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ODD THING ABOUT "TIMOTHY GREEN'...IT'S RIVETING AND QUITE GOOD
Blog, Movies
Posted on Dec 14 2012 by Greg
Director Peter Hedges wanted to make a movie like "It's a Wonderful Life," the kind of film that people take into their hearts. In the case of "The Odd Life of Timothy Green," he may have succeeded as time proves its value and it touches more lives through Blu-ray and DVD.



For the time being, I'm sure audiences were as perplexed as I was when I saw the trailers. Even as the movie, my wife and I were intrigued but still disconcerted ("Really? A pencil factory?")

But as we watched we were very drawn into this very simple, elegantly presented story -- gorgeously filmed in Georgia (though in the audio commentary --THANK YOU -- the director admits there were some leaves added to trees for some shots.

We have had our own issues in child bearing, as have our friends, and had we lost a child through tragedy or illness, "Timothy Green" might be hard to enjoy. It is no spoiler that Timothy's visit is temporary -- it's telegraphed constantly throughout the film, but the departure is not as maudlin as it might have been under less skillful hands. It's bittersweet but enriched with hope and growth.

It's also filled with gentle humor and superb performances by Jennifer Garner, Australian actor Joel Edgerton, the always-great Dianne Wiest and Ron Livingston (who seems to be aging into Joe "Joey Zaza" Mantegna. This is definitely worth seeing.

Everyone may come away with a different impression, depending on their relationship with their parents, siblings and chlldbirth experiences. I found it similar to Walt Disney's "Pollyanna" in the sense that one person can, in their small way, have a profound effect on people.

"It's a Wonderful Life" was not a box office bonanza when it was first released. It's premise, though we've now seen dozens of knock-offs since, was probably strange to theatergoers back in the '40s. Maybe the time will come for the Greens just as it did for the Baiieys.






"BRAVE" BURSTS ONTO BLU-RAY WITH TONS OF EXTRAS
Blog, News and Events, Movies
Posted on Nov 21 2012 by Greg
Impressive at Brave was on the big screen, there's something intensely dazzling to see it in Blu-ray. The almost infinite details fill every millimeter of the home screen.

Brave is a sweeping epic tale, but it's also an intimate examination of mother/daughter relationship. Although I enjoyed the film and saw it twice in theaters, as a dad and husband, I found the scene in which Merida gives her mother something to ingest that could be extremely harmful or fateful, is kind of difficult to take. Merida then snaps into denial of wrongdoing, which pushes more than a few buttons.

But I'm not a Mom or a daughter. When I saw the film with two sets of each, they resoundingly loved the film with absolutely no reservations. Being mothers of teen daughters, they each agreed that of course, the girl would be driven to risk anything to make her mother change, not considering the consequences and, yes, not owning up to it.

How Merida does face the impact of her actions, the fate of the kingdom, and her parental issues, is the heart of Brave, and what you must experience from beginning to end. Few films, animated or not, take a character through such a character arc in such a plausible, believable way. The Brady Bunch this ain't.

The magnificent score by Patrick Doyle is as epic as the film, and the voice cast is ideal. Pains were taken to make things as authentic as possible, as evidenced by the bonus features.

And what a feast of bonus features there are, at least on the Blu-ray. The DVD does contain the audio commentary (thank you!) and two short films, but depending on which Blu-ray set you choose, you get a lot of cool stuff.



Basically the 3-disc "Ultimate Collector's Edition" includes everything that the 5-disc Disney/Pixar's Brave: The Ultimate Collector's Edition does except for a Blu-ray 3-D disc and a digital download disc.

Here's are the bonus features:

DISC ONE / FEATURE FILM

- Audio Commentary

- Short Films
     1. La Luna
     2. The Legend of Mordu

- Behind the Scenes
    1. Brave Old World
    2. Merida & Elinor
    3. Bears
    4. Brawl in the Hall
    5. Wonder Moss
    6. Magic
    7. Clan Pixar
    8. Once Upon a Scene

- Extended Scenes
    1. Meet the Lords
    2. Triplets Distraction
    3. The Ruins
    4. Blockade

DISC TWO / BONUS FEATURES

- Fergus & Mordu - An Alternate Opening

- Fallen Warriors (short deleted shots)

- Dirty Hairy People

- It is English...Sort of (Doric dialect)

- Angus (the horse)

- The Tapestry

- Promotional Pieces
    1. Feast Yer Eyes! Wee Bits of Animation (montage of
        comical blackouts)
    2. Relics: A Lyre, Cauldron and a Rock
    3. Clan Dun Broch (Fergus Offers a Lesson)
    4. Launch (Merida Teaches the Triplets Archery)
    5. Flying Guts Theater (Presenting An Entertainment)
    6. USA/Japan/UK Trailers

- Art Gallery
    1. Characters
    2. Color Keys
    3. Development Art
    4. Environments
    5. Graphics







PIXAR RELEASES OVER A BAKER'S DOZEN OF TREATS
Blog, News and Events, Movies
Posted on Nov 21 2012 by Greg
Many of the Pixar principles of creativity have their roots in the concepts of Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and the people in their orbit. One of ways Walt was able to nurture talent, sustain characters, test new ideas and techniques, and generally keep the studio rolling, was to produce short films through the golden age until the '60s with occasional forays into later decades.

Pixar always does this, creating shorts to accompany their features and some of those released by Walt Disney Pictures, some for TV and others as special bonus material for home video releases. This is the second collection in the series and is a must-have for families and animation buffs alike.



For all ages and levels of interest, you get two excellent "Toy Story Toons" each of which are impressive considering how many characters they include in such a short time. There are also two "Cars Toons" starring Mater the tow truck -- one nodding to a future Pixar "Planes" series and another enhancing the back story of Radiator Springs, which ties in with the new Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure Park.

Three shorts present an aspect of their feature films' storylines from another point of view: BURN-E happens during WALL-E and Dug's Special Mission and George & A.J. occur during the course of UP. George & A.J., by the way, has the funniest audio commentary of all twelve -- in which a stentorian announcer relentlessly "oversells" the film.

All twelve films have commentaries (thank you!), many of them revealing how personal some of these films are to their creative staff. Partly Cloudy was inspired by the non-English speaking mother of its director (as well as Walt Disney's Dumbo). La Luna captures the  memories of the adults of its director's youth.

Personally, I think La Luna is the most beautiful of the films, with a breathtaking score -- reminiscent of that of Pinocchio -- by the amazing Michael Giacchino. (If only a soundtrack album of all these films was released!!)

Presto boasts the most classic treatment of the films, in that it has the wild humor and frenetic timing of the best Warner, MGM and Disney cartoon shorts. And My Friend, the Rat, which opens the set, is especially delightful for those of us who enjoyed the Disney factual animation/live action films, most directed by Ward Kimball. The design and the music are spot on. These creative people know their material and clearly love it.

Another wondrous extra are seven student films by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter, fun to watch but also fascinating while considering what magnificent futures would lie before these three icons -- and some likely roots of their subsequent films. You can also see how their sense of childlike wonder had not been beaten out of them by "too cool" peers or bitter adults.

Says Lasseter, with a chuckle, of his student days: "I was a bit of a procrastinator. The hardest part of making these films was getting them done, 'cause I would wait way too long to start my project! It's interesting now, having five sons. I go to them, 'I was a procrastinator.  Please don't be a procrastinator in your life!"

And for those who have DVD but not Blu-Ray, you still get the extra films -- and the commentaries on the DVD disc.







DISNEY FAIRIES MEETS "THE PATTY DUKE SHOW"
Blog, Movies, TV
Posted on Nov 06 2012 by Greg
Meet Tinker Bell who flies everywhere
Her land is warm, her weather's fair
But Peri's only seen the sights
Of winter days and winter nights
What a crazy pair!
But they're fairies, identical fairies all the way
One pair of sprightly pixies, different as night and day!

While Peri adores to pirouette
On landscapes cold as they can get
Our Tink just seems to have goal
Of making Vidia lose control
What a wild duet!

But they're fairies, identical fairies and you'll find
Their wings get sparkly rays alike, they even disobey alike
You could lose your mind
When fairies are two of a kind!




Tinker Bell: The Secret of the Wings
, the first Disney Fairies feature to actually be released near the actual season in which it takes place, is a sweeping epic in which Tink discovers she has a twin sister, Periwinkle. Peri lives in a frosty world ruled by former James Bond Timothy Dalton (who also voiced Mr. Pricklypants in Toy Story 3). Naturally, the twins spend too much time in their respective other lands and adventures ensue.

It's a beautifully rendered production, really an art direction triumph. And in Blu-ray, it's especially stunning to see. The songs are by the talented husband and wife duo Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn, who also recently scored a musical version of Toy Story for Disney Cruise Line and have a series of inventive original musicals created for their band, Groovelily.

The teen angle has been ramped up in this film, with the addition of more "hunky" sprites, almost to the point of being unintentionally humorous, as in one final moment in which a young guy struts onto the scene and says, "Hey. I'm Sled."

Vigoda and Milburn also wrote songs for Pixie Hollow Games, a 30-minute TV special relegated to bonus features status on this package. What it might lack in budget compared to the more lavish Wings feature, it makes up for in charm and character development.

Pixie Hollow Games focuses on two fairies: Rosetta, voiced to perfection by Megan Hilty, and newcomer Chloe, played by Brenda Song (of Zack & Cody and The Social Network). Rosetta may be a garden fairy, but she's a tootsie-toes with more than a touch of OCD. Chloe's atheticism makes the two of them an "Odd Couple" and thus fodder for a very entertaining, fast moving and fun little show.

The extras are not elaborate, not even on a promotional level, when compared to earlier Tinker Bell releases. Wings is nice, but Great Fairy Rescue is still, to me, the best of the four features so far.







I SAW A DRAGON ON BLU-RAY... BUT NOT ALL THE FEATURES
Blog, Movies
Posted on Oct 22 2012 by Greg
1977's Pete's Dragon was the last musical fantasy produced entirely within the Disney studio system. Two years later, The Black Hole would not perform well enough a the box office to sustain movies made within the studio and outside production companies were brought in, much in the way all of Hollywood did.

The film is a time capsule of Walt Disney Productions in the '70's, with its distinctive house style. Even the sound quality is unique to the period.

Familiar actors round out the cast, led by pop singer Helen Reddy, whose understated, matter-of-fact performance seems to play better today than it may have seemed to some in the past. Harry Potter and Broadway fans will enjoy the vitality and versatility of the great Jim Dale, who won a Tony as Barnum after this movie (a very similar role indeed) and narrated the American audio versions of the Potter books.

Ambitious as Pete's Dragon was, it owed more to the wacky special effects comedies of its day than its two musical predecessors, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins.

It's closest relation to the other two films is the musical direction led by Oscar winner Irwin Kostal, who returned to Disney for Pete's Dragon and again to re-score a digital version of Fantasia and the short cartoon, The Small One. Like Mary Poppins, Pete's Dragon opens with on very a magical-sounding string section, rising before the title.

Elliot the dragon took on a life of his own in the Disney Theme Parks as one of the favorite floats in the Main Street Electrical Parade. Surely there are those who think he originated in the parade and don't know the movie!

But Pete's Dragon is one of those enjoyable Disney staples that every family should enjoy together. If you haven't got a copy yet, now is the time. And if you want to see it as sharply and colorfully as possible, you'll want the "35th Anniversary Edition" Blu-ray.



The clarity may betray some of the period's special effects and matte shots, but you can see every speck of the once-grand Disney backlot and the lovely Golden Oak Ranch. The filmmakers really did a marvelous job at sustaining the feeling that this took place in a coastal Maine town, when in reality even the ocean was a trench of water augmented by matte paintings and inventive angles.

Please note, though, that the previously released 2009 "High Flying Edition" of Pete's Dragon had several bonus features that are missing on this new release.

2009 High Flying Edition Bonus Features:
- Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney's Movie Magic
- Deleted Storyboard Sequence: Terminus & Hoagy Hunt Elliott
- Original Song Concept: Bo Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)
- Original Demo Recordings: "Brazzle Dazzle Day" (alternate
  song); "Every Little Piece" (alternate melody); "The Greatest
  Star of All" (deleted song for deleted character) - Promotional
  Record (Pop versions of the songs from a 7" record: It's Not
  Easy, Brazzle Dazzle Day, There's Room for Everyone,
  Candle on the Water
- Where's Elliott? Disappearing Dragon Game
- Pete's Dragon Art Galleries (Concept Art, Behind the Sccnes,
  Publicity)
- Trailers
- About Pete's Dragon (text)
- Disney Family Album excerpt: Ken Anderson
- The Plausible Impossible excerpt (dragons, dinosaurs,
  mythology)
- Donald Duck cartoon: Lighthouse Keeping

2010 "35th Anniversary Edition" DVD Bonus Features (both Blu-ray & DVD):
- Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney's Movie Magic
- Deleted Storyboard Sequence: Terminus & Hoagy Hunt Elliott
- Original Song Concept: Bo Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)
- Trailers

A few more notes from my 2009 review of the "High Flying Edition":

"Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney's Movie Magic"  makes it easier to understand that sodium screen process so often used in Disney films of the period -- a kind of yellow light behind the subject that somehow vanishes and allows two images to be combined. Maybe that yellow sheen is the reason that you could always spot a seam along the two separate images -- a problem solved by today's digital technology.

I'm keeping both versions, especially because of those musical extras. There are a selection of demo recordings and a handful of Kids of the Kingdom-style "pop versions" of the songs I had not heard before. "Brazzle Dazzle Day" had a different melody with mostly different lyrics. "Every Little Piece" had the same lyrics with an "If I Were a Rich Man"-like melody.  "it's Not Easy" had alternate lyrics that transformed it into a romantic love song. And there's even a deleted song called "The Greatest Star of All," clearly intended for Jim Dale's character, Terminus. These alone make the new DVD worth getting.

One feature that only appeared on the 2001 "Gold" DVD edition is the 25-minute 1973 live-action/animated documentary Man, Monsters and Mysteries, narrated by Sebastian Cabot with Sterling Holloway voicing the Loch Ness Monster (aka "Nessie").










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