Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 2/14/18

It's been a while since I've done a Wednesday Wrap-Up post and I feel like a jerk for taking so long to write any progress down.  In truth, I'm dealing with some real bad mojo at work and it's sapped a lot of my energy to do anything constructive.  It's a real bad situation that been created by one person and it making the three of us that work for her miserable.  I've been looking for new work practically everywhere and I'm hoping to land another position in the very near future.

The worst thing of it is this would be the best time to be working on my book!  I got my manuscript back from the editor a few weeks ago and all I need to do is make up the cover and I'd be ready to publish.  But besides having worked a bit on the blurb, I think it's complete now, I just can't get myself to work on it.  I've take a few days off since my birthday and my wife's is this weekend, but I'm not sure I'll have much time to work on it with all the stuff we have planned. Not to mention the dread of what'll be waiting for me on Tuesday....

Anyway, since I've written the blurb, I figure I'd post it here.
I grew up quick.  Turning into a monster and murdering your foster parents will do that to a guy.  I ended up on the streets with nothing but a busted action figure and the love of the cartoons it came from.
When someone claiming to not only be my real father but an actual cartoon bad guy, I couldn’t turn down his invitation to meet. His name - Major Max Malice the Menacing, retired leader of the Muttants, enemy of the Hurricanines, and former would-be world conqueror.  But can I trust anything he says, even though he offers to teach me the way to control the beast inside me?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 10 - General Plague

Today we're looking at the Shredder's opponent, General Plague, leader of the... Raiders.  Whatever abilities this guy has, creativity is not one of them.

Hailing from Sky Commanders, General Plague strives to harvest the deadly energy source Pheta 7 to take over the world, willing to destroy whole continents if he has to.  When the New Frontier, a massive unstable land mass breaks through the Pacific Ocean, he mobilizes his Raiders to attack, using "laser cable" technology to traverse the craggy landscape.  While he's shown to have a large number of generic Raiders that he treats as cannon fodder, he has four named minions, including Mardok, who happens to be Plague's brother-in-law.  That's a new one.

While many of the characters in the show are bound to laser cables, riding them in awkward and uncomfortable backpacks (seriously, how can anyone stand with those things?), Plague gets around this by primarily flying in a Jackal Raider.  Yes, their equipment is also called Raiders.  As you can see, the Jackal is equipped with missiles but also has laser cannons.  Unlike most of his cartoon villain peers, he's actually a good shot with them, more often than not hitting his target in a few shots, even with something as small as a power cable.  He's also a good pilot, being able to maneuver tight canyons, make quick u-turns and even outmaneuver missiles.  The ship is fragile though and can be brought down with a single shot from a hand-held laser pistol at times.

When not flying the Jackal, Plague gets around on a Deception Raider.  Seriously, who came up with these names?  Everything has such a terrible name - even Plague's name is stupid because it makes no sense.  It's not like he wants to poison the world or anything.  And that's his real name, by the way, Lucas Plague.  Anyway, the Deception Raider, a giant metal hang-glider, which some of the other Raiders use as well.  Strangely, while the other Raiders are usually stuck to navigating the power cables with their Deception Raider, General Plague flies freely most of the time.  For weapons it has two standard missiles, voice activated in one episode.  Another ability of the Deception Raider backpack, as well as every other kind, is Hot-Wiring, which activates a power cable and sends whatever backpack is attached to it speeding along.

We've seen him fly, but what can General Plague do when he doesn't have a jet strapped to his back?  Believe it or not, even with a pistol, Plague's aim stays pretty true.  In episode 5, One on One, Plague spends most of his time stalking his nemesis, Mike Summit (ugh), and blasts him out of the sky a few times.  It's not pictured here, but he actually carries two pistols.  He's also able to break a grapple line with his bare hands once - thought it wasn't a power cable, it was still strong enough to hold those ridiculously huge backpacks, so it has to be pretty strong.

Speaking of the grapple like, all Raiders and Sky Commanders are equipped with a Grappler, which acts as a control panel for most of the their weapons and backpacks and also is thrown as a grappling hook.  Seems like you'd want to throw the hook without giving up your control panel, but whatever. 

Lastly, we've got to talk about his hand-to-hand abilities of which he has none.  Only one episode shows him actual engaging in melee combat, and he quickly loses a wrestling match with Mike Summit, even after starting with the upper hand. 

I'm starting a new feature here where I summarize the combatants' strengths and weaknesses so it's easier to refer back to when I'm writing the big fight.
Strengths: The Deception Raider backpack enables him to fire ziplines and fly, and he's a good enough pilot to avoid almost any oncoming fire.  He's also an incredible shot with hand-held weapons and whatever he's piloting.
Weaknesses: He's got no hand-to-hand abilities, so if he's ever disarmed, he's going down.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Top 5 Cartoons that Deserve a Movie Like Transformers (But Good)

Last month, I wrote a post about cartoons that deserve a reboot (you can read it here).  Ever since then, I've been planning to write a second post about the cartoons that deserve a revival but would fit in a movie more than a new series.  I'm not saying the others weren't good enough to deserve a movie in their own right, but these five cartoons have just the right mix of compelling stories and compact casts that would do best on the silver screen.  Let's just hope thee do better than the current movie offerings we're getting.
Spiral Zone
When the villainous Overlord flipped on a series of Zone Generators across the globe, he turned half the world's population into mindless zombies - only he can control their every move.  The Zone Riders are the only defense against Overlord and his Black Widows as they try to take down the generators and return free will to the Earth's people.
The Reason
The zombie trend is movies and television is definitely dwindling, but I think giving the bad guy complete control over them is enough of a game changer to make it stand out in the otherwise boring zombie landscape.
The Movie
I'd get rid of the Black Widows and make the Zoners (the people within the Spiral Zone) the bad guys.  I'd also update the Zone Riders by getting rid of their ridiculous gear and focusing on the characters' tragedies, like Tank who lost his son in the Zone.

Marshall Bravestarr is the only lawman on the entire planet of New Texas and uses the his spirit powers to call on the planet's animal abilities - Strength of the Bear, Ears of the Wolf, Eyes of the Hawk, and Speed of the Puma.  The outlaw Tex Hex leads the Carrion Gang in stealing the planet's rich Kerium resources.
The Reason
Westerns are a dying breed, but I think adding the sci-fi elements into the mix could make for some real interesting stories, like Guardians of the Galaxy have shown us.
The Movie
I'd go the route of the original Bravestarr movie and show an origin story for him and Tex Hex, maybe making them known to each other before going to their respective mentors - the Shaman for Bravestarr and Stampede, the Broncosaur spirit for Tex.  The main story would be a huge heist that Bravestarr has to try to stop alone.  Not sure how I'd throw Thirty-Thirty in there though.

Ace McCloud, Jake Rockwell, and Max Ray use their advanced weapon systems to save the world from Doc Terror, who wishes to wipe out humanity and replace the Earth's population with robots.
The Reason
I'm thinking with the popularity of Iron Man in the Marvel movies, you can't go wrong with heroes that have a bunch of different techno suits.  The cast of Centurions is small enough that it would be easy to have them all appear in the movie without any losses.  Except maybe that damned orangutan.  
The Movie
I'd start with Doc Terror already having taken control of the world, his robot armies having culled most of the human race.  Ace, Jake, and Ray are part of the resistance and make contact with Crystal, a weapons satellite long forgotten.   It takes them a while to get used to their new suits, but after that, it's all robot carnage.

Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers
The Galaxy Rangers police the stars, determined to stop the Crown Empire from expanding her empire with Slaver Lords - telepathic manifestations of their leader, the Queen of the Crown.
The Reason
I debated not having this on the list since we already have a space cowboy movie with Bravestarr, but since this show is all about space-fairing instead of stranded on one planet, I think it deserves a shot of it's own.  While Bravestarr focuses on one lawman, Galaxy Rangers has a squad of them, each with their own power.  
The Movie
I'd keep the focus on Foxx, whose wife is captured, and he has to find her.  While the cartoon never did reunite the two of them even after 65 episodes, I'd make sure Foxx got her back by the end of the movie.  

Dungeons & Dragons
When six kids go on a roller coaster, they're sucked into another dimension where sword and sorcery rule.  The enigmatic Dungeon Master gives them magic weapons and sends them off to fight the wizard Venger.
The Reason
There have been a number of movies trying to bring Dungeons & Dragons to life, but they've been terrible - unlike the cartoon which is pretty damned good and has one of the best villains in it.  Why not just build on the cartoon?
The Movie
Just do the cartoon!  Take six kids, throw them in a fantasy land, and give them some magic powers.  Just make sure to give us a good Venger!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 10 - Shredder

We've reached the double digits!  Today, we're looking at the evil leader of the Foot Clan, Oroku Saki himself, the Shredder.  While Saki had a lot of history in the various Ninja Turtles stories, in the cartoon, he and Homato Yoshi were part of the Foot Clan in Japan.  Trying to take control of the Foot from Yoshi, Saki used a knife to make it look like Yoshi was attempting to kill their Sensai, who was then banished.  Once Saki became leader of the foot, he turned it into a vast criminal empire. We all know Yoshi turned into Splinter and trained the turtles in the sewers of New York, but what happened to Saki?

How he found Krang, ended up in New York, and turned the Foot into a robot army isn't spelled out in the cartoon (as far as I remember at least), but he took on the name of the Shredder and covered his armor with a multitude of blades.  Before we get to his powers, let's take a look at the Foot since they're with him so much.

The Foot Clan is made up entirely of robotic ninjas.  They're weird looking with somewhat gorilla proportions, always with their shoulders hunched and arms sticking out.  Normally they're armed with laser rifles since they don't really display any ninja fighting skills at all, but sometimes they'll show a shred of their origin, like in the first few episodes where they had throwing stars that glowed red hot and fins that show energy ripples.  Like most cartoon robot army fodder, they are defeated easily and fall apart after a hit or two.  Still, in large numbers, they could be dangerous - the Mousers from episode 3 certainly were.

Now on to Shredder.  Having trained in the same dojo as Yoshi, who trained the turtles, Saki is an incredible ninja.  Though his skills dulled over time (name a villain who this didn't happen to), he was more than a match for the turtles on their first few outings.  In Case of the Killer Pizzas, when Donatello throws a ball of dough at him, he catches it in his hands, spins it around and fastens a "doughnet" from it!

Another benefit of his training seems to be some real super strength.  In episode 7, The Incredible Shrinking Turtles, he defeats each of them one by one, but the real feet is breaking a massive wooden beam in half with one chop if his hand.
In other episodes, he's shown to chop through a branch he was standing on with one chop, bend iron bars of a cell, kick down a metal door, and twice slice a punching bag in half after throwing it into the air.  I'm not sure what part of ninja school teaches you that, but it's damned impressive.

Shredder does have his drawbacks, though.  His anger frequently gets the better of him, letting the calmer Splinter defeat him, like in the episode Shredder and Splintered.  He loses his patience and gets real sloppy.  He's also terrible with guns.  The few times he's picked up a rifle or pistol, he can't hit anything.  Granted, no one else in the cartoon has good aim either, but it's something to consider if Shredder loses the upper hand.

Be sure to come back next week to see his opponent, Sky Commander's General Plague.  Click here to see how Bad Guy Beatdown is going so far.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ferngully - Robin Williams Blogathon

For the longest time, I thought Ferngully was a Don Bluth film.  It has the hallmarks of it, for sure, like similar character designs and story elements.  And it's biggest similarity is the above Batty Coda, the annoying sidekick, played here by Robin Williams in his first animated feature.  Having seen his fantastic role as the Genie in Disney's Aladdin, it's hard to believe a movie coming out the same year would have him be such an underplayed and awkward role.

Ferngully is the story of fairy Crysta, living in the unspoiled Australian rain forest full of fairies, including Crysta and Pips.  Crysta sneaks out of the canopy and spots smoke on the horizon.  Smoke created by humans, of course.  She goes to investigate it, sees a monster tearing down trees and is captured by a human she got to close to.  She uses her fairy magic to accidentally shrink him down and there's a real nice Tarzan vibe there as he learns about the forest from her.  It's a nice story and could have been left there - the danger of humans clear cutting rain forests. 

But then they throw in an evil spirit named Hexxus, voiced rather seductively by the excellent Tim Curry, who is freed by the monster, in reality a tree-cutting machine and subsequently takes it over to destroy Ferngully.  I'm not even sure why he's there because the humans were heading towards Ferngully anyway, but I guess the movie needed a villain it could kill off.  At least his final scene was awesome as hell.  Why couldn't he look like that through the entire movie and not the black fart that he usually was?

Ferngully takes a lot of cues from Don Buth's classic, Secret of N.I.H.M. and most of them are seen in Batty, a fruit bat that escapes a lab and winds up in Ferngully, where he meets Crysta.  Batty talks - no sings - about the evils of humanity.   So you've basically got Secret's animal testing message and Dom Deluise's irritating Jeffery thrown into one character. Scientists implanted electrodes into Batty's head, which frequently shock him. It's a device which allows for Williams's trademark frantic voice changes, which could have been awesome (as they were in Aladdin, which was released the same year as this, but it's so downplayed here that you'd barely notice. It is only played up in a scene at the end where other main character, Zac, purposefully changes "the channel" to get a result he likes.

Besides this, Batty's only notable scene is his rap about animal testing, which Williams does as well as he could, I guess, but it's so cringy you can barely stand to watch it.  Robin Williams can't save it - that's how terrible it is.  In fact the music in the movie, of which there is a lot, even compared to Disney's library, is generally terrible, with Tone Loc, of "Funky Cold Medina" fame, showing up once to sing a song about eating bugs.  Holy crap was that bad!

Ferngully on its surface looks like a decent lesson in environmental protection.  It's got cute, quirky characters and a scary looking villain.  But looking closer at it, it almost blatantly steals its look after the 2nd biggest animation studio of the time, directed by a guy whose biggest credit before this is story director of Challenge of the Go-Bots.  I wonder how he was able to get Robin Williams to sign on in the first place.

This post is made in part of Real Weegie Midget Reviews Robin Williams Blogathon.  Make sure to click here to see all the other great reviews - better than this movie at least.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Top 5 Soundtrack Songs Pre-2000

Man am I late on this one!  Anyway, I will warn you before you get any further, this list is pretty weak.  It's just not one of my preferred subjects - most of the soundtracks I buy are scores!  I've bought a few that are full of songs, of course, but they're the minority.  Sometime I'll get into my favorite scores, but right now, the Retro Club is talking songs, so let's go.

5. "Weird Science" Oingo Boingo - Weird Science
I can't remember seeing the whole movie Weird Science, but I totally remember the song.  I was actually more of a fan of the series on USA, to be honest.  Still, the song is fun and it definitely has that 80s spirit going for it.

4. "Ghostbusters" Ray Parker Jr. - Ghostbusters
If anyone alive int he 80s ever tells you they don't like this song, feel free to punch them in the mouth.  Ghostbusters is probably the best theme song ever made for a movie, there's no denying it.
I am so glad they were able to get the original version of it for the Real Ghostbusters cartoon, it wouldn't have felt right at all without it.

3. "Rainy Day Parade" Jill Sobule - Mystery Men
Okay, here's my freebie.  It barely comes in the timeframe for the list, with Mystery Men released in 1999, but I'm throwing it here anyway.  This is one of the first soundtracks I bought, and I used to listen to this song more than any of the others.  It was just really sweet and cute and I'm allowed to listen to that if I want to.
2. "Double Back" ZZ Top - Back to the Future III
Every 80s list is going to have a song from the Back to the Future series, it's a given.  And while most lists would probably have Huey Lewis's "Power of Love," I enjoyed ZZ Top's theme from the third one so much better.  In fact, I'd even say I like "Earth Angel" more than the main song.  It's easy to sing along to.

1. "Dare to be Stupid" "Weird Al" Yankovic - Transformers
This is the first CD I ever bought, and it was before I even had a CD player.  I scoured the stores for the cassette when the movie came out with no luck, and 10 years later, I happened to find it and snatched it up.  There are a ton of great songs on there, like Stan Bush's two epics "The Touch" and "Dare," but this Dare happens to be my absolute favorite Weird Al Song, so of course it's my favorite in the album too.

Make sure to check out the rest of the Retro Club's posts here:

Real Weegie Midget Reviews - 5 Reel Retro Soundtrack Songs

Banzie Retro Club - Post and Podcast

Monday, January 22, 2018

Top 5 Favorite Action Figures

I had a lot of toys as a kid, and a lot of favorites, but since I'd rather not spend all day on here, I'm sticking to my 5 favorites - and a warning to you, there's a shitload of Transformers and MASK here.

5. Raven
Just look at that sexy car!  This is the first MASK toy I owned besides that tiny Condor motorcycle everyone seemed to have.  It was so full of awesome action features, I didn't even care that it turned into a boat instead of a jet - this thing was just way better looking that that weird gullwing-doored Thunderhawk.

4. Powermaster Optimus Prime
This is one of the biggest toys I owned and I loved that not only did it include a robot and a base, but that they could combine into an even bigger robot, and there was even a tiny little robot that unlocked the transformation.      When playing with this guy, I'd often pretend it was a MASK toy as well by folding the cab over and imagining the smokestacks were laser turrets, not unlike Rhino (which I never owned, otherwise it would be on this list too).

3. Outlaw
It's funny - pretending Optimus was a MASK toy, and now I have a MASK toy I could pretend was Optimus.  Only the base mode here was way cooler - a launching grapple hook and a giant missile made me forget the similarities with Optimus really fast.  The fact that it came with two figures, including Miles Mayhem (even if he was wearing a different costume) was icing on the VENOM cake.

2. Punch/Counterpunch
This was genuinely one of the most mind-blowing Transformers I ever owned.  Sure, there was triple-changers that had two alt modes before, but this is the first one to have two robot modes.  And they were different factions, allowing him to act as a spy on the Decepticons.  The idea of spies would come up again withe the awesome Powermaster Doubledealer, but that was hindered by his lackluster bird mode.  This figure however, had some of the best articulation of its time, and there was so much potential for fan modes - an airplane, a boat, a supercomputer - so it was often added to my MASK line up next to OP.

1. Countdown
If Optimus above was one of the biggest toys I owned, than this was the one that topped it.  I really loved the whole Micromaster concept - Matchbox car-scaled Transformers that had their own system of transforming bases - and Countdown was the biggest of the bunch.  I had a few others, like its Decepticon counterpart, Skyhopper (which was much smaller), and the much enjoyed Erector.  Putting them all together for a giant city was probably my favorite thing to do.  No MASK connection needed.