Saturday, September 28, 2013

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

It took me a few days, but I finally got to watch the pilot episode of Joss Whedon's new TV adventure series, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Last summer's crowd-pleasing, enormous hit, "The Avengers"set the bar pretty high for Whedon-backed super hero stories, so I was a bit hesitant to get too excited for this show, lest it not live up to my expectations. Even a really good show can fail to live up to high expectations.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Disney Animated Fun

Last August, a couple of Disney movies I watched a lot when I was a child were released on Blu-Ray, and I recently checked them out from the library to see if they are as great as I remember them being. 

The first is "The Sword and the Stone". This is a Disney-fied retelling of the King Arthur/Merlin/sword story from old English mythology. This version has the sword miraculously appearing in a courtyard, upon the death of the rightful King. We meet Arthur, who is growing up in the court at Camelot as a 12-year-old orphan called "Wart", trying to be a squire, and failing miserably. Into Wart's life comes Merlin, who is a time-traveling wizard who takes him on as his pupil, so he can teach him all about the world and science and such. Entertaining hijinks occur, as Merlin changes himself and the boy into various animals including fish, birds and squirrels. They meet a wicked witch named "Madame Mim" and there is a wizard's duel, and eventually Wart finds himself as squire to Kay in a big tournament that has been declared to find a King. Having forgotten Kay's sword, Wart runs to find one and pulls the sword from the stone. The rest... is history. Though this film was never my favorite, I did like it a lot, but I have to say it did not hold up as well as I expected, and I actually dozed off while watching it. I hardly ever fall asleep during movies, especially short movies with musical numbers. Needless to say, I'm disappointed. It's still fun, and small children might enjoy it, but it is not as charming or entertaining as I remembered. 

The second is "Robin Hood", with all the characters played by various animals. Robin is a fox (as is Maid Marion, conveniently), Little John is a bear (voiced brilliantly by the same guy who plays the bear, Baloo, in "The Jungle Book"). This is also from English mythology, and follows the basic story of Robin stealing from the rich to feed the poor, dressing up in costumes and putting on voices and generally making Prince John look like a fool. There are excellent musical numbers, humor, and enchanting characters. This movie is still just as entertaining as it was when I was young. The story is exciting and fast-paced; the action is very Disney-friendly (no one dies, but villains get hit in the face with pies, piled on top of one another and knocked silly) but it's still enjoyable; and the script is witty and charming. Yes, it is for children, and yes, it is mild-mannered, but I thought it held up to the test of time very well. "Robin Hood" has long been my favorite Disney movie, and it still holds a spot in my heart.

In February, another favorite, "The Jungle Book", will be released on Blu-Ray. I always loved the relationship between Baloo and Mowgli, the guidance and long-suffering of Bagheera and the sinister Shere Kahn and the silly snake, Kaa. I can't wait to watch it again.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Two Funny Oldies

When my brothers and sisters and I were growing up, our dad made sure our cultural education was filled with well-written, often hilarious and intelligent entertainment. 

Including a few episodes of the mid-to-late 1980's Steven Spielberg creation "Amazing Stories", which was somewhat similar in temperament to "The Twilight Zone". Each week's episode featured a stand-alone short story, ranging from sci-fi to fantasy or horror. Each episode was written and directed by different artists, including Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood,  and Danny DeVito.

My dad was pretty excited to show us one particular feature, from Season 2, Ep. 16. called "The Family Dog". I could tell you about it, but I would rather just show you. Enjoy:

Still to this day, we quote this cartoon. The dry humor, the facial expressions, the plight of the dog and the other family members, the way the little girl talks-- all hilarious.

Another short that we loved was this 1978 classic parody of Star Wars-- from long long ago in a galaxy where Youtube, How It Should Have Ended, Bad Lip Reads and "Spaceballs" had yet to be created: "Hardware Wars"
While it is rather dated, this is still pretty funny. 

I especially love the pastries on the princess, but the best part is when Auggie Ben Doggie grabs his head and Fluke says, "What is it, Auggie Ben Doggie? Did you feel a great disturbance in the force? Like thousands of voices cried out in fear and were suddenly silenced?" and Doggie says, "No, no, it's just a little headache." Ha ha... 

It was a strange decade, for sure.