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: Shaun the Sheep: We Wish Ewe A Merry Christmas

Hi again!

Before you ask, yes I know it’s not quite Thanksgiving and I’m reviewing a Christmas-themed DVD. My family will be the first to tell you I’m a bit of a Grinch when it comes to the holidays. After working one holiday season in a mall with Christmas music playing 24/7, it pretty much burned away any love I had for decorations and forced holiday spirit. That said, I have a soft spot buried deep for the core thought around that time of year: ‘Tis better to give than receive.

Sometimes a product will sneak through my defenses and tickle that small bit of holiday spirit I have left. When you take a set of characters I already know and love – Shaun the Sheep and the rest of the gang on the farm – and offer holiday-themed stories that are both entertaining and heart-warming, how can I resist? Shaun the Sheep: We Wish Ewe A Merry Christmas offers seven five-minute episodes from the Shaun the Sheep series by the creator of Wallace & Gromit. And every episode is a delight.

As I’ve mentioned before in other DVD reviews, this series takes stop-motion claymation techniques and uses numerous slapstick, silent film, and Vaudville techniques to present fun, heartfelt stories without the use of speech. It’s more akin to Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and the Keystone Kops than most modern animated shows (except maybe for the first half of Disney/Pixar’s WALL-E). Though the animals and human characters sometimes make noises, it’s the gestures, expressions, and actions that are used to tell the tale. And the animators at Aardman have this style of storytelling down to an art that continues to amaze me episode after episode.

Shaun the Sheep: We Wish Ewe A Merry Christmas is the first holiday-themed DVD from Lionsgate, HiT entertainment, and Aardman featuring Shaun and the whole cast, and it doesn’t disappoint. There is plenty of winter mayhem to be had by these lovable characters. Three of my favorite episodes in the collection are “Fireside Favorite,” “An Ill Wind,” and “Shirley Whirley,” but my daughters’ favorite was the title episode “We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas.”

In “We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas,” Shaun, Bitzer, and the rest of the gang see the Farmer is going to be spending Christmas Day alone and they can’t have that. They all work through the night, finding a Christmas tree, locating directions, making presents, and getting it all set up before the Farmer wakes up on Christmas morning. It’s that kind of holiday spirit that warms my Grinch heart a bit, so I was happy that Santa Claus also made an appearance to help them out!

“Fireside Favorite” sees Bitzer suffering from a cold. When the Farmer brings him inside to rest and recuperate, Pidsley the Cat gets mad because the dog is in his spot in front of the fire! It becomes an all out battle between the cat and the sheep to keep Bitzer inside where he can get over the cold. Don’t worry though, karma eventually catches up with Pidsley…

With “An Ill Wind,” the Farmer gets an electricity bill with a truly staggering amount and decides to do something about it. He builds a windmill and hooks it up to provide electricity for his house. But somehow I doubt he planned on it becoming an amusement park ride for the sheep which leads to all sorts of fun with the Farmer’s TV set!

Lastly, there was “Shirley Whirley.” If you’ve seen any episodes, you know Shirley as the biggest sheep of the flock and a virtual eating machine. But when she gets so big that Shaun has to enlist help to push her out of the barn, Shaun knows he has to do something… So he puts Shirley on wheels and sets up a remote control to drive her around the farm. Unfortunately, the Farmer’s TV remote seems to be on the same channel, which sends the big sheep zipping all over the place causing havoc!

If you have little ones, they will probably like Timmy Time, which is a Shaun the Sheep spinoff for preschoolers. Included on the DVD is a sneak peek of the show featuring “Timmy’s Tune #1.” Also included is a “Sheep Shearing Game,” but it’s a bit clunky and gets very repetitive for little replay variable.

Shaun the Sheep is always a favorite at our house and whether you’re 1 or 100 I bet you’ll enjoy their antics too! Shaun the Sheep: We Wish Ewe A Merry Christmas is available now!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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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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