Posts tagged 1994
Posts tagged 1994
By Dan Kinem
I’m going to transport you back to the glorious 1990s for a minute: You are sitting on your couch on Sunday — hand in a bag of Cheetos, sipping on a Yoo-hoo — with your eyes glued to the television set. It’s tuned to your favorite channel, Nickelodeon. You’ve been laughing and loving their programming all day long and with shows like Clarissa Explains It All, All That, and Ren & Stimpy, how could you not? It’s the perfect channel. Your whole day was planned around watching these shows from the second you got up, all the way until 9 p.m. when Nick at Nite would start, but wait, what’s this? It’s only 8:30 p.m., why is there some bald lady talking to kids from India?! Aargh!! It’s fucking Nick News again! This royally fucks your plan to shit and you are so desperate to watch anything other than this TV show version of a school assembly that you actually change the channel to Cartoon Network to watch one of the channel’s many terrible Ren & Stimpy clones. I honestly believe Linda Ellerbee and Nick Jr. are the sole reasons I ever watched Cartoon Network.
Fast forward two decades and I still have contempt for Nick News, but I look back on it somewhat more fondly now due to my undying Nickelodeon obsession. I’d like to call myself fairly knowledgeable when it comes to Nickelodeon VHS and TV shows, yet, up until the other day I didn’t even know this tape existed. Imagine my surprise when I walked into my local Salvation Army and saw this on the shelf. I had never seen anyone mention this or even seen a picture. My heart raced as I snatched the tape up, juked in between all the white trash, ran up to the 90-year-old cashier to pay, got in my car and began fondling my find for a few minutes, then rushed home to watch one of my most hated childhood shows. Was this excitement all for not? Would my hatred still be burning or would I find a new nostalgic appreciation for this kids-focused-news-program?
Oh my God, nothing has changed. Only Nick News could make 2 p.m. feel like 5 a.m. I immediately began falling asleep. I even thought about turning it off it was so boring. This “special edition” episode is simple, it’s all about avoiding strangers. It’s the most stereotypical topic relating to youth in the 90s besides drugs, and likely a video that would be shown to kids in first grade. Boy did they make sure this was relatable to all kids, too. They got black kids, Mexican kids, white kids, a kid from India, etc. It’s too corny even for children. Satan herself, Linda Ellerbee (the host), talks down to these kids on the show, too. Her voice and demeanor changes when she is talking to them in that way that only adults can do. It became so painful to watch and her pixie haircut and lack of any ounce of emotion doesn’t help either.
The bulk of the video is made up of reenactments of dangerous situations involving strangers. Various actors pretending to be rapists come up to various kids and abduct them. Then, Linda asks the kids to say what should have been done differently and they show a new video on how to avoid being abducted. The only reenactment that was remotely interesting was one where a kid and the rapist bond over an arcade game. It made me wish people still went to arcades. They do bring one girl on the show who avoided being abducted because she lied and said she had asthma. They talk to her for a while but I was yawning too much to hear.
The VHS was released like most other Nickelodeon tapes, by Sony Wonder in 1994, though unlike their other releases, there are none of the fun previews beforehand. It was probably geared mostly towards schools buying them and as a result it is extremely rare. Like I said above, I had never even seen a picture of this before. I’ve never seen one pop up for auction on eBay and have never seen any on Amazon. According to Amazon there is at least one other Nick News tape, Homeless Kids in America. I do not recommend re-watching this show ever. Whatever your memories are leave them at that. This is less fun than picking 1,000 tacks out of a wall. I take shit after shit on this disgrace of a tape.
^Worst double feature ever?
By Dan Kinem
The Pog phenomenon is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our time. There’s no reason why tiny round cardboard discs should exist, let alone why they were one of the most popular children’s games of the 1990s. I mean, video games existed, yet somehow Pogs became popular — popular enough to have a 30-minute animated special based on them, too! Now don’t get it twisted, as much as I might make fun of the game, I adore Pogs. In fact, I still collect them and am continually on the hunt for those rare milkcaps that have managed to allude me all these years. But, regardless of all that, this special has about as much to do with Pogs as my refrigerator has to do with Pepsi. Zilch.
Right off the bat you get the feeling that this was originally intended to be the pilot for a show and due to the fact it was terrible, was passed off as a special. There’s even a theme song with the braindead lyrics, “Hawaiian slam-slam slammers!” and “Slammers of Darkness, Slammers of Light, when they come together they fight, fight, fight!”
The basic plot is very reminiscent of Pokemon, actually. There are five Slammers of Darkness and five Slammers of Light, and whoever finds them and spins them gets one of the immortal beings that are trapped in them as their servant. Whoever manages to capture them all becomes the ultimate ruler of Light and Dark.
For those who don’t know or were either too young or too old to know what a “slammer” is, it’s the Pog (sometimes made of metal, sometimes made of plastic) that you would throw at the other Pogs to make them bounce in the air and flip right side up. Only now, through explaining how to play Pogs, have I realized how fucking stupid it sounds.
You are immediately introduced to your villain, archaeologist Dr. Karl Von Fragman, when he is releasing his first Dark Slammer from its volcanic rock home. He wants to collect all of them in order to have world domination. I don’t know why the creator decided to give him a German accent and make him look like a leprechaun, but it adds to the bizarreness of the whole thing, that’s for sure. Our hero is a dorky white kid named Ronnie. He coincidentally discovers one of the Light Slammers after a healthy game of Pogs with his friends. When Fragman finds out, it becomes a battle between Light and Dark, good and bad. The battle to end all battles.
They decide to battle inside an active volcano, because that’s where the rest of the slammers are located. Ronnie almost pussies out, but decides, “If Indiana Jones can do it, I guess I can, too.” Mind you, I still haven’t seen every episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles yet, but I highly doubt there’s ever a time when Indy has to enter an active volcano to fight an evil leprechaun over some Pogs.
Ronnie wins. Good prevails. But just when you think it’s all wrapped up with a nice bow and all the Slammers are back where they belong, Ronnie finds his Light Slammer, proving that this was definitely left open-ended in case a show deal could be worked out. Lucky for us, all we get is this one 22-minute special that proves there can be a TV show about literally anything. I will tell you one thing, though, I’ll never look at Pogs the same way again.
Very little information is known about this special and I can’t even seem to find who directed or created it, not even in the credits. I do know Jeffrey Scott wrote it and he’s written 100s of different shows ranging from Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The tape was released by DIC Toon-Time Video. The fact this thing was even able to be released baffles me, but I guess kids would buy anything animated back then. I imagine this one isn’t a super common tape, but since no one on Earth wants it, you can get it very cheap. The VHS also featured a fun trailer for Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad.
Here’s the full 22 minutes for your asses!
by Tim May
After the massive success of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Saban Entertainment quickly tried to expand their brand by producing new shows in a similar fashion; simply shoot cheap new footage and edit it around already existing action scenes from Japanese tokusatsu shows and you’ve got an instant new toy line to shove down the throats of American boys, ages 6-11.
Originally, VR Troopers, Saban’s first post-Power Rangers endeavor was called Cybertron, and was to star Jason David Frank, who had been popular as the green ranger in the classic “Green With Evil” arc in MMPR. A pilot presentation was produced with Frank in the lead, but his Power Rangers character Tommy Oliver had been proven too popular to give away to a new series, so he returned to his rightful home and went on to define that show into its second and third seasons. Clips from the Cybertron pilot (the entirety of which is online here) were still used to promote the VR Troopers in trailers that appear on some of the second and third wave Power Rangers VHS releases. Imagine the disappointment, expecting Tommy to star in his own new show, and when you watch it on TV, this block of wood shows up instead.
This is Ryan Steele, the main protagonist of VR Troopers. His father has been missing for a long time. Much like the Power Rangers, he and his friends Kaitlin Star (rogue reporter for Underground News Daily) and J.B. Reese (computer wiz) are martial arts instructors, and one day while hanging out after classes, they find a laboratory which is all but abandoned, aside from a floating digitized head on a computer monitor who happens to be Professor Horation Hart, a friend of Ryan’s father. Professor Hart informs him that that his father has been trapped in the “VR” (virtual reality) which is ruled by the evil Grimlord, who can transport himself into the real world and live as billionaire industrialist Karl Ziktor. Professor Hart offers Ryan, Kaitlin, and J.B. the power to battle Grimlord and his army of skugs (the equivalent of Rita Repulsa’s puddies in Power Rangers). Being the bland archetypes they are, they immediately accept, and the show begins its incredibly obvious formula:
1. Something goes wrong in the real world.
2. It is immediately assumed Grimlord is behind the problem, no matter how innocuous.
3. The VR Troopers battle one of Grimlord’s minions.
The episode featured on this tape, the series’ fifth, is “Lost Memories,” in which a woman wanders into the dojo Ryan works for claiming she has amnesia. Kaitlin aims to put her picture in the Underground News Daily and J.B. checks out the internet (in 1994—dork!). Meanwhile, Karl Ziktor is informed of this mysterious woman, who had apparently lived in one of his apartment buildings and whose memory may have been erased through his alter ego Grimlord’s virtual tampering. The actor who plays Ziktor seems to be doing an earnest impression of Dennis Hopper’s performance as King Koopa in the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie, but he soon transforms into stock footage.
The stock footage on this show is used somewhat more creatively than it was in Power Rangers, most of it appearing in the “virtual world,” while the majority of events in the real world is original material. Anyway, you can basically guess where this episode goes. Ryan is given a new “VR Trooper Bike” (all it’s ever called), and basically immediately crashes it, conveniently losing his own memory as well. J.B. and Kaitlin come to his rescue and return him to the lab, where Professor Hart will restore Ryan’s memory through virtual reality, however that works, and they must go defeat Grimlord’s goon Laserbot alone. J.B. defeats Laserbot with his awesome double-sided lightsaber (five years before Darth Maul!), and the woman from the beginning of the episode regains her memory by meeting her daughter via the story printed in Kaitlin’s paper.
There are two supporting characters of note. The first is Woody Stocker, Kaitlin’s editor at the paper, who seems like the lovechild of Richard Karn and Billy Mays.
Then there’s Jeb, Ryan’s dog who somehow gained the ability to talk after an accident in the first episode. On the back of the box you can see Jeb proclaiming, “Virtual reality is cool!” This is made even more ridiculous by Jeb’s even-worse-than-Christian-Slater Jack Nicholson impression.
Like most of Saban Home Entertainment’s VHS releases for their shows, “Lost Memories” includes an extra feature. Unfortunately, unlike Power Rangers, which would often feature cast interviews, this tape just includes a shitty music video for “Skugs,” a song by Ron Wasserman, the main musical force for Saban’s shows. Some of his work, like the Mighty Morhphin’ theme or “Go Green Ranger” is classic cheese, but songs like “Shape It Up, Bulk and Skull” and this one are nigh-unlistenable.
VR Troopers was trying to be a more “serious” show than Power Rangers, what with Ryan’s missing father and the older age of its protagonists. That’s kind of thrown out the window with the talking dog, though. Like all of Saban’s non-Power Rangers offerings (Masked Rider, Big Bad Beetleborgs, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog), VR Troopers isn’t quite goofy enough to overcome its awfulness and become fun.
Though never released on DVD in America (three discs with scattered episodes were released in the UK), the entire series is available on Netflix.
by Tim May
I don’t even understand what this movie is.
You are, of course, familiar with the two Coreys: Feldman and Haim. This was one of their later collaborations (only the rarely heard of Dream a Little Dream 2 followed), and despite their best efforts, National Lampoon’s Last Resort is one of the most strangely terrible films ever made.
National Lampoon was a once respected humor publication that launched the careers of many great comedy writers like most of the original writing staff for Saturday Night Live and John Hughes. They began making films in 1978 with Animal House and continued throughout the ’80s with films like Class Reunion and the Vacation series. By the early ’90s, the magazine was rarely published, and in order to keep the company afloat, the National Lampoon name was licenced out to anyone who had enough money. I’m guessing the fee was about fifty dollars, considering the quality of Last Resort.
So… the plot. Does it have one? I’m not sure. Feldman and Haim play two “slackers” (I don’t recall their names, but who cares? I’ll just call them Feldman and Haim) who work at a fast food joint. Feldman is a delusional freak who constantly imagines himself making out with beautiful women on the beach. He goes so deep into his fantasies that at one point, he makes out with his bearded boss. Haim is dork, obsessed with virtual reality, as everyone seemed to be in the mid-’90s (see more). Because of this, he often wears a ridiculous looking helmet that makes him look like a character from TekWar. After an altercation with their boss, the Coreys quit. Feldman forgot to pay the rent, so these dipshits also get evicted.
Feldman reveals that his uncle, an old pirate adventure film star, had invited him to work at his island resort. As Feldman is discussing this with Haim, a homeless man comes up to them and gives them a magic pebble. They throw it at the ground and—ABRA-KA-FUCKING-DABRA—they’re transported to Uncle Rex’s island resort. This MIRACLE doesn’t strike them as odd, though. Who gives a shit that you’re on a tropical island? Certainly not the audience. YOU JUST MAGICALLY TRANSPORTED INSTANTANEOUSLY TO A DIFFERENT FUCKING HEMISPHERE. Stop acting so nonchalant, you fucking douchebags.
Here is where the film becomes nearly impossible to follow. We’re introduced to more characters than a Robert Altman film and we’re expected to care about some “conflict” where the island is going to be taken away from Feldman’s uncle, but really, from here on out, Last Resort devolves into a series of terrible scatological “gags.” An old couple who don’t have sex? Hilarious. Villains who sound as if they’re always speaking through a guitar talkbox? Comic gold. A “sexpot” who doesn’t wear underwear, which causes Feldman to flip out and run around like Benny Hill? I’m laughing my ass off. Characters telling the film’s soundtrack to quiet down? Jonathan Swift would be proud.
At one point, Haim’s scuba tank explodes, causing him to go flying in the air (Feldman’s response: “He’s flying.”), eventually landing in some woman’s ridiculously large breasts, causing them to explode. Haim proclaims, “I landed in Silicon Valley.” When this is the funniest line in your movie, just kill yourself.
Last Resort doesn’t know when to quit. The third act makes absolutely no sense. You’ve got the two Coreys looking for buried treasure, Zelda Rubinstein judging a REAL dick measuring contest, Haim trying to woo some girl who worships an island goddess named YaYa, and, as mentioned, Feldman’s fear of women who don’t wear bras. Once we reach the “conclusion” of all of these plot lines, we still have to sit through a horrible music video for Dread Zeppelin, the reggae Led Zeppelin tribute band. For some reason, the lead singer imitates Elvis instead of Robert Plant, making Dread Zeppelin the most strangely terrible tribute band ever. This song is actually an original, written for the movie, only occasionally referencing Zeppelin guitar riffs. Somehow, this band still exists. I guess I just don’t see the appeal of fat white guys trying to be Jamaican versions of Elvis Presley and Jimmy Page.
The VHS came with a contest offer for a trip to St. Croix called the Island Madness Sweepstakes. The contest is advertised in a commercial at the beginning of the tape featuring the cast of Last Resort. Feldman promises to be back at the end of the movie with more details on the contest. He never returns. What the fuck? The contest was the only reason I watched all of the miserable pile of shit. Fuck.
by Tim May
William Shatner is celebrating his 80th birthday today. He’s a notoriously “bad” actor, but I’d point to many of the original Star Trek episodes to disprove that horseshit. The role in which Shatner is truly lacking is that of a director. This should come as no suprise, as he’s most well known for directing Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
TekWar began as a series of novels written by Shatner (and ghost co-writer Ron Goulart). I remember reading about two chapters of the first one about ten or twelve years ago, and probably putting it down to read a Star Wars novel instead. TekWar was later adapted into a comic book series and a series of television movies (and later a series). This is the first of those films.
You know you’re in for a pile of bullshit ’90s sci-fi when the opening credits look like the 3D pipes screensaver on Windows 98. Stupid “futuristic” stuff abounds, like prisoners being cryogenically frozen rather than being traditionally locked in a cell (kinda defeats the whole “think about what you’ve done” thing, huh?) or shrink wrapped cars (seriously, why?) or people with half a pair of eyeglasses.
TekWar takes place in some vague future-world where virtual reality “tek” is the equivalent of drugs. Junkies strap on a Virtual Boy and go deep into their wildest fantasies.
Jake Cardigan (who looks like a poor man’s Ray Liotta) is an ex-undercover cop who was accused of killing a bunch of fellow police officers after they discovered he had become addicted to tek. He’s been in “the freezer” (what everyone in this movie calls prison) for four years, and the film begins as he’s being released. There’s an asshole robot cop who pretty much tells Jake that he’ll have his eyes on him.
When Jake gets home, he discovers that his wife left him for her boss while he was in prison and took their son with him. Devastated, he goes downtown in whatever city this nonsense takes place in and finds some old tek junkie friends from his old undercover cop days. These motherfuckers look like the most cliched ’90s sci-fi punk “hackers” you could possibly imagine. I was waiting for Matthew Lillard to show up. Anyway, these scummy characters help Jake contact his son, who is an ungrateful bitch who doesn’t believe that Jake was innocent. Even more devastated, Jake buys some new tek and goes home and takes it, which sends him into a wild sex fantasy with his ex-wife.
This is interrupted by his old partner, Sid, who gets pissed and scolds Jake about turning into a tek addict. Jake agrees to give it up and Sid gets him a job at the new private security firm he works at now. The head of this security firm is hilariously named Bascom, and even more hilariously played by William Shatner. Bascom agrees to help Jake clear his name in exchange for helping out with some cases.
Bascom sends Jake and Sid to protect some old lady, who is almost immediately killed by an exploding android. Sid gets caught in the explosion and is hospitalized. Jake’s old police captain comes by the hospital to be an asshole, along with that prick android cop from the beginning of the film.
In the meantime, Bascom sends Jake to find Beth Kittridge, who he claims has information that can clear Jake’s name. Jake goes first to talk to Sonny Hokori, the big tek lord in the city. Von Flores, who plays Hokori, gives a ridiculously over-the-top performance, cackling through an entire chase scene.
After some more convoluted plotting, Jake finds Beth, or so he thinks! It’s actually an android copy of Beth, who agrees to help him find the real deal. Jake gets a favor from an old handlebar moustachioed reporter friend, who sets up a meeting the leader of some rebel force that’s trying to slow the advancement of technology in the TekWar universe. When he arrives at the meeting, he is instead attacked by a robot hockey player.
After Jake defeats robo-Gretzky, he meets with the real rebel leader, Warbride (hahahaha), who is apparently an ex-girlfriend of his. She reveals that the real Beth had died, so BethBot tells Jake that she has the information that will clear his name, but it can only be unlocked by using some sort of tek. These memories prove that Jake didn’t kill his fellow cops, but it doesn’t make clear who did.
Jake and BethBot return to Bascom to report their progress and Sid gets out of the hospital. Jake’s ex-wife comes to visit him, just to tell him that he can’t see their son. BethBot comes over and confesses her love to Jake, a proclamation that comes out of nowhere. Then Jake’s son shows up, presumably to make amends with him, only for BethBot to grab him and explode.
Jake gets over the death of his son pretty quickly and, with Sid, sneaks into Hokori’s compound, takes some crystal that has the info with the true identity of the man who killed Jake’s fellow officers, and quickly dispatches of Hokori, handing him over to the police. The asshole android from the beginning of the film continues to be a dick and tries to arrest Jake. Jake sneaks away to get the information off of the crystal.
Jake runs into the REAL Beth, who apparently didn’t really die. The asshole android gets down there just before he gets the info from the crystal. Beth recognizes the android as the real culprit in Jake’s case, thus rendering the information on the crystal useless. Jake electrocutes the android, who reveals right before he dies that Hokori wasn’t the one to program him to kill the police officers. This is the cliffhanger that’s supposed to get me excited about the next TekWar movie, TekLords.
Nice fucking try. TekWar is convoluted nonsense. It seems to rely on the viewer having read Shatner’s (likely) terrible novels, introducing characters and concepts without adequately explaining who or what they are. For a film with a screenplay so expository, I barely understood half the shit that happened in this movie. The first film in a science fiction or fantasy franchise has to do a decent amount of world building in order to get the viewer acquainted with the new setting. TekWar just drops us into the middle of it and makes us catch up. The acting’s pretty terrible across the board (including Shatner, despite my earlier statement) and the movie looks like an episode of VR Troopers. Fuck this shit. I’m gonna watch The Wrath of Khan to remind myself that Shatner is the king.
^This is the intro to the television series.