Product Feature “Disney Frozen Olaf Inflatable Outdoor Christmas Figure”

Since the unbelievable success of Disney’s “Frozen” last year people have been in craze for any thing from this film. With the holiday season right around the corner, it’s that time to decorate the house and I was thinking to myself, “Hey, I want a giant inflatable Olaf in the front of my house!”. Well, leave it Gemmy to deliver us exactly that. Gemmy is the company who makes most of these amazing inflatable figures that end up on many of our front lawns. They have everything from “Star Wars” to ” Disney” and everything in between.

The Olaf inflatable figure figure stands at 3.5 feet tall and looks amazing when all blown up and standing tall. It inflates very quickly and with no issue at all. It uses energy efficient LED lights to conserve energy. I know it maybe been too late for this year but Gemmy should get on the wagon with Anna and Elsa inflatables as well. I would love to have a Frozen collection to celebrate the holidays. If you are a big fan of the Disney animated film, I would highly recommend this product and if you are a smart shopper you should be able to find it for below $40 bucks, which is a real steal for sure!

 

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Vinyl Review: Trans-Siberian Orchestra “The Christmas Attic”

Trans-Siberian Orchestra
“The Christmas Attic””
Distributor: Audio Fidelity
Produced by Paul O’Neil
Co-Produced by Robert Kinkel
Mastered: Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Recently, when I see a release from Audio Fidelity, I just know that it is going to be amazing, especially with a LP set. I recently reviewing the 2-LP set for the 1982 soundtrack for “TRON” and it was amazing! With the holiday season just around the corner, I am in the Christmas mood and their latest release is Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s classic album “The Christmas Attic”. This was originally released in 1998 and is the second installment of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Trilogy. This album contains a mix of vocal and instrumental songs including the well-known track “Christmas Canon”. It has also become a must listen to in our family during this time of the year.

This is the first time that “The Christmas Attic” has ever been being made available on vinyl. I have been leaving to these tracks for over 15 years and they have never sounded better. The remastered record is packaged in a seasonal gatefold jacket that includes a colorful 12-page booklet filled with the tale of The Christmas Attic as well as the lyrics to all the songs. This LP is also timed perfectly with the fact Trans-Siberian Orchestra will be touring during the 2014 and 2015 holiday season with “The Christmas Attic” show once again. All fans (with vinyl players) need to buy this record. Warm up next to your loved ones by the Christmas tree (yes, mine is already up) and enjoy this wonderful release.

Disc One
SIDE ONE
1 The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve
2 Boughs Of Holly
3 The World That She Sees
4 The World That He Sees
5 Midnight Christmas Eve

SIDE TWO
1 The March Of The Kings/Hark The Herald Angel
2 The Three Kings And I (What Really Happened)
3 Christmas Canon
4 Joy/Angels We Have Heard On High

Disc Two
SIDE ONE
1 Find Our Way Home
2 Appalachian Snowfall
3 The Music Box
4 The Snow Came Down

SIDE TWO
1 Christmas In The Air
2 Dream Child (A Christmas Dream)
3 An Angel’s Share
4 Music Box Blues

 

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The Blind Boys of Alabama’s Jimmy Carter talks about new album “Talkin’ Christmas!” and the band’s 70th Anniversary

Jimmy Carter is one of The Blind Boys of Alabama, the five-time Grammy Award winning gospel group. This year marks the band’s 70th Anniversary together and Jimmy is a founding member and has been there since the beginning. The band has collaborated with musicians like Ben Harper, Tom Waits and has performed for numerous Presidents over the year. Jimmy took out some time to chat wiht Media Mikes about their new album “Talkin’ Christmas!” and about the band’s 70th anniversary.

Mike Gencarelli: “Talkin’ Christmas!” is your second Christmas album after 2003’s “Go Tell it On the Mountain”; how did this come about and teaming up with Taj Mahal?
Jimmy Carter: Taj Mahal has been fans of The Blind Boys for a long time and we have been a fan of his as well. When we approached him, he was ready and eager to do it! Then we all got together went into the studio and did our thing [laughs].

MG: I listen to a lot of Christmas albums and if you are lucky an artist includes one new song in their album. You guys have given us seven brand-new holiday songs – six of which you written yourselves with this new album; what made you decide to that this route?
JC: That’s right. It is mostly all original stuff on this album. We all got together and wrote some great songs. I think that is what makes it a good album. The first Christmas that we did was mostly traditional songs but this one we wanted the material to be new. I hope it goes over good. We are trying to remind people what Christmas really is about. Christmas had gotten very commercial, so we are trying to put Christ back into Christmas.

MG: Since this is a holiday themed album, I am curious when was it recorded?
JC: We recorded this one in March, if I remember correctly. With the songs that we had it put us in the Christmas mood. So it wasn’t hard at all to record after the holidays and ended up being quite fun.

MG: 2014 is your 70th anniversary of The Blind Boys of Alabama, what is it like to be performing together all these years?
JC: It still feels good. Every year you get a little older but when you still enjoy and love what you do it keeps you going. Everyone is still in pretty good shape, so I foresee us being around for at least a little bit longer [laughs].

MG: If you were asked to pick the first highlight that comes to your head over the many years together, what would that be?
JC: A few come up actually. We had the privilege to singing to three Presidents. Even got to meet former President Jimmy Carter twice [laughs]. That was really cool. Then we got our first Grammy in 2002 and that was an amazing moment. Those are the two that come up the top of my head right now.

MG: You have teamed up with songwriters such as Ben Harper, Eric Clapton and Prince in the past; any more team ups planned next?
JC: I especially enjoyed working with Ben Harper. He is a great writer, a great singer and a great musician. He brought a lot to the table man. I really enjoyed working with him. I think Ben wants to do something else with us. We have to sit down and talk about it but I think he is ready…so we will see.

MG: Any tour dates planned for this album this Fall?
JC: Yes! We are going to start our Christmas tour on November 28th. We are starting that Friday night in Fredrick, MD and we will end up December 23rd in San Diego, CA.

Book Reviews “ArtFolds: Christmas Memories”

Age Range: 8 and up
Grade Level: 2 and up
Series: ArtFolds Color Editions (Book 3)
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Reader’s Digest
Release Date: September 30, 2014

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Before receiving this I was not sure what to expect from an ArtFolds book but this is definitely more can just a book. “ArtFolds: Christmas Memories” includes instructions that show you how to fold each page to transform this book into a very amazing colorful Christmas Tree sculpture. Seriously! You fold the book and it ends up being a beautiful piece of art. The only downfall is that this is a one-timer. Once you complete the fold, it is art and cannot be redone. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for the next edition of this series.

Official Premise: An ArtFolds book is a hardcover book that is transformed into a unique paper sculpture merely by folding pages, based on our exclusive, patent-pending instructions. The process is fun and easy and takes surprisingly little time, making it as appropriate for children as it is for adults. Color Editions feature a lovely palette of shades that make a vibrant and eye-catching work of art. Each Color Edition includes some fun and compelling reading that matches its art theme. In “ArtFolds: Christmas Memories”, readers can enjoy classic quotations, poems and lyrics that capture the magic of Christmas.

 

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Book Review “Build My Own: A Magical Christmas”

Age Range: 3 – 7 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3
Series: Build My Own (Book 3)
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Reader’s Digest
Release Date: October 14, 2014

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Firstly, let’s just clear the air that this is not a LEGO book. It looks like LEGO pieces for it is “building bricks”. I am a sucker for Christmas. This book contains 86 bricks that allow you to read with the book and assemble Christmas themed models, including a little tree. Being a 30+ year old man, I still love LEGO, I mean “building bricks”. The book though, I can’t seem to shake that bargain bin feel.

Official Premise: Ho! Ho! Ho! Youngsters will love getting into the holiday spirit by exploring this super fun treasury filled with stories, songs, crafts, and more, and using the 86 building bricks to make their very own tree, presents and Santa! Specially designed to help reinforce engineering concepts, this magical building block set will make the perfect Christmas (or pre-Christmas) gift for a wide range of ages.

 

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Book Review “Barbie: A Special Christmas”

Age Range: 3 – 6 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 1
Series: Barbie
Board book: 16 pages
Publisher: Reader’s Digest
Release Date: September 30, 2014

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

“Barbie: A Special Christmas” is my two year old daughters first experience to Barbie. Let’s just say, she really wanted thrilled. The reason this book wasn’t tossed directly to the side was the fact that this very colorful boardbook comes with four press-out glittery ornaments.

Official Premise: Join Barbie and her sisters as they celebrate Christmas and start and entirely NEW family tradition! Read to discover the exciting new Barbie tradition, then look for four press-out glittery Barbie ornaments in the back of the book to enjoy the new tradition too!

The story is cute but the brand Barbie has always been light on content. There is also no shortage of color in this book. Besides the ornaments included, the fact that this is a about our favorite holiday is a saving grace. I will most likely put this away and maybe next year, it will get some more attention.

 

 

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DVD Review “Happy Christmas”

Actors: Anna Kendrick, Melaine Lynskey
Director: Joe Swanberg
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Paramount
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Run Time: 82 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: N/A

Personally, I am not huge fan of writer/director Joe Swanberg. Really hated his film “Drinking Buddies”. So I decided to give this one a try due to my love for Academy Award nominee Anna Kendrick (“Pitch Perfect”). Despite the title, the film does really scream holiday spirit. I obviously wasn’t the right audience of this film. I am finding that I have very little patience for pretentious indie dramedies. A pass for me for sure but I am sure many trendy film buffs are going to gobble this dysfunctional family flick right up.

Official Premise: Anna Kendrick plays Jenny, an irresponsible 20-something who comes to Chicago to live with her older brother Jeff (Swanberg), a young filmmaker living a happy existence with his novelist wife Kelly (Lynskey) and their two-year-old son. Jenny’s arrival shakes up their quiet domesticity as she and her friend Carson (Dunham) instigate an evolution in Kelly’s life and career. Meanwhile, Jenny strikes up a rocky relationship with the family’s baby sitter-cum-pot dealer (Webber).

The rest of the cast includes Melanie Lynskey (“Heavenly Creatures”), Mark Webber (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”), Lena Dunham (“Girls”) and Joe Swanberg (“Drinking Buddies”). Honestly, not fond of any of the other cast. Good performances surely but they don’t really win me over. Paramount is only giving this film a DVD only release, not that this film would have really shines on Blu-ray either, just noting its faith in this film. There is no digital HD copy included either here. Lastly, there are no special features included at all.

Product Review “Cracker Barrel: LED Christmas Tree with Music”

I am a very big fan of Christmas and the wife and I go all out with decorations etc. It is rare but when you see a decoration in a store and just know that you need it. Well we were in The Cracker Barrel store a few weeks ago and they are all decked out for the holiday season already. We came across the LED Christmas Tree with Music and stopped dead in our tracks. This became our must own decoration for the year.

Official Product Description: When you decorate for Christmas this year, make sure to include our 18.5″ LED Christmas Tree with Music. Santa has never looked cozier, seated in his favorite chair and telling stories in front of a warm fire. This cute and festive tabletop accent is the perfect addition to your holiday decorations.

The tree itself is a nice size and looks absolutely amazing. The detail is fantastic. The colors are so vibrant and the music sounds amazing. I love that fact that it comes with an AC adapter as well to plug in also with the option of batteries as well. This is going to have a nice prominent place in our house this year. If you are looking for a very sharp addition to your collection, I recommend this.

Book Review “Disney Princess: Perfect Princess Christmas”

Age Range: 3 – 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
Series: Disney Princess
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Date: September 9, 2014

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

“Disney Princess: Perfect Princess Christmas” features four Christmas-themed stories with our favorite Disney princess: Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, Tiana. I am surprised but my daughter, who is two, was not terribly blown away with this. She loves Ariel and Tiana but still didn’t really latch on to this one. The stories are cute and certainly get you into the Christmas spirit. The illustrations are colorful and looks great. The book also comes with a free download of the Royal Christmas app for iPhone and iPad. Maybe we’ll try again next year and see if anything changes. I am sure others will love this book though.

Official Premise: Now little girls can celebrate the holidays with the Disney Princesses! From crackling fires and snowy sleigh rides to beachside gatherings and New Orleans feasts, each princess does Christmas her own way. These four Christmas-themed stories star Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, Tiana, and their family and friends as they deck their castle halls. With gorgeous illustrations on every page, plus a foil-stamped jacket, this 96-page storybook is sure to be an instant classic.

 

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Book Review “Disney Christmas Storybook Collection”

Age Range: 3 – 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
Series: Storybook Collection
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Date: September 9, 2014

If you are a fan of the “Storybook Collection”, this is a third edition of this series. The holidays are just around the corner and what better way to spend it then with your favorite Disney and Pixar characters. This updated edition includes brand new Christmas-themed stories including new films like “Frozen”, “Wreck-It Ralph”, and “Tangled”. These films just so happen to be three of my daughters favorites. Also included is Cars, Monsters Inc and a Mickey Mouse story.

“Disney Christmas Storybook Collection” features 18 stories focusing on the magic of Christmas. The book is just so colorful and really well done. It is over 300 pages and a nice sturdy hardcover. The illustrations are beautiful and the stories are a lot of fun. I noticed a repeat with the “Frozen” stories from previous releases but my daughter doesn’t realized and still loves all of them. This has become a must read in our household and will continue through the holiday season.

 

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Book Review “Disney’s A Merry Christmas Cookbook”

Age Range: 6 – 8 years
Grade Level: 1 – 3
Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Date: September 16, 2014

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

First of all, words cannot express how much I love this book. I show my wife this book and we literally sat and read through each page of this book with our daughter. We ended up dog earring every single page of this book since each of the recipes are absolutely amazing. Whenever you get a cookbook, there are always a bunch of rrecipesthat you say “Ewww, this not for me”. Well I hope you do not read this book hungry because every single one listed here are outstanding (trust me we have already tried almost every one!). The book also has pull out recipes to give to your friends and family.

Official Premise: Treat your taste buds to a feast of traditional holiday delights! With simple step-by-step instructions, helpful cooking tips, color photographs, and charming character art, this book is the perfect way for parents and children to make holiday magic in the kitchen! A rating system lets kids know how difficult the recipes are, and cooking tips are sprinkled throughout.

Firstly, this is a Christmas cookbook, which is a major draw for our family because we simply love the holidays. Throw in our favorite Disney and Pixar characters and it just sweetens the deal. I love that these rrecipesare not difficult either. They are fun and very easy. Plus they are just plain cute like Olaf English Muffin Pizzas. My daughter is obsessed with the Sugar Rush Popcorn Gumdrop Garland from “Wreck it Ralph” and if you love “Frozen”, they have Anna’s Frozen Ice Candy!  I cannot recommend this anymore…and I have already purchased numerous copies as gifts.

 

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Book Review “Doc McStuffins: A Very McStuffins Christmas”

Age Range: 3 – 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
Series: Doc Mcstuffins
Paperback: 24 pages
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Date: September 16, 2014

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Like the also recently released “Minnie’s Winter Bow Show”, “Doc McStuffins: A Very McStuffins Christmas” is a wonderful story about Christmas with the lovable gang of the Disney Junior hit series. This book is a favorite for my two year old, who loves pointing out all the characters like Santa and his toys. I love that Doc McStuffins is celebrating Christmas in the series since we celebrate the holiday and my daughter is a huge fan of that time of the year. Plus the book also comes with 50 special sparkly stickers!

Christmas Eve is full of surprises at the McStuffins house! When the toys sneak downstairs to leave Doc’s present under the tree, they find Tobias, one of Santa’s elves, delivering toys. But Tobias accidentally drops Donny’s robot toy and breaks it! Doc and the gang head out on a magical rescue mission to the North Pole to visit Santa’s workshop and fix the toy before Christmas morning.

 

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“White Christmas: Diamond Anniversary Edition” Hits Blu-ray October 14th

PARAMOUNT CELEBRATES THE DIAMOND ANNIVERSARY OF THE BELOVED HOLIDAY CLASSIC STARRING DANNY KAYE AND BING CROSBY AND HONORS THE HUMANITARIAN WORK OF UNICEF

 Paramount Pictures and The Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation Donating $100,000  to Support UNICEF’s Work for Children

Blu-ray Combo Pack Debuts October 14, 2014 with a Bonus Holiday Music CD and New Special Features Including a UNICEF Documentary Hosted by Danny Kaye, Sing-Along Lyrics, a Virtual Duet Between Bing Crosby and Michael Bublé and More

  HOLLYWOOD, Calif.  –  Celebrate 60 years of the treasured musical classic Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS with the spectacular new Diamond Anniversary Edition arriving on Blu-ray Combo Pack October 14, 2014 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.  Starring legendary performers Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen and featuring unforgettable music by Irving Berlin, the beloved holiday film offers timeless entertainment for all ages.

In honor of the 60th anniversaries of WHITE CHRISTMAS and Danny Kaye’s appointment as UNICEF’s first Goodwill Ambassador, The Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation and Paramount Pictures are proud to make a combined $100,000 donation to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF* to support UNICEF’s lifesaving work for children around the world.  As UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador, Danny Kaye traveled to numerous countries in 1954 to see the work of the organization firsthand and appeared in and narrated a documentary entitled Assignment Childrenabout his experience, which is included in the new Blu-ray Combo Pack along with a new introduction by Michael Bublé.  Danny Kaye received an Honorary Academy Award® in 1955 for his work on this extraordinary documentary, as well as for his unique talents, his service to the Academy, the motion picture industry, and the American people.

Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS Diamond Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack also includes new special features such as five classic Christmas television show appearances by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, including a virtual duet between Crosby and Michael Bublé, an optional sing-along subtitle track that accompanies the film’s most popular songs, new photo galleries, and a Christmas CD with 12 songs featuring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Judy Garland, including EIGHT never-before-released tracks.  Additional previously released special features include commentary by Rosemary Clooney, backstage stories, featurettes on Crosby, Kaye and Clooney, and more.

 

Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS Blu-ray Combo Pack

Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS Blu-ray will be presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Restored Mono DTS-HD Master Audio, French Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish Mono Dolby Digital and Portuguese Mono Dolby Digital, as well as English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.  The DVD is presented in widescreen enhanced for 16:9 televisions with Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround, English Restored Mono, French Mono and Spanish Mono, as well as English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.  The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes the following:

Disc 1 (Blu-ray):

  • Feature film in high definition
  • Feature film with optional Sing-Along Subtitle Track—NEW!
  • Commentary by Rosemary Clooney
  • Classic Holiday Moments—NEW!

o   “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby on December 1, 1976

o   “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby featuring Michael Bublé on December 10, 2012

o   “Silent Night” by Bing Crosby on December 12, 1948

o   “Jingle Bells” by Danny Kaye and Nat King Cole on December 25, 1963

o   Danny Kaye reads from A Christmas Carol on December 22, 1965

  • Assignment Children—NEW!

o   With introduction by Michael Bublé

  • Backstage Stories from White Christmas—The production boasted the #1 and #3 box office stars of its time and the director of Casablanca. It featured the most popular song in American history and became the highest-ranking film at the box office in 1954.  From little-known production details to behind-the-scenes trivia, this segment offers insights about the timeless holiday classic.

 

Disc 1 (Blu-ray)—cont’d:

  • Bing Crosby: Christmas Crooner—Crosby’s family members offer personal memories of the film and discuss the crooner’s Yuletide connection.  The piece also includes film historians sharing rare stories about Crosby and White Christmas and a visit to Crosby’s hometown of Spokane, Washington.
  • Danny Kaye: Joy to the World—Some people only know him as the silver screen’s ‘court jester,’ but Danny Kaye was a true humanitarian who helped children around the world as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.  This moving tribute sheds light on the multi-talented actor, who won two honorary Academy Awards®, including the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, and spread joy beyond the Hollywood spotlight.
  • Irving Berlin’s White ChristmasMany people don’t know all of the lyrics to the most popular Christmas song of all time or that Irving Berlin wrote it while sitting poolside at an Arizona Resort.  This fascinating feature sheds light on the genesis and enduring popularity of the best-selling single in American history.
  • Rosemary’s Old Kentucky Home—Take a tour of Rosemary Clooney’s home in Augusta, Kentucky, which has become a historical landmark.
  • White Christmas: From Page to Stage— The legacy of White Christmas continues with a hit Broadway musical, nominated for two Tony awards.
  • White Christmas: A Look Back with Rosemary Clooney
  • White Christmas Photo Galleries—NEW!

o   Rehearsals

o   Behind-the-Scenes

o   Filming

o   Publicity Shots

  • Two Theatrical Trailers

Disc 2 (DVD):

  • Feature Film in Standard Definition
  • Commentary by Rosemary Clooney

Disc 3 (DVD):

  • Same special features listed above in standard definition with the exception of the optional sing-along subtitle track

Bonus Music CD

  1. Winter Wonderland – Rosemary Clooney
  2. Deck the Halls/Away in a Manger/O, Little Town of Bethlehem/The First             Noel – Bing Crosby
  3. Waltz Around the Christmas Tree – Danny Kaye
  4. Marshmallow World – Bing Crosby & Ella Fitzgerald
  5. The Christmas Song – Rosemary Clooney
  6. Just What I Wanted For Christmas – Bing Crosby
  7. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Rosemary Clooney
  8. Jingle Bells – Danny Kaye & Peggy Lee
  9. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Bing Crosby & Judy Garland
  10. Home For The Holidays – Rosemary Clooney
  11. Some Children See Him – Danny Kaye
  12. The Night Before Christmas – Bing Crosby

The film will also be available as a Diamond Anniversary Edition two-disc DVD set with Discs 2 & 3 above.

DVD Review “Tickety Toc: Christmas Present Time”

Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: ANCHOR BAY
DVD Release Date: October 14, 2014
Run Time: 68 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Tickety Toc: Christmas Present Time” is a the latest title in the popular “Tickety Toc” series featuring a collection of five winter-themed episodes from the hit Nick Jr. preschool TV series. It also includes the “Christmas Present Time” extended special. If you are a fan of this series, this DVD will be a great way to get you ready for the winter season and into the holiday spirit. Also included with this DVD are some bonus coloring sheets as well as free Tickety Toc boo called, “Welcome to Tickety Town,” from Scholastic. This is a great bonus addition and a real bargain included with the already low-priced DVD.

Official Premise: It’s Christmas time in Tickety Town, and Tommy & Tallulah are determined to make every merry second count! In this all-new collection of adventures including the Christmas Present Time Special the twins find a new way to make snow, build a giant igloo, roll the biggest snowball ever, and even help Santa fix his sleigh in time for Christmas Eve! But when their escapades get out of hand, friends like McCoggins, Pufferty, Madame Au Lait and Tooteroo will help them make things right. It’s time to chime in these exciting winter-themed episodes from the Nick Jr. preschool hit!

Film Review “Happy Christmas”

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Joe Swanberg, Mark Webber and Lena Dunham
Directed By: Joe Swanberg
Running Time: 88 minutes
Magnolia Pictures

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Generally speaking, I’m not too fond of ‘Christmas in July!’ but thankfully Happy Christmas is far from A Holiday Film. Joe Swanberg’s light slice of life comedy starring Anna Kendrick and Melanie Lynskey is currently available on VOD and opened theatrically today.

Kendrick plays Jenny, the sister of Jeff (director Swanberg), she’s just had a bad breakup and is bunking in Jeff’s basement ostensibly there as an in-house babysitter for his two year old son while piecing her life back together. Jenny makes a terrible first impression with Jeff’s wife Kelly (Lynskey) by getting blackout drunk on her first night in town. At first viewing I was concerned that this would become a clichéd feud between the housewife and the messy sister-in-law, but refreshingly, Swanberg doesn’t go there. The result is a couple of thoroughly authentic female characters at very different points in their lives. While Kelly is at first wary of finding Jenny once again drinking with friend Carson (Lena Dunham) in their basement, the two convince her to share a beer with them and begin one of many of the film’s brilliantly natural conversations.

Not much older than Jenny, Kelly seems to everyone to be an actual grown up but Kelly is revealed to be reluctant about taking on the role of the stay-at-home mom. Her position has in many ways prevented her from pursuing her novelist career and she finds the younger women to be an outlet to which she can finally voice her concerns. For their part, Jenny and Carson see their presence as the opportunity Kelly needs to share some of her responsibilities and finally pursue her own goals. Despite some naivete about being a working writer, Jenny actually does reignite some inspiration that Kelly needed.

Swanberg is also charming as Jeff, whose laid back demeanor is finally stretched to its limits by his younger sister but the film truly belongs to its leading ladies. Your enjoyment of Kendrick’s performance may vary by your tolerance for the over usage of the word “like” in sentences, as for me, Jenny feels completely authentic to like, many people I know. Lynskey too is impressive for the vulnerability she brings to Kelly when she may have been a stick-in-the-mud. All of the cast are additionally helped out by Swanberg’s two year old Jude, who wholly steals the screen from his adult co-stars just by being an unscripted little kid.

None of the characters’ difficulties are ever completely fixed per se by the film’s conclusion, but there’s a genuine sense of warmth within this family unit not often felt in actual holiday films.