Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Top 100 Horror Movies: The Entity (1982)

Recently there was much talk online about a recent Netflix acquisition called Veronica. Out of nowhere a bunch of people were praising the film as crazy scary and quite good, then others came out and declared it a total bore. Deciding to add it to my Saturday night viewing schedule I found it to be a pretty hollow experience. Nowhere near good enough to thrill me yet not awful enough to provide much fun. Some of the scares would have been effective had I given a crap and not been convinced that the whole thing was leading towards a cheap twist, which it somewhat did. Frankly due to it's general storyline involving the evils of spirit boards it felt like another one of those dull Ouija movies.
Watching something like Veronica makes me wonder how so many people could find it scary or entertaining. Were they simply caught off guard? Maybe they have very low standards? It's just very confusing for a guy who can walk back to his bedroom and bring out something much better and more frightening.
I'm not here to bash on Veronica's brief burst of internet fame though. Actually I wanted to use it as a bridge towards talking about a much better film with some similar themes. The whole time spent watching a girl who apparently struggles with sexuality and is burdened with parental responsibilities, in this case for her siblings reminded me of the 1982 shocker, The Entity.

The film has a an wide range of talents in-front of an behind the camera. Directed by Sidney J. Furie (who has an incredibly diverse list of credits) and staring Barbara Hershey and Ron Silver, with a script from Frank De Felitta based on his novel. It should also be noted that Felitta's original book is supposedly focused on true events though there are arguments against the legitimacy of that case. Regardless of any basis in reality, Felitta can count this among his list of worthwhile horror credits along with Audrey Rose and Dark Night of the Scarecrow which he also directed. One has to wonder how he would have approached this story from the directors chair but it's tough to complain when Furie does an excellent job overall.
The Entity is the tale of a single mother name Carla Moran who struggles with almost nightly visitations from a sexually abusive entity. The film waste no time in getting to the scary shit either as we're offered just a few moments with Carla before she suffers her first attack. That's vital to the progression of the story as her connections to others make up so much of the deeper meaning to this film. She has a negative history with men ranging from her abusive father to past husbands. Her current lot in life is with her three kids, a decent traveling salesman boyfriend, one female friend, and upon seeking aid, a doctor (Ron Silver) who begins to develop feelings towards her.
A particularly interesting aspect to the film is that it become perfectly clear that something supernatural is afoot, there's no trickery on that end. However; we never learn exactly what the cause of all this mayhem really is. It could be a ghost such as Carla's father or one of her ex-lovers. Maybe it's a demon that latched on during a low-point in her life. Or could it be a psychic manifestation of of her sexual frustrations as a woman chained down by motherhood? Multiple potential explanations are given without any singular answer. While this may sound frustrating, the writing handles it beautifully as it makes the subject Carla's fear so ambiguous. Should she be weary of her past, a dark force from beyond, or herself?

Hopefully I've made it clear that the movie has some good dramatic elements and surprisingly deep writing, but let's remember that I wanted to tell you about the scare-factor. The Entity features so many freaky sequences that it becomes an issue as the audience starts to build a tolerance for all the abuse. The initial attacks are all downright terrifying and highly sexual but eventually you'll become exhausted from seeing this poor woman raped over and over again by some unseen force. The final act of the film attempts to correct this issue by changing things up, but we'll have to come back to that.
Two elements that help to make this film so scary are the cinematography by Stephen H. Burum who finds ways to make normal rooms look threatening, and then there's the music. Charles Bernstein who is likely best remembered for his work on Nightmare on Elm Street does what may be his best work here. The main theme is good enough but if you really want a clue as to what makes so many scenes extra spooky just head over to Youtube and look up Bath Attack. Quentin Tarantino even sampled the song for Inglorious Basterds so a few of you may already be familiar with the tune.
As I mentioned earlier, the film takes a bit of a left turn in the final act and I'd say it weakens the film considerably, though not enough to kill the effect. By that point in the story, Carla is aided by a group of ghost-hunting academics who seek to find proof of the supernatural. This involves an outlandish plan to capture her tormentor, and well... it just gets weird before wrapping up.

Even with the oddball final act, The Entity is an incredible fright-fest. Direction is tight, the drama is engaging, and above all the terror is based around something quite real as it draws parallels to abusive relationships. Martin Scorsese has apparently praised the movie as one of the scariest horror films ever. I may find most of the mans work to be overrated but it sure sounds like he's got some solid taste in fright flicks.

Apologies for taking so long between posts. Last week was a weird one and I ended up with portions of three separate articles before finally completing this one. There should definitely be another post up before the week is out. Can't say when or what it will be exactly, I'm actually looking into putting my name in for a city council seat. If nothing else I'm guessing there's a worthwhile story in trying.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Lupinranger vs Patranger Episodes 2-4

Did you ever notice that some days are almost made of pure unfiltered irritation? Think of day where no matter what you try, something is always in the way and nothing of value is accomplished. Yeah...that's the sort of day I had. When life refuses to even give you so much as lemons, then it's high time to settle in for some Super Sentai.

Now that we're a few episodes removed from the great premier, it should become a little more obvious what kind of show Lupinranger vs Patranger will be, and I'm happy to say it looks like it will continue to be solid viewing. The writers are already finding ways to balance out the tone, the action has reduced the number of crazy camera angles so that they remain special instead of annoying, and the plot continues to deepen. What I'm trying to say is, we've got a lot to talk about.

I guess the first item we should check off the list is that we now know the exact details of what lead the Lupinranger crew into their current lifestyle. A year ago each of them was leading fairly normal lives until a currently unknown Gangler took away someone they love. For Kairi it was his older brother, Umika lost her best friend, and most magic of all was Touma who was seperated from his fiancee. In each case the person was frozen only to eventually crack and shatter into nothing. That is when each of them were approached by Kogure, the Lupin family butler with the notion of recovering their friends and family should they reclaim the Lupin collection.

Another new detail is the introduction of Good Striker. While seemingly another item from the collection, Goodie, as he's affectionately called by Umika actually has a personality and will of its own. It's also what allows both teams to access their super finishing moves and combine their robots. It's an odd little bugger that changes sides based on mood, and it seems more than cautious about Kogure. This along with Patrangers transformation tech only lends to the theory that there is something going on behind the scenes and that the butler may not be trustworthy.

Those developments are pretty much in place by the second episode, allowing us to move on to more character based plots. Episode three pulls double duty on the secondary men for each team. Touma's part revolves around his plans to steel the Patranger transformation devices. After all, why risk valuable parts of the collection getting blown apart by gung-ho cops who just want to destroy monsters? Cooler heads prevail as Kairi convinces him that having Patranger around offers a greater list of options for each situation. He proves this point by letting the cops trigger a trap set by the current monster.
Meanwhile on the opposing team, Sakuya struggles with... I guess being sort of a dullard. Honestly even after this storyline he is easily the least developed of the core cast. Basically he finds himself goofing up at work, but then mans up when necessary. His discovery is that he needs positive encouragement to perform at his best. I hope he doesn't become the weak link of the show since he genuinely comes across as warm, if a bit impulsive.

Episode four gives us some time with the girls, mostly Tsukasa who works to solve a case that speaks to an embarrassing part of her personal life. A Gangler has been using stuffed animals to kidnap people to sell on the black market. The reason this effects our pink ranger so much is that despite her very professional demeanor, she has an almost perverse love for stuffed critters.
Umika also gets a little growth as she cares enough about the victims of these crimes to reach out and give her lawful rivals a tip. Tsukasa in turn gives Lupin Yellow an ample opportunity to steal the treasure. Only a few episodes in and the girls at least show some willingness to work alongside each-other for the greater good.

As if all this weren't enough already there's even more upgrades and technology to talk about. First are the team finishers which are both a tad bizarre. In Patranger's case the whole team fuses together in a single body. As you can guess the results so far aren't very coordinated. Lupinranger on the other hand gets multiple red rangers. How Good Striker is able to facilitate such reality bending feats is left unanswered.
Anyone whose read previous recaps knows I'm not not a big fan of the robot portion of this franchise, though there have been some strides towards fixing that, and for the first time since Ninninger I'd say we took a big leap towards more engaging robot battles. The mix of CG and physical elements has gotten much smoother, the choreography is a step up from the norm, even the miniature sets are looking better. One little issues however, and this is one that has been with the franchise all along, is the sheer amount of destruction on display means at least a few hundred civilians must have died during these fights. It just seems like a more obvious issue in this show since there's so much more detail than just a little model factory blowing up. It's a topic I'd love to see addressed in a story someday, but I'm probably asking too much of kiddie shows.

It's hard to imagine but there's even more to this show than what we've already talked about as it is just drenched in theme and potential. There's just so many neat touches on display that could be further developed into something more meaningful than simply set-dressing. Even the potential for different kinds of character relationships is teased within these opening episodes. Consider Sakuya's immediate attraction to Umika and consider what might happen when he finds out she's a thief, or when they inevitable start to work together. Right now he's just a goofy cop with a crush on the cute girl at the bakery, where that might end up makes for some rich storytelling options.

Once again this show saved my day. It feels odd to say this so early but this may be the best Sentai I've covered so far. Really makes a viewer feel good about the franchise moving forward. That's all for now. I've got to get some sleep in the hope of making tomorrow at least somewhat productive.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Retrobit Super Retro-Cade Review

Don't mean to toot my own horn but I've been working hard lately, harder than when I was employed actually. Right out of the gate I got a contribution gig with Horror News Net and already have two articles with them which you can find here and here. Beyond that there's been work on a novel, looking into returning to school, tasks at the shelter job, etc. The problem with a lot of this stuff is that it's very long form work by which I mean you may not see any results for weeks, months, maybe even years. That sort of delayed satisfaction can drag you down if you're not careful which makes it very important to treat oneself after some strong productivity. That need for a reward recently led me to the Retrobit Super Retro-Cade.

A little background first, Retrobit is a company that specializes in a variety of retro game goodies. Last year they made a plug & play box called Generations that was apparently all kinds of rubbish, but this year they came back and put some effort into making something worthwhile. That newest attempt is the Super Retro-Cade, a little console preloaded with 90 games across arcade, NES, SNES, and Genesis from a few select companies such as Capcom, Data East, Irem, and Technos.
For sixty bucks you get the system, power adapter, HDMI cable, and two controllers. None of this is grand quality but it's decent enough. The system itself has a decent feel, looks good, and has a nice responsive power button. Likewise the controllers have held up well over the first few weeks of play though I'm not sure how long they will last. For anyone who was lucky enough to get NES classics only to complain about cord length, that's not a problem here as these babies give enough leeway to relax without moving a chair. I should note some other USB retro controllers are compatible with this so you don't have to freak if one of them breaks.

As I mentioned earlier there are 90 games in this little box and as you might imagine the range of quality is pretty vast. Of course there are some old favorites, I'm very happy to see the likes of Captain Commando and the Final Fight trilogy included. There are some pleasant surprises such as Ken-Go and Boogie Wings. Then there's a wide selection of games that are either crap like Vigilante, or good but ludicrously difficult like the Ghouls & Ghosts series. It can be tough to tell people how good the selection of games will be for them, though with everything that's on tap you should at least be able to find a couple of games to enjoy.
That brings us to the issue of performance. After all these are tough old games that relay on some serious timing, which means speed hitches or jitters can be game breakers. Thankfully most of the emulation offered here is on target with only a few games suffering from notable hiccups most of which is auditory. There are some titles like Mythic Riders that suffer from slowdown, but not so much as to hurt the game. Probably the biggest issues I've faced gameplay wise is that the controllers may not have the responsiveness needed for the balls out difficulty of Mega Man 2, though that may just be me.

The biggest draw for most people is the nostalgia that comes from playing these games. On the day I bought it, I'd been goofing around with the selection of titles, finding some decent and a few awful, finally I settled into Final Fight 3. About halfway through the game my brother showed up after work. He popped in the second controller, joined the game, and suddenly it may has well have been the mid 90s all over again. We were kicking thugs in the face and throwing people at each-other. The whole experience spoke to the therapeutic nature of such simple games. That bit of old-fashioned fun was totally worth the cost of admission.

There is one more reason to take interest in the Retro-Cade though it's not one the company advertises. Since the system itself has no locks on any of the software, it's basically an idiot proof emulation box for anyone looking to add roms to it. I'm not saying that you should do such a thing, as that could lead to copyright infringement, nor have I done it myself, but I have seen it done and yes it is very easy to add more games to the system. Definitely an interesting feature for those interested in game emulation who aren't ready to devote themselves to building a retro-pi.

Even though I largely enjoy my time with the Retro-Cade I can't recommend it to everybody. Let's face facts that some people just don't have a love for this sort of gaming as a lot of what's here is mostly violent and somewhat brainless arcade games meant to frustrate and suck up quarters. A lot of people who do love such gaming may already have a collection of home console ports or have gotten into the raspberry-pi arena. That puts the Retro-Cade in an odd spot where it's best suited for gamers who don't have the room or cash for massive collections, who have also avoided making their own emulation machine. If you're in that camp and harbor lots of love for classic shooters and brawlers, this has a lot of fun to offer.

And with that I must return to hard work. All this effort to reshape ones lifestyle can get a little nerve-wracking. Like I said earlier, it's important to reward yourself once in a while be it with old video games or maybe sleeping all day alongside a kitty. Actually, that bit sounds pretty good about now. See you all again soon.  

Monday, February 19, 2018

Lupinranger vs Patranger Episode 1

The past week has been absolutely nuts. In my own life I've been working on establishing a working relationship with another website, should be able to share that by our next post. Beyond that I'm looking into returning to school later this year. In entertainment we got a massive and damn fine film with Black Panther, plus all the happenings at the Olympics. In society we have yet another violent tragedy, Russian spies, and continuing political ineptitude. As a creature of comfort, such times of high activity give me a hankering for small comfort viewing. Last year a prime source of blissful entertainment failed to hold up its' end of the bargain as the lousy Kyuranger mucked up the Super Sentai franchise. Thankfully it's a new year, bringing us a new series to potentially serve as a blanket when the world shifts into overdrive. Question is, were we lucky enough to receive a good Sentai? Time to find out if Lupinranger vs Patranger will be our new Saturday night thing, or just another lackluster superhero show.

In a nice twist for the franchise this newest series follows two different teams in conflict with each other as well as evil monsters. Here's a rough gist. Ganglers are an interdimensional crime organization. Recently they stole a collection of mystical objects belonging to the legendary thief Arsene Lupin. The one-thousand year old boss of this criminal underworld is getting bored with the job which gives him an idea to spice things up. Any Gangler who can successfully take over over the human world will become the new head-honcho.
Directly opposing these dimension hopping ghouls are the Lupinrangers. The trio lead a dual life, operating a bakery in their civilian guise, and retaking the Lupin collection from the Ganglers in their ranger forms. They were entrusted this task by the Lupin family butler whose master has made a deal with our heroes.
Meanwhile a small squad of police officers seek to stop the Ganglers and prevent the Lupin collection from falling into the hands of criminals. Initially these three crime fighters lack for superpowers until some unknown element provides them with the same transformation tech used by the thieves. That is how Patranger comes forth to destroy the Ganglers and apprehend Lupinranger.

I have to give a ton of props to this first episode. First it had the sense to not waste time on the opening and ending credits. Secondly no effort was made to introduce the giant robots. These omissions gave ample time to really get the story moving, a massive difference from many premiers which devote themselves to gimmicks rather than story.
There is a lot more focus on the thieves in this episode but thanks again to proper time management, we get a fairly decent grasp of the personalities that make up these two teams. Lupinranger has the stylish and earnest red ranger, cold and calculating blue, and ditsy girly girl yellow. Patranger has a sort of big sister pink, goofy slacker green, and my favorite so far the over serious blowhard red. One team feels like they belong to a more serious show while the other is more comical. This could either either make the series feel very manic depressive or give it the perfect balance, only time will tell.

As if there wasn’t enough to compliment, this first outing managed to injected a few mysteries into the overall plot as well. Once again this is largely on the Lupinranger side of the equation where we have no idea who the last surviving Lupin family member is or what their plans may be for this collection of rare oddities. Then there's the deal our three thieves have made. According to early report on the series, each of these characters has lost someone they loved so it stands to reason that one of these objects may be able to resurrect the dead or even turn back time. There’s also the mystery of the transformation technology. Where does it come from? What powers it? Is someone using it to play multiple sides off each other?

A few thematic elements were brought up as well. One of major note is how each Gangler has a safe built into their body, which they use to keep each treasure secure. Not only does this cover for the heroes not instantly destroying every foe they come across, but I see it being used as a metaphor down the line. Also, I forgot to mention the Lupinranger mission statement of how they'll put their lives on the line, to the extent that they won't try to rescue each other from dangerous situations. They've made a pact to complete their deal with the Lupin family at any cost. Not only is this an interesting change of pace from most Sentai but it paves the way for a time when one of them will have to choose between the mission and comrades.

Pretty amazing to think I've gotten this far writing about an episode without mentioning the action, thankfully that portion of the show is up to snuff though I do have one concern. So far the choreography, production, and filming of the fight scenes is very nice but it gets a little over the top in regards to camera and editing tricks. It’s not a major issue, just something that could get a little annoying if not managed properly. On the plus side, the baddies prove themselves to be serious threats. Usually the first few episodes of a series offer little in the way of danger yet here we have a basic monster of the week poised to murder some heroes
As it stands this is might be the most solid opening to any Sentai I've seen. The show could go in a lot of directions from here and possibly waste such potential. Based on what we have so far though, it is a massive improvement over Kyuranger, maybe even better than Zyuohger. I'm telling you all we may be in for a real treat here.

That's all for tonight, yall. Like I said earlier, it's been a busy week which means it's time for a little relaxation before returning to studying college courses. Other than the usual updates around here, it looks like I'll have some other content out on Horror News Net within the week. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Klonoa -Door to Phantomile-

There are certain undeniable truths in this world. Japan makes amazing whiskey, dogs are better than people, and 1998 was the best year for video games in North America. Don't believe me? Go look it up. Across every platform available at the time a cornucopia of outstanding games was unleashed in every genre. On a personal level it was slightly transformative as I went from someone who simply played video games to a full-on gamer. It was only natural given the immense amount of quality games just released for my dear original Playstation. That's to say nothing of Nintendo 64, PC, Game Boy Color, or the brilliant death line-up for the Sega Saturn.
Amazing as it may sound, for a year that brought gamers the likes of Final Fantasy Tactic, Ocarina of Time, Panzer Dragoon Saga, or countless others, my favorite was title so little known that I didn't even know it existed before finding it on a rental store shelf.
Let's set the stage: It's springtime, April I believe or maybe May, I'm twelve years old and hungry for my next game. Not having the scratch to buy something new, I'm able to peruse the aisle of Mammoth Video. Searching for something good I stumble across a game entirely unknown to me. Klonoa -Door to Phantomile- Apparently a platformer. The only real indication of quality I could work with was the company logo. I knew Namco from Tekken, Soul Edge (before it became Soulcalibur), and Ace Combat. That pedigree seemed strong enough to warrant giving this odd little title a shot.

Within minutes of starting the game I'm faced with obnoxiously colorful and adorible cartoon creatures. I'm talking sickeningly cute, like they speak their own chirpy nonsense language and everything. Even so, the music seemed pleasant and the opening hinted at the story possibly having more to it than cute things screeching at each other so I pressed on.
Just a few minutes into the first level, I was hooked. Klonoa is one of those special games where the actual gameplay itself is simple enough for anyone to understand, yet the potential for almost limitless complexity from those simple actions was there. You better believe they lived up to that promise.
Klona can only do a few basic moves. He can jump of course with a tiny bit of floating by flapping his ears. On the offensive he can use his ring to inflate and carry an enemy. He can then use that enemy to either throw at other baddies and objects, or use it to double jump. Sound's simple enough right? Now take into account that the game is played in two-and-a-half-dimensions. This means that while he may only move left or right he can still interact with objects in the background and foreground which can also effect him. Add to that a variety of enemies who fly, explode, carry shields, or attack from other plains along with timed switches, floating platforms, and other hazards. Each level finds new ways to mix these elements into new challenges.
That mix of simple actions in a complex setting made for one of the best difficulty curves I've ever encountered in a game. The first few levels can be easily completed by anyone which makes them the perfect safe place to practice your skills for the later stages which feature challenges that send your heart up into your throat. It's never insurmountable but there's still a major difference between the beginning and ending portions.

The storyline much like the difficulty steadily deepens and expands throughout the game. Early on it's just cute animals trying to stop a nightmare man. Later on there's death and destruction yet even that can not prepare a player for the sudden onset heartache this game throws at you before the credits roll. In it's final minutes the story pulls out a crazy twist followed by an ending that will rip your heart right out. No way will I ever spoil it for you but if you ever have the chance to play the game, have some tissues ready.
The presentation for the time was excellent. The mixture of 2-D and 3-D elements made it look sharp and keep it from looking as dated as many platformers of the era. Namco was also quite adept at making nice FMV cut scenes so those were a treat though I'm sure they've lost a bit of luster by now. Then there's the music which was just beautiful with a full variety of moods to fit the upbeat opening segments and the grim final stages.
If it seems like I'm just heaping praise on the game there's good reason. Klonoa is about as close to flawless as most games could ever hope to get. The only issues I have with the experience is that it was a bit short and the unlockable bonus stage was pretty irritating. Consider what that means. The worst thing this game has going for it is that is doesn't overstay its' welcome and it provides an extra super challenge for those who crave such things.

In the following years the game would earn one direct sequel on the PS2, a volleyball game on PS1, a few of spin-offs on the GBA and wonderswan, a remake for the WII, plus a few cameo appearances here and there. While that may sound like a decent run there hasn't been anything new from the series in close to a decade. I'm more than willing to take some of the blame since I often missed out on these extra games either by them not reaching our shores or me not having the right console at the time. I have played Klonoa 2 and while it is another very solid platformer, it can't quite stand up to the almost perfect nature of the first.

I'm fairly confident that both this and the Parasite Eve article from Christmastime mark the Begining of more video game content around these parts. Obviously the future of such posts is going to depend on you, dear readers. If I find these are coming in around half or a quarter the views of Sentai coverage, then we'll move on to something else. For the foreseeable future however I'd like to continue sharing some great games both retro and modern with you all. Suggestions are always welcome, and stay tuned as I've got some nice surprises coming up.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

My Life in Film Part 2: 1990-1994

Being unemployed for any stretch of time provides an opportunity to reflect on what you've done, what you're doing, and what you'll be doing in the future. This chance to examine one's life path has been front and center for me this year. I've been going back to revisit favorite things, working daily towards further success, and trying to map out some plan going forward. Something I've been revisiting a lot lately is art & entertainment. Reading through Calvin & Hobbes again or turning on a monster movie I've seen dozens of times for some Saturday comfort viewing. All of this has been helping to shape where I want to go from here but it's also reminded me to get my butt in gear and wrap up some features I began and never finished.
The my life in film concept, something I first came across on dvdactive, is the idea of going through every year you've been on this shiny blue globe and finding your absolute favorite movie from each one.
I've already covered my existence during the delightful 80's but now we're getting into the the decade that made up the majority of my youth, the frequently ugly, often times frustrating, but always unique 1990's. Can't say as it was may favorite time to be alive though it had a fair bit more personality than our current dumpster fire of a decade.

Seeing as I was still in the single digits age wise these years sort of blend together. Certain events stick out like becoming an uncle (got an early start on that role) but most of it is the general flow of life. Times spent playing Super-Nintendo, or scaring myself silly with spooky shows like Unsolved Mysteries, getting Jake, the second dog of my life and a great one at that. It's that stretch of time when most worries are either distant or arbitrary. As you may expect some of these films weren't even glimpsed by these eyes until later in life but they all hold a solid spot in my taste profile.

While the two movies tied for 1990 are remarkably different in style and tone, each tapped into lasting parts of my personality. On one end you have the drunk slacker and on the other the social outcast. I've had experience as both so these flicks relate to plenty of memories.
Tremors was pretty much engineered for me. Be it nature or nurture I always had an instinctive love for tales of dinky towns, better still when said town is under siege by gooey monsters. Add in a legendary pair of blue-collar bum heroes and it just gets better. That sort of hero has seemingly disappeared over the years but back then it was more than acceptable for the male lead to live in a truck, work odd jobs for a pittance, and store cold beers in a toilet.
I never would thought it possibe but Val & Earle foreshadowed all my time working odd and handyman jobs, be it lawn care, pluming, maintenance, even pest removal. These were all things I never wanted to do as a kid and yet I'm currently armed with the knowledge of how to fix dryers, clear out bed bugs, and even moving and redressing death beds. Yes a cold one goes down extra smooth after a day dealing with that crap.
Edward Scissorhands on the other hand (haha) was what I would probably call my favorite movie as a kid. Granted it's status has diminished over time thanks an ever expanding list of favorites but also the slightly toxic effect that other fans have had on it.
Being a home schooled kid in the early 90's, a time when it was largely reserved for whackadoos, made life in a fairly small town just a little more difficult. Being a kid who already liked odd things was enough of a stigma without others joking that you have to be kept inside. Of course this made Edward an instant classic. Watching another person struggle through the judgment everyone places on him could get very depressing but the honesty of the ending was what really pulled it all together. He never fully escapes his isolation but he's able to use his abilities and channel his experiences into something that makes the world a better place. Think of it as the truthful version of the “it gets better” movement.

91 was very much a year of minor classics. There's a variety of flicks I've viewed countless times ranging from Sci-Fi with Star Trek VI, political thriller with Sneakers, mobster comedy Oscar, plus a Van-Damn double feature of Double Impact and Lionheart. The one that comes closest to being number one is probably The People Under the Stairs.
While I didn't know the horror nut I would end up becoming, young me always held a fascination for spooky stories and creatures. The stuff that usually stuck with me the most back then was the sort of backyard adventure story where someone faces off against the neighborhood monster, think The Burbs or Fright Night. Here that style is moved to a poor black neighborhood where a kid has to face off against the wretched assholes who own everything. In the process he finds they're even worse than everyone thinks.
Best I can figure, this probably crossed my radar a few years later thanks to Monstervision. During the classic Joe Bob Briggs run on the series, I made a point of camping out with whatever cheese snack was available, a practice that lead to my tradition of viewing horror flicks every Saturday for the past decade.

Throughout my youth I steadily gained a love for both the Alien and Predator franchises by either catching them on the teli or getting a peak at a VHS when the parents weren't looking. While there's no exact memory for the first time I saw Alien 3, it always struck me as an excellent end cap for what was, at the time, my favorite film series.
I guess I never understood the freak out over how mean this movie is. Poor Ripley had already lost so much over the first two movies, the notion that she'd get some happy ending is a pleasant thought if terribly naive. So the notion of a final chapter where she's stripped of any reason to live other than eliminating these creatures is dramatically spot on.
You won't get some sob story about any deeper meaning found within the film. I simply found it to be an excellent ending for a great series. Of course now it's from the end of the franchise, which hopefully will result in new fans taking a more balanced opinion towards it.

93 is another of those odd years where there's only a few entertaining flicks without a real obvious choice. Even so I have fostered a growing admiration for the Stallone and Snipes action comedy, Demotion Man. Part of that is my life long love of the action giants, few things can warm this cruddy little heart quite like explosions and one-liners. The other bit is how Demolition Man combines those traditional action elements with a unique fish out of water story.
Somewhere between Idiocracy and classic lonely outsider flicks like the aforementioned Edward Scissorhands in tone, this is a goofy look at a classic alpha male surrounded by a civilization of sissies. While many of the films predictions have failed to come true, who among us hasn't shaken our head in disbelief at the tide pod challenge, or moral outrage articles about comic book movie costumes?
It may not be a very deep film or even the best action flick but there's a solid core to Demolition Man. The ending message or finding a balance between clean peaceful living and outrageous human behavior is remarkably reasonable. And if the prediction of Taco Bell being the only restaurant comes to pass there may just be hope for us yet.

No compromise here, Ed Wood is at least in my top twenty, possibly my top ten. Few stories bring together so many of my interests and viewpoints together so seamlessly. It's a bonkers tale of a struggling artist, only he's the type of artist we all hope we aren't. Together with a band of oddballs he fumbles his way through life making some of the worst garbage the world has ever seen, and forever ensuring his legacy.
In a way it's something of a comforting fantasy. In his quest for artistic expression, Eddy not only befriends a gaggle of other losers but manages to become a legend through failure. As any form of creator it's sort of relieving to think you could achieve fame and admiration by fucking up.
The cast is stellar with Johnny Depp at his best, especially when bouncing off Martin Landau's take on Bela Lugosi. That pairing is at the heart of the picture since it's a dreamer meeting one of his idols only to find a broken old man instead.
There's quotable comedy, respectable drama, good production values. It's the sort of movie any filmmaker should be proud to make which makes it all the more fitting that it's about such a lousy director.

That's gonna have to do it for tonight kids. I've gotta take the smallest break from nostalgia to take care of paperwork and other adult responsibilities. Sometime I'd love to hear some of your own picks for favorite films from this time frame.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger The Movie: The Heart Pounding Circus Panic

If there's one advantage to procrastination it's that there's usually something left over to fall back on in a pinch. Case in point, when left with zero idea as to what to write about for the weekly post, simply dredge up a leftover Super Sentai flick. All the better if you have a winter cleaning mentality let's go back to last Summer and discuss Zyuougher The Movie: The Heart Pounding Circus Panic.

Having covered a few of these Summer flicks in the past, I've noticed a pattern that tends to leave them near the bottom of whatever series they're based on. The run time is often only a few minutes longer than a standard episode, with a rushed narrative that should be given more room to stretch, with the only real upgrades being a trifecta of higher budget, better cinematography, and a higher degree of violence. I'd say it's lucky that this is based on the generally decent and classy Zyuohger but even these animal heroes can't quite salvage this one.

Zero effort is made to buck the trend of rushed narrative as this begins with a giant robot fight that results in over half the team being taken captive in about two-minutes flat. Only after Misao rescues Yamato from drowning do we flashback to an explanation of what the hell is going on.
Early one morning the team learns of a traveling circus seemingly populated by Zyumans. Wasting no time in check it out, they arrive for the show we're the audience is treated to tremendously corny circus acts aided by some truly tacky special effects. Everyone enjoys the show until an evil ringmaster who operates an evil space circus shows up and kidnaps all the children. His plan is to transfer the energy from crying children into a beam that will destroy Earth. Given that these are Japanese kids, his plan is pretty much foolproof since they won't stop crying over every damn thing. The reason for destroying an entire planet you may ask? Not unlike a villain from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, he finds Earth is in the way of constructing his newest attraction. Sounds like reasonable motive for eliminating countless lives.

From that point on, most of the team is captive aboard the giant circus tent spaceship attempting to get all the damn kids to quit crying, while Yamato works out a rescue plan. There's the customary bondage scene (why are these folks always getting chained up?), the team regroups, action ensues, the day is saved with all of a minute to wrap up the story before credits roll. Some might say the pacing is economical but in reality it's more akin to whiplash.

That over the top pacing is such an odd flaw with these films as there's an opportunity to do something with more depth. There's a bevy of new circus characters who could have received some actual development, even the core cast could have been used more. Misao was very new at this point in the series and is used in roughly two scenes. The series primary villains barely squeeze in an appearance, mainly to make an excuse for why they're not joining in on the action. Worst of all, the whole thing feels like it's been structured off of the live Sentai stage shows, right down to the part where the heroes are nearly defeated until all the kiddies shout encouragement and power them up. This sort of corny audience interaction makes sense when doing live entertainment at a theme park or festival, in a movie however it's downright revolting.

Not everything is a crapshoot though. The action is very solid, and given the higher budget it sll looks much nicer than usual. There are some very nice wide shots, and as I mentioned before it's a step up in the violence department. In fact it's a tad off-putting when the villain threatens to stab a child only to have that same kid doing the corny encouragement mere moments later.
I'm a little disappointed that I couldn't enjoy it all a bit more. I went in with the proper knowledge that the Summer flicks usually suck but I'd forgotten how much more classy and well done this team is than the two that bookend them. Their personalities are so well-defined and multidimensional, and each actor has the proper chops to put in a believable performance. I missed this crew a lot over the past year which makes seeing them in such a lackluster adventure all the more disheartening.

There's still two more Zyuohger flicks out there which means we still get to hang out with this team a few more times. Luckily the head writer of the series is working on the newest Super Sentai series which is set to kick off in just a few weeks. This year we're getting two small teams with a cops vs robbers theme. Like it or not, this means Sentai coverage will resume a more normal schedule in the coming months.

Until then it's back to working on my various other projects. Since losing the security job I've written material every single day whether that be an article for here, another site, or a novel. So far the results are building up which hopefully means some of the projects I've hinted at will finally come to fruition. Consider that a cliffhanger if you need one.