Monday, April 30, 2012

Nostalgia Theater Addendum:
Cartoon Conan Corrections

In just over 48 hours and with 100-plus shares on Facebook, my Nostalgia Theater piece from last Friday reminiscing about the Conan the Adventurer animated show has become my most-shared post of all-time! More amazing still, it also caught the attention of series developer and story editor Christy Marx, who chimed in with a comment and a correction:
Zaki, I appreciate the nice review, but I need to correct one thing: the toys came before the animation series, not as a result of it. In fact, while I was developing the series in tandem with the toy development, I ended up naming characters, therefore gave names to some of the action figures.
She's right, of course. It seems when writing my initial piece I got my mental chronology a bit askew. Given that Sunbow developed the series in conjunction with toymaker Hasbro, it's no surprise that the Adventurer toys hit shelves right around the time the first season started. I recall seeing them at retail for the first time around Christmas of '92, but they may have arrived sooner depending on the location.

(I do, however, stand by my initial assessment that they were horrid, horrid toys.)

Another small correction I wanted to make is at the very end of the piece where I said that the entire first series has been released to DVD by current rights-holder Shout! Factory. In fact, the first thirty-nine episodes have been released in thirteen episode chunks on three DVD sets. That leaves twenty-six more (or two more sets) still to come. Here's hoping Shout! gets to finish the series' run!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Double Dose of Depression

On the off chance you woke up this morning feeling good about yourself and the universe's ability to play fair, here are a couple of links to disabuse you of such reckless notions:

First up, Erik Germ over at Cracked has compiled "5 True Tales of Good Fortune With Horribly Cruel Plot Twists." If you're anything like me, #4 alone should be enough to make you want to walk into traffic.

Next up, Buzzfeed has drawn up their own damning list of "45 Reasons Why We Can't Have Nice Things." And, yeah, based on the sheer preponderance of evidence they present, I think they may be right.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: Cartoon Conan -- The Bloodthirsty Barbarian's Animated Antics

This week we look at what may well be the culmination of the very long line of kids' shows derived from questionable source material. That's right, it's the animated incarnation of author Robert E. Howard's legendary literary hero, Conan the Cimmerian. However, unlike Cartoon Rambo and Cartoon RoboCop, Cartoon Conan was actually...not bad! While the very notion that Howard's looting, thieving, and plundering anti-hero could possibly be a positive role model is just too bizarre to even think about, somehow the show found a way to make the tenuous balancing act it embodied work, lasting for two seasons and sixty-five episodes.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Taking a Machete To Star Wars

Last month, I crossed yet another rubicon in my life as a parent when I introduced my two older boys to the Star Wars saga. Actually, more specifically, I introduced them to Star Wars, the movie. The original one. Episode IV, as we now know it. After the requisite round of congratulatory plaudits from friends and colleagues -- this is a momentous event in any boy's life, after all -- the inevitable questions followed about how and when I'd sit down with them and have "the talk."

Yep, that talk. About the prequels.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Talk To Me!

Sherry Turkle reflects on the ever-diminishing presence of simple, person-to-person conversation in our lives, which is in danger of becoming yet another casualty of the smart phone era in which we live. Here's an especially cogent bit:
FACE-TO-FACE conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. When we communicate on our digital devices, we learn different habits. As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers. To get these, we ask one another simpler questions; we dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters. It is as though we have all put ourselves on cable news. Shakespeare might have said, “We are consum’d with that which we were nourish’d by.” 
And we use conversation with others to learn to converse with ourselves. So our flight from conversation can mean diminished chances to learn skills of self-reflection. These days, social media continually asks us what’s “on our mind,” but we have little motivation to say something truly self-reflective. Self-reflection in conversation requires trust. It’s hard to do anything with 3,000 Facebook friends except connect.
That's an excellent insight (and one that I consistently try to emphasize during my day job). Read the rest of the piece here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Retaliatory Response To New G.I. Joe Trailer

The summer movie season is set to begin a week from Friday with the launch of Marvel's Avengers, which I'll have plenty to say about once it's here, and it looks to be rat-a-tat-tat almost every week thereafter, with some new blockbuster or other hitting screens. Oddly enough, one of movies I'm most -- and most surprisingly -- looking forward to, thanks to a very impressive first trailer is Paramount/Habro's G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which arrives in late June. I was on the other side of the fence with this film for the longest time, but thanks to a very impressive first trailer (as well as the Super Bowl spot last February), and consistent good buzz from those in the know, I've begun to come around.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Nostalgia Theater:
The Sinking of NBC's Man From Atlantis

I've said in a previous entry that between the time the first Star Trek left the air in 1969 and the second one showed up in 1987, there was a lot of sci-fi programming that flitted ever-so-briefly across our collective TV screens despite the very best hopes for all concerned to pull together something memorable. Certainly, this is a category that NBC's short-lived Man From Atlantis -- chronicling the exploits of an undersea adventurer loosely modeled on DC Comics' Aquaman and Marvel Comics' Sub-Mariner -- falls into. Here's the intro from the '77-'78 TV series:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Defending the Superhero

Although I cover several different aspects of the film and television industries on this site, regular readers know quite well that a special part of my focus from the very beginning has always been the superhero genre, which has really exploded in popularity lately. While Hollywood has pumped out comic book pics with regularity since at least the late '80s and Tim Burton's Batman, they really went into overdrive with the record-breaking opening of 2002's first Spider-Man flick, and gained an extra booster rocket or two thanks to '08's double-fisted success of Iron Man and The Dark Knight.

And while the road to mainstream and critical acceptance has been long, slow, and fraught with landmines like 1997's Batman & Robin or last year's Green Lantern, I've nonetheless felt for awhile now that the genre has come into its own, and is worthy of scholarly analysis acknowledging that fact without all the "Biff-Pam-Pow" brickbats critics feel compelled to couch any praise with (which falls in line with a new project I'm in the midst of pulling together...fingers crossed!). Well, with Marvel's The Avengers less than two weeks away, actor Tom Hiddleston, who reprises the role of trickster god Loki from last year's Thor, obviously had the same idea, and has penned a lengthy, quite passionate defense of superhero movies for the UK's Guardian. Says Hiddleston:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Half-Hearted

Jon Stewart has a summary of the myriad of reactions among the right wing's pundit class as they come to accept that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee and make their way across that yawning chasm from unequivocally loathing him to unquestionably loving him:


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dick Clark, RIP

When word broke yesterday that Dick Clark, the TV impresario whose perpetual youth and perpetual good cheer long ago landed him the sobriquet "The World's Oldest Teenager," had passed away at the age of 82, perhaps the most apt summation of most people's reactions came via someone on my Facebook wall saying simply, "I didn't even know this was possible."

And it's true. For so many years and for so many people, Dick Clark was simply an immutable part of the TV landscape. A force of nature. While his tenure guiding TV's music showcase American Bandstand was something I was only exposed to via archival footage, his annual New Year's Rockin' Eve celebration has been a cultural touchstone for several generations, and Clark was a constant presence in my life via TV specials, game shows, weekly series, and even cartoon shows.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Celebrity Obsession

The premise here is simple: Orchestrating a little social experiment, a guy named Thomas Elliot hit up a local mall in VA and, with the help of a few friends, got the whole place in a tizzy thinking he was a celebrity. The pandemonium that ensued, documented for posterity below, is hilarious, instructive, and a little depressing. Enjoy:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nolan on Directing

Before rocketing to mainstream prominence as the guiding force behind Warners' revivified Batman film franchise, writer/director Christopher Nolan had already garnered a reputation as one of the most unique and interesting directors to hit the scene thanks to such memorable fare as Memento. That reputation has been cemented in recent years thanks to the care and craft he puts into the films he associates with, whether his (soon-to-conclude) Batman cycle, or the "in-between" projects like The Prestige or Inception.

As this wide-ranging, in-depth interview with Nolan by the DGA's website amply demonstrates, the man behind the camera is just as thoughtful as his movies are thought-provoking. There's a lot of ground covered here, from his stylistic and creative choices to his thoughts on the future of the film industry. Oh, and there might even be a nugget or two in there about The Dark Knight Rises as well. Click past the jump for some of the highlights:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nostalgia Theater:
Police Academy Gets Animated

Perhaps more than most others, Police Academy is a perfect example of a franchise that found some small bit of traction and just held on for dear life. Debuting in 1984 as part of the trend of R-rated comedies centering on wacky misfits taking on the establishment, the first Police Academy film starred Steve Guttenberg, Michael Winslow, and host of unknowns (including a pre-Sex & The City Kim Cattrall). It took a dash of Stripes, a hint of Porky's, and voilĂ , instant underdog hit. Here's an assortment of "funny" scenes from that first movie. And yes, there's a reason that "funny" is in quotes.

What you see there is pretty much what you got. Wacky cop cadets. Wacky hijinks. That's it. That's the premise. And yet, amazingly enough, the animal magnetism of comely cad Steve Guttenberg apparently found enough of a receptive chord with '80s auds that it led to Police Academy sequels being pumped out every year between 1985 and 1989 (though even Guttenberg bowed out after awhile). That's a total of six movies before the decade was even out, each more watered down than the next as they went from R to PG-13 to PG to, finally, this:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

From The Onion...

Still struggling under the weight of several competing deadlines right now, so posting is still going to be a bit more infrequent than I'd like over the next couple of days. In the meantime, with Rick Santorum dropping out and Mitt Romney sailing to the Republican nod, here's something to give you a chuckle, courtesy of of America's Finest News Source:
Christie 2016 Comes From Nowhere To Win Republican Nomination 

WASHINGTON—Though most observers believed Mitt Romney had the 2012 Republican presidential nomination wrapped up, the 2016 campaign of New Jersey governor Chris Christie came out of nowhere Wednesday to convince delegates that the future candidate deserved the nomination, and that he should be the leading Republican on the ticket this fall. "If we're going to beat Obama in November, we're going to need a candidate who is charismatic and has had years to distance himself from the disastrous 2012 crop of potential nominees like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and a still-very-green Chris Christie," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus told reporters, adding that the Christie 2016 campaign had already raised hundreds of millions of dollars in donations from David Koch and investment banker Charles Schwab. "With Christie selecting Paul Ryan—who has had four years to come back to the center on economic issues—as his running mate, the Republican ticket is exceptionally strong. If I were Obama right now, I'd be very worried." At press time, the Christie 2016 campaign was planning an appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman, where the candidate will more than likely discuss his new fit and trim appearance.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Prompter Panic

The always-incisive Mark Evanier dismantles one of the right wing crowd's perpetual laugh lines of the last few years about how President Obama's supposed overuse of a teleprompter seemingly demonstrates his insincerity/stupidity/whatever.

Most recently, unintentionally comical candidate Rick Santorum deployed this chestnut to unintentionally comical effect when he declared that, "it should be illegal to read off a teleprompter, because all you’re doing is reading someone else’s words to people." Yep, he actually said that. From Evanier's piece:
If they have any valid point it's when they assert he's reading words that someone else wrote. But that's true of every politician who rises anywhere near the level of President. John F. Kennedy's famous "Ask not" line was from his inaugural address which was largely written by Theodore Sorenson. George W. Bush's famous "Axis of evil" was actually written by David Frum. If we want to start faulting presidents for employing speechwriters, we're going to have to fault all of them.
Seriously, is a little consistency in our phony, partisan outrage too much to ask for? Makes sense to me. Anyway, read the rest here.

Nostalgia Theater: After These Messages...

With spring break this past week, I'd hoped to take advantage of the extra time to increase my blogging output, but it seems for me that whenever time suddenly becomes available, something else quickly rushes in -- like the waters of the Red Sea -- to fill that gap. Thus, after being swamped with grading and various other life-related priorities, and despite my very best efforts, I don't have a full-court Nostalgia Theater ready to go. And so, with every intention to regroup and return next week with a fun new look into the bowels of distraction, here's a vid of some bumpers that were used by ABC during their Saturday AM programming from the late '80s through the early '90s, and which should be familiar to anyone who hails from the vintage. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

From The Onion...

Off of recent events:
Florida Police Warn Public Against Taking Law Into Own Hands Unless It’s That Law Specifically Designed For You To Do That

SANFORD, FL—Amidst the controversy surrounding the recent shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, the Sanford Police Department cautioned Florida residents Tuesday against taking the law into their own hands, except when following the state statute that explicitly authorizes people to do so. "Let me be clear: We do not want citizens resorting to deadly force when they believe they're being threatened—unless, of course, they are following the letter of the law, which says they can resort to deadly force when they believe they're being threatened," said interim Sanford police chief Darren Scott, referring to the state's "Stand Your Ground" rule. "Law enforcement should be left to the police. However, it can also be left to common citizens, since pursuing vigilante justice is perfectly within their legal rights. Have I made myself clear?" After being bombarded with questions about the confusing nature of the law, a flustered Scott said, "Just don't be racist and kill people, okay?"

Monday, April 02, 2012

Aaron Sorkin Returns To TV

Has it already been almost five years since Aaron Sorkin's work last graced our TV screens with NBC's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip? I guess that's how long it took for the famed writer/producer to lick his wounds from the critical drubbing he took for his "behind-the-scenes of a comedy show" show, which went from being hailed as one of the best shows of the year upon its debut in fall of '06 to being singled out as the worst inside the span of a single season.

In hindsight, and having rewatched the complete series just recently, it definitely feels like the critics had their knives out for Studio 60 in a big way. While it could never have measured up to Sorkin's previous gig, The West Wing, one of the greatest TV shows of all time, that's the impossible standard it was being held up against -- dooming it to failure under the weight of those expectations in the process.

Nonetheless, warts-and-all, Studio 60 still offered a regular vehicle for the writer to work his dialogic mojo -- never a bad thing. In the time since Studio 60 was scrapped, Sorkin has kept plenty busy with high profile movie gigs like The Social Network and Moneyball, but his regular presence in primetime has been sorely missed, so I actually let out a kind of high-pitched squeal as I watched the promo for The Newsroom, Sorkin's new HBO skein premiering this summer.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Rick Roiled

With time and math both signaling that the battle for the Republican presidential nomination is in its final throes, it's starting to look a whole lot like Mitt Romney is going to be cementing the "presumptive nominee" status he's enjoyed practically since the last presidential election wrapped. With the primaries likely winding down, it's as good a time as any to take stock of what an absolute trainwreck this process has been. Not in terms of citizens exercising their democratic right to choose their own leaders -- that worked just fine -- but rather who they were casting those votes for.

This is a season that's had certified unelectables like Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich all leading in the polls at one time or another (in Gingrich's case, twice!). And of that motley bunch of anti-Romneys, no one came closer to potentially wresting the prize away than Mr. Google Bomb himself: Rick Santorum. That Santorum, less than six years after losing his senate seat in what remains one of the biggest electoral losses in the nation's history, actually posed a threat to Romney's moneyed bludgeon is comical in what it says about the likely Republican nominee, and tragic in what it says about the state of our polity.