Thursday, September 11, 2014

They're Baaaa-aaaack! And so is Halloween!

Monster Cereals are back at Target
and Halloween Express has opened up! 
Yes! The spooky season is upon us!

I snapped that beauty with my iPhone just a couple days ago at Target. They were all the way in the back, on the rear end of a Halloween candy aisle, facing the rear wall of the store. Though, the way I've known Target to be is that some might have them there, some might have them in the front at the registers, and some might have them at the front of the breakfast cereal aisle. And some Targets will have them in 2 or 3 of those locations simultaneously. So, go out and get 'em! I'll be getting some myself soon too, but I didn't get them yet. Going to New York for a week, and then I gotta pay the rent, so not sure exactly when, but you can bet I'll be sitting in front of the TV or my computer screen eating this great stuff and watching my favorite ghoulish cartoons by early October! Got plenty of good cartoon DVDs geared up (Scooby, Drak Pack, Casper, Real Ghostbusters, Billy and Mandy, Sabrina... I really need to get Beetlejuice the animated series!), plus plenty of great digital files and YouTube vids to watch, and all those awesome Halloween movies and specials! May have to drop some dimes on a bootleg of Teen Wolf the animated series too! So ticked that hasn't gotten a U.S. release yet! Oh, know what I got off YouTube recently that I'm gonna watch this year? Miss Switch! And the sequel! And Bunnicula! I finally got a watchable copy of Mr. Boogedy and Bride of Boogedy too! Wall, semi-watchable. I wish someone would post Two-Minute Werewolf! Why isn't there an ABC Weekend Specials DVD set yet?

Anyways, so, yeah, I found this stack of cereal at Target the other day while, of course, picking up my copy of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And, that's not all! I also picked up Bewitched seasons 1 and 2 in black and white for 5 dollars each, and I Dream of Jeannie season 1 in Black and White for 5 dollars also!


Why is this such a good deal when you would rather get the Complete Series sets? Well, I want those too, but these, in my opinion, are necessary supplements. See, I can't stand colorized black and white. Well, I can choke it down, especially with Christmas stuff, but it is never preferred. The first seasons of both these shows and the second of Bewitched were in Black and White, but the complete series sets only have them in colorized form, so you can't beat snagging these for 5 bucks a pop, unless they've turned up for 3 at Big Lots. Admittedly, I've neglected checking out Big Lots lately since I rarely buy standard def discs unless it's TV shows that are unlikely to hit Blu (never say never though). So, yeah, this is great for Halloween viewing, especially Bewitched (along with the Addams Fam, which I already have, and the Munsters, which is on Netflix!), so I recommend going out and looking for them! Not all Targets have them, but I see them more often than not.

Getting back to the Monster cereals though. You'll notice two things in the picture I posted. First, yes, Target has their frequent collectible, retro packaging. These look like they might be from the 80's, but not totally sure. Very cool though. But, this year I won't be buying them to save, just to eat. If you want more modern packaging (not sure why you'd opt for that, but) you can probably find those at Target. I think they used one or more famous comic book artists to design them this year, or so I seem to remember hearing. I haven't been to Wal-Mart or Walgreens in ages though, so I haven't really seen them yet. The second thing you may notice in the picture I posted: No Fruit Brute or Yummy Mummy! It seems that was a one time thing, and that's too bad. I like those characters. However, they definitely botched their comeback last year. Not only did they feel the need to change Fruit Brute's name to Frute Brute, but the also deemed it necessary to destroy the nostalgic value of the cereal itself by completely reinventing the flavors! They went from being two different "fruit flavored" cereals (the original Fruit Brute may be a memory I've held since I was like 5, but I can still taste it!) to being a cherry flavored cereal and an orange cream flavored cereal.... Why?! I ask you!! Oh, how I was looking forward to tasting Fruit Brute again! I'd almost be willing to try a sealed box from the 80's if anyone had one! Well, maybe I'd just pour a bowl and sniff it.... Probably just as dangerous.

Now, besides the cereals, the shelves (at this particular Target I found these cereals at) were fully stocked with Halloween candy, and the display of Halloween DVD's were up too. Some of the costume stuff and a very tiny amount of the decorative and party supplies were out as well, but most of that stuff was not stocked yet. I took a quick look. Not long enough to really come back and report on anything new and cool that I saw yet, but enough to say this. The Mickey Mouse and Friends Cheeseballs, individually wrapped for trick or treaters (or for my personal treat bowl, since I don't get trick or treaters) are back again this year, and I enjoyed those last year, so I plan to get them again. NOT back, for the second year in a row, are those cool gummy vampires and werewolves. I really liked those when I got them two Halloweens ago, but no, I haven't seen them back since. Not big on gummies myself, but they're okay and I had a guest who likes them that year. However, something I did see somewhere (I don't think it was at Target, but somewhere recently) were these interesting, candy bar-like (going by the description) candies called Zombie Food, which a friend of mine also mentioned to me recently. I may have to try these out if I can remember where I saw them. Maybe they WERE at Target. For the life of me, I can't remember where I saw them. Might have been at Hot Topic!

As for the little display of Halloween themed DVDs, there was only one there that peaked my interest for this year. Everything else I either already had, would rather get on Blu-Ray, or didn't want. What peaked my interest was a 5.99 Smurf Halloween special that I've seen before, even though it's quite new. In fact, on the cover are the modern, CGI Smurfs. However, I know that the majority of the special is traditionally animated, which is why I really want this one and need to look into the recent Christmas special too. Incidentally, those Smurf bigscreen movies were far more tolerable than I had expected, too. Saw them recently. And, did you know Marsupilami has a live-action movie? Marsupilami is a far bigger deal overseas than over here (I forget where he's from, maybe France...). Here, we only know him as a short-lived, 90's Disney cartoon character and show, but over there he has a current animated series (not Disney) and was a famous comic book character long before Disney got hold of him! Totally off topic, I know, but I just discovered this live-action movie, and it caused me to research the character a little (well, via wiki). Anyway, back on topic...

Now, I did, a while back, decide I wanted to add at least one old and one new holiday special to my collection every year, for every holiday I celebrate if possible. This Halloween, I'm hoping my old one will be the Bugs Bunny Halloween Special, finally. Here's hoping Best Buy has it again, as usual. At 8 bucks, I usually don't feel like shelling out the dough, but it's time to just do it already. As for my new one, well, I'd like to get that Smurf one, but I did already order the two Scary Godmother specials, so I'm good, even if I don't land that Smurf one (though I probably will). I know, you're thinking those Scary Godmother specials are pretty old too! Well, not compared to the Bugs Bunny one. To my mind, stuff from the 90's onward is new, ha. I grew up watching holiday specials that had been replayed annually since the 60's, if not the 50's! Anyway, yeah, my Scary Godmother DVDs should arrive Saturday, along with my Black Widow 6 inch movie-based action figure. Finally gonna complete my Avengers. Got tired of searching for her, so I finally broke down and ordered her on Amazon. At least I didn't pay 40 like it would have cost me just a few months back! I've been focusing a lot on my 6 and 7 inch action figure collecting lately, so I may have to do an article on just what I'm looking for these days sometime soon. There's some interesting stuff out there, as I've mentioned in a few of my more recent movie reviews!

Okay, well, my time is short, so let me give some quick updates and head out for now. First, yeah, going to New York for a vacation in a few days. I still haven't gotten very far into telling you about my December Disney World vacation, and that was almost a year ago, and now I'm gonna have a New York one to talk about! Sorry! Ha. Yeah, going to see Billy Joel, Phantom, Aladdin, the Statue of Liberty, and who knows what else... And, a couple weekends ago, I went to Oklahoma to visit my niece and nephew (my older sister's family), whom I rarely get to see. It was basically a one day visit, though I stayed two nights in a hotel with fam. On the day I visited, we went to a mall in Oklahoma City that had THE BEST Hot Topic I've ever seen! Oh, and the girls shopping there! I really don't wanna ever live in Oklahoma, but I have to give them cred. They have some stunning girls there. Not the ones I usually think about when I think of Oklahoma girls. Of course, this was the mall, and Hot Topic, so even though they (two gorgeous ones in particular) were dressed pretty trampy (in the best way) and buying slutty schoolgirl skirts (yeah, that was killin' me), they were probably jailbait. Oy. You can never tell till you see the guys their with. They always look way more their actual age than the girls do...

On the way back from Oklahoma, we stopped at the Winstar casino (just before you get back into Texas), which I hear is one of the largest casinos in the world. I played a couple bucks and doubled the money, but I gave it to my mom since it was her couple of bucks, ha. I rarely carry cash anymore. The sweetest thing about that place was all the free Pepsi products you can drink! I don't really like Pepsi. You know, I'm a Coke man. But, free Pepsi does taste a lot better than regular Pepsi. Oh, and on the way up TO Oklahoma, just an hour north of Austin, we stopped at this gorgeous bakery called the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, TX. Great goodies there! Got a pile of cookies and cakes to nibble on!

Incidentally, I posted a few photos from these little excursions on Instagram and on my personal Facebook, and I'm now on Twitter, so I'll be posting stuff there from now on too. You may want to follow me on all those sites, or one of them, or a couple of them, to see pics from my future experiences as well, like the upcoming New York trip. On Facebook, besides my Moonlight Motel page, I have my Nathan Lee James page, though if you're going to friend my personal page, don't get in arguments with me. I block people who disagree with me to an obnoxious level, ha ha. As for Instagram and Twitter, I'm Nathan Lee James on those too, so go follow! By the way, still gotta find out why my Moonlight Motel Facebook page is an App page. Might have to make a whole new Facebook page for it...

Anyway, that's it for now. More Halloween stuff coming. For sure a Halloween comic that I hope will kick off monthly comics again, though I know I said that last year, ha, but this year it has to, because I'm hoping to be at Wizard World Texas a year from this October! Yeah, can't make it this year, but I full on want a table in 2015 to sell art prints AND promote the site! Also, I'll get back on those Disney World trip articles soon too. I don't know if anyone enjoys reading those, and I should have written them last December, but I still want to have the experience written down as best I can remember it, if only for my own memory keeping. Crush of the Week is coming back soon too. Just been so busy with all this traveling and the day job, weight loss (doing something that's working well, if it doesn't kill me, ha), a possible holiday visit from the love of my life (well, she says she MIGHT be able to come; she's going to school very far away these days), and a few other things. For example, my roommate/sister's birthday is tomorrow! Er, today rather! I really better get some sleep! Okay, that's it for now. Talk to you guys later!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Moonlight Movie Reviews - The Congress at the All-New South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse

Big doin's tonight, folks!
Checked out a new film AND a new Drafthouse!

Yep, I recently discovered the South Lamar Drafthouse redo is finally done, and it's also the only Drafthouse that was showing the recently released indie film "The Congress" today, which I had been eager to see since first viewing the trailer at the Drafthouse a handful of screenings ago. So, I headed out across town this afternoon with my currently visiting mother and roommate sister to the see this dazzling new flick and this long awaited new theater.  

As you can see below, the theater is lovely from the outside, and there beside it is the new highball.

And, it's a gorgeous theater on the inside too. All the new Drafthouses have been impressive, though a little bittersweet as we have been gradually losing old faves with their own unique qualities, like the casual and comfy lobby seating at the old Lake Creek Drafthouse, for example, or the awesome bowling alley at the old HighBall. I mean, isn't that why it was called the HighBall?

This new Drafthouse, by the way and before I go on, is a bit tricky to find, too. I mean, you can't see it from the road right now. It's surrounded by buildings under construction. I should have paid a bit more attention, but it was rather unexpected. We followed the signs to a parking garage, the Drafthouse's own parking garage, in fact. I am not a fan of parking garages, to be honest. Always feel like they are about to cave in on me and turn me into jam, among other brutal parking garage death possibilities that run through my mind whenever I'm in one. Once out of our car, we followed the directions out of the garage and to the front of the theater, which I've just shown you. I find myself wondering how the Drafthouse is dealing with the visibility situation, or if all that construction is going to play a role. It seemed like they were apartment buildings in front of the theater with Drafthouse signs all over them. Made me wonder, is Drafthouse opening up their own apartment and entertainment complex here? Are they becoming the next Disney? I don't know, but it might be cool to live right next door to a Drafthouse... 

Anyway, so, when you walk in the doors, here's what you see...

Yep, that's a "The Shining" photo-op in the center of the lobby. It's pretty cool. I should have jumped in for a picture opportunity. But, you feel less wild and crazy when you're overweight and at the movies with your mom and sister. Maybe if it's still there in a few more months, when I'm several pounds lighter (yes, I'm melting them off fairly effectively so far, a month or so in on a special plan). Now, a quick look to the left, and...

...And we have a very nice seating area. Not as communal as that old Lake Creek one, but still cozier than most. I didn't take the time to try that mega couch out, but I liked the inviting look of it. Great mural too. The theater is full of pretty awesome decor, which is really a Drafthouse tradition from what I've seen, and something that's really been stepped up in these new ones.  Love the retro sci-fi aircraft hanging overhead throughout the lobby.

Here's the ticket area, with more awesome aircraft...

To the right, just as you walk in, which seems to be par for the course with these new, elaborate Drafthouses, you'll find the aforementioned HighBall. Seems like a bit of a demotion from this view as just another new Drafthouse side-bar I never really go into (not a drinker), but perhaps it offers a bit more than the others and it does have a pretty cool look somewhat reminiscent of the old place when you take a peek inside.

Love the floors, but just makes the place scream for a small bowling alley all the more...

Not bad though... Does remind me of the old place to some degree. I've only been to it 2 or 3 times though. Once was at the Halloween Zombie Ball, or Zombie Prom, or whatever they were calling it. Ha, did I ever tell you that story? Oy...

Well, we had our look around, and then had to head over to catch our flick. Oh, there's my mom and sis, who probably didn't know they were in this shot. You know who I wish WAS caught in this shot? This one waitress who kept passing by me as I waited on these two to come out of the bathroom. The Drafthouses always have some lovely ladies in their employ, but oh, this one that was there today... She wore braids and was dressed all in black with a short skirt and black hose. She looked like a sexy Wednesday Addams, but less goth. She basically looked like the way I like to draw Wednesday Addams. Quite jawdropping. I know some Drafthouse employees are reading this. Who WAS that?! Yowza. You have to be over 18 to work at the Drafthouse, right?

Anyway, check out the cool monster movie posters and that funhouse design in the middle of the hallway! Super cool!

We got in, ordered our usual pizzas (they were perfect as ever) and enjoyed the show. Sadly, I don't think that waitress ever came into our theater. But then, I probably would have been too distracted to watch the movie if she had. She passed me in the hall. She smiled at me.

Before the show, of course, we had the usual fun preshow. This one definitely showed hints of what was to come by being very, well, experimental art-filmy. Aside from the Bugs Bunny cartoon, which was awesome and also made sense with the film we were about to watch, but wasn't as bizarre as the other preshow stuff.



And then, our feature presentation...

I just noticed how that poster says "Robin Wright AT The Congress" rather than "IN The Congress". Interesting, and it makes sense. Let me tell you what this film is about, and why it's so interesting, even to people who didn't find it wholly satisfying.

If you saw the trailer, you already noticed one of the very fascinating things about this film. Robin Wright is playing herself, Robin Wright. If you don't know her name right off, this is not surprising. And yet, you probably are more familiar with her than you think. Robin Wright played the title character in the phenomenally popular 1987 film, "The Princess Bride". She was also Jenny in Forrest Gump, but it's easy enough not to make that connection. Was she not the least likable part of that movie? Seriously. Not because of the actress though. And I shouldn't say anything about that. Often times I feel like Forrest waiting to hear from Jenny. Oh, sorry, different film all together. Anyway, Robin is playing herself here, and that's pretty interesting, because she's also playing an actress who is basically washed up due to her history of rejecting work for various reasons and choosing roles that didn't pay off. She's also had two children to raise, the younger being a flight obsessed son whose hearing and vision are gradually submitting to an incurable disease. For years, Robin has put her career second to caring for her family, and now she is being given her final offer, but it's one that could allow her to focus all her time on her family from now on. But, at what cost, man?!! At what cost?!!

Yes, the offer made to actress Robin Wright is a bizarre one. Technology is changing the movie industry, and computerized actors are finally replacing real ones completely. It's basically impossible to tell when you're watching a real person or a CGI one, unless you know which little facial tics or other things are real or just the computer animators haven't figured out yet. The public doesn't even know about this new replacement of real actors yet. Robin is among the first being offered the deal to be fully scanned and sell her identity to the Miramount movie studios. She will give up all her rights to her own identity as an actress, and she also must vow never to act again, not even in a school play. She'll get paid well for it, but it's a lot to give up, and the studio can do anything they want with her wants they own her (unless she has made specifications in her contract; Sorry guys, she does put in a "no porn" clause). Though she struggles with the decision, her son's deteriorating health and pressure from everyone else around her ultimately force her to take the deal.

Now, Fast Forward 20 years. 

In the future, Robin Wright, the CGI creation anyway, is best known as Rebel Robot Robin, an action hero in a series of sci-fi films. But the real Robin has been out of acting completely and is now on her way to sign a new extension to her contract; one that is part of a brave new world in which people can, for a few seconds, become the stars they love by inhaling a vaporized drug put out by the studios themselves.

To sign her new contract, however, Robin must travel to the Futurological Congress being held in the cartoon city of a new reality created by Miramount. It's a completely animated world that you must become an animated character to enter. But, how much of it is hallucination, and how much of it is real? And, once you're there, it's very difficult to get out...

And that's just the first two acts. Things really get crazy in the third. I mean, just look at the image above. And, yes, this is half if not more than half an animated feature. A traditional animated feature. I would go into detail on the second and third acts, but that would be major spoiler alert area. Let's just say that a lot more happens during act two, and act three starts with another jump to the future and even more bizarre animated exploits, plus a temporary return to the live-action world for a bit.

Much of "The Congress" is pretty out there visually, in the sense that there is some crazy animation reminiscent of "Cool World", but waaay better quality. Not Disney quality, ha, but it's pretty beautiful to look at, even when it's being pretty weird, and it really makes you miss hand-drawn animation for the bigscreen. There is just nothing like it. This, of course, is animation for adults. The animated parts of "The Congress" are still made as part of a mature and indie art-centric film for grown-up viewers. Yes, there's blood, nudity, f-bombs, a sex scene. If you didn't grow up watching Heavy Metal or Anime, you may be put off by it. Sad for you, ha. Animation SHOULD be treated as just another medium and not something just for kids. That's one of the reasons I wish this film was doing huge business right now, though I know hardly anyone is seeing it. And while I'd think this would be the perfect film for Austinites, the rest of the audience seemed to leave the film a bit stunned by what they just watched. That surprised me a bit. Then again, they weren't exactly, entirely the kind of crowd I'd expect to go to this kinda movie. Maybe I was just at the wrong screening, ha. The kind of folks that work at the Drafthouse, now that's the kind of crowd I can see loving this one (it's a Drafthouse release, after all), and a big chunk of Austin is that kind of crowd. 

I can say that my mother was probably a bit put off that so much of this film was animated, and definitely when the animated characters had sex, ha. And, I think some of the audience that was there today was in that camp of not being used to that kind of thing (personally, I'll take Anime porn over live-action whenever I can get it, ha). But if the rest of the film confused them, I'm not totally sure why. Okay, maybe it was just a little too difficult to get the positive out of the negative. See, this is really a dystopian future sci-fi film, and maybe it was more of one than people were expecting. If I remember correctly, the trailer is a bit vague about things beyond the first act, which could probably have led to many wrong assumptions. I mentioned the film "Cool World" before, because part of me, upon watching the film's trailer, thought, "That's a pretty interesting idea for a film," referring to the whole Robin Wright playing herself as a failed actor, and selling her identity as a computer image thing, while another part of me was thinking, "Wait a minute, I LOVE animation, but is this going to be another Cool World without the hot chicks?" It is MUCH better than Cool World though, in so many ways, and the story isn't complicated so much as it gives the illusion of being complicated, or maybe I should say it is complicated if you aren't used to dystopian future sci-fi. There's a lot of "The Matrix" here too. It's sort of "Cool World" meets "The Matrix" if it was a good indie film.

I should mention why I did enjoy this movie so much and think it is a really good film, and then mention its short comings (because that's what a review is, right? Sorry, I'm getting sleepy), which I don't think are very many. For one, this is a brave film. It is extremely ambitious. Even just using hand-drawn animation. Nobody does that anymore. It's a visually beautiful film. Though, sometimes the live-action stuff, as with a lot if not most indie films, seems to try a little too hard to be deep and beautiful. This is most troubling with some of the dialogue early on. Let me put it this way, I didn't LOVE the kid actors or some of the dialogue that was given to them in the first act (which is pretty much all they were in). It might have just been one or two scenes really, but it was the moments with the kids when I was least impressed with the film, not counting the Paul Giamatti stuff. It might have been the dialogue more than the acting. It was the kind of dialogue that makes it hard to tell, ha. That was such a small part of the film though. Most of it was Robin Wright and Harvey Keitel (who shared some POWERFUL live-action scenes together that left my actress sister in tears), Jon Hamm, Danny Huston, the always wonderful (and a personal fave) Paul Giamatti, and a few others. They were all brilliant, in animation or live-action. Some even better animators could have really made this phenomenal, but that's not to say there isn't a lot of good to be said about the animation here. There was a strong vintage quality to the designs. Very 1920's and 30's, and I really dug that. I guess when drug-induced hallucinations are the source of your animated characters, that's really the way to go. That or Mike Judge stuff. Or whoever did those older NickToons, ugh. The plot, which was basically about a dystopian future in which the worlds of filmmaking and drug use combined and took over in order to serve and survive on the masses' extreme desire to escape and be someone else, and the moral of staying true to yourself even when it means you're on your own, were both expressed pretty powerfully, I felt, though the latter may have taken some time to process due to the way it played out. The ending of the film is seems a bit torn on whether to give us a happy ending for a sad ending. I don't want to spoil it for you, but to me it seems to give us both. Or neither. Maybe that's why many people leave this film with a feeling of, "Huh?" But, really, I think the film was trying to say something positive about the core character and her children and something negative about society as a whole, and I think it succeeds in that, it just kinda leaves you, the viewer, not quite knowing what to feel. Perhaps many of us are like TinkerBell and can't feel more than one emotion at a time, at least when it pertains to the end of a film. Maybe people who are dogging this movie for being good but not great just don't like not being able to label the ending as a happy one or a downer, or whatever.

So, yeah, I think I'm fine with saying that "The Congress" is a great film. I think it's a bold and unusual film. I think it has flaws, but I think it is pretty darn fascinating. I think it makes good and worthy points, and I think it has some phenomenal performances and a lot of eye-candy scenes for those of us who love sci-fi and trippy animation, and just stuff like this in general. A lot of the concepts are really cool and worth contemplating and discussing. It's a movie you'll talk about after you've seen it, and not JUST to complain, though I'm sure there's been some of that with many viewers. It IS a movie that leaves some things up to you, I guess, and I don't always like that, but I don't think it does a lot of that, just a bit. Just that whole, "Was that a happy ending really? Or was that a downer?" question. Maybe that's something the filmmakers intended to be clearer, but I think it's great as it is. Maybe this movie isn't a masterpiece, but it's still a great movie and I recommend it if the trailer peaks your interest any at all. Just be prepared for the bulk of it being animated and the fact that this IS a dystopian future sci-fi film more than anything. At any rate, check it out. It deserves more ticket sales than I suspect it's been getting. Then again, I haven't really checked in-depth on that.

And, if you're in Austin, check out the newest Drafthouse. Also a very cool experience! Catch you guys later, and yeah, I'll be bringing back lots of the old stuff soon, including continuing with the much delayed Disney World trip review, ha. Boy, did that thing get stretched out. Sorry, half the time my computer is giving me frequent blue-screen of death attacks, and I also was in Oklahoma all last weekend and have a week in New York coming very soon... So, yeah, it's gonna be rough, but I'll be finishing that Disney report one way or the other and getting back to the crush of the week and comic postings very soon. I'm still here, no worries! Now, if only there was someone here with me! If not my own, personal "Jenny", then maybe that adorable Drafthouse waitress! Monty needs someone to hold tonight! Waaaah! Ahem, sorry, g'night, folks!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Is reviewing this one totally pointless yet?

This is gonna be really short, folks, but I have been meaning to post it forever, and I just haven't had any time to do it. So, yeah, maybe there aren't many left who want to see the new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" film that haven't already, but, well, I saw it, so here's my review in a nutshell.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" is a film based on a comic book about 4 turtles that have become mutated to the size of humans, trained in ninja arts by an equally mutated rat, and now that they're in their teens, are secretly running around New York stopping crimes perpetrated by an evil organization known as The Foot run by the mysterious Shredder. Also investigating the Foot Clan is a beautiful TV news reporter named April O'Neil, who discovers the turtles and works together with them to unravel the Shredder's secret plot against the city.

Sounds pretty legit, right? I mean, not unlike the Turtles we've all known and loved in prior films and several animated (and one live-action) TV shows. Incidentally, no, I have not seen all the TV shows, so I don't know how loyal any of those were to the first one, which I grew up watching as a casual afternoon viewer. Well, honestly, overall, this film isn't terribly unacceptable. Nope, it's not. It's actually a fun turtles film. The plot is generic, the characters take some getting used to, and I don't really feel Megan Fox is the most captivating leading lady. I'm not even talking about her looks, though admittedly, I have only really found her attractive in the first Transformers film (even in Jennifer's Body, I was more interested in Amanda Seyfried). I just mean that while she is serviceable  as the lead human in this film, I'd have to say... she just barely passes for me. Her sidekick is TV fave Will Arnett as cameraman Vernon Fenwick, and he's no Casey Jones, but he's good as usual. The CGI Turtles and the heavily armored Shredder almost feel like side characters in retrospect though. Even William Fichtner's devious character was more memorable than the Shredder. Granted, I saw this two or three weeks back. The CGI characters (and Shredder) are much like the rest of the film, adequate but not as memorable or endearing as the 90's film version. Luckily, the film is entertaining, full of great jokes and action, excellent effects and other Michael Bay popcorn movie stuff that many people love him for, and that many people hate him for. Myself, as with all movies, I like to enjoy it for the good while still making note of the bad. No film is totally bad. Well, maybe just a few. And even many excellent movies have flaws (I don't know if I want to say that no movie is perfect; there are a few that sure seem like it). As I said, I did enjoy this flick. But, there was something I took issue with more than anything else...

I really did not like the look of the Turtles! I hated their lips, I didn't like Donatello's uniquely designed face. I applaud the attempts to make each look different on a creative level, but really, they're not supposed to look different, so why do that? I thought these guys were pretty ugly and a bit too imposing. I got used to them though and maybe even learned to like them to some degree because of the fun factor of the film and the more likable aspects of their personalities, though, again, they didn't compare to the 90's versions. But, then there's Splinter. Oh, Splinter, our mutated ninja rat sensei. Splinter was HIDEOUS! He was HORRIFYING! He looked like a giant, diseased rat monster! And he didn't even talk with an accent. Or at least not much of one. He really made it hard to like this movie, and I hate to say that, because I love Tony Shalhoub!

As for April, as I said, she was serviceable. The yellow jacket was a nice touch, but can someone tell me why it's so hard to just do a live-action version of a comic or cartoon that is loyal to the source. I mean, what is the big deal with making April really look like April? Here's proof from "gotta include her on my crush of the week someday" cosplayer Ani-Mia that cartoon April works beautifully in the real world! Why do the movies HAVE to be so different? I'd pay to watch a Turtles film with this April for sure!

At any rate, I'll stick by what I said. The new movie is fun. It's entertaining. It's got cool visuals. I still prefer the old Turtles films though, and I'm still waiting for a film with an April like the one pictured above. Seriously. But I don't discourage anyone who generally enjoys the Ninja Turtles from seeing the film. The biggest problem was the way the CGI characters looked. It is simply a fun ride with characters you kinda have to push yourself to view as the same old friends we know and love. Not effortless viewing, but harmless and essentially enjoyable viewing.

Oh course, I enjoyed the film with a pizza of my own in-hand at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. Yep, there were fun clips before the film from things like the Ninja Turtles animated shows and video game, older films, commercials, openings for many Turtles knockoff shows, and more. Even that weird concert video and a weird appearance on Oprah!

Before, I end this up, I've been collecting action figures more and more lately, the 6-7 inch sizes usually, much larger than my preference as a kid, and I was a bit disappointed that the new film didn't have a proper 6 inch line. Just a bit disappointed, since I wasn't really dying for these guys on my shelf, and also because I discovered something better! Now on store shelves, 6 inch (or maybe 7, I haven't checked on that detail yet) action figures based on the 1990 film!

The only problem here is there is no April figure (or Splinter, or Shredder; though frankly, I'd prefer Turtles 2 April anyway). Regardless, I do hope to get this set sooner or later! And, who knows, maybe a second wave of more characters will eventually come along. Casey Jones would be cool to have too!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Remembering Robin

Robin Williams

I'm... more than a little behind on things here lately. I usually am. There are many articles I plan to write, plan to continue to write, and, well, I keep saying a new comic strip entry is on the way. It is. Things can slow us down though, and sometimes, things can really knock us for a loop. Earlier this month, we lost a few Hollywood icons to be sure. One in particular hit me rather hard though, and clearly not just me. For most, I assume it was because it was so unexpected. I guess most of us have some powerful nostalgic feelings for one Robin Williams film or another, if not several. Particularly my generation and those that followed have deeply cherished childhood memories of Robin Williams dressed as a benign grandmother, running from a herd of jungle animals through a suburban town, granting wishes as a big, blue genie, and flying around Neverland as Peter Pan. I say this started with my generation because I grew up watching Mr. Williams in his first major roles, playing the friendly alien Mork from Ork on TV's "Mork and Mindy", and the legendary comic and cartoon sailor man, "Popeye", in a live-action, theatrical feature film by Robert Altman. And, I dare to set myself apart, if just a bit, from the masses of mourners for this American treasure, by saying that as a very small boy, I idolized Robin in these roles. He was, without a doubt, a childhood hero of mine, most notably as Mork and Popeye, though I've loved much of his other work since then. In fact, these photos of myself from Halloweens past should help illustrate my point...

Come to think of it, earlier this year, I was considering putting together a Mork costume. Clearly, these characters brought a lot of joy to a lot of people. I know I'm not the only one who was this big a fan. For one example, there's a phenomenal cosplayer on Instagram who goes by "bulgyarms" and has put together an amazing suit inspired by Robin's take on Popeye. It's been a lifelong dream he finally completed, and it's glorious to see how it all came together.

Of course, I never knew Robin Williams personally. Like many others, I just have all these cherished memories of various pieces of his work, his life, that served as a big influence and inspiration on me and my life. I'll be honest and say that I really was never even much of a fan of Robin's stand-up comedy. He was clearly passionate and energized by it, and many people found him hilarious in that area, but it was Robin the actor, if mostly the comedic actor, that blew me away. And, when I think which role of his I love the most, as much as I LOVE Genie, there is no question that it always comes back to Popeye, the 1980 movie musical that I watched for the umpteen-millionth time on the night I heard of his tragic death at the hands of depression, something I'm not unfamiliar with myself.

In the wake of Robin's death, the one thing that wasn't altogether heartbreaking was my discovery of something called Popeye Village, a tourist destination in Malta that has become a definite bucket list visit for me. I'm gonna keep this memorial brief, but also end it by sharing this one pleasant surprise I had during this very dark time in the lives of myself and my fellow Robin Williams fans. As it turns out, the village of Sweethaven from the movie, "Popeye", still stands on the island where it was filmed. It is now known as Popeye Village, a half museum, half theme park (I use the phrases very loosely) for the entertainment of family oriented tourists off the hauntingly beautiful shores of Malta. The village isn't exactly as we remember it, unfortunately. It has some modernizing, some tacky paint jobs, and they oddly chose to turn the house we'd probably want to visit most, the Oyles' boarding house, into a bizarre, Christmas-themed attraction that is not related to anything, but overall, it's still the same ramshackle, wooden town from the movie. There are some great videos about it on YouTube. I truly hope I can see this place live and in-person someday. Just to walk the same streets Robin walked in the role of Popeye make that place something of a mecca for me. I wonder if bulgyarms knows about it.

Anyway, that's all I've got for now. I just wanted to ramble a bit about Robin Williams' role in my own life and how much I always looked up to him and his work, as I'm sure many people my age and younger did. I really hope he is somewhere better, where he is no longer tormented by the many things that can wear us down in this world, and where he is truly happy and at peace in his own Sweethaven. We're missing you already, Robin. Na-Nu, Na-Nu.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Moonlight Movie Reviews: Guardians of the Galaxy

Back at the movies again! And, boy, was this ever a movie! This is why I go to the movies!

I sooo wanna say that this seems like the first time in forever that I've seen a movie that just blew me away! I can't really say that though, because in the past several years there have always been one or two movies that did that. All those people who bitch online about how they don't make good movies anymore, what the hell are you talking about???!!!! Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the Conjuring, Saving Mr. Banks, The Cabin in the Woods, Frozen, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a ton of independent films and Oscar nominees most of us don't even go to while complaining about the lack of great film out there... There will always be great movies, just as there will always be bad movies. And, there will always be remakes and sequels, just as there always have been, and some of them will be great too! And, now we have Guardians of the Galaxy! It's like classic Star Wars meets Serenity and Flash Gordon with up-to-date visual effects that, Rocket Raccoon proves, are finally ready to be used in live-action, ha. 

But, as usual, I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's a look at some of the sweet preshow clips at the Alamo Drafthouse Village screening I attended Monday morning. Yes, I went to the 2D screening. I'm not sure if I'll ever fork out extra dough for a 3D screening anymore. It just hasn't hooked me. Though, I still wish I saw Frozen in 3D.

You'll notice the last two clips feature animated versions of Guardians of the Galaxy characters. They're from some Spidey-Man animated series. I assume the current or most recent one on Disney Channel? I really don't know which one that is. I don't have cable, and there have been so many Spidey animated shows (all of which I really need to watch; I only regularly watched the Saturday morning one when I was a kid with Iceman and Firestar; She was soooo hot, literally). Anyway, looked like a darn good show. Clearly, they've been making it with the intention of pushing upcoming Marvel movies, if it IS a recent, Disney produced cartoon, like I'm assuming. 

Anywho, the clips were great, the pizza was delicious, and then came these guys...

Yep, those are our heroes, guys, The Guardians of the Galaxy. Gamora, Star-Lord (better known as Peter Quill), Rocket, Drax, and Groot. They're a bunch of misfit, would-be criminals and outcasts who end up meeting in prison and setting out on a mission to save the galaxy from madman Ronan who wants to use an orb in the Guardians' possession to destroy, well, everything! 

I could go into a lot more detail, but that's the gist of it. Peter Quill is basically the leader of our motley crew, and the focus of the film. He's a half-alien earthling who is abducted and recruited by space pirates when he's a boy in the 80's. This makes for some great nostalgia moments for children of the 80's like myself, as well as an awesome soundtrack of music that was classic at that time (the source being a cassette of Peter's mom's favorite tunes from her own youth). There are a million things that make this film fantastic, the oddly matched soundtrack is one of them, but you already knew that would be the case from the trailers, right? As for the others, the lovely warrior Gamora (okay, her lack of eyebrows weirds me out, but her physique won't quit) is an "adopted" daughter of Thanos on a mission to betray her wicked father and protect the universe from the power of the orb and the evil of Ronan. Drax is out for vengeance, as Ronan and his crew were responsible for the death of his wife and daughter. Groot is the strong and powerful best-friend of Rocket, a genetically modified, talkative raccoon with a bad attitude and a love of shooting off guns who works as a bounty hunter with Groot as his muscle. 

As always, I make it a point to say that I did not read these comics before seeing the film. As always, I make a point to mention that, yes, I grew up on comic books, but while I have been a huge fan of DC and Marvel's more mainstream characters since I was a child and have always frequented comic shops, I collected and read Disney and Star Wars comics (and a few other things), and kept my superhero fandom mostly to television and movies. I've always been a huge fan of superheroes in that way. I don't know if it's accurate to call the Guardians of the Galaxy superheroes, but, you know what I mean, Marvel and DC Universe stuff. There's a derogatory term the comic readers have for this kind of fan, but I can never remember it. Anyway, I still am always (or usually) willing to back them up when they complain about major changes in the translation from source material to film. I rarely think it's necessary. Though, at this point, the comics have rebooted themselves so many times, I don't see how anything can be considered canon. I've finally come to take each TV show and film line as a universe unto itself. That being said, the only complaint I've had thus far with Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe has been with the recasting of actors, which I just hate. Even if I do really like, maybe even prefer Ruffalo's Banner and definitely the Avengers Hulk. That Ed Norton Hulk movie, that Hulk, it looked like a video game character. Even the Bana movie had a more realistic looking Hulk. But, I digress. I have yet to hear any serious complaints about anything in Guardians of the Galaxy. This movie is just, well, it's... wow. I'm probably going to go see it again soon. Yeah, I think I am.

Now, really quick, let's talk about another major player in the film, Gamora's adoptive sister, Nebula. She serves Ronan and her father, Thanos, loyally, and is out to track down the traitorous Gamora and the other Guardians to retrieve the orb. She's a great character. Sorta the Darth Maul of the film, though this film is much better (MUCH BETTER) than any Star Wars prequel (and, no, I don't really hate those). All I really wanna say about her is this...

It's Doctor Who's old companion, Karen Gillian, and yeah, if she were half as tall, she'd be perfect. I of course am assuming she is 10 feet tall. Okay, she is probably only inches too tall to suit my preferences, but I'd probably go out with her anyway. GOD, look at that face! And that hair! Oh, wait a minute. I forgot. She shaved it all off. Argh! This seems to be a growing trend. Anyone seen my gorgeous Olivia Cooke lately? So disturbing. Anyway, I am mainly pointing out that the BEAUTIFUL Karen Gillian (yeah, probably will make her my crush of the week soon, if I haven't already) played the role of Nebula because, honestly, I had completely forgotten she was in this film. But, as freaky as Nebula looks, the whole time, I was thinking, I can tell this actress is probably pretty hot. But, I completely forgot who it was! Then, it clicked! I remembered hearing about her comic con bald head reveal last year for this movie! I just thought it was funny and worth mentioning... I don't know why. It's interesting to me.

Ya know what else is funny, worth mentioning, and interesting to me (but far less hot)? Howard the Duck. Howard the Duck in the little bonus scene after the credits of the film. How perfect.

Though it would be perfectly fitting for this to just be a funny cameo that isn't followed up with a bigger role for Howard in the future of the MCU, it would also be really disappointing. I don't NEED Howard to have his own movie, though it'd be cool, but yeah, I'd like to see him get a major role in one of these movies soon, or even a minor one. Ya know, these little tidbits at the end, a couple of them have been duds, but most of the time, they're so good that it really annoys me when people leave without seeing them. I mean, seriously? How can you be sooo not-fun?!!! Man, most of the audience left during the credits in the screening I was at! Is this your first Marvel movie or something? Heck, it's not even just Marvel movies that do that these days. Stick around, people! You never know what might pop up!

Oh, and before I finalize this, talking about smaller roles in the film, this movie has plenty of hotties, and it wouldn't be a Moonlight Motel movie review not to talk about them. Besides Gamora and Nebula, who are hotties in a "if only they weren't so weird lookin'" kinda way, I gotta salute the random cuteness in the forms of the Collector(Benicio del Toro)'s pigtailed slave girls (good taste; I, too, would require my slave girls to wear pigtails; though, of course, slavery is wrong.... but pigtails are not), and also in the form of one awkwardly placed character. I don't know if this was one of those "director's girlfriend" moments, but Glenn Close, who played Nova Prime, had this extremely hot assistant who just stood beside her and not saying a word, just frantically working on her iPad. It was... weird, ha. I mean, I don't remember her having a single line, but she was too stunning not to notice and right up front there with Glenn Close. I don't even recall anyone saying anything to her or... anything. Just sort of a funny, awkward moment. Can't complain though. 

My final word on this film is, well, practically perfect. Really, this movie was amazing. AMAZING! I LOVED it! Truly! I can't recommend it enough. Everyone is so good. Chris Pratt (whom I was unfamiliar with until now) is excellent in the lead role of Peter Quill, but Rocket Raccoon really steals the show, as was expected, and the effects on him and everything else are simple glorious! All the cast were fantastic though, and I also really enjoyed the presence of John C. Reilly, whom I believe I haven't mentioned yet. I really can't ever remember seeing anything he wasn't brilliant in though. Anyway, I highly, HIGHLY recommend you get out and see this film today! It's full of humor, action, excitement, wonder, beauty, emotion, adventure, great music and, well, this is just what the movies are all about!

Now, as a little bonus review...
As you probably know, I collect toys. I have been streamlining my collecting in the past several years, selling a lot of stuff, being more choosy about what I pick up, and getting more and more into 6 inch action figures than I ever thought I would. In fact, I thought I was swearing off action figures, but I couldn't stop getting 6 inch Marvel movie-based figures, and then they started making DC Movie based figures, and now Star Wars has a 6 inch line, and Neca always makes good stuff, though they are annoyingly in 7 inch scale... Anyway, even though I have a lot of things on my "Get" list right now, including the still elusive Black Widow 6 inch movie figure, and even though I saw the Neca classic Planet of the Apes figures at Toys R Us this weekend, when I saw the following figure on shelves just minutes after getting out of my Guardians of the Galaxy screening, I naturally had to pick it up (and, frankly, I only had enough cash to spare for one figure; someone, offer me a job that actually pays! I went to a 4-year college, and I NEED toys; I don't have a woman, ya know).

So, this is the 6-inch action figure of Star-Lord/Peter Quill from Guardians of the Galaxy, and though the likeness could be a bit better in the face, it's a darn good action figure. I was really happy to find it, as all the Guardians of the Galaxy figures have been pretty impossible to find here in Austin so far. This was my first time seeing one on shelves from the actual film, and they literally only had this figure and one other, which was a Drax figure. Had I enough money, I would have bought him too. Definitely on my list. Actually, even 2 figures I don't want are on my list, but I'll get into that in a moment, first, here are a couple of poses of the unboxed figure with his accessories in use and with both of the heads he comes with (masked and unmasked).

Nice, eh?

So, Star-Lord here clearly comes with the alternate head, the object everyone is after in the film, the orb, two guns, and a walkman and headset straight out of the 80's, but oddly without a connection between them, ha. Oh, and one more item comes with the Star-Lord figure...

Yeah, that's Groot's arm, along with some sort of instruction sheet I haven't even glanced at yet. Groot is only available as a Build-a-Figure, which means each of the 6 figures (20 bucks a pop, mind you) comes with a piece of Groot. You get them all and you can build a badass Groot figure, but this means buying not only the main group, but two figures I don't even want. This is just sooo annoying. At least when I was building the Batsignal for the Dark Knight Rises figures, they were all actually characters in the film. Heck, give me a Nebula figure, a Collector figure, John C. Reilly or even Nova Prime's silent assistant. Anybody from the film. This line of Guardians of the Galaxy figures forces me to buy two comic-based figures that I have no use for. Thanks! It's not like these are pricey or anything. If I have any quibbles about action figures these days, that is definitely one of them. The 7 inch scale of Neca, Marvel Select, and a few others is another, and the fact that some very cool figures are only being made in 3 3/4 size (I think that's the size, I am just ballparking), like Tim Burton's Batman characters and Christopher Reeve Superman characters (they better redo those for the Movie Masters line) is another. But, a final one I'd really like to mention is the scarcity of certain 6 inch figures. I mean, I can walk in and see an entire wall of Transformers whenever there's a new Transformers movie out, so what is the deal with these Marvel movies having a tiny little section, and only putting out a box of 6 inch figures at a time! The scalpers easily clean out the rarest ones from those only seconds after they are brought out! And what's with only including one per box of some of the most wanted characters?!!! We've been clamoring for this 6 inch Black Widow ever since they released the 6 inch Avengers figs back when the movie came out (the lack of action figures of female characters is another big quibble), so what is with the one per box thing?! The fact that I have yet to see one on store shelves is clearly a problem. They've been out since Captain America 2 was released, as they're part of that line. And now, Guardians of the Galaxy. I am barely starting to find a few, and mostly those two that are at the bottom of my list (I'll have to get them though, 'cause of Groot). But I can just imagine how hard finding Rocket is going to be! And probably Gamora too! Oh, well, the search continues. Don't get me started on the Turtles figures for the movie that comes out this weekend. They actually made a pretty cute figure of Megan Fox with a bit of a likeness, even if it's a bit cartoony looking, and I don't even go for Megan Fox much. But couldn't they have done at least a line of these in 6 inch scale? They're the same size as past Turtle figures, which are an odd scale all their own, and it looks way too small for figures as detailed as this new line. Well, maybe there ARE some 6 inchers coming out and I just haven't heard about them yet.

Anyway, there's your look into the struggles of a movie and cartoon-based toy collector for now. Hope you get out there and see Guardians soon if you haven't already. I'm gonna see it again, and hopefully I won't have to wait too long to catch Turtles either. See ya next time with the Crush of the Week and the next part of our look at my December Disney World trip! I know Christmas in July is over. I don't care. We gotta get through it, and I'm barely on day two! New comics on the horizon too, just bear with me! Catch ya next time!