It’s surprising how much “RoboCop” has managed to stay relevant in this day and age. Despite being a science fiction classic with excellent biblical overtones, Hollywood has sought out to re-invent the series time and time again. After the passable remake years ago, RoboCop proved he still had some pop culture momentum with his baffling appearance in a KFC commercial (even with original star Peter Weller in the costume). After the ballyhoo with the reboot failing to gain steam yet again a few weeks ago, I felt like re-visiting “RoboCop: The Animated Series.” The 80s was a time where pretty much nothing was off limits and studios spent an odd amount of resources trying to tailor adult properties to kids.
Before 1994 our only real animated Spider-Man fix was the 1981 series “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.” Intent on rethinking the Spider-Man mold for the nineties, FOX forked over a ton of money to New World Corporation (and then Saban) to create Spider-Man: The Animated Series. With a completely different animation style, and small uses of computer animation, “Spider-Man: The Animated Series” premiered in 1994 with the episode “Night of the Lizard” and managed to take off as a ratings boom for FOX in the wake of similar successes like “X-Men” and “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”
My “Star Wars” obsession began in 1997 when George Lucas unleashed the new editions of his trilogy in theaters. For me it was something of a passing fad that I admired through the fun commercials and the heavy connection to Doritos. I wanted those pogs even if I didn’t know who Luke Skywalker or Lando Calrissian was. A year later, I borrowed the original trilogy from a friend on VHS and consumed the whole series in one sitting over the course of a weekend. I never came back from that obsession, and to this day it’s a hard habit to break. “Star Wars” is a series that kept me hooked for a very long time and I was always looking for anything I could find to read about it, or consume in some form as entertainment.
In 1999 when Lucas aired the first ever trailer for “The Phantom Menace” on primetime television, I rushed home to watch the trailer on video tape, and I must have seen it at least ten times. It looked amazing.
There are thousands, if not millions, of fans who have taken to the dude and found his unkempt, unusual style and take on life a true source of inspiration in some form or another. His influence was evident even in big blockbusters like “Avengers: Endgame” this year. People who love “The Big Lebowski” don’t particularly use the Coen brothers film as a guide for life, but every single person that’s ever decided to let it in has at one time channeled the dude, every fan at one time has thought “What would the Dude do?”
Nostalgia entertainment is about as popular as ever and modern streaming services and networks are banking on the fascinating topics that can be mined from the mementos of pop culture. One of the most entertaining documentary series to be brought to the popular Netflix service has been by Brian Volk-Weiss’s “The Toys That Made Us.” While most studios would cut corners by merely making a series that relies on “Remember this?” and “Remember when…?” what “The Toys That Made Us” instead does is examine the importance and relevance of iconic toy lines from the eighties and nineties.
If you’re looking for a wonderful companion piece to the upcoming feature film adaptation of the infamous book trilogy “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” Cody Meirick’s documentary “Scary Stories” is a great refresher course for fans. It’s also a wonderful look at how history repeats itself, with the elementary school touted horror anthology nearly suffering the same amount of censorship and hysterical panic that EC Comics endured decades before its release. It’s a fascinating but nasty bit of history repeating itself, but history also learning from itself, as well.
I think one of the two reasons why Bruce Timm’s iteration of Batman continues to be such a celebrated staple of animation is that Timm didn’t just take Batman seriously, he took his audience seriously. Before then, if you wanted to see an animated version of Batman, you had to watch “The Super Friends,” “Scooby Doo Movies,” or the Filmation series. “Batman: The Animated Series” stands on its own in the annals of 90’s animation and is still considered the gold standard by fans, right down to the voice actors.
“Cruel Intentions” is what many would describe as camp, but also high camp–which is probably why I love it so much. For a time where just about everything in the nineties was derived from classic literature only re-worked for teens (“Pygmalion,” “Emma,” “Romeo & Juliet” to name a few), I’m surprised anyone thought it would be a great idea to take “Dangerous Liasons” and turn it in to an erotic thriller marketed for younger audiences. While the movie doesn’t feature teenagers, it’s heavily dominated by a cast of young actors entering their early twenties, along with a lot of intimations toward prepubescent sex.