Friday, February 26, 2010

Trapped in Paradise EP0110 - Kauai Beauty

In my newest episode of Trapped in Paradise let's take a look at some of the sights around the island of Kauai starting in Waimea Town and going all the way to the end of the road at the base of the Napali cliffs on the north shore of the island where the road dead ends at Ke'e beach park.

First is a tour of the beach cottage where I stayed in Waimea Town. Check out Inn Waimea at The cottage was three houses from the beach and you could hear the surf in the living room at night.

The Captain Cook monument is also located in Waimea.

Between Waimea and Poipu are the salt ponds which stand as a testament to the old ways of deriving salt from the sea.

In Poipu along the crags of the volcanic shore the sea enters following a tube up to the surface. The water pushes the air forcefully expelling it with a whistle and a whoosh!

The Kilauea Point Wildlife Refuge houses a lighthouse used to guide the ships at sea and is home to a number of birds including the red-footed boobie, Laysan Albatross and wedge-tailed shears. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1976 to be replaced by automated beacons.

Lastly we travel as far as we can on State Highway 560 stopping at the wet and dry caves before arriving at Ke'e Beach.

Hope you enjoy!

Download the file here

Monday, February 22, 2010

Memories of Captain EO

Well, it's official, Disney has announced the opening of the Captain EO Tribute at Disneyland. Michael Jackson as Captain EO and his rag tag band will once again grace a big screen on Tuesday, February 23, 2010. Instead of living on the small, grainy digital files of YouTube a reconditioned large version will be projected for everyone to enjoy.

Eyes and Ears Captain EO cover

Captain EO Blast off flier front

Captain EO Blast off flier back

My first experience with Captain EO was in 1986 at the then EPCOT Center in the Magic Eye Theater the day after Christmas that year. I had worked for Disney on the Walt Disney World College Program on the Spring 1986 program and then stayed on through the summer. I had left a week before Labor Day to return back home to UMass Amherst to finish up my degree. At school my cast member friend Martha mailed me a copy of the internal cast member news letter the Eyes & Ears that announced the opening of Captain EO as well as the flier given to people going to the Captain EO Blast Off event.

I had flown down on Christmas day with another WDWCPer Bob to work at Disney during the Christmas break and we were joined by Sheilagh who had flying privileges through her dad, a pilot. Bob and I had convinced Sheilagh to stay another day, Friday, in order to go into the parks, enjoy ourselves and see the show. She pulled a couple of strings and we enjoyed the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT Center that busy holiday season. We spent the morning at the Kingdom and then moved over to EPCOT that afternoon.

The crowds at the Journey into Imagination were huge for two reasons. The first was just being that time of year for crowds and the second being the new show staring Michael Jackson who was as at the height of his popularity. The line was LONG and took close to two hours of patience and hanging in a hot, crowded pre-show area. We finally got into the main theater and put on our purple 3D glasses. I'll never forget the lights dimming and stars appearing on the screen spreading around the side of the theater and then all of a sudden becoming 3D with stars pushing back towards negative infinity, the swirling galaxy, the floating rock and the laser blast clearing the way for Captain EO's ship.

We startled and watched intently as to when we'd see Michael appear. When he finally appeared everyone cheered and clapped. It was an exciting show watching his ship crash, spot lights searching for him, his capture, his rag tag band turning into the band, the singing, the whips, the dancing, Angelica Houston turning from the Evil Supreme Leader to a beautiful Grecian-like ruler. We had a good time!

Captain EO and Fuzzball

Hooter promo picture front

Hooter Promo picture back
I remembered towards the end of the movie Michael walking out and smacking the back of one hand into the palm of the other as well as yelling OOOOOOOHHH in his high pitched voice several times. I didn't know it at the time, but these combined action would be used over and over again while I was working at The Land pavilion by my leads Jay and Kathy to call us to action when they wanted to get something done.

Over the next month I saw Captain EO several more times as the crowds died down a bit. It was so popular that the two characters Fuzzball and Hooter were made into plush figures that many people, including myself purchased. They are in my trunk back at my parents house. I checked ebay and didn't find any Hooter plushes but a Fuzzball plush was going for $50 buy it now!

I was fortunate as another MKCPer Joe had stayed on to work the 15th Anniversary event that kicked off on October 1. He had sent me a copy of the press kit they were giving out. Included were 2 promotional photos dealing with Captain EO. The first was Captain EO with Fuzzball sitting on his right shoulder and the second was of Hooter. Those two got all the attention, Major and Minor Domo and Idee and Odee didn't get much fanfare at all as far as merchandise was concerned.

So something that I never thought I would see again outside of YouTube is coming back. While I know that it won't be the same, with the Captain EO Tribute Show releasing in Disneyland, I look forward to reliving the experience that was Captain EO. Michael Jackson is no longer with us, but we can enjoy what he left behind. I'll be at Disneyland for the Disney Podcast Network Westfest Event and a couple of days before and after. If you'll happen to be in Anaheim from April 28 to May 5 and you'd like to get together with other Disney and Michael Jackson fans to either experience Captain EO for the first time or you're hundredth time, use one of the contact options on the side of the column to let me know you'd be interested in seeing Captain EO.

In the mean time as Captain EO might suggest remember to give people the key to unlock the beauty that is within side them just waiting to get out!

All pictures copyright Disney 1986. Watermarks added by me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Movie Review: Shutter Island

Eleven miles off the coast in Boston Harbor is Shutter Island a place where the really bad of the bad of the criminally insane are being treated.

A women goes missing and Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) of the US Marshals are called in to investigate the disappearance. This woman murdered her three children and doesn't acknowledge that she killed her offspring, she treats the facility like its her home in the Berkshires. As Daniels attempts to investigate he gets stalled by Dr Crawley (Ben Kingsley) and Dr Naehring (Max von Sydow) who refuse to turn over inmate and staff records. As severe weather barrels down on the facility Daniels investigates further the motives and methods of the doctors is called into question on Shutter Island.

Martin Scorsese directs this movie. After The Aviator, Gangs of New York, The Departed and now Shutter Island, this is the fourth time Scorsese has directed DiCaprio. The movie has tight shots give a claustrophobic feeling following Daniels. When the winds blow and the rain pours down, you almost feel wet yourself. With the topic of mental illness and trying to figure out what is real from what is fake there are shots that jump back and forth. Continuity is not always facing forward. You wonder what is happening drawing you into the story as the image perspectives move about in setting and reality.

While questioning inmates Daniels and Aule get the feeling that something isn't right between people giving almost verbatim answers to questions or getting nervous when certain other questions are asked. They question if Crawley and Naehring are hiding something. Aside from trying to find out what happened to the missing prisoner, excuse me patient as Dr Crawley keeps reminding Daniels, he has ulterior motives for being on the island. His wife was killed in a fire set by a fire bug. Daniels has tracked him down to Shutter Island and is looking for him. In a series of dreams we meet Daniels wife Dolores (Michelle Williams) who gives him warnings. Daniels background as a solider during WWII who helped liberate Dachau are shown in flashback sequences. The images of Holocaust victims discarded as trash have an impact on Daniels bringing his own state of mind into question. Nine years had passed since Daniels helped with Dachau's liberation and the images still haunt him.

Can a crazy person prove they're sane? Can a sane person prove they're not crazy? Can a psychiatrist make a sane person crazy? How good are they at helping crazy people become sane. With Dr Naehring, a former Nazi on staff, are experiments from the days of Nazi experimentation part of Dr Crawley's new methods of treating the mentally ill? As the story line got further in depth, what was real, what was imagined, who is sane, who is crazy, what is really happening there at Shutter Island got convoluted. This is a thinking movie to try to follow and I have to admit that my brain hurt trying to keep track of everything and may need a second viewing to catch all the details put into story.

Some of the images are tough to look at between images of concentration camp captives and poor treatment of the 1950s mentally ill including slight nudity. This earned the movie an R rating for the two hour eighteen minute presentation. Heavily present in the movie is smoking; it seems to be in a number of movies lately. Even though tobacco is a legal product a disclaimer stating that they weren't paid to portray tobacco usage is tacked into the credits. Alcohol can be just as detrimental to a person's health and yet they don't put any disclaimers about alcohol products and byproducts disclaimers in the credits. I wonder how long it will be before that has to be put in there along with the no animals were harmed disclaimer.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Movie Review: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Chris Columbus the man who brought us the fictional worlds of a kid left behind saving his house from robbers, a father who is able to get in and out of a fat suit in five minutes to pretend he's his kid's nanny and a boy scarred for life using magical powers to try to dispatch a bad guy now brings us into the world of Greek gods about to wreak havoc on Earth because the head guy's biggest, baddest weapon, has gone missing; someone has stolen it.

So before the remake of The Clash of the Titans comes out, a movie based on the Greek gods and their kids hits the screen first, Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief.

This story takes place in today's world except the Greek gods, their children by mortals otherwise known as demigods, minotaurs, satyrs, centaurs and other such beings exist. Maybe not widely known to all, but living among us. Just as Chris Columbus brought the first two Harry Potter movies to life with the magical wizarding world living among us he works his skills to bring the gods alive. Columbus knows how to work the mystic creatures and locations to life on the screen to breath life into this fantasy world.

Zeus (Sean Bean) is ticked off because his lightning bolt has been stolen. He accuses his brother Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) of taking it. He reminds Zeus that he cannot have taken it but Zeus reminds Poseidon that it's possible for their children to take it. Zeus sets a deadline. If he doesn't have the lightning bolt back by the summer solstice the gods will be going to war. Enter Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), a boy who is having problems in school with dyslexia and ADHD, doesn't like his step dad (Joe Pantoliano), and has a best friend Grover (Brandon T Jackson) who times Percy staying under water for over seven minutes. Could Percy and Poseidon be related? Well, heck yeah otherwise we wouldn't have a film now would we?

Early on it's obvious that Percy couldn't have stolen the lighting bolt but everyone thinks he has. Hades (Steve Coogan), Zeus' and Poseidon's other brother, believes it enough that he kidnaps Percy's mother Sally (Catherine Keener) who he holds captive in the underworld with him. Hades wants to trade the lightning bolt for her. Thus like any hero Percy sets off on his own odyssey to get his mother from the underworld back into the world of the living with Grover and another helper by the name of Annabelle (Alexandra Daddario) joining him in his quest. But will he figure out what going on before the Olympians deadline causing heaven and earth to clash? Therein lies Percy's problem.

The movie has a lot of fun in it. Just the idea that the Olympian gods still exist presents an idea to ponder. During Percy's quest he comes up against people and creatures that are the savory parts of stories that I enjoyed as a kid. I wanted to learn more about theses characters from young kid days that I took a course in Greek and Roman mythology in college. With the computing power that is available Columbus gets us to believe that controlling water, Mt Olympus and these fantastical creatures do come to life in our world. If you aren't careful, you might actually learn a little bit about Greek mythology during the course of the two hour running time of the film. A number of other stars including Pierce Brosnan, Rosario Dawson, Uma Thurman, and Melina Kanakaredes add to the cast to bring more of the mythical world to life.

In the way of flaws, the acting at times did seem a little stiff between crusaders as they worked their way out of tight situations. The editing could have been a little smoother as there were a couple of scenes that seemed like some part of the set up was missing. Kinda like in Goonies when Data mentions battling the giant squid. What squid, we didn't see any squid, never mind a GIANT squid. Maybe they'll be on the directors cut when the DVD and Blu-Ray discs come out in a few months. AND if Disney gets their way with the Alice in Wonderland movie coming out on March 5, several weeks will be taken off the waiting time from film release until a person could own the film for their own library.

Columbus did a good set up with the movie explaining relationships and characters so that if the box office numbers are good, and I think they will be good, there will be a sequel based on one of the other books in the series written by Rick Riordan.

The movie is rated PG for some scary images, action violence, peril and some suggestive scenes. Make sure you stay after the end of the story and the credits role. There is an Easter egg that was pretty good!

As a side note, someone who saw the picture before I posted it into this posting asked, "What's 3D golf?" The kids play center had just opened a month or two ago so I asked. Apparently you wear 3D glasses as you play mini golf. Along the course are pictures that will appear 3D. I didn't verify this as I didn't want to pay $5 bucks or so to find out.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Movie Review: The Wolfman

At Universal Studios Hollywood is the House of Horrors, a place where you walk through many scary scenes from classic horror movies like The Mummy, Psycho, Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolfman.

As I was walking through I managed to get by the wolfma's area unscathed but after I rounded the corner and was exploring the world of Frankenstein, the Wolfman came up behind me and gave me a good startle. Some of those same startles got me as I watched the new updated version of The Wolfman.

In this version of Benicio del Toro gets the lead as Lawrence Talbot who will eventually end up as "Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright." Lawrence has come home to at the behest of his brother's fiance Gwen (Emily Blunt) as his brother Ben has gone missing. Anthony Hopkins plays his father Sir John Talbot who greets him as he enters the dark, large and brooding Talbot Manor in the English countryside.

After the funeral Lawrence wants to find his brother's killer for himself and for Gwen.

Inspector Abbeline (Hugo Weaving) comes in from London to officially investigate the murder. His father recommends that since the moon was full he stay at the manor but does Lawrence listen, no. Gypsies are in town so he goes to their encampment to talk to them about a medallion that was found among his brother's personal effects. He's told to stay in the encampment by the gypsy Maleva; does he listen No. The encampment is attacked by something big, fast, strong and brutal and when Lawrence chases whatever it is, he gets attacked and wounded. So by not listening to people Lawrence ends up in deep kimchi as the saying goes.

Most people watching knows what is coming. At the next full moon Lawrence turns into the wolfman bringing hysteria, death and destruction to the local populace. The movie has an R rating due to the violence and the gore of primal violence displayed by the beast. Between his bite and several turnings Lawrence develops feelings for Gwen who tries to rescue him from his curse. Like all good monster movies the monster is sacrificed for the love of the women. Lawrence does it for Gwen like King Kong did for Fay Wray. "It was beauty killed the beast."

The makeup for the monster was done by Rick Baker. He's the same guy who did the make up for Michael Jackson's transformation in Thriller and David Naughton in An American Werewolf in London. Del Toro's Wolfman is not as animal like as Naughton but not quiet as human as Jackson but somewhere in between. Baker makes a cameo in the movie as one of the gypsies. The transformations are relatively short and it takes a while to see the monster's face but when you do, it's a good homage to Lon Chaney's look in the 1941 original.

Del Toro doesn't fully emote a man conflicted between the man who says his prayers by night and one who has knowledge that he shreds people just as a beast has sliced his brother. A sense of urgency doesn't seem to be there. Hopkins comes across as the man who knows more than he is telling since he lived in the countryside for so many decades.

The plot moves along. I didn't look at my watch because I was bored. While watching I had a couple of questions that did lead to a section of plot that I wasn't expecting within the familiar wolfman story. There were a few points where I got startled and jumped in my seat which is what I hope will happen when the movie genre is horror. Being a remake one hopes that it will be much better than the original. This didn't reach that level, but it was good enough to keep me engrossed for the two hour and five minute movie worthy of the matinee admission that I paid.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A LOST evening in Waikiki

Living in Hawaii has its perks. The 50th state has events happening all the time. Some times it's local and other times it's on a national or even world wide state. This past weekend was one of those times when one of those world wide events happened.

The TV series LOST has been filming on O'ahu since the series started in 2004. My understanding is that all but a handful of scenes have been done here on O'ahu. Saturday night, January 30, 2010 ABC held the premiere of the final season at the Sunset on the Beach event in Waikiki.

There's been a lot of hype about this TV show and it's gained fans from all over the world. Many of whom flown from all over the world to experience this event. Luckily from my Apt in Paradise to the premiere site is only 1.5 miles as the crow flies. I hopped on the number four bus and was there in 15 minutes.

Living in Honolulu often time as I was travelling I'd see the production trucks some where. It might be in Downtown Honolulu or at the Hawaii Convention Center. It was always exciting to see them and with the advent of Twitter, Plurk and Facebook, being able to tweet out LOST is filming at such and such location. Watching the show and being able to spot locations added more excitement. Looking at a location and seeing how they might have changed it slightly to represent another location somewhere in the world added still another dimension. It's been a fun ride spotting locations.

Anticipation has been building for the closure of LOST for some time. Since Damon Linderloff and Carlton Cuse got the number of remaining episodes that ABC and their parent company Disney were going to allow, the timer started. They now knew what they had to do in order to complete the series in the time allowed. At first you would put it out of your mind, but on Saturday it hit a high point.

People were on the beach all day getting ready for the show that night. Chairs were set up in a reserved VIP area and then there was the open sand. I saw tweets that said people were already set up prior to 8AM. The day started a bit overcast, but by the time I got there it had pretty well cleared up. By the time the stars started to arrive at 5pm, it was beautiful with some clouds and the sun shining through. There was a little bit of a breeze and off shore a catamaran, and a couple of sail boats were observing the festivities as they bobbed up and down in the waves.

One by one the stars arrived to cheers from the crowd. It was funny to hear people going "who's that?" Calls to the stars by their real names and their characters names rang out to try to get their attention. My location was near the hospitality tent, but not along the main path. Some of the stars came over to our side so we could get shots. Michael Emerson (Benjamin Linus) and his wife Carrie Preston who were one of first to arrive came over and stood for shots. Naveen Andrews (Sayid) stopped off at the hospitality tent for a smoke. He then came over a little later and held his sun glasses, cigarettes and lighter behind his back as he got right up to the barricade to take photos with and sign autographs with fans. Terry O'Quinn (John Locke) even came over to one fan, took off his lei and placed it over her head. Some of the stars just rushed back and forth between the back of the stage and the hospitality tent where one of the handlers had them doing what looked like signing t-shirts.

As the sun was setting the stars gathered up by the stage and screen getting ready for introductions. Stephen McPherson President of ABC Entertainment along with Damon and Carlton took the stage to make introductions. In addition to those already mentioned, Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lily, Henry Ian Cusick, Daniel Dae Kim, Emily De Ravine, Harold Parrineau, Jorge Garcia, Yujin Kim, Nestor Carbonell, Josh Hollaway, Jeff Fahey, and Ken Leung all took their place on the stage and took their bows to the cheers and clapping of the fans. After a couple of commercials they got everyone caught up with the series by playing Everything you need to know about LOST in 8:15. Then the main event, the first hour of the two hour premiere with NO commercials! All I'm going to say was *GREAT*!

After the main event was over people were scrambling to get a commemorative T-shirt. By filling out an evaluation of the episode there was a tent where you could redeem the eval for a white t-shirt. As the next episode of Modern Family played on the screen thousands of people crowded around the half dozen or so people in the tent. They had enough for everyone so there was no fighting pushing or shoving. It was very calm.

Let me say right here that if you're reading this and you made the trip to O'ahu to see the premiere, Mahalo nui! Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to visit us here. We hope that you had a great experience and will come back again. You'll need to come back and take a tour to see new locations that were used for the sixth and final season!

I would expect that locally, there will be two more times when there will be a lot of LOST activity in the news. First will be the last day of filming. When they make the call "That's a wrap" bringing the final scene to a close it will probably be all over the local media. The second would be when the final show airs sometime in May. I expect this event to play out on a world wide scale. Who knows, maybe they'll do a Sunset on the Beach on a Tuesday for the last episode. Here's hoping!