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Category:    Home > Reviews > Adventure > Action > Drama > Poaching > Animals > Mystery > Literature > Comedy > Animation > Cable TV > An Elephant's Journey (2018/Lionsgate DVD)/Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (2019/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Paw Patrol: Ultimate Rescue (2019/Nickelodeon DVD)

An Elephant's Journey (2018/Lionsgate DVD)/Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (2019/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Paw Patrol: Ultimate Rescue (2019/Nickelodeon DVD)

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

Here are the latest child/family releases...

After loosing his parents and becoming an orphan, Phoenix a young boy is forced to move to Africa to live with his Aunt Sarah (Elizabeth Hurley) and Uncle Jack in Africa, but on the first day, he gets separated and lost in the African wilderness. Phoenix is then rescued by an elephant which he names Indlovu (meaning unstoppable), together they discover a group of poachers hunting Indlovu's herd and they must stop them before the entire herd gets caught in their trap in An Elephant's Journey (2018).

Phoenix, a young American boy, finds himself alone in Africa and his first 'friend' turns out to be an elephant. Together, as they search for their family they discover a danger that threatens them both, poachers. Alone they can do nothing, but together, Phoenix commands Indlovu to stop the poachers and destroy their camp and traps. Pretty soon the poachers realize they will have to deal with Phoenix and his elephant if they want the rest of the herd. Meanwhile, Phoenix discovers he has another problem when his Uncle Jack may be involved with the poachers.

This was a family friendly movie about saving the elephants, a young boy is able to thwart grown men with his elephant, together they are like an avenging duo fighting against the evil poachers. Extras include commentary with writer/director, interview with Elizabeth Hurley, interview with elephant expert Dr. Richard Leakey, Beyond the Journey: An In-depth Look at Elephants and trailers.

Katt Shea's Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (2019) is the latest attempt to update one of the most successful child fiction book series of all time as a live action production, arriving a few years after the forgettable Emma Roberts version that was very unmemorable. This time we get an unknown as Nancy, Sophia Lillis, looking like a cross between Little Orphan Annie and the latest liver action attempts at Scooby Doo. The first 20 minutes does nothing but waste time and try to be contemporary and hip before Linda Lavin shows up complaining about her house being haunted.

Lavin is very welcome and is here longer than expected, but we get lass out of the 89 minutes here than the episodes of the old TV series with Pamela Sue Martin that treated the younger audience as smart and mature instead of these recent takes that try way too hard to be funny and waste time needed to build mystery, suspense and tension.

The rest of the cast is fair and only given so much to do, though the production tries to literally be more colorful than what we usually get visually, but that lands up being more bells and whistles versus substance. Can't the makers trust the original books more? They should be thinking Harry Potter and not sitcoms. We'll see if this gets a sequel and what they do with that.

Extras include digital copy, two featurettes on the production and a decent Gag Reel.

Finally we have Paw Patrol: Ultimate Rescue (2019, another Nickelodeon DVD that would remain basic if it did not add a bonus Top Wing episode to the 5 of this show that runs the usual 90 minutes average. That's great for fans, but it would not hurt to add more and especially since Paw is their most successful new show of late. There are no other extras.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Nancy on Blu-ray is the best-looking of the discs here, but despite the good color, has more motion blur than it should at this point of HD production. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 Nancy DVD image is the softest of the three DVDs here, with Journey looking the best and Paw in between the two.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the Nancy Blu-ray is the best sonically here as well, but it can collapse into being barely stereo, so surrounds are inconsistent, which is worse on the Nancy DVD's lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the other two DVDs fares a bit better by default, but all have the compressed limits of that old codec.

- Nicholas Sheffo and Ricky Chiang (Journey)


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