Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Peanuts Movie Trailer

While I`ve had a lot of fun blogging about the new crop of trailers over the past week, there's one that's been going by with not much notice that I've wanted to talk about, and that's for The Peanuts Movie.

The teaser poster for The Peanuts Movie:  Snoopy sleeps atop his doghouse, with Woodstock sleeping on his belly, and the tag line "Dream Big."

Charlie Brown in animation is a subject that's always fascinated me.  Almost 50 prime time animated specials, 4 theatrically released features films, an 8-episode mini-series, and a Saturday morning cartoon.  Can you think of any other comic strip that's had as successful a career in animation?  I'm pretty certain, thanks to the cartoons, I was fully aware of Charlie Brown and Snoopy long before I knew it was a comic strip.

When I was a kid, Fisher Price made this toy.  You'd get these 1-minute long movies on these big yellow cartridges.  You'd plug the cartridge into the special movie viewer, turn the crank, and watch the movie.  I got it for Christmas when I was 4 or 5 years old, and it was my favourite toy, and no doubt started my path to movie geekdom.  And one of the cartridges I had was a Snoopy one.  Woodstock was on a raft in stormy seas, but it was eventually revealed he was just daydreaming in his bird bath.  Snoopy pulls him out and dries him off with a blow dryer.  That was it.  My first exposure to Charlie Brown in animation.

And then there were the TV specials, which I'd watch occasionally.  It wasn't until college that I really started appreciating the pathos in A Charlie Brown Christmas.  And when I was a kid, I did have a friend who had A Boy Named Charlie Brown on VHS, and wound up watching it a lot over at his place.  I caught a bit of it on TV a few months ago.  Since it was made in the 1960s, I forgot how the animation got a little...psychedelic in places.  

So, as you can see, nothing but heaping waves of nostalgia when I learned that this new, CGI movie is in development.

Apparently, Charles Schutlz's son and grandson came up with the story idea back in 2006 and began shopping it around Hollywood.  They eventually found a home at Blue Sky Studios, the animation studio responsible for the Ice Age and Rio franchises.  Steve Martino directs, and he gave us the Blue Sky films Ice Age: Continental Drift (aka the fourth one) and their adaptation of Horton Hears a Who.  In fact, it was Martino's adaptation of Horton Hears a Who that won him the gig, as the Schultz estate was impressed with his faithfulness to the original book.  I should mention that the Schultz estate does have complete creative control over the project, to maintain faithfulness to the characters.

And faithfulness does seem to be a key word in the production.  The producers have also acquired the rights to Vince Guaraldi legendary jazz scores to the various TV specials to be used in the film.  Bill Melendez, who directed the vast majority of TV specials and original animated films until his death in 2006, will once again be voicing Snoopy and Woodstock thanks to archival recordings.  And the voice cast was announced last week, too.  Following the tradition of the franchise, all the voice actor are age-appropriate kids. 

I just can't get over the animation in this trailer.  Even though it's modern-day, 3D, computer animation, the pains they've gone through to make it look like Charles Schultz's original 2D art is astounding.  The music, the voices of Snoopy and Woodstock, everything works great to successfully pull on the nostalgic heart strings.

Then the present day pop song strikes up and we get some 3D Snoopy vs. the Red Baron action and something about it starts feeling a little bit off. 

But it leaves me feeling cautiously optimistic.

The Peanuts Movie hits theaters on November 6, 2015. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Upon the announcement that we'd be getting our first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens by the week's end, I couldn't help but flash back to an earlier time in my life when I was counting down to a Star Wars trailer.  It was another wintery November, but back in 1998.  I was still going to college, and lucky for me, the dorms had been wired into the campus computer network over the summer...and it's high speed Internet.  Thanks to that, it was absolutely no problem to download the first teaser for Episode I.

One of the main lecture halls had even been outfitted with a projector that summer, so I politely asked one of my professors if we could use it after class one day to see that trailer on the big screen.  It still stands as an excellent trailer...which made the resulting film and the entire prequel trilogy just the tad more disappointing.

I've been saying for a few years now that I couldn't help but feel burnt out on Star Wars.  After watching the abysmal Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie, I just threw up my hands and said, "I'm done!"  I've been told that the resulting series gets better than the movie, and even though I tried to binge watch it on Netflix, I got bored and wandered off about halfway through the third season.  It just seemed like Star Wars had nothing new to offer me.

And yet, when Disney bought Lucasfilm two years ago, and announced Episode VII for 2015, you couldn't help but feel a twinge of excitement.  George Lucas had long been declared the scapegoat for how poorly the prequels turned out.  Would new creative talent really be the answer? 

From what I gather, a lot of directors actually turned down the job, fearing the pressure that would come with doing a new Star Wars films.  One of my favourite directors, Brad Bird, was an early contender, but Bird's official reason for declining the offer was to finish up his new film Tomorrowland.  The one who finally rose to the challenge was J.J. Abrams, whom many felt would be a good choice, as his Star Trek reboot had long been branded a Star Wars ripoff anyway.

A screen grab from the trailer:  a figure in black stands in a wintery forest.  He weilds a lightsaber, but this one is shaped more like a broadsword, complete with two energy discharges near the base that form a hilt.

Very little about the plot and characters has been revealed at this point.  We know that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford are all back as much older and wiser versions of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo.  With five confirmed actresses in key roles, it already has more female characters than the entire original trilogy.  Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi back in the day, is back, co-writing alongside Abrams.

The Millenieum Falcon, flying over a desert, takes on two TIE Fighters.

Many are praising the look of the trailer for focusing on the new characters and not nostalgia, but I disagree.  The nostalgia is there in spades.  The familiar sight of X-Wing fighters, skimming across the surface of a lake.  An R2-droid, but he has what looks like a soccer ball for a body.  And many online are describing a swell of emotion upon seeing the Millennium Falcon fly again, taking on two TIE fighters, but this time over a desert instead of in the depths of space. 

Much fuss is being made over the new lightsaber, and how it has two smaller blades shooting out the bottom, forming a hilt.  Many question its practicality.  But then, how practical was Darth Maul's double-bladed lightsaber?  Would you not accidentally cut off your own arm if weren't careful with that?

So the nostalgia's in the trailer.  It's taking the very familiar, and presenting it in new contexts and a new light.  Unlike the prequels, which emphasized the new.  This is saying, "Hey.  This is everything you loved, but in a new light."

Yeah, I've watched this trailer a dozen times now.  Am as I excited as I was on that wintery November night in 1998, when I was the Episode I teaser for the first time?  No...I don't think anything will ever top the excitement I felt back then.

This feels new, and different, yet familiar.  There's not so much excitment, but cautious optimism.  I've been down this road before, so I'm trying to avoid heartbreak once again.

But seeing X-Wings in flight again just looks amazing.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theatres December 18, 2015. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Alien 3

Fishing in the Discount Bin once again, where I watch a movie I own and blog about it.  Way back, last January, I picked up the Alien franchise from a discount bin, and I've been re-establishing my nerd cred by watching them.  Today, we get to the third in the franchise, Alien3.  This was originally watched and blogged about on January 25, 2014.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Jurassic World Trailer! Oh, and Strange Magic, too.

Jurassic World teaser poster

With my main focus for the summer blockbusters of 2015 being on Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a new Star Wars and a new James Bond, I keep forgetting that we're also returning to Jurassic Park.

Even though the third one kind of underwhelmed way back in 2001, rumours of a fourth film have persisted for years.  And, a couple years ago, Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and Universal Studios finally got their stuff together to make it happen.  Spielberg's just producing, though.  For our director, we have relative newcomer Colin Trevorrow, who gave us the 2012 indie time travel film Safety Not Guaranteed.

Back on Sunday night, we got a 15-second preview of the trailer.  I don't know why, but that 15 second preview gave me goosebumps.  I've never been able to put my finger on why, but I just love the Jurassic Park franchise.  It's dinosaurs!  Who doesn't love dinosaurs?  And in that 15-second clip, to hear the classic Jurassic Park theme played slowly and hauntingly on a piano...beautiful.

The trailer was supposed to come out on Thursday, but got bumped up to Tuesday.  I think the move-up in the time table had to do with the announcement that we're getting our first Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer on Friday, and that'll soon be the new king of Trailer Town.

Well, without further ado, are you ready to return to Jurassic Park?

First up, I totally geeked out at the end when we saw our hero riding the dirt bike in the middle of the herd of velociraptors.  I read Michael Crichton's literary sequel, The Lost World, as soon as it came out back in the mid-1990s.  There was a motorcycle/velociraptor chase in the book's climax, and I was upset it didn't make it to the movie.  So it looks like we're finally seeing that on the big screen!

And I also liked the bit with feeding the great white shark to the giant aquatic dinosaur.  No doubt a tip of the hat to Spielberg's legendary hit Jaws.

The trailer kind of confirms the plot that's been circulating online for a while now.  It's 22 years since the original incident at Jurassic Park.  InGen, the company that actually cloned the dinosaurs, was bought out, and under new management, John Hammond's dream finally became a reality.  But, tickets sales are starting to slump, and the novelty of actual, living dinosaurs is wearing off.  So, to create a bigger star attraction, those wacky geneticists start combining dinosaur DNA to create a bigger, badder, Franken-saurus.  And, because it's a Jurassic Park movie, it escapes and starts eating people.  

Chris Pratt, fresh from saving the universe as Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, is here as Owen, the game warden at the park who gets nervous at the thought of this Franken-saurus.  Bryce Dallas Howard is Claire, the park's manager.  The only returning character from the earlier films is B.D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu, the geneticist who actually clones the dinosaurs.

My only complaint is that some of the CGI of the park itself looks a little too generic "future city."  But that being said, I'm actually kind of jazzed.

Jurassic World hits theatres on June 12.

And while I'm talking trailers, here's one that came out about a week ago that wasn't on a lot of people's radars, but it caught my eye.  It might very well be George Lucas's final movie.  And that's Strange Magic.

About 5 or 6 years ago, I read a blurb that Lucas was developing an animated film about fairies.  At the time, the rumoured director was Kevin Murnoe, fresh off directing the CGI TMNT film (which, IMHO, is the best Ninja Turtles movie).  And that was all I heard, until the trailer came out last week.

The director, in the end, is Gary Rydstrom, who'd been circling directing an animated feature for some time.  Rydstrom started his career as a legendary sound designer at Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic, where he won Oscars for creating the sound effects for Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, Titanic and Saving Private Ryan.  He started getting involved in animation when he did the sound design for Pixar's first crop of films, including the first two Toy Stories and Monsters, Inc.  From there, he directed the Pixar shorts Lifted and Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation.  He also directed the English dubs of the last crop of Studio Ghibli films, including The Secret World of Arietty and Miyazaki's swan song The Wind Rises.

The official plot description is a little strange, describing it as a jukebox musical (that means it's a musical where all the songs are familiar pop songs) loosely based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, as various fairies, goblins, elves and imps do battle over a magic potion.  George Lucas himself gets a "story by..." credit, and that's why I'm saying this could very well be his final film, as now that he's sold Lucasfilm to Disney, he's probably chillin' on a pile of money and not doing much filmmaking anymore.

The voice cast includes Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Kristen Chenowith, and Maya Rudolph.  The animation studio that actually did the animation was Lucas's Lucasfilm Animation Singapore (which Lucas formed to do the animation for Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Lucas's legendary special effects house Industrial Light and Magic (whose only other animated film is 2011's Rango).  So while the voice cast sounds great, and the animation looks gorgeous, the entire trailer has me going, "I don't know about this...."

I just may go when it comes out, because I am mildly curious.  Strange Magic hits theatres on January 23.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Netflix Nonsense - Rocky V

Continuing my voyage through the Rocky franchise, we come to the one I'd been dreading to watch, Rocky V

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Aliens

Here we are again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly viewing of a movie I own.  Apparently, I broke a co-workers heart with last week's entry on Alien.  He read that, and then came to me the next day, "Dude, does that mean you're watching Aliens tonight?  I love Aliens!  Can I come over and watch it, too?"  That's when I had to break it to him.

For those just joining us, when doing Fishing in the Discount Bin, I'm working about six months ahead.  I watched this movie and jotted down this entry about six months ago.  That's why, in these intros, I always put down the date I originally watched the film and wrote my rant.  It was primarily to explain why you'd be reading entries about Christmas movies in July.

So, to my co-worker, I'm sorry you missed my Alien binge-watch by, wow, 10 months.  I'm working 10 months ahead now.  Anywho, time to continue the journey with Aliens.  I watched Aliens and wrote this ramble on January 19, 2014. 

Aliens Movie Poster

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Netflix Nonsense - Rocky IV

So I'm finally scratching the Rocky franchise off my cinematic bucket list, and now we get to one of the most beloved and most memorable of the series, Rocky IV.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Maybe it's my old age.  Maybe it's a shade of PTSD from when I hit that deer almost 2 years ago.  Maybe it's because the first real cold spell of the year always brought out a raft of car problems in my old Dodge Neon that I could barely afford to fix.  But for the past few years, whenever that first snowfall comes, I start to get really, really, really nervous about driving.  Especially driving into the city.  What if I break down on the side of the road when it's -40 out?  What if I slide through an intersection into oncoming traffic?  With everything that can go wrong when you drive in the winter, most winter days I feel more like just hunkering down on the couch rather than going out.

But I like to watch movies.  And movie theatres are in the city.  Suck it up, soldier.

And so, this past Saturday, with a bundle of nerves as my co-pilot, I headed into Edmonton.  There were a few things I needed, and a movie to be seen, so I was off.  I recently had the tires rotated and some leaky tires patched up on my car, and ever since then, the acoustics have been off.  My car just doesn't sound right.  I'm certain everything is fine, and it's just because the tires are different now, but it's enough to drive up my paranoia.

But I just turn up the music to drown out the sounds of the road, and just keep moving forward.  Having been binge-watching the Rocky franchise on Netflix, I spent the 99¢ to get Gonna Fly Now on iTunes.  A good, inspirational tune for when things are rough.  Yeah, it's cliched, but cliches become cliches because they work.

I've said before that I tend not to fret about spending too much money in the city if I buy at least one thing I genuinely need.  Lucky for me, this was a day of mostly things I need.  Now that winter is here, and I'm sliding off the boots and switching them out for shoes more and more, the socks wear out quicker.  So I bought some new socks.  And then some pants I liked were on sale, and some shirts I liked were on sale, and I just kind of lost myself.

From there, did a quick browse through Best Buy.  I always feel kind of sad when I walk out empty-handed, but there's really not much on my Blu-Ray shopping list right now.  From there, it was a hop, skip, and a jump to my beloved West Edmonton Mall.

The Mall is currently undergoing some renovations, and there's nothing wrong with that, although it does throw off my routine somewhat.  Down in the food court, they got rid of the fountain that used to be there, replacing it with a sunken seating area.  I decided to eat my lunch down there in order to take in the new ambiance, and I quickly had kudos for the Mall as to what they have down there.  They have cellphone charging stations.  Electrical outlets that also have USB ports built in, so you can plug in your wireless devices and charge them up.  Now that's a public service in this day and age.

Browsed through the Mall for a bit.  I decided I may as well start working Phase I of my Christmas shopping into the day.  As I blogged in the past, I tend do my Christmas shopping in 2 phases.  Phase I is just browsing and window shopping, getting ideas as to what to get people.  Phase II is when I've got that stuff figured out and actually buy the stuff.  Lots of others must have that idea, as the Mall is starting to fill up with the holiday shoppers.  I think I saw the ad somewhere that yesterday was when Santa made his big arrival at the Mall.  We may roll our eyes, but the Christmas shopping season is here.

Finishing my browse, I glanced at my watch and saw my movie was about to start.  I usually don't eat at the movies anymore.  With my preferences for matinees, I just find that I'm full from lunch.  However, now that I'm all bundled up in winter gear, I found that browsing in the Mall dehydrated me somewhat, so I hit the snack bar to grab a frosty beverage and some Twizzlers.

So what film was I heading off to see?  Well, with my love of Disney and superhero movies, you just know that Big Hero 6 was on my radar for this holiday movie season.

Big Hero 6 Movie Poster

When Disney bought Marvel Comics about 5 years ago, everyone started wondering if this meant we'd get some Disney animated films based on classic Marvel characters.  Everyone was surprised when Disney animation dove into the Marvel archives and surfaced with Big Hero 6, a barely-remembered mini-series from the 2000s.  That was a time when anime was starting to dominated cartoon line-ups, so Big Hero 6 wound up being Marvel's interpretation of many of the superhero tropes from Japanese pop culture.  There was a guy who turned into a Godzilla-like monster, a boy and his robot, a Sailor Moon-esque "magical girl," and such-forth.  So what did Disney do with this?

In the city of San Fransokyo (a mash-up of Tokyo and San Francisco), we're introduced to Hiro Hamada, a science prodigy who finished high school at 13.  Fascinated with robotics, he now makes his money hustling in back-alley robot fights.  One day, he visits his equally-prodigious brother Tadashi at the university lab where he works.  This really sparks Hiro's imagination, and he begins applying himself to get into the university.  He makes it with his invention of microbots...tiny thought-controlled robots that can do pretty much anything you imagine.  The project gets Hiro in...but there's a fire in the lab which destroys his microbots and kills Tadashi.  A few months later, a villain appears, using Hiro's microbots.  Hiro deduces that someone stole his tech and started the fire to cover it up.  Accompanied by his brother's greatest invention - a health care robot named Baymax - Hiro convinces the rest of Tadashi's friends to weaponize their projects and become a superhero team to bring Tadashi's killer to justice.

This is just a fun movie, if it does fall into some of the regular cliches of the superhero genre.  But it's so fun.  And I love the characters that make up our 6 heroes.  It really does make me long for the days of when Disney's latest animated epic spawns a Saturday morning cartoon, because we barely get to know any of the other heroes outside Hiro and Baymax, and I would have liked to see them developed more.  And, even though the connection to Marvel has been really downplayed (much to the anger and annoyance of some Marvel fans), they still manage to work in some of Marvel Cinematic Universe hallmarks such as a gratuitous Stan Lee cameo. 

Yup.  It was just fun.  I give it 3 out of 4 Nibs.  A complete review is up over on the ol' website.

A scene from Feast:  Winston the puppy ponders his empty food dish.

Oh, and as has become Disney tradition now, it starts off with a new animated short film.  This one is called Feast.  It's a relationship as told from the point of view of a puppy and the table scraps he gets fed.  It is unbearably cute.

With the movie done and my artistic soul fulfilled, it was time to head home.  But not before one last stop was made.  I was getting the warning lights on my printer, so it was time for that most valuable commodity of all:  printer ink.  $70 for the ink cartridges for my printer.  But, since I bought my printer brand new back in January, and only now is it running low on ink, $70 for a year's worth of ink is a pretty good deal.  Besides, I'll be sending out Christmas cards soon.  I've got mailing labels I'll be printing up this year, so my wrist will be thankful for that.

I returned home, once again able to drown out the different sounds of my car with the Nerdist podcast.  And when I made it home, I sat down to watch something very special.  Back on Tuesday, the 1966 Batman TV series was finally released on home video.  I don't own it yet, because it's a $200 set (if you're thinking about a Christmas present for me), however a friend did buy it, and he was kind enough to give me the code for the digital copy.  So while I don't have the discs, I can watch it streaming from the cloud.  With this in hand, it was finally time for closure.

One of my earliest conscious memories of television is watching a rerun of Batman  on the old Sunday morning TV show Switchback.  There was one cliffhanger that haunted me to this very day.  In this episode, the Penguin attempts to go straight, but Batman and Robin suspect it's a charade.  The Penguin is holding a carnival to raise money for charity, and Batman and Robin begin snooping around.  But, the Penguin gets the drop on the Dynamic Duo!  The Penguin strings up Batman and Robin behind the shooting gallery and then, out front, makes a friendly wager with Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara.  If they can hit the bulls-eye, the Penguin will make a generous donation to charity.  But, behind the targets, are the tied up and helpless Batman and Robin.

Yup, that's the deathtrap in this one:  the Penguin is going to trick Commissioner Gordon into shooting Batman!

That cliffhanger haunted me for years.  Probably because the unconscious Batman and Robin, strung up behind the shooting gallery, their feet gently swaying, looking as though they'd been hanged, was such a haunting image.

So, after seeing this episode of Batman at the tender age of 4 or 5, I finally got my closure.  How did Batman and Robin get out of this one?  Well, even though they looked it, they weren't unconscious.  They were able to lift their feet in the air, and deflect the bullets with their steel-toed boots.  The impact dislodged the Batknife that Batman kept concealed in his glove, which he was then able to use to cut himself and Robin free.

Closure.  The end.  Batman got out of his jam, and I survived a wintry trip to the city.  It's a fear I'm going to have to get over soon, as the winter blockbuster season is here, and holiday shopping needs to get done.  I'm thinking about taking the first week in December off to focus on that stuff.  Thanks to proper planning, careful incorporation of stat holidays, and just a plain ol' workaholic nature, the Company tells me I've used only three days of my three weeks of vacation time in 2014, and they'd like me to get more off the books before the year's end.  The fear of snowy roads and wintry city streets is something I'll continue to face before things are done.

Fear, for the most part, is a good thing.  It keeps us awake.  It keeps us alert.  It keeps us from doing stupid things.  But you know what they say about good things:  you can have too much. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Alien

Here on Fishing in the Discount Bin, it's time to power my way through another franchise!  This time, I'm doing a franchise that I've always been pretty blasé about, the Alien films.  Let's start with the first one, Alien.  This is in my notes at January 18, 2014.  

The classic Alien movie poster.  "In space, no one can hear you scream."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Netflix Nonsense - Rocky III

I'm continuing to scratch the Rocky franchise off my cinematic bucket list, and my quest to do so brings me up to Rocky III.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Lone Ranger

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I indulge in my favourite downtime activity:  watching movies.  Today, it's one of the biggest flops of the summer of 2013, but I actually kind of liked it.  And that's Disney's re-imagining of The Lone Ranger.  This originally popped up in my notes at January 12, 2014. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Netflix Nonsense - Rocky II

Well, here I am, plowing my way through the Rocky franchise on Netflix.  Time to tackle the one that I was most curious about, Rocky II.