Friday, December 17, 2010

Animaniacs Merchandise, Part 2

As promised, here's a follow-up to my previous post showcasing another 5 items from my Animaniacs/Pinky & The Brain merchandise collection:

Item #1 is my most recent addition:
an official Six Flags Wakko Warner ball cap, circa 1997.
Paid $1.71 for it at a thrift store in Winder, GA:

And since I found the Six Flags Pinky hat in October, of course you realize what this means... Now I'll have to track down the others to complete the set. That's what OCD peoples do.

Item #2 is an Animaniacs coffee mug, featuring several
of the series' principal characters:
...Rita & Runt, Buttons & Mindy:

...Pinky & The Brain:

...the Warners -- Yakko, Wakko and Dot, and Slappy Squirrel:

This Warner Bros Studio Store exclusive item is dated 1994,
and my wife found it for $2 at a flea market near Athens, GA.

Item #3 is a decorative piece appropriately-titled "Bad Chemistry"
with P&TB trapped in a lab beaker:

This Warner Bros Studio Store exclusive was manufactured in 1997, and was a gift from my brother Jon (thanks again, Jon!). Designed like a snow globe, the beaker is filled with a water/oil mixture and when you shake it up the water looks like it's boiling. And in a case of art imitating...well, art -- the front even has a visual gag:

- Item #4 is a Pinky & The Brain crystal mug (circa 1999)
-- official Warner Bros Studio Store product
purchased for $6 in 1999 at a WBSS in Memphis, TN:

Buyer's regret: not getting four of these for a complete beverage set.

Item #5 is a Where's Waldo?-type
"Look and Find" (TM) children's book:

This book was published in 1996 through Warner Bros Family Entertainment Reading and Publications International, LTD. It was written by Tom DeMichael, illustrated by the late Jaime Diaz, and the cover was illustrated by Animated Arts.

I should have done a post just on this book, and if it weren't copyright-protected I'd scan the whole thing and post it online for fans who haven't seen it. It's a gem of a collectible. Unlike standard licensed fare for animated properties, those involved in this book seem to have taken great care to make sure it felt like the show too. To write and illustrate a book with details like this has you would simply have to be a fan already. The illustration style is reminiscent of the show's design (especially the DC Comics based on the show), and like the show this book is based on, it's filled with in-jokes, pop culture gags and references to several A!/P&TB episodes.

Just a few examples:

From "Pavlov's Mice":

"Puppet Rulers":

"When Mice Ruled The Earth":

And scattered throughout the book are hidden cameos by politicians (Bill Clinton, George Bush), Looney Tunes characters (Witch Hazel), celebrities (Country stars a-plenty in the "Bubba Bo Bob Brain" double-page spread), and even appearances by Animaniacs characters like The Godpigeon, Buttons, Hip Hippos and of course the Warners (a recurring gag throughout the series is repeated here as well):

And my apologies that I cannot provide better quality images at this time -- print materials don't photograph well with my dated digital camera, and my scanner isn't working.

This book originally retailed for around $10, and I'd recommend it to any fan of the show. You should be able to find a used copy online through for around $5 (plus shipping). I found one for $3 at an antique mall in Brasselton, GA back in June 2010. There's also an Animaniacs version which I may cover the next time I feature five more items from my collection.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Destroy All Hogwarts!

Deleted scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- "Craigzilla attacks Hogwarts":

And here's another deleted scene featuring
my special wand-lighting ability finger
which I stole from E.T.:

* Photos from a September 2010 visit to the Universal Studios Store at the Orlando Airport.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Review: The Cable Guy

The Cable Guy (1996) **1/2
Director: Ben Stiller (Tropic Thunder, Zoolander, Reality Bites)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick

I was disappointed by this movie, but to be fair I went expecting to see Jim Carrey's over-the-top comedy shtick that made him famous in Dumb and Dumber, The Mask, and Ace Ventura. And if that's what you're expecting too, you'll be sorely disappointed. This is a dark, cerebral comedy/drama and Carrey plays a complex, dark character, and although I didn't care for the film overall I thought his performance was intriguing.

The film also offers an underlying satire of America's obsession with television and news media. But if you don't care for the dark comedy and social commentary and just want to see Jim Carrey for his comic brilliance, there are a few funny scenes that I feel at least make it worth a rental: the basketball game, The Medieval Times restaurant (Star Trek spoof), and the Carrey-oke version of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody To Love" (which is an amazing impression and performance). Also, the running gag involving the spoof of the Menendez Bros' trial are amusing although since rather dated. But even suggesting it as a rental, I can only recommend this one to fans of Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick and Jack Black because they'll be more tolerant of a bad movie because these guys are in it. So if it starts boring you or you simply don't like it, just skip to the few funny scenes.

Additional thoughts:

I originally published this review on a movie fan forum back in the late 90s which explains why I reference having actually watched the film at the movie theater. (If memory serves, I was the only one in the theater for a matinee show.) It was considered a box office bomb and was despised by critics, and Jim Carrey took a lot of flak for being grossly overpaid for his role ($20 mil!). A lot of Jim Carrey fans, besides myself, were also disappointed by this. The trailers were even misleading because they played up the film's comedic scenes, but as I stated above this is a dark comedy-driven drama. And it's only because I find Jim Carrey a fascinating performer that I even bothered to watch it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: Open Water

Open Water (2003) ****
Director/Writer: Chris Kentis (Grind, and another feature in post-prod scheduled for a 2011 release)
Starring: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis

Surprisingly entertaining indie thriller. Although we're not given much reason to care about the characters before they are accidentally abandoned in the ocean, this film offers a palpable sense of despair, hopelessness and fear the couple endure afterwards. The cinematography genuinely captures the feeling of what it would be like to be left behind in "open water." And the fact that the actors are actually in the ocean with real sharks swimming around them elevates the suspense to nail-biting status. For DVD viewers, after the film I recommend watching the production featurette -- the actors aren't just "acting" but reacting to real sharks swimming around them in the ocean. That kind of realism gives the movie a tangible sense of terror that other shark movies simply don't have.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Review: Into The Wild

Into The Wild (2007) ***1/2 out of 5 asterisks
Director: Sean Penn (The Pledge, The Crossing Guard)
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Hal Holbrook

This twice Oscar-nominated indie film is a slow but interesting true-life adventure-drama with great performances. And I would rate it higher if it weren't for excess: excessive scenic footage, excessive use of slo-mo, and excessive montage Eddie Vedder-accompanied music videos. But the performances really shine, so if you don't mind a slow but inspiring drama it's worth watching.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review: Flight of Fury

Flight of Fury (2007) ...can't even give this one a half-asterisk
Director: Michael Keusch (responsible for a lot of German TV movies I don't recognize and can't spell)
Starring: Steven Seagal (also credited with screenplay, which explains a LOT)

While watching attempting to tolerate this film, I had a sneaking suspicion that Seagal left all the work to his stunt and photo doubles. And I'd be willing to bet Seagal's stand-in could have given a better performance. Seagal's stunt double sees more screen time than he does, and there's not even that many stunts! And even when Seagal actually appears his performance is totally "phoned in." The movie itself is predictable, nonsensical, and full of crappy acting and poor special effects. In other words: a big, stinking waste of time.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

War is not funny

Another entry for T-Shirt Design Travesties:

Even Dick Cheney did not approve of this message.

A little history behind this: Back in 2006 when I was managing a religious bookstore, I discovered about a dozen of these shirts in a vendor shipment of random deep discount apparel. When I called the corporate office about it, they explained it was part of a huge bulk clearance deal on unsold inventory the company had purchased, and they emphasized that they had not ordered that specific shirt. After my call, the corporate office promptly instructed their stores to dispose of them, for obvious reasons.

Putting "Give War A Chance" on a T-shirt isn't just a design travesty, it's a design tragedy. I'm familiar with dark comedy, but this really goes far beyond being in poor taste. It blew my mind that any sane person might think the slogan was a good idea, or worse yet that they'd find it amusing or funny. Imagine my surprise when I discovered you can purchase bumper stickers and shirts with this slogan all over the internet. I guess stupidity really does have no limits.

It's worth noting there's a website listed on the shirt just below the slogan, but the text is too small to see in this image and I don't remember now what it was. I have a strong feeling, though, that it no longer exists.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review: Last Action Hero

Last Action Hero (1993) ***
Director: John McTiernan (Predator, Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, F. Murray Abraham, Austin O'Brien

Every now and then a movie comes along that critics love to hate, comedians love to make fun of, and then everyone else jumps on the bandwagon -- most of them never even having seen the movie and yet they still criticize and mock it. This is one of those movies. (The flak this movie has taken for being awesomely bad is legendary.) But I decided to buck the trend and actually watch it. I expected it to suck, so when I realized immediately that it was an action movie spoof, it became a lot more entertaining. In this film, life goes beyond imitating art to outright mocking it with Ah-nold spoofing himself and the movie genre that made him famous. Most Hollywood actors take their work far too seriously to be involved in a satire like this. I, for one, am glad Ah-nold accepted the challenge. Granted, it's cheesy and campy, but that's what it's meant to be. It shouldn't be taken seriously. Give this one a chance -- it's really not half as horrible as it's made out to be.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: Welcome to Mooseport

Welcome to Mooseport (2004) ** out of 5 asterisks
Director: Donald Petrie (Grumpy Old Men, Miss Congeniality)
Starring: Ray Romano, Gene Hackman, Maura Tierney

I really wanted to like this movie. It had some good things going for it, like having a comedy-savvy director and a cast known for comedic roles. But either something went wrong during production or maybe it was just a bad script to begin with. This film is simply not believable -- it's contrived and dull. It's described as a comedy, and there are indeed some comedic moments thanks to the cast performances. But most of the movie you feel like you're waiting for a punchline that never gets delivered. My advice: skip this one and watch fan-favorite episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond or NewsRadio (starring Romano and Tierney, respectively), or some of Hackman's better comedic performances in Heartbreakers and The Birdcage.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Netflix Is a Naughty Word

Here's a fun little exercise for you Netflix subscribers out there -- a guaranteed laugh, and I believe I am the first person on the web to discover this:

Step 1. Login to your Netflix account.

2. Click "Movies You'll Love."

3. Click "Your Reviews."

4. Next to your profile image where it says "Enter a brief bio here" click "Edit."

5. Type "Netflix."

6. Click the "Save" button and discover the instant hilarity at the pop-up message that follows.

Update: 11.30.2010, 6:45 am -- Thanks to for featuring this post on the frontpage of their site. I'm honored.

Review: Beast Machines - Transformers: The Complete Series

The new series Transformers Prime officially premiered on The Hub (formerly Discovery Kids) in November 2010, and advance hype for the series used such buzzwords as "groundbreaking," "cutting edge," and "epic." Hasbro also described the show as an "intense... drama" with "heavy metal action" and "nail-biting suspense." Time will tell whether the series genuinely delivers such a big bag of promises, but I'll grant it's been entertaining so far. I'll review the 5-part mini-series event once the other three episodes have aired.

In the meantime, I thought I'd take a look back at an earlier Transformers' series which delivered all of the above in what I believe to be the most unique series in TF history since the original "Generation 1" (or "G1", as the fans call it) animated series first premiered back in 1984: Beast Machines, the continuation of the fan-favorite Beast Wars saga which helped to revive the Transformers franchise in the 90s.

This is one of my capsule reviews I pulled from Netflix after they dumped their community features. I might expand this review later with individual episode reviews, but the following is an opinion I find myself repeating often on Transformers fan forums -- trying to persuade both passive and devoted G1 fans to at least give the series a try. So many fans have dismissed it and even criticize it openly without having watched it, and some outright refuse to watch it which I find a little ridiculous. Like the saying goes, "Don't knock it until you've tried it."

Beast Machines - Transformers: The Complete Series (1999) **** out of 5 asterisks
Produced by Hasbro/YTV/Mainframe Entertainment
Voice Cast: Garry Chalk, David Kaye, Scott McNeil, Ian James Corlett, Venus Terzo

You'll find mixed opinions on this series among Transformers fans, and unfortunately they tend to be largely negative. But as both a Transformers fan and long-time animation critic, I believe this series to be a shining example of great storytelling and characterization, and also possibly the darkest cartoon series ever produced for kids. It was, in fact, the most adult show I've ever seen made for kids as it included rich character development, philosophical themes, an overall dark tone, and it's an all-around high-quality production in terms of the voice cast, writing, and animation.

While there were elements of the show I didn't care for -- like the annoyance of Nightscream (TF's first emo character), a transforming flower (I'm not kidding!), and an ending that left my inner child dissatisfied and disappointed -- this series still captured my attention and kept me in eager anticipation all the way to the end. If you're a hardcore Transformers fan (aka "G1-er") AND you're a nitpicker, you probably won't like it. But I believe if you watch it as I did with an open mind as a stand-alone series, you'll find it epically entertaining. And even a decade later the CG animation still holds up too.

I've read many fan opinions on Beast Machines, and the other most common complaint (besides something in Cybertron's past that, to reveal it here, would spoil a major plot point for those who haven't seen the series) is that fans felt betrayed and confused that just within the first few minutes of its premiere Beast Machines changed... nay, challenged, revolutionized and even shattered EVERYTHING fans loved about Beast Wars. After all, the show's epic third season was incredible and a very tough act to follow.

And initially I dismissed Beast Machines for the very same reasons.

But then years later I found the DVD box set pre-owned for $12. Even though I didn't like what I'd seen of the show, it was too good of a deal to pass up. So I decided to give the series another chance, and this time try to view it objectively as if it were some sort of "Elseworlds" alternate-universe story that was connected to Transformers by name only.

And I was pleasantly surprised to find that -- despite its flaws and my fanboy tendency to nitpick -- it was really entertaining. I hope that other Transformers fans do too. If you can look beyond what fans have long perceived to be the series' core continuity problems, inconsistencies and character flaws, you might just be able to see the series for its compelling storyline, deep character development and overall entertainment value.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: It Runs In The Family

It Runs In The Family (2003) ***1/2 out of 5 asterisks
Director: Fred Schepisi (I.Q., Roxanne)
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas

There's not much "plot" to this movie and it moves along at a snail's pace; however, it's a nice slice-of-life drama about how a family copes with tragedy and does so in a realistic, familiar way. It also has three generations of the Douglas family in it -- Kirk and his ex-wife (Diana), son (Michael), and grandson (Cameron) -- and the reality of their relationships is portrayed beautifully on screen. And Kirk Douglas' performance is outstanding. Recommended if you enjoy character-driven dramas.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Review: Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming

Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming (2007) * out of 5 asterisks
Director/Writer: Ernie Barbarash (his other directorial credits aren't worth mentioning)
Starring: Rob Lowe (and some fairly unknown supporting cast not worth mentioning)

Bleah. Yuck, even. This follow-up to the 1999 horror/thriller starring Kevin Bacon is a waste of film. Even the "star power" of Rob Lowe can't redeem this low-budget, sub-par thriller... and it's a stretch to even call it a "thriller." It's like they intentionally ignored and gutted everything that made the original film entertaining just so they could make this piece of blatant anti-war propaganda.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

To the moon, Alice...

 Another entry in my T-Shirt Design Travesties series,
only this one isn't so much a "travesty"
as it is unintentionally amusing:

Surprisingly, only a few parents were reluctant to send their kids 
to outer space for the class field trip.

Shirt photographed Jan. 2010 at a thrift store in Duluth, GA.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Play That Zombie Music, White Boy

Title preview of one of the songs I'm releasing
on a future musical comedy album:

Happy Pauladeen!

Photo credit Getty Images/

Review: Arsenic and Old Lace

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) **** out of 5 asterisks
Director: Frank Capra (It's A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
Cast: Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre

This Frank Capra classic is a marvelous semi-dark comedy with marvelous performances and it's marvelously entertaining. (It's also fitting that I publish this review on Halloween because it's a childhood favorite and watching this film with my family was an annual Halloween tradition.) Like other of Capra's films, this has a timeless quality and continues to entertain no matter how old I get or how many times I've watched it.

Additional thoughts:

This film was based on a Broadway play and at times it really does feel like you're watching a live stage production. I really can't say enough how great the performances are in this, and the comedy and comic timing are impeccable -- heck, even the villain (played by Massey) manages to have some comedic moments.

Also noteworthy for voice actor fans is the performance by Edward Everett Horton -- narrator of Jay Ward's Fractured Fairy Tales (from Rocky & Bullwinkle) -- who appears in the film as Dr. Witherspoon.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review: The Elephant Man

The Elephant Man (1980) ****
Director: David Lynch (Twin Peaks, Dune, Mullholland Dr.)
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud

All the awards and accolades this film has received are well-deserved. It's not quite a perfect film, but it's perfectly cast, performed, and directed. While I'm not a fan of David Lynch's work, I believe this is his best film, and John Hurt's performance as the title character is amazing. This film may not exactly fit into the "horror" genre, but horror elements are certainly there. And I was surprised to learn from the production documentary that the make-up effects were based on a full body cast made from the real "Elephant Man," John Merrick, and this film offers just a glimpse of the literal horrors and terrors Merrick was subjected to throughout his life.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: Fido

Fido (2006) **** out of 5 asterisks
Director: Andrew Currie (who also co-wrote the screenplay)
Cast: Billy Connelly, Carrie Anne-Moss, Dylan Baker, Kesun Loder, Tim Blake Nelson

What if you could keep a zombie as a family pet? Wouldn't that be fun? And wouldn't that make for a fun movie too? Yes, it would! Fido is a genre mash-up of horror/drama/romance/comedy, and with a PG-13 rating is about as close as you'll find to a "family-friendly" zombie movie. The comedy's not too dark and it's not too gory, and it even has some emotional moments (and I would rarely say this of a horror flick) where you might just feel sympathy for a zombie. It's like Lassie meets Leave It To Beaver meets Night of the Living Dead meets Shaun of the Dead meets When Harry Met Sally. It's got a great cast, and it's refreshingly original and very entertaining. Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: Timber Falls

Timber Falls (2007) *** out of 5 asterisks
Director: Tony Giglio
Cast: Josh Randall, Brianna Brown, Nick Searcy

I might have given this one 4 asterisks had it not been for the tacked-on and unnecessary horror cliche ending. But this film surprised me. I was expecting a formulaic slasher flick, and then after the first 20 minutes it gets veeeery interesting and holds the suspense level high from that point on. It's still a little predictable and has some silly plot points, but it was pretty danged fun to watch.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: The Serpent and the Rainbow

The Serpent & The Rainbow (1988) *** out of 5 asterisks
Director: Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street series, Scream series)
Cast: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Paul Winfield, Conrad Roberts

While it's a little slow and the plot somewhat hard to follow at times, this is based on true events and is interesting as a non-traditional, "realistic" zombie film. At the time it was a risky departure for Wes Craven from his popular Freddy Krueger franchise, and in that regard, I enjoyed it. It's more of a cerebral horror movie and definitely has Craven's signature style balancing that fine line between reality and nightmares. Worth watching.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review: The Ruins

The Ruins (2008) *** out of 5 asterisks
Director: Carter Smith
Cast: Joanthan Tucker, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey, Shawn Ashmore, Joe Anderson

At first the story and characters seem typical, and the movie's fairly boring until about 25 minutes in, but it turned out to be an entertaining approach to the survival horror genre. It feels reminiscent of Stephen King-style storytelling and the Creepshow movies, while avoiding most horror cliches and offers plenty of suspense which pays off by the end. Also noteworthy are the DVD's two alternate endings, one of which I actually liked more than the final "unrated" cut.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Review: Shutter

Shutter (2008) **1/2 out of 5 asterisks
Director: Masayuki Ochiai (Shutter [original], Infection)
Starring: Joshua Jackson, Rachel Taylor

I'll save you some time and advise you to watch the original Thai horror version and skip this remake. While it's an okay flick and I liked the ending, it's too predictable and feels like you've seen it before. It's also difficult to watch because Jackson and Taylor fail to connect on screen -- they're just actors going through the motions and saying lines.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: Black Sheep

Black Sheep (2006) *** [Not to be confused with the 1996 comedy starring Chris Farley and David Spade.]
Director: Jonathan King
Cast: Nathan Meister, Peter Feeney, Danielle Mason

It's a silly premise: zombie, flesh-eating sheep terrorizing residents of a New Zealand countryside, but it's sheer campy, goofy fun. If you're a fan of horror comedies like Army of DarknessShaun of the Dead or Slither, you've got to see this one.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review: Below

Below (2002) *** out of 5 asterisks
Director: David Twohy (Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Arrival)
Cast: Matthew Davis, Bruce Greenwood, Scott Foley, Olivia Williams

An underrated and fairly unknown gem of a horror flick about a haunted submarine. No kidding! It's like The House on Haunted Hill meets The Hunt for Red October. And what the film lacks as a low-budget production, it makes up for with suspenseful pacing, atmosphere, and a good cast.  Also noteworthy is Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, Due Date, It's Kind of a Funny Story) as "Weird Wally" in one of his first feature film roles, playing a quirky character who steals every scene he's in.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: Pacific Heights

Pacific Heights (1990) *** out of 5 asterisks
Director: John Schlesinger (Marathon Man, The Falcon and the Snowman)
Cast: Michael Keaton, Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine

This film offers suspense in spades and Michael Keaton's performance is seriously creepy. On the downside, Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine lack on-screen chemistry and their characters aren't interesting, but at least they don't distract from the film's plot and pace. If you enjoy suspenseful thrillers, this is worth the rental. Also, if you own rental property or are considering buying into the market, you owe it to yourself to see this film. It's the ultimate bad tenant tale.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's Time For Animaniacs...Merchandise!

The above photo is from the 2000 San Diego Comic-Con of me with Maurice LaMarche, voice of The Brain from Animaniacs and its spinoff series Pinky & The Brain. I didn't plan to wear that specific T-shirt for this photo-op that day, but it was certainly appropriate. I have a closetful of of T-Shirts like this one, and a garageful of related merchandise.

I've been told by fellow collectors of Animaniacs/Pinky & The Brain memorabilia that my collection is possibly one of the largest in the world.* It's a stunning thought, but not something I brag about, nor was that ever a personal goal. It's simply a hobby I love about a show I love, and I've spent a lot of money showing my love for it. In fact, before I got married in 2005 most of my disposable income went towards cartoon memorabilia.

In hindsight, maybe I should have invested in important things like a college education, future career and food, but I digress. Also, it's too late for regret -- I must pay the penalty for having OCD. I'm not kidding -- remember in the movie Conspiracy Theory where Mel Gibson says he doesn't "feel normal" if he doesn't buy a copy of Catcher in the Rye every time he sees one? And he had hundreds of copies of the same book? I used to be like that with A!/P&TB memorabilia.

...okay, maybe my buying habit wasn't that bad, but it was eerily similar.

Anyway, so I've got a lot of stuff. So much stuff in fact that I enjoy it by storing it in boxes in the garage. Except for a selection of my favorite items (like my Pinky and The Brain resin statues, which my wife refers to as "giant rats"), the rest is packed away.

And my friends on The Warner Bros Club at have probably given up on my promises to launch an image archive site of my collection. It was a project I started back in 2000 -- photographed hundreds of items and uploaded them to my PC, and logged something like 50 pages of inventory and detailed notes in multiple MS Word docs. In 2001, I took a job touring with a music group and forgot all about the photos and Word docs, and unfortunately lost them all in The Great PC Crash of 2004.

In 2007, I again began the task of logging inventory and photographing my collection, only to lose it all yet again in The Great PC Crash of 2009.

It makes one wonder if I just wasn't meant to do this. (Or maybe I'm just a moron who doesn't learn from his mistakes.)

But I assure you an archive site will happen -- the project will move forward at toonzone at some point in the future as a fan-contributed database. And I shall acquire a better digital camera for my own contributions to the project, and maybe this time I'll be wiser and backup my files online.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share five recent additions to my collection. (And I should mention that my buying habits inevitably changed after getting married -- I now look for flea market/thrift store/yard sale finds rather than entering bidding wars on eBay. So these were all really cheap finds.)

Item #1 is an official Six Flags Pinky baseball cap, circa 1997.
Found this for $1 at a thrift store in Winder, GA:

Item #2 is a plush doll I've dubbed "Dr. Brain":

This was manufactured Play-By-Play Toys & Novelties, Inc., and was distributed by ACE in 1997. There was also a Pinky plush released in the same outfit (which I also own but it's in storage). If I had the ability to provide a hi-res image, observant fans like the notorious Ron "Keeper" O'Dell would note the "ACME LAB" typo on the labcoat logo.

This was purchased for under $2 at a thrift store in Winder, GA, and it's a rare find when you consider its age and that it was in a dump bin filled with dozens of other plush toys, and yet it's still in great condition. Also rare for a second-hand store item to still have the tag intact.

Item #3 is a clipping of a newspaper comic strip:

This is from Aaron McGruder's The Boondocks (circa March 2000, according to the archive strip at featuring an appearance by Pinky & The Brain. My mother clipped this from The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, TN several years ago, but didn't send it to me until years later. I wish mom had kept the whole newspaper instead, but that's just my inner fanboy whining that mom damaged this by cutting it out.

Item #4 is a Pinky & The Brain graphic tee, circa 1994.
(Frontal view):

Back view:

This is official Warner Bros. apparel, manufactured in the good ol' U.S. of A. I found it at a yard sale in Lawrenceville, GA. Naturally, I asked the owner if he had any others, but sadly he did not. When I asked him how much he wanted for it, he looked at the Animaniacs shirt I was already wearing and said, "Just consider it a gift from one fan to another."

Item #5 is a hand-held electronic game entitled
Animaniacs: Hollywood Hi Jinx!!

This handheld game from Tiger Electronics has two dates on it. On the front in small print there's a WB trademark dated 1994, yet on the back there's a 1990 copyright for Tiger Electronics. Since Animaniacs didn't premiere until 1993, I assume "1990" refers to when Tiger copyrighted the unit design style. Tiger apparently used that same design for many of their handheld games through the early 90s. [Thanks to astute Animaniacs fan "cognitofalcon" for pointing out the discrepancy in the date before I updated this post.]

Surprisingly, this game is still in working condition, and I may record video of the gameplay and post it on YouTube so you can see and hear how annoyingly repetitive it is. (I'm also not sure what the point is -- something about Yakko trying to catch flowers while trying to avoid being grabbed by Ralph the Guard. Over. And Over. And Over. And Over...) A big thanks to my brother Jon for picking this up for me at a thrift store in Memphis, TN.

I hope my fellow fans and collectors out there have enjoyed this, and I promise to add photos of 5 more items with each A!/P&TB merch post in the near future.

Footnote: * It's my belief that diehard A!/P&TB fan Kane Leung (aka "Narfcake") easily has a bigger collection than mine just based on discussions we've had comparing notes. (Kane is/was the official maintainer of the F.A.B.O.O. aka the Animaniacs Merchandise List.) And he for sure has a larger T-shirt collection than I do. Kane, if you're reading this, I'm still looking to replace that Six Flags Animaniacs shirt I traded you at Comic-Con 2003. I was okay parting with it at the time since you basically begged me for it, but I've never seen another one like it since and it was my favorite.

Review: Masters of Horror -- Family

Masters of Horror: Family (2006) **** out of 5 asterisks
Director: John Landis (The Blues Brothers, Animal House, An American Werewolf in London)
Starring: George Wendt

A near-perfect and fun little horror flick starring the guy who played "Norm" on Cheers as a serial killer trying to make a good impression on his neighbors. Of all the titles in the "Masters of Horror" series I've seen to date, this is my favorite.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Boy Eats Girl

Boy Eats Girl (2005) **1/2 out of 5 asterisks
Director: Stephen Bradley
Cast: Samantha Mumba, David Leon

This Irish zombie movie (yes, you read that correctly) ignores the all-important horror film rule that someone must be murdered within the first 5 minutes. And that's the film's main flaw: it takes far too long for the movie to get interesting. But once it does (more than halfway in) it's an entertaining, gory, dark comedy in the vein of Shawn of the Dead, Slither, and Black Sheep (although not as good as any of those movies). The title alone gives you enough plot that you could fast-forward to the good parts without missing anything.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: April Fool's Day

April Fool's Day (1986) ** out of 5 asterisks
Director: Fred Walton (When A Stranger Calls, When A Stranger Calls Back)
Cast: Deborah Foreman, Jay Baker, Deborah Goodrich, Ken Olant

I really don't understand how this came to be called a "horror classic." It's more of a campy B-movie slasher flick and not nearly scary enough to be a true horror film. Furthermore, the acting is campy and crappy, and the plot -- especially the ending -- is just way too predictable and contrived. While I could at least credit the director for effectively building suspense throughout, it's so ponderously slow you figure out the ending well in advance. This is a lame attempt at repackaging an Agatha Christie classic as a teen screamer. I suppose if you like vintage silly slasher flicks you might find this one interesting, but otherwise don't bother watching this or the 2008 remake which is only slightly less crappy than the original.

Monday, October 18, 2010

With Friends Like These...

While sorting backlogged friend requests on Facebook, one I tried to accept actually rejected me. Facebook told me that the person "has too many friends." I didn't even know that was possible!

I was subsequently surprised to learn that Facebook allows a maximum of 5,000 friends for any individual.

When I mentioned this in my status post, friend comments came pouring in: 

You can never have too many friends.

Having too many friends is better than none at all.

Facebook has definitely redefined the meaning of the word "friends." 

I have 95% "acquaintances." True friends are few!

The last two statements caused me to speculate on what it would look like if Facebook allowed us to categorize our friends...

__X__ has 3 TrueFriends
15 RelativesWhoMayOrMayNotBeFriends
2 MoochingFriends
5 FormerFriendsWhoStillOweHimMoney
6 FormerTeacherFriendsWhoActuallyWeren'tKnownForBeingFriendly
11 ChildhoodFriendsWhoHeBarelyRemembers
3 CollegeFriendsWhoHeMayOrMayNotHaveDated

7 CollegeFriendsWhoAreFormerRoommates
9 CollegeFriendsWhoCouldn'tRememberHisNameAtCollege
28 MutualFriendsOfFriendsOfFriends
85 RandomAcquaintencesJustifyingTheirExistenceByNumberOfFriends
282 InternetFriendsWhoOnlyKnowHimByHisAvatarOrNickname

DISCLAIMER: Actual numbers chosen at random.This is an attempt at humor. And if you are a friend of Craig's on Facebook please don't assume that you in particular would fall into any of his Facebook Friends Categories.

Movie Review: Mr. Brooks

Mr. Brooks (2007) ***
Director: Bruce A. Evans (who also co-wrote)
Starring: Kevin Costner, William Hurt

Entertaining psychological thriller offering an interesting fictional perspective into the mind of a serial killer. The top notch performances by Costner and Hurt are nearly overshadowed by comedian Dane Cook's lousy acting -- it's forced, unbelievable and really shows his inexperience. I just kept hoping his character would be killed quickly and put us out of our misery. But if you can tolerate Cook's performance, the rest of the movie is worth watching.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) **1/2 out of 5 asterisks
Director: Jack Clayton
Starring: Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Vidal Peterson, Shawn Carson

I've been a fan of Ray Bradbury since I was old enough to read, but this Disney-imagineered vision of Bradbury's masterwork of fiction is just too family-friendly. If there ever was a Disney-produced film that was actually worthy of a remake, this deserves a darker, more adult treatment. It's an okay film by Disney standards: it does achieve a suspenseful and atmospherically creepy drama, and James Horner's score is enjoyable, but it just lacks... oomph. Fans of Disney's traditional fare might enjoy this, but horror fans will be sorely disappointed.

Also disappointing for Disney/DVD collectors is that neither of the bonus features produced for the 1983 laserdisc (commentary and behind-the-scenes featurette) were included on Disney's 2004 or Anchor Bay's 1999 DVD versions. And either DVD release would have more value to collectors and fans if they had done a video interview with Ray Bradbury who also drafted the film's screenplay.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: Disturbia

Disturbia (2007) ***1/2 out of 5 asterisks
Director: D.J. Caruso
Starring: Shia LeBeouf, David Morse

Granted, it's a modern remake of a Hitchcock classic, but it's actually a GOOD one. I anticipated another formulaic teen horror/thriller, but LeBeouf's entertaining performance and the constant edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting type of suspense completely sucked me in. And David Morse is great in it too. I had the ending figured out long in advance, but it was still a fun ride all the way through.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Review: Deer Woman

Masters of Horror: Deer Woman (2005) **1/2 out of 5 asterisks
Director: John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, The Blues Brothers, Animal House)
Starring: Brian Benben, Anthony Griffith, Cinthia Moura, Lisa Marie Caruk

In spite of the largely negative reviews this film has received I enjoyed it overall, although the ending is much too abrupt, awkward, and doesn't offer any sort of closure. But it has an interesting X-Files vibe and Landis takes a ridiculous premise and runs with it, even going as far to point out via Brian Benben's character how ridiculous it is. If you enjoy other of Landis' films you'll find reasons to like this one. And for Landis fans, this disc is a worthwhile rental for the featurette covering his films which includes interviews with Landis and other individuals he's worked with, and a bonus vintage interview with Landis circa 1979 when he was filming The Blues Brothers.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review: The Tenant

The Tenant (1976) **1/2
Director: Roman Polanski (who also starred and co-wrote the script)

(Polanski's legal troubles and alleged criminal activity aside...)

This was recommended to me as a "psychological thriller," and while I'll admit it was suspenseful and an interesting character study in paranoia and dementia, I just didn't like it. For a while, it seems like it might be a ghost story, but then maybe it's all in the guy's head? By the end, it all just feels confusing, frustrating, and pointless. The main character is a dull guy and his backstory is never revealed, so there's nothing to justify why he's slowly going insane. Having lived in a few apartments over the years, I identified with the annoyance of having weird, scary, and stupid people as neighbors. And they did drive me crazy... only not whacked-out, psycho-crazy for no good reason at all like the main character in this film.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: P2

P2 (2007) *** out of 5 asterisks
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Starring: Rachel Nichols, Wes Bentley

The whole film takes place in an underground parking garage and hence the "P2" title. I was expecting another formulaic horror/thriller, but it turned out to be surprisingly good with interesting plot twists and suspense. Also what helps set this movie apart from similar genre films is that you won't find any stereotypical screaming, frantically-running "damsel-in-distress" here -- the character Rachel Nichols plays is not one to be trifled with. While it does occasionally fall into formula and you can probably predict the ending, it's still a better-than-average horror/thriller that's worth the rental.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review: The Night Listener

The Night Listener (2006) ** out of 5 asterisks
Director: Patrick Stettner (The Business of Strangers)
Starring: Robin Williams, Toni Collette

A decent (although slow) psychological thriller right up until the ending. The performances by Robin Williams and the rest of the cast are solid, but it's not enough to salvage the movie from the disappointing ending. The film is based on a true story which even Hollywood couldn't glamorize enough to make the ending satisfying. Only recommended if you're fascinated with character studies in human psychosis.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: Dawn of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead (1978) *** out of 5 asterisks
Director/Writer: George A. Romero
Starring: Ken Foree, Gaylen Ross, Scott H. Reiniger, David Emgee

Casual horror fans should be warned that this movie is slow-paced with the exception of only a few scenes. I'll grant that this film was groundbreaking in its day and its cult classic status cannot be denied. The subtle social commentary on consumer excess and greed are noteworthy themes for a horror flick, but they also cause the plot to drag -- the film's fairly boring up until the big finale at the end. So while there are moments of humor and horror fan-pleasing gore splattered throughout the film, the slow pace is a killer. My wife (who's also a horror fan) gave up on it after 15 minutes, and I put the subtitles on and fast-forwarded to get through several scenes that were so woefully boring I wanted to gouge my eyes out. But because it's a cult classic, I saw it through to the end and I'm glad I did because there are some scenes that are very satisfying to any horror fan.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: Zombieland

Zombieland (2009) ***
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin

While this film was generally received well by horror fans and film critics, I'm going to buck the trend and say that it was a little disappointing. I had higher expectations due to the hype from horror fans slobbering over it who apparently weren't bothered by Jesse Eisenberg's annoying performance or his even more irritating voiceover narration. But overall, I'll admit it's an entertaining flick and worth watching for horror fans.

Additional thoughts:

Although I gave this film an average score and criticized the lead's performance, I must add that Woody Harrelson is great in this. He makes the film worth watching for his performance alone. Bill Murray's cameo was also very funny, and the film had some fantastic and hilarious scenes of crowd-pleasing zombie destruction.

But I just couldn't stand Eisenberg, the lead actor who played Columbus. I realize he was cast to play an "Everyman" type, but I just couldn't identify with him. His character was annoying and his voice even moreso -- his narration nearly completely ruined the movie for me. I wanted him to get violated by a zombie as soon as possible, but it never happened.

And except for the beginning and end, the middle was dreadfully slow.

It barely gets 3 asterisks out of 5 from me. On the upside, there's a 3D sequel in development, so maybe they'll fix the problems from the first not casting Jesse Eisenberg, for starters.

And FYI: my 2003 Hyundai Elantra is also seen very briefly in the background. I spent a day in Extras Holding at the Atlanta Motor Speedway during the production of this film, napping and reading magazines while they sprayed fake dirt on my car and used it as an abandoned vehicle. Easiest $125 I ever made.

And in an ironic case of life imitating art, my car was totaled in an accident a few months later and spent 9 months in my driveway as an abandoned vehicle.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Review: Army of Darkness

For the remainder of October, I'll be posting a series of capsule reviews of horror films and thrillers to coincide with the festivities of All Hallows' Eve.

I'll begin with one of my all-time favorites:

Army of Darkness -- aka Evil Dead 3 (1992) **** out of 5 asterisks
Director: Sam Raimi (who also co-wrote the script)
Starring: Bruce Campbell (no one else really matters, although this film does have a great supporting cast)

This multi-genre horror/comedy manages a balance between scary, silly and campy that's very entertaining to watch thanks to Bruce Campbell's performance, Sam Raimi's direction, the aforementioned strong supporting cast, and great make-up and creature effects. Highly recommended for horror fans, and required viewing for all Bruce Campbell fans.

Additional thoughts:

Some horror fans contend that you should watch the first two Evil Dead films before seeing this one, but I think it recaps well enough in the opening to stand on its own. (But you should definitely watch the first two after watching Army of Darkness to see the series as a whole.)

Although the first two films are considered horror cult classics and are generally rated higher than Army of Darkness, I like the third film a lot more than the first two. I tend to favor horror comedies, and Army of Darkness is easily the most comedic of the three. Bruce Campbell makes the first two worth watching, and I also admire what Sam Raimi was able to accomplish with Evil Dead on a budget of only $375K.

But I love Army of Darkness. It's like a mash-up of the best elements of Jason & The Argonauts, The Three Stooges, and Night of the Living Dead. It's The Princess Bride of the horror genre: it contains multiple genre elements and entertains on multiple levels.

It's also one of few horror films which takes place in Medieval Times, which seems ironic when you consider that it was a very scary period in history.

And be sure to watch the alternate ending available on certain releases of the film on DVD and Blu-Ray, but I should caution that the 2009 Blu-Ray version was not well-received by fans, film critics or DVD/BR collectors due to the disappointing digital transfer.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Billing Don't You Lose My Number

I'm a regular on a forum called The Southern Casting Call which is a great, FREE resource for performers in the Southeast U.S. -- I've booked many a paid gig thanks to the site.

One of the most-frequently-asked-questions at TSCC involves how TV/film roles are "billed" (or credited) on a resume.

The helpful thing to do would be to provide a link to The Actors Voice -- a blog published by author, producer and casting director Bonnie Gillespie. In February 2005, Bonnie published this excellent blog post on the subject -- a list of billing terms explained in detail, followed by an equally-useful Q&A post about billing terms.

But when the question about billing was asked again recently at TSCC, after it was answered I thought I'd have some fun and provide my own definitions for billing terms:

Guest Star 
Usually someone who works the least on set, but earns the most.


Something you put your drink on so your TV tray doesn't get wet.


Something even Superman can't see through.


Someone who gets to be first in line when filming breaks for lunch. (Not interchangeable with "Principle" or to be confused with the person whose office you get sent to when you've done something stupid at school.)

Actors cast so the stars will have someone to talk to during scenes.

Day Player 
An actor who prefers not to work nights. 

Under 5 
Not tall enough or old enough to ride this ride or see this movie. 

An actor appearing regularly who just hasn't been replaced yet.


Someone walking/sitting/standing in the background who has as much chance of actually being seen on camera as someone sitting at home watching TV. (* See "Human Prop.")

NAE -- "Not An Extra."

And on that last note, I'd like to share a related anecdote.

One time an extra on a film shoot -- who claimed she had worked on other productions -- told me, "I don't normally do this background stuff. I'm usually featured."

Here's a healthy dose of reality: unless you have a speaking line in a production, you are still just an extra. The actors' unions and casting directors do not acknowledge uncredited, non-speaking roles as "featured." There is no such thing as a "featured extra," in spite of what extras casting agencies claim. That's like saying a piece of lettuce is "featured" in a salad.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: The Host

The Host (2006) ***1/2 (out of 5 asterisks)
Director/Co-Writer: Joon-ho Bong
Starring: Some Korean actors whose names you probably won't recognize

Good character-driven family drama/thriller that defies the expectations, conventions and cliches of a standard "monster movie." A very non-traditional monster flick that's recommended even if you don't like monster movies. But I would strongly advise watching it with the original Korean dialog and English subtitles. The English dub is horrible and distracting.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Bus Ride

I originally wrote this freeverse-style poem on August 6, 2002.

Updated commentary to follow...


The Bus Ride

In the seat to my right sits a couple
holding hands
One sleeps
The other listens to music
And from the expressions on their faces
It's obvious there's love between the two

In front of me, a couple speak softly to each other
then fall silent
and smile
A longing look they share reveals
there's love between the two

Up further on my right, a pretty woman
with a ring on her finger
talks to a phone
“I’ll be home soon,” she says. “I miss you.”
“I love you.”

The seat beside me is empty
There’s nothing in my hands
No ring on my finger
Nothing else for me to do but look out the window

I close my eyes
and say a prayer
that someday I’ll have someone to go home to
someone who misses me, who can’t wait to see me again
someone to call on the phone and say, “I love you.”
that someday I’ll have a ring on my finger
that someday there will be someone
sitting with me
on the bus


Now, I'm sure there are people out there who eat this sort of stuff up. If you liked this, thanks. But there are a lot of writers out there who don't like to reflect on something they wrote in the past. It might make you wonder why you wrote it in the first place, and why you were foolish enough to publish it so others could read it too.

In hindsight, I still like it and think it's a nice piece even if it does sound a little like a greeting card. And I don't think I'd change anything about it...except the setting.

Today, I wouldn't subject anyone I love to the experience of riding a bus with me. Buses have a well-known reputation for being unpleasant, exasperating, claustrophobic, and filled with people who haven't bathed since Jimmy Carter was president.

The prayer expressed at the end of the poem was indeed fulfilled. I do have someone to go home to now, and I'm very grateful to God for answering that prayer. But you won't find us riding a bus together. Not no way. Not no how.

Friday, July 30, 2010



That's the best way to describe a production company that will do something like this.

Here's the scenario:

You are an experienced, professional actor and you audition for a stage production but you are not cast, or you submit for an audition but are not even selected.

In the meantime, the production company adds your email address to their database and sends you a series of marketing emails to attend their show with a "special offer" of discount tickets.

This begs the question: if I wasn't cast in your production or you wouldn't even give me a chance to audition, why in the world would I pay to see your show?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cheap Eats: Wendy's

I have no idea if "Cheap Eats" has been trademarked -- I'm too lazy to check. I do know there's a blog with the name that some might call "popular," but when it comes to "cheap eats" I just want simple, straightforward info devoid of blathery commentary and weak attempts at humor.

That said, I'd like to present a photo series explaining how to make a $5 burger out of two $1 burgers at Wendy's in 5 simple steps.

Step 1:
From Wendy's Value Menu*, order a "Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger" and a "Wendy's Double Stack" (and a cup of icewater because it's free).
* Note that prices and availability may vary according to location, but generally all of Wendy's items on the Value Menu are $1 (but check the price of the Jr Bacon on the receipt below!).

Step 2:
Sanitize your hands -- you never know what the employees were touching before they wrapped your food. (And remember that you probably just handled your vehicle's germ-infested steering wheel and car keys too.)
Then, unwrap the burgers and place them upside down.

Step 3:
Remove bottom buns.*
* At this step, you may also add additional condiments, if desired. And if you're still in the car, throw one of the bottom buns to the birds if you need to cut back on the bread.

Step 4:
Rearrange bottom buns, meat patties and other burger content in whatever order suits your fancy.

Step 5:
Combine burgers and enjoy.

For larger appetites, order an additional Double Stack, follow the steps above and you'll have a massive Dagwood Bumstead-style burger for only $3. (You might also have a massive coronary later, but at least you won't die hungry.)

I find there's no need to order anything extra for this meal -- it's very filling and very cheap. And it's about the same size as Wendy's larger, more expensive burgers and includes lettuce, tomato and bacon too. And if you like onions, I'm sure Wendy's would include some for free if you ask.

You can do this same burger mash-up at other fast food places for about the same price. At Burger King, for example, two Whopper Jrs. are more filling than a regular Whopper and cheaper too, but you have to pay extra for bacon and cheese. (And as I mentioned in a previous post, BK's $1 Double Cheesburger is awful.) But for my money Wendy's has the best deal and the best taste combination.

However, McDonald's does have an interesting taste combo with what I call "The Churger" -- a mash-up of their $1 chicken sandwich and $1 double cheeseburger:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Crappy Cover Art: The Groomsmen

I did a previous post on the botched cover art for the 1999 DVD release of Ghostbusters 2, which serves to segue-way into a series on crappy cover art that I've been wanting to do ever since I wasted my life worked for Hollywood Video between 2003-2004.

Granted, there are already whole sites and blogs devoted to such atrocities, but I'm done donating content to other sites and blogs without getting credit for it.

Today's entry is the 2006 indie film The Groomsmen, starring Edward Burns (who also directed), Jay Mohr, Donal Logue, John Leguizamo and the late Brittany Murphy:

It doesn't take a graphic designer's eye to see this is a horrid photoshop hackjob. Without the budget to do a proper publicity photoshoot for the cover art, the designer throws together a collage of movie stills of the cast and from somewhere on the web rips off a photo of Brittany Murphy -- who, in the film, actually has brown hair, not blonde.

Worse still is how Murphy's face was pasted over some other woman's body, and her head placed so far off-center that it makes it look like her shoulder is growing out of her chin. And you can bet that's not Edward Burns' body either with the way his neck looks slightly broken at that jaunty angle.

Also note the tagline: "Till Death do we PARTY!" ...and the beer bottles that Jay Mohr seems to be waving in the air (which also never happens in the film).

This is a deliberately misleading attempt by marketing to make this movie more interesting and appealing to consumers by promoting it as a type of frat sex comedy.

But it's no comedy. And there's no sex in it. Heck, there's nothing really frat-like about it either. And without the barrage of F-bombs dropped throughout the film, it probably wouldn't have even merited the "R" rating. In short, it's a fairly heavy character-driven drama, although it has humorous moments. And it's kinda slow too, but that's not to say it was a "bad movie" because the cast's performances were solid and I did enjoy the film overall (like at least 3 out of 5 asterisks).

I bought this movie at a clearance sale for a buck -- didn't know anything about it, but it had a good cast which also included the late Brittany Murphy and that was enough for me. But if I'd bought it at retail price or rented it because I was expecting a frat sex comedy -- as advertised on the cover -- I would have been sorely disappointed.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Guide for Atlanta Fandom

The post previously published in this space
is now available as a separate blog: 

The Atlanta Fandom Guide

Thursday, March 25, 2010

De-Stress Yourself

Another entry for "T-Shirt Design Travesties":

Because it's only when you give yourself a massage
that you're guaranteed a happy ending.

Shirt photographed Feb. 2010 by Craig Crumpton at a thrift store in Duluth, GA.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Goodbye, Books-A-Million

Media retailer Books-A-Million recently changed their return policy which allows for a refund or exchange only with receipt within 14 days of purchase. And furthermore, they now offer no store credit without a receipt.

I was not aware that their policy had changed and tried returning a couple items I bought as gifts (after I learned that the person I'd bought them for already had them). I was only a few days behind the 14 days and explained that I live nowhere close to the mall and could they at least offer store credit. They flatly refused, stating that because it was printed on my receipt (which I didn't think to check because most stores have a 30 day policy) and because the register recognized it as an expired receipt there was nothing they could do for me. (I added that there was nothing I could do for them either because their policy was anti-customer and I would no longer shop at their store.)

Since the store's management was so completely non-helpful, I called their corporate office.

They said they could issue me a gift card, but I said that was not acceptable because their mall store where I made the purchases was out of the way and had already cost me gas just to return the items. Returning yet again to redeem a gift card would just be paying more out of pocket.

I was then told that they would "try" to get a refund check for me, but that even if it was approved would take 2-4 weeks to process. I asked her to please try because I wasn't going to go any more out of pocket just to get an exchange.

It blows my mind that both their site and their store's advertising push making purchases as gifts, but their own store policy is anti-gift purchasing because unless you: a) remember to get a gift receipt; b) give the gift well under 14 days of purchase -- whomever you give the gift to cannot return or exchange the gift.

I explained to the customer service phone rep that their new policy is anti-customer and that once my refund is received I will not be making any future purchases at any of their stores or online, where I used to spend an average of $400-500 a year. This kind of customer-No-Service policy is what has led other retail companies into bankruptcy. I would encourage others to keep this in mind before shopping there in the future.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Just Peachy

Another entry for "T-Shirt Design Travesties" well as "Top 10 Worst Day Care Center Names Ever":

* Shirt photographed Jan. 2010 by Craig Crumpton at a thrift store in Duluth, GA.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Review: Loose Cannons

Loose Cannons (1990) ***
Director: Bob Clark (A Christmas Story, Porky's series)
Starring: Dan Aykroyd, Gene Hackman

Buddy cop comedy with Aykroyd in top comedic form. Not a great movie by any means, but Aykroyd's performance is amusing enough (also supported by the comic talents of the late Dom DeLuise) that it's at least worth the rental if you're a fan of his work.

Review: Penny Dreadful

Penny Dreadful (2006) - not even worth half an asterisk
Director/Writer: Richard Brandes (who also wrote/directed/produced/acted in several other low-budget B-movie thrillers)
Starring: Rachel Miner, Mimi Rogers

"Dreadful" describes this flick perfectly. It's a boring mess of a horror movie about a teen who's trapped in a car and terrorized by... something, I guess. It's difficult to decipher what the heck's going on: the plot is awkward and nonsensical, and you spend most of the movie waiting for something to happen. But the suspense never pays off. In the behind-the-scenes featurette, the director says he wanted to give the audience "the sense of being inside the car." Well, if I'd wanted to experience that, I'd have just gone out and sat in my car for 90 minutes instead of watching this movie.

Review: A Simple Plan

A Simple Plan (1998) **** (out of 5 asterisks)
Director: Sam Raimi (Evil Dead trilogy, Spider-Man trilogy)
Starring: Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton

Fascinating moral tale about greed and how it can corrupt even good,
decent people. Great thriller. Highly recommended.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Review: Still Breathing

Continuing my series of recommended Valentine's Day romantic movies...

- Still Breathing (1997) ****1/2
Director/Writer: James F. Robinson
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Joanna Going

At the risk of sounding dangerously un-masculine, I'm not ashamed to admit I loved this movie. It's a beautiful modern fairytale about how a truly odd couple -- a con artist and a puppeteer -- find "true love." Yes, it's sheer romantic fantasy but it's presented in a way that's refreshing and hopeful without being cliché. Highly recommended for helpless romantics.

Additional thoughts:

I'm expanding on this capsule review since this is both a very watchable film and a great DVD package too.

There's something very calming, peaceful and comforting about this film. And it's intelligent, well-performed and full of nuance -- subtle details, symbolism, foreshadowing and a color palette all deliberately and strategically placed in the film that you might not even pick up on them during the first viewing. So if you love films I suggest watching it more than once.

And the director's audio commentary is hands-down the most insightful presentation I have ever heard for a film on the careful thought, effort, and painstaking attention to detail that went into crafting this genuine gem of a film.

I loved this movie so much, I ended up buying the soundtrack too.

It's disappointing that writer/director James F. Robinson has only this solitary film to his credit on I'd love to see more from him. Where the heck are you, James? Please, Mr. Robinson, give us more films like this one.

Review: Happy Accidents

Continuing my series of recommended Valentine's Day romantic movies...

- Happy Accidents (2000) ***
Director/Writer: Brad Anderson (Session 9, Fringe, Transsiberian)
Starring: Vincent D'Onofrio, Marissa Tomei

Offbeat romantic drama with a sci-fi twist, and Tomei and D'Onofrio are convincing enough in their roles and relationship to make you want to believe. Worth watching for a "date night" with you and someone special.

Review: Every Time We Say Goodbye

I'm not ashamed to admit I enjoy the occasional romantic movie provided it's well-acted and produced and not too predictable.

In light of Valentine's Day, I thought it appropriate to recommend some romantic films I have personally enjoyed. This is the first of three I'll be posting consecutively.

- Every Time We Say Goodbye (1986) **1/2 (out of 5 asterisks)
Director/Writer: Moshé Mizrahi
Starring: Tom Hanks, Cristina Marsillach

This is a little like Fiddler On The Roof, only without the singing. It's the ol' Jews-must-not-marry-Gentiles cliché of forbidden love. (Forbidden!) As a romantic drama it's fairly average and I can understand why some might rate it lower even than I did because it's fairly slow and predictable. However, Tom Hank's performance is solid as always, and Cristina Marsillach is just plain adorable and charming. Recommended for you incurable romantics out there. Good date movie.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Political Transformers

GMANews.TV reports:
Two days before the start of the campaign period, posters of candidates running for national and local posts have begun to litter parts of Metro Manila.

In Manila and Quezon City, posters of a presidential bet and his running mate [Richard Gordon and running mate Bayani Fernando] sprouted in several areas, including parts of main thoroughfares such as España Avenue and Quezon Avenue.

While the posters did not tell people to "vote" for the candidates, the images of the presidential bet and his running mate, along with their nickname "The Transformers," were prominent in the posters.

It makes one wonder if they really thought through that campaign slogan. Such an easy target for parody. What a fun presidential race that will be.

So which one is Bumblebee?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Walkin' in Memphis - is a dangerous thing to do

In January, I visited the family in my hometown of Memphis, TN. It was the first time I'd been "home" in 3 years, and I was amazed how much the city has changed over the last decade...and not for the better.

My younger brother informed me that the Hickory Ridge Mall had closed after a tornado devastated it in 2008 (2 years ago this month). It was our favorite hang-out when we were younger. We didn't do the kind of social hang-out with groups of teens like you normally see at malls. It was usually just to get out of the house and girl-watch. We also watched a lot of movies at that mall, and I used to go there after work regularly to watch one before going home for the night.

A lot of purchases were made at that mall for my collection of TV/movie cartoon memorabilia. And it seems like I bought my very first DVD at that mall too. Good times. And just to give you a sense of the history I had with that mall, I remember when Weird Al's "UHF" and "Transformers: The Movie" were showing at the theater there.

And then today, my friend and Memphian Dave Lambert (of fame) tells me that The Mall of Memphis was bulldozed several years ago. Holy crap. Guess my family failed to mention that, but the mall seemed doomed anyway due to weekly gang fights which led to ever-dwindling mall traffic.

I have so many great memories of that mall. Going there with my family was an event that I always looked forward to, especially during the holidays because it was guaranteed that my parents were going to buy a gift for me there. I would visit my favorite stores with my Christmas wish list and mom would have me show her the top items on my list. Then dad would take us to the food court for ice cream while mom bought our gifts.

I also became a movie fan there. I watched my first theatrical Ernest movie there. I remember my grandmother taking me to see "The Great Muppet Caper" there for my birthday, which she fell asleep during but I loved going with her nevertheless. And when I finally turned 18, I watched my first R-rated movie there too (it was "Total Recall").

I think I even bought my first Transformer there, a hobby I've had ever since.

My family used to go there nearly every Saturday night and eat in the food court and watch the ice skaters, but we stopped going when it seemed like every weekend there were cops chasing kids and shoplifters through the mall and far too many cop cars patrolling the dark areas of the parking lot.

I don't know where Memphis ranks currently in top crime cities in the U.S., but it's bound to be in the top 5. Seems like every time my wife and I watch "COPS" or "The First 48" they're filming in Memphis.

In 2004, when my wife and I were dating, her dad who was also a trucker offered to take me with him for a quick run to Memphis so I could visit my family. We stopped at a popular truck stop just inside the Memphis city limits and a "lot lizard" (that's trucker-speak for "prostitute") knocked on the window and asked if we "needed any company." three o'clock in the afternoon.

And the downtown area has deteriorated over time too, largely from rampant crime and afternoon hookers. My family who still lives in the Memphis area and other Memphis natives tell me they leave downtown to the tourists.

I guess that's why I find Marc Cohn's 1991 radio hit "Walkin' In Memphis" so woefully ironic. To begin with...well, Cohn is from Cleveland, but that's another topic. What makes the song so ironic is that if you follow the course of a walking tour as Cohn describes in the song, it will take you the greater part of a week to accomplish on foot.

...and that's only if you survive the experience. Walking anywhere around the iconic Memphis tourist attractions Cohn mentions in the song can be hazardous to your health. People have been beat up, stabbed or shot by gang members and petty crooks in those places, and also many wallets and purses have been snatched and many cars stolen and/or broken into as well.

It's sad to see the home of my childhood and so many good memories now tainted by the current conditions of the city. I love my family, but I wish all the safety and happiness in the world to them and friends who still live in the Memphis area. The cliche "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there" is replaced with simply "It's a nice place to leave."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Facebook is Full of Fail

The following was originally posted February 6, 2010 and has since become a mostly dated rant.

I hates the new Facebook changes.

The Live Feed has become a nightmare cluttered with posts from Fan Pages and Groups and every single little bit of activity by my friends (which I only want to see if I actually look at their profiles).

My organized friends lists have disappeared. Thank you so much, Facebook, for letting me waste my time setting those up so you could purge them in your update.

You can't even view your Groups at a glance now -- it redirects to your feed, which is complete nonsense.

And you practically need a tutorial to understand how their new privacy controls work. I really don't want every single post to friends' profiles, fan pages and groups showing up in my feeds, and there's no reason everyone in my networks should see that either (nor do most of them even care to). Seriously, there's no legitimate reason why Facebook can't put that setting back to the way it was before.

If this continues, people are going to get fed up w/Facebook and someone(s) will make something better where users' recommendations and requests are actually priority considerations for format and content instead of being ignored.

I pray for that day to come quickly. If I was married to Facebook, I would get a divorce. Or hire someone to break Facebook's legs with a lead pipe.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Movie Review: Seraphim Falls

Seraphim Falls (2006) **** (out of 5 asterisks)
Director/Writer: David Von Ancken (Cold Case, CSI: NY)
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson

A somewhat slow but satisfying western drama which deftly illustrates the futility of war and revenge and the healing power of redemption and forgiveness. Features great cinematography, an intriguing plot and solid performances. Heartily recommended if you enjoy westerns.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Burgers and Math

Nolan Rubin loves hamburgers.

He loves hamburgers so much that he was willing to go on record for a Wall Street Journal article on Burger King "Super Fans" and admit publicly that he would "wolf down bacon cheeseburgers three or four nights a week at Burger King, Jack in the Box and local bars."

And then burger-lover Nolan Rubin was laid off from his job, forcing him to change his eating habits and dine on a tighter budget.

Nolan says now he and his fiance "cook at home using organic vegetables and dine out only on weekends," and "figures he is saving more than $100 a week by eating fewer burgers."

Nolan Rubin may love hamburgers, but he's not so good at math or at being frugal. You can eat 100 Whopper Jrs off the value menu at Burger King for $100...if you were so inclined. You could even add bacon and cheese for pocket change.

And I don't know what those "local bars" were charging for their burgers, but I know BK and Jack's burgers aren't $25 each.

Props to Nolan and his fiance for changing their eating habits and living on a budget, and maybe he'll live longer too since he's backed off the bacon.

But maybe in the future Nolan should leave the math and the finances to his fiance since I think maybe he doesn't know the value of a burger.

Dangit. Now I'm hungry and I have the strangest craving for Burger King...

I guarantee you I won't be having one of their $1 double cheeseburgers they've been advertising. They're awful. BK's double cheeseburger made web headlines recently because their franchisers were complaining they were losing money on the burger.

I should hope so. Their burger made me lose my appetite. BK's $1 double cheeseburger is like eating two kitchen sponges that have been soaked in cheese and beef. At first, I thought it was just poor quality control by the BK location where I first tried one. But unfortunately, it was the same case with TWO other locations.

And what's worse, the meat has a very non-flame-broiled taste that made the Whopper famous.

Burger King's $1 double cheeseburger = Epic Burger Fail.