Monday, October 31, 2011

Kids' Say the Darndest Things

As promised in the post yesterday, I'll include some comments from a couple of my 'adoring fans' about the 10 best scary video games of all time posting. Well I'm about to share some of the e-mails that I received at my work account. The guy obviously didn't understand that concept, I didn't say that they were the 10 scariest games of all time, just that they were the best 10 in the opinions of me and my co-author, who has just launched a blog yesterday.

Anyway, without further delay, I give you the first 'fun' e-mail from said person:
So when you write an article in October of 2011, and you neglect to put "Dead Space" in your Top 10 Scariest Video Games of All Time, then I seriously question the validity of the information provided, as well as the testicle size of the writer in question.

Maniac Mansion, seriously?  The scariness of an 8-bit point & click?  I fail to see it.

House of the Dead?  What's the very thing that would make me feel safe in front of an undead horde?  How about a gun in my hand and an endless supply of quarters?

Original Resident Evil, and not RE4?  What is scary about the original is the control scheme and camera angles.

How about Fallout 3, where you turn around only to find a gigantic monster about to scratch your face off everywhere you go?

Here's a suggestion, add every Madden game since 2005 to your list to make it complete.

While he's obviously attempting to troll me, you'll see that he wants me to add sports games to a list of scary games... Not sure what to say there. I did respond with this though:
The Deadspace games weren’t that scary compared to other games released around the same time.  Sorry you didn’t like the list, but that’s the beauty of opinion, this one was mine, and my co-writers.
Obviously he didn't like my response as he came back screaming about how I was wrong, well I can take criticism, or else I wouldn't be in the business that I am in.
Really, what games are those?  Because none of those made your list either except for Left 4 Dead.
Look, I appreciate your nostalgic view of video game culture, but you're so far out of touch that you lumped an 8-bit game in with PS One titles, without even acknowleding arguably the scariest games ever on modern consoles (Bioshock, Gears of War & Dead Space, which was scary dude so don't act like you know more than me because you have some douchey blog).  Why don't you add in the original Super Mario Brothers?  That Bowser dude was totally scary in 1988.

Don't get all upset that I'm calling you out over obvious omissions.  You mad bro?
At this point, while I wasn't mad, I was laughing quite loudly in the office, and had to share with my co-workers. We all had a good laugh, so I told him that I would be posting some of the e-mails as a blog post. He gave me permission.
Go ahead.  Nobody reads your blog, and everyone who does would agree with why should I care?
I'm not trying to be a troll, you just put together a list that anyone older than 15 would disagree with. 
 I also explained why there were not ommissions on my list, as the list in only opinion, not anything definitive.
They are only obvious omissions to you because they are your favorite games.  I looked at all games, I didn’t throw in modern bias like most people tend to do.  In the end though, it’s my opinion, no one is saying that it’s perfect, just the opinions of mine and my co-writer. Thanks for reading. -Dave
Of course he wouldn't let it end there either...
So your illogical bias is acceptable but you're dismissive of everyone else's rationale?
How old are you?  40?  Are you 40 years old?  I bet you're 41.  Maybe 42.
And you still haven't named those "other games" that came out around the same time as Dead Space, but are waaayyy scarier.  I'm waiting with bells on.  But I'm headed to a concert now, because I have a life.  So don't expect my drunken reply until about 12:30 Saturday  
There were a few other e-mails from this guy, and a couple from others. I'm writing this Sunday night for release Monday morning, so I haven't checked my work e-mail to see if he has responded more since. I do however feel the need to thank this guy, as he shared the link to the story, even if he did so with malicious intent, to other websites that got the story about 20,000 page views over the weekend, so I obviously can't be mad, he's earned me a sticker from a co-worker.

Oh, and I offered to let the guy write a letter to the editor that we could print in the paper, but he has declined, so there is no way that I was being 'dismissive' of his opinion, I just didn't agree with it. But no 'bro' I'm not mad.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

14,000+ Page Views, on Back-To-Back Days.

   This could also have been titled "Neat-O: Part 2 Electric Boogaloo" in response to one of my early posts where I blogged about meeting Legendary Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, and having Congressman John D. Dingell share a link to one of my stories on his facebook page. Today I'll tell you about how I got 14,000 page views on two different stories, on back to back days. There were also another few thousand hits yesterday on the popular one from Friday.

   I'll start with the Friday piece, "The 10 Best Scary Video Games of All-Time." At least one of our reader's blatantly did not like the list, he e-mailed me at my work account several times about it, clearly attempting to start a flame war, but being that it was work related, I had to bite my tongue and not respond the way I would have liked. Instead I thanked him for reading, and told him he was free to write a letter to our editor, which he got confused and thought I meant of the blog, but that's a story for another posting, I'll even share some of the e-mails.
   Long story short, he shared the post on, where he attempted to get more people to make fun of the list, they had to link back to my story though, also I don't know if it were him or not but the link was shared on another site where they attempted to better the list as well. I haven't ever been to that site ( before. All told between the two days, the story got over 20,000 hits, and it's still doing well today, and I'm certain that it will continue to do well into Halloween.

   The same day that the video game story was posted, a Top 10 Stephen King Books for Halloween article was posted. It did OK, but not as popular as I had hoped it would have been. Yesterday morning I decided to cross post that article as a blog post here, then I was gonna share the link a few places, one of which being the Stephen King Facebook page. I went to the page, and what do I find there, the page had posted a link to the original article already. The last I saw on that one yesterday showed nearly 16,000 hits, I won't know the exact numbers until tomorrow when our web editor shows them off, but I am completely shocked at all of the hits it's gotten. I know it's not through anything I did personally, at least not intentionally, but damn it if it isn't so cool. The only problem now, is trying to find some way to replicate these results next month.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Top 10 Stephen King Horror Novels

This post was cross posted on Click here to read it on that site.

Stephen King is the undisputed king of the horror novel, not only is he one of the best book authors of all time, he is also one of the most prolific. Keeping with the spirit of the Halloween season, here is a list of the 10 best horror novels he's ever published.
10. “Salem’s Lot” (1975) Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine, begins to see a lot of unusual night activity, later revealed to be vampiric. Ben Mears, former resident, returns just as the vampires grow in numbers. Can he and a few of the other residents stop the rise of the vampires?
9. “Cycle Of The Werewolf” (1983) A short book, with illustrations by Bernie Wrightson, about a werewolf who kills its victims once a month, usually around a holiday or significant event around Tarker’s Mills, Maine. But who is the werewolf?
8. “Pet Semetary” (1983) Sometimes, dead is better”. So says Jud Crandall. And he ought to know, he’s seen things no man should ever see. All from the “pet semetary”, a place of mystery and horror from beyond.
7. “It” (1986) A mummy, a werewolf, a clow,. It is all of these things and none. Seven children are about to find out how dangerous It is. And how It never fully leaves your life, even if you leave It’s.
6. “The Stand” (1978) An epic about the end of the world. Captain Trips has devastated most of the population and the survivors must choose a side in the coming battle between good and evil.
5. “Carrie” (1974) Those girls are going to regret being mean to Carrie. She has power even she’s not aware of...
4. “Misery” (1987) Rescued from a car wreck by his number one fan, author Paul Sheldon’s traded one doom for another as he’s held captive until he writes a new book for Annie Wilkes. And he better hope she likes it...
3. “Danse Macabre” (1981) A different beast of a book, this one being a non-fiction concept about King’s own thoughts on horror spread out across the mediums
2. “Nightmares And Dreamscapes” (1993) A short story collection with no particular theme. Stories include “Suffer The Little Children”, about a school teacher who notices something unusual about her students and “Umney’s Last Case”, involving a fictional gumshoe’s encounter with the man who wrote him.
1. “The Shining” (1977) Jack Torrence and his family are taking care of a hotel for the winter and find all manner of strange things happening. Cabin fever soon sets in and Jack finds himself unable to break away from the hotel’s lure.

Special thanks to the Blue and the Gold for the extreme help in writing this, and the previous post on this blog, without him, this wouldn't have been possible. His blog will be starting soon, hopefully some of my readers will also read his stuff, he's a great guy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Top 10 Horror Video Games of All-Time

Ghosts, ghouls and goblins alike will be coming to your door Monday night trick or treating, earlier this week we published lists of films to enjoy between visitors, but if movies aren’t your thing, here are the top 10 horrifying video games, many of which can still be played on modern gaming consoles.

10. Dead Rising 2 (Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC)— This is a zombie game, no this is THE zombie game, set in the fictional Fortune City, the game follows Chuck Greene as he fights off zombies while accomplishing goals around the city. Various weapons can be picked up, and even customized to as the play makes their way through the game. Up to 7,000 zombie characters can appear on screen at a time.

9. Resident Evil —(Playstation, Sega Saturn, PC, remade and revamped for GameCube and DS, the latter being known as Resident Evil: Deadly Silence) – As a member of S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactics And Rescue Service), it’s up to you to go to Raccoon City and fight your way through hordes of infected creatures to find your comrades.

8. The House of the Dead (arcade) —One of the best arcade shooter’s I have ever played, not so much scary as creepy, this is just as the title suggests set in a house filled with ‘dead’ things, or rather the inhuman experiments of one very mad scientist.

7. Ghostbusters (Nintendo Wii, Playstation 2 & 3, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, PSP, PC) —The movie franchise from my youth became a fantastic game a couple of years ago. The game play is fantastic, the story is wonderful and the voice cast is all the originals from the film, what more could one ask for when hunting down the ghosts and ghouls from the netherworld?

6. Uninvited (Atari, Commodore 64, NES, PC) — Your sibling’s left the car after its crashed in front of an old mansion, and you have to find them. A tricky game, not unlike a choose-your-own-adventure, in which strange and horrifying deaths are not uncommon. Keep your wits about you.

5. Silent Hill (Playstation) — Guide Harry Mason through the mysterious and eerie town of Silent Hill to find his daughter, Cheryl. Armed with little skills and weaponry, you’ll face all sorts of monsters while navigating through the foggy patches of this atmospheric game that focuses more on the more psychological aspects of horror.

4. Zombies Ate My Neighbors (Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis) — The title may say zombies, but you’ll be facing all sorts of creeps including vampires, werewolves, blobs, giant ants and aliens as you survive through at least 48 stages of fright and fun (and don’t forget to save those neighbors!).

3. Maniac Mansion (Commodore 64, PC, Atari, Nintendo) — You play as Dave, an average guy who’s braving his way through the Edison mansion to rescue his girlfriend, Sandy. Pick two other controllable characters and see all sorts of weird things, like green tentacles, and avoid the Edisons, Fred, Edna and Weird Ed.

2. Left 4 Dead (Xbox 360, PC) — Zombies have overrun the city. Fight your way through the undead and get to safety, whether alone or with friends. Fast paced, frantic fun with more zombies than you could poke a stick at.

1. Clocktower (Playstation, Super Nintendo) —Play this game alone in the afternoon and it’s completely laughable, wait until 2 a.m. Turn out the lights, gather a group of friends and it’s one of the scariest experiences of your life, even on the second or third time through the game. The game follows a detective as she searches for clues relating to the murder of a woman in town. She is being pursued by a slasher type villain that carries a giant size pair of scissors known as the scissorman. The various endings based on decisions made during game play make for many hours of replayabillity.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Top 10 Children's Halloween Movies

 Not everything about Halloween has to be scary. There are plenty of family friendly and far less spooky Halloween inspired films. In the spirit of the season I've compiled a list of 10 child friendly spooky films.
10. Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). This may have been the first ever magical flying bed. The bed, along with a witch for hire and three young children manage to make a family friendly adventure including witches and warlocks.
9. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). The only way this wouldn't be included on the list is if it were considered a Christmas movie. Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king is bored of his life preparing for Halloween, so he decides to have the ghosts and ghouls help him put on Christmas instead. This one might be for slightly older kids as some of the characters might be a bit scary for the real young ones among the family.
8. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2006). This one has bits for the whole family, references to older movies for the adults, action for the teens and lots of colorful characters for the youngest members of the family.
7. Casper (1995). A star studded cast, nothing scary at all for the young ones, yet still very Halloween oriented having not only the friendly ghost, but his three mischievous “uncles” as well.
6. Halloweentown (2001). A Disney made for TV film, that spawned two sequels about a young witch and warlock first discovering their powers and a secret dimension where it is always Halloween.
5. Hocus Pocus (1993). The Sanderson sisters return from 300 years of being trapped in another dimension to run amok in Salem, Mass. Where they break out in song occasionally as well as attempt to kidnap the parents of all the children in town.
4. Ghostbusters (1984). OK so it's not technically set at Halloween, but it is all about ghosts and ghouls. Outside of the opening scene with the ghost in the New York public library there shouldn't be anything too scary for the young ones in this one, and it's a can't miss for the comedy fans with Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd leading the way.
3. Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie (2005). All the fun and family friendliness of any other Winnie the Pooh film, but set at Halloween time.
2. The Corpse Bride (2006). A man is goofing around with his wedding ring before the ceremony and accidentally brings a woman back from the dead that claims to be his rightful wife. Fun for the whole family with very little to no scary moments in this one.
1. It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (1966). The Peanuts gang has always had a special spot in my heart, and this is one of the best specials that were made in the series of specials made in the 60's for just about every holiday.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Spooky Movies, the Reason for the Season.

Scary movies are the reason for the season, well not really, but they are a good way to help get into the spooky mood needed to scare the neighbor kids when they come begging for candy.

In the spirit of the season, I've compiled a list of the 10 best movies to scare you and your friends silly. Beware the creepy crawlies that might go bump in the night after watching these horrific horror flicks.

10. “Hellraiser” (1987). Written and directed by Clive Barker, in this film an unfaithful bride encounters a zombie version of her dead lover, and decides to help him harvest blood so that he can rise from the dead. The flick spawned eight sequels, which all suffer from the law of diminishing returns, but the first one remains one of the best horror films ever made.

9. “In The Mouth of Madness” (1994). A Cthulhu inspired chiller, directed by John Carpenter. Searching for an elusive horror author, John Trent (Sam Neill) discovers he may have bitten off more than he could chew when arriving at Hobb's End. The last of thematic apocalypse trilogy, a film that requires a sharp focus as it takes you on a ride to the darker recesses of the mind.

8. “Drag Me To Hell” (2009). Directed by Sam Raimi, written by Sam and his brother, Ivan Raimi. The Raimis wrote this film before Sam began work on the Spider-Man franchise, but didn't get around to making it until a few years after. Fans of the Raimis’ horror work won't be disappointed. This one is about a family that hires a medium to help their son who claims to keep seeing and hearing monsters. During the seance, an unknown force bursts out and drags the boy into the ground, flash forward 30 years and a woman is seen being cursed after she slighted an old lady, by the end of the film more than just the boy has been dragged through the Earth straight to the fiery depths below.

7. “Suspiria” (1977). Italian horror master Daria Argento makes his first appearance on the list with a classic scary movie. The film follows an American ballet dancer as she moves to Germany and discovers that her dance school is led by a coven of witches.

6. “The Evil Dead Trilogy” (1981, '87, '92). All three written and directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell. The first movie in this trilogy launched the careers of a lot of “B” actors, as well as Raimi.

Filmed right here in Michigan while Raimi was attending Michigan State University, this may be the only film in history that includes interspecies rape, where the rapist is a tree.

“Evil Dead 2” is in essence a bigger budget remake with some slight recasting to give some roles to real actors and not just friends willing to work cheap. The third film in the series, is where the franchise finally comes into its own, when the main character, Ash, decides to take down the entire forces of evil with nothing but his boomstick.

5. “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974). This film is where the modern slasher flick evolved from, not to mention several sequels and a remake. Written and directed by Tobe Hooper, the flick was marketed as based on a true story. While the killer, Leatherface, was in fact based on Ed Gein, the story itself is completely fictional.

4. “The Thing” (1982). The first film in the unofficial apocalypse trilogy from John Carpenter is in many ways his masterpiece. The Thing is an extra terrestrial parasite that can change its shape and mimic other life forms. Nearly 30 years later, a prequel, also titled “The Thing,” is in theaters now.

3. B. “A Nightmare On Elm Street” (1984). This film marked the first big screen appearance of Johnny Depp, though he dies in the opening scenes. Written and directed by Wes Craven, who is a true master of horror and is at his best working on this series. The film’s antagonist is the horrifying Freddy Krueger who went on to give children nightmares through eight sequels, a TV series and a remake of the original in 2010.

3. A. “Friday the 13th” (1980). You can't deny that these two film series are linked forever, and not just because one of the sequels in each series is called Freddy vs. Jason and is a crossover of the two series’ antagonists as they battle each other. Jason Voorhies is the main villain of this series as he seeks revenge on children and camp counselors from Camp Crystal Lake, where he drowned as a child. This series spans 11 films, plus a remake released in 2009.

2. “Halloween” (1978). How could I make a top 10 Halloween films list and leave off a film titled “Halloween?” Well, I couldn't. John Carpenter checks in for the third time on the list here, though this one isn't a part of the same trilogy that the other two entries were. Michael Meyers is the series’ antagonist here as a mental patient who murdered his teen-age sister when he was 6 years old. Fifteen years later he escapes the sanitarium and starts off on another killing spree. This series spans eight films in the original run, plus a remake that also had a sequel.

1. “The Shining” (1980). Based on a Stephen King novel and directed by Stanley Kubrick, this film is either loved or hated, not much middle ground from the fan base of either man, or of movies in general. There may not be a horror film that has had a bigger impact on pop culture throughout the years.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Discussed.

What sets BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER apart from most other shows, apart from the individual brilliant scripts that graced most of the episodes, is that the show over the course of seven seasons tells a story. What the casual viewer of the show could easily miss is the semi-tragic themes underlying the series: young, happy cheerleader and inevitable prom queen is pulled away by destiny from the life she loves to unwillingly undertake the burden of being her generation's Chosen One: a super-empowered heroine to fight against the powers of darkness. This is a responsibility she has neither sought nor desired, and one of the persistent themes of the show is that destiny basically dealt Buffy a nasty set of cards. Sure, she has super strength and agility and recuperative powers, but she also knows how she became The Slayer: someone else died. For one becomes the Slayer only by the death of another Slayer, which calls attention to the fact that she, too, is destined to die to make way for another Slayer. As she puts it in one episode, "Every slayer comes with an expiration date." She goes from a carefree, happy young girl to someone who wonders if she will make it to the age of 25. 

Ultimately, however, the show isn't about a girl with super powers, but about taking responsibility for one's life, for accepting the cards that life has dealt one and making the most of that. Over the course of seven seasons all of the major characters struggle with this precise issue. All of them continually have to face up to the demands of the moral, and what is unusual for a genre show, they all have to work hard to be better people. More than about fighting vampires, the show is ultimately about the fighting of one's inner demons, with the external monsters being mere metaphors for that which lies within. As a result, all of the major characters changed dramatically over the course of seven seasons. 

A second great theme of the show is that of community. The show actually contains a bit of a lie in the famous opening words that introduced the show in the first season: it says that unto each generation a Slayer is born and that SHE ALONE possesses the strength to fight the vampires and demons. Only, that isn't at all the case on the show. In fact, Buffy becomes less, not more, effective when she becomes a loner. As Spike, an evil vampire who has killed two Slayers in the past, said at the beginning of Season Two: "A Slayer with family and friends. That sure as hell wasn't in the brochure." And it isn't! Says so right at the beginning of the show. The intro should read "She and her extensive support network" will fight the demons. And showing that no one understands this better than Spike, in Season Four he attempts to help a demon destroy the Slayer by sowing discord among the Scoobies, as the demon fighting buddies referred to themselves (this was before Sarah Michelle Gellar's forays into the SCOOBY DOO movies). He fails when the four key members respond by forging a stronger bond than ever. 

Over the seven seasons, Buffy struggles constantly against her destiny, initially fighting and resisting it, gradually accepting it, frequently resenting it, and eventually embracing it before the magnificent resolution in the final episode. While there is always only one Slayer (though on Buffy, there are two, but that is a different though very interesting story), there are always many potential Slayers. In the final episode of the series, Buffy realizes how they can make all the potential Slayers into actual Slayers, and after they do so they are able to defeat the baddies and save the world from evil, again. In literally the last five seconds of the series, Faith, the other Slayer, asks Buffy what she's going to do now that she's no longer the only Slayer. In a beautiful resolution of the central tragedy in the series, a blissful, contented, expectant smile breaks out over Buffy's face. Her life has been given back to her. The expiration date has been repealed. 

Those who have only occasionally dipped into the show will not be able to appreciate how brilliantly written the show is. It is as if every individual writer knew every other line ever written in the show, and the result is a self-consciousness in the series that is highly unusual for TV. At the very end of Season Six, for instance, Buffy's best friend Willow utters the words, "Bored now," which is not merely a reference to something she said in Season Three, but brilliantly explains where her character is at that point in the show. The scripts are, in my opinion, simply the best TV has ever seen. They are dramatic, they are believable (astonishing in a show about vampires), they are profoundly emotional, and they are funny. In fact, the show really did manage to be several things at once. I think this ability to stride several fences is one of the reasons why BUFFY, though easily the finest show on television for most of its run, never won or even received an Emmy nomination for Best Show. Should it have been nominated as Best Drama or Best Comedy?

The writing really was the key. I don't want to imply that other things weren't done as well. Though not one of the great casts in TV history, all of the actors did a great job and there were some truly memorable characters, from Buffy to Willow, Xander, Spike, Giles, Cordy, Anya, and Angel (who went on to star in his own spin off). The sets were always first rate and it was one of the few shows on TV to have its own utterly unique look, merely from the lighting and camerawork. Speaking of camerawork, few TV shows have ever taken so much care with the way scenes were shot. There was even their own unique blend of camp. For instance, fighting vampires is tough work, but Buffy inevitably went on patrol wearing some incredibly stylish outfits. For instance when she goes to the graveyard in Season Six wearing an ankle length white cashmere duster. I'm sure anyone about to engage in physical combat would decide to wear such an expensive and delicate item. But as good as all of these elements were, it all came in the end back to the writing. The show was brilliantly written on multiple levels. Many of the episodes were astonishingly good, but within them the individual lines were simply astonishing. But apart from the individual episodes and the huge panoply of memorable lines, the seasons were almost always well conceived and executed. And even when individual seasons contained flaws in their construct, such as Seasons 4 and 7, these were more than made up for by the way they all fit into a larger story. 

In the end, no series that I know of had a better story to tell than BUFFY. As much as I loved THE X-FILES, the series was always better on the individual episode level than it was as a whole. Lone episodes of THE X-FILES are as good as any in the history of TV, but the deep back story by the end of the series ended up being more than a little muddled and incomplete. When BUFFY ended, there was a single brilliant and marvelously developed tale of a young girl who was forced to give up her life for the greater good, but who in the end managed to get her life back again. I honestly believe that BUFFY will be the gold standard for television shows in the future. It has raised the bar for what can be done and should be done on television, so in the end Buffy might not have only saved the world from the powers of evil; she just might have saved television as well.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Red State on Blu Ray

Red State unfolds in a small town dominated by a fundamentalist preacher, Abin Cooper. It tells the story of three high school boys who, on their way to an internet arranged meeting with a woman, end up crossing paths with Cooper. The encounter sets into motion a series of events that causes all hell to break loose.
Disclaimer: I first saw this film at the State Theater in Ann Arbor, Michigan during the Red State USA Tour, and the first section of this review was written in March right after I saw the film. You'll notice that it ends with me saying no one could review Michael Park's performance after a single viewing. So tonight, with Blu*Ray in hand, I pick up the second viewing, plus get to see all the awesome special features. Here's the DVD, let's all go inside.
To sum it up briefly and what would happen if the Coen Brothers directed a Quentin Tarrantino script? Probably something similar to Red State.
Let's start with the easy part of this review. Visually this is NOT a Kevin Smith film, it's pure cinematical gold when it comes to how it looks, which is a surprise to anyone that has ever seen any other Smith film. Done on a $4 million dollar budget, this looks like it could easily have been a $10-15 film based on production values, they definitely got the bang for their buck.
Casting wise the film hits it's mark with not a single cast member being a letdown in their role, there is no one that I would think to re-cast, my only complaint is with Kevin Pollack, but if I were to elaborate at all it would ruin a major plot point so I can't. Suffice it to say that it's not his fault, it's the character.
Moving on to the film as a whole, it was disjointed at times, but overall a solid B. The only sticking part to me personally was the sermon in the middle of the film, it drug on a bit too long for my liking, but that could have been more the theater I saw it in, the sound system wasn't the greatest, people near me were loud and I had trouble hearing some of what he was saying, making me lose interest in the scene. Still it seemed to drag on, but the pacing and the story for the first act and the third act were phenomenal. I don't think that you can call this a 'horror' film in the traditional sense, though tonally that is the best category I can think of except maybe quasi-reality.
There are some very funny moments, a few scary moments, and a lot of moments that are just simply tough to process as an audience member. Ralph Garmin gave a fucking eerie performance in a non-speaking role as Caleb, his eyes simply gave me chills. John Goodman was scary good as ATF agent Joseph Kennan. Stephen Root basically played the character he had played in True Blood, just as a cop instead of a vampire, his death scene was my favorite death, and quite ironic in the way it happens. Michael Parks was astounding as bat-shit crazy Abin Coopin, it would be criminal for me to attempt to critique him after having only seen the film once.
This film, unlike other Kevin Smith's flick will not enter the cultural zeitgeist. His best films in no particular order, Clerks, Dogma and Chasing Amy all have made deep impacts into pop culture, his 'lesser' films wouldn't even be remembered by most except that he is so willing to openly discuss his failures. Though I don't think he's made a bad movie, just a few not as good as his others.
This is his greatest film, from a film making standpoint, it's visually pleasing, has many action actions and is often hard to tell that he wrote or directed it. That's a good thing though, he's grown up as a film maker, and its sad to say that he's only got one more project, two more flicks in total before he heads off to retirementville or podcast land.
Even as messy as the overall story is, there are elements of this film that are wonderful. The acting is nothing short of mesmerizing; the editing of action sequences is superb and the setting of the Christian compound is frighteningly authentic. Kevin Smith even scores points for ambition. This is a film that he personally financed and is also possibly his first movie with subtext. While the subtext is still more overt than most, it has some insight into the dichotomy between faith in religion vs. faith in government.
Red State is not perfect, but it is fairly original. In a time where everyone relies on shock value, Red State actually has genuinely shocking moments. I don’t see die-hard Christians loving this film, but if you have malleable religious beliefs or at least possess the ability to separate fiction from reality, you may not hate it.

Special Features include:
"The Making of RED STATE" Documentary
• "RED STATE of the Union" SModcasts
• The Sundance Speech with Introduction by Kevin Smith
• A Conversation with Michael Parks with Introduction by Kevin Smith
• Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Kevin Smith
• Trailers with Introduction by Kevin Smith
• Poster Gallery with Introduction by Kevin Smith 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Batman: Year One REVIEWED!

    Let's start with the biggest extra feature on the disc, the DC Showcase: Catwoman short, the short films included on these discs are just as good if not better than some of the features. In this case, geek goddess Eliza Dushku voices Catwoman.
In just the second scene of the short here, the viewer quickly learns that while an animated film, it's definitely not for kids, as the majority of the action in the first half of the short is set in a strip club. While never showing full on nudity, it does show the dancer's top get thrown at the main antagonist, Rough Cut from across the room. The dancer is then shown with her long golden hair covering her breasts the rest of the scene she is in.
   The action quickly shifts to a car chase and then a warehouse on the Gotham docks where we find out that Rough Cut is smuggling more than just diamonds this time around.
This short is basically a carryover from the Year One movie, though having watched the short first I didn't necessarily know that at the onset, though I have read the comic so I did know it at the same time, hopefully that's not confusing to the readers out there in internet land.
   The voice cast is excellent, though there isn't much there outside of Dushku, who played the character in the feature length version as well as in this short.
Moving on to the feature film. Batman: Year One, it was an excellent comic, one of the few I've read in recent years for those that have followed former posts you'll know what I am referring to.
   The film starts off with a voice over from Bruce Wayne, and we quickly learn that the voice actor chosen here, is definitely no Kevin Conroy, the man did such a bad job I'm not even gonna bother typing out his name here, he simply sounds like he is trying to mimic Conroy, though he's not very good at even that. Jim Gordon's voice actor, Bryan Cranston, did an excellent job. Overall this is probably the worst overall voice cast in the DCU line so far. Though that's partially because the rest of the films have all had excellent casts.
Overall this film suffers from being too loyal to the source material. Way to many voice overs and not enough action for a movie of this sort. This type of story telling just doesn't work in this medium. It worked super well for the comic, but it just leaves too much to be desired in the film version.
   The story recounts the beginning of Bruce Wayne's career as Batman and Jim Gordon's with the Gotham City Police Department. Bruce Wayne returns home to Gotham City from training abroad in martial arts, man hunting, and science for the past 12 years, and James Gordon moves to Gotham with his wife, Barbara, after a transfer from Chicago. Both are swiftly acquainted with the corruption and violence of Gotham City, with Gordon witnessing his partner Detective Flass assaulting a teen for fun.
   On a surveillance mission to the seedy East End, a disguised Bruce is propositioned by teenaged prostitute Holly Robinson. He is reluctantly drawn into a brawl with her violent pimp and is attacked by several prostitutes, including dominatrix Selina Kyle. Two police officers shoot and take him in their squad car, but a dazed and bleeding Bruce breaks his handcuffs and causes a crash, dragging the police to a safe distance before fleeing. He reaches Wayne Manor barely alive and sits before his father’s bust, requesting guidance in his war on crime. A bat crashes through a window and settles on the bust, giving him the inspiration to become a bat.
   There’s still novelty in seeing different sides to these beloved characters: Jim Gordon beating up corrupt police officers and leaving them naked in the road, Batman really struggling to fight his foes, often times losing the brawl and getting shot/beat up. Neither man is perfect or “superhero”-like – and it’s the introduction of such moral ambiguities – Batman’s incompetence, Gordon’s rashness and disloyalty – that makes the film stand out, much to the same effect as its comic counterpart.
   The true draw to this film is that it humanizes the Bat, we see him not as the nearly infallible idea that so many have come to know and fear, but as a man that is still very much learning his trade, that's what makes this story good regardless of the medium it is being told in.
The film fits somewhere in the upper third or so of the 16 or 17 (I've lost count, sorry...) films already released in the DCU line.
These special features are included on the Blu-Ray disc, which is what I am reviewing from.
•Sneak Peek at Justice League: Doom, the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie
DC Showcase Animated Original Short – “Catwoman”: This all-new entry to the growing canon of DC Universe animated shorts features the first first solo tale centered around Catwoman. The felonious feline’s adventure takes her through the seedy streets of Gotham City.
    •Featurette –”Heart of Vengeance: Returning Batman to His Roots”: The Dark Knight Returns provided the denouement of Batman’s life. Frank Miller’s next seminal work would provide his near-mythic origin in Batman: Year One. This documentary uncovers the contemporary genius of Miller and the audience that was poised to appreciate the depths of his work.
    •Featurette –”Conversations with DC Comics”: The Batman creative team at DC Entertainment discusses the personal influence of Batman: Year One on their careers. Batman producer Michael Uslan leads the chat amongst well-known writers, editors and artists of the Batman lore, focusing their dialogue on the darker, realistic interpretation of Batman’s origins by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
  • Audio Commentary with Alan Burnett, Sam Liu, Mike Carlin and Andrea Romano
  • Batman: Year One, Chapter 1 Digital Comic Book
  • Two bonus episodes from Batman: The Animated Series hand-picked by Bruce Timm
  • Digital copy on disc of the feature film compatible with iTunes and Windows
   Next up for the DC animated film line, Justice League: Doom, I can't wait!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Emerald Knight Goes Blu (Ray)

    As if being a box office disappointment and a critical flop weren't bad enough -- it's strange labeling a $200 million worldwide take a flop or a disappointment, and yet it was both -- Green Lantern left film fans and comic fans cold. And, for once, a comicbook adaptation alienated moviegoers of all stripes for the same reasons, regardless of how familiar they were with DC Comics' space-faring saga. Where to begin? 
   Director Martin Campbell's interstellar superhero actioner is too slow, too uneventful, too melodramatic, too anticlimactic, and offers too little too late. More? Its casting is riddled with odd choices and poor picks, its superpower showcases and superpowered showdowns are dull and CG-driven, its attachment to Earth infuriating, its performances clunky and inconsistent, its tone too disjointed, its hero too shallow, its fourth tier human villains too cheesy, its planet-chomping alien menace too cartoonish, and its true Big Bad relegated to the bench until an end-credits sequence calls him in for a sequel that might not ever come to fruition. Long story short...
   Green Lantern has high aspirations but never quite gets off the ground. I expected a lot of CG, I mean how else could it have been done, but this is just bad.  Initially I enjoyed it when I saw it on the big screen, but a few months later and a review on DVD really soured my views on this one.
   Video Quality
   Warner's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer doesn't exactly swoop in to save the day. Contrast is rather oppressive and black levels are heavy, unforgiving and, every now and then, abusive, stamping out shadow detail with abandon. It's as if someone cranked up the "in blackest night" dial but forgot to flip the "in brightest day" switch. (On a positive note, the more brutal blacks cover up some of the seams that haunt the film's CG elements, chief among them Hal's suit.) Even when the sun rises, the image lacks a bit of the brightness, crispness and clarity that should rise with it. When the sun sets, matters get infinitely worse. Crush is an issue, as is middling delineation and some muddled fine textures. Videophiles won't be easily satisfied and even those who are will probably be those who mistake the overzealous shadows that press in as thematic when they are, at least in part, indicative of something more troubling: the possibility of an over-tweaked encode. Granted, much of the deteriorating detail traces back to the source. I noticed the presence of noise reduction while watching the film in the theater and most, if not all, of the (reasonably) minor DNR that's visible here comes courtesy of Campbell and company, not Warner. Still, an eyesore is an eyesore. Closeups of Ryan Reynold's face (the refined shots at 41:09, 1:14:47 and 1:44:30 being a few of the exceptions) shouldn't look as flat, indistinct or muddy as they sometimes do.
   Which brings us to the next problem. While superpowered greens and yellows light up the screen with welcome vibrancy, Dion Beebe's palette -- or perhaps Warner's approximation of it -- looks as if it belongs in a film featuring the Dark Knight, not the Emerald Knight. While typically attractive, fleshtones don't always boast natural hues, many a primary sinks into the abyss, and shadows occasionally descend without mercy, eclipsing both the practical sets and CG environments. (Hal's confrontations with Parallax are particularly dreary and dubious. Look no further than the murky mess that is their battle at the 1:42:00 to 1:44:00 mark. Even explosions and spewing fire struggle to push back the prevailing darkness.) Thankfully, there are saving graces. Significant artifacting, banding, aliasing and ringing are nowhere to be found, detail isn't always consumed by darkness, and a variety of scenes, though still relatively dark, look quite good. Some soupy noise tries to disguise itself as filmic grain and fails, but it isn't a major distraction. All things considered, Green Lantern offers a passable, now-and-again impressive presentation, but it also stands as one of the more underwhelming superhero-adventure transfers to come along in some time. I already knew I didn't enjoy the film itself, but I thought the resulting Blu-ray release would, at the very least, blow me away. Instead, it just sort of limps along. Green Lantern was a bit brighter, a bit more colorful and, if memory serves me, a bit more detailed in theaters, but four months is a long time when it comes to memories, so take that with a grain of salt. Even so, I would recommend adjusting your expectations. The video presentation isn't as brave, brilliant or bold as you might assume. I honestly had a tough time deciding between a 3.0 and a 3.5. Fair warning: you may feel it holds steady at a 3.0 or, if you're particularly sensitive to specific issues, descends into 2.5 territory. 
   Ah, this is more like it. While Green Lantern's visuals are trapped in a maddening free fall, Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track kicks on the afterburner and roars overhead. Dialogue is clean, well-grounded and intelligible throughout (minus a few lines dwarfed by mid-battle chaos) and sound effects, be they down-to-Earth or powered-by-will, remain crystal clear from start to finish. Explosions, minigun fire, Kilowog punches, jet engines, toppling buildings and burning stars take full advantage of the LFE channel, and dynamics lend power and presence to an already engrossing soundscape. The rear speakers are responsible for plenty of sonic flash and flair as well. Alien warriors rocket past, energy blasts streak across space, Parallax billows and fills the soundfield, and every intergalactic hotspot and Earthbound locale is nice and immersive. (Even though Lantern's distant planets seem to be slightly more enveloping than our own. I suppose Campbell has more to play with when he's off-world, brief as those opportunities may be.) If the film's transfer came to life with the same vividness and tenacity as Warner's mix, this would be an entirely different review.

parts of this review are taken from

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My comic book Confession.

   Today, I'll admit to you all a secret that I've kept from the nerd community for a long time. I'm a wannabe, a know-nothing, a fake, fraud, and whatever other insult that you want to include.  What it boils down to is this.  I claim to be a well rounded geek (feel free to insert random fat jokes if you must.) yet I've barely read any comic books in my life before the last year.
   Growing up comic books were not accessible to me, there were no local comic shops in small town rural Temperance, Michigan. I know I claim Monroe, that is where I was born, and lived until about age 7, but after that it was all Temperance baby. But I digress, unlike past generations of nerds, I had many options of where to spread my geek to. I got to 'watch' my comics as there were more animated shows based on comic characters than ever before, many of the stories were ripped right out of the comics. Comics were expensive, and I grew up sans the silver spoon needed to properly feed my nerdy obsession.
   Video games were huge in my generation as well, sure there was the Atari before us, but most advancements in home gaming game happened during my generation as well, that meant another thing to split my time with.
   Then came the internet, and soon after wikipedia. I know that it's not a good source for a journalist or a research paper, but it's great for a nerd. Mostly it's edited by the more nerdly among us, and we self moderate our selves and and massively fact check each other. The great thing about wikipedia is that it allowed me to catch up on years of history in a few hours, and very cheaply.
   Unfortunately that meant I still didn't dive into comics as much as I wanted to, and it allowed me to sound knowledgeable among the community I so wanted to be a part of, simply because I knew the story lines, and if something were mentioned that I didn't know, I'd simply claim to not remember, or that I must have missed that issue.
   Pre-2010 I had probably read less than 20 comic books in my life, and maybe 5 or 6 trade paper backs. A lot of that has changed in recent years, as I've figured out I can get TPB's from the library, and that the library has deals where I can get books from just about anywhere. I'm loving it.  I currently have 33 trade's checked out, and I rip through them in about an hour each.
   I'm catching up mostly on Batman and the Flash right now, but I will soon move on to catching up on more stuff. Please leave me a comment and let me know your suggestions of what I should check out. And please don't chastize me to much, for being 'in the closet' for so long with my secret. I'm out now, and looking for help to fix the whole in my geek playbook.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Photographs and Memories.

Photographs and Memories;
All the love you gave to me;
Somehow it can't be true;
That's all I've left of you.
   I barely remember my grandparents. As a small child in Monroe my grandparents lived in the house next door to us. By all accounts from family and friends that knew them tell me that they were both very good people.
   Both of them died less than a month apart in 1993, Fred March 28, and Marge April 22. I was seven. I know that I had memories of them, but I can't recall those memories anymore.
   My grandmother had a lot of health problems, she was bed ridden my entire life, and many times, even before I was born her doctors gave her less than six months to live. I've been told by my family that they think she only lived as long as she did because of me. She used to smile so much whenever I would run in the door to tell my mother, who was her caregiver that my dad ha dropped the expletive hammer or whatever other thing he had on his foot, of course I didn't know not to use that language back then.
   I can remember sitting by her bedside and talking with her for hours, but not anything that either of us said. I have no real memories of her.
   Pop was the healthy one of the two, or so we thought. After he died the family found out that he had several types of cancer and hadn't told any of us because he didn't want anyone to worry while his wife was in pain and needed help.
I know that when I was little he used to take me to the store and get me toy cars, I say get because he would shop lift them, pulling them out of his pocket after we would leave the store. Again though, I don't remember this happening, I only know of it because I've been told it happened by other members of my family.
   I don't have any pictures of them either, nor does my father to the best of my knowledge. We just weren't the type of family that took a lot of photos back then, it was after all many years before digital photography.
   Last week when I got home from work, I logged into the computer to check my e-mail, and saw that someone had tagged me in a photo on Facebook. Innocent enough I clicked the link to see what it was. I didn't know what to expect as the person that tagged me was my dad's first wife, mother to my three sisters. I thought maybe it was a picture of me with them as a child, or of one of my nephews.
   The second the photo loaded, two things happened. First I smiled, second I started openly crying, unable to control my emotions for a few moments as staring at me was my grandfather's face from sometime 20 years or more ago. There were several other photos of my grandma, my sister's, and other members of the family was way back as well.
It was a pleasant surprise, and I'm not sure why I cried, but I just couldn't help myself. At least I was home alone so no one had to see me do it. It was a very bright spot in a week that had otherwise been dragging on, for that I thank you Sue.

Edit: Just wanted to let the reader's know that this will be running as a column in the Wednesday edition of the News-Herald.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dougie Houser is Spider-Man?

   I love movie adaptations of comic books, the animated series’ that are based on comic books are also good, but more often than not they are aimed a bit more at kid's than the general nerd population. These days,  they usually evolve out of a way to cash in on the success of a movie adaptation, and they seem rushed.  That is fine, but as the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim and Spike TV’s The Strip has proven, there is a market for cartoons that appeal to an older demographic.
   I think Stan Lee has always known this, and that is why MTV’s version of Lee’s Spider-Man is probably one of the most adult animated comic book adaptations I’ve ever seen.

   “Spider-Man: The Animated Series” picked up where the movie left off (I know what you are thinking…cash-in.  But Lee was developing this series before the movie came out, it took the success of the movie to get the ball rolling on it.)  Peter Parker (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris) has gotten comfortable with being Spider-Man, but he now has to make adjustments in his real life.  He is attending Empire State University and freelancing as a photographer at the Daily Bugle.  He still pines over Mary Jane Watson (voiced by Lisa Loeb), and wonders if turning her away at the end of the movie was a good idea.  They both hang out with Harry Osborn (voiced by Ian Ziering), who still hates Spider-Man for killing his father.  Even though he is a hero, he is considered a fugitive to the law, and is constantly being chased by the police, led by Officer Barr (voiced by Ed Asner.)

   In the first episode, called “The Party,” a nerdy friend of Peter named Max Dillon (voiced by Ethan Embry) tries to become part of the cool crowd by pledging a fraternity.  They haze Max, but do not intend to let him in.  When the joke of hazing him ticks him off, he runs out in embarrassment and is electrocuted by a neon sign.  Instead of killing him, it turns him into Electro, a villain who can electrocute people with his hands.  He immediately decides to take his revenge out on the kids on campus.  His targets are mainly his tormentors, but there are a few innocent victims as well.  Spider-Man comes in and saves the day, which unfortunately includes killing his old friend to save the people.  The last shot is at Max’s grave, but a street lantern lights up, which means we probably haven’t seen the last of Electro.

   In the second episode, called “Sword of Shikata,” an eccentric animal collector hires a hunter to capture Spider-Man for his collection.  The wealthy businessman Richard Damien (voiced by John C. McGinley) pays $2.5 million to Shikata (voiced by Gina Gershon), a martial artist/swordswoman who is so fast that she can deflect bullets.  Damien wants Spider-Man alive, but after she fights the web-slinger the first time, she decides she wants to kill him.  She turns down Damien’s money, and Damien sends his thugs (the lead thug Raymond is voiced by Clancy Brown) to kill Shikata.  With a little help from Spider-Man, Shikata defeats the thugs and is more than ever determined to fight Spider-Man to the death.  Just so Damien doesn’t get in the way again, she kills Raymond and decapitates Damien.  Mary Jane, who had been cast in an independent movie that Damien was producing, comes into his office to talk about her role.  She sees his severed head on the floor and calls the police.  At that time, she discovers that Shikata’s sword is the source of her power.  When MJ sees Spider-Man and Shikata later fighting on the street, she tells Spider-Man the sword secret.  He destroys the sword, which makes Shikata turn old and die.  Spider-Man and MJ kiss right before he once again has to avoid the police, prompting possible sparks between the two in the future.

   The show is not your kiddie Spider-Man series (see my last blog posting).  People actually are killed (it’s not graphic though), there is blood, and there is adult language.  It’s very action-packed, and the voice work is good.

   The action is cool and exciting, but I did have one problem with the animation.  It was computer animated, and even though Pixar seems to have mastered it, the animation by Mainframe Entertainment, the company that animated this show, looked a little stiff to me.  I would have rather had it be hand-drawn than animated the way it was.  I actually started getting a little used to it by the second episode, but that may have been because the second episode was better than the first one all around. Those are the only two episodes I've re-watched in the last 5 years or so, so I'll have to save comments on the series as a whole for a later date. The series however was never given enough of a chance to find it's audience, it's a shame as it was growing on me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"When Spider-Man lands on a rooftop, make sure he doesn't land on any pigeons"

   The nostalgia bug has hit me recently, that combined with Netflix recently putting on a ton of old shows, has lead me to the path of rewatching Spider-Man the Animated Series.  the show originally ran from Nov. 1994 until Jan. 1998, a total of 65 episodes over the five seasons.
   The great thing about this show, was that it didn't find the need to over explain things like a lot of shows and even movies do today, but it didn't dumb down anything for kids either.  Season one throws us straight into the thick of things, Peter Parker is already Spidey, and he's out fighting supercriminals, no backstory needed.
   The show has a lot of science and techno babble, 99 percent of which is made up completely.  But ti doesn't try to over explain the science behind this stuff, it just works its way into the conversations on the show and the viewer is expected to understand it.
   The animation holds up to today's standards, even better than a lot of current shows.  Marvel and DC both had several shows out in this time frame, and animation wise, this was one of the best looking shows of the era. Voice wise, Christopher Barnes, while not a well known actor, was an amazing Spider-Man.
   Season one lasted 13 episodes, and introduced us to many classic Spidey villains such as the Lizard, Shocker, Venom, Mysterio, the Hobgoblin and many more.
   Batman the animated series was still on the air when this show debuted, as was Superman the animated series.  The powers that be at the next sent out a memo stating "When Spider-Man lands on a rooftop, make sure he doesn't land on any pigeons," hence the title. What that meant however was that they wanted a show with much less violence than Batman. Batman didn't take any punches when it came to beating on the baddies, Spider-Man wasn't allowed to do anything that would insinuate violence.  He only even attempted to throw a single punch in the entire series, which did not land.
   That memo however in no way changes the enjoyability of the show. the show remains one of my favorite animated shows of all time.
   Stay tuned for reviews of seasons 2-5, and my overall impressions of the show in the near future.

Episode #1 - Night of the Lizard
Original Airdate - November 19th, 1994
Peter's science teacher, Dr. Curt Connors, transforms himself into the Lizard while attempting an experiment to regenerate his missing limb. Consumed by the animal instincts of the Lizard, Dr. Connors terrorizes the city and becomes a hunted man. When Spider-Man discovers that his teacher is in fact the monster he has been trying to capture, he must find a cure before Dr. Connors' transformation becomes irreversible.

Episode #2 - The Sting Of The Scorpion
Original Airdate - March 11th, 1995
J. Jonah Jameson hires a detective, Mac Gargan, to be transformed into a super hero to fight Spider-Man and names him the Scorpion. But Scorpion turns on his creators after he mutates and attempts to blow up a power plant. Now Spider-Man must clean up the mess that Jameson has created and stop Scorpion before he destroys the city.
Episode #3 - The Spider Slayer
Original Airdate – February 4th, 1995
In order to pay off his debt to the crime boss known as the Kingpin, Norman Osborn hires Spencer Smythe to design a powerful robot called the Spider-Slayer to capture and destroy Spider-Man. Spider-Man manages to defeat the machine along with Spencer Smythe in a massive exposion...or did he?
Episode #4 - Return of the Spider Slayers
Original Airdate - Feburary 11th, 1995
Alistair Smythe, Spencer Smythe's son, builds three more Spider-Slayers to destroy Spider-Man and the people he holds responsible for his father's death.
Episode #5 - The Menace of Mysterio
Original Airdate - Feburary 25th, 1995
As part of a personal vendetta a new villain in town, Mysterio, frames Spider-Man in order to tarnish his reputation and attempts to gain the status as the real hero of New York. Now, Spider-Man must foil Mysterio's plan and expose him for the villain he is!
Episode #6 - Doctor Octopus: Armed and Dangerous
Original Airdate - February 18th, 1995
Spider-Man battles the villain known as Doctor Octopus, who has kidnapped Felicia Hardy and J. Jonah Jameson for ransom. Spider-Man discovers that Doctor Octopus has a personal vendetta against Felicia's mother, Anastasia. Now, Spider-Man must find a way to put an end to the grudge and save two innocent lives.
Episode #7 - The Alien Costume, Part 1
Original Airdate - April 29th, 1995
Spider-Man comes across an alien symbiote that attaches itself to him and forms a new black costume. Meanwhile, Eddie Brock accuses Spider-Man of stealing a valuable rock which was really stolen by the Rhino. Now Spider-Man faces a $1,000,000 bounty for his capture.
Episode #8 - The Alien Costume, Part 2
Original Airdate - May 6th, 1995
When Spider-Man discovers that his black costume is a living organism, he decides to use it to get back the Prometheum X. Meanwhile, Eddie Brock's lies eventually leads to his firing when Jameson realizes that he's been duped. Spider-Man eventually removes the symbiote after fighting the Shocker, only for it to find a new host, Eddie Brock. 
Episode #9 - The Alien Costume, Part 3
Original Airdate - May 13th, 1995
Eddie Brock, now bonded with the symbiote costume and calling himself Venom, sets out to destroy Spider-Man. Now faced with a stronger foe that possesses the same abilities as him, Spider-Man must find a way to outwit and outmatch this menacing new villain and send the alien symbiote back to outer space.
Episode #10 - Kraven the Hunter
Original Airdate – April 1st, 1995
Spider-Man finds himself caught between Mariah Crawford, a doctor from Africa, and Kraven, a man who has stalked her all the way to America. An accomplished hunter, Kraven gained animal-like abilities when he ingested a cure to save his life, but the side effects are causing his behavior to be erratic and violent. Spider-Man works with Mariah Crawford to find a cure and save an innocent man and the people around him.
Episode #11 - The Hobgoblin, Part 1
Original Airdate - May 20th, 1995
Norman Osborn hires the the Hobgoblin to take out Wilson Fisk, but when he fails Osborn fires him. To get revenge on Osborn, Hobgoblin changes sides and kidnaps Norman's son, Harry, for the Kingpin. 
Episode #12 - The Hobgoblin, Part 2
Original Airdate - May 27th, 1995
Spider-Man goes after the Hobgoblin after he attacks Aunt May and kidnaps Harry Osborn. He forms an alliance with Norman Osborn and unknowingly becomes allied with the Kingpin as well. After rescuing Harry, Spider-Man finds himself in an all-out no-holds-barred fight to the finish with the Hobgoblin.
Episode #13 - Day of the Chameleon
Original Airdate - June 11th, 1995
A new villain, The Chameleon, is impersonating other people through an image-inducing belt and plans to assassinate two major diplomats on the brink of signing an important peace proposal. But the Chameleon makes a misstep when he unwisely takes the appearance of Peter Parker while Spider-Man is around. Spider-Man battles his doppelganger to ensure that the peace treaty goes according to plan.