Monday, January 15, 2018

Dark Tales from American History

Began a sunny Martin Luther King Jr. Day with some reading. I don't have anything on Martin Luther King Jr. himself, but Colliers Harvest of Holidays has a section on United Nations Day with essays and poems on peace that work for this holiday, too. King was an advocate for peace all his life, and actually did win the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964.

Ran another Dr. Seuss special while eating breakfast. The Hoober Bloob Highway may be the most unique Seuss cartoon out there. Mr. Hoober Bloob and his walking mandolin assistant have to show a newborn child all the ins and outs of being human, from where you live to having fun to figuring out what you're going to do with your life, before they send him down to Earth.

Worked on writing for the next couple of hours. BB ducks out of the confrontation between Han Shaftoe and his son Sir Kylo Ren, formerly Ben Boy Blue. The little girl dodges trolls invading the main factory floor and rushes upstairs to the Toymaker's office. She finds him calmly painting a doll and demands he comes downstairs. Trouble is, like Luke in the current movie, he doesn't think his rushing into battle is going to solve anything. BB drags him downstairs to show him otherwise.

Broke at 1 for lunch and to get ready for work. Did another episode of She-Ra as I got organized. Bow's friend Sorrowful the cowardly dragon becomes one of "The Prisoners of Beast Island" when he's captured by Catra and the Horde. Bow feels guilty for not watching over him more closely and goes after him.

It was still sunny when I headed to work. Though clouds moved in later, it never rained, or did anything worse than look a little gloomy. It wasn't even windy. It was cold, probably in the lower 30's, which is really pretty normal for this time of year. Though we weren't that bad when we came in and were dead by the time I left, rush hour did get busy. I bagged when we were busy, but mostly did carts and the outside trash.

Did two episodes of sitcoms set during the 40's and 50's during dinner. Radio station WENN of Remember WENN gets its first black actor in the early first season episode "The Emperor Smith." Waiter and aspiring actor George Smith takes over for regular Mackie Bloom when he damages his voice as the "man of mystery" Lord Branley. However, the show is set in late 1939. People wouldn't have accepted him as the dashing leading man in a steamy soap opera. The cast has to keep his identity a secret from the press, especially obnoxious reporter Walter Snell.

Race relations in the mid-20th century are also discussed in the Happy Days third season episode "Fonzie's Friend." Fonzie's found a drummer for Richie's big Hawaiian-themed party - a black guy named Sticks. Richie doesn't mind having the guy, and even finds a date for him. Though he and Fonzie may think Sticks is cool, most of Milwaukee's teen population doesn't agree. Even Fonzie's cool can't overcome their parents' prejudice.

Ended the night with 12 Years a Slave.  Based after an 1853 memoir, this tells the story of Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejlofor), a free man in New York who was kidnapped and sold as a slave in Louisiana in 1841. He ends up at the plantation of a man named Epps (Michael Fassbinder), who brutally beats his slaves. Solomon endures harsh lashings from Epps, but he does make friends with favored slave Patsy (Lupita Nyong'o). After a bad season, he and Epps' other slaves are rented out to a plantation owned by Judge Turner (Bryan Batt). Turner takes a liking to him, and even lets him play the violin at a wedding. Solomon tries to get two letters out to his family after he's able to earn money with his violin playing. His first attempt is unsuccessful, but he does better when he befriends Canadian worker Samuel Bass (Brad Pitt) who disagrees with Epps' treatment of his slaves. It's him who finally finds the shopkeeper who is able to return Solomon home to his family.

Wow. This story of a very dark and tragic part of American history was a surprise hit in 2013 and deservedly won Oscars for Best Picture, for Nyong'o's touching performance, and for the stark screenplay by John Ridley. I really like Hans Zimmer's score, including the period-appropriate banjo music.

This harrowing tale isn't for kids, but adults with an interest in American, African-American, or 19th-century history will find much to enjoy.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

I Remember Yesterday

I celebrated the start of a sunny winter day with Mandarin Orange Pancakes and the soundtrack from the 1967 Rex Harrison version of Dr. Doolittle. I haven't seen this movie since it made occasional appearances on cable and a few local independent stations when I was a kid, but I remember it being supremely weird. The plot description in the booklet attached to the record cover bears this out. The good doctor of the title prefers animals to people, despite being friends with an enthusiastic young man named Matthew (Anthony Newley). He falls for the niece of one of Doolittle's more obnoxious customers, Emma (Samantha Eggar). Doolittle is accused of murder when he steals a seal from a circus to return her to her mate and it's believed that she's a woman, thanks the bonnet he's hidden her in. When the others rescue him from jail, they all take off for the South Seas to find the rare Great Pink Sea Snail.

Uh, yeah, the story is that bizarre. No wonder this was apparently a flop in 1967. In some ways, it reminds me a lot of another odd musical fantasy from this time period that also didn't do well at the box office, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. There's a period setting in Victorian/Edwardian England, with the first half set entirely in England and the second in a far-flung fantasy land. At least one scene in England takes place in a fair or circus. The lead is an eccentric older man who prefers machines, animals, and kids to adults and has a romance with a younger woman, despite the initial disapproval of her guardian. Both films end with the leads being taken home by some fantastic conveyance.

For all this movie's problems, it does have a rather nice score. "Talk to the Animals" was the hit at the time and won the Oscar, but I liked the ballads better. Too bad Matthew's "Where are the Words?" was deleted; it's very sweet. His duet with Emma, "Beautiful Things," is also quite lovely. Dolittle's "When I Look In Your Eyes" is a touching ballad...that he performs to the seal missing her mate in the film.

I don't know if this is available on CD, but the LP makes a pleasant listen if you ever run into it.

Headed off to work shortly after the record ended. While busier than it was last week, we mostly weren't quite as bad as we usually are on Sunday. The Eagles played yesterday, and a lot of people may have been taking advantage of a chilly but windless afternoon off to get other things done. I cleaned the bathroom and bagged in the morning shift, then helped the afternoon bagger do the carts, did cold returns, and for some reason, cleaned up a lot of spills after break. (Including plastic buckets of roses that were leaking all over the main entrance to the store.)

(I also got to see some of the Jaguars - Steelers game during break. The Jaguars were way ahead by the end of the first half, 28-7. Though the Steelers caught up in a big way, Jacksonsville still pulled off a win 45-42 and will hopefully knock out the Patriots next. The Vikings had an even bigger last-minute victory over the New Orleans Saints tonight 29-24 - they'll be playing the Eagles next Sunday.)

When I got home, I listened to the Johnny Mathis Swing Softly album while working on BB In Toyland. BB manages to get the door open while Rose distracts Kylo Ren and his men by throwing paint at them. Ren finally gets a hold of BB after the others make their way in. Han stops his son from dragging the girl away, confronting him about his leaving the factory and his invading Toyland. Kylo Ren takes off before he can give his father answers; BB goes after him.

Broke for dinner and to make dessert around 6:30. Turned one of the containers of ground turkey I bought on Friday into Taco Casserole with the addition of pasta, cheddar cheese, onions, carrots, taco sauce, and broccoli. Made Blackberry-Pineapple Grunt from I'm Just Here for More Food for afterwards. (I didn't have enough blackberries for just blackberry grunt.)

Listened to Golden Boy while I ate. I thought this 1964 stage musical was appropriate for Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. Joe Wellington (Sammy Davis Jr.) is determined to become a fighter by any means necessary, even betraying his manager when he falls in love with his white girlfriend Lorna (Paula Wayne). He does become famous...but when he learns just how empty it is when he actually takes a punch in the ring and kills his opponent.

Oddly, the music reflects very little of this heavy drama. You can hear some bitterness in "Don't Forget 127th Street," a paen to Joe's Harlem roots, and in Lorna's song "Lorna's Here." Otherwise, it's mostly ballads for Wayne and Davis and jazzy numbers for Davis like the hit "This Is the Life."

I'm pretty sure the CD is out of print, but it can likely be found online if you're a fan of Davis or prefer your musicals on the darker side.

Finished out the night with Donna Summer's greatest hits set On the Radio. I felt like I needed something a lot more fun after Golden Boy. My stepdad was a huge fan of hers. Some of my earliest memories are of dancing around the house to this and her Bad Girls LP set.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Power of the Birds and Bears

I was glad to see sunshine streaming through my windows when I awoke this morning. There was a lot that I needed to get done, starting with breakfast. Ran two episodes of She-Ra while I ate. Adora's at "A Loss for Words" when the sorceress Shadow Weaver steals her voice and that of several other peasants who are planning to rebel. She gets help from Bow in getting it back. She wants to rescue her brother Prince Adam - aka He-Man - from the Fright Zone alone in "He Ain't Heavy," but Bow goes after her when an old man tells her about the Moon Mirror that can open portals to other dimensions.

Finally got out around 11 to run errands. I've had a couple of bags of donations in the back room for a long time. Brought the one with all the odds and ends I've cleared out or didn't need and the bag of Ever After High dolls to the thrift shop at the church in Audubon. Picked up the soundtrack for the 1968 Rex Harrison version of Dr. Doolittle and the Johnny Mathis album Swing Softly on LP, the DVDs for Brother Bear and The Inspector General (I can't find the copy of the latter Lauren sent me a while back), and a stuffed manatee.

Headed back to Oaklyn next to do some quick volunteering at the library. They were quiet as can be the entire time. In fact, it was just me and the librarian. I talked to her and took a look at the DVDs. Found the Julie Andrews vehicle Star on the for sale racks. Since there's a new Maze Runner film coming out soon, I took out the two movies in that series. (The Haddon Township Library doesn't have the first one.)

The House of Fun is three blocks from the Oaklyn Library on the White Horse Pike. Headed there next. They were surprisingly quiet for a Saturday afternoon. I think I may have seen one other person there besides the guy at the counter.

I actually made some pretty good finds there. The corner where the vintage stuffed animals had been kept had been better-organized, with most of them now in a bin. A stuffed My Little Pony, like the Bow Tie I found at a yard sale last year, lay on the top. She had a  rainbow-colored mane and tail and purple embroidered parasols against her bright pink fur. Unlike Bow-Tie, she came with her original tag, and her eyes were in perfect shape...but she was also quite dirty, and said tag looked like its previous owner had used it for a teething ring. The remains of the tag indicated that her name was Parasol, and that she loved sipping pink lemonade under the umbrella that gave her her name.

Also did well in the Star Wars department. I'd hoped to find a simple 12-inch Finn to go with my Rey and Poe. Found him hanging on the bottom shelves after some digging. Uncovered a fluffy 12-inch Chewbacca still in his box on a top shelf with other 12-inch Power of the Force collector's dolls.

I didn't get as lucky at the register. The poor kid had no idea what his boss had priced them. He called him 30 times on his cell phone while I waited. Good thing I'm generally a patient person...and his boss had episodes of Count Duckula running on their TV over the counter. I haven't seen the majority of that show in 30 years. I finally told the kid I'd give him 40 bucks for the lot. Chewie was a collector's item, he and Finn were still in their boxes, and Parasol had her tag.

Headed down West Clinton to Phillies Phatties for lunch. It was past 1 by that point, and they were fairly quiet as well. I saw a couple of people come in to pick up late lunches as I ate my slice of cheese, slice of mushroom, and sipped a Mountain Dew Ice (lemon-lime) soda while watching Perdue play Minnesota in college basketball. (Perdue eventually won 81-47.)

As soon as I got home, I pulled out Chewie and Finn. Finn was made out of the same stiff hard plastic as Cassian and Poe. Like Cassian, he was a fairly good representation of John Boyega, and unless I can find a better 12-inch doll along the line, I'll likely keep him. Chewie was held in with twist-ties and took a little longer to get out. Unlike the vinyl Power of the Force Luke, Lando, Leia, and Han, Chewie had wires under his thick fur that allowed him to hold poses. I had him give Han a "hug" to see what it could do. I don't know how well the wires will hold up over time, but I do know that I like his face better than the current Forces of Destiny Chewie, who looks too much like a monkey. I also like that he came with a real fabric pouch, though I wish his huge, thick vinyl bandoleer stayed on better.

Worked on writing for a little while after I got everything organized. Poe argues BB going into the factory alone. Not only is she only 8 years old, but she doesn't know the Factory well. Rose and Chewie go with her. Rose is small, strong, and knows the Factory. Just as they enter, they hear Sir Kylo Ren and his men outside. They're going to take the inventory and burn it in the incinerators! The girls know they have to do something, but they aren't sure what. Maybe the toy soldiers could help...

Headed out around 4:30 to watch the Eagles-Falcons playoffs game at Dad and Jodie's (after finally putting two of the LED lights that Linda Young sent on my bike). Jodie was stirring the ground beef for the tacos when I arrived. I also saw Mark, Vanessa, Jessa (Joe was working at Lincoln Financial Stadium), TJ and a friend of his, and Dana. (Rose couldn't come - Finley still has a cold.) We had the tacos around quarter after 5. There were mini-red velvet cupcakes and a small blue cake that said "Go Eagles!" for dessert.

The Eagles didn't play all that well during the first half. They did manage a touchdown that put them ahead 12-10 by halftime (though the kicker missed the extra score). By the 4th quarter, TJ and his friend were gone, and I was half-listening to the game and while playing a Paw Patrol game I've seen Khai play on Jodie's iPad. I finally got so tired of listening to Dad complain by the end of the 4th quarter, I left a little early. Besides, I badly needed a shower. (Dad had nothing to fuss over. The Falcons lost one last turnover that might have helped. In the end, the Eagles won 15-10 and advance to the NFC Championship game against whoever wins the Vikings-Saints game tomorrow.)

(Unfortunately, the Patriots ended up mauling the Titans 35-14 and also advanced. Yuck. Like they need to go again. I hope whomever wins the Jaguars-Steelers game flattens them.)

Finished out the night online after my shower, watching Brother Bear. This Disney action tale takes us to a native tribe in Canada shortly after the Ice Age. The middle of three brothers, Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix), has just received his "totem," his necklace representing what he needs to learn to become a man. Kenai is disgusted that he got a bear, who represents love. He doesn't think much of bears...and he's even less fond of them when one accidentally gets his older brother Sitka (D.B Sweeney) killed. He kills the bear in returned...but the Great Spirits of their tribe retaliate by turning him into a bear. The healer of his tribe (Joan Copeland) tells him he won't be changed back until he goes over the mountains to find "the great lights." Trouble is, he knows nothing about how to be an animal and is easy prey for traps and other bears. A chatty cub named Koda (Jeremy Suarez) ultimately agrees to take him to the lights..if he brings him to the salmon run with the other bears. Kenai doesn't want to, but he has no other way to get there. As they travel, they find themselves dodging Kenai's younger brother Denali (Jason Raize), who believes Kenai is the bear who killed his brothers. But when Kenai finally figures out who the bear was, he learns an important lesson about what it really means to be a brother and give love to others.

I actually find this Disney action comedy-drama to be underrated. I think this a very touching tale of what it means to be a sibling and have real compassion. The opening sequence in particular, as we see the brothers' daily lives, is interesting, fun, and well-handled. I'm also a big fan of the music by Phil Collins, especially "I'm On My Way" and the hit "Look Through Your Eyes." Some nice animation too, especially during the transformation sequences.

The big problems start once Kenai becomes a bear. The dialogue here is far too jokey and modern for a story set among primitive man and strains way too hard to be hip. While Koda didn't bother me (I mostly found him to be cute), many critics have sided with Kenai that he's a bit too talkative and annoying.

I love bears, so I'd probably like this under any circumstances. It's not the best movie of Disney's troubled early 2000's era, but it's not as bad as many critics claim, either. If you ever run into it, or have older kids who love action and animals and can handle the drama, it's definitely worth a look.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Rain Dazed

It was pouring when I rolled out of bed this morning. Put on an episode of She-Ra to bring some fun to a gloomy day. Cowardly flying koala Kowl, forgetful sorceress Madame Razz, and her sassy talking broom are in the spotlight in "Three Courageous Hearts." They end up being the only ones who can rescue She-Ra when an evil sorceress imprisons her in another dimension.

I called Dad and Jodie for a ride to work, but they had things to do today. I just rode to work in the rain and got wet. Maybe it was just as well. I spent the first hour or so outside doing carts. Thankfully, a bagger that prefers being outside came in at one. I spent the rest of the afternoon bagging, gathering baskets, and cleaning and organizing the gift card kiosk.

My schedule's kind of odd next week, but I don't mind. I have three days off, including Tuesday for counseling. Wednesday and next Friday will be longer six-hour days, but I'll live. Once it gets past Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it usually isn't busy anyway. It won't pick up until we get closer to the beginning of the month and all the activity in early-mid February.

By the time I was doing my own grocery shopping, the crowds had died out. I could restock canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, apples, grapefruit, blue corn tortilla chips, chicken sausage, cereal (went with bran flakes), yogurt, and pads in relative peace. There were good sales on blackberries (99 cents) and ground turkey ($1.88 - I bought two packs). Bought marshmallows and evaporated milk to make fudge later.

Thankfully, when I finally headed out around quarter of 4, the rain was gone. It was still damp and way too warm for this time of year, probably in the mid-60's, but at least I got home dry. I changed, put everything away, and got organized while watching The Cat In the Hat. We're not the only ones dealing with a wet, dismal day. Two bored kids and their very opinionated fish get their rainy day turned on its ear when a talking cat sporting red and white headgear almost as tall as he is appears on their doorstep. He claims to be searching for a family heirloom, but he and his "thing" helpers seem to be more interested in pestering the annoyed fish and performing hat-related musical numbers.

Wrote for a couple of hours as the rain returned. The group arrives in the back side of the Toy Factory, but the door is locked. BB is the only one who can get up into the high windows and retrieve the key to let them in.

Made scrambled eggs with cauliflower, cheese, and mushrooms for dinner and mandarin oranges for dessert. Tried putting banana-peanut butter fudge together after I finished dinner. I don't know how well it worked. I burned the bottom of the big, heavy pan I was using. It seemed thicker than the "gingerbread spice" fudge that never set, but it definitely wasn't as thick as the chocolate fudge that came out right. I stuck them in the freezer, which does seem to have helped somewhat.

Watched an episode of the third season of Wonder Woman as the fudge cooked. The citizens of a small town are terrified that "The Starships are Coming" after a young man who claims to have seen UFOs disappears. Footage of a seemingly real invasion bears this out. Diana does some snooping around on her own...and discovers that the so-called "aliens" have a very real and chilling reason for their "invasion."

Ended the night with Three Days of the Condor. Joe Turner (Robert Redford) works as an analyst for a hidden CIA office in New York, code named "Condor." He's supposed to be checking media for hidden meanings...but just as he thinks he's come across something big, all of his co-workers are murdered while he's out to lunch. He calls it in to his boss Wicks (Michael Kane), but it turns out he's a member of the group who did it. Joe flees, taking a young woman (Faye Dunaway) hostage in order to have a place to figure out what's going on. She ends up falling for him, but that won't help him when Joubert, the hitman who killed his co-workers (Max von Sydow), turns up and tries to kill him. Now he has to figure out who he can trust in the CIA and New York while getting the director of the CIA in New York (Cliff Robertson) to reveal what's going on.

Tense thriller benefits from fine performances from Redford, Robertson, Dunaway, and especially Von Sydow as the ruthless assassin and from Sydney Pollack's expert and fast-paced direction. The general plot and several sexual scenes later in the film make this for adults who love the cast or political thrillers.

Incidentally, the rain has been off and on the rest of the evening, sometimes heavily. It's off right now. If nothing else, it and the warm temperatures got rid of the last of the snow.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Science Fiction Double Feature

Started off a bright, sunny day with breakfast and the 1929 musical Sally. Sally (Marilyn Miller) is a waitress in New York who dreams of becoming a dancer. Her dreams come closer to becoming a reality when, after getting a job dancing in a cafe, she catches the eye of a theatrical agent (T. Roy Barnes). He needs someone to pose as a Russian dancer at a big garden party at a mansion in Long Island. Turns out the party is for Blair (Alexander Gray), the guy she's been flirting with for months, who's been forced into an engagement with a socialite (Nora Lane). Another friend from the cafe, former European duke Connie (Joe E. Brown), is also at the party. They're both finally found to be frauds and return to the cafe. Stardom finally beckons for Sally in the form of the Ziegfeld Follies...but she still wants her man, too.

If you can get past the early talkie stiffness and Brown being miscast as a duke, this is such a cute movie. Two numbers in particular are the grandparents of many modern dance sequences in musicals. Miller and Brown's "Look for the Silver Lining" comic dance duet is adorable. They just look like they're having so much fun!

Sally was originally filmed in two-strip Technicolor, but the color prints were lost. In the early 90's, someone found bits of the "Wild Rose" dance routine with Miller and the male chorus at the garden party in color and spliced them in. The sudden jump to color actually accentuates the fantasy, giving the number an almost Wizard of Oz-like feel. It's also the movie's best chorus number, with a beaming Miller showing off high kicks and tossing flowers to the boys.

If you're a fan of early talkie musicals, or want to see where many modern movie musical conventions came from, this is worth digging around for at the Warner Archives.

Did the windows and dusted most of the living room while Sally was on. After the movie ended, I switched to a CD of authentic 20's music as I finished the dusting. I also cleared out the Ever After High dolls. Yeah, they're pretty and all, but I'm not really that interested in them anymore. From now on, I'm going to try to stick to collecting toys for franchises that I know I'll not only be into for a while, but may return to later, like Star Wars and American Girl. I'm going to keep the books, which I genuinely enjoy, but the dolls are just taking up room. Moved the Star Wars 12 and 10 inch dolls to where they'd been, then moved the novels to the upper of the shelves I bought last fall.

After I finished the dusting, I figured I'd finally get to putting up the last of the general winter decorations. Most of them went out with the Christmas stuff. The only things left to put out were cardboard hangings of snowmen taking part in winter activities, a "let it snow" banner, and three big stuffed snowmen I've gotten as presents over the years. They're too big to fit with all the holiday decorations, but they brighten the room now.

Headed out to run a few errands around one. My first stop was The Pop Shop for my New Year's breakfast. I usually eat breakfast or brunch out on New Year's Day, but not only did I not have the time this year, but it was too cold last week for me to run anywhere but work. I was surprised at how mobbed they were for 1:30...until I saw the costumed dalmatian in a fire fighter's outfit standing near the door. The Pop Shop was visited by two characters from the cartoon Paw Patrol today, Chase the police dog and Marshall the fire dog. There was even a "parade" at one point, with Chase and Marshall marching around the main dining area with a couple of toddlers. It was too precious.

I laughed and enjoyed watching the kids with the characters while having "Strawberry Bettys" for lunch. This is what The Pop Shop calls their massive pancakes. They had to replace the advertised fresh strawberries with strawberry "goop" used for ice cream topping. Tasted just fine to me. In fact, it was really yummy. I hadn't had a big breakfast and ate about three-fourths of them.

I'm glad I opted for the longer ride from Collingswood to Westmont. The weather was absolutely gorgeous today. The sun was out, the wind was gone, and it had jumped into the mid-50's. I actually had a rather nice ride past several residential areas, eventually ending up near the park and across from the Westmont CVS.

My next stop was the Haddon Township Library. I hadn't gotten here since before Christmas! Maybe it was just as well. It was quiet as could be. The nice day must have encouraged most people to head outside. I mainly organized and shelved DVDs. Ended up taking out 12 Years a Slave, the unusual recent movie Colossal (featuring Anne Hathaway as a woman who learns that a giant monster may be a creation of her imagination), and the 70's hits Three Days of the Condor and Love Story.

Made a quick stop at WaWa on the way home. I mainly wanted skim milk, but I also ended up getting a Banana Foster Smoothie. WaWa makes the best banana smoothies. They use real bananas, and that makes them extra-creamy.

Spent the next few hours writing. Hux and Phasma try to attack, but they're no match for Poe and Finn's quick reflexes, Han and the sword BB gave him, or Maz in a bad mood. They force the duo to take them to Toyland Town hidden under fluffy rugs to make them look like trolls.

Broke for dinner at 6:30. Ran the 1980 version of Flash Gordon while eating leftover beef sausages with green beans, roasted cauliflower, and half a grapefruit for dinner. New York Jets quarterback Flash (Sam J. Jones) and travel agent Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) find themselves trapped on the planet Mongo when Zarcov (Topol), a scientist who believes aliens are trying to move the Earth closer to the moon, takes them into the stars in his own ship. Mongo's dictator Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow) takes a shine to Dale and wants to marry her. His daughter Aura (Ornella Muti) is equally interested in Flash, but she's already the lover of Prince Barin of Arboria (Timothy Dalton). With the help of Barin, Aura, and the boisterous Prince Voltan (Brian Blessed) of the Hawkmen, Flash invades Ming's city to take back his friends and save the Earth from immediate destruction.

I believe this is the kind of thing most people think of when they mention "space opera." This is camp of the highest, purest order and one of the most fun science fiction films I've ever seen. How can you hate a movie with a score by Queen? If you love truly goofy science fiction that doesn't take itself seriously for a minute, this one is worth checking out.

Ended the night with a more serious sci-fi film, Forbidden Planet. We move from Mongo to Altair IV, home of another mad scientist and beguiling beauty. In this case, the scientist is Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and Altaria (Anne Francis) is the beautiful, innocent daughter. The crew of the ship C-57D, including Captain Adams (Leslie Nielson), have come to discover the fate of another expedition that had arrived there 20 years later. They enjoy their stay at first, teaching Altaria how to kiss and learning more about the fantastic race of beings called the Krell and their super machine that can enhance brain power from Morbius. But the longer they remain, the more it becomes clear that an invisible monster is stalking the group...and that not even Dr. Morbius himself can truly stop it.

This sci-fi take on Shakespeare's The Tempest was a first in many respects - the first serious sci-fi movie to take place fully on another planet, to feature a robot with a real personality (Robby the Robot), and to feature characters driving their own spaceship in what we now call hyperspace, among other distinctions. I'm not normally a big fan of older science fiction films from before the 1970's, but this one is really interesting. (It probably helps that The Tempest is my favorite Shakespearean play.) I especially like the mystery around the monster...and the nifty animation when we finally do see it.

If you want to see where many sci-fi cliches came from, or check out a piece of sci-fi history, this is one trip into the Id worth taking.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Ghost Power

I got a late start and went right into breakfast this morning. Watched some more Three Stooges while eating and getting ready for work. Shemp, Moe, and Larry are "The Hot Scots" after they intercept a call to Scotland Yard to solve a mystery in a haunted Scottish castle. Having been assigned to their clean-up crew, the boys are eager to test their mettle. They rethink their desire to be detectives when they learn that someone's after the owner's treasures...and that the fabled ghosts may be real!

Work was more-or-less the same as yesterday - quiet when I came in, on-and-off steady the rest of the day. While I did do some bagging during the busy times, I mostly continued to clean. Mopped the men's bathroom (the women's wasn't that bad), wiped down, swept, and mopped the narrow area between the self-checkout registers next to the floral department, and mopped, swept, and wiped the counter and tables in the back room.

This time, I went straight home and stayed there. Spent the next hour listening to one of my K-Tel records while cleaning the kitchen. Considering I spent a lot of last month making one thing or the other in there, it needed to be done badly. The sink was especially grungy.

Worked on writing for a couple of hours after I finished. The group is about to break out when they're confronted by Hux, Phasma, and several more trolls. They manage to trick the trolls and force Hux and Phasma to get them out and take them back to Toyland Town and to the Factory, before Barnaby can take over.

Ran an episode of Good Eats while having leftovers for dinner. Hardy winter greens like kale and collard greens are far more popular now than when Alton made the episode "Field of Greens" in the mid-2000's. People have since caught on to their many nutritional properties...and that you don't have to boil them until they're a slimy mess in order to eat them. In fact, they're better off used in salads, casseroles, and for stir fries.

Hit the bath after dinner. Ahhh. Given the way my last couple of weeks have gone, I seriously needed this. I literally can't remember the last time I took a bath. Read my big Grimm's Fairy Tales book while listening to Jazz for the Quiet Times.

Finished out the night with Ghostbusters II. I meant to do this New Year's week, but never got there. The original four Ghostbusters have gone their separate ways since they saved New York in 1984. But there's a new menace that's rotting the Big Apple - a river of pink slime under the subways that feeds on negative emotions. It was created by the spirit of Vigo the Carpathian, which resides his portrait in a Manhattan art museum where Dana (Sigourney Weaver) now works. The spirit easily controls her overeager European boss Yanov (Peter MacNichol), but what he's really after is Dana's baby son Oscar. He's hoping to possess the infant's body and let all the ghosts loose in the Tri-State Area! After nearly ending up in the loony bin, the Ghostbusters create a plan of their own that involves driving New York's most beloved icon into the city to create enough positive vibes to break through that negative slime...and ends Vigo's hold over Manhattan for good.

I have a lot of nostalgic fondness for this one. Ghostbusters II was the first movie my sisters and I saw in a theater without our parents (though I believe we did go with the older sister of a friend of Rose's), and I remember having a great time. It was one of two big movies I saw in the theater during the infamously crowded summer of 1989, the other being Honey I Shrunk the Kids, which we also saw on our own. (Rose also somehow got to see the R-rated Tim Burton Batman with her friend and her friend's sister. I wasn't interested, and in fact, wouldn't see it until I rented it from Blockbuster in the early 2000's.)

Even as a kid, as much as I loved the experience of seeing this as a "big kid" without my folks, I knew it wasn't quite as good as the original. No wonder the mayor of New York thought they were crazy. The "negative slime" plot is too ridiculous, even for this franchise. They had better story lines in the Real Ghostbusters cartoon! In fact, almost everything is too over-the-top, from Janine and Louis Tully hooking up to the ghost train that charges through.

One thing I will say - the special effects on this were, and still are, actually pretty darn good. Say what you will about the plot, but the ghosts look great, especially the Titanic's brief arrival and that train. And at the very least, Slimer's cameo is limited to a few random appearances, and he never takes over the movie to the degree that he did the cartoon.

For all my fond memories, I'm going to say that, unless you're a huge fan of the cartoon or the original film, you can probably in all good faith skip this one. You're better off looking up the cartoon online, or watching the original film or remake again.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Can't Stop the Cops

Awoke this morning to bright sunshine and temperatures that were not only closer to normal, but way above it, in the lower 40's. Celebrated the return of warmer weather with a couple of Three Stooges shorts while I ate breakfast and baked Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Muffins. Shemp, Moe, and Larry are "Three Hams on Rye" when they're corralled by the producer of the show they're appearing in to snare a particularly pesky critic before he can review the show. Failing that, they need to put on a good performance of their "southern" sketch...but the cake Shemp baked for the scene turns out to be a tad bit inedible.

"Studio Stoops" has them mistaken for publicity men for a major studio. They suggest that an up-and-coming star fake being kidnapped to generate publicity. What they didn't expect was that a couple of crooks would use their idea to snatch the starlet for real...or that they'd have to rescue her.

They're "Slaphappy Sleuths" when they're detectives assigned to figure out who's robbing a chain of gas stations. Posing as attendants, they attempt to get the goods on the criminals, but are more likely to be putting popcorn in their radiator. They think they've lost track of them, until they see the oil leaking out of their car...

Headed to work shortly after "Slaphappy Sleuths" ended. The muffins took so long, I had to leave them in the oven not quite done and rush to the Acme. As it turned out, the hurry wasn't necessary. We were never more than steady the entire afternoon. The only reason we had lines were there just weren't that many people up front. Most of us had been assigned to doing some post-holiday cleaning. I spent the entire four hours dusting the registers' front shelves and the tops of the soda coolers. Got all but the last two done.

As soon as I finished, I rushed home. Changed, finished baking the muffins, rounded up my laundry, and headed right back out again. I was going to do my laundry yesterday, but I opted to concentrate on writing. That was a mistake. The laundromat was the busiest I've seen it in ages, probably with people who couldn't get out during our recent cold snap. I barely got a washer and drier.

When I got home, I put everything away, then worked on writing for a few hours. BB helps Poe release Kaydel, Snap, Maz, and the gypsies. Finn and Rose use the trolls' belts to clothesline them and tie them up. BB tells Poe about Snoke attacking Toyland Town and his intention to force Mother Leia Goose to become his wife and marry Kylo Ren off to Rey Quite Contrary. No one's happy about that, especially Han and Poe, but as Maz points out, they need to make a plan...

Ended the night with leftovers for dinner, then online. Did a Police Academy double feature while I ate. Police Academy 3: Back In Training pits the cadets of Commandant Lassard's (George Gaynes) school against that of Commandant Mauser (Art Metrano). The winning school will remain open. Mauser is determined to make sure Lassard's misfit academy shuts down for good. New recruits like wild Zed (Bobcat Goldthwait), nerdy Sweetchuck (Tim Kazurinsky), and Nogota (Brian Tochi), who has a huge crush on tough Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook), don't help. Nor do two police buddies of Mauser's, who sabotage their every move. However, when the governor's ball is robbed and the governor himself is taken hostage, the cadets finally get the chance to prove that they really do have the right stuff.

Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol ditches the "save the academy" subplot and trades Mauser for the equally obnoxious Captain Harris (G.W Bailey). This time, Lassard has the bright idea to start a citizen's patrol. Ordinary folks will help cops fight crime, and the police will better integrate themselves into the neighborhoods. Harris hates the idea and does everything he can to fight it, especially once Lassard goes away on convention. As it turns out, the Citizens are actually pretty good at their new jobs, especially gung-ho old lady Mrs. Feldman (Billie Bird) and pretty Laura (Corrine Boher), who has a crush on Zed. Unfortunately, Mrs. Feldman proves to be a tad too gung-ho and accidentally disrupts a major police operation, leading to the end of the program. Harris finally learns how useful that extra help can be when there's a prison break while he's giving a tour to important guests, and it takes the combined efforts of the Citizens and the cops to chase don the escaped criminals.

While I think Back In Training is slightly better, you pretty much know what you're getting with this series. If you're a fan of the series, the cast, or the wacky misfits-vs-obnoxious authority comedies of the 1980's, you'll probably get as much of a kick out of these as I do.