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Oct 192016
 

As much as I enjoyed the first film, I couldn’t wait to see its sequel Hotel Transylvania 2 and believe me it was well worth it.

Much has changed at Hotel Transylvania. Now that humans and monsters live in peace and harmony, Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler) approves of human guests and his daughter Mavis (voice of Selena Gomez) is married to Johnny (voice of Andy Samberg). Could things get any better?

Yes they can. Mavis and Johnny have a son named Dennis (voice of Asher Blinkoff), who is half human, half vampire, (a.k.a. a dhampir) and just adorable. Dracula is very close with Dennis. In fact, he even disguised himself as a nurse to see his grandson. That’s just not something you would ever expect Count Dracula to do.

Johnny’s family is introduced in this sequel. His father Mike (voice of Nick Offerman) is always so serious as he tolerates everyone around him. Johnny’s mother Linda (voice of Megan Mullally) tries to be kind but always ends up putting her foot in her mouth, making things become awkward.

Dracula has high hopes for Dennis to show his vampire side, but it hasn’t surfaced yet. Secondly, Dennis’s favorite monster is Kakie (voice of Chris Kattan) a TV monster that’s friendly like Elmo and bit corny.

After seeing how the numerous wolf pups can move around like a wild tornado, Mavis believes that the hotel is not a good place to raise Dennis and considers moving to Johnny’s hometown in California. While the two of them are gone, Dracula sees this as an opportunity to inspire Dennis. So Dracula and his friends Frankenstein (voice of Kevin James), Wayne the Wolfman (voice of Steve Buscemi), Griffin the invisible man (voice of David Spade), and Murray the mummy (voice of Keegan-Michael Key) take Dennis on a road trip to their old haunts. Even Blobby the blob monster comes along for laughs.

Once Mavis finds out, she is so determined to get back to the hotel, she actually carries Johnny and their luggage herself while flying back to Transylvania as a bat. I never thought Mavis was that strong. I guess it goes to show that you should never underestimate the power of a concerned vampire mother.

Here’s a cool addition. The hotel has an organ player, who is none other than the Phantom of the Opera (voice of Jon Lovitz). It’s neat how he was thrown in so randomly. That got me thinking. There’s no mention of what became of Quasimodo after how he was left in the first movie.

It isn’t until much later when we see Dracula’s father Vlad (voice of Mel Brooks). Although Vlad dislikes humans even more than Dracula used to, the real threat is Vlad’s servant bat monster Bela (voice of Rob Riggle) and his bat crew, since they’re always up front about it.

I really like this movie and find it even funnier than the first one. I also saw online that there is a third installment in the works. I have no doubt that it will only get better from here.

Aug 312016
 

It’s nice to look back on old game shows on occasion. One I haven’t thought of in a long time was Remote Control (1987-1990), which was MTV’s first original non-musical show. It was hosted by Ken Ober and featured Colin Quinn as the announcer/sidekick. This was long before he became a cast member on Saturday Night Live.

The object of the game is simple. Three contestants sit in lounge chairs and select one of nine channels on a big screen TV answering questions about TV trivia from shows that were from the 60s and 70s. Looking back now, it feels outdated, unless you grew up watching shows like Bewitched, All in the Family, and Hogan’s Heroes.

Some categories were performance-driven with reoccurring characters. For instance, in the category Celebrity Square (Parody of Hollywood Squares), a celebrity (often played by John Ten Eyck) was asked a question and the contestants won points by agreeing or disagreeing. This version only used one square because MTV supposedly couldn’t afford all nine, as is always mentioned.

You might find this interesting. Adam Sandler used to be on Remote Control, before Saturday Night Live, as reoccurring character Stud Boy. He was a heartthrob who dated many famous women. As he describes one, it’s up to the contestants to guess who she is.

The most popular category is Sing Along with Colin, which focuses on music trivia. Colin Quinn would sing the lyrics to a song and once he stopped the contestants would guess the next line. It sounds awesome because what’s an MTV show without referencing music videos. However, you should keep in mind that Remote Control was from the late 80s, long before stars like Eminem, 50 Cent, and Britney Spears became a huge part of the music scene. So this would be more old school material.

Occasionally a contestant would run across a negative channel, which takes away points. Ones like Home Shopping Zone that sells useless products and reoccurring character Ranger Bob, who is a thickheaded park ranger offering camping safety tips. That is some funny stuff.

The part I remember best is Off the Air. After the two rounds end, the contestant with the lowest score is out of the game in a very elaborate setup. Each chair moves backward. The one on the left flipped upside down, the one in the center went through a brick wall leaving a hole, and the one on the right went through a revolving wall showing a garden hose hanging. There were times when the chair returned with a skeleton in place of the contestant, which freaked me out at first. Then I wondered what became of the contestant. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that they were riding back to the audience, like a Disney ride. That may not be entirely accurate, but one thing is for sure. The contestant was unharmed.

After a lightning round, the winner has a final challenge. The one I remember best was the Wheel of Jeopardy, when the contestant is strapped to a horizontal wheel with ten monitors all around. Each monitor has a TV question. Depending on how many questions are answered correctly increases the chances of winning the grand prize. When the wheel stops spinning, his/her head is the pointer. It’s so much better than identifying artists in nine different music videos playing simultaneously.

Like many game shows, after the series ends, the repeats are very hard to find. (There are some on YouTube.) However, I didn’t get the full grasp of the show until I found Remote Control the NES game. I’ll admit that it’s not as exciting as the game show itself, but for NES standards the game is quite good, even though there is no end round.

This was a good game show for its comedy and creativity. However, it was hard to keep track of since it never had a steady time slot. Looking back now, MTV programming has changed a lot since the 80s.

Aug 172016
 

Remember the old classic arcade games of the early 1980s like Asteroids, Space Invaders, Defender, Frogger, etc.? Well here’s a movie that puts them all together with a modern twist called Pixels.

Home theater installer Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) was once a video game wizard and even entered an arcade world competition. The secret to his success was memorizing the patterns. Unfortunately, Sam lost on the final game, Donkey Kong. You’ve got to admit that it’s a hard one, since remembering patterns isn’t always the key to succeeding like many video games we have today.

After the competition ends, the footage from it gets put in a time capsule and sent out into space in hopes of finding alien life. Thirty years later, aliens did find the capsule and saw it as a declaration of war, even though that was not Earth’s intention at all. It often seems like any gesture of peace toward extraterrestrials ends up mistaken for war. Like on Mars Attacks when a dove was released, then the aliens go crazy and shoot everyone.

When the aliens arrive on Earth, they attack in the forms of the old classic video game characters, starting with Galaga, then Arknoid. Luckily, Sam’s best friend Will Cooper (Kevin James) is the President of the United States, since Sam’s expertise in gaming is the key to stopping these aliens from destroying the planet. Sam needed that connection so he would be allowed to share his knowledge with the government despite that everyone thinks that President Cooper is a buffoon.

With the assistance of conspiracy nut Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad) and Lieutenant Colonel Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan) a new squad is formed called the Arcaders. However, it also includes Sam’s old nemesis and arrogant gaming champ Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage).

The next game the aliens attack with is Centipede. The look from the original game was pretty tame, but this new updated look is cooler and edgier. The battle was exciting and smooth once Sam and Ludlow had the opportunity to take action themselves, even with the giant spiders jumping around.

It’s also neat that even though the aliens don’t show their true forms, they disguise themselves as celebrities from the 80s like Ronald Reagan, Hall & Oates, and young Madonna. Even Max Headroom (Matt Frewer) makes an appearance. Remember that character?

The next game is PAC-Man, a true classic, but as a twist PAC-Man is the enemy. Sam, Ludlow, and Eddie drive cars that represent the ghosts in a wild action sequence. If you thought that it couldn’t get any more exciting, think again.

In the climax, the Arcaders face their greatest challenge yet, Donkey Kong. What are the odds that it’s the one game Sam struggles with most? On the other hand, it’s so awesome that you get to see the game play from such an intense angle.

Although it’s definitely not something you would expect from an Adam Sandler film, Pixels was a creative movie about a love for video games that has plenty of nostalgic value as well as Adam Sandler’s brand of comedy. It’s especially humorous with Q-Bert’s antics.

Oct 292014
 

This Halloween I thought I would cover the most famous vampire in pop culture, Count Dracula. There’s no doubt that this vampire is so iconic because there have been so many versions. Whether it’s about his own story, or if he’s part of a group of other monsters, the role of Count Dracula has been played by more actors than any other vampire. Here are the versions I remember best in chronological order, even though most of them are highly obscure.

Dracula (1932): Frankly, who doesn’t remember the original movie with Bela Lagosi as the Count. This may be a classic horror feature, but it’s not one I was hugely into compared to the following films and TV appearances, even though he was the inspiration behind the Count from Sesame Street.

Mad Monster Party (1967): Normally when the classic movie monsters are together, Dracula is the one in charge because he’s the toughest in the bunch. Although he’s quick on the attack, Dracula tends to fumble especially since Frankenstein’s monster is stronger than he is.

Electric Company (1970s): Believe it or not, one of Morgan Freeman’s reoccurring characters was Dracula. He has a mysterious presence that can scare people, but isn’t dangerous. It seems that this Dracula’s favorite pastimes include drinking vanilla malts and taking a bath in a casket.

Ghostbusters (1975): This version of Count Dracula, played by Billy Holms, is very goofy and as a bat he tends to bump into walls. What really stands out are his fangs since they look so fake. Luckily his wife Countess Dracula is with him to keep him in line.

Ghostbusters (1986): Although this version of Count Dracula looks a lot like the Dracula from Groovy Ghoulies, he’s actually a lot tougher than many of the evil spirits the Ghostbusters ever faced. His ambition is to take over Transylvania by taking human slaves with his hypnotic power instead of a bite. He also hates mirrors as well as garlic. A little strange, don’t you think?

Castlevania Games (1987-1991): Dracula has appeared on video games before, but the best known is in the Castlevania franchise as the main villain. Instead of the Van Helsings fighting Dracula, it’s the Belmont family. It goes to show that the Count always returns no matter how many times he’s been defeated.

Captain N: The Game Master (1989): The animated version that’s based on the video games is a warlord trying to take over the world of Castlevania. Though I must admit that the Count has a creepier look.

Monster Force (1994): As the main villain in this series, Dracula prefers to be called Dracule. Even though he has a charming persona, don’t be fooled. Dracule is very powerful with his metamorphosis, hypnotic spells, and other magical abilities, which gives the Prince of Darkness an edge over humans and monsters alike.

Leslie Neilson as Count Dracula

Dracula: Dead and Loving it (1995): I remember when I first heard about this comedy classic. After discovering that Leslie Nielsen was going to star as Dracula, I knew from the start that it was going to be a good one. This Dracula is clumsy and his shadow has a mind of its own, but don’t take him too lightly. He’s powerful in the ways of mind control, sometimes even more than he realizes.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2000): Dracula’s only appearance on this show was in the season five episode Buffy vs. Dracula, where Rudolf Martin played the role, but he did leave his mark during his time in Sunnydale. He seduced Buffy, made Xander his Renfield, even Spike remembers Dracula as an old rival before he got famous. This certainly covers a lot of ground on how Dracula stands out from other vampires and it’s hilarious when Buffy slays him… twice.

Van Helsing (2004): Richard Roxborough plays the role in this movie. As the main villain once again, he introduces a new skill that vampires have and that’s the ability to walk up walls and on the ceiling like it was nothing. Though Dracula is both strong and deadly, it’s really his three wives that stand out as big favorites to me.

Hotel Transylvania (2012): Adam Sandler voiced the most recent animated version of Count Dracula. Unlike other Draculas, this one is actually one of the good guys. After losing his wife to a group of angry villagers, Dracula created a hotel resort as a safe haven for monsters. However, he also became an overprotective father and control freak. Dracula is also funny, especially when he tries to tell humans that he never did say, “Bleh, bleh, bleh”.

Oct 112013
 

For many years, classic monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and the Mummy have been horror icons. They all unite with a bunch of other monsters at Hotel Transylvania, which is the one place monsters can party and never have to worry about humans coming for them. This is also one of few monster movies where the monsters are all good guys.

I must admit that the monsters in this movie are so creatively funny. Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler) runs the hotel and claims to have never said, “Bleh, bleh, bleh”. Frankenstein (voice of Kevin James) and his crabby wife Eunice (voice of Fran Drescher) prefer to travel by mailbox. The Wolfman (voice of Steve Buscemi) is a family man that’s always frumpy. It most likely has to do with having so many kids. Even the Invisible Man (voice of David Spade) and the Mummy (voice of Cee Lo Green) join in the fun.

The hotel has zombie staff, housekeeping witches, and haunted armor that always informs Dracula of emergencies, including a clogged toilet in Bigfoot’s room. It’s hilarious seeing how gigantic he is.

Things take a new turn as Dracula’s daughter Mavis (voice of Selena Gomez) turns 118. She wants to travel and see the world, but Dracula forbids it because he’s too overprotective. However, he lets Mavis visit a human village nearby and the humans attack her with garlic bread. As silly as that sounds, it was still a disaster, or was it.

But the hotel really gets turned upside-down when Johnny (voice of Andy Samberg) a human arrives. Dracula does all he can to hide him from the other monsters, even though Johnny isn’t really a threat. Since Dracula can’t get rid of him without any of the other monsters finding out, he disguises Johnny as a monster and tells everyone that he’s a party planner. The others found that hard to believe because Dracula is always such a control freak.

Of course Johnny is frightened at first, but once he warms up to the monster hotel he comes up with fun ideas for the party and everyone loves him for it. If only Dracula would just lighten up.

Eventually, Dracula warms up to Johnny after he experiences having fun on flying tables. After rescuing Johnny from Quasimodo (voice of Jon Lovitz) the chef, Dracula reveals why he built the hotel to keep monsters safe from humans, especially Mavis, even though she and Johnny have fallen for each other.

I really enjoyed this movie. It’s definitely the funniest monster film I have seen since Mad Monster Party and matches the brand of humor used on many of Adam Sandler’s films. Though I am surprised that Happy Madison Productions didn’t produce Hotel Transylvania, as many of Adam Sandler’s other comedy films were.