Friday, January 31, 2014

My Top 10 Favorite Movies

These are always hard to do because favorites tend to change over time. But when I was making my initial draft in my head I realized the top 10 I came up with were titles that really impacted me and made an impression long enough to be considered for this list. So as far as I can tell this is the official top 10 that has not only withstood the test of time (with the exception of one title because it is a recent entry) but I can't see what could replace them, either.
With that said I want to include a quick disclaimer: These are my personal top 10 favorites. This is not me saying these are the best of all time. Just the ones that hit me the biggest and ones I adore and appreciate the most. Doesn't mean I don't like your favorites. It just means these are the ones I personally like the most.
Also these will be very short reviews. I could talk at great length for each of these but I'll keep it brief or else this would be so long it'd be absurd.
Also I'm gonna add in the Rotten Tomatoes score just to show how varying in opinion mine is from the general public and critics at large. Or it will at least show you how good everyone, not just myself, thinks some of these lesser known titles are.

Number 10: Whisper of the Heart
(90% on RT)

Starting the list off is a very recent entry. I only just saw this one within the last year and I loved it enough to place it in my top 10. This title is an animated film from Studio Ghibli. Should be a very familiar name and if it isn't then I'm sure titles like Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and My Neighbor Totoro just to name a few should be familiar. While not directed by the great Miyazaki himself this still retains all the charm of a Miyazaki film. Walt Disney didn't direct every movie that came out of his studios so it's definitely possible to excel without having to be the originator. Anyway, Whisper of the Heart is also one of the more wholesome and somber titles from Ghibli. It doesn't take place in a fantasy world with supernatural elements. Nor does it have characters that are literal spirits from the afterlife like so many other Ghibli titles. This one stays right where it is in reality with the only fantasy, dream-like sequence happening exactly in that place. A fantasy dream sequence.
The plot revolves around a young girl who is obsessed with renting all the same books as a mysterious boy she knows little to nothing about. She continues doing this to figure out what kind of person he is based on his reading choices. It is an adorable tale with a love story right off the bat. Her methods of finding out more about this boy are a lot like falling in love with the character of a book, but with a twist of reality weaved in. The movie really kicks into gear when she finds out this boy is the same boy she finds painfully annoying. And so begins their awkward and adorable tale of love that goes back and forth throughout the movie. Along with that love story it's also about growing up in the cramped suburbs of Japan, as well as self discovery with one's own creativity. I don't want to talk too much about everything that happens because everything about it is so sweet and enduring that I want you to experience it for yourself.
A very underrated title in the Ghibli library. It doesn't have the fantastic world the other titles have but it's got character. So much character in it's characters. I was pulled in from the start and it had me all the way up through the end credits. It's themes and story will make you think of a simpler time. It'll remind you of crushing on your classmate, having tiffs with your parents, self-discovery, and just plain growing up even if it wasn't in Japan. Just goes to show that all kids go through the same stuff no matter where you live or where you came from. This is the most wholesome title you will see on this list so grab onto it while you can. And the fact that I put it ahead all the other Ghibli titles in my personal preferences must say something big.
I've got a soft side guys...

Number 9: Love Exposure
(90% on RT)

Let me share you my first experience with this one. I had imported it from the UK because there was no American release nor was there any sign (and I wasn't planning on waiting around). Since this movie is four hours long it's difficult to fit into any day of the week. That and you need to be in the right mindset to sit down to something that long. Eventually I caved and thought to myself, "Okay, I'll watch the first half tonight (it was on two discs), and then I'll watch the last half later. I'm sure I'll get a similar experience." That night I started the movie around 10PM. I finished disc 1, got up, took a bathroom break, and watched disc 2. I finished around 2 in the morning because I was so engrossed and knew I had to see what happens next. The moral of this story is that if a four hour movie keeps me that engaged for that long then it definitely deserves a second look.
Watching Love Exposure is like reading a great book. So much is going on throughout the lengthy experience yet nothing is wasted. It all ties together very well. Every bit of it is important for the plot to move forward. Simply put I loved this movie from the moment I laid eyes on it and I will easily watch it again, despite it's length, any day of the week.
What makes this movie so fantastic is Shion Sono's unique style of filmmaking. He has made some of the best Japanese films I have ever seen, two of which I reviewed a long time ago right here. Normally I can't stand narration in movies as I feel it is insulting to the viewer. They can see what's going on so they don't need to be told. But in this case it is more like a book, like I stated earlier. There is so much going on all at once that is integral to character and story. Because of this there is a constant narration. And you get very used to it. It's a method Shion has used in his other movies and it works just as well there as it does here. That on top of the very unique story filled with tons of tense drama and equally as wacky comedy it makes for not just one of the best movies I saw that year, that decade, but ever in my lifetime. If you can get past the heavy sexual elements of the story and are open to something different, something a little out of your comfort zone then you're in for something amazing that you will never forget. It may not be my favorite movie, but it is one of the highest rated movies in my book.
I bought it region 2 (UK Import) to get it early but it has since been released on region 1. You have no excuse. Go out and watch this movie RIGHT NOW!

Number 8: The Passion of Joan of Arc
(97% on RT)

One of the best films I've ever seen. Not just from the silent era, but of all film. And to think it was almost gone forever. Many recuts were made throughout the years but the original was thought to be lost. It stayed that way for many years until it was found in a Norwegian insane asylum in the early 80s. It was eventually released to the public in many poor formats until The Criterion Collection got a hold of it and produced the essential DVD edition of it. It will be the closest thing to the original edition any of us will ever have and it is brilliant. The DVD includes it with no soundtrack, and a specially produced soundtrack for the film due to the fact there is no master music track to go along with the film. And if there was that is gone forever.
In case the title didn't give it away this is about the imprisonment, trial, torture, and eventual execution of Joan of Arc. This is one of those movies that is so engrossing, so beautiful that when it's over you immediately want to watch it all over again because the experience is so amazing. Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer who film historians consider to be one of the best that ever directed. The only other one of his films I've seen is Vampyr, another silent film I enjoyed immensely.
I guess the way I would describe this title is that it's unafraid. It's very ballsy for the era. My experience growing up is that much older movies tend to be a lot more tame because the restrictions back then were a lot more strict. Then again this came from France and I am unfamiliar with their code back then so I guess I couldn't say too much on that subject. But even in terms of modern film this one can be looked at as very brutal. Maybe not in the amount of violence shown but emotionally it is damaging. The movie starts off with Joan of Arc imprisoned and basically set for death right there. Granted we all know what happens but watching the process of her being tortured and then constantly being forced to discredit herself is rough to get through. Yet so beautiful at the same time.
It's the same reason we watch movies like Schindler's List or mini-series like Roots. They're long, rough rides but we can see the beauty in the tragedy. They're so well put together and remind us of the evils that are in the world or the things people did to defend themselves. They're inspiring, gorgeous displays of the human condition that we can all learn a lesson from. And when they light up Joan of Arc at the end of the movie and the riot ends the film, it's tough. It's tough to get through. Still those 82 minutes blaze by very fast and you want it to keep going. You may even consider starting from the beginning just to experience it all over again.

Number 7: King Kong
(98% on RT)

Ah yes. A classic. One of the most iconic movies ever made and it is one of my favorites.
I didn't see this one until I was in high school. It was around the same time I started working at the Blockbuster near my high school (that has since been turned into a fitness center). This was also around the same time the newest remake of King Kong was coming out. Because of that there were these new DVD editions of King Kong, Son of Kong, and Mighty Joe Young, the last one only being connected because it has a giant monkey that goes literally ape shit crazy at the end. I picked them up not because I wanted to see the King Kong remake but because I had always heard about these movies and felt like it was time I saw them. Thankfully this was after I started becoming more open to new style of movies instead of the same old same old low brow crap all the time. In other words there were some older black and white movies I did enjoy but they were few and far between. Thankfully this was one I really got into... big time!
Right there on my first viewing I fell in love with it and have watched it a countless number of times since. While I did enjoy it for it's engaging story and not too corny old timey acting the best parts for me were the monkey and the action sequences. My favorite Christmas special is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and so that's an animation style that has always appealed to me. Along with things like Wallace and Gromit I have always been a big fan of stop motion. Keeping in mind this was literally decades before either of those were born the stop motion work here is top notch. It made me so happy that the animatronics were saved for close ups and when the creatures needed to interact with people close up. But the way that animation was used when they first get to the island and are running from dinosaurs makes for incredible excitement.
But not as good as the classic sequence when King Kong escapes and goes on a rampage through the streets of New York. For the era it was filmed the special effects are brilliant. Switching between stop motion and animatronics, while not seamlessly, still very effectively. And in all honesty I found this sequence to be pretty terrifying. It was constant excitement and horror throughout up until Kong is shot down from the Empire State Building, ending the movie. So the best thing I could wonder then was if my reaction was like that in (or around) 2005 I can only wonder how people responded to it in 1933. Pretty big I imagine. But so much so that I believe I read somewhere that there had to be cuts from when they're still on Kong's island because it got too scary. Crazy how times change, yet this one still holds up in so many ways. The effects may be out of date but the story isn't. It is still very immersive and one of the best classic movie experiences you'll get.

Number 6: The Blair Witch Project
(87% on RT)

There were a few before this and many that followed but none of them have quite that feel that The Blair Witch Project did. This is truly a supreme example of the found footage genre. I really love this style of horror because it's one of the few that adds a very real sense of realism to the tone of the movie. And there are many ways this movie did it right. First it was done on the super cheap, a lot of it was improvised by the actors not to mention the camera was operated by the actors, the actors also literally lived and slept in the woods for the entire shoot adding real tension to the fictional tension, and some of the scary stuff that happens (attack on the tent in the middle of the night for example) was done without the actors knowing again adding a sense of realism. This independent film went on to make a shitload of cash making it one of the most profitable movies ever made, just like Paranormal Activity would do around a decade later. But some of my favorite parts involve the technical side. The movie was filmed in full screen, or 1:33.1. It truly looks like a choppy bit of found footage since it is so rough looking. And for a while I insisted only watching this on VHS to enhance the experience (also see The Shining). But I do have it on DVD now because I have the coolest wife in the world. While we were still dating she sent a DVD copy of this movie off to the director. It took months to get back but when she did she presented me with an autographed copy of the movie. Words could not express how excited I was.
So from an objective standpoint the movie is done really well and it's clear how much I love it. But is it scary? Shit yes it is! I think a lot of people were turned off my the constant shakiness of the camera (they missed the point of the film's style) and how 'nothing happens.' Well the thing is that a lot happens, it just takes a lot of time to build up. And the scary stuff that happens is the fear of the unknown. There is a lot of tension wondering what will happen to these people. And in my book that is way scarier than any monster or jump scare you can put on screen.
During the final minutes of the film my heart starts to race. They are scared as ever with one of their friends missing. They rummage through the woods and find an old, abandoned home. Inside the home is some of the creepiest imagery of abandonment I've ever seen put on screen. It gives the appearance that horrible things are happening. And while some may think the movie ends on a whimper I think it ends they way it should. The movie ends when the found footage runs out of footage. And in that last moment when the last person is knocked to the ground, presumably dead, with the camera still fluttering makes for an excellent ending to one of the best horror movies ever put together.
It ends the way it should. Unlike the theatrical version of Paranormal Activity which should have ended the way the festival cut ended.

Number 5: Ring, and the franchise as a whole
(Ring 1998: 97%, Rasen 1998: No Score [28% audience rating], Ring 2 1999: 0%, The Ring Virus: No Score [37% A.R.], Ring 0 2001: No Score [64% A.R.], The Ring 2002: 71%, The Ring Two 2005: 20%, Sadako 3D: No Rating [21% A.R.])

A few years ago I remember having a conversation with a good friend of mine about obsessions with certain franchises or what have you. The conversation was me trying to figure out if there really was anything where I was a collector of EVERYTHING the franchise has to offer (maybe not literally). This means buying up not just all the, let's say, movies in a franchise like owning all the Star Wars or Bond movies, but also buy the action figures, posters, coffee mugs, calendars, etc. I came to realize that wasn't exactly true for me. I usually have the whole set of movies for a franchise but little beyond that. A print of the theatrical poster at best. But then I remembered Ring. Outside of my #1 pick there hasn't been a horror story I've been more obsessed with and it is yet to be topped. To explain my love for this franchise allow me to expand on what I already have.
Currently I have most of the movies [Ring, Rasen, Ring 2, Ring 0, The Ring Virus, Sadako 3D, The Ring (US Remake), The Ring 2 (US Remake Sequel], the mainline books they were based on [Ring, Spiral, Loop], a couple of the TV mini series [Based on the first two books], the first volume of the manga and I plan on picking up the video game for Dreamcast sometime in the near future as well as any missing gaps like the made for TV movie and the other volumes of the manga as well as Koji Suzuki's books Birthday and S (which has yet to be translated).
To those unfamiliar Ring is essentially a ghost story. It's about a young woman named Sadako who was murdered and thrown into a well. Because of these bizarre psychic supernatural abilities she inherited from her mother her curse lives on in modern times starting with an urban legend about a cursed videotape. The curse being if you watch it, you die. And while almost every new adaptation has been fast and loose with it's interpretation of the original story there have been a few things that stuck. The scary girl with the powers and the curse of a videotape.
And these are scary stories. Not just because there's a creepy girl with long black hair over her face, but in tone. The scary parts of these stories is the mystery and the creeping knowledge that our protagonists may not be able to defeat this evil because she keeps coming back. Some do it very well (Ring [1998], even the remake in 2002) and some do it very poorly (The Ring Two [Sequel to the remake in 2005] and Sadako 3D) but overall they're very effective stories. And they're unique because they're a product of their era. It's hard to imagine a cursed tape working well today. A cursed DVD or YouTube clip just doesn't have the same appeal. Or maybe I'm just a grumpy old man.

Number 4: Brazil
(98% on RT)

Back in high school when I found out there was more to movies than bang bang explosions and there was more of an art to it I discovered a lot of new and exciting movies. Still this was a time when I was major pretentious about it and would dive so deep into the "artsy" and "indie" scene that many of them I now find forgettable and not worth my time. Mostly because a lot of them turned out to be a load of crap that was far too pretentious and trying too hard to be non-mainstream. Still I got plenty of movies that really are great that have stuck with me throughout the years. Later I'll be talking about one that got me into this new perspective but for now let's talk about one of the weirdest and best that I got into during this time.
Shown to me by an old friend who is a big fan of Terry Gilliam films, Brazil is at it's core a satire on the dystopian future stories. When describing it I try my best to not say "a parody of 1984" because I feel that would give the wrong idea. Because the movie is so much more than "Remember that book you had to read in high school? Wait til you get a load of this reference!" As a satire it pokes fun of this type of future while having a very dark, very serious tone in the story overall. Hell, the main plot revolves around a mis-type that makes an innocent man the enemy of the state. And how did that mis-type happen? Why a bug was swatted and it landed in the printer where it printed the wrong name. Absurdly ridiculous stuff like that is what helps makes up the comedy of the movie. But in the movie's near 2 1/2 hour length it explores so many themes, character arcs, side stories that it would take me all day to talk about what makes them all so great and memorable, and just straight up work as both comedy and drama.
Saddest part is this was one of those movies that was filled with a hellish development. The story is really something to dive into. To put it brief it all came down to the trouble of one man. Sid Sheinberg, an entertainment executive. He did what he could to not release Brazil in the state Gilliam wanted it. He thought the movie was too depressing especially with it's super dark ending. Gilliam fought this battle very publicly, causing in a long delay of the film's release. While Gilliam didn't get to release his full director's cut he did get to release it in a similar form. The released edition was 132 minutes while the full director's cut (that would eventually be released as part of the Criterion Collection) is 142 minutes. There was an unofficial, 94 minute "happy" version shown on TV against Gilliam's wishes. But that wasn't shown much and most video releases is 132 minutes. But as a fun feature the Criterion 3 disc edition does include the butchered version. And I've got to say it is fascinating to watch. Really puts in perspective how much a little bit (or in this case A LOT) of editing can do.
So definitely look up Brazil if you're interested in not just a great movie, but a movie with a rich history that is fun to fall down the rabbit hole into.

Number 3: UHF
(57% on RT)

Also known as, "Weird Al's Movie." Back in the late eighties Weird Al Yankovic had been on the market for a good ten years with his comedy albums. Making parodies of popular songs while making very funny original material as well. So towards the end of the decade he went out to put together a movie in the style of his humor that has become so popular over the years from his albums. While the results were a very funny, very creative comedy it did not do well at first. It was slammed by critics and had to compete with many major franchises that year including: Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and the newest Disney animated movie The Little Mermaid. It was looking to become one of those forgettable movies you remember picking up from the video rental store as a kid starring that guy who made a couple of funny records you had but don't remember what happened to them. So... into obscurity. And it almost killed Weird Al's career. He put out a soundtrack (plus new material) for UHF but would release another album until Nirvana came along when he did a parody of Smells Like Teen Spirit. Thankfully for Al and for his fans he rose back to the top of the comedy music world and his movie found an audience. And with the DVD release that happened in the early 2000s it's now considered a cult classic.
While not my number one in terms of this list, it is number one in other aspects of my enjoyment. I am a huge Weird Al fan so this speaks to me on so many levels. The jokes land perfectly, it has that absurd edge (like a free salad bar at a mortuary) that makes me laugh, and it even inspired me in my own sense of humor and writing. You can tell a lot of these jokes were from the deep, deep depths of Al's mind with plenty of inspiration from the likes of the Zucker brothers. And even though it's far from perfect (especially in some of the acting) I have still seen this movie more than any other movie. Period. As in, over one hundred times. It became a tradition to watch this movie every time my best friend came over to my house. Which was a lot. Then I would show it to other people and have repeat viewings on my own.
So this movie about a loser who can't keep a job is put in charge as a manger of a local TV station and turns it around and makes it more popular than even the big name channels in town... has changed my life in so many ways it's ridiculous. One of the biggest examples of joy and hilarity was from Michael Richards who plays the idiot janitor Stanley Spadowski. His performance is brilliant, totally unrecognizable even from fans of Seinfeld. I loved it so much I was even Stanley for Halloween one year in middle school.
Also this is one of those movies I have multiple copies of so I can have it on the original VHS release and DVD re-release. Personally I prefer the VHS release on this one.

Number 2: 2001: A Spacey Odyssey
(97% on RT)

This one will always hold a special place in my heart for one very strong reason. This movie changed my life. I saw it for the first time when I was in high school. Prior to this I only ever watched mainstream movies with many low-brow choices scattered throughout my personal library. However when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey I was taken into a world of movies I never knew existed. Or that I knew existed, just didn't know how amazing they really were. Despite having a very mainstream past with movies I fell in love with the beautiful slow pacing, the strong use of visuals and music, and the trippy, confusing ending that made me want to know more about the story and the universe it lived in. In that two and a half hour sitting my life was changed forever. Movies became a much bigger part of my life and some of the most unique experiences I've had have come from the love of movies. Shortly after this I purged a lot of the bad choices in my collection while holding onto the handful of greats, which I then looked at in a new perspective.
Outside of it hitting me on such a personal level the movie itself, objectively, is so fantastic. I don't know what I can say that hasn't already been said so I'll just speak from the heart.
In many ways this movie was way ahead of it's time. It was released in 1968 but took 4 years to make. Part of this was Kubrick's insane methods of making movies resulting in very long productions. But also because they were creating super ahead of their time special effects. Giant sets were made for the space ships, one of which was built to rotate like a ferris wheel to use trick imagery to make it appear like there's artificial gravity. When put in context of the time and compared to other movies like this it is truly mind blowing. And the best part is how simple the effects are in practice. Any other effects needed were imprinted on the original film stock instead of copies so they look as realistic as possible. Lastly this was in production and released shortly before the moon landing. Take a look at the movie and the perspective of planets from space. There's even a scene early on, on the moon and the accuracy is (pardon the pun) out of this world.
Accuracy really is the key word here. Despite the supernatural ending most of this movie is very accurate to real life. To the point of being notorious for being really slow and boring. There is no dialogue outside of ape grunts for the first the first twenty five minutes and then at the end there's no dialogue for the last twenty three minutes. Meaning right there, there is nearly an hour of no speaking. Just visuals. Also since there are long periods of "nothing" happening (sequences of the crew doing their daily duties or other work) that would mean at least half or more of this movie is quiet. Not dead silent, no, of course not. During those moments (for the most part) there is an incredible score to accompany the "nothing" going on. And why I say this is accurate is because it is like real space travel. Hours upon days upon weeks upon months of nothing. Then they make their discovery or make it to their destination and the dull wait was worth it in the end. And the payoff here is so worth it. I can't get enough of this movie and other science fiction just like it.

Number 1: The Shining
(92% on RT)

It always came down to this one and the last one. Kubrick against Kubrick for my favor (like he would care which one I liked more). But after re-examining them and thinking about it, for argument's sake this one is easily my number one favorite of all time. No other film have I spent more time viewing and looking further into. I haven't seen this one as many times as UHF but since it's nearly double the length that is saying something for the time actually spent. But then in terms of discovering why everything is the way it is, what everything means, how it differs from the novel, and some other things I would have never noticed by myself it has been hours upon hours looking into it. The only thing that would compare is the Ring franchise. But that's a whole franchise, not just one story. So again, saying something. I think I've discovered about all I can but I'm sure there's still something hidden.
This is also the title I am most particular about when I watch it. I always have watched the first edition VHS version and it's for a good reason. You see, when home video became more popular Kubrick hated how his movies would be cropped when they make it to the small screen. So in his later films he filmed in a way that would compliment them whether it is on the big or the small screen (keep in mind this was years before 16X9 HDTVs). This meant that in theatres it would be presented wide with more on the sides but less on the top and bottom. Then on home video it was less on the sides but would expand the top and bottom. He shot the essential edition for theatrical and home distribution without having to worry about getting a special letterbox edition out there for people to watch it properly. So for his later films I specifically look for the "full screen" version because of this. It's the version that was meant to be watched at home.
But what can I say about this without falling down the rabbit hole yet again on why I love it so much? I guess I'll start from the most primitive point when I say this was one of the first R-rated movies I saw. Also it's one of the earliest examples of horror to me. Since I was a child I've been fascinated by horror because of the thrill that comes with it. This one freaked me out so bad as a kid that whenever I watched it I would be haunted by the images for hours, sometimes days. And one time I even watched it on TV, in the middle of the day, with the nastiest of bits cut out and commercial breaks. Was still freaked out. Would never work on me today but this is to show on what level this movie did to me. Still despite this terror I would always be drawn back to it wanting to watch it again. I even remember when I finally got my own copy of the movie in early high school. It had been a few years since I saw it last but even hours before I picked it up (knowing I would later that day) I was haunted by it both anticipating and fearing it equally.
But I could talk about this for hours and not be even close to done. Simply put this is my favorite movie of all time and it will stay that way. It has strangely shaped me to who I am today in some strange way and I will forever love it for that.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: Frozen

Version I Watched: Theatrical 2D screening.

History: While the actual production of Frozen specifically didn't begin production until recently (in a bit of a development hell, actually) the origins of this movie date all the way back to the 1940s. Walt Disney was in talks with Samuel Goldwyn to make a series of movies based on the works of Hans Christian Anderson. Goldwyn would do the live action sequences and (of course) Disney would do the animated portions. Some of these titles include The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina, The Red Shoes, The Emperor's New Clothes, and The Snow Queen. If you have even a general knowledge of Disney's history you'll know the fate of some of these stories as they either were produced years later by different means or not produced at all. The Snow Queen which Frozen is based on had it's own series of issues. One of which being that the snow queen character was considered too problematic for the time. While I've never read the original story, I've heard it is pretty dark. Not like that's stopped Disney before or ever again.
Later attempts weren't made until decades later. It wouldn't be til the 1990s when the idea came back and they even started production. Seeing as how they were seeing a string of success for many years it was easy to see it work. However problems came up again. Despite even having Michael Eisner's (the CEO of Disney at the time) support and suggestion of doing it with Pixar it was eventually scrapped again in 2002. Then in 2008 the projected was looked at again. This time it would be under the name Anna and the Snow Queen and would be traditionally animated, going against the newly popularized 3D animation. Having trouble making the story work it entered development hell again in 2010.
A year later Disney essentially started again from scratch with a totally new team and new approach. The animation style was changed from traditional animation to 3D, much like their recently successful Tangled. The story was also changed from having the snow queen as the villain to... well I'll get to that in my review. This new idea and concept was proven very successful. Frozen was released on November 22nd 2013 to an incredible success. It earned $110 million on it's opening weekend and so far has grossed a whopping $763 million worldwide.
I could talk all day about the production of the actual title. But there's so much and I thought the story that lead up to it was more interesting seeing as how, in a way, this movie has been waiting to be made for decades.

Personal History: First viewing knowing little to nothing about it walking in.

Review: Context. Yes I did grow up on Disney animated movies. However most people who grew up with them have greater admiration for them than I do. Yes I think many of them are fantastic pieces of animation. I adore Lady and the Tramp, Aladdin is super fun, and The Lion King is a modern masterpiece. But in the end Disney is to others what something like... I don't know... I guess Sega would be to me. I grew up with it and it's characters (like Sonic of course) and despite their downfalls from time to time it is still something I adore passionately. But that doesn't discount Nintendo. While I prefer Sega over Nintendo (as I try and finish up this gaming talk quickly for those who came here to hear about a talking snowman) it doesn't mean I don't like Nintendo. I've simply preferred and passionately enjoy other things more. So with that said you may be surprised by my review of this movie.

First thing I want to talk about is the marketing. I hate the marketing for this movie. The trailers and posters made it out to be similar to Tangled but now in the frozen tundra. Now I enjoyed Tangled for what it was, but that pretty much meant I was anticipating something cute and fun that would kill 90+ minutes of my time. Seriously, take a look at the most common poster used for this movie. The one where all the major players are up to their necks in snow and you'll think it was wacky slapstick starring a talking snowman. Is it a wonder why I chose the teaser for the top of the review? Still the movie was getting rave reviews. Like, way higher than I was anticipating. I knew it would be good in the same way many Oscar nominees are good (shut up most of them are!). Worth seeing at least once but maybe won't stick with you forever. But what I found here was leaps and bounds beyond what I could have ever anticipated.
As a quick side note I know there was a short before the movie started. It was a fun mixture of Disney's animated origins mixed with their modern animation style. But I don't have much to say about it. It did make me laugh but I wasn't overly crazy about it. Not like the Toy Story short that played before The Muppets just a couple years back.

Right off the bat Frozen shines with all it's beauty. In the first few minutes we're introduced to most of the key players as children in one of the cutest ways possible. Kristoff and his reindeer Sven are working with the ice merchants in the dead of winter. While off in another land Anna and Elsa are out of bed playing when they shouldn't be like most kids do at one point or another. The relationship between these two sisters is beautiful but also comes off very natural. They play in the middle of the night using Elsa's ice powers but talk about it like it's a secret similar to what boy they think is cute or that one of them took a cookie before dinner. The winter wonderland they create in the ballroom is also VERY beautiful just to look at. During all this excitement Elsa accidentally zaps Anna in the head, freezing her mind. After being taken to and saved by the rock trolls by replacing the ice power memories with natural winter memories. Also since Elsa's powers keep getting more intense and out of control it is crucial that Anna never knows of Elsa's powers. Effectively shutting Anna out of her life completely. Of course the parents are killed within minutes per typical Disney fashion leaving these girls on their own, one of which feels abandoned and doesn't know why. All this during a song that starts out cute as a button and ends in heartbreak watching them grow up without each other.

Once again Disney conveys stronger emotions and character in three minutes than some stories do in full features, franchises, or more.

Speaking of music. Despite being in musicals/choir in high school and dramatic theatre in college it takes something really special to grab my attention. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy musicals as is. But when it comes to musicals my favorite isn't something whimsical like Wicked. As a matter of fact my favorite musical is Ragtime. A story about racism and civil rights in early 1900's America. I'm more for the dramatic and not the over the top whimsy. With Frozen I loved every single song sung. From the beginning with Frozen Heart that is reminiscent of Nordic Madrigals all the way up to the instant classic Let It Go. I'm actually on youtube while writing this listening to the soundtrack... again. Within the first 24 hours of seeing the movie I've listened to the soundtrack at least five or more times on youtube. I fell in love with the music that quickly. I've never fallen in love with music from a Disney movie this much. It is even in my opinion that this is some of the best music Disney has produced in years, maybe decades. It is on the Broadway level of quality. I never knew Kristen Bell had such a beautiful singing voice. The only disappointment I had with the music is that most of it was over and done with before the first half of the movie was done. By the third act there was little to no singing. And I guarantee you that is something I rarely think to myself. Musicals are not an automatic win for me. They have to win me over. And this music had me worshiping every step it took.
These are also some of the strongest and well fleshed out characters I've seen in a Disney movie. I'm probably not saying anything you haven't heard already when I say the female characters are finally the strongest in a Disney movie. It's a known fact they're usually damsels in distress waiting for prince charming. But here they took the bull by the horns and conquered. I barely remember the male characters because of how much I adored Anna and Elsa. Anna being abandoned by her sister and not knowing why. Elsa living with the guilt and pain of knowing how she almost killed her little sister and has been protecting her ever since. Anna may be goofy and have elements of the clumsy girly girl seen in other Disney, but she never hits it 100%. She's strong and well overpowers her male counterpart, Kristoff. Elsa is definitely seen somewhat as the bad guy (until we see the REAL bad guy in the third act) after her powers overtake her at the end of the first act. But her pain and humility are never gone from her character. I also love how we never lost sight of her love for her sister and their past despite all the bad that happens along the way. Which brings me to Olaf.
Yes. The talking snowman. At first I felt Olaf was so out of place in what was really a deep and at times dark Disney story. I knew he had a place for the kids and comic relief (plus In Summer was really funny). At first I didn't care for him. Low and behold he grew on me. Especially since he was created unintentionally by Elsa which shows her childhood love and innocence was still present. Really the wacky slapstick did have a place overall. Like Sven, the reindeer who I initially thought would be like the horse in Tangled. I was wrong. While Sven was dog-like, like the Tangled horse I felt it was played down a bit making it less obnoxious. I also loved how Kristoff would sing and talk in a Sven voice. Somewhat poking fun at all the talking animals that have made Disney what they are today. Still a good departure.
Really Frozen is an amazing departure from what Disney usually does while still retaining the charm they (almost) always have in their movies. So many modern fairy tales have been called departures but those are primarily comedies through and through. I got really tired really quickly of "It's a fairy tale with a twist" concept that Shrek unfortunately birthed and plagued the world with for many years. Frozen took the idea of a fairy tale and actually turned it on it's head in a legitimate, respectable way. A little like what Cabin in the Woods did to the horror genre a few years ago (I may have just alienated some of you). Even though I knew how the movie would end by the start of the third act it didn't detract from the experience. The way they executed it was a bit different than I expected (no spoilers).

Of course it wasn't perfect. No movie is. But my complaints are very few and very far between. While there were many jokes and slapsticky things I laughed out loud at, some of them were pretty groan worthy. One thing I've always liked about Disney and by extension Pixar is that their humor tends to stay within their world. Unlike the method Dreamworks tends to take where they use modern or real world references and jokes that don't always belong in their world. This is gonna sound very picky but there were a few here that I didn't care for, like the ongoing joke of treating and talking about Kristoff's sled like a modern car in a world that clearly hasn't invented cars. Very picky things like that bugged me.
Also I know we've come a long way with 3D animation. And this movie was absolutely beautiful to look at majority of the time. A lot of the scenery and clothing was very realistic looking. But keep in mind that is paired alongside the very cartoony faces of all the characters. It was a little odd from time to time to see Elsa (for example) singing to herself when she first flees her kingdom and she's in this beautiful snowy mountain wearing a flowing realistic looking dress. Then it closes in on her face which is large, round, with big eyes and a teeny tiny nose. It was jarring from time to time. Never took me out of the experience as a whole. Simply bugged me from time to time.
And that might be the only bad I have to say. Olaf felt a little out of place as did some of the slapstick humor. And some of the animation bugged me.

In the end this movie was crazy well written, super strong characters, and amazing music. It doesn't go with the cliches usually seen in fantasy fairy tales like this. It know what it is, what it needs to be, and it sticks with it. I don't care what you say to this opinion but... this is not just one of the best Disney movies I've ever seen but also one of the best movies they've ever made. I will continue to listen to the music over and over again, when it hits home video I will buy it and watch it again and again. I really loved this movie that much. I went to this with my wife who is more likely to be into movies like this over me. I think I loved it more than she did and she was nutso over Tangled.
To put my thoughts in a quick finish and to give you context. One of my favorite genres is horror. Most of the movies I own are either violent, insane, depressing, or overall not the most wholesome thing in the world. I'm not big into musicals as a whole. Even with Disney I don't fall head over heels for everything they make. My favorite movie of all time is The Shining, a dark and violent story about isolation during the harsh Colorado winter in the mountains and the cabin fever effects that happen as a result. This last year for Christmas when I was asked what I wanted I said my number one choice was the recent re-release of Shoah via Criterion. A 9 1/2 hour documentary about the holocaust. What I'm trying to say is that my tastes tend to be darker or less whimsical. They tend to be based on realism or the harsh nature of humanity.
BUT! One of my other favorite genres IS animation. Although it is usually traditional drawn animation or stop motion that I go for. So 3D is probably last place for me. Yet Frozen got through to me. Even in the high ranks of Disney classics, Lady and the Tramp, which has been one of my favorite Disney movies since I was barely a year old. Even compared to that I adored Frozen. This is an instant classic that I think will stay with people for a long time. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed something Disney made as much as this. It may have been Lady and the Tramp, and that was almost LITERALLY a lifetime ago that I saw that. I urge you to go see this if you haven't. It is a shining example that even after all these decades Disney still has it in them to knock it out of the park and make you forget dang near everything they made before this.
It might be the Nordic themes, the snow, everything about it that is already placed in my blood from birth (Half Norwegian, quarter Swedish). But so much of this was so well done that I think if a similar story happened almost anywhere else in the world (maybe not England, they've had more than enough of their fair share of fantasy) I would have still loved it. Yet the snow and the environment are so crucial I can't see it working many other places. Plus then we may not have had the gorgeous Nordic winter wear that is seen throughout.

Screw modern fashion. I want to see more women in clothes like this!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Pioneer LaserActive

Holy crap...

I am a lover for the odd, obscure, and less popular items in movies and games. I've already talked about how much I love the FMV adventure games of the early-mid 90s. I also wrote up an entire post on laserdiscs and why I love them so much! But this... oh this is something that takes the cake of obscure. It takes my love of laserdiscs to the next level. It makes the Atari Jaguar, 3DO, and even the Phillips CD-I or Apple Pippin look like frickin Super Nintendo. I am talking about the Pioneer LaserActive!

Hello beautiful.

History: The Pioneer LaserActive was released on August 20th 1993 in Japan, and September 13th that same year in the US. The console plays laserdiscs, CDs, karaoke discs with an add on, and a couple other add ons that you would need to play the laserdisc games but would also allow you to play games for two other consoles available at the time (which I'll expand on later when I can properly gush about it). A lot of the features were only capable with said add ons so the main machine was mostly limited without them. In short it was a very expensive laserdisc player that initially played video games if you were up to spending even more than the initial, staggering price. The core machine sold at launch for just under $1,000. Then if you wanted the add ons for the full potential of the system you're looking at spending anywhere from $350 to $600 a piece! Meaning if at launch you wanted the full package you were looking at paying around $3000! Or more! And that doesn't include the cost of games or karaoke discs to play, or laserdisc movies which were very expensive at the time as well. Dang. This makes the 3DO, which came out only a month after this in the states, and sold for $700, look VERY appealing by comparison. Safe to say the machine was a commercial failure and was discontinued within a year. It still goes for an outrageously high price used online. But more on that in a bit.

Time to Discuss: This is an amazing example of how great gamers these days have it for value. Back in the 80s and 90s you had to pay a hell of a lot more to get all the best features for a gaming console. Not like this last launch where $400 got you damn near every little feature that would ever come with the console minus the expense of games or access to online play. No, this was back in the days when a $200 console may have been the norm for Sega and Nintendo, but them some of the games would cost anywhere from $40 to $100 depending on how much extra hardware had to go in the cartridge. And those were consoles that ONLY played games. Nothing extra. Then the console that were trying to be ahead of the times would be far more expensive. I already mentioned the 3DO for $700. But then other consoles like the CD-I tried to sell for the same price with a minor set of extra features, or the Neo Geo AES that was anywhere from $400-$650 depending which version you bought. A console super expensive because of how accurate the games were to the arcade versions, which also called for MASSIVE CARTRIDGES  and a retail price of $200 and higher for any of those games. Some of these problems were fixed with the era of CD based gaming (such as the Neo Geo CD with games at the standard $50 price), but still back then you didn't get as much bang for your buck like you do these days. It would have blown or friggin minds if we knew what we could get for $200-$400 in 2014, looking ahead twenty years earlier. I'm just trying to say that if I hear any of you sons of bitches complain about the high cost of gaming these days, or how the Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is too much at $15, then just remember that I paid more for Star Fox 64 at launch than you did for the last Call of Duty game on a next gen console, and that was in 1990s money!

In 1992 if you wanted to play Street Fighter II at home you had to pay $75. Not turbo, not a remix, just straight Street Fighter II.

Much like laserdiscs themselves it is hard for me to explain exactly why I have such a fascination with this machine. I know a part of it is the obscurity. I hadn't even heard of this console until a few months ago. And it got me so excited to know it exists! I though laserdiscs games were only something that existed in the arcades, and then those same games had lessened experiences at home. Like Dragon's Lair being ported to the Sega CD for example. Now the LaserActive had a very short lifespan, about the same length as the Virtual Boy if I've got my facts straight. So VERY few games were made for it. And of those games I couldn't tell you how close they were to the arcade originals for those that apply. So knowing now that a similar experience of what was played in the arcades was being done at home is awesome. Something that was mastered a long time ago. But as the common phrase goes when looking back, at the time this was amazing. It's just such a shame that the tech cost so much.
Before I move onto my favorite part (the add ons) I want to talk about the games actually released for the LaserActive core system.
As I mentioned in my laserdisc post only so much video can go on a laserdisc until you have to flip it over or put in a new disc. This is something I made sure to consider when looking into these games. I can't quote how long these games are since some could have come on more than one disc. But I know a few that weren't that long because of the technology. It made me think about some of the games for Sega CD or even early Playstation/Saturn. So much was packed in to impress with the tech at the time that actual gameplay and length were dropped. Kinda like modern FPS shooters. Ba dum tish.
Here's a rundown of the games released in sorta alphabetical order. I bunched them together for games that are similar. Don't worry. This wont take long:

-3D Museum (Japan/US), 3D Virtual Australia (Japan), Goku (Japan/US), The Great Pyramid (Japan/US), Melon Brains (Japan/US), Quiz Econosaurus (Japan/US): The console's selection of edutainment games. From what I've seen they mostly look like interactive documentaries. Not much that's too exciting here, but you can use the 3D goggles add on for some of these games if you're into that sort of thing.
-Akuma no Shinban (Demon's Judgment) (Japan): Had a lot of trouble finding out much of anything on this game. Apparently it is a quiz game based on a popular game show at the time. That's really all I know about it.
-Angel Mate (Japan) and Dora Dora Paradise (Japan): Strip poker with some ladies! It transfers between full motion video in the cut scenes with an anime style chick in the actual gameplay. Couldn't tell you how much nudity is actually in the game. The in game gameplay only shows the lady shoulders up. Dora Dora Paradise is similar but with mahjong instead.
-Back To The Edo (Japan) and Don Quixote (US): I can't find a damn thing about these games outside of some screenshots and intro videos. No idea what kind of games they are but if I had to guess I'd say they were interactive movies, or close to something like that. LOVE the box art for Back To The Edo, though.
-Bi Ryojon Collection (Pretty Illusion - Minayo Watanabe) (Japan) and Bi Ryojon Collection II (Pretty Illusion - Yuko Sakaki) (Japan), Dr. Paolo No Tokkeoki Video (Japan), Virtual Cameraman (Japan) and Virtual Cameraman 2 (Japan): You interact with some pretty Japanese women in hopes of seeing more skin. Seem like a very very simplified version of the mega popular dating simulations over there. From what I can tell they mostly consist of collections of videos and pictures of said women. The whole thing feels very voyeuristic.
-Ghost Rush (US): From what I've seen it's like and adventure game in the same realm as D and The 7th Guest, only crappier looking. There is some interactivity with crosshairs and shooting but not much. Could be fun with it's old school visuals and quirky looking story. I love haunted houses.
-High Roller Battle (Japan/US), Hyperion (Japan/US), Pyramid Patrol (Japan/US), Space Berserker (Japan/US), Vajra (Japan/US) and Vajra 2 (Japan): All are very similar style rail shooters. There's full motion video (pre-rendered early 3D, which I adore) and a crosshair is over it to shoot things. For such a straight forward game style I know these kinds of games can vary in quality so whatever floats your boat for this category. Couldn't tell you which is the best but I've heard Vajra is one of the better ones. That and it looks to be one of the best from gameplay videos.
-I Will: The Story of London (Japan/US): Looks to be another adventure game. A much worse looking one than the next game I'll be talking about.
-J.B. Harold - Blue Chicago Blues (Japan/US) and J.B. Harold - Manhattan Requiem (Japan/US): Part of a series of murder mystery adventure games. Must be pretty popular because they have appeared on multiple formats throughout the years. Probably most popular on the TurboGrafx 16. Except these feature full motion video with live actors and voice over work. Is supposed to be pretty dang good, so good that a port of Manhattan Requiem has been released for iOS, which I may pick up after doing this research. I've come to really enjoy adventure games after diving head first into them again.
-Myst (US): The classic that some people still love and others claim is out dated was set to be released here. However it was only a prototype so it was never properly released.
-Rocket Coaster (US): A racing game where the FMV in the background speeds up or slows down depending how fast you go. Looks like it would be a sluggish experience that wouldn't be very fun.
-Road Blaster (Japan)/Road Prosecutor (US), Time Gal (Japan), and Triad Stone (aka Strahl) (Japan/US): Interactive movies in the same way as Dragon's Lair. These all had arcade releases with the exception of Triad Stone. They look really fun despite their very limited gameplay. Still it's this type of gameplay that really keeps you on the edge of your seat knowing how little control you really have and that one screw up can lead to disaster. It birthed the QTE of modern games, too, and seeing these make me think of those moments in Shenmue and how pulse pounding those got. Still I wouldn't need a LaserActive to play any of these. I can get Road Blaster/Prosecutor for Sega CD (as Road Avenger) as well as Time Gal. Lower quality video but much more affordable.
-Zapping TV Satsui (Japan): Not a game in the traditional sense. You play as the director of a movie where you can change the camera angles, edit, and basically decide how this pre-made movie comes out. Probably not as varied as it may sound or was promoted but probably pretty cool for the time.

All that innovation and still no trophy support.

As I mentioned before there were also plenty of add ons. More than the Sega Genesis! But unlike the Genesis these were ideas clearly made for the intent of adding onto the core console. The first I want to comment on is the karaoke add on.
This was one of the cheaper add ons costing a mere $350. Trust me, when I say mere, I mean mere... or you'll soon learn from the other add ons. This was exactly what it says it is, a karaoke add on. I can easily see this being a desired add on in Japan knowing how popular karaoke is over there. But over here it tends to be what your aunt does after she has just a few too many and nobody seems to enjoy it. Maybe there was something with early 1990s culture I was too young to understand. Keep in mind I was born in the late 1980s. I apologize to anyone who may find that upsetting and decide to give me a hard time for whatever reason (old people are weird).
Another add on that was only somewhat perplexing was the Computer Interface add on. I say somewhat only because this was before everyone and their dog had a computer. Not like today where just to talk on a phone you have to use some form of a computer. I would say this could have been an alternative to buying a personal computer, which I'm sure the aim was, but I just don't see it. From what I've read the whole process seems much more cumbersome than even the early days of windows. A very niche add on that I'm sure not many people bothered with outside of computer geeks. I have no idea how much this was at retail. Have been having the hardest time finding information on it.
The next two add ons were required to play the laserdisc games. Only some would work with the first, and the rest would work with the other. Meaning you would have had to buy both add ons to play all the games available. Bad enough you'd have to buy one add on just to play some of them. But this is my favorite part of the add ons!

Recognize those controllers?

Earlier I mentioned there were two add ons to play games for gaming consoles available at the time. The first of these two was the Sega Mega Drive... or the Genesis if you're American like me. With this add on you can play any cartridge based Genesis game or Sega CD games. This means, despite only having a couple dozen laserdisc games for the main console, you could now play over 1000 additional games! (Not taking into consideration of different regions and some overlap between Genesis and Sega CD but you get the idea). All of which would have improved visuals, or so I've heard. Usually stuff like video feeds and the difference of quality between RGA and Composite and S-Video, blah blah blah is a matter of opinion. Which I'm a bit of a snob with but not as intense. Anyway, this was the go to add on that most people bought with the core system. It's easy to see why. The Genesis was a great console and the Sega CD even had a small share of good games. Unfortunately for some this was not able to support 32X games. It wouldn't be for another year until the 32X came out, and the add on had the Genesis and Sega CD capabilities built in together. This add on wound up costing a whopping $600 at launch! A price I find hard to justify. Even at launch in the US the Genesis was $200, and when the Sega CD came out that was $300. So the combined cost of both consoles, brand new, on day one would be less expensive than buying this add on. And by this time the Genesis core system would have cost less because that was originally released in 1989. So while it's a nice add on to have to build a more "complete" system, it seems unnecessary for the time in terms of cost. It would be pretty slick to have it all together. But even then you could have just waited for a year to buy the Sega Multi Mega which also had a Genesis/Sega CD built in together as it's own console. Not as slick or appealing but it was still only $400. Much like the LaserActive itself, not cost efficient yet strangely appealing from a perspective like mine.
The last add on to talk about is the NEC add on. This add on is a lot like the Genesis add on. But this time it allowed the playability of games for the PC Engine, or TurboGrafx 16 for the American audience as well as the CD add on. Again, like the Genesis this added on a lot of extra games for the console. Between Japan and America, and between the card and CD format there are over 500 games. I know some of them are crossed between CD versions and card version so that number is a mega estimate. Just like the Genesis add on this went for $600 at launch. And this time around it's somewhat of a fair price. The TurboGrafx 16 was $200 at launch with the CD add on being $400. Granted there were better deals as time went on especially since the console wasn't very popular in the states. But at the time of release if you were into the TurboGrafx 16 then you may as well have gone for it. You already spent almost a grand on a specialized laserdisc gaming console, what's stopping you from dropping another 600 on another obscure console?

Buying this console nowadays is far from an easy task. Since it was only out one year not a lot of consoles were produced. Also unlike other consoles that had a very short lifespan (The Virtual Boy, Dreamcast) it had a very high price tag and wasn't made by one of the major gaming companies. With that said it is a major challenge just to find a listing for this console being sold online. When I did find something it usually started at around $600+ after shipping for the core console. Just as is. Then the add ons cost almost as much as they did when they were first released! I found a posting for the Genesis add on pack being sold for $500. But easily the most expensive I've seen listed so far was for the Japanese model (technically making it an import) that included both the Sega and NEC add on. After shipping it will cost you around 2700, but again that's for the Japanese model.
And that will just get you the console itself. You'll need some games for it. Of course Sega and Turbo games can range anywhere from a few pennies to a whopping stack of cash. But there's a lot of great games to choose from all for a reasonable price. I think pre-owned gaming stores give away cartridges of Sonic 2 with every purchase. That or the Super Mario Bros/Duck hunt combo pack. However I did a search on the laserdisc games and those are a different story. You won't be paying less than $100 each for some of these laserdisc games. Some much higher than that. One of them I found for $300! And with how limited these games are that is asking a lot of money for what is essentially bragging rights as a game collector. You could buy a brand new XBox 360 (not that I would advocate buying one) and 5 discounted older games for the price of one of some of these single games.
The other downside of this is that laserdisc players don't have the best lifespan. They have some inherit deficiencies that cause them to simply break down over time. Thankfully my old, beat up one hasn't gone through that. But can you imagine spending all this money on this console, have it testing fine at sale, take it home, then after just a little bit of game playing it craps out like the red ring of death? That would make me furious! On that note this console is so rare that I even saw a busted one on sale online for $250. Damn, this sucker is notoriously expensive.

The LaserActive is not a cheap whore and she does not put out easily.

I think the way I see this is similar to the Neo Geo. Like I mentioned much earlier the Neo Geo cost between $400-$650 at launch. And like the LaserActive it hasn't gotten much cheaper. It's still a challenge to pick up the system at a reasonable price. Sometimes going for as much as a couple hundred or more. Which is still a lot considering most old, used game consoles run between $40-$100 on average. Depending on the era, quality, etc. But then those massive cartridge games still go for as little as a budget game these days to hundred, maybe even a couple thousand dollars due to their rarity. I once heard someone say that buying a Neo Geo and it's games is not a collection, it is an investment, simply because of how much it costs. And it's for good reason that it costs so much. For what it was at the time, the rarity, it makes sense. And if you're hardcore into Neo Geo then go for it. I'm a Dreamcast man myself and I am thankful that is a much more affordable console. All this talk about the LaserActive and Neo Geo makes the $40 I plan on dropping to buy D2 again seem like petty cash.
Still the major difference here is that Neo Geo has a strong cult following. While the LaserActive was simply a commercial failure that only lasted a year. The people who love are part of an extremely small crowd. A crowd I frankly wish I was a part of. I think the system looks awesome! Mostly for the way it worked in the add ons and made the system look sleek for the time. I could be having some of the most unique video game experiences of all simply because of the rarity. But the price it would cost just to get the core console is so extreme. I recently got a new TV that cost around $500. It's 47 inches, full HD, and it's beautiful. It looks great whether it is running a state of the art PS3 game, something simple as Wii Sports with a composite out, or even a SD DVD it looks great. It was a great buy that has a variety of purposes even though it's essentially a box that displays what my machines can do. But that price would only get me the core console. With the money it would take to get the best experience possible on a LaserActive I could get one of those new 4K TVs. Even better I could expand my already growing game collection. Imagine how far I could get in collecting Dreamcast games with that cash? Even with imports I could go a long way. That or I could climb a similar tree as the LaserActive and buy a better laserdisc player (mine is pretty poor) and explode my laserdisc collection! The movies go for really cheap nowadays.
I definitely see the awesome perks of collecting a LaserActive, but upon reflection it seems like a dream that is only fun for the journey. In no way could it be as cool to own and play one as it would be searching for the best deal, the best games, the best everything for it, especially when it comes down to the cost. It's just all too much. If I were ever to get it, it would be because I just won the lottery. That or I found out I had a secret uncle who left me his millions, or I made it big doing... something... whatever it may be. This is a mega pipe dream for me. Something I know I'll never get unless I somehow stumble across it at a garage sale, surplus sale, flea market, whatever it may be. Until then I'll just fawn over how much I adore laserdiscs and how amazing it would be to own such a unique piece of hardware. But hey, at least it's not the Halcyon... know what? Screw it. Let's close out talking about that!

The Halcyon was another laserdisc gaming console this time made by RDI Video Systems. But this was released way back in 1985. It of course played laserdiscs and laserdisc based games but it also had a computer attached. Both the player and computer were the size of VCRs at the time. Massive! There was promise of the console being entirely voice activated (suck it Kinect) and would have AI comparable to the HAL9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not exactly something we would want on our hands, would we? The console sold for $2500 (or $5400 adjusted for 2013 dollars). Only two games were every released for it. The console was discontinued in no time after RDI went bankrupt. It's crazy how ambitious this RDI company was with releasing this. How much of a success did they think it would be? It's insane that they went this direction and so expensive. But that was their mistake. Still it goes down as the single most expensive gaming console ever released. Although I'm pretty sure technically speaking it isn't a game console and more of a limited computer. But hey, at least it now makes the LaserActive look cheap!

Credits: Due to my immediate lack of knowledge for this console it required a lot of digging around. Actually I would say this post had the most research of all my posts. With that said I want to give credit where credit is due.
-Game Sack is where I first heard about this game. Their LaserActive episode was very informative and gave me a great head start.
-Segagaga Domain provided me with some great info on the Genesis/Sega CD add on.
-Video Game Console Library was one of the most informed pages I found. They had a ton of general details as well as tons of photos, an overview on the product's quality, screen caps from games, old commercials and links to other websites.
-Cyber Roach was able to give me some info on the very obscure items I had trouble finding details on. Still couldn't tell me much about Back To The Edo or Don Quixote, though.
-And of course many youtube searches that gave me extended gameplay videos to find out just what the hell some of the games were all about.