The Disney March 26, 2019 DVD release of the February 2019 Disney Channel live-action "Kim Possible" movie does the 2002-2007 Disney Channel series of the same name proud. This includes excellent jobs recreating the unique exteriors of primary locations Chez Possible, Middleton High that the titular teen titan and goofy sidekick Ron Stoppable attend, and home of the naco Bueno Nacho. The homage continues with an awesome live-action remake (complete with Ron getting pantsed) of the series opening credits.
Although this tribute centers around scientist-turned-evil-genius Dr. "Drew" Drakken (Todd Stashwick) with a long history with the Possible family, other "Batman" '66 style villains also receive shout outs. Denying Lord Monkey Fist and Senor Senor Junior this honor is a travesty that the anticipated sequel hopefully will remedy.
The following YouTube clip of the "Possible" trailer includes a look at the Bond-style old open that also provides the origin story. This promo. additionally highlights the girl power vibe of the film.
Saying much more than that "Possible" is similar to the 2005 Disney Channel animated feature "Kim Possible: So the Drama" runs the risk of major spoilers. Suffice it to say that Draken (coiced by John DiMaggio in the series) again subjects Kim (Sadie Stanley of "Coop and Cami Ask the World") to specialized insidious psychological warfare.
The larger plot of Draken and henchwoman Shego (Taylor Ortega) is to swipe experimental government tech. with literally mind-altering potential,
The "B" story that truly is so the drama is straight out of "The Brady Bunch." Middle-school star/national hero Kim and Ron (Sean Giambrone of "The Goldbergs") are now lowly high-school freshman. Kim frienemy sophmore Bonnie does all that she can to add insult to that injury.
The "Brady" vibe continues with Kim and Ron befriending damaged new kid in town Athena; efforts to help this outcast fit in when she soon surpasses Kim on the soccer field, the classroom, and even on missions. This leads to the film moral that there is more to life than being the best.
Worlds collide when a mission to rescue Athena leads to a girls' night out on which Ron and a CGI Rufus the naked mole rat tag along. The ensuing highly Disneyfied Bond-style climax brings the main portion of the film to a satisfying end; the epilogue (including stingers) sets the stage for the aforementioned "Kim Possible II." We sadly have been waiting years for the PROMISED "Teen Beach Movie IV."
The copious short-and-sweet DVD extras begin with cute audition footage of our stars and goes on to a Q & A in which Stanley and Giambrone answer allegedly random questions from fans. We also get a music video of Stanley singing the infectious "Possible" theme. Be prepared to repeeately sing "call me, beep me, if you really want to reach me."
Warner Archive provides animation god Tex Avery an apt homage in releasing the complete series of "The Kwicky Koala Show" on DVD. Avery passed away while working on this swan song, which aired in the 1981-82 CBS Saturday morning lineup. The artistic success of this show relates both to it reflecting an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude and by showing that the best of this genre is much more than anthropomorphic animated animal antics for cheap laughs.
The continuation of a proud heritage begins with the titular Australia native having the wimpy old-man voice that belies the beast within ala Avery creation Droopy Dog. The bigger picture is "Kwicky" following a variation of the format of the early '60s "talking animals" series of "Kwicky" producers Hanna-Barbera.
Our star is featured in the first cartoon of his show. We get additional shorts that include quasi-"Yogi Bear" homage/quasi-educational cartoon "Crazy Claws" and the "Top Cat" homage "Dirty Dawg." Fillers that consist of the Of Mice and Men style "two stupid dogs" duo George and Joey. Bungle. Their concept is constantly trying failed circus and vaudeville acts. (This site has a review of the Archive CS DVD set of "Dogs.")
"Scooby-Doo" legend Frank Welker brings the strongest VO star power to "Kwicky." Welker plays Dirty Dawg, whose partner-in-crime on the mean streets of their city being actual rodent Ratso adds a "Midnight Cowboy" aspect to this "Top Cat" style series about a couple of low-level hustlers constantly scheming while trying to evade hard-ass beat-cop Officer Bullhorn. All this arguably warrants a comparison to "Les Miserable."
The first outing for Dirty and Ratso essentially is a drag plot. Dirty convinces Ratso to masquerade as a small canine to compete in dog show that has a large cash prize. A "sit" that provides some of the "com" revolves around Dirty using classic cartoon tactics to eliminate the competition. Suffice it to say that that the other contenders for "Best in Show" do not react kindly to that sabotage.
We similarly see a scheme backfire on our pair when they succeed in obtaining entry into what seems to be a posh country club for dogs; they discover that karma can be the mother of all bitches. The same is true regarding a plot to chow down on hospital food.
The next best well-known name in the animation world is better known for his role on the classic sitcom "The Brady Bunch." Allan Melvin (a.k.a. Sam the Butcher) plays dim-witted Joey Bungle. His contributions to the continued failure of his act includes responding to George confessing mid-high-dive that he is afraid of water by moving the tub in which his brother is attempting to land.
John Stephenson is the Rodney Dangerfield of the animation world; this relates to his 254 IMDb credits including many classic cartoon series but most people at best knowing him as that guy that was in that thing. Stephenson channels the snarky effeminate persona that Paul Lynde uses for his predatory canine characters in other HB series to play Kwicky foe Wilford Wolf. The success of this sincerest form of flattery succeeds to the extent of untrained ears likely thinking that Lynde voices Wilford.
A "Kwicky" cartoon that appears in an early episode likely is the intended pilot. Our lead breaks the third wall by directly addressing the audience on coming out of his cute little house. He explains that most people incorrectly believe that koalas are slow. We soon learn that they are very fast.
The conflict this time is that Wilford wants to capture Kwicky to collect a large bounty that a hunter is offering for a koala. Wilford uses his cunning, rather than his Acme-style devices and his physical attributes, in his effort to capture his prey.
Last but not least is "Crazy Claws." The most notable aspect of this series about the titular wildcat with almost adamantium-caliber claws is the aforementioned educational element. Park Service employee Ranger Rangerfield works in botany lessons while trying to keep the peace as dastardly Yosemite Sam clone Rawhide Clyde and his snickering floppy-eared hound attempt to stop that feline. Examples of that schooling include how wild flowers grow and why leaves change colors each autumn.
All of this adds up to great nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember eating junk cereal and staying in our pajamas until noon every Saturday so as not to miss a minute of the joy courtesy of Hanna-Barbera and the Krofft Brothers. Thanks to Warner, Millenmials and Gen Zers can experience some of that magic.
The fun for all ages April 16, 2019 Cartoon Network/Warner Brothers DVD release of "Steven Universe" S2 (2015-2016) begins with the way cool puffy Garnet fusion keychain and the equally awesome cover art featuring that Crystal Gem new leader of the band. This anime lite series is a bright and colorful surreal joy ride that should thoroughly delight the primary target audience and amuse those of us with secondary sexual characteristics.
Additional glee is attributable to the newly released S2 soundtrack and the separate "Karaoke" release on your favorite platform. The "but wait there's more" aspect of this is the "Steven Universe: The Phantom Fable" mobile game that is coming out on April 18.
The perfect series description on IMDb nicely helps put words in the mouth of your not-so-humble reviewer. That site describes the show as "a team of galactic warriors fights to protect the universe, but the combination of three highly trained beings and one quirky young boy leaves the team struggling to overcome the dangerous scenarios that are put in front of them." The reasons that this variation of "Teen Titans" seems similar in style to fellow CN series "Adventure Time" include that creator Rebecca Sugar (who bares a passing resemblance to Steven) is the best brain behind both shows.
The S2 episode "We Need to Talk" provides an overview of the "Steven" lore. Then-guitar god in his own mind Greg Universe is rocking out to an audience of a girl with something extra when love at first sight leads him to discover the ancient beachside temple that she and her fellow guardians of the galaxy call home. This ultimately leads to the birth of our titular half-alien half-excitable-boy who inherits the gem in his belly button from his mother's side of the family.
Our first adventure, which is titled "Say Uncle," also reflects this proud heritage. Steven literally is contemplating his navel and experiencing pre-adolescent angst regarding his inability to trigger his power of forming a protective shield around his body. An ill-fated cry to the heavens results in manic Uncle Grandpa arriving and causing chaos.
The theory of this visitor with no impulse control is that the shield will form when Steven faces an adequately serious threat to his physical well-being, Uncle Grandpa then launches a hilarious beezooka and other weapons of mass hysteria at the lad. This homage to Looney Toon cartoons results in the style of life lesson that Steven and his viewers typically learn from each adventure.
Body issues also are the topic in "Reformed," which finds feisty Crystal Gem Amethyst trying out new holographic forms as she battles a gem monster that is running amok in the temple. One moral this time is if ain't broke, don;t fix it."
A personal fave is a more down-to-earth tale. A very proud Steven is the artist of a comically crude poster promoting guitar lessons by his father. A series of fortunate circumstances leads to this boy teaming up with the cool teen son of the mayor of their home turf of Beach City.
These unlikely friends make t-shirts with that image; the problem is that Steven thinks that the general populace appreciates his artistic talent, but all fondness is of the ironic variety. Even given that, Steven cleverly turns the table in a the student becomes the teacher manner.
The remaining 18 episodes offer similar fare that makes many young boys fantasize about being Steven and older folks getting more than a little badly needed joy in their lives.
The DVD release of "Shazam!: The Complete Live Action Series" provides lovers of good cheesy '70s shows another reason to thank the elders for Warner Archive. This release is nearly as exciting as getting the '70s Hanna-Barbera "Scooby-Doo" clone "Goober and the Ghost Chasers" from Archive a few years ago.
From a more objective perspective, "Shazam!" is similar to the late-80s low-budget syndicated series "The Adventures of Superboy," which has the college boy of steel and his buds battle a buffonish Lex Luther and other baddies. That series also is in the Archive catalog.
The concept behind "Shazam!" is that mid-20s newscaster Billy Batson, played by dreamy teen idol Michael Gray, is the alter-ego of Captain Marvel. Dreamy Jackson Bostwick plays Marvel until being replaced due to an injury late in the second of the series' three seasons.
Billy and his sidekick/advisor Mentor spend their days traveling around in a motor home helping teens and post-adolescents out of jams largely of the younguns' own making. Each story is wrapped up with a moral, delivered by Bostwick through most of the series and by Gray in the final episodes.
Billy is granted his powers, and is guided by, six animated elders who deliver a cryptic message near the beginning of each episode.
The dual significance of "Shazam" is that it is the magic word that Billy, and at least one young and stupid boy in the greater Boston area, shout to transform from an average Joe into the super-powered Captain Marvel and also is the acronym of the names of the elders'. That group consists of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.
The two restrictions on the great power that goes along with the great responsibility of being Captain Marvel are that only Mentor can witness the transformation and Billy can only undergo it when it is absolutely necessary.
Plots included a young blind teen and his slightly older brother recognizing the accommodations that the blindness requires and the capabilities that the blind boy retains after losing his sight. Another episode has Captain Marvel setting a good example for a young boy with a history of trespassing to ride a neighbor's horse by volunteering to go to jail for a crime of which he is innocent.
One of the more inadvertently entertaining episodes is a special two-parter in which Billy helps a girl who is trying to help her brother break ties with a middle-aged drug dealer for whom the brother is working. Seeing Billy deny being a "pusher" himself and watching the girl run around with a bag of what is clearly baking soda is very funny 40 years later.
Aside from the underlying message of "drugs are bad; ok," Billy teaches the girl that she should act responsibly by narcing on her bro. merely than by taking his stash.
The third season, which is presented as part of the "Shazam!/Isis Hour," is also fun by having Isis appear in a few "Shazam" episodes to help out Captain Marvel. This is similar to Scooby-Doo and the meddling kids helping the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt when they have a joint show. This wonderfully nostalgic show is also out on DVD.
The bottom line is that "Shazam!" is an awesome example of the fun type of show that broadcast networks used to air on Saturday mornings. This genre has plenty of action and wonderfully low-budget effects.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Shazam!" is encouraged to email me. I am especially eager to hear if anyone transformed into a super hero after yelling "Shazam!"
Warner Archive further shows ts range and the related seemingly bottomless nature of its catalog regarding two March 19, 2019 DVD releases of the 2001-02 Kids' WB anthology series "The Nightmare Room." "The Nightmare Room: Scareful What You Wish For" is our current topic; "The Nightmare Room: Camp Nowhere" is the companion DVD.
The valued review-writing shortcut this time cones courtesy of the mouth of the horse, The DVD bonus feature "The Nightmare Files" is an interview with Stephen King of the Clearasil set R.L. Stine, whose horror stories provide much of the fodder for "Room" episodes. The numerous insights that Stine shares includes describing the series as "The Twilight Zone" for kids.
"Room" also evokes thoughts of the 1991-93 kid comedy "Eerie, Indiana." This one has two tween boys investigating the regular weird occurrences in the titular town that they call home. Of course, "Supernatural" is the epitome of this type of series.
The titular tale stars former Disney Channel star/current highly damaged man Shia LaBeouf as excitable boy Dylan in a tale that can be considered a perverse version of "Toy Story." The growing pains of this lad who is graduating middle-school include having a life-size Buddy doll (fellow Disney Channel star Dylan "Zack" Sprouse) who is a real-live boy stalk him and demand fulfillment of a childhood pledge that the two be best friends forever.
Much of the fun of this one is the increasingly erratic behavior of Dylan not helping his efforts to convince friends and family that his new friend is not imaginary. This tale and the others not having a fairy-tale ending is very refreshing regarding children's fare.
The more amusing "Tangled Web" stars Justin Berfield of "Malcolm in the Middle" as a chronically lying teen. This notable one is a true fable.
Truth-impaired Josh has a strong track record of making up stories to avoid facing the consequences of his negligence. "Kung Fu" star David Carradine plays to type as a substitute teacher who schools Josh. This comes via making everything that Josh says come true.
Our prevaricator soon finds himself confronted by a psychotic version of juvenile delinquent Francis of "Malcolm," ninjas, escaped prisoners who are real Bozos, and other foes that his adolescent mind conjures. These include a very special guest star from a teen-boy perspective,
A personal fave in the set is "early" episode "My Name Is Evil." This story of teen angst has good-natured Morgan spending his birthday being the victim of a mean girl and having a carnival gypsy declare him to be a bad seed, The morning after finds a good friend of Morgan violating the bros before hos rule and said bitch convincing the entire school that Morgan is a much bigger jinx than Cousin Oliver.
This an episode in which you come for the teen drama and stay for the wonderful climatic twists.
The numerous extras extend beyond the Stine interview; a key to winning the interactive "The Nightmare Is Yours: Haunted Cave" game is to realize that Mike is a fucking idiot.
The appeal of "Room" to the target audience is that it makes them feel cool and does not talk down to them. The appeal to those of us who have not needed zit cream for years is that the stories are entertaining and feature child stars from our more youthful days.
'Craig of the Creek: Itch to Explore' DVD: Cute Animated Adventures of Lewis & Clark of Backyard Wilderness
The Warner Brothers Home Entertainment March 19, 2019 DVD release "Craig of the Creek: Itch to Explore" is an incredible treat for fans of old-school cartoons. This cute and charming series from the best brains behind Emmy-nominated fellow Cartoon Network series "Steven Universe" is one that kids and parents can equally enjoy. Much of the mutual appeal relates to the lack of edge in this show about the titular suburban everykid and his two close friends having adventures in the titular backyard wilderness. This is not to mention the very catchy theme song.
Craig is a good kid, who is a middle child in a nuclear family. Older brother Bernard (legendary voice actor Phil LaMarr) is an over-achieving nerd, and younger sister Jessica is an excitable young girl. The aforementioned pals are uber-aggressive fantasy-obsessed tomboy Kelsey and slightly older slightly "special" oaf JP.
The titular pilot sets a good tone for the series that runs through the other 12 episodes in this S1 V1 set. Craig getting an "itch" to fully map the creek area that runs behind his house prompts the gang to suit up in preparation for exploring the "Poison Ivy Grove." The primary supply source for these primary-school aged Lewis and Clarks is the Trading Tree. This barter-based business in this kidtopia pretty much has anything you need.
A primary objective of going into the grove is discovering what is in a clearing at the center of this treacherous territory. What the kids find is as surprising to viewers as it is to our heroes,
The aptly titled "You're It" goes even more old school than "Itch." Comically intense concern regarding a seemingly endless game of tag prompts a plot to spare any more kids from the stigma of being "it." This involving an amusing scheme to lure Bernard "into the woods" makes this outing especially humorous.
It also is recalled that this episode has the kids consult the "elders," who are high school kids who still hang out at the creek. Less friendly "Sabrina" style teens cause Craig et al distress in a later episode,
Older brothers around the global can relate to the "sit" that provides the "com" in "Jessica Goes to the Creek." A series of unfortunate circumstances results in Craig having to bring his little sister to the creek. This leads to extraordinary anti-meltdown measures to not disrupt the routine of Jessica.
"Sunday Clothes" is interesting but a little disturbing in that it strongly indicates that JP should ride the short bus to school. Our gang follows the oldest member of their group home and soon learns that all of his everyday clothes are being washed.
An undeterred JP dons the titular church suit and heads down to the creek; this leads to extraordinary measures to keep his outfit spotless and sadly comic over-reactions to threats to that cleanliness. An arguably PG Full Monty scene is especially unsettling.
Other adventure include Craig desperately wanting to "Escape From Family Dinner" so that he can participate in a water-balloon battle, The set concludes with an episode that has the self-explanatory title of "Lost in the Sewer."
The DVD special feature are an animatic version of the full episode "The Final Book," which revolves around a quest to locate the borrower of the titular library tome. and a photo gallery of images of series highlights.
Omnibus Entertainment gets 2019 off on a delightfully quirky foot (pun) intended with the January 8 DVD release of the animated family film "OddSockEaters." This tale of the Czech equivalent of The Smurfs is based on the book series by Pavel Strut.
The following YouTube clip of an "Odd" trailer nicely conveys the themes and the tone of of this offbeat film.
The titular sock-consuming creatures arguably are cannibals in that they closely resemble their food source; having their own communities and living under the radar of humans prompts the comparison to The Smurfs. As a featured review of this film notes, covert habitation of our homes and taking one sock from a pair introduces an aspect of the literary characters The Borrowwers.
Big Boss is the Papa Smurf of one OddSockEaters community; the law that he enforces to impose order includes requiring taking only one sock per pair. The assertion regarding his code of ethics is that he shares the pair with the humans. Supplies of these goods include private homes, stores, and laundromats.
The conflict that is at the center of the film relates to troublemaker Spike; this malcontent is a former member of the gang of Big Boss. He forms his own group after facing the wrath of Big Boss for taking both socks during a heist.
Innocent young Hugo gets drawn into this when the "fading away" of his grandfather leads to this boy going to live with Uncle Big Boss and his twin cousins.
The Gargamel of the franchise is a nutty professor, who is the only one who can see the titular creatures and believes that they exist. His constant efforts to capture one of these little guys reflects his obsession regarding proving their existence and enjoying the resulting fame and fortune.
Hugo coming along at a time that the gang war between Big Boss and Spike is heating up leads to our little blue buddy embarking on an undercover rescue mission to the lair of the Blades whom Spike leads. There even is a Smurfette in the form of Bladette, who fully is a member of the family.
All of this builds to comic mayhem as the world of Big Boss unravels around him; there are large stakes, frantic chases, and unlikely alliances.
This kid-friendly film ends with age-appropriate morals. The characters who are redeemable learn about what really is important in life and those beyond saving pay for their crimes.
The bottom line is that the kids will enjoy the characters, the music, and the adventures. Aforementioned goofiness of the story and Euro-style animation will entertain the adults, including parents who face endlessly watching this movie,
Speaking as someone who has not pooped his pants for at least a year allows assuring fellow grown-ups that the Disney Junior January 22, 2019 DVD release "Playtime With Puppy Dog Pals" will delight you as much as any toddler in your life. The warning this time is that the insidiously infectious theme song with the the lyrics "Pu pu pu puppy dog paaals; arf, arf, arf arf" is highly addictive. The tune that features "we're goin' on a mission; goin' on a mission" that virtually every episode features comes a close second.
This release follows the reviewed "Puppy Dog Pals: Going On A Mission" that includes the first several episodes of this current Disney Junior network series for kids 2 AND UP.
The simple but brilliant concept of this cousin of "The Secret Life of Pets" is that the titular animated (in both senses of the word) canines are adorable grey pug Bingo and his equally cute tan pug brother Rolly, so named for his addiction to puddles of both the water and mud variety. They live with sweet-and-kind inventor Bob (creator Harland Williams), indulgent but not-so-sweet cat Hissy, and hyper-active robot dog A.R.F.
The two cartoons in each episode typically begin in the morning as Bob is heading off to work. Something minor usually goes awry; this prompts the boys to discuss how to put right what once went wrong and then execute their plan. An example from "Playtime" is Bob having a string of bad luck leads to Bingo and Rolly researching good luck charms. This results in the pups going to Ireland in search of a four-leaf clover. The fun of this outing and all others is that our heroes accomplish the mission that often brings them abroad and make it home before an oblivious Bob returns from toiling at the cubicle farm.
Our scuba doggies go down under in both senses of the word to dive around the Great Barrier Reef after a package for Bob gets lost in transit; an especially cute fresh-water mission has the boys trying to recover the favorite fishing pole of Bob from a scavenger/hoarder snapping turtle. The pugs take to the water one more time to rescue new family addition Olivia the fish after her bowl accidentally becomes air-borne.
The good folks at Disney Junior enhance the fun of the above escapades and a few more (including a visit from the fang fairy and an adventure puppysitting a large dopey mutt) with bonus episodes that feature the new girl-next-door Keia. The fun begins with Bingo and Rolly looking for their new gal pal after she goes off the leash and wanders off. This is not to mention helping Keia find a unicorn, and our new trio dealing with a party gone out-of-bounds that brings down the dog house,
The fun continues with a series of "Playtime" shorts that revolve around the recreational activities of our pugnacious leads and their party animal friends. A raucous pool party is the best, closely followed by an effort to build a play set.
The appeal of all this relates to the joyful silly fun to which all dog lovers can relate. The elan of Bingo and Rolly is incredibly infectious.
The strongest endorsement of the Lionsgate February 5, 2019 DVD & VOD releases of the 2018 season of "Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel" is that these 22 episodes will delight current fans and bring all other viewers into the fold. Two of thees outings being the Halloween and Christmas specials is a bonus. The non-parental warning is that you will feel compelled to shout the catch phrases "Its morphin' time!" and “Ninja Rangers fear no danger!”
Depending on your perspective, "Super" either is a spin-off of the (reviewed) reboot "Power Rangers Ninja Steel" or the second episode of that series. This continuation of the titular superheroes battling monsters from outer space has our team facing a franchise quarter-life crisis that revolves around preventing villain du season Madam Odious from obtaining their power-granting stars that are made from the titular substance.
The above heavy praise for "Super" relates to this series expanding beyond the "Ninja' concept of a new big bad being sent to earth ultimately to have the rangers hand his or her butt to him. An adventure that one ranger aptly describes as "epic" has the nicest kids in town join forces with their predecessors from other "Rangers" incarnations. This group essentially must battle itself (and then some) to prevent worlds literally colliding.
All this fun begins with this somewhat diverse group of shiny happy teens learning what seems to be an increased number of "Saved By the Bell" morals. Additionally, these life lessons seem to be more fully integrated in the nemesis of the week.
A prime example is borderline farmboy Calvin (Yellow Ranger) lying to girlfriend Hayley (White Ranger) about not forgetting their anniversary helping fuel the power of the latest creature bent on the destruction of the team. This experience convinces Calvin that honesty is the best policy. He later learns the wisdom of "be cool, stay in school."
A similar episode has a monster getting the rangers and their fellow Summer Cove High students addicted to a video game that fuels his mojo. We also get the amusing cliche of the group being zapped onto the home turf of this evil entity.
The change-of-pace episodes include the rangers teaming up with a literal space ranger. The mission that they choose to accept is to capture an alien fugitive, An "I fought the law, and the law won" joke is one of the most cool references in "Super."
Some of the above-expressed enthusiasm relates to the escapist joy of "Super" during a period in which it seems that Odious controls the weather. A massive snow/sleet storm immediately followed by a flash freeze, a winter hurricane, several days of heavy winds, a polar vortex, and blinding snow squalls just does not seem right.
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.