BLU-RAY REVIEW: Three Studio Ghibli Blu-ray Premieres
Blog, Reviews, Movies
Posted on Feb 03 2015 by Greg
Ghibli Blu-rays are always an event, especially because if we haven't seen the films on the big screen, it's the best way to enjoy the majestic artistry.



Two of the titles have been especially long-awaited. Porco Rosso is a spectacular adventure with humor and a touch of fantasy. Porco is a dashing fighter pilot who has been cursed and is now a pig, but still very human is every other way. Unabashedly Bogart-like, he is voiced by Oscar nominee Michael Keaton. My favorite English language performance, though, belongs to Susan Egan, who was also heard in Spirited Away. She gets to sing in French, and plays the classic tragic beauty, desperate to give her heart away but trapped by circumstance and the dysfunction of her lover.

This is an adult story, but not in the sense of material inappropriate for children. There are, actually, many kids in the story, one of whom forms the backbone of the story. The film has never sounded better in home video.



Pom Poko is the most quirky of the trio -- a fantasy steeped in reality with lots of ironic humor. The English narration by Maurice LaMarche (Pinky and the Brain) is crisp and brilliant in its seamless waver from serious to coy. The entire cast is superb. This is not a movie-star-based cast like other Ghibli films from Disney, this is a cast of great Hollywood voice actors, all of which prove that, while there's nothing wrong with well-cast stars in voice roles and they provide a marketing angle, the voice actors earn their place as seasoned pros in the art form.

One note to parents: The "sack" of these creatures is not actually a sack, but another part of the male anatomy, though it should not as obvious to youngsters because of the English script's obtuse treatment of it, which is to make it seem like a kangaroo's pouch.



The most eye-filling Ghibli film on Blu-ray is clearly Tales from Earthsea, a sword-and-sorcery epic based on the Ursula LeGuin books. One could watch the film purely to focus on the artwork and become completely lost in its richness.

The story is a challenge, probably because of difficulties in adaptation from books of this nature into a nearly two-hour film. It starts off with lots of action and plot, presented with such rapidity that it might require running the disc back to keep track. Then the film becomes largely a mood piece in which characters pensively reflect. At the climax, the pace picks up and the loose ends tie together, though it is one of those "Iron Man 3" battle sequences that tend to inspire the "let's just vanquish the villain and get on with it" feeling.

As villains go, though, this one is especially vile and creepy, voiced perfectly on the English soundtrack by Willem DaFoe. An androgynous warlock obsessed with his power and longevity, he is far from a one-note baddie.

This is one Blu-ray for which the word "watch" means literally to "look and enjoy what you see."





STAGE REVIEW: Ken Levine's "A or B", Falcon Theatre, Los Angeles
Blog, News and Events, Reviews
Posted on Oct 26 2014 by Greg


Imagine watching one play that tells two stories at the same time, following one couple going down two parallel journeys that address workplace romances, human resources and gender equity, all the time keeping the two parallels clear to the audience, the characters consistently believable and identifiable, and the repetitions within the parallels always fresh and inventive.

It all came together in the premiere of a new play by Emmy-winning writer Ken Levine (M*A*S*H, Frasier, Cheers and numerous other "A" series), directed by Andrew Barnicle and starring Jules Willcox and Jason Dechert, who possess just the right timing and chemistry.

It is great experience in more ways than one. Sitting in the Falcon Theatre, founded by TV legend Garry Marshall, seeing a play written by an accomplished TV writer who was inspired by his work is mind-blowing to say the least. "A or B" is in performances now through Nov. 16.







DVD REVIEW: The Best of The Danny Kaye Show
Blog, Reviews, TV, People, Music, Books
Posted on Oct 14 2014 by Greg


THE DANNY KAYE SHOW isn't good. THE DANNY KAYE SHOW is great. It has a firm place in classic TV comedy/variety between YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS and THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW.

And it is Burnett Show that bears such a close kinship with the Kaye show, both of which were taped at Television City at CBS in Hollywood, likely on the same stage. Kaye's show ended just as Burnett's began. And both featured Harvey Korman.

So much of this is priceless treasure: Rod Serling sending up his own TWILIGHT ZONE series, which was on the air at the time; Art Carney is top form playing comedy against Kaye--as does the underappreciated Alan Young--creating a chemistry not found anywhere else.

Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, Michele Lee, Nana Mouskori, John Gary and more. These are both revered names and also names that should be celebrated today. You'll see why.

And you get more of the purest form of Danny Kaye's talent, a quality never fully realized on the movie screen. It's simply Kaye sitting down and speaking to the home and studio audience as if each were an individual to him. The elegance of his hand gestures, the intent eye contact, the melodious voice. Like the image of Hans Christian Andersen he portrayed, Kaye was more than anything a true storyteller.

You'll also want to look into the other two fine Kaye DVD collections:
Christmas with Danny Kaye
The Best of Danny Kaye - The Television Years

and David Koenig's superb book: Danny Kaye, King of Jesters, for a full account of all his TV episodes, films and shows.



GUESTS
Gene Kelly
Rod Serling
Liza Minnelli
Michele Lee
Art Carney
Alan Young
Jackie Cooper
Harry Belafonte
Ella Fitzgerald
Nana Mouskouri
John Gary
Buddy Greco
Jack Benny (cameo)
Sergio Mendes and the Brasil '66

REGULARS include: Harvey Korman, Joyce Van Patten, Jackie Joseph, The Clinger Sisters, Tony Charmoli Dancers, The Earl Brown Singers, Paul Weston and His Orchestra

WRITERS: Mel Tolkin, Paul Mazursky, Larry Tucker, Saul Ilson Ernest Chambers Herb Baker, Sheldon Keller, Billy Barnes

SONGS

DANNY KAYE
Consider Yourself
You Make Me Feel So Young
I Like the Likes of You
Do You Ever Think of Me
Pavlova
Pennies from Heaven
A Fellow Needs a Girl

DANNY KAYE AND GUEST STARS
It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing (with Ella Fitzgerald and Buddy Greco)
Mood Indigo (with Ella Fitzgerald and Buddy Greco)
We Like Each Other (with Ella Fitzgerald and Buddy Greco)
By Myself (with Michele Lee)
Just an Honest Mistake (with Alan Young and John Gary)
Let's Talk it Over (with Liza Minnelli)
Ballin' the Jack (with Gene Kelly)
Who Will Buy? (with Harry Belafonte)
Mama Look at Bubu
Hava Nagila (with Harry Belafonte)
Opa Ni Na Nai (with Harry Belafonte and Nana Mouskouri)
You'll Never Get Away (with Michele Lee)
Side by Side (with The Clinger Sisters)
Cherry Pies Ought to Be You (with Lovelady Powell)
Medley (with Gene Kelly): I Could Write a Book / New York,
  New York / Long Ago and Far Away / 'S Wonderful / Singin' in
  the Rain

ELLA FITZGERALD
Moment of Truth
Body and Soul

HARRY BELAFONTE
Raindrops
Walk On

LIZA MINNELLI
Maybe This Time
For Every Man There's a Woman

NANA MOUSKOURI
Telalima

MICHELE LEE
I Could Write a Book

JOHN GARY
The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
Hawaiian Wedding Song

BUDDY GRECO
Charade
Satin Doll

LOVELADY POWELL
Bye Bye Blackbird

JOE & EDDIE
Children, Go Where I Send Thee

SERGIO MENDES AND THE BRASIL '66
Goin' Out of My Head





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