Wednesday, August 31, 2011

WWoB Office Update

We've been doing pretty good with the steady stream of new content here at WW0B, but as we enter the last few days of Summer Vacation some of the paperwork has backed up our systems. In other words, I've just been so busy trying to squeeze in as much fun as a I can! Last Sunday I had an awesome time at the Ke$ha concert at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA. We had super awesome 3rd row seats (Thanks to my friend Matt) and we just danced and screamed and had a real good time. Ke$ha put on a real fun show with tons of glitter being shot at the audience from various contraptions. The whole experience was just a huge super fun party. I had a blast!

The next day, we loaded up the Family Truckster and headed out to Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg, PA. They bill themselves as the Largest Free Admission Amusement Park in the Country. The park is just brimming with character. It's a collection of old traditional amusement park rides along side all of the new standards in theme park thrills. They have a few stand-out attractions like their Haunted Mansion which is constantly rated the best dark house ride in America. It's a really good ride! They also have two world class roller coasters which I was able to tuck under my belt of 2011 rides. The Phoenix is a great classic out-and-back woodie with ridiculous amounts of airtime. It's the first coaster to be taken apart at one park and put back together at another. The process has since become quite common in theme parks. Both my kids conquered this large coaster and they both loved it, although only Tanner would go with Daddy for a second ride.

Their other great coaster is a behemoth dark wood coaster called Twister, which is based on the design of the classic Mr. Twister at Elitch Gardens in Denver. It's a crazy good ride with twists, turns and unbelievable speed! Fantastic ride!


Then of course Tuesday we had the earthquake. Not really a big deal, except it kinda shook everybody up for the rest of the day. I think the oddity of having an earthquake that big on the East Coast just set the stage for the pandemonium that was to become Hurricane Irene. We're pretty far inland so I wasn't too worried about the storm.


It started to get dark and windy around 4:00pm, some steady by light rain followed. By 9 it was beating down pretty hard and the winds were fairly extreme. We were having Elias' birthday party which into the night morphed into a Hurricane Party! Elias had a good turn out for his party and our hurricane party was a success that went well into the night.

Otherwise, we're just getting into the swing of the new school year. We took Joey back to college on Sunday, Monday we spent the last day of Summer Vaca at Dutch Wonderland and Tuesday Elias started 3rd grade and Tanner began his 13 years of schooling with his first day of Kindergarten.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquakes: Be a Prepared Bear

In light of yesterday's earthquake that rocked the East Coast, I thought I would rerun this bit from April 5, 2007...

If ever an earthquake were to hit our small town I would first gather the family up and make sure they were safe and secure in the basement or a sturdy doorway. Then I would selflessly risk my very own life to rush to my bookshelf and grab my copy of "Earthquake Preparedness for the Family" hosted by Yogi, the Be-Prepared Bear. Who doesn't remember all the earthquakes Yogi and Boo-Boo endured on the classic cartoon show!? Actually, this is a series of three public service books that I have put out by the State of California and featuring one of my all-time favorite cartoon characters: Yogi Bear. It seems kind of odd to use Yogi as a spokesbear for earthquake safety. I mean, perhaps his priorities are different than my own. All I'm saying is, I don't know if I'd save my picnic baskets before members of my own family!






This book is filled with all sorts of bizarre illustrations like this one (to the left) of Yogi Bear attaching a hot water heater to the wall. There's just something funny about Yogi Bear and a hot water heater, I don't know what it is!? But seriously, if you live somewhere that securing your hot water heater to the wall, before an earthquake strikes, is a good idea than maybe it's time you looked for a new house!





I'm looking forward to the next two books in this series: "The Jetsons Prepare for Avian Flu" and "Captain Caveman Prevents Identity Theft"




Monday, August 22, 2011

My Week In Movies - Never Trust A Movie With "Suck" In The Title

Sucker Punch (2011) There's only one reason to watch this mess of a movie, and it's the only reason I watched it. The lead, Emily Browning, is all sorts of ridiculously hot! If there is such thing as eye candy, she's an Everlasting Gobstopper! Besides her, this is not a good film. I'm not a fan of style over substance, which is what director Zack Snyder is known for. There are some awesome action sequences within this movie but they are presented as fantasy dreams. You know going in to the scene that this isn't really happening, it's her escape from the real world. So, the fights and battles really have nothing to do with the story and therefore I don't need to sit for 45 minutes and watch five hot girls battle dragons and robots! It just doesn't work. There is no emotional investment in what makes up the majority of this flick. The framing story is fairly interesting, about a corrupt insane asylum that is a front for a brothel. But there are so many mind-tricks in this movie that you just end up with two hours of meaningless violence and phony philosophy. I know Sucker Punch is out of my comfort zone but I was willing to give it a try. In the end, it's just an empty experience in fluffy confusion.

Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales (1982) I've always found this to be the lesser of the Looney Tunes compilation films, yet I've seen it about 1001 times. This collection of mostly fairy tale based Looney Tunes cartoons was an absolute staple of my childhood. It seemed to be on HBO every summer plus I ended up seeing it at the free movies by the lakefront in Columbia at least two or three times. The film is part of the Looney Tunes Movie Collection DVD set which oddly includes only the first and third of the Bugs Bunny films. I'd been jonesing seeing this again so the other night when my wife had a friend over to watch Insidious, the kids and I cowered upstairs and watched Bugs and the gang. No matter how bad the bridging sequences of newer animation get in these films, you simply can't deny the entertainment value in classic Warner Bros. shorts. This movie chops up the cartoons a little too much but it's still an entertaining tale of Bugs and Daffy as traveling book salesmen who get caught up having to read stories to a spoiled prince. It has some great old cartoons in it including one of my all-time favorites, Ali Baba Bunny.


Murder By Death (1976) Only in the 1970's could you make a movie that is both smart and stupid - and perfectly wonderful on both levels. Neil Simon's spoof of detective mysteries is both dead on parody and silly slapstick. There's an all-star cast including James Coco, Peter Falk, Obi-Wan Kanobi, David Niven, Peter Sellers, and the very beautiful Eileen Brennan. Five of the world's greatest detectives are summoned to the mansion of an eccentric millionaire for a deadly game of Whodunnit. When I was in the 8th grade a friend of mine loved this movie. We watched it one night and I didn't get it at all. This time I got it. They just don't make good silly movies like this anymore.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Week In Movies - Some Oldies But Goodies

Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across The 2nd Dimension (2011) I'm not a die hard Phineas & Ferb fan but I've seen my fair share of episodes with my kids and it's a really good show. This full length adventure, which just debuted on Disney Channel, is a really well done attempt at taking something usually dished out in 15 minute increments and stretching it entertainingly into 90 minutes. While I was watching it I kept thinking, "Why didn't they do this for theatres?" But by the end I realized that to do the show justice they couldn't have done a "real" movie. There are too many inside jokes and running gags to make this film accessible to everyone. If this were a theatrical film, they would have had to re-establish all the characters and they couldn't have done some of the jokes and references that they were able to do by not worrying about outsiders watching the movie. There's many laugh out loud moments in the movie, in fact I think I got more of the movie than my kids did. My only complaints with the film are the pacing - I wish they would have slowed it down a little - and the look - I would have liked to seen them up the animation and shading a little bit. But in the end, a movie adventure that serves it's characters and audience well.

Cheetah (1989) Do not get me started on how much I love this movie! I'm not sure why, but when I was younger I couldn't get enough of this tale of two American kids spending their summer in Africa and raising a pet Cheetah. Now that I'm older, I see that the writing and acting is a little stiff - and it's not very creative, but it's still an enjoyable movie. I was surprised my kids liked it as much as they did since it's so old...I mean from 1989 and all! It's amazing how much movies have changed in 20 years. This Disney film has no off-color jokes, no rap music not much of anything except a good wholesome adventure about friendship and doing what is right. I still love it!

Here We Go Again (1942) This flick was a real treat. I loves me some Edgar Bergen and you don't come across his stuff all too often. For those of you out of the loop, Bergen was a popular comedian/ventriloquist back in the old days. The cool thing I love about his movies is that they treat his puppets like real characters. Sometimes you'll see his puppet characters, Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, not on Bergen's lap but doing stuff like driving a car or sitting in a tree. It's a fun little gimmick. This movie also throws in fellow old tyme radio/TV stars Fibber McGee and Molly and The Great Gildersleeve. I had heard of these two other famous radio personalities before but was never exposed to them until now. They are all funny and entertaining as well. The plot of this movie is paper thin at best and just an excuse to hang a string of silly sketches and routines on. It's all simple and funny and it ends with a pretty good chase scene like all good movies should!


Back To The Future (1985) They were showing this on the big screen at a local arts center last week and I had planned to take my son, but some family obligations got in the way so we watched it at home later that night. I was never a really big fan of this classic, it's gotta be at least 23 years or so since I've seen it last. I really enjoyed this time around. It's a real solid movie. And since I don't know every line by heart like most people, I laughed out loud quite a bit. My son liked it but it was mostly way over his head, my wife and I kept having to explain everything to him so he could keep up. I'm sure I didn't fully understand it when it came out in the 5th grade. We didn't go to the movies much when I was little but I can vividly remember my mom taking my brother and I to see this at the old Harundale Mall theatre. I can also remember taping it off HBO for my friend Grant who didn't have cable - and I cut out the cover of the cable magazine with a picture of the movie on it and taped it to the VHS box for him. I was pretty proud of myself on that one. Ahh...memories! By the way, I love Lea Thompson!


Spaceballls (1987) I don't really like this movie. There...I said it. I made a comment about my dislike of this movie on Facebook the other day and I got a lot of virtual dirty looks from people. Mel Brooks is capable of so much more than this. I saw this when it first came out on video and way back then when I was 13, I thought the jokes were all obvious and stale. I love when they make a reference in a movie to the fact that they are in a movie...but Spaceballs does it too much. It kind of ruined that joke for me. I remember when this came out thinking that a Star Wars parody was kind of outdated and unoriginal. I laughed a handful of times but to me this is one of Mel Brooks' worst movies!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Six Flags Great Adventure Trip Report

After a summer full of kiddie parks and beach boardwalks, it was nice to finally be able to hit up a genuine, full-fledged grown-up amusement park. So Monday, my previously mentioned good buddy Joey Carwash and I made the three hour journey into the wilds of New Jersey to visit Six Flags Great Adventure, one of the earlier Six Flags parks. Joey and I had actually both been to the park together back in 1994 on a college trip but either of us had much memory of the park. The park is pretty big, filled with first class rides and some standard carnival style rides. There are some kiddie rides sprinkled throughout.

The themeing in nice although a little random. There are nine sections (or lands) at Great Adventure which is actually three more than the Six Flags template necessitates. Some of the sections are rich in detail such as a Spanish/Mexican theme region called Plaza Del Carnaval and the standard wild, wild west territory called Frontier Adventures. Movietown is supposed to be a tribute to New Jersey's film making roots - but at this point is mostly just a tribute to Batman. Other sections of the park like Fantasy Forest and Boardwalk just blend in with the rest of the park.

Great Adventure is spacious and clean. However, there are large sections throughout the park where abandoned or repurposed structures take up space physically and visually. Near the front of the park sits many unused hanger style buildings that once supported the ride and theme of an airplane based flight simulator. Now the buildings sit there looking like exposed backstage areas of the park. The airfield theme is gone and the buildings look tacky and out of place. The same can be said for several large theatrical venues around the park that are still clearly visible but yet completely unused.

But let's talk about fun! The day we visited the forecast called for rain and thunderstorms throughout the day. When we arrived at the park around 10:30, it was raining pretty heavily. After a great breakfast at nearby Java Moon Cafe, the rain had downgraded to a light sprinkle. We figured the crowds would stay away and at the least we could hit all the big rides pretty quick. So, we paid the insane TWENTY BUCKS for parking (Six Flags should honestly be ashamed of themselves) and got a great parking spot in Daffy Duck section 2. As we entered the park, everything was running except for two of the bigger coasters (which later opened.) As expected, the park was near empty and we didn't wait at all for a single ride all day. Most of the rides were sitting in the station waiting for us. Score!

The main reason for making the trek up to New Jersey instead of just visiting the closer Six Flags park in Maryland was Great Adventure's newest ride: Green Lantern. Joey Carwash is a HUGE Green Lantern fan going back long before the movie ever came out. I was all for making a road trip just to go pay homage to one of my buddy's favorite childhood icons. After all, I just spent a week camping with Yogi Bear. Joey was super excited with all the little touches added to the ride area. There's a giant lantern in the plaza entrance before the ride. The queue area is lined with over sized comic strips telling the origin story of Green Lantern. You'd like to think the ride creators really were passionate about the Green Lantern character but it was more probably based on pushing the new movie.

The Green Lantern coaster is an awesome ride! Standing 15 stories high, the rides drops it's standing passengers 144 ft. at 63 MPH. There are 5 inversions along the track, although to me it felt like there were about 11. I've never been on a stand-up coaster before. As the train left the station I thought to myself, "This isn't any different than sitting down." Once we got to the top of the ride and I was standing 15 stories in the air...yeah, I could tell the difference. The first drop is super awesome followed by a very long ride of very intense twists and turns. When the ride was over I was filled with adrenaline. That was easily the biggest, baddest coaster I'd ever conquered. It felt great. Joey, of course, was an immediate fan and couldn't wait to ride again.

We next took on Rolling Thunder, the parks classic out-and-back woodie. This is a great ride, filled with ups and downs and not much else. A classic roller coaster experience from start to finish. Next to Rolling Thunder is El Toro, a beautiful looking dark wood coaster with a 176 ft. drop at 76 degrees, sending you into speeds of up to 70 MPH. This ride looked awesome but unfortunately I was unable to ride. The safety restraint was a single person lap bar that needed to come back very far. I had no problem getting the bar to click into lock, but they needed to have the bar go back fairly far and I wasn't able to quite make it. Joey felt uncomfortable in his seat, but he said it was one hell of a ride! I'm not sure why I'm able to stand 15 stories in the air, but I can't sit in a car for a wooden coaster. Oh well!

However, I was able to hop right onto Bizarro, a huge twisting mess of track with seven inversions. This was my first time on a floorless coaster, which isn't really scary as much as just an extra element of fun. It was another intense ride, filled with just about every surprise a roller coaster can throw at you. Good times! I had seen this ride's sister model at Six Flags New England on Bert The Conqueror a while ago and I had been eager to ride it ever since. Well worth the wait!

In the Movietown section of the park there are two Batman coasters. Batman The Ride is a suspended looping coaster. It's nice that Six Flags offers a test seat in front of their coasters for larger rides to see if the restraining system will work for them. At Batman there is also a sign to let riders know that people with a 52' or greater chest may not be able to ride. I take a 52' sports coat and darned if the little seat belt was only a fraction of an inch from being able to click into the shoulder harness. No big loss - I was already starting to feel a little queasy from all the tossing and turning of the day so I checked out a gift shop while Joey hopped on the ride. His report afterward was that the ride is way too brief.

Batman The Ride was built between the second and third Batman movie in the 90's. Across from it is the newer Dark Knight Coaster based on the current string of Batmam films. With The Dark Knight, Six Flags really makes a stab at trying to create a story-driven experience similar to a Disney Parks attraction. Guests enter a Gotham City subway station where TV's air the news while people wait for their train. While D.A. Harvey Dent is giving a press conference on the news, The Joker breaks in and causes havoc. Suddenly everyone is hurried out of the room into some dark corridors beneath Gotham where you board a Gotham City Subway Car. What follows is a Wild Mouse Coaster in the dark with several animated scenes and special effects set out along the track. Again, this was a short ride and the overall effect doesn't make much sense, but it was still a neat attempt to do something a little different. I'm sure it would have been a big hit with my kids!

My favorite ride in the park had to be Nitro...

Nitro has no gimmicks. You sit in a seat, in a train on a track, there are no loops. There is just one big awesome 215 ft. drop followed by 2 minutes of continually breathtaking drops. Nitro is just pure exhilarating fun without all the bumps, twists and stomach turning elements of many other coasters. Loved it! We rode it twice throughout the day and they were both awesome rides!


In addition to a Road Runner kiddie coaster, the park has three other smaller coasters. Runaway Mine Train is a classic Six Flags staple, Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train is an odd family-style steel coaster with the longest ride train I've even seen. It's kinda fast and curvy and very low to the ground. Skull Mountain is a dark twisty steel coaster in a dark skull shaped mountain. The ride is anti-climatic considering the themeing and build up before the ride.


There's a unique attraction called Houdini's Great Escape which consists of two parts. The first part, which is basically a preshow, is styled after the preshow of Disney's Haunted Mansion. Guests stand in a dark room while some bells and whistles go off trying to build up your anticipation for something scary that never really happens. The effect may have worked better had the volume been turned up. Next guests are moved into a second room where they have a seat and eventually the room starts to spin around you while you stay perfectly seated. It's a modern update on the classic Haunted Swing style ride...still enjoyed at Dutch Wonderland's Wonder House. We also rode their very old Saw Mill Log Flume and Congo Rapids white water ride.


The rain held off for most of the day, and we only had a brief little downpour which didn't bother us as we were already under cover enjoying a hamburger and fries. By the end of the night, the remaining two coasters had finally opened.


Superman - Ultimate Flight is possibly the coolest of all the superhero themed rides at any of these Six Flags parks. For this ride gives you the sensation of flying like Superman. It's a roller coaster...a big roller coaster at that. The seats are suspended from the track without a floor underneath your feet. The real kicker is right before the ride starts the seats raise up at an angle so that you are facing the ground. You then leave the station and proceed up the chain lift looking straight down at the Earth you are no longer standing on. I have to admit when the seats first locked into their ride position - I freaked. I would have gotten off if given the chance but I wasn't given that opportunity and I'm glad I wasn't. When the train lets go of the chain you are treated to a 100 ft. drop - head first, you then zoom up from the ground and travel through over a track that takes you on an experience very similar to what Clark Kent must feel like flying through the skyscrapers of Metropolis. It is a truly awesome experience! I love when theme park attractions can really tap into the property they are based on. The red, white and yellow color scheme of the coaster is nice. The comic book graphics all over the queue and loading station are also a nice touch. But experiencing the feeling of flying like Superman - something everyone has dreamed about is a really cool feat to pull off. My only complaint with the presentation of the ride was the generic FM radio music blaring over the speakers throughout the attraction. The familiar orchestration of John Williams' Superman The Movie theme would have been the ultimate touch to top off this attraction.


We rode Superman late in the evening. After a day of nothing but pretty big coasters, I was feeling a bit beat up and woozy. I didn't want to be a party pooper so we took Green Lantern for another spin almost immediately after Superman. (We spent at least a good 20 minutes in the Superman gift shop.) That second ride on GL did it for me. I felt like crap after re-riding that super intense roller coaster. I could have easily thrown up if years of drinking hadn't conditioned me to better control such an urge.


After much deliberation, I decided to sit out the evening's final roller coaster, Kingda Ka. As the tallest coaster in the world and fastest in North America I really wanted to conquer this ride but my stomach and my heart were telling me it wasn't a good idea. I decided to finally play my "recently had a heart attack" card and grab a seat on a nearby bench and let Joey hit this one up alone. I really wanted to ride it...honestly! But I think I made the right decision. I was not feeling well at all. I even passed up the opportunity to drink a few beers earlier in the day! Joey said the ride was just about the most awesome he's ever been on and at 456 feet high and 128 MPH I'm sure it was. Next time I'm at a park I'm going to try and get on their big one first and work my way backwards.Six Flags Great Adventure is a good park with an impressive collection of first rate roller coasters. Nice touches: Six Flags licences the Warner Bros. stable of characters which include the Looney Tunes and DC Comic Book characters. The park put these cartoons to good use as park mascots. The Super Hero attractions are full of nerdy detail for fans of the properties. We even found a fake phone booth waiting for Clark Kent near a Super Hero merchandise store. The Looney Tunes are well represented with two sections of the park devoted to kiddie rides featuring Bugs and the gang. There's plenty of stuff to buy all over the park with Superman, Batman, Bugs and Daffy all over them. Neither of these sets of toons are high on my list of interests but Joey Carwash dropped over $100 on Green Lantern and Batman paraphernalia.


The park was clean, spacious and well maintained. Some of the non-Superhero roller coasters had their own theme music playing in the station which was nice. You can even tell that employees are told to interact nicely with guests, except for the security guard in the parking lot who told us, "You picked a crappy day to come to the park!" "Thank you sir!"


My complaints: 1) $20 bucks for parking is legally considered rape in most states. Not a pleasant way to start off a day. 2) Too much crappy FM music blasting throughout the park. If you're going to go to the trouble of visually themeing areas of the park, the music should support your theme. Hearing Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson doesn't drive home the illusion that I'm in Adventure Seaport. 3) Why is there a therapeutic massage parlor smack in the middle of the park? It looks like the kind of place you go for "special services" I'm not sure why that would be in a theme park next to a store that sells Bugs Bunny t-shirts. 4) Not a single XXXL shirt sold anywhere in the park. It's New Jersey, I've heard they do have fat people there! 5) Mr. Six (the dancing old guy from their commercials) is creepy and nobody really likes him. Be gone with him!


Can't wait to go back.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Trailer Tuesday - C.H.O.M.P.S. (1979)

You have no idea how much I love this movie...

...ok, I guess you have some idea.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Always Good Eats in O.C.

I like to take pictures of food. It's just one of the many weird things I like to do that generate stares of bewilderment from onlookers. Here's a couple of yummy things people ate while we were at the beach the other week. These first two are from Shenanigan's Irish Pub & Grille at 4th St. & the Boardwalk. They have plenty of seating directly on the boardwalk which has made this spot a new favorite with my family.


Skibereen Po'Boy: Traditional shirmp Po'boy. Spicy breaded shrimp on a six-inch toasted hoagie roll with lettuce and tomato, served with home-made remoulade sauce.




Gallagher's Banger: Authentic Irish Banger sausage flame-broiled, topped with caramelized onions, red peppers, and spicy brown mustard served on a toasted hoagie roll.






And from de Lazy Lizzard at 1st St. & the Bay, Godzilla Nachos which we had to order just because of the name.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Party of Five at DW: A Trip Report

Wednesday was our 9th visit to Dutch Wonderland this summer. I'd say we got our money's worth out of our season passes. The kids were extra excited about trip #9 because for the first time this year Mommy went to the park with us. They were very excited to show her all their favorite rides. As we were driving up to the park that day, my good buddy Joey called me and he was doing nothing so he ended up meeting us up there too to hang out for the day. It was a fun day for all of us with an extra large touring group. The park was PACKED that day. The parking lot was full as was the overflow parking. I managed to grab a spot in the very last row of the parking lot. Still, even all the way in the back it's not a long walk to the castle entrance.


The boys were very excited to take Mommy on the Turtle Whirl. They can't drag me on that spinning death trap but Mom's a big fan of the ride and the kids were so happy to have somebody to ride with. They actually had to wait in line through four rides before it was there turn. We've never see a crowd like that at the park.


One of the main reasons Joey and I have been friends for so long is that we both like acting like big kids. Needless to say, Joey had fun on all the rides big or small.



Here's Elias on Dragon's Liar. This is a neat shot of him because it's taken from outside the park.


In Duke's Lagoon, Tanner was climbing up the side of the play structure and swinging from a rope. Instead of getting a picture of him doing it, I was only able to grab a snapshot of one of the lifeguards telling Tanner to stop. (Tanner's on the stairs.)


Elias has been dreaming about getting his hands on this huge Slushie glass from Day #1. He was very excited when I finally broke down and bought it for him. After Season Pass discount, it was only $3.50. I guess I could have sprung for it a while back.


My wife was all about getting her some Dole Whip. Dole Whip is a staple of any true Disney World fan's trip and it was pretty cool that Dutch Wonderland opened up a Dole Whip Junction this year. It's a delicious pineapple soft serve ice cream served with pineapple juice. It's the very definition of Good Eats!


My kids will never pose for a picture with the Princess of Dutch Wonderland. Luckily, I had my buddy Joey with me - whose always down for snapping a picture with a pretty gal. After we took the picture, I told her I was gonna put it on Facebook and she said, "Make sure to tag me!" Nice touch, Princess Brooke!


Here's a picture of the Sunoco sign they recently added to the Sunoco Turnpike ride. Everytime we visit the park, they've added something new to this rechristened ride.

And finally, you know you're getting old when...

...you get so excited about a good parking space that you take a picture of it. This photo was snapped right at the park entrance and look at my red van over there - just steps away from the gate! I moved the car later in the day when I went out to get bathing suits. You can't beat a spot like that folks!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Week In Movies - Land, Line & Sea

The Birds (1963) I've seen most of Alfred Hitchcock's films and I've had the fortune of seeing most of them for the first time in a movie theatre but somehow all these years, one of his most popular movies has eluded me. My kids are obsessed over the idea of horror movies, and they think they want to watch one but I'm a good parent and I'm not going to let my 5 and 7 year old kids watch Nightmare on Elm Street or Child's Play. (Even though it seems that other parents find these sort of films ok for their little ones!) Instead, I thought a good classic like The Birds would provide some wholesome spooky thrills. After a very talky and slow first hour and a half, the final act of this classic picks up with some pretty tense bird attack action. I can see what audiences of the early 60's were terrified by this picture but it's pretty slow and tame by today's standards. The kids liked it well enough, even though they were bored to tears through most of it. I enjoyed it but it certainly isn't one of the more captivating Hitchcock films.

Cyberbully (2011) Here's a throwback to the classic days of Made-For-TV movies where the whole point of the film is to illustrate a growing problem in society. This new ABC Family movie is two primetime stars away from being an old ABC Sunday Night At the Movies presentation. Emily Osmet, from Hannah Montana, is a likable lead in this silly drama about a high school whose whole world comes crashing down after hoping on a Facebook style website for about a week. After rumors of her promiscuity flood her profile page, she resorts to suicide. Then the whole picture turns real heavy handed and preachy and poorly written. There's also a whole silly sub-plot involving her best friend playing some evil trick on her. This isn't a complete waste of time but it's pretty darn close.


Free Willy (1993) Boy meets whale - boy saves whale. This movie was so popular when it came out, it's been ripped off and copied so many times that rewatching it after 17 years if feels kind of stale. The rescue of Willy at the end of the movie is still pretty exciting and a decent amount of a payoff for making it through the first hour. My kids liked it. So I got that going for me...which is nice.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Yogi and Friends Around Town

I mentioned that we went camping at a nearby Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp Resort. We had a blast - I think I mentioned that too. Of course, while we were there I had to take a picture of just about everything "bearing" the likeness of Yogi and his pals. Yogi, Boo-Boo, Cindy Bear and Ranger Smith are all the official cast of characters for the chain of parks. Although we did get to meet Yogi and Boo-Boo face to face, we never did spot Cindy or the Ranger. Oh well, there's always next year. Anywho...here's some pictures from around the grounds of my good buddy Yogi and his pals.



























Wednesday, August 03, 2011

My Week In Movies - Not Too Smurfy

The Smurfs 3-D (2011) The Smurfs movie looks pretty bad from the trailers. It's not actually as bad as it appears...but it's pretty darn close. The main problem with this movie is that the Smurf franchise deserves so much better than this. The movie starts off wonderfully in the Smurf village. Seeing the Smurfs in their town o' mushrooms with all the detail CGI provides over Saturday morning animation is really neat. Unfortunately, the Smurfs get sucked out of their village in the first 10 minutes of the film and by means of some magic portal, end up in the mysterious village of New York. Here the Smurfs meet Doogie Howser and the pretty girl from Glee and then it's all pretty much jokes and situations recycled from Alvin & The Chipmunks and numerous other recent kiddie movies. The "realistic" design of the Smurfs grows on you and works in the film. There are some funny and cute moments but mostly the entire production is bogged down by the sad fact that this was the best Hollywood could come up with for beloved characters that are 30 years old in this country...50 years in other parts of the world. Hank Azaria does a great job as Gargamel, capturing the voice from the cartoon down to a tee and he adds his own bit of silly humor to the role. The great Johnathan Winters provides the voice of Papa Smurf and Katy Perry adds a bubbly personality to Smurfette. While there are a handful of notable actors lending their voices to other Smurfs, the majority of the movie only centers on six Smurfs leaving the rest of the village to appear only briefly in the beginning and the end. It was neat seeing the Smurfs exist in actual three dimensions but the film fails at doing anything at all with the 3-D technology. Again, overall not a bad film but certainly a disappointment as a Smurfs Summer Blockbuster.


How To Eat Fried Worms (2006) This feels like it was made simply to try and make a few bucks off the popularity of kids books as movies....i.e. Harry Potter. Not much happens in this tale of a new kid at school who crosses paths with the school bully. They end up making a bet that the new boy will eat 10 worms and then it's just pretty much the kids coming up with gross ways to cook the worms. Silly, innocent fun - my kids liked it and that's who I rented it for!

Yogi Bear (2010) Third time seeing this flick and I gotta say I enjoy it more and more each time! This is probably the best cartoon-to-live action film that they've been able to make. It's faithful to the source material and they avoided adding in too much cynical & crude humor.

The Puppetoon Movie (1987) George Pal was the innovator of a film stop motion animation process known as Puppetoons, where he made cartoon shorts using materials other pencil and paper. The effect was the forerunner to films like Rudolph and The Nightmare Before Christmas. This movie is supposed to be a tribute to Mr. Pal but after a brief introduction scene featuring Gumby & Pokey the film just settles in for over an hour of old cartoons. Without any historical context or background information the toons start to run together and become rather bland. These sort of things work in brief 7 to 8 minute spots but a feature length presentation of them is hard to sail through.

July Movie Count: 16
Best New Movie: Winnie The Pooh
Best Rewatch: The Jungle Book
Worst Movie: The Puppetoon Movie
2011 Movie Count: 118

Monday, August 01, 2011

Camping With My Pal Yogi

Last week I took my family on our first camping trip. We spent three nights at the awesome Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp Resort in Quarryville, PA. The kids were beside themselves with excitement and we all had a really good time. Not only did we get to hang with our good bear friends Yogi and Boo Boo, we were also joined by some friends of ours who booked a visit at the same time as us. It was even more fun to have some other people to hang out with. We mostly stayed at the campground for the entire three days, minus a few hours for a grocery store run (and a hot pizza!) There are many activities at the park from arts and crafts to a pretty neat-o water park complete with slides and a huge water playground.

Now, my wife enjoys the great outdoors as much as the next person...but she needs her NOT PUBLIC restroom and some air conditioning. So, instead of completely roughing it, Yogi put us up in one of Jellystone's finer cabins:


This was our home for the week. In addition to our own bathroom w/shower and the nice cold air conditioning, we also had a kitchenette (which we hardly used,) a TV (which we only used to watch Yogi cartoons before bedtime,) and a few other comforts of home. We honestly didn't spend too much time inside, but it was nice to beat the heat every so often and also not have to walk the kids down to the bath houses to use the potty at three in the morning.



The kids took this opportunity to switch up their normal bunk positions from home and Tanner took the top bunk, while Elias slept on the ground level.

There's lots of cool things to do around the park. There's a pedal kart track for the kids which was pretty impressive. Tanner tore it up doing laps around the course...



....there is also volleyball, horseshoes, a playground and an arcade.



One night we hosted dinner at our campsite. Here we are with our friends enjoying various grilled meats and pasta salad.

We went on a wonderful nature walk through some paths that travel through the woods...





...the paths lead to a fishing hole in a secluded area. Jellystone really is as beautiful as it looks in all those cartoons.

One of the coolest attractions at the campground is their Jumping Pillow...



...it's basically a huge moon bounce without the walls. The best part is there are no age, height or weight restrictions. Anybody can join in the fun. It was super fun but also extremely tiring. Three minutes on this thing and grown-ups feel like they've just worked out for 45 minutes. Of course, kids can go for hours without taking a breath! I snapped this picture from across the road to illustrate how enormous this thing is...





Yogi and his crew have a lot of activities planned throughout the day. We played Candy Bar Bingo with jackpots of up to 52 candy bars. We didn't win! We also attended an ice cream social and a pool party. They had arts and crafts in the morning. The one day they were coloring Yogi Bear t-shirts with fabric markers. It looked really cool and I wanted the kids to do it but they were so excited about going to the water park I knew coloring a t-shirt wasn't going to hold their interested against having gallons of water dumped on them.




Another activity we attended was Sidewalk Chalk at the Basketball Court. I knew Tanner would really get into and he did drawing a whole city of buildings...and people with guns!?


Elias also got into the act with a portrait of our host...




The night we went over to our friend's site for dinner they treated us to some crazy good Grilled Cheese Pizza Sandwiches which were out of this world good!


Here's one more shot of us all playing cards one night...




South Family Camping Trip #1 was a success. The kids are already asking when we can go back. I'm hoping to take the boys tent camping sometime in the next month!
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