Friday, December 25, 2009

Reviewing Old Christmas Tapes

Aside from the traditional fare that TV stations and cable show every year, such as Lifetime and Hallmark Channel's Totally Ridiculous Holiday Happy Endings Marathons, I review some of my old homemade DVDs or other Christmas specials.

Aside from the Grinch and Charlie Brown, I also have holiday specials from Billy and Mandy, My Life As A Teenage Robot, and Robot Chicken. I also have Little Drummer Boy and the Alistair Sim version of Christmas Carol, which don't seem to be on TV this year. I also have a ton of GSN reruns including Christmas shows from I've Got A Secret and What's My Line, but they can be seen anytime.

Anyway, I also started to look at which specials have the best stories. I saw Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, but I have to admit after Kris Kringle escaped from Burgermeister the story starts to fade out. We should have had Burgermeister tossed out of town by the kids who didn't have toys thanks to him, and their parents. For compelling stories, nothing beats the Grinch, Rudolph and Charlie Brown. That's why they're required viewing.

Cable TV , meanwhile, have their own ideas. It explains why Spike is running Bad Santa 24 hour a day, while TNT has A Christmas Story. It's too bad NBC is only allowed to show It's A Wonderful Life twice a year. Why not throw in a couple of cable showings on Lifetime, USA or even SyFy? It should really be in Turner Classic Movies.

Whedonistas, meanwhile, now swear that proper holiday fare are are both the "Amends" episode from Buffy and "Objects In Space" from Firefly, only because Jubal Early compares himself to Santa. Angel should have had a New Year's episode where some terrible thing was about to happen at the start of a New Year, only it gets defeated by too much vodka.

Afterwards, what happens on the 26th? Are holiday specials automatically obsolete? There's Boxing Day in the UK and Canada, and that's Leftover Christmas. I say you watch those specials through Sunday, especially in those areas where their NFL teams are not going to the playoffs (cough49erscoughRaiders,dammitcough).

So, I will look over as much as I can from my Xmas DVD collection, even though Saturday. If I saw the MST3K version of "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians", I should see the Cinematic Titanic version.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Live from's Cinematic Titanic

Now that Joel Hodgson and his gang has escaped from the TimeTube, they wondered what would the first thing they'd do.
Then it came to them: they would gather at a small theater in Los Angeles, mock a lousy movie, and charge people to watch.
Hey, it worked a few dozen times, but this time they'd also tape it for DVD.

It took ten months to get "East Meets Watts", aka "The Dynamite Brothers", from the premiere in San Francisco to a DVD that's one of the unsung stocking stuffers this Christmas season
I've already made a report of the premiere in San Francisco. A couple of days, I got the DVD version. The plot, such as it is, is about a guy from Hong Kong who comes to California to find his brother. He meets up with a groovy cat named Stud Brown, as they battle racist cops and assorted hoodlums.

They set up the five members of the CT gang with Trace Beaulieu, Joel and Mary Jo Pehl on the left, with J. Elvis (Josh to me) Weinstein and TV's Frank Coniff on the right. I think the final product is merging three shots together, but it works out great. I wish there were close-ups of the cast, or even the pre-movie entertainment such as Frank singing "Convoluted Man".

Now a list of some of the riffs I didn't mention last February:

Larry arrives in San Francisco, and meets an unwelcoming committee..
"Go back to China"
Trace: But I'm from Sweden!

Larry and Stud hitch a ride on a moving truck, but are joined by some rednecks. One of them is wearing a hat that says "LB"
J. Elvis: "The "LB" stands for "Leanin' Backwards"

Then, after a girl named Betty gives them a ride to L.A.
J. Elvis This is how people get laws named after them

A gang clobbers the bouncer at Smiling Man's Bar
Frank: People commit violence just to get in. That's how good the onion rings are.

J. Elvis' comment on Stud and his mute girlfriend:
I haven't seen this much chemistry since the Rufus Wainwright/Ellen Degeneres production of "Love Letters"

Larry surprised by more Chinese hoodlums:
Mary Jo: They got the egg drop on him

And other weird comments like:
"The Coen Brothers, no!"
"Forget it, Jake, it's the Asian District"
And yes, the Spit-Take Heard Round the World is included

It'll be the best 20 bucks you'll spend, except for District 9, and actually seeing Up In The Air and Princess and the Frog at full price.

Then again, for 25 bucks, you can see the Cinematic Titanic gang live at the Sketchfest at the Castro in San Francisco. They'll take on Danger at Tiki Island, another Hemisphere Pictures "movie". It's been pummeled a few times, which means the commentary will be broken-in. There's still The Alien Factor to do as well. The big news is that the gang will take their tour to New York City in April.
And since they made it everywhere, they'll make it there, too (instead of the other way around).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Strange Mail from Los Angeles

A while ago, I mentioned that I wanted to see the Nov. 23rd taping of The Ellen Degeneres Show. I had to give up a ticket to Conan O'Brien to do it. Then, the people from Ellen informed me that taping had to be rescheduled. I casually asked if I could be in one of the tapings for December, but they said they were already sold out. Considering you get a bunch of stuff from those tapings, that made sense. Thus, I'll have to wait until they had an opening in 2010, which for me could be March depending on what they'll offer at the Paley Festival. April may not be possible because getting from Anaheim to Burbank without borrowing a car or basic knowledge of freeways would be too painful for most people.

That being said, look what I got yesterday....

They mailed this to me on the 18th, the day after its last taping for the year.
This, I think, is sort of surprising. I'm guessing the secretary just wanted to get the mailing done before the two-week break. It happens.
I left voice mail for the audience relations person for the show, and told her that if I can get to Burbank, I do plan to see the show. I also added a note to the Twitter page.
I mean, when was the last time a talk show sent someone a ticket to a taping that was rescheduled and a month too late?
Just in case someone doubts me, I'll keep it along with the ticket to the Comic-Con Dollhouse autograph session I wasn't allowed to be in because Fox miscalculated how many people would show up. That's why I want to go to the Wizard World event in Anaheim in April. I am hoping this time I'll actually exchange a sentence with Eliza Dushku, like most men would.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Movie Weekend

While people were scrambling for bargains, or running to see Avatar, I decided to take the back roads of movies, and try out some other films before I get roped into seeing James Cameron's comeback.
I saw three movies this weekend, and cost me just eleven bucks thanks to the Cinemark Early Bird Special, and getting inside a special sneak preview.
Earlier tonight, I saw Emily Blunt as The Young Victoria. I thought she did a fine job as the woman who would define the 19th century for England. They played up the love story with Prince Albert. However, there should have been more details about efforts to get her to agree to a "regency" where someone becomes the monarch until she's old enough. It was lacking in drama, but it told the Queen's story just fine...despite some embellishments. I really liked Jim Broadbent as William IV.

As for the weekend, I chose Up in the Air and Princess and the Frog. If The Hurt Locker goes back into release, I'll see that, too. I should have done that the first time a couple of months ago.
When Up in the Air was first released, a lot of people said it was a movie of the times. George Clooney plays Ryan, a guy who flies around the country to fire people. You can see why he loves this lifestyle because he's treated like a king with a ton of perks he's earned the hard way through frequent flier programs. His lifestyle is threatened by Natalie, played by Anna Kendrick. She prefers using teleconference to fire people by remote control. Ryan is told to let Natalie join him on his rounds to show her the ropes, and maybe learn about whether her way is the best way.
Along the way, Ryan meets Alex, played by Vera Farmiga. She, too, is a frequent flier, and they cross paths quite often.
It's interesting that while Ryan has no need for marriage or a basic home life, Natalie does, even though she's gung-ho about her process.
It's not long before Ryan wonders about his life, and whether he should make changes. This is especially true when he shows up for his sister's wedding in Wisconsin. Natalie also has her doubts when she actually has to fire people through a script that doesn't prepare her for every situation.
The movie is directed by Jason Reitman, who directed Juno a couple of years ago. It's been getting a lot of Oscar buzz. The movie's timeliness, and Clooney and Kendrick as the leads, help this movie work. We'll know for sure when awards season starts in a few weeks.

I was also interested in Princess and the Frog because it's Disney's return to traditional animation, as in not CGI or Pixar. So, how can you teel a familiar fairy tale in a new way? You raise the stakes, put the story in New Orleans, get some good songs that work better than you'd think, and some swerves to get the usual happy ending. It's not just about kissing a frog, but also about how hard work and faith can get a person ahead. Anoki Noni Rose, who was robbed big time by the Emmys for ignoring The Ladies No.1 Detective Agency, does a wonderful job as Tiana, while Bruno Campos is great at the Frog Prince Naveen. Keith David is really spooky as Dr. Facilier, the voodoo doctor who casts the dark spell. Louis, the trumpet-playing crocodile, is also a hoot, thanks to Michael-Leon Wooley providing the voice.
Among the songs, I liked "Almost There", which is about Tiana's plans to turn an old sugar mill into her restaurant. I expect the Saints to adopt that song through the NFL playoffs. If the Oscars are smart enough to bother looking for a "Best Song" this year, that should make the cut. The Golden Globes don't think so, but I bet 100 Avatar t-shirts got them to put that movie's "love song" in the final mix.

After that, I may give Avatar a try if I get one of those passes the Sacramento Bee is giving out. Of course, I'd have to wait until the new year to see it, but I wouldn't feel left out. If The Hurt Locker does start picking up awards, that will be next for me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Recession Christmas

Even though my year was just about OK, mainly thanks to the biggest fan interview I ever had, I am still reminded that our economy is not as cheery and bright as it should be.
It's not unusual to see a homeless guy or two sleep out in the cold just a few blocks away from my apartment. I remember seenig one just outside my complex just a few days ago.
Meanwhile, business at Downtown Plaza isn't as good as it used to be. I discovered just after I got back from the Serenity Salute last month that the Suncoast Video place was closing down. A few yards away, the Doubleday Book store was also closing. This comes on top of the news that the shopping center could be sold. I now people are migrating towards target and Walmart for stuff, but this is ridiculous. You wonder if the only part of downtown Sacramento that will have open stores will be Old Sacramento.

State budget cuts are also dimming the cheeriness of the holiday. Usually at Sutter's Fort, there is a tree that's decorated with ornaments. Not so this year. There's still a lit tree outside the Capitol, as it should be. That's for the tourists.

Well, there's still a week before the big day. Maybe something will happen that will surprise me. I hope so.