Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rise From Your Grave And Sell My Tie-ins!

I saw a McDonald's commercial over the weekend involving a Monsters Vs. Aliens tie-in featuring Grimace! He didn't have a speaking part, but by God, he's alive!

In honor of this momentous occasion--and because I don't want to write about how we got to the IMAX at Jordan's Furniture at noon to get tickets for the 3 o'clock show, only to discover that every show was sold out until seven so spent all day in Framingham--here's another one of these things...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

FWS: Episode 4

With Steve's offer of a new co-host opening apparently still standing, struggling comedian Chip Newton sees his chance for a new career. But what will become of Fred?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Where's the Rocket?

Over the years, the internet has helped me find the names of movies, magicians who cut off their legs with a chainsaw to the tune of The Peter Gunn Theme, even the identity of Donald Duck's mother. And yet, one challenge, finding a cartoon about anthropomorphic fireworks has remained unmet. That is, until now.

Yes, I was looking back over the weekend and realized after over three years, I still had not found any evidence of this thing ever existing. So I tried again, I even made the rounds of movie forums hoping someone would have known what I was referring to. Only this time, I tried to remember a bit more. "Fireworks" and "firecrackers" weren't getting me anywhere. What else could you call them? Then I tried "rocket." And the greatest thing happened.

I found this. An animated short called The Remarkable Rocket (1975), narrated by David Niven. Based on a short story by Oscar Wilde. I had a few details mixed up. It turns out it's not about the little runt that everyone else makes fun of--in fact the main character is a pompous jerk--although there are squibs in the story. And it certainly doesn't take place during an Independence Day celebration. And perhaps most importantly, something I should have mentioned when I first posed the question, they aren't so much rockets with faces as they are disembodied cylindrical heads with cones attached to the top.

Well, I think I'm running out of childhood things to find that people didn't believe existed. I'm sure I can think of something else eventually, but I'm going to savor this discovery for a while. This one was driving me nuts.

Anyway, this being St. Patrick's Day and all, why don't you check out Irishman Oscar Wilde's original short story, and as you're reading it in your best stately British David Niven voice, picture the characters as horrifying disembodied cylindrical heads with cones growing out of their scalps.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Internet...Is There Anything it Doesn't Know?

Thanks to the internet, I now know the name of a movie that used to be on HBO all the time about a kid with red toy telephone who uses is to talk to his dead father, but it isn't really his father, it's the spirit of an evil magician who has possessed a ventriloquist dummy the boy found in an old mine shaft or something and decided to bring home for some reason.

It's called Making Contact, or Joey for the German version and, among other things, it was the first film directed by Roland "Leno-chinned Godzilla" Emmerich. Everything about this movie is crazy. Emmirich, living in West Germany in 1985, wanted to connect with American audiences, so in addition to being an English language film (which was later dubbed into German for hometown audiences, so the German actors recorded the whole movie in English, then dubbed it in their native language.) every frame of the movie beats you over the head with "Boy, we sure are in AMERICA!"

It begins with a funeral. A nine-year-old boy named Joey has just lost his father. He's pretty broken up about it. He returns to his bedroom, which has to hold the record for most American icons in one movie scene, ever. This kid's got a poster of Yoda, Return of the Jedi bedsheets, a Return of the Jedi lunchbox, a TIE fighter, one of those kick-ass AT-ATs, Sesame Street curtains, board games of the A-Team and Q-bert, a He-Man folder, Smurf stickers, a Pac-Man clock, a plush Donald Duck, in fact lots of Donald stuff, and the EXACT SAME giant stuffed raccoon I had when I was a kid. Oh yeah, and this thing:

Anyway, Joey looks at a picture of his dad. I should mention that for research purposes, I watched both the American and German versions. In the German version, it then cuts to a flashback of Joey and his dad playing basketball. But in the American version, he just looks out his window at the basketball net above the garage. I don't know why there's a discrepancy, maybe Emmerich thought Germans wouldn't understand that Joey used to play basketball with his dad unless they were actually shown a scene of it, or if he just assumed all Americans played basketball with their dads, so a scene depicting it would just be superfluous. In any case, just then, the basketball in the corner of the room rolls over to him, and all the toys start to fly around the room. Just like in Poltergeist (1982).

His toy robot, Charlie, comes alive, and makes a bunch of R2D2 sounds. In the German version, Charlie actually chirps out the thing from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), before extending his little arm and touching fingers with Joey. Like E.T. (1982) To be fair, E.T. ripped off the touching fingers bit from Michelangelo.

Just in case all of that wasn't enough to convince you we're in AMERICA, the next scene starts in the classroom, just as the kids are finishing up "My Country 'Tis of Thee" Yep, this sure wasn't filmed in West Germany. Oddly enough, several of the kids are wearing baseball caps in the classroom. We don't take kindly to that here in America.

The kids all have eggs on their desks for some reason. One kid replaces Joey's egg with a black plastic one. Joey opens it and finds a toy skeleton and a note. The kids around him all start laughing. Really? What a bunch of little jerks! "Ha ha! Your dad's dead!" The one who wrote the note is probably just lashing out on account of his freakishly giant teeth. They're like billboards; he should rent out the space.

Joey somehow makes an egg float. Also, one of the girls in his class looks a lot like Drew Barrymore in E.T.

I was determined to figure out where this movie is supposed to take place. You know, besides AMERICA. While the kid is on his creepy red phoe talking to his dead father, you can see a Terry Bradshaw poster and a Steelers pennant on his wall, so they could be in Pittsburgh. But he's also got L.A. Lakers pennants, so that doesn't help any. Still, there had to be some clues, and sure enough, plastered all over his closet door were bumper stickers for "The Old Country" and Z100. The Old Country is Busch Gardens in Williamsburg and Z100 is a radio station in Virginia Beach. Nowadays it's Virgina Beach's "Blazin' Hip Hop". Yeah, I looked it up, you wanna fight about it? If that's not enough to convince anyone that the movie is set in Virgina Beach, then the guy on the radio newscast saying that all the phones in Virginia Beach went haywire in the next scene should seal the deal. Hmm...I wonder if the phone troubles could be caused by Joey's late night calls?

On top of having every awesome toy from the 80s and a self-aware robot sidekick, this kid has a dog, too. I'm starting to hate this kid. He takes his dog Scooter and the robot outside, and Scooter chases Charlie into the yard of the old Fletcher House, which looks an awful lot like the Bates Motel. Charlie finds an opening into the basement, makes a few more blatant Artoo noises, and discovers a half-opened crate containing a creepy old dummy. The dummy, which looks a bit like George Burns, opens his eyes and says something along the lines of "Blaaah!!!" spooking poor Charlie and sending him scurrying off. Joey goes off and looks for his robot pal, but can't fit in the way Charlie came in, so he opens the hatch and enters the basement. He sees the creepy dummy, picks it up, and brings it home for some reason. Just to clarify, he sees this thing and takes it home.

As Joey rides his bike, I swear to God, they're playing the same music as E.T. According to the credits, all the music was composed and conducted by Paul Gilreath. Apparently, he "composed" the music by tape-recording soundtracks to other movies, and "conducted" it by pressing play.

Joey wows his mom by making his glass of milk slide across the table to him using only his mind. His mother, rather than being frightened, thinks it's amazing and has him do it again. Now, that kind of reminds me of something, but I can't put my finger on it. It wouldn't be that scene in Poltergeist when the mother was fascinated by the baby sliding across the floor, would it? No, no, it must be something else.

His mom starts to change her mind about the whole thing being fun and games when she hears her son talking to someone in his room. He's holding a glowing red toy telephone. He says he's talking to his dad. Joey's happy, but Mom's a bit creeped out.

Joey doesn't seem to know or care where he's getting these new powers, but he knows what to do with them: blow up the toy tanks of all those other jerk kids! It's a bit like Carrie, or that Twilight Zone where the kid could make anything happen simply by wishing it. I should probably mention that episode was made into one of the segments for Twilight Zone: The Movie, since it came out in 1983 and could be one of the dozens of movies Making Contact "borrows" from.

Joey's velcro-wearing teacher has a little talk with Joey's mother about her son's recent behavior, and possibly to score a date. Mom and the teacher go outside to look for Joey in the driveway, and guess what? It looks like the driveway from E.T.! I don't know how a movie that contains zero aliens can rip off E.T. this much, but seriously, this movie can't stop ripping off E.T.. Hell, there's even an inexplicable scene with some sort of bizarre Oscar the Grouch, E.T. hybrid, that doesn't ever appear again or have anything to do with the plot.

They open the garage door, and the evil dummy makes the car drive on it's own. They jump out of the way just in time and the car crashes into a ditch and burns.

Elsewhere, Joey's closet opens, revealing a cave, as music that sound's a bit like the Emperor's March plays. Which is fitting, because the evil dummy proceeds to attack Joey with lightning bolts, just like the emperor in Return of the Jedi (1983)! But Joey manages to subdue the dummy and ties him up in the closet. With E.T. wallpaper. Backwards E.T. wallpaper

Mom and the teacher visit the graveyard. He tells her that he knows some people at the university that might be able to help Joey. Well that's helpful. In the next scene, the road is closed off and there's white trucks parked in front of the house. A bunch of guys in white labcoats pull up to the hose and start putting tubes and computers everywhere. Fucking E.T. again!!! The head scientist is really, really creepy looking. I somehow forget to get a screen capture of her, but it's probably for the best.

Across town, or somewhere, the kids from school, angered that the little fatherless wimp Joey blew up their tanks with his damn mind, are plotting revenge. "This battle isn't being fought for revenge, it's being fought for honor." Okay, sorry kid. I don't know what to say about these kids. They're basically the Virginia Beach chapter of The Goonies (1985). They've got the requisite fat kid, but Data's been replaced with this lil' Lando.

The kid with the enormous teeth is holding a Darth Vader mask under his arm. He's the leader.

Their plans for "honor" are soon cut short, though, when they are trapped by the dummy at the Fletcher place. Sally (the Drew Barrymore-looking girl) tells Joey that the others, the ones who made fun of him because his dad was dead and were in the middle of planning an attack on Joey when they where caught, have been trapped in the Fletcher house and she begs him to use his powers to save them. Riiiight. Joey thinks of the dummy, but assures himself that it's tied up in his closet. The one with the backwards E.T. wallpaper. Right? He opens the closet door and finds the ropes untied. The dummy was gone. Maybe bringing home a creepy-ass dummy from a creepy-ass old basement wasn't the best idea.

Meanwhile, the Goonies are trapped in a system of caves. They decide to split up. The first group sees a giant rock snake. As in a giant snake made out of rocks. The second group runs into the rock snake as well. Or maybe it's a different one. But the third group get a horrifying mummy. The fat kid, who is by himself, opens a door to discover...

A giant, killer hamburger!

The lead kid with the Darth Vader mask sees...Darth Vader. I'm not sure if they're all supposed to see they're greatest fear or what is going on there. And if so why are most of them afraid of snakes made of rocks?

Meanwhile, on the set of E.T., cops and white-coated scientists have flood lights all over the woods. Down below, there's a giant labyrinth. The ground shakes and the dummy's giant head comes up. Oh come on, now they're ripping off The Muppet Movie (1979)!

Joey sees the dummy sitting on the edge of an arm chair facing an Exit. When he comes around to the other side, the spirit of ventriloquist Jonathan Fletcher appears. He tells Joey that many years ago, an evil spirit took over his dummy and trapped poor Fletcher. He said the only way to free himself is to go to the door and into the light. So Poltergeist again.

So Joey opens the door, and he's instantly transported to the back of Falkor the luck dragon, who takes him on a whirlwind birds-eye view tour of Fantasia. Or maybe it's somebody's colon. It's hard to tell. But the point is, by opening the door, he's saved the day. The Goonies find him laying motionless and he has to be put on life support. E.T. again.

The kids, just like their Stephen Speilberg-directed counterparts, give an interview after their ordeal. The main kid said he saw "Him." When asked who, he says, "You know, my hero." Except he doesn't say, "my hero." That part's dubbed, because his mouth is clearly saying something else. Could it be that even though images of Darth Vader, and nearly everything else found in Star Wars, were used extensively throughout the movie, they weren't legally allowed to say his name? Cause that'd be weird. The E.T. girl tells the horror-faced woman, "The light was so beautiful." Now Emmerich's trying to compare her to Carol Ann? Too late, buddy. You already established that she's a rip-off of Drew Barrymore. It's bad enough you threw her in there with The Goonies kids. Now you're just being greedy.

So then there's a Poltergeist-like storm, and the scientists announce Joey is dead. His mother cries, and all the kids wan to see him. They say Joey would have made a good leader because he saved them despite the way they treated him. The girl picks up Charlie, the robot that the movie forgot about since Act 1. The robot comes alive, then a bunch Millennium Falcon two TIE fighters fly out of Joey's room. Joey opens his eyes. E.T. music swells. The end.

The movie is almost done "paying homage" to every American production it can think of, but there's one more left. Check out the fourth line up from the bottom:

And others? Did the Professor and Maryanne work on this movie?

Well anyway, I saw this thing I don't even know how many times when I was growing up. But somehow never knew the name, and as I got older and tried to describe it to people, all I got were blank stares. But now, thanks to the internet, I was able to actually track it down and prove to all the doubters that I didn't jut imagine it. But that's not all, I finally found something else I was looking for, too. But that will wait for tomorrow. I've learned my lesson. You know. The lesson about wads.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Apologies in Advance

A pirate is sitting at the bar, and the bartender says "How'd you get that eyepatch?" The pirate says, "Arrr, livin' on a ship can get a bit cramped, so some of the lads decided we should take a portion of the cargo hold where we store our plunder and convert it ta livin' quarters. Not everyone was open to the idea."

"So they stabbed you in the eye?"

"What? No! So we had a vote, fair and democratic like, to see whether or not we should give up some loot space fer some livin' space. The results were split down the middle, seven men for it, and seven opposed, with one undecided."

"So the guys that were against it broke into your quarters while you slept and plucked out your eye to get you to change your vote!"

"No! Stop doing that! So...I approached the undecided lad and asked if there was anythin' I could do to persuade him ta vote for the extra livin' space."


"And nothin', he agreed ta vote in favor of it, and that's why I wear this eyepatch."

"I don't get it."

"You know the old saying, boy. An eye for an 'Aye'."

On another note, I made more xtranormal movies.
First up is a series called "The Fantastic World of Sports:

Then there are the semi-autobiographical ones...

And the ones that don't really fit in any category (the last one is my favorite):

So, there you go.