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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Slapstick > Drama > Mystery > Australia > Literature > Adventure > Action > TV > CGI Animation > Brit > Fireman Save My Child (1932/Warner Archive DVD)/Jasper Jones (2016/Film Movement DVD)/Lucan: The Complete Series (1977 - 1978/MGM/Warner Archive DVD Set)/Paddington 2 (2017/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Sesam

Fireman Save My Child (1932/Warner Archive DVD)/Jasper Jones (2016/Film Movement DVD)/Lucan: The Complete Series (1977 - 1978/MGM/Warner Archive DVD Set)/Paddington 2 (2017/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Sesame Street: Best Of Elmo, Volume 4 (2018/Warner DVD)/Wacky Races: Start Your Engine! (2017 revival/Season 1, Volume 1/Warner DVD)



Picture: C/C+/C+/B & C/B/C+ Sound: C/C+/C+/B+ & C+/C+/C+ Extras: D/C-/D/C+/D/D Main Programs: C+/C/B-/B-/B/C+



Here's our latest selection of child and family releases you should know about...



I start with a comedy from an underrated director with a big comedy star from back in the day, Joe E. Brown. Lloyd Bacon's Fireman Save My Child (1932) has a young Brown in this slapstick comedy as a great baseball pitcher who has invented a baseball-shaped globe that can put out fires! All you need to use it well is know how to throw a baseball or softball. He's a goof, but likable, also working for the fire department, thus his bright idea, but can a small town country guy get his invention out there and be a success?


Up to the early 1980s, these fun little comedies (along with B-movie comedy series, comedy shorts series like Laurel & Hardy, The Three Stooges and Our Gang/The Little Rascals) were staples of syndicated television since TV broke after WWII and this is the kind of film that was shown often back in the day. Even the PBS series Matinee At the Bijou would show such a film, so it is a fun one to have in print and thanks to Warner Archive, you can get it on DVD. DVD


Brown was a big deal in his time, but if he's remembered now, it is for the hit TV series Car 54, Where Are You? (reviewed elsewhere on this site), but even that gem was not as syndicated as it should have been. Still, you can see Brown's appeal and he can carry the film and the comedy. No doubt he influenced many other comics and I was surprised how many chuckles this one can still deliver. There are also un intentionally funny items (the old technology will at least make you smile) and it is worth a look. Too bad there's no extras.



Rachel Perkins' Jasper Jones (2016) is a drama set in 1969 Australia where the title character (Aaron McGrath, a man of color) is accused of a crime he did not commit, can only turn to Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) for at least understanding if not help as the 14-year-old has no power in the matter and can the crime be solved before something else ugly happens?


I had a mixed reaction to this young-adult aimed production, a little formulaic and a bit of a button presser, but the cast is trying and is at least does not trivialize the issues it tries to address, but it also does not do enough for them. Toni Collette and Hugo Weaving help the film to the extent they can, but it was ultimately not too memorable and too much like other such stories we've seen in this vein. This is only for the most curious.


Extras include a brief featurette with Cast/Crew interviews and the great Tilda Swinton narrating the short film Death For A Unicorn.



Finally out officially on DVD is Lucan: The Complete Series (1977 - 1978) as yet another well made, well done TV show that should have been a hit from back in the 1970s, but unfortunately was not. Roughly inspired by a true story and Truffaut's feature film Wild Child, the title character is a young male child found in the wilderness miraculously alive, in part because he fell in with a pack of wolves who take him in as he becomes one of them. Unlike Tarzan where he gets back to civilization and finds out he is part of some upper British class, Lucan (cast and played very well by Kevin Brophy) as he has named himself, is determined to find out who he is, where he comes from, who his parents are and leave no stone unturned in doing so. Unfortunately, a crime as a government lab is blamed on him and (ala The Fugitive) is chased and is on the run throughout the series.


He gets help from a friend (John Randolph of Seconds) any way he can, but a mad government official (Don Gordon playing up the angry authority figure) is convinced Lucan did it and is going to get him at all costs. The show (produced by MGM Television) might also remind some of the original Kung-Fu (noble connected-to-nature lead) and The Six Million Dollar Man in a good way with its labs, secrets and ideas of a man becoming more than he is, but it is trying to be original where it can be and for smart young adults, et al.


Its a shame it was given up on, not renewed or even put on late Saturday Morning where so many animated and live action shows made specifically for that day (which used to be a TV bonanza for viewers) with hits shows in reruns (The Monkees was one of the shows that got this rerun treatment). The series never found a following despite the top rate efforts of all involved, or a cult or fan following like it should have.


That is why I am very happy Warner Archive finally issued it in a quality DVD set, proving once again what a golden age 1970s TV really was. Brophy would have been a big star had this hit, but it was not to be. Oddly, no one has talked about remaking this one yet, though it is at the age that would make some kind of sense to do so. I wonder if they could do half as well, though. Either way, all 12 episodes (including the telefilm pilot) are here and it is all worth your time.


The show also boasts some great guest stars including Ned Beatty, Diana Muldaur, Stockard Channing, Lou Frizzell, Stephanie Zimbalist, Paul Hecht, Brian Dennehy, Leslie Nielsen, Elisha Cook Jr., Percy Rodriguez, Woodrow Parfrey, Henry Jones, Barry Sullivan, James B. Sikking, Frank Campanella, Pamela Franklin, Shelley Fabares, Celeste Holm, John Larch, Claudia Jennings, Cameron Mitchell, Robbie Rist, Robert Reed and Regis Philbin.


There are very sadly no extras, but this show deserves a few.



Paul King's Paddington 2 (2017) is the hit sequel to the original hit live action/CGI feature film that did well in the U.S. and even better overseas. The lovable character (voiced by Ben Whishaw, 'Q' in the Daniel Craig James Bond films) gets a decent script, still has points of his origins dealt with and goes on a new adventure to give a gift to his Aunt Lucy (voiced by the great Joanna Lumley) who is turning 100 years old!


I enjoy how casually funny and imaginative the film can be, the live-action actors up for anything, how the humor is very accessible, yet does not give up any of its Britishness, which only adds to its authenticity and charm. Hugh Grant chews the scenery as the villain, going all out, while Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Hugh Bonneville, Jim Broadbent and Brendan Gleeson (in one form or another) offer additional top-rate support to keep the 104 minutes flowing with energy and amusement. My only complaint is that some jokes fall flat or do not work, but most of this child-friendly romp delivers and is worth your (family's) time.


Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber capable devices, while the discs add a Music Video and several Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurettes.



Who is red, furry, cute and friendly? Elmo is! Elmo is back and ready to sing songs, dance, tell stories, and make friends in Sesame Street: Best Of Elmo, Volume 4. Along with his Sesame Street friends and special guests they entertain and teach kids about life and fun facts, anything from ABCs to zoo's and animals.


As you may know, Elmo is a small furry big hit character of Sesame Street, but over the last few years since the huge-selling Tickle-Me-Elmo toy, has gained a following of new fans. Elmo often sings and dance, ask silly questions and is a little naive, but it is because of that kids can relate to Elmo in having fun and laughs. Elmo is like a younger version of Grover, yet with more energy and spunk.


This is another 2 hours of shorts skits from various Elmo scenes in Sesame Street, while some of the newer scene involve CGI and other computer graphics, there are also older shows of Elmo which need no extra special effects. Sesame Street has been the heart of children's educational TV show and for years gave fun and entertainment mixed with learning and education to the children of the world. Extras include a full episode of Elmo's Sweet Ride and animated storybook 'Elmo Loves You!'



Lastly we have Wacky Races: Start Your Engine!, a 2017 revival of the 1970 hit TV show that brought together several characters from the Hanna-Barbera TV universe of the time in a car race show that did its best to emulate the likes of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and its many imitators. Problems include that these are now characters (Penelope Pitstop, Dastardly, Mutley, etc.) that have been seen too little in years, as is the case with their original, individual shows and the series this revives.


I should also note that there are original characters then and now, but the original show was not as fun all the time as it could have been despite being a big hit and characters like Mutley suffered the most (but not Dastardly for some reason) being lost among the cast. The show is not bad and might spark an interest in the older shows long on DVD (but yet to be issued on Blu-ray), yet I was disappointed the writers did not try something a little bit new at least to make these shows fresher and play it so safe. The result is a curio at best and this set has no extras.



The 1.33 X 1 black & white image transfer on Fireman can show the age of the materials used, still watchable, but a bit rough in spots and could use some restoration. Otherwise, it looks good and holds up for its age.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Paddington is obviously the top performer here being the only Blu-ray and it looks fine for a live-action/CGI combo production, especially shot in the digital era, but the makers have more visually smart ideas that work and it is a plus for the film. The anamorphically enhanced DVD is softer than expected, so only expect so much from it. The Jasper DVD has the same aspect ratio as Paddington, but its DVD looks better and not bad for an HD shoot.


The 1.33 X 1 color image on all Lucan episodes are decent for the most part, but some footage looks a little rough or off more than I would have liked. Yet, this is the best the show has looked to date.


The rest of the DVDs are in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image framing and are fine, with Elmo coming out on top for whatever reasons.


As for sound, the Paddington Blu-ray wins again with a surprisingly good Dolby Atmos 11.1 mix (Dolby TrueHD on older home theater systems) that is creative and active throughout with good sound design and sound editing. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD version does not stand a chance in comparison, but will do for what you get.


The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Fireman is down a generation and a bit rough, but is passable as well, but be careful of high playback levels and volume switching. Lucan has the same kind of Mono sound, but fares better being a newer production and the sound elements being in better shape.


That leaves the rest with lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (or both) and they are just fine for what that old sound codec can deliver, but a lossless codec would have worked better in all cases.



To order either of the Warner Archive DVDs, Lucan or Fireman..., go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.wbshop.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo and Ricky Chiang (Elmo)


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