I was a big fan of the SilverHawks animated television series when it first aired in 1986. I also had collected all of the toys, but sold them a few years ago. The mix of bionics, bird wings, and metal seemed a little like combining DC's Metal Men with Hawkman and then centering it all in space. I like space adventures. This 1987 Happy House coloring book is pretty cool. I'm fighting the urge to color the pages.
Beginning a new series on Zombos Closet...Travel back in time with me...To yesterday's tomorrows: Real Scenery for Popeye, Popular Science, November, 1936...
"Fleischer cartoons differed highly from their counterparts at Walt Disney Productions and Warner Bros. Cartoons. The Popeye series, like other cartoons produced by the Fleischers, was noted for its urban feel (the Fleischers operated in New York City, specifically in Broadway), its manageable variations on a simple theme (Popeye loses Olive to bully Bluto and must eat his spinach and defeat him), and the characters' "under-the-breath" mutterings. The voices for Fleischer cartoons produced during the early and mid-1930s were recorded after the animation was completed. The actors, Mercer in particular, would therefore improvise lines that were not on the storyboards or prepared for the lip-sync (generally word-play and clever puns). Even after the Fleischers began pre-recording dialog for lip-sync shortly after moving to Miami, Mercer and the other voice actors would record ad-libbed lines while watching a finished copy of the cartoon. Popeye lives in a dilapidated apartment building in A Dream Walking (1934), reflecting the urban feel and Depression-era hardships." (from Wikipedia)
Zombos Says: Very Good
Tana Yoboso's dark Victorian fantasy manga, Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji), makes an elegant transition to mature anime directed by Toshiya Shinohara that mixes hand-drawn and computer-animated elements, different scene angles, and manga's expressive exaggeration to create a strong mood for its colorful--and morose--characters.
Young Ciel Phantomhive seals a Faustian pact with the demon Sebastion, who, in his human form, becomes Ciel's ever attentive and sartorially splendid butler. Sebastion is bound by the pact to help Ciel find the people responsible for killing the boy's parents, kidnapping and torturing him, and destroying the Phantomhive manor house, a large estate outside of London. What Sebastion gets in return is the boy's soul, swallowed whole, when the contract is fulfilled. Their relationship becomes more and more complicated as time goes on, but each remains true to his nature. Or do they?
Seasons 1 and 2 of A-1 Pictures animated series liberally follow the manga stories. In the first episode, His Butler, Able (Sono Shitsuji, Yūnō), Damian, an Italian business man, tries to scam Ciel over Phantomhive's Funtom Company (toy and confection) business that Ciel now heads, leading to a gruesome comeuppance capped by having Damian cooked in an oven. While not as horrific as it sounds--Damian was bewitched into experiencing his losing moves played on a boardgame--we find out how nasty Ciel and Sebastion can be. We're also introduced to the other important servants in the Phantomhive manor house who provide the comic relief: Bardroy the cook, Finnian the gardener, and Mey-Rin, the clumsy maid. There's also Tanaka, former head butler to the Phantomhives, who often appears super deformed (as a really small man holding a green mug of tea). I don't know what the significance of him being super deformed is so feel free to enlighten me, but it is funny. In later episodes, Pluto ( a large demon hound) joins the household and Tanaka is seen as a normal adult.
Ciel wears an eye-patch over his right eye to hide the pentagram seal that binds him to Sebastion, and Sebastion must obey every command Ciel gives him. Unless a cat is nearby; Sebastion is enfatuated with cats . Curiouser characters appear like the Undertaker, a former Grim Reaper (reapers decide if a soul lives on or dies) who craves a good joke, and Angela and Ash, an hermaphrodite angel with two personalities. The Undertaker assists Ciel in his duties as Queen Victoria's watchdog. The Queen herself is portrayed as alarmingly unhinged: she has a puppet of King Albert to whom she talks to whenever she is troubled. I'm not sure of the cultural nuances of that, either.
As the Queen's watchdog, Ciel is obligated to protect her's and the state's interests and deal with the more shady denizens of London. A drug dealer and his gang fall to flashy silverware slay of hand by Sebastion as he rescues Ciel, and they tear one up with Jack the Ripper, leading to a surprise revelation for Ciel.
Victorian charm is well captured in the animation as well as the darker side of Sebastion. Lots of strong tea brewing and odd closeups of scrumptious deserts provide for lighter moments. You may find yourself snacking heartily during each episode. Bon appetit!
Zombos Says: Good
The animation, direction, and visual artistry of ParaNorman are exuberantly delivered; the story, not so much. Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) sees and talks to ghosts, including his grandma (Elaine Stritch) who sits and knits on the living room couch. This peculiar gift, of course, has ostracized him from the kids at school, the neighbors, his shallow sister (Anna Kendrick), and even his parents (Leslie Mann and Jeff Garlin). The only kid in the small town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, who likes being with Norman is Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), your script-standard ostracized fat kid sidekick. Bullying the both of them is dull-witted but big-fisted Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).
Putting the bully on all of them, and the rest of the townsfolk, is a 300 year-old witch who raises from the dead the people who condemned her, including Judge Hopkins (Bernard Hill). Norman tries to ignore the horrific visions he's having of the coming doom, but his eccentric, lumber jack of an uncle, Prenderghast (John Goodman), insists he must be prepared to stop the witch by going to her grave and reading from a special book. His uncle explains he has done this every year on the anniversary of the witch's execution to keep her quiet for another year. This time around, though, his death presents something of a problem.
It also presents the funniest scene when Norman must release the book from his, now ripe, uncle's death grip. The gyrations involved are delightfully insensitive and Three-Stooges-crazy. There's another sublime moment of innuendo when the zombies, fresh from the grave, enter town. It involves a vending machine, the approaching zombies, a hungry man, and a bag of greasy chips that gets stuck. I'd have done the same thing. I think we all would have. These moments come and go, and in-between is a Halloween-perfect palette of colors, scenery, and PG-sinister dangers slowed by artistically lazy moments where the dialog reaches for, but misses, its point, the main characters stand idle while their urgency continues, and the fulfillment of lesser moments are lacklustre, making them even more noticeable when compared to the magical promise around them.
Wikipedia mentions this is the first stop-motion movie to use a 3D color printer to make the characters' faces. While that may be impressive from the production standpoint, it's the unflattering body shapes of the characters that drew my attention. Done with wit and a wink they are satirically revealing of the personality each character possesses.
Also impressive is the ending to die for, which may be too intense for very young kids. It crackles with energy bolts driven by rage, resentment coming from estrangement, and lost innocence. The book is the key, and yet it's not the powerful spellbook that Norman, and we, expect it to be. Neither is the witch. Neither are the zombies.
With a little more charm and a little more guile in the story, ParaNorman would have been, at the least, the male version of Coraline. Without them, it's like drinking Chteau Margaux 1995 from a plastic cup: the experience just isn't complete.
Zombos Says: Excellent
Cardone's magic and spookshow at the Canal Park Playhouse, playing every Tuesday until April 17th, is an intimate, weird, and funny romp for just about everyone (except very young kids), especially the last 10 minutes, when the lights die and the ghosts come alive.
Wiry, long-haired, with a moustache that will never reach adulthood, Cardone is a charge of energy as he flamboozles his audience with illusions and a cheeky, Coney Island Barker style of showmanship as he entertains with magic, a straitjacket escape, and blackout spooks that are quite creepy. With a warning to leave before being locked in with the ghosts, the audience stayed in their seats except for one young boy who first tried moving from the front row, then zipped up his coat hood to hide away in, then, not getting much sympathy from his parents, left the small theater to wait outside.
But before those 10 minutes of pitch black filled with ghastly apparitions comes, done in all seriousness--or as much seriousness a 1950s spookshow would generate, of course--there's the intimidating guillotine, the television of the future, Elvis's sunglasses, razors to be swallowed, and a short intermission involving dirt from Dracula's Castle--no, not that one but the real Dracula's Castle--and assorted pass-around oddities to examine.
The straitjacket escape is done (magicians, take note) with a Posey regulation jacket, the proper size (yes, straitjackets have sizes) to fit Cardone snugly. This is the real one, ungimmicked, although being a slick magician, Cardone knows a trick or two on how to get out of it. The only quibble I have with his performance here is his explanation of the most commonly used gimmicked straitjackets. This is probably the one time in the show he's actually telling the truth. For the sake of amateur magicians everywhere, I hope no one believed him.
Some of you may remember the intimacy of Imam's Magic Cafe in Greenwich Village. That same intimacy of a live performance happening a few feet away from you is captured in the Canal Park Playhouse. And there are waffles! With real maple syrup.
Perhaps the most bizarre and funniest moment is reached when Cardone uses the help of a spirit, caught in a plastic jar filled with greenbacks, to devine an audience member's selected card; then again, there's the appropriate song Cardone sings--rather well--while sticking his head in the guillotine.
That was also pretty unusual, for an already unusual show you shouldn't miss.
Over the holiday weekend I paid my first visit to the Monster Mini Golf franchise. Didn't realize they set the mood with black light, otherwise I'd have worn my Dr. Strange t-shirt, which would have been glowingly awesome. The mini golf is tricky because they force you to do a lot of bank shots, but the graphically-inspired environment is superb for horror fans. Here are some shots I took of the more saliently spooky highlights.
I've had this Jack in the Box kid's meal bag for ages. Great illustrations on front and back and the premium Universal Monster toys that came in it were fantasticly designed. You remember those days, don't you? When Halloween and Universal Monsters were inseparable? Now it's all Freddy, Jason, and Scream. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Shame on you Universal.