Friday, June 21, 2013

The League: ...and The Ultimate Arcade

We're back with another weekly topic from The League of Extraordinary Bloggers and this one is quite the challenge. Tougher than trying to tackle a Contra run without the Konami code. Harder than a fistful of quarters. The League asks-- 

You’ve decided to build an addition onto your house, a rec room that will feature your very own fantasy video arcade. What games are on your shopping list?

I almost skipped this week because I figured that my own list would read like many of the other League members own. A steady mix of classics like Galaga and Ms. Pacman with some truly inspired, early '90s side-scrollers based on properties like The Simpsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This isn't surprising, because those games were a huge part of any kid's childhood if they happened to grow up in the '80s and '90s. I wasn't sold on the idea of spending time writing a redundant love-letter to the same games as everyone else.

And then I remembered Rampage.

I'm sure that I'm not the only one who would include this classic title in their wishlist and that doesn't bother me one bit. Everyone should want a Rampage cabinet in their arcade. I can't imagine the things I could have bought with all the quarters that I've dumped into this machine. I probably could have retired at 18 if I'd never taken the time to familiarize myself with Lizzie, George and the totally underrated Ralph. Nevermind the time spent playing at several arcades, at home on my NES and, in later years, anywhere and everywhere with a poorly ported Gameboy Advance version of the game.

I might have ended up with more material wealth, but I would have been poorer in life without Rampage in it.

Ah, Spider-Man: The Video Game.

With everyone else clamoring for a six-player version of The X-Men Arcade Game [and who can blame them], this would actually be my first choice for an arcade game based on a Marvel property. I didn't discover it until the mid- to late-nineties, quite a few years after it was released by Sega in 1991. I remember stumbling upon it at a small arcade at one of my local malls, having never known that it existed. And what a goddamn oddity I discovered.

Of the four playable characters, only two seem to belong. There's ol' Web-Head himself, which makes perfect spider-sense since it's his name on the cabinet and on the screen. The inclusion of Black Cat also seems like a no-brainer considering her on-again, off-again romance with the wall-crawling superhero. Then you have Hawkeye and Namor, the Sub-Mariner, neither of whom seem at home in this game. Yes, they were occasional allies of Spidey's in the comic books, but then, so was Deathlok and Son of Satan and Red Sonja and every other character that Marvel has ever published.

Not that I'm complaining. Hawkeye is actually one of my all-time favorite characters. I'm pretty sure he's the only one that I even attempted to play as in those few instances where I tried this game out. I just love the idea of seeing him fight Hobgoblin and Venom.

I was totally indifferent to The Sub-Mariner, but you can't really fault a teenaged boy for not picking the mostly naked Atlantean with winged feet and electric eel powers.

My second pick for a Marvel-based, beat-em-up, side-scroller is Captain America and the Avengers. This one has a little more nostalgia built into it than my previous pick. My 10th birthday is the only one where I managed to convince my parents to host the party at our local arcade, Great Times. This game had just been released and was our main focus for the majority of the celebration. I couldn't have cared less about my gifts and cake, especially with the chance to hang out with my best friends and take on the Red Skull and his army of costumed criminals.

I absolutely adore the cabinet art for this, particularly the selection of villains battling the titular heroes. Who doesn't love Batroc the Leaper?

There isn't an arcade around worth its tokens that doesn't have at least one shooter-style game located inside. I could have picked something like Terminator 2 or House of the Dead II [which I played constantly at a pizzeria I frequented during college], but instead I'm picking Revolution X. I can't stand Aerosmith, an act of treason for someone who lives so close to Boston, but I love how ridiculous and so very '90s this one is. Plus, it's another in the short list of games that I played from Stage 1 to End Credits in one go. I'm not sure what possessed me to pump so many quarters into this particular title when I could have been playing Killer Instinct or Afterburner II.

Maybe I just liked the idea of using flaming, explosive CDs to blow shit up.

Like with Revolution X, it seems wrong to build an arcade without including a fighting game of some sort. And again, I could have gone the route of a Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat or even one of the Tekken titles, but this is where it's really at.

Primal Rage feels like a distant cousin to Rampage and I'm totally okay with that. Instead of focusing your destructive prowess on buildings and the military, you play as dinosaurs and giant apes hellbent on destroying one another. Using abilities far beyond those of normal prehistoric beasts, you breathe fire and shoot ice beams like something out of a Godzilla flick.

Plus, you still get to devour humans to regain health, though this time around they're cavemen [and a few scantily-clad cavewomen] worshiping at your feet. Which is infinitely more satisfying than eating some poorly pixelated occupant of a high-rise you've just demolished.

Meanwhile, with the rest of the League--

The newly rechristened Nerd Nook legit took -all- my original picks and added Michael Jackson's Moonwalker like some kinda' psychic or something.

Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks talks Atari 2600 and ogles Ms. Pacman. If it were me, I'd be concerned that her husband might pound a few power-pellets and come a-callin'.

No tokens needed over at Branded in the 80s and a nice reminder of Nintendo's PlayChoice-10, a machine very near and dear to me.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The League: Show Me the Money Edition

I have never really been into sports, much to my father's dismay [happy early Father's Day, guy]. Also, and again something my dad probably wouldn't have cared for, I have seen Jerry Maguire. So this week's assignment from The League of Extraordinary Bloggers is sorta' a mixed bag for me. We have been tasked with taking on the role of Jerry, sports agent extraordinaire, and--

You open your own sports agency. Which pop culture all stars will be your first clients? “Show me the money!”

With little to no understanding of what it takes to be a sports agent, aside from romancing Renee Zellweger [no thanks] and befriending her young son [again, no], I have decided instead to highlight some of my all-time favorite sports-themed pop culture icons. This is hardly assembling a dream team to dominate their respective playing fields and instead a quick look at the underdogs and wanna-be icons you may have forgotten about. Or wish you had.

First off, we have King Hippo. 

You might remember him best as an underwhelming opponent in the NES classic, Mike Tyson's Punch Out!, but I will always think of him as one-half of my favorite villainous duos. Paired up with the evil Eggplant Wizard, the two bumbling henchmen worked for the gelatinous crime-lord, Mother Brain, and attempted to conquer Videoland on a weekly basis during the late '80s and early '90s. They were, of course, regularly stopped by Captain N: The Game Master and his cohorts.

In case you are unfamiliar with King Hippo and his numerous non-accomplishments, he was a boxer. The greatest boxer to hail from Hippo Island who I guess must have also been the king of said island? I don't really know and it doesn't really matter. Nothing can diminish my love and respect for that blue-skinned beauty.

The animated version of Casey Jones actually frightened me a little when I was a kid. It was his refusal to ever remove his hockey mask, something I always associated with Jason from the Friday the 13th series, that caused me to feel uneasy about him. The film version of the character, portrayed by the amazing Elias Koteas, was frequently sans mask and constantly making fun of and/or hitting on April O'Neil, which was something I could always get behind, even at a younger age.

I guess it's never been established in any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles canon, whether cartoon, film or comic book, that Casey is any kind of real athlete. He's often shown wielding baseballs bats, hockey sticks or [my personal favorite moment from the original TMNT film] a cricket bat, so it's safe to assume he had some training. Regardless, I dig his intensity and his commitment to the whole masked vigilante lifestyle. I also like when he had to babysit time-displaced samurais in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time. No, just kidding.

I made a funny.

Despite my lack of interest in real-world sports, I do so enjoy movies that are centered around misfit teams and their unconventional rise to the top of their game. I will always cheer for the underdogs, whether they're a rag-tag group of baseball players coached by Walter Matthau or an average teen with a bad case of lycanthropy. It should be no surprise then that I am a big fan of the original 1985 comedy, Teen Wolf.

And as much as I enjoy Michael J. Fox as Scott Howard, it's the rest of his last-place team that I always end up cheering for. When they each have their moment to shine in the championship game, rallying together as a team, without the reliance on Scott's werewolf counterpart.

Especially "Chubby", played by Mark Holton, who is probably best remembered as Francis Buxton. If the name sounds familiar, it's because he was the arch-nemesis to Pee-wee Herman in Pee-wee's Big Adventure. In Teen Wolf however, he's a lovable loser with a mean hook-shot.

Since I'm wrapping this up with a focus on basketball, I thought I'd include this amazing montage from the Godzilla vs. Barkley comic published by Dark Horse in 1993. I had completely forgotten that Nike released a commercial featuring Charles Barkley in a one-on-one game with everyone's favorite radioactive monster and this is just a fantastic reminder that the world we live in is beautiful and magic.

Meanwhile, with the rest of The League--

The Nerd Nook assembles the greatest football team since the legendary 49ers. I forget which one they are, though.

Infinite Hollywood combines King Kong Bundy, Zap! from American Gladiators and that one Asian guy from all the best '80s action-flicks and transforms them into THE GREATEST SPORTS TEAM EVER ASSEMBLED. The ProStars might disagree, though.

And over at Diary of a Dorkette, Miss M tries to convince Cammy from Street Fighter to wear pants and I'm not sure why.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Countdown Cancelled and The Best Film of 2003

The Countdown to Man of Steel has been cancelled after one post.

This is partially because of a complete lack of content. I honestly thought that a big-budget Superman reboot would lead to all sorts of wacky and incredible promotional tie-ins like the 2006 "sequel" did. After trips to several local supermarkets/convenience stores, I've discovered that there is almost nothing available that's worth taking a look at. Yes, there were boxes of Cheez-Its and Pop-Tarts with the iconic S-symbol front and sorta' centered. I also found some fruit snacks, but they were generic Superman style, owing nothing to the new film. Somehow, DreamWorks' new animated-feature, Turbo, about a hyper-kinetic snail, managed to earn its own limited edition cereal, but Superman did not. This is the world we live in now and it is awful, maybe.

The other reason for the cancellation is something I briefly touched upon before in the single Countdown post, which is my personal feelings towards Man of Steel. You could say they are less than enthusiastic. This surprises a lot of people who know me, because I enjoy comic books and I enjoy movies. I must be almost orgasmic at the idea of combining the two things, right? Eh. This is sometimes true when it comes to films like The Avengers or X-Men: First Class, but it is not always the case. There are quite a few cinematic adaptations of comic books that I have not seen, nor have any intention of ever seeing; the two Fantastic Four movies, Green Lantern, either of the Ghost Rider flicks, Cowboys and Aliens, V for Vendetta and many others. My love for these two distinct, visual mediums doesn't equal an immediate or even an eventual devotion to any project that may mix them together.

I have a difficult enough time writing about the things that I feel passionate about, so I'm not sure why it is that I thought I could manage a week of posts related to a movie I'm not that interested in seeing. It was a lazy attempt at drawing in some readers, hoping to catch some [very] minor attention due to the film's release date looming nearer.

Meanwhile, I just finished watching The Station Agent for the first time and I can barely think of anything worth talking about it here, despite the fact that it's probably one of the best "older" films I've seen so far this year. This happens far too frequently, where I stumble upon something and immediately fall in love with it, yet I can't seem to find the right words to express my adoration or appreciation.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Countdown to Man of Steel: Lego Edition

I'm having difficulty in mustering the enthusiasm for the release of Man of Steel this Friday. I don't know if it's my feelings towards the work of director Zack Snyder. I never cared much for his films, particularly Sucker Punch and Watchmen [a movie I felt cold towards, despite loving the source material]. It could be that the cinematic exploits of The Last Son of Krypton have never really appealed to me. I still have yet to see Superman Returns and the original series is something that was always in the background of my childhood, comforting in its existence, but nothing I ever gravitated towards.

It's odd, but the idea of Superman has always meant more to me than any actual story.

Likewise, I've always enjoyed the odd marketing or promotional tie-ins over his many adventures. Give me Kryptonite Doritos and Superman Crunch cereal and I'm thrilled. Combine the Man of Steel with Legos and I am beyond excited.

Which brings me to the Superman: Metropolis Showdown building set.

It's been years since I've purchased a Lego set. Sure, I've indulged in the blind bag mini-figures a few times in the past couple years. And yes, every Christmas I pick up a Lego Advent Calender to help get into the holiday spirit. Excluding those few exceptions, I haven't put together anything Lego in nearly a decade. So, I'm starting out small with this set. 119-pieces that would eventually become Superman, his villainous counterpart, General Zod, and the city of Metropolis; in the form of a car and a collapsible tower.

It's not very impressive, I know. There's something in its simplicity that I absolutely adore, though. Lego mini-figures are always difficult to turn away from, especially when they're meant to represent iconic characters in pop culture. Also, while I'm not sold on the re-imagined costume from Man of Steel, it sure looks good in that miniature toy form. The same goes for General Zod. His scowling Lego face is too goddamn cute. I couldn't resist.

Plus, Superman's head rotates to reveal a more battle-ready face, complete with intense grimace and heat-vision eyes. The same goes for General Zod, but really, I feel like there shouldn't be a moment when he's not angry and vaporizing someone.

I can't say that the few minutes that I spent building a yellow dragster and radio tower is going to inspire me to rush out and see Man of Steel this weekend. So, tune in the rest of this week to see what other super-items I can dig out of the Trash Bin in an effort to awaken a long-lost love for all things Kal-El.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The League: Bringin' Back The Tall Man

The League of Extraordinary Bloggers took a week off to enjoy the holiday and the start of summer and some other things, but now it's back and it's not alone. This week's topic asks, What product or media property would you like to see revived, and how would you imagine it being different today?

I live a pretty nostalgic lifestyle. Longing for the days of my childhood; when things were simpler, cartoons were over-the-top and exciting, and toys were bought for me by other people. There are far too many animated series, both from the '80s and early '90s,  that I'd love to see re-imagined for today. Stuff like The Inhumanoids, The Centurions, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Go-Bots [yes, seriously, Go-Bots], and Bionic Six are only a few of the cartoons/toy-lines that I would love to see make a comeback. Unfortunately, there would be a certain amount of guilt that would accompany trying to relive my younger years. For every TMNT or Transformers reboot that's happened, I've sat on the sidelines, casually observing as they reappeared on television screens and store shelves.

So, if the properties that I enjoyed as a kid are out, what does that leave?

That leaves Phantasm.

First, a very short confession. Horror movies terrified me when I was younger. There were times when I couldn't watch TV, knowing that the commercials for Child's Play II or one of the Halloween sequels might appear during a break. I can distinctly remember the pay-per-view channel showing an ad for Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead and being frightened by it. And yet, here we are.

I watch a lot more horror flicks these days. I don't get the thrill, the exhilaration, from being scared and I'm not particularly fond of gore. I do, however, have an appreciation for the out-there concepts and the use of practical special effects. It's why the Phantasm series appeals to me so much. You can tell from watching, whether it's the original or any of its sequels, that writer/director Don Coscarelli loves making these films. It's just a shame that the studios don't seem to share his passion or enjoy backing him and his endeavors.

The series can be a tough sell, though. You have brothers Mike and Jody, along with Reggie the Ice-Cream Man, doing battle with the inhuman Tall Man [played by Angus Scrimm], who is stealing corpses and transforming them into demonic, dwarf-like slaves. There is an eerie, dream-like atmosphere to the original film that can leave the viewer questioning what exactly it is that they just watched. And you have three sequels, released over nearly twenty-years time, that add more layers and ask more questions than they answer.

That's precisely why the series needs to be resurrected. Not so they can explain all the twists and tie up all the lingering questions, but simply to add more to the story. It's such a complex and curious oddity in the history of horror franchises. At times, it can seem like they're simply throwing wild ideas at the screen and maybe that is what they're doing, but it works. The Phantasm series can go from nightmarish to comedic between scenes and the whole experience is surreal and super-enjoyable.

Whether or not they could pull it off, well, one only needs to look and see what they've been up to since the last film, Phantasm IV: Oblivion, which was released in 1998. Don Coscarelli has kept busy directing, releasing both 2002's Bubba Ho-Tep and the adaptation of David Wong's novel, John Dies at the End. If you've seen either of those films, then you'd know that Coscarelli is certainly up to the task of creating another surreal, entertaining movie. And old Angus Scrimm, who appears frequently at conventions and has had small roles in several horror/cult flicks, can easily pull off the part of The Tall Man one more time.

So, I wouldn't dare re-imagine it and I definitely wouldn't reboot it. Simply bring back the original cast and crew, give Don Coscarelli the reins, and sit back and enjoy. Of course, if this one doesn't scare you... you're already dead.

Meanwhile, with the rest of the League--

Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks would like to share some sweet Californian Raisins with you.

Infinite Hollywood demands more Exo-Squad, because who doesn't miss Wolf Bronski?

Pop Rewind plans on resurrecting Zombies Ate My Neighbors [and Jem..!].

The Comixverse wants Captain Power and Biker Mice From Mars to team-up, I think?