Archive for the ‘Classic Film’ Category

Pop Culture Haikus: Disney Renaiisance Edition

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

When I was growing up during the 1990s, there were a lot of great entertainment options available to me.  Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Fox Kids, and Kids WB all had great lineups of live-action and cartoon shows that could keep me entertained for hours before and after school.  I subscribed to a host of interesting magazines (Nick Mag and Disney Adventures, you will be missed!) and read through an endlessly-growing collection of books.  One of the most memorable entertainment sources for me during this time, though, was the long string of fantastic animated films released by Disney during this time.  This period has become known as the Disney Renaiisance because the quality of the animation, artistry, music, and other elements of these films were amazingly high; I was a bit too young to appreciate such finer details, but I did really like these movies.  As a small tribute to this period from 1989 to 1999, I present the following Pop Culture Haikus, one seventeen-syllable poem for each film released during this time.

The Little Mermaid

Sea girl meets nice boy./Mean witch steals ocean girl’s voice./Witch becomes fish food.  Nice boy is confused./”Why does the nice girl have fins?”/Just kiss the girl, boy!

The Rescuers Down Under

Aussie boy is kidnapped./Cute U.N. mice rescue him./Boy saved by vermin!  This had an eagle/that the Aussie boy flew on./That’s all I recall.  (Still, that eagle ruled!/Come on, a freaking eagle!/I ride eagle next?)

Beauty and the Beast

Girl meets furry boy./Beast defends her, loves her true./Aw, they got married!  Gaston was a jerk./He didn’t treat Belle nice much./Furry boy much nicer!  Feel bad for Gaston, though./Being thrown off cliff must hurt./Hope landing was soft!

Aladdin

Boy meets nice princess./Boy uses magic to impress./Girl likes real men more.  Jafar wants power./Magic makes him more snake-like./Audience: “Boo!  Hiss!”  Genie is funny./True, he turns into weird things./Still, he’s pretty nice.

The Lion King

Mufasa has son,/Dies at hands of jerk brother./Can son become king?  Son gets two new friends./They tell him, “Not to worry.”/I think he should care.  Simba faces Scar,/Surrounded by hot lava./Better than Ali fight!  Peace reigns in Pride Lands/Because Simba won the battle./Life’s circle rolls on!

Pocahantas

Princess meets nice boy./It’s reverse of Aladdin!/Disney recycles plots!  John Smith is nice man./He loves native princess much./Doesn’t quite get girl.  Radcliffe big, greedy./Cares nothing for natives, only gold./He’s a blowhard jerk!  Pokey and John meet,/Get along though differences/Keep them both apart.

Hercules

A kid from the gods:/”Greece is chock-full of monsters./Let me save it, please?”  Hades, big bad guy:/”Jerkules wins, I burn up./Get me an aspirin!”  I like the muses much./Best Greek chorus ever filmed!/”That’s the gospel truth!”  Pegasus was neat./Large white winged horse impressed all./Rainbow Dash still coolest!

Mulan

Legendary girl/Saved China from the Hun hordes,/Also found husband.  Mushu is cute help./He’s rivals with small cricket./They’ll soon get along fine.  Shang is big captain/In fledgling Chinese army./First big test is Huns.  Mulan can help out./She’ll go as a boy soldier./She’s tougher than most!

Tarzan

Legendary man/Raised by apes, king of jungle/Heard this all before?  Terk’s Tarzan’s best friend./Brooklyn accent in Africa?/Normal for Rosie!  “Trashin’ the Camp” song/Backstreet Boys sing great doo-wop!/Too bad the camp’s trashed…  Clayton hunts big apes/Tarzan says, “That’s not okay!/This hunt is postponed!”  Ape man meets Jane girl/Ape man likes Jane girl heap lots/Maybe they’ll elope?

Do you like Disney?/How about these haikus?  Hmm?/Leave comments below.

Tiny Death Star iPad Game Review: The Force Is Small With This One

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

 

Kinda looks to me like the "Globe of Death" from the circus.

The Empire’s ultimate weapon, in handy diagram form. Doubles as a cute hamster ball!

Tiny Death Star , I think, is an amusing game for the iPad that combines the premise and basic game mechanics of Tiny Tower, another hit iPad game, with the vast interstellar possibilities of the Star Wars universe.  Instead of Tiny Tower‘s premise of contstructing a massive skyscraper in which virtual “bitizens” can live and work, the player for Tiny Death Star  instead takes on the role of a teeny-tiny Darth Vader and builds a massive portion of the infamous Death Star space station.  At the start of the game, a miniscule Emperor Palpatine informs Vader that the building of the Empire’s ultimate weapon requires a great deal of funding.  To obtain the necessary galactic credits, he assigns Vader (alias, you the player) to the job of Imperial Landlord, moving various denizens of the Star Wars galaxy into apartments on the Death Star, putting those new residents to work in various restaurants, gift shops, and other stores, and extracting secrets from captured Rebel forces.  Will Vader prove himself capable of managing the galaxy’s most terrifying “ant farm,” or will it all blow up in his dark helmet-covered face?

I’ve played a bit of Tiny Tower before, but I stopped playing it and took it off my iPad.  I am not quite sure why: I think it was either because I found the basic game play a bit bland or I was not fond of its presentation of a combination apartment/office building.  Weirdly enough, Tiny Death Star is the exact same game as Tiny Tower with a Star Wars coat of paint, but I find this version much more compelling.  It is probably just due to the material being used, but let’s face it, watching small Stormtroopers and droids go about their daily routines isn’t something you see every day.  In addition, there is also a steady stream of miniature bounty hunters, aliens, X-Wing pilots, Han Solo lookalikes, and a host of other familiar faces among the itsy-bitsy crowd.  If you play long enough, you’ll even see a few of the really big players in the Star Wars  saga drop by.  Early in the game, I received a visit from Jar Jar Binks who used his long tongue to snag a sandwich from a high shelf in my cafe; unfortunately, he also caused a portion of the ceiling to collapse.  (Don’t worry, this was only in an in-game movie and everything was fine once the movie finished playing.  I’d still like to know why Jabba the Hutt fell through the ceiling, though; just how did he get onto the Death Star, anyway?)  If these special character cameos keep coming, I will be one happy Padawan (junior Jedi Knight; Yeah, it’s not my favorite Star Wars terminology either, but if I was eight years old again and able to swing a lightsaber around with Yoda as my teacher, I’d put up with any terrible name I was given!)

Seeing new characters is great, and keeping the Death Star up and running for them to enjoy is almost as fun to me.  My main duty as Imperial Landlord consists of managing my growing collection of residents and making sure they are in positions where they are able to generate the most credits.  Each of them has a series of numerical ratings attached to them indicating which type of work they perform best (retail, service, manufacturing, etc.).  A worker with a high retail rating placed in a retail job will, of course, generate considerably more income than someone with a low retail number.  Each resident also has a “dream job,” a particular place they would especially like to work.  If they are placed in that location, they generate a bit of a bonus income on top of their regular contributions.  I only have a few stores open on my Death Star at the moment, so my work force is not as productive as they could be.  I’ll need a bit of time to get things up to lightspeed, but once they are perfectly aligned, I will no doubt have one of the best sales groups in the cosmos!

What is really pushing me forward, though, is the potential for the game to tell a compelling story.  The building of a structure as huge as the Death Star is an interesting situation to play with, and Star Wars is fairly famous for game-changing plot twists (Vader being Luke’s father, for instance).  I can only imagine what might happen with an apartment complex smack dab in the middle of a gigantic space battle.  What happens if Rebel X-Wings take a few shots at the Death Star and ruin my new balcony?  What if the Wookiees (Chewbacca and his family and friends) and the Mon Calamari (Admiral “It’s a trap!” Ackbar and the rest of his kind) don’t like each other and want to be kept as far away from each other as possible?  Just when in the Star Wars timeline does this game take place?  I don’t want no stinkin’ trench run ruining my well-intentioned apartment-empire!

The combination of Star Wars and real estate development has made for an exciting combination so far.  I think I will be sticking with this game for far longer than I did Tiny Tower.  I just hope that the experience lasts longer than the real Death Star did in the movies!

What are your feelings on Star Wars?  Would you be willing to play Tiny Death Star, and if you have, what do you think of it so far?  Do you think the Rebels would notice a bunch of apartment towers jutting outward from the surface of the Death Star (just seems like a huge security risk to me, is all)?  Let me know in the comments, and I’ll get back to you faster than it takes Han Solo to make the Kessel run (12 parsecs is a long time, you know!).

Opening Lines

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

How’s this for an opening line: My first elective class has finally started, and it has me thinking about what makes for a good opening line.  As homework for a creative writing class, I am attempting to develop a story from a single opening sentence.  I have come up with a pretty good opener and the rest of the story is coming along nicely, but this assignment had me thinking throughout the week about good opening lines and why they stick with the reader or listener long after they have been given.  I have often heard it said that a good first impression goes a long way; here’s a few iconic openings from television and movies that have made a great first impression on me and which I would like to emulate in my own work.

“Space: the final frontier.”  Star Trek

I can only imagine what viewers must have been feeling the first time they saw a field of stars shooting at them from their TV screens while William Shatner intoned this famous four word phrase.  My thoughts of it are shaped a bit more by Patrick Stewart’s version from Star Trek: The Next Generation which has a few more planets from the solar system flying by, but its effect on me was just as powerful as Shatner’s probably was with my mom and dad.  The implications of this phrase run very deep with me, hinting at a greater unknown universe just begging to be explored via a cosmic Oregon Trail.  The rest of the opening narration gives in more detail the general premise of the series (the voyages of the Enterprise and her space-bound sisters in orbit), but these first four words are, I think, sufficient enough to bring to mind a whole universe of possibilities.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” Star Wars

This opener reminds me of how a typical fairy tale might start out, as viewed through the filter of a science-fiction storyteller.  Taking its cue from lines like, “Once upon a time in a faraway land,” the piece of text that pops up on the screen before the opening text crawl of the Star Wars films might seem a bit old-fashioned for a high-tech world full of laser blasters, laser swords, wise puppets, etc.  Hey, I think it sounds a bit corny, too, but it does give me comfort heading into the show.  George Lucas isn’t about to drop you into a full-fledged space battle without settling you in for the ride first.  I  imagine Princess Leia might use this line at the beginning of telling her kids about the fantastical adventures of crazy Uncle Luke.  It just seems to me like the perfect start to a rip-roaring bedtime story, for better or for worse.  Good night, sleep tight, don’t let Vader bite!

“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man.  It is a dimension as vast as space, and as timeless as infinity.  It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.  This is the dimension of imagination.  It is an area which we call… the Twilight Zone.”  The Twilight Zone, Season One opening narration

I couldn’t stick with just the first line here; I think the entire paragraph needs to be given to get the whole effect.  Of all of the different openings The Twilight Zone used over the course of five seasons, it is this first one which has always been my personal favorite.  When I first started watching Rod Serling’s masterpiece of a TV series on DVD, before I knew anything else about the show, I first encountered this opening monologue which Serling intones in a deep, deliberately paced voice while images of rolling fog, unearthly landscapes, and a twinkling starfield fill the screen.  This blew me away when I first saw and heard it; it instilled in me a feeling of uncertainty, but also of wanting to find out the cause of that uncertainty, not unlike the battle against fear many of the show’s various lead characters fight against.  It remains my favorite part of the show, even more so because it was only used during the first season, making it something of a unique snowflake among iconic TV moments.

I hope that in the future I will be able to come across other beginnings that are just as memorable to me as these are and that I, as a writer, can come up with openers that other people can be inspired by.  What are your favorite opening lines?   Leave them in the comments and don’t forget to identify where they’re from so I can find them, too.

Obscure Holidays Worth Celebrating

Friday, March 15th, 2013

I celebrate most of the major holidays with my family: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.  However, there are some very obscure holidays you don’t really find on a calendar which I feel should be observed alongside their more famous brethren.  I smile a little bit when I realize one of these “holidays” is coming up or has passed without my realizing it.  Here’s a few of these lesser-known special days along with the dates on which they occur so you, too, can celebrate them the next time they roll around.

Pi Day (March 14)

This holiday gets its name due to the fact that it falls on the third month and its fourteenth day.  The first three digits of the extraordinarily long long number pi are 3.14.  There’s three things I think I would love to do on this day.  One: have a contest with someone to see who can correctly recite the most digits of pi in a row.  Two: learn how to make a pie and then eat three whole pieces of it for dessert with fourteen hundredths of a piece to be served with dinner.  Three: enjoy a My Little Pony mini-marathon on TV with Pinkie Pie as a featured character (or just watch this five-minute video of all of her best moments).

Star Wars Day (May 4)

This special day is based on a famous quote from the Star Wars movies, “May the Force be with you.”  Every year on May the fourth, the hearts of young Jedi Knight wannabes everywhere turn to memories of Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star, Han Solo resembling Indiana Jones in space, Darth Vader revealing to Luke who his true father is (spoiler alert!), and the “prequel” movies having some really cool/embarrassing moments (for me, that would be the podracing sequence in Episode I for the cool side and Jar Jar Binks casting the deciding vote in favor of  the Empire’s creation for the other).  This year, May 4 will be a Saturday, so I feel that might be a good opportunity to organize a little Star Wars viewing party with my family, even if we watch just the classic trilogy.  Who knows, maybe I might discover I have Force powers, which would make doing the household chores a heck of a lot easier!

Free Comic Book Day (May 4)

In addition to Star Wars Day, Saturday, May 4, plays host to another special occasion this year.  On the first Saturday in May every year, comic book stores throughout the country, as well as comic book fans in general, celebrate Free Comic Book Day.  This day is dedicated to promoting a love of comic books and literacy among kids and adults.  A whole host of comic book companies, including DC, Marvel, and Archie, publish special comic books and offer them free of charge to anyone who cares to visit a comic store that day.  It has been an annual tradition for me for the past few years to visit all the local comic book stores in my area and pick out a few free comics at each stop.  Most stores have limits on how many free comics you can get at that particular location, so I visit a few stores to get the best selection of titles.  I’ve noticed that more and more kids have been going to the stores on this day each year, so it’s definitely a special day I want to support.  Check out the link above for more information on Free Comic Book Day, and this link for info on the free comics being offered this year.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19)

Ahoy, matey!  Have you ever wanted to have a day where you could only speak in pirate lingo?  Have you felt the inexplicable urge to bury a treasure chest in your backyard, then go on a long “sea voyage” to find it again?  Do you just want to have a parrot sit on your shoulder all day?  Then this holiday just might be for you!  Whether you aspire to be the next Blackbeard or Anne Bonny, whether you want to turn your house into a pirate ship or just wear a puffy shirt and shout “Argh” or “Shiver me timbers,” this day has something for all landlubbers young and old to enjoy.  There’s still plenty of time to plan out your pirate party, but if you’re looking for inspiration, this music video featuring the cast of LazyTown as pirates might float your boat.

What do you think of these holidays?  Would you want to celebrate any of them?  Do you have any other special obscure holidays you observe each year?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.  Now get out there and celebrate!

Real Advice for Fictional Characters No. 2: Me Need Help

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

question-mark-63979_150For the second installment of the feature in which I give famous (and occasionally infamous) fictional characters some sound advice, we have a mix of characters from film and television.  As with last week’s letters, the writer’s identities have been replaced with nicknames, but those nicknames will be linked to Wikipedia pages about the real McCoys for everyone playing along.

 

Dear Kellogg Thoughts,

I’m feeling a bit down in the dumps right now (literally; I live in a dump, you see).  For over thirty years, I’ve been stuck in the same dead-end job.  I was actually very happy with it at first because it paid very well (lots of quarters) and it was easy work.  Now, however, I’m getting tired of the daily grind.  Sometimes I feel like all that I’m good at is punching the clock (and bricks, and walls, and pretty much anything else you put in front of me).  I want to think outside the box and broaden my horizons, to break away from the same old routine.  I’ve been beating myself up about it for a long time, but now it’s time for some action.  Do you have any suggestions?  Don’t say, “Make some friends,” because I tried that already with some people at work, but I don’t think they really appreciated anything I had to offer.  Signed, Nervous Wreck 

Dear Nervous,

I’m not surprised at all that you’ve become tired of your work routine after thirty years; a lot of other people have, and sometimes sooner than you.  I’m going to level with you: I actually was thinking about suggesting a healthy friendship, even if you seem to have already lost a few points in that department; one good friendship is all some people need to improve their lives.  I agree with you that heading out into the world would be a good thing, too, but there is one question I have about your case.  Has all of your time just been spent at your job?  It seems to me like you’ve never even been more than ten feet from your house!  If you are as keen on heading outside as you say you are, then please, for the sake of your co-workers, bring a buddy along who knows the ropes.  Also, try to find a more worthwhile avenue for your aggression.  Too much pent-up anger can be quite unhealthy.  By the way, what does your family think about all this?  I don’t think you’d make your mother very proud with all of the sulking you’re doing right now.  Go grab life by the bullhorns and make something of yourself.  Enjoy the sweet things life has to offer, and don’t be too concerned about rewards or honors because life isn’t always centered around getting medals.  Put family first and find somewhere you belong, and you should do all right after that.  Thanks for writing, and game on!  Ben

 

Dear Kellogg Thoughts,

I have recently been swept off of my feet and into a new place I never would have dreamed existed.  It’s the most wonderful place, all emerald and yellow, very pretty colors.   I’ve met some great friends along the way, too, but now I want to go home.  We were going to see someone who I think can help me get back to my family (I think he’s going to be simply wizard!), but there’s just one problem.  There is a really mean woman trying to stop us from reaching our goal, and I fear she’s going to do something horrible to us (but especially my dog; she seems to have an unhealthy obsession with him) if she isn’t stopped.  I’m telling you, she’s a real witch!  I wish I could just click my heels three times and say, “There’s no place like home,” and then I’m home, but that only happens in fairy tales, right?  I’m so confused, and I feel like a raging tornado of emotions inside.  Please help me!  Signed, Twisted with Toto

Dear Twisted,

Your letter has given me a lot of questions, but very few answers are coming to me.  Are you sure this “witch” (Such a derogatory term!) is really as bad as you believe she is?  Have you tried talking to her yet?  Maybe she just wants to compliment you on your dog.  It couldn’t hurt to ask.  Even if she turns out to be a jerk, don’t let her get in the way of enjoying your time in this new land.  You’re only feeling homesick.  Making good friends seems to have made you feel a little better, but you can do more.  Go around and see the sights.  Go down the yellow brick roads less traveled, look at the cities glowing like emeralds.  I can’t guarantee you’ll see any flying monkeys or anything like that, but what you do see should be very magical.  Enjoy your stay, and have a heart (and some brains and steady nerves while you’re at it)!  Ben

 

Dear Kellogg Thoughts,

Me writing because me had massive hunger attack this morning shortly after breakfast, but there nothing me want to eat!  Me okay with fruits and veggies most of the time, but right now, me want something sweet, daring, practically forbidden!  Me been considering cake, but that leave frosting all over me fingers, very messy.  Cupcakes and muffins no good, they too small.  Me out of options!  What me do? WHAT ME D…  What that?  On dat table over dere?  Big plate full of chocolate chippy, round, delicious…  YES!  COOKIES!  That what me been looking for all this time!  This gonna hit the spot!  Cowabunga!  Please kindly disregard this letter.  Signed, (there’s a huge hole at the spot where the signature would normally go; all that remains is a big letter C that looks vaguely like a crescent moon-shaped cookie with a huge bite taken out of it)

Dear whoever you are,

Ummm… thanks for solving your own problem, I guess.  I’m craving something myself after reading your letter.  I think I’ll have a plate of little peanut butter and cracker sandwiches to tide me over until dinner.  Thanks for writing in, and remember to write to us again if life ever bites back!  Ben    

Well, that’s it for this week folks!  Did you like the advice I gave?  What would you suggest to these characters?  What other characters would you like to see in this space?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Pop Culture Questions (And My Answers!) 2: Walking the Plink

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

A new batch of pop culture questions have popped into my head since the last time we met.  These are becoming very fun for me to think about and come up with answers to, and I hope you are enjoying them.  This time, let’s start off in that magical realm sandwiched between the talk shows and the soaps, the home of spinning wheels, big bucks, and the proverbial “No Whammies,” daytime game shows.

How come Plinko is called Plinko? 

I’m a big fan of the game of Plinko from The Price is Right (the one where contestants drop a bunch of oversized poker chips down a peg-filled vertical board to win up to fifty thousand dollars), but I think it could have easily been called something else.  From what I have read, the name of the game comes from the distinct “plink” sound the chips make as they hit the pegs on the board.  Depending on how one thinks of the sound, I can imagine that the game could have had a different name.  Who wouldn’t want to play “Plonk-o,” “Plunk-o,” “Plank-O,” “Bump-o,” or even “Metallic-impact-off-of-a-peg-on-a-vertical-board-o?”  I’ve also heard “plink” being used to describe the sound made when you pluck guitar strings with a pick.  Maybe it’s time for a version of Plinko where you toss acoustic guitars down the board instead of chips.  I would really like to hear the sounds that game might make!     

How come Charlie Bucket is the successor to Willy Wonka, but the other kids don’t get jack squat?

At the end of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen either of its movie adaptations), Charlie Bucket, the last boy remaining from one of the world’s strangest tour groups, is selected by eccentric candy maker Willy Wonka to be his successor, promising to put him in charge of the factory and the Oompa-Loompas when he comes of age.  There’s a part of me that feels the other kids got the short end of the stick, though.  After all, Charlie may have come from nothingness to achieve great things, but as far as I’m concerned, beyond a good heart and what seems to be a good head on his shoulders, I don’t know if he’s got what it takes to keep a chocolate factory up and running. 

If he really wants to be a success, I think Charlie should bring the other kids into the fold and put them in charge of certain factory departments that could use some new life.  Augustus Gloop could lead personal tours of the chocolate room and lead swimming classes in the chocolate river on alternate Thursdays (Of course, they’d need to seal up the pipes whenever he was around, but what’s a few lost hours of business when the whole community can get some exercise?).  Veruca Salt could head up the new roast goose (or roast squirrel if you read the book or saw the second movie) division which could diversify the factory’s food offerings.  Violet Beaureguarde might have some good ideas for new types of gum or ways to work blueberries into existing candy recipes, and if we’re going with the first movie’s Violet, then I think her dad, the used car salesman, could put together an aggressive advertising campaign.  Mike Teavee, having experienced the wonders of television chocolate firsthand, could work with the Oompa-Loompas to send small samples of candy products over the airwaves and thus creating the phrase “must-eat TV”; at least you could put him to work with a focus group watching the commercials Violet’s dad makes and testing the general public to see if is ready for distribution.  If Charlie puts the kids to work in the right ways, at least the little brats won’t be terrorizing the rest of the world!        

How come “I am the Eggman, they are the Eggmen, I am the Walrus (goo goo gachoo)?”

To be quite honest, I always thought this lyric from the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” was a little weird, although it is very catchy.  The whole song itself is a bit out to lunch, but for me, this part really takes the first prize in terms of absolute lunacy.  If I were to take this lyric literally (and why wouldn’t I?), I would be both the Eggman and the Walrus, but there would still be two or more Eggmen off in a corner somewhere, “sitting on a pillow, waiting for the van to come” (and take them away from this crazy song?).  Who are these other Eggmen, and what are they doing elbowing in on my Eggman-based territory?  How can I be both an Eggman and a Walrus?  Am I an Eggman dressed as a walrus or at least wearing a walrus pelt?  Am I a walrus wearing the husk of an Eggman (and would I be arrested if I did that in real life)?  What’s the “goo goo gachoo” part for; is it the cry of a baby confused by why Uncle Paul McCartney and his three weird friends are singing a weird lullaby?  I think there’s a lot more questions this song raises than it actually answers!

I hope you all enjoyed this question-and-answer session as much I enjoyed writing it.  If you have any other questions you’d like to see answered, let me know in the comments.  Thanks for reading, and be careful about what cornflakes you sit on!