Friday, December 25, 2015

A History of the Hallmark Hall of Fame and the Hallmark Channel

Merry Christmas!  In honor of Christmas, we are looking at the crown prince of made for television Christmas movies, the Hallmark Hall of Fame and the Hallmark Channel.  Hallmark today is known for its feel –good, uncomplicated movies, which are typically without excessive violence, language or sexual content.  This is something which is especially lacking in today’s world.
Hallmark Cards sponsored Radio Reader’s Digest, which became The Hallmark Playhouse, (which premiered in 1948) which made radio dramas.  This was translated to the screen in 1951, with the television premiere of Hallmark Hall of Fame.  The first movie was an original opera called Ahmal and the Night Visitors, and subsequently in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s saw the production of many adaptations of books and plays, including Shakespeare plays. 
In the 1980s, due to the guidance of Duane C. Bogie, a producer of the anthology series, the movie series started making original productions, beginning in the early 80s and finally making some of the most well-known original movies in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including Promise (1986, winning several awards), Foxfire (1987) and Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991).  Through the 2000s and 2010s, the show would have inspirational true-life stories and feel-good Christmas stories.  The show jumped around networks from 1978 to 2013, until arriving at the Hallmark cable network in 2014.  The last movie broadcast under the Hall of Fame banner on the Hallmark Channel premiered on December 5, 2015, and was called Just in Time for Christmas. 
The Hallmark channel originally began as two religious channels which shared the same transponder slot, American Christian Television System (ACTS) and Vision Interfaith Satellite Network (VISN), forming VISN/ACTS, in 1992.  In 1993, the channel was rebranded as Faith and Values channel, and allowed some secular programs.  In 1996, the network name was changed Odyssey Network (Tele-Communications bought 49% stake in the network the previous year) and saw the major shift away from religious programming.  The year 1998 is finally when Hallmark comes in.  Crown Media, which is owned by Hallmark, and the Jim Henson Company bought majority stakes in the channel (but the Henson Company’s role in the channel only last two years).  Finally, in 2001, with complete ownership of the network, Hallmark re-branded the channel as the Hallmark Channel and started making original movies in addition to its backlog of Hall of Fame productions, and broadcasting old feel good sitcoms. 
In the 2010s, Hallmark started diversifying its network, with a revival of a lifestyle and talk show, The Home and Family Show, and a few original scripted series, each in keeping with Hallmark’s feel-good, not excessive content staple.  In 2004, Hallmark also launched the Hallmark Movie Channel, which was rebranded in 2014 as Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, due to the fact its programming included classic mystery shows, such as Matlock, Murder, She Wrote, and Perry Mason.  Hallmark also has nine international channels, which also showcase family oriented programming.

While some may criticize the network’s content as predictable and uninteresting, the Hallmark brand still has staying power, premiering dozens of new movies made exclusively for the network in 2015.  People gravitate towards the programming because it has feel-good, wholesome content, which in this world of more and more TV shows going toward inappropriate content, is a very good thing.  If you’re in the mood for a feel-good, wholesome story, you can’t do better than the Hallmark Channel or the Hallmark Hall of Fame.  Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Ultimate Weird Al Parody List: Original Artists/Songs + Parodies

So just for fun, I decided to make a Spotify “Weird Al” Yankovic playlist, with the original song and then parody next, in order from the first album, “Weird Al” Yankovic to the most recent album, Mandatory Fun. 

Now, I did run into a few problems.  First of all, the original artist songs for four different parody songs were not available on Spotify.  However, whenever I could, I used a cover which sounded like the original artist song.  (1) For the parody song, “I Love Rocky Road” on“Weird Al” Yankovic, the original song “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” originally made famous by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, I used the cover by the Black Jets on ReCovered Hits Volume 2.  (2) For the parody song “I Lost on Jeopardy,” on In 3-D, the original song “Jeopardy” originally made famous by The Greg Kihn Band, I used the cover by N.y. Street Band on DISCO ROCK ’80.  (3) For the parody song, “TMZ,” on Alpocalypse on Even Worse, the original song “You Belong with Me” originally made famous by Taylor Swift, I used the cover by Michelle Lorenzo on Sounds Like Taylor Swift.  (4) Unfortunately, for the parody song, “Toothless People,” on Polka Party, I could not find the original artist song “Toothless People” by Mick Jagger or a cover; so the parody is there, but the original song is not. 

All other original songs were from the artist that made them famous.  Enjoy this ultimate “Weird Al”/original artist playlist! 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Original Broadway Songs from Disney Theatrical Productions

                We’ve all had the original songs from the Disney movies stuck in our heads forever.  For anyone who has seen the Disney version over and over again, that must be certainly the case.  Some of the biggest hits from the animated and live action films have also been adapted to Broadway.  These theater adaptations typically add a few songs just for that particular production.  So here’s one song from each Broadway play and where it fits into the narrative of the play.
                “Me” is sung (mostly) by Gaston and Belle in Beauty and the Beast.  After her father Maurice leaves for an invention fair, Belle is left alone at the house.  Gaston arrives and sings to Belle that she is about to become some “He-Man’s” property, and proceeds to describe Belle messaging her feet while several “strapping young boys” play with the dogs in a rustic cabin.  To Gaston, getting married is evitable.  Belle responds at the end with “I just don’t deserve you,” and when Gaston still doesn’t get it, she says, “But thanks for asking.” 
                “They Live in You” is sung by Mufasa in the Lion King.  After Mufasa rescues the reckless Simba and Nala from graveyard, he tries to instill in Simba more respect for his surroundings.  He sings about how the old kings of the Pride Lands live in “you,” “me,” “the creatures,” even his “reflection.” Later on, an adult Simba (who ran away after his father died) reunites with Rafiki, who sings that “He” (meaning his father) “lives in you” even though his father is dead.  At the end, Simba sings that “he lives in me.” 
                “Practically Perfect” is sung by Mary Poppins, Jane and Michael in The Hunchback of Norte Dame – just kidding, Mary Poppins.  Soon after the father tears up the note that Jane and Michael make for the perfect nanny, Mary Poppins arrives and goes to the children, singing how she is “practically perfect” with no faults, proper and not too harsh or mean.  The children are slowly won over and even at the end, when they protest to be told to clean up, Mary Poppins sings to them that she is not “fair” but that her aim that both of them be “practically perfect”, like her.
                “I Want the Good Times Back” is sung by Ursula near the beginning of The Little Mermaid.  Ursula sings about how she used to be given half the sea, but admitted she ruled ruthlessly, and for that she was banished.  Obviously unhappy about being dethroned, she sings about wanting to rule again, eating and maiming anything she wants.  She turns her sights to Ariel, who she believes will take the throne, and tells her minions Flotsam and Jetsam to watch her closely. 
                “A Million Miles Away” is sung by Aladdin and Jasmine in Aladdin.  After Aladdin rescues Jasmine in disguise from the soldiers outside the palace, they find themselves in Aladdin’s poor hideout.  Aladdin asks Jasmine, “Have you ever imagined what it would be like to take off and never look back?”  Jasmine agrees, and he sings about joining a caravan and vanishing into the night, where they’ll be “a million miles away.” Jasmine agrees and they sing together about leaving on a ship.  Jasmine and Aladdin find themselves bonding over their shared desire to go away and never come back.

                These songs, while not in the original movies, are still insanely catchy and bring more depth to the story.  They are awesome additions to the Broadway plays and fit right in alongside the original classic songs.  All of the songs are available to listen to on youtube and itunes and spotify.  

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Romance is for Other People Trivia Contest (Win $25 Amazon Gift Card!)

Here is the Romance is for Other People Trivia Contest!  Winner receives a $25 gift card from AND a sample chapter from my next book, My Protector: The Legend of James and Sophia. The first person to email the correct answers to (or message my Facebook author page, Lee Wolf) will win!  Some of the questions are trick questions, so read them very carefully!  I’ll give you a hint about the first question to get you started: the answer is Chapter 1, Page 1.  UPDATE: We have a winner for the $25 gift card...but you can still send in the correct answers and receive the sample chapter!  

Romance is for Other People Trivia Contest
1. What was on the poster advertising the homecoming dance?
2. What were the professions that Lydia’s and Chris’ dads said they were going be at the circus when Chris and Lydia attempted to ask to go to the homecoming dance?
3. What were the names of the teens that were at the Midsummer Night’s Dream callbacks with Chris and Lydia?
4. How long had Chris and Lydia been at the dance before Lydia called her dad?
5. What was Chris’ response when Jeremy offered to give him and Lydia a ride in his car to their home?
6. What were the first lines of Romeo and Juliet that Chris says in the school hallway to Lydia?
7. When Chris and Lydia were talking with Theater Director Louse, who was the second person to convince Louise that they could handle the kissing scenes in Romeo and Juliet?
8. Where did Lydia put the pictures of her and Chris that were on her poster board after she took them down? 
9. What was Chris’ Aunt Joan’s boyfriend’s name?
10. What was inside the locket that Jeremy gave Lydia on the last day of school before Christmas? 
11. What unexpected thing did Jeremy do to win Lydia over after he showed her the poster and gave her the flowers in the gym? 
12. What was playing on the radio in the restaurant when Lydia and Jeremy almost kissed? 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Great Shows that Only Lasted Two Seasons

                Many times, fan favorite shows last year after year, even cult shows manage to survive for multiple seasons.  However, there are those shows that did well enough to be renewed for one season, but unfortunately, due to lost momentum in between seasons, that is, ratings fell sharply in the second season, the show was unfortunately cancelled.  Still these two-season shows are worth checking out, as they were critically acclaimed and gained cult followings. 
                Dollhouse: most people gravitate to the one-season Firefly, when they think of that awesome Joss Whedon show on Fox.  However, Eliza Dushku brought Joss back to Fox in order to make a series with Fox, because she had a deal with the network.  In Dollhouse, a group of people (called Actives) who had their memories erased and were being controlled and fed specific memories of others for “missions.”  A corporation housed the Actives in an underground facility and rented out the Actives to wealthy clients.  The episodic nature gave way to an ongoing storyline when the Actives started become aware of their surroundings (they were in a drugged state in the underground facility).  The show lasted twenty-six episodes.
Legend of the Seeker was from producers of the more famous Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: the Warrior Princess.  Legend of the Seeker was based on the fantasy books by Terry Goodkind.  In the TV series, a young man named Richard Cypher saves a woman named Kahlan Amnell, who turns out to be a “confessor” (a woman with the ability to bend others to her will, for the rest of her life).   Kahlan, on the run from the forces of the evil Darken Rhal goes to the retired wizard Zedd along with Richard.  There, they find out that Richard is the Seeker of Truth and is meant to defeat Darken Rhal and bring peace to the land with the Sword of Truth.  Richard agrees to take up the mission and the three fight Darken Rhal and his followers for two seasons.  The show lasted forty-four episodes.
                Pushing Daises may be the quirkiest murder mystery TV show ever produced.  The main character, Ned as a child found out he has the ability to bring to life with his touch for five minutes anything that was dead, and can also put to death with the same touch.  But there’s a catch: if someone he revives stays alive more than five minutes, another person dies in the first person’s place.  In the present, Ned, now working as a pie-maker, finds his childhood friend Charlotte “Chuck” Charles dead, and revives her.  The two, along with private investigator Emerson Cod and waitress Olive Snook, investigate strange murders.  Ned would revive the dead for five minutes, ask the deceased questions about how he died, and return him to death and they would go on their mystery. The show was known for its bright, fantasy-like visuals and quick-fire dialogue but could not recover after its first season was cut short due to the Writer’s Strike of 2007-2008.  The show lasted twenty-two episodes.
                Phil of the Future was on the Disney Channel and while it didn’t reach the popularity of shows like That’s So Raven or the Suite Life of Zach and Cody, which were on at the same time, it was nevertheless a fun and interesting show.  Phil Diffy, along with his dad goofy Lloyd and kind mom Barb, and his troublemaker sister Pim, were from the year 2121 on a time traveling trip and their time machine broke down in the present.  Phil befriends Keely Teslow a bubbly girl who attends H.G. Wells high school along with Phil and Pim.  The characters would go on various comedic adventures, sometimes involving the Diffy’s futuristic gadgets.  The show benefited from the great chemistry between Phil and Keely.  It lasted forty-three episodes.

                The first three shows are available on DVD, and you can find some episodes of Phil of the Future on youtube.  Check out these awesome shows that only lasted two seasons.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Franchises with Seven or More Movies

                These are the big ones… either that or the ones that have become franchise zombies.  Nevertheless, there are the rare movies that have spawned at least six sequels.  This is not counting “universe” movies, like from the Marvel Universe, because they are not direct sequels (though they have direct sequels in them, like Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Winter Soldier).  Star Wars is just about to join the seven movies club with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  In any case, here are Franchises with seven or more movies.
                James Bond (24 Movies): Perhaps no movie series of 24 titles has had more of an impact than James Bond.  James Bond, 007, is a suave playboy spy who goes on outlandish missions and frequently Finflirts and beds women.  While his more sexist attitudes have been blunted in the most recent movies, the self-assured, super-capable agent with a ton of gadgets has endured from Dr. No (1962) to Specte (2015).
                Star Trek (12 Movies): The original Star Trek movie series was an offshoot of the Star Trek TV Series, about starship crew whose mission was to explore the universe and fight evil.  After the series was a hit in reruns, the original crew came back for six more movies, then after the sequel series (Star Trek: the Next Generation) ended, three of the characters from the original series made an appearance in Star Trek: Generations with the new crew.  The series with the new crew lasted for four movies, and then the series was rebooted (two movies so far) with a new cast for the original characters from the first series.
                Friday the 13th (12 Movies), A Nightmare on Elm Street (9 Movies), Halloween (10 Movies), and Saw (7 movies).  Perhaps no film series more lends itself more to sequels than horror films, whether talking about a serial killer from a summer camp (Friday the 13th) or a serial killer who kills in dreams (Nightmare on Elm Street), a serial killer who kills specifically on Halloween (Saw – just kidding, the Halloween franchise), or serial killer who subjects his victims to games of psychological torture (Saw).  The producers, writers and directors keep coming up with interesting ways for the killer to kill people, and the audience keep coming back for more.
                Police Academy (7 Movies): If there was ever an example of a franchise zombie, this might be it.  The story is that the mayor of a town decided to enact a policy that the police station must accept all recruits…and of course the station gets a bunch of misfits who must prove themselves.  The original movie wasn’t that great to begin with, but it was a success, so every year around the same time another one was released, until the sixth movie.  Finally the five years after the sixth one came out, the seventh one was released, made less than $150,000, and finally put the series out of its misery.
                The Fast and The Furious (7 Movies): This series focuses on a team who illegally street races and many times attempts a fantastic heist.  While the series’ main star, Vin Diesel, did not star in all of the franchised movie, he starred in the original and has been the lead in the fourth through the seventh movies. The second and third movies used different main stars.  What is interesting about the series was that following the fourth film (Fast & Furious), the critical reception and the box office both improved with each sequel.  

                These are just some of the movies that have franchises that have spawned an amazing six sequel.  Not that I’d recommend checking out all them, but it’s worth noting that as long as a series makes some money, the producers and film studios won’t hesitate to make another sequel.  What are some series with at least seven titles that I missed?

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Fascinating Case of Anthony Bourdain

               In the late 1990s, Anthony Bourdain was a successful chef who had run several restaurants in New York City.  As a way of coping with the high pressure environment, he had developed an acerbic, sometimes wildly inappropriate humor and strong outspoken opinions.  In 1999, he published an article called “Don’t Eat before Reading this.”  That article led to his book, “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly,” which told a surprisingly brutal, honest, and even funny look at what a real kitchen environment looks like in NYC.  Taken from book’s description: “Talking about why you probably shouldn’t order fish on a Monday, why those who favor well-done get the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel, and why seafood frittata is not a wise brunch selection…. But I’m simply not going to deceive anybody about the life as I’ve seen it.”
                The wild success of the book led to an opportunity form Food Network: another book: “A Cook’s Tour” and a 30-minute TV show of the same name.  This TV show involved Bourdain traveling to a city from around the world and partaking in the local food, not always in a fine restaurant but authentic to th4e region.  Many times he meets a local guide on who helps him along with his adventures.  While most episodes are free from the “inappropriateness” that are prevalent in his book, in one early episode where he had to consume a duck fetus in Japan, he gave his less-than-flattering opinion of eating the whole dish.  The show lasted two seasons and thirty-five episodes. 
                After three years, more articles in well known magazines, Anthony Bourdain came back to TV with his most well known TV series, the hour long Anthony Bourdain: No Reservation on the Travel Channel, which premiered in 2005.  The show came with the disclaimer before each episode that, basically, each one may have sexual and other inappropriate moments and viewer discretion is advised.  In this series, Bourdain flourished as television personality.  His tell-it-like-it-is humor and honest opinions were valued in a world of everyone presenting a flattering version of everything they meet (especially in travel and cooking shows).  But overall, the show was positive: Bourdain was in search of great authentic local food from all countries, including the United States.  The show’s original run was for nine seasons and one hundred forty-two episodes, though Travel Channel has repackaged old episodes for into new ones for specific themes, for example all of the Europe episodes together. 
                Anthony Bourdain became a guest celebrity chef on Top Chef during several seasons, and later appeared on the similar Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman on the Travel Channel while Andrew appeared in his show.  Towards the end of his run on the Travel Channel, he also hosted a more traditional travel show called “The Layover” which was about what do in a city if you only had 24 hours.  Bourdain completed his transition to celebrity chef with mentoring on the reality cooking completion show, “The Taste,” which lasted three seasons and twenty-three episodes.  This celebrity chef status is ironic considering his less-than kind opinion of some celebrity chefs like Paula Deen, Rachel Ray, and Guy Fieri (though he has also been pointing out good chefs like Ferran AdriĆ”). 
                Today, Bourdain is on the third generation of his TV show, “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” which premiered in 2013 on CNN and is currently in its sixth season.  Again, he travels around the world and experiences local culture and good authentic food from the region.  He left his head chef status in real restaurant a long time ago.  But nevertheless, his honest opinions and blunt humor about food around the world will be appreciated by many for years to come.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Friends: Will Ross and Rachel last? (SPOILERS!)

                Towards the final season of Friends, the longest focused on relationship (first hinted at in the pilot, no less) in the show starts heating up again: Ross and Rachel start feeling their attraction towards one another again.  This was in spite of the fact that in the second episode of the final season (in The One Where Ross is Fine), Ross gave his blessing for his friend Joey to go out with Rachel, while Ross was in a committed relationship with Charlie.  But soon Joey and Rachel broke up due to the fact that for both, it was weird to be attempting a relationship (in The One With Ross’s Tan) and Charlie went conveniently back to her ex-boyfriend (in The One With Ross’s Grant),.  This paved the way for Ross and Rachel to suddenly start feeling the attraction again in the final episodes.  Finally, in The Last One, Ross admits to Rachel that he loves her, and Rachel, after initially taking the plane to Paris, admits to Ross that she loves him too.  She did get off the plane, and the two get together for good. 
                Or do they?  Despite the fact that it feels like a nice resolution for the story, the show’s history is of the trust of one of them being broken and them ultimately breaking up or not getting back together.  Back in the second season, in the episode after Ross and Rachel’s first kiss (The One with the List), Ross makes a list comparing his current girlfriend Julie to Rachel, and even though he chooses Rachel in the end, the idea breaks Rachel’s trust when she refuses to go out with him.  It takes another five episodes to get to The One with the Prom Video, the famous episode where Ross and Rachel officially get together, after Rachel (and everyone else) views a video where Ross agrees to be Rachel’s date to the prom at the last minute, only for her to leave with someone else.  Rachel, moved by Ross’s actions, kisses him in front of the group, cementing their relationship.
                Unfortunately, the relationship did not last.  Ross’s trust of Rachel began to deteriorate when he met Rachel’s coworker at Bloomingdale’s, Mark (in The One Where Chandler Can’t Remember Which Sister).  While Rachel assures Ross that the two are just friends, Ross refuses to believe her.  Then Ross goes with Rachel to a fashion seminar so Mark can’t go, but he falls asleep instead of being supportive (in The One with Phoebe’s Ex-Partner).  Then in the next episode (The One Where Ross and Rachel take a Break), Rachel has to work on the One-Year Anniversary and Ross comes to her work, but that only frustrates Rachel and she says that they need to take a break, “a break from us.”  It’s pretty clear to Ross that Rachel is breaking up with him, and when she calls him, only to hear Mark’s voice (though Rachel had no romantic desire for him).  Depressed, he falls into the arms of Chloe.  In the following episode (The One with the Morning After), Rachel gets back together with Ross, but then she finds out about Chloe, despite Ross’s attempts to hide what he did.  After she confronts him, Ross argues that he thought they had broken up for good, while Rachel doesn’t see it that way and tells him that before, she thought she saw Ross as somebody who could never hurt him but now, all she can think about is him and Chloe and everything has changed.  Ross’s actions broke Rachel’s trust for the final time and they broke up. 
From then on, their relationship is series of near misses or quick hookups only for them to break up again.  In the season 4 season premiere, The One With the Jellyfish, Ross gets back together with Rachel, but Rachel is under the impression that he was accepting 100% responsibility for the breakup (which he wasn’t), so they break up in the same episode, showing that they still don’t trust each other.  Near the end of season 4, Ross meets and falls for Emily, a girl from the UK on vacation, and quickly become engaged to her.  Rachel’s feelings for Ross intensifies, but she ultimately decides not to tell him, but he says Rachel’s name at the wedding alter (in The One With Ross’ Wedding) and Emily refuses to go through with the wedding.  In the second episode of season five (The One with all the Kissing), Rachel finally tells Ross how she feels, but the feelings immediately dissipate with the telling and Ross and Rachel agree to be friends.  Then at the end of season five, Ross and Rachel drunkenly get married in Vegas (The One in Vegas), and at the beginning of season six Rachel immediately wants to get an annulment, while Ross at first wants to put off breaking off his impromptu marriage and lies to her that he got an annulment, resulting in Rachel losing her trust in Ross again, and she gets mad at him, writing untrue things on her annulment papers, resulting in Ross’ third divorce (in The One With Joey’s Porsche). This seals their relationship (despite a one episode hookup in The One with Monica’s Thunder at the beginning of season seven) until the end of season seven, when it is revealed that Rachel is pregnant (The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding).  At the beginning of season eight, Ross is revealed as the father in The One with the Red Sweater.  During this time, Rachel has been living in a room in Joey’s apartment and Joey has fallen in love with her. At the end of season eight (in The One Where Rachel has A Baby), Ross is given his grandmother’s engagement ring and Ross and Rachel kiss in order speed up the labor.  Rachel’s water breaks and she gives birth, but afterwards freaks out about getting married and Joey accidentally proposes to Rachel when picking up Ross’ ring on the ground; Rachel says yes.  In the One Where No One Proposes, after a series of misunderstandings, Ross and Rachel are back together, but then in the next episode (The One Where Emma Cries) Ross realizes that Rachel said yes to Joey and his trust in Rachel is broken again, because as he sees it, she would have said yes to anyone, and he doesn’t want to be just anyone, and the two have to make the rocky friendship work apart with a baby they share together, which brings us to the end of season nine.

                Looking back on all of Ross and Rachel’s near misses and quick hookups and breakups in throughout seasons three through nine, it’s clear that Ross and Rachel have major trust issues with each other.  Almost every time the couple could have resolved their issues and gotten together, one of them has their trust broken by the other.  Ross and Rachel’s last hookup in the series finale was as rushed as any of their past hookups, the only difference being this time Ross and Rachel were on the same page (and they nearly weren’t, with Rachel almost leaving for Paris).  While having Ross and Rachel get back together did feel emotionally satisfying, I can’t help but wonder, given Ross and Rachel’s trust issues with each other, how long it will really last.   

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

It’ll be Great on TV Too, Part 2! Four Disney Animated Television Series Based on Animated Movies

                For a while, Disney animated TV series were as plentiful as the big screen animated movies.  Some of them, like Bonkers or Gummi Bears, were wholly original properties.  But at the same time, Disney wasn’t above adapting movies into TV shows, hoping to match the success of the animated movie.  Here are four examples of Disney animated TV shows based on Disney Animated movies.
                The Aladdin TV series was based on the wildly successful Aladdin movie, with Robin Williams as the Genie.  The show is set after Aladdin is engaged to Jasmine at the end of the movie, but before he is married to her.  Joining them is the Genie (of course), Abu Aladdin’s monkey, the mute Flying Carpet, Iago, the sarcastic parrot who was Jafar’s assistant in Aladdin but at end of the direct-to-video Return of Jafar, at a critical moment had a change of heart and helped the heroes defeat Jafar.  The heroes battle creatures and sorcerers who threaten the kingdom of Agrabah.  The show lasted for three seasons and eighty-six episodes.
                The Little Mermaid TV series was based on The Little Mermaid animated movie, which was considered the first movie in “the Disney Renaissance” period of hit after hit.  The TV series was set before the events of the movie, where it ends with Ariel becoming a human and marrying Prince Eric.  Ariel is still a mermaid, along with her sea friends Flounder, a tropical reef fish, Sebastian, the Jamaican crab, the king’s assistant, King Triton, Ariel’s father who sometimes doesn’t understand her daughter, Ursula, the sea witch who also antagonized the heroes in the first movie, and her six sisters.  Ariel is a teenage mermaid trying to find her place in the kingdom while also protecting it from those who might harm it.  The show lasted for three short seasons and thirty-one episodes.
                The Lion King’s Timon and Pumbaa was based on one of the highest grossing animated movies of all time, The Lion King.  In the Lion King, Simba meets the meerkat Timon and the warthog Pumbaa after running away from home after his father dies.  The two goofy animals become Simba’s friends and later help him at the end of the movie.  The TV series is set after the movie and follows Timon and Pumbaa across various crazy adventures in Africa and other places around the world, with much of the cast from the Lion King, including Simba, making appearances.  Unlike the other animated series on this list, all of the episodes were composed of two segments, making for shorter befitting the series more comedic nature.  The show lasted three seasons and eighty-five episodes, or one hundred and seventy-one segments.
                Hercules was based on the popular animated movie Hercules.  Hercules is set in between the movie, taking inspiration from Hercules as a clumsy teenager who doesn’t know his own strength.  Joining him are Philoctetes, the grumbling satyr trainer, Pegasus, Hercules’ winged horse, as well as his two best friends, Icarus and Cassandra.  Like the film, the animated series goes for comedy over historical accuracy, freely including characters from different time periods. The series lasted two seasons and sixty-five episodes.

                While these TV series usually dipped in quality versus the original animated movie, for young fans of the show, it must have been great to have more stories of Aladdin, Ariel, Timon and Pumbaa, and Hercules.  (Bonus: You can also catch a fifth series on this list, Lilo and Stitch, with renamed title It'll be Great on TV, Too, Part 1!)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Does Roland Emmerich want to Destroy the World?

                Before the superhero movies became the big tentpole movies of the summer (along with sequals, don’t forget about them), there was a wave in the late 1990s and early 2000s of destruction movies.  These featured expensive special effects of buildings and cities being destoryed in the most epic way possible.  Leading the charge is director Roland Emmerich, who seems to find a way to destory the world each time.  His “destory the world” trilogy are some of the highest grossing of the genre.  So let’s take a look at each of them.
                The first and most well known of the three is Independence Day.  Featuring a large cast, the story focused on large alien ships, fifteen miles wide, coming down to earth on July 2nd and placing themselves at major city centers throughout the world, including in the US, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C.  The aliens do nothing at first, but after night falls, direct energy weapons from each of the ships destroy a major landmark and then go outward, obliterating everything in its path.  On July 3rd, the F-18s try and fail to attack the alien destroyer, but one of the ships crash-lands and the pilot takes alien to Area 51, which was where the president fled after the attack on DC.  Nuclear attacks were initially unsuccessful due to an impenetrable force field.  An MIT graduate devises a computer virus with an alien ship captured 1947 near Roswell, NM.  They use the ship sneak in to the mother ship in space and plant the virus, which destroys the force field and finally the armies on Earth are able to attack and defeat the aliens. 
                The next movie on the list is The Day After Tomorrow.  After observing the polar ice caps melting, a paleoclimatologist determines that North Atlantic Currents will be disrupted.  Soon enough, a huge storm in the northern hemisphere splits off into three hurricane-like super storms.  Much of the action of the movie occurs in Manhattan, where flooding gives way to lighting storms and eventually all of the water freezing, with the son of the paleoclimatologist caught at the New York Public Library.  The father eventually finds his son buried in underneath the snow in the library.  The president is caught up in the super storm and dies, which means that the vice president is sworn in and he orders search and rescue teams to find survivors in New York.  The movie ends with astronauts looking down on earth and the destruction that the storms have caused.
                The final movie in the trilogy is 2012.  The story of 2012 focuses (mostly) on a science fiction writer and his family, as they flee natural world destruction.  Scientists learn that polar shifts and other cataclysmic events will occur in 2012 (which yes references the Mayan calendar), but know that there will not be enough time to save everyone, so the world leaders construct arks in secret.  Once 2012 hits, the writer and his children vacationing in Yellowstone learn about the impending destruction and return for the writer’s ex-wife and her current boyfriend.  They find a private plane and escape just before mega thrust earthquakes destroy LA.  They then fly to Las Vegas and meet up with other survivors, who join them on a larger plane to China.  In China, they learn about the arks and sneak on board one to ensure their survival.  The boyfriend dies and the writer and his ex-wife rekindle their relationship. 

All three movies have epic destruction of worlds against ordinary people who do extraordinary things when they are placed in these impossible scenarios.  They are also proof (or at least a very loud hint) that Roland Emmerich wants to destroy the world…at least cinematically.  Check out these movies for Emmerich’s incredible scenes of city and world destruction.  

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Future of TV renewal has arrived: Three TV Series Renewed by the Internet

                It happens many times: a show has been on the air for a while and has amassed a cult following.  These people are passionate about the show and watch it religiously.  However, there are not enough casual viewers, who just turn in every now and then, to warrant a renewal.  So the show is cancelled.  That used to be the end of it. 
                Not anymore: with the rise of television being distributed across several different platforms on the internet, it was finally possible for cult shows to be renewed.  These shows below had their fans before they were cancelled on the broadcast and cable networks, and the internet platforms hoped their fans would follow them for an additional season of their show. 
                The series “The Killing” premiered in 2011 on the AMC network, and followed Sarah Linden and her partner Stephen Holder on homicide cases in Seattle, Washington.  Unlike many other series, the show only focused on one case throughout the season, giving a much more serialized storyline.  In fact, the viewers were angry when the first season ended not on resolving the mystery but in cliffhanger.  Ratings tumbled in the second season (though the second season did wrap up the first season’s mystery), so the show was cancelled, but then a deal with the Production Company and Netflix enabled AMC to give it one more season.  Then AMC cancelled it again…but then Netflix stepped in and gave a six episode conclusion to the third season and the series as a whole. 
                Community premiered on NBC in 2009.  The show was on the outset a cult show: ratings were never that high, but fans embraced the show as it went all out to parody or satirize other TV shows or movies, as well as the show’s call for “Six Seasons and a Movie.”  The central concept was about a lawyer (Joel McHale) who is discovered to have fabricated his bachelor’s degree, and has to go back to community college to try and get his actual degree.  He decides to start a study group for his Spanish class, and is joined by a group of individual as messed up as he is, but in completely different ways.  After three regular seasons, Dan Harmon the creator was fired from the show and the shortened fourth season premiered, which did alright in the ratings but were not well received from the fans.  The fifth season brought Dan Harmon back but the ratings kept falling, and it was cancelled.  Finally, Yahoo, in order to bring more recognition to its production company Yahoo Screen, brought back Community for its sixth season, which debuted in 2015.  No word on the movie yet, though…
                The Mindy Project premiered on Fox in 2012.  The show focused on Dr. Mindy Lahiri, played by Mindy Kaling, who is an OB/GYN at a small medical practice in New York City.  She has many quirky coworkers and has frequent romantic complications.  The show featured a large recurring cast and many guest stars. The show ran for three seasons on Fox network before being cancelled.  But then Hulu stepped up and renewed The Mindy Project for a 26 episode fourth season.  Hulu had acquired the online rights for the show before it was cancelled, and was a top rated show on the platform, so Hulu was excited to give it another season.

                The future of TV renewal has arrived.  Instead of a show mourned for being cancelled too soon, , the show will be picked up by Internet Platforms excited to continue a show fans love so much.  Check out these show being given new life online.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

It'll be Great On TV, Too, Part 1! Three TV Series Continuations of Movies

                For many movies, they are produced once, people enjoy them, and that’s the end.  A few lucky ones will be so successful that they will enjoy sequels.  But still others will enjoy the rare gift of being continued in a TV series.  Many times the show is adapted to the screen and it’s an adaptation of the same characters and situations, just in a television format (for example: M*A*S*H).  But every once in a while, there are TV series that continue the storyline of the original movie, and this list details three of them.
                Stargate SG-1 was set one year after the original movie.  The movie Stargate was released in 1994 and was a modern-day story about the discovery of a portal (a “stargate”) that could transport people instantly to another portal across the universe to another planet.  A military team is sent to explore the other side of the portal.  In this case, the team discovers that across the universe was a planet populated by a people who may have been the original ancient Egyptians…only in this case, the god Ra was real.  The movie was a box office hit but many criticized the film for its overreliance on special effects.  The TV series premiered in 1997 and reveals that there was a race of aliens named the Goa’uld, who are a parasitic race of aliens that look like snakes.  These Goa’uld pose as rulers for ancient Earth mythologies, including the Egyptian mythology seen in the first film.  Much of the storyline of the first eight seasons had the Stargate crew, along with other alien races battling against the Goa’uld.  The show ultimately lasted 10 full seasons and two office Spin-Off series, Stargate: Universe and Stargate: Atlantis. 
                Indiana Jones in the 1980s was one of the most successful and influential movie series of all time, revolutionizing action movies with its hair-breath escapes and action sequences.  During the production of Indian Jones and the Last Crusade, George Lucas came up with the entire back-story, over 70 episode ideas, of Indiana Jones, from the early 1900s to the late 1930s when the original movies were set.  He was able to sell the concept of the show to ABC and in 1992 the show premiered and instead of proceeding chronologically from Indiana Jones as a young boy to him as a young adult, it flip flopped between boy and young adult, bringing up two separate timelines, bookended by an old Indiana Jones in his 90s introducing the story.  The show in its shorted first season was a huge ratings success, but floundered in the second season and was cancelled, with a high production cost also to blame.  Between 1994 and 1996, the Family Channel produced four TV movies continuing the story of Young Indiana Jones.  When the show was rereleased on DVD, all the episodes were rearranged chronologically from 1908 to 1920, giving a much more streamlined look at Young Indy’s life.
                While there are actually many animated series spinoffs of animated movies, I will focus on Lilo and Stitch as the example, which was a box office success in 2002.  It focused on wild alien experiment 626 (Stitch) who disguises himself as a dog in a Hawaiian family’s home and befriends a young girl (Lilo). The direct-to-DVD movie Stitch! The Movie followed in 2003 to set up the animated series, focusing on finding the other 625 experiments and finding homes for the creatures, along the way battling the alien antagonists from the first movie.  The show lasted 2 seasons and 65 episodes.

                Check out these continuations of TV series, especially if you like the original movies.  While not always in the same quality as the originals, they are nevertheless interesting stories featuring your favorite characters and are worth a look. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Everything New is Old Again: Four Follow-Up or Revival TV Series made after the Original Ended

                Just like the movie article about sequels, the idea of remaking an already existing work is incredibly attractive because of the built-in audience.  The concept worked before, so obviously it’ll work again, right?  Well, not necessarily.  Some have huge successes, while others don’t even last a full season.  We’re not talking about wholly remade TV series, like Battlestar Galatica or Hawaii Five-O.  Instead, someone had the bright idea to have a sequel series, exploring the same characters in new situations.
First, Get Smart started as 1965 series starring Don Adams and Barbra Feldon working as agents in a government agency called CONTROL against a evil foreign agency called KAOS.  Don Adams, as Maxwell Smart (Agent 86), was always bumbling while Feldon, as agent 99, was the straight woman who kept him in line…sometimes.  The show was created by Mel Brooks and lasted 5 seasons.  After 2 made-for-TV movie in 1980 and 1989, Get Smart was remade in 1995, with Agent 86 as head of control and his son as a junor agent.  The show only lasted 7 episodes but unfortunately never had the ratings to last any longer.
In 1978, Dallas debuted on CBS.  It was about the powerful Ewing family, oil tycoons in Dallas Texas.  Larry Hagman played J.R. Ewing, the head of the family who was often involved in shady deal and less than scrupulous schemes.  The family would often feud with each other.  The show was famous for its cliffhangers, the most famous of which was when J.R. Ewing was shot at the end of season 3. The show lasted for 14 seasons and 357 episodes.  In 2012, TNT revived the series.  Three of the main characters from the original, along with a new generation of characters, continued the story of the Ewing family.  The show lasted three seasons on the TNT network, and unfortunately, partway through the second season, Larry Hagman died, thus the show lost its most popular character.  It was renewed one more season but the show failed to recover from the loss so it was cancelled.
Dragnet has had an interesting broadcast history.  Dragnet focused on Police Lieutenant Joe Friday, played by Jack Webb (who also created the show) and his day-to-day work.  It used real life stories as plot and changed the names to keep the real people anonymous.  The show originally ran from 1951 to 1959, for eight seasons and 278 episodes.  Jack Webb was able to revive the series from 1967 to 1970, for four more seasons and 98 more episodes.  Both times, Jack Webb voluntarily ended the show instead of the network cancelling it because of low ratings. 
Degrassi started a Canadian TV series called The Kids of Degrassi Stree (1979-1986) then Degrassi Junior High (1987-1989), then Degrassi High (1989-1991).  The show focused on kids growing up, and was noted for its mostly realistic if somewhat soapy depiction of kids’ troubles.  In 2001, the show was brought back again under the name Degrassi: The Next Generation, with the kids of many of the main characters of the original series going to middle school for the first time.  Degrassi is by far one of the most successful revival series, lasting in its original run for 14 seasons and 385 episodes, eventually turning over the entire original cast for new middle and high school characters.  The show was cancelled after its fourteenth season, only to be brought back again by a joint production with Family Channel in Canada and Netflix, called New Class, presumably with a new cast of characters.

                The revival of Get Smart was unfortunately not large enough to warrant a DVD release, but all others can be found on DVD.  Check out all of these original series, and their revivals and see how they measure up to the originals.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

In (Almost) Every Pixar Movie

               Pixar’s genius storytelling keeps audiences coming back for feature after feature.  But Pixar also includes Easter Eggs in all of its movies, as reference or running gag for fun.  There are three Easter Eggs which will appear in nearly every movie.  The first is the code A113, which was the animation room in Cal-Arts where such people as John Lasseter and Brad Bird learned their craft.  The second is the actor John Ratzenberger, and is known by John Lasseter as “Pixar’s Good Luck Charm” and has appeared in every Pixar movie so far.  The third item is the Pizza Planet Truck, which first appeared in Toy Story.  In every movie since (except for The Incredibles, Brad Bird’s first Pixar Animated feature), the truck haCs been snuck into the movie.
                Here are Code A113’s appearances in Pixar Films: (1) Andy’s mom’s car’s license plate in all three Toy Story movies.  (2) During the moment where Flik enters Bug City, it can be seen as code on a Cereal Box in A Bug’s Life.  (3)  This one from Monster’s Inc is a bit of stretch but anyway, in the moment right before Mike and Sulley throw over the door they slammed on Randall, one column in the background reads A13, thus: A113. (4) In Finding Nemo, the camera from the scuba diver contains the code.  (5) It is the room that Mirage sends Mr. Incredible to in The Incredibles.  (6) It is also Mater’s License plate in the Cars movies.  (7) Gib the lab rat in Ratatouille has the tag A113.  (8) The directive code that Auto, the autopilot on the Axiom ship, was given to stop people from returning to earth in Wall-E.  (9) The court room number that Carl has to visit after he hits the construction worker.  (10) Above the entrance to the Witch’s cottage in Brave, the Roman Numerals ACXIII (A113) appears. (11) The classroom where Scare 101 is taught in Monsters University is A113.  (12) And finally, in Inside Out, the classroom where Riley is sent on her first day in her new school is designated “A113.”
                John Ratzenberger’s roles in Pixar movies range from major supporting character to one line cameos: (1) in the Toy Story movies, he plays Hamm, the piggy bank.  (2) In the A Bugs Life, he plays P.T Flea, (3) In the Monsters movies, he plays the Abominable Snowman, (3) At the end of The Incredibles, he plays the villain the Underminer, (4) in the Cars movies, he plays Mack, (5), In Ratatouille he is Mufasta the waiter, (6), In Wall-E, he plays John, (7) in Up he is Tom the foreman, (8) In Brave, he is Gordon, the guard, (9) and finally in Inside Out he is Fritz.
                The Pizza Planet Truck is a beat up yellow Toyota Truck with a red and white space ship on top: (1) After losing Andy’s mom’s car at the gas station in Toy Story, Woody sees the truck and convinces Buzz to hop in.  (2) In A Bug’s Life, it appears beside a motor home where a bug can’t stop going to a bug zapper. (3) Buzz and his friends find the truck and try to drive it to save Woody and Jessie from Al, who is flying to Japan.  (4) After the door he is shoved into shatters in Monster’s Inc, Randall appears in silhouette in a motor home; beside it the truck can be seen.  (5) In Finding Nemo, during the sequence illustrating Gill’s escape from the dentist’s aquarium, the truck is shown driving across the road.  (6) In the stadium at the final race in Cars, one of the cars in the stadium is the Pizza Planet truck, with eyes and a face like the other cars.  (7) In Wall-E, short after EVE arrives, she scans the truck for plant life.  (8) When Carl takes Russell for ice cream at the end of Up, the truck is parked in the parking lot.  (9) In Toy Story 3, Lots-O-Huggin’ Bear, Big Baby and Chuckles ride on a Pizza Plant truck to get to Sunnyside Daycare. (10) In Toy Story 2, the same type of Pizza Planet truck shows up at the Radiator Springs Grand Prix. (11) A wood carving at the witch’s cottage has a picture of the truck. (12) In Monsters University, the truck can be seen outside the first house party.  (13) In Inside Out, the truck can be seen in one of the orbs when Joy and Sadness first meet Bing Bong.

                 The next time you watch these Pixar movies, check out these Easter Eggs.  They are just some of the many reasons to watch our favorites again and again.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

Dances With Wolves Summary and Review (Spoilers)

                Nowadays there have been several movies with the theme that Native Americans are peace-loving, friends of nature, and live in harmony together while the whites are bigoted, mean people who only desire to conquer, even with the extraterrestrial version of Avatar.  Nevertheless, to be fair, the depiction of Indians as villainous savages had decades of movies, TV, and novels to overcome.  Around the time the film was made, Kevin Costner was a huge box office star in the likes of Bull Durham and Field of Dreams.  He wanted to make a movie from the 1988 novel Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake.  After failing to find a director to make the project, he decided to direct the film himself. 
                Despite its three hours length, the story begins in the middle, showing an injured Northern John Dunbar at a Civil War hospital tent… with the doctors ready to remove his leg.  The despondent John escapes when the doctors are distracted and charges unarmed with a horse into in the middle of stalemated battlefield.  The confused Southern side shoots but fails to hit John, and that distracts Southern army enough for the Northern Side to attack drive the Southern army back.  John Dunbar uses his victory to request the most remote station possible.
                When John arrives at the station, he finds it deserted.  However there was evidence of people staying there who might have been attacked.  Eventually, the Sioux Native Americans start observing John at the base.  At first their interactions are hostile, but then John saves a bleeding white woman (Mary McDonnell, who now best known as President Roslin from Battlestar Galactica) dressed in Native American garb.  He takes her back to the Sioux village and the Indians slowly realize he means no harm.  They visit his camp and he visits theirs, struggling to communicate, but both come from a place of wanting to understand versus viewing the other as a villain.  The white woman initially resists being a translator, but after some convincing by her adoptive father, she agrees.  It is around this time that it slowly dawns on John Dunbar how wrong he was about the Indians, and his change feels genuine.  He truly is changed by the people of the Sioux.  The bulk of the rest of the movie is John slowly leaving his old life to a life with the Natives, eventually becoming Dances with Wolves. 
                John struggles to connect with the white woman, Stands with a Fist, but slowly he comes to understand that her Native American husband had died recently and was mourning her loss.  Meanwhile, Stands with a Fist comes out of her shell thanks to John’s kindness and falls in love with him.  The two eventually marry. 
                The final act features John/Dances with Wolves going back to his old base to retrieve his journal, only to a new base camp with dozens of soldiers.  John is quickly captured and tortured and questioned for his actions over the past several months.  The soldiers are almost all depicted as uncaring, violent individuals with no care for living things (for example, they kill a dog – that John had befriended earlier in the movie – just for sport).  The Sioux Indians rescue their friend, killing the soldiers.  Dances with Wolves realizes that because of his now outlaw status, he is a danger to his friends.  He leaves with his new wife after the winter breaks. 

                The movie Dances with Wolves works because of the attention to detail and the transformation of the main character.  Kevin Costner had real Sioux dialogue featured throughout the movie, lending to its accuracy.  Kevin Costner’s character doesn’t just change his mind; he is transformed by his experience with the Sioux Native Americans.  The noted difference between John and Dances with Wolves at the beginning of the movie and the end when he is with the soldiers at the base camp shows how much he has left his old life behind.  The movie is not without its flaws, as the soldiers at the end are too harsh in their caricatures, and a depiction of a rival Indian tribe only depicts them as savages.  But Dances with Wolves is still one of the first and the best of the positive portrayals of Native Americans in movies. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Our Love of List Entertainment – and 5 places to find it

           List entertainment is easily digestible because it is about a specific subject that interests us (whether it be a specific type of movie, TV, book, online media, etc., or in the case of Mental Floss, any subject imaginable), and gives it usually in a countdown fashion, ending with the best.  Even if we don’t completely agree with the list, we usually find a favorite on the list.  It also gives us an easily identifiable beginning and ending. 
1. I just stumbled across the YouTube channel Mental Floss, whose most popular video series is called the List Show.  Some of the most recent videos: 31 Amazing Facts about Household Items, 21 Failed Inventions, 22 Bizarre Conspiracy Theories.  Hosted mainly by John Green, but also by Mike Rugnetta, Craig Benzine and Paige Finch, the host rattles off the information in list form, in videos usually lasting 5 to 10 minutes. 
             2. I have already covered elsewhere, but its top 10 lists are still addicting.  Almost always featuring something to do with entertainment, three of most recent videos were, “Top 10 Hilarious Break-Up Scenes”, “Top 10 Alcohol Chugging Movies” and “Another top 10 Annoyingly Catchy Songs.” 
             3. Buzzfeed has many list articles, dealing with a personality trait juxtaposed with gifs from popular TV shows and movies: A recent article was called, “19 Real, Tiring and Frustrating Struggles of Being Introvert with FOMO” (FOMO stands for “fear of missing out”).  Number Four, for example, says, “And yet, your FOMO means that every time there is a big night out, your guilt makes you feel like you have to go.”  With that caption, underneath is a gif of Michael Scott (Steve Carell) from The Office, with his caption reading “I hate, hate, hate being left out.”  It’s that type of stuff that populates BuzzFeeds page.
             4. Another site I frequent with two separate regular lists is The A.V. Club, an entrainment review and news website.  One of their most popular regular features is Inventory.  Inventory goes In-depth in its list, for example: “The Late Greats: 18-Plus TV characters who Buoyed Shows Midstream” details exactly the circumstances in which the actor and the character revitalized the show.  Other recent articles include “These are the breaks: 10 of the most sampled drum beats in History,” and “’If you’ll love me, you’ll drink this’: 7 Movie Cocktails you shouldn’t Try at Home.”  A.V. Club also includes TV Club 10, a list of 10 episode of a TV series that were the most representative of the shows’ output, not necessarily the best episodes (though of course sometimes they did overlap).  Recent shows included Angel, Modern Family and Weeds. 
            5. And if you read through my past articles, I have also used list entertainment as a way to easily write an article for my blog.  Some of my past articles include: Music Synergy: Nine Teen Actresses with First Songs/Singles made Directly for Their TV Show or Movie, Five Disney-Produced Disney Documentaries You Can See (And One You Can’t), and 3 Sets of Siblings Headlining Their Own Separate Shows.  Yes, I know, I’m sucker for them myself. 

            So what list would you like to see next? What TV shows, movies, books, online videos, music, actors, actresses, sports, demand to be put onto a list?  Let me know, after, I love doing them myself.  And yes, I made this a list of list entertainments on purpose.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Titles I wish were on Netflix

Every once in a while, while Netflix has an impressive lineup, there is that one particular TV series or movie that you can’t watch.  It’s not on Instant Watch or even on DVD.  That dreaded green “save” button, or even worse, it doesn’t even exist at all.  Here are some examples of TV shows and movies that I personally wish were on Netflix. 
The number one title I wish was on Netflix is Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.  The one-season spin-off series never got a DVD release, but all of the episodes are still available digitally on Amazon, Google Play, VEDU, etc.  Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, like its parent series Once Upon a Time, features characters in a fairytale Alice in Wonderland type of setting, while also featuring scenes of the characters in the “real life” town of “Wonderland.”  Since it has crossover elements with the original series, I would really like to watch “In Wonderland” with the original series.  But the only way to do that legally right now is to pay $15.49 (at least) to pay for a whole season of digital copies.  That’s for one series that’s almost double what I pay Netflix per month and can watch thousands of titles.  I really want to watch Once Upon a Time, but what’s stopping me is that the spin-off series is not available on Netflix, and since so much time has passed since it was on (2013-2014), I highly doubt that Netflix will acquire the rights to the series, and that’s too bad.
Then there are the nostalgic series that I watched growing up on the Disney Channel.  While I could fill a whole post about that, I am just going to give two examples.  Bug Juice (1998-2001) was a reality series focusing on middle-school real girls and guys going to a summer camp, each season focusing on a different camp.  It lasted three seasons and may have been influential in my decision to work a summer camp.  Unlike many other camp series, which have a habit of being cliched stories (if it involves kids, it’s about them saving the camp at camp, if it involves older teens, it means all the characters have sex), this story focused on the drama involving real kids, and as such, despite having the manipulative editing that all reality shows have, was still the most realistic depiction of what kids go through when they go a summer camp.  The other TV show was the Famous Jett Jackson (1998-2001).  Jett Jackson was a teen TV star who moved his show back to his hometown of Wilstead, North Carolina.  Jett Jackson was shown to be a normal kid at school with two best friends while also acting in one of the most popular shows in the country (in universe, anyway), about Silverstone, a super teen spy.  Many times a subplot of the show featured Silverstone going on a mission while the main story was Jett dealing with a problem at home.  With both shows, too much time has passed and there is not enough of a fanbase of either show for it to wind up on Netflix. 
And finally, the final one actually surprised me.  Rodgers and Hammerstein in the 1940s to the 1960s created some of the most iconic musicals of all time.  I wanted go though and watch all their early movies, which, while not as well known as Sound of Music or the King and I, were still well regarded in their own right.  But Oklahoma! and Carousel, the first two Rodgers and Hammerstein movies, are not available on Netflix.  Without the success of these early musicals, the other ones would never have been made.  I hope one day these films will become available on Netflix. 

What titles do you wish were on Netflix but aren’t on Instant Watch or DVD?  Netflix can only carry so many titles in order to maintain the good price it has, but it would still be nice if it could carry your favorite titles that are more obscure.  Here’s to hoping that this post will generate interest in them. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

How I Created a “Book Soundtrack” for Romance is for Other People.

                Have you ever read a particularly emotional break up scene in a book and think, “I could just imagine a song to go to that scene”?  Maybe it’s “Someone Like You” by Adele or “Who Knew” by Pink or “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor.  Or, if it were a scene where the characters finally admit they love each other, you might be thinking of “All of Me” by John Legend, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, or “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney.  The possibilities are endless. 
                When I was coming up with the idea of my novel, “Romance is for Other People,” I was already imagining the songs I would like to go with particular scenes, as well.  I went through several different versions, even one with different pop songs.  But the one I finally settled on was with a local Indie band (I’m from Durham, NC) that I’ve become kind of obsessed with, called Jessica Long and the New Kind.  (Don’t worry, I’ll provide a link to them at the bottom so you can check them out.)  Jessica Long’s rock pop sound was perfect for the Young Adult novel I was writing.  I arranged ten songs into a soundtrack for the book, first on paper and later onto a Spotify playlist (I will also link below).  I am so excited to show you for the first time my explanation for the songs I chose for the particular scenes. 
                “Simple” would be played at the beginning of the book before the reader even starts.  In “Simple,” Jessica Long sings about how her love for a guy is simple and easy to understand.  “It’s not fair the way you look at me/I don’t care what anybody says, yeah/It’s not that difficult/In fact, it’s simple.”  At the beginning, of the story, Chris and Lydia are best friends who spend all their time together.  Their life is well, simple: they go to school, they go home and do homework together and have dinner with their family.  But on the day the story starts, Chris finally agrees to go to Homecoming Dance with Lydia, even though he would rather stay friends, but she is ready to move beyond being just friends…
                “Avalanche” would be played in Chapter 3.  Avalanche is all about the rush of emotion when you feel love for the first time; using an Avalanche as a metaphor for those feelings: “Avalanche, come crashing down on me/Avalanche, enraging sea.”  In this scene, Chris quickly leaves after becoming uncomfortable dancing with Lydia, leaving her confused in the middle of the dance floor.  A few minutes, later Chris’s older cousin Jeremy runs into her and complements her and flirts with her, even though he had never done that before towards Lydia.  A part of Lydia really likes how Jeremy treated her (though she doesn’t know why) and this song illustrates Jeremy “crashing into” her.
                “Out of Focus” takes place in Chapter 7, during a flashback scene.  “Out of Focus” deals with the complicated feelings of love.  The first verses show devotion: “If you weren’t here/my sky would fall.”  But in the chorus, she questions that that love is not making her think straight: “Have I even lost my mind and not noticed/Was I even in the more out of focus?”  In this flashback scene, Chris and Lydia are at a theater camp and the entire camp is participating in a dance party…except Chris and Lydia.  Chris told everyone that as best friends, dances really aren’t their thing.  Lydia feels differently but doesn’t tell Chris (or anyone else) how she feels.  As the last song of the night plays, Lydia just came out of a fantasy about Chris telling her he loves her and kissing her, while Chris feels guilty that he knew Lydia wanted to dance but he wouldn’t do it with her (this also explains why he said yes to the Homecoming Dance).  “Out Of Focus” perfectly exemplifies the conflicting emotions in this scene.
                What about the other seven songs in the soundtrack?  Well, dear reader, in order to do that, you’ll have to purchase my novel, Romance is for Other People and discover the secrets that lie within.  If, AFTER finishing the book, you would like to know explanations for the rest of the songs email me at and after answering a trivia question I will send them you.  Happy Reading!

Note: This article originally appeared in the blog Girl Who Reads on May 8, 2015.  Here is the link to the original article:

Buy Romance is for Other People:

Jessica Long & the New Kind:

Link to Book Soundtrack Playlist on Spotify (You’ll need to login to play the music):

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Reviews are in!

Hello Everyone!
The reviews have started to come in!  I am really excited, because I have always wanted to know what other people thought of my book.   I have been reviewed by three separate people so far, one of which is a top 500 Amazon reviewer!

1.  A Smashwords reviewer named G. Andy Mather bought my book on his own left a review on Smashwords, giving it a 5-Star Review.  Here is an excerpt: "I really enjoyed this book. It really captures the uncertainty, and emotional turmoil of being a teen." Check the full review out here:

2. An Amazon reviewer named Aaron left a review on  He also gave a 5-Star Review. He said: "This was an excellent read! Filled with drama that keeps you on your toes throughout the book."  Check it out here:

3.  Tome Tender Book Blog just released a 5-Star Review, not only on a blog post but also on Amazon as well.  Under the name Dii, she is Top 500 Amazon reviewer!  Wow!  I love the entire review, and here is just a small sample of this fantastic, brilliant review: "Get ready to maneuver the minefields of first love, young love, and teen insecurity, and dare I say, quite possibly one of the most endearing demonstrations of the phrase “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” Grab your tissues, your angst-o-meter, your laugh-o-meter and possible some motion sickness pills, we are entering the chaotic minds and hearts of two teens, best friends forever as once again, teen Cupid practices his/her archery skills in the arena of love." The review is found here: and on Amazon of course.   

Other places my book has been mentioned:

1.  I did a guest post on the blog Girl Who Reads, where I talked about how I created a book soundtrack for Romance is for Other People:

2. I did an interview with Brandi Breathes Books, where I talked about my inspiration for Romance is for Other People, among other things.  Check it out here:

Well, I hope you enjoyed this surprise blog post!  Next weekend, I will be posting the Soundtrack blog post on my blog, because after 30 days I can use the post myself.    Have a great day everyone!  

Saturday, June 6, 2015

AFI's 100 Years...Series TV Specials

            In the late 1990s, the American Film Institute was already well known among the film community for their efforts for celebrating and preserving American Cinema, and well known to the public for their life achievement awards to an American filmmaker (director or actor).  In 1998, AFI released on CBS, AFI’s 100 Years 100 Movies.  This special featured what the American Film Institute thought was the best American films from 1897 to 1997.  The special also featured actors, actresses, critics, TV hosts, baseball broadcasters, and the current president of the United States each talking about the impact the film had on them.  The American Film Institute took into consideration six important elements when selecting the top 100 (must be feature length, must be American, must have critical recognition, must have been a major award winner, must have had sustained popularity over time, must have had a major historical significance, and finally must have had a major cultural significance).The special lasted 3 hours and started with at number 100 with Yankee Doodle Dandy, a 1942 musical comedy about George M. Cohan.  It ended at number one with what many other critics consider to be the greatest movie of all time, Citizen Kane (1941), followed by Casablanca (1942) and The Godfather (1972).
                The special went over so well, that the following year, in 1999, the AFI released a new list: AFI’s 100 Years 100 Stars.  However, 100 Stars was actually 50 Stars, 25 of the best male stars and 25 of the best female stars.  Also, the Institute was only honoring people whose film careers started in or before 1950, or they started after 1950 but they had died and had a range of films.  The “other fifty” comprised of the actors and actresses interviewed for the special.  The top male actor was Humphrey Bogart, followed by Cary Grant and James Stewart.  The top female actress was Katherine Hepburn, followed by Bette Davis and Audrey Hepburn. 
                The next three years could be considered the “genre years.”  The next special, in 2000, was AFI’s 100 Years 100 Laughs.  Looking at movies strictly from a comedy perspective, AFI listed what it considered to be the funniest movies of all time.  The top three were, Some Like It Hot, Tootsie, and Dr. Strangelove.  (Apparently the Institute thinks cross-dressing is hilarious).  In 2001, AFI’s 100 Years 100 Thrills was released, detailing the most suspenseful movies of all time.  The top three are also considered some of the scariest movies of all time as well: Psycho, Jaws and The Exorcist.  The following year, in 2002, AFI did AFI’s 100 Years 100 Passions, detailing the 100 greatest love stories of all time.  I particularly the top three, because Casablanca beat out Gone with the Wind for number one (West Side Story was number three).
                The next three specials focused instead on particular aspects of movies versus a movie itself.  The first special up: AFI’s 100 Years 100 Heroes and Villains in 2003.  The special had the 50 greatest heroes (number one: Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mocking Bird) and the 50 greatest villains (number one: Dr. Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs).  The following year was AFI’s 100 Years 100 Songs, detailing the greatest songs ever put on film.  The top three were: “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz, “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca, and “Singin’ in the Rain” from Singin’ in the Rain.  In 2005, AFI released AFI’s 100 Years 100 Movie Quotes, the most memorable quotes of all time from movies.  “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a d---“ from Gone with the Wind was number one, followed by “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse,” from The Godfather. 
                The next year, AFI went back to a genre theme, AFI’s 100 Years 100 Cheers, the most inspirational movies of all time.  The top three were, It’s a Wonderful Life, To Kill a Mockingbird and Schindler’s List.  Then for 2007, AFI did a 10th anniversary special, AFI’s 100 Years 100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition, with a revised and updated list.  Some movies were dropped, some were added, every movie moved up and down the list, with the exception of three: Citizen Kane (1), the Godfather Part II (32), and the Best Years of Our Lives (37).  After Citizen Kane, The Godfather moved up to number two and Casablanca moved to number three.  Much of the special featured clips from the original special, which meant it didn’t feel as fun or original as the first special in 1998.  The final AFI special showed they were running out of ideas for specials, though it was still a fun special: AFI’s 10 Top 10, which featured the top ten films from 10 different genres.  The ten genres were: Animation (number one: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), Fantasy (Wizard of Oz), Gangster (The Godfather), Science Fiction (2001: A Space Odyssey), Western (The Searchers), Sports (Raging Bull), Mystery (Vertigo), Romantic Comedy (City Lights), Courtroom Drama (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Epic (Lawrence of Arabia).  The following year, no AFI TV special appeared. 
                Unfortunately, due to the licensing of so many movies per special, the specials will not be released on DVD or Blu-Ray, or available online.  That’s too bad, because these specials are fun ways to get to know some of the greatest, funniest, most passionate, most thrilling, most quotable, movies ever made. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Blogs are Now Once a Month and Reminder to Review

Hello Everyone,
    Due to the fact that I am very busy right now and over the summer (and the fact that I am running out of idea for blogs - I would love a suggestions!), there will only be one blog a month, posted at the beginning of the month.  One blog of which I am extremely excited about will be one explain the songs I picked for my Book Soundtrack for Romance is for Other People, which is a guest post at Girl Who Reads (   I will be able to use it in 30 days after it is posted, so expect to see it in early July.

   Please consider reviewing Romance is for Other People once you have finished it on Amazon ( and Smashwords (  I'll be honest with you: based on what I've read about asking for reviews, with the exception a free book, it is considered unethical to offer something in exchange for a review.  Keeping that in mind, the only thing I can do is ask you to review my book.   Thank you so much!  

Saturday, May 2, 2015

My Book is Here!

My book, Romance is for Other People is finally here and available for purchase!

1.       There are five ways you can purchase my book right now:
[Signed Copy Directly From Me:]

2.       Please give an honest review on Amazon and Smashwords on my book once you have finished it!  The only way readers who stumble upon the book will give it a chance is if the first readers (you guys) review it and tell your feelings about the book.  And don’t hesitate to include things you didn't like.  I’d much rather have twenty five star, four star and even three star reviews than just three five star reviews. 

Thank you so much for supporting my book!  Lee Wolf