DVD Review: Sesame Street: 20 Years and Still Counting

Hi there!

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, Sesame Street was a good friend on the television. My parents knew it was safe to leave me in front of the TV for an hour. And when the Electric Company was on, it was a two hour event. Now as a parent, I know the content has changed but the quality remains high and I trust Sesame Street to educate and entertain this new generation just as well as educated me.

The Sesame Street: 20 Years and Still Counting documentary was produced in 1989, covering the first 20 years of its continuing run on PBS. The series has continued to have another 20 years of success since then, so I can hardly wait to see what the show looks like in another 20! The documentary, hosted by Bill Cosby, provides a look back at the beginnings of the series, from its humble beginnings in 1969 to the worldwide acclaim and adoption it’s seen since then.

Watching with my two daughters, the video looks out of date but offers a great historical perspective on the series’ amazing legacy. Not only do you get some wonderful musical performances from Ray Charles and Plácido Domingo, but you get to hear from some of the actors who have called Sesame Street their home forever. What was more interesting to me was that Jim Henson appears to introduce the show, only a year before his untimely death. Neither of my girls knew him on sight, but when I mentioned the name they knew immediately who he was.

Seeing a much younger Luis (Emilio Delgado), Maria (Sonia Manzano), and Bob (Bob McGrath) really took me back to my childhood. It was quite obvious that the trio believed in the series from the beginning – not only as an integrated cast, but the first educational show to focus on using a curriculum to teach kids the alphabet, their numbers, language skills, shapes, colors, science, and much much more. Though the series went through occasional cast changes, such as when Mr. Hooper (Will Lee) passed away in 1983, that core trio has remained in place for more than 40 years now.

Add to that the many characters who call Sesame Street home – Bert and Ernie, Grover and the Grouch, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Kermit, and the whole gang – and you end up with a snapshot of that wonderful world. Cosby, with his usual humor and style, manages to interact with them all and give us a walking tour of the street most kids across America (and around the world) know and love.

It was very interesting to listen to the Sesame Street theme in different languages and see how different countries and cultures had adapted the show for their own children. Big Bird as a parrot instead of an eight foot yellow bird was fun to see, and listening to the theme song in Spanish, French, and Hebrew was intriguing. It’s amazing to think that kids in Germany, Israel, the West Bank, the Netherlands, and elsewhere are all benefiting from the pioneering work done by the show creators Jim Henson and Joan Cooney.

I have to admit that it’s a bit odd to me that Lionsgate chose now to release this special on DVD, but I think it proves the staying power of one of the tent poles of public television. Today, just like every day for the last 40+ years, children around the world have tuned in to learn and have fun at home.

Though I think this documentary will appeal more to parents than to kids, Sesame Street: 20 Years and Still Counting provides a historical record of the great work Sesame Street has done for four decades and will hopefully do for my grandkids over the next 20. Hopefully we will see more of these “messages in a bottle” from the past to inform the viewers of tomorrow about the enduring legacy of this series.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great Sesame Street DVDs below!

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The Haunting in Connecticut – Too Freaky Not to Share!

Hey all…

Have you seen the bizarre and freaky motion poster for The Haunting in Connecticut? It’s bizarre? You can see it at Yahoo Movies or see it after the break…

This is the official synopsis and the first I’ve heard of the movie:

Based on a chilling true story, Lionsgate‘s THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT charts one family’s terrifying, real-life encounter with the dark forces of the supernatural. When the Campbell family moves to upstate Connecticut, they soon learn that their charming Victorian home has a disturbing history: not only was the house a transformed funeral parlor where inconceivable acts occurred, but the owner’s clairvoyant son Jonah served as a demonic messenger, providing a gateway for spiritual entities to crossover.

I’m not typically one for horror films, but this poster was just too freaky NOT to share!

–Fitz
Continue reading “The Haunting in Connecticut – Too Freaky Not to Share!”

Streaming Movie Review: The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Hi all…

In honor of Halloween, FEARNet had an exclusive online showing of Clive Barker‘s movie – The Midnight Meat Train. If you like blood, this is a movie for you!

Film poster for Midnight Meat Train.

Image via Wikipedia

You can check it out here while it’s still available.

[rating:3/4]

The Midnight Meat Train is the story of Leon Kauffman struffling to make it as a photographer. It stars Bradley Cooper (as Kauffman), Brooke Shields (as Susan Hoff), Leslie Bibb (as Maya), and Vinnie Jones (as Mahogany). Bradley Cooper plays the photographer who strives to capture the heart of NYC on film. As an assignment, he follows a guy onto the subway. Bad news for him, the guy turns out to be a serial killer.

Bradley Cooper’s Kaufman seems the same as all of Bradley Cooper’s characters – naive, trying to find something to commit to. Unfortunately (or fortunately for us and Clive Barker), he commits to the wrong course of action. As in Alias, his character does change through the course of the movie, becoming darker and darker as he faces his foe.

Leslie Bibb is beautiful as always as Maya, the supportive girlfriend trying to help her boyfriend reach the next level. And she does melt down at the end. After all, being supportive only goes so far in the course of a horror movie.

Brooke Shields appears as art gallery owner Susan Hoff who really wants the photographer to succeed, driving him to go farther to find his mysterious “heart of the city”.

Vinnie Jones… well, Vinnie Jones plays one hell of a serial killer. A seriously freaky dude.

In addition, there are fun side characters to keep us entertained throughout the madness. Peter Jacobson, now a regular on House as Dr. Taub, plays Otto, who cooks at the diner where Maya works and Kaufman wants his tofu cooked. Ted Raimi makes an appearance as Randle Cooper, a man traveling with his wife on the subway. And Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson (UFC fighter) has a good fight scene with Vinnie at one point, dressed as a Guardian Angel.

Quality-wise, this is a great movie. The images are crisp, the blood flows copiously, and I found myself drawn into the story. I don’t remember the last time a horror movie egged me on to watch more.

Important lessons learned:

  1. Watch where you step. You never know what you’ll find on the floor of a subway car.
  2. A follow-on to #1, blood and eyeballs are slippery when wet.
  3. If somebody approaches you with a large silver mallet from behind, it’s probably time to leave.
  4. If that somebody is Vinnie Jones, dressed in a fine suit, don’t follow him into the subway.
  5. Just because a person is dressed nicely in a well tailored suit, it doesn’t mean they’re NOT a serial killer.
  6. Don’t mess with the butcher.
  7. And the most important part… Don’t ever try to get into Clive Barker’s head. 🙂

According to ScreenRant.com, this movie was supposed to be released by Lionsgate, but was buried. Instead of a wide release, it was only released on about 100 screens.

You may not have heard much about the film The Midnight Meat Train. It was based on a story by Clive Barker and was supposed to be released by Lionsgate. A while back there was a lot of buzz around this film due to the fact that Lionsgate basically “buried” the movie, releasing it on only about 100 screens throughout the entire U.S. We can only hope it gets a broader distribution on DVD. But for now, it’s great that FEARnet is releasing it online for free in the interim.

It’s more than a little disturbing. But it gets a solid 3 out of 4 for me, which is unusual. I’m not a huge fan of horror movies, but this one did a great job of grabbing and holding my interest. I had to watch to the end to see how it turned out. Props to Clive Barker!

Why Lionsgate decided to bury this one when the Saw and Hostel series are going gangbusters is beyond me.

–Fitz

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