Tag Archives: DVD

CD/Book Review: Trout Fishing in America, “My Name Is Chicken Joe”

Trout Fishing in America – My Name Is Chicken Joe (2009, Secret Mountain)
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Trout Fishing in America celebrates its 30th anniversary this year — and the fact that you most likely didn’t know that, but have never heard a lick of the roots duo’s music, explains why they won’t be commemorating the occasion with a lavish boxed set, sold-out arena tour, or all-star tribute record. They will, however, be taking a fond look back at some of the most popular songs from their multiple forays into kids’ music with My Name Is Chicken Joe, a beautifully made ersatz best-of that sets their song “Chicken Joe” alongside some eye-catching illustrations from artist Stéphane Jorisch to create a handsome, albeit plot-free, book to go along with the 11-track CD. And if that isn’t enough to make you whip out your wallet, there’s also a DVD containing a “Chicken Joe” music video of sorts.

If you’re a member of the Dirty Linen crowd, you’re no doubt already very familiar with Trout Fishing in America, but if you aren’t yet among the enlightened, My Name Is Chicken Joe functions as a perfect gateway into their children’s music. Though it cherry-picks old favorites from the catalog, Joe feels as cohesive as a really well-made new album. The songs are all as wonderful as you’d expect from a band that’s earned four Grammy nominations, all grounded solidly in deceptively simple folk arrangements and topped off with gentle, positive messages about kindness, personal identity, friendship, and family. (There are a couple of detours into mildly negative territory with “Why I Pack My Lunch” and “Boiled Okra and Spinach,” but they’re about having to choke down the food your parents pick for you, and who can’t sympathize with that?)

A lot of kids’ records claim to contain music that parents can enjoy even when their children aren’t around, but My Name Is Chicken Joe really is that kind of album. Songs like “My Best Day,” “Something Sweet,” and “Count on Me” are worth having in your collection no matter how old you are. If you’re any kind of fan of roots music — and I’m talking stripped-down bluegrass stuff as well as AAA favorites like John Hiatt — or you know kids who might be, purchase this set without fear the next time a birthday or other special occasion rolls around.

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Blu-ray/DVD Review: “Pinocchio”

Pinocchio (2009, Walt Disney)
purchase this Blu-ray/DVD (Amazon)

Okay, see, here’s how you get cash-conscious consumers to climb aboard a new, more expensive technology bandwagon: You release lovingly curated, value-stuffed titles like Disney’s recent string of “platinum edition” Blu-ray/DVD combo packs. It helps, of course, that Disney is forever taking its classic titles out of print for years at a time, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this 70th anniversary reissue of Pinocchio is well worth the $25 it’ll cost you through Amazon. (If you don’t own a Blu-ray player, and don’t think you’ll be buying one in the next 5-10 years, Pinocchio is also being released as a two-DVD set, with the same bonus features.)

As with last year’s Platinum Edition reissue of Sleeping Beauty, the freshly scrubbed Pinocchio is truly a sight to behold. Disney sent its crew all the way back to the original negatives and removed every speck of dust, every scratch, every speck; the lines are darker and cleaner, and the colors are brighter. You’ll probably come away disappointed if you expect a visual upgrade on the order of Sleeping Beauty, but then again, if you expect that, you’re being unreasonable; the film in question is nearly seven decades old. They’ve also gone back to the original soundtrack and given it a cleanup — it’s offered here in two versions, both in 7.1 “lossless” stereo and Dolby mono. (They both sound great, but Pinocchio is obviously not the first film you want to pull out to put your home theater system through its paces.)

Seeing as how you it isn’t unlikely that you already own Pinocchio in some form, this reissue’s chief appeal may lie in its extras, and they are legion. There are a number of BD-Live features, none of which will really sell the package, but they’re just a tiny fraction of what you can do with the film; the new bonus material includes things like the “Disney View,” which allows you to insert paintings by artist Toby Bluth into the widescreen bars above and below the film, and “Cine-Explore,” which lets you watch the movie with Picture-in-Picture commentary from Leonard Kaufman, J.B. Kaufman, and Eric Goldberg, along with glimpses at behind-the-scenes stuff like sketches, character designs, and interviews with the original film’s crew.

And that’s just the first disc. The second includes games, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, multiple documentaries, more behind-the-scenes footage, more production art, and theatrical trailers. And then there’s the DVD disc, which strips out most of the extras (leaving only a video for Meaghan Jette Martin’s version of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which is every bit as inessential as you’d imagine) but provides a smart bit of cheap, easy incentive for DVD customers who are on the fence about making the leap to Blu-ray. Disney’s certainly guilty of raiding the vaults at the slightest provocation, but the Platinum Edition line presents the ideal marriage of great content and new technology. If you’re a fan of the studio’s classic films, you won’t want to let them pass you by.

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DVD Review: “The Happiest Toddler on the Block”

The Happiest Toddler on the Block

There’s been a Horse Whisperer, a Dog Whisperer and a Ghost Whisperer. I would like to add another to that growing list: The Baby Whisperer. He exists, he’s ready to share with you his secrets and his name is Dr. Harvey Karp.

Dr. Karp is a pediatrician in Los Angeles who has pioneered a better way of understanding and coping with babies and toddlers through his DVD and books The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block. He first came to my attention, in of all places, an IMAX theater before the premiere of 300.

The auditorium was filled with, what else, guys. Grown-up comic book nerds, tech-heads and geeks, all. Before the movie started I was introduced to some of my friend’s friends and they quickly learned that my wife was pregnant and we were getting close to the due date. The friend asked me if I had ever heard of The Happiest Baby on the Block. I hadn’t.

“Oh, you HAVE to get it. You HAVE to get the Happiest Baby on the Block. It will save your life!”

Before I could respond, another male voice called out from three rows away: “Happiest Baby? Best purchase ever!” Then another: “Saved my ass! Get it!” Then the movie started and all the baby talk subsided, replaced by Spartans and androgynous giants and gore. Continue reading