Thursday, December 27, 2012

Les Miz Scores as Musical Adaptation of the Book

As many fans of the classic musical Les Miserables were waiting for the movie to arrive, there were whispers that maybe this would wind up as a disappointment. Most were confident Hugh Jackman would be a very credible Jean Valjean, but could Russell Crowe become a great Javert as Roger Allam? Could Anne Hathaway, who had to deal with a Devil who wore Prada, possibly be Fantine? That's like stealing The Dark Knight Rises as Catwoman.
Lily Kane as Cosette? Borat as Thenardier?

YES...to all of that and more.

True, it's not exactly like the musical that's familiar to those who saw it on Broadway, or in concert form on PBS every pledge drive. Director Tom Hooper turned the musical into an adaptation of the story, with help from the original writers. That's why you notice one song has been moved, another was left out, another was split into two parts,some extra lyrics that people never heard before, and, to some, the real Jean Valjean--aka Colm Wilkinson--mysteriously turned into the compassionate Bishop of Digne. This was done with the participation of Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel and Herbert Kretzmer. It's still their musical.

Others have complained about so many close-ups, or that the actors' singing voices aren't pitch perfect. Well, it's the movies, where you always have to be ready for your close-up. Also, they are doing their roles as if it's straight acting while singing. That's why Valjean, who is still shaken by the compassion the Bishop gave him despite stealing silver, doesn't sing "What have I done?" perfectly. He doesn't have to. He's acting and singing in the moment. They all are.

It's also a jolt when we see Jackman, gaunt and bearded, suddenly become a factory owner who fails to help one of his workers, leading him to his true redemption. He is great as Valjean, and reminds me a bit of Wilkinson.

Now to Hathaway, who will be Best Supporting Actress for everything in 2013. Her big solo, "I Dreamed a Dream", is moved after "Lovely Ladies" because the movie decides she has to make that one big fall from unemployed factory worker to debased prostitute before the classic song about how she was deserted by a man she once loved, leaving her with child. Her big song is shown all in closeup because she feels shame for what she has done, and what she has lost. The last thing she would do is stand and make her statement. Seeing her breaks your heart, and it shows why this version of Les Miz should get its due from more people.

Russell Crowe can sing, usually rock and roll. He does fine as Javert, strutting along with his total certainty that he is never wrong about the law. However, I didn't like his version of "Stars". It didn't have that heft I've seen from the PBS versions. If he wants to try another musical, maybe Jackman can get him in Oklahoma or something like that. I did like their fight during "The Confrontation".

When I heard Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were going to be the sleazy and amoral Thenardiers, I really hoped they would pull it off. After all, Tim Burton proved they can handle musicals, thanks to Sweeney Todd. The best way to look at them is ask "How could they play the Thenardiers, if they can't be Alun Armstrong and Jenny Galloway?"

The answer is simple: be out and out sleazy, and they do become that. The movie also adds something interesting: we see that young Cosette grew up with young Eponine, who was treated a whole lot better and went along with their scams. That's a slight nod to Cinderella, with Valjean as the fairy godfather ready to get Cosette out of there.

Speaking of Cosette, I liked Amanda Seyfried in that role. She was a lot better than Katie Hall from the 25th anniversary version, but her voice kept reminding me of Jeanette MacDonald. Samantha Barks, who played Eponine in the 2010 concert, is also good, although they cut part of "On My Own."

Also, this movie found a good Marius in Eddie Redmayne, especially when he sings "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables." Nick Jonas should be shoved into the nearest theater, watch this movie, and be told THAT is how Marius should be done. Michael Ball is even better, but still.....

There's also an original song called "Suddenly", where Valjean realizes his responsibility to raise Cossette. It's not bad, but it stalled the momentum from when he gets Cossette to when Javert goes looking for both of them. There's also a surprising twist of coincidence which I hope is in the book.

For those who was disappointed "Les Miserables, the movie" isn't "Les Miserables the musical on film," give it another chance. It's a very good adaptation of the musical for film, with the original writers helping out. It's Les Miserables, the genuine musical article. At least it'll be more successful than Rock of Ages.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tarantino Unleashes With Django

Christmas is one of the most popular times to see a movie these days. If you need a break from holiday decorations and Christmas movies that you've seen over the past month, and you're not exactly an NBA fan, you use the movie gift card that you got from Mom or your aunt.

I've gone to a movie theater on Christmas twice in my life, most recently when Pulp Fiction was running in 1994. Today was the third time, because I wanted to see Django Unchained.
Surprisingly, so did a lot of other people. The first showing for the film at the Cinemark Downtown 7 was nearly full, and people really enjoyed the film. Just like other Tarantino films, it has black hunor, intense scenes and off-the-wall dialogue. It also has a lot of blood. Django was a spaghetti western, heavy on the marinara, if you get our drift.

It's also a very good drama because Tarantino adds just enough to make you think. More on that in a minute.

The movie stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave who is bought and freed by a bounty hunter played wonderfully by Christoph Waltz. He brings Dr. King Schultz, a German immigrant ex-dentist and now bounty hunter, to life. I really wanted to know how he switched jobs in the 1850's. King needs Django to help find some bad guys for the reward. Django does that, then needs King's help to find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who's been sold off to another plantation.

We see the natural development of a professional partnership between Django and King, all the way to where they find the plantation in Mississippi where Broomhilda's kept. It's run by a guy named Candie, played with a lot of charm and nastiness by Leonardo DiCaprio. He's helped by Steven, a house servant played by Samuel L. Jackson. It's safe to say he sides with Candie, not just because he's the master. In fact, who exactly is the master depends on the situation. That's apparent in a couple of key scenes.

The movie also shows how committed Django is to getting Broomhilda back. He even has visions of her. However, he also has to play a part that tears him up inside. He is a free black, and uses that to act superior to the slaves he meets at Candie's plantation. He has to blind himself to how is fellow men are being treated, and hide his eyes so that we don't know what he's really thinking. King is unable to hide his eyes to how Candie disposes of one of his slaves. It makes him take action that threatens to ruin everything.

It's amazing how Tarantino can give us enough comedy relief to relax us, then turn up the intensity when Django and King tries to negotiate a purchase of a slave, while we know they want to get Broomhilda out of there.

There is one scene that borders on being a Saturday Night Live sketch. It's where Don Johnson, as Big Daddy/Evil Harlan Sanders, leads a group of guys against King and Django after they killed three brothers with prices on their heads. It's funny, but you wonder if this should have been in another movie. This is especially true when you see who's under one of those hoods.

Django Unchained may not be a movie that's perfect for the holidays, and but it a great western, especially for the performances of Waltz, Foxx, DiCaprio and Jackson.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Why NBC IS More Blind Than Mr. Magoo

When I learned that NBC will air Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol for the first time in nearly 40 years, I thought this was great. It first aired in Living Color in December 1962. It showed the myopic old man (voiced by Jim Backus)  enjoying success in a Broadway musical version of A Christmas Carol. Of course, it showed him getting into trouble because of his bad eyesight before and after the play. During it, though, Magoo plays Scrooge straight, and goes a fine job as the miserly old man who learns the true spirit of Christmas. It lead to a weekly show, where Magoo played other figures of literature including Dr. Frankenstein, the Count of Monte Cristo and Ishmael from Moby Dick.

Then I remembered that TV in 1962 is very different than what TV is now. I wondered how much of the original show would survive the cuts NBC would impose to fit in more ads. I know that the special used to be shown mostly uncut in syndication in the 1970s, and just the musical on TNT.

Last night's showing was a disaster. They cut out all of the framing device, half of "The Plunderer's March", and the finale reprise of "The Lord's Bright Blessings". They figured that showing the "Christmas Carol" part was enough.
This is just like restoring the Mona Lisa, but her face is missing, or a Model T without wheels... including the steering wheel

Is there any reason behind this, with the expectation that no one will notice?
I suspect there is. Hardly anyone remembers Mr. Magoo, who used to be a cartoon staple in the movies and TV. He won two Academy Awards, for crying out loud! He used to be on NBC for a time. He was even Uncle Sam in another animated special.
Yet the Peacock network probably didn't even promote this special, but they had ads for what followed, the WWE Salute to the Troops. Promoting a show where pro wrestlers are meeting our troops is a good idea. Mr. Magoo, though, deserved better.

Let's not forget one other thing: the composers of the songs, Bob Merrill and Jules Styne, went on to make another musical you may have heard of....Funny Girl!

Thankfully, there is YouTube, which has the uncut version of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.



It's also available on DVD, along with other Christmas specials that have been trimmed for extra commercials by short-sighted TV bean-counters.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Space Classics: Comic-Con 2008--You Gotta Have A Gimmick

From My Space, July 2008 (and in honor of the end of Fringe)

It's not enough to get the biggest and most popular TV and movie stars to convince fans at Comic-Con to see the latest movies or TV shows. Very attractive trailers or even full pilots won't be enough. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile to promote interest.
If anyone took the extra mile, it was Fox TV with its promotion of Fringe, about an oddball scientist who is joined by his son and and FBI agent to investigate strange phenomena which could be part of a more sinister conspiracy of abusing science and technology. People had several chances to see the pilot during preview night and the first day of the four-day event. Just in case that wasn't enough, they had this....



These large balloon billboards were spotted in downtown San Diego as part of a scavenger hunt. People went to the Fox booth to get special cards that would direct them from one place to another.



If you were on the right track, you got much more than a cookie....



You got a bottle of ginger ale (which I still have) , plus directions to the next clue, guiding you to....



People were eventually sent to a parking garage, where they went to the top to get a backpack, t-shirt and a chance to see the pilot. I would have stayed, but I wanted to get to the Balboa to see Rifftrax Live. But then, I met up with ...



A roving gang of Rocking Sexy Jesuses, who were there to promote the comedy, Hamlet 2. They had some free tickets to a sneak preview, and I snagged one...from someone else. Still saw most to Rifftrax, though.
HBO took a different approach. They invited adults to happy hours at various restaurants near the convention center. People spotted girls wearing fans and this..



"Tru Blood" is the blood substitute that vampires drink so that they don't bite us. The show looks at what would happen if vampires try to be as respectable as the living..and a mind-reading waitress.
What could be the most interesting promotion was at the Best Buy booth, which plugged the DVD release of Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. In order to get a poster signed by Kal Penn and John Cho, you have to do something interesting...



Mine was a bit too small, but I got my signed poster.
I was hoping to get a signed poster from the cast of Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. Thing is, they closed the line before the doors opened at the big exhibit hall. Suspicious? Sure, but that's Comic-Con for you.

My Space Classics: My entire review of Dr. Horrible's Internet Premiere

What did I think of Dr.Horrible when it came to my computer nearly five years ago. From my old MySpace blog:

From My Space, July 2008:

Waiting for Dr. Horrible

I did have to the chance to see Dr. Horrible early this morning after I got off my overnight shift at my radio station. I thought the site would be there in the morning.
Then I find out it crashed along with Whedonesque. Holy Internet Musical, Batman! This new idea from Joss Whedon made you and the Joker almost moot...until this weekend rolls around, of course.
Still, the crash of the site is excellent news for iTunes. I am sure a lot of people are buying part one at two dollars a pop, and will do the same for the other two parts as well. I'd do that, but my iPod is audio only. I'll have to really consider upgrading to a video iPod soon.
This should also make DVD sales jump very high once people can take that route, like me. It's also good news for a group called J!nx, who has made Dr. Horrible t-shirts. I got the logo shirt, because Nathan's face on one of the designs looks a bit too creepy. I just hope my shirt gets to my house by next Tuesday so I can take it with me to Comic-Con. I hope someone can start making Dr. Horrible hats, too.
All this excitement over an internet musical has to get the notice of someone in the Big Media. If people can make a website explode over a little musical, imagine what they can do for a "lost episode" that's web exclusive. That would work for shows like Lost, Heroes (maybe revive the Origins arc this way), Stargate: Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica...or even Doctor Who. As for regular dramas or sitcoms, I am not too sure. They can make webisodes, like Rescue Me and The Office, but I'm not too sure about full episodes unless they are wilder than the TV-MA ranking. Al this just proves that once again, Joss is on to something...bringing new meaning to independent producing.
Now, can someone give the website some Cybernetic Growth Hormone?

Down with Captain Hammer!!
That guy is the Sean Hannity of super heroes!
However, his duet with Penny (Felicia Day) was quite romantic..and this whole musical is great. Neil, of course, brings humanity to an evil villain who just wants to be loved. He'd give up the Evil League of Evil for Penny's friendly touch.
I gotta say...I never expected Nathan Fillion to be a musical leading man. Too bad he isn't in Mamma Mia as one of the three "fathers". Hopefully he can find himself in musicals, just like Lucy Lawless. Maybe we can have Serenity the musical! All you need is the soundtrack.
As for Miss Day, I do remember her singing in the HBO movie, Warm Springs. Yep, that movie on FDR's life before he became president included Day as one of the wheel-bound patients being able to show her musical talents.
Bring on parts two and three...then the DVD!

Mamma Mia! This is the musical to see! (Sorry, Meryl)

For those who think the musical based on Abba songs is in trouble if they let Pierce Brosnan sing, rest assure that Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has everything you need in a clever good vs. evil musical.
After we see the Doc's stunned look that Penny can be so easily swept off her feet by Captain Pen--I mean Hammer, we get a lovely duet between Penny and the Doc, "I Cannot Believe My Eyes", where their views of the world may conflict but their voices are well-matched. We see that Captain Hammer is indeed the Sean Hannity of superheroes, when he shows some reluctance to shake hands with the homeless or with geese. But show off on one of those paddle boats? He lives for that.
We also see the Doc's freeze ray caper fizzled out because his blog's popular with Hammer and the cops. A few clicks of the mouse could have fixed that. Now, Bad Horse, the Thoroughbred of Sin (great name for a race horse), wants nothing less than death and assassination from the Doc, or he can kiss the Evil League of Evil good-bye.
Meanwhile, he seems to be bonding with Penny thanks to Pinkberry, until Captain Hammer brags about how he's been able to get Penny that building for her shelter, thanks to his fist..and a pen, of course. Once he brags about how he'll bring Penny to his place, and present his hammer, which is also his penis, suddenly assassination sounds like a great idea to the Doc.
His song of new purpose, "Brand New Day", followed by his dream of recreating the climax from the Buffy episode, "Fear, Itself", with Hammer as Gachnar, wraps up part two.
Leave it to Joss and his brothers and friends to come up with a musical where we root for a mad scientist whose evil is genuine--as is his love for the Lovely Damsel. Does that trump the need to please a Thoroughbred of Sin, even if it means knocking off the least super of superheroes since Puma Man? Well, that's what part three is for. Maybe she'll be evil in the end, or just smarter than the two main guys. Now that's an ending.
Just a reminder that this musical will have its own panel late Friday night, but it's up against the major awards at the Eisners. I just wonder if the cast will be at the late-night showing, If so, it will be wall-to-wall fans there.

We should have seen this coming, but it was still cool

Well, we have seen all three parts of the Dr. Horrible saga...the first internet musical that also could have made a good comic book. This is exactly what this was..a comic book story with music. 
We were all right up there with the Doc, who was all set to take down Captain Hammer, who is what would happen if Fox News invented a super hero. The doc was all set to show us the truth, of how the world really was, and how he just might be a hero after all.
Well...let's just say the Doc has to deal with how it all turned out, especially with the points he did prove. I don't want to reveal the ending, but it's something that wouldn't surprise those who are familiar with Joss' work.
The third part centers on Captain Tool, I mean Hammer, about to get a statue for helping the homeless. He's the darling of the media, while fans wear shirts with his face to show their devotion. We also learn that David Fury should have been in Mamma Mia instead of Pierce Brosnan (as far as vocal abilities are concerned). He and Marti Noxon also make an ideal L-A TV anchor team, probably the noon news. Anywho, Captain Hammer makes his big speech about his great deed, and his sexual relationship with Penny, then sings a song about how everyone can be a hero (but not quite like him). As the audience waves their arms in time with the tune, Doc Horrible interrupts with his freeze ray..which actually works. He gives his song about how people are like sheep, and that the world isn't all sweetness and light. While it's not as upbeat as the Captain, his lyrics are much better. This all leads to a showdown where shocking truths are revealed, and a new day has begun.
Again, I won't say what happens, but I have this question for Dr. Horrible, after all that has happened...
Happy Now?
Well, one look at him at the very last second, and you'll know the answer.
It's a brilliant ending to something that just may revolutionize the internet's role in entertainment, or at least get the process going.
All three parts will be shown at Comic-Con next Friday, and I'm guessing it's going to be packed. It may even be cooler than the MST3K reunion. It's already cooler than Mamma Mia!
 

My Space Classics: Internet Archeology for Buffy fans

This was also pre-2008, but I came up with this because of he tenth anniversary of Buffy as a TV show. Somewhere on the Internet, there are the ruins of websites gone by...

In the world wide web, as it was once called, there are literally billions of web pages that have been forgotten. They now float in cyberspace, never to be logged on again.
However, I just discovered a way to see these long-forgotten pages again. It's at archive.org, where you can see lots of long-forgotten clips of movies school films, TV shows and lots of other filmed things. They also has something called the Internet Wayback. With this, you can call up a long-forgotten web address, and see if it still exists. If so, you can see how much of it still exists. Now, if you find such a page, you will se it's missing images and graphics. it would be like visiting an old Greek or Roman ruin, or what was left of Illyria's army in the "Shells" episode from Angel.
For example, remember buffyslayer.com? That was the original web address for Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it was on the WB. It included a link to the original Bronze, the history-making watering hole where Whedonistas gathered. I entered that address to the Internet Wayback, and got a hit. It was what was left of the page from December 1997, around season two. There's no graphics, but there is a link to the Bronze.
Click that, it's really going back in time. Again, no graphics, but lots of info about Slayspeak, the cast, music, and a link to the posting board. Click that link, and you see what people were taking about in February 1998.



Yes, the file did say the home page was from December 1997, but the Bronze back then is from February 1998, just before the pivotal episodes when Angel lost his soul and we lost our minds.
AND...for good measure...there's a sample of the posts from the first week of the show.



Man, seeing the reaction from an unsuspecting world shows how more and more special this show really is. It may not have had major Emmys, but it's inspired a long list of Ph.D dissertations.
Now, I also clicked buffy.com in the Internet Wayback, and got even more pages, especially from the UPN days. The big difference here is that a lot of pages form that webpage are still mostly intact, especially around 2003.
Now the old webpages for Firefly and Wonderfalls weren't so lucky. While there are links to buying them on DVD, there's nothing left of the program links.
Of course, taking the Internet Wayback works for lots of other websites, too...especially the more popular ones. You can see early webpages from Google and Yahoo.
Anyway, it's a chance for Buffy fans to really go back in time, one old webpage at a time. Try it!
Better yet, see if your own webpage is somehow in the Internet Wayback. I tried it..and it is!

My Space Classics: First Review of ICWXP

My first review of something I review all the time: 

From February 2008:

Thanks to MySpace, a new force battling the evil of bad movies has emerged...Incognito Cinema Warriors XP!!
Out from the apocalyptic bowels of a Kansas City suburb, Commander Rikk Wolf battles against zombies and Hellspawn for CORPS...because for some reason they have no faith towards a 27 year old Slayer named Buffy. Anywho, he's the last survivor of his battalion, and now finds himself an an abandoned movie house called the Cine-Sorrow Theater. He meets two robots, Topsybot 5000 and Johnny Cylon, then discovers that the "owner," Dr. Harrison Blackwood, will force them to watch bad movies.
Yes, this sounds familiar. In fact, the doc nearly admits it's a knock-off of the original movie-mocking diety known as MST3000. But since that's "split" into Cinematic Titanic and Film Crew/Rifftrax, someone has to pick up the torch.
So, ICW has been chosen to revive the tradition, trapped in a theater "where the '50's went to die", and mock away at crimes against cinema.

This isn't too unusual. Some MST fans have made their own versions of the show, either for their own amusement or YouTube fodder. But the ICW guys figure they can make a few bucks doing this job, and it looks like they will. The first movie is Bride of the Gorilla, featuring a pre-Perry Mason Raymond Burr as Barney, the foreman of a plantation. He's in love with Deena, the wife of his boss, and hopes to take her as his own. He knocks off Mr. Plantation Owner, but the only witness is an old lady with nasty witchcraft of her own. He turns Barney into a were-Gorilla, and not because he killed. He was also stringing along Marina, a native woman who also hoped to be in Barney's greasy arms. The movie, for lack of a better term, also features Lon Chaney Jr., who was once an Indestructible Man.

So, how to the ICW guys stand up as extreme riffers? Pretty good, actually. They have a few too many jokes about bodily fluids, but they get some good lines in here, such as...
"Bow before Siodmak!" (the guy who wrote and directed this movie)
"That snake swallow a violinist?"
When Marina emerges from the jungle, hoping to talk to Barney, "Shadow Ninja Attack!!"
Marina finds comfort in the spooky old lady, "I love you Grandma Rotten Pumpkin Head." (She's also compared to Mel Brooks in drag).
As the "curse" starts to take hold, "When is this curse going to kick in? I want to get this movie over with."
Then Barney wanders in the jungle, but we don't see him as a gorilla.."Invisible Were-Gorilla. Throwing invisible poop at a theater near you."
Just as Barney gets back from a night of being an animal, "She'll never know that I snuck out to become a gorilla," and my favorite riff about the jungle, "It's got fun and games, and you've got no money, and it's got your disease." Burr also says "The jungle's my house. It belongs to me", which should have been followed by something like "No, wait. The Bank of Tarzan just foreclosed on your sub-prime loan."
Finally, this riff that describes how the crew feels.."If the plot had been half as thick as this jungle, this movie might actually have been good enough to suck."

OK, the Riffs are strong with these guys. There are some similarities, such as the red "zombie alert" that's a bit too much like "Movie Sign", and the yellow light when Dr. Blackwood wants to talk to them from his undisclosed location. He sees Wolf, Topsybot and Cylon as his little ant farm. He'll inflict bad movies on them until he's bored, and then unleash the zombies on them...unless the zombies get to the doc first. There's an idea the show can consider.

Otherwise, the show is structured like a traditional night at the movies our grandparents may have had: a trailer first, then one of those propaganda films trying to convince you to get popcorn or candy, then the main feature. The ICW guys can re-create that, plus add a lame cartoon or newsreel. That will set them apart from the MST style.

Of course, so will the future episodes...blood-drenched horror flicks from Europe not even the MST crew would touch. Something about FCC standards, but we can see what they'll do to them. The ICW site also has small bios of the guys behind this great idea in who-needs-you-media-conglomerates entertainment. Lets hope we'll see more of this series soon!

My Space Classics: The Day I Held An Oscar

This is from my old MySpace blog, which is on life support thanks to continuous Twitter and Facebook updates. Enjoy!

From February 2008:



I would like to thank the Academy for this limited chance to do this, along with thousands more who happened to visit Hollywood and Highland during February.
Whoever came up with this idea should get an honorary Oscar. Hopefully, they'll do this again. It's different from previous displays, where they show you how they make the awards. Maybe they can do the same for a Grammy when that museum is done at L-A Live, and an Emmy, too.
They've been busy getting the Kodak Theater, and here's some of the activity...




As you can see, they don't want Oscar to be wet.



...and to remind people what's coming.
Now, they had a display of lots of Oscars, and a chance for people to experience being on the Red Carpet....



They also had pictures of the nominees, plus posters from the Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film choices. If they ever make that Hollywood Museum, this should be part of the complex. One thing you'll never see is an Oscar on mass-produced clothes. They really protect the image to emphasize how special it is, as if we didn't know. I'm lucky to get the three programs from past Oscar Night America parties and the two hats. It's too bad I had to choose Wondercon this year over this year's ONA party in Sacramento. I just hope the Wondercon guys make sure its show and the Oscars don't clash again. It's just not fair!

My Space Classics" Greetings from Cabo

More of the best of my MySpace blog, which still exists but is not easy to find. Enjoy!

From December 2007, when I was at the Browncoat cruise. I typed this at an internet cafe in Mexico, and it was my first big scoop--that no one noticed.

Well, day 3 of my voyage, and it's been great!
The guests of the Browncoat Cruise have been very entertaining, especially Michael Fairman and Nectar Rose, who are pretty nifty dancers.
AND.....Ron Glass has revealed Dark Horse will soon produce a Serenity comic book that reveals Shepherd Book's back pages, if you get my drift. It's called "The Shepherd's Tale." As you recall, Morena Baccarin has given a possible hint on Book's past, supposedly as a "dirty cop", at a previous con. We'll see if that's true. Joss will co-write the issue. (Note: Joss did co-write the story with Zach Whedon)

Life on the Elation has been pretty good. They keep us pretty busy here. It was a treat to see Cabo on the beach and in the water. I took an alternate rote to the Beach, which was busy with sun-tanned tourists and a lot of people selling trinkets and boat rides. It's capitalism at its finest.

Cable TV is surprisingly plentiful, except you see prime-time TV two hours ahead of time, during dinner and the nightly events. I'm sure someone has figured out that he'll have to choose between the "Heroes" finale and the Bedlam Bards or similar events. My DVR has already taken care of that. I'd rather see the final four of that show, as it will hopefully lead to something so amazing, we'll curse the producers who won't swallow their pride and fork over the royalties. We get two CNN channels, two kids channels which are in English but have Spanish ads, TNT (same thing), and even some movie channels.
My digital camera will be filled to the brim with cruise ship memories, so get ready.
Oh, and Jeremy, one of the organizers for the cruise, did something interesting. Ron wanted to ask him a question. Jeremy said, "Yes, Grampa?" Well, Ron pointed out he's never married, and asked Jeremy if he's ever gotten married. Jeremy said no, but soon fixed that....by proposing to his girlfriend. It was the Flanvention all over again, and just as cool.
Johnathan Woodward, meanwhile, has become the Bill Murray of the group. He is REALLY out there, and is another guy who should be on TV more often...along with Ellen Muth and anybody from Wonderfalls. Get the message, Mr. Fuller?
Anyway, that's the latest. Another update on Wednesday, and the illustrated version on my website by Sunday. Adios!!

Note: My personal website has a section on the cruise, of course. There's also an album of the cruise on my Flickr page

My Space Classics: Can't Stop the Serenity in Sacramento

More of the best of my MySpace blog. Enjoy!

From June 2007:

So, it's Saturday night, and the current summer sequels aren't as hot as the latest heatwave. It's also midnight, and you don't want to see Saturday Night Live.



Well, a crowd of Whedon fans came over for a midnight showing of Serenity at the Century Stadium 14 in Sacramento to benefit Joss' favorite charity, Equality Now. It also happened to be his 43rd birthday, and thousands of his fans celebrated that milestone with other Serenity screenings around the world. It's the second year in a row we've had these screenings. Aside from the movie, they got a chance to win cool and unique prizes, and also buy t-shirts and other stuff. I did my part by tearing tickets and selling t-shirts. I was even a temporary poster stand, and bought some raffle tickets...and didn't win. Still it was worth it. It may not have been one of the biggest screenings, but it was an ethusiastic one.



It may have been nearly two years since Serenity first appeared, and Firefly nearly five years ago, but some fans won't forget. That's especially true of Jayne's unique woolen hat made by his mom. You can always spot a Jayne fan...



You know, after getting three slightly disappointing sequels last month, you may wonder if people would actively see out Serenity if it was out this year. Why? Because Serenity has a STORY that is more important than the CGI: a man regaining his belief while a psychic girl regainnig her true self. Match that up against pirates or some guy with s spider web. After all, even if Serenity wasn't a super-duper blockbuster, there's some reason why it's being re-released with more features and commentaries. That reason is....they're Big Damn Heroes, even before that unbreakable cheerleader, flying politician, mind-readnig cop or teleporting salaryman/future samurai (although they are popular, too, because they have real stories).

Many people wish the saga of the Serenity could continue on the big screen, but we may have to settle for the occasional comic book series. As I saw the movie for the eigth time, I looked at the case closely, and could just see this group can be big stars...if someone could give them more opportunities. It's happened already for many: Nathan's a doc treating a pie baking genius in Waitress, Alan's making a splash in the movies, Summer will be the next great Terminator, Adam's back on TV while Morena already is in a medcal drama, and Jewel is about to join the Stargate-verse. Gina was last seen in a Chris Rock movie, and with Lawrence Fishburne, while I hope we'll see Sean soon. I know Ron will be on a cruise in December..along with a LOT of Browncoats. Let's hope we can do it again next year.

My Space Classics: Conan O'Brien Visits San Francisco

More of the best of my old MySpace blog, which is still there in spirit. Enjoy!

From May 2007

Well, Conan's week in the Bay Area is over...and it was unforgettable.



It also shows that when he gets Leno's chair in a couple of years, he just may be able to fit in, or Burbank will have to change to fit him.
My only regret is that I didn't get to be in the Orpheum for an extra day. I'm glad I got into the Thursday taping, because seeing Conan in San Francisco saves me 1500 bucks and a lot of grief trying to get inside his studios in New York. The Orpheum has 2400 or so seats, while his home has maybe 400. You figure it out. I could have tried for Friday, but I was talking to some who were at the standby line at 8 AM. They lost out to people who came at 6:30. That, and the fact a lot of people wanted to see Snoop Dog.



That's me with one of the writers.
I came Thursday right off the Greyhound bus from Sacramento. While that may not be fancy, it saves money. Gas and parking costs are sky-high, and paying 28 bucks to get to SF would have paid for the parking alone. I was rather up close, in the second batch of fans. My only concern if whether I could get away long enough to toss my gym bag in my hotel room. These guys frown about coming into a TV taping with a camera or something. As the warmup guy, Brian McCann (Mr. Preparation H Raymond), said, too many lights could make Conan's face explode since he's an albino (not really). It didn't stop some people who took quick snapshots through their camera phones and really small cameras.



Still, if you saw the set, anyone would want to take a picture. It's not as big as it looks on TV, but it's an incredible mini-Golden Gate Bridge. When Conan came out, the place went NUTS. Even he was taken aback by the attention, at one point sitting down. I'd keep this episode on DVD...except there was a blackout back home, and I only got half of it. I'll mix it in with the ones I do have with Robin Williams and Snoop Dogg, so it will be OK...and I also have the ticket. My photos are here, if you'd like to see what it was like. I didn't get Conan's autograph, but I got his face.
Getting back to the taping they organized people into two lines, blue and yellow. I don't know if that's how they do it in New York, but it worked well. As they opened the doors, it got interesting. We get in, then get blocked in the lobby for ten minutes. Then, it was one big stampede. but no one got hurt. I was able to let the crowd guide me to good seats in the center of the 10th row. It was much closer than if I went to Leno.



The pre-show was great with Max Weinberg and his band, especially Mark Pender. Never mind his weird songs...he's got a very rare skill of keeping a note going for a very long time by circular breathing. The crowd really loved that. You may know La Bamba sang the national anthem just before the Warriors beat Dallas the other night. He wasn't.....well....impressive, but I wonder what Pender would have done if he got the chance. Still, it was an excuse to get Baron Davis and Jason Richardson on the show. You also haven't lived if you haven't seen a band play on top of a miniature prison (Alcatraz, of course). Again, that brought out the camera phones. Couldn't they have allowed flash photos after the show was over? Oh well....



My only concern if whether my sign, which said "Making a bigger splash than a Barry Bonds Home Run" would make the TV. It did, but the letters were too small to read, and you really can't see me, either. I was the one with the white sign. That's the only way you could see it. As the week went on, the signs got bigger
Compare that to the next day, when I knew I had no chance at getting a standby ticket. The lines for both the ticketed and the stand-by crowd were longer, and it was really interesting.



As you see, there were a few who had a sign that should get them in, and and it did. Many others didn't, but at least they tried. If I lived there, I would have tried for Tuesday, because no one who got tickets to Wednesday would give them up for Robin Williams. I wouldn't.
I've been to plenty of TV talk show tapings. It's mainly waiting and hoping, and enjoying the show. I saw this experience as just like that, like waiting for Leno or Kimmel. Sure, I wished I had a ticket to any of the other tapings that week, but I got a chance to see something special....and I saved 1500 bucks and a lot of grief.



Now if only David Letterman had an incredible urge to visit Sacramento

My Space Classics: WB Bronze Memories

Looking through my MySpace blog, which still exists, I'm bringing back some of my best stuff. Enjoy!

From January 2007:



These days, people are excited over who's going to the Super Bowl (wild guess: San Diego and New Orleans), the return of Jack Bauer in a kamikaze mission that won't work unless you want a four-hour season, and the return of American Idol if hearing the worst singing ever for two weeks is amusing.
Since last night, though, I've been thinking about the Bronze. No, not the fictional hangout for Buffy and her Scooby Gang, but the internet hangout for her fans. I first discovered the Bronze in May of 1997 when I hopped on the internet from Humboldt State University. Back then, I had heard about the show, but never watched it because the WB could not be seen north of Sacramento. However, thanks to the MST 3000 method of "circulating the tapes", I got to see the show through tapes from Canada. Once I got a steady source of Buffy by moving to Yuba City in 1998, I became a regular. Back then, I called myself an "associate Watcher". I switched to being an "Impaler General" after I started watching the show again that summer. I decided to stop in April of that year because I was covering local elections at the radio station I worked for--a BIG mistake in hindsight. After that, I was a regular, arguing why B/A is true love that can't be broken, making wild guesses on what may happen next, that sort of thing.

I don't think it's too far-fetched to say that the Bronze was the forerunner for other fan posting boards, including the biggest one of all, Television Without Pity. It's impossible to find old pages from the original Bronze, or the UPN Bronze (which is nowhere like the original. There's no "Buffy.com" either. The closest thing I have to the Bronze is this memorial page I made that looks like a typical page, but just that. For most of us, we still have the memories.

I only mention this because two new projects are coming that will make people look back at the days of the WB Bronze with fondness. Allyson Beatrice, a regular at Whedonesque, had a  book called Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby? Now, this is not what a very polite Slayer says when asking a bunch of vampires to leave the Arclight Cinema after watching, say, Pan's Labyrinth. Actually, this is a book of her experiences as a major supporter of all things Whedon, from Buffy and Angel to Firefly. In one chapter, she tried to save Firefly despite Fox's best efforts to bury it deep so that no one can find it...similar to how it presented the final four episodes of Arrested Development against the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics (!!!). You can get it at Buy.com and other websites. This link will tell you more, and responses from other fans.

The other project is a documentary called In Real Life: The Bronze Documentary Project. It takes a look back at the original Bronzers, and how their internet relationships continue to this day. The MySpace site can explain it better than I can.

Yes, it's been 10 years since she came to Sunnydale. But Buffy Summers touched us in ways that we can hardly imagine...showing that the U-S can have more than four networks, inspiring fans to talk about the show through the internet (and later any show at all), and going down in history as a modern mythical heroine.
So how come Fox Video isn't promoting its Buffy and Angel videos to mark the anniversary? Makes sense to me.
By the way, the stake is a replica of the stake the producers gave to guests who attended the 100th show wrap party in 2001. The glass stein is real.

Note: This blog was edited because some of the links in the original version no longer work. 

My Space Classics: Recalling the Browncoats Backup Bash

Somewhere in the Internet, I had a blog in MySpace. It's still barely active, thanks to my tweets and Facebook posts. It's about time I featured the best of that old blog, including some pre-Whedonopolis stuff. Enjoy!

From December 2006:

OK, this is a little late, but it turned out to be a pretty good weekend for Browncoats.
The Browncoats Backup Bash wound up Sunday. A lot of people left quite satisfied, even though their wallets may be a little lighter. They had a great time enjoying their favorite show, and seeing some of their favorite stars up close and personal. The organizers from the California Browncoats community really came though, and I wish to thank them all. I was determined to have a great vacation with the Flan That Never Was, and I will admit I should have stayed a little closer to the hotel last Friday. That way, I would have seen Nathan and Alan. Sure, I got a free Mary J. Blige CD by going to Jimmy Kimmel's show, but still.....

I did see Nathan briefly at the party at a Mexican restaurant at Hollywood and Whitley that wasn't even open yet. I will say...lots of people and booze, not much room. I still shook Richard "Niska" Fairman's hand and saw Morena and Christina Hendricks. Never got a chance to talk to them, but it was wall to wall people. Couldn't be helped. I will say this...if the Museum of Radio and TV board does the right thing and sets aside a panel on Buffy's 10th anniversary next March, I will be there, and I'll drop by that restaurant when there's more room to eat. I heard one of the owners is the Glorious One, Claire Kramer. That's reason enough.
So, where did the good stuff take place? An entertainment center known as the Pickwick in Burbank. If you want to bowl, skate or have a wedding reception, or even get some fresh air, that's the best place to go. We had special appearances by Greg Edmonson, the Bedlam Bards (a real hit in and out of the hotel), Tim Minear (giving us seven minutes of "Drive" which will probably be quite different by the time it hits the screens in March), Camden Toy (a real Gentleman) and Johnathan Woodward, who was a BIG hit, especially with the Bards. Let's just say they did things that are immortalized by the digital camera. I will only present publicly the more dignified moments, except when he held up a pair of briefs with Nathan's picture on the front....and that's the beginning.
He also advised the Browncoats not to be too angry at Booster Events. He sympathized with a lot of the problems they had to face. He also said the group will be facing problems for the next seven years, which probably means they are close to bankrupcy. That's still hard to believe, considering the event was sold out. I just hope some of my cash will be re-imbursed somehow. It's a cinch we can kiss Booster Bash 2 goodbye.

At the hotel, fun was still to be had. Adam Baldwin was there Thursday, when the fate of the event was in serious doubt. Friday had Nathan and Alan (who was supposed to be in a film shoot), Christina Hendricks, Mark A. Sheppard (Badger, and now part of Battlestar Galactica), and Woodward. Jewel never got her ticket, but sent her apologies that she couldn't make it.
Next year, Flan 3 could likely be a cruise. I may not be there, but I'll be there in spirit.

My only regret, aside from missing Nathan and Alan...not having enough time to visit either of the big theaters (Grauman's Chinese and the Arclight Dome), only because I spent much of my time in Burbank. Well, if the Paley Festival has the right lineup of shows, and yeah that will include Heroes because of Ali Larter and Masi Oka, I'll be back...and stay at the Motel 6 at Whitley and Hollywood Boulevard. In the meantime, I'll check out the other Best Picture nominees chosen by the Golden Globes..once they open (I'm looking at you, Dreamgirls because everyone should if Beyonce's there). Too bad Volver isn't coming until January in Sacramento, but I can see it thanks to my ticket book. The other event...what's left at Tower Records as the Going Out of Business sale winds down.

Note: I have two Flickr albums on the BBB. This is part one, and this is part two



My Space Classics: Reviewing Incognito Cinema Warriors' 2nd DVD

Somewhere in the internet, I had a blog in MySpace. It's still barely active, thanks to my tweets and Facebook posts. It's about time I featured the best of that old blog, including some pre-Whedonopolis stuff. Enjoy!

From August 28, 2008:

When a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 decided to make his own version of the show, and promote it on the internet, he wasn't sure if anyone would buy it. After all, there have been some attempts to recreate the magic that is MST3K, but could someone actually succeed?
Well, Rikk Wolf, zombie hunter, has his answer...

These guys are good--fast-paced, funny riffing throughout. Now, fellahs, would you please stop making my job look easy!--Mike Nelson

This is not to say that Incognito Cinema Warriors has become the official heir apparent to the MST3K tradition. After all, Mike is still going strong with Rifftrax, while Joel Hodgson and his minions from MST3K have their own growing franchise in Cinematic Titanic. All that Rikk has proved is that he's the only "civilian" who is worthy.

AMEN!!!!!

So, with that in mind, let's celebrate the return of ICW (and about $@*^%! time) with Rikk's riffs on the racy and scary Italian horror film, Lady Frankenstein. For those who missed the first DVD, the idea is that Rikk is a zombie hunting soldier who's trapped in an abandoned movie house while swarms of zombies surround the place. Rikk is joined by TopsyBot 5000, which serves popcorn, and Johnny Cylon, who will deny to the death that Twiki from Buck Rogers is his grandfather. The two bots work at the theater for Dr. Harrison Blackwood, who presents movies so bad he takes precuations to keep customers from leaving. In this case, he forces Rikk and the bots to see his bad movies, or they'll be zombie chow.

Since the first DVD, Bride of the Gorilla, Rikk and his friends have cleaned up the joint, although they think they're mascots from cleaner commericals. Then, a dumpy looking non-zombie named Darrell enters the theater, looking for a place to crash. Rikk agrees, because he has his own problems, namely the next movie.
Just like before, he gets a trailer of "coming attractions", usually the next movie to be riffed. However, they've changed the seating arrangement to avoid from being too-MST-like. Rikk, TopsyBot and Cylon now sit in a balcony.

As Lady Frankenstein starts, one of the bots asks, "are we going to see a guy with bolts in his neck make us an offer we can't refuse?" Not really, but they do see once-prominent actor Joseph Cotton as Baron Frankenstein, a grave-robbing mad scientist who's trying to bring the dead back to life. His daughter, Tania, has just come back from medical school ("C'mere, you little mother's lie'). Since she's a surgeon, she wants to help in the experiments, although he's not too sure. ("Crimes against nature is boys' stuff') The Baron's assistant, Dr. Charles Marshall, doesn't mind.
After the town hangs a guy who looks like Patrick Swayze, the Baron works on using his parts to bring another man back to life. Against all odds, and despite a slightly damaged brain, he succeeds. The result looks creepier than tha cheesiest alien ("Jesus, look at the huge Martian coconut"). Not only that, the creature squeezes the Baron to death, much to the dismay of Tania.
Back in the theater, Darrell is so bad as a roommate, Rikk would prefer the Creature. Let's not talk about hygiene habits.

OK, so what about the dead mad scientist? Tania vows to carry on her father's work, with sexy results. The Creature, meanwhile, is out and about ("My creator has a first name, it's F-R-A-N-K....E-N..."), and sees two people having sex, one more naked than the other. The movie plays spoilsport, and blocks out the nudity in this and other scenes. It's quite a contrast to the start of "City Limits" on MST3K, where Joel used an umbrella to block out the brief nudity in the credits. Anyway, the creature grabs the nude woman, shakes her to death, and dumps her in the river. ("Smile, you're on Candid Camera, snuff film edition"). The undead prude does the same to one of the Baron's grave-robbing friends. This has attracted the attention of Captain Harris, played by Mickey Hargitay, the former Mr. Jayne Mansfield. He usually acts smug, suspecting people of doing blasphemous things.
Well, this movie certainly shows them, but not completely. Later in the film, Tania has married Charles, but wants to put his brain into a sexier body...Thomas, a simple-minded servant. To do that, we see something even worse than Ben Stiller was accused of doing when he made Tropic Thunder: she seduces Thomas while Charles watches, and Charles smothers Thomas with a pillow. This inspires an incredible riff from Rikk that I'd rather not repeat. You just have to hear it for yourself. They do make snide remarks about the cinematography ("Did someone release mustard gas?"), and speculate about Thomas' last words ("It was still worth it").

So, while Tania is Making Mr. Right (in more ways than one), the creature is still killing people if they're not having sex, while the townsfolk carry torches, looking to burn someone they don't like. We do get the ending where the mad scientist is punished for tampering in Hugh Hefner's, I mean God's, domain, but again it's with sexy results.

Even Rikk and his pals would agree that Lady Frankenstein is a movie with so much sex and violence (especially sex), MST wouldn't touch it, but ICWXP would. They're hard-core heavy metal, ECW in its original form, the grindhouse version of MST3000, and I salute them for that. This DVD is recommended for MST fans 17 and older.

As for the future, we'll get another Eurotrashy horror movie with Hargitay, and eventually The Hideous Sun Demon. We're also supposed to get a new character on the show. Let's just hope that episode three comes a lot sooner than episode two.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Enter Santa's Village of Madness...if you dare

Tired of cheesy Christmas movies that always feature a man and a woman falling in love for the flimsiest of reasons, Mrs. Santa Claus running away to help a family down on its luck, or the 78th knockoff of A Christmas Carol?

Rifftrax has the answer: a new VOD holiday offering called Santa's Village of Madness. It's a trio of demented holiday shorts from K. Gordon Murray, the man who turned a cheesy Mexican kids' movie called Santa Claus into an even cheesier holiday favorite during the 1960's. The YouTube sample is gone, but here's a link to the Rifftrax site to see a piece of this DVD.

If you somehow survived Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny and the Magic Christmas Tree, they still don't prepare you for this offering. According to these three shorts, which have the exact same opening credits except for the titles, Santa lives in a village that includes elves that look like Stanford co-eds, a wolf with a weird nose that also has legs that sound like accordions, a stinky skunk, Puss n Boots as head of security, and Merlin, who helps Santa get around the world on Christmas even through the Fifth Dimension (although I don't understand how Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. are involved in this).
Google those names, then that joke works.

Basically, K. Gordon filmed about eight minutes of footage from Santa's Villages in Illinois and California, then recycled some footage from Santa Claus, to make the three shorts. Elementary school pageants have more production values than these shorts.

The first short, Santa's Enchanted Village, features Ferocious Wolf (the one with accordion legs) looking for Stinky, who's supposed to be making toys and such. Stinky is found at a puppet show, and drives some of the audience away with his smell. Then the wolf shows up and yells at Stinky, which is more interesting than the puppet show. All Santa does is wander around with two reindeer. We get riffs on Torgo, Zapruder, Pink and GWAR, while we get new lyrics to an old favorite ("We are Santa's elves, we are stuck in Hell....")

Part two, Santa and His Helpers, is even cheesier. Half of it is recycled footage from Santa Claus, including some parts that didn't get riffed in the MST3K version. The other half is Ferocious Wolf, Puss n Boots and Stinky getting into some pointless argument. Santa has to break it up thanks to the "Moonflower" that gets him there. It ends with Puss with a sword telling the wolf and the skunk to march.  The Rifftrax crew is shocked to see the Ice Cream Bunny there, driving a train. Also, how come Santa is in his home in the clouds peeking at his village below? When you're a six-year-old watching this in 1965, you just look at the toys and don't ask any questions.

The third short, Santa's Magic Kingdom, at least has something that is almost a plot: Santa's threatened by an ogre we don't really see (although it's described as "Gumby and Pokey mated").
It starts as a tour of a "Santa's Village", although Santa looks a little too waxy. Puss n Boots, whose face is compared to a squid's anus, is told by the Fairy Queen that an ogre is coming. The whole kingdom, including Mrs. Santa, Stinky, the elves and Ferocious Wolf, get involved. Merlin saves the day...somehow..then it ends with a song from the Fairy Queen that would have also killed the ogre. The riffs here are surprisingly up-to-date, especially against Daniel Day Lewis and the new Jack Reacher movie, but also include a callback to one of the last MST3K movies.

In between these shorts, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett share Christmas memories that are...well...a bit disturbing. Still, you see why they bring us holiday movies that even the Hallmark Channel wouldn't show.

At five bucks, this 45 minute feature is a good deal. It's also a great appetizer to Rifftrax's next big target, The Avengers. That's coming December 27th. Learn more about Santa's Village of Madness, and other holiday fare (even one for Labor Day, maybe) at rifftrax.com

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The NFL's Version of the JFK Conspiracy..or Miracle at Lourdes

This Sunday will be the 40th anniversary of  either the greatest miracle ever, or the biggest crime against humanity.
It all depends on where you live.

The NFL Network's decision to honor the Immaculate Reception in A Football Life was a stroke of genius. Any show can honor a player who changed the game forever. This show honored a play that changed two franchises for some time.
It finally made the Pittsburgh Steelers a winner, and started their road to four Super Bowls in the 1970's and 1980s
It also made the Oakland Raiders very angry...to this day. Forget the fact they won several Super Bowls since that notorious play. They still say they were robbed.

The special shows that famous play, where Terry Bradshaw tosses a Hail Mary pass that hits either/or Jack Tatum and Frenchy Fuqua before it's caught by Franco Harris and carried in for a touchdown and a 13-7 win. I was 13 in San Jose, watching that game, and I couldn't believe it either. It spoiled what looked like a legendary comeback by Ken Stabler. Thanks, Terry.

We hear from Bradshaw, Fuqua and Harris, and see how it changed their lives. There's even a statue of Harris catching the ball at Pittsburgh's airport and a museum that shows the play several times a day. To this day, fans ask him if he really caught that ball. Coach John Madden is shown still upset over that play many years later. He even declined to be part of this episode.

The Raiders have their case, like maybe the NFL hates them. The episode lists all the conpsiracy theories, from Harris not really catching the ball to referees afraid they'd be attacked by Steelers fans if they reversed themselves. They added a new theory: the Steelers got away with a clipping penalty. Raymond Chester even claims Fuqua admitted the ball hit him first, which would have nullified the catch back then (although it's a legal play under current rules).

The play is even discussed by a college professor and a former director...of the CIA!

It's also interesting how the play has kicked off several side industries, even though it took a while for the famous nickname to catch on. The man who currently owns the ball from that game has it safely locked in a big vault, and it's taken to events under armed guard. Not even the ball Dwight Clark caught back in 1982 has such attention--or the play itself for that matter. He doesn't have a statue, even though that catch made as much impact on the 49ers as Harris' catch did for the Steelers.

The reason is simple. We know Clark made that catch. Everyone does. There are still some people, meanwhile, who still say the Immaculate Reception is more fraud than miracle, and nothing short of a TARDIS will change that. That's why A Football Life devoted an episode to that play. Maybe next season, we'll look at the Music City Miracle (still disputed by Buffalo Bills fans), or the "Tuck Rule Game" that also launched a New England dynasty at the expense of...yes, Oakland.

You can see the play itself, and a lot more, at the NFL Network site.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Will Megabus Send Greyhound To The Pound?


Too good to be true? Not if you know how to order tickets, and when.

For a long time, Greyhound was the only way to go to San Francisco directly if your car is in the shop. Direct train service isn't possible, which is why Amtrak offers a bus shuttle from Emeryville.

Now a new company called Megabus is offering a cheaper alternative, with service from Old Town Sacramento to the CalTrain station a block away from AT&T Park. That means it will get a lot of use next spring.

For the heck of it, I decided to give it a try yesterday. For just two dollars, I can enjoy a day-long walk all around town to see some Christmas sights you can't find in Sacramento. My Flickr section has some nice outdoor trees, a foggy Golden Gate Bridge, and a bunch of Santas gathering to fight HIV. They were offering one dollar tickets for its first week in service. The price will go up, but not too much compared to Greyhound.

While Greyhound has many more buses for its service to San Francisco, plus its own bus station, Megabus does its service online with no need for ticket takers. It's just like waiting for a regular bus.If you don't mind a few things, it's worth the ride.

The inside is pretty impressive, too:


It's a modern double-decker bus, which means more passengers per trip. The seats recline and have seat belts. That should make more people feel safe.
The lower section has two tables to accommodate four people. That's ideal for families. It also had electrical plugs on the top, which means you can keep your phone, computer or iPod juiced while surfing the net or calling someone. I preferred using the upper deck seats  because it was easier to use the plugs. The wi-fi is free, and it works for web surfing. It doesn't work for YouTube, but that was also the case when I used wi-fi on the Capitol Corridor

You also notice there's a TV screen. That's mainly used for the pre-ride instructions, but I wish it could be used for DVD movies for those longer trips. I remember using a private bus service who included a movie in the trip...and this was way back in the VHS days. Maybe in the future, they could throw in DirecTV.

The ride itself was very smooth, and more efficient than Greyhound. That's because it's a direct route, and the buses are just better.

Megabus was in California a few years ago, but it didn't work out. Once it did catch on in several parts of the nation, they gave the Golden State another chance. There's direct service from San Francisco to Los Angeles, SF to Sacramento, and San Jose to Los Angeles. There's also service between Riverside and Las Vegas. As I said, I may use the San Francisco service a lot more often than I would with Greyhound. It just depends on when I'll need it, and if I can use it. Maybe it will get Greyhound to improve its bus fleet, and maybe offer a discount or two. We'll see.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Incognito Cartoon Warriors

Mocking bad movies is one of America's fastest growing industries. After Mystery Science Theater 3000, it looks like anyone can mock bad movies, but very few can do it well.

So what's left? How about a spoof of kids TV where some puppets mock cartoons?
Done! This was plugged in recent editions of Incognito Cinema Warriors XP, but Captain Cornelius Cartoon's Cartoon Lagoon is a nice salute to cartoons, both good and cheesy. It features the good Captain in his sub, the Manta Ray, sailing under the sea to retrieve classic cartoons. He's joined by Wet Willy Jones, Axel Magee and Franky Planky, who's a real stiff (because he's a piece of wood). In the main story, the crew tries to celebrate Axel's birthday, but he's a little too depressed. In between the birthday party, they mock three cartoons with nearly as much skill as MST3K.

The first one has Casper the Friendly Ghost on the Moon, where he freaks out the natives and battles evil tree people. The crew makes jokes about Nicole Ritchie, Richard Belzer and Silence of the Lambs, and debate whether Casper's a boy or a girl.

Then they see a Captain Nemo cartoon ("starring blond David Hasslehoff") that's a little too educational. It was made in the 70's, which may explain a lot. Then they see a Popeye cartoon that apparently makes Axel happy. It's the one where Bluto pulls several pranks at Popeye, while Olive Oyl enjoys seeing Popeye being humiliated. It was made in 1954, when these cartoons went downhill anyway. Lots of jokes about Michael Bay, Two and a Half Men, Shelley Duvall and Ted Danson.

However, there's more, The DVD includes a "revue" of classic cartoons including Superman, Felix the Cat, Woody Woodpecker and even one made by special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen. Mixed into this section are several commercial spoofs, original animation, music from the Gregory Brothers, and an interview with Fairly Oddparents creator Butch Hartman that doesn't go anywhere. Not to worry, because there's a real interview with Hartman plus loads of outtakes.

This is a pretty good value for fans of movie riffing, and cartoons in general. It's made by Cartoon Lagoon Studios, and the DVD is available at Amazon.

Note: This was also featured in the New York Television Festival.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Is This A Valuable NHL Artifact?

I looked at recent stories about people buying valuable art at Goodwill stores. The most recent example was someone who bought a picture called "Red Nose" at a Goodwill store in Milwaukee for 12 bucks. The buyer thought it was an abstract salute to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. It was actually an Alexander Calder lithograph worth 9000 dollars. Normally, Goodwill staff members try to spot art treasures that get donated, and sell them for their special programs. But sometimes....

This got me thinking...how much is this worth?


This is a picture of an NHL matchup between the Colorado Rockies (now the New Jersey Devils) vs. the Philadelphia Flyers at the old McNichols Arena in Denver from January 1981. So?

Notice what's on the lower right side of the picture...

 
That's right: Don Cherry, who was coach of the Rockies back then after being fired from Boston. There's even a picture of Cherry with his faithful dog, Blue.

 
 
According to the label on the back, Colorado won 8-6.
Anyway, I tried to sell this to a collector, but he didn't take it. So, I'm making this blog to see if anyone is interested in this. In any case, at least I want to shoe that it exists, All I know if that the photo was taken by Dan Griest, who apparently won some photo awards.

I got this at a Salvation Army store six years ago for 22 bucks. The picture has never been taken from its frame, so this is not a fake.

So, any takers?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Twinkies: The Hottest Christmas Gift of 2012

Remember Furbys? Tickle-Me Elmo? Turbo-Man? These were the Ultimate Christmas Gifts at one time or another.

Behold the Ultimate Christmas Gift of 2012...

 
 

To think, two weeks ago it would be just something to buy so that you'd have something in your kid's lunchbox for school.

Looking at eBay, it looks like people are buying multiple boxes of ten count Twinkies, rather than the one 24 count box I bought. In any case, prices vary, depending on what people will spend for Twinkies. I think someone bought five 10-Twinkie boxes for 187 bucks, while another five box lot went for 475 dollars. Some guy thinks that in 30 days, someone will spend ten thousand bucks to get ten Twinkies. Well, I say in 30 days another company will buy the rights to make them.

America without Twinkies? Really?
That makes as much sense as dropping A-bombs on Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. It's like selling Hershey's Chocolate to China, or banning mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby.
There are things that are so much a part of our country that someone will make sure they still exist. Twinkies fits that bill. No way we'll be switching to over-priced gourmet cupcakes, man, We want the cupcakes with the swirl on top. We want King Ding-Dong, and Twinkie the Kid.

People wanting to get as many Twinkies, Ho-Hos and such may be doing this because it's a part of their childhood they just can't give up. No matter how old a person is, they want that Twinkie because it's a childhood memory they can always have.
Not only that, state fairs, including Cal Expo, may panic over the idea of a world without Twinkies. A church raises cash every year from a fried Twinkies stand at the Western Montana Fair. No Twinkies? That's bad news.
Same thing at a casino in Las Vegas. It relies on fried Twinkies to keep gamblers happy. Fried Oreos or fried Snickers are one thing, but fried Twinkies are what the people really want.

Until Sara Lee, Little Debbie's or even Bimbo's of Mexico takes over the Hostess line, expect people to rely on a ten-count box of Twinkies to be the top choice for a Christmas gift. It's a classic example of the cost not being important, but the thought that really counts.

For the record, I also got one box each of Ding-Dongs and Zingers (which used to he a Dolly Madison product). They'll go first

Update: ah, but wait...what about Canada? Can you get Twinkies up there, too?
Actually, you can. A company called Saputo has the rights to make Hostess snack cakes, but Twinkies are not included. One of its companies, Vachon, does make them.  This article confirms that Americans can head north rather than resort to eBay.  A site called Canada Only is also a possibility, although the item was "temporarily discontinued" in late August. It may be available now, and at less than six bucks without postage, it's a reasonably priced last resort.

Again, within six months, I am convinced Twinkies will be back. They are America, and kind of forever in more ways than one.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

ICWXP: It May Not Be So Bad, But The Movies Still Are

After struggles over funding and just getting new equipment to keep the band going, the latest edition of Incognito Cinema Warriors XP was released a couple of days ago. In "The Gear Is Family", we learn a lot about the past, are surprised that there's actually some normal life during the Zombiepocalypse, witness the next stage of advanced interrogation, and see how a chocolate city creates candy, happiness and stuff.

Before we get to the details, I got a free CORPS patch because I pre-ordered the DVD way in advance. A year or so before, I had another CORPS patch that looked a little different.


I'd say that's a reminder of how long these guys have been hard a work keeping the MST3K tradition alive. After all, it's guys like these that have made severe movie criticism one of America's fastest-growing industries..and defense mechanisms. Just think of what Mike Nelson and his Rifftrax minions are gonna to do Breaking Dawn 2 (especially after seeing--when Kristen Stewart is on late night TV--a recent clip of Vampire Bella trying to remember how to act human with the help of the other vamps!).
Next April...ICWXP is five years old, just a little younger than Cinematic Titanic.

This new chapter starts with Dr. Blackwood, aka Baron Sexenstein, talking to his new invention: the Spybot that saved Rick from the Zombie Spock in the last episode. Oh, and Rikk Wolf is Blackwood in this episode. In the audio commentary, he talked about how expensive it was to look like that, especially the wig. Anyway, we see that the doc had his own list of investion exchanges from that other show, such as an edible power tie, a mobile phone made from a pineapple, and a Santa Claus Dreidel (which really exists!) He winds up selling his Spybot to Ludivico, which doesn't end well. We also get clips from the past of the show, including the first movie. When the doc is taken away by Ludivico, they don't find the Spybot. It has to go to sleep for five years, then wakes up to a new world. It's knocked out after saving Rick, but then wakes up to see Flux repairing it. He, too, was made by Blackwood. That's why Flux tells "sis", they're running away from home. Don't worry, they don't.

From seeing what happened "40 minutes earlier", you don't blame him. Flux is in drunken dispair over what Michael Bay did to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle reboot (but that was delayed before this episode was made). TopsyBot and Johnny Cylon are annoying Ludivico minion Spencer Birkin with readings of two Twilight books at the same time (the fiends!). He spends the whole episode tied up, but he's still rather funny. He also reveals part of Kansas City is zombie-free, thanks to Ludivico.

Then it's mov...oh, lousy shorts sign. Rick, TopsyBot and Cylon are mugged by creepy snack bar ads that used to be part of every drive-in, plus a strange music interlude ("Serenade for Ken Burns") that made the gang suspect the KGB was deprogramming them.
Cylon is so glad afterwards that he thanks Robot Jesus. Then we get 20 minutes of how Hershey's the "Great American Chocolate Factory" ("Is this the Tim Burton version or the good one?"). We get riffs on Kirstie Alley, Chicago (the band), Mennonites, water parks in general, Toyota and Glee, and get the immortal words "Our mom says our dad is a real conch machine".

Back at the snack bar, Rick manages to surf the web, but doesn't want to go to YouTube, which he calls the bathroom wall of the net. The bots disagree, because they uploaded a video that has a didgeridoo and limericks, while Spencer has one on lab safety. However, they don't get as much hits as some guy lighting his farts...or a remix!

So, we have what seems to be a family at Cine-a-Sorrow: Rick the Dad, Flux, Fluxette the SpyBot, TopsyBot and Cylon as the wise-cracking kids, and Birkin as the wacky neighbor, er, hostage. This gives Cylon an idea.

If you get this DVD, see the main feature first, then again with audio commentary from Rikk and Nick Evans (TopsyBot) which is really enlightening. We find out that some MST fans weren't too happy about ICWXP at first, and what Rikk really thinks about YouTube. They even said the next episode, "YouTube Is For Haters" was supposed to be this episode. We also find out there's a chance this show may wind up on regular TV, although it may not look the same. They even discuss CGI and Avatar, too.

We also find out the gang promoted their show at the Zombie Walk For Hunger in Kansas City, and an anime convention in Overland Park, near Kansas City. They include riffs, of course. If you're a fan of Pauley Perrette, you've been warned.

The DVD also includes a bonus short about etiquette from Josh Way's Fun With Shorts, and a link to a future webisode where they give a "fair" review of the latest Resident Evil movie. The preview, though, may tip off their opinion about the movie. It's not ready yet, but it's coming soon.

You can get the latest ICWXP DVD, and lots of other stuff, by clicking here. You really should. This is fine humor that defied the odds to exist at all. Just ask Kickstarter.   

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Odds and Ends From L-A Shopping

Anyone visiting Los Angeles or Hollywood wold want to go to one specific place to start his or her vacation. It can be the Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, the Staples Center or even Television City. After a while, you know L-A almost as much as your own town, and you want to look for something different.

Since I have been in L-A several times, from attending the red carpet premiere of Serenity to attending conventions and certain special events, I've been at the point where I look for parts of L-A that I have not seen. That was true recently when I found out which Red Line station is a stone's throw from the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Angel's Flight, and a parade of defunct movie houses.

When I took one of those tour buses, I was told about a swap meet every Sunday at Fairfax High School, which is not too far away from Television City, It's where I got stuff like this:


I went back recently, and got even more amazing stuff. The biggest find, no doubt, was this MTV relic from 2000:


It's not a real "all access pass", but I'm guessing this must have made teens back then feel like they were real insiders. I wonder how many fans tried to bluff their way backstage with one of these.

This one was a surprise: a pin from KRON San Francisco with I think was a picture of a sports anchor from the early 1970s:


Now, a CBS Price Is Right ticket from 1980, complete with promo postcard


How about a page of stationery from Walt Disney's The Rescuers?


An extra large postcard from MarineWorld, owned by ABC 42 years ago before it eventually became an amusement park in Vallejo


If you work it out right, you can get one-of-a-kind Hollywood history at reasonable prices. I even got two American Idol TV taping tickets for 30 bucks...autographed by the final two that year, Bo Bice and Carrie Underwood. It's tough enough to get these tickets for that price without autographs. What's more, I got them at a pawn shop in Santa Monica.


But back to the Fairfax Trading Post, this has got to be the most surprising: a ring pass for a boxing match at the Trump Plaza from...the 1980s, maybe? Just check out the face of the guy on this pass. Happy, ain't he?


So, when I head back to Los Angeles for Oscar weekend, I may not have time to head back to Fairfax, but there's always Goodwill or Out of the Closet, where I got an official Jimmy Kimmel Live cap...and a very rare Buffy crew cap (movie crew, not TV crew). Who knows what I'll find next time?

He's Not Bad. He Was Programmed That Way

One day, he thought it doesn't have to be that way anymore.

Wreck-It Ralph sounds like a Pixar movie. It's the video game version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with every character you remember from hours of Nintendo, Atari and eventually Playstation.

However, it's Walt Disney Animation who produced this great animated film. Ralph, the long-time bad guy of Fix-It Felix Jr., wants a little respect, and a medal. So, he heads off to other video game realms for a new life. After getting a medal in a first-person shooter game, it gets stolen by a bratty girl in another video game that's 90 percent sugar and ten percent anime. Turns out this girl also has a problem: she's not allowed to race in her own game because she's a glitch (as in a mistake). She thinks the medal will get her in the race, and later respect. So, these misfits join forces to make their dreams come true. Simple, no?

Well, the movie is much more than that. While battling big bugs in the shooter game Hero's Duty, he brings back one that could zap every game in the arcade. The story also adds a dark secret that really propels the story in the final 30 minutes. Two words: going Turbo.

Let's get to what happens in the movie. It's spolierish, so be careful.

Ralph feels blue because everybody in Nicetown love Fix-It Felix because he fixes Ralph's messes. But Ralph was made to wreck, and he wants the town would give him some respect. It's all a game. They know that. They even move in herky-jerky ways like early Donkey Kong, since it's still 1983 to them. Even in the other games, the bad and good guys at Street Fighter share a drink or two at Tappers...the video game.
Not in Nicetown. Felix gets all the praise, and they don't want Ralph around because they're afraid he'll wreck stuff. He does during the game's anniversary party, but it's not deliberate. It's just him. It's their attitude towards Ralph that convinces him to go to another game. They'll soon find out how important Ralph really is.

His visit to Bad-Anon, a support group for other "bad guys", is also classic. Where else can Clyde from Pac-Man, Bowser from Super Mario Brothers, M. Bison from Street Fighter and a zombie from House of the Dead hold hands and so affirmations. When you see Game Central Station, there's lot of characters..AND an eternal Pong game. There's even a PSA from Sonic the Hedgehog.

It's also a hoot seeing Ralph way out of his comfort zone, and in a major league shooter game. Even he wonders when video games got so violent. Calhoun, played by a bad-ass looking Jane Lynch, is tough as nails. She has to be, considering she had the most tragic video game back story ever. Seeing her with Felix while they look for Ralph has got to be the strangest love story in years..and much better than the flesh-and-blood kind.

Naturally, the movie has some product placements. While they are cheesy, especially in one scene in the Sugar Rush section, they do work. One of them is key to the whole film.

What sells this film is the relationshp between Ralph and Vanellope, a/k/a John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman. His voice is made for animation. Silverman is wonderful because her character has a lot of her. We see that she's more of an outcast in her game than Ralph is. Why that's the case is a bigger surprise.
We also see that bullies can come in all packages: either bulky like Ralph or way too pretty like the other racers in Sugar Rush. They both do the same thing to Vanellope, and the girls look much worse than Ralph does.

A big surprise, especially for Browncoats out there, is Alan Tudyk (yep, that Firefly, Dollhouse and Suburgatory guy) as the Candy King. He has the Ed Wynn-style goofiness cold. He may look like a goofy guy who loves to race, but don't be fooled. This guy is part of the new breed of Disney villain: kid friendly on the outside, dark on the inside. Think "Lots O'Huggin Bear" from Toy Story 3. This is revealed when Candy King tries to convince Ralph to stop Vanellope from racing, arguing that her glitching could threaten the existence of the game itself. It's fairly convincing, and leads to the saddest scenes in the film. However, when Ralph sees the outside of the Sugar Rush game, we figure out Candy King is way too bitter to be sweet.

Disney Animation has a winner in Wreck-It Ralph, which may be a big hit through Thanksgiving. It would be great if we see Ralph in other games, like maybe NFL 13 as the entire offensive line of any NFL team. Vanellope in the Indy 500 or NASCAR? That's a winner, right?

Before that, Ralph could make a mark at the Oscars in the animation race. It maybe between him and Brave, which I suspect will get more respect as we get closer to nomination time. The DVD is coming pretty soon, and people will get another chance to look at the movie. It's been interesting: Pixar made a movie that would be a Disney fairy tale, while Disney animation made something that looks like a Pixar film.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Downtown Los Angeles Archeology

So Los Angeles is often called the city of the future, especially with this:

Really tall stuff

If you don't mind a little walking, you can see a lot of its past, especially around downtown. This was my first stop because it was part of The Indestructible Man, one of MST3K's many targets.

This ain't a lame cable car

It's Angels Flight, a railway no bigger than an escalator actually. Still, if it's good enough for Butcher Benton, why not. It's like riding a cable car, only straight up, and the train is built for that. Look at the inside of the car, and then the tracks.

Inside an Angels Flight Car

Angel Flight Tracks

It's one of those "only in L-a" experiences you have to try. There's always time for the Dolby Theater or the Walk of Fame. By the way, this is the main depot:

Angels Flight, the depot

It is also surprising there's a lot of really good looking theaters, deserted or sometimes used, on Broadway. It's a tour of the past, where theaters were the main source of entertainment. I bet if the guys who built Grauman's Chinese or the Orpheum were here now, they'd consider watching, say, Hunger Games or Gone With the Wind, on something that you can carry in a knapsack a bigger horror than Frankenstein. Don't worry, guys, nothing beats seeing a movie in a big theater. Once part two of Breaking Dawn unreels, you'll see that. you'll also say "Sure, but Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart ain't got nothing on Clark Gable and Carole Lombard."
Of course, that's obvious. But Hedda Hopper would break Twitter every day if she had that.

Anyway, take a look at this parade of old theaters:

Palace Theater of Los Angeles

Graveyard of Theaters: Los Angeles

Tower Theater, L-A version

Graveyard of Theaters: United Artists

At least the Orpheum is still active, and not just in videos or commercials, either.

Orpheum Theater

Orpheum sign

This was a surprise: finding the old Herald-Examiner building with the sign still there. You'd think someone would use this place, even to make Internet news.

Ghost of Media Past

There was one bit of irony I did see. This is the entrance to the Belasco theater, used for performances of big shindigs, Look at the neon sign next to the sign:

Notice the Irony?

That must be a joke somewhere.

Along with the old, there is also the new. The Broad Museum is under construction next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Apparently someone decided to add some modern art in the unfinished building...

Uh, this isn't modern art

Joke's on them. They'll just paint over it.

One more thing: if you have seen the Hollywood sign lately, you'd notice there's something different:

Hollywood Sign Gets Makeover

Not THAT's a makeover. They should finish repainting the sign in a few weeks