"CORY IN THE HOUSE: NEWT & IMPROVED EDITION"


        MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Kyle Massey as CORY BAXTER
    Rondell Sheridan as VICTOR BAXTER
    Maiara Walsh as MEENA PAROOM
    Jason Dolley as NEWT LIVINGSTON
    Madison Pettis as SOPHIE
    John D’Aquino as PRESIDENT RICHARD MARTINEZ
    Lisa Kushell as SAMANTHA SAMUELS

    Not Rated
    Studio: Disney Channel

While I never liked the series “That’s So Raven,” the spin-off show “Cory in the House” has grown on me a bit. I have to admit that a lot of this is due to how much my two sons love the show. As a parent, I am very much susceptible to this kind of influence.

Kyle Massey, who often took a back seat to Raven in the original show, is allowed to shine as the serial entrepreneur Cory Baxter, whose father works as the White House chef. Along with his friends Newt (Jason Dolley) and Meena (Maiara Walsh), Cory tries new schemes to make money and become the most popular guy in school.

The latest release “Cory in the House: Newt & Improved Edition” has been dropped to coincide with Jason Dolley’s latest Disney Channel film “Minutemen.” Since the show has been on for the past year, the actors have had a chance to gel in their parts. Cory is meddling in more than just get-rich-quick scheme (including trying to impress girls and write hit songs), and the supporting cast is getting more involved.

Additionally, the President’s daughter Sophie (Madison Pettis) is given more spunk and has grown as an actor. She’s not just there to be cute, but to be Cory’s nemesis, sort of like a human Tweety Bird. With the development of the show, “Cory in the House” has a chance to shine as well as “The Suite Life” does with the boy audience.

Episodes featured include “The Presidential Seal,” “Through the Roof,” “Lip Service” and the never-before-seen “Peace, Love and Misunderstanding.” There’s also one DVD extra, which is a tour of the set and description of how an episode is made, featuring Kyle Massey.



"MINUTEMEN"


        MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Jason Dolley as VIRGIL FOX
    Luke Benward as CHARLIE TUTTLE
    Nicholas Braun as ZEKE THOMPSON
    Chelsea Staub as STEPHANIE JAMESON
    Steven R. McQueen as DEREK BEAUGARD

    Rated TV-G
    Studio: Disney Channel

    Directed by: Lev L. Spiro

The only real beef I’ve ever had with the Disney Channel is that the programming often skews towards girls rather than boys. In a way, I can’t blame them. Just look at the concert and box office receipts from anything Hannah Montana to the theatrical flop of the “Speed Racer” movie, and it’s clear that tween girls have more influence over their parents’ wallets than tween boys.

However, it seems that the station is starting to swing to the boy’s side a little bit more. Two of the biggest shows are “Cory in the House” and “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” which helps balance out “Hannah Montana” and all the “High School Musical” hubbub.

Stepping off from his success in “Cory in the House,” Jason Dolley stars in the Disney Channel Original Movie “Minutemen.” The story follows several nerds in high school who discover the power of time travel. There’s a catch in that they can only travel back in time two days, but that gives them enough power to prevent embarrassing events to their nerd buddies. However, when overusing the time travel device starts to unravel the social structure of the high school along with the space-time continuum, they have to fix things.

Ever since I was a child, I have enjoyed science fiction, and this time travel element in “Minutemen” gives it a facet that made me feel like a kid again. The film is far less formulaic than what I’ve seen before, and that’s great to watch. Add to the fact that it appeals to boys, and I found this to be a real winner. And for the adults, look for the “Back to the Future” references, which will go over the heads of most kids.

“Minutemen” spreads the DCOM demographic a little wider and gives viewers relatively unique story. There’s also room for a sequel, which should be coming soon.

The DVD comes with a Backstage Disney segment that shows how the film was shot with all the special effects. There’s also a music video by Corbin Bleu, so that should placate the girls for this release. Finally, there’s an extended ending on the disc that wasn’t seen on the original Disney Channel broadcast.



"LOVE’S UNFOLDING DREAM"


        MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Erin Cottrell as MISSIE LAHAYE
    Scout Taylor-Compton as BELINDA TYLER
    Dale Midkiff as CLARK DAVIS
    Robert Pine as DR. MICAH JACKSON
    Victor Browne as SHERIFF ZACH TYLER
    Samantha Smith as MARTY DAVIS
    Patrick Levis as DREW SIMPSON

    Not Rated
    Studio: RHI Entertainment

    Directed by: Harvey Frost

Approaching a film like “Love’s Unfolding Dream” has to be done properly, especially if you’re a male film critic like me who has a thirst for the summer blockbuster. And as much as I like ongoing film series like “Star Wars” and “Die Hard,” I have to look at this series of films, based on Janette Oke’s best-selling books, as a popular series with its own audience.

Having only seen one other film in this ongoing six-part series (the previous one, “Love’s Unending Legacy”), the first thing that this new film demonstrated was that it was being consistent in the series itself.

“Love’s Unfolding Dream” takes off several years after the previous film. Belinda Tyler (Scout Taylor-Compton) has grown up into a women under her adoptive mother Missie LaHaye (Erin Cottrell). She’s still full of spunk, but she’s directing her energies into becoming a professional woman in a men’s world. Belinda wants to be a doctor, and she won’t let anyone tell her otherwise.

Belinda gets a job with the town’s physician, and soon starts to cross paths with Drew Simpson (Patrick Levis), a lawyer from New York who is fixing up family property in town. Drew fancies Belinda, and he begins to court her. However, both of them must come over their own stubbornness to make the relationship work.

The general theme of this installment is the empowerment of women. Sometimes taken a bit too seriously (and sometimes presented with a bit too much modern sensibility to be truly realistic), “Love’s Unfolding Dream” works for the series. It’s not my cup of tea, but then again, I doubt anyone made this movie with me in mind.

There’s no clear bad guy in this one, like previous films. The struggle comes from Belinda and Drew overcoming their issues. A side-story is presented in which Belinda helps a woman in town read, against her husband’s wishes. However, the husband is still a decent guy, just with a bruised ego.

Like previous “Love’s” films, this one has a pristine look for the old west, with everything freshly made and nothing in disrepair (except the property that Drew came to town to fix up). It’s not terribly realistic, but for fans of the genre and – more importantly – fans of the series, this one is something they’ll enjoy.



"ACE OF HEARTS"


        MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Dean Cain as DANIEL HARDING
    Anne Marie Loder as LILLY HARDING
    Britt McKillip as JULIA HARDING MACKENZIE

    Rated PG
    Studio: Fox

    Developed by: David Mackay

We’ve all heard the stories of a dog taken away from its owners, only to find its way home by a series a bizarre events. While the events may not be so bizarre for the story of “Ace of Hearts,” the story is still loveable enough for dog fans to enjoy.

“Ace of Hearts” tells the story of a police officer named Daniel Harding (Dean Cain) who has devoted his life and career to his German shepherd partner named Ace. In fact, Daniel’s attention to his dog supercedes that which should go to his family, especially his daughter Julia (Britt McKillip). However, when Ace chases down a burglary suspect who claims he was bitten, Daniel is ordered to put the dog down.

Ace escapes from the medical facility and travels across the state to try and come home. Julia doesn’t believe Ace is gone, and she does her own detective work to find her father’s dog as well as solve the crime that almost cost Ace his life.

This film, like most direct-to-DVD family films, has a somewhat limited market. However, it should do well with dog fans and children. I watched the movie with my two sons, and they loved the story, enjoying a chance to cheer Ace on through his journey.

The character can be a bit two-dimensional. Still, for the acting talents of a cast that includes Dean Cain, everything seems appropriate. There are some silly moments that seem out of place, like when a local sheriff’s deputy has Ace track down the Sheriff while he’s on the toilet. But the film still has heart.

The detective story which follows Julia on her quest to track down the burglar who got Ace sent away has some noticeable plot holes. However, this should appeal to the younger crowd looking for a low-rent Nancy Drew.

When you look at it from afar, Ace of Hearts is a decent enough film that has a wholesome quality that makes it good for kids of almost any age. Having grown up on Saturday morning programming and after-school specials, this reminds me of that genre, something with a good message and not too much peril for the younger characters.



"CLASSIC CABALLEROS COLLECTION"


        MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Donald Duck
    Goofy
    José Carioca
    Ponchito Pistoles
    Walt Disney

    Rated G
    Studio: Disney

Back in the early 1940s, the U.S. Government wanted to foster international relationships with many of the countries of Latin America (partly because of the friendly relationship some of these countries had with Nazi Germany). Because the most widely-known celebrity from the U.S. was Mickey Mouse, they reached out to Walt Disney and asked him to make a film about the countries down south. What resulted was “Saludos Amigos.”

With the release of the film in Latin America, the government and the Walt Disney company learned something... that there is a viable market outside of the U.S. for these films. It was successful enough to have Disney make a sequel, “The Three Caballeros” a few years later.

“The Three Caballeros” was less of a propaganda piece and more of a narrative story about Donald Duck’s experiences with people from the Latin American countries. Most notably, these films introduced the world to José Carioca, a green parrot from Brazil that is currently making a comeback in the theme parks.

Disney has released a double-bill of these films on one DVD. The “Classic Caballeros Collection” includes both movies back-to-back, with an assortment of special features that give some history behind the series.

For the family viewing audience, there’s good and bad in these movies. While educational about the South American countries and their landforms (like Lake Titicaca and the mountains of Chile), the film does bog down a bit with the live-action documentary pieces. Fortunately, if you have a remote in hand, you can zip to the next cartoons that feature Donald Duck, Goofy and Pedro the Airplane.

“The Three Caballeros” is more entertaining for the kids, featuring several musical numbers that incorporate live-action Latin American stars with Donald Duck and José Carioca. The highlight of the film is the famous title song that is sung by Donald, José and the Mexican rooster Ponchito Pistoles.

While the “Classic Caballeros Collection” doesn’t hold either film up as an untouchable classic, they are both worth checking out for the animated bits and the history of Walt Disney films.

The DVD comes with two bonus animated shorts, “Don Donald” and “Contrary Condor.” More interesting for the adults is the “Backstage Disney: South of the Border” documentary of the production process and an interview with Walt Disney, in which he explains the inspiration and purpose behind the films.

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