SpongeBob SquarePants - Sponge Buddies/Nautical Nonsense DVD Review

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This review was originally written on May 5, 2005
Why Did They Have To Ruin The Cast & Crew Interviews?

I'm not going to comment on the episodes found on the SpongeBob SquarePants - Sponge Buddies/Nautical Nonsense DVD because almost all of them can be found on the Season 1 & Season 2 box sets, which is how you're better off seeing them (at least they're in order and paired together with the proper companion episodes). Instead I will be focusing on the bonus features. Not the Violent Femmes music video, because that too can be found on the Season 1 box set, but on the cast and crew interviews that make up the rest of the bonus features. I love the interviews and the "in studio" voice recording re-enactments, but I *HATE* how EVERY piece of this great footage is ruined because someone thought it would be a great idea to cover up almost the entire screen with a bubble graphic frame. You can only see the video through a small round part of the middle of your tv screen, and even then it isn't clear as there's a bubble "shine" over it. I'd love for Paramount/Nick to include all of the original, non-bubblefied footage on the season 3 box set, even though most of the episodes are for seasons 1 and 2.

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Hello Kitty's Furry Tale Theater MGM DVDs Review

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This review was originally written on October 11, 2008
No Series Opening Titles Or End Credits And A Missing Story!

I'm writing about a series of Hello Kitty DVDs released by MGM in 2003: HK Becomes a Princess, HK Saves the Day, HK Tells Fairy Tales, HK Goes to the Movies, and HK Plays Pretend. These five discs have also been bundled together into the Diamond Collection with a Jewelry Box, HK 5-DVD Collection, as well as paired into a Plays Pretend/Saves The Day 2-Pack (alt url). Finally there's a "Triple Feature DVD Set" with the discs for Princess, Saves The Day, and Fairy Tales all in one case (this might be exclusive to Target). Whew!

For those who don't already know, contained on these DVDs are stories from the 1987 Saturday morning series "Hello Kitty's Furry Tale Theater". You wouldn't know that by watching the discs because there are NO SERIES OPENING TITLES and NO SERIES END CREDITS!!! Yes, you read that correctly. They left out one of the most significant parts of a television series. Remember the catchy theme song? Well, all you'll have are your memories because that theme won't be found here. There's a credits block on the back of the case that lists the voice actors (Tara Charendoff as Hello Kitty in one of her first roles) and major crew, but it doesn't list the minor crew members. Pity all of the poor animators whose work on the series now goes uncredited.

The series consists of 13 half-hour episodes with 2 stories per episode (26 stories total). Yet only 25 of the 26 stories appear on these five discs. Keep in mind that's only 5 stories per each $10 disc (that's the original price). They could have easily fit the entire series onto two dual-layer discs for $20. So not only are you missing a story, and NOT getting the episodes in their original 2-story pairs with the original series opening titles and end credits, but you're being bilked for what little you DO get!

The previous VHS releases in the late 1990s (Wizard of Paws VHS and Kitty & The Beast VHS) were MUCH better than these five DVDs. Sure they only included four stories each, but they included the series opening titles and end credits, which makes them a vast improvement over these DVDs. I can only hope that someone at MGM wakes up and re-releases this series as a proper "complete series" set, but I doubt that that will ever happen.

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Grounded For Life Season 1 DVD Review

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This review was originally written on May 22, 2007
Misleading Packaging, Episodes Altered, Carsey-Warner Does Not Want To Cooperate In The Matter

I'm a big fan of Grounded For Life and have every episode on tape from the original Fox and WB broadcasts since day one (January 10, 2001). I was thrilled with the prospect of buying all of the episodes on DVD (save for season 5 which hasn't been released yet) so that I could have better quality copies, taking up less shelf space, and could then erase all of the tapes I recorded.

Although I have not had the chance to watch any of the episodes on the Season 1-4 DVD sets, I did check out all of the discs (to ensure playability) and actually stumbled upon something that I did not like: The season 1 episode "I Wanna Be Suspended" (disc 1, episode 3) has been ALTERED! The Ramones song "I Wanna Be Sedated" played during the concert scene in the original tv broadcast was replaced with generic music on the DVD (at 4:37), a brief concert flashback a few minutes later (at 7:28) replaced some instrumental song with a different instrumental song. There may be more alterations to this episode, or other episodes in any of the sets, as I didn't check any further than this.

I know why music is routinely replaced on TV-on-DVD releases, so I don't have a problem with the replacing of the music. However, I am displeased by the misleading packaging which states that these are "uncut" episodes. Although there is a difference between "uncut" and "unaltered", the "uncut" remark on the box implies that the episodes are exactly the same as what was originally shown on TV, which obviously isn't true. The "uncut" statement should have had an asterisk directing to text at the bottom to tell that music has been altered in some episodes.

I sent an e-mail to Anchor Bay (TVonDVD@anchorbayent.com), the company that released the DVD sets, to get a complete list of all alterations (music or otherwise) for every Grounded For Life set. Surely a list of alterations for every set must exist, as the person at Carsey-Warner whose job it is to replace the music when the episodes are prepped for DVD has to have a list to work off of. Since I have the entire series on tape in their original network broadcast versions, I need to know which of my recorded episodes I need to keep because they're different from what I just bought on DVD, as I plan on erasing the taped episodes that are 100% exactly the same as on the DVD.

I received a reply from Rose Zivkovich. She e-mailed Janet Bonifer, Executive Director of Marketing & Creative Services at Carsey-Warner (her address is either jbonifer@carseywerner.com or jbonifer@cwm.com), who told Rose that "Our legal department advises against providing this type of information to consumers."

These is no legal reason why Janet, or anyone else at Carsey-Warner, could not furnish the list to me (whether through Rose, or to me directly). Anyone who has every episode on tape from the original Fox and WB broadcasts (like me) and has the time (not like me) could check every one of the 78 episodes (91 episodes, including Season 5) one-by-one to compile the same list. Getting the list from Carsey-Warner would save time, energy, and insure completeness in the list.

I tried e-mailing Carsey-Warner directly via the most appropriate contact I could find (Janet's boss): Barron Postmus, bpostmus@cwm.com, Vice President of Marketing & Creative Services. To no surprise, he has not replied to any of the e-mails that I've sent to him.

I made one final attempt to obtain the list of alterations by writing a letter to the series creators Mike Schiff & Bill Martin via their agent (c/o Nancy Jones, Creative Artists Agency, 2000 Avenue Of The Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067). It's now two months since I sent the letter and I have not heard back from them, by either postal mail or e-mail.

It's rather disheartening to know that Carsey-Warner does not want to cooperate in the matter. It's sad that they treat their fans this way. The company makes money off of us fans, and would go out of business if none of us watched their shows and bought the related products.

WWF The Rock: The Peoples' Champion VHS Review

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This review was originally written on July 7, 2010
A 30 Minute Sampler, No Complete Matches Or Promos

The Rock: The Peoples' Champion VHS (not to be confused with The Rock: The People's Champ VHS) is a short, 30 minute sampler of promo and match highlights from The Rock's feud with The Corporation, featuring Triple H and The Undertaker. Nothing is shown in its entirety, and all cuss words are bleeped. Here's the rundown of clips:

01. Raw Is War - April 26, 1999 (promo & match)
02. Raw Is War - May 3, 1999 (promo)
03. Sunday Night Heat - May 16, 1999 (promo)
04. Raw Is War - May 17, 1999 (match)
05. Sunday Night Heat - May 23, 1999 (promo) [the night Owen Hart died]
06. Raw Is War - June 7, 1999 (match)
07. King Of The Ring Match History Package
08. King Of The Ring - June 28, 1999 (promo & match)
09. Raw Is War - July 5, 1999 (match)
10. Sunday Night Heat - July 11, 1999 (promo)

Besides being short and incomplete, this tape was duplicated in the inferior EP/SLP speed. So you may have to adjust the tracking on your VCR to get an optimal picture.

The lack of bar code on the box, and "sampler" nature of the video, leads me to believe this was given out as a freebie with a Pay Per View purchase back in 1999. I have a Best of Wrestlemania tape I got around 1999/2000 as a PPV mail-in freebie, so I think this tape was originally obtained in that manner as well. (I picked it up from a church's tag sale for less than a buck.)

There's a WWF DVD entitled The Rock: The People's Champ that was released in 2000. I would think that that DVD would contain the complete promos and matches that are sampled on this tape, but after reading KlownArt's review - which states that "this DVD starts around WWE King Of The Ring 1999 and ends at The Rock's Royal Rumble win at WWE Royal Rumble 2000" - I'm thinking that this material won't be found on that DVD.

There are a bunch of other Rock DVDs out there - Know Your Role, Just Bring It, and the more-recent The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment - but I highly doubt that any of them would contain ALL of the complete promos and matches that are sampled on this tape. (At best you'd probably get a complete promo or match here or there.) So, short of finding a good tape trader, this tape, as sparse and edited as it might be, might be the only way to obtain some of these promos and matches.

The Hitchhiker Canadian First Season DVD Review

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This review was originally written on December 17, 2004
Sets A World Record For Amount Of Compression Artifacts

I have a lot to tell you in this review. Let's start briefly with why I bought this set, which was only released in Canada. I own one of the Hitchhiker VHS tapes, but two of the three episodes are missing the beginning credits. I wanted the complete episodes, especially on DVD. I live in the United States, but the DVD released here (titled "The Hitchhiker Vol. 1") only contains 10 episodes, only one of which was on the videotape. This Canada-only "Season 1" set contains the first 26 episodes of the series, although in a different order from how they were released in the United States (it's the first three seasons here).

I have no problem with the episodes being in a different order, what I *DO* have a problem with is the ungodly amount of compression artifacts found in the set. Practically EVERY episode has at least one noticable artifact (though admittedly a few of these you'd have to have an "eye" for in order to see them).

Here is a list of the episodes in this set, in the order presented on the DVDs, with the time markings of the compression artifacts listed in brackets after the episode title.

DISC 1
01. When Morning Comes [5:24/8:11/11:26/12:08]
02. Shattered Vows [18:39/19:09]
03. Split Decision [21:58]
04. Remembering Melody [NONE]
05. Face To Face [NONE]
06. And If We Dream [26:26(slight)/26:28(slight)/29:30(slight)]
07. Petty Thieves [NONE]
08. Hired Help [1:09(slight)/21:05(slight)]
09. Man At The Window [NONE]

DISC 2
10. Murderous Feelings [NONE]
11. Videodate [27:42(slight)]
12. A Time For Rifles [NONE]
13. Lovesounds [11:10]
14. Last Scene [16:35]
15. One Last Prayer [1:14(slight)/1:17(slight)/8:45]
16. Ghostwriter [4:27]
17. Dead Man's Curve [2:34/22:19/23:17/23:33]
18. True Believer [25:16]

DISC 3
19. Man Of Her Dreams [NONE]
20. O.D. Feelin' [17:33]
21. Man's Best Friend [NONE]
22. The Curse [NONE]
23. Nightshift [NONE]
24. W.G.O.D. [NONE]
25. Killer [15:59/23:29/23:43]
26. Out Of The Night [1:51/2:05-2:08/5:28/20:33]

Now I'll list everything else that's wrong with this set.

* It comes in a cheap top/bottom load slipsleeve (the cases easily fall out when you take it off the shelf). I wish it was a side loader like mosts dvd-set sleeves.

* The seems like the version of "Split Decision" included is from an edited syndicated print as there are fade ins and fade outs (for commercial placement) that aren't seen in any other episodes. It's also clearly edited at 18:52 and at 18:54 - if you frame advance during the fade out you can briefly see another shot.

* In "Last Scene" there's an original tape defect at 28:35.

* In "True Believer" the picture jumps very slightly from 3:03 to 3:34.

* In "Man's Best Friend" there is no audio from 12:42-12:46. The original Lorimar video I have has the audio. The DVD cuts out music and the dog panting and the first part of Michael O'Keefe's dialogue ("I mean...").

* There are several errors on the packaging text:

-- Most of the episode descriptions on the back of the cases give away the surprise endings.

-- The back of the sleeve mentions the following actors who are not in any of the episodes on the discs: Robbie Benson (was in "Tourist Trap" 1990), Louise Fletcher (was in "Offspring" 1991), Elliott Gould (was in "A Whole New You" 1991), Lisa Hartman (was in "Her Finest Hour" 1989), C. Thomas Howell (was in "White Slaves" 1990), Lauren Hutton (was in "Riding The Nightmare" 1990), Nick Mancuso (was in "Fading Away" 1990), Michael Ontkean (was in "Square Deal" 1989), and Alan Thicke (was in "Tough Guys Don't Whine" 1990).

-- The back of the sleeve mentions director Gerard Ciccoritti (aka Jerry Ciccoritti), but he did not direct any of the episodes on the discs (he directed "Power Play" 1989).

-- For episode 3 (Split Decision) it says "retail" when it should be "real."

-- For episode 9 (Man At The Window) it says the female lover's name is Catherine when it's really Carla (as listed in the end credits of the episode itself).

-- For episode 11 (Videodate) in the first sentence is says Gregg Henry's character is named Jack Rhodes, but in the last sentence it says his name is Jeff.

Now let me list the neutral and good points of this set.

* This DVD set includes the original Nicholas Campbell (as The Hitchhiker) version of "Split Decision" (ep 3), but the Page Fletcher versions of "When Morning Comes" (ep 1) and "Shattered Vows" (ep 2).

* For those purists in the USA, I should let you know that the Alliance Atlantis logo was tacked on to the end of all episodes. However, it appears AFTER the "Markowitz/Chesler Producing" logo and "This Has Been An HBO Presentation" screens, so all of the original content is present.

* Each episode has a 2.0 (stereo) and 5.1 audio track. I really see no need for the 5.1 track and would have preferred that they left it off (maybe there wouldn't be so many damn compression artifacts if they had that extra space on the discs to work with).

* There are no bonus features like in the U.S. "Volume 1" release (audio commentaries on selected eps).

* This set gives you more episodes for less money than the U.S. "Volume 1" set. For the record, there are only five episodes (from Seasons 4 & 5) on the U.S. set that aren't on here: Why Are You Here?, Homebodies, The Legendary Billy B., In the Name of Love, and The Miracle of Alice Ames.