19 November 2019

Baby... Secret of the Lost Legend & My Science Project

"Personal Touch" is a feature where Charlene can talk about the Touchstone movies that Mike, and his co-host, Chad, cover in their podcast "Out of Touchstone".  Charlene is more of the silent partner in the venture (she helps produce the episodes), so she's using the HoneyNerds blog to comment on what she thought about the films discussed in each podcast episode. 

Listen to the episode of the podcast here!
Out of Touchstone: Episode 2 "Dinosaurs Galore"

Baby... Secret of the Lost Legend (1985)

This is a strange relic of a movie.  The plotting is haphazard, the characterizations are poorly developed, and the stakes are ill-conceived.  Yet, from what I have heard from people who saw this movie as children - they loved it.  I will say the practical effects of the dinosaurs were well done and I can see how that can be appealing.  I feel that this film does not hold up at all if you are not a child watching it, but there are some interesting aspects to it.

When it comes to the plot, the storytelling is very uneven.  It takes a while for the audience to even see the dinosaurs, and it's strange that when they are introduced, the scene is abrupt and the reactions of the leads (George and Susan) to seeing them is not shown.  With the main conflict (George and Susan racing against their former boss/Professor to revealing the existence of a living dinosaur) I could not understand what the outcome would be.  It becomes obvious that the Professor is more ruthless in his need to be the first to make the discovery and is seen as the villain, yet George and Susan ultimately have the same goal as the Professor.  And clearly, revealing the existence of these living dinosaurs would be harmful to them.  With the goals of the protagonist and the antagonist being the same, it was hard to understand why I should root for the protagonist at all.  That conflict is ultimately resolved to some satisfaction, with neither side getting what they wanted, but how that affects George and Susan's career is never addressed.  

The film does bring up some interesting relationship conflicts for the married couple.  Family vs. career and the expectations for Susan to become a mother cause a rift between the two.  Susan is doing research in Africa, and George is working remotely as a sports reporter so he can be with his wife.  There is some time spent on George expressing that he wants to start a family and Susan wants to focus on her career.  I would have loved to see how that is resolved, but sadly it is not.  Even with befriending the dinosaur and calling it "Baby" I would have thought there would be something addressing Susan making a decision or compromising with George but there is nothing.  

This is an adventure movie with a whimsical title that promises a romp, but it is instead a realistic, yet superficial examination of cultural differences, the perils of scientific research, and the burden of being a career-driven woman.  The scenes with the dinosaurs are somewhat cute and entertaining though!

My Science Project (1985)

This is another poorly conceived and executed film that I believe might be beloved only by people who saw it as a child.  But where Baby... Secret of the Lost Legend brought up some thought-provoking ideas and conflicts, this film is just silly.  But it had an interesting premise.  The main character Mike happens across a mystery machine while illegally searching the U.S. Government's Defense disposal depot for a potential science project.  This mystery object can create time warps and in a laughably nonsensical series of events, the machine is hooked up to the electrical grid and goes into overdrive - turning one of the school buildings into a zone of different times and eras that the plucky teenagers must navigate.  

This last set-piece of past and future encounters was the most engaging part of the movie.  Getting to that point was tedious - from the paper-thin set up for Mike's discovery of alien time-traveling technology to the unfulfilling romance between cool jock Mike and the nerdy, high school newspaper reporter Ellie.  The characters were all broadly uninteresting character tropes with no nuance and so much of the film features lazy writing.  It felt like this movie had an idea (the climax with the students encountering different time periods in one building) and it took the easiest and quickest route to get to that point.

05 November 2019

Things to do in Portland, Oregon

The HoneyNerds recently visited Portland and other sites in Oregon for a quick vacation getaway.  We pack in the sight-seeing on our trips, so for our blog, we are highlighting the places we visited.  This is by no means a comprehensive list of places to see and things to do in Oregon, but an overview of places relevant to our interests.  

Powell's Book Store

Visiting Powell's was a must for Charlene - as she loves books and is always at home in a bookstore.  Powell's is the largest independent bookstore in the world and has four floors to explore and discover new and used books.  Charlene spent about three hours here and just about managed to see everything she wanted.  This is an incredible place for book lovers, and also great for people looking for gifts.  The in-store cafe has an amazing cup of hot chocolate as well!

Rose Quarter

Located just across the Willamette River from downtown Portland, the historic Rose Quarter features not one but two multi-purpose venues: the newer Moda Center (which opened in 1995) and the nearly 60-year-old Veterans Memorial Coliseum.  Mike is a huge sports fan and is fascinated by the architecture of arenas and stadiums, so he had hoped to see both of the Portland arenas during this vacation.  The NBA's Portland Trail Blazers left the older Coliseum for the Moda Center once it opened, but the local junior hockey team - the WHL's Portland Winterhawks - splits their home games between the facilities.  As luck would have it, this HoneyNerds trip would allow a visit to both!

On the first night, the Trail Blazers were playing their home opener of the 2019-20 NBA season, and Mike had great tickets in the lower bowl.  It was the team's 50th anniversary season, and every fan in attendance received a free commemorative t-shirt!  The game featured an exciting rematch of a thrilling playoff series from the year before, as the Denver Nuggets were in town to play the home team.  A very close game would ensue, and Mike had a fun time both watching the game AND wandering around the arena (where he met the Trailblazers mascot!).

The Winterhawks were on a road trip, but there was an event at the Memorial Coliseum on the second night of the trip: a concert featuring one of Mike's favorite artists, singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles.  He's been a fan for several years and saw her live in Los Angeles during her previous tour in 2014.  In the meantime, Sara's star has grown as she's written a successful Broadway musical (Waitress, adapted from the film of the same name), and starred in the live TV presentation of Jesus Christ Superstar, opposite John Legend.  She was touring in support of her latest album Amidst the Chaos, and the HoneyNerds scored floor seats less than 20 rows from the stage!  It was a stirring performance from the ensemble of talented musicians, highlighted by Sara's wonderful voice.  The arena itself was an interesting relic of a bygone era, offering insight to the glory years when the Trail Blazers made three appearances in the NBA Finals, winning their lone championship in 1977.

Voodoo Doughnut

Of course, any visit to Portland would be incomplete without a visit to Voodoo Doughnuts!  While we were too beguiled by the choices of scrumptious sweets to take pictures inside of the store, we did take a picture of the famous pink box!  We saw so many people walking around with them in Portland!  The gimmicky, over-the-top flavors with tongue-in-cheek names adds to the fun of eating these delicious doughnuts.  Voodoo is one of the first to create unique combinations for doughnuts, and it is worth the visit to try some flavors out.  We got the Portland Cream, the Double Chocolate,  and the Pumpkin cannoli - all sinfully delectable.  

Oregon Historical Society Museum

While this museum has a great exhibit on the history of Oregon (beginning with the formation of the land!), the HoneyNerds were interested foremost in a traveling Beatles exhibit that was about to end its run.  It was sponsored by the Grammy Museum and featured a wonderful collection of memorabilia and history about one of our favorite bands.  They have some great interactive pieces as well.  We highly recommend it if you are in the area!  The exhibits about the state of Oregon were also interesting and informative.  It is clear a lot of thought went into the presentation and it is a very engaging exhibit.

Oregon Rail Heritage Center

The HoneyNerds are not railfans as a rule, but we decided to stop by this museum for historic locomotives and artifacts because it houses the Southern Pacific 4449 which was featured in a Touchstone Picture entitled Tough Guys.  This was important research for our just-released podcast Out of Touchstone!  The museum is staffed by very kind and enthusiastic docents who were informative and friendly as they took us around the heritage center.  While we were there, people were working on restoring the trains and we got a unique look at the inside of these amazing machines.  If you are interested in trains, you will love visiting this lovely homage to a bygone era.

Tillamook Creamery

The Tillamook Creamery is about seventy miles west of Portland, in the town of Tillamook and is well worth a visit if you can make it.  The Creamery is small though, so for visitors, you can probably see everything in a couple hours.  There is a self-guided tour of the factory - you can look down on the workers as they process curds and whey and package bars of aged cheese - ending with a sample station of four or five different kinds of Tillamook cheese.  And in the cafe area, you can sample that cheese again in sandwiches or poured over macaroni.  Yum!  The food highlight for us though was the ice cream.  There were so many flavors but we decided to get two scoops each - Oregon Dark Cherry, Marionberry Pie, Huckleberry, and Tillamook Mudslide.  They.  Were.  Amazing.  And way too filling.  Each scoop was gigantic.  

Oregon State Capitol

Mike has a long-running fascination with state capitols, so making the hour-long trip from Portland to nearby Salem was a must for this trip.  The city of Salem is quite charming, and the State Capitol building is a gorgeous beacon in the city center.  Prominent architecture and design are on display both inside and out: the exterior of the building features sculptures to honor both pioneers from the Oregon Trail, as well as the expedition of Lewis and Clark with Sacagawea; meanwhile, the interior highlights similar explorations involved with the settling of the Oregon territory.  One of the most unique aspects of this building is the rotunda - while virtually all of the state capitols have them, this particular rotunda was surrounded by a marble structure, with the dome only being visible from the inside.  We took a self-guided tour of the facility, and made a quick stop at the gift shop where Mike bought a pair of socks that matched the carpet from the Senate chamber!

04 November 2019

Splash & Country

"Personal Touch" is a feature where Charlene can talk about the Touchstone movies that Mike, and his co-host, Chad, cover in their podcast "Out of Touchstone".  Charlene is more of the silent partner in the venture (she helps produce the show), so she's using the HoneyNerds blog to comment on what she thought about the films discussed in each podcast episode.  

Out of Touchstone: Episode 1 "Mermaid Foreclosure"

Before I get into my reviews of the films, I'd just like to say that this podcast is a labor of love and Mike and I have really enjoyed watching these films and talking about them.  We hope new listeners will also enjoy the chat about the films, as well as the history.  If you give the show a listen, please consider leaving a review (5 stars is preferable!) and any constructive comments or thoughts on our format and style will be gratefully received!  Thank you!

Other links to listen to the podcast: iTunes ||  Spotify  Or search for it on your favorite podcast app!

Splash (1984) 

I'm just going to say first that my initial experience with the lore of mermaids comes from Disney's The Little Mermaid.  It was one of my favorite films growing up, and it's still my favorite Disney film, as Ariel is my favorite Disney princess.  So my anticipation in watching Splash (a movie that pre-dates The Little Mermaid!) was in many ways because I was looking forward to a live-action version of the animated film.  

And while my mindset was not open-minded, there were some curious echoes of the great animated movie to come.  The romance is "love at first sight", Daryl Hannah's Madison can not speak at first, and there is a singing crab.  Just kidding!  It's a lobster and it's eaten by Madison.

But seriously, once I moved past my Ariel-tinted viewing lens, this film is very much its own entity.  It's also the first film under the Touchstone Pictures banner.  Walt Disney Pictures decided to expand its catalog with more adult-oriented films and released it under the Touchstone name.  Watching this movie with that in mind, I feel like this film is a clear attempt at merging humor that appeals to children with adult language and themes.  Which worked on the whole.  

The main character - Allen Bauer - is a responsible, considerate, hard-working adult who seems to be generally unhappy and surrounded by people determined to make his life difficult.  Allen's reactions to his circumstances create humor, while the cartoonishly incompetent characters around him herald the immature jokes and gags.  I was most perturbed by John Candy's character.  He plays Allen's brother Freddy and is gross, dishonest, pervy and lewd.  He drops coins near women to look up their dress (as a child, AND as an adult), and it's clear his behavior is seen as "boys will be boys."  Thankfully he's not a character that would be acceptable in media today - not without specific commentary on the fact that what he is doing is wrong.  It's unfortunate that I wanted to see less of Freddy in the film, as John Candy seems like such a likable person.

The romance in this movie is quite interesting.  I found it believable that Allen and Madison have a connection, but the "love at first sight" trope is such an uninteresting way to get an audience invested in the relationship of two people.  I always prefer seeing how and why the characters find their connection.  But if I may, I will congratulate the film in creating a female character that unabashedly goes after her man, and also embraces a physical relationship.  Which it seems she goes for with just the intention of experiencing it and not for marriage.  It's refreshing that it is Allen who wants the traditional love and marriage scenario from their relationship.

Splash is a fun film - it doesn't try to be realistic in its characters or plot - but it is a very sweet and earnestly told tale.  I could have wished for more exposition and understanding about the mermaid world, and for a more nuanced romance, but it's an adult story with a fairy tale ending.  And I love fairy tales.

Country (1984)

Country is an unfortunate film in my mind.  It has the potential to be a decent movie but suffers from the sin of omission.  The style and editing are too leisurely to do the story justice.  The film focuses on the perils and uncertainty of being a farmer, and that affects interpersonal family relations.  Jessica Lange as the stalwart mother was the highlight of the film - she held the family, as well as the story together.  However, the tensions and the drama build very slowly so it is hard to become invested in their plight.  Even when their story is mirrored in another family's struggle and their fate is more tragic, I found my interest very thin.

The film is important for the story though.  It highlights the struggle of small farmers and the greed of corporate business.  The need to turn a profit is valued higher than a good family surviving.  Sure, the film can be heavy-handed in its message, but I think it brought to life an experience that many people might be unfamiliar with.  It is a heavy, depressing subject though, and that also makes this film sometimes difficult to watch.  I can understand why this film was not the family-friendly fare suited to Disney, and was relegated to the Touchstone brand.