DVD Review “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues – The Complete First Season”

Starring: David Carradine, Chris Potter
Created by: Ed Spielman
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Distributed: Warner Archive
Release Date: May 27, 2014

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

“Kung Fu: The Legend Continues” is a spin-off of the 1972–1975 TV series “Kung Fu”. It ran from 1993-1997. I remember watching “Kung Fu as a kid and loving every single minute of it. Then I started watching the spin-off and I honestly just never got into it. It picks up after “Kung Fu: The Movie” with Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine), grandson of the legendary hero of the Wild West, who teams up with his policeman son, Peter (Chris Potter), to tame the new Wild West – 90’s urban America. I guess it plays better if you are watching this in the 90’s, even though I wasn’t even thrilled then, but this show does not hold up today. If you are a hardcore fan, you may dig it otherwise it would have been better off getting lost in the wild west.

Official Premise: When we last saw Kwai Chang Caine, in “Kung Fu: the Movie”, he was united with the son he never knew he had in turn-of-the-century Wild West. Now, the son of that son, also named Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine), must emerge from seclusion to save the son he thought lost. Like his legendary namesake, this Caine is also a warrior monk, operating a Shaolin temple in Northern California. After an evil priest, Tan (Ernest Abuba), destroys the temple, Caine and his young son, Peter (Nathaniel Moreau) each believe the other has perished. The two embark on very different paths ­ Caine wanders the Earth, while Peter (Chris Potter) becomes a cop. When fate brings the two together, they work to overcome their differing philosophies to battle Tan, and then help the innocent and bring justice to the new Wild West ­90’s urban America.

The best part of watching this show today is no question picking out all the guest stars from back in the day including Neve Campbell, Colm Feore, Katie Griffin, James Hong, Martin Kove, George Lazenby, Mako, Barry Morse, Sandra Oh, Regis Philbin, Mickey Rooney, John Schneider, Scott Speedman, Tara Strong, George Takei and of course Richard Carradine (Note these listed are throughout the whole series not just the first season). There are no special features included on this release, like most TV DVD series releases from Warner Archive. I assume that they are going to burn through the rest of this series mostly likely before the end of the year. So if you are a fan of this show, the next three seasons should be available soon so you can get all your 90’s cheesy goodness out.

 

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3D Blu-ray Review “The Legend Of Hercules 3D”

Actors: Kellan Lutz, Scott Adkins, Liam Garrigan
Director: Renny Harlin
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Summit Inc/Lionsgate
DVD Release Date: April 29, 2014
Run Time: 98 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
3D: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

Renny Harlin is quite the well respected action film director having done classics like “Die Hard 2”, “Cliffhanger” and “Deep Blue Sea”. “The Legend of Hercules” is the first of two films focusing on the mythical Greek hero. Unfortunately, this one stars “The Twilight Saga” star Kellan Lutz, which doesn’t really hold its weight against Brett Ratner’s “Hercules”, which stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The film takes itself way too serious and fails completely. Luckily there are some decent action scenes but they also feel too dramatic and therefore also laughable. I would wait until this summer if you want to watch a film about Hercules to be honest.

Official Premise: “The Legend Of Hercules follows the mythical Greek hero Hercules, the son of Zeus, who is blessed with extraordinary strength as a half-god, half-man. Banished by his stepfather, the king, Hercules slowly becomes aware of his true origins as the son of Zeus. As he learns to harness his demi-god powers, Hercules gathers an army to fight his way back to his kingdom in this action-filled epic.

Summit/Lionsgate released this film as a combo pack including a 3D and 2D version of the film on one Blu-ray along with an Ultraviolet Digital Copy. What the film does score a near perfect score with its audio and video. I thought the 3D transfer was quite awesome. Since the film is so brainless it leaves room for plenty of fast action scenes which looks quite awesome in the third dimension. From the rain to the fire to the lightning, the depth is there and it added a lot to this film. In fact, I would go as far as to say that without the 3D, I wouldn’t even have been able to finish watching this.

Even though some of the CGI looked a little cheesy, overall the 1080p transfer packed that certain 300” style feel but more on a direct-to-video standard. The real VIP of this release has to be the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, which literally shook my walls. I was very impressed with this track, especially for a film like this. The only special features included here are a short behind-the-scenes featurette “The Making of The Legend of Hercules” and an audio commentary with Kellan Lutz and director Renny Harlin. Although there is talent is on the track, it doesn’t make the film any more watchable unfortunately.

Blu-ray Review “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”

Starring: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner
Director: Adam McKay
Rated: PG-13/Unrated/R
Studio: Paramount
DVD Release Date: April 1, 2014
Run Time: 118/122/143 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 5 out of 5 stars

NEWS TEAM ASSEMBLE!! Ron Burgundy and his team is back. Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner reprise their already iconic roles. “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is a very ambitious sequel to the 2004 cult classic. I would say that it succeeds about 75% of the time with its jokes but does rely a lot on the shoulders of the film before it. I have a feeling that, like the first film, this is going to be one of those that gets better with age…like a good scotch as I am sure Ron Burgundy himself would enjoy.

Official Premise: After losing his job to his wife and co-anchor (Christina Applegate), Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) reassembles the news team (Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner ) and squares off against a new rival (James Madsen). Will the world’s greatest anchorman be crushed beneath the weight of his own ego (and his salon-quality hair)? Anything goes in the outrageous comedy.

The three-disc Blu-ray Combo Pack includes not one…not two but three versions of the film including-in a Home Entertainment First, the Super-Sized R-Rated Version with 763 New Jokes. I think whether you loved or absolutely hated the film, this is such a crazy feat that everyone needs to check this out. Never before in the history of home entertainment has anyone replaced 763 jokes. It is like a new movie told within the shell of the first. Paramount also squeezed in a DVD copy of the film along with an HD Digital Ultraviolet copy.

Paramount not only delivered an astounding three version of the film, they also included over four hours of special features. The first disc including a perfect and highly recommend commentary track from the whole gang including Adam McKay, Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd & David Koechner. Honestly, it is like you are watching a fourth version of the film with even more new jokes. If you are looking for replay value on this film if you get bored with the other three, this is a great way to re-enjoy the film.

There is a Behind-the-Scenes look with “Newsroom”, which takes us inside the making of the film. There is a two part Gag Reel including, because one is just not enough. “Line-O-Rama, Parts 1 & 2” is another collection of non-stop alternate lines from the film. “Welcome to the Dolphin Show” has Ron Burgundy taking on the crowd at SeaWorld. “Catfight” features more ad-lib between Christina Applegate and Meagan Good going head-to-head. “News-O-Rama” features Ron and the News Team bringing you the headlines. “Kench-O-Rama” is a mashup of Kench Allenby’s most Australian moments…Brilliant! Lastly there is a Cast Table Read, which is also a riot.

The second Blu-ray disc includes the Super-Sized R-Rated Version along with more special features. There is an Behind-the-Scenes featurette. “Anchorman 2: The Musical” is a look into how this film almost was a musical sequel. “RV” dives into the work behind the RV tumble. “Baxter & Doby” focuses on the animals of Anchorman 2. “News Fight” was one of the best parts of the film and this dives into the biggest, baddest all-star celebrity brawl ever! There are an additional 90 minutes of Deleted, Extended & Alternate Scenes. At this point I said out loud, “SERIOUSLY?” How did they have this much footage.

“Previsualizations” looks into the various FX filled scenes including the RV, Shark Attack and the News Fight sequences. “Auditions” includes pre-film scenes featuring Meagan Good, Dylan Baker and Amy Poehler. “Benefit for 826LA” is a special tribute to Anchorman 2. Lastly there are trailers. The last disc, which is the DVD, only includes the theatrical version of the film. Also be sure to check out the pamphlet inside the case which comes with a digital code to unlock all levels for “Scotchy Scotch Toss” video game.

Sid Caesar, Comedy Legend, Dead at Age 91

Sid Caesar, whose live television show in the 1950s had, arguably, the greatest assembly of comedy genius’ ever assembled at one time, died today at his Los Angeles area home after a long illness. He was 91. His weekly 90 minute television program, “Your Show of Shows,” boasted the on-screen talents of Caesar, Imogene Coca, Howard Morris and Carl Reiner. The show’s writers room was filled with a virtual who’s who of comedy legends, including Mel Brooks, Selma Diamond, Neil Simon and Danny Simon. His next show, entitled “Caesar’s Hour,” boasted a staff that included Larry Gelbart and Woody Allen. The show was so beloved that it not only inspired the classic Peter O’Toole comedy “My Favorite Year,” which was produced by Mel Brooks, but Neil Simon’s long running play “Laughter on the 23rd Floor.”

Born Isaac Sidney Caesar on September 8, 1922 in Yonkers, New York, Caesar began his professional career as a saxophone player, having studied the instrument at the Julliard School of Music. After graduation he decided to try his luck as a professional musician in New York City but did not fare too well. One thing that went right for him: he met his future wife, Florence, there. They were married in July 1943. After 57 years of marriage Florence passed away in 2010.

After small roles in theatre and film he found his calling in television. In 1949 he and Imogene Coca starred in the variety program “The Admiral Broadway Review.” The show grew so popular that it was broadcast on both NBC and the Dumont Network. In fact, the show became so popular that the sponsor, Admiral Televisions, had to cancel it after 26 weeks because their factory could not keep up with the demand for new television sets. Later in life Casesar would recount how an Admiral executive told him that the company had to decide whether to build a new factory or keep sponsoring the show. They chose the cheaper option. On February 25, 1950, the first episode of “Your Show of Shows” premiered. The show ran through 1954 and was quickly followed by “Caesar’s Hour,” a similar themed show which is best remembered for the first appearance of Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner’s 2000 Year Old Man character. The show ran through 1957. For the rest of the decade Caesar would appear in several television specials.

In the 1960s he made his way to Broadway, starring in the musical “Little Me,” which boasted a script by Neil Simon and choreography by Bob Fosse. His performance, which included eight different characters and thirty-two costume changes, earned him a Tony Award nomination in 1963 for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. He lost to Zero Mostel, who earned Broadway immortality with his performance in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” which ironically was co-written by another one of Caesar’s former writers, Larry Gelbart. That same year he and Edie Adams co-starred as a married couple searching for a buried fortune in the film “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

He spent the rest of the decade, and most of the 1970s, making occasional television and film appearances. In 1978 he introduced his talents to a new generation when he was hired to replace Harry Reems as Rydell High School’s Coach Calhoun in the film version of the Broadway musical, “Grease.” He later reprised the role in “Grease 2.” Other film appearances include “Silent Movie,” “Airport ‘75” and “History of the World, Part I.” In 1982 he returned to Broadway opposite Carol Channing and Tommy Lee Jones in the show “Four on a Garden.” The next year he hosted “Saturday Night Live” and received a prolonged standing ovation upon his entrance. After the show he was given a plaque naming him an honorary member of the cast. He is the only host to receive that honor.

He kept busy in the 1990s as well, appearing in “Vegas Vacation” and earning the last two of his eleven Emmy Award nominations in 1995 and 1997 for guest appearances on “Mad About You.” In his career he won two Emmy Awards.

 

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Disney Legend, Floyd Norman talks about his work on “The Jungle Book”

Animator, Floyd Norman was named a Disney Legend in 2007. His first feature for Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”. He worked under Walt’s personal supervision on story sequences for “The Jungle Book”. In 1997, Norman moved to Pixar Animation Studios where he joined the story crew for “Toy Story 2” and “Monsters, Inc.”. He continues to work for The Walt Disney Co. as a freelance consultant on various projects. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Floyd about “The Jungle Book” and working personally with Walt Disney.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us what it is like to see a film like “The Jungle Book” restored and presented on high definition Blu-ray?
Floyd Norman: It is delightful to know that people still appreciate this film. It continues to amaze us that worked on it nearly 50 years ago that it is still loved by audiences. It seems to have a life of its own and I love that.

MG: Have you seen it yet and if so how do you feel it looks having worked on it?
FN: I do not really see that much of a difference. I know that the film looks clean and pristine. The guys who did the restoration have done a terrific job, so no complaints there.

MG: You worked under Walt Disney’s personal supervision on story sequences including the song “Trust in Me”, tell us about that process?
FN: It was very simple [laughs]. In a way it was simple, yet also very complex. When I began working on this particular sequence, I was handed some rough notes from Larry Clemmons, who was credited on the film for the story. I called him our writer because he has an actual typewriter and that made him a real writer [laughs]. So he wrote me notes about the sequence and for this one it was going to be Mowgli’s meeting with Kaa the Snake. So that is pretty much all I got. We were told that Kaa was going to try and hypnotize him and then funny stuff would happen. So that is what I had to go with “funny stuff was going to happen”. I had to come up with that “funny stuff”. So like I said in one sense it was a very simple job as well as being very complex because we had to figure out what was that funny stuff and how was it going to happen. They just kind of turned you loose and let you do your job.

MG: How long did a scene like that take to complete?
FN: It is difficult to remember. I would say a few weeks, maybe three weeks to completely storyboard that sequence. That was considered normal during that time. I had no real rush because Walt Disney was either in Europe or working on other matters and wasn’t able to review it right away. So I definitely had amble time to work on it.

MG: Did you find that working directly with Walt Disney did you have any creative freedom or did you follow a set path?
FN: Oh no, I found that I had a good deal of creative freedom. Surprisingly more than I ever realized. I initially came in expecting to be told exactly want to do and that was not the case at all. I came in and they said “Here is the sequence and just go do it” [laughs]. So given very little guidance or direction, I just went off and did what I had to do. The good news was that whatever I did, they seemed to like it [laughs]. The main thing, and the most critical, was that Walt liked it. So as long as Walt likes it you are safe [laughs].

MG: Can you compare your work on “The Jungle Book” to some of your other earlier films including “Sleeping Beauty”, “The Sword in the Stone” and “Robin Hood”?
FN: It was actually totally different because on those films, I was actually working on the animation. For “Robin Hood”, I was an animator and didn’t do any storyboard work at all. It was just animation. Having said that, I feel that the story in “Robin Hood” was pretty terrible [laughs]. I can afford to say that because I didn’t story work on “Robin Hood” [laughs]. But I did have a lot to fun animating it. I worked on animation also with “The Sword in the Stone”. The cool thing about that project was that I got to work personally with Milt Kahl, who was acknowledged as being one of the finest Disney animators of all-time. Milt is a giant in the world of animation, so that was a big deal for me. I was still a kid when I worked with Milt; I was only in my 20’s. Milt was a tough guy but it was such a great experience.

MG: Unlike some animators you embraced the digital age by working at Pixar and definitely software for animation; tell how you feel animation has changed?
FN: Oh, there is no doubt that animation has changed. Once again, following in Walt’s philosophy, “You have to embrace change, not run from it”. When I saw what Pixar was doing, I thought that I had to work for these guys. So when the opportunity came for me to go to Pixar in 1997, I was ready to pack up and go. Not everybody was, mind you, Pixar was at that time not a well-known studio. They only had made one film, which was “Toy Story”. I think that you have to move forward as Walt believed “Don’t fight technology. Embrace it and learn how to use it”. That is what Pixar did and they are continuing to do that. Certainly that would have been what Walt would have done as well.

MG: Do you still do any animation for Disney today?
FN: No animation. But I have worked on Disney storybooks from time to time. As I have time I work on Disney projects. Generally, I wait for them to call me. I don’t go looking but every now and then someone will call me. I had the opportunity to work on an electronic device that they were developing. I asked one of the Vice President’s how did they get my name and they said “John Lasseter recommended you”. I do not think that you can do any better than that getting a recommendation from John Lasseter [laughs].

“The Legend of Hercules” Autographed Poster Giveaway [ENDED]

“The Legend of Hercules” is hitting theaters & 3D nationwide on January 10, 2014 and to get ready for its release, Media Mikes would like to giveaway an autographed poster signed by Kellan Lutz. If you would like to enter for your chance to win this poster, please leave us a comment below or send us an email your favorite mythical Greek hero? This giveaway will remain open until January 10th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US only. Each household is only eligible to win ONE Autographed Poster via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

In the epic origin story THE LEGEND OF HERCULES, Kellan Lutz stars as the mythical Greek hero — the son of Zeus, a half-god, half-man blessed with extraordinary strength. Betrayed by his stepfather, the King, and exiled and sold into slavery because of a forbidden love, Hercules must use his formidable powers to fight his way back to his rightful kingdom. Through harrowing battles and gladiator-arena death matches, Hercules embarks on a legendary odyssey to overthrow the King and restore peace to the land.

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Film Review “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”

Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate and Paul Rudd
Directed by: Adam McKay
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 59 mins
Paramount

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

I don’t know how to put this, but…Ron Burgandy is still kind of a big deal. And as portrayed by Will Ferrell he brings a hilarious dose of good news with him in the new film, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.”

When we last left Ron (Ferrell) and his news team, he had just regained his job back and was happily co-hosting the San Diego evening news with his beloved Veronica (Applegate). As we meet him again, he has just been fired, replaced by Veronica and reduced to hosting the hourly dolphin show at Sea World. After a disastrous interaction with the crowd (“children and women hate you, Ron” a young boy calls out), Burgundy finds himself, literally at the end of his rope. However he is saved by a visit from a representative of an all new, 24 hour news station, hilariously played by the usually very serious Dylan Baker. Offered an anchor position, Ron accepts with the condition he can assemble his old news team. Sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) now operates a fried “chicken” restaurant. Feature reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) has made a successful living by photographing kittens. And weatherman Brick Tamblin (Steve Carell) is dead. At least he thinks he is. The newly reunited team head for the Big Apple and new found fame!

I had one fear when I sat down to watch this movie: that I had seen so much of it already in the incessant promotional on-slaught that has been running since Labor Day that I’d already seen the funny stuff. Not to worry. In the capable hands of writers Ferrell and McKay, Ron Burgundy’s world has more than enough room for laughs. Originally scheduled to helm the 2 a.m. news shift, Burgundy finds success by, in his words, “telling the people not what they NEED to hear but what they WANT to hear. Couple this idea with Ron bottle feeding a shark and experiencing interracial dating and you have the makings of one outrageously funny film. All of the returning actors are funny and strong, with Rudd’s Brian Fantana a standout. New guest stars, including Kristen Wiig, James Marsden and Harrison Ford shine just as bright as the story’s regular cast members. Add to these stars a strong performance by Dobby the Shark and you’ve got yourself one damn funny movie!

Blu-ray Review “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (The Rich Mahogany Edition)”

Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Fred Willard
Director: Adam McKay
Number of discs: 2
Rated: PG-13 / Unrated
Studio: Paramount
DVD Release Date: December 3, 2013
Run Time: 94 / 97 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 5 out of 5 stars

“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” is with no question one of the best comedies of all-time. The film wasn’t that huge in theaters but became a cult classic very quickly when it hit DVD. I do not think that there is one day that goes by that I do not quote this film, numerous times in fact. It is also one of those films that you can watch over and over and it does not get old in fact it only gets better. The “Rich Mahogany” Edition features three versions of the film: the theatrical version, an unrated version and Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie, all presented here on Blu-ray in glorious high definition. This Blu-ray was originally released as a Best Buy Exclusive back in 2010 but is FINALLY getting an expanded release to take advantage of the long-awaited sequel’s release this Christmas in theaters. This is a must for any fan of this film and yes it is worth the double dip.

Official Premise: Will Ferrel (Old School, Elf) is Ron Burgundy, a top-rated 1970’s San Diego anchorman who believes women have a place in the newsroom – as long as they stick to covering fashion shows or late-breaking cooking stories. So when ron is told he’ll be working with a bright young newswoman (Christina Applegate) who’s beautiful, ambitious and smart enough to be more than eye candy, it’s not just a clash of two TV people with really great hair – it’s war! Filled with wicked wit and slapstick humor, Anchorman is the year’s most wildly irreverent, must-see comedy hit!

Paramount has given this Blu-ray release a lot of love. I just wish they would have updated this release from it being a Best Buy Exclusive and included an Ultraviolet Digital Copy with this updated release. We get both the 94-minute theatrical cut and the longer 97 minute extended cut of the film on the first disc. Besides the various cuts of the film, there is also Ron’s personal 32-page diary – “The Many Months of Burgundy” included as well as a very cool set of 12 Trading Cards, really a must for any fan of the film. In terms of presentation, the 1080p transfer is quite impressive within its 1.78:1-framed transfer, or at least as far as comedies go. Same goes for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which is a typical of a comedy high definition track but works very well.

So let’s get to some of the special features now, this “Rich Mahogany Edition” two-disc Blu-ray release of “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” has no shortage of goodies. The first disc consists of an audio commentary track with Director/Writer Adam McKay; Actor/Writer Will Ferrell; Musicians Lou Rawls and Kyle Gass; Entertainer Andy Richter; and Actors Paul Rudd, David Koechner, and Christina Applegate. These commentary tracks really add tons of great replay value to this film. Disc one also includes a collection of 36 deleted and extended scenes,which run just short of an hour. There is also a blooper reel, the “Afternoon Delight” music video and Ron Burgundy’s ESPN SportsCenter Audition.

Disc two kicks off with one hell of a special feature which would be the full-length film “Wake Up, Ron Burgundy”. It is a full-length film that was pieced together from various cut scenes and various subplots that didn’t make the final cut of “Anchorman”. There is also a brief “Intro-Commentary” for Wake Up, Ron Burgundy, which runs just under 13 minutes with Will Ferrell and Aaron Zimmerman. Honestly worth the purchase of the release alone just for this film in high definition.  Also included there are five Ron Burgundy Public Service Announcements, Ron Burgundy’s 1970 Emmy Awards speech. “Raw Footage ‘Good Takes'” includes nearly 40 minutes of more alternate takes and improvisations. Next up is “Afternoon Delight” Recording Session, “Happy Birthday AMC Loews” covering Loews’ 100th birthday. There are various interviews from the 2004 MTV Music Awards with Rebecca Romijn, Jim Caviezel, and Burt Reynolds. There are also three short featurettes including “Cinemax: The Making of ‘Anchorman'”, “Comedy Central Reel Comedy: ‘Anchorman'” and “A Conversation With Ron Burgundy”.

You think we are done yet? Well we still have more! There are cast auditions for Christina Applegate, David Koechner, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph, Kevin Corrigan, and Justin Long. There is a Table Read from 6/2/03 and more rehearsal footage included. “Playback Video” is a collection of the news team’s more embarrassing moments. Same goes for “Commercial Break”, which is more funny moments from the “Anchorman” set. Lastly we get the film’s teaser trailer, theatrical trailer and “Trounced Spiderman” TV Spot. So obviously, this release is a must-have for any “Anchorman” fan since it really delivers to its fans!

DVD Review “The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow”

Starring: Jack Angel, Fred Armisen, Hank Azaria, Gary Basaraba, Alan Cumming, Tom Kane, John Oliver, Melissa Sturm, Frank Welker, Adam Wylie, Anton Yelchin
Director: Stephan Franc
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: September 10, 2013
Run Time: 22 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

I grew up watching “The Smurfs” as a kid back in the 80’s and have always loved watching them. In 2011, “The Smurfs” was made into a CG/Live-action movie, which because a huge hit.  “The Smurfs 2” was released this past summer and did not follow the same path as the first one.  I guess they smurfed up on it or something. “The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow” is a 22-minute short that continues the Smurfs adventures this time in a seasonal special.  Cute special for kids and could be a fun to revisit each year.

Official Premise: When Brainy Smurf is favored to win the annual Smurfberry Hunt for the ninth year in a row, Gutsy Smurf sets out to discover how Brainy wins every year. Gutsy’s investigation takes him into spooky Smurfy Hollow-and right into Gargamel’s trap! Can Brainy and Gutsy, with the help of Smurfette, put aside their rivalry before Gargamel captures them-or worse, they come face-to-face with the legendary ghost, the Headless Horseman?

The short film features the returning cast of Jack Angel (Papa Smurf), Fred Armisen (Brainy Smurf), Hank Azaria (Gargamel), Gary Basaraba (Hefty Smurf), Alan Cumming (Gutsy Smurf), Tom Kane (Narrator Smurf), John Oliver (Vanity Smurf), Melissa Sturm (Smurfette), Frank Welker (Azrael), Adam Wylie (Panicky Smurf), Anton Yelchin (Clumsy Smurf). So the effort is definitely there to bring back everyone involved and only left is Katy Perry (who probably costed to much) and the late Jonathan Winters.

I have admit, I was a little taken back at the fact that this DVD’s cover art suggests a CG animated short like the 2011 and 2013 films. The opening and closing of the show is in CG but the bulk of the story is a traditional animated short. This might disappoint the kids that are introduced to these new films and looking for a new chapter. There are no additional bonus features included here besides some Sony trailers. So the question becomes this is worth the $4.99 that it costs (via Amazon), which is very cheap but you are also getting a 22-minute film on DVD with no special features. So it is a toss up.

Blu-ray Review “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes”

Actors: Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm, Christopher Lambert, Andie MacDowell
Directors: Hugh Hudson
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Warner Bros.
Release Date: July 16, 2013
Run Time: 137 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

“Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes” might not be considered the most popular portrayal of Tarzan but has always been one of my favorites. It is far for the worst, has anyone ever seen “Tarzan and the Lost City” back in 1998. Christopher Lambert aka Connor MacLeod from “Highlander”. took on the lead role in the film and does a great job. This version on the Blu-ray is the same extended version of the film which is roughly six minutes longer than the theatrical cut. This production is quite lavish and very beautifully shot.  It also focuses on the character’s dual nature as King of the jungle and as John Clayton, seventh Earl of Greystoke, heir to one of Scotland’s great estates. So I liked that angle of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ story being explored within the film. If you have never seen this film, this would be the way to watch it for sure.

Official Premise: Hugh Hudson’s refreshingly adult revisionist take on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ immortal apeman arrives on Blu-ray like a blast of warm rain forest air. Robert Towne’s script (writing as P.H. Vazak) hews close to Burroughs’ origin as found in Tarzan of the Apes by way of modern anthropology. The second half may thread in some movie mythos (like Jane as English gentry) but plays out its savage vs. civilization theme. Gorgeously shot by John Alcott (The Shining, Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?), Greystoke also boasts an acting pedigree worthy of Burke’s peerage, including Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm , David Suchet, James Fox, and Nigel Davenport with Andie MacDowell and Glenn Close handling Jane physicality and vocality respectively. But the film belongs to Lambert’s heart-wide open performance as Tarzan and Rick Baker’s amazing simian simulations.

Thanks for Warner Archive for giving this film some love to this.  This film has never looked better on this Blu-ray.  Warner Archive has been slowly crossing over into the world of Blu-ray with these classics and this one really benefited from the format. This Blu-ray was set to be released numerous times but was held back in order to perfect the transfer and damn, did it make a difference. The 1080p transfer looks stunning and it has been taken from impressive sources that have been restored with a very close eye to attention.  The film was originally with Dolby Stereo on 35mm and even had a 70mm release with 6-track sound and this film sounds amazing on Blu-ray with its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. It works very well with the action and jungle scenes.  The special features are not jam-packed but still work checking out.  There is a fine commentary track with Director Hugh Hudson and Line Producer Garth Thomas, which is quite detailed and thorough.  Lastly there is a trailer included.

 

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Blu-ray Review “Great White Shark – A Living Legend”

Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Run Time: 50 minutes

Special: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Anything related to shark, count me in.  With Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” right around the corner, “Great White Shark – A Living Legend” arrives at the perfect time. This episode was originally filmed for “Natural World” on BBC. If you can’t get that from the cover art we get to go up close and personal one of our most feared predators in our oceans. I mean who doesn’t love shark.  I am absolutely fascinated and eat up anything I can get on these amazing creatures. My main concern is that this only runs 50-minutes but it is entertaining and there is a bit of knowledge shared here but nothing out of this world.  If would recommend this for hardcore shark fan. Come on in the water!

Official Premise: Get up close and personal with one of the most vicious predators of our oceans, the Great White Shark! We think of great whites as fearsome aquatic killers, but do we know them as well as we think? In this presentation from BBC’s acclaimed Natural History Unit, Mike Rutzen, the world’s foremost great white shark diver, follows great whites as they feed, at proximity never before achieved. Mike’s unique ability to communicate with them using his body language allows him to swim amongst them unscathed. Mike explores why occasionally attack people. He also challenges the view that their feeding is unstructured and frenzied, to prove instead that they obey the subtle rules of a complex form of social hierarchy.

Even though it is short, BBC still delivered a very nice Blu-ray presentation for “Great White Shark: A Living Legend”. The episode looks amazing with its 1080p high definition in 1.78.1 widescreen.  The colors are sharp and the detail is very impressive. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also quite great. Since there is no action in this film, the score and music still delivers  a great surround experience and takes advantage of this track. In the special features department, there is only one extras included, called “Smart Sharks: Swimming With Roboshark”. This 50-minute documentary is narrated by David Attenborough and looks into the life sized mechanical shark designed by Andrew Sneath. This as a good companion to “Great White Shark – A Living Legend”.

Visual Effects Legend Ray Harryhausen Dead at 92

James Cameron. Steven Spielberg. John Lasseter. Rick Baker. Peter Jackson. No, the category isn’t Oscar winners. It’s a list of people whose careers were influenced by one of films true legends: Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen, whose career spanned six decades, died today in London. He was 92.

Beginning with 1942’s “Tulips Shall Grow” and ending with his best known film, 1981’s “Clash of the Titans,” Harryhausen inspired moviegoers throughout the world.

Born in Los Angeles on June 29, 1920, Harryhausen’s life changed when, in 1933, he saw the original “King Kong.” Interested in filmmaking, and experimenting in animation, a friend introduced him to Willis O’Brien, who had created Kong. He showed O’Brien some of his work and was soon taking classes in sculpture and graphic arts. In 1939 he and an author friend joined a local Science Fiction League which was presided over by Forrest J. Ackerman. The author was Ray Bradbury and the three remained friends up until their deaths. One of my most cherished autographs!

After securing a job working on George Pal’s “Puppetoons” he was drafted into the United States Army, where he was placed in the Special Services Division under the command of Colonel Frank Capra. He was a jack-of-all-trades for Capra, filling in wherever a hand was needed on his film crew. After his discharge Harryhausen went to work on his first big film, 1947’s “Mighty Joe Young,” which allowed him the chance to work with his idol, O’Brien, who went on to win that years Academy Award for Best Special Effects. He went on to produce the visual effects for such films as “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” “Earth vs the Flying Saucers,” “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” and it’s sequels, “One Million Years B.C.” and “The Valley Gwangi.”

I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Harryhausen on a couple of occasions and a nicer man with a genuine affection for his fans you will never find.

In 1992 he received the Gordon E. Sawyer award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But perhaps a greater honor came in PIXAR’s hit film “Monsters, Inc., where Mike Wozowski takes his dinner date to the best place in town. It’s name: Harryhausens.

DVD Review "Thor: Legend of the Magical Hammer"

Starring: Justin Gregg, Pail Tylak, Nicola Coughlan, Alan Stanford, Liz Lloyd, Paul Tylak
Directors: Oskar Jonasson
Distributed by: Arc Entertainment
Release Date: 01/15/2013
MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 83 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

After the success of “The Avengers”, you have to imagine that there will be tons of copycats trying to cash in on its success. “Thor: Legend of the Magical Hammer” though is a pretty well done CG animated film. The story is very silly and not the sharpest but still fun, especially for kids. This film includes a few firsts This is a Walmart exclusive and is the first full-length animated film to come out of Iceland, thanks to the studio CAOZ. For that being said, it is really well done. The animation is quite impressive, if you can over the way Thor looks. Kids who are fans of superheros should definitely enjoy this.

Official Premise: Thor, the son of the mighty god Odin, battles the evil Ice Queen and her army of vicious giants in this exciting animated adventure! Thor is a village blacksmith who dreams of being a mighty warrior, practicing with a broomstick as his mother laughs at him. When a talking hammer falls from the sky, he realizes he may truly have a way to fulfill his dreams.  Soon after, the Ice Queen kidnaps his mother and the rest of the villagers, and he must reach deep inside himself to unleash his full powers to fight the queen and her army.  Will Thor and his magical hammer be enough to save the world from destruction?

On thing I just need to point out is that the Ice Queen reminded me so much like Izma from Disney’s “The Emperor’s New Groove”, she is decent baddie but no Loki. Arc Entertainment is the distributor and they have yet to cross over into 3D Blu-ray, as they barely release many Blu-ray but this film was made in 3D.  It includes many over-the-top 3D gimmicks, though would have been fun to see but remain unavailable. There are no special features besides a trailer included.  Lastly there is a Vudu digital copy of the film included.

Larry Hagman, television legend, dies at 81

Larry Hagman, who will forever be remember for his portrayal of one of television’s best loved (and hated) characters, died earlier today (November 23) after a bout with throat cancer. He was 81.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Hagman’s parents were Benjamin Hagman, a local district attorney, and his wife Mary (nee Martin). The two had met in high school and Benjamin convinced Martin’s parents to allow them to marry when she was seventeen. His parents divorced when Hagman was five and he and his mother moved to California, where they stayed with his grandmother. It was while in California that Mary was signed to a contract with Paramount. In later years she would become a star on Broadway, originating lead roles in musicals like “The Sound of Music” and “South Pacific.”
Hagman attended several schools as a young man, including the Black-Foxe Military Institute. While his mother went off to New York he remained with his grandmother until her passing, then was sent to boarding school. It was at these schools that he developed a liking for drama classes. He graduated from high school in 1949 and, on the advice of his mother, decided to give acting a try professionally.
While attending Bard College he took some time off to appear in a New York City production of “The Taming of the Shrew,” then spent the summer traveling the country in a variety of musical road shows. In 1951 he joined his mother in the London production of “South Pacific,” remaining with the show for over a year. In late 1952 he was drafted by the United States Air Force and spent four years in London entertaining troops stationed there. After his discharge he returned to New York City where he appeared in several plays, both on and off-Broadway, and the occasional television program. In 1961 he joined the cast of daytime soap opera “The Edge of Night,” playing Ed Gibson for two years. He made his film debut in 1964 in the comedy “Ensign Pulver” and later appeared opposite Henry Fonda in “Fail Safe” that same year.
In 1965 he was cast as Captain Anthony Nelson in the hit television series “I Dream of Jeannie.” The show featured Hagman as the “master” of Jeannie, a beautiful blonde he discovers when he finds an old bottle on the beach. The two eventually married and the show ran until 1970. For years after the show was canceled Hagman refused to associate with anything connected to it, refusing to appear in the two subsequent made for television movies. Although Eden did make an appearance on “Dallas” it wasn’t until 1999 that he agreed to appear with Eden and fellow co-star Bill Daily for a reunion on “The Donny and Marie Show.”
In 1977 Hagman was cast as J.R. Ewing in the nighttime soap opera “Dallas.” As the oldest son of Jock Ewing, J.R. was the bad guy you loved to hate. His scheming and conniving ways came to a head at the end of the second season when J.R. was shot. That summer the phrase “Who Shot J.R.?” became a business in itself, with T-shirts and bumper stickers popping up all over America. That summer also saw Hagman asking for a large raise. The story I was told goes like this:
The producers called Hagman’s agent and asked him and Hagman to come to their office on Monday morning. When they arrive they are taken to a screening room where they are shown the last scenes of the last episode. They see a body being put into an ambulance and the ambulance speeding away. Suddenly another vehicle hits the ambulance, which bursts into flames. The screen goes black and the words SIX MONTHS LATER flash across it. Fade in on a face heavily bandaged. Off screen a voice says, “Because of the extensive plastic surgery we had to do you may not look the same Mr. Ewing.” The bandages are removed and there in the hospital bed is Robert Culp.
A deal was finally made and on November 21, 1980 (ironically 32 years ago this week) the world discovered who had shot J.R. The show ran until 1991, earning Hagman multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations as Best Dramatic Actor. In 1995 Hagman underwent a liver transplant. He had acquired a drinking problem as far back as high school and was reported to drink up to four bottles of champagne a day on the set of “Dallas.” He also quit smoking that year, becoming a spokesman for the American Cancer Society in later years.
After “Dallas” he continued to work, appearing in such films as “Nixon” and “Primary Colors” as well as recurring roles in such television shows as “Orleans” and “Nip/Tuck.” In the summer of 2011 Hagman made two major announcements about his life and his career: “As J.R. I could get away with anything — bribery, blackmail and adultery. But I got caught by cancer. I do want everyone to know that it is a very common and treatable form of cancer. I will be receiving treatment while working on the new Dallas series. I could not think of a better place to be than working on a show I love, with people I love.” He revealed to the world that he had stage one throat cancer while also announcing his return to the role he loved in the updated version of “Dallas.” The show debuted earlier this year to great success, brought about, no doubt, by the presence of the irascible Larry Hagman. A true television legend who will be sorely missed

Janet Varney talks about voicing Korra on Nickelodeon’s “The Legend of Korra”

Janet Varney is known best for voicing Korra on Nickelodeon’s “The Legend of Korra”.  She also appeared in the first season of Syfy’s “Insane or Inspired?”.  Currently she is working on HuffPost Live, a live streaming network. Janet took some time to chat about voicing Korra and what we can expect from season two of the show.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you end up landing the leading role of Korra on Nickelodeon’s “The Legend of Korra”?
Janet Varney: Well I have wanted to do voice over for a while but didn’t have a lot of experience in it. I was something that was a dream of mine. I was working well on-camera but like every good dissatisfied artist, what I really wanted to do was something that I wasn’t getting successful in [laughs]. Mostly because the little kid in me was completely fascinated by being a part of cartoons. I met with a few voice over agents and then asked me “What do you like most about voice work? Promos? Commercials?”. I told them basically I just want to do cartoons and they appreciated my honesty. When I got the audition of Korra, it was basically just a normal process for any on-camera role. We even got put together with the other proposed cast to see how the chemistry was, so I got to read with David Faustino and P.J. Byrne. When I found out I got the role, I was in a Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts in the Valley, getting crafts supplies. My agent called and told me the news and I ended up screaming and jumping up and down all by myself in an aisle of this fabric store. It has turned out to be one of the best jobs, I have ever had. It is an absolute dream.

MG: Did you look back to “Avatar: The Last Airbender” series” at all?
JV: I was a fan of the original series. I think because of the original legacy of the show and how beloved the series was, I think we all felt like we had a responsibility to the fans to do something that would live up to the original. I so felt pressure that the fans were ok with what I was doing with the character and fulfilling their expectations.

MG: Tell us about your podcast “The J.V. Club”?
JV: The timing on that was really great. I decided to focus on, before Korra took off, a way do a podcast with a unique point-of-view and voice. Fan of Korra are even crossing over to the podcast now as we discuss the challenges of being a young person and then how those challenge present themselves as an adult.

MG: I am a big “Jaws” fan myself, tell us about working with Rifftrax to spoof “Jaws 3”?
JV: Oh yeah, “Jaws 3”. I used to love that movie. What is so great about some of the spoofs we get to do is that when you are younger you don’t necessarily know how bad something is that you like. But you still always seem to love it growing up even though it doesn’t hold up and was terrible to begin with. I still love that movie…sort of…even though it is terrible. It was the perfect movie to riff on. We just recorded “Flatliners” as well, so that will be coming out very soon.

MG: Speaking of spoofing, how did you get involved with Syfy’s “Insane or Inspired?”
JV: It was a super fun show. I had done some “Chelsea Lately” episodes and a few other panel TV shows, so it seemed like such a good fit. It has really been a real hoot some of the things we get to view, which are pretty hilarious. I also love the other people on it like Owen Benjamin and Ben Gleib. We don’t always get to see each out since we are recording at different times but it is still fun.

MG: You must own a lot of the same clothes, since you didn’t change your clothes each episode?
JV: [laughs] The bad thing is that I never realized that they were going to be combining clips over the series of episodes. The second time I showed up, I was wearing something completely different. They said “No, no, no, no…you need to wear the same clothes”. I got real familiar with that outfit and will probably never wear it again [laughs].

MG: When can we expect the second season of “The Legend of Korra”?
JV: We already recorded all of the episodes for the second season. Now, they are just being animated. It takes a long time to create that beautiful animated world. I am not even sure if Nickelodeon is 100% sure when we will be airing it, but I am sure sometime in 2013. I can tell you having recorded the scripts, it is just phenomenal. It is beautiful, interesting and strange. We get to meet some new characters and visit some new places. I am really excited and I think fans are going to love it.

 

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