V.G. Movies #3: Super Mario Bros.

[Welcome back to the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. Every week, I will be moving forward through time, starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent of video game movies. I will be detailing the histories of the games and how the films came about, and both my and fan reaction to the adaptations. Practically all of my background information is either common knowledge or from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let's move on to the next film on the list.]


Last time, I discussed the origins of the Super Mario Bros. game. Today, I'm just going to briefly expand on that. The basic story of the original Mario was that Princess Toadstool (later re-named Peach after Super Mario 64), who rules over the Mushroom Kingdom, has been kidnapped by a giant dragon/dinosaur named Bowser (sometimes called Koopa, due to it later being revealed as his first name). Two brothers, Mario and Luigi, live in the Mushroom Kingdom and are tasked with saving her. As I said previously, this is a game that basically saved gaming in North America and is the second best-selling game of all time.

So of course there was gonna be a sequel. Originally there was in 1986, Super Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels was released in Japan... but not until years later in America. Why the difference? Because it was considered way too hard for American gamers. So in 1988, another SMB2 was released in America. It's drastically different from other games of the series, mostly because it was a completely different game and was altered to become a Mario game later. It involves the gang in a dreamland, and they can pick vegetables to throw at the enemies, etc.

But a SMB3 was still in demand. However, while they were converting SMB2 for American gamers, there was a lack in ROM chips which caused a delay in the release. This caused the company to have a little extra time and actually promote the game in a film. This film was called The Wizard, which was about a gaming tournament and included this particular game that hadn't been released yet. This third game in the series involved Toadstool getting kidnapped by Bowser after turning the king into a random thing and Mario and Luigi having to save the day. The game did well, and the series continued.

On the Nintendo Gameboy, we were given Super Mario Land, which introduced us to Princess Daisy (later revealed to be Peach's cousin, and Luigi's love interest). Daisy is kidnapped by an alien, and it's up to the brothers to save her. Then, in 1990, we were treated to Super Mario World... the game to introduce us to Yoshi. Mario and Luigi, after saving the Mushroom Kingdom, are having a vacation in Dinosaur Land. Of course, Princess Toadstool disappears, and it's up to the Brothers and Yoshi to save her from Bowser.

Clearly, it wasn't long before the popularity of the series demanded a film adaptation. It's considered the first actual Hollywood film based on a video game. Unfortunately, the movie was given a married couple director pair who argued about everything, never talked to each other or the actors about what should be going on, and apparently made life on set a living Hell. Most of the actors involved still proclaim this to be the worst experience on a film they've ever had. And while it does have numerous references to the games up to the point of production, the film is notorious for being nothing like the games. But upon further inspection, does it actually deserve its infamy... or is it actually not all that bad? Let's find out.


Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) are plumber brothers in Brooklyn just looking to catch a break. But one day, an archaeologist named Daisy (Samantha Mathis) gets kidnapped by a couple of doofuses, Iggy (Fisher Stevens) and Spike (Richard Edson), who are cousins to an evil King, Koopa (Dennis Hopper). Koopa rules over a parallel universe called Dinohattan (though Koopa makes an off-hand comment calling it a "mushroom kingdom" at one point). He has taken the throne from the previous king, Bowser, and wants a meteorite shard that will merge their world with Earth (since they're just a parallel universe of evolved dinosaurs that came to existence when the meteorite hit). Now it's up to Mario and Luigi to save Daisy and stop Koopa before it's too late.

When I was a little kid, I really did love this movie. I thought it was a lot of fun, and it never bothered me that it was nothing like the games (which I was also a fan of). But you know what it's like when you watch a kid-favorite film as an adult. It usually turns out awful. And as this film is already considered awful, I was marginally scared of how my thoughts on it were going to change. So did they?

Nope. I still think the movie is totally fun, and it doesn't deserve the bad reputation it has. Before you write me off (if you didn't already do that years ago), let me explain why. Let's start with the first part anybody ever notices in a movie adaptation of anything--the cast. I actually think Bob Hoskins was a perfect choice for Mario. Now, John Leguizamo looks nothing like Bob Hoskins (and is about 22 years younger). But it was actually explained pretty well that Mario adopted him, which was a pleasant and unique twist. I don't know if he is the absolute perfect choice for Luigi, but I think he did well with the role in this film, albeit sometimes a bit awkward. Mathis was perfect as the blonde Princess--she had attitude and spunk, and if she were to be cast today, it would be Elizabeth Banks (who Mathis looks like here anyway). Then... yes, Dennis Hopper as Koopa is great and over-the-top as you would expect a dinosaur-based evil king to be. So was anything wrong with the cast? I don't think so.

What usually falls apart in older films are this type are the visuals and/or special effects. But you know what? The effects in this film still hold up. Hell, I would say there are some movies today (*cough*SeasonoftheWitch*cough*) whose CGI is actually worse. There really isn't a whole lot of CGI; a lot of the film is practical and looks good because of that. And the computer effects that are there were apparently top of the line, as I didn't feel they were really all that bad or cheesy (including the "flying through the dimensional vortex" moment).

So I guess that really leaves the problem with the story. First, let's look at the story as a standalone, not as an adaptation. There's a nice setup where our heroes meet Daisy, get to know her a bit, and then have to chase after her when she gets kidnapped. They end up in a dystopian world where a tyrant(asaurus! Sorry...) has taken over the city from the old king, de-evolving him into slimy fungus. The king wants to merge the worlds to regain his rightful place on Earth and, thus, rule it all. Ignoring the adaptation aspect, it's a pretty solid story. There aren't really any major holes that I could decipher. It gives us a world and its rules and it abides by them. So for all intents and purposes, it's solid. And it's not boring, giving a mix of wacky action, adventure, and comedy.

But then you look at it as an adaptation... and this is where things fall apart. Neither Mario nor Luigi are Italian (nor is Luigi a blood brother). Where is Peach? Well, as we discovered earlier, Peach wasn't so named until the era of the Nintendo 64, which was after this film was made. Prior to that, it was Toadstool... and who is going to be walking around with the name Toadstool in a Hollywood movie? Daisy, a secondary princess in the series, was available, so it was used instead. Now, Daisy is Luigi's love interest, and they kept to that in the film. Although Mario ended up with some regular woman from Brooklyn (which kind of destroys the classic Mario/Toadstool dynamic). Anyway, the Goombas are enormous with tiny heads, which is pretty much the exact opposite of the games. Toad is... well, he's not even close to his game counterpart. Koopa isn't in a dinosaur form (well, he is for about 10 seconds at the climax, but that's about it). Don't even mention how Koopa has taken over from the previous king, Bowser (Bowser and Koopa are the same character!). Et cetera, et cetera.

But what is typically looked over are how many details the movie did keep from the games. The story is more of a mix of Super Mario Land and Super Mario World than Super Mario Bros. The world of the movie is closest to the Dinosaur Land of World (including Yoshi's appearance in this film and having eggs everywhere), while Daisy being kidnapped by somebody from another "planet" was taken from Land. You see the Shy Guys of SMB2. You see Bullet Bills as the ammunition for the jumping boots (which I'm assuming is a reference to the giant boots in SMB3). There's a Bob-omb, and a mushroom that is used to protect Mario right before he briefly grows in size (when he disintegrates to return to the Dino world). The king is transformed, like in SMB3. Big Bertha is there to represent the giant red fish in the games. There are the fireball guns. And the connections go on and on, even including some sound effects.

To me, this film is more of a re-imagining of the games' ideas than a straight adaptation. Because, seriously, how are you going to adapt a story about a dinosaur kidnapping a princess so that two Italian plumber brothers must travel through multiple worlds to fight turtles and other dinosaurs using mushrooms that make you big, flowers that make you shoot fireballs, and stars that make you twinkle invincibility. It's a damn near impossible story to tell, especially if you attempt to adapt it straight--as shown in the Japanese anime version. Personally, I feel that this was a smarter route to go. Now, could it have used a little more work? Definitely. Even as a re-imagining, it wasn't perfect. There are some painful aspects to this movie, and, yeah, it can get really cheesy/dumb at times. I think they could have done slightly more justice to the games. But as it is, I think the film is good cheesy, charming, and fun in its own right. I think it was unjustly given a bad reputation in its day, but looking back on it, it's really not all that bad... especially if you look at it as a children's film. I mean, damn... it's certainly better than 90% of the kids films that come out today.

A Keanu 'Whoa'


The Vlog: Season 4, Episode 4 (The VooDoo Man).

I know it's a short episode, but I think it's a fun one anyway. Now that the premiere and the first Story Time are done, it's time for a regular episode. Though it turns out the non-Story Time episodes might be a little shorter than the others, as I'm somewhat limited on the randomness I can logically record as a stuffed animal. Anyway, as usual, I hope you enjoy it, and let me know what you think!


The Demented Podcast #32 - A Little Dense.

This week, we were joined by Jandy Stone of The Frame and Row Three to discuss Neo-Noir flicks L.A. Confidential and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. After some nice discussions (don't mind some minor audio issues), Jandy finally takes a stab at The Tower. Will she breeze through it... or will our Stone sink? (Sorry, I had to.)

Current Leadboard
1) Jessica - FAIL

Current/Previous Battle Royale Champions

(BR3) Dan Heaton - 176 Points
(BR2) Dylan Fields - 114 Points
(BR1) Rachel Thuro - 171 Points

You can listen to this episode on the player below or by subscribing through iTunes.

That being said, enjoy! Thanks goes out to Kevin MacLeod's Incompetech website for great, royalty-free music. And thanks to Google for helping me find a website that will give me free video game audio samples.


Deep Thoughts From Jason Soto #2: Raiders Of The Lost Government Agent.

[A while back, Jason Soto had a thought to discuss about film and used my blog as a place to post it, since his doesn't really allow for it. Ever since, whenever Jason has a deep thought about a film... I allow him to post it here. This is his next deep thought... from Jason Soto.]

Earlier in the day, I decided to watch a favorite of mine "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (None of that "Indiana Jones AND The Raiders of the Lost Ark" bullshit! It was originally called "Raiders of the Lost Ark" go to hell!) and while watching it this time around, I thought of something that I hadn't thought of before.

OK, so the plot of the movie, in a nutshell, is the U.S Government heard the Nazi's are digging around in Cairo for something but they don't know what. It involved some friend of Indy's and Indy tells them they're probably looking for the Ark of the Covenant. After hearing what all the Ark could do if it fell into Nazi hands, the U.S Government decides to send Indy after it before the Nazi's can.

So my question is: why didn't the U.S Government send some type of agent/cop or even some military person to go with Indy? I mean the Nazi's are involved, shouldn't our military get involved somehow? To put it in modern terms, it's like finding out Al-Qaeda is digging around in Afghanistan for some reason and the CIA sends in some history teacher from Harvard to find out why. By himself.

Now, the easy answer to this is because Indiana Jones is a motherfucking badass who doesn't need any help or protection. And yes, you're right. But in "Raiders," Indy and Marion get captured I don't even know how many times. I think a LITTLE help would've been needed.

And don't mistake this as me ranting, I still love the movie and this little question didn't ruin anything for me, nor do I mean to ruin it for you reading this. It was just one of those small thoughts that popped up. Kinda like Randal's rant about the Death Star blowing up the second time in "Clerks." Kinda like that.


50/50 Review #2: Dirty Harry.

During the 60/60 List, I discovered that the 1970s was equally my favorite and least favorite decade of film. Strangely, the first movie of the 50/50 has a 70s vibe, while this second is actually from 71. And so far, there's been nothing to make my dislike the 70s this year.

Dirty Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is so nicknamed because he's given the 'dirty' jobs that nobody else will (or can) do. So of course he's on the case when a new serial killer called the Scorpio Killer (Andrew Robinson) shows up. He's partnered up with Chico Gonzalez (Reni Santoni) to find this man and take him down, but it's not as easy as it sounds.

I've been meaning to see this one for a long time, so I'm glad I've finally gotten around to it. What really makes this film is Eastwood. The character of Dirty Harry is great. He's smooth, cool, and badass. The epic scene near the beginning where he foils a bank robbery (leading to the first use of the classic line) is fantastic. It really showcases what kind of person he is. The same goes for a scene where he talks to a guy trying to commit suicide. I enjoyed the fact that we saw other situations he had to deal with besides just the serial killer. It made it feel more realistic.

Unfortunately, I did have a negative. It's only one thing, but I couldn't help but be bothered by it. I know he's supposed to be totally insane, but the bad guy in this film was too much for me. He was way too over-the-top and silly. And there was just something about the way he talked in general that rubbed me the wrong way. So yeah, I really didn't care for the portrayal of the villain in the movie.

But you can tell so much was inspired by this film. I've seen plot lines in TV shows and movies that are taken directly from events that happen in this movie. I'm no expert so I can't say anything about similar films that came out before this one, but as far as I know, this is the earliest I've seen the "run from phone to phone around town with a time limit" bit done.

Anyway, if you haven't seen this yet, I do recommend it for Eastwood and his character alone. The film is really entertaining, and you can tell it has inspired a lot of other things in its genre. The villain might be over-the-top, but it didn't ruin the movie for me or anything. The music, also, is very 70s, so be prepared for that. Otherwise, it's a fun flick, and I recommend it.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. Well, that's my first month on this project. I know it was only 2 flicks, and they were my own picks, but it was more transition period than anything. Getting back into the zone! It was an OK month. I wasn't over-the-moon about either movies, but I liked them well enough. Now... on to Travis' Month!)


V.G. Movies #2: Super Mario Bros.: Peach-Hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen.

[Welcome back to the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. Every week, I will be moving forward through time, starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent of video game movies. I will be detailing the histories of the games and how the films came about, and both my and fan reaction to the adaptations. Practically all of my background information is either common knowledge or from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let's move on to the next film on the list.]


Last time, I discussed the video game crash of 1983-1985 and its potential causes. One of those reasons had been an influx in gaming systems, allowing too much competition. Again, one of those competing systems was a platform called the ColecoVision. Now, one of ColecoVision's most famous titles was that of Donkey Kong, released New Years Eve 1982. This game was the first platformer to include jumping and, as such, is considered the first true platformer and the originator of the genre as it is today. Though it didn't start with Coleco.

Nintendo wanted some characters they could market over multiple games, so they took a look at Popeye (brute steals girlfriend, hero has to save) and became inspired. In the game, the main character, Jumpman, must save his pink-dressed, blonde-haired girlfriend. Now, with computer animation being relatively new at the time, animators found it tricky how to get the little guy to move right. They couldn't draw a mouth, so a mustache was put there instead; hair was hard, so they put a cap on him; and they couldn't see his arms move, so colored overalls it was. They also eventually renamed the girlfriend and Jumpman after people they knew or who had helped them, giving them the names Pauline and Mario, respectively. The game became wildly popular in the arcade and was eventually sold to Coleco for home console porting.

Popularity was intense, so a spin-off entitled Mario Bros. was developed. Mario now had a brother, Luigi, and though Mario was originally a carpenter, he was made a plumber due to his look and location. The game was about the two brother plumbers who must save New York after strange creatures start coming out of the sewer pipes. But bouncing around and attacking enemies from below was too easy, so the concept of just knocking them onto their backs and kicking them away was born. What kind of creatures came from that idea? Turtles, as their shells made it easy for them to get stuck on their backs.

Although released during the crash, the game was popular enough not to be affected. And so a sequel was called for, which was also to be used as a swan song for the Famicom (the Japanese name for the NES). Enter... Super Mario Bros. for the NES. And now, the turtles could be stomped on, since they just felt flipping them first would be illogical. They also wanted Mario to be able to change sizes, so while looking into ancient folk lore, they discovered stories where people would walk into forests and eat magical mushrooms. Thus, the mushrooms and the Mushroom Kingdom were born. The game was released in 1985, along with the NES itself (in America), and helped save the video game industry from the crash.

The game's popularity skyrocketed, and Japan wanted to release a film immediately to cash in on the success. On July 20, 1986, they released an anime movie in Japanese theaters. The film was called Super Mario Bros.: Peach-Hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen (or, roughly translated, Super Mario Bros.: The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!). Nobody knows how well it did or anything like that. The film was never released in another language, nor was it released on DVD. It's also almost impossible to find on VHS, making it one of the rarest movies in the world.

However, you can find fan-made subtitled and dubbed versions on YouTube. And that's how I saw it.


(Note: It's come to my attention that some of the following problems I had with this film are more than likely translation errors. Whoever made the translations on YouTube apparently did so poorly, causing for at least some of the confusion I had with the story.)

Holy Hell is this movie weird. I'm serious. The game itself makes more logical sense. There's no way a formal review can do this justice. So in that light, I'm going to do a Jason Soto-style review where I take you through the movie and give my thoughts as we go.

The movie begins with Mario playing a video game similar to Super Mario Bros., but with a couple differences here and there. Luigi comes in and complains a few times, but leaves him alone. And then... out of nowhere... Princess Peach and a bunch of the monsters from the Mario games fly out of the TV. Peach proclaims she's being attacked by Bowser, who is trying to take over her Mushroom Kingdom. Then Bowser himself bursts through and kidnaps the princess back into the game, leaving Mario in a panic. But he finds her necklace on the floor and takes it.

So you know how Mario and Luigi are supposed to be plumbers? Well, despite being referenced as such later in the movie, they work at a grocery store. You see them with a customer, but then Luigi notices the necklace... and this is where things stop making sense. Luigi states that the necklace belongs to the Mushroom Kingdom where they will be able to find a ton of treasure. (Luigi is a greedy spaz in this film.) So I guess the video game world and the real world exist in the same universe? But earlier, Luigi thought Mario was insane for saying Princess Peach had shown up asking for help, etc., since she's just a video game character.

Anyway, a centipede dog thing shows up, steals the necklace, and causes the brothers to chase after him. They chase him to this field full of pipes... which are there for no reason. Just empty pipes laying around. They end up going down one of the pipes after the centipede dog and travel to the magical universe of the Mushroom Kingdom... which I guess ISN'T part of their own world. Because they meet this old hermit guy who tells them they are the legendary heroes who will save the princess. Why are they the chosen legendary heroes? Because they play video games and can thus find treasure better. I kid you not. There's no telling of a prophecy or a magic book that speaks of their greatness. They just know about the Mario Bros. and know they are the legendary heroes... because they play video games. Anyway, they have to find the mushroom of growth, the fire flower, and the invincibility star in order to defeat Bowser.

So they start on their journey (with the centipede dog tagging along), where we have our first of many montage sequences. They're spotted by a couple Goombas as they rest for the night. The Goombas trick Luigi into eating some mushrooms... which he basically gets stoned off of. Again... no joke. They alter his emotions. Then a flying turtle kidnaps them and tries to feed them to its bird children. But while they're in the nest, Mario spots a crystallized mushroom. He climbs the tree to get it, releasing it... but also gets showered by a bunch of coins that spray from the tree. They fall to the ground... and the coins turn into female versions of Toad (or Toadettes). They thank the brothers for freeing them and give Mario the growth mushroom, then give him a kiss on the cheek.

Begin another montage full of bizarre imagery that has Mario using the mushroom to fight against stuff (like bullets and koopa troopas). But the Goombas from earlier followed them and give them bad directions, leading them into a forest of the man-eating plants. They quickly escape, though... but I guess because three of the plants got tangled up, the entire forest sinks into the ground? I'm not sure how that works.

But they're not out of trouble yet, as a turtle-in-a-cloud shows up and throws spikes at them for trespassing. He waters the spikes and gives them light so they turn into the giant spiky turtles. But Mario sits on a growing vine and flies into the air where he grabs onto a piece of the cloud and rips it off. He starts to control the weather with it and makes it snow. The enemies below (who have surrounded Luigi and centipede dog) are bored waiting for Mario to do something. Everybody gets covered in snow. But then the snow melts and everything turns to grass and flowers and the cloud turns into another Toadette. Um... yeah. The Toadette gives him a fire flower.

Cue montage. Mario uses fireball powers. They break some stone boxes to get coins and some boxes of ramen noodles with labels that have their faces on them... still with me? The Goombas then trap them in a cave, and it's at this point we switch perspectives for a minute. Now we're with Peach and Bowser. Peach is angry and wants to be set free, but Bowser just wants to marry her. In fact, he has a little school-boy crush on her and loves her. To show this, he transforms into different weird things. Peach tries to get him to turn into a teddy bear and trap him in a box, but it doesn't work.

Back in the cave, Luigi digs an escape while Mario daydreams about dancing with Peach. They barely escape the hammer-throwing turtle and find the invincibility star. But it falls into the water. Mario and centipede dog jump in after it. Amazingly, Mario can breath and talk just fine underwater. He looks around for the star while being chased by inflatable fish. He finds it in a clam, but gets trapped inside, so the centipede dog has to tickle it to release Mario, and they swim off. But they're chased again and escape into an old sunken ship that starts to rise out of the water. Then they're attacked by a giant squid, so they blow air (despite being underwater) to make the sail push them out. They finally escape, grab Luigi, and sail off... um... into the sky. But it does eventually come back down onto the water.

The wedding ceremony starts, but Mario and Luigi arrive just in time. Bowser escapes further into his castle with Peach, leading the others to chase after him. You can imagine the weird things they have to avoid while following (WHY would somebody have a room with a lava pit and elevating platforms? What purpose does that otherwise serve?). But Luigi accidentally floods the place while looking for more gold coins, which somehow causes the entire castle to collapse. But Bowser attacks Mario in the rubble. Mario goes to eat the invincibility star to fight back, but some food randomly appears out of nowhere to distract him, and he drops the star to eat the noodles. But then Luigi shows up with the star.

Long story short here, Mario eats the gold star, becomes invincible, and saves the princess. Fun fact--the way he defeats Bowser (by spinning him and tossing him by his tail) was a method later adapted in the hit game Super Mario 64. Anyway... then... get this... the centipede dog transforms into a boy who looks younger than Peach. And then Peach reacts with a "Daddy?" Yeah, that's right. The centipede dog was a transformed king the whole time... but the king looks even younger than his daughter. Anyway, Mario and Luigi leave with no real reward or anything. Then there's an after-credits scene where the grocery store customer from the beginning goes inside and is served by Bowser and his Goombas. The end.

Honestly, whether you think my description there was weird or not... I don't think I even covered the tip of the iceberg on how bizarre this little movie gets. A lot of it has to do with the visuals. The animation itself is fine, but there is a lot of bizarre stuff going on in this movie. Half of it makes no sense whatsoever. I didn't even mention the fact that the entire movie is playing a mixture of J-Pop and music from the games. And there are game sound effects littered throughout. At certain points, anytime the brothers even walk one step, you get the "Mario jumping" sound. Just stuff like that. And on a nit-picky side, Luigi's outfit is blue in this, while it's usually green.

There's no wonder this movie was never released after its theater debut and a minor VHS release. The thing is a trippy trainwreck. You can tell they just wanted to incorporate every little thing from the game in this film but had no idea how to do it. We all know this is a near-impossible story to adapt as it is, but they didn't even try to have it make any sense. If you're a super-fan of the series, I'd say track it down for completionist's sake. Otherwise, only bother with it if you just want something bizarre.


(P.S. I know this is two weeks in a row with this rating, but I promise that'll stop.
Stay tuned next week where I take a look at the American's attempt to adapt the non-adaptable.)


The Vlog: Season 4, Episode 3 (Story Time #1 - The Dark Knight).

NOTE: Apparently today is the 4-year anniversary of Heath Ledger's death. The posting of this episode did not mean to correspond with that day... it's just a really bizarre coincidence. (Kinda like how this season started on Nic Cage's birthday... but more morbid.)

It's time for the first Story Time of the season! I consider these episodes "Plot B," as it were, while the even-numbered episodes from this point on are "Plot A." And this is also where things start to get even crazier. Dylan turns in yet again a fantastic performance with some brilliant camera work that just adds to the atmosphere of the scene. (I'm sure he'd like to tell you it was intentional... but I'm relatively sure it just kinda happened that way. Sorry, Dylan!)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this episode. If you want reference to what's being done in this episode... either watch the movie or click here for the scenes. Otherwise, have fun and let me know what you think!


50/50 Review #1: Jackie Brown.

Welcome to the first post of the 50/50 Project. I've been wanting to see this one for a while, as it's the only full-length Tarantino I hadn't seen. Though from what I had heard, it was one of his lesser efforts (or at least the one nobody seems to talk about). Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is a flight attendant who brings money back from Mexico for an arms dealer named Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson). Ordell is meanwhile entertaining Louis (Robert De Niro), a guy who has recently gotten out of jail, by letting him hang around and chat up Melanie (Bridget Fonda). But after Ordell takes care of a situation with Beaumont (Chris Tucker), he hires a bail bondsman, Max Cherry (Robert Forster) to get Jackie out of jail when she gets mixed up in the situation. But a couple FTA agents, including Ray (Michael Keaton), want her to bust Ordell, bringing up a complicated heist-like situation.

I can understand why nobody tends to talk about this one out of the Tarantino filmography. The man is known for a certain style, but it seems only half of style was there. The film was almost all dialogue, as his films always are, but the dialogue this time around wasn't super interesting. Tarantino also tends to have a kind of kinetic style, a certain energy to his films, and this was also lacking here. At least half the movie felt dry and stagnant. I guess it just didn't have the usual pizzazz one would expect from Tarantino.

The part of the movie that did feel stylish and did finally catch my interest was the last 45 minutes (roughly). Basically when the money exchange sequence happens up through the end of the movie. The whole sequence plays with narrative style in a way I really enjoy, not to mention it's just a fun and suspenseful sequence.

Despite the flaws elsewhere, the acting was really good all around. Everyone seemed to be having fun, but the most fun to watch was Robert De Niro. It wasn't a very De Niro-type role, and he was pretty funny just doing pretty much nothing for the majority of the movie. By the third act, he's more De Niro-ish, but it's all good. On the whole, everybody does the best they can with what they were given.

In the end, I agree this was a weaker effort from Tarantino, but it's still a decent film. It's just that in the front 2/3s of the film, there were a lot of scenes that really dragged and could have been trimmed down. There were some key visuals that definitely made it Tarantino (some worked, others were slightly awkward), but something just didn't mesh well. Though, again, the last third of the film was entertaining enough to really hike up my feelings on the rest of it, so at least it ends on a high note, making the rest of the film worth sitting through.

I Am McLovin!


V.G. Movies #1: Cloak & Dagger.

Welcome to the first post of the Evolution of Video Game Movies series, where I will hopefully be mixing entertainment with a wee bit of history and education. I'm not an expert, so don't quote me on everything. I just know what I get from my research (if I haven't played the game myself and/or don't know the history myself). So let's get started, shall we?


In the early-to-mid 80s, there was a growing phenomenon going on with movies and their video game tie-ins. Of course you have your truly infamous releases like the E.T. video game. But there are four in particular where video games were central to the plot of the films themselves, and there was a near-simultaneous release of the tie-in games with the release of the films (with the exception of one, wherein the game came a while later). These films were WarGames, Tron, The Last Starfighter, and Cloak & Dagger.

So what sets Cloak & Dagger apart from the other three? It's a popular trend these days, even, to release a video game tie-in to a popular film soon after the movie's release. But what sets Cloak & Dagger apart is that the video game actually came out first. As the film was being produced, the early video game company "Atari" was producing a game entitled Agent X. The two productions heard of one other and joined forces. Agent X became Cloak & Dagger and was released in March 1984 in arcade form.

The film version was released as a double-billing with The Last Starfighter in July of 1984, and later alone the following month. Now, as I said earlier, the game itself is central to the plot of the story... but while the game footage shown is from the arcade version, the actual cartridge shown within the film is for the Atari 5200 system. Now, apparently this version was planned to happen, but then something tragic occurred, and the home version could never be made.

From 1983-1985, there was a major video game crash in North America that nearly brought the industry crumbling into non-existence. It was due to a mixture of reasons, including but not limited to an excess of consoles and competition (including the ColecoVision, which put out, among other things, the video game adaptation of WarGames), as well as a slew of poor titles for said consoles. One such title was the aforementioned video game adaptation of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, which was so bad it almost single-handedly tainted the reputation of the industry. In fact, all extra copies of the game were henceforth buried (yes, buried) and Atari had to be sold. We'll get a little more into the effects of this next time... but for now, back to Cloak & Dagger.


I mentioned the ColecoVision earlier, having released the WarGames game, but it was also the primary competition for the Atari 5200. Curious that one of the co-stars of WarGames was none other than co-star of Cloak & Dagger, Dabney Coleman. It's also funny that the E.T. game was monumental in the downfall of Atari and the fact that Cloak & Dagger could not be released on the Atari 5200, as shown in the actual movie. Why, you ask? Because the star of the film Cloak & Dagger... is none other than Elliot himself, Henry Thomas.

Synergy, baby.


This is one messed up kid's movie. Seriously. I would have liked to have been in the board meeting when they came up with the idea for this movie.

"OK, for our main character, let's have two little kid main protagonists (Henry Thomas and Christina Nigra) who hang out with a middle-aged hacker/store owner (William Forsythe). The main boy's mom has recently died, leaving him and his father (Dabney Coleman) in a grieving state. Due to this, he speaks to a fictional character (also Dabney Coleman) who only he can see so that everybody else thinks he's insane. Of course, said fictional character also talks him into doing insane, dangerous, and illegal things. He then gets his hand on a microchip inside a video game that mobsters are after, so they constantly destroy his things, try to kill him and his friend, and chase him all around the city. To make it even better... not a single person believes him!"

This movie really has some dark stuff. I mean, there's even a scene where Jack Flack (the imaginary guy) forces Henry Thomas into the trunk of the bad guy's car, where he has to lay next to a dead body of a friend for the whole of the drive. There's another scene where they dangle a little girl over the edge of a cliff just to get the game cartridge. And... just a ton of other things I can't even get into due to spoilers (anything within the climax, for instance). But all of it is under the tone of a light, fun kid's movie.

On top of the dark stuff, there's quite a mix of cheesy and illogical. These people never act like normal people would act, for starters. The bad guys are total morons, and I have no idea how they've ever made it this far in life, much less in villainy, with some of the stupid things they do (or are stupid for not doing). Then there's the whole fact that this kid is such a huge fan of the game Cloak & Dagger that he imagines the main character as real... and he just so happens to get mixed up in a conspiracy of some kind that hides government information in a chip within a Cloak & Dagger cartridge? And one of his best friends just so happens to be a middle-aged gamer/hacker? Keep in mind, this kid is like 12 at most, and his female friend is 8.

The acting is absurd, too. Besides the "this is SO not how a person would react" type acting, you're mainly left with cheese. Actually, Henry Thomas does fairly well. But Dabney Coleman is a bit hammy, and every other actor is cheesy or over-the-top. The worst, though, is Christina Nigra as Henry Thomas' friend Kim. Her performance is something else entirely. I can't even explain it.

If you took away the whimsical music and child-friendly tones and gave it to a director like David Fincher, this would be one heck of a psychological thriller (as it is, it's almost like an 80s kids version of Black Swan). But as it stands, this movie is totally screwed up... I mean, it's almost traumatizing how disturbing this movie gets (again, mostly thanks to the tone vs. what's actually happening). If you look past all that, it's actually not that bad of a film. It's entertaining for what it is, and it's never boring. I'm relatively certain it's not a direct adaptation of the game, but rather a film that involves the game itself, its themes, and its main character (actually, it is fun that they mention Jack Flack's previous name was Agent X, which--as previously stated--was the name of the game before they changed it to Cloak & Dagger). If you haven't seen it, it's not incredibly recommended viewing, unless you just really want to see one of the most messed up kids movies I've seen in a while. But it's good enough.


(P.S. I know it's kind of a bad start to basically say "this is the first movie of this series, and I have no idea how to rate it"... but that's how it's gotta be!)


OK, so the real reason I wanted to include this film is because of one scene. There's a moment where Henry Thomas goes to the Alamo (the whole movie takes place in San Antonio, TX), and at the end of the scene, there's a brief moment where he's apprehended and questioned by the Alamo guard. The guard? My (late) grandfather! This was one of the two movies he was in (the other being Terms of Endearment). Yup, he got to talk to/interact with Henry Thomas here, which I think is pretty cool. You can click here to go to a video of the scene (and just skip ahead to about 8:30).


The Vlog: Season 4, Episode 2 (Switcheroo - Part 2).

Alrighty. Here's Part 2 of the 2-part season premiere. This one was a bit tricky as I had to do a lot of image movement, but it turned out just fine, I think. Hope y'all enjoy! And as always, let me know what you think.


The Demented Podcast #31 - It's Frankenstein's Monster!

NOTE: Not sure why it hasn't shown up on the player yet... but it's available for download on iTunes and on the podomatic site... so if Ep 31 still hasn't shown up here, just check there.


I honestly can't believe I pulled it off (OK, maybe just a little). Let me give you some back story on "the episode that refused to exist." So our poor guest this week was Jessica from The Velvet Cafe. For those who do not know, Jessica is from Sweden, so the time difference is slightly trickier to play with when setting up a recording time. So a few days before we come to record, some issues arise on Jessica's end, and we have to reschedule. Finding a day/time takes us a while, but we settled on early Sunday morning.

So come Sunday morning, I wake up about 15 minutes prior to recording and try to log on to Skype... only to find out that Skype decided to have problems at that time and refused to let me on. We did later come to the conclusion that Skype was at fault and not my computer. So I ended up coming on about 20 minutes late. So we start the show... only to very quickly discover that Steve's internet connection totally blows. The following 45 minutes is agony as it takes us that long just to get TO the listener feedback/comments. There was a mixture of massive delays horrid audio, and even a few echoes here and there.

We finally come to the realization about 2 minutes into the discussion of the first film (after trying to record for almost an hour) that this isn't going to work. Our solution was this: I continue the show alone with Jessica, then Steve and I would meet up later in the week and record a mini-session discussing the films. I would then splice in (no pun intended) his audio with the main file at variable moments. It would take a lot of work on my part, but it was possible.

But then the day came... and now my connection turned to crap. I couldn't stay connected. The audio sucked half the time. Basically everything that was happening to Steve the first time through was happening to me this time. But we did get through it, somehow, and I ended up with about 2.5-3 hours of audio and 5 different audio files (plus a 6th for the opening segment of this episode which was recorded a week or more before we did the rest of it). And after 4 hours of non-stop editing, I pulled it off. I managed to create my own Frankenstein monster, Hodge-podge of an episode. And I think it actually turned out rather well! You can barely tell there were any audio problems at all... and hopefully the majority of the time the transitions into Steve's comments feel natural, as if he were there the whole time (since, you know, he wasn't). Even will all that description, I guess only Steve, Jessica, and myself will be the only ones to truly know the transformation of what I was given and what I'm giving you.

All of that being said... I hope you enjoy this episode. We discuss idea/moral-based Sci-Fi films with Silent Running and Splice. And then Jessica climbs the Tower. The last Swede to do so gave us our best score ever... so how will this one fare? Listen to find out!

Current/Previous Battle Royale Champions

(BR3) ? - ?
(BR2) Dylan Fields - 114 Points
(BR1) Rachel Thuro - 171 Points

You can listen to this episode on the player below or by subscribing through iTunes.

That being said, enjoy! Thanks goes out to Kevin MacLeod's Incompetech website for great, royalty-free music. And thanks to Google for helping me find a website that will give me free video game audio samples.


The Vlog: Season 4, Episode 1 (Switcheroo - Part 1).

Well guys and gals, this is it! It's the start of the newest season of The Vlog! It's full of wackiness, twists, and turns, and I hope everyone digs it! This is just part 1 of the 2-part premiere... the second part obviously going to be put up next Sunday.

I'll also say that this was probably the most difficult set of episodes I've ever had to put together. There are numerous tricks, filming and editing, that had to be done and put together. Split screen, long takes, simultaneous takes/edits, and minor special effects. So I hope it turned out as well as I hope it did. So... let's just get right to it. And, of course, let me know what you think.

(Note: You'll also note slightly higher video quality... because I finally figured out how to export it with better quality.)


Announcement: The Evolution of Video Game Movies Series.

So last year, I had 2 projects going on simultaneously. I had the 60/60 Project and the Musical Mondays countdown. This year, I obviously have the 50/50... but what about the second project? It took me a while, but it finally clicked with me. It won't be as time consuming seeing I don't have the worry about "extras" with the 50/50 list as I did with the previous. So what I'm going to do...

...is the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. I'm going to start in the 80s and work my way up through 2012. As of right now, I have 45 movies on the list--but that's assuming the Silent Hill sequel actually comes out this year and the next Resident Evil isn't pushed back. But assuming those are all on board, I'll have that amount.

A lot of the films I've already seen (29 of the 45 listed... I also happen to own... 10 of the listed films, as well, either on VHS or DVD). So what I'm going to do along with the actual review is a bit of research. I'm going to discuss some history and whatnot and how it works as an adaptation (and/or fan reactions if I'm not privy to the game myself). So yeah... I want it to be entertaining from a review side (we all know video game movies tend to suck), but I also want it to be kind of educational and maybe spur some discussions. I'm not going to group the movies by type or anything. I want to view in chronological order. So here's how it's gonna go down... as best as I can plan.

(Note: I'll start this the same week as the 50/50.)

(Note 2: If I'm missing anything major... please let me know. There's space I could easily fill up here.)

-Cloak and Dagger (1984)
-Super Mario Bros.: Peach-Hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen (1986)
-Super Mario Bros. (1993)

-Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture (1994)
-Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (1994)
-Double Dragon (1994)
-Street Fighter (1994)

-Mortal Kombat (1995)
-Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)
-Pokemon: The First Movie - Mewtwo Strikes Back (1998)
-Wing Commander (1999)

-Pokemon: The Movie 2000 (1999)
-Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
-Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
-Resident Evil (2002)
-House of the Dead (2003)

-Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)
-Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
-Alone in the Dark (2005)
-Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005)

-Doom (2005)
-BloodRayne (2006)
-Silent Hill (2006)
-DOA: Dead or Alive (2007)

-Postal (2007)
-The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)*
-BloodRayne 2: Deliverance (2007)
-Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
-Hitman (2007)

-In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2008)
-Alone in the Dark 2 (2008)
-Far Cry (2008)
-Max Payne (2008)

-Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008)
-Street Figher: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)
-The King of Fighters (2009)
-Tekken (2009)

-Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
-Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
-Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)**
-BloodRayne: The Third Reich (2010)
-Mortal Kombat: Legacy (2011)***

-Tekken: Blood Vengeance (2011)
-In the Name of the King 2 (2011)

-Silent Hill Revelation (2012)****

*I know this is a cheat, but it's a damn fine movie and there's a LOT to talk about with it.
**This film comes out about a month prior to this review schedule... but I don't want to put this at the end of the month due to timeliness, nor do I want to put it before the review of the film that comes before it.
***This is a web-series, but I cannot pass up discussing this.
****This will be shifted depending on if/when it gets an official release date.


Random Thought: 2011 - A Year Of Great Action, Poor Plots?

Just a random thought, but did anybody else notice that 2011 had a lot of movies with excellent action, but that were lacking in other areas? I mean, here are 10 movies, for instance, where I found this to be quite clear. (The order of films is unimportant. I'm just listing them out.)

1) I Am Number Four

It was a very average and lackluster film, but mostly because of characters and story, etc. However, the action itself, especially near the climax, was actually pretty good. It wasn't the greatest (especially in comparison to the others on this list), but it was pretty good. Everything else needed a lot of work, though.

2) Drive Angry

A film that split a lot of people. You either loved it or hated it. I personally loved it. I mean, I won't deny that the story or the characters weren't all that spectacular (except for William Fichtner). But there were some great action sequences that really brought the movie together for me.

3) Battle: Los Angeles

To me, this movie was a lot like Black Hawk Down in numerous ways. It was an overly simplistic story with undeveloped characters... but it was pure action that actually looked pretty dang good.

4) Sucker Punch

Now this was a movie that pissed off a lot of people. Now, I really liked it when I first saw it, but I understand where everybody else was coming from. There's really no point in discussing this film any more because everybody has talked it to death. You know it was stunning to look at, you know the action was fantastic... but it lacked everywhere else imaginable.

5) Transformers 3

I'm sure you knew this one was going to end up here. Unlike the last installment of the 'trilogy', this one had some good moments, particularly in the last 30 minutes or so. But it's also Michael Bay... and does anybody actually remember what this movie was about? I know I don't.

6) Conan the Barbarian

Holy crap was this movie painful. It suffered everywhere... but it did have moments of pretty damn good action. It was the one positive thing I think I said about this movie.

7) Immortals

This one saddens me, because it's gorgeous to look at and has probably some of the best action sequences of the year. But everything in between the action scenes... leaves you a little wanting. Still, I think the visuals and action alone escalate this film to being one of my favorites of the year, despite the lackluster story and characters.

8) Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Very similar to the previous film on this list, it has some of the best action of the year... but everything in between is moderately lackluster.

9) Warrior

I recently reviewed this one, so you can just read that for more details. I'll just say I haven't seen a more cliched and dully written film with such great action (and, to be fair, great performances).

10) Drive

Oh yeah, I went there. One of the most beloved films of 2011 fits the bill, as well... probably closely related to the previous title on this list. It has cliches and is your basic heist-gone-wrong/revenge story. The characters (outside of the hardly-says-a-word Driver) are rather basic. But the action? Stylish and brutal.

Final note: I just found it interesting not many other people seemed to pick up on this. I mean, I know every year has movies like this; I just think it was more abundant this year than I've seen in a long time. And there are most likely even more than I listed here. There were just a lot of flicks this year that had great action, but needed a little more polishing in one or more other departments. Any reasons why you think this has happened? Thoughts in general?


2011 Round-Up: 30 Minutes Or Less, Warrior, And Drive.

Just wanted to do a few short reviews of some 2011 films I saw recently but have yet to review. The first I actually saw a while back and just didn't get around to reviewing it. The other two I saw much more recently. So first...


Talk about a disappointing follow-up to Zombieland. I loved the director, I love Jesse Eisenberg, Nick Swardson has great stand-up (but isn't that great on film, generally), and Aziz Ansari is good on Parks and Rec. Oh, and it co-stars Rebecca from Greek! This wasn't awful, but it just wasn't that great, either. It was just pretty mediocre. The comedy wasn't fantastic. I maybe smiled once or twice throughout the film. The best parts were definitely Fred Ward and Michael Pena. But on the whole, it could have had more heart, more comedy, and more... everything, really.

Stop Saying OK! OK.


Wow, talk about cliches. There was not one original idea in this movie, and it took everything straight out of the genre playbook. It could have been more a parody of this type of film than what it was. I was more blown away by the fact this movie was getting so much praise rather than the movie itself. I just could not get into it. At least for the first half. Then the fighting stuff started. The last hour of the movie has some amazing MMA fighting (though I've heard through the grapevine it's nothing like actual MMA fighting). Still, it was highly entertaining stuff. And yeah, the performances were great all around. It was just a very flawed and unoriginal movie saved by some nice action in the back-end.

I Am McLovin!


Talk about one of the most overrated movies of the year. Now, before you get out the torches and pitchforks, let me explain that I still liked it. I just didn't think it was the total SCREENGASM that everybody else on the planet said it was. And perhaps that's because I had it so over-hyped for me by the time I saw it that I couldn't be anything else but let down. I patiently sat through the first half of the movie, waiting for really anything to happen. I kept in the back of my mind that it was supposed to get intense and brutal, and the "elevator scene" was apparently this year's hamster wheel or something by the way it was talked about. So color me disappointed when all I could say afterwards was "...that's it?" I'm also giving the film the benefit of the doubt that it could have been the format in which I viewed it. Let's just say it probably wasn't the best way to see this film. Was Ryan Gosling great? Yeah. Was the film good? Definitely. I just don't think it fell into the insane quality that I'd heard about for the last 4 months or whatever. (Note: Funnily enough, this was the last 2011 movie I saw last year. The first 2011 movie I saw last year? Drive Angry.)

A Keanu 'Whoa'



I've seen all the other Mission: Impossible films, though I don't really recall much from any of them. I will say, though... with all the insane action set pieces this movie delivers, I think it'll be hard to forget this one. This time, the story gives us, again, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), whose team has been framed for inciting war on Russia. The President declares Ghost Protocol, which shuts down the unit indefinitely. So now it's up to Ethan, Benji (Simon Pegg), Jane (Paula Patton), and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to figure out what's really going on and stop it before it's too late.

There are two things that split this movie. There's the thing that makes it outstanding, and the thing that brings it down a bit. What escalates this film is the brilliant action. There are some truly suspenseful moments. I mean, you know Cruise is gonna make it, but it still keeps you on the edge of your seat. Everybody has seemingly been talking about two moments that pretty much happen back-to-back: scaling the building and the sandstorm chase. There's a reason for that, as they are both incredible moments in the film.

What brings the movie down, however... is everything else. I didn't feel incredibly invested in the overall story. It wasn't boring or anything, but it wasn't anything new or exciting. There's a nuke, they need to stop it, there are obstacles in the way. Again, what elevates the film is how they solve the obstacles. But getting to each one isn't all that enthralling. And I would actually argue that if it weren't for Simon Pegg, the non-action scenes would have been straight-up boring. Pegg brings charm and humor to every scene he's in, making the film that much better for it. And Renner does well himself, too, bringing both humor and sadness to the story.

When this film is good, it's really freakin' good. When it isn't, it's still good, but it could have been much better. I would agree that it's easily the best in the series. I do recommend it, and for three reasons. See it for the brilliant action, for Simon Pegg, and for Paula Patton eye candy... I mean, damn. They're nice. I mean, it's nice. The film. Action. Boom. Pegg. Funny. And stuff. Yeah. Check them... it... out. I'm gonna stop now.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. Happy New Year!)