Friday, December 28, 2012
This is an extraordinary film, well worth seeing, especially if you’re a fan of musicals in general. I think it’s also a good choice if you’re open to experimental and avant garde film. It’s rated PG-13 for “suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements,” and that’s fair. This film looks at the lives of the forgotten, excluded homeless of early 19th century France, people drawn into worlds of violence, crime, and prostitution. It’s grim beyond belief but if you’re willing to indulge the production, by which I mean you’re willing to suspend your disbelief to theatrical proportions, you’ll find a stunning, cohesive work of art. Yes, I said it: this film operates as an art piece in its entirety; it creates a world where virtually every utterance is sung and sticks with its premise to the end. I think it succeeds much more than it doesn’t. Except for a few moments that dragged a bit, this production was stirring and engrossing and Hugh Jackman now seems in a class by himself: that rare bird who can act as well as he sings; he’s among the best of the best in both arenas.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Disney’s Seventeenth Animated Feature – 1961
This movie is a treat, tip to tail. Beginning with the jazzy, modern-art inspired opening credits, you’ll realize you’re in for something special. This little movie-before-the-movie features dancing dalmation spots that hop onto a musical stave and animator’s sketches that spring to life. Work-in-progress sketches of dalmations run in a row, reminiscent of Eadweard Muybridge’s motion studies of horses. And One Hundred and One Dalmatians makes any number of references to famous films, just as it has inspired many imitators. Even future Disney features (I’m looking at you, Aristocats) will try to recapture its magic. Any why shouldn’t they? This is one of those rare films that succeeds on every level: story, characterizations, animation, pacing, and message.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Okay, you have a fabulous trip planned for the holidays. After the New Year, you’ll come home and start thinking about packing up the decorations and dismantling the tree—but not quite yet. It’s time to just relax the savor the last few days (or hours) of the holiday season. I have a suggestion: after the avalanche of gifts your child has received (with Santa grabbing a lot of the credit) has been opened and that anxious thrill of the new has begun to fade, consider that this may be a nice time to share a special and very personal gift with your child.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Here’s a Santa’s bagful of apps that will make perfect last minute holiday gifts. Seriously, what could be quicker than an app download? They’re holly-jolly fun and for some of these apps, the price is very right; by which I mean free. As I always say: free’s a good price.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Monday, December 17, 2012
Movie Review by Jack Silbert
And so we return to Middle Earth, back to an ancient time when Liv Tyler was still famous. I had been genuinely looking forward to The Hobbit until about two and a half weeks ago. That’s when my friend Alex explained that this was not only an approximately three-hour film, but just the first installment in another trilogy. Wait wait wait, wasn’t The Hobbit always Tolkien for beginners? A simpler tale? Was I ready to devote another sizeable chunk of my life to these small people with swords in a magical land?
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Many families in the greater metropolitan area take a trip to New York City during the holiday season to share in the spectacle. New York City knows how to put on a show. From the gigantic open-air Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center to the recent Santacon in Times Square, New York City does Christmas BIG. When it comes to decorated windows, there's a group of stores—Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, and Bloomingdales—that make it their business to make their windows worth a special trip. A major stroll through mid-town Manhattan is sure to put you in the spirit of the season. This walking guide will help you plan your route.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Just leave a comment directly below (with a way to reach you; email preferred) for a chance to win Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection, Classic Christmas Favorites or Dr. Seuss’s Deluxe Holiday Collection on Blu-ray.
Happy holidays and good luck!
Happy holidays and good luck!
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
As promised, here’s our list of giftable middle grade and young adult books with that little extra something that will make them memorable gifts. For starters, if you have a middle-grader in your family, I hardly need to sell you on the Lemony Snicket series. Little, Brown and Company’s latest edition, Lemony Snicket: "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" is a true celebration of the love of books. Sub-librarian Dashiell Qwerty figures large in this mystery about the power of literature. You’ve got to love a detective story about a town where you can pay your taxi fare by recommending a good book to your driver.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
’Tis the season! While you’re making your lists and checking them twice, consider these extra special titles that combine beauty and brains resulting in memorable gifts for your young readers (and pre-readers). These are books to treasure.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
If I could design the perfect show for ages seven to eleven, I’d want it to seamlessly blend its educational layer with entertainment that’s as witty and downright smart as the concepts its hoping to convey. And I’d want this perfect show to teach math, because this is the time in a tween’s life when math moves from simple arithmetic into more abstract concepts like fractions and geometry. I think I’ll really reach for the sky: I want the show to be able to help my child with her math homework (at least the questions Aunt Liz can’t handle). I know I’m asking way too much, but nonetheless, I’d like you to meet The Digits.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
To celebrate the December 4th release of Warner Bros. Thunderstruck on DVD and Blu-ray, we're giving away one Combo Pack (Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Download). Just sign up to officially follow this site, then leave a comment to this story with a way to reach you (email preferred). Already follow this site? Great. Just leave a comment. And good luck!
Friday, November 23, 2012
Lincoln brings to life our sixteenth president with an uncanny naturalism that is almost disconcerting. There’s no pedestal here. Abe Lincoln isn’t presented as saintly. He’s portrayed as a savvy politician and competent leader who recognized when the time was right for the passage of the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery. Lincoln is rated Rated PG-13 for “an intense scene of war violence, some images of carnage and brief strong language.” But more to the point, this film is more about persuasion and politics in all its stubbornness, intractability, and compromise than it is about action. This is a grown-up film, perfect for parents and your over-thirteens to enjoy and discuss.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Rise of the Guardians by Dreamworks is a fun and frosty treat for younger kids this holiday season. It stars the titans of holiday (and everyday) whimsy—Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost—in a way that doesn’t negate the religious connotations of Christmas and Easter so much as it sidesteps them. This movie is about the symbolism, the legends, and the fairy stories that create the core of a child’s holiday excitement. And this bunch—Santa, Easter Bunny, et al—have made it their mission to bring magic and whimsy into the lives of children all around the world and to guard that innocence and child-like belief.
Monday, November 19, 2012
After months of anticipation, Sofia the First premiered on the Disney Channel last night. To paraphrase a line from another Disney princess movie—Tangled—this princess was worth the wait. Sofia is a sweet, game, lively princess with a great sense of humor and loyalty; and she’s a good sport to boot.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Your kids will love these four fun, creative, and inspiring apps. While these apps aren’t just for girls, they star female characters and have an overall feminine quality that leans toward the female side of the equation. There’s something for every age group here, from preschool to preteen. Each has an aura of specialness that makes it a perfect holiday gift. And speaking of gifts, we're giving away three copies of Magic Belles AND three copies of Thumbelina. Just leave a comment to this story with a way to reach you (email preferred) by 5pm EST on Monday, November 19th, 2012. And good luck!
Do you love your Friends? In honor of Warner Bros. new release of the Friends Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set, Warner Bros. will give one Media Darlings reader a Limited Edition Friends prize pack with two oversized cappuccino mugs and a picture frame just like the one on Monica’s door! All you need to do to enter is to sign up to officially follow this site, then leave a comment to this story with a way to reach you (email preferred) below. Already follow us? Great! Then just leave the comment and you’re entered. The contest ends 5pm EST on November 30, 2012. And good luck!
Monday, November 12, 2012
Review and Author and Illustrator Interviews
The Reader is an adorable picture book written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Lauren Castillo and published by Amazon Children’s Publishing. It’s also the lead character of the book. The "Reader" is a small boy with a dog, a sled, and a suitcase. The boy and his dog play in the snow and climb to the top of a tall hill where the suitcase is opened and they share a surprise. The Reader is about the quiet of nature. It’s also about being able to hear yourself think. And of course, it’s about the special bond between child and dog. The illustrations are gorgeous, created in a sure-handed minimalism that makes you step back in awe. Beautiful moments of fun in the snow make this a perfect holiday gift. And it celebrates a love of reading and of books. It’s a small piece of perfection
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Disney’s Fifty-Second Animated Feature – 2012
I was literally in the dark when this film opened last week, put in the dark by Hurricane Sandy. Now that our lights are back on, I was itching to get to the theater to see Disney’s latest feature. Wreck-It Ralph is the first feature film for tv director Rich Moore (Drawn Together, Futurama, and The Simpsons, to name a few) and writers Phil Johnston (a few tv movies and shorts) and Jennifer Lee (her first film), which surprised me. Disney is willing to bet the candy store on a group of newbies? Will this be revolutionary? No spoiler here: no. Wreck-It Ralph delivers great entertainment value, but it’s more dependable than original.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Lights are back on after a weeklong blackout at my house and it feels great to be getting a story up. During the blackout, I could recharge my laptop and iPad at the local library, so I spent some time with a pair of wonderful, slightly addictive apps that love words as much as I do.
New York Times Bestselling illustrator Tom Lichtenheld (Duck Rabbit!, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site) was inspired by last night’s election and the response to Hurricane Sandy to create this charming and inspirational image.
In his words, “Despite the storm, despite the money, despite the mud-slinging … this thing basically worked. So let's put the elephants and donkeys out to pasture and come up with a new mascot.” – Tom Lichtenheld
Or as Lara Starr from Chronicle Books told me, “Today, there are no Elephants. There are no Donkeys. We are all Giraffes!”
Friday, November 2, 2012
Disney’s Thirty-Second Animated Feature - 1994 (original release) 2011 (3D release)
I have a confession to make: I’ve never been a huge fan of The Lion King. While it’s impossible not to get swept up in its beautiful animation, top-notch voice performances, and exciting story, the essential phoniness of animal life along with its celebration of adherence to royal bloodlines and “proper” succession to the throne has always irked me. A much earlier Disney classic about animals in nature, Bambi, was set in a world where animals speak and the owl is a friend to a rabbit; but on the whole, the story of Bambi set the deer in a recognizable, realistic world. The Lion King, on the other hand, is more a movie about a European royal family (pre-Renaissance) than it is about any group of animals.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
We're without power here at Media Darlings in South Orange, New Jersey. Everyone's safe and sound as we wait out the power outage. In the mean time, (as I write from a local Starbucks and recharge my phone) check out our archives. Consider it a "Best of Media Darlings" week. Stay safe! See you very soon (the sooner, the better)!
Sunday, October 28, 2012
It’s Sunday afternoon in New Jersey. We’re in the path of Hurricane Sandy so we’ve been spending the weekend securing stuff, gathering supplies, and generally battening down every hatch. We’ve even found out that both my and my husband’s places of employment are closed Monday. To an extent, there’s a lot of waiting going on—waiting for the weather to change; waiting for the winds to whip up; and hoping against hope that the winds and water are merciful. As the mother of a four-year-old, I’m also hoping that Halloween—just three days away—isn’t ruined. I know, it’s much more important that we all get through this safely; but Halloween is such a big deal for kids this age. Part of me just wants to laugh in the face of fear. So I reached into my cupboard and took down the Pillsbury Halloween Funfetti Whoopie Pie Kit that has been taunting me for weeks.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Human Anatomy Apps for Kids
Two new apps—one for younger kids; one for older—do a great job explaining how the world’s most sophisticated machine works. Both are interesting and interactive, and depict the body through the expected deconstructed views of muscle, organs, the circulatory system, and skeleton. And both apps touch upon the ticklish subject of human reproduction in a way appropriate for each age group. Younger users need to understand that a baby grows inside her mother; older users are presented with a scientific yet culturally sensitive lesson in human reproduction.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
When I was a kid, my absolute favorite thing in the world was the Muppets. So the idea of a Muppet-style puppet coming to life to be my sidekick? Sounds cool to me. That’s the premise of Disney XD’s new combination live action/puppet show, Crash and Bernstein. Wyatt Bernstein (played by Cole Jensen) is the only male in his house and longs for a brother. After a trip to a “Build-A-Bestie” store, his creation comes to life in the form of Crash—a rude, outrageous bada**. In this world of tweens, Crash is the boy gone wild, the fun kid with no fear. He brings the chaos.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
If you’re a fan of Mutts Comics, I don’t need to sell you on the extraordinary work of Patrick McDonnell. Along with a shelf of books starring his popular Mutts stars—Earl and Mooch—he wrote and illustrated Bad Baby, Our Little Kat King, Art, and my favorite, Me … Jane, which is the Caldecott honors-winning story of the childhood of anthropologist Jane Goodall. His latest book, The Monsters’ Monster along with a pair of not-so-scary apps celebrate the Halloween season with your pre-schoolers and younger grammar schoolers.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
This was my first trip to New York Comic Con; or for that matter, to any serious comics convention. Held at Javits Center, anybody (and I mean anybody) who’s a serious player in comics or pop culture suggested or influenced by comics is there. Marvel and DC Comics are there. But so is every ambitious indie who’s ready to make her mark at “the big show.” It’s impossible not to feel the excitement and the passion in this serious pursuit of play.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
The Icelandic word elska means “to love” which is no small coincidence. After I listened to Elska - Middle of Nowhere, I had cartoon hearts floating over my head. This disc is the real deal: an actual (and interesting) concept disc for young listeners that’s tuneful, thought provoking, and endearing.
Friday, October 12, 2012
Interview by Jack Silbert
On Labor Day weekend, my sister sent me an email alerting me to the debut of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, belated spinoff of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I immediately did what any childless 43-year-old would do: I set the DVR.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
It here, fans: the First Annual International Ivy + Bean Day (That’s October 13th to you and me). After weeks of anticipation, the Ivy and Bean Blog-A-Bration culminates with the release of book nine in the popular series, Ivy + Bean Make the Rules. And it was worth the wait.
Monday, October 8, 2012
Guest Post by Irene Latham
There’s a lot of talk these days about “passion.” We want it for ourselves, and we want it for our kids. We worry that if we don’t have it—or if our kids don’t have it—we’ve somehow failed.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
In honor of Tim Burton's new film, Frankenweenie, we're giving away his last film, Dark Shadows, on Blu-Ray.
One lucky winner will receive a Dark Shadows Blu-Ray Combo pack. Just sign up to join this site and leave a comment below with a way to reach you (email preferred). Already follow the site? Great—just leave a comment by Friday, October 12 at 5pm EST. And good luck!
Thursday, October 4, 2012
At its core, Tim Burton’s black and white, stop-motion animated film (in 3D yet!) is a simple, moving tale of the relationship between a boy and his loyal dog. The film works so well because that central relationship is so touchingly rendered. And Burton understands what all dog lovers know: nobody (or nothing) will love you as fully and unquestioningly as a dog.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
It’s not often I describe a children’s picture book as haunting, but there is something hauntingly real about this fantastical tale of a miniature walrus Benny and the sisters who help him get home to the sea. With beautiful illustrations by Lisa Hanawalt, Benny’s Brigade by O. Henry award winning author Arthur Bradford seems just right for the change of the seasons, as the tale begins as sisters Elsie and Theo are walking to school. Benny’s Brigade feels like that last little wisp of summer that appears right before fall begins in earnest.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
It’s week eight of the Ivy + Bean Blog-A-Bration and we’re giving away a paperback copy of book eight in the series, Ivy and Bean No News Is Good News. And like last week, we’re also giving away 3 sets of Ivy and Bean Mini Notes. And we’re finally ready to reveal the Super Secret Really Cool Prize that will be part of the Ivy and Bean Prize Pack:
Thursday, September 27, 2012
The Hotel Transylvania is an oasis of sorts. Founded by Dracula himself, it’s a resort where monsters can lose their cares and have fun among people who love them; instead of among people who’d stalk them with pitchforks and torches. It’s the first feature directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, a television stalwart whose credits include Dexter’s Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Disney’s Sixteenth Animated Feature — 1959
Sleeping Beauty, or rather Princess Aurora (or maybe you know her as Briar Rose) has been given new life as one of the Disney Princesses (trademark symbol most definitely here). She’s the princess with long blonde hair and pink dress. My daughter has a Disney Princess snow shovel with her picture on it. That’s one broad product line. Why three names? The character is born and named Princess Aurora in the Disney film, based on a 17th century story La Belle au bois dormant, (The beauty asleep in the wood) by Charles Perrault, later interpreted as Little Briar Rose by the brothers Grimm. Disney uses “Briar Rose” as her alias when she goes into protective hiding as a peasant girl.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
It’s week seven of the Ivy + Bean Blog-A-Bration and we’re giving away a paperback copy of book seven in the series, Ivy and Bean What’s the Big Idea. And like last week, we’re also giving away 3 sets of Ivy and Bean Mini Notes. AND during week 9, a Grand Prize Winner will be chosen from all of the previous winners to receive:
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Welcome to Hello Fall $1000 Cash Giveaway
Happy Home and Family and Jenn’s Blah Blah Blog together with the most amazing group of bloggers are bringing you once again another FABULOUS event where one very lucky reader will win $1000 cold hard cash!
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Book Review and Author Interview
When I was a kid, I loved vintage Bugs Bunny cartoons, mostly because Bugs was sarcastic in what seemed like a grown-up way. As I read The Templeton Twins Have an Idea, Ellis Weiner’s first children’s book in a series for Chronicle Books, I was transported back to my own childhood, laughing out loud at Weiner’s clever send-ups of … well, everything. My husband kept asking what I was laughing at. I found myself reading aloud to him—a lot. Your delighted kids will read aloud to you, too.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
This is one of those good news/bad news stories. The good news was that my four-year-old daughter Julia was developing an interest in all sorts of media: tv, movies, and apps. And whether the media was educational or entertainment, it was fun encouraging her to talk about the messages she got from the media she was beginning to really love. The bad news is that her interest in books nearly disappeared.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
It’s week six of the Ivy + Bean Blog-A-Bration and we’re giving away a paperback copy of book six in the series, Ivy and Bean Doomed to Dance. And like last week, we’re also giving away 3 sets of Ivy and Bean Mini Notes. AND during week 9, a Grand Prize Winner will be chosen from all of the previous winners to receive:
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Disney-Pixar’s Fifth Animated Feature – 2003 (Original Release) 2012 (3-D Release)
About a year ago, Disney announced it would re-release a collection of its most popular animated films in 3-D. This seemed an easy decision owing to the success of their recent re-release, The Lion King in 3-D. The public could soon see a 3-D version of Beauty and the Beast (January 2012), Finding Nemo (September 2012), Monsters, Inc. (January, 2013) and The Little Mermaid (September 2013). Having already seen the re-release of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, I admit it was great seeing those wonderful films on the big screen again; but the 3-D conversion didn’t enhance the experience. If anything, 2-D characters would sometimes appear to be paper-thin cutouts in a distorted 3-D world. As a big fan of (especially) Beauty and the Beast, I would pay to see the 2-D version of the film on the big screen, just so I could share it with my daughter. I didn’t need the 3-D “improvement.”
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Exhibition Review by Maggie Hames
In 1900, Ellen Key’s book Century of the Child predicted that the 20th century would see dramatic (and welcome) changes in the life of children. Progressive thought regarding children’s rights, development, and well-being refocused society in the new century. New York City’s Museum of Modern Art has taken Key’s work as a jumping-off point for an extraordinary exhibition that is well worth your time and attention.
It’s week five of the Ivy + Bean Blog-A-Bration and we’re giving away a paperback copy of book five in the series, Ivy and Bean Bound to be Bad. And like last week, we’re also giving away 3 sets of Ivy and Bean Mini Notes. AND during week 9, a Grand Prize Winner will be chosen from all of the previous winners to receive:
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
I’ve just been hanging around the fishpond, trying to will summer from ending. But it’s no use. I’ll be back teaching by Friday and my little girl starts preschool on Monday. Ouch. I’m going to ease the jolt of the new school season by lingering pondside with a trio of apps that are leap-out-of-the-water clever.
Monday, September 3, 2012
Disney’s Fifteenth Animated Feature — 1955
The opening theme music to Lady and the Tramp is a full-blooded love song, “Bella Notte.” This love story happens to star dogs in all their simple and joyous honesty. As Josh Billings wrote (quoted at the top of the film), “In the whole history of the world there is but one thing that money can not buy … to wit—the wag of a dog’s tail.” To wit and to woo, as upper crusty cocker spaniel Lady is memorably wooed by the Tramp, a mongrel literally from the wrong side of the tracks. We meet him as he wakes up in a refuse heap at a train yard. The story is set in an earlier, quainter era. The opening moments of Lady and the Tramp show a horse-drawn sleigh similar to the “Once Upon A Wintertime” sequence in 1948’s Melody Time.
Sunday, September 2, 2012
It’s week four of the Ivy + Bean Blog-A-Bration and we’re giving away a paperback copy of book four in the series, Ivy and Bean Take Care of the Babysitter. And like last week, we’re also giving away 3 sets of Ivy and Bean Mini Notes. AND during week 9, a Grand Prize Winner will be chosen from all of the previous winners to receive:
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Retro Apps We Love: “Punky Dunk and the Gold Fish,” “Colorforms Revolution,” and “Knock Knock and the Who’s There Doors”
If you’re like me, you love to share old favorites—books, toys, even jokes—from your own childhood with your kids. I found a trio of apps that re-imagine “hits” from the past and makes them joyously, cleverly new. These apps welcome our kids into the fold of generations who’ve grown up with time-tested books and toys that they’re sure to share with their own kids one day.
Monday, August 27, 2012
Film Short Review by Regina Robbins
What’s Millie to do? She’s a pillar of her community, loved and trusted by her neighbors, and especially by the members of her church. But Millie dearly wants to experience a special kind of love that friendship doesn’t provide. After many tearful nights, she takes initiative and puts herself out there on the Internet dating scene…and meets an amazing person. When they come face to face for the first time, Millie and Ed know they are soul mates, and after a joyful courtship, they decide to be married. There’s just one problem: Ed is also female. Poor Millie can’t believe it when her adoring “church family” condemn her relationship and threaten to cut her out of their lives if she continues her sinful lifestyle.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Hey, everybody, it’s week three of the Ivy + Bean Blog-A-Bration and we’re giving away a paperback copy of book three in the series, Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record. And just like last week, we’re also giving away 3 sets of Ivy and Bean Mini Notes. AND during week 9, a Grand Prize Winner will be chosen from all of the previous winners to receive: