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November 2006 | Vol. V - No. 11




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TDmonthly's DVD Expert

Playing With the Big Boys


“Brad Pitt wants $20 million,” my assistant says while putting a bowl of fat-free iced mango gelato down in front of me, “And he’s not happy you made him wait on the line last month.” 

I don’t care how unhappy he is; the Hollywood ToyBoy has priorities, and this month it’s looking at a trio of DVDs that don’t have $20 million — or even a million — to spend on actors, and rating them with my 5-TDs (for TDmonthly) system.

Mr. Christmas by LUMINOUS FILMS INC.
Age: 5 and up
Gender: Boys and Girls
Price: $14.98
“Mr. Christmas” by Luminous Films Inc. is writer-director-producer Beth Brickell’s homage to sweet '40s films with Bing Crosby or Fredrick March, only shot with newfangled video and a budget the size of a studio head’s heart.  A sincere story about one family’s financial difficulties during the 1941 Christmas season (you know, the month the US of A got into W... W... Two), it’s more of a drama than a feel-good movie.  Dad’s broke, Mom’s upset and the older of the two little girls wants a bicycle or she’s gonna need a shrink later in life.

This film has wonderful costuming and locations that are to die for.  The difficult part is identifying the audience:  It’s a little too dramatic for the younger kids (although the little actresses do a good job portraying tykes before Xmas, it’s not really about them), and the pacing and subject matter won’t appeal to boys over 10, so let’s call it a family film.  Small-budget, wholesome “American” family films are on the rise, so take a look at “Mr. Christmas” if that sounds like your market.

Budget
Creativity
Bells & Whistles
Usefulness

Anne of Avonlea by KOCH ENTERTAINMENT
Gender: Girls
Price: $29.98
Our second video is the BBC’s mini-series “Anne of Avonlea” (the sequel to “Anne of Green Gables”).  Now, for a mini-series, it’s typically British smaller budget, feeling more like a filmed play than what we “colonials” think of as movie or TV structure.  But that’s not a bad thing.  Girls from 6 and up and anyone who enjoys Jane Austen-type stories (but with fewer manners and more cows) will find heaven in these five-plus hours of DVDs.

Its budgetary constraints are obvious, but for this sort of subject matter, it doesn’t cause problems.  Plus it has spunky leads and solid performances by everyone else.  The Brits know how to do period pieces — even before Merchant Ivory came along — and this is a must-see for those who pine for the good-old days of yore.

Budget
Creativity
Bells & Whistles
Usefulness

Toddler Toons by THINGAMAKID
Age: 2 to 5
Gender: Boys And Girls
Price: $9.95
Our third DVD is an animated series of sing-along songs (and assorted other items) called "Toddler Toons" by ThingamaKid.  Ranging from the ever-popular “Muffin Man” to that sassy animal-lovers favorite “Pop Goes the Weasel,” it’s aimed for the 2 to 5 set.  Now, it’s small-budget with extremely limited animation (can everyone say “Flash”?), but the direction is spot on.  Fine direction!  Great shots, great hookups, well edited and paced with just the right amount of humor.  Yeah, this is smaller budget, but ThingamaKid got themselves someone who knows how to put film together.  The repetitive songs will make an adult’s mind melt after the first 20 or so hearings, but toddlers will love it.

Budget
Creativity
Bells & Whistles
Usefulness


“You call this mango gelato??!!”  Oops, time to get back to the unreal world of Hollywood.  Next month:  more DVD reviews.  “We’ll do lunch....”




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Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author

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