American Experience: Walt Disney Available Now

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Distribution

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution

Walt Disney is one of the most well-known figures in the annals of Hollywood’s rich history. The man behind Disneyland and DisneyWorld, and what is now one of the most powerful media empires in the world, Wat Disney is profiled in the new PBS program American Experience: Walt Disney.

The latest episode of PBS’ popular series American Experience, American Experience: Walt Disney was released on Tuesday, September 15th. Available exclusively on DVD, the program is available for MSRP of $29.99 and runs a total of four hours. It is four hours very well spent, too. The program features not only Walt Disney the beloved figure that the media allowed the world to see, but also Walt Disney the imperfect person. It presents a man whose love for his craft led him to be both a figure of respect and revile among some including his own employees. That is not to say that he was a bad person by any means. Rather it presents Disney as a man who cared too much. Through interviews with both academics and two of Disney’s biographers, this episode of American Experience shows Walt Disney as a man for which audiences will feel sympathy as well as some surprise. Audiences can check out a trailer for the DVD online now via YouTube at It can be ordered online now online direct via PBS’ online store at More information on this and other episodes of American Experience is available online now at:



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Shout! Factory Announces Release Date For Mr. Ed: The Complete Series

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory will release another important piece of television history next month.

On Tuesday, December 9th, Shout! Factory will release Mr. Ed: The Complete Series on DVD. Between 2009 and 2011, Shout! Factory released the first five seasons of this standout classic on separate stand-alone DVD box sets. Now all six seasons and 143 episodes will be available for the first time in one complete box set courtesy of Shout! Factory. Along with being the first time that the entire 143-episode series will be presented in one box, Mr. Ed: The Complete Series also marks the first time that each episode of the series’ first season will be presented in their original full-length presentation. It also marks the first time that the series’ sixth season will have ever been released, too.

Along with the series’ complete 143-episode run, Shout! Factory’s upcoming complete series release of Mr. Ed will also include a number of bonus features for true lovers of classic television. Audiences that order Mr. Ed: The Complete Series now from Shout! Factory’s online store will get free U.S. standard shipping. It can be pre-ordered now direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at  

Mr. Ed centers on architect Wilbur Post (Alan Young—Duck Tales), and his equine friend after whom the series was named. As the story goes, Mr. Ed was left behind in his barn when his former owner sold the barn and the rest of the farm on which he lives. When Wilbur and his wife Carol (Connie Hines) buy the property, they are surprised to learn that the property includes Mr. Ed. Wilbur and Mr. Ed end up forming a friendship that leads to quite a number of madcap adventures over the course of six seasons. Mr. Ed earned a Golden Globe in 1963 for Best Television Series (Comedy).  More information on Mr. Ed: The Complete Series and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at:



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Saving Mr. Banks Has Few Saving Graces

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Walt Disney Studios’ recently released full length picture Saving Mr. Banks is not the worst movie that the studio has ever released. It is also, hardly the best movie that WDS has ever released. The story presented in this movie is little more than another period piece that can be tossed into the ever-growing pile of movies that are “based on actual events” and forgotten over time. It tries to make up for this by throwing in an attempt at a serious story about Travers’ attempt to reconcile her past and present that ultimately falls flat. That is thanks in large part to the glut of flashbacks and the unevenness of those transitions between the flashbacks. For all of the negatives that weigh down the story, there is at least one positive to the whole presentation. That bright shining light is the acting on the part of the movie’s largely A-List cast. Other than that sole beacon, it’s difficult to ultimately say that there is anything that truly “saves” Saving Mr. Banks.

Saving Mr. Banks is anything but one of the best movies that Walt Disney Studios has ever released. There is very little that one can argue actually “saves” this period piece. That’s because ultimately, it’s just one more movie that is “based on actual events.” Co-writers Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith seemed to have gotten down Travers’ persona. And veteran actress Emma Thompson brought Travers even more to life with her expert depiction of the famed author. However, one cannot deny the fact that Disney likely took a certain amount of liberties with the story of how Travers’ beloved book Mary Poppins came to life. That is just the way of movies that are “based on actual events.” Marcel and Smith had to have known that there are those—like this critic—that would know this, too. So their answer to that was to throw in a personal drama story on the part of Travers that sees her trying to reconcile her troubled childhood as she worked with Walt Disney and his people on their adaptation of her book. It’s a bit much. Add in the glut of flashbacks and the unevenness of said flashbacks, and audiences get what is one more loose brick in this movie.

The attempt on the part of Marcel and Smith to craft a dual-pronged story in Saving Mr. Banks is a major part of the movie’s downfall. It isn’t the end of the movie’s problems, either. The glut of flashbacks that Marcel and Smith toss into the story and their unevenness hurts the script even more. One doesn’t even fully realize that the pair is using flashbacks as part of the story until after about the fifth time that the transition happens. The primary reason for this is that there is little to indicate the separation of the scenes. The story constantly jumps from Travers’ present day life to her childhood growing up in Australia. And because there is no clear indicator of the jump back and forth in time, audiences are left scratching their heads at who the little girl is until again, after about the fifth or sixth time that the transition happens. There is perhaps one clear transition that finally makes it clear for audiences that they are looking into what is supposed to be Travers’ childhood. While Marcel and Smith do finally make it clear what audiences are seeing in the scene transitions, things don’t get much better. That’s because it actually starts to feel like the flashbacks in question tend to happen at an increasing pace. Even in that increased frequency of flashbacks, the transitions between past and present are still not entirely clear. They just seem to happen at random points without any clear separation. It only serves to hurt the movie even more. Thankfully for all of the problems with Saving Mr. Banks, it does have one saving grace. That saving grace is the acting on the part of the movie’s largely A-List cast.

If not for the acting on the part of Saving Mr. Banks’ cast, this movie would possibly be classified as one of the least of Disney’s movies in recent years. That being the case, Casting Director Ronna Kress deserves a standing ovation. Kress pulled in some of the biggest names in Hollywood for this movie. Actress Emma Thompson (Stranger Than Fiction, Nanny McPhee, Nanny McPhee Returns) was an obvious choice considering her time in the role of another literary nanny named Nanny McPhee. McPhee’s character was based on the literary Nurse Matilda. Nurse Matilda’s books came years after Mary Poppins was published. But her stories are arguably far more enjoyable than that of Mary Poppins or even this semi-historical look at how the book was adapted to the big screen. Ironically enough, Thompson’s depiction of author P.L. Travers was just as spot on as that of Nanny McPhee. One can’t help but laugh at the obvious cultural differences between herself and her American hosts. And while he is in a supporting role in this movie, fellow veteran actor Paul Giamatti (The Illusionist, The Amazing Spiderman 2, Duets) is incredible as Travers’ personal driver Ralph. Ralph’s innocence makes him such a lovable character. Jason Scwartzman (Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeerling Limited, Rushmore) and B.J. Novak (The Amazing Spiderman 2, Inglourious Basterds, The Smurfs 2) are just as entertaining as the famed Sherman Brothers. Anyone that knows the history of Walt Disney Studios knows that the Sherman Brothers are responsible for some of the greatest musical numbers to ever grace the big screen in Disney’s golden age. And their drive to get the songs right despite Travers’ constant refusal makes them such sympathetic characters. Not once did they ever get mad at her for her stubbornness. And their playful nature in playing their songs makes them even more lovable. Tom Hanks can’t be ignored here either, as the one and only Walt Disney. Those in the makeup department got the look of Walt Disney pretty close with Hanks. And one must agree that he expertly channels Disney, too. He worked so hard to get the part down that he even tried to get down Walt Disney’s accent for the role. It’s subtle. But it’s there. And it makes his depiction all the more enjoyable to watch. It’s one more piece of the whole of this movie that makes Saving Mr. Banks at least somewhat bearable.

The acting on the part of Saving Mr. Banks’ cast is the one shining light that makes this movie bearable. The sad reality of this movie is that despite the entertaining portrayals on the part of the cast, there is little to nothing else positive that can be noted of the film. The transitions between Travers’ childhood and adult life are far too many and nowhere near clear enough. And the dual-pronged story crafted by co-writers Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith ultimately combines with those scene transition issues to make Saving Mr. Banks anything but memorable. Sadly these issues together prove that other than the cast’s acting, there is little to anything else that “saves” Saving Mr. Banks.

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Olive Films To Release Cagney, Marx Brothers Classics May 6th

Courtesy: Olive Films

Courtesy: Olive Films

Olive Films has announced that it will release two Hollywood classics on DVD and Blu-ray next month.

Olive Films will release Jimmy Cagney’s 1943 film Johnny Come Lately and The Marx Brothers’ 1949 film Love Happy on May 6th. Cagney stars as ex-newspaperman Tom Richards opposite Grace George’s Vinnie McLeod in Johnny Come Lately. After McLeod–who is himself the editor of a failing newspaper–saves Richards from serving a jail sentence for vagrancy, the pair teams up to expose political corruption in a small town. Richards and McLeod have to face their evil rival, corrupt newspaper owner Big Boss Dougherty (Edward McNamara) as they attempt to uncover all of the corruption going on in the town. The role was the first for Cagney since his Academy Award ® winning role the previous year in the beloved film Yankee Doodle Dandy. Cagney won the Oscar for Best Actor thanks to the movie.

Marjorie Main (Ma and P Kettle), Marjorie Lord (Make Room For Daddy), and Hattie McDaniel (Gone With The Wind) serve as supporting cast in Johnny Come Lately. William K. Howard directed and composer Leigh Harline (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio) handled the movie’s score. Harline would go on to receive an Oscar ® nomination for this movie’s score. Johnny Come Lately will be available on DVD and Blu-ray May6th for SRP of $24.95(DVD) and $29.95 (Blu-ray).

Also on May 6th, Olive Films will release the Marx Brothers’ classic film Love Happy on DVD and Blu-ray. This movie was the last for the famed brothers. Harpo leads his brothers in this movie in which he plays a Robin Hood type of character.   He is trying to help a group of struggling actors that are trying to open a new musical without any financial backing. When he accidentally takes some smuggled diamonds in a shoplifting heist, Harpo and his friends come face to face with Madame Egelichi (Ilona Massey). Unbeknownst to them, Madame Egelichi has tracked her smuggled diamonds back to the theater where the acting troupe is trying to put on its musical. She hatches a plan to be the sole financial backer for the theater and for the musical so that she can get her diamonds back. The result is plenty of laughs for audiences. Harpo’s brothers Groucho and Chico are along for the ride in Love Happy as are fellow co-stars Vera-Ellen, Raymond Burr, and Marilyn Monroe.

Love Actually will be available in stores and online May 6th on DVD and Blu-ray. It will retail for $24.95 (DVD) and $29.95 (Blu-ray). More information on these and other releases from Olive Films is available online at,, and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Disney’s Frozen Is A Warm, Entertaining Story

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Officials with Walt Disney Studios told audiences in 2010 that when it released its most recent fairy tale based movie Tangled that that movie would be the last of the studio’s “princess movies” for a while. Apparently, that didn’t last very long, as Disney introduced a new princess last year in its hugely touted movie Frozen. Walt Disney himself had wanted to do a movie based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Snow Queen during his life, according to one of the bonus features included in the movie’s new home release. Taking that into consideration, it would have been interesting to see how his adaptation would have looked had it ever come to fruition. In the absence of that potential imagining, audiences have been given Frozen. This take on Andersen’s fairy tale is not the worst of Disney’ s movies. On the other hand, it is also not one of the studio’s best, either. There are just as many positives about this movie as there are negatives. The combination of the good and bad make Frozen a movie at least worth a single watch with the family, but not much more.

Frozen is neither Disney’s best nor its best. There are just as many positives about this movie as there are negatives. So we’ll start with one of the positives. The main positive that Frozen boasts is its writing. Writer/Co-Director Jennifer Lee and her staff of writers—Chris Buck, Shane Morris, and Dean Wellins–crafted in her script a story that is a surprisingly refreshing breath of fresh air in comparison to Disney’s past fairy tale adaptations. So much can be noted of the writing behind this story. Audiences that enjoyed Disney’s last princess movie, Tangled, will enjoy this movie much for the same reasons as that story. It boasts a strong, self-confident female lead and nonstop laughs from the buddy comedy between Kristoff and his loyal moose Sven. More than anything though, audiences will appreciate the message of sisterhood and the surprise twist included in the story’s dual underlying romance subplot. Lee and company lead viewers to think they know what will happen with the romance subplot only to throw the proverbial monkey wrench in the works near the end. All of these elements collectively would have made Mr. Disney proud. It proves that Lee and he writers really thought about what they put into the story. They didn’t want to just make another princess movie. They wanted to make something that stood out. And it definitely does thanks to that attention to detail.

The attention to detail on the part of Frozen’s writing staff and lead Writer/Co-Director Jennifer Lee make this a movie worth at least one watch with the family. It makes the movie stand out in a good way. While their work makes the movie stand out in a good way, it also stands out in a not so good way. It stands out in a not so good way because of its musical numbers. It’s not so much the musical numbers that are at issue here. Rather, it is the number of musical numbers and the pace at which they come that is at issue. It seems like there is a musical number every few minutes or so. By comparison to Disney’s past musical adaptations, the amount of musical numbers in this movie and the pace at which they come is astounding. It’s very Broadway style. The obvious argument here is that some of Disney’s best movies have been turned into Broadway musicals. This is true. But those same musicals that were translated to the stage also didn’t have near as many musical numbers as this movie. So again, it becomes the story’s one central issue. Luckily, it is the only real noticeable negative to the overall presentation.

The musical numbers incorporated into Frozen and the pace at which they come are collectively the only truly noticeable negative to the movie’s overall presentation. That is a good thing for this movie. That means that the positives outweigh the negatives, and make the movie more worth the watch if only once. Now that it has been released on DVD and Blu-ray combo pack, there is one more positive worth noting about this movie. That positive is the bonus featurette outlining the history behind this movie and how Walt Disney had actually wanted to craft a movie based on The Snow Queen even some seventy years ago. The comparisons of the original concept art for that proposed movie to what was crafted for this movie are quite eye-opening. There are even discussions on the ride that would be spawned as a result of the originally proposed movie. There is much more in-depth material that comes from this central bonus feature. And audiences will get to find out just how much more when they purchase the movie for themselves on DVD and Blu-ray combo pack. That central bonus feature along with the movie’s central story, are enough to make up for the movie’s one glaring negative. And because of that, they make Frozen worth at least one watch, if no more.

Frozen can be purchased now in stores and online via the Disney store at More information on this and other releases from Walt Disney Studios is available online at and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Disney Earns Its Own Wings With Cars Spinoff

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment






Disney’s Planes is not as terrible as many critics (this critic admittedly included) had previously considered it to be.  However, it is also not one of the year’s best.  One has to take into account the comments made by co-writers Klay Hall and John Lasseter in the movie’s bonus material to fully appreciate what Planes actually offers audiences.  Their comments play directly into the movie’s overall plot.  The resultant effect is that Planes’ story comes across more as its own story and less of a rip-off of Pixar’s Cars.  The end result is a movie with just enough heart to make it worth at least one watch.

Walt Disney Studios was lambasted by audiences and critics alike (this critic included) when the studio announced that it would be releasing a spinoff of Pixar’s hugely successful Cars franchise.  The very fact that Disney would simply title the new spinoff Planes was to thank for that reaming of the studio. The instant reaction was to say that this movie was just Cars in the air.  While it largely is that, the movie is also worthy of at least some defense.  In its defense, the bonus features included in the movie’s new home release help it to earn at least a slight respect.  Pixar head and Planes co-writer John Lasssetter discusses the movie in a sit-down interview.  He explains in his interview that there had been a proposal to spin off Cars with a movie about trains.  Yes, a movie about trains.  All they would have needed were Steve Martin and someone to take the place of the late John Candy.  Anyone that gets this reference should stand up and take a bow right now.  Getting back on the subject, Lasseter explains wisely that a movie centered on planes instead of trains made more sense.  He explains in his own wording that a movie on planes obviously gave more story options, which makes sense.  That sentiment alone makes the movie more bearable.

Lasseter’s Planes co-writer Klay Hall is also interviewed in the movie’s bonus features.  He explains in his bonus interview that the idea for a story centered on planes was largely thanks to his own late father being a Navy pilot.  The result was a lifelong love for all things aerial.  He explains in depth how his love for all things aerial led to the precise details used throughout the movie, too.  He explains that he wanted to make the movie as factual as possible.  And he did just that.  Anyone that has ever watched the likes of the Red Bull Air Race World Series will appreciate the shots down the long axis of the planes during the qualifying sessions for the big round-the-world air race.  They will also appreciate the technical jargon tossed about throughout the movie’s run time, which barely tops the ninety-minute mark.

The interviews with both Lasseter and Hall earn Planes a new respect that without which, it might not have earned.  Also worthy of note is the plot behind this continuation of Pixar’s Cars franchise.  The writing team of Lassetter, Hall, and Jeffery M. Howard have crafted in Planes, a standard underdog story complete with underlying romance subplot.  This is not the first time that such a story has been done, just as Pixar’s Monsters University was hardly the first college based comedy ever crafted.  In Planes’ defense though, it didn’t directly rip off either of the Cars movies.  It actually does have its own story.  To that extent, it develops even more its own identity.  Add in the fact that comedian Dane Cook has proven that he can actually handle more mature—anyone that has seen Cook’s standup act understand how immature and boring he comes across as being—material, and Planes actually proves that it has not only its own identity, but also has heart.  All of this being noted, Planes proves to be a movie that while hardly one of Disney’s best or even one of 2013’s best, is worth at least one watch with the family.

Planes is available now on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  It can be ordered online direct from the Disney online store at and  More information on this and other releases from Walt Disney Studios is available online at and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition Another Welcome Re-Issue From Disney

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Disney’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is one of the most popular of all of its fairy tales.  The story, which centers on the romance between a human and young mermaid, originally debuted in theaters almost twenty-four years ago.  November 17th will mark the twenty-fourth anniversary of the film’s debut.  And until this year, the last time that Disney had re-issued to the movie for home release was seven years ago in 2006.  Considering all of this, it comes as a little bit of a surprise that Disney decided to go ahead and re-issue the classic story well over a year ahead of what will be the twenty-fifth anniversary of its big screen debut.  That aside, it’s still a welcome addition for any fan of Disney’s princess franchise.  The most important aspect of this movie’s success (as with any movie) is its script.  Considering that well over thirty years had passed between the original debut of this movie and Disney’s last fairy tale feature before it, Sleeping Beauty, this movie actually has so much more depth than most viewers might see.  It is more than just a romantic drama.  It actually boasts plenty of comedy, too.  It also has both a coming of age story of sorts within its bounds as well as an allegory about acceptance and tolerance.  The movie’s new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack re-issue makes it even more interesting a watch.  That’s because of a pair of bonus features included in the package.  All of this together makes Disney’s adaptation of The Little Mermaid another of Disney’s most memorable movies in its modern era.

When Disney’s adaptation of The Little Mermaid premiered on November 17th, 1989, well over thirty years had passed between that premiere and the premiere of Disney’s last fairy tale feature, Sleeping Beauty.  Disney established its reputation on the back of not only that movie, but also the likes of Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Those features made Disney a leader in the movie business.  So much time having passed, it would have been easy for the people at Disney to slip up with The Little Mermaid.  But as the final product revealed, the studio did anything but slip up.  The script behind the movie is on the surface, a standard fairy tale story.  On a much deeper level though, it also includes a strong coming of age storyline.  Princess Ariel is a teenager.  She is sixteen years-old to be exact.  So it could be argued that her youth and naivety is what feeds the romantic drama that is to follow.  It also is what leads to her personal growth and love and respect for her father.  To that extent, it actually makes The Little Mermaid more than just another one of Disney’s princess movies.  It gives the story a certain amount of depth.

Ariel’s coming of age story is only part of what gives The Little Mermaid depth.  It could also be argued that the feature’s script hides in plain sight, an allegory about acceptance and understanding.  The allegory works in more than one way, too.  The allegory about acceptance and understanding comes in the form of King Triton having to learn to accept that his preconceived notions about humans are not entirely right.  Prince Eric proves that.  He eventually has to come to accept that despite being from another world of sorts, humans are not as bad as he had always led himself and his people to believe.  If viewers can allow themselves to take into consideration both of these story elements, they will see that The Little Mermaid in fact has more going for it than being just another princess movie.  It becomes even more worth watching at least once if not adding to one’s home library.

The subtle story elements tied into The Little Mermaid’s primary romantic drama storyline add a whole new depth and appreciation for the classic adaptation.  Now that the movie has been re-issued on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, viewers have even more reason to appreciate it.  That’s thanks to the inclusion of a pair of bonus features included in the new Blu-ray disc.  One of those features centers on producer/songwriter Howard Ashman.  “Howard’s Lecture” focuses on Ashman and how his experience with and love for musical theater helped make The Little Mermaid a *ahem* splash with audiences (bad pun fully intended).  The vintage footage of Ashman discussing the film’s different aspect add to the movie’s value because of the figure it portrayed.  Audiences see in Ashman someone who is the total antithesis of the stereotypical Hollywood type.  He comes across as having been down to earth and entirely humble.  Those that knew Ashman best also share their insights into the type of person he was.  And it corresponds perfectly with the figure presented in the lecture.  The fact that one of his friends would tear up in speaking about him shows just how valued he was not just to the movie but as a person.  That emotion and the feature as a whole make “Howard’s Speech” an invaluable addition to this new re-issue.  It makes the presentation in whole that much more impressive.

“Howard’s Lecture” is an invaluable addition to the bonus features included in this latest re-issue of The Little Mermaid.  There is one other feature included in this re-issue that audiences will agree makes the movie even more worth watching.  The feature in question explains in depth how those behind the movie maintained Disney’s long standing tradition of basing its animated features on live action actors.  It explains how just as with Alice In Wonderland, Snow White, and others those behind this movie based their storyboards on live action “models.”  This was done to get the most realism possible out of the animation.  This is something used to this day by Disney’s partner studio, Pixar.  Add in the fact that the movie was crafted entirely via hand drawn animation instead of computers makes this an even more important addition for viewers to check out.  And together with “Howard’s Lecture” and the subtle extra story elements tied into the story, it all comes together to make this twenty-fourth anniversary re-issue of The Little Mermaid that much more worth adding to any family’s home library or that of any true film buff.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via Disney’s online store at and  More information on this and other Disney releases is available via both websites, too.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at