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!
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 wasthe 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.
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.
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:
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!
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!
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.
I’ve got a bone to pick with Scrubs. Actually, not with Scrubs itself, but with the circumstances surrounding the classic 2000’s medical comedy series. It’s a problem that I came to recognize about a year ago as I was preparing to do an episode about the show for my movie and TV review podcast. You see, Scrubs is a great show. It really is. It’s got fun and memorable characters, simultaneously heartfelt and subversive comedy, and a varied and catchy soundtrack that could fill an entire iPod with songs worth singing to. I genuinely consider Scrubs one of the most binge-ready shows of all-time and regularly mention it as one of my favorite comedies shows.
But, whenever I boot the show up on Hulu, I can’t help but think about a major problem I have with watching the show in the modern era.
So what’s my problem with the show?
There isn’t an “perfect” way to watch Scrubs in 2020.
Hear me out. I’m not saying there’s a bad way to watch the show, per-say, nor am I saying that the show isn’t worth watching in 2020. I’m simply pointing out that there isn’t a truly ideal way to take in the quality television that is Scrubs. And that problem starts with the lack of a quality remaster for the series.
You see, Scrubs came out and was aired on NBC in the early 2000’s, the final stretch for standard definition broadcasting. As a result of this, seven of the nine series of the show were never aired in HD, nor were they edited to accommodate that resolution or the bump to a 16:9 aspect ratio that came along with it. Essentially, with the advent of HDTV’s in the mid 2000’s, things started to change and Scrubs’ presentation quickly started to look dated. There’s simply no denying this, and as much as I love retro/standard definition media, the shows 480p presentation and 4:3 aspect ratio probably does it more harm than good these days. For casual TV viewers, starting a classic episode of Scrubs means having to deal with “bad quality” and watching the show in “a box” as opposed to in crystal clear HD and in widescreen and, as shallow a statement as that may sound, you can’t really blame them for wanting to watch something in the current standard for entertainment.
Which leads to the question: Why not remaster it? That’s an option, isn’t it?
Well, simply put, it probably just doesn’t have the sort of return of investment (ROI) to justify the labor of remastering a show that ran for 182 episodes and was never much of a titan in the ratings. When it comes to taking a Standard Definition program and remastering it in HD, there isn’t a CSI-style “enhance” button that can blow the series up to high definition. Instead, the series would likely need to be meticulously re-edited using the original negatives and assets from when the show was produced, in order to try and perfectly match the series we know and love. On top of that, FX shots would need to also be reconstructed as much as possible, recreated with new assets or techniques to closely resemble the original shots, or rely on upscaled shots from the DVD release of the series to compensate for any missing shots that can’t be recreated. It’s a huge undertaking that doesn’t typically happen for television shows, unless they’re touted as pop culture landmarks or are a part of “prestige” TV. And in the case of a show as long running as Scrubs, it’s likely that doing this won’t come cheap either, given the number of episodes it has and the number of licensed songs in its soundtrack that would likely need to be relicensed (a bit more on that in a second).
So, while the peeks at an HD version of Scrubs that we saw in it’s final season (and spin-off that refused to call itself one) are salivatingly easy on the eyes, an HD remaster of Scrubs is largely out of the cards. A guy can dream though (and dream I do, it’s actually a dream of mine to get to work on an HD version of the show and to dive into the series with as much love as The X-Files HD remaster got).
Until then, there’s always streaming the standard definition episodes…
That’s not to say the series isn’t inaccessible though. Quite the contrary, it’s actually easy to watch Scrubs online due to it being available for instant streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime in standard definition. Which brings me to my next problem…
Streaming a standard definition show on an HD television is less than ideal.
I watch a lot of SD content still and let me tell you, it isn’t pretty. The bigger your screen and the higher the resolution of it, the worse off you’re gonna be. Without diving too deep into the technical side of things, standard def content goes through a lot of upscaling to fill a 4K television. In fact, a 480p signal has to be upscaled roughly 20 times to take up the appropriate amount of room on a 4K screen. Have you ever tried zooming into something 20 times? Suffice to say, the picture looks (as the kids say) like it was shot on a potato.
That, in itself, isn’t the worst of it though. With the right settings on your TV, the right connection between a streaming device and your TV, and a device that can handle some of the upscaling before your TV has to do some of the dirty work itself, you can get some pretty alright looking results out of upscaling SD content.
But, I think some of the other problems that come with watching Scrubs through a streaming service are more likely to (at least somewhat) outweigh the convenience of its accessibility.
For me, the biggest deal breaker with watching Scrubs on Hulu (which is admittedly the way I usually watch Scrubs) is the bitrate.
At this time, Hulu streams SD content at a bitrate of 1.5-3Mbps, which is over half of the maximum video bitrate of a DVD, and below the standard DVD bitrate which fluctuates between 3-6Mbps. In layman’s terms, this video is compressed. Darker/higher action scenes are going to have more visual artifacts on it, some colors will appear inaccurately or simplified on screen, and details can be buried under a haze of data-management.
That’s not to say that the DVD’s are going to look jaw-dropingly better than what’s on Hulu, but is definitely an improvement. It also helps that the DVDs for Scrubs have its original soundtrack in place.
This one is a minor gripe for me and is one that I’m less qualified to talk about, so I’ll keep it brief. Essentially, the version of Scrubs on streaming has different songs edited into the background of multiple episodes/scenes. This was likely done to avoid having to renegotiate licensing those songs (I told you that would come up again!) and honestly, while I’m bummed about some of the changes and how they dampen some of the shows better moments, I’ve grown largely accustomed to them and am fine with them if it means being able to conveniently watch the show. The musical changes don’t change the context of every scene they’ve been made to, so while having the original music would have been great, I’d hardly consider it a dealbreaker for me. There are even some pretty funny moments on the streaming version of the series where the subtitles will incorrectly attribute a song that’s playing in the background of a song with it’s DVD counterpart, as opposed to the stock music knock-off of the song that it was replaced with.
But ultimately, while Scrubs definitely looks better on DVD than it does on streaming, it still has one major problem.
DVD’s are inconvenient in 2020.
Look, I love DVDs. I’m saying this as I sit next to a literal bookshelf of DVDs and VHS tapes in the basement of my childhood home. I still buy DVDs and think that the format has a lot going for it. Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, I love physical media and can never see myself giving up on actually getting to own TV/movies in the form of a compact disk.
But dear God, are DVDs an inconvenience in 2020.
My main issue with trying to watch Scrubs on DVD is that, while clearly better than what’s on Hulu/Amazon Prime, the improved picture quality isn’t better enough to justify relying on a disc to watch the entire series.
And this isn’t just because a single digit difference in bitrate isn’t that much of a feast on the eyes; this really just comes down to the the resolution still being magnified by 20 in order to upscale the content to fit a 4k TV. And while I’ve gotten better results by using the old 720p TV I had in high school to watch the series, along with the Standard Definition CRT TV my Dad had from when I was a kid to get what I genuinely believe is the best picture quality I’ll ever see for the show… none of that is remotely practical for the average viewer.
That CRT setup I just mentioned; that’s, no question, the best way to watch the show. The resolution matches what DVDs are capable of outputting, the scan lines that CRT’s are synonymous with are able to help hide compression/artifacts in the picture, and the fuzz and warmth of an old-school TV go a long way to really drive in the nostalgic feelings I have towards the series. For anyone versed in retro gaming, watching Scrubs on DVD with a CRT TV makes as much sense as playing the NES on a Sony Trinitron. Everything is compatible with everything, all is right in the world. Cue Lazlo Bane.
But how many people have a CRT laying around? And how many people are even gonna be able to convince their friends to watch something on a DVD these days? If part of the appeal of Scrubs is how great of a show it is to unwind after a long day at the office, doesn’t jumping through those hoops to get the best viewing experience for the show nullify how comforting the show is?
While this is the ideal way to watch the show, it’s far from perfect.
Is there another way to watch Scrubs?
Yep! One more! What was that format the series initially aired on?
Yes, Scrubs is still in syndication. In fact, it’s on pretty often, from what I can find online. There’s just one problem…
It’s in widescreen.
This one really bothers me. Like I mentioned earlier, Scrubs was shot on Super 16 film, which natively captures a widescreen image. This would, somewhat instinctively, make you think that Scrubs being on TV in widescreen would have to mean that it’s using that entire Super 16 frame, right?
Frankly, this is the worst way to watch the show. Besides the mild inconvenience of not being able to watch it whenever you want, you’re technically getting “less” of the show due to the cropping. You’re also watching a very compromised version of the series that is being presented in a way that the shows cast and crew definitely didn’t intend for it to be shown in. And as if that isn’t enough, you’re still getting an upscaled version of the episode, complete with the various compression issues I mentioned earlier. If anything, that unnecessary cropping is deteriorating the picture quality even further, but zooming in by an additional 50% to prevent pillarboxing (those black bars you see when you watch 4:3 content on a widescreen TV) on the sides. You do get the original music though, so… that’s a thing.
So what’s the takeaway here?
The main takeaway here is that, despite all of my vamping above, Scrubs is still top tier comedy. It’s such a good, well crafted series about friendship, coming of age and medicine, that I can complain about how much of a pain it is to watch with modern technology and follow that all up with a casual, “but it’s you good. You NEED to watch it!”
Even without a “perfect” way to enjoy the series, I can’t recommend it enough. JD, Turk, Elliot, Carla, Dr. Cox and the rest of them are some of my favorite fictional characters of all time and I genuinely find new things to love about the series every time I watch it.
And that’s pretty special when you think about it. We often view flaws as reasons to not enjoy something but, in some cases, it might be worth overlooking them when we think we’ve got something special on our hands.
For me, I’ve come to be okay with dealing with compressed image quality when it means getting to watch one of my favorite comedies on the subway to work. After all, it’s not like there’s some evil suit at a TV Network somewhere that’s actively trying to prevent us from watching this show. On some level, I’m actually grateful to be able to watch Scrubs to begin with, to be able to do it with some semblance of convenience, and to be first-worldy enough to be able to complain about that convenience on the internet.
I dunno, that’s just my take on things. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to Zach Braff and Donald Faison’s incredible Scrubs rewatch podcast, Fake Doctors, Real Friends.
Battle Beyond the Stars is a 1980 space opera/sci-fi film that was produced by Roger Corman, the fabled king of b-movie, exploitation and independent filmmaking, at a modest budget of $2,000,000 USD.
Isn’t that a weird thing to say? “A modest budget of two million buckeroos.”
Believe me, it is modest. For a feature length science fiction film that features exotic create designs, dogfights in space, and surprisingly good visual effects, it’s a miracle this thing cost that much to produce.
The film is a soft-retelling of the classic western The Magnificent Seven, which was in itself a retelling/remake of Akira Kurosawa’s iconic film Seven Samurai. Never heard of it? It’s the song that The Barenaked Ladies referenced in their hit single One Week. In this version of the movie, we follow a plucky youth named Shad who must assemble a team of mercenaries to help him defend his pacifist home planet Akir from the homicidal tyranny of Lord Sador.
It has a passing resemblance to a movie that takes place in a galaxy far, far away…
Alright, it’s a bit more than a passing resemblance. It’s… well, it’s very Star Wars. The film was clearly produced, in typical Corman fashion, to cash in on the success of the original Star Wars film (later subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope). And with its 1980 release, Battle Beyond the Stars was also double dipping by being released only a few months after the followup to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back. Why, the films soundtrack even alludes to moments from the respective scores of A New Hope and Empire and it’s (simultaneously talented but not given much to work with) cast even are clear composites of the characters found in A New Hope.
But is that such a bad thing though? I honestly think that comes down to personal preference. For me, I’ve always been partial to camp in cinema and can entertain the idea of watching “Star Wars-lite” without thinking much of it. Sure, the film is very derivative of both The Magnificent Seven and Star Wars and sure, the film isn’t going to win any awards for what it tries to do with these similarities; but I genuinely felt myself having a lot of fun with this one. The movie itself is slight and doesn’t do anything to really stand out, but I genuinely felt something genuine in it’s execution because of that.
When all’s said and done, this movie is unremarkable… In a good way!
I think there’s a particular quality to the brand of carelessness that went into films like Battle Beyond the Stars. While produced quickly and with the sole intention of cashing in on the success of one of the first true blockbusters, the movie has a level of endearment to it that I struggle to find in newer cash-grab/straight-to-video movies. I feel like movies coming out today that are trying to accomplish the same goal as this film are usually more phoned in and intend to use the label of “so bad it’s good” as a means of justifying an inferior product. But that’s nowhere to be found here. Yes, this movie was made quickly and for little-to-no-money (again, given the scope of the film itself). But it also exists as a complete, thought out, albeit not well thought out, motion picture. While seemingly self-aware of how over the top it is, Battle Beyond the Stars doesn’t try to lean too heavily on that in the name of irony and, as a result, is a much more genuine movie going experience than a lot of people might assume it would be.
Simply put, the movie is unremarkable but competent, which puts it a mile above more recent cash-in movies that aim to be remarkably incompetent in the name of “irony” or because the filmmakers love the B-movie genre. And to me, that made it a lot of fun to watch.
Oh, and this is the movie that gave James Cameron his big break. He was behind this movies special effects and garnered a really warm reception for his work here, which was honestly well warranted. While nowhere near the technical level of visual trickery found in Empire or A New Hope, Cameron really showcased some clever effects and work in this movie and was recognized for the effort. In a weird way, this movie helped set him on his path to box office dominance in the later half of the decade, through to the modern day. Without ˆBattle Beyond the Stars, we may have never gotten Terminator, Terminator 2, Aliens, True Lies, Titanic or Avatar and it’s quarter-million sequels that may-or-may-not ever get released.
If you wanna hear more about our thoughts on Battle Beyond the Stars, check out our podcast episode on the movie! It’s available on every major podcast player, as well as on YouTube as a full video episode!
Written by Nicholas Abouhamad for The Media Obscura
The latest episode of The Media Obscura Podcast is out now on your favorite podcast player! This weeks episode follows Nick and Raekwon as they check out/discuss The Addams Family Reunion, a straight-to-video pilot for a new Addams Family movie that was produced by Saban Entertainment.
The movie follows the Addams as they scramble to find a cure for ‘Waltzheimers disease,” before it completely eradicates the eccentricity of Gomez’s grandparents. Along the way, they end up at a family reunion for a different Adams family and mistake them as long-lost relatives. At this reunion, Gomez goes up against a crazed psychiatrist, while Fester releases a hair-eating demon dog and Pugsly crushes on someone that he thinks is his cousin…
Oh, and there’s a subplot about that crazed psychiatrist trying to kill his sickly Dad in order to get his inheritance of something.
Speaking honestly, the movie isn’t great. It has a few decent laughs, a very strange commercial-like pace, and a shoestring budget that really shows in it’s computer generated effects. And while I’m personally a sucker for weirdly paced movies with the budget of a liquidating dollar store, these are not reasons to ever check out a movie.
But you know what this movie does have that’s unique, attention grabbing and all-around kinda cool.?
Now don’t get me wrong, Ol’ Timmy boy is barely trying in this thing. In fact, he doesn’t even try to disguise his distinctive accent. But despite this, the Sweet Transvestite puts on a performance that is equally cerebral, aloof, lovely, and twisted as Gomez Addams. Well, as much as he can given the character he’s playing.
As a longtime Addams Family fan, I was very disappointed in this movie. It felt like a very sanitized take on the characters, the result of simplifying their morbid and macabre tendencies until we ended up with characters that were more cartoony than they were developed. That’s not to say the Addams can’t be silly and over the top, I’d argue that the two early 90s movies prove that they can excel at it, but this movie lacked a bit of the edge that made those interpretations of the characters so memorable. It also doesn’t help that the movie itself feels woefully miscast. I won’t dive into the details here, but it’s baaaaaaad. Fester Addams, one of my favorite characters in other 90s movies, is outright annoying in this movie.
I’m honestly at a loss for words with this movie. It had a lot of pacing issues and didn’t really do much to introduce us to this version of the Addams, aside from establishing that they don’t like things that are “normal.” And like, okay. That’s kinda par for the course with The Addams Family, but they didn’t do much of a good job there either. Take the second episode of the original Addams Family for instance. It’s a story that accomplishes the same exact thing this feature-length movie set out to do, and does a much better job of it despite only being 20 minutes long. It also does this with much less elaborate staging, and at a fraction of the cost.
At the end of the day, do I recommend this movie? Not really. I could see the argument being made that this would make for a perfect ‘turn it on for the noise’ kind of movie, or something you could get a few laughs out of with some booze and good company. As for viewing this as an actual piece of entertainment… Well, just stick to just about any other take on the characters.
But still, Tim Curry was pretty cool in it.
If you wanna hear more about what I thought about this movie, as well as the thoughts of my faithful co-host Raekwon on the matter, be sure to check out the latest episode of our show, The Media Obscura Podcast!
Remember mixtapes? Weren’t those sick? Something happened when digital music took over, people stopped making mixtapes. At least, I think something happened. I grew up in the digital age of music and wouldn’t know, honestly. But I have seen a ton of 80s and indie movies so I know that the art of the mixtape is sacred and must be maintained in this digital age.
Mixtapes meant something. They were meticulously curated expressions of the hearts and minds of their creator, and they spoke to what makes music such a personal experience. I mean if you think about it, it’s kinda a wonder that songs written years and years ago can still resonate with people living in an almost entirely different world. And yet, that’s exactly what happens to me whenever I put on a Joni Mitchell song, or listen to a bit of Miles Davis. I may not know either of them, and they may have been leading very different lives to the one I’m living, but their music is still so powerful.
I actually find myself making “mixtapes” pretty often. I guess I’m what one would consider playlist addict, constantly building lists of music that speaks to me and throwing it in the general direction of my friends/family. I just love putting together themed playlists and using them for a day or two before moving onto the next one I suppose. Now that I think about it, I guess mixtapes aren’t really gone; they’ve just been supplanted by Spotify playlists.
Which brings us to why I’m starting this series. Every so often, I’m gonna be compiling a wide variety of songs and music for people to check out and listen to and sharing it here on the blog. Some volumes might be themed, some may not be. Some may even have some narration between the songs.
Volume 1: An introduction to rhythmic ceremonies
For this first mixtape, I’ve decided to go with the theme of “rhythm.”
How vague, I know.
My idea behind this mix was to start things off on the right foot by queuing some Pop, RnB, and soundtrack tunes from the past 50 or so years in order to show that, genres and time signatures aside, music of all kinds can really get you moving.
On top of that, a lot of these songs are personal favorites of mine and I couldn’t help but want to put them in the first mixtape I’m sharing online because of what they mean to me.
Here are a couple of my highlights from the playlist…
Deep End – Lykke Li (so sad so sexy)
This one has kinda been my jam for the past few weeks, superseding a handful of other Lykke Li bangers in order to get onto this list. It’s off her latest record, so sad so sexy, which finds the Swedish vocalist in full trap-RnB mode. The entire album is loaded to the brim with great beats and melodies to dissect and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re into this song. I also highly recommend her proceeding album, I Never Learn, which found her expressing a heart in devastation after a bad breakup.
D.J. – David Bowie (Lodger: 2017 Tony Visconti Mix)
Anyone that’s known me for longer than, say 20 minutes, knows I’m a diehard David Bowie fan. It’s just one of the infallible truths of the universe, I suppose. D.J. is off of Bowie’s 1979 record Lodger, which caps off his famous Berlin Trilogy of albums. Those records found Bowie steering into the avant-garde more completely than he ever had leading up to then, and the period yielded Bowie favorites like Sound& Vision, Heroes, and Beauty and The Beast.
D.J. is a song that revolves around a self-absorbed disc-jockey who has let his popularity go to his head and infect his mind with a narcissistic haze. So it’s basically what’s gonna happen to me if this whole mixtape schtick takes off.
Oh, and Tony Visconti’s 2017 mix of the original song really brings it to life. The original mix of this song wasn’t that bad to begin with I suppose, but Lodger as a whole really benefited from Visconti’s fresh coat of paint.
Only You – Steve Monite (Doing It in Lagos: Boogie, Pop & Disco in 1980’s Nigeria)
It isn’t a Nick playlist without a completely out of nowhere, how-did-you-even-find-this, selection finding it’s way into the mix.
I found this song back in 2018 when Theophilius London and Kevin Parker from Tame Impala released a one-off single that was a cover of this song. And let me tell you, I was changed after I heard this song. The groove and desperation in the lyrics/vocals immediately make me imagine being in the smokey back of some scotch-stained limo in the back of LA in the 80s. And that’s just the cover we’re talking about; the original recording (which is what I’ve featured on the mixtape) is on another level entirely. The drum programming here, with it’s drum effects swirling around that keyboard (?) bass line is to die for. Killer.
But that brings us to the end of the first Mixtape Obscura! I hope you dug it and that you found some music worth adding to your own playlists! If you liked what you heard, wanna share some love, or have recommendations for future themed mixes or songs you’d love to share with me, feel free to hit me up in the comments or on any of The Media Obscura’s social pages! We’re @themediaobscura on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook 🙂