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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Music > CG Animation > Live Action > Superhero > TV > Comics > Shorts > Educational > Cable TV > Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011/Fox Blu-ray w/DVD)/Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous (Shout! Factory DVD)/Conan The Adventurer – Season Two, Part 2 (Shout! Factory DVD)/Mo Willem’s Pigeon & His Pa

Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011/Fox Blu-ray w/DVD)/Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous (Shout! Factory DVD)/Conan The Adventurer – Season Two, Part 2 (Shout! Factory DVD)/Mo Willem’s Pigeon & His Pals (Scholastic DVD Set)/Yo Gabba Gabba!: Super Spies (Nickelodeon DVD)


Picture: B- & C/C+/C/C+/C+     Sound: B- (DVDs: C+)     Extras: D (Willem: C)     Main Programs: D/C/C/B-/C+



When TV and then motion picture features decided to lean towards toy-based franchises with minimal educational value, it was considered a bad mix in the absence of not enough educational releases and despite being (too obviously) profitable, could only offer so much.  The following mix of child-aimed releases show toy franchise fatigue in ways even those who might not have minded the shift would not be impressed by.



Despite a lawsuit and nothing more to do, Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011) was made anyhow, is the third release in the tired franchise and despite making more money than anyone expected, the worst of the franchise since the 1980s TV show.  Loaded with too much music (especially badly done), no energy, a certain tired cynicism in its predictability and the feeling of repeating the formula to death, a change of locale did not produce anything good and even Jason Lee looks like he is struggling to seem fresh.  The animation is not as smooth as before, as supposed upgrades seem to have backfired and though the previous two features (reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) were very, very weak, this is lighter than clichéd island music we should have heard more often.  Justin Long, Christina Applegate and Anna Faris even show up to no avail.  Unless you have an obsessed child, skip it!


Extras include Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, five featurettes, a way to dance with the trio, Sing-Along Music Videos (eeeeeeee) and Extended Scenes erroneously referred to as “hilarious”.


With Marvels’ Avengers feature coming up, they have issued two animated titles through Shout! Factory: Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous from the motion comics Marvel Knights series and the older animated TV semi-hit Conan The Adventurer – Season Two, Part 2 just to have product out there.  The X-Men find themselves working with The Fantastic Four among other things in a Joss Whedon co-created arc while Conan continues to yell 1980s muscleman style before attacks and bad storylines.  In both cases, I found the material flat, uninvolving and not even as good as the sometimes-criticized Marvel 1960s animated series.


The X-Men Knights tale here follows Gifted from 2010 (also reviewed elsewhere on this site) which I thought was better and my fellow writer really enjoyed, while the animation (if you can call it that) is of course, not as good as the early 1990s X-Men series (reviewed in separate volumes on this site) or Wolverine & The X-Men series (reviewed on Blu-ray and DVD on this site), so though this is not the nadir of the franchise animated, it is a disappointment.  As for Conan, two of my fellow writers were only so impressed with the first two DVD releases and I am even less so across the 7 episodes on the 2 DVDs here.


Especially after seeing what worked in the 2011 feature film despite not doing well, that was much closer to Conan than anything (including the first John Milius/Arnold Schwarzenegger film) that has even been brought to film or TV.  Yes, the new film is much more violent and not for children, but does the animated show have to be so stale and boring so often?  If anything, it is as if Marvel is jumping on the He-Man bandwagon, which is a mistake.  Needless to say, neither set has any extras and we can see why.


So where do you turn to for quality children’s TV?  Mo Willem’s Pigeon & His Pals is a new double DVD set (made from two single DVD releases from Scholastic including a short or two we have seen in a previous DVD Set from them and New Video.  We get two stories each for Pigeon, Knuffle Bunny and two stand-alone tales that are intelligent, amusing, entertaining and just fine for the young audience they are aimed at.  No singing groups or superheroes needed here; all we need are fun characters who deliver something authentic that works short after short.


Extras include Mo & Pigeon Visit A School, Getting To Know Mo Willems and Animating Pigeon featurettes, Read Along function and an on-camera Willems interview.


Finally we have one of the latest four-episode Nickelodeon single DVD release of Yo Gabba Gabba!: Super Spies.  This set follows its theme (Mystery, Space and Big join the title episode) and this is among the usually amusing entries in the hit series that is fun, energetic and colorful.  Reminding me of 1970s hit shows somewhat, the show is still its own ballgame and I expect it is going to be around for a long time.  There are no extras, but it is as child-friendly as ever and one of the better selections on the list.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 AVC @ 27 MBPS digital High Definition image transfer on the Alvin Blu-ray is the best performer on the list, but that is by default as it has more motion blur than the previous entries had that I remembered and color is also limited.  There are also color and detail limits, plus a general; sense of a phony look throughout just to make the computer animated characters fit the liver action world, which is even worse on the anamorphically enhanced DVD version which is even weaker.  That leaves the limited-performance of the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on X-Men and 1.33 X 1 image on the rest of the DVDs (with their aliasing errors and limited definition) better than the Alvin DVD and old Conan transfers (with their soft finished-on-old-analog-tape look) Alvin’s equal!


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is on the Alvin Blu-ray is also limited, too much towards the front speakers (including oddly with the songs) and a soundfield that suffers throughout (including a sense of digital phoniness in the mix) throughout.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the Alvin DVD is even worse and really no better than the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on the rest of the DVDs.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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