Saturday, October 31, 2020

Silent Films on TCM this November

 Hello my friends as a new month once again apporachs us, here is another list of silent films that will be playing on TCM that month. 

Sunday, November 1st

Behind the Door
(1919) Director: Ivan V. Willat. Starring Hobart Bosworth and Wallace Beery. 9:15pm Pacific. 12:15am Eastern.

Wednesday, November 4th

(1916) Director: Lois Webber. Starring Mary Maclaren and Harry Griffith. 3am Pacific. 6am Eastern.

Friday, November 6th

The Circus
(1928) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Merna Kennedy. 7:45pm Pacific. 10:45pm Eastern. 

Sunday, November 8th

The Circle
(1925) Director: Frank Borzage. Starring Eleanor Boardman and Malcom McGregor. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern. 

Friday, November 13th

He Who Gets Slapped
(1924) Director: Victor Seastrom. Starring Lon Chaney and Norma Shearer. 9:45pm Pacific. 12:45am Eastern. 

Sunday November 15th 

Across to Singapore
(1928) Director: William Nigh. Starring Ramon Novarro and Joan Crawford. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern. 

Monday, November 16th

Weary River
(1929, part-talkie) Director: Frank Lloyd. Starring Richard Barthelmess and Betty Compson. 9:30 am Pacific. 12:30pm Eastern. 

Sunday November 22nd

Downhill (1927) Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Ivor Novello and Ben Webster. 9:15pm Pacific. 12:15am Eastern.  

Sunday, November 29th

Too Many Kisses
(1925) Director: Paul Salone. Starring Richard Dix and Frances Howard. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern. 

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #95

 Hello my friends Happy Saturday Morning and Happy Halloween. Yep that means it is time for some spooky themed cartoons. 

Let's start today's cartoon watching by attending Betty Boop's Halloween Party (1933). This is pure pre-code Betty at her best with fast paced action, bizarre cartoony gags, an energetic music score and a heck of a lot of charm. The following are two exhibitors' reviews from the Motion Picture Herald. "BETTY BOOP'S HALLOWEEN PARTY: Betty Boop Cartoons—Good cartocn and sound. It's just a toss-up which is the best cartoon, "Mickey Mouse," "Betty Boop" or "Popeye the Sailor," with "Popeye" slightly in the lead.—S. H. Rich, Rich Theatre, Montpelier, Idaho, Town and Rural Patronage." "BETTY BOOP'S HALLOWEEN PARTY: Talkar- toons—Better than the average Betty Boop. Good short for any program. - H. E. Newberry, Y.M.C.A. Theatre, Ware Shores, S.C. Small Town Patronage."

Next comes a Halloween adventure with Popeye the Sailor with the very enjoyable later Famous Studio outing, Fright to the Finish (1954). Many cartoons fans understandably dismiss the 1950's Popeye cartoons. I can't argue that they aren't as good as the sailor's 1930's and 40's output, but despite this I enjoy them on their own merits and this is one I especially like. 

Next comes the delightful TV special, Garfield's Halloween Adventure (1985). Unlike the Garfield and Friends TV series, these specials featured Jim Davis (creator and writer of the comic strip) as the credited writer. One thing these specials and the TV series did so extremely well was the voices. These voices have become as much a part of these characters as anything else and I find it hard to read the comic strip without hearing the dialogue in the voices of Lorenzo Music (Garfield) and Thom Huge (Jon). I love that this special has a very well handled creepy vibe that gives it just the right amount of atmosphere, while not making it actually scary. Even as a kid I noticed that the Garfield TV specials had an edge to them that was absent from most other versions of Garfield and that made me love them all the more. 

Of course a Halloween tradition for cartoon fans is the Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons. Here is a delightful segment from the very first Treehouse of Horror.

Next comes a Halloween masterpiece with Disney's Trick or Treat (1952). If you are interested in the history of this short, Film Historian (and huge influnce on me) J.B. Kaufman wrote this great article.

As promised here is the next episode of Ruff and Reddy, to find out what happens to our heroes next come back next week for more animated goodness. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

The Scooby-Doo! Show: The Headless Horseman of Halloween (1976)


One of the most memorable and best episode's of The Scooby-Doo! Show.

Scooby-Doo! and Halloween are a natural match and so having an episode taking place at a Halloween party itself is a great idea. Setting this party in a big mansion is also perfect as this not only is a huge environment for the story and a place where gag ideas flow freely, but there is also something inherently creepy about a mansion. The scenes outside the mansion are also perfectly designed for spooky fun with the excellent use of fog and the emptiness of the outside contrasted with the crowded party inside step up the spookiness perfectly. The Headless Horseman is one of the series' most memorable villains. With a great design a creepy voice and a threatening presence this baddie stays in one's mind the same way that the Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? villains do. This to me should be as iconic of a Scooby villain as any of those from the first series are. 

This may be strange to state but honestly if we are to judge by the comedy alone, I think The Scooby-Doo! Show is funnier than Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? Only The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo! and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo! compete with this series in terms of how funny it is. This episode has quite a few good laughs. Shaggy is at his best here and him showing the Headless Horseman how his head is made from bad material is one of his funniest moments. Scooby-Dum is my favorite of Scooby's family members and this episode shows why. His naiveté mixed with his eagerness to please make for a lot of funny moments. This episode has an espically good moment, when Scooby-Dum sees his brother and Shaggy faint and even though Scooby-Dum isn't scared, he decides if his companions are fainting he probably should too. Scooby-Dum is the simply dumb comedy character he could have been and instead of coming from stupidity comes from the fact that he is as eager so eager to help and his eagerness makes him act before he thinks about or understands the situation. He like Gracie Allen simply understands things he hears in a way that is completely different from how anyone else would and what he does always makes perfect sense in his own warped logic. This is funnier and more enduring than a character who is simply stupid. 

This episode is Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. game at their best and perfect to watch on Halloween night. 


Friday, October 30, 2020

Video: Brand New Animated Music Video - Bing Crosby's White Christmas.


Scooby-Doo! and Guess Who: One Minute Mysteries (2020)


Scooby-Doo! and Guess Who has so far been a very hit and miss show with some episodes being fantastic and others coming off as bland and uninspired. One Minute Mysteries is by far my favorite episode of the series so far. 

The Flash is one of my favorite superheroes and this episode perfectly shows why. I often like my super-heroics on the lighthearted fun side and so I love the fact that the Flash has always been a fun loving character (who is the first to crack a joke and openly enjoys being a superhero) and one to never be dark and brooding. This also makes him the perfect character to team with Scooby-Doo! The idea of his secret identity being best eating buddies with Scooby and Shaggy is a fantastic one that is completely in character. The fact that he simply enjoys solving mysteries with the gang is also fantastic and I love that so many of the mysteries he solves are ones from the original Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? series. I also love the fact that he can solve these mysteries so quickly, when it took the Mystery Inc. Gang a whole half hour special to solve this before. This allows the episode to both parody and pay an affectionate homage to the franchise's past at the same time. Appropriate for an episode with The Flash, the jokes come fast and furious here with nearly every one hitting the bullseyes. 

This is all the lighthearted silly cartoony fun, one could want from this series. While not every episode of this new show works, if we can sometimes get an episode like this, I am very happy this series exists.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Video: Karen O & Willie Nelson - "Under Pressure" (Official Audio)


Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness (2015)


A typically fun Scooby mystery that is elevated by its unusual environment. 

Though the Mystery Inc. Gang has met alien's before (both fake and real aliens), the gang space traveling here puts a delightful spin on it that gives this film a fresh feel. Sure them all getting to go on this adventure is far fetched, but this is a franchise with both humanized talking dogs and regular real life dogs co-existing, so I don't have a single problem with far fetched. The space resort is a fantastic environment for a Scooby movie. In a way it feels wonderful and magical but there is something dark and creepy about it that adds to the suspense and mystery. The mystery is definitely an above average one as there are enough suspects and clues for you to figure out the mystery yourself, but not enough to make it too easy. I was worried when I discovered that a rift between Daphne and Velma was going to be a part of this story. I thought that this could easily go wrong and give the movie a mean spirited feel. I was happily surprised to find that this was handled well. Part of this is that both of their reasons for being angry at the other make sense and are relatable. Velma feels insecure and Daphne just wants to be taken seriously. While the arguments get heated, the worst things they say are treated as character flaws and as something the two need to overcome. This lets the argument play out while still giving the film a lighthearted good nature feel. The side characters are very enjoyable. True some of them are mainly there for comedic purposes, but the jokes are funny. In fact there is quite a bit of good humor in this movie. There are even quite a few delightful movie references here.  The monster is perfect being creepy enough to cause real suspense without ever being actually scary.    

If I have a big problem with this movie that would be Fred. His intelligence and usefulness seem to fluctuate throughout the franchise. However this time they fluctuate throughout the movie with him either being stupid or smart depending on what the movie wants from him. Part of the plot is that he annoys the famous astronauts. Yet this is the weakest humor in the film and he annoyed me as well. 

While this may not be the best Scooby movie, it is highly enjoyable and recommended to fans of the franchise. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon (2013)


A delightful treat for Hanna-Barbera fans. 

The charm of this movie is extremely clear from the open credits segment. Seeing the Mystery Inc. Gang as comic book characters fighting alongside all of our favorite Hanna-Barbera superheroes is simply the kind of lighthearted fun we all want from a film like this, even if it is really a fantasy segment. The fun is only just starting there. Shaggy and Scooby being superhero geeks is something that was set up well before this in the franchise and it is great for it to play a prominent role. A comic book convention is a great setting for a Scooby mystery and one that is mostly unique (despite being used in a short Scooby-Doo! and Scrappy-Doo! segment before). What is also great about this film is to see Shaggy take the main role in solving the mystery and showing that he can contribute much more than just being live bait for monsters. The mystery itself is really good. There are enough suspects and clues that we can truly feel like we are solving the mystery along with our main characters and the film actually has us guessing quite a few times. Mr. Hyde is a fantastic Scooby-Doo! villain and is simply a lot of fun.  This movie's main appeal to cartoon fans is the sheer amount of references to Hanna-Barbera cartoons throughout. There are so many posters, comic books, displays and costumes in the background of the comic convention that show a lot of Hanna-Barbera characters of the 1960's and 70's that you can't take in them all in one viewing. 
The main downside to this movie is Velma. While the rest of the Mystery Inc. gang is as likable as ever, Velma strangely comes off as a jerk in this film. She talks down to the other characters simply because they have interests that she doesn't. She may not like superheroes or cute stuffed animals, but she doesn't have to treat her friends like they are stupid for enjoying these things. Velma has never been this much of a jerk in any other Scooby-Doo! movie and it gives this film a bit of a mean spirited feel that is out of character for this franchise. However there is so much good about this movie that it overcomes this fault easily. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Scooby-Doo! Goes Hollywood (1979)


This made for TV movie, marked Scooby's first feature film and one of his biggest departures up to that time (Laff-a-Lympics being the only real competition in that department). It is not Scooby's finest movie by any means but it is still really charming. 

The basic plot is an idea I love and a prefect set up for satire. Scooby and Shaggy are tired of being used as bait for bad guys, because wouldn't you be? Therefore they leave their Saturday morning cartoon to find a career in a different type of TV show. This leads to parodies of various TV shows and an ending that you probably already figured out. I love cartoon characters being treated the same as live action actors, who play roles in cartoons for their jobs. Though this idea was hardly original at this time, I like picturing my favorite cartoon characters as real while still picturing the cartoons as fictional. A good cartoon character feels real to me and this type of story enhances that fantasy. However while this film has a perfect setup for satire, it is only moderately funny. There is not much real parodying of these TV shows and instead of making jokes about the shows, we simply see Scooby in them messing up the proceedings. While this does get some laughs, there is no doubt it could have been funnier. This movie however is chock full of charm. The songs while nothing amazing are quite charming. The basic story as I have stated is a very good one and while not as funny as it could have been the story is still well told. The characters are still as likable as ever and it is a joy to spend some time with them. The ending while predictable is also executed in a very charming and fun way, that plays on the great fantasy element of this story. 

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Monday, October 26, 2020

Scooby-Doo! in Arabian Nights (1994)


This has the reputation of being the worst Scooby-Doo! movie, so is it strange that I rather like it?

To be fair this is not your typical Scooby-Doo! movie for the main reason that Scooby and Shaggy are used as a framing device for two stories that don't feature them.  The framing story involves Scooby and Shaggy getting their dream jobs by becoming food tasters for a Caliph. However naturally the guys eat all the food leaving none for the Caliph. To escape the Caliph's wrath Shaggy (disguised as a harem girl) must tell him stories. These stories are a gender bent version of Aladdin (with Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo as the genies) and Sinbad the Sailor (played naturally by Magilla Gorilla). 

This film was at the time when shows like Animaniacs were dominating what was happening in American cartoons, and this movie certainly shows the influence of that type of humor. This movie has no monsters or mysteries but instead focuses on over the top cartoony slapstick humor. This is especially shown in the Sinbad the Sailor story as well as the wrap around scenes. I am a fan of old fashioned cartoon slapstick and the Sinbad the Sailor story has this in spades. The idea of Magilla as Sinbad is funny in and of itself. This movie however does all that it can with this idea, piling slapstick gag on top of slapstick gag, many of them quite funny. I admit to having laughed quite a bit at this story when I first saw the film. The wrap around segments while not as funny as the Sinbad story are filled with a great sense of slapstick energy and a wise guy attitude that is simply fun to watch. In contrast to the rest of the film, the Aliyah-Din story (despite the presence of Yogi and Boo-Boo) is played rather straight. Despite not being as funny as the rest of the movie it still had a certain charm that won me over (plus I always like seeing my friends Yogi and Boo-Boo). However I will admit the villain in the Aliyah-Din story is rather bland and forgettable. 

While this may not be Zombie Island (which would be the very next Scooby movie), there is a lot to enjoy here and it is much better than the film's unwarranted negative reputation. 

                                                                        -Michael J. Ruhland 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur (2011)


One of the silliest and most cartoony of the Scooby-Doo! movies and a sheer delight. 

To be fair this movie does not have one of Scooby's best mysteries nor one of the franchise's best monsters, but for the sheer amount of laughs this film is probably Scooby's funniest movie. I laughed out loud watching this film more than any other Scooby movie. This is on A Pup Named Scooby-Doo! levels of pure cartoon silliness and self referential satire. This film even features some of the high energy cartoon animation associated with that series (best of all being Scooby after accidently having caffine). It is not until the last act that the focus actually turns to the mystery. Throughout most of the movie the focus remains on the comedy and the characters. This is a dangerous thing to do because if the comedy failed to work, the whole movie wouldn't work. Luckily for us almost every joke hits perfectly. From Velma's schoolgirl crush keeping her from actually helping solve the mystery to Shaggy's hilarious subplot of becoming brave (or reverting back to being a coward) every time he hears the word bad making him have to compete in a life threatening motorcycle race (despite never having even been on a motorbike before) to the delightfully zany Mr. Hubley (one of the funniest supporting characters in the whole franchise), this movie brings laugh after laugh at a steady and energetic pace. The ending is definitely the funniest ending to a Scooby-Doo! movie yet.   

I hope this movie makes you laugh the same as it made me. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Cowboy Church #91

 Hello my friends and welcome back for another service of Cowboy Church. 

Today's musical selection begins with Dale Evans singing, Did You Stop to Pray this Morning?. This recording from her and Roy Rogers 1959 album, Jesus Loves You. Prayer is an important part of the life of a believer but it is something too many of us Christians can easily overlook (I have done this myself many times). This song reminds us of the importance of prayer in our lives. This is followed by Hank Williams Jr. singing Jesus is Soul Man from his 1969 album, Sunday Morning. Though Hank Jr. is often associated with his more rowdy and rocking style of country music, this album shows just how versatile of an artist he is. The whole album is in a softer and more traditional country gospel style, which Hank masters very well. This is one of my favorite recordings off this great album. This is followed by Billy Joe Shaver and John Anderson with Get Thee Behind Me Satan. This 2007 music video shows two old country pros doing what they do best. This is followed by Willie Nelson and his sister Bobbie Nelson (on piano) with a lovely rendition of Just a Closer Walk. This old hymn's origin remains a mystery with no one knowing exactly how old it is. However it is believed that this song must date back before the Civil War, because some personal histories have stated that there were “slaves singing as they worked in the fields a song about walking by the Lord’s side.” If this is true it shows the power of God and music as they could sing praise to the Lord even when being oppressed as part of one of the greatest injustices of American history. There is however a song published in 1885 called Closer Walk With Thee which had a very similar chorus. Just a Closer Walk's popularity grew in the 1930's with it being sung at several churches. The arrangement we know today was done by Kenneth Morris in 1940. The following is from Horace Clarence Boyer's book, How Sweet the Sound, “While traveling between Kansas City and Chicago in 1940, songwriter Kenneth Morris got off the train to stretch his legs. While standing on the platform, he overheard a porter singing some of the words to 'Just a Closer Walk with Thee'. Not thinking much about it, Morris boarded the train and went on his way. The words and melody of the song kept repeating in his head and he knew he had to learn the rest of it. At the next stop, Morris got off the train and took the next train back to the previous stop. There he managed to find the porter and Morris persuaded him to sing the song while he copied down the words. Morris soon added to the lyrics and published it in 1940.” Hank Williams wrote How Can You Refuse Him Now for his wife Audrey Williams, who recorded it in March 1950. However he made a demo recording of the song also in 1950 and that is the version that is present here. Unlike his most famous gospel compositions (I Saw the Light being a prime example), this song is much slower paced and sung in a much more emotional style. However this song contains the pure lyrical poetry that only Hank could master. This song makes us realize how much Jesus has done for us and how little he truly asks of us. With this in mind why would we refuse his extreme generosity and grace when it is given to us as a free gift. Today's musical selection ends with a recording I have used often in these posts, The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1937 recording of Power in the Blood. The lead singer is Leonard Slye, who you probably know better as Roy Rogers. Len would soon leave the Sons of the Pioneers and change his name to Roy Rogers and begin a movie career in western films. His replacement in the band would be Pat Brady, who would later be Roy's sidekick on his famous TV show. The deep bass vocals here are provided excellently by Hugh Farr.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Romans 8:31

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. Job 5:11

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. Isaiah 49:13

the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment 2 Peter 2:9

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed Deuteronomy 31:8

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. Romans 2:1

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. Proverbs 14:31

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Luke 6:35

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:15

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you Matthew 5:44

              Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:28

 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense ; he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2

Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. 2 Corinthians 6:10

Thank you for joining me, come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again. 

-Michael J. Ruhland

Resources Used

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #94

 Hello my friends and happy Saturday Morning once again it is time for some classic cartoons. 

As many of my fellow film buffs know, the Betty Boop cartoons of the early 1930's are truly something special. They were pure cartoons from beginning to end and there is hardly a missed opportunity for any wild and crazy gags. I Heard (1933) is a perfect example of this. There is hardly a second of this movie that is not filled with some wild and crazy gag. The pacing and pure energy of the gag structure in this film is something to behold. So many of these gags are delightfully creative with some of the good old fashioned surreal-ness associated with the Fleischer studios at this time. The music is also excellent. Quite a few of the Fleischer cartoons at this time used great jazz musicians on their soundtracks. This movie features music by Don Redman and His Orchestra. I was not familiar with them before watching this cartoon, but oh my gosh, they are fantastic. Their music is just as energetic and carefree as the rest of the film. The following is an exhibitor's review from The Motion Picture Herald, "I Heard: Betty Boop - A wonderful cartoon. Absolutely one of the best ever made. Plenty of music furnished by Don Redman and His Orchestra and the acting of Betty Boop, Bimbo and Koko all go to make excellent entertainment. Let's have more. Running Time, Eight Minutes. - J.J. Medford, Orpheum Theatre, Oxford, N.C.  General Patronage."

We go from a jazzy Betty Boop cartoon to a jazzy Silly Symphonies cartoon. Up next is the high energy Woodland Cafe (1937). This is a fun cartoon, but what makes it especially memorable is the Truckin' musical number at the end. Here is high energy music and animation working together perfectly. The song Truckin' was written by Rube Bloom (music) and Ted Koehler (lyrics), who wrote such songs together as Out in the Cold Again, Don't Worry About Me and I Can't Face the Music. With the great use of jazz music it is appropriate that this movie is one of the first in which Ward Kimball was a full fledged animator. He was one of the Disney studio's biggest jazz fans. In fact he would become the leader of The Firehouse Five Plus Two, a jazz band consisting of Disney animators. Ward animated the ending montage, a scene that also showcased the type of animation Ward would become known for,  high energy fun cartoony animation. Todd James Pierce in his biography, The Life and Times of Ward Kimball called this "the highlight of the cartoon." He also gave us this insight, "The bug orchestra also revealed one other element of Kimball's inner life: the animation radiated New York attitudes about jazz suggesting how deeply the dream of moving to the Big Apple still simmered within him." Ward at this time still viewed animating at Disney as a non-permeant job, and his goal was to become a illustrator and painter. Yet his work in this film alone shows us how much greater things waited for him as a Disney animator. Not everybody was as impressed with this film as I am as is shown in an exhibitor's review in The Motion Picture Herald, "WOODLAND CAFE: Silly Symphonies—Not up to the standard of Silly Symphony.—C. L. Niles, Niles Theatre, Anamosa, Iowa. General patronage."

Next is another musical cartoon, The Crackpot King (1946). This movie is one of the many operetta themed Mighty Mouse cartoons of this time. Mighty Mouse once again proves he is the strongest superhero in film history and he has a darn good voice too. A review in The Showman's Trade Review stated, "The short contains plenty of delightful imagination, uses Technicolor nicely and is thoroughly entertaining. Mighty Mouse is assuredly wonderful in this one." And he is too. 

As promised here is the next episode of Ruff and Reddy. Come back next week to see what happens to our heroes. 

                                                                 -Michael J. Ruhland


Scooby-Doo! Where Are You?: Decoy For a Dognaper (1969)


This is one of the most unique episodes of Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? and a darn good departure for the series. 

This time the gang solves a non-spooky related mystery. Instead of investigating a monster or ghost sighting, the gang is instead investigating a dognapping plot. There is a brief appearance of a "ghost" but that is mostly inconsequential to the plot. Getting away from the series' usual spooky settings, we get an equally atmospheric suburban setting. The humor is quite good, and I especially like Scooby admiring himself dressed up as the decoy. The action scenes are fast paced and quite exciting and despite the lack of scares there are some good suspense scenes such as Scooby in an out of control minecart. This episode also does a great job looking at what the relationship between Scooby and the rest of the gang. You can really feel how much they love and care about the dog. 

Unfortunately the actual mystery is rather weak. There are too few suspects and a lack of clues. If you are able to guess who done it that is probably more likely you came to that conclusion through the lack of suspects rather than through actually figuring it out.

-Michael J. Ruhland    

Friday, October 23, 2020

Movie Review: Honest Thief


Michael's Movie Grade: B-

Despite being a very conventional Liam Neeson vehicle, this movie proves that as cliché as it is, there is still a lot of fun to be found in these films. 

Stop me if you heard this one before, someone messes with Liam Neeson and through various tense action scenes he gets his revenge. I know this sounds like 80% of the movies he is in, but this film shows there is still life in this formula. First and most importantly for a movie like this, the action scenes are very well done. The excellent pacing, tense acting (especially from Neeson) and Mark Isham's music score all make these action scenes work to their best advantage. While the main character does not have much depth, he is likable enough for us to root for him. This is important because this is what makes the film have a sense of suspense, because we really want this guy to prove his innocence. Also helping is that the main villain is completely evil, but is so in a way that doesn't feel like a caricature. Because of this we take joy in watching revenge being taken out on him. One thing that is surprisingly really good about this movie is the romance. Neeson and Kate Walsh have fantastic chemistry together and it is a joy to watch them share the screen. For such an over the top movie, the romance is very sweet and believable. This keeps the film grounded and relatable even when it is over the top. 

This film provides us with the pure escapism we all need right now.

Note: I saw this film in a theatre and it feels so good to be back. While I like watching movies at home, there is a magic to seeing a film in a theatre that can never be captured anywhere else. While this is not the first movie I saw in a theatre since Covid it was the first I saw in Dolby. After this long absence from it, the Dolby experience blew me away. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Most of all though this 

Video: Jacques Tati- Where to Find Visual Comedy


Scooby-Doo! and Scrappy Doo!: Double Trouble Date (1982)


Scooby-Doo! and Scrappy-Doo! was one of the franchise's attempts to get away from the fake monsters and mysteries, people associated it with and try something new. Double Trouble Date is a perfectly clear example of this.

In this episode Shaggy (who is a real player as we all know) schedules two dates at the same time. To get himself out of this mess Shag dresses Scooby up as his cousin so he can go out with the other girl. Unfortunately the girl's brother (a tough guy named Moose) sees what Shaggy is up to and wants to get Shaggy for setting his sister up with a literal dog. 

This is a simple slapstick affair and doesn't attempt to do anything more or less. The basic story is quite good and I love that disguising Scooby as a human actually works. Unfortunately there are not as many really funny moments as there should be and some of the slapstick lacks the timing needed to make it work as well as it should. The best humor instead comes from dialogue such as Shaggy trying to convince Moose that Scooby is not a dog and the Some Like it Hot reference at the end.  

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Movie Review: Rebecca


Michael's Movie Grade: D

As a massive Hitchcock fan, I knew this new film would not compare to Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 masterpiece of a movie version of the same novel. However that film is so ingrained in my mind, that I found not comparing the two to be a very difficult undertaking. Still if I take this movie as its own thing, it is honestly rather bland. 

This movie has a major fault that simply nothing can overcome and this is that the film is strangely emotionless. There is not one scene that hit the emotional notes it was trying for. While to say this adaption does not have the same amount of suspense as the Alfred Hitchcock classic is a no brainer (he is the master of suspense after all), but this film has no suspense at all. Rebecca is a story that thrives on suspense, mystery and an other-worldly feeling, none of which is present here. While this film is not unfaithful to its source material, it tells the story in such a bland going through the motions way that the entire atmosphere is gone. The lack of emotion is also hurt by the lack of chemistry between our two leads. There is no feeling of romance between the two and this is especially evident in the early scenes that focus on their romance, which are quite frankly really boring. As they are presented her, the characters by themselves are not very interesting, but together they are even more boring. Even the music score (by the usually reliable Clint Mansell) feels like it is going through the motions. 

On the bright side this movie does look quite pretty and Kristin Scott Thomas' performance stands out.

I recommend skipping this movie and watching the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock version or reading the great novel instead.   

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Scooby-Doo! and Scrappy-Doo!: Comic Book Caper (1982)


With Scooby-Doo! and Scrappy-Doo! the franchise was getting away from the guy in a costume story and instead focused on non-costumed villains and even non-villain related stories. Comic Book Caper was one of the few to have a costumed bad guy and a who done it mystery and it does this quite well.

Scooby, Shaggy and Scrappy are hired to guard a rare comic book at a comic convention. However it is stolen by someone dressed as a character from the book. 

Despite bringing back the mystery element, who done it is hardly the focus of this episode and there are no real clues. Instead this is mostly used as an excuse for an extended chase. The chase is quite well done and full of some good old fashioned slapstick gags. There are some good small references in the background (such as a woman dressed as Jeannie) and the ending gag is delightful especially for lovers of classic westerns (like myself).  

Silly old fashioned cartoon fun. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Video: Johnny Cash Sings Nasty Dan on Sesame Street


The New Scooby-Doo! Movies: The Caped Crusader Caper (1972)


The Mystery Inc. gang team up with Batman and Robin to fight the Joker and Penguin for the second time (they had previously done so in a previous episode of the same show (The Dynamic Scooby-Doo Affair). While not as memorable as the first encounter this episode is a lot of corny fun. 

I am personally a fan of the Adam West era of Batman and this is the type of Batman we see here. This isn't a dark and brooding Batman but instead a much lighter fun version. This is emphasized by the fact that he carries Bat-cookies and Bat-snacks. Puns are found galore both from our heroes and villains. The Joker and Penguin are as much fun as the heroes with their pure childlike joy at their evil deeds. They however lose none of what makes them threating villains and you do wonder at times how our heroes are going to defeat them. Yet they are still not infallible due to their massive egos, which lead to some quite good slapstick humor.  This makes them perfect for this type of story, providing both menace   and fun.  If you love corny and silly superhero stories as much as I do this episode is for you. There are even "cameos" of Yogi Bear and Fred Flintstone. While there is no real mystery (as we are shown that Joker and Penguin are behind this from the beginning), there is more than enough atmosphere (especially in the cave scenes) and fast paced action to make up for this. 

The biggest fault of this episode is clearly the obvious animation mistakes, which are hard to miss. Parts of Batman and Robin's costumes are continuously disappearing and reappearing. Batman's pants even disappear at one point. This may be a small fault but it is also one that is hard to ignore. Also is it me or does Shaggy seem especially clueless in this episode?

If you are a fan of Scooby-Doo! and Batman (though not the dark and brooding side), this episode is a treat.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A Pup Named Scooby-Doo!: A Bicycle Built For Boo (1988)


An excellent start to an excellent series. 

This series was a bit of a return to the Scooby-Doo! of old. After facing real monsters, getting away from actual mysteries and working without Fred and Velma, this show returns to the classic style mysteries and getting the gang back together. Still this series focuses on the more cartoony and silly aspects of the franchise rather than mystery solving or scares. This is logical because it was developed by Tom Reuger who later helped create Tiny Tunes and Animaniacs and this series is very similar in tone to those shows.  

This episode has everything that would make the series great. The animation is delightfully over the top and cartoony, clearly taking an inspiration from Bob Clampett and Tex Avery cartoons. This animation is very energetic and adds a lot to the humor. This is especially effective in the scenes involving the medium, Scooby getting caught in the printing press, Scooby's way of searching for clues, and a very good chase scene.  The jokes are very clever, and do a great job of parodying the franchise while still being completely respectful to it. This episode even introduces the very good Red Herring running gag, plus Velma's ability to pull any bit of technology out of thin air. The reason Shaggy's bike was actually stolen is also a funny. The mystery, while being very simple is pretty clever with there being multiple suspects and a good reveal. 

There are none of the common first episode missteps here, the show is instead fully formed from the onset. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Movie Review: Clouds


Michael's Movie Grade: B

A thought-provoking and quite moving film about trying to live normally, when your life is not normal.

While someone knowing they are going to die soon and trying to cope with this fact is something we have seen before in many movies, this film successeds so well because of how deeply human and unforced its emotion is. The emotional impact of this movie comes not from the situation but from the characters and their emotional reactions to the tragic situation. At one point our main character is told "You are not the only kid with cancer." This may be true but he is not just any kid, as this movie goes along he becomes our friend and when his emotional pain is hurting him, we just want to give him a big hug. However he is not the only character we connect to here. We are given just as much time with those who knew him and just as many opportunities to connect with them. We feel the need to give them hugs as well. After seeing so many movies that handle this  type of story with forced and obviously manipulated emotion (I suffered through Five Feet Apart and Midnight Sun), it is refreshing to see it handled so well here. 

On the downside there is quite a bit of dialogue that feels to forced and not like what anyone would really say (plus some that offers too obvious of foreshadowing). The humor mostly falls flat as well. 

While this movie is based off a true story, it is one I was honestly barely familiar with. I don't know how much of this movie was actually true but I do know it felt completely real and honest to me. 

Note: This movie is only available on Disney + (as far as I know), if any of you wish to see it. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Scooby-Doo! and the Legend of the Vampire (2003)


This is the first of the direct to video Scooby-Doo! movies to feel like an extended TV episode (especially an episode of What's New Scooby-Doo!) rather than something large and special as well as the first to have the gang back to their original costumes instead of the more modern ones worn in the previous movies).

Though this film can be viewed as a step back from Scooby-Doo! on Zombie Island (1998), Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost (1999), Scooby-Doo! and the Alien Invaders (2000) and Scooby-Doo! and the Cyber Chase (2001), when you take into account there are many smaller scale Scooby-Doo! movies now this does not feel like a problem. In fact this is quite a fun film in its own right. The mystery is definitely a darn good one. There are plenty of suspects and they all have quite good motives. This is one that will keep you guessing who done it. The villain is, like the best, Scooby-Doo! movies creepy and threatening but never too much so to take away from the lighthearted fun of the franchise. The outback proves to be a very good backdrop for a Scooby adventure and gives this movie a different atmosphere that stands out from the other entries in the franchise. While this isn't one of the funniest entries the humor still works fairly well and gets a few laughs. Also The Hex Girls making a return is very welcome. 

This is a quite enjoyable entry, even if it is not as great as its predecessors. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Cowboy Church #80

 Hello my friends and welcome back for another service of Cowboy Church. 

Today's music selection begins with the Louvin Brothers singing The Kneeling Drunkard's Plea. Their harmonies make tis pure country gospel at its finest. This song was written by the Carter Family and features much of the simple but powerful poetry that many country music fans associate with their best work. In the liner notes for his album, Unchained Johnny Cash remembered on of the thrills of his life was as a kid in 1947. He was a kid but made a long trip (hitch-hiking) to see the Louvin Brothers do their radio show, this was his first country music show and while that helped this story stick in his mind all those years later that is not the main reason. He sent a request for The Louvin Brothers to dedicate a song to his his mother and he was thrilled beyond words when they did. This was song they dedicated. Lonely Tombs is one of those atmospheric hymns filled with vivid imagery that Hank Williams did better than any other singer.  The song dates a long way back. It was inspired by the Mississippi evangelist preacher, Joseph Thomas, who was known as The White Pilgrim because he also dressed heavily in white. His friend and fellow preacher John Ellis visited his grave in 1838 (Thomas died in 1835) and there wrote the words to this song. The version Hank sings here is from a 1951 episode of the Mother's Best Radio Show. Next is Johnny Cash singing a gospel song he wrote himself, Meet Me in Heaven. Though he wrote this song was written for his wife, June, the words "meet me in heaven" came from his brother Jack's tombstone (who died at the young age of 14 and whose death left an incredible impact on Johnny for the rest of his life). This recording comes from his 1996 album, Unchained and feature Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as his backing band. In the documentary film, Running Down a Dream Tom Petty remembered this album as one of his favorites that he and his band ever worked on. This is followed by Willie Nelson and his sister Bobbie Nelson (on piano) with the gospel classic Farther Along. Continuing today's musical selection is Roy Rogers singing Read the Bible and Pray. Though this song offers simple advice, it is still advice we too often forget. The way we know God and feel his presence in our lives is through reading the bible and praying. These two things will bring us closer to him than we could ever imagine. This recording comes from Roy and Dale's 1959 album, Jesus Loves Me. Today's musical selection ends with The Sons of the Pioneers singing The Woodsman's Prayer. This lovely song was written by Stan Jones, who wrote one of the most popular cowboy songs of all time, Ghost Riders in the Sky. This recording comes from the Sons of the Pioneers' 1963 album, Hymns of the Cowboy

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. Isaiah 66:13

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Romans 16:20

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. Proverbs 13:10

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Love them as yourself, for you were once foreigners in Egypt. Leviticus 19:34

After waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. Hebrews 16:15

Thank you for joining me, come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Scooby-Doo! Where Are You?: That's Snow Ghost (1969)


A delightful episode of Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? even if it doesn't really stand out. 

This episode does a great job of differentiating itself with a different atmosphere than the other episodes. The snow ski lodge is a great idea for a Scooby-Doo! setting. It is lovely to look it (especially with the always great and detailed background art this series brings), yet there is something sinister about it that gives the feeling of danger. The Snow Ghost is a really good Scooby-Doo! villain. He is quite threating (he even tries to kill Velma) and has a great design. There are a few moments with pretty good suspense (including the snowmobile chase) that definitely brighten up the proceedings. A highlight of this episode is Tibet Monk telling the story of how he came up against a Yeti. This story is quite interesting and even the Monk's cave is very atmospherically designed.  

On the downside the humor is not as good as the best episodes of this show and a lack of suspects makes the mystery too easy to solve. 

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Scooby-Doo! Where Are You?: Jeepers it's the Creeper (1970)


Despite the sheer amount of Scooby-Doo! TV shows and movies that followed it, Scooby-Doo! Where Are You is still just as entertaining today as it was when it first aired. All the reasons for this can easily be see in the episode Jeepers it's the Creeper

One of the best things about this series is easily the sheer amount of atmosphere and this episode is chock full of it. Despite the series using limited animation, there was obviously a lot of effort put into the backgrounds and this episode's background art is one of my favorite examples. The detail of the woods is amazing and there is something about the way it looks that beyond enhances the creepy atmosphere. The mystery is quite a good one. With the lack of suspects it is not hard to figure out who did it, but the fun is figuring out how he executed his plan and why he wants the blank piece of paper. The Creeper himself is an excellent villain. He is creepy enough to be threatening, yet is never actually scary and therefore doesn't take away from the show's lighthearted feel.

The humor in this episode is quite good. Velma delivers one of the finest "you wouldn't hit someone with glasses" gags I have ever seen. The baby chick thinking of Scooby as his mother is quite funny and I love Scooby's attempt to tell the chick that they are not even the same species. The chase scenes are as fine as these sequences come with quite a few fun slapstick gags. The song is just what you want from a Sccoby-Doo! song. It is corny as all get out, but charming and fun. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #93

 Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning, once again it is time for more classic cartoons. 

Though Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was the Disney studio's first feature film, it was not the first time Disney animation appeared in a feature length movie. One of the best examples of this was the all-star MGM comedy, Hollywood Party (1934). The basic storyline of this movie involves Jimmy Durante throwing a party inviting many big name Hollywood stars. One of the biggest Hollywood stars is one who shows up uninvited. This is Mickey Mouse. After him and Durante get into a playful argument, Mickey introduces a brand new cartoon (made specifically for this movie), Hot Chocolate Soldiers. While the Mickey and Durante parts were in black and white (like the rest of the movie), while the cartoon was the only portion of the film in color. If the cartoon feels like a Silly Symphony there is a reason for this. A contract between Disney and MGM (May, 1933) described the cartoon as "of the so called 'Silly Symphony' type." The movie itself is a bit uneven but these Disney scenes (as well as some scenes featuring Laurel and Hardy) make up for any faults the film may have. 

Screenland, 1934

Though Columbia's Krazy Kat cartoons barely resembled George Herriman's great comic strip, there were times when they could be very charming and clever. Up next is one of the finest Krazy Kat cartoons, The Hot-Cha Melody (1935). The following is an exhibitor's review from Motion Picture Herald (dated 1934) about the Krazy Kat cartoons as a whole, "THE: Krazy Kat Kartoons—These short subjects are fine. Good music and entertainment throughout. Running time, seven minutes.— Edward L. Ornstein, Vernon Theatre, Mt. Vernon, Ky. Small town patronage." 

One of my favorite post-code Betty Boop cartoons is Judge For a Day (1935). Even the nicest of us have times when we simply want to get back at those who annoy us and that is what makes this cartoon so satisfying. Despite the cute and really catchy song at the beginning, this film turns into an excellent dark comedy as it goes along.  A review in The Film Daily stated, "A neat little idea, and one that will evoke plenty of audience response, has been utilized in this car- toon comedy."

Unlike Popeye and Bluto, I don't think any of the presidential candidates this year will help us with our household chores in order to get our votes. I also don't think any of them are concerned about important issues like free ice cream for all the kiddies, and bigger elephinks in all our zoos. 

As promised here is the next Ruff and Reddy cartoon. Come back next week to find out what happens to our heroes. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Friday, October 16, 2020

The New Scooby-Doo! Mysteries: The Ghosts of Ancient Astronauts (1984)


The New Scooby-Doo! Mysteries was one of those series that reduced the number of main characters (common in the Scrappy Doo era) for most episodes. The series mostly centered around Scooby, Shaggy, Scrappy and Daphne solving mysteries together sans Velma and Fred. This was done in a format of two 11 minutes shorts an episode. However the show did feature a few episodes that broke from this pattern and featured a half an hour storyline with Fred and Velma as "guest stars" helping Scooby, Shaggy, Scrappy and Daphne. While these episodes did not quite recapture the magic of Scooby-Doo Where Are You? they are very entertaining in their own right. 

This episode features the gang joining Velma's explorer uncle in a quest to find the Celestial Orb, a ruby that has a map to the Temple of Sirus on it. Unfortunately Velma's uncle's ex-assistant and her hoard of zombie minions are out to steal the ruby from our heroes. There might also be something out of this world happening in the temple. 

The Ghosts of Ancient Astronauts was certainly a better than your average episode of this show. While not as atmospheric as an episode of the first TV show, the zombies do add a creepy factor that works better than most monsters from this Scooby era. Unlike in many episodes of this show the danger feels completely real and this adds a lot to the proceedings. The cave of death itself is quite creatively  designed and like the zombies feels pretty dangerous. Fred and Velma are a welcome addition and really add to the storyline. The uncle is also a nice addition and actually has a bit of personality himself. The villainess is definitely one of the better ones from this series. While there is no real mystery here, there is a bit of a twist at the end that works quite well. 

This may not be classic Scooby-Doo! but there is still a lot to enjoy for cartoon fans like me. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King (2008)


A delightful Halloween treat and one of my personal favorite Scooby-Doo! movies. 

Though this film has little to do with the traditional Scooby-Doo! formula (the monsters are real and there is no real mystery as to who the bad guy is), it provides everything you could want in a Scooby-Doo! movie. The land of the Halloween spirits is delightfully atmospheric and just tons of fun to visit. The characters there are all imaginative and fun. I especially enjoyed the wise cracking Jack O' Lantern (delightfully voiced by Jay Leno) The jokes are often really good and this movie got quite a few laughs out of me. There are some real scares that are frightening enough to make the movie more creepy than your average Scooby-Doo! adventure, but never too much so to take away from the lighthearted feel. There are some very exciting action scenes and the chase through the pumpkin patch is a perfect mixture of scares, action and humor. The bad guy is one of the strongest post Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? villains in the franchise. The supporting voice cast is one of the best for Scooby-Doo! movies. Tim Currey is as always incredible as a threatening character and the presence of Lauren Becall is always welcome. Plus the Halloween theme makes it perfect for this time of year. 

This may be my second favorite Scooby-Doo! movie (Zombie Island being my first). It is a must watch for Scooby fans and even a good Halloween treat for those who aren't.

Note: This was the last Scooby-Doo! movie directed by Joe Sichta (Scooby-Doo and the Loch Ness Monster (2004), Scooby-Doo in Where's My Mummy? (2005), Chill Out, Scooby-Doo! (2007), plus some episodes of What's New, Scooby-Doo? (2002-2006)). This is probably his finest work with the cowardly canine. After this he would be a writer for what was one of the weakest Scooby movies, Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword (2009). 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island (2019)


A very disappointing sequel to the best Scooby-Doo! movie. 
I first watched this movie right after re-watching the first Zombie Island. That may not have been the best idea because how much this pales in comparison can't help but be noticed. What also can't help but be noticed is how little sense this film makes as a sequel (how can Velma possibly not believe that any of the supernatural parts of the first movie actually happened? The gang clearly did not stay at a hotel in the first movie either). This film also lacks all of the charms of the original movie. The Mystery Inc. gang are no longer the believable characters we saw before but unfunny caricatures of their previous selves. The island has lost its atmospheric appeal and instead feels like a bland generic island. There are no actual scares present.

However this movie isn't only bad in comparison to the original Zombie Island , it also isn't very good in it's own right. The humor falls flat constantly. The joke of the gang giving up mysteries goes on far too long and wasn't even funny in the first place. The story seems to consist heavily of padding to make it feature length. The new characters are beyond bland with nothing memorable about them at all. 

Simply put this is not only a disappointing sequel but one of the weakest Scooby-Doo! movies. I recommend skipping this.  

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Scooby Doo! Shaggy's Showdown (2017)


A typical fun Scooby-Doo! movie. This may not stand out from other good entries in the series but it is quite entertaining in its own right. 

The basic plot is clever if not exactly original. Shaggy being a dead ringer for ghost is a great idea and it works very well here. It not only gets some good laughs, but allows for some great character moments with Shaggy that we do not see in the average Scooby-Doo! film. This film also finds great chemistry between Daphne and Velma, a duo who's comedic potential together really hasn't been explored like it should have. The two characters give the film some of its funniest moments and it is a lot of fun to watch them play off each other. I have never been a fan of how Fred has gotten dumbed down for comedic purposes in some other movies, so I am happy that this film gets some good comedy out of Fred without really dumbing him down. The ghost while not as creepy as the villains in Zombie Island, Witch's Ghost or Big Top Scooby-Doo! is quite menacing and creates some good suspense. The ride down the rapids was certainly an above average suspense scene for this series. Shaggy's cousin is a very likable new character and has a great rapport with her cousin. 

The main problem with this movie is there are too many side characters and subplots. Even being only 80 minutes, this film feels stretched well beyond the length it should be. 

All and all this is definitely a good movie, even if it doesn't stand out from the crowd. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Haunted Mansion Holiday Ride Through

 With it being Halloween time and Christmas fast approaching, I can't help but think of how much I miss Disneyland. This is the time of year, The Haunted Mansion is usually redecorated in a Nightmare Before Christmas Style. I look forward to riding the Haunted Mansion Holiday each year. Unfortunately it looks like the closest I'll get this year is to watch YouTube videos of the ride. 

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Scooby-Doo! and the Samurai Sword (2009)


Probably the weakest of the direct to video Scooby-Doo! movies. 

While this film tries to follow in the shoes of Zombie Island and Witch's Ghost, this movie feels like it is trying to hard and missing the mark by a long shot. It is jam packed with jokes but not one of them works and most of them are embarrassingly bad. The Japanese setting feels phoned in and lacks the atmosphere of the best Scooby outings. The new characters are incredibly bland and you are likely to forget them not long after watching. The villain is especially weak and there is never a point when we feel any sense of real threat. The climax needs to be seen to be believed. Scooby-Doo! has never been a series that thrived on any sense of realism and believability. Yet this climax seems too silly and ridiculous even for a cartoon movie. It also seems incredibly out of place in a Scooby-Doo! film.

However none of this is as bad as the music. We are all familiar with the Scooby-Doo! chase songs but they have never been as bad as this. The filmmakers tried to bring a Japanese style to the songs, but it could not have been done more poorly. I was in complete disbelief when I first heard one of these songs play. It in no way matched what was happening on screen and comes completely out of nowhere. The songs themselves are also incredibly bad as they feel like they are trying much too hard to sound Japanese. 

Scooby-Doo! and the Samurai Sword serves only as a lesson in how not to make a Scooby-Doo! movie. 

-Michael J. Ruhland   

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Cowboy Church #79

 Hello my friends and welcome back for another service of Cowboy Church. 

Today's musical selection begins with Roy Acuff with a 1956 live performance of The Great Speckled Bird. Though many country singers have recorded gospel songs few of them have it become one of their signature songs. A very clear exception was Roy Acuff with The Great Speckled Bird. Roy had originally received writer credit on this song, but in a later interview Roy would state that the song was written by Reverend Guy Smith. The title is a reference to the book of Jeremiah, where it is stated "Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her." The song was released in August 1938, a few months after Roy had introduced it on the Opry. Lord Build Me a Cabin in Glory is not one of the better known hymns especially at the time Hank performed on the Mother's Best radio show in 1951. Though Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe and Charley Pride would later record this song, at the time few had recorded this song and even many gospel music buffs had no idea this song existed. It's biggest claim to fame at the time was to appear in the 1944 hymnal, Banner Songs. This song was written by Corporal Curtis Stewart, who this is this the only known song from. Next is Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie Nelson (on Piano) with some Old Time Religion. Though fans of classic country music mostly associate The Wreck on the Highway with Roy Acuff, he was far from the only country singer who recorded it. One of the best versions is from The Wilburn Brothers. This is followed the Sons of the Pioneers singing about the Wonders of God's Green Earth. This recording comes from their 1963 album, Hymns of the Cowboy. The song was written by Leon Rene, who is better known for writing such songs as Rockin' Robin, When the Swallows Come Back To Capistrano When It's Sleepy Time Down South and Boogie Woogie Santa Claus. Today's musical selection ends with Dale Evans with her 1973 recording of This Little Light of Mine

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 1 Peter 1:13

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10

Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:8

And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. Hebrews 11:11

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jerimiah 29:11

But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. Psalm 9:18

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? Romans 8:24

 But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:1-2

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:6

 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Thanks for joining me come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

LEGO Scooby-Doo! Haunted Hollywood (2016)


Despite Lego being in the title and the gimmick of everything being made of Legos, this movie would not be that different if it was an average Scooby-Doo! movie with no Legos. The use of Legos really only brings the film a few quick gags, and other than that this is your typical Scooby-Doo! movie. As Scooby-Doo! movies go this film ranks as about average. 

The humor is the best part of this movie and there are some very funny moments. The jokes range from very corny to really clever. Fred's becoming an obsessive director with a "brilliant artistic vision" is one of the best uses of Fred as a comic goofball (something that falls flat in a lot of other movies and TV episodes). Scooby and Shaggy are excellent here and their vow to give up Scooby Snacks and the awareness of them always being used as bait is quite funny. There are also some great references for fans of old scary movies. There is even an often talked about actor whose name is a parody of Boris Karloff but who is also a take off on Lon Chaney. There is no doubt that the filmmakers have a lot of respect for those old movies and that shines through here. 

The Mystery is simple and easy to solve and you will figure it out very quickly. On top of that the film feels like it could have worked better at a shorter running time as it can feel a little padded at times. It takes a little bit before the story gets started and the beginning even feels a lot like unnecessary padding at the time. Having monsters wreck the movies sets multiple times feels more than a little repetitive and so do some meetings between two characters about the same plot point. This really would have worked as a half hour TV special better than it did as a feature length movie. 

This is neither Scooby's finest hour nor his weakest. While I don't picture this being anyone's favorite Scooby movie, there is still a lot to enjoy about it. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #92

 Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. Once again it is time for some classic cartoons. 

As many of my cartoon fans know there are two types of Betty Boop cartoons. There are the pre-code cartoons and the post-code cartoons. The pre-code cartoons are known for their racy humor, bizarre situations and wild and crazy gags. The post code cartoons toned down all of these but that is not to say they do not have their charms. The best post-code Betty films are often the ones that feature Grampy. Grampy was a genuinely likable and charming character who gave these cartoons some of their cleverest and funny gags. Today's cartoon selection begins with one of the best Grampy cartoons, Grampy's Indoor Outing (1936). The following are a couple of exhibitors reviews from the Motion Picture Herald. "GRAMPY'S INDOOR OUTING: Betty Boop Car- toons—Fair. Betty Boop doesn't mean a thing here. Running time, eight minutes.—P. G. Held, Strand Theatre, Griswold, Iowa. Neighborhood patronage." "GRAMPY'S INDOOR OUTING: Betty Boop Car- toons—Betty Boop carton which was exceptionally clever. - Harland Rankin, Plaza Theatre, Tilbury, Ontario, Canada. General Patronage." This cartoon will give you good ideas for fun activities to do while we are in lockdown. 

                                                  Motion Picture Herald, 1931

For cartoon fans it doesn't get much better than Tex Avery's MGM shorts. Next is one of those, Doggone Tired (1949). 

Now for a fable from Aesop and Son.

In the early 1930's under Hugh Harmon and Rudolph Ising, the Looney Tunes cartoons had a main character in the happy go lucky Bosko, while the Merrie Melodies did not center on one character. While most of these films did not feature a reoccurring character there were a few characters that appeared in multiple (but not many) Merrie Melodies. One of these characters was the all out vaudeville like entertainer, Goopy Geer. Goopy only appeared in three Merrie Melodies (though he would later appear in the Tiny Toons Adventures episode, Two-Tone Town (1992)). Here is his first and best appearance in a Merrie Melodie, a cartoon appropriately called Goopy Geer (1932). This cartoon features some reused animation from the first Merrie Melodie, Lady Play Your Mandolin (1931).

I know you were in suspense so here is the next episode of Ruff and Reddy. Come back next week to see what happens to our heroes next. 

-Michael J. Ruhland