Tag Archives: Arts

Blu-ray Review: “Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection”

51lVJMqX5mL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]Boasting wonderfully silly storylines, a maddeningly addictive theme song, and distinctive stop-motion clay animation in the CGI era, Aardman Animation’s Wallace and Gromit have gone to the moon, won Academy Awards, and even gotten their own full-length motion picture — but they’ve never gone to Blu-ray until now.

Timed to coincide with the DVD release of the new Wallace & Gromit short A Matter of Loaf and Death, the expansive Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection brings the doltish inventor and his sharp-witted canine companion to hi-def for the first time — and does it in style, packing in tons of bonus material, including audio commentary and behind-the-scenes featurettes for each of the four W&G short films: 1989’s A Grand Day Out, 1993’s The Wrong Trousers, 1995’s A Close Shave, and the aforementioned Loaf, released last year. The picture is brilliantly crisp throughout, giving you a crystal-clear look at Nick Park’s creations, right down to the fingerprints on the clay; the audio, while about as unspectacular as you’d expect for this sort of thing, comes in Dolby 5.1, 5.1 PCM, and Dolby 2.0. Continue reading

DVD Review: “The Tigger Movie — Two-Disc 10th Anniversary Edition”

61dp8eucgtL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]The Tigger Movie: Two-Disc 10th Anniversary Edition (2009, Disney)
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Nobody raids the vaults like Disney. Even now, in the era of the DVD’s death spiral, most studios refrain from pathologically reissuing catalog titles — particularly those that were never terribly popular in the first place — but Uncle Walt’s house has always treated everything it’s ever done (or almost everything, anyway) like a timeless classic. Which is why you shouldn’t raise your eyebrows (but probably will anyway, if you’re anything like me) at the double-disc 10th anniversary edition of The Tigger Movie, an enjoyable trifle that Disney sort of half-heartedly shooed into theaters roughly a decade ago. Part of a sort of low-profile renaissance for A.A. Milne’s beloved characters at the studio, The Tigger Movie is a kissing cousin to Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, a more fleshed-out (and less Tigger-centric) adorable lesson in things like acceptance, friendship, and personal identity. Where Tigger Too mainly revolved around Rabbit’s perennial annoyance with Tigger’s brain-damaged antics, The Tigger Movie puts the bouncy-tailed wonder in pursuit of the family he’s certain is out there — despite his famous (and, it must be said, joyous) earlier insistence that he was the only one of his kind. Continue reading

CD Review: Ben Rudnick and Friends, “A Frog Named Sam”

Ben Rudnick and Friends – A Frog Named Sam (2009, Bartlett Avenue)
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As kids’ entertainment characters go, “a frog named Sam” isn’t the most original concept in the world — and neither is the story at the heart of this album’s title track, about the titular amphibian and his journey from backwater pond to the big city and back again. Heck, even A Frog Named Sam‘s artwork is fairly amateurish, so a person could be forgiven for having low expectations for the album…expectations that will be exceeded within the first few moments of listening to the deadpan vocals, tribal jam band beat, and — of course — ribbiting of the leadoff track. What Ben Rudnick and Friends lack in conceptual originality, they more than make up for with a musical approach that can best be described as “Beausoleil for tots” — plenty of upbeat, danceable rhythms, tasty acoustic guitar fills, mandolin, harmonica, and accordion, all draped around an assortment of the usual kids’ subjects: talking animals, trains, family love, and friendship.

So no, A Frog Named Sam doesn’t break any new lyrical ground, but it’s still some of the most fun I’ve had with a kids’ album this year, and it’s a testament to Rudnick and Friends’ originals that songs like the wonderful “Drink It Up” (“it’s like a milkshake when I see your face/I want to drink it up and take it with me”) stand shoulder-to-shoulder with well-chosen covers like “Old Joe Clark,” “Erie Canal,” and my daughter’s personal favorite, a shifty, album-closing take on “Greensleeves” (her quote: “It tricks every part of your body. I thought, ‘What the heck, ‘Greensleeves’? You tricked me'”).

If your tastes run toward the Subdudes/Beausoleil/Beau Jocque end of the spectrum, A Frog Named Sam should provide hours of entertainment for you and your kids — you can dance to the instrumental jigs, laugh at the stories of Sam the frog and the three little fishes, and simply enjoy the positive, uplifting tone of the entire album. Though I found the band’s take on “Erie Canal” to be a bit lackluster, there really isn’t a bad song on the album. We’ll be listening to this one for a long time.

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