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Long Lost Son (2006 TV Movie)
Too many plot holes!
10 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Gabrielle Anwar is luminous. It was not at all surprising that she had men all over the place either sweet-talking her or bending the rules for her. The young man who played Mark/Matthew made me wish I was about 25 years younger than I am! (grin)

But still... come on. I'll grant you that it would not be easy to wait a few weeks to get a passport before going to see your son, but the travel agent told her she would probably be detained and possibly deported back the U.S., in which case she would be right back where she started. And if she's so good at getting people to bend the rules for her, why didn't she contact whoever about getting the passport, explain her story, and try to get the process expedited? This was a plot device tossed in to the story to keep it from being about half an hour long, and the writer surely could have found *something* more believable!

And what is Kristine's problem with telling the truth? Why didn't she tell her story to the official at the immigration office once she arrived on the island without a passport? Why lie to him about losing her passport? And for that matter, why did he believe her? I don't know about anyone else, but I don't usually travel with a copy of my birth certificate in my purse. If she lost her passport on the plane, why would she have her birth certificate right there with her, and why didn't the immigration official question her about it? Same thing with the local police officer -- same lie and same problematic paperwork.

Speaking of the police officer, what's up with him telling Kristine "names and numbers -- I'm on it" as if he plans to investigate Quinn, then turning around and calling Quinn to joke with him about "this crazy American?" Another silly plot device to keep Kristine from going straight to Matthew to tell him, I suppose, since he told her it would impede his "investigation."

Finally at the end of the movie, as the three main characters sit in boats anchored at a salt flat with a hurricane approaching, Quinn (and the screenwriter) can't seem to figure out what he should do. One minute he's saying they can't go back to the island because "they're looking for me." He intends to make a run for it, and take Kristine and Matthew with him. A moment later, he has apparently remembered there's a hurricane on the way and calls the rescue helicopter, giving them his location, so he, Kristine, and Matthew can be picked up -- says he wants to do his time on this island rather than rotting in jail in Haiti, and he doesn't want Matthew or Kristine to get hurt. (This from the man who told his son his mother was dead, and let the mother believe her son was dead. But he doesn't want them to get hurt.) Another moment later, Kristine suggests he take the zodiac and get away, and he agrees, thereby making her (and presumably Matthew) an accessory to his escape from the law. (But he doesn't want them to get hurt.)

It's not a terrible movie, but it's also not one I would watch again.
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Charming and well-animated
2 November 2006
This is a nicely-done story with pretty music, lots of dancing, lots of big sister/little sister interaction (almost all of it positive), and lots of wishes granted. There are funny moments that older children and adults will enjoy, such as when King Randolph exclaims, "They're just SHOES! Aren't they?" And tender moments such as when Princess Genevieve comforts her youngest sister, Lacey, after a blunder.

The animation is perhaps not as good as Disney, but it still is very good. The facial expressions are nuanced, particularly for Genevieve, King Randolph, Duchess Rowena and her servant, Derek the cobbler, and little Princess Lacey. My only quibble on the animation is in the dance sequences where the dancing princesses become absolute carbon copies of each other without the slightest deviation -- even the three youngest copy the dance steps perfectly. I would have liked to see a little more individualism in the dancing, considering that these girls are not professional ballerinas or chorus dancers.

The resolution of the story is handled cleverly to get rid of a villainess without actually hurting her. There is some violence done to guards in the story, and the villainess's monkey is mean to other animals in the story.

My 4-year-old daughter loves this movie and has watched it repeatedly, and I have found it to be quite acceptable for her to watch.
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A kick to watch, sing along with, and dance with
24 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This isn't a movie that should make a deep, lasting impression on anyone -- it's just not that kind of movie. It is the kind of movie you can watch more than once just to enjoy the music. (I wore out two soundtrack tapes playing it in my car!) Okay, so it's a frothy little movie. Frothy can be good -- dessert has it's place on the menu! And for those of us who played in some version of a garage band in our teens, it's a chance to see how our wildest dreams might have come true.

And it's always a kick in Tom Hanks' movies to see familiar faces pop up. Steve Zahn, who plays Lenny in this movie, also shows up in "You've Got Mail" and "From The Earth To The Moon." Peter Scolari, of course, was Mr. Hanks' costar on "Bosom Buddies."

Mr. Hanks is a keen observer of people. I've known more than one musician who put all his emotions into his music, leaving little or none for the people in his life -- in this movie, it's Jimmy. I've known guys who are so self-absorbed that they don't realize that women are drawn to them and then brushed away -- Guy ignores his girlfriend's chatter in his own excitement, and later, as a waitress tells him her life story, he's obviously just waiting for her to stop talking.

And I've been the girl ready to follow her musician anywhere, singing along with every note he sings. Poor Fay -- she really thought Jimmy loved her.

It's interesting that Guy and Fay end up together -- for the first time in the movie, he's actually listening to what a woman is saying to him. And from the "follow-up" at the end of the movie, they apparently have a good life together, so maybe he just needed to have the right woman talking to him.

But all these observations are so neatly written that you don't feel like you're taking a course in character analysis -- they just make the movie that much more interesting to watch.
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Judas (2004 TV Movie)
Luminous actor as Jesus
24 September 2006
I don't think this movie was particularly good, starting with the fact that once again we've got a blond playing Jesus, even though Jesus was an Israelite and should have the coloring of people of that region. But I have to say that despite his coloring, Jonathan Scarfe made a wonderful Jesus. He was warm and smiling, luminous -- everything the actor in "Jesus of Nazareth" was not. There was an openness and sweetness to him that I think Jesus must have had.

When I first saw the movie "Gandhi" with Ben Kingsley, I thought, "They found a saint to play a saint." Love just seemed to pour out of his eyes. I got the same feeling from Jonathan Scarfe -- you could certainly understand from this performance how people would be so drawn to Christ. And when you read Mr. Scarfe's filmography and realize that this is the same actor who played the cynical, drug-addicted Chase Carter for several episodes on "ER", you have to realize what a wonderful actor he is.
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Handy Manny (2006–2013)
Exercises in problem-solving
16 September 2006
Manny is a repairman with a toolbox full of talking tools, all of which are cleverly named: for example, the measuring tape is Stretch, the hammer is Pat. Together Manny and his tools take on a variety of jobs, which always require thinking through possible ways of getting them done. In one episode, they're trying to help a lady get a new oven into her house, but it's too big for the door, so they have to try to find some other way to get it into the house.

Manny is a Latino, and speaks a mixture of English and Spanish, as do some of the other characters on the show; only one of his tools has a Latino accent -- Felipe, the phillips screwdriver. When other characters greet them, they typically say, "Hola, Manny. Hello, Tools."

My 4-year-old daughter loves this show. She enjoys learning what the different tools are and what they do.
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Sliders (1995–2000)
A good show that should have quit while it was ahead.
2 August 2006
The first episode of this series absolutely captivated me. I was fascinated by the whole concept of parallel dimensions and how the differences could be as minimal as "green is stop, red is go" or as massive as having dinosaurs still roaming California. I was very disappointed that it got canceled after just a few episodes, and delighted when it got picked up elsewhere. The twist at the end of the first season was absolutely wicked.

But the fact is, somewhere along the line, they decided they needed more than just a new dimension or two every week. They invented an ongoing enemy which had to be fought in every episode; brought in a previously unheard-of brother for Quinn (played VERY stiffly by Charlie O'Connell, the real-life brother of Jerry O'Connell who plays Quinn); eliminated original characters and brought in new ones. The show that had so entranced me at first no longer held my interest for even part of an episode.

I wish they had ended the series rather than getting into the war with the Kromaggs.
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Capitol Critters (1992–1995)
A cute show with clean jokes
1 August 2006
I really enjoyed this show -- I taped every episode and watched them numerous times. I found the idea of seeing the capitol from the perspective of a mouse to be very interesting, and the animation, while not the best I've ever seen, was quite acceptable. And since I consider The Simpsons quite distasteful, I was glad that the humor on Capitol Critters was clean as well as funny.

The premise is familiar -- a character removed abruptly from his familiar surroundings (in this case a country mouse, Max, forced to leave the farm where he grew up) and finding his way around a new place (in Washington, where he's gone to live with relatives.) I liked the idea of the relatively naive Max taking on big issues and trying to make a difference.

I'm a fan of Neil Patrick Harris, so it was nice hearing him as the voice of Max.
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Oobi (2000–2005)
Wonderful puppetry on a heart-warming show
8 March 2006
I've been watching Oobi with my daughter since before it was a full-length series -- it used to be just little filler bits between the shows on Noggin. It has been wonderful to see the program grow as they are able to longer and more involved stories.

The puppetry on this show is just wonderful. I'm constantly amazed at how they manage to get so much expression out of a puppet that is nothing more than a hand with a pair of eyes on top. In one episode, when Uma has a cold, you hear her sniffling, and there's a subtle movement of the puppet that lets you SEE her sniffling as well. There's a subtlety to these characters that just is not possible with regular puppets, Muppets, or marionettes.

My only problem with the show is the voices of Oobi and Kako. According to Noggin's website, Oobi is 4 years old, and Kako is his best friend, so presumably he is also about 4. But the voices don't sound like 4-year-olds, especially Kako's.

But that is a small issue compared to the wonderful interaction of the characters. When Oobi teaches Uma to say "neighborhood", or visits Kako's house and learns to eat okra, or goes fishing with Grampu, you see a sweet, intelligent child. No wise-cracks, no disrespect, just honest relationships in a loving family.
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The Save-Ums! (2003– )
Problem-solving, helping others, learning persistence.
3 October 2005
My three-year-old daughter loves this show. Two phrases that we particularly like from the title song are "To help is beautiful," and the last line, "Small is powerful! Believe it!"

The characters are a little strange-looking, like dolls made with little regard for the human form. But it's certainly not the only show to have strange-looking characters, and I think in a way that helps foster the idea that it's okay for other people to look different -- they are still people who can be your friends.

In every episode, the Save-Ums get a call on the Save-Um screen. They hear a request for help from one of their many friends, decide which two or three of the Save-Ums will go, and then head out. The problems are the kind that children can relate to, like not being able to find a friend during hide-and-seek, or having an argument with a sibling. The solutions provided by the Save-Ums are creative, but interestingly, rarely work on the first try. This requires them to study the problem a little more and come up with a second, more workable solution. The Save-Ums encourage each other and their friends to be persistent in finding answers to their problems.

I recommend this program for toddlers.
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Higglytown Heroes (2004–2008)
My 2-year-old loves this show.
18 October 2004
I am the mother of a 2-year-old who loves "Higgy-tow hewos" as she calls it.

The show revolves around four preschool friends (a multi-racial group, by the way) who learn to call on the people of the town to help them, and in the process learn about different professions -- plumber, librarian, tow-truck driver, mail carrier. There are no superheroes here, just people doing their jobs and thus becoming heroes to the children to need their help.

I particularly like Fran, the squirrel who plays with the children. She is an adult voice in the group, who manages to point out flaws in their often outlandish solutions without hurting their feelings. (Twinkle: "We could get friendly mice in pretty pink tutus to fly in a spaceship..." Fran: "That's a very creative solution, Twinkle, but it would take a long time to train the mice to fly a spaceship. I think we need to find something faster." Twinkle: "Aw, pickles!") [Note: That's not an exact quote from the show, just the gist of some dialog.]

From the perspective of someone interested in the careers of actors and actresses, it's fun to listen to the voices of the various heroes the children encounter, then read the credits to see who it is. Camryn Manheim voiced the plumber in one episode; Kathy Lee Gifford was the mail carrier in another. Betty White provided the voice of Eubie's Grand-Mama in at least two episodes.

Overall, a show that my daughter and I enjoy watching together.
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