Throwback Thursday: Dragonheart (1996)

In The Days Of Dragons

Just over twenty years ago, Dragonheart was released in theaters.  It told the story of Bowen, a knight of the Old Code, and Draco, believed to be the last living dragon on Earth, who join forces to take on the evil King Einon, a tyrant that has a unique connection with both Bowen and Draco.  Along for the adventure are Kara, a peasant girl hungry for revenge against Einon, and Brother Gilbert, a monk who records Bowen’s adventures in the hopes of becoming a great poet.

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The film featured an amazing cast including a few well established actors such as Dennis Quaid (Bowen), Julie Christie (Queen Aislinn, Einon’s mother), and Sir Sean Connery as the voice of Draco.  Many of the other cast members were just beginning to make their mark in cinema.  David Thewlis (Einon), Pete Postlethwaite (Gilbert), Jason Isaacs (Lord Felton), and Dina Meyer (Kara) would all go on to establish solid careers of their own within the next few years after being in Dragonheart.  The movie also featured some solid supporting work from character actors Brian Thompson (Brok) and Terry O’Neill.

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With CGI still in its infancy, the film was considered a technical wonder.  Combining practical effects with CGI, Industrial Light & Magic, under the guidance of Phil Tippett, did a wonderful job of bringing Draco to life.  Yes, there were obvious moments in the film where Draco looked fake, but the dragon’s overall look and actions were very convincing for 1996 and hold up well to this day.  The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Best Visual Effects, losing out to Independence Day.

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I remember watching this film at the theater.  There was a childlike wonder to it that seemed to be missing in other contemporary action and fantasy films in the 1990’s.  This was a fun movie that didn’t attempt to take itself too seriously but was still enjoyable to watch.  It wasn’t a perfect movie, but the acting was solid and the effects were amazing for their time.  The music was inspiring and the action was well-paced as well.

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The film cleared 115 million dollars in returns, making back just a little more than double its production costs.  As the years passed, it built a cult following that became large and vocal enough to warrant a direct-to-DVD sequel entitled Dragonheart: A New Beginning, and then two prequels would follow, keeping the Dragonheart name in the back of fans’ minds.  Rumor has it that Universal is fishing around for ideas about a remake of the original film.

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Dragonheart is a fun film that deserves a second look.  If you haven’t seen the film yet, it’s currently available on Amazon Prime and on Blu-ray/DVD.  You won’t regret watching this film if you love fantasy and adventure.  It’s also an excellent film to watch with your family.

As always, thanks for checking out my post.  For my fellow U.S. citizens, happy Thanksgiving.  I plan on posting about my recent trip to the Texas Renaissance Festival very soon and be on the lookout for my review of DC Universe’s Titans in just a few days!

Big News For Ken’s Alternate Universe!

Gotham, Metropolis, and Beyond

I can’t say much about what’s happening in my universe right now, but I can at least tell all of you that something awesome has happened and I’m excited to be a part of it.  Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming posts about all things DC!

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Throwback Thursday: AIM Toothpaste Spider-Man Tie-In Comic (1980)

Dental Dilemma!

In honor of Stan Lee’s recent passing, I’d like to share one of my earliest comic book memories as a child.  In 1980, I was four years old and still uncertain about going to the dentist.  My mother cared about my teeth and wanted me to have some healthy pearly whites, so anything that she thought could convince me to brush my choppers on the regular was good in her eyes.  Little did she know that she was about to unleash  a monster on the world.

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AIM Toothpaste released a free The Amazing Spider-Man comic book featuring Spidey taking on the Green Goblin.  This was my earliest introduction to Spider-Man on the printed page.  I had skimmed a few of my older brother’s comics, but he was mainly into Star Wars comics with a few X-men comics thrown in for good measure.  This AIM comic introduced me to the Green Goblin, one of Spidey’s greatest villains, and hooked me on the Webslinger and the Green Guy immediately.

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As the years have passed, I’ve forgotten much about what this comic was about (although I still own it).  The bottom left panel featuring Spidey slamming into the Goblin is, to this day, one of my favorite panels in all of comics.  The next panel, with Goblin trapped in a giant set of teeth, is another of my favorites.  The story was written by Marv Wolfman with pencils by Alex Suviak and ink by Mike Esposito.

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While AIM’s intention was most likely to get kids to buy their toothpaste, it hooked me on Spider-Man and the Green Goblin instead.  It’s a well known fact that Spider-Man was Stan Lee’s favorite superhero, and he’s one of my favorites as well.  I hope that you’ve enjoyed this quick trip down memory lane with me, and if you’re a person of faith, say a little prayer for Stan, his family, and all of the fans that have been touched by Stan’s work over the years.  He has created and/or co-created some of the biggest characters in comics history.

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UNITED STATES – DECEMBER 18: Stan Lee, founder of Marvel Entertainment Inc., poses next to a Spider-Man model in his office in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., in this file photo taken on Dec. 18, 2008.

As always, thank for reading.  I still need to post my review of my recent visit to the Texas Renaissance Festival.  Be on the lookout for that real soon!

 

Stan Lee (1922-2018)

Rest In Peace, True Believer

Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom, and so many, many more of the best superheroes that have ever graced the printed page, the small screen, or the big screen, have been created or co-created by Stan Lee.  Sadly, Mr. Lee passed away today at the age of ninety-five.

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Lee has been an integral part of every comic book fan’s life since he first became an assistant at Timely Comics back in 1939.  He would go on to become one of the most beloved and recognized faces in comic book history.  From his cameo appearances in Marvel films to his work on television shows such as Who Wants To Be A Superhero? to his many appearances at comic book and pop culture conventions, Lee has always been a vocal supporter not just of comic books, but of those that read and appreciate them as well.

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Lee’s wife, Joan, passed away in July of last year.  The pair were married sixty-nine years, just a few months short of seventy years of marriage.  Lee called Joan his “muse” and had the following to say about her on July 7, one day after her death, in an interview with ABC News:

“There was one girl I drew: one body and face and hair. It was my idea of what a girl should be. The perfect woman,” Lee told the Hollywood Reporter in 2016. “And when I got out of the Army, a cousin of mine said, ‘Stan, there’s this really pretty girl named Betty. I think you’d like her. Why don’t you go over and ask her to lunch?’ I went up to this place. Betty didn’t answer the door, but Joan did. I took one look at her. She was the girl I had been drawing all my life. She said, ‘May I help you?’ I think I said ‘I love you.’ I proposed to her at lunch.”

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Stan Lee will be greatly missed.  His enthusiasm was infectious and he appeared to genuinely love everything that he was doing.  He loved his fans and the many characters that he created or co-created.  The book has closed on Stan Lee’s life, but his story will continue as long as their are true believers drawing breath.

Excelsior, Stan.

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Throwback Thursday: ALF (1986-1990)

HA! I Kill Me!

I was ten years old when NBC gave me and the rest of the world the gift of Gordon Shumway, also known as ALF.  The series ran for four seasons on NBC and proved to be mildly successful with audiences.  It focused on ALF and his trials and tribulations with the Tanner family (who graciously took him in), the nosy Ochmonek family next door, and everyone from the federal government to blind lady that befriended him.

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The Tanners did their best at attempting to hide ALF from everyone but often failed, usually as a result of something that ALF did.  ALF also had an uneasy relationship with the family cat, Lucky, because cats were a delicacy on ALF’s home planet of Melmac.  As the series rolled along, ALF began searching for other survivors of his home planet’s destruction.  The survivors were explored in more depth on the animated series that came out in 1987, just a few days after the second season of the live action show started.

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ALF proved to be very popular with kids.  A few toys were released as were a few tie-ins with fast food chains.  I remember owning an ALF plush toy and getting an ALF puppet from Burger King.  I got the Surfer ALF, FYI.  There were also trading cards from the series and another series of cards that featured an illustrated ALF visiting all fifty states and appearing on postcard-styled pictures.

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The series starred Max Wright as Willie Tanner and Anne Schedeen as his wife, Kate.  They had two children named Lynn (Andrea Elson) and Brian (Benji Gregory).  An infant son named Eric (Charles Nickerson) was added in the final season when Schedeen became pregnant in real life. The Tanner’s nosy neighbors were Raquel and Trevor Ochmonek (Liz Sheridan and John LaMotta).  They provided a lot of humor in the series, especially Sheridan, who was always sticking her nose into the Tanner’s business.

Paul Fusco provided the voice and was the primary puppeteer for the ALF character.  In scenes were it was necessary to show ALF walking, actor Michu Meszaros would wear a costume for the shots.

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While it proved to be popular with younger audiences, the series struggled to maintain its ratings.  As a result, season four ended on a cliffhanger that wouldn’t be resolved until a made-for-TV film was released on ABC a few years later.  It has also been stated that producing the series was extremely difficult and often very tense.  A special stage had to be created in order to allow Fusco to move the ALF puppet around on the set.  The actors had to work around trap doors hidden in the floor and deliver their performance at the same time.

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Andrea Elson proved to be an early crush for me even though I was just ten years old.  I also wanted to be like Benji Gregory (or at least his character, Brian).  I really dove into the ALF craze, purchasing or winning numerous ALF shirts, posters, trading cards, and the aforementioned plush doll and puppet.  I would record the show on my family’s VCR and rewatch it whenever I had time on the weekends.  I was really sad to learn that it was cancelled, but I quickly moved on to something new.

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ALF was the perfect series for me in the mid 80’s.  It is in no way a great series nor is it deserving of any major awards.  It was simply a fun little show worked perfectly for its brief time on the air.

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Thanks for taking a trip down memory lane with me.  Let me know in the comments if you liked ALF and feel free to share any of your memories of the series.  I’ll be posting again real soon!

 

Curiouser And Curiouser!

Creeping Up On Netflix

Until yesterday I had no idea who Christine McConnell was and were it not for a suggestion from Netflix, I probably wouldn’t know anything about her today.  Well, as I was working hard at doing nothing yesterday morning, Netflix suggested that I give The Curious Creations Of Christine McConnell a look.  And look I did.

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On the surface, this series looks like a children’s show that would be right up Tim Burton’s alley.  However, after viewing the first episode, I quickly realized that this show was A) not necessarily for the kids, B) one part cooking show, one part crafting show, and two parts dark comedy, and C) oddly enticing.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off of this bizarre little series.  Each of the six episodes in the first season feature cooking and crafting segments sewn into a story arc featuring McConnell, a stray “something” named Edgar that winds up at her door, an ancient Egyptian mummified cat named Rankle, revived patchwork roadkill named Rose, and a beast named Bernard that’s so large that he has to live in the basement.  Oh, and then there’s the beautiful ghost named Vivienne, a giant squid named Millie that lives in the refrigerator, Christine’s cousin named Evelyn, the nosy neighbor named Mr. Ketchum, and an extremely suspicious gentleman caller named Norman.

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McConnell’s food creations are simply breathtaking.  They are also time consuming and most likely out of the skill range of most home-based cooks.  The good thing about each of her recipes is that while the average cook probably won’t be able to match her level of artistry, they can definitely make their own versions of her work thanks to the surprisingly minimal amount of ingredients in each dish.  I can definitely see myself attempting to recreate her shrunken head cookies, chocolate tea cups, and maybe even the wolf paw doughnuts.  Sure, they won’t be as beautiful as her work, but they’ll probably taste and look pretty good.

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Not only does McConnell create beautiful food (almost exclusively sweets on the show), she also shows viewers how to make simple homemade candles, create a dress, and make gift baskets for family and friends.  She never gets too technical with any of her recipes or her crafts, but she gives the viewer a great foundation to build upon.

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McConnell’s style is something of a mash up of goth, pastel 50’s style, and a twisted sugary sweetness that is both sexy and dangerous.  She made her mark in the world as a model, artist, and baker with her unique style that screams retro and bloody murder at the same time.

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The show has an odd balance of thinly veiled adult humor and offbeat comedy featuring McConnell and the quirky cast of characters that live in and around her home.  In one episode, McConnell makes up a gift basket for her grandmother.  She fails to mention where her grandmother “lives” and once we see where she actually resides, it’s played up for light dark humor.  She also meets Norman in the episode.  Edgar is immediately suspicious of him and a story develops around Norman and his interaction with the rest of the cast.

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The adult humor in the series plays against the fact that McConnell looks and acts very much like a housewife ripped straight from a 50’s American sitcom.  She’s always dressed perfectly and her makeup and hair are always exquisite despite the fact that she obviously puts in multiple hours to make her creations.  Most of the dirty comedy comes from Rose and Rankle.  Rose is accused of having an amorous encounter with a garden gnome, uses a ball-gag on a visitor, often passes gas, and makes lewd comments throughout the series.

The cast is great.  McConnell is gorgeous, owns her retro look, and is obviously very talented.  Colleen Smith pulls double duty as both the voice of Rose and as Christine’s dastardly cousin, Evelyn.  Mick Ignis lumbers around stating the obvious as Edgar.  Michael Oosterom voices Rankle and I’m pretty sure that he sounds exactly the way that a bitter mummified cat should sound.  Tim Lagasse gives life to Bernard down in the basement.  Adam Mayfield has both Christine and Rose wrapped around his potentially-a-serial-killer finger as Norman even though Edgar is pretty sure that the guy always smells like fresh blood and shouldn’t be trusted.

Steven Porter portrays the annoying and somewhat cranky Mr. Ketchum.  His role is brief in the show, but brings with it a lot of the adult humor that will most likely be the deciding factor of whether or not parents will let their kids watch the series.  The lovely Dita Von Teese has a small role as well, portraying the beautiful ghost named Vivienne that lives in the mirrors of Christine’s home.

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The series is definitely very unique.  I hope that it gets a second season, as it ended with the reveal (although it was pretty obvious from the beginning) of a killer.  My only worry is that the show might be too unique for some viewers.  McConnell is an artist, plain and simple, and I can definitely see where some folks might not be able to accept her dark twist on things.  If there is a second season, though, I’ll definitely be watching.  I’d also like to meet McConnell at a convention or art show.  That would be pretty cool.

Give The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell a shot if you love dark comedy, cooking, crafting, and a little twisted humor.

As always, thanks for reading.  See you again real soon!

Throwback Thursday: Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light (1987)

On The Toy Shelf

This week’s Throwback Thursday post is a little bit strange.  Why? Because I’m throwing back to a toyline based on a cartoon that I never personally watched but I still fell in love with the action figures because they were so friggin’ cool.  Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light was a syndicated cartoon that was released in late 1987.  Unfortunately for me, the series never found its way to my little black and white television in rural Louisiana.  The figures, though, did manage to find a home on the shelf of my local Wal-Mart (before the super versions of Wally World existed).

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Based on my quick web research, the toys were actually released after the series was cancelled.  The show lasted for only thirteen episodes and centered around Leoric, the leader of the Spectral Knights, and his allies as they fought against the evil Darkling Lords headed up by a dude named Darkstorm.  A short-lived comic book was also published.

I never learned why the Spectral Knights and the Darkling Lords were at odds with one another.  I only knew that the action figures had holograms in their chests and carried around totem staffs with holograms on them as well.  Much like a crow to a coin, I yipped, “Shiny!” and had to buy as many of the figures as I could.

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The only problem with purchasing the figures was that they were very expensive.  I don’t remember the exact cost, but it was around five or six bucks at my local Wal-Mart.  That was about double the price of a G.I. Joe figure from around the same time.

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Leoric, in all of his 4.5″ glory.

The figures cost more than Joes but they were also bigger than the Joes as well.  Clocking in at 4.5″ tall and articulated just as good the Joes, the Visionaries were true works of art in my eyes.  They featured brightly colored armor, cool accessories that included a helmet, a totem staff and a weapon unique to each character.

I managed to buy four of the twelve figures that were released.  I remember the exact order that I purchased them in as I slowly built up enough allowance to acquire them.  The first figure that I purchased was the wise Arzon, whose totem was an eagle.  Then I picked up Leoric, the leader of the Spectral Knights who had a mighty lion emblazoned upon his chest.  Next was Cryotek, the bulkiest Spectral Knight, who battled the Darkling Lords with the power of the bear.  My last and most sought after Spectral Knight was Witterquick.  Not only was he the fastest member of the group (his totem was a cheetah, after all), his main weapon was a boomerang.  That made my little heart flutter with excitement in 1987.  As far as I was concerned at the time, a boomerang was as exotic and rare as a unicorn!

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Witterquick rockin’ that boomerang!

While purchasing these figures was costly, they were definitely worth it.  I played for countless hours with these figures and having no knowledge of the show to base my adventures upon, I quickly developed identities and voices unique to my playtime.  Witterquick became my go-to guy and the unofficial leader of the group.  Cryotek was his best friend in my little world and provided the muscle.  Leoric was brave and a good soldier, but not as fast, strong, or intelligent as Witterquick.  Arzon was just kind of happy to be there.

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The gang’s all here.

Sadly, I’ve lost all of my Visionaries figures.  The last time I remember seeing any of them was during my college years when Arzon and Witterquick somehow managed to end up in my dorm with me for a little while.  Witterquick still had his helmet and boomerang and Arzon still had his helmet.  Neither of them had their totem staffs.

Perhaps one day I’ll find one of these figures in the wild at a convention or a flea market.  Rumors have been bouncing around for years that the series might be revived or that a film is in the works, but nothing has come to fruition.  It would be really cool to have at least one of these toys back in my possession, as I truly loved them.

As always, thanks for reading.  Did you have any Visionaries toys as a child?  Let me know in the comments.  I hope that all of you had a wonderful Halloween.  The next big holiday is Thanksgiving here in the States.  I also have some big plans for this blog once December hits.  Be on the lookout for hints about what is to come in the next few weeks.

Note: All photos taken from the web.