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THE JOY IS IN THE PERFORMANCES, BUT NOT ALWAYS IN THE CHARACTERS' "LUCK"
Blog, Movies
Posted on Dec 19 2012 by Greg
One of the most prestigious films from Disney's Touchstone Pictures division, "The Joy Luck Club" is a generation-spanning, no-holds-barred drama about the interlocking lives and fates of Asian women who meet each week to play Mah-Jongg.

My mom used to do the Mah-Jongg nights in my youthful days, when we lived in Miami. We are neither Asian nor Jewish, but it would appear that the archetypical mother figure is very similar among cultures, including my mom's which is Italian. The gathering scene at the beginning of "Joy Luck Club," especially with its cacaphony of loud, multiple conversations, reminded me very much of when my mother's relatives used to get together.

My point is that there is much in "The Joy Luck Club" with which many of us can identify, regardless of gender or culture. People are people and life can be cruel as well as wonderful.

Be warned -- the goings get very tough in some of the flashback sequence. One scene in particular will never quite leave my mind, or my wife's. I won't spoil it but it involves France Nuyen's character as a young wife and mother, pushed to the edge. (Parent's note: this is a film about a family, but definitely NOT a family film and is rated "R.") My ignorance of the other actors' work is my shortcoming, because these artists are clearly outstanding in their blend of intensity, strength and dimension.

Ms. Nuyen is among the more familiar actors in the film, at least to my little world. She's been in countless films and TV shows, but I remember her best at the side of her husband, actor Robert Culp, on numerous talk shows. Ming Na Wen, the speaking voice of Mulan, plays the central young character. Christopher Rich ("Murphy Brown," "The Charmings," "Reba") appears as a well-meaning but occasionally -- and painfully -- oafish suitor. Among Rosalind Chao's many impressive credits is playing Klinger's wife on "M*A*S*H".



The photography is brilliant and looks marvelous in Blu-ray. The disc could have used some bonus features, though, especially an Audio Commentary. I'm sure budgetary issues are forcing bonus features to the sidelines, but lots of us out here love them, sometimes as much -- and sometimes better than -- the movies.







IT'S EASY TO "FIND NEMO" IN CRISP, VIVID BLU-RAY
Blog, Movies
Posted on Dec 14 2012 by Greg
"Finding Nemo" is not only one of Pixar's biggest movie hits, it's also one of their best films. To quote Leonard Maltin describing "Peter Pan," "it's a film in which everything clicks." Visually, it is almost overwhelming -- on the big screen, recently in 3D, on DVD and now on Blu-ray, where every details sparkles.

Much is said about the pros and cons of using "name" celebrities for voices. "Finding Nemo" stands as a great arguement for using them, if they are well cast. Few animated films of any kind boast such an on-target cast, from the stars to the always great character actors and voice actors who fill out the company.

It's also one of those films that, once you get started watching it, you simply have to keep watching, no matter how many times you've seen it. The story is 99% fat free, every sequence moving logically from one to another. This is Pixar at its best, and also the master influence of Walt Disney and Hayao Miyazaki at work.



So if you want to behold its majesty in Blu-ray, this new release is highly recommended. Even though there is a DVD in some sets, which you can use in the car or the computer, if you love bonus features and want to keep them equally accessible, than hang on to your 2-Disc Collectors Edition. The Blu-ray seems to have a few new features, but most of it was imported from the last edition and does not reappear on the new DVD.

There was also a 168-minute "visual commentary" on the earlier edition that has been reconfigured on the Blu-ray into a "Cine-Explore" that now runs the 100-minute length of the film. I cannot itemize every element to assure that the edited material was placed elsewhere on the Blu-ray, so again I'm keeping my earlier edition.

New option on Blu-ray and DVD:
English Descriptive Audio Service

2012 Blu-ray Bonus Features

Cine-explore (shortened visual commentary)
Reinventing the Submarine Voyage
Deleted Scene: Alt Opening
A Lesson in Flashbacks
Knick Knack Theatrical Short
Aquarium
Finding Nemo - A Filmmakers' Roundtable
Selection of Virtual Aquariums
Art Review
Documentary: Making Nemo
Exploring the Reef
Studio Tour
Old School
Outtakes
Deleted Scenes
Publicity Pieces
Mr Ray's Encyclopedia

2012 DVD Bonus Features
Knick Knack Theatrical Short
Finding Nemo - A Filmmakers' Roundtable
Aquarium

2003 2-Disc DVD Collectors Edition
Widescreen movie
Documentary: Making Nemo
Visual Commentary (with Deleted Scenes, 168 minutes)
Design Galleries (Art Review; Characters; Environments, Color Script)
Selection of Virtual Aquariums
Introduction with filmmakers
Full Frame movie
Aquarium
Exploring the Reef
Knick Knack Theatrical Short
Mr Ray's Encyclopedia
Fishharades Game
Storytime
Behind the Scenes (Character Interviews, Studio Tour, Publicity)







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.






MAJOR NELSON TAKES FINAL BLAST OFF
Blog, News and Events, TV
Posted on Nov 24 2012 by Greg
USA Today and TV Week never mention it. To the New York Times it's was his "breakthrough," yet not even part of the article text.

To millions of us who grew up enjoying reruns of I Dream of Jeannie, five times a week or more, Larry Hagman was Major Nelson, who went on a space mission. The missile went up, but something went wrong and they had to bring it down. He landed on an island in the South Pacific, where he found a bottle. Or at least it looked like a bottle, but it didn't act like a bottle. Because in it was a Jeannie, who could grant any wish...

My point is that, though there's no denying the impact of Dallas on Larry Hagman's career and pop culture, I Dream of Jeannie is likely to endure longer in our hearts.

And memories. I have spent most of my life saying "Yeees" the way Major Nelson did to Dr Bellows. When my wife asks me a question that I can't answer, my reply is "It's an experiment, uh, that Major Healey and I are working on."



Add to that the occasional exclamation of "JEAANNAAAAY!" when riding thrill rides or when things in life go awry, and you get my point.

Yes, Dallas is current, Dallas is and was big. But remembering Larry Hagman is more than mentioning J.R. over and over. It's also like the Shuttle being shipped off to L.A., the last vestige of the space program. So much more than mere trivia.



"Master, are you not pleased?"
"Yeeees." 






"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









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