Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Superhero Memories

I've never really considered myself much of a Superhero fan. When I was little my cartoon and comic book tastes gravitated always towards the funny animals. I'd take Yogi Bear over Superman any day of the week. With the recent explosion of Superhero movies coming out of Hollywood, I had still kept some distance from most of the fare offered. I had seen some of the older Batman movies, and Superman Returns and even the first Spider-Man film, but I still didn't really pay much attention to the genre. Then came the 1-2 punch of Thor (2011) and The Avengers (2012). I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Thor only a year later to be completely blown out of the water by how awesome The Avengers was. With Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel this Summer, I found myself way more into the comic book movies than I ever was before. It got me thinking about the handful of Superhero stuff that I did like as a child...the few things that made an impression on me. And with the release of the new Thor movie this past weekend (It was awesome!) I thought it would be a good time to unveil this list of my Top 10 Childhood Superhero Memories...

Spider-Man (1967-1970)

 This was the first Spider-Man cartoon which I wasn't alive for the first time it came around but I remember catching it early in the morning and, for the first time, being drawn in by the storytelling instead of the slapstick and laughter. This is the show that gave us the classic "Spider-Man" theme song too! Growing up, the only time I saw this show was if I was able to wake up early enough on a Saturday morning. In Baltimore, Channel 2 ran reruns of Spidey at 6:30am, an hour and a half before the network cartoons started. It was always a treat if I could sneak out into the living room and watch Spider-Man sling his webs through New York with the TV sound turned down real low so I didn't wake my parents up.

Spidey Super Stories (1974-1977)
Spider-Man would also pop up on segments in The Electric Company, a show designed for graduates of Sesame Street. This show was awesome because it was presented like a comic book with the different scenes taking place inside panels of a comic book. The real-life comic book motif was played out more by having Spider-Man only speaking in word bubbles above his head. This Spidey was a web-slinger of very few words but the other people in the stories could read the bubbles above Spider-Man's head. In these stories, Spidey didn't fight Doc Oc or the Green Goblin, but instead dastardly villains like the Spider who sat down beside Ms. Muffet. There was also a print version of these stories in The Electric Company Magazine which I'm sure I read every issue at least 100 times!
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981-1983)
I LOVED this show and never missed it on Saturday Mornings. Spider-Man joins forces with Firestar and Iceman to stop various Marvel Super Villains. Spider-Man would do his thing while cracking jokes and tossing off one-lines, while Firestar shot fire everywhere and Iceman would surf around on a path of ice he shot out of his hands. Apparently, Iceman is also a member of the X-Men, which I didn't even know the X-Men was a thing until those movies started coming out in 2000. I don't know if Iceman makes an appearance in any of the X-Men movies past or future...but if he does I would watch the crap out of that movie! I loves me some Iceman!
Superman: The Movie (1978)
Superman II (1980)
Back before HBO or VHS, if a Superman movie was on TV - you dropped what you were doing and watched it. You just did because it was Superman and we showed respect to our elders that way back then. I think these are still really the gold standard in Super Hero movies, funny and exciting and easily accessible to children. Later, when we had HBO, I easily caught these two movies a million times each. They are still great films and fun to watch. (I've still never seen Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, and I hear I'm not missing much.)
Fantastic Four (1967/1978)
I don't remember much about this show except that I loved it and thought the drawings were really cool. There were actually two versions of this show; a 1967 series from Hanna-Barbera and a 1978 version from DePatie-Freleng. I'm not sure which ones I saw, possibly both, but whenever I could catch it I was on board! This show is so ingrained into my memory that I was excited when the recent movies came out.

Batman (1966-1968)
 As with most people my age, this version of Batman was THE version of Batman and so much so that when the Michael Keaton movie came out in 1989 I was just like, "What is this crap? That wasn't funny at all!" Besides the cool costumes, crazy villains and bright colors...I loved how they put the action words on the screen during a fight scene. That was the best!
SuperFriends (1973-1986)
My #1 TV nerd memory of this show was that it was the first time a cartoon that I knew from Saturday mornings came to strip syndication after school. So, it was a nice change of pace from all the old Popeye and Casper cartoons we had for our viewing pleasure in the afternoons. Not pictured above, but the Wonder Twins would make the best Super Hero movie out of them all!
Wonder Woman (1975-1979)
Simply put: Wonder Woman's invisible jet remains the single most coolest prop ever built in the history of television.
Hostess Comic Book Ads (1977-1982)
My only exposure to (then) second-string Superheroes like Captain America, Flash, Green Lantern and Iron Man were in one page ads that ran in all the comic books...including the talking animal comics that I read. In each of these comics, a noted Superhero would use tasty Hostess Apple Pies, Twinkies or Cupcakes to overpower a super villain. Who needs all the gold in the world when you can have a bit of golden & delicious Hostess Cupcake? Even an 8 year old me knew this was a ridiculous concept...and I ate up every page of it!

Spider-Man for Atari 2600 (1982)
As with any Atari game that I owned, I played it one hundred million times in my youth. As it turns out, this one was the very first video game based on a Marvel Comics property. In it, you would sling webs and try to get your three pixels that represented Spider-Man up to the top of a skyscraper to defeat Green Goblin.  Did I say I played it a hundred million times, now that I'm looking at the picture I'm sure it was closer to 30 zillion billion times. What a great game!
Now's the part where I ask you to share some of your Super Hero memories in the comments section......

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pebbles Flintstone Costume - The Real Deal

I'm very anxious to dress my daughter up in every Disney Princess costume we can get our hands on, but for her first Halloween I thought it was the perfect opportunity to dress her as the infant daughter from my All-Time Favorite TV Show, Pebbles Flintstone. Not only is she the perfect age as Pebbles was in the original television series, but she would make an awesome compliment to my super awesome Fred costume that my mom and I made 20 years ago. (Yes, I still have it!)

Before we get into Pebbles, let me tell you about my Fred Flintstone costume. My mom and I made this back in 1993 for a costume contest when I was in college. Taking a cue from all the Star Wars, Star Trek and Superhero nerds out there, I wanted my costume to be as accurate as possible. So, in the days before the internet - my mom and I designed the costume with various shots of Fred on VHS, paused on the TV while we jotted down notes. I also had a few old books that stayed true to the original design that we used. So many costumes of Fred Flintstone put an animal print on the tie and put the spots all over the outfit, when in actuality he only had a few. The spots shapes and placement on my Fred costume are modeled after the appearance in several episodes. Also, Fred's tie is pure blue and was always drawn the same way, even though you can't see it in the above picture, the tie is cut to resemble Fred's own tie.

The major difference in my costume versus the 1960's cartoon Fred is that we added some small sleeves so that my fat, ugly arms weren't fully exposed. Hey, I was in school - people make fun of that kind of stuff! But we tried to make the sleeves as minimal as possible and added a smaller version of the jagged cut that is found at the bottom of Fred's outfit.

Anyhow...the costume (along with a friend as Wilma) went on to win First Prize at the Halloween Dance costume contest that year. I've held on to this work of art for many years...I've worn it for various other Halloween events as well as in parades and even at the opening night of The Flintstones live-action movie in 1994.

Now...let's move on to Fred's daughter, Pebbles...

When we first started looking at Pebbles costumes to buy they all came in one of two varieties: a green top or an animal print top. Neither of these felt right to me, yet every picture I found of Pebbles in a book had her in the green top. I popped in a DVD and went to the episode where Pebbles was born. (Still one of the most watched episodes in TV history.) In the first few episodes that Pebbles appears in, she's in a pink baby outfit but fast forward to the next season and she's always seen wearing a brownish/orangish top with diamond and crescent shapes all over...similar to her father's wardrobe.

This time I had the help of the internet for some visual reference. I found a color picture from an actual episode and this nice black & white sketch, which is a later drawing of Pebbles but the basic look of her outfit is the same.

Now, I have absolutely no sewing skills but I figured this outfit was simple enough that I could pull it off. I went to a craft store and found a shade of brown that I was happy with. I them bought enough fabric which was double the length of my 6 month old daughter. My plan was to have enough material that the entire outfit would be the same piece of fabric, avoiding the need to sew shoulders and sleeves. I also purchased a small amount of black material to make the spots. I could have colored them on with a permanent marker, but the actual spots made of fabric look so much better. Also at the craft store I picked up a bottle of Fabric Glue a.k.a. Liquid Stitch which will take the place of any sewing that needed to be done.

Ready to make the costume (a day before the Halloween party we were going to,) my first instinct was to just trace my daughters outline onto the cloth but then I got the idea to take a dress of hers and trace that instead. I used a dress that's a bit big on her, I also folded up the sleeves for the Bedrock fashionable sleeveless look. I actually traced the dress once onto a piece of fabric that was folder over to create a two-ply effect. I also did not trace or cut out a hole for the head just quite yet.

Since I free handed the area around the arm holes/sleeves, I folded the dress across from left to right and lined up the arm holes and trimmed both sides together so they came out evenly. I cut a small hole for a head, using the fold in the double-ply fabric as the shoulders of the outfit. I didn't want the head hole to be too big for my baby so I tried it on once and it was not going over her head. I cut a small slit in the neck line on the back of the dress to give a little leeway, and that did the trick. I was planning on using a safety pin to close up the slit, but it turned out the costume didn't need it.

I used the fabric glue down the sides of the dress from under the arm holes to the bottom of the dress. Unlike Fred, Wilma and Barney, Pebbles' outfit does not have the jagged zigzag cut at the bottom. Actually, her dress usually doesn't come all the way down past her tummy. My version is a little longer, I thought about cutting it but decided to just leave it long since it was cold outside at this point in time.

The shapes on her dress are a mixture of random patterns. I like the look of the shapes in the black and white sketch pictured at the top. They have a very 1960's Hanna-Barbera feel to them, but they were hard to cut out and look that good so I just cut random shapes from the black fabric. I went with 5 on the front and an additional 3 on the back.

London as Pebbles with her cousin Lucas in his Chewbacca costume

The bone in her hair is a bone hair clip that I found in the Caveman/Cavegirl section of the Halloween store. Since my daughter does not yet have enough hair to support a hair clip, we went with clipping the bone onto a headband of hers. I suppose an animal print headband or a brown one matching the costume would have been most appropriate but I used this pink one that we had, not only because the bow was small and the bone covered it nicely but I thought the pink added a slight touch of femininity to sell that she was a baby cavegirl. In the cartoon Pebbles always wore a black diaper cover with her dress. Since it was chilly out, we opted for black leggings and a long sleeve t-shirt underneath to keep her warm.

I'm pretty proud at the way it turned out considering I had no idea what I was doing with the materials I bought. The fabric cost $4.00, if that. The bone hair clips were $7.00 for a pack of two, fabric glue was $5.00, we had the shirt and I bought leggings (which she can wear with other things) at Target for $6.00.

Besides all the work put into the costume, it was really cool to get to add my daughter to my Fred costume and obsess over a 50 year old cartoon just a little bit more!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

New Halloween Special Worth Checking Out

 I don't really get Hoops & Yoyo, the stars of several Hallmark cards and other products, but my kids think they're hilarious. Hoops & Yoyo Ruin Christmas is a 2011 special that my kids watched so many times they almost burned a hole in my DVR if that was a thing you could do to DVR's. Last year, Hallmark Channel debuted Hoops & Yoyo's Haunted Halloween which I have to say was really good. In the show, Hoops & Yoyo get trapped in a mall overnight on Halloween and all sorts of spooky stuff happens to them. If you can get over the cheap computer animation, the show is filled with plenty of good gags, a little bit of satire on the state of shopping malls nowadays and a good dose of holiday fun that we just don't see on TV enough at Halloween time.

The half hour special bows on DVD this year. You can pick it up at Walmart and Target for $5.00, it's also available at many Hallmark Gold Crown stores. If you're a fan of Halloween specials - it's worth picking up. It will also probably air again on CBS and The Hallmark Channel. Keep an eye out in the listings as we get closer to the holiday itself!

Here's a promo for the show from last year. (Ignore the air date)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Busch Gardens Willamsburg Trip Report

My wife and I both figured that neither of us had been to Williamsburg, VA since we were about 12 years old so we figured that it would be a good spot to vacation for a few days. Of course, Busch Gardens played a key role in our plans for the trip. We were originally going to visit the theme park on a Monday but both the Monday and Tuesday were promising for heavy rains. We waited until Tuesday and had a beautiful day with not a cloud in site. The threat of rain also helped keep the crowds down, which is always nice.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a world class theme park with beautiful landscaping, excellent theming and million dollar attractions! Since we stayed at a hotel near the park, I was actually able to get the five of us through the park's gates before the official opening time of 10:00am.

My only real disappointment with the park came a few days before we arrived. I was looking forward to finally seeing the 4D Sesame Street film that plays at several of the Sea World/ Busch Gardens parks (as well as overseas Universal properties) but the film had been retired at the older Pirates 4D Adventure had returned in it's place. That movie was something I honestly wanted to experience the most but I got over it.

We did, however, start our day off in the park's newest section: Sesame Street Forest of Fun which is a kiddie section themed after the popular children's show. For the longest time, Sesame Place outside Philadelphia was the only park you could see the Sesame Street gang so it was neat to see this extension of the brand in another park.  They have a great little kiddie coaster called Grover's Alpine Express, similar to Sesame Place's Vapor Trail coaster. This was the first ride of the day, the kids dismissed it in line as a baby ride but then they loved it and ended up riding it an additional time. We didn't do any of the other rides in Sesame Street - they have a cute little boat ride, a drop tower and a rocking tug-style ride that looks like Oscar's friend Slimy the worm. There's also a Sesame Street gift shop...and believe it or not, this Muppet loving Dad didn't spend a single cent in the gift shop!

Escape From Pompeii

From there we made our way over to Italy where another star attraction on my list waited; Escape From Pompeii. I love dark rides and I love when a park has the means to provide a unique experience. Pompeii is a simple chute/flume ride with an elaborate lead-up to the drop. Guests ride through the ancient city of Pompeii as an earthquake hits causing fires and destruction along the way. After a giant statue comes crashing inches from your boat, you plummet down a huge hill into a gigantic splash. My 7 year old, Tanner, and I were drenched and he loved the ride - eventually awarding it his favorite ride of the day.

Next, I grabbed a solo ride on one of the park's signature coasters - Apollo's Chariot. This is the kind of coaster that I have come to love in my older years...tall, fast and not alot of twisting and turning that makes me sick. With an initial drop of 210 ft and speeds up to 72 MPH, this is an awesome ride! The same can't be said for Roman Rapids, the park's white water rafting ride. I have yet to see a park that can pull off this ride the way Kings Dominion does. Roman Rapids is brief, unimaginative and on this particular day they were running it very inefficiently making the load times almost unbearable.

In the area are some standard carnival type rides which are all nicely presented and preserved. The kids and my wife rode a handful of them while I sat out on baby duty, which was fine because I hate spinning rides.

We ate lunch at Das Festhaus, which is one of the few things I remember from my earlier childhood visits. It's a large German style pavilion with a live show throughout the day. The cafeteria style set-up of the food service was a little tricky to navigate with three kids and a stroller but we made it through and sat down to a hearty lunch of
German goodies including a huge slice of multi-layed cake that we all shared. We were also in time for the festive show which included a polka band and dancers.

Next up, I again left my wife sitting on a bench with all the kids and grabbed a quick ride on the park's newest roller coaster, Verbolten. Here, Busch Gardens tries to take a page out of the Disney playbook with a highly themed storytelling ride. This is a little more than a coaster. Riders board a German automobile for a trip into the Black Forest. While swerving through trees in the forest, the car suddenly blasts into a tunnel where the forest becomes very dark and there are a few major surprises along the way. It's a really well done ride, and certainly a big kick for someone who's never experienced the thrills of an Orlando attraction.

Elias' favorite ride
Another signature attraction I wanted to make sure I rode was Curse of DarKastle, which is located just up the hill from Verbolten. This is another very elaborate, highly themed ride that takes visitors into a haunted castle. It's a cool adventure that incorporates elements from dark rides, 3D movies and motion simulators. The only other ride I've seen like this is The Amazing Spider-Man ride at Islands of Adventure. My son Elias loved this ride and ended up going on it three times, while my younger son chickened out. My wife got to experience it with the help of a Parent Swap...

Busch Gardens makes no advertisements about a Parent Swap feature, but having used the ability at other parks we asked at the front of the DarKastle attraction, and the ride was built to allow some of a party to wait while the other half rides and then flip flop without having to wait in line a second time. While Elias and I rode, my wife and two other kids waited in a small room by the exit. When we got off, we were led to them and then Jen rode with Elias while I sat with Tanner and the baby. It's the only ride we needed to use Parent Swap on, but it's worth asking about at the front of any attraction if you need such a service.
At this point in our day, we wanted to make sure we made it to the other side of the park to catch some animal attractions that the kids were excited about seeing. We briskly moved through the park making our way through the various winding pathways and villages of German and France. In Germany there is a nice playground area called Land of the Dragons with the ol' netclimb attractions. The kids tore off into that...usually I enjoy doing those with them but I learned last year at another park that they don't work too well with adults in flip flops...so I sat out while they played and blew off some steam.

More Animal Shenanigans!
My kids LOVE animals - it's probably the only thing that ranks as high as video games on their interest scale. Busch Gardens has a handful of small animals  in cages in a section called Lorikeet Glen. As we were visiting, some of the animal handlers had a huge snake out in the grass for the kids to pet. That was pretty neat. And our timing was just perfect to catch a 3:30 performance of More Pet Shenanigans - a trained animal show that was high on our list of Must Do's.

The kids smiled and giggled through the entire More Pet Shenanigans show. A team of trained dogs, cats, mice, ducks and even a pig perform very simple tasks in a cute little show. Afterwards, the boys got to meet some of the four legged stars up close...and they were in heaven.

Wolves are currently near the top of the boys list of animal favorites so they were very excited to see Busch's pack of wolves up close in Wolf Valley. They also oohed-and ahhed their way through the show The Secret Life of Predators which featured wolves, foxes, rats, birds and owls. I hate owls! If you stand all the way down in front during the show, you'll come within inches of some giant (but actually cute) rats. If you stay in the back of the performance area...let's just say an owl might swoop by just as close. Luckily, we were in the front.

We spent alot of time with the animals of the park. Around the corner from all the wildlife is the Ireland section of the park, home to a Sesame Street character meal which I would have loved to attended but I was outvoted on. We all did ride, however, Europe In The Air - a flight simulator that gives you the sensation of flying over some of Europe's most beautiful landmarks. I was setting myself up for an experience similar to Disney's Soarin' Over California...but it didn't quite live up to the Disney attraction.

I had hoped to ride Loch Ness Monster, the park's signature double looping roller coaster. The coaster is celebrating it's 35th Anniversary this year. When I was a kid, it looked like just about the most terrifying thing in the world - I wanted to conquer it finally after all these years but the ride broke down when I was in line...about three trains away from riding. I decided not to spend the last hour of our day waiting for a ride that may or may not reopen so I exited the attraction...leaving Nessie for perhaps another trip.

Having made the full loop of the park, we slowed down to do some shopping and check out the stables of the park's Clydesdales. They aren't "The" Annheiser-Busch World Famous Clydesdales anymore...because the beer company does not own the park now - but it's nice that the current park owners (SeaWorld Parks a.k.a The Blackstone Group) decided to keep the large horses as an attraction like they've been since the park's opening.

The last half hour of our day found Elias and I taking the Skyride system to the back of the park to grab one more ride on DarKastle and getting back up front with just enough time to snap a picture with Elmo in Sesame Street.

Elias & Elmo
Even though the park closed at 7:00 on this day (I could have easily used at least another hour) we had a great time at Busch Gardens. The park is beautiful and well laid out. I appreciate atmospheric music from the different countries being played throughout and not just Bruno Mars or whatever is on the radio like so many other parks do. The park's refillable drink bottle is a good deal too...giving us plenty of 99 cents beverage refills through the day with an initial output of $8.

Also, Busch Gardens truly makes shopping an attraction. While so many other parks, including Disney, streamline all their gift shops to sell the exact same merchandise - Busch Gardens offered all sorts of different stores throughout the entire park. It's always nice to slow down and get out of the sun for a while and browse around a good gift shop...even if you're not in the market for a $500 German made Cukoo-Cukoo Clock.

My only complaint of the day was the park seemed a bit understaffed and not running some rides to their maximum capacity potential. I suppose this has to do with visiting so early in the season and not having all the college kids home and working quite yet. Oh, and also they don't have the Sesame Street 4D movie anymore and I didn't get to meet Cookie Monster.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A New Flintstones Movie Is Announced!

To me, this is bigger movie news than Star Wars Episode VII! Earlier this week, World Wrestling Entertainment and Warner Bros. announced that they are teaming up to bring a new Flintstones animated movie to screens in early 2014! While it's not quite the way I'd love to see The Flintstones return to the spotlight, it's still great news that Fred and the gang will star in their own Direct-to-Video movie. Scooby-Doo has been making new movies at a clip of one a year for the past 15 years, so perhaps this will be the beginning of a string of new Flintstones movies. In fact, Scooby-Doo's next movie due out next spring is the first co-production between WWE and WB. In that film, Scooby and the kids help solve a mystery at Wrestlemania. The film also celebrates the 30th anniversary of the iconic wrestling event.

Here's the press release for The Flintstones:

WWE and Warner Bros. Head to Bedrock STAMFORD, Conn. May 29, 2013 – Warner Bros. and WWE Studios (NYSE:WWE) today announced they are once again teaming up; this time to co-produce a Flintstones animated movie to be released in early 2015.

Fred, Barney and the whole Bedrock gang join up with Vince McMagma (Vince McMahon), and WWE Superstars and Divas including John Cenastone (John Cena®) and CM Punkrock (CM Punk®) as part of the very first WWE main event. “WWE is family-friendly entertainment, so partnering with Warner Bros. on a Flintstones/WWE project was a natural extension of our Scooby Doo deal,” said Michael Luisi, President, WWE Studios. “This new, animated feature allows us to showcase our brand with young fans and loyal Flintstones enthusiasts alike.”

“Warner Bros. is thrilled to continue our partnership with WWE Studios as we begin production of the latest Flintstones animated feature,” said Jeff Brown. “Our recent production collaborations have proven successful and we have the utmost confidence that the latest tag team between the WWE Superstars and The Flintstones will deliver the same results.”

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will handle worldwide distribution on Blu-ray, DVD, VOD and digital download. The film will be co-produced by Warner Bros. Animation and WWE Studios. WWE will utilize its extensive global reach through its television, digital media and print assets to market the release of the film."

I don't watch wrestling at all, but was very much into the WWF (WWE) when I was a kid. I'm excited about this movie just to get some new Flintstones material out there. There hasn't been anything new since a 2001 Cartoon Network special and the 2000 live-action feature "Viva Rock Vegas!"

The Scooby-Doo movies have been good. The last few I've seen have been really well done including this years "Scooby Doo and the Mask of the Blue Falcon" which not only tied in the old Hanna-Barbera series Blue Falcon, but also had references to The Flintstones.

You best believe whenever this film's release date is announced, I'll clear my schedule to check it out on release day!

Monday, April 29, 2013

My Family's Favorite O.C. Dining Spots

Elias will never forget the ONE TIME
 I ordered the large fries!
With the Summer season quickly approaching, my family's thoughts turn to the beach - one of our favorite places to be in the dog days of Summer. We have been very fortunate over the past 7 years to have access to a beach house courtesy of my wife's aunt who is gracious enough to let us use the condo several times a year. Taking the cost of lodging out of the equation has made it possible for us to make frequent and lengthy trips to Ocean City, MD a tradition in our family.

If you've never experienced Ocean City, MD - it's basically Maryland's only resort destination. There is a beautiful beach that stretches for miles and miles accompanied by a world-class 3 1/2 mile Boardwalk lined with shops, arcades, rides, food and games. The rest of the town is pretty much made up of hotels, restaurants and mini-golf. In other words: It's a blast!

For this WWoB list, I brought my wife and kids into the mix and we all sat down and came up with a list of all our favorite places to grab a bite to eat in Ocean City. Most of these places have become traditions within our family...and even though we never hit all 20 of these places in a single trip, we probably enjoy most of them over the course of an entire calendar year.  (Each establishment's name is a link to their website)

Big Pecker's Bar & Grill 7301 Coastal Hwy - While the food here is excellent, the main attraction (for my family) is their giant gliders on the front patio that seat up to 6 people. There, you can enjoy your meal in the warmth of the Ocean City sun while dining on fantastic sandwiches. Everything we've all ever had here has been very, very good. For breakfast, you'll find the biggest biscuits man has ever created!

The Bonfire 71st St. & Coastal Hwy - Huge buffet with something for everyone: big selection for the kids and an even bigger selection for the grown-ups. Excellent carving stations, fresh seafood, huge salad bar, awesome soups and how can you go wrong with one of the only places where you'll find all-you-can-eat Crab Dip? Yum!? Look into their Early Bird Special while you're in town, you can save a considerable amount of money dining early...plus you'll beat the wait in line. Tanner adds: "They have cool fish in their tanks (in the waiting area.)" and Elias says: "The chicken tenders are exquisite!"

Countryside Cafe  37242 Lighthouse Rd Fenwick Island, DE - This is a recent discovery of ours and we love it! We try not to do breakfast out when we're at the beach (simply because we spend a fortune the rest of the day eating) but when we do grab some AM eats this little unassuming spot has become a new favorite. We've only been for breakfast (they do lunch too) but everything on their simple menu of omelets and sandwiches and other breakfast staples is delicious! It seems to be a favorite with locals, but even what appears to be a long wait has never proven to be too much time. Heads up: They dont' take credit cards.

Crabcake Factory USA 12000 Coastal Hwy - This unassuming spot appears to be the lobby of a hotel, but it's actually home to some of the finest crabcakes in town. They specialize in Jumbo Lump Crabcakes - which are fantastic. Our very favorite item on the menu is the Jumbo Lump Crab Seafood Nachos, which is the highlight of the day when we have them! They are also known for their Bloody Mary's. Best fries off the boardwalk!

De Lazy Lizard 1st St. & Bay - Really fun atmosphere, with seating on a beach like setting right along the bay. May we suggest the Godzilla Nachos!?

Fat Daddy's 82nd St. & Coastal Hwy - Really creative menu with all sorts of unusual sandwiches and pizzas. I recommend the Buffalo Shrimp Pizza. Tanner says their pizza is "mouthwatering!"

Fish Tales 22nd St Bayside - Here's a hot spot in OC that offers a little something special for everybody. I've heard people have waited up to three hours to get a table here...don't go at high dinner time and you'll be fine. The main attraction is a huge pirate ship that the kids can play on while you sit and enjoy a few moments of peace and quite with one of Fish Tale's many delicious drink specials. The seating is located on a sandy spot over looking the bay, so it's ok to take your shoes off before you even enter the place. Wide selection from their menu including burgers and seafood. The kids meal comes on a souvenir Frisbee which is also a nice touch. Fish Tales is an amazing way to spend a hot summer afternoon!

Frog Bar Inlet Village - Nobody will dispute that the best aspect of this little hole in the wall is the view. There is a tiny deck overlooking the waves crashing up against the shore of the inlet that just can't be beat. They offer tasty food and good Happy Hour specials and kids are more than welcome in this little watering hole. When we discovered this spot a few years ago, it quickly became a must-do on every trip. The kids love their Shirley Temples.

Grotto Pizza 12407 Coastal Hwy - Simply put, my vote for the best pizza in the world! It's all about the sauce! This Delaware tradition just recently opened their first Maryland location, and we couldn't be happier about it! Elias says: "The cheese & sauce combination is amazeballs. It brings out the flavor!"

Guidos Burritos  7 N. Atlantic Ave & 1st St. on the Boardwalk - I had a blackened shrimp burrito here that was simply one of the best meals I've had in my entire life! Washed it down with a Swedish Fish Margarita...need I say more? Brand new spot on the boardwalk is home to one hell of a tasty good meal!

Hammerheads  10th St. & Boardwalk - One of my wife's new favorites, the location and the ambiance are the big draw here. Seating right on the boardwalk makes this a great spot for people watching not to mention delicious huge drinks, some of them served in souvenir fish bowls. They have real tasty appetizers too and huge Steampots filled with all sorts of fresh seafood. We also love the Boom Boom Tacos. On the way out, there is a treasure chest for kids to pick out a prize.

Harpoon Hanna's Rt. 54 & Bay Fenwick Island, DE - This might be the only fine dining location on our list but it's a yummy favorite that my whole family likes. There are Bread Girls that come around with baskets full of fresh breads before and during your meal. We all love the Coconut Muffins, although my older son enjoys their raisin bread and ketchup. Steaks and seafood make up the bulk of the menu, my wife and I both rave over their scallops.

Ice Cream Castle 12207 Coastal Hwy. - The Castle hasn't caught on like some other OC staples such as Dumsers, but this place has got to have the biggest selection of flavors and sundae combos in town. While other ice cream joints are mobbed, Ice Cream Castle usually only has a short wait. Last year we finally tried their Sandcastle Sundae which comes in a sand pail with shovels full of toppings. We all shared it and it was a really fun memory. Indoor and outdoor seating too!

King Kone 143rd St. & Coastal Hwy. - A simple strip mall ice cream parlour makes our list probably for two reasons: first, it's in the same complex as one of our favorite pizza places on this list and second, when we discovered it our son, Elias, was obsessed with King Kong and there's a giant gorilla greeting guests outside the doors. But beyond the convenience and gimmick, there's some right-tasty hand dipped ice cream served up in a variety of combinations. We're all fans of a mint Grasshopper sundae they have as well as some crazy good shakes. They even have one of those food challenges where if you eat some giant 8 scoop sundae with 90 pounds of toppings, you get your name on the Wall of Fame. Good Times!

Little House of Pancakes, Ribs and Pizza 74th St. & Coastal Hwy. - This is our favorite spot for breakfast. I had Snickers Pancakes here once! Snickers...in the pancakes! They obviously have really good breakfast dishes with a whole bunch of different types of pancakes and omelets. Good eggs! Seating is limited and it can get kind of crowded in the early morning, but worth a bit of a wait.

Phillips Seafood House 14101 Coastal Hwy. - The most outrageous seafood buffet you'll ever lay your eyes on! Crabs a half dozen ways including steamed, shrimp another half dozen ways, fish, clams, all kinds of other BBQ goodies, soup, pasta...the list goes on and on! The kids even get their own bar with kid-friendly options. The hamburgers on the kids bar are outrageous, but we always hate to fill up on burgers when there is so much seafood to be had! Best buffet in town, and you'll also want to arrive early at this one to avoid long lines and take advantage of an early bird special. Also, don't eat anything all day before you go!

Pizza Tugos 116th St. - This is THE go-to for pizza delivery in Ocean City. During the summer season, they deliver until 4am! We like this place not only for their late delivery hours but also for their dine in location at 116th St. You can find plenty of coupons for great deals on big feasts for the family and their dine in spot is fun and super casual. They have a full bar and big huge drinks that you refill yourself, the kids love it. Plus, they have the little umbrellas for the kids drinks and that scores high points with any kid.

Ponzetti's Pizza 144th St & Coastal Hwy. - There's never a wait at this classic pizza spot. This is our second favorite pizza in town, very similar to Grotto's. They also offer a nice selection of pasta and sandwiches plus a nice wine selection. There is a small arcade to keep the kids busy while you wait for your food.

Shenanigan's Irish Pub & Grille  4th St. & Boardwalk - An Irish Pub right on the boardwalk might seem like an odd idea, but this joint has a top notch kitchen serving up a menu of Irish inspired dishes. I've had some really cool dishes here including Bangers & Mash...as well as some incredible burgers too. My older son won't stop talking about a Pizza Burger he had once which was the special of the day. Relaxing outdoor dining overlooking the boardwalk and they have a dining room as well with a huge bar and nightly Irish music.

Tequila Mockingbird 130th St. & Coastal Hwy. - Our favorite spot in town for Mexican food, this family friendly watering hole/restaurant offers up some interesting seafood infused Mexican dishes. They also have an outstanding Margarita menu with some very colorful (and powerful) drinks! Since this one is so far up Coastal Highway, you can often find a no-wait time during busy dinner hours.  Kids menu with non-ethnic dishes is also available.

Thrasher's French Fries At the Pier, 2nd & 8th St. on the Boardwalk - For our family and millions of others, it just simply isn't a trip to Ocean City...or perhaps it isn't even summer...until we've had a bucket of delicious Thrasher's Fries. Anyone who has every had a french fry from this 80+ year old stand will tell you that they are simply the best fries on Earth...hands down! They sell three things at Thrasher's...Fries, Pepsi and Diet Pepsi (maybe bottled water too?) and there is no ketchup. Just salt, a little Old Bay and pour on the Apple Cider Vinegar. My mouth is literally watering just typing this!  Elias would like to add: "the warmth of the fries warms you up like a cozy cabin!"

Drop us a line in the comments section and tell us some of you and your families favorite beach side eats, maybe we'll include them in our next visit!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chuck & Fred

I typed "Peanuts Flintstones" into Google and look what I found...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dial S For Spinach

Here's a nifty TV ad from 1980 featuring Popeye, voiced by Jack Mercer who did Popeye from 1935 until his death in 1984. At one time he was even married to the girl who provided Olive Oil's voice.

Friday, March 22, 2013

King Cobra Beyond KD

The looping coaster in the background is the infamous King Cobra which resided at Kings Dominion from 1977 to 1986. However, this picture shows the Schwarzkopf steel shuttle loop at Jolly Rogers Amusement Park in Ocean City, MD where it ran from 1987 to 1989. King Cobra then moved overseas to England where it became Thunderlooper at Alton Towers from 1990 - 1996.

Here's the coaster in it's current state as Hopi Hari at a park in Brazil...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

February Movie Round-Up

Here's what I saw in February...

  • The Aristocats (1970)
  • Groundhog Day (1993)
  • Butter (2011)
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: Carnival of Thrills (1980)
  • Flight (2012)
  • Oscar Nominated Short Films - Animation (2013)
  • Xanadu (1980)
  • National Lampoon's Senior Trip (1995)
  • History of the World Part I (1981)
  • Sleeper (1973)
  • Race The Sun (1996)
  • Small Time Crooks (2000)
  • Repossessed (1989)
  • Here Comes The Boom (2012)
  • Escape From Planet Earth (2013)
  • Taken 2 (2012)
  • Mardi Gras Spring Break (2011)
  • Two of a Kind (1983)
  • Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)
  • The Jetsons Meet The Flintstones (1987)
  • So Undercover (2012)
  • House at the End of the Street (2012)
  • The Hollywood Knights (1980)
  • Project X (2011)
  • The Babymakers (2012)
  • Police Academy (1984)
  • The Oogieloves in The Big Balloon Adventure (2012)
  • Mortuary Academy (1988)

Best New Movie: Flight
Best Rewatch: Xanadu
Worst Movie: So Undercover
# of Movies: 28
Movies This Year: 60

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Inside Fantasyland, Gettysburg

Holy Cow! I finally found some film footage of Gettysburg's long lost theme park, Fantasyland. Somebody uploaded to YouTube about 12 minutes of family home movies including 2 minutes of a visit to the defunct Fantasyland park.   Just click on this link to see about two minutes of silent footage shot on 8MM. You'll see the park's iconic entrance through a giant story book. The structure of the book was still standing as recently as 2002, but has since been destroyed. The film also shows kids on a sliding board attraction. Research shows the park did have a sliding board in The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe's house, but this appears to be more of a castle structure...perhaps Rapunzel's Castle which is also reported to have been an attraction at the park.
There is also some footage of kids playing around a giant farmer with a huge apple. This display was sponsored by Musselman's Apple Sauce, who along with their parent company own three factories in the area.
Mr. Musselman - A Musselman processing plant in nearby Chambersburg, PA was bought by parent company Knouse Foods in 1949 and was used to produce one product...applesauce!

Vintage Newspaper Ad
The park's train - The Cannonball Express - can also be seen in the footage.

Vintage Postcard

Saturday, February 09, 2013

2013 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Animation: Parent's Guide

The Oscar Nominated Shorts Programs are a rare opportunity to see some of the short form films nominated for Academy Awards on the big screen. Last year I was really excited to take my kids to see the Animated selections but I couldn't find a single helpful resource online providing information on content since the packages are unrated. So hopefully, this post will reach at least one parent in a similar situation. I took a chance again this year and took my kids to the 2013 program and it really is a delight for the whole family.

The show this year consists of 8 shorts and some host segments. Seven of the cartoons are dialogue free - which makes the host segments a nice filler of sound in an otherwise quite theater. There is no bad language in any of the shorts, one of the hosts says hell or damn in an off-cuff remark. There are no gory or violent images in any of the shorts either.

Two of the films contain brief/tasteful nudity. Of course, it's cartoon nudity and it's not graphic or sexual in any way. The second film on the lineup, Adam & Dog, features Adam & Eve of Bible fame. Adam is seen nude throughout most of the picture. He's drawn in a cartoony style and even though he is seen from the front quite a bit, his man parts are only vaguely drawn. It looks more like he's wearing long underwear. Eve is seen nude in one scene, from a slight distance. She is sitting down so you only see her top half, the caricature reminded me of how a girl is drawn in one of those silly Playboy magazine comics. If you explain to your kids going in, that the man and woman are Adam & Eve none of it is shocking, inappropriate, or profane. Since the cartoon has no dialogue it's a little hard for kids to pick up that it's supposed to be Adam & Eve.

Dripped is the seventh film in the collection. The short centers on an art thief who eats the paintings he steals and takes on characteristics of the paintings. At one point he eats a painting of angels, at which point he spouts wings. His clothes shed off, with a very brief glimpse of his cartoon pee-pee and cartoon behind. It's super quick and not graphic at all.

In the end, the 2013 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts is really a fun treat for kids. The two films that bookend the program are the most kid appealing: Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare and The Graffalo's Child. Also featured is Paperman which was seen by many before Wreck-It Ralph this past holiday season. Besides The Simpsons short, which is really funny and really sweet, My 7 year old enjoyed Adam & Dog the most. He's a big sucker for dog stories. My 9 year old singled out Fresh Guacamole as his favorite - a stop motion film using everyday items to represent food.

It's a fun night out at the movies and a way to introduce your kids to other types on animation besides Ice Age and Spongebob.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

January Movie Round Up

The first week of the month, I did my traditional weekly round up of movies I saw - then I took the rest of the month off. Here's a quick run down of the rest of the large amount of movies I viewed this past, very cold month!

Frankenweeine (2012) Visually interesting but ultimately boring stop-motion animated tale of a boy who brings his dog back to life. The kids loved it!

Die Hard 2 (1990) This was the only one in the series that I had never seen. Not near as good as the first one, there's some plausibility issues that probably stood out even more in 1990...but it's still a half decent action flick and I'm still on board for Part 5 in a few weeks!

Compliance (2012) I heard so many fantastic things about this movie and it really was a let down. Based on true events about a prank phone caller who, pretending to be a cop,  gets a fast food manager to violate the rights, privacy and body of a teen aged coworker. While the story itself is intriguing, the movie doesn't ask enough questions along the way leaving us with stupid characters on screen. There is also a completely unsatisfying ending.

Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) I know the original Airplane! is technically a better movie, but this is the one I saw first...and a million times on HBO when I was a kid. Love, love...LOVE this movie and can quote pretty much the entire thing.

Mulan (1998) In the Disney Princess cannon, this less marketable tale often goes overlooked but it's a solid film and still alot of fun.

Ernest Rides Again (1993) Thrilled to have this out on a brand new DVD, it's been a long while since I've seen Ernest's 5th big screen adventure...even though it's much lower budget than the four Disney produced films before it, it's really one of the best - perhaps my second favorite Ernest film after he Saves Christmas. Ernest helps a professor uncover an ancient cannon containing the royal jewels of England. Ernest spends over 20 minutes of the film on a runaway cannon and it is a delight!

Iron Man (2008) Finally sat down and watched the origin story of Iron Man and enjoyed it like every other male who has seen it.

Ted (2012) Family Guy guy's movie about a foul-mouth talking teddy bear has some funny moments but it's not going to be the comedy classic that I should have/could have been.

A Haunted House (2013) I loves me some parody films...simply put, this is THE WORST one of these films to come down the pike...EVER! I laughed once and the other three people in the theater snickered at best. This is just an unfunny movie with body parts, body functions and sex as the punch line to every since gag. Horrible.

Rock of Ages (2012) I could not have enjoyed this musical tribute to Hair Bands of the 80's and more. A rocking good time of a movie from start to finish with boat loads of great music and some fine performances in the acting department as well. I can not recommend this movie to anyone enough!!!

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985) You gotta hand it to a movie that makes adults and kids laugh for 90 minutes straight. Also, another one of my "saw it a million times on HBO when I was younger" films.

Deal of the Century (1983) One of Chevy Chase's more overlooked films, never a favorite of mine but I love Chevy so I gave it another watch - pretty dated and not very funny.

Joyful Noise (2012) This is what you get when you mix High School Musical, Glee and a Tyler Perry movie all into one.

Pitch Perfect (2012) What Bring It On was to cheer leading, Pitch Perfect is to acapella singing competitions, in fact this movie should have been called Sing It On. Fun, but not great.

9 to 5 (1980) One of my all-time favorites, my mom and I used to watch this all the time back when it first came on HBO. I can still hear her laughing every time Dabney Coleman gets hoisted up by the garage door opener.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) I'm always proud of myself when I watch one of the Best Picture nominees. I didn't think too much of this one, about a little girl growing up in a strange little town outside the New Orleans levees.

Walking The Halls (2012) Redbox tricked me into renting a TV movie - a Lifetime TV movie nonetheless. It's actually a fairly tight thriller about a high school prostitution ring led by the school's security guard. However, no girls actually "walk" the halls.

Hey There, It's Yogi Bear (1964) This was one of the 5 non-Disney kids films floating around when I was a kid. I always thought it meandered on for way to long, but seeing it for the first time in many, many years it actually holds up very well as a feature length version of the classic animated shorts. Better animation, lush backgrounds, a move involved story and some catchy tunes make this a fun picture.

The Avengers (2012) Finally showed this to my kids, they loved it. It's an awesome movie!

To Rome With Love (2012) Woody Allen's most recent film, four separate stories laid out over gorgeous shots of Rome. This was one of Woody's most enjoyable films in the past few years.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) Some funny bits, but mostly lazy dated jokes...especially when it's coming from Mel Brooks. Jokes about Rodney King, Air Nike, and Arsenio Hall have no shelf life.

Movie 43 (2013) This sketch film is getting horrible reviews, but if you like sketch movies then you should like this collection of silly but funny skits filled with an Oscar winning cast. There is a lame frame story involving Dennis Quaid pitching movie ideas to a studio exec, but the skits are clever and just the right lenght. Not a single sketch overstays it's welcome, something that can't be said for the godfather of skit films The Kentucky Fried Movie.

17 Girls (2011) American audiences expect a certain amount of closure at the end of a movie. The French however do not, and this story of 17 high school girls who all decide to get pregnant together - is interesting but goes nowhere.

The Invisible War (2012) Oscar nominated documentary about the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the United States military. This is known as an investigative documentary which plays like a 90 minute news story...but it's done very well. A handful of compelling stories will turn your stomach inside out.

January Movie Count: 32
Best New Movie: Rock of Ages
Best Rewatch: Ernest Rides Again

Worst New Movie: Dark Shadows

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Peppy The Clown Lives!

I was so delighted to find another one of the coin operated machines that made such an impact on my as a little kid. When I was a youngin' I loved me some puppets. I was obsessed with puppets and hoped to one day become a professional puppetter. Well, that didn't happen - but I've always had a special place in my heart for puppets. One of my favorite things to stumble upon in an arcade back in my youth was a machine that let you push buttons and opperate a marionette. Marionettes were like the cadalac of puppets to a kid with no money. It wasn't until I was in the fourth grade that I ever laid my hands on a marionette, but before then the coin-op puppet machine was just about the next best thing.

The machine consisted of a puppet on a stage, his mouth was controlled automatically to lip synch with a song, but through four buttons you could control the left and right hands and feet. I found one of these machines recently in my off-beat travels. I was thrilled that it still worked. My kids thought I was crazy for being so obsessed with such a simple concept, but 15 seconds after I dropped the quarter in the slot, the kids were pushing me out of the way to have a go at it. I was glad to see it brought good old fashioned smiles to their faces.

One of the feet didn't work but it was still great to see the machine again, Here's a video I took:

There were several different versions of this idea floating around arcades back in the day. I remember this one most vividly along with one only found at Walt Disney World (and I assume Disneyland) which featured a marionette of one of the bears from The Country Bear Jamboree. Good times!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

10 Favorite Films From 2012

I wanted to do a year end list of best or favorite movies from 2012. There's two ways to go about a list such as this; I could do what I thought were the best films of the past year but I won't even pretend that I've seen a fraction off all the films that come out in any one particular year. So, I decided to do a list of favorite movies that I saw for the first time in 2012. Then, after compiling my list it turned out almost all the movies were from the past year. Oh well! Here's what stood out to me as my favorite films that I saw for the first time in 2012...

The Avengers (2012; dir. Joss Whedon)
The amazing thing about this summer's biggest Super Hero flick is how they were able to make a movie with so many characters (four of them being major characters who've anchored their own movies) and put them all together in one tight story that was never boring, not hard to understand, action-packed and funny as all get out! I think this film, single-handedly, made me more of a Super Hero fan than I have even been in my entire life!
Brave (2012; dirs. Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman)
Anyone who knows me knows I love Pixar films. They are magical, hilarious and breathtaking all at once. When Pixar's 13th film rolled around to theaters this summer, I wasn't as excited as I had been for almost every previous film from the studio. It didn't look as lighthearted and funny as some of their best work. Even seeing the picture didn't get me too excited and I placed it near the bottom of the rankings of Pixar Feature Films. Then I watched it again on DVD and I loved it. It's not Pixar doing Pixar, it's Pixar doing Disney...this is a more traditional Walt Disney Pictures kind of picture and it totally works that way. It is very magical, very funny and as always extremely breathtaking. Instead of comparing Brave to Toy Story and Monsters Inc, it needs to be taken for what it is - and it is a very well done, fantastic piece of film making.
The Descendants (2011; dir. Alexander Payne)
Some movies are just so good, you want to crawl inside them and live there. I don't know what that really means, but The Descendants was good as coconuts! (It takes place in Hawaii.)
(500) Days of Summer (2009; dir. Marc Webb)
One of my favorite things in movies is when something happens that not only don't happen in real life, but shouldn't happen in the movie. Case in point, there is an old fashioned musical number out of nowhere in the middle of this picture and I was instantly hooked on this movie from that point. There are alot of other neat, genre bending gimmicks used in this romance story told out of sequence. It's one of the very few movies that I felt the need to track down a DVD copy to own immediately after seeing it.

The Help (2011; dir. Tate Taylor)
Every once in a while I'll see a movie that I equate to the cinematic version of a fine steak dinner. The Help is a delicious meal of a movie about prejudice in the South towards white folks' black housekeepers. There are so many great characters here including Emma Stone's aspiring writer, housekeepers played by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Socialites Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain are also amazing to watch as is Allison Janney and the great Sissy Spacek. Beyond the great performances is a movie filled with humor, drama and a really thoughtful script. There's a reason this was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
 The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012; dirs. Peter Lord, Jeff Newitt)
There's a difference between making a funny movie and "doing comedy" and this might be one of the first films to come down the pike in a while that really had sharp comedy writing. Tucked away in this family appealing claymated comedy is some really funny bits. It's one of those projects where you can tell the filmmakers were just trying to make each other laugh. The animated adventure finds Pirate Captain and his crew on a perilous journey to accept the coveted Pirate of the Year Award. Perhaps my sights were set low for a non-Disney animated film, but my kids and I were all really blown out of the water by how funny this movie was.
The Secret World of Arrietty (2010; dir. Hiromasa Yonebayashi)
Boy, do I hates me some anime! I always have since I was a little kid. Japanese animation is usually devoid of everything I love about cartoons. That being said, Arrietty, which is a retelling of the famous tale The Borrowers, was really good. I think what made it so good is the simple fact that it is slow and quiet; two things no American piece of animation is every allowed to be! The U.S. voice cast in neat:  Bridgit Mendler, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett and Carol Burnett.

Superman Vs. The Elite (2012; dir. Michael Chang)
 This is just about everything a super hero movie should be...at least in my book. First, there's no origin back story. I like a film that knows that we know who Superman is and I don't have to watch him grow up on a farm for the 30th time. The plot is direct and simple. There's action and there is plenty of doses of humor. For an animated film, it's nice to see some adult material without being inappropriate for older kids. There is a little bit of mild swearing, the usual violence and some slightly stronger than suggestive innuendo. The action sequences packed a punch and never stepped into the territory of Saturday morning cartoons. This direct-to-DVD flick had my favorite opening credits sequence of the year - which payed homage to animated Superman shows of my youth and this movie also has the single best opening scene of any Super Hero movie ever...at least in my book!
 Step Up 2: The Streets (2008; dir. Jon M. Chu)
The only thing goofier than me watching all four Step Up films this past year was for me to really take an extra liking to the second chapter. The first movie in the series is about a guy from the streets trying to fit in at a snooty arts school. The second movie is about a girl from the streets trying to fit in at a slightly less snooty arts school. Actually, it might have been the same school from the first movie...I don't remember. But the first movie tries to tell a story while the second movie is just mostly a bunch of dancing. There's just a silly kinetic energy to this movie that is really catchy. It's one of those movies that knows it's nothing special and just tries to entertain the hell out of you. It worked for me. The big giant dance battle in the streets and in the rain is one of the cinematic highlights of my movie watching year!
21 Jump Street (2012; dirs. Phil Lord, Chris Miller)
There's no reason a movie based on an 80's cop show from the FOX network should be any good, yet 21 Jump Street is brilliant! It's an action movie, a comedy, a high school movie and a story about friendship. It plays on all of these notes wonderfully and then throws in some self-mocking on top of that. The movie even manages to parody the entire concept of basing a movie off a TV show and throwing in all kinds of references and stunt casting. This movie is hilarious and jaw dropping amazing in a number of different ways.
please comment with some of your favorite films from the past year...

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

My Week In Movies - Happy New Year 2013

Dark Shadows (2012) I really liked the idea of taking an old Gothic soap opera and turning it into a comedy. The trailers were very promising and funny. However, this is a text book example of all the funny parts used in the trailer. What's left after the spoiled one liners is some story about rival family businesses and some boring vampire special effects. This was a real letdown.

This Means War (2012) One of the rare occasions where my wife requested a particular movie, she's a fan of Chelsea Handler who appears here as Reese Witherspoon's best friend. Two buddies, who happen to be CIA agents, compete for the love of Mrs. Witherspoon..and get this, they use surveillance equipment and the resources of the United States Government to keep taps on the girl and each other. The plot is totally lame and nothing in this movie would ever happen in real life, but charming performances and a lightweight attitude save this movie from being a completely mindless cookie cutter romcom. Reese and Chelsea are very funny alone and/or together.

Cleanflix (2009) This documentary tells the story of a Nevada based Mormon company that takes Hollywood movies and edits out material which they find objectionable and then resell it. The practice is sick to anyone with an artistic bone in their body and the popularity and demand for such edited films is bizarre and puzzling. As the film unfolds, certain key players in the Cleanflix story become characters and the third act of the film drops a major surprise twist into the proceedings. Just when I thought this picture was going nowhere, it took a sharp left turn into Interestingville. Side note: The movie is unrated but if you think a movie called Cleanflix would be suitable for the family - you'd be wrong. There are several comparisons between the Hollwood original cuts of films and the sanitized Cleanflix versions. In addition, the previously mentioned twist takes the movie down a dark path.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) It's hard to believe a movie-loving 39 year old male such as myself had never seen this instalment of the Indiana Jones saga. Something has gotten into me the last couple of weeks - last week I watched a couple of Star Wars films and this week I craved some more mainstream big budget popcorn flicks! Gotta say, I absolutely loved Temple of Doom! Perhaps one of the best action/adventure films I've ever seen! I wish I had seen it as a kid.

Only The Lonely (1991) I saw this John Candy vehicle in the theater 22 years ago, I've always meant to revisit it and finally have. It's a really nice story with an unusual part for John Candy as the romantic lead and it also stars Maureen O'Hara from Miracle on 34th St. This was to be her final big screen performance. Ally Sheedy was also very good in it...something I never thought I'd type out.

A Bugs Life (1998)
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Cars 2 (2010)  We had a lazy, pajamas kinda day, New Years Day and had a little Pixar movie marathon. A Bugs Life is a really perfect Pixar film that has seemed to fall through the cracks as far as recognition goes. Toy Story 2 I must have seen at least a dozen times and it still makes me laugh out loud. Cars 2 has got to be near the bottom of the list of Pixar movies, but it's still watchable.
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