Mill Creek Entertainment once again shows the value of going to the dogs regarding the October 23, 2018 Blu-ray + DVD + Digital of the 2004 family dramedy "Benji Off the Leash." The abused boy who is at the center of this story is not the only element of this variation on "Benji" films that make it different than the '70s adventures of the titular everymutt.
Fans of the earlier fare will delight in the Creek releases of (reviewed) "Benji," (also reviewed) "For the Love of Benji," and the even-more recent (reviewed) "Benji's Very Own Christmas Story."
"Leash" begins with narration that describes a talent search for the new Benji; the action then makes a nod to the original film by shifting to an abandoned house that is similar to a home that plays a central role in that movie. The aforementioned lad Colby is using that house as a safe haven for a mother dog and her newborn puppies. The refuge is needed because his father (only known by his last name Hatchett) both is over-breeding the mother to a life-threatening extent and is intent on leaving a brown shaggy mongrel from the litter to die because the puppy lacks monetary value.
Other action in this film set in Gulfport, Mississippi centers around two comically inept dog catchers. Livingston and Sheldon are pursing their white whale in canine clothing. The pooch known as "Lizard Tongue" for an obvious reason is very skilled at evading the civil servants.
The two worlds collide on the substandard way that Hatchett operates his dog-breeding business putting him on the radar of Sheldon and Livingston. This coincides with the shaggy dog and Lizard Tongue enjoying puppy love.
Drama enters the picture regarding a need for emergency vet service and related pressure being exerted on Hatchett. All of this shows that the snooze button no longer can be hit regarding the wake-up call that Hatchett requires.
This being even a 21st-century "Benji" movie ensures a happy ending for at least some of the dogs and all of the kids. Additionally, adults who deserve a trip to the doghouse get it.
The appeal of "Leash" extends beyond keeping the Benji legacy alive; it shows that a wholesome movie with a bare minimum of edge can get greenlit.
A delay posting this review of the Shout! Factory November 6, 2018 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of "The Sound of Music Live" (SOM) is collateral damage from circumstances beyond the control of Unreal TV. Your not-so-humble reviewer ached to honor the spirit of NBC airing the Julie Andrews film every Thanksgiving, Speaking of NBC, a nice surprise regarding this production is that it is NOT the Carrie Underwood version that that network aired in 2013. This one far outshines that noble experiment.
The bottom line regarding this SOM is that it provides a good chance to compare it to the Andrews version and to compare the film and stage variations of the story. Of course, the movie having Penny Robinson and Spider-Man in it gives it a big leg up.
The better news regarding timing is that ample opportunity remains to give your favorite theater geek or child the the Shout! release for Christmas or merely to play it on an endless loop to keep the kids out of your hair. The FLAWLESS picture and sound (which look very 3Dish when played on a 4K machine and watched on a 4K set) screams to buy the Blu-ray version.
British television network ITV aired this SOM on December 20, 2015; the twofer aspect is the broadcast being part of both the holiday programming of the network and a desire to air "event" specials. It is reported that the objectives of creative director Corky Giedroyc include this version being closer to the original stage production than to emulate the movie. An aspect of this is maintaining the political aspects that center around the Nazis increasingly taking over Austria.
The following YouTube clip of an ITV promo. for SOM nicely conveys the spirit of both the production and the literally behind-the-scenes feature on the Shout! release.
The newer version is entertaining from stem to stern and maintains a perfect pace. Further, hearing all the classic songs provides a warm and fuzzy sense of nostalgia. "How Can Love Survive" is not in the film, but is in stage productions.
The infamous "you can't face" line in a scene in which Maria receives a reality check continues to amuse those of us who embrace our inner 12-year-old boy. It is a near certainty that EVERY actress who portrays Mother Abess focuses on very carefully enunciating that dialogue,
Two songs stand out in SOM. The "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" duet of eldest Von Trapp daughter Liesl and current delivery boy/future fascist pig Rolf has good charm and humor. It seems that the affection between those all Austrian kids is genuine.
All the kids steal the show in the first presentation of "So Long, Farewell." They are being sent packing during a party at Von Trapp Haus and perform the song as their exit strategy. The choreography and the performances of the Von Trapp Singers this time actually outshines the film version. It is a bit more lively and amusing.
Describing SOM as understated is only intended to put it in context regarding the film. Kara Tointon ("Mr Selfridge" and "EastEnders") projects the same level of "Keep Calm and Carry On" emotion throughout; she also has a wonderful voice and seems to literally hit every note but does not put her heart and soul into the songs ala Andrews.
Similarly, Julian Ovendon (Downton Abbey) plays Captain Von Trapp with far less emotion and passion than Christopher Plummer. This sadly prevents feeling any connection with this central character.
As mentioned above, the bigger picture is the rise of Nazism in Austria. Watching this production as an adult in 2018 puts a whole new perspective on the story.
Being an adult in 2018 also screams for escaping the increasing level of fascism and dystopia in the world by watching a new version of a childhood favorite. Keeping the flame alive by watching it with a keyboard kid provides hope that memories of a kinder and gentler period will persist.
The Mill Creek Entertainment November 6, 2018 perfectly remastered Blu-ray + DVD + Digital widescreen release of the Emmy-nominated December 1978 television special "Benji's Very Own Christmas Story" provides a great reminder that cute and charming holiday specials outshine darker modern fare. "Story," which does not involve the titular dog desperately wanting a BB gun for Christmas, also continues the solid run of Creek releasing "Benji" fare.
A shameless commerce note is that any child or child-at-heart is sure to love finding a bundle of the four Creek "Benji" releases, three of which nicely tie together, under the Christmas tree or the Hanukkah bush. The reviewed "Benji" has our hero rescuing two children from kidnappers. The also reviewed "For the Love of Benji" has the dog star travelling to Greece with the former abductees. The (review pending) "Benji Off The Leash" moves things in a "Touched By A Pooch" direction by having our shaggy star help people who face proverbially daunting challenges.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Story" describes the concept of the special and offers a glimpse of the rollicking fun of the story.
Our story begins with Benji and his human co-stars Cindy Smith and Patsy Garrett from "Benji" and "Love" on a European publicity tour. We catch up with them in a charming Swiss village (which looks spectacular in Blu-ray) where Benji is scheduled to be the grand marshal of a Christmas Eve parade. The action commences when the trio meets the Kris Kringle (Ron "Fagin" Moody) who is going to drive the one-horse open sleigh in which they are going to ride. One fully expects that everyone will be laughing all the way.
Kringle tells a portion of the story in asking his passengers to visit some fans who cannot attend the parade because they are working. The group agrees under the condition that they are back in time for the parade.
The grand tradition of abducting innocents (e.g., "The Polar Express") to visit the workshop of Santa continues with Kringle escorting his guests through a Narnia-style portal that transports them to where he and his elves make the magic happen.
This portion of "Story" includes an equally entertaining and educational segment in which Kringle utilizes clever exposition to show Benji et al. the images that many countries have of the man whom whom Americans call Santa. This ends with a truly delightful surprise.
The aforementioned rest of the story is that the Santa alleges that an injury prevents him from going on his appointed rounds. He already is preparing the elves to fill in but asks his new friends to help out as well. This portion of the program provides a reasonable believable explanation for Santa being able to deliver so many toys on Christmas Eve.
The inevitable happy ending comes via a clever twist at the end of a rousing musical number that puts the talents of Moody to good use. He is wrapping up an energetic song-and-dance routine when the final piece of the puzzle falls into place. This leads to the characters (and the audience) being in a better place than they were when the "Story"commences.
The special features include the cute "Benji at Work" television special. This one has '70s child-star Adam Rich host a behind-the-scenes look at our star making a movie. We additionally get a photo gallery of our pin-up pooch.
The bigger picture this time is that "Story" is the perfect holiday treat for what ails us. It reminds us of a kinder and gentler time in which reel and real people were pleasant and smiling; this was an era in which speaking your mind did not prompt counter-protests, scorn, and ridicule.
The world was not especially harmonious, but people at least were mostly courteous and did not declare war following even minor offenses. It even was a time that anyone could eat at any desired restaurants with confidence that he or she would not be ousted and/or harangued by fellow diners.
The final comparison is that the term "whatever happened to peace, love, and understanding" is a lyric from an awesome song in the era of "Story" and a modern sense of what did happen to our regard for those who views clash with our own. Few can argue that this is one case in which the past is superior to the Christmas present.
'Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc' Blu-Ray: Before She Was A Star Musical About The Maid of Orleans
Icarus Films provides young girls everywhere cause to rejoice regarding the October 2, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 2017 French musical "Jeannette." One note for parents is that the moppet in your life likely will want to repeatedly watch this song-and-dance filled feature.
The aforementioned appeal reflects the practice of producers of action-adventure fare who include brave adventurous boys in their stories. Just as many tween boys of the late '80s fantasize about being 13 year-old Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," girls from 5-to-10ish may see themselves in pre-Joan of Arc shepherd Jeannette before she gets the flock out of the pasture and literally fights for God and country. Modern-day Jeannettes will further delight in the simplistic songs and the dancing that largely consists of the same twirling and swaying in which they engage at home and recitals.
Our story begins (and mostly occurs) in the pasture where Jeannette spends most of her time, She laments in song and to her friend Hauviette about the invading British forces. The primary dilemma is how to quell the invasion and restore peace without almost literally fighting fire with fire (no pun intended). Attempted intervention by local nun Madame Gervaise, and the appearance of three saints seals the deal. Anyone who has tried to get a young girl to put on her shoes so that you can go do something that she dislikes can relate.
The next portion of the film moves ahead several years and has a teen Jeannette enlisting the aide of the brother of her father to be her ally regarding Pere at least not preventing her from joining a group of soldiers. Folks with even a moderate knowledge of history knows how this works out.
As mentioned above, "Jeannette" makes a historic figure very accessible and will encourage many young viewers to read more about Joan of Arc. It provides the rest of us a broader perspective regarding this righteous warrior. It further is beautifully shot and demonstrates that the mindset of 8 year-old girls has not dramatically changed since 1425.
The Blu-ray bonuses include deleted scenes and a feature on filmmaker Bruno Dumont.
Lionsgate awesomely simultaneously goes old and new school regarding the August 14, 2018 3-disc S1 DVD release of the very recent "Power Rangers Ninja Steel" series. This release is part of a 25th Anniversary of the '90s phenom "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," which actually dates to August 28 1994.
Personal relevance of the OS includes still joking about sending naughty people off to a peace conference in reference to that plot point relating to firing an original cast member for a long-forgotten sin. Surviving cast members are known for joking about experiencing that fate is they misbehave.
The brilliance of the "Ranger" franchise extends beyond providing a showcase for mountains of merchandise. The OS using the cost-saving method of incorporating footage from the Japanese live-action series "Super Sentai" into a show that features clean-cut American teens with mad ninja skills and related secret identities is pure genius as the "Ninja Steel" and the other numerous spin-offs reflect.
The awesome box art shared above also contributes a strong retro vibe. The bonus booklet of "Rangers" art is just as collectibly special.
The "Infinity War" central concept of "Ninja Steel" is one of many ways that this series is new school while retaining a very old school element. Our story begins with boy with something extra Dane Romero peacefully living with roughly 10 year-old son Aiden and roughly 7 year-old son Brody. The Ninja Nexus Prism falling from the sky and landing on their rural property is a game changer.
One spoiler is that "Ninjs Steel" spares us a sickening "I don't feel so good, Mr. Stark" moment.
The prism contains six ninja stars that collectively grant the possessor unparalleled power. The rub is a limitation that is similar to the Excalibur lore of Arhurian legend; only those who are worthy can penetrate the force field that surrounds the stars in the prism. "Ninja Steel" further pays homage to the classic anime series "Speed Racer" in a manner that is too special to spoil.
Galvanax beaming down from the spaceship from which he broadcasts the intergalactic game show "Galaxy Warriors" fully sets the stage for "Ninja Steel." A battle with Dane ends with Galvanax taking both Brody and the prism back to his ship.
The action soon shifts 10 years ahead to our present. Appealing and cute Brody (William Shewfelt), his robot friend/comic relief Redbot, and quirky Mick literally jump ship with the prism and end up in the Summer Cove home turf of Brody. Brody soon becomes the red power ranger/leader and subsequently meets up with all but one ranger; the fate of the gold ranger remains up in the air. The story arc that addresses is that is a series highlight.
Mick uses the titular substance to create the tools of trade of our heroes. A cool nod to the eco-centric animated series "Captain Planet" allows the rangers to use the power of natural elements such as wind and water to combat the foe of the week that Galvanax transports down to battle the kids in an effort to collect their Ninja Power Stars,
The lesson of the week that is integral to "Ninja Steel" provides viewers of every age great fun. Veterans of "Saved by the Bell" and similar fare obtain particular amusement from these episodes; younger fans who experience this phenomenon for the first time get entertaining morals.
A textbook episode hilariously evokes thoughts of the classic "Bell" episode in which neurotic overachiever Jessie Spano becomes addicted to caffeine pills. All-American boy/yellow ranger Calvin Maxwell nervously confesses to his team that he is afraid to drive. The angst and fear associated with this reveal creates an expectation that Calvin is coming out or is admitting an addiction to alcohol or narcotics. The textbook aspect continues with the fate of the other rangers resting on the ability of Calvin to conquer his fear.
The nervous Unreal TV confession is that time constraints are behind only watching the first half of the season. The season finale being titled "Past, Presents, and Future" provides good incentive to keep going. The IMDb episode description stating "Sarah [pink ranger] teams up with Santa Claus to save Christmas and the Power Rangers from a time-manipulating monster" makes this one must-see.
The bigger picture this time is that "Ninja Steel" itself and this release celebrating the 25th "Rangers" anniversary shows that a viable market remains for good clean family fun that is in the middle of the bell curve between overly saccharine fare and stuff that seems too edgy to be ready for Saturday morning. One can only hope that "Rangers" continues for at least another 25 years.
breaking glass pictures takes an extreme vacation from releasing gay-themed art house films, grisly horror films, and other edgy fare to make the adorable Disney Channel style family "In the Doghouse" available on DVD. It is adequately cute and has enough fart jokes to entertain tweens and is not too sickly sweet for adult consumption.
The following YouTube clip of the SPOILER-HEAVY "Doghouse" trailer reflects the kids v. adults themes of the movie and provides a good sense of the humor of the film.
One of the most amusing (and breaking appropriate moments) in "Doghouse" comes early in the film. A scene in which recently divorced 35 year-old mom Wendy, her roughly 13 year-old daughter Amanda, and roughly 11 year-old son Nate are wrapping up a visit with dad. The quasi-flamboyant persona of dad indicates the reason for the breakup. This character butching it up a little in subsequent scenes suggest both that the opening scene is one of the first shot and that the director makes the same observation as your not-so-humble reviewer.
Wendy soon bringing amusingly named geeky grocery store manager Dom Massey home to meet the kids only to discover that this dork is allergic to family dog Irving inspires Amanda and Nate to sabotage all future dating attempts. This scheme is relatable to any child of a divorced mother; the sad truth is that many tweens who consider the loser whom Mom brings home to be an unbearable idiot discovers on entering his or her 40s that said train wreck may represent the pick of the litter.
The kids make a surprisingly good team for siblings. Further, the candidness of Nate regarding peeing outside, being flatulent, and other disgusting matters make him a nice change of pace from more traditional sitcom-style tweens.
High school stud boyfriend Dave arriving on the scene presents the kids with dual serious challenges in the forms of the history of Dave and Wendy and the motivation of Dave extending beyond wanting to start over with the one who got away. Poor Irving becomes a pawn in this game.
The climax this time comes in the form of a mad dash that also involves Dad. The truth comes out and everyone (including Irving) achieves the apt degree of happiness.
Anyone with comments or questions regarding "Doghouse" is welcome to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
The Mill Creek Entertainment separate June 5, 2018 Blu-ray and DVD releases of the star-studded 2000 mini-series "The 10th Kingdom" provide fans of the recently concluded long-running ABC dramedy "Once Upon a Time" another bite of the poisoned apple regarding a fun melange of our world and that of fairy tales. It further has the same spirit as the 2007 Disney comedy "Enchanted" in which fairy tale folks experience Manhattan melodrama.
These releases provide everyone quality family entertainment that truly appeals to folks from 8 to 80. The bigger picture is that we have another reason to shout for joy regarding Mill Creek expanding well beyond its roots as a purveyor of compilations of public domain television series of the '50s and the '60s.
This epic and very colorful production filmed in a plethora of European countries additionally looks and sounds spectacular in Blu-ray.
The following YouTube clip of the Mill Creek trailer for "Kingdom" perfectly captures the beauty and the tone of the series.
The premise is that the titular realms are fairy tale monarchies that are tied to a specific fairy tale notable or creature. For example, the Fourth Kingdom where most of the action occurs is the Snow White realm and trolls rule the Fifth Kingdom. Red Riding Hood and Cinderella also have their own lands. Our reality is the 10th Kingdom, which is only accessible via a magic portal.
The other broad bit of lore is that the turmoil in the nine kingdoms 200 years ago is the stuff of which our fairy tales are made.
The action begins with Relish the Troll King (Ed O'Neill) breaking into the Snow White Memorial Prison to once again spring his three stooge-like offspring; this escape comes to extend to releasing Evil Queen (Dianne Wiest) from her own unfortunate incarceration.
Another lucky break for the queen allows her to implement the first steps of a plan to prevent arrogant grandson Prince Wendell from ascending to the throne of his kingdom. Comic mayhem begins to ensue when the prince (who is a victim of a "Freaky Friday" style transformation) flees into our world.
A destined encounter between the prince and New York 20-something waitress Virginia Lewis brings her and her deeply cynical building superintendent father Tony Lewis (John Larroquette) into the action. Former guest of the queen Wolf pursuing the prince into Central Park is the final element that allows the story to fully develop.
The Lewises, Wolf, and the prince then essentially travel through the looking glass on crusades with overlapping objectives. Wendell claiming his crown and the Lewises acquiring the necessary means to return home involves battling virtually every fairy tale baddie known to man.
The queen puts the trolls and a huntsman (Rutger Hauer) on the tail of our group. They also square off against other foes whom they meet in their travels.
The ticking clock is the impending coronation which will result in the ersatz prince getting the corner office unless Wendell can timely revert to his true self. Meanwhile, every effort of the Lewises to find a way home ends in amusing disaster. These stories strongly merge in the fifth of the six episodes when Virginia and Tony learn that their connection to the kingdoms is much closer than they ever imagined.
The copious fun of all this begins with the concept that one man's fairy tale is another dwarf's reality; this goes on to non-stop action as our main group essentially follows a long and winding yellow brick road effectively to the castle of the wizard. The third big element is having a perfect tone that reflects modern cynicism and conflict while keeping things adequately light for the kids.
The bonuses include a grand 45-minute "making-of" feature that looks as spectacular as the series. We also get the insights of cast and crew regarding this successful ambitious production.
Mill Creek Entertainment does fans of '70s superdog star Benji a pawtastic solid in releasing the 1977 family film "For the Love of Benji" less than two months after the February 13, 2018 (reviewed) release of the 1974 film "Benji." Both releases looking great and coming out in DVD and Blu-ray with a code for a digital download eliminates any excuse for not buying both.
The following YouTube clip of a SPOILER-LADEN "Love" trailer provides a good sense of the themes and the setting of the film.
Stating much about the underlying concept of "Love"also risks spoiling "Benji," which centers around the efforts of the titular lovable mutt to reunite kidnapped children with their father, "Love" opens with Benji being temporarily Shanghaied from a luggage conveyor belt on his way to board an Athens-bound plane.
The mission that this agent is not provided the option of refusing is to smuggle information to Crete. The ensuing mayhem commences on his missing his connection in Athens.
Benji making a break for it at the Athens airport sets the stage for the primary theme of "Love." Roughly 75-percent of this film that looks and sounds great in Blu-ray consists of Benji traveling the sites of Athens (including the Parthenon) in this modified "Lassie Come Home." The charm of the star and the beauty of the setting keep things interesting despite the relatively limited dialog and involvement of two-legged characters.
The good guys, the bad guys, and the guys with ambiguous intentions regarding Benji engaging in various degrees of pursuit break up our hero seeing the sites and making friends with a dog who hangs out at the Parthenon. This interaction shows that Benji is good boy and that he understands how to make friends and influence canines.
All of this leads to particularly exciting final 15 minutes. Both Benji and those near-and-dear to him are endangered. This sets the stage for this television and film star to once again save the day. This in turn leads to an expository epilogue that involves the happy ending that both family films and Hollywood require in the '70s.
Mill Creek also does Benji just as proud regarding the bonus features on "Love" as it does regarding the release of his first film. The earlier film includes two Benj television specials; "Love" has one special and the (sadly sans Benji) feature film "The Double McGuffin" by "Benji" and "Love" writer/director Joe Camp.
The wonderfully bizarre 1981 ABC special "Benji Takes a at Marineland" has marionettes that resemble the Krofft puppets of the era narrate the buildup to Benji preparing to be the first SCUBA-diving dog. The setting for this historic feat is Marineland in Florida.
The era-apt kookiness of this includes a puppet named Boris Todeath plotting to thwart the effort of Benji to make history. The nefarious scheme involves Boris stealing the specially-designed gear so that he can be the first to take this particular plunge.
This plethora of Benji is a great treat and shows that the purpose of a dog always has been and always will be to set a good example for us allegedly superior beings
The challenge regarding reviewing the April 10, 2018 Disney DVD release of the Disney Junior series "Puppy Dog Pals" is conveying the extent to which this show about the titular young pugs is adorable and amusing. You really must see it to get a proper sense of this program that is almost is certain to create a legion of dedicated adult fans that rivals the obsession of the Bronies who go way overboard regarding "My Little Pony."
The following YouTube clip of the "Puppy" theme perfectly conveys the fun spirit of the series and will leave you wanting oh so much more.
Much of this praise relates to comedian/series creator Harland Williams, who also voices human father/inventor Bob, getting into the mind of a puppy. His stars talk and act exactly in the manner that globally endears baby dogs to people. Grey pug Bingo and his brother (perhaps from another mother) tan pug Rolly display perpetual elan.
The ridiculously cute scamps live with Bob and their older cat sister Hissy, who tolerates her younger siblings. Their family dynamic is fully established in the opening scenes of the first of the two adventures in the pilot.
The puppies are riding their skateboards and pretending to be surfing; they soon successfully beg Hissy to play along by pretending to be a shark. Candor requires confessing to regularly playing games such as "Space Cat" and "Abominable Snow Kitty" with a household pet.
The fun continues with so-cute puppies going nuts on saying good morning to Bob; their body language is clear, but Bob hears their words as adorable barks of extreme joy.
The typical charm continues with morning events prompting Bob to comment on the joy of walking on Hawaiian sand. He then leaves for work completely oblivious of the plans of the dogs to make their dad happy by traveling to our 50th state and be back before he returns home.
The boys then race to their mad tricked out dog house to the accompaniment of their "goin' on a mission" theme. Their prep. includes having a dome outfit them with utility collars that puts the belt of Batman (and Ace the Batdog) to shame. The enhanced cuteness continues with Rolly gleefully announcing that he is bringing an old sock because chewing on it makes him feel good. Bingo equally happily responds that everyone loves chewing on an old sock.
Similar outings include a day trip to Antarctica to remedy of dearth of ice at Chez Bob and an equally short trip to France to get bread for French toast. The Paris adventure is particularly true to the spirit of the recent film "The Secret Life of Pets," which depicts a particularly eventful day in the life of four-legged New Yorkers. The guest stars in this "Puppy" adventure include rats and pigeons.
An episode that hits closer to home in the Disneyverse is a variation of "Toy Story" starts with Bingo and Rolly damaging a favorite stuffed animal of Bob during "ruff" play. Their remedial efforts this time land them in a variation of Build-a-Bear.
Hissy fully gets into the action when her well-meaning bros take her along for a grand local day out. One spoiler is that a dog park is not as much fun for a cat as it is for man's best friend.
All of this amounts to a show that parental figures may beg their pre-schoolers to watch again and again and again. It is very relatable to pet lovers of all ages and lacks EVERY annoying aspect of most toddler fare. There are no shrill voices, encouraging children to shriek, or sickening morals. "Puppy" simply is pure entertainment that delights all from 3 to 100.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Puppy" is strongly encouraged to email me. You also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
The Mill Creek Entertainment February 13, 2018 Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Combo Pack release of the 1974 family film classic "Benji" gives men whose significant others shave their legs and/or their faces a chance to be a Valentine's Day hero. This is not to mention allowing parents to score big with their special someones who are too young to shave anything.
This low-budget indie film looking pawtastic in Blu-ray is only the tip of the iceberg. This tale of a mutt who already has the heart of a small town and goes onto outshine Lassie regarding two kids who have "fallen down a well" genuinely appeals to anyone from 4 to 90.
Writer-director-producer Joe Camp, who goes on to make several other Benji movies, hits all the right notes with this film debut of this star of the '60s ruralcom "Petticoat Junction." The strongest selling point is the cuteness of the lead and his expressiveness that is obvious to both the people in "the business" and to the general population.
Camp shows further knowledge of psychology by centering "Benji" around a small creature to whom adults refuse to listen even when he has crucial information to convey. Virtually every child and many adults relate to futilely "barking" only to have authority figures ignore them and/or shove them out the door.
Camp demonstrates additional understanding of his audience by populating the cast mostly with stars from '60s and '70s sitcoms.
Patsy Garrett who plays neighbor Mrs. Fowler on the fantasycom "Nanny and the Professor" plays kindly housekeeeper/surrogate mother Mary at the abode with the two moppets where Benji eats breakfast every morning. We also get Frances "Aunt Bea" Bavier as "woman with cat" who has a love-hate relationship with our star, and former Benji (nee Higgins) co-star Edgar "Uncle Joe" Buchanan as a kindly diner owner. Casting against type has Tom "Eb" Lester playing bad guy Riley. Deborah Walley of "The Mothers-In-Law" joins Lester in trading her sweet young thing image to play fellow neer-do-well Linda.
"Benji" opens with the titular former shelter puppy going about his daily business to the accompaniment of the Golden Globe winning and Oscar-nominated song "Benji's theme" sung by country singer Charlie Rich. (A segment in the TV special "The Phenomenon of Benji" that is a DVD extra shows Benji being among those who go up to accept that award.)
The first sign of trouble is when the group of young criminals that includes Riley and Linda breaks into the abandoned home that serves as a large two-story dog house for Benji.
The worlds of Benji collide when the lawbreakers show up with the aforementioned moppets gagged with their hands tied in front of them. This being a G movie results in the kids not looking any worse for wear and not seeming exceptionally frightened.
This discovery prompts Benji to race to the home of the kids to alert their father (Peter Breck of the Western "The Big Valley") and the police about the whereabouts of the children; unlike Lassie, Benji is kicked out of the house. He soon discovers that none of his other human friends are any help.
The film title and this being a '70s kids movie ensure that Benji keeps trying until he succeeds. His next effort proves that his skills apparently include the ability to read a dog-eared note, which he brings back to the crime scene.
This second bite at the Kong is one of the best ones in the film; seeing defeat essentially being ripped from the jaws of victory is a surprising twist that is equally frustrating for the audience and Benji. We also thrill on seeing him overcome staggering odds to finally convince the adults to pay attention to him.
Camp deserves additional credit for avoiding cartoonish cliches regarding the inevitable chase of Benji back to the house where the kidnap victims are being held. There are no comic efforts by large bodies to fit in small places, no knocking pedestrians off their feet, and even a very limited element of an exasperated Benji waiting for the slow and clumsy humans to catch up with him.
Benji being happy with his current existence and even having a love interest whom he meets and courts in an adorable scene creates three possibilities for the mandatory happy ending. Either he returns to his standard routine of visiting his friends every day and spending his nights in his squat, or is adopted by the family whom he reunites and becomes an indoor dog, or his new life falls somewhere in the middle.
"Benji at Work," which then "Eight is Enough" moppet Adam Rich hosts, is another TV special in this two-disc set. While "Phenomenon" is a '70slicious tribute to the popularity of the dog of that century, "Work" focuses on "behind-the-scenes" footage of Benji doing his thing. Mill Creek additionally gives us the four-minute "Benji" trailer complete with audience reactions.
The Olive Films September 13, 2016 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray sets of all thrill-packed 12 episodes in "Commando Cody"from the '50s makes this Saturday review of that kiddie matinee feature very apt. One spoiler is that that the titular Sky Marshal of the Universe gets his name from his daring wartime exploits, not from a habit of opting out of wearing underwear.
Although much of the initial excitement surrounding these full 30-minutes of awesome low-budget '50s scifi goodness relates to the late '80s-early '90s basic cable show "Mystery Science Theater 3000" often featuring the show, watching the expertly crafted Blu-ray set shows that the episodes are even better when you get to watch the whole story in one sitting and (albeit hilarious) sarcastic comments do not drown out the dialog.
The overall theme and feel of the series is that of the "Flash Gordon" serials. The jet-pack that Cody straps to his back and the bullet-shaped helmet and leather jacket that he wears while doing so are well-represented in the 1991 Disney live-action film "The Rocketeer."
Great cost-cutting elements include the pilot seats in the rocket ship of Cody being undisguised desk chairs of the day with seat belts, an alien compound clearly being a model, and a robot looking like the Halloween costume of a 12 year-old.
"Cody" begins with a three-episode arc in which our hero and his team first learn of the existence of the alien villain The Ruler. The first nefarious attempt of this bad guy involves a fairly straightforward effort to conquer earth and enslave mankind. This also is the first time that The Ruler attempts to penetrate the cosmic dust barrier that is the creation of Cody designed to protect earth from alien threats. This Star Wars style defense and the attempts to penetrate it remain an element through the run of "Cody."
The modern-day elements of "Cody" extend well beyond having a defense shield that is intended to neutralize missiles and other harmful projectiles. The heavy eco elements include separate plots by The Ruler to create massive storms to cause catastrophic storms and to increase global warming to a degree (no pun intended) that the entire earth literally bakes.
Further, The Ruler with his Eastern European accent, spies on earth, and fondness for stealing secret plans and breaking the communication system of Cody add a wonderful Cold War feel to the episodes.
This all amounts to a chance to watch a vintage "one more" worthy Saturday afternoon matinee series without a theater full of screaming kids.
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