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Friday, July 29, 2016

Jem Reviewed: Episode 19 - The Princess and the Singer

Last week in Jem Reviewed, the Holograms won a competition in Hawaii without cheating, and it turned out to be somewhat of a halfway decent show.  I'm afraid I cannot say the same for this week's episode.  I hate it.  I mean, I really, REALLY hate it.  I'll explain why as you keep reading.

It's time for Episode 19 - The Princess and the Singer.

The setting for this episode is the fictional country of Morvania.  And, no - it's not the place where the whole cast of "Dynasty" got shot.  I believe that was Moldavia.  Wherever in the world this place is, it's quite small.  It may even be smaller than Luxembourg. 

But apparently Jem and the Holograms are there because the princess of the country just happens to be a huge fan of theirs, and she has personally sent them an invite for them to perform for a grand concert. 

Right off the bat, Kimber seems less than impressed with the small country and vocally complains all about it because in all likelihood, there aren't any single men for her to latch onto.  Jem reminds her that they are there as guests of the country and that she should be more grateful.  It's about time Jem started scolding Kimber for her whiny behaviour.

Besides, it seems as though the princess isn't the only one who happens to be a huge fan of Jem.  There's a huge crowd gathered at the airport ready to welcome the group to their nation.  In all likelihood, the entire country has come to greet them.  It's...strangely nice to see.

It also appears as though the Royal Family of Morvania has gone to every extreme in treating their guests like part of the family, including housing the band in one of the finest suites at the Hotel Victor.  The ladies are absolutely ecstatic about the experience, and Kimber starts to dream about being a princess and what she must be like.

And, this is the very reason why I cannot stand this episode.  No, that's not a picture of Kimber.  That is Princess Adriana of Morvania.  Yes.  It's a stupid doppelganger storyline that I LOATHE.  Last year when I reviewed The New Archies, I reviewed a similar episode entitled "The Prince of Riverdale", and it was so horrible and unbelievable that I regretted watching it.  I mean, aside from the fact that the focus of this episode is my least favourite Hologram, the show doesn't even make an effort to disguise Adriana's voice.  The Princess of Morvania has a whiny American accent like Kimber.  I mean, couldn't they have gotten Cathianne Blore to mimic a British accent or something?  She played an Irish mouse named Bridget in "An American Tail" which came out the same year this episode aired!!!  That's your Jem Trivia for today.

It seems as though Princess Adriana is just as much of a brat as Kimber is.  She yells at some guy named Dimitrios about royal orders or something, and then she gets into a fight with her cousin Lexa after she questions her about sending the royal jet to escort Jem and the Holograms to Morvania for the concert.  Adriana reminds Lexa that her eighteenth birthday is fast approaching and when that day arrives, she will officially be crowned Queen of Morvania, which will allow her to do whatever she wants.  Oh, poor Morvania.  Poor, poor Morvania.

Or maybe Adriana is more clever than we think.  Seems as though Lexa and Dimitrios have a partnership together - and the end goal is for Lexa to take over the throne of Morvania.  Of course, in order to make that happen, she has to get rid of Adriana before she gets the opportunity to blow out eighteen candles on her red velvet cake.

Maybe she senses that Lexa isn't someone she can trust.  Or, maybe she's having one last bit of rebellion while she's seventeen and stupid.  But Adriana decides that she is going to bust out of this castle and live her life the way she wants to by climbing down the side of the tower and running away.  Too bad Lexa sees the escape attempt and immediately sends Dimitrios to track her down.

In a scene that seems tacked on, we find Eric and the Misfits are also in Morvania as tourists.  I'm only assuming that they're there to sabotage the concert so that they can perform for the Royal Family instead.  I assume because they never exactly say why they are there in the first place.  It's just...weird.

Morvania doesn't seem to have any shopping malls or big box stores.  All their stores seem to be designed like a European market square - which to be honest, I'd actually kind of enjoy.  There's fresh baked bread, clothing items, jewelry, and all sorts of knick knacks just waiting to be bought or bartered with.  Oh, and we see four different angles of the market.  Kimber has strayed from the rest of the band to go in her own direction, while Jem and the others are apparently distracted by the smell of fresh bread to notice.  On the other side of the market, Pizzazz, Roxy, and Stormer arrive to scope things out.  And predictably, while Kimber is shopping at a stall, Princess Adriana appears out of nowhere.  Can you guess where this is leading?

Well, when Adriana spots Dimitrios and a couple of his flunkies entering the market, she tries to run away but ends up plowing right into Kimber! 

Adriana immediately recognizes Kimber as being Jem's synthesizer player (but amusingly doesn't point out that they look nearly identical), and tells her she's a huge fan.  And when she introduces herself as the princess, Kimber thinks that is absolutely - say it with me - OUTRAGEOUS!!! 

(Wanna tell which is which?  Adriana's in the dark green cardigan.  And Kimber's in the lime green one.  Oh, and Kimber's wearing enough eye makeup to supply two and a half Kardashians.)

Meanwhile, Jem, Shana, and Aja run into Pizzazz, Roxy, and Stormer, and it's our cue for the first of two songs this episode.

"Here Comes Trouble" is...okay.  It's not really great, but it's not terrible.  It just happens to be there.  It's more or less two minutes of filler. 

With the Misfits in the area, Jem decides that they need to find Kimber and hightail it back to the hotel so that they can rehearse for their concert.  Gee, I hope they don't run into Princess Adriana and mistake her for Kimber.

Oh, darn.  That's exactly what happens.  HOW PREDICTABLE.  But if Adriana is with Jem and the others, where is Kimber?

Oh, she's only being kidnapped for the - what is it, third time now?  Maybe fourth?  I lost count.

Either way, Dimitrios and Lexa imprison Kimber in a gigantic tower (gee, how original), and they refuse to let her out.  Of course, Kimber basically screams at them, telling them that she is Kimber Benton of Jem and the Holograms and that they need to let her go.  Dimitrios isn't too concerned, but Lexa is starting to panic.  If they really do have Kimber and she doesn't show up for the concert tomorrow night, then suspicions will be raised.  She leaves Dimitrios in charge of Kimber while she tries to come up with a plan.

But Kimber has a plan of her own for escape.  Thanks to a mouse that crawls up her leg, Kimber bolts up the side of the wall to the open window and does a swan dive right into the sea surrounding the tower!  You know, in real life, Kimber would be dead, or at the very least suffer major broken bones.  But since this is a cartoon, Kimber manages to make the dive with ease, as well as receiving perfect scores from the American, Canadian, and Czechoslovakian judges!  Oh, sure, Dimitrios and his men try to catch Kimber by throwing a fishing net over top of her, but considering that Kimber had all that practice swimming in Hawaii the previous episode, she is too quick for them.  Kimber manages to swim to shore, but she is miles away from the hotel.  How will she get back?

Morning comes, and Princess Adriana is sleeping soundly.  At least that is until Jerrica comes in to wake her up.  A funny scene comes up where a groggy eyed Adriana asks for breakfast in bed, and Jerrica calls her lazy bones.  Sad thing is, I can see Kimber making that same request!

Oh, and Jerrica changes into Jem right in front of Adriana.  But fear not, Adriana's gaze was in a different direction, so she didn't see anything (though she was left with some confusion as to how Jem got in the room so quickly.)

The rehearsal doesn't seem to go very well either.  Every time the band tries to get in some practice time, Adriana plays the keyboard as if she was a two year old trying to play Chopsticks.  Jem is really concerned about how "Kimber" is acting, and before Adriana can tell the truth, in walks Lexa to discuss the concert plans with them.  Of course, Lexa eyes "Kimber" very intently, which probably makes Adriana shiver with fear.  It seems as though Lexa was only there to confirm that the prisoner that they abducted was really Kimber and not Adriana.  You know, it actually makes me wonder why Lexa never bothered to try and kidnap Adriana right then and there, but she'd have to shoot Jem and the others or something to make that happen.  And guns are a big no-no in the Jem universe.

Oh, and when Jem is talking with Lexa, she introduces Adriana as her SISTER, Kimber.  So, basically Jem told both Lexa and Adriana that Jem is really Jerrica Benton.  Has Jem been popping stupid pills in this episode?

At least Kimber seems to be showing more brains than her sister.  She finds her way to a little shop in town and gets permission from the shop's owner to use the phone to call for help.  Sure, the phone looks like it was manufactured in 1920, but will do.

While all this is going on, Adriana confesses to the band that she is not Kimber.  She's really the Princess of Morvania.  Jem - taking another dose of stupid pills - doesn't believe her, but Aja claims that "Kimber" doesn't sound like Kimber.  After all, Adriana has never said the word outrageous once.  This leads Jem to wonder what happened to Kimber, but the phone rings before she can answer that question.  But when she picks up the phone, it goes dead.

That's because Dimitrios' goons have found Kimber and ripped the phone off of the wall.  That's not very nice behaviour in a store!  I'd suggest the shopkeeper approach them to throw them out, but he likely ran away in fear.

Back at the palace, Dimitrios and Lexa meet up where Lexa confirms that Adriana is with Jem and the Holograms who seem to have mistaken her for Kimber.  Their plan is forced to change a little bit, but it will work out.  While the search for Kimber progresses, Lexa and Dimitrios plot to hide a bomb inside of a dragon statue on stage.  When Adriana appears on stage dressed as Kimber, they'll set off the bomb which will kill her instantly, making Lexa the Queen of Morvania.  It's a really evil plot, I must say.  Worthy of a "Criminal Minds" episode.  But Lexa is soon distracted by the sound of music coming from outside the palace.  When they go to investigate, the Misfits are playing a song.

I must admit that after the lackluster song the Misfits played last week, this song is much better.  "The Queen of Rock and Roll" is standard Misfits fare, and the video in which Jem and the Holograms are forced to become their servants is quite clever.  Much more clever than the Jem offering heard earlier.

At first Eric believes that Lexa is the princess and he uses his skills of booty-kissing to convince her to let the Misfits perform instead of Jem and the Holograms.  But Lexa seems to feel that they can be useful for her in other ways. 

We don't get to see what she means right away though because we have to watch Kimber try another escape from Dimitrios' goons.  This time, she throws a tablecloth over top of them and runs up to the roof of the store.  I sure hope that shopkeeper has insurance against crazy people destroying his store.  All we need now is for Link to arrive and smash all of his pots with his sword!

Kimber tries to jump from one building to another, but she can't quite make it and she falls to her death below.

Just kidding.

Turns out that today is National Hang Your Laundry Out To Dry Day in Morvania, and Kimber's fall is broken by clotheslines filled with towels, shirts, and jockey shorts.  She lands in a laundry hamper, flags down a taxi, and tells the taxi to go to Hotel Victor.  I don't know whether I'm watching an episode of Jem or an episode of MacGyver.  This episode is too unreal.

Back at the hotel, Jem receives a call from "Kimber" who tells her to meet her at the plaza.  And the voice sounds so similar that Jem automatically believes that it is her, so she gathers Aja, Shana, and Adriana up to leave the hotel in search of Kimber.  

But Jem seems to have taken even more stupid pills as "Kimber" is really Stormer.  See, Lexa's plan is to get Jem and the others out of the hotel so that they can ambush Kimber when she arrives to lock her up again before she can spoil the assassination plot against the princess.  Pizzazz wants to know when they can get ready for their concert, but Lexa double crosses them and tells them that there will be no concert.  And we learn that Lexa must have gotten the same prescription of stupid pills that Jem is on because she blurts out the whole assassination plot to Eric and the Misfits!  Even Eric is absolutely stunned by the plot even though his former henchman Zipper has tried to kill Jem like two dozen times.  But now that they are armed with this information...what will they do with it?

Poor Kimber is stuck in an even larger tower completely surrounded by pavement which will cause her to go kersplut if she tries to jump out.  Even the balcony is rigged to collapse should Kimber step out on it.  Looks like she's really stuck now!

Jem and the others seem to have come to the conclusion that they have gone on a wild goose chase, and decide that they will have Adriana reveal that she's really the princess and out Lexa as the evil mastermind once and for all in front of the audience.  But Jem and the others don't know that Dimitrios has already planted the bomb inside of the dragon mouth.  But nobody suspects anything...except for one guard named Corven who looks at Dimitrios rather suspiciously.

But not suspiciously enough to stop the concert from going on.  Every audience member is dressed in their finest frocks, and Jem and the Holograms are dressed in their usual outfits.  I guess it's of good fortune that Kimber and Adriana are the same size in clothes.  Unfortunately, Jem's plan to have Adriana reveal who she is at the concert fails, as Lexa manipulates the crowd into believing her story that Adriana is really Kimber, so nobody takes her seriously.  But outside of the venue, Eric and the Misfits run into Corven and they beg him to let them in so they can warn Jem and the others that a bomb will kill them all.  Yep, you read that right.  The Misfits are trying to save Jem and the Holograms.  Mind you, they're probably only doing it because they want to teach Lexa a lesson, but's nice to see that they aren't heartless.

And it looks as though Corven and the Misfits save them just in time.  They leave the stage just as the bomb explodes.  Nice work, everyone!  Even Jem is shocked at the Misfits actions, and for a moment, it seems as though even Pizzazz is greatly affected by the notion.  But Kimber is still in danger!

Sure enough, when the bands confront Lexa, she motions upward where Dimitrios is up in the tower threatening to throw Kimber off the top unless Adriana abdicates the throne to let Lexa take over.  Surely Adriana won't let that happen.

Nor will Jem.  Unfortunately, she seems to have finished her prescription of stupid pills and summons a hologram of a giant dragon right in front of the crowd.  Yeah, like that'll make them think that it's absolutely normal.

It almost backfires as Dimitrios is so scared of the dragon hologram that he throws Kimber off the tower anyway.  Luckily, she manages to hold on to the collapsing balcony long enough for Corven to rescue Kimber as the dragon distracts everyone long enough for the authorities to arrest Lexa for attempted regicide of Princess...ahem, make that Queen Adriana of Morvania.  And the band flies home where Kimber pretends she's Adriana for one more throwaway joke.

And so wraps up another episode of Jem Reviewed, where I have to say - I HATE DOPPELGANGER EPISODES.  While this one wasn't as bad as "The Prince of Riverdale", it reminds me of why they don't work.  It's a story that has been told to the death, and they all end the same way with each doppelganger convinced that the grass isn't greener on the other side.  And was it just me, or was Jem a complete idiot in this episode?  I get that she's in a different nation, but she really stopped caring about hiding her identity in this one!  It's just so strange how lax she was.  Especially since she unintentionally revealed her secret to this week's antagonist!  Though, I will was nice to see the Misfits actually trying to save Jem instead of hurt her.  Though, is only one out of 19 episodes so far...

Next week, 39 hours, 8 castaways...ONE SURVIVOR!  Well, okay, maybe there's more than one.  And while Jeff Probst doesn't make an appearance in this show, the Holograms and Misfits do show that it takes a lot to survive.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cons and Pros of Pokemon Go

So, unless you've been living underneath a rock the last month or so, you have probably heard of (or maybe even play) the latest craze that has taken over the world.

I'm talking about Pokemon Go.

Now, Pokemon is a game series that for whatever reason never really appealed to me.  When the Pokemon craze first hit North America in the late 1990s, I was engrossed in the many "Final Fantasy" games that were available.  The seventh game in that series alone had enough replay value to keep me entertained for three whole years.

Though, I do admit that the goal of Pokemon is one that has challenged thousands of gamers all over this planet.  You have to find a way to catch every single species and evolutions of cute little pocket monsters so that you can have the bragging rights of catching them all.  It's kind of like how some role playing games have a Bestiary where you can keep track of all of the enemies that you slaughter in hopes that you can make the claim that you killed one of every single monster.  It's a goal that I've achieved 99% of in Final Fantasy IV...those damn Pink Puffs are the only thing keeping me from completion.  Oh, lord how I hate those Pink Puffs.

Oh, sorry...where was I?  Oh yeah...Pokemon Go. 

So, Pokemon Go basically takes the idea of going around the world to catch random Pokemon that appear to the next level.  Thanks to mobile phone technology and GPS devices, you can now go around your own neighbourhood and try and catch Pokemon in real time.  And Pokemon can appear anywhere there is a large crowd of people, or where there are public gatherings.

Case in workplace happens to be a hub for Pokemon spawning.  The shopping mall also boasts Pokemon - and not just in the pet store either!  Even the two parks that are near my home are known Pokemon gathering places. 

Thankfully, my home itself is Pokemon free.  Otherwise, I'd be spraying people with my garden hose.

Now, when it comes to Pokemon Go, it's divided people more than the 2016 Presidential Elections!  On one side, you have the people who love the game and would happily declare it to be the best invention since the microwave oven.  And on the other side, you have people who think it is a sin to play the game and that it is causing more harm than good.

To be honest, as someone who has not played the game and have no desire to, I can't say that I feel justified enough to give an opinion.  But what I can do is list the pros and cons from other people who have played the game, and let you decide on whether Pokemon Go is right for you and your family.  For positive points, I'll refer to them as "Pokemon Go!", and for negative points, I'll refer to them as "Pokemon No!".

So, right off the bat, let's start with one positive.

POKEMON GO! - It gets your kids out of the house!

You know, when I was a kid, summer meant that you spent most of your days outside.  I happened to be enrolled in a summer day camp where I played lots of sports and games.  I'm not saying that kids don't do that now, but with mobile phones, computers, and video games, there's not a whole lot of incentive for kids to get active outside.  So, I appreciate the fact that Pokemon Go allows kids to explore their neighbourhoods and try to catch Pokemon while getting some much needed fresh air and exercise.  So, definitely, the health benefits of Pokemon Go are good.

POKEMON NO! - Too much of a distraction!

Of course, the rules still apply to those who do venture outside.  Look both ways before crossing the street, follow road signs, etc, etc, etc.  And admittedly, if your gaze is on a 4 inch phone screen, you may find that it is hard to pay attention to your surroundings.  You might find it exciting to catch a Vulpix, a Squirtle, or a Jigglypuff, but don't risk getting run over by a taxi in order to get it.  You're playing Pokemon Go, not Crazy Taxi Go.  Just ask those two guys who actually fell off a cliff while Pokemon hunting!

POKEMON GO! - It's a good treatment for social anxiety disorder!

You know, as someone who suffered from social anxiety quite severely in his youth, I probably would have welcomed a game like this when I was eight or nine.  Truth be told, part of the reason why I never got into Pokemon was that I felt that I was too old for the target audience.  But I've heard lots of cases in which kids who have struggled to make friends have managed to meet new people while playing the game Pokemon Go.  It makes sense...if you have a shared interest, you tend to gravitate towards those people.  I've also heard that children who are autistic or who have Asperger's may benefit from playing this game as well in helping them better deal with social situations, which is definitely a major plus.

POKEMON NO! - It's a great way for you to become the victim of a crime!

You might think I'm joking, but sadly, I am not.  While these cases are very rare, there are some instances in which people have used the game to attack unsuspecting players and mug them of their possessions.  You don't want your quest to find a Pikachu to cost you your worldly possessions, do you?  Always make sure that you are aware of your surroundings when you play the game, and never go anywhere that is unfamiliar to you.  In fact, it might actually be better to play this game in a group of three or four.  Remember, there is safety in numbers.

POKEMON GO! - It allows you to get more familiar with your community!

Yes, I did mention that you probably shouldn't go venturing in places that you aren't familar with...however, that doesn't mean that you should just stay in your own little bubble either.  There are Pokemon scattered all over this planet - and many of them are found in safe spaces.  If you're with a group of people you trust, why not take the time to go around your town and find some new places to go to?  I've known people who have lived in my town longer than I have who still don't know where certain streets are or how to get to them.  The Pokemon Go app can certainly make you aware of where everything is.  I don't consider that to be a bad thing.

POKEMON NO! - You find Pokemon in some of the most depressing places!

I'm sure you've seen the photos of Pokemon hanging out around gravestones.  It seems as though there have been lots of sightings of Pokemon at cemeteries, memorials, and certain other places where it can seem very disrespectful to wander onto with a cell phone trying to hunt down your favourite Pokemon.  Granted, it is up to the caretakers and the owners of said cemeteries to handle trespassing issues, but still, common sense should tell you that walking through a graveyard in search of Pokemon is disturbing.  It has been reported that the company that released the game is working on trying to remove memorials as Pokemon gathering hubs, but no word yet on whether they have succeeded.

That's all that I can really think of for pros and cons.  As you can see, my list is evened up, which is what I had hoped for.  I didn't want to seem biased.

I guess the main points to take into account when playing Pokemon Go are this.

1.  Don't play Pokemon Go alone - especially if you're a child.  Make sure you always have someone with you when you're in an area you don't know.

2.  Don't venture onto other people's private property when playing the game.  You need to still show respect.

3.  Always watch where you are going.  You don't want to get hit by a bus trying to catch a Pikachu.

4.  If an area looks dangerous or sketchy, do not go there.  You can always find Pokemon elsewhere in safer areas.

For those of you who don't play the game, continue with what you were doing.  For those who do...have fun.  But do it safely!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 26, 1951

It's time for another edition of the Tuesday Timeline.  And all I have to say about this week's version is that it's filled with magic, wonder, imagination, and whimsy. 

Seriously, it is!

Before I get started, join me in wishing my dad a very happy 70th birthday today!  I really tried to find an event that took place in 1946 to commemorate the event, but nothing really happened in 1946 - aside from one minor thing which you'll see on my list of significant happenings that took place on this date...

1745 - The first women's cricket match reportedly takes place in England

1788 - New York officially becomes the eleventh state to join the United States of America

1803 - The Surrey Iron Railway opens in south London, United Kingdom

1861 - After being defeated at the First Battle of Bull Run during the American Civil War, George B. McClellan assumes control of the Army of the Potomac

1875 - The founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung (d. 1961) is born in Switzerland

1895 - Singer/actress Gracie Allen (d. 1964) is born in San Francisco, California (though birth years of 1896, 1902, and 1906 have also been given as possible birth years)

1922 - Director Blake Edwards (d. 2010) is born in Tulsa, Oklahoma; also born on this date was actor Jason Robards (d. 2000)

1928 - Director Stanley Kubrick (d. 1999) is born in Manhattan, New York

1940 - Singer-songwriter Dobie Gray (d. 2011) is born in Simonton, Texas

1941 - Franklin D. Roosevelt orders the seizure of all Japanese assets in the United States following the Japanese occupation of French Indochina

1945 - Winston Churchill is voted out of office following the victory of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom

1946 - Aloha Airlines begins chartering flights out of Honolulu, Hawaii

1948 - Harry S. Truman signs Executive Order 9981

1953 - The 26th of July Movement takes place which leads to the beginning of the Cuban Revolution

1958 - Explorer 4 is launched

1963 - The world's first geosynchronous satellite - Syncom 2 - is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida

1971 - Nicolette Milnes-Walker becomes the first woman to sail non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean single-handedly

1977 - The National Assembly of Quebec officially makes French the official language of the provincial government

1989 - Robert T. Morris Jr. becomes the first person to be prosecuted under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for releasing the Morris worm

1992 - Singer Mary Wells dies of cancer at the age of 49

2005 - Over five thousand people die in Mumbai, India after almost 100 cm of rain falls in a 24 hour period causing massive flooding

2008 - The Ahmedabab bombing takes place in India, killing 56 and wounding 200

2015 - True crime novelist Ann Rule dies at the age of 83

And celebrating a birthday right alongside my dad are the following famous faces; Joe Jackson, Barbara Jefford, Bobby Rousseau, Darlene Love, Mick Jagger, Linda Harrison, Helen Mirren, Roger Taylor, Susan George, Dorothy Hamill, Hart Hanson, Tom McGowan, Kevin Spacey, Gary Cherone, Andy Connell, Sandra Bullock, Danny Woodburn, Jeremy Piven, Jason Statham, Olivia Williams, Kate Beckinsale, Mageina Tovah, Dave Baksh, Abe Forsythe, Chez Starbuck, Audrey De Montigny, Matt Riddlehoover, Monica Raymund, Elizabeth Gillies, and Taylor Momsen.

So, as I mentioned before, today's Tuesday Timeline entry is filled with whimsy and magic and all that good stuff.

And that date is July 26, 1951.

Okay, so the year 1951 was a great year in motion picture releases.  You had dozens of options to choose from and you had all sorts of different genres to pick from ranging from B-movie horror flicks to epic romances.  Among some of the top films at the box office that year were "A Streetcar Named Desire", "The Day The Earth Stood Still", "The African Queen", "An American in Paris", and "Quo Vadis". 

It was on this date in London sixty-five years ago that Walt Disney debuted his thirteenth animated motion picture...and that movie would go on to be the second highest grossing film of 1951.

Not a bad draw for a movie whose supporting cast included a white rabbit, a crazy guy wearing a hat, a queen who wanted to chop off everyone's heads, and a cat that could go invisible on a whim.

Yes, it was 65 years ago today that the film "Alice in Wonderland" debuted in London.  Though it would see its worldwide release on July 28, 1951.  The Disney motion picture was based on the literary works of Lewis Carroll, and is just one of many adaptations of the classic piece.  Though, I have to say that the original Disney version remains a favourite of mine all these years later.

I think part of the reason why I loved this film a lot is because of the imagination behind it.  I know when I was a child, I had an extremely vivid imagination, and I really depended on it a lot when I was playing by myself.  I grew up in a neighbourhood that was mostly made up of senior citizens, and didn't have a whole lot of friends that were my age, so certainly having that vivid imagination saved me from being totally lonely.  I don't consider that to be an admission of insanity...more like, I sympathized with Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.

Of course, I never had crazy tea parties where I shrank or grew every time I ate a pastry.  I never crawled down any bunny rabbit holes.  And I certainly never imagined myself being attacked by an entire deck of playing card soldiers.  I tell you, Alice's imagination was much more intense than anything that I could have ever dreamed up!

But "Alice in Wonderland" remains a sort of cult classic among Disney enthusiasts, and while the film did not get rave reviews when it was first released in the movie theatres, it would later be described as one of the best adaptations of "Alice in Wonderland". 

Though some also liked the 2010 live-action adaptation which starred Johnny Depp better.  Personally speaking, both were quite good.

Anyway, in celebration of the 65th anniversary of the film's release, I thought I would offer up a list of behind the scenes facts about the making of this film.  I don't have 65 facts, but the ones I did find are quite fascinating!

1 - The only surviving cast member from the film is Kathryn Beaumont, who played Alice.  Until a couple of days ago, there were two, but Marni Nixon who voiced the Singing Flowers passed away on July 24, 2016.

2 - Kathryn Beaumont also went on to voice the role of Wendy Darling in the 1953 film "Peter Pan".

3 - The Queen of Hearts was voiced by Verna Felton - who also had a recurring role on "The Flintstones" playing Wilma's mother.

4 - Believe it or not, "Alice in Wonderland" was originally pitched as a live-action film instead.

5 - This movie would be the last role for actor Dink Trout (who played the role of the King of Hearts).  He passed away sixteen months before the film's debut.

6 - The film adaptation had a doorknob as a character - this was added in by Disney.  The doorknob was not a part of any of Lewis Carroll's works.

7 - Although the movie does hold true to much of Lewis Carroll's book, "Alice in Wonderland", there are elements of the book's sequel "Alice Through the Looking Glass" present as well.  The best example of this would be the inclusion of the characters of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, who never appeared until "Alice Through the Looking Glass".

8 - The Mad Hatter was purposely drawn and designed to look like the actor who voiced him, Ed Wynn.

9 - This movie was one of the longest Disney productions to come to fruition.  Many of the voices were recorded two or three years prior to the film's release, and the overall film took over five years to finish!

10 - Kathryn Beaumont was just ten years old when she recorded the voice of Alice.

11 - This was the first Disney film to be shown on television - in 1954.

12 - Kathryn Beaumont voiced Alice for later Disney projects including Disneyland rides, direct-to-video Disney movies, and the Kingdom Hearts video game series.  She played the role from 1951 until 2005 when she retired, making her one of the longest serving actresses to voice a Disney character.

13 - Kathryn Beaumont was so into reading for the role of Alice that she even started to dress like her for her recording sessions!

14 - Ginger Rogers was Walt Disney's first choice for the role of Alice.

15 - Although they weren't all used, the music composers wrote at least thirty different songs for the movie.

So, there you have it.  That's our Tuesday Timeline for this week...and I certainly hope you learned a little bit more about "Alice in Wonderland"!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Whatever Happened to Alannah Myles?

Last week in the Sunday Jukebox, I talked about what happened to Canadian rocker Corey Hart.  This time around, I'm still going to be talking about a Canadian artist, but a female one.

In today's case, most people who live outside of Canada may believe her to be a one-hit wonder.  As a matter of fact, I remember watching VH1's countdown of the 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s and her biggest hit landed on the list at #79.

To which I call shenanigans!

First of all...if you're going to put her song on a list, make it chart a little bit higher than #79!  At the very least, it should have at least made the Top 50!  And secondly, this artist was NOT A ONE-HIT WONDER!!!

Well, at least not in Canada, anyway.

She released her debut album here in early 1989, and four of those singles became Top 40 hits - with one even reaching the top spot on the adult contemporary charts - and it's not even the song that was featured on the VH1 special!

But, I suppose that you probably want to know what I am talking about, what this song is, and who sang it. 

Here we go.  Enjoy.

ARTIST:  Alannah Myles
SONG:  Black Velvet
ALBUM:  Alannah Myles
DATE RELEASED:  July 26, 1989

That was the song that gave Alannah Myles instant success all over the world, and that song was her one and only #1 hit in the United States.  The song won a Grammy Award in 1990 for Best Female Vocal Rock Performance.  And she became the only Canadian artist to have their debut album reach Diamond status in the country, largely because of the success of "Black Velvet".  It seems surprising to find out that "Black Velvet" only peaked at #10 on the Canadian RPM Charts!  

But what a song it was!  The song itself pays homage to singer Elvis Presley, who died twelve years before this song was released.  It was a collaboration by rock music producer/songwriter David Tyson and Christopher Ward, a former Muchmusic VJ, and Myles' boyfriend at the time who had been inspired after observing the 10th anniversary vigil for Presley in Tennessee in 1987.  With its bluesy sound, simple music video, and Alannah's powerful vocals, it's no wonder that "Black Velvet" became instantly powerful.

But it was also a song that was recorded by another artist within months of Alannah recording the single herself!  Although "Black Velvet" had gotten Alannah signed to a three album record deal, it was also offered to a country singer named Robin Lee, who recorded a country version that was released in February 1990 - not long after Alannah's version debuted in the United States!

Though, Robin's version only peaked at #12 on the American Country Charts.

Now, while "Black Velvet" became Alannah's only hit in America, up here in Canada, she was just getting started.  Other hits from her self-titled disc included "Love Is", a powerful rock single with a tinge of Southern rock swing.  "Still Got This Thing" was a lesser known hit here in Canada, but still had enough power to get everyone rocking on the dance floor.

And "Lover of Mine" was a single that reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts and #2 on the Canadian pop charts, making this single more successful than "Black Velvet"!  And if you thought that she had only recorded the one album, you would be sorely mistaken.

In 1992, Alannah's second album, "Rockinghorse" was released.  And yes, I'm fairly certain that Alannah Myles is pretending to be Lady Godiva on the album cover, which I'm sure sparked a little bit of controversy.  But, I'm only guessing, as I was only 11 at the time and I listened to mostly R&B and New Jack Swing music.

But even though "Rockinghorse" didn't achieve the same success as her debut album had in Canada (where it sold less copies), and in the United States (where it was all but ignored), the album did generate a #1 single for Myles which could easily be described as breathtaking, honest, and spine-tingling...but in a good way, not the "I just watched a Saw marathon" way.

"Song Instead of a Kiss" is easily my favourite Alannah Myles song, and even Myles has admitted that it is one of the best songs that she has ever recorded.  The string orchestra paired with the lyrics that Alannah sings is pure perfection, and it seemed as though while her career stalled in the United States that she would be poised to continue her success in Canada.

But after releasing her third album, "A-lan-nah" in 1995, she seemingly disappeared off the radio charts, and her star quickly faded into near obscurity. 

So, whatever happened to Alannah Myles?

Well, she still records music to this day, though most of it was done independently.  She left Atlantic Records following the release of "A-lan-nah", and in 1997 signed up with Ark 21 Records to release the album "A Rival".  A pair of greatest hits records came out in 1999 and 2001 respectively, after which she departed Ark 21. 

Over the next ten years, she toured across Canada and Europe at small shows, and more or less kept out of the public spotlight.  Though she didn't stop recording music.  In 2004, she recorded a duet with Saga frontman Michael Sadler - a cover version of "Don't Give Up", originally recorded by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush in 1986.  And a year later, she recorded another cover.  This time, she recorded the Tina Turner classic "I Can't Stand The Rain" for a Tina Turner tribute album.  And if you listen to the guitar playing in the background of that song, you can hear the contribution of another Canadian artist, Jeff Healey.

In 2008 - seven years after recording her last greatest hits album, and eleven years after her last studio album, Alannah Myles released the album "Black Velvet", which included a re-recorded version of the song that first put her in the music spotlight.  

One of the songs on the album, "Trouble" earned Myles an honourable mention award in the blues category of the 2009 International Songwriting Contest.  She would later go on to win the 15th Annual USA Songwriting Competition for Best Rock/Alternative Song for the single "Give Me Love", a collaboration she wrote with Nancy Simmonds.

So, there you have it.  Alannah Myles is still making music, albeit for a much smaller audience these days.  And I don't think she'd do anything differently.

Oh, and one final footnote that I think is kind of interesting.  Before Alannah Myles made it big as a singer, she also dabbled in a little bit of acting.  And one of her first roles was in the show "The Kids of Degrassi Street"!  Watch her appear in
Part 1, Part 2, and PART 3 if you're interested!