lots of problems for the Pound Puppies especially when he shoots down the little girl they said was his perfect person. He of course learns a rather valuable lesson from this experience that viewers of all ages will appreciate.

The lessons taught through the episodes culled for Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match and the general writing that pays homage to Hogan’s Heroes both make this latest compilation of episodes just as enjoyable as previous Pound Puppies DVDs. There is one more factor to consider in this DVD that makes its episodes so fun. That final factor is the list of guest stars that lent its talents to each episode. J.K. Simmons (Spiderman 1 3) and Tress MacNeille both share their talents in the episodes included in this DVD. Go figure, Simmons voices a character in “Working K-9 To 5” that is a newspaper man. Hmmmmm, now where have we seen that before? His character is even presented much in the same vein as J. Jonah Jameson from director Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy. MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama) voices a fellow canine in another episode. It’s only a bit part. But parents that know McNeille’s voice will love hearing her voice here, too. And of course, the true queen of comedy herself, Betty White, returns once more as the voice of McLeash’s not so nice mother. These are just some of the guests that appear in the episodes collected for this DVD. Also on board on these episodes are: Tara Strong (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly Odd Parents), E.G. Daily (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Chalk Zone), Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Napoleon Dynamite, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy), Danny Cooksey (Salute Your Shorts, Diff’rent Strokes, Tiny Toon Adventures) and so many others. The fact that so many well-known actors and actresses would lend their talents to these episodes shows just how respected a series it proves to be. Parents will recognize most (if not all) of the names mentioned here. And that alone is enough to give the DVD just one watch if not more. And it is most definitely deserving of far more than just one watch.

Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/pound-puppies-perfect-match. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Shout! Kids 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.

Thor 2 Is Fun, But Falls Short

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios

Courtesy: Marvel Studios

Sequels are very rarely as good as the movies that they follow.  This has been proven so many times in recent years by so many studios.  DC and Marvel have both proven this time and again with their big name franchises.  DC and Legendary proved that with its recent Batman franchise.  Marvel Studios’ first Spiderman trilogy was just one victim of that curse.  Now Marvel Studios has once again fallen victim to the “curse of the sequel” with its latest big screen offering, Thor: The Dark World.  This action packed late year blockbuster has plenty going for it.  Its special effects and its ability to balance its science fiction and fantasy elements are both positives.  The acting on the part of both Chris Hemsworth and Tim Hiddleston makes the movie even more fun.  However, it is hardly perfect.  It has one major issue that will be its downfall in the long run.  That one glaring negative is the story’s overall writing.  The movie itself clocks in at just under two hours.  However, because of the writing, it feels quite a bit longer.  As much positive as this movie has going for it, this one issue alone is going to ultimately be what keeps this movie from being one of Marvel’s most memorable offerings.

Thor: The Dark World is hardly the year’s best movie or even one of the year’s best.  To its defense, it isn’t the year’s worst movie, either.  One can openly admit about this sequel to Marvel Studios’ 2011 hit Thor, that it has some extremely impressive special effects.  From the backdrops to the fight scenes and one chase scene in particular, those charged with making the movie’s special effects work are deserving of applause.  It goes without saying that much of the movie was crafted using green screen effects.  That aside, those backdrops that were crafted by computer look just as impressive as those that were actually shot live.  Adding to that was the ability of those behind the cameras to blend the CG backgrounds with actual sets and shooting locales.  The computer generated effects in both cases never once felt overblown.  The same can be said of the effects used in the movie’s many fight scenes and the chase scene that follows Jane’s breakout from the palace early in the story.  Even the finest of details were tuned to make the special effects in each case collectively an effective part of the overall presentation.

The work done by those behind the cameras to keep Thor: The Dark World from being little more than another special effects extravaganza is very much an applause worthy aspect of this movie.  Their ability to balance its live action and CG elements is one of the most important aspects of the movie’s success, limited as that success proves to be in the grand scheme of things.  The ability of all involved to balance the movie’s fantasy and science fiction elements is just as important to the overall product.  Those that are less familiar with Marvel’s take on the God of Thunder and the first movie in his franchise might go into the movie thinking it will be just another fantasy epic a la The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.  Those same individuals are sure to be pleasantly surprised to see both elements smoothly combined.  On a bigger level, it shows once again how easy it is to blur genre lines on both the big screen and small screen, and how to do it right for that matter.

The balance of live action and CG elements and that of sci-fi and fantasy elements make Thor: The Dark World one more release that comic book fans of any age should see at least once.  They aren’t all that make the movie worth at least a single watch.  The acting on the part of lead stars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston also plays into the movie’s overall success, as limited as that success proves to be.  The duo’s chemistry has visibly grown over the course of the two movies in which it has already starred—Thor and The Avengers.  Their chemistry has developed so much and so well that it makes suspension of disbelief that much easier in watching the pair interact.  Whether on the verge of taking one another down, Thor having to endure Loki’s wisecracking, or other situations, Hiddleston and Hemsworth make for one of the movie industry’s better modern day odd couples for lack of better wording.  There has been much talk as to whether or not Loki will be back in the already anticipated third movie in the Thor franchise.  If he should be back once more, it goes without saying that his pairing with Hemsworth will be one more welcome addition to the movie’s cast.

As one can tell by now, there is plenty to applaud in Marvel Studios’ Thor: The Dark World.  For all of its positives, this movie is anything but perfect.  The one area in which this movie fails is also its most important.  That area is the story’s script/writing.  The movie’s script is one more prime example of what happens when there are too many hands in the proverbial pot.  No fewer than four individuals worked together to develop the script for this work.  The end result is a near two hour movie that feels a lot longer and schmaltzier than it should have been.  The script’s first problem is the tired and overly used issue of a character trying to find his place in his world and in the universe.  The character in question is Thor.  Audiences see him emotionally struggling to figure out where he belongs in Asgard and trying to balance that with his feelings for his love interest, Jane, who is once again played by Natalie Portman.  This is hardly the first time that audiences have ever seen this used.  The whole brooding character bit has already been done just this year alone in Man of Steel.  The end result of that was a movie that was met with mixed results.  Audiences will be just as mixed with this movie as a result of having Thor brooding in much the same style.

Thor’s brooding nature this time out is just one of the problems with Thor 2’s script.  Just as much a problem with this script is the fact that it feels more like one extended fight sequence than an actual movie with a story.  There are some story elements tossed in for good measure.  But it seems like action sequences dominate the script.  This is evident right from the moment that Jane is “saved” from her room at the palace.  From that moment on, the movie’s pace goes near full speed.  There are few breaks in that action, too.  The problem with this is that it forces audiences to struggle to even hope to keep up with what’s going on.  The story’s pace is that rapid fire.  The even bigger problem is that it goes on at that pace straight through to the final moments of the movie’s epic final battle between Thor and Malekith.  That final battle is the final nail in the coffin for the movie.  It simply runs too long.  It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin.  This and Thor’s brooding sub-story take away enough from all of the movie’s positives to ultimately make it one more of Marvel Studios’ largely forgettable films.  One can only hope that when it finally hits theaters, the franchise’s third film will make up for this movie and its predecessor.  Simply put, this movie is worth at least one watch.  But it’s more worth one watch on Netflix or Redbox than in theaters.

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.