Oz Fans Will Welcome New Documentary

Courtesy:  Passport Video

Courtesy: Passport Video

Nearly seventy-five years have passed since author L. Frank Baum’s beloved fantasy tale The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was adapted to the big screen in the equally fan favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz.  That’s nearly three quarters of a century.  In the time since The Wizard of Oz originally debuted, a number of other adaptations of Baum’s books in the Oz series have been sent to the silver screen.  The most recent of those adaptations is Disney’s Oz The Great and Powerful.  The movie was released on DVD and Blu-ray in early 2013 after a short stint in theaters.  It was hardly the greatest adaptation of any of the Oz books.  But it was enjoyable in its own right.  That aside, neither it nor any other adaptation has managed to surpass the 1939 hit feature.  And now thanks to Passport Video, audiences of all ages get a glimpse into Baum’s mind and how both the movie and book on which it was based came about in the new release, The Yellow Brick Road and Beyond.

The Yellow Brick Road and Beyond is a relatively short feature.  It runs just over a total of forty minutes.  This is not counting the feature’s end credits.  In that time though, it presents a history that likely many viewers never knew about.  One of the most intriguing facts revealed in the documentary’s short time is that the idea for the Scarecrow actually was the product of an evil scarecrow in Baum’s own nightmares.  One can’t help but laugh a bit in learning this.  While his fear may have been of a scarecrow, it conjures thoughts of the negative images young children have of clowns.  The similarities are there.  It makes this fact that much funnier and interesting to learn.  Speaking of the scarecrow, viewers will be just as interested to learn that before The Wizard of Oz dazzled audiences across the country, a silent film centered on the scarecrow would be the movie that would be closest to the prior film, despite the pair’s differences.  Footage from that film is presented as part of the story here.  It’s not the family friendly story that The Wizard of Oz is.  At one point, apparently, the Tin Man cuts off the evil witch’s head.  There’s no blood of course.  And the movie magic of the time was pretty smart, as audiences will see in watching the feature.  But it still might not be something some parents would want their kids to see even today regardless.

The history behind the roots of The Wizard of Oz makes this documentary a nice companion piece to the bonus included in the movie’s 70th anniversary re-issue, and the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary on the movie.  It doesn’t go into as much depth as the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary.  But it still offers its own interesting insight behind the scenes of the movie.  The insight on the movie’s casting would be a perfect fit with the bonus features included in the upcoming seventy-fifth anniversary release this Summer.  It’s interesting to learn here that the role of the wizard was originally meant for comedian W.C. Fields but was replaced because of his own personal beliefs about the role not being big enough and him not being offered enough money for the role, either.  This is something that isn’t included in the behind the scenes bonuses in the movie’s 70th anniversary edition.  Though, it in itself offers quite a bit of insight. 

The extra insight on The Wizard of Oz offered in The Yellow Brick Road and Beyond makes this an enjoyable addition to the home library of any fan of the Oz franchise.  As interesting as this DVD is thanks to all of its background information, there is one more factor that puts it over the top.  That factor is the inclusion of the black and white silent 1925 film by the same name.  It was included as it originally ran.  There are those that might condemn this.  But it is nice to see the movie—which runs roughly an hour and a half–in its original form complete with original score orchestrated by Louis La Rondelle and conducted by Harry F. Silverman.  Audiences should note that this is not the Wizard of Oz as presented in 1939.  This is one of the earliest versions discussed through the documentary.  It makes for more appreciation of what movie makers in that era had to work with versus the available technology of today’s studios.  It’s one more bonus that any purist movie lover will appreciate and enjoy time and again after picking up this DVD.  It is available now in stores and online.

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

Disney Oz Adaptation’s Bonus Features Give Movie New Life On Home Release

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  Who doesn’t know that old adage?  Not to spoil the movie too much for that have yet to see it, but it is this adage that serves as the basis for Disney’s new live action/CGI based Oz The Great and Powerful.  This latest big screen adaptation of author L. Frank Baum’s Oz books was met largely with mixed reviews when it premiered in early 2013.  The fact that it was released to DVD and Blu-ray only a couple months after didn’t bode well for this movie.  Luckily for the movie, the bonus features included in its home release have managed to save it and make it worthy of a second watch.

The hybrid live action/CGI origin story of the wizard and the witch does an impressive job in its attempts to pay homage to The Wizard of Oz.  The sets used for the Emerald City are just as impressive as those used in the earlier story.  That the film makers would try to stay as true as possible to Baum’s fantasy world is worthy of at least some praise.  Making their efforts even more worthy of praise is what is revealed in the behind-the-scenes feature, “Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas To Oz.”  Viewers learn in this feature that CGI was only one method of movie magic used in this movie.  It is revealed that actual puppets were used in conjunction with CGI elements in order to bring both the China Girl and Finley to life.  It isn’t very often in this era of largely computer driven special effects blockbusters see such a style of special effects used.  So even in this aspect, it is nice to see that those behind the cameras would go so far in paying tribute to classic film making.

The use of puppets was quite an impressive revelation about this story’s creation.  In connection, the use of CGI to put the faces of Joey King and Zach Braff onto the China Girl and Finley was just as worthy of praise.  It would have been easy to just use CGI based creations and had the pair voice them.  But instead, their faces were put onto the pair. There is something special about this.  Even Sweeter was that both king and Braff voiced their characters.  It shows again the drive to make the story as believable as possible.  It was very nice to see the charged with making this happen took their jobs so seriously.  It proves yet again the importance of bonus features in the home release of any movie.

Viewers that check out the feature focusing on the special effects and general production values of Oz The Great and Powerful will hopefully gain new respect for the film.  If it doesn’t achieve its intended goal, then perhaps the companion feature, “Walt Disney and the Road To Oz” will help in that effort.  It is a much shorter feature in comparison to the previously mentioned bonus feature.  But it goes quite well in companion to the behind-the-scenes feature.  Viewers learn in this companion piece that Walt Disney had actually wanted for years before his death, to bring to life his own take on Baum’s works in a movie titled, The Rainbow Road to Oz.  Yet for a variety of reasons, he never did see those efforts bear any fruit before his passing in 1966.  It wouldn’t be until 1985 that the company bearing his name would see the release of an Oz-centric story in Return to Oz.  This movie was nowhere near as family friendly as the hit 1939 blockbuster that was The Wizard of Oz.  Keeping all of this in mind in watching Oz The Great and Powerful, one can’t help but have at least some extra respect for everything that went into bringing this latest adaptation to life.  And with any luck, viewers will understand in watching these (and the movie’s other bonus features) that this latest film adapted from Baum’s books is worthy of at least one watch.  For those that saw it in theaters, they will hopefully see that it is worth a second watch.

Oz The Great and Powerful is available now on a variety of platforms.  It is available both in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Disney Store and Disney DVD store at http://www.disneystore.com and http://disney.go.com/thewizard/.

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.

Tin Man Just As Good As Before In Its Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment/Syfy

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment/Syfy

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is preparing to launch the latest release in the legendary Oz franchise onto BD/DVD combo pack on June 11th.  Just in time for the home video release of this latest installment of L. Frank Baum’s, Mill Creek Entertainment has also re-issued Syfy’s Tin Man on Blu-ray and DVD.  This re-imagining of the 1939 fantasy classic was originally released to double-disc Blu-ray and DVD on July 20th, 2010.  This latest Blu-ray re-issue has taken that double-disc presentation and compressed it down to a single disc.  What’s interesting is that while the original double-disc presentation has been reduced to just one disc, little—if anything—has been lost in translation.

For those who perhaps have never seen it, Tin Man takes the classic 1939 big screen adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s classic fantasy story and turns it completely on its ear.  Though, in doing so, it actually manages somehow to maintain more than a fleeting connection to the 1939 original.  If anything, fans of the original will be thrilled to know that it actually maintains the connections quite well in its re-imagining.  The Scarecrow has become a character known as Glitch.  Imagine if you will an updated half-human take on the Scarecrow that looks like a cross between Tim Burton and Martin Short.  What’s more, while he has a brain, he does in fact have a little bit of a glitch in his brain, thus the name.  That glitch makes for a fun running gag throughout the story.  The Tin Man is no longer tin, but human.  Even the Tin Man name itself has been relegated to little more than a derogatory term used for the Wicked Witch’s (In this case, the Sorceress’) enforcers.  It’s explained in more depth within the context of the mini-series.  And don’t expect to see someone dressed up in a lion costume like Bert Lahr.  Even Toto has been somewhat re-imagined.  There’s even more that’s been changed, including the Yellow Brick Road, the Emerald City and so much more.  But viewers will have to check out this eye opening mini-series for themselves to see how much has been re-imagined.  This includes the very story, including the origin story of Dorothy/D.G (Zooey Deschanel).  It is one more element of the whole that is somehow actually believable enough to make the whole story believable and thus fully worth more than just one watch.

While so many elements of Baum’s classic tale have been re-imagined in Tin Man, it’s not such a bad thing.  As a matter of fact, being that this story debuted in 2007, one can’t help but wonder if it played at least a slightly influential role in the creation of Oz The Great and Powerful.  That’s because in comparing the two stories, there are at least some fleeting similarities between the pair in terms of origin stories.  This is about the extent of the similarities.  For that matter, with the mini-series’ success in its original run on Syfy (then Sci-Fi Channel), one can’t help but wonder if it was the success of Tin Man that led to the rise of fantasy based shows on NBC (Grimm), ABC (Once Upon a Time), and Fox (Sleepy Hollow).  It could be argued that it did in fact have an influence on their rise especially since little else was on TV or in theaters before these shows started becoming such hits.

Understanding and appreciating the influence (perceived or real) of Tin Man on other more recent movies and TV shows plays an important role in the enjoyment of this mini-series.  The story will keep viewers engaged throughout all three segments of the program.  It’s not all that will keep viewers engaged throughout the program.  Its special effects will, too.  Unlike so many of the really bad below-B grade movies that Syfy generally churns out, the special effects used throughout this mini-series are actually far less over the top than the aforementioned flicks.  It’s obvious that there is some CG work that was done with the special effects.  But it isn’t as sickly obvious as it is movies such as say, Sharktopus or other equally bad flicks.  In fact, the special effects used in Tin Man are just enough to serve as just enough extra spice to make this story that much more worth watching for anyone that is a fan of The Wizard of Oz.       

All of the work that went into making Tin Man resulted in a feature that stands out among the masses of movies, series, and mini-series churned out by Syfy.  And in the annals of works that have adapted and re-adapted L. Frank Baum’s classic fantasy tale, it stands out just as much.  Having taken into account the work that went into bringing this re-imagining to life, there is one more factor to be examined.  That factor is the packaging of the newly re-issued Blu-ray and DVD.  Viewers will be pleased to discover that with this latest re-issue of Tin Man, each segment of the mini-series is separated out into three separate segments.  This will allow audiences to watch each segment by itself or back to back without stopping.  Just as impressive concerning the overall presentation of the new re-issue is the packaging.  Those that purchase the Blu-ray will be happy to discover that instead of the standard envelope packaging used in most Mill Creek releases, the BD is actually placed in its own spot inside the case.  Mill Creek does this sometimes with its releases.  But it more commonly uses single disc envelopes for packaging.  So it’s nice to see this form of packaging once more from Mill Creek.  And it is that packaging in conjunction with everything else that went into the Tin Man mini-series that makes it a presentation that any fantasy and science fiction fan will appreciate.  It is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.

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.

Pound Puppies Mission: Adoption Offers Audiences Five More Episodes Of Fun And Lessons

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Hub

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Hub

The latest release from the Hub network’s Pound Puppies series is just as fun as the previous pair of DVDs.  This new release offers audiences five more episodes filled with entertainment and important lessons for both kids and their parents.  Also included in this new collection of episodes is an adoption certificate that kids can print out and fill out for their very own.  Just as impressive as the set’s episodes is the continued original artwork used throughout the series.  Anyone that remembers Cartoon Network’s Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends, will recognize the animation used for this series once again.  Altogether, these factors make Pound Puppies Mission: Adoption just as fun as the previous collections of episodes from this update of the classic 80s series.

This latest release is so much enjoyable first and foremost because of the mix of entertainment and life lessons in each of its five episodes.  Of course the inclusion of some well-known voice actors doesn’t hurt, either.  This time out, audiences learn that even the smallest dog…er…person can accomplish great feats.  This lesson is taught in the episode, “Snow Problem.”  When a young husky puppy named Tundra ends up with the Pound Puppies, he and the others take on a group of bigger, tougher dogs in a sled race that ends up with the young pup winning the heart of one of the racers and being adopted.  The spoof of the famed song, ‘Chariots of Fire’ is a nice addition to this episode.  Viewers also learn that superstitions are superstitions for a reason in “Taboo.”  When they meet the puppy named Taboo, the Pound Puppies discover why it is that he’s had such a hard time finding his person.  Viewers will have to find out the truth behind his adoption problems for themselves when they pick up this new release.  Viewers will especially enjoy the Wizard of Oz reference in this episode.  In the disc’s opener, “King of the Heap”, one of the Pound Puppies is adopted by Junkyard Jim, instead of the newest additions to the pound named Elvis (voiced by Clancy Brown—Mr. Krabs from Spongebob Squarepants).  This episode teaches viewers that it’s best to be themselves, rather than something that they’re not.  Being one’s own self is what people admire most.  The show’s writers are to be commended for these lessons, and the others included here along with its more fun moments.  On a side note, voice actor John DiMaggio is back again as the voice of Niblet.  Considering that Futurama is coming to an end yet again, hopefully Hub will keep this show around as he does quite the job as Niblet’s voice.

The collection of fun moments and lessons culled for the episodes in this latest set make it fun for the whole family.  Older audiences will appreciate this set for more than just those factors, though.  They will also enjoy the animation style used throughout the series.  It’s quite similar to Cartoon Network’s former cartoon, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.  What makes this animation style so impressive is that even if it was done via computer, its quality is such that it’s difficult to tell if it was done by hand, by computer, or a combination of both.  If it was done by both computer and by hand, then it proves that the two animation styles can exist side by side.  And that both styles can exist side by side, one can only hope that audiences will get much more of this style of animation and mix of fun and lessons in even more volumes of Pound Puppies episodes.  Pound Puppies Mission: Adoption is available now in stores and online.  It can be purchased online direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216951.

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.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame Is One Of Disney’s Modern Classics

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Walt Disney Studios has largely made its fame on taking classic literary stories and adapting them for the big screen.  For the most part, doing so has led to great success for Disney.  So it goes without saying that when Disney’s heads decided to bring Victor Hugo’s literary classic, The Hunchback of Notre Dame to audiences in animated form doing so was a pretty big risk.  That is because this is hardly the happiest of stories.  Somehow though, Disney managed to pull off the job and craft what should be considered to be one of the company’s modern classics.  Whereas its renditions of The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, Cinderella and others are considered the company’s original classics, its take on Hugo’s literary masterpiece fits nicely into the category of modern classics.  This is the case for a variety of reasons. In watching this rendition, one can’t help but be taken back to Disney’s golden era.  From the subtlety of the mix of hand drawn and digital animation, to the big song cues to the animation, one actually feels as if one is actually watching a stage presentation made into an animated film.  And while it may be a little bit scary for younger audiences with its darker elements, it still stands as one of the better works in Disney’s modern era.

Viewers that closely watch the newly re-issued Hunchback of Notre Dame I/II combo pack will catch a subtlety that others might not that harkens back to Disney’s golden era.  That subtlety is a mix of animation styles.  There are a handful of scenes throughout this movie that show on one side, the rougher, less “streamlined” animation style sitting side by side.  This is explained briefly in the original “Making of featurette” that was included in the movie’s previous release.  Actor Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) explains the reality behind the misconception that all animation done for Disney movies—at the time—was done by computer.  The difference between the hand drawn animation and digital animation is pretty clear.  And the very fact that animators tried to duplicate the animation of Disney’s famed “Nine Old Men” even in the slightest in this feature makes it worthy of at least a little bit of respect.

If the attempt by animators to replicate the animation of Disney’s most famed animators isn’t enough for viewers, then perhaps the story’s musical numbers will help win over audiences.  Composer Alan Menken returned for this movie after having massive success nearly a decade prior on another of Disney’s biggest modern classics in The Little Mermaid.  The animation works in tandem with the big musical numbers to really leave viewers feeling like they are watching a stage presentation in animated form.  That’s even more the case now that the movie has been re-issued on Blu-ray.  There is just a certain quality on which one can’t put one’s finger that pulls audiences in and makes the story believable.  That’s the sign of a quality work.

If the song cues and the animation aren’t enough, then the movie’s more comical moments will entertain audiences.  Even in some of the movie’s darker moments, the story’s writers come up with some pretty funny moments to help lighten the mood.  A prime example of this comes late in the movie, in the final showdown sequence.  As Quasimodo and Frollo face off in the cathedral’s tower, soldiers are below, trying to break in.  Laverne (voiced by the late Mary Wickers) helps in the fight by calling on a large group of birds.  This moment is a tribute not just to the classic Warner Brothers movie, The Wizard of Oz, but also to Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic, The Birds.  While the latter tribute may have been unintentional, it is there.  It’s just one of so many moments that will have viewers laughing.  Add in Jason Alexander’s comedic timing and viewers get more than enough laughs to offset the movie’s darker moments.  Those darker moments being offset and the movie’s enjoyable musical numbers and hybrid animation together make The Hunchback of Notre Dame one of the better movies from Disney’s modern era.  One might even go so far as to call it one of Disney’s modern classics.  It is available now on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the Disney store at http://www.disneystore.com/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1331583/1000316/ and at the Disney DVD store at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-two-movie-collection.html

To keep up with the latest 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.

Oz Is Good, Not Great

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Oz The Great and Powerful is one more example of why Hollywood has got to break away from its seemingly unending trend of churning out sequels, prequels, and remakes.  It is a good movie in its own right, thanks to the set design, special effects, and costume/makeup department.  But in terms of its story, it suffers to the point that it largely becomes memorable only for those factors.  The combination of special effects, set design, and costume design are more than worthy of applause in their attempts to bring older audiences back to the world of Oz after nearly seventy-four years since that world first appeared to the masses.  They are just as laudable for introducing younger audiences to the world of Oz for the first time.  For the positives, there are two noticeable negatives to the overall presentation.  Those negatives are the intertwining of lead actor James Franco’s acting and the overall story.  In weighing these factors together, Oz The Great and Powerful becomes more a movie that will be remembered less as one of Disney’s standout greats, and more as just another in the ongoing mass of prequels, sequels, and remakes constantly being churned out by Hollywood.

The combination of set design, costumes, and special effects goes a long way toward the success of Oz The Great and Powerful.  The set designers did an impressive job of balancing actual physical sets and CG backgrounds.  One can really tell that a lot of thought and work went into bringing back the world of Oz.  As hard as the set designers tried though, it lacks a certain something that the sets from the previous movie had.  Perhaps the problem with the sets in this movie was that those who crafted them tried too hard to pay tribute to the original work.  The result is that it didn’t feel as….pure.  They felt “spit-shined” for lack of better wording.  Though, the special effects make up for that.  That is especially the case late in the movie when it is revealed how the Wizard’s famous floating head originally came to be.  That effect alone is worth the wait.  It’s really the best special effects moment in the entire two-hour plus story.

The sets and special effects play their own role in the overall outcome of this story, as has been noted.  They are only part of the movie’s positive side.  Just as impressive as the sets and special effects are the costumes and makeup.  While Disney wasn’t behind The Wizard of Oz, those behind the creation of this work are to be commended for creating costumes that throw back to the original movie, right down to the guards’ uniforms.  And while some might have their own thoughts on the witch’s costume, one must take into account that this is a prequel.  Therefore, the costume had to fit the person and personality.  Of course, speaking of the witch, this is where things get bad for Oz The Great and Powerful.

So much went right for Oz The Great and Powerful in looking at the sets, costumes, and special effects.  What went wrong with the movie was the script and the acting of one James Franco.  The whole story of Oz The Great and Powerful is an origin story of sorts.  It tells not only of how the Wizard came to be the famed figure that he was, but also of how the Wicked Witch came to be wicked.  Not to give away too much, but the two stories play together as they are centered on a figure who is a completely immature young man and three sisters who throw themselves at him just like the women back in Kansas.  Oz plays all three of the sisters just as he played the women back in Kansas.  One of those sisters ends up becoming the now infamous Wicked Witch of the West.  Even as the movie nears its finale, it is difficult to believe Oz has any sincerity as he faces off with the Wicked Witch.  One wants to root for Oz, but it’s next to impossible as at every chance he has to grow, he instead maintains his cocky nature right up to the end.  Yes, he’s a young character, being that this is a prequel.  But it would have been nice to see some personal growth and humility as the Wizard at least showed in The Wizard of Oz.  But that doesn’t happen.  Because of that, there’s no real moral lesson learned here.  There is not even an actual romance story so to speak.  In the end, what everything boils down to with Oz The Great and Powerful is that this movie will be more memorable less for its story or acting than for its production values.  Keeping this in mind, it will largely be one of Disney’s less memorable movies in its decades long list of much better movies.  Because of that, it is a movie that is worth at least one watch, but really not much more.

Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3 Another Wonderful Piece Of TV Nostalgia

Courtesy:  Amblin Entertainment/Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Amblin Entertainment/Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

The long wait is finally over, Toonsters.  Nearly four years have passed since audiences were offered their last dose of Tiny Toon Adventures episodes.  This past Tuesday, Warner Home Video released the long awaited third volume of shorts in its own two-disc set loaded with enough laughs, puns, sight gags, and pop culture references to make any classic cartoon fan happy.  Would it have been nice to have a full thirty to thirty-five episode collection as with the previous pair of collections?  Yes.  But something’s better than nothing, considering how long audiences have waited.  And this new set is something.  It boasts some of the show’s best episodes.  The episodes are just one part of what makes this collection so enjoyable.  The original hand-drawn animation will bring back that sense of nostalgia for lovers of classic cartoons, too.  And the use of some of the top voice talent in the industry then and now make for even more enjoyment.  Altogether, it makes for one more must have for any original Tiny Toon fan and even for any of today’s younger viewers.

Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3: Crazy Crew Rescues boasts some of the best episodes from this modern classic cartoon.  The show’s original audiences will love seeing classic episodes such as “Kon-Ducki” (which pays a little tribute to The Wizard of Oz and even The Bee Gees), “The Potty Years”, and its own take on the film noir classic, Sunset Boulevard in the episode, “Sepulveda Boulevard.”  There is also a fun episode titled, “Toon Physics” which explains the differences between real physical science and that of cartoons.  It isn’t the first cartoon to ever poke fun at the incredibility of cartoon physics.  But it’s still just as funny as others of its sort.  This episode features revered voice talent Maurice LaMarche (Futurama, The Simpsons, Animaniacs, Pinky & The Brain) as a spoof of legendary actor Orson Welles.  Instead of Welles, his character here is a whale named—you guessed it—Orson Whales (ba-dump-bump-bump).  This set also includes the “controversial” episode, “One Beer” in which Buster, Plucky, and Hampton show young audiences the dangers of drinking and driving.  Along those same lines, there is even an episode that teaches the importance of childhood literacy in “Why Dizzy Can’t Read.”  These are all just a handful of examples of what Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3: Crazy Crew Rescues has to offer both its original fans and their own kids.  Everybody will undoubtedly have their own favorites from this set.  And even with just two discs, this set boasts more than its share of great shorts.

The episodes alone make for loads of enjoyment for both the show’s now grown-up audience and for their own children.  Adding to the enjoyment of this set is the continued original hand drawn animation.  So much children’s programming today is not true animation.  It is in large part CG-based programming.  So unearthing this collection provides yet another reminder for older audiences of what real animation looks like. And it serves as an example for today’s younger audiences the importance of maintaining the classic art of actually drawing animation, rather than relying on technology for everything.  The only downside to the animation here is that it isn’t as clear as with the show’s previous releases.  It looks like the quality of the transfers with this set weren’t as solid as with the previous releases.  But it’s not that bad.  So while it does leave at least a little bit to be desired, it’s still nice to have this relic of a bygone era given new life.

The show’s original animation and its equally entertaining episodes make for so much enjoyment for audiences of all ages.  The cherry on top for not just this set but also the show as a whole is the inclusion of some of the top voice actors in the industry.  As already noted, veteran voice actor Maurice LaMarche is among the show’s ranks of well known actors.  Also in the cast are the likes of: Frank Welker (The Real Ghostbusters, Scooby Doo, etc.), Charlie Adler (Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, The Superhero Squad Show, etc.), Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama), Cree Summer (The Cosby Show, A Different World, Codename: Kids Next Door) and Don Messick (Garfield & Friends, A Pup Named Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, etc.).  The chemistry between the cast was obvious throughout this new set of episodes, just as with the previous releases.  Whether for the general comedic timing or the interactions with each other, the voice cast of Tiny Toon Adventures was the perfect choice.  It was their interpretations of their characters that put the final touch on what was and still is today one of the best cartoons of the twentieth century.  Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3: Crazy Crew Rescues is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online via the Warner Brothers store at http://www.wbshop.com/product/steven+spielberg+presents+tiny+toon+adventures+volume+3+1000311856.do?sortby=ourPicks&from=Search.

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.

Vampire Dog Is Furry Family Fun For Halloween

Courtesy: Entertainment One

One part Wishbone and one part Saturday morning cartoon, Entertainment One’s new straight-to-DVD movie, Vampire Dog, is a fun family friendly movie that is great for any family with young children.  This family friendly movie is a perfect fit for any young child’s Halloween party.  The story centers on five hundred year old vampire dog named Fang (voiced by SNL alum Norm MacDonald).  Macdonald’s voice work gives fang the same personality as Wishbone.  For those who don’t know, Wishbone was a little Jack Russell Terrier who promoted literacy in his own show on PBS during the 90’s.  He was voiced by Larry Brantley.  While Fang might not be a Jack Russell, his small stature and attitude imbued by MacDonald make him just as much a joy to watch as Wishbone.

Vampire Dog has a lot of good for parents and kids alike.  Parents will like the central themes of believing in oneself and overcoming bullies.  Sure, Vampire Dog is a Halloween movie on the surface.  But being that bullying is such a hot button issue right now, it’s nice to still be able to get these positive messages in there, at the same time without being too preachy.   Parents will also appreciate the theme of friendship exemplified by Fang and his young owner and friend, Ace Cunningham.  Fang and Ace meet after Ace and his mother move to a new town and Ace’s mother takes a job as the new music teacher at Lugosi Public School.  Yes, that’s Lugosi as in the famed horror actor, Bela Lugosi.  There’s also reference made late in the movie to the classic, The Wizard of Oz.  Parents and movie buffs will especially appreciate these references to Hollywood’s old guard.  And of course there are just enough fart jokes to make any young audiences laugh riotously.  Most of those jokes come from Fang.  Even more family friendly is that instead of drinking blood, Fang eats red jello.  Just like Garfield despises the thought of eating mice, Fang explains to Ace and his young love interest, Skylar, why he prefers jello to blood.  That explanation is worth its own share of laughs, too.

Vampire Dog offers a lot of enjoyment both for kids and parents alike.  For all the positive messages, fart jokes and other great elements, there’s no denying that the two sub-stories contained within the main plot have more holes than a pound of Swiss cheese.  A school can’t just be shut down on one person’s whim, for example.  And that the school’s principal would be involved in such a scheme would get him not only fired, but arrested too, for accepting bribes.  That’s just a couple in a handful of issues that come up in the near ninety minute feature.  But those holes can be forgiven considering the laughs that families will have throughout the movie.  Along with all the jokes, there is also plenty of physical comedy on the part of Frank (Ron Pederson).  Frank is the bumbling assistant to the evil Cruella DeVille style villain, Dr. Warhol (Amy Matysio).  Frank constantly has to do Dr. Warhol’s bidding in her attempts to trap Fang and get the secret of immortality hidden in his blood.  She wants to trap him as she is trying to come up with a new anti-aging cream that will make her rich.  Fang constantly gets the better of both Frank and Warhol every time though.  And each time, Frank ends up the butt of the jokes.  Many times, he even ends up on his butt, too.

Vampire Dog isn’t meant to be one of those movies that audiences watch every year.  Audiences need to keep in mind that it wasn’t meant to be a ground breaking epic for young audiences.  Being that Halloween comes not that long after the start of the new school year, the anti-bullying and pro friendship messages are nice tie-ins with the general Halloween theme of the story since most schools across the country have just gotten back into session for the new year.  And with any luck, the references to Hollywood’s old guard will get younger audiences interested in the film industry’s golden era, reminding them of what used to make Hollywood truly great.  All combined, everything put into Vampire Dog may not make it the most memorable Halloween movie ever written.  But it is still one that families will enjoy every year.  It’s available now in stores and online.

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.

New Stooges Set A Good Starting Point For Any Stooges fan

Courtesy: Passport Video/Entertainment One

The Three Stooges (Larry Fine, Moe Howard, Curly Howard, Shemp Howard, Joe Besser, Curly Joe DeRita) are without a doubt, one of the greatest teams in the extensive history of great comics.  This trio of comedians has earned more fame over the decades than even The Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello and Laurel & Hardy.  Countless DVD’s have been released with Stooges materials throughout the decades, too.   Many of those DVD’s were obviously released with little thought.  However, the newest Stooges release, “A Three Stooges Celebration” isn’t one of those, despite what some would want to believe.

“A Three Stooges Celebration” isn’t just another of the countless DVD releases put out in recent years that randomly culls bits and pieces for what it calls a tribute.  What this new double disc release does is it takes the material that has been collected on those various releases in one double disc set for what is the most definitive set yet.  The first disc in the set follows the early days of the Stooges in the 1930’s and 40’s.  Included is rarer footage from the Stooges performance on the Ed Wynn Camel Hour, as well as the shorts, “Hollywood on Parade”, “Sing a Song of Six Pants”, “Knife of The Party” and “Henry The Ache.”  Again, these shorts have been included on previous sets.  But few, if any, of those sets has actually compiled all of the shorts in one set.  One of the more interesting features in that list is the short, “Henry The Ache.”  Fans will note here how short Shemp’s role was.  Bert Lahr was the star of this short.  It wouldn’t be until five years later that Lahr would really be a star, when he donned the costume of the Cowardly Lion in the legendary picture, “The wizard of Oz.”  It’s actually rather ironic that Lahr would play King Henry in “Henry The Ache.”  Those who remember “The Wizard of Oz” will recall Lahr singing, “If I were King of the forest.”  Who would ever have imaged how prophetic playing a king would be in 1934?

The tidbit about Lahr is a great bonus.  It is, however, just a tiny part of what makes this newest set so enjoyable.  Getting back to the Stooges’ history, the first disc also boasts a near hour long documentary that tells the history of the Stooges.  It starts in the group’s early Vaudeville days, telling of how the Stooges teamed with Ted Healey to form Ted Healey & His Stooges.  It follows the trio throughout is lineup changes to its ultimate ending after the death of the two original stooges, Larry Fine and Moe Howard.  Though the real end, according to the documentary came before either one had died.  The group’s end really came after Larry suffered his first stroke.  It left him unable to perform.  So Moe had made the decision for the Stooges’ career to come to a close.

The history lesson and rare footage included on the set’s first disc are a joy for any Stooge’s fans, having finally been collected on one single set, rather than being spread out over countless others.  The addition of the Stooges’ 1960’s “New Three Stooges” cartoons on the second disc is an extra jewel for the collection.  Some people would like to whine and moan at how bad the Stooges cartoons are.  Given, they may not be as great as other cartoons from that era.  But the mere fact that the footage still exists and looks as good as it does here shows that it has stood the test of time.  And for any Stooges or television historian, this is very important.  In an era when so many cartoons are based in either CGI or anime, these hand drawn cartoons have their very own stylistic identity, and even comic identity.  Love them or hate them, they are an important part of the Stooges’ history.  And they are an important part of television history.  That being noted, it’s nice to see them included on what fans will hopefully see as one of the better Stooges collections to come along in a long time.  The two-disc set is available in stores beginning today. 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go 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.