Posts from the ‘movie’ Category

Non-Thrift Store Adventures

Junk hunting is not so easy in the lovely city of Norman, Oklahoma. I mean, you can find plenty of junk, but when I say I’m going to go “junk hunting”, I really mean that I’m going digging for retro treasure, not random broken useless things or out-of-style clothing that doesn’t fit.

So, I got my “junk hunting” fix in a different way. I went to Hastings.

If you live in the Norman area and you love DVDs, random movie merchandise, and weird novelty items, the place to go is Hastings. Oh yeah, and they sell music, books, comics, electronics, and video games too. And Japanese candy, but I’ll talk about that some other time.

I haven’t had the chance to blow money at Hastings in a while, so while we were there picking up a gift for someone else, I took the opportunity to browse around.

First, I found this Luigi figure and I had to get it, because Luigi is awesome. Does he count as “retro” though, since Mario Bros. is still very much a part of the public consciousness and they make new games all the time? You be the judge.

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Then I went over to the DVD racks, which is where I spend most of my time when I go to Hastings. They buy used DVDs/CDs/books/etc., so sometimes you can score something great without breaking the bank. On this trip, after some debate, I decided to pick up:

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I felt like my DVD collection was incomplete without Jaws and Flight of the Navigator, plus they were cheap. I am going to watch both of them today.

That’s pretty much all for now. Maybe one of these days, I’ll make a trip up to Oklahoma City and see if I can score some more cool old stuff.

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There Will Be Remakes and Rumors of Remakes.

Yeah, so…current movie news is not something I would normally cover on NJ, but when it’s related to older films, it falls into my territory.

Apparently, two older films that I like are going to be remade/rebooted before too long. No film can escape the Hollywood remake machine, it seems!

First up, Flight of the Navigator. Get the full scoop here.

Come on, what 80s/90s kid didn’t love that movie? My dad recorded it from the Disney Channel for me and I watched it about a million times. Hell, my dad even liked it.

Apparently it was something of a box office flop, but like many 1980s films, it got a new lease on life thanks to VHS. It’s not the greatest film ever, but it’s charming and even had some pretty cool special effects for 1986. Plus, that cute little creature guy that the main character got to keep at the end of the movie. Ooh, and don’t forget Pee-Wee Herman himself as the voice of the spaceship’s AI!

Anyway, they’re gearing up to make a new version, and I don’t know how to feel about that. I am not automatically against remakes or reboots– in fact, I enjoy them when they’re done right (i.e. the recent Star Trek, which was great), and I guess this remake could turn out okay, but I just don’t really see them capturing the spirit of the original. I mean, it’s a thoroughly 80s film: spaceships, time travel, young main character, cute alien creature, Paul Reubens. I know that makes it dated, but that’s also why I enjoy it so much. So, seeing it brought into the 21st century might be a little too much for me. Plus, it’s Disney, and we all know how their live action films are. (Except Flight of the Navigator, of course. :D)

The reboot/remake/whatever of the first Alien film is the one I’m more worried about. Read all about it here. (The same article also tells of a Predator remake.)

As far as I’m concerned, movies like this are not to be touched. It is a damn fine film and I’m convinced that no director currently working today could do it justice. You just KNOW that instead of making it suspenseful, they’ll turn it into a big fat gore fest, which was not the point. If they want to do that, why don’t they just make an entirely new film with new characters? Then they can have their gore fest and leave the classic first movie ALONE.

Also, I don’t know about anybody else but I CANNOT see any other actress in the role of Ellen Ripley.

So it’s safe to say that I am pretty adamantly opposed to an Alien remake. Seriously, what a stupid idea. Get some original ideas, Hollywood.

Edit: Upon a more careful read of the article, I see there’s also a rumor that this Alien thing is an origin story and not a remake. But that doesn’t make any damned sense either. I don’t give a shit where the aliens came from! The point is that they’re badass motherfuckers! Geez.

Edit Edit: Well, thinking about it, I guess an origin story would be better than a remake. BUT STILL.

The Revenge of Edit: Somewhat good news! The new Alien project is confirmed to be…a prequel! Yay! No shitty remake! Get the story here.

Retro Anime Theatre: Swan Lake

First of all, I’m sorry that April passed by without any updates, but there have been a lot of stressful things going on, and I haven’t been inspired to write. Such is life. I do want to try to post more in the coming months, but I’m not making any promises yet!

So, as you may or may not know, I like anime. I watch new series all the time, and poke around on a few forums and whatnot, looking for obscure old shows.

Well, a few days ago, I made some big discoveries. Not just one, but TWO movies I’ve been wanting to see for years. They’re both made by Toei, which animated a lot of American shows in the 80s (including Muppet Babies, I think). They’re both adaptations of fairy tales. And, last but not least, they’re both old.

In the last couple of years, every time I went somewhere that had huge stacks of VHS tapes, I looked for both of these movies, to no avail. I found people selling them on Amazon, but they wanted too much money, plus I heard that the English dubs were less than spectacular. I’m not a fan of dubs in the first place, so that was a big turnoff too.

Then, finally, I said “screw it” and started Googling to see if someone, by some remote chance, had uploaded one of them somewhere. And the other day, I found both of them. With the original Japanese audio. On the same blog, no less!

The first is Sekai Meisaku Douwa: Hakuchou no Mizuumi, aka World Masterpiece Fairy Tale: Swan Lake, from 1981. This film and I go way back, and it’s been shrouded in mystery for years. I saw part of it once on cable sometime in the early 90s (I swear it was on AMC, but I could be wrong) and I thought it was fascinating. I wanted to see the whole thing SO badly, but they never aired it again. But that problem has, at last, been solved!

As an aside, all screencaps in this post were captured by yours truly. If I hadn’t gotten that wild hair up my bum, this post would have been up last night! But I digress.

Now, on to Swan Lake! Luckily, the person who uploaded it also saw fit to subtitle it in English, which is fantastic because my Japanese isn’t THAT good.

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Read more…

Something Old, Something New, Something Blu-ray

In spite of my relative youth (I just turned 26), I’m usually something of a curmudgeon about new technology. I turn my nose up disdainfully at such fancy-schmancy things as iPods and iPhones and Bluetooth and I have been known to make sarcastic comments about HDTVs on occasion.

And yet I just bought my first movie on Blu-ray, a format that until recently made my blood boil.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I did this. (I’m still a little shocked about it myself.) Well, it was the magic of Disney that got to me. They just released Pinocchio on the format.

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I hadn’t been able to get a hold of it on DVD before, and only had the VHS tape. Since I do have a Blu-ray player courtesy of my husband’s Playstation 3, I figured I might as well pick up the Blu-ray version so that when the day comes that we finally cave and buy a shiny HDTV, I will have something pretty to play on it. Plus the disc comes with a standard DVD in the box, so even if I didn’t already have a player, I could buy the Blu-ray for the future and still be able to watch the movie. Smart move on Disney’s part, I think.

As for the movie itself, it looks better than ever. Seriously, it looks like it was made yesterday. It’s amazing. If you’re an ultra-purist, though, you might hate the cleanup job as the print looks absolutely pristine and there are no traces of film grain, scratches, dust, or fading. Personally, I don’t understand why people would want that stuff intact in the first place, especially for hi-def viewing, but that’s just me. Film grain’s got its charms, but scratches and dirt? Not so hot. Do you think animators back then would have eliminated that stuff if they’d had the chance? I’m betting they would have in a heartbeat.

Anyway, Pinocchio is among my favorite Disney films. It’s one of the first movies I remember watching and it mesmerized me. The story packs a powerful message, is emotionally moving and never gets old.

As for Blu-ray, I think I’ll start buying new releases on the format, provided they’re affordable enough (which they are rapidly becoming). But that HDTV is a long time coming…

Nostalgiathon #6: Transformers!

When I was little, I always thought the theme song lyrics were “robots in the skies”, not “robots in disguise”. True story. Oh, and every time I say “Transformers”, I always have the urge to sing the word as it’s sung in the theme song, and in an 80s rock-star voice to boot. Transformaaaahs!

Anyway, I apologize if this post turns out to be less-than-awesome. I just decided about five minutes ago that I was going to do Transformers. The inspiration struck me to write about that instead of the other stuff I had planned. I’m also going to go ahead and split this into two posts, because I’m firing on all cylinders right now and I might as well use some of that energy for my seventh and final post of the Nostalgiathon. So there. (Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I can’t find any decent ones!)

So…I like Transformers. However, this is a fairly recent development and I’m hardly a hardcore fan. I enjoy the characters, and the animated movie, and some of the toys. But until last year, I was barely familiar with the franchise at all. I knew the theme song and who Optimus Prime and Megatron were (who the hell didn’t?) and that’s where it ended.

See, contrary to what you might think, I was and am a girl, and in the 80s I was more interested in Rainbow Brite and Teddy Ruxpin than robots (which should be pretty obvious if you’ve been reading this blog at all). Also, I sort of missed out on the heyday of Transformers not just because I was a little girl, but because I was about three years old when the movie came out, and after the movie, the popularity apparently took a big nosedive.

How’d I come to like Transformers when the odds say that I should hate it or at least be indifferent to it? Well, it all started with the animated movie. My fiance has fond memories of it, so I decided to watch it with him sometime last year. I also felt obligated to do so because it’s an 80s cult classic.

Needless to say, I enjoyed it immensely even though I didn’t know who the hell anybody was. I’ve been considering writing a full-fledged review of it, but I think a (relatively) brief one will suffice.

Reasons to Love Transformers: The Movie

1. The animation. It’s really good. Probably some of the best animation to come out of the 1980s. It’s flashy, colorful, and stunning at times. Everyone’s favorite characters are looking better than ever (well, before they get killed off, that is).

2. The music. The soundtrack to this movie is one of my favorite animation soundtracks ever, possibly one of my favorites period. Yes, some of the vocal songs are cheesy 80s rock tunes– okay, they’re ALL cheesy 80s rock tunes –but the score itself is not to be missed, especially if you love synth music. It fits with the movie so well and really adds a lot of atmosphere. Even a couple of the vocal songs are nice– mostly just The Touch and Dare, though. The others I could take or leave, though they do fit into the movie well enough.

3. The dialogue. This movie has better one-liners than it has any right to, being an 80s animated film based on a 30-minute toy commercial– er, I mean television show. I don’t want to spoil it for anybody; if you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.

4. The characters! I’m going to take some heat for this one from fans, probably, but I happen to like Hot Rod, Kup, and Springer a whole lot. (Note that I said Hot Rod and not Rodimus Prime.) However, Wheelie is on my shitlist same as he is on everyone else’s. He’s the Jar Jar Binks of Transformers.

Anyway, the chemistry between Hot Rod and Kup is so much fun. But I tend to like that whole “old codger versus young punk” thing. They both seemed to have so much more depth to them than some of the original guys. Not that I don’t like those guys, but you gotta admit they aren’t exactly well-rounded characters. Also, remember that when I saw the movie, I had no idea who Ratchet, Wheeljack, Ironhide or any of the other guys were, so even when they snuffed it, I was like, “Uh, okay. That sucks, I guess.” So I have a pretty different perspective than most.

5. They took this movie seriously. Aside from the silly songs and the one-liners and dumb stuff like Wheelie, this movie is serious business! They don’t pull any punches. You see Autobots and Decepticons alike get destroyed. There’s lots of darkness and danger. There are a couple of swear words. Hell, they even had the balls to kill off a beloved hero and icon. Maybe this is why it was a box-office failure– it was too far ahead of its time. Only recently has America been making animation that even comes close to being “adult”. The look and feel of it are more like what’s typical of Japanese anime than American animation.

Phew, that went on longer than I thought it would.

Stay tuned for more Transformers ramblings, coming soon!

Nostalgiathon #5: Movie Intros Used to Be Awesome.

Today is the actual first anniversary of this blog’s creation! Yaaaaay! (I’ve only been on WordPress since January though– I started out on Blogger.)

So how many of you guys remember the days when it was a REALLY BIG DEAL for a big-budget movie to be shown on broadcast television? If not, here I am to jog your memory a little with movie intros from back in the day. Some of them are before my time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re cool.

Don’t get confused, now. When I say “movie intros”, I don’t mean the actual intros from movies. I’m talking about the opening animations made by the network. You know, like the HBO in Space intro.

Why were movies on TV such a big deal? Well, because even though VHS was rapidly becoming common in the early 80s, it wasn’t common yet for pre-recorded movies to actually be affordable. So it was cheaper to get some blank tapes and record the sucker. (Still is!) And before the days of home video and pay-TV, it was a big deal for obvious reasons: when a movie was done in the theatre, you had to either wait for a re-release or wait for it to come on TV to be able to see it again!

Anyway, since movies were an event, the movie intros were generally pretty flashy. And since I’m a sucker for old graphics like this, I’m gonna show you some.
We’ll start with NBC.

Brief history lesson time! NBC wasn’t exactly at the top of their game during the 70s or the first half of the 80s. As a matter of fact, things were looking pretty bleak for them until The Cos came along in 1984 and changed everything.

In spite of their ratings being in the toilet, NBC managed to make some interesting movie intros. Here’s one from 1981 (with a quick station ID at the beginning):

I dig that animation of the filmstrip becoming the 11-feathered peacock logo. Pretty nice CGI for the time. Note that the 11-feathered peacock has a stylized “N” logo behind it. That’s what NBC’s logo was from roughly 1979 to 1986. For a while before that, they used the “N” by itself. Personally, out of all of them, this “Proud N” is my favorite NBC logo. The peacock looks so much friendlier and the “N” behind it is a nice touch.

I also like the little musical theme used in this intro. Can’t say I care for the blocky typeface though. And this definitely isn’t the pinnacle of NBC movie intros– it’s actually pretty low-key when compared to some of the others, like this next one I’m going to show you.

Sorry about the bad quality!

This one’s from 1985. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of it. It’s bombastic and pretentious and the music is really obnoxious, but that CGI is pretty nice. I actually have a vague memory of seeing this once or twice when I was a kid– I would’ve been about three years old at the time. There are a few of these kinds of things that I remembered even though I was so young. I guess they just made that big of an impression on me.

Finally, here’s my favorite one from NBC. We’re jumping back to 1979 here.

Youtube took it down, so I uploaded it to my Photobucket.

Okay, so the graphics themselves aren’t all that great, I guess, but damn if that music doesn’t make up for it. Something about this intro just charms the hell out of me. I also just noticed that at the end of the sequence, the graphic looks like a layer cake with the Peacock on top and fireworks shooting out of it. How awesome is that?

Now we move on to CBS.

CBS was the king of television for many years, but finally slipped to second place in the 70s, and went on something of a ratings slump in the 80s. But for my family, CBS was probably the most-watched network. Mostly because I loved its Saturday morning lineup, and it was the place to watch animated holiday specials such as Charlie Brown and Garfield back then.

I also remember my parents watching a lot of the made-for-TV movies on there, and back then they were preceded by this:

That one was used mostly in the mid-late 80s. The CGI is slick, but I don’t care for the music– it sounds more like a news open than a movie open if you ask me.

I prefer the animation on this earlier version dating back to 1983…

…mostly because of that classy bit where the filmstrip becomes the CBS Eye. The music also seems to fit it better.

However, I think my favorite CBS movie intro is this gem from the mid 1970s:

I love that shiny, spinning film reel! The music is pretty and catchy, and that typeface is one of my favorites of all time, even though it screams “1970s” at the top of its lungs. I think I like it BECAUSE it’s so 70s. Also, they didn’t need CGI back then to have cool animations like this.

And finally, ABC.

It was ABC that ousted CBS from the top spot in the 70s. As I understand it, ABC’s dominance was due in part to their Movie of the Week. The Movie of the Week was an extremely popular showcase of made-for-TV films. It started in 1969 and they made a slitscan-tastic intro to go with it. Yeah, I know, this kinda doesn’t count because Hollywood movies didn’t air under this banner, but it’s a piece of television history, and I’m fond of it.

Like I said, this sequence was created in 1969– before CGI. They used slitscan, which is…some kind of animation technique using cameras and multiple planes and stuff. I can’t explain how it works, but it was also famously used in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Now, at the time, this thing was hot shit. There had never been TV graphics quite like this before. Also, the nice, happy music was composed by Burt Bacharach, and has a tendency to get stuck in my head. (Note: the audio quality isn’t due to poor compression, either…that’s just the way TV audio was back then. Stereo audio on TV didn’t become common until the mid-80s.)

Now, here’s the intro they used for Hollywood movies in the late 70s:

This one got taken down too; luckily, I archive all this stuff. Bwahaha!

I like this one; out of all the ones on TV at the time, I think it’s the nicest (though NBC’s 1979 intro up there looked and sounded a bit more “modern”). It’s colorful and catches your eye, and isn’t too pretentious. The music is grand without being overbearing. Looks like this one might have been done with slitscan too, but I’m not sure. There are also several different color schemes, and usually there would be a voiceover saying the words as they would appear on the screen. I prefer this “clean” version, though. Also, this color variation is my favorite of all the ones I’ve seen.

In the 80s, they were still going strong, broadcasting some pretty huge movies (Poltergeist, Superman, and Raiders of the Lost Ark to name a few). And to accompany those movies was one hell of an intro.

This particular capture of it has lots of stuff included. At the beginning, there’s a pre-emption announcement, then the “Closed Caption” bump, then after the intro sequence there’s a preview of the movie in which they really play things up. It emphasizes how big an event this kind of thing was.

That right there is probably the best graphic ever to be shown on network television. It’s almost as awesome as HBO in Space! (If my sources are correct, the theme is even composed by the same guy.) I realize that the graphics may not be all that impressive now, but imagine seeing that in 1981 when they first started using it. The music is really what makes it, though. It’s a perfect prelude to a great movie.

So there we have it. And hey, I’m still meeting my deadline! It’s only 10:33 here (I’ve been working on this damn post for a few hours now…phew).

Disney Channel Memories 2: Movies and Cartoons

A good chunk of the movies I watched back then were recorded off the Disney Channel. We had whole tapes chock full of their programming. There was almost always something coming on that we liked. Obviously, this is where I got a lot of my Disney animated features from. I owned some of the actual VHSs, but quite a few of them were taped off TV. Yes, I’ve been a pirate since I was five years old. My daddy raised me right, yep.

One of the first Disney movies I remember my dad recording for me was The Three Caballeros. Surely someone out there besides me has seen this movie. I used to watch it constantly. It’s not your usual Disney feature; it’s more like a musical travelogue than anything else, and in the end it descends into a sort of psychedelic madness. However, it’s funny, creative and visually striking, and it’s a piece of history– the movie was actually commissioned by the US Government during World War II to try to introduce the American people to Latin American culture.

Here’s my favorite part of the movie: the titular musical number featuring Donald Duck and his friends José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles, a Brazilian parrot and a Mexican rooster, respectively. It’s one of the funniest Disney musical numbers ever; the zany sight gags are more like something you’d expect from Warner Bros., not Disney.

And now for something completely different.

Sometime in the early 90s, Disney aired the stand-up comedy special Bill Cosby: Himself. When I was a kid, this was the funniest shit I had ever seen in my life. Even though I had the whole thing memorized, I would laugh every time I watched it, and I still laughed when I watched it again the other day. This thing is truly a classic.

However, one thing I didn’t know back then was that Disney Channel cut out about fifteen minutes of this special. I didn’t find out until I watched it on DVD years later. They cut the parts where The Coz was talking about drugs and alcohol. I guess I can understand why they did it, but they should have left it in anyway because the drugs bit is one of the most hilarious parts.

Here’s the clip:

Some of the other movies I got courtesy of the Disney Channel were Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan (which I never liked, but whatever), Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer, and The Little Mermaid. I also had various non-Disney cartoons that they would show sometimes, including one Thanksgiving special that starred a bunch of animal characters, one of which was a fox. I can’t remember much else about that one, but I watched it a bunch of times.

However, one show I do remember watching a lot of is a Canadian cartoon called The Raccoons. I only had a few episodes on tape, but I watched it every afternoon. This show had a really cool ending theme song that I loved as a kid. This isn’t the actual end credits sequence (couldn’t find a good video of it), but it does have the full version of the song:

Anyway, I haven’t seen that show in a long time, but I remember it being different than a lot of other cartoons at the time. It seemed so much more mature, and I remember the characters being surprisingly well-developed for an 80s ‘toon. Hell, as a matter of fact, the antagonist actually becomes a good guy later on. You didn’t see that very often back then (except maybe in anime). There was a DVD boxset released, but apparently it only has 9 episodes in it and goes for like 40 dollars. So it doesn’t look like I’ll be checking that out anytime soon.

So…you might be wondering what the hell happened to the Disney Channel. After they changed to basic cable in 1997, it was all downhill from there. I guess they decided they wanted to make more money. And they do– apparently the network and its franchises and such are estimated to be worth some 800 million dollars nowadays. That’s fine and all, but I really miss the more diverse programming that anybody could enjoy, rather than the very narrow demographic they cater to nowadays. It’s like an MTV for kids, almost. And we all know how much MTV sucks ass.

To add insult to injury, there’s almost nothing “Disney” about Disney Channel (yes, they have officially dropped “The” from the name). It pains me to think that many kids will grow up associating the Disney name with stuff like Hannah Montana, High School Musical (oh God save us all), and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. I’ve been thinking that maybe they should just do a name change and a re-launch since there are so few actual “Disney” characters and programs on the network.

On the off chance that they do show one of their classic features (quite rare these days; they want to you shell out the cash for them on DVD, of course), it’s interrupted quite often and then you have to deal with their tweenybopper crap.

However, I’ve still got my memories, so when I think of the Disney Channel, I always try to think of the good ol’ days. Keeps my blood pressure down.