December 30, 2012

200th Blog Special-My All Time Favorite TV Shows


Well, as we approach a new year I have approached a minor milestone myself. This will be my 200th blog! If you're wondering why the tallyon the channel is so far off, it's because there is a lot from TGWTG where Istarted which I never copied (and for the moment, never will). For the record,this does not include my wonderful collab with Les which I hope to do more ofand also omits a few others for personal reasons (updates, etc.). My first blogwas written on August 25, 2011 and it has been a fun ride. Sure there have beensome misses along the way like my Do You Know? series which never wentanywhere, but overall the experience has been a positive one. I am thankful forthe loyal friends who support and encourage my work.

I do sometime wonder if I am good enough here, I see so manygreat things on here and wonder I I will ever reach the point where I am not so“amateurish”. But then again I am always hard on myself, though I may be reaching the point where it is time to go to the next step, but video reviewswould be very tough for me to pull off. So for now, we stick to what Ilove…writing! I just may have to change what it is I write about.

But for now we have a milestone to celebrate, and I promise that is it for the self-loathing.  So what should I do for this auspicious occasion? I have decided to do something kind of personal and discuss my all time favorite TV shows. The shows I didn't just liked, but flat out adored!

December 22, 2012

Top 5 Christmas Traditions I Miss

As time goes on I have noticed that there are many Christmas traditions which, for one reason or another, do not happen anymore. Here is a look at five examples, things that are long gone that I really miss or wish I'd been able to experience.


#5. Christmas TV Commercials

I know what you're thinking, they still do Christmas commercials! Well, yeah they do but they don't compare to the cool ads we got in the 80's. Much like the way Super Bowl ads seem to disappoint year after year, Christmas commercials today just never have that care and quality that they had way back when. I loved the old time commercials; some are flat out classics from companies like McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Fruity Pebbles, and even Oreo had a precious one. Check out the link below and tell me they make ads like these today.


http://youtu.be/t7kxPYzigCQ



#4.School/Office Christmas Parties

Ah, the good old days when you could openly celebrate Christmas in school and work. Now schools are afraid to even have Christmas decorations up. Why can't we include other religions without removing Christmas? And office parties aren't what they used to be either because of the PC world we live in. Now everyone is so afraid of sexual harassment or other liable suits that the traditional parties have been replaced with toned down affairs.



#3.Believing in Santa

There is a reason why many say that Christmas is for children. Because it's much more magical when you're young. There is no denying that, the excitement of Christmas morning just isn't quite the same when you're an adult. So what do you do, become jaded and cynical and say that Christmas has no meaning? Yeah, one could do that but I choose to use Christmas as a way to rekindle that feeling of when I was a kid. I watch the old TV specials, listen to the music, and the spirit of Santa will always be alive to me. The best parts of Christmas for me are the memories. So while Christmas changes as you get older, the little kid inside of me will always love it and will always believe. In fact I still get excited when I got to bed Christmas Eve, guess some habits die hard.


#2.TV Variety Specials

Man do I feel like I missed something here. Oh, I got to see many of the later Bob Hope Specials but there was so much I missed. Andy Williams, Bing Cosby and Perry Como had seasonal specials virtually every year in the 70's and 80's. Perry Como would usually broadcast from exotic location, while Bing Crosby would have his entire family in the special. Then of course there were the Bob Hope USO Christmas shows which deserve their own article. They were corny and silly, and I wish I'd had the chance to see them. They all pretty much followed the same formula. The host would have a few guest stars that would sing or appear in sketches. They were just fun and for awhile were as much a part of the holiday as Santa and Rudolph. As I said I did get to see the Bob Hope specials in the 80's, thank goodness for that. You could add Dolly Parton, John Denver and the Muppets, Julie Andrews, and Pee-Wee Herman (well, I actually did see that one and loved it...when I was a kid).




#1.Saying "MERRY CHRISTMAS!"

Okay, it's soapbox time. If you don't celebrate Christmas, or celebrate another holiday, then more power to you. But I celebrate Christmas, and get really tired of being made to feel like I have to hide that from the public because I may "offend" someone. It's a CHRISTMAS tree not a holiday tree, and I send Christmas cards not holiday cards. I am all for integration of other holidays and beliefs, that's fair. There should be a Menorah out with a Christmas tree! But if I want to go around and proudly proclaim "MERRY CHRISTMAS" then I am going to! This has been a PC thing for a long time now, and it gets really annoying. To be fair I can understand Happy Holidays being used sometimes, like in stores which welcome a diverse customer base. But why do TV Christmas specials, which are 100% Christmas and the word is used over and over, always end by the cast saying "Happy Holidays" rather "Merry Christmas"?  Well, just my opinion of course but If someone doesn't celebrate then that's fine, but I am not going to hide the fact that I do. I adore Christmas for many reasons I won't get into here. And if that offends you, well.....



And on that note, I think I will stop here. This will be my last Christmas blog now that the holiday is just days away. Next time I will have something special to celebrate my 200th blog, and looking forward to trying new ideas as we get into 2013. But for now, I want to wish everyone at Manic Expressions a wonderful holiday season, a fantastic New Year....and Merry Christmas to all!  

December 19, 2012

Special TV-Casper's Haunted Christmas

Last year I took a look at Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys. It sucked. This year I wanted to do at least one Christmas article on something bad, but what? It had to be something different, that hasn’t been done to death. Then I saw in the TV listings that Casper’s Haunted Christmas was on. Cool, I loved that growing up! It was a similar to Yogi’s First Christmas (which came after) but in this one we had Yogi and company run into Casper. It was harmless fun. So I put it on, and discovered that I was mistaken. That special was Casper’s First Christmas. This was a direct to video abomination which came out back in 2000. Well, how bad could it be?
(One viewing later)

Aaaarrghh! This was the dumbest thing ever!

So let’s discuss this horrible, horrible movie. It was  computer animation, and that I could live with. Sure it wasn’t Pixar level or anything but it was decent. The characters were ok, Casper is a friendly ghost who doesn’t like to scare people. The Ghostly Trio are the jerks he hangs out with who act more like normal ghosts. Ok, so what’s the plot?

Kibosh, the King of Ghosts or something, decrees that Casper must scare someone before Christmas Day or he will be banished to The Dark for all eternity. To make sure this happens; he confiscates the Ghostly Trio's Scare licenses and flings them to Kriss, Massachusetts where they meet the Jollimore Family.

Ok, let me stop here and explain a few things. The town they go to is Kris, Mass. Um, sure. Why not. As a resident of Massachusetts I am not sure if I should be amused or offended. Offended because the people in this town are morons. The trio of ghosts can’t scare anyone until Casper does, so when they meet the people in the town they convince the residents that they are people auditioning to be ghosts in A Christmas Carol, and the people believe this! The fact they are transparent never seems to bother anyone. What’s worst is Casper befriends a little girl named Holly, who believes Casper is a snowman. A transparent, flying snowman. Oh god.

The town has embraced the name Kris, Mass and become the most Christmassy town in the world. I guess they were going for a Salem, Mass parallel but where Salem is a real place Kriss, Mass is a really forced pun.

Anyway, when Casper is unable to scare anyone, the Ghostly Trio call in Casper's look-a-like cousin Spooky and his girlfriend Poil to do the job. However they suck at it, and are totally unable to scare anyone. Apparently no one in this town has ever heard of ghosts. Spooky convinces Holly that he is Casper, so she feels betrayed. You see she is tired of the Christmas centered town and the way her parents ignore her, a character arc which never really gets resolved.

Casper tried to apologize to Holly which launches into a song sequence. WHY DO MOVIES THINK IT’S SMART TO JAM A SONG IN WHEN NONE HAD APPEARED BEFORE? The song is awful, and out of step with the rest of the film. It’s so bad that at the end they do a little gag, poking fun at how cliché the tune was.

Casper finally reveals he is a ghost, Holly believes he is a snowman even after seeing him fly, but she decides to stay with friends with him anyway. The ghostly trio has a plan to steal all the presents for some reason, which Casper becomes aware of and works to stop with Spooky and Poli who have suddenly switched sides and want to help him out. Actually the trio are planning one massive scare and steal the presents to set this up. Fortunately Casper scares them away in such a stupid manner  I am not even going to describe it.

This movie is so boring I had trouble paying attention to it. So we get a final showdown with Kibosh, the supreme commander ghost or something, I don’t know.  The showdown gets the attention of no one in the town, which is odd you would think someone would notice a big green ghost/monster in the street.  So the Trio convinces Kibosh that Casper scared them and to restore their licenses. Which he does in  an end that is basically anticlimactic. Casper isn’t even involved with the final resolution. Then the family sees all the ghosts and still believes they are actors in costumes using special effects. Dumb!!!

I guess Casper saves Christmas but I don’t really care since we learn so little about the town or the people. He makes up with Holly and all is good. This mess ends with Randy Travis singing Deck The Halls, and he sound totally bored while singing it. Oh, and as the credits role we get outtakes because this film was just so hilarious! Right.

This movie is a mess. Story concepts are started and then dropped before they can be developed, the characters are uninteresting, and the Ghostly Trio gets more screen time then Casper does!

I think the big problem with this is that the film doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a parody of Christmas movies? A parody of Halloween movies? They do an “It’s a Wonderful Life” gag followed by a “Psycho” gag.  Then it suddenly turns into a parody of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”….an hour in!.... that ultimately goes nowhere. Um, yeah you can’t do both. Pick one! Is it meant to be taken seriously; they give us Holly who they try to make a strong character with a serious problem but the conflict doesn’t get enough attention. The story of Casper’s look alike just feels like they ran out of ideas and kept making it up as they went along. Even the town they are in doesn’t really get developed, we know it’s the Chrismassiest town in the world, but aside from the decorations what makes this town different than any other town around Christmas? Nothing is clever, and nothing is funny!

Well, I learned my lesson. Read the description before choosing to watch something. I guess it could be worst; at least it wasn’t The Legend of Frosty the Snowman. Ah, the heck with it. Next time I am going to just put on Yogi’s First Christmas!

December 18, 2012

The Perfect "A Christmas Carol"?

Before I even begin let me state this is just for fun. I amnot a filmmaker or a writer, and not suggesting I know better than the peoplewho created these wonderful films.

Like everyone else. I love A Christmas Carol. And why not?It’s a great story with a strong character and powerful themes. Also likeeveryone, I have my own favorite versions. However, even with the versions Ilike there will be things I lke more in one than another. So I thought I wouldtake all the Christmas Carol versions I like, and pick the moments from eachwhich are superior. Not every version is perfect, even the George C. Scott onewhich I have adored since I was ten. So here are the movies I am including:
 
A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott)
Mickey's Christmas Carol
The Muppet Christmas Carol
   
Before I begin, for the record I hated the Patrick Stewart version, that annoying Albert Finney musical, and don't even get me started onthat god awful 2009 Disney version starring Jim Carey! I know Mr.Magoo's isconsidered a classic but I was never a fan of that cartoon. I was also going to include Scrooged, but decided to just stick with the more traditional versions. I am not comparing characters as much as the overall scene.

December 12, 2012

Comics I Loved as a Kid-The Man of Steel


This is a sort of “pilot” idea for something I may do nextyear. It is just an experiment; let me know how you like it.

I have spent lots of time talking about the things I lovedwhen I was a kid. Sitcoms, movies, etc. The one thing I have neglected is comicbooks. And I really loved comic books! Well, DC Comics anyway. I have alwaysput off discussing them for a couple reasons. One is that there are severalpeople who already do; at least with sitcoms I have my own little corner. Theother reason is I stopped reading comics a long time ago, and was afraid peoplewouldn’t be all that familiar with the stuff I liked.

However I have come to realize that may be misguided, and Iam also missing a chance to educate the younger folks on stories from the erawhen I loved comics (what age is the 80’s, Bronze?). I had a similar experiencewith the older 70’s books which I eventually discovered and even like. So todaywe are going to look at one of my favorite mini-series. Next summer everyone islooking forward to the new Man of Steel movie. However, The Man of Steel Iremember was a landmark mini-series back in 1986.
 


This was the John Byrne re-launch which recreated the concept of Superman, and created the character I learned to love. If you readthe pre crisis Superman stories he is a bit arrogant and was to powerful. Imean he hopped galaxies and broke the time barrier without any effort atall!  Byrne gave us a humanized anddepowered hero, and a much more likable character. He also gave us a living Maand Pa Kent, no more Superboy, a strong and independent Lois Lane, a Lex Luthorwhich was a rich billionaire not a mad scientist, a Batman who did not entirelyget along with Superman, a Clark who was not a massive wimp because he was thereal person and Superman the disguise, and a Superman who acknowledged hisKryptonian heritage but embraced his humanity first.
Now I need to come clean, I was a dumb kid and had no ideathis was going on. I do vividly remember seeing the comic and looking throughit. But it really wasn’t until I read Superman #2 that I was really on board. Iwent back to see what I missed..and wow!
Let’s talk a closer look at these six issues.

Random Thoughts-The Mistle-Tones

A week or so ago I did an article complaining about the awful ABC Family movies we are stuck with every year. The one movie I didn't cover was the new one which premiered this past Sunday. The Miste-Tones stars Tori Spelling and Tia Mowry. I did get to watch it the other day, though I admit I didn't get to watch it as closely as I would have liked, and wanted to share some quick thoughts.
SPOILERS!!!!!!
-First, the music was pretty good. I admit it, i might even buy the soundtrack
-Tori Spelling is a horrible actress. I know, shocker! But she played the bitchy Snow Belle to cartoonishjly, and there were times when she wasn't even sure if she was supposed to be nice or not
-All of these ABC Family movies have the same message. If you're succesful and have a good job then you're a loser who is not enjoying life. And yep, it's here too as the main male lead works for a company and has a good job. But darn it, all he really wants to do is sing! Screw the paycheck. Of course he is also single, gee wonder if he will hook up with the main character?
-Yep the two leads fall in love, another shocker!
-The up and comming group does not win, which is nice. The group everyone expected tp win did and our hero has to learn that singing in a competiion is not what her mother (who is dead, another shocker) loved. She jiust loved to sing and just singing is enough, not winning some silly competition. Yeah, I like that.
-Typical antagonist. She is threatened by the new group even though she doesn't need to be. Although in the end there is never a moment where she really gets her cummepance, and that is nice.
Bottom line, this was not the worst ABC Family film ever. Or this year, see Home Alone 5. But for all the good in it we still have the usual cliche's ABC Family trots out in all their movies.

December 9, 2012

Top 5 Least Favorite Christmas Episodes

The other day I talked about Christmas episodes of sitcoms. I love them! And I watch a ton of them every year. However, there have been a couple of episodes I didn't love and hardly watch. These are episodes which just rubbed me the wrong way, and I wanted to share them with you.

Now let me be clear, these are only episodes I have seen. Even I haven't seen every Christmas show out there and that's especially true for those series that I hate or just never watch. Also, this is just my opinion so if you disagree that's cool. I just do not like these episodes.




#5. Happy Days, "Christmas Time"

It's hard to put any episode of this show on a worst list because it is so beloved. But I saw this last year and wasn't happy with it. The set-up is simply that Fonzie gets a package from his long lost father and refuses to open. Ok, sounds simple enough. What's the problem? Richie goes too far in his efforts to get Fonzie to open it. He practically starts a fight with him. Nothing wrong with being a supportive friend, which Richie sure is, but here he goes a bit too far and spoils the episode a bit. Fonzie should open the gift, but when he is good and ready not because he feels pressure. Is it the worst episode ever? No, not at all and all is well in the end. But something about this show just didn't feel right.


#4. Home Improvement, "No Place Like Home"

If they weren't going to do an all-out Christmas episode, they should have just made this a regular show. This half ass holiday episode is  just pitiful compared to the fantastic Christmas shows before this. But what's worst, this episode is just plain boring and dull. There is enough Christmas in the first five minutes to make it a legit holiday show, but then it goes way downhill. I talked about it a little yesterday but I wanted to elaborate a bit here. The premise is simple, during Christmas week Tim has to move his mother out of her house. When he learns what the new owners are going to do the house he is upset that his childhood home is being changed. This brings us into a flashback of Tim and his father which is so boring, words can't even describe it. I understand we need the character development for Tim, but man is this episode terrible. It barely feels like an episode a Home Improvement, never mind a Christmas episode. The good news is that the next year they gave us a more traditional Christmas show.


#3.Charles in Charge, "Yule Laff"


Remember all those cliché’s I talked about? How about a show that hits several of them and does it badly. I don't mind cheesy 80's shows, really. Give me Saved By The Bell, Small Wonder, Silver Spoons, even Full House and I love it. But this show is just to corny. This episode is a great example. In the episode Charles has planned a Christmas getaway for the whole family to the mountains. Of course it’s one disaster after another. The cabin is a mess, a storm strands the family and keeps the father from getting there, and a bear (in a snow storm, sure, and man does it look fake). I mean, didn't Charles even attempt to check the place out before dragging the family up there? After they sing a carol for literally no reason, Santa appears during the night and gives them presents. Not sure why, usually when a show does this it has a bearing on the story. Not here. Suddenly everyone is happy and they act like it was a great Christmas. Why? Because they survived the night? The story is silly and makes no sense, the situation is forced, and the moral is all over the place. And the Santa thing is not needed, it literally serves no purpose. Just a bad episode.



#2.Becker, "Santa on Ice"

Ok if people didn’t disagree with me on the Happy Days one I know they will on this one. This is totally my opinion, if you like it more power to you, but I hated this because it was just too dark for a Christmas episode. Becker has to identify the body of a man dressed as Santa in a morgue, while Reggie ruins a tree while dragging it through the city. There’s more but that’s enough for me to not like this one. I don't mind episodes that focus on the more negative aspects of the holiday, but a morgue? Sorry, not for me. About all I have to say about this one. I saw it once and will never watch it again. To show I didn’t hate this series, the Christmas episode of Becker where he gets stuck in a mall display was hilarious and one of my favorites.


#1.Step By Step, "The Fight Before Christmas"

Like Home Improvement, I enjoy most of the Christmas episodes from this series. Here is the exception. I hated this episode when I saw it! The problem with the episode is the B story. Here is the setup. JD is working at a lot selling Christmas trees. At this lot there is a kid, and the the owner is being protective of one certain  tree. Whenever a customer approaches it he defends the tree and scares the customer away. Why is he doing this? It turns out that the kid wanted the tree, but didn't have any money to pay for it. So the owner made him a deal, work for the tree. And of course he was defending it so that it would still be there when the kid had worked enough to earn it. Ummmm, what? Who wrote this, the same guy who wrote "The Christmas Shoes?" JUST GIVE THE KID THE DAMN TREE! Isn't it supposed to be the season of giving? Why is this guy making the kid have to work for it? They make a point that the kid will not accept charity, but I'm not buying that. Even if I did, have the kid do a small task and then give him the tree. And what does the kid learn having the owner of the lot almost violently defending this one tree? And why is this one tree so special anyway, aren't there others? And what does JD learn exactly?  I just don't get it. Maybe If this were just a regular episode I might be ok with it, but as a Christmas show? Awful! And the A story sucks to, but I am not even getting into that.

So there are five Christmas episodes I just did not like. Does that mean there aren’t worst? Heck no,  I’m sure there are. And if I missed one you think should be on here, please comment and let me know. Now, I think I will pop in an old episode I love and forget these five.

December 6, 2012

Christmas Face Off-Rudolph vs Year Without a Santa

I have been doing these face off’s for a while now (usuallysitcom related) but this year wanted to try something different. Take two cherished, time honored Christmas specials and match them up.
  VS
Rudolph is the granddaddy of all Christmas specials,premiering in 1964 based off the famous song of the same name. It was a mere ten years later in 1974 when The Year WithoutA Santa Claus premiered, based on a popular children's book. One is shown on the networks every year while the other lives thanks to ABCFamily. They are both loved but which is the stronger special? The time honored classic, or the one which has developed more of a cult following.

 vs

Of course while this will follow the format of my sitcomf ace-off’s, I will have to make a few tweaks here and there. Let’s start withour lead characters.

CATEGORY 1:
LEAD CHARACTERS
 
So the only way to fairly do this was the break the cast down. Let’s talk about the main characters in Rudolph first. Rudolph is thecute little guy who happens to have one small problem. His nose glows bright red. Of course the reaction is to scorn poor Rudolph.  While Rudolph is being picked on for being different Hermey the Elf is also being ridiculed. I always wondered they picked dentist as the occupation that Hermie is interested in, but it’s cool. Finallythese two hook up and decide to hell with the people who picked on us, and runaway. They run into Yukon Cornelius who helps them out. The truth is they story needed Cornelius because Rudolph and Hermey just weren’t strong enough to keepthe story going. They just aren’t very strong characters. In Year Without aSanta Claus, we get the two elves Jingle and Jangle whom Ms. Claus sends tofind some Christmas spirit. They also need help, first from a little boy andthen from Ms. Claus herself. In the end, they don’t even resolve the problem really; it’s a bunch of coincidences that save the day. It’s when the kids ofthe world rally that Santa realizes what a doofus he’s been. In Rudolph he atleast has the guts to go on his own so he won’t endanger his friends, returnhome when he realizes he can’t run away, and then run after the snow monstereven though his chances of finding his parents are slim. And when Santa askshim to pull his sleigh, he doesn’t even hesitate.  In Year the attempts by Jingle and Jangle arelaughable, we get that dumb stuff about Vixen being confused with a lost dog, and at first when Santa hears he is getting a holiday he takes it! Even though it doesn’t start that way, I think Rudolph has the stronger charactersbecause Rudolph and Hermey change through the course of the story and learn,while in the other show the main characters don’t except maybe the child whodoes learn to believe. But he also vanishes from the special as the story progresses,serving no real purpose (in the original story Ignatius is the center of thewhole thing, but the TV special downplayed his role). We care more about Yukon's search for silver and gold than we do Jingle Jangle's quest.
WINNER-RUDOLPH!!

 


CATEGORY 2:
VILLAIN CHARACTERS
For the sake of this discussion “villain” will be any antagonist in these specials, even if they weren’t really evil. Rudolph had theAbominable Snowman, who really wasn’t very scary at all. Why was he calledBumbles exactly? Anyway, aside for him the only “villains” would be the peoplewho teased Rudolph and Hermey, Donner and the head elf for example. But reallynone of these characters are bad just a tad uptight. Year Without a Santa Clausdoesn’t really have any bad guys either. The mayor is a jerk, even if he didn’tbelieve the elf’s story there is no cause to laugh at them like that. Then ofcourse we have the classic characters everyone loves, Heat Miser and SnowMiser. They are probably the biggest reason this special is remembered, and I can’t argue with that. They are strong characters and given lots of personality. Oh, and they sing a song you may have heard once or twice. So int his category I think I have to give the nod to the Miser Bros because they are just so much fun to watch every year.
WINNER-YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS

 

CATEGORY 3:
SANTA CLAUS
   

It’s funny how both these specials turn Santa into a whinyjerk. In Rudolph Santa spends the majority of the special with an attitudeproblem. He refuses to eat, he openly hates the elf song, and when he seesRudolph’s nose he makes it sound as it would be impossible for him to join thesleigh team with a bright red nose. We start to see signs of the Santa we lovetoward the end when Santa informs Rudolph that his folks are missing, and thenof course when everyone is back he promises to help the Island of Misfit Toys.A lot of people complain that everyone hates Rudolph until they find a use forhim, but in the special at least the apologies come before that moment (one upon the song I guess). In Year Without a Santa, we find Santa is sick in bed and lost all faith in the spirit of Christmas. That’s a tad jarring that Santawould think that way, but the moment of redemption for this Santa comes when hereceives a note from a little girl saying she will have a blue Christmas. Thisis one of my favorite uses of that song in anything, and it really works here.This is the scene which sold me when I first saw this special. When Santa realizes what an idiot he was, he jumps into action and is headed onhis way. So which wins? It bothers me in Year that Santa is the source of theproblem but does nothing to change it. He sits around while others scramble to cheer him up, imagine if in Rudolph he had told Santa to go look for hisparents because he was too tired. Yeah not sure that would have worked. So I think the better Santa is in Rudolph, yeah he was a bit of a jerk but at leasthe cared about the kids more than himself.
WINNER-RUDOLPH!

 

CATEGORY  4:
NARRATOR
  vs

This one is pretty simple. When Rudolph first appeared wewere introduced to the story by Sam the Snowman, who was always my favorite.Burl Ives just did a beautiful job with this character and the fact he couldsing helps (he sings three songs!). Unfortunately Rankin/Bass loved thenarrator formula. Sometimes it works like in Santa Claus is Comin to Town(because that is entirely flashbacks and the way it is setup with the childrenis a nice touch) and sometimes it didn’t (like in Twas the Night BeforeChristmas, why did father mouse have to tell us that story?) . Here it doesn’twork as we have Ms.Claus being the narrator….for no good reason! Seriously,what does she add to the story? All she does is foreshadow events and tell uswhat we can see happening. I love when she tells how Santa blows his nose likea trumpet just as he does it. She does get a song which is so bad it is usuallycut out of syndicated airings of this every year.  Shirley Booth was a great comedian, and sheplays a decent Ms.Claus, but as a narrator she is useless. No contest here.
WINNER-RUDOLPH!!

 

CATEGORY 5:
MUSIC
This may seem obvious, but not so much. Except for the BurlIves songs, the songs in Rudolph are kind of only alright. We get that awfulsong Clarice sings “There’s Always Tomorrow” and the annoying elf song. “We’re a Couple of Misfits” is cute but that’s all, and some may wonder whateverhappened to “Fame and Fortune” which replaced it for a while. Santa sings “JingleJingle Jingle” which is ok, and of course the song in the Island of Misfit Toysscene which is nice, but not memorable. Simply put I enjoy the songs in YearWithout a Santa more, from the title song which is great to “Here ComesSanta Claus” in the end. There is also the beautiful “I Believe in Santa Claus”which is just a beautiful little song, and the silly song the mayor sings iskind of catchy. One of the best versions of “Blue Christmas” is here, sung sosimply but effectively. Oh and the Miser Bros have their own songs which youmay have heard (they’re famous for a reason!).  So all in all, the award goes to this specialbecause the songs are a bit better (yeah the one Ms.Claus sings sucks, but theycan’t all be perfect).

WINNER=YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS

 

CATEGORY 6:
PREMISE

So let’s compare the stories. Rudolph is simply a storyabout fitting in while Year Without a Santa is about believing and never givingup. While Rudolph runs from his problems, Jingle and Jangle try to help Santaby proving that there is some Christmas spirit out there. These are both goodstories which convey a very strong message. However both of these storiessuffer from the same problem. Needing filler to round out the hour. For Rudolphit was the Island of Misfit Toys, and Year Without a Santa it was the squabbling of the Miser Bros. The difference is that the Miser Bros stuff feels like a part of the story, even being set up a bit early in the special. With Rudolph,the misfit toys have no bearing on the story. They were put in to make the show longer, the trio arrives on the island and after a cute song sequence the storymoves on. In fact originally we never returned to the island after Rudolphdeparts, the ending was changed after the special aired originally and people demanded to know what the fate of the toys on the island was. So they reshot the ending with that famous last scene and the credits rolling over Santa dropping the toys off. Also what was the point of the whole sequence with Bumbles? Even the death fake out is resolced two minutes later, it just felt like padding. In Year the stuff with Vixen is a little dumb but at least it serves the story because that is how Santa starts to realize he may have been wrong. Of course It’s the ending to these shows which really work for me.I love when Santa finally realizes what a selfish jerk he’s been, and issuddenly off in his sleigh literally right down Santa Claus Lane. And of coursewhen Rudolph agrees to pull the sleigh for Santa, even after over 30 years Istill have to smile. I like how Berl Ives just ends it by kind of saying “do Ireally need to go on?” and sings the classic tune. These specials are great but I have to give the nod to Year Without a Santa. Not only was this based on anoriginal story (a book by Phylis McGinley) but they were not confined as much as Rudolph was confined by the lyrics of the popular song. That gave them alittle freedom to tell a better and stronger story.
WINNER-YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS

 

CATEGORY  7:
Which is more Enduring?

Normally the final category is jumping the shark, judginghow two shows held up in the end. However, that obviously does not apply since these specials have been the exactsame for many years. So how do we pick a winner? While it’s true that YearWithout a Santa Claus tells a better story, I think it says something thatRudolph holds a stronger place in most people’s memories. Why is that? Well oneobvious answer is that the special has been around longer.  Rudolph also has more exposure being on CBSevery single year. I didn’t watch Year Without a Santa at all as a kid but sureas heck remember watching Rudolph every year. But I think there is just morecharm to Rudolph. The charm in Year Without a Santa comes from the minorcharacters, most notably heat miser and snow miser who steal the show. It’s asafe bet this special would not be nearly has highly regarded without them init. They are needed to keep the story interesting. While it’s great to see Santasaddle up in the end, it’s not the same as Rudolph where it’s all about ourheroes. We want to see them win the day and are happy when they do. We are sadwhen Cornelius appears to be killed, happy to see Rudolph and Herbie get theirdue apologies, and of course the ending for the Island of Misfit Toys isvery sweet. So while Year Without a Santa Claus tells a great story, I think asa whole the more charming special, start to end, is and will forever be…….
 



But of course this was all for fun, I love both thesespecials and it just wouldn’t be Christmas without either of them. There havebeen sequels to these which didn’t even come close to the charm of theoriginal. Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys is god awful, the Miser Bros.Special is watchable I guess, and we aren’t even going to discuss that liveaction TV movie that came out a few years ago with Delta Burke as Ms.Claus(WTF?)

December 4, 2012

My Christmas Guilty Pleasure

Ah, Christmas! I love watching the great holiday movies thistime of year. The Santa Clause, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th St, Christmas withthe Kranks.....

Wait...what?

Christmas with the Kranks? Really?

Well, yeah. Really. Why is this on my must see list everyyear? Glad you asked! Let’s take a closer look.
 

Christmas with the Kranks is based on the John Grisham book"Skipping Christmas". I never read the book but have heard that itwas a decent read. A lot better than this so-called adaption. The premise issimple enough. Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis play Luther and Nora Krank and when their daughter Blair leaves to go to the peace corps, Luther decides thatfor once they will skip Christmas and go on a cruise.  Nora is excited about this idea (at first). Sounds simple enough, so what's the conflict?

There are two. The first is the fact that The Krank's livein a police state where they have to conform. Yes I am kidding, but not by asmuch as you think. They do live in a very close knit neighborhood where everyone knows each other and decorating is a neighborhood tradition. Now I can accept that their friends and neighbors may be disappointed about the Krank's decision but the way this is written and performed makes the film go right intothe unbelievable category.

Let me explain by describing this quick scene. Nora runsinto the gentleman who she normally orders her Christmas cards from. She informs him that they will not be ordering any cards this year. Why they can't at least do cards is another argument, but the point is that after Nora informsthe guy of this he is seething with anger. He then follows her into arestaurant and tells people about this horrible turn of events.  If this were me I would never order cardsfrom this man again. What business is it of him anyway? But this is the wholesetup for the first part of the movie. Neighbors, friends, and whoever elsejust appalled that they dare to go away rather than celebrate Christmas.

It actually gets worst to. The neighbors start protesting especially when The Krank's refuse to put up a silly Christmas decoration (thatthey already own so it costs them nothing and which the neighbors offer to putup for them). We see Luther upsetting the local boy scouts, police department,and even the priest when he catches them at the mall in a tanning booth. Andwhen some carolers arrive they are stunned to see the one undecorated house,and proceed to trespass and stalk the place singing.

Now if you read thebook this was based on there is a reason for this, sort of. Two simple words that would have made this movie much more believable: DECORATING CONTEST! In thebook the Krank's not decorating jeopardizes a neighborhood contest, why thiswould ever be left of the narrative for the movie baffles me. It wouldn'texcuse the neighbor’s actions but it would at least explain it.

Of course the crazy stuff isn’t confined to the neighbors.Luther and Nora do some over the top things to. The dumbest moment has to bethe scene where the neighbors are chanting outside their door and Nora panics as if they are standing out there with grenade guns or something.  We get the contrived tanning booth scene, and a Botox gag that may have been funny if the film were a few years older. Andremember those pesky carolers? Luther decides icing the walkway is the best wayto get rid of them. Ah, the hilarity of watching people fall and kill themselveson ice.

It is preposterous.  It is totally ridiculous and unbelievable. Andthat is how I think one has to approach this film. As a farce, something whichonly marginally has any basis in what we know as reality. If you can acceptthat nothing in this film is meant to be taken seriously, then you can buy the events we get.

The second conflict comes when we arrive at Christmas Eve.They have survived the anger of the neighbors and are getting ready for thetrip. Until the phone rings. Blair calls to say that she is coming home forChristmas, and on top of that she is bringing her new fiancée with her. Not sure what why she is in such a hurry to get married, and going so far as tohave her engaged seems a tad unnecessary (also as a commenter pointed out inFilm Brain’s review of this, what daughter would announce her engagement to her parents that way?), but this leads into the second part of the movie. Theannual party is suddenly on and Blair is to never know about their plans to goon a cruise. Why? She wasn't coming home at all what difference would it make if they told her that they had canceled the party? Not sure what they areprotecting her from, but it doesn't matter because we have hijinks!

In a panic to get a party thrown together at the last minuteNora races out to buy a ham while Luther is supposed to get a tree. I am notsure if those two things would be the first problem I would address, but it'scool because we get two totally pointless scenes of slapstick fun as Nora triesto acquire the ham while Luther attempts to borrow a neighbor's tree. These scenes are just silly, especially the ham nonsense.  I will give this movie credit for one smallthing, when Nora tries inviting people to the party she finds out, shockingly,that no one is free and everyone they know has plans.WOW!  So this is when they go to the neighbor's, right? Nah we get more hijinks as Luther tries to put thefrosty up all by himself and almost gets himself killed for his efforts.

Finally the neighbors become aware of the problem and agreeto help. Remember the credit I gave this movie? I take it back now. NONE OFTHESE NEIGHBORS HAVE PLANS????? Guess not since they all drop what they are doing to chip in including a lady cooking two turkey's for no apparent reason.Now in order to make this premise work they had to make Luther into a huge jerkat this point so that we would side with the neighbors. Well, try as hard asyou want I still remember how these "wonderful" neighbors harassedthe Kranks for daring to not do what they were expected to do. Many argue thatthe fact these neighbors got their way is what spoils the movie and I can seethat. They try to make it clear they are doing this for Blair, but still in theend The Krank's buckled under and conformed when the message should be to never be afraid to do what you want.  So theneighbors chip in and manage to do work which would take at least a day in justa few hours.

I have to admit, the movie starts to lose me after thispoint. Before this I could find the humor in the absurdity of the premise, but now it starts to get silly. First, two cops are sent to pick Blair up which isjust all sorts of stupid. Second, everyone who has been in the movie appears atthe party. This includes the priest (what else would he have to do on ChristmasEve?), the girl at the tanning booth (who knew she was a neighbor), and ofcourse the carolers which makes no sense since it was clear they had no ideawho the Krank's even were! Finally, the cops have to stall so they pretend tobe on the case of a criminal. That is until the stumble onto an actualcriminal. For some reason we get this stupid plot point about a criminal whichbasically goes nowhere.
And of course we get more Luther as a jerk because wehave to hate him by now, even though before this scene we didn't really have areason to. All he wanted to do was go on a vacation...evil! Why is his ideaabout going on the cruise and letting Blair and her fiancée have the house to themselves such a bad one anyway? It’s not as if they have presents for eachother the next morning, so what’s the difference? I think another flaw in the film is presetning Blair as a very strong willed, confident adult who could probably handle the situation if her parents were just honest with her!! 

Yes I am neglecting story #45 about the man named Marty thatno one knows. That is so dumb and tacked on I am not even going to discuss it.So let's get to the sweet ending which involves two characters I have notmentioned. One of the many story threads involves two neighbors, one of whomhappens to have cancer. Luther ends up giving away the tickets to the cruise tothe neighbor so they can have a getaway. He even agrees to watch the cat who hehates.  This scene is as sappy aspossible to drive home that this is what the film was supposed to be all about.Ok, got it. Then the movie ends with Nora and Luther embracing and realizinghow stupid it was to think about skipping Christmas and doing what they wantedfor a change. It should have ended with the neighbors apologizing for being such jerks and seeing them off on their cruise, but who am I to question the writers?

One positive thing I will say for this movie, it has a heck of a soundtrack. So that's Christmas with the Kranks. I know John Grishamwrote the original book but I wonder what he was thinking. This film makes youthink that Christmas is all about decorating your house, whether you like it ornot! Yeah I can see how that could be wrong. Despite the ridiculous premise,idiotic writing, and over the top acting...I still like this movie. I wish Icould explain why. I get the criticism and the problems with it, I really do,but I still like it. I guess we all have to have one guilty pleasure, and atChristmas this is mine. Could be worst, it could have been Deck The Halls (yech!!)

So that’s mine, what’s yours?

December 3, 2012

The Best/Worst Episodes of Star Trek TOS(By Les and richb)

Greetings Manic fans.  Les here today to collaborate with my good friend, richb, for the first time, and I'm pretty excited by it.  I've enjoyed his outstanding television articles from way back when we were still at TGWTG, so as far as I'm concerned.....'BOUT TIME LOL!  And so, will you all please welcome richb to my blog.

Les:  Thank you for coming over to my blog today.

RichB: My pleasure my friend, I have been around for awhile but have still never done one of these. And thanks for the compliment i enjoy your amazing work as well. It's hard to believe I have almost done 200 Blogs. But were not here to talk about that, but something near and dear to both out hearts---STAR TREK!!

November 26, 2012

A Look at The Santa Clause Movies

The Santa Clause is my favorite Christmas movie. I justthink it hits every note just right. It’s sentimental, sweet, funny, and just apleasant film to watch around the holidays. However I have discovered that noteveryone necessarily agrees with me on this. They think Eric Lloyd was annoying(ok but he never bothered me) and find the story sappy and corny. My answer tothat is, it’s a Christmas movie! And a Disney one at that.

I am just kidding of course, if you hate the film that’scool. I love it. I think Tim Allen is great; it’s amazing how he goes from ajerk in the start to a very convincing Santa in the end. The make-up for Santais just remarkable. I like the concept, and the way the process of Scott turninginto Santa is played out is done very well.
 
So today I decided to take a closer look at the film and discuss why I love it. And in the interest of fairness, I will also discuss thenitpicky things that even I find a tad annoying. This film is basically brokendown into three acts, so I decided to look at each one separately. And therewill be spoilers if somehow you still have no seen the film.

November 19, 2012

A Look at TV Shows That Went on Far To Long



Several months ago my father, who does not watch much television, asked why shows don't go beyond the average eight or nine years. I explained that if he watched the shows he would understand. Something happens to shows, whether they are sitcoms or dramas, and they just get stale. Now some shows know when to bow out gracefully. Family Ties, Seinfeld, Frasier, MASH (though an argument could be made on that one), and even Friends are all examples of shows which ended before they lost their fan base.

Now of course some shows get bad and never even make it to seven years. But what about those shows which just keep going, even though they have run out of ideas and the only audience they have left are the hardcore fans? Today I wanted to look at some examples of programs which went on far too long.

3rd Rock From The Sun-This is a unique example because usually six years is not too long. In fact most shows are still going strong then, but this is an exception. When it first premiered this show was just plain hilarious. John Lithgow played the alien commander and his over the top acting was perfect for the show. Since the entire town was kind of nuts, the four aliens just seemed to blend right in. The question is, why was this show on for six years? I mean let's be honest; they had really run out of things to do by the end. Yes the final episode was very well done, but it would have been even better a year earlier.

November 14, 2012

Look at Sitcom Cliches:The Dream Sequence

Sitcoms are famous for certain stunt episodes. For instance almost every sitcom has done an episode where two cast members, who usually hate each other, end up trapped alone somewhere. Like in a meat locker for example. Benson did a lot of these! Another is the dreaded clip show, where the cast basically sits around while old clips play. There is usually a plot tying the clips together, some better than others and some shows did these once too often.
 Today I wanted to talk about another sitcom cliché, the dream episode. And I will just admit it; I am a big sucker for this one!

These episodes are just fun. There is usually some kind of strange special effects, there all kinds of cheesy gags and in-jokes, the cast get to wear make-up and even overact a bit. Some of my favorite episodes of all time are dream sequences because they are as much fun to watch as they are to probably make.

One of the earliest, and greatest, examples of this was the Dick Van Dyke episode "It May Look Like a Walnut" which was a hilarious Twilight Zone parody. I will just say if you have never seen it, check it out! It guest stars the great Danny Thomas and is just a hilarious show.

A dream sequence serves a couple of objectives. Sometimes a show does it just as an excuse to cut loose and have some fun for one episode. For example, Facts of Life had that famous episode spoofing horror movies. Another shows the girls still living together in their old age. Facts of Life could be a heavy show and these kinds of episodes give the cast a chance to just have a little fun. Another example would be the famous Scream parody they did on Boy Meets World. And I think anyone who saw The Hogan Family’s spoof on zombie movies remember that particular episode, I know I do. Head of the Class had a great episode where T.J. sells her soul to the devil. There are all kinds of gags and over the top acting, and in the end it turns out it’s a dream. They did a cute touch to let the audience know, usually in this show the transitions are given the day and time but during the course of the episode none of them are,  until the final scene after T.J. has woken up. Have I mentioned I love this show? Arvid also had dreams involving the wild west and other TV shows in various episodes.

November 13, 2012

Sitcom Face Off-Webster vs Punky Brewster

What is it about little kids on sitcoms that we love so much? Is it because they’re so cute? Is it because they can’t really act so it’s adorable to watch them try? Whatever it is, little kids and sitcoms go back along way. From Rudy to the Cosby Show all the way back to Opie in The AndyGriffith Show. These cute little kids keep us watching, until they get too old and are no longer cute any more. Sometimes we are left with an actor stillworth watching, and other times not so much. Take Who’s The Boss? where Alyssa Milano got better as she aged, while Danny Pintauro got duller and duller.

Now I am getting way off subject. Today I want to pair offtwo of the cutest kids from the 80’s, who both had hit shows on different networks.








Webster was smart and bright, and had the cutest smile.Punky was an inspiration with her positive attitude and take chargepersonality. But which show was actually better ? Before we begin, I havealready discussed the trials of Webster’s behind the scene struggles. Today Iam focusing on the product which hit the air not the background strife.


   

 





November 10, 2012

My Tribute to Michael J. Fox

A few weeks ago I presented my tribute to one of my favorite actors, Christopher Lloyd. Of course one of his most famous roles was in Back to the Future, my favorite movie ever, and today I decided to check out the other half of that starring duo. I present my tribute to Michael J. Fox
Like last time I will be listing the programs and movies I have seen him in. So if I leave off a great or memorable performance it is only because I missed out on it.

Michael J. Fox is one of those actors to truly be admired. He can take a horrible project and use his charm to make it likable. He can take a horrible character and make him lovable. He can even take a horrible illness, Parkinson’s Disease, and rather than give up figure out how to overcome it while working for a cure someday. I don’t think it’s possible to see this actor and not enjoy his work. He has won many awards including several Emmy’s and for good reason.

He started out in Canada in some forgettable sitcoms before coming over to this country. One very early role was in “Class of 1984” which was a violent movie about a school gang which starred Perry King. I saw it once when at my grandmother’s house, and I was a little young to be seeing that film. I never forgot it (it inspired many stories I would write later on) but I did forget Michael J. Fox was in it. I did remember Rowdy McDowell was and he was good. This movie is way too hard to describe here, it needs its own article but since I saw it I wanted to mention it.

 Michael J Fox’s breakout role was in a little show you may have heard of, which he catapulted into one of the biggest hits of the 1980’s.

Family Ties-What can I say about this show that hasn’t been already said? Actually the truth is the show has not aged well. That makes since the show was firmly entrenched in the 80’s. There is a reason it was canceled in 1989 and why there will never be a reunion. This show embodied everything about the 80’s, and the breakout character was Alex P. Keaton. Conservative, snob, elitist….they all fit. This is one of those characters who should be hated! Yet he was loved, so much so that the show became more about Alex than the parents, who were supposed to be the focus. Yes the show can get corny, but it was a powerhouse comedy in the 80’s and airing right after The Cosby Show was a major part of NBC’s Thursday night lineup. This show was a major part of my childhood. Of course on this show Fox had a girlfriend played by Tracy Pollan, who he just happened to have married in real life and had four kids with. How cool is that?

Poison Ivy-I am racking my brain trying to remember if I saw this made for TV movie in 1985. I was a huge fan of Michael J. Fox and Nancy McKeon so I would imagine I did, although my parents were strict about me going to bed when I was that age. This was a silly camp movie, before the much sillier Camp Cucamonga came along (anyone remember that one? I have to do an article on it!). I am going to assume I saw it and keep on here, thought chances are I probably missed it (I missed everything back then!)

Night Court-Family Ties was still a fairly new show when this one premiered. One of this first episodes involved a wise cracking runaway who refuses to believe a man claiming to be Santa Claus. Michael J. Fox is darned good in this episode, and it amazes me that when this show aired he had already had enough star power for NBC to get him to guest star. This was a season one episode and if you’ve never seen it, and can find it, check it out. Season 1 of this show was weak as hell but this is one exception.

Teen Wolf-This is the first film that Michael J. Fox starred in. Remember what I said about how he could take use his charm to make a horrible project a big hit? Well, here is example number one. This was one of the biggest sleeper hits of 1985. And it was stupid. I mean, it was stupid in a thoroughly enjoyable way, but it was still stupid. Basically Michael J. Fox turns into a wolf due to a family curse and shenanigans ensue. My biggest disappointment in this film is that the wolf disappears for the last fifteen minutes, as the character decided to win the Basketball game as himself. How boring, it becomes another sports movie. Despite that there are some entertaining moments in this film which I have not seen in a very long time.

Back to the Future-Have I mentioned this movie yet? I loved this movie. I loved everything about it, and that includes Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly. The funny thing, is that he was not the first actor to the play the character! Ok I am sure everyone knows this story, about how the producers wanted Michael J. Fox but he was doing Family Ties. So they hired Eric Stolz, who sucked. Big shock. They begged Family Ties producers Gary David Goldberg to let Fox do the movie, and the rest is history. I think after doing the embarrassing teen wolf he couldn’t wait to do something respectable. And he was perfect in this role as the wide eyed Marty, just trying to deal with this crazy situation.

Family Ties Goes to England-This was another NBC Movie of the week (whatever happened to those?) and I already talked about it so I won’t go into too much detail here. Basically the movie is boring, and all the characters were out of characters especially Alex who becomes a wimp in the film. This was a clichéd 80’s TV movie in every way, even including a jewel heist in the plot, and I just wish it never existed. If you’re curious it is a DVD extra and probably on You Tube, I spent years trying to understand this as a kid and, frankly, still don’t get it.

The Secret to My Success-If you’re ever looking for the cheesiest 80’s movie, I direct you to this one. Here is example #2 of how Fox can take a ludicrous plot and make it a hit with his charm and winning smile. This movie has everything, even incest, and was a big hit in 1986. The plot has Michael J. Fox coming to New York City to make it big. The first twenty minutes or so are actually pretty believable. Then it becomes a sex farce. Then the plot turns into one of those “pretending to be someone else” films with Fox pretending to be an executive while also working in the mail room of a huge company. Then a slapstick comedy as he tries to keep everyone from discovering his big secret. There are misunderstandings and all kinds of fun! In between all of this it’s also a romantic comedy, and Helen Slater is the love interest. It even featured the song “Oh Yeah” which was made famous in Ferris Bueller This movie is silly, corny, lame, not realistic….and I loved it when I first saw it. Ah 80’s movies……

Back to the Future II & III-What else can I say about these films? The one thing I liked about Back to the Future II was that Fox got the chance to shine playing his own son and daughter, in the same scene! The second film was basically fan service, and I loved it!, and the third film I always had mixed feelings about. Despite my problems with the film, Michael J. Fox makes the movie watchable every time

The Hard Way-Hey why not put James Woods and Michael J. Fox in an action movie, and see what happens? I know I saw this movie but don’t remember a thing about it. It was a hit when it first opened but quickly faded away.

Saturday Night Live-Michael J. Fox hosted this March 1991 episode which aired right after the end of the Gulf War. The best part of the episode was the monologue which had a spoof of the Back to the Future series. There was also a great sketch about all the problems former child actors seemed to be having at the time. Not the best episode of SNL, but a decent one and worth checking out just to see Michael J. Fox’s portrayal of Dan Quayle in the cold opening.

Doc Hollywood-Everyone knows this little movie. It’s about a hot shot doctor who gets stuck in a small country town. This film was one of Woody Harrelson’s first film roles and is pretty well liked. Not by me, I saw this and was bored. It’s not bad, but it didn’t hold my interest very much. It’s a cliché story where the Doc hates where he is but learns to love it, heck just go watch Cars which is the same plot except that was about a race car. This came out the same year as The Hard Way and was a better film, but not one of my favorites.

For Love or Money-I will admit it; I saw this only because Michael J. Fox was in it. It’s a very simple romantic comedy with Fox as a concierge who falls for a woman he was pretending to date and it’s just a very basic story with no real suspense. The movie is not awful, but it’s not great either. I also hated the romanticized way they portray New York City in the movie, it’s so fake it’s distracting.

Greedy-I saw some of this thanks to my brother who really liked this movie. It’s a silly comedy about a bunch of relatives trying to suck up to a millionaire for an inheritance. It’s basically a slapstick kind of farce with all kinds of characters and silly situations. The film has an all-star cast including Nancy Travis, Phil Hartman, and Kirk Douglas among many others. Not a bad film if you’re looking for a real silly comedy.

The American President-Ah, now we’re talking! This is one of my favorite movies, I just love it. And it’s not an epic movie or anything. It’s really just a little romantic comedy about the President, who is a widower, dating a lobbyist. The thing that propels it into something special is the performances. Michael Douglas, Martin Sheen, Annette Benning, and of course Michael J. Fox.  In fact Fox may be the one working the hardest in this film, giving some very strong scenes and a very strong speech toward the end.  I could talk all day about this little movie, just a great film to watch if you’re looking for something to do on a rainy day.

Mars Attacks-I HATED THIS MOVIE!!!!!!!  I never even finished it. Michael J. Fox is in it, but not proud of it I imagine.

Stuart Little-How could they take such a simple idea and make such a horrible movie? Michael J Fox is fine as the voice of Stuart, but good lord did this movie suck. The worst thing is that Geena Davis is also in it, whatever happened to her? Ok I will be fair, this is a kid’s movie and there are some cute moments. Nathan Lane is funny as the voice of the cat.

I am not forgetting Bright Lights Big City, Homeward Bound, Frighteners, Atlantis : The Lost Empire, and Casualties of War I just never saw them.

Spin City-I was always amazed that a big star like Fox would come back to network television. I guess that shows how big an ego he has, which is none really. This was another Gary David Goldberg series and I was never a loyal fan, I admit it. I have seen some episodes and it was pretty funny. Fox played the deputy mayor of New York. It had a very strong cast and while the gags were kind of broad they were also clever. Of course Fox left the series when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and his last episode as a regular was one of the most emotional hours of television ever. It felt like we were really saying goodbye to the actor, not just the character, and if you can watch that show without choking up then you are better than I.
Scrubs-This show was definitely unique. It could be funny, even silly, and then hit you with very dark and serious stuff at the same time. For example, Michael J. Fox appeared in a few episodes as a dashing young doctor who everyone loved. He had one little problem, he had a severe case of OCD. I would imagine being a doctor with OCD would be hard, and as we see in the episodes it is not an easy thing to live with. Fox was brilliant in his episodes, and really did a good job conveying what a struggle OCD is to live with.

Most recently he has appeared on “The Good Wife” which stars Juliana Margulies. He appeared in a few episodes as an unscrupulous lawyer.  He also appeared in Curb Your Enthusiasm last year. As much as I hate to admit I have not seen much of his recent work. I have read that he is to star in a new series next year on NBC, and you know I will be checking that out. Michael J. Fox is one of my favorite actors, he was a big part of my childhood and I still enjoy him as an adult. I hope he will be around for many more years so that others can enjoy his amazing talent.

November 4, 2012

Top 5 Disney Sequels I Loved/Hated

Top 5 Disney Sequels I Loved/Hated

I can't believe I haven't talked about this before. Of course Nostalgia Chick did a great job reviewing these last year.
We all remember the flood of direct to video sequels that Disney churned out awhile back. They were mostly bad, but some weren't bad. They were AWFUL! Well, some of them anyway.

Unfortunately for me, my now ex was a bit of Disney nut so I got to see many of these films. I decided to rank the five I absolutely hated, and the five I actually kind of liked. I do want to point out that I have not seen every one, so it's possible there is something far worse than what I am listing. For example I have heard good things about the Aladdin sequels, but don’t remember ever watching them.

Since this has been done to death and I have talked about some of these things before I will try to keep it brief, and just explain exactly why I liked and/or hated the film.


LIKED (because love is a strong word)


#5. Beauty & The Beast: The Enchanted Christmas
If there is one thing I disagreed with Nostalgia Chick about it was her opinion on this movie. Yeah if you compare it directly to Beauty & The Beast there are problems, granted. The animation is not as strong and it does not really work in the continuity of the original movie. But taken on its own it’s not the worst movie ever made.  And I actually like the song, “As Long as There’s Christmas”, which is a nice little tune. Not much else to say, not my favorite Christmas special but I also don’t hate it and even watch it when it’s on every year.

#4. Leroy & Stitch
The reason this is one here is because I loved the animated cartoon series “Lilo & Stitch”. It’s one the better shows, a bit underrated in my opinion. This movie was an attempt to wrap up the series which Disney finally cancelled. So is it great? Probably not and I imagine it would be confusing to someone who never watched the series at all. But for a fan of the series it was a nice way to wrap it up. One of the things I liked about Lilo & Stitch is the whole message of family, even if they are not blood. And I just like stitch.  J

#3. Bambi II
I feel like I am in the minority on this one. But I kind of liked this movie. It picks up right after the mother is killed, and we see what happened when Bambi went off with his father. As has been pointed out, the original skips ahead a little too fast. We go from the mother being killed to sunshine and flowers with no stops in between. I also hated the second part of Bambi because the romance stuff was so forced and lame. But in this sequel we get to meet the female doe, and learn a little about her like her name and why Bambi falls for her (in the first movie no reason is given) and we learn about his future rival Ronno. In the original they fight, but why exactly? In the sequel we get that motivation, it even ends with Ronno vowing to get revenge on Bambi setting up the fight in the first movie! I am not saying this was a great movie, but I thought it did a great job capturing the feel of the classic film and telling its own story while at the same actually fleshing out the story from the classic movie just a bit.


#2. Lion King 2:Simba’s Pride & Lion King 1 ½  
I think I have to do some explaining here. I don’t think I would get to many arguments about Simba’s Pride. Yeah it wasn’t as strong as the first film but it wasn’t all bad either. In fact the second film even took some risk such as killing a character. True the idea that Scar could have a mate who is now seeking revenge is a bit farfetched, but it’s not worse than Little Mermaid II with the aunt who is basically Ursula all over again! As for Lion King 1 ½, well I am a sucker for the gimmick the film uses. I love when we can see things from a different point of view. It’s one of the reason Back to the Future II is a favorite as well as Vantage Point and other things like that. Is it a good movie? No not really in fact parts of feel like it belonged in the Timon & Pumbaa animated cartoon show. But the gimmick makes me tolerate it, even if if I should know better.

#1. Cinderella III-A Twist in Time
I was very surprised by this movie. After the horribleness of Cinderella II (which I will get to), I didn’t have high hopes. Then the fact that the ending to the original was going to be changed didn’t thrill me. But you know, once you past the silliness of the first five minutes this film actually tells a decent story. It has character growth for the two main leads, and it’s even exciting in parts. It’s true I didn’t like that the retcon of the original ending was made permanent, but all in all this was a satisfying film and I was pleasantly surprised. It was nice to see Cinderella go from wishing to actually having to work for her happy ending, and let’s be honest that is a much better lesson for kids these days.


Hated


#5. Tarzan & Jane- I know this was the Saturday Morning cartoon just crammed into a video release, but does that mean it has to be terrible? I rented this from a video store, and it was just dull. Then the tape stopped working and I was very happy. So glad I never purchased this thing. I liked Tarzan, but this was just dull.

#4. Lady and the Tramp 2-Scamp’s Adventure
It’s a toss-up which is worst, this or Little Mermaid II. But the worst crime that Little Mermaid committed was rehashing the same story over again. Lady and the Tramp II was just dull and uninteresting.  Where most Disney films I come away with something, this one just left me with nothing. The only thing I remember was a scene where Jim Dear calls out to Lady and Tramp, by name. I always wondered, how did he know that was Tramp’s name anyway? And wouldn’t he have changed it after adopting them?

#3. The Fox & The Hound 2
I was never a big fan of the original Fox and the Hound. I don’t remember when I saw it as a kid but I just recall being bored. I did see it again as an adult, and it was ok though still not a favorite. It was a story of friendship between two animals who would one day have to become enemies. Nice idea and the movie handled the story very nicely. This sequel killed me. It is one of those “between scenes” films which happened in the middle of the original. Ok, nothing wrong with that. What’s the plot? Tod and Copper join a country band. That sounds utterly ridiculous, and what’s worst the movie is freaking stupid!  I mean, at least Bambi 2 and The Enchanted Christmas tried to keep some of the feel of the original material, this just abandons it entirely! I heard Dumbo II was going to be something similar and I am just thankful that project never happened. This movie was one of the worst things ever!



#2. Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie-I commented on this the other day in Moviefan12’s article and decided to elaborate a bit. This is kind of breaking the rules but it was a direct to video release from the same company as the rest and is sort of a sequel to The Heffalump Movie so I decided to count it. I hated this! This film does something I never thought I would see, it makes Pooh Bear into a jerk! Let me set the scene (and this won’t spoil the plot if you’ve never seen it). Rabbit has collected candy from all over so the gang can trick or treat later. During a song sequence, Pooh’s tummy causes him to eat all the candy. Every morsel is now gone, and he has let down all his friends. Yes I have seen Winnie The Pooh so I know Pooh tends to think with his stomach, but that scene killed me! Pooh was never selfish and thoughtless! And what does he do to make it up to them? Nothing!  Roo and Lumpy take the charge to rescue Halloween, but Lumpy is a bigger wimp than Piglet so we get a flashback to a much better Halloween special, “Boo To You Too Winnie the Pooh” which is just crammed into the middle of the film, and in the end we learn the same lesson so why not just watch Boo To You Winnie the Pooh!!!  The other characters are made even dumber than usual, and Roo is suddenly the only one with half a brain. I hated this movie, and not surprisingly another never appeared. The only thing good about it is that this is the final time John Fiedler would provide the voice of Piglet, which he had done in everything prior.


#1. Cinderella II-Dreams Do Come True
Ironic that I hated this while loving the next. What makes this worse than Tarzan & Jane? With Tarzan & Jane the Saturday morning cartoon feel was intentional. That’s what it was, taking three cartoons and blending them into a DVD release. When this came out there was no Cinderella cartoon (unless this was a rejected idea which I am not sure of). This thing isn’t bad because it’s three stories. It’s bad because it’s three boring stories! The worst being the one about Jaq.  It’s some dumb thing about making him a person and the Fairy Godmother acts more like a sweet grandmother or something. This is just an insult to the characters from the first movie, which I did like. The first story is about Cinderella adjusting to her surroundings and is just flat out boring! I will admit, I kind of liked the third story. Not because it was good but because it fleshed out Anastasia’s character a bit so that she wasn’t just a whiny bitch. While the character development is nice the story is as flat as the rest of the film. This feels like it was made for very small children to entertain them before bedtime, which would be fine except I know that wasn’t the intention. It’s boring, it as a weak as heck story structure, and insults many of the characters.



Finally, since this was not a sequel I could not include it on the list. But I had to mention Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeer. I found this movie so boring I fell asleep while watching it, and that’s all I am going to say about it.

As I said I am sure there are worst out there, but I didn’t see Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame 2, or any of the others. Peter Pan 2 was a theatrical release and, I kind of liked it. Not enough to make this list but it was decent.
Thankfully, not that I am not married anymore I hope that I never have to. Also happy that the studio which turned these out went out of business.  It could have been worst, at least Dumbo II never saw the light of day.

November 3, 2012

Five Memorable Movie Villain Cop Out's

Five Memorable mobie villain cop out's

when villains have no reason not to kill the hero, but don't!

Sometimes a scirpt writer will create a situation so impossible to get the hero out of, they need to resort to making the villain a moron in order to get to the resolution. Sometimes this is done by having the villain yammer on until there is time so solve the problem. Then there are times when the villain has every chance in the world to be victorious, but inexpliably blows it. I was watching Hocus Pocus for Halloween, and even though Bette Midler's character Winnie could literally suck the life out of any child, and there is a packet of them coming which her sisters remind me of, she says no! She wants the main character because she was mean to her. So basically the only reason the sisters were defeated was because Winnie decided that ensuring her immortality wasn't as important as getting revenge on one child, who she could kill any time later? This started me wondering about other times that the solution required is for the villain to be either careless or be made so dumb it's almost out of character.


The Muppets-Yeah, I'm going there! Let's be honest this was one of the biggest villain cop outs ever. The villain, Tex Richman, wants the Muppets off the property so he can drill for oil. We'll forget how dumb and cliche that is for a second to discuss the ending. The Muppets hold a telethon but after trying real hard just come up short. Then we get the speech by Kermit about how they will always be family even if they are losing the theatre. Then, in a second over the credits, it's all undone when Gonzo's bowling ball hits Richman causing a personality change. He gives the Muppets the theatre back in a happy ending so crammed in that it hurts! Forgetting that head injuries don't work that way, I just can't buy that this guy would just change his mind so quickly. I never understood why the ending was so rushed, would another five minutes to develop the climax have really hurt the film? Ok, I am done now.


Superman-The original Superman movie was an epic classic, but it did have its problems. Have you ever noticed that the solution to the problem comes down to dumb luck? The scenario is that Lex Luthor has sent two missles flying to LA and New Jersey, the one to New Jersey just a decoy its the one to LA that is meant to do the real damage. Superman has been lured to Luthor's lair, tied up with kryptonite, and thrown into a pool to die. All seems lost, except for one lucky thing. Luthor's aid, Ms.Teschmacher, has family in New Jersey. So, rather than see them killed she helps Superman who recovers (a little to fast) and saves the day. Man, wasn't it lucky for everyone that she happened to come from the same exact place Luthor's missle was headed?


Indepencen Day-This one is obvious I think. Aliens come to Earth and wipe out New York, Los Angeles, and Washington. They have shields and weapons which make our defenses look pathetic and it looks like they are well on their way to exterminating us. The solution? Fly one of their old vessels into the mother ship and upload a virus into their system. The questions are numerous. Wouldn't the aliens know the vessel is a little old? How can the laptop David is using actually connect with the alien technology? How come the alien technology couldn't detect this threat, and why doesn't it respond to it? It's the technological equivalent of someone coming up to you and saying he's going to punch you in the face! Why does the virus affect their systems exactly the same way it affects ours (we can't catch animal virus's and vice versa). How come the laser weapon the alien ships have can decimate buildings but not one airplace flying right in the laser! The funny thing is that despite these plot holes, the virus works and Earth is saved. Amazing.


Wizard of OZ-Here's another one that leaves me confused.The Wicked Witch wants the ruby slippers that Dorothy is wearing, but the only way to  get them is for Dorothy to die. After a couple botched ploys she sends out her flying monkeys to get Dorothy (and Toto, for some reason). This works and Dorothy is captured. Does the wicked witch kill her and be done with it? Of course not! Instead she comes up with this hour glass and tells Dorothy she has until the sand runs out to live. Why exactly? To give the others a chance to rescue her? This isn't made clear, and of course Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow manage to save her. By the way, if water kills the witch why was a bucket of it just casually lying around her castle?


Lion King-This one was one of may all time favorites. We all know the story, after Scar kills Mufasa he convinces Simba it was his fault. Simba races off while Scar takes over the pride lands. Fast foward to the end and Nala has convinced Simba to go home and reclaim his land. Scar brings up the fact Simba killed Mufasa, and the guilt comes back and makes him vulnerable. Scar then pounces, and after a struggle has Simba dangling ove a cliff. Does he finish him off? No, Scar informs him that it was he, not Simba, who killed Mufasa. Stupid! This news enrages Simba, who suddenly is filled with anger. Simba wins, all because Scar opened his mouth one to many times.



and finally, just how did a group of teddy bears meanage to defeat the entire empire in Return of the Jedi anyway?

November 1, 2012

Five Funny Sitcom Episodes which are Depressing Today

Five Good sitcom episodes which are depressing today

It’s funny how time can change our perceptions about things whether they be movies or TV. When a little time goes by a great joke could suddenly seem downright offensive, and a story which seemed harmless suddenly becomes depressing. For example there is a Seinfeld episode where Elaine is coming up with new names for her boyfriend who has the same name as a serial killer. One of the names she suggests is O.J., of course referring to O.J. Simpson. Just a year later what seemed like a harmless throw away joke suddenly takes on a new life, after the horrible events involving his ex-wife and her boyfriend.

Today I wanted to discuss five episodes which seems harmless at the time, but viewed now takes a different feel completely.

Silver Spoons, “Head Over Heals”
The fourth season opened with this episode involving Dexter falling for the special guest star of the week. Who was that guest star? Whitney Houston who appeared as herself. Watching this episode now, and seeing her before the drug abuse which would affect her in the later years, was sad enough. However after her tragic death the episode is even sadder. Whitney Houston was a great talent who lost herself to drugs, and this episode gives a reminder of those days before all of that.

Newsradio, “Halloween”
I am sure this seemed harmless enough at the time. This was, obviously, a Halloween episode and part of the plot involved Bill getting a psychic reading. Bill was of course played by Phil Hartman. The psychic tells him he is going to die in forty years or so, giving an exact date. Bill of course obsessed about his untimely demise. Do I really need to explain why this is so sad now? It wasn’t two years later when Phil Hartman was killed by his wife in one of the most senseless tragedies ever. It’s hard to watch this episode today and not be reminded of that horrible event.

Seinfeld, “The Invitations”
When this episode first came out people were appalled that George’s fiancée was going to get killed off. It seemed dark, even for a Seinfeld episode. The one thing that didn’t bother anyone was how they killed Susan off, by having her lick toxic envelopes. Then the anthrax scare came along in 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. All of a suddenly the idea of someone getting sick, or worst, from opening and envelope seemed all too real. This episode was pulled from re-runs for a while but has found its way back since then.

The Golden Girls, “Sophia’s Choice”

The majority of this episode is ok, but then comes the last scene. The scene has the four girls discussing what will happen as they get older and get sick. They all decide to be there for each other, almost as an extra insurance policy. This a great scene really showing their friendship. It’s also depressing now, especially when Rose asks the question “But what happens when there’s only one of us left?” The fact that Betty White says the line is eerie, and this scene just takes on a very different tone today. Even the punch line that follows the line is sad. Sophia responds, “Don’t worry I’ll be fine” Sure that’s a great Sophia line, but knowing Estelle Getty was the first to pass away makes it depressing.

Friends, “The One with the Ultimate Fighting Championship”
This one is a little different because it is not just one episode. If you watch the third season, especially toward the end, you notice Chandler getting thinner and thinner. By the final episode of the season he looks downright horrible. Turns out there is a reason for this, Matthew Perry had gotten addicted to pain killers. This caused the drastic weight change and he ended up doing a 28 day program for vicodin addiction. This episode may be the hardest to watch because he gets a story line and is featured prominently. He just looks sick and his clothes hardly fit him, you knew there was something wrong.

At least he recovered, there are examples of other shows where the stars are sick and it becomes very clear. Examples include Dolph Sweet on “Gimmee A Break” and Nicholas Colosanto on “Cheers” who both looked very taut and thin in their final appearances. Peter Boyle was clearly not well that last year or two of “Everybody Loves Raymond”. I give the actors credit for going on despite their illness but it is hard to watch those episodes knowing that were ill and, tragically, passed away soon after.


I am sure there are other examples out there in TV and movies, and maybe I will come back with some more. If you know of any I missed please feel free to share.