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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







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.







MORE GOLDEN GOODIES FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Blog, TV, Music, Records
Posted on Nov 19 2012 by Greg
One of the nicest things about the holidays is that music is allowed to have the variety it had when I was growing up. You have rock, blues, jazz, easy listening, you name it, all playing together in the form of various artists enjoying their spin on either favorite holiday carols, well known songs or original tunes. Musically, during the holidays, when something is "retro," that means it's "cool," to paraphrase Wreck-It Ralph.



That's the glorious appeal of the new CD, A Very Merry Golden Records Christmas. The folks at Verse Music, with the input of Tony Shimkin, son of Golden Records founder Arthur Shimkin, crafted a collection that spans over two decades of the 20th century yet has its feet planted firmly in the 21st.

Like those great Columbia, RCA and Capitol holiday albums many of us collected at Goodyear, True Value Hardware, Grants and other retailers, A Very Merry Golden Records Christmas features celebrity performers, many of whom may startle you with their versatility. Vintage Golden tracks have been lovingly restored, their charm given a modern touch with such names as Cheryl Hines, John O'Hurley, Missy Pyle and even Dermot Mulroney (who sounds somewhat like Eddy Arnold). For the younger set, Didi Conn chirps songs that were once sung by the likes of Captain Kangaroo and Anne Lloyd.

Speaking of the Captain, his sidekick Mister Greenjeans (Lumpy Brannum) returns in one of several unchanged (yet enhanced) recordings, "Crackerjack Christmas," a tune I remember seeing him lipsync on the CBS show.

Four stories, three from Golden Books, are presented with fully orchestrated backgrounds by Hines, Busy Philipps and Ed Asner. In addition, a marvelous musical version of A Christmas Carol, originally told by Howdy Doody and later, the aforementioned Captain, is now told in "Toy Story's Rex" style by his voice, Wallace Shawn.

Two additional albums of completely restored Golden Records selections, with such vintage artists as Mitch Miller, The Sandpipers, Anne Lloyd, Art Carney and others, are available as Timeless Golden Records, Volumes 1 & 2.









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.









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