Remakes and Reboot Redux: Conclusion

I grew up reading Dark Horse Predator comics and Wizard Magazine. As I moved into other comics, I founds lots of characters to love, but one I always knew about but never read was Judge Dredd. I recognized the character, but didn’t know much beyond the iconic appearance until the last 5 years or so.

Judge Dredd (1995)

In the 90s the mega action stars of the 80s were looking for vehicles. As Sylvester Stallone’s biggest franchises, Rambo and Rocky shifted from classic to semi-farce (at least for a decade or so) Sly began looking for other franchises to be his next big thing. He tried it first with Demolition Man but went for a recognizable character film with 1995s Judge Dredd.

Since I didn’t know about the character at the time I admit I rather enjoyed the film. It went for a “big” story, introduces the world, the judges’ council, then immediately breaks into a story of a character trying to bring it down. It was still exciting, had great 90s special effects (love that bodyguard-bot), and good characters. Stallone made a great Dredd, he certainly had the look, and Diane Cannon was also effective as Judge Hershey.

It came out in the extended Lethal Weapon fallout when every character had to have a “buddy” comic relief aspect. They chose Rob Schneider to basically play himself and proves to be the weakest part of the film. The other aspect of it is Dredd sacrilege but is a direct result of the Stallone-vehicle reality of the movie. They show Dredd’s face. Constantly. Something the creators of the comic have consciously decided not to do (as he is the faceless embodiment of righteous but fascist judgment in Mega City).

It was a Judge movie but still a Stallone movie and also a 90s action movie. It was bright, colorful, and very much a product of the 90s comic movie industry, basic popcorn entertainment. Fun but tossable.

Dredd (2012)

After what a lot of fans consider to be mor Tinseltown than Mega City outing of 1995’s Judge Dredd 2012 brought a reboot in Dredd. With a faceless Karl Urban as the titular Judge, it made the gritty judge movie for the modern era. Films, even hero films, took a dark turn and Judge Dredd is perfect in a “dark” thematic world.

Karl Urban is excellent as Dredd. I didn’t even know it was him, and therefore accepted him more easily as the character. Olivia Thirlby is also fantastic as psychic Judge Anderson, a dynamic female character in modern action movies. Dredd doesn’t treat her like a woman, he treats her like a rookie. Only bringing up her gender when the possibility of capture by savage gangers is a possibility. Lena headey makes a for a sufficiently creepy villain as Ma-Ma and she’s surrounded by a circus of terrific character actors playing terrific characters.

One of the best aspects of the film is its “day-in-the-life” feel. It is a rousing action film, but in the end Dredd explains his miniature war in Peach Trees Mega block as “Drug bust. Perps were…uncooperative…” it looks great, is well-acted, and gives us a look at a different kind of comic character.

These movies show how these films are products of their time and both work very well. Essentially the 2012 Dredd ignores the previous version, but both were successful movies; the first a fun 90s-style action flick; the second a gritty, modern sci-fi crime movie.

Neither is overtly disrespectful of the origin material and the reboot classy-ly makes its own movie without deriding the original. So a viewer can watch 1995s Judge Dredd, enjoy the fun 90s glory of it; then watch Dredd and appreciate the millennium brutality of Mega City crime fighting.

That’s the current state of reboots and remakes in my opinion. Some are good, some are bad, but admittedly it’d be nice to see a brand new intellectual property out there… Til then… It’s Judgment Time Hollywood.  At least make more Apes and Dredds, and less Clash of the Titans and RoboCops

Life Lessons from Video Games: Every Day Video Game Influences


Video gaming has affected modern culture in strange ways. Many of the more recent ways spring from online/multiplayer culture, but surprisingly the games I grew up with, the ones from the 80s and 90s, have had a lingering effect. Things I do day-to-day still show the touch of the 8-32 bit era and just recently I thought to document the weird game references I do in everyday life and here are just the top ones…I’m sure everyone does something like this…

5.) Korobeiniki: I’ve found this to be more common than I realized. As someone with an advanced degree in OCDs and organization I’ve found that organizing anything, desk drawers, folders, shelves, U-Hauls, is always accompanied by this song playing in my head, and occasionally I hum it aloud. I never even played much Tetris because of how messing up lines made my OCDs want to eat my brain but I attached this song indelibly to putting things in order, in nice right angles, NEAT UND TIDY!

4.) Null sweat, chummer: Yes, yes I know Shadowrun was a pen-and-paper RPG before it was ported to the Sega Genesis and turned into an action/adventure masterpiece in 16-bit glory…but I never knew that in the 90s. I knew Shadowrun as a cool used cartridge I got with a very interesting futuristic landscape and creative lingo. Every now and then instead of the usual “No problem,” “sure,” or “My pleasure,” “Null Sweat, Chummer” pops out, much to the bewilderment (usually) of the person receiving this statement. I think if I ever say this to a girl and she responds “Keep running in the shadows” I’ll probably propose…

You say sure thing…he says “Null Sweat, Chummer”

3.) At Doom’s Gate: I spent more time running down the hallways of Doom than I spent in school I think. It’s a rare game I could put on godmode and not get bored. Thirty days in a row… To this day moving swiftly down hallways, corridors, or even through crowded mall makes this music pop into my head. Given how much time I spent blasting hellspawn in that game I wonder if I should fear for the crowd…

2.) Test Your Might/Flawless Victory/Fatality: Mortal Kombat…it briefly held our attention by being more cartoonishly bloody than contemporary games. Even beyond that it started its own mythos…you could find secret characters, see secret things, and half the rumors about it weren’t true. The fighting parlance of the game though far out-lasted the novelty of ripping people’s spinal columns out. I use the above three phrases a LOT in day-to-day life. “Test you Might,” any time I have anything to do really (not just breaking big blocks of steel, rubies, or diamonds). “Flawless Victory” is usually reserved for a better-than-expected result, with “Fatality” brought in when that result ended in total ownage.

1.) HADOUKEN: I use this ALL the time. It’s sad. I use it when I throw clothes across the room. I use it when I toss my phone on the desk. I use it when I drop a dish in the sink. I have no idea why but anything leaving my hand at any moment and any speed equals HADOUKEN to me. It’s probably from the ridiculous spamming of that move that came with playing any version of Street Fighter II… If I ever do figure out how to throw a fireball (I’ve tried moving down, then slightly down forward, then forward and yelling it…it didn’t work) the world would be in big trouble (see my comments on crowds in the “Doom Music” section above….).


Story of the Month: The Quest for the Stereo and the Spirit of the 90s


It’s strange that the 90s still feel “new” to me. The early 2000s feel passé and ancient. Things about the 90s still stick with me and despite the “convenience” of new technology I miss some of the aspects of “inconvenience” of my teenage years. Columbia Record Clubs, VHS and DVD rentals, Magazine research…it’s all stuff that, though it may still exist, isn’t a main part of the culture anymore… My first CDs came from Columbia record Club! And I could only play them in my Sega CD….through a mono-TV.

Thinking of this reminded me of buying my first stereo. It was 1997. I’d had them given as gifts before, Christmas and Birthday presents. The one that I was replacing was indeed a birthday present from my 15th Birthday. It was a TWO disc changer. And it seemed so cool. It had two trays on the top and they would swap places when the discs were changed (I knew so little I once tried to put my Full Throttle PC-CDROM into it to play the great Gone Jackals soundtrack… It didn’t work… But I DID get that soundtrack…from Columbia House!). The stereo started to skip and the changing mechanism didn’t work. I’d saved up some money and went to get myself a brand new stereo. We started out early, about 10 AM. I was kind of excited.

In the 90s, in my area, there were only a few places to go. Circuit City, H.H. Gregg, and Media Play. I usually went to Circuit City, but I remember H.H. Gregg had a sale on them so my mom drove me there. I picked out an AMAZING 5 disc changer. Brought it home, hooked it up, ran my TV and video games systems through it. Connected my parents’ old MASSIVE JBL speakers…and it didn’t work. I tried repeatedly and it didn’t work. So we took it back. H.H. Gregg said they would only offer to fix it, we explained it was a BRAND NEW item and they reluctantly let us exchange it. Unfortunately they didn’t have the one I bought so I downgraded to a three-disc changer, OK with the savings in money, and brought it home. I went through the rigmarole of hooking it back up and…guess what… It didn’t work. Acted like there was no CD in the tray. So we boxed it up and brought it back. The store manger came out and didn’t believe us that it didn’t work. I remember he went in the back and came out with a CD on his finger. He put it in, pressed play, and….it didn’t work. He said “It’s like it’s not reading the CD at all…” My mom, if I recall, responded “No shit.” We got my money back and went to Circuit City.

Old Circuit City buildings had these cool entrances with red-plastic floors covered in circles. it felt like something out of Total Recall. Shopping here was like being in a sci-fi movie…

I felt more comfortable here. We’d purchased PCs from here before with 2 year warranties. Typically when they died after 18 months or so we’d activate the warranty and they’d replace the PC with one that cost the same NOW as the one we got THEN. It means essentially a free-upgrade system if the PC went bad. They quit doing that after a few years.

I found a nice Philips 5 disc changer and took it home. I quit hooking up all my stuff to it and took to just opening the box, plugging it into to the nearest outlet and trying it. I plugged it in. The CD played! I changed discs…and…the mechanism sounded like a pepper mill and it just sat there. We tried it again and…nope. No disc-changing. By this time it was after 3PM. It had been all day. We boxed it up, took it back, and I remember distinctly the woman and man salespeople saying, “Oh I’m sorry… I can’t believe it… Luckily this is Circuit City!” They gave us another one and we took it and went home.

It didn’t even get all the way out of the box. I pulled it out and noticed the back of it looked like it had been kicked in. We just looked despairingly at it and shrugged. I remember saying, “Screw it if it works I don’t care.” It didn’t. It didn’t even power on.

So we took it back…it was after 5PM. Walking back to the stereo section the two salespeople were standing there chatting and I remember the woman turned and saw us, looking stunned she said, “Oh you’re kidding…” I explained it looked like it someone had used it for batting practice and she said, “That’s our shipping…it’s just a box to them.”

Of course they didn’t have the one I picked out. I went to the deep end. I found an amazing-looking Sony 50-disc CD changer. It was 200 more than I planned to spend but I had it. After much consideration I bought it… Took it home…took it out of the box….and…glory be. It worked! It sounded amazing.  in fact it STILL works. It STILL sounds amazing. It as surround sound ports built in. If I want it will play all 50 discs loaded one after another.  It evens started my love affair with Sony products…in all the years I’ve bought them I’ve never had a bad one…

It's an MHC-F100.  Aftermoving it to and from college for four years, from room-to-room,'s still busting it old school.
It’s an MHC-F100. Aftermoving it to and from college for four years, from room-to-room, furniture-to-furniture…it’s still busting it old school.

Yes portable music, iTunes, Bose, have all changed the way we play music, but that experience plus the quality and awesomeness of this system still sum it up for me. Nothing sounds better than a CD…and it sounds all the sweeter knowing the system I found at the end of that capitalist-consumer quest is still alive and kicking. A bit like the spirit of the 90s to me.

Halloween Costumes: A Personal Retrospective Part 2

As the 90s broke, it seems we stopped going for the store-bought costumes, and I personally started wearing costumes my mom made.

While the idea of “homemade” costumes makes a lot of people think they’d be lesser quality than the store-bought stuff, I think the pictures below prove otherwise.

With a great combination of love for Halloween and masterful sewing skill, my mom provided me with the best costumes of my childhood.  Always perfectly complimenting whatever I was into at the time and giving me something wholly unique from all the other kids stalking the streets for candy.  Again I THINK they are mostly in order…

Circa 1990. Michelangelo. Like most boys my age, I friggin’ LOVED Ninja Turtles. In fact, I still love Ninja Turtles. My mom made this one from a pattern I think she got at Hancock Fabrics where she worked. The “muscles” were all filled with poly-fill, as was the shell, so it was all plush. I played with the foam-covered plastic nunchucks for YEARS after this… This might be my favorite childhood costume. Ninja Turtles really impacted me, and this was the closest I got to being one. And look at how cool it is!
Circa 1992. Grim Reaper. This character must be a theme in my life! I don’t recall how I decided on this one, but my mom liked it because it was just a big robe. It did look pretty cool though. Again, it was also HOT and required several breaks during trick-or-treating. Halloweens in Tennessee might be cool or might be as hot as August. I think this was one of those warmer years…
Circa 1993. Batman Returns Batman. I distinctly remember this as being the Batman Returns costume because of the way the abs section was styled. This is the only picture I could come across of this costume, but it was by far the most awesome Batman costume ever. My mom sewed the whole thing out of vinyl pleather, which in addition to being a pain to sew also weighed a ton. The cape, mask, torso, all pleather. The additional side-effect was that it was like a sauna-suit, and I had to take breaks to air my head out periodically. Still, I remember hearing several times that year that it was by far the best Batman people had seen. And as usual…people saw a LOT of Batmen…
Circa 1990. Ares. My Costumes weren’t JUST for Halloween. I was only going to include Halloween, but this was too cool not to put in. I went as Ares to Greek and Roman Day (at a Catholic School…which is weird now that I think of it). Again my mom made this and I put the shield together. The helmet looks way cooler than I remember.

Having my mom make costumes had a lasting impact.  Just going and buying a “vampire” costume was never good enough.  To me, anyone could do that.  I had more fun finding weird stuff to put together a unique kind of costume.  It might still be a vampire, but it would be MY vampire, not Rubie’s Costume Company’s.  The lasting impact of this would come back in my future costumes and will be seen in my next post!

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Revenant Publications 90s banner

In the middle of the woods, a group of teenagers sit around a campfire telling ghost stories. They start each tale with, “Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story…”

Recognize it? It’s the opening of my favorite 90s show, Are You Afraid of the Dark? by Nickelodeon.

Last Saturday, I realized that Are You Afraid of the Dark is streaming free on Amazon Prime. All six seasons. Free. And I was so excited I could barely contain it – like buying my 350Z excited!

Back in the Day

Are You Afraid came on Friday nights, and I watched in my grandparent’s room because we didn’t have cable at my house. I closed the door, turned out the lights to watch it in the dark, and shut out the world – much like I do now with Psych. That was my time.

It was never scary, especially considering I grew up watching horror movies, but it was just creepy enough to make you feel uneasy. Most of the characters are teens acting, thinking, and speaking like teenagers. It’s believable and sold the story.

Does it still hold up?

Absolutely. If you’re looking for gore, sex, and loud jump scenes, you’re out of luck. The show’s tales are pretty clean, but they address adolescent issues such as fitting in, family, and dating. However, it being the 90s, some of the costumes are pretty ridiculous; this was before the everything-must-be-CGI era.

Looking Back

Now that I’m more mature and somewhat grown up, there are a few things I found noteworthy:

  • We were way more lax in the 90s. In one episode, there was real fire in a fun house hallway, and a kid gives someone a box of cigars he somehow bought. As a kid, I never questioned those things, which shows we’re way too nit-picky about stupid crap. Nowadays, parents would have rioted.
  • The show promoted adolescent creativity. Are You Afraid of the Dark was better than shows like Goosebumps because the kids wrote the stories (that’s the premise, anyway). Each kid wrote a story and brought it to the group to share. It’s a wonderful example of imagination, comradery, and keeping an open mind. Similar shows were based off books or stories written by an adult – these tales are straight from the kids.
  • We need a show like this now. I love some modern shows like iCarly and Victorious, but some, Pretty Little Liars, Secret Life, and Degrassi, are way too serious. Adolescents have it pretty tough, so why should we show more drama? The world has more than enough. A good scary tale helps us release tension when we scream or jump, and these episodes always taught a lesson. Reminding kids how to be kind and tolerant (in a fun way) never gets old.
  • It doesn’t always end well. My favorites are the one with a twist. Everything doesn’t always end happily ever after, and some episodes are pretty disturbing.

With that said, here’s one of my favorites. I declare this meeting of the Midnight Society closed 🙂

90s Shooters: The Joy of the Wolfenstein – Doom Era

Though I was a video gamer from a young age, playing Atari and NES, I didn’t get into PC gaming until I was in middle school.

My first home PC was a simple IBM with no hard drive.  I played games directly off a 3.5” diskette and could only play shareware versions of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and use Print Shop Pro to print on the DOT Matrix Printer.  As time went on it became difficult to find games I could play that only had one disk…luckily we eventually upgraded our PC to one with a moderate hard drive (I think around 120 mb or so) and a whole new world of gaming opened up.

This was when I was introduced to shareware versions of Wolfenstein 3D, Blake Stone, and eventually Doom.

These represent the first person shooters I ever played, and some of the earliest entries into the genre.  My friend Mike provided me with Wolfenstein and eventually Blake Stone.  We played both shooting games on the 8th grade newspaper computer instead of actually working on the school newspaper (I don’t know if we even had one) until we got caught.

Wolfenstein Title Screen

Wolfenstein 3D was fascinating, killing all those Nazis in castle hallways.  Hearing their low-fi German shouts (“Halt!”  “Guten Tag! Mein Leben!” “Schutstaffel!”) and eventually working up to fight some strange version of Adolf Hitler in terminator armor.


Blake Stone is almost forgotten now, but it was a sci-fi game of the same making.  I remember the blue-green gun and the mad scientist and green alien bad guys.  Blake Stone was another one Mike and I played in English class (right behind the teacher if I recall…) and, though I never played it at home, it really got me into the corridor shooter game.


When Doom came out it changed the dynamic for me.  Released from the corridors, you now moved through expansive locales and multiple-story levels.  I played it on shareware, only the first few levels and I played them over and over.  It’s the first “god mode” I ever used (IDDQD!) and even more often I’d use IDKFA for all weapons.

I played Doom relentlessly.  I was one of the few individuals who bought a Sega 32X and even though it didn’t have a lot of games I truly enjoyed the ones it had.  I listened to Use Your Illusion I & II and played Doom for months on my 32X as a middle schooler.

Once my PC could handle it I finally got a copy of Ultimate Doom and Doom II at the local Media Play and swapped the dozens of disks to install them.  It was this era when you could play a game for months…even years.  Turn on some midi music and play Doom for hours just as a time waster.  I can’t even remember how many homework assignments I blew off to kill the Cyberdemon yet again…

I’m pretty sure the Imp sound effects are actually camel sounds. Weird to think about it now….

I actually remember it being a controversy at the time: did Doom make kids violent?  It was ludicrous to me.  Doom was as realistic as a cartoon (though a tad gorier than most I’ll admit) and it would follow that kids would only learn how to kill cacodemons with a keyboard while wielding a pixelated plasma rifle…  How that equates to loading a pistol I’ll never understand.  I’d say unless you’re a spiked imp throwing fireballs on screen and I’m a crew cut face wielding a video-chain gun society should be safe.

Doom really stands as the last first person shooter I really loved.  Others came along (Duke Nukem 3D shortly after the Doom era…Kingpin when I was in college) but none really captured that WolfensteinDoom feeling for me.  Now it’s one of my least favorite genres, burdened with a heavy emphasis on multiplayer (I’ve said it a million times…I deal with idiots all day in my real life…I don’t need to deal with anonymous idiots during my leisure time…) and less on long campaigns I could put on some music and kick back to they haven’t appealed to me.

So here’s to the 90s first person shooter.  Turn on the game, turn off your brain, and enjoy some mindless (but entirely harmless) violence!