I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two More Than Lives Up To Its Title

Courtesy:  Paramount/CBS DVD

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS DVD

Next Tuesday, Paramount and CBS DVD will release the second season of CBS’ classic sitcom I Love Lucy on Blu-ray. It comes a little more than a year after the release of the series’ first season on Blu-ray. Its release marks the first time ever that Season Two has been released in this format. Now, it is easy to question the importance of the show’s fans having this collection in their home collections considering the number of networks on which it currently airs–TV Land, Hallmark Channel, Me-TV, and possibly others. That is a lot of coverage. However, not everybody out there has access to each of the noted networks for one reason or another. That being the case and that it’s not always that easy to find the DVD box sets at the likes of Wal-Mart or Target (one has to be lucky enough to find them at either retail outlet), it increases the importance of this latest collection by quite a bit. It is just one element worth noting in regards to why audiences will appreciate this latest release even despite the one major issue of its price. The writing behind each of the set’s thirty-one episodes is one more reason and by relation the work of the series’ cast within each episode. Last but most definitely not least worth noting to the set’s positives is the massive amount of bonus material included throughout the five-disc set. From the episode-specific commentaries to the multiple viewing options of the set’s timeless season premiere “Switching Jobs” to the multiple viewing options of each episode overall, these bonuses and many more complete the positive viewing experience of I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two. Each element in its own makes this collection well worth the addition to any I Love Lucy fan’s home collection. Collectively, they make it an ultimate tribute to a series and the series’ fans even despite its rather high price tag.

Paramount and CBS DVD’s upcoming release of I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two marks the first time ever that the series’ second season has seen the light of day on Blu-ray (say that two times fast). Being that the series has already been released both in a full-series set and in its own standalone season sets, one can’t help but wonder why one would want to add this new standalone season set to one’s home collection. The answer is simple. It is the first of a number of reasons that it is worth the purchase even despite the relatively high price tag. While the noted DVD sets are currently available for purchase, one must get lucky to find any of the sets in question in any retail outlet. This means that it is easier for audiences to purchase said sets online. Here’s the problem with that. Not everybody shops online. Whether it be for concerns of security, which are fully justified especially in this day and age, or simply for lack of internet access, shopping online is not for everybody. The next argument is one of the show’s coverage on television today. Currently, I Love Lucy runs on no fewer than three networks–Hallmark Channel, TV Land, and Me-TV–on television. That could be argued to be plenty of reason for audiences to not pick up this set. The rebuttal here is that as with the online shopping option, not everybody has access to one or more of said networks. In some regions, issues with certain carriers has eliminated access to Viacom’s networks, thus eliminating TV Land. In others, a network such as Hallmark Channel is considered a premium channel available only via a digital tier. And in regards to Me-TV, it is growing every day in its reach. However still not every household in America has access to Me-TV. Considering all of this, it makes the presentation of Season Two in its complete all the more important for fans of all ages. Add in the fact that not everybody shops online and its upcoming release in stores makes it all the more important while it is available. These issues are in themselves strong arguments in favor of adding I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two to fans’ collections. It is hardly the only argument in favor of the brand new box set. The work of the series’ writers in Season Two adds even more fire to the argument in its favor.

The issues with the access to I Love Lucy’s DVD box sets both in stores and online make a solid argument in favor of adding I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two to audiences’ personal home libraries. Those issues are only the tip of the iceberg in the argument in favor of the brand new box set. The work of the series’ writers this season and by correlation the series’ cast adds even more strength to that argument. Season Two sees some of the most memorable episodes of the series’ entire six-season run including the beloved, timeless season premiere “Job Switching” and the multi-part story arc that follows Lucy’s pregnancy. “Job Switching” is one of the most beloved of I Love Lucy’s one hundred and eighty episodes if not its single-most beloved and timeless episodes. It is a clear example of why the work of the show’s writers is just as pivotal in Season Two as any of the series’ other seasons. This classic battle-of-the-sexes episode sees Ricky and Fred change places with Lucy and Ethel. The prior become the stay-at-home figures while the latter go out to find work. While Lucy and Ethel’s scenes trying their hands as candy makers are the episode’s most memorable of the episode, they are just part of what makes this episode such a laugh riot. The writers’ ability to make Ricky and Fred into just as much a pair of bumblers keeps the men and women on the same level. Audiences will be left in stitches as they see Fred completely char a cake he was trying to bake and Ricky completely losing track and control of a pot of rice. In the same vein, Ricky trying to clean the chickens (yes, he actually tries to clean them) makes for just as many laughs. On the other side of the proverbial coin, watching Lucy and Ethel sitting at the employment agency, trying to get a job in the first place is well worth its share of laughs, too. On another level, the manner in which the writers switched up the couples’ gender roles even before everything unravels (both literally and figuratively) will have viewers laughing just as uproariously. Fred and Ricky both sporting frilly aprons is hilarious in itself. Lucy reading the paper, drinking her coffee and ignoring Ricky is even funnier. And then there is Fred’s comment about Ethel not kissing him goodbye as she and Lucy leave. This is yet another great moment. The commentary about this moment and so many others throughout the episode show even more why the efforts of the show’s writers make this episode such a laugh riot. Said commentary will be discussed later. Getting back on topic, this episode is just one, rich example of how the work of the show’s writers makes this season of I Love Lucy well worth the watch. The multi-part story arc following Lucy’s real life pregnancy is another pivotal example of the importance of the writers’ work.

“Job Switching” is in itself a clear example of why the work of I Love Lucy’s writers is so important to the show’s overall success and enjoyment. It is just one example of why their work is so important, too. The multi-part story arc that follows Lucy’s pregnancy is another prime example of the importance of their work. Lucy’s real life pregnancy marked the first time ever that a TV series’ heads had allowed an actress’ pregnancy to be played out on television. Discussing pregnancy in general at the time was considered a major taboo for TV. Men and women at the time couldn’t even sleep in the same bed on television thanks to the censors. So to have her pregnancy directly addressed and even tied into the series is in itself is hugely important. The manner in which the writers handled her pregnancy makes these episodes even more key. Audiences will find themselves laughing just as much in the arc’s lead episode “Lucy Is Enceinte” as they will any of the arc’s others. There is a lot of truth even today in “Pregnant Women Are Unpredictable.” Lucy gets mad at Ricky here because she thinks he loves their baby more than her only to turn and get mad at the episode’s end because he had made no mention of the baby. The setting in which this moment happens makes for its own share of laughs even today. Men and women both will laugh because, again, they know that there is a lot of truth here. Even more to the positive is the fact that the writers handled the issue with such tact and playfulness. Much as with “Job Switching” the writers poked fun at both the mood swings that many women experience in pregnancy and the general inability of men to comprehend or even handle them. It is yet another example of everything that was once great about comic writing, proving again why the work of the show’s writers is so important to the overall enjoyment and success of I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two. It is not the last example of the importance of their work, either. “Lucy Becomes A Sculptress” is yet another example of what makes Season Two such a hit.

“Lucy Becomes A Sculptress” is another prime example of the importance of the work of I Love Lucy’s writers for not just one reason but two. The first reason is that it is actually a two-part episode in itself. It is part of that multi-part story arc that followed Lucy’s pregnancy. But it is also its own standalone episode that put Lucy into one of so many outrageous situations. In the case of this episode, Lucy decides to try her hand at sculpting art and even goes so far as to get an art critic to come in and judge her *ahem* work. As any fan knows, she becomes her work, leading to what is one of the all-time greatest episodes in the history of both “I Love Lucy” and of television in whole. Lucy’s initial attempts at creating art are in themselves worthy of more than their share of laughs, again putting the talents of the series’ writers on full display. It is just one more of so many ways throughout Season Two’s thirty-one total episodes in which the writers’ talents are put on full display. All thirty-one episodes considered together, they show with the fullest clarity why the writing behind the second season of I Love Lucy is so important to its general effect. Even with all of the laughs that the writing brings in each episode, the work of the writers is just one element that is worth noting. The work of the show’s cast is just as worth noting.

The work of I Love Lucy’s writers in the show’s second season led to what are considered today to be largely some of the series’ best episodes and some of the most timeless episodes in television’s history in whole. Of course, as impressive as the writing proves to be , it would have been nothing without the work of the show’s cast yet again. The work of the cast–Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley–is perfect from the season’s premiere to its finale. That is obvious in the season premiere when Lucy and Ethel struggle to keep the chocolates from getting past them on the conveyor belt. It is just as evident in this episode when Lucy and Ricky switch their household gender roles. Lucy is spot on as she sits at the table reading the paper and drinking her coffee, not paying any attention to Ricky as he talks. There is a lot of truth to that scene even today some six decades plus later. The truth is on both sides. The back and forth between Ball and Vance as Lucy and Ethel vie for head of the Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League is another example of the importance of the cast’s work. The lengths that the pair reaches in its attempts to obtain that elusive leadership position is so hilarious not so much because it is this pair in question but because it is a situation that could apply both to women and men alike. It just so happened that in the case of this episode it was Lucy and Ethel that went toe to toe over the group’s position of leadership. Another example of the importance of the cast’s work this season comes early on in Lucy’s pregnancy as Lucy wants to initially tell Ricky that they are going to be parents. His reaction after learning he has to sing a song to an expecting couple is wonderful. He goes from table to table, singing happy birthday, becoming increasingly nervous as he tries to find out who the lucky couple is. The ultimate reveal that it is in fact him and Lucy will put a smile on any viewer’s face both from joy and the laughter at his reaction as he tries to solve the riddle so to speak. It is one more way that the work of the show’s cast throughout this season makes the season so enjoyable and a must have for any of the series’ fans.

Everything noted already in regards to I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two makes a solid argument why fans of this timeless sitcom should have the brand new Season Two standalone box set in their own home libraries. For all of the importance of each already noted element, there is still one more element worth noting in regards to this set. That final element is the massive amount of bonus material included with the set. As with the previously released Season One box set, Season Two includes among its bonus features: multiple episode-specific commentaries for starters. One of the commentaries in question centers on the season premiere. Audiences will be interested to learn in this episode that Ricky’s bumbling around in the kitchen was just an act. He was, as is revealed, in fact quite the accomplished chef. Just as interesting is the scene in which Lucy and Ethel prepare to leave and look for a job. Fred tells Ethel that she forgot to kiss him goodbye here. It is a great switching of gender roles. Even more interesting is the revelation in the commentary is that this moment was actually wiped from the episode. According to the commentary, it was not the censors that had it eliminated. Rather it is inferred that it might have been Vivian Vance herself who had it removed. If in fact it was her who had it removed, one can’t help but wonder why. Perhaps there was tension off camera between her and co-star William Frawley. It’s anyone’s guess. Regardless, it is definitely an intriguing tidbit to learn. These are just a couple of extras that make the work of the series’ writers so enjoyable this season. It is just one more reason that the commentary included in this episode proves to be a bonus in every sense of the word. It is not the only episode that receives the bonus commentary treatment, either. There are others throughout the season’s run that get their own commentary, too. The commentaries are only the tip of the iceberg in regards to the bonus material included in this box set. Audiences get to see “Job Switching” both in their own standalone black-and-white presentation and color presentation. There is also an option to watch the episode with its own French-Canadian presentation, which included its own special opening and closing graphics, and French-Canadian audio track. This is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the set’s bonus material. There is far more to discuss including other episode viewing options.

The multiple viewing options offered for Season Two’s premiere are bonuses in their own right and fully deserving of being called bonuses. They are however anything but the only bonuses included in this set. Audiences are also treated to the option of watching every episode with or without their original opening and closing sponsor segments from Phillip Morris. The Phillip Morris segments even include a clear disclaimer noting the now known dangers of smoking and that neither Paramount nor CBS DVD advocate smoking in any form. Both companies are to be highly commended for taking this measure along with giving viewers the season’s run in its original presentation. On the same note, audiences can watch each episode with or without their original “heart” openings. As if all of this isn’t enough, Paramount and CBS DVD have also included with this set, the entire story arc involving Lucy’s pregnancy in the special Lucy movie I Love Lucy: The Movie as well as even more installments of the beloved radio series My Favorite Husband. Audiences will note in the select commentaries included throughout this season that it was My Favorite Husband that led to many of its episodes as well as episodes from other seasons of I Love Lucy. There is much more to note, including a sketch from the Red Skelton Show, guest profiles, an episode guide printed on the indie front and back of the set’s case, and so much more. But to go into each one would take far more time and space than is available. Considering that and everything already noted, it is safe to say that the bonus material included in I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two more than lives up to its title and in turn shows yet again why this season in whole also lives up to its name even despite its rather high price tag.

I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two shows in so many ways why it lives up to its title. Its very availability versus that of the series’ previous DVD releases lies at the heart of the ways in which it lives up to its name. The collective work of the show’s writers and cast once again makes for so many laughs and even heartfelt moments from beginning to end. The material included in the set as bonuses more than lives up to its title, too. The end result of all of these factors together is a box set that is in fact the ultimate Season Two experience for any fan of I Love Lucy. I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two will be available in stores and online Tuesday, August 4th. More information on this and other titles from Paramount and CBS DVD is available online now at:

CBS HOME ENTERTAINMENT

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PARAMOUNT STUDIOS HOME ENTERTAINMENT

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Audiences Of All Ages Will “Love” Shout! Factory Kids’ New Pound Puppies DVD

Courtesy:  Shout! Kids/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Kids/Shout! Factory

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner yet again.  For many that means the annual barrage of candy, flowers, and cards.  For children, it means the annual “holiday” parties if they still have them.  Regardless of whether or not schools still hold the parties in question, Shout! Factory Kids has a new DVD on the way next Tuesday that the whole family will *ahem* love to watch together to celebrate the big day.  Pound Puppies: Puppy Love will be released next Tuesday, February 3rd on DVD.  The compilation, the sixth from the hit Discovery Family series, offers plenty for audiences to enjoy beginning with the writing behind the episodes.  The Pound Puppies face some of their biggest challenges in this compilation.  From having to get the most puppies adopted ever in one episode to facing off against a megalomaniacal dog catcher voiced by Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) and having to navigate a nasty dispute between two neighbors in order to unite a puppy with its perfect child, the writing in each episode is more than enough reason for audiences to pick up this collection.  As if those challenges aren’t enough, love is also in the air for Niblet and Lucky.  Twice over, Lucky and Cookie have to admit their feelings for one another.  And in another episode, Niblet has to face a big decision when he meets a female sheep dog.  Collectively, the writing in the episodes culled for this DVD more than makes it worth adding to any family’s home library.  As impressive as the writing is, the work of the voice actors adds even more enjoyment to the presentation.  This includes the extensive list of guest stars that make appearances.  Last worth noting of this new compilation that makes it so enjoyable is its bonus printable valentine.  The DVD’s box art is used for the dual-sided card.  And audiences need only have Adobe Reader to open the card and print it out.  After printing it out, young audiences can give the card to their favorite pet or to their own parents or even a friend.  Regardless of who receives the bonus printable card, it proves to be one more reason for any family to add Pound Puppies: Puppy Love to their own home library.  Together with the work of the voice actors and of the show’s writers, it proves to be another great new release from Shout! Factory Kids.

Shout! Factory Kids’ latest collection of episodes from the hit Discovery Family series Pound Puppies is a welcome addition to any family’s home library.  This is the case whether on Valentine’s Day or any time of the year.  The central reason for its enjoyment is the writing behind its episodes.  The episodes culled for this compilation see the Pound Puppies face some of their biggest challenges yet.  The simply titled episode “The General” presents just one of those challenges.  This episode sees the Pound Puppies facing the massive challenge of getting some sixty-seven puppies adopted.  Of course it just so happens that McLeish is forced to hold an adoption fair by the mayor.  Even with the perfect opportunity there, things don’t exactly go fully as planned when Cookie decides to start acting like The General.  The central story is enjoyable within itself because of the challenge facing the Pound Puppies.  The underlying message sent to young viewers about being proud of who they are makes the episode even more enjoyable.  It is a message that viewers of all ages will appreciate.

In another episode, “McLeish Unleashed,” the Pound Puppies have and equally big challenge as they have to face off against the megalomaniacal Milton Feltwaddle (Jim Parsons—The Big Bang Theory) and get McLeish back as the head of Shelter 17.  Milton takes over Shelter 17 when McLeish is promoted to a management position in the city’s wastewater management department.  Any viewer familiar with the classic sitcom Hogan’s Heroes will love the direct tribute to that series as Feltwaddle turns Shelter 17 into a virtual concentration camp.  It the most direct throwback to Hogan’s Heroes yet with Feltwaddle even donning a military uniform, looking almost like Colonel Klink.  Of course the Pound Puppies end up defeating Feltwaddle.  The catch is that they have to rely on some unlikely help.  Fellow veteran voice actor Frank Welker makes an appearance, too albeit in a bit role.  Even in a bit role, Welker shows such expertise and respect for his cast mates.  Of course that will be discussed at more length later.  Whether for the direct throwback to Hogan’s Heroes or for the story itself, it proves to be one more great addition to the compilation, showing even more its value in any family’s home library.

One more major challenge that the Pound Puppies face comes in the form of “Rebound’s First Symphony.”  Veteran Actress Betty White joins comedienne Margaret Cho and veteran voice actresses Cree Summer (Clifford The Big Red Dog, Codename: Kids Next Door, Tiny Toon Adventures) and Grey DeLisle (Clifford The Big Red Dog, Curious George, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy) in this episode that sees the Pound Puppies trying to unite a musically gifted puppy named Yo Yo with a girl named Sumalee.  Sumalee is a gifted violinist.  But pressure from her mom is making her not enjoy playing her violin.  What’s worse, Agatha’s (Betty White—Hot in Cleveland, The Golden Girls) dog Rebound (Brooke Goldner—Pound Puppies, Littlest Pet Shop) enjoys Sumalee’s playing, too.  Her love for Sumalee’s talents is so much that it leads to a growing fight between Agatha and Sumalee’s mother Mrs. Wattana (Margaret Cho).  The fight in question doesn’t make the Pound Puppies mission to unite Sumalee and Yo Yo any easier.  But they do bring them together.  The fight between Agatha and Mrs. Wattana is pretty funny in itself.  It will have audiences of all ages laughing.  And the story that sees the Pound Puppies’ mounting challenge makes this episode even more enjoyable.  The secondary message about the pressure placed on young people is something to which so many viewers will be able to relate.  It makes the episode even more welcome an addition to this compilation, thus making even more reason for any family to add the DVD to their home library.

The challenges faced by the Pound Puppies in their latest group of adventures make for more than their share of reason for audiences to check out Pound Puppies: Puppy Love.  Being a Valentine’s Day-themed compilation, there are a couple episodes that see love in the air.  Cookie and Lucky finally have to admit to their feelings for each other not once but twice in this collection in “The General” and “When Niblet Met Giblet.”  The latter of the two episodes also sees Niblet falling for a female sheep dog named Giblet (Ashley Johnson—Ben 10: Omniverse, Teen Titans Go!, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien).  This episode presents something of a bittersweet story Niblet ends up having to make a very difficult decision. As bittersweet as the story proves to be in the end, it still reminds viewers that love is possible.  Cookie has to admit her feelings for Lucky in the prior of the pair when the General, who turns out to be a female dog, calls on the Pound Puppies.  These two episodes in conjunction with the others already noted show once and for all just why the writing in the episodes more than makes Pound Puppies: Puppy Love worth adding to any family’s home library.

The work that went into the writing in each of this disc’s episodes is more than enough reason for audiences to make it the latest addition to their home libraries. As impressive as the writing proves to be, the work of the show’s voice cast is also worth noting. Whether it be the series’ main cast or the extensive list of guest actors enlisted for these episodes everyone involved in bring the episodes to life is well deserving of their applause. Jim Parsons’ portrayal of the megalomaniacal Milton Feltwaddle is hilarious. Any viewer that is familiar with Parsons’ portrayal of Sheldon Cooper on the Big Bang Theory will love seeing that same character style expressed in this setting. Parsons shows not once but twice in this set why he is one of the most respected comedic actors out there today in his role as Feltwaddle. Betty White’s Agatha is a recurring character in Pound Puppies. White’s work with famed comedienne Margaret Cho in “Rebound’s First Symphony” is just as entertaining. It’s obvious that White and Cho had fun working together on this episode as their characters’ conflict increases. There is something about the pair’s back and forth as the conflict escalates that shows how much fun the women had making the episode. It is just as obvious when Mrs. Wattana is forced to rely on Agatha in order to get her daughter. On another note, veteran voice actor Frank Welker appears in a bit role as a young girl’s father in “McLeish Unleashed.” Even in a bit role, he is still entertaining. He doesn’t try to ham up his few lines, instead letting his cast mates hold the spotlight. Considering that Welker (Curious George, Scooby-Doo Where Are You, The Real Ghostbusters) has spent most of his career voicing central roles, his control in this episode shows his professionalism. In turn, it makes it even greater to see and hear him at work in this setting. Lauren Tom (Futurama, Friends, The Joy Luck Club) makes an appearance in one episode, too. And it goes without saying that she is just as entertaining in her role. Her acting and that of the rest of the voice cast in these episodes adds to the episodes’ overall enjoyment. Together with the work of the show’s writers, both the writing and acting make for plenty of enjoyment in these episodes and even more proof of why this new DVD is a welcome addition to any family’s home library.

The work put in by the voice cast and the writers in the episodes culled for Pound Puppies: Puppy Love collectively makes for plenty of reason for any family to add this DVD to their home library. For all of the enjoyment that they garner, they still are not all that make it worth the purchase. The DVD’s bonus printable valentine rounds out the entire package. The double-sided card uses the DVD’s box art for its artwork. And the message that “you’re top dog, Valentine” will put a smile on anybody’s face whether it be another child or a parent. All a person needs to print out the valentine is Adobe Reader. It’s that easy. All a person has to do to get there is open the disc from “My Computer” and open it manually to get to the valentine. The valentine comes complete with specific folding instructions to make things even easier. Parents can help children fold the card once it’s printed out. Or if parents think their children are old enough, kids can print out the card and fold it themselves before giving it to a friend or to their parents. It’s the finishing touch on a DVD that even without it would still have been a great valentine from any parent to any child. The addition of the valentine just makes it that much more enjoyable. Together with the work of the show’s writers and the voice actors, it is the last part of the whole proving why any family will want to add the DVD to their home library this Valentine’s Day.

Whether for the work of the show’s writers or that of the voice cast, the work of both shine in their own way in every episode culled for Pound Puppies: Puppy Love. The addition of a bonus printable valentine adds an extra touch to the presentation in whole. It is an extra touch that will allow parents and their children to spent even more time together and could even bring them together emotionally too after the valentine is printed out and assembled. The combination of all of these elements makes Pound Puppies: Puppy Love yet another solid release from Shout! Factory Kids. They show without a bit of doubt why Pound Puppies: Puppy Love is one more welcome addition to any family’s home library. It will be available on DVD next Tuesday, February 3rd. It can be pre-ordered now direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/kids/kids-animation/pound-puppies-puppy-love. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory Kids is available online at:

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

 

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

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

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

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

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

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

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

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lionsgatemovies

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

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.

StarVista, Time Life Announce Release Date, Details For Mama’s Family Season Three

Courtesy:  StarVista Entertainment/Time Life

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life

Thelma Harper returns this winter!  StarVista Entertainment and Time Life have announced that they will release the third season of the hit sitcom Mama’s Family on February 25th, 2014.  There are changes for the Harper family in the series’ third season.  The most noticeable of those changes is the departure of Vint’s kids, Buzz and Sonja.  The pair was replaced in Season Three by a new character named Bubba Higgins.  Bubba was the child of Ed and Thelma’s daughter Eunice.  He was played by Allan Kayser.  His sudden appearance is explained by his having been previously incarcerated in juvenile hall.  It is explained that he decided to move in at Thelma’s because Ed and Eunice had moved to Florida.  It’s not the only change that viewers see this season.  Ellen (Betty White—Golden Girls) goes under the knife, and Thelma’s sister Fran (Rue McClanahan—Golden Girls) dies.  Of course, Thelma doesn’t let it remain a somber occasion.  She harps on Ellen for how she did her hair for the funeral.  There are plenty more laughs from this, the penultimate season of Mama’s Family in its original run.  The upcoming box set’s release’s bonus features and guest appearances will impress, too.

Mama’s Family Season Three comes packed with its own share of bonus features.  Fans of The Carol Burnett Show that weren’t lucky enough to get their hands on any of the stand-alone box sets or the complete series set get yet another classic “The Family” skit taken from said show as a bonus in this set.  Also included is a profile of Bubba Higgins, an interview with Allan Kayser, and a Mama’s Family cast reunion.  If the bonus features aren’t enough for viewers, maybe the guest star lineup will.  Golden Girls star Betty White returns again.  Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Dr. Joyce Brothers, Jack Dodson (The Andy Griffith Show), and Lewis Arquette (Best in Show) all make appearances, too.

All twenty-five episodes of Season Three are included across four discs.  The set is listed at an MSRP of $29.95.  More information on Mama’s Family Season Three and other releases from StarVista Entertainment and Time Life is available online at http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUS and http://www.timelife.com.  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.

Danny Phantom Complete Series Set Is Loads Of Ghostly Fun For All

Courtesy:  Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Nickelodeon’s programming today is comprised largely of live action sitcoms aimed at teen viewers.  However, from the early 1990s up until the mid-2000s, the network was known more for its vast array of cartoons.  It’s “Nicktoons” were its heart and soul.  While Nickelodeon does have some cartoons today, the network’s sole remaining real Nicktoon is Butch Hartman’s hugely successful series Fairly OddparentsFairly Oddparents is a standout series, too.  Interestingly enough, it isn’t his first series to have the honor of being added to Nickelodeon’s list of beloved Nicktoons.  His first notable “Nicktoon” was the short-lived supernatural series Danny Phantom.  Now thanks to Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon, fans of Danny Phantom will be able to own the complete series in one box later this month.  Danny Phantom only ran for three seasons.  In its defense, it could be argued that this was because it was ahead of its time.  That aside, series creator Butch Hartman and his writers crafted a number of enjoyable episodes throughout the show’s short run.  Just as worth noting about this new upcoming box set is that is alleviates some minor problems raised in the box sets containing the series’ second season.  Lastly, those that know their Nicktoons history will appreciate the voice talent that made up the series’ cast.  That who’s who of voice actors combined with the enjoyable stories, and the fact that they are all available together for the first time collectively make this upcoming set well worth picking up for any Danny Phantom fan.

Fans of Danny Phantom: The Complete Series  will appreciate this new complete series set first and foremost because it presents the series’ entire three-season run in one complete box set.  Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have already released three complete series sets from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, and The Angry Beavers.  Those sets proved to actually take up far less space on DVD racks than the stand-alone season sets that had originally been released.  This set is no different.  All nine discs that make up all three seasons are included in this box.  Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have sweetened the deal even more for fans in that they have maintained the established wise packaging that was used in the aforementioned complete series sets.  The discs are placed inside the box on either side of their own “insert” with the ninth and final disc being placed in its own spot inside the back of the case.  As with the previously noted box sets, this protects the discs and allows the episodes contained within each one to be enjoyed much longer.  It is the starting point of what audiences will appreciate about Danny Phantom: The Complete Series.

The packaging for Danny Phantom: The Complete Series is a good starting point in discussing everything that makes this box set well worth its price.  The episodes contained across the set’s nine total discs make the presentation as a whole even more enjoyable.  It would be easy to say that because its main characters were high school students, Danny Phantom was just another program aimed at audiences of the same age. To a point, it could be seen how teen audiences would take an interest in the series.  Case in point, one of the series’ story arcs involved a potential inter-racial romance between Danny and black classmate named Valerie Gray (voiced by Cree Summer—The Cosby Show, Clifford The Big Red Dog, Codename: Kids Next Door, etc.).  It really is a sign of the times that the show’s writers would include this without making a big fuss over it, either.  It is a subtle, but nice addition to the series.  There are also the constant struggles to balance trying to be a regular teen with being a superhero. But the jokes that are tossed in each episode aren’t above some younger viewers, either.  So while teens might have been the primary audience, younger viewers would have obviously enjoyed the show, too.  The same applies to today’s teens and pre-teens, too.

The packaging and writing that make up Danny Phantom’s episodes are collectively a big part of what makes the series so enjoyable even for today’s younger audiences.  There is at least one more aspect of the series’ new set that audiences will appreciate in examining the presentation as a whole.  That aspect is the series’ voice cast.  The series’ primary cast reads like a who’s who of voice acting.  It has already been noted that veteran voice actress Cree Summer is part of the primary cast (even though she doesn’t come into play until the second season).  Along with Ms. Summer, Grey DeLisle (The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Clifford The Big Red Dog, Clifford: The Puppy Years, Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends, etc.) Kath Soucie (Futurama, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Beauty and the Beast, etc.), Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, etc.) and a whole slate of others each play roles in the series.  Fans will also recognize the voices of Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim, Hellboy & Hellboy II), Martin Mull (Roseanne), and the man who is perhaps the busiest male voice actor in the business, one Frank Welker (Curious George, The Real Ghostbusters, Scooby-Doo Where Are You, etc.)  Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), Taylor Lautner (the Twilight saga), and the late David Carradine even make appearances throughout the series among so many other big names.  If the massive list of A-listers that play roles in Danny Phantom isn’t reason enough to check out the new Danny Phantom: The Complete Series box set, then one need only set that alongside the enjoyable writing and the equally wise packaging to see just how worthwhile this set is for kids and kids at heart.  It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, January 28th.  It can be pre-ordered online now from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/danny-phantom-complete-series.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Wild Thornberrys Season Three Another Welcome Addition To Any Nicktoons Nostalgic’s DVD Library

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon’s The Wild Thornberrys—Eliza, Nigel, Maryanne, Donny, Darwin, and Debbie—have returned once again for another season of globetrotting adventures.  After seeing the previous season chopped into three separate volumes, Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have released season three in its entirety to audiences as it should be.  This last of Nickelodeon’s great classic Nicktoons is on cruise control in its third season as it offers more lessons about different cultures, about geography, and life lessons, as well as laughs.  It offers just as much enjoyment for audiences of all ages as the show’s previous two seasons.  One change that is noticeable here is the inclusion of Eliza’s cousin Tyler.  Tyler joins the cast in the season’s third episode, ‘Tyler Tuck, I Presume.’  After having two seasons of sisterly conflicts between Eliza and Debbie, Tyler’s introduction added a nice new dynamic to the Thornberry family.  All of this along with the show’s continued animation standard combine to make The Wild Thornberrys Season Three another welcome addition to any “Nicktoons Nostalgic’s” home DVD library.

When it first started out in 1998, The Wild Thornberrys did something that no other cartoon at its time was doing.  At least this was the case with mainline cartoons.  What it did was it entertained at the same time that it educated. It taught the importance of geography and biological diversity through the family’s adventures.  The use of a locator on a map to set the scene taught about the different locations of countries across the globe.  The stories themselves taught about the different flora and fauna of each region by having Eliza have to help the different animals from different situations.  The manner in which the show’s writers executed this educational content was genius.  It was done covertly, thus not even letting on to viewers that it was actually educating them.  This same standard has been carried into the show’s third season.  It’s nice to see that the show’s creators and writers maintained this core standard once again.  It’s just the tip of the iceberg in what makes Season Three so enjoyable.

The educational content carried into Season Three is just the starting point of what makes The Wild Thornberrys Season Three such a joy.  Another factor that made this season as enjoyable as the shwo’s first two seasons is its valuable life lessons and lessons of cultural diversity.  One of the most valuable life lessons taught in Season Three is the simplest of lessons.  It is the lesson of the importance of family.  That lesson is taught in the holiday themed episode, ‘A Family Tradition.’  Eliza and Debbie learn the importance and value of family when they are given the chance to return to the United States to spend Thanksgiving with their grandmother, Sophie (voiced by veteran actress Betty White—Hot in Cleveland, Golden Girls).  As is the tradition with holiday themed episodes of TV shows everything turns out well in the end.  Those that have yet to see this episode, will have to find out just how it all plays out when they pick up this new box set themselves or order it online at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com

Audiences will appreciate the lessons of cultural diversity just as much as the life lessons contained throughout each episode of Season Three.  One of the best examples of an episode that teaches this lesson is the episode, ‘Spirited Away.’  The Thornberrys travel to Mexico in this episode right as the people there are celebrating the famed Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  Viewers learn through this episode, the traditions of the Day of the Dead and of the Mexican people.  And of course, what Thornberrys episode would be complete without Debbie having to chase down Donnie yet again?  The continued antics of Donnie provide plenty of laughs for viewers, making each episode complete.  What’s more, this episode also offers a little bit of a kid friendly ghost story that will leave viewers more with a warm feeling than that of fear.  It’s one more episode out of so many this season that makes Season Three even more enjoyable for fans seeing this season for the first time and for the first time again.

As evidenced already, The Wild Thornberrys remains enjoyable this season thanks to the fact that it continues to do what made it successful all along.  This also includes the original animation style established from early in the show’s life.  The Wild Thornberrys was just one of many cartoons created by Klasky-Csupo.  And while it was just one of a handful of cartoons crafted by the company, its animation was only slightly similar to the studio’s other creations.  The studio’s art department managed to continue establishing the show’s identity through its animation in Season Three.  And as slight as it is, one can see that the animation has been honed a little bit more this season.  The outlines of the characters, animals, and general scenery are more defined.  It’s just slight enough to maintain the more rough style established from the show’s beginning.  It’s just one more factor that, along with the continued wise packaging of the set, makes Season Three even more worth adding to any fan’s DVD rack.  The Wild Thornberrys Season Three is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217077.

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