Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Monty's Crush of the Week

So, I was watching "Big Bang Theory", and...

Yeah, there's no shortage of girls I wanna showcase on Monty's Crush of the Week,
but I had to get right on this one while fresh in my mind...

Laura Spencer
(Barking Water, The Familiar, Pearl, In the Land of Fireworks, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night,
Time Expired, Mangus, Redesigning Your Life with Lainey Chase, A Christmas Kiss, The
Millionaire Tour, Jan, Vanessa and Jan, My Funny Valentine, The Lydia Bennet, The Lizzie
Bennet Diaries, Switched At Birth, Avarice, Character, Silver Bells, The Big Bang Theory)

In researching her a bit for this, I've seen Laura Spencer referred to as having the best hair in the world, or something to that effect, and that is definitely a theory I can get behind. Wow.

These probably aren't even her best hair pictures, just some of the pics I liked best overall. I was torn on which to use for the first image, and between a few others as well, but I finally chiseled it down. Who knows if I bumped the right ones. They were all so gorgeous! 

 Now, if you don't know who Laura Spencer is, I can't hold it against you. I don't watch much TV myself, just follow a few shows with the help of the internet and other tools. In other words, I don't have TV, I have the net, I have Netflix, I have DVD and Blus, that's all. But I try not to be totally behind the times. One show I keep up with though, is "The Big Bang Theory", and probably my fave character on there these days is Raj. I guess I relate a lot to him. I'm the only single person I know too, ha. That would prefer not to be, I mean. And I also enjoy cooking and other arts and subject matter not always deemed manly over the more brutish stuff, even though I couldn't be gay if I tried. In fact, it's a struggle for me to think of anything other than attractive women (though, I am loyal to an almost absurd level when given the rare opportunity to be). But, where was I? Well, we're all hoping Raj finally finds a lady soon. In fact, I was really rooting for him to get back together with the dorky girl he had something going with a while back. The entire situation reminded me very much of my one almost romance. And now, it seems like it COULD be possible. BUT, there's a new player in the game who has turned up on an episode before, and again last week, and I believe is slated to appear again. That character is played by the gorgeous Laura Spencer...

Now, if I was Raj, I would devote all my focus on this sweet angel. After all, his other person of interest has burned him already. But, in truth, ha, I find it hard to believe he's going to be THIS lucky. It's definitely going to be interesting to see how things play out. I'll certainly be happy to see Raj finally get somebody! But then, I'll also be sad, because I'll be alone in my boat of loneliness. Oh, wait, there's always the comic book store guy to relate to. Glad they made him something of a regular!

Anyway, sorry for getting a bit sidetracked on the subject of Big Bang Theory, but yeah, good place to go to check out the goddess, Laura Spencer. She's been in a lot of other stuff too though. Of course, I don't have room to mention everything, but I do what I can. You'll notice I mentioned Dylan Dog. I definitely need to rewatch that one. I'm sure I noticed her the first time I saw it, but at this point I can't remember a thing about that movie other than how if you removed Dylan Dog from the plot, it would have played out the same way anyways, which kinda turned me off of it when all was said and done, ha. But, like I said, it's on Netflix so I should probably give it a rewatch. In truth, it's the kinda thing I'll end up adding to my Blu Ray collection at some point just because I like the subject matter, and especially now that I know Laura was in it. Anyway, signing off with a few more images of this amazing and charming beauty. Love this next pair especially. I freakin' love little bows in the hair like that... *sigh*...

Monday, April 7, 2014

My First Legit Comic Cover (and how it happened)!

Just a bit of cool news for those of you who follow me as an artist.

But first, the not always cheery backstory.

As you may or may not know, my childhood dream had always been to animate for Disney. That was before computer animation took over. I also never got trained in animation, because when I started college, Disney was saying they wanted people with Fine Art degrees (they would handle the animation training), so I kinda ended up getting a degree that wasn't exactly my style. When I graduated, Disney's views on that had reversed. But, they were doing more firing than hiring anyway. It was all going computerized. So, there I was with an art degree and no idea what to do with myself. Not to mention, I didn't go to the best college for dating, so I didn't even have the supportive girlfriend to keep me from falling into the vicious depression that claimed my prime years. I was, for all intents and purposes, a shut in for around 7 years. No foolin', I was in a very deep, dark depression, though I kept it mostly to myself.

At some point though, a very sweet person whom I never really got to know well enough to remember the name of at this point, told me about a website called DeviantArt where people posted their art, got feedback, interacted and all that, and I gave it a shot. I hadn't done any art for like 7 years. Seriously. And suddenly, I was at it again, even getting the occasional commission. I also met someone who had a website called Werewolf Cafe, and this also got me doing more. I started doing a pre-Moonlight Motel werewolf comic for them. I was writing and drawing again. I started trying to find a local magazine that would publish another of my three or so comic strips I'd created during high school and college, but before I had any luck with that, I combined my strips to create Moonlight Motel. I got in touch with a college buddy who published one of those free magazines you see in all the stores, and he started running Moonlight Motel in it. I don't, in every case, remember how I got started with some of this stuff, but at some point, I started dabbling in independent film too, what there was of it in the town I used to live. They were trying to make it a big thing there, though I don't think that ever happened, ha. But, for a while, I did some storyboarding, creature design, promo art and stuff for film people down there. I was mainly hoping to get some work in front of the camera, but that never happened with that group (almost, but the biggest project I was working on and had an acting role in shut down before production), so I started doing some stage acting, a very brief stint anyway, with a local college. I had a tiny role in Alice in Wonderland one summer, and did a bit of work with their sketch comedy team at a local festival. By then, it was probably, oh, 2009 or so...  

During that personal Renaissance, I also got involved on a graphic novel project with a local writer I had met on one of those independent film projects (the big one that fell through, mainly due to disagreement among the producers). He had this dream of a 5 part series of graphic novels centered on a young druid and a barbaric warrior, and their adventures traveling the world and encountering notable myths and legends of history along the way. He needed an illustrator, and I needed a breakthrough project, but I had no experience with illustrating comic books (only reading them). We got to work, and eventually, we had a finished product. We took it to a comic con and handed some out to people in the biz, and we tried other stuff to get it out there to, though in most cases I don't think we were doing the right stuff. I was pretty much letting the writer field it all since it was his dime and he had some pretty strong ideas of how he wanted to do things. I can't say I was all that proud of the project. It was my first try at doing a comic book, and I didn't have a knack for it yet (still getting the hang of it, and my style is always going to be a bit too cartoony for the big name titles). Besides that, the printer screwed up on the cover. It wasn't great, but it would have at least looked a little better if they'd let it bleed to the edges, as it was supposed to... Well, anyway, the writer adored the finished product, and we pressed on. That first book was all black and white, something else that didn't help it impress people, but we sold a few copies. We soon got to work on book two, simultaneously working on a color version of book one that was being broken up into comic issues. Book 2 never got very far. The first part of Book 1 in full color did make it to print. It was a huge improvement over the black and white graphic novel, though still not perfect. We took it to the comic con again, sold a few copies, but shortly after this, the writer, as far as I know, disappeared from the face of the Earth. No idea what happened to him. He just vanished from my knowledge.  

As I said, this brings us to around 2009 or so, when I was working as a graphic artist at Fast Signs, where I'd been for a year or so I guess; a job one of my two best friends landed for me. This was very helpful, because I have no luck with applying for jobs. I mean, in all that time, I did apply for a lot of stuff. I had a couple of minimum wage jobs here and there, but they were only temp jobs. Even with a college degree, that's all I managed to get hired for. And, I'll be honest, I was not the best graphic designer either. I'm a cartoonist and illustrator, pure and simple, ha.  Anyway, my main focus at this point was Moonlight Motel, which I was being published in my friend's magazine at the time. However, my younger sis was living in Austin by then, and she wanted me to come be her roommate, and I'd had plenty of living in the Valley already (with still not a single date to show for it), so I took her up on it. I think it was 2010 when I moved up to Austin. It is hard to tell, because my dad also got diagnosed with Leukemia as I made plans to finally move out. I should have held off, but I had already given notice to leave my job and everything. I spent most of that year driving back and forth between Austin and the Valley. My mom was diagnosed with cancer not long after my dad. I was pretty stressed out. I had been getting into shape, and that fell through with all that was happening. I developed psoriasis from the stress. I had met the girl of my dreams in Austin, and things had initially seemed to be going great, but that went down the hole fast since all the back and forth was keeping us apart and also preventing my from finding a new job. Though, she might have been a sociopath anyway...

Still, through it all, I had been doing a bit better with my art. I was getting more commissions, and I was doing more for my comic strip, even though I had pulled it from that Valley zine and was focusing on making this website for it. DeviantArt was my main source for commissions, and somewhere during this rough time, I got contacted by GrayHaven comics through there. They needed some artists fast to fill in some gaps, and I landed my first illustration gig for their new, independent company. Okay, this is where I cut to the chase.

For the last 4 plus years, I have been doing random illustration jobs for GrayHaven comics. Their company, which mostly (but not exclusively at this point) publishes anthology comics that bring together several authors and artists in each book, has been growing like crazy. I've illustrated stories in 5 of their books now, and had a sampling of cover art published in a 6th. It's been a big boost for me, got me a gig illustrating a webcomic for readwebcomics.com that will be published as a book in the near future, and besides that, though it took some time (as I said, not good with landing day-jobs, ha), I eventually found work in Austin to pay the bills and support my attempt at building this sorta late-in-coming career in comics (of all kinds) and illustration. Got into a great apartment last year too, still roommates with my sis, and though I've got a lot of things in my life to fix still and have yet to find someone to cuddle with at night (it's so easy for most people, isn't it? I never seen to even meet anyone who is single though, and that 7 year depression and no-fun college really screwed me over in the dating experience department), and though I lost my father and a cousin, and nearly lost my mother over the past few years, not to mention my heart to someone who really didn't give a shit about it or me, there were some good moments here and there too, and recently, I had a great one... So, enough of this history of my life, what am I rambling about? So sorry for the hold up, this may have been a little overblown. I thought it was going to be only a paragraph or two...

Well, a few weeks ago, GrayHaven Comics came to me again to ask me for a bit of an emergency rush job. They needed an artist for a cover and a one pager in their upcoming, kid-centric anthology comic, "Hey Kids", and they knew I had been wanting to do a cover. This was right up my alley too, considering my style. By the way, that's the great thing about GrayHaven. It doesn't matter what your style is! Mine usual style is cartoony, of course (though I hope they know how flexible I am, and that I can do realistic stuff too, ha). I of course jumped at the chance to do a cover. With the theme of this issue being Sunday Funnies, one would figure the cover should include some of the characters that would be featured within the book, since I can't really put Garfield and the Peanuts on the cover, and I didn't really wanna put parodies of them either (though I almost went with that option). Well, I at least knew that GrayHaven fave Commander Cosmo was in the book, since I was illustrating his one page story for it too, so I took that as a possible focus, and I sorta channeled the style I had seen on the comics I grew up reading for years, Disney comics. You know, Uncle Scrooge and all that. It's a much simpler style than what you see on a DC or Marvel book most of the time. Anyway, I got it done and got it in just under the wire, my 6th book for GrayHaven to have illustrated a story within, and now it is in print for you all to go purchase! The book is "Hey Kids: Sunday Funnies," and you can click on the image of my cover below to go to the page and order it. No, I do not get any money from the sales, but it still would be cool if you did, and I'll sign it for ya if you ever ask me to, ha. I'm pretty proud of this one, and it's my first ever comic cover art gig for a real comic company! Woohoo! Hoping they MIGHT publish my still-in-development Moonlight Motel graphic novels in the near future! Okay, I am soooo late for bed it's not even funny. Honestly, I may have to find another day-job soon if I don't start getting more sleep!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Latest Word On My Search for School "Boat" Pizza

 Yep, I'm back with this again, and with some interesting developments this time around. If you are unaware, this is the third installment of the Pizza Search articles in which I've been trying to track down my favorite school cafeteria item, the now seemingly elusive "boat pizza". Basically, it was a French bread pizza with the little square pepperoni, but as simple as that sounds, the taste was unique and DELICIOUS! Truly one of my all-time favorite foods! And I haven't had it in, well, a long time! And I want it! NOW! AAARRRGGH!! So, lately, I've been on a search to try to find out where I can buy it again, and also taste testing other pizzas that may or may not be similar. There was recently one in the vending machine at my day job that looked very similar, like a distinct possibility, but it was a dud. Already posted about that one. Posted about several already in fact. Well, a few weeks ago, I found something very interesting in that same vending machine at work...

You're probably thinking, "Red Baron"? Not all that special. It's in every grocery store. I know, and I've had it before, and I don't recall it ever tasting like school pizza. Plus, I know, I know, this LOOKS like the OTHER school pizza I mentioned them having at school. The infamous "Pan Pizza", which supposedly was "cooler" to eat than the "boat pizza", don't ask me why. Just because it was a "snack bar" option, I guess. Well, regardless, I decided to give it a try. See how it says, "Fat Reduced Pepperoni"? I don't know if that's what all square pepperoni is, but I know that I've read that as a description for school pizza pepperoni before. Anyway, it made me curious. Plus, I hadn't had school Pan Pizza in forever either, so why not?

The unveiling...

And the cooking...

Not too pretty, is it? Plus, I had to cook it in a microwave, as I didn't take it home this time. Anyway, what's the verdict? Get ready for this.... The taste, it was familiar. It was, yes, it was, pretty similar to the pizza I'm searching for! Now, it wasn't right on, mind you. By no means is this a suitable substitute, but I gotta say, yeah, I tasted it there a bit. Of course, the crust is wrong and it's a different topping ratio and all, but it was something. It was good! Made me wonder, do they sell any Red Baron French Bread pizzas with square pepperoni? Do they even sell these in the local supermarket? I would have tried them again to have another sampling, but they're not in the machine this week... I DID check out the supermarket though. Here's what I found...

Yep, these "minis" were the closest thing I found in the store to the pizza from work. I believe they did have a Red Baron French bread pizza, but it didn't have the cubed pepperoni, so it definitely wasn't going to suit my needs. Well, I took these home and decided to give them a try...

How were they? Well... COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Yeah, they weren't at all like the larger variety above. I gotta say, upon first taste, I didn't like these minis. But, I think it was just the huge disappointment of it all. Actually though, I did find the taste a bit familiar, and I THINK these basically tasted like the old "pan pizzas" we used to have at school that I was talking about before. The ones that looked like the larger version of these, and that I expected the larger version to taste similar to. So weird.

So, that was that. Basically, I DID find a pizza that tasted similar to the old school pizza I loved, and I also found a pizza that tasted similar to the OTHER school pizza I remembered. Neither of them satisfy my desire to locate the real thing though. Well, of the first one. Besides that, even if it WAS a suitable substitute, I don't have a reliable, steady source for it. As I said, they aren't even in the machine this week.

But, guess what I DID finally do? I gave up! Ha, not really. I mean I finally decided to call in the big guns. I contacted my old school district. If anyone can get to the bottom of this, that's MY best bet. Current status: the good people over at McAllen I.S.D. in South Texas are looking into it for me. They contacted the distributor to try and get the brand and number of our old boat pizza. The research is ongoing, but the news so far is that the distributors don't seem to have a record of the boat pizza anymore. Their files only go back to 1990, but I know we had the boat pizza when I was in high school, and that was during the 90's, so not sure what happened there. At any rate, that could mean I've hit a dead end! The M.I.S.D. folks are pushing a bit further for me, and my fingers are crossed that a bit of info might turn up. The discouraging part though, is that clearly M.I.S.D. no longer serves the french bread pizza they referred to as "fondly remembered". This means it might not even exist anymore, who knows...

In the meantime, for me it's Alamo Drafthouse Carnivore pizza and Pizza Hut Pepperoni Stuffed Crust (heavy on the parmesan in both cases) when I have cash to spare, and good old Totino's Party Pizza when I don't. Although, Pizza Hut totals have been adding up like crazy lately, despite their "deals" and even after I started picking it up myself, but their Hershey dessert is amazing! And I know Caesar's has the Hot and Ready for 5 bucks, and that's okay, but, I don't know, I still might find Totino's (maybe 1 and a half of them, still under 3 bucks) more satisfying over all. Oh, I believe I was going to give props to my fave dollar-something pizza here before and kept forgetting to. Well, no time like the present. Here's my go-to meal most days when all I have for dinner is a couple bucks:

Is that a foot in the bottom of that pic? My bad. Also, I'm not into wrestling. It was just my luck that was on the box the time I decided to take a pic. It does make this pizza look a little more white-trashy, ha. Oh well (and no offense if you do like wrestling, a lot of my friends did back in the day too, ha; I was small in the prime of Hulk Hogan, after all).

Yeah, Combination is my version of choice, though Pepperoni is good too. Remove the plastic before cooking, duh.

And it's better if you don't cook it QUITE this much, but close. These cook FAST, and it's easy to burn 'em up. Now, certainly, it's not as pizza like as most pizzas. It's just, well, it's GOOD. It's addictive, even, ha, and so cheap! And, I gotta say, I mean, frozen pizza is okay, but the prices can get crazy. I'd rather hold out for when I can afford the great stuff than get the distinctly "frozen pizza" tasting, more expensive frozen pizzas out there. But, I tell ya, for a buck and change, THIS pizza I do like. And I do murder it with parmesan, but it's good even without it. 

Incidentally, I recently tried a Papa Murphy's Take and Bake. Impressive looking when you get it out of the oven (it was pretty huge looking), and it was thoroughly loaded with toppings (though it was sorta stuffed with them; I don't remember how, this was a couple months back, but it was under the layer you see in the pic below, and maybe this was a meat-stuffed crust variety, I totally forget), but in all honesty, taste-wise, yeah, it was very similar to Digiorno's frozen pizza, which I found odd, since Papa Murphy's is a chain like Pizza Hut that just happens to not do the baking for ya. You literally take it home to bake it. It's an interesting concept. I don't see myself going there again though. Papa John's is a different matter though. Their pizza is pretty darn good. All in all though, I prefer Pizza Hut, and the Alamo Drafthouse over the Hut (though, one misses the stuffed crust, ha). 

Anyway, gang, I will let you know if the search for boat pizza goes anywhere further from this point. And, hopefully in the near future, I will finally get around to tasting some of the Austin-based pizza places I often hear people raving about. I've been putting that off for far too long!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Monty's Crush of the Week

Well, my apologies that we've had a Crush of the Week hiatus lately! It was purely due to just being overly busy, but here's a new one to satiate your constant thirst for new forms of female beauty. Sinner.

Emily Kinney
(Recording Artist and Actress from The Big C and The Walking Dead)

Ya know, I wasn't totally mad for Emily Kinney on Walking Dead right away. She plays Beth on the show, younger sister to Maggie, and I know Maggie has a huge following of fanboys herself. Personally, the only time I find Maggie attractive is when she's herself on Talking Dead, British accent and all, but on the show (and off), Beth is certainly more my type. Still, early on, I didn't find her character all that appealing, and she certainly has a unique look that I wasn't sure how I felt about at first.

Still, just as her character really seems to have grown on Daryl (ya never know what they'll do, but it certainly seems like things were getting romantic recently, and I like her for Daryl much more than Carol, but that's just me), she has grown on me as well the more we've gotten to know her, especially in her last few episodes, those Beth/Daryl episodes. And, c'mon, she is damn cute! You can't argue with the pic below. Plus, she's earned the reputation of The Walking Dead's resident Taylor Swift (yes, singing country tunes and all), which ain't a bad thing. I think on the show she is just always so dirty from fighting zombies or she has a bit more makeup on than I like when doing Talking Dead, but that pic below, wow. It's also nice to have learned that she's almost 30, at least in real-life, instead of not having a clue, as the show kept treating her character like she was 14 or something (I do think the character is closer to 19 or so though, which still works for me and Daryl). Anyway, Beth has disappeared under highly worrisome circumstances on The Walking Dead in recent episodes. Here's hoping tonight's Season 4 Finale will show us what's happened to her and will assure us that Emily will be returning for Season 5! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Muppets Most Wanted

 What's this?! What's this?! A timely review?!

Yes, actually got out to this one the night before the official release date! So I'm sacrificing sleep, as usual, to get a review out to you guys! On time this time! So, enjoy! But before I forget, also take note that I have added a feed from my Instagram to the sidebar on this page! Go follow me there if you do Instagram! And now...

So, someone let me know about this early showing of "Muppets Most Wanted" today at the Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, and being a huge Muppet fan, you know I just HAD to go! Unfortunately, I had already eaten dinner, so no Carnivore pizza for me. Epic sadness!

As usual, before the movie was an awesome Alamo Drafthouse preshow of clips and commercials, and other such related materials. Here are some snapshots I took of some of the highlights...

After that came the previews, including one for that gorgeous looking "Maleficent" film, and that "Rio 2", which I don't know what to make of since I haven't seen the first (but the villain's sidekick in the trailer, ugh..., this is the kind of humor that I think hurts the reputation of animated films...).

After the previews came, yes, YES!, a PIXAR animated short! That was a nice surprise! And it was a Monsters University short!

Yes, "Party Central" was very enjoyable, at least for those of us who enjoyed the feature film that inspired it. It was a similar sorta thing, but it was very funny (much better than the short I saw with Peabody and Sherman).

Next, of course, came the Feature Presentation, "Muppets Most Wanted". A highly anticipated movie for some of us, and one that many of us were going into with no small amount of uncertainty.

The Plot: Kermit the Frog and the Muppets, immediately after shooting their previous, megahit, comeback movie, are informed that a sequel has been ordered! A song follows about making a sequel, including jokes mentioning that sequels are rarely as good as the first film. This was a ballsy joke to make, because you know that it's going to get thrown back at them hard by any reviewers who didn't like the film. Having said that, it was a damn funny thing to hear admitted at the beginning of a sequel! Though, "sequel" really isn't the right term for this film. It is actually, for the most part, a completely separate Muppet movie. There are a couple of references to the previous film, "The Muppets", and Walter is a significant (to an appropriate degree) member of the gang now (80's Robot is there too, yay!), but it is really a totally separate film, and this is made evident by this one's acknowledgement that its predecessor was indeed a movie they had just finished making. Wow, ha, I overexplained all that. Sorry, that's something I do a lot in real life, so you just got a taste of one of my most annoying qualities.

Anyway, so now the Muppets have to decide what to do in this sequel they are now basically living in rather than shooting (somehow, this odd reality is something you don't even think about while watching the film). Enter Ricky Gervais as Dominic Badguy, a tour manager who convinces the Muppets to take their show overseas. But Dominic has a more sinister agenda, as he is actually the number two man for a master criminal frog known as Constantine, who happens to look exactly like Kermit except for having a mole on one side of his face. Constantine is being held in a bleak, Russian prison from which he immediately escapes in order to trade places with Kermit and go on a European crime spree culminating in a plot to steal the Crown Jewels in London.

And that's the basic setup. It's a European crime-caper film (not the Muppets' first) that focuses on a few different situations: One, Kermit having to deal with being locked away in the previously mentioned Russian prison in place of Constantine under the watchful gaze of GULAG officer Tina Fey...

Two, thick accent bearing Constantine attempting to keep up the charade that he is Kermit in front of the other Muppets as they attempt to perform the Muppet Show on a tour across Europe and the U.K., simultaneously conducting their high profile robberies along the way.

And three, French Interpol Agent Ty Burrell teaming up with C.I.A. Agent Sam Eagle in a hilarious attempt at discovering the master criminals behind the crime wave that suspiciously coincides with the Muppet World Tour.

Okay, enough plot info. Let's get to it. We Muppet fans were very concerned when the previous film came out. There was a lot riding on it. A LOT. Since the death of Jim Henson, the Muppets had a couple of great but not so original films that were actually just Muppet versions of classic books. Then, they had a movie about Gonzo that I seem to be the only person who liked. Okay, I'll admit that in the cannon of Muppet films, it's the oddball, but on its own, it's very fun and enjoyable. Aside from that though, well... The Muppets made some okay Christmas programs and a botched Oz TV movie that could have been great. Too much attention was paid to Pepe (don't get me wrong, I LOVE Pepe), and when Disney first bought them, they just kept using them to promote Disney Channel TV shows, which seemed very degrading to the Muppets, in my opinion. Sadly, they still do that every chance they get, but I digress. With the previous film, huge Muppet fan Jason Segel set out to turn things around for the Muppets, to give them a big comeback that took them back to their roots of musical comedies loaded with heart. His plan was a huge success with the film that he also starred in. But with him not being on the team for the first follow-up to that film, "Muppets Most Wanted", we all got a little nervous again.

So, was that nervousness justified? Afterall, much of the rest of the team that made the previous film was back! Including director James Bobin and Segel's writing partner on the previous film, Nicholas Stoller. And, one of the biggest reliefs to my mind, Flight of the Conchords member Bret McKenzie, who won an Oscar for his songwriting on the previous film, was back to write the songs for this one.

Well, the verdicts are coming in from all over, and here's mine. This film is great! It's excellent! BUT... But it's different from the previous Muppet films in that it IS something different. It is a musical comedy, and that's strictly what it is. What I mean by that is, well, there's A LOT less sentiment in this one, and that's okay, but that's a very noticeable issue in a Muppet film, because all the previous ones have some very emotional moments, some very sentimental stuff going on here and there. There's a bit of that in this film, but it isn't dwelt on to the level that it is in previous Muppet films. This one has a wild and wacky premise, and it is a wild and wacky comedy throughout, and a great one! It is for sure a really good time with characters we love, but it doesn't do a lot to try and jerk tears out of you as the other films always did so effortlessly (maybe not "Muppets from Space", admittedly, though it had its sentimental moments too, but I admit that I haven't seen it in a while, so I'm not going to mention it again in this article). "Muppets Most Wanted" is also a good example of how we've entered a new era with the Muppets, and it's one that adapts to the modern audience, though thankfully not in the really tragic ways it could have. This Muppet film is faster paced, and as mentioned, it's more focused on comedy than sentiment (though maybe that's because the previous film had tons of that), and, oh yeah, the gang sounds less like their original selves with every film I see. I admit, I bitch about that all the time, but yeah, the current voices could certainly be better matches. But I guess it must be hard to try to fill those voids since the people who do so must also be selected from the professional puppeteer pool.

If I wanna nit-pick (and I really don't), I could add to that stuff that the differently voiced characters also could work a bit more on acting like their old selves. I can't help but feel that Fozzie is far dumber now than he ever used to be. Maybe that started with his mentally challenged Muppet Treasure Island character, but I would like to see Fozzie in particular acting more like his old self in future films. On the upside though, Rowlf is back in business, and I'm so glad about that! And I GREATLY appreciated the bit in this new film about Robin and Rizzo and their absence in the previous film. Well, actually, I could swear Rizzo was at least present in the previous film, but this character that had grown to be one of the main gang had certainly been demoted, and Robin I don't recall seeing in "The Muppets" at all! So, yeah, so glad that was acknowledged in this film.

Anywho, aside from, well, more pointing out rather than complaining about the less sentimental style this film takes (though it is not completely lacking in that department, it's more a comparison thing), as I said, this film is a real hoot! I find myself wanting to quote some of the funniest lines to you, but I'd rather not spoil them for you! I WILL say that everyone is super funny, humans and Muppets alike, and I particularly enjoyed the pairing of Sam the Eagle and Ty Burrell, who is quickly becoming one of my fave actors (Sam was already one of my fave Muppets). The songs are hilarious as usual, but I suppose the lack of a really sentimental one is probably the biggest part of this whole "where's the sappy stuff" complaint you'll be hearing a lot in the reviews for "Most Wanted". Again, there is enough sappy stuff in the film to make it a solid Muppet story, so I can't truly fault them on that, but yeah, one expects to hear the next Rainbow Connection, Saying Goodbye, or Pictures in My Head. But, hey, ya know what? I just realized something! There wasn't any song in "The Great Muppet Caper" that was all THAT sentimental! I think we've all forgotten that! And certainly, this film was going for that film's style more than anything! Though it is not a copy by any means. I think to some degree the sense that Most Wanted is less sentimental than all the previous Henson-era films has a lot to do with the faster pacing. Now, admittedly, I was okay with the pacing here, considering the type of film they were going for, but yeah, it might have been an even better film if they had taken that back a couple of notches and had some lower key moments, like the old films. But, that probably makes me sound like an old fuddy duddy, and I am too single to want to sound like that... Because I am only comfortable dating much younger. I'm sorry, where was I?

 As I mentioned, the songs are all top notch, classic Bret McKenzie (incidentally, Bret's Conchords bandmate, Jemaine Clement, has an acting role in this film that is awesomely hilarious, as usual), though I don't know if I would call any of the new songs particularly Oscar worthy this time out. Actually, I take that back, there are a couple of truly unforgettable ones. I think Man or Muppet is just such a hard act to follow. In fact, I think that's going to be an issue for this film all around. I'm very curious to see how well it does, and I hope for the best, because it is a really great, fun film! But I think "The Muppets" is just such a tough act to follow, because it was a film that shockingly managed to live up to the hopes of most of us who were greatly anticipating its release. That sorta thing, well, it's a gold star on that film that this second one can't really aspire to. It can only aspire to being excellent in its own right, and for the most part, it is. Yeah, it COULD have probably been a bit better with some more heartstring pulling as only the Muppets can do (there is SOME, don't get me wrong), and yeah, it could have relaxed its pacing just a bit. But, for me personally, I'm more bugged by off voices and Fozzie being perhaps a bit TOO stupid than by anything else. And not enough to prevent me from loving this movie. I also think this is one of those movies that's going to get better with repeat viewings. That's something I'll definitely test when it comes out on Blu-Ray later on.

Well, before I start talking in circles and lose another hour's sleep before work in the morning, I guess it's time to sum this up. "Muppets Most Wanted": It's a hilarious follow up to "The Muppets". In many ways, it lives up to its predecessor, but it's a very different story, and while they could have gone a route to being a bit more artistic and sentimental with it, they instead decided to go full comedy. In that way, it is a big success, but in choosing that road, it has a bit less impact than previous Muppet outings, and if you hear any complaints about this one, that's probably what they'll mostly be. Regardless, it is a great time, and I highly recommend it! It IS what it aspires to be, and I think that was to be more funny and less sappy than "The Muppets", for a change of pace, and a perfectly acceptable one to me. Less grand, yes, but no less delightful! Two claws up! Go see it! Let Disney know we want more of The Muppets!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Mr. Peabody and Sherman - Plus, a bit of Fast Food Talk

Yes, I missed a couple weeks of Crush of the Week, and no, you have not escaped seeing my vacation slides from last December's Disney World trip. I've just been extraordinarily busy doing comic book stuff for GrayHaven, celebrating St. Patrick's Day (I'm actually more Irish than anything else, though I seem to also be just about everything else), and stuff like that. I'll post more about my latest comic book work as it goes to print and I get an image of it with the title on, but I'm excited that I finally got to do a cover! Anyway, down to business...

Okay, Mr. Peabody and Sherman. So, this film actually came out nearly two weeks ago, and since I saw it on the day it came out, it kinda sucks that I didn't get to do a more timely review, but what can I say, Friday night is a work night for me. I sometimes make it out to a movie right after work, but that usually doesn't allow me time to do a written review afterwards. I really gotta start doing Cinema Snob style video reviews in my car immediately after film screenings someday, ha.

Well, by now you've probably heard that this movie is doing quite well, and rightly so (meaning this might be a short review, ha, because, yeah, it's just a great movie). But, have you heard of these characters before at all? They're pretty oldschool. For those who don't know, Mr. Peabody and Sherman had a regular segment, "Peabody's Improbable History", on the old Jay Ward "Rocky and Bullwinkle" TV shows of the 50's and 60's. Myself, I grew up watching the reruns on television in the 80's. I believe they aired late Saturday afternoons. I have fond memories of those Saturday late-afternoons, when my mom would make spaghetti and meatballs and I'd watch Rocky and Bullwinkle, and somewhere in there were also viewings of Hee-Haw and The Carol Burnett Show,... and the horse races. Ah yes, the horse races. Our Texas grocer, H.E.B., along with ABC Sports (I think), had this game where you would get scratch offs or something and use them to potentially win money watching the televised horse races on late Saturday afternoons. Weird, I know. I don't know if this happened nationwide or not, but everyone was into it where I lived. But, I digress. At some point, Nickelodeon started airing the Rocky and Bullwinkle shows too (I believe I was previously watching them on NBC), and I'm sure Nick gave them a lot more exposure. Might have aired for a while on Cartoon Network too, back when it ran a lot of classic stuff. So, maybe you remember these guys, but I haven't seen them on TV in quite some time. Anyway, it was Jay Ward, so it was good stuff, even if the animation was extremely simplified. The humor was always very sharp and the voice acting delightful. The characters, of course, were that of a dog-genius, Mr. Peabody, and his boy, Sherman. Together, they traveled through time and got into wacky historical antics via Peabody's invention, the WABAC machine. It's pronounced like "way back," by the way.

Speaking of the original version of this show, the Drafthouse naturally showed a bit of it during their usual preshow for the Peabody and Sherman movie, and it was simply fantastic to see it on the big screen! 

You of course can assume safely that I ordered my usual Carnivore pizza with 2 sides of parmesan and a coke, then settled in to enjoy the show. And that's just what I did. Though I was a little unsure at first, just as with the Lego movie, and I think I tend to be that way with most animated features these days since you just never know which direction they will go. They may be smart and fun for everyone, or they may be totally, 100 percent pandering to small kids with an endless supply of dumb catch phrases and unappealing sass, lamely forcing in jokes "for the parents" every now and then, if adult viewers are being considered at all. A really good animated film though, is one that is not trying to be a "kids' movie". Man, I hate when that label is put on something just because it's animated, but I have to admit that a lot of American animation deserves it, because the filmmakers themselves often go into it with that attitude. If we could just treat an animated film as a movie, not a kids' movie, and get the filmmakers to do so as well, we'd get better animated films. But, it doesn't help when someone makes an animated film that's pleasing for all ages, like PIXAR has done several times in the past, and yet people still refer to them as kids' movies purely based on the medium and the fact that they are family-friendly. My fellow Americans, we really need to get past this negative attitude towards the medium of animation, or you only have yourselves to blame when you take your kids to something animated and end up being bored (or annoyed) to death. And before I get off my soapbox, this goes out to the filmmakers! Make some hand drawn stuff now and again too, and don't treat that like it's gotta be just for kids either! Japan sure doesn't! Heck, they have hand-drawn, beautifully animated porn even! Tons of it! And it's way better than the real thing, frankly... But, again, I digress... Point is, it's just a medium, and you can make great films with it that don't have to be "kids' films", whether they're family friendly or not. When I was a kid, our fave movies weren't the ones that pandered to our age group anyway. And when you do get adult with your animation, it doesn't have to be computer animation!

"Peabody and Sherman", however, IS computer animated. Let's face it, it is getting impossible to find hand drawn animation at the theater anymore. Don't get me wrong though, I like computer animation, but I also like variety, and I LOVE hand drawn animation. I won't go on about that anymore, though (today, anyway). Computer animation can also look gorgeous, and this film looks gorgeous. They did an excellent job modernizing the characters and the set up too. And, they did a fantastic job elaborating on the story of Peabody and Sherman's relationship as dog-genius and his adopted, human son. The plot in this feature film take on the classic TV segments deals with Sherman getting into a skirmish on his first day of school (presumably, he has been home-schooled up to this point) when he is picked on by a preppy girl named Penny who is jealous that Sherman has taken over as the history know-it-all. This gives an angry social services worker who doesn't approve of dogs adopting humans an excuse to investigate the Peabody household and possibly take Sherman away from his doggy daddy.

To rectify the situation, Peabody invites the girl, Penny, and her parents, over for dinner one evening, and the social worker as well. This of course is when the spit hits the fan, as Sherman tries to impress Penny by showing her the WABAC machine. They take an unchaperoned trip to the past, and mayhem ensues. What follows is a fantastic time-travel adventure that would make Doc Brown and Bill and Ted proud! It's full of action and laughs, excellent voice talent, and is just an all-out boatload of fun! There's really nothing to complain about in this one. It's a great ride for the time-travel enthusiast, and it handles the source material sooo respectfully, which is so very important for those of us who remember it fondly. This is a proper way to reboot a classic, and I'm all for anything that keeps the greats alive! If you haven't yet, go see this one! Two claws up for sure!

Now, one thing I was less impressed by was the short before the film. And I hate to say this, because it starred the voice of Steve Martin, whom I love. See, there was a short before the film, "Almost Home", about a group of aliens trying to find a new home planet and having bad luck with each try. Bottom line, it was brief, it was dumb, it was predictable. Unless you're going to a theater like the Drafthouse with a great preshow, don't worry if you arrive too late to see "Almost Home", but do go see "Mr. Peabody and Sherman"! You'll have a great time!

In fact, you may have such a great time that you want some souvenirs from the experience! At least, that's how I am about movies, especially animated ones. I'm a bigtime toy lover, and I really wanted some proper figures or something of Peabody and Sherman, and Penny if possible. Unfortunately, at the moment, there are no toys for this film to be found aside from the McDonald's Happy Meal collection currently available. I checked this out for you guys, by the way (you're welcome)...

Yeah, admittedly, I used to full-on collect Happy Meal toys. A very bad habit. Now, I might find a set or a couple from a set that peak my interest about once a year, if even that much. It's usually in a case like this, when I want something from the film and nothing else is out there. Makes for a nice, once a year, nostalgic treat nowadays, actually. Oddly, I was trimmer when I was eating all those Happy Meals, ha. I think my home cooking is too good...

Anyway, here are all the offerings McDonald's currently has, though not sure for how much longer (they used to run for a month, but these days I have no idea).

On the bright side, this selection of U.S. toys includes two great bobble heads (I'd rather have action figures, but bobbles are fine). Not all countries got these two. On the downside, there is no Penny bobble, and everything else here sucks in my figure loving opinion. By the way, I don't think the glider comes with that stand. I'll admit, the glider and perhaps a couple of the others might be fun to play with, but I'm looking for simple display pieces. I ended up picking up the Sherman and Peabody bobbles. They are NICE, folks, seriously. They can be removed (and still stand up fine) from their yellow brick stands. Sadly, Peabody is in a pharoah costume, while I would have preferred to just have a regular Peabody. But it's cool, I guess it does better illustrate the time-traveling nature of the characters.  

Now, I have to admit, I wouldn't have minded getting the Peabody and Sherman in a scooter with sidecar that some countries' Happy Meals had. That way I could have killed 2 birds with one stone and only eaten one Happy Meal, ha. And some countries got a Cleopatra outfitted Penny, awkwardly posed as it is (similar to Peabody, but her legs are posed like that as well). But what I REALLY wanted were figures like the ones below, minus the black bases. They are actually cup toppers from movie theaters in Russia, or some place like that. Now those are some proper figures! And a Penny one too! They might not be as large as I'd like though. I have to give the Mickey-D's bobbles credit in that department, but I love the basic Peabody and the very cute Penny fig. Argh! Oh well. With the popularity of this film, who knows. Might be trading off my bobbles for actual figures in the near future, anyway.

Okay, finally, and really quickly, folks, moving on from Mr. Peabody all together...

With my recent visit to McDonald's, and the fact that it was nearing Saint Patrick's Day, I was reminded that I recently said I wanted to finally try the Shamrock Shake this year, especially since I missed out on the Eggnog shake during the holidays. I think I really would have liked that one. As for the Shamrock Shake, well, there it was on the menu, but ya know what? I didn't try it! Why, you ask? Because I discovered (if I knew this before, I had forgotten) that it was a mint flavored shake. MINT! I am NOT a big mint fan. I'm just not. Sure, I like Girl Scouts Thin Mint cookies and I like Andes mints, and I can even handle a York Peppermint Patty, but with those, particularly the first two, well, the chocolate proportions are strong enough to overpower the mint and make them plenty enjoyable anyway. But in general, for me, I taste mint, I think of toothpaste! It doesn't seem like something that should be swallowed! Granted, I do love those Girl Scout cookies, but dang, those are so chocolatey they are practically black in color! And, me, I LOVE chocolate.
Regardless, I did try something new at McDonald's on my recent visit, and even though they seem to no longer be available, I'm gonna talk about them very quickly before I go, as well as something I tried at KFC soon after.

Yes, radio ads had me curious, and when I saw these advertised in the store, I couldn't resist. Though, looking back, it was a pretty bad bargain. I'm pretty sure these things were a buck a wing, basically! Unless I'm remembering wrong. I did notice a lot of things are overpriced at McD's lately. I mean, the Big Macs, without the meal even, are over 4 bucks. Seriously? Anyways, I bought 'em, and as I said, it seems like I bought them right before they stopped offering them, so that was lucky, though it might make this basically a pointless thing to talk about unless they come back someday. Though, I think I heard they were not breaking even on these or something like that, so they probably won't. And, honestly, that's too bad, because they were really good!

Yeah, basically, these are the same as KFC Hot Wings used to be. Maybe a bit less greasy, ha, but with fried chicken that translates to less succulent. But they were still darn good! Taste-wise, yeah, they were very similar to KFC Hot Wings, though maybe not quite as delicious. But really close!  And, myself, I had greatly been missing KFC Hot Wings, because the last time I checked before finding these, well, KFC told me they didn't carry them anymore (I know, I know, they're back, but I'll get to that in a minute).

As you can see in the pic above, they're a nice little piece of meat. Yeah, they have bones, even though you can't see the bone in this shot. And, yeah, they are not as succulent/juicy as KFC Hot Wings, but really, these were very close. Too bad they disappeared too. Otherwise, I would be recommending them right now.

Yes, even with Hot Wings back at KFCs, I would probably be recommending McDonald's Mighty Wings. Why? Well, a few days after getting these, I decided to check on KFC's Hot Wing situation one more time. And, yeah, they were back! And I chose to buy them in the new "Go Cup".

So, the Go Cup is around 2.50, it comes with various options, and it's supposed to be designed for your car. Because that's a smart place to eat bone-in wings. I mean, you can order other stuff, but they have the Hot Wing option, which is what I went there for. The Hot Wing Go Cup has 3 Hot Wings and a bunch of these seasoned wedge potatoes.

I didn't even know it came with the potatoes. But then, I didn't realize something. The Hot Wings have gotten insanely small. It's a damn good thing they give you some potatoes! 

And the potatoes are REALLY GOOD too, I gotta be honestly. VERY GOOD potatoes.

But the wings. Oy. This was one of the bigger ones!

Yeah, these are more succulent, but they're also all bone. That's why I would recommend the McDonald's Mighty Wings more if they were still available. KFC's taste a bit better, but really, you hardly get anything at all! Anyway, that's all I have to say about that. I'm sorta glad Hot Wings are back, but it might have been better to just keep Mighty Wings around instead.

At any rate, that's all for now, guys. I'll post a Crush of the Week soon, and lots of other great stuff! We have more guest articles on the way, and I have more things planned, and I WILL get the comic strip back on track! It's just hard to do with a day job and the occasional, paying art gigs. I'll start posting more about those later too, but of course, I would love to actually have a webcomic on my webcomic site again someday, ha. Soon, I guarantee it. For now though, I hope everyone enjoyed Saint Patrick's Day, even dry folks like myself! Personally, I cooked a crock pot full of Irish (lamb) stew! Man, it was delicious! Also cooked my magical Leprechaun brownies! And no, they don't have pot in them! Just green sprinkles on top! It's just Duncan Hines California Walnut brownies with green sprinkles on top, but aren't they gorgeous? Man, it was one delicious, perfect meal! I mean, what more could a werewolf want on St. Patty's? Besides some delectable Janet Munro, some lovely Nicole Kidman, and, uh, Warwick Davis? Yeah, that's my traditional movie marathon every March 17th, occasionally with a few others.

Anyway guys, that's it for me tonight! Off to get my 3 hours sleep before work in the morning! I'll talk to ya soon! Actually, I'm gonna go cry myself to sleep, because whoever is running Tomia Cosplay's Facebook fanpage thought it would be cute to post a pic of her with her boyfriend today. Now I am truly, truly depressed. Later!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Monty's Crush of the Week

So, before I get into today's post, remember that article I did about the Texas Roadhouse restaurant on N-183,  over near Lakeline here in Austin? I was going on about how gorgeous the wait staff is there. Well, let me tell ya, I went back there today, and that place is just hotter than ever! If you're an Austinite and you like GORGEOUS females, you should really check it out. HOLY COW! I swear, I counted a minimum of 6 girls so perfect I'd marry 'em on the spot! 2 in particular! I just enjoyed the view so much I had to share! And the steak was great too! Now, on with the Crush of the Week.

This week's crush is also a tribute, as we lost this American Treasure earlier this very month.

Shirley Temple (Black)
(Classic Hollywood child star of the 30's and 40's, television star and U.S. ambassador)

When most of us think of the name, Shirley Temple, we don't think of a cute and sexy pin-up girl of the 40's, like the one above, we think of the child star that sang "On the Good Ship Lollipop" and tapdanced with Bojangles. I'm one of the exceptions, though. Yeah, those legendary movies are cute, but give me Shirley in "Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" where she's chasing after Cary Grant! Why you runnin' Cary? I'd let her catch me any day.

Granted, in a short amount of time she started looking way too much like one of my aunts for me to find attractive anymore, but for a few short years, yowza! That first pic earned her a place on my bathroom mirror with my other vintage faves, and for her work during that time, Shirley definitely earned a spot as a Crush of the Week! We'll miss you, Little Miss Marker!