Rev Up the Engines

From Betty White to Video Game History to Football to Hotel Transylvania: Christopher Spicer's Media Diary for January 10 to 16


We're now two weeks into 2022, and despite my declaration that I'd review every 2022 release this year, I've written less reviews than I did at this time last year in 2021. But the shining light of hope has broken through as the kids return to in-person schooling this week, so I am geared up to start blasting through reviews for all kinds of movies and even series (The Book of Boba Fett, here I come).

I may still try to catch up on the movies that I've seen this year but missed writing reviews, and I have the plan to rattle off a few quick reviews for the first few 2022 releases. But if I can't pull that off due to the enormous amount of stuff that I want to write about and review on here, then you've got this handy guide of all the media that I've watched, read, heard and played.  

What I Watched:

The Wasteland: Bah, another week and another batch of 2022 movies that I have not written reviews for yet. But this will be discussed on The Movie Breakdown this week. This is a movie that was filmed in Spain during the pandemic, and its story about a family stuck in their cabin after a civil war and trying to protect themselves from a supernatural force is obviously about the pandemic too. I love the big wide shots showing the overbearing environment they are stuck in. The performances are strong, and I especially love the chemistry between the mother and son. The movie is undone a bit with the last act supernatural elements that push it into derivative horror territory.

AEW Dynamite (Aired Wednesday 12th): I used to be a huge wrestling guy, but I've completely lost interest in WWE for the last decade (yet still record the shows even though I almost always delete them immediately). AEW has provided the style of wrestling and storytelling that I missed, and almost every episode delivers, even if there are a few glaring flaws like the over reliance on hardcore wrestling and the constant heel faction beats down the faces angles. 

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters: I watched this with Everett, and he has let me know that the movies are nothing like the books. He seems to like the movies fine, but he is really into the boxset of novels that I got him for Christmas. 

Brazen: It is if Hallmark tried their hand at a sexualize thriller. Alyssa Milano is so charismatic and endearing as the lead that it almost makes everything else watchable. It will be discussed on The Movie Breakdown.

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania: This is one of the unique series that has actually gotten better with each sequel. It has some funny animated gags and it earns its heartfelt moment, and the voice actors have some solid chemistry and energy. During a time when there is so much negativity, it has a strong and worthy message about finding the positive side to a situation.

ASMR For Depression Relief (By Sarah Lavender ASMR): I mentioned last week that  I watch and listen to ASMR to calm myself down at the end of the day before bed. Sarah Lavender is another one who is very soothing, and this episode has a strong message about mental health.

Let Me Relax Your Face ASMR (By Latte ASMR): As I said last week, I consider Latte the most relaxing and soothing of the different ASMR YouTubers.

10 Underrated SEGA Master System Games for Nintendo Fanboys ((By John Riggs): Everett has been getting into video game history videos on YouTube. He especially loves watching videos that show games that I used to play or own as a kid. Since I owned a Sega Master System, this video had a slew of them.

Explaining the Pandemic to Past Self Part 6 (By Julie Nolke): Julie Nolke became a viral YouTube star with her first 'Explaining the Pandemic' video. It is hilarious. The whole series has been great, and this is the latest one. But she was around long before the video that made her famous and has done many other videos. She is worth checking out and one of my weekly YouTube fixes. Plus, she is a fellow Canadian trying to make a living and entertain people with stuff she creates, so I want to root her on.

If Being Annoying Was A Job (By Ryan George): I am also a really big fan of Ryan George who does the 'Pitch Meeting' videos for Screen Rant but also has his own YouTube channel of original videos. Like Julie Nolke, he often plays all the characters in the videos, and that is one of the running gags. This one is very funny, but I can say that about all his videos. 

Hawkeye Pitch Meeting (By Ryan George/ScreenRant): Hey look! The Pitching Meeting videos that I had mentioned.

Every Nintendo 64 Game You Played in 1996 (By John Riggs): I had no clue the system only launched with 8 titles. I have a lot of affection for this system, but I am amazed it ended up a success with such small library to start. We must have got it a year or so after release.

Four to Dinner: A movie billed as a Spanish romantic comedy, but I felt it was closer to drama with sprinkles of witty dialogue. I liked the unique concept of what would happen if the various combination of characters pursued romantic relationships, but I felt the execution created some holes, and I never attached to the character or particularly liked them. We will discuss this on The Movie Breakdown.

New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills: Kids were gone this weekend and it is playoff time. I had to watch me some football.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Philadelphia Eagles: A complete blowout that I started doing other things when the end was obvious.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys: Easily the best game of the weekend, and it went right down to the last play. This was one of the more exciting football games that I've seen in awhile.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs: This turned out to be the one-sided slaughter that was feared after a closer first quarter.

What I Read:

1440 Daily Digest: Bob Saget, Deadly Bronx Fire, and Snowflake Generator: The Monday issue of the weekday newsletter that I use to find interesting links and catch up on major news. One of my favourite pieces is the look at what happened in history on this day, but I was sadly reminded this is when we lost the great David Bowie.

1440 Daily Digest: Georgia, Pig-to-Human Transplant, and the Rival Queens: The news about the first successful modified pig heart used on a human is cool and a major advancement in health science. The tension between the U.S and Russia over the military buildup on the Ukraine border is concerning, and likely will be one of the big ongoing news stories, but it is good that the US isn't just the little brother for Russia anymore. In the section of history on this day, insulin was first used to treat diabetes, so again, science is cool and helpful, despite what your crazy uncle posted on Facebook.

Invoking Jan 6, Dems pivot to fight for voting legislation (By: Brian Slodysko): I get an email every weekday from AP Wire that provides links to some of their articles. The fallout from the Jan. 6 insurrection has been huge, and clearly the American government is in need to some overhauls. Shockingly, Republicans are opposed to such progress. When I type 'shockingly', I, of course, mean 'predictably.' 

Americans Reading Fewer Books Than in Past (By Jeffery Jones): Obviously, an article about the decrease in book reading is going to be something that catches my attention. The interesting thing is that it isn't less people are reading books but rather those that read books are reading fewer in the year. Probably using the extra time to read about Covid conspiracies on Facebook from their crazy uncle.

Prediction Consensus: What the Experts See Coming in 2022 (By Nick Routley): There are a few disconcerting predictions like the rising threat of ransomware, the growing geopolitical tensions and the impending inequality in global recovery. The positives are that first world countries are likely moving from pandemic to endemic (this is also a negative as other countries will continue to suffer), climate change being a greater focus of concern and the rise of the creator economy. The creator economy is the big one for me, because well, I am a creator with a blog and podcast, and I have hopes of also breaking into video that wants to make a living from all three. The key is to find ways to be innovative and try to connect with my readers, listeners and viewers in a personal and unique way. New technology has made the creator a viable business model for more than just major celebrities, and this is exciting for those willing to hustle and consistently create.

1440 Daily Digest: Filibuster Showdown, Oxford High Lawsuit, and 100 Best Jobs for 2022: I probably should note that the items that I list in bold is the newsletter title rather than what I've deemed the best news items in the issue. My favourite bit is the news Maya Angelou is the first African American woman to be featured on the US quarter. She was a prominent poet and civil rights activist, and a worthy individual to be commemorated.

1440 Daily Digest: Inflation, Prince Andrew, and Alphabet Evolution: The news about the omicron variant potentially hitting its peak gives me hope, as it means the case numbers are soon to plummet. Even more hope is finding out on this day in history was when Robert C. Weaver became the first Black US cabinet member (1966) and Douglas Wilder was the first elected Black U.S, Governor (1990).

1449 Daily Digest: War Crimes Trial, Costa Concordia, and World's Most Beautiful Libraries: The major news of the week remains the omicron variant, more arrests regarding the January 6th insurrection, and lots of turmoil around the world. In lighter news, this day in history saw Franklin D. Roosevelt be the first in office president to fly by plane to conduct business, and the NBC Today TV show debuts in 1952.

Omicron Wave Prompts Media to Rethink which Data to Report: An interesting look at how the recent surge along with changes to testing has altered what numbers and stats are reliable and worth reporting on. It is a bit of a dig into the challenges for accurate reporting during this pandemic, and a solid read for those interested in how reporting and journalism works behind the scenes.

Omicron May Be Headed for a Rapid Drop Britain, US: Yes, I still read about Covid. But now I am more interested in the science rather than the 'oh my goodness, we are all going to die' motivation from two years ago. The article offers hope that this surge may lead to it becoming an endemic, but also warns it will be a rough month ahead as cases drop.

East Africa's Oldest Modern Human Fossil is Way Older Than Previously Thought (By Brian Handwerk): The Omo 1 fossil has been dated 36 000 years old and the skull looks very similar to the structure of modern humans. This is a huge discovery for getting better insight on human evolution, and it is a fascinating piece for those who love discoveries in history and science.

Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony: I've been reading the series to Everett for bedtime. We just finished the fourth, and so now we're starting up the fifth in the series. The pacing and characterization have become stronger with each book, and I am intrigued by the character arcs of both the once super thief Artemis and the elf Holly Short who has now been forced into being a private investigator.

Escape from Alcatraz review (By Outlaw Vern): I am a huge fan of the critic Outlaw Vern who leans towards direct to video action movies and horror but will review almost everything. I love that he isn't pretentious and sprinkles his work with jokes, but he provides a lot of insight. He also reminds me of Roger Ebert where he has no fear going against the consensus if he likes something.

Bob Saget Dead at 65 (By Arezou Amin): Like many my age, I watched a lot of Full House on Friday night and looked forward to America's Funniest Home Videos on Sunday. He was someone that found his way into my house every single week for probably one or two years in the 1980s. It is so intriguing to me that someone who is best associated with family friendly shows has what was said to be a very risque and profane stand-up show.

'The Hobbit' Movie You Never Knew Existed (By Patrick Lyon): I am a sucker pieces about the creative history about any movie. I am even a bigger sucker learning about the creative process of works that I never knew existed. The piece is about an animated short that was thrown together in order to retain the rights for when they had the budget to make something grander. It appears this film is very different than The Hobbit novel, and one of those loosely based situations using the recognizable name in hopes of finding an audience. Or maybe they didn't care about an audience as long as the rights remained.

Karen's Witch: The Babysitter's Little Sister #1: Karen's Witch: I finished up the graphic novel that I was reading Danika during her bedtime. I mentioned this book last week, and it is a lot of fun if you enjoy the precocious kid getting into mischievous style adventures. Since it reminds me of Danika, I love them when they are written well.

The Smark Rant for Mid-South Wrestling - 11.16.85 (By Scott Keith): I have been reading Scott Keith's rants on wrestling since about 1996. I may not watch wrestling much anymore. but I still look forward to his reviews of the PPVs and shows. He isn't a huge fan of current WWE either, so he tends to review a lot of older shows off the WWE Network. Mid--South Wrestling was a company run by Cowboy Bill Watts and was considered one of the best promotions at the time and very influential in wrestling. I never watched it, since a southern wrestling promotion wasn't getting anywhere near a Southern Ontario boy without a satellite dish. But it has a lot of wrestlers that I remember as a kid that eventually went to WWF, so it is a fun historical read.

The Smark Rants for TNT - 06.07.85: This was WWF's version of a talk show, and had a few wrestling match clips sprinkled in. It was designed to further mold and craft the different wrestling characters. I never watched it at the time, because it never aired here in Ontario. And. . . I didn't become a fan until 1987.

In Defense of Film Critics and Film Criticism (By Nathan Rabin): Rabin is another of my favourite pop culture writers. This is a really good piece detailing the importance of the film critic as a conversation starter about movies rather than justifying one's opinion on a movie. Who cares if our opinions differ, rather let's discuss and explore together. This was spurred on by the Don't Look Up backlash against critics, which was something Scott wrote about as well.

The Legend of Betty White (By Nathan Rabin): A celebration of a great actor, and a look at how she become a pop culture icon.

The Wasteland Wiki article: For purposed of podcast preparation.

Brazen Wiki article

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania Wiki Article

Four to Dinner Wiki Article

How Betty White Rejuvenated the Already Great Mary Tyler Moore Show (By Colin Wessman): It was one of those weeks that I felt like reading about Betty White. This is a cool piece looking at how she already had significant star power in the 1970s and was one of the more powerful female celebrities at the time. This looks at what she added as a recurring character to one of the more iconic 1970s shows. A great piece for someone who is as into pop culture history as I am. Collider is one of the better sites if you're into pieces that delve into historic works and their impact.

17 Calls for Pitches Directly from Editors: I get a few times a week newsletter from Freedom from Writing that lists some potential work for various site and magazines.

10 Full-Time Jobs for Writers

Upcoming Deadlines to Publish Articles, Short Stories & Enter Contests

Kaiju Preservation Society Optioned for Television (By John Scalzi): I've been following John Scalzi on his Whatever blog since the mid 2000s, which was before he became a bestselling sci-fi novelist. I try to check out his site once a week. This week I got the fun news that another of his works has been optioned, this time for a potential TV series. This is great news, and I'm happy that such a great writer and human is experiencing so much success. 

An Omicron Update (By John Scalzi): A look at how Scalzi is handling this new variant, and some bigger thoughts on why we are in this situation and what we need to do.

Smark Rants for WWF Superstars - 04.09.94 (By Scott Keith): !994 WWF was not pretty for anyone who lived through it, but Keith's review of an episodes from the time is very entertaining. It is also a blast reading about episodes that I remember watching at the time.

Travolta/Cage Project #83: World Trade Centre (By Nathan Rabin): Rabin is going through the complete filmography of John Travolta and Nicholas Cage. This is a Cage picture and was directed by Oliver Stone. I have never seen it, and apparently, Rabin believes that I shouldn't track it down.

The Travolta/Cage Project #84: Hairspray (2007): Nathan Rabin loves this movie about as much as I do. It just makes me very happy, and I love the songs. If I did a top ten movies of 2007, this probably would have made my list,

Netflix Set to Raise the Subscription Prices for the First Time Since October 2020 (By Jeremy Mathai): Yee-haw?

The Evil Dead review (By: Outlaw Vern): I love how he talks a lot about the technical aspects of this movie, and he explains why the movie proved Sam Raimi's brilliance as a filmmaker.

The Player (1992) review (By Roger Ebert): I try to read at least one Roger Ebert review a week, because not only does he present great insight and is entertaining, but I believe in the importance of analyzing the craft, and he is one of the all-time great writers on any subject. 

Bonfire of the Vanities review (By Roger Ebert)

2022: The Year to Watch the Creator Economy Boom: I'm a creator who is trying to grow a following and make money off the things that I create, so obviously I'm drawn to articles about it.

What I Listened To:

Samara Ginsberg - E.T. Flying Theme for 8 Cellos: Fantastic. Totally takes me back to the scene in the movie. I praised her last week, and I am sure she will be mentioned in this is series again.

Encanto: 'We Don't Talk About Bruno': Danika continues to get a hold of the compute when I am listening to music. But the soundtrack is crazy catchy.

F This Movie Podcast #616: Our Favourite Horror Movies of 2021: I mentioned last week this is my favourite movie review podcast. This week Patrick Bromley and his horror BFF Heather Wixson reveal their top ten horror movies of the past year.

10 Times We Had to Revise the History Books (By TopTenz): One of the many YouTube video channels hosted by Simon Whistler, and I love listening to these while doing the dishes or folding the laundry. This is a fascinating one, and a nice reminder that history and science need to change when confronted with new facts and information.

The History of the Might Orbots (By Toy Galaxy): A very fun YouTube channel that looks at the history of significant toy lines, cartoons and movies from the 1980s. I never knew about this animated series, but it is always fun learning about entertainment that slipped me by in my childhood.

She's So Unusual album (By Cyndi Lauper): I came a few decades late to loving Lauper, but I hope she can forgive me.

The Gory Story of the Inhumanoids (By Toy Galaxy): I think I kind of remember this animated series, and I feel like I had at least one of the action figures. Obviously, it did not stick with me too much. I was too busy loving He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

The History of COPS (aka C.O.P.S) (By Toy Galaxy): This is about the 1980s cartoon not the 1980s reality show. I do remember this, and I watched it some. It was more of a waiting for Transformers and don't feel like turning off the TV kind of show for me.

What I Played:

Catchphrase: Kids were away, so it was time to enjoy a game with Emily, and this is a very fun 'board game.'

Magic: The Gathering: Everett claimed victory again.

Pretty Pretty Princess: This is a game where the first to be fully dressed up as a princess wins. Danika won. 

Super Mario Strikers: This was a birthday gift for Everett, and a fun twist on the soccer game for the Wii. I lost at this too.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: This was a play for just a few minutes game. If free time ever comes my way, I would like to dig a bit deeper. I have a HUGE soft spot for Zelda games.

The Write-Brain Workbook: Not really a game, but Emily bought me this book that contains 400 writing exercises. It is a great way to get my creative brain flowing first thing in the morning. This week I did a story about a double agent where I needed to use the same word at various points, another was two stories written based off the opening sentence about senses, another I had to include several locations in my story, and a final one I had to write two different stories that began with something about ketchup.

Okay, that was my media diet this week. What did you enjoy this past week?

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