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
(1951-2014)


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!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Moonlight Motel Guest Reviews: Eric F. - Sizing Up America's New Potato Chip Flavors

Hello, folks! We're taking a break from our multi-part look at my Disney World trip from last December to bring back guest critic Eric F., who has a thing or two to say about Lay's recent contest to find some new potato chip flavors for store shelves. I'm some pretty wacky stuff! So, we'll be back soon with Part 4: Day 2 of our Disney vacation, but without further ado, here's Eric F.!

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First, I'd like to once again extend my thanks to Monty for letting me post another food review to his site. This time I will discuss another of America's favorite snack foods: the classic potato chip. Lay's potato chips have been around for ages, and have put out some excellent flavors over the years. I'm not claiming that they're necessarily the best potato chip company, but I think it's safe to say that they're the most popular. From what I know, in 2008 they began holding contests across the world in which consumers submitted new flavor ideas to them. They did this in about 15 different countries, but never here in the U.S. until last year, when they introduced their first American "Do Us a Flavor" contest. Not surprisingly, about 14 million total entries were submitted. Lay's then selected 3 finalist flavors, Cheesy Garlic Bread, Chicken & Waffles, and Sriracha, which were produced and sold in stores for about 3 months. During that time, consumers would try the flavors and vote for their favorite. Whichever flavor got the most votes would become the new official Lay's flavor, and the "losing" flavors would be discontinued. The 2 runner-ups each got $50,000 and the winner got a cool million, or more if it ended up selling more than a million dollars during a year's time. Not a bad deal. And this year the same contest was held again, with 3 major differences. One, 4 finalists were chosen instead of 3. And two, people were now given the option to select Wavy or Kettle Cooked in addition to Classic when submitting. And three, all the finalist flavors this year come in the larger-sized bags. A rather odd choice by Lay's to use the larger (and therefore more expensive) bags to introduce new flavors.

I had fun submitting many flavors myself, including Hot Dog with Ketchup & Mustard, Chinese Take-Out, Guacamole Dip, and Buttery Corn on the Cob. I also submitted some off-the-wall flavors just for kicks, such as Fried Calamari Rings with Sauce, Borscht, Escargot, Cotton Candy, and Texas Deep Fried Rattlesnake. And it was funny to read some of the totally inappropriate flavors submitted by others, including Sinus Infection, Leather Upholstery, Bellybutton Lint and Spoiled Milk.




But alas, none of my flavors were to be, and 4 other flavors were chosen as this year's finalists. And now, I will briefly discuss each:





Cappuccino

Sad to say, I'm highly disappointed. This was the flavor out of the 4 that I was the most excited about (well, the *only* flavor out of the 4 that I was excited about at first, to be honest). It does taste like a cappuccino, but very subtly. Also, one's brain just can't make the connection between a cup of cappuccino and a potato chip. And finally, I don't like the aftertaste, which is rather off-putting. But for me, what really makes this a poor chip is the fact that the potato flavor is the most prominent. This wouldn't be so much of an issue if the flavor was something more "chip-friendly" than cappuccino. But if a potato chip is going to be made with a flavor like cappuccino, the cappuccino flavor must "mask" the potato flavor.




Mango Salsa

Next up, Mango Salsa Wavy style. I was really hoping that this flavor would be better than the Cappuccino, and for the most part, I like them. As with the Cappuccino flavor, the Mango Salsa leans more towards the subtle, but in this case it works much better. The mango flavor is definitely there, and is quite noticeable at first, and then fades away (not a bad thing). The salsa flavor (at least to me) isn't as noticeable, but that isn't an issue. And the wavy style for this chip was the perfect choice. So all in all, these get a recommendation from me.




Wasabi Ginger

Now for the third finalist flavor, Wasabi Ginger. I must first confess that I approached this flavor with a bias, as I'm not a fan of wasabi nor ginger. But, I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who likes those flavors so that I could judge the chip on the more "technical" aspects such as authenticity of flavor, aftertaste, etc. The verdict: as both wasabi and ginger flavors are pungent, the combination of them in a chip is an automatic red flag, and the flavor must not be an assault on one's taste buds. Well, it's not, and I can definitely see someone liking these a lot who enjoys the taste of wasabi and ginger. The flavors are very present (more so than any of the other finalist flavors), but not overwhelmingly so. And the aftertaste is a good one, but again, only for those who like wasabi and ginger. The Kettle Cooked chip style was a good choice, although I could also see this chip having worked out fine with a Wavy style instead. So, although these flavors aren't my cup of tea, I can see this chip as scoring very high points for wasabi and ginger fans.




Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese

And finally, my take on the Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese. Just about everyone who's been following these contests knows that this flavor will probably win. In fact, some are saying that it's been the winner all along. I don't doubt that for a second. It's the most "accessible" flavor, the most "comfort food" flavor of the group, and that's what sells the most. But, getting to the actual flavor: very tasty. Wow. They nailed the flavor in terms of the bacon and the cheese - both are very noticeable, without either one dominating. Macaroni in and of itself is pretty much tasteless, so this flavor really should be called Bacon & Cheddar, or Bacon & Cheese. But, whatever. It tastes great, and that's what will give it a major advantage over the others.


I will now briefly overview last year's flavors:




Chicken & Waffles

My personal favorite, and in a fair and just world, this should have won the contest. But as with the Cappuccino, it was the underdog all along, and probably never stood a chance. The salty/sweet combination was just right, even with the chicken's seasoning being present.

Sriracha

I liked these too, but not as much. I had never even heard of Sriracha sauce before, and it took me a little bit to get used to the flavor. From the reviews I read on the web, the flavor itself is very authentic, and for those who like it, they really like it.

Cheesy Garlic Bread

Last year's winner, of course. A little redundant and similar to other cheese flavored chips out there (just like the Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese is), but again, that's the exact comfort food that people crave. My own take on this flavor is that it's tasty, but not original.

It's worth noting that although the Chicken & Waffles and Sriracha "lost" the contest, both have been brought back for limited times. Whenever this happens, I make a point to stock up on the Chicken & Waffles like it was nobody's business.




And just on a side note, I'd totally love to try out Canada's 4 finalist flavors from their "Do Us a Flavor" contest last year: Creamy Garlic Caesar, Grilled Cheese & Ketchup, Maple Moose and Perogy Platter. And if I were to go there again I would stock up on their Ketchup flavor, which is incredible - just like eating fries with ketchup.



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My December Disney Trip, Part 3: The End of Day One!



Okay, folks, ready to wrap up Day One with me? I'll probably try to make this quick. It's past my work-night-bedtime, and my fish hate it when I keep the light on really late.

Anyway, another quick disclaimer: Yes, I'm forcing you to look at my vacation photos, but we'll keep sticking in your regularly scheduled programming of movie and food reviews, fun articles and promises of new comic strips soon to come, and if you hate vacation blogging, don't worry, it'll all be over soon. This is for my fellow Disney fanatics. It was my first Disney trip in 10 years, so I gotta talk about it! Heck, a year between trips is long enough!

Now, when we last left off, we had one more scheduled excursion left on our first day of arriving in Florida, and that was "Chip 'n' Dale's Campfire Sing-Along". This was our day for doing a few activities outside of the park, but still at the Disney resorts. There's so much to do at the resorts without even visiting the parks, and that sort of thing was a first for us. Staying at the resorts was a first for us. We had already made our way from our own resort, Port Orleans Riverside, to the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground for dinner at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, and now it was just a short walk to the campfire location. What we discovered along the way though, was quite a welcome sight!



Yes, if you know your Disney movies, this should look familiar! On our way to the campfire site was Doc Terminus's wagon from one of my favorite Disney movies, "Pete's Dragon"! Scratch that one off my to-do list! I wanted very much to see this in person and get a picture of it! Yes, I took a picture next to it too, but this one came out better. It was a bit dark, so hopefully someday I'll get a chance at a daytime pic standing next to the wagon. Anyway, still very cool! One of my all-time favorite Disney characters. Keep in mind, I'm not saying this was the same wagon used in the movie, ha, but it's just a thrill to see classic Disney live-action features referenced at the parks and resorts. As a hardcore Disney fan who even loves the less-known, oldschool live-action stuff like Bullwhip Griffin and Toby Tyler, things like this give me a special, geeky thrill! And, what's this on the side...



Yep, looks like we were almost there! Just up a path, we found a nice little area of campfire setups, audience benches, a chuckwagon for buying snacks... This was the location of Chip 'n' Dale's Campfire Sing-A-Long, a FREE event at Disney's Fort Wilderness that doesn't require reservations! At the Sing-A-Long, you can pick up some snacks, marshmallows and roasting sticks, or S'mores kits at the chuckwagon, melt 'em down over one of the campfires, and sit back and enjoy a fun sing-along with Chip 'n' Dale and their musical cowboy friend who hosts the show with his trusty guitar. During the sing-along, Chip 'n' Dale make the rounds greeting and taking photos with guests, and after the show, you can stick around for a movie screening of a Disney classic!



While a team of Disney cast members got the firepits going, the first thing we did was pick up one of those S'mores packets. Now, those aren't cheap, let me tell ya (9.50 or so), but hey, making S'mores by the campfire was another first for me.


My ultimate opinion of S'mores though, having finally tried the authentic, real-thing, is that they're a bit overly sweet for me, ha. Maybe if I'd had a glass of milk. I love all three ingredients, but boy, put them all together, and we're talking major sugar overload, ha. I'd do it again though.

After enjoying our S'mores, we found a good spot among the benches to sing-along with Chip 'n' Dale and friend. It was loads of fun. My sister and I can get pretty vocal in those situations, especially when no one else is participating well enough for our liking, ha. We helped get it going though. Now, I can't remember what songs were sung that night anymore, but most likely it was the traditional campfire stuff, plus some Disney probably, like Davy Crockett or something. Again, just guessing, because this was back in December, and I've forgotten by now. Hey, we already went over why I didn't write these articles sooner, and I'm sorry, okay! Pipe down and enjoy these photos...



 


Yep, the campfire, S'mores and singing was a lot of fun. Highly recommended to all who visit the Disney resorts. We didn't stick around for the movie screening though. We had to head back towards Pioneer Hall and the nearby general store to wait for our turn on a horse and buggy ride through the campgrounds. 




This was another of those pricey, book it far in advance sorta things, but really enjoyable, especially during the holiday season. The people who stay on the campgrounds in their motor homes have a tradition of decorating elaborately for the holidays. Now, either we couldn't get any photos of these lovely sights to come out well enough in the dark or we just didn't take any, I forget. All I know is I don't have any, ha, but here's one of all of us in the buggy, anyway...




The ride was wonderful and the driver was extremely sweet, like the majority of Cast Members at the Disney Resort and Theme Parks who often go out of their way to give you a special experience. After the buggy ride, we hopped a Disney bus back to our resort, ready for a night's rest. 




The lobby at Port Orleans Riverside sure looked nice and peaceful late at night though.






That was the end of our first day back at Disney World after 10 years, and our first day ever simply enjoying a taste of what the resorts have to offer. I gotta say, we're pretty hooked on Disney Resorts now. But, of course, the real reason for traveling to Disney is the parks! And, on Day 2, we naturally made our first park The Magic Kingdom! But, I'll get into that in Part 4! T.T.F.N.!