Add to My Yahoo! Add to Google Subscribe with Bloglines Subscribe in NewsGator Online

BLOG TRACKS

CHRISTMAS SPECIAL RADIO PANEL ON "TV CONFIDENTIAL"
Blog, News and Events
Posted on Dec 23 2011 by Greg
The weekly radio show about television, past and present, TV Confidential, is devoting its second hour this week to TV specials and holiday episodes of TV shows.



I'll be on the panel with author Joanna Wilson, actors Tony Figueroa and Donna Allen Figueroa and host Ed Robertson. The show plays on various stations throughout the country this week and will land in the podcast next Wednesday.

Here is the broadcast schedule:

WROM Radio
Sunday 12/25
8pm ET, 5pm PT

Share-a-Vision Radio
KSAV.org
Friday 12/23
7pm ET, 4pm PT
10pm ET, 7pm PT

The Coyote KWTY-FM
Ridgecrest, Calif.
Sunday 12/25
10pm PT
Monday 12/27
1am ET

InternetVoicesRadio.com
Tuesday 12/27
11:05pm ET, 8:05pm PT


The podcast of this episode will appear on Wednesday 12/28 and can be subscribed to at itunes or by clicking here.







"ROCKETEER ROLL CALL, COUNT OFF NOW!"
Blog, Movies
Posted on Dec 21 2011 by Greg
There hasn't been a whole lot of fanfare, but for fans of Dave Stevens' graphic novels and Joe Johnston's 1991 Disney big-screen spectacular, the appearance of The Rocketeer on Blu-ray is somewhat of an event.



On the package is a sticker proclaiming, "From the director of Captain America." Clearly this release is piggybacking on the successful 2011 film -- and the two films seem, at least to me, inextricably linked by their setting and their director.

But why did The Rocketeer run out of propellant while Captain America blasted the box office? The most obvious reason is that the Marvel character has had more mainstream visibility, though the '60s cartoon and '70s live-action series incarnations of Captain America were not exactly stellar. It's also a tricky matter to set a film in WWII, or during the '40s and make it resound with younger audiences.

Just because The Rocketeer wasn't a smash, it isn't fair to dismiss it as some did back in the '90s. Actually, it's quite a fine film, with a likable cast led by Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly and Alan Arkin, as well as a scene-chewing tour-de-force performance by Timothy Dalton -- clearly having a grand old time playing a thorough rotter.

The Rocketeer has very good effects for its time, superb art direction and photography, and one of the best background scores of the last several decades. I highly recommend the soundtrack album of James Horner's sweeping score. You can also hear this music as the Epcot fountains dance regularly, as well as in countless movie trailers for other releases.



Hopes were just a little too high for The Rocketeer. Disney was looking for a huge franchise, so a well-done, nicely received film wouldn't cut it. Even though Johnston only mentions The Rocketeer once briefly in his Captain America commentary (alas, he did not do one for The Rocketeer Blu-ray -- there are no extras to speak of), clearly the director learned and developed over the years.

Perhaps the main issue between the two films is tone. The Rocketeer is highly stylized and inconsistently campy with a hero who's a little too cocky for his own good, while Captain America is a hybrid between retro, comic book and contemporary action movie style, with a much more sympathetic hero.

But if you haven't seen The Rocketeer in Blu-ray, prepare for a treat. The spot-on animated sequence, the lavish nightclub scene, and even the sarcophagus-like dwelling of the villain are as vivid as can be. You just have to approach The Rocketeer as a jaunty romp and enjoy the ride.









THEY GET BY WITH "THE HELP" OF THEIR FRIENDS
Blog, Movies
Posted on Dec 16 2011 by Greg
I'm sure I cannot add more to what has already been said in praise of the book and the movie versions of Kathryn Stockett's The Help, except perhaps to note that once I met a group of people in a restaurant and the film came up. They brought up Minnie's "terrible awful" incident and I asked, "Haven't you wished that just once you could do that to someone, sometime?" The reaction was unanimous amid riotous laughter.



The Help takes place in 1963 -- the same as season two of Mad Men -- but this is set in the deep south, as the civil rights movement was gaining national notice, violence was on the rise> And while some thought the injustices would never end, others were either unaware of them or looked the other way.

Emma Stone, as Skeeter, discovers far more than she really thought about. It simply wasn't discussed. When she embarks what seems to be a simple story idea, it grows to a living, breathing work that attacks the social and political abyss to a more personal, more identifiable level. Not only are the two ladies who are her narrativer touchstones (played to Oscar perfection by Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis) real "iron chefs" in courage, endurance and moral integrity, they're people with faults, wounds and talent. And a sense of humor -- perhaps the best survival tool of all.

While the institutionalization of bigotry depicted in The Help is a experience too heinous to be understood fully except by those who suffered through it, most of us at some time has been wronged by a boss, a co-worker, teacher, parent or any person who held sway over our fate (or made us feel that they held sway). You can't help root for Abileen and Minnie, as well as cheer when the most loathsome character (played to the glorious hilt by Bryce Dallas Howard) is taken down more than a few notches.

To me, The Help is also a story about the power of the written word. Yes, it's a movie, and the visuals are superb, but Skeeter's book is the catalyst that finally sets so much in motion. While we now live in an age of high tech and endless visuals, words can still change history, especially when those words bring issues to the personal attention of those who might be otherwise unaware of them.

There is no audio commentary on the discs, which is unfortunate, but the behind the scenes featurette is among the best of its kind.   The Help is the work of mutual friends who somehow were allowed to create this great work together despite the obstacles of the publishing and film businesses. I have never heard of a similar story quite like it.

The Help -- and the story behind The Help -- are never to be forgotten.







ONE OF TV'S FIRST ORIGINAL MUSICALS - FINALLY ON DVD!
Blog, TV, Music, Records
Posted on Dec 14 2011 by Greg
I have to admit to being more than a little misty-eyed after finally getting a chance to watch the original, live 1956 musical, The Stingiest Man in Town, now on DVD. I had first seen the Rankin/Bass animated remake in 1978, then found the 1956 Columbia cast album and listened to it for 30 years, never expecting to actually see the live show itself -- unless maybe I got to visit the Paley Center and they had it in their library.



To my delighted amazement, Video Artists International located an astonishingly nice-looking kinescope with excellent sound -- and that sound is largely due to a certified Disney Legend: Tutti Camarata.

Tutti was the conductor of this special 90-minute live presentation on The Alcoa Hour. His ear for acoustics surely influenced how distinct the instrumentation come across, even in this vintage kinescope. In 1956, Disneyland Records had just begun, with Tutti as artists and repertoire director. You can hear his style in The Stingiest Man in Town, as well as what was likely some arrangements by Maury Laws, whom Tutti told me could have likely done some chart work for the special (the soaring violins in "An Old Fashioned Christmas" are just like the ones Laws created for such Rankin/Bass specials as Rudolph and Frosty).

You have to get a feel for the temporal context to fully appreciate how ambitious this live show truly was for its period. This was the day of Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason and other vaudeville-type live variety shows, as well as legendary live dramas on Playhouse 90 and Studio One. Walt Disney's filmed series was less then two years on the air, Mickey Mouse Club was in its second season and Howdy Doody was still an NBC staple.

Mary Martin's TV tradition of Peter Pan had begun a year earlier (as live shows until it was taped in 1960) and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella would premiere a year later (live with Julie Andrews, then taped in 1965 with Lesley Ann Warren). I can't confirm this for sure, but that makes The Stingiest Man in Town very likely the first -- or at least one of the first -- original musicals created especially for television.

Director Dan Petrie (A Raisin in the Sun, Sybil, Eleanor and Franklin) worked with in what appears to be a very limited space, with tight, elemental, movable sets. (Notice the clever transitions, such as Basil Rathbone sinking off camera in the graveyard while a "stand-in" hand grasps the tombstone, enabling Rathbone to race back to the bedroom set for his next scene.)

The cast, crew and orchestra clearly had a short rehearsal time to perform a show of this scope -- and that's what makes live TV so amazing. The cast, orchestra and chorus are right there, and if the singer misses a cue or changes tempo, the accompaniment has to keep up. Keeping all of this in mind, what unfolds is a remarkable achievement that was largely forgotten for decades, unless you happened to have the cast LP -- or this superb CD reissue.



Young audiences may not sit still, at first, for the black-and-white, low-def, leisurely paced kinescope experience of the original Stingiest Man -- more akin to a filmed stage show than a modern recorded and edited production. But if you can impress upon them the importance of these programs, how they paved the way for what we take for granted today (especially technical advances) and just enjoy the pure talent involved, they may find themselves beguiled.

These are some of the greatest Broadway talents of their day, top popular singers and of course, the great Rathbone, with a truly memorable musical score conducted by one of the most respected names in the music industry.



It might be fun if you watch this along with the Rankin/Bass animated remake (available in the above 2008 DVD set) and listen to the cast album. In an ocean of Dickens Christmas Carol adaptations, this particular version is one of the all-time finest.







WHAT'S THEIR NAME? IS IT "PREP" AND "LANDING?"
Blog, TV
Posted on Dec 02 2011 by Greg
Have you ever heard someone refer to Remy as "Ratatouille?" I haven't but I've overheard it. But I must confess that I have had trouble remembering that "Prep and Landing" is the name of this recent addition to the holiday TV season, but the lead characters are named "Lanny" and "Wayne." (Maybe I get it from my Mom, who calls one of her favorite TV shows "Bad Men" starring "Don Hamm."

John Lasseter and the Pixar artists have often expressed their fondness for the work of the Rankin/Bass production company, who still hold the record for the highest number of holiday specials, and the highest-rated ones, too. Prep and Landing is inspired by the perennial joy of seeing favorite specials every Christmas season, yet it wisely does not try, as others have with varied success, to emulate the Rankin/Bass model. There are loads of little nods -- including the distinctive lettering that has become ubiquitous yet began with Anthony Peters' work for Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Paul Coker, Jr.'s designs for other Rankin/Bass shows and numerous greeting cards.



Thought it was created through Walt Disney Animation, Prep and Landing is bears the fruit of collaboration with Pixar. The half hour show even seems like a Pixar short film,or Monsters, Inc.  The amusing extra features are much in the style of Pixar, with cute training films (though without the spot-on acerbic edge of the Krusty Krab Training Film episode of Spongebob Squarepants), news reports and commercials. I love this kind of clever stuff and I hope they keep doing it.











<< Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 Next >>


BACK TO BLOG HOME

CATEGORIES:

BLOG TRACKS

WHAT DO YOU DO?

MOVIES

TELEVISION

THEME PARKS & STAGE

PEOPLE

MUSIC & RECORDINGS

COOL DOWNLOADS

DISNEY RECORDINGS

BOOKS & COMICS

OTHER NEAT STUFF

ARCHIVES

Home | About Us | Contact Us | Book Purchase | News & Events | Blog Tracks | Greg's Picks | Links

Mouse Tracks - The Story of Walt Disney Records