Saturday, May 27, 2017

Medicine in Movies Blogathon - Secret of NIMH

The Secret of NIMH is my favorite Don Bluth movie without a doubt. While a number of his films cater exclusively to the youngest of kids, which I suppose cartoons probably should, NIHM is at times definitely not for children.  Secret of NIMH follows the adventures of Mrs. Brisby, the recently widowed mouse taking care of her sick child. From running from the murderous cat, Dragon, to seeking advice from the terrifying Owl, she finds herself in situations that could traumatize kids.  It's no wonder I love this movie.  

Because her late husband, Jonathan, died a hero, Mrs Brisby is destined to save the field from an unknown danger. While many if the creatures in the field, the land surrounding a farmer's house, lead simple lives, the rats are far from ordinary rodents. Living within the farmer's rose bush, the rats have mastered electricity and even some form of magic. All thanks to NIHM.

The National Institute of Mental Health has a vested interest in the rats, calling the farmer throughout the movie and asking about their abilities. Abilities they received after they were captured on the streets and injected with untested chemical formulas. A number of rats and mice we subjected to the trials and afterwards found they were learning to read and figure their way out of their cages.  There's no mention of what kinds of tests they were performing, but the rodents' arrival to the lab showed a lot of other animals there as well.  I guess their formulas were only successful on our bald-tailed friends.

The rat and mice test subjects escaped and while most of the mice were lost in an air duct (a character points out they absolutely died, just one of the dark tones of the movie), two survived, one being Jonathan Brisby, who earned the rats' eternal gratitude by opening the final gate between them and freedom.

NIHM wants to clear out the rats for whatever reason and the rats know it, preparing for a move to a safer place. Before they can go, they pledge to help move Brisby's home from the path of the farmer's plow. She can't move her family because her son is sick with pneumonia, being treated by the other surviving mouse from NIHM, Mr. Ages, whose intelligence manifested in medical knowledge, I guess.

The Secret of NIHM is an incredible movie, easily one of the best to come out of the 80s. And like many others of this age, it had it's fair share of villains. Though NIHM is treated as the big evil threatening all of the rats, there's also a traitor on their midst with Jenner. He wants to take control of leadership by killing Nicodemus, the eldest and wisest among them. He uses Brisby's relocation as the best opportunity, cutting the ropes holding the cinder block home aloft and crushing the old rat under it.  A swordfight erupts between Jenner and Justin, Nicodemus's loyal follower, that culminates in one of the rare shots of blood in a cartoon that I saw as a kid.  

NIMH's treatment of animals as lab rats (literally and figuratively) is among the earliest exposure kids my age had to how medicine, and more frivolously cosmetics, was made safe for human consumption.  It was a hard thing to see, made even worse by the writhing silhouettes and pained whines after the animated injections.  Even though Jenner was the villain we could see and root against and see defeated in the end, NIHM was truly the villain here, if not at least for their threats of extinguishing their failed former test subjects.  And unfortunately, it's an evil they could only escape from for there was no defeating it.

This post was made as part of the Medicine in Movies Blogathon hosted by Charlene's (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews.  check out the post to see how medicine is portrayed and influenced by medicine both modern and barbaric.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 5/24/17

Prepping for my first round in Bad Guy Beatdown right now.  I keep forgetting I've got to take notes on 26 episodes, who would have thought watching cartoons was so much work.  I'm thinking of making up a page for all of them like the Villain Retrospects series and the old Flashback page (which is still waiting for a revamp).

Old School Evil hasn't made much progress, but I'm joining a Finishers critique group so I'm hoping to have the first book polished and ready to publish soon.  I'm not sure when I'll publish it though, there are a few more things I want to have ready before I put it out there.  I'm kinda wondering if I should set up a deadline, like the new year or something...  In the meantime, I'm still researching how to do it, with the covers, the formats, and everything else.

Monday, May 22, 2017


After having gone through all the characters from my Retrospective series, I got to wondering who the most powerful villain was.  If all of them were to face-off, who would come out victorious?  Forget about who was cooler and had the most effective plans - whose abilities come out on top?

I decided the only way to really find out is a tournament. Thirty-two villains step into the ring, two-by-two and fight it out.  I created a bracket and randomized the entries.  A few of the villains I've covered in my series won't be admitted here - Emperor Dark for not doing anything for his whole series, Dr. Claw for being mostly hidden through his series, and Baron Greenback for being a tiny toad.  Unicron and Cobra-La are also out since they both kind top the charts.  But the rest of the contenders can be seen here:

For each fight, I'm going with Death Battle rules - I'll be watching each show and take notes of each villain's powers and abilities.  I'm limiting myself first 13 episodes of each show to be fair to those shows that didn't make it that far.  Each round will be made in two posts - the first week will cover the villains' abilities through the episodes, and the following week will have the results, told in a short story since I'm not about to try to animate this.  I wish I had some way to show it better, but I'm hoping to at least draw some picture of the winner triumphant.

Of course, I welcome everyone's comments on who they think should win, and I'm looking forward to hearing any disagreements, but please realize, this isn't going to be a popularity contest.  If it was, I'd automatically make Megatron the winner.  But I'm curious who really kicks the most ass here and I want to be as impartial as possible.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Villain Retrospect - Who's the Coolest & Most Effective Villain?

When I started the Villain Retrospect series, I aimed to rate each of the bad guys on their coolness and effectiveness.  Looking back, I wish I had picked a few more categories to rate them in: power, intelligence, strength, etc.  Basically, something like the Tech Specs the old Transformers used to have, only without the red decoder.  I have plans to go back through them all for the tournament, but that's coming up in a bit.  For now though, I want to go over what I learned on the two that I covered.  I'll look at the top three of each category.  Click on their image for the post where I cover them more in-depth.

3. Genghis Rex
How can you not love a villain that is a Tyrannosaurus?  Yeah, he's an anthropomorphized dinosaur, but he's still got the giant toothy maw, what else can you ask for?  Not only that, but he's got a cool personal ship and a starship that looks like a massive metal version of himself.  If he had a cooler voice, he could have gotten a higher grade.
2. Shredder
I won't deny that later down the line, Shredder turned into a laughing stock.  It's a shame too, because he has such potential to be a top-notch bad guy.  He's got a great simple look - the blades covering half his body, the samurai-like helmet, and the purple cape - and a great raspy voice provided by James Avery.  The fact that he was a ninja, and sometimes could stand up to all the turtles at once, is icing on the cake.
1. Megatron
Was this ever in question?  There are good reasons why he's always been my favorite villain.  He's extremely powerful, intelligent, and intimidating. Frank Welker lends him a threatening voice and one of the best maniacal laughs in cartoons.  People may give him crap for transforming into a pistol that needs to be shot by someone else, but I have no problem with it.  Makes more sense to me than a camera at least.

Most Effective
3. Overlord (Spiral Zone)
I've got to give this guy credit - he took over almost the entire country, turning half of it into his Spiral Zone and reducing its citizens to mindless zombies.  He sees the Zone Riders's plans from a mile away, often times turning their tricks against them.  It's not often you see a villain so capable and creating such a threat against half the population.
2. Venger
I'm not sure how I missed this guy as a kid.  Venger is a combination of awesome power and a demonic image, paired perfectly with Peter Cullen's best villain voice.  The fact that he was so much more powerful than the good guys he faced was something most cartoons steered away from, making him one of the most capable characters in the whole show.
1. Queen of the Crown
I have to give the old lady credit - she knows how to run an empire.  Using the power of the Psychocrystals, she steals the life force of every human and alien she captures to build an army of Slaver Lords.  In the first episode, she kidnaps the wife of the Galaxy Rangers' leader and even though he's able to recover her body, the Queen still keeps her spirit locked away for the entire 65-epsiode run.  I can't think of a single villain that can beat that ruthlessness.

Now we're going to take a look at the lowest of both categories and it's pretty funny that the lowest scores of both coolness and effectiveness are the same, so I'll be looking at the last five.
Least Cool & Effective
5. Doc Terror
If someone had described to me a scientist that was half human, half-robot and controlled a drone army to wipe out humanity, I would have expected someone so much better than this.  Doc Terror takes all those expectations and throws them out of the door, instead being a loud-mouthed, easy to anger bore.  If they made him more methodical, dare I say more like Emperor Dark, I would have ranked him a lot higher on this list.
4. Saw Boss
I understand why they made named Saw Boss like they did, but wouldn't it have made more sense to give him a different name since most of the time he doesn't have a saw? It's not like he turns into the bladed vehicle all that often, instead sitting on a chair, telepathically commanding his troops. Saw Boss is also in the odd situation as the villain hunting the good guys down in every episode, instead of them stopping the Monster Minds from some criminal act, so you'd think he'd have an easier time completing his goals, but no, he can't even catch them either.
3. T-Ray
It's telling that I can't find a single thing online that tells me who provides T-Ray's voice.  It's not bad, though it's the same gurgle-y voice that the rest of Rankin-Bass's bad guys have.  His look is just as bad though and he's inept with a weapon - how does a whip even work underwater?  Not to mention it gets used against him every time he uses it.  It's telling that the first thing he does in the show is release a worse villain and then immediately surrender to him.
2. Mon*Star
Good God that's a stupid looking villain.  Like Mumm-Ra, he has a transformation into a stronger form, but I don't even understand why.  Mumm-Ra as a small, frail form most of the time and turns into a muscle-bound bruiser, but Mon*Star already is a big guy, so why bother?  Even worse, the stronger form is stupider looking than this one with beady eyes, toothy mouthplate, and elbow blasters.  Seriously, I think he would have gotten off better if they combined aspects of both forms and didn't have him change at all.  At least T-Ray always looked the same.
1. Big Boss
I absolutely hate this guy. He's so incredibly bland!  He's a mob boss, so let's make him fat and talk in a stereotypical mafia accent and give him a pet to stroke.  But he's in the future so let's give him a metal hand and do the same thing to his pet.  He fills the role of the villain who barely does anything, instead barking orders to others and yelling at them when they fail even though he did nothing to help out.  Such a complete loser of a bad guy.

What do you think of the lists?  Do you disagree?  Maybe you think Big Boss kicks ass and Megatron sucks eggs.  Leave a comment and let me know.  And if I left anyone off the list, make sure to check out the Villain Retrospects page to see what other villains I've covered.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Tearjerker Blogathon - The Incredibles

The Incredibles is easily one of the best films I've ever seen. When Pixar, known for pumping out the highest-quality movies out there, decided to turn their attention to a superhero family, my interest shot through the roof.  As a toy collector, I loved their Toy Story movies, but as a comic book reader, I was even more stoked for this movie.
The Incredibles follows the titular Mr. Incredible as he's forced out of the superhero game and raises a family, all the time yearning for the chance to return to saving lives and beating up bad guys.  The beginning of the movie sees him marrying the flexible Elasti-girl, mowing down enemies on the way tot eh chapel.  Unfortunately, his exploits injures a number of civilians who sue him and the government that allowed him to operate outside of the law.  Superheroism is deemed illegal and anyone wearing a cape or mask goes back to the normal workforce.

The ensuing 9-to-5 life Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible's alter-ego) finds himself in is something I think we can all sympathize with - stuck in a dead-end job, living with the knowledge that we were meant for something greater.  I certainly feel like that ever day, bent over a desk, dealing with complaints that I can't do anything about, this desire for adventure burning within me.  Anyway, that's not the tearjerker part, although as I get older, it haunts me more and more.

While his wife is able to leave the superhero game behind and is content to raise their family - Violet, Dash, and baby Jack-Jack - Bob sneaks out with his friend, formerly known as Frozone, to find crimes to stop.  Saving tenants from a burning building doesn't turn out the way he wanted, which leads to a conflict with the police and an even bigger one with the missus.  That's not all he gets though, as an invitation comes in for some interesting work - addressed not to Bob, but Mr. Incredible, and the timing could not be better as he just loses his job for punching his boss through a building - haven't we all wanted to do that?

That's enough of a recap, though, because if you haven't seen this movie yet, just go out and watch it. Mr. Incredible's return to the superhero game, bringing his entire family along with him, is such an amazing story of redemption.  There are so many parts during the film that bring tears to my eyes - Dash on the water, Bob wanting to keep his family safe, the family triumphant - but there is one scene that always chokes me up; the airplane.
Just watching this clip before posting it got me weepy.  This scene is just perfect - the tension, the tech jargon, the rising music, the fear in the kids, Bob's reaction to finding out they're on board - it all comes together to create one of the greatest and most dramatic moment in film for me.  I love the fact that all of the call signs Helen uses are correct but comes down to her just crying "Abort, abort, abort!" near the end.  Bob's simple "No!" upon hearing there are children on board always chokes me up. Even seeing Mirage's face before that does.

Brad Bird does a fantastic job using this moment to illustrate a point that Helen makes to the kids later on - the enemies they face will not hesitate to kill them.  From that moment on, the threat is absolutely real, and the kids need to use their own abilities to keep each other safe.  The action only ramps up from there, culminating in a massive fight back in their home town.  

The Incredibles deserves to be on everyone's top ten movie list.  The voice cast is perfect, filled with smaller name actors who fit their roles to a tee.  Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter do a great job as Mr. Incredible and Elasti-girl, and Jason Lee does an amazing job as the vengeful Syndrome.  Even the kids' voice actors, who haven't had any other roles before this movie (and only a few after) do an amazing job bringing the bashful Violet and hyperactive Dash to life.  The biggest name in the movie is Samuel L. Jackson, playing Frozone, and he gets arguably the funniest scene in the movie.

I cannot tell you how excited I am that the much requested sequel is coming out next year.  So far there hasn't been any other news about it besides the entire cast returning, but I know we can expect to see the same humor, action, and of course a few tearjerker moments that made The Incredibles so endearing.

This post is made in part of Moon in Gemini's "No YOU'RE crying!" Blogathon.  Check out all the rest of the tearjerker moments on her blog and have the tissues ready!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 5/10/17

Yay! The new Wednesday Wrap-Up image is up and running.  Sure, it's mostly reused assets and a couple of stock photos, but I like the work in progress look to it.  At least it's a lot better than the other stock photo that really didn't have much to do with Old School Evil.

I'm also working on a graphic for the Bad Guy Beatdown coming up this month and a few infographics for next week's post as well.  Still trying to hammer out some art style to use for the combatants along with more Flashback Friday characters.  It's an art-centric week!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Villain Retrospect - Krulos

I have no idea how I missed Dino-Riders as a kid.  This show would have been so up my alley my head would have exploded.  It takes all the dinosaur action from Dinosaucers and amps it up to 11 with people riding fully-armed terrible lizards!  Up until this point, my life has been a lie, but now I finally see what's been missing this whole time.

In outer space, the Rulon Empire chases the Valorians mercilessly.  Trapped in a tractor beam, the groan-inducing Questor (seriously, what is with these leader names sucking lately?) instructs his good guys to activate the STEP - Space Time Energy Projector - which opens a doorway to prehistoric Earth.  The Rulons follow the ship and both crashland on the jungle planet and find themselves surrounded by dinosaurs.  The Valorians use telepathic necklaces to tame the dinosaurs, becoming the Dino-Riders, while the evil Rulons use a cool-sounding device called a Brain Box to enslave his own forces. 

The cartoon is incredibly well animated for its initial episode, including a lot of special effects and great 80s dinosaur anatomy (the Godzilla-like T-Rex stance). It looks amazing and is a fantastic way to start the show.  While the following episodes have a bit of a drop in quality, I would say it still is a little higher than its peers - I didn't spot any animation errors or recycled animation. 

The Valorians are your typical heroic clich├ęs - the wise leader Questor (again played by Dan Gilvezan), the brash Youngstar (an even worse name), telepathic healer Serena, and a few other fighters that blend in together.  Where the originality shines is the Rulon Empire, made up of a spattering of different alien races.  There's Rasp and his army of Vipers, Hammerhead and his own Hammerhead troops, and Antor, leader of the Antmen.  There are a few other creatures in the ranks, but these three are the most prominent and always vie for Krulos's second-in-command. 
Krulos himself doesn't fall in any of their races, instead being a frog-faced, red-eyed behemoth wearing a glass dome over his head.  He manages to yell everything that comes out of his mouth, which luckily for him, sounds great because he's voiced by Frank Welker.  His voice is just a little different enough from his Dr. Claw and Megatron, falling somewhere in the middle.  As every main character in the show is assigned a partner dinosaur, whether through telepathy or brain boxing, Krulos decides only one dinosaur will do. "I must have the mightiest of all - Tyrranosaurus Rex!"  Unfortunately, the first episode has him spending most of his time trying to tame the giant lizard and losing it by the end before doing it over again the episode two. 
Once he's got it under his control though - whew, that's a lot of firepower.  He's practically unstoppable and while some of the dinosaurs have some well-designed weapon placements (I especially like the Torosaurus's gun-hiding shell), the Tyrannosaurus Rex has to be one of the coolest and easily the most imposing one among them.  Even if it has a basketball hoop on its belly.  That doesn't look like the most stable or comfortable of perches.  It's funny to think that since Frank Welker no doubt voiced all the dinosaurs in the cartoon that he would have done both Krulos and his steed. 

I really appreciated all the work that had been put into this cartoon with how carefully the animator were to use different dinosaurs correctly - the this show and Dinosaucers did a good job keeping the species distinct and dropping their names often.  The latter show made me want to be an paleontologist as a kid and if I had seen this show as well, I'm sure it would have cemented that decision.  I know the show's creators focused the show on dinosaurs because of the cool factor, but I wonder how many kids were inspired to grow up to study fossils because of shows like this.  Imagine if it had a dinosaur-centric PSA at the end, just a profile of a different species before the credits.

Anyway, let's rate this guy!
Coolness - 7.  Krulos is indeed one of the coolest villains I've seen and he owes that to two factors; Frank Welker and the T-Rex.  Mr. Welker gives him a great raspy (funnily enough, he does voice Krulos's lieutenant, Rasp as well) voice that is distinct enough form his other villains and is the perfect combination of the two.  He's physically imposing compared to his troops, standing taller and wider than any of the other characters on the show and he gets the dinosaur that matches that.  You'd think that maybe having a face that looks like a toad would be a detriment, but compared to his goofier looking subordinates, it works in his favor.
Effectiveness - 3. Krulos falters a bit here since his plans for two episodes just involved bringing his dinosaur under his control.  It's not until the third episode that he really makes a plan and goes with it.  By brain boxing a ton of triceratops-like dinosaurs, he creates a stampede to trample the Valorians' base and steal the STEP crystal.  Once he returns to base with his prize, he finds out it was switched with an ordinary quartz and it explodes in his face.  So instead of just trampling the entire Valorian base and just destroying everything, which he certainly had the manpower to do, he decides to run away after getting the crystal - somehow also leaving his T Rex there.  That's some short-sightedness right in the face of victory. 

And now for some big news: It's my 100th post!  Since starting the Old School Evil blog, it's taken me almost a year to get through all of the villains I watched as a kid and those I missed along the way.  And now that I've completed my list, it's time for the Bad Guy Beatdown!  I've got one more article planned to post next week, some number crunching from all the cartoons I've watched, and then the fight begins with a breakdown of the rules and workings.  Keep checking back to find out who our first competitors will be!