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Octerror 2020 Event and Blog Updates [October 2020]

Welcome back to the Train, friend! Here to kick off the new month is a freshly baked update post for you. Hey, I just thought of something. Now, I love food. While it wouldn’t be my career choice, I do thoroughly enjoy cooking and such. I noticed that I tend to use food and its phrases metaphorically speaking many times on the Train. In light of this, I challenge you guys on a scavenger hunt type thing to hunt down and comment on this update post all the various times I bring up food throughout my reviews. Good luck to those who… actually desire to do so! Man, off to a great start, aren’t we?

Any who, on the topic of announcements! As it is the Halloween season, the entire month is going to be a marathon of spook-filled reviews and whatnot. Of course, one episode of Out of Order where I’ll share a few of my favorite Halloween themed Tv specials, including the classics and even one or two odd picks as well. Thankfully, there’s more Thursdays in October because of the first day being, you guessed it, that one day. We’ll kick things off with a review of Joe Dante’s Matinee this Thursday; don’t miss it!

The Train is additionally nearing 100 grand passengers soon, so keep spreading the word! I have something incredibly special indeed planned for that special post, trust me on that.

Otherwise, I wish you the best on your journey, whatever that may be. Stay stellar, and g’ night!

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What is Lighttrain?

Welcome aboard friends and travellers alike to the LightTrain! I’m your conductor, but you can call me Gavin if you prefer. I am open to feedback on my features so I can improve upon it.

I have a fixation with film and cartooning, and those things combined with my great writing and a unconvincing backstory make Lighttrain! My favorite things include films and vintage adverts, a good slice of cornbread (or a pan for that matter!), people, book stores, comics, and writing for you guys! I’m a sucker for the blend of the whimsical and dark humour. I play games like X-wing and Dungeons and Dragons often, as well. For my taste in music, I adore such bands as: The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, They Might Be Giants, Journey, Death Cab for Cutie, Foo Fighters, Mumford and Sons, and too much more to count.

The Lighttrain isn’t all film though. We also occasionally cover video games, magazines, television and such. Every Thursday is a new post, so stay tuned! Our shows include Reviews, which are exactly what they sound like; Out of Order, a monthly series usually counting down a top five list or covering lost media; add some updates every month, short stories, art and marathons like our annual Octerror, themed review blocks, and exploitation trailer trash and sprinkle those in there as well.

Thank you for reading and maybe check out a review if you would like to. And if you choose to follow the train by punching yourself a ticket then thank you once again for supporting my work. Have a excellent rest of your day and stay stellar!

*last edited by G.h Nowak on November 13, 2020*

Blog Updates and Happy Easter [April 2021]

Hi, how’s it rolling? Hope you enjoyed your Easter weekend. This is just another rapid-fire updates post for the up and coming month. For one thing, I will not be having a review this Thursday. Believe me, I’m disappointed as well. We were going to look at the documentary film The King of Kong, but it’s already Monday and I don’t have anything done. Stress is the last thing I need right now. Plus, Easter and a family gathering tomorrow on Tuesday have also clogged up my schedule. If you haven’t already, I have a new Trailer Trash and a Ray Harryhausen retrospective you can read to tide you over.

But what do we have after that? Well, I’m very glad you asked! We have volume 4 of our Pixar review package, where I will score 5 more movies from their catalog. Out of Order will feature with its penultimate episode, as the season will go on to conclude in May. I’ll keep the episode incognito, but know that it is a continuation of a major fan favorite. And of course, The King of Kong. All those are this month in the same order I listed them.

Honestly, to much else to add. Thank you for tuning in week by week. I’ve been busy with many of my other projects and passions (*cough* my novel *cough*) and thus haven’t made time to check out my passengers blogs. I genuinely aspire to change that notion. Sorry for the absence, but the Conductor is back! Later, for now…

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Trailer Trash Vol. 3… April Fool’s Edition {Out of Order} | Lighttrain

Heya, Daddy-O! Welcome back for this very special April Fools episode of Out of Order. Are you guys are all set to go dumpster diving tonight? Ah yes, digging up all kinds of ultra-violent rock ’em sock ’em’s, Technicolor wonders, moldy oldies, bizarre Italian imports, and exotic off-color panoramas. It’s our third volume of Trailer Trash, heated up for your appetite (and don’t forget about our snack bar, presented solely by Dr. Pepper)!

Mars Attacks! (1996)

What is there to say? A truly chaotic trailer, Mars Attacks! is overfull with freakish images and characters being dissipated by lasers left and right. Even wilder, the abundance of recognizable faces. Danny DeVito, Pierce Brosnan, Michael J. Fox, Glenn Close, Martin Short, Tom Jones as himself, believe it or not. The president is portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the film as well; his character does have a name, but I just call him President Nicholson. It just feels more empowering. Mine as well mention that he plays a duel role as some random casino tycoon for no reason. Except to be killed, of course. Now that I sit on it, maybe Mars Attacks! is the only movie where Nicholson dies at the hands of the aliens (if you’ve seen the movie you’ll get where I’m coming at) on two different occasions. So every time you think your life sucks, just remember that Jack Nicholson died in a motion picture twice. Feel sorry, huh?

Red Roses for the Fuhrer (1968)

Luckily not a German romantic comedy starring Hitler as the lead role. Being the April Fools special, this trailer could’ve been so much more aggravating than what I selected. This is what they call a Macaroni Combat, which is essentially an Italian war flick in the same manner in how Spaghetti Westerns like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly are the Italian version of westerns. The lip-syncing is hilariously rushed out and our setting is rather bland. For a Macaroni Combat, there is a surprising lack of cheese. I expected more exploitation schlock that makes these trailers so entertaining, but the film on display doesn’t genuinely look half-bad. Although, a romantic comedy does have potential…

Dixie Dynamite (1976)

This trailer as well as the next were both suggested by Max from https://powerpop.blog; thank you very much for the recommendations! Personally, I think Dixie Dynamite is a film more Kentucky fried than The Kentucky Fried Movie. Sorry Landis. It features two young women who seek revenge after their father, a moonshiner, is fatally shot by the town sheriff. Interesting movie tidbit: this was among one of the final roles of actor and professed “King of Cool” Steve McQueen, who has a nonspeaking appearance as a motorcyclist.

Beyond Atlantis (1973)

Easily my biggest gripe with Beyond Atlantis is its shoestring budget. The film doesn’t even take place in the underwater province of Atlantis! I normally would call this false advertising, though exploitation features are moderately notorious for having lurid titles to draw audiences into the theaters. The director actually urged the rating of Beyond Atlantis to be a family-friendly PG, which is uncommon for pulpy stuff such as this. I’m also bored to tears whenever they swim in the ocean… essentially it feels like it is on slow motion. Although despite these things, thanks once again for the trailers, Max.

Polyester (1981)

Of course, how could I forget the satire of Douglas Sirk melodramas directed by the trashy John Waters? An early production from New Line Cinema, Polyester was a suburban tale of foot-stomping and a suicidal dog (this is real, I assure you). What it has in its hilariously offbeat and black plot points it makes up for with Odorama, creating a “scentsational” experience. The gimmick was a quaint scratch-and-sniff card. At various intervals during the runtime, the movie would beckon you to take a whiff of one of the numbered spots. The scents included that of roses, flatulence, glue, pizza, a skunk, dirty shoes, and gasoline. It was generally a prank on the audience, much like moments on tonight’s show. Thank you for that, John Waters.

Don’t move a muscle, Out of Order will return in a moment…

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The Groove Tube (1974)

“1974’s most hilarious wildest movie is here!”, is one of the claims made by this trailer for The Groove Tube. It was a sketch comedy directed by and starring Ken Shapiro, who I’ve never heard of before, and Chevy Chase. Not aware who that guy is either… He’d never make it big in Hollywood, that’s for sure. But this movie just sounds uncomfortable all round, ranging from a PSA with a rude awakening to Brown 25, an industrial space-age mush that suspiciously resembles excrement. Doesn’t help that it’s produced in part by the Uranus Corporation!

Bee Movie (2007)

Remember this? I’m guessing that your answer is no. Though thankfully Bee Movie would later be a full-length animated feature made by Dreamworks, it was originally intended for a live-action approach with lead role Jerry Seinfeld walking around with a gigantic bumblebee outfit. In a second teaser trailer, the technical difficulties persist and Steven Spielberg recommends making it a cartoon to Seinfeld. In some ways, it may have been interesting to see a real-life cut of Bee Movie. And in case you may have been wondering, yes, the director cameo is Eddie Izzard. Wikipedia is a pathway to many abilities some would consider to be unnatural… anyways, onto the next.

The Three Supermen in the Jungle (1970)

Uomo, io sono non un grande fan di crema formaggio. Suo viscido e grumoso, appena perche fa esiste? Chi anche usi crema formaggio? Su ricerca, tu poteva propagazione alcuni sopra crostini con marmallata o forse nel maccheroni e formaggio… ew, espettare che cosa? Quello e anche peggio! O si, Che fanno i nostri supermen tra le vergini della jungla? sembra strano.

Mars Attacks! (1996)

Deja vu, we’ve just been in this place before! For the martians in this film, they made all their lines of dialogue “ack, ack, ack, ack”, as at the time the screenwriters were unsure what they would actually sound like. But in the end, that’s what they made their dialogue. To do this, they reversed the quack sound associated with ducks. Tim Burton was hoping to create his own tribute to Ed Wood movies, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, and Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion works, which we discussed last week. Moral of the story: always remember that Jack Nicholson had to die twice in a film.

Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (1969)

This was voted by readers of the Chicago Tribune in 2006 the worst movie title of all time. Need I say more?


NEXT WEEK | The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

A Tribute to Ray Harryhausen: Creatures of Clay | Lighttrain

Hello, great to see you! Newcomers and longtime passengers alike, welcome to the Train; I’m your conductor this evening. If you went to any cinema lover and questioned why they have such an adoration for film, many would probably pinpoint specific directors, visionaries, and scenes that left that person enchantingly spellbound. The greats such as Scorsese, Spielberg, Allen, Tarantino, Kurosawa, and Kubrick are commonly upon these lists, but I feel that another creator deserves his name in this category as well: the great Ray Harryhausen.

Who was this fellow, and what kind of legacy did he leave behind? Ray was a stop-motion animator, meaning that he designed clay figures and animated their movements. In this case, they were whimsical beasts unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Living skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts, a cyclops and two-headed vulture (insert a shameless reference to my novel here) in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, a colossal crustacean in Mysterious Island, and rampaging dinosaurs in The Valley of Gwangi. Oh, and Harryhausen never called his projects “monsters”, but instead the more respectful “creatures”. Hence why this post’s subtitle is “Creatures of Clay”.

Now that I have informed you on Harryhausen’s background in practical effects, let’s get this how on the road and take a closer look at one of his most acclaimed works, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. The swashbuckling adventure was released in 1958; isn’t that a blast from the past! Even a duo of sequels, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger — to my dismay, not a nod to the Survivor song — came from the springboard though neither fared as successfully.

Though Harryhausen’s stunning creatures would have been enticing enough, 7th Voyage was implemented with yet another gimmick to magnetize audiences to their local theater. The technique was called Dynamation, the so-called “new miracle of the screen”. Call it what you will, either way it still encapsulated Harryhausen’s trademark style. A decent promotional short subject, shown above, declared that using new technological advances and color they opened “vast new vistas in motion picture entertainment”. Dynamation was used all the way until 1981 with Clash of the Titans, then afterwards Ray retired from the profession. In a original review by Time magazine for Clash of the Titans, they quipped that “The real titan is Ray Harryhausen”.

On May 7, 2013, it was announced publicly that Ray has passed away at the age of 92. Many statements from filmmakers who were inspired by his work were made; Edgar Wright (the Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy, Baby Driver) said that “He was the man who made me believe in monsters”, Peter Lord (Aardman Animations) wrote that Harryhausen was “a one-man industry and a one-man genre”, and even George Lucas admitted that “Without Harryhausen, there would have likely been no Star Wars“. Wow. Allow that to sink in for a second.

We’ll return to review 7th Voyage after these messages…

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THE TRAILER TRASH APRIL FOOLS’ SPECIAL on {Out of Order}

We now return!

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad Review

The daring seafarer Sinbad is soon to be newlywed to Princess Parisa and bind together two kingdoms. However, the princess is shrunken to miniature stature by a dastardly sorcerer in search for a lost genie lamp. This encourages Sinbad to return to the island of Colassa to retrieve a shell, which is needed to return the princess to her regular size. The sorcerer only comes along so he can take the lamp back for himself, battling against the intrepid sailor when he finds it in his possession. Can Sinbad defeat the sorcerer and his monsters, while in the process saving his bride?

Perhaps where this movie’s personality most shines through is in its stop-motion magic. Computer generated graphics, or CGI, is practically omnipresent in Hollywood films today, but it always feels a bit lifeless. Simply put, not a single time has CGI in a live-action blockbuster ever felt like it had genuine heart and soul poured into the work. I applaud you if you do love working on CGI in films, if any folks like that are reading this post in the first place. Despite how rudimentary and uncouth it can be by modern standards, Harryhausen’s work literally was made by hand.

Of course, not every film is without its flaws. For 7th Voyage, at times the story can become bogged down as it drags its feet, particularly with overlong scenes without any creatures. The childlike fantasy of the whole thing, comparable to that of a bedtime story of sorts, connotes that the acting and overall storyline is very tedious. An antagonistic magician, the one-dimensional princess, a hazardous journey. I’m sure we’ve all seen this before in other media, perhaps slightly better. Thankfully, the creatures on display elevate this Sinbad film into more recognizable esteem.

Although The 7th Voyage of Sinbad can tread rough waters in some moments, it might be Ray’s most important movie. This was the very first feature he worked on that was filmed in color, and it influenced a bunch of young kids at the time who would grow into phenomenal filmmakers. With sword and sandal swordfights and a bombastic score by Bernard Herrmann, this iconic motion picture won’t impress today’s moviegoers, but you cannot deny the footprint left by the magnificent Ray Harryhausen. I recommend viewing it for yourself, if only to see the magnificent effects of the time!

RATING: 6.5/10


R.I.P Ray Harryhausen

Lupin the 3rd in ‘The Castle of Cagliostro’ Review | Lighttrain

Konnichiwa! I’m your conductor, and tonight we’ll be looking back on the first directorial work by the legendary Japanese visionary Hayao Miyazaki: The Castle of Cagliostro from 1979. The film was among the tens of hundreds of adaptations of the Monkey Punch manga starring the eponymous Lupin, although it was still early on in the character’s long-lasting history. Furthermore, the immense shadow of Miyazaki’s beloved later movies (such as the acclaimed Spirited Away, the heartwarming My Neighbor Totoro, and the epic Princess Mononoke) was a rather mammoth expectation to live up to. Now that I’ve actually watched Castle of Cagliostro for myself (twice no less!), let’s get this show on the road and determine whether or not it lives up.

A cache of apparent counterfeit casino money draws the charming gentleman thief Arsene Lupin III to the province of Cagliostro. He soon unravels a scheme by the Count, the mastermind behind the counterfeit manufacturing, who arranges a forced marriage to the princess Clarisse. Along with his comrades — the chain-smoking sharpshooter Jigen, impassive swordsman Goemon, maverick Fujiko, and on-and-off nemesis Inspector Zenigata — Lupin takes it upon himself to help rescue Clarisse from the Count’s unscrupulous clutches.

It’s been openly stated that Steven Spielberg was influenced by Castle of Cagliostro during the production of his own action-adventure film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Ring a bell? And this film’s effect on Indiana Jones is clear in the zippy action sequences, including a fast-paced car chase in the first 15 minutes or so, and witty banter exchanged by Lupin and his allies. This as well, with some competition, is the most recognized and savored slice of Lupin media, despite the criticism targeted at the sugar-coated characterization. So, what’s up with that?

The original manga iteration of Lupin was far from the well-meaning and clumsy goofball many people know. So, a challenge was entailed to Miyazaki to create an amiable hero out of a formerly salacious, remorseless crook that drove a Mercedes-Benz thanks to it being “Hitler’s favorite”. No simple feat, I may remind you. The final product is solid considering the predicament though, in where he goes out of his way to aid someone in worse circumstances then himself and rides a tarnished yellow Fiat 500 instead (thank goodness for that). Some fans who have been around from the very start aren’t typically applauding Lupin’s brave, bumbling deeds; they would rather see him as he was intended by the creator… as a ruthless criminal! Even Monkey Punch says he thinks the film is “excellent” on its own merit, though he cannot deny that the character changed drastically.

Since I saw this film twice on back-to-back days, there were a handful of qualities that stood out more on second viewing. The backgrounds and color palette are all rather magnificent on their own, but some of the movements and expressions are a bit janky overall. The buildup leading to the finale, which is a very good one mind you, is somewhat slow as Lupin is bedridden from an injury and an ensemble is migrating towards the castle for the wedding. However, there was something that notably delighted me second time around: the action sequences!

The aforementioned mountainside car chase to rescue Clarisse from the Count’s goons, a mix-up between the castle guards and Interpol agents, a rooftop scene, and the battle in the clock tower are all standouts in this consistently fun escapade. It will manage to entertain you as long as you are unwavering in the largely kinetic slapstick.

The Castle of Cagliostro is a rollicking time, Lupin fan or not. Obviously Miyazaki would flourish later in his career, but the genial and light-hearted caper is a perfect appetizer. I generally find it intriguing to explore where a filmmaker began before they become a staple of cinema treasures, so this proved a memorable experience. Hmm? You haven’t seen it yet? Well, go watch it on Netflix afterwards! You will thank me… maybe, I don’t know.

RATING: 7.5/10 “Highly Recommended”


Also, why did the butler look like Beetlejuice with broccoli for hair? So many questions…

Transmission disconnected…

NEXT THURSDAY | A Tribute to the Great Ray Harryhausen

Every “Mandalorian” Episode Ranked: From Seasons 1 and 2 | [Out of Order]

This is the way… eh, a bit overstated but it works. Hello, and welcome once again to the twelfth official entry of Out of Order! I will be your conductor this evening, but perhaps you may not have known that I’m rather the fan of Star Wars. True, its quality in the main film saga is nearing their expiration date though other media seems to be going strong. Case in point, the wildly popular program The Mandalorian, which echos spaghetti western and pulpy adventure serials in an exhilarating galactic fashion. A third season is, at the moment, being curated for the Disney+ streaming service, so now is a better time then any to rank all the episodes of the freshmen and sophomore years from the bottom to the top. If you haven’t seen this series yet, major plot details are going to be discussed so I would recommend come back to this post once you’ve seen both seasons. Let’s get this how on the road!

16. “The Heiress (Season 2, Episode 3)”

This just goes to show how even the low-hanging fruits of the tree are still ripe, though they don’t quite hit their bullseye. In this rather short episode, we are reintroduced to a Clone Wars jewel, Bo-Katan, played by her original voice actor Katee Sackhoff. They also guarantee the comeback of Ashoka Tano by the end! My primary reason for ranking this entry as the weakest is relatively simple: it feels like yet another addition to the half baked formula of doing favors that is present in far too much of Season 2’s middle. Nothing is awful, but I was thoroughly dissatisfied come the credits.

15. “The Gunslinger (Season 1, Episode 5)”

Surprisingly enough, not a single folk I’ve talked with actually enjoyed this episode all the way through. At first glance it doesn’t sound like a low tier episode, but a large chunk of the runtime is Mando and this smug rookie dude straight from a car dealership keeping an eye on the mercenary Fennec Shand. Peli Motto, a nervous Tatooine mechanic, is another new recurring player, although she left a very small effect on the overarching plot of both seasons and as a character essentially. The only small sliver saving it from plunging into last place was the cliffhanger, of which we would discover with season 2 was the first ever allusion to Boba Fett’s return from the grave.

14. “The Passenger (Season 2, Episode 2)”

Have you ever wanted to see a crossover between Star Wars and Alien? If that’s the case, you’ll end up having a fun watch with “The Passenger”. Otherwise, I’m utterly divided. Where on one hand I commend the refreshing change of pace and horror-esque strokes, this in a sense has a damaging case of being the sore thumb sticking out from the rest of the second bunch of episodes. It just feels a bit off-kilter compared to the additional offerings. You either go really jarring, Cowboy Bebop “Toys in the Attic” on us, or brew a lukewarm one-off pit stop like this. Oh, yeah, and the Child might be murderous now? Film at 11.

13. “The Prisoner (Season 1, Episode 6)”

The Mandalorian is recruited by a former associate to join a medley of shifty fellows in rescuing a captive of the New Republic and, for what it’s worth, I had a good time with it. The action proves to be tense and it manages to pull a couple of storytelling tricks up its sleeve in the end, too. Keep a lookout for one of the Child’s most memorable gags where he mistakenly is convinced that he has used the force to fend off a foe.

12. “The Child (Season 1, Episode 2)”

“The Child” is not far from just being the second part of the pilot, but it’s quite remarkable and is remarkably effective regarding the pace. Following the reveal of Baby Yoda at the end of the first episode, this episode subverts everyone’s expectations of where the plot was headed, but nothing feels sloppy about it. It has the works; Nick Nolte in a lovable performance as Kuiil, antagonistic Jawas, and a battle with a space rhino in a mud pit fighting for an egg. What more could you want?

11. “The Siege (Season 2, Episode 4)”

I just love action-filled episodes, don’t you? The appearance of two fan favorite characters assist Mando to infiltrate an Imperial facility, where they discover something sinister is in the making. Not much too elaborate on besides it retaining that classic mixture of a lightning-in-a-bottle endeavor with just the right pinch of humor and weave into the overarching setup. Well, it appears that the Child also committed larceny by stealing a kid’s macaroon in this episode. Oy vey.

10. “The Tragedy (Season 2, Episode 6)”

Don’t allow that tight runtime fool you, because this episode easily takes the trophy of knitting all the buildup into one entertaining burst. Thanks to direction by cinematic dumpster fire Robert Rodriguez (and I mean that adjective as tenderly as possible), the limited setting amplifies every direction that has lead up to here even more rousing. Boba Fett bargaining for his iconic armor, the Razor Crest is obliterated, the Child is abducted by Gideon, and a wonderfully filmed melee against stormtroopers are handled well by the poised direction of Rodriguez. He might have stirred up the CGI-laden Spy Kids and Machete films, but his focused vision here is nothing to sneeze at.

9. “The Believer (Season 2, Episode 7)”

Sure, it absolutely sidelines the velocity building up to the finale, but “The Believer” dishes up thought-provoking ideas around the character of Mayfeld. This effort recognizes from brilliant execution by Bill Burr that perhaps the galaxy isn’t just the struggles of the morally good and the bad. Toss in Pedro Pascal’s face and callbacks to The Wages of Fear and Friedkin’s Sorcerer for good measure, this is a resonant inclusion that barely surmounted the bottom half.

8. “The Reckoning (Season 1, Episode 7)”

Maybe my biggest problem here is that it does feel more like setting up all the dominoes for the finale instead of standing as its own individual thing. So, basically the opposite of “The Believer”! Giancarlo Esposito arriving as the intimidating Moff Gideon and the heart-wrenching end of the line for Kuiil are definite to stress any viewer for what’s to come. More layout than a genuine premise, though it’s nonetheless exciting to watch Mando formulate a team of recurring players like Cara Dune and Greef Karga to rescue the Child.

7. “The Jedi (Season 2, Episode 5)”

Excluding the true name of the Child being disclosed as Grogu, this salute to samurai epics is as well-shot and enticing as even the best of Akira Kurosawa works. Rosario Dawson nails it as the live-action incarnation of the beloved Ashoka Tano, stealing the show every second she was in frame. Dave Filoni really knocked this one out of the park. A solid 8/10, and yet there are still six more even better episodes to go! Seriously though… Grogu was the best they had?

6. “The Sin (Season 1, Episode 3)”

If anyone is even mildly hesitant on how the rough-and-rigid “The Sin” landed above “The Jedi”, I get it. But this is where I feel the show actually started to pick up some steam and, in the general sense, the battle sequences are sharp and the Child is integrated as a main member of the cast. I have little to say about this stellar beginning that promises an inventive direction for this newfound duo.

We’ll return with the Top Five after these messages…

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We’re looking at you, General Grievous.

5. “The Rescue (Season 2, Episode 8)”

Arguably the best reviewed episode by audiences, the flagpole finale of the second season is as explosive as you would expect. I’m usually against the intrusion of characters from the main Star Wars trilogy hammering on the door to other projects devoid of them (I’m looking at you, Skywalkers), and this sadly doesn’t avoid this trap. Hence why I ranked it fifth, as the rest remains marvelous indeed. If Luke didn’t waltz in and take Grogu at the climax, this without a doubt could’ve been in my top three.

4. “The Mandalorian (Season 1, Episode 1)”

Ah, that’s a nice one; the episode that started the whole series. Let’s pause for a moment of respect, shall we… anyways, I really enjoyed this entry. “The Mandalorian” instantly delves us straight into the criminal underbelly of the Star Wars universe. I vividly recall the anticipation for this fresh show starring a Mandalore bounty hunter character in his debut, watching the premiere with a group of friends, and being blown away by the revelation of “Baby Yoda” (so to speak). Call it slow or tepid, be that as it may acknowledging it kicked off what would evolve into a great production.

3. “The Marshal (Season 2, Episode 1)”

Mando shows up at a rundown Tatooine town to help reunite the Child with others of his species. In the process, he must assist sheriff Cobb Vanth in mending ties between the townspeople and the Tusken Raiders when a desert dragon threatens them all. Timothy Olyphant as Vanth is a really amusing guest star full of potential, and it disappoints me that he hasn’t appeared as a periodic player. If Peli Motto has credits in three episodes, why not invite Vanth as well. The assault on the giant creature is a slow and steady affair that certainly pays off, the Child is at no shortage here, and it’ll leave you with stupefied with the shot of a scarred, aged Boba Fett. And you gotta love a relaxed Tusken Raider bonfire session, who doesn’t.

2. “Sanctuary (Season 1, Episode 4)”

The straightforward tale of the Mandalorian and Cara Dune training a forest village to take a stand against the sparse Imperials is tonight’s runner-up. The allusions to Seven Samurai and High Plains Drifter are strong with this one (you see what I did there!), but that isn’t the entire appeal of “Sanctuary”. An emotional conclusion, the introduction of Dune perfected by Gina Carano’s acting, a surplus of adorable instances with the Child… it’s the complete package! A pitch perfect episode in every manner. Well, thanks for reading this far; and now, my number one —

1. “Redemption (Season 1, Episode 8)”

While others praise the second season finale as the best episode thus far, my eyes turn to this finale instead. “Redemption”, in many ways, holds up with a bunch of what drew me into the show – likable and dense characters, a great sense of humor, riveting action, and even on top of all that, an enduring bond between Mando and Grogu. Taika Waititi absolutely exceeds as a double role, directing and playing IG-11, the latter of whom I’m saddened won’t be seen in the series down the line. On the whole, it was satisfying conclusion to a season-long story arc, and even at that a creative tease for the future of their adventures. This will always remain my favorite episode of the series for me.


So, flaws and all, I do say wholeheartedly that The Mandalorian is a spectacular show. It’s a few blocks down from perfection, but as I said, its without a doubt the best and more consistent Star Wars media to come out of modern memory. I can’t wait to watch where further seasons go…

RATING: 8/10

NEXT WEEK | Lupin the III in The Castle of Cagliostro!

Ford v Ferrari Review: An Entertaining Ride | Lighttrain

Ciao! Thank you again for tuning in aboard the Train; to newcomers, calling me Gavin will work just fine. Today’s review is for the award-winning sports drama Ford v. Ferrari, released not terribly long ago in 2019 and directed by James Mangold of Walk the Line and Logan. This is dipping my toes in more recent waters, but there’s always a start for everything, right? Without further ado, let’s get this show on the road! Or racetrack, whatever works.

Set during the colorful 60s backdrop, Carroll Shelby is met with the opportunity by the Ford Motors Co. to compete against the successful Italian sports car producer Enzo Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. With only a few months on the line, the Ford engineers design the GT40 Mk 1 for the race, earning the aid of irritable British mechanic Ken Miles in the process. Can Shelby and Miles beat the Ferrari’s winning streak?

The most aggravating about Ford v. Ferrari is not the movie’s fault in the slightest, though a few duds will be inquired momentarily. The title of the feature is nowhere near wretched, but it could have come out stronger. It’s emotional core and even the genuine screenplay itself aren’t focused on the clash between these two car manufacturers; rather, it stands firmly with morphing a well-rounded main pair of comrades. Ford is more against Ford then they are Ferrari here. Think about it: Shelby is frequently bickering with his money-hungry bosses over the development for nearly every circumstance… so was that title truly the best fit within context?

But why am I making a big fuss over something so indifferent as, well, a title? Digging down into the nitty-gritty, the motion picture can be a bit slow at times. No doubt that the two-and-a-half hour length is a factor there. I do wholeheartedly respect more character-orientated movies, and don’t get me wrong, the balance between thrilling racing choreography that audiences crave and well-written drama is done fairly. I can’t add anything insightful to praise Ford v. Ferrari that hasn’t already been described, except that it’s one of my favorite sports films at the moment alongside Rocky Balboa. ‘Cause no matter how much I talk about obscure 70s bargain bin treasures, this stuff is admittedly better work; what’s amusing to me in retrospect, I reference and bring up my adoration for b-movie commodities, but deep down I note how Ford v. Ferrari has a far fresher quality than Viva Knievel. All apologies to Evel.

I am going to turn the attention now to the acting (hopefully none of you mind!). In this, the film is excellent. Matt Damon as Shelby has a handful of great interactions against his good-for-nothing corporate bosses, such as a scene where they lock the antagonistic vice president in his office and takes Henry Ford II on a drift outside. Meanwhile, the volatile Miles is depicted by Christian Bale, who brings a nice charisma into his role as a dedicated racer.

Though the overstretched runtime becomes exasperating, this energetic race does offer enough stellar sequences at Le Mans to make it worth the trip. You don’t even need to be a middle-aged suburban father to enjoy this one! Mangold’s zinging zest and vintage Hollywood vibe feels remarkable, especially in this day and age. It’s basically fundamental cinema. Definitely recommended to all suburban dads out there (you know who you are)!

RATING: 6/10 “Best Served with a Cold Beer”


NEXT WEEK | Complete Mandalorian Season 1 & 2 Ranking

The Wonderful World of 1960s Spy Posters | Lighttrain

Hello, and welcome back aboard; I’m your conductor and today we will be wrapping up our Very Merry Espionage Christmas. And yes, I get it, the holidays have been long gone for a month or two already. Though for me, as long as it’s still winter, the show must go on! Ever heard of the phrase, “If you remember the 60s, you weren’t there”? The decade was filled to the brim of psychedelic bizarro, with groundbreaking films and television that demonstrated how sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll really do sell to the masses. A very popular craze that swept the nation along with counterculture and Beatlemania was James Bond films, so there was no doubt that many hitched on the bandwagon themselves. Consider this a 60s Spy ‘Poster Potpourri’, if you may. Let’s get started!

Here Comes U.N.C.L.E!

Ah yes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Airing for a substantial 4 years on cable television, it evolved into such a cultural phenomenon that it soon had king-sized episodes spanning one consecutive story arc repackaged as a b-feature for cinemas. These were also smashing hits, proving that the missions of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin were the so-called U.N.C.L.E’s to beat.

Dimension 5 (1966)

Here’s a real stinker… not even Sakata could save this one! A huge chunk of the difference from the copy-and-paste espionage cutouts was that this one they time-traveled. You interested? Not after you’ve actually seen the loony plot and bored set design and acting, you won’t.

Danger: Diabolik & Barbarella (1968)

Okay, Barbarella might not be a costumed spy exactly, but Jane Fonda and its stylistic relation to the additional movie in this blurb are enough to draw me in. Even despite its infamy later on, the feature was not a huge critical or commercial success. Furthermore, following the juggernaut that was the original Star Wars in 1977, most sci-fi movies before was credited as ludicrous or cheesy. But in our modern times, people tend to be rather odd, especially in their tastes. Thus, thankfully Barbarella was raised to cult status. Mario Bava’s directorial work on Danger: Diabolik is worthy of noting as well for being another thick slice of stylized, Swinging Sixties spy fiction. Barbarella and Danger: Diabolik are commonly paired because of their comic book foundations and a lead performance by John Phillip Law, hence explaining why I put them in the same section. Kinetic and off the wall, surely these exploitation gems will never be forgotten.

Seeing Double 007!

Fun fact: In his autobiography Back to the Batcave, Adam West described most of pop culture in the 60s as “the Three B’s; Bond, Batman, and the Beatles”. And it’s true, saying James Bond was “at large” is something of an understatement. Bargain bin Bond’s popped up everywhere, occasionally imported from Europe. This established the phrase “Eurospy”, which transitions to this film here. Yep, definitely your generic Eurospy!

Ice Station Zebra: Espionage Below Zero!

Hear me out — the IMDb page credits this as ‘espionage’ so I do have an excuse on this one, unlike Barbarella. The film premiered at the iconic Cinerama Dome in ’68, although because of this Stanley Kubrick’s masterwork 2001: A Space Odyssey had to be removed prematurely from its still fruitful run at the cinema. That is a shame, since 2001 is a far better film than Ice Station Zebra generally; the former is usually regarded as one of the best of all time, and this Cold War lackluster thriller is more on par with a stretched thin Saturday morning cartoon. Although Rock Hudson, who leads as Commander James Farraday in the feature, has labled it as his personal favorite work. So… at least he likes it?

Fiendish! Fantastic! Frightening!

Who else but Fu Manchu, my old nemesis. If the handful of you are aware, I have talked about this diabolical Mongol of Misery beforehand on my forgotten film franchises post. The dude’s slim mustache strand is legendary. But today in our conceptually more “civilized” society, Fu Manchu (the Chinese villain) versus Nayland Smith (the White British Hero) would not fly among our culturally insensible nation. But back in the day if you just came searching for laughable evil genius storylines, you were in good hands! And considering the meager budgets associated with them, they unconventionally kept the design primarily in the 20s rather than updating the period, much like what the German krimi movies at the time did also. Bravo!

Enjoy the Fine Arts of Venice…

“Murder! Spies! Women!”, exclaimed the tagline of our final poster featured this evening. With Robert Vaughn as a former CIA agent, The Venetian Affair joined the ranks as a recognizable title in the Eurospy index. A justifiable falsehood is that this motion picture was another The Man from U.N.C.L.E adventure. How come? Well, every episode of the series ended with “affair” (however, none of the films did) and Vaughn was commonly corresponded with his role as Napoleon Solo. Was it a ploy, perhaps?

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NEXT WEEK | Ford v. Ferrari Review

“Z Channel, Heaven’s Gate, and Jerry Harvey”: A Retrospective | [Out of Order]

Greetings, and welcome back to the Train. If this is your first time visiting, I am your conductor and movie connoisseur Gavin Nowak writing here this evening. On tonight’s insightful episode of Out of Order, let’s take a time machine back to the early 80s, before the popularity of theater cable networks like HBO and Showtime. Enter Jerry Harvey, a classic exemplar of a cinephile (or in other words, having a passionate love of film). He helped pioneer the likes of many failed motion pictures by blossoming in them new life through his Z Channel. So, how did the “film festival in your home every night” fall from grace? Let’s get this show on the road and look at the legacy of one lunatic legend.

Although the influence of Harvey’s ingenious creative control would grow, ‘the Z’ started modestly back in 1974 as a straightforward pay service around the Southern California locale. It held a middle ground between airing conventional blockbusters that were far from their heyday in cinema chains and lesser-known oddities on the lineup. Eventually, Harvey was recruited to assist in operating the schedule of Z Channel in 1980. At the time a programmer for a prior community theater and having a single writing credit for the 1978 spaghetti western China 9, Liberty 37, Harvey likely independently elevated the average movie tube into a movie lover’s paradise. Even despite how it never inflated to more of western America, the impact of Harvey’s novelty was practically worldwide.

His encyclopedic assortment of cult movies from the crypt and director’s extended cuts became staples of the hit Z Channel, even for a handful of years having more viewers then the available yet recycled TV feature airings in Los Angeles. While Z was under Harvey’s out-of-the-ordinary approach it maintained an eclectic personality that later down the road inspired filmmakers Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill) and Jim Jarmusch (Stranger than Paradise, Mystery Train), Turner Classic Movies, and some individual video epithets such as Grindhouse Releasing.

Pretty neat promo for the film Death Race 2000 here

Director of the Oscar-winning 1978 The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino released two years later the 3 and a half hour long epic Heaven’s Gate; due to the skeptical distribution studio removing a little over 60 minutes of the runtime, the critical response turned up zealously negative. Perhaps all hope had been forlorn, but then an unexpected critical reappraisal took place, where audiences could at long last envision Cimino’s true vision. That was after Harvey meshed back the unused hour-length footage into a restored uncut version of Heaven’s Gate and spotlighted it on Z. He literally rose the feature back from it’s grave!

Of course, his renaissance of upturned forgotten classics would carry on through out the vivid backdrop of the 1980s. A few titles that were broadcast by Harvey salvaged from the decade before included Videodrome, Whose Life is it Anyway?, Harry and Tonto, Jesus Christ Superstar, Death Race 2000, and extended cuts of other box office flops like the mafia biography Once Upon a Time in America and Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller. The Z was on a stellar winning streak for years, going out of the way to recover director’s cuts, presenting films when applicable in their intended aspect ratio dimensions, and with their subscriber tally increasing daily. What defiance could perchance bring an end to this unstoppable powerhouse? As we’ll quickly learn, both inner and outside causes would evidently bring Z to it’s premature demise…

Don’t go away, Out of Order will return after these messages.

We’ll be right back!

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“We bring the arcade experience home!”

So, Jerry Harvey thought he could have it all. But, as history would depict, alas, Z and Harvey would share the same unfortunate fate. Notwithstanding that Harvey was generally viewed as a mellow but academic personality, his own personal demons revolving around his two sisters’ suicides would haunt him. After tackling with their deaths for many hard nights, Harvey too ended his life on April 9, 1988. Sparing the details, it was truly a unprecedented shock to his colleagues, and the Z Channel would never genuinely be the same again. Meanwhile, a year later following Harvey’s death, the once esteemed Z Channel was steadily being chewed out by most other opposing cable TV in the L.A county. To stay alive in the kerfuffle, blocks of sports programs would be wedged in between the varied films, although even in this conclusion the sports would also play a hand in the networks’s expiration. The Z had, on one sorrowful day, faded to utter darkness on television screens after the John Ford film My Darling Clementine, the channel’s final program. It was then hastily replaced by SportsChannel Los Angeles. The outcome of Harvey’s suicide would usher in the equal death of the Z Channel spirit. Because, as many of his friends like Cimino and FX Feeney hypothesize, when his life was ended, so was the Z’s.

Though perhaps, just perhaps, that spark wasn’t burned out entirely from the hearts of movie wizards. In 2004, a documentary directed by the daughter of scholarly director John Cassavetes (Shadows, A Woman Under the Influence) called Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, would be released to select theaters. The film, featuring plenty of investing interviews and snippets of the motion pictures the Z would broadcast, has enlightened student movie buffs with an installation of how Harvey formed a golden era. Experiencing the love of the channel and the life of the mentally scourged Jerry Harvey has helped me appreciate the simple coterie of aspiring filmmakers seeing eye to eye.

Could we too resurrect that touching feeling of community within the new generation of aspiring writers and directors? Instead of rather treating our movie-going trips as diversions from modern living? Well, not for some time, no. That may be rather laughable to tie loose ends so quickly. But hey, it’s a start.

Later…


NEXT WEEK | A Very Merry Espionage Christmas Concludes!

School of Rock Review: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Masterwork? | Lighttrain

Hello and happy Valentines! I am your conductor here aboard the railroad, and tonight we’re going to be looking at one real doozy of a love story. Not in that traditional, love at first sight dynamic between two characters, rather, the total admiration of a certain passion. So not love in the romantic term, but in the textbook definition. The film is School of Rock, directed by Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Boyhood) and stars the hilarious Jack Black. So, without wasting any more breath, let’s get this show on the road and determine this “true love”.

Dewey Finn, a guitarist that is kicked out of a rock band, begins to swim in wallow and debt. However, he inconspicuously impersonates his mild-mannered roommate as a substitute teacher at a posh private school. Finn’s energetic nature and larks leave a positive impact on the children, encouraging them to form a scattershot rock band. Can the upcoming “Battle of the Bands” be won, or will the principal dissolve Finn’s facade?

So essentially what I was implying before was Black’s character Dewey Finn’s love of rock music. And you can read through the performance how much Black is dedicated the role and was probably having the time of his life. For many, they will recognize him as the second half of “mock rock” band Tenacious D, so in many ways I’m sure the real actor also loved heavy metal as much as his persona featured in School of Rock. Black also harnesses some form of charisma naturally, as if he were some mythical aura creature from the wild. Or in other words, born an entertainer. Such a great job!

Now as a Survivor fan – guilty as charged – I did notice the name of one Mike White, a fellow who has created a couple of movies and was a castaway in season 37 of the eponymous reality show. He, in addition, portrays Finn’s scapegoat flatmate Ned Schneebly; such a fitting name for a character with his personality. But his writing for the film is really solid, displaying marvelously each main players’ faults and executing something very refreshing… by not talking down to the audience! Hollywood hot shots, please just stop acting like we’re chowderheads (food reference ahoy, Vic). We don’t need to be spoon-fed (another!).

Unironically for a film with Richard Linklater at the wheel, School of Rock is very funny; in a way where the humor is timeless. Underneath all the comedy euphoria and Black’s refined acting chops, the story is equally anchored by strong schmaltz. Upon a deeper dive, White’s screenplay feels almost like a closely knitted fabric of farce from everyday life. It doesn’t ignore the weave of little whimsies, it thrives with them. And, as the great Roger Ebert inquired, “… Dewey Finn doesn’t star as a disreputable character and then turns gooey. Jack Black remains true to his irascible character all the way through…”.

Now take this into consideration: I’ve seen a solid handful of band films, and yet not too many of them successfully encourage me to join in a music group. I mean, I have minimal interest in the band lifestyle, maybe excusing the comradeship and the fact that actually listening to music is a moderately more appealing hobby. But then again, I am not even slightly magnetized to being a pirate, but Hook and Castle in the Sky make it look pretty sick, right? Now, I guess we’ll await the eventual raging comments from swashbucklers or something insulting their way of life. Trust me, you would not believe the odd spam messages I receive.

Anyways, back to the film now. While the scope and morals of Tinsel Town are constantly shifting to the current trope in cinema, our film “critics” have transformed into sardonic and picky viewers. They’re always desiring wholly original, complex, arthouse motion pictures and nothing less, which is sort of disheartening. Although the thing is, many of them do really enjoy School of Rock. I’m starting to miss the bygone era where on frequent occasion these critics can admit to having a good time watching something as one-note but entertaining as Jack Black teaching stuck up kids how to rock and roll. Those were the good days.

RATING: 7.5/10

Thanks for tuning in!


NEXT WEEK | Z Channel and the Legacy of the “Daily TV Film Festival”

What was “The Man Called Flintstone”?: Subterfuge since 1,000,007 B.C! | Lighttrain

Yabba Dabba Do! Welcome back to the Lighttrain, I am your host and conductor today. Despite what the stigma of James Bond movies will tell you, not every imitator was attempting to create their own quick-buck franchise. In fact, some were just spoofing the Bond genre, rather then boarding the band wagon. Case in point, The Man Called Flintstone from 1966. As that title would lead you to believe, yes, this was a motion picture based off of the popular Hanna-Barbara animated series The Flintstones. What in the name of Betty Rubble was this really, though? Buckle your seat belts, we’re about to find out. Let’s get this show on the road!

After a spy named Rock Slab is hospitalized, the Bedrock secret service recruits an average joe who bears a striking resemblance to the operative. Who is this fellow? Why, it’s Fred Flintstone, like you’ve never seen him before! Will he be able to dodge his family and friend’s suspicions and defeat the diabolical Green Goose? “Legionnaire” is his middle name after all. Fred Legionnaire Flintstone… has a nice ring, wouldn’t you say?

The show was meant to be a so-called swan song for the television show since shortly before the film’s release The Flintstones was cancelled for good. But… really? You want to cap off your highly influential cartoon with a James Bond parody? Well, you do you, Mr. Hanna and Barbara. From what I have gathered, the film gathered a mildly amused response, but not much else. There’s a reason you likely haven’t even heard of this. The clips are alright in my books, as is the series it’s concluding.

A Cartoon Network advert for the film

What’s even stranger is that The Man Called Flintstone was additionally a musical on top of the already thick secret agent homage. I have not seen the movie for myself since I don’t have the kind of spare cash to have Amazon.com send me a Flintstones box set I’ll probably never watch again, so I can’t really confirm or judge the quality of these musical interludes. But hey, that’s what the poster claims! In the opening credits as can be seen online, the film’s distributor Columbia Pictures, known for the Statue of Liberty as their studio’s logo, actually stars Wilma Flintstone as the torch lady. Somewhat a delightful tidbit, I suppose. Shame is, that intro was permanently nullified from all of the DVD prints. I’m pretty sure it’s accessible on Youtube, albeit in slipshod condition.

An added bonus for familiar fans, the film’s one-time antagonist the Green Goose has no relation with the alien Great Gazoo. The latter character does not appear, nor even worthy of a mention, in The Man Called Flintstone, having only recurred halfway through the final season of the show as to “jump the shark”. Basically the term applied when a once celebrated, later dulled TV program attempts to infuse a gimmick to bait back in audiences; funny story, the phrase was coined in 1977 after the sitcom Happy Days, struggling in the ratings, promoted how the character Fonzie was going to jump over a shark while on water-skis. You learn something new every day.

Don’t go away, we’ll be right back!

How did I find this random ad from Japan is the real question…

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MERRY ESPIONAGE CHRISTMAS!

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Thanks for tuning in! And now, on with the show.

So…what happened? Afterwards The Flintstones sort of went underground, appearing in Cartoon Network airings until 2004 and the occasional Fruity Pebbles commercial. I suppose even after retiring from Cartoon Network’s schedule it found a contemporary home in the former’s sister channel, Boomerang. Though, Boomerang had the legacy of that one network the kid with the flu watched at 2:00 in the morning since they couldn’t watch Cartoon Network because Aqua Teen Hunger Force was on. Sorta sad, but comforting enough. It may have played on a loop for a whole decade, although it still managed to introduce me to unique stuff before my time like Top Cat, Wacky Races, and those odd music videos with vintage Hanna-Barbara characters. I can totally include that Jabberjaw one on my mixtape and be fine with it.

“🎶What does Scooby do that we neglect?🎶” Song by Pain

The legacy, if that’s what one may call it, is a bit strange. Strange in the sense that it is nonexistent. Granted, it’s a very bewildering project midway through the psychadelia of the 1960s, which also explains the Great Gazoo! That little floating bulbous breath mint must’ve been the brainchild of that era, am I wrong? Even through and through, The Flinstones has definitely delved into far more peculiar territory. A Seth MacFarlane remake that never saw the light of day, The Flintstones meet WWE (whatever that is), and Viva Rock Vegas was just something else all together.

For now, it’s just another of those obscure conversation topics. Next time you message your friends you could tell them about how Fred Flintstone was a secret agent in a full-length movie before. Maybe that would crack a grin, I dunno. What I do know is that I’m likely going to forget that this ever existed, then possibly bury it back up again while procrastinating. Hey, it happens. For the second motion picture by Hanna-Barbara, this ain’t all that bad. Mainly plain vanilla, but I’m in the mood for that subtle taste every now and then. I rarely watch many animated James Bond lampoons. Like… three, that’s including this one. And even if I watched a macroscale of them instead, I would more or less review it the same way. Later.

~ Transmission Disconnected ~


THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11 | Dewey Finn + Rock ‘n Roll… School of Rock Valentine’s Review!