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Feb 182014
 

Based on the horror novel, Stephen King’s It is about an evil entity called Pennywise (Tim Curry) that terrorizes children in the town of Derry, Maine. Pennywise can take many forms, but the most common is a clown with scary demon fangs and claws. FYI, this is the first horror film I have ever seen where young kids get killed. Something about that just isn’t right when compared with other horror movies.

The protagonists are a group of friends, Bill (Jonathon Brandis), Ben (Brandon Crane), Beverly (Emily Perkins), Richie (Seth Green), Eddie (Adam Faraizl), Stan (Ben Heller), and Mike (Marlon Taylor). They’re all misfits at their school, which labels them as the Losers Club. Each one has a troubled background and have been acquainted with Pennywise. Surprisingly, no one else sees Pennywise or any of the obvious puddles of blood he leaves behind. I mean, it. Sorry, that gets confusing sometimes.

Pennywise isn’t the only enemy the Losers Club has to deal with. The school bully Henry Bowers (Jarred Blancard) and his gang have picked on each of them. These bullies are so brutal and murderous it’s actually a good thing that Pennywise attacked them.

I admit this movie is long. It was actually divided into two parts. Part one was mostly back-story when the Losers Club got together and defeated Pennywise for the first time. Thirty years later, Pennywise has returned and Mike (Tim Reid) calls all of his old friends to return. One by one, each of them thinks back to those frightening memories, hoping to have left their old lives behind. Yet they all knew that returning to Derry was the right thing to do, no matter what anyone else tells them. Seriously, why is everyone so verbally brutal?

Part two is when the Losers Club gets back together in Derry. Mike, Bill (Richard Thomas), Ben (John Ritter), Eddie (Dennis Christopher), Beverly (Annette O’Toole), Richie (Harry Anderson), and Stan (Richard Masur) are all adults now and Pennywise still appears every now and then to terrorize them. And of course, no one can see or hear him. I mean, it. Man, I keep doing that.

As it turns out, Henry Bowers (Michael Cole) did survive and Pennywise asks for his assistance to kill the Losers Club since they both have the same enemies. You’d think after 30 years, Henry would have left his bullying days behind him, but he didn’t. This time Henry and Pennywise work together, but is it really a partnership when teaming up with IT?

It’s nice to know that the Losers Club are such a tight knit group, but sometimes when they share their memories with one another it gets a little too personal and drags out into more flashback scenes. Is that really necessary?

Eventually, the Losers Club heads down in the sewer to face Pennywise again to make sure that he stays dead this time. Unfortunately, there’s another wrinkle. Bill’s wife Audra (Olivia Hussey, who I remember best as Juliet from Romeo & Juliet the 1968 version) has followed Bill to Derry and now Pennywise has her. Is this clown relentless or what.

This was an interesting and scary film. There was no mention of where Pennywise came from, only that IT has been around for a long time and knows how to leave a calling card. Somehow I can see a similarity between Pennywise and Freddy Kruger when it comes to their terrorizing methods. Who do you think is scarier?

Oct 312011
 

Happy Halloween, everybody! Vampires and zombies are not the only top monsters of the horror genre. Another classic beast is the werewolf a.k.a. lyconthropes. The curse of the werewolf is easily spread like a zombie virus, courtesy of its sharp claws and teeth. When the full moon is out, the victim becomes a wild beast that’s out of control and allergic to silver. These are my most favorite werewolves.

#10) Scott Howard from Teen Wolf: Scott is an underdog teenager, who comes from a family of werewolves. Sure, the full moon causes his transformation, but it can also be triggered by anger. However, Scott is always cautious about anyone seeing him wolf out in public, even when it can be useful.

On a side note, Michael J. Fox played Scott Howard on the original Teen Wolf movie and Jason Bateman played the role in the sequel, Teen Wolf 2, but it was the cartoon series I remember best.

#9) Velkan (Will Kemp) from Van Helsing: He was a werewolf hunter along with his sister Anna until their latest catch broke free and attacked. Now Velkan is a werewolf that can smoothly crawl up walls, run long distances, and has the strength to kill vampires. The transformation was graphical because both his clothes and skin get ripped up. Now isn’t that just creepy?

#8) Jack de Wolfe (Joey Fatone) from Red Riding Hood: Now here’s a unique werewolf. He’s a shape shifter with a huge appetite for human beings. However, Jack’s transformations are limited to only his eaten victims, but mostly prefers the form of his very first victim.

#7) Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) from Ginger Snaps: She was a gothic teen along with her sister Brigitte. After being attacked by a werewolf she becomes more dangerous, not only as a wolf girl, but also as a girl who is not afraid to take vengeance on her tormentors with deadly results. However, Ginger does fear the extra hair from her scratches and the tail growing from her tailbone. Of course, who wouldn’t be?

#6) Fangface from Fangface: Unlike most werewolves, he is eager, friendly, and heroic, like a superhero. Fangface’s transformations are entirely based on whether he sees the sun or the moon. That can be easily controlled with any pictures of the sun or the moon. The only time Fangface gets out of control is when anyone mentions food, which makes him want to eat his friend Pugsy. Rubbing Fangface’s paw is the only way to calm him down if that were to happen.

#5) Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: During Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts, Lupin was the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. When the moon is out, he becomes a werewolf with the posture of a human and not as hairy compared to other werewolves. This curse prevents Lupin from teaching, but still remains to be a great ally in later Harry Potter films.

#4) Oz (Seth Green) from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: As a human, he’s a young bass player and Willow’s love interest. Every night of the full moon, Oz becomes a dangerous werewolf. What’s really touching is that Willow still loves Oz for he is still a good soul. It’s too bad the relationship didn’t last after awhile.

#3) Free from Soul Eater: He’s an immortal wolfman with amazing powers that control ice and snow. However, Free likes to brag and is a bit of a klutz, which makes him hilarious. However, Free is still a very dangerous opponent because he’s a lot tougher than most keshans.

#2) Fangster from Ghostbusters: He’s a futuristic ghost werewolf that’s strong and muscular as he is scary. Like his other ghostly comrades, Fangster can sneak into tight places by materializing into spirit form. However, he never reveals his human form and the closest Fangster has ever come to infecting anyone with the werewolf curse is by turning dogs into savage werewolf slaves with a magical arch built out of bones.

#1) Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) from The Wolfman (2010 version): This was the latest remake based on the old movie monster. Talbot was an American citizen, who was summoned to England to search for his missing brother, only to be attacked by a werewolf and possess the curse. Now he’s a graphical beast that smoothly slashes up innocent people at random with his claws. Even though that movie was slow-paced, it still makes me think of how far this mythical monster has come over the years in both movies and TV shows.

 

Werewolves

Honorable mentions: Believe it or not, werewolves have left their mark on video games also. In the Super NES game Zombies Ate my Neighbors, the werewolves were fierce, but were easily defeated with silverware. Now isn’t that just silly?

The video game I remember best from this category is Werewolf: The Last Warrior for the NES. The hero is a man, who becomes a werewolf by picking up red ‘W’s. (Blue ‘W’s weaken him.) The more wolf he is, the more powerful he becomes in order to fight evil. Here’s an example that I found on YouTube to help set the mood for the werewolf’s howling success.

Oct 212011
 

Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Velma (Linda Cardellini), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), and Scooby-Doo are back in the live action movie sequel Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (Widescreen Edition). On a crucial note, in this movie it’s the first time we discover that the Scooby gang’s hometown is called Coolsville. It might have been mentioned in the first one, but I’m not certain.

Mystery Inc. opens an exhibit at a criminology museum, which features costumes of unmasked criminals from the past. If you’re a fan of the original Scooby-Doo cartoons, I’m sure you’ll recognize many of them right away.

Soon the party is crashed by a dark masked figure and the pterodactyl ghost costume comes to life. Eventually other ghost costumes come alive also.

Daphne once again shows some awesome martial art skills while fighting the black knight ghost. It still makes me think of her as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

After failing to stop them from destroying everything, Mystery Inc.’s reputation is shattered. No thanks to reporter Heather Jasper-Howe (Alicia Silverstone), who makes everything sound worse than it really is.

The team members of Mystery Inc. also lose their self-esteem. Shaggy and Scooby feel like total screw-ups, so they try to act more like the others to prove that they are important to the team, starting with the right attire. Shaggy wears a green sweater and Scooby wears Velma’s sweater and Daphne’s go-go boots, which looks hilarious.

Velma has insecurities also. She likes Patrick (Seth Green) the museum curator, but is too scared to go on a date with him. So she tries to be more like Daphne.

Then Daphne feels unimportant to the team after trying to confront Heather about why she keeps personally attacking the Scooby gang with bad press. Even Fred feels inferior.

The team is completely falling apart. When it seems like all is lost, Mystery Inc. bands together and realizes that it’s okay to be themselves, even Shaggy and Scooby.

It gets real exciting when the monsters all come to life in the factory and chase the Scooby gang all over the place. I can see a theme park ride coming from this.

I admit, this movie wasn’t as good and much less of a teen movie than the first one, but I still found it both exciting and adventurous.

Mar 302011
 

Hey, everyone. This past weekend I was at MegaCon 2011 in Orlando. Among the celebrities I met were Robot Chicken co-creator Matthew Senreich and writer Zeb Wells. As they autographed my Robot Chicken Season 1 DVD box set, Matthew asked me what my favorite sketch from the show was. I told him it was Murder in Smurf Town X, where Jokey Smurf was murdering other Smurfs based on the seven deadly sins.

Shortly after there was a Q&A panel with Matthew Senreich, Zeb Wells, and Geoff Johns, who occasionally writes for Robot Chicken, he usually writes for DC Comics. The panel starts with a short video about why Geoff Johns is at this Q&A. It showed the few segments he wrote for the show. That didn’t seem like much, but it was still funny.

Then came the questions. It started with how long it takes to make a sketch. Matthew explained that it takes an average of six days to shoot one episode of the animation and they have 12 to 13 animators posing characters to make about eight to ten seconds of a sketch each day. They also don’t get any retakes, so whatever happens, happens.

He also added that what’s neat about the format is that you could flip the channel on a sketch. At times a sketch has a good setup, but gets to a point where it’s not funny anymore. That’s how the short channel flips came to be.

Another interesting fact was about the action figures used on the show. It’s actually a mixture of finding the old original action figures and making up their own. The Robot Chicken staff actually has someone to find these old toys at stores and on Ebay. Unfortunately, they can’t always use the actual toys in the animation because the movements are limited. So to make the toys look more like the ones you remember, the animators used wire with plastic molding over it.

Basically, the brainstorming is about “What ifs” with these old characters. Zeb Wells first joined the Robot Chicken writing staff in season three. He is mentioned as the king of the one-minute/1½-minute sketches because he thinks that the shorter segments are easier to write and has a harder time with the longer ones. After a hilarious struggle with the microphone going off, Zeb explained that there are about six or seven writers, who pitch their ideas to the two creators and two head writers. Since each of the other writers has a different point of view, as well as a different sense of humor, at least three of the four main members have to say that the idea is good in order for it to get on the show.

Then there was a question about a classic toy that had to regrettably be taken apart for a sketch. One that Matthew remembered well was the vintage Batmobile. The woman who sold it to the Robot Chicken staff made them promise to take good care of it. The Batmobile was used for a sketch in season one that was a spoof on The Fast and the Furious, where it gets destroyed. The animators couldn’t find a way to fake the destruction, so the Batmobile had to be hit with a mallet. Even after Matthew called Seth Green (who was filming a movie at the time) about it, they had no choice. In case you were wondering if that woman had found out about it, Matthew said, “She saw it onscreen.”

Many different actors voice the various characters on the show. Due to the limited budget on Adult Swim, they could only afford about seven actors per episode and because of SAG rules, the actors could only do up to three characters apiece. That’s why with so many characters, Seth Green provides most of them. However, there are times when particular voice actors are needed for certain characters. For instance, in a sketch with Megatron, they cast Frank Welker, who did the voice on the 80s Transformers series and still performs it perfectly.

I asked a question at the panel about why there’s always a cliffhanger about the show being cancelled at the end of every season. Matthew mentioned that it started at the first season not knowing if Robot Chicken would get renewed. So the cliffhanger was used to convince Adult Swim to do so. And then in the second season, they were just self-indulgent and kept on doing the cliffhangers. Zeb also added that it’s the hardest part to write at the beginning of the season about getting renewed and then ending the season with another cliffhanger.

As you might be aware, Robot Chicken is currently on its fifth season and still going strong. With the show going on its 100th episode, the panel showed a sizzle reel of hilarious clips of what’s to come later this season, which also includes, “The Chicken is out.”

It’s nice to know that Robot Chicken doesn’t have to worry about copyright laws with these classic characters because it’s parody, and like Saturday Night Live, parody is okay. It’s the same principle with celebrities who are spoofed. As I recall, the star who was spoofed most was Lindsay Lohan, and Breckin Meyer voices the role. The panel was uncertain if Lindsay Lohan had seen any of those sketches yet. According to them, if Breckin Meyer hasn’t been punched yet, then probably not.

Here’s an interesting item about the humping robot, which was an original character. It was originally meant as a short bit back in season one. Then suddenly mail starts coming in about the robot. The character just took off from there and it became a reoccurring regular.

I must admit that this was one of the funniest Q&As I have ever attended so far. It even ended on a higher note with a question about a possible MegaCon sketch for season six. The panel was actually considering it which makes me wonder how that will turn out.

Mar 282011
 

If there’s one show that brings back memories about nostalgic characters, it’s Robot Chicken (2005-present). The premise of the series features a mad scientist that only communicates by holding up small handheld signs. He finds a dead chicken and brings it back to life, only to make it watch various things on TV.

The stop motion animation uses some of the classic action figures to play the roles, which I remember very well from back in the day.

Some segments are longer than others, but my most favorites are the ones that spoof commercials and the classic characters. (Not every segment uses them.) Quite a few sketches feature original characters like the nerd who has the kind of adventures that he dreams about. I don’t find those as likeable. The humping robot was okay at first, but that gets old after awhile.

The short channel flips are very well put together. It’s a great method when you have a bunch of one-liners that you can’t do a thing with. The method worked on shows like Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In and Hee Haw. I’m glad that there’s a show, which brings that style of comedy back to TV once again.

One episode from season one had a two-part story called Enter the Fat One, which was creatively thought out. Joey Fatone tries to avenge the rest of N’Sync by participating in a martial arts tournament. His tough training session involves fighting classic characters like Scorpion, Sub-Zero, the Ninja Turtles, and Hello Kitty. Then in the tournament Joey faces Hong Kong Phooey, a Cobra ninja, and a robot I couldn’t recognize (I don’t think he was a Transformer), before facing a group of top female pop stars led by Britney Spears. It was both creative and exciting.

Many of the story lines are highly satirical. Sometimes that can make the segments disturbing, which quite a few from the later seasons were. However, I’m still open to the creativity this series provides. You never know what kind of segments you’ll find next, as well as which celebrities will voice these characters.

Then there are the Star Wars specials, which are as creative as many of the other episodes. Who would have thought that Admiral Ackbar had a breakfast cereal, or that Max Rebo had an album, even though he’s very hard to understand.

I find this series real interesting overall. I’ll tell ya, Seth Green and Matthew Senreich knew how to take these old characters and make them their own. It does seem odd that at the end of every season there’s a cliffhanger, which represents the possibility that the show will be cancelled, but is it really the end of the series run each time?

At MegaCon 2011, I met co-creator Matthew Senreich and writer Zeb Wells and they had a Q&A panel. Check my blog for part 2 to find out more.