Monsters, Inc. 3D

Posted on December 18, 2012 at 6:00 pm

A
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: G
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril, cartoon violence
Diversity Issues: No strong female or minority characters
Date Released to Theaters: December 19, 2012
Amazon.com ASIN: B001NN4162

According to this movie by the “Toy Story” folks at Pixar, that monsters are more afraid of children than children are of monsters. But monsters need to collect the screams of children to fuel their world, and children are getting so hard to scare that the monsters are suffering from rolling blackouts. What can they do? Top scarer John “Sully” Sullivan (voice of John Goodman) and rival Randall Boggs (voice of Steve Buscemi) work as hard as they can to break the scream-collection record. But when Randall inadvertantly lets a human child into the monster world, the monsters find out what being scared is really like.

This movie is utterly delightful. It should be put in the dictionary to illustrate the word, “adorable.” It has the same delicious mixture of heart, humor, and technical wizardry that made “A Bug’s Life” and the two “Toy Story” movies into instant classics. Like Jim Henson, who decided to make his “Sesame Street” characters monsters so that children would never be afraid of monsters again, the people behind this movie have created monsters that even the shyest child will find completely unscary. In fact, kids may decide that multiple heads, removable eyes and hair made from snakes are kind of cute.

Sully and his sidekick, Mike Wazowski (voice of Billy Crystal) are just a couple of nice guys proud of their work trying to do their jobs (except for filing the paperwork, which Mike never seems to get to). When Boo (voice of Mary Gibbs) sees Sully, she runs after him, shouting “Kitty!” At first, Sully is scared of her, but then he gets to know her and they become good friends.

 

 

Parents should know that there is some mild peril. A scene in which biohazard workers in yellow jumpsuits and hoods disinfect a monster who came in contact with a child’s sock is scarier now than it would have been before the terrorist attacks and the nightly news about anthrax. Parents should be prepared for questions. There is a little bit of potty humor. All of the “scarers” are male. But overall, this is just what a G movie should be and wonderful fun for the whole family.

There are lots of terrific DVD extras, including background info, a music video, ideas that never made it onto the screen, and a game. You’ll also get a sneak peek at next summer’s animated feature. Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland and the Toy Story movies.

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Black History Month: DVDs for Families

Posted on February 4, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Great choices for Black History Month from Scholastic:

Duke Ellington… and more stories to celebrate great figures in African American history.

The DVD includes gently animated and beautifully narrated versions of four books about important figures in black history.

Duke Ellington Forest Whitaker reads this tribute to one of the 20th century’s most celebrated and influential musicians.

Ellington Was Not a Street Phylicia Rashad reads Ntozake Shange’s story about growing up amidst many of the great figures of African-American history.

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa She had an exquisite voice and unsurpassed musicianship to use it like a jazz instrument. Billy Dee Williams tells the story of how she got her sound.

John Henry Samuel L. Jackson reads the story based on the famous legend and folk ballad about the hammer-driving man who could beat anyone, even the machine.

March On!… and More Stories About African American History

March On! The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s story is lovingly told by his sister, Christine King Ferris.

Martin’s Big Words  Dr. King’s story shows how big ideas compellingly described change the world.

Rosa A brave woman decides to be the one to lead the fight against segregation in this story of Rosa Parks.

Henry’s Freedom Box Henry “Box” Brown was a slave who mailed himself to freedom in a daring escape.

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Based on a book Based on a true story For all ages Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families
pirates20of20penzance.jpg

The Pirates of Penzance

Posted on September 19, 2010 at 10:00 am

Celebrate “Talk Like a Pirate Day” by talking like these delightful rascals!

pirates%20of%20penzance.jpgFebruary 29 (Leap Day) comes only once every four years, a calendrical adjustment that is of the utmost importance in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. It seems that Frederic, mistakenly apprenticed to pirates (his hard-of-hearing nurse misunderstood when his parents told her to take him to be apprenticed to pilots), is pleased to be out of his indentures when he turns 21. But then it turns out that while he has lived 21 years, because he was born on Leap Day, he has only celebrated his 4th birthday.

For some ridiculous reason, to which, however, I’ve no desire to be disloyal,
Some person in authority, I don’t know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal,
Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February,
twenty-eight days as a rule are plenty,
One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as nine and twenty.
Through some singular coincidence – I shouldn’t be surprised if it were owing to the
agency of an ill-natured fairy –
You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement, having been born in leap-year,
on the twenty-ninth of February;
And so, by a simple arithmetical process, you’ll easily discover,
That though you’ve lived twenty-one years, yet, if we go by birthdays,
you’re only five and a little bit over!

Celebrate this quadrennial occasion with a viewing of the delightful The Pirates of Penzance.

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Comedy For all ages Musical

Toy Story 2

Posted on March 31, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Wow.

WOW!

“Toy Story 2” is stunning, witty, exciting, enchanting, and very moving. Amazingly, it is even better than the sensationally entertaining original.

The animation is better — the facial expressions of the main characters should qualify the animators for a “Best Actor” Oscar and the backgrounds are more authentically lived in. But most important, the script is better. It is very, very funny, with sly references to Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jurassic Park and even Rear Window. But it is also insightful and touching, with a sort of “Velveteen Rabbit” theme about the importance a well-loved toy plays in the life of a child.

Woody (again voiced by Tom Hanks) is stolen by Al (voice of Wayne Knight) an evil toy store owner, who recognizes Woody as a valuable collectable. With Woody to complete the full set of toys from a 1950’s television show (deliciously re-created), Al can sell them all to a toy museum in Tokyo. Woody is delighted to find out his origin and value, and to meet up with “Woody’s Roundup” co-stars Jessie (voice of Joan Cusack), Stinky Pete (voice of Kelsey Grammer), and his faithful steed Bullseye. They tell him that he will be better off in the museum than waiting for Andy to outgrow him, and he starts to think they may be right.

Meanwhile, Woody’s friends from Andy’s house have organized a rescue mission led by Buzz Lightyear (again voiced by Tim Allen). After a series of hilarious and breathtaking adventures, they arrive to rescue a Woody who is not sure he wants to be rescued.

In these days when 8 year olds can talk knowledgeably about the extra value a mint tag adds to a Beanie Baby auction on Ebay or the market value of 20 different kinds of Pokemon cards, it is enormously valuable to think about the issue Woody must face. Should he have a brief but satisfying life as the beloved friend of a child who will eventually grow up and leave him bereft? As Jessie says with some bitterness, “Do you expect Andy to take you on his honeymoon?” Or should he remain perfectly preserved and perpetually honored as a museum exhibit? Ultimately, Woody concludes that “I can’t stop Andy from growing up, but I would not miss it for the world.” And Buzz agrees: “Life is only worth living if you’re being loved by a kid.” This is an enormously satisfying and meaningful point for a child — or a parent, especially as we face the holiday season avalanche of ads and gifts. Just as it is important for the toy, it is important for the child to love and respect the few toys that are really precious and think about what it is that makes them so special. As The Little Prince says, “It is the time you have wasted on the rose that makes it so important.”

P.S. As I type this, my Raggedy Ann and Andy, given to me on my 10th birthday, are smiling at me from across the room.

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Action/Adventure Animation Comedy For all ages For the Whole Family Series/Sequel Superhero

Scholastic: A Night Before Christmas (with Hannukah and Kwanzaa)

Posted on December 7, 2009 at 8:00 am

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating: NR
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Mild peril
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to DVD: 2009

My very favorite series has a special family treat for the winter holidays. Clement Moore’s classic poem about Santa Claus is read by Anthony Edwards. Theodore Bikel reads “In the Month of Kisley,” a delightful Hannukah story about a poor but happy family who teach a wealthy man the meaning of the holiday, featuring some clever insights into family happiness and a very wise judge. In “Seven Candles for Kwanzaa,” the Pinkney’s story and illustrations teach us the values of family, history, and community that each of the nights of the holiday symbolize, with Alfre Woodard narrating. Ed Martinez tells us about how Maria might have lost her mother’s ring in the “Too Many Tamales” she is making for Christmas dinner (Spanish and English narration). The set also includes three other Christmas stories: “Max’s Christmas,” “Morris’s Disappearing Bag,” and “The Little Drummer Boy.”

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Animation Based on a book DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Early Readers Elementary School For all ages Holidays Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families
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