All posts by torchsandaardvarks

DTV Wonders: Chronicles of Narnia (1979)

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This is the second TV/film adaptation of Narnia and oddly the older they are the more obscure they are.

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The first one was ten episodes in 1967.  Only two (episodes 1 and 8) are not lost. I found them on youtube, and they are low quality, bad music, and mostly this guy pictured above narrating.  Obviously it is…  According to IMDB it is the best of all the adaptations?  Guess I should check it out at some point.

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3rd is what I call the best one (unless 1967 comes through) made by BBC, and the last one is where I was introduced to the series, the Walden film.  I never liked it, as it takes itself far too seriously. Our subject is the second adaptation, an animated film from 1979. It came out two years after The Hobbit.   Since they both are fantasies from 20th British authors with directors best known for holiday shorts I presume this was made to cash in on the Hobbit. Just liek the Walden film was made to cash in on Jackson’s Middle Earth adaptations.  Of note, it is an American film, but for British audiences they made another one with British accents. Normally I would review the original, but the British version is all I could find. From the few scenes I could find with the original cast they are notably better than their British counterparts.

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The opening credits are bland, but based on the parentheses I think they planned on sequels. The only god thing about the prequels is this is directed by Peanuts specials director, Bill Melendez. He is great at children’s entertainment and Christian work. That does not mean he is good at adaptations.  Surely his simplistic style will go well with the tiht budget of made for TV movies.

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The story starts in media res where Lucy tells everyone about the wardrobe and is not believed.  The animation is  not appealing (and Susan gets way taller later), but at least everyone is easy to tell apart.  Unless I say otherwise always assume the animation is really bad.  It is not hideous, but it is not fun to look and no one moves very well either.  Lucy then has a flashback on her bed about being in Narnia, and I think the story is easy to follow. Sure new viewers will not know why they are in a strange house, but I think most children could guess a few reasons.  Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus and gets plenty of rather easy to follow exposition at the beginning of the film instead of the middle of the first act. The problem is Tumnus’s design.

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None of the designs are very good, but this is the worst.  Wait, in the book he actually described very similar to this, except for the green hair.  Like the Walden film the problem is Mr. Tumnus’s scene just drags on and on.  The drill from the original book is kept.  He was supposed to kidnap her and instead warns her about the white witch (I do not think she was called Jadis yet in the book, and I take this as foreshadowing a film of The Magician’s Nephew which was never made), and he escorts her back to the human world.  Edmund always has an angry look on him, and he refuses to believe her. He later catches her going into the wardrobe, and he follows her to prove there is no magical land in the wardrobe. Instead he finds snow and The White Witch.

The biggest weakness in this children’s film is the villain. I never liked the Walden film, but she was done very well there. In there and in BBC she also shows the power of evil as a tempting force that we may think is good until we are in trouble.  Here she shouts everything and is super obviously evil.  She keeps threatening to harm Edmund instead of make him think she is good.  In this scene she hardly mentions making Edmund a king and keeps talking about Turkish delight pushing the part where Edmund agrees to betray his siblings for Turkish delight. The problem is they never mention the candy being enchanted making his reasons less understandable.  Thankfully Edmund’s whining  keeps the scene watchable, as he is the best character in the series due to his flaws, even if this film harms his motivation.  He and Lucy go back and he tells Peter and Susan that there is no Narnia.

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The older two talk it over with the professor who is just dull here (a problem Walden also had).  All four then venture into the wardrobe and find Narnia.  None of his wisdom that mirrors Christian apologetics comes through.  Unlike Walden they do not waste time acting like finding snow is so whimsical and let the plot move forward. Edmund gives his lie away by mentioning pathways, and Peter nearly strangles him.  It took nearly one third of the way, but the film is good now.

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They go to see Mr. Tumnus, but his door is in need of maintenance.  A note says he has been captured by the Queen’s secret police.  Later Peter and Edmund have an interesting conversation that is normally removed from the adaptations. Edmund tells Peter that Tumnus may have been lying about protecting Lucy and he is a villain while the Queen is the hero. Peter is mildly considering it. This would be more interesting if the Witch was not so obviously terrible, but they at least help children realize that who you think is a villain is not always the case.  Edmund’s best point still stands, none of them know the way back home.  They met Mr. Beaver who tells them about them being the chosen ones, and Aslan will help them.  They make a big point about Aslan being the son of the Emperor and that Aslan is very scary even to his followers. That is very accurate to Jesus.  Despite him preaching peace and being based on forgiveness he horrified the priests and the Angels always have to say “do not be afraid.”

Edmund leaves for the witch, and all three adaptations did this scene differently. This film basically copied the book where Edmund has internal monologue, and most of it is exactly like the book. As my brother pointed out most of the best parts of the book is not the plot but the thoughts the characters have, which they would naturally not say to their family.  The film shows them thinking it, which is fine, but that works on paper way better than film.  Walden did this scene the worst by doing what they normally do, have a lengthy scene of characters just walking. BBC did it the best by having Edmund argue with himself in a reflection.  When Edmund mocks a stone lion viewers here will at least know he thought it was Aslan. I also love it how he promises to make roads when he is king.  It shows how he does want to help the land, he still mostly cares about himself, his methodical thinking, and desire for greatness in only one sentence.

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Unfortunately we then meet the worst character, the wolf captain. He just acts so rowdy like he is completely new to being a secret police member when he is supposed to be a seasoned professional.  The witch obviously turns on Edmund and immediately proclaims she will kill them all and the stone Mr. Tumnus cries.  The beavers and other humans flee to a hiding place. They see several animals celebrating that it is turning into Spring and the animation then gets notably better (less bad). They see the witch turn them into stone from a distance, and Edmund is showing way more emotion than anyone else, as he is shivering in fear and looking horrified.  Some grass is also poking through the snow. The problem is the heroes are walking instead of running making this seem less intense than it should when they flee the witch.  Eventually the witch’s sled stops and Edmund finds himself acting as a pack animal.

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The heroes finally get to Aslan and his army. I like the golden design, which makes him look more amazing than the average lion.  You also see their fear when they debate who goes first to meet him.  Aslan instead is welcoming, excited, and warm to them.  I could also hear his concern for Edmund. Sure he shows some of the sexism that was in the original book, but since women only recently started actually fighting regularly in wars I will not fault this much. In a cool scene the army then rescues Edmund from the Witch. The army beats the witch, but she escapes by magically disguising herself as a tree stump. Unfortunately this makes problems later.  Like why she did not try that against Aslan later.

We then get to one of the most iconic parts.  The Queen points out that by the ancient rules made by the Aslan’s father all traitors belong to her and Aslan has to bring Edmund to her. If not all Narnia will be destroyed in fire. Now that the witch is showing the side of evil as a destroyer her over acting is working way better… Until it drags on too long. He is able to get the witch to mysteriously relent. The best part is how Aslan reacts.

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He just looks so irritated with her overacting.  As all who know the story can predict, he then surrenders himself where he is sacrificed on a stone table. The movie shows his sadness and worry like Jesus had at Gethsemane, but he is not beaten enough. He rises from the dead and he does something that I do not think any other adaptation kept, he then plays with the girls.  I am happy to finally see it, as it shows this keeps the original’s mood. Contrary to what the Walden film did Narnia actually had a light hearted tone that was balanced with its religious symbolism. This version succeeds as a micro-adaptation while Walden only worked as a macro-adaptation.  He also says there is a battle going on and they need to get reinforcements by freeing the witch’s prisoners. He wastes time with a speech after freeing them. In a serious work this and the playing is a problem, as that time is best spent on the battle, but in this work it does not detract.  It is not taking the battle that seriously as Aslan already won the battle for good by beating death. Also as shown in the battle the heroes are being turned to stone (curable) not dying. The battle itself is quite Bad. Large battles are hard to animate with a good budget, and this is really bad except for a brief scene where Peter and Edmund are nearly killed by projectiles. Edmund heroically destroys the wand only to seemingly fall unconscious on the spot.  Aslan then jumps on the witch, and she turns to smoke.  It looks more like she teleported to safety rather than being killed.  Melendez is not good at directing battles.

Aslan then crowns the four children kings and they rule a golden age for around twenty years until they go back home.  The professor says “…This is only the beginning of your adventures in Narnia.” I think this confirms my theory that Melendez planned to adapt all seven books.

I think this is the most faithful adaptation. The story is the best part, but the animation really weakens the film.  I still consider the BBC version to be the best, and I am torn on whether I consider this to be better than the Walden film.  The visuals are way worse, and this also has big pacing problems where they move to slow, but the music is better, the dialogue is better, and the story matches the mood better.  Granted the witch and battles are inferior.

As an adult man I would not say I liked it, but I think ten year old me would have liked it.

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DTV Wonders: Ultra Instinct Shaggy

This is actually called Scooby-Doo: Legend of the Phantosaur, but the scene where Shaggy beats up a biker gang is what everyone writes about.  It has become a huge source of memes, and now is the time to decide if the film is actually good or just an interesting scene.

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The opening credits are in a very abstract style, and I like this in spite of Velma and Fred’s weird hair. It helps to stick out from the hordes of Scooby-Doo films.  Some more good news is it has the same cast as the best series, “Mystery Incorporated.”

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The film plot starts with Shaggy violating the laws of physics by screaming for several days in a row, and the doctor is told why.  The gang explains it was only a normal day for them, chasing ghosts. The doctor is skeptical (defeating the Evil Entity did not make the news after all), and he says Shaggy has a rare condition, overactive fear stimuli.  He forbids Shaggy from entering the mystery machine.  Already he is my main suspect. Being good friends they go to “La Serena: The Least Haunted place in America.” I love this reference to Crystal Cove. They head there in the new “The Mustard Machine.”

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They stay with the eccentric Mr. Hubley, who jokes about dressing as a ghost to scare the locals off to buy their land. Safe to say he is the red herring. When getting food Scooby runs into the Phantosaur.

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I find the design lacking, but the atmosphere is silent, which helps the scary mood. Fred, Daphne, and Velma meet some other suspects/characters. like professor Svankmejer.

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Based on her design, which is not obviously evil, but somewhat stuck up looking I guess she is the villain. They also meet the worst character in the film, Winsor. Winsor looks like a male clone of Velma, and they fall in lust, and every scene with them is just slow.  Then the Phantosaur attacks destroying equipment and chasing everyone. We then get a much more intense chase scene than usual, no song and hardly any talking. Shaggy goes unconscious and Scooby carries him away long enough for Fred to ram the dinosaur with The Mustard Machine.  Hubley explains the legend of the Phantosaur. Native Americans made a curse on attacking Europeans by reviving an ancient monster (planing on a bear). It was a large sharptooth who instead drove out the natives and Europeans.

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Hubley then hypnotizes Shaggy into being fearless when he hears the word “bad.” He also accidentally hypnotizes himself into forgetting his own word, and only Scooby is even trying to find out the word.  This plot is dumb, but the mood is not that serious anyway, and it does set up the good stuff only one third into the run time.  Shaggy and Scooby go to an all you can eat diner and make the owner consider bankruptcy.

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Daphne finds off dinosaur tracks, and that is character re-railment.  In the first series Daphne’s main contribution is she was the most observant and best clue finder. It was not until “Mystery Incorporated she got that niche back.  Back with Shaggy he is told “bad” and become the fearless fighter who wipes out a biker gang in a fight.  The great part is the reaction from Scooby and all the locks and wrestling moves Shaggy uses. Then the leader, Tex, comes.

 

While surrounded by his beaten companions Tex challenges Shaggy to a friendly motorcycle race on Dead man’s peak, dead man’s tray, dead man’s bluff, dead man’s curve, and dead man’s avenue.  Shaggy accepts and proudly admits it will be his first ever motorcycle ride.  Tex is enthusiastic about Shaggy’s craziness and promises not to beat him too badly bringing back normal Shaggy.

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Fred and Daphne see two people from a mining company who are obvious red herrings.  They think it is solved except Fred “still hasn’t caught anyone in a net yet.”  Velma is too distracted by Winsor to be of any help.

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Before the motorcycle race Tex brings “other guy” back, and Ultra Instinct Shaggy has a small lead until Tex nearly falls to his death and Shaggy saves him.

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This is where it becomes clear that “Other Guy” is still Shaggy just missing the fear. He is still the same selfless guy, but now more heroic.  The Phantosaur attacks and Shaggy thinks “bad…” meaning Scooby has to save him. The bikers and the rest of Mystery Inc. flood out the mining inc guys and the Phantosaur’s circuits are fried.  The two are arrested and Daphne points out that was solved earlier than usual, as they are only at the 53 minute mark. They go back to Hubley’s home where the holograph technology is gone, and they find velociraptor claw marks and footprints. Then they find…

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Again this is lacking. Their introduction is too quickly paced for any sense of dread, and their animation is stiff. Granted it then gets good with slow, dreadful action and good sounds, but on a re-watch this is weird.  The dinosaurs are overweight college students who are trying to eat people.  They even eat a cake version of Scooby and Shaggy that was quickly made.  The raptors run outside where things are worse (except for the viewers).

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Now this is great. The dinosaur has fire breath, people are in terror, the plot is fast enough for action, but slow enough for the atmosphere.  The design is great.  The raptors get more drool.  Then Tex declares “If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s ghost dinosaurs.” The gang tries scaring them off until they eventually leave. They go to the professor who is evacuating, and her students have already left.  Shaggy notices all the cars are still there even though the grad students supposedly just left.  Fred makes a successful trap with flame throwers and Professor and Winsor run away. It was a hologram with heated air.

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The professor found a preserved Allosaurus in the quartz and they needed to remove the town to get it out without anyone else noticing.  The entire crew of students was in on it.  They needed it out secretly and it was under public ground. It was the source of the Phantosaur myth, and they were inspired by the other fake Phantosaur. They use the explanation music from Mystery Incorporated, which I love. They had charges to blow the ground off, but they then go of due to a mistake Daphne makes meaning the cave they are all in is about to be mush.  Thankfully professor says “bad” bringing a new leader to action.

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In the very first episode of Scooby-Doo it was shown that Shaggy is a gymnast champion, and here he is jumping everywhere to get them to safety. He is doing all the work getting all seven out, and this is great. He is then one jump from getting out and getting help until Daphne says “not bad.” Scooby realizes the word but his impediment means he cannot say it or successfully communicate it. Shaggy is now panicking as the cave collapses, but Fred tells him everything Other Guy did is something he can do.  Normal Shaggy goes for it in a surprisingly slow and tense scene. He has to jump, climb, and jump on moving rocks.

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Peter Jackson, you plagiarist.

Shaggy makes the jump and finds Tex. He has ropes to get everyone out. He was there as he knew Shaggy could get out and his men camped at the only exit.

IS this good? In spite of its problems, yes. Like my last review it needed something that The Land Before Time sequels did so well, integrate different elements at the end for unity of plot.  This has really bad unity of plot with two different dinosaur plots and neither are very connected to awesome Shaggy. The pace is to fast at times for the film’s tone and Winsor is terrible bringing down Velma too.

Yet this is the second best Scooby-Doo movie.  Fred and Daphne are great in their limited role. It is nice seeing Scooby be so brave and smart, which are expected for a Mystery Incorporated type show. Shaggy is awesome and never disappointing. While the villains were too obvious Tex was great along with the other side characters like Hubley’s humor and the diner owner’s jokes.  The tone was refreshingly serious, and I like the moral. If you did something great then you can repeat it or something similar.  I recommend watching this.

Remakes for a New Generation (The Nonsense)

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The few defenders of all Disney’s live action remakes often say they are made to introduce the classics to a new generation of movie viewers.  Thy are also using a tweet saying “Walt Disney put in his will that all Disney classics are to be remade every 10 years, so each generation gets to enjoy them.”  They ignore that it is all false.  Remakes do not contribute to younger people watching old movies any differently than any advertising.

The easiest to disprove one is the tweet supposedly about Walt Disney’s will. By a simple google search I just found a Snopes article which says he never said that nor did he have power to order it. If it is true then it has been broken already countless times. It means he should have remade Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1947, 1957, and another remake should have come out shortly after he died in December of 1966. It then should have been remade five more times by now, and that has not happened. It means The Black Cauldron should been remade three times by now, and Disney will never do that.  Disney never has remade a film within ten years of being made (the current record is 26). Disney has never done anything extreme enough to follow those supposed instructions.

It also contradicts how Walt Disney acted in life. He was against sequels, and he never did a remake. He had almost 30 years to remake Snow White and he never did.  He supported using new adaptations and making huge changes to the source materials.

The better argument I keep hearing is that the remakes allow a younger generation to enjoy old movies, as they apparently think no one can watch an old movie.  Using a home media device is not hard.  The only tricky part is advertising them, which Disney is terrific at.  I always heard about the old films not from remakes, but from advertisements of old movie collections. Disney was the best at it with their “Gold Masterpiece Collection.” It made me know about old movies and some VHS tapes had bonus songs from older movies.  The movies that stay famous do it, as people keep watching them, not for remakes.

The final case for remakes is they can add something.  No one can watch a commercial for the Disney remakes and think they add anything.  They are literally just taking scenes and putting photo-realistic CGI or live action over them.  Artistically they are just inferior versions with an inferior medium for the story they used. Every film they have that can use a remake to fix past mistakes (The Black Cauldron, Atlantis, or Chicken Little) is not remade in favor of their most famous works that do not need major changes.

The Disney remakes are just a waste of time that I could spend just watching the superior version.  Disney is supposedly “The House of Ideas,” yet they have no new ideas.  In the real words of Walt Disney “You can’t beat pigs with pigs.”

Watching “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo” for the first time

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A movie called Scooby-Doo and the Curse of the 13th Ghost just came out to be the finale to a shoe from 1985 that was ended after its first season with a cliffhanger ending, and I will review all thirteen episodes.  I have never seen it before, but it was not typical Scooby-Doo.  It had multi episode storylines, which has only been done by Mystery Incorporated, my favorite of the franchise, but I never heard it was good.

Episode 1

The plot is that Scrappy, Scooby, Shaggy, and Daphne are in a plane called “The mystery flying machine.”  I am disappointed it is not green with flowers like all the objects in Cyber Chase.  They crash onto a town where the town folks immediately want them gone (later revealed to be because they are werewolves). They meet a young con artist named Flim-Flam. He has magic bottles that basically get them out of every situation.  Two ghosts need a person from the living to open a chest to unleash 13 ghosts/demons (they go back and forth). Scooby and Shaggy let them out for stupid and unfunny reasons and it ends with the gang going to track them down and the other two ghosts tagging along.

Episode one is not good.  It is confusing, Daphne’s redesign is distracting, and Flim-Flam is a Mary Sue.  I hope episode 2 is better. At least some of the jokes work.

Episode 2

The episode is about stooping a warlock who is taking over a magic kingdom.  This time the tone is considerably less serious, and that works in the episode’s favor.

The tone is wacky and breaks the fourth wall a few times. At first it is just bad humor, but the second half of the episode is then pretty entertaining, and I would have liked it at ten years old.  The music and animation are also better. The only problem is Flim-Flam somehow got even more annoying. Hopefully later episodes are like this.

 

 

 

Aquaman’s huge Success: What it Means for DC

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Aquaman has made 1.1 billion dollars worldwide and counting. It has grossed more than every DC movie and more than all but six Marvel films.  Unlike Wonder Woman it was a huge success overseas.  Aquaman is now a bigger hit than Batman and Superman, and will get more exposure.

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Obviously this will change their marketing, as Wonder Woman and Aquaman will be the new stars. I expect they will focus on using Batman less and make Superman lighter and more friendly to help imitate Aquaman’s success.

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Not only will DC imitate Aquaman with current movie heroes, but this will make them more excited about other heroes getting their first solo movie. Maybe Flash will be the next Aquaman. Maybe it will be Cyborg or even Question.  I think a Booster Gold movie could be a big hit.  DC should stop viewing Superman and Batman as their marketable heroes and find ways to get their other stars to be movie hits.

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This will also help to build the Injustice Gang/Legion of Doom/Secret Society of Supervillians.  In the Stinger to Justice League they hinted at building a large group of villains to challenge the league, and I am ecstatic about it.  In the animated Justice League my favorite episodes had the super villain brawls with around 6 heroes battling around 6 villains, and the MCU has not done this. There was no confirmation that Black Manta would join it, but he is good to go for future films and be a threat for multiple films.  DC now has great villains in their films and I expect Black Manta will be one of the main physical threats of the group.

 

DTV Wonders: Arthur’s Perfect Christmas

I am a huge fan of Arthur.  I have seen every episode in the first nineteen seasons, and in my old blog (which got deleted due to my address being deleted) I reviewed every season.  Despite this I never saw this special until then due to bad times it aired.  The special was around 15 years old when I saw it and to my surprise, I did not like it.  It was too ambitious for what the writers were ready for at the time, and it was made when the show was on a rebuilding season.  It is a typical episode stretched into an hour five times longer than it should be.

“Arthur’s Perfect Christmas” is the finale to season 5, which had many issues.  In seasons 1-4 Ken Scarborough and Joe “Crazy Joe” Fallon were the head writers.  They both left after season 4 leaving Kevin Hirsch (a veteran from all 4 seasons) as the new head writer, and he wrote “Arthur’s Perfect Christmas.”  Season 5 had some notably good episodes, but the rest were heavily lacking in heart and concept.  They still had good comedy thanks to Binky.

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In the typical season 5 episode the plot is rather dull, but Binky does something funny that saves the episode, and this is no different.  His plot is rather small, as he has a few brief snippets of him trying to make a good dessert to give in a soup line.  First he made pecan pie with shells in them.  He then made brownies without sugar and banana bread with peals.  The reactions are good physical comedy for comic relief.  It is not very connected to the main plot, but that is true to the entire special.

At the time every episode was 11 minutes, starting two years later the show made occasional 22 minute episodes. At 54 minutes this is way longer than usual. The typical Christmas special would have around a forty minute plot and around 14 minutes of subplots like Binky.  This has three main plots only connected by Christmas time. 2 are Typical episodes and the other is heavily padded.  The plot goes back and forth between the three, but I will focus on one at a time.

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In one plot Muffy declares herself “the princess of Christmas” and invites everyone to a party.  Her best friend, Francine, is Jewish and instead goes to a Hanukkah celebration.  As anyone could probably guess this plot is about accepting that your friends will have some major differences and keeping friendships.  It is okay.

Buster has the best plot.  His mom is always worried about her son being miserable on Christmas since his dad will not be there.  Buster is worried about her, as she is visibly miserable during the time, and he asks her to not make Christmas a big deal and instead they make a new holiday, “Baxter Day.”

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The final plot is with the Read family, Arthur, D.W., their parents, Grandpa Dave (he almost never shows up), and Uncle Fred.  Who is Uncle Fred? It is also the last time Arthur’s original actor, Michael Yarmush, voiced him, and this is a bad farewell appearance.  His voice was way too deep this season due to him aging, and the show has an immediate problem.  It is a musical and the lead does a bad job at singing.  In previous episodes they occasionally did musicals and Yarmush always did well, but this is different.  It begins with a song that Yarmush does not sing in character.  Until I read the credits I assumed it was a different actor singing, but it is Yarmush.  His singing voice is so different that the song is terribly distracting.  Muffy and Buster had songs that were fine because they were in character and it sounded like they were actually sung by the characters.  This sounds like Arthur is lip syncing to someone else.  To make it worse Arthur is constantly complaining that it may not snow on Christmas, and he keeps saying it is not Christmas without snow.  This really bugs me.  I am in my twenties, and I have never seen snow within a week of Christmas.  Quit telling the Southern audience that we are not celebrating Christmas since it is only forty degrees here.  It becomes apparent right away that the Arthur plot line is the worst one.

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Another reason this is the worst of the three plots is all the padding.  The other two had everything advance the plot, but this could have easily been half as long.  A D.W. plot line is also introduced about wanting Tine the talking Tabby, a toy.  This leads to another problem, the A plot is full of subplots. A plot is Arthur giving mom a great gift, a glass bird, as he broke one just like it.  Other plots are waiting for snow, D.W.’s toy that is sold out, mom trying to explain that you cannot get everything you want for Christmas, introducing Uncle Fred, Uncle Fred’s car breaking and crashing with them, and a few others that are really short.  The special explores all these with lots of padding.  Arthur has a long scene shopping at the mall  with lots of padding.  The bird almost breaks several times before it does in long scenes, and it finally breaks in a very short one.  Arthur has lots of daydreams which focus more on his sibling rivalry with D.W.  It is occasionally interrupted by Binky but his filler is short and funny, and the rest is not.  To add to filler the plot ends with Arthur badly singing the same song from the beginning.

I love Arthur, and I regret that I have few good things to say about this.  Most of the jokes work, but it perfectly shows what is wrong with season 5 and the additional problem of being too long.  At the time the longest Arthur story was 11 minutes, and this is five times that amount.  The story is unconnected and full of padding.  When I reviewed all The Land Before Time movies I realized how good they were at connecting seemingly unrelated plots at the end both thematically and in the climax for a great scene.  That is what this needs.  The only scene that connects all three plots is a party scene early in the special.  On a positive note it has a uniqueness among Christmas specials due to its to one thing.  Most of them dominantly take place on Christmas Eve, but this takes place dominantly on Christmas day.  That is not enough to save it, but it is at least not generic.  Sadly, this is a very bad representation of Arthur.

Sometime in the future I will review an hour long Arthur special that is good.

Best Thanksgiving Specials

My mom is an elementary  teacher, and she often brings Christmas videos in December.  In November she often asks me about Thanksgiving specials.  As a holiday it is not very commercial, as it focuses on the simple pleasures of life.  These are the best Thanksgiving specials.

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Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving includes a groundhog day special leading up to a Thanksgiving special leading to forcing a winter episode into a Christmas episode.  The Thanksgiving special got most of the advertising, and it is very good and memorable.  As shown in the picture they eat whatever they normally eat on Thanksgiving, as it is about being thankful over sticking with tradition.  The episode is funny and wacky (the norm for the series), but what I really need to praise is how memorable it is.  A few years back I saw it in mom’s classroom for only the third time, and I realized I vividly remembered every detail.

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Friends is probably the only TV show where the Thanksgiving specials are the most famous.  Season five’s episode is the best of the ten.  Four of the six characters discuss their worst Thanksgiving days, and Chandler tells Monica he loves her.  The best part is Chandler’s changing Thanksgiving history. He hates Thanksgiving due to how many bad events happened on it to him.  His parents divorced on it, and he lost his toe around ten years later on Thanksgiving (he has normal feet and toes in other episodes). On this episode he becomes considerably closer to Monica, and he is no longer hating Thanksgiving on future seasons (just Thanksgiving dinner).

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A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is the most famous.  The best part is Woodstock and Snoopy goofing around.  They steal the show and make the entire special entertaining.

How to Determine if a Film Made Money

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It has to be done by rule of thumb, as the studios do not release full lists of expenses and profits, nor will they.  They try to get employees to sign on for a percentage of the profits, and they always say the film lost money.  Reportedly The Return of the King only broke even despite being the second highest grossing film of all time.  Despite this they made sequels.

It is a common misconception that all a film has to do is make back its budget, but that is false.  There are hidden fees that are not in the budget like re-shots and most importantly advertising.  The general rule of thumb is that a film has an advertising budget of half the filming budget.  This leads to the doomsayers constantly saying all films are losing money, but they are wrong.

Some people use the highest estimated costs to say every film is losing money, but if that were true high budget films would not be made.  They are ignoring hidden profits such as merchandise, music sales, streaming services, home media, video game adaptations, book adaptations, and tv deals.  Between all this the general rule of thumb is a film has to make twice its budget worldwide to be profitable, but with the rise of international markets (more on that later) and increasing costs of re-shots it is probably 2.5 times the budget now and it can change based on where it is successful.

The theaters take cuts of the film’s box office which differ based on time and the nation.  The general rule of thumb is a movie keeps half what it makes at the domestic box office (US and Canada) a fourth from China and forty percent in the rest of the world.

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Skyscraper is a failure despite making just over $300,000,000 on a $125,000,000 budget.  However by the rules of thumb it only keeps 24.6 million from China where it made 98 million.  It keeps 54.2 million from the rest of the international market leaving its small 68 million US dollars where it keeps 32 million.  From theaters Skyscraper kept around 111 million dollars.  That leaves it in the red by 14 million plus its budget of probably around 70 million.  It still make money, but only after around ten years.

Film Title: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

In contrast Universal had a huge hit in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.  Huge hits help pay for some bombs.  It made over 260 million in China and keeps around 65.3 million.  In the rest of the world it keeps 250.35 million.  As a 170 million budget that is now paid of by 145 million, which should cover the advertising costs easily.  From there on it keeps an additional 208 million from the domestic market.  This is profitable right away and will help Universal pay for future films and deal with bombs until the profits come in.

To make money a film needs to keep the budget under control, keep hidden costs like re-shots under control, and not just appeal to the Chinese market.

 

 

DTV Wonders: Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghosts

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It is well accepted that the first four Scooby-Doo DTV films are mostly the best, and I agree with that.  The Scooby-Doo format works best as a twenty minute episode, and many of the films feel too long, but these four feel like movies and are entertaining all the way through.   The viewers near universally call Zombie Island the best, this one the second best, and Alien Invaders and Cyber Chase are debated as third and fourth best.  Sadly I found this underwhelming.  It is still a good film that I recommend to Scooby fans, but not as much as the other three.  The main reason it is underwhelming is it uses the same basic subversions Zombie Island used making it feel like the inferior version.  Still it is entertaining and I am happy to review it positively.

I am sure part of my problems are that I have incredibly little nostalgia for it.  I saw it at school supply stores where I saw the last twenty minutes, and another time I saw the first twenty minutes (it is sixty-six minutes long), and not until I was in college did I see it all the way through.

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It starts like Zombie Island with Mystery Inc. trying to catch a villain.  This time it is in a prehistoric museum, and that makes for some good atmosphere.  The two villains are tripped by a writer, Ben Ravencroft, who then captures them.  Velma is a big fan of his horror novels and seems to have a crush on him.   Ben offers to take them to his home in New England, Oak Haven.  They arrive to discover that it is now tourist based and supposedly haunted by the ghost of Ben’s ancestor, Sarah Ravencroft.

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Ben

Ben shows everyone a picture of Sarah and says she was a wonderful healer, which made the Puritans think she was a witch, and they executed her.  If she was executed that probably means she actually was in the middle of a family feud.  He insists she was actually a Wiccan, a good spell user…  What are the writers talking about?  The term “Wiccan” was not sued until the 1900s.  Also it is a form of paganism, not a magic user who uses good magic.

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They fit the term Wiccan.

It is also constantly said to be a bloodline, but that is false.  It is a religion.  I have seen many episodes and movies where the writers clearly know about the supernatural creatures used like the episode of Mystery Incorporated episode, “Aliens Among Us”,  which makes this mistake worse.  This is just bad.  Thankfully it is some really bad writing, but it is surrounded by some good scenes.  There is some filler where Scooby and Shaggy eat at a restaurant.  It does not go anywhere, but it is really funny.

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The plot that actually emerges is not important.  Oak Haven makes a Scooby-Doo hoax to bring in tourists by making a ghost of Sarah Ravencroft.  Ben is angry, Velma makes a plan after solving the mystery, and the mayor is the mastermind.  The only part of real significance is they meet the Hex Girls, a Goth rock band.

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They were big ensemble dark horses and reappeared in other media like two episodes of Mystery Incorporated and The Legend of the Vampire.  They are a red herring, and their leader, Thorn, wishes the others “bad dreams.”  That one line had my brother one hundred percent convinced they were the villains.  Also, Thorn is “1/16 Wiccan on my mother’s side.”  Again, Wiccan is a religion, not a bloodline.  If you are 1/16 Wiccan, then I am 1/2 Catholic and 1/2 Baptist.  Also by this movie’s logic having the tiniest amount of magic blood means you are able to do magic as well as anyone else, which I would think would mean most people could do it.

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The plot everyone actually remembers starts in the last twenty minutes when Velma finds the book that Ben said would prove Sarah was innocent.  Instead it is a spell book, which Ben takes and reveals he is a “warlock” due to being the descendant of a witch and plans to bring Sarah back to conqueror the world.  He reveals Sarah was trapped in the book by the Wiccans… Wiccans did not exist then!  If you use the current definition on that time then a witch is a Wiccan.  This word usage is really bad.  He uses the book to give himself magical powers and gives himself a mild make over.

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Should have kept the glasses

The whole opening 3/4 of the film are really not important except setting up the ending and introducing the audience to Ben.   He has been called a Stephen King expy, but I think he is more of an antithesis to Nathaniel Hawthorne.  They were both from a Puritan New England village and had an evil ancestor, Sarah Ravencroft and John Hathorne.  While Ben wants to be evil and powerful like his ancestor, wants her evilness, and always said she was good, Hawthorne heavily criticized his ancestor and was worried he would end up like him due to their shared genetics.

Back to the best parts of the film, and these are good.  I know I have been harsh on it so far, but the climax makes the film worth it.  It has a lot of stupid stuff in it, but it is awesomely stupid.  Ben spends a horde of time explaining his very detailed plan with hordes of things that could go wrong; for example, Mystery Inc. could just snatch the book away while he is monologueing.  Instead he uses the book’s magic to give himself super strength, fix his eyes, imprison a few townsmen (not important), tie up the Hex Girls (one is important), and give himself the ability to shoot lasers.  The magic also resembles the life force entering the zombies in Zombie Island.  This mages sense as the cat god and Sarah probably use the same source.

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The gang take the book back, and make a big mistake.  They do not use that time to start ripping pages up, and Ben takes it back summoning Sarah.  He then gets to the problem of summoning a greater evil.  Ben wants to rule the world and thinks Sarah will have the virtue to obey her descendant who saved her.  Instead she is psychopathic, has no gratitude, wants no accomplice, and she wants to destroy everything.  Worse, only a pure heart can lock her back up meaning Ben is powerless, and Sarah imprisons him.  Stupidly she just leaves the book sitting there.  Her powers include summoning magical attacks and turning objects into monsters.  This includes trees, roots, pumpkins (picture above), and a turkey.

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Best character in the film.  The turkey makes an awesome climax even better.  Unfortunately the solving of the climax is lacking.  Velma deduces they just need Thorn to read the book to banish Sarah since she is 1/16 good magic or something, meaning she can cast the spell.  They then keep passing the book in a scene that Mystery Incorporated ripped off (and did better), and Thorn banishes Sarah, but in the meantime Sarah grabs Ben and imprisons him with her, and the book is destroyed.  Why did the good witches who imprisoned her four hundred years ago not destroy the book then?  It removes the chances she comes back and removes evil spells.  Then Thorn ruins the moment by calling herself a “Wiccan.”  After that there is some mop-up action with the only significance being that the Turkey is still around and huge.  Give him some spin-off shorts already.

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This movie has plenty of bad.  The early Scooby movies all gave the audiences real monsters.  Zombie Island put Mystery Inc. in the middle of a supernatural battle between opposing monsters with incredibly complex villains.  Alien Invaders had a twist on real monsters by having the real creatures be the heroes and battle the fake monsters with the fakes actually beating them.  Cyber-Chase had a simple Mystery Inc. vs real monsters, but there were so many and many were nostalgic threats, but here it is the most simple case of just using real monsters with many of the same elements from Zombie Island right down to the “friend” who brought them there betraying them.  It is a pale version.  Also it has two plots splitting time with different witches.

A common problem with DTV films is they have too many plots working making it feel like multiple episodes edited together, but this one has a major upside, the episodic stories are food and fun to watch.  I like watching them catch the fake witch and the real one.  I like watching Scooby and Shaggy eat a resteraunt dry and the cook being so exhausted.

There is still a lot to like in this film.  Ben is a poor man’s Lena, but he is very entertaining and quite complex.  Does he legitimately like the gang or is he just using them.  I think he really does like being around them.  The last twenty minutes are incredibly fun to watch, and the turkey is incredible.

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Do not eat him!  Thankfully he lived.

It is the least good of the four, but I still like it.  It may be a poor man’s Zombie Island, but Zombie Island is a great film and a worse version would still be good.  The film is an entertaining 66 minutes that lacks its predecessor’s drama and uniqueness, but it still has its humor and fun.