Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Mockingbird Lane"...Ho-hum...

(New cast starting at top and going clockwise:  Eddie Izzard as "Grandpa (Sam Dracula)"; Portia de Rossi as "Lily"; Jerry O'Connell as "Herman"; Mason Cook as "Eddie"; and Charity Wakefield as "Marilyn"'

Inset- Old Cast starting at top right and moving clockwise: Al Lewis as "Grandpa"; Yvonne De Carlo as "Lily"; Fred Gwynne as "Herman"; Butch Patrick as "Eddie"; Pat Priest as "Marilyn")

For the past few months I have been waiting patiently for a premiere. The pilot episode of “Mockingbird Lane”.

I read the growing buzz about this latest reboot with a smidge of interest, born out of curiosity more than anything else. To say that I am tired of the reboot mill would be an understatement. Isn’t there anyone in Hollywood who can generate anything original? Yes, every once in a while there is a ‘reboot’ of a successful show or film that works for the most part (i.e. the Addams Family productions). On a number of levels these remakes, re-imaginings, reboots (whatever you wish to call them) feel like cheating. Especially when the original was great to begin with. The muckety-mucks who gravitate to these re-workings are probably thinking that enough time has passed for the younger people among us to not be familiar with the original productions, so they can get away with it. Whatever their reasoning, the least they could do is…and I have said this time and time again…the least they could do is rework something that bombed and make it better. There are plenty of failed projects that have had a great premise/story line, but lacked in execution. Producers need to go for those, and stay away from beloved shows with solid fan bases/cult followings like “The Munsters”.

Okay…now for ”Mockingbird Lane”. I will start my personal critique by saying that I didn’t have high hopes going in. The effort was made to retain an open mind, but I’m a fan of the original. Maybe I would be pleasantly surprised? That was the mind-set I tried to have. Don’t finalize my opinion before I even see the episode. Could be difficult, but…okay.

(1313 Mockingbird lane)
The show opens with a camp site filled with Scouts and their Scout masters. Its night and they are sitting around the camp fire. Terror enters the mix as a scout is plucked off the stump he is sitting on by a beast of some sort. The chaos continues until we learn that they are being attacked and terrorized by a werewolf. Cut to a car filled to the brim with scouts and a scout master. Where’s Eddie? A perplexed and naked Eddie Munster steps out of the bushes.

Next up: The house at 1313 Mockingbird Lane has a rather infamous history, once belonging to a serial killer who murdered hoboes. Marilyn finds the structure while house hunting with a realtor. He tells her the gruesome tale which of course attracts her to the place. Of course.

The Munsters of “Mockingbird Lane” look like you and I, for the most part. No green skin. No flat head and neck bolts (although there is a nod to the flat-headed Herman as the new Herman enters the house). No flowing black hair with white streak. No black cape, and…well, okay, grandpa does have pointy teeth. He is Sam Dracula, so he is appropriately ‘fangy’. Marilyn looks like a regular human, but then she always has…no shocker there. These Munsters want to fit in. They want to blend. To be like everyone else.

(Herman's heart gets a tune-up)
This element of wanting to look like everyone else and blend in misses the mark that the original made. One of the things that I dug about Herman, Lily, and the rest of the Munster clan was the fact that they looked different from everyone else (aside from Marilyn), but didn’t think anything of it. They were themselves. The 1960’s Munsters were filmed in black and white, but they were in fact green.  So when a door to door salesman screamed and jumped over the fence at seeing their green visages, the Munsters chalked it up to any mundane reason other than them having a shocking appearance. To them they were normal, they did fit in.

Back to the reboot. Eddie Izzard as Grandpa is really the main standout in the cast. The overall tone of this new version is quite darker than the old, and Grandpa is by far the darkest of the family members. He is ‘the’ Dracula, and father to Lily (Portia de Rossi), who is also a vamp. Herman (Jerry O’Connell) is the handsome man of the house who, aside from a collection of scars across his neck and chest and a zippered flap of skin over his heart, looks like everyone else in the “normal” world. Cousin Marilyn (Charity Wakefield) is the bleach blond misfit toy of the clan, just like in the original. However, this time Marilyn has a dark streak that shows through in some of the more entertaining parts of this pilot episode that pair her with Izzard. Last there’s son Eddie (Mason Cook), who is entering into puberty and starting to show his hairy and howly side. Only Herman and Lily are keeping these developments from their son who remembers nothing after he’s gone through one of his ‘changes’.

(Lily and Eddie)
Herman Munster is made of spare parts. We know this from the ‘60s. He even looked like Frankenstein back then. O’Connell’s handsome Herman is also pieced together, and his parts have a tendency to go bad, specifically his heart. The last replacement was procured from one of Eddie’s scout masters with his old troop (which is the reason they moved to their new home). Grandpa performs the necessary ‘parts maintenance’ for Herman. He has a mechanical heart that he keeps trying to get Herman to use, but Herman wants a real heart. A real heart that will help him feel his love for Lily.

So Herman’s heart is failing…it’s time for a replacement. Grandpa has also decided to start feeding again. Eddie’s new scout master is fingered as the intended victim. Herman gets his heart, and grandpa gets his bloody meal (which makes him look much younger). Herman and Lily also decide to tell Eddie that he’s a werewolf (they had lied to him before, telling him that a bear had attacked his old scout troop).

 “Mockingbird Lane” is more stylized than “The Munsters”, which is to be expected. Make-up and effects have progressed by leaps and bounds since the 1960’s. There are some cool effect moments like when Grandpa forms out of a growing pile of rats, or when a bunch of spiders spin a dress onto Lily’s body. Watching Grandpa jam hearts into Herman’s zippered chest cavity is kind of gross, but this is a much bloodier show.

A couple of other characters in the hood are their neighbors, the Grants. They might as well be named the Kravitz’s because I immediately thought of Mrs. Kravitz when Mrs. Grant opened her door. Marilyn and grandpa show up on their doorstep with cookies that grandpa made. He filled the centers with his blood, so when Mr. Grant eats one he falls in thrall with him. (We later see Mr. Grant painting the Munsters’ house.)

Did I expect “Mockingbird Lane” to be exactly like “The Munsters”? No. This one episode supposedly cost $10 million to make. Initially, the buzz was that the series would premiere in 2013, but it appears that the network decided to show the pilot as more of a Halloween special. During the interminable commercial breaks, they also were promoting other network shows (Grimm, Revolution) like it was sweeps week, the promos on top of the commercials really took what little steam “Mockingbird Lane” generated out of the picture. I felt that the episode got a little better as it went on, but overall I was not impressed. I do realize it is a darker show (I do dig the dark), but it would help if I as a viewer felt something for the characters. The original Munsters were so lovable. I’m not saying the “Mockingbird Lane” Munsters need to be lovable, but at the end I didn’t really care if there are any more episodes. If they were to shave off some family fluff and do something with just grandpa and Marilyn then maybe (big maybe) that would be a decent show. It would definitely be an improvement, but it’s not likely to happen. I don’t like this version of the Munsters where they are striving to “be a part of”…I liked the old version where the Munsters “WERE a part of”…

Friday, October 26, 2012

Full Moon In Taurus...October 29, 2012...

("Starsigns: Taurus"; Artist Saara Salmi, Deviant Art)

Monday the 29th, is October’s Full Moon in the sign of Taurus, at 3:51 PM/EST. Full of feminine energy, the fixed sign of Taurus projects the theme of loyalty, and as it’s an earth sign it creates an aura of celebration and nurturance for Mother Earth. A grounding force, Taurus brings matters down to Earth, putting them in a more realistic perspective.

On the flip-side is the Sun in Scorpio, in opposition to the Moon…a polar opposite sign, but in certain situations (like this one) earth signs and water signs can complement each other. Initially, mind and matter (mental and physical) may feel like they are acting independently, marching to the beat of their individual drummer. This can make one feel like they are being pulled in opposite directions. Hang tough. Before all is said and done, they will pull back as cooperation is necessary on certain levels. Two primary subjects of focus during this lunation are matters/emotions relating to personal finances, and our self-worth. The energies of loyalty are prime for helping accomplishments along in both of those areas. Use its empowering energies to overcome obstacles, and to heal.
Full Moons are a culmination of things already begun. Full Moons are also a time when emotions are high. Try not to avoid emotional issues that rise to the surface. You couldn’t ask for a more stable atmosphere to deal with things than the earth energies this Moon brings. Deep seated and old tucked away emotions may surface. You may learn some personal lessons through relationships you have kept alive just to avoid any conflict. It’s best to address things, and let go of your side of things. If someone is hanging on to you in a way that is proving harmful to your well-being, you need to cut them loose. By you making the first move, the other will disengage. The Taurean energies will help you see things through to their conclusion, so you can get some closure.

This Taurean Moon will act as the lunation axis portion of a Kite with Ceres in Cancer, and Chiron in Pisces. When earth and water signs are harmoniously connected, matters can be addressed minus the usual drama. Issues can be resolved in a positive, no nonsense way that will be good for the collective rather than the few or the one. This is a time for showing some love and/or nurturance to everyone, not just the people you are close to. Reap the benefits of the plentiful feminine energy to care for those around you.

(Artist David Palladini)
Pluto in Capricorn will play a supporting role via a trine to the Full Moon, and being sextile to the Sun in Scorpio. Saturn is also in Scorpio, conjunct the Sun, and in mutual reception to Pluto. Focus on boosting/strengthening your emotional well-being. Rid yourself of anything emotionally toxic. This aspect also speaks to personal finances, and any debts you may have. It’s time to get honest and proactive about taking care of any outstanding debts you have hanging over you. Don’t over think things, and just use good old common sense to get started. The grounding and supportive energies here speak to it being a great time for personal healing, or regeneration. Refresh yourself, but be realistic and practical with the changes or the ‘reboot’.

Venus in Libra is sextile Mercury in Sagittarius. Also, Neptune in Pisces is squaring Mercury, and inconjunct Libran Venus. With every positive lunation there seems to be a hint of mischief present somewhere. The message here is ‘do not take anything (or anyone) at face value’. Someone may be poised to try and ‘pull the wool’ on you. Take any blinders you may have up down, or just don’t put them up in the first place. Sagittarian Mars is in opposition to Jupiter in Gemini. The message here is be cautious in the romance department. Try not to take the actions (flirtations) of others too seriously. Enjoy yourself, but don’t go overboard.

During this Full Moon in Taurus, spread some caring energy to others, and direct some at yourself. Exercise loyalty, especially to yourself. Check over your personal space. Make sure all is safe and secure. Spend some quality time with ‘you’, and channel some of the nurturing energies into regrouping and rebooting. 

The following excerpt is from the Farmer's Almanac:

  • Full Hunter's Moon or Full Harvest Moon ~ This Full Moon is often referred to as the Full Hunter's Moon, Blood Moon, or Sanguine Moon. Many moons ago, Native Americans named this bright moon for obvious reasons. The leaves are falling from the trees, the deer are fattened, and it's time to begin storing up meat for the long winter ahead. Because the fields were traditionally reaped in late September or early October, hunters could easily see fox and other animals that come out to glean from the fallen grains. Probably because of the threat of winter looming close, the Hunter's Moon is generally accorded with special honor, historically serving as an important feast day in both Western Europe and among many Native American tribes.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Autumnal Pics & Musings...

Autumn is settling in nicely here on the Georgia coast. The days, although still a little warm, have cooled off considerably. A typical day is in the upper 70's, to very low 80's. A breeze is generally present. For most of today there was a nice gentle wind. One that caused the gentle rushing sound typical of rustling limbs and the Fall leaves that cover them. A lovely sound...

...especially when it fills the night air. The crisp and dark world of an autumnal night is so magical.

Since the warmer temps appear to have moved on until next year, the nights are cool. The low to mid-50's at the moment. Temperatures perfect for shutting down the air conditioner, and opening up the windows. Outside air in the inside world creates a different and welcome energy. Especially in the evening and at night. By my bed, I have a window that sits level with my head. Sleeping by that open window is so relaxing. The magical nature of the autumnal night can really be experienced during those times. I find I have interesting and vivid dreams in the fresh crisp air. It blows over me which makes me feel all the more cozy under my fluffy blanket.

Halloween is just barely less than a week away. I can feel the veil thinning. The special energy of the new year and the final of the three harvest festivals, grows as the special day draws near.

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. Even when I was young and not aware of its historical significance(s). I was unaware that the pumpkin I carved with a scary face, or the gypsy costume I disguised myself with had any significance (the gypsy was my 'go to' costume when I was young). Other than it being the thing to do on All Hallows, that is. I had no clue that they were actually protective measures against roaming spirits from more ancient times. I also didn't know that the tradition of giving out candy had more honorable roots than going door to door threatening our neighbors with mischief if they didn't give us a handout. In days past, children were also laboring in the fields helping with the harvesting. They were given treats for their labors.

Since Halloween falls mid-week this year, most festivities will be observed over this coming weekend. I suspect that we'll head out to the local watering hole for our celebratory nod. No costume though. I toyed with the idea of putting something together this year, but dressing up doesn't hold the interest that it once did for me. In my more recent (older ) years, Halloween has taken on...well, I was going to say 'different' meanings. My feelings towards All Hallows aren't so much 'different' as they are more meaningful.

As All Hallows approaches, I wish everyone a Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain.

Monday, October 22, 2012

"The Avengers"...Finally...

Well, I have now seen “The Avengers”. I had been waiting patiently for it to hit DVD, and once it did it went to the #1 spot on my Netflix cue. As I had been waiting and waiting, a part of me was beginning to worry that my growing expectations were going to be dashed against the proverbial rocks. The box office numbers were massive, and the reviews were great (although I did avoid reading any of them)…my expectations were extremely high. The DVD arrived in the mail, and it has now been viewed. One word comes to mind as I write this…fan-freaking-tastic!
I am by no means a walking encyclopedia of Marvel Universe canon (although I do live with one), but I know quite a bit more than your average bear. Initially, after watching “The Avengers”, I was thinking that people who have not seen all of the set-up films (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor) would be able to get into this first Avengers film. Yes, in several respects this first film was setting things up for the sequel (and other series films that I am sure will follow), but there was also a storyline thread that ran through all of it, connecting all of the various parts. What may seem easy for anyone to understand by my personal standards, well…I think my “Judge-o-meter” is a bit off due to what I already know. Would I recommend to those who have not seen any of the precursors to see them before “The Avengers”? Of course. Not only will it help them get to know more about the individual team members, they are good films. The Hulk films, not so much, but the others are worth the time.
SPOILER ALERT: Be warned that I will definitely be mentioning certain aspects of the film that will spoil things for those who haven’t seen it. If you don’t want to know any details, stop reading here. Okay…warning given.  Moving right along…

The villain in this first ‘Avengers-as-a-team’ film is the habitual liar and mischief maker, Loki. Foundling brother to the Asgardian god, Thor, Loki had a rather dramatic exit at the end of the first Thor movie. He learned that he is actually a Frost Giant by birth and that Odin (Thor’s dad, and Asgardian Allfather…he’s the head honcho) found him and raised him as his own. Loki loses it, and decides in his own twisted way to prove himself to Odin, while getting Thor out of the equation (Thor had slipped up, and Odin took away his powers and shot him off to Earth…prime time for Loki’s move). To say that Loki is a tad bitter would be an understatement. The newly discovered Frost Giant decides to wipe said giants out of existence to prove his love for his ‘father’. Odin falls into ‘Odin Sleep’, which is something he does to re-energize…the time of said ‘sleep’ is never predicted, nor postpone-able. Now seeing his way clear, Loki appoints himself as king of Asgard, and sets about his plan of destroying the giants. Down on Earth (a.k.a. Midgard), Thor learns humility, gets his powers back, returns to Asgard and fights Loki. As both Thor and Loki hang precariously from the edge of Asgard’s Rainbow Bridge, Odin awakes and saves Thor. Loki decides to let go, and he falls to what all see as certain doom. Okay, I have finished my attempt to ‘Reader’s Digest’ the pre-story of the villain propelled portion of “The Avengers”.
I have established the main evil doer as Loki. The implement of Loki’s doom delivering plan, is the “Cosmic Cube” the Tesseract. Thought to be Asgardian in origin, it was once owned by Odin Allfather. It is actually the Tesseract that has been a connecting thread through the precursor films to “The Avengers”. Rather than backtracking to explain all of the appearances of the Tesseract, here is a link to a Marvel Movies Wiki that explains things:

“The Avengers” begins at S.H.I.E.L.D. (“Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division”). Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is alerted to a problem with the testing of the Tesseract, with Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) conducting the tests. We learn that the Tesseract acts as a gateway between two points. Trying to figure out how to shut it down (they still aren’t 100% on how it works), Loki appears through the gateway. He starts his reign of terror there, putting master archer and SHIELD member, Hawkeye, under his control, along with Dr. Selvig. Loki manages to escape, taking the cube with him.

Fury then goes about collecting the various members of the as yet officially unformed Avengers. Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow (Scarlett Johanson); Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner); Bruce Banner, a.k.a. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo); Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.); Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America (Chris Evans). Thor (Chris Hemsworth) would come later.
The casting of all of these actors in their respective roles is perfection.  They all do a fantastic job stepping into the skins of these well-known comic heroes.

Evans as the Captain, is fittingly patriotic and duty driven. The fact that he is a walking anachronism is brought out here and there, but not in a ‘beat you over the head’ kind of way.

Johanson as Romanoff is mission driven, the assassin portion carrying her through events in a skilled, no nonsense way. She is quite athletic; executing her stunts well, and has proven herself to be a good female action actor.

(Left: Jeremy Renner as "Hawkeye"; Right: Scarlett Johanson as "Black Widow")
Renner as Hawkeye gives a seemingly effortless performance. For the first half of the film he is under Loki’s control, so it isn’t until after Romanoff kicks his butt to bring him back to reality that we really see him in top form. Much of what he does during that first half is ‘off screen’ action. We see a guy get hit with an arrow, but we don’t necessarily see Hawkeye shoot it. Once he is officially a part of the Avengers, we see him in action more.

(Mark Ruffalo as "Bruce Banner/Hulk", in mid-transformation)
Ruffalo as Hulk…the best portrayal I have seen of the green one. There was gentleness to his portrayal of Banner. It’s as if he is always in a perpetual state of exhaustion…he is constantly working at controlling his out of control alter-ego. Actually, when Banner was in Hulk mode, Banner appeared to be more aware of things in that state than I have seen in prior portrayals. I couldn’t get through either of the last two Hulk features. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there is a Hulk movie in the works with Ruffalo.

Anyone who has seen the Iron Man movies knows that Downey is brilliant as Tony Stark. Massive intelligence, ego that gives the size of his intelligence a run for its money, and a large helping of sarcastic rich guy. Downey has his setting knobs turned to ‘full’ here. The sarcastic one-liners, and Stark’s sense of superiority, fill the film. But it’s not annoying, or out of place. In past posts about Downey and his Iron Man role, I have mentioned his tendency to “chew scenery”. Again, he does it here, but it works. He’s one of the few actors I can think of these days that can get away with it.
(Robert Downey, Jr. as "Tony Stark/Iron Man")
Last, but definitely not least, is Hemsworth as Thor. I dig Thor. (Type ‘Thor’ or ‘Hemsworth’ into the search box of my blog, and you’ll get some previous entries that will attest to that.) Chris Hemsworth has proven himself to be a top notch actor. Far better than other actors of his generation. He brings a chivalrous strength to Thor. I don’t know who else could do it. Thor is a bit more perturbed in this film. Initially, Thor is there to take care of matters with Loki himself (it’s Asgard’s business). He quickly learns that there is much more to the problem Loki has created, and he joins forces with the Avengers.
(Chris Hemsworth as "Thor")
So, Loki has arrived on Earth to gain control of the Tesseract…for what purpose? To open a portal that will allow the Chitauri (who Loki has a pact with) to invade Earth. Once invaded, Loki would assume the position of King of Earth.

The thing I really like about what is obviously first in a predicted line of Avengers spin-off features, is the films effectiveness. It acts as the tool to bring the Avengers together, but it also contains a solid and engaging plot line that makes it a hugely entertaining film. It is by no means a throw-away, like other series starters have been. It brings the ‘hero vs. villain’ world of comic books effectively to the screen. I look forward to the next one.

There are a number of funny moments and lines in "The Avengers". The following is one of my favorites.


I have been a big fan of the X-Men for years, Logan/Wolverine being my favorite X-Man. I knew of the Avengers, and knew some basic info about the individual members. I never really paid them much attention though. All of the films in this series of Avengers based movies have changed that. In the Marvel Universe of feature productions, the films of the Avengers franchise have even surpassed the X-Men. For me, anyway. My admiration of Thor aside (*grin*), these films have been consistent and cohesive. There isn’t one movie among them that I wouldn’t recommend.

I don’t think I have to say this, but…Loki’s plans are thwarted. He does manage to get the bewitched Dr. Selvig to create an apparatus to house the Tesseract in, and open a huge gateway for the Chitauri to enter through. A massive fight breaks out in the streets of New York, Avengers vs. Chitauri and Loki. 

Against Nick Fury’s recommendations, the “council” sends a bomb carrying plane to launch a nuke at Manhattan. Everyone will die, but getting the enemy is the main goal. Enter Tony Stark to save the day. He goes after the bomb, diverts it up through the gateway (into outer space…who knows where), and blows up the Chitauri mother ship. Back on Earth, Selvig snaps out of his controlled state, reveals to Romanoff that for whatever reason he built a fail-safe into the cube apparatus that can be triggered with Loki’s staff. The staff is lying nearby, they get it, once the bomb is through the gateway they wait just long enough for Tony to fall back through it. The gateway is shut, Tony survives, the Chitauri have been defeated, everybody have some Shawarma (I’ll touch on that in a sec).

Another favorite funny moment is also Loki related. He is facing the Hulk, and boasts about how he is invincible because he is a god. Anybody with any sense knows the Hulk will do what he does best...smash!

The Tesseract was seen by Fury as a means to limitless energy for man kinds use, and a way to create some weapons to help fight against enemies from other worlds. Now, at the end of the battle, Thor takes the cube back to Asgard where it belongs. He also takes a muzzled Loki back home for some Asgardian justice.

The individual members of the Avengers go their separate ways. Until next time, that is. Who knows where or when they will be needed? Whatever the next crisis is, I’m sure it will result in great entertainment.

Oh, yeah…the Shawarma. Be sure to either watch all of the credits, or fast forward to the end of them. What you will find there is quite funny. Here’s a small sample…