BLOGGER TEMPLATES AND TWITTER BACKGROUNDS
by D.W. Lundberg

Saturday, December 24, 2011

... FOR "SANTA SAID WHAT?!!" (OR, "QUIZ TIME, PART 7") - UPDATED: WITH ANSWERS!

Well, it's Christmas time again, folks! And by way of tradition (as well as an excuse for being lazy), I thought I'd offer up another yuletide quiz challenge in the spirit of the season. You know, something to mull over while you're kicking back, enjoying your egg nog, hangin' with the family, waiting for the big guy and his reindeer to make their annual stop-over...

Speaking of the Big Guy... how well do you know your Santa Claus movies? The Jolly One's been around for about as long as anyone can remember, yet rarely, if ever, does he take center stage of his own story. Below are a handful of Santa-centric titles and a snippet of dialogue from each, spoken by ol' Kris Kringle himself (or, conversely, an imposter thereof). Can you match them together, for goodness sake? Don't be a Grinch now...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

... FOR "FRANCHISE FACE-OFFS (PART 11 - 'RUSH HOUR' EDITION)"


Brett Ratner is a chameleon. This might explain why the self-promoting, self-aggrandizing director - whose films have amassed a collective $1 billion plus worldwide - has been able to slip into so many franchises without ruffling the feathers of fans. He did it in 2002, with Red Dragon, part three of Dino De Laurentiis' Hannibal Lecter series starring Anthony Hopkins. Then in 2006, he took over the ­X-Men franchise with The Last Stand, the most successful entry in Fox's genre-defining ensemble superhero saga.

(On the non-franchise front, you could view his 2000 holiday hit The Family Man as an unofficial remake of Capra's It's A Wonderful Life, or November's Tower Heist as an attempt to copy the con-artists-as-heroes cool of Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven. The list goes on.)

Whether this qualifies him as an A-list copycat or a B-grade Hollywood hack is up for debate. The fact is, Ratner copies the style of his predecessors so well, you'd be hard-pressed to tell that they were made by a different director, unless you were acutely aware of the behind-the-scenes dramas that plagued their productions.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 32 - 'THE LION KING' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The Lion King (1994)

The Plot: A lion cub is exiled by his evil uncle, but grows up to reclaim his rightful place as king.

The Songs: "Circle Of Life," "I Just Can't Wait To Be King," "Be Prepared," "Hakuna Matata," "Can You Feel The Love Tonight," "Can You Feel The Love Tonight (End Title)"

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

... FOR "FRANCHISE FACE-OFFS (PART 10 - 'MEN IN BLACK' EDITION)"

Question: How many people actually realize that 1997's Men In Black is based on a comic book? No doubt you saw the commercials and you bought your ticket and laughed at all the jokes and the witty special effects, and you probably own the VHS or the DVD or the Blu-Ray, but did you ever stop to think that you were, in fact, watching a Comic Book Movie?

Maybe, maybe not. Originally published by Marvel/ Aircel Comics as a three-issue mini-series in 1990, Lowell Cunningham's The Men In Black was optioned by producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald in 1992. The project went through various incarnations (and a director or two) before finally settling at Columbia Pictures, under the tutelage of Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams Family, Get Shorty) and executive producer Steven Spielberg. When it opened on July 2nd, 1997, MIB was met with all the fanfare and fervor of your typical summer blockbuster. It grossed $587 million in theaters worldwide (Columbia's highest-grossing movie up to that point), and cemented Will Smith's reputation as a bona fide box office star. 

 
Yet rarely, if ever, will you find MIB counted among the most successful Comic Book Movies ever made. Why is this? Perhaps because of the way it was marketed – as the Next Will Smith-Versus-Aliens Summer Blockbuster (after Independence Day). Or perhaps in the wake of Batman & Robin (released to critical and commercial disdain just two weeks earlier), the filmmakers thought it best to distance themselves from their genre roots as far as possible.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 31 - 'ALADDIN' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Aladdin (1992; based on the Arabian folktale "Aladdin And The Magic Lamp," from One Thousand And One Nights)

The Plot: A street urchin uses a magic lamp to win the heart of a princess.

The Songs: "Arabian Nights," "One Jump Ahead," "Friend Like Me," "A Whole New World," "Prince Ali," "Prince Ali (Reprise)"
"A Whole New World (End Title)"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 30 - 'BEAUTY AND THE BEAST' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.


Title: Beauty And The Beast (1991; based on La Belle et la Bête by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont)

The Plot: A young prince, turned into a hideous beast by an enchantress's spell, finds redemption through the love of a beautiful girl.

The Songs: "Belle," "Gaston," "Be Our Guest," "Something There," "Human Again" (Special Edition), "Beauty And The Beast," "The Mob Song," "Beauty And The Beast (End Title)"

Sunday, November 6, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 29 - 'THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The Rescuers Down Under (1990; based on characters created by Margery Sharp)

The Plot: Two mice set off to the Australian outback, to rescue a young boy who's been kidnapped by an evil poacher.

Songs: None

Monday, October 31, 2011

... FOR "FRANCHISE FACE-OFFS (PART 9 - 'PARANORMAL ACTIVITY' EDITION)"


So The Blair Witch Project made close to a gazillion dollars back in 1999, and suddenly, "found footage" copycats were everywhere. Noroi, Diary Of The Dead, [REC], Cloverfield - everyone wanted a piece of the action. The reasons for this were fairly cut and dry: they were cheap, they were easy to shoot, you could cast relatively unknown actors as your leads and no one would raise a fuss, and better yet, audiences seemed to get a kick out of them, so you had the luxury of making loads of money off of very little. Hollywood, as we've made it abundantly clear, is always looking to replicate its own successes.

Granted, Blair Witch was hardly the first "found footage" feature ever made. The Last Broadcast, about a cable-TV crew on the hunt for the mythical Jersey Devil, was released just one year previous, and might have been a direct influence on Blair Witch directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez when creating their movie. And perhaps the most notorious of these, Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust (1980), was banned in several countries for its graphic depiction of tribal rituals in the Amazon Basin (Deodato was later brought up on murder charges by the Italian government, who believed he'd made an actual "snuff film").

What The Blair Witch got absolutely right, which its predecessors only hinted at, was the way it tickled our deepest, darkest fantasies - and invaded our pop culture consciousness. First came the legendary marketing campaign, which started on the Internet and then quietly gathered word of mouth at the Sundance Film Festival and in various college towns; a Sci-Fi Channel TV special, which aired just prior to the film's release; and finally, a limited-screen engagement that became the see-it-or-be-square event of the decade. Then came the movie itself, sold as the real thing, so you felt like an active part of the film's mythology. It was a con, a hoax, and audiences ate it up, hook, line and sinker.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 28 - 'THE LITTLE MERMAID' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The Little Mermaid (1989; based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen)

The Plot: A mermaid dreams of becoming human, but she's outwitted by an evil sea witch.

The Songs: "Fathoms Below," "Daughters Of Triton," "Part Of Your World," "Under The Sea," "Poor Unfortunate Souls," "Les Poissons," "Kiss The Girl," "Vanessa's Song"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

... FOR "FRANCHISE FACE-OFFS (PART 8 - 'LETHAL WEAPON' EDITION)"

In almost every movie romance, there's a thing called the "meet cute," in which a boy and a girl are brought together in some deliberate comic fashion - often the result of an awkward social mishap or hilarious misunderstanding. This is, of course, just their first step toward falling in love: both characters usually come from opposite sides of the tracks, and will spend the rest of the plot bickering and flirting and generally getting on each other's nerves – until finally, at the end, they realize they are Made For Each Other.

Some noteworthy examples of this. In Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934), runaway heiress Claudette Colbert meets down-on-his-luck reporter Clark Gable while arguing over a seat on a bus. In Disney's One Hundred And One Dalmatians (1969), Pongo the dog "arranges" a meeting between humans Roger and Anita at the park (they argue for about two seconds before falling into a pond together). In Grease (1978), John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John's "meet cute" doesn't actually occur on screen, but is recounted during a musical number instead ("She swam by me, she got a cramp
" / "He went by me, got my suit damp"). And in 1993's Sleepless In Seattle, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan don't officially "meet cute" until movie's end – on top of the Empire State Building, no less, on Valentine's Day.

When it comes to the Buddy Film – which, you will recall, follows the same basic plot structure as the Romantic Comedy, minus the romance – the concept of "meet cute" still applies. Oh, the end result may turn out different, but the function of it is the same: to unite two characters with conflicting personalities in some fateful, memorable way, thus setting them at odds with each other for the rest of the movie. (This is otherwise known as "conflict.")



Sunday, October 16, 2011

... FOR "CINEMA'S MOST NONSENSICAL SEQUELS"


My six-year-old daughter currently has three obsessions in life: her Littlest Pet Shop toys, these elaborate arts and crafts projects she likes to do all over the house (more specifically, she'll sit at the kitchen table with her scissors and crayons for hours on end, and it's the discarded pieces of trash that we find all over the house), and Disney's Princesses. The first two have only become part of her daily regimen within the last few years or so. The Princess thing, though... that's been ingrained since birth. It's a girl thing, I suppose – this fascination with tiaras and magic wands and big poofy dresses. And we're more than happy to indulge her, as long as Prince Charming keeps his distance.

So it wasn't a shock to find her glued to one of those Disney Princess Enchanted Tales on TV the other day. This one featured Aurora, Sleeping Beauty herself, who'd been left alone to govern the kingdom while the prince and the king went off to a weekend seminar or something. It didn't take long for Aurora to break into a musical number, a semi- elaborate bit called "Keys To The Kingdom," and as I listened, a thought entered my head: "Funny. This doesn't sound like Tchaikovsky at all."

Monday, October 10, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 27 - 'OLIVER & COMPANY' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Oliver & Company (1988; based on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens)

The Plot: An orphaned kitten joins a gang of wild dogs and learns to survive on the streets of New York City; they run afoul of a vicious loan shark.

The Songs: "Once Upon A Time In New York City," "Why Should I Worry," "Streets Of Gold," "Perfect Isn't Easy," "Good Company"

Monday, October 3, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 26 - 'THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The Great Mouse Detective (1986; based on the book series Basil Of Baker Street by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone)

The Plot: In Victorian London, a mouse with renowned deductive skills battles his arch-nemesis, a sewer rat intent on kidnapping the Queen.

The Songs: "The World's Greatest Criminal Mind," "Let Me Be Good To You," "Goodbye So Soon"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 25 - 'THE BLACK CAULDRON' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The Black Cauldron (1985; based on the five- part series The Chronicles Of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander)

The Plot: An assistant pig-keeper in medieval times races to find the mystical Black Cauldron, before evil-doers can use its unlimited powers to create an army of the undead.


The Songs: None (!)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 24 - 'THE FOX AND THE HOUND' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The Fox And The Hound (1981; based on the novel by Daniel P. Mannix)

The Plot: An adopted fox cub and a coonhound puppy become fast friends, but their upbringing forces them to become natural enemies.

The Songs: "Best Of Friends," "Lack Of Education," "A Huntin' Man," "Appreciate The Lady," "Goodbye May Seem Forever"

Saturday, September 17, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 23 - 'THE RESCUERS' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The Rescuers (1977; based on the novels The Rescuers and Miss Bianca by Margery Sharp)

The Plot: Two mice, members of the International Rescue Aid Society, embark on a mission to save an orphan girl kidnapped by treasure hunters.

The Songs: "The Journey," "Rescue Aid Society," "Tomorrow is Another Day," "Someone's Waiting For You"

Friday, September 9, 2011

... FOR "FRANCHISE FACE-OFFS (PART 7 - '48HRS.' EDITION)"

When casting any movie, chemistry is key. Nothing sinks a star vehicle more quickly and efficiently than actors who clearly do not get along – see Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier in 1957's The Prince And The Showgirl for the most notorious example of this, or, more recently, Ben Affleck with basically anyone. Good chemistry, on the other hand, can be like catching lightning in a bottle – can turn even the most routine and cliché-ridden screenplay into something electric, transcendent, sparkling and true.

This is especially important for two genres in particular. First and foremost is the Romantic Comedy, in which an audience is expected to buy into the notion that two characters are destined for each other in all matters of life and love, and that external forces either cannot or will not stand in between them. For this idea to actually stick, the viewer must believe that both actors are fully and truly attracted to each other; otherwise, what is there to root for? Successful examples of this throughout history include Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn (acerbic banter at its best), Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (whose passion for each other often caused them to break out into elaborate dance numbers), and Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman (I'm kidding).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 22 - 'THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH' EDITION)

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh (1977; based on the books by A.A. Milne)

The Plot: In the Hundred Acre Wood, a honey-loving bear cavorts with friends Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore, Owl, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger too.
The Songs: "Winnie The Pooh," "Up, Down And Touch The Ground," "Rumbly In My Tumbly," "Little Black Rain Cloud," "Mind Over Matter," "A Rather Blustery Day," "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers," "Heffalumps And Woozles," "When The Rain Rain Rain Came Down," "Hip Hip Pooh-Ray!"

Saturday, September 3, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 21 - 'ROBIN HOOD' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Robin Hood (1973)

The Plot: In medieval England, a bandit fox steals from the rich and gives to the poor, while battling the sinister machinations of King John (a lion) and the Sheriff of Nottingham (a wolf).

The Songs: "Whistle-Stop," "Oo De Lally," "Love," "The Phony King Of England," "Not In Nottingham"

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

... FOR "EDDIE MURPHY-ITIS" (OR, "ANOTHER SAD CASE OF A FALLEN HOLLYWOOD ICON") - UPDATED!

I apologize for interrupting myself, but I was just in the middle of a future Franchise Face-Off starring the once-great Eddie Murphy, when suddenly the thought occurred to me: "Gee, whatever happened to that guy?"

It's a common question these days, unfortunately. Like Tom Cruise, Murphy used to be a pretty big deal. Exploding out of Saturday Night Live, a product of the stand-up comedy circuit of the early 80s, Eddie's hair-trigger comic timing and foul-mouthed, larger-than-life persona had him pegged for everlasting superstardom, and for a while, he rode that train rather well.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 20 - 'THE ARISTOCATS' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The AristoCats (1970; based on a story by Tom McGowan and Tom Rowe)

The Plot: A butler kidnaps his mistress's prized family of cats and abandons them in the Parisian countryside, after he hears she intends to leave her vast fortune to them.

The Songs: "The AristoCats," "Scales And Arpeggios," "Thomas O'Malley Cat," "Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat," "She Never Felt Alone"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 19 - 'THE JUNGLE BOOK' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The Jungle Book (1967; based on the book by Rudyard Kipling)

The Plot: An orphaned boy, raised by wolves in the jungles of India, is returned to civilization by a kindly black panther and sloth bear.

The Songs: "Colonel Hathi's March," "The Bare Necessities," "I Wan'na Be Like You," "Trust In Me," "That's What Friends Are For," "My Own Home"

Sunday, August 21, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 18 - 'THE SWORD IN THE STONE' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The Sword In The Stone (1963; based on the novel by T. H. White)

The Plot: In the midst of the Dark Ages, Merlin the Magician tutors a 12-year-old orphan named Arthur, who is prophesized to become the future king of England.

The Songs: "The Legend Of The Sword In The Stone," "Higitus Figitus," "That's What Makes The World Go Round," "A Most Befuddling Thing," "Mad Madame Mim"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

... FOR "80'S REMAKE-A-PALOOZA!"


I'm late to the party again, I know, but they announced this last Tuesday (August 9th) and it's been festering ever since: "Lionsgate announces Dirty Dancing remake directed by original choreographer Kenny Ortega." That's right. Dirty Dancing. Patrick Swayze. Jennifer Gray. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." All that.

To which I say: Whaddup, Hollywood? Why this sudden interest in retrofitting 80's pop culture mainstays for our current attention-deficit millennium? First, there were reboots of Friday The 13th, The Karate Kid, and A Nightmare On Elm Street, and a sequel to Tron. Now we've got trailers for a Footloose remake and a prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing (itself a remake) circling the web. We've got upcoming big-screen recyclings of Conan The Barbarian, Fright Night, and Red Dawn, plus in-the- works retoolings of WarGames, Child's Play, and Sam Raimi's Evil Dead (produced, not coincidentally, by Raimi himself). And that's just as of this writing. Who knows what titles will be announced tomorrow, or next week? It's 80's remake fever!

Monday, August 15, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 17 - 'ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: One Hundred And One Dalmatians (1961; based on the book The Hundred And One Dalmations by Dodie Smith)
The Plot: A wicked London heiress kidnaps a litter of dalmatian puppies for nefarious purposes, and the puppies' parents launch a rescue attempt to find them.

The Songs: "Cruella De Vil," "Kanine Krunchies Jingle," "Dalmatian Plantation"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 16 - 'SLEEPING BEAUTY' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.


Title: Sleeping Beauty (1959; based on the fairy tale "La Belle au bois dormant" by Charles Perrault, and the ballet by Pyotr Tchaikovsky)

The Plot: Three fairies take a newborn princess into hiding, to prevent an evil curse that promises she will prick her finger on her sixteenth birthday and die.

The Songs: "Hail The Princess Aurora," "One Gift," "I Wonder," "Once Upon A Dream," "The Skumps Song," "Sleeping Beauty," "Sing A Smiling Song"

Saturday, August 6, 2011

... FOR "BEHIND-THE-SCENES DISNEYLAND MAGIC"

As Walt Disney took a break from producing animated films during the 1950s (there's a four-year gap between the release of Lady And The Tramp and Sleeping Beauty), we now shift our attention to Disney's budding obsession during that time: the creation and cultivation of Disneyland. Built in Anaheim, California, and opened to the public in July of 1955, Walt's "Happiest Place On Earth" has since become the official vacation destination for families the world over.

You know the place. You've soaked in the sights and sounds of Main Street USA, passed through Sleeping Beauty's Castle, made the treacherous climb up the Matterhorn, and taken the plunge off Splash Mountain – whether in reality or in your own mind, dreaming one day of making the journey there. But honestly, how much do you really know about Disneyland? You've got your favorite attractions, sure, and I bet you avoid the teacups like the plague, but what about the history, the thought process behind the park itself?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

… FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 15 - 'LADY AND THE TRAMP' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Lady And The Tramp (1955; based on the book by Ward Greene)

The Plot: A sheltered cocker spaniel fears she's about to be replaced by her masters' newborn baby, and winds up out on the streets, where she learns the ways of the world from a stray silver mutt.

The Songs: "Bella Notte (This Is The Night)," "Peace On Earth (Silent Night)," "What Is A Baby?," "La La Lu," "The Siamese Cat Song," "He's A Tramp"

Saturday, July 30, 2011

... FOR "FRANCHISE FACE-OFFS (PART 6 - 'HARRY POTTER' EDITION)"

It is, without a doubt, one of the great rags-to-riches stories of the past two decades: A single mother, living off of welfare, carts her baby down to the local coffee shop in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she writes the first book of what will become the most successful children's series of all time. She goes from poverty to multi-millionaire status all within the span of five years; her novels sell over 400 million copies; are translated into 67 languages; and her iconic creation – Harry James Potter, aka "The Boy Who Lived" – becomes a permanent fixture in households worldwide.

Joanne "Jo" Rowling says she conjured up the idea for Harry Potter in 1990, while on a return train to London. But she didn't actually finish writing The Philosopher's Stone – the story of an eleven-year-old boy who attends Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry – until six years later. During that time, Rowling suffered a series of emotional setbacks that pushed her close to the breaking point: Her mother, Anne, died of multiple sclerosis in December 1990, the impact of which forced Joanne to move from London to Portugal, Spain, to pursue a career as an English teacher. While there, she met and married Jorge Arantes, a journalism student with whom she had a tumultuous relationship. The birth of their daughter, Jessica, in July 1993 only seemed to heighten the tension between them, and following a violent argument in November of that same year, Joanne took the baby and fled back to England. (The couple eventually divorced in August 1994.) Jo's father, Peter, had since re-married and their relationship had become strained, so she moved to Edinburgh to live near her sister. Jobless, penniless, and living on a weekly £69 allowance from social services, she began a daily routine of wandering her neighborhood streets, pushing Jessica in her stroller until the baby fell asleep. Then she would duck into the nearest coffee shop or restaurant and write. She completed Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone in early 1996, and after many rejections from different publishing houses, the book was finally purchased by Barry Cunningham at Bloomsbury, for an advance of £1,500. Scholastic Books followed suit, a mere three days after its publication in Britain, and bid an unprecedented $100,000 to distribute Potter in the United States. The rest, as they say, is history. Rowling would never know poverty again.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 14 - 'PETER PAN' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Peter Pan (1953; based on the play Peter Pan, Or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up by J.M. Barrie)

The Plot: A teenage girl and her two younger brothers are whisked away to the magical world of Neverland, by a flying boy who refuses to grow old.

The Songs: "The Second Star To The Right," "You Can Fly!," "A Pirate's Life, "Following The Leader," "What Made The Red Man Red?," "Your Mother And Mine," "The Elegant Captain Hook," "Never Smile At A Crocodile (Instrumental)"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 13 - 'ALICE IN WONDERLAND' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Alice In Wonderland (1951; based on Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, And What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll)

The Plot: A precocious little girl imagines herself in Wonderland, a fantastical place overrun by eccentric forest creatures.

The Songs: "Alice In Wonderland," "In A World Of My Own," "I'm Late," "The Sailor's Hornpipe," "The Caucus Race," "How Do You Do And Shake Hands," "The Walrus And The Carpenter," "Old Father William," "Smoke The Blighter Out," "All In The Golden Afternoon," "A-E-I-O-U," "'Twas Brillig," "The Unbirthday Song," "Very Good Advice," "Painting The Roses Red"

Saturday, July 9, 2011

... FOR "FRANCHISE FACE-OFFS (PART 5 - 'TRANSFORMERS' EDITION)"

Michael Bay is the devil. Or, wait, let me explain. If everything that's good and wholesome in this world must have an opposite, then by "devil," I mean Michael Bay is the antithesis of everything the movie gods hold dear – coherency of plot, characters who resemble actual human beings, and most of all, film footage that hasn't been edited together with the skill and proficiency of a jackhammer. Bay's style of filmmaking seems geared toward people with attention-deficit disorder: explosions, gunfire, more explosions, hot-bodied men and women parading lasciviously past the camera every 6-7 seconds (or less), as if smacking you in the face to make sure you're paying attention. It's juvenile, and watching his movies, I'm insulted at the notion that my brain needs to be under constant assault to feel entertained.

I guess on some level, you have to respect what the guy does. There's a market for this sort of thing, for better or worse (Bay's films have grossed over $3 billion worldwide), and he plays to those strengths well. Born in Los Angeles in 1965, Michael Benjamin Bay started his film career early on, when he interned at Lucasfilm at the age of fifteen. He majored in English and Film at Wesleyan University, attended Pasadena's Art Center College of Design for his graduate studies, and started directing music videos and television commercials after receiving his degree.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 12 - 'CINDERELLA' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Cinderella (1950; based on "Cendrillon" by Charles Perrault)

The Plot: The daughter of a wealthy aristocrat, raised by her cruel stepmother and two jealous stepsisters, finds true love with the help of her Fairy Godmother and some friendly mice.

The Songs: "Cinderella," "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes," "Oh, Sing Sweet Nightingale," "The Work Song," "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo," "So This Is Love"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

... FOR "UNFAIR EXPECTATIONS AND THE CRITICS' CONSENSUS ON 'CARS 2' (COMPARATIVELY SPEAKING)"

Holy crap – have you seen the aggregate rating for Pixar's Cars 2 on Rotten Tomatoes? As of this writing, it's currently holding at 33%! That means, out of all the critics who've seen the movie, only 1/3 actually liked the movie enough to recommend it. For a Pixar movie, that's unheard of – unprecedented even. Especially when you look at their Rotten track record: Toy Story (100%), A Bug's Life (91%), Toy Story 2 (100%), Monsters Inc. (95%), Finding Nemo (98%), The Incredibles (97%), Cars (74%), Ratatouille (96%), WALL-E (96%), Up (98%), and Toy Story 3 (99%).

Look at that list again. Did you notice anything else peculiar about it? That's right: Out of all the Pixar films to grace our theater screens, Cars and Cars 2 rank the lowest. Frankly, this is baffling to me. What's everyone's problem with Cars? If you read any of those reviews, the general consensus seems to be that no one buys that particular world. I get that. A world populated by talking anthropomorphic vehicles? Sports cars, passenger cars, trucks, helicopters, airplanes, bugs? Are you serious? Sure, I can buy walking, talking toys and insects and fish and monsters in my closet, but vehicles with mouths and eyes and hopes and dreams? That's a little too much to grasp, thank you very much. Who "manufactures" these cars anyway? Where are all the people? Who built the highways? Who carved all those structures in the mountains? Help, my brain is melting!

Monday, June 27, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 11 - 'THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad (1949)

The Plot: Two animated segments combined into one feature-length film, narrated (respectively) by Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby. In the first, a  fun-loving, adventure-seeking toad gets into trouble when he tries to get his hands on a motor car. In the second, a lanky, prim-and-proper schoolteacher finds himself at the mercy of the Headless Horseman.

The Segments: "The Wind In The Willows" (based on the book by Kenneth Grahame), "The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow" (based on the short story by Washington Irving)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 10 - 'MELODY TIME' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Melody Time (1948)

The Plot: An anthology of animated shorts, set to popular 40's music.

The Segments: "Once Upon A Wintertime," "Bumble Boogie," "The Legend Of Johnny Appleseed," "Little Toot," "Trees," "Blame It On The Samba," "Pecos Bill"

Saturday, June 18, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 9 - 'FUN AND FANCY FREE' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Fun And Fancy Free (1947)

The Plot: Two animated short subjects, combined into one feature-length film. In "Bongo," a circus bear cub learns about life and love in the wild. In "Mickey And The Beanstalk," Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and Donald Duck venture inside a giant’s castle to reclaim their magical harp.

The Songs: "Fun And Fancy Free," "I'm A Happy-Go-Lucky Fellow," "My Favorite Dream," "Too Good To Be True," "Say It With A Slap," "Lazy Countryside," "My, What A Happy Day," "Fee Fi Fo Fum"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

... FOR "FRANCHISE CONTINUITY AND 'X-MEN: FIRST CLASS'"





A few notes on X-Men: First Class, now barely two weeks old in theaters. The short review (to be expounded upon in a future Franchise Face-Off): I liked it. The story flows better than it has in the last couple of X movies, it's more character-based than special effects-based, and the performances (particularly from headliners James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) are respectful to past entries yet add their own wrinkles to the fray. Thinking back on it, though, the idea behind this fifth X-Men adventure confuses me: Is it a prequel? A reboot? Maybe a little of both? The characters are the same (albeit in younger, sprightlier form), the struggles are the same, and yet... the pieces don't match up with the other movies.

Friday, June 10, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 8 - 'MAKE MINE MUSIC' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Make Mine Music (1946)

The Plot: A collection of animated musical segments, with songs performed by The Andrews Sisters, Nelson Eddy, Benny Goodman and His Band, and others.

The Segments: "The Martins And The Coys," "Blue Bayou," "All The Cats Join In," "Without You," "Casey At The Bat," "Two Silhouettes," "Peter And The Wolf," "After You've Gone," "Johnny Fedora And Alice Blue Bonnet," "The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met"

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

... FOR "HOLLYWOOD DÉJÀ VU"


I'd like to give a shout-out to Netflix, as well as the shattered remnants of my fragile brain, for their ongoing efforts to inspire me with ideas for the blog. There are few creative impulses as satisfying as sitting on the couch with my family, watching a movie, when suddenly that little light bulb goes off in my head, and I find myself inspired to thrill you, oh faithful reader, with my latest bit of useless trivia. (The best way to describe this feeling is like watching a fireworks display – it means, Yay! I've got something new to write about!)

To wit: Last week, Netfilx sent us 1995's Rob Roy from our DVD queue, a movie I'd been meaning (and neglecting) to show the wife for a good long while now. (Why Rob Roy? Well, you can never go wrong with an authentically romantic movie, as far as she's concerned. In this one, Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange have a palpable romantic chemistry that's always impressed me. Plus, there's swordfighting. So, you know – best of both worlds.) I told her the movie was a lot like Braveheart, just to put things in perspective – Scottish accents, grand gestures of love and honor, kilts, all that – and off into the player it went. Long story short, she liked the movie (though, admittedly, not as much as Braveheart). Her only question was, "How tall is Liam Neeson, anyway?" since the guy seemed to be towering over his co- stars (which, after some checking, I found out he's roughly 9'7" tall.)


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 7 - 'THE THREE CABALLEROS' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. Again, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The Three Caballeros (1944)

The Plot: Donald Duck receives a trio of gifts on his birthday, which lead to adventures through Latin America.

The Songs: "The Three Caballeros (Ay, Jalisco, No Te Rajes!)," "Baía," "Os Quindins de Yayá," "You Belong To My Heart," "Mexico," "Have You Ever Been To Baía?," "Pregoes Carioca," "Lilongo," "Pandeiro & Flute," "La Sandunga," "Jesusita En Chihuahua"

Friday, May 27, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 6 - 'SALUDOS AMIGOS' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. Again, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Saludos Amigos (1943)

The Plot: A travelogue through Latin America, with Donald Duck as a tourist at Lake Titicaca, a family of airplanes in Chile, and Goofy as a gaucho in the Argentine pampas.

The Songs: "Saludos Amigos," "Brazil," "Tico-Tico no Fubá"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

... FOR "WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED FIFTY (PART 5 - 'BAMBI' EDITION)"

My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. (For Part One, see here. For Part Two, see here. Part Three, here. And for Part Four, here.) Again, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints below.

Title: Bambi (1942; based on Bambi, A Life In The Woods by Felix Salten)

The Plot: A forest deer comes of age, dealing with matters of love and death along the way.

The Songs: "Love Is A Song," "Little April Shower," "Let's Sing A Gay Little Spring Song," "Looking For Romance"