Tuesday, October 24, 2006

in a class all by themselves

What style, what class. That Ginger's got a lot of sass. Opps, sorry... it was like a song running through my head. We'll take a break from our week full of Halloween tricks and treats to bring you this week's roundup. I won't say that we are doing anything original here, but I will mention that among the regular features here at the Shelf, the weekly roundup and the candy reviews seem to garner the most viewing. And I can't help but notice several other unnamed blogs and sites have been getting into the fray with their own version of the weekly roundup in the last couple of months. Some even call it a weekly roundup. I'm not saying that we were first or original or anything, but I'm glad to see the idea spread around. The reason we've being doing our Weekly Media Roundup for the past year, is because there really wasn't one out there that did much other than tell you what current Hollywood drivel was coming out on DVD. We had a hard time finding information on classic films, television, and special box sets coming out on DVD. And we couldn't find someone willing to just tell us what the best was and what was worth getting. So, as we were doing our own research, we decided to put together our regular weekly feature for you. Just this week, I've seen several sites that have recently begun to do the same. That's great, the more info that you get the better. With The Shelf- you know what you'll get- The Top Shelf Pick of the Week, more great selections and no filler. Who has time for filler? So without further delay, it's time to put on your dancing shoes and trip the light fantastic.

Top Shelf Pick of the Week
Ultimate Fred and Ginger Collection/ Fred and Ginger Collection Vol. II

You could go several ways with this: either buy Vol. II with the films, or you could purchase the ultimate set with Vol. I and Vol. II and extras. If you own the first volume, you can also take advantage of a special offer from Amazon.com that gives you the case, the Volume II discs, the extras discs, and bonus material with space to place your Volume I DVDs.
I am a huge fan of Astaire. When I think of grace and class and elegance, I think of Fred. When I was a kid, I didn't care much for the great song and dance films, but I sure liked Holiday specials like Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and The Easter Bunny is Coming to Town (both discussed here at The Shelf). I recognized the voice and the face, but couldn't place him. When my dad told me it was Fred Astaire, I decided to give him another try. So when mom and dad turned to Holiday Inn on TV one Christmas, I sat and watched. I was very impressed with not only the fact that this guy could do some cool dancing with firecrackers, but he was funny as well. As I got older, I watched more and more films and really became a fan. He was one of the most talented and gifted performers to come out of Hollywood (and had one of the longest careers). I've heard an actor mention that Hollywood song and dance films wouldn't have survived as long as they did without Astaire. Well, count me in as agreeing with that statement as long as you put Ginger in the mix.
Wow, what a team. Someone once said of Ginger that she had to do everything Fred did, but backwards and in heels. Ouch. Often she would have to come in and shoot some extra footage just to get the shots of her dress or feet or angle of her head just right. Some days her feet bleed at the end of the day. The next morning she was on the set, ready to work. What an amazing performer. And to top it off, she was a great actress and had a wonderful voice (and was very beautiful). She was also quite gifted at comedy- one of my favorite Ginger films, without Fred, is Monkey Business with Cary Grant. Check it out, you'll see what I mean. Fred and Ginger had so much effortless grace and charm on stage, it's hard to believe they weren't at least the closest of friends off screen, but they weren't. They didn't dislike each other and had great respect for one another, but in Ginger's own words,"We had fun and it shows. True, we were never bosom buddies off the screen; we were different people with different interests. We were only a couple on film." And what a couple of stars they were.
The remaining Astaire and Rogers films included in this set are: Carefree, Flying Down To Rio, The Gay Divorcee, Roberta and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. Also included with Volume II is a new documentary on the famous duo entitled, Astaire and Rogers: Partners in Rhythm. The Ultimate Collection set also includes a new CD with 10 tracks from the films, a reproduction of the press books for Shall We Dance and Roberta, collectable photo cards, and mail in offers for free film posters. This is a wonderful set and a collection of some great films. You often hear that they don't make movies like they used to anymore. It's very true, but that doesn't mean that they don't make great films anymore, I just think true classics are fewer and far between in today's Hollywood. We else would people be willing to spend more money on sets like these and other classic film box sets, rather than spend it on a night out at the movies watching something that just doesn't compare? Trust me folks, this is a set you will want to purchase for you and everyone else in the family to enjoy.
PS- We will have a review of the new special edition DVD of that great Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire film, Holiday Inn, after Halloween.

More Great picks this week:
Groovie Goolies: The Saturday "Mourning" Collection
Just to show we're not completely off of Halloween today, we present for your approval The Complete Groovie Goolies. If you were a kid in the 70s and watched Saturday morning cartoons, chances are you saw some Filmation cartoons. This was one of them. Spun off from The Sabrina, the Teenage Witch cartoon, The Groovie Goolies were some scaredy cat monsters who were in a band (who wasn't back then?). Frankie, Wolfie, and Drac would have some wacky adventures, in which they would invariably demonstrate they weren't quite so scary (or brave) themselves, and then they would break out into a song. This set includes all 16 episodes and some great extras, including documentaries on Filmation studios, and The Groovie Goolies. It's time for a groovie goolies get together! If you are a little kid of the 70s, like me, you'll be anxious to pick this up and watch it this Halloween! Now if only they could put The Drak Pack on DVD! Anyone else remember The Drak Pack?

Essential Art House: 50 years of Janus Films.
We've previously discussed the importance and influence of Janus films in the last 50 years. This set includes a coffee table book on Janus films and the films included in the set, with an essay by film historian Peter Cowie and a tribute from Martin Scorsese. 50 DVDs are included in the set represented each of the 50 years of Janus films. It comes with a hefty price naturally, so this isn't a recommendation, so much as it is a wish.

Nacho Libre
Wolf and I are fans of silly and slapstick, so long as the silly is done right. We loved Napoleon Dynamite and worried about the director/writer, Jared Hess' follow up picture. Worry no more, with the talent of over the top and enormous presence, Jack Black, Nacho Libre is a hit. Wolf loves it, but I have not seen it yet. I will be correcting that oversight, now that the DVD has hit the stores. Check it out, and repeat after me, "silly is good."

Givin' It Up: George Benson and Al Jarreau
This is one of the best CD's I've heard in a while, and honestly I don't know why it took this long for these two to collaborate on a full scale project like this. Al is one of my favorite artists and has a natural and easy way of performing vocal acrobatics and brings vocal jazz to new levels. George Benson is an incredible jazz guitarist, and brings a little touch of R & B to his stuff. The two together prove to be a fantastic collaboration of what some call "smooth jazz". I just call it great. The album features a great version of a previous Jarreau crossover hit, Mornin' , a really special track of Billy Holiday's God Bless The Child, and an excellent version of Breezin'. The album features guest performances Patti Austin, Paul McCartney, Chris Botti, Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller and Stanley Clarke.

Splinter Cell: Double Agent
You are looking at the next chapter in one of the best action/adventure video game series on the planet, at least in my opinion. This is the only series in which I have played through all of the previous games (Splinter Cell, SC:Pandora Tomorrow, and SC: Chaos Theory) successfully- twice. If you aren't familiar with the story, this is a game based on Tom Clancy's world, so-to speak, of military action. You are Sam Fisher, a spy who doesn't exist, who works for a government agency named Third Echelon, which also doesn't exist. Sam is a Splinter Cell, a lone operative who gets in, gets the info, rescues the hostage, or gets the bad guy and gets out; and all without much of anyone knowing about it. The enemy doesn't know him, and if he's successful, never sees him. Third Echelon is a very secret organization that specializes in attempting to diffuse potentially dangerous world wide situations. If they can't prevent it from happening, then they do their best to stop it. These games are set in the very near future and have been surprisingly on target in it's look at international terrorism, problems in the former Soviet Union, North Korea, and technological terrorism and information warfare. The games focus on stealth and you can actually play through a level without... uh, dispatching and enemy. The gadgets and weapons may seem somewhat futuristic, but are based on items the US military is either currently using or developing. The story for Double Agent has Sam going undercover in order to track down some very dangerous material that has gotten into some very dangerous hands. You can read more about the story at Gamespot. Some of you might be surprised that I am a gamer- well, a selective gamer. Hey, fun is fun, whether it's classic films, otr, baseball, or Splinter Cell.

Last week’s South Park was on of the funniest episodes of the season. Don’t miss this week’s new South Park, or NCIS, Numb3rs, or The Amazing Race for that matter.
Now for some real “must see TV”:

This week’s Shelf picks for Turner Classic Movies.
TCM is bringing you the tops in entertainment. They don’t make like these anymore…

Oct. 25th: Nick and Nora head home to visit Nick’s parents in a sleepy little town, but a murder wakes everyone up in The Thin Man Goes Home (1945). Also don’t miss some old fashioned adventure in Ivanhoe (1952) and The Prisoner Of Zenda (1952).

Oct. 26th: Another married couple puts on the proverbial deerstalker caps in several mysteries in Fast Company (1938), Fast And Loose (1939), and Fast And Furious (1939). Later it’s Katherine Hepburn in two wonderful films with some of her best leading men: Adam’s Rib (1949) and The African Queen (1951).

Oct. 27th: Time to turn the lights out for some excellent Halloween thrillers: Bela Lugosi in White Zombie (1932) and Boris Karloff in The Walking Dead (1936).

Oct. 28th: You are in for a treat today, many great classics: Suspicion (1941), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), King Kong (1933), Ride The High Country (1962), and the original is still the best; Scarface (1932).

Oct 29th: Recent box set subject Ronald Reagan in the excellent Kings Row (1942). Later watch the lovely Audrey Hepburn in Two For the Road (1967) and the man of a thousand faces, Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

Oct. 30th: Catch Mickey Rooney in the very first Hardy family film: A Family Affair (1936).

Oct. 31st: What better way to end a “boo”-tiful month: Freaks (1932), Cat People (1942), The Masque Of The Red Death (1964), and House Of Usher (1960).
Happy Halloween!

That was a elegant dance around the great picks of all things media this week. Our Top Shelf Pick is an excellent choice, but there are many others this week. Next week there will be plenty more, and we will be here to guide you through just as we always have. Stay tuned for the latest in DVD news as well. The rest of this week we've got some great Halloween fun in store right up through to the big day. Coming up: Our Weekly Halloween Animated Special that you can watch right here, our weekly Halloween Candy review, a special article and tour of The Edgar Allan Poe Museum for your spooky delight, and a special trip back to when radio was king and some classic Old Time Radio Halloween moments. All this and more on The Shelf.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Oh, I'm sorry! I didn't realize I was disturbing you. You see, every once in a while I suddenly find myself... dancing.

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