Tuesday, October 12, 2010

He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown (Remastered Deluxe Edition)

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts gang is back on DVD and as enjoyable as ever in this television special from 1968, He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown. This remastered deluxe edition also features a bonus TV special, Life Is A Circus, Charlie Brown from 1980. Both feature that lovable pup Snoopy and showcase two different sides of his personality but no matter what he does the gang as well as the rest of the world adore that beagle like he was their very own.

In He’s Your Dog Snoopy’s pranks become too much for the gang to handle and they turn to Charlie Brown (who asks why he has to do something to which the gang shouts loudly the title of the special) to put his dog straight. To accomplish this, good ol’ Chuck decides to send his pup back to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm where he was born for obedience training. Snoopy doesn’t make it past his first stop though, Peppermint Patty’s, where he spends a week with no rules, doing nothing but playing all day and living well.

When Chuck finds out Snoopy hasn’t made his destination, he heads over to Peppermint Patty’s, leash in hand, to bring his dog home. More trouble ensues as Snoopy dislikes the leash very much and see’s Chuck as a warden escorting his prisoner of war, the World War I fighter ace, off to prison. Snoopy escapes back to Patty’s but this time he’s forced to pull his own weight and do chores around the house, ranging from scrubbing floors and doing dishes to vacuuming and yard work. Yet even though he starts to miss Chuck and home he would still rather do all that than be put in “chains.”

Meanwhile the gang begins to miss his antics around the neighborhood and is glad when he finally decides to comes home, after having to sleep the night in Peppermint Patty’s garage. After reuniting and making good with Chuck, he’s back on the block and raising a ruckus, stealing Linus’ blanket and spinning him around, then showing his boxing skills by slipping and dodging Lucy’s punches while landing his own barrage of licks and kisses. Another great example of classic 1960s Peanuts fun.

The bonus feature, Life Is A Circus, Charlie Brown, is another cute and enjoyable Peanuts romp. This time Snoopy wakes up early to the sounds and music of the arriving circus train. He wanders over to the circus grounds to watch them set up and see all the strange animals. One in particular catches his attention and makes him starry-eyed. An attractive show poodle named Fifi puts Snoopy in a love trance he can’t break and he winds up in the show where all his neighborhood friends see him and wonder how he got there? Snoopy discovers that, as with many other things in life, he has a knack for this circus stuff and finds success as “Hugo The Great,” a highwire unicycle-riding, back-flipping part of the dog show.

Alas stardom and show business go too far when the circus owner wants to dye Snoopy and his lady love pink! Snoopy grabs his gal and they flee, making it to the bus stop just in time to catch a lift but to his dismay Fifi finds the call of the Big Top irresistible and heads back to the life she has known for so long. Heartbroken, Snoopy boards the bus and heads for home, where all his friends and that boy named Charlie Brown anxiously await his return.

An enjoyable entry in the Peanuts television specials, it's great entertainment for the whole family although some may argue not as good as the ‘60s and ‘70s shows.

Also on the DVD is a new featurette “Snoopy’s Home Ice: The Story Of Redwood Empire Ice Arena.” It is a half-hour look at the ice rink that Charles M. Schultz rebuilt for the community in Santa Rosa, California and where Shultz loved to spend many of his days skating and playing hockey. Many Snoopy ice shows where preformed and televised there as well as the annual Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament. A nice look at what Shultz did and loved in his daily life and one more reason to add this DVD to your Peanuts collection even though I’m sure true fans have He’s Your Dog on the Peanuts 1960s two-disc set already.

Article first published as DVD Review: He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown (Remastered Deluxe Edition) on Blogcritics.

Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare

Written by Musgo Del Jefe

Halloween is perfect time for a little scare. And it's the perfect time for a little mystery. So, Musgo was pleasantly surprised to find the latest Scooby-Doo direct-to-video movie coming out just in time for the Halloween season. The newest film Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare is the fifteenth film in this series of releases and it's the second one for 2010. After the 2008 release of the lackluster Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King at the Halloween season, Warner Home Video released the next two films as spring releases. As the market for direct-to-video releases disappears, I'm always interested to see how they plan on capturing an audience. The holiday tie-in is certainly a key factor that only happens this time of year.

This film marks the fifth time in a row that I've dropped into the Scooby-verse for a review. Some of my own reactions to the films have been gauged by the way my littlest Musgo has watched them. The four-year-old that laughed through the excellent Chill Out, Scooby-Doo! is now a more pop culture savvy seven-year-old. This film has to match up against some all the other Scooby episodes and series that we've watched since then.

The movie starts with a traditional campfire story. None of our Mystery Inc. heroes are present as the camp counselor tells the legend of a ghoul named The Woodsman that haunts the area. The animation is computerized but clean. It's in the same style as the current Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated series that's airing on Toon Network. I'm not a huge fan of this style but it certainly isn't as distracting as some of the cheaper styles that plagued these films in the 2000 - 2003 era. Of course, The Woodsman turns out to be real and scares everyone away and leads us into the opening credits.

Like the previous two films, the opening credits are quite a departure from the artistic and music style of the film. Like Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King, the credits have an upbeat very summer-themed song with bright colors and tiny, almost anime versions of our heroes. I think I'm getting used to this style for the credits but I missed the more orchestral theme of the previous film. The summer song helps set this in more of the traditional summer-camp film genre.

The plot is quickly established after the opening credits. Our Mystery Inc. gang is headed to Fred's old summer camp, Camp Little Moose. Approaching the camp, we see that Camp Little Moose is overshadowed by Camp Big Moose that is much fancier and has all the amenities. This sets up to be quite the traditional summer-camp film - with the privileged camp and the misfits camp (recently played out also in TV's Huge). At Fred's old camp, the recent hauntings are forcing the camp to close. His old counselor recognizes Freddy ("I'd know that ascot anywhere.") and as three misfit kids arrive on a bus, Fred has volunteered our gang to become the camp counselors. In a nice twist, the Park Ranger is attracted to Velma - causing Daphne consternation at every compliment not aimed at her.

There are some nice techniques being used in the beginning third of the film that is possible because most viewers are so familiar with the flow of a Scooby-Doo! mystery. The 72-minute format has the advantage over the 22-minute format of letting the viewer settle into the setting before the plot takes over. The next time we see The Woodsman looking over our heroes, you would expect the typical Scooby musical montage chase to start but it doesn't. The first montage with music is actually a set piece for Big Moose Lake. Another summertime-themed song plays and the animation is all bright colors as opposed to the darker hues used for Little Moose Lake. It makes for nice thematic variation.

Almost like clockwork, the movie starts to hit the same beats that the viewer is expecting based on previous films. At the 27-minute mark we are introduced to a second monster - The Fishman Monster, another legend that is based on a campfire story. After meeting Jessica, a counselor from Big Moose Lake, the group is chased by The Woodsman. I loved the departure from the traditional musical chase song at this point. Going for more of a nod to the camp based horror films, the chase scene has a classical horror film score underneath it. That little change creates more tension and for the little ones, quite a bit more suspense.

After the chase, there's the legend of a third monster, the Spectre Of Shadow Canyon that's told. The group - Mystery Inc., Jessica and two of the three kids, splits up to find clues. At this point, the movie becomes more of a traditional mystery than these movies have been in a few years. Each group is chased by a separate ghost of the three - eventually sending all the characters back together to compare their clues. The plot isn't complex but it also isn't connected to magic and the supernatural like many recent films. The mystery here is right out of the original TV series. There's the needed suspense of having a time element - the mystery needs to be solved by sunrise on the solstice.

The mystery is solved just in time and all the clues are explained. The movie wouldn't be complete without the "meddling kids" line and it doesn't disappoint. The movie bookends the start with a campfire story. These touches all gave the film a very comfortable, classic feel. The plot is probably not exactly in need of 72-minutes to tell the story but it's also not just a 22-minute plot with chase-scene fillers. The nod to both summer-camp films and horror films set in summer camps make this enjoyable for the adults in the viewing audience. It's a great direction for the series to take - sticking to the mysteries will keep this show relevant.

The DVD contains the pilot episode of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated - it's a brilliant additon to get the audience back into the TV show format. The episode flows right along with the feel of this film and makes me want to search it out. The other extras include trailers and a lame "Scooby-Doo! Scary Camp Stories" feature that's aimed at a much younger audience than would probably watch this. But Musgo and family are getting older and find that Scooby is aging well with us.