Saturday, November 29, 2014

Xmas: Tumblr Finds I

Friday, November 28, 2014

This Week in Neat-O

This set of solar system-inspired glasses is wonderful. You can get them here, but not in time for Christmas, as they are sold out. Look at them: they deserve to be sold out. They're glorious.

:: The elephant is my favorite animal in the world. Here's a two and a half minute video of baby elephants being clumsy and adorable set to the obvious music.

:: And finally, trailers.

First, the international trailer for Jupiter Ascending, a movie I very much wanted to see (to my surprise). I guess after Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas, I'm just willing to give the Wachowskis the benefit of the doubt. Some people are so angry when I say shit like that.

Second, the trailer for DreamWorks Animation's Home, which looks like fun. Since it's not a part of one of their franchises, I assume I'll love it but it'll under-perform and then people will say things to me like they have in the past along the lines of "You actually liked Monsters vs. Aliens? But Madagascar 2 made so much more money!!" (See also: Megamind, Rise of the Guardians, and probably Mr. Peabody and Sherman, which is absolutely wonderful.)

And finally, of course, there's the teaser trailer for The Force Awakens, the seventh episode in the Star Wars saga.


Yeah, I'll admit it: this gave me chills through my entire body. The whole time it was in production, I was a little cynical, but yeah, I'm on board.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

T Is for Thog

Here's another favorite of mine who doesn't get noticed too much. Thog is one of the tall, full-body Muppet monsters, like Sweetums and Timmy Monster. He first appeared in the 1970 TV special The Great Santa Claus Switch, where he was an evil henchman.

I'm not sure what it is about him that makes me like him so much, but I think it's his sad face and eyes. I just want to give him a cookie and ask him about his day. Because of this aspect of the character, Jerry Nelson generally performed him as friendly and gentle, and he ended up in a lot of numbers where he danced with leading ladies. Even though he is 9 and 1/2 feet tall, he's surprisingly graceful.

In 1971, Thog appeared live on stage in Nancy Sinatra's Vegas stage show. It was actually one of several Muppet acts that Nancy incorporated into her stage show. Gosh, the Muppets really used to have a much larger entertainment presence than they do now.

Thog's next leading lady was Julie Andrews. The Muppets appeared pretty frequently on her 1973-1974 variety series The Julie Andrews Hour, and in one segment Thog and Julie danced and sang "Oh Babe What Would You Say," a song written by producer Norman Smith (which he released as a single under his stage name, Hurricane Smith). Sadly, I can't find a video of this.

(Julie, by the way, was obviously a fan of the Muppets--after The Julie Andrews Hour, she did another four network variety specials where the Muppets appeared, including Julie on Sesame Street, and guest starred on a second season episode of The Muppet Show).

Thog next romanced Mia Farrow on The Muppets Valentine Show, which aired in 1974 and was one of the two pilots for The Muppet Show. Someone has put the entire episode on YouTube. At 10:36, Mia gives Thog his first kiss, and they perform the Cy Coleman-Carolyn Leigh song "Real Live Girl" from the musical Little Me. It's quite sweet.

Thog made regular appearances on The Muppet Show, usually getting a little showcase once or twice a season.

Here he is on the first season, reprising "Oh Babe What Would You Say" with Kaye Ballard:


And here's a very cute second season segment where Bernadette Peters teaches Thog (with Sweetums and Timmy Monster) to dance to the tune of Vincent Youmans' "Take a Little One Step":


In his time on The Muppet Show, Thog also performed with Loretta Swit, Harvey Korman, Alice Cooper and James Coco.

Sadly, after that amazing crowd shot at the end of The Muppet Movie (which featured every Muppet in existence at the time), Thog was never seen again until 2011's The Muppets and this year's Muppets Most Wanted, where he appears in several crowd scenes.

He has yet to have another prominent role, or another leading lady, but maybe one day Thog will get to dance and romance again. It's important to me to see big monsters who are really gentle and worthy of love. I just always like this guy, and he's one of the many, many things that makes the Muppets special to me.

ABC Wednesday

NOOO!!

Last year, my first therapist recommended finding a game to play that didn't make me too frustrated (itself a tall order, as I have real patience problems) that I could use to distract me when my anxiety was too overwhelming and Becca wasn't home. So this year I've been playing Pet Rescue Saga over on Facebook and really enjoying it.

And as of yesterday, I've played every playable level so far. Well over 700 of them.

Sigh.

Back to stupid Candy Crush, I guess.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)
I was pretty cool on Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This sequel markedly improves on the original in every way, but particularly in a smart script and strong direction by genre savvy Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) that manages to keep the tension high for its entire running time. I have to mention the special effects, too, because I was particularly unhappy with the effects in Rise. Here, the characters have real weight and interaction, and the apes are able to communicate with their eyes and body language in a way that, while perhaps not photorealistic, are at least part of the same emotional language of the entire film. Everything blends. The special effects generally didn't take me out of the movie or dull my emotional involvement in what is a great genre picture with a humanistic story that is at turns sad, thrilling, and tentative. Shakespearean in that skiffy sort of way, and incredibly enjoyable. ***1/2

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Marvels: Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #7

"The Court-Martial of Sgt. Fury" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & George Roussos
(May 1964)

It's been a great run of war stories for Sgt. Fury, but this is the first one that I didn't feel quite so involved in. Oh, it has a lot of the same fun and humor as the previous six, but I didn't find the story of Fury's court-martial that suspenseful. I think it's probably because the story was told in such a linear fashion that the outcome never really seemed in doubt to me.

Fury's on trial for insubordination and assaulting a superior officer, something we saw him do. We don't know why he did it, but come on, seven issues in, you know there's a reason. Stan & Jack drag this out by giving Fury temporary amnesia.

The officer that Fury struck was First Lieutenant Spencer Parker, an old schoolmate of Fury's who was working with a French Underground force. Their mission: to blow up a Nazi ammo depot. But at the last minute, Fury tries to stop Parker. Parker won't listen, so Fury punches him out, and then a Messerschmitt does a strafing run, things explode, and suddenly Fury's waking up in the hospital with his memories fried. He just doesn't remember why he punched Parker.

The prosecution keeps trying to work the angle that because Fury, a non-com, and Parker, an officer, went to school together, there must be some kind of rivalry or jealousy at play. But when questioned, Parker admits that he admires Fury and wishes he could be more like him. He quickly recovers and points out, correctly, that this has nothing to do with Fury's insubordination.

The trial is eventually interrupted by a Luftwaffe air strike, which manages to hit the building where the proceedings are, er, proceeding. According to the laws of cartoon injuries, when the accident that causes the injury is replicated, the effects of the injury are reversed, so Fury instantly gets his memories back. Apparently, he knew that the ammo depot was a fake, a trap set for the French Underground, and Lt. Parker was just too eager to listen. A German prisoner named Otto Shmidt confirms the existence of the trap, and everything goes back to what it was. Status quo restored.

Stray observations:

:: For a second, I thought we were finally going to have the first issue where Gabe Jones is consistently colored correctly. Turns out no. Still appears as an occasional Caucasian. And even when he is African-American, he still looks grey. Can we make this man the right color, please?

:: "Remain in France? Don't those lunkheads at HQ know this place is crawlin' with Nazis??!" "Tell it to the chaplain, Fury!"

:: "You went to school, Sarge??!!" "Who was his teacher--King Kong??"

:: This is the first time we see any of Fury's past before the war. According to Parker, he was from the wrong side of the tracks and got in a lot of fights. He was an orphan and got in a lot of trouble until Lewis Hargrove, a priest currently serving as an Army chaplain, taught him how to box. If this were a movie, Bing Crosby would probably play the chaplain.

:: While the trial is going on, Dum-Dum Dugan is put in command of the Howling Commandos, but his heart's not really in it. (Boy, seven issues, and this is the second time now that Dum-Dum's replaced Fury.) They blow off steam by heading to another barracks and getting in a brawl with Sgt. Bull McGiveney and his men; apparently Bull's been telling the camp that Fury's finally getting what's coming to him, and the Howlers don't take that very well. (Dum-Dum actually busts in through the wall.)

Like I said, it's not a bad issue at all, it's just not suspenseful and it feels a little... routine. We'll see what happens next issue, which brings new regular penciler Dick Ayers aboard, and which promises to introduce a replacement for the late Junior Juniper.

Next Marvels: the Human Torch meets the Iceman.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Muppet Monday

I don't know anything about this or where it came from. It seems to have just popped up randomly online in 2011. I can't even find anything on Muppet Wiki about it. But here's 45 great seconds of enlightenment, Gonzo-style.

Kristen Bell Mondays

I haven't started Christmas posting yet--I'll do that on Friday--but I couldn't wait to share this one. This is the new holiday single from Straight No Chaser, featuring Kristen Bell. It's a cute song for modern Christmas, and any excuse at all to hear Kristen Bell sing...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Song of the Week: "Eye in the Sky"

Songs for Becca #29. I love five albums by the Alan Parsons Project. (Basically their first five albums, if you skip 1979's Eve.). This is from the final one I really love, 1982's Eye in the Sky. This is just a fabulous song, probably my favorite single of theirs. It's like... easy listening progressive rock. It reminds me a lot of being a kid; the feeling I get from it has that warm "I'm too young for responsibility" glow that so much from the early 80s makes me feel. Like remembering what it was like to truly feel optimistic.

But mainly I posted this because Becca loves this song and said "You should post 'Eye in the Sky' today."