Captain Lou and Mario, Too

15-Oct-09 3:15 PM by
Filed under Fade to Black; Comments Off on Captain Lou and Mario, Too

"Captain" Lou Albano — best known as a professional wrestler in the World Wide Wrestling Foundation, appearing as Cyndi Lauper's father in her "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" music video, and for playing the title role in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! — passed away yesterday at the age of 76.

As noted when Showbits observed the passing of Bam Bam Bigelow, wrestlers rarely live a long and mellow life; the rigorous demands their profession places on their bodies leaves too little opportunity for such convalescence. For Mr. Albano to have lived to 76 is quite an achievement, and a well-deserved one. No matter his role on-screen or off, he always seemed like a genuinely nice guy — often imitated, never duplicated — as evidenced in this personable interview:

Best wishes, Captain Lou. May many angels join you in doing the Mario.

Summer Shorts: Unloved

04-Jun-09 12:00 PM by
Filed under Films; 1 comment.

Like What's In the Box?, today's video is based on a video game, and like World Builder, it's about a man who doesn't know how to show his deep devotion for another. Although the premise isn't all that different from the Twilight Zone episode "Elegy", Unloved exchanges humor and wonder for the morbid and macabre:

Many of the summer shorts featured here this week feature either little to no dialogue, or a heavy emphasis on special effects (or both). In contrast, Unloved is all about mood, atmosphere, and characterization. It subtly prepares us for something, even if we don't know what, as we are disturbed by what we don't see before we are by what we see. It's exactly what I found most engaging in the game it is inspired by, Eternal Darkness. None of the characters or situations in Unloved are lifted from that material, but both media feature similar themes of rational people driven to insanity, and yet whose actions remain perfectly justifiable within their own broken minds.

Both movie and source eloquently fit the game's subtitle: Sanity's Requiem.

A Fistful of Quarters

29-Sep-07 1:39 PM by
Filed under Reviews; 13 comments.

The King of Kong wallpaperIn 1982, Billy Mitchell set the Donkey Kong world record high score of 874,300. He quickly found fame and fortune when LIFE magazine splashed his face alongside those of other elite gamers considered the greatest of their generation, in a photo-spread in their January, 1983, "Year in Pictures" issue. Many felt his amazing score would never be bested. Then, in 2003, an unassuming science teacher from Redmond, Washington, shattered the long-standing record. In a video-taped performance, Steve Wiebe posted a staggering 1,006,600 points. But there was a problem: the score only counts if it's certified by Twin Galaxies, the self-appointed official keeper of classic video game records. And TG founder and "World's Video Game Referee" Walter Day puts it succinctly: "Twin Galaxies does a lot to promote Billy, because it's to Twin Galaxies' advantage — and very much to the whole gaming hobby's advantage — for Billy to become a star."

Mitchell, a larger-than-life character with a world-class mullet, is a hot sauce mogul and successful restaurateur from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He's also the self-proclaimed "World's Best Video Game Player". Unfortunately, in The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, the new movie from director Seth Gordon (now in limited release), Mitchell comes off as something of a very big fish in a very small pond: in fact, the only thing big enough to match Billy's legend is his ego. Mitchell's opening line in the movie not only sets the tone for the upcoming competition between Billy and his challenger, lovable loser Steve Wiebe, but also gives us a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of an egomaniac. King of Kong is littered with priceless Mitchell one liners: "He is the person that he is today because he came under the wrath of Bill Mitchell"; "Since I so-called debuted on the scene at LIFE magazine in 1982… there hasn't been anybody who's played even close"; and "Maybe they'd like it if I lose. I gotta try losing some time." With a gaggle of video gamer disciples at his beck and call, including one who considers Billy "the champion" and himself "the prodigy", it's clear that Billy Mitchell is very invested in maintaining the mystique of his image. "Everything about him is perfect; Billy is just that person," proclaims one. Even Walter Day seems entranced by Mitchell's charisma: "There's no reason why Bill Mitchell couldn't end up on a Wheaties box someday."

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The red wire! Cut the red one!

22-Feb-07 8:22 AM by
Filed under Potpourri; 6 comments.

I'm an audio/video snob; among my minimum standards are that movies be widescreen and in at least 5.1 surround sound. I insist on having the theatrical experience the directors intended for me.

But I'm also a tightwad who doesn't believe effective presentation should be the exclusive domain of monstrous cables. I'm satisfied with my six-year-old CRT television's one set of component inputs and no HDMI, 480i, or other fancy features that are supposedly making or breaking the next generation of home game consoles.

So I recently tried to squeeze more out of my aging-yet-satisfactory system. I'd historically reserved the component inputs for my DVD player: movies are my television's #1 application, and I hesitated to experience signal degradation via a switchbox. But with the Nintendo Wii packaged with mere A/V cables, making an additional purchase necessary, I decided to make a quantum leap.
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