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endure the Pit
This was the first video game I played whose characters were computerized version of actual people, bringing an unusually realistic look. Furthering the realism is that game at most doesn't ascribe superhuman traits to its subjects. The only version of reference for me is the one released to video arcades. Players could chose between Buzz, the body builder, Ty, the kick-boxer, and Kato, whose specialty is unclear. The 'points' used in the game are money, with the premise being that each fighter is competing for cash in a no-holds-barred gladiatorial forum. Players must be aware of hostile characters from the crowd who can harm them, and themselves be harmed. Power pills are available in certain rounds to maximize offense. Knives, chairs, and drums are sometimes available. In between fatal competition is a bonus round where the player competes against a mirror of their fighter to win extra money. Damage in the bonus round doesn't affect the life values. The goal of the game is to unseat the Masked Warrior at the end to earn the title of Champion.
Digital Duo (1999)
2 analog people in a digital world
"Digital Duo" was produced for public TV stations in the United States. The program paired up Stephen (Steve) Manes and Susan Gregory Thomas. Manes covers technology for PC World and Forbes magazine, while Thomas, at the time of these episodes, was with US News and World Report and have since left to become an author and freelance writer. They reviewed the newest consumer electronic products and gave their recommendations if something was worth the cost, which they didn't always agree on. Some episodes would feature commentary from Walt Mossberg, a technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal. An okay program for those interested in the latest technology geared toward the public.
The Robert MacNeil Report (1975)
if only this anachronism was the contemporary norm
The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) program, PBS NewsHour, is arguably one of America's leading television news programs. Circumstances dictate, though, that few are aware of this. NewsHour does not warrant the intense spotlight as would a counterpart on a commercial station with greater resources.
It was named the "Robert MacNeil Report" upon its inception with founding co-anchors, Robert Breckenridge Ware MacNeil and James Charles Lehrer. Months later it became the "MacNeil/Lehrer Report". It would adopt its enduring moniker, "NewsHour", in 1983 when it became the "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour", and extended from 30 minutes to a full hour. After Robert MacNeil's retirement in 1995, it was titled the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" for fourteen subsequent years. Its current name was established in late 2009, as it underwent a considerable format alteration.
The "PBS NewsHour" encourages greater attention than conventional abrupt news reports. It is outstanding for its in-depth coverage of issues, including its presentation of opinions. The program encourages greater attention to stories beyond the rapidness of conventional TV journalism. The greater allotted time enables "NewsHour" correspondents room to give greater context to an issue or a news-maker. This approach of the "NewsHour" has earned complements by the political likes of John McCain, Al Gore, Richard Lugar and Tom Daschle. It is one of the reasons Jim Lehrer has been selected to moderate many Presidential Debates.
If the popular conclusion holds true, the harbinger of some of the early pressures on American public televisionand the conception of the "NewsHour"may have originated in the lead up to the 1960 Presidential Election. That conclusion being that it was the television debate which resulted in Richard Nixon's loss to John Kennedy; a setback which motivated Dwight Eisenhower's former Vice President to develop an interest in the still emerging television medium, and its role in politics. This interest was nurtured later when Nixon returned to public life on his way to winning the American Presidency in 1968.
There is another somewhat similar area of contention: contrary to the Carnegie Commission's intent that public television was to be independent of political influence, President Lyndon Johnson had other ideas that the system would serve as a limited political tool for his agendas. Whatever his plans might have been, however, Johnson's time as president was near its end after the system was established.
By the time President Nixon arrived in the White House, Robert MacNeil, previously a correspondent for NBC, had already soured on the American press because of the way he felt it covered the Vietnam War. It was a reportage he determined was too accepting of the optimistic assessments from officials within President Lyndon Johnson's administration. The war in Vietnam he came to oppose, and conveyed as such in an upstart subjective radio journalism format, which allowed analysis and editorials.
In the early 1970s, MacNeil temporarily left the British Broadcasting Corporation to work with American public television, hired by NPACTNational Public Affairs Center for Television. MacNeil was placed on-air with former NBC colleague, Sander Vanocur, to cover politics. When Vanocur left amidst political pressure fueled by the perception that he was a Kennedy supporter in a public television system viewed by some as anti-Nixon. Jim Lehrer was tasked to replace him. Choosing Lehrer was perceived as less contentious, due to his past with a top Republican and PBS executive that supported President Nixon.
Lehrer had begun work at PBS as an off-air program coordinator before joining MacNeil on air. After leaving newspaper reporting behind, his first forays into television was being in charge of public affairs at a local Dallas member supported station. His on-air work with MacNeil continued throughout the Watergate Hearings. It was their award-winning coverage of the hearings, accompanied by expert analysis, which brought MacNeil and Lehrer to prominence as a journalistic team. The manner in which they covered those proceedings would inspire the latter implementation of the NewsHour.
Possessing only a fraction of the budget as programs on the commercial station, MacNeil and Lehrer found ways around the financial limitations by heavily using interviews in studio and by remote. In their initial half-hour format, they had focused each program on one issue. Furthermore, they aimed for an audience who wanted further exploration of a news story without the usual high-pace which the public were accustomed. They had in mind that viewers longed for detailed back-stories. It was an approach similar to BBC's "Panaroma", on which MacNeil was an anchor, and the American series "Public Broadcasting Laboratory" (PBL), which MacNeil admired. Through the Ford Foundation, "PBL" was founded by Fred Friendly, whom had left his position as leader of CBS News.
It was more than happenstance that the "NewsHour" was scheduled after the network evening broadcasts at a time when CBS, NBC, and ABC had commanded most of the viewing audience. Appreciating the "NewsHour" results in an inevitable comparison with the offerings on the Big Three: the "Evening News", "Nightly News" and "World News Tonight". If these programs, at minimum, were a hour, the pressures to compress stories and obfuscate information would be decreased.
In an era of the Internet, multiple channels through cable and satellite technologies, wireless communication, the "NewsHour" is a television anachronism. It is distinctive in a media landscape of instantaneous information and all-news channels. It functions like a slow-moving entity in an attention deficit world, with an emphasis on depth. The entire program is segmented between the underwriters mentioned at the start and finish. No commercial breaks.
MacNeil and Lehrer would note their shared original goal to work as a complement to their network counterparts in 1975. Since the program's one hour expansion in 1983, they have conveyed the "NewsHour" as an alternate. Accurately referred to as low-key and even-handed, the program is without flamboyance and fanfare. In terms of news, the results of the "NewsHour" means more information triumphs over less. An outcome resulting in the public interest being served.
Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami (2008)
"The world was his stage. Wherever he went that became his stage. It just happen that Miami was the backdrop."
It was a boxing gym, but trainer, Angelo Dundee, called it "The Theater" for his then young protégé, Cassius Clay. On his way to becoming a champion and transcending the sport while becoming Muhammad Ali, Clay honed his craft at Miami's 5th Street Gym. Fresh off winning an Olympic gold medal in Rome, the Louisville-born pugilist moved to Miami to train for his professional career.
In what could be a documentary by itself, Ali's relationship with Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam, and its founder, Elijah Muhammad, is included as a testament to his growing social consciousness. It was Muhammad who bestowed the name the new champion would reveal soon after his February 1964 victory over Sonny Liston. Liston, a background actor on the stage that is the life of Muhammad Ali, is given some mention, including a back-story. This presentation ends soon after Ali lost the title because of his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War.
This is a highly critical program that aired on a local public television station, and, much to my dismay, I never saw it again. Narrated by then magazine editor and media critic, Lewis Lapham, this program uses the renowned aviator Charles Lindbergh as a springboard to address a hypothetical question, "When did it start?"
After Charles Augustus Lindbergh broke ground by successfully traversing the Atlantic Ocean by air from Long Island's Roosevelt Field to Paris in May of 1927, it gained him worldwide fame, and in likely retrospect, made the shy pilot one among the first of modern celebrities. It was this prominence which factored into news of his kidnapped son in 1932. That kidnapping, Lapham argues, is the framework for contemporary press sensationalism.
Although documentaries are common in public TV, one summary of "Legacy of a Kidnapping" describes it as less so, and more like a "video essay" where Lapham excoriates aspects of today's entertainment-driven news media. As one review stated that Lapham exonerates the press,somewhat, by placing the burden on the public. Another, the aforementioned summary, attributes to publisher William Randolph Hearst, the idea that readers want to be entertainedabove anything else.
Stone Cold (1991)
Boz--the original "Stone Cold"
The release of this movie in the early 1990's elicited a question: Who is Brian Bosworth? Why care if he stars in a film? Answer: Bosworth was 'the Boz', a big name football player for the Seattle Seahawks. His short career as a professional footballer ended because of injuries. With his athletic career ended, a pattern of low-budget films began. Perhaps it was his football persona which enabled him to get the lead as an undercover cop in "Stone Cold".
It is an action film with lots of guns, explosions, fighting, and trash talking. Stuff wrestling fans can appreciate. Well-built, brash and cocky with a mullet hair on field, 'the Boz' had the traits to be a pro wrestler. He is the original Stone Cold. A latter interview indicated it was all calculated self-promoting. As in pro wrestling, outlandishness has value. His closest brush with pro wrestling was as a commentator for the failed WWF/NBC venture in the XFL football league in 2001. Fours years later, Bosworth was cast among former and active wrestlers in "The Longest Yard." Bosworth starts off as maverick cop Joe Huff. He first thwarts a supermarket robbery, cementing his role as the formulaic, buff, handsome hero who saves the day. Later, he's forced into going undercover to take down a biker gangthe Brotherhood. It's a biker gang under the leadership of Chains (Lance Henriksen), and his 'deputy' Ice (William Forsythe). Add Six Pack, Greek, Nancy, Mudfish, Gut, Tool and the complete set of the gang's top names are listed. Under his new name, John Stone, Huff does some illegal stuff to build him his gang rep: getting into fights, selling drugs and meeting Chains.
The gang's focused on helping one of their members, Trouble Owens (Billy Million), who's serving what amount to a life sentence for murder. But DA Brent 'Whip' Whipperton (David Tress) wants a death sentence! Under heavy military and police security, Trouble's taken to the state's Supreme Court to hear his fate. The Brotherhood storms the place for a bittersweet climatic shootout which gave this movie a let-up from a clichéd ending. High body count everywhere! In a damn cool sequence, Huff walks from the building all bloodied. Police and National Guard forces rushes forward, at times looking back at Joe. He gets more attention from the news media, as reporters ask question and photographers take pictures. But cops hold them back. He's also curious to civilian onlookers. Joe ignores all of them and keeps walking like it was just another day. It's all behind him. No more worries or obligations. People surround him with curiosity. He looks to the side. Freeze Frame. Cue Music. Credits.
Although he continues to act, Bosworth hasn't reached the level of top action star. One desire if movie-making was like pro wrestling: Elevate the Boz.
Nowhere to Run (1993)
some originality out of 'nowhere'
On the surface, it looks like Van Damme is starring as another one of his formula based action hero. But his Sam Gillen character is an escaped convict. He hides out and eventually helps a widow named Clydie (Rosanna Arquette) ward of land grabbers during his "free" time. He bonds with Clydie and her two kids Bree and Mike (Culkin).
It's a groundbreaking role for Jean Claude. Especially for this part hero, and pseudo bad guy role. How many people remembers, knows or cares that he was a villain named Andrei in the less notable "Black Eagle"? Credit is deserved for not making this completely run-of-the-mill with a predictable character and outcome.
The film perfectly pulls of the task of putting viewers in a somewhat psychological dilemma. Sam's crime(s) are never revealed, leaving an incomplete picture. Although Gillen is likable throughout, he has baggage. Not all good inside, the character is a complex one, which, for me, adds to the film. Sam could have saved the world, yet he's still guilty.
Deadliest Warrior (2009)
A wearisome play
A clue to the direction of this show is the fact that it airs on Spike TV, and not TLC or Discovery. The resident experts in "DW" uses computer simulations which pits warriors from different eras to see who would have the most victories. In doing so it informs, undoubtedly, but more importantly it entertains. The furtherance of this goal is demonstrated in the contrived verbal sparring between rival teams, who predictably heralds the greatness of their respective warriors. This is the worse part of "Deadliest Warrior," a stage where participants play their respective roles. As an avid watcher of mixed martial arts and "sports entertainment" known as pro wrestling, two profession where there's no shortage of real and staged trash talking between competitors, this show is a tedious over saturation.
UP... then DOwn the RaMp
As reflected in its subtitle, "Stoked" is not an original idea about a talented individual attaining success then losing it. A formula for a different time place that works: during the 1980s skateboarding scene. Long before Tony Hawk reached the pinnacle of skateboarding prominence to become synonymous with the sport, there was Mark "Gator" Rogowski. Hawk, who is an interviewee, rolled in similar circles with Gator. They, and others like them, were at work in an era before the Gravity and X-Games were established, eventually becoming permanent TV offerings.
With Gator as the focus, viewers get a back-story of when Extreme Sports was in its in infancy. Rogowski was among a capable few who took a hobby of countless teenagers to become a well paid performer. He earned money through merchandising and lucrative endorsement deals. Just as he reached the top, he slowly declined--personally and professionally--surpassed by an evolving skateboard landscape which beckoned higher skills.
Viewers need not be skateboarding aficionados to be engrossed inside this dramatic profile, with an all too tragic conclusion. Too bad for the uninitiated, Mark Anthony Rogowski couldn't have been introduced under better circumstances.
Prayer of the Rollerboys (1990)
what could have been
The Oklahoma City Bombing, according to American government officials, was inspired by an obscure controversial novel named "The Turner Diaries." The novel depicts a future race war initiated by White racial supremacists against non-Whites. A similar world exists in "Prayer of the Rollerboys," where an Adolf Hitler-like charismatic leader,Gary Lee (Christopher Collet), motivates his group of dominant young paramilitary skaters known as the Rollerboys. They envision an all-White world achieved through violence and the overthrow of governments. Depression-level economic turbulence have weakened local authorities. Gary Lee and his gang fills a void; a somewhat parallel to Hitler's ascension during the Weimar Republic.
There is a plausible case to be made that screenwriter W. Peter Lliff had a deep familiarity with "Turner Diaries." The novel and the film presents a "The Day of the Rope" for the unmerciful elimination of perceived enemies. They parts ways in its implementation. On that eventful day in the book, many "race traitors" end up in nooses. The "rope" of the Rollerboys is a chemical modification to the recreational drug Mist, an adjustment which sterilizes its non-White users. (Compare that to Walter Mosley's "Futureland," where an artificial plague bypasses anyone whose DNA is at least 12.5% African.)
By the time "Prayer Of The Rollerboys" was released, Corey Haim's career was in decline. Long gone were the theater-ready times of "Lost Boys." Because of personal issues, Corey became a true lost boy--with skates--eager to get by, having lost the power of selectiveness in his movie roles. True life wasn't better, as his character Griffin avoided addiction. My standards for movies are not high, maybe that's why I will watch a Corey Haim film post-super stardom.
The futuristic nature of the movie was promising, while the unconvincing unfolding of events and the frequently sub par performances went below my low requirements.Yet the movie got me hooked like a Mist addict. It retains a significant appeal in a "Lord of the Flies"-like environment with minimal parental authority. The Rollerboys feed the "what if" imaginations of those eager to escape the restrictions of society. Ideology aside, the Rollerboys are cool skaters swinging in reinforced rhythmic uniformity, well at home in a semi-dystopia.