Monthly Archives: February 2016

Batman

BatmanTitleAdam West as Batman/Bruce Wayne
Burt Ward as Robin
Yvonne Craig as Batgirl/Barbara Gordon (season 3)
Alan Napier as Alfred
Madge Blake as Harriet Cooper
Neil Hamilton as Commisioner Gordon
Stafford Repp as Chief O’Hara

I’m not sure how relevant this review is. Although it was quite the success back in the day, the Batman franchise has long since reverted to the dark version that existed before the 1950s and has never looked back. Actually, the fact that this character ever lightened up at all is really a product of the Comics Code Authority that forced darkness out of the comic books based on fears that they were ruining the youth. So the direction this show took is kind of a fluke of history.

But legend has it that this show actually saved the brand. Believe it or not, Batman’s popularity was at a very low swing for much of the 1960s and DC Comics was thinking of cancelling all his books. When the TV series became a hit, though, the sales of the comics surged to a level not seen in a very long time. So without Adam West and Burt Ward, it’s possible that Tim Burton’s Batman never gets made, there’s no Animated Series, forget about The Dark Knight trilogy, and don’t even think there would be the upcoming crossover with Superman.

In short, the history of superheroes on TV and the big screen would look a Hell of a lot different.

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Alas, there are more gay rumors than child endangerment issues in this pair.

Every episode’s plot is basically the same. Some villain is causing trouble so Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara call Batman and Robin on the Batphone. The Caped Crusaders then spring into action.

The performances add humor. Adam West and Burt Ward (the former of which now plays the crazy, senile, Mayor West to perfection on Family Guy) are delightfully over the top, particularly Ward’s “Holy ____.” Whoever the villain of the week is usually also plays well. This is particularly true of The Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and Riddler. Each of these frequent villains had a little fun fact.

Joker: Cesar Romero refused to shave off his mustache. They had to tape it flat before the face paint went on. That couldn’t have been comfortable.

Penguin: Burgess Meredith’s “wak-wak-wak” squawking wasn’t just another gag. No, he was a non-smoker playing a smoker, so the squawking was in case he needed to cover up coughing.

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Burgess Meredith as Donald Trump.

Catwoman: Julie Newmar took off during the third season, to be replaced by the black Eartha Kitt. Not only that, Kitt was a lot shorter and since interracial relationships couldn’t sell so soon after Jim Crow ended, the romantic tension built up between Bats and Cats over the first two seasons was gone. I guess we just had to tell ourselves that this was the same character. Kitt did add great cat-like voices and purring sounds to the role, though.

Riddler: Frank Gorshin was busy. Busy enough that he had to bail on four episodes. John Astin subbed for two of these. They made up a new villain, The Puzzler, for the other two.

There are two more things to talk about that are easily the most recognizable features of this show.

The first is, of course, the fights. It’s Batman, Robin, and when she turns up, Batgirl beating up bad guys with huge letters spelling out “BAM,” “POW,” “BIFF,” or “ZAP” (how do even get “zap out of a punch or kick). Christ, that sounds horrible, but it’s executed well. You really have to see it to know how funny it was.

The other is the bat-trap cliffhangers followed by hysterical expositions by narrator William Dozier. Even in the third season, which mostly switched to a one-part format, they squeezed quite a few in. These are really exciting parts with the peril our heroes are in. Of course, after I had been burned by putting Batman and Robin in death machines once, I’d have just done a quick kill.

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I know people who think that this is the only bat-trap that makes any sense.

Yes, Batman is essentially a parody that bears no resemblance to any version of the character for almost thirty years, but even today it’s fun to watch. Just don’t expect it be serious like the Batman we’ve come to expect.

Overall: 8 out of 10

The Lair of the White Worm

WhiteWormTitleAmanda Donahoe as Lady Sylvia Marsh
Hugh Grant as Lord Jame D’ampton
Catherine Oxenburg as Eve Trent
Peter Capaldi as Angus Flint
Sammi Davis as Mary Trent

Horror movies have always been extremely plentiful. Why? Well, for one thing you don’t need a high budget. You just need makeup for your monster (in fact, in the case of slashers with ordinary villains, you don’t even need that). Since these films tend to be built around camerawork and direction aimed at scaring the viewer, acting is not all that important, either. Finally, you really don’t need much of a plot.

In short, horror opens the door wide for cheesy, easily made movies that require little effort. That’s why there are so many of them.

Is that a giant snake or a Disneyland automoton?

Is that a giant snake or a Disneyland automaton?

The Lair of the White Worm is an example of this. It’s not a bad film, but it’s not particularly good. It is a plain, low-budgeted horror movie.

The antagonist of this film is Lady Sylvia Marsh, supernatural priestess of snake god Dionin. She kidnaps young people and sacrifices them to Dionin. That’s basically the whole plot.

Now that's a pleasant sight...

Now that’s a pleasant sight…

The acting is actually not so bad. Amanda Donahoe makes a pretty convincing religious fanatic and villainous and is quite into the role. A young Hugh Grant gives us a taste of things to come for his career. Catherine Oxenburg is alright as the primary victim.

This film is an odd combination of humor and horror. Both work reasonably well. The jokes are particularly funny. One example is where Sylvia has a victim paralyzed in her home and  is starting the obligatory evil speech about how this guy will be a worthy sacrifice when the doorbell rings, to which Sylvia says, “Shit!” and kills the victim in a quick, undramatic way.

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Interruptions really kill your thunder, don’t they?

The horror isn’t quite as well-done. Sylvia’s acting makes for a scary villainess, but the shooting isn’t nearly as refined. This movie is sometimes scary, sometimes not.

The biggest problem is that, true to form, there’s so little to the plot. Other than some kills to build Sylvia up as a dangerous character, there’s not much there. No real twists and turns. It, along with the dialogue, are about as generic as they come.

So The Lair of the White Worm is just not a good movie, though by no means bad. It would be worth a rental, but in the theater? Don’t know about that.

Overall: 6 out of 10

Street Fighter

StreetFighterTItle

Another Street Fighter is coming out right about now. Although, not as big a deal as it once was, this remains a popular and historically important series. Still, some time after I first played Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, I had this question: “If this is SFII, where’s the first?” None of the magazines covering it ever mentioned that game like they did prequels to MarioSonicFinal Fantasy, etc. There have been few releases outside of the arcades and even fewer re-releases of the original Street Fighter. It’s a shockingly hard-to-find beginning to this series. Why? Because it f*cking sucks! I actually have played this game and it’s brutal!

Plot: 3 out of 10

This game is about people fighting in a tournament and that’s it. You might think that because this is the game in which Ryu’s climatic battle with Sagat happens, that fight would be worth some more points, but it’s not. Number one, Capcom clearly had no inkling that this battle would mean so much to the avid fans. Number two, Sagat was demoted from the main villain of this game to henchman of M. Bison a game later and nobody ever looked back. Rather telling of the subject of this review, wouldn’t you say?

StreetFighter1

I see Capcom encourages good sportsmanship between human players.

Graphics: 8 out of 10

Credit where it’s due: these graphics are actually more than passable, though some 1980s arcade games like Final Fight look much better. The backgrounds are well-drawn and detailed and the characters look almost as good. Unfortunately, that’s as positive as I can get with this game. Frankly, it’s an example of how gaming vets are dead wrong to think that the whole “graphics vs. gameplay” thing started with the end of the 2D era. This was 1987, well before 3D gaming began.

Sound: 2 out of 10

I’d say that lousy, annoying music takes the fun out of this game, but you can’t steal what someone doesn’t have. Additionally, the voice acting is off-key and fuzzy.  By “fuzzy,” I mean like those old black and white newsreels of public speakers whose mics couldn’t do justice to their voices.

StreetFighter2

A true karate master knows that beating up the elderly makes him a tough guy.

Gameplay: 0 out of 10

Yes, gameplay. The most important category of all. Because after all, you want to actually play the game. And this is where Capcom really chucked shit at the fan. The controls are extremely unresponsive, making special moves way too hard to pull off. Not only that, jump controls are clumsier than a hippo in a Florida swamp. You can master these wretched controls or get yourself a pilot’s license.

A (much) smaller issue is only two characters to choose from, both of whom handle identically, giving it as little variety as any fighting game can possibly have. You might think this game deserves leniency based on the time period, but Gauntlet had four fairly unique characters to choose from. No sale.

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Fighting right next to train tracks. What could go wrong?

Challenge: 1 out of 10

I wasn’t exaggerating about the controls. It pretty much makes a truly challenging game essentially impossible because you’re handicapped. Unfortunately, computer-controlled opponents are quite smooth and agile. There is a way to win, though: use cheap tactics. For instance, I’ve beaten opponents by doing nothing but standing and punching. I am sickened just reading that last sentence.

StreetFighter4

That makes me feel better about how clumsy I am in this game.

Overall: 2 out of 10

The most amazing thing is not how horrible the original Street Fighter is. No, it’s the fact that a sequel was made that was actually great. Nobody would have given this series a chance, certainly not me, but it went from abject trash to what would be the most beloved game for a time. But if you’re a younger Street Fighter fan and want to try out some of what you have missed, do not play this game. Leave it in storage where it belongs.

Madden NFL 16

Madden16Title

Alas, Odell Beckham, Jr. is getting to be better known for roughing cornerbacks than making these miracle catches.

Sports games have this one familiar criticism: They’re all the same. But is Madden 16 more than a roster update? The answer is yes, but bugs are, unfortunately, part of the reason why.

Plot: N/A

Graphics: 9 out of 10

I gotta say, this was the biggest problem with Madden NFL 15. The graphics looked kind of last gen. This time they look almost photo-realistic, particularly with the models. It’s just too bad EA took two current gen games to catch up.

Madden16A

Ultimate Team, which enables you to build a multiplayer team from scratch, pays homage to trading cards.

Sound: 8 out of 10

The theme song for the title screen and menus cycles through some pop songs. Some fit, some don’t.

The music for the games is rock-solid and with a definite football feel.
Gameplay: 7 out of 10

Once again, there’s passing. Once again, there’s running. Once again, there’s pass rushing. Once again, there’s defensive coverage.

What has changed? Quarterbacks now have more control over the direction of their passes. Wide receivers seem more agile and able to hold onto the ball. Thus, making big plays is easier than in the past. Be careful, though — secondaries are also more agile and passing under pressure or while stepping back affect your accuracy more than ever, so it’s easier to throw an interception as well.

Be extra careful with these deep balls.

Be extra careful with these deep balls.

Only problem is that this game is highly glitchy. During the first couple months it was out, it would completely freeze right after a game. There’s still some issues like bringing up the “save game” menu in Franchise mode (that’s your career against computer opponents), and it sometimes cancels, and you have to do it again. Yeah, that’s not like the game you just played getting nixed, but it is annoying.

Another issue I have, however, is more nitpicky. When you play Franchise as an owner and move your team, it would be nice if there were more than four cities in other countries to choose from. How about Japan and India on the list in Madden 16? Also, a player wishes he could be an offensive lineman in Franchise as a player. Then again, all you’d do is shove defenders around and wait for others to make plays. Who wants that (although I think you could do this several Maddens ago, and it was just like this)?

Challenge: 7 out of 10

Playing against the computer is pretty fun except for one thing: it’s a cheating bastard! When you break through the offensive line, your secondary will suddenly choke and allow separation, especially on third down. And it’s not just me not reaching the quarterback in time. I’ve been grappled for like a quarter of a second, yet that was enough for someone to get open. On offense, there’s some really debilitating holding penalties that can be a real drive killer because they set you back ten yards with nothing you can do to stop them because your offensive line is more or less automated. These penalties only go up on higher difficulty settings. To paraphrase John Goodman, “This isn’t ‘Nam. This is football. There are rules.”

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A quarterback's worst nightmare.

A quarterback’s worst nightmare.

Regardless, it’s fun to play the computer, though arguably not as much fun as playing humans online. It’s just the foul play of the computer that gets me.
Overall: 8 out of 10

Glitches not withstanding, Madden 16 is a worthwhile purchase. Not without problems, but a solid football simulation.