Home

SLEEPING BEAUTY (DIAMOND EDITION) (Blu-ray)

Leave a comment

SleepingBeautycoverGrade: A-
Entire family: Yes
1959, 75 min., Color
Disney
Rated G
Aspect ratio: 2.55:1
Featured audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD Copy
Bonus features: C
Trailer

Sleeping Beauty was the last of the Disney films to use hand-inked cells, and the last film that Walt Disney personally supervised. Which is to say, Sleeping Beauty was both the last great film from the classic era of Disney animation, and a herald of even greater things to come. And though it’s one of the first trilogy of Disney princess movies (following Snow White and Cinderella), it captured the attention of young boys because it featured one of the all-time great Disney villains in Malificent—who now is the subject of a new live-action retelling on the order of Wicked.

Set in the 14th century and adapted from Charles Perrault’s version of the tale (Perrault also wrote the ballet which Tchaikovsky scored), Sleeping Beauty is actually closer in structure to the fairy tale related by the Brothers Grimm, who inspired Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Sleeping Beauty relates the story of a king and queen whose baby is cursed by a malevolent witch with the promise that before the child’s 16th birthday she’ll prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die! Maleficent (voiced by Eleanor Audley), one of the is a sorceress with spiral-horned headgear and flowing black gown who can vanish into thin air, transform herself into fire or a creature, and send minions scurrying with jolts of lightning from her staff. She both frightened and captivated children when the film first showed in 1959, and she’s likely to do the same for another generation.   More

MILLION DOLLAR ARM (Blu-ray)

Leave a comment

MillionDollarArmcoverGrade: B+
Entire family: Yes
2014, 124 min., Color
Disney
Rated PG for mild language and some suggestive content
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Featured audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Includes: Blu-ray, Digital HD Copy
Bonus features: C-
Trailer

My family liked Million Dollar Arm as much as any Disney sports movie. It has a Jerry Maguire structure, a Bollywood vibe, a likable cast, laugh-out-loud moments, and a lead actor who shows us the vulnerable flip side of his Mad Men character.

Million Dollar Arm is the eighth based-on-a-real-story sports film that Disney has made this millennium, following in the footsteps (or hoof tracks) of Secretariat (2010), Invincible (2006), Glory Road (2006), Miracle (2004), The Rookie (2002), Snow Dogs (2002), and Remember the Titans (2000). And it’s a worthy successor to those films.

Jon Hamm is cast against type as sports agent J.B. Bernstein, who quit his job at a large agency to form a partnership with Ash Vasudevan (Aasif Mandvi). But they’re running out of time and the future of their struggling, fledgling business, as in Jerry Maguire, seems to rest with one player. In this case it’s an NFL star named Popo (Rey Maualuga) whom Bernstein is wooing, big-time.

But at the same time, to buy time with an impatient investor named Chang (Tzi Ma), they come up with the gimmick of having a contest in India to find the two best, hardest throwing cricket players to bring to America and convert into baseball pitchers.

That really happened to Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, who appeared on a 2008 reality TV show called Million Dollar Arm and became the first Indians to play baseball in America. Only Patel made it to the majors, though, and he only lasted a short while. None of that makes it into the film. Million Dollar Arm is all about the relationship that forms between the agent and his prospects.  More

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (Blu-ray combo)

Leave a comment

FaultinOurStarscoverGrade: A-
Entire family: No
2014, 126 min., Color
Twentieth Century Fox
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality, and brief strong language
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UV Copy
Bonus features: B
Trailer

Augustus “Gus” Waters wants what most teens do: to make a mark on the world, to be famous, to be somebody the world will mourn when he’s gone. That’s ridiculous, 16-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster says. The world will end and no one will be around to remember even its most famous people, much less the billions who, despite grand aspirations, never fulfilled their dreams. But both of them fear oblivion, and in a cancer support group they find in each other an unexpected love.

Entertainment Weekly called it “The greatest romance story of this decade,” and I can see why. It’s this generation’s Titanic—only cancer is the iceberg that sinks their boat. Though it’s about teens, narrated by a 16 year old, and based on a young adult novel by John Green, The Fault in Our Stars has a much wider appeal because cancer is not age- or audience-selective. It affects the lives of so many, and this film reassures people that it doesn’t matter if you’re not famous enough to make history (or reality TV, for that matter). In the end, what matters is that your passing is remembered by ONE person—which reinforces that relationships of any kind are more important than accomplishments.   More

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (Blu-ray)

Leave a comment

TheWinterSoldiercoverGrade: B+
Entire family: No
2014, 136 min., Color
Marvel Entertainment
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay, and action throughout
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1
Bonus features: C+
Trailer

Superhero films are the exception to many parents’ rules against too much violence, because even without the “BAM” or “SOCK” graphics we got from TV’s campy Batman episodes, it’s understood that superheroes aren’t real and so neither, by extension, is the violence. It’s why younger children climb onboard to watch a film that, were it a straight action flick, might have been taboo.

But Captain America: The Winter Soldier does something no superhero movie has even attempted: it picks up the superhero and plunks him down right in the middle of a ‘70s conspiracy thriller. That makes sense, actually, because Captain America is probably the most human and normal of all the Marvel superheroes. He’s a regular guy who was made stronger and faster through medical experimentation, the U.S.’s attempt to counter Hitler’s “Master Race.” His only weapon is a shield that he throws like a Frisbee.

Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely were heavily influenced by espionage thrillers such as Sydney Pollack’s Three Days of the Condor, while directors Anthony and Joe Russo wanted to push the superhero movie beyond the simple nemesis-driven plots we typically see. How unusual is it for a superhero NOT to appear in just about every scene of a superhero movie? But of course it isn’t unusual for that to happen in more complex thrillers.

The Winter Soldier takes its title from a Soviet agent that Captain America (Chris Evans) goes up against, but that assassin (Sebastian Stan) is only one piece of the puzzle in a complex plot that twists and turns like Steve Rogers own souped-up DNA.   More

BLENDED (Blu-ray)

Leave a comment

BlendedcoverGrade: B
Entire family: No
2014, 117 min., Color
Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content and language
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UV copy
Bonus features: B-
Trailer

Sometimes you just have to ignore the buzz. Our family had heard that Blended, the latest Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore comedy, wasn’t all that good. But hey, I said, we loved them together in The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, so let’s give it a chance.

We did, and our whole family was entertained—enough to watch it again in the future. Yes, there were some cheesy spots and a few gags that fell flat, but that’s the nature of comedies—especially those that try to balance humor with warm fuzzy moments.

So I’m going to have to disagree with my colleagues at Rotten Tomatoes that gave this film a crappy 14 percent “rotten” rating—meaning only 14 critics out of 100 liked it. The telltale sign is that 66 percent of the Rotten Tomatoes readers liked it, and audiences aren’t looking to criticize. They’re just looking to have a good time. So were we.

Blended won’t be for everyone, though, because it does try to do the impossible: to make a family movie that’s also adult, insomuch as it’s full of put-downs, sexual innuendo, and slapstick that bounces back and forth between the adult and juvenile realms. Running gags include the girls’ boyish looks, one “blended” couple’s get-a-room antics, a 15-year-old girl’s flat chest, and a boy’s babysitter and dirty magazine fetish. Blended is rated PG-13 for “crude and sexual content and language,” and parents who are uncomfortable letting their children watch films like that will want to take a pass.

But you know what? The juggling of adult and family content is the realistic theme of this film—and the bulk of it takes place at a South African resort specializing in blended families, one which makes no bones about wanting to keep (or rekindle) the flame between the mother and father so that they don’t just think of themselves as 24/7 parents.  More

THE ORIGINALS: SEASON 1 (Blu-ray)

Leave a comment

OriginalscoverGrade: B+
Entire family: No
2013-14, 929 min. (22 episodes), Color
Warner Bros.
Rated TV-14
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Featured audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UV copy
Bonus features: B
Trailer

The Twilight novels and films opened the floodgates for a vampire resurgence, and in The Originals: Season 1—a spin-off from the popular CW series The Vampire Diaries—we get more vampire drama . . . and violence.

Like The Vampire Diaries, this spin-off is rated TV-14, which means that the ratings board thinks American 14 year olds are cool with seeing heads lopped off, hearts ripped from chests, and vampires biting off fingers and pieces of flesh. It’s an ultraviolent show that will probably still give young teens more than a few nightmares. So don’t let the TV-14 label fool you. While there isn’t nearly as much sex in this first season of The Originals as we saw in the original series that inspired it, it seems as if people (or vampires or werewolves) are constantly being brutally butchered and tortured.

At least it’s not as soapy as The Vampire Diaries. There’s melodrama and stand-and-talk monologues, but the situations aren’t nearly as cheesy—maybe because romantic entanglements are deemphasized.   More

BEE PEOPLE (DVD)

Leave a comment

BeePeoplecoverGrade: B (what else?)
Entire family: Yes
2014, 102 min., Color
True Mind
Not rated (would be G)
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Featured audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features: B-
Trailer

I don’t know of too many families that say they sit down and watch documentaries together, but I do know plenty that watch reality shows on TV, and this title is for them.

Bee People looked like a film that was going to tell me more about something that I already know: that honeybees are in steep decline, and that anyone who appreciates the little things in life (like flowers, fruits, vegetables . . . trees) ought to be worried. In other words, I expected a documentary with the usual blend of voiceover narration, “bee-roll,” and talking heads.

We get some of the information, but really, Bee People comes closer to a reality show like Treehouse Masters, where you follow an amiable and fun-loving expert (or two) as they go about their business—in this case, answering calls to remove beehives from unwanted locations, relocating “swarms,” establishing new hives for people willing to host them, visiting schools and conventions, mentoring new beekeepers, and shadowing other bee people to see how they do it.

Bee People does have a thesis: if these creatures who’ve survived millions of years without much evolution are going to continue to survive and provide the help with pollination that’s essential to life, it’s going to take more beekeepers. And rather than a small number of beekeepers with huge numbers of hives it’s going to take a village of beekeepers, one every two square miles.   More

Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 66 other followers