Tag Archives: Movies

Talking about some stuff I LOVE TO DEATH!

Holy crap!  It’s freaking Podcast-a-polooza here at Branded today.  I have not one, but two new shows that went live this morning.  First up is episode 4 of the Cult Film Club, the show I co-host with Paxton Holley and Jaime Hood.  This is our Valentine’s Day episode, and for us that meant sitting down to watch the mostly naked Marc Singer, the topless Tanya Roberts, and John Amos’ butt cheeks in the amazing 1982 flick The Beastmaster!

For those uninitiated with the flick, it follows Dar, a warrior with the power to communicate with the animal kingdom, on his quest to avenge the destruction and mass murder of his village by the tyrannical wizard Maax.  Along the way there are plenty of painted tigers, hot-bodied Stygian witches, and freaky bird people that make this film a true fantasy cult classic!  In the episode we discuss the fantasy/barbarian genre, the violence and adult content in the film, cinematographer John Alcott and his amazing use of lighting, the special effects, and the wonderful score by Lee Holdridge.  We take a closer look at some of the actors in our regular segment, Hey Do I Know That Guy, as well as playing Hollywood moguls in a segment we like to call It’s Time For a Recast!

You can head on over to the Cult Film Club, or you can download it directed by right-clicking and saving here!

On the other end of the Valentine’s day spectrum I joined back up with the Saturday Supercast, this time talking with Jerzy Drozd and Dave Roman all about what it was like being a boy growing up in the 80s who watched girl’s cartoons…

We kick off with talk about the surprisingly intense My Little Pony: Rescue at Midnight Castle, then move on to The World of Strawberry Shortcake, and close with a chat about outrageous rocker gals on guitar-shaped motorcycles, Jem!  You can find the episode at Sugary Serials.com, or you can right click and download it here!

If these shows don’t say “I love you”, then I don’t know what does…

Cult Film Club Episode 3 and Chasing Marin Kanter…

Hey folks, just wanted to take a second an point to the release of the 3rd episode of the Cult Film Club podcast, my new project with Paxton Holley and Jaime Hood.  We’re having a ton of fun producing this show and if you’re a movie buff like me there’s sure to be something fun in the episodes for you.  This time we chose to discuss the 1966 Sergio Corbucci spaghetti western Django starring Franco Nero as the mysterious coffin-dragging gunfighter out for bloody revenge!

To listen to the show you can either visit the Cult Film Club, find and subscribe to the show in iTunes, or download it directly here (right click and save!)

I’ve also been writing some articles for the club including my recent experience watching the 1978 Walter Hill flick The Driver and the 1982 punk rock classic Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.  I totally have a crush on Marin Kanter from that flick by the by…

Also, if you want to know what films we’ll be covering next, you can join our totally rad club and get the inside scoop on our plans and access to contests and stuff (like this one where you can win a free shirt from Ript courtesy of the Cult Film Club!)

You Can’t Do That on a Fan Documentary…

“[There are] …so many shows out there that are pushing or peddling products, you know, hocking something or other.  Pretty much to make a cartoon nowadays you have to have a video game and a plush toy to go with it.  That was the […] beauty of “You Can’t”, we’re not trying to sell anything…” -Adam Reid (You Can’t Do That on Television Cast Member 1984-87, Writer 1989-90)

Though the cast and crew of You Can’t do That on Television may not have been trying to hawk any useless plastic junk, I was buying; buying into the show, the comedy, and more importantly their ethos.  From 1979 to 1990, this little Canadian sketch comedy show helped warp the minds of a generation of children with clever, politically incorrect humor and absurd, trashy jokes.  The show, inspired by Monty Python, Second City and Saturday Night Live, brought an adult style of humor to the young Nickelodeon audience, while never conceding its core integrity or that of the viewers (never feeling “written down to” an adolescent level.)  YCDToTV was the flagship series on a network that evoked the feeling of “for kids, by kids”, featuring a rotating cast of mainly adolescents, one of which, Adam Reid, who would graduate from cast to co-head writer at the astounding age of 16.  There really was nothing else like this on television at the time, and with the exception of the similar Nick series All That!, there really hasn’t been anything as remotely ground-breaking for kids since.

As a fan of the show I feel pretty lucky that the tenure of You Can’t Do That on Television coincides perfectly with the golden years of my childhood; I literally grew up with the show from age three to thirteen.  This was also coincidentally the exact timeframe that my family spent in Florida, so on another level I can’t help but associate so many memories of my childhood wrapped around the series with a very specific sense of space and time.  Granted the show was produced and filmed in Canada, but I always felt a sense of hometown pride for shows on Nickelodeon because I lived just outside of Orlando, mere miles away from the Nick Studios.  Though it’s not logical on any level, growing up I felt like Kevin, “Moose”, Lisa, Adam, Alasdair, Vanessa, Doug, and Matthew were some of my friends.  Heck, in a way Les Lye’s “Dad” (Lance Prevert) and Abby Hagyard’s “Mom” felt like the parents I never had.  In my quest to acquire all of the television material that fuels my nostalgia for the 80s, the largest gaping hole in the collection are the 140 odd episodes of YCDToTV.  Sure, I have a handful of bootleg DVDs, and a nice selection of low-quality digital episodes backed up on a hard drive, but what I’d really love is a nice official DVD collection to sit on my shelf next to my Danger Mouse, Count Duckula, Hey Dude, and the Adventures of Pete & Pete sets.

 

That’s why I was so excited when I found out that Shout Factory just recently partnered with DND Films to release David Dillehunt’s 2004 fan documentary You Can’t Do That on Film in a nice 2-disc collector’s set!

 

Even though this film has been floating around the YCDToTV fan community for a few years, after getting the DVD this Christmas it was the first time I was able to view it.  So what’s on the discs?  In addition to the feature length documentary, there are also a bevy of special features including Dillehunt’s proof-of-concept pilot episode for a possible re-launch of the show, outtakes from the 2002 & 2004 fan conventions, and extended interviews with some of the cast and crew including the late Les Lye.

 

Watching the documentary was sort of bittersweet and a little frustrating in that so much of the footage is restricted to talking-head segments with the dozen or so former cast and crew members Dillehunt was able to interview (including stars Les Lye, Adam Reid, Lisa “Ruddy” Henderson, show creator and head-writer Roger Price, and writer/producer/director Geoffrey Darby.)  These are interspersed with personal on-set photos and VHS quality screen-grabs of the show, as well as some archival footage of an Alanis Morissette interview and some of the Q&A sessions with the cast and crew during the 2002 & 2004 fan conventions.  It’s understandable as to why, but unfortunately Dillehunt was unable to include actual segments or audio from You Can’t Do That on Television (licensing the material would have been beyond cost prohibitive for this fan-produced film.)  The documentary gets a lot of flack for this, which is reasonable, but you have to give Dillehunt credit for tracking down as many of the cast and crew members as he managed.

 

The truly frustrating aspect for me though was Dillehunt’s approach to the material and resources he did have.  First and foremost, this documentary is created by a fan for fans of the series, so it tends towards focusing on the anecdotes and nostalgia of the interviewees, and less on the overall story of the show.  Dillehunt does a really decent job of splicing together the interviews with Darby and cast members from the inaugural season to nail down the origin of the series, but the documentary really doesn’t delve into many of the aspects that made the show so memorable.  Little is mentioned of the format of the sketch comedy, the re-occurring characters, skits, or jokes; it assumes the viewer is so well-versed in the nuances of the show that it almost completely bypasses it.  This is an unfortunate trap of fandom, and how hard it can be to pull your perspective back far enough to see the material with fresh eyes.  Dillehunt himself was born five years after the show began its run in 1979, and thus was probably mainly exposed to the show in reruns in the late 80s and early 90s.  I’d venture to guess that it’s why it was easier to tell the story of the show’s origin, as he was learning about much of it himself during the process of interviewing the cast and crew.

 

Sure, I know that each episode was framed around a theme (for example personal hygiene, rumors, or nutrition), or that each episode would feature knock-knock style jokes with the cast asking questions of each other while in a set of multi-colored school lockers, but the fact these iconic aspects to the show aren’t even brought up is unfortunate.  No real mention of the Opposite sketches, the parody title cards at the start of each show, the fact that the show was itself a show within a show, or even talk about the various re-occurring characters played by Les Lye (bus driver Snake Eyes, Blip the arcade proprietor, the teacher Mr. Schidtler, the dungeon torturer Nasti, the camp counselor, the coach, or even the studio announcer get any mention.)  On top of this Abby Hagyard (who played the “Mom”, Mrs. Prevert, as well as the Librarian) isn’t even brought up at all.  There isn’t even a rundown of the more prominent child actors from the series.

 

Though there is a significant portion of the show ignored on the documentary, I don’t want it to come across as if I didn’t enjoy it.  In fact, it’s just the opposite, I really did love and appreciate all the passion that did find its way onto the screen.  For the record Dillehunt was only 20 when he put this together and I can honestly say that I don’t know of many people his age who would be willing to do the legwork it took get all of the interviews he managed to land.  There is a wealth of interesting anecdotes and observations (including the recipe for the original green slime) from the cast and crew that will add a little insight into the making of the show, which I’m sure fans of YCDToTV will appreciate.  This two disc set would make a great accompaniment to an eventual (fingers crossed) release of the show.  In the meantime I suggest heading on over to sites like YCDToTV.com or Barth’s Burgery to reacquaint yourself with the show, and then pick up You Can’t do That on Film on DVD.

Hear me talking about cult films over at the Cult Film Club…

Paxton, Jaime and I are back with the second meet-up of the Cult Film Club.  For this episode we decided to side-step a discussion of a particular film in lieu of talking about cult movies as a genre.  We attempt to break down what makes a film “cult” (is it the content, the audience, or other criteria), while also tackling some questions about what it takes for a film to maintain that elusive status.  Can a movie lose its cult?  Can a box office blockbuster be forgotten and become cult over time?  We also spend some time looking back at (ranting about) our shared experiences with Kevin Smith’s Viewaskewiverse, and we try to figure out what went wrong.  We ended up recording a much longer conversation than anticipated, so we broke this one down into two parts.  You can expect part 2 in the coming weeks.

Head on over to the Cult Film Club and give the episode a listen, or you can right-click and save this file to download -> Cult Film Club, Episode #2: General Cult Talk, Part 1.

If you like what you hear you can subscribe to the Cult Film Club on iTunes.

You can also join our not-so-exclusive but totally rad club so you can know which movie(s) we’ll be discussing next and watch along with us!

We do our best to scratch the surface of the general discussion of cult, but it’s impossible to cover it from every angle so we welcome your thoughts, comments and questions on the topic.

Cult Film Club: Episode 1, The Wraith

For the inaugural meeting of the Cult Film Club, Paxton, Jaime, and myself convene to watch and discuss the 1986 sci-fi, western, carsploitation flick, The Wraith.

Directed by Mike Marvin, The Wraith stars Charlie Sheen, Randy Quaid, Clint Howard, Sherilyn Fenn, Nick Cassevetes, Matthew Barry, and more importantly, the $1.5m Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor.

Plot in 60 Seconds: A young gang of road pirates are on a rampage terrorizing a desolate south western town until a lone hero mystically emerges from the netherworld.  Equipped with a sleek futuristic car, this techno-wraith begins stalking the gang, seeking vengeance with automotive carnage at every precarious turn.

In this episode, we discuss all aspects of the film including our favorite scenes, the Hollywood legacies associated with the actors, the various film influences and homages, the pitch-perfect hair metal soundtrack, as well as the director’s outline for the sequel that never materialized.  Listen to find out how Johnny Depp is tied to the film, how we almost got a scene with a desert witch, and whether or not Charlie Sheen had a terrible case of turtledick during filming!

(Or right-click and save this file to download -> Cult Film Club, Episode #1: The Wraith)

If you like what you hear you can subscribe to the Cult Film Club on iTunes.

You can also join our not-so-exclusive but totally rad club so you can know which movie(s) we’ll be discussing next and watch along with us.

Films aside from the Wraith mentioned in this episode include: High Plains Drifter, Pale Rider, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Exorcist, American Graffiti, Tron, Tron: Legacy, and The Crow.

Introducing the Cult Film Club!

So I know it’s been pretty quiet around here, but that’s not all that strange as longtime readers will know that this is sort of my unofficial yearly hiatus time.  But, this year there’s a better reason for the sparse posting as I’ve been working on a super secret project that I can now start talking about!

Announcing the Cult Film Club, a monthly podcast and blog about MOVIES WE LOVE TO DEATH (despite how bad, weird or obscure they are.)  In fact, we love them because they’re bad, weird or obscure!  Collectively our hosts Paxton Holley (Cavalcade of Awesome.net & the Nerd Lunch Podcast), Jaime Hood (Shezcrafti.com), and well, me, will be discussing and analyzing cult films from the 60s and beyond.  We possess an impressive amount of useless pop culture knowledge, but we’re no cinema snobs–just a couple of guys (and a girl) who really like movies.  Jaime did an outstanding job on the website, too by the by.

So grab a Big Kahuna burger and a tasty beverage–our Feature Presentation is about to begin!

The inaugural episode of the Cult Film Club Podcast is scheduled to debut on December 5th, but in the interim we invite you to check out our new website where you can listen to a show promo and consider joining the club.

You can also find the promo and subscribe to the show on iTunes.

To go along with everything else we have a brand new Facebook page, and we’re on the Twitters too.

You can also sign up for the Official Cult Film Club Bulletin to get access to these cool benefits:

-Our Official Member Bulletin email
-An early heads-up about which movie(s) we’ll be covering next so you can watch along with us and be ready to hear the discussion
-A social media shout-out and a link back to your site or blog on our Members page*
-A stylish badge for your site
-Chances to participate in our contests and giveaways
-Securing +100 to your cult film cred and our humble gratitude!

*Cult Film Club reserves the right to deny membership and/or linking privileges to any person or website we deem unworthy due to suspicions of spamming, inappropriate content, or for any other reason based solely on our discretion.  We may love terrible movies but we do have some standards…

Oh, I just wanted to say good-bye and remind you that the good guys always win, even in the eighties…

So, um, HOLY CRAP! While I’ve been working away on the upcoming Halloween fun for the site I totally missed the fact that the truly awesomely horrible movie, Megaforce, was finally released on DVD this past month. I missed this flick when it was originally released, which is a shame since for all intents and purposes Megaforce is the perfect 80s era live-action G.I. Joe movie, something I would have flipped my lid over if I’d managed to catch it on HBO or the Saturday afternoon movies on the UHF station…

I recently caught up with the movie via youtube, but ever since I’ve been doing double the amount of “it’s not on DVD” lamenting that a lot of 80s nerds have been doing for years. Well now the wait is over and we can finally catch what I assume is a better quality copy than the chopped up grainy version on youtube.

For those not familiar, Megaforce was originally released in 1982 and directed by the great Hal Needham (he of Rad, Smokey and the Bandit, and Cannonball Run fame.) The flick stars an impossibly confident and effeminate Barry Bostwick (with a penchant for wearing shiny skin-tight suits) as a character named Ace Hunter, the enigmatic leader of Megaforce an internal paramilitary unit consisting of the best of the best of the world’s military. Very G.I. Joe. They work in secret from a hidden fortress in the desert, developing state of the art weapons, vehicles and technology that enables them to combat ruthless terrorist organizations bent on ruling the world. Seriously, very, very G.I. Joe.

I need to do a proper review of this flick at some point, but lets just say that I had the same reaction after watching it as I did when I heard it was finally out on DVD. Both of which can be summed up by the below picture…

Did I mention that this flick has flying battle motorcycles?

If you grew up on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and you haven’t seen Megaforce, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It’s not the best movie ever, it’s just the best G.I. Joe movie made to date. And it has flying motorcyles. And Barry Bostwick does a lot of over the top heroic posturing, both figuratively and literally…

Visiting the Jim Henson Exhibit at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta…

It’s so easy to get lost in the sea of social media sometimes, pining after all the cool events and places other people are visiting and enjoying that are either too far away or too expensive to take advantage of.  At times like this that I have to remind myself that I take the area I live in for granted and forget that there’s a bunch of really cool stuff just under my nose.  This past weekend I decided to tune out the internet and take a stroll down to Atlanta’s Center for the Puppetry Arts to visit their semi-permanent Jim Henson Exhibit.  I’ve known about the center’s museum for awhile and I drive past it every time I find myself at the downtown Ikea, so it was way past time that I stopped and took a look…

jhp 1

I’m a pretty big fan of Jim Henson, though I’d hardly call myself an expert.  While I may not know the proper names of all the c-list muppets, I can say that I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like had I not been introduced to the Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth, the Dark Crystal and Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas.  I’d heard that the exhibit featured some fun props and artifacts from Henson’s career, but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how many of the Henson Company’s beloved creations I would have the opportunity to see up close and personal.

jhp 2

All told, there were thirteen different projects represented, my six childhood favorites that I listed above as well as puppets and materials from Henson’s advertising work (the La Choy Dragon), The Jim Henson Hour, Dinosaurs, Farscape, and others.  Each section of the exhibit has plenty of anecdotes, behind the scenes information and pictures, as well as videos and a couple of hands-on activities.  It’s not a huge collection, but what’s included is certainly breathtaking.  For me, the magic of this museum is getting a chance to get so darn close to the actual puppets and props from the shows, specials and movies I love so much.  Whether it’s the majesty of seeing Big Bird…

jhp 3

…or the chance to spend some time with the critter’s from Labyrinth (like Sir Didymus and the lying door guard pictured below.)

did      lg

Just getting a chance to see the detail and craftsmanship of these characters was an astounding experience!  My pictures do absolutely no justice to the actual props, but are merely presented to give you an idea of what’s included.  I know that there is a down side to seeing these puppets sitting so static behind glass.  All the energy and life is lost without the performer, and in some cases this can almost be criminal or traumatic (as in Sir Didymus’ case), but I’d still recommend anyone with the opportunity to visit the Center to try and put that at the back of you mind.

fr

By far, some my favorite pieces had to be in the Fraggle Rock section which features a couple different scales of Fraggles (Mokey and Red in the normal/large scale, as well as all five – including Gobo, Wembly, and Boober – in a smaller scale as shot during the scenes with the Gorgs) and some Doozers…

fr2

…but I also loved seeing Emmet and Ma Otter from the Jugband Christmas special.  Honestly, I almost tear-ed up when I turned and saw the two in their little green rowboat.  All the songs came flooding back in, and I just stood and stared at them, trying to soak in all the little details…

eo

For you Muppets fans, there are plenty of Henson’s characters on display including Rolf, Dr. Teeth, and the Swedish Chef, as well as a couple others in a separate part of the museum (lets just say they were Out of This World…)

mdrt

Though the Henson section of the museum is pretty darn rad, there is also a more permanent puppetry exhibit that’s also very illuminating and features all sorts of puppets from across the globe (including Madame!)  But it was at the end of the second wing that I stumbled across my favorite piece in the entire museum, a full-size Skeksis (the General), including his gnarly sword, from the Dark Crystal.  There are no words for how amazing this piece of Henson history is.  Again, my iPhone camera did the Skeksis absolutely no justice…

sk

If you get a chance to stop in Atlanta, do yourself a favor and visit the Center for Puppetry Arts and peruse the Jim Henson Exhibit.  It’s well worth your time and money for sure.  If you want to see some more of my crappy photos, they’re on my facebook page

Boys, Avenge Me, AVENGE ME!

Recently Brian over at Cool and Collected posed the idea that a bunch of us like-minded writers, toy-fanatics, bloggers, and collectors should come together once a week or so and all write separate articles with a singular topic.  This way we can all get some inspiration to write and to be inspired by the collective’s output.  A League of Extraordinary Bloggers as Brian put it.  I can’t promise I’ll be hitting this up every week, but I’ve had a lot of fun doing this sort of thing in the past with helping to run and contributing to the Countdown to Halloween, and Zartan Zaturday was a blast a while back too.

The first assignment has been sent out and it concerns a go-to, Saturday afternoon comfort movie from our childhood that we watched a bunch on TV or VHS.  I took in a metric ton of movies on Saturday afternoons, both on cable and on our local Fox affiliate back in the 80s, and at first I wanted to pick something really obscure that might be a hidden gem for those who missed it back in the day.  Something like The Million Dollar Mystery with Tom Bosley, Eddie Deezen, and Rick Overton, or The Heist with Pierce Brosnan and Tom Skerritt.  I also considered talking about Near Dark as it’s one of my favorite films as both a kid and an adult.  But no matter how many times I find myself browsing my nostalgia DVD shelf, I always come back to the same film.  It was something I watched countless times on HBO, and was one of four films (including Rad, The Monster Squad and Transformers the Movie) that I religiously rented from video stores every weekend.  Most importantly, it’s a film that I never tire of and one that I’ve never discussed on Branded before. That film is Red Dawn.

I’m sure there were a lot of folks back in the day that dismissed the flick as just another one of those Brat Pack films filled with young stunt-casting, but as an impressionable 8 year-old who was really into G.I. Joe and spent the better part of his childhood daydreaming about defending my backyard from terrorists and megalomaniacal warmongers, Red Dawn is the perfect escapist fantasy.  Set in the then modern day, the film plays off of the palatable fear of a World War III due to all of the nuclear weapons grandstanding during the waning days of the cold war.  Communism was still the number one threat to our borders (it seemed), and the idea of a war whose main front was being fought on our own domestic soil was pretty darn scary.  In fact, the image of the Communist paratroopers all of a sudden floating out of the sky still kind of haunts me to this day.

For those who haven’t seen it, the film centers on a group of teenaged kids who manage to survive a paratrooper assault on their high school and town.  Led by brothers Jed (a young Patrick Swayze) and Matt (Charlie Sheen), this rag tag group starts off as 6 friends (including C. Thomas Howell, Darren Dalton, Brad Savage and Doug Toby), but by the middle of the film it grows to include a couple girls (played by Jennifer Grey and Lea Thompson) and a grizzled veteran fighter pilot played austerely by Powers Boothe.  This band of young patriots brand themselves the Wolverines (their high school mascot), and they proceed to strategically attack the communists, engaging in guerilla warfare tactics in an effort to save townsfolk from being executed and to try and make a dent in their forces in the hopes that the U.S. military will eventually come to their aid.

Again, the dizzying high I got from this flick as a kid was equal parts awe and horror as it acted as a sort of wish-fulfillment for my playtime daydreams.  It sounds a little weird to say that I sat around hoping we’d be attacked by Commies so that I could “play” G.I. Joe for real, but I’d be willing to bet that in the climate I grew up in a lot of kids probably had similar thoughts.  Another aspect that I loved about this flick was the dead-serious tone that director John Milius brought to the production.  He managed a similar feat with the first Conan film, both of which had scripts that could easily have gone way too over the top to stay believable and engaging.  Don’t get me wrong, I love films like Commando and Rocky IV as much as the next red-blooded American, but even in the day it was clear how much they came across as campy, patriotic propaganda.  Red Dawn is grounded in the story of the eight kids, their bonds of friendship and loyalty, and it’s heart-wrenching when some of them get killed in action.

For a crazy conceptual 80s war flick, Red Dawn still holds up pretty darn well.  Even crazier, it manages to provide an opportunity for C. Thomas Howell to play a geek turned into a sawed-off-shotgun-toting badass with absolutely no irony whatsoever.  That is not a feat to be dismissed lightly.  Also, as everything from the 80s is apparently rebootable these days, there is also a new Red Dawn film destined to hopefully frighten and inspire a whole new generation almost 30 years after the original.  I’m pretty curious to see if the writers/producers/director can nail the same serious tone of the original or if it’ll just deflate into yet another crappy remake that has barely a 10th of the heart of the original.  Time and an invasion from some strange evil nation can only tell…

You can find some of the other participants of the League below:

TL, Flashlights are Something to Eat, talks about Poison Ivy

Christopher Tupa, Tupa’s Treasures, talks about The Goonies

Fiji Mermaid, Sideshow Cinema, talks about Fright Night

Jeff, Siftin’, talks about Superman II

Justin, General Joes, talks about the 70s Live Action Spiderman

Paxton, Cavalcade of Awesome, talks about Back to the Future and the Star Wars Trilogy

Stacey, Pendragon’s Post, talks about Temple of Doom

The Complete Bravestarr on a Budget!

**UPDATE** The winner of the DVD has been picked, Jody Y., and has been notified via the Facebook messaging system.  Thanks to everyone who entered and keep an eye out for some more cartoon DVD give-aways on Branded soon!

I’ve been lamenting a lot about the downturn the cartoon-on-DVD industry seems to have taken in the past couple of years, but lately all that gloom and doom has been forgotten as a metric ton of new-to-DVD and catalog titles have been announced.  Leading the pack is Shout! Factory, who have managed to snag some of the more popular franchises in the last few years including G.I. Joe and the Transformers.  Having just announced the impending release of the complete version 1 of M.A.S.K. and the Japanese Transformers – Headmasters series, as well as the long-awaited re-release of Jem, Shout! is making fans of 80s era cartoons very happy.

As happy as I am to see these titles released, I’ve also been keeping a close eye on the folks over at Millcreek Entertainment who have also been very busy with a slew of re-releases of out-of-print Filmation classics as well as a bunch of other slightly more obscure cartoon releases.  In addition to picking up a bevy of the oop BCI Eclipse titles like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Defenders of the Earth, and Dungeons and Dragons, Millcreek has also partnered with Cookie Jar to start releasing some great new-to-DVD titles (including the stop-motion Paddington Bear shorts and the Get-Along Gang) as well as some other re-releases such as C.O.P.S. and The Littles.

I’ve been on the fence about how I feel about Millcreek’s sets.  On the one hand they’re one of the last few DVD production houses bothering to license and release older cartoons, but on the other they’re concentration on slimmed-down budget releases leaves a lot to be desired at times.  Today I’m going to take a look at one of their newer re-releases, the Complete Bravestarr 7 disc set

First thing’s first, the term “complete” is pretty relative.  For fans of the Filmation Bravestarr cartoon, complete doesn’t just refer to the 65 syndicated episodes of the series, but also the theatrical film, Bravestarr: The Legend.  Back when the series was first released by BCI Eclipse, the film was included as an extra on the Best Of Bravestarr release.  While at the time it seemed like BCI was doing a little double dipping on the Best Of set (knowing that real fans of the show would re-purchase those episodes when the complete series was released later that year), the inclusion of the movie made it fully worth the purchase price.  As for the Millcreek re-releases, I’m not sure if we’re going to see the movie included or not.  In addition to the Complete Series set, they’re also releasing two slimmer volumes, each including 20 episodes of the series.  I’m wondering if they’re planning on following this up with a third volume with the remaining 25 episodes and the movie, but time will only tell…

Though I’m a bit bummed that the movie wasn’t included in this set, I do have to admit that at around $30 you’re certainly getting your money’s worth.  Millcreek has kept to their budget, stacked-sleeved DVD keepcase design, but with this set they’ve brought up the quality a bit both in terms of aesthetics and value.  The cover artwork is a variation of the same great art used on the BCI version of the sets, and for the first time that I’ve noticed they’ve included a handy episode guide that fits right in with the stack of DVDs.  With a lot of their past complete series sets Millcreek didn’t include guides which made flipping through a stack of 5 to 20 DVDs a nightmare for trying to find specific episodes (in particular, their 21 Jumpstreet set really suffered from this.)  Like the cover art, the guide contains episode synopses and trivia culled from the BCI sets (and written by James Eatock of the wonderful Cereal Geek magazine.)

This set also includes a handful of the documentary interviews Andy Mangels produced for the original BCI sets that include conversations with Lou Scheimer, Pat Fraley, Tom Sito, and Tom Tataranowicz, as well as a commentary track on the episode “Eye of the Beholder”.

As far as the visual/audio quality of the set goes, it’s pretty good.  It’s not as crisp and clean as the BCI release (especially the audio), but when you consider the price of the set it’s more than adequate and should please casual fans of the series.

Now lets get down to the contest!  If you missed out on the BCI release of Bravestarr, and would like to win this very full review copy of MillCreek’s Complete 65 episode series set, then head on over to the Branded in the 80s Facebook page (like it if you haven’t) and leave a comment/response on the discussion board under the Bravestarr DVD Contest thread with the name of your favorite Bravestarr character.  I’ll be picking a winner at random on Thursday, June 9th at 2:00pm est.  Remember, these are region 1 DVDs, so if you’re an international reader take note.  Good luck!