Frontline Special Offers In Depth Unbiased Look At America’s Recent Economic Crisis On New DVD Set

Courtesy: PBS

PBS’ news program, Frontline, has always been a leader in delivering true hard hitting investigative journalism.  Its most recent program, “Money, Power, and Wall Street” is no exception.  It follows the course of events beginning in the early 2000’s that would eventually lead to what would be known as the “Great Recession” at the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency.  This special is especially recommended for anyone who has any interest in economics or politics.  While it will be interesting to those who have an affinity for politics, the irony is that it strives to not let itself get muddled in political finger pointing.  It manages to stay relatively balanced, making sure to state without stating that the blame for the country’s economic mess goes all the way around, from the banks to the politicians.  It’s an in-depth and scathing look at everything that led to what is one of this nation’s worst economic crises ever. 

The entire program starts with a group of young JP Morgan Chase employees who came up with an idea as to how to reduce risk in the banking business in the early portion of the 2000’s.  It follows the crisis as it gets progressively worse, from issues with predatory lending to the impact of the crisis on the then brand new Obama administration.  The crisis forced the new President to make very difficult choices that he perhaps might not have entirely agreed on.  To others, those choices might be rather eye opening.  But that is the point of this special.  It is meant to offer audiences the facts and nothing but.  It is an unbiased special that gives every side of the crisis, thus allowing viewers to make their own conclusions and discussions about the direction of the crisis.  The discussions in question would be perfect for any college level poly-sci and/or accounting/economics course, or even for those who are in the professional realm.  PBS has made things even better with this set, dividing all four hour long segments of the special onto two discs.  So whether inside or outside the classroom or even in the halls of government and business, this special can be taken in and discussed at the viewer’s own pace.

“Money, Power, and Wall Street” is available now.  It can be ordered online at http://www.shoppbs.org.

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Disney’s Pocahontas Teaches Valuable Lessons To The World

Courtesy: Disney Studios/Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Disney’s Pocahontas has never enjoyed the success of the company’s other princess movies.  It’s given that the story takes great liberties with the actual story of Pocahontas and John Smith.  But there are many positives that come from those liberties being taken.  Those messages can be summed up in one sentence.  Despite the liberties taken with the original history of Pocahontas, this story is one that teaches lessons of love both for environment and for one another. 

The message of love for environment is one that has rung true for generations.  America has grown not just as a country over its two hundred plus years, but also in its population.  Urban sprawl has destroyed this country.  It has wiped out animals’ land.  And as shown in Pocahontas, this behavior has been happening ever since the introduction of Europeans to America.  Human greed for wealth and for land has destroyed mother Earth.  The movie’s hit song ‘Colors of The Wind’ tries to serve as a reminder of nature’s importance.  It makes reference to the sycamore tree, and the impact of cutting it down.  This theme of taking care of the planet comes throughout Walt Disney’s body of work during his life.  This work simply serves to continue that theme.

Pocahontas reminds viewers not only of love for the environment, but also for one another.  That message is one that rings true even today.  When the Europeans first came to the New World, a lack of understanding and acceptance on BOTH sides nearly led to all out war.  To this day, racial intolerance and inequality continues to scar the world’s populations terribly.  Pocahontas reminds viewers in its own way that we are all more alike than we are different.  We all have the same human needs.  Yet despite those needs and concerns, we continue to let our few differences cloud our better judgment, leading to so many potentially unnecessary conflicts.

Pocahontas may never be as fully respected as Disney’s other princess movies.  Unlike the company’s other princess movies, it isn’t a fairy tale.  It’s a reminder to the world of one of history’s most important figures.  It serves as a good starting point to get young audiences interested in history.  It’s also a reminder to the world of the positive differences love for one another and for the land can make.   Pocahontas is available along with its sequel Pocahontas II on a triple disc blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  It’s available in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct through Disney online at http://www.disneystore.com.

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The Flower Kings Return With Another Solid Opus

Courtesy: Inside Out/Century MEdia

“The Banks of Eden” is another good effort from The Flower Kings.  This record boasts sounds not only from the band’s older material, but also from Roine Stolt’s side project, Transatlantic.  The similarities to Transatlantic are obvious in the album’s opener, ‘Numbers.’  This song sounds like it could easily have fit onto any of the band’s current releases.  At the same time, it builds on what Stolt helped create with Transatlantic, and made it even better.  This near twenty-five minute opus opens with a semi-hard rocking movement with guitars that could just as easily be compared to songs from fellow prog rockers, Dream Theater and Spock’s Beard.  It eventually becomes a little more introspective and slow as the song progresses before moving into its more Pink Floyd influenced closing movement.  By the song’s end, listeners will be left feeling like they’ve not just listened to a song.  They’ve experienced what music is all about.

The album’s opener isn’t the only one that shows the band’s Pink Floyd influence.  The closing number on the expanded edition of the album shows a very blatant Floyd influence through guitarist Hasse Froberg’s work.  The second half of the expanded edition picks up where the first half left off, with an equally impressive work in ‘Fireghosts.’  It only gets better from there, harkening back to even more old school rock with ‘Going Up’, ‘Illuminati’, and ‘Lo Lines.’  All three are very guitar driven.  Again, that, mixed with the musicianship of new drummer, Felix Lehrmann, makes for even more enjoyable songs.  All together, they combine for an album that any long time Flower Kings fan will enjoy.

“The Banks of Eden” is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct through Century Media at http://www.centurymedia.com.  Fans can also pick up the band’s album at its concerts throughout its European tour.  To get all the latest tour dates and news from the band, fans can go online to http://www.facebook.com/TheFlowerKings and http://www.flowerkings.se

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Disney’s Lady And The Tramp II Is A Modern Family Classic

Courtesy: Disney Studios

Lady and the Tramp II is a nice continuation of Disney’s classic Lady and The Tramp.  Nearly fifty years passed between the debut of the original Lady and The Tramp and this direct home release.  One would have thought that in the time that passed between the two movies, something would have been lost along the way.  But the reality of this sequel is that it’s a surprisingly enjoyable movie.

Lady and The Tramp II is enjoyable in that despite having multiple hands in the pot, the story is solid and believable.  That believability is related directly to the fact that the story is relatable.  It’s a coming of age story.  Every person was young at one time.  Who during their youth hasn’t had the desire to break out and really be independent and experience life?  That’s Scamp’s “predicament.”  Scamp only sees life as a bunch of rules.  He feels that he’s being held back by all the rules and is only getting punished.  Again, what person hasn’t felt this way during their youth?  As a result of this feeling, Scamp manages to break off of his leash, and join Buster and the Junkyard Dogs.  Along the way, Scamp discovers a secret that his dad, Tramp, had kept from him.  That secret plays into the story’s ultimate outcome, which is a happy one, of course.

The coming of age story centered on Scamp is just part of the whole that makes Lady and The Tramp II enjoyable.  The story also carries a touching message about family.  While Scamp might have run off for a period of time, he comes to realize the importance of family, and that his own parents (Tramp and Lady) would always be there for him no matter what.  This is a message that audiences of all ages will appreciate.

The story behind Lady and The Tramp II goes a long way toward making it an enjoyable watch.  It isn’t all that makes it enjoyable, either.  The movie makes countless references to the 1955 original throughout its roughly one hour and nine minute run time.  Those references include not just little things like the stained glass window in the house, or the reference to the famed spaghetti scene at Tony’s restaurant or even the return of many characters from the original film.  Also included is the fact that the people behind this movie’s creation made a valid attempt to stay true to the animation of the original film.

The bonus behind the scenes feature describing how this movie came to life adds even more appreciation to it.  It echoes the sentiments shared in the making of featurette in the recently released Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs re-issue.  The crew behind this movie mentions the importance of making the feature hand drawn, rather than relying solely on CG.  One of the individuals notes that while it’s okay to use CG as a tool, it would be almost dishonorable to go the route that so many companies have gone, and just do things the easy way.  It shows that they really wanted to do honor to the memory of the original movie.  For that, the crew that brought this movie to life should be commended.

Lady and The Tramp II isn’t Lady and the Tramp.  But that isn’t a bad thing.  It’s a continuation of the original story.  And it’s a real and believable story.  Now that Disney has re-issued it on a blu-ray/DVD combo pack, families are getting another chance to enjoy this movie for the first time again.  It’s one that every family will enjoy after watching and will over time itself become a modern classic from Disney. 

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Delta Rae To Perform at Democratic National Convention

Durham, North Carolina’s own Delta Rae has announced that it has been selected to perform at the Democratic national Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina next Thursday, September 6th.  The convention will be at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.  Delta Rae will join music icon James Taylor as one of the convention’s performing acts before President Obama’s nomination acceptance speech.  DNC CEO Steve Kerrigan spoke on Delta Rae being added to the convention’s performer roster.  “Highlighting such amazing talent from North Carolina as part of the entertainment at the convention’s closing event is just one way that convention organizers are working to bring the flavor of North Carolina to all Americans,” he said.  He added, “Whether you’re one of the tens of thousands who received community credentials to attend this historic event in person, or tuning in remotely, you will have a taste of the wonderful region that is home to this year’s convention.”

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Records

Delta Rae member Ian Holljes shared his thoughts on being selected as part of the convention and on President Obama’s accomplishments during his first term in office.  He said, “Watching Barack Obama win election to the presidency in 2008 was one of the most affirming and exciting moments of my life as an American.  I am so thrilled to think what he can accomplish in a second term and I couldn’t be more humbled that Delta Rae’ music will be a part of ushering in that great hope.”  He expressed his support for Obama, saying, “We seem to be at a tipping point for so many important movements.  Marriage equality, women’s rights, and the protection of the middle class among them – and I believe President Obama’s continued leadership is essential to landing on the right side of history on these issues.”

Holljes’ brother–and fellow Delta Rae band member—Eric noted the importance of the youth vote in this year’s election.  He said, “There are currently so many issues being discussed and decisions being made in Washington that are going to drastically affect me and my generation.  I truly hope, as young people, we stand up in this election and let our collective voice be heard.” 

One of the songs on the band’s debut album, “Carry The Fire”, tackles the issue of North Carolina’s gay marriage ban.  ‘Chain on Love’ was a response to Prop 8.  Audiences can check out the video for ‘Chain on Love’ online at http://youtu.be/qnd9ylWsfRA.  Audiences can also check out the video for the album’s lead single, ‘Bottom Of The River’ online at http://youtu.be/bimam2j2gEg.  And to check out a medley of the band’s songs on Warner Sound go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ_JqRcU9YA.

Along with the band’s upcoming performance at the DNC, Delta Rae will also be performing at Mike Dianna’s Grill in Corolla, NC on Saturday, October 13th.  For a full list of the band’s tour dates and all of its latest news, go online to http://deltarae.com, http://www.facebook.com/deltarae, http://twitter.com/deltarae, and on its official YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/deltaraeband

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Brother, Sister Musical Duo Releases Video For New Single

National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15th  – October 15th.  In honor of the upcoming celebration of Hispanic culture, it’s a pleasure to present some brand new music from a sibling duo straight out of Mexico City, Mexico.  The brother/sister duo, Jesse and Joy have a new album titled, ¿Con Quién Se Queda El Perro?  Roughly translated, the title means “The Dog stays with who?”  The Grammy award winning pop duo has just released the video for the album’s new single, ‘Me Voy.’  ‘Me Voy’ translated into English roughly means ‘I’m Going.’  Those who have a better understanding of Spanish will be able to catch the relationship based themes of the song.

The video takes audiences into a recording session with Jesse and Joy at the famed Hit Factory in Miami, FL.  The performance is part of Warner Sound’s Live Room Series.  It’s one of many performances courtesy of Warner Bros. Records and Warner Music Group that takes audiences into performances of acts at some of the most well known studios across the country.

To check out the video for ‘Me Voy’, just follow the link here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kozl-SKuqW4.  And after checking out the duo’s new single, audiences can also download their new album on iTunes at http://bit.ly/TWSJesseJoyiTunes.  Audiences can also get all the latest news on Jesse and Joy online at http://jessejoy.com and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JesseJoyOfficial.

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Philip Sayblack can be contacted at psayblack@wnct.com

Lionsgate Releasing Classic Rankin Bass Halloween Special Sept. 4th

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Rankin Bass

Rankin Bass is one of the best known names among holiday movies.  Most audiences associate the company with the likes of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town, Jack Frost, and so many other holiday classics.  Well how many people know that Rankin Bass also made a  Halloween special, too?  That’s right.  The special in question was 1967′s Mad Monster Party.  The special boasted the voice talents of veteran horror actor Boris karloff and the now late comedianne, Phyllis Diller, along with Allen Swift, Gale Garnett, and Ethel Ennis.  Now, fans of Rankin Bass’ works will have the opportunity to own this classic.

Mad Monster Party will be available in stores and online Tuesday, September 4th courtesy of Lionsgate.  Mad Monster Party sees the mad genius Baron Victor Von Frankenstein (voiced by karloff) deciding to announce his retirement from the Worldwide Organization of Monsters.  He has to figure out how to tell the other members of the organization.  So he decides what better way to make his announcement than to throw a party.  Among the guests are all of the classic monsters:  The Wolfman, Dracula, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, and a whole lot more.  It will be available both on DVD and Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack.

Bonus features include two kids’ sing-a-longs, a featurette on the magic of stop motion animation, and featurettes on the special’s music and how it was brought to life.  The blu-ray/DVD combo pack is currently listed at $14.99 MSRP.

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Staind Live BD A Good Companion Piece To Band’s Live CD

Courtesy: eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Eagle Rock Entertainment recently released a CD recording of Staind’s performance at the Mohegan Sun from last year.  As a companion to that recording, Eagle Rock has also released the BD companion to the band’s performance.  Anyone that has been a fan of this Massachusetts based band since its earliest days will enjoy this addition to the band’s catalogue.

The video on the BD is crystal clear making for an impressive visual experience.  Along with the impressive quality of the show’s footage, fans are also treated to a bonus song, ‘Country Boy’ sung by the band’s front man, Aaron Lewis.  For a singer who is known more for his powerful and at times heart wrenching vocals, his country turn on this song shows a wholly different side of the vocalist.  It’s a side that shows how versatile he is.  Even without country legends George Jones and Charlie Daniels backing him in his performance here, Lewis still hits all the right notes.  There’s even a little bit of a Jamey Johnson feel in his vocals as he launches into the old school country style song.

Lewis’ vocals soar throughout the band’s entire performance even into the fading moments of the set’s closing number, ‘Something To Remind You.’  Even so many years into his singing career, Lewis shows in the band’s show that his pipes are as strong as ever.  The energy of drummer Sal Giancarelli, guitarist Mike Mushok and bassist Johnny April make the show that much better for fans.  And even in more subdued numbers such as the band’s hit, ‘It’s Been A While’ the whole unit comes together for a song that’s both beautiful and heart wrenching in its feel.  So many songs of lost love are written every year.  But this is one of those songs that to this day, still does the job right in really capturing the feeling of heartache that a person (male or female) goes through having lost someone. 

Whether it be the band’s older material or something more recent, this whole set has something for all of the fans of Staind, new and old.  The BD is out available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online at http://www.eagle-rock.com.

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The Tigger Movie A Fun, Heartwarming Family Film

Courtesy: Disney Studios

Okay, everyone.  Is everyone ready to sing? *ahem*  ohhhhhhh,  The wonderful thing about Tiggers is tiggers are wonderful things.  Their tops are made out of rubber, Their bottoms are made out of springs.  They’re bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy fun fun fun fun FUN!  Of course, there’s another verse to this song.  But this first verse of the classic song is a great explanation of why the new re-issue of The Tigger Movie is great, too.  And while it’s not the only one, the new re-issue of The Tigger Movie is just as fun as the previous Tigger movies and Tigger himself. 

The Tigger Movie first hit theaters over a dozen years ago.  And even having been re-issued for the second time recently, the movie still hasn’t lost any of its original flare.  The story itself is still as fun and touching as it was in its original release way back in 2000.  It brings back elements of Winnie The Pooh and Tigger Too (1974).  Not only do audiences get Tigger’s classic song about Tiggers again, but instead of being caught up in a tree, Tigger actually goes in search of a tree.  This time, Tigger goes in search of his family tree when he starts thinking that maybe it’s not so great to be the only one.

The lesson learned in the end of The Tigger Movie is one that’s still just as relatable today as it was over a decade ago.  In the age of the non-nuclear family, The Tigger Movie is still a comfort to audiences young and old alike.  It reminds audiences that family is a relative term.  It’s not such a bad thing to be one of a kind.  Being one of a kind makes a person that much more special.  And just because people may not be immediate family doesn’t make them a family.  Just as home is where the heart is, so is family.  That’s the most important thing of all.

The story and the lesson in The Tigger Movie is still enjoyable and relatable to audiences even today.  As enjoyable and relatable as the story and lesson are, the classic style animation adds that much more sense of nostalgia for adult audiences who grew up with the original Winnie The Pooh shorts and features.  The same applies for their children, too.  And now that it has been re-issued again, a whole new generation can experience the joy of true hand drawn animation. 

The classic style of hand drawn animation and the touching family friendly story go a long way towards making The Tigger Movie enjoyable even over a decade since its debut.  With the newest re-issue of the movie, audiences get a bonus feature that makes the whole experience that much better.  Younger audiences are treated to a family tree complete with stickers that they can apply to the tree to make their own family tree.  Parents can work with the children in writing in who is on their family tree, too.  It’s another opportunity for parents to spend time with their children.  Even more of a bonus is it’s an activity that parents and children can do together away from the television, too.  Disney is to be commended for this.  As simple a bonus feature as it is, it’s a wonderful addition that encourages family interaction, as well as learning one’s own family history. 

There are those who will criticize this most recent re-issue of The Tigger Movie.  But in a time when so many re-issues are being churned out just to have them on blu-ray, etc. this movie is one welcome re-issue for any family that doesn’t yet have it in their own home library.

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Activision, Treyarch Make COD Preorders Available

Courtesy: Activision/Treyarch

The big day gets closer one day at a time, gamers.  On Tuesday, November 13th, Activision will release the long awaited Call of Duty:  Black Ops II to the masses.  In anticipation, Activision has officially made available pre-orders for three exclusive Collector’s Editions of the game.  These exclusive editions are available for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

PC users can pre-order the Digital Deluxe Edition for $79.99.  Among the bonus features included in the Digital Deluxe Edition are the official Black Ops II Soundtrack and a download token for Treyarch’s classic World at War game.  This edition also includes two bonus maps, Weapon Camo, and two player card backgrounds.  The Digital Deluxe Edition for PC users can be pre-ordered for a cost of $79.99.

Xbox 360 and PS3 users can pre-order the Call of Duty:  Black Ops II Hardened Edition for $79.99.  This edition includes most of the special features included in the Digital Deluxe Edition.  Along with those bonus features, it also includes the game in a collectible 2-sided SteelBook, two challenge coins, an Xbox Live CLAW Avatar prop, and Xbox Live Zombies Avatar costume.  The SteelBook is a limited edition game case featuring exclusive artwork.  Also included in the Hardened Edition is a multiplayer theme of the Turbine Map as well as Zombies that are special to this new game. 

COD fans who want the full game experience can pre-order the Call of Duty:  Black Ops II Care Package.  The Care Package includes everything in the Digital Deluxe Edition and Hardened Edition.  Along with all of the bonuses from the Digital Deluxe Edition and Hardened Edition, the Care Package also includes a remote-controlled MQ-27 Dragonfire Drone, along with the multiplayer theme of the Turbine Map with special edition Zombies.  The Call of Duty:  Black Ops II Care Package can be pre-ordered at a cost of $179.99.

Call Of Duty:  Black Ops II is rated “M” for Mature.  For more information on the game, fans can go online to http://www.callofduty/blackops2/ce, http://www.callofcuty/blackops2, and http://www.facebook.com/codblackops.  Fans can also get the latest on Twitter via @Treyarch. 

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