Retro Review

SH135: Fill Our Holes – The Cable Guy

SH135: Fill Our Holes – The Cable Guy
Screen Heroes

 
 
00:00 / 69:31
 
1X
 

It’s time for our next Fill Our Holes Review as Ryan picks the 1996 Jim Carrey film, The Cable Guy! Before we dive into that, we discuss the latest news including the state of Iron Fist, the first Aladdin teaser, the debut of DC Universe’s Titans series, Elseworld in the Arrowverse, Shazam gate, and more! Plus, we discuss a new perk coming to Patreon!

What do you think of The Cable Guy? Where does it stack against Carrey’s other films? Did you agree with us? We want to know! Comment below or hit us up @HeroesPodcasts on Twitter or Facebook!

Prefer to watch the episode? Catch the Twitch broadcast right here: (updated 10-18-2018 5:47PM CST to include video)

Go to Screen-Heroes.com right now to subscribe to us on iTunes and drop us a review. If you do, we’ll be sure to give you a shout-out in a future episode!

Want to join the conversation? Join us live every Tuesday night at 9PM EST on Twitch to chat with us! We’ll answer questions and note comments live on the broadcast! Follow at: twitch.tv/heroespodcasts

Subscribe to Screen Heroes! The links to iTunes, Blog Talk Radio, Spreaker, Google Play, and Feedburner are below!

Stop by our Patreon to see what kinds of cool perks you can get for being one of our contributors: patreon.com/HeroesPodcasts

Not ready for that kind of commitment? No problem! Buy us a coffee over at ko-fi.com/heroespodcasts because every dollar truly does help.

Screen Heroes Podcast Credits

A Heroes Podcast Network Production

Hosts
Derreck Mayer
Rae Stewart
Ryan Couture

Executive Producer & Editor
Derreck Mayer

Music
Flying Killer Robots

iTunes
Screen-Heroes.com

Blog Talk Radio
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/screenheroes

Spreaker
https://www.spreaker.com/show/screen-heroes

Google Play
https://play.google.com/music/listen#/ps/Iwvfusxqyignwamadhc3viav4qy

RSS Feed
http://heroespodcasts.com/feed/podcast/screenheroes

Social Media
@ScreenHeroesPod

SH135: Fill Our Holes – The Cable Guy

SH128: Fill Our Holes – Hero

This week, we kick off our first “Fill Our Holes” review, probably better known as a Retro Review. Rae picked the 2002 (released in 2004 in the United States) Jet Li film, Hero. The three of us discuss the movie along with news including Bond 25, Doom Patrol, the Arrowverse, James Gunn, and so much more!

What are your thoughts on Hero? Was this one you had seen already or did you miss it just like Derreck? What’s one of your movie holes? We want to know!

Comment below or hit us up @HeroesPodcasts on Twitter or Facebook!

Go to Screen-Heroes.com right now to subscribe to us on iTunes and drop us a review. If you do, we’ll be sure to give you a shout-out in a future episode!

Want to join the conversation? Join us live every Tuesday night at 9PM EST on Twitch to chat with us! We’ll answer questions and note comments live on the broadcast! Follow at: twitch.tv/heroespodcasts

Subscribe to Screen Heroes! The links to iTunes, Blog Talk Radio, Spreaker, Google Play, and Feedburner are below!

Stop by our Patreon to see what kinds of cool perks you can get for being one of our contributors: patreon.com/HeroesPodcasts

Not ready for that kind of commitment? No problem! Buy us a coffee over at ko-fi.com/heroespodcasts because every dollar truly does help.

Prefer to watch the episode? Catch the Twitch broadcast right here:

Screen Heroes Podcast Credits

A Heroes Podcast Network Production

Hosts
Derreck Mayer
Rae Stewart
Ryan Couture

Executive Producer & Editor
Derreck Mayer

Music
Flying Killer Robots

iTunes
Screen-Heroes.com

Blog Talk Radio
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/screenheroes

Spreaker
https://www.spreaker.com/show/screen-heroes

Google Play
https://play.google.com/music/listen#/ps/Iwvfusxqyignwamadhc3viav4qy

RSS Feed
http://heroespodcasts.com/feed/podcast/screenheroes

Social Media
@HeroesPodcasts

SH128: Fill Our Holes – Hero

Aladdin SNES (1993) – Retro Review

These days, most movie-based video games fall short of expectations and wind up leaving the player unhappy. Back in 1993, however, Capcom and Nintendo launched Aladdin for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Now, I’ll just start by saying, I love this game! It’s a childhood favorite (yes I was a child when this came out, almost 7 actually). Aladdin provides an enjoyable mix of movie-based levels, new content and fun items. Aladdin is a side scrolling platform game. Each level has multiple stages, aside from the “Whole New World” carpet ride bonus level and “The Final Battle” against Cobra Jafar. Throughout the game you will be shown, well.. 1993’s version of cut-scenes. You get an image or two set to 16-bit music and text explaining what is happening for those of us who haven’t seen the Disney classic staring Robin Williams or don’t know about the side stories our heroes under took that never made it to the big screen.

The game stats are handled fairly simply. There is no timer or running score. You have lives, hearts, emeralds and apples. You can gain additional hearts and lives as the game progresses and you collect emeralds and apples in the levels. Every 100 emeralds will get you an extra life. You can use the apples to stun certain enemies by throwing them. To regain health (hearts), collect bread and chicken found in vases and chests. If you can catch the golden, flying scarab then you’ve won a spin on Genie’s wheel-o-stuff. Usually you’ll end up earning continue credits… BORRRING… but sometimes you will get an extra life or an additional heart! The word around the street is that if you hit “B” at the wheel when Genie blinks, you’ll be guaranteed either a 1-up or 2-up.

Aladdin Helpful Hints

Okay, so by now, you’ve had 20 years to play this game. You might not want to play the whole thing straight through and you wish you could select specific levels or stages. You can! Seriously. Okay, here is what you have to do:

  1. Make sure you have two controllers plugged in and use the primary controller to enter the Settings screen
  2. Pick up the second controller and press, in this order: L, R, Start, Select, X, Y, A, B (the speed isn’t too important)
  3. If done correctly, you’ll hear a little chime
  4. Return to the main menu
  5. With the primary controller, hold L + R and then use the control pad to pick different stages and levels
  6. The stages and levels are noted as Stage-Level in blue above the list of menu options; it can be hard to see

But, if you would rather use the passwords provided as you complete stages, here is the full list:

  • Stage 2: GenieAduAladdinSultan
  • Stage 3: JafarAbuJasmineGenie
  • Stage 4: GenieJafarAladdinAbu
  • Stage 5: AbuAladdinGenieJasmine
  • Bonus: JasmineJafarSultanJasmine
  • Stage 6: JafarJasmineAladdinJafar
  • Stage 7: AladdinJasmineAbuSultan

Aladdin Gameplay

Aladdin SNES Cover

As expected, you play as Aladdin while Abu follows you around. Aladdin begins in the market. As you run along the market place you discover your first enemies. At this point in the game, there are three primary enemies. You’ll have to battle some Guards, Claw in Pots and Archers. These are the official names for these enemies. At the end of the level you have to battle the Marketplace Peddler! This is the man who wants to cut Jasmine’s hand off for stealing food. We must save her! Seems simple enough. Being a game from 1993, all you have to do it jump on the Peddler’s head a few times but watch out! He has a sword and he will use it! You have to get close enough to him so he will swing at you and then as he is swinging, jump on his head. If you are successful, you get to meet Jasmine and talk to her a bit.

Aladdin Marketplace

After your romantic talk with Jasmine, it’s off to the Cave of Wonders! From here you will fight through the cave, evading bats and scorpions along the way. Just watch out for the spikes and sink holes to nothingness. After a while, Abu discovers the treasure we’ve been hunting for. As you walk through the sea of gold, demented swords will fly at you and then an evil, sword wielding skeleton takes a swipe at you. This is when you find Carpet! Remember our lovable, silent friend? He will help lead you to the Lamp. Well, until the next level when he abruptly leaves you for some unexplained reason. In the final stage of the Cave of Wonders level you’ll have to jump around on some logs. Don’t fall into the water because Aladdin cannot swim. He is from the desert, after all. Finally, to keep with the film, you walk past the incredible ruby rock Abu wants, up the stairs to the Lamp and as you take the Lamp, Abu takes the ruby and everything is about to get a lot worse.

With the Cave of Wonders melting around you, it’s a race to the surface. The levels speed up, pushing you along rather than allowing you to progress at your own pace. These are a couple of my favorite levels because they are fast and more challenging than the others. The second of the two “lava levels”, as I call them, puts you in the driver’s seat of Carpet as waves of lava slam behind you and boulders fall from above.

 

Now things get weird. Safe from the lava, you end up going inside Genie’s Lamp… a scene I must have slept through every time I’ve watched the movie. These levels are a lot of fun and in some ways, very psychedelic. You’ve got Genie’s face on blocks that fall, balloons that rise and you even have to jump on his tongue a few times. Somehow the Claw in Pots got inside the lamp, so be careful of those. The first level also has an area where you rely on Genie to provide items to walk on, bounce off of or swing from to get across a giant gap. Of course, I don’t know why Genie is okay with you falling to your death but it is a game. Some of Genie’s combinations of “helpful” items are more convenient than others. For example, sometimes he provides nothing but clouds, nice and simple. Other times he might provide balloons to swing from and cards to bounce off in the same run.

Aladdin Genie Lamp Level

If you make it out of the Lamp alive, you find yourself in a pyramid looking for Abu. The game takes things up a notch by increasing the difficulty a bit. Archers now shoot two arrows in a row, for example. The first level is fairly challenging as far as finding solid footing is concerned. Once you make your way through the pyramid, you come face to face with a horrible enemy, the Pharaoh! No… wait… it’s just Abu acting weird. This level feels very out of place because it seems like there should be another boss but nope, just Abu in a mask. Awkward.

Then, a complete break from the action. We must romance Jasmine, quick! This “bonus” level is nothing but the magic carpet ride. There are no enemies or obstacles to overcome, just emeralds. The only challenge is seeing if you can get all of the red ones in one go. The level is slow and fairly boring, definitely the low point of the game.

Aladdin Magic Carpet Ride

After your date, it’s off to Jafar’s Palace! Here we have the best of the best enemies, including Iago and Swordsman… er men? You’ll have to stay away from fire that inexplicably raises and lowers without leaving any real heat or burns behind. Eventually, if you’re good enough, you’ll find your way to Jafar’s throne room where he will fly, shoot lighting and create flying Claw in Pots from thin air! How do you beat this sorcerer? Well, you can bounce off the Claw in Pots to hit Jafar on the head or you can wait for him to throw his scepter. The scepter shoots lightning across the floor but Aladdin can jump on it and use it to get high enough to hit Jafar on the head. Defeating sorcerer Jafar takes you to the final stage!

The final stage is one level. You are provided a health power-up in the form of a chicken, then it’s off to fight the giant snake Jafar. Here, Jafar will shoot rocks at you by spiting them, which is weird. He will also lunge at you in an attempt to bite. Bounce off the rocks to get high enough or wait for him to lunge to jump onto his  head. As you injure him, he will get angry. When angry, he will oscillate his body, forcing you to either jump or burn in the fires below the cobra. If you defeat him, you can still die in the fire as his body flops about in pain. Just as you think you’ve won it all, he shoots back out and bites down! The game then moves to more “cut-scenes” explaining the entire ending to the movie.

Aladdin Snake Jafar

Congrats! You’ve beat Jafar and got the girl! Depending on how many emeralds you were able to grab, you’ll be shown slightly different endings as the credits scroll. For example, you’ll be shown the carpet ride or AI game play.

Unfortunately, if you’ve mastered the Nintendo classic, Aladdin, there are no difficulty levels to choose from to make it more difficult.

Have you played Aladdin on another console? How does it differ from the SNES version aside from Sega having a much nice title screen? What is your favorite Aladdin level?

Aladdin SNES (1993) – Retro Review

Superman with the Kids – Review

Superman is one of the most iconic characters ever created. I can remember him being a part of my life since watching Super Friends as a kid (just don’t re-watch it now, it’s painful). My father never really cared much for comics, but went out and bought the Death of Superman comics in 1992. I think he was trying to hold on to those as a collector’s investment, but I found them and couldn’t put them down. It was really my introduction to the world of comic books.

I’ve seen every Superman movie made I think. I’ve slogged through Superman and the Mole Men from 1951. I’ve mourned as the Christopher Reeve era of Superman films started strong and ended poorly. I liked Brandon Routh as Superman, though Superman Returns just sort of fell flat for me. I’m of two minds on Man of Steel: it started strong, and I liked the ways they changed elements of his origin, but hated the last third of that movie. So much. I’ve even seen the recently released documentary “The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?”, which would have been an interesting/insane take on Superman, and worth a watch. I just really like Superman as a character, and even the bad movies tend to have memorable moments.

As a father now, I’ve had to be selective about how to introduce my kids to these types of movies. We tend to be more than a little protective in what we allow our kids to watch, so a lot of the more action-filled movies have been off-limits. My kids are starting to get older now, so this weekend I decided it was time to introduce my children to Superman, Richard Donner’s 1978 origin story for the Man of Steel. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times, though I prefer Superman II, but this time, I wanted to see what it was like for my children to get to experience this for the first time. My son, the older of my two kids, has read enough of the kid-oriented graphic novels from the library that he knows Superman’s origin and backstory, and has a passing knowledge of Superman’s key antagonists like Lex Luther and Doomsday. As those familiar elements were presented, you could see the moments of recognition in his eyes. My daughter, however, didn’t really know much about Superman, and so for her this was all new.

Before I dig into specific elements of the film, there are a couple of things I realized while watching Superman this time around. First, this movie was clearly made with kids in mind. Many of the elements that don’t work for me had them laughing and engaged the entire time. I don’t know why I’d never really considered that before, but seeing how wrapped up in the movie they were, it struck me what a good job was done making a really family-friendly film without being obvious about it. Second, I really, really miss this version of Superman. The Clark Kent persona gets a lot of flack for just being a pair of glasses and a slouch, but in this film there’s a pronounced difference between the two personas, and it speaks to the identity that is trying to be crafted for the character. Both Clark Kent and Superman feel likable and real, and it’s a testament to Reeve’s acting that he pulls it off so well.

— Superman: The Bad —

Since I prefer to end on a positive note, let me get the elements of this film out of the way that just don’t work:

Superman Flying Around the World Backwards

No. Just No.

Reversing time by flying around the world backwards

This is the single largest criticism of this movie. It makes no sense logically, though one thing that struck me was that they foreshadow this possibility early on. Jor-El clearly explains at several points earlier in the movie that it is forbidden to tamper with human history. Was this previously a problem for Kryptonians when they would travel to other planets? Interestingly, my kids had absolutely no problem with this, though they were at first confused about what Superman was doing, but then just excited that Superman could save Lois.

Otis and Miss Tessmacher

We are supposed to accept that Lex Luthor, the Greatest Criminal Mind of the Century™, would tolerate working with two of the most useless people imaginable. The movie goes out of their way to tell us over and over again how stupid Otis is, and I have yet to understand exactly what role Miss Tessmacher plays aside from eye candy in one scene (that includes the dumbest group of military people to ever be in charge of nuclear assets). Is she his mistress? His secretary? Her plot role in helping Superman escape to stop the nuclear missiles is presumably not her only reason for existing, but why does Lex keep her around? Virtually every moment where either sidekick is on screen is terrible. The best I can figure is that these two are like the cartoon character sidekicks in an animated movie that serve as the comic relief for children. My kids thought Otis was funny, but they can’t find a reason for Miss Tessmacher to be there, either.

We spend far too long on Krypton

When the movie begins by sentencing Zod and Co. to the Phantom Zone, I thought at first I had put in the wrong movie. But no, in contrast to the after credits scenes and teases we’re used to today, this teaser for Superman II happens before you see anything else for Superman. You get this weird scene of giant ominous faces condemning three strangers to a terrible fate (at least we’re supposed to think that flying pane of glass is terrible. We’re never actually told what it is) with absolutely no context.  I don’t even remember if they actually even mention Zod’s name.  Marlon Brando’s Jor-El is the only other person physically present during this scene. This moment is never alluded to again for the duration of the movie. In the next scene, we find out Krypton is doomed, and the Kryptonian governing council was all right there, in person, to be their version of extreme climate change deniers I guess? This whole drama takes so long to play out, with it taking a full 20 minutes or so before young Kal-El is sent through space to earth, that my kids really began to wonder whether there was going to be any Superman in a movie called Superman.

Superman’s sometimes incredibly random powers

Super speed, flight, super hearing (though it’s never really explained how Lex figures out he can do that, since it doesn’t come up in Lois’s interview), and x-ray vision are all present as expected. Heat vision doesn’t show up till the second film, which was the one thing both my kids asked about at the end of the movie (“How come he didn’t use his eye lasers?”). The ability to spin himself fast enough to drill through concrete? Not sure how he discovered that power. Superman admits in his interview with Lois that he’s never clocked himself flying before, but there’s no good explanation at why catching missiles is so difficult, yet flying fast enough to change Earth’s rotation is possible shortly thereafter. Are his super-speed or time travel capabilities only unlocked via heartbreak?

The flying date with Lois
Lois and Superman Interview

Everything is fine, until they take off. Then, let the score and the whispered musings put you to sleep.

It’s corny, goes on way too long, and Lois does far too much inner monologuing. My daughter loved the whole thing and spent the whole scene in excited fits of embarrassment. Guess I’m just not the target audience for this one.

The Special Effects

They’re not all bad, especially given that the film was made 37 years ago, and the green screen flying doesn’t look terrible, but this film definitely shows it’s age.  The most disconcerting effects happen anytime dead Jor-El is communicating with Clark, especially when he first reaches the Fortress of Solitude. The weird Technicolor fade-ins and fade-outs and floating heads are just not something my kids have really been exposed to. I do appreciate that many of the action effects are practical, which helps give the scenes an air of believability, even if they can feel dated.

— Superman: The Good —

Despite those issues, I have to admit, I really enjoy this movie. It’s not perfect, and most of the important side characters and virtually every extra in the movie feel like walking clichés instead of actual people, but it gives the film a very sort of cheesy charm that works. The brief interactions with a wide variety of New Yorkers citizens of Metropolis should feel ridiculous, but for some reason they don’t. Let me touch on some of the best things this movie offers.

Christopher Reeve
Clark Kent vs Superman

While not true for all actors, Clark Kent is more than just Superman with glasses because of Christopher Reeve.

There are not enough good things to say about his performance in this movie. Without his acting, this movie would have failed. There are a couple of great moments that really define why this works for me. First, early after his introduction to Metropolis, Clark and Lois are leaving the Daily Planet and are robbed at gunpoint. Clark plays the ultimate coward, whining and terrified. After he catches a bullet to save Lois, there’s this moment where he looks at the bullet in his hand, and has this look of satisfaction that’s amazing. It’s everything short of winking at the camera, and I love it.

There’s a second moment, after Superman has his flying date mentioned above, when he shows up as Clark to take Lois on an actual date. While Lois is in the other room obviously still twitterpated by Superman, Clark takes off his glasses, stands up straight, and you see his whole demeanor change as he is about to tell Lois who he really is. I mentioned above the whole ‘glasses as a disguise’ trick isn’t often done well, and this is where Reeve excels. It’s not just taking off the glasses or standing up straight, or even speaking a little more confidently that makes it clear he’s now Superman, it’s the look in his eyes, the set of his chin. It’s a brilliant scene where he sheds the alias and is both confident and insecure, and he does so much with just body language.

Finally, when Lex tricks Superman into opening the lead case with the Kryptonite in it, there’s a moment of sheer terror when Superman realizes he’s actually in trouble.  The look on Reeve’s face is genuine, and you really believe he’s afraid. It’s vulnerable and real, and such a great performance.

Reeve just does such an amazing job as Superman. Confident, even flirty with Lois, small and timid as Clark, genuine as a hero with a smile on his face and no trace of condescension even delivering some really cheesy lines. He carries this movie.

The Costume

Superman is nothing without the costume.  It’s as iconic as any can possibly be.  This version of the costume feels lifted straight from the pages of a comic book.  It’s classical, with bright colors, and the first time you see Superman flying out of the Fortress of Solitude wearing it, it is just incredible.  I’d love if they explained a little more where he got it from, since everything we see on Krypton seems devoid of color, but that’s a really minor gripe.  My kids excitement was palpable, since it does take a while for Superman to finally become Superman.

The dynamic between Lex Luthor and Superman
Lex Luthor First Revealing Kryptonite

Gene Hackman really shines in these moments when he triumphs, if briefly, over Superman

Gene Hackman is an amazing actor, and, when his scenes aren’t being ruined by his sidekicks, he really steals the show. The entire scene with Lex explaining his whole plan to Superman about the nuclear missiles and California leading to the Kryptonite reveal is incredible. Superman is swaggering about confidence in his abilities, and Lex is just toying with him. The way they interact together here is fantastic, and echoes so much about what I like from this dynamic in the comics.

The young Clark Kent

While I think Man of Steel handles the origins of Superman well, this is the gold standard. The Kents are believable, kind, and loving. When Pa Kent gives the speech about why he has Clark conceal his powers, it is uplifting rather than paranoid, even though the content is nearly the same. Pa Kent’s death is heartbreaking. Everything here was handled perfectly, and covers all the traditional elements my son reminded me had to be there.

The Score

You cannot underestimate the genius that is John Williams’s score and how much it impacts this movie. I bet you’re humming it in your head right now. It’s incredible, and it really adds to the movie.  There are a couple of variations on the main theme to keep it fresh through the film, and the romance theme set that tone perfectly as well.

Margot Kidder as Lois Lane

Again, a fantastic casting choice. She screams a lot, and I’m not a big fan of the flying date scene, but much like Reeve she gives a very genuine performance, and her chemistry with Reeve is visible. She’s confident and assertive and immensely likeable as a character. Watching her get flustered by Superman in their interview is tremendously enjoyable, which, again, was my daughters favorite part of the movie.

The Humor

Remember when superhero movies were funny? There are quite a few moments of well-crafted (or at least well-intentioned) humor in this movie. One of my favorite moments is the obligatory ‘Superman saves a plane’ scene. The pilot, after looking out the window to see Superman supporting the exploded engine turns to his co-pilot and delivers in a perfect deadpan, “Fly. Don’t look, just fly.” Superman also gets to deliver plenty of one-liners, some of which are a little groan-worthy, but not Schwarzenegger level, so it’s fine. Even Hackman gets in on the fun with the slightly terrible line “We all have our little faults. Mine’s in California.” That one did make my son groan. It’s just such a nice change to watch a superhero movie that isn’t bleak and joyless.

— Superman: Conclusions —

So, the final verdict from my kids was that this was a solid hit. My son really enjoyed seeing all the things he knew about the character portrayed well. My daughter really enjoyed discovering one of the great romances in comics. I love coming into the room listening to them talk about it even now, days afterwards. Whether it’s about that silly guy who hit Superman in the head with a crowbar (“how dumb was that, Dad?”), or Clark’s little nod to himself after catching the bullet to save Lois, or even how dumb Otis is, the fact that they are still talking about it just makes me smile. This movie is such a perfect introduction to the character of Superman and what makes him great. It’s definitely more fun than serious, and it’s got plot holes, but it’s aged far better than you probably think it has for being more than 35 years old. If you haven’t seen it recently, especially if you have kids like mine, you can’t go wrong with truth, justice, and the American way.

Have you seen a Superman movie lately?  What’s your favorite Superman film?  If you say Superman IV, then you’re a terrible person.  Leave a comment below and tell me what you think.

Superman with the Kids – Review

Ju-On: The Grudge Reviewed

Due to my increased interest in certain types of horror, I took a chance and watched Ju-On: The Grudge, the infamous Japanese film that is often credited as being one of the scariest films of all time. However, this is plainly not the case.

For brevity and clarity’s sake, this will only be an overview type of review without too many specifics.

Jo-On: The Grudge Review: With Spoilers

Ju-On: The Grudge

Ju-On: The Grudge follows a set of Japanese people that are all affected by a curse known as The Grudge that, once it has touched a person’s life, will follow them and eventually kill them. The Grudge curse was supposedly created when a man killed his wife and child after learning of her infidelity which then led to his death when his wife’s ghost returns to seek vengeance. While this basic premise may seem like a good grounded concept for a horror movie, and it is, the execution simply led to a bland product devoid of scares or even a decent storyline.

Once The Grudge’s origin is shown at the very beginning of the film, the rest of Ju-On follows several people all of whom are, in some way, touched by the ghostly presence that resides in the house where the curse originated. However, the film presents several different segments that do not follow a strict chronology with each segment following a different character. The beginnings of each segment usually show the character living their life normally until they come into contact with The Grudge that eventually leads to their deaths at the hands of one of the three main ghosts. In the later segments, other ghosts of those who died in previous segments also make appearances although their existences are essentially without much consequence. While the segmented storyline with its overlapping timelines could have worked to show how deep this curse has woven itself into the house and those around it, its style simply did not work as well as it should and the result ended up simply rather confusing.

Since much of the film essentially repeats itself over and over with the different characters, I shall digress to discussing the ending. The ending of Ju-On: The Grudge was one that had enough potential to work as a twist ending but upon further analysis, ended up just as bland as the rest. The final character to have a segment in this film eventually finds herself in the ghost-infested house being encroached upon by the wife ghost and then a curious scene happens. A series of flashbacks show the wife ghost, curiously missing her ghastly appearance and looking more like a normal woman and mother, as she has been stalking this final victim. To me, this scene suggested that perhaps the wife ghost has not been killing anyone but rather had been attempting to warn people from the rage of the husband ghost who had not been seen since his murders at the beginning. Had this been the case, I would credit Ju-On with having a delightful twist that, while not having many substantial scares, that would have made the film worth it. However, upon remembering the rest of the film, it is clear that the wife ghost had been killing several people and that theory simply didn’t hold water. This was also substantiated by the intense research I put into this film upon finishing.

———–Spoilers End———

Overall, the concept of the film had promise and could have delivered a unique spin on films that deal with haunted houses and the like but ultimately, the film simply dredged on and had nothing special that made it worth watching.

Do you remember Jo-On: The Grudge? Did you like it? Hate it? Comment below with your thoughts.

Ju-On: The Grudge Reviewed

The Exorcist – Reviewed for a Modern Audience

Not being too much of a horror fan growing up, I tended to shy away from the horror genre where ever it appeared. However, I recently grew to find an appreciation in the horror genre and while I still shy away from slashers, I tend to find interest in more atmospheric or suspense driven horror since, to me, it is still able to be chilling without verging into the area of gore porn.

When I started watching The Exorcist, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect considering that I’ve heard it was one of the scariest movies of all time but I didn’t seem to be getting scared. By the end, I came to this conclusion: The Exorcist was not made for us. Rather, this movie was expressly made for the 1970s audience that it had when first released. Because the 70s was a time of staunch secularism, the idea of having that secularism shattered by the existence of the supernatural would have been much more frightening than had the same theme been introduced to us in the modern era. While our modern culture still has a similar vein of secularism, we have become much more comfortable with accepting the unknown as something less frightening and more something to be explored and explained. This was not the case in the 70s.

————–Spoilers Follow————–

As the film starts, we are shown a view of Chris MacNeil’s (Ellen Burstyn) life as an actress and how she just seems rather jaded with her profession and her life in general although she does value her role as mother to her daughter, Regan (Linda Blair). We are also shown the current situation of a Catholic priest, Father Karras (Jason Miller), who confesses that he is doubting his faith in God. Chris, representing the secularism of the times, disdains religion and goes so far as to call priests nothing more than “witch doctors.” Karras, however, represents the tendency for the religious to begin accepting secularism and reject their faith during this time. Both of these characters, two sides of the same coin, are then slapped in the face with the demonic possession of Chris’s daughter, Regan.

As Regan begins displaying psychotic symptoms, Chris immediately brings in the help of various doctors all of whom can’t explain Regan’s condition and when she is forced to turn to Father Karras for an exorcism, Karras only agrees to examine Regan as a psychiatrist first, given that he has been certified and that he would often attribute psychotic behavior to mental illness before demonic possession. This theme continues of the secularists in the film constantly attempting to explain the unexplainable condition of Regan using science or psychology since no one is willing to even entertain the possibility of a supernatural event. It is not until the demon possessing Regan begins to tell Karras details about his recently deceased mother that she could not have possibly known. Only these details begin to convince Karras that perhaps supernatural forces are at work and his mental condition deteriorates as a result with him becoming increasingly emotional and prone to outbursts.

The Exorcist - Regan Floating

When Karras finally accepts that an exorcism is necessary, he is appointed as the assistant to Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) who has had experience with exorcisms before and represents the religious who still retains his faith, as opposed to Karras who has been slowly losing his faith up until this point. During the exorcism, it has become obvious to Karras, Chris, and the audience that this is indeed a supernatural event and the demon taunts them with knowledge that it could not have normally known and with visions designed to torment them. Father Merrin dies whilst performing the exorcism and in a final act of desperation, anger, and sacrifice, Karras asks the demon to possess him and leave Regan. As Karras is being possessed, he retains his will just long enough to dive out the window and fall down a set of stone stairs, fatally injuring himself and the demon with him.  Just as Karras is dying, another priest appears to perform the Catholic sacrament of Last Rites which Karras agrees to, reaffirming his faith in God.

————Spoilers End————-

Overall, so many aspects of The Exorcist speak to a time in our history when a belief in the religious or supernatural was discounted as nothing more than trickery or insanity. The prevalent secular thought believed that anything could be explained through science or medicine and thus, religion was unnecessary and discounted as the delusions of those who couldn’t or wouldn’t accept science as the only truth. The Exorcist sought to provide a horrific situation where those secular beliefs were not only challenged; they were outright smashed by the existence of the supernatural and the revelation that secularism couldn’t explain everything. This is the most frightening part of The Exorcist. Not the scares, the grotesque demon face, the head spinning scene but rather the idea that there are things that we simply can’t explain and that we were ever confronted with that fact, it would be frightening as hell as this film was widely considered when first released. While The Exorcist doesn’t retain the same level of scares that it did back in 1973, it does still retain an intense story that serves very well as an allegory for the battle of secularism and religion that both spoke to its 70s audience and still speaks to us today.

Have you see The Exorcist? What did you think of the iconic horror film? Comment below!

The Exorcist – Reviewed for a Modern Audience

Positronic and Bicentennial Man – Retro Review

Isaac Asimov’s robot stories have always been a major influence to my writing. So, when I found one I had not read, I thought I’d pick it up. In the 1970s, Isaac Asimov wrote a novella called The Bicentennial Man. The basis of that story was about a robot who wants to become human. In the 1990s, Asimov and Robert Silverberg wrote an expanded The Bicentennial Man into a novel called The Positronic Man. The basis of these two works serve as the source material for the 1999 Robin Williams movie Bicentennial Man. This review will look at The Positronic Man and the Bicentennial Man movie.

The Novel

The Positronic ManThe Positronic Man takes place in Isaac Asimov’s robot universe. All robots are governed by the three laws, laws that cannot be overridden:

Law One: A robot cannot harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Law Two: A robot must obey all orders from a human unless such orders conflict with the first law.
Law Three: A robot must preserve its existence, unless such preservation conflicts with the first or second laws.

Robots are common in this world but also mistrusted and looked down upon because it is feared that they will eventually take over the work force. This makes it hard for the U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men to manufacture and sell their products. As a gesture of good faith, a well known government official, Gerald Martin, takes in a NDR robot. The robot, affectionately named Andrew (N-D-R. aNDRew. Get it?) by Martin’s youngest daughter.

Andrew displays traits that are not common for a typical robot. First, he shows creativity by becoming a master woodcarver. But it doesn’t stop there. As his master starts to become very old, Andrew asks him to grant his freedom. Through a series of legislative acts, Andrew is eventually granted his freedom, becoming the first and only free robot. But Andrew desires more. He is never content with being a robot. His endgame is to actually become a human, complete with all of the imperfections and disadvantages associated with it.

The novel is well written, complete with all of the complexity and charm of an Isaac Asimov book. But as you experience the life of Andrew Martin, you are constantly asked the question, what makes a human being? By the end of the book, that question is answered in a profound and impactful way.

The Movie

Bicentennial ManThe Bicentennial Man movie roughly follows the plot of the novel. However, it makes several changes that honestly do not make sense. The biggest change was adding a love story element. I suppose that this adds motivation to Andrew wanting to become more human. However, he wanted to become a human long before he met the girl. The romance felt out of place, especially since it did not occur until relatively late in the film.

The movie is also too small scale. For example, Gerald Martin flat out grants Andrew his freedom without even bothering to go through the legal process. It makes very little sense. What happens to Andrew after Martin dies? A simple piece of paper would not suffice. Rather, the law would need to officially recognize Andrew’s freedom. This was very well-thought out in the book but horribly overlooked in the movie.

But then there are all of the technical problems with this movie. For example, why does Andrew seem very clumsy and has a tendency to break things when he is supposed to be good at carving wood? But one of the biggest technical problems of all is when a robot is told to turn off a human’s life support system. A robot could not do that because that would VIOLATE THE FIRST LAW!

The last major problem was the problem of the movie itself. It was made in the time where movies tried to get PG ratings so they could convince families to go see them. However, Bicentennial Man is far from a family film. And the changes to the story, especially the addition of the romantic elements, definitely make it a bad movie for a family outing. Along with trying to be a family movie, it also attempts to be a comedy. Although comedic elements are welcome, they feel wedged in and out of place. All of these factors make for a very lackluster movie with very little feeling.

Conclusion

There is honestly no comparison. The novel is far better than the movie. The characters and people Andrew befriend in the book are interesting and rounded. It’s very disheartening as Andrew watches them grow old and eventually die. The movie touched on this point, but left out some of the cool characters in favor of the love story. If you are looking for a good movie to watch in Isaac Asimov’s universe, look no further than I, Robot.

Have you read the book or seen the movie? Comment with your thoughts.

Positronic and Bicentennial Man – Retro Review

Babylon 5 Rewatch – The Gathering

Looking back it feels like we owe a lot of the current trends in serialized storytelling on television to Babylon 5. It was one of the first shows that I remember watching that was telling a story much larger than single episodes, or even the occasional two or three parter. Every season had an overall story and theme, and all of the seasons taken together were part of this epic story that J. Michael Straczynski had created for our enjoyment.  

I’ve been enjoying various TV Rewatch article series over on Tor.com for a while now.  I kept hoping that eventually someone would put together a Babylon 5 Rewatch, but it finally occurred to me that with this site launching, it might be a better use of time to just start one here.

Let’s start with The Gathering, which aired in 1993, the 90 minute TV movie that ultimately led to the launch of the Babylon 5 TV series.

The Babylon 5 space station has recently come online and is operational, with most of the diplomats from the various governments who have an interest in the station are already aboard:

Delenn, Londo Mollari, and G'kar

Delenn, Londo Mollari, and G’kar

  • Delenn, the Minbari ambassador, played by Mira Furlan
  • Londo Mollari, the Centauri ambassador, played by Peter Jurasik
  • G’kar, the Narn ambassador, played by Andreas Katsulas

koshThe final alien representative, Kosh from the Vorlon Empire, is due to arrive shortly. In fact, his ship arrives two days earlier than expected, but within a minute of disembarking the ambassador mysteriously falls ill. The cause of the illness is eventually determined to be poison, and the commanding officer of Babylon 5, Commander Jeffrey Sinclair (played by Michael O’Hare), is fingered as a suspect in the attempted assassination. Ultimately Commander Sinclair is exonerated as he confronts the true assassin, who was using a device called a ‘changeling net’, which allowed him to take on the appearance of other people.

 

While these events unfold, some extremely dense world-building and a number of mysteries are set up that become recurring themes throughout the first season of the show and have repercussions throughout the series:

  • Ten years prior to the start of The Gathering, the Earth Alliance and Minbari Federation were at war with each other, with the Earth forces severely outmatched by the more advanced Minbari. The war culminated in what came to be known as ‘The Battle of the Line’, where every available Earth ship that was combat worthy was called in to defend Earth. As G’kar put it when discussing events with Delenn, the Minbari were “one stroke” away from defeated the humans completely. But for as yet unknown reasons, the Minbari suddenly surrendered to end the war.
  • There were 4 prior Babylon stations that were built for the same purpose to serve as a neutral place to foster diplomatic relations, and hopefully to prevent another war like the recently concluded Earth-Minbari war. Babylons 1-3 were all destroyed before they were completed, by acts of sabotage. Babylon 4 disappeared without a trace 24 hours after coming online.
  • The Earth Alliance knows next to nothing about the Vorlons. They’re extremely old, have extremely advanced technology, and are never seen outside of their encounter suits. No one knows what they look like, or anything about their culture. And the Vorlons like it that way.
  • Full blown telepaths have emerged among most races, including humans. Human telepaths are registered with, and monitored by, the Psi-Corps. The Psi-Corps has very strict rules regarding how telepaths are to act in the performance of their jobs. One specific proscription mentioned is that an unauthorized mind scan, performed without a court order or consent of family members, is illegal. (That’s not to say that such things don’t happen. After all, how would most people even know that a telepath had taken a look around?)
  • The Minbari are governed by a group known as the Grey Council.
  • The Minbari are divided in castes, but the only caste mentioned by name at this point is the Warrior caste.
  • The Narn were, until relatively recently, essentially enslaved by the Centauri. The Centauri occupied the Narn homeworld for 100 years, and were extremely brutal during that time.
  • The Narn are the only race specifically pointed out in the series that have no telepaths at all.
  • The Centauri Republic, once a significant military power in the sector, is now much diminished in power and dignity. Londo, the Centauri ambassador, wistfully describes how they were once a mighty power, and have now become little more than a tourist attraction.
  • Mars has been colonized by humans, but the relationship between Earth and Mars is strained, at best. At one point there were ‘Food Riots’ on Mars due to the unrest there.

In addition to the big world-building story points, there are also a variety of character specific storylines that are introduced (or at least alluded to) here:

  • Commander Sinclair fought in the Battle of the Line.  He was a squadron commander, and his entire squad was destroyed in the battle. He attempted to ram a Minbari cruiser, but something made him black out. He woke up 24 hours later in his ship, with no memory of the missing time, only to find that the Minbari had surrendered. That’s not suspicious at all.
  • In the recut version of The Gathering that was made after Babylon 5 moved to TNT, one line of dialogue was added to the scene where Kosh meets the disguised assassin (wearing the appearance of Commander Sinclair). Kosh says, “Entil’Zha Valen.” Why he says that is a mystery that will have to wait until Season 3 to be resolved.
  • In one of the final scenes of the movie, we’re introduced to Sinclair’s fondness for poetry. When asked by Delenn why the humans took such pains to build Babylon 5, after the first 4 stations were such disasters, he specifically quotes Tennyson: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
  • Prior to the assassin killing himself with a bomb, he tells Sinclair that “there is a hole in your mind.” Sinclair makes the obvious connection that this is a reference to the 24 hour gap in his memory at the Battle of the Line. When mentioning this to Delenn, she plays it off as just an “old Minbari insult,” but the implication that the Minbari had something to do with what happened to Sinclair has already been made.
  • Michael Garibaldi, the station’s chief of security, has something of a checkered past when it comes to his job performance. While he is heading the investigation into the attempted assassination on Kosh, a Senator from Earth Gov questions if Garibaldi is the right person from the job, given his history.
  • Londo Mollari dreams of the glory days of the Centauri Republic, but is quite honest about the fact that his purpose on the station is to “grovel before your wonderful Earth Alliance in the hopes of attaching ourselves to your destiny.”  He later caves to blackmail against him by G’kar.  He desperately wants a restoration to glory, for the Republic and for himself as well.
  • G’kar is, in a word, angry. He orchestrates the assassination attempt and the framing of Commander Sinclair in order to upset the balance of power, hopefully in his favor. When all is said and done, Sinclair knows that G’kar is responsible for everything that has happened, but has no hard proof to act on.
  • Dr. Ben Kyle, the Chief Medical Officer of Babylon 5, breaches Kosh’s containment suit in order to treat him, and sees what he really looks like (though we as the audience are left to wonder on that point). Lyta Alexander, the recently arrived commercial telepath from Earth, reads Kosh’s mind in order to find out what happened to him. Neither character makes it into the Babylon 5 TV show, and we’re given the explanation that they were both reassigned due to their close and unprecedented contact with a Vorlon. Dr. Kyle never appears on the show again. Lyta will eventually return, at first as a recurring guest star, and eventually as a series regular.

babylon5I’ll admit to not being a fan of Babylon 5 when it first started. I was a die hard Star Trek fan at the time, and Babylon 5 was just so…different. The look of the show was so different when compared to the science fiction I was used to seeing on television. What won me over though was the realization that the entirety of the show would give me a complete story.

As much as I loved the Star Trek television series, I will also mock them mercilessly for their rampant use of the Universal Reset Button. No matter how big the problem may be in act 1, by the end of act 3 everything is back to the way it was at the top of the hour. No problem is too big to be resolved, and there are rarely lasting consequences.  Yes there are some rather exceptional, well, exceptions to that rule in Star Trek, but generally the reset button was standard fare there.)

There is no reset button in Babylon 5. The choices that the characters have to make will all have consequences that will ultimately need to be faced. Sometimes by the character that originally made that choice, sometimes by other characters entirely. It’s in the making of those decisions, and reacting to the consequences that emerged from them, that these characters begin to change. Some of them grow into the best possible versions of themselves. Some of them make horrific mistakes that they end up paying for for the rest of their lives. And both processes are extremely painful for the characters involved. That’s why I love this show.

Have you ever watched Babylon 5? What did you think of the movie pilot? Let us know in the comments.

Babylon 5 Rewatch – The Gathering

Halo 3 – Retro Review

The following is a review I wrote in 2010, three years after the release of third installment of the legendary Halo series. So forgive the poor writing of a 17 year-old high school student.  I simply thought it would be a fun throwback on a huge game in my history.  I’ve edited some glaring grammar mistakes and some things that didn’t make any sense, because they were really bad….I’m an English teacher, forgive me. But other than that, the review is complete in all it’s retro glory, so enjoy!!

Halo 3

Halo 3 has a very bland campaign as far as story line goes, but comes jam packed with action and conflict offering a very balanced difficulty on all four playing levels: Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary (and Mythic after locating and activating the Mythic Skull) which is where I think that the first Halo may have made a mistake. Feel free to argue with me on this one, but I think that the campaign on Halo: Combat Evolved was far too difficult. This may be simply an excuse cause I have yet to finish it on Legendary but that’s beside the point.

Halo 3 - Chief & Cortana

Like I stated earlier the campaign on Halo 3 is very bland and offers little character development or story. In this area, its predecessors succeed where it fails. If you are planning on buying this game simply for story then you will be disappointed. It’s very difficult to follow and all the characters (including Master Chief) are very flat. It took about three plays through the game to actually figure out what was going on.

Halo 3 - Master Chief

Now on a much brighter subject the multi-player. The Halo franchise is and always will be about the multiplayer. If you are one of those wackos who still think it’s all about the story, please read again the first couple of paragraphs. (Future Kyle interruption, you probably also read those horribly written books too!  Ok future Kyle out.) Halo 3 brings a few extra things that the originals didn’t offer such as additional equipment like power drains and bubble shields. I am still trying to figure out if I like these or not and I’ve been playing this game for quite a while. They add little to the gameplay and seem pointless at times but there are a lot of people who can execute them with great skill and it really adds to their game strategy, then there are people like me who just don’t use them that much. Ehh to each his own I suppose. One of the earlier complaints about the multiplayer was constant lag. The game still is somewhat laggy online on a few occasions but for the most part its pretty normal. Not nearly as bad as MW2. The only problem that people have expressed and I am going to completely shut down the argument is that the shields your character have are completely unrealistic and stupid! Well the point of the matter is OF COURSE THEY’RE UNREALISTIC THE GAME TAKES PLACE IN THE 26TH CENTURY FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!!!!!! They can get away with stuff like that, and its not a bad thing that it is harder to kill someone; it just requires a different skill and technique.

Halo 3 - Master Chief Running

 

On a different topic, let’s discuss game types for multiplayer: there are a lot of game types because year after year they have added so many. The classics are all still there like slayer, territories, odd ball, ctf, and juggernaut. Some new ones like assault and now online plenty of strange and different variations of these games have been designed such as Griffball, fiesta slayer, SWAT, and Team Sumo. All of them (with the exception of territories) rock in their own way; everyone has their opinions. It’s up to you to decide what your favorite game type is and which ones suck, no review could tell you otherwise, but just so you know, territories suck… a lot! (Future Kyle interruption, which is why this playlist no longer exists.)

Halo 3 - Legendary Edition

What did you think of Halo 3? Was it worthy of the franchise? Comment below!

 

Halo 3 – Retro Review

Call of Duty 2 – Retro Review

The following review was written in December 2010. It has only been modified in the way of format.

Overview:
Call of Duty 2 was one of the last World War II first person shooters. A launch title for the Xbox 360, the game alternates between three major fronts in the war. In the first section, you play as a Russian in Stalingrad. In the second, you play as a British soldier in North Africa. In the third, you play as an American storming the shores of Normandy. As far as a story goes, that about sums it up.

The Good:
call-of-duty-2-131. The game features a lot of varied level design (once you get past Russia) and gameplay. For example, in North Africa, you will fight and take over a village. Once you have the village, you have to climb to the top of one of the buildings and call in mortar strikes on advancing tanks. This helps keep the game interesting enough so you don’t get bored of just gunning down Nazis (which is still pretty fun).

2. The Nazis do not stop coming until you have reached the position you are supposed to take. Remember when you could just sit back and take out the enemy one by one with the sniper rifle? Well, this is not the case in Call of Duty 2. The game forces you to advance and fight the Nazis close and personal. If you do not do this, then the Nazis will continually spawn until you get the nerve to go after them.

capitan_price_call_of_duty_by_march3lo3. In Modern Warfare, we are introduced to one of the most memorable characters in the game: Captain Price. It turns out Price has been around for a long time because he makes an appearance in the game. Of course, the natural conclusion could still be that he’s a descendant of this World War II veteran. Still…

The Bad:
1. This game has absolutely no story and no character development. I do not remember any of the names of the characters you play. The basic premise of each level goes along the lines of “Take this town!” or “Destroy those guns!”

2. Modern Warfare gave us the perfect control scheme; however, this control scheme went through quite a few stages of evolution before being refined in that game. In Call of Duty 2, the sprint button is replaced with some pretty worthless binoculars. Sure, they are kind of cool; however, I rarely used them and found them to be more of a nuisance rather than an aid in combat. The melee also leaves much to be desired since it is not always responsive when you press it. There is no knife.

cod23. Your squad is very unhelpful. They mostly tell you what to do and watch while you go out and get shot. I could overlook your squad’s utter uselessness if it was not for the fact that they also get in your way when you are moving to cover. This often results in your death and makes you want to shoot and kill all of your squad members.

4. My biggest complaint with this game is a glitch that kept me from finishing the game. Call of Duty 2 skips the last British mission and moves you straight into the American campaign; however, upon completion of the British mission, the game moves into the first American mission again. I attempted to replay the first American mission again, but, even then, the game would not let me progress.

Conclusion:
Call of Duty 2 was very nostalgic for me. I got my start in first person shooters with the Medal of Honor series. Overall, I enjoyed Call of Duty 2; however, the game relies too much on chaos to keep going. The whole game is fighting past one chaotic thing after another. It ends up being mostly about explosions and not much else.

COD2_Screen_06For some people, this fact would not hinder the game’s enjoyment. For me, part of what keeps me hooked on a game is the story. Part of the reason I finished Modern Warfare 2 so quickly was because I really wanted to know how it was going to end. This is not the case with Call of Duty 2. After walking down another street and seeing yet another tank waiting to be destroyed by my rocket launcher, I got bored.

Thankfully, developer Infinity Ward solved this problem by leaving the World War II genre altogether and giving us Modern Warfare. If one looks at Call of Duty 2 as a bridge between the World War II games of old and what we have today, then one can appreciate its place.

Call of Duty 2 – Retro Review