Spin Cycle: Modern Gaming with a Hint of Retro


I don’t game often, but when I do I more often than not enjoy older games. Currently I’m working my way through an assortment of PlayStation 1 and Nintendo 64 games including “The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time,” “Final Fantasy 7,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” and “Metal Gear Solid.” Of the newer games that I’ve played, I tend to enjoy “Diablo 3” type entries much more so than the “Call of Duty” series.

If you’re like me and prefer retro games, definitely check out “Spin Cycle,” a new game developed by The Brave Companions. While the opening screen suggests you use an Xbox 360 controller, you’ll be totally fine with a keyboard (the developers were even kind enough to include the control scheme). First off, you’ll notice the combination of side-scrolling action with updated graphics. Combined with a Nintendo-esque 8-bit soundtrack, memories of blowing into dusty cartridges bubble over like shaken PBR cans.

As the name implies, much of the action implies spinning and jumping: mainly with the intent of leaping across rooftops and traversing up the sides of buildings. “Spin Cycle’s” constantly rainy, grey background, urban environment and ninja protagonist definitely lent the game a neo-noir feel. The development team issued a challenge of beating the game in less than three minutes, a task I failed miserably (while I enjoy gaming, I’d classify myself as an occasional or social gamer). There’s even a playthrough by The Brave Companions so be sure to check that out if you need assistance, or just to be wowed by the ease with which they complete the game.

Although I don’t really game on my phone aside from the occasional bout of Zelda on N64oid or “Max Payne Mobile,” “Spin Cycle” feels like it would translate pretty well to touchscreens, and I’d definitely download this from the Google Play Store or iTunes. For now, it’s only offered on PC but luckily it’s simple graphics allow for any computer to support the game. Plus, it’s free. Just click the download button, save the game, un-RAR, and run the EXE file. If you don’t already have a program capable of uncompressing RAR files, just pick up a freeware one like Free RAR Extract Frog. Be sure to rate “Spin Cycle,” to show the development team some support. Happy gaming!

Black Cauldron Update

As an update to my Black Cauldron review the other day, I’d like to pass along this wonderful video that actor John Hurt was kind enough to pass along. It provides a behind the scenes look at his Horned King voice. Somehow this didn’t make it on the 25th Anniversary DVD…maybe Disney is holding out for a future Blu-Ray release? We can only hope.

X-Files: A Retrospective


“The X-Files.” Most everyone is at least familiar with the long-running, sci-fi classic TV series. Whether you’re a devoted fan who trudged through all nine seasons, or a casual viewer who caught a few 1 am reruns on the Syfy channel you’ve probably seen a few episodes.

My obsession with the franchise began in the days of VCRs and predated our purchase of cable or satellite. Luckily a few tweaks of the bunny ears sent Mark Snow’s warbling theme song blasting over out tinny Zenith speakers.

With a whopping nine seasons and two feature films, I’m often asked about the audience appeal which established the series as longest running sci-fi television franchise until that title was ursurped by “Stargate Sg-1.” The x-factor, shall we call it, was multifaceted. For starters, the 1993 debut of “The X-Files,” captured the paranoia and dark, brooding elements of the early 90’s perfectly. Season one overflows with conspiracies of all sorts. Sure the show had plenty of extraterrestrial episodes, but a better descriptor for content is “supernatural.” The protagonists, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) covered an array of cases dealing with topics including aliens, religion, mythical creatures, and overall government mistrust.

Viewing flexibility afforded by the structure of the show also helped the show gain popularity. While there were continuous story arcs which required audiences to follow the series closely, each season contained mostly standalone “monster-of-the-week” shows. These were basically unrelated cases Mulder and Scully investigated, and allowed viewers to casually drop in and out without missing much. You could, for the most part, follow the main storyline by just watching story arc episodes. That being said, some of the best entries in the series were monster-of-the-week episodes, so you’ll probably want to check those out as well.

What really brought “The X-Files” together, on top of the varying subject matter and episodic content was the chemistry between Mulder and Scully. From season one, their opposing personalities and fields of expertise foster a love-hate relationship. Scully’s work is grounded in scientific fact, while “Spooky” Mulder as he is called behind his back operates in the supernatural realm. It isn’t until the later seasons (eight and nine) that the pair really express and acknowledge their mutual romantic feelings.

As with most TV series’, early seasons of the show were superior to later ones. Particularly, seasons eight and nine bothered me mainly because of Mulder’s replacement by John Doggett, portrayed by Robert Patrick (famous for his role as the shape-shifting Terminator in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”). I admit Doggett grew on me after a while, but he wasn’t nearly as well-rounded a character as Mulder. David Duchovny, couldn’t you have waited until the conclusion of ‘The X-Files” to enter into sex addiction therapy?

“The X-Files” is available on dvd in individual season sets, mythology (story arc) packs, and a complete series set which includes the first film and a bundle of other goodies. For those who prefer digital distribution, you can purchase the show on iTunes, Amazon, and a handful of other sites. And Netflix was kind enough to add the entire set to its streaming catalog, which is a fantastic deal for anyone looking to delve into the series. You can look up the mythology episodes and just watch those, but if you’re considering starting “The X-Files,” I really recommend watching the whole thing. I’ve listed my top 10 episodes below:

1. Little Green Men

2. The Host

3. Duane Barry/Ascension

4. Colony/End Game

5. Blood

6. Die Hand Die Verletzt

7. Paper Clip

8. 731

9. Home

10. Arcadia

A word of advice on the films: The first feature film, set between seasons five and six, is great. It plays out like an extended TV episode. Avoid the second X-Files movie. I admit I couldn’t suffer through more than 20 minutes of the painfully slow, clichéd box office bomb. Stick to the show and the first film.

Happy watching!

The Black Cauldron


When you set out to watch a Disney film, you’re probably looking for cartoon dancing animals, frequent songs, and a predictable plot. That’s the Mickey Mouse Mold. And it doesn’t apply to “The Black Cauldron,” by any stretch of the imagination.

As a child, I had the oversized Disney board book of “The Black Cauldron,” but it wasn’t until almost 20 years later that I watched the film. And that’s probably for the best. Before delving into this surprisingly entertaining fantasy narrative, be warned that it is NOT intended for younger audiences. Accordingly, the MPAA awarded this movie a PG rating, a rarity for animated Disney films.

The plot is a classic fantasy tale which works quite well for the Disney model. The narrative froths over with unlikely heroes and friendships, sinister villains, and enough dramatic tension to keep you on the edge of your seat despite your knowledge that everything will work out in the end. Based on Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series, the film follows a young pig-keeper, Taran, who dreams of becoming a courageous knight. Supposedly, the film deviates substantially from the book, but I can’t speak on that having never read the novel. Taran is charged with protecting a psychic pig from the demonic Horned King and, naturally, accidentally releases the pig into the Horned King’s eager grasp. In his attempt to rescue the pig Taran himself is captured, though escapes with the help of Princess Eilonwy, a young girl who acts a foil and love interest for Taran, a bumbling minstrel named Fflewddur, and a magic sword. During their journey they team up with Gurgi, an ambiguous, hairy creature with an affinity for apples.

The story is driven by the Horned King’s quest for the Black Cauldron, a device he plans to use to resurrect his army of undead warriors, dubbed the “Cauldron Born.” The quartet of Taran, Elionwy, Fflweddur, and Gurgi search for the Cauldron themselves in the hopes of destroying it to save the land of Prydain. In this respect, the ragtag gang of heroes pitted against a frightening cast of purely malevolent foes presents itself as a very Disney film. Yet here the Disney ties cease.

Unlike most Disney animated pieces, there are no songs. That’s not to say there isn’t any music. The score, composed by Elmer Bernstein known for a slew of films including “The Ten Commandments,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “Animal House,” provides an appropriate backdrop to the film. During the lazy sequences where Taran and his pig Hen Wen stroll through rolling green hills the music waltzes along with them. When the Horned King appears, Bernstein queues the ominous bass notes to induce tension. If you’re looking for sing-alongs, pull out the rest of the Disney catalog. Not even Fflewddur the minstrel sings.

Further differentiating the film from the Disney cookie cutter is the animation. It’s very experimental, comparable to “Fantasia.” The Cauldron Born rise out of this glowing green mist the same color as the Slimers from “Ghostbusters.” The mist actually looks pretty realistic, for fluorescent-green mist that is. Perspective changes and color choice also help to set the atmosphere of the movie. The majority of “The Black Cauldron” backgrounds are comprised of brooding purples, burnt oranges, muddy browns, and velvety blacks. The Horned King, appropriately named for the antler horns atop his helmet is a skeletal creature with glowing red eyes and a raspy cough-like voice brilliantly executed by actor John Hurt (“Alien,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,”). Scenes of the Horned King, particularly close ups of his face, and his army of Cauldron Born are sure to scare small children. Or your middle-aged mother if she’s in the room.

Perspective changes experiment with animation and add depth to various scenes. As Taran and Hen Wen walk away from the Forbidden Forest (yes, this predates Harry Potter so not sure what to make of that…) the tree-lined path in the foreground is flat and provides the feel of a long distance shot with Taran and Hen Wen in the background. Possible the most amazing scene in the whole film is the dragon chase scene were Hen Wen is captured. The animators played around with angles to provide a 3D feel and even feature some shots as if a camera were attached to the underbelly of a dragon.

With the psychedelic colors, a gripping fantasy tale, and arguably the most impressive hand-drawn animation of any Disney film, “The Black Cauldron,” is certainly a movie you won’t want to pass over. Unfortunately it isn’t on Netflix Streaming, but throw it in your queue or pick it up on dvd. The special edition retails for about 10 dollars, and this is definitely one to own.

Mission Impossible 3 Review


Strange things happen when you’re poking around Netflix streaming. Like you rediscover pretty good movies which you forgot about. Recently I found “Mission Impossible 3” on streaming and rewatched it. For some reason MI1 and MI3 are available instantly but MI2 is only on DVD. I’ll have to watch it again but I recall the second entry in the series to be subpar, though this may have been based entirely upon the Limp Bizkit theme song.

After seeing “MI3” again, it resonated with me as the strongest in the series. While “Ghost Protocol” received pretty good reviews, it is still sitting in my Netflix queue, so I cannot pass judgment. “Mission Impossible 3” starts off with a pseudo-retired Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). Although he intends to give up his life of espionage, settle down and get married, the audience and the Impossible Mission Force know this will not occur.

“Mission Impossible 3” stands out from its predecessors largely due to the acting, setting, directing, and a sense of genre. MI3 does not attempt to be anything greater than what it is: an action film. Rather, by accepting its fate of featuring outlandish, improbable and sometimes, yes, impossible stunts the movie becomes great. A tongue in cheek approach emerges as the film progresses through both dialogue and acting. Ethan Hunt devises a plan to steal the mythical rabbit’s foot, a generic biological weapon. True to the foundation of the “Mission Impossible” series, Hunt’s proposal involves using himself as a human slingshot and propelled onto a building. From there he slides down the glass roof, shoots the guards while skiing down on his back, pops in the building, grabs the weapon, parachutes out and back in time for tea. While rehearsing the plan, one of his team of rogue IMF employees remarks that the idea seems preposterous. Well, isn’t that the point of the movie?

Through this resignation and admittance of improbability, the film is able to overcome it’s outlandishness. By not taking itself too seriously, it is actually a great film. The highlight of the film is when the IMF crew break in to Vatican City. Hunt rappels up a wall, lays on top in the buildup to a seemingly dramatic moment. As the camera zooms in on his prone figure, he turns his head and says “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…” As if this isn’t surreal enough, a minute later Hunt is seen strolling about the Vatican dressed in priest regalia. The image is especially hilarious and ironic considering Cruise’s status as a scientologist. Through these and other similar moments, the film adopts a rather psychedelic quality, emphasized by exotic set pieces of Vatican City, dilapidated Chinese apartments, and even a field of wind turbines. Towards the beginning of the film, after rescuing an IMF agent being held hostage, Ethan Hunt and team embark on a helicopter chase through a wind turbine farm. The chances of escaping from a similar situation in the real world are, once again, impossible, but that doesn’t matter. Monolithic turbines, graceful in their silent, slow movements act as a foil for the miniscule choppers weaving in between the pillars and firing rockets at one another.

While the set and self-awareness of the film are great, the acting is superb. Tom Cruise, whatever you may think of him, is a seasoned actor. Yet it is arguably the cast around him which propel the film to the forefront of the trilogy. Ving Rhames puts in a performance as a tough talking, advice giving member of Hunt’s IMF squad, Luther Strickell. Acting as head of IMF is Theodore Brassel, played excellently by the ever brooding Laurence Fishburne. And the multi-talented Philip Seymour Hoffman, possibly the most underrated actor of all time, nails the part of the villain, arms dealer Owen Davian. Davian is calm and collected even when shooting people in the head, torturing IMF agents, and being tortured or transported himself.

The film actually opens with Ethan’s fiancé being shot in the head by Davian, and about three quarters of the way through the film the movie picks up from here again. There are a couple big twists which I didn’t see coming the first time I watched MI3, and didn’t remember the second time through. Overall, the film, despite being somewhat formulaic, is definitely worth a watch. “Mission Impossible 3” works as part of a trilogy or as a standalone film. If you’ve got some spare time, you should take another look at MI3. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. Sure, it might not be mind blowing or revolutionary like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” or “The Big Lebowski,” but it isn’t supposed to be. Why mess with a good, reliable system that you know works when you can just spice it up a bit?

“A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” Review

Well, it’s that time of year again. Halloween. And as part of the October tradition, millions all over the world dust off the old horror film collection in preparation for the festivities. There are a lot of horror films out there, and a number of classics were followed by an obscene amount of sequels.

Although it’s likely you’ve seen “A Nightmare On Elm Street,” the chances you’ve seen the 8 other movies in the canon is unlikely. I actually tried to make it through each “Nightmare On Elm Street” movie and couldn’t make it past number 5. Mainly this was from the seemingly recycled script and predictability of the gags. Nevertheless, some of the sequels are actually pretty good and worth a watch. While they may not be as good as the original, this is to be expected. Instances in which a movie sequel rivals the original are few and far between.


Possibly my favorite entry in the series, besides the first film, is “A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.”   Nightmare part 2 is a decent follow-up and pretty entertaining, but it doesn’t feature any of the same characters besides Freddy, and he doesn’t even get much screen time. “Dream Warriors” on the other hand features the return of Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson, the protagonist from Nightmare part 1. By this time she is a psychiatrist attempting to help a new group of teenagers now being haunted in their dreams by Freddy.


The kids are locked in a psychiatric hospital, because their parents don’t believe their nightmares are real. Naturally. So Nancy shows up to save the day. The unique personalities of the teenage patients really make the film shine. Kristen, the new girl, has the ability to pull people into her dream, and as such empowers the rest of the gang to take control while in the dream world and fight back. Taryn, a former drug addict dons a leather suit and gloves and battles Freddy with switch blades. Will, confined to a wheelchair morphs into a Dungeons and Dragons character because of his obsession with the game. Roland becomes a strong badass…I think you get the picture. Basically, the kids have the ability to manifest their personalities in dream form and use their skills to battle Freddy.


Not surprisingly, while the kids can fight back there are still several death scenes, which in true “Nightmare On Elm Street” fashion are usually rather comical. Going into the Nightmare series, it’s pretty evident that the movies are meant to be campy and tongue in cheek. If you’re looking for another “The Shining,” this isn’t it. One kid gets thrown off a balcony by Freddy, controlling him from above as a puppet on strings. The aspiring actress, Jennifer, is thrust head first into a television and electrocuted as Freddy exclaims “Welcome to primetime bitch!” In true Krueger form, he spouts one-liners off whenever he has the chance. The one-liner count actually rivals the body count here.

Another enjoyable aspect of the film is learning about Freddy’s backstory. The ghost or spirit of his mother, Amanda Krueger, shows up regularly and we find out that she was actually a nun and nurse in the hospital many years before. Amanda interestingly enough becomes a main character resurfacing in several later films, notably “A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.” Parts 4 and 5 follow part 3 so if you get a chance you might want to check them out even though they aren’t quite as good as “Dream Warriors.”


If you’re jonesing for some laughs and need to get your Freddy fix, consider “A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.” At just under an hour and a half, “Dream Warriors” is relatively short. While it may not be the most original or revolutionary film ever made, it’s pretty entertaining and a great way to get into the Halloween spirit.

1976 King Kong Review

You might be familiar with “King Kong,” but there is a strong possibility you missed this version. And for good reason. One oft, and understandably overlooked iteration is Dino De Laurentiis’ 1976 “King Kong.” It truly falls into the so-bad-it’s-good category, and the one redeeming quality it possesses is the appearance of Jeff “The Dude” Bridges. And believe me, this movie is very undude, dude.

The first thing you’ll notice is the cheesy not-quite 80’s music as the opening credits roll for an obnoxiously long time. From here you pretty much know the story, so I won’t explain the plot too much. The Petrox Oil Company sends a ship to an unexplored island in search of a supposed oil deposit, and an apparently drunken Jack Prescott (Bridges) stows away aboard the ship. We find out he is a primate paleontologist trying to warn the crew that they may discover more than oil on the island. Careful man, there’s a primate here! On the journey there a lifeboat conveniently deposits an aspiring actress Dawn (Jessica Lange) on the ship. I find it kind of ironic that Lange portrays a low-budget wannabe actress, because her role in the film is completely cliché. She plays a dumb blond solely in the movie for her part of love interest for Prescott and King Kong.

Apart from the abysmal music, trite dialogue, and stereotyped characters, what really makes the film go from mediocre to terrible are the mistakes. In one scene the team happens upon a massive wall which all but Prescott believe to be uninhabited ruins…until they hear drumming from within the fortress. The all-knowing expert Prescott hypothesizes that the building’s purpose is to keep out a giant primate. Far out man, far fuckin’ out. Then the scene cuts to the scouting party sitting behind a pile of rocks on a hill within the compound. So if a bunch of humans can easily clamber over the walls, how is this thing supposed to keep out a massive gorilla? And why do Prescott and company seem surprised when they are noticed by the natives? In the grand scheme of things, this is the least of the movie’s problems.

Graphically, the movie isn’t spectacular, but I won’t hate on the Technicolor red skies too much considering it was made in the 70’s. Some problems are really inexcusable though, like contrast in lighting effects when Kong is holding Dawn on the island. The shots of Kong make it seem like dusk, with a red-orange sky, but when it pans to Dawn the jungle is extremely bright as if it is midday. There really isn’t any excuse for such inconsistency.

The first time I watched the movie, I was doped up on pain meds after surgery so I didn’t really notice these problems. Watching it sober the film was equally as funny, and there were some enjoyable scenes. One of the highlights is a battle between a giant snake and King Kong. Monster showdowns are pretty enjoyable for the most part and this doesn’t disappoint, despite the lack of realism. Kong’s rampage through New York culminating in his World Trade Center climb is done really well, and I actually prefer it to the CGI that would have been used now.

Although it is unbelievably cheesy, I also enjoy the oil company plot and their willingness to exploit native people, animals and environments. This notion is particularly relevant today with companies more willing to pursue offshore oil extraction and mountaintop removal for coal rather than consider alternatives such as wind and solar. Now, I don’t mean to imply that the director meant to make this point because I honestly don’t such a complex thought even crossed his mind in the creation of this film. Any such messages are purely coincidental.

Altogether, the movie is pretty bad, but I’d recommend it if you have some spare time and want a few laughs. Then again, that’s just like, my opinion man.