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.