Archive for the ‘twisted reality’ category

The Guilty Pleasures of “Puppet Master…”

July 21, 2021

Horror as a genre is not for everyone, and even those of us who enjoy it have our favorite sub-domains. One of my favorite niche franchises is that of Puppet Master, now having produced over a dozen films since the first one issued in 1989.

Now calling these inspired creations “puppets” is technically incorrect as they are actually marionettes, although of the autonomous Pinocchio type that function without strings, or even direct human guidance. Crafted by old world-type puppet master Andre Toulon, these puppets are infused with the souls of people who died fighting the Nazis, and have an axe to grind against them and other rotten individuals. Toulon had picked up the trick of animating the figures with transmigrated souls through Egyptian magic, and as we know the ancients were quite concerned with resurrecting things. A glowing green brew with which he infuses his creations keeps them perking. Each of the anthropomorphic Puppets has a distinct appearance, personality and skill set.

Consider Blade here. Skull-like but not quite a skull, he’s inhabited by the soul of a German scientist and doctor who wanted to work with Toulon, but was shot by the Nazis. Now he operates with a hook as one hand, and a blade for the other, and is arguably the leader of the Puppets. He has kind of a Goth appearance.

Then we have Six-Shooter, undeniably well-armed with three sets of them each brandishing a pistol. Cast in the mold of a dastardly western outlaw, he can use his arms to climb walls, like Dr. Octopus of Spiderman infamy, and has a memorable hee-hee-hee laugh. Other Puppets include Jester, Torch, Pinhead, Tunneler, and Leech Woman (don’t ask). These are just a few of the regulars, who at times serve for either good or evil as protagonists or antagonists. It can all get rather confusing, and their universe is far from seamless.

The series has prequels, sequels, and cross-overs which add to the general mayhem and confusion. While a horror series with considerable gore, there’s a bit of leavening humor throughout. One leaves each viewing wondering what exactly they have seen, but this strange brew of Egyptian magic I find oddly invigorating and certainly offbeat…

“Sexy Beasts” Is Coming to Netflix…

June 24, 2021

If you melded The Masked Singer with The Dating Game and sprinkled in some psychedelic drugs, you might come up with something similar to Sexy Beasts, a bizarre dating series premiering on Netflix July 21st. The show is based on an earlier British series that also had versions run in Germany, Korea, and the United States.

The show’s prior core concept involved taking an eligible male or female and matching them on successive dates with three other singles, with all four individuals transformed by heavy prosthetic facial makeovers to resemble animal or mythological figures. Only the contestant’s face would be altered, the rest of their body being as it would normally appear. In the course of the episodes two of the three suitors would be eliminated, allowing the remaining person to go on a second date with the bachelor or bachelorette, both parties then unmasked.

The idea is supposedly to see if romance can be generated solely on the basis of personality if not allowed to see the true face of a prospective suitor. A scenario can then be generated where a woman wearing a panda head inquires of a man resembling a bull whether he has health insurance. We all know that this happens all the time…

Not all of the contestants will be furry, with some facially made up to resemble insects, aliens, monsters, or assorted supernaturals. We all know that the course of true love seldom runs smooth, after all. One’s “date” might turn out to be a real dog, but then presumably you’d at least have a new best friend…

Ah well! In the search for a sexy beast, if nothing’s ventured, nothing’s gained. You might, after all, find one of your own kind.- – Do you know any sexy beasts?  Might a few of you out there be one? Time to ‘fess up…or maybe not. Feral is as feral does, after all.  And what might be a suitable soundtrack for this series?  Perhaps You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate!   🦊

“Grilling Out” with the LiMu Emu…

June 11, 2021

I’m not sure that one would want to date or marry an insurance company spokesman or rep as depicted on TV, where they never seem to be able to talk about anything but insurance, which can get old really fast! So it is at an outdoor cookout for Liberty Mutual’s “Doug” (David Hoffman), the Emu, and their presumed wives. The partners are dressed alike in matching loud yellow floral Hawaiian print shirts, and even their wives are in matching tones. It’s a surreal occasion, their outfits matching the yellow finish of the Liberty Mutual-mobile visible in the background. They’re nothing but thematic here…

When Doug blathers only about insurance, his wife politely asks him to change the topic, it being the weekend and all.- -Give it a rest, dude! In the awkward silence that follows, Doug asks the Emus wife if she would prefer to eat either a hot dog or chicken right off the grill, the latter offering seeming to be at least quasi-cannibalistic for the bird. The Emu vocalizes a brief response which Doug interprets to indicate a choice for a hot dog. It is not clear whether this is possibly because chickens may resemble baby emus in their sight…

For inquiring minds, the Emu memorably depicted in these commercials is a mix of real bird and CGI effects. At any rate, he certainly can rock a pair of aviator shades! Perhaps a future commercial could touch on a sensitive issue, such as The Great Australian Emu War of 1932, where 20,000 emus prevailed against World War I veterans armed with machine guns. They are a resourceful and resilient species… 🦊

Progressive’s Lovable Loser…

June 6, 2021

While Flo (Stephanie Courtney) is undeniably the top banana in Progressive Insurance commercials, her sidekick Jamie (Jim Cashman) is often a scene-stealing figure. Originally portrayed as kind of a lovable loser beginning in 2014, the Jamie figure has developed layers of character, almost becoming kind of a mystery man.

At first denied sprinkles by Flo because “sprinkles are for winners,” we have seen different sides of Jamie. He can be a goofy and well-intentioned loser, but as we have learned in other commercials can be boorish (Ride Along), sarcastic (Driver’s Ed), or awesome, with martial arts skills (Jamie’s Trip Review). In 40th Birthday Bash, we see Jamie in his not-so-modest home, where we meet his gorgeous wife and hear him play guitar and sing, quite well! This is not just some guy in a white apron, but rather someone with quite the hidden life, and as many layers as an onion. Jamie may not live his job completely as Flo does, but there’s more to him than meets the eye, too, and there may be a little bit of Jamie in all of us, for better or worse…

Geico’s “Bear Country” Commercial…

May 18, 2021

  
Geico Insurance has already featured Rocky and Bullwinkle and Casper the Friendly Ghost in commercials, so we shouldn’t be surprised that they’re punching the nostalgia ticket another time with a crossover commercial featuring Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo.

We’re introduced to some couples enjoying a barbecue while rejoicing that they’ve finally found their dream home in the mountains when the occasion is crashed by the two Hanna-Barbera ursines, first introduced in 1958.  It is bear country, apparently, and while the humans beat a hasty retreat, Yogi and his diminutive partner help themselves to the goodies, all without Ranger Smith in sight.  I’m kind of disappointed in Boo-Boo, who in the vintage ‘toons would kind of serve as the voice of reason to Yogi, or at least try to rein him in a bit, usually unsuccessfully. Here Boo-Boo is an all-too-willing participant, helping himself to the chicken and other edibles, which include corn on the cob and even steak.

Living in bear country may not be easy, but from their safe sanctuary within their house the people are relieved that Geico at least makes bundling their homeowners insurance easy and saves them money…and when Yogi and Boo-Boo have departed, one of the humans, Jack, can be coaxed down from his perch in a tree. We also get to hear Yogi’s trademark boast that he’s “Smarter than the average bear” when he suggests leaving the scene with a cobbler to go.

But hey, this isn’t Jellystone Park, and a barbecue at a house doesn’t constitute a pic-a-nic basket raid!  Call Animal Control, someone…Yogi’s apparently becoming an invasive species, and may become the recipient of a tranquilizer dart or worse if he keeps this up…and why do bears need ties, anyways?!  I don’t even like ’em…   🐻

  

The Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Pinocchio Commercial…

April 27, 2021



It’s been called “nightmare fuel,” extremely disturbing, and creepy; the Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Pinnochio Commercial, that is!  There is something not quite right about the skin tones, enormous eyes, and jointed arms of our CGI Pinocchio depicted; this is truly something terribly apart from nature.  He may “dance without strings,” but we only want to dance away from him, and quickly. – – Geppetto, how could you do this to us?!   Yes, there’s a bug in this commercial, and for me, he’s the highlight…

Now our marionette-boy is so bowled over by the taste of Coke Zero Sugar that his creator and cricket companion Jiminey don’t seem to believe his raves over the drink, telling Pinnochio that if he keeps lying, he’ll never be a real boy. They seem persuaded, however, upon trying the product.  “I never lie,” maintains Pinnochio. This, of course, is a lie, and causes the would-be boy’s nose to grow to tree-limb length across the room.  We really didn’t need to see this, and the Geico commercials of a few years back handled Pinnochio in a more clever fashion.

Geppetto looks younger and more vigorous than his Disney counterpart in this commercial airing, and I like the treatment of Jiminey Cricket as a fully-fledged anthropomorphic insect, minus the Disney hat, umbrella, and moralizing but complete with the proper number of six rather than Disney’s four limbs. – – This bug could go places if he doesn’t break into singing When You Wish Upon A Star.  So lose the “boy,” but the bug’s a keeper…

 


Progressive’s “Motaur: Interruptions” Commercial…

March 28, 2021

  

Biomechanical organisms can be both freaky and funny at the same time, and Terrence Terrell as Progressive’s Insurance “Motaur” is at it again, this time showing off his light side as he motors down a deserted country road, singing and bopping to Culture Club’s 1980’s hit, Karma Chameleon.  It was a catchy tune, and our Motaur seems to be enjoying himself thoroughly, even getting an arm dance thing going on.  One doubts that a Skynet creation would do this…

…but as fate would have it, Motaur’s free-spirited fun is over when his rear tire unexpectedly goes flat.  Fortunately, our boy has Progressive’s 24/7 roadside assistance plan, and will soon be on the road again.  This commercial is actually part one of a two part series, the second part called New Shoes, and set in a tire shop.

I just never expected the Motaur to be a Boy George fan, did you? And despite my fascination with cyborgs, I’m keeping all of my organic parts, thank you…

   

Does Pepe Le Pew Stink?

March 10, 2021

(Warning:  some adult themes in the following post, albeit about a cartoon character…)

Striped skunk Pepe Le Pew has been kicking around as a Warner Bros. character since 1945, but to some this skunk is a male chauvinist pig and sexual predator.  With some saying that the amorous skunk normalizes rape culture, Pepe has been dropped from the sequel to Space Jam, and won’t be appearing in further Warner Bros. productions for the foreseeable future – – Sacre bleu!

Now this skunk was a one-trick pony, so to speak,  portrayed as a french character complete with accent who fancies himself highly desirable, whereas his skunk scent and unwanted advances made him in reality abhorrent to the object of his affections, usually one Penelope Pussycat, who was originally nameless.  In his classic routines, Pepe would be easily deceived into thinking that the black and white feline was another skunk once she wound up with a streak of white paint down her back.  Penelope would vigorously resist the skunk’s unwanted advances and attempt to flee from him, but Pepe could easily keep pace with her with a kind of bouncing hop classic to himself; he was truly “high on a feeling.” There were variations to this formula, but Pepe seldom abandoned his arguably predatory pursuit.

 

Herein lies the rub, and Pepe’s conflict with contemporary societal norms.  To the skunk, no never meant no, but resistance was all part of the game, and represented normal behavior.  It was alright for Pepe in his own mindset to persist in his unwanted aggressive physical advances, because the female was simply playing “hard to get,”  and her resistance was adorable, appealingly cute, and even amusing.  Hence, the accusations that Pepe was normalizing rape culture.  He simply grabbed poor Penelope, and tried to foist himself on her.  Fortunately, we never saw any skunk/kitty domination porn out of it, although in some dark corners of the internet you could probably find it.  Trust me on this; I’m a furry…

There was a bit more to the character as well, playing upon the stereotype that all Frenchmen were great lovers, whether they actually were or not.  Pepe certainly thought that he was, and his narcissism lent a bit of comic irony, which was part of the running shtick of the character.  He was also a skunk, and they don’t smell like roses!  Whether blinded by love or lust, Pepe in most of his cartoon outings failed to recognize that Penelope was of a different species entirely, so you had that comic misidentification  going on, a “love is blind” kinda thing.  Pepe was at core sexually frustrated in spite of his personal perspective that he was at least potentially some kind of love god, a hot item “on the make.”  He never prevailed, but he was certainly persistent, to a flaw. This is no longer considered a virtue as it once perhaps was, but now is rather a red flag of inappropriate behavior.  Pepe might today face charges for his conduct were Penelope of a litigious mind; watch out for a kitten who isn’t smitten!  Perhaps Foghorn Leghorn could defend Pepe in court…“The boy, I say, the boy was just doin’ what comes naturally, and after all, he’s French…”  

This unwanted persistence of male suitors played well generations ago at the general time of his origin, and Pepe Le Pew was certainly not the only character guilty of it.  For example, Dean Martin’s seasonal song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” has also been largely dropped from favored Xmas song playlists for just the same reason as kind of an anthem of date rape. There’s a fine line between seductively sexy and creepy these days, and what was once constituted as “boys being boys” doesn’t fly well any more; just ask any number of disgraced pervy politicians, although charges stick much better to some than others, ahem! 

I’m kind of glad that Warner Bros. is dropping Pepe Le Pew rather than trying to reform him; it just wouldn’t be the same, and our skunk is after all incorrigible, a self-deceived romantic rogue whose essence would be destroyed by being sanitized.  While Pepe was a product of his time and that time is now past, I’m going to miss the lovestruck rascal even if he is politically incorrect by today’s standards…this skunk was such a dog, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor, a slick if clueless anachronism and stereotype, the “locksmith of love” in love with love and himself.  The path of true love, so they say, seldom runs smooth, although hope springs eternal even while the “game of love” may for some have a baffling rule book.  As Pepe might say, “You know, it is possible to be too attractive.”  He may have been delusional, but he didn’t suffer from self-concept problems…

 


Dr. Seuss Books in Racist Row…

March 3, 2021


Six Dr. Seuss books will no longer be published owing to racist images and references within them, specifically in regards to black and Asian people.  Not to excuse or condone such things, but they were common stereotypes of the time, and I did grow up with them while never becoming a white supremacist.  I far preferred the surreal iconoclasm of Dr. Seuss to the exclusive vanilla wholesomeness of the Dick and Jane readers, plus he drew awesome anthropomorphic animals!

Objectionable racist portrayals in kiddie lit and entertainment of the time were not by any means restricted to Dr. Seuss.  Consider Elmer Fudd as a ludicrous Native American in Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt.  Remember Disney’s Song of the South.  Visit the 1961 Dick Tracy cartoon series for stereotyped crime fighters Joe Jitsu and Go Go Gomez.  These are but a few examples, to be sure.

The discontinued Dr. Seuss titles are but a few books among many that do not have objectionable content, and generally are among his lesser-known works.  Dr. Seuss got a lot of kids reading, and eagerly so.  His art had furry roots, and could be quite thematic while wildly entertaining.   It largely holds up well today.  While Theodor Geisel was a product of his times as are we all, he was a pretty cool dude whose legacy remains a good one.

And all I know is that I’m keeping and cherishing my Fox in Socks book forever, even if the fox does appear to have some kind of strange unknown disease or genetic affliction…

 

 

 

Geico’s “Captain Ahab” Commercial…

January 22, 2021

I’m glad that Captain Ahab has found work finding parking spaces for people now that the whaling age is over.  I’ve always felt that ole Ahab just needed a good spin doctor; I’ve worked for bosses far worse than he was, seriously!  And there are cities where enterprising dudes grubbing for a buck will scout out and try to hold parking spaces for you.  It’s just a new Ahab for a new era; adapt and prevail, as the Borg might say…

So in our new Geico commercial, driver Sarah is asked by the announcer if she knows that Geico can save her hundreds on car insurance.  When she nods agreement, the announcer then asks if she’s waiting for Captain Ahab to find her a parking space in the crowded lot.  On cue, Ahab’s boots then thunk into her vehicle, and the old salt, protruding through the roof and complete with spyglass, is barking coordinates for open parking spaces to the young woman.  “Hard to starboard!,” he commands.  When the driver protests that the space is too small, Ahab counters that she should steer “to the northern lot, where there be parking spaces as big as whales!”  This Ahab (Played by Steve Coulter) is helpful if domineering, devoid of the obsessive psychosis that characterized him in Moby Dick.

Wouldn’t you like to have an auto GPS that spoke like an early 19th century Nantucket whaling captain?  And I hear that Ahab isn’t the only member of the Pequod crew to have found post-whaling employment.  I understand that ship’s mate Starbuck has done well with the line of coffee shops that bear his name, plus no whales are now harmed, which is a good thing (like the coffee)… ☕️ 🐋

( A whale-of-a-tale Foxsylvania production. Just don’t call me Ishmael.  Herman Melville rocks, woo!) 🦊

 


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