Super Mario Bros. (NES)

Super_Mario_Bros_cover[1]Yesterday may have been Video Game Day–as confirmed by nothing less of a source than daysoftheyear.com--but today… today is the 30th Anniversary of one of the industry’s most ground breaking accomplishments.  Super Mario Bros. turns 30 goddamn years old today.

There is seriously nothing that I can add to the conversation about this game.

I could marvel at its design–so innovative that its high water mark has only ever really been topped by other games in the same franchise.  I could talk about it cementing Mario as a pop culture icon.  I could share personal anecdotes about trying to reach The Negative World, or playing the game while looking at the TV in a mirror, or wrestling the controller away from a superior Player 1 shouting “Hurry up and die, so I can play!”.  Something Something Iconic Soundtrack, etc., etc.

But everything… everything–good and bad–has been said better by someone else.  Go read and/or watch their stuff.  It’s good, really.

Instead, I’m going to be a lame dad, and share the names my daughter, Charlotte, gave the Goombas (and Koopa Troopa) found on World 1-1.  That’s right, I’m turning a review of an unparalleled gaming classic into a shitty Facebook post.

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Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man (Atari 2600)

b_MastersOfTheUniverse_INTV_frontToday, Sept 12, was apparently Video Game Day.  I don’t know who decided it, or how official it is, but I saw it when Ken Jeong retweeted Community‘s twitter account… so it must be legit.

So, in the spirit of this very real, totally not randomly assigned “holiday”, I decided it was high time to do something I’ve wanted to do for about 30 years.  I decided I would finally play Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man for the Atari 2600.

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Fat Dad With Glasses: Super Nintendo Greatness

If I’m not on record with this statement elsewhere on this blog… I’m going on record with it now.  The Super Nintendo Entertainment System is the greatest console ever made.  Every game on it that I loved, I’ve gone back to play again over 10 years later, and they still hold up.  This can’t be said for many of the great games of older consoles.  It can’t be said of (many) newer consoles, either, because enough time hasn’t past yet.

“But… that’s just nostalgia talking,” I can hear you saying.

“Is not!” was once my go-to response to such naysaying.  But no longer!  I now have evidence.  It’s Charlotte’s favourite system.

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Streex (Street Sharks, 1995, Mattel)

Streex & T-Bone

Originally launched as “Blades”, then recoloured and renamed, Streex is half man, half tiger shark, and a part of Mattel’s Street Sharks toy line.  I don’t know why I even bothered to note the year in the post title.  Just look at that fucking monstrosity, would you?  He’s wearing rollerblades.  You know exactly what year he’s from.

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Asteroids (Atari 2600)

asteroids_atari2600-large-070209Asteroids is a classic arcade game by Atari from 1979.  In 1981, a port of the arcade classic was released by Atari on their Atari 2600 console.  Like so many other 2600 ports, Asteroids‘  differences in both gameplay and graphics were very noticeable.   Asteroids had a completely different look and feel to it at home than it did in the arcades.  Using the Atari joystick instead of simply using buttons.   Also noticable is the required use of coloured pixels instead of a vector display.

That’s it.  I can’t take this seriously anymore.  I really wanted to, but I can’t.  No matter how much I want this game to hold up even today…  I can’t do it.  I could try and tell you about how (somehow) this game used a lot of memory for a home console cartridge, and that it was the first to use some kind of dual side switching memory technique.  I could tell you about how much fun I had with this game as a kid.  I absolutely love this game, still.  But even I can’t convince myself that it holds up today.  I started out wanting to compare apples to apples, and keep my state of mind geared solely towards 80s Atari games.  It’s not going to happen.  I firmly remember this game being a solid 9 or 10 when I was a kid.  That’s just not the case anymore.

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Take Me Home Tonight (2011)

Take Me Home Tonight is a quirky romantic comedy starring Topher Grace, Teresa Palmer, Anna Faris and Dan Fogler.  It’s the summer of ’88. Token-80s-Smartest-Kid-in-School, Matt Franklin (Grace) has just graduated from MIT and is spending the summer working at a shitty video store in the mall.  When the former Prom Queen, his High School Crush Tori Frederking (Palmer) walks in a well placed string of lies lands him with an opening to see her at a party later.  With the help of his twin sister Wendy (Faris) and comically chubby, recently fired, best friend Barry (Fogler), Matt sets out to achieve that which he never could in High School:  Getting Tori Frederking’s phone number.

Take Me Home Tonight (2011)


The reason I even knew of the existence of this movie is below.  It’s a video for Atomic Tom’s cover of Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?”  The cover isn’t very good.  The video is fantastic.  Give it a minute or so for the awesomeness to kick in.

  

I wanted to watch Take Me Home Tonight because of the fun that the cast clearly had making this video, and the obvious love and attention that they had paid to 80s movies.  So, now that you’ve watched that awesomeness…

What we have in Take Me Home Tonight is a 2011 attempt at recapturing the greatness of the John Hughes/Brat Pack era 80s comedies.  Director Michael Dowse (Fubar 1 & 2, It’s All Gone Pete Tong) and company try their hardest to not fall into the trap of making a period comedy that constantly pokes fun at the period.  They clearly didn’t want to make a movie like The Wedding Singer where the film’s jokes are mostly “Ha ha!  Remember the 80s?  That shit was crazy.”

Take Me Home Tonight tries to have “the 80s” just be the film’s setting.  More than that, in my opinion, they really try to just have this be an 80s movie.  They clearly wanted this movie to look and feel like it could have been released in ’88.  The plot is simple, the characters are the same ones you’ve seen a million times, the plot is driven by 2 parts character and 3 parts completely implausible, yet tired, situations.  In a very weird way, it borrows from, pays homage to a laundry list of movies and actors, while never feeling like an outright parody.

The trouble, though, is that the film is trying to do too much.  Sometimes it wants to be an 80s movie, derivative, predictable, but outrageous and funny.  Sometimes it wants to be a goofball romantic comedy, with a not entirely unattractive but awkward and unsure leading man chasing after a hot girl that didn’t know he existed 90 minutes ago.  Sometimes it’s a Transition-Into-Adulthood movie, with all of the characters wondering what they’ve done with their lives, and how they’re going to face the long, confusing, boring rest of it.  It tries very hard to be funny, nostalgic, but relevant to today, all at the same time.

The trouble with trying to be all those things, is that you’re unlikely to pull it off.  Instead of feeling real, the characters feel like cutouts.  Instead of being nostalgic, the 80s setting ends up fading into the background.  Instead of being funny, it feels like it’s trying to be moving or inspiring.  Instead of being inspiring, it feels like it’s trying to be funny or outrageous.  Nothing that this film tries to do ends up being accomplished in the end.  It’s a mishmash of great ideas that aren’t pulled off.

Which is exactly why it ends up being terrific at one thing:  Being an 80s movie.  Seriously.  With only a few notable exceptions, the even the best 80s teen/young adult comedies are fucking terrible.  I love them, but I have to be honest.  They’re unrealistic, cutout characters that don’t come off like real people in the least.  The situations they get themselves into are fucking ludicrous.  (Even the most realistic 80s comedy of all, The Breakfast Club, has the pot scene.)  Once you combine the absolutely fantastic soundtrack with the fact that this movie desperately wants to be more than the sum of its parts, you have possibly the best 1980s comedy to be made in years.

That still only nets it 3 stars.

3/5


Phoning It In: R2-D2 Puzz 3D

I feel like I’ve slowed down on my posts this week.  It’s not because I’ve lost interest.  It’s just because this week has afforded me a lot of time to slack off and play video games.  I started out tonight making a post about that.  Then, when it started taking too long, I decided, “Fuck that.”  Instead, I’m going to phone one in.

Here’s a review I made 11 years ago today on an R2-D2 Puzz 3D.  Between the Blu Ray releases, and the recent discussion of 3D this seems kind of fitting.  (Okay, the 3D thing is stretching it a bit.  I doubt there were many puzzle purists railing against the onslaught of 3D puzzles in the marketplace.)

And It Makes A Lovely Hat.

And It Makes A Lovely Hat!

Ahh… the joys of University life. Life is simple in the Joy Kidd Residence. Quiet, Peaceful, Serene. That is until Third River wakes up. The hall has always been synonymous with ridiculousness. Our first year, random hall events such as the Pantsless Drag Races down the hall, were almost constantly getting on the nerves of our proctor (Hall Rule Enforcer Guy), Cam. Often, procrastination creates boredom. This boredom was quite frequently the cause of our ridiculousness. So when we returned the next year, what was Cam to do? The obvious choice was to create a constructive, fun, non-class related project that we could all enjoy. R2-D2 was it. 

Cam had received it as a Christmas present the year before. He was always too busy to be bothered with it. So, he contracted the Ridiculous Fan-Boys of Third River to construct this wondrous monument to that fun loving harbinger of comic relief. 

Of course, we attacked the project with the vigor only a group of young students who will do anything to avoid school work can muster. Most of the work was done by yours truly, and a close personal friend of mine, Brian. I focused on the arms (or legs, I guess) and the half spherical head of that cute little Droid. Brian focused on the torso, and assembling the completed pieces. 

But that’s enough of my pointless story. It’s time to get down to the good and bad things about R2-D2. As far as puzzles go, he is quite a challenge. It took us the better part of a week to build him. There are lots of helpful pictures on the box. I really enjoyed the challenge. But Artoo was great fun to build. After I built the head, I got to wear it around as a hat. When Brian was finished with the torso, we attached that to the head, and I wore that as a hat. I was stylin’. 

There are a few bad things about it. Like after about 5 hours straight of looking at the colors blue, grey and white… your eyes might start bleeding. This is never good. It is time to put the pieces away. 

On a serious note, there are several waste pieces… fortunately, Cam and Brian had gotten rid of most of them before I tackled the project. Also, once you’ve completed the head and torso, they fit together quite well. But the arm-legs don’t attach together all that easily. 

In the Star Wars saga, R2-D2 gets blasted or shot by something at least twice a movie, and it never really phases him. They should make all their vehicles out of the same material as that little guy. This puzzle, however, is not made out of the same alloy. It would take less than a stiff breeze to blow it apart. It needs some kind of sturdy display area, lest there be much swearing in your home as it breaks over and over. 

Our particular package did not have the little voice box thing. So, I can’t really comment on that. Artoo does come with a warranty, though. And apparently Cam was able to get the voice box later through the mail. I hear it is quite annoying to listen to more than once a month. 

Over all, Artoo has his little annoyances, but is extremely fun to build if you are doing it with a bunch of people who are as goofy as you. I’d recommend him to Fan Boys and Girls around the globe. Just don’t push him around too much.

Recommended:  Yes.

As you can see, I’ve never taken a “formal” approach to reviewing.
A few years after I wrote this review, I found another R2-D2 Puzz 3D on super clearance at a department store.  I bought it, and left it unopened.  Not for collector’s value, like most of my unopened Star Wars shit.  But because I knew one day I’d build it, and make Mel laugh again.  She was on the same floor when I built this puzzle, but we didn’t know each other then.  
She laughed senselessly when she saw me wandering around with Artoo on my head as a hat.  Somehow I managed to keep it, unopened and unbuilt, through 6 moves, or more and Jebas knows what else.  Now, it’s been long enough that I’ll wait until I can build it with Charlotte, and make them both laugh senselessly by wearing it as a hat.
If you read all this garbage, Why would you do that?  If you enjoyed it…  Congratulations.. you may just be as batshit crazy as me.

The Lion King (1994)

Disney may be making another mad grab for cash, digging through “the vault” and re-releasing a remastered, 3D-ified The Lion King in theatres this weekend, but that just means it’s even more timely that I review the unremastered, original, March 3rd, 1995 released, VH-fucking-S cassette tape that my family sat down to watch last weekend.

Hashtag:  Old School, Mother Fucker.







The Circle of Life:

Recently, Mel decided that we should have a Wonderful World of Disney type viewing of various Disney classics, and not-so-classics, and ugh-I-hate-that-garbage-ics on Sunday afternoons.  The reason being, because when we were growing up and had to deal with TFC cable, (that’s Two Fucking Channel for the uninitiated) a highly concentrated source of cartoons could be found on CBC when they aired WWoD.  Since we (she) liked this as kids, obviously we need to try to replicate the situation so that Charlotte grows up thinking that all awesome things are awesome and whatever the hell kids are doing these days is lame.  (Hey, I can dream.)

Now, most of our collection of Disney movies is on VHS.  So that meant making sure the VCR was hooked up and working.  A quick run through with a headcleaner a few weeks ago and we were ready to go.  Just pop in The Lion King and enjoy the majesty.

Fuck no.  I forgot Disney movies have commercials.  Shit tons of commercials.  One of the commercials was the entire “Colors of the Wind” sequence from Pocahontas.  So yeah… 20 minutes later and the movie starts.

ZAAAAAAA!  ZE B’WINGYA!  OBADEECHI BADA!  OH WING YAMA!


The Lion King is a great goddamn movie.  In my opinion, it’s probably the best of the Disney movies.  It’s moving.  It’s hilarious.  It’s suspenseful.  The songs are catchy.  The catchphrases are catchier…  I had actually half-forgotten how many quotable lines there were.  The opening sequence is textbook great film making, let alone great animation-making (is that a thing?  That doesn’t sound like a thing.  It can’t be a thing.  I probably shouldn’t use it).  It is outright iconic.  Everyone who has had a child since 1994 has held their baby up into the sunlight muttering “CHUNG!”  Very few scenes are repeated this often in real life.  There’s this, “You Talkin’ To Me?”, The Orange peel from The Godfather, and “I’m King of the World!”

Pictured:  Mandatory Baby Display Technique

But to sum up how great I think this movie is:  Even though it reminds me of a girl that tore my heart out in High School, it’s so fucking good that I watch it anyway… and fucking love it.  But I digress.  I know it’s a complete ripoff of Kimba the White Lion, and it’s still so good that I don’t care.  I know that whining crazy people have tried to ruin it for me by saying Scar is a bad influence on kids because they think he’s gay.  Oh… that makes him a bad influence.  Not regicide… or fucking fratricide… or being such a shit ruler that completely ignores counsel and runs his kingdom into the ground.  Those don’t make him a bad influence… but the fact that his paws are limp during a fucking song and dance number means he’s going to ruin us all.  I know all that… and the movie blocks it out with only the power of its own sheer awesomenitude.

VHS Forever.

So, aside from the total nostalgia trip of the movie… there’s also the nostalgia trip of the technology.  Have you played a VHS tape recently?  Goddamn that is an awesome experience to revisit.  Yes, I’m admitting that, until just recently, I hadn’t really sat down to watch a movie on VHS in years.

I got to run the whole gamut.  I got to get mad at myself for not rewinding.  I got to get mad at myself for not remember to stop rewinding before the previews started.   I got to wonder if auto-tracking was going to be enough, or if I’d have to fiddle with the settings myself.  I got to pause the screen, and have a shaky image with distortions running all through it.  I was warned that the movie had been formatted to fit my screen.  (No it hadn’t.)  When it was over and I rewound it, I got to worry about whether or not the tape was getting eaten.  Damn those VCRs can make some freaky ass sounds.  I swear at one point it sounded like Cookie Monster.

OM NOM NOM!

So… yeah.  I do wish that The Lion King had been re-released a few years from now, instead of now, so that I could have taken Charlotte to go see it.  Regardless, even during an old, worn out, VHS, low definition, mono-sound, 2D viewing The Lion King is still epic.

5/5

Sucker.

So, Mel wanted to go to The Salvation Army (TSA) again tonight.  There was talk of a couch or something there.  I was very worried.  But we went anyway.  Fortunately for me, the couch was a much bigger piece of shit than she had remembered, and far worse than the one we have.  Score.  So I don’t have to move a couch.  With that ordeal wrapping up in my favour, I turned my attention to the kids shit… because as a Fat Guy With Glasses, I still have an unhealthy affinity for plastic molded in the forms of nerd icons and stuff from my childhood.

Turns out there was a C-3PO carrying case that said it was made in ’83.  It wasn’t busted all to fuck, and it was sitting in a bin at TSA, so I was doubtful.  But it was only 2 or 3 bucks or something, so I ended up getting it.  After some quick ebay and Google searches, it turns out it was actually from the mid 90s Star Wars revival.  So it’s not from my childhood at all. I feel duped.  
I know it’s my own fault, though.  There was a time when I could tell you exactly what a Darth Vader with a 2 3/4 inch lightsaber in a 3 3/4 lightsaber tray was worth, when it was produced and what the asian kid that slapped it together made for an hourly wage.  Now I’d have to think about which one was 4-LOM and which one was Zuckuss.  (4-LOM was a droid, so that should make recognition easier, I suppose.)
Pop Quiz! Who’s Who?
I’ve lost touch with my inner Fat Kid With Glasses He Never Wears ‘Cause He’s Still Trying To Fit In.   Sure, I still send him e-mails from time to time… but he’s on Facebook now, and it’s really awkward ’cause I don’t really need to know what his current status is every 3 seconds so I don’t do the whole Facebook thing.  And he’s all uptight about it because everyone’s on Facebook and I should just join Facebook already so we can keep in touch, and I’m all like, “Dude, seriously, back off with the Facebook, ok?” and now we don’t really connect as much as we should.  So I bought him this C-3PO thing and it’s not good enough and now he’s all like “I don’t even like Threepio, douche.”  It’s really annoying too, ’cause things were starting to get better since a few weeks ago I bought him this Spikor figure at this store he really likes for 3 bucks, but now I’ve gone and fucked it all up, I guess.   Way to go, man.  I should plug in the NES and smooth things over, but then he’d probably just bitch about having to give away his Atari again.  Fuckin’ ingrate.