PBS Kids’ Second Reading Rainbow Collection Will Hopefully Not Be Its Last

Courtesy:  PBS Kids/PBS Distribution

Courtesy: PBS Kids/PBS Distribution

PBS’ programming has changed a lot over the years since the network first hit the air. Through all of the changes in its programming lineup, there have been some shows that have remained fan favorites among the network’s legions of fans. Those shows include the likes of Wishbone, Sesame Street, and Reading Rainbow are just a few of those shows. There are plenty of other classics that remain favorites among audiences today. The specifically noted shows are just a few of the network’s most popular series to date. The latter of that trio of series went off the air almost ten years ago. Though, it did make its somewhat triumphant return online roughly a year or so ago much to the surprise and even dismay of some. Thankfully for those hoping for its return to television, PBS Kids and BS Distribution released a pair of DVDs this summer containing a handful of classic Reading Rainbow episodes. The first of the DVDs, Reading Rainbow: If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, was released this past May. The second collection, Reading Rainbow: Animal Café, was released June 30th. This collection is even more of a must have for long-time Reading Rainbow fans as the prior release. The main reason for this is its episodes. Three of the collection’s four episodes originally aired in 1985. That was when Reading Rainbow was still very much in its infancy. Older audiences will get a sense of nostalgia watching those episodes. That is especially the case in seeing the fashions from that era as well as hearing the music and the show’s overall production values. The episodes themselves are just part of what makes Reading Rainbow: Animal Café enjoyable for audiences. Some of the books teach even more invaluable lessons and others present some simple, enjoyable stories that will put a smile on any viewer’s face. Last but not least that makes this latest collection of episodes so fun for the whole family is the “teaching guide” included with the set. The “guide” serves as a starting point for teachers and parents alike to present lessons about ecology, conservation, and simply giving thanks. It is a great addition that can go a long way for teachers and parents alike. And together with the set’s episodes and their content contained therein, it makes the collection complete. It works with those elements to make this collection one more than every family should have in their home DVD library.

Reading Rainbow: Animal Café is only the second official collection of classic Reading Rainbow episodes to be released by PBS Distribution since the series went off the air in 2006. That is saying quite a bit. Being only the second official collection released from the one-time home of the family favorite series, it proves itself to be one more welcome new collection and hopefully not the last either. It proves itself so valuable primarily through its featured episodes. Four more classic episodes are presented in the body of the DVD. Three of those episodes come from 1985. That is the when the series was still in its infancy. It would have only been on the air for two years at that time. And it shows through the fashions and music in each episode as well as the hairstyles and production values. It might leave some audiences laughing including the series’ now grown-up original viewers looking back on how much things have changed since then. In the process, looking back at the days gone by, watching these episodes may even create a sense of nostalgia for those same audiences. It will remind those audiences of what once made PBS great and by comparison what still makes it so great even today. The children of those viewers will enjoy the episodes not for the nostalgia but for the general content of the episodes. They and their parents will all enjoy LeVar’s comedy makeover and classic slapstick routine in connection with the book Ludlow Laughs. The “Rainbow Classic” bicycle race set against the beautiful, tropical backdrop of Hawaii in the collection’s second episode and the race itself will entertain audiences of all ages just as much. And the throwback to New York City of the 1980s is still as relevant today as it was in 1985. That is because there are still people both there and across the country that work overnight. So it is still just as worthwhile an episode today as it was in its original broadcast. It is just one more example of what makes the episodes featured in this collection so important to the success of the set’s presentation in whole. Together with the collection’s other episodes, all four episodes show in whole why they are so important to the success and enjoyment of Reading Rainbow: Animal Café.

The episodes featured in PBS Kids’ latest Reading Rainbow collection do plenty to make this new collection a must have for any of the show’s original fans and for the next generation of Reading Rainbow fans. They are collectively only one part of what makes this latest collection so enjoyable for the whole family. The content of the episodes and the books presented in relation to the episodes make for even more enjoyment. The episode centered on The Tortoise and the Hare teaches the invaluable lesson of perseverance and hard work and its related results while Giving Thanks teaches exactly that. It teaches young viewers to be appreciative of everything that they have. Being that we seemingly live increasingly in a me first world today, this is an especially important lesson for young viewers to learn. Such a timeless lesson is yet another example of why audiences of all ages will appreciate this latest collection of Reading Rainbow episodes. Set against the collection’s more straight forward, fun-filled episodes, the material featured in all four episodes makes this collection all the more enjoyable. Collectively, all of the material presented in each of the disc’s four episodes shows just as much as the episodes themselves why this latest collection is a must have for Reading Rainbow fans of all ages.

The episodes that were chosen for Reading Rainbow: Animal Cafe and the material contained therein are both key reasons that audiences of all ages will want to add this latest Reading Rainbow collection to their home DVD libraries. They are not the only reasons that audiences will appreciate it, either. Along with the centrally featured episodes, Reading Rainbow: Animal Cafe also includes a “teaching guide” of sorts inside the DVD’s case. The “teaching guide” serves as a good starting point for teachers and parents alike. That is because it forms a foundation for the lessons presented throughout each of the presented episodes. Teachers and parents can drive home the lessons of Giving Thanks by having children form a “cleanup party” that with permission from a city or town government, would clean up designated areas of said town or city. The lessons presented by The Tortoise and the Hare are driven home by presenting an interactive activity that would see children grow their own plants. It would teach them the rewards of patience, hard work, and perseverance. There are even activities included in the “guide” that give parents and educators a starting point to teach children about appreciating not just Earth but all that Earth has to offer in its natural beauty. Teachers and parents could go from here and build lessons about appreciating other things (or people) that children have. As if that is not enough, there is also a lesson that lets children make their own pots just like the Native Americans presented in “Giving Thanks.” Each of the lessons in themselves offers its own enjoyment for adults and children alike. Together, they provide yet one more solid reason that this DVD should be in every living room and classroom even despite the episodes’ ages. And when set alongside the episodes themselves and the episodes’ content in whole, all three elements together show in whole why Reading Rainbow: Animal Cafe is not just another must have for any family and educator but one of the year’s best new DVDs for children and families.

Reading Rainbow: Animal Cafe is one of this year’s best new DVDs for children and families. It proves this through the combination of its episodes, their featured content and the DVD’s companion “lesson guide.” Whether used in the classroom or the living room, it proves to have something for audiences of all ages and will no matter how many times viewers watch it. Audiences can only hope that it will not be the last of PBS Kids’ Reading Rainbow compilations to see the light of day. With any luck it and its companion DVD Reading Rainbow: If You Give A Mouse A Cookie will prove successful enough that maybe PBS Kids and PBS Distribution will release this classic series in its own standalone season sets rather than smaller four-episode collections. Time will tell. And while audiences wait to see if anymore classic Reading Rainbow episodes will see the light of day, they can purchase this DVD in stores or order it online now via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=60650596&cp=&sr=1&kw=reading+rainbow&origkw=Reading+Rainbow&parentPage=search. More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org

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Bailey’s Latest Adventure One Fun Roundup For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Entertainment One/Engine 15 Media Group

Courtesy: Entertainment One/Engine 15 Media Group

The latest release from Engine 15 Media Group’s Adventures of Bailey series takes the beloved Golden Retriever down south to the Lone Star State in a mix of young love and literal puppy love and a madcap canine caper.  A Night in Cowtown centers on a bumbling criminal that accidentally steals an elderly woman’s dog named Felix after losing Frankie, his boss’s dog.  The theft happens as a result of a case of mistaken identity.  This leads to the intertwining stories of young love between Bailey and Trixie, and that of his teenage owner, Abbi (Christine Galyean) and Marc (Mason Dye).  The resultant hunt for Felix offers plenty of laughs and warm moments for the whole family.

The story behind this latest of Bailey’s adventures is a pretty simple one to follow.  And much like many of Engine 15 Media Group’s other releases, this story too offers some slight Christian undertones.  During one scene, audiences find Ski Bidwell (Mark Hanson) in a small church, holding Felix, and contemplating his personal future.  This is the only moment throughout the course of the movie’s near hour and a half run time in which any religious imagery is presented.  This is actually a very good thing for church groups as it keeps the story from being too preachy.  It offers the remainder of its time to plenty of moments that make it a fun, family friendly movie that is worth the occasional watch.

While A Night in Cowtown is not a major motion picture, it holds its own with Disney’s releases in its Buddies franchise.  Sure, the dog’s mouths don’t move with the Bailey movies.  But other than that, Bailey’s latest adventure has just as much heart as Disney’s Buddy movies.  Its production values, cinematography, and acting are at about the same level as the aforementioned series.  Rick Shew, Trey Bumpass, and Christine Galyean have all returned for this third installment of the series as are Kenzie Pallone and Liz Franke who just happens to be directly related to director Steve Franke.  That so much of the cast from the series’ second installment has returned for this film is largely to credit for the on screen performances.  The performances from the cast are but one part of what held this direct-to-DVD movie together.  Its cinematography was just as nice as the series’ previous installments.  David Pinkston headed up the movie’s cinematography.  He is the series third head of cinematography.  And while each movie has now had someone different heading up that department, the shooting for this movie was just as solid as that of the previous installments.  That leads to the movie’s production values.  These are just as positive as everything else that went into bringing this installment of Bailey’s adventures to life. 

Any viewer that is a fan of Disney’s Buddy movies or PBS’ classic series, Wishbone, will enjoy Adventures of Bailey: A Night in Cowtown.  It isn’t as well known as the previously mentioned movies and series.  But young viewers will enjoy this movie (and the previous adventures of Bailey) just as much as them.  Its cast does a good job in its own right.  The camera work, production, and scenery are just as good, too.  All said and done, for a straight-to-DVD feature, it’s an enjoyable feature.  It will be available in stores and online next Tuesday, May 21st.  It can be purchased online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Bailey-Night-Cowtown/dp/B009X66EP2/.  The Phil’s Picks Facebook page is also giving away three copies of the movie on DVD this week for three lucky fans.  Fans need only “Like” the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and write on the page’s timeline, noting that they want to be entered in the drawing for a copy of the movie. 

To keep up with the latest news from Entertainment One on its latest releases, fans can go online to http://entertainmentone.com/home.  And to keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, fans can go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always get the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Two “Paws” Up For Trooper And The Legend Of The Golden Key

Courtesy: Entertainment One/Engine 15 Media Group

Look at what followed me home!  Can I keep him?  Who hasn’t either said or heard those words?  That is essentially how Engine 15 Media Group’s direct-to-DVD feature, Trooper and the Legend of the Golden Key starts out.  When a young family moves to a new town, the parents’ son, Tommy (Joey Roberts), brings home a hound dog named Trooper after the town’s evil mayor and his equally vile niece say that he has to either find a home or be sent to the pound.  And it’s thanks to Trooper that the story takes off.  Trooper and the Legend of the Golden Key is a fun little family friendly flick (say that three times fast).  Sure, it’s no block buster.  But it is good for the whole family.  There’s no way to escape (as with Vampire Dog) the comparisons to PBS’ hit 90’s show, Wishbone.  Trooper’s little friend, Dash is similar to Wishbone, in terms of both his personality and size.  And the general feel of this feature makes it feel like it belongs on PBS Kids.  That’s not a bad thing, either.  Despite the acting of the cast, led by young Tommy and his parents Paul (Eric Sweeney) and Sandy (Sandy Howell), the larger picture actually has enough heart to make it worth at least one watch.

The actors in this movie’s cast are anything but professional.  There’s no doubt about it.  But they come across as being just as down home as the story’s setting.  It’s a nice welcoming small town.  That small town vibe mixed with the cast’s welcoming personalities makes it that much more watchable.  It adds to the enjoyment of the story.  Who would have ever thought that in small town America, there would be a mystery that would reveal a treasure no one would have ever imagined.  Even the evil mayor and his niece never saw it coming.  The whole thing is told from the vantage point of Trooper and Dash.  Both parents and kids alike will like this, especially with Trooper’s grandfatherly personality.  His presence is completely reassuring and will keep audiences watching.    

For a direct-to-DVD movie, it’s watchable not just for its welcoming cast, but also for its story.  Audiences will find the movie to be a guilty pleasure as it will even fool adults with its twist on what’s behind the “hidden door” in the empty house.  What’s behind the door, and the key that opens it turn out to be “key” to the whole mystery.  The answer to it all won’t be revealed here.  Audiences will have to find that out for themselves.  Those audiences who give it a chance will have a V8 moment when the mystery is finally unraveled.  When it’s all said and done, audiences will be left feeling fulfilled.  It could even leave them wanting to watch it again later as it turns out to be that enjoyable for the whole family.

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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.

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