RIP Sam Shepard (1943-2017)

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Yesterday I heard the news that actor and playwright Sam Shepard had passed away. Initially, I didn’t recognize the name, but then I remembered that Shepard played the role of Chuck Yeager in the awesome movie The Right Stuff (1983). I watched that movie so many times growing up (I was obsessed with NASA) and it just won’t be the same now that he’s gone.

I actually had no idea that Shepard was also an award-winning playwright. In 1979 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Buried Child. His plays span 50 years, from 1964 to 2014. He died at his home in Kentucky due to complications from ALS. Rest in peace sir, you are missed.

Cancelled Too Soon #13: Joan of Arcadia (2003-2005)

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While Joan of Arcadia had a longer run than most of the shows on this list (45 episodes to be exact), I still believe it qualifies as a show that was cancelled too soon and really could’ve been great.

Joan of Arcadia was presented as a modern spin on the story of Joan of Arc, a French girl who alleged that she spoke with God and angels. In the show, Joan Girardi (Amber Tamblyn) is a teenager in high school who is visited by God (who speaks to her through random strangers) and reminded of a promise she made (to God) to the effect that she would do whatever God asked of her if He let her brother survive a car crash that ultimately made him a paraplegic. To that end, each episode sees Joan given some “task” to perform, the benefits thereof not usually being seen until the very end of the episode. In one poignant example (and I feel it might be the best episode of the series), it is revealed that Joan’s actions in befriending a school bully directly prevented a school shooting from taking place the next day, with a short montage revealing who would have died in said incident.

The show debuted to critical acclaim and was promptly renewed for a second season. Even though the acclaim remained in the new seasons, the ratings began to slip (from an average of 10 million to 8 million, which doesn’t seem like that big of a drop) and the show was cancelled after season 2, despite campaigns by fans to bring the show back. Because of this, the show doesn’t quite have a proper conclusion (a dark character, hinted to be the Devil) is introduced and Joan is told by God that the past two years were all preparation for this moment. But due to cancellation the payoff never comes.

I liked the premise of this show and I was very sad to see it go. Did you see Joan of Arcadia during its brief run? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments below.

For more Cancelled Too Soon, see here

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Disturbing Don Bluth #1: The Secret of NIMH (Overview and Trivia)

I can’t help but feel that I need to apologize for taking so long with this, even though I promised ages ago that it would be starting soon (life has been a little crazy since then). Nevertheless, here I go with a brief overview of the first film in this sister series to Disturbing Disney: The Secret of NIMH (1982)

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The film was based on the 1971 children’s book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien. In broad strokes the plot is largely the same as the film: the widowed mother of a family of mice must figure out how to keep her home safe from the farmer’s plow while her youngest son recovers from pneumonia. She is advised to ask for help from a colony of rats living in the nearby rosebush and discover that they (along with her late husband Jonathan) are actually escaped laboratory rats experimented on by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

For the movie, Mrs. Frisby becomes Mrs. Brisby to avoid being sued by Wham-O (the company who makes Frisbees) over a similar sounding name. The thing is, by the time the decision was made to change the name to Brisby, all of the actors had already recorded their lines. So…the editors manually edited the voice track to make it sound like Brisby and not Frisby. However, it is not completely perfect: listen closely to The Great Owl’s lines, you can almost hear the original pronunciation of the name.

The voice cast contains some acting greats. The previously mentioned Great Owl was voiced by the legendary actor John Carradine (the father of David, Keith and Robert Carradine). The cranky Auntie Shrew was voiced by Hermione Baddely, better known as Madame in The Aristocats (1970). Derek Jacobi (whose film accomplishments are too many to count) is the voice of Nicodemus, the elderly leader of the rats. Dom DeLuise (aka Tiger the cat in An American Tail) is Jeremy the crow. Wil Wheaton (in his film debut) plays Martin, Mrs. Brisby’s oldest son. And Shannen Doherty (of Charmed fame) is also making her debut as the voice of Teresa, the oldest daughter.

This series will break down the more disturbing scenes (and characters) in the film, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

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James Bond WILL Return…in 2019

It sounds like it’s finally official: the 25th James Bond film will premiere on November 8th, 2019. And, allegedly, Daniel Craig has agreed to return for a final time as the legendary spy.

That James Bond WOULD return was never really in doubt (they’ve kept this series going since 1962, they’re not about to let it die now) it was just a question of when and who would be in the title role.

Truthfully, I’ve enjoyed the rebooted James Bond films, a lot more than I initially thought I would (it helped that they reintroduced Q and Moneypenny), but I am a little nervous about Craig returning a final time, assuming he’s actually agreed to this. Right now Daniel Craig is 49 years old, which would mean he’d be at least 50 when filming commences. Now, I know 50 is the new 30 and all that, but it doesn’t change the fact that Craig isn’t as young as he used to be, and as anyone who has seen A View to a Kill knows, the last thing you want to do is have Bond played by an actor who is too old for the part. I’m not saying Craig can’t do it, but he’s getting awfully close to the edge.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out before the film launches in two years.

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RIP June Foray (1917-2017)

Damnit. I KNEW this was coming eventually. When a legend like June Foray reaches 99 years of age, you know it’s only a matter of time before they leave you. And yesterday it finally happened: the last surviving person from the Golden Age of Animation has finally passed away, two months shy of her 100th birthday.

June Foray had a voice talent on a level with Mel Blanc, though many didn’t realize it for years (the saying goes “Don’t say that June Foray was the female Mel Blanc, rather say that Mel Blanc was the male June Foray”).

Among her many voice roles, June Foray provided the voice of:

  • Granny (Tweety Pie’s owner in the Looney Tunes cartoons)
  • Witch Hazel (the green witch who inevitably needs a rabbit for her potion)
  • assorted characters in Looney Tunes and Disney cartoons, often voicing a “nagging wife” character
  • Lucifer the Cat in Disney’s Cinderella (1950)
  • Rocky the Flying Squirrel and the evil Natasha in Rocky and Bullwinkle
  • Cindy Lou Who in the TV special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
  • Grandmother Fa in Mulan (1998) and Mulan II (2004)
  • Jokey Smurf in the original cartoon The Smurfs
  • and so many more

With June Foray’s passing, the last living link to a Golden Age of cartoons is gone, truly the end of an era.

June Foray as Witch Hazel

Lucifer the Cat in Cinderella

Grandmother Fa in Mulan

Rest in peace June Foray, you are already sorely missed.

Disturbing Disney #15: Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia (1940)

*note: I’m only covering the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment, not the “Ave Maria” that follows

When I originally conceived of the Disturbing Disney series, I always planned on including Night on Bald Mountain from the finale of Fantasia (1940). It is well known that this segment is considered to be one of the darkest pieces of animation that Disney ever produced. But, and this might surprise you, it is also one of the few “disturbing” pieces that didn’t scare me as a child.

Night on Bald Mountain (1940)

Let me explain: if you haven’t seen the original Fantasia film, Night on Bald Mountain is based on the symphonic poem of the same name (and earlier referred to as St. John’s Eve on Bald Mountain) by Modest Mussorgsky, with an arrangement created by his friend Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. The segment takes place one night in an unnamed country village surrounded by mountains. The highest peak is revealed to actually be the massive body of Chernabog, a terrifyingly huge black winged demon, who uses his evil powers to summon all the dead spirits, witches and other lesser demons to attend him and perform for his pleasure. After wreaking havoc all night long, Chernabog goes toward the village itself, only to be stopped by the distant church bells chiming for Matins, signalling the arrival of dawn, and the end of Chernabog’s power for the night.

As I mentioned earlier, Night on Bald Mountain did not scare me as a child. I thought long and hard about it, trying to remember how I felt watching Chernabog reveal himself, but I cannot find a single memory where I quivered in terror. If anything, I was almost in awe of what I was seeing. I mean just look at the creature below:

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Chernabog is rightly considered a masterpiece of Disney animation. He’s a perfect example of the intensive labor that went into Golden Age Disney animation. In the opening minute, when Chernabog shrugs his wings open, you can feel the weight behind the motion, even though he’s nothing more than a drawing on the screen.

Now, on to the disturbing elements of this piece (and they are many). First of all, as I said before, this is considered to be one of the darkest (if not THE darkest) animations that Disney ever produced, because never before has such raw evil been depicted. In fact, in the earliest stages, Chernabog was intended to be Satan himself (and referred to as such) but such a blatant religious statement was deemed….unwise (that’s my assumption anyway). Even though he’s named differently, it’s not hard to view Chernabog as the Devil (he’s got horns, wings, big glowing eyes, if he were red instead of black he’d be a perfect likeness to traditional images of Satan).

Aside from being pure evil, what also makes Chernabog himself disturbing is his sheer size: he’s so large that his wings are viewed as a literal mountain top! Full size humans (I would assume) could stand on his palm with plenty of room to spare. Not that you would WANT to of course, at one point, the demon creates fire dancers that dance on his palms before being cruelly twisted into barnyard animals and finally morphed into blue demons that frantically dance to please their master.

Other disturbing elements include the various ghouls and skeletons that fly through the air when summoned. There are skeletons riding skeletal horses (a reference to the Danse Macabre), ghouls with glowing eyes, witches on brooms and other strange figures. By the final chaotic minutes of the piece, the disturbing factor is ramped up: there are harpies flying straight up to the screen (revealing they were topless in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment), skulls and weird masks, all moving in a frantic blur.

Funnily enough, even though Fantasia was released almost 80 years ago, Disney still receives complaints from parents of children traumatized by this particular segment. If you have young children, I would definitely be wary of letting them see this segment too soon, but don’t hide it forever either.

And that’s just a glimpse of my thoughts on Chernabog and Night on Bald Mountain, I hope you enjoy watching the segment in the above link. Let me know YOUR thoughts in the comments below.

For more Disturbing Disney, check out the main page here 

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First look at Ready Player One (2018)

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You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to talk about this. Ever since I burned through the book on my way to Vancouver (and found out the film adaptation was happening), I have been DYING to get a glimpse of this film. Finally, at San Diego Comic Con this past weekend, our wish was granted with a brief preview.

Ready Player One Trailer (2018)

My thoughts? They’ve NAILED it.

To be fair, we haven’t seen THAT much yet, but if you’ve read the book you have a good idea of what to expect: the stacks of trailers, the sensor equipment for the OASIS, not to mention the villainous IOI organization. And how about all of those pop culture references? I thought I’d caught them all but I missed a pretty big one. Remember that big race scene? Well, I was right in thinking that was Art3mis on the cool motorcycle, but look closely, that’s Kaneda’s iconic ride from Akira (1988). Also, if you’ve read the books, you’ll know why that last shot of the key is so exciting.

I can’t wait to see even more about this film, I can’t believe I have to wait until NEXT YEAR to see it!! I swear, if this film somehow turns out to be a dud I will be heartbroken!

What are your thoughts on this look into Ready Player One? Are you excited too? Let me know in the comments below! I was going to share my thoughts on the music from the Season 6 Game of Thrones finale (“Light of the Seven”) but sadly the technology ate my draft so it’ll have to wait for another day.

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