Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Latest Targ's Up!

And we're back!

I'm back home in Athabasca, because I just wanted a day to lie around the house and relax and unwind before heading back to work on Monday morning. Plus, I wanted to get a podcast up!

This week's episode of U62: The Targ is available for download. This week, I've got Episode 79: My Christmas Scrapbook. This one is a collection of clips I recorded live on location at various locales throughout my Christmas vacation.

Give it a listen!

And now, I'm going to go buy some frozen burger patties...I want to break in this George Foreman Grill I got for Christmas.

Friday, December 28, 2007

God, It's Good

Back from another lovely outing in the city. All my outings in the city are lovely.... got me some new Star Trek action figures for the collection, and I even bought a couple of calendars. It's weird. Last year, I was hoarding calendars...every town in Athabasca that was offering a free one, I would snatch it up. But there were a lot less free calendars this year. And now, with the new year just a scant 4 days away, I am calendar-less. Well, they're all half-price now anyway, so i bought two.

Anyway, I just knew that Christmas vacation wasn't going to get away until I went to see a movie. I saw Sweeny Todd, because nothing says "Christmas" like a musical about killing people and serving them up as meat pies! That, and, it's the latest from Tim Burton, and I do love his films.

Sweeny Todd is an amazing film. I loved it. It's definitly the most gory musical I've ever seen. and Johnny Depp spends a lot of time looking pained and tortured. It does have it's frightening moments, and I did cover my eyes a few times. But yup, it's defintly the best filmed version of Sweeny Todd since Jersey Girl.

There'll be a proper review on the official site in the next couple of days.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bored on Vacation

I'm bored.

'tis a terrible thing to be when on vacation.

I'm at home at my parents' house in Entwistle right now. Ma and Pa have the tv tuned to their judge shows and they're down for the afternoon. I'm not a fan of the judge shows. I've played almost all the games I like to play online...I'm so bored, I just might have to start reading the book my sister loaned me.

I've got to be careful. Borrowing books from my sister might be the only books I'm borrowing for a while. I've been alluding to this in my Facebook page for most of this week. As I was leaving Athabasca...literally, my final minutes before leaving, I went "Hey, where's my library card?" and I suddenly went nuts, tearing apart my house looking for my library card. Never did find it, and it's been bugging me this whole week. I guess I've got a touch of the OCD.

So, I'm just here, goofing around on the computer, looking at Wikipedia...in fact, I read a pretty interesting article in today's Edmonton Journal about the state of Wikipedia. Seems that some thing Wikipedia has gotten too big, and a group of Wikipedia's volunteer administrators, citing quality over quantity, have gotten a little too militant in deleting entries they deem irrelivant. Even Wikipedia's founder was at the centre of this debate, as his one-line entry about his favourite meat shop got deleted as soon as it was put up.

I got caught up in the debate. A few months ago, I created an entry for Tusker, this Dreamworks computer animated film that got cancelled. I created it mainly because I wondered whatever happened to it and spent an afternoon looking for information...and then stuck all this information on Wikipedia. But yet, there it was, just a few hours later, flagged for speedy deletion. Why? "Lots of films get canceled, and they don't have entries." I was given one week to beef up the article, and if I didn't it would be deleted. As it's now almost three months later and the article's still there, I'm guessing it's safe for now.

I also keep threatening to improve the Wikipedia entry for Athabasca. I mean, the history section in that article actually has very little to do with the history of the town. I've even gone down to Athabasca's library and gotten the town's self-published history book. (Just about every town in Alberta has a self-published history book.) I can make that Wikipedia entry just so much better. I mean, just look at the entry I wrote for my home town.

But first, I need to get that book out of the library again. But before that, I need to find my library card.

Amazing how this all comes full circle, eh?

Anyway, I brought along Clippy, so I think I'll hit Entwistle and record this week's podcast live on location.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My Christmas Gift to You: the Ghostbusters Christmas Episode

So, another Christmas is winding down. I guess I'm officially a bacehlor...I got me a George Foreman Grill. Oh, the interesting things you get when you're difficult to shop for...

Anyway, before officially calling Christmas done, I had to share this with you, all six people who read my blog.

One of my most vivid memories of Christmas time TV wasn't a Christmas special, but a Christmas episode of one of my favourite cartoons. I'm talking about the Christmas episode of The Real Ghostbusters.

Here's the story: the Ghostbusters are coming home from a job on Christmas eve, when they drop through a rift in the space/time continuum, and wind up in Victorian London. Their PKE meters go off the charts, and they managed to save an old man from three ghosts. When they back to the future, they discover they've done something horrible. The old man was Ebenezer Scrooge. The three ghosts they captured where the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. By catching the three ghosts, Scrooge never learned the true meaning of Christmas, and Christmas as we know it no longer exists. So, the solution: Egon builds a special suit, and goes on a dangerous journey into the Ecto Containment Unit to retrieve the three ghosts. Meanwhile, the rest of the Ghostbusters initiate "Plan B," which is return to Victorian London, and try to teach Scrooge the true meaning of Christmas themselves.

So please enjoy The Real Ghostbusters in X-mas Marks the Spot, written by J. Michael Straczynski.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The new Knight Rider

I've been wanting to blog about this for a while now, and since I'm just relaxing at my sister's place, counting donw the last two sleeps until Christmas morning, now seems like a perfect time and place to do it.

For those who haven't heard, they're bringing back Knight Rider!

Yup, the success of the live-action Transformers has led Hollywood to believe that there's still interest in talking super-vehicles. So, they've decided to try a new, updated Knight Rider.

But this show is shaping up to be Knight Rider: The Next Generation. It is a flat-out sequel to the original, and is filled with many references and homages to the original series.

The new driver is a man named Mike Tracer, a former Army Ranger who's had a failed career as a race car drive. But then, he's contacted to drive a new talking super-vehicle called the "Knight Industries THREE Thousand," or "KITT." And then he's off to save the world from all kinds of bad guys.

Should I give the big spoiler? Sure. It's revealed at the end of the pilot that Mike Tracer is actually the long-lost son of Michael Knight. Hence the whole "next Generation" aspect.

But who cares about that? We all want to know about the new KITT. KITT is now a customized Ford Mustand Shelby GT 500. KITT's new voice is being done by Will Arnet, still best remembered as GOB [Jobe], the failed magician, smarmy Bluth brother on Arrested Development.

What's interesting is that this is being done as what they call a "backdoor pilot." First, they're making a 2-hour TV movie. If the ratings on the TV movie are good enough, it'll be given the go-ahead to become a series. They just finished filming the TV movie, and it'll air in February.

So, if you want a new Knight Rider on the air, check out that TV movie in February!

As you probably know, this isn't the first time they've tried to bring back Knight Rider. Here's a rundown of previous attempts:

Knight Rider 2000 - This reunion movie from 1991 was actually also the backdoor pilot for a new TV show. In the distant future of the year 2000, the Foundation for Law and Government (the folks who gave us KITT and Michael Knight), are back with their new supercar, the Knight Industries Four Thousand. Michael Knight is called out of retirement to pilot the Knight 4000, but Michael Knight refuses, saying that KITT is the only supercar for him. But, when a dangerous seriel killer gets out of prison, Michael Knight breaks KITT's computer units out of storage, and installs KITT in his ol' 57 Chevy to track him down. But, after sustaining heavy damage, Michael Knight finally has the bright idea to install KITT in the Knight Industries Four Thousand body. This is on DVD actually...it was inclused as a bonus episode in the Knight Rider: The Complete First Season boxed set.

Knight Rider 2010 - In a post-apocolypic, Mad Max future, a lone road warrior fights for law and order on America's highways, with the spirit of his dead partner installed in his car's AI. This was on in 1994, as part of Universal Studio's "Action Pack" of TV movies...the same series of TV movies that spawned Hercules: The Legendary Journies and TekWar. I never saw it, but my brother did, and told me it was "very weird."

(it's so bad, I can't even find a clip on YouTube)

TKR: Team Knight Rider - A syndicated TV show that lasted for one season in 97/98. The Foundation for Law and Government is back with a team of FIVE talking supervehicles, and they travel the world in a talking C5-Galaxy, fighting all manner of superthreats. Again, the only person I know of who's actually watched this is my brother, who described it as "Bad. Very bad."

And don't forget, there's still a movie version of Knight Rider in the works as well. As I've been told, they can have the new TV show and still work on a movie version because Universal Studios, the makers of the original TV show, still own the TV rights, while the creator of Knight Rider, Glen Larson, personally owns the movie rights. Larson's movie is currently in development at the Weinstein Company.

But now, would someone PLEASE bring back Airwolf?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Latest Targ's Up!

Wow! Last week's episode was a day late, and now, next week's is TWO DAYS EARLY! What gives?

Well, last week's was late because I was off on a supersized weekend. And now, I'm heading off to spend Christmas vacation in Red Deer, so rather than do a repeat, I decided to be all keener and get it up early!

Anyway, next week's is Episode 78: Christmas with my Brother and Sister. I share some wacky tales about...Christmas with my brother and sister. Weird how that works, eh?

Give it listen!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hellboy II Trailer

Out of all the summer blockbusters coming next year, here's one that's been rather low on my radar. Hellboy 2!

Hee hee! They actually put "From the director of Pan's Labyrinth" in it! And it actually is from the director of Pan's Labyrinth!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Blade Runner on DVD

I've been doing a ton of blogging today, so I guess I should take a moment to acknowledge the biggest DVD release of the day.

I know I'm Captain Sci-Fi Guy and all that, but I've never been able to get into Blade Runner. When I finally rented it and sat down and watched it a few years ago, I walked away with a resounding "Meh." However, I do acknowledge it's impact on sci-fi films, respect it for that, and admit that the film has its die-hard fans.

So, at long last, Blade Runner finally gets the super-mega-ultimate DVD edition that it deserves. But not just any edition. Director Ridley Scott had never, ever been able to finish the film to his liking. So, the studio finally gave him a chance to sit down, clean up some of the special effects, and finally re-edit and finish the film the way he wanted. The end result is Blade Runner: The Final Cut, which finally represents Scott's vision of the film. The Final Cut even got a limited theatrical release back in October.

Anyway, Blade Runner is out in a slew of editions to suit your needs. What do we got here:

Blade Runner: The Final Cut - 2-disc Special Edition - OK, so you got The Final Cut on disc 1, and disc 2 contains a bazillion featurettes on the making of the film.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut - 4-disc Collector's Edition - So, you get the two discs listed above. Disc 3 contains three other known versions of the film (the original theatrical edition, the European version, and 1992's Director's Cut), and disc 4 contains a feature-length documentary about the film entitled Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut - 5-disc Ultimate Collector's Edition - If there's a person in your life that loves Blade Runner, then this is what you want to put under the Christmas tree for them. So, you get all 4 discs listed above. The fifth DVD contains a fifth version of the film...the "Workprint" version. This was the version shown for test screenings way back in 1982. It got leaked to theatres in 1990, and its unexpected popularity led to the creation of the 1992 Director's Cut. But that's not all! It comes packaged in a replica of the briefcase that Harrison Ford wields in the film, and in addition to the 5 DVDs, you also get a series of art cards, a lenticular image of Harrison Ford, a letter from Ridley Scott explaining the creation of the Final Cut, a little sketch that Ridley Scott drew, a replica of the origami unicorn that Harrison Ford gets at the end of the film, and a Hot Wheels version of a "spinner" -- the film's famous flying police car.

And this is all available in regular DVD, HD-DVD, and Blu-Ray.

Also out today and notable is The Simpsons Movie. There's also The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles: Volume II - The War Years. Many say that these episodes, with Young Indy in the trenches of World War I, is when the series really took off.

The Hobbit: coming Christmas 2010

We're finally getting our movie version of The Hobbit...by the same creative team that brought us The Lord of the Rings.

They're actually going to do two Hobbit movies...the first one will be a straight-up adaptation of The Hobbit. For the second one, they're going to cull through all the notes, appendices, and annotations that JRR Tolkien made to create something that bridges the gap between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Peter Jackson and his partner (both creatively and romantically) Fran Walsh have signed on to executive produce...no word yet on whether Jackson will direct, although we have been promised that Jackson will be involved creatively.

They want filming to begin in 2009. Just like Lord of the Rings, the two films will be made simultaneously, with The Hobbit due out Christmas 2010, and The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Filler in Christmas 2011.

In case you don't understand why this is so huge, The Hobbit has been involved in a legal quagmire, that was only made worse when The Lord of the Rings was a huge hit and thus everyone wanted to make The Hobbit.

Quagmire run down: OK, so New Line made Lord of the Rings. Movie rights to The Hobbit were owned by MGM. They started suing each other for The Hobbit. Meanwhile, Peter Jackson felt that he got screwed out of some of the profits for The Fellowship of the Ring. That eventually degenerated into Jackson and New Line suing each other. But they assure us that all legal stuff is now resolved, and there's nothing stopping them.

In case you don't know, despite the fact that I've never been able to plow through the exposition-dense Lord of the Rings, I do count The Hobbit as one of my favourite books and have read it several times. And based on the climactic battles that each LOTR film had, I can't wait to see the Battle of Five Armies.

Letters to Santa

This news story came down the wire at work today, and I just had to share it with the world, cuz I found it interesting.

The Universal Postal Union has released their statistics on letters to Santa. The UPU is the department of the UN that co-ordinates post offices the world over to assist in the delivery of international mail.

According to the UPU, Santa is getting over 6 million letters this year. Santa has five million helpers in 20 countries to make sure that every letter gets an answer. That comes out to 660,000 post offices that receive Santa's mail.

For some odd reason, most letters to Santa get sent to Finland. Finland receives letters to Santa from over 150 countries.

But we all know that Santa lives in Canada. I know it, because the CBC said so. Canada gets the second-most letters to Santa, and those Canadian helpers send out replies in 26 languages.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Latest Targ's Up!

Got this week's episode of The Targ!

It's a day late because I had my super-sized long weekend, and I was too busy relaxing and goofing off to make one. So, I quickly threw one together this afternoon. It's a slapdash effort, which is why I call it Episode 77: Slapdash II.

Give it a listen, if you please!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My New Star Wars Action Figure: A Photo Essay

So, I returned to Athabasca to take on the new week and, being the workaholic that I am, my first stop was the office, to download all the news releases and stuff I missed while I was gone.

I threw open the door to my office and there was a big surprise waiting for me. There was a FedEx box on my desk!

I took the box home, and began to ponder what could be inside.

Hey, give me a break. I hadn't freshened up from the trip.

Then I realized a better way to figure out what was in the box was to actually read the shipping label, and/or open the box.

The return address on the box read:

Lucasfilm Ltd.
20100 Vermont Avenue
Torrance, CA

Lucasfilm! That meant it could only be one thing.

for those who haven't been listening to the podcast, let me clue you in.

Several months ago, I was doing some window-shopping at the Star Wars online store. And there it was, the coolest and rarest Star Wars action figure of them all. The McQuarrie concept R2-D2 and C-3P0. Ralph McQuarrie is the artist who came up with a lot of the designs for Star Wars, and this year they'd actually been releasing action figures of the original McQuarrie designs. The McQuarrie R2-D2 and C-3P0 were available only to those who went to Star Wars Celebration Europe...the massive, official Star Wars convention in England. Or, available to members of Hyperspace...the section of the official Star Wars website that you have to pay to get into.

And, lo and behold, my best friend pays for Hyperspace!

One quick e-mail to my best friend later, and I was waiting the 6-8 weeks to get my McQuarrie concept R2-D2 and C-3P0.

I still have to find out why it got delivered to the office, and not my home. It matters not. It was the perfect end to a super-long weekend!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Thoughts on Pirates of the Caribbean, and some childhood nostalgia

As I was finishing up my Chrismtas shopping the other day, I did deviate a little bit and buy a present for myself. It was sparked by a nostalgia for my youth.

Remember being a kid, and how they made those read-along books? You'd have the storybook, and then the book would come with a cassette of some guy reading the story. And then you could listen to the story and read along in your book. In fact, I'm old enough to remember them as records and books. And the really good ones had a song at the end of the story. Yeah, those were a seminal part of my childhood, but they kind of faded away sometime in the 90s as CDs became more prevalent. I guess the CD and book never caught on....

Until today! As I was Christmas shopping in Zellers, I couldn't help but notice a whole slew of them on store shelves. All CDs and books. I was quite tickled as I remembered fond memories of these. Obviously, it's Disney who's leading the charge, as they were all Disney titles.

So I decided to dip into my pocket and get a three-pack...three books, and the accompanying stories on one CD. And what three pack did I get?

Why, the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, of course!

And what am I going to do with this? Why, rip the CD and put it on my MP3 player, so I can have Pirates wherever I go!

Actually, while I'm doing this, I would like to take a moment to clarify my thoughts on the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. At the recent company Christmas party, I drew the DVD of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End out of the big pile of gifts for everyone. At which point, one of my co-workers had to announce to everyone that I hate the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Let me make it clear.

I don't hate the Pirates of the Caribbean films. However, I find that they have one fatal flaw that prevents me from loving them the way the rest of the world does. What is that flaw?

I can't get into the mythology. I just don't buy it.

I think the mythology in the Pirates films that they start setting up in Dead Man's Chest is just much bigger and more convoluted than it needed to be. Eventually, the entire trilogy just collapsed under the weight of the mythology, forcing it go to what I thought was an unsatisfying conclusion.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've followed some rather convoluted mythologies in the past. Hell, I stuck with The X-Files for all nine seasons. But they had nine years to set it up. With something like Pirates, you only get three films. And when you start bogging those films down with exposition...people sitting down to explain the rules of the universe, well, that annoys me.

I think, in a future blog entry, I'll lay out what I think are the rules for a good mythology. And a rule that will most definitly be on that list is: not everything needs to be explained. If your film has to have a conference scene, where all the main characters sit around and explain how the fictional universe works, well, that's a danger sign right there.

That's why I prefer the the Lord of the Rings films over the original novels. I've tried many times to get through the books, but I just can't because every three chapters there's another "conference" chapter where the rules of the universe have to be laid out. However, in the movies, Peter Jackson seemed to know which conference scenes could be left in the books.

Do such conference scenes help flesh out the universe, and make for a rich and detailed experience? Yes. But, if it doesn't advance the plot or develop your characters, it does not need to be in your movie.

And that's why I can't fully embrace Pirates of the Caribbean the way the rest of the world has. The whole darn mythology of Davy Jones and Calypso and Pirate Kings just required too much explaining. And, in At World's End, where the characters are having their conference scene and they have to go so far as to pull out a rule book...right there. I was done. If your characters don't even understand the mythology, then that's a clear sign that it's convoluted.

Some people like their convoluted mythologies. Hell, thanks largely to its convoluted mythology, my best friend will still tell you that The Matrix Reloaded is THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE!!! But not me. After years of Star Trek and X-Files, I'm just done with trying to keep up.

Friday, December 14, 2007

New "Dark Knight" Posters!

The "posted items" feature on Facebook has gone all wonky on me, so I'm going to have to go old school and post the new posters for The Dark Knight here on my blog.

First up, this new poster featuring the Joker. I'll say this...Heath Ledger looks the part from behind.

And not to be outdone, here's the new one featuring Batman.

The new trailer is in theatres this weekend, in front of I Am Legend. If you go to see I Am Legend in IMAX, you'll even get to see the first 6 minutes of the film!

Rumor has it the new trailer will be online Sunday or Monday.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Movie Review: Futurama: Bender's Big Score

So here I am, all safe and sound in my beloved home of Entwistle. I'm here because of a "bank error in my favour." The company ran some numbers and figured I was owed a lot more days off this year than we all thought, so they figured that this was the best time for me to use them up!

So I'm chilling, relaxing, and getting all the Chrismta shopping done. However, while I was Christmas shopping yesterday, I couldn't help but pick up a DVD for myself that I'd been wanting to get for a couple of weeks now.

So, let's review this straight-to-DVD gem, shall we?

Futurama: Bender's Big Score

Directed by Dwayne Carey-Hill

Starring the voices of Billy West, Katey Segal, John diMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, David Herman, Coolio, Mark Hamil, Al Gore, Tom Kenny, and voice acting legend Frank Welker.

Backstory: When Family Guy made its miraculous resurrection thanks to strong DVD sales and incredilby high ratings in reruns, many wondered when Futurama would be making a similar comeback. After all, Futurama suffered pretty much the same fate as Family Guy. The plan was announced that Futurama would be making its comeback in a series of four straight-to-DVD movies. Of course, the grand plan is to eventually chop up these movies into 4 episodes each, giving a long-awaited 16-episode season 5. And the first of those straight-to-DVD movies, Bender's Big Score, came out a couple of weeks ago.

Plot: After getting (their delivery license) renewed, the Planet Express crew makes a delivery to the Nude Beach Planet. While taking some time to enjoy the sun, they notice that Fry has a tatoo of Bender on his ass. Also, they unwittingly sign their personal information over to a gang of nude Internet scammers. The scammers then use this info to take over Planet Express. That's also when they discover the secret of Fry's tatoo: it holds the key to paradox-free time travel. Using this, the scammers reprogram Bender to loot of all history, all the while using their insidious spam to con all of Earth! Can Fry, Leela, and the rest of the Planet Express crew save Earth from the scammers and restore the timeline? Oh, and throw in a great homage to The Terminator, and the latest monkeywrench in the Fry/Leela romance in the form of a man named Lars Filmore.

What I Liked: Ye gods, this thing makes tons of in-jokes and references to Futurama episodes. It's neat to see the origins of certain things, even if they are treated as throwaway gags. And, it's just funny as hell. Mark Hamil piloting a TIE fighter. How Al Gore lost the 2000 election. Again with Gore: "At last! I get to save the world with deadly lasers, and not deadly slide shows." And, best of all, four words: solid gold Death Stars.

What I Didn't Like: As part of the grand scheme to eventually chop this up into 4 TV shows, it is a bit episodic.

Final Verdict: Funny, funny, funny.

3.5 Nibs

DVD Bonus Materials: In this straight-to-DVD package, you get all this to enhance the film:
  • Running commentary with the voice cast and crew
  • Futurama Returns! - A live reading of one of the comic books, by the voice cast.
  • Everybody Loves Hypnotoad - A complete episode of the 31st Century's favourite sitcom
  • Deleted Scenes that never made it past storyboards
  • A Terrifying Message from Al Gore - the special trailer for An Inconvenient Truth that starred Al Gore and Bender. This also has a running commentary featuring Gore and Futurama's creators.
  • Bite My Shiny Metal X - A lecture from a math professor that demonstrates that most of the equations and math jokes in Futurama are actually legitimate math equations!
  • The first draft of the script
  • Character designs for the new characters in the film
  • 3D models and turnarounds of the spaceships
  • The special 5-minute trailer whipped up for the San Diego ComicCon.

And, just one last reminder that the second film, Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs, comes out this spring.

Monday, December 10, 2007

First poster for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"


First trailer's due in February.

If you're a total movie nerd like me, then I'll point out that the poster was drawn by veteran movie poster artist Drew Struzan, who did the movie posters for every Indiana Jones and Star Wars movie.

It actually reminds me of the Temple of Doom poster, which is still one of my favourite movie posters of all time.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Latest Targ's Up!

Got this week's episode of The Targ up!

In Episode 76: The Backwards Sign, I ramble about Star Wars, DXing, and Christmas!

Ah, Christmas! Time to get the tree up! Weird thing is though, I've got no room in my living room, so I'm putting it my bedroom.

You go listen while I go decorate

Friday, December 07, 2007

Here comes Speed Racer

From the creators of The Matrix, and based on the beloved anime.

I dunno...I get a whole live-action Thunderbirds vibe from this.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Very Good Day

Something very cool happened at work today. I'm still kind of tingly about it.

Today, my co-worker and I were mystified when our little old radio station in Athabasca got a letter from Sweden. We opened the letter and inside was a message from the Swedish fellow.

He said he listens to our radio station.

This guy in Stockholm listens to this little old radio station in Athabasca.

The letter said that his hobby was something called DXing, which is when you get a high-powered antenna and try to pick up distant radio signals. And this guy, he picked up 850 the Fox.

Well, actually, he picked it up on January 3, 1999. Something about the postcard from Stockholm triggered something in my mind. I went and looked at our big bulletin board of thank you notes from all the community groups we helped. And yup, on it were a half-a-dozen postcards from Stockholm. All from this guy. He's been writing the station for almost 9 years, trying to confirm that he had picked up the Athabasca radio station.

I figured this guy deserved an answer.

I fired off an e-mail to my bosses in Edson. After all, we don't keep records from 1999. My bosses told me that things like this are actually quite common, and that they just answered a similar letter from Italy in regards to the Edson station. But yup, my bosses asked around and found the folks who were working here almost 9 years ago, and the things that this Swedish guy listen in his letter were consistent with what we were playing 9 years ago.

So I"m going to respond this guy. He's been trying to get an answer out of us for almost 9 years...he deserves one.

I've just been giddy about this all day. Someone in Sweden heard our station. This is it. This what radio's all about. Reaching someone so far away.... This is just very cool.

Ah, Snake-Eyes. Truly the most popular and best known member of G.I. Joe. Just about everyone knows his story.... An unnamed soldier, horribly disfigured and rendered mute when he did a dangerous rescue of one of his teammates. in Vietnam. He returned home to the States to find his parents and beloved twin sister had been killed by a drunk driver. Without a home, he joined his friend Storm Shadow in Japan in Storm Shadow's family business...a ninja clan. But Snake-Eyes excelled in his studies, and soon was competing with Storm Shadow for the Hard Master's favour. But then, when it appeared that Storm Shadow killed the Hard Master, Snake-Eyes returned to the States and lived in seclusion in a cabin in the woods. But, he was sought out by General Hawk to join America's daring, highly-trained special missions force.

And then things got complicated....

So, with a live-action movie version of G.I. Joe, who's going to be playing the Joes' silent badass? Who will be the best there is at what G.I Joe does?

How about...Darth Maul?

That's right...the fanboys' wet dream has come true! Ray Park is playing Snake-Eyes.

And speaking of movies, we've got a few more cast members for the upcoming long-awaited X-Files 2.

Amanda Peet, Xzibit, and Billy Connolly have just joined the cast! Peet and Xzibit play fellow FBI agents...Connolly's role hasn't been disclosed yet.

Filming starts on Monday, and it comes out in July.

But once again, I implore you please...bring back Robert Patrick as Agent Doggett.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Blogger's Guilt

I frequently lament that I don't use my website for something...beneficial. You know, when those monks were protesting in Burma a few months back, it made headlines how people were getting the word out via blog. One friend of mine recently finished a days-long dissertation on feminism and women in pop culture. My best friend has a blog, but he only makes entries when he "has something worth saying." As such, he hasn't made an entry in 7 months.

And me? What do I use my website for?

Here's what I want for Christmas

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bob & Doug on DVD

Wow! Here's a DVD that came out last week that completely escaped my notice.

Bob & Doug McKenzie's Two-Four Aniversary was shown on the CBC back in May. Made to commemerate the 24th anniversary of Strange Brew, the special was a documentary about the origins of Bob & Doug McKenzie, it's impact on pop culture in the 1980s, and interviews with celebrities about how Bob & Doug McKenzie influenced them...including Ben Stiller and Simpsons creator Matt Groening. It was narrated and hosted by former Prime Minister Paul Martin. But the highlight was Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis getting into character one last time to give us some new Bob & Doug McKenzie segments, as they riff on the 21st Century and beyond!

Anyway, Bob and Doug McKenzie's Two-Four Anniversary was released on DVD last week, in what they call the "True Hoser's Collector's Edition." Instead of the one hour special that was shown on CBC, this is an "unrated director's cut," expanded to a full 94 minutes. For bonus materials, you get:
  • Seven classic Great White North segments from SCTV
  • Two tracks off the classic Great White North album
  • Extended interviews with the aforementioned celebrities about Bob & Doug McKenzie
  • Footage of celebrities and groups across the land performing the Bob & Doug McKenzie theme song (when first aired on CBC, this footage was used for promos and commercial bumpers)
  • A Q&A with Bob and Doug McKenzie
  • Some Pizza Hut commercials that Bob and Doug McKenzie did in the late 1980s.

And, each DVD comes with a special commemerative bottle opener.

It's available in stores now.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Latest Targ's Up

Got this week's episode of The Targ up!

This week, we've got Episode 75: Mascot Mania, where I offer up all my thoughts on the Vancouver 2010 mascots, and share some tidbits of mascots past.

Plus, as it's now December, I start playing Christmas songs! So, listen for my first Christmas song of the season!

Listen to it!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Justice League: New Frontier Details

I was talking about this earlier in the week...about how the straight-to-DVD-animated film market is booming. Well, the next in the series being pumped out by DC Comics and Warner Brothers is coming out on February 26, and it's the most anticipated one of the lot.

Justice League: The New Frontier is based on the multiple-award winning, best-selling comic book mini-series of the same name. Written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke (who actually got his start in the industry as a storyboard artist on Batman: The Animated Series), The New Frontier is a re-imagining of the origins of the Justice League, set in the 1950s, and designed to reflect the policies and political spectrum in the world at that time. I read the book about a month ago...it's really good.

And it's been turned into a straight-to-DVD animated movie! And, in a new twist for these straight-to-DVD movies, it'll be available in both a single-disc, movie-only version and a 2-disc super-special edition!

For bonus materials, you get:

Super Heroes United!: The Complete Justice League History - a documentary about the premiere superhero team in the DC universe, the Justice League.

- A running commentary with the directors and animators

- A running commentary with the film's co-writer, and writer of the original story, Darwyn Cooke.

Sneak Preview of Batman: Gotham Knight - The next straight-to-DVD animated film is, well, Batman meets The Animatrix. A group of Japanese animators have had their way with Batman to produce this heavily anime-influenced Batman film. It comes out in the summer, and is meant to fill in the gap between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

That's all on the single-disc, movie-only version. If you go for the 2-disc special edition, you get all this sweet stuff on disc 2:

The Legion of Doom: The Pathology of the Super Villain - a comprehensive documentary on the history and development of super villains.

Comic Book Commentary: Homage to the New Frontier - A featurette all about the original comic, featuring Darwyn Cooke.

Bruce Timm's Favourite Episodes of Justice League Unlimited - Batman: The Animated Series/Superman: The Animated Series/Batman Beyond/Justice League/Justice League Unlimited creator and Justice League: New Frontier co-director Bruce Timm give you his three favourite episodes of Justice League Unlimited: Dark Heart, To Another Shore, and Task Force X.

This is going to be a sweet movie...if it's as half as good as the book!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Your Vancouver Olympic Mascots!

One of the days that all of Canada has been awaiting for has finally arrived. They've announced the mascots for the 2010 Winter Olympics!

We've come a long way from when the organizers of the 1972 Munich games thought that adopting a weiner dog as the mascot would be cute. The Olympic mascots now form the crux of the Olympic marketing campaign towards children. But you know, when I think of the Olympic mascots, I can't help but think of the Snowlets, the owls who were mascots for the 1998 Nagano Games. When I was at the Olympic museum in Nagano, they had the mascot costume on display. And I actually saw this one kid reach over the velvet ropes and punch the mascots.

The process to choose the mascots for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics took 14 months, in which they took proposals from design houses the world over. Finally, they chose a little Vancouver design studio called Meomi Design. It was long rumored that the mascot would be an innukshuk, riffing on the games' logo. That's not what it turned out to be, but it's still something that draws on First Nations folklore. The three mascots and their sidekick were unveiled today in a lavish ceremony in Vancouver, in front of 800 schoolchildren

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the mascots for the the 2010 Winter Olympics!


The First Nations of the west coast tell tales of orcas that could assume the form of a bear when on land. And from that, we get Miga. Miga is a "sea bear," part killer whale, part bear...she's an orca in the ocean and a bear on land. Friendly, boisterous, and outgoing, her favourite winter sport is snowboarding.


Quachi is a sasquatch...a bigfoot...that mythical ape that roams the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Quachi is the shy, quiet type...after all, he spends most of his days hiding in the woods. His favourite winter sport is hockey, and he dreams of being the world's greatest goalie.

Said one co-worker today, "Why does as a sasquatch need boots and earmuffs?" My reply, "Because his feet and ears are cold."

If you're going to split hairs, then Sumi here is actually the mascot for the Paralympic Games, happening a few weeks after the Winter Olympics. But, since Vancouver is elevating the Paralympic Games to the same level as the Olympics, Sumi is getting equal treatment. Drawing from the transformation myths rampant in Native folklore, Sumi "wears the hat of the orca, flies on the wings of the Thunderbird, and runs on the legs of a black bear." She likes to ski.


And this li'l guy is Mukmuk. He's not an official Olympic mascot...but rather, he's their sidekick. He'll be popping up along side the mascots from time to time. The only real animal in the bunch, he's a Vancouver Island Marmot.

The kids seem to be taken with them...Miga is a front-runner for the kids favourites. And, of course, they're not without their complaints...some are already complaining that they look too much like Pokemon, and that they require too much exposition. Either way, they're going to be with us for the next three years, and then on display for all your punching needs in a museum.

Here's the official website of the mascots

Hidy and Howdy

And, in an interesting footnote, today, the City of Calgary officially retired Hidy and Howdy, the mascots for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Heidi and Howdy have adorned the "Welcome to Calgary" signs for the past 20 years, and Calgary has decided to retire those signs and replace them with something newer.

Here's the complete article in the Calgary Herald

Olympic Mascot Fast Facts

- The first Olympic mascot was Waldi the Dashund, mascot for the 1972 Munich games. the first unofficial mascot was Schuss, a cartoon skier, and mascot for the 1968 Grenoble Winter Games.

- The first mascot to be a full part of the games and heavily merchandised was Misha the Bear, mascot for the 1980 Moscow Games. Misha was an intergral part of the opening and closing ceremonies, and even had his own cartoon.

- The 1988 Calgary Olympics was the first Olympics to have more than one mascot: Hidy and Howdy, twin polar bears in cowboy outfits.

- The record for the most mascots is next year's 2008 Beijing Games. They've got 5 mascots.

- It's generally agreed the most unpopular mascot was Izzy, mascot for the 1996 Atlanta Games. Izzy was an abstract creation, and as such, his design was constantly being re-designed. There was a roller coaster named after him at the Busch Gardens theme park, but the name was changed before 1996 was done. However, Izzy did star in his own video game and animated special!

- The 2000 Sydney games' mascots were actually upstaged by an unofficial mascot. An Australian sketch comedy show created their own mascot for the 2000 games, called "Fatso the Fat-Arsed Wombat." Fatso grew more popular than the official mascots...there's a statue of Fatso in Sydney's official Olympic memorial park, but no mention of the real mascots.

- Despite what that Simpson episode said, the mascot for the 1976 Montreal Games was a beaver, not a vampire.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Futurama Returns!

Perhaps the most anticipated stragiht-to-DVD animated movie of all time comes out today.

as I've blogged before, with the home theatre market having exploded the way it has, the straight-to-DVD animated film market has boomed as well. What's also boomed is how brilliant TV shows that have been canceled before their time get released in a "complete series" boxed set. If there was only some way to marry the two....

That marriage happens today, with the long-awaited return of Futurama with the straight-to-DVD movie Futurama: Bender's Big Score.

The plot concerns the Earth being under seige by aliens using the most henious weapon of all: Internet spam. These aliens also use their spam to brainwash Bender, and send him through time, looting all of history.

The entire creative team behind the series re-united to bring us this film. We also get the return of the entire cast, such as Billy West as Fry, John diMaggio as Bender, and voice acting LEGEND Frank Welker as Nibbler. Celebrity guest voices include Al Gore as himself, Coolio reprising his role as Kwanzabot, and Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, as the Chaunukah Zombie.

For bonus materials, you get a running commentary with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, the Futurama short film A Terifying Message from Al Gore (which was actually a trailer for An Inconvenient Truth), and a complete 22-minute episode of the most popular sitcom in the Futurama universe, Everyone Loves Hypnotoad.

For those who don't remember, Futurama is being brought back in a series of 4 straight-to-DVD movies. The second one, Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs, is due out in the spring. The grand scheme is to then take these 4 movies, chop them up into 16 episodes, and then show it on TV as the long-awaited season 5.

But it's a better world, for Futurama is back. Now if we can just convince them to make Kevin Smith's animated Clerks movie....

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Movie Review: Beowulf

I'm back from my day in Edmonton! I've completed Phase I of my Christmas shopping. Phase I is generally a recon mission...I do a lot of window shopping, and just start getting general ideas as to what to get people. And, I usually come back with a couple of presents for myself.

Bought myself a couple of CDs...I'm actually quite surprised, I've been buying myself a lot of CDs lately. But I find I don't know what to do with a new CD. Back in the day, when I was still doing Chaos in Print and indulging in a lot of creative writing, I'd generally come home, drop the new CD in the stereo, sit down at the computer, and write until my fingers bled. But now that I don't write anymore, when do I listen to music?

I relived a little bit of those old days tonight. While in Edmonton, I went to see Beowulf, and I've got a review up over at my website. Long story short: if you're going to go see Beowulf, do what I did. Pay the extra money and see it in IMAX 3D. That's probably the best way to see it.

Anyway, go read my review!

Latest Targ's Up!

Here it is, folks! This week's episode of The Targ, in which I announce the winner of my first contest!

I also rant about Shrek and A Mouse, A Mystery, and Me.

So check out Episode 74: Christmas is Around the Corner!

Listen to it!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Buy Nothing Day

Some day, I really do enjoy getting up at 4AM for my job. It's -10 in Athabasca, you can see all the furnace exhaust rising from all the buildings...it all has a faint orange glow because of the street lights. And the sky is so clear you can see the full moon reflected in the ice on the river.

It's all very pretty, and I had to share that with the world.

But anyway, I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that today is Buy Nothing Day. Buy Nothing Day was the pet cause of a lot of people I went to university with (especially the editors of the Dagligtale, who gave it lots and lots of coverage), and as I make the move from "young and cynical" to "old and bitter," I don't celebrate it anymore, but I take the moment to acknowledge that today's the day.

It was started by the anti-consumer watchdog Adbusters, as a way to protest our consumerist society. It's quite easy to do. Just buy nothing today. Stay at home, read a book, call a friend, whatever. Just don't buy anything.

You'll also notice that today is Black Friday...this is the day that all the American retailers start their Christmas sales and it's the busiest shopping day of the year in the USA. That's no coincidence...Buy Nothing Day was chosen specifically to fall on Black Friday as the perfect day to protest consumerism.

Of course, it's had its fair share of controversy. Most major American networks refuse to run Buy Nothing Day ads. Back in 2001, when 9/11 was still on people's minds and folks were encouraged to buy as much stuff as possible to show the terrorists that everything was fine and the American economy would not be shaken, Buy Nothing Day was deemed un-patriotic. Some even went as far to go, "Well, then, I buy even MORE stuff on Buy Nothing Day! Screw you, Buy Nothing Day!"

What I really like is how people are starting to stage demonstrations on Buy Nothing Day to spread the word. I like this one where you get around 10 of your friends, you each grab a shopping cart, and you roam the aisles of a department with empty carts, forming a shopping cart train and just going around and around and around.... back when I worked at Extra Foods, I used to come up with plans like that, just to get back at and inconvenience annoying customers.

I think my favourite one, though, has to be this. You go to a department store and buy as much stuff as possible...max out your credit card with all kinds of merchandise. You're probably thinking, "WTF? This is Buy Nothing Day! WTF?" but let me finish. Once you've made your purchase in the several thousands of dollars, you take all your packages, promptly walk over to the customer service desk, and immediatly return it all. And you spend your whole day going back and forth between the cash registers and the customer service desk...returning everything as soon as you buy it. Apparently, the customer service folks start getting really, really, really pissed off with you around the third time.

And some retailers are starting to jump on board...there's a few small, indepedent stores who've declared today to be "Sell Nothing Day," and they close up shop and give all their employees the day off. I'm always in favour of more days off.

So to all my friends who are buying nothing today, I applaud you for your social conscience. If your taking part in one of those demonstrations, I ask that you do so safely and peacefully. And if you're like me, who's not celebrating directly but will probably wind up buying nothing because you've just got no reason to head out to the store today, then I thank you for your accidental recognition.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Must Be Thursday

It's Thanksgiving in the USA today. Even though I'm Canadian, I still have fond memories of celebrating an American Thanksgiving in Japan.

I never realized how much emotional attachment Americans put into their Thanksgiving until I was in Japan, and working alongside two Americans. When Thanskgiving rolled around, they were almost crippled by homesickness. They were wandering the halls of the school, always on the verge of tears. One almost lost it when he admitted that his turkey dinner was a turkey sandwich at Starbuck's. Then they turned to me and said, "Well, they've got Thanksgiving in Canada, right Mark? How come you're not sad today?" And that's when I told them that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving at the start of October, and that I went through my homesickness a month and a half ago, and then they started feeling even worse because they ignored me when I was going what they were going through. It was just a bad day at work.

So if you've got an American friend, and he or she is feeling a little down today, I ask that you take them down to the local sandwich shop, buy them a turkey sandwich, and follow the old addage, "If you can't be with the ones you love, then love the ones you're with."

And if you're a non-Canadian with a Canadian friend, I hope you remember this story when they're feeling all down and despondent at the start of October.

It's that time of year again! I'm getting deluged with e-mail requests for a copy of A Mouse, A Mystery, and Me.

Remember this great ol' Christmas special? Two teenagers and their talking mouse friend solve the mystery of a missing department store Santa (played by the legendary actor Dick Van Patten). It was a blend of animation and live-action, with the mouse being animated. It got heavy airplay on Edmonton's ITV in the late-80s/early-90s, because it was filmed in Edmonton.

But anyway, a few years back, I created a catalogue of all the holiday specials I taped off TV, and posted the catalogue to my website. A Mouse, A Mystery, and Me is on that catalogue, and every year around this time, I get a half-a-dozen e-mails requesting a copy.

I'm hoping to get a new computer early next year sometime. My new machine has to have a video capture card, so I can rip that thing off of VHS and sell bootleg DVDs on eBay. There's got to be some money in that.

The Husky here in Athabasca just added a vending machine that rents DVDs. I want to rent a DVD from it, just so I can say, "Yo yo yo! I rented this DVD from a vending machine!"

Wanna know how it handles late fees? Like this. You pay for it by swiping your credit card...no coins, bills, or debit at this machine. And if the DVD's not back in 24 hours, you get billed for it! You buy it! I tempted to do that, too, just so I can say, "Yo yo yo! I bought this DVD from a vending machine!"

This isn't a new idea...I remember Safeway having a vending machine that rented video tapes in the late-1980s. I wonder how many people back them were going, "Yo yo yo! I rented this video from a vending machine!"

When I was in Japan, I was in the change room at this swimming pool one time, and in the change room was a vending machine that sold clean underwear. I still regret not buying underwear from that machine...I'd be parading around to this very day..."Yo yo yo! I bought this underwear from a vending machine!"

I love vending machines.

And today's random bit of movie trivia....

Steven Spielberg, who produces the Shrek films through his company Dreamworks Animation, had been trying to get a Shrek movie off the ground for a long time.

The earliest recorded attempt was in 1991. Spielberg was talking to Don Bluth, with which Spielberg had made An American Tale and The Land Before Time, about doing Shrek as a traditional animated film. Back then, Spielberg was picturing Bill Murray as the voice of Shrek and Steve Martin as Donkey.

Plans were abadoned when Spielberg went on record as saying that Bluth's An American Tale 2: Fivel Goes West was inferior to Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Their professional relationship soured after that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The First GI Joe Actor is....

The Baroness
We have our first cast member for the upcoming, live-action movie version of GI Joe!

Are you ready? Here it is....

Sienna Miller is the Baroness!

And for those who couldn't come with me on 07/07/07 to see Transformers, I hope you clear your schedule for August 7, 2009. That's been locked in as the official realease date for GI Joe.

Filming begins in February.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Last About Money for Medals

Just saw this on the 6 o'clock news...currently, the highest paying country is Spain. Spain awards their gold medalists $360,000.

The Countries That Already Pay for Medals

Here we go. This was starting to bug me, so I did some quick online research.

During the Torino Winter Olympics a year and a half ago, Italy was paying their athletes $150,000 for a gold medal. The Czech Republic was paying $42,000 for the gold, the USA and Japan paid $25,000, Switzerland paid $15,500 and Australia pays $7500.

Know where I found this information? This CTV news article from the 2006 Torino Olympics, in which the Tories went on record as saying they would never do it.

In another article I found, China pays $19,000 for a gold medal. But that article was dated 2004, and the subject was whether China would jack it up for the 2004 Athens Olympics, so that number may have changed.

Money for Medals

This news just came down the wire, and I felt like sharing it with the world, not just Athabasca.

The Canadian Olympic Committee just announced that they'll start paying Canada's Olympic atheletes for the medals they win.

A Canadian athelete will score $20,000 for winning the gold, $15,000 for taking the silver, and $10,000 for the bronze. The COC says they're doing this to compensate high performance atheletes for the financial burdens they face while in training.

It should be noted that Olympic atheletes getting a cash bonus for bringing home medals is actually quite common...the USA has been doing it since 1984 (they get $25,000 for a gold medal), and many other nations around the world have been doing it (and I can't find a list right now). Many have been lobbying for the Canadian Olympic Committee to do it for quite some time now.

But the question is, will this equal more medals? We'll find out soon enough. The COC will start paying the cash bonuses at the Beijing Olympics next year.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Animated Film Catch-Up: Happy Feet

Time to finish up my weekend of animated films by watching and reviewing last year's winner for Best Animated Film at the Oscars!

Happy Feet

Animation Studio: Animal Logic

Directed by George Miller; co-directed by Warren Coleman and Judy Morris

Starring the voices of Elijah Wood, EG Daily, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brittany Murphy, Robin Williams, Hugo Weaving, and Anthony LaPaglia.

Backstory: I almost went to see this when it was in theatres last year. It got so many good reviews, and then when it picked up the nomination for Best Animated Film, that I was very, very tempted to go see it. I can't remember why I chose not to. But when it did win the Oscar, I knew I had to make time for it someday. Had a good pedigree, too. This was George Miller's first animated film...he gave us the Mad Max films in the 80s, and his last big hit was the family film Babe, which are all good movies. And damn it, I just love Robin Williams as a voice actor. That dude made Aladdin! So, it was finally time to see if it was Oscar worthy.

Plot: So, here's the deal. Penguins find their true love through their song. So if you're a penguin, and you can't sing, you pretty much doomed to a life alone. And that seems to be the case of young Mumble. However, Mumble can do something else musical. He can dance up a storm! But dancing is frowned upon in penguin society. And eventually, Mumble and his unnatural ways are being blamed for the poor fishing that's about to doom penguin society. And so, Mumble decides to go on a perilous quest to find out the real reason why the oceans are devoid of fish.

What I Like: Now, THIS is how you use pop songs to fill a soundtrack. Each one fills a purpose, serving as one of the character's inner desires. It's almost like Moulin Rouge with penguins. There's some spectacular animation going on, and the plot takes a few unexpected twists that I won't go into here, in case you haven't seen it yet and this might convince you.

What I Didn't Like: Not much. The plot was a tad formulaic. And it was a little blunt with its message...dare I say, preachy.

Final Verdict: Surprisingly good. Definitely worth checking out.

3 Nibs.

And that's it! I'm done playing my animated film catch-up. Unless there's one you think I missed, then let me know!

Animated Movie Catch-Up: Over the Hedge

Just two more films to go in my weekend! Well, one more, after this review....

Over the Hedge

Animation studio: Dreamworks Animation

Directed by Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick

Starring the voices of Bruce Wills, Gary Shandling, Steve Carell, Wanda Sykes, William Shatner, Nick Nolte, Thomas Hayden Church, Allison Janey, Eugene Levy, Cathriine O'Hara, and Avril Lavigne.

Backstory: It may have been Pixar who invented the computer animated film, but I think we can blame DreamWorks for developing and refining the formula. We've got our heroes, some new guy comes along with outlandish promises for his own self-serving needs, they all fall for it, and everyone gets in trouble. New guy realizes that if he was just honest with his new friends, whom his come to love, naturally, things would have solved themselves. He reforms, they get out of the jam and everyone lives happily ever after. Oh, and all the characters are talking animals voiced by celebrities doing little more than playing themselves, and the jokes are little more than fart gags and pop culture references. That about sum it up? Good. Then why was I drawn to Over the Hedge? Well, it got some good reviews last year and some said it turned that formula on its head, so I thought it was worth checking out.

Plot: So, RJ the raccoon swipes some food from Vincent the Bear. Vincent is all pissed off about this, and gives RJ one week to recover all the food. RJ does this by conning a bunch of animals led by Vern the Turtle into invading a new suburban housing development. And what follows is some biting social commentary on urbanization and shrinking woodland habitat. Nah, I'm just messing with you. What happense are some fart gags and pop culture references and RJ learns that if he was just honest with his new friends he wouldn't have gotten in a bigger mess than when he started.

What I Liked: It's actually really funny in some parts. A lot of really good gags.

What I Didn't Like: It follows the animated film formula pretty closely.

Final Verdict: One of DreamWorks's better efforts.

3 Nibs

Latest Targ's Up!

Wow, I've been planning this day for months, and now that it's here, I hardly know what to do.

In this week's episode of The Targ...well, the episode title describes it all.

Episode 73: My First Contest

Here's what you've got to do. Listen to this week's show. In the show, I announce a special code word. What you do is e-mail me that code word at mark@chaosinabox.com, and I'll throw your name into the draw. And, in next week's show, I do the draw.

What's the big prize? Well, why don't you listen to this week's show and find out!

Listen to it here!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Animted Film Catch-Up: Shrek the Third

I guess I chose a bad weekend to do animated film catch-up as, after having lived in this place for a year and a half, the landlord chooses this weekend to finally re-wire the bathroom. Oh, well. At least with his flipping of breakers, he didn't shut down the TV. But today, it was....

Shrek the Third

Animation Studio: DreamWorks Animation

Directed by Chris Miller; Co-directed by Raman Hui

Starring the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Rupert Everett, Justin Timberlake, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Julie Andrews, Cheri Oteri, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, and Amy Sedaris.

The Backstory: Please allow me to repeat myself. I like the first Shrek. Really, I do. But I wish people would stop selling it as what it isn't. It's not a satire of fairy tales...it's a sarcastic, self-referential fairy tale. And it never needed a sequel. But yet, it spawned Shrek 2, which I still think is the most god-awful animated film ever rendered. But still, I couldn't help but slow down for the train wreck that would be a third Shrek film.

Plot: Still bitter about his defeat at the end of #2, Prince Charming decides to stage a coup by rallying all the fairy tale villains together and overthrowing the kingdom of Far, Far Away. Meanwhile, the king of Far, Far Away passes away, and the throne is left to Shrek and Fiona. Shrek, not really wanting to be a king, goes off on a quest to get the only other heir to the throne, King Arthur...but he prefers Artie. So, while Shrek is gone, Charming stages his coup, and then Fiona and all the fairy tale princesses have to band together and liberate the kingdom. Oh, and Fiona is pregnant and, by mentoring Artie in the ways of being a king, Shrek gets over his insecurities about fatherhood.

What I Liked: The fact that every princess is voiced by a Saturday Night Live cast member. In fact, the whole subplot with the princesses deciding that they weren't going to wait around to be rescued anymore. That's gotta be the best subplot in the film. And I still like Mike Myers. And there's a great scene where the Gingerbread Man's life flashes before his eyes.

What I Didn't Like: OK, we get the joke by now. The plot is just like the first one and the second one.

Final Verdict: Better than number 2, but still short on laughs.

2.5 Nibs

And don't forget, there's still a lot more Shrek on the way! The Christmas special, Shrek the Halls, airs on November 28. The fourth film, already christened Shrek Goes Fourth, comes out in 2010. The fifth film is scheduled for 2013, and the Puss in Boots solo film is still in the works.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Animated Movie Catch-Up: Surf's Up

In case you're curious, I had a lovely dinner. Fried up some pyrogies with a little bit of sausage...I love it when I have light weeks with little events to cover. I can actually cook myself descent meals!

Anywho, after supper, it was back to my stack of animated films.

Surf's Up

Animation House: Sony Pictures Animation

Directed by Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

Starring the voices of Shia LeBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Jon Heder, James Woods, and Diedrich Bader.

The Backstory: So, a few years back, the special effects house known as Sony Imageworks made a cute little animated short film called The Chubbchubbs. It was a big enough hit that Sony decided to get into the animated film game. Their formed their own animation house, called Sony Pictures Animation. But, in actuality, it's the special effects house Sony Imageworks that does the actual animation. Anyway, they released their first animated film, Open Season, about a year ago, and it looked freakin' horrible. Their second film, Surf's Up, got better reviews, so I thought I would use it to check out the new kids on the block.

The Plot: We follow the adventures of Cody Maverick, a young penguin from Shiverpool, Antarctica. When he was a kid, Cody met the world's greatest surfing penguin Big Z, and ever since, has been aspiring to be a surfer. Finally, he gets his chance, and he's off to the Big Z Memorial tournament. His first day...doesn't go so well. And then, in the woods, he happens to find Big Z, who faked his death, and now Big Z mentors Cody in the ways of how winning isn't everything.

What I Liked: What gives this film its unique voice is the fact that they do it as a documentary, so the characters occasionally talk directly into the camera and converse with off-screen film crews. That was an interesting way to go. The animation is truly spectacular, some of the best non-Pixar stuff going. And there's a few clever gags that made me laugh out loud.

What I Didn't Like: Very, very, very formulaic plot.

Final Verdict: An enjoyable waste of time, but so far, the leader for this weekend is Meet the Robinsons.

2.5 Nibs

And now, we'll take a break and resume in the morning.

Animated Film Catch-Up: Meet the Robinsons

OK, let's try this again.

I love animated film. There was once a time when I would rush down to the theatre and see every animated film that came out. I remember I started doing it about 10 years ago. Oh, I'll never forget sweet Erin Collette, who declared me the coolest man she knew cuz I went to see The Little Mermaid. But I digress.

I stopped doing it a few years back mainly because all animated films these days seem to be little more than talking animals making fart jokes. In fact, I still remember the exact film I saw that made me go, "That's it! Every animated film is not worth seeing anymore!" That film was Shrek 2.

So what I do now is, every year and a half or so, I play "animated film catch-up." I'll go down to the video store, rent every animated film that piqued my interest, and spend a weekend catching up. And I figured it was time to do that again.

Here, on this Friday afternoon, I went to the video store, rented my movies, and I've got my weekend planned. And I'm going to spend this weekend watching and reviewing! I just finished the first one, so let's get to it. I started things off with....

Meet the Robinsons

Directed by Stephen J. Anderson

Animation house: Walt Disney Studios

Starring the voices of Daniel Hansen, Jordan Fry, Angela Basset, Tom Kenny, Laurie Metcalf, Nicole Sullivan, Wesley Singerman, Steven J. Anderson and Harland Williams

The backstory: So here's the deal. When the great Disney/Pixar merger happened a couple years back, people thought it would be the end of Pixar. People thought Pixar would start pumping out bland, listless animated films like Disney had been pumping out. But then, people looked at the fine print. As part of this merger, most of the Pixar management would be taking over Disney animation. It was more like Pixar was taking over Disney. But, would Pixar's soul be transferred over? Would Disney start pumping out films that make me feel something, like just about every Pixar film does? Meet the Robinsons was the first one made under the Pixar management regime, so it was time to find out.

Plot: Little Lewis has it rough. He's an orphan, and thanks to his quirky sensibilities, he's a tad un-adoptable. Since Lewis is a brilliant inventor, he decides to invent a machine that will extract his buried memories, and use these to track down his birth family. But then, when Lewis goes to try out his invention at the science fair, it's sabotaged by a mysterious Bowler Hat Guy, and his robotic Bowler Hat. Just when Lewis is about to give up, he meets Wilbur Robinson, who zaps him to the future. There, Lewis meets Wilbur's family, and works to undo the machinations of the Bowler Hat Guy and get back to his own time. Just what exactly is Lewis's connection to the Robinson family and the Bowler Hat Guy? Will he ever get his memory extractor working? Or, now that he has a time machine, will he just go back in time and meet his birth parents?

What I Liked: Danny Elfman does another spectacular score. The revelation of who the Bowler Hat Guy is. How Lewis finally undoes the evil plot. The poorly-dubbed kung fu fight in the middle. "Well, I've got little arms, and I don't think this plan was completely thought out, Master." And the fact that there's so few celebrity voices in the cast.

What I Didn't Like: The Robinson family is far too big and far too quirky for my tastes. Seriously, they could have cut out the aunts and uncles and we would have been fine.

Final Verdict: This film doesn't quite have that Pixar soul yet, but it's the first non-Pixar film that's come painfully close. This could be the harbinger of better things.

3 Nibs

And thus starts my weekend! We'll have another one after supper!

The Latest on my Favourite Filmmakers

Wow, no blog entries for a week? I must have a life or something....

Anyway, some big announcements in movie news this week. Firstly, one of the most anticipated announcements for us Kevin Smith geeks...Smith has finally revealed who'll be playing Zack and Miri in his next film, Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

Zack will be played by Seth Rogan. Rogan, of course, one of the rising young stars of comedy, having starred in The 40-Year Old Virgin, this past summer's Knocked Up, and the forthcoming Star Wars homage Fanboys. Smith has been an admirer of Rogan's for some time now...in fact, when I saw Smith in Edmonton a year and a half ago, Smith made it quite public that he wanted to work with Rogan some day.

Meanwhile, Miri will be played by on-the-verge-of-superstardom Elizabeth Banks. Banks was also in The 40-Year Old Virgin as the hot bookstore clerk who had a memorable scene in a bathtub. She's currently on screen as a hot elf in Fred Claus. But to my fellow geeks, she will always be remembered as a scene-stealingly cute Betty Brant in the Spider-Man films.

Of course, the role of Miri already has some infamy about it...Smith has made it quite public that he originally wrote the role for Rosario Dawson. Dawson had to turn down Smith, having already committed to another film. The tabloids tried to make it out like there was a huge tiff between Smith and Dawson, but Smith just shrugged and went, "that's just the way this business is."

For those who don't remember, Zack and Miri Make a Porno is about two lifelong (platonic) friends from high school who decide that the best way to get out of debt is to make a porn movie, starring themselves. But, of course, along the way, they really fall in love with each other and hilarity ensues.

Smith starts filming in January for a release around this time next year.

Meanwhile, my other favourite filmmaker, Tim Burton, has also announced his next few projects.

First up, Burton is hopping on the performance capture bandwagon, and will be giving us a performance capture version of Alice in Wonderland.

when that's done, Burton is going to give us another stop-motion animated epic. Burton's next film is going to be stop-motion animated remake of his 1984 short film, Frankenweenie. For those who've never seen Frankenweenie, it's really cool. It's a parody of Frankenstein. But in this version, Victor Frankenstein is a 12-year old boy, and his monstrous creation is his cute little, recently deceased puppy dog. It's available as a bonus feature on the Nightmare Before Christmas DVD.

Burton's latest film, a movie version of the musical Sweeney Todd, comes out Christmas day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Latest Targ's Up!

Gotta run out right away to cover Athabasca's Rememberance Day ceremonies, but I had just enough time to get this week's episode of The Targ up!

This week, it's Episode 72: The Third Weird Al Show. I got my latest batch of Weird Al CDs, so I play some of my favourite forgotten parodies. And, I give you the Best Animated Film short list.

But, most important, I set up my first ever contest, which'll be running in next week's show!

So, what are you waiting for? Go give it a listen!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday Night's Alright for Blogging

It was Comedy Night in Athabasca last night. The town rec department brought in some top-notch stand-up comics. And, I witnessed, the best unexpected reaction to a stand-up comic ever.

The comic was ripping on the restaurant chain Moxie's....

Stand-up>> Is there a Moxie's here in Athabasca?

And the crowd burst into uproarious laughter.

Biggest laugh the guy got all night.

He was quite visibly stunned.

And I have to highlight this, because I don't think I'll be able to go, and I really want to.

On Monday, November 26, the Scotiabank Theatre in West Edmonton Mall (the theatre formerly known as Silver City), will be having a one-time showing of the Beatles' second movie, Help!

This is, of course, because Help! has been all beautifully digitally restored and re-released on DVD, so why not celebrate by putting it back in theatres for one night only?

But yeah. i would so dearly love to go, but I have to be at work at 5AM the next morning, and I probably wouldn't get home until 11.

but it would be so cool to go...

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Oscar Animation Short List/Family Guy on DVD/Star Trek News

So, today, the short list for the Best Animated Film Oscar was announced. It's kind of weird with the Best Animated Film Oscar...because of how it's set up and all that, first they have to decide what actually qualifies as an animated film, resulting in the short list. This short list will then be widdled down to three nominations when Oscar nominations are announced in January.

Anyway, here's what the Academy had qualified as an animated film, and is therefore eligible for the Best Animated Film Oscar.


Shrek the Third

Bee Movie

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres


Meet the Robinsons


The Simpsons Movie



People are still kind of stunned that Beowulf made the list. As you already know, Beowulf was done with performance capture, and the Academy tightened the rules this year to exclude performance caputre. Even Beowulf director Robert Zemeckis said that, to call performance capture "animation" is a great disservice to animators.

So now, what's going to make the short list? My money is one Ratatouille, because Pixar is an Oscar darling, Persepolis, cuz it already won top prizes at Cannes, and...well, I think it'd be really cool if The Simpsons Movie got a nod.

My DVD sites are reporting that the Family Guy/Star Wars spoof is getting its own individual special edition DVD!

Family Guy Presents: Blue Harvest comes out on January 15. For bonus mateerials, you get deleted scenes, interviews with Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and No Introduction Needed George Lucas, animatics, a few running commentaries, a trailer for their forthcoming Empire Strikes Back spoof (which has the working title Something Something Something Dark Side), and a 3D fight scene! The pack will include 3D glasses so you can watch it. Not only that, but it'll be coming in a special gift pack with a T-shirt and trading cards.

And, filming is underway on the new Star Trek film and, try as I might, still not getting excited about it.

For those who care, the latest development is that Winona Ryder is playing Amanda Grayson! Amanda, as you may remember, is Spock's human mother.

It's still on target for a Christmas Day 2008 release.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Really Important News

New York Fries is expanding into hamburger restaurants. New York Fries calls their burger places "the South St. Burger Co." For the time being, they've only got 4 locations in Toronto and area.

The A&W tuba jingle is officially known as "Ba-Dum Ba-Dum" and it's credited to recording artist "Major Ursa." In reality, "Major Ursa" is Vancouver session musician Sharman King.

And here's the latest on the new Star Trek film. And yes, I still just can't get excited about it.

Well-known Canadian character actor Bruce Greenwood has just joined the cast as Captain Christopher Pike. He's had such notable roles as Ashley Judd's sleazy husband in Double Jeopardy and JFK in Thirteen Days. He'll be playing the president of the USA in the upcoming holiday blockbuster National Treasure 2.

For those who don't give a rat's ass about Star Trek continuity, Christopher Pike was the captain of the Enterprise BEFORE Captain Kirk took command.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

10 Years of an Online Presence

Holy crap. I’ve been screwing around, trying to generate an online presence for 10 years now. 10 freakin’ years. It was on a cold November night in 1997 that I was lamenting to my best friend as to how I wanted a website, and before I could say, “What are you doing?” he went and signed me up for an Angelfire page. And that’s my glorious website began.

It was all so simple in those days. Everything was getting a website, so I thought my silly little radio show, Chaos in a Box, should get one as well. And once my best friend showed me how to go about it, I did. It’s amazing how much of my online presence is tied to my best friend…pretty much every big advancement or paradigm shift that I go through has been at his urging.

In fact, I was talking to him the other day, as this 10th anniversary approached. I asked him, “If we had Facebook and MySpace and all that 10 years ago, you think we actually would have gone through with teaching ourselves HTML and all that, or would we have just signed up to one of these free services like everyone else?” He begrudgingly agreed that we probably would have just gone with the free services.

But now, as I realized my oh-so-precious online presence is 10 years old, I thought I would take a moment to acknowledge all the major steps I’ve taken to get here, to this blog, podcast, and Facebook page.

November 1997: Chaos on the Net Goes Live
So, there I was, attending school at Augustana University. My best friend happened to be the editor of the school paper, so, like most nights at university, we were hanging out in the newspaper office, talking about life, the universe, and everything. Talk eventually turned to my radio show, and my desire to have a website to promote it. He pointed me to this free service he’d just discovered called Angelfire, and before I knew it, he had signed me up.

With his help over the new few weeks, I learned the rudiments of HTML, and made for a very basic website. Since my radio show was Chaos in a Box, and my opinion column in the newspaper was Chaos in Print, I christened this new endeavour Chaos on the Net. I plugged the show, I had little top 10 lists and everything, and I also had the bright idea to use it as an archive for past editions of Chaos in Print. I was quite proud.

Summer 1998: I Start Doing Movie Reviews
Summer of 1998 was a bad summer. I couldn’t find a summer job, it made me all depressed, and I started pissing my money away by going to see such classics as Armageddon, Godzilla, and The X-Files Movie. In order to give some sense of purpose to my summer existence, I started reviewing these movies, and posting reviews to my website…something I’ve continued to this very day.

July 1999: Chaos in Print: Online Edition Begins
So, there I was, all graduated from university. With no radio show and no opinion column in the school paper, I began growing desperate for some form of creative outlet. That’s when I remembered that I had this website I wasn’t using anymore. In a flash of brilliance, I decide to use the website as my creative outlet. And I would do this by resurrecting my opinion column. I called it Chaos in Print: Online Edition. My first one went online on July 5, 1999.

For the next seven years, once I week, I sat down and wrote a 2-page essay detailing the state of my life. I grew rather upset when people started referring to Chaos in Print: Online Edition as a blog. I mean, blogs are spur of the moment comments, jotted down in five minutes. But Chaos in Print…that was writing! I would spend hours writing the perfect two pages! How dare you dismiss it as a blog! But looking back at it…yeah, it was blog. In fact, it was the worst kind of blog, nothing by whining and complaining about the deepest, most intimate parts of my life.

My best friend, who was a devoted reader and kind of chronicled my growth as a writer, last sat down and talked about it around two years ago. I asked him what he thought of it, and he said, “I kept waiting for it to become something, but it never really did. Probably the closest it came were the ones from Japan.” And as I’ve told people, when I was in Japan, writing them was the easiest. When you’re immersed in another culture, suddenly going down to the corner store to get a jug of milk is an adventure.

Chaos in Print came to an unceremonious end in April of 2006, when I got my job in Athabasca. I put it on temporary hiatus until I settled into my new place, but here we are now, a year and a half later, and the hiatus seems to have become permanent. Besides, most of my free time is spent on the podcast now, and as my best friend said, if that’s where my true creative passion lies, then that’s where I should spend my time.

Spring 2000: Chaos on the Net becomes Chaos in a Box
As my best friend said one day, “Chaos in a Box is a cool name. That’s what you should start calling your website.” And so it was.

September 2002: Chaos in a Box finally becomes Chaos in a Box.com
I had been toying with registering my URL, chaosinabox.com, for quite some time. Finally sick of me going, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” my best friend goes ahead and registers it for me. Since I’m not used to people being nice to me and buying me presents, I thank him by getting all pissed off and refusing to speak to him for two weeks. I’ve apologized by now, and I really, really like having my URL. As another friend pointed out, “Chaos in a Box.com is a much better idea than Pets.com

April 2003: I Begin the Blog, Midnight Ramblings
So while I was immersed in another culture, I experienced one of the worst possible horrors. My laptop broke down. It went into low power mode one day…and just wouldn’t turn back on. I tried valiantly to get it fixed, but no one in Japan would attempt to fix it. And besides, since I was heading back home to Canada in June, I decided to tough it out and just wait until I got home.

But in the meantime, I wanted some way to maintain my online presence. I wanted to do something that would be quick and easy to maintain…something where I could just jot something down in 5 minutes at the Internet café…like a blog.

Most of my friends had embraced Blogger by now and started up their own blogs, so I started doing the same. I went to the Internet café, went to Blogger, and signed up for an account. And thus, I had a blog. I called this blog Midnight Ramblings, after a series of Chaos in Print articles that always struck me as being very blog-like.

And here we are now, almost five years later,and Midnight Ramblings is as strong as ever. In some ways, it’s replaced Chaos in Print. Although it’s become much more tame.

March 2006: Bye, bye, Angelfire
Finally sick of all the pop-ups and banner ads that Angelfire was forcing on my site, I take my Ralphbucks and finally get some proper server space. Of course, I had an ulterior motive. I needed more server space than what Angelfire could give me for free because I wanted to….

April 2006: I Start U62: The Targ
My instructors at NAIT are a really cool bunch. There I was, out of school for almost a year, still scrimping and begging for my first job in radio. And they would frequently let me sneak into NAIT after hours to use a production studio to beef up my demo tape and/or just goof around with the equipment. Finally, one evening, my old production teacher looked at me and said, “Hey, Mark, you’re really good with computers and you’ve got that website and all. Why don’t you start a podcast?” I liked it.

I started doing some research as to what I would need to start my podcast. I got my decent server space, I went down to Edmonton’s very famous Axe Music and got a nifty little microphone for my PC. My production teacher recommended a program called Audacity for recording stuff on my home computer. And, my parents had just started getting high speed Internet at home. Everything was set!

I used NAIT’s production studios one last time to produce my intro and my extro. I looked around at how radio stations are named. The formula for naming a radio station is (frequency number) (one word that sums up your attitude). For a frequency, I chose U62, which was “Weird Al” Yankovic’s TV station in UHF, and for a single word that sums up my attitude, I chose The Targ, which is a Klingon warthog. On April of 2006, I uploaded the first episode of U62: The Targ, which I called Episode 0: My New Mop.

As I write this, I just hit episode number 70, and I’m still having a blast.

May 2007: I Join Facebook
The first I heard of Facebook was on CTV NewsNet in March. There was a big kafuffle in Ottawa because the federal government had just banned federal employees from using it. Immediately, I dismissed it as a fad…the new MySpace. But then, I experienced the persistence of my co-workers. “Aww, man, Facebook is so cool! You’ve got to try it, Mark! Everyone’s on Facebok!”

So, on one warm May evening, I was at home, half-watching TV and half-screwing around online. For the heck of it, I finally went to this Facebook, and signed on.

And that’s where I tend to spend most of my online screwing around now. I finally got a digital camera in August, and Facebook is where I stick all of my photos. I started a Facebook group for U62: The Targ, which currently boasts 25 devoted listeners. I set it up so I could import my blog, meaning whatever I write in Midnight Ramblings, my Facebook friends immediately get a copy of.

However, I am one of the multitudes that thinks Facebook has gotten out of hand…deviated from its original purpose. I’m not too crazy about getting half-a-dozen invitations to silly applications that serve no purpose. Even my co-workers who convinced me to get on it lament that it’s deviated from its original purpose.

I’ve been told that Facebook defines what Marshal McLuhan originally meant when he coined the term “Global Village.” Just like a real village, everyone is all up in your business and gossips about what you’re doing.

November 2007: Who Knows What the Future May Bring?
And now, here we are in the present day. All this onlining is still nothing more than goofing around…a fun hobby. But as others have been lamenting, look at all the flotsam that’s online. These tubes are getting clogged with all kinds of abandoned MySpace pages and defunct Geocities sites. If there’s one thing I’ve struggled to do over the past 10 years, that’s keep it all organized and updated.

And like a lot of things I do online, I just don't know how to end this.