G4TV to return?! How, Why and who cares?

ME! I do right here. Super excited. I know everybody is going to be talking about this. I don’t think I can wait for the next episode of the Dark Web Podcast to upload next week to get my thoughts out there on this.

First let me say I am super stoked and I almost don’t even care what it ends up looking like when it returns. I say almost because, well it could be a mess.

G4TV, known once upon a time as TechTV and G4TechTV was a TV network for nerds. With the rise of the internet streaming nerds fled the network in favor of stuff like the (defunct/rebranded The Know turned Inside Gaming, IGN and YouTube for news) but I never lost hope the idea could be revived. In fact what initially drew me to Rooster Teeth in the first place, along with ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com were how much they kinda sorta reminded me of the once  great but never forgotten G4.

I am sorry my thoughts are all over the place. I am torn. I really want Attack of the Show and X-Play to make a proper return I really do, but what I want and what could happen might not be the same. I know as an adult who frequently revisits old flames and is constantly bombarded by reboots that it won’t be the same as the first time around. So what! I want more Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb damn it!

The saddest part of the G4 story always had been the fact it was supplanted by YouTube when it was tailor made to be be a YouTube show. Now there is some speculation if it returns it would be either a YouTube network/series ala Rooster Teeth and ChannelAwesome (ya know to fill the void left behind with Machinema and GameTrailers also now defunct) but there are also those who see it as possibly becoming a draw for Twitch. Sadly this is where I think the majority of gamers might lean and that makes me split. See if they bring back those old shows in a format similar to before but modified slightly to fit on a web series I’d be all in. Sign me up. I’ll even buy merch and sign up for the inevitable Patreon.

However, G4 has a ghost in its past. You see the network failed because it was gobbled up by content giant Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal (and recently launched the less than stellar Peacock (cr)app). This gives me cause for concern. Revitalized as a YouTube channel with shows I can follow easily I am in. Rebranded as a content tied to Peacock I am hesitant but willing to hear you out. However bring it back as just a cable TV station locked to paid cable subscribers and I am forever blocked from gaining access to its content. This was what killed the brand in the first place. It failed to adapt. It had a YouTube presence but it was before content creators knew how to make money off YouTube and before network TV figured out how to utilize it properly, thus it was there but it wasn’t there in a meaningful (read profitable) way. In other words, it will take more than bringing the shows back and getting them in front of an audience. It has to be the right audience, right platform and it has to be engaging and entertaining.

Yes I can see a revised Attack of the Show being viewed fondly on YouTube or even Twitch but quickly dying out as the audience split and ad share won’t be enough to justify a full TV production. On the flip side a full scale cable TV treatment but on Peacock might be the draw that app needs to lure a few suckers like me to stick around. It is already streaming Code Monkeys after all, a show which originally made it’s debut on, you guessed it, G4.

I will have more to say on this subject but my lunch break is over I have to return to work, punch the clock and get my paycheck in so I can keep eating. Be sure to wait anxiously for the next episode of The Dark Web Podcast to get my full thoughts on what this could mean, how it might work and what it would look like to get me on board or lose me forever. Stay Cool.

THE RAT’s top 25 Science Fiction movies

This is another list of movies to see what comes up. This time we’ll be taking a look at the best sci-fi movies. As with all lists the rank is not top to bottom they are numbered for sorting purposes only. Let’s get started.

1. Star Wars

You can call it space opera, space fantasy or whatever you want it’s still science fiction even if only on the surface. Easily one of the greatest films of all time and definitely a movie all sci-fi fans need to experience.

2. Star Trek II The Wrath of Kahn

Not the only good Star Trek movie but certainly the best. It has everything you’d want from a science fiction movie and it still holds up well today.

3. Sphere

In some ways this could be considered a thriller. Either way it’s still a great movie all the way around.

4. Alien

It’s a slasher movie. It’s a thriller. It’s a horror movie and it’s a sci-fi masterpiece. What more do you want?

5. Jurassic Park

Some would claim its more of a monster movie, which it is, than pure sci-fi but what are you going to do it has Dinosaurs and retro computers.

6. The Matrix

If you make a list of the best sci-fi movies and you leave the Matrix off then you failed. This is probably the most sci-fi of all the movies on this list.

7. Inception

More known for being a mind trip, and it does rely heavily on a pseudo-science rather than hard science, it still counts.

8. Back to the Future

Sure it’s really a comedy  but it’s also a sci-fi comedy and by far the best time travel movie around.

9. The Terminator

Often overlooked because of its action-movie sequel, this one is pure science fiction at its best. Also the special effects still give me chills.

10. Starship Troopers

This movie wins on so many levels. The action. The violence. The spaceships. The naked people. A+ Sci-fi film right here.

11. Total Recall

One of the best movies Arnold Schwarzenegger ever starred in. Similar to Inception and The Matrix in a lot of ways but still pretty damn cool.

12. Robocop

Part robot. Part cop. All bitching kick ass action sci-fi roller coaster.

13.  Guardians of the Galaxy

It’s probably the only MCU film that counts as legit sci-fi rather than superhero fluff. Also it just rocks.

14. Aeon Flux

Some will say it’s a bad movie. I say give it another shot.

15. TMNT

The original. It’s campy but it’s still pretty interesting.

16. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Visually stunning. Classic premise. Superb story telling.

17. Batteries Not Included

Cute, endearing and fun at the same time.

18. The Fifth Element

Must watch film. Beautiful special effects. Funny and solid action flick with interesting plot.

19. Men in Black

The actual good sci-fi movie Will Smith was in.

20. The Time Machine

The original. Very solid film. Very iconic. Very thought provoking.

21. Planet of the Apes

The twist ending alone makes it worth it.

22. Star Trek First Contact

I tried to keep it to one film per franchise but this movie absolutely belongs on the list.

23. Superman

The original superhero comic book movie and still a fantastic sci-fi adventure.

24. Demolition Man

Cheesy, yes and still light years ahead of the competition.

25. Independence Day

By far the best flying saucer movie ever made.

Comparing Star Trek to Doctor Who

I have always been a big fan of science fiction. When I was a kid my favorite movies, TV shows and video games all had some sci-fi component to them. In the early years of my childhood both of my parents were united on their love of Star Trek. They both liked the original series as well as most of the films. Growing up I discovered I could tolerate the Next Generation but I wasn’t that into the others.

I didn’t discover Doctor Who until I was in my 20’s. I didn’t even learn my mom was into the show until I was in college. I had moved back in with my parents to save money while I attended university. It didn’t take long before I started making some comparisons to the two. The biggest difference was how easily I got into Doctor Who yet how hard it was for me to get into Star Trek.

Truth be told my interest in ST goes no further than the motion picture series and a handful of episodes from TOS and TNG. My curiosity has me peek into the different iterations from time to time only to be reminded why it’s such a chore to watch those shows.

Aside from being long running science fiction programs with some theatrical movies in the mix, the two franchises have very little in common.

Star Trek is very much an idealized image of what NASA is trying to be today. Even the most visible character in the pop culture with origins in either franchise, Mr. Spock, is really just a science officer. Now my love for what NASA does is why I continue to be deceived into trying to find some entertainment in the various Star Treks, but I digress lets compare the two.

TV shows.

Star Trek is divided into eras. There’s the Original Series, the animated series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery, Picard and unofficially The Orville (which I will get to later.)

Doctor Who is broken down into three eras. Classic Series, the Fox movie, and the revival series. It’s a lot simpler on the surface because it actually lasted several DECADES not just multiple seasons. Star Trek failed to get to its originally intended 5 seasons being cancelled right away then saved by a vehement letter writing campaign only to be ended one season later. The short lived 3-season run certainly had a lasting impact on pop culture as well as the world of science fiction fandom.

In terms of organizational structure Star Trek breaks down by subtitle. You know what to expect with each distinct show, even though there is some overlap and cross overs between many of them.

Doctor Who on the other hand is actually in practical reality a lot messier. You see the Doctor, the main character of the show, is a space alien who basically is reborn every time he, or sometimes she, dies. In other words a new period begins not with a new subtitle and crew/setting, but rather when one doctor “regenerates” into another, usually at the hands of a Dalek. Or is it plunger? Anyways you have I believe 14 or so different Doctors, each one having a distinct personality and each ones adventures playing into that personality.

Then there are the movies.

Doctor Who hasn’t had nearly as much luck with films as Star Trek. The first wave were basically Hollywood attempts to Americanize the show. They were  basically retellings of stories that had previously run but changed to fit an American appetite. Star Trek has never had to be altered or revamped to be more palatable to the British audiences, to the best of my knowledge anyways, so that’s a point in favor of the series that gave the world The Wrath of Khan. Pure sci-fi gold.

But, Doctor Who does somewhat redeem itself with some of the modern movies although they too remain convoluted like the show. Mostly they are excuses to have multiple doctors team up for a storyline that tries to tie up loose ends. They tend to be more like extended length episodes than actual full budget films.

Except one, Doctor Who: The Movie, a made for TV film also Americanized but still firmly tied to the U.K. show unlike the previous films. That movie does stand well enough on its own, it’s actually quite entertaining. However, it doesn’t really connect neatly to the rest of the shows and serves more as a bridge  between Classic and Revived Who.

With the regenerations and cross over episodes plus the constant nods to what came before, Doctor Who feels like each season more or less rehashes what came before but with a slight twist each time. You’re always going to run into the Daleks, the cybermen, Santarans and a few other recognizable aliens. There is always going to be an episode where the doctor causes some great historical tragedy and has to cope with him being the one that kills innocent people. And there is always going to be an episode where a creature of mythology is explained as some alien being.

Star Trek tends to be formulaic too but in a different way. It’s more like here is a new world to explore and what specifically is special about this world or alien or space ship. They rarely return to earth and when they do it’s either a time travel episode, or a vacation gone wrong.

Doctor Who does spend an unnecessary amount of time in England when it is set on Earth. Star Trek tends to trot the globe while being largely U.S. centric for logical reasons.

Doctor Who also does a much better job exploring time and space. You are taken from the earliest beginnings of the universe clear to the end of time and everywhere inbetween. The show features a barrage of aliens, technology an worlds to explore. There is even an episode where the Doctor goes to Hell and defeats the Devil himself. Oh sure I could bring up the Star Trek movie where they meet God but we all know that isn’t a beloved film.

Let’s talk budgets. Early seasons of Doctor Who look like they would be done by high school art and theater students today. TOS episodes on the other hand still look like care went into the production values. The sets tend to be more colorful and open on Star Trek where as Doctor Who often takes place in cramped spaces in the early days. Even once the show progresses I feel like the Star Trek special effects were doing things the Doctor Who people still struggle with to this day. You can blame some of that, or much of it, on budgets. CBS has tons more money than the BBC.

It’s not just special effects. While the control room of the TARDIS is, unique in its own way, it’s not as fleshed out and defined as the iconic Enterprise. Also, let’s face it the Enterprise looks like a space ship NASA could make some day, the TARDIS is just a phone booth.

It’s almost too easy to give a point to Doctor Who for being continuously on air multiple decades, even with a 20 year gap between the two eras, but Star Trek isn’t really that far off. Even though the Original Series did get cancelled right away, there was an animated show to fill in the gaps until the films pretty quick. Also, the gaps between one Star Trek series to the next is not as prominent as the huge gap in Doctor Who. I’d have to actually sit down and count total years represented but I would be willing to be if it’s close at all the edge still goes to Star Trek.

What about merchandise such as toys, comic books and video games? This one is easy. There aren’t any Doctor Who videos games to speak of. There’s a few slot machines and British exclusive computer games nobody has ever played. Star Trek doesn’t have the best games but it’s been represented in some shape or form in nearly ever major video game era. Star Trek also has a pretty solid comic book presence while Doctor Who’s is spotty at best. Same can be said for toys and other collectibles, the edge goes to Star Trek.

Storytelling and plots.

Both shows are heavy handed and very preachy. One presents a society aspiring to achieve utopia while the other has a God-like being enforcing his will across the universe. All of the Star Trek captains make judgement calls and impose the will of their respective federation ideology onto whichever alien or society is being encountered while simultaneously preaching some prime directive about not interfering.

The Doctor calls himself a Time Lord. And nearly every episode he is called out for lording over all of time and space. As his name implies he has an arrogance about him that indicates he believes it is right to impose his will on the universe. He see’s himself as the enforcer of righteousness and the distiller of vengeance on those who do wrong.

Star Trek presents a hopeful future where humanity learns to use technology to transcend its problems and spread those ideals to the rest of the galaxy. Doctor Who presents a Time Lord who whisks around all of time and space both as an observer and dictator of sorts. He spouts off about fixed points in time as a reason why he cannot interfere yet he too breaks his own version of the prime directive quite often.

Star Trek has spun off into other branches of itself. Each new series loosely connected while free from the boundaries of what came before. Doctor Who basically reinvents itself literally every few years with a complete reboot of sorts. There is one true spin off to speak of in the Doctor Who universe, a series called Torchwood, but that’s a story for another day.

Despite personally enjoying Doctor Who more because of the simpler story telling, easier to approach episodes and fast paced action compared to Star Trek, as I break it down Star Trek just comes out ahead in every measurable category.

Doctor Who’s strength is also it’s weakness. Each time the alien regenerates the TARDIS also has to be rebuilt into a new interior set design. This helps mark when a new run is going to being but it also reminds the viewer the show is not likely to give the audience any closure in story lines. When you have a time traveler who can hop dimensions and basically make his own rules, consequences don’t tend to have lasting effects. At least in Star Trek sure each episodes follows a predictable template, you still know that by the end there will be meaningful resolution to the story leaving you satisfied yet still knowing there is more out there should you crave it. Stay Cool.

Why the Death Star is actually pretty cool

From a military stand point the Star Wars universe is very much a the guy with the bigger gun makes the rules kind of place. While the expanded universe, including the now deleted legacy stuff, depicted a vast history spanning thousands of years, what we see in the films paints a picture of a militaristic society struggling to shed its industrialist ways and return to a simpler time.

Throw that narrative out the window and prepare to be amazed. I won’t go into the Imperialist sympathizer mentality some would argue. Palpatine was not a benevolent leader protecting the Empire from an evil alien invasion as some fringe corners of the interwebs might have you to believe.

As an industrialist, pro-capitalism, techie science nerd I can say the idea of a giant, indestructible fortress of metal housing a giant death ray sounds pretty cool. The imagery of the super weapon is also appealing. In a way it kind of looks like a giant menacing robot eyeball in space.  As a setting for a space fantasy it’s damn near perfect. It builds tension for the heroes as the looming dread of ultimate annihilation approaches. Even in that final tactical meeting where the Rebel forces basically come to terms with the suicide mission they are embarking upon the reality sinks in. The pilots know they can either stay on the planet and get blown to atoms or face certain death in an attack that literally makes no logical sense all the way around.

The whole idea of a super weapon that has the power to frighten  the imperial subjects into total submission is more than a plot point, it is the very glue that holds the entire Star Wars saga together. From a tactical perspective it doesn’t need to make sense because it works as a story element.

Star Wars has been regarded by a lot of film different people over the years as the  greatest film of all time, or at least one of the greatest by most accounts. It is absolutely a cultural phenomenon at the very least. I would argue that the Death Star itself is as much a character of the film as Darth Vader and even more crucial to its success than the entire Jedi mythology.

The Death Star represents mans ultimate achievement, using science and technology to tame the natural world. Being able to control the elements even on a global scale is impressive enough. Then we see the Galactic Empire showing our imaginations a society that has also tamed the wild vastness of space itself. Even the science-grounded Star Trek shows us an untamed space that cannot be explained. The reason Star Wars continues to capture our imaginations to this day is because the first film had the balls to make the focus of the movie a Cold War era nightmare extrapolated to the extreme. Humans of the era were under constant threat of mutually assured destruction during the time the film was released. Humanity had created a series of weapons that if unleashed had the capability to render the Earth a lifeless rock. Here comes a weapon that can not only take out all life on a planet, but can actually destroy an entire planet in a single instant. Images of the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima fresh on everyone’s minds, the scene where Alderaan is blown to molecules resonated with our own fears.

Everyone from the kid in grade school to the college student writing a thesis for their professor down to the nerdy blogger on the internet, has written about Star Wars in some form or another.

While there are ways to analyze the film from a political science perspective, to seeing it as a study in mythology, to a warning of the dangers of industrialization, every angle has been explored. Even as I sit here trying to think of why the Death Star is so damn cool all I can think to say is it’s the best explanation I have for why the film works so well.

There is so much going on in Star Wars yet most of the truly iconic moments and quoteably memorable lines are taken from scenes that happened on the Death Star. The most iconic line from the movie even “May the Force be With you” was said on the battle ship and directed towards it in that briefing room scene.

The sight of a giant metallic ball of death moving into orbit is more than enough to give everyone chills. Even the sense of relief the heroes have at the films conclusions is more than a simple battle field victory over a technologically and militarily superior enemy. The symbolism of destroying the most powerful weapon of the Empire is enough to bolster the Rebels moral. The audience is left with a sense of wonder, awe and relief as the credits roll. We leave the galaxy far, far away knowing the legend of the farm boy, space pirate and princess who stop an evil giant ball of death will live on in the collective conscious of all who experience it.

While film and literary critics will argue the idea of the Death Star is over used or some contrivance of sorts they fail to recognize what it truly represents. On the surface it’s a plot device. Nothing more than the threat our heroes need to overcome. Yet it represents something larger than that. It is the idea of man developing a technology that can undo God’s creation. The idea that man can invent a technology that would elevate an creature no more significant than a flea in the  grand scheme of things to the single most important life form in existence. For that reason alone the idea of the Death Star transcends the films and is single-handedly responsible for propelling the Star Wars saga from the realm of a cult b movie to arguably one of the most successful and influential films to ever exist.

I believe that the Death Star is the most important element to the film, even more significant to its pop culture status than the characters themselves. And I am eternally grateful George Lucas had the artistic genius to design his movie around a concept that sticks with you. None of the films spectacular visual effects, fantastic story telling, lovable characters or rich back story work if you remove the single most important element from the films genetic makeup. The movie works simply because the Death Star works. Without it you just have the Wizard of Oz in space. And who wants to see that?

A political revelation regarding the Star Wars prequel trilogy

I have a confession to make. I am kind of a nerd when it comes to politics and government. I became a journalist because I truly am fascinated by the political process. Things like economic development, infrastructure investment, community engagement, police policy, parks and recreation and more just really do interest me. I enjoyed my time covering meetings and seeing the political process unfold. I covered elections, even interviewed in person Beto O’Rourke before he got famous.

Sure it’s easy to see with that background why I would be a staunch defender of The Phantom Menace in particular, that whole scene with the congress calling for a vote of no confidence in the chancellor really gets my brain juices flowing. But did you know that it’s actually because of Star Wars that I became so fascinated by politics in the first place? Well let me explain.

When I was a kid I loved reading books. I read  books well above my reading  grade. I was reading college level by 5th grade. I remember reading the novelization of Star Wars From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker repeatedly as a kid. Even though it was just a few hints here and there just reading about the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Galactic Empire got me curious as to what all those terms meant.

It was sometime in 5th grade when I started learning the basics of the U.S. system of government. The first time the teacher spelled out the three branches of the government a light  bulb turn on inside. Then I got really excited when I started learning about the Rebellions against the Empire that took place in our nations history. Once I started connecting the concepts I was learning in social studies to the terms I had read in my Star Wars books I became even more entrenched. I remember sitting at home watching C-Span and being mesmerized by the debates. I hadn’t formed my political alliances yet but I was enjoying learning how it all worked.

Once I started reading the Expanded Universe books I started having fantasies of being a governor of a small outer rim system trying to balance being subject to the empire but secretly supportive of the Rebellion. It even influenced my interest in Sim City and similar games as a way to enact political scenarios in my mind. I would even imagine I was a dignitary on a capital warship on a political envoy while I was working as a busser at a buffet inside the casino.

I had always attributed my interest in the prequels as a combination of my love for the EU, my own interest in politics and being the right age when Episode I came out that I just fell in love with a movie others happened to hate.

It never occurred to me that the reason I enjoyed the movies with the most politics in them isn’t just because I was into politics, but it was because it was the very franchise itself that sparked my original interest in the field in the first place.

Why am I writing this now, today? Because of the connection with the 4th of July. You see I am a day dreamer of course. You don’t get to be a very good writer/storyteller if you aren’t. So I used to always lay in bed imagining that I was on a planet in the Star Wars  universe in a heated battle between Imperial and Rebel forces every Independence Day. The sound of the fireworks and the way they lit up the night sky was the perfect sensory enhancement to maintain that illusion. To this day I can’t do anything on the 4th without thinking of Star Wars. Not to mention the way my brain associates Star Wars with the Will Smith film ID4. It all kind of goes together for me.

This Fourth of July I am hoping to celebrate with my own re-watching of the two Star Wars films I associate the most with the holiday, the original A New Hope and of course, the Phantom Menace. I missed May 4th but there’s no reason you can’t have a May the Fourth be With You on the Fourth of July, is there? #StayCool.

My experience exploring the WWE Network during the one month free trial

This is probably the first article where I will say up front there is a video in the works. Okay maybe not but there is a video in the works. That shouldn’t stop you from reading this anyways. I will keep this focused on a brief overview of my impression of the WWE Network app and the content library thus far as I explored the 1 month free trial.

I will offer a brief background on how I got here. As a kid I had cousins and uncles that were very into professional wrestling. My dad was not. He made fun of it and its fans. I was torn. During the 90s I witness the rise of the WCW NWO and the Raw is War Attitude Era during the Monday Night Wars. My friends were all caught up on the drama. I was a spectator on the sidelines scratching my head. A friend said, it’s like a soap opera for guys. Another friend said, it’s like a comic book show without the special effects. That resonated more with me so I gave it a try. I was lost and walked away for several years, dismissive of the entire phenomenon.

A couple of years ago I was working at a small town newspaper in Texas. A man walked in by the name of Michael Smith. His professional wrestling name was Sam Houston. He introduced himself and told me the highlights of his career, having been in the first ever Royal Rumble. At the time I heard the name Royal Rumble, knew nothing else of it. Needless to say upon hearing his story, both professional and personal, I was intrigued. His dad, Grizzly Smith, was a bona fide legend, his brother, Jake the Snake Roberts a true superstar. The more I learned the more I wanted to learn. We became friends. I did a video for him, he took me on a road trip to see the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Wichita Falls, Texas. It was great. He’s gone back into his world and my career took me down a different path so we ultimately parted ways. Still, it was an experience I will never forget.

During the time I was listening to the Completely Unnecessary Podcast with Pat The NES Punk and co host Ian Ferguson. They talked about WWE stuff a lot so I became more curious. I decided to give it all a shot and started watching some Pay Per Views and things with friends. I was still lost and gave up after a few weeks.

Last year I bought a home. As a result I installed an antenna to get OTA reception on my TV set. I was flipping through the channels and stumbled upon Friday Night SmackDown. I became enamored with the action and the beef between some guy named Corbin and a clown getting dog food dumped all over himself. I decided okay I will give this an honest try. I read up. Did my homework and learned the ins and outs of the sport/show. I came at it from the perspective of a former TV producer. I decided to treat it like a TV show, with seasons, story lines, characters etc., Thus I decided I was going to follow SmackDown live each Friday night as time permitted. Then I would catch up on the WWE Network. I downloaded the app, signed up for the free trial and  began exploring the content.

Library.

Vast. That is the one word that described the amount of content available in their library. Even though it is a single topic it has Netflix and Hulu beat by shear amount of videos available to watch. I am not saying everything is worth viewing but it’s all there, for the most part. I was disappointed to learn SmackDown was a month behind the broadcast so keeping up was going to be a challenge.

Exploring.

I started with some random matches of people I remembered. Andre the Giant, Macho Man, Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigalo, a few others who’s names stuck in my brain. Then I shifted. I went through the first few years of Nitro, all the way through the NWO take over. I watched the first season of Monday Night Raw. I watched the corresponding Pay Per Views as they arose during the season. So if they were promoting a specific pay per view that episode of Raw, upon completion I immediately dove into said PPV and kept going, not skipping a beat. After a few weeks of this, seeing some of the documentaries and continuing to explore some of the catalog stuff, I decided to settle into my groove.

The discovery.

I kind of like it. I mean kind of as in more than I thought I would. I finally, at least marginally understand it more than I did before. I kind of get kayfabe now, I kind of understand how the story lines work and what is going on. Before I never knew anything just it was a mess and never made sense. I also get the rules of the matches and the moves now. It makes for a far more entertaining experience. Plus my heart beats for Nikki Cross I will thoroughly enjoy watching her career unfold.

Going forward.

Right now my viewing habit is centered around going through last year of SmackDown and dabbling in Raw to get caught up. I will continue to revisit the old Raw episodes as go though the seasons as I find time watching documentaries that pique my interest along the way. Then I will keep my eye out on certain PPV events that I will consider watching as they happen. Right now I have made plans to make a day out of watching the Royal Rumble this year. I will also look forward to seeing Wrestlemania when it happens. I have recently watched TLC and Survivor Series as a starting point.

Each week I intend to watch SmackDown on Friday nights live, as life allows. Then I will go through the backlog on weekends and as I find the time. My goal is not to consume every piece of content in that library, I’d decay into a rotten corpse before time would allow. However I have mapped out the path I wish to follow.

Hulkamania.

First path I want to follow is the rise of Hulkamania through the turn to heel. I will watch every match, TV show and PPV that featured Hulk Hogan and watch his career unfold. I will take detours to follow Macho Man and Rick Flair along the way to see how things go there. I expect this to be a process that will take time. My intention is to do so sporadically, maybe get through a few matches and one PPV a week. Once I complete this story line or saga I will shift to the next super star I intend to follow.

Stone Cold Era

I want to start with his debut and follow his career in the same fashion as Hogan. There’s not half as much content to get through so it shouldn’t take nearly as long. All along the way I will be skipping the filler stuff I don’t care about, except with the PPV’s I have a separate plan for those. The only side quests I will follow here is the team up with The Rock and maybe see where that goes.

Mankind

After watching the Monday Night War episode on this guy I fully want to go back and watch the entire career of Mick Foley from Mankind to his other incarnations. This is the only one aside from Hogan I intend to watch the interviews as well as the matches.

Pay Per Views

During this exploration my hope is to get through the entire Wrestlemania and Royal Rumble saga. I watched the first seven Royal Rumbles in a row and did the first three Wrestlemania’s already. I will watch them in their place, or at least the respective matches that pertain to the sagas as I follow so these I will watch out of order first viewing as they arise and then a full run as I go back and watch them one after another. Due to the run times this will be a long term commitment.

In the meantime I am only watching these older sagas in small doses. I won’t binge a Hogan series but I will watch a few matches, a PPV and the aftermath maybe each week or so.

Overall I am enjoying exploring all the content available. Right now I am making Jan 1 2019 the starting point and working forward from there. I will view all the Smackdown episodes, in order, in conjunction with the corresponding Raw on the app with PPV’s as they arise. I don’t have cable so the only chance I have of viewing Raw timely is on YouTube apparently so I will try to take advantage of that, once I am caught up.

NTX is on my radar but right now I want to focus on the main stuff. Once I am caught up, hopefully before this year’s Wrestlemania, I will go back to the start of King Corbin and follow his career to today. I might do the same with Roman Reigns, Danial Bryan and The Fiend but I am not sure yet. Overall I am really enjoying the content as I am exploring this wide world of sports entertainment I missed out on over the years. Stay Cool.

 

Gore in horror is okay but in a medical drama its too much?

I watch a lot of horror movies. I play a lot of video games filled with graphic violence. In real life if I see blood I feel uneasy. This is to be expected. I can tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Then why is it when I see a medical drama showing blood I get sick to my stomach? The special effects used are no different than what I would see in one of my favorite slasher films.

One of the reasons I avoid medical dramas, aside from my aversion to drama in general, is the medical stuff. The images you see in a TV show set in a hospital are all too real for me. I can even handle a gory horror film that has scenes in a hospital. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare or even Flatliners both come to mind, among I am sure others.

A horror film is easier to digest in many respects. It isn’t just knowing the fantasy of film or TV being an illusion, when you watch a show there needs to be this separation of reality from fantasy that allows for the immersion requires to enjoy a movie. It is rare to see a horror movie that makes me cringe. The worst images that have made me shudder in horror films are very rare. The few which come to mind is the man eating his own brain in Hannibal as well as the pig scene in the same film. The entire premise of Human Centipede turned my stomach inside out to the point I have desperately tried to get the images from that film scrubbed from my brain.

While it is less common for an image to disturb me in a movie where death is the point, for some reason I can’t handle even little things when it’s presented in a TV show with real doctors saving real patients. I don’t mean those dramatizations of things like what you see on TruTV or the like, I mean relatively tame stuff like ER or Grey’s Anatomy. I haven’t quite figured it out. I can handle seeing basically the exact same sights in any action, fantasy, sci-fi or horror film but put it in a hospital, set in actual reality and I cringe. I flinch. Sometimes, I have negative biological reactions expelling fluids from my own stomach. I cannot quite put my finger on it.

Recently I made effort to get into Grey’s Anatomy. It was not by choice. I live on the same property as one of my sisters and her family. They enjoy watching TV and sometimes I sit in their living room on the couch watching a program they enjoy for the social aspect. One of their favorite shows is that medical drama. I have sat through enough episodes I can recognize some of the characters, recalling some of their names and even remembering things that happened in their personal lives. But whenever the gushy, gory gutsy stuff starts I have to call it quits and remove myself from the situation.

Maybe one of these days I will actually review the show on the merits of it being a drama. I am not sure I have enough exposure to be truly qualified to take on that task in a fair manner. That doesn’t mean I can’t speak my thoughts based on what I have seen. It reminds me of that episode of The Walking Dead where Negan bashes Glen’s skull in. I barely noticed the effect. When I see a woman gushing blood from her side in Grey’s all of a sudden I reach my limit.

Gremlins- Re-imagined?

This time, it’s personal. A oft uttered phrase in trailers selling a movie sequel. I can’t remember how many 80’s movies used that tagline somewhere in their sequel marketing. The words ring in your ear when the deep voiced announcer utters it, usually imposed over the top of a frame of the film signalling the anger and frustration the protagonist is going to experience in the film.

The Gremlins franchise is one of those are iconic 80’s movies that almost became a full on franchise, yet somehow stopped after just two films. All the ingredients were there. They had video games, toys, the premise was perfect it could have easily spawned a Saturday morning cartoon and comic book. Instead we got more Killer Tomatoes the world could ever need and were left with just two entries in the Gremlins saga. Even Ghostbusters managed to get two Saturday morning cartoons in the form of The Real Ghostbusters and later Extreme Ghostbusters. Then, why were the Gremlins unable to follow suit? Much like Ghostbusters the movies blended horror and comedy perfectly in such a way they appealed to horror fans but were accessible to children and general audiences. It worked well enough but never took off. Then you have hard R rated gore fests like Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street or even Hellraiser continue on for decades after.

I contend the downfall of the Gremlins was two fold. The first attack on the franchise came in the aforementioned R rated horror genres. Critters satisfied the needs of sci-fi and horror fans looking to get their fix of cute monsters running amok. This didn’t leave much room in the hearts of cinema goers as the countless knock offs abounded, most did take the premise to deep into the R rated territory Gremlins was careful to avoid.

A darker, scarier Gremlins might have had a chance of sticking around in the world as Horror fans are notoriously more loyal than the fickle minded children who’s attention spans drag them unwittingly into the very next fad. This takes me to the second reason Gremlins failed to catch on as a long term franchise. It wasn’t that it was too much of a kids movie, it just wasn’t kid-friendly enough to keep the interests of the young fans. Unlike horror films, whose audience is built in as teenagers don’t have care when a movie was made they go out of their way to consume all the media their watchful guardians protest, or better still, forbid. Gremlins never had that taboo of being forbidden, so teenagers didn’t see it as nearly ideal as Friday the 13th or Child’s Play.

The other issue is once it was on the scene you had Goonies, Monster Squad and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids filling the niche Gremlins would have. It wasn’t entirely the same as an ensemble cast of misfit kids, which is part of the problem. By the time Gremlins his the scene the misfit class was ruling the world and kids identified with it. We wanted to see more freaks like us, less boring old traditionalists like the ultra-conservative characters portrayed in the Gremlins films. Not conservative in the political sense mind you just, you know old fashioned and boring.

Monster Squad and Goonies had kids swearing. The hinted at, but shied away from, teenage sexuality. The Gremlins were too adult for kids and too kiddie for adults. As such teenagers had no use for the safe horror movie their parents watched with them at Christmas time and thus it was relegated to a holiday themed oddity more than elevated into the status of cultural icon it deserved.

It was a shame because a harder, grittier and even gory Gremlins franchise would have been enjoyable in the long run to horror fans, but a more kid friendly franchise would have fizzled out probably quicker than what we ended up with anyways.

The problem was, the horror market was overly saturated. Could it have sustained another long running gore centered franchise? If you look at the Child’s Play series you get a sense of the type of movie fans would have accepted in a gory Gremlins. Especially once you get to The Bride of Chucky, you see vestiges of the template a R rated horror Gremlins franchise would have sustained. The problem is the filmmakers took it to the wrong extreme at the wrong time. By watering the sequel down you had a more kid friendly movie parents could safely use to babysit their kids. But this watering down killed off the franchises hope for longevity. Sure, they could have bolstered it with a goofy Saturday morning cartoon, hell even Teen Wolf got this treatment, but it would have died in the 80’s like so many of those other one off cartoons based on adult movies targeted towards children.

The movie I picture is divorced from the Christmas setting. It has the same premise, a boy gets a cute, exotic pet for a birthday present or some other such occasion. Then it slowly begins to devolve into the mischief we see in the film, before the green monsters take it to the horror extreme. Death. Mayhem, decapitations and gore ensure. The movie has a similar tone and iconic imagery but it’s gorier, it’s scarier and there is a sense of immediacy, the Gremlins will go into hiding during, probably into the sewers, during the day to fester and wait for their opportunity to rise up and begin the killing spree again.

I picture a movie rebooting the franchise with a Hard R, plenty of gore and a character who doesn’t have a safe, boring job as a bank teller but is a comic artist who is struggling to pay bills working at some nothing job like the real people in that situation would have been, making him more relatable.

Here is the problem. It’s too late to reboot it as a gory, R rated franchise as too much time has passed. Nostalgia will dictate a movie that goes out of it’s way to recapture the magic of the 80’s while trying to appeal to a wider audience. In a world filled with super hero movies and special effects outings the stakes are much higher and this presents the problem of how to you make the Gremlins scary in today’s world? We have even more opportunities to shine bright light on the little creatures. Nevermind the fact the Critters franchise is, yet again, getting a new entry long after the vastly superior and far more entertaining Gremlins franchise has been put to rest.

The value of exploring religion in movies

The first thing I noticed when I was being raised in my Evangelical upbringing was how Hollywood always portrayed Christians as superstitious Catholics. This was used by some in my circle to prove the error of Catholicism by pointing out the “World” represented by Hollywood, only viewed Catholics as Christian thus proving Catholicism was born of the world, so to speak.

Recently I began watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. As a faithful Christian I have always struggled with TV shows and movies that glorify the occult. I have a strong ability to separate those things that are entertainment and those that are offensive with the intent to offend. I don’t enjoy politically biased documentaries for this reason. I prefer politically neutral documentaries that present the facts and allow the viewer to make up their own mind. For this reason when I see something like Sabrina I am torn. I enjoyed the original show tremendously and watched it regularly despite warnings from my ecclesiastically focused friends it was allegedly satanic. I dismissed many of their claims and went about watching the show.

This presents a problem for me. The new show is a whole lot more obvious in their devotion to “The Dark Lord” and makes claims that the Christian God is the “False God.” Even though it is a TV show, this does not sit well with me. Yet, I find myself going back and watching the show. Why?

This is where it gets complicated. I am not going to present this from a doctrinal or theological perspective, I will reserve that for the individual to make up their mind. Rather I am going to present what my view is on the role of religion within movies. I have come to accept the Hollywood portrayal of Catholics is as far from reality as their portrayal of Evangelicals. Thus I can conclude there is probably some similar exaggerations taking place in a show which features a clearly pagan religious perspective. For example, there are Wizards in Lord of the Rings. They are not pagan in the classical sense, meaning they don’t believe their power is sourced  by the pantheon of the gods. Rather, they believe their power comes directly from the energies of the universe. From the perspective of entertainment, that is the precepts contained in something like D&D or even Final Fantasy, there are distinctions between science, arcane magic and religious magic. There is tremendous overlap but from the context of the fantasy game set they are clearly distinct from one another.

This is where I stand on movies. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe I accept that the Asgardians are mortal beings in the material plane with access to and knowledge of manipulating the powers of the universe using what humans on Earth refer to as magic and thus they are worshiped as gods. They, the gods of Asgard, do not forbid or forsake the worship as gods they in fact welcome it despite knowing full well the reality is to the contrary. Still, I accept that within the context of the MCU the Asgardians are not gods, merely super heroes no different than the X-Men or Spider-Man. This is easy to accept.

From certain eschatological perspectives this is going to become a problem. I am not going to discuss those at this time. Rather I am going to preface this by saying I can accept that in the context of the MCU Thor is NOT a god, while in real-world Christianity he is akin to a false god, or even a demon depending on the Christian perspective.

This anything that is not Christian is pagan and anything that is pagan is satanic is often used to condemn basically anything a person could choose to do so.

Then why do I not give the same benefit of the doubt to Sabrina? For starters within the context of the show the Christian God is the villain. He is represented as a monster, a liar, and a false prophet. The Dark Lord, as they refer to him mostly, is glorified and in the context of the show, is the true god. This doesn’t sit well with me. But I can dig further.

In the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise the Christian mythology is evoked equally with heathen religion. There are multiple instances of the Christian God being supreme while the heathen gods having power, an example would be the cursed gold from the first film. The movies remain ambiguous on which power is at play. There is a balance but since the films are set in a parallel film universe based on but not set in our physical universe I can accept that.  Basically it comes down to reverence for the Christian God.

There are scores of horror movies that have evil represented by the devil, or some spiritual force that could be a stand in for the Devil. This is acceptable to me because we, as Christians, accept the Devil as evil. The forces of Good are combating the forces of evil thus any allegory to that structure is permissible. I liken it to referencing the Slasher films as morality tales. I don’t have an issue with that.

Why, then, do I draw the line with Sabrina? Or rather, should I?

It comes down to personal preference alone. I use this example. I can enjoy the Omen, the Exorcist and even The Shining as works of literature. No problem. I go a step further and often proclaim my favorite film of all time as the horror movie A Nightmare on Elm Street. This is clearly something I cannot shy away from. But even in those instances there is no reference to the origin or source of the powers, be them evil or good. This ambiguity allows me to place the art or literature into it’s own category, in my view a movie universe parallel to our own with similar, but slightly modified laws of physics. This is how I can accept a film with an extra-terrestrial Superman flying around powered by the solar rays that give cancer to ordinary inhabitants of our planet.

At first I was able to compartmentalize Sabrina and place it in the same box. In this universe thus is so. However something didn’t sit well with me. In this universe MY God was not being given the respect and devotion he deserves but rather being proclaimed a false god. I have seen horror movies that take this same approach but they present it as such, the divide between Protestantism and Catholicism, in other words they usually have a form of religion, a symbol of a church, but because it is the “false church” their proponents don’t have the power of God thus they are often portrayed as false. For example Dracula and other Vampire movies. They borrow heavily from European myths mingled with superstition and Christianity. There are often Christian symbols, holy water and the Cross or crucifix depending on the portrayal, being used to defeat the vampires, or forces of evil.

As I examine this I pull it back and let this be the deciding factor for me, not based on an intellectual argument or even a theological argument. I base it on what I am comfortable with personally.

As I watch Sabrina I hear them exhaling Satan and demonizing My Lord, I feel a twinge of disgust. It doesn’t sit well with me. I am not going to make the claim it *IS* Satanic and thus forbid or implore anyone to not watch it. Rather I am going to state why *I* have decided it is too much for me and invite others to either defend it, with in reason and not using personal attacks or logical fallacy, or I would ask that in this case my views be respected and I not be expected to defend my point other than it makes me uncomfortable to watch so I am recusing myself from it, for the time being.

This is not to say I will apply this analysis to other works of literature or artistic expression. After all, you have to draw the line somewhere of what is acceptable and what is not. For me, I can accept a movie about a pedophile being condemned to hell and sentenced to invade the dreams of the relatives of those who judged him using illegitimate means. The basis is on the fact that neither Mans law (Justice) nor God (Church law) judged him accordingly, thus despite him being evil in life, his death was unjust opening the door for the spiritual forces in the context of that franchise to provide a middle ground. He remains in hell tormented for all eternity, but he is permitted to get revenge upon those who were also unjust in slaying him. It’s acceptable to my perspective because it fits the real of what is to be expected. God demands, in the real of Christianity, to adhere to mans laws as placed in jurisdiction over us. The exception is when those laws prevent a person from expressing their obedience to God’s commands. Thus, it is my perspective, based on purely my own understanding, that disobeying God’s law does not justify disobeying mans law. In other words, the parents who murder Fred Krueger are as guilty of the sin of murder as the man they killed. Rather, if the courts, appointed by man respected by God, permitted him to trial and he was sentenced to death, he would not be justified in returning to this world, either in physical or metaphysical form, he would be firmly condemned to Hell.

This is how I can accept A Nightmare on Elm Street without a twinge of strong guilt but, currently, cannot do the same for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Maybe upon further examination I will change my mind. At this point, and in the future, I will not ever condemn another for their choices. Watch the show if you find it acceptable, while I am going to currently refrain from such until further notice.

I didn’t want this to be entirely focused exclusively on Sabrina. After all there was a certain amount of nostalgia at play tugging me into the desire to see it. I also rather enjoyed the few episodes I did watch of it.

Best 80’s Trucker movie?

Here is the contest. Which of the following three 80’s films represent the truck driver spirit best? The films are Over the Top starring Sylvester Stallone, Big Trouble in Little China starring Kurt Russell, and Maximum Overdrive starring Emilio Estevez.

Each of these three films presents a different aspect of the truck driver world. Big Trouble focuses on a loner truck driver making his way in the world. Maximum Overdrive centers on a group of survivors at a truck stop being attacked by possessed trucks. The last film, Over the Top, digs into some of the sub culture of the trucker lifestyle.

The great American road trip has been a staple in American culture ever since the beginning of time for this young nation of diverse people. Even before there were automobiles there was the famous wagon trains exploring the American frontier of years past. Also there are the lone riding cowboys who hit the dusty trails of the American wild west. All of these people have one thing in common, leaving their world behind to seek adventure on the open road.

The road trip movie is one of the most iconic sub-genres of the adventure film in American cinema, birthing such classics as Easy Rider, The Blues Brothers, Dumb & Dumber and Tommy Boy.

The truck driver culture, or truck stop culture, of the road trip is a great staple.

This is a look at three feature films each presenting a different aspect of the trucking/trucker culture. As someone who has several family members who either are, or were at one time, truckers or aspired to be truckers, this topic is one I have been holding onto for a while.

It’s going to be written in four parts. Following the reviewing of each movie with the focus on how well does it capture the trucker spirit, then a final review pulling the information from each film onto a final article deciding which of the three is the best trucker film.

This is going to be an ongoing series. It will require the re-watching and taking of notes for each film. Sit back and enjoy the sure to be bumpy ride.