The Spiders Lair Ranks- Freddy vs. Jason franchise: part one the Freddy movies

This has been a long time coming. It’s no secret I like to make lists, who doesn’t lists are fun. I also thoroughly enjoy the slasher movie genre. My favorites are A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. The two franchises clashed in 2003 with the blockbuster spectacular “Freddy vs. Jason.” This is a list ranking the entire franchise as if it were one franchise, from best to worst. This is purely based on the opinion of The Spiders Lair, so I hope you enjoy this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Freddy

A Nightmare on Elm Street

By pretty much all accounts the original Elm Street film is by far the best in the series. It really wasn’t my first exposure to the series, that honor belongs to The Dream Child, but it was easy to see why it’s been regarded as the best once I did get to see it.

For those that don’t know the movie is about a child murderer who is turned into a demon who can enter the dreams of teenagers and if he kills you in the dream you die for real. The premise sounds silly but it’s actually a very well done film.

Fun fact, this was Johnny Depp’s first film appearance.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3

This was the second of the Elm Street films I got to see and pretty much became my favorite for the longest time. There was a time when I might be inclined to say this was the best in the franchise with the original either a tie or a close second. As time has gone on I have learned to appreciate the original more and more. I still enjoy this movie too, but I do think the first one is slightly better mostly for being original.

The movie takes place a few years after the previous two. It appears as though Freddy is spreading through Springwood like a plague with teenagers dropping like flies. The main story focuses on a group of kids, the “last of the Elm Street teenagers” that Freddy is trying to kill off. The kids are all institutionalized trying to survive their nightmares. This is one of the better movies in the franchise and easily the best of the sequels.

Fun fact: Laurence Fisburne of the Matrix fame makes an appearance in this movie.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4

I remember the first time I watched this movie. I had already seen Part 5 and part 3 but none of the other movies at this point. I was flipping through the channels and we had one of those free preview weekends of the premium movie channels. I had never seen it before but when it started up I was so excited to be watching another one of the Elm Street films. By the time I got to the end of this film I was beyond hooked, I was borderline obsessed.

The movie takes place after the events of Dream Warriors. Freddy comes back to life in one of the better scenes in the franchise. The movie, is not as good as the one that came before, but it’s still much better than many of those that came after.

Fun Fact: This movie features some awesome 80’s MTV references.

Freddy vs. Jason

I consider this the last of the true Elm Street movies. Although it’s not a true Freddy movie in the strictest sense, at least it’s still “in universe” and that means a lot more to me than how scary it was or wasn’t for that matter.

The movie pretty much ignores most of the sequels. The movie gets into the backstory of the character a little bit, which I enjoy, and of course pits Freddy against everyone’s favorite hockey masked slasher killer.

Fun Fact: This movie was supposed to feature Pinhead from Hellraiser but they couldn’t get the rights.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5

A part of me wants to always pick this one as the special place it holds as the very first Nightmare on Elm Street movie I ever watched. The first time I saw it I had no idea what the mythology was or backstory I just jumped right in and was hooked right away.

The movie follows the survivors of the previous films, as they often do, trying to get on with their lives. As is also often the case, the teens in this movie must all be new transfers who had no knowledge of their peers killed in the last movie, because they all take quite a bit of convincing Freddy is thing, let alone them not even knowing about the legend? When I as a kid I never pieced that together but today it’s a glaring flaw in the film series. At least with the Friday the 13th films the teens are all aware of Camp Blood. They just ignore it to get their freak on.

Fun Fact: This movie features a comic book “Super Freddy” sequence that I thought was cool as a kid.

Bonus Fun Fact: The VHS release of this movie featured a “rapping” Freddy music video.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 6

I am sure there are going to be those out here who call me every name in the book for ranking this movie higher than dead last. For me, personally, this is not the worst movie in the series. Sure, it’s over the top with the comedy, not that scary and the 3D is terrible. However it actually gets a few things right that make it a notch above the bottom to, for me at least. First, Alice Friggin Copper plays Freddy’s step-father. The trip into Freddy’s mind revealing scenes from his past is by far the best part of the movie. The Looney Tunes version of Freddy isn’t as appealing as the MTV version of Freddy but I still enjoy this movie.

This movie takes place in the distant future where Freddy is down to his last teenager. He needs to send the kid out into the world to bring him some “fresh meat” which he does of course. The movie has some flaws but it was a lot of fun the first time around and I still get emotional when the credits roll with all those scenes from the previous movies taking me back in time.

Fun Fact: This movie makes a GREAT post-Wizard reference to The Power Glove.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2

I was tempted to rank this dead last, as it is my least favorite of the original franchise. However, I cannot stand how the New Nightmare ignores the previous movies mythology. That alone kills it for me. I never cared how “scary” it was or how “original” it supposedly was, all I cared about was how it was just breaking the rules and dismissing all those movies I fell in love with. Well, instead of spending all my time

The movie itself isn’t terrible, just dull, slow paced and less scary than most. It does help set up part 3 which is more than enough for me. It does break a lot of the rules, but can you blame it, being the first sequel there rules weren’t quite well established yet.

Fun Fact: This movie is treated more like a haunted house film than a free roaming dream demon the of the later movies. It’s also the first time the house becomes a set piece, later becoming a staple of the franchise.

Wes Cravens New Nightmare

I dislike this movie. I won’t get too much into why I just felt it disrespected the movies I enjoyed. I know some people like this movie and make outrageous claims like it’s one of the best or even the best by some accounts. I just don’t get it.

Fun Fact: This movie reunites stars from the original.

Check back for part 2: The Jason films.

Dreaming of some good Mash Up movies: Versus, team-up and cross over films that might be interesting to see just for fun

Over the years there have been a lot of cross overs done in comic books, video games and to a lesser extent, films. Now that the comic book multiverse concept has firmly taken Hollywood by storm here is a list of completely fantastic team-up, cross over and versus films that would be fun to see. This is just for fun so there are no rules, rights issues, budget, mixing genres, etc., none of that will be taken into consideration.

1. Spider-Man vs. Wolverine

This one has been done in the comics before. It could be a team-up or it could be a straight brawl to the death, either way it would be lots of fun to put these two anti-heroes together on screen as opposites.

2. Beetlejuice meets Scooby Doo

Imagine a movie where Tim Burton directs an all CGI world with  a mix of live-action and computer characters. The plot would basically turn out that Scooby and his companions find themselves facing an actual ghost. It would be a total over-the-top comedy of course.

3. GI JOE and Transformers

Hasbro and Paramount had a missed opportunity to put the GI Joe and Transformers characters into the same universe. With reboots all the rage in Hollywood it would be really cool to see them reboot both the GI Joe film franchise and the Transformers with them teaming up to take on Unicron.

4. Mega Man and Castlevania

It would probably be best as CGI but it would work as cell animated. Live action would be harder to pull off. It would have a Belmont team-up with Mega Man in a weird alternate universe where the robot masters are all horror movie themed and the locations are set in Castlevania. This might make for a better video game than movie but whatever it needs to happen anyways.

5. Pinhead vs. Chucky

These two don’t really exist in the same universe but it could work. Pinhead and his goons all wind up terrorizing Chucky who stumbles upon the puzzle cube believing it could finally set him free from his doll body. He ends up defeating the cenobites because they learn since he is made of plastic their torture methods don’t work on him. In a weird way he would actually be the hero of the film.

6. Ghostbusters v.s Gremlins

This one would have to be animated with a retro throwback style of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon. The Gremlins could be CGI but I suspect it would work best if everything was animated. It would blend horror and comedy with the Ghostbusters trying to find a scientific explanation for the Gremlin problem while looking for a solution. It would put them out of their wheel house as they fight a physical monster their proton packs would be useless against. It totally has to be holiday themed, probably Valentines Day or Groundhog day just for the hell of it.

7. Marvel vs. DC the movie

This absolutely absurd idea somehow worked in the 90’s with a comic book crossover that shook up the entire comic book fandom. With Marvel making so much money from their ventures for Disney they could easily strike some sort of deal where they step in and “save” the failing DC film universe by bringing everything together for an epic 3-film blockbuster record breaking behemoth. This one actually needs to happen one way or another, somebody make it so.

8. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers meets Sailor Moon

It needs to be live-action with Japanese characters for the Sailor Moon side and Americans based on MMPR Season 1, or you know those kids from the recent reboot. I imagine it would start out with the two sides as enemies then teaming up as the monster shows its face and they do what they do best. It should have a totally 80’s metal glam rock soundtrack too.

9. Smash Bros: The Movie

This one is a piece of cake. It needs to be CGI. It needs to be PG-13. It needs to have voice actors from the entire video game and comic book spectrum. It just needs to happen A.S.A.F.P. ‘Nuff Said.

10. Monster Mash

This would basically be a full reboot of Monster Squad but with a hard R rating, and feature not the Universal Monsters but Chucky, Jason, Freddy, Pinhead, Letherface and Michael Myers as the monsters. It would follow a similar structure to the original but would need to have teenagers instead of pre-teens.

Whether any of these actually happen or not, these would all be completely entertaining films to watch.

The story of how a film student turned news reporter: A tale of two interests

Once upon a time, in a world gone mad with fake news, there was one man who decided to change his entire life plans for what seems like no good reason.

This isn’t going to be a full biography or even a memoir. It’s more or less just a recounting of the events that lead me to go from studying film in college to working in the news media business. It wasn’t really a long journey but there were some detours along the way.

It all started when I was 12 years old. My parents bought me an old fashioned typewriter and I set out to write my novels, screenplays, and short stories my imagination had been dreaming up. If it sounds cliche I apologize, but it’s very true. Except the year was 1994 and we couldn’t afford a computer. That is a story for another day. It would be 2 more years before I would up able to upgrade that typewriter into an electronic one with a floppy drive built in. It would be another 4 years after that before I would get my first desktop PC and 2 more years before we would get a printer hooked up to that PC.

In all that time I never stopped writing. I always said my dream was to be a writer. I didn’t care what I did I just wanted to write stories for a living. The thing is, I had no direction, no motivation and very little self esteem. In high school my interests changed. At some point I decided I needed to start a band because I thought that would impress this girl. That dream would morph into a very failed pursuit of a career as a Hip-Hop/Techno DJ. I would go back and forth mixing and scratching my way into releasing several independent, underground records. I even went so far as to scrap together enough money to start up a record studio. Okay it was in the closet of my sisters bedroom in an apartment we shared, but I felt like it counted, it had to. I never stopped writing though. I hadn’t considered myself a write at this point, a song writer to some extent but I never really counted that as “real writing” in my mind.

During this same time I also began pursuing a side career in video production. At first I picked up cameras, editing equipment and microphones in an effort to produce music videos to accompany my music career. The truth is, my interest in making music videos waned and then I shifted to making short films. I also dabbled in internet videos, migrating to YouTube once that became the big thing. Always a rebel, not a follower, I intentionally avoided YouTube only using it to host videos but sharing them on my own website and promoting them through Google Ads and Myspace because that was what I thought I was supposed to do.

Around late 2008 I was invested in starting up a new venture. I was trying to make a series of web videos that would mimic the style of content that was airing on G4 as the network was dying and I wanted to keep that type of content alive. I doubled down on video production, eventually walking away from the music for the next few years. It would take a major life change before I realized I needed to get serious and do something different with my life. I decided while I was living in a run down house in the middle of nowhere Nebraska with no job, no vehicle of my own and no plans for the future, I needed to do something real with my life. It was then I decided to try again going back to school. I had applied for loans, grants and scholarships before but since I was intent on going to film school I was always limited in my options. I tended to apply for schools that wanted more money than I qualified for. Then I decided to just take what I could get. I settled for enrolling in a Broadcasting program at UNK, that is the University of Nebraska at Kearney, in Kearney Nebraska.

My plan was to major in Broadcasting (taking video production, editing, creative writing, and other courses) while minoring in Theater. This way I was getting the technical skills I would need to make films while also getting a foundation in the theater arts. I knew I would need to work with actors and set designers in order to get any film project I dreamed up off the ground. Then something catastrophic happened. I won’t go into the details but due to hysteria following recent campus shootings, stabbings, etc., I found myself in being asked to leave my university over a hunting knife  friend gave me as a gift. Being the defensive type instead of just going along with what they were asking of me I pushed back, eventually getting to the point they revoked my scholarships and asked me to withdraw entirely from the university.

With no where to go I quickly enrolled in another school in the area. They didn’t have either a broadcasting program or a theater program, so I had to transfer my credits into the closest program they offered, Communications Studies with an Emphasis in Mass Media. It was close enough I could settle for that.

I didn’t enjoy the fact I was no longer enrolled in film courses or studying the subject I intended, but I was just relieved to still be in school working towards something. Through all of my video editing I eventually landed a summer job as a videographer for a wedding photography company. During the course of the summer the videographer who I was working with told me he was a production assistant at the local TV station. His dream was also to become a filmmaker and he had a blog reviewing films on the side. I saw this as my chance to step into the world I had been dreaming of. With his recommendation I applied for a job at the TV station, and landed a spot as a Video Editor. At last I was doing exactly the job I had gone to college to get. It wasn’t my actual dream job, it was just an entry level but I was just happy with that.

Barely 2 weeks into working at the TV station there was an immediate hole in the production team. A morning camera operator quite suddenly and unexpectedly. They asked me, since I had worked as a videographer, to step into the role of camera operator for a couple of days a week. This was in addition to the three days a week I was video editing on the evening shift so it gave me full time hours and I got to work in the studio not the newsroom. I was excited just to be in the studio. I was happy to do the grunt work, micing up the talent, situating guests, running cords, and pointing cameras where they instructed me. They were so impressed with how quickly I adapted they offered me a full time promotion to Assistant Producer, complete with a raise in pay and benefits. I was so happy I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be living my dream.

I never stopped wanting to write. I kept working on my blog on the side hoping eventually I could work my way into reporter or newscaster because I wanted to get out of production and into the exciting world of news. My first news report came when I answered the phone and learned a local family had been killed in a major wreck. I scrambled to take down the info, ran to my desk wrote up a short little news brief, turned it into a reader (that’s what we call it when the newscaster just reads the info no graphic or video) and sent it over to the booth. It was my first chance ever writing a breaking news story, an the thrill was unbelievable. I would slowly get to help out writing stories as I worked in the newsroom. I wasn’t a full reporter, I was mostly in charge of re-wording AP stories we pulled off the wire but it was still better than nothing.

After nine months doing this I realized I needed a change of scenery. It was a small market TV station in the middle of Nebraska. Most of our stories centered on community happenings, local sports and a lot of corn and livestock stories. I even found myself producing a weekend, pre-taped agriculture show. I needed to spread my wings and get out of Nebraska. I made a life-changing decision to move to Texas.

Once I arrived it was time to find a job. I tried the local TV news stations first. The ABC affiliate hired me right away. I had previously been working at an ABC station so it was an easy fit. But something was wrong this time. They didn’t have an opening in production or the newsroom. I didn’t have enough experience as a writer or reporter to get an on-air job so they stuck me in Master Control. For those that don’t know MC is the room where all the switches are. It’s the person in the dusty closet making sure the commercials run. It’s your job to watch all the shows, log the commercials that air, the time they air, and cross them off if they get dropped. For the most part, it was a boring job sitting watching TV all day while also making sure you were keeping the programming going back and forth between local and network. It was a lot harder than it sounded but it was still easy. The problem is it wasn’t anything at all what I wanted to be doing. There was no writing, no video editing and no camera work. It was just sitting in a closet pushing a button when they light flashed. My first day taking the helm the guy training me took a lunch break at a time he thought was the easiest. Once you get into Prime Time it’s basically all automated. At that point you just put a check next to the name of the commercial when it airs. In other words you just sort of sit there babysitting but not doing anything productive. The problem was the transition hadn’t occurred. There was still one more local commercial break, the lead into Prime Time. I missed my cue and the station went into Wheel Of Fortune, blank. It was totally black for 2 whole minutes. It was actually 3 minutes, 2 minutes of commercials and 1 minute into the show. That meant the station lost thousands of dollars due to a mistake I made. Needless to say that was the end of that job.

With no prospects and the other TV station not returning my calls I decided to try something different. I got in touch with the career counselor at my University, I was still enrolled as I was finishing up taking online courses. She helped me re-write my resume with an emphasis on my writing and creative talents. Then I sent my resume out to radio stations, newspapers and local print shops. I had an interview with a radio station for an internship. I was excited for the offer, but it was an unpaid internship that required college credit. I began the process of writing up a lesson plan, finding a sponsor at the university I was attending and then I realized I still had a car payment due, and other bills piling up. I took a part-time job delivering pizzas for Dominoes. I don’t know what had changed from the time I did it before or if Texas was just different but they were taking my tips out of my paycheck and taxing me for them. I was driving 18 miles to work and wasting all my gas to get a very minimal paycheck. Between that and the unpaid internship I was sinking into debt, fast.

In order to get by for the summer I pawned all my video games. My PS2, PS3, PS4, Wii, Wii U, all my games, DVD’s and Blu Ray discs. I still had to pay that ticket back so I was scrambling. Finally literally on my birthday I got a phone call from the local newspaper. Literally the local newspaper in the very town I was living had an immediate opening for a staff writer. It was exactly my perfect dream job and it came to me, on my birthday. I felt like that was God’s way of saying here you go, you worked hard, persevered an stayed faithful now have at it.

I have been at that weekly newspaper for 2 years. I can honestly say it truly is my dream job. I always wanted a job where I got to write stories for a living and that is what I am doing now. I still found I have time to write for my own blog on the side and even keep working on those novels, screenplays and short stories whenever I find the time, or motivation. You never know where you are going to end up but I read these kinds of stories all the time when I was working at a gas station for minimum wage buying scratch tickets on the off chance I might win enough money to afford a pizza that week. Now I have my own apartment, a decent car, am paying down my student loans and truly am living the American dream. It’s not the dream I set out to pursue but if you have a skill, talent, or vision don’t give up just hang in there and see where life takes you. No matter what happens, take every opportunity you can get because you really never know where this life with lead you

That’s how I went from studying film and dreaming of becoming a Hollywood producer to writing for a weekly newspaper. When I look at the careers of some of the most famous authors and artists of all time, many of them worked at newspapers during the day and wrote their other works on the side. It’s sure a whole lot better than selling gasoline to a bunch of angry people who just want to get back to whatever it is they are doing.

Are review shows taking over YouTube?

The first time I discovered YouTube it was to check out a friends short film he had posted to the site. It was a very no-budget 80’s b-action movie rip off. The acting was bad, the story was very basic and the special effects didn’t really exist. But it was a very interesting concept. Broadcast yourself. As a budding filmmaker I was excited for the potential. A world where indie and low budget filmmakers could showcase their works to the world. I immediately grabbed my camera, a group of friends and set out to produce a talk show where we would discuss comic books, video games and movies. I set up a desk, lights, microphones the whole nine yards. I was expecting to utilize this new technology to really capture that dream of alternative, user created content that would lower the barrier of entry.

I first started to notice things weren’t quite going as I pictured when I noticed the insanely popular viral video of two dorks lip syncing to the Mortal Kombat theme son g. While the short video was entertaining, at least good for a chuckle. I was shocked to learn the two who uploaded the video shot to super stardom almost over night. Of course I am referring to Smosh. It soon became a race to be the next viral super star and thus the race to the bottom began. There was that Numa Numa video, Soldier Boy Tell Em, and a host of other copy cats. I hadn’t lost hope yet, I still felt there was a budding film making industry just lying in wait.

Then YouTube was bought out by Google and everything changed. Suddenly the need to get millions of hits in order to attract ad dollars meant that the need to make quality videos that required true creativity was replaced by quick videos to cash in. Sure some decent productions managed to slip through the cracks, but even those had to rely on a gimmick. Shows like Angry Video Game Nerd, Pat the NES Punk and Nostalgia Critic, among dozens of others, quickly resonated with audiences.

Partly cashing in on nostalgia and partly adapting to the changing audience, review shows quickly became the prominent format for the quality film makers to get their product out there. Some, such as the aforementioned Angry Video Game Nerd, would slip in their more creative short films onto their channels as specials or filler to tide their audiences over while they worked on other projects. Others, like Pat the NES Punk embraced the narrative format from the beginning finding creative ways to mask his reviews as miniature episodes of an extended parody show that focused on a character that was obsessed with Nintendo games. Before too long the AVGN videos would also weave narratives and production values into his videos with story lines that spanned entire seasons at times. This continued into the Board James series, a show that reviewed old board games.

In the years following review shows have become a powerful force vying for the attention of the fickle YouTube audience. New short forms of videos have sprung up such as vlogs, unboxing videos and long form videos exist in the form of Let’s Play’s. The haven for budding film students to showcase their creative works was quickly supplanted by culture of becoming the next big viral video.

This presents a problem for the budding filmmakers. Some of these review shows formed out of the need for the film makers to hone their craft of writing narrative videos and editing them into coherent stories while masking them as review shows in order to find an audience. Some of the creators, such as James Rolfe himself, have stated their original desires were to be actual filmmakers and they originally used YouTube as a means to showcase their works. Many of them even uploaded videos outside of YouTube before they realized it was the platform of choice. But has doing so stifled their creativity shoehorning them into roles they might otherwise have been able to break out of had they not fallen into the trap?

The complexities of YouTube’s ever changing advertising policies means that content creators who are in it for the money have to constantly be adapting to what the advertising giant requires. Google makes all of their money off ads and in recent months they have come under fire from advertisers to take a stronger stance on content. This, in turn, has forced the content creators to again adapt their videos to the changing landscape. Many of the review shows do have hints of great, very creative TV shows hidden within them. The trouble is how does a creator, such as Rolfe or his contemporaries, break the mold and release content that doesn’t rely on them simultaneously reviewing a product most don’t even remember that fondly? Even when you look at the AVGN videos, the best videos are the ones where the review takes a back seat to a more compelling narrative story. Perhaps the only way to make great quality videos on YouTube is to build an audience doing review shows before slowing moving onto other types of content?

YouTube Review: Techmoan

Techmoan is a Youtube channel run by a British man who only goes by the name Mat. The show mainly focuses on reviewing old audio/video equipment and HiFi stereo components, usually from the 1970 and on. In the videos the host demonstrates the different pieces of technology. He then discusses how he acquired the individual item before taking it apart and showing off the individual components. Sometimes the videos lack the break down and instead focus on showcasing the different technologies. For example he has demonstrated videos that show the differences between content contained on pre-recorded cassettes, both in the audio cassette format as well as VHS. Sometimes he picks a single component or device and reviews it.

The series quality ranges from episodes that look like they could have been aired on public access TV to those that have a professional vibe similar to what would have been shown on a Discovery Channel or TechTV sort of program. The topics are usually well researched with the host providing a bit of background information on the item or items he is reviewing. Since he only reviews machines from his personal collection he often reminds his viewers he needs help in seeking out the items he wishes to review. In this aspect he can come off as asking for donations from time to time. It’s not entirely a bad thing, a lot of channels on YouTube do take user donations. The turn off is how he sometimes makes it sound like it is the responsibility of his viewers to help him acquire the devices he intends to review. If it were a commercial run Television production he would probably have sponsors help pay for these portions. However, since the show is focuses mostly on reviewing older and out dated technology, it’s unlikely the tech companies would consider his reviews valuable marketing for their current business products.

The reviewer has a very relaxing tone to his voice. He conducts his reviews in a very matter-of-fact method. This is one of his strengths as it allows him to shy away from over the top antics as some review shows on YouTube rely too heavily on. The reviews range in length depending on the topic. Generally speaking the videos tend to be thorough with plenty of background information in addition to the technological info that tech fans would enjoy. The videos are more informative than entertaining, however. This isn’t a bad thing it just might limit the audience to those who prefer videos that are more straight forward.

The show channel does offer a decent glimpse into the history of audio/video technologies. There is one slight draw back to the series. As the reviewer is based in the United Kingdom, his videos tend to have a very British slant. This can be interesting when discussing technology that was more popular in the U.K than in the United States, for instance. However it can be limiting when it comes to reviewing products that either had more success in the US or didn’t exist in the U.K. at all. For example he reviewed CED Discs which were a lot more popular in the United States so his exposure was limited. Also since his reviews typically cover PAL products he tends to have an emphasis on PAL signals which might be confusing to some residents in the US. This isn’t necessarily a negative of the show. After all he does a great job explaining the limitations when they do arrive. Yet it still has the potential to limit the audience or at the very least the enjoyment of those who are not as versed in the U.K. region.

Summary: Techmoan offers reviews of different technologies mostly from audio/video sectors. He often digs into the history of the individual technology he is reviewing while breaking down the items to demonstrate how they function, or how they were intended to in the case of items he was unable to repair. The host has a sort of dry personality that might not appeal to some foreign viewers, especially those in the US that are more used to the flashy reviewers who rely heavily on satire and over the top antics for their shows. As such the audience is limited.

The show has decent production values. It’s well researched with good lighting, editing and transitions. The draw backs include the hosts British sensibilities, his tendency to drone on, as well as having some times limited scope when it comes to items that were more popular in the United States. He does often admit to his shortcomings. The show comes off as more informative than entertaining which might be a turn off to some viewers.

Rating: 3.5 stars.

Youtube Review: Cracked After Hours

Michael Swaim, Soren Bowie, Daniel O’Brien and Katie Willert co-host a comedy variety show on YouTube via the Cracked.Com network.

The show centers on four co-workers sitting around a table, typically in a diner, discussing different aspects of popular culture. The individuals each portray a different character type. Soren is the rugged, handsome leading man type, Daniel is the nerdy, unsure of himself social anxiety OCD type. Micheal plays the cool but clueless character who is often impervious to other people’s feelings with Katie filling out the roster as the chick. She sometimes plays the feminist, others she plays the typical girl in a guy group. Most often she is used as fodder for the table to crack jokes as her expense.

Each character supplies a topic of discussion from one episode to the next, then they either enthusiastically or begrudgingly (depending on the topic) discuss the topic at hand. Some episodes discuss what-if scenarios, while others ponder the real-world ramifications the actions of a certain film would have if the rules of society applied.

Each episode is mostly self-contained. Although references do occur from time to time, they often happen in the form of quick flash backs, typically call backs to a previous joke, such as Katie’s changing hair styles or the waitress reaction to the group’s orders.

The jokes often rely on a combination of the characters reactions to the topic as well as satirical references to the topic. A character might behave with “nerd rage” if the topic disproves a popular myth about a particular pop icon that individual character held dear. An example was in the episode where they try to prove Batman is terrible at his job.

There have been rare occasions where the setting will move outside the diner. Some other locations have been camp sights on the side of the road or when the diner burned down they had to move to a new diner and the characters didn’t even notice for several episodes.

The topics are varied enough to keep the viewer coming back. Some episodes will center on a comic book icon or an animated character, such as the Simpsons. While other episodes will discuss the issues of a certain sitcom, or theme of sitcoms as in the episode that breaks down the fatherless sitcoms of the 1980’s.

The show is written by a team of comedy sketch writers who work for the website, Cracked.com. The characters are also featured in other video content on the show. The main “host” Daniel O’Brian is the head of video on the website, taking on a larger role in other shows the team produces.

The production values are high. The sets look professionally built and well lit. The extras are professional in their takes. The hosts deliver their lines as believable characters in the world they inhabit. The acting is probably the only down fall of the series. The characters are more or less caricatures of the personalities the individuals exhibit elsewhere on the channel. When they do show emotion it is often over the top. While this is clearly done for comedic affect, it can become repetitive at times. The actors have demonstrated in other videos they have a limited range so it’s quite possible the episodes are written to their strengths. All in all it’s a fairly entertaining series with short episodes that often provide a brief distraction from the monotonous while also providing alternative perspectives on popular tropes in Hollywood.

 

Summary: The series combines aspects of Seinfeld with a group of friends sitting around a diner talking about random topics. The comedy relies heavily on the way the characters react to what is being said rather than the delivery of the jokes. The series is well written and professionally produced. The show should appeal to those who are fans of films and television that want to get a nice break from the norm with a entertaining and often humorous look at  films and TV shows.

The over acting can be a distraction at times depending on the episode. The series can also rely on slapstick comedy which is hard to pull off when the characters are confined to their seats. These are minimal nitpicks rather than true flaws, however they could be potential negatives to some individuals. The comedy is typically good while the shows topics are usually varied enough to remain mostly fresh.

Rating: 4.5 stars.

 

YouTube Review: FilmmakerIQ

John P. Hess hosts a series of film-school videos that cover a range of topics from the artistic to the technical with histories abounding.

FilmmakerIQ breaks down various aspects of film making and presents them in short lessons for the budding filmmaker, or film enthusiast. The videos often pick a single topic. Sometimes they topics will be technical in nature, such as the history of aspect ratios. Others will be artistic in nature describing a particular technique in detail with illustrations and examples from popular films.

The host of the show presents the topic in a very soothing, professor tone. He uses chalk board animations and sound effects to create the feel of being in a film class with a knowledgeable professor at the helm.

The videos offer great insights into both the history and the practical side of film making. Often times the videos delve into the history of the subject providing examples of the individuals who developed each technique along the way. He even includes examples of famous films from the period to demonstrate whatever principal it is he is discussing.

The production values are quite professional. The videos are well written, well lit and the host often uses props and costumes to accentuate the theme of the video. In terms of quality of content, the videos are not as exhaustive as taking an actual film course or a full-fledged documentary. However they are indeed quite informative. The average video length is over twenty minutes, plenty of time to dig into the history of the topic with solid examples to truly illustrate what is being discussed.

The channel also has a full-fledged website, www.filmmakeriq.com where they offer film courses, critiques, and plenty of advice for budding filmmakers.

Summary: FilmmakerIQ provides easy to digest lessons, tips, and historical perspectives on the aspiring filmmaker or film enthusiast. The host has a clear passion for the content using props, costumes, animations and other effects to provide engaging videos that are both entertaining and informative on the subject. Some videos go into details on the scientific and technical explanations while others take a look at artistic theory and all videos demonstrate knowledge of the subject with clear examples.

 

Rating: 5 stars.

Saturday Morning Cartoon memories

It’s been a few years since the major networks ceased doing their Saturday Morning Cartoons blocks on TV. As a child in the 80’s and into the 90’s the whole ritual of getting up early on Saturday morning and being glued to the TV wasn’t just something we did, it was pretty much all we did.

Everyone has different memories of the Saturday Morning cartoons. For me it was often fighting my three sisters for control over what we watched next. Fortunately we did have 2 TV sets, although the smaller one was in black and white and was mostly used for video games, it still caused many fights that often ended with someone getting hurt. My oldest sister is 3 years my senior so she always wanted to watch stuff like Soul Train and in later years MTV. My immediately younger sister was barely a year and a half younger than I was so she typically had similar tastes in cartoons as I did, except she had this weird obsession with puppets so he gravitated towards stuff like Eureka’s Castle, Fraggle Rock and things of the like. I could get her into Pound Puppies, Snorks and Muppet Babies just fine, but she protested watching Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Transformers, G.I. Joe or even Scooby Doo. I never could figure out what she didn’t like about Scooby and friends. Then there was my baby sister. She had no say, all she wanted to watch was Rugrats and Nicktoons, didn’t matter what day of the week. When they moved Doug and Recess and all that Nickelodeon crap over to my network TV slots I sort of moved on and let her have it.

Of course not all the cartoons we watched aired first on Saturday mornings. Often times they were re-runs of syndicated shows and shows that ran earlier in the week. To that end we never really knew what we were going to get. My earliest memories were watching the Heroic Autobots battle the Evil Decepticons for control of the world’s energy sources. You could argue that watching this show about robots running out of energy contributed to my interest in alternative energy sources, but let’s not give too much credit to the animators of a Japanese cartoon. Save some of the blame for Captain Planet and his Planeteers that would come much later.

Another thing I liked to do during the week was record episodes of cartoons, commercials, and other shows that interested me and play them back on the weekend. I didn’t do this often but it was something I would dabble in. Normally I would end up erasing one of my sisters’ boy band concert videos so when they found out I taped over their boy crush for a bunch of random commercials and crap they would usually go ballistic. Most of my memories were fighting my sisters over what to watch more than enjoying the actual program. Because of this what we typically did was landed on one channel, watched it until commercials then flipped as fast as we could to the next and so on and so forth. This meant we were only getting bits and pieces of each show, but it was better than sitting through an entire episode of that lame New Kids on the Block cartoon that, in my opinion, never should have existed. Those brief moments in between when I got a glimpse of M.A.S.K., or C.O.P.S (why did so many cartoons back then use acronyms?), that’s when I would get excited.

I did eventually get crafty in my ability to turn my sisters on each other. I found ways to get the baby to play with her toys while I would get my younger sister and older sister fighting over a hair brush or article of clothing or something sisters cared about then I would sit on the floor way too close to the tube and claim it for my own. Once my parents would see I was firmly engrossed in a show if one of my sisters tried to change the channel they would get scolded with a firm “You weren’t even watching it, he was let him finish his show.” This strategy worked more often than not. I can’t be sure if they ever caught on because the oldest sister moved on to chasing boys and the youngest sister was easy to manipulate leaving the one opponent, the middle child. Even at the tender age of 8 I quickly learned how to negotiate with the middle child. I would usually agree let me watch this show and the next one and you can have it after that while I play Super Mario Bros. Since I tended to hog the Nintendo and always force my sister to be Luigi, it was easy for me to casually hint that she could play as Mario while I watched my shows. Then all I had to do was enjoy my programs while she romped through the Mushroom Kingdom with player 1 controller in hand for a change. This strategy didn’t always work as my parents were slow to increase our catalog of Nintendo games and my sister was quick to lose interest in the three games we did own for the longest time.

Manipulating my sisters was only half the battle. I also had to find crafty ways to get my parents out of the house in order to prolong the part where dad would kick me out of the house to play outside while he napped on the couch with the TV tuned to some fishing show or NASCAR or whatever else it was adults watched to fall asleep. Normally by the time the parents told us to play outside I would casually, sometimes sneakily, make my way into whichever side room had the video games and try to get in as many rounds of Atari or Nintendo as I could. We still had both systems well into the 90’s so this usually worked out until my parents just decided to give me my own TV set and I ended up winning the war for the TV after all was said and done.

For me it was mostly fought on Saturday mornings. Everyone remembers those blocks. I didn’t have much preference either. I would sit through an episode of the Alf or Teen Wolf cartoon, flip it over to an episode of Care Bears or even sit through an episode of Rainbow Brite if that’s what it took to keep the cartoons going and the old westerns my parents enjoyed off the TV. The battle continued Monday through Friday as I would get up at 5 in the morning, turn the TV to a minimum volume and sit through episodes of The Odd Couple, Perfect Strangers, Mork and Mindy, even Kate and Allie, just so I could stake my claim to the TV set before school.

I had a set list of shows I couldn’t miss. Transformers was TOP priority. It didn’t matter if it was Saturday morning, before school, after school or a random tape I rented from the video store, if there was a chance I could get my buddy Optimus Prime on the TV set I was going to do whatever it took. Priority number 2 was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I would also watch this regularly whenever it aired as well as rent tapes from the video store. Priority 3 was X-Men the Animated series. This came alter but once I discovered it this show became a must watch. Fortunately for me both of my younger sisters developed an equally strong interest in X-Men characters (they each also collected the comics and trading cards as did I) so it was much easier to get them to call a truce when that show came on. Then down the list the priority was, shows with robots, shows with magic, shows with mutants, shows with cute girls that had purple or pink hair (yeah I was weird sue me) then at the bottom of the list was shows with talking animals. This, of course, only applied to cartoons.

Live-action shows was much different. I prioritized shows with a cute girl I crushed on, Saved by the Bell it was Kelly, Sabrina the Teenage Witch/Clarissa Explains it All it was, you guessed, the awesome Melissa Joan Heart, and okay well there wasn’t a cute girl on Boy Meets World, I just found that show funny as hell. And in case you are wondering, it was the red head with glasses on any show that had a red head with glasses. Or any girl with glasses. For some reason I was into chicks with glasses… Okay moving on…

By the time the 90’s rolled around I was shifting into more live-action stuff like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad, and CGI animated shows like Reboot and Beast Wars. I only gave Beast Wars casually passing as I was a die-hard TRUKK NOT MONKEE type. Still I eventually came around and became more interested in that show. The 90’s also saw my tastes briefly shift to anime. I got into Sailor Moon, Ronin Warriors, Dragon Ball Z, The Slayers, Patlabor, and even Digimon for a while. By the time my anime watching friends were getting into Powerpuff Girls I had snapped out of it and the anime spell was broken. I haven’t hardly looked back either. I do remember though, the Saturday Anime block that came on the Sci-Fi channel. We didn’t have cable when we were very young, so we didn’t have the Sci-Fi channel (as it was called back then) until mid-95. By that time I was pretty much over the Saturday Morning cartoon craze.

Those are some of my memories, please comment your thoughts, memories and stories plus favorite cartoons from the 80s and 90s, anime excluded if you can.

Contemplating the Netflix purchase of comic book imprint Millarworld

The Spiders Lair is not a news site first and foremost. Obviously nobody is learning about this news by coming here. Still this is big enough I wanted to get something down before the dust settles.

According to reports Netflix is purchasing an indie comics company called Millarworld. Apparently it’s the publishing house that does Kick-Ass and Kingsmen, among other comics I never heard of. At first that sounds like a pretty big deal. Especially when you take into account their current deals with Marvel. Netflix could soon become the premiere streaming service for quality, comic book content.

Of course the only two comics they make I know about are the very two not included in the purchase. What does this mean in the grand scheme of things? On the surface, very little. Netflix has never out right purchased another company before. By picking up a comic book imprint the idea sounds good. If they can develop enough titles into quality movies and shows for their service, combined with the already fantastic Marvel shows they have, other publishers could come on board. I think the far reaching implication would be for more indie developers to bring their titles to Netflix for production. This could mean we could start seeing shows based on comics that aren’t as mainstream as Marvel and DC without having to go through the Hollywood studios. This could be a game changer depending on how things work out.

Imagine as more comic book fans start to discover all the good shows and movies they want to watch are coming to Netflix. This could snowball where all the content creators scramble to get their indie comic characters turned into a Netflix series. I would LOVE to see a Gen 13 show or even a revived Buffy with a new lead. Oh, I guess if they wanted to they could go the animated route too. I just wish they would use their licensing deals to pick up a few more classic animated comics based shows like the original TMNT cartoon or even some X-Men the Animated series. When I first discovered Netflix they had a ton of those types of shows. Now they have a few here and there. I don’t think the quality has declined much. I just don’t think they need to abandon old shows entirely to make room for new content. I would prefer they found a better balance between the two.

AS of right now this is more akin to when Hasbro bought the rights to Atari back in the 90’s. They are getting some new properties but are they really going to have the impact Netflix desires? A real game changing deal would have been if they picked up Image, Malibu, or even Dreamwave, at least then you are getting a solid blend of well known and indie comics. Here you are basically getting 4th tier comics from a very small specialty publisher. Not a bad deal, it’s still new content but seriously if you have to Google what their titles are it’s not like they are making waves. I mean I read comics, I go to Free Comic Book Day. And I wasn’t that familiar with this company. I loved Kingsmen and Kick-Ass but since those two aren’t a part of this deal I am not even sure how much of an impact this will truly make. All in all I will just take a wait and see approach. Since I haven’t really even been paying attention to Netflix in quite a while I am certain this won’t really affect me all that much anyways.

My comic book memories: X-Men

A couple of days ago I went onto Amazon to purchase some Dawn comics. For those that don’t know Dawn is a character created by Joseph Michael Linsner in the late 1980’s. I discovered Dawn in my early pre-teen years when I was just starting to really get into comic books. Before I could commit to buying any more issues or trade paperbacks I had to dig out my comic vault to see what I had to make sure I wasn’t buying something I already bought previously. I started going through my X-Men graphic novels and TPB’s and realized I didn’t have all of the ones I thought I did. I also confirmed I didn’t have any of the Dawn TPB’s so I was good to order them on Amazon.

How I got into X-Men is a little more interesting than how I discovered Dawn. I always preferred comics with more of a mythology feel or fantasy/swords and sorcery stuff. I enjoyed Conan, and the D&D comics especially. That is how I found myself getting into X-Men. My first experience with Marvel’s famous mutants was not even through comic books. Since I was mostly into indie comics, horror comics, and less mainstream stuff I didn’t see a lot of advertisements for X-Men or other mainstream stuff. If I did, I ignored it or dismissed it as a bunch of spandex wearing clowns. My first exposure was walking into a video arcade and playing the 6-player behemoth X-Men arcade machine. I had no clue who these characters were. Since I discovered TMNT through an arcade game I decided to check out X-Men since I really loved the Ninja Turtles at that time. Turns out the Ninja Turtles were mutants, and the X-Men were also mutants so I thought cool I can get into this. Even if I didn’t really know what a ‘mutant’ was at that time.

I didn’t really pick up any X-Men comics right away though. Instead my next exposure came from renting the abysmal NES game. Now I had rented my share of terrible games on the NES but this was by far one of my least favorite. I couldn’t believe this was how they ported that awesome 6-player game to the NES. I didn’t discover until years later the weren’t even connected outside of the name.

From here I was in 3rd grade and I had a teacher that new I was into reading fantasy and science fiction stuff so she lent me a few of her issues of X-Men comics. They were all mostly current stuff from the late 80’s. Nothing special but I had no idea what was even going on. They were about 3 unconnected issues that had totally different characters in each one. The only character that I recognized from the video game was the guy in the yellow and brown jump suit with the claws. My first impression was I hated that guy. I learned his name was Wolverine and I thought, what a stupid name. His power is he has claws, yawn. Oh he has unbreakable claws, so what.

I didn’t give X-Men another serious thought until the animated series came on Fox a couple of years later. I watched a few episodes and it was entertaining, but I still didn’t know much about the characters, and I still couldn’t stand that blasted Wolverine who just happened to basically be the star of the show. By this time i was really heavy into the Conan the Adventurer cartoon and the new Aladdin animated series. Like I said I was more into horror and fantasy stuff than actual sci-fi. Well I saw a commercial for the Phoenix Saga mini series of X-Men cartoons coming soon. There was a Phoenix character on Conan so that connected the mutants to the mythology stuff I was more into. I was also getting really heavy into Dungeons and Dragons right about this same time.

Finally I gave the cartoon a second chance. I had seen a few random episodes here and there. While the action was always good, the characters didn’t really mean much to me as I had no connection to them. So when I started watching the Phoenix Saga and Dark Phoenix Saga unfold as a dramatic event over several weeks, I became hooked. Suddenly I picked out the characters I did care for and wanted to follow them. I immediately ran out and began buying all the Cyclops and Jean Grey stuff I could. I fell in love with that couple and wanted to get everything I could. By this time I was also getting into collecting trading cards so I had picked up a few sets of Marvel Universe series cards. There were always X-Men characters within those sets so I started reading the backs of the cards, trying to learn more about the lore of these characters. By this time I was really getting fascinated with the Cyclops character and Marvel Girl especially. I started buying X-Men trading cards, action figures, that super fantastic Sega Genesis game and it’s pretty amazing sequel, too. By the mid-1990’s I had gone from not caring or knowing much about the X-Men to being completely dedicated. Before long I was less excited for Conan and found myself looking forward to X-Men episodes even more. As the series dragged on my disdain for Wolverine continued so I quickly lost interest again as the characters I liked took a backseat to his temper-tantrums.

Then it all culminated with me picking up the Wedding of Cyclops and Phoenix issue. Seeing Scott and Jean get hitched was the perfect end to the fairy tale. The mess that was the Spider-clone saga had completely turned me away from Spidey comics by this time. I had sat through the majority of the Age of Apocalypse with intense interest and curiosity. Then just as things were starting to ‘recover’ they started they whole Onslought stuff and I finally lost interest in the comics for good. I kept paying attention to the characters through buying action figures, picking up back issues of the comics that were void of Logan as much as possible. Then they dropped the bombshell of a movie on the world. Wow, for the first time I didn’t care for the Cyclops character and was actually rooting for Logan. Part of this was the movie made Logan a much more likeable character than the whiny little bitch he was in the comics. He was still a selfish asshole in the movies sure, but not as bad as he was in the comics.

This allowed me to warm up to the character so I went back and tried to get into the Wolverine comics too. Needless to say the movies altered my perception of the characters quite a bit. Before long I was stating to lose interest in the characters and their mythos entirely. Still, every once in a while I go back and remember what it was I liked about them in the first place. At one time I was collecting everything X-Men related from New Mutants comics to Cable and Deadpool spin off stuff. Eventually the movies would start to really spend too much time focusing on Logan again, giving him solo movie after solo movie while continuing to treat my beloved Scott and Jean like second, or even third class characters.  Today I have a pretty decent X-Men comics collection I can go back to and revisit. I have all but one of the films and that’s just because I just haven’t been looking for a copy. All in all I discovered I really loved the X-Men and I am very glad I took the time to get to know them.