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"THAT LEGALLY SHARPAY GIRL!"
Blog, TV
Posted on Apr 30 2011 by Greg



Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure, if anything else, is one of the most quotable films of year. For instance...


Sharpay's father, greeting his daughter after the pop performance that opens the film: "Princess, you had better look out for law enforcement. They are gonna come after you for stealing the show!"

 

Sharpay herself, when persuading her father to give his blessing to seek fame on Broadway: "Daddy, the main reason I buy such expensive shoes is to take monumental steps!"

 

This made-for-Disney-Channel-but-first-released-to-Blu-ray-and-DVD movie is a spinoff of the High School Musical series. Sharpay Evans, campus queen bee and wealthy, pampered but lovable self-caricature, decides that she can conquer Broadway with minimal effort, but learns the value of hard work, good friends and consideration for others. Kind of a kid-friendly version of Legally Blonde, right down to the designer doggie.


Her catalyst for this growth is smiling dagger-plunger stage star Amber Lee Adams (Cameron Goodman, playing it to the hilt in a film with a very, very high hilt), who calls our heroine "Sharpie" and basically tricks her into becoming her lapdog assistant. At one point, Sharpay even cleans a toilet! Omigosh!


Amber Lee's character is the bad example of what Sharpay might become. But she's saved by the nicest young cute guy in New York City, Donald Hollinger (oh, sorry--wrong decade--that was Ann Marie's boyfriend). 


As budding filmmaker Peyton Everett, young actor Austin Butler gets some of the best lines in the movie. But unfortunately, since he's supposed to be the voice of reason and moral center, these lines make his character is a bit inconsistent and unintentionally funny.


One minute he says to Sharpay, "Everything you have to do will be worth it to have your dream," (the exact opposite of the film's message). 


Later he says, with gravitas, "You’ve sold your soul just to get [your dog] Boi in that show rather than trust in the dog that you raised. Even worse you’ve stopped trusting that your own talents would get you where you need to go!"

 

It's priceless stuff, but probably not as sidesplittingly funny as intended, though the production tries valiantly to balance camp with heart (a very difficult task). 


Here's another gem: upon making a dramatic exit, Peyton exclaims, "One question--what happened to that hot pink whirlwind of confidence and ambition I saw through my lens that first day you got here? I mean, that girl knew she was special! That girl knew that she didn’t have to do any of this to succeed! What happened to her, huh?"


Quite a few of the clever lines are appropriately assigned...

Sharpay: "Listen, Amber Lee Adams isn’t what you think."

Roger (Bradley Steven Perry): "A self absorbed, two-faced panther who would eat her young live on a reality show rather than allow anyone to steal her spotlight?"

Sharpay: "Okay, she's what you think."




But ultimately, Peyton wins the match with this golden line, said--again in all seriousness--to Sharpay: "There is not a marquee big enough, or lights bright enough, to contain the fame you’re gonna have." You could almost hear Dick Powell say this to Ruby Keeler in a Goldiggers movie. Which in this context, is probably fine and in keeping with the jaunty spirit of Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure.


Production wise, the film is nicely shot and directed with skill by Michael Lembeck (director of Disney's Santa Clauses 2 & 3 and former leader of Kaptain Kool and the Kongs on TV's Krofft Supershow) and the city looks like the wonderland of That Girl.


The Blu-Ray and DVD is sparse on bonus features, consisting mainly of a short doc about Sharpay's "evolution," bloopers and footage from the camera Butler used throughout the film.

 








ARRIVEDERCI HANNAH...
Blog, TV
Posted on Mar 18 2011 by Greg
There's no denying that even the people who helped launch the Hannah Montana series could not have dreamed how it would have exploded into an international phenomenon, with top-charting albums, sold-out concerts and infinite merchandise all revolving around a 'tween sitcom which basically takes the basic Cinderella story and allows its lead character to have fame and a "normal" life at the same time. It's the pretend game that millions of girls play with their Barbie (and now Hannah) dolls.

The series ran four seasons, but the DVD releases have been limited to themed collections, the complete first season and now this, the fourth and final. I couldn't tell you if, by picking up all the collections that you'd have all the shows combined, but it might be nice if seasons two and three are issued intact someday.



Because Hannah Montana The Final Season draws a curtain over the entire series run, it's notable for many reasons. We see Hannah grapple with "growing up" her music perhaps perhaps at the expense of her loyal young fans ("Hannah's Gonna Get This"), a storyline that parallels Miley Cyrus' leaps into more mature escapades (the episode tones down the leap, but her decision to move ahead is the same as in real life).

And when it comes to real life, it's got to be difficult to know where Hannah Montana ends and Miley Cyrus begins, and where she's going to go next. When The Monkees left the network, their albums stopped climbing the charts. However, Disney Channel may run the series for years, much like Nickelodeon runs the "Steve" episodes of Blues Clues even though he left the show years ago. Can Steve ever really leave it behind?

Time will tell. The strange thing about the DVD set is that, in the three short bonus features, there are moments that make those of us who have been keeping track of the Cyrus family issues in the media. On one, the cast says goodbye, Billy Ray even thanking the Disney Channel. Prophetically, in a short clip from a very early casting session, or something of that nature, he comments about how, if this show takes off, his little girl is never going to be the same, calling it a "double-edged sword." Interesting.

The most unusual thing is an "alternate ending" to the last show of the series. Without spoiling anything, suffice to say that one ends with Miley going to college (which we might hope she does in real life, as many specialists in child stardom will attest) and the other ending does not, though it implies that the whole thing might have been a... well, you'll see.

The package includes a glossy, hardcover scrapbook that houses the two discs, quite a nice package for the price.

Now if they could only fill in the gap with the other two dozen or so episodes in the middle...








REMEMBER "MATCH GAME 79?"
Blog, TV
Posted on Feb 27 2011 by Greg
Question on an episode of Match Game '79 (not to be confused with Epcot '94):

GENE: "There was a terrible fight at Disneyland. Mickey Mouse turned Donald Duck into a BLANK duck."

ELDERLY CONTESTANT: "LAME duck."

ALL SIX CELEBRITIES: Charles Siebert, Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly (huull-huuulll!), Marcia Wallace, Robert Donner and Phyllis Davis: "DEAD Duck."

We watched this on a multi disc MATCH GAME DVD set with selected shows from throughout the '70s. TV was so much more informal then. At the beginning of one show, the man who hides behind the Super Match board was late and we got to see him squeeze behind a little door to operate the game. Looooowww tech.



Then there's the time Gene Rayburn (comically?) whapped the floor manager over the head with a cue card because he missed a cue. There was also a genuinely angry moment known as the infamous "school riot." You can see this incident on You Tube. The DVD set is available on amazon at a reduced price.







A HOLIDAY MUSICAL TREASURE FINALLY ARRIVES AFTER ALMOST 50 YEARS!
TV, Music
Posted on Dec 21 2010 by Greg
Even though it had one of the best musical scores in the business by the songwriting team behind Funny Girl (which they wrote at about the same time), with a superb cast and impeccable orchestrations and choral arrangements, done to such a level of perfection that to only listen once was to hear it for a lifetime, there was never a soundtrack album for the first animated TV special in history: Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.

Until this year.

Now you can own ten rare restored recordings intended for the soundtrack record that was never produced both dowloading it on amazon or iTunes.



Not only that, but several songs are extended so you'll hear them as never before. The haunting "Winter Was Warm" contains a musical bridge that faded out in the special, followed by Jane Kean singing a portion again. Jim Backus' touching reprise of "Alone in the World" includes the entire song, rather than the last few bars. And there is an additional refrain in "The Lord's Bright Blessing," or as it is also known, the "razzleberry dressing" song.

The finale is missing the choral section, perhaps because the final album was never mixed for release. But you can still hear that on the DVD, which has also been reissued this year as a DVD/Blu-ray combo set which includes EVERY bonus feature on BOTH discs.

The new DVD/Blu-ray includes a new audio commentary by veteran animator Darrell Van Citters, who also wrote the recently revised "making-of" Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol book and is to be thanked profusely for his years of dedicated work spearheading the release of all this material for the first time. On the commentary are Jane Kean, Laura Olsher and several others associated with the special, even a clip of Jack Cassidy's recording session.

The DVD/Blu-ray also has a never-before-released overture created for the soundtrack album by musical director Walter Scharf (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). With the overture and the ten downloaded songs, it truly is the gift of the year for fans of this classic production.

God bless us, everyone!







A FEW NOTES ABOUT THE "MOTE"
Blog, TV
Posted on Nov 27 2010 by Greg
Kids love to have "pretend" version of equipment, appliances and other "grownup" stuff, so why wouldn't they want to have their own TV remote? The new "Mickey Mote" doesn't change channels or control volume, but it does allow young children to answer multiple choice questions on specially-equipped Playhouse Disney DVDs.

This feature was formerly known on earlier releases as "Discovery Mode." You could choose a setting on the DVD so your home remote could allow your child to answer the questions, which randomly stop the story action throughout select episodes and feature length specials (more about just how "select" in a moment).

So you can already do pretty much the same thing with a regular remote that you can do with a Mickey Mote, but where's the colorful fun in that? And do you really want to have a small child fiddle with a complicated remote and maybe get strawberry jam all over it? That's the idea, and it's not a bad one if you want to add just a little more interaction to shows that already stop their action frequently to ask the viewers what to do, or to count things, etc. in the manner of Blues's Clues and Dora the Explorer. (I personally prefer the more plot-driven features because they are richer in content than the shorter episodes.

Parents shouldn't just load the batteries, start the DVDs, hand the child a Mickey Mote and let it go at that. First it has to be set in a specific way with a specific sequence of steps. It's not complicated, but if you skip a step it won't work. It comes with printed instructions and on-screen directions. Once you've set the Mickey Mote, it's ready to use.



Then you must choose from two play levels on the settings of the DVD and the episode starts. Here's where we had some issues. On Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Numbers Roundup, which is packaged with the Mickey Mote, there are short episodes that seem chosen at random after you select the activity mode. In other words, you might see "Mickey's Big Surprise" one time, set it again and then see "Mickey's Round Up the Next." We tried it over and over again and it seems to allow no control over which episodes it shows after you choose the activity mode -- and for the life of me, I can't figure out how to use it for the bonus episode at all.

So your child can of course watch all five episodes but I couldn't tell you how to see all four plus the bonus one on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Numbers Roundup with the Mote.



It's much better with feature-length episodes like that of another new Playhouse Disney DVD release, Handy Manny Big Construction Job. You set the DVD for the mote, and the whole 67 minute story follows with lots of Mickey Mote interactivity. We also tried it with an earlier release, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland, and the same holds true.

We had a three year old over for the holiday and she loved using the remote, and since her attention span is less than those of me and my older kids, she was perfectly delighted with Numbers Roundup. We did not get the opportunity to see if she would become frustrated if she couldn't "Mote" on all the episodes, but perhaps it's a bigger deal to us than to the little ones.

Me -- I still love putting the Magic Screen on the TV, getting out the Magic Crayons and helping Winky Dink in one of his adventures. Now THAT'S interactivity!









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