New to Blu-ray/DVD: 1776, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, & Bonanza: Season Eight, Volumes 1 & 2


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Editor’s Notes: 1776, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, & Bonanza: Season Eight, Volumes 1 & 2 are all out on their respective formats June 2nd. Also out are McFarland, USA and Jupiter Ascending.

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1776 (Sony Home Entertainment) is a film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical that lives up to the original. The 43-year-old musical has been digitally restored and looks great. The film is a musical retelling of the political struggle in the Continental Congress to declare independence from Great Britain. Given a light touch, the screenplay by Peter Stone features all the well-known — and some not so well-known — participants in the intrigues, arguments, compromises and debates leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams (William Daniels) is a major proponent for declaring America free from England, yet suffers from not being terribly likable. Benjamin Franklin (Howard da Silva) is the wise advisor, never short with a quip or clever remark. Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) is designated as the one who will write the Declaration, but he is heartsick for his new wife, Martha (Blythe Danner) who’s miles away in Virginia. Edward Rutledge of South Carolina (John Cullum) has problems with the proposed clause to abolish slavery throughout the new country.

Though there is humor and lots of music, the film is extremely literate and based in fact, so not only is it highly entertaining, but informative as well.

The new Blu-ray edition contains all-new commentary with director Peter H. Hunt and actors William Daniels and Ken Howard; both Director’s and Extended Cuts of the film; deleted and alternate scenes; four never-before-seen screen tests; and original theatrical trailer.

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The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (Paramount) is a Combo Pack consisting of Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray 2D, and DVD versions of the film. In this combination of live action and animation, SpongeBob SquarePants is on a mission to save his world and he’s come to ours to do it. When pirate Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas) steals the secret recipe for Krabby Patties, SpongeBob and pals come ashore to retrieve the missing formula. To succeed, they must team up with former rival, Plankton, but soon come to realize that to defeat a super-villains, they must unleash their inner superheroes.

What makes the movie so much fun is its no-holds-barred attempts to milk laughs in every way possible with little concern for moralistic lessons or messages about being a good person — a definite change of pace from so many children’s films. The movie isn’t exactly espousing anarchy and wild mayhem, but focuses on comedy foremost. There is one wince-inducing song about teamwork, but otherwise the picture rolls along with giggles and belly laughs. The writers apparently love puns, and that infatuation is generously reflected.

There is an air of surrealism, which is a perfect fit for animation in general and for these characters in particular. There’s lots of silliness based on odd relationships, shape shifting, and Mel Brooks-style humor, which adults will likely enjoy and understand more than children.

Bonus extras include 3 sing-along videos, 8 making-of featurelettes, storyboards, deleted scenes, and a digital HD copy.

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Bonanza: Season Eight, Volumes 1 & 2

Bonanza: Season Eight, Volumes 1 & 2 (CBS) contains all 34 episodes of the show’s 1966-1967 season on 9 discs. Lorne Green, Dan Blocker and Michael Landon star as Ben Cartwright and sons Hoss and Little Joe, respectively. Focus of the weekly series was the Ponderosa, the Cartwrights’ sprawling ranch in Nevada Territory in the 19th century.

The first network Western to be broadcast in color, Bonanza was one of the costliest shows on TV during its run. Pernell Roberts, who played eldest son Adam, left the show after six years. Bonanza racked up a total of 430 episodes over 14 seasons and was the second longest running Western series after Gunsmoke. The period covered is during and following the Civil War.

In Season 8, Bonanza tackled numerous contemporary issues. The season is a mixed bag of first-rate episodes and mediocre ones. The lack of consistency on a high level is probably due to the fact that so many stories had been presented and writers were repeating themselves on a number of episodes. Some seem all too familiar.

Much of the ongoing popularity of the program was its ability to blend Western action with personal stories of Ben, Hoss, Little Joe and the various individuals whose paths took them to the Ponderosa. The format was anthology with a core of regular characters. Guest stars in Season 8 include Ed Begley, Dina Merrill, Vera Miles, Jeanette Nolan, Ann Doran, Wayne Newton, Lola Albright, Beau Bridges, Diane Baker, Leslie Nielsen, Jack Oakie, Louise Latham, Zsa Zsa Gabor, John Saxon, and Robert Middleton.

Bonus features include audio commentaries by Wayne Newton and Diane Baker; original NBC network logo, bumpers and Chevrolet promo; photo gallery; and the lost short film, Ponderosa Caravan (1967).


About Author

For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.