Entertainment Industry Nostalgia: April 1990

The “Ha!” comedy Channel on cable TV begins transmitting.  Wrestlemania VI, Ultimate Warrior fights Hulk Hogan.  World’s largest bunny hop at Radio City Music Hall (NYC).  Madonna starts her controversial Blond Ambition Tour in Tokyo, Japan.  Hubble space telescope is placed into orbit by shuttle Discovery.

 

Music

Honorable mention to the soundtracks that have their fans but that I can’t personally get into: The Lightning Seeds: Cloudcuckooland; Fleetwood Mac: Behind the Mask (I was never into this band, though it was difficult to get through the 90s without hearing them mentioned); Suzanne Vega: Days of Open Hand (won a Grammy); Lou Reed and Jon Cale: Songs for Drella; Barry Manilow: Live on Broadway (eventually reached Platinum status); A Tribe Called Quest: People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm; The Dead Milkmen: Metaphysical Graffiti; Hunters & Collectors: Ghost Nation; The Afghan Whigs: Up in it.

En Vogue: Born to Sing

This is the type of music you would expect to hear in those gangsta teenage/adult flicks that have a romantic main plot or subplot to it.  Decent music to fit those type of films where they couldn’t think of something better to play over the opening or closing credits of a 90s film.  But in all seriousness, this did make Platinum, so it has to be up there for consideration.  It may not be my type of music, but this is some definitive 90s hip-hop, soul, and r&b.  “Strange” is the track that stood out for me.

 

Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet

Now while I usually don’t prefer giving significant mention to rap groups (because rap isn’t really my kind of music), when we’re dealing with Public Enemy, and with the album that released the track Fight the Power, I kind of have to make an exception.

 

Green Day: 39/Smooth

Yep.  The debut album from Green Day.  You know their name.  And as far as debut albums go, this is a pretty damn good one.  Top song pick: I Was There.

 

That Petrol Emotion: Chemicrazy

This was supposed to be the “make or break” album, their “do or die” attempt.  Some say it is the best stuff the band has ever put out, and is one of the best hidden gems of music out there.  Which pretty much says all you need to know as to whether or not the Irish alternative rock band made it.  They didn’t.  But there is this stuff to look back on and remember them by.  And I have to admit, this album isn’t half bad.

 

Death Angel: Act III

A band that attempted to be the next Metallica, and many would argue they succeeded when they released this album.  Considered their magnum opus.  Unfortunately, they would break up soon after this album’s release, but reunite during the next decade to release some more albums.  Personally, I think the album is just ok.  No single track is fantastic or terrible.  The whole thing is consistent, and decent.

 

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: The Good Son

Huh.  I’m honestly at a loss for words for this one.

 

Johnny Gill: Johnny Gill

So this isn’t an album I would listen to.  But, this is one of those albums whose style screams 90s.  Well ok, so it’s more like mid-80s to early 90s, which is basically when this style of music called New Jack Swing burst onto the scene, but it was definitely prevalent during much of the time period.  It had 4 hit singles: “Rub You the Right Way,” “My, My, My,” “Wrap My Body Tight,” and “Fairweather Friend.”  While I wouldn’t purchase the album to listen to, I would eat up these songs when they play in a movie or 90s tv show.

 

Warrior Soul: Last Decade Dead Century

Fairly good grunge rock album before Nirvana came along and popularized the genre.  A pity they ended up not catching on to popularity.

 

Consolidated: The Myth of Rock

This one is interesting.  That’s all I’ll say.  This is one of those strange hip-hop, hard-rock, and industrial mash-up styles.

 

Fugazi: Repeater

Interesting punk-rock style, which basically has some genre titled post-harcore.  Well whatever you want to call the style, the album itself, it’s not bad.

 

Beats International: Let Them Eat Bingo

Some damn infectious funky stuff.  If you should ever seek this album out, try to get the out of print Japanese 2-disc release.  Otherwise, it might either be missing a couple songs, or trimmed down a few.

But anyway, the album of the month for me would have to be, undoubtedly:

 

Bathory: Hammerheart

Now this is more like my kind of metal.  And not just metal, but Viking Metal!  In fact, one could argue they created the genre, starting in 1988 with their album Blood Fire Death; only to completely define the genre here with this album.  Just listen to this epic masterpiece (assuming it’s your kind of music, like it is for me).

 

Now for my highlights for films of the month.

Movies

Honorable mention to a film called Spaced Invaders.  Not because it’s good, but because it’s a notorious piece of shit.  And there’s this horror film called The Guardian which has a bit of a cult status, but I personally didn’t think much of it.  Some people who like Ernest will likely enjoy Ernest Goes to Jail, but I didn’t find that movie all that appealing; but it does highlight kiddie 90s humor at some of its most extreme.  With that out of the way…

Cry-Baby

The only real reason to mention this movie is because this was Johnny Depp’s performance that put him in the spotlight.  Otherwise, the film itself is a lesser version of Grease, and just meh overall.

 

Mister Johnson

While I don’t personally enjoy this movie myself, it has become revered as a classic that isn’t all that well known.  It’s about a black African who was more or less raised as a British person, and how both those cultures end up clashing with each other in the worst ways.  He embodies the best and worse traits of both, which inevitably leads to a tragic albeit fitting conclusion.  A film misunderstood back in the day, and deserves a chance.

 

Q&A

An interesting enough police procedural, with Nick Nolte giving a great performance.  That is all.

 

Miami Blues

Bit of a cult classic, with a role that Alec Baldwin is actually good in (because he plays an asshole).  Sort of like Payback in that you get ready to root for the bad guy.  And this film doesn’t beat around the bush with his character, he stays villainous, with only small slivers of good that temporarily peek though, until the very end.  And this film had the plot of a criminal stealing the identity of a police officer before that show Banshee did it decades later.

 

I Love You To Death

This is one of those movies I wouldn’t enjoy so much, if I didn’t know that it was based on a true story, and some of the most insane events that take place during the film’s second half actually happened.  Truth is stranger than fiction.  This would be the most criminally overlooked film of the month if not for…

 

Backtrack (aka Catchfire)

I reviewed this film.  A misunderstood masterpiece that has been crippled by a theatrical cut, only for the Director’s Cut (the way it is meant to be seen) to pass by largely unnoticed, only given a VHS release.

 

Now for my highlights for videogames of the month.

Games

There was sort of a sequel to Metal Gear called Snake’s Revenge that came out on the NES, but that’s one of those Metal Gear titles everyone would like to forget about.  There was also a Fist of the North Star release for Game Boy, the system’s first fighting game.  But it didn’t seem all that great, despite the existence of a few people who seem to enjoy it.

 

NAM-1975 (April 1990; Arcade, Neo Geo)

Gotta point out the first major Neo Geo game.
Galaxian 3 (April 1990; Arcade)

This wasn’t just an arcade game.  This was a motherfucking 90s event!
Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road (April 1990; NES)

Oh yes.
Phantom Fighter (April 1990; NES)

Pinbot (April 1990; NES)

 

 

Tecmo World Wrestling (April 1990; NES)

Some call this the greatest wrestling game of all time.  Eh, I don’t know about that, but many loved it back then.
Super C (April 1990; NES)

The sequel to Contra.  And it was better.

 

 

WCW World Championship Wrestling (April 1990; NES)

Well, they weren’t going to let Tecmo have all the fun.  So here’s the other good NES wrestling game:

Wrath of the Black Manta (April 1990; NES)

Despite just about every video reviewer bitching about this game today, it holds a lot of nostalgia for many, who still proclaim this game to be good for a Shinobi knockoff.  It may be inferior to Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden, but it had its fans.

Xexyz (April 1990; NES)

Oh lord yeah!

Air Diver (April 1990; Sega Genesis)

Well, the Sega Genesis had to have at least one decent one.  The system was still just getting going.  It would get better titles and be more capable of competing with Nintendo down the road.  Until then, this was their Top Gun (more like Firefox, the Clint Eastwood film).

Nemesis (April 1990; Game Boy)

Basically an inferior port of Gradius.  But everything on the Game Boy was inferior, so…

 

 

Heiankyo Alien (April 1990; Game Boy)

This game is unique and weird, and that’s all I’ll say.

Flipull (April 1990; Game Boy)

Man, just when I thought the Game Boy had no more surprises in it, we get this unique little puzzler.  There’s a Famicom version with better graphics.

 

 

 

TV Shows

Afterdrive (April 1, 1990?; Ha!)

The Ha! channel before it became Comedy Central.  They had this little show with Dennis Leary and Billy Kimball.  Never saw it, but people seem to remember it for Dennis, the theme song, and a couple comedy sketch bits that they retained in their memories over the years.

 

Marshall Chronicles (April 4 1990; ABC)

Only ran for one season.  Many loved this show, but it never had enough viewers to keep it maintained.  The fans claimed it had a great combination of intellectual and slapstick comedy.

 

 

Shannon’s Deal (April 16, 1990 – May 21, 1991; NBC)

Shannon's Deal (1990)

Another short lived 2 season series that had its fans who wished the show ran longer, or at least got a legit video release.  About a lawyer/gambler.  I mean, seriously, there are fans of this show who legitimately love it and consider it one of the best ever.  And I never heard of it until doing research for this month.

 

 

Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue (April 21, 1990; 4 major TV networks)

Gotta inform the kiddies about the war on drugs.

 

 

 

And now for the big 3:

 
Wings (April 19, 1990; NBC)

Famous comedy series that ran for 8 seasons.  Though the show did decline in quality during the last 2 seasons.

 

 

In Living Color (April 15, 1990 – May 19, 1994; Fox)

Of course, who can forget one of the best skit-comedy shows that is probably only topped in terms of popularity by Saturday Night Live?  Not to mention all the celebrities who were made famous because of this (again, like SNL).  Watch how long it takes before the anti-PC jokes start to fly.

 

 

Twin Peaks (April 8, 1990 – June 10, 1991; ABC)

Undoubtedly the most influential prime-time television series of the year, let alone of the month.  The show that broke ground of having an ongoing story progress from episode to episode, as opposed to having most episodes be stand-alone events (like sitcoms).  Everyone was in a frenzy over the first season, to the point where even news broadcasts would ask the question, “Who killed Laura Palmer?”  Unfortunately, the second season answered that question, and many have mixed opinions about it, mostly negative.  But then we got a third season in more recent years that is far more difficult to approach for casual viewers.

Entertainment Industry Nostalgia: March 1990

March 1990, the sequel to February 1990.  An interesting month to be sure for that year.  Steve Jackson Games gets raided by the U.S. Secret Service; a case that would evolve years later into something establishing the legalities of online speech still equating to speech; as in free speech.  Carole Gist becomes the 1st African American to be crowned Miss USAHeriberto Seda becomes a New York City Zodiac Killer copycat.  Janet Jackson wins a Soul Train Music Award.  The first world ice hockey tournament for women is held in Ottowa.  The LA Lakers retire Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Star Trek V wins the Golden Raspberry Award.  Akira Kurosawa wins the Lifetime Achievement Award.  The United States begins broadcasting TV Martí to Cuba in an effort to bridge the information blackout imposed by the Castro regime.  The final episode of the cancelled series Alf aired on the 24th.  And Michael Jordon is still hot in basketball.

 

Music

Ok, some disclosure before proceeding here.  I’m generally not a fan of rap and hip-hop, but I can’t ignore something that reached platinum status (and later quadruple platinum; that’s not a joke in case you were wondering, that’s a real thing apparently).  So Bill Biv DeVoe released an album titled Poison that was a huge hit.  Not my kind of music, but for those who are curious to know and are interested in that style of music.  I’ll be sticking with my metal and rock.  Also worth mentioning is Salt-N-Pepa: Black’s Magic, Digital Underground: Sex Packets, Above the Law: Livin’ Like Hustlers, Urban Dance Squad: Mental Floss for the Globe.  The rap and hip-hop wave was out in full force.  For those electronic lovers, there’s also The Beloved: Happiness.  As for the rock & roll genre, I’ll give an honorable mention to The Fall – Extricate, and to Nitzer Ebb: Showtime.

Tribe: Here at the Home

The song “Outside” would later be featured in the game Rock Band.  Personally, I’m more akin to the song “Rescue Me.”  The band never made it big and only released 3 albums and disbanded in 1994.  It had its fans; I wasn’t one of them (a casual listener at best).  But the songs are decent enough.  Plus I’m a bit biased with this particular selection, considering some band members would go on to get involved with the creation of the videogame Thief II: The Metal Age.  And System Shock 2.

 

Borghesia – Resistance

So this is an electronic band, which usually isn’t my thing.  But I have to admit, I really dig the beats on this album.  It sounds epic, yet not overdone.  I mean, just the opening track is incredible.  The downside is that it’s in a foreign language that us English speakers won’t be able to understand, but that’s ok, because I usually have a hard time listening to lyrics in general anyway.

 

Robert Plant: Manic Nirvana

Interesting rock n’roll stuff.  It’s groovy.  Stand outs for me were Tie Dye on the Highway, Anniversary, Watching You.

 

Depeche Mode: Violator

You know this band from the song Personal Jesus.

 

Heart: Brigade

Definitely one of the best female bands that has ever existed.  But there’s only one song for me on this album.  Wild Child.

 

Social Distortion: Social Distortion

It’s one of the most famous rock bands with their debut album.  I have to include this just on principle alone, even if these guys are pricks.  You’ve heard the songs “Ball and Chain” and “Story of my Life.”  I think the band is just ok, but one can’t ignore their fame.

 

Movies

I’ll give an honorable mention for a film called Side Out.  The film itself is just so-so at best, but it does have, “that’s so 90s” feel to it, and many do consider it the greatest beach volleyball movie ever made (some competition that genre’s got; I still say Top Gun is the best one, and it’s not even a beach volleyball movie).  So, with that out of the way, there were some fairly good picks for this month.

Lambada

A film to capitalize and promote the lambada dance craze, which never really took off as well as many hoped it would.  In fact, in the same month, another lambada film was released titled The Forbidden Dance.  Let’s just say it’s not even in the same league as this film.  But whatever, this is a prime guilty pleasure film, with great cheese and ridiculous moments.  Such a guilty pleasure for me that I enjoy it more than Dirty Dancing (you can’t hit me, I’ll lambada dodge all those beer bottles and bullets coming my way).  This is one of the definitive, “that’s so 90s” films.  Though I have to admit, that chick in the poster is a bit of a bitch in the movie, in ways that, well, just don’t happen in movies anymore, at least not in the context of this movie.

 

Joe Versus the Volcano

First it’s a dystopian future film about a guy who hates his desk job.  Then it turns into a road-travel-romance flick.  It’s interesting, and a bit of a cult classic (this month’s films have plenty of those).  What would you do if you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal disease and only had a few months to live?

 

Last of the Finest

So it’s mainly a so-so cop action-thriller, but I’m a bit of a sucker for this movie.  Especially because of the bitchin’ shootout during the finale.  Also known as Blue Heat in the UK, which is a better title.

 

The Ambulance

This is a pretty damn fun thriller that moves along at a brisk pace which never lets up once you get about 30 minutes in.  James Earl Jones literally chews the scenery, Stan Lee makes a cameo, and there’s some fun stunts served with a decent dose of cheese.  This film flies under the radar of many, but it’s a great under-appreciated popcorn flick worth checking out.

 

Blind Fury

A cult classic.  It’s no Zatoichi, but it’s the best American-made blind swordsman movie we’re ever going to get.

 

House Party

House Party movie posters at movie poster warehouse ...

Found it difficult to get into until the 2nd half kicked in (though I do believe I should give that portion a second chance).  That second half alone makes the film worth seeing.  Great down-to-earth characters and moments; some good laughs; and one of the best endings ever.  A true cult classic, the kind that Superbad wishes it could be.

 

Pretty Woman

This was the #1 highest grossing film of the year.  It also skyrocketed Julia Roberts film career.  And… it’s not bad, for a dream scenario of a rich guy going out with a hooker and making her life better and saving her from it (I’ll take it over 50 Shades anyday).  Richard Gere and Julia Roberts work well together, and would team up again in a future romantic comedy film.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Come on, you know this movie!  You know this franchise!  The most financially successful independent film of that decade.  And you bet your ass it’s the best live action TMNT film ever made.

 

The Hunt for Red October

Arguably the best film of the month, at least as far as popularity from today’s perspective goes.  Also arguably the most famous Tom Clancy novel-to-film adaptation ever done (though not my personal favorite; that one comes later on).

Games

I’ll give brief mention to Kid Kool and the Quest for the Seven Wonder Herbs, just because the Kid Kool franchise  was known well-enough during the time period.  But this game is too fucking irritating to recommend playing.  Fuck you, and your Mario Bros. rip-offs.

Baseball Simulator 1.000 (NES)

No, I’m not a fan of sports games.  But this one is remembered by anyone who played it during that time period.  That’s all I’ll say.

 

Burai Fighter (NES)

Now this is more like my kind of side-scroller shooter.  This is fun, but like most of them, hard as hell.

 

Abadox: The Deadly Inner War (NES)

Yep, another fun side-scroller.  Just look at those levels.  Aren’t the graphics great?  It’s like you’re flying through intestines.

 

Adventures of Lolo 2 (NES)

Finally.  Something that is neither a sports game nor a shooter.  A puzzle-like game.

 

Conflict (NES)

Well what-do-ya-know?  Another one that stands out.  This time it’s more of a tabletop wargame than it is a puzzle game or shooter.  Basically think of it as one of those Avalon Hill wargames from the 70s and 80s put into videogame format, and this is basically what you get.  If we had an NES back in the day (I was a Sega Genesis person, didn’t hop over to Nintendo until the N64 came out), I’d imagine my dad would’ve played the hell out of this.  He’s a sucker for stuff like this.

 

 

Code Name: Viper (NES)

Another side-scrolling shooter, but this time it’s a shameless rip-off of the arcade game (also ported to the NES) Rolling Thunder.  However, they did improve on the gameplay, letting it be a bit more forgiving (ie fair).

 

Al Unser’s Jr. Turbo Racing (NES)

That racing music.  The immersion this manages to bring for an NES title.  Have to admit, despite racing games not being my thing, there’s something alluring and addictive about this one.

 

Astyanax (NES)

Good luck pronouncing the name of this hack-and-slash side-scroller.  Another port of an arcade game (most NES games were).

 

The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle (Game Boy)

Well…  Ok, so this game isn’t regarded as good.  But it does have a reputation that made it well-known.  The first videogame released to feature Bugs Bunny.  Puzzle elements.  And gameplay that infuriated gamers; including the inability to fucking jump, while you played as a fucking bunny!

 

Kwirk (Game Boy)

So this is when I usually throw the Game Boy a bone here, because their games aren’t on par with those from the NES and PC.  But when the games emphasize puzzle-solving rather than action, then it’s not bad.  The hand-held systems weren’t capable of making any decent real-time action games yet.  But every now and then…  But this is no masterpiece.  It gets monotonous.  But the fact that there’s a Game Boy game that’s fun which isn’t Pokemon…

 

Revenge of the ‘Gator (Game Boy)

And what-do-ya-know?  Another decent title for the Game Boy.  Another pinball game.  Quite polished for a Game Boy title.

Shows

Well, there were at least 2 memorable ones that go a bit beyond being just cult favorites.  Makes it better than last month’s offerings then.

NewsWatch TV (March 1990 – present; AMC Network, Ion Television)

You can pretty much tell what this is from the description.  A news series.  Well, considering it’s still ongoing; kinda worth mentioning.
H.E.L.P. (March 3, 1990 – April 14, 1990; ABC)

I honestly can’t say I know much about this series.  What I do know is that some consider it to be ahead of its time, and cancelled as a result.  To quote a youtuber: “it was basically Third Watch…but a decade earlier, with some really big names in it.” Also came out before Law & Order, though that would be coming soon.  Only ran for one season (6 episodes), and was intended to be a simple mid-season replacement for Mission Impossible.  Mainly mentioning the show because it may have inspired others that came after it, particularly Third Watch (which wouldn’t come out until near the end of the decade).

 

Sydney (March 21 – June 25, 1990; CBS)

A show that was hyped and sort of popular, likely because it starred Valerie Bertinelli.  But it was short lived and didn’t go past 13 episodes for 1 season.  Never saw it, but I’m aware of the brief popularity it had at the time.

 

The Outsiders (March 25, 1990 – July 22, 1990; Fox)

There are a lot of mixed opinions about this show.  On the one hand, the pilot episode ended up being one of the highest watched and rated series premieres of all time during that time period.  On the other hand, the ratings fell sharply after that, thanks to 60 Minutes and Married With Children.  Some revere the show, others think it is a borderline disgrace to the famous film it acts as a sequel to.  Main reason it has its haters is largely due to the cast, which many felt were inferior to those who were cast in the 1980s movie.  The show only ran for one season and was cancelled, but from what I understand it didn’t end on a cliffhanger either; so it can be considered more-or-less complete.  You be the judge, if you ever decide to watch it.

 

Equal Justice (March 27, 1990 – July 3, 1991; ABC)

The show had its cult following, which were outraged when the show got cancelled after 2 seasons.  From what I understand, just about everyone who watched the show loved it.  Great cast and writing.  But it never built up a big enough audience (like others); probably because many dismissed it as an LA Law ripoff.  Plus the early 90s was loaded with courtroom drama and police drama shows already, and Law & Order hadn’t even aired yet.  So if you like your Pittsburgh D.A. shows, well here’s another you might like.
Bagdad Cafe (March 30, 1990 – July 27, 1991; CBS)

As if The Outsiders wasn’t enough, now we have another series made that is based on a film (and may more or less act as a sequel to it).  I wouldn’t have given this sitcom much thought if not for one thing.  It stars Whoopi Goldberg.  That should be enough to convince some to give it a watch, even if it did get cancelled midway through season 2.

 

Carol & Company (March 31, 1990 – July 20, 1991; NBC)

Only ran for one season, then got cancelled (though there was some sort of spin-off which some would consider season 2, which also didn’t last long).  An anthology series without any ongoing character development or storyline.  So it didn’t leave any threads dangling when it got off the air.  Anyway, some people love the show.  I was never a watcher.

 

Alright, so enough with the petty shows only some fanatical fans remember.  Now for the 2 big tamales.

 

Tribes (March 5 – July 13, 1990; Fox)

Ah, this show.  One of the High School soap operas that made its mark alongside other shows like Degrassi and Edgemont (the latter of which would show up during the next decade).  It was created precisely for the timeslot it occupied, so that high schoolers could catch an episode when they got home before doing their homework.  Unfortunately, despite the popularity and cult following this series had, it was cancelled after 1 season of 95 episodes.  Fox hoped the series would reach Syndication, but it never happened.  Oh well.  Thanks for the memories.

 

Road to Avonlea (March 5, 1990 – March 31, 1996; The Disney Channel)

Heard good things about this Emmy Award winning series from Canada.  Ran for 7 seasons.  Technically, the series started airing in Canada in January 1990, but made it’s way to American televisions for this month.  But watch out for those alternate titles and versions.  To quote Wikipedia, “In the United States, its title was shortened to simply Avonlea, and a number of episodes were retitled and reordered. When the series was released on VHS and DVD in the United States, the title changed from Road to Avonlea to Tales from Avonlea.”  It’s a family show that takes place during the very early 1900s.  And this could very well be the top show of March 1990, and one of those series many hold in high reverence.  I should check it out sometime.

 

 

Backtrack (1990), review of a criminally underrated film.

I’ll admit, the tagline sucks.  It becomes apparent why.

Rated: 3.5 / 5

 

Introduction

backtrack (verb):
1. To go back over the course by which one has come.
2. To return to a previous point or subject.
3. To reverse one’s position or policy.

— The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

This is one of those films not many know about, and if they do know about it they’re probably only aware of the theatrical cut.  Upon my first viewing, that’s the version I saw.  Sometimes the film goes by the alternative title Catch Fire, other times it goes by the intended title Backtrack.  Either way, it’s most likely the theatrical cut (TC).  The Director’s Cut (DC), on the other hand, can be found and can be viewed.  But as far as I can tell, it’s only available on VHS.  It has never gotten a DVD release, let alone a Blu-Ray release.  So I had to settle for lesser video quality, which is a shame because it becomes impossible to make out some text that, while not mandatory to see, would certainly improve the viewing experience.  Also hurts that it’s not available in widescreen unless it’s the TC version.

To make a long story short, the DC is far superior to the TC.  This is a criminally underrated film, underrated because of the ravished treatment it got by studio interference which made it more shallow than intended (to the point where Dennis Hopper demanded his name be removed from it as director).  Also underrated because it is misunderstood, primarily because of the TC treatment, also because few have seen the DC version, and because those who do watch it tend to view it more as a guilty pleasure than anything else (though I will admit, that’s how I initially viewed it until giving it a closer look).

Jenny Holzer reference.

 

Director’s Cut Review

This film is a cry for something different.  A film that is aware of how stale films in general have gotten, which is something more relevant today than back when this was made.  Granted I’m only speaking from my current experience, but I do recall there being plenty of 70s and 80s films that generally had bleak endings and/or formulaic plots and atmosphere/progression that seem to come straight out of an assembly line; the independent film wave of the 90s. had yet to hit, but it was just around the corner after this film’s release.  The statement is made early on with one of the LED art signs which states:

I AM CRAZY BORED AND FAMILIAR WITH THE ENDING

And another sign which states:

I WALK IN AND OUT OF THE CRACKS OF MY SKULL WHEN THERE IS NOTHING

Blatant, literal, with very little wiggle room for interpretation.  This is the art style of one of our main protagonists Anne Benton (played by Jodie Foster).  She specializes in LED light art for politics, personal relationships, cliches, and for statements on the excessives of average people.  LED lights appeal to her because they are familiar, they are everywhere, and people are drawn to them.  Normally they are used for advertisements, for shallow consumption; but she aims to use them for artistic merit.

 

A reference to another artist, Georgia O’Keefe.

But in so making her art so literal, the abstract is sacrificed (to the point where other artists, including one played by Bob Dylan, look down on it).  While her art is easy to understand, her wants/needs/desires are not.  She isn’t truly happy, and she subconsciously wants something different, but she can’t figure this out for herself because she is so literal.

bob13-05
Oh yeah, Bob Dylan is in this.

Opposite of Anne is Milo (played by Dennis Hopper), a hitman for the mafia who also has a taste for the abstract art.  His hobby, when he’s not collecting art, is playing the saxophone.  He knows what he likes, he knows what he desires, but he has difficulty in expressing it clearly.  Thus he plays the sax very poorly, but becomes drawn to Anne’s art style because she can express things so clearly.

backtrack 1
PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT

The film becomes a sort of “opposite’s attract” love story, with a dose of Stockholm syndrome thrown in for good measure.  The plot is about artist Anne witnessing a mob murder, then being chased by the mob, the police, and the mob hitman Milo.  Milo eventually tracks her down, but decides to keep her as his own rather than kill her.  Over time, they both fall in love with each other, and attempt to flee the mob and the police together.  There are a few ways to interpret this, one of which is the happy union of the literal and the abstract.  Of having art daring to try something different, something many may find controversial.  Of having two art forms together that shouldn’t be together, that just don’t match up.  But the thing about art is that it is subjective.  Some will enjoy various forms more than others.  And sometimes the strangest combinations can work.  In the case of the film, the idea that Stockholm syndrome can work; in that regard, I state that this film was ahead of it’s time before Beauty and the Beast made that shit popular.  And come on, not everything can turn out like The Collector (1965).

There is also a reference to D.H. Lawrence in this film, which is ironic not because he expressed similar themes about relationships in his works, but also because his works were also subject to censorship and misrepresentation.  It’s as if the controversy surrounding this film only helps to make its point, though it would be nice if the DC was around in some modern streaming service or on DVD/Blu-Ray so others to appreciate it.

“Passion’s a hard thing to conceal.”

Let’s get back on track here (heheh).  Anne’s LED signs have an affect on Milo.  Signs with messages such as:

LACK OF CHARISMA CAN BE FATAL

EVEN YOUR FAMILY CAN BETRAY YOU

MEET DREAMS YOU CAN’T RESIST

CALM IS MORE CONDUCTIVE TO CREATIVITY THAN IS ANXIETY

PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT

The art inspires him, makes him want to change his life.  But being a hitman who has difficulty in expressing himself, that’s kind of difficult to do (obviously).  And on top of that, he becomes self-aware at how much he sucks (or more appropriately, blows) at playing the sax.  So he opts for kidnapping her, after being influenced to do so in a manner she mentions in an audio recording he gets a hold of, where she says:

“I don’t know if I can be with people I don’t know, if I’m fit for it anymore.  I’m cut off and I’m losing my connection.  I do have this fantasy.  There’s a man in the dark.  I can see his face.  He’s got a scarf around my neck and I know I’m gonna die.  And nothing else makes any difference.  I realize now that I’m selfish and I’ve always been selfish, and that’s fine.  […]  This time I actually believe I’m safe.  No one knows where I am, and eventually this will all be forgotten, and I’ll be forgotten too.”

So when he comes to kidnap her, he does so in the method she envisions.  He handcuffs her and wraps a scarf around her neck.  He then gives her the choice of being killed by him, or by living, but belonging to him.  She takes the second choice.  Thus Milo is fulfilling a desire within her, while also fulfilling his own desire.  Yet she is against this at first (understandably), and does not warm up to Milo at all for a long period of time.

backtrack 1

But as the film progresses from there, she eventually begins to accept her internal desires, and begins to accept Milo.  The literal and the abstract begin to intermix, and both become more accepting of each other’s views; though they get in an argument over the validity of the way each view art, and how meaningful their lives are whether together or as individuals; it is more-or-less reconciled soon after, as if the film doesn’t really give a shit about that typical moment in romance films where the inevitable temporal break-up happens before the inevitable reconciliation.  The film is attempting to be different after all, and could be said to be somewhat satirizing other films of that type of genre.

Which brings me to the other meaning to be had outside of abstract vs. literal art styles.  As stated earlier, it is a film that cries out to be different because it’s bored with the average Hollywood fluff that comes out regularly.  So the film itself opts to be different, not just with the progression of the plot and subject matter (Stockholm syndrome works), but also changing genres at various intervals.  It goes from being a thriller, to a slow-burn character study, to a teen romance (I’ll expand on that in a moment), to an action shoot-em-up, and having a happy ending in spite of the odds and how it seems to go against what had been built up during the first half (at least on an initial watch; it does fit together when looking at it from a critical stand-point, barring leaps in logic).  It attempts to make it so that either it gives you an ending you don’t expect, or an ending you’re not bored with even if it is expected.

Which brings me to the overall theme of the film, relating to the title Backtrack.  In one sense, it’s about backtracking to what made us enjoy films in the first place at an earlier age at an earlier time.  Particularly that of the 70s, and anything pre-Hay’s Code mid-1930s, and in the modern context, much of what has come since 2012 (personally, I think films have largely lost there edge at some point between 2006-2012, depending on how strict you are about film quality and allowing studios/directors to take chances with respectable budgets).  Just let the film-makers run wild and do what they want how they want, and come what may.  A cry for freedom, for independent film-making.  While the film’s cries may not have been heard, given that it bombed in theaters and was re-edited to make the theme convoluted, if not entirely absent, they were cries shared by others which lead to the indie film movement of the 90s.

The alternative way to look at the term backtrack is with how the characters go from being mature to immature during the 2nd act, primarily during the 2nd sexual encounter between Milo and Anne.  They go from being mature adults, who have been conditioned to lock away all childish thoughts and impulses over the years, to regressing back into a child-like state.  It’s like how college kids (or even teenage kids) who are in one of their first relationships would interact.  How they laugh and giggle, and how they become more care-free about the world (even though the dangers of reality creep in off and on with the mafia goons catching up to them).  They even bicker like teenagers at one or two points.  The backtrack refers to going back from adulthood to childhood.  Because children are more easily pleased, more easily entertained, than adults.  They possess something that is missing from adults which can make them more closed off and isolated.  They don’t have those walls built around them which are slowly but surely built as they age, especially in schools.  It’s something that was preached in Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  To backtrack is to tear it down.  Embrace what allowed you to embrace the joys found in childhood.  It is what can allow you to not be alone, to not become isolated.  But this doesn’t work if it’s one-sided.  Others can only be as accepting if they are just as free of this thought-control.  In order for that to happen, the current life must die in order for the new life to arise, like a phoenix.  The film represents this with the native american ceremony, the burning of the pilgrim, who represents people in general.

And when you think about it, don’t we all have our own innate desires that may be considered abnormal, or even taboo?  Some women want to be dominated by a macho man who can take charge.  Some men want to have a woman in a slave-like role.  Many want to have someone who can change their life for the better, even if it is done in extreme manners that usually only work out well in your head.  Some things that teenagers daydream about.   And in the end, all children enjoy seeing a happy ending.

It is a way of life Anne didn’t consciously realize she wanted.  She finds a piece of pottery under the dirt at this theater house in New Mexico, something she doesn’t understand yet, something she wasn’t actively looking for.  Then later on in the movie, she finds a matching set of pottery in an entirely different location (this may have implications within the literal context of the film, but I’m not sure myself).  Thus she realizes she has found something she didn’t even know she was looking for, which is fixing something she didn’t realize was broken.

One last thing before ending the analysis.  There comes a point in this movie where Jodie Foster’s character finds and cares for a lamb.  I shit you not.  And this came before she did the film Silence of the Lambs.  Good God, how can one not watch this portion of the movie without making jokes or puns?  But anyway, the film makes some symbolism of this by showing a statue of some woman with a lamb at the mob boss’ house, the mob boss being Vincent Price (someone make a Vincent Price as Hannibal Lector meme please, I’m begging ya’).

 

Issues With The Movie

Now as great as this all sounds, the film isn’t without its issues (putting aside TC and DC differences).  The helicopter action scene is mediocre at best.  There’s a moment where Milo leaves his sax behind before driving away from the cabin to run from the mafia, yet he has the sax back during the end credits (maybe he bought a new one).  Dennis Hopper may not have been the best choice to play Milo; he’s not terrible, but he seems a little too off and awkward even for his character.  And the ending is a bit far-fetched, but one could argue the reason those mob bosses put themselves in such a vulnerable state is because Vincent Price basically wanted them all to do, along with Milo, and coerced them into confronting Milo on their own.  This isn’t explicitly stated at all, but one could reach that conclusion with the dirty cop twist.  Still, would’ve been nice to have seen that conversation.

Some argue that the film falls apart and becomes stupid during the second half without how the dialogue and character interaction get, but I chalk that up to the whole Backtrack theme.  Of course the dialogue becomes more childish and less intelligent.  They’re backtracking!  As to whether that will be to your tastes, that’s up to you.

 

TC vs. DC

The music is different and far worse in the TC.  Both versions contain scenes that aren’t in the other, though the DC is the overall lengthier film.  Ultimately, the TC tries to make the film out to be some off-kilter action/thriller/romance flick, but it comes off as more awkward than the DC intended, and that’s saying a lot.  At first it sets up the feel that Anne isn’t in to Milo at all, to the point where he rapes her during their first encounter, that she berates him (as opposed to just messing with him in a lighthearted manner) during the second encounter.  Then next thing you know, she’s laughing with him and enjoying herself with him.  It comes out of the blue as opposed to the more gradual development seen in the DC.  Granted, it’s still a strange thing to see, the whole Stockholm thing working out, but at least the DC makes a better effort at it.  And they make it seem like Milo is an expert sax player in the TC, which contradicts that abstract-literal art theme which the TC pretty much tosses aside.  Lastly, they downplay (if not altogether remove) any hint that the movie is attempting to subvert expectations, to be a satire of mainstream film, or at the very least something that attempts to do something different just for the sake of doing something different, making that one of the main messages.  It does so by removing some of the LED light art which spells this out for the viewer.

backtrack 1
‘insert Vincent Price Hanibal impression here’

Take a look at how this scene differs greatly between the TC and DC versions of the film.  It’s amazing how much a difference in editing/pacing/music can change a scene.

 

Overall

Highly recommended movie, so long as it’s the DC version you’re watching.  It’s different and fun.  It’s something wants to be taken seriously, and yet doesn’t want to take things so seriously.  It’s an intentional fun contradiction.  A film made by an adult for adults who want to release a bit of their inner-child, while Joe Pesci is screaming fuck fucker motherfucker and motherfucking every other second he’s on the screen.  Plus you get to see Jodie Foster naked, which is incredible because I didn’t think that was possible.

 

 

PS: It is worth mentioning that the character Anne Benton is inspired off the real-life artist Jenny Holzer, who has been doing similar art styles since the 70s, and is still around today doing her own kind of art as far as I know.  Even the line, PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT is something that made her famous.  Seems as if she had an admirer in Dennis Hopper.

 

PPS: Jodie Foster probably did Silence of the Lambs after this just to spite the film, because she didn’t enjoy working on it.

 

Other recommendations for more on this film:

http://www.stockholmfilmfestival.se/en/festival/1991/film/backtrack

http://regrettablesincerity.com/?p=7151

https://mikestakeonthemovies.com/2018/07/13/backtrack-1990/

https://projectorhasbeendrinking.blogspot.com/2015/09/protect-me-from-what-i-want.html

https://dcpfilm.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/catchfire-hopper-1990/

Entertainment Industry Nostalgia: February 1990

Ok, finally finished up February 1990.  Going lighter on the “Cultural Etc.” stuff because, well, I was too lazy to methodically track down ads and clothing styles and stuff from that month.  So here it is, the noteworthy music, movies, and shows from February 1990.

 

Music

Last month was just a warm-up compared to what was unleashed this month in the music industry.

MC Hammer: Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em

Everyone knows U Can’t Touch This, even if it is a rip-off of Super Freak by Rick James (bitch) .

KLF: Chill Out

Relaxation music.

Primus: Frizzle Fry

Too Many Puppies, and John the Fisherman were the big album hits.  I can only listen to this album in small bursts, like 2 songs at a time tops before I’ve had enough.

Damn Yankees: Damn Yankees

High Enough, Coming of Age, and Come Again were among the big hits, and this album was known for reviving the career of Ted Nugent.  Despite what they say the big hits were, my personal favorite song from this song is “Tell Me How You Want It.”

The Cramps: Stay Sick

Garage Band with several songs that take a big nod to other songs (God Damn Rock & Roll is a heavy nod to Old Time Rock & Roll by Bob Seger).  UK band.

Riot: The Privilege of Power

Decent rock n’ roll album, though I find the intermissions between songs questionable.  Upon a listen, didn’t find any notable standouts, but I didn’t hear any weak songs either, so it’s an all around solid album.

Peter Wolf: Up to No Good

Not bad.  The best song is a toss-up between Up to No Good, and Shades of Red-Shades of Blue.

Gamma Ray: Heading for Tomorrow

Would’ve been my favorite of the month if only it didn’t have several weak songs stacked atop the few excellent songs (the standouts are Lust for Life, Free Time, and Heading for Tomorrow).  First studio album of the German metal band.  I strongly recommend the original version as opposed to the remastered version.  Best song on the album is the one the album is named after, which runs at a vast 14 minutes (though there are various versions of this song, one of which is the live version which runs at an insane 20+ minutes).

Oingo Boingo: Dark at the End of the Tunnel

Arguably their last good album.

 

Eric Johnson: Ah Via Musicom

The way he plays that guitar, especially in Cliffs of Dover.

Movies

While the music album selection improved this month, it’s debate-able as to whether or not the film quality improved or worsened or stayed the same compared to January 1990.  None of the films were as good as Tremors (in my opinion), but some of the others sure gave last month’s top films a run for their money.

Mountains of the Moon

Think of this as The Lost City of Z, except better.  While the locations may not involve tropical rainforests, it’s still an adventure film where two men form a common bond over exploring the unknown (to England) locations, yet become torn apart due to semi-political conflicts at home.  Sure doesn’t hold back on the violent moments (as brief as they are), nor the harshness of the environments confronted during exploration.

 

Hard to Kill

Not one of the better Steven Seagal films in my opinion, yet for some reason a lot of Seagal fans hold this film in high regard.  I’m only including it here for that reason, otherwise it’s forgettable to me.

 

Nightbreed

Fun film.  Great practical effects work, an adrenaline-filled finale, music that sounds like a Batman-rip-off (understandable considering both films were conducted by Danny Elfman), and David Cronenberg playing the villain.  Be sure you see the director’s cut.

 

Cinema Paradiso

I reviewed this movie.  TL;DR: a fun drama film that’s all about nostalgia and love for films and how they can shape one’s life and one’s community.  Likely the film of the month (while last month, in my opinion, it was Tremors).

 

 

Video Games

More or less about as decent as last month’s selections, except that this month would get a game release on the NES that would go down as an all-time classic.
Rollerball (NES)

Fun little pinball game, which weren’t all that common on the NES, or in general as far as I know for back then.

 

Super Spike V’Ball (NES)

Well, I guess the NES just wouldn’t let Sega get away with being the only console to release a beach volleyball game, so they had to take their shot at it, even if they had to port it from the arcade to do it!  And they did a decent job from what I’ve seen.

 

Golf (Game Boy)

Gotta give the Game Boy something just out of pity, like the last episode.  Don’t get me wrong, this game has its fans back in the day, and it’s decent, but it’s not anything I would ever want to play today.

 

Batman (NES)

One of the big NES classics in the same vane as Ninja Gaiden (and probably just as difficult; hard as hell).  Need I say more other than the 90s knew how to make a solid film-to-game adaptation?  Sega would follow suit in the months to come.  And as great as this game is, while it should have by all right been the best game of the month, something else came out that would top it, and practically every other NES game ever made.  And I’m not so sure I have the willpower today to get good enough to beat this thing.  But it is fun, so long as I don’t get pissed enough to throw the controller and the console out the fucking window.

 

Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

Well, it’s Super Mario Bros. 3.  Nothing else is going to top this for game of the month.  Was definitely a contender (if not winner) for Game of the Year.  A game so hyped up (and lived up to it), that there was an entire movie created for the sole purpose of being a glorified advertisement for it.

To bad this was in 1989, kinda hoped to dig into it a bit for the 90s nostalgia, especially since I watched it in the 90s.

Television Shows

I could only find 3 shows that were halfway decent, though none of them lasted the year, let alone half the year.  These are mostly sympathy picks, key word being “mostly.”

Rodeo Drive (February 5, 1990 – May 4, 1990; Lifetime Television)

A so-so game show that was never going to be popular, but the host made it entertaining.

 

Elvis (February 6 – May 19, 1990; ABC)

Show didn’t gain enough ratings, so it was cancelled, and re-released along with the unaired episodes as a 4 hour miniseries.  Honestly, the show seemed ok to me.  Maybe audiences got Elvis fatigue during this time period, or the show wasn’t advertised enough.  Then again, a lot of great shows got cancelled before their prime from the late 80s to about 2010 (seriously, fuck you people for cancelling Firefly, Surface and Deadwood).  It is what it is.

 

Nasty Boys (February 19 – July 20, 1990; NBC)

“Is this College Boy?”

“No, this is Donald Trump.”

Ok, now this show was so fucking fun in the way only the 90s could be (well ok, late 80s too).  What the early 90s crowd thought awesome cops were like (more gangster than cop, but in all the right ways).  Entertaining for the cheese and the awesomeness.  Seriously, fuck you people for cancelling Nasty Boys!

 

Edit (11-18-2018): Well, looks like I may have overlooked one.  There was this made for TV movie which ended up acting as a pilot for a series that would show up next month.  The series is a bit different from this made-for-tv film, which itself is a glorified series pilot.  But it’s worth mentioning, mainly just for the pilot/movie.

 

A Family For Joe (February 25, 1990 for pilot/film; March 24 – August 19, 1990 for series)

So the film itself has some fans who like it.  The show has less fans, but worth mentioning.  And that’s all I’ll really do here, give an honorable mention.  It’s about some foster kids who don’t want to get separated, so they get some bum off the street to act as their father.

 

Other Cultural Stuff

Entertainment Industry Nostalgia: January 1990

Source

Introduction

So, it starts.  My trip back into the 90s, digging up old memories, returning to the nostalgia, and bringing it to light for those around today, who visit this site.  At first I thought this was going to be an endeavor that would take a few months to do to cover the entire 90s decade.  Nope.  It’s going to take a lot longer than that in order for me to do the decade justice.  Considering how much work it has taken just to do this month alone, I’m not even sure I’ll be able to complete the project.  But I will do what I can, so long as I have the willpower and don’t allow other priorities to overtake this one (that’s inevitable).

This is not a definitive retro-trip.  I’m not going to be covering every single thing.  That’s nearly impossible, and it would get too muddled.  Instead, I am going to be covering what I consider to be good (or even great) about each month, covering film theatrically released, games released, music albums released, and some tv shows that aired in the month.  So this is going to be a biased coverage, to some extent, but for the sake of fairness I will also include a few things that don’t personally appeal to me, but were respectable hits back in the day.  Except for music, because fuck anything that isn’t rock and roll or heavy metal.

 

Movies

Films released in theaters that are worth revisiting today:

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

“I tried to talk to you, but you wouldn’t let me, so I had to kidnap you so you could get to know me. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with me, just as I’m in love with you.”

This film is basically a more light-hearted remake of the 1965 film The Collector, and I found it to be quite fun. It has Antonio Banderas in it, a good amount of humor, suspense, romance, and thought provocation. But here’s something about the film that cements its place in film history:
[Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!] was the last film to receive the MPAA’s X-rating due to its depiction of forced bondage and rape – however, it was re-rated and released as an NC-17 film.www.filmsite.org/1990-filmhistory.html

And like several films that suffered at the hands of the MPAA for reasons related to this, this film is not that intense, in my opinion. There’s a scene of a toy scuba diver swimming up against a woman’s vagina, and one long sex scene, but other than all that, there’s nothing else all that edgy about it. It sucks how an NC-17 rating harms a film since most theater chains won’t show films with that rating.

Internal Affairs

“I think most people want to be bad.”
“That’s because it is bad. That’s why we’ve got cops.”
“Except the cop is the guy that wants to do it worst of all.”

Solid film, albeit with an ending that wrapped up things far too conveniently in my opinion. In any case, it’s a solid thriller with an otherworldly soundtrack to it. It played on the concept of distrust in police, a trend that was growing even during that time period (along with Maniac Cop from the previous decade). It also took Richard Gere, who normally played roles as a heart-throb ladies-man in light-hearted films up to that point, and put a very dark twist on it. Quite brilliant in that regard.

Brain Dead

“By the perception of illusion we experience reality.”

Now this movie. This movie is a fucking head trip. It’s weird, but seemingly straightforward and easy enough to follow for the first half hour, even if there are hints here and there that something is up with what we are seeing. And sure enough, once the film reaches the midpoint… Well… Let’s just say you’re going to start questioning what is real and what isn’t, if any of it is real, what story should be believed, if they should all be believed, etc. Think of it as the anime film Perfect Blue, but taken up a couple notches on the “What the fuck is going on!?!?!?” factor. It may seem low budget, and it is. But it has Bill Pullman in it (doing ok, nothing too spectacular), and Bill Paxton (also does alright) in it, and enough of a weird factor to it to make it worth watching. And despite the insanity of it all, it is cohesive and everything is linked and comes together in a bizarre fashion. That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to make sense of it all on a first or even repeated watch, but, well, there it is.

 

Treasure Island (TV movie)

Considered by some to be the most faithful adaptation of the novel, and the best version we’re ever going to get.  And I have to admit, it’s not half bad, especially by TV movie standards.  Definitely worth checking out.

 

 

Tremors

“This valley is just one long smorgasbord. We have got to get out.”

Now this. This is easily the best film of January 1990. Still one of my favorite films today. Arguably the last good practical effect monster film, which is fitting because it was made to pay tribute to older monster films. If you haven’t seen this movie, you’ve been living under a rock, and that’s the last place you want to be when graboids are squirming around. This is the only film on the list I saw when I was a kid in the 90s, and we watched at home via VHS rental. Good times with my mom, dad, and sister. We we enjoyed the hell out of this movie.

This film also, unfortunately, marked the end of creature features that had life-sized models (at least in terms of making those for films on a regular basis).

But you know what? People may bitch about people seeing trash in theaters today and overlooking the great stuff. But I gotta tell ya, it’s been going on since forever. And with this film, it’s no exception. Motherfuckers.

Although “Tremors” was not a big hit during its theatrical run, the film became a runaway smash in the home video market, and ultimately tripled its original box-office gross with VHS sales and rentals.IMDB

I also would’ve liked to have seen the R-Rated audio version.

Was originally given an R-rating by the MPAA not for violence, but for language. The film included as many as twenty f-bombs. As an appeal, producers removed all utterances of the “f” word, with the exception of two. Many of the swears were dubbed over with other words, including “can you fly you sucker?”, “we killed that motherhumper,” and “what the s***” when Val is overlooking the dead sheep.IMDB

Commercial Break

I thought about taking clips from various commercial videos and making my own custom vids of what I consider “best of the best” of the 90s commercials, but then decided, “Nah, I’m too lazy for that.”  But I will point out clips from certain commercials that I believe stand out from the rest.

3:00, the Ring Raiders.  I wish I had that shit back in the day.

3:30, Flying Fighters

5:11, Hot Lixx (God I love that name).  Before there was Guitar Hero, there was Hot Lixx.

6:11, SqueezeIt Fruit Drink.  Seems sexually suggestive to me.

8:19, Typhoon Hovercraft

10:31, SqueezeIt returns, this time with a girl doing the sexually suggested squeezing.

11:01, Zero Gravity Cliff Hangers

17:09, an amusing Corn Flakes commercial

19:13, Bug Out

19:52, Dino Riders.  These look cool.

22:43, Tiger hand-held games.  These things sucked ass, but I found the beginning of the commercial amusing considering the idea of hand-held games.

 

Television Shows

Grand

I must confess, I haven’t seen this show. And it’s not readily available on any film site I’m aware of (including sites like Amazon where you could normally buy a DVD version or something, that doesn’t exist either). It’s just a sitcom, and those are a dime a dozen. But some people state that this show is great, especially the opening theme song, but there’s mixed opinions about the actual quality of the show itself once it got started.

There is potentially one way I could get a hold of some episodes to watch, but it would require me to spend seventy-five fucking dollars on BluJay.com, and I don’t feel like doing that for a show I’m pretty sure isn’t going to be all that memorable for me personally.

So just consider this a reminder that this show existed, and it had its fans at the time, but I was never aware of it until now. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to do this for very many shows on this nostalgia trip, I prefer to watch a few episodes before deciding if they’re worth putting on this blog series or not. That being said, if anyone wants to donate $75 to my blog site, and specifically requests I use that money for purchasing and reviewing the series, I’ll see what I can do (fuck knows why anyone would want to spend that much money for something like that).

Pirate TV

So this isn’t technically a show per-se, it’s more like in the same vane as Tom on Toonami, with little tidbits between shows/commercials and whatnot. That being said, there were some fairly entertaining comedy bits that this came up with. This show didn’t last very long. And to be honest, watching some of these clips again, I’m getting very vague memory lapses.


The Baby-Sitters Club

Originally ran January 1 – March 26, 1990 on HBO.

Yes, this show is girly as fuck. It’s also 90s as fuck. The acting, the camera shots, the video quality, the clothing, the music. Everything about this show screams 90s. And despite the fact that I probably can’t stand to watch more than 2 episodes in a single day else risk my balls falling off, it’s a show I recommend for families who want some good moral lessons. The friendships are good, the lesson to take away from each episode is good, the girls have an amount of professionalism about them, and it only ran for 1 season (in stark contrast to The Simpsons which is still ongoing). Oh, and you probably won’t get that theme song out of your head once you hear it.

The 1995 movie that came a few years after this show isn’t half bad either.

Zorro

Not to be confused with the Disney series from the 50s, this show ran from January 5, 1990 – January 30, 1993 on The Family Channel. You might be wondering what The Family Channel is, since it’s a channel that no longer exists.  Well, it was eventually acquired by Fox and being renamed the Fox Family Channel in August 15, 1998, before eventually being acquired by Disney and renamed ABC Family, and then later renamed Freeform.  But anyway, while the channel was still The Family Channel, it aired this little series that’s a decent family-friendly swashbuckling adaptation of Zorro.

And I’m not going to lie, I haven’t actually seen an episode in its entirety recently (I only remember small portions of it from my early days).  I was tempted to purchase a copy of the first season, since I can’t seem to find it anywhere online, but decided against it, since I’m currently not making any money off this blog site anyway, yet.  But from what I remember, it was fun enough, though by my present standards it probably wouldn’t do enough to keep me interested past the first few episodes.

 

America’s Funniest Home Videos

Technically it originally aired as a 1-hour special in 1989, but was popular enough to where it became a long-running (and still going) series on January 14, 1990.  Originally had Bob Saget as the host.  The show is basically what many people watch gifs and youtube videos for today.  People caught on camera doing dumb shit that makes you laugh, or are just victims of circumstance.  And it was a show me and my family watched regularly.  Great laughs, great host, but not likely to be something one would revisit regularly, given the nature of the program.  But every once in a LONG while…

 

The Simpsons

While the first episode did technically air in the previous year (December 17, 1989), the first regular episode aired on January 14, 1990 on FOX. Until then, they were first seen as short sketches on The Tracey Ullman Show (April 5, 1987 – May 26, 1990). I don’t think much needs to be said about this show and its legacy, especially since it’s still running to this very day. Oh yeah, 1990 really did start off with a bang. And it would only get better and worse at the same time from here on out.

Commercial Break

0:42, racial tensions, prior to the 1992 LA riots.

19:59, Encyclopedia Britannica

21:29, what a difference, Blockbuster Video!

23:10, now this, THIS is a true bona-fide 90s commercial!  Street Hot court shoes.

25:56, arguably the most epic Mario commercial ever created.

26:26, an amusing Bill Cosby commercial, doing a picture page (be warned, it’s a long one).

32:50, Nick Jr. ad for Eureeka’s Castle

36:14, I actually remember this fucking bizarre Nick Jr. ad.

33:48, jeans commercial.

44:18, shoe commercial, because these shoes will cause skateboards to spontaneously appear and make you play basketball better than the pros.

 

Music

Ok, I’m not going to lie, I’m not the right person for the job when it comes to this subject. Unlike films where I’m usually willing to watch just about anything, that is definitely not the case with music. With very few exception, I prefer hard (alternative) rock and heavy metal (but not that type where you can’t understand what they’re saying because of the deep hoarse voice ala Metalocalypse). So when it comes to music for the month, I’m only going to list hits, and stuff I personally liked, and bands that made an impact with their presence. In other words, this portion is going to be quite biased.

And honestly, when it comes to music, the 90s was the beginning of the end of the era of great music. Just my opinion, but music for me never really took off until the late 70s (with some obvious exceptions such as The Doors and The Beatles). Because it wasn’t until the late 70s that some semblance of heavy metal came into the picture (and ironically enough, the magazine series too), which got established in the 80s, and slowly eroded away in the 90s. The true destruction of all that is good and holy with the music industry came with the arrival of Nsync and The Backstreet Boys. When they first arrived, things were ok. But it was no longer cool when every-single-mother-fucking-major-band ended up just being replicas of those two. At least that’s the impression I’m getting with the shit I hear on the radio all the time, and in clubs that blast music, let alone at school campuses (Christ, no wonder the youth is so fucked up today).

Gwar: Scumdogs of the Universe

Typical trash metal by today’s standards. A satirical shock rock band. Guess those were common back then, considering Ween also came out with an album in the same genre in the same month. But what makes them really stand out is seeing them in person, live, with those insane fucking costumes that they wear and how much they pushed the envelope.



There was also a Hank Williams Jr. album released titled Lone Wolf. But I honestly don’t care about that, ’cause his music isn’t my type. What is worth mentioning is that he is responsible for making the intro to football fun. Monday Night Football. ABC. Now technically I’m kinda cheating here, since this Monday Night Football song technically started in 1989. But fuck it, it carried on over through the 90s up until around 2005. “Are you ready for some football!?”

Ween: GodWeenSatan: The Oneness

This band is one of those that gave a name to alternative rock (and experimental rock). I don’t believe this particular album of theirs can say it is mainly responsible for this, since it’s basically a glorified “best of” for many of their previous works. If I were to describe this band, I’d say it’s Psychostick before Psychostick was around.

Fish: Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors

I’m not saying anything.

The Black Crowes: Shake Your Money Maker

Not bad actually. A nice little rock album from a band I’ve never heard of (though that’s probably not saying much coming from a guy who’s been living under a rock when it comes to the music industry throughout most of my life). Was received well and was quite popular at the time.  You may know this band by their hit song (also from this album)  Hard to Handle.

Slaughter: Stick It To Ya

Now this is my kind of music right here. A metal band. And yes, it was big back in the day. And I think this album is still pretty damn great to this day.

Commercial Break

0:29, funny that they decide to spell out the names of the kind of people their mother is likely to have an affair with.

3:25, I could never stand that smug fucking bear, but he does manage to stick with you.  Golden Crisp.

Video Games

The main home console system out at this time that was pretty much wiping the floor with all other competition was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  It was 8 bits, but at least it had graphics superior to the Atari ST (also still around at that time).  However, having been released since October 1985, it had been out for nearly 5 years.  And when it comes to video game consoles, it’s usually about 4-6 years before the next big thing hits the market.

But that’s not all Nintendo brought out to the fore.  There was also the Game Boy, released in the U.S. in July 1989.  The first major hand-held game system.  Too bad a lot of the games sucked and were just inferior ports of console counterparts.

And that next big thing is the Sega Master System II, or so Sega thought.  Unfortunately, that system crashed and burned.  Thankfully, since August of 1989, the Sega Genesis was released with its fancy 16 bit graphics to give it an edge over the NES.  And it was definitely giving Nintendo some much needed competition in the home console market.  But it wasn’t alone.

There was also the NEC Turbo-Graphx-16, which also had its own decent line-up.  Unfortunately, it’s popularity would never get as high as that of the Genesis or the NES.

One other main competitor for the games of the early 90s was a glorified PC system that was built for the purpose of gaming and video graphics/editing.  And that PC system is the Amiga.  Of course there’s the MS-DOS and all that, but the Amiga stands apart from those as being a PC built for gaming first, everything else second.

The other minor mentions due to games still being released for them during this time period is the Atari ST, and the Commodore 64 (January 1982).

But make no mistake.  It was the Sega Genesis and the NES that were dominating the game market in 1990.  That would change (sort of) in the next year.  And now for the major memorable games that came out this month for those systems.  Some of these games are ports from older Arcade versions, just an FYI:

 

 

A Boy and His Blob (NES)

This game was nearly impossible to beat without a strategy guide.  Hell, players were lucky enough to know how to play it back then.  Yet its style was enough to make it a revered classic that later got a (much more playable) remake on the Wii decades later.  Not my kind of game personally, but it has its charm.  But I agree that this game is far too fucking frustrating to play without a guidebook, and it’s at that point that you have to wonder, “Why bother?”

Not something I would play today (or even back then), but it has cultural appeal, so I’m including it here.

 

 

Clash at Demonhead (NES)

Now this is more like my kind of game.  Not to mention it’s the inspiration for that one scene in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  However, it’s hard as fuck, right off the bat.  Those goddamn flying bees piss me off.  It’s a basic platformer/shooter where you run around and dodge bullets, hop on platforms trying to get from point A to point B and not fall to your doom, collect a few important items, and then make it to the end for a final boss encounter.  The thing that sets this game apart from most others at the time is that it has an impressive amount of narrative elements within the game.  You’ll encounter characters who start a dialogue with you.  Plus you have multiple paths to choose from to determine in what order you’ll collect things to beat the game.  Sounds a bit like Megaman doesn’t it?  Granted, Megaman beat this game to the punch, and is better from a gameplay standpoint.  But this game makes up for it with the narrative element, and the more natural open-world nature of it. And you will be taking notes during this game when it comes to learning which route you need to get to.

Worth checking out.

 

 

Demon Sword (NES)

Now this is a fun game.  It’s like if Sonic the Hedgehog was a bit slower but could jump higher, climb trees, swing a sword (that gets longer as the game goes on), and can climb and jump through trees.  It’s like you’re playing one of those Chinese martial arts films where everyone is on a wire and leaping in the air for too long (ex: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon).  The one thing that brings it down is that, if you’re to play it proper and playing to win, you’re going to have to grind a bit in some of the levels.

It’s ok.

 

 

Kings of Beach (NES)

It’s actually a fairly a solid beach volleyball game.  That’s all.

 

 

River City Ransom (NES)

A decent beat-em-up with RPG elements.  The Scott Pilgrim vs. the World game released a few years back ripped this game off tremendously, even if it had better graphics and better gameplay and is the overall superior game.

 

 

The Chessmaster (NES)

Surely you’re familiar with the Chessmaster series.  This is where it all started.  Simple, but effective and perfectly playable to this day.

That being said, I personally wouldn’t play this version when there’s superior alternatives out there nowadays.

 

 

Top Gun: The Second Mission (NES)

Now this, this is easily the best flight simulator that the NES has ever had.  It blows the first Top Gun game out of the water in every way.  Gameplay is better, landing is easier, graphics are better, more variety in music and sound effects.  This game is fun.

I’d still play this game to this day.

A quick note.  It’s worth mentioning that while this is the best flight simulator on the NES, this isn’t the best flight simulator experience available at the time.  There’s one that predates this, in the Arcades, that is very much worth mentioning even if it’s before the 90s.  But it was still played in the 90s damnit!  Hell, I played it in the 90s back when my local mall actually had a decent arcade room.  Now I have to drive all the way to Dave & Busters to get anything decent!  Anyway, After Burner, by Sega, released in 1987.  That’s the ultimate arcade flight simulator experience.

Kickass!  I would kill to relive this experience again (don’t take that literally, unless you’re talking about killing digital 16-bit enemy sprites, in which case: gladly).

 

 

Motocross Maniacs (Game Boy)

The only decent game that I know of released for the Game Boy during this month.  The programmers were perfectly aware of the Game Boy’s limitations, and thus made this game more of a puzzle game rather than a straight up racing game.  It’s about knowing how to race and get through obstacles without crashing rather than making the best time.

Not something I’d play today, but I had to throw the Game Boy system a bone here.

 

 

Bases Loaded II: Second Season (NES)

I hate sports games.  I really do.  I’ve been through so many football and baseball games during this time period they make me sick just thinking about them.  Monotonous garbage, all of them.  If you’ve played one of them, you’ve played all of them.  Yet for some reason people tend to have fond memories of this baseball classic.  I’ll just take their word for it.  But what I do find interesting is that this game was released without an MLB license.

 

 

Arrow Flash (Sega Genesis)

I don’t care if that’s a picture of the Japanese edition, it kicks way more ass than the U.S. image.  It’s basically just another side-scrolling shooter.  If you’ve played one, you’ve pretty much played them all.  But it’s an anime-style mecha game.  Plus, I’m going to be honest, side-scrolling shooters were the best type of games back then, at least during this period.  However, there were signs that a new type of gameplay would arrive to rock our 90s world.  Also from Japan.

 

 

Phantasy Star II (Sega Genesis)

The first game was good until I realized just how much fucking grinding I had to do.  The sequel isn’t much better in that regard.  But in any case, this was the main fantasy (oh, I’m sorry, phantasy) series to compete against Nintendo’s Final Fantasy games.  And to be honest, I think this game series really did give Final Fantasy a run for its money.  Just a pity it never got as big.  And like I said, it’s a grind-fest, but so was the early Final Fantasy games.  Nowadays I wouldn’t play this without cheats or something to reduce the amount of grinding needed to progress past the bosses.

Now while this isn’t a game that has aged all that well, the storyline is quite good.  Plus, this is just a sample of the masterpiece that is yet to come in this series.

 

 

Zoom! (Sega Genesis [ported from Amiga version, 1988])

Pretty damn fun actually.  Try the Amiga version for a different style of graphics.

Overlord [aka Supremacy: Your Will Be Done] (Amiga, Atari ST)

The Amiga version is superior to all others.  And this is arguably the best game of the month unless I’ve overlooked and/or misjudged any.  I mean, just look at this thing.  It’s like the precursor to Master of Orion.

Loom (MS-DOS, Amiga)

A point-and-click adventure game with an interesting story that makes you think.  Honestly, with very few exceptions, point-and-click games, while I’ve enjoyed some in the past, usually don’t interest me (with the exceptions being Riven, Obduction, and Blade Runner).  They’re nothing but glorified interactive stories, done better in RPG games like Final Fantasy.  Most of them rely on these dumb fucking puzzles that most people can’t solve without finding a guide somewhere or spending countless hours on something that should only take a minute.  So I usually end up watching the “movie” version online, with someone playing through it who knows the game well enough to get through it.  If the story is good enough, it has my interest.

But I’m not going to let my general disliking for point-n-click games get in the way of pointing out a classic for those interested in this genre.  Plus it has a cool style to it.  And Lucasfilm was killing it in the point-n-click genre during the 90s.

 

 

Wings (Amiga)

Now, while I did say that Supremacy was arguably the best game of the month, this one was easily the most popular.  In fact, it’s considered to be one of the best games ever put out on the Amiga.  The other major flight sim next to Top Gun 2, except it didn’t just focus on flying around and shooting planes out of the sky.  There were a few different mission types with different perspectives, and stuff to do between missions.  And it had a bit of a storyline to it.

 

Technology, Culture, Etc.

 

 

 

 

 

End of the Month

So if there’s anything I missed that you think is important for the month of January 1990, let me know.  Considering how much shit there was back in the day, I wouldn’t be surprised if I overlooked something.  If you bring up something that is important/significant enough, I will include it.  But if it’s something WWF related, I wasn’t planning on getting into that until 1996, maybe 1995.  Because that’s when the company began to slowly get better, acquiring attitude.

 

Edit 10/25/2017: Added in 2 entries to the Video Games section, Loom and Wings.  I can’t believe I overlooked Wings for the initial post.

Edit 6/17/2018: Holy Christ!  I failed to originally include America’s Funniest Home Videos!  Problem rectified.

Edit 5/14/2019: Added in Treasure Island (released January 22, made for TV).

 

It (1990 and 2017) film review

1990 version rated: 3/5
2017 version rated: 3/5

Oh God has it been too long since I’ve witnessed a film that gives me so much material to work with for my review. So eager to type down my thoughts. Oh, and if you’re wondering if there’s going to be spoilers, you bet your ass there’s going to be spoilers. I’m going to spoil the shit out of the 2017 film, the 1990 film, and the novel. Yep, I’ve been reading the novel too.

Oh, and by the way, I will be spoiling the shit out of this.

Continue reading

Mermaids (1990) review

Rated: 3/5

“Sometimes I feel like you’re the child and I’m the grown up.”

“You know, sometimes being a mother really stinks. I don’t always know what I’m doing. It’s not like you and your sister came with a book of instructions. You know, if I can help you, tell me. I’ll give it my best shot, but it’s all I can do.”

“Are we having a fight!?”
“Yeah!”
“Why!?”
“It relieves the tension!”

So here I am watching movies as I usually do, trying to find something that I am able to talk about at length on this blog site. So I initially wanted to go out and see Wind River, but none of the fucking theaters within a 20 mile radius of where I live are showing it. So I watch a few movies from the 90s, since I’m prepping for an epic nostalgia for the 90s series on this site. Some of them were bad, others were good, some were mediocre; none of them had me thinking about it afterwards. Then along comes this little chick flick which appears to be fun family entertainment at the surface, with some mature themes thrown in here and there. Initially, I didn’t think much of it other than emotional manipulation (which worked on me, big time; this fucking movie) and some good acting and a few witty one liners. But moments in the film stuck with me afterwards. That and I’m also desperate for an outlet, with my mind racing a mile-a-minute in a not-so-constructive manner, making me practically needing an edible to calm myself down and slow my racing brain so I can actually focus on what’s in front of me, and stay focused. So what I’m trying to say is that I watched this film high while procrastinating for most of the week.

So first, the title of this film. The mother (played by Cher) dresses up as one at one point, going to a party she isn’t fully comfortable with for the sake of intermingling. Then there’s the youngest daughter who is a good swimmer, and can hold her breathe underwater for a long time. And the oldest daughter Charlotte (the Harlot), played by Winona Ryder, well, she’s tries to be overly religious, often with comedic results, and I’m not entirely sure what she has to do with mermaids outside of some metaphorical/thematic level that only some artistic film connoisseur motherfucker who watches French films and Shakespeare while drinking thousand dollar wine all the time would be able to get. Either that or some half-assed critic like me who will just take a wild guess as to the meaning.

This family of 3 moves around often, mainly because of the mother who sleeps around with guys, and moves away before she can get a bad reputation or suffer humiliation in the town she was in. There are other reasons she does this, the main one being she fears emotional attachment, because she has been hurt too much from breakups of the past. So she’s unwilling to make a commitment unless it’s some 100% guarantee that it will work out, which has never ever been the case for anyone.

Then there’s the main protagonist, Winona Ryder, who dislikes her mother at times and has to put up with her antics. One of her ways of trying to cope is by seeking Catholicism (though Cher make’s the quip, “We’re Jewish.”) Yet she winds up being like her mother (and not very Catholic) in several situations, especially when she gets a crush on a boy and can’t stop fantasizing about him. Basically she wants to escape her life, escape her family, to live her own. You know, like in that movie The Little Mermaid, based on the story where a mermaid wishes to do the same thing, except things don’t turn out that well for her by the end, because Disney doesn’t like sad depressing endings.

There’s the young daughter, of course, played by Christina Ricci, but she is more of a plot device that will be utilized during the last quarter of the film. Until then, she’s there to build sentiment as part of the family. This film is never blunt or obvious about this, but it slowly works its hooks into you. This mainly works because of the family dynamic, how they seem like a real family. Also helps to have Bob Hopskins play a fun character who starts a relationship with Cher. The film also shows the good and the bad with Cher and Ryder’s character, which is fitting because they’re the main focus, the main ones who have a character arc.

But anyway, all this is a build-up to this scene that successfully does what most slasher films wish they could do. They make a sex scene disturbing and emotionally scarring. Yes, Ryder and the one she fauns over have sex atop a bell tower. No, some mutated/psycho/demon killer doesn’t show up to butcher them while they’re doing it. No, this film is far more devious than that.

So let me set it up for you. So the youngest sister (I’ll just call her Ricci) gets drunk before she goes with Ryder to the bell tower. While Ryder is up there getting shown the old in-out in-out, Ricci wanders around drunkenly until she falls into a river. So it intercuts between her drowning, and Ryder having sex. It’s at this point that I started to feel a bit sick to my stomach, and feel like I’ve just been conditioned to never want sex at all in my life. And all it took was some comedy/drama (heavy emphasis on the drama during the last quarter of the film) chick-flick rated PG-13 to do it, rather than a slasher/horror flick.

So first I should say that I was stunned, disturbed, saddened, and hooked. Because the film accomplished its task of making me feel for each member of the family, that the loss of one would be a huge blow to the family dynamic, one in which it may never recover from should it receive such a blow. And this, of course, leads to the big dramatic moment of the film where Ryder gets in an argument with Cher. The big moment where Cher finally lets her guard down, is willing to be real with her daughter, and showcases that vulnerability she refused to let out throughout the rest of the runtime. Thus giving hope that it’s possible she may come around in the future. At the same time, she’s finally able to talk with her daughter without putting up a barrier of judgement and condemnation (even if she does condemn her daughter for what she inadvertently ended up doing to the youngest daughter). She talks about how she didn’t want Ryder to end up like her, yet the path she is leading causes her to do so anyway, the irony of it all being that the mother’s actions of the past and present drive her daughter into being as she is now. To the point where she makes out with the boy Ryder has a crush on, making her even more desperate to want to have sex with him before her mother steals him away from her. It makes me wonder what Cher’s mother was like.

And then the family is shown to be all happy and together again after the whole endeavor. And tears of joy were running down my cheeks. Cut to a few minutes later after the credits were done rolling, and I felt manipulated. I wanted to hate this movie for bringing me to this state. But it is so well made with the character interactions, the sharp witty one-liners, the memorable characters, the comical situations, a couple dramatic moments prior to the big one, the theme of how lack of communication and openness of willing to put your faith in others and become emotionally vulnerable at the risk of being hurt (though the consequences can be even worse if you live your life never being open), that… Goddammit, fuck this movie!

PS: Oh, right, and Ryder broke up with her boyfriend she just got laid by soon after the tragic event. Gee, I wonder why the fuck that is?

PPS: Oh yeah, did I mention spoilers? Well there’s you’re fucking spoilers. If I can get emotionally traumatized from a scene in this movie and live through it, you can suffer being emotionally traumatized by having a major scene spoiled for you in this movie.