Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery

Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery (2014)

Doo not miss this Scooby/WWE mashup

Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery

Vince McMahon and the employees of his World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) enterprise have faced a great many challenges over the years. There have been steroid trials, a high death toll amongst performers and competition from other sports entertainment companies. One thing Mr. McMahon has not had to deal with was a blood thirsty ghost bear. Thanks to the newly released direct-to-home video flick Scooby- Doo! WrestleMania Mystery however, McMahon can now say that he has faced and overcome all possible challenges.

Scooby and his owner/best pal Shaggy are enjoying a night of hijinx, playing the latest video game offering from the WWE. After vanquishing a foe, they move onto the bonus level, where the game format inexplicably changes from wrestling, to a Dance Dance Revolution-style rhythm challenge. When Scooby achieves a perfect score, he is greeted with a video message from WWE head honcho Mr. McMahon, informing him that he has won a trip to WrestleMania, which is taking place in WWE City.

WWE City? Yes, in the world of Scooby Doo, WWE is not a traveling show, but its own city, complete with not only an arena, but training facilities, and all you can eat buffet restaurants. If Vatican City can exist, then why not a WWE City. The residents of both cities have their own J.C. which is central to their existence. The WWE’s version is their top star, and one of the heroes of this story, John Cena.

Scooby and Shaggy are eager to travel to WWE City, but their friends need a little arm-twisting, and not the kind that the WWE superstars like to do. Fred agrees so he can snap some photos with his fancy new camera. Velma decides to go so she can compare the WWE to ancient gladiatorial society. Daphne is adamant that she will not go, but changes her tune after taking a gander at the aforementioned John Cena.

So Scooby and pals go to WWE City, enjoy WrestleMania, and everything goes off without a hitch, right? Wrong! You see, WWE City is being terrorized by a ghost bear. Long ago, it was not uncommon for wrestlers to have matches with bears. No, this is not a wacky idea dreamed up for the purposes of this animated film. This actually used to happen. The site that would eventually become WWE City was once host to a match between a masked Mexican wrestler name Sin Cara Grande, who overcame the odds, and defeated the bear. Now after all these years, the bear is back – this time in ghost form, to seek vengeance.

Mr. McMahon is very worried about the bear. Not because he is concerned about the welfare of his fellow WWE City residents, but because he is afraid that something will happen to the extremely valuable WWE championship belt. So, after hearing of the legendary exploits of Scooby and pals, he hires them to be protectors of the belt. But Scooby and Shaggy find themselves in deep Doo Doo when the belt goes missing, and all signs point to Scooby being the culprit.

Justice is not dealt out in a courtroom in WWE City, but rather in the wrestling ring. Scooby and Shaggy must earn their freedom by competing against the WWE’s scariest performer, the nearly seven-foot-tall Kane. In the immortal words of Scooby, “Ruh-roh!”

Along with the voice work of Scooby regulars such as the Matthew Lillard, Mindy Cohn and the legendary Frank Welker, a host of WWE superstars are along for the ride, including John Cena, Kane, Triple H, AJ Lee, Sin Cara and The Miz.

Scooby Doo has had some incredible encounters over the years with stars such as Sonny & Cher, Don Knotts and KISS. Nothing has come close however to the magic created when Scooby first set his four feet onto WWE soil. Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery is a delight from start to finish. I Scooby-Dooby-Doo recommend that you download your digital copy from Amazon or iTunes, and then also purchase a physical DVD as well. It is important to have a backup, as watching Scooby over the years has taught me that people are always stealing things, and there might not be some meddling kids to prevent them from nabbing your copy of this excellent film.

Barbie: The Princess and the Popstar

Barbie: The Princess and the Popstar (2012)

Enthusiastic about fantastic plastic classic

Barbie: Princess and the Popstar

It is that time of the year when film critics put together their lists of the top films released the previous year. This all leads to the culmination in February when the Academy Awards are handed out. In 2012, the Oscars turned this film reviewer into a grouch when they honoured The Artist. Come on, that film featured neither colour nor sound! That’s like giving the Prostitute of the Year award to a streetwalker who only gives hugs.

I have confidence this year, however, that the Academy will make good after this gaffe and award their highest prize to a film that featured plenty of audio and an abundance of colour to a film that is, in this reviewer’s opinion, the best film released in 2012. On February 24, prepare to hear “and the Oscar goes to… Barbie: The Princess and the Popstar.”

Barbie: The Princess and the Popstar is the 23rd Barbie film, putting it just shy of the James Bond franchise – in quantity that is, certainly not in quality. The film is based on a work by Mark Twain, which likely will lead to him finally getting some respect 100 years after his passing.

This latest Barbie installment tells the tale of two young women who seem to have it all. Tori is the princess of the enchanted land of Meribella, and unlike members of Britain’s Royal Family, she isn’t likely to be photographed with her bits and pieces on display for the world to see. Keira is a chart-topping pop star who has performed across the globe.

Now it may sound like these two have it made. I mean, what woman (or man, for that matter) wouldn’t love being a princess or pop star with exorbitant wealth, a lavish wardrobe and probably a free subscription to HBO?

However, these two young women are not fulfilled. Tori is tired of the seemingly pointless ceremonies she has to attend, and never gets to truly be herself, always putting on airs under the watchful eyes of her controlling aunt. She dreams of a life away from the kingdom, and wishes she could be like her favourite singer, Keira.

Keira, likewise, is down in the dumps. Sure, her albums are selling like hotcakes – actually, much better than hotcakes; I mean, I don’t know a single person who has ever bought a hotcake. But despite her hotcake-dwarfing sales, Keira doesn’t have time to do what she really loves: composing music. Like starlets such as Britney Spears and Rihanna, it’s about the music to Keira, but she is being pulled in every direction by management and doesn’t have the time to sit down and write some new ditties.

So when Keira and Tori meet up one day, they magically change places and are able to live the life they dream of, if just for a short while. But, spoiler alert, they both come to realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

This is just an outstanding film for all ages. I watched the film with my two young children, and it was hard to say who enjoyed it more, although I was clearly doing the most clapping and pointing at the screen. Afterwards we discussed it, and I commented that the film contains a wonderful message for children, and also puts both the foibles of the monarchy and the music industry under the microscope. My four-year-old responded that she liked Keira’s dog, while my one-year-old simply said “woof” and then soiled himself. Rumour has it that renowned film critic Roger Ebert had the exact same response to the film.

I cannot wait to see Barbie get up on stage to accept the Best Picture Oscar for Barbie: The Princess and the Popstar. She might be the least plastic-looking person who attends the ceremony.

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story (1983)

A Christmas bore-y

Ralphie of A Christmas Story

Merry Christmas, everyone. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when people of all different backgrounds and beliefs come together to celebrate the birth of Passion of the Christ star Jesus of Nazareth. And nobody celebrates Christmas more than big-time Hollywood producers. Every year, we get classics like Santa’s Slay, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians and Santa With Muscles to unwrap. Now, I’ve reviewed the aforementioned films in the past (read the articles on cinemaconn.com, I’m trying to crack triple digits in visitor traffic this year), and I was hoping to review a film that was on par with those superb efforts this year. Unfortunately this year’s film, A Christmas Story, simply is not on their level.

A Christmas Story is a littleknown 1983 film that I had quite a bit of trouble tracking down. I eventually managed to find a retailer based in New Zealand that had a copy. So for a whopping $113.49 with shipping, I nabbed a copy. I’m going to be so pissed off if they end up showing this film on TV over the next month.

For those who have never heard of this film, here is a brief synopsis. The lead character of the film is nine-year-old Ralphie, and the film focuses on his obsession with the one gift he wants at Christmas: a Red Ryder BB Gun. Though the film was released in the 1980s, it takes place several decades earlier. Kind of like Happy Days. Unfortunately, there is no Fonzie present to save this utter dreck.

Throughout the film, Ralphie lies and manipulates at every turn in order to score the present. Spoiler alert, his parents actually buy it for him! Someone call child services! They buy him a gun. I’m surprised they didn’t throw in a bottle of Jack Daniels, some unfiltered Marlboros and the phone number of Miss Kitty, the town whore. A gun, seriously, great parenting. My daughter is three years old, and I won’t even let her use a fork. Do you know how hard it is to eat chicken breast with a spoon? She does. Sure enough, Ralphie nearly shoots his eye out after just a few minutes with it.

The film’s worst sequence is one of its last. After the family’s Christmas dinner is ruined by a pack of dogs run amok, the family is forced to dine at a Chinese restaurant. The waitstaff attempts to sing some Christmas carols, and here the writers choose to mock their culture by having them sing “Fa-ra-ra-ra” instead of “Fa-la-lala.” How deliciously racist. I don’t know why the filmmakers thought they had to go down this route. They could have made this scene more positive by showing the staff excelling by solving complex mathematical equations or doing some wicked Kung Fu moves, but instead decided to belittle these people.

Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie, never amounted to much after this role, and rightfully so. His portrayal of Ralphie was loathsome. Every year when Vince Vaughn stars in a movie, he insists that his best pal Peter receive a small role. So as long as Vaughn still has some stroke, Ralphie won’t need to hang out in the unemployment line.

Christmas is a time of joy, and this fine holiday does not deserve to have its name besmirched by appearing in the title of this lump of coal in all of our stockings. The cast, the director, the screenwriters, hell, even the on-set caterers deserve a permanent place on Santa’s naughty list. I wish my parents had bought me a BB gun so I could have shot my eye out and not have had to watch this turkey. To all those who are unaffiliated with this motion picture, may I say Merry Christmas. To those who did have something to do with the production of A Christmas Story, then may I draw your attention to the mistletoe hanging directly above my ass.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

Fine festive Finnish film

Rare Exports

Kind-hearted. Fat. Jolly. These are words that pop into most people’s minds when they think of world-famous Christmas celebrity Santa Claus. You know what words don’t usually pop into people’s minds when they think of Ol’ Saint Nick? Decrepit. Bloodthirsty. Nude. Well, the Santa Claus depicted in Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale will have you thinking all of these things the next time you hear “Ho, ho, ho.”

Rare Exports is a terrific Finnish-language film that is sure to make its way into your yearly holiday viewing rotation. As the movie opens, we learn that an excavation is taking place. This dig does not unearth something useless such as minerals, or even dinosaur bones. It is something far more spectacular: the grave of Santa Claus! Now, most graves contain deceased individuals in them, but not this one. Santa is alive and well. Alive, anyways.

The chief occupation of the village that this excavation takes place in appears to be reindeer hunting. So when someone beats them to the punch, the villagers are none too happy. The hunters assume the excavation team is behind the slaughter of their reindeer and plan to demand payment. That is when they first meet Santa Claus. He is old, he is evil and he is naked. I believe this is the first time a nude Santa has been seen in a motion picture, although to be honest I never did make it all the way through Miracle on 34th Street.

So instead of asking for restitution in the sum of $85,000 for their lost income, the hunters decide to capture Santa and demand a much larger sum. There is just one thing that is going to stand in their way: elves. But these are not the cute, cuddly elves that have been depicted by the likes of Will Ferrell and Dudley Moore. These are old, demented and, yes, nude Santa’s helpers. Thank goodness this film was not in 3D, as 50 elf penises coming right at me might forever turn me off Christmas.

Rare Exports is the greatest (and possibly only) export to come from Finland since NHL superstar Teemu Selanne. This Nordic film is a joy from start to Finnish. On a side note, I will be bringing my children to see Santa Claus at the mall this weekend. Hopefully I’ll return next week with another Christmas movie review, but if I do not make it back alive from meeting this possibly murderous fellow, I’ll just say that it has been a pleasure writing for this publication over these many years. And I pray that he is clothed.

Death Race 2000

Death Race 2000 (1975)

Death Race is ace
Death Race 2000
During his seven-decade career, Roger Corman has become know as the king of low-budget “B” movies. Among his most famous works are Women in Cages, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and the film I will be examining this week, Death Race 2000.

Death Race 2000 takes place appropriately enough in the year 2000. Our own year 2000 was pretty scary, with Y2K hanging over our heads, not to mention the release of Sisqo’s “Thong Song”. Well, apparently we could have had bigger issues. The film provides a very scary picture of what the future (or rather, our past) could have been.

In Death Race 2000, we learn that there is now only one political party in the U.S., and it is led by a cult-like figure named Mr. President. Life isn’t easy in this kind of system, but the people are kept happy by watching the televised Annual Transcontinental Road Race. It is kind of like the Daytona 500. Except it is three days long. Oh, and you also get rewarded for running over pedestrians. Infants and senior citizens casualties will get you the most points. Thankfully, our game shows haven’t gone in this life or death direction. Cash prizes and potential husbands and wives are all that are up for grabs.

There are several interesting drivers depicted in the film. The hero is Frankenstein (David Carradine), who is part man, part machine due to all of the crashes he has been involved in over the years. Frankenstein’s main rival is “Machine Gun” Joe Viterbo (Sylvester Stallone). Coming along for the ride are an array of buxom young blondes who make sure the film’s violence is balanced with a healthy portion of gratuitous nudity.

The race is simply a backdrop for a bigger story. A group of disenchanted individuals are sick of living under Mr. President’s regime and plan to take action. While the first script called for them to go live in a park for a few weeks to show their dissatisfaction, a re-write was ordered, one that called for them to attempt to kill Mr. President. Frankenstein finds himself involved in the plot, which leads to a thrilling conclusion as he tries to both finish the race, and do what he feels is best for the human race.

The late David Carradine is outstanding in this film as Frankenstein. Whether he’s cracking wise, running over old ladies or making sweet, sweet love to young ladies, Carradine shines. With all due respect to the great Jason Statham (who played Frankenstein in the 2008 remake, Death Race), there is no other actor who could hang with Carradine.

Sylvester Stallone is also tremendous in a rare villainous role. Some may not be aware that he even had a career before he hit it big with Rocky. Indeed he did, and it included not only this film, but also the 1970 softcore porn film The Party at Kitty and Stud’s. As “Machine Gun” Joe in this film, Stallone delivers an over-the-top (which coincidentally is the name of one of his best films) performance that ranks right up there with his finest works – Rocky, First Blood and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Roger Corman. Sure, he could have complained about his budgets. He could have bemoaned the fact that he isn’t among the one per cent of filmmakers who get the most money (people like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay), rather he is among the other 99 per cent. Instead of using his $400 smart phone to send out status updates about how he is constantly struggling financially, Corman put his nose to the grindstone and put food on his family’s table by producing the classics Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Wasp Woman and The Great Texas Dynamite Chase. The films of Roger Corman will always occupy a special place in my home video collection.

What Women Want

What Women Want (2000)

Made Mel shows sensitive side

Mel Gibson is one lucky man!

Oh sure, he’s going through some bad publicity…again. His management company dropped him, and he may never get to star in another major motion picture. So why is he lucky, you may ask?

The answer is quite simply because there is really nothing he could do now that would further damage his reputation. After his racist rant back in 2006, and the shocking verbal abuse directed towards his girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva recently, his career is irreparably scarred. If it was found out that he runs a dog fighting ring out of his basement, or burned down an orphanage, he would be no worse off. He’s a special kind of screwed right now.

What Women WantIn the interest of being topical, I thought I would delve in to the Mel Gibson catalogue of hit films this week. While some people might most fondly remember his Oscar winning Braveheart, or his successful Lethal Weapon series, to me Mel will always be Nick Marshall in the romantic comedy classic What Women Want.

Nick is a cocky advertising executive who treats women as mere objects. While Nick possesses the ability to get into most women’s pants, he cannot get into their heads. This is a problem, since companies are targeting the 18 to 34-year-old female demographic. Since Nick cannot relate to women, he is passed over for a big promotion, and must now report to his firm’s newest employee, Darcy McGuire (Helen Hunt).

Nick’s career seems like it is headed for a downward spiral, but a freak occurrence changes his fortunes. After suffering from electric shock, Nick discovers that he can hear every thought running through the minds of the women. Needless to say, this proves to be invaluable to someone who is given the task of selling products to the fairer sex.

Not only does this new ability help Nick’s career, but it also helps his personal life, chiefly his relationship with his teenage daughter, and his budding romance with his new supervisor Darcy. This all culminates in one of the most romantic moments in silver screen history, when Nick grabs hold of Darcy, looks her right in the eyes and tells her, “I need a woman, not a f—— little girl with a f—– dysfunctional c—. I need a f—— woman. I don’t need medication. You need a f—— bat to the side of the head. All right? How about that? You need a f—— doctor. You need a f- —– brain transplant. You need a f- —– … you need a f—— soul.”

Oh wait, that might not be what Gibson said, in the movie anyways. I think I got my notes messed up. Needless to say, it was pretty freaking romantic.

If Mel Gibson wants to do something that will change the way people look at him (and you would think that he would), he should constantly be referring to his role in this film. “Yes your honour, I did indeed threaten to kill her, but did you ever see What Women Want? That’s really more like me. I’m really sensitive, especially towards women. That phone call was just a one-time…sorry, threetime thing that is completely out of character.”

In the court of public opinion, Gibson may be in trouble now, but no judge or jury in the all the land would convict Mel Gibson after seeing What Women Want. That is, of course, unless they found him guilty of stealing our hearts.