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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

Hotel for Dogs

Posted on April 28, 2009 at 8:00 am

Cute kids + cuter dogs = one doggone cute movie.

Emma Roberts (niece of Julia) stars in the movie based on the popular book by Lois Duncan about an orphaned brother and sister who rescue stray dogs.

Andi (Roberts) and Bruce (Jake T. Austin) have bounced around from foster home to foster home since their parents died. No one wants them because they insist on staying together. They are currently living with nasty would-be rock stars (Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon), who padlock the kitchen cupboards, as their sympathetic social worker Bernie (a terrific Don Cheadle) tries to find them a better situation. They do their best to take care of their beloved dog Friday, even if it means lying, cheating, and stealing.

When Friday runs into an abandoned hotel and meets up with some stray dogs, the kids decide to turn it into doggie heaven. Bruce, a mechanical whiz, rigs up machines to handle the dogs’ needs (eating, exercise, and going to the bathroom) and their fondest desires (racing to see who’s at the door, riding in cars, howling at the moon). With the help of some new friends from the pet store and the neighborhood, they round up all of the local strays, creating their own family of humans and canines. And that is when things start to get out of hand.

It goes on a little too long, but the kids are appealing, the contraptions are very funny, the dogs are adorable, and the affection, loyalty, and resilience of the characters is touching and inspiring. It’s a family treat.

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Based on a book Comedy Elementary School For all ages Tweens
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