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.

Thoughts on X-Men Film Franchise from the perspective of a fan playing catch up

In the early 1990’s I was the exact right age to get sucked into the Fox X-Men Animated series. Needless to say I became a pretty big fan of the series. I bought toys, comics, video games and watched all the cartoons I could. I loved X-Men. Imagine my excitement when I am reading the latest issue of Wizard magazine and they are showing off images from the set of the upcoming live-action feature film starring my favorite mutants.

Throughout the years the X-Men have continued to star in nearly a dozen feature films following that first masterpiece from 2000. It was the perfect film to transition comic book movies from the dark days of the 90’s into the golden age of comic book movies were are experiencing today. I was still the right age to be excited for the movie when it released. I was 18 when it released and finishing up high school. I vividly remember going to the theater and then being so excited to see it again, and again. I couldn’t wait for the next film in the franchise.

Now nearly 20 years later there is a new X-Men themed hit tearing up the box office right now and another mutant fest right around the corner. I decided this was a good time to finally get caught up on the films. I watched Days of Future Past earlier today. This had been the last of the primary X-Films I hadn’t seen yet. It was a good thing I did because I actually had a great time watching this movie. It was a dream come true seeing the stories I used to be mesmerized as a child coming to life in a new medium.

Here is a breakdown of the X-Men films so far. I am not counting the Deadpool movies or Wolverine films. First, I haven’t even seen them yet, and second I am not really a fan. I will keep this to the primary X-Films until I can get around to watching the spin-offs.

X-Men

Looking back on it now I still think this was a brilliant way to kick off the franchise. While it does boast a modest budget and reasonable special effects, for the time, it’s clearly more focused on the story. The best part of the film is the casting. These actors easily bring my favorite comic book heroes to life in a manner that is consistent with my liking. The characters are the heart and soul of the X-Men and although they choose to center it on a very small cast, it’s a great selection of characters.

The action isn’t over the top like later films. I actually like this on repeat viewings. It doesn’t really seem tame as it does reigned in. The movie gives the characters a chance to breath while leaving enough to the imagination to build up to the next film. It’s obvious they were trying to repeat this pattern with the flawed Fantastic Four films, unfortunately in that case it didn’t quite resonate with audiences.

X-Men 2 (X2 X-Men United)

Removed from time this movie remains one of the all-time greatest super hero science fiction films ever produced. Even with all the modern spectacle of Avengers films, this movie continues to amaze me with the way it present the mutants powers. It’s not excessive like others in the series yet it is far more refined than the first. It’s obvious the first movie was used to test the waters while this movie was given the freedom to do what it needed.

Story wise it’s a direct continuation of the first movie. The characters have real heart and start to really come together as a team. By the end of the movie the stakes are real. The deaths are gut wrenching and the mood is somber. It perfectly sets up the third film in what was originally to be a trilogy.

X-Men 3 The Last Stand

I remember the anticipation for this movie was very high for me. I was heartbroken at the death of one of my two favorite X-Men characters in the previous film. I suspected she would return as Phoenix because that’s the way they did it in the source material. I wasn’t entirely on board with how it turned out but I still enjoyed this movie tremendously, considerably more than the vocal fanbase who has condemned it for reasons I have yet to determine.

X-Men The First Class

This movie came out around the same time as the first Wolverine movie. By this time super hero movies were in full swing and the X-Men were starting to get played out. This was the first of the series I didn’t see in theaters. It wasn’t because I had any problems with the prior film it was more the market was now saturated with big budget sci-fi spectacles and suddenly X-Men movies weren’t as interesting.

I did eventually see it years later. I thought it was pretty good. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first three films but I did enjoy it still. The character selection was a little odd. I would have preferred they stuck with characters I was more familiar with, I still liked the way the story unfolded. The new Mystique was also a pretty good choice in casting. By this time audiences had grown to expect more out of special effects so the use of the super powers increased significantly. I liked the movie but not as much as the others.

X-Men Days of Future Past

This was the last one I saw previews for and was actively excited for. The trouble was there had been so many new movie franchises rise to prominence by this time I was more into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I ended up skipping this movie. I finally got to see it today and I have to say I was a little disappointed. Not in the film, it was fantastic. I was disappointed I let myself go this long without seeing this movie. In fact I enjoyed it so much I am starting to get excited for the next film in the series.

X-Men Apocalypse

This was the first dud in the franchise as far as I am concerned. By this time Disney was dominating with their MCU films. The story was fine, the characters were all right but the issue was in the execution. The movie felt a little bloated. It seemed to be the first movie to stray too far from the source material in terms of story for my liking.The movie was entertaining enough it just felt like they were trying too hard with the effects this time.

I have seen two of the three Wolverine movies. I haven’t seen The Wolverine yet and I also haven’t seen either of the Deadpool films yet so I will evaluate those at a later date.

Over all I still think the entire X-Men franchise has been consistently good. There have been a couple bumps in the road.

The Kimberly effect on MMPR

The last article I wrote on Power Rangers centered on the science fiction aspect of the show. While you could make a case it’s technically more fantasy than sci-fi with all the magic, the technology defeats the magic forces so in a way it’s science versus the supernatural. I never really considered it any deeper than that. However there is one factor missing from the previous analysis of the show, Kimberly or the Pink Ranger.

All too often young boys will hide their true feelings on things because they are constantly bombarded with notions of masculinity and what is “appropriate behavior” for a boy. If you then find a young boy drawn to a strong female character in a science fiction show, and it’s not romantic or sexual in nature, people get weird about it.

I discovered similar reactions when people find out I like Sailor Moon, Aeon Flux and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and it wasn’t sexual in nature. I guess if you have a crush on a female it is acceptable to root for her success but otherwise it’s creepy? I don’t know I have friends who refuse to watch any film or TV series with a strong female lead. In fact I know certain people who are turned off by the new Star Wars movies just for that very reason. There is another side, the less obvious but also worth confronting, that is the anti-feminists. In other words those who are so strongly anti-feminism they refuse to accept anything that doesn’t fit into that narrative. No, I am not really trying to sound political, because I have my own views on feminism that might contradict the mainstream narrative if you take them at face value. But I can certainly appreciate, and root for, a strong female protagonist without having to feel guilty about it. Especially when I know for 100 percent fact my admiration for the character is not rooted in sexual desires. I mean, no I never had a “crush” on the Pink Ranger. I had a crush on Melissa Joan Hart I make no secret of that. But seeing Kimberly over come her valley girl, prissy, spoiled brat attitude and transform into a kick-ass super hero fighting evil with the rest of the boys, and the stereotypical Asian chick, it was something I could look at and think yeah okay keep kicking ass. I was also one of those who rooted for Tommy and Kimberly to hook up, not something a boy with a crush would do (I wished nightly for the death of any boy caught kissing my beloved Sabrina on screen).

This was further complicated when I grew up. Being raised in a very conservative Christian home I do carry with me plenty of values and morals from that upbringing. Despite the evangelicals on TV crying how “evil and Satanic” Power Rangers was, I discovered I could tune those ridiculous cries out yet when confronted with justifying liking the Pink Ranger and admitting it wasn’t  physical attraction (again not to “objectify her” but she wasn’t that pretty in my eyes back then). But still I think I mostly hid my liking of this show more because it was un-masculine and ‘pro-feminist’ if I admitted liking it for the reasons I did. I am still not sure how to handle the #metoo movement or feminism as a whole, hey cut me some slack I am a guy. I am also a 35-year-old virgin by choice so let’s not complicate things by dragging my preferences through the mud. All you need to know is not everything has to be broken down into leftist verses right-wing politics. I mean, it’s a silly kids show for crying out loud, why can’t it just be harmless entertainment?

I will, however, freely admit that seeing Kimberly being replaced by the much more pleasing to look at Katherine in Season 3 was certainly a motivation for me to keep watching despite being heartbroken at watching the cast I had grown to admire leave, one by one. I was ready to also call it quits when I learned Kimberly would no longer be donning the Pink Ranger suit. It wasn’t because I had crushed on her or felt betrayed personally, it was just I had developed a strong respect for the character as she was the most developed on the show by that time. At least of the original cast. I still believe Billy remained a caricature throughout the series while the other rangers were allowed to become somewhat real character, even if they were cookie cutter variants of a signature type. Especially seeing Bulk and Skull, the bullies of the show, blossom into likable characters you ended up rooting for in the end. Secretly I always felt Skull was a big softy he just needed to be tamed.

If I admired the character for being a female who could kick ass but not someone I wanted to imagine myself doing nasty things to, what does that mean of me and my masculinity? Well, again as someone who as abstained from sex by choice I can say it’s not really that hard to not get too sexually arouse by gorgeous women if you see them as people and not objects. I know that sounds political but screw it, I mean I think it’s a balance of Christian upbringing and being raised in a house with 3 sisters and no male influences outside my dad. So say what you will, make fun of me call me names belittle me for having different views and seeing girls as people. After all my best friends were always girls and I never gave into temptation to engage in sexual behavior with any of them. Not that I wouldn’t succumb to the pleasures of a female if I was in the type of relationship my personal views would allow, it’s just I actually get more out of doing little things like making her smile or getting her to laugh when she was down, than I would treating her like a sex toy. Take that for what you will but for me I will continue to see this show as both a form of harmless entertainment, and a source of food for thought.

Ranking the Freddy vs. Jason movies: Part two the Jason movies.

The Spiders Lair ranks the Freddy vs. Jason franchise. This is part two, the Jason films.

Jason movies

Friday the 13th 2

I wish I could tell you I have some fond memory of discovering this movie as a child and how it shaped who I became, much like the Freddy movies did. No, I didn’t ever watch these movies when I was growing up. I saw part 3 and part 7 when I was a kid, the rest I discovered long after reaching adulthood.

That being said, I was able to go into these with the clarity of a new comer who lived through their first-run, but missed them entirely. That helped reduce the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. That’s why I think I was able to name part 2 as the best of the series. For me, it was the only truly scary movie in the series and the one that really defined the slasher summer movie genre.

The plot was basically just repeating the plot of the first movie but with a new set of kids. The only variation was the killer. It had some good jump scares but the gore was definitely yet to become a staple of the series. This one had the most believable characters, for the most part, and the final girl felt like she really deserved to survive not just because she happened to be cast in the role.

Fun fact: The head of Jason’s dead mother is used as a prop, and plot device in this movie tying it back into the first movie.

Friday the 13th

I ranked this one higher than my personal enjoyment of it. The reason, it’s a classic and it reminds me slightly of The Last House on the Left in tone more than the following films. Since I loved that movie I give this a pass. As far as scares go, it’s not that scary. It’s mostly pacing and jump scares, more atmosphere than anything. Much like Sleepaway Camp to follow, this movie relies heavily on the fake out of not revealing who the killer is. Now, to be fair, the twist at the end of that movie was a real twist and not a tacked on jump scare to justify a sequel.

Fun Fact: Kevin Bacon is one of the victims in this movie.

Friday the 13th 4

The Final Chapter. Right, just like The Final Nightmare was the last time we saw Freddy Krueger. For some reason this one jumps out at me as the most 80’s horror movie I have ever seen. This one has the great hair music, teenagers being actual teenagers, Corey Frigging Feldman, and hockey mask wearing Jason getting some visually stunning kills. Oh and hot twins.

Fun Fact: This was the first movie to feature a story arc that carried over to the following movies more than just the setting and Jason.

Friday the 13th 3

Now in 3D! Freddy waited all the way until his intended demise film to go 3D. Not Jason, they did it in the first movie to have what would become his iconic mask. It was the first one to stray from using an all orchestral soundtrack to a solid 80’s rock soundtrack, but it was for the better. The movie had much better special effects, likable characters and even a sub-plot involving side characters. It even had a flash back that implied Jason might have raped girl.

Fun Fact: The nerdy character in this movie drives around in a totally 80’s retro VW Beetle reminiscent of G1 Bumble Bee.

Friday the 13th 6

 

Friday the 13th 5

I typically try to avoid ranking movies from best to worst following numerical order. Often times the movies do degrade progressively but sometimes you get an odd instance where a quality sequel will rise above the rest. This is one of those cases where part 5 sort of stands alone as the black sheep of the series. No small feat considering how many films stray from the formula. I have a lot of things I really enjoy about this movie but it’s still not the best. I like the change in setting. I love how different it is in tone and kills. What does trip me up though is the fake out reveal at the end, and the crazy red-neck characters that seem to contribute nothing but a cheap joke. This was one of those I did see as a kid. Not the whole movie but I distinctly remember the kid that I thought was trying to look like Michael Jackson who got killed in the outhouse scene.

Fun Fact: The hot blond doing the break dancing moves in this movie is the daughter of the woman who played the English teacher in the original Nightmare on Elm Street.

Freddy vs. Jason

Yes, this is the breaking point. From here on the movies all go downhill. One of the biggest complaints this movie gets from fans of both franchise is it doesn’t seem to work well as a solid entry in either series. I happen to disagree. I think it works better as a Freddy movie than a Jason flick, considering the Freddy stuff stays very true to the mythology that came before and this movie just makes up its own Jason mythology as it goes along, like they pretty much all do. However, I still enjoy it as a movie more than all the rest of the films on this list.

Fun Fact: The black chick was one of the singers in Destiny’s Child (that defunct band Beyoncé started in.)

Friday the 13th 8

If I was being completely honest, remove Freddy vs. Jason and this movie could go up a notch on the list. Chronologically this is where the franchise hit rock bottom. Everything after this is just garbage.

This movie has few redeeming qualities for me. I enjoy the early boat stuff, the parts most people tend to despise, but I completely hate all the physic dream stuff. This one felt like it was trying to appeal more to the Freddy fans and it didn’t work. At least not for me.

Fun Fact: Jason actually takes his hockey mask off voluntarily for a scare.

Jason X

I like this movie more than most. I don’t think it’s a bad movie. I do think it is a bad Jason movie so ranking it among the others in the franchise it tends to fall pretty far down the list.

Fun Fact: This was another in a long line of horror movies moving to space for some reason. Others were Leprechaun and Hellraiser.

Friday the 13th 7

I hate this movie. It takes the psychic stuff too far. It has a few decent kills and it expands the mythology, I guess, but it messes up the time line and is just plain boring to watch.

Fun Fact: This was the second time a corpse jumped out at the end to drag someone into the water.

Jason Goes to Hell

This was one of the few I did see when I was a kid. In fact it was the only one I watched when it was a new release. I didn’t like it at all. The body switching stuff was too much. Jason didn’t look like the familiar character at all and since it as the first one I watched all the way through it soured my opinion of the franchise for several years.

Fun Fact: There aren’t any, New Line cinema bought the franchise and it should have ended here. I think they only made Jason X just to hold people over until they could get Freddy vs. Jason off the ground.

And that’s the list. Considering I haven’t even seen the remake yet I can’t rank it. Considering how my views tend to differ from the mainstream I am not sure what I will ultimately think of it. I do own the DVD, I just have never gotten around to actually watching it.

 

The Dark Web podcast episode 3- (SH*THOLE EPISODE) Nintendo Labo, R-rated horror movies on the decline?

https://thespiderslair.podbean.com/e/the-dark-web-podcast-episode-3-shthole-episode-nintendo-labo-r-rated-horror-movies-on-the-decline/

This R-Rated examination of the decline of hard-r rated horror movies. Also a look at how Donald Trump has made it okay to say shithole in the news now. A brief but energetic rant about the Nintendo Labo crap coming from Nintendo, and a look at the passing of the world-famous singer of the Irish band, The Cranberries. It’s a shorter episode packed with lots of thoughts in rapid succession. Oh I also talked about the recent Cracked video layoffs.

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.