10 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Pajanimals (2008– )
A Show That Succeeds If It Puts Viewers to Sleep? Brilliant!
11 July 2009
"The Pajanimals" is a series of short-form segments that air nightly on the cable/satellite network PBSKids Sprout. This series is nothing short of sheer brilliance. In each segment, four bedtime friends-- Apollo, Squacky, Cowbella and Sweetpea Sue sing a song that helps them get ready for bed. Issues explored include wanting to stay up at night, missing mom and dad, having scary dreams and getting enough sleep in order to have energy to play the next day.

The "La La Lullaby" song is played every night on Sprout. This song is amazingly soothing. The music can easily lull viewers to sleep, the lyrics are well-written and the visuals perfectly match the song. They play right at the end of "The Goodnight Show," after Nina's signoff. It's a perfect way to end the night.

Other particularly good songs include "Goodnight to Mom" and "How Do I Know When It's Morning Time?" I'll be posting individual reviews for both of them, but "Goodnight to Mom" is precious, while "How Do I Know When It's Morning Time?" is a laugh riot.

The show is visually a treat to look at. It's one the few shows in Sprout presented in widescreen and is filled with detail. The puppets and are very well-designed. There are ten episodes of the show, not including the theme song. I'm hopeful, though, that maybe they'll decide to make the program into a full series with 22 minute episodes. It seems like it could really work. Also, if you look around online, you can find a free video of the show's theme song (which is never aired on Sprout) along with high-quality downloadable images. Episodes of the show are also available to view on Sprout's website.
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My Friends Tigger & Pooh (2007–2010)
Newest in Line of Pooh TV Series is a Winner
6 January 2008
Disney's "My Friends Tigger & Pooh" is their newest offering in the line of television series featuring the character Winnie the Pooh. For this edition, they've decided to shake things up a bit by making some changes -- doing the show in CGI, adding a new character, Darby (with her dog Buster), and targeting the show squarely at younger preschool audiences. Each idea had the potential to be dangerous if not handled well, Yet, for all the hullabaloo about how Christopher Robin was being "replaced" and the Pooh franchise was being ruined, this show has turned out to be more than a pleasant surprise. It's lively, a lot of fun to watch, and may actually teach its target audience a few things.

Isn't it nice to know that even while some things change, the best things remain the same? Pooh and his friends are still the same old lovable characters they always are. Pooh, Tigger and Darby may now be the Super Sleuths, but in many ways, Pooh is still "a bear of little brain." Roo is endearingly cute, and Lumpy (the wonderful heffalump first seen in "Pooh's Heffalump Movie") livens up the show every time he appears, and is a great friend to Roo.

In each episode, the Super Sleuths are called upon to solve a mystery. There have been some pretty unusual turns, however, and no matter what the outcome, you can count on a lot of fun and humor along the way. Oh, and Christopher Robin isn't gone. He's appeared in two episodes so far, and could easily be back for more. The quality of the animation, and general production in general, is wonderful.

As of the writing of this review, 22 episodes and a Christmas special have been released in the United States. Three more have aired only in other markets, and I look forward to these installments of the show. The program has also been renewed for a second season, and I can't wait to see what new direction it takes. So, in the words of Tigger, "TTFN - Ta ta for now!"
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Twenty One (2000–2001)
Not Boring at All --- Suspenseful, Thrilling and Fun Revival of Classic Game Show
21 January 2007
The NBC "Twenty One" revival, as hosted by Maury Povich, was an under-appreciated gem that never should have been canceled, but unfortunately just couldn't muster the ratings.

This version of "Twenty One" was based on the classic "Twenty One," which was the victim of a quiz show scandal featured in the film "Quiz Show." Maury Povich seemed like an odd choice to be tapped as host, but ultimately proved to be an adept emcee.

In each episode, two players were locked in isolation booths so that they would have no idea how their opponent was doing. They would then select a category and then choose to go for a multiple-choice question with a point value from 1-11. Obviously, 1 point questions were ridiculously easy and 11 point questions were rather difficult. The first player to reach 21 was the champion. The first game won was worth $25,000, but returning champions could play for up to 1 million dollars, and keep going! "Twenty One" had truly big money and a fun format. It also had thrilling music, contestants you generally wanted to cheer for and excellent suspense. At the end of two rounds of questions, Maury would ask if either play wanted to stop the game. This often proved to be a wise decision for some players, but backfired in other cases. Generally, a contestant wanted to stop the game if he/she believed there was a good chance their point value was great than their opponents' because when the game was stopped, whoever had the most points would win.

I wouldn't mind seeing this show revived again sometime and I'm thrilled GSN has picked up the repeat rights. This show is as compelling in repeats as it was originally.
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When We Get There, We'll Scream "Yeah!"
22 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Based on the picture book by Chris Van Allsburg, "The Polar Express" is a CGI motion-capture tour-de-force featuring the performances of Tom Hanks in several roles.

"The Polar Express" is about a little boy for whom the magic of Santa is becoming hard to believe in. In fact, this boy, known only as the Hero Boy, has become disillusioned with many things about Christmas. Still, he wants to believe in Santa, so when a mysterious train appears and the conductor tells him that it's the Polar Express, he decides to come aboard.

Once on-board, the Hero Boy is in for a wild adventure. He meets the Hero Girl (an intelligent, confident personality filled with warmth) and the Know-it-All Boy (who's always ready with his opinion and facts that nobody really wants.) However, the Lonely Boy (Billy) that he meets may be the most important character of all.

Christmas just never seems to work out for Billy. He doesn't really have anyone to care for him and Santa has never come to his house. In fact, when the Polar Express comes to 11334 Edbrook Avenue, Billy very nearly doesn't board. The Hero Boy has to pull the emergency brake to stop the train. This greatly displeases the train's Conductor, who runs a tight schedule, but his hardness softens when he learns why the Hero Boy pulled the brake.

The Hero Girl and Billy sing "When Christmas Comes to Town" in which Billy expresses why the holidays don't work for him and they both share their hopes and dreams for the holidays. Eventually the train reaches --- you're not dreaming! --- the North Pole. There, the four children get into a wild adventure, that culminates with a meeting with, well, guess-who.

"The Polar Express" uses motion-capture animation to bring semi-realistic characters to life. Tom Hanks provides the performances for not only the Conductor character, but also the Hero Boy, Santa Claus and a vagrant ghost who haunts the train. The voice cast is wonderful and Hanks's own rich voice adds a lot to the film as well.

To go with its great story, animation and characters, "The Polar Express" features a top-notch soundtrack, both vocal and instrumental. Songs include the previously mentioned "When Christmas Comes to Town," as well as "Hot Chocolate," "Spirit of the Season" and Josh Groban's "Believe" among others. I was pleased that ABC Family retained the songs and music in the closing credits and resisted the temptation to do the ridiculous split-screen that so many networks do these days. One other great thing is that this film also includes classic tunes by artists such as Bing Crosby.

If I had one complaint, it would be that I think the animators were a bit too impressed with what they could do with the CGI at times. There were some extended visual sequences that caused the film to drag a bit and seemed mainly for effect. Otherwise, magical film. Some people say it was only a dream. I say, if that's so, then I hope it was the shared dream of all children or something like that. If that weren't the case, then the journeys of the Hero Girl, Know-it-All Boy and Billy characters wouldn't be as meaningful.
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22 November 2006
Now that "JoJo's Circus" has stopped airing new episodes on a regular basis, "Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends" is the best children's-animated series out there still regularly putting out new episodes. This program (which is worked on by many of the cast and crew of programs such as "Franklin" and "Little Bear") is a CGI-animated tour-de-force that also features wonderful vocal and instrumental music, strong story lines and wonderful characters.

The world of "Miss Spider" is populated mainly by bugs. Miss Spider and Holley are the proud parents of a number of spiderlings and three adoptees --- Dragon the dragonfly, Shimmer the jewel beetle and Bounce the bedbug. Each character brings something wonderful to the party. Squirt is adventurous, fun-loving and helpful. Wiggle is creative, but sometimes nervous and shy. Spinner is very intellectual, but likes having fun as well. Pansy and Snowdrop are twins, but with different personalities. Shimmer is a bright pink, kindly jewel-beetle who is also rather sporty. Dragon can be a bit mean at times, but the others admire his toughness and he's usually a nice addition to the group. Finally, Bounce is very energetic, speaks with a Spanish accent (masterfully performed by Julie Lemieux) and likes to eat a lot. And then there's Miss Spider --- always kindly, always patient and full of wisdom and Holley --- very musical, still learning how to be a good parent, and always fair.

This show has a wonderful supporting guest cast as well, including Ted and Ned (the laziest ants you'll ever meet), Beetrice the Queen Bee, Grandma Betty Beetle (Miss Spider's adoptive Mom), Uncle Gus and many more.

This show explores all kinds of stories, from being afraid of sounds at night, to wanting to find one's true family. As I mentioned --- not all the characters are bugs --- there's a frog character in later episodes named Felix and a Snake that sometimes incites fear in the bugs.

My review wouldn't be complete without a mention of the late, great Tony Jay, who provided the voice of Spiderus. Just recently, what I can only assume must be one of his last episodes premiered on Treehouse TV. His vocal presence added a lot to the series and he will be missed.

"Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends" is a Gemini-award-winning series that shouldn't be passed by, although unfortunately a lot of people are doing just that. Currently, new episodes are only being shown in Canada --- Nick Jr. does not air the program at this time and Noggin is only playing the first season. Fortunately, more episodes are being released on DVD. One can only hope that both Noggin and Nick Jr. will get on the ball, and soon.
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Fantastic (Or Rather, Bugtastic) in Every Way --- Sparkles With Brilliance
16 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends: The Prince, The Princess and the Bee" is the newest direct-to-video feature from this wonderful, brilliantly animated series featuring Miss Spider, Holley and their buggy charges.

"The Prince, The Princess and the Bee" focuses largely on the character of Shimmer. Fans of the series know that Shimmer is a jewel beetle that was adopted by the Spider family along with Bounce and Dragon. All of these children have lost their original family, but in this one --- Shimmer has a chance to find hers --- and it may just turn out to be royal. Sunny Patch is having its own royal event, with the birthday of Princess Honey of the bees. And when the Beetle Brigade flies by and pays their respects while on their way back to Mushroom Glen, Shimmer hears the tale of the Glen's lost jewel beetle princess. She also learns that there's a big ball soon being held there and she resolves to get to Mushroom Glen to see if she can find out her true history. When travel becomes an issue, she gets some help from an old friend from the first "Miss Spider" film --- Stinky the stinkbug! TPTP&TB is filled with wonderful lessons about bravery, respect, true courage and appreciation for one what has. None of the lessons are overbearing and the plot is quite fun to follow and enjoy.

Everything about this production is top-notch. The CGI animation is very well-formed and they don't skimp on the background artwork either --- with wonderful color textures and scenes. The film features three songs and a great audio and instrumental track to match. The characters are all generally quite likable, or at least amusing/interesting.
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"Goblet of Fire" --- Strong Film, Very Dark at Times
21 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"Goblet of Fire" --- Strong Film, Very Dark at Times Those who haven't read the books should be able to follow the film as long as they pay careful attention.


"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" is the fourth installment in the seventh-part series. It still features most of the cast from the first three movies, including Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Emma Watson and Hermione Granger. Mike Newell took the head for directing this time and Patrick Doyle provided the music, rather than John Williams of "Star Wars" fame.

The U.S. Edition of the "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" book is 754 pages long, which translates into an audiobook with a total 20 hour, 30 minute running time. With this huge length, the question on many peoples' minds is --- were they able to successfully convert this into a film of approximately 2 and 1/2 hours? Overall, I'd say the answer is a resounding yes. The film features exactly those moments that are essential to the plot, plus a few nice bonuses as well to help to appease those that would otherwise be upset about too many cuts. The film looks and sounds excellent and the writing, acting and directing are superb. The tasks look great and while they're all changed or shortened from their original book versions, they're excellent fun. The Yule Ball is largely intact, including the tension between Ron and Hermione. As for the tension between Harry and Ron before the first task, it's even ratcheted up a bit --- with Ron telling Harry to "p*** off" and even an insinuation that Ron is behind the Potter Stinks, Support Cedric Diggory --- The Real Hogwarts Champion buttons that nearly everyone seems to be wearing. And, yes, Ralph Fiennes is truly terrifying as the darkest wizard of all times --- Lord Voldemort. You'll feel a thrill of dread as he revels in the pleasure he takes from Harry's pain as he touches his scar and feel Harry's terror as he battles for his life.

Some notes on the changes and cuts --- one of the most major changes was the presence of Barty Crouch Jr. in the scenes with Voldemort and Wormtail. I found this an interesting choice and they worked it nicely into the film without hurting the plot any. Another nice change was having Neville provide Harry with the gillyweed he needs to breathe underwater. This is especially notable because in the book, the fake Mad Eye Moody makes such a point of the fact that Harry's pride and independence kept him from asking Neville for help.

Some great scenes that weren't cut from the movie --- Malfoy is turned into a ferret (although this scene was altered somewhat), Harry talks with Sirius in the Gryffindor common room fire and Myrtle helps (and pesters) Harry in his bath.

There were only a few changes and cuts that I was unhappy about. During the Quidditch World Cup, they showed almost no actual Quidditch play at all. While I understand that they have to keep things moving, this loss still hurts. Another thing I think really should have been included was Mad Eye Moody placing the Imperius curse upon Harry and then Harry later resisting it when Lord Voldemort uses it on him (which Voldemort doesn't in the movie.) One other complaint is that they should have researched certain pronunciations better --- akk-i-o for "accio" and Bo-bat-ons for "Beauxbatons" was just wrong.

Finally, I'll touch on the music --- a compelling mix of traditional instrumental themes and fun vocal pieces this time around. "The Quidditch World Cup" contains Irish themes as well as chanting that fully evoke the passion of this great event. The "Hogwarts March" is a nice fun theme. "Neville's Waltz" has a very classical feeling to it, but is also used for great humor in the film. My favorite vocal piece is "Magic Works," a sort of ballad that plays during the closing credits.

A few critics have complained that those who haven't read the books won't be able to follow along, but I don't think so. Sure, there are a few things that may be confusing, but as long as you keep your eyes and ears open, you should have no problems. And if you still have any questions afterward, you can always search the Internet or ask a friend.

Whether you've read the books or not, see "Goblet of Fire," likely the best film of 2005, today.
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Massively Underrated!
2 November 2005
It's the Care Bears in their newest CGI movie, "Big Wish Movie." Think it's lame? Think it's cheesy? You couldn't be more wrong! This movie has a bit of something for everyone --- top-notch vocal performances and songs, great humor, a well-written story and some neat new characters.

The basic premise of the movie is that Wish Bear loves helping her friends by making wishes on her wishing star, Twinkers. However, some of the Care Bears are concerned that her wishes are creating problems rather than helping things out. Wish Bear, upset, makes a wish for some new friends that like wishing as much as she does --- and prepare to be shocked and amazed by the results! There are lots of great jokes in this movie and even a nice reference to the previous CGI Care Bears feature, "Journey to Joke-a-Lot." Viewers will also probably be pleased that there are a lot more Care Bears shown and speaking in this one than in "Journey to Joke-a-Lot." There are a total of five songs in the movie. Each are fun and different from the simple opening theme (which features a chorus repeating "Care Bears in a Big Wish" many times --- very simple, but works with the music) to the drop-down riotous "Get a Lot." And the "Power of Wishing" song played during the closing credits feels like a fun blast from the past.

Some have complained that the animation is cheesy, but I rather like it. It's 3D, colorful and fun to watch.

The DVD production of this movie is well up to the great standard that the movie set. The menus feature many of the 3D scenes from the movie, including the Care-a-Lot conference room and Wish Bear narrates all the menus. There a few neat games and the Care-o-Meter is woven into the DVD, so each time you complete a "Caring Activity," you're one step closer to unlocking some additional bonus features.
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Brilliant for a "Children's Film"
25 November 2004
"Franklin and the Green Knight," is the best children's movie of all time and one of the best movies ever. This is no small claim, but this also no small movie. "Green Knight" hits all the right notes when it comes writing, directing, soundtrack and original songs, characters and more. This is a touching tale that has an important lesson to tell, but is never ridiculously saccharine or forceful in its message.

"Franklin and the Green Knight" is about Franklin expecting a new sibling. Those who are regular watchers of the series are probably already quite familiar with Franklin's new sibling, but even if you are, this is well-worth watching anyway. The movie contains four original lyrical songs. Two of them are pretty high-energy, exciting songs, but the other two are more touching and introspective songs.

This movie contains a lot of great humor, but also many greatly personal moments. One of the best involves a special bonding between Franklin and a close friend of his. The ending is also pure magic.
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Clean Sweep (2003– )
Best of These Home-Design Shows
3 July 2004
"Clean Sweep" is a great show about cleaning the mess out of your home on TLC. I think this is easily the best of the home-design shows. The crew on this show doesn't mess around. There are two professional organizers: Shelli Alexander and Peter Walsh, and both are experts at helping people to disclose of clutter that they don't need or simply won't fit into their homes. Meanwhile, a fully-trained crew, including a rotating staff of professional designers, makes over two rooms in the house into the type of spaces that the homeowners really want. By the time they get done, the transformations are usually so amazing that the rooms are almost unrecognizable and the homeowners are in awe. This show is definitely one for the "Keep" pile.
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