DVD Review: Shaun the Sheep: Shear Madness

Who knew the antics of a flock of sheep could be so entertaining? Yet Shaun the Sheep continues to entertain every time we get to see what he’s up to on the Farm! And he and the rest of the gang are back with a new collection of seven animated shorts in Shaun the Sheep: Shear Madness hitting DVD shelves recently.

If you’re not familiar with this series from the creators of Wallace & Gromit, each animated adventure features the antics of Shaun, Bitzer the Dog, the Farmer, the Pigs, the flock, and the whoever else shows up to cause trouble. Shaun does his best to keep the Flock entertained, while Bitzer does his best to keep the sheep in line for the Farmer. But that doesn’t keep them all from getting in and out of trouble in every episode!

Shaun the Sheep: Shear Madness features a collection of episodes from the show’s second season.

In “Pig Trouble,” Bitzer is out of commission with a broken leg, the Farmer asks the Pigs to step in and help out. Of course, the Pigs manage to make it all about them. They make the flock their slaves and turn the farm into a porcine resort, which doesn’t sit well with Shaun, Bitzer, or the Farmer!

Then, in “Sheepless Nights,” a storm drenches the Farm in rain and the flock has to deal with holes in the barn roof. Finding shelter turns out to be hard work, especially when the only other dry place to sleep turns out to be the pig’s house. Have you ever tried sleeping with a bunch of pigs? When that doesn’t work out, Shaun finds a solution to the problem with a bit of ingenuity…

With “Cat Got Your Brain?” the farm is visited by a pair of alien scientists who abduct Pidsley the Cat and Shaun, then swap their brains. Imagine the surprise of the Farmer and the rest of the flock when Shaun starts cleaning himself like a cat and Pidsley starts eating carrots! The aliens manage to correct the issue, but not before more madness ensues.

And in “Two’s Company,” Shaun finds love when a new sheep joins the flock accidentally. Initially they have no idea what to think of the new sheep who is covered in mud. But once Shaun cleans her up, he falls head over hooves in love and the pair are inseparable. Will she stay when her true owner comes looking for her?

Also included are “Party Animals,” “What’s Up, Dog?”, and “Draw the Line.”

Though we loved the new episodes we hadn’t seen already, I was a little disappointed by the duplication of “Party Animals” and “Draw the Line” which both showed up on a previous DVD collection.

As special features on the DVD you get “Sing-along With Shaun” and “Timmy Time Sneak Peek – Timmy’s Tune #2.” Both of these have appeared on other Shaun the Sheep DVDs.

If you’re looking for good clean family fun, Shaun the Sheep is tough to beat. Be sure to check out Shaun the Sheep: Shear Madness and other DVD collections today!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas

Ever since Scrat the sabertooth squirrel started his quest for the acorn in the early 2000s, I’ve been a fan of the Ice Age universe. Sure, maybe Manny, Sid, and Diego are slowly inching towards extinction, but more often than not they show that animated films can be both commercial, kid-friendly, and still appeal to parents who are still young-at-heart.

That said, I was disappointed this year when we somehow managed to miss recording Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas which aired around Thanksgiving. I wanted to see if the momentum of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs with its whole Land of the Lost/Journey to the Center of the Earth vibe would spill over into a Christmas special. Now that I’ve seen the special on DVD, I’m happy to say that it was actually quite original and fun!

It starts out with mammoths Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) literally rolling out the decorations for Christmas (somewhat ironically considering how odd it would be to have Christmas before the birth of Christ, but let’s let that go) – including a large boulder that’s been handed down generation to generation in Manny’s family. When Sid (John Leguizamo) the sloth and Diego (Denis Leary) the sabertooth tiger get involved in a discussion about the stone’s merits, Sid manages to destroy it while testing its durability. This didn’t make Manny happy at all and in his frustration he convinces Sid that he’s on Santa’s “Naughty List.”

Well, this upsets Manny and Ellie’s daughter Peaches (Ciara Bravo) so much, she sets off to head to the North Pole to convince Santa to remove Sid from the Naughty List. Of course, Peaches and Sid aren’t alone in this quest and are joined by the possum brothers Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck). Along the way, they get a bit lost and stumble across a new friend named Prancer (T.J. Miller) who just happens to be a flying reindeer. This odd group makes their way to Santa’s workshop, guarded by an army of tiny sloths.

Do they find Santa? Do Manny, Ellie, and Diego join the party? Yes to both questions. Of course, they manage to destroy and rebuild Santa’s Workshop and find a way to save Christmas for kids all around the world thanks to Prancer and his flying family. Ultimately I think the message is that no matter what happens, anything is possible if you work together towards a common goal and don’t give up.

Plus, having an Ice Age holiday special serves as a reminder of the new movie due out next summer – Ice Age: Continental Drift arrives in theaters in July 2012!

In an age where the stop-motion puppetry of the Rankin-Bass holiday specials are looking a little long in the tooth, I’m glad to see new specials appearing on the docket like the Prep and Landing, Shrek the Halls, and now Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas. I think this one will fit nicely into our holiday TV traditions from now on!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

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DVD Review: The Lost Future

Hi there!

Is it just me or is there a swell in the number of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic films lately? The Book of Eli, Legion, Vanishing on 7th Street, Battle: Los Angeles, Zombieland… And those are just the ones off the top of my head going back to 2009.

Add one more to the list – The Lost Future. This made-for-tv film aired on Syfy this year starring Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, National Treasure, Game of Thrones, Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lighting Thief, Ronin) as Amal, a man dedicated to finding a cure to the degenerative disease making men into beasts. In the realm of the usually badly-produced movies shown on Syfy, this one wasn’t too bad.

In the bleak picture painted by The Lost Future, mankind has been knocked back to stone-age technology and reduced to tribes able to find places to hide from the beasts. If you are bitten by one of the beasts, you will surely become one. And as such, tribe numbers are dwindling.

Uri (Tertius Meintjes, Crusoe, The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines) and the other Elders are doing their best to keep the Grey Rock tribe together, with strict laws on where to hunt to avoid entering lands held by beasts and exploring beyond the areas they know as safe. Unfortunately, food has become scarce in the area and Savan (Corey Sevier, Age of the Dragons, the upcoming Immortals), Uri’s son and the tribe’s best hunter, and Kaleb (Sam Claflin, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Pillars of the Earth), the tribe’s best tracker must leave the safety of Grey Rock lands to hunt for enough meat to feed the tribe. Of course, by doing so they attract the attention of some of the beasts and the safety of Grey Rock is compromised.

The beasts attack and many tribe members find safety in a reinforced cave, but some are trapped outside in the confusion. Savan, Kaleb, and Savan’s girl Dorel (Annabelle Wallis, The Tudors, Pan Am) are left hiding in the trees from the monsters. That’s where Amal saves the day, using a bow and arrow to take out a beast who almost gets them. He escorts the trio to where he and his wife Neenah (Jessica Haines,The Prisoner (2009)) and his son Persk (Sam Schein) have been living between a couple of rivers, which the beasts will not cross.

When Amal discovers that Kaleb can read and was taught by his father, a friend of Amal’s, the search is on for a mysterious medicine that prevents people from getting the beast’s disease. Will Savan and Kaleb help Amal retrieve the medicine from the leaders of a city holding it hostage or will they try to rescue the rest of their tribe? And will they succeed whichever way they choose to go?

The Lost Tribe mixes a bit of the far future of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with modern fears of biological warfare and disease transmission to create an interesting combination. It still suffers from the bane of most Syfy-produced movies with moments of bad dialog, pacing issues, and poor special-effects. But overall it does better overcoming these concerns than most recent made-for-TV movies on the channel (except for Age of Dragons which was actually pretty good).

The DVD also includes a trailer for the film and a collection of “Making Of” featurettes that include interviews with cast and crew as well as behind the scenes footage of set building, stunts, costumes, and visual effects. For a made-for-TV film, there’s actually quite a bit of meat in the “Making of” segments. My favorite segment actually focused on the production meetings and discussions about how nature would reclaim the world without a large population in a post-apocalyptic setting.

This article first appeared at Blogcritics.org here.

–Fitz

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