Category: Retro Fix


Marvin

It looks pretty close.  About like Who Framed Roger Rabbit as far the artwork is concerned.  And the voices are close, too.  If it’s anything like another reboot of a classic animated property, Blue Sky’s The Peanuts Movie–which deftly re-created the looks and voices of Charlie Brown and his friends–this may be something worth checking out.  It’s the latest Warner Brothers property making its way to the new HBO Max streaming service coming in May.  Yep, Looney Tunes are back.  The artwork, the bright colors, the classical music, those familiar animal friends (and Marvin and Elmer).  Yes, the trailer for the new cartoons looks pretty darned close.

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Peanuts movie clipIt’s something that fans of Charlie Brown and Snoopy have been waiting for, for several reasons.  The Peanuts Movie hit theaters late last year, but it was lost in the movie season among the spectacle that was Star Wars released just weeks later.  Yet if you saw it in the theater, you realize this movie was a keeper.  The Peanuts Movie is what all family movies strive for:  classic characters, good-natured humor, something to enjoy for every moviegoer.  The very young will love Snoopy and understand the relationship of the Peanuts kids that we older folks have known and loved for years, in newspaper funnies, in paperback editions, and the many Peanuts specials.  The Peanuts Movie does something else–it provides the best version of Charlie Brown and friends we’ve seen since the original 1965 favorite A Charlie Brown Christmas.

The Peanuts Movie gets it right from the beginning, in its pedigree.  It’s written by Craig Schulz, Charles M. Schulz’s son and a writer on the Community comedy series, and Charles’ grandson, Bryan.  So, unlike the onslaught of lackluster adaptations that have plagued the Dr. Seuss properties after his death, the same heart and soul of Charles’ creation is as powerful as ever.  The writers have turned to the source material for many interactions in the film, like Lucy’s converted lemonade stand/psychiatry office and the famous wall where Charlie and Linus ponder the worlds’ problems, and yet they have updated the story in subtle and important ways that are both loyal to the original and still give loyalists a satisfying pay-off.  And don’t worry, the updating ends with the inclusion of standardized tests–you won’t find any cell phones, smart phones or texting issues for the kids in this movie.

The story centers around Charlie Brown’s attraction to the little red-haired girl who moves in across the street and the lengths he will go to to try to impress her.  This love affair was the core of many original Peanuts comic strips, based on Charles Schulz’s real-life attraction from afar with a red-haired girl.  Snoopy’s parallel exploits in this movie mirror this love affair, as he pursues his own love story on paper, revealed to us as a story of a dog trying to win over air pilot Fifi in his World War I Sopwith Camel fighter plane on a mission in France, also taking on the famous Red Baron.

Peanuts blu-ray

The Peanuts Movie hails from Blue Sky Studios, who brought us the Ice Age franchise.  Even without a 3D television the depth of field here is spectacular, and with the 3D effect director Steve Martino does not shell out standard 3D gimmicks, but lets the characters simply float off the comic strip and into their own full-color, beautiful “real” world.  The backgrounds look like the homes and backyards of any American town cul de sac.  And if you look close enough you’ll see Snoopy finally has fur.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the failings of many creators for kids is talking down to them.  If you treat children from the very beginning like adults, they will step up to the task and embrace acting like adults.  Kids know when adults are speaking down to them.  They also will be excited when you give them the straight dope.  So if you’re creating anything for an audience that includes kids, whether they are seven to seventeen, don’t hold too much back.  And that applies double for relationships–kids are smarter than you think and they listen to everything and absorb everything.  One of the best parts of Troop Zero is that you can’t tell if its a coming of age movie for adults or kids.  And that’s a great thing.

Troop Zero is a new Amazon Studios direct-to-streaming release, and a great movie to watch while sitting at home with your family this weekend.  We love coming of age movies (scroll through several we’ve discussed over the decade here at borg), and Troop Zero easily makes our top 20.  This is the more nostalgic, sweet, genuine brand of coming of age film (the best kind), part The Bad News Bears, part Paper Moon, and it’s obviously a little bit Moonrise Kingdom and maybe even enters Shirley Temple territory like in The Little Princess.  It also ties into one of our favorite NASA accomplishments, the Voyager space probes and golden records prepared by Carl Sagan with voices and music from Earth (also add the PBS documentary The Farthest–Voyager in Space to your must-watch list, reviewed here).

The movie stars the then-12-year-old actress McKenna Grace, who performs like someone with 20 years of experience.  This girl has done everything, from playing young Sabrina in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, to young Captain Marvel in last year’s hit film, young Tonya Harding in I, Tonya, and she’s the star of the coming summer release (we hope), Ghostbusters: Afterlife.  Plus Independence Day: Resurgence, Ready Player One, and a regular on The Haunting of Hill House (the list goes on!).  In Troop Zero she plays Christmas Flint, a girl with that same awkward but adorable appeal as Tatum O’Neal in her Oscar-winning performance in Paper Moon.  Christmas has the reputation at school for still wetting the bed, she wears red galoshes so no one notices one leg is longer than the other, and no matter how much bad is thrown at her she responds with this incredible positivity.  She also loves space, and thinks her dead mother is looking back at her from the stars.  When she learns a member of NASA is in town to select a girl to voice the greeting on the Voyager space record, she assembles a ragtag team of girls (and one boy) to join the local scouts, and earn the minimum merit badge each to qualify to go to Jamboree where the troop with the best performance routine will have their voices recorded.

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This year one of the world’s best children’s books will come to life as author Munro Leaf and artist Robert Lawson’s 1936 book The Story of Ferdinand is adapted for the big screen as Blue Sky Studios’ Ferdinand.  Life magazine once called Ferdinand, “the greatest juvenile classic since Winnie the Pooh”.  The Story of Ferdinand even outsold Gone With the Wind to be 1938’s number one bestseller.

Ferdinand is a bull in rural Spain, a pacifist who only wishes to enjoy the idyllic life and smell the flowers in the pasture.  But he is thrust into the world of bullfighting because he is seen as an enormous, fierce creature.

John Cena (Psych, Parks and Recreation) stars as the voice of Ferdinand, with co-stars Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters 2016), David Tennant (Doctor Who), and Anthony Anderson (Law and Order).  So far we’ve seen nothing but great films from Blue Sky Studios, like Titan A.E., the Ice Age series, Rio, and The Peanuts Movie.  These are the same guys that created computer animation for Alien: Resurrection and Star Trek: Insurrection.

Check out this fun trailer for Ferdinand:

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Super7, the toy company known for its wide variety of action figure licenses and its retro Kenner style carded, 3.75-inch action figures, greatly surpassed its delivery at last year’s Toy Fair (shown here and here) by bring hundreds of prototype figures, card back mock-ups, and final versions to New York Toy Fair 2020 this past weekend.  More than the typical sneak peek, Super7 previewed a huge variety of action figure cards for its ReAction line, with pre-ordering forecasted for later this year and some items available now here at Amazon.

New action figure licenses at the show include Army of Darkness, An American Werewolf in London, Aliens, Andre the Giant, Back to the Future II, Knight Rider, The Munsters, Archie, Red Dawn, Beavis and Butt-Head, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Son of Frankenstein, Spongebob Squarepants, Halloween II, and a new line of NBA All Stars.  Bands with new figures seen for the first time in the Super7 line include RUN DMC, Notorious B.I.G., and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

Plus past figure lines will see more additions this year.  Those include Universal Studios Monsters, Peanuts, several Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Nightmare Before Christmas, lots of Transformers, Toxic Crusader, Thundercats, Ghost, Misfits, Mars Attacks, Alien, Chucky, and Robocop, and Super7 displayed several final figures this weekend that were previewed last year here at borg, including They Live, Teen Wolf, Major League Baseball All Stars, MLB Mascots, and characters from the Rocky movie series.

Take a look at close-up views of just a sampling of the action figures on display at this year’s event:

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Peanuts movie 2015 Christmas

We first started talking about the new Peanuts movie here at borg.com back in March with the release of the first teaser trailer.  With all the throwaway animation for kids out there these days why not give us a trailer showcasing our old pals an entire year prior to its release?  And lighting up poor Woodstock aside, why not give us a Christmas scene to ponder over?

Which raises the question:  Will the Blue Sky Studios/20th Century Fox update to Charles Schulz’s classic short films and theatrical releases, filmed in Real D 3D and Digital 3D, give us any remakes of classic scenes from past Peanuts films?  Like the Christmas pageant or the Great Pumpkin watch?

3D peanuts movie

After the break, check out the new trailer for Peanuts, featuring Snoopy as a World War I flying ace and his own doggy version of the Sopwith Camel flying over Paris, a scene we have seen many times before:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new edition of a book about the popularity of Fawcett Comics‘ original Captain Marvel, the world’s mightiest mortal–the superhero renamed Shazam and featured in a new movie this month starring Zachary Levi–will be the perfect trip through time for fans who have enjoyed the character in his many stories going back to his debut in 1939.  My personal favorite Captain Marvel stories can be found in the original Whiz Comics (all in the public domain and available to read online now here) and as drawn by Alex Ross in his landmark graphic novel with Mark Waid, Kingdom Come.  For the first time in a softcover edition, Chip Kidd’s Shazam: The Golden Age of the World’s Mightiest Mortal has been reprinted by Abrams ComicArts just in time for the release of the film, Shazam!

For those not in-the-know, this is the Captain Marvel who now goes by Shazam (the word that causes him to bring forth his powers)–the one owned by DC Comics today, and not the one owned by Marvel Comics and also in theaters now in the movie Captain Marvel (reviewed here at borg).  Shazam: The Golden Age of the World’s Mightiest Mortal is a historical work, and it doesn’t hesitate to use the name he’s always been known as by his fans.  As told by writer Chip Kidd, the Captain Marvel fan club had 400,000 people in it in its best year in the 1940s, and Fawcett projected 40 million followers of the character in books and film.  Captain Marvel books sold 1.3 million copies per month, not a common feat even today.  Does anything approach that kind of fan club status today?  At the height of the character it was more popular than Superman and Batman, and so of course the character had hundreds of tie-in products.

Readers will marvel over a reprint of the entire story from Captain Marvel Adventures, Issue #1–created by two then unknowns: Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, and reprints of several colorful covers from Whiz Comics, Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel, Jr., Mary Marvel Comics, WOW Comics, Master Comics, America’s Greatest Comics, Spy Smasher, and even Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny, plus pages of scans of original comic pages from ex-Fawcett staff.

The book uses photographs from a collection of some of the scarcest superhero collectibles known, including images of books, toys, and paper ephemera for Captain Marvel and the entire Marvel Family–superhero kids like Billy Batson–the boy who turns into Captain Marvel–and his friends who use the Shazam powers but remain as kids.

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Charlie Brown and Snoopy in 3D

What better way to bring in Spring than news of a new Peanuts movie.  Don’t you hope they get this right?

It’s Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters in 3D, called simply Peanuts.  The franchise that gave us each of the best holiday specials of all time–A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), It’s the Great Pumpkin (1966), Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973), and Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975)–is back, more than 30 years after four prior big-screen efforts that didn’t quite live up to the TV shows: A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969), Snoopy Come Home (1972), Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977), and Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (1980). 

And the first teaser trailer is here.  The voice of Chuck seems right and the overall look is pretty good, despite being so different from the classic four-color comic strip feel of the TV specials from the 1960s to 1970s.  But the key ingredient–if they can deliver what they need to deliver– will be the “heart”.  Can a new team of creators get it right?  Please?

Check it out for yourself:

Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Woodstock, Linus, Lucy, Sally, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Franklin, Schroeder, Pig Pen.  We’re hoping they all are back again.  And maybe, just maybe, Lucy won’t pull the football away this time.

Look for Peanuts in theaters after a long wait–November 6, 2015.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

e-t-clip

Review by C.J. Bunce

I can’t hazard a guess as to how many times I have watched E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  Probably a handful of times in 1982 and 1983, and at least once during a return to theaters in the past 35 years, plus a few times on VHS.  What stood out today, watching the film as part of the Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies 35th anniversary re-release screenings, is how ageless the film is.  A teenager sitting behind me caught every single joke.  In a time when parents don’t think to take their kids to classic film opportunities like this, the kids are truly missing a great experience.  The film is a giant adventure story set in the backyard of a boy and his brother and sister.  It’s relatable.  Just check out Elliott’s room.  There’s a toy Star Destroyer on the table.  A TIE Fighter across the room.  He carefully explains who Greedo, Hammerhead, Walrus Man, Snaggletooth, Lando, and Boba Fett are to E.T.  And that advance LEGO builder set on the shelf.  How many kids’ homes today, after all these years, still look so similar?  And someone nearby is getting ready to dress up as Yoda, or a character from his neighborhood, in only a few weeks, much like the kid E.T. tries to run off with on Halloween.

It’s not only relatable, it’s about that subject that sci-fi does best when done right:  Communication.  Last year’s acclaimed sci-fi film Arrival was all about it, but does it reach into each of us like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial has?  We celebrated one of the best episodes of television this year here at borg.com, discussing the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest of all Star Trek episodes, Darmok from The Next Generation, a story entirely about the practical, real-world difficulty of communication.  Elliott, played so well by Henry Thomas, and later Gertie, played equally well by the younger Drew Barrymore, each use what knowledge a little kid has to try to relate to an outsider.  And we immediately see the problems–the barriers–that get in the way.  Elliott tries to convey to the very curious new alien visitor so willing to learn that this giant object is a peanut.  “You eat them, only you can’t eat this one because it’s not real.”  He’s describing a bank that was made to look like a peanut.  He then puts money in it.  And the result: E.T. next tries to eat a toy car.  Just as Dathon and Picard found, communication isn’t all that easy.  Only when Gertie gets her only one-on-one opportunity, of the three kids she is the one who helps E.T. gain his vocabulary.  The innocent and the youngest and the most awestruck.  And she’s also the first to understand he is trying to phone home.  Communication is difficult sometimes, but if kids can figure this out, what can adults do?

gertie-and-e-t

This week’s release was the original cut, as seen in theaters in 1982, not with any modifications.  This is the first time the film has screened in theaters since the death of writer Melissa Mathison in 2015 (you might not have seen the laserdisc version of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the only version ever released to feature Mathison’s then kinda-sorta well-known boyfriend Harrison Ford in the shadows as Elliott’s principal, meeting Elliott’s mom Mary (Dee Wallace) after his frog rescue–a bad scene, justifiably deleted).  I did not recall how much we see E.T. in the film’s first scene as he and other botanists search out samples.  E.T. carefully digs up what appears to be a Redwood sapling.  But I now understand what Spielberg was thinking in his later re-cut version.  As a kid I thought the humans were the enemy and yet this time I found no evidence of the humans trying to do anything other than learn about E.T.–much like the humans in Close Encounters of the Third Kind were scientists attempting to communicate.  In Close Encounters, the presence of weapons are to scare the public from the faked quarantine area.  Maybe that was the purpose of the weapons in the original E.T. cut.  But somehow the rifles seemed out-of-place when the kids were escaping on bikes, after E.T. dies, after showing all the adults desperately try to help, to save E.T, some even in tears.  This was the differentiator of Spielberg’s alien films from those that came before–the same spirit that only a few years earlier guided scientists to launch a couple of records into space hoping to communicate with someone out there.  So swapping out car phones or walkie talkies for rifles actually is consistent with the actions of the adults in the rest of the film.  I also can understand why so many little kids look back on the film as scary.  There’s plenty to scare little kids–those same things that scare E.T. throughout the film, as well as what might be many kids’ first introduction to death.  But the scene is gracefully done, and three decades later it’s great to hear that the adults are clearly heard attempting all those real-world, life-saving techniques to save our new alien friend.  Mathison masterfully blended a science fiction, a fantasy adventure, and a coming-of-age story all in one package.

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Stuck On Star Trek Cover Joe Corroney

Back in December I tracked down and discussed here ten retro toys you could still buy as gifts for the holidays.  In that list I included Colorforms–those reusable, thin plastic stickers that you could use to re-create scenes on a cardboard backdrop. As a kid I went crazy for these–I had every Colorforms set from Star Trek to Peanuts, The Fonz, Marvel Superheroes, Mickey Mouse, Scooby Doo, Evel Knievel, and an awesome oversized set called Castle Dracula where you could house all of the classic Universal Studios monsters under one roof.  The Star Trek Colorforms playset came with a backdrop of the bridge of the original Enterprise and white, yellow, blue, and red colored stickers featuring crew, hand weapons and aliens.  It was a popular set and provided hours of fun.

Stuck on Star Trek bridge background

Colorforms still exists but doesn’t license a lot of movie and TV properties, but I recently saw in a toy store playsets for young kids with Yo Gabba Gabba, Dora the Explorer, and Spongebob Clearly with all the high-tech toy options for kids these days it’s the littler kids that are the Colorforms target consumer.

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