Oswald, Oswald! It’s December 1st!
Ah, sunny Southern California! Post-Thanksgiving, we said farewell to the leftovers over the course of several days as it rained and rained and rained on this planet. It was lovely; sweaters and tea, books and lots of Blu-rays, DVDs and even a couple of 3D movies, thanks to a pal’s equipment.
It’s Time for Shelly’s Fabulous Things!
This is the first of four installments this year; Dec. 1, 8, 15 and 22. In each one, I’ll be talking about some things that will make great gifts, with a description and also how to get them. I want to support good stuff, and I want my Fabanistas to GET good stuff! I don’t get a cut of the sale, promise! They’re just great things, and usually by wonderful folks – when it comes to art, I’m a very “buy local” gal. Did I mention I live 14 minutes from Disneyland? Also, I lean very heavily toward Disney, Marvel and Star Wars. Try to not faint.
Oh, and if you’re an artist, writer, etc, and we talked about me putting your incredible work on the list, please send me current info about it, ordering information, etc. If people can’t order it…
Let’s start with some things for the kids:
Elena of Avalor: Ready to Rule DVD
I love Elena, and she’s beloved around the world, as far away as Uzbekistan. Why? Because she’s the black-haired, brown-skinned Disney Princess that they’ve been wanting for 80 years or so. While Elena is strong and fiercely independent, saving her kingdom from an evil sorceress, she’s also a traditional, old-fashioned gal, having been trapped in a magical gemstone for the past 40 years. She does kind of give off that “If You Had Wings” vibe in terms of hairstyle, now that I think of it, but I live in a Latino neighborhood and I had several Elenas come to visit on Halloween.
This DVD is essentially the first four episodes of the series – we’ve seen it before with The Lion Guard and other Disney Channel and Disney Junior shows, and just like those, this comes with a nifty toy inside – in fact, I think this one is the best of all the DVD toys Disney has put out. It’s a tiny version of Elena’s wand, about 3″ long, that projects a little round picture of Elena. There’s also a string attached for if you want to string it through your 3DS or old-school cell phone.
The DVD itself will be a hit with viewers. The animation is high-quality TV animation, the writing doesn’t talk down to kids and doesn’t put adults to sleep, the songs are catchy, and Jane Fonda plays the villain who murdered Elena’s parents. What’s not to love?
LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – Complete Season One on Blu-ray and DVD
The winner for longest title in this week’s column is also one that fooled me for a moment or two. Most LEGO videos I get are not Disney, they’re WB, so I kind of blinked for a moment when I opened the case, then reminded myself that this is a Disney XD show and hey, STAR WARS? Which is even weirder because I actually. watch. the show. I blame the l-tryptophan, because it was Thursday night. Also, I made cranberry sauce with Honey Jack.
The toy in this one is actually a set of bubble magnets, with five of the characters on them and one with the ship. It’s called the, um…what’s it called?
I’d watch the show for Roger, the anxiety-ridden battle droid alone, but it’s LEGO funny and Star Wars entertaining. I didn’t know if they could keep up the humor for a series’ length AND keep an interesting story going. They brought in writers who cut their teeth on Darkwing Duck, et al, to ensure that it would stay together, and it’s just gotten better with time, and with appearances by the Skywalker/Organa twins, their pops and his boss the Emperor to boot. It’s not quite as slapstick as the one-offs, but very, very funny. I think the difference is that you’re more invested in the characters, so when they are in peril, you feel it more than in, say, Droid Tales (which I loved). Definitely worth a look.
With that, we move toward some things for the family:
Pete’s Dragon on Blu-ray and DVD
If you were wondering why the forest in this movie had such a forest primeval quality to it, it’s because it wasn’t shot in the Pacific Northwest. It was filmed in New Zealand, as I learned watching the extras that came along with this movie. In fact, one of the extras was practically a travel commercial for New Zealand, talking about how the cast and crew spent their off time kayaking and bungee-jumping (and the studio insurance people didn’t lose their minds over this?) and wow, I want to go, but I don’t want the plane ride.
Another one looked at deleted scenes, and honestly, I think the film would have been a lot better had at least two of those scenes (or three) been kept in it. Seeing those scenes actually gave me an “aha” moment over something I guess I missed in the movie. Another looked at how they made Elliot, with the wireframe head and the person walking around with it, the inflatable dragon-shaped balloon, and the usual stick with a tennis ball at the end of it. There are a couple of music videos and film commentary, which is very film-buffy.
By far – the Diary from director David Lowery is one of the most revealing, intimate and just…useful extras I’ve ever experienced on a DVD. Lowery manages to draw you in and make you feel like you are making the journey with him from indie filmmaker to Disney director, talking about tree shapes and wallpaper and you really get into it. I wouldn’t buy the discs for this alone, but if you have them, don’t miss seeing this.
Here’s one of the videos, about action sequences:
Roald Dahl’s book had to wait to be made into a film, said producer Kathleen Kennedy (She’s also President of Lucasfilm), until the technology was ready. She, co-producer Frank Marshall, writer Melissa Mathison and director Steven Spielberg teamed up to make this film – it was the first time all four of them had worked together since “E.T.”
The film is silly, fun and gross. It’s not a date movie. The extras are also silly, fun and gross. So very many fart jokes. The exception is a lovely In Memoriam to writer Melissa Mathison, who wrote this, E.T., The Black Stallion, and other Hollywood classics.
There is a Diary extra in this package as well, but it’s actually a very slick, studio produced behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. That’s not a bad thing. The theme of it being child actress Ruby Barnhill’s diary and her playing with the camera is a precious setup that sometimes comes across as a little too precious. It’s a very good “Making Of” film, otherwise. The Giants 101 and how to speak like a giant were very cute. Best of all was the “Letters from Walt” extra, which doesn’t mention Bill Justice but has a whole lot of his Gremlins artwork in it!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D Collectors’ Edition
There is a reason the banner at the top of this column has a picture of the Finalizer, the First Order Star Destroyer on it. The reason is, when you see The Force Awakens (TFA) in-home 3D, that shot of the ship will make you want to freeze that frame and spend the rest of your life gawping at it like a baby bird. And the good news is, with this release, you can baby bird all you want. With some, when you freeze frame, it goes to 2D. Here, it doesn’t. But wait, there’s more. There’s big stuff, like the Finalizer. Then there’s the more subtle things, like my emo Disney Prince, firing up his lightsaber IN YOUR FACE while snowflakes gently twirl around you. I think it looked better than in the theater.
The official word:
Bonus features include:
- Audio Commentary with J.J. Abrams – Enter the mind of visionary director J.J. Abrams as he reveals the creative and complex choices made while developing the first film in the new Star Wars trilogy.
I am going to give away one thing that I thought was AMAZING. They decided to not give away Kylo Ren’s face as early in the film as they originally were going to – when Snoke told him about someone who was heading their way in a conveyance of some sort – they put his mask on digitally!
“He means nothing to me.” is his next line. Do you believe him?
100% not there. Incredible.
Look at all this, even before you put anything into a player of any sort:
Here’s the other stuff:
- Foley: A Sonic Tale – Foley artists, consisting of old pros and new talent, unite to bring the world of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” alive through the matching of sound to action.
- Sounds of the Resistance – Hear how the epic sound design of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” moves the Star Wars legacy forward.
- Deleted Scenes – View never-before-shared scenes that didn’t make the film’s final cut.
- Dressing the Galaxy – Costume Designer Michael Kaplan reveals how the costumes of the original Star Wars movies were re-envisioned for a new generation.
- The Scavenger and the Stormtrooper: A Conversation with Daisy Ridley and John Boyega – The two new stars share the thrill of working together on the adventure of a lifetime and becoming part of the Star Wars legacy.
- Inside the Armory – Take a fascinating tour through the design and creation of the weaponry in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
- Classic Bonus Features – These offerings from the April release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” include the complete story behind the making of the film, an unforgettable cast table read, insights from legendary composer John Williams and deleted scenes, as well as features that dig deeper into the creation of new characters such as BB-8, the design of the climactic lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren, the film’s remarkable digital artistry and the Star Wars: Force for Change global aid initiative.
FilmIsNow has a nice piece on it, with some newsy chat following:
Remember, everyone who comments is entered into a drawing to win a sweet holiday surprise after the last Fabulous Things; the deadline is midnight, December 22nd and the winner will be announced December 23rd.
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