Rocky IV: A Delightfully Watchable Deviation (Review)

Oh man, Rocky IV… This is when the series really got out there. I’ve long held the belief that this is not a good movie, even though it’s such a delightful moviegoing experience. And after rewatching it the other night, after reading about Sylvester Stallone’s intention to recut the movie (without the totally realistic, common household appliance Robot), it’s safe to say that my opinion on the movie hasn’t faltered.

Can you blame me though? Like, this movie is big, dumb and sticks out like a sore thumb in the franchise. It just does. Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is the reigning heavyweight champ of the world and gets embroiled in the Cold War when his best friend Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is killed in the ring by a stone cold/roided-out fighter from the Soviet Union named Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). What happens after that is a couple training montages, the most one sided fight in boxing film history, and a surprising (in the context of the film and not in the context of watching it) upset victory. Oh, and Rocky ends the Cold War.

This movie simply doesn’t fit in with the rest of the franchise in damn near every way possible. The plot is overblown and injected with a health dose of Reagan-era patriotism (is there a bigger “Reagan film” than this? Death Wish III maybe?), Vince DiCola’s original score is heavily synthesized and barely resembles the iconic themes/motiffs used in literally every other Rocky film by Bill Conti, and the nuance/characterization of the Rocky characters that made them so endearing and real is gone. Paulie dates a robot, need I say more?

It’s easy to point at those aspects of the movie and call this the worst Rocky movie ever. And honestly, I kinda think it is if we’re talking about Rocky movies. Rocky V was definitely worse than this, as far as films themselves go, but Rocky IV does a worse job of fitting in with the franchise as a whole to me. Does that make it a boring or bland movie? Well, maybe a little bland, but certainly not boring! There’s no way a movie with Robert Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out” and John Cafferty’s “Hearts on Fire” could be considered boring!

This movie is filled with laughs, memorable dialogue, incredible music (Drago’s suite is fitting of a future sequence in a Terminator movie and I would pay hand over foot for an albums worth of this kind of brooding music that was done by Vince DiCola and Brad Fidel), and a pretty brisk runtime of around 90 minutes, making it the shortest Rocky movie. Again, this is all actually pretty great, even if it doesn’t make sense for a Rocky sequel.

And that should be a pretty big dealbreaker for me. A franchise needs to feel cohesive after all, right? Well… I honestly don’t think so! In the same way that Marvel movies allow themselves to deviate into being closer to genre exercises (With Captain America: The Winter Soldier being an espionage thriller, Iron Man III being a classic Shane Black story, etc), I kinda like that Rocky IV is the series’ “big dumb 80s propaganda film.” It suits it well and, if you’re working through the series, makes for a pretty good way to switch things up a bit. And after roughly 6 hours of Rocky movies, you could probably use that change in tone, don’t you think?

I’m ultimately glad that Stallone tried to course correct after Rocky IV (even if he didn’t truly succeed at it until Rocky Balboa in 2006), because a franchise like Rocky can only really survive one movie as off-base as this one. But man, what a great way to kill an hour and a half, am I right? And what a time capsule for the 80s and all it’s cool and totally real robots/gadgets.

Like this review and wanna hear my thoughts on another definitively 80s Stallone movie? Cool! Feel free to check out my podcast Media Obscura on your favorite podcast player! We actually did an entire month of Stallone movies last year on it, like the episode embedded below about his Cannon film “Over the Top!”

Bill & Ted Face The Music: Surprisingly Triumphant (Spoiler-Free Review)

I love Bill & Ted. I saw both of the original movies when I was in high school and was going through some stuff. Connecting with one of my, then, casual acquaintances over them really did a lot to get me through what I was going through and it also led to him becoming one of my best friends. Oh, it also got me into rock. So that’s cool.

Almost 30 years after 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the Wyld Stallions are back to finish unifying the world (and saving existence itself) in Bill & Ted’s Face the Music. And honestly, I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Wow. I can’t believe I just typed that. Seriously. If I had a time machine and could go back in time a year or soo to when we were seeing our first images of this movie, I’d immediately run up to my other-self, grab him by his shoulders, and say: “Dude! You aren’t going to believe this but Bill & Ted 3 is like, most triumphant!”

I genuinely think my other-me would try to have me committed on the spot.

It’s easy to look at the (many) revivals of cult properties from yesteryear and immediately write them off as being unnecessary before we’ve ever given them a chance. And honestly, who can blame us for being a bit exhausted by the nonstop cashing in on nostalgia? It’s simply everywhere and, for the most part, hasn’t been done well often enough to justify why people keep making this stuff. While some of these revivals/blasts from the past have been good, a lot of them have honestly just sucked… And yeah, some of those bad ones are still a lot of fun to watch, but it’s never for the right reasons.

Thankfully, Face the Music isn’t one of those cases. I genuinely had a great time with this movie. Was it necessary? Nah. Was it stupid? Absolutely. But aren’t those two things already sown into the fiber of the Bill & Ted franchise? I mean, we’re talking about a series that revolves around two California rockers that use time travel and try to save the world through the power of song. While I was confused as to how this movie would justify its existence, I also recognize that it probably wouldn’t have had to try that hard to come up with a reason for why it exists.

Without jumping into spoiler territory, all I can say is that this movie has something for fans of both of its predecessors. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure fans will find that the movie has enough time-jumping shenanigans that are equal parts throwback and new, while fans of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey will find enough references to that movie with similar execution.

A common problem I have with a lot of revivals is an over-reliance on stock footage and nostalgia to make up for, what’s more often than not, a lack of content. Thankfully, I don’t think that’s the case here; this movie doesn’t overdo the nostalgia, nor does it lack in content. Instead, it uses the past as a stepping stone to take the story in a new direction, while using the basic premise of both of the original movies to help keep the tone familiar for fans of the franchise.

Ultimately, Bill & Ted Face the Music is a great time. None of its scenes overstay their welcome, the celebrity cameos are fun and don’t feel shoehorned, and the cast clearly had a great time returning to their characters after so much time away. And the new characters? Great. I won’t spoil anything but, as far as I’m concerned, Billie and Thea stole the show in every scene they were in for me and I genuinely wish could have worked in at least another 30 minutes of them and their Dad’s adventuring. As it stands though, this movie was a delight to watch, even if it did kinda leave me wanting more.

Either way, I definitely recommend this movie to fans of the Bill & Ted franchise and to anyone looking for fun wholesome-but-still-kinda-macabre/rock humor in their lives! It’s message that music can unite us fits right in with its predecessors and it’s humor is dorky and playful in all the right places. What else can I say; it was way better than I expected it to be and is a welcome addition to the series!

Hope you enjoyed this review! If you wanna hear more of my thoughts on Bill and Ted, why not check out one of my two podcast episodes on the Bill and Ted TV shows? They’re both called Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures, and that’s very confusing! You can check them out by listening to my podcast, Media Obscura, from your favorite podcast player!

Cobra Kai Season 1: Good Fun or Toxicity Incarnate? (Review)

The first two seasons of Cobra Kai just hit Netflix and, to mark the occasion, I thought I’d revisit the Karate Kid franchise to see how well its aged over the years. I’d checked out Cobra Kai a few years ago when it first debuted on YouTube Premium (or YouTube Red or whatever it’s called this week) and at the time, I thought it was good fun with some strange/toxic messaging and a bit too much of an emphasis on the past.

Several years later, I think it’s safe to say that my opinion of the show hasn’t changed much. Cobra Kai is a really, fun show, but it’s just one that can’t decide whether it wants to push the Karate Kid franchise forward or whether it wants to rehash the movies as much as it can, albeit with drone footage in its training sequences.

For those unfamiliar with Cobra Kai, here’s a basic rundown of the plot: Some 30 years after The Karate Kid, former high school bully Johnny Lawerence is depressed and living a sad, solitary existence in a run down apartment. After saving his new teenage neighbor Miguel from some high school bullies, he decides to open a new Cobra Kai dojo in order to teach Miguel and some of his classmates karate. Meanwhile his old high school rival, Daniel LaRusso, catches wind of this and (in a seemingly PTSD induced rage) does everything in his power to make sure Cobra Kai leaves All-Valley forever.

Cobra Kai is an interesting inversion of the original series. By primarily following Sensei Lawrence, it adds a lot of nuance to a character that was painfully shallow in the original movie. Cobra Kai’s Johnny Lawrence is still everything he was in The Karate Kid but, to this shows credit, he’s also played played for laughs a lot. This Johnny Lawrence acts like he never got out of the 80s; he doesn’t believe in allergies, is skeptical about the dangers of concussions, and doesn’t know what Facebook is. In a word, he’s ignorant. But all of this is played for laughs in the series; Johnny’s ignorance is never glorified and is very much a running joke. It’s a great movie, honestly, and works wonderfully at humanizing a character that had spent over three decades being paper-thin. It’s also interesting to see how (over the course of the first season), we see the beginnings of Johnny coming of age as a person, as he tries to get back onto his feet and grow into being a (slightly more) considerate teacher for his students. All of this is balanced really well by William Zabka, who has a lot of fun with the role’s comedic needs while also playing the character with a lot of pathos. Johnny can be a little hard to handle sometimes, but he’s usually a bit of a scene stealer for me, as much as I hate his project bad-ass (for all those Always Sunny fans) ideology.

Because Johnny is the main focus of this series Daniel LaRusso, the former protagonist of The Karate Kid, takes up the mantle of being his counterweight/the closest thing to an antagonist in the first season. Daniel, now happily married and with two kids, basically goes out of his way to try and ruin Johnny’s life. Now granted, that’s not to say that Daniel is totally unlikable in this series (he gets a lot of leeway, given how many times Johnny and his friends nearly killed him in high school), but he does act painfully irrationally towards Johnny for opening a dojo. I mean, Daniel literally has flashbacks to stock footage of Johnny and his friends beating the crap out of him every time someone mentions Cobra Kai. And, while I’m not blaming the guy for having trauma, some of the stuff Daniel does to Johnny throughout the first season definitely comes across as cruel. Even his wife agrees with this sentiment, often calling out how out of his mind Daniel is acting. Ralph Macchio is great as an adult Daniel though and doesn’t miss a beat in his return to the iconic character.

Surrounding Johnny/Daniels bickering and feuding is a roster of students/teen characters that are… honestly? Kinda annoying. For all of the over the top fun that Johnny and Daniel bring to the table, a fair amount of the good-will they generate is lost on cliche and poorly written teen plots. I understand why it’s there and appreciate that it’s there with some function to the story, but also need to call out weak storytelling when I see it. Of the teen characters in this show, the only ones I could stand were Miguel (for at least half of the first season) and Robbie. For a lot of the characters, you aren’t really supposed to like them; they’ve been actively militarized by a bunch of Cobra Kai nonsense, after all. But for the characters you are supposed to like, there’s so much writing that oversimplifies being a teenager that it’s hard to do more than roll your eyes at them.

Speaking of that Cobra Kai nonsense; it’s kinda crazy how much fun this show is to watch when several of its characters are basically being dropped into an arc of learning how to be a bunch of jackasses. Without diving too deep/far into this (especially because I get that this is a the first time a lot of people are seeing this show, thanks to Netflix), I know that this is being done to set up a larger story, as well as to justify future seasons of the show, but with no end in sight for this show, I can’t help but hope that the payoff will eventually be worth the wait.

My biggest complaint with Cobra Kai though is how much it leans into the original movies. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia/pandering, it’s simply giving the people that have stuck with The Karate Kid for 30 years a bit of what they want. But it’s the way it leans into the original movies, as well as too often it leans into them that’s a problem. I can’t help but be bothered by the seemingly constant cutting to the original movies in the show, there’s something that feels (and I hate to use this word) lazy about it. One of the great lessons I was taught about storytelling (thanks degree that I don’t use enough!) was to show, don’t tell. And while the show is literally showing us glimpses of the past in a bid to explain its character’s motivations, it’s using it as a way of telling something. Does that make any sense? I suppose I’m trying to say that I would’ve preferred less flashbacks and more of a focus on characters showing how their experiences shaped their worldview back in the present.

Overall, Cobra Kai is totally worth a watch. There are a ton of moments that I found laugh-out-loud funny in first season and, if my memory holds up, the second season is more of the same. If you, even remotely, have any nostalgia towards The Karate Kid, then Cobra Kai is definitely worth your time!

If you liked this review and wanna hear our thoughts on the original Karate Kid, feel free to check out our review of it, as well as our podcast episode on the movie!

We also have a full episode version of our episode about The Karate Kid over on our YouTube channel, if that’s more your speed:

The Karate Kid or: that thing they keep cutting to in Cobra Kai (Review)

The Karate Kid is iconic. There’s no beating around the fact that most of you reading this have already seen this movie before; it’s a staple of anyone who grew up with a VCR, DVD Player or Cable TV’s film watching experience. But, since Cobra Kai is crane-kicking it’s way onto Netflix next week, and because I wanna go into rewatching the under-rated YouTube Premium series with a fresh memory, I figured a review of the original series was only appropriate.

I’ll also be covering The Karate Kid on our next episode of my podcast, Media Obscura, so be sure to tune in on your favorite podcast player if you’re jonzing for more Karate Kid content!

The original Karate Kid follows fish-out-of-water Daniel Larusso (played by Ralph Macchio) after him and his single mother have moved from New Jersey to sunny California. Once there, he befriends and falls for a girl named Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue). Unfortunately though, this puts him on the radar of her ex-boyfriend Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and his Cobra Kai being-kickass-is-a-personality friends, who quickly make his life a living hell. Thankfully, Daniel befriends his apartment’s handyman Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), who teaches him how to defend himself/fight just in time for a local karate tournament.

It’s a classic underdog story with an 80’s high school twist. And I mean a classic underdog story. In fact, this movies blueprint very closely matches Rocky, wouldn’t you say? An Italian-American has to earn the respect of someone with way more training/fights under his belt while balancing a burgeoning romantic relationship and training under an older mentor. It applies to both movies pretty well, don’t you think? It certainly doesn’t help that this movie was directed and scored by John G Avlidsen and Bill Conti respectively, two names that also graced the original Rocky. Even Survivor has a song in this movie, Moment of Truth, which was originally written for a Rocky sequel!

And I only bring this up because, and this might be a hot take, I think I actually prefer The Karate Kid to Rocky. I think Rocky is the better, more important, movie between the two (and the Rocky franchise has certainly had a bigger impact on my life for the record) but The Karate Kid is definitely more charming and fun to me.

The Karate Kid comes packed with a fun, bouncy soundtrack (Cruel Summer, You’re The Best, Bop Bop (On The Beach) and Feel The Night are all iconic as far as I’m concerned), as well as a light and playful tone that makes it extremely easy to watch. And, much like in Rocky the highlights of this movie for me have always been the scenes outside of the fight at the climax of the movie. For example, Daniel using a hose on Johnny during the Halloween party and running away from them to New Wave music is incredible and reminds me of when Biff and his Goons chased Marty around Hill Valley in Back to the Future. And Daniel/Ali’s date scene is, I kid you not, one of my favorite date montages in any movie ever. It may actually be tied for the top spot there with the “Just Like Heaven” scene in Adventureland, honestly.

And that’s not to say that the action in this movie slouches either. The fighting definitely serves its purpose here and was probably responsible for a lot of TV’s getting kicked over the last 35 years. But movies like The Karate Kid have always been more about the journey than the actual confrontation and, honestly, that’s just the way it should be. More than anything, this movie is about Miyagi and Daniel’s budding friendship and how Miyagi instills discipline in his life. The best comparison I can make (outside of Rocky/Mickey’s relationship in the Rocky series, obviously) is that their friendship is a lot like Doc and Marty in Back to the Future.

So is The Karate Kid worth watching today? Well, yeah! Watching it is still a delight and it’s an insanely charming movie! Daniel is a mostly likable protagonist and him and Miyagi’s chemistry is a lot of fun to watch.

Definitely check this one out if you haven’ seen it before/haven’t seen it in a while! It’s worth your time!

Check out Media Obscura on your favorite podcast player for more retro movie/TV reviews. And check out our episode on The Karate Kid when it’s out next week if you wanna hear us get into detail over why this is such a fun movie!

We also have a full video version of our podcast episode on The Karate Kid over on our YouTube channel!

Titanic II or: what a $500,000 budget and a Van Dyke triple-threating gets you

It isn’t hard to look at 2010’s Titanic II and laugh. There’s a level of narcism to releasing a movie about a doomed ship called the “Titanic II” while knowing that someone, somewhere, will assume it’s a sequel to James Cameron’s 90’s staple Titanic. That narcism made this a hard enough pill to swallow for me, but it was the lacking cast, minuscule budget and insistence on telling this story straight-faced as opposed to as a comedy that made this one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. And not in an objective, this movie doesn’t know what it’s doing, kind of way. This movie was actively a slog for me to watch. With an hour and a half run-time, you’d be better suited watching half of Camerons classic film on an old 1939 television. And those things had a one inch screen for crying out loud! You wanna know what the resolution was on those old TV’s? Three. Like, yeah. Just three. Three by, I don’t know, three.

Titanic II follows the maiden voyage of an exact replica of the original Titanic. Everything on this ship aside from the mechanical/safety aspects of this ship are 1:1 with the original. The ship is portrayed in this movie via a re-dressed ship known as the Queen Mary, and via one of the lowest polygon CGI models of a boat that I’ve ever seen. You remember the CGI characters in Lawnmower Man? Those were more complex than the ship in this movie.

And look, if it was one low-poly ship I had to worry about, that’d be fine. But it isn’t! This movie also happens to have the worst green screen work that I’ve ever seen. It’s… astoundingly bad. The green screen in this movie, and the reliance on it for the movies Antarctic locations, isn’t endearing. It’s jarring, and it takes you out of the paper-thin plot. But, writer, actor and director Shane Van Dyke (Grandson of the legendary Dick Van Dyke) seemingly insisted on using it as much as he did, as opposed to re-tooling the story or tone of the picture to fit what he had available to him. What resulted from this is a film that looks like/has the premise of a rushed SNL sketch but refuses to shoot for anything short of trying to be the next Die Hard. You know, if the Germans in that movie were blocks of ice or something.

I think I’d be singing a slightly different song about this movie if Van Dyke was able to string together a strong cast or some decent performances but alas, he did not. In fact, I’m kinda convinced Titanic II didn’t have a director. It was just another block of ice. Everything about this movie is like a block of ice. None of the characters try to deliver their dialogue with anything even resembling rhythm or emotion. And I get where they’re coming from here; this is some of the weakest/blandest dialogue I’ve ever had to sit through. For reference, The Room had more realistic and interesting dialogue. At the very least, The Room‘s rambling dialogue about betrayal and Lisa’s mother having cancer was memorable!

Let’s just nip this in the bud right here. This movie, Titanic II, makes me feel gross. It makes me feel a little dirty with how cynically it had to have been made. And I have no doubt that Shane Van Dyke knew he wasn’t making anything memorable here. This film had a budget of $500,000 and it looks like most of that was spent on hair product for the films principal cast. I genuinely wish this movie was fake, that it was some kind of hoax or collective fever dream we all had in the wake of Avatar’s success and it’s revitalization of Camerons career. But as it stands, this movie is just a really bad mockbuster. Probably one of the worst of all time, for what it’s worth. And that’s saying something, given how bad that genre can get.

So don’t watch it. Just don’t. If you wanna exposure yourself to more of this flop, just watch some reviews of the movie on YouTube (or check out our podcast episode on the movie, which is available below and on your favorite podcast player.)

I mean, Titanic II? What’s next, sequels to other Leonardo DiCaprio movies? Wolf of Wallstreet 2: Electric Boogaloo? Catch Me If You Can 2 Fast 2 Furious? Inception 2: Judgement Day?

Honestly, I’d watch those in a heartbeat. Get on it, movie people.

Listen to Media Obscura on your favorite podcast player through this nifty link or through our full video version of the episode on YouTube!

High Score Review (Netflix) – A Crash Course in Gaming

I like video games. How daring and unheard of me, right? For as long as I can remember, I have always been able to find refuge from the troubles of life by sitting down and getting lost in gaming. And not just the latest and greatest games either; most of the video games I talk about and find myself playing tend to be at least a decade old. And I’ve always been like this. A lot of my earliest memories involve buying and playing video games for my Mom’s Nintendo Entertainment System, or playing the Sonic Classics collection on my Dad’s Sega Genesis (MkII) and I’ve always carried a love for the 8 and 16 bit generations because of it.

So High Score is the show just for me, right? It’s a 6 episode Netflix docu-series that runs through the history of video games and showcases the lives of some of the people it’s touched over the years. So it’s a match made in heaven… Right?

Well… Yeah, but no… But mostly yes? Just with some caveats.

High Score is a great show for people that have little to no familiarity with the history of video games. It talks about gaming’s humble roots in the 70s (or the wood-finish era as I like to call it) and how the medium changed and became the juggernaut it is today. It touches on a lot of the big moments in gaming between 1975-1995 and it does so with fantastic presentation as well as a number of primary sources that include game designers, composers and fans that grew up during this era of gaming and would go on to design or work in the games industry in the future. And for that alone, I consider High Score to be a great show that’s worth watching.

But, there are some weird omissions in the show that had me scratching my head a bit. There’s nothing glaringly absent in the documentary series that dampens it’s enjoyability too much, but rather some topics that I feel could have been explored in greater detail, if brought up at all. For example, I thought it was incredible how High Score brought up Fairchild’s Channel F in its premiere episode. The Channel F was the first home video game console with interchangeable cartridges and I was honestly surprised that it got a mention. But I was even more surprised that another Atari competitor from the era, the Magnavox Odyssey, wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the episode. Now, if I had to pick between one of the two systems, I would’ve gone with Channel F, but even just a passing mention of the Odyssey felt appropriate for the show.

Another thing that I had noticed with the series was, what I consider, an over-emphasis on the American video game scene. The series mentions that the US video game market crashed in 1983 and how the crash had never occurred in Japan, but it doesn’t really mention Europe or South America’s video game scene, which could’ve made for some fascinating television. The European market adopted DOS/PC based gaming ini the 80s a bit faster than we did in the US and, despite some time being put into talking about PC gaming in the show, the show never really explains what that was like for gamers on systems like the Apple II, the Commodore 64 or Atari’s line of computers. Likewise, despite having an entire episode dedicated to Sega, the series failed to mention how monumental its success in South America was. For reference, the Sega Master System and Genesis are still being manufactured for the Brazilian market. That’s right. You can still buy a new Sega Genesis in some parts of the world!

I’m sure that these facts were known by the team behind this Netflix Original; they’ve clearly done their homework here, after all. But I guess I was left wishing for a more definitive re-cap of video game history than what we got here. After all, we live in an era where gaming channels on YouTube can produce ˆbroadcast quality documentaries about the history of Tetris, why can’t we get a decent Netflix episode about it? I mean it makes for great television, what-with the involvement of the KGB and corporate espionage and all!

Now, critiques like the ones above can be made for just about any documentary. Documentaries are, as a professor I once had would often say, a genre conceived a bias. The decisions over what goes into a documentary are a deliberate choice and those choices are important in shaping its narrative.

But while I have issues with the narrative of this docu-series, there’s no denying that I loved most of what was in it. The series went to great lengths to show the impact that gaming had on the world, as well as how diverse the people responsible for gamings success were. And, while I am a massive nerd for retro game history that annually binge-watches web series’ like All Your History Are Belong To Us, Play Value, and Splash Wave, I genuinely did learn a lot watching this show. For example, I learned about Jerry Lawson, who invented the technology behind interchangeable video game cartridges as well as Ryan Best, the creator of a (lost) video game protesting the GOP’s anti-gay rhetoric in the 80s, GayBlade. And it doesn’t stop there! I learned a lot of other cool stuff too, such as how Nintendo of America’s Head of Marketing in the 80’s was a woman, and how the first graphical adventure game (Mystery House) was also designed by a woman! Who thought the history of gaming was as woke as it turned out to be? I love it!

And while I think learning about these sorts of things in a documentary is important, especially when it comes to a series about video games (which, let’s be real for a moment, still has a reputation for being a homophobic/misogynist breeding ground), that wasn’t even my favorite part of the series!

The part of the documentary that really stole my heart was the raw enthusiasm of it all! Each of the episodes takes time to follow an individual whose life was changed by video games and the level of love they exhibit for the gaming is delightful to watch. Even for the subjects that don’t work in the medium anymore, you can feel the way that their lives have been shaped by video games and I love it. I know that probably isn’t the best way to describe it, but I do. To try and convey/explain why I liked seeing/hearing from them so much, I think it stems from my relationship with gaming and how generally frustrated I am with the interactions I’ve had with the gaming community over the years. Because, while I love video games from the bottom of my heart, I often find myself thinking about how toxic and competitive gamers can seem from an outsider perspective. So much so that I recently discovered a love for single player experiences that I haven’t had since middle school, because I got tired of being harassed on GTA Online or booted from CS GO lobbies for not being as good as other players or just wanting to play casually. That’s my beast of burden, for sure, but High Score helped me remember how much escapism a good game can bring a person.

Overall, High Score is great. Yes, I wish it went into greater detail over a lot of things (how can you dedicate half of an episode to Atari and not bring up the Atari 2600’s successors, the 5200 and 7800?), but I understand that these decisions had to be made for one reason or another. The episodes come in at around 45 minutes a piece and have an A/B structure that jumps between two different, though related, subjects. And, despite its flaws, the show goes by fast. Like, Sonic the Hedgehog running down a hill in San Fransisco fast.

Check this one out if you’re at all interested in video games, and definitely check out some of the other shows/videos I’ve linked above if you find yourself wanting more video game history.

Enjoy this review? Awesome! Feel free to check out some of my other posts, my YouTube channel, or my TV/Movie Review Podcast!

Rush Hour vs. Shanghai Noon: A Few Comparisons

What’s up everyone, it’s one of your faithful co-hosts here, Raekwon. I know it’s been a while, but I am going to talk to you all about one of my favorite movies of all time. Rush Hour!

Well not exactly, I am going to be talking comparing Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon. In an older episode of the podcast about Shanghai Noon, Nick and I discussed that we noticed several moments that seemed like they were straight out of the movie Rush Hour. Granted, they’re both action comedies starring Jackie Chan, but the dynamic between the two main characters are very similar. For example, Roy O’Bannon, who is played by Owen Wilson, can be described as a well-known and fast-talking thief while Chris Tuckers character in Rush Hour may not have been a thief, but he could definitely be described as fast talking. To me, both of these characters were written to be viewed as polar opposites to Jackie, providing ample opportunity for a few jokes that seemed a little too easy to make.

Nick and I joke about how these movies have quite a bit of jokes that are just based on stereotypes and that a reason why the pair becomes friends in both films is because their differences seem to be too much for them and that they eventually end up having a “we aren’t so different after all” moment. This may be a common movie trope but I by no means intend to shit on it because even though it is something we have all seen done over and over again, I still enjoyed watching it in both films. I did of course enjoy it a lot more in Rush Hour because Shanghai Noon doesn’t have Chris Tucker and he makes every scene better. In fact, during the episode Nick and I make the point that there were some lines that O’Bannon had in Shanghai Noon that would’ve sounded so much better if delivered by Chris Tucker. Which, in my opinion, is a testament to how similar these movies are. But I would say that although they are similar, O’Bannon and Carter are different in terms of their energy. Carter is very hyper and loud, but O’Bannon is essentially Owen Wilson, so he is more relaxed and Zen about everything. Each personality plays off of the seriousness that Jackie brings to the film which provides for some easy comedy.

A lot of that easy comedy does result in jokes that are basically just making fun of Chinese culture or normalizing some stereotypes that are associated with black people but what can I say, it was the late 90s/ early 2000s. Nick and I have such high praise for Rush Hour because it is a classic comedy in our eyes but that is not to say that Shanghai Noon is bad. Rush Hour just seems to do all of the things that Shanghai Noon does but just better (especially the sequels) and that is probably because Rush Hour came out first and they were just trying to capitalize on the success of Rush Hour by following the same formula. I recommend both films because they are both a joy to watch.

If you do reach out to us, hit us up on on Twitter and Instagram (@TheMediaObscura) with your thoughts. Peace.

Listen to our podcast episode on Shanghai Noon from your favorite podcast player or via the embed below!

A Tribute To Youth: Dazed and Confused

Remember your teens? It’s easier for some than others. The years we spend as teenagers are a time dedicated to discovering yourself and growing into the person you going to be for the rest of your life. At least that’s what they tell me. And by they, I mean Uncle Ben. Thanks Uncle Ben.

Honestly, your time in college and the years following them are probably more monumental for a person’s coming of age than high school could ever be. But high school’s still important! It’s when a lot of us started dating or experimenting with drinking and drugs. For many of us, it’s the final moments we spent living with our Moms and Dads before going out into something a bit more like “the real world.” There’s a romance to it.

And it’s that romance that’s makes high school movies one of my favorite sub-genres of film. Pretty in Pink, Grease, and Mean Girls; what do all of these movies have in common outside of their setting? They romanticize the hell out of being a teenager, so much so that they probably did more to fuel stereotypes about high school cliques than they did to dispel them.

And yet, despite definitely having “the romance” of high school at heart. I wouldn’t dare suggest that any of these movies are really about being a teenager. How could I? It’s all too grand! These characters and their problems, while definitely rooted in reality, hardly convey what living in that reality would actually be like.

That’s where Dazed and Confused comes in. Dazed and Confused doesn’t spent much time setting up a large central conflict for it’s characters to resolve and instead follows them through the last day of school. Don’t get me wrong, there are themes of coming of age here/the characters do have a central goal of making the most of the first day of summer, but there’s a lack of urgency to the movie that’s refreshing when placed beside movies like Empire Records and Sixteen Candles.

For those unfamiliar with this movies writer/director, Richard Linklater is the master of telling relatable stories in a slow-burning, thoughtful way. His movies play out so delicately and, despite the common themes of identity and self-actualization that’s found in them, a lot of his movies manage to remain light and energetic.

Dazed and Confused is one of those movies. The idea of a movie that’s built around teenagers aimlessly driving around and looking for a way to ring in the summer probably sounds like a snooze-fest to some, but those scenes hit home in such a unique and timeless way in this film that they serve as a the highlight of the picture for me. The scenes that follow a more conventional sense of action (such as the ones that follow the seniors chasing/paddling freshmen) is fun, sure, but the way those moments fall by the wayside towards the middle of the film is way more interesting. With the exception of one character, O’Bannion (Ben Affleck), nobody even cares about the fact that Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins) was methodically hunted and paddled by a bunch of day-drinking seniors. And that easy going/forgive and forget mentality is so high school, and it can be found everywhere in Dazed.

The movies apparent aimlessness is what makes it so endearing. The way it regulates getting payback on O’Bannion to being a single sequence in favor of a few more vignettes of teenage driving is the perfect description of high school. In other movies, the idea of getting back at the bully would have dominated the second and third acts of the story. But that just isn’t realistic. A movie that dedicates that much screen time to a revenge plot is missing the reality of what being a teenager is like. In real life, Ferris gets suspended from high school, Bender probably goes to juvie, and every other John Hughes character feels at least a bit less triumphant by the end of their respective stories. But by making the final goal of these characters something as vague as getting Aerosmith tickets, Dazed and Confused taps into the experiences that actually stick with teenagers like socializing with friends and the simple act of living.

As much as I love John Hughes movies, they never quite end the way I want them to. I’m not saying I hate the ending to The Breakfast Club or anything, but there’s something a lot more sincere to the way Dazed ends for me. Instead of freezing on Bender on the football field like he just experienced the apex of life, we get a shot of a couple friends on a country road looking for their next adventure. And that just sounds a lot more my high school experience than the ending to The Breakfast Club ever could.

Look, it’s a given that Dazed and Confused is a good movie. It’s got one of the best movie soundtracks of all time, it features a ton of top tier actors before they hit their break, and it’s a great movie to put on and have a drink to. So like… Watch it. Rewatch it? Watch it if you haven’t before and rewatch it if you had. It’s a good one.

Dig this article? No? Aw… Well it’d be a lot cooler if you did. If you wanna hear more of my thoughts on Dazed and Confused, you can do just that by listening to our episode on the 1993 movie from your favorite podcast player! Oh, you could also use this groovy Spotify player:

Was Joel Schumacher’s “Batman and Robin” really that bad?

Batman & Robin (1997) aka Batman and Robin Directed by Joel Schumacher Shown from left: George Clooney (as Batman), Chris O’Donnell (as Robin)

Joel Schumacher’s (may he rest in peace!) take on the caped crusader and his plucky, albeit much whinier, sidekick/boy wonder may have killed the franchise upon it’s arrival in 1997, but is it really the travesty of cinema it’s been made out to be?

Honestly? I don’t think so!

We recently watched this movie for our podcast as a tribute/celebration of the life of Joel Schumacher (who has also directed other beloved/well known films like St Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys and the original Flatliners) and, upon sitting down and expecting the worst from this movie — the three of us here at Team Obscura were actually pretty shocked by how much fun we had here!

Make no mistake, this movie is bad. Really bad. Almost every criticism that has been levied against it over the past 20+ years has been very, very true. But it’s also not that bad. The bat-buttocks, the bat-credit-card and that insanely weird/out-of-nowhere motorcycle scene that belongs in a game of Road Rash are all as strange and jarring as you’d think they’d be… But I don’t know, I had a lot of fun with it all!

I swear, on God, Batman and Robin devolved into a punch-and-kick-laden race in the style of Road Rash at one point. And I loved it.

On a thematic level, Batman and Robin falls flat on its face. The plot makes little to no sense (Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy wants Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze to send the planet back into the ice age so that her plants can… freeze to death?), and the film itself is overstuffed with a mostly needless (albeit pretty heartfelt) subplot for Alfred and the aforementioned motorcycle scene. And yet despite this, I still can’t stop thinking about it! I think it’s easy to get lost in how bad of a Batman movie this is and overlook some delightfully cheesy action sequences and this movie’s extremely 90s set design/cinematography (take a shot every time the camera is tilted more than 30 degrees horizontally, you’ll die.)

Ultimately, I was actually shocked with how much I recommend that people check this one out. It’s certainly not good, but did it really warrant “is Joel Schumacher gay?” being one of the most Googled terms for the director? It’s a movie with Bat-nipples, so I guess I see why people are wondering it but… really?

I dunno, maybe it’s me, but I liked this one. Check it out!

If you liked this article and wanna hear more about my thoughts on Batman and Robin… Cool! You can do exactly that by listening to our podcast episode on the movie from your favorite podcast player or through the ~nifty~ Spotify link below!

A Brief History of How Raekwon Came to Love Star Wars

Hey Everyone,

Its one of your faithful co-hosts Raekwon and I am going to speak about my experience with Star Wars. So, if you are an avid listener of the show then you know that all three of us are fans of Star Wars.

It was not always like that for me though.

In fact, I hated Star Wars when I was a kid, I thought it was way too boring to be as popular as it was. I feel like I should say this before we really get into this. The super fans of the series were always a big reason why I was against getting into it when I was young. When I was in high school people would want to throw things at me when I mentioned that I hated Star Wars. It also always came as a shock to most people because I am someone who has always been into movies and Star Wars is undeniably a classic series. I believe the reason that I couldn’t see myself watching was because I was about 8 when Revenge of the Sith came out and I remember watching that and thinking this is the most entertaining one we have seen but I still thought it was a bit boring because it went over my head. I have two brothers and a Dad that is a straight up nerd so every weekend my Dad would get us together and we would have a “Boys Night”. A normal Boys Night would include either popcorn and a few movies or a video game. Most times we would pick the movie but on some rare occasions my Dad would, and he would always choose something boring. We learned to dread those days that it was my dad’s turn to pick the movie but, I must give him credit for turning me into the nerd I am today. When it was his turn to pick it was movies like Lord of The Rings, Pirates of The Caribbean, and of course Star Wars. All great films but again they went over my head.

My love for Star Wars didn’t start until college. I had worked during the summer and saved up to get an Xbox One (I play PS4 now don’t worry) and one day I saw Battlefront 2 was in the store on sale. I had some money at the time, so I decided to buy and WOW. I thought the game was so realistic in terms of the lightsaber fighting style and the campaign was a ton of fun as well. I genuinely learned so much about Star Wars and developed such an appreciation for how amazing the story is. By this time Episode seven and eight were already released so after playing the game I knew I had to watch all the movies in order. Before Disney Plus was a thing it was damn near impossible to stream Star Wars so for a while, I wasn’t sure how I was going to watch the original trilogy and the prequels.

That issue was solved by none other than Leslie Knope a.k.a. Nick! When we met in our acting class we would hang out and just watch a movie or play video games when we weren’t shooting something and, if I’m not mistaken, over the years we eventually made it through the original trilogy. So, I need to give Nick his credit as well because he played a big role in making me the fan I am today.

Since the end of the Skywalker saga I have been watching The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars so I am still getting my Star Wars fix in terms of TV. I also have dived into Star Wars literature, I picked up this amazing book called Star Wars Bloodline about Leia struggling with politics and I have begun reading the Darth Vader comics which are as cool as they sound but if anyone has any recommendations you could reach out to us on Twitter and Instagram @TheMediaObscura. Peace.