Friday, February 25, 2011

My Week In Movies - The Mule Still Talks

Just Go With It (2011) About 10 minutes into Adam Sandler's new romantic comedy you realize that he's not going to end up with the girl you're supposed to think he's going to end up with because it's not Jennifer Aniston, and Jennifer Aniston is a much bigger star than the other girl. The other girl in question is played by swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker. Her and Adam Sandler's doctor character meet and fall in love, but after a serious of wacky mishaps that only happen in the movies, Sandler talks his assistant, Jennifer Aniston, and her family to pretend they are his ex-wife and kids to impress his new younger girlfriend. Of course, while all this is going on I'm thinking how in movies a relationship built on lies is all going to backfire in the end, we've seen it all a million times. I'm happy to report that Just Go With It wisely skips the majority of the predictable ending they set up and stick mostly to playing the film just for laughs. All I ever ask from a comedy is to be funny and keep being funny, and this fluffy romantic slapstick delivers. Jennifer Aniston is great and even outshines Sandler in the comedy department. Brooklyn Decker sizzles on the screen and proves to be a much more competent actor than anyone would give a swimsuit model credit for. Comedian Nick Swardson is hilarious as Sandler's brother who gets mixed up in the whole affair and pretends to be Aniston's new boyfriend Dolph Lundgren. I also gotta give Nicole Kidman props for hamming it up in a small supporting role. Good times at the theatre. Rated PG-13, for commercial purposes. There is almost nothing offensive in this lighthearted film, except for a few minor curse words and a moment or two of sexuality. It might have been rated PG-13 just because Brooklyn Decker is so scorching hot!?

You Again (2010) Oh boy, was this a bad movie! Kristen Bell returns home for the wedding of her older brother only to find out he's marrying her high school nemesis. As it turns out, the fiance's aunt is Bell's mother's high school nemesis. Then all wacky holy heck breaks loose! The cast is impressive, with Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver and Betty White, but the script is so flat and silly and once again with the "isn't this funny" musical score. Half of this movie is accompanied with wacky, mischievous music cranked up so loud...all the time trying to tell you - wait for it, wait for it, this is going to be funny! Even Betty White can't save this mess from making any sense. Just not a good movie. Rated PG, surprisingly not a single curse word is muttered nor is there any sex or off-color jokes.

Francis Covers The Big Town (1953) In the fourth instalment of the Francis the Talking Mule series, Francis and his buddy Peter end up in New York City where Peter gets a job at a newspaper. Francis gets all the dirt in town chatting to the police horses and passes the news onto Peter who quickly becomes the top reporter at the paper. This seems to be the perfect gig for Peter since he still hasn't learned to keep his mouth shut about his talking animal friend. Now all Peter how to do when questioned about the whereabouts of his information is simply remind everyone that a good report never divulges the source of his information. But trouble soon finds Peter and Francis once again and it's all more fun than you can shake a carrot at! There's three more Francis movies for me to see, but they aren't out on DVD so I'll have a harder time tracking them down. I've really been enjoying these films. Again, this one is not rated but does have some mild violence.

Bedtime For Bonzo (1951) President Ronald Regan stars in this
wacky comedy where he adopts a chimp, hires a young pretty housekeeper to help out and then tries to juggle his girlfriend and a monkey throwing things around. This is exactly like a good ol' fashioned Disney comedy (which it's not) and Bonzo provides plenty of laughs and charm to carry the picture. But the added bonus of having Ronald Regan on board, who didn't usually play roles like this and knowing that he would be president of the most powerful nation in the all makes the movie more fun. Supposedly, this was Regan's least favorite film that he was in - but it also happens to be his most widely remembered role. None of the cast of this picture signed on for a sequel - Bonzo Goes To College - which is not on DVD and that's a crying shame because it would be next on my Netflix queue. Not rated.

Scooby-Doo: Curse of the Lake Monster (2010) Why is it that these direct-to-DVD prequels are better than the two theatrical films. This fourth live action Scooby Doo mystery is every bit as faithful and true to the original cartoon is a cartoon-to-live action film should be. A simple story involving the Mystery Inc. gang getting summer jobs at a country club and helping to solve the mystery of a legendary monster nearby. There are a few supporting roles played by some familiar faces from classic TV and there are a couple of nice hidden references to Hanna-Barbera. The kids and I are definitely on board for a 5th go-round! Unrated, but basically a G. There is some very mild crude humor and some romantic undertones.

In The Navy (1941) After the success of their first staring vehicle, the Army themed Buck Privates, Abbott and Costello enlisted in the Navy for another service picture. This follow up features more of the same ingredients that made the first movie so much fun including The Andrew Sisters and plenty of Abbott and Costello's classic comedy routines. The DVD includes production notes which says that In The Navy went into production in mid-December 1940 and hit theatres by the end of January 1941. That's some turn around that modern day Hollywood could never touch. To top it off, the film was one of the highest grosses of 1941. Not rated - good old fashioned fun!

The Filthiest Show in Town (1973) Via Netflix, I thought I had discovered an unheard of sketch comedy film from the early 70's, instead what I discovered was that I had rented an early 70's soft core porno. The set up is a parody of The Dating Game, complete with commercials and obscenity trail. Besides being dull and boring, this film's biggest crime is that it just wasn't funny! Rated R for language, non-stop nudity, and graphic sexual situations.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Goofy For Disney Cruise Line

This is a piece of animation done to promote a new feature with the Disney Cruise Line check in process. It was done in the style of Goofy's "How To" cartoons from the 40's & 50's. Very brief, but Big Fun!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Smurfs Ahoy

It's been a little over a year since we last mentioned my all-time favorite amusement park ride, Smurf Mountain. You know, the super slow train ride though a mountain to visit the village of the Smurfs at Kings Dominion!? Well, as I'm sure we've mentioned before, Smurf Mountain had a sister ride at Kings Island in Ohio called Smurfs' Enchanted Voyage. It was basically the exact same ride except you traveled through the scenes in a boat. I was lucky enough to take a ride on the Smurfs boats back in 1988. Well, Smurfs Enchanted Voyage is no longer with us. It's joined the big mushroom in the sky along with Smurf Mountain and Smurf Island at Carowinds and Smurf Forest at Canada's Wonderland. Somebody recently posted a very smurfy video of a few minutes of the Ohio ride. It's awesome to see again...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Classic Commercial Sunday - #54

This used to be a real radio station that I was forced to listen to all the time in the car growing up...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Week In Movies - Tossed Salad For Everyone!

Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird (1985) This is one of those movies that when I tell people how good it is they automatically write it off because they think Sesame Street and they think counting and letters and it's all just for little kids. When in reality, this is a very funny - very fun - movie for the whole family that doesn't play down to children and can be totally enjoyable for adults as well. This was the first big screen outing for the Sesame Street gang and it's a perfect example of how to bring a small screen show to a feature film format. Big Bird moves away from his New York home on Sesame Street to live with an adoptive bird family in Ocean View, Il. Big Bird quickly learns that he's made a mistake and sneaks away in the middle of the night to walk home to Sesame Street. He figures it will take him about three hours, since it took two to fly there. When news of Big Bird's departure hits home, the Sesame Street gang splits up and sets out to find Big before mean Ms. Finch from the adoption agency does.

Unlike the second Sesame Street movie, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, Follow That Bird gives almost equal screen time to all the major characters. Oscar, Cookie Monster, Grover, The Count and Bert and Ernie all have big parts in this movie.

The Muppet-filled movie has two of my all time favorite jokes in a movie, one involving a tossed salad at Oscar's favorite restaurant, the Don't Drop Inn. As with all great Muppet movies there are plenty of cameos by human celebrities including Chevy Chase reprising his Weekend Update role which is pretty much worth the price of admission alone. I've seen this movie 200 times, it was nice watching it with children for once. My kids loved it, and our Friday night viewing sparked a weekend of listening to the soundtrack album in the car as well as a repeat screening on Sunday. I love when even a 5 and 7 year old can let their guard down and watch something silly and fun instead of super heroes and giant lizards. If you don't have a kids, but have a fondness for Muppets and/or your ol' pals from Sesame Street - get yourself a copy of this movie, pull down the shades and get ready for an incredibly entertaining 90 minutes. If you have kids and they haven't seen this yet, do everyone a favor and watch it. Good times!

Of course, this epic is Rated G and contains nothing offensive or off-color. Over-sensitive parents of over-sensitive kids should know that there are some bad guys who are played for laughs but they do say things like "shut up" and "idiot" and they lock Big Bird in a cage. But the young viewing audience is always kept in mind, and this is a solid G.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's Good on the Tube

This is a feature I've been meaning to do for years where I sporadically weigh in on the top 5 shows that I'm enjoying on television at the moment. If you have exquisite taste in entertainment, like myself, you should watch these shows too!

Hot In Cleveland (Wednesday 10:00pm, TV Land) Simply put, Hot in Cleveland is the single best traditional sitcom to air on television in at least five years. The comedy all-star cast features Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick as three gals who decide to uproot from their hectic L.A. lifestyles in and settle in Cleveland, Ohio where they are all considered hot and glamorous. Golden Girl Betty White plays the owner of the house they all live in. As you should know, I've been a huge Betty White fan since her days on The Golden Girls. I didn't just jump on this new Betty Bandwagon after her Super Bowl commercial and SNL appearance last year. I've been seeking out her appearances for years. Watching her work is watching one of the all-time comedy greats practice their craft. Mrs. White nails every single line with pin point comedy precision - it's amazing to watch. Hot In Cleveland doesn't get by on just Betty White alone, not only is the rest of the cast great but the show doesn't shy away from using tried and true sitcom plots and conventions to have a good time. This show celebrates it's sitcom heritage, not only by shooting in front of a live studio audience but also by casting several familiar faces from TV comedies past in supporting roles. It's just another great reason why I love this program and look forward to it every week. (Season One just came out on DVD!)

Holly's World (Sunday 10:30pm, E!) You know I loved me some Girls Next Door, which appears to have been canceled but this spin-off is the next best thing. All three of the gals from Next Door have had their own shows. Kendra has Kendra, which to me feels like it's grabbing at straws trying to come up with material to justify it's existence. Bridgete had Bridgete's Sexy Beaches which was a really fun travel show but it was cancelled after one season. Holly's World follows Holly Madison as she stakes her claim as the new Miss Las Vegas. Holly stars in Peepshow at Planet Hollywood in Vegas, as well as having her hand in a ton of other charities and events around town. What made Girls Next Door so interesting was it's behind the scenes look into Playboy Magazine and life at the Playboy Mansion. In this show, we get to see the inner workings of a town like Las Vegas, plus Holly and her friends are all good fun. Really fun half hour of tube that I look forward to each week!

Parks and Recreation (Thursday 9:30pm, NBC) Right now NBC is running a three hour block of comedies on Thursday night. That's not attempted much in network television. Of those 6 shows, 3 are on my list here today. At the moment, Parks and Rec is my favorite simply because it's the newest but also because the show has really found it's voice in it's third season. The characters, the actors, the writing and the situations have all gelled nicely. Season three saw the addition of two new cast members including the always terrific Rob Lowe. Amy Polher, Aziz Ansari and Nick Offerman are three more reasons why this show is so terrific.

30 Rock (Thursday 10:00pm, NBC) In my opinion, television writing has never been better than what is on display at 30 Rock. Each episode is packed the the gills with so many clever jokes, references and more jokes that it's sometimes exhausting trying to keep up. 30 Rock has also maintained a good pace of keeping story lines flowing from week to week without turning the show into a soap opera. Each show is a comedy masterpiece. Alec Baldwin continues to be The Man!

The Office (Thursday 9:00pm, NBC) While I've never abandoned The Office, I felt it strayed off course in recent years. The storylines kept getting in the way of the show just being funny. The shows seems to have settled down into just being laugh out loud funny week after week! Steve Carell is heading off the show at the end of this year, but this is one show that seems to be able to keep on chugging without it's star. There are of other characters to keep The Office open for many more season. According to some tweets I've read, Will Ferrell is expected to do a multi-episode arc later the season. That should be comedy gold! (As long as he doesn't play a 70's sports star.)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

My Week In Movies - Don't Tell People Your Mule Talks

Splendor In The Grass (1961) Apparently, this was one of my mother's favorite movies. Her and I talked about movies alot and she introduced me to some of her favorites but I never heard her mention this one. When she passed away, some of her high school friends were telling me about the role movies played in their teen years and Splendor In The Grass kept coming up as one of the most memorable titles. In fact, my mom had left behind a poem that she wanted read at her funeral - it turned out to be a poem prominently featured in this movie. So, I decided to start watching some of mom's favorite movies and after watching Splendor, I can see why she never sat down and watched it with me. It's a pretty torrid story of teenage lust and sexual repression. The film takes place in the 1920's and follows a young couple played by Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood. Of course, Beatty wants to go "all the way" and young Natalie knows that good girls don't do that. So finally out of frustration and respect, Beatty's character breaks up with his girlfriend. This sends Wood into a downward spiral that ultimately ends her up in a mental institution. It's a very interesting look at how people were expected to behave themselves vs. how they wanted to behave. The content of this movie for 1961 audiences was probably pretty shocking and taboo but by today's standards this would only rate a PG maybe a PG-13. The sexuality is mostly implied with very little steam on the screen. Still, it's a really good movie that I think would play well with today's audiences.

Francis Goes to West Point (1952) In my never ending quest to find the silliest and most plotless films ever made, I found myself watching the third movie in the classic Francis The Talking Mule series. Round three has Francis and his human sidekick Peter attending West Point Academy. It was understandable in the first film or two, but by the third picture Peter should learn to just keep him mouth shut about having a talking mule for a buddy. Instead of thinking up ways to cover up his interactions with Francis, Peter just goes about telling everyone he talks to an animal. It's only when Francis finally speaks up and chats with others that these movies seem to bring about any laughs. The storyline involves a misunderstanding between commanding officers and Peter's roommates. Francis has very little to do with the story that drives this movie, but when a film is just so silly and harmless it can get by on it's simple charm alone. This picture is unrated and made at a time when they avoided using the word "pregnant" so you can assume there is nothing objectionable here.

Wall-E (2008) This might just be near the top of my list of favorite Pixar movies. I was blown away by it when I caught it in theatres a few summers ago, and this second viewing was just as captivating. I'm not a big science fiction watcher, but I think some of the futuristic ideas in this movie are extremely clever and poignant. For those of you that don't know, Wall-E is a robot that was left to clean up Earth while the human race boarded a spaceship and left the trashed planet behind. Not only does Wall-E end up saving the world, he also finds love in the form of another robot. This very well done movie is about much more than robots and spaceships. It will teach you alot about friendship, loyalty and respecting the Earth. A Masterpiece. Rated G.

Monday, February 07, 2011

NFL Best Fans Ever Super Bowl Commercial

Highlight of last night's telecast including brief clips from two of my favorite shows:

Friday, February 04, 2011

Before It Was Tangled

I've been in a bit of a writing slump this week but I wanted to get something up here today and I was thinking about this random picture so I dug it out.

This picture was snapped in June 2009 at The Art of Disney Animation attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. It's Tanner standing in front of some art work for Disney's new animated feature Rapunzel. By the time the movie came out in November 2010, the name had been changed to Tangled. Anyone whose seen the movie will agree that Tangled was not a very good title for that film, yet I don't think Rapunzel was the best choice either. In Japan it was probably called The Girl With Long Hair Who Lived in a Tower. Actually, here's the Japanese poster.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

My Week In Movies - Debbie Gibson & Tiffany Wrestle In A Cake

The Social Network (2010) A rare viewing of a Best Picture nominated film The story of how Facebook came to be is pretty darn interesting. The way this movie goes about telling that story is a little less interesting. Right out of the gate, the dialogue is very hard to follow. That's supposed to be a gimmick but it didn't work for me or the other people I was watching this with. It was exhausting just getting through the first scene. The movie also takes about 20 minutes before it clearly establishes that it's being told as a series of flashbacks from the point of view of several different people at different points in time. It's all a bit confusing. Perhaps, if you're a young whipper-snapper and enjoy that kind of thing - it's all good for you. It took me about an hour to finally decide to ride the movie all the way out. Like I said, it's a pretty interesting story especially if you are like myself and enjoy the Facebook quite a bit. The lead, Jesse Eisenberg finally seems to drop him Michael Cerea impression, and Justin Timberlake (as the guy who founded Napster) is really good as well. In an odd bit of casting, Brenda Strong who plays some girl on the obnoxious Suite Life of Zach & Cody on The Disney Channel is also in the cast. She shows that she can act, instead of the over acting she does on Disney Channel, and it's kind of wild to see somebody from a kid's show in a sex scene. By the way, it's Rated PG-13. You would think a movie like this would carry an R rating, but I would bet they were shooting to keep this accessible to kids. Language and drug use is kept to a minimum and the sex scene is mostly implied with no nudity.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010) I'm not a big fan of style-over-substance in movies, but I thought this one might be a little different since it was a romantic comedy at heart. Visually, this flick is very fun to look at. Much of the film is made to look like a video game or a comic book and it's all a neat element to the film. But, this movie is too long. There's not enough story here to fill out two hours and the story is so self-aware silly that it can't carry the weight of a two hour runtime. In order to date a new girl, Scott Pilgrim must defeat her seven evil ex's. There's plenty of fight scenes that are exaggerated fun, but after the third fight it starts to get a little old. Rated PG-13 for sexual situations, some mild swearing and stylized violence.

Mega Python Vs. Gateroid (2011) Simply put, this is TV-movie film making at it's finest! The battle of giant reptiles is the first new SyFy Network original movie of the new year. It pits giant steroid injected gators against giant snakes who ate steroid injected gators. The movie also features the first on-screen match up of 80's teen pop stars Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. Debbie Gibson plays a radical environmentalist who tries to save rare snakes from captivity. Tiffany plays an Everglades park ranger who attempts to save the dwindling gator population of her park. The reptiles do battle in grade Z computer special effects while the pop stars do battle at a charity gala with cakes and pies. This sci-fi romp is masterfully crafted. It's tongue placed firmly in cheek, it never once winks at the camera that it's all silly but also never once for a moment takes itself seriously. The story is simple, tight and moves quickly like a great roller coaster ride. For someone like myself, who has been a huge life-long Debbie Gibson fan it was a treat to see Debbie in a leading role and to see her match wits with Tiffany. It's been noted in the press before that the "rivalry" between Deb and Tif was mostly manufactured by publicists back in their hay-day. Lately, Debbie and Tiffany have been playing up their silly feud for entertainment purposes. It's the great basis for a really silly, enjoyable movie that I look forward to watching again. Rated TV-14, quite a bit of swearing and violence plus it was a bit gory in parts.

New Feature!
January movie count: 20
Best new movie: Waking Sleeping Beauty
Best rewatch: The Little Mermaid
Worst Movie: Cavegirl
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