The Search for More Mushrooms

Annabel, by L. Frank Baum – I noticed some definite similarities between this one and some of the other Baum non-fantasies that were included in Oz-Story Magazine. Like Sam Steele’s Adventures on Land and Sea, it has a boy who goes into a business partnership with an older protege, and eventually finds out that not only is his father still alive, but someone has been ripping him off. And The Flying Girl is largely about a business rivalry, as is this. There’s also a love story in Annabel, though, between the protagonist Will Carden and the titular Annabel Williams. She’s from a rich family to which Will sometimes sold vegetables, and he was a friend of hers and her siblings until the snobby Mrs. Williams says she doesn’t want him hanging around anymore. So he goes into business selling mushrooms for a doctor, and becomes pretty successful at that. He also ingratiates himself to the Williams family by saving Annabel when she falls through some ice. Mr. Williams, who owns the local steel mill, sends Will to England to investigate a steel refining process very similar to his own in a Birmingham mill. That’s where he finds that his father is living there, and the boarder at the Carden house has been ripping them off for a long time. This was another pseudonymous work by Baum, originally credited to Suzanne Metcalf.

A Malady of Magicks, by Craig Shaw Gardner – Since I’d read the fourth book in this series, I decided I should go back to the beginning. It includes the bit about the dragon and damsel who start a stage show that had appeared in A Dragon-Lover’s Treasury of the Fantastic. When the wizard Ebenezum summons the badly rhyming demon Guxx Unfufadoo, who curses him to become allergic to magic. Ebenezum and his apprentice Wuntvor, who narrates the story, head toward the legendary city of Vushta trying to find a cure. Along the way, they meet people from the wizard’s past, and pretty much everyone seems to be trying to rip someone off. It also introduces the cursed warrior Hendrek, who begins pretty much every line with the word “doom!” I assume this was always intended to be a series, since there isn’t really a conclusion at the end.

Mario and the Incredible Rescue, by Tracey West – This is a sort of odd novelty that I learned about on the Super Mario Wiki. Published in 2006, it was originally offered through an elementary school book club. Interestingly, a lot of the locations that appear in the story are directly from Super Mario RPG, which was released a decade previously. Not surprisingly, the plot centers around Bowser kidnapping the Princess, but this time he does it with the help from some ghosts. While Boos are shown on the cover, these ghosts seem different, as they’re conjured up by a stolen magic book and are intangible. Mario, Luigi, and Toad meet with the sorceress Cybele, from whom Bowser stole the book, and she sends them on a quest to recover six magical mushrooms that can undo the spell. There’s a puzzle that the characters have to solve to find each one, and I would have thought they’d print the solutions on the next page so kids can try to solve them before seeing the answer, but often the answer is provided on the same page. Yoshi and Wario put in appearances as well, the latter’s part being a reference to Mario and Wario. I’ve learned from experience that it can be difficult to write out video game actions in prose, but it’s not like this is trying to be great literature anyway. I think the main difference between this and most of the other official Mario tie-in stuff I’ve encountered is that it’s really not jokey, instead taking a very straightforward approach.

Donkey Kong Country, by Michael Teitelbaum – Another grade school level book based on a video game that I bought from the same bookseller, this retells the story of the first DKC game. Cranky goes along with Donkey and Diddy Kong on their journey, and while he mostly just complains, he does help out a few times. The four animal friends all make appearances as well, although Funky and Candy do not. There’s a bit of an environmental theme in that the factory is said to be poisoning the air on Donkey Kong Island. It’s really just following the game in that respect, as the Kremkroc Industries area is really polluted, but it was still interesting. There are two more books in the DKC series, the second based on Donkey Kong Land and the third on DKC 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest. While I haven’t read them, I understand the second has Cranky identify Big Ape City as where the original Donkey Kong game took place. Whether that makes it the same as New Donk City is a question I’m not sure will ever get an official answer.

Posted in Book Reviews, Donkey Kong, Humor, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Mario, Oz, Oz Authors, Relationships, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tips for Up and Coming Fairy Princesses

I listened to the first two seasons of The Chronicles of Oz about a year and a half ago, and the third season is up now. Each one is based on a book, so this one is Ozma of Oz.

It keeps the basic plot intact while changing up the details a bit. The cast is trimmed down, leaving out the Hungry Tiger, the Army of Oz (who, admittedly, didn’t do all that much and just provided a bit of comic relief), and all but two of the royal children of Ev. While it’s Ozma’s book, Dorothy is the viewpoint character throughout most of it. Chronicles instead focuses on Ozma for some time before even bringing in Dorothy. And while Ozma and Dorothy were immediate best friends in the book, here they don’t get along at all at first, partially because they’re too similar. Tip still exists in Ozma’s head, and we also find out that the Wicked Witch of the West’s spirit is in Dorothy’s. I’m not sure how that will affect the plot of future episodes, and how much of the later story has been planned out. Tik-Tok and Billina aren’t much different from how they are in the original, although the language used to refer to the former’s machinery is modernized. There are a lot of references to Return to Oz, including that the Nome King’s power derives from the Silver Shoes instead of the Magic Belt. The main deviation from the book’s plot was an interlude where the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion are captured by Dr. Nikidik, who here is a mad scientist who apparently doesn’t believe in magic, despite living near the Nome Kingdom. Also, Nanda launches a revolution in Ev, and tries to execute Princess Langwidere.

The dialogue between the King and his steward that Billina overhears comes across as more natural than in the book, and Ozma (with help from Tip) manages to figure out the color-coding of the ornaments on her own anyway. I was amused by the reference to theme song of Tales from the Wizard of Oz, and other non-canonical material is incorporated as well. Grommetik from Wicked becomes an entire gang of robots working for Nikidik, and Dashemoff and Tryxie from the original Wizard stage play and Azkadellia from Tin Man are the names of former Ozian royalty.

The drama does a lot to flesh out the world, some of it fitting in with how L. Frank Baum portrayed it, and others differing quite a bit. While I don’t think all the individual changes necessarily work that well, I find it impressive that it keeps the basic storylines intact while going into a bit more depth.

Posted in Characters, Humor, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Magic Items, Oz, Oz Authors, Plays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Douse the Bowser

I might as well finish up my write-ups on the Super Mario Bros. stories from Valiant Comics, and by that I mean the ones I could find scanned. I don’t think I’ve ever seen “Elect Mario for Man of the Year” or “Tanooki Suits Me” at all, and I’ve only seen the end of “Minor Defects” on Tumblr.

It’s Always Fair Weather – The Annual Mushroomland Fair is being held, and Bowser has already shown up to ruin it! No, wait, it’s just Luigi in a costume, for the Douse the Bowser dunk tank.

But the actual Bowser sees it and gets angry, so he uses a machine to create a cyclone that blows away some of the hot air balloons in which Toads are riding.

Meanwhile, Mario eats all the cakes entered in the fair, and uses a toothpick that turns out to have a leaf that gives him raccoon powers.

Since he’s unfamiliar with the transformation, I guess this must be before the events of Super Mario Bros. 3 proper. That is, if you care about fitting apocryphal material into a timeline, which I do. And based on information from later games, the plant must have been from the Tail Tree.

Mario flies off and saves the Toads, gets a kiss from the Princess, and sends Bowser off in a cyclone from his own machine.

And he’s not even commenting on King Koopa’s sexuality!

The Revenge of Pipe Ooze! – Mario and company are at a Dirk Drain-Head convention in Pipe Land doing live-action role-play. Mario is dressed as Dirk, Luigi as his sidekick Snakey, the King as the villainous Pipe Ooze, and Toad as his minion Muck. The Princess is Baroness Blueblood from her favorite comic series, although I guess it’s possible there was a crossover at some point.
I’m really quite intrigued by the Baroness cosplay. Kind of a Star Wars sort of look, isn’t it?
I wonder whether, if the series had been more successful, Valiant would have put out a real-life Dirk comic. I know Bongo Comics did some Radioactive Man ones. Maybe it’s funnier when we only see the Dirk stories described second-hand, though. The attendees are specifically acting out the story “Hot and Cold Running Brains.” They run into a Piranha Plant dressed as Dirk’s friend Rusty Water, who suggests the brothers switch suits. They do, with Mario justifying it by saying that Dirk and Snakey switch minds in the comic they’re acting out. As you can probably tell from the pictures of Dirk in this and other stories, Luigi looks just like him, making Mario jealous.

Bowser is also at the convention, trying to teach an ambush lesson to his rather dimwitted son Lemmy.

They steal the Pipe Ooze and Muck costumes from the Mushroom King and Toad, but Lemmy wants to play the game, and remembers that Muck switches sides in that particular comic. So he attacks his own father, and Mario follows suit after Luigi convinces Bowser that he doesn’t have much of a choice seeing as he’s surrounded by enemies. And King Koopa tells Lemmy that his attacking a family member counts for extra points. This comic also has a few examples of the Toads being even more fungus-themed than usual, including Toad enjoying being coated in slime and the King wanting a slime burger and a mold shake.

The Buddy System – This one begins with Mario and Luigi trying to stop the explosions coming from the castle pipes. Mario discovers a big sneaker that turns out to be Bowser’s. When he goes to investigate, he finds King Koopa and his son Lemmy trying to use bombs to blow up the water main, which would in turn shut down the transport tube system, and Bowser could get rich with a taxi service. Lemmy, not being too bright, has planted a bunch of bombs in the wrong places. Bowser is wearing the other shoe, I suppose because he’s in the sewer.

As per “The Venice Menace,” he hates it when his tootsie-wootsies get wet.

After an explosion, Mario and Bowser are taken prisoner by the giant subterranean mice from “A Mouser in the Houser.” As we learned in that comic that they invented the transport tube system, that makes sense. Lemmy also makes a brief mention that Mouser, the former ruler of these mice, told him about the water main. These mice turn out not to be all that bright, though, as they end up blowing up the main themselves. Mario and Bowser have to work together to open a valve and drain out all the water. This doesn’t last for all that long, since these stories are only ten pages long, but it’s still a good idea, and I like that they have some level of rapport but don’t trust each other. After they open the valve and escape, Lemmy shows up and sets off another bomb.

It’s interesting that, while most of the Koopalings only appear in one story and Wendy in two, Lemmy shows up in three. The others might well have gotten their time in the spotlight if the series had continued, but the writers seem to have had a lot of fun with Lemmy in particular, who here is eager to please his father but rather dimwitted. Speaking of fathers, Bowser tells Mario that his used to say there was no problem big enough to run away from.

He had previously suggested in “Bedtime for Drain-Head” that his dad was a fugitive from the law, so it kind of adds up. Anyway, when Mario gets back to the castle, he finds that Luigi was given the credit for fixing everything, but he’s too exhausted to care.

The Doctor Is In…Over His Head – This is based on the Dr. Mario game, which was kind of a bizarre idea in the first place. Not in terms of gameplay, which is pretty straightforward, but in how a blue-collar worker like Mario is suddenly a doctor. Shigeru Miyamoto has even basically said that he’s probably not licensed. What’s even worse is that the recent mobile game Dr. Mario World has pretty much everyone being able to serve as a doctor, including Bowser, Donkey Kong, and baby versions of the characters.

The implication seems to be that the Mushroom Kingdom doesn’t really have a proper medical licensing system, and anyone who can throw pills can call themselves a doctor if they want. The comic more or less confirms this idea. Dr. Waldo Bloom at the Mushroom Kingdom General Hospital calls Mario for an emergency. Mario naturally assumes it’s to do with plumbing, but instead Bloom needs a research assistant. He immediately starts calling Mario a doctor, even before he agrees to the proposition. Dr. Bloom tells how they’ll treat anyone who needs it, even villains, although they have to sign agreements promising to be good from then on. It’s apparently not always effective, however, as a Goomba simply breaks the clipboard and runs off.

A Goomba in a tam o’ shanter, no less.
Dr. Bloom shows Mario and the Princess a microscope, allowing them to view some viruses the doctor has isolated in a dish. They manage to escape, however, and after a chase fall inside the microscope. The Princess, who carried Mario’s plumbing tools because Luigi was busy, insists that he use them. so Mario uses a plunger on the microscope. Unfortunately, this allows the viruses to grow to human size and escape, Wogglebug style, wreaking havoc in the region (which the Wogglebug didn’t do). Each virus is given its own name and powers: Fever, the red one, who produces heat; Chill, the blue one, who freezes people; and Weird, the yellow one, who makes Dr. Bloom break out in spots and grow antlers.

They release a lot of smaller germs as well, but while the three giant ones talk, the little ones only communicate in meaningless strings of letters.

Mario finds some vitamin pills in Bloom’s lab coat, and finds out that tossing them at the viruses in the right color combinations will destroy them.

At the Princess’ suggestion, Dr. Bloom decides to take up golf, but he’s terrible at it, leaving Mario to serve as the doctor in addition to his plumbing work and Koopa-thwarting. You know, Mario was in some golf games, so maybe he should be Bloom’s golf tutor as well. Shouldn’t a hospital the size of Mushroom Kingdom General have already had more than one doctor? The final panel reveals that one of the giant viruses survive, possibly Chill, even though he was in the exploding pile with the other two. Now if only Dr. Mario could get rid of the coronavirus! (See? A topical reference!)

I’ve played a little more of Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time, but I was annihilated by the Elder Shrooboid in the Star Shrine. I had a bit of false confidence because his first form took a while to beat but wasn’t that hard, then I found out he has another one. And in that form, he uses flying saucers that can cause major damage.

I also decided to check out Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, which I found I could download for fairly cheap. I generally prefer to own physical copies of things, but sometimes it’s not really practical. I’m really not very good at platform games, and it can be a little difficult to judge how far Mario can jump in this one, so I’ve died quite a bit. Interestingly, the levels you cleared stay cleared when you get a game over, but you lose the titular (subtitular?) coins and have to fight the bosses again. Wario would probably have had more luck just keeping the coins inside the castle.

I guess the most practical way to do it, other than gitting gud, would be to try to finish every level EXCEPT the boss ones. It’s a pretty creative game, using world themes beyond the usual environments. There’s a tree with giant bugs and deadly forest creatures, a house and yard where everything is enormous, a mechanical statue of Mario, the inside of a whale, and even outer space. Enemies include the typical Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Piranha Plants, and Bullet Bills; but there are plenty of new faces as well. There are cow-fish that swim in sap, hedgehogs (no relation to Mario’s rival mascot at the time, I’m sure), nasty one-eyed children, masked enemies inspired by Jason Voorhees, cannon pigs, toy soldiers, and sharks with boxing gloves.

A unique power-up is a carrot that gives Mario rabbit ears, which he can use to flutter downwards. I believe the Tanooki Suit in Super Mario 3D Land has that same power.

Posted in Comics, Humor, Magic, Mario, Monsters, Relationships, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Wisp

The term “Will o’ the Wisp” refers to a sort of light that appears over swamps and marshes, caused by photon emissions from gases. Or at least that’s the scientific explanation. There’s a lot of folklore devoted to these weird lights that appear and then mysteriously disappear, leaving unwary travelers in perilous places. St. Elmo’s Fire is a related phenomenon, although that’s caused by plasma produced by an electrical field. That’s named after St. Erasmus of Formia, the patron of sailors. “Elmo” is an Italian version of his name.

Will-o’-the-wisps are often said to be produced by fairies or the souls of the dead, sometimes specifically those of unbaptized children, and can mark the location of fairy gold or other hidden treasure.

The term comes from the nickname for William, and comes from the same basic formation as “Jack o’ Lantern,” which was also used for such lights before it came to mean vegetables with candles inside. The folk explanation is that someone named Will or Jack is punished for sins committed in life by being forced to wander the world for eternity, but with a lantern to light the way. One variation in Scotland is that the wanderer is a girl who tried to hoard a plant that could be used for dyeing cloth. A wisp in this case is a torch, although it’s been used to refer to the lights themselves. Another name for them is fool’s fire, or ignis fatuus. One story I came across, which credits Karl Haupt as the teller, describes an Irrwisch, the German name for such a creature, promising to lead someone home in exchange for payment. He leaves the fairy with a smaller payment once he gets to a place he recognizes, only for the familiar place to turn out to be an illusion. One fascinating variation is the Brazilian Boitata, a giant snake said to have survived a deluge that killed many other animals. It eats the eyes of animals, which made the creature’s entire body glow. It also serves a noble purpose, however, as the protector of forests and fields. It can often only be seen as two glowing eyes, and looking at them too long will make a person go blind.

The mysterious lights are mentioned quite a bit in literature, including in Shakespeare, in combination with the fairies Ariel in The Tempestand Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Bram Stoker’s Dracula utilize them as well. The Lord of the Rings, Gollum warns Frodo and Sam against following the lights in the Dead Marshes. According to Lewis Carroll, a Snark has the flavor of will-o’-the-wisp.

Wikipedia also mentions the stab-happy Tonberries in the Final Fantasy games, whose lanterns are probably a reference to the phenomenon, although their appearance is more like the umibozu, a kind of yokai that appears on calm waters to wreck ships.

Their behavior is fairly similar to the will-o’-the-wisp, really, but on a larger scale. The Animal Crossing games have a ghost named Wisp who appears at night or from a lamp and gives you a reward if you gather five lost spirits for him. I don’t think I’ve ever run into him, though.

I’m also reminded of the Rogue Wispers in Dragon Quest IV, called Lost Souls in later translations, weird flame-like enemies that float there and do nothing until eventually launching suicide attacks, although these often don’t happen during a battle.

Flames are often used to represent spirits of the dead in the DQ series.

Posted in Animal Crossing, Animals, Authors, British, Christianity, Dragon Quest, Etymology, Fairy Tales, Final Fantasy, German, J.R.R. Tolkien, Japanese, Lewis Carroll, Magic, Monsters, Mythology, Plays, Poetry, Religion, Science, Scottish, South American, Video Games, William Shakespeare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Underage Drinking, Sex, and Murder

Ma – While I knew this was a horror movie, I didn’t know exactly what the horrific part was. I just knew it was about a middle-aged woman, played by Octavia Spencer, who bought booze for teenagers and let them party in her basement. It’s later revealed that, back in high school, she had a crush on a jerky guy who humiliated her in front of the whole school, and one of the kids she’s buying drinks for is his son. Since the back story is only revealed a little at a time, it makes her seem sympathetic at first, but gradually exposes how crazy she is. There’s a bit where the two main girls find something disturbing in her room, but the audience doesn’t find out what it is until much later. Ma, whose real name is Sue Ann, is also abusive to her own daughter, in a Munchhausen’s by Proxy kind of way. One thing I thought was interesting was that, as lame as some of the teenage characters were with their constant drinking and partying, they did seem pretty inclusive; even the less popular kids were invited to the parties. Is the message that teenagers are nicer now (which I doubt), or just that, even if Ma deserves revenge, there’s no reason to take it out on her old classmates’ kids who aren’t much like their parents.

Prom Night – Made in Canada, it’s a slasher movie with a pretty low budget that achieved box office success. Jamie Lee Curtis stars in it, as does Leslie Nielsen. It starts with some kids playing in an abandoned convent, and they decide to torture another kid, Robin Hammond, who ends up falling out a window and dying. The kids vow never to tell what happened, which might make some sense in kid thinking, even though it was accidental and they wouldn’t be tried as adults. A sex offender ends up being convicted of the crime. Nielsen plays the father of the girl who dies, who’s also the high school principal. This was around the same time he was in Airplane!, his first comedy role. Curtis plays the girl’s sister. Ten years later, the anniversary of the death happens to fall on the same day as the prom, and Curtis is the prom queen. The kids who scared Robin to death are all attending, and they receive threatening phone calls, then come up against a masked guy with a hatchet at the school. And that’s about it, really. The main story is serviceable enough, with some mystery as to who the killer is, but there were some subplots that more or less blew past me. The director, Paul Lynch, mostly did television, but his name makes me wonder what a combination of Paul Lynde and David Lynch would be like.

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I Got Rich Selling Mold

Here are some more Nintendo Comics System reviews for anyone who cares. And they’re still here even if you don’t care. Strange how that happens.

Bedtime for Drain-Head – The second Dirk Drain-Head story starts with Mario having stayed up reading Dirk comics for seventy-two hours. Just when he’s ready to go to sleep, Luigi comes in announcing that Toad was kidnapped by King Koopa. Mario falls asleep and thinks he’s Dirk, something that Luigi indicates has happened before. The thing is, Dirk is more competent than Mario, so he easily trashes a bunch of Koopa minions, all while making heroic speeches.

That’s cold, Luigi.
Thinking Toad is Dirk’s sidekick Snakey, Mario scares Koopa so much that he shows up at the Mushroom Castle and almost surrenders to the good guys.

In the Nintendo Adventure Books, Wooster is mostly characterized as a neat freak. That’s less the case in the comics, but it didn’t come from nowhere.
The Mushroom King makes the mistake of saying Mario was asleep the whole time, though, so Bowser storms off, angry and embarrassed.

Love Flounders – Mario, Luigi, and Toad are supposed to participate in a bowling tournament, using meatballs as bowling balls. Mario can’t go, however, as he has to gather chuckberries for the Princess’ breakfast cereal, and since they grow underwater he’s wearing a Frog Suit. Unfortunately for him, he runs into Stanley the Talking Fish, making his second appearance.

He’s still just as annoying, and now he’s actively getting Mario into trouble instead of just hassling him. He asks for the plumber’s help in breaking his date with Big Bertha, because he’s since fallen for Smookers the Jelectro.

He figures it wouldn’t be that bad, until Bertha falls for him instead. As in the game, she carries a kid in her mouth, and the kid comments on what’s going on, a common theme for side characters in these comics.

I’ve seen it suggested that the scene with a human (well, humanoid, since I think they’re all supposed to be evolved reptiles in that world) Big Bertha in the live-action movie having a thing for Mario might have been inspired by this comic. Mario escapes Bertha and picks some chuckberries, only to have the giant fish catch up and give him a kiss, which makes the Frog Suit disappear. She’s disappointed that he’s not really a frog, because apparently fish-amphibian dating is okay while fish-mammal dating isn’t. Mario feels bad for her and gives her the chuckberries, and upon arriving back home and trying to come clean with the Princess, it turns out she got so hungry she ate his bowling meatball.

Fins and Roses – Stanley and Bertha reappear in this one, and Wendy O. Koopa is actually the main character. Her spy network has alerted her that Mario is going to pass through a certain area in the water at a specific time, and she looted her father’s arsenal for weapons to kill the hero. Stanley shows up and falls for her, and she wastes time and weapons chasing him away. And since a misunderstanding Bertha thinks Wendy is interested in Stanley, she keeps tossing Wendy back to the surface. Wendy turns down her chance to fire at Mario to shoot Stanley instead, because he’s just so irritating.

After Wendy is blown up by her own bomb, Mario declares a truce so they can say mean things about Stanley.

Cloud Burst – There aren’t that many of these comics, so how did there end up being two titles that started with the word “cloud”? The Princess has lost her crown, and needs it for her re-coronation ceremony, or the King will have to rule alone. When Mario asks why this would be so bad, the King immediately demonstrates by showing up with a peanut butter jar caught on his tie.

The Princess intimidates Mario and Luigi to go to World 3 to take on Koopa’s entire army, assuming he’s the one who took her crown. As seen here and in “Love Flounders,” Peach is way more formidable in the comics than in many takes on the character, convincing her friends to walk right into potential danger.

Is the ex-girlfriend mentioned here Pauline?
When a Lakitu attacks with Spiny Eggs, Luigi takes to the sky, landing on the Lakitu’s cloud Fluffy. It turns out that the kleptomaniac Lakitu not only stole the Princess’ crown, but also Bowser’s crown and a bunch of his gold. He then steals Luigi’s clothes while they’re talking to each other, and makes the green-clad plumber polish his stolen gold.

Bowser is wearing a hat because he’s lost his crown and is bald, even though this was after Super Mario Bros. 3 when he had hair in-game.

Maybe it was burned off in the lava or something.

Luigi finally escapes by pulling the escape hatch, spilling the treasure on top of Mario and Koopa.

Since Luigi doesn’t get a whole lot of attention in most of these comics, it’s cool to see him taking center stage here.

Posted in Animals, Comics, Dreams, Humor, Mario, Monsters, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We Need to Talk About Reg

Here are my thoughts on a few movies I’ve seen recently. We really haven’t been making the most of our Netflix account as of late. They seem to be de-emphasizing movie distribution in favor of the creation of original content these days anyway, but that’s not really related to this.

Blair Witch – Beth showed me the original The Blair Witch Project years ago, but she had a habit of starting movies when I was incredibly tired, so I don’t remember all that much about it. While I paid more attention to this one, I think not recalling many of the details from the first made it difficult to fully grasp what was happening. It was engaging enough, although since the whole premise of both movies largely consists of not really showing anything, it’s mostly just about people going crazy in the woods. Because of better recording technology, the makers apparently didn’t feel the need to put in a bunch of shaky camera work this time. And I understand the ending is supposed to create a closed time loop, which seems more like a totally different genre of movie.

We Need to Talk About Kevin – My wife has sought out really disturbing movies, and this is among them. Starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly, it’s the story of a mother’s relationship with her son, who seemed cruel even from infancy, and eventually grew into a total psychopath. There’s the question of whether talking about Kevin, as hinted in the title, would have actually done any good, and the film leaves this ambiguous. While Swinton is concerned about her son, it leads to her reacting in extreme ways that could easily have done further damage, even breaking his arm when lashing out physically during his childhood. He also outright states when he’s older that he probably gets his cold stubbornness from her. And since Kevin treats his mom differently from anyone else, even his dad, they assume she’s overreacting. The film is a bit choppy in style, the frame story being that it’s Swinton’s character looking back on the events of Kevin’s life as she goes to visit him in prison, so it’s sometimes difficult to tell exactly what happened in a given scene. It also means there’s a lot left out, since Kevin is almost sixteen when he’s incarcerated, although the general sense given is that the scenes we see are representative of how he always acted around his family.

Rocketman – I had expected more of a straight biopic of Elton John, with some things changed to streamline them or make them more dramatic, as is typical of such films. It’s really more of a musical based on Elton’s life using his songs to describe his feelings and what’s going on, which means they aren’t always songs that even existed in the time period displayed. Many of them are used in music-video-style fantasy sequences. It’s framed by Elton going into rehab (which happened in 1990, although the events surrounding it really occurred some years earlier), and explaining the roots of his problems. It was mostly presented from Elton’s own point of view, freely acknowledging his addiction but presenting them largely as resulting from a lack of love and support, first from his family and then from relationships, the latter particularly that with his first boyfriend, John Reid, who was also his manager, although his marriage to Renate Blauel was also shown. His business partnership and platonic relationship with Bernie Taupin is treated quite positively, however. According to the Wikipedia page on the film, people who knew Elton’s dad have objected to his portrayal as cold and distant with his family (well, his first family, anyway). Of course, from an American standpoint, pretty much every English father is cold and distant. The page also details some of the changes from real life, one that’s fairly notable is that his stage surname is shown in the film as being from John Lennon, while it was actually in honor of Long John Baldry, lead singer of the band Bluesology in which Elton (well, Reginald Dwight) played keyboards and Elton Dean saxophone. Baldry was a successful blues musician for a long time, and from what I’ve read is “sugar bear” in “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” He was also the voice of Dr. Robotnik in The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Also not shown in the movie is the woman from that song, Linda Hannon. Incidentally, we have tickets to see Elton on his Farewell Tour, and I hope he doesn’t have to cancel due to the pandemic.

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