Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Latest Targ is Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Who wants a new episode of U62: The Targ!

All right, this week, it's Episode 3.21: All Things Batman. As the title suggests, we got a good selection of Batman-related topics, including an analysis of the latest 'toon, The Brave and the Bold, we praise the brilliance of Kevin Conroy, and break the news on the next direct-to-DVD animated film!

Click here to go download it!

Head here to subscribe in iTunes!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Waking Sleeping Beauty Trailer

So, I was doing some random web-surfing over the weekend, and I stumbled upon this trailer for a forthcoming documentary called Waking Sleeping Beauty:

The period of Disney animation that ran from the mid-1980s to the end of the 1990s is a period that animation historians now refer to as "the Disney Renaissance." After some declining quality in the 1970s, Disney animation came back with a vengeance, starting with some slightly weird, experimental stuff, like The Black Cauldron, the first experiments with computer animation in The Great Mouse Detective, and then, the four films that fully encapsulate the Disney Renaissance: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King.

And then, it's pretty much agreed that it was all downhill after that, and limped to an end in the early 00's.

So, it's neat to see that a documentary has been produced about this period in Disney animation. Of course, since the documentary has been made by Disney, I highly doubt that it'll be balanced, and it might come off as a little...sugar-coated.

But I love that they feature Tim Burton in that trailer. I remember around 10 years ago, when A&E Biography was still a pop culture mainstay, and I saw the Biography on Tim Burton. Burton described his time working at Disney in the early 1980s as the least satisfying time in his career.

In fact, Little Mermaid and Aladdin directors John Musker and Ron Clemmens were interviewed in that Biography, and recounted the tale how Burton was so dissatisfied with his work at Disney, that Burton would literally go hide in the closet. Musker and Clemmens recounted this tale as being "business as usual" with Burton in the office....

(Musker and Clemmens go to the closet to get their coats. They find Burton in there.)

Them>> Oh, hi, Tim, having another rough day, eh?

(Burton just stares blankly at them)

Them>> Hey, we're going to lunch. Wanna join us?

(Burton continues to stare blankly at them)

Them>> OK, well, we'll just get our coats here, and we'll see you later.

(They close the door as Burton continues to stare.)

And, as the legend goes, Burton found a more satisfying creative outlet by making wacky live-action short films with his friends on the weekend, Disney liked them and commissioned Burton to make the short film Frankenweenie, Paul Reubens saw Frankenweenie and offered Burton the director's chair on Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and the rest is history!

But yeah. This looks like an interesting film.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Latest Targ is Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

It's a new week, so it's a new episode of U62: The Targ!

Sorry there was no episode last week. It was Family Day here in Alberta, so I took off for the long weekend and never got around to recording one. But I'm back with Episode 3.20: The Zesty Pest. In this one, we're chatting about the Vancouver 2010 opening ceremonies, we analyze the new Toy Story 3 trailer, and I wax poetic about Chicken McNuggets.

Click here to go download it!

Head here to subscribe in iTunes!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ode to Kevin Conroy

I'm still not one for pirating TV shows and movies, but I think it might be time to start, because I want to catch the new episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. This is the latest Batman cartoon. Each one features Batman teaming up with another DC Comics hero...they've been digging up a lot of obscure, B- and C-list heroes to team up with Batman. For a lot of them, it's their first time in animation, so it's a lot of fun for the nerds like me. And now I'm geeking out because Kevin Conroy is about to do a special guest voice in a couple of upcoming episodes.

For those who don't care, Kevin Conroy did the voice of Batman on Batman: The Animated Series, and to a lot of fanboys out there, Conroy is *THE* voice of Batman. It's pretty much agreed that Conroy nailed his audition, and is still the definitive portrayal of Batman. For that series of straight-to-DVD animated films that DC Comics is currently doing, there's always a massive fan uproar when they learn that the film features Batman and Conroy is not voicing the character. For example, there's an upcoming one called Batman: Under the Red Hood, in which Batman will be voiced by Bruce Greenwood, best known right now to my fellow trekkies as Capt. Pike in Star Trek. He's got a great voice for Batman, but he's no Conroy.

I understand the need to have a different voice for Batman in these different interpretations. Sometimes, you just need a different actor to help with that different interpretation. Right now, in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman is voiced by Diedrich Bader, probably still best remembered as Oswald on The Drew Carey Show. And Bader is doing a wonderful job portraying a light-hearted Batman in this light-hearted interpretation. I'm not sure Conroy could do a silly Batman.

But still, it makes me geek out when it's announced Conroy is coming on to do a guest voice. In the last Batman cartoon, The Batman, Conroy popped up as John Grayson, the father of Dick Grayson, aka Robin. That episode was also geek-tacular in that Mark Hamil, who voiced the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series, voiced Tony Zucco, the mob hitman who murdered Dick Grayson's parents.

Conroy will be popping up on Batman: The Brave and the Bold doing the voice of the Batman of Zurr-en-Arr. In order to keep with the light-hearted tone of the series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold draws a lot from the comics of the 1950s and 1960s. And from that era, we have the Batman of Zurr-en-Arr. Zurr-en-Arr is another planet, where they have grand old time watching us with their high-powered telescopes. One young man is inspired by the exploits of Batman to become a Batman for Zurr-en-Arr. But eventually, the Batman of Zurr-en-Arr encounters a villain so great that the only thing he can think of doing is teleporting the real Batman the Zurr-en-Arr to help him out.

Apparently, Conroy will also turn up on The Brave and the Bold voicing The Phantom Stranger, so I've got to start watching that show.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Weird Al on Vinyl

So, I'm visiting my parents for the long weekend. As boredom begins to set in, I find myself in front of the computer...my Dad's computer, to be specific. A few years back, my siblings and I put our money together and we got our Dad one of these USB turntables...you know, a record player that you plug into your computer, so you can convert your record collection into MP3s.

As I sit here, my gaze wanders over to this USB turntable, and I figure I'll take advantage of this opportunity to listen to my only "Weird Al" Yankovic record. As you know, I'm a gigantic Weird Al fanboy. I have cassettes, I have CDs, I've got digital albums, and finding Weird Al on vinyl is a bit of a sacred quest for me. In every thrift shop and garage sale I visit, I sift through the vinyl looking for, say, Dare to Be Stupid. So far, I only have one Weird Al record, and it was fate that dropped it in my lap.

So, around 12 or 13 years ago, I was a carefree college student at Augustana University. I was renowned on campus...I was Captian Hot Stuff, Mr. #1 DJ on the campus radio station. I was one of the few announcers who actually did show prep. I would always show up at the staton one hour before my show, and spend some time going through the campus radio station's music collection.

The music library was a mess, to say the least. One wall was floor to ceiling of nothing but radio samplers. "Radio samplers" are special compliation albums that record labels send out to radio stations, containing most of the singles being released that month. The other three walls were nothing but albums, sent out by aspiring artists hoping for that first big break. It was all one, disorganized, chaotic pile. Many a station manager was hired on the promise of getting it organized, and many a station manager went mad and walked away from the station after a month of attempted organizing.

There was also another room in the station with a massive wooden cabinet. Inside that cabinet, was the station's record collection. I'd go through the records when I was feeling very adventurous. Usually, it wasn't worth it, as the station's record players were very hit-and-miss. Some nights they worked, others, they didn't. Some times, the fates aligned perfectly, like when I found the Star Wars soundtrack in that cabinet and was able the Cantina Song on vinyl. That was a good show.

On this one night, I wasn't going through the record cabinet, but my eye was drawn towards a plastic tub. In one attempt to get things organized, a former station manager had put all the 45s in a plastic tub. I'd put on a long song, the phone lines were quiet that night, so I reached into the tub. And I pulled out....

the 45 of I Lost on Jeopardy.

My jaw dropped. I tired to play it, but it was a "miss" night for the station's record players. Now, when I first started at the campus station, the station manager once lamented how all the good albums are stolen as soon as they come in, so I swore that I would never swipe an album for the station.

However, my inner fanboy wouldn't stay silent. Needless to say, that 45 came home with me that night.

I wasn't able to listen to it until I got home and was able to fire up Dad's record player. The record sleeve said the b-side was supposed to be I'll Be Mellow When I'm Dead, but it wasn't. It's just I Lost on Jeopardy on both sides.

And as I sit here, listening to it, I can't help but smile. Vinyl sounds good. It does seem to be a richer sound. And all the pops and hisses of an old record seem to add character.

I love reading how vinyl is currently experiencing a brief resurgance. I read the statistic the other day that 2009 was the best selling year for records since 1991. There's even some records I wouldn't mind getting. The soundtrack for Watchmen was released on vinyl...it's already been announced that the soundtrack for Iron Man 2 is going to be released on vinyl.

Weird Al is currently in the studio, working on his next album. Here's hoping he'll release his next one on vinyl, so my quest will be a little bit easier.

Friday, February 12, 2010

New Toy Story 3 Trailer!

Hey, gang, here's the new Toy Story 3 trailer!

What more can I blog about Toy Story 3 that I haven't blogged about before? Maybe how I'm geeking out a bit over how prominent Barbie and Ken are in this film. "I'm Barbie." "I'm Ken." So obvious, but so brilliant.

Here's a well-known trivia fact: Pixar had originally hoped to feature Barbie in the very first Toy Story, and her role in the film would have been...unexpected. You'll remember the first film, the bully Sid has all those mutant toys that he'd created. Well, a mutilated Barbie was going to be the leader of the mutant toys. According to the creators, Barbie's personality was going to be modeled on Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. In fact, when this mutilated Barbie first met Woody and Buzz, she was going to utter the classic Terminator line, "Come with me if you want to live." But, with Pixar still being a very new company, and all of Hollywood having doubts about the first computer animated film, Mattel said "No" to Pixar's pitch.

But of course, the film was a phenomenal hit, and Mattel was beating down Pixar's door to have Barbie in Toy Story 2.

Just as in Toy Story 2, Barbie is voiced by Jodi Benson, still best known to Disney-philes as the voice of Ariel. Ken is voiced Beetlejuice and Tim Burton's Batman himself, Michael Keaton.

And another little trivia fact I just gleamed. The Ken in this trailer is actually a "Safari Ken," released in the late-1980s. Yes, that Ken doll actually existed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Next DC Direct-to-DVD Animated Film is....

Well, with Justice League: Crisis on Two Earth coming out next week, DC and Warner Brothers have officially announced what their next straight-to-DVD animated film will be! It is....

Batman: Under the Red Hood.

This film will be based on the Batman storyline Under the Hood that ran in the comics a few years back. When a new murderous vigiliante known as the Red Hood shows up in Gotham City, Batman vows to uncover his identity. Batman first suspects the Joker, as the Joker used the alias the Red Hood early in his criminal career. But who it it turns out to be is someone with ties to the pasts of both Batman and the Joker....

SPOILER WARNING: It's turns out to be Jason Todd, the Robin that was famously killed off by the Joker in the 1980s, and recently resurrected from the grave.

As always, DC and Warner Brothers has assembled an all-star voice cast. Batman will be voiced by veteran Canadian character actor Bruce Greenwood, last seen in the latest Star Trek movie as Captain Pike. The Red Hood will be voiced by Jensen Ackles, star of the TV series Supernatural, and best-remembered by DC geeks for his single-season stint as Jason Teague on Smallville. Nightwing will be voiced by the ever-awesome Neil Patrick Harris. The Joker will be voiced by John diMaggio, the veteran voice actor sill best remembered as Bender on Futurama, and Ras al Guhl will be voiced by Jason Issacs, still best known as the senior Malfoy in the Harry Potter films.

No word yet on the bonus features, but we've been promised that the next DC Showcase animated short film will be about Green Arrow, so there's a good chance that'll be on the disc.

No word yet on a release date, but following the trend of the release schedule, I'm guessing late spring/early summer.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Latest Targ is Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

It's a new week, so it's a new episode of U62: The Targ!

I've got Episode 3.19: Take the Blue Pill this week. We're chatting about the Oscar nominations, I've got some reflections on The Matrix, and there's one final Monopoly update.

Click here to go download it!

Head here to subscribe in iTunes!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Saucy Chicken

Ah, the Chicken McNugget. Truly, one of the most innovative items on the McDonald's menu. As the legend goes (or, as I read it in the book Fast Food Nation), one of the McDonald's marketing guys went to the McDonald's product development guys and said, "I want you to develop some kind of chicken produce...as big as your thumb...that people can eat while they're driving." The product development folks locked themselves in the lab, got to work, and eventually came out with the Chicken McNugget. It was added to the McDonald's menu sometime in the mid-1980s.

The mid-1980s, the height of my childhood. And Chicken McNuggets became a childhood favourite. They were the only thing I'd eat when I went to McDonald's when I was a kid. I eventually outgrew them, and I only have them every once in a while now. But for at least the past 25 years, the McNugget has remained unchanged.

Which is why I geeked out a few days ago when I saw the TV commercials. McDonald's had introduced brand new dipping sauces for the McNuggets! The four basics: Sweet and Sour, BBQ, Hot Mustard, and Honey, were joined by two new additions. Wait a minute. Doing some quick research online, it looks like McDonald's discontinued Honey as a dipping sauce some time ago. Oh, well.

Two new sauces! Never had such a thing been attempted! Well, I do remember their special "Oriental McNuggets" from the late 1980s, which came with special Teriyaki dipping sauce, chopsticks, and a fortune cookie. Oh, and let's not forget McDonald's attempt at "grown up" McNuggets a few years ago, the Chicken Selects. The "grown up" dips were Spicy Buffalo, Creamy Ranch, and Honey Mustard.

But my mission tonight was to try the two new McNuggets dipping sauces: Spicy Szechwaun and Zesty Mango.

I wasn't too impressed with Spicy Szechuan. Maybe it's because I've been stocking the kitchen at work with instant szechwaun noodles for lunch, and I'm just getting tired of spicy szechuan. It had a nice kick, and a spicy aftertaste. All in all, not too bad.

The Zesty Mango is my favourite of this new duo. It's definitely trying for an Indian flare, as I could smell the hint of curry when I opened the packet. I could taste it, too, as soon as I ate that first, freshly dipped McNugget. This one truly is zesty. "Sweet and Spicy" would be a good way to sum up this sauce.

It's nice, but not enough to get me dining on McNuggets regularly again.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Whole Bunch of Animated DVDs

Wow, it's been so long since I did a blog post about upcoming DVDs. Maybe it's because I haven't swung by my favourite DVD websites in such a long time. I swung by them tonight and look what I found....

Ponyo, the latest animated hit from Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, is due to come out on March 2. It'll be a 2-disc special edition. For bonus features, you get a whole slew of new featurettes about the film and the history of Studio Ghibli (including new interviews with Miyazaki), a special introduction by the film's producers, and the entire storyboards for the film.

Even though it tanked at the box office and didn't really offer anything original, I really enjoyed the computer animated movie version of Astro Boy. It hits DVD on March 16. For bonus features, you get some featurettes, some cut scenes, some new animated sequences, and more stuff TBA.

Also coming out on March 16 is Disney's triumphant return to traditional animation, The Princess and the Frog. It'll be available in three versions: single-disc DVD, single-disc Blu-Ray, and the DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack. The DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack is something that Disney started doing last year. It has the film on both DVD AND Blu-Ray, for those who are still in mid-transition. Anyway, for bonus features, you get a running commentary with directors John Musker and Ron Clemments and producer Peter Del Vecho, deleted scenes, and the music video from Ne-Yo. That's just on the DVD. On the Blu-Ray, you get all that, plus a whole bunch of featurettes about the making of the film and all kinds of concept art.

And finally, rounding out March is Fantastic Mr. Fox coming on March 23. I'm still upset that I missed this one in the theatres. For bonus features, you get 8 featurettes about the making of the film and the trailers.

March is going to be a good month. Expensive, too, as I'll probably be buying all of these.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Scarecrow's Oscar Picks

Well, it's that time of year again!  I do so love my movies, and the Oscar nominations have been announced!  In just one month, we will be celebrating the best in film for the previous year!

Now, ever since I first discovered the Internet and blogging, I've taken a minute to blog my Oscar picks.  But see, the thing is, I do things a little differently.  Over the next month, you're going to be seeing all kinds of picks for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, and so on.  I don't bother picking those categories.  I only pick the categories that I care about!  

So, the first category that I care about, Best Visual Effects:

  • Avatar

  • District 9

  • Star Trek

My Pick:  Do you even have to ask?  Avatar was 12 years in the making, 5 years of that was spent developing a new kind of movie camera to film this thing.  Everyone agrees that it's the most seamless blend of live-action and CGI ever captured.  Avatar, no contest.

Next up, Best Original Song.  The nominees are:

  • "Almost There" from The Princess and the Frog

  • "Down in New Orleans" from The Princess and the Frog

  • "Loin de Paname" from Paris 36

  • "Take it All" from Nine

  • "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" from Crazy Heart.

My Pick:  Ooo, tough call this year.  Disney animated films dominated this category back in 1990s, so it's easy to fall back on nostalgia and pick one of the two from The Princess and the Frog.  But I see that the song from Crazy Heart won the Golden Globe in this category, and the Golden Globes are always seen as a good indicator.  But you know what?  The Princess and the Frog is the only film on this list that I've actually seen, and I'm guessing the Academy voters are in the same boat.  I put my money on "Down in New Orleans." 

We now have Best Animated Film.  The nominees are:

  • Coraline

  • Fantastic Mr. Fox

  • The Princess and the Frog

  • The Secret of Kells

  • Up

My Pick:  Wow, looking at this list of nominations, I can't help but think there were a lot of great animated films this year.  The dark horse in this category is The Secret of Kells , which I gather is a little French animated film that got a very limited release in the USA.  I really have a soft-spot for Coraline as well, that was a remarkable film.  That being said, though, there is one film on this list that was beloved by audiences and critics and has already scooped up an armload of awards.  The winner will be Up, easy money. 

And lastly, I do one token mainstream category that's going to be analyzed to death.  The big one, Best Motion Picture:

  • Avatar

  • The Blind Side

  • District 9

  • An Education

  • The Hurt Locker

  • Inglourious Basterds

  • Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire

  • A Serious Man

  • Up

  • Up in the Air

My Pick:  As you can see, the Academy is trying something new this year.  They've expanded the Best Picture category to 10 films, to include more mainstream films, and thus more films that the average moviegoer has actually seen.  That being said, there's really two films right now that have been dominating all the awards shows running up to the Oscars:  Avatar and The Hurt Locker.  One is a science-fiction epic about a battle on another world that has just become the #1 film of all time, the other is an intimate drama about an Army bomb disposal expert in Iraq.  It really is a battle of style vs. substance.  That being said, since the whole expanded category is all about reaching out to mainstream films, something tells me that the fruits of that labour will be Avatar taking the Best Picture statue. 

The big show is on TV on March 7.  Your hosts this year are Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin.

For all the nominations, check out the official Oscar website

This post was originally posted at my work blog, which you can read at 94.1 the River.