A Crap Course in Monster Shark Movies: SHARKMANIA

SHARKMANIA on Syfy Channel

Syfy Channel website 

(1.5/5) UGH

Pros: A few chuckles

Cons: List itself is questionable; program seems very self-serving; an overload of awful CGI

As the world prepares for the AHEM “greatness” of Sharknado 2: The Second One which premieres later this week, Syfy Channel has graciously concocted a sort of “greatest hits” collection showing the worst and better moments from the history of the shark attack genre of films. Following in the wake of 1975’s Jaws (the first and undeniably best film in the genre), numerous ripoffs and variations on the basic “killer shark on the loose” story popped up, ranging from the Italian remake The Last Shark and sleazy, Mexican-produced Tintorera, to “Jaws on land” films like Grizzly and Razorback. Still, even considering how lousy and laughable some of these films were, I don’t think anybody was quite prepared for the likes of the increasingly insane made-for-cable and video productions that started to overwhelm Syfy Channel’s programming line-up in the late 2000s.

worst
Worst lineup of television programming ever?

I’ve been a huge fan of shark-related programming and movies since I was first saw Jaws many, many moons ago, but purposely ludicrous films like Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, Sand Sharks, and Super Shark exist as utter cinematic refuse by most any standard. These films aren’t without their admirers though – they’ve obviously picked up a large cult following and 2014’s Syfy Channel special Sharkmania: The Top 15 Biggest, Baddest, Bloodiest Bites examines the phenomenon of the cheesy monster shark movie and revels in it. This two hour program runs through a list of the “best” and, perhaps more importantly, most outrageous shark movie scenes that have turned up over the years. As seems to be the case with the numerous, low class monster flicks that regularly play on Syfy, Sharkmania seems to have been tailor-made for the undemanding, ADHD-riddled viewer since it’s mostly a collection of comedians and Z-grade actors prattling on about various completely absurd shark film sequences. Clips from the films in question reinforce and punctuate their arguments, but (like many of the films featured in the countdown) the assortment of talking heads here mainly seem interested in focusing on crude and sexual humor and moments of extreme gore and bloodshed.

land shark
Syfy’s typical day of godawful television programming makes me yearn for these days…

Considering how downright goofy some of the films featured on this list are (unsurprisingly, Sharkmania devotes much of its attention to consistently asinine Syfy Channel productions), the most shocking thing about the program is how relatively unfunny the thing is. Sure, most of the people who provide their two cents during the show don’t have much of anything important to say in the first place as they make fools of themselves on camera, but the program accentuates lowest common denominator “humor “ to the point where it simply isn’t funny. Additionally, the producers of this show seem to believe that any viewer would have precisely no attention span since Sharkmania tries to cram about fifty pounds of crap into a five-pound sack; it’s the type of thing that I’d expect to see being played as part of VH1’s “cultural programming.” Editing throughout the loud and somewhat disjointed show is manic to the point of being disorienting, bouncing around pinball-like between talking heads, archival pop culture footage, movie clips, and horrific CGI animation. Ultimately, while I could complain all day about the films chosen for inclusion the list in the first place (only two of which actually seem to be serious choices), the thing that’s most alarming is that this type of amateurish, pointless production passes as (supposedly) legitimate entertainment today.

winning
Winning CGI animation highlights many of Syfy’s shark-related movies.

It’s immediately apparent watching Sharkmania that absolutely no honest-to-goodness film critics or historians had anything to do with the assembly of the (purportedly) “classic” shark attack film moments featured in this countdown. Films like Austin Powers Goldmember and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective are placed alongside Jaws and Open Water despite the fact that those comedies only have brief segments dealing with sharks. And let’s not even discuss the fact that Jaws and its iconic (and SCARY!) opening scene ranks number four on Sharkmania’s list, behind such masterpieces as Deep Blue Sea, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, and – are you ready for this? – Sharktopus. That fact alone should give one an indication of what to expect from this program overall – clearly, this list is more about pointing out ridiculous moments from the genre instead of acknowledging brilliance.

really
Really? Number four??!?

Giving credit where credit is due, I can say that Sharkmania does highlight often jaw-dropping, amusing scenes from low budget cinema, including positively moronic attack sequences from films like Sharks in Venice (sharks invade the canal system of the Italian city), Bait (a group of people find themselves trapped in a shark-infested supermarket after a tsunami floods a downtown area), 2-Headed Shark Attack (self-explanatory), and Ghost Shark (spectral great white picks up the ability to manifest itself in any body of water, ranging from swimming pools to mud puddles and yes, even the toilet). Some of the commentary relating to these scenes is genuinely funny and will elicit some chuckles (I especially liked the recreation of the abominable conclusion to Jaws 3-D), but listening to “luminaries” such as Brooke (daughter of Hulk) Hogan, former Skinamax actress Kari Wuhrer, MTV DJ Julie Brown, and musician-turned-actor Mark McGrath (among others) provide their “expert analysis” about the monster shark genre simply isn’t as much fun as it sounds or perhaps, as it should be. Furthermore, a few segments of Sharkmania are oddly drawn out and others more or less ruin the films discussed by providing big-time spoilers; as a whole, the program seems to have been made very quickly and cheaply, thus the collection of desperate actors providing analysis and the use of soundtrack album covers and foreign press material in place of movie posters (can’t license out the trademarks to Goldmember? Why not use the German pressbook cover!).

strange lack
There’s a strange lack of Monster Shark – the obvious inspiration for Sharktopus – in Sharkmania

In the end, Sharkmania comes across as one big pat on the back for SyFy Channel and movie studio The Asylum, who produced many of the doofy and moronic titles highlighted in the program. In my opinion, these types of purposely awful shark attack films (unanimously made by talentless, hack film makers) are nearly worthless, having none of the charm that makes schlock films of yesteryear so endearing. The “big joke” in them seems to be that a viewer will never get back the time spent watching them, and that’s probably the biggest problem with Sharkmania as well. Crammed full of more atrocious computer animation than I’ve seen in the last five years (seriously – it almost made me want to throw up), Sharkmania is entertaining enough as a mindless time-waste, but I would sincerely hope most people would have something better to do with their time.

chrissy

Chutney, anyone?

Corning®   Corelle® Coordinates™ Chutney pattern

chutney mug

See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: beautiful, durable, chip resistant, hefty easy hold handle

Cons: none noted

Corelle Corelle® Coordinates™ Chutney pattern was first offered in 2001. Today Chutney pattern Corelle® Impressions™ line is an active manufacturing line offered by World Kitchens.

Both Chutney Coordinates and Impressions pattern features pretty fluted or rippled design with fruit ornamentation overlay. This flat bottom cup sits flat, steady on the table top, a consideration especially as we age and vision and steady had both are beginning to wane.

White stoneware presents a cup with nice heft, this is not a lady cup Husband prefers not to use. I often pick up two or more cups at local thrift shop when the price is right.

Breakfast time is a moment I like to add a little surprise, or what is it today to the perhaps boring fare. Even Husband’s favorite scrambled eggs, toast and all the accouterments begin to wane when age is creeping past mid and into elderly.

A perky, open the eyes, mug filled with dare you drink this coffee black is always good for rousing the senses.

I had never before seen this particular pattern when I spotted it on the thrift store shelf, backmark on the botton notes Corelle Coordinates stoneware Made in Thailand. I brought home the 3 mugs and checked the Replacements Ltd web site.

I do not find a lot of information regarding these mugs, they are still made today, however, World Kitchen lists their Corelle Impressions mugs as 10 oz, this Coordinates mug I have is an 8 oz and the Corelle Corner website does show what appears to be my mug.

As with many items that become collectible. Collectors begin to collect, and there is not always a lot of information available yet to identify, specify, exactly what the piece is, when it was made and the like.

chutney sauc  mug

 

This mug is handsome, is offered with both saucer and as stand-alone mug on Replacements website for affordable price, but for much more than the less than dollar I paid for all three.

Because this is a product line still in production many pieces with the same pretty embellishments are available. Cups are glossy, white have swirl or fluted wall design, and nice large hold handle. Husband’s fingers are large, he does not like a cup with a wimpy, hard to hold handle.

My Coordinates cup features two adornments, on one face are two red apples, round, with orangey striations, leaves are green. A spent blossom calix and leave are shown, and four blue berries complete the design. On the opposite face is a branch with leaves, pear blossom a ripe yellow pear and another branch of blue berries; this cluster presents 6 plump berries.

While I do have some Corelle dinnerware, I did not try to match dinnerware to cookware during the years Sons were growing up. I have kept one four place setting of Corelle in a farm motif, and have given sons most of the Corelle I had as they moved from home to begin lives, and homes of their own.

I have never particularly collected Corelle, however, now that the Corning bug has bitten, and I am collecting a piece or two of patterns introduced years, even decades ago, in Corning Ware® cookware patterns, I find myself facing more and more Corelle dishware including cups, mugs and saucers as I browse the shelves of local jumble shop and thrift store.

Trendy Corelle® Impressions™ line represents enduring tradition in addition to meeting modernized needs.  The Impressions™ Chutney 10-1/2-oz Stoneware Mug is stated as microwave and dishwasher safe and carries a  3 year limited warranty. This pretty mug co-ordinates with other Corelle pieces, is break and chip resistant and shape allows stacking in cupboard to conserve space.

Durable, lightweight, beautiful, and user friendly have long been the hallmark of Corelle, I find my Coordinates mugs to be all of that, the ornamentation looks fresh, obviously has been treated well, my mugs are chip and stain free. I do not microwave stoneware mugs, and will not be using my Chutney mugs in microwave or dishwasher.

Corelle Coordinates Chutney Pattern is available online, and on shelves in jumble and thrift shops, Corelle Impressions Chutney Pattern is available on Amazon.

Happy to recommend Corelle® Impressions™ or Corelle Corelle® Coordinates™ Chutney pattern and to submit 729 words to July – August Contest.

HOW COOL(ER) IS THIS?

Coleman 70-Qt. Xtreme Cooler ( Blue)

Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme Cooler (Blue)

 

Rating:[5/5]

PROS:  Does exactly what it’s designed to do – plus

CONS: None 

 

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Okay, so it’s not a beautiful picture – but it’s authentic, representing my 56-Qt. Coleman Chest Cooler (among other Coleman camping items, like the one-burner stove and propane cylinder).  What’s not showing is my Coleman tent, lantern and folding chair. I’m a walking advertisement for Coleman camping gear!

The pictures above and below were taken last year in an area referred to as The Oxbow - an isolated, mountainous region in the Oregon Coast Range. I know it like the back of my hand – and should after fifty-years of bouncing around it.

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This particular excursion I decided (at the last minute) to check out my favorite bear-watching hillside. Usually when I go for a one-nighter I ‘tramp-camp’, sleeping in the back of my SUV. Obviously, when I do that, I need to off-load the camping gear inside so Wally and I have a place to sleep - hence the jumble of ‘stuff’ on the ground.  ( I’m explaining so as not to look like a camping slob!  :)

It’s never difficult or time-consuming packing for these impromptu sojourns as I carry much of my  equipment in the back of my rig all the time – especially a Coleman cooler. I say ” a  Coleman cooler” because I have several. Further, where is it written that coolers are for food and drink only? I use the 70-Qt. Xtreme Cooler pictured above for my sleeping bag, pillow, blowup air mattress and air pump, along with a jumble of incidentals – a small first-aid kit, and extra food for Wally. Coleman Coolers are great for things I want to keep dry, bug-free, and all in one place. I never have to go searching for my pillow for example, I know exactly where to find it. I normally bring another cooler of clean clothes, but when camping just for one night, I don’t take a change of clothes.

Some of the features of the 70-Qt. Xtreme Cooler:

  • 100-can capacity – that’s sixteen six-packs of your favorite beverage!
  • Keeps ice five days in temps up to 90°
  • ThermOZONE™ insulation – no CFC’s, HFC’s, or HCFC’s which deplete the ozone
  • Hinged lid with four drink holders
  • Rustproof, leak-resistant channel for no-tilt draining

Setting off to the side in the picture is my Coleman folding chair – although I admit, it’s really not mandatory equipment since sitting on a Coleman Cooler is the best seat in camp. Except for color, the blue cooler pictured below is identical to the green one in the camping picture above.  

 

Coleman Chest Coolers - 50 Quart Ice Chest Coolers
Both coolers have four drink-holders molded into the top which make them perfect for cups, cans or bottles - but once again, I find a variety of uses for them other than their original purpose - like holding a small  flashlight, clock, cellphone, safety pins, rubberbands,  anything I might wake up in the middle of the night and want or need – within reason, of course. ( Sorry, no pizza delivery after midnight).
 
I very honestly would miss my Coleman coolers if for whatever reason they came up missing.  I’m an obnoxiously-organized person. The  idea of just tossing my camping gear in the back of the SUV and hitting the road. . .would be tantamount to throwing my clothes in the closet without hanging them up - I just don’t see that happening.

 

 The Coleman Company, Inc.

Golden, Colorado

1-800-835-3278

 

 

 

 

Topeak’s “Explorer Tubular Rack with Spring”: It’s like getting two bicycle racks in one (“trunk-bag” and “spring-clip”)

Topeak Explorer Tubular Rack (with Spring)

Topeak bike rack

See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: Currently costing about $40, this Topeak “Explorer” rear rack is exceedingly rugged, versatile and handy.

Cons: None for me. [But certain consumers might require a somewhat lengthier (alternatively available) Topeak model.]

In my prior review I discussed Topeak’s MTX trunk bag DXP. In this present review I’ll focus on Topeak’s compatible “Explorer” rack, whose “QuickTrack” design makes for quick and easy attachment/detachment of the trunk bag to the rear rack.

Via a nearby bike dealer, I bought this rack some years ago – at the same time that I purchased the aforementioned trunk bag. Since I’d taken in my Trek 7100 bike to that dealer, he courteously agreed to mount this rack to my bike at no extra charge (beyond the roughly $30 that I paid for the rack). Not that it would’ve been highly difficult to attach this straightforwardly configured rack myself, but I do advise the shrewd reader to consider availing herself of any and all such “freebies” from local shops. [In like manner, this “lazy” cyclist’s busy dealer freely installed his bike’s silvery fenders; its mirror; its extra-comfy saddle; and some inner-tire nylon rings (which help avert flats). Sure, I "could’ve" done it myself, but why bother when expert installation’s free for the asking?]

This rear rack has two features that particularly distinguish it from many competing products:

1. Its large, spring-tensioned “clip” is handy whenever you wish to carry a rather small load (e.g., a book or few) and thus won’t need to take the trunk bag along.

2. Its black, upright, tubular-aluminum “side frames” reliably prevent an attached trunk bag’s opened, dangling “pannier” compartments from interfering with the rear wheel during travel. [Those normally hidden, expandable panniers greatly increase the cargo capacity of the trunk bag. In fact, those capacious panniers can hold just enough groceries (or whatever) as to make it quite unnecessary for me to wear a backpack.]

This “MTX-QuickTrack-system-compatible” rack is fashioned of strong, lightweight, hollow “6061 T-6” aluminum. And its standard size and configuration mean that it should fit essentially any “hybrid” style – or, I assume, “mountain” style – bike frame. In any case, it fits my Trek model 7100 hybrid model perfectly. It measures approximately 13.6 by 9.3 by 16.1 inches (L x W x H). And its weight capacity is said to be 55 pounds; now, I’ve not scientifically verified this, but I suspect that it could hold considerably more weight than that without incurring any damage.

At the rear of this rack, there’s a bracket incorporating several holes that make it possible for you to connect almost any typical reflector. [Doing so might seem a bit like overkill, insofar as the rear of any compatible Topeak trunk bag already incorporates a strip of highly reflective 3M “tape.”]

And so, if you simply want to tote several books or other smallish items, this rack’s built-in, spring-tension clip should nicely suffice. But if you instead want to carry a rather sizable load of groceries, hardware, or library-media items, you can immediately and easily “slide-and-snap” any of Topeak’s compatible, highly expandable “trunk bags” onto this rack’s ingeniously designed “QuickTrack.” After several years of use (including countless trips to the supermarket or library), my specimen of this product remains in essentially pristine shape. Thus I’d confidently recommend this reasonably affordable Topeak Explorer rack to virtually anybody. Just be sure to select the particular version that does incorporate the occasionally handy “spring” clip! [One or more (confusingly similar) alternatively available "Explorer" models don't.]

An Old Kitchen Stand By Never Gets Old

P315 B  a 4.5  X 11 inch loaf pan

 

cornflower loaf

 

See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: long lasting, beautiful, durable, non staining,

Cons: used since the 1960s, not a con in the world for me

 

Corning Ware® original Pyroceram® cookware P315 B is a 4.5 X 11 inch loaf pan suitable for storing prepared dough and baking loaves of bread, storing a prepared meatloaf and baking the meat loaf in the oven and serving from the pan on the supper table. The pan is dandy for preparing lasagna or whatever entrée you choose to prepare ahead and bake later, or prepare now and bake now and serve for supper tonight.

These pans are meant for use in ovens and microwaves in addition to being used for storage in freezer and refrigerator. I have used my loaf pan in standard electric oven, not toaster oven, at heat to 350 – 375° F.   I stored many meat loaves and bread loaves for baking later in standard upright and chest type freezer and in refrigerator. These pans are not intended for stove top, burner, usage.

I have purchased, used and enjoyed Corning Ware original Pyroceram cookware from the time I first saw the initial advertisement for the product on television as a teen babysitting for spending money.

The concept was intriguing, the product was beautiful, and the notion that cook and serve in the same pan was possible, nicely,  had great appeal.

I date myself; my initial purchase went into my –hope chest- to be used when I was either married, or had moved out on my own following college.

Today, I still have, and regularly use,  my very first loaf pan and several others as well. There is nothing quite so tasty as good homemade bread, with butter and jam we made ourselves.

My Corning Ware Cornflower Loaf Pan features those pretty cornflower blossoms as was found on all the first pieces of the product. This 2 quart pan is a perfect size for making bread for supper, there was enough for everyone, but not so much that we had stale bread later. The pan was a dandy size for baking meat loaf, and because I had more than one pan, we enjoyed fresh bread AND meat loaf often as my boys were growing up.

My favorite bread recipe makes several loaves. I found having a group of loaf pans enabled me to divide the recipe into four portions, 1 for baking and 3 for freezing to take out later, let rise, and bake another day as well as having a dish for baking the entrée if.

This attractive pan ornamented with stylized blossoms, leaves and stems enjoyed a long manufactured run beginning in 1957 and continuing until discontinued in 1988. The pan includes a poly lid for use in freezer. Snap the lid onto the pan, and if you have several pans stack in freezer.

The top edge of the pan is smooth, has tabs at either end, and along the longer side is  a lip.

loaf

The lid is made with a lip to fit over the tabs at either end of the rectangular pan, and has a depression at the top surface allowing the bottom of the pan to seat down into the depression creating a nice, sturdy stack of pans filled with bread dough, meat loaf, chicken and dumplings or whatever you choose make ahead and freeze. Stacking the pans allows greater use of freezer space.

The poly lid should not be used during baking, broiling or top of the stove cooking. I do not use the poly lid in the microwave. I want the lid to continue to fit snugly in the freezer; microwave may cause the lid to warp.

My own personal cooking habits have long been to prepare several meals ahead; I found during the years I was raising children, having several meals in the freezer for popping into the oven made preparing supper a good bit easier and smoother for a busy household where both parents worked and children were active in scouting and we all attended church each week.

Pyroceram, a glass ceramic material initially developed for usage in the infant ballistic missile program the United States was realized as a possibility for crafting cookware capable for going from hot to cold or cold to hot without problem. The pans are nice enough to use for serving on the table, can be used to cook or warm foods in the oven, on the stove top and under the broiler.

I always liked having fewer dishes or pans to clean up after the meal. As more women began entering the work force as did I, the idea of prepare foods on the weekend, freeze, cook as needed and serve in the same pretty pan removed from the freezer held a lot of allure for myself and many others of my generation.

Nearly indestructible, easy to clean, difficult to burn food in the pan, Corning Ware’s record for durability was one of the things which ultimately led to problems for the company. No need to replace items that just don’t wear out, stain and become less attractive and the like.

My appealing, vintage, loaf baking pan(s) have been used many times during the many decades I have had the original, and all the others I have added to group. The original pan, as well as the ones that followed, continues to have a fine, unsoiled, lustrous white inner sidewall notwithstanding being used for myriad meat loaves replete with the tomato sauce we enjoy,  as well as other entrees in addition to loaf type cakes, loaves of bread and whatever else I have stored, baked and stored again whenever there were left over portions.

Over the years I added a number of other pieces to my initial corn flower blue casserole, loaf pan etc.

Initially each piece has also featured the pretty blue cornflower. I liked the fact that the pieces I bought during the early 1960s all matched, never wore out and short of deliberately throwing them onto a cement did not break.

Now that it is just Husband and myself I have kept the smaller pieces, and have given away most of the larger ones to sons as they have begun their own families.

And I have begun collecting one or two of the many other patterns produced during the hey day, as I find them in local thrift, jumble shops and garage sale offerings.

I always liked the appearance of the newer patterns, but as many other women, just could not justify replacing what I had.  The pans were beautiful, didn’t stain or break or anything untoward.

We were a generation not prone to replace just to replace, so I have kept, and now I add a smaller pan or two and this past weekend, another loaf pan!

If the price is good, it is hard to pass it by as I wander the aisle of the jumble shop.

I did buy some of the newer stoneware type baking dishes, and other than the mugs meant to be used in the microwave have given those pieces away. I find they are not so durable, easy to clean and keep clean and serviceable as are the original formula Pyroceram pieces.

NOTE: The following is information regarding Corning Ware/World Kitchen LLC.

If you, as I, am/are a collector, or think you might like to be, and/or have an interest in company information or perhaps need specific information regarding the manufacturing company itself, types of products made, where Pyroceram Glass items were mass-produced including years of issue, as well as, where they may be offered for sale today as well as other pertinent information regarding these lovely, serviceable pieces; you will be pleased to read, books are beginning to be written regarding the patterns, pieces, and company itself.

In addition, I am beginning to see a number of online sites offering pieces for sale. My own preference is for the pieces often found on shelves of local jumble shops, in thrift shops, as inventory during estate and garage sales and the like.

If bought from sites online;  the cost will be substantially more.

Original formula Pyroceram was discontinued during the late 1990s, and the new stoneware was introduced. Pieces are not manufactured as replicas, but the stoneware is not original formula Pyroceram. From internet search including perusal of the Corning Ware webpage: we learn that as happens with many new creations, Corning Ware cookware came to be because of a lab mistake.  The furnace failed, temperatures supposed to remain at 600C rose to 900c. However the glass did not become molten, retained its shape, and did not break when the startled scientist dropped the white glass produced.

This product that so many of us continue to use in our kitchens originated in 1953 when Pyroceram, a white, pyrex, ceramic like material having ability to tolerate vast disparity in temperature, was developed by Dr. S. Donald Stookey of Corning research and development division.

Primarily developed for the U.S. space program; Pyroceram was created from a substance originally meant for a U.S. ballistic missile program.

Dr. Stookey’s research centered around heat resistant material for nose cones. The original TV ads showed a rocket in the air, discussed the nosecone and showed a beautiful white with cornflower blue blossoms; cook pan. That is when my love affair Corning Ware™ original Pyroceram® cookware.  

World Kitchen, LLC

5500 N. Pearl Street Suite 400

Rosemont, IL60018

Happy to recommend Corning Ware® original Pyroceram® cookware P315 B is a 4.5 X 11 inch loaf pan

and to submit 1,594  words  to the July – August contest.

 

 

Nifty Tactical Simulation for the NES – RESCUE: THE EMBASSY MISSION

RESCUE: THE EMBASSY MISSION for the Nintendo Entertainment System

image-placeholder

See it at Amazon 

(3.5/5) DECENT

Pros: Nothing if not unique; fun to play; polished gameplay

Cons: SHORT! Minimal replay value; fairly easy to beat, but difficult to perfect

Eleven days ago, the embassy of an unnamed country was taken over by terrori…er…fanatics (Nintendo – always keen to avoid potentially sensitive subjects in their games…) who are holding the entire staff hostage. Now, after diplomatic negotiations have failed, a “crack” team of commandos has been sent in to alleviate the situation – by blowing the maniacal hostage-takers away with extreme prejudice…

That’s the basic scenario for 1988’s Rescue: The Embassy Mission, a game released by Kemco-Seika for the NES based on the computer game Hostages. Released a decade before the first of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six games blew away players with its realistic tactical simulation, Rescue may be one of the shortest NES games around: it sits in a category by itself with games like Jaws and Chiller as one that can be completed in a couple minutes. Still, it’s pretty doggone clever by the standards of the time and I’d definitely say that it’s worth checking out.

street
Steve on the street, trying to avoid enemy spotlights and gunfire.

The game starts off with a few simple animations reinforcing the basic story before a player hits the main stage select screen. Though there are numerous options here, the game is the same no matter what is selected: the various options mainly act as a difficulty level selector. Higher difficulty levels means less time to complete the mission, more complex enemy AI to deal with, and a building map that hides locations of terrorists and hostages, meaning that a player has to stay on his toes during the final building sweep. Once the difficulty is selected, Rescue heads into its first gameplay section. In this initial section, a player must maneuver a trio of snipers into position around the embassy building. Unfortunately, traversing the streets surrounding the building puts the snipers at risk of being shot at by the terrorists, who have searchlights combing the area. The three snipers (named Mike, Steve, and Jumbo) have to duck, cover, roll, and shuffle past the searchlights while avoiding the automatic weapons fire coming in their direction. Basically, at least one of these snipers has to make his way to his predetermined sniping position in order for the game to continue – and it’s highly likely that not all of them will make it. The third sniper literally has to walk down three city blocks – which is more or less a suicide mission in terms of how this game operates.

nifty
Nerves of steel are required during the sniper sequence.

Once all three of the snipers have been controlled and at least one has successfully made it into his sniping position, the second game phase begins, wherein the sniper(s) can strafe the windows of the embassy building in an attempt to thin the ranks of the terrorists. This is accomplished during a pretty nifty sequence where the player looks down the sight of a high-powered rifle and takes pot shots at shadows in the windows of the building. When this task has been completed in a satisfactory manner, it’s time for the final assault on the building, in which the commando team of characters Ron, Dick, and Kemco (…and on that day, the program team simply ran out of ideas…) join the action. After the player selects one of these mobile commandos, he next has to rappel down the building, then crash through one of the windows and make a room-to-room sweep through the building, wiping out terrorists and rescuing the hostages as he goes along. This is more or less just a “shoot anything that moves” sequence – though it’s possible to not only blow away the bad guys but injure the hostages as well. How effectively the player completes the scenario determines which of several different endings pop up upon the completion of the building sweep: injuring hostages or having commandos killed will lead to an less-than-ideal end screen.

on the assault
On the assault through the embassy building.

Probably the single best thing about this game is that it is entirely unique for the time in which it came out. Kemco-Seika released quite a few well-regarded but quirky games during the NES years: the company was responsible for the trio of Shadowgate, Deja Vu, and The Uninvited, point-and-click strategy games which are still among my absolute favorite NES titles, and also released such things as the Civil War game North and South, the goofy and complicated action title Rocket Ranger, and the in-depth WWII military simulation Desert Commander. Back in the 1990s, I remember being fascinated by Rescue simply due to the fact that there was no other game that offered this type of scenario – it’s pretty darn realistic for 1988 (remember – it would be ten years before Rainbow Six would come out) and though the game is fairly simple, it does require a degree of both strategy and skill to get through the game with all the commandos still kicking.

so much
So much for that safety gear…

Graphically speaking, this game is surprisingly decent: obviously, it doesn’t hold up today, but compared to other games released around the same time, Rescue looks sharp. It’s also worth pointing out that this is among the few NES games where a player actually kills people – and there is some onscreen gore when terrorists (or hostages for that matter) are shot during the room-to-room assault. Music during the game is pretty catchy and appropriate in tone, if somewhat minimal. There is a pounding opening title theme, a slightly mysterious tune playing during the scene where a player positions his snipers (that kicks up a notch in intensity whenever the enemy spotlights close in for the kill), and a bloopy but somewhat tense theme heard during the final assault. There’s not a ton of replay value in this game, but the varying difficulty settings do allow for some tweaking. Generally, I think this game is fun enough to play once in a while even if it is relatively easy to get through and beat – particularly on the lower difficulty levels.

ah, the elusive best ending...
Ah, the elusive best ending…

On the downside here is the simple fact that this game is ridiculously short. The longest time limit setting in which one would have to complete the game is twenty minutes, but literally, it’s quite possible to play through and complete this game in a matter of minutes. Additionally, the process by which a player maneuvers his snipers to their nests along the street level is quite difficult: it’s near impossible to get all three snipers into position safely. The third sniper Jumbo, poor fellow that he is, is almost always shot dead on the street since he has to traverse such an extreme distance to get to his position. On a more perplexing note, I noticed that it’s very rare to achieve the “perfect ending” in this game even if all the commandos and hostages do survive: there appears to be a sort of glitch wherein if the player opens fire in a room housing a hostage, it’s likely that the hostage would be “injured,” leading to a frustrating “DISASTER” end screen message. Of course, I’ve also purposely shot the hostages and still achieved the “perfect” ending, so who knows what’s going on with the logic of this game.

I should also point out that the sniper sequence of this game as a whole seems completely unnecessary; thrown in just to provide some diversity in the gameplay rather than to actually help one’s progress through the scenario. Enemies only occasionally show up in the windows, and even if a player knocks off as many enemies as possible with the sniper (and wastes a lot of time doing so), the in-building assault team will still have to contend with numerous terrorists during their sweep. Gotta admit though that the sniper sequence is pretty damn cool in its design and execution in the game.

gun violence

All in all, Rescue: The Embassy Mission is a odd little title that’s got some problems and isn’t by any means a masterpiece, yet absolutely is worth playing. The short length of the game is undoubtedly its main fault, but each of the individual sequences in this game are exceedingly well-done and sometimes fairly suspenseful – the game is clearly an example of quality over quantity with regard to the gameplay. I almost wish this game would have led to the production of additional, similar titles – the possibilities for this sort of genre are almost endless, and I’d have to believe that the basic formula demonstrated here would have only improved with time. Rescue might not be a vintage game that I’d go on a wild goose chase for, but if you can pick it up for a couple bucks (and apparently, you can!), I’d definitely recommend it.

Gameplay Video:

Arguably the most empowering accessory for the “frugal” bicyclist

Topeak MTX Trunk Bag DXP

trunk bag

See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: This amazingly compact-yet-expandable bag has continually proved itself eminently versatile and durable.

Cons: Not cheap!

Some years ago, wanting to augment the load-carrying utility of my Trek 7100 “hybrid” bicycle but wanting to avoid the hassles of straps, bungee cords, duffle bags or backpacks, I purchased Topeak’s MTX Trunk Bag DXP via a local bike shop. At that time my cost was somewhat over $60, not including a roughly $30 Topeak “Explorer” rack – whose compatible “QuickTrack” design makes attaching/detaching this bag the proverbial snap. And I’m pleased to report that my specimen of this bag (not to mention the rugged, reliable rack to which it attaches) has remained in great shape to this day.

Beneath this bag’s solid base lies a contiguous, durable-plastic extension having beveled edges extending from front to rear. That modest extension firmly slides into a correspondingly shaped “track” on the compatible Topeak rack. Simply slide the trunk bag all the way onto the rack till the bag snaps securely into position. [A conspicuous yellow, durable-plastic clasp at the front end of the trunk bag reliably locks the bag into position during travel. To release the bag, press the clasp downward, then slide the bag backward with one quick-and-easy motion.]

Note that Topeak also markets an alternative “MTS” trunk-bag model whose construction features Velcro straps (instead of the above-mentioned durable-plastic extension beneath the bag’s base) such that connection is possible with almost any luggage rack. However, while it does appear that that alternative “MTS” version would be at least adequately serviceable, for anyone intending to use this bag with a specific bicycle (and who doesn’t mind paying extra for the requisite rack), I would definitely suggest opting for this “QuickTrack-attachment” version instead. For, not only is attaching/detaching it maximally quick-and-easy, but also I can personally attest to its long-term ruggedness and reliability.

This bag’s overall dimensions (in “unexpanded” mode) are only about 14.2 x 9.8 x 11.4 inches; and it weighs just 2.6 pounds. Its various separately zippered compartments provide up to 1,380 cubic inches of storage.

On the one hand, this bag can be remarkably conveniently compact when you need it to be. You can simply grasp it by its upper handle and carry it – like a purse or valise – into virtually any retail store. I’ve done that on many occasions at Walmart or the supermarket and have never been scrutinized – much less approached – by any suspicious “door guard” or employee. It’s likewise compact enough to easily fit into the bottom or upper portion of the typical shopping cart.

On the other hand, when you absolutely need it to be, this multifaceted trunk bag can be expanded to amazing proportions for carrying a rather substantial load of groceries, hardware or library items!

For starters, its main compartment is more than large enough (especially when in “vertically expanded” mode) to contain not only my heavy-duty antitheft chain and padlock but also such grocery items as a gallon of milk or perhaps even some eggs (in which case I’ve successfully used some layers of “bubble-wrap” as protective padding). Not that I myself have ever had any significant liquid leakage occur, but if necessary you could easily wipe up any spills from that compartment’s moisture-resistant lining.

trunk bag.jpg panniers
Behold those capacious panniers!

But even more impressively expansive are the (normally concealed) twin, zippered “panniers” that you can dangle on either side of your bike’s rear wheel. [Topeak’s compatible rear rack has side frames that reliably prevent the panniers from touching the wheel.] Each pannier is fashioned of surprisingly strong (seemingly rip-proof) synthetic fabric that, in my experience, is fully able to withstand the weight of many cans of food filling it virtually to capacity.

Additionally, this trunk bag’s various littler sections/compartments can collectively carry all sorts of relatively small stuff – including lists, books, caps, sunglasses and (at the rear exterior) a water bottle.

Moreover, all exterior sides of this bag (plus the aforementioned panniers) that are visible during transit feature 3M Reflective Strips for enhancing the rider’s safety.

Though the price of this Topeak trunk bag is currently about $80, it could prove to be money well spent when you factor how much “car expense” you could eliminate by (at least sometimes) pedaling – not driving – to and from an accessible store, park or library.

YES, YOU CAN CAN !

Kerr Mason Jars

 

 Kerr Canning Recipes

  (5/5)

Pros: Time-tested, trusted brand

Cons: None

Some mornings I feel just like Eve. I walk across the deck, stand under the dense, spreading limbs of a Victoria plum tree and have a fruit breakfast. If it gets any better (or easier) than this, I don’t want to know about it. But what does this have to do with ‘canning’? Well, I’m thinking it might be nice to enjoy a plum breakfast in December too.

There was a time when (at least in part) a womans’ value (especially as a wife and homemaker) was determined by her ability to manage a household, including preserving food for winter  when fresh food would be unavailable. Now, there’s KFC ™, Cheetos’ ™  , and fresh plums.

Okay, seriously.  Are there any real carved-in-stone reasons why the majority of us have stopped preserving (at least) some type of food? Is it perhaps the inconvenience, the cost, the mess, maybe because our mother didn’t teach us, or all of the above? Probably – plus the added incentive not to by  national producers and distributors of our daily fare - of which there are too many to name.

So let’s bypass all the logical and frankly, valid  reasons mentioned. But, why not ‘can’ something just because it might be fun? We do lots of things just for fun – watch movies, play video games, shoot pool, water ski, hike, take expensive vacations - why not  purchase some nice, fresh (maybe even exotic) produce or meat – and preserve it?  Don’t have a clue how or where to start? Well. . .first, you’ll need some basic equipment – like jars, lids, and rings.

Kerr Jars have been around a long time – more than one-hundred years.  The company was first incorporated in 1903 by Alexander Kerr. He believed he could improve on the Mason jar design by creating a wide-mouth jar with a rubber gasket. It revolutionized home-canning.  

Product Details 

 So, where to start? I’ll relate the way I was taught by my mother – an absolute veteran at home canning everything from apples to venison.  When I remember back – my mom readying the ground for the garden, planting, weeding, watering, and ultimately putting dinner on the table from food she had grown and preserved – golly – what a mom!

Since you probably won’t be preserving food to sustain a family through the winter or a famine, let’s just ‘assume’ you’re canning a few jars of food for yourself, or even to give as gifts. Since processes and times differ with each different food, I’ll just outline canning basics. There are hundreds of cookbooks available to help you with the particulars .

  • Choose the food you want to preserve.  Make sure it’s ripe ( but not under, or over-ripe).  Sample it in its natural state to see if it’s sweet enough ( berries and peaches especially). You may have to enhance the flavor with a little sweetener – either natural or artificial sugar.
  • Rinse  the food well to remove any residual sprays, dust, bugs ( yes, food from the field can easily have hitchikers on it).
  • Choose the size jars you want to use depending on the food and how you want it to look in the jar. Most jams, jellies, and chutney are preserved in small half-pint jars – although there’s no ‘rule’ about that.
  • Wash the jars in hot water to be sure they’re clean. Check for any cracks or chips and discard them – for canning at least. Rinse, but keep the jar in a large kettle of hot water – the bath , as my mom used to refer to it. Keep another kettle of water heating to ‘sterilize’ the lids and rings – or you can put them all together in the same kettle if you like. Use tongs so you don’t burn yourself.
  • When you have the raw food pre-pared to your liking (spiced, sugared, or cut to size), ladle or hand-place into the hot jars. Be careful not to spill any food on the rim of the jar. It can easily prevent the jar from sealing, which can produce mold and harmful bacteria. Wipe the rim on each jar to be extra sure.
  • Place the warm lids and rings on the jars, screw down tightly, and place in the pressure cooker or canner, whichever method you have chosen to use.
  • Refer to your cookbook regarding how much time to process (cook) that particular food.
  • After the processing is complete, you should hear a ‘Pop’!  That will be the signal the jar has sealed.
  • When the jars have cooled, label with the food and year it was canned. Some foods, like fruit and vegetables get used rather quickly, others, like pickles, can last a long time, hence it’s best to date.

picture of canned food  - Jars of pickled vegetables in the garden. Marinated food<br /><br />
** Note: Shallow depth of field - JPG

Isn’t this pretty?

Kerr Jars come in several sizes and shapes – 32 oz., 16 oz., half-pint, and squat little jam and jelly jars. And you don’t have to stop at canning fruit and vegetables either, you can bake individual-size cakes in these jars, use them for keeping track of small objects, such as buttons, screws and nails, or for drinking glasses - some even come with handles!   

These jars can be purchased at most grocery, discount and hardware stores.  Prices vary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“If You Keep Up This Madness, He Will Crush You All…” WRATH OF DAIMAJIN

WRATH OF DAIMAJIN

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See the Complete Series Blu-ray, DVD, or watch the second film in the series at Amazon

(3.5/5) decent

Pros: Well-done visual and special effects; compelling story

Cons: Deliberately paced, English dubbing is iffy

NOTE: The confusing titling of the English releases of the Daimajin films makes it very difficult to distinguish between the three series entries (the second and third films in the series often have their titles switched depending on which distributor handled the films). My review of Wrath of Daimajin covers the second film in the trilogy – the only one in which Majin first appears on an island.

Second in the Daimajin trilogy of Japanese films from 1966 that dealt with a perpetually ticked-off stone statue who comes to life in order to protect villagers from tyrannical would-be dictators, Wrath of Daimajin plays almost like a remake of the first film (also from 1966 and simply entitled Daimajin) or an ever-so-slightly alternate version of the basic tale. This time around, the retelling of the Jewish folktale of the Golem deals with a group of peasants in the town of Chigusa being victimized by an arrogant samurai warlord named Mikoshiba. Mikoshiba ignores the villagers’ warnings about their vengeful god the Majin – a statue of whom resides in a nearby island shrine – and after the statue is blown to bits by the evil samurai, it appears all is lost for the townspeople. Lord Juro and Lady Sayuri, two of the Chigusa nobles, attempt to stand up for the village, believing that when all seems to be lost, Majin will appear to drive off the invaders, and when the sea begins to boil and nearby mountains start to crumble, it seems as though judgment day has arrived for Mikoshiba and his brutal regime.

face
Majin is back and still permanently pissed-off.

One can probably guess how all this turns out, but what may be most surprising about this film is that the Majin doesn’t show up until very late in the going. The vast majority of this film plays very similarly to the swordplay (or chambara) films of the 1960s, even having a few fairly exciting sword fights and battle sequences, small scale though they are. Wrath of Daimajin wouldn’t stand up when placed against the classics of the genre (such as the epic films made by Kurosawa), but it’s surprisingly well-made for what it is. The direction here was handled by Kenji Misumi who would later go on to direct the outstanding (and fantastically violent) Lone Wolf and Cub movies of the early 1970s (two of which were edited into the notoriously gory cult favorite Shogun Assassin, released to American markets in 1980). Misumi’s direction is very assured: the film has a slightly ponderous pace, which seems very appropriate given the deliberate nature of Tetsuro Yoshida’s script. Photography throughout the film is excellent, with a few truly extraordinary sequences (such as a funeral scene that plays out in front of a glorious setting sun). I also really liked this film’s use of color – much of the film plays out in shades of brown and gray which effectively portray the film’s somber mood, but (much like Tarkovsky’s mind-boggling Stalker from 1979), Wrath of Daimajin is truly eye-popping when it captures the vibrant greens of the surrounding countryside during moments that seem to suggest that all is not lost for the townspeople.

goofy
The film’s amusing/baffling ending has to be seen to be believed.

Like some other Japanese films of this time period, it’s difficult to identify cast members who played in this film – the credits sequence on the print I watched was entirely in Japanese. Still, there are a few recognizable faces for those familiar with Japanese cinema, including Kojiro Hongo (an actor best known for his appearances in the Gamera series of films dealing with a giant, jet-propelled turtle) as Lord Juro and the strikingly beautiful Shiho Fujimura (who appeared in several chambara movies of the 1960s) as Sayuri. Takashi Kanda (whose credits included everything from crime films of the ‘50s to goofy sci-fi of the late ‘60s) plays the evil Mikoshiba much as one would expect: his main activity throughout the film is to cackle in the general direction of the heroic characters – though he isn’t laughing too much when Majin finally decides to lay the smack down on him. The print of this film that I viewed was dubbed (insert collective groan here) and the voice acting featured was of the same bark and holler variety as seen in the almost innumerable Godzilla films of the day. Personally, I didn’t find this dubbing to be as obnoxiously bad as that heard in films like Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (a film whose dubbed version provided many a chuckle due to its ridiculous voice acting), but the alternately disaffected or really gruff voice acting in the Daimajin film is probably its single worst element. The dubbing is particularly bad in crowd scenes where the illusion of a mass of people is created simply by having the supporting voice actors mumble under the main lines of dialogue.

alternate poster
Alternate poster showing another of the film’s cool effects scenes: an island exploding in the distance.

It seemed to me that Wrath of Daimajin may have been a little cheaper to make than the previous series entry, which perhaps is one reason why the relatively few destruction scenes in this film are confined to the final ten minutes or so. That said, I was pretty impressed by the special effects that are here, most of which look much better than one might expect from the typical Godzilla or Gamera film of this time period. Despite the fact that the Majin costume looks rather rubbery, the end of the picture features the stone giant stomping his way through a village, causing a literal wake of destruction in his path. The combination of special effects shot backgrounds with live actors scurrying around in the foreground is almost seamless during these scenes and looks a lot better than I’d typically expect from a Japanese “suitmation” film. There’s also a really nicely-executed sequence where a giant bell is pushed over the side of a cliff by Mikoshiba’s men; an elaborate effects set-up showing the bell careen down the mountainside and crack apart is pretty remarkable considering that it’s an isolated, almost unnecessary sequence. I should also point out that this film has some interesting Christian imagery (intriguing since this is essentially a Jewish legend being told in a Japanese film) including a few crucifixions and a scene where the Majin (who appears to have telekinetic-like abilities this time around) parts the sea as he travels from his island home to the nearby village. This scene in particular would almost rival the famous “parting of the Red Sea” scene from 1956’s The Ten Commandments.

weird
Majin as Moses, parting the waters.

One can almost believe that the Daiei studio who produced and released Wrath of Daimajin was trying explicitly to compete with rival studio Toho in making this film since it’s an obvious combination of two of Toho’s most winning movie formulas: the period samurai film and the giant monster film. Daiei even brought in composer Akira Ifukube to score the Daimajin series and Ifukube’s music sounds remarkably similar to the ominous compositions he did for various Godzilla films. In the end, I’d have to call Wrath of Daimajin’s marriage of two popular Japanese film genres a success. It’s maybe not the slam-bang monster flick that some fans might want or expect, but it’s very competently made and certainly is compelling in its own way. Fans of Japanese genre cinema would undoubtedly appreciate this film the most, but it’d be a worthwhile rainy day flick for any audience who’s willing to be patient with it. Recommended.

disc deets
Both the DVD box set from ADV films and Blu-ray package from Mill Creek contain all three Daimajin films (the original, as well as The Return of Daimajin and Wrath of Daimajin) in widescreen, with multiple language options. There are no extras included on either set.

blood & guts
3/10 : A few sword fights, some of which end poorly for the heroic participants, and a few brief glimpses of gore.

smack talk stonefaced
0/10 : No profanity, though the English language dub is plenty sketchy

fap factor nope
0/10 : Nothing going, even if the womenfolk do receive some rough treatment at times.

whack
4/10 : Japanese monster flick meets period samurai drama, but this isn’t as much fun as the typical rubber creature feature.

GI JOE
“You murdered father, set up a tyranny, conquered our people, and banished my sister. Now, you blow up our god, but perhaps someday I will watch you die…”

Trailer:

A Lame, Found Footage Monster Mess: THE DINOSAUR PROJECT

THE DINOSAUR PROJECT

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DVD or Instant Video Stream at Amazon

(1.5/5)  UGH

Pros: Location filming in South Africa; neat basic story

Cons: Unlikable characters; lousy acting; predictable to the extreme; mishandles the “found footage film” format

Though the flaws inherent in the “found footage” genre of film (i.e. a picture that attempts to pass itself off as being first-hand, authentic record, made up of film footage supposedly taken by the characters who are actually experiencing the story) have been well established by the 2010’s, Sid Bennett, director and co-writer of 2012’s ambitious but messy The Dinosaur Project, apparently didn’t get that memo. During the course of his film, a British/South African co-production, it becomes clear that he and the production crew are figuring out as they go along that it’s more difficult than one might initially think to create verisimilitude in a film of this nature. Bennett and fellow script writer Jay Basu come up with a few clever explanations as to why we’re seeing this amount of camera coverage on events we’re supposed to believe are happening spontaneously, but they ultimately don’t seem to be able to think outside the box far enough to leave conventional film technique behind. The long and the short of it: this film simply doesn’t work.

locations
Awe-inspiring location filming is one of this film’s only highlights.

The script begins with a crash course in the real-life legend of the Mokele-Mbembe (“Mo-kay-lay Mm-bem-bee”), a dinosaur-like creature that’s reported to inhabit the jungles of central Africa. The legend of this creature has been around for centuries, and The Dinosaur Project documents an British Cryptozoological Society expedition, led by noted adventurer Jonathan Marchant (played by Richard Dillane as an arrogant dictator), that goes in search of the creature. Joining Marchant on the expedition is Charlie, a would-be explorer (played by a weaselly Peter Brooke) who’s arranged funding for the journey, a spunky female medic (the cute Natasha Loring, who maybe got two days work here), an African woman who’s serving as a sort of guide, various essentially anonymous camera crew – and Jonathan’s patently irritating son Luke (played by a downright annoying Matthew Kane), who not only has snuck his way onto the helicopter taking the gang deep into the jungle but also (conveniently) just so happens to be a tech wiz and audio/video expert. As might be expected, things don’t exactly go according to plan once the expedition gets going – before a viewer even really knows what’s happening, the expedition’s helicopter crashes in a remote jungle, an area that (surprise!) seems to be hiding an array of prehistoric creatures that have miraculously survived until the present day.

get used to it
Many instances of actors talking directly to the camera seems like laziness on the part of the writers and director to me.

From here, The Dinosaur Project alternates between typical jungle adventure scenes of the expedition members attempting to trek through inhospitable terrain, and ones in which they have to deal with one variety or another of dinosaur (mostly, large predatory birds that show up at most inopportune times). Considering this film’s modest budget, one can assume that it doesn’t quite offer the viewer everything he might want, and be correct in that thinking. The script offers up few surprises – you’ll see everything coming from a few miles downriver – and legitimate action in the story is fairly minimal. Since this is a “found footage” film, we never quite get a good look at what’s happening during the few suspense sequences that are here, since shaky camerawork, digital artifacts, and harsh edits are used to create an chaotic atmosphere – and completely obscure the action taking place. There are only a handful of (computer-generated) dinosaurs seen during the film, and much more time is devoted to Jonathan and Luke’s expected father-son conflict – one which ends on such a lame, cringe-inducing note that all I could do was cover my eyes and groan. I’m frankly shocked that this extremely predictable film didn’t throw in the almost obligatory “LUKE – I AM YOUR FATHER” scene just for the hell of it.

aww cute
Aww, look at the cute little dino…

The thing that bothered me more than the fact that I knew damn well what was going to happen well in advance of it actually playing out (this just in: Charlie is tired of playing “second banana”), was the fact that director Bennett goes out of his way to ruin the illusion of this being an actual first-person account of a “real” expedition. There are many glaringly obvious “establishing shots” in this film that simply wouldn’t have been possible had this been a document of actual events. The camera coverage throughout the picture seems way too cinematic and convenient, as if there’s miraculously a camera sitting on every tree that just so happens to be pointed in the direction of anything (supposedly) exciting that occurs. The audio elements here are similarly too crisp and clear, and I sensed that Bennett really wasn’t comfortable making a film like this – his abilities seem more geared towards making a straight-forward narrative film and it seems like he used the found footage gimmick simply because it’s popular nowadays, not because that’s where his strengths as a filmmaker lie.

and then
…and then there’s this guy…

Having multiple characters provide commentary directly into the camera (“I’m making this video diary…”) doesn’t really cut it in a found footage film anymore, but when Luke is forced to deliver a Blair Witch Project-like weepy plea for help (“…is there anyone out there…?”) despite the fact that we’re repeatedly told that the footage from his camera is feeding onto hard drives in his rucksack, it attests to the fact that the writers simply ran out of inspiration at some point and tried to nurse this film along to its conclusion. I realize that any sane viewer would know that this film is a phony, but half the fun of the found footage genre is making yourself believe that the film could be real and it seems to me that the job of the director would be to ensure that his film maintains that illusion. To that end, Sid Bennett’s heart just doesn’t seem to be in it.

dramatic tension
In a better movie, a scene like this could have been tense.

Much as the film did make nice use of often breath-taking locations in the South African jungle thus ensuring that the setting was at least believable, there’s not much else here that’s honestly any good. Sure, the dinosaurs look pretty cool but they’re simply not in enough scenes to sustain a viewer’s interest – the film falters whenever we’re forced to concentrate on the cast of downright unlikable human characters and the hokey “drama” that plays out around them. It’s kind of shame that a cool basic idea was handled so poorly – The Dinosaur Project had much more going for it than the typically claustrophobic and miniscule found footage production of the Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity variety. I’d have to call this one of the most disappointing of this often-maligned genre: though it has some clever ideas, it would be a time-waster at best.

disc deets
Widescreen DVD from Vivendi Entertainment boasts no special features. Not a huge loss in this case, but still a pretty trash DVD.

blood and guts
3/10 : A few dinosaur attacks; very minimal blood or gore. Some “intense” moments of suspense.

smack talk
1/10 : Surprisingly clean, with maybe a few instances of rough language.

fap factor
1/10 : Horndog Luke focuses his camera on the “assets” of the only cute girl in the film at one point. That’s about it.

whack attack
2/10 : Has some clever story ideas, but the handling of material is pretty lousy. Most viewers won’t care a whole lot about this one.

GI JOE
Famous Last Words: “There’s nothing out there…was there?”

Trailer:

A COLLECTIVE OF TOP REVIEWERS