Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Disney+: a deeper dive

October 15, 2019

Disney+: a deeper dive

I honestly find it hard to find a reason why anyone who already subscribes to a streaming video service wouldn’t subscribe to

Disney+

The price is right, the service is well designed (you can download the videos), but of course, it’s the content.

The Disney entertainment empire has the biggest names extant: Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, National Geographic, a large chunk of Fox…

For a lot of people, signing up will be about those big flashy brands that Disney acquired: just to take Star Wars as an example, here’s the list of what will be available at launch (which includes both first trilogies & The Force Awakens)

StarWars.com on what will be available at launch

Another attraction will be original material, shows and movies produced specifically for Disney+, and again, there are a lot of those!

I also suspect many people will sign up for the first time for a streaming service because of this: I can certainly picture gift subscriptions being a thing this holiday season (hopefully, they’ll have an easy way set up to do that).

What I thought I’d do in the post is highlight some of the “long tail” (in this case, maybe a long mouse tail?): the backlist titles you might not have seen (or not seen for a long time). That’s what will probably keep me the busiest, even if I’ve seen everything I’ll list here.

Oh, and two things worth noting before I list:

First, I haven’t pre-subscribed yet, although I fully intend to subscribe. Why? While we watch Amazon Prime and Netflix, my Significant Other and I watch Hulu the most when we watch together. Disney is the driving owner of Hulu, and they are going to use it for R-rated material and such, in addition to what it does now.

We pay a bit extra to have the current shows be commercial free, which is so worth it! Disney hasn’t announced the bundle with Hulu (and hopefully, without ESPN…we just never watch that) at the no-add tier. It’s sounding like we might not know what that is until the launch date of November 12th.

The other thing is that at this point, Disney and Amazon haven’t worked out a deal for Disney+ to be on  the

Fire TV family (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I’m pretty confident they will: the advantages are too high for both of them. However, even if they don’t, I assume I’ll be able to mirror my phone to my TV, or perhaps use a browser on the Fire TV.

Okay, let’s take a look at some of the offerings (and more may yet be added) that might not be in the front of your mind, but are worth noting:

  • The Swiss Family Robinson (1960):: this is a live action adaptation of the novel and the cast includes James MacArthur, Tommy Kirk, and Kevin Corcoran. It’s a fun adventure: I’m guessing if most people know anything about it now, it’s because of the treehouse attraction at the Disney parks
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947): here’s a benefit of the Fox acquisition! What a great movie about a department store Santa Claus who may be the real thing. Edmund Gwenn is Kris Kringle, but another real attraction is Natalie Wood…about nine years old at the time
  • The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952) features Peter Finch as the Sheriff
  • The Living Desert and other nature documentaries: while there has been some controversy about them, these are thrilling and intriguing films (which may have influenced later nature shows)
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959): another Fox film, this is the version I think of first…James Mason, Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl
  • 1961’s original The Absent-Minded Professor is just goofy fun, with good effects for the time
  • Also from 1961: Greyfriar’s Bobby, a dog story based on reality
  • That Darn Cat! (the 1965 original): that was a thing for Disney in the 1960s: live action comedies featuring animals
  • The Love Bug (1968) and the sequels…Herbie, one of the original self-driving cars!
  • The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969): when asked about Kurt Russell movies, the Medfield College (also the school for The Absent-Minded Professor and others) Dexter Riley comedies are still some of the first that come to mind for me
  • Escape to Witch Mountain (1975): one of the most solid of the 1970s Disney live-action movies, Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann are exceptional kids (a sequel and remake followed), and Eddie Albert, Ray Milland, and Donald Pleasance also appear
  • The Cat From Outer Space (1978): I’m not going to tell you it’s a great movie, but come on…a cat…from outer space!
  • Unidentified Flying Oddball (AKA A Spaceman in King Arthur’s Court) (1979): Jim Dale, Kenneth More, and Ron Moody are in this Mark Twain update
  • Think you’ve seen everything Marvel? Joan Van Ark’s Jessica Drew Spider-Woman TV series (1979) will be on Disney+ at launch
  • The Black Hole (1979) was Disney getting in on the Star Wars science fiction wave…it has its fandom
  • Return to Oz (1985): People will tell you that seeing this as a child scarred them for life, but hey, my Significant Other still can’t watch 1939’s The Wizard of Oz because of the flying monkeys…
  • The Black Cauldron (1985): Disney Feature Animation took a big bold step with this adaptation of the Lloyd Alexander Prydain books…and nearly broke its head falling down the stairs! Many firsts, including Disney’s 1st PG animated feature and the use of computer animation. It’s failure at the box office has made it one of Disney’s least seen animated features
  • The Great Mouse Detective (1986): Disney clearly doesn’t consider it an A feature (there’s no ride based on it, for example), but Vincent Price steals the show for some as an animated rat mastermind opposing a Sherlock Holmes analog (who is a mouse)

Well, I could do this for hours, but I have to wrap up this article at some point! I’ll just list some more, without summarizing them. This is only a small selection of the more than 600 titles which will be available…IO9 has put together a good list

  • Flight of the Navigator
  • Ducktales
  • Willow
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
  • Turner & Hooch
  • The Rocketeer (this will be one of my first revisits)
  • Darkwing Duck
  • Newsies
  • X-Men: The Animated Series
  • Muppet movies
  • Hocus Pocus
  • Boy Meets World
  • Gargoyles
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Smart Guy
  • Meet the Deedles (Robert Englund & Dennis Hopper)
  • Mighty Joe Young
  • Inspector Gadget
  • Annie
  • Even Stevens
  • Kim Possible
  • That’s So Raven
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Flicka
  • Lab Rats
  • Gravity Falls
  • Elena of Avalor
  • More than one Freaky Friday movie

Whew! I hope the search interface and recommendation engines are up to the task!

Feel free to point out others that caught your eye in comments for me and my readers. Hope this helps you get the most out of Disney+!

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other organizations, begin your Amazon shopping from a link on their sites: Amazon.com (Smile.Amazon.com)

 

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Fans rage against proposed Wizard of Oz remake

August 25, 2019

Fans rage against proposed Wizard of Oz remake

A major studio wants to take Oz fans on another trip down the yellow brick road, but they’d just as soon stay in Kansas.

“I don’t know why Hollywood can’t come up with more original ideas! All they do is the same old thing, and they are never as good as the original,” said one irate member of the large and vocal Oz fan community.

The casting seems to be a particular concern.

“There was one obvious choice for Dorothy and they couldn’t get her. What, are they on the third choice? Pinkie something? And all the comedians! The Wizard, Glinda…and Mr. Gnong-gnong-gnong? Ridiculous!”

The production has been troubled. Injuries have been rampant, including a major actor’s hospitalization (and he was eventually replaced in the part). 14 writers and 5 directors have worked on the movie. It has reportedly run significantly over budget. Maybe the Wicked Witch has placed a curse on it…or perhaps its the collective thoughts of the vast Oz fandom.

We managed to find a producer of the movie who would speak on condition of anonymity.

“We just feel like new technology is giving us a new approach to the story. We’re really experimenting here, and I think it’s going to look nothing like the old version. If the fans will give it a chance, I think they’ll like it.”


Well, in case you haven’t guessed by now, I’ve been describing the version you probably think of as the Wizard of Oz: the 1939 musical version with Judy Garland. Various versions of Oz had appeared on screen before. This, though, was the first sound version, and it was going to take advantage of new color processes.

That color brought major changes: the Wicked Witch wasn’t green in the books, and Dorothy has silver slippers, not ruby ones.

The name “Pinkie” I used? Judy Garland had played “Pinkie” Wingate in Listen, Darling the previous year. There were a lot of comedians: they tried to get W.C. Fields for the Wizard, and Billie Burke was known for comedy before playing Glinda.

One of the fans’ biggest concerns was Bert Lahr, who was a well-known comedian…that gnong-gnong-gnong was basically his catchphrase. Oz fandom really was big, and the Cowardly Lion was supposed to be big, too…the mightiest of the beasts in Oz, and one of Ozma’s main bodyguards (even with the fear factor). Fans were afraid Bert Lahr would largely just do his schtick…New York accent and all, and that’s not far off.

The movie was not a blockbuster in 1939, although it was not a major loser. It only became the beloved American classic we know today after repeated television showings.

I wanted to write this after I saw reaction online to someone floating the idea of Wizard of Oz remake, and how just about every respondent thought it was a terrible idea. I’m sure many of them would have reacted to the idea of the 1939 movie the same way. 🙂

I generally like to find the good in things, and I wrote this back in 2010:

Hooray for remakes!

I need to update it and add in some more…and I think I may have been a bit harsh on some that I cited as reasons not to like remakes.

My main point, I suppose, is that there have been good remakes…and just rejecting the whole idea out of hand is easy, but if there weren’t ever any remakes, we wouldn’t have some real classics.

Feel free to tell me what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project (AKA Enwoven)! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

 

 

Easily remove objects from photos with my favorite new app, Touch/Retouch

July 28, 2019

Easily remove objects from photos with my favorite new app, Touch/Retouch

I take a lot of pictures of our dogs…they even have their own free Flipboard magazine:

Butterscotch Chaos and Friends

I usually upload a picture a day, which I take with my Galaxy S10.

Phone camera tech is amazing nowadays! The autofocus is much faster than it was even two years ago. Most often, the pictures look great.

On the weekends, some of the pictures I take are at a dog park in our area…we’re fortunate enough to live within driving distance of one of the best dog parks in the world.

However, my issue had been that sometimes, other people (or dogs) are in the pictures. You develop little social groups, or “packs” as our dogs might call them. 😉 Our dogs are also very friendly, and will walk right up to strangers to be petted.

I’m not comfortable putting identifiable people on the internet without their permission.

So, I looked for a way or an app which might be able to remove those other people.

After reading up, I decided to buy (yes, pay for)

ADVA Soft TouchRetouch

I paid $2.99 for it…and it has far exceeded my expectations!

First, a little level setting.

Part of what I do for a living, a big part, is training people on software. I’ve been doing that for a long time. However, that has never been photo editing software. I’ve done some things with images in PowerPoint and such, and I used to edit Super 8mm film, but it’s all been pretty simple.

So, I can understand well how to use the app, but I don’t have any special photo editing experience.

With very little learning curve, I’ve often been able to remove objects from my photographs…and in under a minute.

Here’s an example of that:

If you take a look, I didn’t only remove the pen: I cleaned smudges off of the white cable in the back, and did some other minor retouching.

Now, it doesn’t always work that well. If there’s a complicated background behind the subject, it sometimes can’t figure out what it should use to fill in the gap.

There are, though, more tools than just the object remover. With that one, I just run my finger over what I want removed, then tell it to “Go”.

There is also an eraser…if my “smudge” gets on to something I don’t want removed, I can erase that part of the smudge first.

Undoing is also easy if I don’t like the result.

What about those other tools?

  • Quick Repair: Quick Brush: this one removes things without me tapping Go first. It can work well, but it doesn’t give you the chance to use that eraser
  • Quick Repair: Blemish Remover: it takes off spots and such. It really is a retouching tool
  • Line Removal: this one is terrific! You trace along a line…let’s say the cord for a device. You don’t have to be careful: it detects it, and then it can remove the whole thing
  • Clone Stamp: this one is tricky, and I’m not always happy with the result, although sometimes it is exactly what I need. You put a reference marker over something in the image, and then as you draw with your finger, it copies it. The issues I have with it are primarily: it’s too easy to move off where you intend (your reference location moves with your cloning finger), so something else comes into the cloned area…as a suggested improvement, I would love to be able to anchor the reference spot so it didn’t move; the image appears to be very flat, all the same, whereas when TouchRetouch removes an object, the image replacement is nicely textured

Here’s another example: again, I did this in under a minute for this article.

Of course, I mentioned sharing, and that’s important. Fortunately, TouchRetouch has good sharing options!

I don’t have to save the image first, or at all. What choices you have will vary based on what’s on your phone, but everything I want is there.

Everybody should have the choice to “Save as Copy” or “Modify Original”…I often save it as a copy.

You can choose format (JPEG, PNG, TIFF), size, and JPEG Quality.

I can send it to social media, save it directly to Flipboard, tweet it, and so on.

In terms of sources, I do wish it would show me my albums within my apps, or give me search, but I can get to my phone’s gallery, Amazon Photos, Google Photos, Downloads, OneDrive, Google Drive…that’s robust.

Bottom line? Well worth the $2.99! When it works right away, which is most of the time, it’s like magic. If it needs some human intervention, it’s still reasonably easy.

Do you have any TouchRetouch tips you’d like to share? Is there another photo editing app you feel is a must have? Would you just simply never pay for an app? 🙂 Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

What, me publish? Mad Magazine to cease publication

July 4, 2019

What, me publish? Mad Magazine to cease publication

According to this

CBS news story

and many other sources, the venerable illustrated humor magazine, Mad (originally Tales Calculated to Drive You Mad), is scheduled to stop publishing new material (old material may be reprinted with new covers).

It was highly influential , bringing broad parodies (at first, of other comics), but eventually covering a wide range of topics.

I read it regularly. I would do that both with the magazine (where you could do a special tri-fold of the back cover which would create a new picture and text) and in paperback books

I particularly remember a satire of Tarzan (where he faces the “tsuris”…a Yiddish word, which was the case with a lot of Mad’s jokes), and a Star Trek parody. In the latter, as I recall, they use the “transputter” a joke on the “transporter” and their body parts get misaligned. As I remember, when Kirk is asked how he is doing, he says, “I have the strangest feeling my face wants to sit down.”

It has continued to exist since 1952, eventually inspiring a TV series.

There were many regular features, from Spy vs. Spy to Dave Berg’s “The Lighter Side of…” to Don Martin’s work.

More than one celebrity has indicated that they really felt like they had arrived when they were parodied in the magazine.

I want to thank everyone who worked on Mad, especially in its heyday! I got a lot of pleasure out of its clever writing and inspired visuals.

What about you? What are your Mad Magazine memories? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

My weird movie theatre memories

June 29, 2019

My weird movie theatre memories

I’ve spent a lot of time in movie theatres.

If we count drive-ins (and they were called Drive-In Theatres), I think that probably goes back to seeing Dr. No with my parents. I have to assume that was in 1963 or so. I only have a flash memory of that…I was quite young, as you can imagine.

I’ve also seen many movies at cons (fan conventions), and of course, thousands on TV. My current favorite way to watch movies is in VR (Virtual Reality). I use a Samsung Gear. There are times the picture could be sharper, but I’m seeing a theatre size screen, have good sound through my earpods, and as I do my floor exercises, the screen follows me when I turn my head (at least on Netflix, it does). I usually have a few things going on at once (I have a Charles Band movie with Christopher Lee on TV in the room as I write this), but the VR experience really has me focus more. It’s definitely best when there are subtitles.

I took a film analysis class in high school, and I actually ran and programmed a movie series for a community center.

For this post, I’m just going to count situations where the public could gather to watch.

Let’s start out with some marathons.

There were five films in the original Planet of the Apes series. I was a big fan (although I don’t like the second movie much).

In 1974, 20th Century Fox had “Go Ape” marathons…you could watch all five movies in a row in a regular theatre.

Well, even though I’d seen them all individually in theatres, I wasn’t going to miss that!

I didn’t just go. I watched in an ape suit.

I had a Don Post PotA chimp mask. Don Post masks were great (my first real job was working in a place which sold them, The House of Humor). It did actually allow for some facial flexibility, and while it was hot for all those hours, it wasn’t intolerable (there was an opening in the back of the “throat”, as I recall, enabling you to breath through the mouth). I had a sort of vinyl olive rainsuit. I paired that with gloves and boots. I really wished I had boots with thumbs in them, as they did in the movie series, but no such luck.

Another time I spent more than eight hours in a row in a theatre was a “Golden Turkeys” film festival…I think it was in Berkeley. It was going to run over night, and my friends and I went in pjs and brought a blanket, or sleeping bag, I don’t remember which.

One of the features was The Creeping Terror, which I recently rewatched on Amazon Prime Video (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*). It’s a super low budget monster movie made in the Tahoe area. They either lost or couldn’t use the dialog track, so much of the movie is narrated (“Bobby told the sheriff…”). The monster looks like a decaying carpet, and you can absolutely tell that a person is walking inside it. The way I had heard the story was that the director or producer was a con artist on probation or who had previously served time. People were paying to be in the movie, and he hadn’t intended to actually complete and release it…somewhat like the plot of The Producers. The judge/probation officer heard about it, called him in, and said, “If you don’t make this movie, you are going back to jail.” I don’t know that that’s actually true…it’s just my recollection of the rumors, and if it isn’t true, my apologies to the people involved that lots of us thought that was the case.

The movie that actually drove people out of the place was The Terror of Tiny Town. It’s a musical Western, with a large cast of little people. This came out shortly before The Wizard of Oz, and many of the actors were in both. The tone varies wildly between being a comedy and being serious…and for some reason, there’s a penguin in a barbershop, as I recall. People went out while it was on to get food.

That festival had a pretty full house, but I had quite a different experience one time when a friend and I went to go see a double feature. It was The Mafu Cage, a psychological horror movie starring Carol Kane and Lee Grant. Kane keeps a man in a cage and treats him as though he is a non-human ape. Hm, Robot Monster, which stars a man in a gorilla suit with a space helmet on his head (they couldn’t afford to make the robot costume they had intended, from what I heard, so they modified George Barrows’ ape suit) was part of the Golden Turkeys festival…is there an ape theme here?

The second feature was, I think, called The Arctic Fox. It was a Japanese nature documentary, narrated by “Grandfather Tree”, or something like that. I love animals, but I remember this being very slow.

By the time it finished, my friend and I were the only ones left in the multiplex theatre…and my friend was asleep.

When it ended, the film just flapped in the projector; it was clearly unattended. When I woke my friend up and we went to leave, it was clear why. The projectionist was standing by the exit, arms crossed across his chest. He looked at me pointedly and said, “That’s the first time I’ve had to run that film all the way through!”

Those are a few of my most memorable movie-going experiences. There have been many:

  • I remember watching Saul Bass’ Phase IV ant movie…in the first row (I don’t recommend that…oh, the movie is fine, but my neck was sore after staring up like that for the whole film)
  • I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show where they took a 70mm print and enlarged it to fill a 150 degree screen. That was a thing at one point…it was supposed to cover all of your peripheral vision range, so you couldn’t see anything except the screen. I remember the corners being fuzzy, but that was quite a show!
  • I think the longest line I was ever in was, for reasons which I’ve never known, for the The World’s Greatest Athlete with Jan-Michael Vincent…I had to stand in line through several showings to see this Disney sort of Tarzan comedy
  • I also waited in line for a few showing to see Jaws when it was first released. I could hear audience reaction from inside the theatre sometimes…so I actually had a sense of when one of the jump scares was coming, and anticipated it a bit

How about you? Have you had a strange time in a movie theatre? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

The Lost Saucer: Sid & Marty Krofft’s slapstick Black Mirror for Kids?

June 15, 2019

The Lost Saucer: Sid & Marty Krofft’s slapstick Black Mirror for Kids?

Sid & Marty Krofft had some of the weirdest shows on television in the late 1960s and 1970s. They usually featured people in full body suit costumes, and were a big part of many childhoods.

Asked to name their shows, most nostalgic adults would mention

  • H.R. Pufnstuf
  • Land of the Lost
  • Sigmund and the Sea Monsters
  • Lidsville

but there were many others: The Bugaloos; The Banana Splits; Electra Woman and Dyna Girl…

Low down on the list might be two shows that ran opposite each other (on ABC and CBS) for one season starting in 1975: Far Out Space Nuts, and The Lost Saucer.

There were some similarities: they both starred a pair of well-known comedians, had a funny animal character, and featured out of control travel to other societies.

Far Out Space Nuts had Bob Denver (Gilligan’s Island) and Chuck McCann as lost in space NASA employees, and Honk, an alien. It was a pretty typical comedy.

The Lost Saucer had Jim Nabors and Ruth Buzzi as time traveling androids, and the dorse, a bioengineered animal with a “dog’s body” (although it didn’t look much like a dog) with a horse’s head.

In the first episode, they invite a young boy and his babysitter onboard their flying saucer. They panic when the saucer is spotted, take off…and the time travel mechanism malfunctions, leaving them unable to control when they go. The rest of the series has “Fi” and “Fum” trying to return Jerry and Alice to 1975.

I recently mixed up the two shows, suggesting that Jim Nabors had been on Far Out Space Nuts. That type of error genuinely is unusual for me (although Twitter is a different sort of almost real time beast). I figured I owed it to the show to watch what episodes I could. I found some on YouTube:

YouTube search for The Lost Saucer

I also read up on the series.

Here’s the thing…

Yes, it’s slapstick. Yes, there is a laugh track. Yes, it has corny dialog. Yes, guest stars tended towards the comedic, including Billy Barty, Richard Deacon, Jane Dulo, Joe E. Ross, and Marvin Kaplan.

However, the themes are quite dystopic, and could fit right in with the current anthology series, Black Mirror.

  • 894X2RY713, I Love You: everyone is known by a number, and Jerry and Alice are arrested for showing their faces in public. Their judge is a computer
  • My Fair Robot: a robot who is too clumsy is threatened with being recycled
  • Polka Dot Years: this is about racism (against people who don’t have polka dots)
  • In the Laughing Years, chemicals are used to keep people laughing. They don’t affect the androids…who are arrested (there is a lot of legal jeopardy on this show) for not smiling

I wasn’t able to see Fat Is Beautiful yet, but in this episode, people have become reliant on their conveniences and gotten fat. It is illegal to exercise or to be in shape. I wanted to compare this to WALL-E, since there seem to be some parallels (I’m not saying that WALL-E is at all based on it, but those sorts of parallel creative evolution things happen. A male and female android in a future where humans are out of shape…).

So, is The Lost Saucer like Black Mirror…with a laugh track? What do you think? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project (AKA Enwoven)! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Rewatch: Eerie, Indiana

June 5, 2019

Rewatch: Eerie, Indiana

I recently rewatched (and honestly, probably watched for the first time some episodes) Eerie, Indiana on Amazon Prime Video.

As can happen with shows with cult followings, I enjoyed it more this time around. One of the hallmarks of cult movies and TV shows is that they tend to have a lot of detail, and often with in-jokes and callbacks. Eerie has all of that.

The basic situation is that a young boy (Marshall Teller, sometimes called “Mars”) moves from New Jersey to Indiana, and encounters (and tracks…and may battle) a variety of weird things. Elvis Presley (who had died in 1977, but was rumored to have faked his death) lives in the town, as does Bigfoot. The show begins with a great episode, and the first are basically stand-alones.

As the show progresses, though, there becomes more of a throughline, more mythology. That can sometimes be a problem for shows, but it works here.

The main characters (Omri Katz as Mars, Justin Shenkarow as his friend and Eerie native, Simon Holmes. Marshall’s mother, father, and older sister are also constants) are well cast.

Part of what made the show really enjoyable for me was the geeky roster of guest stars. John Astin joins the series late in the run for several episodes, with perhaps his best work outside of The Addams Family. Gregory Itzin is the town’s mayor. Tobey Maguire and Nikki Cox have “before they were stars” turns. Rene Auberjonois (as a character called “The Donald”), Ray Walston, Dick Miller, and Matt Frewer all guest.

I do love the writing. There is a common misconception that if a show has children as main characters, it’s made for kids. That’s not the case here, although kids can certainly enjoy some episodes on some levels. There is, though, genuine peril and people do die. A lot of the references wouldn’t make sense to kids.

Those references are fun, and nowadays, would give Google a workout for some viewers. One that caught my eye: a Twin Peaks line (mentioning the Log Lady). Given that the shows’ debuts are only a year apart, that shows you how topical it is.

There is also a fair amount of social commentary.

SPOILER ALERT

What is now shown as the last episode (the original 19th episode wasn’t shown in the first run), is brilliant if they knew the show was ending. Marshall finds out that he is on a TV show…everyone starts calling him Omri, and his house is just a set. The other actors, for the most part, play heightened versions of themselves, and are aware that they are on a show. The very mysterious Dash X character wants to take over as star of the show…by getting the Marshall character killed off! Even though I have the spoiler alert, I’ll just say that the ending is perfect if they knew (or strongly suspected) the show was over.

END SPOILER ALERT

When the show was re-run on Fox Kids’ in 1997, it gained a new life. This resulted in a spin-off…which I’ve started to watch now:

Eerie, Indiana: The Other Dimension

It has a direct connection…Marshall and Simon do a sort of hand-off in the first episode.

Bottom line: Eerie, Indiana is a clever, geek-friendly series that benefits from binging.

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Why don’t American horror movies make more money internationally?

May 6, 2019

Why don’t American horror movies make more money internationally?

At The Measured Circle, we track the box office regularly. Here’s is our list for 2019:

2019 The Measured Circle’s Most Profitable Movies at IMDb

Movies have to make $40 million in domestic gross (I say “dogro”) to get on the list…there are 19 movies on there at time of writing.

No surprise that the top two movies, in terms of the amount of profit (we calculate profit based on the reported budget vs. dogro) are Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. However, combine their two budgets, and it’s over half a billion dollars.

The third movie, Us, is in one of the genres with the best return on investment. That’s when you look at the percentage of profit, rather than the gross amount of profit. Us is Double Golden (on a reported budget of $20 million)…here is our scale on those awards:

  • Dogro 2X production budget = “Money”
  • Dogro 3X production budget = “Golden”
  • Dogro 30X production budget = “Platinum” (God’s Not Dead prompted the creation of this new award)
  • Dogro less than 50% of production budget= “Underperformer”

Captain Marvel has gotten to the “Money” level (which is a considerable accomplishment for a movie with an over $100m budget), and Avengers: Endgame will get there.

Every year, there are horror movies with small budgets that have a great ROI. They tend to be a flash in the pan…having a great opening weekend, then maybe riding for a week or two more, but that’s the bulk of it.

Recently, I’ve been looking more at the international box office impact. In July of 2017, we added the “Road Winner” award, for movies which make at least two-thirds of their box office with what Box Office Mojo (which is where I get these numbers) calls international.

Success overseas is definitely part of the Marvel story. Endgame’s dogro percentage is only 28.3% (this is all based on the updating I did earlier today), and Captain Marvel is 37.6%.

Four of the 19 movies on the list are Road Winners. More than half of the movies have a dogro percentage under 50%…they make more money internationally than domestically.

Two genres tend not to make much of their money internationally: comedy and horror.

Comedy makes sense to me intuitively. It is often very language-based, making translation or even dubbing a complex proposition. Puns, in particular, are going to be difficult.

The author Scott Calvin (who is my sibling)

Scott Calvin’s Amazon Author Central page (at AmazonSmile*)

suggested (when I posed the question about horror movies on Twitter) that it could be culturally based. What is scary in one culture might not be scary in another, perhaps due to familiarity with the subject. A car, for example, might be scarier in a society that doesn’t use them regularly (that’s my example, not Scott’s) than it would be for one where they are constantly present.

I’m not sure that’s it, though. Horror movies often take something very familiar and tweak it a bit. There are several American horror movies with cars/trucks as the “monsters” (Christine, The Car, Duel…).

I would also think that a slasher is scary in any culture.

Interestingly, I would say that foreign horror movies have done reasonably well in the USA, my guess would be as well as other genres. In the past decade or two, Japanese horror movies have done quite well here. There is a whole “school” of Italian horror movies called “giallo”. The British studio Hammer has made a definite impression here.

It occurred to me that maybe a movie like Us just isn’t released internationally, but that’s not the case. When I checked, it was released in more than 50 countries, and not dissimilar to Avengers: Endgame.

Humor and horror do have a lot in common. I’ve actually taught people about the use of humor, and I find the best way to understand it is that laughter is a signal that there is apparent danger (it can be social danger), but no real danger.

That’s very tricky even within the same general culture. People make jokes about their own group (using a stereotype, for instance), and it can be seen as funny within that group (because it is clearly seen as not really representing a danger). If someone from outside the group made the same joke to the same group, it might be seen as offensive.

That is similar to what Scott had said, although I think it may be have less to do with familiarity with the threat source than with the language subtlety around it (which would be like humor)…the threat might be imperceptible to someone without a thorough grasp of idiom and shared culture.

I’m just guessing, though. 😉

I still think it’s possible that there is some strategic decision made, perhaps not to spend much on promotion…but that might be based on past experience with low box office returns.

Any ideas? Why do you think American horror movies don’t make much of their money internationally? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

In honor of Tim Curry’s 19 April birthday: a Tim Ten

April 19, 2019

In honor of Tim Curry’s 19 April birthday: a Tim Ten

Tim Curry is one of my favorite actors: I suspect I was one of the few people who saw the Tom Arnold version McHale’s Navy in the theatre first run…and that was to see Tim. I also had the privilege of seeing him perform live in Me and My Girl.

What I thought I’d do this year is pick ten performances…that’s not to say these are necessarily my favorites, and I am deliberately picking some which may be more obscure (but I’ll include some of his better known ones as well).

Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Darkness in Legend

This 1985 Ridley Scott fantasy certainly has had some confusion, with different versions and even two entirely different scores. No one, though, has been confused about Tim Curry’s delicious performance as the villain Darkness, who appears as a traditional devil (with big bull-like horns). Truly evil…

2. Dr. Frankenstein in Frankenstein Through the Eyes of the Monster

In a PC computer puzzle game (think something like Myst), the player is the revived Frankenstein’s monster, and in first person, you are exploring the castle…but it is surprisingly emotional, and Tim’s performance as Dr. Frankenstein will chill you to your resurrected bones

3. Billy Flynn on Criminal Minds

It always surprises me how Criminal Minds attracts such a mainstream audience. It depicts the depths of depravity, and in this 2010 2-parter, Tim Curry plays one of the most memorable of those “unsubs”

4. Gaal in Earth 2

This space colonization series was super-hyped and won an Emmy for Special Effects. However, I genuinely believed that Curry deserved an Emmy nomination. Gaal was subtle and mysterious, and was one of biggest arguments for a never-achieved second season…poppet

5. Hosting Saturday Night Live

With musical guest (and fellow Rocky Horror Picture Show alum) Meat Loaf, Tim had great fun! Joe Piscopo brought his Frank Sinatra on to Tim’s Mick Jagger’s special. They trade off singing each other’s songs. Curry also sings a British music hall song, bringing the traditional winking delivery to a song about…zuchinnis?

6. Nigel Thornberry on The Wild Thornberrys

If SNL didn’t convince you that it isn’t always scary with Tim, Nigel Thornberry’s exuberance should do the trick! With close to 100 appearances (90 in the main series, and special and movies), this is probably the part that Tim Curry has played the most on film (and videotape).

7. Dr.Seward on the Dracula audiobook

When I saw that Tim Curry and Alan Cumming were two of the voices on an audiobook of Dracula (a remarkably complex novel which I know well), my mind didn’t immediately go to Tim Curry playing one of the least eccentric parts: Dr. Seward, who runs the asylum where the Count’s helper Renfield is a patient. I suspect that was a conscious choice…it may be the most difficult role to make interesting, but Curry manages it

8. Harley Dune in Wolf Girl

Certainly not his best-known show, this TV movie also features Shawn Ashmore, Grace Jones, and Lesley Anne Warren. The story takes place in a traveling show…and Curry is the proprietor

9. Farley Claymore in The Shadow

Alec Baldwin knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. While not the biggest part in the movie (he’s basically a henchman), Tim Curry has a scene where he goes absolutely nuts when faced with the Shadow’s legendary abilities

10. The Criminologist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

In 2016, more than forty years after RHPS was released, Fox did a “live” version with Laverne Cox as Franky. In what is one of the bravest, strongest things I’ve ever seen, Tim Curry portrays the Criminologist. Why so brave? Not only were people going to be thinking about how he was in his immortal starring role (he’s the hero–that’s right, the hero!!) so many decades earlier (arguably, he could have been nominated for an Oscar), this performance was four years after a debilitating stroke. It’s clear that nothing came easy for him for this performance, that even removing his glasses was a challenge. Very people would be willing to put themselves out there like that

There’s your Tim Ten! That’s just a very small portion of this amazing performer’s work. Franky, Pennywise in It, Wadsworth in Clue, Darth Sidious and Chancellor Palpatine in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Robert Graves in The Shout…I could go on and on. I also listened to his music most of the day; he can really move me, but also give me energy; his music is unique and diverse. When asked to describe his singing style, I remember him saying, “Loud.” That really fits him…it’s not self-effacing, but self-aware, Sunshine.

Those are ten from me: feel free to add more by commenting on this post.

Happy birthday, Tim! Thank you for all you’ve given to me and the world!

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

That time I outquipped John Belushi on stage…and regretted it years later

March 16, 2019

That time I outquipped John Belushi on stage…and regretted it years later

Back in the day, I was doing community theatre. It was in the early days of Saturday Night Live, and my director was a big fan of John Belushi.

There was a show coming to a local college…as I recall, it was called Stars of Saturday Night Live.

The director asked me if I would bring Belushi a gag gift, knowing that I was comfortable enough to approach a big star like that. It was a coffee can, labeled (unfortunately in hindsight) The John Belushi Memorial Fund.

I hadn’t really watched Saturday Night Live, but I said I’d do it.

People expected that Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner would be there, but it turned out to just be Belushi and one of the writers (that’s how I remember it).

I think people were disappointed by that initially…and Belushi’s performance was not well-received. He yelled at the audience a lot, and one of his bits when heckled was to say, “Do you want to get up here?” He tried to get the audience to sing Let’s Kill Gary Gilmore for Christmas, but it wasn’t happening.

The tone in the audience was ugly.

I had told a security guard that I had the gag gift. Finally, I think he decided it wouldn’t hurt, so he gave it to him (I was standing by the stage at that point). Belushi said to me, “Do you want to get up here?”…and I hopped up on the stage.

I spoke to the audience a bit…I believe Belushi was making funny faces and such behind me.

I finished, and Belushi said, “You’re a real professional, you know?”

I said, “Well, one of us has to be.”

I was kidding, but there was a big “Ooooh!” in the first few rows. I hopped back down.

Belushi went offstage and got a chainsaw. He broke up the lectern (I assume it was a breakaway) and started to saw it up. A piece spun off and stuck in the video screen behind us. I’ve always thought that must have been expensive damage.

As I mentioned, the college offered people refunds, and I heard that many people asked for them.

The newspaper wrote up the show, mentioned my ad lib, referring to me as “One nervy spectator”.

That experience didn’t bother me for myself, but I felt Belushi had been unfair to the audience. I decided I didn’t want to support what he did. I didn’t watch SNL while he was on it.

I ran into a conflict when The Blues Brothers movie came out. I had been at a small event where John Landis and Rick Baker showed Schlock and talked about it. I liked Landis and wanted to support him…and he directed The Blues Brothers.

What I did was wait to see it in a third-run theatre, or thereabouts…I think I paid a dollar admission. I figured the amount that Belushi would get from that would be negligible.

Years later, I regretted how I felt about Belushi then. I realized that his performance may have been affected by substance abuse. I was proud of being snarky (I’m still proud of the line…but not using it in those circumstances), but it would have been better for Belushi to get treatment, not be trolled.

Anyway, this came up today, and I realized I hadn’t told this story online (or at least for sure, not in this blog), so I thought I’d share it.

Why tell it?

More to preserve the history than anything else, I guess. I’m certainly not trying to criticize John Belushi at this point. I’ve watched SNL now, and Belushi did some amazing work. I loved The Blues Brothers as an act. I should mention, I’m a big fan of Dan Aykroyd. That especially goes for the knowledge of and promotion for things that would fall under Bufo’s Weird World. The line on The Coneheads, “Tell them we are from France,” refers back to the 1896-97 Airship flap, where Americans (especially) reported seeing impossible aircraft. Some of them spoke with pilots and passengers…and some said they were from France. Oh, and Ghostbusters? So brilliant!

So, that’s the story of how I outquipped John Belushi…and lived to regret it.

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All aboard our The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project (AKA Enwoven)! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.


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