Thursday, 4 November 2010

Beauty and the Beast

It has been a beastly day one of those days when you wish you were somehow able to stop the treadmill and catch your breathe for a moment, a day when life moves too fast and you just want to sit and reflect and relax with the children for an hour or so rather than rush around like a demented blue bottle, getting the homework done, feeding them the hungry hordes whilst at the same time watching the clock feverishly before dashing them hither and thither to sports clubs, and their other numerous social engagments. It is with relief then I see Friday looming on the horizon like a lifeboat and the promise of a night spent flopping in a heap on the sofa and watching something with an exciting story followed by a happy ending and eating homemade pizza and popcorn together with the phone unplugged and the lights down.

Tonight we have an old favourite of Eldest and mine on the evenings agenda, "Beauty and the Beast". When she was little we spent many a happy wet autumnal afternoon enjoying the antics of talking teapots and truculent tureens but it was a story I never thought to introduce the boys too, I'm not sure why, possibly as I thought it was too girly? Anyway thanks to the frequent cinema performances put on for free to local schools my boys met Belle and Gaston in the old black and white 1950's version recently and came home full of it and demanding to know why we had never watched the Disney version, so I was very pleased to get the new Blu ray Disney version to make up for my tardiness as entertainments officer.

Set in an 18th century French village , not unlike the one we live in, they were wrapped from the very begining of the story and who can blame them it as after all one of the most acclaimed Disney films and in Blu ray it is even more enticing. For my daughter it was the sweet Belle who captured both her and the Beasts heart for the boys it was the daring do of it all and the hilarious caperings of furniture and cutlery rahter than the love interest that engaged them.

So if you want an evening of light hearted entertainment why not escape with us to an enchanted chateau somewhere in France and experience the magic that is Disney. Of course if you are lucky enough to watch it on Blu ray then there are all sorts of extra bonus features, with the story behind the story, family fun and games with the Enchanted Challenge: A Disney Quest Game and- Bon Jour, Who is This? A Disney TelePlay Game as well as deleted footage to enjoy.

Come along be our guest and enjoy! Indulge yourself in an old fashioned fairytale and wallow a bit in Disney Nostalga !! its a real tonic after a hard day in the modern world!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Frog Prince with a dash of Cajun for added spice.

I never really liked the fairy story of the Frog Prince, I thought the princess was terribly spoiltmean to the poor Frog and really did not deserve anything except perhaps a good slap after the way she behaved, but boy oh boy I was relieved as anything this weekend to be the happy recipient of a copy of the new Blu-ray DVD of Disney's The Princess and the Frog when my neighbours small children became our unexpected overnght guests, leaving their young Mummy and Daddy to make an unscheduled dash to the hospital for the arrival of the children's new baby sister.

We hadn't had a chance to sit and watch the movie en famille so thank God you can rely on Disney to deliver something that will amuse the entire family without fear of either the young ones having nightmares or the older ones groaning. The Princess and the Frog is wonderful fun and I never thought I'd hear myself saying that in public! It truly is a return to the old beloved Disney style complete with great comedy, foot tapping hip jiggling New Orleans blues and enough colour, action and excitement to keep even our smallest monosyllabic critic happy. It is full of life and no nonsense 2D animation of the ilk of Snow White and the early classics which gives the old fairy tale a new and unexpected twist which improves the story no end. If you do not believe me then WATCH THIS and tell me you aren't enthralled too.

Being Blu-ray of course it comes with enough added features to keep the little monsters happywhilst I rustled up some munchies, well Louis the Alligator wasnt the only one being made hungry after all the Cajun cooking and prawn gumbo!!So I left the audience to enjoy
and the Deleted Scenes,The Making Of A Princess, Conjuring The Villain , and the Princess Portraits Game whilst I conjured up some magic of my own in the kitchen in the form of yummy beignets , the doughnuts for which the French market in New Orleans is famous.

As it was baby sister made her entrance just after the movie was finished so we celebrated Princess style with warm sugar coated beignets and threw our own impromptu party in her honour toasting her with glasses of warm milk.

If you want to learn more about this exceptional movie then CLICK HERE oh and if you everwondered how to kiss a frog prepare to pucker up THIS IS HOW ITS DONE... well you never know when your Prince will come adn its best to be prepared

Monday, 14 June 2010

Follow the White Rabbit

When I was a smallish child I grew up in an old house filled with a vast array of victorian books including very old copies of Lewis Carrolls Alice in Wonderland and Through the looking glass. I loved those books, the heavy smooth paper, the wonderful binding and although the text with its small archaic type face was too far beyond my young years to decipher, the illustrations by Sir John Tenniel , a political cartoonist and illustrator were fascinating. There was something corrupted and wicked in them and to my mind quite terrifying and threatening and I could never understand why anyone thought it a sweet childs tale, and thought I was the only one who saw something evil beyond all the flamingos and eat me cake until that is I saw Tim Burtons movie last weekend. To me Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the looking glass held a dark depth which no one else seemed to pick up. Tim Burton obviously agreed.

The boys had seen the movie in the Uk and raved about it but I was dubious and did not pay much attention so when someone gave us a copy of Tim Burtons Alice in Wonderland to watch I wasn't expecting much more than a sanitized version of the orignal story with very little more than a cursory nod to the original text or illustrations. I was somewhat suprised to hear Johhny Depp was doing Alice but then he has kids so perhaps I thought he wanted something cute and white rabbity for them to watch. Frankly I suspected Burton and Depp had sold out to Disney. How wrong I was.

After the beginning of the story which was to my taste is a trifle too sweet and threatened to become something akin to a BBC childrens period drama, I was relieved to find it was no sugar coated bedtime tale but that it was scattered with the potential to descend into dark drear tale of my childhood memories .

Not only did the appearance of the characters stick closely to the original illustrations, the playing cards could have walked off the pages, but he preserved for me what was its very essence of the creeping unpredicatable events and pointless cruelty of the action. There has been a lot of criticism of the production, it isnt as witty perhaps nor as vicious as the book can be and admittedly the red queen was far from ugly( but then how could Helen Bonham Carter ever look ugly?) and her appearance owed more to the Duchess in the book than the red queen but you beleived her when she screamed off with their head, ok well you got the general impression it was a possibility that someone may well lose a head without going so far as to need to cover your eyes in case they did.

There were plenty of references that Lewis Carrol would have recognised although some were a bit muddled, it is the Duchess not the Red Queen who has the pig ( her baby changes into one) and the Duchess too has an oversized head but to an audience who are not overly familiar with more than the bare bones of the story then it works well. Alice follows a white rabbit falls down a Rabbit hole and discovers a world turned upside down.

I am not sure that for my taste the end is not too neat and a little heavy on modern mantra that as long as one is true to oneself then all will be well but it is certainly a movie that the boys want to see again and again and is worth watching if only for the wonderful visual spectacular treats that Tim Burton delivers. see this trailer and let me know what you think

Incidently did you know that Lewis Carrol suffered from severe Migraines and it is thought that the weird and strange plot is a result of those rather than a drug induced haze... mind you on the other hand the blue caterpillar does smoke an opium pipe so who can say....

I think its one to watch and has the makings of a Disney Classic....but then it is my kind of madness and I am quite partial to a world turned upside down.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Remember Dumbo?

Hands up who remembers Dumbo?

Everyone remembers songs like "When I see an Elephant fly "surely? The enchanting tale of the big eared baby pachyderm ?And if you are too young to remember any of that then you really ought to go and watch it if only for glorious retro art work in the Roustabouts song scene and the incredible art work through out. A bit of nostalgia is good for the soul.

Dumbo was Disneys 4th big animation feature in its animated classic stories series , described as a full length feature production it falls a bit short at 64 minutes but is just the right length for younger viewers and in its new cleaned polished and sparkling Blu ray edition it is a joy of 1940's animation artwork. The animator, Bill Tytla, who painted Dumbo, used a water colour background and it is this return to the simplicity that gained it a reputation as being one of the great masterpieces of American animation. Using watercolours for the background gives more artistic freedom to the animators than oil and acrylics, it was later used to great effect in Lilo and stitch as well. Bet you didn't know that did you?

It wasn't all plain sailing though, there were complaints that it was too short but Disney refused to change it and to complicate matters at the time of production some of Disney studio staff were on strike demanding a pay rise. If you take a good look at the drunken clowns going to see the circus boss asking for a raise and you will see those strikers caractured .

So is Dumbo worth watching again or is it a bit passe for modern taste? Well we all enjoyed it even visiting twenty something niece but do not take my word for it. Go on, look at this clip and see what you think . It is an extract from the French version, just to add a bit of foreign culture to your day... and talk of adding something to you day, watch this clip of the pink elephants dancing, bizarre or what? Hmm someone I suspect had been drinking too much coffee or popping more blue smarties than they should have very techno and before its time!

Now settle down with your popcorn and snuggle down on the sofa and prepare to be entertained 1940's style..

Dumbo is avaialble from price about £15.99 for the special edition not bad for an evening of retro techno !

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Toys are back in Town

One of the joys of having 3 kids is that you get to watch all the old movies of Eldest's childhood with youngest who can not remember seeing them first time around if in fact he ever saw them at all. Hence, when looking for something to amuse after a hard day at the end of a rather traumatic week I was especailly thankfully that the nice people at Disney have afforded me the pleasure of watching the newly jigged and jiggled blu ray version of Toy Story

Toy Story was released in 1995 , we first bought it on video, now long warn out and defunct and I have been meaning to replace it with DVD's but am glad I didn't. I am not one for hype and following the crowd but the updated images on Bluray are so much crisper and cleaner, the colours brighter and the whole thing much more entertaining on a High Definition screen . HD Blu ray really is magic in high definition as youngest put it , "its as good as 3D without having to wear the silly glasses".

The story is as you will probably know, is about a group of toys who belong to Andy and the arrival of Buzz Lightyear, a spacetrooper toy, who threatens to take premier spot in Andy's life ousting Woody the cowoy from the top toy position. The plot is fun and fast enough to amuse young and old with lots of good clean fun and situations that kids can relate to. Hidden below the facade it is a tale with important messages for kids about belonging, respect and support and the value of learning to work together as a team. All for one and one for all. All of which reinforce the French education ethos nicely for my small Anglo/French brood.

But the tale does not end there Toystory 2 has all the old characters and a lot more as well...Middle roars with laughter at Stinky Pete for his appalling farting abilities ( every boys delight) where as Mr Potato head wins hands down for me. I had a Mr Potato head and we seem to have collected over the years an entire hoard of the related Toystory toys from kindly teenage cousins ,happily intent on munching their way through hundreds of Hamburger happy meals so that they could pass the toys on to our brood! Toy Story 2 has lots of action bringing the outside world very much into the toys lives with dramatic chases and last minute rescues. Someimes sequels are dissapointing but not here the story grows up just as my small audience have grown up and the animation is even better than Toy Story 1.

Just as a footnote... one of the great things about these movies on Blu ray is the added bonus features and it is interesting with to see the artistic and produciton crew describe how Pixar had such trouble producing the original movie for Disney failing badly and producing a real non starter trying to fit into what they felt was the Disney Ethos and not suceeding until they did it their own way. It just shows as I always tell the boys, you do better to be yourself to trust your own instincts if you want to suceed and boy did they suceed!We can't wait for Toy Story 3 which is due for release in July in the Uk ( earlier inJune in the USA).

If you havent seen them before then do go and get the two Toy Story DVDs ( preferably on Blu ray it really does make a difference!) before the new one arrives so that you can refresh your memory and reunite with all your old friends. here are a couple of trailers to remind you what you are missing..Toy Story 1 and Toy Story 2

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

A Great day for Up!!

When our brood were small some of the regular stars of story time were Dr Seuss's books . Designed to combat the rising tide of illiteracy with only 250 words in their vocabulary they grabbed the imagination of even the tiniest and most timid fledgling reader with their fantastic illustrations and barmy humour .They are full of fun. Kids like fun and generally speaking they are good at it too and can find it in the most unexpected places.

The great advantage that children have over us mere adults is the ability to see things that are everyday and boring as something magical and wondrous, the ability as Seuss put it to look at the world through the wrong end of a telescope and laugh at life's realities. It is something I think that Disney Pixar have turned into an art which is why perhaps they have produced such amazingly captivating characters in their feature animations.

There is a lot in this film that reminds me of Dr Seuss stories, they share the endearing eccentricities of plot, the wonderful wit , the zanny illustrations , characters like the rather odd bird called Kevin and other idiosyncratic beasts like Dug the talking dog .Seuss's books were brimming with get up and go-ishness without making any moral obvious they oozed encouragement for kids to follow their dreams and be themselves no matter how weird others may find them and generally they did not pussy foot over the nasty bits nor lie and say life is always going to be fun. Kids can spot that sort of untruth a mile off.

The Movie "UP" does not pussy foot over the nasty bits either. It is a film about about fallen heros lost dreams and finding love and happiness in unlikley places. I do not want to ruin the plot for you nor uncover too many of the little comic treats it holds therein but let me say that Not for nothing did this movie win 2 academy awards including best animated feature. So if you have children or want something to keep your inner child happy then I can think of no better way to do that than for you to go and get yourself your own copy of "Up", and if you need even more encouragement then click on the clickable links in this review above and watch the trailers.

On a technical note of course one of the joys of blu-ray is that all the extra space it has for bonus features like the making of the movie which you don't get on an ordinary dvd and which to visual thinkers and must know how its done freaks like youngest and I is better than popcorn as a movie watchers treat! So if you do not have a Blu-ray player then its about time you got one because you are missing out on lots of fun.
ps you may also want to buy a box of tissues just incase that inner child needs a good wail at some of the sad bits not to mention laughign till you cry at the funny bits too.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Locked in

Last night we sat up late after a jolly good evening out en famille, smaller family members in bed and fast asleep, this is not ,for a change, a childrens movie, we watched a film all the more moving for being based on a true story and poignantly emotional for me as it reflected memories of my own fathers illness and my childhood. The film has won much acclaim including best director awards at both cannes film festival and the golden globes and a bafta for best adapted screen story

It was of course" La Scaphandrew et le Papillon" or to give it its english name"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and is based on the story of Jean-Dominque bauby editor of magazine Elle ( for the trailer of teh english version see here who suffered a massive and unexpected stroke which left him paralysed and only able to communicate with his eye. Left trapped and mute inside his body which had in effect become his prison he recounts his feelings and interpretation of his world by means of blinkng his left eye in response to the letters of the alphahabet repeated to him by a transcriber , blink by blink Jean-Dominique told his story . Thee book took 10 months to dictate 200,000 blinks all edited and composed in his own words. He died shortly after it was published.
It is beautifully written, beautifully filmed, heart wrenchingly sad and an amazing insight into the head of a stroke victim able to hear and understand, but locked in his diving bell unable to reach the world ouside.
Do watch it .

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Blu suits me

We have had a film fest since I last dallied here and have watched dozens of films some quite old like "Australia " with Nicole Kidman and Hugh jackman (that is him below yes I know you probably knew that already but I just wanted to see that smile again...ok where was I oh yes lusting over colonials...)

to Coraline which frankly is rather scary with her nasty alterantive family with button eye fetishes and very clever tinkering with minds! Well worth seeing for the bonus features showing how it was made which is one long and wildy exciting into the mind of visual thinkers.

Oh and then of course we had the best of the new Disney releases which small visitors and family members watched again and again like Santas snow puppies ( see the trailer here) call me a soft touch but who could resist the mix of snow and chubby labrador puppies at Christmas!! Oh and do not forget G force with its hyper intelligent spy guinea pigs. it has been made all the more wonderful by our watching them on HD TV via Blu ray. Wow, 3D glasses do nothing for me but Blu Ray brings the whole thing alive!
I am not one for modern gimmicks we must have been one of the lat amongst our friends to get a DVD player and I am a real ludite when it comes ot modern techno things but I am a convert and my friends Blu ray is the way to go ! Brighter better images make the whole thing come alive. I have no idea how it works but it has me hooked.