Monday, May 11, 2015

Enduro! (Atari Digital Memories)

Racing, often called "the sport of kings." That may refer to horse racing, but I like to think that auto racing is really regal as well. 

Case in point: ENDURO

Made by Activition in 1983 Enduro is the ultimate in four-bit endurance racing. I'm not just whistling Dixie. It really does test you, as the race takes place twenty-four hours a day. Like it's real-life counterpart 24 Hours of Le Mans, Enduro begins at sunrise, and ends at sunset. The odometer then resets, and one must continue the race for the next day. 

Accordingly, the race conditions change throughout the day. The position of the sun changes overhead from morning, afternoon, dusk, nightfall, and then dawn. Also, one has to compete with not only A.I. racers, but also adverse conditions. Snowy mountains, fog, and night-time driving add to the challenges of this classic. 

Enduro was programmed by physicist Larry Miller (programmer of another Activision hit, Spider Fighter). It's of interest to note that the beautifully illustrated manual also contains a photo of Miller, as well as gaming tips from him. These days few gamers can tell you how programmed what, let alone what the programmer looks like. It's not the gamer's fault. It's more so the fault of the companies these days for wanting a faceless product. The game gets the fame, but not the programmers. Then again, programmers these days probably make a better living than the programmers of yore. That's another discussion, for another post.

Speaking of the manual, I LOVE the artwork in this booklet! I'm a big fan of that style of 80's pop-art. The box art is something to behold, but the manual blows me away with it's gorgeous map and trivia section. I highly recommend going to Atari Age and checking it out. It's the sort of artwork that reminds of summers as a kid. Summer in the 80's meant video games, pop music, summer movies, new G.I. Joes, ice cream, and trips to Kennywood. The artwork in this instruction manual says it all. 

How does Enduro stack up against other classic racers? Well, from my personal experience, I've never been good at racing games. Enduro seems to be one of the few that I'm actually decent at. I'll improve with more work on it, as I would other racing games. To me this game gives Atari's better known classic Pole Position a literal run for its money. While I have fond memories of the Pole Position cartoon series, I think Enduro takes the lead in term of game play. 

I also enjoy the way Enduro looks. The colors are vibrant, and do justice to the pop-art box illustration. The night time levels are especially challenging, as you can only see the purple tail lights of the other cars! And when the sun rises, and it will rise, you have to race like a bat out of hell to the finish line.

I give Enduro five joysticks out of five! It gets better with more game play. It's a classic where you can plug in, switch on, and drop out for a few hours. That's what good video gaming is about; an escape from reality. 

Go to Atari Age to see a full profile of the game, as well as the beautiful manual artwork. CLICK HERE!

Text copyright Riley Joyce 2015

Enduro is copyright Activision 1983. 


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Avengers 2: Electric Boogaloo! Age of Ultron, Too!

Hello, true believers! 

I feel it's safe now to write about Avengers: Age of Ultron. A word of caution, as I will be discussing a few spoilers. Also, I should point out that the movie has little connection to the comic book miniseries, Age of Ultron. That was a very contentious series that was issued by Marvel about a year-and-a-half ago. Few readers were entertained by it. However, the film Age of Ultron fared much better. 

Once again The Avengers have shattered box office records, and lots of robots. This is a true comic book movie, with lots of action. It also has heart, grit, and the prerequisite Stan Lee cameo! 

While I won't do a scene-by-scene review, I will instead highlight some moments that stood out.

1. Stan Lee's cameo. I won't say much about it here, as it needs to be seen. Let's just say that when Thor pours the booze, don't call him "blondie." 

2. The party game with Thor's hammer. Cap was able to budge Mojiner slightly. If anyone there would be virtuous enough to lift it, it would be Cap. Thor's eye bulge said it all. The audience said more with a gasp and a laugh. 

3. The biggest gasp came when The Vision lifted Thor's hammer. Yes, he truly is worthy. He's righteous, pure, and in his own words, "I was born yesterday." The audience collectively gasped. Well don't Paul Bettany! And well-done Marvel! The only other time that someone other than Thor lifted his hammer was when Amalgam did the Marvel D.C. crossover. Who was the D.C. character that could wield Thor's might hammer? None other than Superman! 

4. Scarlet Witch. Elizabeth Olsen always impresses me. I've been a fan of her work for some time. I was really eager to see her in this flick. While her character plays a supporting, but pivotal role in the film, her ability to bring heart to Scarlet Witch sells the character. Also, she is stunning as always! (Notice I avoided any Full House jokes.) 

5. Clint and his family. The great Linda Cardellini plays Laura, Mrs. Barton. This gives greater depth to a fan favorite that had less screen-time during the first outing. Give this guy his own movie. You want to talk about pathos? Renner and Cardellini have it in spades! 

6. Hulk and Black Widow. This is a romance that I could see happening the film universe. It adds depth to both characters. 

7. The HULK BUSTER! "Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep!" 

8. The "death" of a major character. I didn't see that one coming. I'll leave it at that. 

9. Nick Fury! He should have quipped, "I'm tired of all these mother'effin' Ultron on my mother'effin' helicarrier!" 

10. Cap and Peggy Carter's dance/hallucination sequence. Please tell me that Marvel has plans to put Hayley Atwell in more movies. Please, please, please! Give Peggy a movie! Give her a trilogy! Give her another season of Agent Carter. That woman lights up the screen! 

Finally, my own personal view...

The Avengers did what it says on the tin. It delivered action. It's the first fun popcorn flick of the summer. It's a nice ramp-up to Ant-Man, and Mad Max: Fury Road (which I'm personally super excited about). If you can't energized by this movie, then you need a set of jumper cables! 

I give it...

Five Black Widows out of Five! 


Text copyright: Mr. Joyce 

Marvel and associated characters are copyright of Marvel Entertainment group. 

Blogger's Note: How old is Ultron, anyway? Maybe I can win a "no-prize" for figuring it out. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

See Endor Play!

May the Fourth be with you! 

I've always been a fan of sci-fi. One could say that I was born to it. The first film I ever say, in utero, was Ridley Scott's horror/sci-fi mash-up ALIEN. Since then I've pondered distant worlds and strange civilizations. I sought out new life and...wait...that's the intro to Trek. I love Star Trek dearly, but this is Star Wars day after all. 

So, onto the festivities of May the 4th! 

I was overjoyed to see the new trailer for the new Star Wars film; Episode Seven: The Force Awakens. I will admit that I was misty-eyed during the whole experience. It felt like time had hurled us back to 1983. Everything that was once old was made young again. I felt the same way when I saw the re-release of Ghostbusters this past summer. That by itself is another tale for another time. 

As for the above image.

I used to spend hours looking through the toy section of the J.C. Penney catalog. I don't recall if this treehouse and swing set was among their wares, but it must have been. I remember this ad vividly. I imagined myself standing watch in the Walker Command Tower, after my rebel crew took out some bucket-headed stormtroopers. That speederbike swing must have been the smoothest ride this side of the Ewok village. I would be most happy if I could find an adult-sized version of this. 

One wonders what parents would allow their kids to play at night, while the Death Star looms over-head, but The Falcon is there to safe-guard them. The sound effects must have been stellar as well. All that guard tower needed was a working intercom or P.A. system. Using Nerf guns to defend it would have made for a boss battle scene! 

It also appears that Gym-Dandy is still around. Listings for them online show they now sell their products through the likes of Wal-Mart and Target. 

That was a time when children had imaginations. Yes, we were helped with gracious mentors such as George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry, and Stan Lee (to name only a few). They were the ones that ignited the spark of creativity that we'd kindle well into adulthood. Back then, one could dream all day long. There were adult concerns to scare us all into submission. We weren't hampered by "the box," because, as Lucas once put it, "We didn't know the box existed." 

Who will be the Lucas, Roddenberry, and Lee of the next generation? Well, Lee and Lucas are alive and well, so they will hold onto their thrones as active dreammakers for quite a while. But even after one has passed; such as Roddenberry, Bradbury, Clarke their work continues to inspire both current and future generations. 

Yes, looking at that photo in the catalog provided inspiration as well. While I never did get my Star Wars treehouse, I did get to imagine life on Endor. And there was no white picket fence to rein in my imagination...and there never will be! 

May the Fourth be with you! 

Text copyright Riley Joyce 2015 

Star Wars Copyright Lucasfilm/Disney 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Vincent Price is Right!

The great Vincent Price endorsed so many products over the years that it's difficult to list them all. I'm sure there are some that I've missed. If so, let me know in the comments below. 

Here is a selection of some of my favorite Vincent ads with commentary. 

1. Time-Life Books: Enchanted World (circa 1985) 
These were the sort of books that gave me the chills as a child. Now, I can't get enough of this sort of supernatural shocker. Vincent Price offers us a guided tour of the realms of knights, witches, wizards, and night creatures. 

This commercial, along with Time-Life's Mysteries of the Unknown, used to run late at night. Both would scare the snot out of me as a child. As a teen I acquired a taste for the paranormal, via The X-Files. Now I'm in the process of putting together complete sets of these books. Fun, spooky stuff. 

There were multiple commercials for both series of books. Mysteries of the Unknown deserves a separate commentary. As for now, I've included a second Enchanted World commercial. One that features the voice of Vincent. More commentary on these books will follow. 

My family had this board game from the legendary game-makers Milton Bradley. It was more enjoyable by the presence of the Master of Menace himself on the box! Not only did this game feature a photo of Vincent in refined cowboy get-up, he also starred in the commercials! 

Ignore the Double Mint twins, there Hangman ad is posted above. 

3. Peter Paul Chocolate: Peanut Butter...NO JELLY!
I don't recall this candy bar at all. But I'm willing to bet you it was the most delicious candy bar ever!

4. Tilex! 
I remember these commercials vividly. So much in fact that still use Tilex to this day. If it was good enough for Mr. Price, it's good enough for me. Well, that, and my bathroom is like a laboratory/surgery...whenever I shave. 

Only one man could pull off the ascot. Well, two men; Fred from Scooby-Doo, and Vincent Price! And Vincent Price was in...The Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby-Doo! It comes full circle through the knot of the ascot! 

5. The Vincent Price Collection 
Sears once hired Vincent Price to curate a collection of curious art. The idea was to have the well-known art connoisseur bring art to the masses. Price himself selected, cataloged, and evaluated the various works of art that would bare his name. He also taught Sears employees how to sell these paintings. Yes, Vincent starred in the sales training film! No actor alive today would do that. Mr. Price loved art in all its forms. Making sure that everyone could afford art to enrich the their daily lives was his mission statement. 

I especially like the parts in the film were Price points to a bawdy painting, and then says, "Trust me, it's okay." Sensibilities have changed so much since then. I can't think of a department store today that would offer a Picasso print at bargain prices. 

7. Polaroid video tape 
I remember VHS. Ah, those days of messing with the tracking wheel to get the best picture. The scent of fresh magnetic tape. And the sound of said tape sliding into the VCR. While DVDs and Blu-Ray offer better picture and sound quality, VHS offered us grit. But, to reduce the grit one would have to use head-cleaner tapes. 

Here, Vincent demonstrates the need for a clean VCR. Never be haunted by dirty heads...ever! Even ones you lopped off this morning in the pit...and the pendulum! 

I would love to watch movies in a setting like this! Well, maybe just during October, during the time of...well, you know.

8. Stay Alive! 
Vincent shows us how to play this most unique game. Once again, he endorsed another awesome product from Milton Bradley. I'm curious about how this game was played. I've not seen it before. Ah, see! The advert still works! 

There's more to come. After can't keep a good ghoul down! 

Text copyright Riley Joyce 2015 

The products featured are copyright their respective owners.