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!

Click here to listen!

Click here to subscribe in iTunes!

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.