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!

Cheers,
R

EDIT: It appears that Lionsgate feels that my video somehow infringed on their copyright for Terminator 2 and even after disputing with YouTube my video has been disabled. I don't see me having time in the near future to re-record the video to avoid copyright infringement (I played the trailer for the movie in the background without audio, if you're wondering) so for now, unfortunately, this video is dust. If I can upload a revised version in the near future, I'll make sure to update this post and make an announcement on my Twitter feed!

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!
R

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,
R

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Super Mario Odyssey (2017) - Nintendo Switch

So, where to begin? First off, it's difficult to even write something like this, because the Super Mario series - as a whole - has transcended the concept of review, in a way. I mean, when was the last time you played a bad Super Mario game? Hotel Mario and Mario is Missing aside. Really, all we can do here is talk about how good Super Mario Odyssey is, but I do have some weird feelings about the game, so hopefully there's something of interest here.

To begin, let's talk about how long I've waited for a game like Super Mario Odyssey. Back in 1996, Nintendo published Super Mario 64 on their then flagship system, the Nintendo 64. It was a wild departure from the constant of the series, featuring 3D platforming and navigated with Nintendo's all-new (crazy) controller. Instead of the usual "run to the end of the stage" gameplay everyone had grown to love, the player was given an open world and told to play however they wanted to find secret hidden stars in each of the varying stages found within Peach's Castle.

A new beginning for Mario - Only For Nintendo 64!

This new open gameplay was very refreshing for me and Super Mario 64 stands as one of my favourite Mario games of all time. Nintendo followed the success of Super Mario 64 with Super Mario Sunshine on the Gamecube, which was met with mixed reviews. It continued the newly minted open Mario playstyle, but featured the gimmicky F.L.U.D.D. pack, which resulted in some seriously buggy 3D platforming.

After Sunshine, there were the Super Mario Galaxy games on the Wii, which although they feature the same play of Super Mario 64 - or at least the DNA is there - there is a lot of linearity and the fun of exploration isn't present. This was the same with Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS and Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. Both are great games, don't get me wrong, and the 3D platforming is on point. It's that exploration and open world experience that's missing here, as these games go back to the "run to the end of the stage" gameplay I mentioned before.

Super Mario 3D Land is one of my favourite 3DS games

So finally after all this time - 21 years to be exact - Nintendo has finally made a Super Mario title with that open world exploration I loved about Super Mario 64 in Super Mario Odyssey. As it has been 20+ years, everything about this game is bigger and better than any Super Mario title before it.

Just look-a how-a happy he is when you-a save-a your game!

The game features an entire world, loaded with completely new lands for Mario to explore, chock-full of all new baddies and power-ups that the player has never experienced.

For power-ups, much like in Super Mario 64, it's all about Mario's hat. In this game, the hat is actually a being from another world on a quest to find his friend, kidnapped by Bowser. The Princess has once again been kidnapped, as well, so Mario and Cappy - the aforementioned hat - set out to stop the villainous King Koopa once again.

This time around, however, there's almost no limit to the power-ups Mario can acquire, as Cappy can turn Mario into anything the plumber throws him at. Want to be a Goomba? Throw your hat at one! A giant T. Rex? No problem! A zipper? Kinda weird, but sure thing!

Mario and Cappy have a long way to travel to find and defeat Bowser this time around, so they need a ride, which comes in the form of an old, battered airship, The Odyssey. With this they can land in each and every world Bowser ransacks in his ultimate goal of marrying Princess Peach and becoming the King of the Mushroom Kingdom!

Mario as a Fire Bro!

As I said, each stage is all-new. They may feature some tried-and-true gameplay, but there are totally fresh enemies intermixed with some of your favourites, like the Hammer Bros. or Bullet Bill. The variety here is astounding. When you think about how much work the programmers had to put into the game, considering Mario can become pretty much any enemy he sees, it blows your mind.

And for all that's new, there's so much fan-favouring and nostalgia here. Occasionally you'll find these fun little challenges where you actually go into an HD 2D form of the original Super Mario Bros. They are all-too brief, however. Every time I discovered a 2D section I found myself wishing they'd make a whole new Super Mario Bros.-style HD game. It was so much fun.

In a way, Super Mario Odyssey is the penultimate Mario game. It's a love letter to fans of the series, while still delivering something fresh and wonderful.

I did have some issues with the game, however. To be honest, I'm completely torn. I want to love Odyssey. I really do. And some of the time I spent with it was borderline whimsical. My major problem with the game is a hang-up of my own, really, which is why I made sure to make this counterpoint very carefully.

This game is a collect-a-thon. Much more than any Mario game before. In Super Mario 64, each new world would feature seven Power Stars. The player didn't need to collect them all, just as many as they needed to continue through the game. Only 70 of the stars were needed to face Bowser, but 120 were available to collect in total. Some of these required you to collect 8 red coins in each stage, or 100 regular coins. So, Super Mario 64 definitely had a collect-a-thon aspect to it.

In Super Mario Odyssey, this has been turned up to 11.

To power the Odyssey on their adventure, Mario and Cappy need to collect more and more Power Moons from each new world. You only need so many to power the Odyssey and move on, but in some of the stages you can have up to 70 or 80+ moons to collect and there are a whopping 999 in total. Now, the collect-a-thon hound might see this as a great thing. There's so much game here!

For the crazy completionist, like myself, this was painful and daunting. I usually would force myself to complete all the available moons in a level before moving on to the next, but it was taking forever and I found myself sick of playing the same stage for so long trying to find them all. I literally don't think I could play the Wooded Kingdom if I tried right now.

Hmm, what's this?

Cool, a puzzle for another hidden Power Moon!

I eventually had to overcome my own hangups and just play through the game organically. Sometimes I'd try and collect lots and lots of Power Moons, while other times I'd just get enough to move on. This made the overall experience more enjoyable, but also simultaneously annoyed me.

In Super Mario 64, you were given a general hint to find the next star and you would have to route it out. It made for plenty of exploration, but not too much. In Super Mario Odyssey, some of the Power Moons are right in front of your face and easy to find, but some are hidden diabolically. Couple that with the sheer number and you can find yourself, like myself, completely bored and tired with a level.

Now, with that negativity aside, I still came out enjoying Super Mario Odyssey. Once I decided to just move through the game and worry about the collecting later I had a blast.

The whole experience was amplified by the fact that I played through the game with my son. He was three at the time and this was his first real Super Mario experience. I've played some of the older titles with him, but he kind of lost interest. This game, however, was such a grand adventure he was completely riveted. I actually played the majority of the game with one Joy-Con, because he wanted to hold the other and "play along". It was a bit of a handicap, but completely worth it.

The ending of the game might be one of my favourite gaming moments of all time. I won't spoil what happens, but my son and my wife were both staring in rapt attention, shouting and yelling in excitement as I navigated the final throes of the game. It was legitimately exhilarating and so much fun.

In the end I really enjoyed Super Mario Odyssey, but I wanted to love it. I wanted to feel the way I felt about Super Mario 64 and even though this game has it all on paper, I still find myself enjoying its predecessor more.

I need to spend some more time with Super Mario Odyssey now that the "pressure is off" and I've completed the storyline. There's a whack of end-game content to complete on top of getting all the 999 Power Moons and I know there's a lot of fun there. Altogether I put about 25 hours into the game and I'm certain there's another 45+ waiting for me.

At the end of the day, Super Mario Odyssey is, without a doubt, the most ambitious Mario game to date. It's a true love letter to the fans and a reason, in my opinion, to own a Nintendo Switch. If you're a fan of the series, you owe it to yourself to play it. Just don't be crazy like myself and try to enjoy the experience, instead of grinding your gears worrying about all those Power Moons.

As always, I hope you enjoyed,
R

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Nostalgia Bomb! - A Garfield Christmas



What was it?
A Garfield Christmas was the seventh Garfield television special directed by Phil Roman and written by Garfield creator Jim Davis for CBS between 1982 and 1991.

A Garfield Christmas is often referred to as A Garfield Christmas Special, as well, as it is here on the title card

The specials were initially produced by Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez, but as their company was primarily focused on producing the famous Peanuts TV specials, Phil Roman later took on the producer role, as well.

It aired for the first time on December 21st, 1987 with a run-time of 24 minutes and featured music by Ed Bogas and DesirĂ©e Goyette, with the singing talents of Lou Rawls. Garfield was famously voiced by Lorenzo Music, who voiced everyone's favourite grumpy orange cat in each of the Phil Roman specials. Thom Huge and Gregg Berger voiced John and Odie, as they did in all of the other specials as well, and Pat Carroll played John's grandmother, famous for her many acting roles and her portrayal of Ursula in Disney's The Little Mermaid.

This particular episode featured John, Garfield, and Odie heading off to the Arbuckle family farm for a good old fashioned Christmas.

When was it available?

The special was aired every Christmas on CBS from 1987 to 2000, at which point it inexplicably dropped off their holiday schedule. In 2004 the DVD Garfield's Holiday Celebrations was released, which included A Garfield Christmas, as well as other holiday favourites Garfield's Halloween Adventure (1985) and Garfield's Thanksgiving (1989). From my understanding the DVD was produced until at least 2007 and after its production run became a highly sought after collector's item, fetching big sums on eBay.

A second DVD was released in 2014 as a Walmart exclusive and featured the same episodes as the 2004 disc, but also added Garfield on the Town (1983) and Garfield in Paradise (1986), which aren't really holiday-themed, but are a nice addition. This DVD is also out-of-print and fetches high prices on reseller sites.

What about today?
In 2017 A Garfield Christmas was released on streaming services Amazon Prime Video and Apple iTunes in the US. One thing to note, however, is that there were some oddities with the final DVD release of A Garfield's Christmas, such as a scene featuring John's brother "Doc Boy" and Grandma playing Christmas music on the family piano, which was removed. This is the version that can be streamed from the above services, so it typically rubs viewers the wrong way!

Garfield Holiday Celebrations DVD from 2004

I personally streamed it from YouTube this year. There are several uploaders with the special on their channels. I'm pretty certain that none of them are legit, however, and could likely be stuck with copyright notices at any moment, so linking one here would probably be folly. If you want to watch the original special intact, however, this is probably the best avenue. The version I watched was at least DVD quality and contained all the scenes and original music.

Why do I remember it?
A Garfield Christmas is one of my absolute favourite Christmas TV specials of all time and I've done my best to take it in every single Christmas all these years.

After it stopped airing on TV, I was forced to become a pirate and find sites that either streamed the show or allowed for a download. Once I had a copy of the special that I liked downloaded, I often went back to that copy in subsequent years, but I've found YouTube pretty reliable as of late. I personally never saw the aforementioned DVDs, so from 2001 onward getting my Garfield fix at Christmastime became a yearly mission.

Up until the last few years, I had a copy on my tablet that I would break out when I was wrapping presents, alongside a copy of A Muppet Family Christmas, which is another amazing Christmas special from '87 that doesn't air on TV any longer and has a shoddy history on DVD.

The Arbuckles gather 'round Grandma as she receives here gift from Garfield

A Garfield Christmas is purportedly an autobiographical account of Jim Davis' personal Christmas memories and features a really fun look at the Arbuckle Christmas, but also has a sub-plot about John's Grandma that will get you right in the feels.

The music in this special is on-point with great tunes sung by Lou Rawls that you'll find yourself singing around the house right alongside Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley.

I cannot fathom why this special isn't aired today alongside all the other greats, like A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. In fact, CBS usually aired A Garfield Christmas right next to the Peanuts classic from '87 to 2000. I can't find any solid information on why the show was dropped, but it could just be due to viewer count, I suppose.

A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Garfield Christmas commerical from CBS

The fact that the scene with Doc Boy and Grandma playing the piano was dropped from DVD releases kind of makes me wonder if there's some sort of rights issue at play, but they're playing "O Christmas Tree", so I find it hard to believe that's the problem in this case.

Although it was hard to find for almost 20 years, outside of a few DVD releases, which I personally never saw here in Canada, you can now enjoy A Garfield Christmas via streaming services (in the US, at least) or on YouTube, and I can't recommend enough that you give it a watch.

I viewed the show with my kids this year and I saw them laugh and sing along at the same spots I did when I was growing up, which made this year's viewing all the more special.

And that's why A Garfield Christmas is a blast from my past, but also - hopefully - a future family tradition!

Hope you enjoyed,
R