Fun/Entertainment: September 2005 Archives

A Legend Dies

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Don Adams, legendary comic actor who played Maxwell Smart, Agent 86 in spy spoof Get Smart, died Sunday. He was also the voice of Inspector Gadget but was too typecast to land any other sort of role despite his wide-ranging talents.

Get Smart, created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, ran from 1965-1970 and parodied almost every James Bond feature you could do on TV. Adams contributed quite of a few of his trademark lines and gags, some of which have been common in everyday conversation among people who never saw the show and don't know their origins. He won three emmies himself for the show, and it received two as a show. I believe I have all the episodes on tape now, but I'm sure I've only seen something like half of them.

Despite a pretty well-done TV movie The Nude Bomb in 1980 complete with a really cool evil bad guy lair, another return in 1989's Get Smart, Again!, which brought back even more elements of the show than the first movie, and a nowhere near as good TV series bringing the Smart twins into the spy business in 1995 with Andy Dick as Max and 99's son, Adams was never really able to get his franchise going again in full form. I haven't seen any of this later stuff in years, so I hope some of it gets played in honor of his memory.

Beast in X-Men 3

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When I was a kid, my favorite superhero was the Beast. He furry and cuddly. He was built like a football player who could nonetheless jump around like an ape and hang on the ceiling. Most importantly, he was a brilliant scientist who had an expansive speaking vocabulary that he was quite fond of using. My favorite moment was when he told someone to go orally extract the embryonic fluid from a hen's egg. It was almost as good as when Namor the Submariner told Hercules, "May your beard grow inward!"

It's a little suprising (given his physical form) who they've cast for him in the third X-Men film, but it's pretty clear why. They wanted someone who could perform as Hank McCoy the intelligent scientist, and I assume they're figuring they can work out the physical look with special effects, depending on how much they want to spend on Beast's look. If that's their criterion, then their choice is absolutely perfect -- none other than Kelsey Grammer. According to the Wikipedia entry I linked above, he will be the blue and furry second mutation version, but that seems to trace back to this story, which doesn't quote anyone from Marvel as saying that he will be blue and furry. It seems to be more of an editorial assumption, as far as I can tell. You never know how reliable reports from people claiming to have seen something on set are, but this one describes the prosthesis for Beast's head. It doesn't say much, but it does describe blue skin on his neck, ears, and the sides of his head, with black fur on his face. That suggests that it's not the original human-looking but superhuman form.

Mimi & Sam: Melodies of Nature is a fun DVD for kids under three who love stunning visuals along with music. Even our oldest son, an autistic four-year-old, absolutely loves it. He loves to see various shapes changing into other shapes, and the animal footage is pretty fun for him as he tries to name everything that's going on. You see colorful birds, a tiger, elephants, orangutans, various small mammals from around the world, and lots of other animals. The nature visuals range from mountain waterfalls to beaches to the desert canyons to flowers (with stop-motion filming as a flower blooms). Shapes and colors are interspersed among nature shots in Sesame Street fashion (though without the flashy commercialized feel), and you see some repeating characters popping up to do fun things, either through computer animation or puppets. There's a pretty fun penguin with a hat and sunglasses who keeps popping up, and the stuffed bear is a favorite with our kids, especially when it dances to the funk beat. That always gets a giggle. Children pop in here and there as well. One really cute scene has a girl falling asleep as she's eating, with stuff all over her face.

In a few parts, a girl's voice says the name of a shape or an object being drawn, but there's not much in the way of words. There's a music soundtrack throughout the whole thing, with classical and original compositions, using a wide range of timbres. Our oldest son drums along with the soundtrack as he watches and calls out the names of things as they come up. The special features allow you to watch just the puppet portions, just the scenes with the computer-generated boy and girl who are pictured on the front cover, or just the parts involving the naming of shapes, fruits, letters, and colors.

One of the original goals of the husband and wife team who created it is to display the beauty of the world God has created while stimulating children's senses. They've succeeded. Some of the visuals are really beautiful, and kids love it. It's got a half-hour running time, and our kids are fixated for much of that time. The creators of this video, Baby Ventures, have children in the age group this is intended for (0-3 years), and they certainly know what kids in that age group enjoy and what will facilitate learning some of the basics. I highly recommend it.



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