Down on the Farm (DVD)

Pure manure. Have you ever had a day so hard and crappy the only salve that would sooth you hollowed-out, blackened soul is to see the looks of pure disappointment on someone with a cheerful disposition. Well, have I got the balm for you, oh miserable bastard. It’s called Down on the Farm and park some bubbly kid in front of the TV, show him the disc cover with the cheerful cartoon farm animals, pop the disc in, and press play–and watch the word “crestfallen” transpire in real time. What a waste of time this is. Down on the Farm has no discernible plot. Well, maybe it’s got a tiny, discernible plot. And here it is: Oink the Flying Pig and Boink the Owl are looking for a missing bale of hay. They proceed to interview multiple farm animals to track down the hay. Along the way they learn facts about the animals. Then they find the hay. The end! That’s it. Just a steady succession of hastily animated farm animals belching out fun facts ripped straight from the pages of Ranger Rick. I have no idea what child would want to stick around to endure this informative-slideshow-masquerading-as-a-fun-family-movie, but there was apparently enough of a focus test market to prompt its creation. I have no doubt in mind, that those kids in the focus groups will be just as flummoxed as bored as I was. THE VERDICT Guilty. Slaughter them all.

Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Super Shredder (DVD)

Ninja kick the damn rabbit. Always the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They are forever. They are eternal. They are Legion. I don’t know how many iterations of the heroes in a half shell the collective pop culture consciousness can absorb, but from my perch, the answer is quite obviously: all of them.  All of the iterations. Geez man, I remember dive-bombing  my Donatello action figure from the top of our house deck way back when–and I just turned 40 two weeks ago! Those Turtles have staying power and no matter the generation there appears to a real thirst for the continued chop-socky adventures of gang green. Here now is yet another version, Nickelodeon’s Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I won’t claim that I’ve been paying studious attention to all the different TMNT series that have popped up over the years–but I have a decent grasp of most of them (having reviewed more than my share). Where does this installment stand? Well, it’s definitely more bizarre, somewhat darker, a tad more subversive, and loaded with aliens and demons and mutants. Also, April O’Neil is apparently a telekinetic X-Man or something. Together (and with old friend Casey Jones) our heroes unleash their usual wisecracks and martial artistry in service of one outlandish story after another. And the center of it all is a roided-up Shredder, who seems be juicing on the Bane Venom from Batman and Robin. Despite an upping of amperage in the weirdness department, Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles still feels like a standard-issue TMNT excursion. The personalities are largely the same (save for April who’s been freed of both the yellow jumpsuit and the annoying tendency to contextualize everything in how it would benefit her reporting career) and you’re essentially still seeing everyone smack around cannon fodder and the occasional Bebop and Rocksteady. Shredder is pretty cool here, essentially an insane monster more than a ninja with a grudge. So, really, more of the same. If you’re a TMNT fanatic and need everything shell, have at it. As far as the prime audience I’d say there’s enough edge here to entertain the higher range of grade schoolers, without it seeming lame. It’s probably a bit heavy-duty for the really little ones though. The DVD set: two discs, 11 half-hour episodes, and nothing else. THE VERDICT Not Guilty. But I feel like we’ve all been here before.

Blaze and the Monster Machines: Race into Velocityville (DVD)

Blaze up, bro Here we have another batch of episodes from Nick Jr.’s high-octane kids show. Blaze and the Monster Machines relays the adventures of a talking, living monster truck named Blaze who has a kid named AJ riding shotgun wherever he goes, which, to be honest seems a little weird. Anyway–who am I to argue with physics? Especially since Blaze is all abut introducing early concepts of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to the kiddos. So, hey, they’d know a lot more about the science behind the unholy union between man and machine. So this DVD has six episodes: RACE CAR BLAZE RACE TO EAGLE ROCK SKY TRACK THE WISHING WHEEL THE HUNDRED MILE RACE THE POLAR DERBY Not much  more to say, really. You get six random episodes, generally held together by the common thread of these machines going incredibly fast. As a dad, I have much respect for Blaze. My preschool-aged son is absolutely bonkers for all things monster truck and this show serves it up with aplomb. Add to that the the educational element–which, honestly, is not simply tacked on to help the Nick Jr. suits sleep at night; the STEM stuff is legit and a core of the program–and you’ve got a children’s show any parent would be good with. THE VERDICT Not Guilty. Vrooom.

Star Paws (DVD)

Lost in spays. Here’s this movie called Star Paws. I was morbidly intrigued, mainly because of the cover which looks less like the art of a coherent children’s film and more like a graphical transcription of Jim Henson’s fever nightmare. The way it plays out makes even less sense. The best I can make out is that millions of years ago there was a magic bone or something and it holds the key to dog and cat future and two warring factions of domesticated pets far in the future are racing each other to travel back to get it. And here’s how it plays out: a few dogs are positioned in front of a green screen and they stare blankly ahead while some does a voice-over. The animals’ mouths do not move however (no doubt due to budget constraints), which makes for a bizarre scene. That is, you’re just staring at someone’s dog staring back at you while a voice mumbles in the background. The super cats or action cats or whatever are even worse, crudely rendered computer generated images that appear to have been produced on the back of a 1994 Amiga. The technical shortfalls or not, Star Paws is still an abject failure, especially as a piece of kids entertainment. It’s boring, unfunny, and bizarre, making for a disgusting cocktail that virtually any child will spit back in your face with the velocity of a solar flare. But, don’t take my word for it. I interviewed a member of the target audience, my six year-old daughter: THE VERDICT As enjoyable an experience as being caught in the middle of a collapsing star.

The Secret Life of Pets (Blu-ray)

What happens in the litter box, stays in the litter box.

Eddie the Eagle (Blu-ray)

Here’s the goofy guy who didn’t win anything.

Tarzan: Collector’s Edition (DVD)

An immortal legend. As you’ve only imagined.

Stuart Little (DVD)

The Little family just got bigger.

See Spot Run (DVD)

The smart one isn’t wearing any pants

Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (DVD)

“How’s your wiener, Cowboy Curtis?”

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (DVD)

Don’t give up, Joseph, fight till you drop! We’ve read the book, and you come out on top!

Hook (DVD)

What if Peter Pan grew up?

Hercules (1997) (DVD)

You can run but you can’t Hydra!

The Red Pony (DVD)

“Got to get that boy a colt.”

The Man From Snowy River (DVD)

“Look! You go down to the low country, and earn the right to live up here — just like your father did.”

The Education of Little Tree (DVD)

“If you don’t know your past, you won’t have a future.”

Mysterious Island (DVD)

“Contact with my own species has always disappointed me.”

My Friend Flicka (DVD)

“I always hoped I’d get one decent colt out of that bunch.”

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936) (DVD)

“Well, I’ll be jiggered.”

Lassie Come Home / Son of Lassie / Courage of Lassie (DVD)

“Lassie and me — we’d like some bread and jam.” “Bread you’ll have. But jam, you’ll do without.”

Air Bud (Canadian) (DVD)

“Does he dribble?” “No, but he might drool a bit.”

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