Category: Entertainment + Media

Why you shouldn’t miss Ponyo or Hayao Miyazaki’s other family classics

I get to the movie theater about once a year, so it’s no surprise I totally missed Ponyo when it first came out. But ever since I heard the buzz around this animated film by Japan’s Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli, I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for the home release. Now, having seen it, you can bet that I won’t miss his next one. Ponyo, which is loosely based on the original The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen (but not nearly as tragic), tells the story of a little fish who falls in love with a boy and...

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The Princess and the Frog and the DVD player

I have not been so eager for a Disney DVD release since…well, ever, as I have been with the Princess and the Frog DVD which is just out today. After seeing the film a few months ago with my kids in theaters (my full gushy raving review here), I knew right away that this is one DVD we’d be needing at home. Let’s face it, if you’ve got to live with any kids’ movie on a constant loop in the background, pick the one with the cool jazz, big band, and zydeco soundtrack. Of course Disney does that annoying...

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Discovery LIFE – it’s no trip to the zoo

The epic new documentary series, Discovery LIFE isn’t for everyone. I mean, surely there are people out there who just don’t like cool things. Who don’t like watching some of the most miraculous animal footage every filmed. Who would find a komodo dragon attack less interesting than, say, doing laundry. For the rest of you, set your TIVOs and prepare to be awed. I was fortunate enough to attend the premiere at Lincoln Center this week with the New York Pops playing the wonderful score live to picture, but even without all the spectacle, the footage is simply…spectacular. Imagine...

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Girls of substance and style, rejoice!

Oh, Kiki magazine, where have you been all my daughter’s life? Where are the scantily clad waifs in thousand-dollar outfits? Where are all the advertisements for more stuff that no one needs? Where are the tips and tricks about how to land boys, kiss boys, think properly about boys, and then tell boys no? Conspicuously absent, I’ll say. Kiki is fashion and style and activities and crafts and book chat and common sense talk about being happy and healthy, peppered with pictures of girls in all shapes and sizes. It totally passed the litmus test with my tween (“Hey...

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This Sesame Street contest is brought to you by the letter A and the number $50,000

Question: Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street? Answer: 1. Be a puppet.2. Be Ricky Gervais.3. Win the 4th Annual Aniboom Awards 4 Sesame Street Competition. It’s that easy, animators. We’ve just learned that Sesame Street has teamed up with Aniboom Virtual Animation Studio to showcase talented animators leading the next generation of savvy children’s educational programming. And if seeing your winning work on the most iconic kids’ television program ever isn’t enough, there’s also $50,000 in prize money up for grabs. Let me guess– you’re making Cookie Monster googly eyes now, aren’t you? Submit your...

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This DVD knows how to hail to the chief

President’s Day has typically marked nothing more than a vacation day to my kids. But this year, I feel pretty good that they have actually learned something about their government after watching the smart but entertaining So, You Want to be President?. . .and More Stories to Celebrate American History DVD. Featuring four children’s books that have been narrated and animated for the DVD, So, You Want to be President? starts with the title story narrated by the cool voice of Stockard Channing. (Not actually a first lady, but played one on TV.) I loved learning a little more about...

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March On, Dr. King

I want my kids to know that Martin Luther King Day represents more than a three-day weekend. But instead of watching more grown-up documentaries that can be a bit scary for little eyes, I’m thrilled to have a copy of Scholastic’s new DVD, March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World. . .And More Stories About African American History. (Update: And now, you can purchase the 20-minute video for just $1.99 through iTunes and play through your device.) March On!. . .features four award-winning children’s books on DVD, each narrated with music and sound effects over illustrations from the...

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Now THAT’S a Disney Princess

If you’re looking to make the most of your final hours together with the kids before school starts up again, hit the local theater and see the excellent The Princess and the Frog, stat. Even this cynical, princess-wary mama fell in love with the hip story, the engaging characters, the fantastic jazz, big band, and cajun-infused soundtrack, and a whole lot of references to beignets. And most of all, the clear, powerful message that wishing on stars only gets you so far–hard work takes you the rest of the way. (Thank you for that Disney; you just made my...

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Redbox helps you save your money for popcorn

Sure, there’s no shortage of ways to rent movies nowadays; whether you go in-store, via mail service, or even streaming over the Internet. Still, ’tis the season to be mindful of where every penny is going, so maybe it’s time to check out Redbox, which is a kiosk-based $1 movie-rental service. Basically, you reserve your movie online, then pick it up at a kiosk, generally in chains like Kroger and Walgreens. But of course, make sure there’s one near you before you sign on. (There are 50 in Atlanta where I live.) The movie selection isn’t massive, but it...

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How the Grinch Monopolized my Blu-ray Player

When I found out that How the Grinch Stole Christmas, one of my all time faaaaavorite Christmas movies was out on Blu-ray I couldn’t wait to see it in glorious high def. Especially now that we’re officially into Christmas season. As it turns out, the Blu-ray isn’t exactly the reason to get it. Not that I expected a Pixar film–I mean heck, the animation more than 40 years old–but the color transfer leaves something to be desired. Still, my kids don’t seem to care much. They adore the story and the singing and the dog with the antlers and...

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Yo, Thanksgiving Thanksgiving!

Yo Gabba Gabba! adds a float to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York today? Suddenly we have renewed commitment to tune in. No offense, Underdog. Bonus points if Biz Markie makes an appearance. But we’ll settle for Brobee doing Party in My Tummy and trying to get our kids to eat more than the mashed potatoes tonight. –Liz Catch the Yo Gabba Gabba! float today in the Thanksgiving Parade 9AM on...

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Breaking news – Baby Einstein is issuing full refunds on their DVDs

If you’ve purchased a Baby Einstein DVD any time in the last five years, you’re entitled to a full refund, due to the work of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood which thinks that mayyyybe they don’t exactly make babies into Einsteins. We’re all for videos as entertainment, or to give moms a chance to jump in the shower — provided you know that it’s just that, and not an opportunity for your baby’s IQ to leap 45 points while you sneak in a shave. For full details, see this page on Disney’s Baby Einstein Website which explains how...

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We’re off to see the wizard. Yes, that one.

One of my favorite aspects of parenting has to be watching my favorite classic movies with my kids for the first time just like I did with my parents. Except we saw them on the big screen back then. And no, I’m not talking about a gihugic plasma. But for one night at select movie theaters across the country, you can actually catch The Wizard of Oz in HD to celebrate its 70th anniversary. Just the thought of hearing Over the Rainbow in surround sound gives me the chills, but after the main feature there will also be never...

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Disneynature EARTH is out of this world

My kids expected another silly cartoon as we settled in to watch Disneynature: EARTH on DVD, but their quiet focus told me that, even without talking zebras, the night’s selection had been a hit. We had skipped EARTH when it first appeared in the movie theaters back in April because we already own the 5-DVD collection of BBC’s Planet Earth, whose remarkable footage was shot at the same time. I assumed that my kids would be bored. But it turns out that Disney does a great job of editing the footage down to a manageable 90 minutes, and weaving...

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Learning disguised as catchy pop songs, cool characters, and charming illustrations.

We don’t own a lot of kids’ DVDs in my house, primarily since it’s so hard to know if we will get our money’s worth or they will be watched twice before my daughter gets bored and just wants to throw the disk around. But one completely worthwhile standby has been our Readeez DVD. (Edited to add: Now also available for immediate download to watch right on your computer or tablet) Readeez are short vignettes with original songs, nursery rhymes, poems, and more, all designed to let the words sink in. As a musician and dad himself, creator Michael...

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Home of the Brave, the Furry and the Grouchy

With a little one who hates loud noises and falls asleep before 9, seeing big Fourth of July fireworks has become one of those “maybe next year” dreams we tell his older siblings. So we were happy to learn about PBS’ A Capitol Fourth which will have a whole bunch of Sesame Street Characters on the US Capitol lawn plus some fireworks to keep the kids entertained. All commercial free–yay! I’m sure the kids will also be entertained when they see their mom singing shamelessly along with Barry Manilow and Aretha Franklin’s performances. And when their father pretends not...

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The coolest baby video, probably ever

Well it’s about time someone reinvented the proverbial wheel of sensory stimulation baby videos, and in this case that someone is award-winning graphic designer and dad Rolyn Barthelman, creator of the ingenious Wee See collection of DVDs. Let’s just say I popped it in — by myself — and immediately started smiling. The two 30-minute videos are made up of imaginative, high contrast animations of basic black and white shapes, accompanied by terrific scoring by Tim Deluaghter of The Polyphonic Spree. It’s all very MOMA store, if you know what I mean. Or as they call it, “part art...

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Gentlemen, start your Roku

If you still haven’t found the perfect Father’s Day gift (hello? Have you even been to our Father’s Day gift guide yet?)  we still have a few ideas up our sleeves that you can get in time to serve up with bagels in bed on June 21. If you’ve got a movie junkie in the house, take a look at the Roku Digital Video Player, sometimes known as the Netflix Video Player. I love this because I’ve got the kind of SigOth who thinks that dropping an envelope in the mail is hard work. Basically for a very affordable...

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A great gift for the Dad who doesn’t have to ask “What’s NPR?”

When I saw that NPR had put out a collection of radio stories called NPR Driveway Moments for Dads, I wanted to kiss the radio in gratitude for helping me in my quest for a perfect Father’s Day gift. Not only is my husband an enormous NPR fan, he also has a commute that requires him to spend chunks of time alone in his car (something I envy a great deal some mornings). I’m confident that this 2-CD set will be sure to hit all the main emotional jugulars, from laugh-out-loud stories to dab-at-your-eyes tales of fatherhood. Although the...

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(Interjection)! Schoolhouse Rock Is back to rock the earth

When my kids heard Schoolhouse Rock was coming out with a new DVD, Schoolhouse Rock! Earth, they were as excited as I was, seeing that they’ve heard the original songs since they were old enough to say Unpack Your Adjectives. I can’t think of a better reason for members of the beloved ABC morning series of my childhood to reunite than to spread the message about conservation, recycling and environmental awareness. In true Schoolhouse Rock fashion, this DVD relies on catchy songs and fun-to-watch cartoons to educate the young and (not so) old, all with, thankfully, the exact same...

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Escape To Witch Mountain, old school style

“Mom! They aren’t wearing seat belts!” It’s funny what my kids and I noticed while we watched the re-released classic Escape To Witch Mountain on DVD. Kids sitting in the front seat without a seat belt, a “car phone” that has a cord into the dashboard, and even the passing complaint about how expensive gas is—when it costs $10 to fill the tank of a camper. Hey, it was the  70’s. Ah, but despite some of these generational differences, the original  story (which, as we all know, always trounces a remake) of two lovable orphans is just as gripping...

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Mighty B: My kind of hero

I don’t watch a heck of a lot of kid TV, but I’ve been making an exception for the new DVD release of We Got the Bee which features a bunch of episodes from Nickelodeon’s series, The Mighty B! Haven’t seen it yet? Let’s just say the heroine of this show, Bessie Higgenbottom, is my kind of girl: Loud, lovable, over-eager and hilariously over-the-top, all voiced with the perfect lisp by the ever-awesome Amy Poehler. Unlike my two Girl Scouts who gather badges and sell cookies with a sort of que sera sera attitude, in her own “HoneyBee troop”...

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The 2009 inauguration. You know, for kids.

Wondering how to amply convey excitement and understanding about Obama’s historic inauguration for your children? Me, I’m going to click over to Share My Inauguration with my oldest daughter, and show her what it all looks like from a kid’s perspective. Not just any kids mind you–these are two dozen fifth and sixth graders–“The DC-24”–hand-selected from one of Chicago’s toughest inner-city neighborhoods to trek down to Washington then blog and vlog their journey in a program sponsored by the non-profit McCormick Foundation. The kids are not only experiencing their first inauguration and first TV news interviews, but in some...

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The new Electric Company plugs in today and that’s C…ool…Cool

Hey you guyyyyyyyys! Let me just come right out and say the new Electric Company kids’ show on PBS does not disappoint, and, believe me, I was worried. In fact, my first reaction to the relaunch was one of skepticism. How could they mess with Easy Reader? Fortunately, instead of trying to remake the original show, The Electric Company series that launches today presents a fresh new story line built around diverse, urban kids with super literacy powers. The show’s emphasis is still on reading, but the look, sound and feel is very “now.” The music and dancing are...

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An infant massage DVD that rubs me the right way

I’d always heard about infant massage, but I never felt comfortable enough to give it a try. I figured that slathering my babies with lotion after their baths was about the closest I’d ever get to practicing infant massage. Then I got a chance to check out the BabyBabyOhBaby infant massage DVD. Oh baby, indeed. This isn’t just an instructional DVD; it’s a showcase of beautiful babies and loving parents having a wonderful time together. Not only would the footage make even your child-free friends’ ovaries ache, it’s also an ideal introduction to infant massage, especially for skittish parents. ...

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Olivia – Coming to your television screen. Finally.

If there’s one sassy heroine my daughter’s been dying to see come to life off her bookshelf, it’s Olivia, the cute little metropolitan pig originally created by British illustrator Ian Falconer as a gift for his niece. Lucky kid, huh? Well starting January 26, we’ll be watching Olivia the TV show on Nickelodeon. My daughter has always gotten a chuckle out of Olivia’s precocious antics and fashion sense, while I’ve always loved her creative mind and strong will. And our favorite qualities from the Olivia children’s book series all translate perfectly into this half hour show that will keep...

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The Magic Garden is back. Whoo!

If you grew up anywhere around the NY area in the 70s, you understand that the proper response to How are you? Is I’m fine, me too, we’re fine and how are you. At least if you were like me and spent your afternoons glued to cult TV hit, The Magic Garden and memorizing all of the songs. Well finally (finally!) The Magic Garden has been re-released by Koch Records as a 10 episode, 2-disc DVD set (with a CD too) called Carole and Paula in the Magic Garden, and I’m thrilled to say it’s held up pretty well...

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Mo Yo Gabba Gabba!

The only one more excited than my daughter for the new season of Yo Gabba Gabba! that begins today on Nick Jr., is me. I’m definitely ready to have some new lyrics stuck in my head besides It’s time to wash your hair, it’s time to wash your hair, it’s time to wash your hair, and this is how you do it. YGG is absolutely the coolest thing going on TV today with a list of guest stars that any prime time show would covet. Coming up in season two: Jack Black (shown here), the Office’s Melora Hardin, The...

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Ni hao, Kai-lan. Ni hao, nice long shower for mommy.

Kai-lan just told my daughter to stand up and do the dragon dance and she happily obeys, particularly since the cute tiger (“My favorite one!”) is doing it too. Oh to be three again. If your own preschooler hasn’t discovered the happy, accessible bicultural world of Kai-lan on Noggin, the popular new show has just made it to video with Ni Hao Kai-Lan: Super Special Days. The characters are adorable enough that I would sport a tee with them on it (and actually do), but I particularly like what they teach my daughter; she’s picking up a little Mandarin,...

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Baby videos actually entertaining for mamas too.

Now that I’ve got three children, I’ve given up trying to protect the youngest from his older sisters’ tastes in TV shows. Is it cliché to mention that I saw Road Runner get clobbered at least a thousand times as a kid, and I’m still an upstanding member of society? Even so, it’s nice to pop in a DVD that’s actually geared toward my baby that doesn’t simultaneously make me want to take forks to my own eyeballs, which is why the new titles from Sparkabilities are my kind of baby videos. The content is based on the PlayWisely...

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