Friday, March 22, 2019

Memory, Blog: Those Creepy Alien Shows

For one reason or another throughout my life I've found myself drawn to TV shows and films about the paranormal and I'm not talking about those reality shows, like Ghost Hunters. Specifically, for me, it is anything to do with aliens and UFOs. It's a contributing reason for my obsession with The X-Files, but it goes much deeper than that.

I want to preface this by saying that I don't believe in aliens. I don't think there's some grand conspiracy that a group of intergalactic beings from another planet/dimension/reality/whatever are visiting earth in ships, abducting people for experimentation, and screwing around with livestock.

I think my fascination with the subject is three-fold.

One reason is that I'm captivated with the idea that there are people out there that whole-heartedly believe in it all. And I don't mean this as a condescension, like, "How could someone believe in this crap!?" It's more akin to wanting to understand why they believe what they believe. It's probably like a secular philosopher trying to better understand religion.

The second reason is that I find alien and UFO stories to be like the ghost stories of our generation. We live in a world driven by science, so of course our fireside stories are that of science fiction. It kind of just makes sense.

The third and most major reason is that the idea of aliens scares the ever-loving shit out of me

I have zero context to offer you as to why, but when I was really little I had nightmares that the Martians from Sesame Street were going to take me from my bed at night. I had to be the only kid on the planet petrified of Muppets.

They're still creepy.

This fear was exacerbated one fateful day by my unwitting mother who picked up a new video for me to watch: E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. And why woudn't she? It was an international family-friendly hit! As soon as I saw E.T. for the first time, plodding around the forest with his freaky glowing heart, I was instantly traumatized. I can't recall so much as breathing throughout the rest of the viewing, but I somehow survived it. I had a new face for my fear and it was the dough-eyed alien that every other kid at school had on their bed sheets.

See, it's petrifying!

Considering I was so afraid of the subject I have no idea why, but I would try and watch anything that featured aliens, which in the late-80s and early-90s was no problem. The paranormal was a hot topic and one could simply flip to any channel on a Friday night and find a program featuring unexplained phenomena.

The result was a fascination with those hokey paranormal TV shows that used to cover the pages of the TV Guide. For me, it all started in the early 90s when A&E began airing re-runs of In Search Of..., which was one of my favourite TV shows ever. The ideas and topics were so interesting and they would often feature the crazy stories of aliens or UFOs that I was craving, but presented in a way that wasn't all that scary.

Leonard Nimoy crushing it, as always

Okay, that's BS, I was still scared to death, but I could make it through an episode, so long as all the lights were on. I think this is why I found the courage one night to watch a relatively new show called Unsolved Mysteries, which although it wasn't strictly a paranormal show had the occasional alien/UFO-related topics. In fact, it was an episode of Unsolved Mysteries that spurred on my fear in a big way, but we'll feature that story another time.

There were all sorts of paranormal shows that cropped up in the wake of Unsolved Mysteries, like Sightings and Encounters, both of which tried to employ the trappings of a real news magazine show to make the topics at hand seem that much more credible. And lets not forget the myriad of one-off specials, like Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction or Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County.

It all looks so professional!

My obsession continues to this day, so this is just the beginning for this topic on the site. I already have some related posts in the works, but I thought it made sense that I outline my fear and fascination with aliens and UFOs in films and television before we really begin to scan these starry skis... I mean skies.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Theatrical Cut - Captain Marvel

Have you had enough of all the controversy surrounding the release of Marvel's latest film, Captain Marvel? Well, Cole and I took in a viewing and here we are talking about the film without any of the BS!

I feel a little remiss not saying anything regarding the controversy surrounding the film, so what I'll say is that this is a really fun action, comic book film. If you've been reading Marvel Comics as long as I have, you might even find Captain Marvel to be the most "comic-y" (I'll call Encyclopedia Britannica and have the word added, post-haste) of the MCU films to date.

There's all sorts of anti-feminist vitriol and conspiracy regarding Rotten Tomatoes review scores and the belief that Disney has been pushing this film a little bit extra, because it's bad and they secretly want to trick you into seeing it.

This is an MCU film; they sell on name alone. They make bonkers money, no matter what. The Disney Stonecutters don't need some wild agenda to get you into the theatre to see Captain Marvel. It's a good movie that stands on its own two legs just fine and it is worth your time to see it, especially if you're going to see Avengers: Endgame in a few weeks.

Disney has been brokering deals with theatres for a long time when they are releasing their films. They have the hot movies and they know it, so they can "ask" certain things of theatres that want to screen them, like early "VIP" showings the night before release or a certain proportion of screens dedicated to their films, and get away with it. They did the same thing with Star Wars: The Last Jedi in 2017, which caused a big media buzz, as well. This isn't something special they've cooked up for Captain Marvel out of some crazy feminist conspiracy.

If you're looking for a fun two hours, turn your brain off, log off of social media, and settle into Captain Marvel. Cole and I found it really enjoyable and there's setup there for Avengers: Endgame hitting the silver screen on April 26th!

Make Mine Marvel,

Friday, March 8, 2019

VHyesterdayS - Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Here's some more VHS love to spice up your Friday!

As promised, in this edition of VHyesterdayS we'll be chatting about what I'm pretty sure is a 1992 release of Terminator 2 by Carolco and Live Entertainment.

I mention a Subway commercial that appears at the start of the tape, in lieu of any teasers for other films. I said in the video that it was a franchisee commercial, but I just got my thoughts jumbled. It's a regular old Subway ad from the early 90s. I wrote my notes over a month ago, wrote down that the actor looked like a franchisee, got it all mixed up when I was recording, and since this is my second time in the last few weeks re-doing this video, I'm not fixing it!

Welcome to the wonderful world of un-professional, just doing it for the kicks, content creation, folks!

Here's the ad:

As always, I hope you get something out of my obsession with old VHS tapes!


Friday, March 1, 2019

VHyesterdayS - The Terminator

Here we are once again as I dig through my personal treasure trove of VHS tapes and pull out some of the gems.

I can still recall when I first saw Terminator 2: Judgement Day, but I can't really recall my first viewing of The Terminator. I've always felt that T2 was the better movie - and that still stands - but I must say that over the years the original Terminator film has grown on me significantly.

In this episode of VHyesterdayS we examine a late VHS release - the 2000 Alliance Atlantis Canadian copy of The Terminator - and have a brief chat about some of the releases that preceded it.

I hope you enjoy!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Memory, Blog - The Sunday Night Ritual

I've found myself turning more inward lately and my obsession with nostalgia has hit an all-time high. I don't know if it's because I'm getting older or... no, you know what? I'm not old, you're old! Whatever!

Ahem, excuse me.

Anyway, I find myself more interested with watching films on VHS than on Blu-ray, with playing the Nintendo Entertainment System than the Nintendo Switch, and eating kid's cereals over a nice steak dinner.

Okay, that last one might be a bit extreme... maybe.

I thought it might be fun to start writing about some of this nostalgia as a way of bottling it, so here goes!

In 1993 my favourite TV show aired for the first time on Friday, September 10th. You guessed it, it's The X-Files. I haven't hidden my love for this show, have I? It dominated the air waves on Friday nights for three years, but in 1996 Fox made the bold move to air it on Sundays and man, did it work!

You see, the 9 o'clock timeslot (10PM for me in Atlantic Canada) was previously known for the Sunday Night Movie on other networks, like CBS, ABC, and NBC. This is when many TV stations would fight for a hot "new to TV" film to air, so viewers could wind down their weekend and just veg in front of the TV. The ABC Sunday Night Movie actually aired from 1962 until 1998.

Viewership began to wain, however, and this is when you started to see a lot of big made-for-TV movie events, like NBC's The Beast, which aired in two parts on Sundays in April 1996, or ABC's Storm of the Century, which was broken into three installments starting on Sunday, February 14th, 1999.

NBC promo for Peter Benchley's The Beast from April 28th, 1996 courtesy of Dinosaur Dracula

Fox decided to waste no time in finding a viable alternative to steal your attention during those precious couch potato hours before the school/work week began anew, so they moved their most popular drama into that timeslot, where it lived until its (not so) final episode in 2002.

At the time, even series creator Chris Carter didn't like the move. Fox executives were putting a lot of stock in Carter's next big thing, Millenium, which took the coveted Friday night space from The X-Files, but with a feature film in the works and more and more accolades rolling in, The X-Files was no worse for the wear.

Promo for The X-Files move to Sundays, circa October 1996 (sorry for the suggestive thumbnail)

Now, Fox already had my attention on Sunday nights with The Simpsons. What a great foothold to launch The X-Files new timeslot on? You already had millions of viewers watching the station anyway, so if you slap TVs hottest show after it, you've got people locked for hours.

The only thing that Fox varied was the meat in this delicious TV sandwich. The 8:30 ET slot had a variety of content over the years and there were several delicious fillers, but for one reason or another none of the shows stayed on the menu (I'll stop now with the sandwich puns). There was King of the Hill, Futurama, and even Family Guy, all of which used this slot as a launching pad before moving to another day and time, but the show that finally stuck was the unlikely Malcolm in the Middle, which I believe (and don't quote me on this) stayed on Sunday nights even after the glory years were well and done with, in 2006.

Sunday nights were a very bittersweet time. It sounds crazy, because I didn't dislike school or anything like that. In fact I liked it for the most part. I just looked forward to and enjoyed my weekend so much, that I started lamenting their end starting on Saturday night, while I typically watched whatever late night movie aired on TV (which we'll talk about in the future, I'm sure). By the time Sunday night came,  I was in full despair!

In our house Sundays were for family. My folks and I would pilgrimage to both of my parents' sides to see relatives for dinner; one in the afternoon and the other in the evening. I didn't see much of my friends and there wasn't any time to play my video games, but it was always good to eat great food and see my cousins.

When the evening came, it was "me time" and I took full advantage of it.

I would rustle up a snack - provided I was still hungry after all the food we had that day - and cozy into my bed with all the lights off, save for the glow of the fuzzy old TV screen, complete with tin-foil encrusted rabbit ears to catch the over-the-air signal.

And there I'd stay until 11 o'clock. The opening acts of The Simpsons and whatever second comedy show that followed it were a nice way to relax before the creepfest of The X-Files hit the screen, but also not the best way to close out and get a good night's rest!

This time period was The Simpsons apex for me. The show was coming off the highs of the Conan O'Brien years (1991 to 1993), which is when I was cemented as a fan. Around 1998, however, my interest started to slip. I did continue to watch until 2002, but if I missed it for whatever reason, it wasn't the end of the world. For as many times as I've watched The X-Files, I've never really gone out of my way to revisit The Simpsons chronologically from this era (I have caught lots of classic episodes in syndication). If only that Simpsons World service would launch here in Canada!

I kept my little Sunday night tradition up starting in junior high right until my first year of university, which is crazy to think of looking back now. I remember I wasn't as into it after I left high school. The X-Files without Mulder and Scully didn't interest me as much and (as I mentioned) I wasn't getting the same laughs from The Simpsons anymore, but I can still recall how I felt watching the finale to The X-Files to this day. It was a somber moment - an end of an era - and I knew it.

Fox promo for The X-Files series finale from May 2002

I still reminisce about those Sunday nights (clearly). In my hectic lifestyle these days I almost never get a quiet relaxing two hours to myself and I have no real "rituals" that I can always bank on each week. And that's fine! I love my time with my wife and kids and things may be nuts right now, but I know I'll be looking back on these very days in 10 years wishing I could have them back, as well. Possibly I'll be reminiscing while I'm kicking back and watching some primetime television on a Sunday night... you know, if that sort of thing even exists anymore.

Hope you enjoyed,