BEAUTY AND THE BLU-RAY
Posted on Oct 05 2010 by Greg
Disney's Beauty and the Beast
has become the quintessential animated musical, chock full of moments that have become iconic -- even to the point of parody -- since its smash debut in 1991. It was the ultimate connection of consummate talents, some who were already legendary and many of which who have become industry giants.
This is the first time in seven years that Beauty and the Beast has been issued on home video, this time in a DVD/Blu-Ray combo
that kindly for DVD owners, still offers the superb audio commentary by producer Don Hahn
, composer Alan Menken
and directors Kirk Wise
and Gary Trousdale
and three versions of the film, as they appeared on the Platinum Edition.
Once again, this Diamond Edition offers yet another reason to get a Blu-Ray Player if you want to see how great the digital restoration is in all its glory. (As far as I can tell, you can't buy the DVD without getting the Blu-ray discs as well.) If you want to see some new features such as an Alternate Opening, a Deleted Scene, new games, new documentary features and a new music video. You might want to hang onto your Platinum DVD because there are a few features, including some games, that do not appear on the new edition.Beauty and the Beast
is one of those Disney classics that transcends its release date, the age of its audience and the tinge of its lesser imitators. Somehow it all works, and as the artists say themselves, even they didn't know whether it would all work but somehow it did. That's the fascinating, elusive nature of great artistry.
THE BEST TINKER BELL MOVIE SO FAR...
Posted on Sep 22 2010 by Greg
if you're a Disney and Peter Pan
fan and you ever had any doubts about whether making Tinker Bell the central character of a Disney film series would work, they should all disappear when you see Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue
. I really believe this would be a very successful film if released theatrically, especially this time of year when pickings are lean at the theaters.
The first film, titled Tinker Bell
, was largely an origin story, and the second, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure
, helped develop the supporting characters (especially Terrence) and Tinker Bell's anger issues. This film offers a good balance between our lead fairy and her friends along with a really solid story that never seems padded, a hazard in some direct-to-video films.
Like a Victorian E.T.
, this new film gives us a chance to see what happens when a young, imaginative child gets the dream of a lifetime -- to meet a fairy. Woven beautifully into the narrative are the young girl's need for her father's attention (who is present for her in body only), the dynamics between the fairy characters (focusing mostly on Vidia, who is nicer in this film but still having the prickly attitude of Veronica Lodge) and the wonderful activity of creating fairy houses (which is showcased in a bonus feature taking place at the Epcot
Flower & Garden Festival).
The film has a nice, lyrical pace but never lags for a moment, much in the style now identified with Pixar movies (some character designs even have a Pixar look). What are most delightful for fans are the references to the 1953 Disney classic. In the opening moments, Terence brings Tinker Bell to Fairy Camp and says, "There it is, Tinker Bell -- Fairy Camp!" much as Peter Pan said, "There it is Wendy -- second star to the right and straight on 'til morning!" At one point, there is a glimpse of the Darling home from the sky, as well as the iconic Big Ben landing.
This is the least musical of the Disney Fairies films, but the score by Joel McNeely
is magnificent -- yet there does not seem to be a soundtrack album! Maybe it will show up as a download.
Visually, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue
is a feast and a good excuse to finally get that Blu-Ray player. With a big screen TV you can simulate the look of the film in a movie theater.
WHAT ABOUT PRINCE DASTAN?
Posted on Sep 21 2010 by Greg
(and his sister Maggie
) are the children of Naomi, as in "What About Naomi?"
If you watched the classic original Electric Company
back in the '70s (or when it was briefly revived, or on DVD), you know that this was the signature phrase from the brilliant "Love of Chair," a satire of soap operas that was conceived by head writer Paul Dooley
. Every installment of this sketch ended with the narrator saying, as the organ music dramatically paused, "And...what about Naomi?"
It was an inside joke. The real Naomi was Children's Television Workshop staffer Naomi Foner
, who years later gave birth to the two young stars. What does this have to do with The Prince of Persia
? Well, it gives Jake Gyllenhaal a few extra points with me even though this movie somehow falls short of what it could be. He seems like a sincerely good fellow, and even took the time to appear in promos and on talk shows to promote this film, something that some stars who cash huge Disney's paychecks don't bother to do.
As a workout video, The Prince of Persia is better than any of those Jane Fonda
VHS tapes. Jake earns his abs in scene after scene. It's a shame that the script did not offer him as much of a challenge. We never really get to know, or really care much about, the lead characters. The first 30 minutes is almost solid exposition, overloaded with political business and intrigue, before the fantasy of the magic dagger and the romance of the lovely and independent Princess and Dastan get underway.
The two leads seem to have some chemistry but an awful lot of epic furniture gets in their way. I have to wonder how the script must have been before it was meddled with by all the chefs, concerned about the obviously huge budget paying off and making sure the kitchen sink wasn't left out.
It's a fine cast with always great performances by Ben Kingsley
and Alfred Molina
, spectacular production values on a level with DeMille and a fine score by Harry Gregson-Williams
Maybe the summer was too hot here in Florida for me to find the film's setting very appealing. The short documentary included with the DVD (the Blu-Ray also includes a deleted scene and an interactive feature) tells us that the temperatures were over 100 degrees and this discomfort comes across in the film -- though apparently producer Jerry Bruckheimer
stayed nice and cool in the studio where he taped his comments with a superimposed background behind him!
PICK THIS ONE -- IT'S A PLUM!
Posted on Aug 10 2010 by Greg
(I used "plum" because "peach" would have been too obvious.)
There is a handful of Disney productions that I feel are underrated and James and the Giant Peach
falls into that category. Not as edgy as The Nightmare Before Christmas
, not as flashy as action/fantasies of its era, yet not conventional to be easily categorized, James
is a gem with a gentle sweetness (ooh, another peach pun) and unabashed stylization that makes it stand on it own as a unrecognized classic.
An early Roald Dahl
work with less of the bitter taste (sorry!) that characterized his adult fiction and crept into his children's books too (don't get me wrong, I love Dahl's work, but it's pretty tough stuff), James and the Giant Peach
is about a tortured youth (a Dahl trademark) who embarks on a magical journey with an unlikely team of garden creatures who have anthropomorphosized into talking friends).
The film, done with the cooperation of Dahl family members, is probably the most faithful visualization of his books, created with the artistry of Lane Smith
, whose books are also distinctive. Smith illustrated a special tie-in edition of James when the film was released, and along with a "making of" book by Lucy Dahl
, were among the sparse merchandise offerings connected with the film.
It's a musical of sorts, with some fine work by Randy Newman
, particularly the touching "My Name is James" and the showpiece "A Family," in which we hear Richard Dreyfuss
, Susan Sarandon
and Jane Leeves
, all giving spirited performances.
The live action segments are deliberately designed to be cartoonlike with no attempt at the gritty realism that took the enchantment out, in my opinion, movies like Hook
and Return to Oz
. It's a throwback to early fantasy cinema, and perhaps why it was not enthusiastically promoted nor received in its day.James and the Giant Peach
was released on DVD once before, sadly without a commentary. There's still none on this new edition, but a new game has been added to the Blu-Ray disc. Most of the other features remain, but the gallery feature has been moved exclusively to the Blu-Ray.
This is a highly recommended, old-fashioned family fantasy with all the classic elements and some astonishingly detailed stop motion. Director Henry Selick
moved on to the impressive Coraline
from here, and is now reportedly back at Disney. It will be nice to see if he creates a sparkling treasure along the lines of James and the Giant Peach
YOURS, MINE AND THE BEAVER'S
Posted on Jul 24 2010 by Greg
They were on sale at Big Lots, so we got DVDs of two remakes.
One was the newer version of Yours, Mine and Ours
that recast Lucille Ball
and Henry Fonda
with Rene Russo
and Dennis Quaid
. Ironically, even though the 1968 version starred two iconic legends, the remake seemed more farfetched and broad.
Dennis Quaid played a higher ranking officer who still had plenty of time for his kids and Rene Russo appeared as a quintessential successful businesswoman who also balanced a lot of time bonding with her kids and a talking stick -- and looked fantabulous.
In the original, Henry Fonda played a career military man who had little time for his family until his wife's death forced him to get to know his somewhat resentful children and Lucille Ball played a military nurse. So much for the "phoney, fakey Hollywood" of yesterday as opposed to the "more relatable, honest Hollywood" of today.
That said, even though it did not compare favorably overall to the original, the new Yours Mine and Ours
The 1997 remake of Leave it to Beaver, now largely forgotten while the original series lives on, was just okay. Clearly produced under conflicting circumstances, there was a lot of valiant effort to reproduce the wit of the series. Everyone tried hard, but it felt that, behind the scenes of the film, there was a "classic" camp and a "contemporary' camp at work, very much at odds with each other.
The film went for a retro look, right down to the title in cement, Wally and Beaver walking home over the end credits, vintage cars and June Cleaver's dresses (which were kind of a caricature here), while there was lots of language that you just wouldn't hear in the Cleaver household. It's as if it was forced in, and maybe it was. There was a talented cast, but just not making the magic -- and how can you -- of the marvelous original.
It sure is hard to capture lightning in a bottle -- again and again.
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