Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Return of a Classic

I just got done reading issue #1 of the brand new Muppet Show comic book. It would have been cool enough to just bring back the Muppet characters in comic book form, but this new series from BOOM! Studios is based on the original Muppet Show format. As you can tell from the cover here, the whole gang is back and at home in their Muppet Theatre from the original television variety show. Inside, the comic book features a storyline of backstage hi-jinks as well as numerous skits and "acts" and even a "musical number." Even Statler and Waldorf are among the pages heckling the comic book! It's all done in great fun and with a real respect for the 70's TV show that started it all.

Issue #1 just hit comic book stores last week, I had no trouble at all finding it. BOOM! Studios is also starting a second Muppets comic book line, "Muppet Robin Hood" which will tell the tale of Sherwood Forest casting the Kermit and Co. in the various roles. BOOM! also plans on releasing new comic book series based on several Disney/Pixar films. In the near future you'll be able to find new books featuring friends from Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars and Wall-E. A preview copy of Cars will be available Saturday, May 2 at Free Comic Book Day, an event held at comic book stores nationwide.

I always enjoy seeing the Muppets in action, I'm also a big fan of non-fighting comic books, so it looks like there's lots of good stuff on the horizon from the folks at BOOM! Studios.

Boom! Studios
Free Comic Book Day

Monday, March 30, 2009

More Snoopy From The Vault

In a few weeks we'll be treated to more goodies from the Peanuts television specials library. Set to release April 7, is Snoopy's Reunion a 1991 special that isn't quite up to par with the majority of the cartoons Charles Schultz worked on. First of all, it's one of only two Peanuts specials to not include Charlie Brown's name in the title. Second, this animated special drops the sophisticated dialogue found in previous shows and concentrates on the cuteness factor. Snoopy returns to the puppy mill where he was adopted from and is reunited with his sister and brothers. Kids are sure to enjoy it...I know mine will as they love anything filled with puppies.

But I did say this DVD is a treat...also included on this disc one of my favorite Peanuts specials: the 1984 time capsule It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown. For those of you who don't remember (or know what I'm talking about) a few years after the very sexual film Flashdance was a hit at the box office, CBS aired this Charlie Brown and Snoopy take on the box office hit. It's totally dated, and kind of stands out from all the other Charlie Brown cartoons, but it's a good one! There's some really good songs in it. (In fact, somewhere around here I have the soundtrack on cassette tape!) There's even a breakdancing scene which of course features Franklin - the only black member of the Peanuts gang. When Snoopy takes the spotlight and performs a dance similar to the one in Flashdance, the film makers even went to the trouble of hiring and filming Marine Jahan, the dance double for Jennifer Beals, to use as reference footage while animating Snoopy. Flashbeagle is certainly an odd and off-beat choice to release so early on in the roll out of Peanuts titles, but I'll be glad to replace my beat up ol' VHS copy with a shinny new DVD.

I also found out that come July 7, Warner Bros. is putting out Peanuts 1960's Collection. This will be a 2-disc set that serves up the first six of the Charlie Brown specials, which happen to span the years 1965 - 1969. The shows included in this set are:

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • Charlie' Brown's All-Stars
  • It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
  • You're In Love, Charlie Brown
  • He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown
  • It Was A Short Summer, Charlie Brown.

The first four of these cartoons have been released to DVD before, although they will feature better picture and sound than their initial digital releases. The last two listed are new to DVD, and two of the titles from the whole Peanuts library that I've been most looking forward to seeing again. Hopefully, the price of this set won't be too high to justify rebuying four of the shows.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

Here's the trailer for the long awaited big screen version of the classic kids book Where The Wild Things Are. It looks like it's going to be a thoughtful adaptation instead of a pop culture reference filled poop joke fest like most other kids movies these days. The beasts were done by The Jim Henson Creature Shop.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My 15 Favorite Chain Restaurants

If you're visiting a friend in another city and he or she takes you out for a night on the town, of course you're going to want to sample a little bit of the local culture and flavor. If you find yourself in New Orleans for the weekend, you don't want to eat at an Applebees, you want to get some good ol' Creole cooking. And if you're vacationing in Maine, you'd probably rather have fresh lobster than a Filet-O-Fish! But you know what, sometimes some of the standbys are good. Sometimes you're in the mood for some eats that your familiar with. And hey...restaurants become chains because at some point in their history they were making some pretty good food that people wanted to eat! I love trying new foods and new places to eat, but I'm not snobby about a chain restaurant. In fact, there's a handful of them that I really like. The other day while I was chowing down at a Waffle House, I got to thinking about which chain was really my favorite. So, of course, I grabbed a pen and paper and jotted down my list of favorite multi-location eateries. I even threw in some fun facts into my list this time:

15) Cheeseburger In Paradise (founded in 2002, 38 locations in 17 states) is a partnership between Outback Steakhouse and Jimmy Buffet. We had one near us for a year and a half and then it just closed it's doors without any warning. We miss our Cheeseburger In Paradise! We loved the beachy atmosphere and the island inspired foods they serve. They have some of the best sliders in the biz, and they make a mean Cheeseburger in Paradise - served up just the way it's described in the classic song. After our local one closed, the next closest location is a little over an hour away but we're thinking about making a trip out there real soon!

14) Checker's (started in 1986, 815 locations in 28 states) I've gotten food poisoning from Checker's three times...you'd think I would have learned my lesson after the second time but you just can't separate me from Banana flavored milkshakes! They also make some really good greasy burgers and they have a few interesting odd items on their menu. You can't go wrong with a chain that has a sandwich called The Big Bufford. Plus, I'm a sucker for drive-in's.

13) Five Guys (also started in 1986, 300 East Coast locations and moving west) Fantastic burgers and well done french fries. I like this place's no-nonsense, straight forward approach. There's not alot of things on the menu, everything is fresh, and they've even added the nice touch of free peanuts while you wait. Well played Five Guys, well played!

12) Chick-fil-A (dates back to 1946, now has 700+ shops) I discovered Chick-fil-A late in life. There has been one in my hometown mall for at least 15, if not 20 years but I had never eaten there until maybe 8 or 9 years ago. Sometimes simple is better, as is the case here. Their chicken sandwich is a good piece of breaded chicken with nothing on it except a slice of pickle and a nice buttery bun. They have good waffle fries too. And they use chunk meat in their nuggets instead of the mystery meat in most other fast food places nuggets. Get some nuggets with Polynesian dipping sauce...that's tasty right there!

11) McDonald's (founded in 1940, worldwide they serve 58 million customers daily) For some of us, McDonald's is like crack. We know it's bad for us, but sometimes we just gotta have a fix. In my opinion, hands down the best fast food fries by a longshot! The Big Mac is an American classic for a reason...it's a perfect tasting sandwich. Plus, Mickey D's invented the Happy Meal - one of life's little pleasures.

10) Cheeburger, Cheeburger (started in 1986, 64 locations) First of all, how bad can you be if you name your place after a Saturday Night Live sketch!? The place is all about burgers, and they have some mighty big ones here. You can dress them up a hundred different ways, but I always like mine with just a dash of ketchup and mustard. They have a one-pound burger, if you eat they make a big deal, take your picture and put it on the Wall of Fame. I've never tried it because I've always found "big food items" to be kinda gross. They also have a huge milk shake menu which was totally awesome until they took the Peanut Butter and Jelly shake off. Like many other places on my list, Cheeburger recreates the feel of a 50's diner. Fun is important while you're slowly killing yourself.

9) Cracker Barrel (serving good people since 1969, they now have 581 kitchens in 41 states) Folks, Cracker Barrel is good eats. They've got a nice home cooked menu waiting for ya. I almost always get the Cracker Barrel Sampler which is a small slice of their fantastic meatloaf (only place I ever order meatloaf,) sugar cured ham, and chicken and dumplings. Mmmmm...that's good. You get three sides with your meal, and they have plenty of sides to choose from. Any place that serves up steak fries and baked apples is ok in my book. For dessert, they have a glass mug sundae topped with molasses that is out of this world. After your meal, you can shop in their country store. Some other chains try to incorporate retail into their experience, but the Cracker Barrel store is the best. I could easily spend $200 on their DVD racks, and picking up some pure cane sugar Candy Canes is a must!

8) Fuddruckers (started in 1980, 260 stores worldwide) Quite possibly my favorite of the chain burgers, I've always loved the way Fuddruckers does burgers. They have many different sizes and they have a really good topping bar. Even though I usually like my burgers with just ketchup and mustard, sometimes I'll top off my Fudd Burger with their fresh tasty toppings. They have really good fries, which you can get hot cheese sauce for at no additional charge, and I always throw in a order of baked beans too! Yummers!

7) Denny's (founded in 1953, now with 2,500 world wide locations) Denny's gets a bad rap from alot of people, but to me it's all good eats! Four words: Moons Over My Hammy! Good sandwiches, decent burgers, really good buffalo chicken strips and the best fountain soda in town! If it's late at night, and you've got an hour to kill waiting for your food - Denny's is always a good friend to have around.

6) Long John Silvers (been around since 1969, 1,200 shops across the globe) Mmmm...fish and chips! Ohhhh....hush puppies. Any fast food chain that serves up hush puppies can't be all that bad. Add in some chicken planks and clam strips...and you're good to go!

5) Steak n' Shake (dating back to 1934, only 502 U.S. locations) Yet another faux 50's dinner on my list. Good Eats! Chill Mac is one of life's great pleasures! Steak n' Shake serves up several different versions of this great dish. Their Steakburgers are fantastic and I'm always a fan of a joint with multiple side dishes. What meal isn't ten times better when paired with a baked bean crock?

4) Nathan's Famous (first opened in New York's Coney Island in 1916, there are now over 20,000 locations) You haven't had a hot dog until you've had a Nathan's hot dog. First, there's the snap when you bite into one. It's a sign that you're not just eating a regular ol' hot dog. Second, it's the taste inside. It tastes like real meat...not just a bland mixture of left over pig parts, it tastes like honest to goodness tasty meat. And Nathan's grills them just right! Oh, it's heaven I tell ya! Nathan's also serves up some good fries which are of the crinkle cut variety and they are served in a little container with a red fork. Usually, I'm a dip in the fry in the ketchup kind of guy, but at Nathan's I pour the ketchup all over the fries and use my trusty red fork to scoop up all the goodness.

3) Hooters (celebrating tacky since 1983, there are 435 Hooters restaurants in the United States) The people that say "Oh, you just go to Hooters to look at the girls" are the same idiots who give guys a hardtime about reading Playboy. "Sure you're reading it for the articles!" Well you know what, if you want to oogle woman there are much better places to do it than Hooters and Playboy! Hooters is all about the wings. In my opinion, the best darn wings money can buy. I love buffalo wings, I get them all the time and different places. But Hooters wings are on a whole different playing field. They are like candy! They are crunchy, sweet and ever so tasty. They come in a handful of different flavors but I like `em Hot. Their hot sauce is not too spicy that it burns out your taste buds, but it still gives you a little heat. Hooters also has some good fries that pair nice with their wings. They have curley fries and they are a must with an order of wings. I usually wash it all down with a big ol' glass of lemonade. Oh yeah...and the girls there are pretty hot too!

2) Waffle House (an American institution since 1955, 1,500 houses over 25 states) Good Eats! Just about everything here is cooked on a tiny little grill in an open kitchen. Everything I've ever had at Waffle House is incredible! They have fantastic quick burgers, great breakfast options, and they've got some hash browns that you can get covered with chili, ham, jalapenos and a handful of other options that are all just great! A nice cozy, friendly atmosphere - Waffle House may be scary on the outside but welcoming on the inside.

1) Sonic (founded in 1945, 3,400 drive-ins in 34 states) If we've learned one thing from this list it's that I have a thing for places that try to replicate the feel of the 1950's. Which is strange because I don't really have any connection to the 50's. But Sonic has always had a hold on me!

Sonic had always been a mysterious treat that I would see from the road on various trips, but never had the chance to stop there often. A few years ago they built one about an hour away from where I live, making it the closest location for about 400 miles. Then, last October, a new construction project in town began to take the shape of a Sonic. I was thrilled when my dreams were confirmed when a "Sonic Coming Soon" sign was hung on the new building.

#1 Favorite meal at Sonic: Foot-Long Chili Cheese Coney Dog with tater tots and a large Blue Ocean Water. Sonic's drink menu is crazy, offering tons of different drinks and drink combos. The Blue Ocean Water tastes like you're at the beach! It's good! Their menu also has some other great things like a Chili Cheese Frito Wrap, and patty melts that are easily the best burger fast food has to offer.

For those of you who have never been to a Sonic, it's a drive-in...not a typical restaurant. They do have a traditional drive-thru or you can pull your car up to one of many stalls and place your order through a speaker. A car hop (sometimes on roller skates) will bring your food out to your car and you can sit in your vehicle and eat. There are also a small number of tables and chairs, but they are outside. Our Sonic opened in late October, I was able to squeeze in two outdoor dining visits in chilly weather but I'm really looking forward to sitting out and enjoying the summer weather and chowing down on some good ol' Sonic.
What's some of your favorites?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Week In Movies - Eyes, Nose, & Head of State

Pinocchio (1940) I love just about all of Walt Disney's animated features - past and present - but Pinocchio ranks near the top of the list. It's always great fun to share these kind of movies with my children, it's like seeing it for the first time yourself. Elias and Tanner were completely taken by all the action, singing and dancing, and magic. The new DVD is fantastic, the picture on this 70 year old movie is just as crisp and beautiful as anything made today.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2000) I was flipping channels and came across this documentary near the beginning and ended up watching the whole thing. It's the story of Tammy Faye Bakker (later Tammy Faye Resner) who first came into the public eye with her husband Jim, as Christian televangelists. What made me stop and watch was the abundance of old early 80's television clips from their old PTL Network. I kept watching the movie because Jim and Tammy opened up a theme park in South Carolina and I'll eat up anything about amusement parks. (I visited the park in 1988.) The story of Jim and Tammy and the PTL Network was also fascinating because behind the scenes of the teleminsitry was a story about greed and the fight for control over a satellite. Back in the early 80's, PTL was only the 4th cable network to have a satellite in space. It's all a pretty interesting story. It was on the Logo Network...but that don't make me gay or nothing!

W. (2008) Here's the problem with Oliver Stone's docudrama about our 43rd president: If you're a fan of George Bush than you won't want to watch this movie filled with little facts and stories that the Republican party spent good money to keep secret, if you weren't a fan of George W. than you won't be too interested in rehashing any of that chapter in American history. What's left is a fairly boring, uneven look into the younger years of the man who "broke the world!" This movie was also a refresher course in "Why I Don't Watch Dramas".

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fun at the Zoo

Saturday we went to the zoo, ZooAmerica in Hershey, PA to be exact. It's the zoo right next to Hersheypark that you get to walk through free when you visit Hersheypark. Unlike the theme park, the zoo is open year round and you can pay a few bucks to enter through the zoo's own entrance. Here's some pics we snapped:

The first building you visit on your tour of ZooAmerica is the Grassy Waters exhibit. It's a little frightening to find the barrier between you and a couple of American Alligators smashed and repaired with a cardboard box and some scotch tape. I can only imagine the window was damaged due to an angry alligator tail!

This is what my kids think of indoor animal exhibits.

This was pretty cool. This mammoth American Crocodile lives in a glass enclosure (right across from the crocodiles that tried to escape!) He was sitting right up against the glass and it was a pretty awesome experience being able to stand only inches away from this big guy. We even got a good look at his dental work.

My friend Andy and his son Silas got to help out with a live feeding demonstration.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Busch Gardens Commercial

I love how everything in the 80's was advertised the same way...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Taking A Walk

The Gettysburg National Military Park is filled with all sorts of little paths that wind through the hills and wooded terrain of the park. We usually visit two of the more popular spots: Big Round Top and Devil's Den, which the kids have named Rockland & Rockland 2. Today, we decided to try something different and explore Little Round Top. We parked the car and hiked up the side of a large hill to a spot that gave soldiers a good lookout for miles around. At the top of the hill, are a number of small statues and memorials. Anywho...we had a wonderful day outdoors with the kids. It's nice to know that even though they ask for video games and television all day, once you get them outside they forget about all that plug-in crap and have endless amounts of energy climbing on rocks and running all over the place. We snapped a bunch of pictures today but these three shots are extra special and I just wanted to share them here...

There's some more pictures from our day at our Flickr page which is also always accessible through the Magic Picture Frame in the sidebar column.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Week In Movies - Hey, It's Batman Daddy-O

Batman Returns (1992) My kids spent the better part of Saturday playing Batman figures with their Batcave they got for Christmas. Since I practically ignored them all day while I was cleaning up the house, I decided to spend some quality time in front of the TV with them after dinner and let them watch "a Batman movie with real people"...as my kids would call it. Elias was especially excited because this was his third PG-13 movie. That's my son! (He's also seen the new Indiana Jones and Revenge of the Sith.) Batman Returns has always been one of my more favorite Batman outings mostly because of the presence of Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays Catwoman. This film is actually a total mess. I have a long list of complaints about Super Hero movies, and Batman 2 is a case study for a number of my complaints. Super Hero movies never have enough of the title Super Hero in the actual movie. It always takes too long for the first appearance of the Super Hero. In this case the movie is called Batman Returns...we know Batman is in the movie, we know he's returning - so return him and lets get on with it! Every super hero movie, also, does not need to have backstories. We don't need to know anything about the Penguin or Catwoman except they are bad guys and they hate Batman. Do we really need to know that Catwoman became Catwoman because someone pushed her out a window and she came back to life because 50 stray cats licked her and scratched her?!? And why do they always feel the need to kill off the bad guy at the end of the movie. We all know that Batman is going to battle Penguin, Catwoman, Joker, Riddler, Mr. Freeze...all of them a million more times. You don't need to kill them! I also have another complaint about there never being enough Bank Robbing Robots in these movies, but I guess that's another argument for another time. Nonetheless, I don't need to tell you that my kids loved every second of this movie.

Swingers (1996) I had seen this independent film when it first came out on video 10+ years ago. I remember not thinking much of it, but gave it a second look late last night. Being 35 now, instead of 23-24, I appreciate and understand this movie alot more. There's not much of a story but there are quite a few well fleshed out characters that keep things interesting. I remember at the time this came out, it was considered pretty vulgar and edgy but it's all actually pretty low-key stuff. This, of course, was also the film that launched the career of Vince Vaughn. He's really good in it as well as Jon Favreau (who went on to direct Elf and Iron Man) and Ron Livingston (who later stared in another classic from this time, Office Space).

Friday, March 13, 2009

10 Favorite High School Movies

Not quite sure why...but I'm a big fan of movies that take place in high school (and college). Maybe it's a throw back to simpler times when there was less responsibility in life. While I didn't have a troubled youth, my high school days weren't exactly filled with fond memories. And oddly enough, I don't recall watching a whole lot of high school movies when I was actually in high school. The majority of the films released during my high school career were horror films or teen dramas...neither of which I had any interest in.

Here's my list of 10 Favorite High School Movies. For this list, I didn't just go with movies that I really like alot. Instead I tried to pick films that were not only fun and entertaining but also had a good high school vibe to them. (A great movie like Adventures in Babysitting is about high school aged kids but really has nothing to do with school.) And also let me explain up front that you won't find the three big John Hughes classics on my list. The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles are both fine films but I just don't have that connection with them that other folks my age have. Also, I've never seen Pretty in Pink which I know is a classic, and when you see some of the crap on my list - you'll wonder how something like Pretty In Pink has gone under my radar.

#10 Pump Up The Volume (1990) This is a little more angst filled than the rest of the list, but it's about a guy who starts a pirate radio station in his bedroom and plays underground music and talks about all the problems with his school. If I started a pirate radio station in high school I would have used it to play novelty records and do comedy sketches. Oh wait a minute...I was part of a pirate radio station in my high school years and we played bubble gum pop and tried to be like a morning zoo! Anywho...Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis are really good in this dark, but funny movie.

#9 National Lampoon's Senior Trip (1995) A group of misfit kids and their principal go on a field trip from their Ohio school to the White House to meet the president. Hilarity follows! Senior Trip doubles not only as a high school movie but also a "slob comedy" as they are called. I'm also a big fan of the slob comedy. Everytime I watch this movie I laugh really hard. It's just good natured fun and it makes you miss the days when you just got to hang out with friends all day for days on end. Not that these names mean anything to you but Matt Frewer and Valerie Mahaffey are awesome in this movies, as is Tommy Chong as Red the bus driver. I'm proud to say that my seven bucks were among the tiny three and half million this movie grossed in theatres.

#8 Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) You probably won't be surprised to hear that when I was younger I wasn't all that interested in watching any movie that was remotely serious. A friend of mine had watched this with his younger sister and said it was really good. I was pretty sure he was gay for liking a movie that didn't have explosions, burping, puppets, or half naked girls. Still, he lent me the tape and I watched it and was blown away by how good this semi-serious movie. At the time, it was probably the only movie I'd seen that had an actual story. It's a love triangle about a guy who wants to get with the most popular girl in school but his best friend who happens to be a girl is in love with him. It's got a great performance by Lea Thompson and a very early screen role for a one Mrs. Candice Cameron of Full House fame.

#7 Better Off Dead (1985) This is one funny movie! John Cusack (in his best role EVER) gets dumped by his girlfriend. He figures life isn't worth living without her and decides to end it all. It's not a grim as it sounds, it's actually one of the funniest pictures I've ever seen. It didn't make a splash at the box office but it's picked up quite a following on cable and video over the years. Seriously, if you like good comedy and haven't seen this gem - go find it and watch it!

#6 She's All That (1999) When it comes to high school movies one of the best plots you can have is "the bet". The bet always consists of the upper class of the school social ladder making a bet that will somehow embarrass or humiliate someone in the lower class of the school. Sometimes they try to transform a nerd into a super cool student, other times there are wagers made on virginity statuses. Either way, it's always fun for everyone involved. Here, Freddy Prince Jr. bets his friends that he can score with the one girl in school that won't pay an ounce of interest in him. You know how the whole thing turns out, but it's fun watching!

#5 Three O'Clock High (1987) This is a really good (kind of obscure) movie. In it, we follow a student through his daily routine of high school. However, on this particular day, things go wrong when he accidentally upsets the school bully and ends up having to face him off in a fight - after school - at 3 o'clock. Besides being a very creative and entertaining film, it really captures the word of mouth buildup and excitement of the high school community when it's possible there is going to be a fight after school. Really, really good movie...again, go check it out!

#4 Can't Hardly Wait (1998) When this comedy came out, teen films had been kind of dead for along time. This movie has several different storylines all centered around one crazy party. It's alot of fun, and makes ya miss a really good kick-arse party!

#3 Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) Classic! Just a slice of life film about a group of kids hanging out in California in the early `80's. Lots of good music and memorable performances from Sean Penn, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ray Walston, and good ol' Kelly Maroney.

#2 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) This is pretty much like She's All That only I like the cast a little better.

#1 Clueless (1995) From the same writer as Fast Times, this movie captures the spirit of the mid-90's high school experience. I love the colors in this movie and the pace and it's just a great movie filled with quotable lines, memorable scenes, and a great sense of humor. A classic, in my book, that I could watch again and again!
Any favorites of yours I didn't mention...?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mermaid Memories

I was thrilled that somebody finally posted this commercial on YouTube. It's from December 1989:

When the Disney/MGM Studios Theme Park (now called Disney's Hollywood Studios) opened up in the Spring of 1989, one of the original attractions was a tour through an actual honest-to-goodness animation studio. Disney had opened up a Florida branch of their feature animation studio and after watching a brief film guests were able to walk through the studio and watch real people at work on real projects. Nowadays the attraction is a sad shell of it's former self as Disney closed up the actual studio years ago.

But, on my first visit that opening year I can very vividly remember standing there in the studio and watching a guy edit black and white pencil sketches of a rough draft of this Little Mermaid Happy Meal commercial. As a young film nerd, just getting to watch the actual process was a thrill and as a young Disney nerd I was already aware of how grand The Little Mermaid was to be to the animation world.

Everytime I visit the Animation attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios, I think about the time 15 year old me stood there for the better part of an hour and watched the 30 second piece of film come together. I've searched for it on YouTube several times and was glad to have found it just recently.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sesame Street Forest of Fun

I have a feeling we're not going to be seeing too many new attractions at area theme parks this summer. Busch Gardens Williamsburg is not just adding a new ride but a whole new section to the park that I'm looking forward to letting my kids experience. Sesame Street Forest of Fun will bring Jim Henson's Sesame Street Muppets to life in a whole new way. The new section of the park is scheduled to open next month and will include four new kiddie rides, a playground and a new film. The film is called "Lights, Camera, Imagination" and is presented in 4-D. If you've never seen a 4-D movie, you wear the glasses and it looks like things are coming at ya but the theatre itself is also filled with tricks, gadgets and sensory experiences that add to the film. I'm really looking forward to seeing this movie as the Sesame Street people still put out some funny stuff and you've got to figure that this production has some of the same people involved that made the ultra-fantastic Muppet Vision 4-D film in Walt Disney World. I'm telling ya, if Cookie Monster throws cookies at the audience...it's going to be worth the price of admission alone! (The movie has already premiered at Sea World in California, but I haven't seen it.)

Forest of Fun will also include rides which, from the looks of artists renderings, will be elaborately themed with the characters of Sesame Street. There will be a log flume ride and a family roller coaster plus a mini-Freefall and a Rock-n-Tug ride. Of course there will be a gift shop where you can stock up on all sorts of Sesame Street goodies. A spot where you can get pictures with the gang from the Street will also be included. Busch Gardens is also putting together an experience where kids and grown up can have breakfast or lunch with Elmo and friends.

If you're saying to yourself, Isn't there already a Sesame Street amusement park in Pennsylvania somewhere? The answer is yes, however Sesame Place in Langhorn, PA is more of a water park than a traditional theme park although they have started to add some mechanical rides in the last couple of years. It should be interesting to see how Busch Gardens can run with the Sesame Street theme starting from scratch.

Sesame Street Forest of Fun at Busch Gardens Fact Sheet


Monday, March 09, 2009

My Week In Moives - Gremlins Is Still Fantastic

Gremlins (1984) is easily one of my absolute favorite movies of all time. I was so excited to see it when it first came out. I saw it then at 11 years of age and loved it and still to this day love this movie. My kids have been wanting to watch it, but I've been a little reluctant to play it for them for fear of inducing nightmares. The snowday earlier in the week gave us not only the excuse the lay around and watch a movie, but to also play it in the day as far away from bedtime as possible. They got a few jumps out of it, and Elias was delighted with some of the grossness. You could tell he got a little naughty rush when the Gremlin explodes in the microwave. Overall, they really enjoyed it and so did I for the 467th time. It's been at least 4 or 5 years since I've seen it last. Gremlins really is a fantastic movie that really holds up well. The story is tight, the scares are innocent but effective and the production has a timeless feel to it. Besides some of the musical score, there is nothing in the film that really dates it. If you're not obsessed with this movie (like I am) it's worth checking out again. I know G4 has been running it alot lately.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008) I really wanted to see this in the theatre, but missed it. It was pretty good. It's one of those "up all night, running around the city getting into crazy adventures" kind of movies...sort of like Adventures in Babysitting, but not in the same league. Instead of focusing on the "adventures" there's a romance at the heart of this story. The love story was kind of tired but there were enough good one liners and some wacky minor characters to make this worth watching. Kat Dennings plays Norah - she's really good, she was also in The House Bunny. But this Michael Cera kid who plays Nick here but we all know him from Superbad and Juno, this kid is a one trick pony. I don't think he's all that funny he's just been in some funny movies. He plays "put upon" real well, and he uses quite a bit here...it's effective but I'm on to him! I don't think he'll be around much longer!

Sex Drive (2008) I'm such a deep movie goer, aren't I?! Here, I guy and his buddy drive half way across the county so he can score with a girl he met online. That pretty much sums it up. Along the way there's plenty of wacky misadventures, more outlandish and cliche' than Nick & Norah's. They steal a car, hang out with some Amish folk, end up in jail and learn a little something about themselves along the way! Awww! Not a terribly funny movie, but it's pretty quickly paced and there are a few laugh out loud moments including a really well done scene near the end of the picture that makes you realize how flat the first 80-or so minutes were. The DVD has an unrated version, which I couldn't tell what was too racy to make it into an R-rated cut, except maybe for a scene involving a well endowed Mexican talking donut.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Movie We've All Been Waiting For

I think everyone has been involved in a conversation where somebody states their desire to see a movie based on the classic board game Monopoly. Well, the wait is almost over as plans have been announced to produce a feature film based on the decades old Parker Bros. game. There aren't many details about the film yet except that it's being directed by Ridley Scott (Alien) and it's set for a 2011 release date. There's so much that they can get wrong here...and being Hollywood - they probably will.

  • First, this needs to be a comedy. Basing a movie on a real estate game is a silly idea so you might as well make the movie silly. Plus, it will be easier to incorporate more of the game into a comedy movie. They are talking about incorporating the real life real estate situation into the movie...nobody wants to see that!
  • Milburn Pennybags (the Monopoly guy) has to be a main character. He doesn't have to be the central character but he should play a major role in the film. He should be played by an old guy with a big white moustache and he should always be dressed in a tux, unless there is a scene at his his mansion at night in which case he should have pajamas with dollar signs all over them.
  • Real Monopoly money should be used in the movie. The money is the backbone of the game, we want to see big colorful bills being used on the silver screen.
  • There should be a strip joint in the movie called "Community Chest"
  • There should be a good fight scene that takes place on Baltic Ave.
  • The thimble and the dog must somehow be worked into the story.
  • I suppose a tie-in with McDonald's is inevitable.

But wait...there's more! Monopoly isn't the only movie in the works based on something from the game isle at the toy store. They are also working on a big-budget cinematic version of CandyLand! And if that ain't enough for ya, will you line up to see the movie of Battleship? Two big name actors yelling out "C-9" and "G-2" for two and a half hours, it's coming. There is also a movie based on the Ouija board coming out. And if you think that's stretching it, as we speak Hollywood is in production of a Stretch Armstrong movie. Wow!

I guess when Transformers 2 and G.I. Joe makes millions of dollars at the box office this summer, film makers will be combing the isles of Toys R Us again for the next big summer blockbuster.

Speaking of Monopoly, check out my visit to the world's largest Monopoly board.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

My Week In Movies - Ah, Cheerleaders!

It figures I finally start doing "My Week in Movies" and then I only see one movie in the second week but what a film it was!

Fired Up! (2009) Bob howdy, I love movies about cheerleaders! They are almost always silly and the short skirts don't hurt either. Fired Up! is what they call a "high concept" picture. Two high school football players get the wacky idea to skip football camp and spend two weeks at cheerleader camp with 300 girls. They go from scoring on the field...to scoring with the girls! Get it!? Yes, the boys are only at cheerleader camp to get close with the girls and hook up with them. Most people going to see this movie are probably expecting a raunchy sex romp a la' American Pie, but Fired Up! is actually pretty tame in the steam department. The boys talk about hooking up with girls and all we ever see is some making out. There's very little sex talk and just about no nudity...ok, there's a couple of male butts!

When you're doing a picture like this, ya gotta have laughs. As far as storylines go, we've seen all this a million times. The boys trick the girls to get into cheerleader camp, then they find out they are really part of the team and they want to help the girls win the big cheerleading competition at the end. Fired Up! sets itself apart from the recent crowd with a very script. The idea of guys trying to land chicks at a cheerleader camp is not the joke here. Nor are there a bunch of wacky practical jokes here that are supposed to make us laugh. There's a good script with lots of funny one liners and odd characters that add more laughter to the proceedings. I found myself laughing out loud and hard at several occasions. When you go to see a movie like this, you're not expecting Shakespeare but you should be expecting to laugh. If you allow yourself to be won over, Fired Up! delivers. You could say it will cheer you up. Cheer...get it!?
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