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.
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...
TALES OF EARTH, SEE?
Posted on Mar 16 2011 by Greg
For those of us who cherish the films of Studio Ghibli and especially the master animator Hayao Miyazaki
, it's always something of an event when a new film comes out. Tales from Earthsea
is such an event, though it's actually the first film directed by his son, Goro, but according to the brief special feature doc, the Ursula LeGuin
fantasy book and short story series was long envisioned by the senior Miyazaki as an animation project -- with Ms. LeGuin very much in favor of the full Ghibli treatment for her creation.
And that it does. Tales from Earthsea
is a grand epic fantasy with astonishing design and scope. Though cel animated, CG is also used to enhanced the movement over ground surfaces, for depth and other imagery that would be more cumbersome (if possible) to be done by hand. It must be made clear that the CG serves the 2D animation rather than overwhelm it, much as it did in Beauty and the Beast
and The Great Mouse Detective
, only on a much bigger scale.
I'm no expert on the Earthsea
stories, but from what I can estimate from various synopses, this film takes several characters and situations and crafts its own cohesive storyline, avoiding the intense intermingling of characters and arcs that weave throughout the LeGuin works. Overall, the film stands on its own, though we are left with a few loose ends here and there.
Few movies have the layered intelligence of Tales from Earthsea
, with its musings on life, death and human existence within a very engrossing story about a youth who starts out on the run because of a murder he can't explain. He's mentored by an elder wizard and do some farming as well engage in as swashbuckling action...well you have to see it.
Perhaps in part because this Earthsea is Goro's first feature as director, it's been released at the same time as a new Blu-Ray version of Miyazaki's first feature directed for Studio Ghibli, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
(I would assume an Earthsea
Blu-ray is forthcoming).
Completely by coincidence, Nausicaa
takes on a staggeringly prophetic tone in the shadow of recent natural and man-made disasters in Japan, making it all the more hard-hitting as allegory.
Virtually all of Miyazaki's film convey this theme with varied intensity. In Nausicaa
, pollution and industrial waste is the major element as this fantasy world is plagued by a deadly poisoned jungle and the relation between people and animals, in this case bug-like creatures that young Princess Nausicaa understands and champions.
The film is lentgthy for an animated feature, yet does not flag or sag. It's an overall dark story without much humor, but the subject matter holds little room for flippancy. The voice cast, showcased on one of the bonus features, matches that of a major Hollywood live action movie, the case including Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman
and Edward James Olmos
For DVD owners, you will find that a few of the bonus features have been moved to the new disc. But again, Blu-ray especially accentuates that remarkable, meticulous detail of the world of Nausicaa and the imagination of Miyazaki.
"BAMBI DEER?" "YES, HE IS, DARLING."
Posted on Mar 09 2011 by Greg
Sorry for the Police Squad
The great thing about a great film is its ability to elicit a nostalgic response in addition to taking on a new meaning with each new viewing.
again after a few years, this time with my own family on the new Diamond Edition
, brought back the memories of each time I saw it in the past (this goes back to the 1960s) and how it resonated then and still does now. This is perhaps the closest an animated film comes to being a moving painting, a work of art in motion. Yet, Bambi
is even more than that because the effect is more than visual.Bambi
has one of the most powerful and imitated musical scores in the film industry. Let's face it, when "man in in the forest," it might as well be Jaws
. And while its last two songs are more a part of the 1940s period in which it was first released, the first two, "Love is a Song" and "Little April Shower," are masterworks, in their composition and execution.
The main observation I took away from seeing Bambi
this time around was how much it reminded me of a Hayao Miyazaki
film in tone and design. There are many held cels, pausing for emotional effect much like anime, and the environmental theme has had decade-long ramifications. I wonder if the great Japanese animator was inspired by this film in particular.
The one aspect of Bambi
that was played down over the years has been the voice cast. No voice cast received less credit in a Disney animated feature, as was Walt Disney
's plan at the time, because it was felt that knowing the voices detracted from the animated characters (which is arguably true, especially in this age of star voices). But it's nice that the cast has been revealed more recently and can be researched elsewhere, though not so much in the DVD, except for some comments on a bonus feature.
The person I would like to bring into the spotlight here is Paula Winslowe
, who embodied the warmth and strength of Bambi's mother flawlessly with impeccable diction and remarkable depth in so few lines. It may surprise fans of the golden age radio classic, The Life of Riley
, that Ms. Winslowe played the long-suffering yet loving wife, Peg, to William Bendix
's Chester A. Riley -- a fine example of her versatility.
The new Blu-ray is stunning, as the film itself is, and features a new interactive feature that allows you to access additional material on your laptop while the film plays (in addition to a few new bonus features). Most but not all of the older bonus material presented on the previous two-disc DVD, but I'm keeping my old one to keep all the features.
Props to the people at Walt Disney Home Entertainment for not being completely Blu-ray-centric for those who still cling to standard DVD by including the newly-enhanced "Inside Walt's Story Meetings" feature, which replaces Patrick Stewart
from the earlier version (another reason to keep the old DVD set) and adds about 26 additional minutes of expert, on camera commentary and a constant stream of supporting visuals that fly by on the screen as the entire film plays. This sort of feature appeared on the recent Blu-ray of Alice in Wonderland
and it is a terrific experience. Kudos to the people who worked so hard on it. Maybe this kind of feature, which is like an audio commentary only very visual, needs a catchy name like "ArchiveVision." I hope more Disney titles include this fine feature.