2021 begins today, and while the new year is supposed to be about casting aside the bad things to focus on a bright future, it hardly feels that way in the midst of a global pandemic. But, writing these has been a tradition since 2013, and this doesn’t seem like a good year to break with any traditions.
Keeping with the theme, the top post here was Working From Home, written at the start of the lockdowns in the United States. I’ve been working from home for 10 years, and now most of us are, so I hope folks found it useful.
A quick list of favorites this year, I hope you enjoy them too:
This year especially, we’ll need more people sharing their voices and experiences as we navigate our lives during this pandemic, so please considering launching your own site with WordPress (and Jetpack) or WordPress.com, or start posting again if you already have one! If shorted content is your thing, take Tumblr for a spin. I didn’t think I was going to do much there, but now it’s a big part of my online presence.
If we work together and have empathy for not only one another, but also for those we lost along the way, we might just make it through 2021.
This show has depth, I can’t state that enough. To be honest, I watch these shows because they’re usually ridiculous and fun, and that’s what I was expecting here. That’s not to say this show isn’t fun. It is fun, but it’s also very good, shockingly good. The production values are very high for the year it premiered, the acting is great, and the characters are so grounded that you can’t help but feel for them.
In particular, Godai is absolutely the ideal hero. When we meet him, he’s simply a self-proclaimed “professional dream chaser” who wanders into his friend’s archeological dig. The dig uncovers the evil Grongi, and the Arcle, which will eventually allow him to transform into Kuuga. When his friends are attacked, the Arcle calls to Godai, and he puts it on, transforms, and fights off the Grongi without hesitation. Godai declares that his mission is to “protect everyone’s smile,” and that’s exactly what he does.
We’re all used to selfless heroes, but even our favorite heroes have moments of “Oh no, I’m going to miss my date,” or “I’m so tired from last time.” That is not the case with Godai. He relentlessly thinks of others first. Nothing in his backstory sets him up to eventually be a hero, he just accepts the responsibility and gets to work. That is not to say he doesn’t have a life outside of this. He works at his surrogate father’s restaurant and volunteers at his sister’s school, but if a Grongi is attacking someone, Godai is either fighting to stop it or still in a coma from the last fight. He also makes no effort to hide his identity. He’s always printing Kuuga’s logo on his clothes, painting it on his bike, and if he transforms in front of you, he’ll just give you a thumbs up. On the other hand, he makes no effort to tell people he’s Kuuga and capitalize on the fame. Godai is simply fighting because if he can’t stop the Grongi, people will stop smiling.
At the beginning, the police see Kuuga as another threat. Over time, lead by Ichijo, a whole team of officers, scientists, and a doctor are formed to support Kuuga. To be clear, the police are not simply here to be Worfed. They hold their own in a fight against the Grongi often, and their science team is constantly coming up with weapon advancements. Since the Grongi are playing a game to see which of them can kill the most humans in the most creative way, the police are often charged with determining the motive and method for the killings, locating the Grongi, and paving the way for Kuuga to finish it off. Throughout the series, the team, and Ichijo in particular, go from not trusting Godai to practically becoming family.
I cannot state enough, this is a good show, it is a shockingly good show. It’s easy to care about every character, and though the formula is often “monster appears and is defeated,” you’ll find plenty of engaging content between the margins.
You can stream Kamen Rider Kuuga for free on Shout! Factory TV. If you want to try one episode, check out Revival (the same episode embedded first in this review), which is the first one, because no matter which episode you start with, you’ll keep watching. If you need a smaller taste before diving in, I’ve posted several GIFs, mostly because Godai is so GIF-able. I was really expecting something ridiculous and fun with this show, but instead I saw something very good and fun. I hope you’re just as surprised as I was!
The series followers Vereen’s E.L. “Tenspeed” Turner and Goldblum’s Lionel “Brown Shoe” Whitney as they start a detective agency in Los Angeles. Turner is an ex-con, working off his parole as a detective. Whitney is an ex-accountant, enamored by detective novels. The two are a perfect fit for each other. Whitney often takes the most dangerous cases, seeking to claim the glamour of his fictional detective hero, and Turner constantly comes to his rescue with his far more experienced people skills. In a sense, Turner is the brains of the team while Whitney is the heart. Without Whitney, Turner would be happy to chase down missing pets and run background checks, never doing anything as daring as saving lives. And, without Turner, Whitney would probably be dead by now, walking into a gun fight or saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. The two quickly build up a solid detective agency and become the best of friends.
Besides the characters being clearly written to go well with each other, the actors have great chemistry too, and it’s very clear that they were having the time of their lives (so far, of course). Vereen really gets to flex his acting chops by playing a ton of fake identities to get everyone out of tough situations, and Goldblum is really just himself. It’s hard to describe, but he’s unmistakably Jeff Goldblum, and he clearly loves it.
The series only ran for one season, it just couldn’t hold up against the amount of already established similar shows at the time, but it truly is a fun show to watch, and it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.
The story of the Highlander franchise is probably familiar to most people. In short, Immortals exist, they can only be killed by losing their heads, which triggers the Quickening, a sort of vampiric transfer of power and knowledge. The goal is to be the last Immortal alive, who will receive some unknown fabled prize. The first three films are fairly straightforward, Immortal Connor MacLeod (played by Christopher Lambert) encounters one or more Immortals who have turned evil, and he cuts their heads off. It’s a bit of a repetitive formula, and if you think that’s all there is to this story, it’s because you’ve never watched Highlander: The Series.
Highlander: The Series premiered in 1992 and ran for 6 seasons. It follows the story of Connor MacLeod’s clansman and student, Duncan MacLeod (played by Adrian Paul). In comparison to the movies as simply as possible, the series offers a solid look at the life of an Immortal. Born in 1592 in the highlands of Scotland, Duncan lived a very complicated life, from warrior to rebel to medic to spy to antique salesman to teacher to spiritual mentor, you will have seen his entire life unfold by the end of the series. There are your typical “cut off the evil Immortal’s head” plots for sure, but there are years of character development and lore too. The show follows a simple formula of present day situation alongside flashbacks to a period in Duncan’s life that informed the decisions or methods. I know it sounds like that might get dull, but it somehow never does. Duncan is charming, supportive, and stern when he needs to be. Simply put, you’ll wish he was your friend too, and that’s a great draw to keep watching. Plus, the sword fights are excellent.
Duncan MacLeod is not alone on his journey. Alongside frequent guest stars, he’s joined by his student Richie Ryan (played by Stan Kirsch), his confidant Amanda (played by Elizabeth Gracen), his WatcherJoe Dawson (played by Jim Byrnes), 5,000 year old Methos (played by Peter Wingfield), and it would be a crime not to mention the frequent guest appearances of friend Hugh Fitzcairn (played by Roger Daltrey). Watching Duncan grow is great of course, but it’s even better when any of these 5 show up to spice things up even more. Speaking of growth, Adrian Paul didn’t have much of a resumé when he was cast, and you can watch him grow in his acting, martial arts, and eventually directing talents throughout the series. I can’t think of a way to describe it simply other than it’s great to observe.
The series really hits its stride in season 4, it’s just about when they stop experimenting with their formula and settle on something both that’s both enjoyable and impressive in quality. In fact, all of the 5 supporting characters mentioned above were either intended to only last a season or only appear for a pivotal multi-part episode, and yet they were such great characters that they became staples of the show. Another factor that might make season 4 so great is that they’re all either main or recurring characters by that time. That is not to say the other seasons are bad, like I said before, watching this show grow is just as much fun as watching Duncan MacLeod grow.
The series itself has a solid happy ending, but you can continue Duncan MacLeod’s story with the excellent 2000 film, Highlander: Endgame. It’s the first Highlander film appearance for Duncan MacLeod and the last for Connor MacLeod, a solid end for the franchise. You may have heard of a 2007 film called Highlander: The Source, but it’s truly awful, don’t watch it. It was intended to be a final end to the franchise, but everyone involved in the film now refers to it as “a bad dream” so maybe just leave it at that. Like the Immortals all say, “There can be only one (film with Duncan MacLeod in it),” and that’s Highlander: Endgame.
And now a quick little side-note. Writing these Rewatch reviews has been fun, but just like with the Splash Panel reviews, it’s much easier to do when you already have a collection of things ready to talk about. Rewatching these great old shows has taken time away from watching great new shows, so I’m going to take a bit of a break on these. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop, it just means these will be a lot less frequent, after all there’s still tons of great old shows out there.
What sets this Fantastic Four film apart from the other 3 is that it never over-promises and under-delivers. The other Fantastic Four films had huge budgets, and as far as big budget films are concerned, were a disappointment. This film sets expectations early, meeting them well and consistently throughout, and I think that’s part of its charm, as with all good Corman films. To quote Roger Corman, “One of the worst things you can do is have a limited budget and try to do some big looking film.” It won’t wow you, but it won’t disappoint you either. And the good news is, you don’t have to take my word for it, you can watch it yourself!
The story of this film’s fate is indeed a sad one. Depending on who you talk to, it was never intended to be released, a decision that was kept from everyone involved in its production. The general consensus is that the film was produced solely to maintain the filming rights, which were set to expire soon if no film was produced. This is largely why Corman, who was also unaware of the scheme, was brought onboard as a producer for his well-know skill of working with limited time and money. Everyone involved in the production of this film expected it to be the next blockbuster superhero film, they were even in the middle of marketing and convention appearances when Marvel Comics purchased all copies of the film and destroyed them.
At the time, Marvel wasn’t doing well in the film industry. While DC Comics produced the incomparable Batman, Marvel produced the laughable Captain America. Marvel desperately needed to bring everything in-house, no matter what the cost, no matter how shady the scheme. And, say what you will about the tactics, it’s hard to argue with the results.
The unreleased Fantastic Four film, produced on a budget of $1 million, was likely written off as a production expense on the following film’s $100 million budget. Fortunately, one copy managed to escape the purge and lives on as a frequently duplicated bootleg. This is a good film, a lot of people worked really hard on it, and it deserves to be seen. You can watch The Fantastic Four via the YouTube video embedded above or download it from The Internet Archive.