The Secret of Kells (Flatiron, 2010)
The surprise feelgood story of last year’s Academy Awards, this beautiful tribute to Celtic lore went from small Irish film to Oscar-nominee overnight — and sent scores of American film columnists hustling to Wikipedia to try and figure out who Kells was and what he was hiding. Now, after a successful worldwide run and heaps of glowing reviews, The Secret of Kells comes to DVD and Blu-ray.
Young Brendan lives in a remote medieval outpost under siege from barbarian raids. But a new life of adventure beckons when a celebrated master illuminator arrives from foreign lands carrying an ancient but unfinished book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers. To help complete the magical book, Brendan has to overcome his deepest fears on a dangerous quest that takes him into the enchanted forest where mythical creatures hide. It is here that he meets the fairy Aisling, a mysterious young wolf-girl, who helps him along the way. But with the barbarians closing in, will Brendan’s determination and artistic vision illuminate the darkness and show that enlightenment is the best fortification against evil? Continue reading
If you’ve spent any time at all watching the Noggin network (apologies, corporate rebranders, I mean Nick Jr.), you’re familiar with the Dirty Sock Funtime Band, even if you don’t realize it. Like Laurie Berkner, the DSFB pops up in the interstitial music videos that the station runs in lieu of commercials, particularly during episodes of Jack’s Big Music Show — and like Berkner, they’re squarely on the sugary, high-energy end of the kids’ music spectrum.
Now, those of you who have been reading this site for awhile may remember that Laurie Berkner is one of my main musical nemeses — there’s just something about the way she’s always bouncing around with that smile on her face that bugs me — so I’m naturally predisposed to dislike any band that includes a pink-wigged man and a lead singer who looks like a tiny, hyperactive, Jew-froed Steven Tyler. And to be perfectly honest right up front, I sincerely doubt I’d ever watch or listen to the Dirty Sock Funtime Band on my own; for me, listening to this type of music is like eating frosting. A little goes a long, long way. Continue reading
The ever-expanding Scholastic Storybook Treasures library just got even bigger, with the three latest DVDs — Giggle, Giggle, Quack, Runaway Ralph, and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands — adding 14 stories and roughly three and a half hours to the already formidable stack of books that have been given the “read-along DVD” treatment.
If that sentence made you feel a little funny, you’re not alone. Given that some kids already need quite a bit of encouragement to read instead of watch TV, and given that many of the DVD segments in the series don’t do much besides add voiceovers and karaoke-style text overlays to still art from the books, it can be hard not to wonder just what purpose they really serve, other than helping exceptionally lazy parents avoid reading to their children.
Maybe that’s just cynicism, though. As parents, we’re so used to being inundated with pitches for more crap, and so accustomed to being disappointed by people who are supposed to have our children’s best interests at heart, that something like the Scholastic Storybook Treasures series can seem like a dirty trick even when it isn’t. There’s definitely something a little off-putting about a book publisher porting children’s titles to DVD, but that doesn’t really take away from the fact that these are wonderful books, and if you’re the type of parent who doesn’t see anything wrong with television in moderation, then having the option of letting your kids watch literature instead of Cartoon Network is fairly appealing. Continue reading