DVD Review: Alpha and Omega

Hi all…

Through the summer of 2010, I saw many trailers for a new animated film about an unlikely pair of wolves in Jasper National Park (Alberta, Canada). Alpha and Omega looked like it could be fun, but that it was probably a renter. And it’s now coming out on DVD and Blu-ray today, January 11, 2011.

Alphas are the hunters and protectors for the pack and Omegas are about lightening the mood and keeping the pack from squabbling too much. Typically Alphas pair with Alphas and Omegas with Omegas to keep those traits strong in their offspring. Though Kate, an Alpha, and Humphrey, an Omega, might be friends, they can’t be more than that in the eyes of their elders.

When a squabble between two packs heats up over hunting territory, the pack leaders Tony and Winston revert to an ancient pact that would have their eldest children pair up and combine the packs into a bigger pack. Kate is to pair up with Garth and that’s that.

Well, of course things go wrong when Kate and Humphrey get shot with tranquilizer darts and relocated to a different park in Idaho miles and miles away and they have to get back to seal the deal between the packs to avoid a war. The Alpha and Omega bond on the road trip back home, learning that they make a pretty good team when they work together. Along the way, they meet a golfing goose and duck duo who help them navigate their way home through all the obstacles.

Ultimately the film is about finding new ways to work together to overcome whatever problems may come your way. And that you can have a little fun along the way.

The film stars the voices of Justin Long (Going the Distance, Drag Me to Hell, Alvin and the Chipmunks), Hayden Panettiere (TV’s Heroes, I Love You, Beth Cooper), Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon, Dreamgirls), Christina Ricci (Speed Racer, Cursed), and Dennis Hopper in one of his final roles before he passed away in May 2010 (TV’s Crash, Apocalypse Now, Easy Rider).

I think even when I saw the trailers six to nine months ago, I felt that it wasn’t going to be a great film. The animation seemed way out of date with the more recent efforts from Dreamworks and Pixar. And the story could have been generated by a computer algorithm. It did very poorly at the box office according to Box Office Mojo earning only $25 million domestically and $39 million worldwide. In a summer with other animated movies like Shrek Forever After (nearly $750 million worldwide), Despicable Me (nearly $550 million worldwide), and Toy Story 3 (over $1 billion worldwide) drawing thousands of moviegoers, Alpha and Omega didn’t draw many so it will be interesting to see how this title does on DVD.

In addition to the movie itself, there are numerous bonus features on the DVD, including a “Log Sliding” game, an Animal Facts trivia game, a personality test to see if you’re an Alpha or Omega, plus a deleted scene, and a few features. We really liked the “Making of Alpha and Omega” and “Wolves in the Wild” features.

It was great to hear how the directors and artists did their research about how gray wolves actually behave in the wild. The “Wolves in the Wild” feature provides a good overview of wolves from biologists and folks from the California Wolf Center who help the public gain a bit more knowledge of these beautiful animals. I think it may be a bit over the head for some kids, but would definitely recommend watching it with your children to learn a bit.

And the “Making of Alpha and Omega” feature is actually broken into three separate parts – “The Alpha of Animation,” “Voicing the Wolves,” and “From Alpha to Omega.” Each provides a glimpse into the work that goes into a full length animated features behind the scenes. It’s always amazing to me to see how the artists go from 2D sketches to how they appear in the final movie. I have a lot of respect for the process even if I didn’t like how stylized the characters became on screen. The voiceover actors also have a lot more input into how those characters come to life. It was obvious they had a good time working with the characters and directors.

Though I liked Alpha and Omega (and my kids loved it), I didn’t love it. It’s a fun, if somewhat forgettable flick that’s very family friendly with a lackluster plot. Honestly, I’d recommend it as a renter and then to buy it if your kids really like it. Check it out when it’s released today!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick this up at Barnes & Noble below along with other films:

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DVD Review: The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss – There is Nothing to Fear in Here!

Hey there…

Stumbling upon fun shows I never knew existed is one of the fun things I get to do as a reviewer. And who doesn’t like to review anything related to Dr. Seuss? Ever since I was able to read, I’ve loved the tongue-twisting, rhyming stories of author Theodor Geisel (aka “Dr. Seuss”). Geisel managed to write more than 60 books in his career – starting with And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street in 1937 and ending with Oh, the Places You’ll Go! in 1990.

Some of his classics include How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Cat in the Hat, and Green Eggs and Ham. There are too many of his stories to count that have twisted my own tongue – such as trying to clearly enunciate Fox in Socks… “When a fox is in the bottle where the tweetle beetles battle with their paddles in a puddle on a noodle-eating poodle…”

But somehow I managed not to ever hear about a series on Nickelodeon (Nick Jr.) that was produced by Jim Henson Productions for a couple of seasons in the mid-1990s. The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss missed my radar entirely. So when it popped up from Lionsgate recently with a Halloween-themed collection of three episodes, I knew I had to see The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss – There is Nothing to Fear in Here!

This DVD gathers three episodes – “There’s Nothing to Fear in Here,” “The Blag-Bludder Beast,” and “Norval the Great.” Each is presented with Seussian rhyme and Henson Muppetry, making each episode seem almost surreal at times – though each was a lot of fun to watch with my two daughters. In each episode, we see the Cat in the Hat introduce a story to three Little Cats and provide a little narration or context now and then.

“There’s Nothing to Fear in Here,” the lights go out in a thunderstorm and the Cat in the Hat has to calm down everyone under the roof of the Cat’s Playhouse. The Little Cats and Terrance McBird (who lives in a tree in the middle of the house) are all afraid that the storm might get in and don’t know what to do while they’re stuck inside. The Cat invents games to play in the dark and tells stories to pass the time. The first story was about Sarah Hall-Small, who is scared by the noises in her closet – and she has to find a way to deal with whatever horrible monster might be lurking there (it turns out to be a couple of mice who are afraid of her). And the second story is about the Grinch who gets a taste of his own medicine after he scares everybody in Seussville and they decide to turn the tables on him.

In “The Blag-Bludder Beast,” we get to see the famous Yertle the Turtle get into trouble. Yertle is running from the last place he decided to “help” when he stumbles into a swampy pond filled with garbage. It turns out to be the site where the people of Troomph have been dumping trash to appease the scary but never-seen Blag-Bludder Beast. Well, when Yertle appears from the pond covered in garbage, he scares the Troomphians who were dumping garbage and hide their eyes to avoid being attacked. When Yertle turns around and knocks off the trash, the Troomphian thinks Yertle managed to vanquish the wicked creature, he becomes a hero in Troomph! However, as Yertle often does, he takes advantage of the situation and eventually gets the Troomphians angry at him even as they learn the Blag-Bludder Beast isn’t scary at all!

And finally, in “Norval the Great” we meet Binkham Tamino McDoyal the Third, who everyone calls Binky. He tells his friends that Norval is a talking goldfish and that they’ve gone on great adventures together. Though his friends don’t believe him at first, Binky tells a heck of a story that takes them to a tropical island, into space, and home again. Could the fish really talk? Did Norval and Binky really have the adventures? You’ll have to watch to find out!

Now, beyond the three episodes on the DVD there are a few trailers for other Lionsgate releases, but that’s it. I would have liked to have seen another episode or two at the least, or perhaps some extras of some kind on the disc. That said, the three episodes we watched were a lot of fun, mixing Muppets and Dr. Seuss to great effect for kids and parents alike.

If you’re a fan of Dr. Seuss and the Muppets and want to see this interesting combination, I’d definitely recommend you check out The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss – There is Nothing to Fear in Here! at your local rental or retail counter. I’m hoping the entire series is released on DVD so we can see more of the “Wubbulous World” in the near future. For more about this and other Henson-produced shows, be sure to check out Henson.com.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this DVD and others today!

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Halloween Giveaway: Fraggle Rock: Scared Silly DVD

Yes, that’s right – the gang from Fraggle Rock is back in time for Halloween with some great episodes full of mystery and magic! On behalf of our friends at Lionsgate, we have the Fraggle Rock: Scared Silly DVD for one lucky winner!

Unfortunately, because of my limited shipping budget, I can only offer this to United States residents… But all you have to do is leave a comment below and I’ll contact the winner via e-mail on October 22, 2010.

Good luck!

From the press release:

Join the Fraggle gang in three frightfully delightful episodes full of mystery and magic! From Wembley accidentally wandering into the cursed “Terrible Tunnel,” Boober discovering what makes Fraggle tails flare when they get startled, and Ma and Pa Gorg leaving Junior alone in the castle on a dark and stormy night, Fraggle Rock: Scared Silly is bursting with Halloween fun! This new DVD includes three ghostly episodes: Terrible Tunnel, Scared Silly, and A Dark & Stormy Night.

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