"TOM AND JERRY: A NUTCRACKER TALE"
Any time there’s been a new attempt at “Tom and Jerry,” I have looked upon it with skepticism, partly because I know they’ll never be made with all the old politically-incorrect glory, and partly because I’m a purist at heart. So, I came to “Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale” with some trepidation.
However, after watching the 50-minute original movie, I found myself warming up to it. Sure, it’s not the same as the old Hanna-Barbera days, but I’ve accepted that it will never be. This new original movie has a lot of charm, though.
It tells the story of Jerry, who is a ballet fan and lives in a theatre with his pal Tuffy (who continues to speak in a French accent, a throw-back to the old Hanna-Barbera shorts). The theatre is enchanted, which brings the Nutcracker props to life. Jerry takes the role as the prince and must save a captured ballerina from the Cat King. Tom, as one of the King’s henchmen, is pitted against the mice in an ironic role reversal from the original story.
What gives this show life is its deft use of the classical music, much in the way the old Warner Bros. cartoons would do. Even if you aren’t familiar with the Nutcracker music, you’ll enjoy how things fit together. The filmmakers are true to the spirit of Tom and Jerry while updating the image for a modern animation style.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film, and my young children did as well. This DVD offers a fine choice for holiday family fun.
"JINGLE ALL THE WAY: FAMILY FUN EDITION"
I’ll admit that when I first saw “Jingle All the Way” on video after it was released, I was unimpressed. I quickly forgot about it, only to reflect on it when I pondered the casting of Jake Lloyd as the young Anakin Skywalker in the first “Star Wars” prequel.
Now that it’s out in an extended director’s cut, I have had a chance to revisit the film as it was meant to be seen – with a family. The story follows a workaholic dad who is trying to secure the hottest toy of the season for his son on Christmas Eve. Of course, all the stores are out of it, and he is fighting with other parents to find the last remaining Turbo Man action figures in the Twin Cities.
“Jingle All the Way” is never going to go down as a perennial holiday favorite like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Miracle on 34th Street.” But it isn’t bad t watch with the kids. In fact, I had a lot of fun watching it with my six year old and my four year old while we cooked pancakes on a lazy Saturday morning. “Home Alone,” this is not, but for a family Christmas movie, it’s surprisingly fun.
The DVD comes with what is advertised as 20 minutes of new footage. However, the “extended” edition only runs a few minutes longer than the theatrical version. Truthfully, there’s not that big of a difference between the two cuts (which is actually a good thing considering a two-hour-plus version of the movie would be tedious), so it’s not worth purchasing again if you already have a copy. But as a rental or a new buy for your family collection, you can do a lot worse.
Other DVD features include a moderate and lengthy set-top game in which you can guess what’s in wrapped gifts as well as a behind-the-scenes featurette. If you get into these sort of things, there is a mediocre in-character mockumentary about the “real” Turbo Man as well.
"HANNAH MONTANA: LIFE’S WHAT YOU MAKE IT"
Miley Cyrus stars as the plucky Miley Stewart, whose alter ego Hannah Montana is a popular music star. The first two episodes follow her whirlwind romance with a teen heartthrob who doesn’t quite understand the reasons (or the desire) for a private life. The character arc burns out fast, leaving Miley to deal with laryngitis and her overprotective father in the last two episodes.
It seems the Disney Channel practice is to now release these single-disc stand-alone DVDs with a handful of episodes rather than an entire season at a time. It works for parents because I would imagine that 500 minutes of Hannah Montana would get a little wearing to anyone over the age of thirteen.
The “Hannah Montana” show is a great series for kids. The actors seem to really enjoy the roles, and Billy Ray Cyrus is close at hand, keeping his daughter in check before she rockets off and turns into a Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears. And Miley Cyrus does a fine job as the teeny-bopper role model. Still, the highlight of the show comes from the interaction between Billy Ray and Miley’s on-screen brother Jackson (Jason Earles).
Special features on the DVD include a Billy Ray Cyrus music video and some backstage interviews with the stars to talk about each others’ secrets.
"POWER RANGERS: OPERATION OVERDRIVE, VOL. 1 AND 2"
The latest Rangers are part of Operation Overdrive, which emerge from genetic manipulation by a billionaire genius. It draws from the same flavor as “Dino Thunder” instead of using a more organized force in “S.P.D.” or “Mystic Force.” Here, the Rangers come to life in modern day to fight evil creatures that have been released from centuries-old sleep to find jewels that will help them take over the world.
Unlike “Dino Thunder,” however, we get a larger cast, like the more recent series. Using five rangers, the characters spread out their strengths (and problems) wider than just three as we saw with the Dino Rangers. However, they have the same contemporary feel without the desperate grab at the Harry Potter wizardry we saw in “Mystic Force.”
As with any Power Rangers series, the target audience is young boys. My sons continue to enjoy the show, which demonstrates the series’ ability to speak to its target demographic.
“Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive” has been released with the first two volumes, with each disc featuring six episodes from the series. The twelve episodes chronicle the Rangers’ attempts to stop the bad guys from getting their hands on various jewels.
The DVD extras include explanations of the Rangers’ weapons and the first two levels of a Ranger training game.
The film follows a laid off accountant named Terry (Peter Krause) who slowly goes insane from paranoia when an Arab moves into his apartment complex. At first, Terry’s suspicions seem unfounded. However, he soon discovers what he believes to be bomb-making equipment in the guy’s apartment, and later the man threatens him and his wife. After being put in his place by the FBI, Terry decides to take matters into his own hands.
To a certain degree, “Civic Duty” carries a decent message of the dangers and sometimes necessity of being paranoid in a post-9/11 world. However, in an attempt to not take sides, the film degenerates into ambiguity. It will challenge you to think about how you would handle a similar situation, and hopefully we would not be as unstable as Terry is.
“Civic Duty” mostly suffers from overwriting. It’s clear that from script to screen, the filmmakers were trying to show us the struggle that Terry faces, but it manifests itself in temper tantrums and weak character actions like explosive rage. By the end, I found it hard to sympathize with Terry because he acted too much like a nut case..