Five Cool Things and Dragon's Lair

This week's pop culture consumption includes some classic films, some modern films, more Doctor Who, and a video game from my youth.
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Last week, I feared I was going to get sick like the rest of my family, which put me to bed earlier than usual and kept me from consuming as much pop culture as I normally do.  That sickness never came to pass (keeping fingers crossed, continuously knocking on wood) and this week saw me watching a slew of movies, some great, some not so much.  

So lets get started.

Casablanca

I cannot remember the first time I watched Casablanca.  It seems to have always existed in my memories.  It's not that I watched it at a really early age either.  If I was to guess, I’d say I was probably in college or thereabouts when I first saw it.  I instantly loved it and I've seen it countless times since then so that it's become part of my DNA.  To me, it is a perfect movie.

What makes it even more extraordinary is that it was kind of thrown together.  It was still being written while it was being filmed.  Nobody knew how the movie would end until they shot that incredible final scene.  It was never meant to be a prestige picture.  It was a-listed for sure with a big cast of stars, but it was never meant more than just a regular studio film.  That it become the renowned classic is nothing short of amazing.

For its 75th anniversary, TCM and Fathom brought it to the big screen this week and I got a chance to see it.  You can read my full write-up here.

Doctor Who: Warrior’s Gate

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My local college TV station shows classic Doctor Who stories on Friday nights. I rarely remember this and when I do, its usually about halfway through its airtime.  Last week, I actually did remember and we got to watch the entire thing.

Warrior’s Gate is the finale to what is called the E-Space Trilogy, where The Doctor and his companions (Romana II, Adric, and K-9) enter an alternate universe that exists with negative co-ordinates (where our universe, or N-Space has positive coordinates - don’t you just love science fiction?).

For this story, they land at the junction between E-Space and N-Space where they hope to pass over into their world.  At this junction, they find an old spaceship that is also stuck in E-Space.  This ship uses Cowardly Lion-looking creature for navigation as they can see both the past, present, and future all at the same time.  We later learn these lions were once rulers of E-Space enslaving all those they came in contact with but they are now enslaved themselves.

It's a big, wonderful, complicated, not always comprehensible story in the way only great Classic Who stories can be.

Doctor Who: State of Decay

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While watching Warrior’s Gate, the whole E-Space concept kept tittering in the back of my mind.  I knew I had purchased The E-Space Trilogy a while back and thought I had watched all of it.  Yet, I had definitely not watched this particular story.  I wondered if maybe they had ventured into E-Space in some other story.  Then I went down and checked out my DVDs only to realize I’d only ever watched the first story, Full Circle.  I must have put the DVD set away planning on returning to the other stories, forgot to actually return to them, and then at some point thought that I had already watched them.

Anyways, State of Decay is the middle story to the E-Space Trilogy.  It was actually written years earlier, dropped, and then brought back to life here and adapted to the E-Space scenario.  Because of this, we get a classic gothic storyline that was so familiar to Tom Baker’s earlier seasons.  The Doctor and his companions land on an isolated planet whose only inhabitants seem to be humanoid creatures all living in a small Medieval-type village and their rulers living in a rocket ship-looking castle on the hill.

The villagers do seem to have some modern technology but it's been forbidden to use by the rulers and thus has become rusted and outmoded.  The rulers also happen to be vampires (complete with some really terrific costumes and make-up).  It's enormous amounts of fun watching The Doctor go up against vampires in an old gothic castle.

Neil Young Archives

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Neil Young just announced he will be unveiling his complete archives on December 1.  According to a post on Facebook, the archives will enable viewers to stream every song he’s ever released while also reading about the recording process and viewing other media related to the music.  Cryptically, he notes “in the beginning everything will be free,” which presumably means at some point in the future we will have to pay.  Whatever the cost, this sounds like a pretty amazing place to go and get lost in the music of a rock and roll legend.

Zoology

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Russian drama about a middle-aged woman who hasn’t got any friends, is constantly tormented by her coworkers, lives with her mother, and oh, has suddenly grown a tail.  A long, fleshy, giant rat-looking tail.  It never quite figures out what it wants its metaphor to be (and really, you make a movie about a woman growing a tail you’ve got to have a good metaphor) and it kind of wanders all over the place thematically.  But it's also really fascinating to watch and the performances are really good.  I’ll have a full review up shortly.

Dragon’s Lair

As a kid, I was very much a video game nerd (or VGN, as my brother used to call me).  I used to love going to the arcade (or more likely the local gas station which always had at least one or two games in the corner) to spend whatever quarters I could scrounge.  In those days, the graphics were terrible, but I didn’t care.  I didn’t know any better.  The games were fun and that’s all that mattered.  Most games cost 25¢ back then.  One of the first games to cost more than that (I think it chimed in at a whopping 50¢) was Dragon’s Lair. Its expense came because instead of the regular 8-bit graphics, it used a laserdisc that gave it a full range of animation.

Because of this, the game play was severely limited - you watched stock animated scenes play and then every now and again it would make you move the joystick in a particular direction or press a button within a very narrow timeline - making it not all that much fun to play.  But play it we did anyways.  This was a revolution in gaming and we were all excited about it.

The game was featured in Stranger Things 2 which led me to looking it up on the internet and this Youtube clip of someone playing the entire game from start to finish. It's kind of amazing to me that the whole game only lasts 12 minutes and yet I was never able to actually beat it. 

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