Monday, December 31, 2012

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 104 - WALL-E

This week the DFPP team finishes off their second year by taking a trip on board a luxury starship and learn that with a bit of hope, love, and some help from their robot friends that humanity will endure in the 2008 animated adventure Wall-E.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Babes in Toyland Blu-ray Review

Considered one of the greatest of the Disney Christmas movies, Babes in Toyland is a timeless classic.  It is the first live-action musical made by Walt Disney, and is a start to a great studio tradition.  Based on the Victor Herbert operetta of the same name, this film adaptation was not the first, but it quite memorable and enjoyable.  Ward Kimball, who brought the film to life, was not a huge fan of the structure of Herberts story.  So he restructured it to make the story flow better and be far more understandable to the movie going audience.  Many agree it was a success.

Sadly though you won’t find any information about the movie on this Blu-ray.  The release contains no special features at all.  This is a shame on many levels - as you know I’m not a fan of wasted space on Blu-rays.  That said, this release contains a newly digitally restored version of the film that has warmed hearts for more than 50 years now.  If you’re a fan and want to see a very crisp and clean version of the movie you’ll want to get a copy.  If you’re satisfied with a copy you already own there’s no other reason to purchase at this time, unless you manage a good sale.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Odd Life of Timothy Green Blu-ray Review

The Odd Life of Timothy Green is probably one of the more unique movies to be released this year.  I knew this from the moment I first saw it that it was something special as I mentioned in my initial review of the movie at On the Go in MCO.  It’s a timeless, warm, caring movie that will walk you through a gamut of emotions that the whole family can appreciate.  If you’d like to learn more about the movie you can listen to Episode 86 of our podcast.  And since December 4, 2012 it’s been available on Blu-ray.

The first short on the Blu-ray is titled This is Family, and it’s a piece where we learn that to make the Greens a believable family, and the town of Stanleyville a believable corporate family.  Ahmet Zappa tells us about the movie he wanted, about a couple that can’t have children that suddenly get one.  We learn that Peter Hedges took the idea and ran with it and helped foster the family of the movie.  Actors talk about how they all loved making the movie and working together and working with Hedges.  The entire piece does a fantastic job of giving the sense of the special nature of this film.

This is followed up with The Gift of Music which is a discussion about the music in the movie.  We get a good look at how movie score composer Geoff Zanelli worked to create the main score of the movie as well as other character oriented works in the film.  Then Hedges tells us about the song “The Gift”by Glen Hansard, and how he worked with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus to create the song.  Hedges notes that Hansard just immediately understood the special nature of the story of the film and how to translate it into a song that captured that meaning.  A music video of “The Gift” can be found on the Blu-ray.

There are also a number of deleted scenes on the Blu-ray which seem to imply that the story as originally filmed was slightly different than the end result.  I really don’t want to give away the difference, but once you’ve seen the movie and then these deleted scenes you’ll likely spot the differences.  Overall I think it was smart to change the movie the way they did it makes the end more impactful and meaningful.

If you’re looking for a good family movie to add to your collection, you can’t go wrong with The Odd Life of Timothy Green.  It’s certainly not a movie for everyone, but it is a movie that I truly do enjoy and I’m glad to have added to my collection.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 103 - The Santa Clause

This week the DFPP team is called to the North Pole to help repair the time folding apparatus in Santa’s Sleigh in order to prevent this from being another year without a Santa Claus in the 1994 comedy The Santa Clause.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 102 - Up

This week the DFFP team takes Listener Choice winner Betsy on an all expenses paid  trip to Venezuela via Cluster Balloon Air and finds that true adventure and companionship are closer than you may think in the 2009 animated adventure Up.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Full Court Miracle Review by Briana Alessio

This 2003 Disney Channel Original Movie is a holiday film based on the true story of college basketball star Lamont Carr.  However, this is not to celebrate Christmas as most Disney “holiday” movies are categorized under.  This celebrates Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday which does not seem to receive adequate attention around this time of year.  Full Court Miracle brings us the story of an average family whose son in yeshiva (an Orthodox Jewish seminary – thank you Google, because I had no idea) strives to be a basketball player. 

Basically, the main character Alex Schlotsky plays for a beyond lousy basketball team who wants to improve its potential.  He sees a man practicing on a court and begins speaking to him.  This man does not want anything to do with the kid.  Alex returns home and finds out he is Lamont Carr, a former college basketball player.  After continual persevering and begging, Carr finally gives in and agrees to coach them for a while (for $20 per session).  The first coaching session is quite hysterical, involving his demand that the kids run back and forth from one side of the court to the other.

The relationship slowly builds throughout the film between Carr and the kids.  As we see these acquaintances turn into friendships, we discover more about Carr’s background.  Not only has he been living out of a van, but there is also a scene where he longingly gazes at a picture of who appears to be his wife and child.  We realize they are out of his reach, as there is a particular sadness and hurt in his eyes.  From here, Alex and Carr not only assist each other professionally, but they also help each other develop their personalities to realize what their hearts truly need.

The cast is not well known but the film is well cast.  Alex is played by a kid of the same first name, Alex Linz.  Linz seems to have been strictly a child actor, since he has not appeared in anything since 2007.  We did see him perform in Home Alone 3 (as, once again, a kid named Alex) and One Fine Day among others.  Richard T. Jones, who gives us Lamont Carr, has appeared in a few episodes of the revamped Hawaii Five-0 among various television shows.  He has also been in quite a few films including the fantastic 2011 science fiction film Super 8.  Linda Kash who plays Alex’s mother Cynthia has played the Unsinkable Molly Brown in the 2012 miniseries Titanic.  In addition, she has appeared in many television shows including Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Cybill.  Jason Blicker, who plays Marshall Schlotsky, has also starred in films such as The Day After Tomorrow and Superstar.

Stuart Gillard directs the film.  Gillard has directed many pieces including a 1987 episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color called The Return of the Shaggy Dog.  He also gave us 1997’s RocketMan and mostly TV movies including Avalon High and a handful of episodes of the remake of 90210.

This film is not entirely serious but has many comedic moments as well.  For instance, Alex’s family invites Carr to the house for dinner.  I believe they serve him Gefilte fish which he is cautious to try at first, then realizes it is delicious.  Watching Alex force the yamaka (also seen spelled as yarmulka or yarmulke) onto Carr’s head is also worthy of a chuckle.  Alex’s father brings a few laughs to the film with his dry humor.  When Alex was searching for a new home for Carr, he questioned his father as to whether his condo had new tenants yet.  Mr. Schlotsky replies with, “The last serious offer I got, I was riding my pet dinosaur.”  This looks like a simple line yet it is delivered with near perfection and simplicity.

1.)  Sean Marquette who plays Big Ben Swartz has voiced Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the Ultimate Spider-Man video game released in 2005, as well as the character Pence in the video game Kingdom Hearts II, also released in 2005.
2.)  The character Alex Schlotsky is based on Lamont Carr's former player Alex Barbag.
3.)  When the team members are comparing PSAT scores, they list numbers in the thousands (1540, 1600, etc.), however PSAT scores range from 60-240. The SAT is measured in the thousands.
4.)  The movie is supposed to take place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  However, during the playground/basketball scenes during the team’s practice, the CN Tower and Sky Dome are both seen.  They are located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
5.)  Although we are led to believe this film takes place around Hanukkah (late November-late December), leaves are shown on trees and shrubs are in full foliage.  In Philadelphia, where as we said the film is supposed to take place, the leaves have disappeared from the trees by late October. 

My favorite part of the film occurs during a scene where Mrs. Klein walks into Rabbi Lewis’ office and begins to rearrange items on his desk.  He nonchalantly says to her, “Please don’t straighten my desk.”  She proceeds to walk out, and Rabbi Lewis looks toward Heaven with a helpless look on his face with both arms out to the side in frustration.  This scene was built to create a comedic feel and that it certainly did.  While on the topic, my absolute favorite character was Rabbi Lewis.  His comedic timing was spot on, and his compassion for Alex and the team was refreshing.

Full Court Miracle brings many smiles, many heartfelt moments, and possibly a couple of tears.  After all, this is a Disney production.  I enjoyed this film immensely and would definitely watch it in the years to come.  That being said, I also wish to express a personal belief that there are fewer Hanukkah based films than there should be.  Not just talking Disney here but in general.  There are an absolute TON of Christmas films (not saying I have a problem with this being I’m a Christian/Gentile), BUT there are a large number of faiths out there besides Christianity.  Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc should be represented more in films.  Maybe Disney can start the trend!  To summarize, this film is well worth seeing to bring a light of joy to your heart.  Be sure to see it.

Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends!

My Rating:  4/5

Don’t do that.  Don’t put yourselves in a box – ever.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 101 - Full-Court Miracle

This week the DFPP team and their friends Aaron and Theresa decide to learn the finer points of basketball in an attempt to discover the true meaning of the miracle of Chanukah with the aid of a magical generator in the 2003 TV movie Full-Court Miracle.

Listen, download, etc.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Finding Nemo Blu-ray Review

Finding Nemo is the sort of movie that everyone seems to enjoy.  One that has high replay value and can already be found in the movie libraries of many homes.  It’s a movie about family, about being a parent, about adventure, about being lost, and about finding your way.  The emotion contained within is great, and it has captured many a heart.  It’s one of those movies I remember rushing out to buy when it came out on DVD, and now it’s the latest in a series of Blu-ray upgrades to my movie library.  If you’d like more information about the movie itself, don’t forget to check out Episode 90 of the Disney Film Project Podcast.

This release contains a lot of content, some old and repackaged, and some new.  So much that it overflows onto a second “Bonus” Blu-ray - much of the original DVD Collectors Edition content can be found here.  One interesting feature that can be found spanning both discs are scenes called Aquariums.  They can be accessed via a menu selection or a fish symbol found on the bottom of all menus.  They’re nice to watch and really show off the high definition that Blu-ray provides.  But only one scene has fish in it, which I sort of felt was disappointing.  

There’s a Filmmaker’s Roundtable feature where 10 years later Stanton, Unkrich, and their team sit around a table and literally talk about the movie and some of the decisions they made and why.  Stanton discusses how he was trying to invoke the same sort of feelings as when Bambi loses his mother. They take a look back at their research trip to Sydney and how they did scuba diving on the great barrier reef.  In a moment of excitement they discuss how excited they were when the seagulls found their characteristic “Mine!”  

Reinventing the Submarine Voyage discusses the history and recreation of the Submarine Voyage ride in Disneyland to the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.  You get to see the creation of the submarines themselves and how they were built at a real shipyard.  A look back at the live mermaids that used to swim around in the lagoon.  And how they decided to close the ride until they could come up with a way to re-invent it.  This was almost done when Atlantis: The Lost Empire came out, but was abandoned when the movie didn’t do well in theaters.  After a nautical engineer inspected the old subs and said they had at least 50 more years of use they were re-invigorated.  And how when Finding Nemo came out, the deal was sealed.

You can watch via storyboards an Alternate Opening to the movie that consists of Marlin watching over Nemo as he sleeps.  There’s also a piece called A Lesson in Flashbacks where Andrew Stanton discusses how his original idea for the movie was to tell Marlin’s story up until the point where Coral dies as a series of flashbacks throughout the movie.  The idea is still one he hopes to use one day, but it was abandoned when it didn’t play well with audiences.

On the Bonus disc you will find Mr. Ray’s Encyclopedia an interactive book where you can learn about the real life counterparts of the fish stars of the movie.  In addition to a number of production outtakes you will also find a Glenn McQueen Tribute about the Pixar team member who died during the production of Finding Nemo and where Lightning McQueen gets his last name.  And don’t miss the commercial for the Aquascum 2003.  

If you don’t already own a copy of Finding Nemo, but want to, this is a great release to grab a copy of.  It is chock full of content that will have you watching and listening for a while.  If you’re like me it makes an excellent high definition upgrade.  Finding Nemo itself is just a great movie all around and you really can’t go wrong owning a copy of it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Prep & Landing: Totally Tinsel Collection Blu-ray Review

Back in 2009 was when we first got to see Wayne and Lanny save the day back when Prep & Landing was first aired on television.  It’s creator Chris WIlliams had the idea to write a modern holiday special that played homage to all the great specials of the past.  When you watch it you’ll see how a great idea can really come together and be something special.  This was followed in 2010 by Operation: Secret Santa and again in 2011 by Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice.  Now all 3 of these and more can be found in the Prep & Landing: Totally Tinsel Collection blu-ray release.

In addition to all 3 specials, you will also get the short Tiny’s Big Adventure where Tiny the elf has to go get Magee some more coffee.  There are also some shorts that will take you through some lessons from the “Kringle Academy” - the place where the elves of Prep & Landing learn and hone their skill and become “the few, the proud, the merry.”  And learn their final test the Tannebaum Trials and how to “... not disrupt the silent night.

Also found on the Blu-ray are some newsreels about events that are going on at the North Pole.  You can also watch some commercials from the North Pole television station that give you some insight into the various products and places you see in the Prep & Landing Specials.  Including one all about Christmas Carol’s the bar featured in Naughty vs Nice.  This all rounds out with some production pieces that were originally shown on television to promote the specials.

Overall this is a very complete collection of the specials, shorts, and other related pieces.  If there’s a piece of the Prep & Landing universe missing on this blu-ray, I don’t know what it is.  Fans of P&L will very likely want to own a copy of this release to help consolidate their collection.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Get Rich Quick

The evolution of Goofy as a lead character has been one of the most fun things to watch as I’ve been going through these shorts.  When you see the Dippy Dawg version of the Goof early on in his career, during the Mickey Mouse barnyard sequences, it’s hard to foretell the George Geef version that we see during the 1950s.  Becoming the every man, though, was a crucial element of Goofy’s evolution.  In Get Rich Quick, he’s experiencing something that we all have from time to time – the temptation to find an easy way to make money.

In the 1950s, getting rich quick didn’t mean creating a .com that you ended up selling for lots of money.  No, Goofy instead goes after wealth the only way he knows how – gambling.  The whole short is about how Goofy finds any way possible to gamble, no matter how big or how small.  It lends itself to some very inventive and cool gags, such as when Goofy emerges from an alley way dice game in a barrel, making you think he’s lost everything.  Instead, it turns out he needed the barrel to carry all the cash he won!

This is a short where the animators were clearly having some fun creating ways for Goofy to get into trouble with gambling.  There is a rather epic moment where Goofy confronts a slot machine that happens to be in his path.  Letting the slot machine take on the characteristics of a human being is an inspired choice that allows Goofy to face a real adversary instead of the figurative one of “gambling.”

The entire short contains gags that we have not seen in many years from the shorts.  Another example is the way that Goofy enters a poker game.  With all his cohorts gathered around a table, there’s a wall of cigar smoke floating up from the table.  Goofy manages to enter the fray by opening the smoke like a gate, then closing it behind him.  That sort of gag has been exceedingly rare ever since the early days of the Mickey shorts, but it shows what Disney’s crew could do when allowed to let their imaginations run a bit.

The final coup de grace, though, comes when Goofy gets home, and is confronted by his wife.  She is outraged to find him gambling, at least until he says that they can use all the money he won, which is promptly claimed by the wife.  The quick turnaround from yelling at the Goof to figuring out how she will spend the money is a stereotype, but a funny one.  It’s a great short from start to finish that really allows Goofy to inhabit the every man role and let the animators use some great visual gags to tell a great story.  In short?  It’s Disney.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 100 - Who Framed Roger Rabbit

This week the DFPP team celebrates their 100th episode by heading to Toontown to visit with some old friends and finds that at the heart of every good murder mystery is a love story and some patty cake in the 1988 comedy Who Framed Roger Rabbit.