Angela Lansbury Becomes a Dame — The Queen’s Honours List 2014

Posted on January 1, 2014 at 3:42 pm

The magnificent Angela Lansbury will become a Dame (female equivalent of a knighthood), announced today as a part of Queen Elizabeth II’s annual honours (British spelling) list.  From her earliest appearances as the insolent maid in “Gaslight” and Elizabeth Taylor’s older sister in “National Velvet” to her performance as the icy villain in “The Manchurian Candidate” and in the Broadway musicals “Mame” and “Sweeney Todd,” she has been a fascinating presence with brilliant work in every genre, even the cozy mysteries of “Murder She Wrote.”  Cheers to the new Dame Angela!


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Actors Awards

Beauty and the Beast

Posted on January 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: G
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Beer, scenes in bar
Violence/ Scariness: Some scary moments with wolves, fighting
Diversity Issues: Theme of not judging by appearances
Date Released to Theaters: January 13, 2012
Date Released to DVD: September 20, 2016 ASIN: B004WE01YA

“Beauty and the Beast” is one of Disney’s most beloved fairy tales and the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.  This week Disney celebrates its 25th anniversary with a splendid new DVD release that includes some special extras. 

Ultimately, what makes “Beauty and the Beast” so winning, though, is its story, characters, and songs, which need no restoration.  They are as fresh as ever.  Clever lyrics by the late Howard Ashman are a delight, with a brute singing about how he decorates with antlers or the stirring Oscar-winning theme song played as the couple dances alone in an enormous ballroom.  And it is a joy to revisit the timeless pleasures of traditional Disney storytelling, with no attempts to add sizzle from celebrity voice talent or radio-friendly pop songs.  The movie’s roots are in Broadway, with performances from Tony-winners Angela Lansbury and Jerry Orbach and tuneful ballads from composer Alan Menken, including the rousing “Be Our Guest” and the joyous introductory “Belle.” Notice the way that only Belle wears blue in the opening scenes, helping to set her apart from the people in her village.  We know before she does that she and the Beast have something in common when we see that he also wears blue.

Belle (voice of Broadway star Paige O’Hara)  is the book-loving daughter of an absent-minded inventor. She wants “more than this provincial life” and the boorish hunter Gaston, who hopes to marry her.

Lost in the woods, Belle’s father stumbles into what appears to be a deserted castle. But the castle is inhabited by the angry Beast, once a prince, now under a spell that will last forever unless he finds love before he turns 21. The same spell turned all of the human staff of the castle into objects — a clock, a candelabra, a teapot, a mop.

The Beast, furious at being seen by an intruder, locks Belle’s father in the dungeon. Belle comes after her father and offers to take his place. The Beast accepts, lets her father go, and tells Belle she must stay with him forever.

At first antagonistic, she begins to find the Beast appealingly gentle and kind, wounded in spirit, rather than cruel.  He shares her love of books.  Back in Belle’s village, Gaston tries to get Belle’s father committed, saying that his talk of the Beast shows he is delusional.  Belle, home on a visit to care for her father, proves that the Beast exists to show that her father is telling the truth.  The townspeople are terrified and form a mob to kill the Beast.

In a fight with Gaston, the Beast is badly wounded. Belle tells him she loves him, which ends the spell. He becomes once again the handsome prince, and they live happily ever after.

Parents should know that this movie has some scary moments when Belle is chased by wolves and when Gaston and the townspeople storm the Beast’s castle.  It appears briefly that the Beast has been killed.  Characters drink beer and there are scenes in a bar.

Family discussion: Gaston and the Beast both wanted to marry Belle — how were their reasons different?  Why did the prince became the beast and what did he have to learn before he could return to his handsome exterior? What did Belle have to learn? What made her decide she liked the Beast?

If you like this, try: Some of the other movie adaptations of this story. One of the most lyrically beautiful of all films ever made is Jean Cocteau’s version of this story, “Belle et Bete.” The Faerie Tale Theatre version stars Susan Sarandon and Klaus Kinski, and is very well done.

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3D Animation Based on a book Classic Comedy DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week For the Whole Family Movies -- format Musical Romance
The First Olympics

The First Olympics

Posted on February 8, 2010 at 8:00 am

Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating: NR
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Tension, some injuries
Diversity Issues: Recognition of the prejudices of its era
Date Released to Theaters: 1986
Date Released to DVD: July 21, 2012 ASIN: B001A4YNPI

As we prepare for the London games, I highly recommend:

The First Olympics: Athens 1896, one of my very favorite sports movies ever, is a made-for-TV miniseries about the first modern-day Olympics. We take the Olympics as a given now, but there were 1500 years between the time of the ancient games and the establishment of the modern Olympics with countries from all over the world putting aside their political differences for athletic competition in the spirit of good sportsmanship and teamwork. Showing the origins of everything from the starting position for sprinters to the impulsive selection of the Star Spangled Banner as the U.S. national anthem, the story is filled with drama, wit, and unforgettable characters, sumptuously filmed and beautifully performed by a sensational cast that includes then-unknown David Caruso of “CSI,” one-time Bond Girl Honor Blackman, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, and Louis Jourdan. It was a Writer’s Guild and Casting Society award winner when it was first released. It is a great introduction to the games, a thrilling and inspiring story, and outstanding family entertainment.

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Based on a true story DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week For Your Netflix Queue Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families Rediscovered Classic Sports
Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Posted on September 7, 2009 at 8:00 am

Based on the book by based on the book by Mary Norton (also the author of The Borrowers,” Bedknobs and Broomsticks is the story of three Cockney children evacuated from London during WWII, who are placed with Miss Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury), though she is reluctant to take them and insists it can only be temporary.
Miss Price is completing a correspondence course in witchcraft and has reached the level of “apprentice witch,” permitting her to fly on a broomstick. When she takes it out for a spin, the children see her, and, threatening to expose her, persuade her to let them into the magic. She then enchants the bedknob so that when it is twisted, it will take them wherever they want to go. When she receives word that the correspondence course has been canceled, she and the children go off together in search of the teacher, Professor Brown (David Tomlinson). He joins them, as they travel on the bed, first undersea and then to an island in another dimension, where the inhabitants are talking animals. On the island, they find the necklace containing the secret magic words they need for a spell to make intimate objects behave as though they were alive. Home again, they use that spell to fight off Nazi invaders. Afterward, Miss Price retires from witchcraft and Professor Brown joins the army, but it is clear they have become a family.

Many of the people behind “Mary Poppins” worked on this movie. While it does not have the same magic as “Mary Poppins,” there are some delightful moments, especially as Miss Price struggles to master basic witchcraft skills. The animated scenes on the island are done with a great deal of verve and imagination, especially the fast-moving slapstick of a soccer game featuring animal athletes, including an ostrich who sticks his head into the field whenever trouble approaches. The movie is long and episodic, and so lends itself well to viewing in shorter segments for restless younger children.

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