Don Jon (2013)

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt has come a long way since when I first saw him as the son on 3rd Rock from the Sun. Whether its from his agent or from his own decisions, he’s made some great choices in the roles. Ten Things I Hate About You, (500) Days of Summer, Brick, and The Dark Knight Rises stand as some of his best performances. With his directorial debut, he goes off the beaten path with the subject matter.

Jon has many loves in his life: his car, his bachelor pad, his friends and family, and his porn. He gets a thrill from the sexual images and videos he finds on the internet. When he meets a girl, Barbara, he begins to fall in love with her. Yet, he still keeps up the porn habit. When she catches him one night, that leads to an ultimatum: no more porn, or the relationship is over.

Despite promising not to, Jon still watches porn behind her back. Its something he just can’t give up. The relationship between Jon and Barbara becomes serious and she starts asserting herself more in his life. She dictates aspects of his life. It reaches a boiling point when she finds out Jon still watches porn.

While Jon is a despicable character, he stands as an interesting study of how expectations towards a relationship are affected by porn. The fantasy of porn can impact how one views the reality of sex. Another instance I found interesting was the female equivalent of porn, which would be romance novels and movies. On dating websites, I see women waiting for a “knight in shining armor” or their “cowboy.” Sad reality is they don’t exist, which impacts the reality of the grade of men out there and how they’ll always fall short of those fantasy-fueled expectations.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes on porn addiction with a sexual frankness. Many films try to hide or limit the pornographic elements, yet here’s a film that puts it in front of the audience. That takes some courage and actually addresses the issue in a mature manner, without compromise. The R-rating helped keep the annoying tweens out, and still deserving of its rating.

Performance-wise, this is a dramatic change for JGL. Normally, he plays a squeaky clean, charming young man. As Jon, he plays an obnoxious, Jersey-type that you really want to punch in the face. If it were any other actor, I wouldn’t care for the character as much. With Gordon-Levitt, its a striking transformation.

His supporting cast gives him a lot to work with. Scarlett Johansson as Barbara was hilarious with her Jersey Girl/Fran Drescher voice. Tony Danza and Glenne Headly stole the movie as Jon’s parents. I hope to see more of Danza on-screen in the future because he was really good here. Julianne Moore plays a fellow classmate of Jon, who turns into something more as the movie progresses.

For his first outing as director, Gordon-Levitt presents a stylish, richly lit film. Lauren Zuckerman’s editing with Wesley Alley’s lighting and Meghan C. Rogers’ production design made for an eye-catching movie. This shows much ambition often lacking in veteran directors and I hope Gordon-Levitt can maintain this early momentum.

JGL has already established himself as a top, young talent in front and behind the camera. He keeps getting better with each project he works on. This movie is worthy of a theatrical viewing. If you’re the frugal type, it’ll be worth owning on DVD. Either way, see this movie.

Monty Python & The Holy Grail (1975)

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Once in a while, there is a film that bridges many a gap. People of different generations and social groups share a love for the film. It is film easily accessible and immediately quotable. Leave it to the mad comic geniuses of Monty Python to make such a movie, let alone it be their first feature film.

Arthur, King of the Britons, searches Camelot for knights to join him at the Round Table. While he does encounter the likes of Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad, Sir Bedivere, and Sir Robin, he runs into a number of bizarre characters that make for some of the film’s funniest moments. The Black Knight, the Constitutional Peasants and the Witch Trial are only a few of the film’s set pieces.

Once the knights are given the quest to find the Holy Grail, they splinter off on their own journey. Sir Robin contends with a three-headed ogre. Sir Lancelot answers a cry of distress with sheer violence. Sir Galahad faces certain temptation. Arthur and Bedivere meets the Knights of Ni. How can one forget the French Taunter and the Castle Ahhhhhh.

For the film, directorial duties were split between Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam. Both had a different approach, yet their contrasting styles helped the film. Jones was more interested in capturing the comedy while Gilliam was fixated on capturing panoramic, epic shots. Not only does this make for a funny film, but a visually arresting film as well.

The writing for this film is absolutely fantastic. From my elementary school days through high school and college to now, there were people in my social circles who I could volley quips and one-liners from this movie. Upon closer inspection, the film is clearly a sketch film, yet the focus of the scenes still remains on the search for the Holy Grail. Granted, the main characters say great lines, some of the funniest ones belong to the side characters. One of my favorites come from Dennis the Constitutional Peasant, “At least our sketch wasn’t just an endless string of p*ssy jokes.”

The performances, save for Graham Chapman as King Arthur, are all silly in one way or the other. Chapman serves as the straight man in a movie filled with comic foils. John Cleese has a ball as the homicidal Lancelot, even stealing scenes as the Scottish sorcerer Tim. Michael Palin is hilarious as Galahad, but shines as Dennis. Terry Jones has fun with the film world’s logic, but relishes the role as a prince forced to marry. Eric Idle stands out as the cowardly Sir Robin and Roger the Shrubber. Lastly, Terry Gilliam is more of a background character as Patsy, but he cuts loose as the bridgekeeper at the Bridge of Death.

The film does suffer a lull in the third before the end. The period between the Bridge of Death and the return of the French Taunter isn’t so much slow as it takes itself seriously. But, that does make the sudden ending funny in its own way.

Speaking of the ending, it is probably the divisive element in the film. People either like it or hate it. Personally, I like it. It was practical and it prevented disappointment from what would likely have been a lackluster battle. Plus, it was built up over the course of the last third of the film.

Monty Python and The Holy Grail is one of a rare type of movie that multiple types of people can enjoy. Whether you’re young, old, geeky, or not-so-geeky, you’ll find something to like about it. From the diverse direction, hilarious characters, and clever writing, this film debut of the Pythons stands as one of the greatest comedies ever made.

Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

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This edition’s film is one of the many film adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective and his most famous case. This film version stands out since it was produced by Hammer Films and features two of their biggest actors. Let’s look at the 1959 Terence Fisher-directed The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The film opens with cruel aristocrat Sir Hugo Baskerville killing a lowly commoner, much to the amusement of his fellow party-goers. The man’s daughter escapes, with Hugo in pursuit of her. He catches up to her in the ruins of an abbey. He kills her, but is suddenly attacked by a dog-like beast. Thus, beginning the infamous myth of the Hound of the Baskervilles. Whenever a Baskerville inherits the ill-reputed Hall, the heir is soon murdered.

This instance is brought to the attention of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Holmes shows interest and agrees to meet with Henry Baskerville. After a close call with a tarantula, Holmes suspects foul play and takes a deeper interest in the case. Die-hard fans of the novel will notice some creative differences between the film and the source material, but overall this is an exceptional presentation.

The Holmes/Watson team of Peter Cushing and Andre Morell show to be an entertaining combination. They have a comradeship that emits chemistry and play off one another impressively. Christopher Lee brings much guilt and shame to the role of Sir Henry Baskerville. Its clear he’s not proud of his family’s history.

Terence Fisher gets a lot out of his leads. No surprising that Fisher was Hammer’s go-to director along with Cushing and Lee being the flagship actors of the company. Jack Asher’s simple, yet effective, cinematography recalls the classic Universal horror films of the 1930’s, as does the music score by James Bernard.

This film is another example of various elements fitting together in unison and it makes for an excellent movie. You have two of horror’s greatest icons in a film directed by one of Hammer’s best directors, based on one of the most famous detective stories ever written. The Hound of the Baskervilles should be a given, whether its Halloween movies or movie-watching in general.

Guitar Hero II (PS2)

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After the immense success of Guitar Hero, a sequel came out the next year. Despite the solid gameplay and accessibility, there was room for improvement. Just how much did it build on the original? If you played it, you know. If you haven’t, read on.

Guitar Hero II gives players some new characters, new venues, new songs, and expanded gameplay. Nice touches include characters that fit the music genres represented by the songs. Multiplayer is expanded to include co-op, as well as the competitive of the previous game.

The new venues work with the career mode. It progresses the same way. You play through different sets as you travel venue to venue. You start in a high school gym, closing out at Stonehenge. Same as the last game, the better you play, the more lively the venues get.

The song list for this game features deeper cuts. You have your mainstream tracks like “Free Bird”, “Surrender”, “Message in the Bottle”, and “Monkey Wrench.” Then, you have tracks that aren’t as well known as “YYZ”, “Psychobilly Freakout”, “Girlfriend”, “Who Was In My Room Last Night.” A few master tracks made it in like Primus’ “John the Fisherman” and Jane’s Addiction’s “Stop.” Some of the bonus songs are a treat as well, notably “Trogdor” and “Elephant Bones.”

The multiplayer features both competitive and co-op. Competitive plays out the same way as the previous game. Co-operative allows one player to man the lead guitar while the other players manages the bass/rhythm guitar, depending on the song. The co-op struck me as more fun to play and the charting quality of the bass/rhythm guitar is just as fun/challenging as for the lead guitar.

The flaws are fewer this time around. The covers may still be a problem for some. Personally, I didn’t mind. You do play a member of a cover band, after all. People may still say the game is just an expansion pack, but there is only so much you can do with one instrument. If that’s the case, then later Guitar Hero games or the Rock Band series would be more to your liking.

Much like the first Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero II was a big hit. The fan base grew. It became more relevant to pop culture, leading to the parody episode of South Park. With this game came the daunting task of following up. Yet, things were changing regarding the relationship between Harmonix and Red Octane.

The Wolf Among Us (PS3)

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After the success of The Walking Dead, Telltale was able to take on another property that they got the rights. They got the rights to this property at the same time as Kirkman’s zombie comic. For me, Bill Willingham’s Fables was under the radar. I was not aware at all of this comic. After playing the game created by Telltale, I’m keen on getting my hands on the graphic novels.

A long time ago, there was a mass exodus of Fables. Many of them have settled in New York City, trying to live normal lives and remain inconspicuous to the mortal humans. Fast forward centuries later, King Cole is missing and Ichabod Crane is in charge of mayoral duties with his assistant Snow White. Helping to maintain law and order, Bigby Wolf is appointed sheriff of Fabletown.

One night, a fable is murdered, a prostitute Bigby had saved from the drunken Woodsman. Now, Bigby must find her killer before Fabletown begins to panic. Bigby’s investigation leads him to encountering the likes of The Tweedles, Georgie Porgie, and the Jersey Devil. When Bloody Mary enters the picture, things only get more dire from there.

The world of Bill Willingham’s Fables provides a much richer world for the Telltale team to play around with. The art direction, recalling fairy tale illustrations in contrast to Walking Dead’s comic book cel-shading, is amazing with a lot of attention given to the detail of the characters and the environments. The writing team and directors at Telltale should be commended for leading the game industry and telling a strong narrative with fleshed out characters.

Adam Harrington as Bigby Wolf may be one of gaming’s top protagonist in 2014. The fact that he’s the one you control and have to decide for makes him all the more engaging of a character. His reputation for aggression among the other fables adds a lot of tension in different scenes. The supporting cast features Telltale regulars like Dave Fennoy, Melissa Hutchison, Roger Jackson, Charles Kourouklis, and Erin Yvette. Kourouklis steals the show as Mr. Toad.

Jared Emerson-Johnson provides a synth soundscape for The Wolf Among Us. After the quirky Tales of Monkey Island and the jazzy Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse, one would have guessed someone else did the music. The opening credits music recalls the work by Powerglove for FarCry 3 Blood Dragon. I would hope the soundtrack is on iTunes because this is some of his finest work.

The controls handle the same as The Walking Dead. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Telltale did exactly that. The left stick moves the character while the right stick moves the cursor. The face buttons work the same as in Walking Dead with each button corresponding to a different action. One nice touch is the indiscriminate nature of the quick time events involving the shoulder buttons. If you match the cursor with the target, but press the wrong shoulder button and you’re not penalized for it. Good on you, Telltale!

Telltale has another solid entry in their catalog with The Wolf Among Us. Other than the misstep with Jurassic Park, their record for releases is near flawless. Between the characters, the writing, the graphics, the controls, and the music, this game stands as their best work yet. All five episodes are available for five dollars each or buy the season pass for $20. Either way, get this game!

The French Connection (1971)

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Gene Hackman is one of the few actors that can make an unlikeable character likeable. Whether its his famous turn as Lex Luthor or films like Mississippi Burning or Runaway Jury, he has a charm that can get audiences behind his characters. This particular quality of Hackman goes as far back to one of his first lead roles, as well as one of the first movies for director William Friedkin.

Detectives Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and Buddy Russo (Hackman & Roy Schieder, respectively) are tasked with going deep into seedy, underground New York City. They frequently shakedown the local dealers and hustlers. One night, they tail Sal Boca, who is a rising figure in organized crime. Their investigation leads to a new player in the narcotics game, Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey). This is the beginning of a series of events where Doyle is determined to take down Charnier at any and all costs.

While police dramas were common, The French Connection was one of the first to be gritty and realistic. According to Friedkin, when the film screened in an inner-city theater, the crowd cheered when Doyle dropped the n-word because that’s how whitey talked. Outside of the film noir of the 30’s and 40’s, The French Connection didn’t hinder from police corruption in a way not many other films did at the time. Another sign of its significance was that it inspired the Italian sub-genre of Poliziotteschi, made famous by the likes of Lucio Fulci, Umberto Lenzi, and Enzo G. Castellari.

Gene Hackman as Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle remains one of the actor’s most renown performances. In later roles, you can see hints of Doyle in Hackman’s acting, especially with Agent Rupert Anderson in Mississippi Burning. Even the character of Doyle was an influence on other actors. Stuart Whitman’s Capt Saitta, Dennis Franz’s Andy Sipowicz from NYPD Blue, and Denzel Washington’s Alonzo Harris from Training Day have their roots in Doyle.

The supporting cast provide great characters for Hackman to work off of. As his partner, Roy Scheider has great chemistry with Hackman. Fernando Rey as Charnier has the right air of mystery and serves as a solid contrast for Doyle. Marcel Bozzuffi as Pierre Nicoli, Charnier’s personal hitman, has a strong screen presence.

Visually, The French Connection has a palpableness to it. You can almost feel the grime of the city. Cinematographer Owen Roizman nicely captures NYC. Editor Gerald Breenberg maintains a consistent pace. Screenwriter Ernest Tidyman gives much for the actors to work with and provides a strong foundation for the film.

While many will hold the San Francisco car chase in Peter Yates’ Bullitt with Steve McQueen as films’ greatest car chase, I will have to disagree. The car chasing the L Train through the crowded streets stands as my favorite car chase in all film. Friedkin admits that this scene was inspired by Bullitt. As far as I’m concerned, the chase in French Connection was better executed, shot better, and very unorthodox. With two cars in the chase, you have an idea how it ends. A car chasing a city train yields greater possibilities and situations.

Over forty years later, The French Connection remains a noted for those involved in its production. William Friedkin was able to continue his directorial career with films like The Exorcist and Sorcerer. Gene Hackman became one of film’s beloved talents. After all this time, the film holds up. This is a film that deserves a spot in everyone’s collection.

Oasis of the Zombies (1981)

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Jesus Franco was a director with a reputation. Unlike Lucio Fulci, he wasn’t tempermental. Opposite of Bruno Mattei, he didn’t make movies to entertain audiences. Hie early films featuring the likes of Klaus Kinski, and Jack Palance would have you believe that there was potential talent and one who could find beauty in horror. Sadly, his later films would come off as disaffection, just a means to make money. Not even his take on the zombie Nazi trend is of any merit.

British war veteran, Blabert, knows of the location of a cache of Nazi gold. A former Nazi spy tracks him down and kills him, stealing the location of the Nazi gold. With a fortune to claim, he takes his wife with him and a group of mercenaries to get the gold. Unfortunately, they’re ambushed by the zombified protectors and are quickly killed.

After the death of his father, Robert decides to go after the gold himself. His college friends want to go along with him. Unaware of the danger that awaits them, they travel to the treasure site. There, they are also attacked by the zombies. Will they suffer the same fate as those who came before them to get the gold?

To the film’s credit, the scenes where you can see what’s happening feature some decent, but laughable zombie make-up and eerie atmosphere. Granted, its nowhere equal to Tombs of the Blind Dead or Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. On its lowest of the low budget, its just good enough. Some of the make-up is hilarious. One skeletal zombie has the biggest grin on its face while another one looks like the living dead version of Marty Feldman.

This is a dark film. I’m not referring to the tone either. The movie itself is dark, nearly unwatchable. Its as if Franco didn’t want to spend money on a lighting technician or for equipment. This only adds to the possibility that Franco did this film just for the money and not for any remote degree of art.

Another problem with the film is the lack of likable characters. Save for Blabert, there are no characters to empathize with or to get behind. The German explorer and the college kids are the blandest, most unappealing characters to be seen in the Nazi zombie genre. They are only there for the body count. The ones killed by the zombies left me as indifferent as the characters that survive the zombie assault.

Oasis of the Zombies showcases one of the worst efforts put into a horror movie. It only serves as a lesson in how NOT to make a movie. With the dull characters, poor lighting, and general low quality of the film, you can do much better in this niche genre. I would recommend Zombie Lake, Shock Waves, and Dead Snow way before I would even think to mention Oasis of the Zombies.

Jesus Franco was a director with a reputation. Unlike Lucio Fulci, he wasn’t tempermental. Opposite of Bruno Mattei, he didn’t make movies to entertain audiences. Hie early films featuring the likes of Klaus Kinski, and Jack Palance would have you believe that there was potential talent and one who could find beauty in horror. Sadly, his later films would come off as disaffection, just a means to make money. Not even his take on the zombie Nazi trend is of any merit.

British war veteran, Blabert, knows of the location of a cache of Nazi gold. A former Nazi spy tracks him down and kills him, stealing the location of the Nazi gold. With a fortune to claim, he takes his wife with him and a group of mercenaries to get the gold. Unfortunately, they’re ambushed by the zombified protectors and are quickly killed.

After the death of his father, Robert decides to go after the gold himself. His college friends want to go along with him. Unaware of the danger that awaits them, they travel to the treasure site. There, they are also attacked by the zombies. Will they suffer the same fate as those who came before them to get the gold?

To the film’s credit, the scenes where you can see what’s happening feature some decent, but laughable zombie make-up and eerie atmosphere. Granted, its nowhere equal to Tombs of the Blind Dead or Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. On its lowest of the low budget, its just good enough. Some of the make-up is hilarious. One skeletal zombie has the biggest grin on its face while another one looks like the living dead version of Marty Feldman.

This is a dark film. I’m not referring to the tone either. The movie itself is dark, nearly unwatchable. Its as if Franco didn’t want to spend money on a lighting technician or for equipment. This only adds to the possibility that Franco did this film just for the money and not for any remote degree of art.

Another problem with the film is the lack of likable characters. Save for Blabert, there are no characters to empathize with or to get behind. The German explorer and the college kids are the blandest, most unappealing characters to be seen in the Nazi zombie genre. They are only there for the body count. The ones killed by the zombies left me as indifferent as the characters that survive the zombie assault.

Oasis of the Zombies showcases one of the worst efforts put into a horror movie. It only serves as a lesson in how NOT to make a movie. With the dull characters, poor lighting, and general low quality of the film, you can do much better in this niche genre. I would recommend Zombie Lake, Shock Waves, and Dead Snow way before I would even think to mention Oasis of the Zombies.

Army of Darkness (1993)

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With recent word that a TV series sequel to Army of Darkness is in the works in addition to a sequel to the remake of Evil Dead, now couldn’t be a better time to introduce the primitive screwheads living under rocks these past few decades to this horror series. With Evil Dead 2 being a hit and considered one of the best horror films of the 80’s, a sequel was inevitable. Let’s take a look at Army of Darkness.

Immediately picking up where Evil Dead II ended, Ash finds himself in the 1300’s. The Wiseman believes him to be a hero of prophecy. Others believe him to be a spy for an opposing army. The forces under Arthur take him into custody. When brought to the castle, Ash is set to be executed by being thrown into a pit of deadites. After Ash disposes of the deadites and frees the captured members of the opposing army, Ash wants to make his way back home.

Not long after, Ash and a girl named Sheila fall in love, yet any hope of a relationship is threatened by Ash going back home. The Wiseman disclose to Ash that only the Necronomicon can bring him back to his own time. After journeying to a graveyard, he finds the Necronomicon, but ends up conjuring the army of the dead. Now, Ash must prepare the villagers of Arthur’s kingdom to fight the dead.

With all the love this film has from fans, one would not think that this film tanked at the box office. Yet, at the same time, I can see why this film took longer to develop its own cult following. This film was very different than the previous entry. This wasn’t isolated and claustrophobic. This was wide and epic in its scale. There is a heavy Harryhausen spirit to the film with dashes of The Three Stooges and Monty Python.

Raimi and co. made the right choice in getting Ash out of the cabin setting, but this may have proved to be too dramatic of a change for its fans. Still, this film has become a favorite of many Bruce Campbell fans. The delay in acceptance for this film was no different than it was for other third entries, notably George Romero’s Day of the Dead.

Bruce Campbell further evolves his character. Previously, he was a no nonsense badass who could kill a deadite without blinking. Here, he’s much more of a braggart and a fool. There are moments where he comes off sounding like William Holden’s Al Carter from 1955’s Picnic, then other times where he comes off as channeling Kurt Russell’s Jack Burton.

Raimi gives some good actors for Campbell to play off of. Embeth Davidtz has great chemistry with Campbell, essentially being the medieval Rosalind Russell to his 20th Century Cary Grant. Ian Abercrombie as The Wiseman brings the right amount of naivety and sincerity to his performance. Stuntwoman Patrica Tallman brings a ferocity to her fight with Campbell that one has to wonder why she hasn’t appeared in bigger roles in other films.

Joseph Lo Duca returns to compose and conduct the music. Fans of the previous film will recognize cues and themes recurring. Lo Duca also dabbles with a range of styles. The enchanting calm of “Night Court” stands out as one of his best pieces. The music pieces of the building and unleashing of the deathcoaster recall the cornball adventure scores of Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk). The music for the Little Ashes scene sounds straight from a Tim Burton film.

Speaking of Tim Burton, composer Danny Elfman wrote the film’s signature piece: “The March of the Dead.” While Lo Duca’s pieces work for the small scenes, Elfman brings the much needed boom to the climatic battle sequence. Mixing this track with the army of walking skeletons gives the Jason and the Argonauts niche that makes this film stand out from the series.

Two frequent collaborators of Raimi got their early start on Army of Darkness. Before he edited the Spider-Man trilogy and The Hurt Locker, Bob Murawski pieced together Darkman and Hard Target. Murawski would go on to co-create Grindhouse Releasing with the late Sage Stallone. Thanks to Murawski, cult films like The Beyond and Cannibal Holocaust were unleashed upon a new generation of moviegoers.

After his cinematography on Darkman and Army of Darkness, Bill Pope would make a name for himself in both television and cinema. His credits include the short-lived TV series Freaks & Geeks as well as The Matrix, Team America: World Police, and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. He’s also involved with The World’s End for Edgar Wright and Transformers IV with Michael Bay.

Despite the rough start, the film has become a favorite of mine and many others. Heck, my step-brother wasn’t a fan of Evil Dead II, but he loves Army of Darkness. This film was my first venture into the Evil Dead series, and remains the most accessible film of the series. Its hard to imagine a time when this film wasn’t honored and appreciated by the fans.

The Invisible Man (1933)

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This film is one of Universal’s staple monsters from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Having just come off the success of Frankenstein, director James Whale would be given a technologically demanding project. Even today, the effects are still a marvel to behold. Let’s take a look at The Invisible Man.

We see a brief glimpse of the cheery life of the patrons at a small tavern, in the village of Iping. Suddenly, a mysterious stranger enters the establishment. He is covered in bandages and wearing goggles. He takes up a room, demanding to not be disturbed during his stay.

As the days pass, fewer patrons visit the bar. The innkeeper and his wife order him to leave. He becomes violent and the police are summoned. In a confrontation, he reveals himself to be invisible. He attacks the townspeople and makes his escape. After visiting an associate, Kemp, he takes steps towards world domination with his newly found power.

At the same time, we discover the identity of the invisible man as Dr. Griffin. Griffin’s mentor, Dr. Cranely, finds a note with a substance called monocane written on it. While it causes invisibility, it has the alarming side effect of mental instability. Griffin’s love, Flora, is concerned for his safety and is summoned by Kemp to talk with Griffin.

After killing dozens of people, through numerous acts of terror, there is a sweeping manhunt to find Griffin. Kemp calls the police on Griffin. Griffin escapes while Kemp is taken into protective custody. The audience is then given insight as to the methods that the police will use to find and arrest Griffin. Will the police find him into time to save more lives? Will Griffin be cured before his mind is in a permanent state of paranoia and megalomania?

James Whale shows that he has an eye for talent, or in this case an ear. Whale handles the special effect demands in a way that only a theatrical director could do as opposed to a film director. He gets great performances out of his actors, even if they come off as being exaggerated. Its unfortunate that this film isn’t given as much prestige as Frankenstein or The Wolf Man, when it clearly deserves such.

Claude Rains’ breakout performance was in this film as Griffin. Despite only being heard for most of the movie, his voice is menacing and powerful. Rains’ work as Griffin would be echoed by numerous voice actors, notable Malcolm McDowell in Fallout 3 and Armin Shimerman in Bioshock. There is a great supporting cast here for Rains to work off of including Titanic‘s Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Henry Travers, Una O’Connor, and E.E. Clive. Keep an eye out for brief appearances by Dwight Frye and John Carradine.

The special effects by John Fulton still stand the test of time and are just as convincing now as they were in 1933. The use of black velvet and black masks served as the forerunner to blue screen technology. There are some moments where you can tell is wires, but that method is rarely used to the point where it doesn’t distract.

Timing in at only 70 minutes, a group could watch this as part of a marathon screening and not be fatigued. You have one of Universal’s underrated vintage classics with a talented director, an authentic cast, and ahead of their time visual effects. For any horror fan, Universal films should be required viewing, and this films ranks near the top of the list.

WCW Superbrawl (SNES)

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Video games can often been seen as a reflection of what they’re presenting. Interestingly enough, you can gauge the progress of the company through the quality of the video games, especially when its regarding a wrestling organization. I missed out on the Nintendo WCW video game but we’ll take a look at the noted releases for the other major consoles. Let’s take a look at WCW Superbrawl Wrestling for the Super Nintendo.

A year after WWF Royal Rumble came out and propelled LJN’s video game reputation, WCW took a shot with this game to compete. While this competition didn’t reach the heights of the late nineties Monday Night Wars, it was a sign that LJN needed to turn the next game up to 11. And because of that, WWF Raw was all the better game for it. With WCW Superbrawl Wrestling, this game tried some new things and also mimic elements of other video games, but ultimately couldn’t deliver the satisfying game experience that the LJN WWF games delivered.

While not in the same league as the WWF games, the WCW game had some positives. With the limits of the Super Nintendo, the game had minimal commentary from Tony Schiavone, who would be remembered in infamy for spoiling the WWF Championship win of Mick Foley and thus helped turn the tide in the Monday Night Wars in favor of the WWF. The wrestlers also have soundbites that they utter during the character select screen and when they perform their signature moves. The ¾ appearance of the screen instead of the trapezoid angle of LJN WWF games recalls the Fire Pro Wrestling series, but that’s it.

In addition, it had a solid roster to boot. The funny thing is that this roster has a number of stars that would gain greater fame in the WWF. Case in point, Ron Simmons would become a part of the APA with Justin Bradshaw under the name Faarooq. Dustin Rhodes would push the envelope as Goldust. Johnny B. Badd would wrestler under his real name, Marc Mero. There were staple veterans and legends like Sting, Rick Rude, the Steiner Bros., Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, and Brian Pillman.

However, the game has it share of missteps that kept this from really competing with WWF games. The lack of in-game music and wrestler theme music held the game back. The controls were wonky. Pulling off a suplex or a dropkick was not the simple one button press that you see in WWF games. Doing a simple Irish Whip was a process. Many of the moves failed to connect and poor hit detection plagued the game. Along with the commentary, the audio soundbites of the wrestlers sound like they were recorded and played on a toy keychain.

The game lack match options. There’s singes and tag team matches. That’s it. No battle royal option. No double-ringed, steel cage match for which the game is named after. The game only has the most basic wrestling match options.

Another laughable element are the signature moves of the game. There are some cool ones like Brian Pillman’s Super Sunset Flip and Scott Steiner’s Frankensteiner. Guys like Flair, Sting, and Steamboat have their famous finishers. But then you have moves that are considered finishers while other wrestlers would use those same moves at the beginning of a match. Johnny B. Badd has a Left Hook. Dustin Rhodes has the Bulldog.

Some moves that are performed in the game don’t match the move in the real ring. Barry Windham’s “Superplex” in the game is just a vertical suplex. Vader’s powerbomb in the game is actually a running powerslam, much like that of Davey Boy Smith. Maybe it was animation limitations, or it may be that FCI made a rush job just to get the game out since they went out of commission not long after the game was released in 1994.

A great roster and attempts at innovation can’t make up for bad controls, lack of match types, little to no music, and bad audio. Its obvious why very few people ever remember this video game or the company that made this fossil. If you have a Super Nintendo in your retro collection, just ignore this title altogether.