Kids, Grown-Ups Alike Had Lots To Like From 2021’s New DVD/BD Box Sets

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Between families and grown-ups, plenty of positive content has been released this year on DVD and Blu-ray in the form of newly released box sets. Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon’s full series presentation of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, Arrow Video’s classic creature feature collection, Cold War Creatures, and the latest collection of classic Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood do well to support the noted statements. Between them and so many others, there is more than enough to create a list of this year’s top new DVD/BD box sets overall. Enter Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New DVD/BD Box Sets.

As with every other list from Phil’s Picks, this list features the top 10 titles from this year as well as five honorable mention titles for a total of 15. There’s already some positive news about new releases coming in the new year about new box sets, but in the meantime, the titles on this list will help people pass the time. Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New DVD/BD Box Sets list.

PHIL’S PICKS’ 2021 TOP 10 NEW DVD/BD BOX SETS

1.Cold War Creatures

2. The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: The Complete Series

3. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: Mister Rogers Meets New Friends Collection

4. All Creatures Great & Small: Season 1

5. The Watch

6. How To Train Your Dragon: Ultimate Collection

7. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Tigertastic 50 Pack

8. Jekyll & Hyde

9. Spongebob Squarepants: Season 12

10. Rugrats: The Complete Series

11. Star Trek Discovery: Season 3

12. Doom Patrol: Season 2

13. Josie & The Pussycats In Outer Space: The Complete Series

14. Human: The World Within

15. Thundarr The Barbarian: The Complete Series

Okay that it’s for this list. There is still one more list to go for this year. It will come tomorrow in the form of the year’s top new family friendly DVDs/ Stay tuned!

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

PBS, Nickelodeon, Others Offered Audiences A Wide Range Of New Family Friendly Viewing Options In 2021

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

Maybe it is just this critic, but it seems that increasingly the case that families are becoming increasingly segregated in their own homes. That is due to the advancement of technology and to the fact that there seems to be less programming than ever for families to watch together. Even if there is less for families to watch together, it does not mean that there is nothing out there. PBS and its home distribution arm proved that true this year with their new family DVD box sets alongside Nickelodeon, Universal, Warner Brothers and other companies.

This year actually saw a wide range of enjoyable new DVD and Blu-ray box sets for the whole family to enjoy together, not the least of which was another new collection of classic Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episodes from PBS and PBS Distribution. The first time release of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius from Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory is another great new offering for the whole families that released this year. Even fans of Universal’s How To Train Your Dragon franchise got something special recently in the franchise’s “Ultimate Collection.” All three of these titles and plenty of others make up what are this year’s top new family DVD and BD box sets list from Phil’s Picks. Between these new releases, new offerings from Nickelodeon’s Loud House,Spongebob Squarepants, and The Casagrandes, another new Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood collection from PBS/PBS Kids/PBS Distribution, and so many other releases, this year showed that thankfully there is at least still some programming left for families to enjoy together.

As with every other list from Phil’s Picks, this collection features the year’s Top 10 new releases in the given category and five honorable mention titles for a total of 15. Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New Family DVD/BD Box Sets.

PHIL’S PICKS‘ 2021 TOP 10 NEW FAMILY DVD/BD BOX SETS

  1. Mister Rogers’ NeighborhoodMister Rogers Meets New Friends Collection
  2. Daniel Tiger’s NeighborhoodTigertastic 50 Pack
  3. The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy GeniusThe Complete Series
  4. Spongebob SquarepantsThe Complete 12th Season
  5. Loud HouseSeason 3 Volume 1
  6. Loud HouseSeason 3 Volume 2
  7. The CasagrandesSeason 1
  8. How To Train Your DragonThe Ultimate Collection
  9. Curious George5 Movie Collection
  10. RugratsThe Complete Series
  11. PBS Kids’ 20 Snowy Stories
  12. Garfield & FriendsThe Grumpy Cat Collection
  13. Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space
  14. Thundarr The BarbarianThe Complete Series
  15. Animaniacs Season 1

It should be added as a special note, this year marks the first time ever that Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space and Thundarr The Barbrian have ever gotten a proper, official release. There are DVD releases for those titles, but they are not official releases. They are DVD-R sets that Hannah Barbera and Amazon partnered to release, so they are not official. This year’s BD releases of the series’ are in fact the real deal. They are released through Warner Archives and are well worth the money and the watch. Speaking of the watch, that show is one of the many that made Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New Grown-Up DVD/BD Box Sets list. That list will come Monday, so stay tuned!

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

‘The Spongebob Squarepants Movie: Sponge On The Run’ Is Among The Worst Of 2021’s New Movies And The Franchise’s Presentations

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Paramount

Nickelodeon and Paramount’s latest Spongebob Squarepants cinematic offering, Sponge on the Run, is the absolute worst of the franchise’s movie offerings.  Originally planned for big screen release in 2020, those plans were scrapped as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  It ended up going straight to streaming before being released to Blu-ray and DVD last month.  There is really nothing about this movie that makes it memorable.  Its story is the first of its failings and will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home physical release is just as problematic as the story itself.  It will be discussed a little later.  The movie’s animation style is also problematic and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted shows in its own way what makes this movie so disappointing.  All things considered, they are going to make this movie the most forgettable of the Spongebob Squarepants movies to date.

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run is hopefully going to be the absolute last of the movies from the series that started as a little show that could so many years ago on Nickelodeon.  There is nothing redeeming about this movie.  The movie’s story is the most glaring of its concerns.  The story, at its heart, is just another story about Plankton trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula from Mr. Krabs.  It essentially plays out as follows:  Plankton’s computer wife, Karen, makes him realize that it has been not Mr. Krabs, but Spongebob who has ultimately prevented Plankton from getting the formula.  So in finally realizing and accepting this, he uses King Poseidon’s hunt for snail slime (which he apparently uses to cure facial issues like lines, bags, etc.) and kidnaps Spongebob’s snail pal Gary and takes him to King Poseidon.  This leads Spongebob and pal Patrick Star to go on a road trip to find Gary.  With Spongebob out of the way, Plankton finally gets the formula, but of course his victory is short-lived.  Mr. Krabs, Sandy, and Squidward eventually go in search of Spongebob and have to save him from an untimely end because Spongebob had tried to save Gary from Poseidon’s grasp.  That final act (and much of the movie) throws in plenty of promotion for the new CG-based Spongebob Squarepants series, Camp Coral.  Keeping all of that in mind, on the one hand, this is just another story about Plankton trying to get the Krabby Patty formula.  It has been the basis of so much of the series’ content on television and in the franchise’s other movies.  On the other hand, it is also clearly a blatant way for Nickelodeon and Paramount to promote the noted series, which completely ignores canon of the original Spongebob Squarepants television series.  Taking all of that into account with the equally unnecessary celebrity cameos (Snoop Dogg, Mickey Rourke, and Keanu Reeves) and the equally unnecessary musical numbers, and what audiences get is a story that felt like it was just tossed together with hope that audiences would overlook it all.  Given, this critic’s 8 year-old son is proof that children will definitely overlook all the noted problems, but adults with any common sense will see all the problems and realize just how dumbed down and awful this presentation becomes overall.

The problematic story at the heart of this movie is just part of its failing.  The bonus content (or really lack thereof) makes the movie even less enjoyable.  Every one of the bonus features in the movie’s home physical release focuses in one way or another on Camp Coral, yet again proving that this movie is ultimately just one big way for Nickelodeon and Paramount to promote that series, which is itself completely forgettable.  There are art segments that show how Spongebob is drawn for that series.  There is also a feature about Spongebob’s Camp Coral pals, and even a “mini-movie” taken from the series.  That those behind this movie’s presentation would even call this feature a “mini-movie” is disappointing.  It is a short.  Even when it is played, it is called a short on screen.  That is a far cry from a mini-movie.  Mini-movie hints that it would be about half the time of the movie, which runs approximately 91 minutes.  This “mini-movie” runs maybe six or seven minutes.  Yet again, this is just so problematic, especially considering that this and the other bonus content clearly is just another blatant marketing means for Camp Coral.  It is just more disappointment for this overall presentation.  It is still not the last of the problems presented in this presentation.  The animation style poses its own problem.

The animation style of Sponge on the Run is full on CG.  It just does not look nearly as wonderful as that rough style used in the series’ infancy.  Given, it is hardly the first time that the franchise’s creative heads have gone this route.  Some of the latest Spongebob TV holiday specials (mainly Halloween and Christmas) have all used their own stop motion/CG hybrid approaches.  The result of those approaches is really appealing in its own way, but the approach taken here is just ugly throughout.  It shows that some things simply should not go the CG route.  That aesthetic element may seem minor on the surface, but the reality is that the look makes it hard in itself to watch.  When the difficulty wanting to keep watching that unappealing look is joined with a story that is just as awful and forgettable, and equally forgettable bonus content, the whole becomes a presentation that is absolutely the worst of the Spongebob Squarepants franchise’s cinematic offerings and one of this year’s worst movies, too.

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run is the absolute worst entry yet in the Spongebob Squarepants cinematic series.  It does nothing to help build the legacy of the series, which really stopped being enjoyable after its fifth season.  That is proven in large part through its story.  The story is just another tale of another of Plankton’s efforts to steal the Krabby Patty formula.  On a secondary note, it is also a blatant machine for Nickelodeon and Paramount officials to market the new Spongebob Squarepants series, Camp Coral.  That in itself is pathetic.  Add in the fact that Camp Coral does not even stick to canon from the original series, and it makes that aspect even more disappointing and worthy of criticism.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home physical presentation is even more marketing for Camp Coral, making for even more criticism.  It makes it seem even more, that this movie was really just an excuse for Nickelodeon and Paramount officials to market the noted streaming series.  The animation style used in the movie rounds out the most important of this movie’s problems.  Its aesthetic effect makes it just as difficult to watch this movie as the movie’s content.  Each item examined here is important in its way in showing why this movie is so bad.  All things considered, they make Sponge on the Run the worst of the Spongebob Squarepants movies yet and one of this year’s worst movies overall.

The Spongebo Movie: Sponge on the Run is available now on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  More information on this and all things Spongebob Squarepants is available at:

Website: https://nick.com/shows/spongebob-squarepants  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/spongebob

Twitter: https://twitter.com/spongebob

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

Vintage, Modern Offerings Gave Families Lots To Like This Year

Courtesy: MVD Entertainment Group

Families spent a lot of time indoors together this year thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Between parents working from home and students forced to take classes online, parents and their children have seen a lot of each other this year; Probably a lot more than usual.  That increased time together can often lead to tensions between families.  Thankfully, plenty of new DVD and Blu-ray box sets were released this year to help relieve that tension and give families plenty to enjoy together.  That has already been pointed out in part through Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New DVDs & Blu-rays list.  Single disc presentations are just a part of what families had to enjoy together this year.  There was also plenty of content thrown in this year in the form of new DVD and Blu-ray box sets for families.  Among some of the best of this year’s new family box sets are first time releases from the likes of Time Life, PBS, and Nickelodeon.

As with each list from Phil’s Picks, this list features the year’s Top 10 new titles and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Family DVD & Blu-ray Box Sets.

PHIL’S PICKS 2020 TOP 10 NEW FAMILY DVD & BLU-RAY BOX SETS

  1. Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations
  2. The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 4
  3. Dolly: The Ultimate Collection
  4. Arthur: The Complete Friendship Collection
  5. The Berenstain Bears: Tree House Tales Vol. 2
  6. The Berenstain Bears: Tree House Tales Vol. 3
  7. Molly of Denali: Molly’s Awesome Alaskan Adventures
  8. The Jetsons: The Complete Series
  9. Sesame Street: Old School Volume 1
  10. Sesame Street: Old School Volume 2
  11. Spongebob Squarepants: Season 11
  12. Paw  Patrol: PUP-tastic 8-DVD Collection
  13. The Flintstones: 2 Movies & 5 Specials
  14. Garfield & Friends: Season Three
  15. Benji 4-Movie Collection

Next up from Phil’s Picks is the 2020 Top 10 New Grown-Up Box Sets and then the year’s top new re-issues to finish off this year’s lists.  Stay tuned for all of that this weekend.

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

Here’s To Hoping We’ll See More Rugrats Sooner Rather Than Later

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Paramount

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Paramount

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-issues.  Most people in this day and age don’t give them the attention or credit that they deserve.  Yet in an age in which prequels, sequels and reboots dominate theaters and in which reboots are beginning to develop a noticeable presence on television, re-issues are becoming critical entertainment outlets.  Whether on DVD or Blu-ray, re-issues are playing increasingly vital for those looking for an alternatives to all of the unoriginal prequels, sequels, reboots (and even overly embellished bioflicks) that are churned out on the big screen and small screen.

Because re-issues are so important for audiences looking for an alternative to the general lack of substantial new or creative material on television and in theaters, it is just as fitting that they receive their own year-ender list.  That being the case, that is exactly what is being presented here, the top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues of 2017.  Included in this year’s list are re-issues of United Artists’ 1960 romantic dramedy The Apartment courtesy of Arrow Films, MGM’s 1951 sci-fi/horror classic The Man From Planet X, and even re-issues of some classic TV series including the first two seasons of Nickelodeon’s timeless animated series  Rugrats.  Those two sets, previously released via Amazon (along with the series’ other eight seasons) take the top two spots on this list.

As with every previous list, this list features this critic’s Top 10 titles as well as five additional titles for a total of 15 titles.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2017 Top 10 New DVD/BD Re-Issues.

PHIL’S PICKS 2017 TOP 10 NEW DVD/BD RE-ISSUES

  1. RugratsSeason 1
  2. RugratsSeason 2
  3. The Old Dark House
  4. The Man From Planet X
  5. Terror In A Texas Town
  6. Misery
  7. The Apartment
  8. Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus
  9. The Yogi Bear ShowThe Complete Series
  10. Spongebob SquarepantsThe First 100 Episodes
  11. Where On Earth Is Carmen San Diego? — The Complete Series
  12. The Love Of A Woman
  13. The Big Knife
  14. Car Wash
  15. Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie

That’s it for this list, but not for the DVD and Blu-ray titles.  There are still lists for the year’s top new family DVDs/BDs, grown-up DVDs/BDs, Children’s DVDs/BDs and maybe even the year’s top new independent movies and theatrical releases.  Time will tell if I have time to get to them.  Either way, there’s still more to come, so stay tuned!

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.

Nickelodeon, Paramount’s ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ 5-Season Set Re-Issue Is Imperfect, But Fun

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Paramount

This past May, Nickelodeon and Paramount brought the first five seasons of Nickelodeon’s hit animated series Spongebob Squarepants home once again in a massive 14-disc, 100 episode collection simply titled Spongebob Squarepants: The First 100 Episodes.  It marked the first time the collection had been re-issued, and came a little more than a month ahead of the premiere of the series’ 11th (yes, eleventh) season.  Not even the network’s classic Nicktoons – as wonderful as so many of them still are today – lasted that long, with most running their course at four or five seasons.  That is an aside.  Getting back on track, this recent reissue of the box set, which was originally released to the masses in 2009 as part of the celebration of the series’ 100th episode’s airing, is a largely impressive reissue, albeit not perfect.  The set’s episode listing is its most obvious positive, and will be discussed shortly.  The set’s one negative, its packaging, will be discussed later.  Last but most definitely not least of note here is the bonus material included in the set.  Each element is important in its own right to the set’s overall presentation this time out.  All things considered, they make the first re-issue of Spongebob Squarepants: The First 100 Episodes one of this year’s top new DVD & BD Re-Issues.

Nickelodeon and Paramount’s recent reissue of Spongebob Squarepants: The First 100 Episodes is a surprisingly enjoyable presentation for true hardcore fans of the beloved Nicktoon.  That is due in part to the set’s episode listing.  The 100 episodes presented in this collection make up the series’ first five seasons. Not a single episode from that first half of the series’ current run is missing either.  Even the roughly 2:30 short “Reef Blower,” which was part of the series’ very first episode is included here.  This is something important to note due to its tie to the set’s average price point.  Stores nationwide right now are carrying nearly every one of the series’ current seasons either in single-season sets and in some cases as bundle packs, that include single season sets together at a set price.  The cost of those sets eventually adds up.  In the case of the series’ first five seasons, the average cost of the sets runs approximately $50 both by themselves and in standalone form regardless of the outlet.  In the case of this set, its average price point is $34.73, with most of the major retailers – Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Amazon – selling it at a price point of 32.96.  Target is the only standout with a price point of $39.99.  Add in the fact that most of the noted retailers sold the set at roughly $38 in its 2009 release, that indicates a noticeable price drop this time around.  Considering all of this, audiences will see that this collection is, for the relation between its primary content and average price point, a welcome addition to their collections.  While this is clearly a positive for the set, it is not without at least one glaring problem.  That problem is its packaging.

The packaging in this set is problematic in that its 14 discs overlap each other, two to each side of the set’s plates.  While this may be a positive ergonomically speaking, the size of the set has not been reduced that much in comparison to the set’s previous release.  What’s more, by making the discs overlap in that effort to save space, it also greatly increases the odds of the discs being scratched both when they are taken out for play and when they are replaced.  To that end, this is just not smart packaging.  Audiences would probably settle for bulkier packaging if only for the reduced chance of the discs being damaged.  Even worse, this is not the first time that Paramount has gone this route in recent memory.  The company has used the same packaging method for its recent re-issues of Star Trek The Original Series: The Complete Series, The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Series, I Love Lucy: The Complete Series, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.: The Complete Series, Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete Series and The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series.  Considering this, one would have thought the people at Paramount would have learned their lesson by now, but apparently not, and that is disappointing.  Maybe if Nickelodeon and Paramount release a “mega-set” for the series’ second half, they will take this issue into consideration.  Again, while another method might be bulkier, it would be worth it if it meant decreased odds of discs being damaged.  Luckily, it is the set’s only negative and doesn’t completely ruin the collection.  The bonus material included in the set rounds out its most important elements.

The bonus material included in this presentation of Spongebob Squarepants: The First 100 Episodes is important to note because it is the same material presented in the set’s 2009 presentation.  The nearly hour-long VH1 special Square Roots: The Story of Spongebob Squarepants is the most important of that bonus material. It takes audiences through the series’ history up through its fifth season from its unlikely roots in series creator Seth Hillenburg’s early career at an aquarium to the religious right’s attempt to slander Spongebob to Hillenburg’s eventual departure from the series.  The 40-minute-plus doc presents the series’ humble roots on Nickelodeon to its surprising rise to worldwide fame all while looking ahead to its future, which obviously has proven to be quite bright.

As if that extensive history lesson isn’t enough, the set also includes a multi-lingual presentation of the series’ debut episode ‘Help Wanted’ as a bonus.  The episode includes the series’ theme song being sung in Spanish, Chinese, French, German and other languages for the opening segment.  The episode itself continues in a variety of languages, showing even more Spongebob Squarepants’ far-reaching popularity.

The “Life Lessons From Bikini Bottom” brings its own entertainment as it is in reality just a character profile of Bikini Bottom’s most beloved (and not so beloved) inhabitants. It’s a relatively short segment, running about five minutes, but is still entertaining thanks to the work of the editors who pieced the program together.  The timing of the profiles and the show clips makes for plenty of laughs even in this short presentation.

The short “Kick-Wham-Pow-Bob” music video, which crosses music from Pantera and video from the series, adds its own enjoyment to the set’s presentation.  No worries about hearing from the band’s former front man either.  The musical portion of the video is all instrumental.  Audiences will recognize the music as the same musical base used in the episode “Prehibernation Week.”

Each of the bonus elements discussed here is an important piece of this set’s presentation in its own way.  All things considered, they show in whole why the set’s bonus material is so important to its overall presentation.  When that material is joined with the set’s episode listing, its related price point, and even that one negative that is the set’s packaging, the whole proves to be a collection that while not perfect, is still enjoyable in its own right.  That packaging prevents it from being the year’s top new DVD or Blu-ray re-issue, but also doesn’t keep it from being one of the year’s best in that category.

Nickelodeon and Paramount’s recent re-issue of Spongebob Squarepants: The First 100 Episodes is one of this year’s top new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.  That is the case even when one takes into account the set’s problematic packaging.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this set, other Spongebob Squarepants collections and all of the series’ latest news and more is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.nick.com/spongebob-squarepants

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

 

 

 

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.

Nickelodeon, Shout! Factory Finishing Off Another Classic Nicktoon Next Month

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon established a partnership only a few years ago that has seen some of the network’s greatest classic series, called Nicktoons, get full, proper releases. Almost all of those classic Nicktoons has seen releases in separate seasons and complete series box sets. Now what is one of the last of those series sets will be released next month in the form of CatDog: The Complete Series.

CatDog: The Complete Series will be released on DVD Tuesday, October 14th. The series’ complete four-season, sixty-eight episode run will be released in one complete multi-disc set. It will retail for MSRP of $29.93. After this release, the only full series sets that are left to be released under the companies’ current partnership are The Wild Thornberrys: The Complete Series and Hey Dude: The Complete Series. Audiences can keep up with the latest on all of these releases online at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

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.

Hey Arnold! Has As Much Fun And Heart As Ever In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Hey Arnold! was and is one of the greatest shows that Nickelodeon has ever aired.  It was also one of the best of the best of the network’s “Nicktoons” programming block.  Now with only two real “Nicktoons” left—Spongebob Squarepants and Fairly Oddparents—the release of this classic Nicktoon’s previous three seasons is more welcome than ever.  Fans have been able to pick up the show’s previous trio of seasons thanks to both Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory.  Now next Tuesday, fans will be able to pick up the fourth season of Hey Arnold!  Whether one already owns the previously released seasons or not, Season Four is one more welcome addition to any classic Nicktoons Nostalgic’s home library.  This critic should probably copyright that term, huh?

Hey Arnold! lasted as long as it did in its original television run because its writers were so capable at balancing its family friendly comic elements with warmer, more heartfelt elements without getting too emotional.  Audiences get even more of that in what would eventually become the penultimate season of this standout cartoon.  This is exemplified early on in the episode, “Oskar Can’t Read?”  “Oskar Can’t Read?” stands out this season as it actually tackles the issue of adult illiteracy.  Mr. Kokoshka is typically seen as a lazy mooch who refuses to do anything to help himself.  But when it’s discovered that he can’t read, Oskar actually sets out to prove that he will do whatever it takes to be able to read because he is genuinely embarrassed about his inability to read.  Adult illiteracy is one of those topics that is rarely discussed, but crosses generations.  So even now years after this episode originally aired, it remains just as moving and entertaining today as it was in its original airing.  That the show’s writers would tackle the subject at all is one more part of what makes this series and Season Four so enjoyable.

For all the seriousness of “Oskar Can’t Read?”, Hey Arnold! Season Four offers its own share of more comical, easygoing stories, too.  Among the best of that crop is “Synchronized Swimming.”  This episode is centered on the classic battle of the sexes.  Coach Wittenberg (voiced by James Belushi—The World According To Jim) is at it again with his wife.  This time the couple is disagreeing on whether boys can participate in the artistic aquatic event.  This was not Belushi’s first appearance as Coach Wittenberg.  And he was just as funny as ever this time out.  Coach Wittenberg’s wife Tish is just as funny being that she is so much like him.  Just like Jack (Coach Wittenberg), she can’t properly pronounce Synchronized Swimming.  There’s just something funny about this and the couple’s constant competitiveness.  The process of Arnold and his friends training to be a synchronized swimming team is just as funny.  The end result turns the battle of the sexes on its ear in a way that will leave any viewer laughing and smiling. It’s just one more episode that makes Hey Arnold! Season Four so enjoyable. 

Hey Arnold! Season Four offers a solid balance of laughs and more serious matters over the course of its two discs, as one can tell through the episodes already noted here.  There is at least one more episode that exemplifies that balance in this season.  It’s an episode that pays tribute to America’s men and women in uniform.  The episode in question is simply titled, “Veterans Day.”  In “Veterans Day” Arnold and Gerald are taken to a big Veterans Day ceremony by Arnold’s grandpa, Phil.  Martin, Gerald’s father, comes along, having served in Vietnam.  Martin makes a statement that still rings true to this day, as sad as it is.  He notes that people see it less as a chance to honor those that served as more as just an excuse for another day off.  He adds how few people actually attend ceremonies honoring veterans.  Save for parades, there is a certain amount of truth to this statement even to this day.  Along the way to the veterans’ ceremony, both Phil and Martin share their stories with Arnold and Gerald, hoping to impart some knowledge to the boys.  That goal is achieved, as both young men learn some very valuable lessons about honoring those that served, especially as their numbers grow older and fewer.  Yet again, the writers behind Hey Arnold! have taken a very weighty topic and put it into a format that young audiences will understand and hopefully appreciate to this day, and that audiences that originally watched it as kids will appreciate even more as adults.  This and the previously mentioned episodes comprise just one more sample of what continues to make Hey Arnold! the timeless show that it is.  Of course, there are plenty of other episodes for audiences to enjoy over and over again.  Some of the best of the rest include: “Eugene’s Birthday”, the Halloween themed episode, “Headless Cabbie”, and the season finale, “Dino Checks Out.”  In all, audiences will have their own favorite of the season’s seventeen total episodes. And there is definitely plenty from which to choose.  Audiences will get to see their favorites over and over again when the double-disc set hits stores and online outlets Tuesday, May 14th.  It can be ordered online direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217311

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Rocko’s Modern Life Series Box Set Is A Modern Hit

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have completed the course for one of the best of the network’s original Nicktoons.  On Tuesday, February 26th, the two companies will release Rocko’s Modern Life: The Complete Series on DVD.  The set contains all four of the show’s seasons in their entirety on eight discs.  This set is a must for any true hardcore Nicktoons Nostalgic.  It is without a doubt one of the best box sets of 2013 all the way around.  From its packaging to its episodes and even the new original artwork by series creator Joe Murray, this brand new upcoming set is everything for which fans of Rocko’s Modern Life have waited for so long.

Rocko’s Modern Life: The Complete Series is a winner from the very moment that it’s picked up in store or ordered online.  Shout! Factory has shown once more why it continues to be the leader in releasing box sets with this set’s packaging.  Rather than place the series into a large, bulky box set, all eight discs are placed onto opposing sides of four separate inserts.  Placing the discs in such fashion gives each disc its own backing, thus helping to increase its longevity.  Adding to the longevity factor is a small “lip” placed at the top and bottom of each insert.  The “lip” allows for each disc to be smoothly removed and replaced safely.  And being on separate inserts, audiences can flip through each insert effortlessly to get to the disc that they want to watch.  Being that the set includes eight discs, the box overall is a little larger than the standard double disc.  But in comparison to the size of other multi-disc boxes still being released today, the overall packaging is still a space saver for any Nicktoons Nostalgic’s DVD rack.

The packaging of this new upcoming box set is a major positive. The episodes are just as much a positive.  As already noted, all four original seasons of this modern classic are contained in this box set in their entirety.  And the transfers to DVD are highly impressive.  The quality of each episode’s footage has been fully maintained.  What’s more, now that the show’s original audiences are all grown up, the show’s episodes will present even more enjoyment as they will get many of the jokes presented.  They’re like a fine wine, for lack of better comparison.  They’re that much more of a joy now that the original audiences can look back on them with a whole different take on them.  And making them even better, those same audiences can now share these laugh riot episodes with their own children, thus preserving the legacy of this outrageous cartoon for a whole new generation of fans. 

In relation to the jokes and the quality of the footage contained on these discs, the original hand drawn animation simply cannot be ignored here.  This has already been noted with the previously released first three seasons of Rocko’s Modern Life.  Having all four seasons together now, audiences can really see how the hand drawn animation served to give this cartoon its own original identity.  This was really a landmark of cartoons during the 1990s.  It’s something that has by and large been lost in the Twenty-first century.  Given, there are still hand drawn cartoons out there.  But for the most part, this generation’s cartoons are created via computer.  It makes them sterile and unoriginal.  In comparison, this show’s animation serves as a reminder of everything that once made cartoons great, and hopefully will again one day both for the show’s original viewers and today’s younger audiences.

Staying on the same vein of hand drawn animation, fans that pick up this new set will even be presented with brand new hand drawn animation both inside and outside the set.  The new box art was drawn by series creator Joe Murray.  It adds that much more vintage feel to the set, thus making it that much more special and a must have for the show’s original viewers.  This new eight-disc set will be available in stores and online Tuesday, February 26th.  To sweeten the deal for fans, the first 200 who order their copies of this new box set at Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com will receive an 18” x 24” autographed lithograph of an all new original illustration from Joe Murray himself.  Fans can pre-order the set online at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216544.

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Spongebob Soundtrack One of 2012’s Best Christmas Albums

Courtesy:  Viacom International, Inc./Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Viacom International, Inc./Nickelodeon

The soundtrack to the new Spongebob Christmas special, It’s a Spongebob Christmas is one of the best Christmas albums of 2012.  This compilation of songs is fun and original.  It takes listeners through the recent TV special and takes listeners on a ride through the world of pop music at the same time.  The album’s opener, ‘Don’t Be A Jerk (It’s Christmas)’ is a great start to this album that will entertain parents and kids alike.  Spongebob, voiced by Tom Kenny, sings of being polite during the holiday season in a variety of ways.  From something as simple as using the proper checkout lane at the supermarket to generally being polite to others and respectful towards others’ belongings and more, this song both entertains and sends a very important message to its listeners.  The song’s traditional Christmas sound makes it even more entertaining.

The album’s enjoyment keeps up after its opener in the rockabilly style of ‘Christmas Eve Jitters.’  The general musical vibe of this song will quickly conjure thoughts of Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis and any number of other rockabilly/Americana style artists of days gone by.  Lyrically, it’s just as entertaining.  It does a very good job expressing the excitement and joy that any child feels anticipating Christmas morning.  Spongebob sings, “It’s the night before Christmas/And all through my little pad/Not a creature is stirring/Not even mom and dad/But I’m lying here wide awake/No it ain’t the heebeejeebees/nor the eggnog shake/I’ve got the Christmas Eve jitters tonight.”  That opening line sets the tone for the rest of the song.  It does an excellent job of expressing not only Spongebob’s excitement, but it mirrors the feeling that any young listener has on Christmas Eve.  It makes for one more enjoyable song on this album.

It’s a Spongebob Christmas Album has more than its share of enjoyable songs for the entire family.  Though if there’s at least one that really stands out, it’s the country/western Christmas tune, ‘Ho Ho Hoedown.’  Voice actress Carolyn Lawrence voices Spongebob’s friend, Sandy Cheeks as she sings what Christmas is like in the old Lonestar State.  She sings in the song’s chorus, “It’s a Ho Ho Hoedown/Where jingle bells will ring/It’s a down home country Christmas/With a dash of Western swing/Tis the season to be jolly/Like a rodeo clown/Ho Ho Ho Ho Ho Hoedown.”  Even if a person isn’t a Country/Western fan, this is a song that will still be as entertaining as any other on the special’s soundtrack.

While ‘Ho Ho Hoedown’, ‘Christmas Eve Jitters’ and ‘Don’t Be a Jerk (It’s Christmas)’ are all great songs for the whole family, this soundtrack offers no fewer than nine other songs that will have the kids singing happily right up to Christmas.  Even parents might find themselves unexpectedly humming some of the tunes.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, either.  The songs here are enjoyable and will be every holiday season no matter how many times they get played and by whom.  It’s a Spongebob Christmas Album is available in stores and online now.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.