Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Catching up with what we've been doing on YouTube: Moonlight Reviews

Continuing with our 4-part series of postings to show you guys what we've been doing while the site's been dead for a while, which has mostly been over on YouTube, here's the second of the 4 types of videos we've been making: Moonlight Reviews (and, yep, we're bringing original material back to this site once we're done with these updates). So, in case you haven't subscribed to us on YouTube yet, here are all our Moonlight Review posts, which focus on a variety of things, but mostly toys, Blu-Ray unboxings, and reviews of movies I just saw in theaters. 

Now, I'm gonna start this off with the ones Monty did before I took over, which were called Monty's Toy Box. After it was decided Monty is too clumsy for toy reviews and too furry for food reviews, ha (though we're gonna bring him back once we figure out the new Moonlight Movie Show), I started doing the toy reviews and BluRay unboxings and such myself, along with the first fresh from the theater reviews. We're presenting all that stuff here, except for the lost "Monty's Moonlight Snacks" reviews. Though, Moonlight Snacks still might come back, but as I'm trying to lose some weight and am tight on funds right now, all this stuff will be taking a backseat to Moonlight Movies and the new site stuff. At least until I find a new job and have funds again, ha. But, anyway, here ya go, Monty's Toy Box videos, followed by Moonlight Reviews...

Monty's Notes: This first one, which is what really got the ball rolling, was something of a customization review. I rarely customize my toys. I don't have much knowledge of it yet, plus, while it may greatly improve what you have or give you something totally unavailable, it also makes the item no longer how it was originally intended, which may or may not mean something to your toy collection if and when the item becomes a nostalgia piece. But, whatever, I had just seen Jurassic World, and I wanted something from it, went with a toy of Blue the raptor, but it didn't have a blue stripe like I thought it did in the movie, so I gave customizing a shot, and I think it came out well. I haven't seen that movie since it was in theaters though (holding out till I can buy the 4 film bluray set), so I hope I wasn't hallucinating that blue striping, ha.

Monty's Notes: Next is probably our most popular video so far. I noticed you can still buy those old candy and bubblegum cigarettes I remember from childhood at places like Big Lots, so I bought a bunch and reviewed them. There are a few things I wish I could change about this review. I come off a little prudish about candy cigarettes, even though they're nostalgic for me. Truth is, I don't mind them at all, but I do mind that the whole "smoking is cool" thing still seems to be a thing among new generations, which baffles me, and I can't imagine these would help. Then again, who would buy these for their kids? Ha. Actually, aside from someone like me doing something like this, I can't imagine who buys these at all, but someone does or they wouldn't keep making 'em. Also, I wish I realized while making the video that the powder in the bubblegum cigarettes is meant to be blown out. Someone showed me this briefly after shooting the video. Pretty interesting. It does look a bit like smoke, ha. 

Monty's Notes: This is just a straight up action figure review, as I was so psyched to finally have action figures from the movie Goonies, ha.

Monty's Notes: More Funko fun. I realized that a bunch of the toys I'd gotten into collecting recently were all made by the same company, so I made this video...

Monty's Notes: On a rare occasion, I was able to buy this entire set at once before anyone else had reviewed them all as a group, so I decided to jump on that chance. Now, you can actually buy them all in one package, I think, ha. It's another of my more highly viewed videos.

Nathan's Notes: This is where I took over for Monty, though he will be back (possibly for the movie reviews like this one). This is my review of the recent Ghostbusters remake. It also features my first ever taste of Hi-C Ecto Cooler, which was pretty amazing. A shame it is probably discontinued already. Also, I said the can was green because it was cold. I think now that this is incorrect. Originally, it was said they were going to be color changing cans. I don't think they actually were, ha. My warm cans (I still have one I'm saving) look the same, but I bought this one cold, and it's the first I ever found. Plus, yeah, I did eventually find the Ghostbusters Marshmallow Man Twinkies, which it seems were a Wal-Mart exclusive. You can still find some at Big Lots stores now that they're discontinued though, ha. I don't know how fresh they'd be, but they're well worth trying.

Nathan's Notes: This is my first Blu-Ray unboxing video, the subject being Batman v Superman, which I later reviewed with my sis on the first episode of Moonlight Movies.

Nathan's Notes: My review of Suicide Squad, and my brief word on the NEW Killing Joke controversy, which I still haven't seen yet. 

Nathan's Notes: My first toy review taking over from Monty. This one was for a toy from the new Pete's Dragon movie, including a very awkward unboxing, ha. I found out why toy reviewers usually do that off camera. I also refer to Elliot as Pete at least once. Weird how they spell Elliot differently for the new one. Though I've seen them accidentally use this spelling in new merchandise for the old one. At least, I'm pretty sure the old one is officially Elliott. Sorry, I go off on tangents easily.

Nathan's Notes: And here is my review for that new Pete's Dragon, which I went to see right after reviewing the toy.

Nathan's Notes: And my review for Sausage Party, which I saw right after Pete's Dragon. It was a long night, ha. I actually didn't do this review till a day and a half later.

Nathan's Notes: Finally, to catch ya all up on these, my unboxing of the new Limited Edition Sailor Moon Crystal Blu-Ray set. Unfortunately, I uploaded it via my phone and did not checkmark HD, so the quality ended up pretty bad. It still is one of my most popular videos, but since it's about showing off merchandise, it sucks that I screwed that up. I've thought about reposting it, but as it's been out for a while now, it seems a bit irrelevant. People seem to be enjoying this one anyway. Maybe I still will repost it in HD later. Not sure how much better that will look. 

And that's that, gang. I have two more posts like this to do, one on Austin by Moonlight and one on my more random videos. Heck, maybe I'll combine them into one post since I don't think they add up to very many on their own. After that, we'll get started with the all new stuff! In the meantime, please go to YouTube and subscribe! Click on Like and leave comments too! Thanks a bunch! Talk to ya later!

Catching up with what we've been doing on YouTube: Moonlight Movies

Last time, I mentioned to you guys that I'd be sharing with you the YouTube videos we made while we were away from the site. From now on, we'll try to keep up with sharing them here, but for now, here's a bit of what you've missed if you don't subscribe to our YouTube channel. 

Now, I did mention we have been posting 4 types of videos on our YouTube channel. These are Moonlight Reviews (new toys, DVD unboxings, movies I just saw in theaters, etc...), Moonlight Movies (our main show, which is my sister and I talking about the latest movie we watched together, thoroughly and full of spoilers), Austin by Moonlight (a rarer type of video dealing with more local experiences), and finally, just the occasional randomness, though for the most part, I'll be trying to keep things under the first three titles from now on. As for our original thing, the Moonlight Movie Show, starring Monty Moonlight, we're still working out how we're going to bring that back. We like the title too much too let it go completely, and I do want Monty back onscreen, and hopefully Seymour. We also kicked off our YouTube comeback with a few videos Monty did called, "Monty's Toy Box" and "Monty's Moonlight Snacks". I think we took down the Moonlight Snacks vids, as they weren't getting any views anyway, and we found that Monty's clumsy claws weren't up to par for thoroughly showing off new toy unboxings, so I took that over with the Moonlight Reviews. The latter are still available though, and I'll share them on one of these posts too, even though I might have shared some of them already.

In this post though, I think I'll start with our main show, Moonlight Movies. As I said, this is my younger sister, Ashley (I do have an older sis as well), and I on our little red couch reviewing the latest movie we viewed (a preselected movie, of course) in a completely full-on spoiler alert zone. So, be wary of that if you watch these. We've done three so far. Our first attempt was with the Blu-Ray release of Batman v. Superman. Ha, I look like I pushed Tim Allen off a roof in this one. Honk if you get that. Here's the vid:

Now, in our second review, I started including opening art cards to make the whole thing look more professional. It's something a lot of YouTube reviewers do, and since I can make my own, might as well. It was also the start of our Halloween season reviews. It was posted in late August, but for us, that's time to get ready for Halloween, as we discuss. Our second Moonlight Movies episode also happened to be a double feature (and it's quite a long sit, ha), Waxwork and Waxwork II, a pair of horror flicks starring Gremlins' Zach Galligan, the first being an 80's classic, at least to its fans, ha. 

Finally, our most recent episode, and the most recent video I've posted as I write this (it actually went up yesterday), also served as our goodbye to screen legend Gene Wilder. We took a look at Young Frankenstein, a film most everyone knows is great, but we sometimes will be talking about stuff like that anyway. I mean, there ARE people who have never seen it. I think. 

And that catches you up with Moonlight Movies, anyway. I'll do more posts to catch you up with the other types of videos we've been running too, and then I'll get into the new material for this site and really start organizing things around here in the archives and stuff. Now, if you watch these videos and like them, please remember to like and subscribe, and also to comment. You'll have to go over to YouTube for all that, so please do. I think you can get there by clicking the YouTube logo on the video. Give it a try!

Okay, that's it for now, guys. Only three episodes of Moonlight Movies so far, but I think the other video category posts will be longer, at least in some cases. Remember, new material is coming soon too, so don't forget to come back often to see what's going on!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

We've been away for a while

Well, hello folks! You probably are wondering where we've been. A lot has been going on, and we're about to see some big changes here at the Moonlight Motel. At least, when it comes to this website (assuming we can get the funds together to renew next month, ha).

When last you heard from us, we made a big announcement that we were going to start posting pages of the first Moonlight Motel graphic novel here on a weekly basis until the whole thing was complete, and instead of posting anything else (like the various articles and stuff we used to do, in addition to irregular new comic strip postings). You also might remember we started dabbling in doing YouTube videos again. Well, that's turned into more of a thing very recently. Monty and I have almost earned a whole four dollars by doing our Youtube videos, and I guess you could say that's spurred us a little. However, we still need to find a good, preferably free editing program that our low memory desktop can handle, and Monty has refused to go in front of the camera since our return to YouTube, doing hands-only videos at most, but I'm gonna keep working on him as far as that's concerned. Maybe we'll eventually get Seymour doing some videos too. In the meantime, it's mostly me, Nathan Lee James, and sometimes my sister too. More on that in a minute though.

As for why things didn't go according to plan last time with the graphic novel progress (it's still gonna happen, but the plan for the site has changed a bit), well, we had to deal with some family issues and events, health issues, and things at my day job took a scary turn I'm still dealing with. In other words, my hours have been cut in half so that I barely make enough for rent anymore, and it's anyone's guess as to how long I'll even have half a job, but I have to go out of town for a week in the fairly near future, and I really don't want to have to explain that in job interviews, so I'm hoping to hold out a little longer. What it comes down to though, is the realization that my cohorts and I really need to focus more on making our various talents into serious forms of income. For example, after I catch up on a few overdue pieces, I really need to start making money on art again, I need to make more and more Youtube videos, and really anything else I can think of, and I also gotta spend more time on the ol' Moonlight Motel. I'm gonna be sprucing things up a bit here, so if you liked any of my old stuff, you might wanna go revisit it now. I might clean out the archives somewhat, maybe even relabel some (don't know yet), and start gearing things towards our new focus: Original comics, art, poetry and YouTube videos.

Yes, I said poetry, but trust me, it's not what you're thinking. I used to do a series of creepy, dark humor poems on DeviantArt that I'm gonna see if I still have somewhere. I'm gonna start sharing them here and making more. These may be in comic strip form, or they may be in some other form, I really don't know. As for the other stuff I mentioned, comics and YouTube videos, we've always had that, but we'll have more YouTube videos than we used to, and hopefully more comics than we used to as well. At some point, we'll get the graphic novel going, and that may interrupt the new comics till it is all done, as previously announced. I don't know yet. The advent of more YouTube videos means probably no more articles. If I do find the time to clean up the archives, it means I might take down or edit some old articles, we'll see. Might take down the Crush of the Week archive. Don't know. We'll see. The general look of the site won't change. I like it. I don't like it when sites change their look or how they work for no reason, ha. The content is what will change. And, hopefully I'll get around to making more, much cooler merchandise for the site as well. Maybe the changes will actually cause some of that stuff to sell, ha ha. 

So, for now, I'm gonna probably start posting some of the YouTube videos we did recently that aren't on this site yet. Maybe some of you haven't seen them. It'll give you an idea of what I'm doing now. Again, the comics will still be coming. I may do some video versions of the comics too, I don't know. If you enjoy the videos, please go to YouTube and subscribe to me. Please click the like button. Also, please leave your comments (especially the positive ones) on the actual video's comment section over on YouTube. That's more helpful to me than commenting on or liking the videos on Facebook or elsewhere. Also, keep in mind that sometimes I make mess-ups or whatever on my videos, like everyone does, in terms of giving a date incorrectly or a name, and I might use the annotations to correct myself, and the thing about that is, I think you can only see the annotations when you're on the YouTube site. I know they don't show when I watch YouTube on TV. So, the BEST way to watch, like, and comment on my videos is on the actual YouTube site, but you can use my postings of the vids here to take you there. Currently, I have been doing Moonlight Movies (my sis and I on our little red couch reviewing blu-rays and DVDs, we've already started on our Halloween phase with that), Moonlight Reviews (just me talking about whatever I just saw in theaters or whatever items I just bought, including Bluray unboxings, toys and other stuff), and Austin by Moonlight (an occasional, more centralized posting, like reviews of local places or events, though these videos are more rare since I don't go out a lot). I also have posted some more random stuff, though from now on, I'll try to stick one of those titles on it if not a new title, and I still hope to bring a version of The Moonlight Movie Show back someday soon featuring Monty as the host. If you don't recall, my first YouTube videos featured Monty doing vlogs and about three episodes of the prototype Moonlight Movie Show. With all the copyright struggles on YouTube these days though, I might do Moonlight Movie Show on its own YouTube Channel (to avoid risking strikes on my own) or just focus on public domain movies with it. I am currently avoiding using copyrighted movie clips in any of my videos for that reason, even those feature-length movie reviews I've been doing with my sis lately, ha.

So, there ya are. Gonna catch up posting YouTube stuff here, then start posting new stuff: comics, art, videos and creepy humor poetry, and probably gonna gradually be cleaning up the archives. New merch coming, so please support by picking something up if you like the new content, or subscribe, like and comment on our YouTube videos. You can find them here: Nathan Lee James on YouTube

That's the news for now, guys! Keep checkin' back here! Gonna post a lot. First, it's gonna be the stuff that's on YouTube already. It's not a ton, so it won't take long. Then, it's gonna be all new stuff! Thanks for stickin' around! And, if you like any of the old merchandise in my Cafepress and Zazzle stores, better get it now. I don't know if I'll take down or change any of it. Gonna have to wait and see. Laters!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Update, Plus a Follow Up to my Wizarding World and Disney Haul Video

Hello, folks! Sorry it's been so quiet here. I know I'm long overdue for my planned graphic novel page postings that were intended to begin the first or second week of January. This was held up a bit when my mother's holiday visit was extended a bit longer due to her becoming ill. Following her recovery, I as usual took a weekend to drive her back home, and now I'm ready to get cracking with the book, albeit a bit late. I should have something up sometime this weekend for realz, but in the meantime, I did manage to record the follow-up video to my previous Wizarding World/Disney World Haul, as promised, to mention some stuff I forgot and to throw in a few extra things as well. So, enjoy, and again, stay tuned here for my graphic novel very, VERY soon! Oh, and if you enjoy the video, please subscribe on YouTube!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Management Notice: Site Update and Vacation Haul Video

Hi-Dee-Ho, folks! Long-time, no see! My sincerest apologies, a lot has been going on. Here's a ten peso update on me, the future of this site and Moonlight Motel, and a bonus Harry Potter Wizarding World and Disney Haul video to boot!

First, so no one gets too concerned, the site update. Don't worry, we aren't going anywhere. Obviously, it's been difficult for me to find the time to come on here and post stuff. I wish this website were my full-time gig. However, I currently don't get enough hits to make a dime off it, partly my own fault for not focusing on the original intention of the site, a web comic. I'm planning to change that this year. Moonlight Motel is my passion and my expression, and I love it, but I have hardly put out any new strips in the past few years. There have been some huge distractions since I started the comic, and subsequently, this website. A little hit film (which just had a sequel) about monsters running a hotel didn't boost my spirits any either. I can just imagine how many folks think Hotel Transylvania came along before we did. It didn't. Not that we are THAT similar in tone or style, but a hotel run by monsters, a motel run by monsters, most people probably won't look beyond those similar, superficial descriptions. That being said, I do enjoy Hotel Transylvania (Selena Gomez makes one hot CGI vampiress, no surprise), and I was probably harsher in my original review of the first film than I should have been (haven't seen the sequel yet), as it's actually really good, but I digress. Point is, I have spent most of my time here writing articles, reviews, and other filler that I enjoy greatly, but that are not at all the purpose of this site. I'm not saying I won't do anymore of that stuff, but probably very rarely, and eventually I might do that mostly in video format. For now, as I mention in the video below, I want to start focusing on getting a comic post up every week if possible. And, it's actually gonna be very different for a while. I've been talking for a long time about my first Moonlight Motel graphic novel. However, it's been really hard to find the time to work on it. I even had to cancel my Wizard World table for last October, because I hadn't made any progress on the book beyond the initial concept and long existing cover art. Well, hopefully starting next week, but definitely this month, my intention is that future posts on this website will mostly be a new page of my graphic novel every week. Will these be in full color? not sure. Will they be the final version of the book, maybe, but I wouldn't be surprised if more editing is done before the official version is made available for purchase. These Moonlight Motel posts will be different from the usual strip posts. They will be pages of a graphic novel, not single strip gags. This will all add up to one big story in the end. Then, I'll go back to making new strips until I start working on another graphic novel. 

Other posts on this site will be rare and random. Crush of the Week? We might still do crush articles on rare occasion. The title will have to be different though. It hasn't effectively been a Crush of the Week in quite some time. Movie Reviews? I wish I could have at least done Star Wars 7 and Krampus reviews before deciding to make such posts far less frequent. However, while I LOVE movies, I may not be the best critic anyway, and my reviews of these particular two movies are simple. Loved 'em both. If I can get a better video making situation going, perhaps I will start up with movie reviews again in video format, but that will take some time. Other articles I've posted here were random reviews, events, and rants, and they could still appear at random. My point here is just to say it will be far less often. I will mostly be focusing on the comic strip here. I probably won't even go back to those multi-part articles that were started but not continued, specifically ones about trips I took over the past few years. I might go into those again at some point, maybe, but while I started talking a long time ago about my 2013 Disney World trip and my 2014 New York trip and never got past day one in either case, I doubt I will be coming back with day 2 after all. It's just too important that I refocus this site. I'm not ruling out the possibility I will be particularly free one random week to just sit and write about old trips or whatever, but I am not promising anything. Remember though, you can keep up with my daily doings on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook. Mainly, I just post things on Instagram and share them to all those other sites, including plenty of images from my travels, holidays, and just my daily life. Also, I do these occasional YouTube videos. I'll keep sharing those here on the site (but please go to YouTube and subscribe, most videos include crucial annotations that are not displayed when viewed on this site). I just really wanna start getting some things done that are important to me as an artist, because I haven't done a huge amount with my career as yet. Developing my comic strip was a big deal for me when things finally started to fall into place after previous attempts, but I haven't done enough with it and don't have much excuse for that, and now I feel like I'll always be in the shadow of Hotel Transylvania, because I didn't get my work out there fast enough. That old chestnut. I'm still gonna try, and I hope people will see past the setup, which I have no wish to change, and that my strip really has very little in common with that film franchise. As for the website, that's pretty much what I wanted to say, that for a while it's going to be a showcase for my graphic novel in-progress. Maybe some familiar articles will appear on rare occasion, definitely some occasional updates on myself and stuff, but mostly we're gonna focus on the first book for a while.

As for an update on me, well, like I said, I've been so preoccupied with life that the site has suffered, which is why I wanna start to prioritize this. I'm not getting any younger. In fact, I now find myself at 40 (almost 41), and far behind everyone else my age. I don't care too much about that, really. Everyone says I look 10 years younger than I am, sometimes more, I have a youthful spirit (my interests and goals don't sync up much with my actually age group), I have so little dating experience that I am more compatible with much younger women (and they look better in pigtails), and most people my age are only so much further along because they've settled in some way. I've never been about settling, but I HAVE allowed myself to get lazy (or more accurately, distracted) in going for the things I really want. I may not be about doing the kids and sensible career thing, but I do want a comfortable income and someone to snuggle with at night. No, I didn't get a sensible degree and settle into a boring but reliable, well-paying office job, but I do work in a boring office job that doesn't pay well and offers no benefits while I sit on a useless art degree, and that's not much better than being Joe Schmo Settled-In if I'm not working on my dreams while I suffer for my art. Hence the more aggressive website/graphic novel plan, and also my intention to finally do something I've thought about since high school and start more aggressively checking out the stand-up comedy thing. At least, I need to start looking into it. It's a difficult issue, because I do have very high social anxiety. I'm what's called an introverted extrovert. Yes, that's a real thing. It's what many entertainers are, actually. I am initially extremely shy and awkward with strangers, though if people will give me a little time to get to know me, I will open up like crazy, but most folks don't do that. Of course, it also requires the other person to initiate things. It's been one of my biggest issues with meeting women too. I almost never do meet any, in fact, though it also seems none of the women I'm attracted to are ever single, so I really don't know what to do in that department. That's not really me asking for advice though. I've been hearing dating advice for years. It's mostly been shit. No offense. But, I notice none of my friends have ever tried to set me up with anyone. What the hell? That's supposed to be a thing. Sure, I probably wouldn't like your choice, but at least offer! Anyway, this year, one of my two best friends (the unmarried one) is actually getting married, and I'm supposed to be the best man. Personally, I'm not wild about weddings, and he told me once he wasn't ever going to get married, so I was thinking, "Phew, that's a load off." I can't dance and have never written a toast or anything. Am I supposed to throw a bachelor party? Because I live pretty much hand to mouth, and I've never been to a real bachelor party, either. I've only been to like four weddings in my life, because I hate them. But, I love my best friend, and hopefully I can drop some weight before this summer, but it's still gonna suck to be the 41 yr old best man who has never had a real date himself. No, I've never had a REAL date. I went out on date-like excursions several times with one particular girl over the past 5 plus years (since coming to Austin), but I don't feel like she ever agreed that they were real dates. I was madly in love with her, but she didn't feel the same. She went away, but came back into my life last summer, but that didn't last very long at all. I just never could get my feelings to rub off on her. Not sure why she comes back to me sometimes, but I think that was probably the last time,... and, no, I'm not okay with that, but I am tired of being hurt. So, that was something else that made the past year very... complicated for me, and that I'm still dealing with on a daily basis in my head. 

This winter and spring will be a bit tough, as I need to raise a lot of money. Gonna be selling a lot of stuff I no longer want on Ebay, I guess. I need to figure out dental and health insurance, I need to get a lot of dental work done, I may have a hefty tax bill, because Obamacare got me all confused and screwed me over, and there's the wedding and the usual stuff: rent, car issues and all that. Tried to start collecting comics again recently. Boy, had to cut that out quick. The trips I've been taking the past couple years, frankly, have been at no cost to me aside from souvenirs. I couldn't afford to date right now if I wanted to, but I gotta solve that problem too or I'll never find anyone, because after a few more years, I'm done looking. Sorry, I can't see myself dating anyone over 40 (not really comfortable with the over 30 crowd, for that matter). It's not that I can't be with someone as she grows older, once I'm in love, I'm hooked, but I just can't start off with her already looking like Jack Palance. You gots to ease me into that, and hopefully I'll be dead before you hit that point anyway.

Anyway, so I'm gonna try to get going with the graphic novel and stuff right away, but I'll be most at ease when I figure out what's happening with all these sudden expenses I'm gonna have. In other words, hopefully, after tax time, things will be clearer. I don't really know HOW I'm gonna work that stuff out, but it's sorta like preparing for finals. At least I knew that once they were done, one way or another, I could move on (and sleep!). So, I don't know if I'll be job hunting soon or what. Maybe Ebay will prove fruitful, maybe other things, but that's something I'll be dealing with over the next few months, among all that other stuff: Trying to raise money, trying to get in shape for that wedding, trying to get the graphic novel going and focusing the website on that, trying to check out the local comedy scene and write some material for myself, probably still being hopeless in the romance department and hung up on someone I'll never see again, maybe looking into other job possibilities to boost my pathetic income, and lastly, yeah, I am definitely, this month, gonna get all that long owed art to people who probably stopped waiting for it a long time ago. Yeah, I owe art to about three people. They've waited a ridiculously long time. I don't even do commissions anymore, because I just can't be timely about it anymore, but I am gonna get those pieces to those people this month for sure. You know who you are. So sorry about the wait. If money was exchanged, you will be offered some future freebies too, if you are interested in any. 

That's about it for me. That's what I've been doing and dealing with. And the holidays. Monty persona aside, as you know, the real me lives in an apartment with my younger sis, and our mom comes and stays with us a lot. We're more comfortable having her here than far away, but that also slows my productivity considerably, because we do more recreational stuff when mom's around. For example, the recent trip I took to Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando in early December. Incidentally, I had noticed before going (and highly anticipating the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) that it has become a thing on YouTube to post videos of Wizarding World Hauls. That is, videos showcasing all the stuff you brought back from your trip to the two Harry Potter sections of the two Universal Orlando theme parks. I decided to go ahead and make one too, and I did, though I made the video before Christmas and only just recently uploaded it. So, here it is. And, yeah, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was awesome! Unfortunately, there's a new thing at the theme parks with their new coaster type rides: Extremely tiny seats with confining restraints that can't fit larger people. Yet another reason I am gonna have to drop a great deal of weight in the coming months. I did not get to ride either of the main Potter rides, nor the new Sever Dwarfs Mine Train. Quite a disappointment, and I don't expect to go back for another year or two. The parks were still awesome. The Wizarding World was still amazing and loads of fun, but, yeah, that was something that sucked. I'll take care of the problem, as other aspects of my life have also been affected, so it's time to do something effective about it. Pretty sure it factors in heavily in my problems meeting women too, particularly since I'm really only attracted to very small, skinny girls. Big girls can get skinny guys, I see it all the time, but I never see the opposite outside of television... Well, enough of that talk, enjoy a look at the goodies I brought back from Florida in my own Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and Disney) Holiday Haul 2015 video, and I'll get back with you guys very soon. In fact, start looking for the first page of the Moonlight Motel graphic novel here within the next two weeks!


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Peanuts, Crimson Peak, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, Goosebumps, and What We Do in the Shadows

Time to finally get around to some movie reviews I should have done right away, but as usual, didn't.  You know how busy I get during October, often just trying to get a costume together. Over the past month, I saw 4 films in theaters and one through Amazon. Here are my thoughts on those films. I'm gonna try to keep these short and start with the most recent screening.

So, having grown up with Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang, I was very eager to check out the new, mostly computer animated Peanuts film. It was certainly a new way to see the Peanuts, and I was really curious to see how it would fair without their late creator, Charles Schulz, involved. Naturally, I was there at the Drafthouse on the day it came out. Kicking back with my fave pizza and soaking up the nostalgia. Of course, the film was preceded by the usual Drafthouse preshow goodies...

I think I had that Snoopy's Doghouse toy as a kid! I know I had the windup Snoopy and Woodstock! 

Anyway, yeah, it was a packed house, mostly people with their kids. Oy. And, before the film, there was a Scrat short (the little squirrel from Ice Age) called "Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe". It was highly entertaining. Basically, Scrat comes across a UFO frozen in ice and ends up accidentally riding it into outer space, resulting in basically arranging the planets and stuff. It's pretty amazing, really.

Then, the feature film, "The Peanuts Movie." Charlie Brown is that kid we all remember from the comic strips and animated specials and shows, and 4 theatrical films before. In this film, he occasionally recalls moments from those nostalgic cartoons, but also seems to be experiencing some things (we've seen before) for the first time. For example, the Little Red Haired Girl first moves in, right by Charlie Brown, in fact. Charlie develops that classic crush on her. Snoopy discovers a typewriter and starts concocting a story in which he's a flying ace trying to rescue his love, a poodle named Fifi, from the Red Baron. And, for some reason, Peppermint Patty and Marcy are in the same school and class as Charlie Brown. I could have sworn they went to a different school. I should say right now though, that while I love the Peanuts, I'm no expert on them. I grew up mainly a fan through the holiday specials. I watch the Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's and Easter specials every year. I own the decade DVD sets of specials, so I've since seen their other specials from the 60's and 70's. Unfortunately, further sets were never released. I have the first two movies on DVD, but I only vaguely remember the other two movies and later specials and the moment. I only casually watched the TV series, and let's face it, This Is America, Charlie Brown isn't important (I like it, it's great and very educational, but it's not a continuity thing). I have only read the actual comic strip randomly. So, I'm saying, I don't know if Patty and Marcy eventually move to Chuck's school, or if the strip is different from the animations, or what. Also, I don't know if, in the past, Charlie Brown actually ended up with the Little Red Headed Girl or had any other great successes. I'm used to Charlie Brown being the eternal failure, but who is admirable for never giving up. Getting depressed, yes. Almost or temporarily giving up, yes, but, never fully or permanently. I have always loved Charlie Brown, because I've always felt a great personal connection to Charlie Brown. And, I've had my share of crushes on little red haired girls. And blondes and brunettes, but even right now, there's a little red haired girl at work I have a bit of a crush on. She's an adult, don't get me wrong. Where was I? 

Anyway, that stuff I said before, yeah, that's actually the whole plot of this movie. Charlie has a huge crush, Snoopy imagines battling the Red Baron, oh, and there's the big popularity thing. Yeah, that's a huge part of it. See, Charlie Brown ends up getting the highest score on one of those major tests they make you take in school. You know, one of those scan-tron tests? He gets a perfect score, in fact! This makes everyone think he's a genius, and they all start looking up to him and coming to him for advice, and Charlie Brown all of a sudden is the Teen Wolf of his school! I'm referencing Michael J. Fox Teen Wolf, not that fake one on MTV. So, yeah, Charlie Brown keeps trying to use that to get the Little Red Haired Girl's attention, but he also is struggling to keep living up to the new expectations everyone has for him, which proves super tough. Plus, his efforts to be kind and help his family and friends frequently gets in the way when he's trying to make an impression on his crush. In the end though,... well, I'm not going to give any spoilers, though that might make the rest of this tricky.

Okay, overall, I really enjoyed this movie. The visuals were very impressive. They took a little getting used to, but once I did, they were very pleasant to look at, and very true to the comic strip, which was very nice. They could have screwed that up so badly taking the Peanuts to CGI. The film does a great job honoring the memory of its creator and trying to be true the the Peanuts' long history. The characters all seem to be their old selves, even better than I've seen them in some of the later specials. Snoopy steals all his scenes, as usual, and he is the same as he ever was. I think that's even the same voice actor making his sounds, though I'd have to double check that. I just have a few issues. As often is the case, the few times in the film when they work in some modern pop songs are a bit awkward, almost cringeworthy for us fans of the oldschool Peanuts material. Not as bad as in some films, but, yeah, it's a thing. I'm sure the younger kids love those parts though, and that's who they're in there for. Still, I could have done without that. Would rather have had some original music that was more Peanuts sounding. I can deal with it, but I know some folks who will definitely have a harder time than me, ha. It's a small quibble though. The plot, I mean the whole Little Red Haired Girl crush thing, it's cute, and it's nice that they stuck with something that fit the characters and classic tone rather than inventing some big story with a villain and whatever else. It was very Peanuts. The only issue I had with it was that it was something we've seen before. We all know about the crush on the Little Red Haired Girl. But, I think it's good that I took some time before writing this review. It bugged me at first that they used a plotline that seemed already done before, but looking back on it, it's an important part of the plot, but the bigger issue was Charlie Brown's struggle with confidence and just not feeling like a failure and all that. So, I really don't have an issue with the plot feeling like a rehash anymore. One thing about it will continue to bug me though, as someone who has often felt like the real life Charlie Brown. Okay, I gotta say it, SPOILER ALERT here...

Yeah, SPOILER ALERT, because I'm about to give away something about the ending. Charlie Brown, in the end, has a chat with the Little Red Haired Girl. She has selected him to be her class penpal over the summer, and he wonders why. She then gives Charlie this monologue about why she likes him. It's basically a "nice guys finish first" kind of message. This really irked me, I gotta admit. I can tell you right now, girls do not fall for guys because they're nice. I have 40 years of girlfriendless experience and know a lot of women who will back me up on this. In fact, women are hardwired to reject "nice guy" types. As Sally would say, we're just too wishy-washy. Her words not mine, but a good example of what women really think of nice guys, without ever being willing to take the time to get to know us. So, yeah, I enjoyed this movie very much, all but that end part, though I was still happy for Charlie Brown. Even if I liked the message though, it was given out in a speech manner that made it not one bit subtle, but that aside, I didn't care for the message, because while I totally get that it is nice and the way the world SHOULD work, it doesn't ring true to me at all. Most people will openly admit it's not true too, but sometimes you run into people who are like this movie (especially here in Austin), who try to tell you that life is really like that. Don't pee on my head for 40 years and tell me it's raining. I've been called nice and sweet and every other good word by females in the past, but not a one ever saw me in "that way". Then again, maybe the Little Red Haired Girl just wants to be friends with ol' Chuck too. Maybe she's getting his hopes up. I guess, if I look at it like that, it's not so bad at all. Yeah, that's probably what's going on there.

Overall, I really did like the movie though, and it's getting a lot of critical praise. Hopefully, it will turn a profit when all is said and done (last I checked, it had only made half its budget back, but everyone is praising it). I do highly recommend going to see it. It's mostly an excellent update of a classic American treasure. The main issue I had, admittedly, was a personal one that probably wouldn't bother the average person at all. 

Oh, I almost forgot, the film had a special menu available at the Drafthouse screening I went to. I don't know if these menu additions will be available throughout the film's engagement there, but in case it is, here's an image. The people next to me got the macaroni, and I must admit, it looked pretty tasty. I'm not huge on macaroni, but I did wish I'd given this one a try (maybe with some wings too, ha).

Now, as you probably remember, my friends were in town for Halloween weekend. On Sunday, the day after Halloween, we all went out to the Drafthouse together. They had never been. However, there wasn't much out that I wanted to see which I hadn't already seen, or that they might want to see, aside from "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension," and they do seem to really enjoy that film series, so that's what we saw.

I can't seem to find any images taken from that evening, so I guess I didn't snap any to avoid looking weird in front of my friends, I really don't know. Anywho, this time, for real, I'm gonna keep the rest of these reviews short. I think this was the 6th Paranormal Activity movie. I actually liked the previous one. I'm not sure I've seen the 4th fully awake. The first three I saw with the same friends I saw this new one with. I remember really liking the third one, though it takes a lot of shit. The second seems to be popular, but I only remember being bored with it. The first I have seen with Rifftrax so many times that I can't remember watching it straight. It was okay, as I recall, but not great. However, I found them all watchable, all having their fun moments. This new one is about a little girl who starts to get possessed, and a doorway to "the ghost dimension" opens up in her room. But, yes, they do tie the story to the original film. There's this demon that haunts the house too, and it looks a lot like Groot made of ink (and evil). There are some cool scenes with it though, and overall, this movie was surprisingly entertaining and fun. Probably moreso than any of the others, because it was more like a movie than the others, but still...  found footage. I admit, I'm a little tired of found footage. However, like I said, this proved to be a pretty fun movie. We all enjoyed it, even my sister, who is probably the most critical of this sort of thing. Everything gets measured up against the classics (and the best of the James Wan stuff). So, yeah, if you enjoyed the previous Paranormal Activity movies, you'll probably enjoy this one.

I had tried to get my sis to go see this next one with me, but I ended up going to see it by my lonesome, ha. Before I get into it, here's a bit from the preshow. Love their Halloween-themed preshow stuff!

So, obviously, this was the "Goosebumps" movie. My family was more of an "Are You Afraid of the Dark" family, but we watched Goosebumps on occasion, and Jack Black is pretty funny, and I just love monster stuff, naturally, especially around Halloween, so I wanted to make it out to see this one (wanted to see Hotel Transylvania 2 as well, but I missed that one). It was about a teenager who moves to a new town (that old chestnut). He ends up discovering that his next door neighbor, using a false name, is actually Goosebumps author R.L. Stine (Jack Black, playing the role as a pretentious author type rather than as an impression of the real Stine). He also learns that Mr. Stine has a gorgeous and really charming daughter. Concerned that the daughter is being mistreated (this is before he discovers her dad's identity), the teenage boy ends up snooping in her house one night with his new sidekick at his... side. They accidentally set a vicious Yeti free from one of Stine's manuscripts. While trying to get the Yeti back in the book (oh, basically, Stine's manuscripts are all magic,... just because), they unleash an evil ventriloquist's dummy bent on revenge. The dummy starts letting all the other monsters out, and it's Jumanji and Zathura all over again, this time with a Goosebumps theme. Not the most original or creative concept in the world, but seriously, it's loads of thrills and fun! The cheesy and flimsy premise gives it a real Goosebumps feel, too. If you enjoyed the old show, you'll probably really get a kick out of this one! Or if you enjoyed Jumanji, Zathura, or any of the Disney Channel movies. It's that kind of stuff, but Jack Black and the lovely Odeya Rush take it from cheesy fun to pretty awesome! Great for Halloween, but if you're like me and like to celebrate Halloween all year round, yeah, this is good anytime!

Now, I mentioned in my last article that I had a bad experience last month that hit me very hard. I won't go into it, because I don't want to upset anyone. But, my sister was very sweet about it and ordered a pizza and rented a movie for me, and this was the movie we watched that night. "What We Do in the Shadows" is a vampire mockumentary comedy from New Zealand. I've been known to refer to it as the "Spinal Tap" of vampire movies. That really is the perfect description. It's billed as being from the creators of "Flight of the Conchords", one of my all time favorite comedy shows, and you'll see some of the cast members in the film. Basically, the documentary crew follows around a group of vampires that share a house in New Zealand. They all have very different personalities, and they are all totally hilarious. This movie is so much fun, seriously! It even tugs at your heartstrings sometimes. But mainly it just has you laughing a lot! If you like "This Is Spinal Tap" and "Flight of the Conchords", you'll like this. I can't recommend it enough. Unless you just don't like that mockumentary style. Admittedly, it's been used a lot for TV shows (The Office, Parks and Rec), and when the Muppets started doing it with their new show, I had to roll my eyes and think, "This format again?" I am still adjusting to it with the Muppets, but it still totally works for feature films, as far as I'm concerned. Love this one! Gotta get it on Blu-Ray sometime.

And, going back to earlier in the month, before my mom went home from her last visit, we all headed out to see "Crimson Peak", a movie we had been anxiously awaiting, simply because a cool, old-fashioned haunted house movie was just what the doctor ordered to ring in the season. Well, we rang in the season already in Florida, but this was our local ringing in of the season. Anywho...

So, the Drafthouse was selling some nice Crimson Peak pint glasses, but we had to pass. We love that the Drafthouse has brought back the tradition of movie tie-in glasses like the old Star Wars ones we used to get from fast food joints back in the 80's, but we also have limited shelf space. We have to pick and choose. We got the Jurassic World glasses and have some Force Awakens glasses coming to us with the tickets we already bought for that premiere, and had they made Peanuts Movie glasses, I probably would have gotten one of those, but we really do have to pick and choose. Wish I hadn't missed the Princess Bride and Back to the Future glasses though! I'm getting way off topic, sorry.

Crimson Peak was very much an old-fashioned ghost story. It started out in America, where a young woman meets a charming British man who is Stateside seeking investors in his drilling venture. After losing her father, she marries the young man and travels to his decrepit old home to start her new life. There, his sister already lives with him, and the strangely red colored clay has a tendency to stain the snow outside a blood red color. Also, there are ghosts. Really freaky looking ghosts.

Crimson peak isn't really the scariest ghost story in the world, but it's very atmospheric and classic feeling. The first act that is set in America had me worried. I didn't care for much of the acting from the rest of the cast, honestly. However, once that cast is killed off or left behind in America, the film really gets good, and has a classic haunted house movie kind of feel to it. The story may be predictable, but the acting (again, once they all move to England) is excellent and the atmosphere is wonderful. If you like moody, creepy, spooky haunted house movies, you'll probably like this. Especially if you're one of these girls who is always squeeing over Loki, he stars as the leading man of the film. Not everyone is satisfied from a viewing of Crimson Peak, but I very much enjoyed it. Don't go into it for the scare, go in for the haunted house atmosphere and an old-fashioned, spooky tale.

And, that's it for now. I guess I rather enjoyed everything I saw this month. I actually went to the Drafthouse a lot in September for a couple of special events I should really write about too, but we'll see. The holidays are sure to keep me very busy, and I"m way overdue in getting some new comic strips out to you guys too. I still wanna write about my Halloween Florida trip though, if you don't mind reading about something Halloweenish this far into November! Ha ha