Category Archives: Top 5 Lists

5 DISNEYLAND TV SPECIALS (THAT ARE COMPLETELY INSANE)

Disney

by J.M. McNab & Robert Laronde

There’s always been something inherently insane about Disneyland and Disney World— think about it, why would anyone willingly visit a castle owned by a rodent in a land populated mainly by cartoon characters and robot presidents?

The new film Escape From Tomorrow purports to portray a unique vision of Disney World, one that’s dark and surreal. However, in conjunction with this week’s podcast (which is about Disney World in ‘90s sitcoms), we present to you five made-for-television specials that portrayed Disneyland and Disney World as batshit crazy wonderlands as far back as the ‘80s and ‘90s.

5. MICKEY’S 60TH BIRTHDAY (1988)

Most people spend their 60th birthday receiving humorous greeting cards concerning farts and an inability to maintain an erection; beloved character/corporate trademark Mickey Mouse, on the other hand, celebrated in style. In 1988, Mickey’s 60th birthday was marked with the greatest honor any entertainer could hope to receive: a TV movie.

What followed was a strange mix of eighties sitcom character cameos and a dark, Kafka-esque probe into the nature of identity.

Plus a cameo by Burt Reynolds.

For some reason, the wacky romp finds Mickey angering an evil wizard who, in a disturbingly existential twist, steals Mickey’s identity. There’s still a famous cartoon character named Mickey Mouse, but no one recognizes Mickey to be him, everyone just thinks Mickey is some random jerk. It’s kind of like the plot of Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said.

One thing Philip K. Dick never thought of? Incorporating the cast of Cheers.

Without his identity, Mickey drifts aimlessly through life—and by life, I mean other television shows. Mickey visits the Keatons from Family Ties, and, when they don’t recognize him, he heads to Cheers. That’s right, facing the slightest adversity Mickey goes straight to a bar…

In addition to Cheers and Family Ties, Mickey visits, in what must have been a special treat for the kids, the set of L.A. Law. It’s a nice little advertisement for NBC’s Prime-Time Lineup sandwiched inside the larger advertisement for Disneyland.

Even more disturbing, with Mickey absent for his big party at Disneyland, Donald Duck is thrown in jail for kidnapping Mickey. Remember when these cartoons used to be about fun things like driving steamships? Eventually Mickey reclaims his identity by singing with Phylicia Rashad for some reason.

4. BELIVE YOU CAN… AND YOU CAN (1983)

In 1983, Disney was ready to reintroduce the newly refurbished Fantasyland to the public. But just as Fantasyland had changed, in the almost thirty years since the park first opened, America had also changed. Even that guy from Disneyland’s grand opening was now president of the United States!

Disneyland was where Reagan got the idea for the Star Tours defence system.

Of course, during the Cold War it wasn’t appropriate for Reagan to visit amusement parks– America had stopped believing in believing.

To remedy this problem, and promote their new Fantasyland attractions, Disney produced a TV special called Believe You Can… And You Can. The special featured Heather O’Rourke, The Dick Van Dyke Show’s Morey Amsterdam as well as all your favorite…

“Wait, O’Rourke? Isn’t that the girl from Poltergeist? The one who died?”

Yes, but please don’t interrupt.

The simple story follows Heather, playing herself, who is upset that her family is moving. Her mom says it’s because of Dad’s job, but she’s lying– it’s totally evil spirits again.

Heather is pretty bummed she hasn’t said goodbye to the Disney mascots, who seem to be her only friends. Naturally, Heather’s brother takes her Disneyland one last time. Also naturally, once there he quickly abandons her to mack on his girlfriend over at the Haunted Mansion (presumably because she is a ghost, and Heather’s brother is Woody from Cheers—more on that later).

Sadly, Heather discovers that Fantasyland is mysteriously closed. This is where it gets creepy; the park is completely empty, it’s like the rapture happened and only Heather was left behind.

Suddenly she’s accosted by some kind of demon who’s taken the form of Morey Amsterdam. He begins spouting some nonsense about “believing” that sounds like he’s inducting her into a cult.

Then he offers her a free stress test.

Finally he takes Heather to see her beloved Disney characters, but they all decide that her “believing” isn’t strong enough, so they do what Disney characters do best: they teach her a lesson through song! No, wait, I’m wrong—they put the poor eight-year-old girl on trial and threaten to execute her by decapitation. Seriously.

In this dangerously dystopian Disneyland, anyone can be put on trial at any time apparently.  It’s scary. The Witch from Snow White berates Heather while Winnie the Pooh nods in agreement and Mickey Mouse applauds—

Pooh has always been a supporter of the Dark Arts

No lie, this is the scariest infomercial in existence. Am I supposed to want to take my kids here? When is Timmy’s turn to be put on trial?

Even The Country Bears become menacing in this demented freakshow.

Producers may have thought only a horror veteran like O’Rourke would be tough enough to get through filming these horrific events, but couldn’t they have found an actress with a little more charisma? Was Drew Barrymore unavailable?

3. EPCOT Center: The Opening Celebration (1982)

Oh, Drew Barrymore was already in a Disney special. Just a few short months before Believe You Can… And You Can was released, Disney aired this special featuring the OTHER talented young actress Steven Spielberg discovered in 1982. Also Danny Kaye.

The purpose of this special was to celebrate the opening of EPCOT Center. EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) was originally envisioned to be a cutting edge model city and community that Walt Disney would use to test ideas of urban planning. Sounds boring, right? Well, luckily Walt Disney died and his successors were like, “Mm, let’s just build a giant golf ball and some world pavilions.”

We here at Rewatchability regret the sentence “luckily Walt Disney died.”

The two major parts of EPCOT are Future World and World Showcase; the former showing what people from the 1980s believed the future (i.e. the early 2000s) would be like. They were WAY off. For example Danny Kaye tells Drew Barrymore she’ll probably go to high school in outer space. That did not come to pass. It would have been more accurate if he’d said that instead of going to school, Drew would be so high it seemed like she was in outer space. Partial credit to Mr. Kaye.

Woah, do you see a dragon Mr. Kaye or am I just tripping balls?

Drew introduces Danny Kaye to a robot, who introduces them to an imagination wizard, who has a pet dragon, and this is when you start to wonder what was in the brownie your roommate just gave you.

Then we move on to the World Showcase, colloquially known as Stereotype Land– I’m sorry, but Canadians aren’t all Mounted Police Officers and Lumberjacks. Many of us are merely fur traders or log drivers.

We also visit Alex Haley, the author of Roots, who tells us about the Equatorial Africa pavilion (that never actually opened) and a guy who looks a lot like John C. Reilly sings “This Land Is Your Land”– but if that song is true then why do I have to pay admission to get inside?

2. KRAFT SALUTES WALT DISNEY WORLD’S 10th ANNIVERSARY (1982)

Appropriately, this 10th anniversary special is a quality program in the same way Kraft Dinner is a gourmet meal. Beginning with an excruciating musical montage, father Dean Jones rounds up his apathetic family, including son Ricky Schroder, shoves them in an old station wagon bound for Walt Disney World.

Once at Disney World they rendezvous with Aunt Angelique (played by the great Eileen Brennan) who for some unknown reason is caring for a small Asian boy named Bobby who won’t say anything, either because he’s really shy or Stockholm Syndrome has taken effect.

Seriously, the only non-white character is given no lines whatsoever.

Also, for some other unknown reason, Brennan’s character is perpetually wearing a cowboy hat, and instead of staying in a fancy hotel with the rest of the family, she goes camping with Bobby at Fort Wilderness to “give him an appreciation of the old West,”– you know, that time period that was so fun for Asian-Americans.

Doesn’t sound so strange to you? Did I mention the bellboy at the hotel is a manic, smarmy Michael Keaton?

Not only is he smarmy, he actually drops the family’s luggage as he leers at a female guest who walks by. Apparently, despite it’s squeaky-clean reputation, Disney World is mainly staffed by inept perverts.

“Come to Disney World where our friendly staff will mentally undress you.”

Then they sing a bunch more songs while they explore the park, including one where the mother and daughter (along with clerk Michael Keaton who apparently has to work two jobs at Disney World) launch into a tune about buying gifts for all their friends and family in the gift shop. This isn’t a satirical parody of corporate consumerism, someone actually wrote a song about buying shit in a gift shop.

Eventually, the whole family goes out for a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant where, surely, the waiter won’t also be Michael Keaton–

Fuck it, I’m done.

1. DISNEYLAND’S 35th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL (1990)

If you were to spend an evening drinking moonshine, consuming expired dairy products, and obsessively watching sitcoms from the eighties and nineties, your ensuing dreams would probably look a lot like Disneyland’s 35th Anniversary Special.

Ostensibly to commemorate the park’s anniversary, while simultaneously advertising its many attributes, the 1990 special features an eclectic roster of entertainers so diverse it’s as if the show was booked by a chimpanzee throwing darts at a 1990 TV Guide.

Like any tolerable trip to Disneyland, this one begins with a visit to a bar–specifically Cheers (again). The popular sitcom’s characters are discussing, not surprisingly, Disneyland. The conversation takes a disturbing turn when the affable barflies begin discussing which Disney character they find the most sexually attractive– The Little Mermaid, Snow White, or Cliff’s contribution, Lady from Lady and the Tramp. You know, the dog.

Perhaps hoping to distract from the lingering unpleasantness, Woody tells everyone a story about the time he visited Disneyland as a child. In a flashback we see an Are You Afraid of the Dark-esque vignette in which Woody rides The Haunted Mansion, and falls in love with a young girl who turns out to be a ghost…

If R.L. Stine scripted an episode of Cheers, this would be it.

Within only ten minutes, this special managed to introduce both bestiality and necromancy into the Cheers universe.
Eventually, Disney CEO/soulless mannequin Michael Eisner introduces Tony Danza as the host. Danza is our guide through a bizarre melting pot of pop-culture icons, the strangest of which is perhaps when he meets C-3P0 and R2D2. Frankly, it`s weird to see any element of the Star Wars universe interacting with Tony Danza– Witnessing C-3P0 address him as Master Tony (presumably because he is, in fact, The Boss) may be one of the strangest moments in television history.

As for THE strangest moment in television history, that occurs when Danza rides the Jungle Cruise. Now, you might assume that this whole special is basically just an advertisement for Disneyland– but you’d be incorrect. If it were, why in God’s name would they include a scene in which Disneyland patrons are casually murdered by animatronic animals. This isn’t a joke, this happens.

First a man falls into the river and is eaten by a crocodile.

Disturbingly, the ride’s operator doesn’t seem to notice or care that one of his passengers has just been brutally killed. Next a woman is strangled by a snake–

Still the operator takes no notice… but when Tony is being strangled, finally the operator responds to the emergency situation in a manner that I can now only assume is standard procedure for all Disneyland employees: by wildly firing a gun into the crowd of families, forcing them to jump off the ship or be killed by an armed madman.

This special is as much of a promotion for Disneyland as Halloween was for kitchen knives. Surprisingly, this upsetting barrage of morally dubious Disney-themed sketches was directed by legendary filmmaker John Landis, and not, say, an illegitimate nephew of Walt Disney who had never made a movie or seen a television show before.

Summing up the rest of the special’s content quickly: the Muppets show up, probably to lighten the show’s “murder-heavy” tone, Jim Varney plays Ernest’s father in the Ernest backstory everyone in 1990 must have been demanding, plus Will Smith (billed as The Fresh Prince) and DJ Jazzy Jeff attempt to permanently eradicate the relevancy of the rap genre with a cover of Hip-Hop pioneer Julie Andrews’ Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

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Top 5 Mortal Kombat Tie-In Products (That Nobody Needed)

by J.M. McNab

Back in the mid-’90s, Mortal Kombat was bigger than the Beatles, who were bigger than Jesus. So I guess, Mortal Kombat was bigger than Jesus. In any case, along with this success came merchandising, from the movie version, which we talk about on this week’s podcast, to a bunch of other shitty and unnecessary products. Here then are the best of the worst Mortal Kombat tie-in products.

5. The Mortal Kombat Kard Game

kardgame

Released in 1995, the Mortal Kombat Kard Game gave fans a new way to play their favourite game: slower and more old-fashioned. Players battled one another with playing cards instead of controllers– think of it like Uno, but with more violence and bare torsos.
Of course, no one really needed another iteration of the game, specifically one so antiquated. Replacing Mortal Kombat with a deck of cards is kind of like replacing NBA Jam with a cup and ball. Presumably the endeavor was conceived of by executives who discovered that the word “card” could be playfully misspelled just like the word “combat”.
I guess the only kids who benefited from the card game were those whose families couldn’t afford a Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis. And for those kids who couldn’t afford the card game, they could always just punch and kick each other for real.

4. Mortal Kombat: The Novels

novelNot content with conquering only the film and video game mediums, in 1995 the Mortal Kombat empire decided to throw itself into a entirely new arena of expression: literature. Wading in the same artistic waters as Hemmingway and Faulkner, author Jeff Rovin set out to write a novel based on the game that is essentially just two dudes fighting each other.
“In the beginning of time, nothing was everywhere and it was everything,” is how the novel begins. And while I haven’t read it, I can’t imagine many kids playing video games in darkened basements with Cheeto powder-stained fingers were demanding a literary adaption of what was, essentially, an excuse not to talk to girls or play sports.
The other crazy thing is, in 1995 another Mortal Kombat novel was released. A novelization of the movie by Martin Deliro also hit bookstores, which posed the question– how many ways can an author describe a guy hitting another guy? Did he write the techno music into the novel?

3. Mortal Kombat: The Pinball Machine

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The owners of the rights to Mortal Kombat must have watched Spaceballs, because the MK characters sure appeared on a lot of stuff. Like the Kard Game, the Mortal Kombat Pinball Machine was an awkward attempt to siphon off the popularity of one game, into another type of game altogether. I love pinball, but I don’t really understand how they thought they could distill the experience of a simulated martial arts fight to the death, into the experience of hitting a small metal ball with two paddles. Try screaming “MORTAL KOMBAT!” and then playing this:

The small tabletop pinball machine was probably mostly purchased by confused parents who just asked the clerk at the toy store for the new Mortal Kombat game, leading to a lot of disappointing Christmas mornings.

2. Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins

vhsMortal Kombat: The Journey Begins was animated straight-to-video movie produced to coincide with the theatrical movie’s release. And by ‘produced’ I mean hastily thrown together in an effort to exploit children.
For starters, the movie is only 54 minutes. That’s barely longer than an episode of Law & Order, yet is was rented amongst new release movies at the time. The front cover of the VHS even desperately panders to fans noting that “Hidden Inside” are codes for the Mortal Kombat game.
The biggest problem with the video is the computer-animated segments. The cover of the tape boldly proclaims: “Go one step beyond virtual reality with 3D animation like you’ve never seen before!” This is what we got–

journey
Nope, not one step beyond virtual reality, more like one step inside of a class teaching computer animation for beginners. And 1995 was not that early for CGI, Reboot had been on the air for a whole year, and that show was great… I think. Just look how exciting they tried to make the video look in this promo video:

1. Mortal Kombat: The Live Tour

LiveIf you ever thought to yourself while playing the Mortal Kombat video game, “I would really like to see these characters to dance-fight each other with laser effects and a fog machine in the background” then this was the live event for you, weirdo. Following the success of the Mortal Kombat movie that summer, a live stage version opened that fall and, in an effort to drain America of every last penny, toured the country.
Like the Ninja Turtles show Coming Out of Their Shells, Mortal Kombat Live essentially took characters you have a previous association with and put them in a stage show you would never ever want to go see otherwise. Entertainment Weekly referred to it as a “spectacle of ineptly choreographed fights and incomprehensible plot developments.” And as an additional “fuck you” to parents, the plot concerned magical amulets that will save the world, which coincidentally were available for purchase in the lobby. Sure, you could not purchase one, but then you’d be dooming mankind.

For many, this unnecessary production put the Finishing Move on the Mortal Kombat franchise. Just try to enjoy the video game after you’ve seen the characters appear on this morning show:

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Top 5 Pop-Culture Characters Who Are Secretly Jesus

With tomorrow’s podcast reflecting the more secular bunny-worshiping aspect of Easter, with a discussion of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, we decided our Top 5 list should be a bit more pious. Hence, we have complied a list of our Top 5 Pop-Culture Characters Who Are Secretly Jesus– 5 actors who portrayed the son of God, then went on to play a beloved pop-culture character… but secretly, they retained some Jesusy overtones.

Apologies in advance if anyone is offended by this. Happy Easter, though!

5. Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Trilogy

BruceWayne

If there’s anybody who knows how to bear a cross, it’s Bruce Wayne. He’s a billionaire by birth, he has way cooler toys than everybody else, and yet he’s still all mopey about what it means to be a hero. The guy has to save everyone’s life and he won’t be happy until he dies doing it! Sound familiar? Well he looks familiar too, at least if viewing 1999’s Mary Mother of Jesus. This made-for-TV movie features Christian FUCKING Bale as the redeemer of the human race and was originally supposed to feature Madonna (who takes her name from the Mother of God and would later sleep with a guy named Jesus) as the titular virgin, before she dropped out in an unprecedented display of taste.

There are a lot of elements in the Dark Knight Trilogy ripped straight from The Bible; the whole being betrayed by your people thing, the classic dying-and-then-coming-back routine, the weird dad issues– but perhaps the most damning evidence that Bruce Wayne is in fact Jesus? Mark 14:48-50…

Mark 14:48-49 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?… but the scriptures must be fulfilled.

50 Spake the Lord unto his apostles; “Thy either dieth a hero or livest long enough to witness thineself become the villain.”

But just how did Bruce Wayne get back to 30 AD? You might think Lucius Fox has been cooking up a time machine at Wayne Enterprises? Of course, the truth is Morgan Freeman is, in fact, God… I’m assuming it’s the same ‘Bruce’ from Bruce Almighty.

4. Desmond Hume in Lost

desmond

Before Henry Ian Cusick was cast as the time-travelling Scotsman Desmond Hume on Lost, he portrayed J.C. in The Gospel of John. Narrated by Christopher Plummer (who, although he never appears on screen, I assume is in full Klingon garb) the film tells the story of Christ from the perspective of the Apostle John. Flashforward (whooooosh) two years later, and Cusick lands the role of Desmond on Lost, a character who looks EXACTLY like Jesus. Seriously, the long hair and the beard I understand, but why do both characters consistently flaunt an inappropriate amount of chest? Maybe they didn’t have buttons back in Jesus’ time, but I’m sure Desmond could have covered up a bit, he wears his shirt like it’s a dress at the Grammys.

Lost was consciously unsubtle in its references to varying religions, including heavy doses of Christian iconography (Virgin Mary statuettes filled with heroin, a character named Christian Shepherd, the last scene of the entire show). It seems likely that Cusick’s past work as Jesus at least partially informed the decision to dress him up as a long-haired, bearded dude who has sacrificed his life (all be it this time to live in an underground bunker pushing a button every 108 minutes to save the world). Plus, Jesus could also travel through time… you know, if he had a DeLorean or something.

3. Norman Osborn in Spider-Man

willem

If your idea of a messiah is the crazy-eyed Willem Dafoe, then you should re-evaluate your crazy religion– but if you do insist on shoving your bloody and action-packed religion in our faces, please hire Martin Scorsese to direct. As expected Dafoe makes for an intense savior, and when he says he’ll return, who knows what insane re-entry he’ll make?

Consider this one; Jesus returns as Norman Osborne. I know what you’re saying, Norman is the Green Goblin, Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis; a bad guy. How could this be King of Kings? Well firstly, Norman dies in the first movie but keeps showing up in the subsequent films, which is suspiciously Christ-like. Also, when he appears in Spider-Man 2 & Spider-Man 3,  it’s as a hallucination to his son Harry. This is very similar to how people who claim to have seen Jesus are usually worshiping an abnormally baked tortilla. Also, Harry takes up the Green Goblin identity and tries to kill a bunch of people in his dad’s name, just like people are always killing others in Jesus’ name.

The only problem with this theory is that there is a quasi-sequel to The Last Temptation of Christ in which Dafoe also appears: 2009’s Antichrist. Yeah. If you thought the Romans were harsh, wait ‘til you meet Lars Von Trier…

2. Admiral Piett from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi

piett

Sure Admiral Piett isn’t the most prominent, or even memorable, character in the Star Wars universe– but he did survive Empire and most of the way through Jedi, which is pretty impressive for an Imperial officer (seriously, like 90% of his co-workers were Force-choked to death by Darth Vader). Now the obvious Christ analogy could be seen in the fair-haired boy who lives in the desert and finds out he magical powers because of who the father he never knew was… BUT when taking into account that Kenneth Colley, who played Piett, appeared in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian (one of the greatest films of all time) as Jesus Christ, a new interpretation arises.

Suppose George Lucas cast Colley as Piett as a subliminal clue to Piett’s true identity: Space Jesus! Think about it, he died for the sins of man on board the Star Destroyer, when a crucifix-like A-Wing flies directly into it, and… aww, fuck it, this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever written… what’s Number One?

1. Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas

sarandon

Jesus Christ has a lot of titles, ‘The Messiah’, ‘Lamb of God, ‘Best New Wine Champion 28-29 AD’, but I bet you didn’t know he’s also the Pumpkin King. Now Christmas is a hot-button issue these days; Christians feel disrespected by the way the holiday has been secularized. Liberals, on the other hand, hate the baby Jesus and wish he was an older, fatter man who lives in the arctic– so you can see why Disney can’t come right out and say that Jack Skellington is Jesus Christ in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Once you notice that’s he voiced by Chris Sarandon though, it all makes sense. See, Sarandon played Jesus in the TV movie The Day That Christ Died, but there’s more to it than that. For one thing, they’ve both risen from the dead. Hm? Yeah? See?

Okay, you might think the connection is still a bit tenuous, but what about the fact that Jack tries to usurp Santa and take Christmas over? Why should he care so much about that particular holiday when the deals are better on Boxing Day or Black Friday? Unless he’s attached to that particular day because it’s his birthday. And the great thing about this interpretation is conservative Christian parents now have something in common with their gothy pre-teen daughter who carries around a Jack Skellington lunch-pail.

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Top 5 Post-Military Career Paths (According to Action Movies)

action

In anticipation of Thursday’s show about Under Siege, in which an ex-Navy Seal becomes a cook, we’ve decided to count down our favourite career paths for ex-military action movie characters.

5. Drifting (as seen in Hard Target, First Blood)

If a shaggy-haired drifter comes to your town, whatever you do, don’t pick a fight with them– according to action movies, there’s a high probability that they’re actually a highly-trained, potentially deadly, ex-military officer. For instance, in John Woo’s Hard Target, drifter Chance Boudreuax (played by Jean-Claude Van Damme) may seem scruffy and improbably-named, but he’s actually a kick-ass, punch-snake ex-Marine. While his drifter status causes his enemies to underestimate him (thus leading to their downfall), it is kind of a bummer that all of his friends are homeless. Also, between his dirty trenchcoat and his mullet, he probably smells terrible.

Similarly, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) in First Blood gets railroaded out of town by Sheriff Brian Dennhey (Brian Dennhey). Rambo soon becomes a one-man army, proving the old adage: overweight small-town sheriffs shouldn’t pick fights with lean, muscular guys wearing army fatigues.

4. Teaching (as seen in Dangerous Minds, The Substitute)

Once you’ve been in ‘the shit’, son, held your buddies’ GUTS in for him as he lay dying or strangled the last breath from your enemy’s throat with your bare hands, teaching sixteen year olds algebra isn’t as intimidating as you’d think. In fact, many teachers with military backgrounds discover a slew of transferable skills such as leadership qualities and practices in rhetoric. That’s how Michelle Pfeiffer as ex-Marine Louanne Johnson inspires a group of well-behaved Amish kids to behave well-er in Dangerous Minds (I haven’t seen it, just remember the song Weird Al did for the trailer).

In more extreme situations, however, you might need someone with real combat experience. Enter Tom Berenger in The Substitute (based on the song by The Who) who uses his experience in Vietnam to relate to his students, for whom every day is a battlefield… or he just kicks their asses, Berenger-style.

3. Police (as seen in Lethal Weapon)

The specter of the Vietnam war haunts the characters of the first Lethal Weapon movie– it’s like The Deer Hunter but with more saxophone music and partial nudity. Both Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and his new partner Riggs (Mel Gibson) fought in Vietnam, but Riggs was part of a super-secret Special Forces Unit called “Shadow Company” (you know it’s super-secret because it has the word “shadow” in its name) making him the titular Lethal Weapon. Riggs uses the skills he learned in the army to: fight barechested on the front lawn of a residential street, endure torture, bust Christmas-Tree vendors/drug dealers. Unfortuantly, not everyone in Shadow Company used their power for good. Which brings us to…

2. Crime (as seen in Lethal Weapon, The Rock)

Unfortunately many veterans struggle to find meaningful careers upon returning home from the front. Some are tempted by the wealth of opportunities in the burgeoning crime/evil sector. In Lethal Weapon, all he former members of Shadow Company that aren’t Martin Riggs have turned evil, including Gary Busey’s Mr. Joshua. Busey’s character serves as a dark reflection for Riggs, the moral-comprimised, less-handsome path not taken.

Depending on your former rank and experience you might land yourself a  “henchmen” gig, but if you have the stars like Gen. Francis X. Hummel (Ed Harris) in The Rock, you can jump right into your retirement dreams and finally take that “Capture Alcatraz/destroy San Francisco”  vacation you’ve been going on and on about for years.

1. President (as seen in Air Force One, Independence Day)

For those ex-military folks not cut out for cooking, drifting, teaching, solving crimes, or thieving, there is only one other possibility: Commander-in-Chief. For instance, in the film Air Force One (a movie so patriotic they should recite the screenplay in schools every morning like the Pledge of Allegiance) Harrison Ford plays President James Marshall (presumably the most American name they could think of) who gets McClaned on board the titular plane by a bunch of Russian thugs. What the Russians (led by Gary “I’m too good for this movie” Oldman) didn’t anticipate is that President Marshall is a Medal of Honor-winning Vietnam Vet, who vanquishes the evil foreigners using the sheer power of awesomeness.
Also, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Bill Pullman’s President Thomas J. Whitmore (the second-most American name) from the film Independence Day (a movie so patriotic, it compares Earth being invaded by Aliens to the U.S. revolting against the British). Luckily for the Earth (ie America) Whitmore is a former Gulf War fighter pilot, thus qualifying him to lead an attack against a giant alien mother-ship. Though, to be fair it’s actually Randy Quaid who saves the day… which is a sentence you don’t hear much anymore.

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Top 5 Least-Threatening Movie Dinosaurs

In anticipation of Thursday’s show, in which we discuss The Land Before Time, we’ve decided to rank our Top 5 Least-Threatening Movie Dinosaurs (because we’re adults, and we can spend our time however we like).

Note: We didn’t include any of the characters from The Land Before Time, because we’ll be talking a lot about them on the podcast, nor did we put Barney the dinosaur on this list, because we do, in fact, consider him to be threatening.

5. Rex from Toy Story

rex

What could be threatening about Rex? He’s 8 inches tall, made of green plastic and is meant to be a beloved toy for children. Voiced by prolific character actor Wallace Shawn, neither his nasally roar nor his cowardly blathering is particularly scary, even if Andy believes him to be “The meanest, most terrifying dinosaur who ever lived”. You see, Rex is only a terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex when imagined as terrifying. But if you really think about it, since dinosaurs are extinct, well, they’re only terrifying in our imagination as well.

The only thing more terrifying I can imagine is if actor Wallace Shawn were actually a carnivorous dinosaur–  If he were, he might have starred in a little Louis Malle film called My Dinner IS Andre.

4. Baby from Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend

baby

What could be less threatening than a baby dinosaur named Baby? Critically lambasted upon its release in 1985, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend concerns a family of dinosaurs living in the African jungle, for some reason. A husband and wife team of Paleontologists (Sean Young and William Katt) try to protect the aptly-named Baby (their second-choice for a name was “dinosaur”) from evil hunters played by Patrick McGoohan and Julian Fellowes. Of course, it’s debatable who you’d rather have in charge of a real-live dinosaur, the guy from The Prisoner and the creator of Downton Abbey, or The Greatest American Hero and the lady who dressed up like Catwoman that one time.

Borrowing its dinosaur special effects from a dinosaur-themed mini-golf course, the film is not especially good… at all… but the vulnerability of the titular character is memorable, warranting its inclusion on this list.

3. Yoshi from Super Mario Bros.

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When it was announced there would be a Super Mario Bros. movie, everybody was sure Mario’s cool new egg-laying dino-companion from his SNES game would at least make a kick-ass cameo. We would not be disappointed– except in every conceivable way possible. Re-imagined here as the pre-historic puppy that Dennis Hopper’s King Koopa kicks whenever he gets angry, this sad looking, animatronic Yoshi was perhaps the real “Game Over” point of this stupid movie, forcing us children to ask whether the mushroom kingdom was worth saving after all.

It didn’t help that Yoshi had to measure up to the dinosaurs of Jurrasic Park, which also came out in 1993. Steven Spielberg used a blend of animatronics and CGI to make dinosaurs that seemed realistic and scary. In stark contrast, this movie’s Yoshi looks more like a child’s hand-puppet that was left in a dirty puddle.

2. Theodore Rex from Theodore Rex

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I can only assume that the origin of writer/director Jonathan R. Betuel’s film Theodore Rex stemmed from the inherent comedic potential of noticing that both “Tyrannosaurus” and “Theodore” begin with the same letter. Following that line of thinking to its natural conclusion, we have a movie in which Oscar-Winner Whoopi Goldberg plays a cop teamed up with a talking dinosaur (in a future-world where society has resurrected dinosaurs and given them the ability to speak and wear sneakers, for some reason).

While Theodore is inarguably one of the least-threatening dinosaurs you could imagine, the problem with this movie is it’s fucking abysmal. This movie’s so bad that after verbally agreeing to star in it, Goldberg tried to back out and was slapped with a 20 million dollar lawsuit by the producers. She was literally was forced to do this movie!

Plus, the movie cost 33 million dollars! (to put that in perspective with another shitty 1995 sci-fi movie, Johnny Mneumonic cost 19 million). 33 million and we get a dinosaur costume that looks less convincing than Earl from the show Dinosaurs. Not surprisingly this was Beutel’s final film, and I can only assume his subsequent years were spent coasting on the goodwill of having written The Last Starfighter.

1. The Velociraptors from The Lost World: Jurassic Park

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While the Velociraptors were one of the most frightening elements of the original Jurassic Park, it was its sequel The Lost World that ultimately deflated any sense of threat the raptors posed. How? In the most infamous scene from the JP sequel, Jeff Goldblum’s daughter defeats the raptors by using only the power of gymnastics. Fucking gymnastics!

I’m sorry, but this scene not only tanks the climax of The Lost World, it retroactively negates the impact of the previous movie. Think about it– if, say, Michael Myers had that happen to him in one of the Halloween sequels, would he still be scary in the original Halloween? Hell no! Every time he was onscreen you’d be like, “Hey, there’s that asshole who got kicked in the head by a little girl doing gymnastics. What an asshole.” Same thing here. Presumably, this is why the raptors were almost entirely absent in the third Jurassic Park. Also, if you want your movie monsters to endure the test of time, don’t name a basketball team after them.

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Top 5 Secret Shakespeare Adaptations (That Tricked You Into Learning)

In anticipation of tomorrow’s show in which we discuss Baz Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, we’ve decided to count down our Top 5 Secret Shakespeare Adaptations. These are movies in which the Bard got the shaft, and was denied a motion picture credit, thus ruining his career in show business.

5. The Lion King

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After promising audiences a whimsical, Elton John song-infused, cartoon adventure, Disney’s The Lion King turned out to be dark, disturbing, Hamlet-esque tale of revenge– which, admittedly, contained some whimsy and a fair number of Elton Continue reading

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Top 5 Underrated Santa Clauses

With Christmas just around the corner, and our episode devoted to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer coming this Thursday (look for it on iTunes), we’ve decided to salute our Top 5 Underrated Santa Clauses. Sure Miracle on 34th Street was great, but stop hogging the spotlight Edmund Gwenn, give some other Santas a chance!

5. Douglas Seale & Oliver Clark in Ernest Saves Christmas

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Like a parasite which must find a new host once it has sucked the old one dry, so too must the spirit of Santa Claus bury itself within new flesh to renew the magic of Christmas. In 1988’s Ernest Saves Christmas, Jim Varney’s titular nitwit and a random runaway named Harmony must help an aged and doddering Santa (Douglas Seale) find somebody to take his powers before it’s too late. If they don’t then Christmas will be lost forever.

Santa has his eye on Joe Carruthers, a good-hearted former children’s television host (Oliver Clark) for the gig– but when St. Nick’s pick hesitates, Ernest must take up the reins of Santa’s sleigh in the interim and deliver all the weird glowing orbs to the good girls and boys. In the end, Carruthers comes around, putting on the suit to bring the world joy as Santa Claus for years to come (or at least until he falls from Tim Allen’s roof).

4. John Goodman in Futurama

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Who doesn’t love John Goodman? Nobody. Maybe some sort of Grinch-type character living in a mountain somewhere, but why do you care what he thinks? From Roseanne to The Big Lebowski to this year’s Argo, Goodman is one of the mostly reliably delightful actors of our time. In Futurama‘s “X-Mas Story” he voices a homicidal robot Santa in the year 3000! What’s more awesome than that?

Goodman would later reprise the role of Santa in a live-action remake of the Rankin-Bass special The Year Without a Santa Claus co-starring Delta Burke as Mrs. Claus (insert Delta Burke joke here).

3. Leslie Nielsen in All I Want For Christmas

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Clausin’ ain’t easy. There’s little glamour or glory for mall Santas, who spend the entire holiday season holding court across from the Old Navy, racing to get though each child’s list before the urine filled time-bomb on their lap goes off without warning. Then you get some precocious kid with the misguided, yet adorable, wish for her divorced parents to get back together. And that’s it, your entire weekend has gone to hell. This is why Santa drinks. Luckily for Thora Birch her local mall Santa happens to be both Leslie Nielsen and the real Santa Claus, who provides the requisite Christmas miracle to get her folks back together in All I Want for Christmas.

But how many kids from divorced families saw this movie and were given false hope they could pull off the same trick with their parents? And even if Santa did get them back together, we all know the moment the fat guy (Santa, not your dad) is up the chimney, they’d both be at each other’s throats again. Maybe you should have asked Santa for the Cabbage Patch doll after all. Nielsen once again donned the white beard for 2000’s Santa Who? in which old Saint Nick gets amnesia, and ends up wandering the streets of New York without any clue who he is or why he’s jonesing for gingerbread.

2. Ed Asner in Elf & Charles Durning in Elmo Saves Christmas

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We couldn’t choose between these two cranky character actors, so it’s a tie! First up there’s Ed Asner in Elf— casting the gruff former Lou Grant star as Jolly Old St. Nick may seem like an odd choice, but it pays off big time. Asner is both endearing and intimidating, just like the real Santa, I assume. Also Leon Redbone plays a Burl Ives-esque snowman which is pretty great.

Then there’s Charles Durning in Elmo Saves Christmas, a TV special from a time when Elmo made headlines for doing wholesome things like saving Christmas… unlike today… *cough*  Durning would go on to play Santa three more times, in Mrs. Santa Claus with Angela Lansbury, A Boyfriend for Christmas, and Mr. St. Nick starring Kelsey Grammer, presumably as Frasier Crane.

1. Art Carney in The Twilight Zone

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The Twilight Zone’s Christmas episode “Night of the Meek” is a touching story about a drunken department store Santa who actually gets to be Santa for a night! That’s right, he got to be Santa without killing him, Tim Allen! Anyways, Carney’s performance is chock-full of Yuletide pathos, enough to warrant his inclusion in the pantheon of great Santa Clauses.

Carney played Kris Kringle again in 1970’s The Great Santa Claus Switch (with The Muppets) and 1984’s The Night They Saved Christmas, which is about a ruthless oil company that threatens Santa by drilling in the North Pole! And, and, he was, of course, Chewbacca’s creepy family friend in The Star Wars Holiday Special— which makes Art Carney Christmas royalty in my book.

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