YOU’VE HIT SOMETHING! or is it nothing? JAWS for the NES

JAWS for the Nintendo Entertainment System

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See it at Amazon 

(2/5) meh

Pros: It’s fun – to a certain point

Cons: VERY short gameplay; zero replay value and quite easy once you know what you’re doing

Another in a long line of rather pathetic licensed movie-based games released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Jaws (published by LJN in 1989) may be one of the shortest (in terms of gameplay) titles released for the system. Loosely based on the basic plot of the abysmal 1987 film Jaws: The Revenge (which should give you a relative idea of what we’re dealing with here), the game takes place in the northern Caribbean, as the player pilots a sailboat around a crude map of Florida, the Keys, and the Bahamas. As the player sails around in overhead view, he will randomly “HIT SOMETHING,” which results in the release of a diver to go into a side-view underwater scene. While underwater, the diver encounters various (apparently deadly) sea life, including rays, jellyfish, and sharks which can be dispatched using the diver’s trusty harpoon gun. The player has an endless supply of spears, so feel free to load the screen with projectiles and listen to the grunting sound that the harpoon gun makes each times it’s fired. Upon killing some of these sea creatures, certain rewards will be revealed: a starfish, for instance, gives instant points to the player’s score, while conch shells recovered underwater act as the in-game currency and can be used to buy power-ups at one of two harbors around the region.

overhead
Overhead view seen as the player pilots the sailboat around the map.

Of course, the main goal of the game is to fight and defeat Jaws, the massive shark also cruising around the islands. Occasionally, the creature’s large dorsal fin will break water near the boat, and if the boat and fin make contact, the diver is sent down in an attempt to defeat the shark. This is near impossible in the early stages of the game, which brings us to the exchange of conch shells. It is absolutely imperative that a player exchange conch shells for power level upgrades since that’s the ONLY way that Jaws’ power level (visible on screen at all times) can be lowered. To aid in the acquisition of conch, a “bonus level” shows up every once in a while where the player must bomb jellyfish using an airplane. Yeah, I know; logic isn’t quite this game’s strong point, but for every 3 jellyfish that are destroyed by bombs, one conch shell is awarded. Once a player’s power level reaches at least level three (higher levels are better), it becomes possible through repeat attacks to lower Jaws’ power level to zero. At this point, the game enters its “final battle” sequence. In this “first person perspective” scene, the player must wait until Jaws (who is swimming around ferociously back and forth onscreen) is positioned correctly in front of the player’s boat, at which point a strobe is used to make him jump out of the water. Finally, the player must ram the shark’s underbelly with the pointed front end of the ship to put an end his (more annoying than threatening) rampage. The player is given a finite number of strobes; failing to kill Jaws during this sequence results more or less in the whole process of lowering Jaws’ power level having to be repeated from the beginning.

undersea
Sing it with me…”UNDER THE SEA…UNDA DA SEA…”

Par for the course in NES games, the undersea levels get more difficult as the game progresses. While jellyfish bubble up from the bottom of the screen and rays go horizontally across it throughout the game, in later stages, the jellies can move diagonally and “hunt down” the diver, creating a frequently hairy situation to try and play through. When Jaws shows up onscreen at precisely the wrong moment, the results can be pretty catastrophic for the player, who now must deal with a huge, hungry shark tracking his every movement along with the jellies, rays, and small sharks. All that said, this game is ridiculously easy once one gets the hang of it – and it’s almost absurdly short. It’s very possible (and relatively easy) to beat this game in all of about five minutes of playing time – a huge contrast to the near-impossible Friday the 13th movie tie-in game also released by LJN. Sure, you can play the game longer and search the overhead map for the elusive (and invaluable) minisub that allows the diver to utilize missiles and bombs underwater in addition to having better mobility, or build up a large power level and make it easier to defeat Jaws. Conversely, a player can literally turn this game on, hit about five or six underwater scenes, quickly power up to a level 3 and beat Jaws all in a few minutes. It’s games like this that make it impossible to believe that people shelled out fifty bucks at one time for brand new Nintendo games – some titles were were that price, but many – oh so many – were not.

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Final game sequence, in which the player must ram Jaws with the pointed bow of the boat.

Graphically speaking, Jaws (developed by Westone Bit Entertainment) gets the job done, but really is nothing special. The background screens in the underwater sequences are identical, and though it’s easy enough to distinguish the creature sprites from one another, they all look pretty crude, as if a minimum of effort really went into this game’s construction (Jaws himself, for instance, is pretty dumb looking swinging his apparently toothless snout back and forth as he swims along). The sequence where the player has to ram Jaws with the boat to finally kill him is a little more polished visually, and the sense of perspective during this particular scene makes it more challenging to line up the boat in order to deliver a fatal blow onto the jumping shark. Easily, the best bit of graphics in the entire game is the colorful concluding shot (i.e. when you beat the game), which shows the sunset happening in the horizon past a tropical island.

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The receiver: most useless game power up ever – I CAN SEE THE SHARK; I DON’T NEED THIS F*$%ING ALARM GOING OFF WHENEVER IT’S AROUND!

Music and sound in the game is kind of hit or miss. Composer Shinichi Sakamoto gets to recreate John Williams’ instantly recognizable “shark theme” for the title screen, but the rest of the music here is pretty dull. Music heard during scenes where the player pilots the boat around the map is kind of cool in that it seems to simulate rising and falling seas, but the undersea music is repetitive to the extreme. Probably the best music cues here (aside from the pleasant “end game” tune) are  brief, rousing accents that indicate that either the game is starting or that the player’s boat has indeed “HIT SOMETHING.” Overall, the sound is pretty mediocre; the “dog bark” harpoon sound is the one (only?) thing a player will likely remember from this game simply because you’ll hear that damn sound effect hundreds of times.

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Though this game does offer a bit of a challenge for the player who isn’t familiar with the intricacies of how the game works, Jaws has extremely minimal replay value once a player has figured out how to beat it – every playthrough would be exactly the same. Add in the fact that the game is so incredibly brief (the only NES game I can think of that’s quite as short as this is the positively abominable unlicensed game Chiller that used the Nintendo Zap Gun) and you’ve got a game that may be worth playing a time or two, but hardly is worth tracking down. Jaws probably isn’t the absolute worst movie-based game for the NES (I might give that title to The Hunt for Red October or Wayne’s World), but I’d put it in the bottom tier: that statement should say about all one needs to know.

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Gameplay (and yes, this game is entirely beatable in under four minutes):

Ouija Funds Go Here

Ouija Embossed Black Bi-Fold Wallet

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See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: Authentic Ouija product from Hasbro

Cons: I don’t think it’s genuine leather

This Ouija wallet is actually pretty nice..it’s a thin leather..(it’s Polyurethane) but it has embroidery (Embossing as well) on the front and on the back.

The inside has a Ouija card that is inside the section for photo ID’s..I thought the card was just paper..it’s not, it is actual leather stitched in. The leather feels soft and it has several compartments to fit cards pics and whatever else you want to slide in there.

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This wallet I am using for display purposes only but I did experiment with it by sliding all my cards from my real wallet..and they fit very snugly. Nothing should slip out from this wallet such as credit cards when opening it up up-side down.

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The nicest feature I liked was this is actually an official Ouija product from Hasbro.  I found that to be a very nice surprise and was unexpected upon ordering. There is also manufacturing numbers to prove the items authenticity. I am very happy with this item and I will use it to save up and store my Ouija fun money!

“We Got a Cockamamie Circus On Our Hands!” GRAND THEFT AUTO

GRAND THEFT AUTO

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25th Anniversary Special Edition or Ron Howard Action Pack Double Feature at Amazon

(2.5/5) meh

Pros: Car crashes galore (often filmed in slow motion)

Cons: Not as fun as the best car chase flicks out there and a bit of a mess

Continuing much in the same manner of 1976’s Eat My Dust!, a film in which Happy Days actor Ron Howard agreed to star provided that producer Roger Corman would give him his own movie to direct down the line, 1977’s Grand Theft Auto was the fulfillment of that offer and Howard’s directorial debut. Considering his later, much more accomplished and polished films, GTA seems like a bit of a disaster, a literally free-wheeling bit of “car crash porn” from the late 1970s that sort of reverses the plotline of Eat My Dust! and mixes that film’s story up with that of 1971’s seminal (and outstanding) Vanishing Point. It’s loud, obnoxious and rather crude; though it may be entertaining as a pure popcorn flick, I’d place it in the bottom half of the “carsploitation” genre.

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Yep, that’s an actual Rolls Royce – and it goes off-road!

Paula Powers, daughter of an extremely wealthy would-be mayoral candidate Bigby Powers (what does that name suggest?), more or less kidnaps her boyfriend Sam Freeman in order for the two of them to elope to Vegas to get married in the scenario for Grand Theft Auto – a plotline that’s almost the opposite of what was seen when Howard’s character took his girlfriend for a joyride in a stolen stock car in Eat My Dust!. Paula, you see, has been set up in marriage by her father to a rich but woefully moronic young man named Collins Hedgeworth, and the young woman has no interest in following through on the arranged engagement. After an argument with daddy, Paula steals her father’s Rolls Royce and heads out on the road with Sam. Things get complicated from there: the Hedgeworth family offers up a total of $50,000 in reward money for the safe return of both Paula and Collins (who’s now in pursuit of his reluctant fiance), which causes group of oddball reward-hunters to take up the pursuit. Additionally, when a radio DJ decides to follow the story of the “Paula Powers-Sam Freeman Love Flight to Vegas” and provide intermittent updates on the plight of the two lovebirds, the story becomes national news.

Basically, this is one extended (and increasingly goofy) chase sequence, and one of the best things I could say about Grand Theft Auto (which was produced by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures) is that it’s about the perfect drive-in movie. The film clocks in at 85 minutes in length and moves along at a brisk pace: there’s only about five minutes worth of set-up at the start of the film and once this script gets going, it never abandons the big chase sequence at its center for more than a minute or two at a time. Though I might be inclined to point out that the script by the father and son screenwriting team of Rance and Ron Howard almost throws too much into the mix, the assortment of characters involved in the pursuit of Paula and Sam (each of whom has their own outlandish vehicle of choice, ranging from a Volkswagen Beetle to an ice cream truck to a 1930s race car and more) ensures that there’s plenty of room for screwball comedy at every turn.

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What would a ’70s car chase flick be without a few outrageous crack-ups…

Considering that the film goes out of its way to entertain its audience, it’s strange then that the finished film didn’t strike me as being as much fun as similar films like Eat My Dust! or even 1974′s Gone in 60 Seconds. Some of this may come down to the fact that director Howard is quite obviously inventing his sense of style as he goes along: there are some rather clunky sequences in GTA which don’t so much completely derail the picture as limit its overall potential and effectiveness. The script was obviously written under the assumption that more is always better, but it seemed like the writers were trying to disguise the fact that there wasn’t much substance to this story by overloading the film with physical comedy and slapstick which simply gets tiresome after awhile. Additionally, the Howards’ script also seems a bit too obvious in its characterizations. Every character here is a blatant stereotype – hell, the character names (“Powers” and “Freeman” – c’mon!) pretty much tell a viewer all he needs to know about their motivations. It’s also hard to deny that there’s absolutely nothing in this film that hasn’t been seen (and pulled off better) in other films. The basic scenario here offers up no surprises (of course the two lovebirds are going to get into a little spat at some point…), and since we’re absolutely sure about what’s eventually going to happen in a story as predictable as this, the main point of interest for a viewer is to see whether or not the (expensive!) Rolls Royce is actually demolished during the course of this (low-budget) film.

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…or some fire and explosions?

While Ron Howard is acceptable in the role of Paula’s lover Sam, the rest of the cast is iffy at best in pulling off their parts. Nancy Morgan has the plucky attitude one would want in the heroine character of a film like this, but when it comes down to doing any actual emoting, her credibility suffers tremendously. During the aforementioned sequence when she and Sam have the obligatory little squabble, Morgan’s crocodile tears are more laughable than affecting, and the whole cliched scene made me want to throw something at the screen. The buffoonish cast of supporting characters probably fares even worse as they overact to the point of absurdity. In some ways, the exaggerated acting gives this film the feel of being a live-action cartoon, but I still think it would have worked better overall had actors like Paul Linke as the jilted lover Collins Hedgeworth, Barry Cahill as Paula’s well-to-do father (who’s concerned more about his Rolls Royce than his daughter), and Don Steele (the real-life DJ who provides a sort of ultra-annoying commentary throughout the film while covering the chase on the airwaves) been reined in a little.

Sam and Paula
Wonder how the story will work out for these two lovebirds? You probably already know…

In the end, I’d probably position Grand Theft Auto on a level with the 1976 cross-country road-trip film Cannonball (directed by Paul Bartel, who actually has a cameo in GTA) as being dumb and largely unremarkable entries in the “carsploitation” genre. Both of these films include just the basic story that provides an excuse to show slow-motion car crashes and plenty of vehicles plowing through the countryside (GTA may be the only motion picture in history to feature a Rolls Royce going off-roading), but neither really does enough to distinguish itself from the pack of similar films that turned up during the 1970s. Sure, it’s interesting to watch this early work in the context of Ron Howard’s later directorial career (this is the same man who later made such high-profile and well-regarded films as Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and many others), but this a minor film any way one looks at it – even in the rather dubious genre of the ‘70s car chase flick. Maybe this clumsy effort would be worth a looksee for fans of Ron Howard or for those who appreciate a silly car chase extravaganza, but I’d say that viewers might be better off skipping Grand Theft Auto entirely.

disc deets
“25th Anniversary Edition” from New Concorde (full-screen format) includes interviews with Roger Corman and Ron Howard, but it’s clear to me that the way to go would be the “Ron Howard Action Pack” DVD release from Vivendi Entertainment. This package also includes (the superior) Eat My Dust!, and includes Grand Theft Auto in its original widescreen format along with a featurette about the Howard family’s involvement in the film, a pair of interviews with Corman and Ron Howard, and two commentary tracks – one featuring Corman and Ron Howard, the second with Rance Howard as well as several of the production crew (including editor Joe Dante). A very nice DVD release.

blood & Guts
3/10 : Some mild physical violence and a number of car wrecks. Nothing too serious and, in cartoon-like form, no one gets seriously injured at any point.

smack talk
4/10 : Though PG-rated, this was made in the late 1970s, when quite a bit of profanity still elicited that rating. Thus, we have quite an peppering of strong language – including one F-bomb.

fap factor
1/10 : Sam and Paula get frisky a few times behind the wheel and there are a few rather mild sexual references, but this is pretty clean.

whack attack
4/10 : Yes, it’s a screwball ’70s car chase flick, but I’d call this one of the worst and most forgettable films of the genre.

GI JOE
All-too prescient commentary on celebrity culture: “Well, if you have it [a crash], I’m gonna report it, because every time you turn around and fart, it’s news.”

Rowdy Original Trailer:

Shark Weak – Catch and Release this Vac

Shark Cordless Pet Perfect Hand Vac

 

(2/5)

Pros: It’s a great size, light-weight

ConsTHIS  is a vacuum cleaner?

 I’ve known for some time I need to replace my handheld vacuum cleaner. I can’t even remember when I bought it,  but it’s been at least two decades. It deserves a really fond farewell.  Actually there’s nothing wrong with the vacuum’s body or the motor itself - it’s the cord. The plastic that encases the wiring is torn exposing the wiring. Yes, yes, I know – I need to throw it out before I fry myself. I’ve been keeping my eyes and ears open during television commercials and conversations trying to pick up information and opinions.

The other day I was helping my sister do some really deep cleaning. I have previously mentioned her husband passing away about a year ago, and many things inside and outside their home got put on the back burner and stayed there.To make matters worse ( I mean REALLY worse), about three years ago, my sister took it in her head she wanted a Rottweiler (dog).  She had seen one many years before and fell in love with the breed. Her husband, and the rest of our family, did everything we could to dissuade her, not necessarily, or only, because of the breeds’ reputation, but they are just such a large, powerful, rambunctious dog. She tuned us out like a scratchy record.

But more to the point of this review, I had NO IDEA Rottweilers shed so much. I mean hair everywhere! And of course, because Willee (her copycat name – [my]Wally/Willee) is big and tall, when she shakes she gets hair in places no one should have pet hair – like the bathroom sink and bed pillows - ugh. The dog below is identical to Willee. She’s a beautiful, loving dog with the typical Rottie ‘smile’, but she is one hairy bowzer.

 
 Anyway -  back to cleaning.  I was dusting in the foyer. In the corner stands a lovely old oak etagere filled with an impressive doll and Santa collection. It was far too heavy (and a teetering risk) for us to move together so I decided to use her portable Shark Cordless Pet Perfect hand Vac to get the dust bunnies and hair out from behind. No way! The vacuum was hardly picking up a hair – and since there were large clumps of hair back there, I think I’d notice a ‘before’ and ‘after’ result. It wasn’t as if the vacuum was low on power, I could well hear the motor running, and having experience with other portable vacuums, I made sure to empty the dust cup before I even began. I asked my sister if it was running properly and she said “Yes”.  That being the case, what a waste of money and effort.
  

However, I don’t like to give anything a total black eye after just one use, or one individual machine. This has just been my individual  experience. The following is information provided by the manufacturer.

  • The vacuum has a detachable motorized brush for deep cleaning on carpets, upholstery, stairs and more.
  • Recharagable 15.6 volt battery with LED indicator light.
  • Twister cyclonic technology to maintain strong suction.
  • Easy-to-empty bagless dust cup. No replacement to buy.
  • Crevice tool, motorized brush and direct suction action available.   

Specifics:

  • Demensions – 17.4 x 8 x 5.7
  • Weight  3.3 lbs.
  • Model # SV 75Z

As I am actively in the market for a new handheld vacuum, I would have seriously looked at the Shark Cordless Pet Perfect Hand Vac. Now? Not sure.

Euro-Pro Operating LLC

800-798-7398

www.europro.com

READER

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Thank You!

 

Apokolips is Upon Us in JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR

Justice League: War

See it at Amazon 

(2/5)

Pros: Cyborg and Shazam have better story arcs; action from start to finish

Cons: The rest of the team is one-dimensional; dialogue is bad; animation isn’t up to par

DC Comics revamped and relaunched its comic book line in 2011 in an event dubbed as “The New 52”. In a sense the DC Universe “rebooted” and was no longer constrained by past continuity. Everything started anew. Leading the pack was the newly launched Justice League title by superstar creators Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. It showcased the formation of the World’s Greatest Heroes from the Justice League: Origin story. Taking a cue from the relaunch, the DC Universe Animated Original Movies decided to follow suit and adapt this storyline showcasing the New 52 universe with Justice League: War, the eighteenth film to be released under this banner from Warner Premiere and Warner. Bros. Animation.

There have been many iterations in how the Justice League forms. From its earliest days in the 1960s, seven heroes—Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter—banded together to prevent an alien invasion, in this case the Appelaxians bent on conquering the Earth. The current incarnation follows the same formula: seven heroes, alien invasion. But that’s about where the similarities end.

There doesn’t seem to be a level of respect amongst each other, at least where Green Lantern is concerned. He is even more cocky and arrogant than how Batman is usually portrayed. Superman isn’t portrayed any better. He, too, has a huge chip on his shoulder and would rather punch first, ask questions later. Wonder Woman is a mixed bag. She comes across as a character transplanted from Sailor Moon. Batman’s main goal seemed to banter with Green Lantern while Flash was very unmemorable. All five of these characters had one-dimensional personalities that didn’t do any of them justice.

However, two characters did receive nice story arcs: Cyborg and Shazam. Victor Stone’s story is a heartbreaking one. He seems to have everything except his father’s approval. He does whatever he can to get his father’s respect. Unfortunately, this comes too late when Victor is caught in a horrible accident with his father doing everything he can to save his son. Shazam is an interesting replacement for the absent Aquaman but one that makes sense considering how young Billy Batson’s story crosses over with Victor Stone. Shazam’s portrayal sticks to the whole man-child scenario but Billy isn’t the pure wholesome kid. He’s quite a rebel and sometimes a brat. When he becomes Shazam he acts more like an immature teenager.

Since the New 52 gave the DC Universe a fresh new start, why not introduce the baddest of the bad right off the bat with Darkseid, the Lord of Apokolips? It gives a more than legitimate reason for these heroes to come together as a group and combine their skills to take him down, if they can ever focus on working together. Personally, I think Darkseid was utilized too soon. I thought this was a problem when I first read the story and this movie didn’t change my mind. Use his minions and lieutenants to set up a bigger arc to really introduce the Lord of Apokolips for later stories down the line.

I wasn’t impressed with the style of artwork for this movie. It really didn’t work for me. I understand it tried to have an edgy look to it but I wasn’t having any of it. Even more of a letdown is the voice acting. For the first time I really felt nothing gelled. Probably the lone saving grace is Shemar Moore’s performance as Cyborg. He helped ground the movie with a much needed dose of humanity. In fact I felt Cyborg was perhaps the most mature character portrayed on the screen. The worst culprit of the lot belongs to the screenplay. The dialogue could have easily been refined from the original story. Instead, it just amplified the worst parts. How is this even possible? I do admit there were some good moments but they became slim pickings in the overall grand scheme of things. While I wasn’t crazy about the animation, the storytelling pacing was really good. This is a movie that is all about action from start to finish.

When I first read Justice League: Origin, I complained at how it read better as a quick screenplay. I should have known it would have been adapted for animation. I have to admit that I was correct. It works very well. But poor characterization and dialogue really hurts Justice League: War. The whole New 52 concept has already received a bad rap and this doesn’t help its cause at all.

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Other Comic Book Movies
DC Comics
Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)  ||  Batman (1943)  ||  Batman: The Movie (1966)  ||  Batman (1989)  ||  Batman Returns  ||  Batman Forever  ||  Batman & Robin  ||  Batman Begins  ||  The Dark Knight  ||  Catwoman  ||  Constantine  ||  Green Lantern (2011)  ||  Red  ||  Steel (1997)  ||  Superman: The Movie  ||  Superman II  ||  Superman II: The Donner Cut  ||  Superman III  ||  Superman IV: The Quest for Peace  ||  Superman Returns  ||  Man of Steel

DC Animated Universe
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm  ||  Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero  || Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman  ||  The Batman Superman Movie ||  Batman Beyond: The Movie  ||  Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker  ||  Justice League: Secret Origins ||  Justice League: Starcrossed The Movie  ||   Superman: Brainiac Attacks  ||  Superman: The Last Son of Krypton

DC Universe Original Animated Movies
All-Star Superman  ||  Batman: Gotham Knight  ||  Batman: Under the Red Hood  ||  Batman: Year One  ||  Green Lantern: Emerald Knights  ||  Green Lantern: First Flight  ||  Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths  ||  Justice League: Doom  ||  Justice League: The New Frontier ||  Superman/Batman: Apocalypse  ||  Superman/Batman: Public Enemies  ||  Superman: Doomsday  ||  Superman vs. The Elite  ||  Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam  ||  Wonder Woman (2009)

Marvel Comics
Captain America: The First Avenger  ||  Daredevil  ||  Elektra  ||  Fantastic Four (2005)  ||  Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer  ||  Ghost Rider (2007)  ||  Hulk (2003)  ||   The Incredible Hulk (2008)  ||  Iron Man (2008)  ||  Iron Man 2  ||  The Punisher (2004)  ||  Punisher: War Zone  ||  Spider-Man  ||  Spider-Man 2 ||  Spider-Man 3  ||  Thor (2011)  ||  X-Men  ||  X2: X-Men United  ||  X-Men: The Last Stand  ||  X-Men Origins: Wolverine  ||  X-Men: First Class

Marvel Animated Movies
Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme (2007)  ||  Hulk Vs  || The Invincible Iron Man (2007)  ||  Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow  ||  Planet Hulk  ||  Ultimate Avengers: The Movie || Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther

Independent Comic Books
G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra  ||  The Mask of Zorro  ||  Men in Black  || Popeye  ||  The Spirit (2008)  ||  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles  || Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze  ||  TMNT  || Transformers: The Movie (1986)  ||  Transformers (2007)  ||  Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

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***This is part of my 2014 Funny Pages Write-Off. Let your inner geekdom out. You have until the end of August. Join here.

 

Now you can hold the keys to Ouija in your hands.

Mini Ouija Keychain

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See it at Amazon 

(4/5)

Pros: Cute toy that replicates the Ouija Board

Cons: The Ouija board graphics are stickers

What mysteries will you unlock with this Mini Ouija Keychain?

This cute keychain looks just like the Ouija board and has a mini planchette included in a hidden drawer…complete with the Ouija name printed on the top of the indicator. Planchette slides smoothly on the game boards surface..might actually work if you had little baby fingers..

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The drawer does not slide open or shut too loosely and keeps the tiny planchette securely in place. The mini game board and planchette both glow in the dark and is fashioned after the Glow-In-the-Dark Ouija Board game

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This is a great gift for toy collectors or any fan of the Mysterious Mystifying Oracle aka OUIJA. The keychain is made of stainless steel and has a clip to put keys on. However the Ouija board surface and box prints are stickers and might come off during extensive use.

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I bought two keychains; one to open (and play with he, he. he…) and one to keep in original packaging,  which is very nice looking. There is an issue number on the box to prove authenticity and also comes with a small plastic piece with an issue number attached to the  “chain” part.

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I am very pleased with this keychain and it does get a lot of comments. Great little toy that fits nicely into my collection of Ouija brands.

Ouija. It’s only a game. Isn’t it?

All Decked Out and Ready for Fun!

Mainstays Indoor/Outdoor Border Polyester Area Rug

 Mainstays Indoor/Outdoor Border Polyester Area Rug, Red, 5' x 8'
  

(4.5/5)

Pros: Durable, pretty, tight weave

Cons: I was wishing it came in larger sizes, but read on to watch a woman change her mind in mid-air.

I probably spend more time on the deck after dark than during the day, which is one reason I really like my  5×8 Mainstay Indoor/Outdoor Border Polyester Area Rug. There’s just something more comfortable (and in the dark, reassuring) walking across a cushioned surface than hard boards ( and I’m sure Wally, the resident Dachshund princess would agree!).

 I’ve tried to duplicate the border color in the above font, but it’s not very accurate. True ‘Red’ is too red, and brown is not red enough.  The best description would be chili pepper – brown/red - to compliment my chili-pepper and terra-cotta urns, of course.

Although I wish this particular MainStays 5×8′ Indoor/Outdoor Border Polyester Area Rug came in larger sizes, it is the perfect size if your deck or outside area offers conversational groupings of furniture – which mine does.  When most visitors come out they want to sit and watch the lake and it’s myriad of boating and recreational activities. I personally like to sit farther back, in a comfy chair and zone out, (well, I mean, not while the company’s here!). Because this rug comes in a variety of colors and patterns I can create as may different ‘looks’  and niches as I like, from neutral, as is mine, to very festive and busy.

I’ve had my rug(s) two years and have yet to spill anything on them ( just lucky, I guess). The resident bird population however, is another matter. I sometimes feel I live in an aviary, with species ranging from small, darting sparrows to great, lethargic pelicans. Believe me, they can, and do, make a mess. But all I need do is hose off the rug. It doesn’t seem to stain from, or absorb, the droppings, and it’s polypropylene/polyester construction dries very quickly.

Among other features I find very agreeable is that the rug lays flat, almost seeming to ‘grip’ the surface underneath. The edges have not curled and are still tightly sewn. I see this as a real plus, especially in the dark when it would be so easy to trip on a curled or frayed edge.  

As well as these rugs have held up in an outdoor environment, I imagine they would last almost indefinitely in an indoor setting – and since they are indoor/outdoor rugs it wouldn’t appear as if you’re trying to create St. Croix in the living room (although what would be wrong with that?).

In the meanwhile. . .I got to thinking about the size of the rug that matches this photo and second-guessing the information I’ve given about my own rug.  I’ve just come from measuring mine and it is 5×8 and I’m very happy with the size. I also checked the back of the rug for any tags that might give more product information.  As follows.

Care and Cleaning:  Sweep, vacuum or rinse off with a garden hose. DO NOT BLEACH.

Pile is 100% nylon. Made in the USA (!)

Mohawk Home.com

P.O. Box 130

3032 Sugar Valley Rd.

Sugar Valley GA  30746 

 

 

 

 

The Practical Optimistic Long Distance Cyclist’s Essential Gear – Seriously

Camelbak M.U.L.E Hydration Pack Rain Cover

camelbak-rain-cover-mule

See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: lightweight, easy to attach, rainproof, pack specific for good fit

Cons: not one-size-fits-all, pack specific

When clouds routinely pop up and cover the sky threatening outdoor recreationists with brief but heavy rain it’s wise to prepare for the eventual rain. As a long distance cyclist who easily rides 30 plus miles in a day, it’s not unlikely to experience riding through some of those occasionally pop-up storms. The smart thing to do is find temporary shelter until it passes over but those planned stops can be a mile or two away – we’re not supposed to take shelter under a large tree. Our miscellaneous collection of electronic devices aren’t designed for exposure to rain and my M.U.L.E. Camelbak pack can only handle light showers.

 

Consider carrying a very lightweight rain pack provided by Camelbak specifically for the M.U.L.E. hydration pack. It’s secure in wind, easy to fit, bright and visible, and waterproof.

 

Several days ago I was out for a long ride that ended short of my camelbak-rain-coverintended goal of 35. Three intense pop-up storms forced me off the road and under shelter of a porch, a carwash canopy, and then a picnic pavilion. (Intense is when you look at the approaching rain and the path is completely obscured by a nearly black rain screen.)  A forth storm to threaten looked more intense than the pop ups so I headed full speed to my parked car barely making it in front of the approaching squall line. I protected the pack before the first pop-up storm hit and was pleased to discover that the contents of my pack remained dry thanks to this “raincoat”.  If only there were windshield wipers for my glasses and rain covers for my cycling shoes.

 

The Camelbak Rain Cover is a rainproof rain cover. 
  • Only available in bright, hi-vis yellow for high daytime visibility (drivers certainly don’t expect to see a cyclist when it’s raining)
  • Velcro loops attach to the harness straps
  • It has a pull cinch at the bottom to help tighten the cover for a more secure fit
  • The M.U.L.E. cover fits the M.U.L.E. hydration pack as well Camelbak’s L.U.X.E. and Lobo packs (They have other bright yellow rain covers specifically designed for other hydration packs.) The design for specific packs improves the fit.
  • Made of coated nylon
  • Weighs 3 ounces
  • Measures 20 x 15 inches
  • Easily rolled and compacted into a small space in your hydration pack’s pockets
  • Affordable, easily found at $10

 

As a cyclist forced to ride on roads more than on paved off-road paths, I appreciate the bright color. My M.U.L.E. is a bright orange and it’s tempting to wear this on cloudy days simply to enhance my visibility.

High Tech Recreation

The Camelbak Rain Cover is a necessity for anyone who carries a hydration pack and who is serious about spending time outdoors, whether they are hiking, walking, running or riding regardless of the weather. Once upon a time we accepted getting wet, we knew it wasn’t any worse than sweating, we knew our packs might get wet and we protected items inside our packs with zipper-style bags but today it’s different. Today we carry a collection of expensive electronic devices that suffer, often fatally, when they get wet. This extremely very lightweight Camelbak Rain Cover has become a necessity in the reality of long distance exercising in climates with pop-up storms.

Lunar Conspiracies Revealed! ALIENS ON THE MOON: THE TRUTH EXPOSED

ALIENS ON THE MOON: THE TRUTH EXPOSED on Syfy Channel

image-placeholder

SyFy Channel Website 

(3/5) DECENT

Pros: Cool images of the lunar surface; compelling information…

Cons: …unfortunately, I just can’t buy all of the arguments made by this program

Continuing in much the same way as History Channel’s much-discussed (and derided) Ancient Aliens, the slickly-made and rather compelling original Syfy Channel “documentary” Aliens on the Moon: The Truth Exposed (which premiered on July 20,2014) mainly examines a series of NASA photographs of the lunar surface that may just show anomalous structures built by unknown beings for unknown purposes. Various “experts” of one type or another – from astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Edgar Mitchell to imaging expert Marc D’Antonio, to former government researcher Dr. John Brandenberg and even Ancient Aliens veterans Nick Redfern and Mike Bara (among others – I was expecting Giorgio A. Tsoukalos to turn up at any moment) turn up to offer their own perspective on the images, and analyze the notion that extraterrestrials have visited (or indeed still inhabit) the moon. As its goofy (DUN DUN!) title suggests, Aliens on the Moon is one more in a ongoing (endless?) string of at best speculative, at worst downright phony supposed feature “documentaries” that have played on TV in the last few years. In the end, the program might be interesting and is certainly thought-provoking, but I’m not sure I’d honestly believe everything (or maybe anything) it has to say.

1

Undoubtedly, the best element of the two-hour special (produced in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing) is the wealth of actual NASA images compiled from both the classic lunar expeditions and more modern flyovers showing various unexplained (or perhaps unexplainable) lunar anomalies. It would almost be worth it for many viewers (particularly those with some interest in astronomy in particular or science in general) to watch this program just to see these stunning, fascinating images while ignoring the somewhat suspect context surrounding their presentation. While I’ve seen some of the images and video footage projected here (even footage taken from Earth’s orbit that appears to show a sort of space battle going on between an unknown craft and missiles that seem to be fired from the planet below), this program does showcase some visual materials that I was previously unfamiliar with, and certainly examines the lunar surface with a more critical eye than some other programs dealing with astronomy.

2

Unfortunately, the scientific value of the program comes with plenty of baggage: as a straight-faced documentary, Aliens on the Moon is (surprise!) highly suspect. Writer/producer/director Robert C. Kiviat clearly has no intention of making this a well-rounded examination of its subject since there’s virtually no opposing opinion progressed during the course of the piece. This program doesn’t so much make a convincing argument as just pile on supposed evidence, proposing and advancing it’s own theories suggesting that aliens inhabit the moon while “leaving it up to a viewer to decide.” Really, this is all fine and good for the seasoned viewer who’s willing to take this program with the healthy dose of salt that it very much deserves, but things could be more problematic than that. For a more typical viewing public that now believes that mermaids are real, yeti’s are dangerous, and fifty-foot sharks prowl the South African coast (after Animal Planet and Discovery Channel aired “mockumentaries” suggestive of those ideas), Aliens on the Moon could be taken as absolute truth – which it quite obviously is not.

3

Don’t get me wrong: I love pure edutainment programs like Aliens on the Moon on some level because they do get people talking about and interested in science and the world we live in, but taking this show’s assortment of really iffy “evidence” at face value is not only ill-advised, it’s just plain ludicrous. It’s ironic that one of the program’s main points is to direct questions at NASA regarding their possible doctoring of various photographs taken on space missions in order to cover up evidence of UFO’s and alien structures – what would this show be without a good ol’ government coverup after all – given that many (and very nearly all) of the images presented in AotM as evidence have very clearly been manipulated and toyed with by the show’s producers.

4

It’s VERY DIFFICULT if not impossible to locate or identify any one of the supposed “alien structures” that we’re led to believe exist in the full-sized photographs of the lunar surface that are the centerpiece of this program – until the producers choose to colorize key portions of said photographs, thus making the program play similarly to a black and white game of Where’s Waldo where Waldo is still wearing his trademark red and white outfit and stocking cap. OBVIOUSLY we as viewers are going to see whatever the producers what us to see when they come close to pointing a huge, flashing neon arrow at various points of the moon’s surface while providing us with a (sometimes preposterous) potential explanation of what we’re looking at. It also helps that the producers decide to virtually beat a viewer over the head with their analysis – we’re almost brainwashed into submitting to the producer’s assertions due to constant repetition of the program’s main points. Whether any viewer believes wholeheartedly what this program is attempting to convince him of largely comes down to said viewer’s natural skepticism and level of gullibility – the actual scientific process going on here is almost nonexistent, and the program honestly seems more like propaganda than honest-to-goodness documentary.

5

I should also point out that the program’s tendency to be extremely critical of on-camera statements made by Apollo 11 astronaut (and second man on the moon if you believe the moon landing happened in the first place) Buzz Aldrin – who it should be pointed out, had the balls to appear in a program like this knowing full well that his credibility would likely suffer as a result of the appearance – is none too classy and actually pretty low, even for a show of this nature. Aldrin actually does make a few statements relating to the insinuations of this producers, but when he (perhaps rightfully) refuses to directly speak about or address specific photos of the lunar surface that supposedly show a satellite dish, nuclear plant with some sort of huge weapon pointing out as a defense mechanism, or a landed spacecraft near the moon landing site, suddenly (duh!) Aldrin’s in on the conspiracy that’s taking place. As much of a conspiracy buff as I am myself having watched just about as many alien coverup shows as I can stomach, there comes a point when shows like this that direct all sorts of blame in the direction of NASA and the US government as a whole push credibility beyond the breaking point – and come close to simply be making their assertions in plain bad taste.

6

At the end of the day, as I hinted at previously, I would want a program like this to prompt discussion and serious thought, and Aliens on the Moon, questionable as it is, certainly does this. Though the constant speculation about what various extremely grainy and difficult-to-interpret photos of the moon’s surface actually show is obnoxious and borderline redundant, the program does pose some intriguing questions and examine some perplexing possibilities. I was pretty intrigued, for example, by the story of a needle-like anomaly photographed surrounding the Martian moon of Phobos in 1989. This unknown object supposedly was responsible for the disappearance of a pair of Russian space probes examining the Martian atmosphere in the late 1980s and was photographed again by NASA’s Curiosity rover that’s currently exploring the Red Planet, suggesting that whatever the thing is, it still patrols the Martian sky. The major talking point of the program for those who watch it will no doubt be footage supposedly taken during a hypothetical (and officially, completely fictional) Apollo 20 mission which appears to show astronauts recovering a female alien body from one of the unknown lunar structures. This footage (which turned up in the internet in recent years along with a pretty bizarre story from supposed astronaut William Rutledge) is certainly enigmatic; easily the most provocative contained in the documentary, though one would have to accept A LOT of conspiracy notions to believe that it is indeed authentic. If the footage is faked though, it’s pretty darn clever….

yikes
YIKES! Female alien supposedly recovered during Apollo 20.

At the end of the day, Aliens on the Moon: The Truth Exposed barely sits above its contemporaries like Mermaids: The Body Found, Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives, or Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives as a purported documentary designed not necessarily to tell the truth but instead, to get people talking. Considering that the public is increasingly fascinated with all things UFO and alien-related (hence why Ancient Aliens’ Giorgio Tsoukalos has his own new UFO-related show In Search of Aliens starting up on History Channel on July 25th), it’s not entirely surprising that Syfy Channel would produce a thing like this and frankly, I’d rather see more programming of this nature on the channel instead of the endless Monster Coelacanth versus Mecha Salmon type of made-for-cable trash the channel is known for these days. Aliens on the Moon certainly isn’t the best, most well-rounded and believable documentary I’ve ever seen – the narration has an inappropriate, semi-pompous tone and the program sometimes seems little more than a lengthy advertisement for a handful of books written about the subject.  Nevertheless, the show does what it’s supposed to: any viewer would be talking about it afterward, and that’s about the best that could be hoped for. Don’t necessarily take every one of its claims seriously, but if you’re bored and this thing happens to be playing on TV, it’d be worth checking out.

WANT TO IMPROVE YOUR “CHOLESTEROL” NUMBERS? CONSIDER EATING MORE EGG YOLKS!

Eggs in basket

Chicken Eggs

 

(5/5)

Pros:  My recent “science experiment” – and my doctor’s general “take” – suggest that chicken eggs (including the yolks) are unlikely to worsen “cholesterol” levels in most people. Moreover, eggs constitute a relatively affordable, low-fat source of protein and other nutrients.

Cons:  None for me.

Prefatory note: I’ve never taken any sort of “cholesterol” drug (e.g., “statin”). Also note that the “eggs” that I’ve eaten have always been of the most commonly available (not the costlier “organic”) variety in American supermarkets.

Speaking as a 60-year-old, six-foot-one, 163-pound male, I’ve got one or two health concerns (primarily some idiopathic [evidently largely genetically influenced] “foot” neuropathy that’s intermittently uncomfortable but doesn’t significantly hinder my mobility), which I’m striving to ameliorate through several means. But, on the proverbial good side, I’ve also got various things for which to be thankful – including satisfactory “cholesterol” [and normal "blood-sugar” and “blood-pressure”] numbers that make it possible for me to continue avoiding any prescription medications.

As far back as the mid-1960s, I can recall people being advised by doctors or sundry “experts” to reduce or even eliminate their consumption of eggs (not only the faultless whites but particularly the cholesterol-containing yolks) in order to improve their cholesterol numbers and cardiovascular health. In more recent years, however, advice from analogous sources has been confusingly inconsistent. But the general impression I’ve derived is that only a modest minority of the population could actually find their LDL (the so-called “bad-cholesterol”) number worsened by the consumption of “dietary” cholesterol – e.g., egg yolks.

A couple of months ago, I decided to arrange (with my doctor’s cooperation) a little “science experiment” of sorts: I would increase my longstanding consumption of egg yolks from just one per day to exactly four per day (two at lunch, and two at dinner). Then – about two months later – I would see how my borderline-healthy “cholesterol” levels responded.

Mind, I never prepare my eggs with any “cooking” oil or fat; instead, I always basically poach them. Nor do I subsequently add any “butter” (instead, I add a bit of black pepper plus perhaps a modicum of the “light” version of Kraft’s Miracle Whip.) Also, I was steadfastly careful not to change any other aspects of my daily routine – and I’m speaking not only of the “dietary” but also the “exercise” and “lifestyle” components. For I wanted to discover precisely what effect quadrupling my egg-yolk consumption would have on the following (loosely speaking) “cholesterol” numbers: LDL (“bad” cholesterol); HDL (“good” cholesterol); and triglycerides.

The following two typical “lipid-panel” tests were done via my longstanding primary-care physician’s office, which promptly sent my blood samples to a particular nearby Quest Diagnostics lab:

May 19, 2014 (after having eaten approximately one egg yolk daily for many, many months):

CHOLESTEROL TOTAL: 214

HDL-CHOLESTEROL: 85

TRIGLYCERIDES: 78

LDL-CHOLESTEROL: 113

 

July 10, 2014 (after having eaten four egg yolks daily since May 19th):

CHOLESTEROL TOTAL: 197

HDL-CHOLESTEROL: 86

TRIGLYCERIDES: 36

LDL-CHOLESTEROL: 104

Being merely an average (?!) layperson, I don’t hereby mean to postulate any scrupulously “scientific” conclusions. But I do find the above numbers intriguing; and I’m frankly more confident than ever that I myself – and presumably the majority of the population – should henceforth relish eating a reasonable daily number of whole eggs without fretting about any ostensibly bad health consequences.

Note that, for many years, I’ve pretty strictly limited my daily consumption of saturated fat. Also – somewhat more for basic “budgetary” reasons than pretentious “philosophical” ones – I’ve long eaten relatively little “meat” (much less than the average American, anyway). Instead, eggs (formerly mostly just the whites) have constituted my main source of “non-vegetarian” food. Additionally – at both lunch and dinner – I always eat a sensibly sized serving of beans (not only for supplementary protein but also for fiber to promote dietary-tract regularity); mixed “frozen” vegetables; shelled English walnuts; and about two or three tablespoons of peanut butter (always Smuckers “Creamy Natural,” which contains a smidgen of salt as its only added ingredient). [However, for some years I've generally eschewed bread – not because I don't savor it, but because it always raised my bodyweight somewhat above the reportedly "ideal" level. So, I've alternatively learned to relish "natural" peanut putter [not to mention blueberries and chilled bananas] in much the way other folks relish ice cream or pudding. And I alternatively derive my daily “grains” with “hot,” “natural” cereal including old-fashioned oatmeal and wheat germ.]

Also, since about five months ago [when I reluctantly gave up coffee (that reportedly prevents Alzheimer's in mice but isn't ideal for "peripheral neuropathy" sufferers)], I’ve been eating not only the usual banana or two but also some (“frozen”) blueberries [because they reportedly prevent Alzheimer's in rats] together with my longstanding consumption of “old-fashioned” (not “instant”) oatmeal (and/or some wheat germ and sometimes a sprinkling of ground flax seed). Note: Although my lab-determined blood-sugar numbers have long placed me in “fully normal” range, I’ve recently gone so far as to totally stop my longstanding modest consumption of “one to several” teaspoons per day of ordinary “table sugar” (on the assumption that topping my oatmeal/wheat germ not with “refined” sugar but rather a sensible amount of natural berries should be more healthful generally).

Also, I’ve continued my longstanding consumption of two to three gel capsules of pharmaceutical-grade (highly purified) fish oil daily. [This might have something to do with my above-noted “triglycerides” number remaining rather low (always within a range between about 36 and 78), but I’m not really sure.]

Incidentally, I’ve never taken any “blood-pressure” medication (my diastolic and systolic numbers have long been within “normal range,” and they’ve remained there since I’ve increased my daily consumption of whole eggs).

If you or a loved one happen to have any concerns about your daily consumption of “cholesterol” – perchance in the form of eggs – you might want to discuss this with your doctor. My doctor’s general take on “eggs“ has been, from the outset: “I think they’re good for you!”

A COLLECTIVE OF TOP REVIEWERS