Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake

I think I really lost my mind this month.

I picked up a DVD at Wal-Mart for $5. It was a double feature. First was an oddly titled 2006 film Spider's Web: A Pig's Tale - The Adventures of Walt the Pig I am not sure if it's a Charlotte's Web knock off or not... but I wanted to find out.

And hopefully I will, but first I decided to check out the other feature:

Strawberry Shortcake: Her Very First Adventure.

This turned out not to be a movie, but two 24 minute TV specials from the early 1980S.

The odd thing was.... I really liked them.

I have been ill lately and perhaps my brain has taken a turn for the worse from weeks of cold medicine... I just can't be sure.

I didn't have much exposure to Strawberry Shortcake when these shows were new. After all I was a boy.

In fact I didn't even like to EAT the Strawberry Shortcake dessert because it shared the name with a girl's toy.

(I also quit my hobby of collecting holly because of Holly Hobbie, but that is a different story.)

What I missed out on in the 1980s was 6 TV specials that ran 30 minutes (with commercials) and were played annually on network TV.

It's interesting that they never branched out and just made a full series.

The two episodes I saw were:

The World of Strawberry Shortcake: This was the start of the series. Strawberry is a ridiculously cute little girl that is friends with other girls all named after a different dessert. There is one named Apple Dumpling, one named Blueberry Muffin, one named McFlurry and one named Freindly's Jubilee Roll.

Strawberry has an enemy named The Purple Pie Man. (She also had another adversary named Sour Grapes, but she wasn't in these episodes.)

The Purple Pie Man, like most cartoon baddies of that era doesn't have a clearly defined end game. It seems that he really wants to steal Strawberry's recipies... or maybe kill her so she can't make better pies than him anymore.

The Pie Man is the coolest part of the show. He constantly announces himself "The peculiar Purple Pie Man of Porcupine Peak" the he hums a little tune and dances like a prospector that just found gold.

He does this at least 3 or 4 times an episode.

In addition to The Pie Man, there are 2 other male characters. One is Huckleberry Pie who is just depicted as a lazy little boy that hangs out with Strawberry Shortcake. I am surprised that he was never successfully recruited by The Peculiar Purple Pie Man of Porcupine Peak.

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See, I really am losing it.

The other male is The Sun who talks to Strawberry, but also sees everything the villains do wrong. Yet he never seems to try to hard to stop them.

I guess he is busy, heating the earth and putting two scoops of raisins in all those cereal boxes.

The second episode was Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City.

This one had her going to a bizarro New York City to compete in a baking contest with.... The Peculiar Purple Pie Man of Porcupine Peak.

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Yep. I lost my mind.

Anyway, I was actually surprised at how clever the stories were and how well defined the characters were for a silly kids show. The show also features a handful of new catchy tunes in each episode.

After it's six year run as a series of specials, Strawberry went into hiding before being reborn in a new series.

The new series features and more teen-like Strawberry and (mostly) the same group of friends. But the relationships have changed. I think Strawberry is now related to Apple Dumpling and owns Huckleberry's dog.

The new ones seem okay, but under-utilize the villains.

Instead the conflicts are more realistic. In one episode Strawberry's friend (a horse) breaks her leg.

Rather than put her down she stays at Strawberry's house. It plays like a milder version of The Odd Couple.

The show sure could use The Peculiar Purple Pie Man of Porcupine Peak!

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Friday, February 06, 2009


I love obscure movies... you know, the movie that you mention to a room full of people and they all stare back at you like your either crazy or an idiot?

Well, that's the part about obscure movies I don't like... but there is some satisfaction to know that you have seen a movie that most people you know haven't seen.

Such is the case with North.
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On the surface, North doesn't seem like an obscure movie at all. It certainly didn't appear to be one when I saw it in a theater back in 1994. But, time hasn't been kind to North.

The film is the story of a kid who decides to be a "free agent" and auditions new parents. North is played by Elijah Wood and features an all star cast including: Bruce Willis, John Lovitz, Kathy Bates, Dan Aykroyd, John Ritter, Faith Ford, Alan Arkin and it was directed by Meathead himself, Rob Reiner.

One of the most bizarre aspects of the film is the casting of North's parents. Jason Alexander and Julia Louis Dreyfus both of Sienfeld fame play his mom and dad. It's just weird.

It would be like watching some movie where Hayley Mills has Gilligan and The Skipper as parents.

They look and act just like George and Elaine... yet they are married and they gave birth to a hobbit (he was a hobbit, right?)

Bruce Willis plays the narrator and is a magic character that pops up in whatever situation North needs him. He's like Dennis Rodman (except he doesn't look like Dennis Rodman or resemble him in personality or any other way.)

The film garnered terrible reviews when it was released, particularly from Siskel and Ebert who gave the film 2 thumbs down.

In his written review Ebert said:

"I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it."

That being said... I liked this movie. Liked liked licked licked licked this movie. Licked it. Licked the cover and thought it tasted like plastic. Licked the DVD and thought it was D.V.Deelicious.

Actually, that isn't true.

North isn't on DVD and it never has been. You can still get a used VHS copy for less than the price of a box of wine but you can't get a DVD.

The film does show up on cable from time to time and is worth a look... if for no other reason than to upset Roger Ebert.

Also if you DON'T think the film is funny, think of this fun fact during the movie:

Roger Ebert and Oprah Winfrey went on multiple dates in the 1980s.

Now think of Roger talkin' dirty to Oprah... now picture Gilligan talkin' dirty to The Skipper.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Pneumonia Marathon

Recently I came down with a case of pneumonia. This meant I had to stay home for a week.

A week full of high temperatures, cough syrup and movies. Lots of movies.

I started off the pneumonia marathon with limited energy (because of the pneumonia, the medicine and my temperature) so I stuck to lowbrow easy to follow flicks and TV shows.

Over The Hedge: I had seen this before, but I had wanted to see it again for a while. It's a fun animated film featuring the voices of Bruce Willis, William Shatner, Avril Lavigne and some other glaring examples of stunt casting.

Sanford & Son: I bought the complete run of this series about a year ago and I have been slowly working my way through the entire series. Finally I had time to just watch the last dozen episodes back to back.

I spent each of the last episodes assuming every appearance of Aunt Ester would be the LAST appearance of Aunt Ester and every time that Fred would grab his chest and tell Elizabeth it was the "big one" would be the final time of the series.

I even looked for more obscure Sanford & Son trademarks like Fred cooking menudo (the soup not the band... I hope), Rollo being called a thief or Fred drinking Ripple (which he didn't do in any of the last episodes.)

The show had a pretty good final episode in which Fred goes back to school to get his high school diploma. After getting it he gave a little speech thanking all the main characters from the show.

Open Season 2: This is a straight to DVD follow up of the animated film Open Season. In this one the bear and the deer are on a mission to rescue a dog from a doggie spa. It's silly fun and Crispin Glover is along for the ride giving voice to a poodle.

Open Season: One of the only things I learned from Open Season 2 was that I didn't remember Open Season very well. So I watched it again. No Crispin Glover in this one, but you do get a bear and a deer rand-sacking a convenience store... the funniest scene in either film.

WWE Legends - The Monday Night War: As a subscriber to WWE 24/7 I get more hours of wrestling every month than I can watch in a fortnight (which I think is longer than a month, but shorter than a year... if I am wrong change it to four score.)
One of my favorite features of the WWE's on demand service is WWE Legends. The show consists of a panel of wrestling experts (usually Jim Ross, Pat Patterson, Michael Hayes and a couple other rotating experts.) The panel usually faces the rotating expert and watches him spin. It's lots of fun.
Actually, they all smoke cigars and talk about the old days... in this case it was the late 1990s.
The episodes vary in length, but this one was actually 90 minutes... and I loved every second of it.

Resurrecting the Champ: This was a neat film where Sam Jackson plays a homeless man who claims to have once been a great boxer. I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't seen it so I will just say that it was a good movie.
If you have seen it... what is the deal with that video tape of Satterfield fighting Kincaid that the reporter finds. What are the odds that he found THAT tape. That is a plot hole that I saw even though I was hopped up on cough syrup.

Lucky Number Sleven: I wish they had made a sequel to this. "Lucky Number Sleight." Then "Luck Number Sline."
I wasn't crazy about this... until the end. For about an hour and a half I just kept waiting for it to end... but the ending was pretty dang good. Now I really want to see "Lucky Number Sleight".

The Comebacks: In the tradition of Scary Movie and Date Move... Which means it isn't really funny.
This is a parody of sports films... and it makes The Naked Gun 33 1/3 look like... uh... The Naked Gun.
At one point a player is running down the field and someone says "he's on fire" then they cut to him and... yup... he's on fire.
At another point someone says "what are you blind, referee?" Then they show the ref and he has the dark sunglasses and a seeing eye dog. Get it?
Kind of makes you appreciate the comic possibilities of Jim Ross and Pat Patterson watching a man spin around or "Lucky Number Slen".

Cop and 1/2: Burt Reynolds stars in a film directed by The Fonz... how could this not be awesome?

McShayne- Winner Takes All: This was an Ocean's Eleven knock off starring Kenny Rogers. I picked it up in a discount bin recently for $3. Kenny plays an ex-con who is recruited as part of a gang that wants to swindle the casino. Kenny's beard steals the film.

WWE Legends- Bad Asses: This time around Tazz joined the panel and they talked about tough guys in the WWE. That seemed to include everyone except for Shawn Michaels, Edge and Bastion Booger. This one also ran over 1 hour long but was so disjointed it didn't really live up to the high expectations the Monday Night War episode established.

Bushwhacked: This Daniel Stern comedy vehicle looked good enough to plunk down some cash and see it in the theaters back in the early 1990s. I think movies cost 50 cents back then.
Now, a decade plus later, I revisited the film. It's funny. Stern plays a criminal who ends up leading a group of Boy Scouts up a mountain. The plot didn't make sense to me as I watched it so I won't try and rehash it here.
Also interesting to note: with Daniel Stern playing a man on the run from the law was a bit of a call back to the earlier film with Kenny Rogers as an ex-con. Throw in Pat Patterson and criminals seemed to be the theme of the day.

WWE Legends Piper/Funk and Hogan/Backlund: This was a pair of episodes each highlighting two stars from the 1980s. In addition to the panel, they cut in some clips of some of their greatest moments. I was so happy to see Bob Backlund doing step exercises at ringside and Terry Funk beat a ring attendant senseless for wearing his hat.

Cellular: This was an action packed film released over 4 years ago and I had been putting it off again and again. I wish I hadn't! It was awesome. Fast paced, lots of fun and some great scenes on the Santa Monica Pier (one of my favorite places in the world.)

United 93: I had been putting this one off for a few years, too. I wasn't too keen on seeing the film since I didn't really like World Trade Center (the other September 11th film released that year.)
I liked this one a lot. The story was actually somewhat uplifting, but had this weird feeling of a movie where you knew the ending in advance.
On a happy note, the film featured Sledge Hammer! star David Rasche. In an odd twist... it also featured an actor named David Basche. Believe me, I had to re-watch the credits just to make sure the cough syrup wasn't getting to me.

Meet The Spartans: After The Comebacks, I wasn't too keen on watching this... but I needed some laughs so I followed up United 93 with another movie in the vein of Scary Movie, Epic Movie, Date Movie, Disaster Movie, Superhero Movie, etc, etc, etc. Of course, there were no laughs.
This one was a parody of 300 and the reoccurring joke seemed to be that it's funny to see warriors appear on game shows. They would be walking through a field and then they would be on Deal or No Deal or So You Think You Can Dance or some other nonsense.

Secret of the Sword: What better way to cap off a week's worth of movies than with He-Man. This was He-Man's first movie to be released theatrically, and it also sets up the She-Ra series.

The film is actually a bunch of episodes of the She-Ra series and it feels like it. After the main story is told which I guess told us the "secret" of the sword (Spoiler: I think the secret was that the sword belonged to She-Ra) He-Man and She-Ra just seem to go on adventure after adventure. Every 20 minutes the movie wraps up and then starts again.
Also, it really highlights what little thought went into She-Ra. Everything about her world is identical to He-Man's just with different names.
Still, it was 90 minutes of He-Man and that made me feel better.

If it wasn't for the lack of Orko it would have been a perfect end!