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Aug 172016
 

Remember the old classic arcade games of the early 1980s like Asteroids, Space Invaders, Defender, Frogger, etc.? Well here’s a movie that puts them all together with a modern twist called Pixels.

Home theater installer Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) was once a video game wizard and even entered an arcade world competition. The secret to his success was memorizing the patterns. Unfortunately, Sam lost on the final game, Donkey Kong. You’ve got to admit that it’s a hard one, since remembering patterns isn’t always the key to succeeding like many video games we have today.

After the competition ends, the footage from it gets put in a time capsule and sent out into space in hopes of finding alien life. Thirty years later, aliens did find the capsule and saw it as a declaration of war, even though that was not Earth’s intention at all. It often seems like any gesture of peace toward extraterrestrials ends up mistaken for war. Like on Mars Attacks when a dove was released, then the aliens go crazy and shoot everyone.

When the aliens arrive on Earth, they attack in the forms of the old classic video game characters, starting with Galaga, then Arknoid. Luckily, Sam’s best friend Will Cooper (Kevin James) is the President of the United States, since Sam’s expertise in gaming is the key to stopping these aliens from destroying the planet. Sam needed that connection so he would be allowed to share his knowledge with the government despite that everyone thinks that President Cooper is a buffoon.

With the assistance of conspiracy nut Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad) and Lieutenant Colonel Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan) a new squad is formed called the Arcaders. However, it also includes Sam’s old nemesis and arrogant gaming champ Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage).

The next game the aliens attack with is Centipede. The look from the original game was pretty tame, but this new updated look is cooler and edgier. The battle was exciting and smooth once Sam and Ludlow had the opportunity to take action themselves, even with the giant spiders jumping around.

It’s also neat that even though the aliens don’t show their true forms, they disguise themselves as celebrities from the 80s like Ronald Reagan, Hall & Oates, and young Madonna. Even Max Headroom (Matt Frewer) makes an appearance. Remember that character?

The next game is PAC-Man, a true classic, but as a twist PAC-Man is the enemy. Sam, Ludlow, and Eddie drive cars that represent the ghosts in a wild action sequence. If you thought that it couldn’t get any more exciting, think again.

In the climax, the Arcaders face their greatest challenge yet, Donkey Kong. What are the odds that it’s the one game Sam struggles with most? On the other hand, it’s so awesome that you get to see the game play from such an intense angle.

Although it’s definitely not something you would expect from an Adam Sandler film, Pixels was a creative movie about a love for video games that has plenty of nostalgic value as well as Adam Sandler’s brand of comedy. It’s especially humorous with Q-Bert’s antics.

Jun 222016
 

Normally I don’t do follow-ups from previous top 10 lists, but I recently found other pop culture villains I’d like to add. Feel free to check my other list of Top 10 Underrated Villains for a comparison. So here’s another group of favorites.

#10) Spell Binder from The Electric Company (70s version): He is the arch nemesis of Letterman in the reoccurring Letterman animated segments. Spell Binder likes to cause chaos by magically changing letters in words, thus also changes the object, only to be defeated by Letterman who uses letters to change the words and object back to normal. Spell Binder does appear lame compared to other villains, but if you think about it, the chaos he causes is pretty effective in the long run.

#9) Scorpina from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Let’s face it. She was a standout villainess when she fought alongside Goldar. However, Scorpina was removed from the show due to lack of footage, which is understandable. On a side note, Lamy from Super Sentai Zyuranger, who was later known as Scorpina, was just as interesting after seeing what footage had not been used on Power Rangers. My only real concern was that Scorpina wasn’t written out of the show gradually. She just suddenly vanished with no explanation of what became of her.

Mezmeron

#8) Mezmeron from PAC-Man the Animated Series: Normally, PAC-Man’s enemies are the ghosts. In this version, the ghosts have a master who appears more intimidating. As powerful as Mezmeron is, he never fights his own battles. More importantly, this is the only version of PAC-Man he’s ever been featured and even then he hardly ever appeared. It would’ve been nice to see this villain more often, possibly as a final boss in the video game. That already sounds awesome.

Lorena from True Blood

#7) Lorena (Mariana Klaveno) from True Blood: Of all the vampires on this show, I find Lorena the most incredible. When it comes to love, she is very possessive and can be short tempered from time to time, especially if anyone speaks against her. Even though Lorena was slayed, I might have expected her to return later on in the series. I mean, if slayed vampires can return on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, why not on True Blood? Of course, that never happened.

#6) Lord Maliss from Happily Ever After: He’s the brother of the Wicked Queen from Snow White that’s even more dangerous. This dark wizard can turn into a dragon and has a cape that can turn anyone into stone. On top of that, no other version of Snow White has such a character. So Maliss truly stands out, even though his only true goal is revenge.

#5) Taminella Grinderfall from Muppets franchise: This classic wicked witch character is an oldie but a goodie. Whether her evil plots are scary or goofy, Taminella was what helped make the classic Muppet Fairytale specials so magical and exciting as part of the fantasy genre, next to King Goshposh and Featherstone. With the Muppets still hugely popular, Taminella has never made an attempt for a comeback. It would be nice if she did. That is, whenever the Muppets decide to make a new fantasy film someday.

#4) Vam-Mi from Ninja Turtles: the Next Mutation: When it comes to vampire women, it seems like Vam-Mi is one of the least likely to come to mind. However, this 2000-year-old Chinese vampire is both dangerous and powerful despite that she can also be a total drama queen when things don’t go right. I find Vam-Mi as interesting as she is unique. Too bad she only appeared in the four-part episode “Unchain My Heart” and was never featured in the franchise again afterward.

Cracklin the Wizard

#3) Cracklin from The Adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy: I’ll admit that it can be hard to take this dark wizard seriously as a villain because of his intense allergies to animal hair. As the arch nemesis of the Raggedys, Cracklin is very fearsome and powerful when it comes to using magic and will do anything to become even more powerful. His reasons are unknown as well as his background, but one thing is for certain. Cracklin is not one to take lightly, even if his sneezing is strong like the wind.

#2) Zira from The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride: Most of the Disney villains are hugely popular, even the ones that were only in one movie. Zira is one of few who are often overlooked. Sure, Scar was an interesting villain, but Zira is even more ruthless. Even though she was never mentioned in the first movie, Zira knew Scar before his demise and seeks revenge on Simba. She’ll do anything to kill Simba, including training her own cubs to hate and kill. Now that’s just low.

#1) False Face from Batman franchise: Of all the villains Batman has gone up against, this is the creepiest and most mysterious. He’s a master of disguise and commits crimes by leaving his calling card, a false quote. False Face has appeared in several different versions of Batman, which includes Batman Beyond, but the one I remember best is his appearance in Batman (60s version). As one of the most difficult criminals to catch, False Face isn’t featured often. He’s also not on the same level of popularity as Joker, Penguin, Riddler, etc., but I think he ought to be, despite that his origin story isn’t revealed.

Jun 182014
 

I have now reached my 700th post, which is about something really nostalgic. I can remember the first video game console I ever played was the Atari 2600 and I admit that the graphics and game play were a lot different compared to the video games we have today. However, if you still long for this kind of nostalgia, many of the old classic titles return all on one game called Atari Anthology for the Playstation 2.

To make this Atari set more interesting, the menu screens are up to date graphics of outer space. With each game you go to a different planet. It’s appropriate because if you think about it, many of the old Atari games were different types of space shooters. Sometimes though, the quick transition from new graphics to the old ones does take some getting used to.

There are 85 different games featured. Some I remember more than others. The ones I remember best include the classic space shooter Asteroids. The cute mind game Hangman.

Video Pinball that I still find particularly fun. Demons and Diamonds the quirky laser shooter game.

Casino a simple card game with interesting sound effects but was difficult to understand back in the day. And Atari Air-Sea Battle where you blast different vehicles in a continuous loop. I always loved the explosions.

I also remember Surround, but it’s hard to play without a second player. Why does this game not have a one-player mode like other games?

Many of the other games on this one disk set are ones I never heard of before. Whether they were quest games like the Sword Quest trilogy, first person shooters like Gravitar, sport games like Double Dunk, old arcade titles like Centipede, etc.; they all had something in common. I either don’t understand it, or the control is awkward. Sure the joystick control was tough before, but even now with this modern PS2 controller, it’s still difficult if not worse and there’s no need for that.

If you think Atari Anthology features every Atari game ever made, it doesn’t. I know because there are games I remember playing back in the day that aren’t included. It’s a real letdown, especially because some of the games this set of Atari titles does not include are Space Invaders and the original PAC-Man. Now those games were classics. Now I can understand not including titles that are based on movie and TV franchises like Star Wars, Superman, Spiderman, Indiana Jones, GI Joe, and E.T., but come on. Why leave out the true Atari classics?

The only other Atari game I remember that also wasn’t featured is Cosmic Ark, where you block meteors from different angles to protect your ship and collect an endless number of specimens. The control was a bit awkward when I played it years ago, but I liked the effects of the ship getting blown up.

Overall, Atari Anthology does have both good points and bad points. What I admire most about this title is how it provides the ability to ditch your old media and not have to lose your favorite old material. It’s like having old movies and TV shows on DVD or Blu-ray instead of VHS.

Sep 272013
 

Like many of you, video games have been a big part of my life growing up with iconic characters that are still popular even today. Wreck-It Ralph provides a whole new perspective of that world. Who would’ve thought that after the arcade closes every night, the characters of every game come together and can travel to different game worlds, thanks to a public transportation area called Game Central Station. I haven’t seen anything like that since Captain N: The Game Master.

There are quite a few classic video game characters featured from franchises like Street Fighter, PAC-Man, Q-Bert, Sonic the Hedgehog, Frogger, Dig Dug, even King Bowser makes an appearance. However, this movie is not about any of them. It’s about Wreck-it Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) the villain of Fix-it Felix Jr., who wants to be a good guy because he feels lonely and unappreciated. In a way, this game reminds me of classic Donkey Kong.

At Anime Festival Orlando 2012, I met Kyle Hebert who voiced Ryu from Street Fighter.

Ralph isn’t alone though. Other video game villains can relate to how he feels. Can you believe that they actually have a support group for these guys?

The hero of Fix-it Felix Jr. of course is Fix-it Felix Jr. (voice of Jack McBrayer), who has jumping ability much like the Mario brothers and a magic hammer that can easily fix anything as good as new. Although Felix and Ralph are enemies in their game, there’s no real hatred between them, but the other characters are another matter.

Ralph is now determined to win their respect by getting a medal, but since only heroes can earn medals, he goes to a military sci-fi shooter game called Hero’s Duty. There he must fight Cy-bugs and climb the tower, which isn’t easy. The Cy-bugs become whatever they consume and unlike other video game villains, these creepy bugs are wild monsters. The only way to control them is with a giant beacon that works like a giant bug zapper.

Ralph does get the medal, but it doesn’t go smoothly. He accidentally brings a Cy-bug with him as he ends up in Sugar Rush, which is a go-kart racing game in a world made of candy and ice cream. The racers inside this game remind me of the characters from Strawberry Shortcake.

One major issue for video game characters is that if they are caught out of their game, the players will think the game is broken and will possibly end up unplugged. To keep that from happening, Felix goes to find Ralph along with Sargent Calhoun (voice of Jane Lynch) the hero of Hero’s Duty. She is one tough chick, but I think it’s cute that Felix has fallen in love with her.

Meanwhile, Ralph meets Vanellope Von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) who is one of the racers in Sugar Rush, but is also a glitch. She steals Ralph’s medal and he’s determined to get it back, but after seeing a whole different side to Vanellope, they become friends.

A common term mentioned throughout the movie is “Going Turbo”. At first I thought it had something to do with Street Fighter 2 Turbo, but it isn’t until much later on when the meaning is finally revealed. Years ago there was a racing game called Turbo Time and the hero Turbo loved the popularity. Then when another racing game came along, Turbo got so jealous he snapped, which led to both games getting unplugged for good. No one has seen Turbo since, but he sure left his mark in the arcade community.

This is by far one of the most creative films I have seen about video games in a long time. It’s nice to know that the 8-bit era can still be as popular with today’s standards as it is nostalgic.

One last item: At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I got to meet Ralph and Vanellope at a character greeting.

Jan 112013
 

We all know about the classic PAC-Man video game franchise, which is about clearing the maze of pellets while dodging colorful ghosts. What’s also a classic is the cartoon series Pac-Man: The Complete First Season and Pac-Man: The Complete Second Season (1982-1983), which is about PAC-Man’s adventures in his hometown PAC-Land. No, it’s not a giant maze like in the video games.

PAC-Man’s look is also different from the video games. He actually has arms and legs, just as all of the citizens of PAC-Land do. I guess this helps liven up the characters a bit.

PAC-Man is no lone warrior. He’s actually a family man. His wife is Miss PAC-Man, though her first name is revealed to be Pepper, and they have a son named PAC-Baby. The PAC-Man family also has two pets, Chomp-Chomp the dog and Sourpuss the cat.

Of course, what’s PAC-Man without the ghost monsters? These characters were livened up for this series as well. The ghost monsters Clyde, Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Sue are portrayed as a group of gangsters that are always out to chomp PAC-Man and his family every chance they can get. When that happens, the PAC-Man family does a lot of running, but once they eat some power pellets, it’s their turn to chomp the ghost monsters. This has happened a number of times, yet the ghost monsters always happen to have spare sheets to revitalize themselves.

Mezmeron

What’s also very different about this series is that the ghost monsters have a master. He is a mysterious being known as Mezmeron. Now this guy used to creep me out. Oddly, Mezmeron isn’t featured as often as the ghost monsters. Is he afraid to leave his castle or something?

This was a good series based on the PAC-Man video games. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that there is no bonus fruit featured. So what do you suppose PAC-Man has for dessert after a meal of power pellets and ghost monsters?