Friday, December 25, 2009

Brimstone vs. Reaper

Today, I'd just like to take a trip down the proverbial memory lane of television land; just to gripe over the shows of yesteryear, which I thought were really worthwhile; in the sense that were both intelligent enough to be worthy of my coach potato watching time... (as well as my blogging time; otherwise I wouldn't be typing up an article on it, duh!) and were both prematurely canceled before their season finale time; hence my griping. And those two shows, which were awfully very similar, to the point where I could have sworn a potential lawsuit would arise somewhere, somehow just didn't make the cut of the fifteen second attention span that drives this country of ours altogether... sad to say. Of course, they both caught my eye; the latter of course being a near rip (no pun intended) of the first one. But then again, I'm not going to blast the series, for its producer is a favorite director of yours truly; (i.e. Kevin Smith of Clerks, MallRats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, etc. fame) and besides, it did have its moments as well, which made it work. So I'd probably go as far as saying that this show was actually made as a sort of love letter (nah, maybe that's too extreme... let's just say as a hats off, or a highly acknowledged nod) to the first show's creators/writers and what have you. The two shows in question of course (listed here chronologically for all of you youngsters out there that are highly lacking in history) are none other than Brimstone and Reaper.

Brimstone was ahead of its time when it first appeared on all of our cathode ray tubes in the fall of 1998. The series dealt mainly with the topic of the soul's redemption; and by that I mean the redemption of Thirtysomething's very own Peter Horton playing the main character Ezekiel Stone, a cop that was murdered in the line of duty, shortly after taking care of his wife's rapist. What follows next was a little case of temporary misplacement with a mild case of amnesia... or maybe the guy was just hammered out of his wits; who knows? But in the little space between being killed on the job and coming back to walk amongst the living once again fifteen years later, he makes a deal with the devil; playing by Gremlins 2: The New Batch's own Donald Trump parody brought to life and delivered perfectly; John Glover. This deal, of course, involves tracking down some escaped souls that just so happened to vacate their highly sulfuresque habitat while the devil was busy polishing up his pitchfork or something. Must have been on a Sunday... for chances are that he was probably watching a televised evangelical broadcast just counting the hours 'til those souls were his and simply got distracted! Who let the three headed dogs out?!? Who knows?

Brimstone Image
John Glover and Peter Horton
in Brimstone
(1998-1999)

Anyways, this very same plot device earned the series a highly reputable cult-following/loyal fan status/whatever-else-have-you type of worthwhile notoriety and some pretty nice petitions asking to bring the show back on the air, once it was canceled after just one mere season! However, the executive big wigs wouldn't have anything of it, and so the episodes were doomed to syndication (from time to time) on the Sci-Fi channel, which has now been renamed Sy Fy. Go figure! Idiocracy at its finest, I tells yah! Pretty soon, Fudd Ruckers will be Butt Fuckers, just like in the movie! Of course, never mind that pretty misanthropic tangent of mine, for I'm still on the subject of comparing one show to the other; only to realize that in so doing, I'm wasting my time since these two shows are almost exactly alike!

So after this cutting edge sci-fi drama was over and done with... we were all treated to the pretty tamer, teenybopper-friendly prime time offering of Reaper... which was almost like a mirror image of the former show in many respects, nearly almost a decade later! This time around, the devil was played by the very talented George Hamiltonesque tan-like figure (which was a little off white at times, depending on your tv's contrast/brightness adjustment) of Ray Wise, which some of you may remember as one of the henchmen in the original RoboCop, or as the sexpot senator with a suicide wish that came about as a result of many of his liaisons coming to light in the Sean Connery/Wesley Snipes flick Rising Sun. And all, while his loving on-screen wife was in a wheelchair, if I remember correctly... what a scumbag! Anyways, who better than to play a role such as this?

The thing about this devil, as compared to John Glover's is that he's more comedic, and over-the-top when it comes to toying with the show's main protagonist Sam Oliver, played by Bret Harrison... however, that may be an understatement since Glover's Brimstone interpretation of the devil was wickedly funny in its own right; take the "Lovers" episode for example; one of my favorites, since he offered Ezekiel a beat up car to drive him from point A to point B, whilst taking the long scenic route to point Z... just to spite him. And all the while of course, demanding that he pay him $36.27, which is the exact change that he carries around in his pocket all the time, since it was all the money that he had left on him at the time of his murder. So I guess, you can really take it with you if you have to come back, that is! Anyways, I don't want to spoil the episode for you all, but let's just say that souls don't necessarily have to be living entities like you and I. Enough said...

Anyways, as I was saying before Ray Wise's version is more over the top, and just a tad bit more commercial friendly. Maybe it was just performed this way to attract a wider fan base, and not fall into the pit trap that its predecessor had succumbed to... a one season only treatment courtesy of sheep minded religious groups that probably protested and gave the show way too much unneeded flack. But c'est la vie with any program that's way too intelligent for the American television culture, that would probably prefer watching fake reality shows like "Who Wants to Dance with the World's Top Lawyer Collecting Alimony from the Next Millionaire Bachellor?" or something... Personally, I think that making the main character (i.e. the devil's bounty hunter, so to say) much younger, and in the company of friends whilst he was still alive and not undead was a nice revamp of the initial concept. There were some similarities still intact, such as the character's love interest not being able to know about his new vocation, (i.e. Brimstone's The Mourning After episode, and just about any of the first season's of Reaper episodes where Sam has to repeatedly put off getting into a relationship with his childhood sweetheart Andi, which oddly enough was cast twice; à la the likes of Eric Stoltz in Back to the Future, with Nikki Reed being eventually replaced by Missy Peregrym.

Reaper Image
Bret Harrison and Ray Wise
in Reaper
(2007-2009)

Another thing that is a constant are the show's side characters, that sometimes wind up stealing the show with their comedic running gags and whatnot. One such character in Brimstone is Lori Petty's quirky and zany character Max always reminding Stone of how out of sync he is with today's technology (i.e. the internet), which only begs the question of just how this show would fare in today's technologically advanced climate which includes just about any and all hi-fi gizmo under the sun out there... all of which can easily be traced by the government's secret surveillance agency; and yet no one was wise enough to figure out that Stone was in fact deceased. Well, except for his first sidekick, which was eventually phased out of the program (actually I think he was executed by one of hell's escapees, if I remember correctly) and replaced by Teri Polo's character Ash, who also wound up being one of the escaped miscreants. Oops! Sorry I forgot to say SPOILER ALERT! here folks... my bad! As a matter of fact, come to think of it, most of the show's characters eventually wound up being terminated by Stone's targets. Had it lasted longer than a year, who knows where it would've gone. Remember, there were only 113 souls that he had to bring back, since I can only guess that that's as many tattoos that the makeup department could successfully etch onto Peter Horton at any given time; whereas in Reaper there was no given number of souls to be brought back (at least not that I can remember off the top of my head) and their manner of execution didn't always rely heavily upon shooting, stabbing, or penetrating their ocular orbits, but rather using a vessel, which was basically an ongoing, random MacGuffin that would change from episode to episode, which would serve as the baddies' extermination device; which would leave both the audience and the main characters to guess as to how it would actually work when the time came to send one of the damned back on a one way trip, all expenses paid ticket back to hell.

What this show essentially would be a blend of was its predecessor Brimstone, with a touch of Ghostbusters, National Lampoon's Animal House (refer to the following line of reasoning for an explanation) and maybe a side of any tween based drama that The CW is notorious for shoving down our throats instead of concentrating on highly more enjoyable/grey matter stimulating wonderful programs such as these two. Another character worthy of an Emmy nod is none other than Tyler Lambine whose brother Bluto Blutarsky-like overtones embodied the character of Bert 'The Sock' Wysocki, which really helped carry the show for the most part with his off-the-wall zany college humor antics (i.e. the kind of dick and fart joke humor that Kevin Smith is notorious for). Rick Gonzales is also noteworthy as the more down to earth anchor for Sock's crass "burp in your face/don't really give a shit as long as I get a burger and a side of fries to go with it!" attitude.

In short, I just want to conclude by saying that comparing one show against the other is not really such a brilliant idea... as a matter of fact, it would be foolish, since both shows function as a whole on their own. Brimstone's just a little darker than the other, since its target audience was intended more for grown up night owls, whereas Reaper was more for the after school geeks. Furthermore, Brimstone came out first, which gives it a solitary reputation as being trey cutting-edge and pushing the envelope of the prime time television landscape at the time; of course don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Reaper didn't do that either, since it successfully combined comedy with live action, that anybody could easily watch and get hooked on in just the tiny scope of just the two seasons that it was on the air. Of course, this is all just another fine example of how one can easily tweak an idea up and repackage it in order to resell it again to the masses. Pretty clever in and of itself, but sometimes the crowd's a little wise to the ratings game and so it gets harder and harder to fool them with something new, when the result is a pretty close facsimile, and that my friends, is the pitfall of any and all instances of modern day entertainment. And yet I still find myself asking the question: why can't they make more shows like these two? Oh well... let's see what happens next, for last I heard they were in the talks of making Reaper a cartoon series. Hopefully it won't go the same route that Clerks: The Animated Series did. And why in the hell did they have to cancel that as well? I'll never know... Oh wait! I forgot, Family Guy didn't have enough momentum yet to challenge the boundaries of the censors yet. So maybe, it could've worked were it on several years after Brian got the shit pounded out of him by Stewie, during the Patriot Games episode, which was basically a nod to Rounders.

This has been P.S. Elliott (AKA: Dr. Gonzo XXVII) playing the part of Sickle and Robair at the TV Tube (AKA: The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog, in other words...)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lego My Ergo...

So, the other day at work while I was trying very desperately to keep from falling asleep at my terminal, I decided to do a little search for some cool computer games, preferably something out of the Lego title line; because it just so happens to be one of my guilty pleasures, and I need some new fix (i.e. monumental waste of time) to keep me going through this terrible economic recession/usury pay off that I'm currently going through.

But first, let me give you a back story as to how I delved into the world of Lego video gaming. It all started about a year or so ago with Lego Star Wars The Original Trilogy; well actually The Sequel... because upon receiving the game, it wouldn't load correctly on my computer. I was running Vista at the time, and wasn't aware of the clever little formatting tweak that one can do to the executable install package using Orca, which I had mentioned in a previous blog entry not too long ago (actually it was quite a while ago, but since I tend to lose track of the time, it's usually hard to remember exactly when it was without referencing it directly, so there you go!).

What appealed to me first and foremost about the game was not only the fact that it was based on my favorite movie from childhood, but because of its straight forward and very easy level of game play; no complicated first person shooters with the thousand or so controls that you'll most likely have to wind up customizing and maybe even sacrificing one or two buttons if your controller doesn't meet the compatibility/number of default button requirements... nothing of that nature; no sir! Sure, I still have to change around the buttons, but at least it's not like I'm programming a friggin' VCR here, folks! Which by the way, I'll have you know, is also very easy in and of itself... but for the sake of comedic continuity, I'll jest.

Another thing that I like about this game is the fact that you have to unlock characters in order to find the secret locations of these special building blocks (i.e. minikits) that will eventually add up to build a vehicle which you can use in the later bonus levels. And of course, the game's not over 'til you collect each and every one of these super blocks in order to build a door which leads into the bonus Lego City level. Sorry if I spoiled the fun for you all, but getting there is really the fun part.

The first time I played this game, I wasn't aware as to how it was exactly that I was supposed to import all the characters that I had unlocked from the previous game (not because I couldn't get the game to work, but because I wasn't exactly clear on whereabouts exactly was it that my game was saved). After doing some searching on this superhighway of intelligent and highly informative infrastructure, hitherto known as the world wide web, I learned that it was simply a matter of looking in my users folder, that is... after making sure that the show hidden folders option was marked off, and then simply checking out the Lucasarts folder located within the local one.

The original trilogy folder, however, was a bit different to locate, since LucasArts apparently didn't have complete control over that game's porting, which explains why it probably stalls every now and again, forcing the know-it-all dweeb of a gamer (like myself) to delete the SWLEGO.BIN file that gets generated and run the game again, thus repeating the process over and over again 'til I'm forced to live in a nursing home whilst starring at an aquarium and wondering why I'm not able to move the goldfish with my joystick controller. To which the nurse says: "But sir! That's not a gamepad that you're moving around... it's your other joystick!" To which I'll say: "Well, no wonder you've had to come in here so often to change my diapers!"

At that time, another company called Giant Interactive was at the helm, doing the programming for this game, which somehow just seemed a little sub par with the games that were developed by Traveller's Tales. Maybe they're both one in the same company, being bought out by a bigger and better empire, who knows? All's I know is that I've never once had an issue with Traveller's Tales games installed on my computer. Well, maybe except for Lego Indiana Jones, (another great game I must say!) which I found out later had some graphics problems due to the fact that I forgot to turn on the Vertical Sync option! Go figure... you'd think they'd tell you about these things!

Anyways, the Original Trilogy (i.e. the first Star Wars Lego game) is located in the Giant folder, which can only be reached by locating the Program Files (x86) folder on your local hard drive. From there, you should be seeing lsw_0, lsw_1, lsw_2, so on and so forth, until you reach 5, since 0-5 makes six, and six are the total number of save games you can save to and load from on these here series of games. Don't ask me why, but I think it has to do with some kinda sick satanic cult thing which is constantly out to sacrifice geek virgins telepathically via the means of cathode tube (or LCD flat screen technology, whichever one you can afford!) governmentally sponsored, privately run, heavily organized and sub-urbanly sponsored, brain washed text messaging/hallucinogenic mind control devices. Of course, their sole purpose is to make us docile so that the visitors from outer space can herd us like the flock of cattle we all really are. So enjoy these fresh cuts of mine, you all mighty Quazark of the Cosmos, generalissimo of Alpha Centauri you!

So, back to the Lego Star Wars II for a moment--- when I first played this game, I played it completely straight through, minus the super story levels, of course, which seem to take like... forever to complete. So after I beat both games, I learned how to successfully import the first collection of unlocked characters from one game onto the other. That was, after several failed attempts, due to the fact that I was only copying the files themselves and placing them in each individual folder. Pretty stupid, I know... but hey! I didn't know it was simply just a matter of copying and pasting the whole folder! So sue me!

Here's a tip for all you die hard gamers... simply play the first level of Episode IV (A New Hope) in order to unlock the other two. And then complete Episode VI (Return of the Jedi) up until chapter 5, which is where you'll get Vader added to your usual lineup. From there on end, it should be smooth sailing, because you'll have a bounty hunter (Leia as Boushh), a dwarf sized character (i.e. Wickett) and a dark forced proned character like Vader, or if you're feeling really cocky (kid), buy yourself The Emperor! Of course, he'll be a bit expensive, so use this advice only at your sole discretion! After that it's simply just a matter of scouting out all the secret minikit locations in free play mode, and saving up to buy your score multipliers, which basically make the whole length of the game fly by overnight!

I have to say that what impressed me the most about this game is the developer's attention to detail. And not detail, as in the landscaped environments which can easily be seen and recognized from the film; even though it's not exactly in the film itself; but it's the little things that draw my attention. For example, C-3PO's adventures on Tatooine calls upon the use of his binary protocol, working with moisture vaporators (remember that from the first film?) to be able to dry up land hazards that'll make continued passage (I mean travel!) possible for the other heroes, to carry on and complete the mission and whatnot. Then there's the womp rats, which we can easily bullseye with either Luke and/or Ben at the helm. Funny, but I just can't imagine the late great Sir Alec Guinness doing somersaults in the air at his age, for some strange reason. So kudos to you Ewan McGregor for bringing it on home! It's the subtle things like this that make me appreciate not only the game, but the movie itself as well. Every time I play these games, it's like that Eskimo mint patty commercial, where I get the urge to watch the film all over again. Don't ask me why... it's just one of those things, I guess!

So, getting back to where this post all started, as I was doing a search for the latest PC Lego games, I was surprised to learn that they finally ported Star Wars: The Complete Saga to the PC as well as the sequel to Indiana Jones, which now features the fourth installment; The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Of course, in this case that title will probably become The Kingdom of the Crystal Stud* Piece, since I just shelled a couple of them out to buy it, along with the Complete Saga just to see what it's like! And being the video game junkie that I am, I'm pretty sure I'll be entertained with them for about a week! I just had to have them anyways, which made for the perfect holiday present for yours truly over here, since everyone usually gets me the usual industry standard gifts like aftershave and cologne. Oh well. It's the thought that counts, but a lot of thought going into something never hurts either... which is why I'd like to share with you all my latest and greatest proposal to the Lego Video Games manufacturer; Traveller's Tales. At least, I think that they're the ones mostly responsible for the product development under the helm of LucasArts and what have you! But at any rate, how about Lego Back to the Future?

Lego Back to the Future Image
Here's a little visual aide for test marketing
packaging purposes, maybe...?

Can't you just picture what a monumental hit this game would be if it were made? Think about it... it already has the essential elements to become the latest Lego port. First off, the movie was a trilogy, which is what these games are normally geared towards. Secondly, it had a cartoon based on the movie, which can easily add to the characters and/or unlockables in the game itself. Third, the movies all had a bitchin' soundtrack, and one doesn't have to be a rocket scientist (or a plutonium smuggling time traveling professor) to easily see the studs being counted and racked at the end of each and every level whilst the opening bars of Huey Lewis' tune The Power of Love plays in the background. That is, if Huey doesn't have anything to say about it, I mean after all... remember that whole business with The Ghostbusters' soundtrack? Yikes indeed!

And if they're really cool, how about an alternate Marty McFly (as portrayed by Eric Stoltz) as the ultimate game unlockable. That would really be something... well, that and probably an easter egg which would include all of his taped footage in the first take of the film (that is, aside from him jumping into the DeLorean in the actual film... yes kids, that's right; that was not Michael J. Fox's stunt double!) Of course, maybe exclusive content is a lot to ask for these days, so we'll just have to wait until the industry decides to release a newly repackaged DVD with all the works. So until then, keep your fingers crossed folks! I know I am...

This has been P.S. Elliott (AKA: Dr. Gonzo XXVII - the computer PC game video geek extraordinaire) reporting for the disassociated press, that is... The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.

* Stud, as in a fictional video game monetary units... whatcha think I was talkin' about?!?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Introducing The Top Seven List...

All right people, I'm excited to introduce a new segment to this here blog that'll eventually prove to be a running gag, which will either be a staple for the creative contingent of literary dribble that is the crux of this here blog, or will simply serve as some filler for whenever I'm lacking in really great material. Sorry to do this to you... but at any rate, in the tradition of late night host David Letterman, here's my Top Ten List, or actually Top Seven List because a) I can't think of that many reasons for doing what I do in terms of providing some amusing fodder for an avid reader's digestive intake and b) Contextual imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery, but instead the grounds for a copyright infringement! And since I'm earning slave wages and literally drowning in a sea of debt, here goes...

The Top Seven Signs that You're F*$%ing Off At Work

7) You take one too many needless bathroom breaks... not only during your scheduled lunch hour, but before and after that time. And by needless, I mean; just frequenting the toilet stall to either simply sit down and relax, or to check your hair and/or face to make sure that you haven't accidentally rubbed some correctional fluid all over yourself as you were just wiping your nose after the air conditioned sinuses kicked in... and that's usually after you spot some error on your respective paperwork. You see how that works, boys and girls? It's all rigged, I tells ya!

6) If your idea of perfectly scheduled bio rhythmic office hours include a time frame of about approximately 10:30 in the morning 'til about 5:00 in the afternoon is not coinciding or simply conflicting with just the regular 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM office grind, then chances are that you take the sleep deprivation cake on this one!

5) If you browse the internet constantly, despite the continuous amount of warnings from your network computer specialist who will most likely hold a great amount of passive aggressive contempt for your bored to death ass; simply to buy stuff on eBay, check the stock market to see how your shares are doing, or log in and out of Facebook, Twitter, and/or MySpace (preferably all of them in any given setting, simultaneously with all of your respective browser's tabs open all at same time!) only to ring him up and ask if he can fix your computer because it just "stalled on you unexpectedly" then chances are you deserve a medal for your dedicated work as an evil genius...

4) You order your meal for the day (be it breakfast, brunch, lunch, and maybe even dinner if you expect to work late) from any given restaurant chain out there that provides delivery and charge it to your companies' credit card that your office's accounting department just can't balance out to save their lives with. I mean, it's not like they're really going to figure this petty little $29.95 Chinese food expenditure with the highly generous $50.00 tip right away. After all, they've got miles and miles of paperwork to catch up on. What's that? It's 2009 already?!? We're still on the 2005 time zone. Sorry!

3) If you have your iPod, walk man, or any other portable audio listening device surgically attached to your head with the volume level turned on at full blast while they're paging you on the office intercom and/or your boss is standing approximately less than two feet away trying to get your attention. At times like these, it helps to engage in a handy little tunnel vision effect that requires you to appear as though you're really consumed by whatever it is that you're doing, just so as to give the appearance that you actually care enough about your job, but need just a little fix of decaffeinated heroin to get by your busy and regularly scheduled work day...

2) You've successfully managed to delve into the whole concept of Life Imitating Art Imitating Life by saving an image of the infamous Dunder & Mifflin Paper Company logo from The Office in order to use it as your desktop wallpaper at work, just to illustrate a highly obscure inside-joke-of-a-point as to how much of an incompetent individual you really are for whatever job it is that you may be assigned to be doing; highly efficiently and/or otherwise...

Work Computer Image
Yes indeed, the proof
is in the pudding...

1) You actually have the brass to sit down and type up such a foolish list such as this one while you're bored to death at work... need I say more?

This has been the overtly underachieving inefficiency expert P.S. Elliott or the exceedingly laid back Dr. Gonzo XXVII reporting for the disassociated press, that is... The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.

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