Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Untold Tales of Japan: A Little Taste of Home

I was so shocked and saddened when I heard this on this news this morning!

Wendy's is pulling out of Japan!

Long time readers know of my love of Wendy's. As I occasionally point out, the only fan letter I've ever written was to Dave Thomas, telling him how much I love his burgers. And, during my year in Japan, my quest to visit Wendy's became all consuming. When I finally did find it, it always offered a little taste of home.

I only knew of two Wendy's, and those were the two I frequented. This first one was in the trendy Tokyo shopping disctrict of Shibuya. A co-worker of mine took me to it one day, where we had lunch. She also pointed out that it was just up the street from an English-language bookstore that was popular with us gaijin, so it became a regular ritual for me to go grab a Wendy's classic single, and then grab the latest issue of ToyFare magazine.

And then I discovered a second one in the trendy district of Harajuku. As I am an avid action figure collector, a friend of mine told me about a really good toy store in Harajuku called Kiddie Land. When I first ventured to Kiddie Land, again, I noticed that a Wendy's was just up the street. And in my waning days in Japan, it became a payday ritual to head to Harajuku, stock up on some rare Japanese action figures at Kiddie Land, grab a Wendy's burger, and head home.

Wendy's did have some regional differences on their Japanese menu...the best one for me was that their seasonal burger, the Bacon Mushroom Melt, is actually a regular menu item! You can have them year round! They also had their version of a fish burger, similar to McDonald's Fillet-o-Fish.

Oh, well. At least Wendy's is optimistic that they'll be returning some day.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reflections on Rudolph's Shiny New Year

Feeling kind of run-down this morning, that's because I stayed up late last night watching TV.

But I had to tune in! Rudolph's Shiny New Year was on, and I hadn't seen that since one snowy New Years Eve when I was 7 years old. I had only fuzzy recollections of it, so I had to see how much I actually did remember.

For those who've never heard of it, Rudolph's Shiny New Year is the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer New Years special. It was made by the exact same people who made Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and it is kind of cute.

It's Christmas Day, and Santa has just gotten back from delivering presents, when he gets a note from his old colleague, Father Time. It seems that the Baby New Year has gone missing, and Father Time wants Santa to assist in the search. Since the North Pole is fogged in, Santa delegates Rudolph to do this task, as Rudolph is the only one who can navigate through the fog.

Rudolph makes his way across the Sands of Time to Father Time's castle, where Father Time plays the role of Captain Exposition. Father Time explains that the Baby New Year was gifted with abnormaly large ears, that cause most people to burst into laughter. This hurt the Baby's feelings, and he ran away. And, if the Baby New Year isn't crowned the New Year at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, then it will remain December 31 forever. Father Time suspects that Happy (the Baby New Year's name...short for "Happy New Year") might be hiding out on the Archipelago of Last Years. This is where the years go to retire after their reign as a year...each one chooses an island to be their home, and "time stands still" on that island, where it is that sovereign's year forever.

So Rudolph makes his way to the Archipelago, with the help of a talking whale named Big Ben. (Yup, there are all kinds of time-related puns in this special.) Rudolph visits many islands searching for Happy, and he soon gains assistance from the previous years:

- One Million BC (or O.M. for short). He's a caveman, and his island is populated with dinosaurs.
- 1023, a shining knight who is addressed as "Sir 10-2-3." His land is a fairy tale kingdom.
- 1776, or "Sev" for short. He looks a lot like Benjamin Franklin, and on his island, it's constantly the Fourth of July.

Each one tells Rudolph a similar story: Happy visited their island, made lots of friends, but as soon as Happy removed his hat and his large ears flopped into view, his new friends laughed, and Happy ran away with hurt feelings.

But soon, tragedy! Happy is soon abducted by Aeon the Vulture! Aeon lives for exactly one aeon, and then he turns to ice. His aeon is up at the stroke of midnight. With Happy as his prisoner, the new year will never come, and Aeon will live forever! Rudolph and his new friends make their way to Aeon's home, the Island of No Name. Rudolph makes his way to Happy, and they have a chat. See, Rudolph also knows what it's like to have people point and laugh because you're different, and Rudolph explains that he grew up and got over it. He continues to explain that, if someone is truly your friend, they'll eventually stop laughing and get to know you. To prove this point, Rudolph urges Happy to remove his hat. Happy's big ears flop out, and Rudolph chuckles. Rudolph explains that he was so filled with joy, that it had to come out somehow. Happy, learning to get over it, vows to go home with Rudolph and become the New Year.

This does piss off Aeon, but when Aeon sees Happy's big ears, he bursts into laughter. And Rudolph assures Aeon that no one who's heart is so full of laughter need never fear that he'll turn to ice.

But, oh noes! The clock begins striking midnight! It's too late! Or...is it? Santa finally appears, and says that if he can deliver presents to all the boys and girls of the world in one night, he can get Happy back to Father Time's castle before the clock finishes striking midnight.

They get to Father Time's castle, Happy is officially crowned the New Year, and they all lived happily ever after!

And that's how Rudolph saved New Years!

I thought it was kind of cute, and I loved having all my memories of being 7 or 8 come back to me. But, in retrospect, was this truly a good message to send to the kids? I mean, at the end of the day, the moral is, "It's OK to point and laugh at someone who's different." Or was the moral, "You'll get pointed at and laughed at because you're different, so get over it?" It could be taken either way.

But it was a fun special, and I see that tonight, another classic aniamted New Years special that I haven't seen since I was seven or eight is on again: Happy New Year, Charlie Brown.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Raccoon Musings

Christmas vacation is winding down, and as I flip through the channels on my parents' satalite TV, I find myself stopping on TeleToon Retro and watching a few episodes of The Raccoons. And Fraggle Rock is on right before it. If it started with The Wonderful World if Disney, you'd have the CBC's Sunday night line-up cirrca 1986.

Anyway, Raccoons. I remember watching the show as a kid, I always had trouble trying to figure out exactly what the relationship was between the three raccoons: Bert, Melissa, and Ralph. I mean, were they all related? Cuz they had the same last name. But then Melissa and Ralph were more mature than Bert...could they maybe be Bert's parents? But they all seemed the same age. The show always left it so vague.

What I finally decided on was that Melissa and Ralph were married, and that Bert was an annoying friend of Ralph's -- maybe even Ralph's brother -- who moved in with them and just wouldn't leave.

Such a great show. With remakes being the big thing, and talking animal movies dominating the animated film market these days, I'm surprised no one's attempted a remake or a reboot or some such thing yet.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cop Out Trailer

WOO!! At long last, the first trailer for the new movie from my hero, Kevin Smith! Ladies and gentlemen, here's Cop Out:

I've blogged about this several times before. The film was originally to be titled A Couple of Dicks, but because of the double entendre that is the word "dick," no major TV network would show ads before 9PM. So, the new title is Cop Out.

And let me remind you how this is special for us Kevin Smith afficianados. This is the first Kevin Smith film that Kevin Smith did not write himself. Smith himself has taken to calling it "not one of [his] films, but a film [he] was hired to direct." However, reading the fine print, I see that Smith is also the editor. (He's always edited his own films.)

The script was written by Mark and Robb Cullen. Their script for this film made several industry lists back in 2008 as "one of the best screenplays Hollywood hasn't produced yet." Smith himself said he was attracted to it because the dialogue was like "Randall and Dante if they were cops."

The plot follows our couple of dicks [in its usage as a slang term for detectives], Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, as they hunt down a stolen, ultra-rare baseball card, and along the way, stumble into all kinds of nefarious organized crime. As you see in the trailer, Sean William Scott is an informant they catch. Also not in the trailer is Kevin Smith film regular Jason Lee, playing the new beau of Willis's ex-wife.

February 26. I might have to take that day off from work so I can be first in line.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Karate Kid Trailer

Who's ready for Hollywood's latest pointless remake? We're really venturing into "raping my childhood" territory here as they unleash the re-make of The Karate Kid, starring Will Smith's kid as Daniel and Jackie Chan as Mr. Miyagi.

(OK, I will admit that their riff on the original film's "catching a fly with chopsticks" gag is kind of clever.)

Should we do the mocking that everyone else is doing online? Should we be the latest to mercilessly point out that karate is a JAPANESE martial art, but this entire re-make takes place in CHINA? But, that's right. The whole point of all these remakes is that the title is a "known brand name." If you change the name, people might think that it's something *gasp* original!

June 11, if anyone's interested.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hit the Slopes

When last we met, I was telling you one of my untold tales of Japan. I was telling my friend of the rigid schedule that Japan's Toho Studio follows in releasing their film franchises: Doraemon in March, Poekmon in July, Godzilla in December. My friend turned to me and said, "Wow. Too bad there's no film franchises like that back home."

Well, there is one. A film franchise that's been going on for 60 years now. Warren Miller Ski documentaries.

The films of Warren Miller had a real explosion of popularity in the early 1990s...at least in the circles I ran in. Throughout junior high and high school, every jock who mocked my lack of athletic ability were just enamored with Miller's ski documentaries. I never got the big deal...it's just people skiing. But it was beautifully filmed.

And every once in a while, I do some googling, and I've read the history of how Miller got into making his ski documentaries. Back in the 1940s, he'd show footage of himself skiing for his friends, and provide a humorous commentary. His friends really like his films -- and his narration -- and soon made regular events of it. Miller then figured he was on to something and formed a production company called Warren Miller Entertainment, and he vowed to produce a new ski documentary every year.

And he has...a new one every year, from 1950 through to the present day. Miller is now in his late 80s and hasn't been actively involved in his company since 2004, but his company has continued the legacy.

Some times, I feel I should snatch up a Warren Miller film for my DVD library...just to remember my misspent days in junior high.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to All, and to All...AHH!! GODZILLA!!!

This year, I have decided to begin a new Christmas tradition. As with all great traditions, it is one I have just made up and will now adhere to for the rest of time.

And that tradition is, every year, at around the holidays, I will sit down and I will watch the 2002 kaiju epic, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla.

Now, you are probably wondering what such a film has to do with the holiday season? Well, for that, we have to back in time many years, to that lost year I spent teaching English in Japan.

The very famous movie studio Toho Studios has a very set schedule when it comes to their three top film franchises. Doraemon comes out in March, Pokemon comes out in July, and Godzilla comes out in December. So when December started rolling around during my time in Japan, the hype for Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla was starting to kick into gear. All kinds of merchandise was starting to be displayed at my local cineplex. And perhaps best of all, on one of my excursions into Tokyo, a department store I frequented was sure to include Godzilla in their Christmas display...an 8 foot tall Godzilla, made completely out of Chrismtas lights.

I knew Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla was going to be one to see during my Christmas holiday. For my Christmas holiday, I was going to be heading to the north part of the country to see my very best friend, who was also teaching English at that time. I was hoping we'd go together, but I was having a tough slog talking my friend into going. He's not a very big Godzilla fan. At around this time, he had just become enamoured with a little horror film called The Ring. And, of course, being in Japan, he had devoured everything having to do with the original Japanese franchise, and was well-versed in all things Ringu. "Tell ya what," my friend said. "I'll go see Godzilla if you go see The Ring." "Dude, you know I'm not into scary movies," I replied. "The only way I'll see The Ring is if you drag me to the theatre."

A few weeks go by, and before long, I'm jetting my way north to my friend's adopted city of Sapporo. I get off the plane, hop on the train into town, and arrive at the train station to see my dear friend. I was tired from my journey, and I was ready to swing by a restaurant, have a bite, and talk about old times. My friend, however, had a different idea. He told me to throw my luggage into a train station locker, so I did. He then said, "Follow me," and led down the streets of town right to a traffic stop. We only paused a moment there when...he took me to a movie theatre on the other side of the street.

He was dragging me to see the The Ring.

I'm sure he was quite embarrased to do that as I screamed out loud like a little girl at least three times during that film. The Ring was just a darn scary film. By the time that was done, then we had our bite to eat and it took me a few minutes for my heart rate to come down. I looked at my friend and said, "OK, dude. I saw The Ring, so now we're going to see Godzilla." This time, my friend begrudgingly agreed, citing that he came to Japan to experience its culture, and Godzilla movies were undoubtedly part of its pop culture.

A couple nights later, after having explored Sapporo, I found a nice cineplex that was playing Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. So now it as my turn to drag my friend to see a movie. We arrived in the theatre, and once we bought our tickets, we were given some nice little swag: Mechagodzilla keychains, and inside was a smiling Hamtaro. According to all the advertising I was seeing, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla was supposed to start off with the latest Hamtaro short film. But, there was no short film in front of our screening. Had I known Japanese, I would have demanded my money back.

But the movie started and...it was awesome. Seeing a traditional, "man in suit" Godzilla movie was truly a crowning moment during my time in Japan. I mean, Godzilla! Smashing stuff! On the big screen! My friend, who knew some Japanese but not enough to actually follow a film from beginning to end said, "But it's all in Japanese! How are we going to follow the plot?" To which I replied, "What do you need to know about the plot? Godzilla appears, smashes stuff, Mechagodzilla appears, they fight, Godzilla, defeated, walks off into the sunset. That's all the plot you need to know!"

After the movie and walking back to my friends' place, we had a great time debating Godzilla's motivations. "Why does he always destroy Japan? And why does he turn hero and defend Japan when other monsters appear?" You know...the questions of the ages.

I returned to the theatre the next day, for I had a friend back in Canada who was a bigger Godzilla fan than me, and I thought I'd grab some Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla merch for him. I grabbed one of the official movie posters for him, and one for myself. I sent his poster, and he was greatly appreciative. I foolishly left mine in Japan, and as far as I know, it still adorns the walls of that foreign teacher's apartment to this very day.

I had many other wacky misadventures with my friend during my week in Sapporo, but those memories are just for me. So in honor of those memories, I have decided that I will now watch Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla every Christmas season.

However, I will leave you with this one cliffhanger. I told my friend of Toho's rigid schedule for their film franchises, and my friend said, "Huh. A new film like that, every year, at those times. Too bad there's nothing like that back home." Well, I have discovered a film franchise like that here at home, and I'll tell you all about it in my next entry.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Shrek Forever After Trailer

Really? Shrek Forever After? Did the world really need a fourth Shrek film? I'll rant more after the trailer.

I'm certain I've blogged this several times before, so I'll blog it again. I actually think the first Shrek film is pretty good. That being said, I wish people would stop calling it this brilliant satire of fairy tales. What happens in Shrek is when a fairy tale cliche starts rearing its head, one of the characters rolls his/her eyes and goes, "Oh, just like in every fairy tale!" That's not satire. That could be called sarcasm. That could be called self-referential. That could be called post-modern. But satire? Wrong use of the term.

Now that I'm done splitting lexiconic hairs, I think Shrek is pretty good.

On the other hand, Shrek 2 is the most god awful animated film ever made. It went from being a send-up (another good term we could use) of fairy tales to some kind of medeival Flintstones. You know what I'm talking about, right? On The Flintstones a lot of gags came from modern conveniences being made out of rock. Starting in Shrek 2, we started having a lot gags coming from modern conveniences being made out of medeival/fairy tale equivalents. All I know is I didn't find much of it very funny and came out of the theatre very disappointed.

I rented Shrek the Third out of curiosity about a year after it was in theatres. While I found it somewhat clever with some good gags, the beating of the dead horse was quite obvious.

And now we have Shrek Forever After, which promises to be the last in the saga. (I guess they abandoned plans to do a prequel about a teenage Shrek and how he first got his swamp. That was the original plan for #4, and it was going to be called Shrek Goes Fourth.) Instead, they jumped straight to the half-assed idea they had for a fifth film. Shrek is all domesticated and worried that he's lost his ogre fierceness, so he makes a deal with Rumplestiltskin to see what his life would be like if he never left the swamp and never had the wacky adventures of the first three films. *sigh* Many a TV critic has pointed out that alternate reality tales like this tend to be a shark-jumping moment.

All I know is I didn't laugh once during that trailer, and the whole franchise is starting to look very tired.

But wait! The franchise isn't done. Ever since #2, there's been talk of giving Puss-in-Boots a solo film, and it looks like we'll finally get that in 2013.

And it's sad. It'd be neat to do a book chronicling the history of the Shrek franchise. It all started with a children's book called Shrek!, written by William Steig, published way back in 1990. Steven Spielberg liked it, and snatched up the movie rights, hoping to turn it into an animated film. Spielberg had worked with Don Bluth on An American Tail and The Land Before Time, and wanted Bluth to direct. Spielberg was already envisioning Bill Murray voicing Shrek and Steve Martin voicing Donkey. However, Bluth didn't like working for Spielberg, and quickly ended their partnership.

I first heard of this as a film project way back in the mid-1990s, during my college days and when I first discovered movie news on the Internet. When I first heard of it, Shrek was going to be live-action, and they were going to use a new animation technique in which the "performance" of the actor would be "captured" on computer, and then used to created a computer generated character. This "performance capture" was to be the wave of the future we were told! Chris Farley signed on to play Shrek...and then Farley died, leaving the future of the project in doubt.

And then, they decided to make the whole thing animated. Mike Myers was talked into filling in for his old friend Farley, and a franchise was born.

And another interesting fact, too. This is the first Shrek film that will be in 3D. (Not counting the Shrek 4D 3-D film shown at Universal Studios.) All the way back in 2001, they'd hoped to release Shrek in 3D, but after doing some test footage, the directors figured that the technology just wasn't there yet.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One of My Minor Obsessions

I've been trying to upload this to my Facebook page, but my BlackBerry and Facebook must have had a lovers quarrel or something because they're currently not talking to each other. So, I'll have to go old-school to upload this blurry photo taken by my cellphone.

Yup, that's a glass bottle of Sprite.

One of my minor obsessions is glass pop bottles. Relics of a bygone age. They were still rather commonplace in my childhood, and something about having pop from a glass bottle -- the kind that you need a bottle opener to open -- was rather special.

So, I've got a tiny colleciton of glass pop bottles on the go. When I saw these in Safeway the other day, I geeked out. $5 for a six-pack. Coke is quite common, but Sprite -- another Coke product -- doesn't get trotted out as frequently.

In case you're curious about what else I've got in my tiny collection, I've got a Coke bottle (naturally). I also have a bottle of Canada Dry that I brought back from Japan. There was a liquor store just around the corner from my apartment that sold Canada Dry in glass bottles for just ¥90.

And it's not technically pop, but I've also got a glass bottle of Red Bull. My sister brought that one back from Europe 10 years ago. She was cleaning out her closet a couple years back, and as she was about to haul it off to the bottle depot, I said, "Hey! Can I have that for my collection of glass pop bottles?" And she said yes.

So, yeah. Pop tastes better from a glass bottle.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Marvel Movie Updates

Hey! It's been such a busy couple of days for me that I haven't had a chance to share this yet. If you haven't seen it yet anywhere else on ye olde Internet, here's the trailer for Iron Man 2:

They really crack open the Marvel pantheon for this one. We've got Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Scarlett Johannson as the Black Widow, Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, Don Cheadle takes over as James Rhodes (who finally gets to don his own armor and become War Machine), oh, and, of course, Robert Downey Jr is back is Tony Stark. Can't forget Mickey Rourke as Whiplash.

Who's going to be there opening day this May? Who wants to come with me?

And, another big bit of Marvel comics movie news: Bryan Singer is returning to the X-Men franchise!

Singer, as you may recall, was the director (and helped out with the writing) on X-Men and X2. Then some crazy studio politics came to play, he got booted off the project and he went to do Superman Returns. Anyway, he announced last week that he signed on to direct the prequel tale X-Men: First Class. This has been in development for a while, now. Singer describes it thusly: "It takes place in the early years of the School for the Gifted, and shows how the friendship between Xavier and Magneto started becoming strained. Some mutants from the first films come back, some new ones are introduced, and there's a romance."

No word yet on when that might be hitting theatres. Singer is wrapping up production on his latest film, Jack the Giant Killer.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Latest Targ is Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Christmas is quite literally around the corner, but I still managed to find the time to do a podcast for this Christmas week!

This week, I break out Episode 3.13: Palindrome. We discuss all the holiday classics: Kill Bill, Mickey's Christmas Carol, and the Princess and the Frog!

Click here to listen!

Click here to subscribe in iTunes!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Robin Hood Trailer

So, today, the trailer for the newest movie version of Robin Hood went online today. This film has had quite an interesting timeline.

It originally began life as a film called Nottingham. As the old addage goes, the villain is the hero of his own story, so Nottingham was going to be the story of Robin Hood as told from the Sherrif of Nottingham's point of view. The Sherrif was going to be portrayed as a just and fair man just following the orders of a corrupt king, Robin Hood was going to be shown as a cold-blooded thief, no matter how noble his intentions, and they were going to get a nice little love triangle going with Maid Marian. Russsel Crowe signed on to play the Sherrif, Sienna Miller signed on to play Maid Marian, and negotiations were entered with Christian Bale to play Robin Hood. Ridley Scott -- legendary director of Gladiator and Alien and who'd always wanted to do Robin Hood -- re-teamed with Crowe to direct.

But then, rewrite began. Confusion erupted when it was announced that Crowe would now be playing both the Sherrif and Robin Hood. It was eventually revealed that the Sherrif would eventually come to understand what the outlaws were doing, retreat to the woods, and take the alias "Robin Hood." It was around this time that Miller dropped out to go play the Baroness in G.I. Joe. Cate Blanchett then stepped into the role.

Finally, then, we were told that it would be more conventional Robin Hood story, with Crowe as Robin Hood. However, this one promised to be more historically accurate as to what was going on in 13th Century England. So, Prince John gets assistance from dastardly French invaders, and throwing in such historical figures as William Marshal, who was considered the greatest knight in England at the time.

And a neat bit of Canadiana. Alan Doyle, lead singer of Great Big Sea, plays the balladeer of the merrie men, Alan-a-Dale.

Anyway, here's the first trailer. I'm finding it quite underwhelming, and the 300 music doesn't quite mesh. May 2010 is when it hits theatres.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Princess and the Frog Review

Princess and the Frog concept art I had lying around on my hard drive

Hey! My review of The Princess and the Frog is up!

Go read it!

Latest Targ's Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Who's ready for a new podcast?

This week, I break out Episode 3.12: String of Lights. I've got quite a bit to talk about this week, including the Grammy nominations, some thoughts on my favourite Christmas specials, and naughty Christmas gifts.

Click here to listen!

Click here to subscribe in iTunes!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Shopping's Done, and We've Seen Princess

I'm back from the city! Got all my Christmas shopping done in one crazy, busy day. That's the way I tend to tackle my Christmas shopping...about 90% planning, and then 10% execution. You prepare the list, do a little recon to find out where you can get everything and for the best deals, and then, all in one day, POW! POW! POW! you swoop in and buy everything and it's done.

And of course, it's just not a trip to the city unless I catch a movie. I went to see The Princess and the Frog, Disney's much hyped return to traditional, 2D, hand-drawn animation.

I've been following this one online pretty closely, mainly because of how it came about. See, around six or seven years ago, Disney made headlines when they declared that traditional animation is no longer profitable, and that they'd be shutting down their traditional animation units and focusing solely on computer animated films. Well, a couple years after that, there was a change in management. Specifically, John Lasseter, the man who made Pixar what it is, took charge of Disney animation. Lasseter looked at the declaration that traditional animation was no longer profitable and said, "Nertz to that!" He got traditional animation going again...he called all those animators that were laid off and said, "I'm getting the band back together." And the end product? The Princess and the Frog.

Now, loving my animated films, I always enjoy it when an animated film throws something at me that's different. My case study is always the "squirrel down the pants" gag in The Iron Giant. So I'm watching The Princess and the Frog, and it's following the formula tickety-boo, and then...something different. Something happened in the film that just BLEW MY MIND. My jaw dropped, and I was left asking, "Did they really just do that?" And yes...yes they did.

I'm not going to tell you what it is, as it happens near the end, and it is a spoiler, but all I will say is, yes, they go there.

And as for all the much-hyped differences about this film, how it's Disney's first with an African American heroine, or how she's a career woman and all that...well, despite all that, it still manages to stick to the proven formula pretty closely.

If this film came out in 1990s, at the height of Disney's resurgence, I'd definitely say it's above average. 3 out of 4 nibs...complete review coming soon.

I was originally hoping to do this as a double-feature day with Fantastic Mr. Fox, but it seems to only be playing now on Edmonton's south side...just a bit too far out of my way, given today's -40 weather. Looks like that one will have to wait until DVD now. Maybe I'll have to see it as a DVD double feature weekend, along with another really cool looking animated film that I missed in theaters, 9.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dicks Has a Title!

Exciting news from the world of my hero, Kevin Smith!

His new movie finally has a title!

Well, it originally had a title. The title was A Couple of Dicks. "Dick," of course, being an old slang term for detective, highly appropriate because it's a cop buddy movie, starring Bruce Willis and Tracey Morgan as a couple of detectives on the trail of a stolen, highly valuable baseball card.

But, as we all know, "dick" is also a slang term for penis, and because of that, most TV networks in the USA were reluctant to run ads for it.

Anyway, on his Twitter feed today, Smith announced that he and the marketing guys have finally decided on a family-friendly title that ensures ads can run at all hours of the day.

Smith isn't saying what the new title is, just that the new title will be announced with the first trailer, which'll be in front of Sherlock Holmes!

I can hardly wait! The movie formerly known as A Couple of Dicks is due out in February, so they don't have a lot of time to advertise this sucker.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

More Christmas Special Stuff

So, in something that I am regretting this morning, I stayed up late last night to watch some Christmas specials. Two classics, and one new one, so I thought I'd offer up some off-the-cuff observations on them.

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town - Ah, this is one I always try to catch every year. That's the Christmas trilogy for me: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and this one. I've always loved this origin of Santa Claus..."Santa Claus Begins," as it were. However, it's only in the past five years or so I've started watching it with a critical eye, and there are a few things that catch me as being a little bit dated. For example, the character of Jessica, the woman who will be Mrs. Claus. When she realizes her love for Kris Kringle and vows to assist him in his task of delivering toys to children, she has this musical number called "My World is Beginning Today." And it's accompanied by some rather psychadelic animation, which was the style at the time. One thing that always makes me chuckle about that number is, in order to show her newfound status as a liberated free spirit, Jessica...lets her hair down. Literally. I mean, how cliched is that? It happens in every movie to show that woman is bucking the system, from the highest calibre Oscar-nominated drama, to the lowest budget adult productions about saucy librarians. And don't get me started about the wedding scene! Since Santa becomes an outlaw for delivering toys, he and the soon-to-be-Mrs.-Claus can't risk their lives by going to town and having a wedding in a church. So they have, like, this pagan wedding ceremony in the middle of the woods. As I said, it's only the past five years I've turned a critical eye to this one, so it's only in the past five years where I've watched that scene and go, "Wait, what?" But, despite the kitschy stuff like that, I still regard it as one of my favourites.

A Charlie Brown Christmas - Again, this one occasionally blows my mind how, for something that was made 44 years ago, still manages to remain topical. 1965, and already complaining about how commercial Christmas had become. And another reason why it stands out is because I don't think any other Christmas special has ever captured -- or even attempted to capture -- the depression that countless people feel during the Christmas season. Celebrating depression...that's what Charlie Brown is all about.

Prep and Landing - So, this is the new one that I wanted to watch. This one has been making lots of news in animation circles because it's the first animated Christmas special made by Disney. "But Mark," you're probably asking, "What about Mickey's Christmas Carol?" Well, that was originally shown in theatres, so it's not technically a Christmas special. Anyway, Prep and Landing explains how Santa Claus is able to get in and out of houses so fast on Christmas Eve. There's this elite team of elves called the Prep and Landing division that goes on ahead and prepares the house for Santa's arrival. Our story follows one elf on the Prep and Landing squad named Wayne. He's a long time vet of Prep and Landing, but when he's passed up for a promotion to Naughty List Intelligence, he kind of loses his Christmas spirit. It doesn't help that, this year, he gets partnered with a gung-ho rookie named Lanny. So, all depressed, Wayne decides to slack off this year, but his poor attitude means the house he and Lanny are assigned to doesn't get prepared for Santa, meaning that Santa will skip that house this year. Realizing his horrible mistake, Wayne has to jump back into action, get Santa to come back to this house, and save Christmas for this one little boy.

It was good, but it does have some of my earlier complaints about how, in newer specials, the magic of Christmas seems to have been replaced with a cynisism towards Christmas. "Ha ha! Elves are just cubicle jockeys like you and me! They also get passed up for promotions! Ha ha!" Yeah...elves getting mopey about not getting a promotion just doesn't scream Christmas to me. But there's some good jokes in it, and clever use of Christmas songs in the score, so I predict it'll be a timeless classic for at least the next 10 years.

And that's all for now. Still haven't caught other favourites like Frosty the Snowman or A Garfield Christmas, so let me know if you hear when they're coming on, OK? Cool.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Latest Targ's Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

It's Sunday morning! That means I have a new podcast!

Here we have Episode 3.11: Sexually Charged. We're talking the prevention of H1N1, high paying fast food jobs, and big wieners. What could possibly be sexually charged about that? Listen and find out!

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Oobermind Update

Got an update on an animated film I've been keeping tabs on, the upcoming DreamWorks film Oobermind. Well, actually, the big news is it's changed its title. It's now called MegaMind.

The plot, as I've recapped before, is thus: the supervillain MegaMind finally manages to defeat his arch-enemy, the superhero Metro Man. But instead of going out and conquering the world, this actually kind of thrusts MegaMind into a mid-life crisis. His solution is to create a new superhero for him to fight, and so he creates a hero called Titan. Thing is, Titan falls to the dark side and wants to be a supervillain, so then it's up to MegaMind to turn hero and defeat Titan.

MegaMind is voiced by Will Ferrel, Metro Man is voiced by Brad Pitt, Titan is voiced by Jonah Hill, and Tina Fey does the voice of Roxanne Ritchi, the Lois Lane-like reporter who's trying to figure out what the heck is going on in the superhero world.

Granted, this is coming from DreamWorks, and I've been kind of "meh" towards their films for the past few years, but this has piqued my curiosity for two reasons.

1) It's a superhero tale. I believe that superheroes and animation are a genre and a medium made for each other.

2) Written and produced by Ben Stiller. Stiller is the mastermind behind this, and he's usually a pretty solid talent when he stays behind the camera.

It's due out a little less than a year from now...November 2, 2010.

Another announcement today about a DreamWorks film that caught my eye. They also have an animated film currently in development called The Guardians. Based on the forthcoming children's novel The Guardians of Childhood, the film tells the tale of a demonic force known as Pitch that threatens to harm the children of the world. So, Santa Claus, Jack Frost, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman must join forces to defeat Pitch and save the children of the world.

It was announced today that Leonardo diCaprio will be voicing Jack Frost. It's diCaprio's first foray into voice acting.

That one's due out in 2012.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Can't Get Away From It All When You Take It All With You

So there was an article in the Edmonton Journal a few weeks ago that caught my eye. My beloved Jasper National Park is looking at making some changes in order to lure more campers out to the campgrounds.

At Whistler Campground, just outside out of the town of Jasper, they're going to introduce these things next year called "cottage tents." They're massive canvas tents that can hold up to six people. They're fully heated, have comfy futons, complete kitchens, and they'll even teach you how to cook over an open fire, all for just $90 per night.

That's not all! Also coming soon to campgrounds in our national parks are Internet cafes, newspaper sales, and ice machines, "like you'd find in private campgrounds."

Here's the complete original article, detailing more things they'd like to try.

For my summer vacation this year, I got to go camping for the first time in years. I loved it when I was a kid. Every vacation included at least one camping trip out to Jasper. And I can't help but noticed how camping sure changed over the years. Granted, some friends of mine used to scoff at my notion of camping, which included pitching a tent in a campground. To them, camping was hiking several miles into the bush...no need for your "vehicles." Anyway, I'd turn around and scoff at those who'd pull into a campsite with a monstrous 50' trailer with a generator running all hours of the day so they could watch TV.

So, you could imagine my surprise a few years ago when my parents bought themselves a nice, new trailer...a monstrous 50' unit. "But Mom & Dad," I said, "these are the kinds of units we used to mock when I was younger!" "You don't understand," said my parents, "this is now a minimum size, with one of the more basic packages that there is."

I will admit, when we were camping this past summer, some of the now-basic features were nice. In the brutal summer heat of southern Alberta, it was nice to have A/C in the trailer.

For some reason though, this seems wrong. It's like Parks Canada feels like they have to compete with the hotels. But it's a supply and demand thing, right? The people are demanding it, so they feel they need to supply it.

Long story short, I'm just sad that things are no longer like they were when I was a kid.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Now We Are 2...Iron Man 2!

Alright, the first poster for Iron Man 2 was just released. Not only do we have Iron Man, but we've also got our first pic of Iron Man's partner, War Machine!

To recap, Iron Man 2 is due out in May. Robert Downey Jr is back as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Gwyneth Paltrow is back as his faithful assistant Virginia "Pepper" Potts, Don Cheadle takes over for Terrance Howard as Jim "Rhody" Rhodes (who becomes War Machine), Mickey Rourke plays the villanious Whiplash, and Scarlett Johansson plays the Russian superspy the Black Widow.

No official word yet on when the first trailer hits, but director Jon Favreau has been hinting that it'll be in front of Sherlock Holmes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Targ Returns!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Well, after a one week hiatus, I come roaring back with a new episode of my podcast, U62: The Targ!

Why was there no episode last week? Well, it's all explained in Episode 3.10: Angst All Over...and That Stuff Stains. Long story short, car troubles ruined my good mood. I also talk about getting records for Christmas and buying new gloves!

Oh, and special thanks to Trouble for letting borrow one of her blog tags to title this week's episode.

Click here to listen!

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Spirit of Christmas Specials

It's that time of year again. Our TVs are about to be flooded with all manner of holiday specials. Holiday specials just don't have the same pizazz for me as they once did.

Last week, I stayed up late to check out Merry Madagascar, aka the Madagascar Christmas special. For those who haven't been keeping tabs on it, DreamWorks is trying really, really hard to turn all of their animated films into full-blown franchises, and one way they're doing that is by giving just about every film they've produced a holiday special. It all started with the Shrek Christmas special from a couple years back, and continued with the Monsters vs. Aliens Halloween special from last month.

The plot of Merry Madagascar follows your fairly standard "famous characters save Christmas" plot. Santa crash lands on Madagascar, and all of our favourite talking animals who've been stranded there since the first movie figure they can use Santa's sleigh to get home to New York, after they finish delivering all the presents of course. Meanwhile, an amnesic Santa wanders around Madagascar and teaches all those wacky lemurs about the true meaning of Christmas. It was nothing remarkable, and scattered with pop culture references that'll be lost in a year.

I don't know. Modern Christmas specials just aren't that magical anymore. Most modern Christmas tales seem to have replaced the Magic of Christmas with a Cynicism Towards Christmas. I tend to consider "modern Christmas" tales to be anything made after 1994. I use 1994 as my cutoff date because that's when the remake of Miracle on 34th Street came out, and I use that as my case study.

See, in the original Miracle on 34th Street, Santa is in a court hearing to determine whether he's really Santa or not. Near the end of the hearing, Santa's lawyer comes up with a dazzling defence to prove that Santa is really Santa. All these letter carriers come in, carrying bags full of letters to Santa. Since the post office recognizes Santa as Santa, then surely he must be Santa. The judge agrees and Christmas is saved! That, my friends, is magical. But what happens in the remake? Instead of that, Santa's lawyer starts waving around a dollar bill and giving a lecture on the nature of faith. That's not magical...that's preachy.

Nothing's been made celebrating the magic of Christmas post-1994. Well, The Polar Express came closest. And there has been the odd Christmas special, such as 1995's Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree was notable in that it was one of the first Muppet things produced following the death of Jim Henson. Kermit the Frog served as our narrator, and a whole cast of original Muppets was created just for this special. The special all starts with Mr. Willowby, an eccentric millionaire who loves Christmas the most, and is well-known for his lavish Christmas parties. And, of course, the centerpiece of his parties are always the magnificent Christmas tree. But the heroes of this special are this little mouse family, who set out to find the perfect tree. And oh, they do find the perfect tree, but it is far too tall for their little mouse house. So they decide to just take the top. But then, Mr. Willowby's lumberjacks come along and take the whole tree. The mouse family clings to the top of the tree for dear life. The tree is taken back to Mr. Willowby's place, and it is determined to be too tall, so the top is cut off and given to another family...and so on and so on, and the mouse family hiding in the top of the tree gets to observe how all these different cultures celebrate Christmas.

It had an all-star cast of humans, too. Mr. Willowby was played by Robert Downey, Jr, Mr. Willowby's butler was played by Leslie Nielsen, and a kindly Sweedish boarder in Mr. Willowby's house was played by Stockard Channing.

Speaking of Christmas specials, I should brace myself. I'll probably start getting my annual deluge of e-mail requests asking for a copy of A Mouse, A Mystery, and Me.

Anyone else remember this holiday special? It first premiered in the late-1980s. Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a big hit, and live-action/animation blends had become all the rage. A Mouse, A Mystery, and Me followed the Christmas adventure of two teenage girls. These girls had a very special after-school job...they were best selling mystery writers! But see, they didn't really write the mysteries...the mysteries were written by a talking animated mouse that live in their purse. They took the credit for his writing because apparently the world isn't ready for talking animated mice. Anyway, when a beloved department store Santa goes missing, its up to these young ladies and their talking mouse to find Santa, thwart some department store embezzlers who intend to frame Santa, and save Christmas! Television mainstay Dick van Patten played Santa.

A Mouse, A Mystery, and Me was quite popular in Edmonton, mainly because it actually was filmed in Edmonton. That fact made it a regular holiday tradition on ITV (now known as Global Edmonton) well into the late-1990s.

Now why do I get deluged with e-mail requests for it every Christmas? Well, when I was younger, I taped as many Christmas specials as a I could. And, every couple of years, I would catalog my Christmas special collection. A few years ago, I decided to post my catalog online. And, lo and behold, I mentioned that in my collection was A Mouse, A Mystery and Me. So, I get people with fond memories of that special, e-mailing me, asking me for a copy.

And sadly, I have tragic news for them. I cannot give them a copy. For, the last time I was home, I discovered that my mother had taped over it with her precious Coronation Street. It is lost to the ages.

Much like other Christmas specials that celebrate the magic and the wonder of the holiday season. Whatever you do, just be sure to watch the original Miracle on 34th Street, and not the remake.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Specs

So, as I've blogged a few times in the past, I have been loving the DC Comics direct-to-DVD movies so far. It's been announced that the next one, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, comes out in the spring. They just announced the bonus specs for the DVD, and there's something on it that's really cool.

The producers of these DTV films have begun doing a concurrent project called DC Showcase. DC Showcase is a series of animated short films focusing on some of DC's B- and C-list heroes. And, one of the bonus features on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths will be the very first DC Showcase!

For the first one out, we get DC Showcase: The Spectre. The Spectre is the Spirit of Vengeance in the DCU. In his original incarnation, Jim Corrigan is a hard-boiled detective who is brutally murdered. However, he is refused entry into the afterlife, and is sent back to Earth to be...the Spirit of Vengeance. In the forthcoming short, he'll be voiced by Gary Cole. Yup, Harvey Birdman.

Other bonus materials on the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths DVD include a featurette on all the various crises that the DCU has endured, two episodes of Justice League Unlimited, and a sneak peak at the next DTV film, which is still TBA. It's still slated to come out on February 23.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Latest Targ is Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

I seem to be going through a creative drought as of late. This blog is going unattended, and I just can't figure out how to express myself.

Which kind of leads into the topic of this week's show, Episode 3.09: Little to Do, in which the first few minutes are wasted figuring out what to talk about. But eventually, I settle on the Best Animated Film Oscar and naughty Christmas tree ornaments.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Clash of the Titans Trailer

I really haven't been blogging that much lately. It's often been said that blogs are for people with little to say and even less to do. I guess that means I haven't been blogging because I have a lot to say and a lot to do.

Anyway, a movie trailer I've been waiting for for a while now has finally appeared online. As we all know, remakes are all the rage in Hollywood right now. And, thanks to The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, fantasy films are equally big. So, it was only a matter of time before they started remaking fantasy films.

Which brings us to Clash of the Titans.

Clash of the Titans is a much beloved fantasy film from 1981. It was a retelling of the Greek legend of Perseus. We got to see Perseus tame Pegasus, slay Medusa, and rescue Andromeda from the Kraken. And, of course, the Gods of Olympus manipulated the events to curry favour. The film has also grown somewhat dated. With Star Wars and R2-D2 still fresh on people's minds, cute robot sidekicks were all the rage. So, Perseus got a cute robot sidekick in the form of a mechanical owl named Bibo, built by Hephaestus.

The cast was legendary as well. Perseus was played by Harry Hamlin, who went on to greater fame on L.A. Law. Zeus was played by the legendary Shakespearean actor Laurence Oliver. And Aphrodite was played by the legendary Bond girl Ursula Andress. But, where the film gains its true lustre among movie geeks is that it was the final film to feature special effects by the legendary stop motion animator Ray Harryhausen.

With this being a beloved classic, you just knew a remake was a comin'.

The new Clash of the Titans hits theatres this spring. Perseus is played by the up and coming action star Sam Worthington. We saw him this summer in Terminator Salvation and he'll soon be 10 feet tall and blue in Avatar. The Gods play a larger role this time, as well, with the goal of Perseus's quest being to assemble the tools Zeus requires to hold off Hades. Liam Neeson is Zeus, Ralph Fiennes is Hades, and Danny Huston is Poseidon.

And, in a wonderful tip of the hat to the original, Ray Harryhausen, who is now well into his 90s, was brought in to consult on the creature designs.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here's the new Clash of the Titans.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Latest Targ is Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

I suddenly had a flashback to 12 years ago. As I was struggling with my dial-up Internet connection, my computer sciences majors were telling me that, soon, people would be able to get Internet access through cable companies, and that you'd be able to download a 5M file in under 5 minutes!.

I was thinking about that as I was uploading Episode 3.08: Hey! That Song! Guess how big this week's episode is? And I downloaded it in under 30 seconds! The future is here!

Anyway, the topics of this week's show are Christmas albums, Sunshine Girl calendars, and some wacky stats about my personal life.

So get into the belated Halloween spirit!

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Latest Targ is Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

This is Halloween...this is Halloween...nothing like Halloween traditions on the radio! Or, in my case, on my podcast, U62: The Targ! One such tradition, going all the way back to my college radio days, is playing songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

You'll get one of those on Episode 3.07: The Ghost Pumpkin, along with some visiting trick-or-treaters, and a few rants about Halloween!

So get into the belated Halloween spirit!

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Once More, With Batman

Being the Batman geek that I am, I occasionally take the time to sit down and watch Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The latest Batman cartoon is a more lighthearted and Silver Age take on the character, providing as many laughs as high-flying adventure. And, taking its cues from the comic book it's named after, each episode features Batman teaming up with another DC character...usually, some third-stringer who had yet to be portrayed in animation. So it can get really geek-tacular.

Recently, they aired an episode entitled "Mayhem of the Music Meister!" The Music Meister is an original villain created for the show. His power is that he can hypnotize people through his song, and is thus out to conquer the world. Naturally, with a power like that, the writers on the show had an excuse to go all "Once More, With Feeling" and do a musical episode.

The mainstream entertainment media has been geeking out over this episode, mainly because of special guest villain Neil Patrick Harris as the Music Meister. Apparently, no one knew that Harris could sing like that. Apparently, no one remembered that Harris was in the Broadway cast of Rent.

I want to take a moment to geek out about the other powerhouse singer in the episode. In order to defeat the Music Meister, Batman teams up with the legendary DC hero Black Canary. On the show, Black Canary is voice by voice actress Grey DeLisle.

Once upon a time, about a couple years ago, I was googling the names of voice actors in an attempt to learn more about them. (Being a geek who loves cartoons, it's how I frequently kill a rainy afternoon.) I entered DeLisle's name into a search engine, and discovered that voice acting is just her day job. By night, she's a country music singer, and had released a couple of indie albums a few years ago. One critic described her voice as a "Goth-infused Dolly Parton," and with a description like that, you could colour me curious. My next online visit was Amazon.com, where I bought her album Iron Flowers. It's a really good album...very classic country music, more bluegrass in flavour, and I still listen to it quite a bit.

So I'm really glad that she finally got this mainstream exposure, and here's hoping she releases another album soon. (Iron Flowers is her most recent, and it came out in 2005.)

Here she is from "Mayhem of the Music Meister!" singing "If Only," a Disney Princess-ish ballad where sings of her love for Batman:

Here she is, singing live, one of my favourite songs off Iron Flowers, "The Bloody Bucket:"

Hey! And here she is on New Zealand television talking about being a superstar voice actress:

I guess all I'm trying to say here is Grey DeLisle is awesome.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another New Burger Family Member

So, it was around a year ago, that A&W rocked our world by introducing a new member to the Burger Family, the Sirloin Uncle Burger.

Hey! Here's my original blog entry on the Uncle Burger.

Anyway, with a lot less fanfare, A&W introduced yet another long-lost member of the Burger Family...two members to be specific. Ladies and gentlemen, it's the Sirloin Baby Burger Twins!

Packed inside this foil bag are two bite-sized cheeseburgers with two bite-sized sirloin patties on them.

Their OK. They're kind of bland. These are basic cheeseburgers. Just cheese on them...no ketchup, no secret sauce, no nothin'.

However, they are small enough that they make a handy snack.

Sadly, though, the Mozza Burger is still not welcome as a member of the Burger Family. I still say we lobby to make the Mozza Burger the "Cute-Cousin-You'd-Sleep-With-If-You-Weren't-Related Burger."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Movie Reviews For You!

Alright, I saw some movies over the weekend and I finally reviewed them!

I saw Astro Boy and Where the Wild Things Are!

Click here to read the reviews!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Latest Targ's Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Not gonna lie...you almost didn't get an episode of U62: The Targ this week. Real life got in the way, so I wound up throwing this together really late at night, almost like the ol' college radio days.

Episode 3.06: Quick 'n Dirty tells you why I was so darn busy. Rare film scores are purchases, and movies are reviewed!

Try it...today!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

A Little Bit o' Movie News

I feel like I've been neglecting ol' bloggy here for the past few days. No real reason...just, quite literally, nothing to write home about. But I feel like writing some stuff anyway, so let's do it.

So, let's see. A lot of classics from my childhood are coming to the big screen. We've had G.I. Joe, we've had Transformers...what's next?

How about The A-Team?

Yup, the movie version of The A-Team is now filming for a June 11, 2010 release. And today, we had our first picture of the cast!

So, who is the new A-Team? From left to right we have:

Bradley Cooper, star of the sleeper hit of the summer The Hangover, as Templeton "Face" Pack.

UFC fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson as BA Barracus.

Sharlton Copely, star of the hit summer film District 9, as "Howlin' Mad" Murdock.

And, rounding out the team, none other than Qui-Gon Jinn himself, Liam Neeson as John "Hannibal" Smith.

Not pictured is Jessica Beal as Amy Allen. They changed the character of Amy for the movie. In the early seasons of the show, she was a plucky reporter who frequently assisted the A-Team. In the movie, she's the hard-ass MP with the task of bringing in the A-Team...and one of Face's many ex-girlfriends.

The director is Joe Carnahan, who brought us such fine action films as Narc and Smokin' Aces. Ridley Scott, who brought us such classics as Alien and Gladiator is producing.

This could be good.

And in another bit of industry news, Nickelodeon, the children's TV network in the USA, bought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.

Nickelodeon's plans for the franchise include a new cartoon (computer animated of course) and a new movie (live action of course). It'll all be coming in 2012.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Latest Targ's Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Sorry there was no new episode of U62: The Targ last week. I went home for Thanksgiving and forgot to do a new episode in advance. But that's OK, we're back, and it's back to my ravings.

Episode 3.05: Sunny Skies in the Afternoon is all about James Bond, Where the Wild Things Are, and Toy Story 3.

Give it a spin!

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday Morning Straight to DVD Cartoons

Wow. This is kind of weird. But in a way, nice and nostalgic.

For those who don't keep up on such things, 2009 is the 25th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. There's been all kinds of celebratory stuff going on, from re-prints of the old comics, special storylines in the new comics, and even the movies getting some fancy Blu-Ray special editions.

And now, the cartoons are celebrating.

Coming soon to your favourite DVD emporium is the direct-to-video animated film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles Forever. Thanks to some multiple earths style hi-jinks, this film features the current day animated Ninja Turtles teaming up with the 1980s animated Ninja Turtles! A clip just surfaced online.

My only complaint? It sure doesn't sound like the original 1980s voice cast. Sounds like they got the current voice cast to impersonate the original voice cast. But still, seeing those original character designs, takes me back to my misspent youth.

No word yet on when it hits DVD, but it will air on the CW network on Saturday morning, November 15.

And speaking of straight-to-DVD movies, a surprising announcement out of the WB/DC direct-to-DVD movie camp.

You know Superman/Batman: Public Enemies that I've been raving about all month?

It's getting a sequel! It is officially the first of the WB/DC DTV films that's getting a direct sequel.

No word yet on when Superman/Batman 2 will be hitting store shelves, or which classic Superman/Batman team-up they'll use for a basis. If I had to guess? It'll come out next year some time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The New Slinky Dog Is....

So one of the big questions that me and my fellow Pixar fanboys have been wondering is, "Who's doing the voice of Slinky Dog in Toy Story 3?" You're probably even wondering why this is an issue.

Well, in the first two Toy Story films, Slinky Dog was voiced by Jim Varney, still best-known to a generation of children as Ernest P. Worrell. Varney passed away from lung cancer back in 2000. Voicing Slinky Dog in Toy Story 2 was among his final film roles.

So today, it was announced that the new voice of Slinky Dog is...Blake Clark. Clark is a stand-up comic and a real "that guy" actor. You know what I mean...the type of actor where he pops up in dozens of supporting roles and makes you go, "Hey! It's that guy!" Clark has done a lot of Adam Sandler films...you may remember him as Farmer Fran in The Waterboy. If you watched a lot of Home Improvement back in the day, you may remember him as Harry, the owner of Tim the Tool Man's favourite corner hardware store.

Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich says that Blake Clark was actually a friend of Jim Varney's and Clark considers taking on this role to be a great honour.

Another member of the Toy Story 3 voice cast announced today is Kristen Schaal. Schaal is a cast member of the hit comedy series Flight of the Conchords and also a correspondent on The Daily Show. No word yet on who she's voicing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Toy Story 3 Trailer!

Here is it, the new trailer for Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 3! This has been in theatres in front of the Toy Story double-feature, but now it's officially online!

So this is our first trailer giving us some hint at the plot. Looks like the rumors are true: it does deal with Woody, Buzz and the rest of Andy's toys realizing that they are nearing the end of their time. And having followed the development of the Toy Story films, the concept of being left behind in a daycare centre traces all the way back to the very first draft of the Toy Story script dated 1992! Neat-o.

And I like the bit with Buzz being reset and going back to thinking he's a real Space Ranger. I remember listening to the running commentary on Toy Story 2. Director John Lasetter said that part of the fun of the first Toy Story was deluded Buzz, and they wanted to bring back deluded Buzz for the sequel. In Toy Story 2, the approach they took was Buzz being replaced with a brand-new Buzz in the toy store. Looks like in #3, they decided to do it by pressing Buzz's reset button...both literally and figuratively.

All in all, it's looking good! Godspeed, Pixar!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Review

Wow! I can't believe it took me so long to rip this out of the shrink wrap and pop it in the DVD player. It's time to sit back and check out the latest Warner Brothers/DC Comics direct-to-DVD animated epic....

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies

Directed by Sam Liu

Starring the voices of Clancy Brown, Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Alison Mack, Xander Berkley, Ricardo Chavira, John C. McGinley, LeVar Burton, and CCH Pounder.

Backstory: Ya know, out of all these DTV movies they've been pumping out, my gold standard is still The Batman/Superman Movie. When it comes to character moments between the top two of the DC universe, that is still the ultimate in cool. So an epic Batman/Superman team-up could be so fantastic if done right. Of course, one of the big selling points of this one was the fact that they reunited the main voice cast from The Batman/Superman Movie who are, in fact, the main voice cast from the heyday of the 1990's toons: Kevin Conroy as Batman, Tim Daly as Superman, and Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor. And throw in some great source material. This DTV film is based on the same-named graphic novel, which I've never read, but I always find myself leafing through it at the bookstore. This movie might finally encourage me to read it. All in all, there was a lot of good stuff going into this movie. Would it pay off?

Plot: Lex Luthor got himself elected President of the United States of America. And, under his watch, the world has become a better place. Crime is down. Poverty is down. Employment is up. And he's even brought several superheroes into the federal government to work for the people. But there's one notable person who will not work for the office of the President: Superman, who still thinks that Luthor is up to something. When a giant meteor made of kryptonite is spotted heading towards the Earth, Luthor makes one last effort to bring Superman into the federal fold. But instead, it turns out to be an ambush, and Superman is soon framed for the murder of his old enemy Metallo. Luthor says the massive kryptonite meteor is turning Superman into a mentally deranged lunatic, and places a $1 billion bounty on Superman's head. There's only one man who can help Superman now...his BFF, the Dark Knight himself, Batman. So Superman and Batman are soon on the run from government-sanctioned superheroes and bounty-hunting supervillains as they try to clear Superman's name, save the world from the meteor, and uncover Luthor's true plot.

What I Liked: This movie is just one massive brawl. So many C-list supervillains come out of the woodwork that I had trouble recognizing them all. If you like watching gigantic superhero throw-downs, then this is right up your alley. And the dialogue...the banter between Superman and Batman is priceless. So perfect, so in character, and so funny.

What I Didn't Like: I was a little disappointed that Power Girl didn't have much to do in her animated debut. She doesn't kick much ass...she spends a lot of time standing around being conflicted. Tim Daly's voice acting as Superman was also a little flat in the beginning, like he needed time to get back into the groove. And the editing seemed somewhat abrupt. It did feel like some lines, and even an entire scene, was missing at one point.

Final Assessment: Despite my reservations, this did hit all my right geek buttons in terms of the Superman and Batman portrayals and the super-brawling. This is my second favourite of the franchise. #1 is still Wonder Woman.

3.5 Nibs

Bonus Materials: This disc is available in single-disc movie only version, 2-disc special edition, and Blu-Ray. I have the 2-disc special edition. For bonus features, you get the trailers for all the other DTV films, a featurette on this year's DC comics epic crossover, 2 episodes of Superman: The Animated Series featuring team-ups with Batman, and a sneak peak at the next film, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. There's also two really unique featurettes. The first one is called A Test of Minds: Superman and Batman, in which some comic experts and psychologists analyze Batman and Superman and figure out why they work so well. The second one is Dinner with DCU and Special Guest Kevin Conroy, in which Kevin "the voice of Batman" Conroy and several members of the creative team sit down, have lunch, and reminisce about the good ol' days of Batman: The Animated Series.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Woody & Buzz & Wolverine & James Bond

I hate going into Edmonton on Sunday.

I usually go in on Saturdays. My job has me programmed to get up early. I'm at 7, on the road by 8, I hit Edmonton right at 10, just as all the stores open. Bing, bang, boom, I get all my shopping done. Have lunch, catch a movie at 1, get home in time for supper.

But this weekend, I couldn't go in on Saturday because the job called me away. Nope, I had to go in on Sunday. On Sundays, nothing in Edmonton opens until noon. So I get in at around 11, have lunch, catch my movie, and go shopping afterwords just as things are super-crowded. I wind up getting home later than I want. It's just a longer day.

Especially if you run into crazies. While at Best Buy, getting my DVDs, one stoner started yelling out that Best Buy's DVDs are "cheaper than whores in Thailand."


But what, pray tell, was so important that I had to go into Edmonton on a Sunday? Well, right now, in theatres, for a limited 2-week engagement, is the 3D special edition double feature of Toy Story and Toy Story 2. Now, the Toy Stories are the only Pixar films that I've never seen in the theatre, so I knew this would be chance.

I don't think I'll do a full review of these films for the website, because we've all already seen them about a dozen times. No need to rehash what we've gone over a dozen times before. All I can say is I still love them. The grand climax of Toy Story 2, where Woody rides to the rescue chasing down that airplane? Still gets me all goosebumpy.

That being said, I'm still not sold on the whole 3D thing. Putting the films in 3D didn't really add anything new. Showing them as a double feature though, that was a stroke of genius. I mean, they're both short movies, only 1.5h each. Watching them as a double feature is just 3h long...as long as, say, Titanic or Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

So it was really good.

But as I said, I was on a quest to get some DVDs. I was after the 2-disc special edition of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Yeah, I thought it was kind of weak, but hey, I must have the complete X-Men franchise in my collection.

Now I was all worried. They're starting to put out the 2-disc special editions in fewer numbers, so that way you'll buy the Blu-Ray instead. And with Wolverine having been out for a couple of weeks now, I was afraid that the 2-disc special edition would be all sold out by the time I arrived.

"Oh, well," I thought. "I could always buy it at HMV." Granted, HMV still tends to have the best selection, but they make you pay for it. When it comes to new releases, I've noticed that they tend to run at leas $5 more than Best Buy or Future Shop. I was certain that HMV would have it, but would I want to pay more?

So, after the film, I was browsing through HMV, I saw it on the shelf and thought, "There it is, right in front of me. What the hell, let's get it."

The other big DVD on my list today was the latest Warner Brothers/DC Comics direct-to-DVD animated film, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. As I've done with the other direct-to-DVD films, I'll have a complete review later in the week.

And then, I made a lucky strike in the discount bin!

When I first started with this DVD thing, I set a little goal for myself. Like a lot of guys, I enjoy the James Bond films, but I didn't really want to buy the box sets and get all 20+ films. So I said that I would only get my favourite films with each Bond actor. So, to represent Sean Connery, I got Goldfinger. To represent Roger Moore, I have The Spy Who Loved Me. For Timothy Dalton, I have The Living Daylights, and Pierce Brosnan is represented with Tomorrow Never Dies. Daniel Craig is just starting out, so right now, I only have Casino Royale.

But I was left in a bit of a pickle. To complete my collection, I still needed the lone George Lazenby Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It hasn't been available outside of a boxed set for at least the past five years.

So, there I was today in Wal-Mart, and what was floating on the top of the discount bin but the long out-of-print, outside-of-a-boxed-set edition of On Her Majesty's Secret Service!

Only $5 out of that discount bin. $5.25, including GST. And, lo and behold, in my pocket, was five loonies and a quarter. It's the first-ever DVD I've bought with nothing but pocket change.

So I'm going to be watching a lot of DVDs on this upcoming Thanksgiving weekend!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Latest Targ's Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

I'm not going to lie to you. I have many episodes of U62: The Targ where I just go through the paces. This is one such week.

Episode 3.04: Paper Trail just complies some miscellaneous rants about the 2016 Olympics, getting a haircut, and fast food secrets.


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Friday, October 02, 2009

Rio 2016

Hey! Since I am fascinated by all things Olympics, I should take a minute to acknowledge the big Olympic story of the day.

Congradulations to Rio de Janeiro, which was awarded the Summer Olympics for 2016! It's the first time ever the Olympics will be heading to South America. And apparently, that came up in the final pitches. Giving their final speeches, the president of Brazil went, "COME ON! We know how it works. The pattern goes Europe, North America, Asia, and repeat. It's time to let South America in. COME ON!" Of course, he used more professional, political language.

The also-rans were Chicago, Tokyo, and Madrid. Chicago was the odds-on favourite, what with both US President Barack Obama and Chicago's favourite daughter Oprah Winfrey both lobbying in person for Chicago to get the games. But it all fell apart, meaning late night talk show hosts are going to have some fodder for the next few days.

So, to recap, here's where all the Olympics are going to be held over the next decade:

2010 Winter Olympics - Vancouver, BC, Canada
2012 Summer Olympics - London, England, UK
2014 Winter Olympics - Sochi, Russia
2016 Summer Olympics - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Thursday, October 01, 2009

New DreamWorks Holiday Specials

Ya know, I don't want to rag on DreamWorks Animation a lot, but if there's one thing that I've done that I truly hate, it's how they've turned animated films into over-exposed franchises. I mean, do we really need four Shrek films? However, they do occasionally do some good work, and that needs to be acknowledged, but they are once again trying to create franchises out of stuff that doesn't look franchise-ready.

As part of their expanding franchises, they're really starting to tackle the old realm of the holiday special. Based on the success of their Shrek Christmas special, Shrek the Halls, it was just announced that, this year, we're getting a Monsters vs. Aliens Halloween special and a Madagascar Christmas special.

So, Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space will be airing on October 28. Taking place after the first film, those dasterdly aliens try to invade once again using mutant pumpkins, and so it's up to the monsters to repel the alien invaders. It reunites the entire voice cast from the movie, including Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogan, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnet, and Keifer Sutherland.

Merry Madagascar takes place between the first and second films. When Santa Claus crash-lands on Madagascar, the animals figure they can use Santa's sleigh to get themselves back to New York City. But, Santa's got amnesia, so the animals decide to finish his run, get caught up in the spirit of giving, and yes, they save Christmas. Also, we learn that those famous Madagascar penguins don't get along too well with Santa's reindeer. The logic? The North Pole and the South Pole have kind of a Calgary/Edmonton thing going on. Once again, the entire voice cast from the film is back, including Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, and David Schwimmer. That hits the airwaves on November 17.

And doing the Wikipedia links for this article, I see that DreamWorks is also working on a Shrek Halloween special, a Kung Fu Panda Christmas special, and a Bee Movie Halloween Special.

Make it stop!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Latest Targ's Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Another one of those weeks! If there's one thing worse than having a busy weekend that almost results in no podcast, it's having a glut of free time but nothing to podcast. So, in those situations, you just fire up the recorder, start rambling, and before you know it, you have a pretty tight episode of U62: The Targ!

Episode 3.03: Crisis on Saturday Afternoon turned into a nice little ramble about superhero DVDs. Will I get the 2-disc special edition of X-Men Origins Wolverine? Can I wait any longer for Batman/Superman: Public Enemies? And what else is DC/WB cooking up for DTV films? Find out in this week's episode!

Click here to listen!

Click here to subscribe in iTunes!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Movie News Aggregator

Wow. I feel like I've been neglecting this here blog, if only because I have ideas for stories about my vacation that I want to sit down and write, but I've been putting it off and putting it off and putting it off. So, in the interest of writing a blog entry just for the sake of writing a blog entry, here's some movie news from the past week that's caught my eye.

Thor - Casting is going full-bore on this Marvel comics adaptation. Star of the canceled TV show Kyle XY and general hot chick Jamie Alexander has just joined the cast as Sif, Thor's Aasgardian main squeeze. Also joining the cast, veteran Canadian actor Colm Feore! The official announcement was mum on Feore's role, just that he'll be playing a "shadowy character." To re-cap, Chris Hemsworth, briefly seen as Captain Kirk's daddy in Star Trek, is playing Thor, British actor Tom Hiddleston is playing Loki, and Natalie Portman is playing Jane Foster, Dr. Donald Blake's nurse and Thor's sidekick back when the comic began. The director is British actor/director Kenneth Branagh. This is Branagh's first attempt at directing a major Hollywood blockbuster since 1994's Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.

Barbie: The Movie - Thanks to Transformers and GI Joe, and toys becoming the hot new property in Hollywood, this really isn't much of a surprise. But yeah, Universal just signed a deal with Mattel to develop a movie about Barbie. Script, director, writer, star, release date, all TBA.

Ghost Rider 2 - Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Blade writer David S. Goyer just announced that he's in negotiations to write and direct the long-awaited Ghost Rider sequel. You may remember that Goyer was attached to write Ghost Rider about 10 years ago. The plan back then was to re-unite the writer and director of Blade, Goyer and Stephen Norrington. The first Ghost Rider was written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, who wrote and directed Daredevil.

The Social Network - So, they're making a movie about the origins of Facebook, and how it became one of the fastest-growing dot-coms in the history of the Internet. It might sound kind of lame, but the behind-the-scenes talent really has me excited. The director, none other than Fight Club, Seven, Zodiac, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button director David Fincher! The writer, Aaron Sorkin, who was the writer and creator of The West Wing and SportsNight, two of the most brilliantly-written TV shows ever. They also announced the cast. Jessie Eisenberg will play Mark Zuckerberg, the programmer who created Facebook, and pop star Justin Timberlake will be playing Sean Parker, the founder of Napster who talked Zuckerberg into making him Facebook's founding president.

Sweet Valley High - Oscar winning writer Diablo Cody has revealed her next project. She's going to be adapting the long-running series of tween novels Sweet Valley High for the big screen. Cody was apparently a big fan of the series when she was a youngster, and says that the books were quite influential in her junior high years. No word yet on when it might be hitting the big screen.