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The Hunchback of Notre Dame September 15, 2008

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The misconception about this animated film from Disney was that it was a movie for kids–something Victor Hugo never had in mind. In fact, despite a cute brace of singing gargoyles who are Quasimodo’s (Tom Hulce) best friends, this version of Hugo’s classic tale is really adult entertainment, with a strong set of songs by Alan Menken. The story remains mostly the same (though tricked out with a happier ending than Hugo’s): Quasimodo, the ward of repressive monk Frollo, falls for a gypsy girl named Esmerelda (Demi Moore)–though she loves one of the king’s guards (Kevin Kline). But they are all put in jeopardy by the wicked Frollo, whose secret passion for Esmerelda leads him to seek her death. At times too dark and even a shade kinky, something that may scare younger viewers. –Marshall Fine

Inspired by Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Disney brings the heroic adventures of Quasimodo, the gentle and lonely bell ringer of Notre Dame, to spectacular life. This critically acclaimed Disney masterpiece is an “uplifting, thrilling story with a heart-touching message that emerges from the comedy and song” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times). At the urging of his hilarious gargoyle pals Victor, Hugo, and Laverne, Quaismodo leaves the solitary safety of his tower, venturing out to find his first true friend, the gypsy beauty Esmerelda. The most unlikely of heroes, Quasi fights to save the people and the city he loves and, in turn, helps us to see people for who they are, rather than how they appear. The star-studded voice cast includes Jason Alexander, Tom Hulce, Kevin Kline, and Demi Moore in a magnificent Disney musical from renowned composer Alan Menken.

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The Apple Dumpling Gang / The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again September 15, 2008

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THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG: Head for cover! Don Knotts and Tim Conway are Wild West outlaws who can’t hit the broad side of a barn — but never miss when it comes to rounding up laughs! The hilarity begins when a roving bachelor (Bill Bixby) inherits three young orphans and a wealth of problems. When the youngsters stumble upon a huge golden nugget they must fend off the greedy townspeople. So the kids join forces with the bumbling outlaws to stage a robbery of the gold. Little do they know a surly gang of sharpshooters plans to beat them to the draw! If you’re aiming for fun saddle up and head out with THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG HE APPLE DUMPLING GANG RIDES AGAIN:There’s more trouble afoot as The Apple Dumpling Gang (Don Knotts and Tim Conway) can’t stop causing trouble — and laughs — even when they give up their life of crime! First the ditsy duo is accused of bank robbery as they try to deposit a check. Then they join the U.S. Cavalry and wind up in the stockade for inadvertently blowing up their fort. Although they escape this mess the witless team who could never shoot straight still can’t seem to succeed in going straight. It’s riotous raucous fun as THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG RIDES AGAIN

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The 13th Warrior September 14, 2008

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What happened to The 13th Warrior? Directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard), it’s the tale of young Arab ambassador Ahmahd ibn Fahdalan (Antonio Banderas), who’s vanquished from his homeland for loving the wrong woman. On his journeys he associates with a ragtag group of Vikings who are traveling back to their homeland to confront a nefarious threat that’s cloaked in such superstition they’re forbidden to speak its name. It is prophesied by a witch doctor that 13 warriors must confront the evil; however, the 13th chosen man must not come from the north. Suddenly Banderas is forced into the breach, somewhat against his will. More poet than battle-worn warrior, he must not only fight the aggressors but come to terms with the unfamiliar Norse culture. What follows is a vigorous and brutal adventure reminiscent of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Sumptuous and invigorating battle sequences fill the screen from beginning to end as the brave Norsemen battle insurmountable odds.

Sounds good. So why did this film, once known as the Eaters of the Dead, sit on studio shelves for two years? Presumably because of the thoughtless editing that trimmed down the film to its bare bones, crafting an actionfest out of an epic. It’s not often that you crave for a movie to be longer, but The 13th Warrior could’ve benefited from fleshing out of its subplots and characters. On the surface it’s good eye candy with some fine pulse-quickening moments, and Banderas and the accompanying cast turn in sympathetic performances, epitomizing camaraderie in the face of impending doom. However, if you’re looking for a good thematic tale from the Dark Ages (akin to Braveheart), you may be disappointed. –Jeremy Storey

When exiled Arab courtier Ahmad Ibn Fadlan comes across a band of Vikings, he is appalled by their way of life, but after a fortune teller warns the Northmen of a mysterious enemy, Admad is compelled to enter into battle with them.
Media Type: DVD

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Shanghai Knights September 14, 2008

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Chon Wang and Roy O’Bannon travel to London together after Chon Wang’s father is murdered by Chinese rebels, and meet turn-of-the-century figures in British history.
Better than your average sequel, Shanghai Knights almost defies the law of diminishing returns. Lacking the freshness of Shanghai Noon, it compensates with a looser, disposable plot that plays to the strengths of costars Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. It’s 1887, and odd-couple heroes Chon Wang (Chan) and Roy O’Bannon (Wilson) are in London to retrieve the Imperial Seal of China, stolen by an English lord (Aidan Gillen) who killed Wang’s father in his quest for the British throne. Wang’s lithe and lovely sister (Fann Wong) joins the battle with high-kicking force, appealing to Roy’s roguish charm and surfer-dude anachronisms. While Chan continues his transition to safer stunts and good-natured homage to Buster Keaton, Gene Kelly, and other Hollywood legends, Wilson indulges the party vibe to good effect, maintaining the anything-goes approach that allows silly encounters with Jack the Ripper, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and a Dickensian urchin named Charlie Chaplin. (Chaplin wasn’t born until 1889, but if the filmmakers didn’t care, why should you?) –Jeff Shannon

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Honey, I Shrunk the Kids September 14, 2008

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A deft balance between special effects, comedy, and family dynamics made this 1989 film a hit for Disney and spawned both a string of video sequels and a subsequent TV series. Moranis is endearing as the bumbling inventor/father of the Szalinski family. He inadvertently shrinks his own children then throws them out with the trash. They, along with the neighbor kids, must journey back across their own backyard, now an enormous, dangerous distance, to get back to the right height. Much is done with the perils of the lawn, from a wild deluge from the sprinklers to a nasty encounter with the lawnmower and numerous encounters with gigantic insects. A generally kid-friendly, inventive (no pun intended), and entertaining outing. –Keith Simanton

An experimental invention accidently shrinks the inventor’s and his neighbor’s kids, who spend the bulk of the film ant-sized and trying to navigate their own back yard.
Media Type: DVD

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Disney Princess Sing Along Songs, Vol. 1 – Once Upon A Dream September 13, 2008

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Musical excerpts from various Disney productions, featuring popular heroines.
Media Type: DVD

Disney Princess Sing Along Songs, Vol. 1 – Once Upon A Dream is available at Amazon for $14.99. To Order click here
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