Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Scooby Doo! and the Goblin King

Premiered September 23, 2008.

"He who holds the Goblin Scepter holds the power of Halloween in his grasp."
-The Amazing Krudsky

On Halloween, Scooby Doo (Frank Welker) and his friends from Mystery Inc. are having a great time at Coolsville’s Halloween Carnival.  The gang decides to attend the Amazing Krudsky’s (Wayne Knight) magic show.

When Scooby accidentally splashes water on Krudsky, the dog is barred from attending the show.  This prompts Shaggy (Casey Kasem) and Scooby to sabotage Krudsky and reveal that his magic is fake.  This revelation causes the audience to walk out on Krudsky’s show, and the magician vows revenge.

Scooby and Shaggy’s actions get the gang kicked out of the carnival.  They decide to go Trick Or Treating, Scoob and Shaggy wear multiple costumes...

 ...in order to maximize their treats.

Elsewhere, Krudsky is furious about being exposed.  Through a chance encounter with a fairy named Princess Willow (Hayden Penatiere), the magician learns of the Goblin Scepter, fabled wand of the Goblin King (Tim Curry).  Whoever possesses the scepter will control the magic of Halloween.  Krudsky uses a spell to steal Princess Willow’s magic powers, which gives him “the power of the light.”

After knocking on every door in the area, Scoob and Shaggy trick or treat at a mysterious mansion that turns out to be Mr. Gibble's Genuine Magic Shoppe.  They learn that Gibble (Wallace Shawn) knows the secrets of wielding real magic.

Princess Willow shows up at Gibble’s seeking help and tells him he must close up his shop.  She tries to warn them that Krudsky is chasing her and will attack the magic shop, but it’s too late.  The magician arrives, turns Gibble into a rabbit, captures Willow and flies away with a bunch of magic supplies.

Gibble explains that Krudsky has gone to the Land Of Halloween Spirits in order to get the Goblin Scepter.  This would enable Krudsky to unite the power of the light with the power of the dark and destroy the balance of the supernatural order.  If Krudsky succeeds, the powers of Halloween Night will rule the world forever and turn everyone into monsters.

Gibble tells Shaggy and Scooby it’s up to them to save the day.  They must find the castle of the Goblin King and get to the scepter before Krudsky captures it.  If they can’t accomplish this before midnight, the world is doomed!

Scooby and Shaggy encounter some interesting friends and foes on their Journey:

Glob (Jim Belushi) and Glum (Larry Joe Campbell), a duo of shadow goblins who attempt to capture Shag and Scoob when they hear they're seeking the Goblin King.

Jack O’Lantern (Jay Leno), a talking pumpkin who helps them escape from the shadow goblins.

The Headless Horseman, Jack’s “partner” who chases Shaggy and Scooby through a pumpkin patch!

The Grand Witch (Lauren Bacall), who gives our heroes a flying magic broom to help them reach their destination.

And last, but definitely not least, the Goblin King himself!

Can Scooby and Shaggy save the world from Krudsky?

J.A. Morris says:

I should mention that Scooby Doo and the Goblin King has a running time of 75 minutes.  That means it’s much longer than a typical Scooby episode.

The animation in this special looks great.  The voice actors are very good.  Casey Kasem was still alive when this was produced, so it’s nice to hear him voice Shaggy.  Frank Welker, the original voice of Fred, is back and also voices Scooby Doo.

The “guest” voice actors include several A-list talents.  Lauren Bacall brings a lot of gravitas to the witch.  Wallace Shawn makes Gibble an endearing character.  Tim Curry provides a great voice for the Goblin King and Wayne Knight is entertaining as the villainous Krudsky. 

The story here is basically good and the stakes are pretty high.  Shaggy and Scooby have to save the world from Krudsky.  That’s a bit more serious than figuring out the identity of the fake ghost or monster of the week.  The Headless Horseman is always a welcome addition to any Halloween special.

The train Scoob and Shag take to the Land Of Halloween looks pretty cool.

But Goblin King also has several problems.

It’s full of songs that feel like padding so the special could be “feature length.”  These songs aren’t bad, but most aren’t relevant to the plot and they do nothing to forward the story.

The depiction of Velma (Mindy Cohn) is problematic at best.  She’s always been the brains behind Mystery Inc, here’s she’s just a victim.  Making matters worse, there are two moments in Goblin King that insult Velma’s physical appearance (which my co-blogger will further discuss below).

Considering the talents involved and the great animation, Scooby Doo and the Goblin King could have been a classic Halloween special.  I enjoyed some of Scooby and Shaggy’s adventures and Tim Curry always makes everything better.  I’m recommending it for hardcore Scooby-philes and fans of the guest voice actors.  But the problems I mentioned keep it from getting a higher rating.

J.A. Morris’ rating:

2 and a half jack o’lanterns

RigbyMel says: 

There is a LOT going on in Scooby Doo and the Goblin King.   So much is going on that it feels like the writers didn't feel like they had enough material to fill out the time allotted to them in a feature length format.  Hence, they just kept throwing elements into the mix rather than trying to fully develop any of them.   

So we get Halloween, magicians,  fairy princesses, ghost trains, real monsters, witches, talking pumpkins, skeleton musicians, trick or treating, magical tarot cards, real monsters, the goblin king and it is ... exhausting.

As J.A. Morris mentions above, I also have big problems with the way Velma is treated in this.  Rather than being shown to be brainy, occasionally sarcastic and necessary to the Mystery Inc. gang, she comes off as a gibbering, shrill killjoy and winds up repeatedly depicted as a dog  (ok, werewolf, whatever).  Daphne (Grey DeLisle)gets turned into a witch and while not exactly a sexy witch, she at least stays more humanoid in her transformation.

The animation in Scooby Doo and the Goblin King is of reasonably high quality and the voice talent is top notch, it's just a shame it wasn't used in service of a better told tale.  Halloween and Scooby Doo would seem to go together like peanut butter and chocolate,  I feel like the writers could have done more to make this confection better.

RigbyMel's rating: 

1 and a half jack o'lanterns 

Friday, September 13, 2019

The New Scooby Doo Mysteries: "A Halloween Hassle In Dracula's Castle"

Scooby Doo made his debut 50 years ago today (September 13, 1969).  In honor of the occasion, we're starting our Halloween reviews a bit earlier than usual this year.  Happy Birthday, Scoob!

Premiered October 27, 1984

On Halloween, Scooby Doo (Don Messick), Shaggy (Casey Kasem), Daphne (Heather North) and Scrappy Doo (Messick again) visit a costume shop.  Scooby and Shaggy are terrified when two space aliens arrive at the shop.  

Their fears are put to rest when the "aliens" unmask and reveal themselves to be Scooby’s old friends Velma (Marla Frumkin) and Fred (Frank Welker)!

The costume shop's owner (Hamilton Camp), who is wearing a Dracula costume, and his assistant (Phil Hartman), who’s dressed as Igor, overhear Scrappy mention that he and his friends are ghostbusters.

The owner tells Scooby that he's the shop's millionth customer.  The prize is an invitation to the town's best Halloween party, which is held at a spooky castle.

When they arrive, the Scooby gang is impressed with the very convincing costumes worn by the party-goers. 

Every is having a good time at the Halloween party, when suddenly, the party is crashed by the ghost of Dr. Van Helsing (Hartman again), Dracula’s old enemy.  The ghost attacks them with garlic gas, which repels vampires.  

When Van Helsing disappears, Dracula reveals to Scooby and friends that he is the REAL Count Dracula and that the other partygoers are also real monsters.  He reveals that he invited the gang to his party because he and his fellow monsters need their help in stopping the ghost of Dr. Van Helsing!  

Can Scooby and the gang find a way to capture Van Helsing’s ghost and save Halloween?  

J.A. Morris says:
This is a fun Scooby Doo cartoon made better by the Halloween setting and the presence of Dracula.  It was interesting to see the Lord Of Vampires portrayed in a (relatively) positive way.  And it was nice to see that even vampires, werewolves and mummies are afraid of ghosts (at least they are in this series).  

If you’re not familiar with this iteration of the Scooby Doo series, its regular cast consisted of Scooby, Shaggy, Daphne and Scrappy.  Velma and Fred made only occasional appearances, so  it’s nice to see the whole mystery gang reunited in this Halloween episode.

Other than that, it’s a typical episode of Scooby Doo.  We get chase scenes, Scooby and Shaggy acting gluttonous (and Scooby eating all the food!) and the gang works together to solve a mystery.

Like most episodes, “A Halloween Hassle” features solid voice work from the cast.  Don Messick, Casey Kasem and Frank Welker were the original voices of Scooby, Shaggy and Fred (respectively) and they’re as great as ever here.  Heather North was the second voice actor for Daphne and voiced her for thirty years.  North also delivers a good performance.  

“A Halloween Hassle At Dracula’s Castle” is no classic, but it’s a fun way to revisit these beloved characters during the Halloween “season.”  Recommended for all fans of Dracula and Scooby Doo.

J.A. Morris’ rating:

3 Jack O’Lanterns.

RigbyMel says: 

This mid-1980s installment of Scooby Doo is enjoyable because of its Hallween setting and the presence of "real" monsters like Dracula and the Wolfman, but it's definitely not a classic.     All Scooby Doo episodes tend to be pretty formulaic, which is part of their charm and the inclusion of our "real" monsters adds some spice to the formula, but somehow, it doesn't quite tie together for me, even as a Scooby fan of long standing.

I did appreciate that we got appearances by other "real" monsters like the Invisible Man,  the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Frankenstein's monster and as J.A. Morris mentions above, the voice work is great.  However, there's just a little bit too much going on with subplots involving amulets and magical transformations to make it completely satisfying, plus the low budget animation feels a bit lower budget than usual.

There is one scene that really amuses me where the gang rallies the monsters to fight back against the ghost's depredations,  Dracula and his wife (sadly, she's not named really) decide to drink some "red juice" to get their mojo going. 

Evidently, mentioning that vampires drink blood was not permitted for Saturday morning cartoons at the time.

It's also interesting to note that this mid-80s incarnation of the show features theme music that suggests Michael Jackson's "Thriller", which was a monster (pun intended) hit at the time.

Scrappy Doo is displeased about the only costume in the shop that fit him
If you're a fan of Scooby & his pals, plus classic monsters,  "A Halloween Hassle At Dracula's Castle" is fun to watch, but you probably won't need to watch it more than once, unless you're a kid.

RigbyMel's rating: 

2.5 jack o'lanterns

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Holiday Film Reviews celebrates a Holiday Season of anniversaries!

Hello faithful readers!  As you are likely aware, the Holiday Season is just around the corner!  We're planning to post some special reviews between now and January.

If you’re not aware, the year 2019 is a big year for anniversaries in film and television.  Back in February, we mentioned that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the premier of Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, which introduced everyone’s favorite mystery solving talking Great Dane.  Scooby and the gang were a big part of our Saturday mornings when we were kids.

Sesame Street also celebrates its 50th birthday this year.  Big Bird, Susan, Gordon, Maria, Bob and Oscar et al helped us learn how to read out count.

If that’s not enough, The Simpsons turns 30 this year!  We’ve been fans of the Simpsons since they first appeared in short cartoons on The Tracy Ullman Show.   In fact, the first full-length episode of The Simpsons was a Christmas episode.

Needless to say, we’ve got reviews of holiday episodes of all these series on the way!

Furthermore, Rankin/Bass’ animated special Frosty The Snowman turns 50 this year.  We covered the show in one of our early reviews, back in 2007 when were still figuring out what we wanted this blog to be.  We may say a bit more about Frosty this December.

And Rudolph, The Rednosed Reindeer turns 55 this year.  We haven’t reviewed that classic special yet, since we figured it’s well known enough without our help, and because we didn’t know if we had anything to say about Rudolph that hasn’t already been said.  Perhaps we’ll weigh in on the most famous reindeer of all, if we have the time.

We’ve previously reviewed other specials and episodes that feature these characters, here are links to those reviews:

Scooby Doo:
The Scooby Doo Show: "The Headless Horseman Of Halloween"

A Scooby-Doo Halloween

The Simpsons:
"Bart Vs. Thanksgiving"

 "The Simpsons Halloween Special II"(A.K.A. "Treehouse Of Horror II")

"Treehouse Of Horror XXIV"

“Miracle on Evergreen Terrace”

Sesame Street:
A Muppet Family Christmas (features Muppets from Sesame Street)

Check back tomorrow when we celebrate Scooby Doo’s 50th birthday!

J.A. & Rigbymel

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: “My Mom, Greg’s Mom, and Josh’s Sweet Dance Moves”

Premiered November 30, 2015.

“Man, the holidays blow when you're old.  I'm not even allowed to sit on Santa's lap anymore.”
-Josh Chan

As Hanukkah approaches, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) is preparing for her a holiday visit from her mother Naomi (Tovah Feldshuh).  Since her mother is Jewish, Rebecca takes down all her Christmas decorations...

 and replaces them with symbols of Hanukkah.

She is afraid her judgmental mother will not approve of her friends and her new life in West Covina, California.  Rebecca most definitely doesn’t want Naomi to know she gave up her high-paying job in New York and moved to West Covina in romantic pursuit of Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III).

She is also hoping that her mother will give her the Garfinkel ring, a family heirloom.

Elsewhere, Josh tells his friend Greg (Santino Fontana) that he no longer enjoys the holiday season because he has too many adult responsibilities, like working double-shifts at his job.

Greg isn’t happy either, he’s dreading the annual lavish "Christmas Eve Eve" dinner at his mother Shawna’s (Mel Harris) home in Beverly Hills.  He believes Shawna left him when he was a kid and has never forgiven her.

Greg later runs into (Rebecca’s neighbor) Heather (Vella Lovell), who is working as an elf at the mall. Heather says she loves big holiday gatherings and wants to attend the dinner.  Greg agrees to bring Heather, so someone besides him can witness his mother’s monstrosity.

Will Naomi blow up at Rebecca and ruin their Hanukkah celebration?  Can Greg make it through dinner at his mother’s house?  Will Josh find a way to enjoy the holiday season?

Plus, Darryl (Pete Gardner) gets upset when he’s the only one in the office who is observing National Christmas Sweater Day!

RigbyMel says:

This episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend leans into holiday anxieties and contrasts between childhood and adulthood.   Rebecca desperately wants to impress her mother and is willing to go to extremes with her “level 5 Mom pleaser” tendencies. 

She goes so far as to enlist her best friend Paula to pretend to be a British Jew in order to impress Naomi.   In point of fact,  Donna Lynn Champlin -- who plays Paula -- hits this scene out of the park!  “Tea and matzo, anyone?”

Greg is dealing with familial awkwardness of a different sort and his feelings about his mom turn out to be unwarranted.  Heather has to shake him out of his lack of appreciation in her inimitable deadpan fashion -- plus she gets to enjoy free food. “The whole reason I came here was because I thought you were cute and they were going to be terrible.  But YOU’RE terrible and they’re cute.”

Josh grows up a bit when he learns that a group of teenage hip-hop dancers worship him as "Mr. Chan," since he danced for the same dance troupe in high school.  This makes it easier for him to enjoy the holiday season.

The holiday setting provides great opportunity for songs (the show IS a musical, after all) - including Tovah Feldshuh’s klezmer inflected “Where’s The Bathroom?” and the appropriately Beach Boys-esque “California Christmastime,” which features the entire cast singing and dancing its way through the West Covina Mall.

“My Mom, Greg’s Mom, and Josh’s Sweet Dance Moves” is charming, witty and hilarious and is highly recommended as is the entire Crazy Ex-Girlfriend series.

RigbyMel’s rating:

3 and a half candy canes and 3 and a half dreidels. 

J.A. Morris says: 

I agree with most of what my co-blogger wrote.  This is one of my favorite episodes of this great series. 

One thing I appreciate about “My Mom, Greg's Mom and Josh's Sweet Dance Moves!” is that I think it could work as a good introduction to the series, which isn't always the case with holiday episodes.  The storylines about difficult family interactions and holidays being less fun as we age are certainly relatable to a lot of people.  So this episode can be enjoyed without knowing all the backstories of the characters.

It’s also nice to see another holiday episode that includes Hanukkah and acknowledges that not everyone celebrates Christmas.

Both songs in the episode are very catchy and funny.  “California Christmastime” has become one of my favorite modern Christmas songs.  The closing performance of the song always makes me smile and it’s been on my holiday playlist every year since this episode aired.

And Tovah Feldshuh's performance of "Where's The Bathroom" is hilarious.

As the episode's title promises, Vincent Rodriquez III, who plays Josh, gets to show off his "sweet dance moves."

Fans of the 1980s series thirtysomething will appreciate that Greg’s mother Shawna is played by Mel Harris, who played Hope Murdoch Steadman on that series.

"My Mom, Greg's Mom and Josh's Sweet Dance Moves!” is highly recommended for all fans of Christmas and Hanukkah programming and it gets my highest rating  If you’re not already a fan of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, this episode will make you a fan!

J.A. Morris’ rating:

4 dreidels and 4 candy canes!