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Clerks (2000–2001)
Hilarious, but disjointed.
8 July 2000
It's really too bad that Clerks was up against the two highest rated events of the summer season- Survivor on CBS and the NBA Finals on NBC. I'm sure that the unfortunate scheduling contributed heavily to the lack of ratings; in some markets, including mine, the second episode wasn't even shown, because of the heavyweight competition. (Luckily, my local station sent me a videocassette of ep. 2.)

Both episodes of Clerks were hilarious, but not uniformly so. There are parts of both episodes that dragged, and parts of both that actually kind of shocked me. (Randall explaining to the jury how alike they and Dante are; the Indian convenience store). My friends and I, while enjoying the show immensely, realized there was no way the average viewer would even understand much of the cartoon, let alone appreciate the in-jokes and find the whole affair funny- in fact, there are parts of each that many would find downright offensive. While we wish the show would have continued (and perhaps with more equal competition, the show could have matured into something really good), perhaps it's best that the shows just come out on video for the benefit of the converted.

My main problem with the show was the stylistic similarity to "The Critic"- most of the jokes were not only pop-culture based, but they were essentially non-sequiters, contributing nothing to the story. Their use in the original movie fit in with the feel of the film- that of bored coworkers who are just killing time. They felt awkward, though, nestled in the sitcom-like plot of the cartoon.

All in all- recommended for the Clerks fans out there; everyone else may want to see the movies before seeing the cartoon.
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Sientje (2000)
Basic animation for a simple tale of a tantrum-throwing child.
20 June 2000
I saw this in the theatrical compilation Spike and Mike's Classic Festival of Animation; it was neither the zenith or nadir of the show.

A simplistically rendered girl (who looks much like the comic strip character "Cathy") screams and cries, and her environment changes to reflect her thoughts and mood. After she's finished, we discover she's been in a sort of time-out room, and her mother comes inside and gets her.

That's about it. There is no underlying meaning or symbolism (that I picked up anyway). It seemed to be an exercise in animation, and an experiment in visually showing inner emotions.

The one thing that is impressive is that this is the director's first work; while just average as a short, it's impressive for a first effort.
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Perfect Blue (1997)
Simply okay.
10 December 1999
I've been wanting to see Perfect Blue since I saw magazine ads for the theatrical release; it never made it to an Indianapolis theatre, however, and I made do with the recent VHS release.

The box promises a psychological thriller on a par with Hitchcock's work- as much as I love anime, I honestly can't give PB such high marks. It's a bit better than a Verhoeven potboiler, but nowhere near the level of a Hitchcock. The main plot points (and the suspense) are very cliched and overused- if it weren't for the psychological angle, the entire story would be a waste of time.

The sub-plots were interesting, but as many others have pointed out, it's best to be aware of or accepting of some very Japanese pop-culture standards, such as the pop-idol phenomena, the sex video industry, etc. The differences between Japanese and American cultures are very pronounced sometimes, and the fact that the storyline revolves around Japanese pop-culture may make the movie off-putting for casual fans.

The animation wasn't as spectacular as I was expecting- this is my own fault, rather than the movie's. I've come to expect a certain level of animation prowess in theatrical releases, and this felt more like an OVA. The animation is quite serviceable, though.

Character designs are a bit bland. The deformed appearance of the boy (Me-Mania) makes it obvious early on who the culprit is going to be. Character voices (English translation) are okay- I've heard worse. The song translation is well done, but I'm not a big fan of j-pop...

In the end- I don't mean to sound too down on Perfect Blue. I don't feel it's an appropriate movie for non-anime fans, but if you do like anime, it's a decent purchase.
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Joy and Joan (1985)
Great Brigitte Lahaie vehicle; so-so book adaptation.
7 November 1999
As far as "anonymous"-written soft-core pornographic books go, the Joy series can be considered a classic with Fanny Hill and The Story of O. Certainly not as well known as the others, but fairly erotic and entertaining...

Joy: Chapter 2 is an adaptation of the second book (usually titles Joy and Joan); as an adaptation, it barely follows in the book's tracks. As soft-core in its own right, however, it's a great movie.

Joy is played by Brigitte Lahaie- a distinctive looking (and beautiful) actress known mostly in America for her role as a prostitute in Henry & June, but known more in Europe for being a former hardcore porn actress and star of many exploitation films afterwards. Basically, in this film, Joy runs away from her sexually-abusive husband, and goes overseas. There she meets and becomes sexually involved with a young woman (girl in the book), while being tailed by a man whose intentions are unknown.

Obviously, the main draw of this film isn't the story, but the sex scenes- which are plenty. Brigitte is, as mentioned above, unique looking- she is not your run-of-the-mill sex kitten. She takes her role and runs with it; no matter how non-explicit her scenes are, she's great to watch, and she really knows what she's doing during the sex scenes. Her female partner (whose real name escapes me) also comes across well; she seems to be younger and energetic, and she provides a contrast to the more mature and thoughtful role Brigitte plays.

Are there better movies of this type? Probably. Are there better Brigitte Lahaie movies? Probably. But Joy: Chapter 2 is still an entertaining romp, that may just make you into a fan of Brigitte, too.
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Toy Story (1995)
Despite the Disney conventions, a very entertaining film.
6 November 1999
I avoided this movie for a long time- in fact, I only ended up seeing it due to the influence of

I am forever indebted to this movie for re-igniting interest in Tron (my sentimental favorite movie of-all-time); but besides this, TS is an incredibly entertaining movie in its own right.

I was familiar with Pixar animation before TS; I actually stayed away from this movie because I didn't want to have my opinions altered by the presence of Disney. I now wish I had seen this movie years ago, instead of waiting for a cheap LD clearance sale.

TS, while adhering to Disney movie traditions, is an entertaining diversion, and historically important as a computer-rendered movie to boot. The difference between Disney and Pixar sensibilities concerning humor are evident early on; one is thankful that Disney gave so much lee-way to Pixar concerning story and dialogue. While I can't say that I was as entertained by the goings-on as average Disney fans, I can say that the results are much better than standard Disney fare. (In fact, if you can find this for under $50 on laserdisc, I can assure that your entertainment dollar is well-spent)

The LD contains the pre-TS Pixar shorts (worth the price of admission) as well as director's comments, and much more. The LD is probably the best deal I've had in a while, and I recommend that everyone- despite their feelings towards Disney- get this LD set. I hope that Disney comes out with an equivalent set for DVD users; everyone deserves to have access to this.

An amazing film, seemingly light-years beyond what Disney is capable of. I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel.
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Miracle Mile (1988)
Perhaps unbelievable, but a still-powerful story of romance.
6 November 1999
I was originally a fan of this movie because of the end-of-the-world themes; I still enjoy those themes. But since I've become older (and married) I've come to appreciate the romantic themes.

The story revolves (mostly) around a person who believes the world is going to end, and who is determined to save the one girl who's shown interest in him.

I don't wish to give away the entire (obvious) plot- suffice it to say that my wife was crying at the end, and that for the romantic-at-heart, there'd be no better ending possible to a nuclear-holocaust story.

I was a fan of this movie as a pre-teen, and paid over $100 for this movie as an adult. hat should hopefully show how powerful and moving this movie is...
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Luxo Jr. (1986)
Transcends computer animation.
6 November 1999
At the time of Luxo Jr., there was a lot of experimentation going on using computer animation- most of the resulting shorts seemed to be concerned with showing off the new zooming/tracking/etc technologies. (Who, interested in early computer animation, hasn't seen a plethora of shorts that involve zooming around a bunch of dolphins?)

Unlike other contemporary shorts, Pixar shorts attempted to tell a story rather than concentrate on life-like movements of animals (like the aforementioned dolphins or ostriches.) Because of the limitations of computer animation, Pixar chose to animate typically inanimate things; toys and figurines. With the aforementioned limitations, this provided Pixar with the background needed. Toys/other inanimate objects infused with life, attempting to interact with a living world.

Luxo, Jr. concerns a big (mother?) lamp learning to deal with a baby lamp, who is itself unaware of its limitations in this world. The short itself doesn't even last 60 seconds, but it creates understanding within the viewing audience for the large lamp, and an understanding that the small lamp is a child. This is an amazing feat for any cartoon, let alone one that was considered an experimental technology at the time of its release.

Pixar has release shorts since then, as well as full-length movies ("Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life"); it is still an amazing thing, though, to study Luxo, Jr., and the results thereof.
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Designed for remote control users.
16 October 1999
Unlike many other soft-core movies I've seen over the years, this one is definitely not meant to be enjoyed as a story. Other than the framing device of a woman using VR to "get in touch" with her sexuality, almost none of the vignettes have anything to do with each other. In fact, I'm willing to bet that some of these scenes weren't shot for the movie, but were edited in to pad the thing out. The framing device itself is pretty laughable. I don't think there's very many "executive-pleasures" type establishments, especially ones with beyond-state-of-the-art VR gear, located in industrial warehouse complexes. Yes, that's right, the world's greatest VR is located in a warehouse, and the classy entrance is a back door, right next to a bunch of electrical transformers. The voice, "Rob" is pretty funny, although that's not the effect they seem to have been trying for.

But, the whole point of these films isn't the story- it's the sex scenes. They're... okay. All of the actresses are great looking; much better than Euro soft-core. There is very little spirit, however, to any of the proceedings... the actors and actresses for the most part don't seem to be having much fun. Some of the scenes are still pretty fun to watch, though, if not actually being erotic.

Recommended if you can find it on the cheap.
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Mean-tempered, foul-mouthed... and the best "buddy-cop" movie around.
16 October 1999
When I try to describe this movie to people who've never seen it, I always start out with the worst adjectives. This movie is so incredibly mean-spirited and hateful, that it's a wonder no one suggested that the movie was unreleasable.

Thank God, however, the movie came out. This is the perfect antidote to the oh-so-funny Lethal Weapon movies, and is a logical successor to the original Die Hard. Bruce Willis plays the over-the-top hardcore private detective; he's got the world's worst relationships, the world's worst family life. His best friend dies after cheating with Bruce's wife. His life is dark and dreary, and he cuts through it all with an acid tongue and a lot of misanthropy.

Damon Wayans plays a drug-using ex-football star whose life just can't get back on track. His girlfriend dies trying to get his old job, the only thing that means anything to him, back. With her death, Damon and Bruce join together to form a bickering, hateful team that goes after corruption in football and politics, saves the President, saves Bruce's marriage and family life, gets Damon off of drugs (temporarily, in all likelihood), and causes lots of blood splatters, explosions, and deaths.

Sure, the script is unbelievable. Sure, the dialogue causes 3rd degree burns. (The interpersonal bickering *does* get tiresome; by the time Bruce and Damon are searching Damon's girlfriend's apartment, I am fed up with the snippiness...) But the whole movie is so damn entertaining because of it all! Unlike Rambo or whatever, this movie makes no pretensions towards respectability or patriotism. It's pure action- action for people who are sick of all-american muscle bound heroes.
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ALF (1986–1990)
Great show that lost its edge.
16 October 1999
Alf in the beginning was a hilarious show, almost a satire of sitcoms. By the time the show left the air, though, it was a shell of its former self, just a family-friendly wacky sitcom that catered to children.

When Alf started out, he was a rather ratty-looking creature; he improved in looks over the years, but he originally seemed to be infested with fleas and/or moths; his voice was hoarse, and his wit caustic. Once execs learned of Alf's popularity amongst children, though, the scripts began to skew to a younger and younger demographic- turning off many of the people who had helped the show become a hip hit originally.

Alf later spun off a comic book series (itself the subject of a feeding frenzy/fad that ended up hurting the book's reputation and sales later on), and into an animation series notorious for a "subliminal message" inserted by frustrated overseas animators. (The "message" was innocuous, and consisted of the Statue of Liberty and an American flag; this scared people enough that the show ended up being dropped.)
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G.I. Joe (1985–1986)
Decent toy tie-in.
16 October 1999
GI Joe was essentially an advertisement for the toys; it, like the comic, was designed to tie in with the toy line, to support the storyline of the comic and toys, and to introduce new characters and vehicles.

Given the constraints of the advertising medium, the show was pretty good. The characters seemed to develop over time, and there were identifiable (and diverging) personalities. Unfortunately, GI Joe suffers from the same problem may other cartoons that depict battle show; no one gets hurt or killed.

I don't want to sound like a sadist or cheap thrill seeker, but one would think that a show depicting two large armed forces continuously battling over the globe would suffer casualties. Planes were constantly shot down, but no one ever died. Highly unrealistic, and with Robotech showing at the same time, GI Joe lost its edge. It may have been more popular than Robotech, but couldn't maintain interest for very long. ...and then there's the episode where Cobra has a high-powered laser, and- no, doesn't try to destroy Joe- attempts to carve the Cobra logo onto the face of the moon. What an effective use of technology and power! Graffiti!
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TRON (1982)
Beautiful film that presaged the future of film making.
16 October 1999
I was terribly excited about Tron when it came out theatrically; I was all of 8 years old, but was already a computer geek. 15 years later, I ended up purchasing the $100 Archive Edition laserdisc box set as my very first LD. Tron definitely made an impact on me.

Tron has survived the years- more so than many other contemporary SF films, and more than I think most critics would have guessed. Instead of looking out-dated and corny, as the years have passed, Tron has aged gracefully. Sure, the monochrome-screen terminals might look a bit old, and the arcade is a distant, fond memory, but the SFX are still beautiful, and the storyline, in this era of the Internet, seems shockingly modern.

One of the reasons Tron's SFX have aged so well is because they did not try to simulate anything already existing. We have no basis to determine if the architecture of the MCP's world is out-dated or not-hip; everything is styled so uniquely that it's never going to look wrong. Much like the design of Maria in Metropolis, the look of Tron is never going to be laughable or quaint.

The storyline is lacking a little bit; you can see the ideas the script writers wanted to insert, but there are too many ideas for only 2 hours of film. There are quite a few points in the film that are mentioned and then ignored (Grid bugs, anyone?), and occasionally the film digresses from the plot for no other reason than to digress- the digressions being unimportant to the story at hand. But, despite the problems, the philosophy of user/program interaction, and the handling of technophobia are both handled admirably.

I recommend every video game, computer, and SF fan to watch Tron at least once. I echo the call for it to be the widescreen version, but I am disappointed with the DVD's extra features- or lack thereof. The LD is much more full featured, and better for fans, despite the side breaks every 30 minutes.
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Another excellent, oft-ignored Peanuts special.
10 October 1999
Like many other Peanuts specials from the 80's, this walks a fine line between educational content and entertainment. However, the special works very well- the education isn't beaten over one's head, while the entertainment isn't frivolous. Unlike many other cartoon specials "celebrating" various things, this one has a message, and it has an emotional impact.

As another poster has commented, this is ostensibly a sequel to the feature film Bon Voyage Charlie Brown (And Don't Come Back)- a film that Mr. Charles Schulz found to be disappointing. He more than made up for it with this 1/2 hour special... the events in the feature film are truthfully ignored for the most part; it's just used as a springboard to get the Peanuts gang back into France.

I have, over the years, gotten inured to and distrustful of the motives behind most of the glorifying/worshipping films regarding WW2. I'm not much for hero worship, and being beaten over the head with propaganda about how previous generations were better/holier than later generations. However, this special, unlike so many critically acclaimed films, presents the facts and emotions underlying much of WW2- one is left to make one's own judgement. It's one of the most powerful messages about the Allied forces' sacrifices I've ever seen... all presented through the mouths of tiny animated children.
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Lackluster clone of Dance MTV.
10 October 1999
Shortly after Arsenio had been crowned the new king of talk, his production company expanded- offering a new show to follow his talk show, that would appeal to the same street-wise youth and young-adult hipsters that were making him a star.

Unfortunately, they came up with a virtual clone of Dance MTV (title correct?) hosted by "Downtown" Julie Brown- this time hosted by the younger, less threatening Nia Peeples. In the show, Nia would introduce a star who would lip-sync/perform a song or two to the dancing crowd, and the remainder of the show would be filled out with people dancing to the latest dance club/hip-hop treats.

Being on broadcast rather than MTV, though, the music played was tamer, the dances shown nicer, and the people allowed on more clean-cut. This wasn't what people wanted, and a short time thereafter, the show was cancelled. Nia, who had had a lackluster recording career, was now on her way to having a lackluster TV career.

(As an aside, many people who remember Arsenio's show don't know about this one. Some of my friends thought I was making this show up until they saw a SNL rerun parodying Arsenio Hall... after the parody "Carsenio", a short parody called "Party Machine with Ed McMahon" came on. The scary thing is, that show would probably have worked as good as the real thing.)
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Women in Prison (1987–1988)
"Wacky" concept can't save mundane writing.
10 October 1999
I used to watch this religiously- it was one of the first Fox shows, and at the time, a new broadcast network was such a novelty, that I gave everything on it precedence over the other broadcast outlets. If I were a Nielsen family, I'm sure Fox would have been appreciative- but as it was, the people who controlled the Nielsen box stayed away from the Women in Prison in droves.

WiP was an attempt to create a sitcom with unique and fun character interaction; shows like M*A*S*H and Mary Tyler Moore Show and Taxi all were premier examples of this kind of dynamic. I can't fault WiP's producers and actresses for trying, but the show never got off the ground.

All of the characters were cliched; there was the tough old butch, the fresh young innocent, the tarty prostitute, the no-nonsense guard. The dialogue never rose above the quality of, say, a syndicated sitcom like She's the Sheriff, and production values made this look like it was filmed in a gymnasium with paperboard tubes for prison bars.

Nice try, though.
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21 Jump Street (1987–1991)
Launching pad for teen stars; one of the better early Fox shows.
10 October 1999
This was one of the first Fox hour-long dramas, and Fox definitely wore its heart on its sleeve. Like WB now, Fox wanted to lure in a teenage audience with its good-looking young stars. Luckily for those stars, 21 Jump Street was a rather good vehicle, and stood on its own merits.

Kind of like a Mod Squad for the 80s, the "teens" in 21 Jump Street were cops. Hip cops. They would infiltrate schools, drug rings, gangs, wherever teenagers were in trouble... unlike the Mod Squad, though, the storylines were always passable, and quite often excellent. Almost every episode touched upon subjects that were taboo for the big 3 networks (and still are)- AIDS, statutory rape, drug use, abortion, child abuse- and presented it in a moralistic way, but without being maudlin.

The show kind of faltered in its last few seasons; Johnny Depp was becoming a star, and execs started pushing other "stars" into the spotlight, hoping for cash rewards and spin-offs. Richard Greico was most heavily promoted, to an audience that didn't really care. He became a teen-age heartthrob for a while, but never achieved the momentum to carry his career skyward. With this pushing of the stars, the storylines took a back seat to character preening. The end result was faltering ratings, and cancellation.

Until it became an actors' showcase, though, 21 Jump Street was probably the best drama on TV.
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Viva Variety (1997–1999)
Weird parody of a variety show that showed why variety is dead.
7 October 1999
This was a strange show. In an era that hasn't seen a successful variety show, we get a parody of one. Many of the guests and performers were real, but the whole show revolved around the fact that VV was supposedly the American version of "Europe's #1 variety show.". The hosts were bad parodies; the bickering ex-husband/wife team, and the (Latvian?) Johnny Bluejeans who, though not entertaining, was better than Yakov Smirnoff.

Comedy Central pushed this show incredibly hard, to an audience that really didn't care. No offense to the people who worked on the show, but the time, money, and effort spent on the show were wasted. Few found it entertaining; perhaps if the US market were familiar with over-the-top Euro variety shows, then we would have wanted a parody. As it stood, though, the point was lost.
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Species II (1998)
A merely OK film.
3 October 1999
I just got this on LD to complement my Species LD; I had seen Species II in the theatre, but really had forgotten what it was like.

Species was very fun- a lot of people compared it to a B movie, but in a good way. Species II apparently took a wrong turn in development, and went further down the "B" side, instead of the "good" side.

For all of the people complaining about the sex scenes- that's what the original Species was about, too. Here's the main unwritten plot; Natasha is a beautiful female alien, and she goes into heat when she needs/wants to mate. No amount of window dressing is going to obscure that. Now, considering that plot, why watch the movie if you don't want to watch sex scenes? (If you wish Species/Species II went *further* with the sex, though, I recommend Femalien and Femalien 2)

Unfortunately, the movie just isn't as fun as Species. Natasha looks great, but this time we get the equal-opportunity-murders of a male alien, killing women thru sex, until he's aware of Natasha's presence. Somehow, the guy isn't as fun as Natasha to watch.

The special effects are bad, and the plot trappings are kind of lame (Mars landing? Now?). If this film were an out-of-the-blue independent SF film, people would still probably rave about its ingenuity. As it stands, though, it's a faint glimmer of its predecessor.
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Classic example of early 80's Euro-trash sexploitation.
2 October 1999
I note that this film is supposedly based on a novel... this seems to be a common theme for a lot of the softcore movies of this era. Note Emmanuelle, Lady Chatterley's Lover, Joy: Chapter 2, Justine, etc.

Anyways- I will admit to having been a softcore porn fan in my raging-hormones youth. I taped all of the "late-nite" stuff on Showtime and Cinemax, and watched quite a bit, and became quite a critic. Much of it I couldn't stand... but this was one of the exceptions.

Secrets of the Satin Blues follows the time-worn and cliched plot device of following an inanimate object around, and watching the effect it had on various people. And, like many movies using this plot-device, it all rotated about sex.

The movie starts out with a lady buying some satin blue underwear from a shop; she wears it and begins having softcore sex. The underwear gets misplaced, the maid tries them on... the maid begins having sex. Etc. I'm doubtful that the book this is based on is a classic... but the movie is pretty fun, in a sleazy sort of way. None of the actresses are very attractive, nor do the guys seem to belong in a softcore film. (Indeed, the director apparently thought so, as 2/3 of the sex is lesbian- the first lady sleeps with her best friend, then her maid- her daughter catches her with the maid, prompting a flashback of the maid and daughter having sex. This prompts another round of lady/maid sex...)

What did I like about the film? Well... considering the men are pretty gross, it's a plus that they were so minimal to the plot/sex. This was a big problem with 70s/80s Euro-porn. The women may not be that great either, but they don't look like they are made from grease and hair, and this makes the frequent sex scenes tolerable. The storyline itself is a bust, although the fact that the US editors dubbed in a voice *for the underwear* made it come across as a really whacked-out comedy. This is what makes the film fun- the cheese factor. It isn't really erotic, it definitely isn't dramatic or emotional; what it does have is a hell of a lot of personality, a type being erased by the intrusion of slick made-for-cable American "erotica" productions like Red Shoe Diaries or Beverly Hills Bordello- productions with no personality at all.
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L7: The Beauty Process (1998 Video)
Fun low-budget return to indie-status for the queens of rock.
30 September 1999
I've been a fan of L7 since 1992 (admittedly, thru their major-label exposure), and was surprised to see this video for sale at the local chain-music store. I was even more surprised when I saw that it was distributed by K Records, a classy but definitely non-major label. I soon found out that L7 had left the majors and started their own label, which is always a "Good Thing" (TM) with underground music.

This video seems to be a funny indictment on the major-label scene, as well as an apology for their having been on a major. Whatever the case, it's a fun ride for those-in-the-know, although it may be a bit perplexing and unentertaining for people only now getting on the L7 bandwagon.

The video is decidedly low-budget... very Richard Kern like. 8mm film is the rule, and the acting is atrocious. But, that's the whole point. L7 aren't actors- they're musicians who want to rock out, and not be burdened by the requirements and excesses of celebrity and contracts. The high points are definitely the live sets; L7 plays their standards, as well as new songs from the Beauty Process. The intervening comedic bits are funny the first few times around, but can be fast-forwarded through without fear of losing any kind of narrative thread.

In short- it's about time we get an L7 videocassette, and this is a promising side-gig for Krist Novaselic.
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Great historical document on the London 70's punk scene.
28 September 1999
I was quite happy (and surprised) to pick this up for $3 at a Wal-Mart; granted, it was a "Goodtimes Home Video" recorded in EP mode, but still... Unlike some of the other early punk movies, this movie actually focuses on bands and their music. There are funny situations with the Sex Pistols (what punk movie doesn't have a funny Sex Pistols segment?), but that isn't the only thing it has to offer. Live performances by the Slits and Siouxsie and the Banshees are my favorite portions, with nothing else really being so dull that it isn't worth watching. Well, Billy Idol isn't that great, but it's interesting to see him pre-MTV, pre-stardom. The movie itself is pretty low quality; the film appears to be 8mm- when transferred, probably through a few video generations, to an EP tape, the quality is poor. I'm not sure how much blame should go to the "photographer" and how much should go to Goodtimes. I'm not sure I would recommend this movie to everyone; my former roommate was disenchanted with the Pistols' juvenile humor and with a segment with the band Eater wherein a pig's head is beaten with a hammer- but anyone interested in the history of punk is doing themselves a disservice by not watching this movie. (And anyone who considers themselves punk and aren't interested in punk's history... you don't know what you're missing.)
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Typical Vadim flick- overwrought but interesting.
28 September 1999
I was originally disappointed with Blood & Roses, because I had been led to believe it was a Hammer-type vampire film. It's similar, but not quite as good. The atmosphere is great though; when I watch it, I feel like I'm in a 60's gothic romance novel...

As it is, it's pretty decent. I'm not a huge fan of Roger Vadim's work, just a fan of his wives... (that sounds really bad.) His movies aren't really very good storywise, but his wives have made for an interesting subject themselves.

As an aside- according to IMDB, there is only one actor or actress with the first name of "Carmilla", and she's only made one film... and she's in this one. Since Carmilla is the name of the first female vampire in literature, I'm intrigued to know either who Carmilla Stroyberg really is, or if she's uncredited in other roles.
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One of the better "lesser" Peanuts specials.
26 September 1999
Everyone knows and watches the same Peanuts specials; Charlie Brown Christmas, It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. Most of the non-holiday specials have kind of disappeared into the void- this being one of them.

One of the more emotional specials (in a field of surprisingly good ones; Why, Charlie Brown, Why? and What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? are also good, over-looked ones), this is an adaptation of a run of the Peanuts comic strip that appeared in the 60's, concerning Linus and Lucy moving away.

Peanuts specials are best when confronting an adult situation with a child's perspective- something that is lacking in most of the holiday specials; this is a rare episode that deals with a child's situation from a child's perspective. While many adults experience the loss of friends when they move away, rarely is it as traumatic (or as common) as in childhood. Charlie Brown has to learn to deal with the loss of his best friend (and only friend that accepts Charlie Brown the way he is), Linus' security blanket doesn't help with the anxiety of having to make new friends, and Lucy realizes how much she loves what she's leaving behind- what she's complained about her whole life.

The show ends on an up note, of course; the original run of comic strips had Linus and Lucy moving back, due to the protestations of fans...

Satisfying for fans, and a situation almost any child can relate to.
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The Wizard (1989)
Pretty lame feature-length commercial for Nintendo... but I still bought the tape.
26 September 1999
Let's make no bones about this. Nintendo sure didn't. The Wizard was made as a feature-length commercial to promote the NES' "Super Mario Bros. 3". The movie was not a success by Hollywood standards, but the film helped push SMB3's popularity over the edge into a full-on mania. The film was also an advertisement for the "Nintendo World Championships" that was to tour the country around the same time. (Yes, I went- made it to the semi-finals at least.) In response to a reviewer who thought it was dumb that the movie showed people traveling across country to play video games... umm- it happened. I was beat, in Indianapolis, by a guy from New York (and he lost to Thor Aackerlund, another "traveller", at the end of the tournament.) When talking to the kid who beat me, I found out that he had participated in every NWC that had taken place so far.

The movie, as a movie, sucks. There is no other proper description. It's a trite kid's movie, and is as bad as Mac and Me or Slappy and the Stinkers. The actors are all way out of place- anyone could have filled their roles, and the same effect would have been achieved. The only reason to see this theatrically was to see SMB3 in action, and to get the promotional special-edition digest-sized Nintendo Power that theaters gave to patrons. (Similar to the special edition given away at the NWCs... hmm, I sense a pattern.)

So- I trashed the movie. Why do I own it? It's a video game movie, and one of the only ones from the late 80's. When I say video game movie, I don't mean a movie based on a specific game (like Mortal Kombat or Double Dragon), but one of the small group of films that is based around the "drama" and/or "excitement" of playing video games in general. Tron, The Last Starfighter, Cloak & Dagger, Tilt (okay- it's pinball), Joysticks, Arcade... this type of movie has been supplanted by movies based around people getting sucked into virtual reality games (just how many people even PLAY vr games?). The Wizard is one of this genre of film that will probably never really come back... I'm an old-school gamer, and own everything from a Pong to a PSX, plus arcade games and PCs galore. The Wizard may not be very good, but it is one of the few documents of the late 80's video game scene- and for that, it's priceless.
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Robotech (1985– )
My favorite TV show of all time.
26 September 1999
I'm usually a purist with my anime, but I make no apologies for saying this- Robotech is my favorite TV show of all time, and my favorite anime.

I won't get into the whole discussion of whether the translation butchered the original Japanese creators' intentions or not; I stand in awe with what Carl Macek was able to do with 3 distinctly unrelated series, and feel that the whole Robotech mythos is more engaging and fun than the original series.

This is the only show that I have felt such an emotional attachment to, for so long. There is no rational explanation; my wife gave up trying to figure it out a long time ago...

Robotech spans 3 generations of people battling to save earth. It was one of the first American cartoon series to have a continuing storyline, to have character deaths (and births!). It showed racism, interracial relationships, the futility but necessity of war... all in 1/2 hour weekday installments right before school. Plus, it had the coolest mecha around.

I've heard rumors of a new Robotech 3000 series under development by the animators responsible for Beast Wars and the Voltron 3D show. I'm apprehensive but hopeful; I doubt any show can ever really hope to match (and mesh with) the standards set by the original series- identifying with characters may be a wee bit hard with CGI models. But, I hope that it renews interest about Robotech with the public. Perhaps then the snafus that have kept causing Robotech to disappear from store shelves will be overcome. (Anyone for a full DVD set?)
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