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Angelina Jolie played the heart-broken title character in Disney's "Maleficent."
Angelina Jolie played the heart-broken title character in Disney's "Maleficent."

"Maleficent" puts an outstanding twist on original "Sleeping Beauty"

One of the things that make in-home media so thrilling is being able to dive into the back story that brings a feature film to life.

When "Maleficent" had its box office run, this live action adaptation re-imagined for the big screen brought in more than $700 million worldwide. With Angelina Jolie cast as the fairytale villain, the fan base of fantasy stories lovers was intrigued in this "Sleeping Beauty" twist since promotion of film began.

Disney released the Blu-ray and HD digital combo pack, as well as DVD and on-demand on Nov. 4. It came out less than a month after the release of the Diamond Edition of "Sleeping Beauty" and after Halloween. It was a smart move to place it in stores and other outlets after the costume-themed, candy-fueled obsession in America.

Sure, "Maleficent"-based costumes and decorations were available, but the storytelling is so strong here that is wasn’t worth getting lost in the Halloween hoopla. Kudos go out to the studio executives and marketing teams for understanding the true value of the film. The right choice of releasing the Blu-ray at a proper time was made in this case.

Bravo.

I had the opportunity to screen the Blu-ray in November, but held on the review to be closer to the holiday shopping season after Thanksgiving. When bundled with the "Sleeping Beauty" re-mastered release, the pair of films telling different stories from the same fantastic universe makes a wonderful present for different generations in the family.

Case-in-point: The young ones, especially fans of the Disney Princesses, will enjoy the tale of Princess Aurora from the original classic tale. Warning, the scene with Prince Phillip fighting the dragon form of Maleficent may be a little too intense for sensitive eyes.

The parents and grandparents will enjoy the classic film for what they remember of it from the big screen or the old VHS tapes.

And most, including preteens and teens, will love the story of the new movie. Jolie is wonderful playing the ch…

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Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" used the latest innovations in animation in 1959.
Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" used the latest innovations in animation in 1959.

Art direction, classic characters drive storytelling in "Sleeping Beauty"

When I think of a true Disney movie, I think of "Sleeping Beauty." It is a pinnacle achievement from the animation studio’s golden era.

It is a fantastic tale, one that clearly puts the evil character at its most menacing, and the good characters who muster up the spirit to take evil on. It’s a classic battle, urging the audience to take a side and root for the victor.

Granted, when something is of 1959 vintage, it becomes difficult to sell it on a younger generation that is exposed to the latest computer-animated worlds. I do find, that when an older family member embraces a film like this and a child can feel the heart and soul expressed, that they will get beyond what is not there and get caught up in the great story that is presented.

The youngest of viewers – especially the ones who love the Disney princesses – will love this film about Princes Aurora, who is put under a spell by Maleficent and a deep sleep brought on by a prick from a spinning wheel. Despite the king’s efforts to burn all of the spinning wheels in the kingdom, the good fairies protect young Beauty and arm Prince Philip to take on the fire-breathing alter ego of Maleficent and save the princess with, "True love’s first kiss."

Disney released the Diamond Edition with DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Copy in October. I’ve had the chance to screen the discs, and take in the wealth of background and history shared in the extras. A large amount of featurette footage is from the original DVD release, including the restoration effort of the score of the film which was nominated for an Academy Award. Historians and animators look back at the original footage from the recording sessions to make the songs like "Once Upon a Dream" come back to life.

One story shared is of background artist Eyvind Earle. Walt Disney loved his work so much that he made Earle the art director on "Sleeping Beauty." This was the first time that Disney gave a single artist the responsibility of creating the entire lo…

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Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill in Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill in Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy."

"Guardians of the Galaxy" Blu-ray is simply stunning

"I am Groot."

If you are one of the millions of people that have seen Marvel’s "Guardians of the Galaxy" in the theater, then you are familiar with the only one sentence that a tree humanoid voiced by Vin Diesel can say.

Groot is but one member of the Guardians, a motley crew of "losers" that work together to prevent a source of unheard power falling into the wrong hands.

The Blu-ray was released Tuesday, and I had the opportunity to screen it last week. It was great to watch the film based on a rag tag team after seeing it a couple of times on the big screen – it is just that good that I didn’t see everything the first time around.

This title, taking the same comic book universe of "The Avengers" to the stars, was a gamble for Marvel and Disney, but was one that was worth the effort as proven by its huge international box office take.

Chris Pratt of "Parks and Recreation" plays Peter Quill, who was taken into space as a boy after the death of his mother. Quill, who wants to be known as Star Lord, is the relatable earthling surrounded by assassins, aliens and a gun-loving raccoon named Rocket.

The Blu-ray was filled with some wonderful surprises, including a making-of featurette that offered insight into the story, the alien worlds, the colorful characters and the work done on green screen stages. The gag reel was also a nice addition done in the Disney spirit, taking a light-hearted approach to the mistakes made in a scene. Animators even included a made-up mistake – taking a page from Pixar’s "Toy Story 2" – that has a hatch closing too early on the animated Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper.

The 1970s-fueled soundtrack gave a certain beat and pacing of the film that works very well for the characters, which seem more human than anything else. Their rugged nature is part of their charm, and it sets up a role well-played for the underdogs taking on a fleet of bad guys while having run-ins with the law.

The language – harsh and colorful – is too m…

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Helen Mirren and Manish Dayal star in "The One Hundred-Foot Journey."
Helen Mirren and Manish Dayal star in "The One Hundred-Foot Journey."

Taste flavor and soul in "The Hundred-Foot Journey"

When it hit the theater, "The Hundred-Foot Journey" was a welcomed arrival of summer counter programming. The Oprah Winfrey- and Steven Spielberg-produced vehicle for Helen Mirren was a perfect romantic comedy surrounding food and culture.

When it hit the store shelves on Tuesday on Digital HD and Blu-ray, it offers a perfectly-timed gift for those who enjoy great actors working on a film with only a couple of explosions. There is no super hero team to fight crime, or thriller moments. This story is predictable in its paces, but is filled with colorful expressions infused with beautiful cultural clashes that melt into relationships that will last a lifetime.

I had the opportunity to preview the film last week, and watch it with family members gathered for Thanksgiving.

The story is about an Indian family forced to relocate after a tragic scene of violence that left the family’s house and business destroyed and Hassan Kadam’s (Manish Dayal) mom lost to the ensuing fire. Papa (Om Puri) takes the family to England, where the drab and rainy landscape left more to be desired. They head to France and open an Indian restaurant across the street from Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) and her famous classic French, Michelin starred, Le Saule Pleureur.

As the differing eateries and its owners clash over style and cuisine,e a romance blossoms between Hassan and Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), a sous chef at the French restaurant. As the clash diminishes between the eateries, the friendship between Papa and the Madame grows as well.

The spice-filled tale is directed by Lasse Hallstrom, the mind behind "Chocolat" and the script is written by Steven Knight, who is better known for his harder-edged "Eastern Promises."

The bonus features with the Blu-ray range from the delicious – a demonstration and recipe to make coconut chicken – to the sweet with Spielberg and Winfrey talking about working together for the first time in 30 years since "The Color Purple."

Two other fea…

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