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Unsolicited Musings On Humanoids From The Deep

- answering the question: what if Creature From The Black Lagoon combined elements of Jaws, Alien, and Halloween without managing to be more entertaining than Grease 2 and also there’s a ventriloquist?

- it’s astounding how many dead dogs this movie serves up in the first 15-20

- it’s astounding how this movie portrays ventriloquism as an aphrodisiac

- Doug McClure isn’t the most swashbuckling hero but I was with it until they put him in a hooded rain slicker; suddenly he’s the sad child waiting at the bus stop, fighting back tears because Papa won’t take him to “Barney: Live”

- disturbingly realistic: the gore; disturbingly unrealistic: tie between the dj who cannot correctly pronounce “salmon” in a town whose entire economy appears salmon-based (maybe that’s performance art, who knows) and the kids who go sunbathing at a beach in Washington state mid-Autumn

- you gotta respect the fact that once a character gets a black eye they keep it for the rest of the movie (Anthony Pena takes so many shots to the face by the end he looks like a rotten plum)

- I’m surprised Ann Turkel’s infamous “I’m a professional scientist!” line has never made it to a t-shirt

- Humanoids From The Deep is a dramatic and evocative title but a more accurate one would be Rapist Cabbage People vs. The Noble Indian, Sex-Crazed Teenagers, & Other Cinematic Stereotypes

- it’s a shame this was one of Vic Morrow’s final movies; at least he commits, and I’ll be damned if his perm + creeper mustache combo ain’t happenin’

Unsolicited Yule On “Christmas At Pee Wee’s Playhouse”

- this special has a higher rating on IMDb than Home Alone, proof Chris Columbus faulted by not hiring Charo to play Macaulay Culkin’s mom

- Spellcheck knows “Macaulay” but not “Culkin”

- it’s just now dawning on me that despite his physical adultosity Pee Wee Herman is supposed to be a child and therefore lacks the maturity to always make correct judgments or decisions; it helps to consider this when viewing, for one minute PW is telling us that giving to others is the real meaning of Christmas and the next he’s enslaving Frankie & Annette to draw his Xmas cards so he can play in the snow with Magic Johnson

- every celebrity you’d expect to appear on a Pee Wee Herman Christmas special from 1988 does: Cher, Little Richard, Dinah Shore, Zsa Zsa Gabor, the Del Rubio Triplets, k.d. lang, and Grace Jones (who arrives en route to a White House visit; because she is Grace Jones, however, she is traveling via the U.S. postal system in an oversized Christmas present box; probably cheaper than a plane ticket)

- similarly, every “Playhouse” regular you’d expect to appear does: Pterri, Randy, Chairy, Floory, Konky, Miss Yvonne, the King of Cartoons, Reba, Cowboy Curtis, Clocky, the Countess, Cool Cat, Chicky Baby, Dirty Dog, Penny, the dinosaurs in the wall (who are Jewish!), and of course Billy Bologna (my personal favorite for reasons I will never be able to fully convey/understand)

- this is the tv special that birthed the famed “Feliz Navi-blah” exchange; Ricardo does a great job keeping his patience as Pee Wee butchers his native language (does PW even go to school or is he just another dirty uneducated backwoods truant?)

- there’s a scene where Randy, the obnoxious marionette whose usual rap is cruelly teasing Pee Wee/the Playhouse denizens, attempts to make a point about the commercialization of Christmas; PW counters with something like, “Fine, then we won’t give you any gifts!”, which prompts Randy to backtrack; I don’t know why I expected PW to acknowledge Randy’s point or allow the least likable character to engineer a teaching moment, I don’t even know why PW lets Randy live in his Playhouse when all he does is disagree with and shit on everyone else (I have to assume they’re brothers and they were willed into joint ownership of the Playhouse)

- Joan Rivers cameos for a nanosecond from the set of “Hollywood Squares,” the only indication all of this is taking place in “the real world”

- Little Richard should have received an Emmy/Golden Globe/extra pinky ring for his dramatic “I quit ice skating!” speech

- the climax of “Xmas @ PWP” occurs when Santa Claus shows up to basically announce he’s canceling Christmas because Pee Wee asked for too many toys; this could have been the tipping point for PW’s transformation into complete sociopath, but (SPOILER ALERT) the man-child quickly remembers “the true meaning” of 12/25

- at first the fruitcake jokes seem like they aren’t going anywhere, but trust me, they pay off in a marvelous visual gag

- they should have added another hour to this gaudy cheese-fest and released it theatrically in place of Big Top Pee Wee

- if you’re forcing a grade out of me, how about A for vision, B for execution

- speaking of execution, I’d like to see Randy die in the electric chair

Unsolicited Bantha Poodoo RE: The Star Wars Episode VII Teaser

- they’ve finally discovered the best way to move a robot around the desert: glue it to a beach ball

- every single film made in this day and age must feature a sequence that takes place in the rear of a cargo plane; if you don’t like it, move to Siberia

- yo, that girl is driving a giant stick of deodorant

- yo, that lightsaber has a mustache

- YOU WANTED THE BEST YOU GOT THE BEST THE HOTTEST SPACESHIP IN THE GALAXY THE MILLENNIUM FALCON [guitar solo]

- can America accept a Millennium Falcon with a square satellite dish?

- no shot of C-3PO clasping hands w/ Chewbacca a la Predator?

- this entire movie might take place in one afternoon on the last day of school (excuse me, the last day of space school)

- overall these table scraps make Star Wars 7 look reasonably exciting; guess I should start working on the Bib Fortuna costume I will wear when I camp out for opening night

- on the other hand, if I find out Max Rebo isn’t in this I’m switching to Battlestar Galactica (the original, with Dirk Benedict)

Boogeyman In A Bathing Suit

For Halloween this year I finally answered the question what would it be like if Michael Myers went on a Florida vacation? No way he’s wearing the mask in this humidity. I don’t need it anyway—I’m pale and shapeless enough.

The aerobic figure to the right is actually Laurie Strode herself (click here for proof), though her appearance here is coincidental. My roommate is involved in legitimate theater and as such has an enormous print of Jamie Lee Curtis from Perfect. We stuck it on the side of the fridge a long time ago for reasons I fail to remember. Forgot she was there when I snapped the above pic.

Hope y’all had a spooky ooky Samhain. I sat around the house listening to Slayer and eating pierogies, because I’m an American and that’s my right.

Unsolicited Free Floating Vapors On Feigbusters (GhostFeigers?)

The original Ghostbusters crew had 25 years to make a third movie. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen (and now it can’t happen because Harold Ramis is dead). It’s actually a little weird Sony didn’t force this beloved (and enormously profitable) property into someone else’s hands sooner. I know Murray, Ramis et al had something of a tontine when it came to the rights, but everyone has a price. Chinese Democracy came out before Ghostbusters 3. Do you really believe Axl Rose is more reasonable than Bill Murray?

Still, fans are apoplectic over the announced reboot, as if Paul Feig will simultaneously be erasing the first two movies from history. It’s difficult to comprehend some of the ire. Complaints have already surfaced from die-hards who are upset they’ll now have to share convention space with people cosplaying as Feig’s Ghostbusters; the new technology, you see, will clash with their expertly recreated 1984 proton packs. Guess these costumers never stopped to consider how much some of us detest seeing guys with goatees and backwards Yankee hats parading around as “Ray Stantz.”

I love Ghostbusters so much I’m currently working on a book about its entire history, but I have no problem admitting that up to this point the series has been a rigid boy’s club where female characters aren’t given much to do (even Gozer only takes the form of a woman for about one minute). Paul Feig’s decision to “star hilarious women” in the reboot is refreshing and fun and much needed, and fans who are disagreeing need to cop to their own throbbing sexism. Female-based entertainment is not “a gimmick.” The fictional activity of ghostbusting is not “too rigorous” for women.

Key point: ghostbusting is fucking imaginary. Gender bias in real life is bad enough. Extending it to the land of make believe, that’s insane. “You can pretend to be anything, except this one thing that makes me uncomfortable for some dumb reason, because I’m threatened by change even in a fake world where marshmallow creatures go on rampages.”

I think it’s also worth noting that Katie Dippold, the scribe for Feigbusters, works on “Parks & Rec,” a show I’d consider female-centric but one that also boasts some of the funniest, most fleshed-out, and just plain interesting male characters available. The door swings both ways.

Admittedly, this reboot could crash and burn. Previous experience doesn’t mean jack. Dan Aykroyd has to wake up every day knowing he made Doctor Detroit. Yet, even if Feigbusters turns out to be the new Heaven’s Gate (are my references dusty enough for you?), who cares? It’s just one movie. It’s not meant to replace anything. If it’s really atrocious we can just pretend it never happened, like Rocky V or the Halloween with Paul Rudd or Rob Zombie’s Halloweens or the Dumb & Dumber prequel or Ace Ventura Jr.

My only real investment: I hope they make the Ectomobile cool. I don’t have any suggestions because I’m not really a car person…just make it cool. You know, like stylish but also kinda nerdy. Like the original.

Q: “Twin Peaks” Is Coming Back! Aren’t You Shocked?

A: Y’all probably think I make these questions up in some weird narcissistic game, but they’re all based on true life events. My roommate blurted this out last night, oddly enough, as part of a response to a query I had about his Ghostbusters fandom. Welcome to Pop Culture: The Florida Condo.

No, I’m not shocked that “Twin Peaks” is returning, at all. If you browse Tumblr for more than five seconds you can see this show (along with “X Files”) has managed to captivate a whole new generation of people who crave somber weirdos, damaged beauties, and Jack Nance (who was a little of both). David Lynch has probably always hoped for some kind of do-over on that last “TP” season. What better time than now? It is 25 years after that lady said that thing in the dream. Also, “The Cleveland Show” got cancelled.

It’ll be interesting to see what they do. “Twin Peaks” was one of the first “adult” shows I watched, or was allowed to watch. I’m not sure I understood how odd it was, comparatively speaking, but I enjoyed it because it was a crime drama. There was a point, and they made it captivating (even when it got kinda dumb toward the end). “Northern Exposure,” on the other hand…did they spin that series out of a Folger’s commercial?

If the new “Twin Peaks” is terrible I have dibs on the headline “AGENT FAIL COOPER.” Alternate: “THERE’S A SHIT IN THE PERCOLATOR!”

Ancient Central Florida Secret: The Splendid China Winn-Dixie

Splendid China: one of Central Florida’s more noteworthy theme park failures. “Failure,” of course, is a relative term. The seventy-five acre space that recreated in miniature some of mainland China’s finest attractions (the Great Wall, the Leshan Buddha) managed to remain open for ten whole years. That’s twice as long as Boardwalk & Baseball.

Unfortunately, for more or less its entire existence, Splendid China was plagued by controversy. Critics lambasted the park, which was purchased by the Chinese government before its 1993 opening from Taiwanese American founder Josephine Chen, for appropriating from other Asian cultures, pushing Communist propaganda, and financial mismanagement (the gov’t owners insisted on importing building materials from China, often at sixteen times the cost). Once Splendid China closed its doors permanently it became a hotspot for ne’er-do-wells, who snuck in through the poorly sealed entrance to steal and/or destroy the abandoned miniatures.

What was left of Splendid China was allegedly demolished last year, but there’s still a large satellite monument to the deleted park’s existence. On West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway in Kissimmee you’ll find an entire shopping plaza that mimics the architecture we all associate with the Far East (though only in Florida will you find turquoise pagodas). The plaza’s centerpiece is a Winn-Dixie, but you won’t see that grocery chain’s familiar logo anywhere on the building exterior. The only signal anything occupies this space is the presences of Winn-Dixie’s less recognized subtitle, “Marketplace,” above the entryway.

The photo above depicts what you see the moment you enter Kissimmee’s Splendid China Winn-Dixie. Three tiny figures on the balcony of a more realistic-looking pagoda, beckoning you in with warm off-brand “It’s A Small World” charm. As you can see, this store also makes extensive use of track lighting. I’m not sure how true that is to Chinese custom but it certainly gives a grocery store an otherworldly atmosphere.

What’s most interesting about the Splendid China Winn-Dixie is how it seems to cater most exclusively to a British clientele. At any given moment I’d wager a third of Kissimmee’s population is British tourists killing time between laps around the Magic Kingdom. This supermarket is one of the closest there is to Disney, and their selection of imported English products is staggering. Entire endcaps overflowing with big blue cans of Heinz Beans, Lion bars, and slim glass bottles containing a creamy liquid identified only as “salad sauce.”

I didn’t engage any of the employees about what their professional lives are like at the Splendid China Winn-Dixie, but you can sorta see it on their faces. They know they work in a store that’s still modeled after a theme park that closed in 2003. Talking about it isn’t going to make stocking shelves under track lighting any easier.

And yet the place somehow seems decidedly less bizarre than the Planet Hollywood that continues to thrive on Disney property, that drab grey globe surrounding itself with a moat(!) and the miserable spirits of ’90s Hollywood hubris. A restaurant venture between Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis is something that should have remained relegated to the margins of Last Action Hero, not formed fully in our three dimensional world.

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