Author Archives: Steve Perrin

About Steve Perrin

An old timey gamer and movie fan that enjoys playing and talking about games as well as moives. I have been playing games since the early 80's and still do today and been a fan of films since before I can remember. I hope to create a website that like minded gamers & moviegoers can read, enjoy and relate to.

The Beginning Of The End For Rockstar Games?

I am, what you may call, an older gamer. I’ve been around a few years and seen my fair share of games and gaming studios over the years.

Back in 1988, I played a rather simple but pretty good arcade style shooter on the Amiga called Menace. Okay, it never blew me away but it was pretty decent none the less. The follow up, Blood Money was, and in my opinion, still is a fine shooter well worth playing today. It was around this time in 1989 when I really began to follow the team behind these 2 games. They were called DMA Design and I fast became a fan. Other top quality games followed like the impressively violent shooter, Walker. The sued by Pixar, Unirally and of course, they were the same team behind the greatest puzzle game ever made… Lemmings.

Lemmings Art

DMA Design were amazing in that late 80s – mid 90s period. But it was certain game they created in 1997 that literally changed the world of gaming forever. Grand Theft Auto. I don’t really need to go into detail over how DMA Design became Rockstar North and kickstarted the whole Rockstar Games empire… I already did that in my book, MICROBRITS, buy a copy now! But needless to say, Rockstar Games became one of the biggest and most popular gaming studios in the world and I’ve been a fan for decades, going right back to that game Menace from 88.

As a fan, as someone who has followed this company and loved their games for so long, it pains me to see what they have become in recent years. The staggering success of Grand Theft Auto V has been both a blessing and a curse for them. From my point of view, I think the cash cow that is GTA V had made the company lazy and complacent. Now before I get all the hate, hear me out. Let’s just look at their gaming output over a 5 year period…

Between 2008 – 2013:

Grand Theft Auto IV
Bully: Scholarship Edition
Midnight Club: Los Angeles
Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
L.A. Noire
Max Payne 3
Grand Theft Auto V

I think you’ll agree that’s an impressive list of games and DLCs right there. In fact, I’d like to go on record as saying that the DLCs made for GTA IV and RDR are the finest pieces of DLC I have ever played and was more than happy to have paid for them, and I detest DLC in games. And that list doesn’t include ports and remasters, with the exception of Bully. And yes, they only published L.A. Noire and didn’t develop it, though some work was done by Rockstar given the troubles the developer, Team Bondi were having at the time.

Anyway, the point is that there isn’t a bad game in that list up there. Some arguably better than others sure, but an all outright bad game? Nope. Proof that even with a multi-game production run, Rockstar can do quality and quantity in equal measure. Even before those years, Rockstar continually made/published high quality games and released them frequently too.

Rockstar Titles

Now let’s look at the following 5 years…

Between 2013 – 2018:

Red Dead Redemption II

Okay so to be fair, they also re-released GTA V with a few new bells and whistles for the current generation. But just look at that drop off in production there. No impressive DLCs for GTA V (despite voice actors and Rockstar themselves claiming DLC was coming) and only 1 game?

Just very quickly want to bring up this bit of news that is still on the official Rockstar Games site

Coming in 2014
Expect big things in both Grand Theft Auto Online and Grand Theft Auto V next year including:
GTA Online Heists. We know many of you in the GTA Online community are super excited for the debut of co-operative Heists. Heists are currently in development and we are working very hard to get them as polished and as fun as they can be. Stay tuned for much more detail in the New Year.
GTAV Story Mode Updates. For those ready to jump back into the story of Grand Theft Auto V, we have big plans for substantial additions in 2014 continuing Michael, Franklin and Trevor’s action, mayhem and unexpected adventures in Southern San Andreas.

Something is not right here. Yes I know games get more advanced and take longer to develop and produce, so I guess some kind of drop off is to be expected. But just look at those 2 lists again. That’s not “some drop off”, that’s a complete lack of production.

Then look at Rockstar Games themselves. It’s not 1 studio making games, they have studios all over the world. Rockstar India, Rockstar Leeds, Rockstar Lincoln, Rockstar London, Rockstar New England, Rockstar North, Rockstar San Diego, Rockstar Toronto. That’s the list of current Rockstar game studios working today. That doesn’t include Rockstar International, their main publishing HQ or Rockstar Games HQ itself in New York.

Rockstar Games Logos

Now to be fair some of those studios listed up there are not dedicated development studios. Some work on localisations for the games, some work on ports, etc. But still, they have a lot of studios under the Rockstar Games umbrella. So with all of those resources, all of those talented staff… how do they go from 10+ games and DLCs between 2008 – 2013 to just 1 game and no DLCs between 2013 – 2018?

One such reason for the drop off in game production is the blessing and a curse that is GTA V that I previously touched upon. The fact that GTA V sold a staggering amount, the fact it went on to become the best selling piece of entertainment ever (making 1 billion dollars in it’s first three days alone), the fact that as of December 2019 GTA V has sold 120 million copies worldwide and still sells today… almost 7 years since it’s original release in 2013. The fact it continues to make a hell of a lot of money for Rockstar Games and their parent company Take-Two, both via sales and shark cards for the online portion of the game. Just the fact that 1 game has made so much money means they have rested on their laurels, it means they don’t have to make games to keep the company alive. All they have to do is keep updating GTA: Online with an overly expensive in-game new cars, a new hat every few months and idiots will continue to pay for shark cards and put money into Rockstar and Take-Two’s bank accounts as they have been for the last 7 years. Why would they spend money on expensive game production when they can just release a new update with a handful of new items and let the fans fork-out real world cash for in-game currency to buy said items making millions in profit each year from very little output?

Shark Cards

Then of course, I have to address the whole Leslie Benzies incident. I’ll not go into detail here, you can look it up for yourself, but suffice it to say that Leslie “leaving” Rockstar Games in 2016 has had an impact. For those who do not know, Leslie Benzies (for me) was the rock in Rockstar. He started out as a programmer in 1995 working on the DMA Design game Space Station Silicon Valley. In 1998, he was the one who put together the team that would create Grand Theft Auto III… to then go on to change the world of gaming from that point onward and help transform DMA Design into Rockstar North and then expand into Rockstar Games. Leslie became producer/development director/game designer for pretty much every Rockstar Games hit from that point on. He eventually became executive producer for the company. Then go read about all the troubles in developing Red Dead Redemption and how it was Leslie, as executive producer and lead designer who got the project under control and finished. For me RDR is the best game Rockstar have ever made, even it’s sequel (prequel) could not match it. My main problems with RDR II was that it was over produced and over bloated with a lot of filler… it was missing Leslie Benzies’ touch, his direction.

I don’t care what anyone else says, a Leslie Benzies-less Rockstar Games is a major downturn and has had an impact on their games and the company on the whole.

Leslie and Dan

Which brings me bang up to date with the very soon departure of Dan Houser, who is set to leave Rockstar Games in March this year. Again, just a brief history on who Dan is/was. Along with his brother Sam, Dan Houser co-founded Rockstar Games. Dan has written/co-written pretty much every GTA game from GTA 2 onward as well as penning other games like Smuggler’s Run 2: Hostile Territory, Bully, Midnight Club: Los Angeles, Red Dead Redemption and it’s sequel (prequel). Dan has also been executive producer on many Rockstar titles. In short, Dan is/was a major player in Rockstar Games, the company and many of it’s games wouldn’t have existed without him. Even Take-Two’s share price dropped after the announcement that Dan was leaving. So with Dan’s soon approaching exit in a few weeks on top of Leslie’s departure, 2 of the main 3 at Rockstar are no more, leaving Sam Houser as the only original (main) member left… I wonder how long before he leaves too?

Now Take-Two have very recently put out a statement saying that Rockstar Games are stronger and better then ever (one of the founders and main writers is leaving… and things are better than ever? That’s unbelievably arrogant and disrespectful ) and that Sam has no intention of leaving. But let’s be honest, Take-Two are hardly going to put out a statement that Rockstar Games are in trouble and slowly sinking, of course they’re going to put on a brave face even if whatever is going in behind the scenes is seriously hitting the fan.

Shit Fan

And that’s just the big boys at Rockstar who’ve left, what about the lower level staff, the ones in the front line doing all the work? We know several employees left with Leslie and setup a new studioHow many more have left since Leslie’s departure that we don’t know about and how many will leave when Dan finally goes? 

Yeah I know, due to GTA V that Rockstar and Take-Two have made shit-loads of money and they have more than enough to keep afloat, but money isn’t everything. Just how much of a toll, from a creativity point of view, has milking GTA: Online (and now RDR: Online) had on the staff who crave to make new games? There’s got to be a point where staff members have had enough and want to do more than update a game over and over for 7 years, the morale and drive must be low. They must want to do what they want to do… make games, be creative again like they used to be pre-GTA V. Fans have been crying out for new Rockstar games for years now. As good (but flawed) as RDR II was… it’s still only 1 game and as covered, a huge drop off in production from before. If the talented staff at Rockstar Games hadn’t spent all that time and resources at continually making updates, adding new vehicles, clothing and game modes to GTA: Online, could they instead have made amazing DLCs like before and even new games like Bully II, GTA VI and even new IPs already?

Bully II

Rockstar Games are slowly dying, maybe not profit making wise, but creativity wise, most definitely so. The downturn of the company can be traced back to the success of GTA V and the absence of Leslie Benzies. Dan leaving soon is a far bigger blow than Take-Two are willing to admit (publicly anyway). Staff must be getting bored of not making games and readying themselves to leave if they haven’t already. We’ve seen this many, many times in the past too. A small game studio makes it big to the point where they become over inflated and burst. It’s happened a lot in the past and it will happen again.

I honestly think that Rockstar Games is slowly rotting away from the inside out. I truly believe this is the beginning of the end for the company. I’m not saying you’ll wake up tomorrow with the news that Take-Two have closed Rockstar down, this will be a gradual process as the company slowly dissolves away. Everyone waiting for GTA VI or Bully II had better not hold their breath.

RDR Grave

 

 

GamesMaster: A Retrospective – Series 1

So here we are, at the start of the very, very long retrospective looking back at the greatest gaming TV show ever, GamesMaster. Just before I get into this, you’ll have to excuse the rather average/grainy quality images throughout this whole retrospective. GamesMaster has never been given a home release or a clean up, so I’m having to use old VHS recordings and almost 30 year old footage to get these pics. It’s the best I can do.

Series 1

Originally aired on the 7th of January, 1992, kicking off with a (for the time) very nice CGI opening title of, who I assume, is the GamesMaster himself sitting on a throne. Series 1 was set and filmed in an abandoned church (St Paul’s Church, Dock Street, London). Presented by the foppish and very cheeky Dominik Diamond who wastes no time in tossing off and slipping in as many double entendre and sly sexual references as he can.

Series 1 Dominik

Series 1 consisted of 10 episodes and featured celebrities such as Jimmy White, Annabel Croft, Barry McGuigan, Eric Bristow and others, all trying their gaming skills at some of the newest games on the market.

A mysterious and cloaked monk would bring the golden joysticks to the winners of the challenges in this series and was played by gaming media pioneer Dave Perry, who would become an integral part of GamesMaster and part of one of the show’s most infamous moments… but I’m getting ahead of myself here. First up, every episode from series 1.

Episode 1

Kicking off with the first challenge is Daniel from Edgware, who has to finish the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) and collect 50 coins all in just 2 minutes. Despite Daniel messing up and initially missing a pipe housing some hidden coins, he does manage to complete the challenge with 14 seconds to spare, winning the very first GamesMaster golden joystick.

Games reviewed are movie themed, The Terminator (Mega Drive) which scores a 87%. The Addams Family (NES) gets a 63%. And finally, the greatest point n’ click adventure game ever made, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis which receives a very worthy 93%. Then next up is a feature on customising the Nintendo Game Boy. Moving onto the first celebrity challenge. A game of footie on Manchester United Europe (Amiga) where Simon from Bishop’s Stortford takes on then Wimbledon F.C. and England striker, John Fashanu. Simon playing as Liverpool beats John playing as Manchester 2-0 to take home that golden joystick.

Then it’s the turn of the GamesMaster to deliver his hints & tips on Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive), Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (Amiga) and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES) with that infamous and annoying whirlwind thing. Episode 1 ends with the final challenge, a shootout on Mad Dog McCree (Arcade), the first ever live action laserdisc game. Tony from North Wales is the man who has to shoot the varmints in this Wild West light-gun game. Tony finishes the challenge with ease to win the golden joystick and ends the first ever episode of GamesMaster.

Golden joysticks won – 3

Episode 2

First up is a challenge on Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive). Being given 2 minutes to collect 150 rings and finish the first level, Alex from Stanmore, decides to show his cocky side. Thinking that 150 rings is too easy, he asks for the challenge to be upped to 160 rings. Seeing as the level only has 163 rings in total, collecting 160 in 2 minutes is no mean feat. Of course he does it because this is Alex Verrey here, who would soon become known to many British gamers as ‘Big Boy Barry’ (more on that later).

Big Boy Barry

Reviews this time are all beat em’ ups. Starting with The First Samurai (Amiga) which gets a very respectable 90%. Pit-Fighter (Amiga) doesn’t do so well getting a 59%, which I think is about 59% too much. Then Double Dragon II (Game Boy) receives 70%. The feature this time looks at gaming peripherals such as the Power Glove, Quickjoy Footpedal and the Sega Action Chair… all utter pants. The celebrity challenge is next and Paul goes up against former British heavyweight boxing champ, Garry Mason at Sonic Blast Man (Arcade). A game where all you have to do is punch a pad as hard as you can to score the hardest hits. Of course the professionally trained and experienced boxer loses (how/why? I don’t know) and Paul wins his golden joystick.

GamesMaster shares his help on games such as Strider (Mega Drive), Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) and Robocop (NES). Then onto a challenge on one of my all time favourite games, Lemmings (Amiga). Given 2 minutes to save 91% of his lemmings, Robert from Leicester is the guy for the job… oh, he also has to do this on one of the hardest levels in the game and he was only told this 5 minutes before filming began too. After a slightly mistimed exploding lemming, Robert loses a few rodents and only manages to save 87%, Robert is the first non-celeb to fail a GamesMaster challenge.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode 3

The first challenge of this episode is on Mega Man 2 (NES), an already tricky game made even harder here, Nick from Muswell Hill has to finish one of the most difficult levels in the game without losing a life and in under 3 minutes, including defeating the end of level boss. But Nick misjudges a tricky jump midway through and plunges to his death, failing the challenge.

Racing games get the review treatment this time around. Starting with Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 (Amiga) which gets a stupidly low 68%. Formula One Grand Prix (Amiga) receives a very deserving 89%. Then OutRun Europa (Master System) is handed a 52%. A sneak peek at a then up and coming movie tie-in game, Dune (PC & Amiga) is next and is highly praised too. The formula continues as next up is the celebrity challenge. Sahid from Mile End takes on former British ladies number 1 Annabel Croft at tennis. Pro Tennis Tour 2 (Amiga) is the game of choice, which Annabel wins, making her the first celeb winner of a GamesMaster golden joystick. But who wouldn’t enjoy getting beaten off by Annabel Croft?

Annabel Croft

More hints & tips follow with Alex Kidd (Master System), Cadaver (Amiga) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) all made a little bit easier. Zoom! (Mega Drive) is the final challenge and to mix things up a bit, three members of the audience are selected to play and finish the first level in 1 minute. Scott, George and Dorla (I think, the sound wasn’t very good) are randomly chosen from the audience… all three of them fail, bringing the end of episode 3.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode 4

Classic beat/bike em’ up, Road Rash (Mega Drive) is the first challenge of this episode. Richard from Dartford is tasked to complete and win a race on the Redwood Forest stage on the game, punching, kicking and riding his way to victory. After smashing into a car at a crossroads, Richard falls behind and only manages to finish second, failing the challenge… might have had something to do with the stupid way he held the controller too.

Reviews this episode are fantasy games. First up is the gorgeous Psygnosis classic, Shadow of the Beast (Mega Drive) which gets an understandable 59%. Then Populous II (Amiga) is given a much more worthy 94% because it’s one of the greatest game sequels ever made. Finally, Kings Quest V (PC) is handed a 62%. The feature looks at SEGA’s marketing ideas for the Mega Drive. Then onto the celebrity challenge. World Champion darts legend, Eric Bristow is given the game Heimdall (Amiga) where he has to throw axes at a tied in place maiden to cut her hair and free her from her captives in 2 minutes… he fails. Also worth noting that this challenge is the first ‘proper’ appearance of Dave Perry as co-commentator not hidden by the monk outfit… and so it begins…

GamesMaster once more shares his wisdom in the form of hints & tips. Folks having trouble with Duck Tales (NES), Altered Beast (Mega Drive) and Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES) all get a helping hand. Then to the final challenge of the episode. Panza Kick Boxing (Amiga) is the game of choice here and siblings, Jason and Lisa have to fight it out. Despite Lisa being knocked down early in round 1, she manages to knock her brother out in round 2 to win the challenge.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode 5

Straight into the action with the first challenge. Duck Tails (NES) is GamesMaster’s game of choice here and it’s Scott from Manchester who has to make his way though and finish the icy Himalayas level in 2.5 minutes. Scott claims to be very confident he’ll beat the challenge with ease… and he does, finishing the level with 39 seconds to spare.

Duck Tails Challenge

Review time once more, this time the games are linked by the word “funk”. ToeJam & Earl (Mega Drive) manages a 70%. Top Banana (Amiga) is given 65%, while Bart Simpson’s Escape from Camp Deadly (Game Boy) gets 89%. Up next is a preview of the then latest Bitmap Brothers game, The Chaos Engine (Amiga). Which shows an early 3-player version, the final release was only 2-player. Then a quick intro to the GamesMaster Golden Goal competition on Kick Off 2 (Amiga), before the obligatory celebrity challenge. Legendary game designer Archer MacLean has to tackle his very own game with Jimmy White’s ‘Whirlwind’ Snooker (Amiga). Archer goes up against Christian from Nottingham while the man himself, Jimmy White offers commentary with Dominick. Each player is given just 90 seconds score as many points as they can only using the coloured balls. Christian scores 31 points but Archer manages 37 points and wins the golden joystick. Then Jimmy White has to pull off a trick-shot designed by Archer MacLean on the game, just for fun, no golden joystick reward here.

It’s tip time again as people seek help from the main man. Spider-Man (Mega Drive), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) and Shadow of the Beast II (Amiga) all get covered. Then onto the final challenge. Neighbours (Amiga) based on the popular Aussie soap is the game of choice and the aim is to race around Ramsay Street against other residents and win. Taking on the challenge is another celeb (I guess?), Ashley Paske who was on the show itself. The game is terrible, but even so, Ashley is extremely bad at it and fails spectacularly.

And with that, we’re halfway through the first series.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode 6

After perhaps the most double entendre fuelled intro by Dominick, up to this point anyway, the first challenge tees off. Top Player’s Golf (Neo Geo) is the game of choice as Mark from Ross-on-Wye (with a handicap of 4) takes up this challenge and has to finish the first 3 holes of the course in level par or below. After a couple of rough shots and landing in the bunker, Mark fails the challenge.

Reviews next and futuristic games are the theme this time around. First up is Alien Breed (Amiga) which scores an understandable 70%. Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe (Mega Drive) earns a very reasonable 85%. Then Wing Commander II (PC) nabs an underwhelming 59%. The feature this time around looks at the overtly expensive Neo Geo console. Yes, it’s the celebrity challenge next as Capital Radio DJs Pat Sharp and Mick Brown take on Ski or Die (Amiga) and have to battle for the best score on the aerial skiing section and pull of impressive tricks. Mick scores a total of 54.5 for his aerial antics, while Pat after some very shoddy jumps, only manages 40.6. Making Mick the winner of the golden joystick.

Time once more for the GamesMaster tips. Gamers having trouble with The Legend of Zelda (NES), Forgotten Worlds (Mega Drive) and Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll (NES) are all given a helping hand. Then, of course, it’s the final challenge of this episode. Isometric puzzler Brat (Amiga) is the game of choice this time. Michael is the man who thinks he can guide the leather jacket wearing toddler to the end of the level. Getting off to a flying start and looking very much like a winner, he manages to make it near to the end of the level, but a slightly misplaced bit of direction causes him to fail.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode 7

It’s a James Pond 2: Codename: Robocod (Amiga) challenge that kicks off this episode. Having to finish the first level in less than 1 minute and amass 50,000 points along the way too are 3 members of the audience. Mark, Julie and Claire all take turns in tackling this challenge. After falling on some spikes… several times, Claire dies and fails early doors. Next up is Mark who doesn’t fair much better, again, falling on spikes… several times before being killed by a snake. Finally, it’s Julie’s turn who also manages to fall on some spikes… several times, yet she does last a little longer than the others before death via snake occurs. No winners on this one.

Time for a few reviews and this time, adventure games are up for scoring. The Immortal (NES) nabs 80%. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (PC) earns itself a very deserving 94%. With Heroes of the Lance (Master System) getting 65%. Then it’s time for a preview of Alien 3 (Mega Drive), based on the movie of the same name. Finishing with a feature looking at gaming music soundtracks in a Top of the Pops style countdown… Xenon 2 Megablast (Amiga) is number 1. Celebrity challenge time next and British wrestler, Kendo Nagasaki (real name: Peter Thornley) takes on David from Hertfordshire at WWF WrestleMania Challenge (NES) with the first person to win via a pinfall. David completely destroys Kendo to win the golden joystick.

GamesMaster Moore 2

Hints & tips next as GamesMaster offers his help for The Legend of Zelda (NES), Strider (Mega Drive) and Mega Man (NES). But before I move on, does anyone know why a wire-frame butt-plug always used to float near the GamesMaster’s head during his segments? This episode’s final challenge is on Thunder Force III (Mega Drive) as Jeremy has to finish the underwater level of Seiren on the game’s hardest difficulty setting. Due to a typhoon of bullets, Jeremy fails the challenge spectacularly.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode 8

Strider (Mega Drive) is the game for the first challenge and Chevron from Harrow has to make his way through the first level and finish off the boss in 3 minutes. Some very confident playing, a few minor niggles aside and Chevron destroys this challenge with 45 seconds to spare.

Flight sims are put up for review this time. Birds of Prey (Amiga) lands itself 80%. F-22 Interceptor (Mega Drive) gets 72%. While Knights of the Sky (Amiga) receives a 80%. A preview of ATAC: The Secret War Against Drugs (PC), a flight sim come anti-drug themed shooter is shown. Then onto the celebrity challenge. 1987 Wimbledon champ, Pat Cash takes on his wife, Emily at Baseball Stars Professional (Neo Geo). Simple enough rules, 1 innings each and whoever gets the most runs wins. Pat manages a respectable 5 runs, while Emily a grand total of 0. Pat Cash wins the golden joystick with ease.

The GamesMaster helps out more of the less fortunate with his hints. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES), Alex Kid (Master System) and Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters (Amiga) all shown a little love. Then of course, the inevitable final challenge. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Amiga) is the game of choice and it’s that annoying sliding puzzle thing from this very poor game that makes for this challenge. This is another audience challenge as Dominick selects someone from the crowd to tackle this one. Martin from Stanwell is the man for the job… maybe? No, he fails and only manages to complete 25% of the puzzle before the timer runs out.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode 9

Challenge number one from this penultimate show comes from Zany Golf (Amiga). Father and son, Nigel and Adam have to complete as many holes on this crazy golf game as they can without running out of shots. The person who finishes the most holes wins. The opening windmill hole causes a few problems for Nigel, but they both manage to sink their balls with shots to spare. The second hole is an issue for Adam who runs out of shots, while his father manages to putt his way to victory and win the golden joystick. However, a rather funny ‘judge’s decision’ rules that Nigel is too old to be playing games, so the golden joystick is given to son Adam instead.

This review round-up looks at sports games. John Madden Football ’92 (Mega Drive) scores 95%. NBA All-Star Challenge (Game Boy) gets 69%. With Graham Gooch World Class Cricket (Amiga) manages a 60%. The winner of the previously mentioned GamesMaster Golden Goal competition on Kick Off 2 (Amiga) is announced… it was Robert Moss from Hertfordshire if you were wondering. This episode’s celebrity challenge involves former British featherweight boxing champ, Barry McGuigan who goes up against Gary from Aldershot. They fight it out on Final Blow (Amiga) with the winner being the last man standing after being punched a few dozen times… you know, boxing. In the first round, Barry comes out fists flying and manages to knock down Garry with 30 seconds of the round left. Recovering from his beating, Gary comes back strong and puts Barry on the canvas with 15 seconds left and again in the final second of the first round. Being saved by the bell, the fight goes onto the second round. A flurry of punches and an uppercut from Gary puts Barry McGuigan down only 13 seconds into the second round and out for the count. Making Gary the winner of the golden joystick.

Barry McGuigan

It’s tip time again as GamesMaster hands out his help. Metal Gear (NES), Mega Man 2 (NES) and The Revenge of Shinobi (Mega Drive) are all looked at. Final challenge time and it’s Sega European games-playing champ, Danny Curley who takes on this one. To make things a bit harder for the champ, he has to play a brand new game he’s never seen before. Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (Mega Drive) is the game and Danny has to finish the second and third levels, rescue all 11 the hostages, kill the boss, not lose a life… and all in 2.5 minutes. Danny completely demolishes this challenge with 1:09 still on the clock. Well he was Sega European games-playing champ.

Golden joysticks won – 3

Episode 10

So here we are, the final episode of series 1 of GamesMaster. Kicking off, as always with the first challenge. Classic light-gun game Duck Hunt (NES) is the game of choice and having to shoot his way to victory is a name a lot of older British gaming/YouTube fans should recognise… a young Paul Gannon (though it sounds like Dominick introduces him as Paul Gammon). Getting off to a very strong start Paul scores an impressive 9 out of 10 on the first level, needing another 9 out of 10 on the second to win the prize. Early on, he misses a target, meaning he can not afford to miss any more… Paul misses the very last one and fails the challenge. No golden joystick here.

And just to try and embarrass Paul a bit, here he is on GamesMaster not winning a golden joystick and I have no idea why he’s wearing his watch near his elbow…

Paul Gannon

As is the norm, it’s review time and adult games are looked at. Deluxe Strip Poker 2 (Amiga) is dealt 60%. Geisha (Amiga) is given 41%. And finally, Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work (Amiga) gets an unbelievable 89%. The feature this time around takes a look at the then soon to be released, latest 16-bit console the Super Nintendo Entertainment System… I could’ve just written SNES there couldn’t I? If you’ve been following the format so far, then you know it’s celebrity challenge time. GamesMaster has chosen Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (Amiga) for a game of footie. Playing is Suni from Ealing going up against the man himself, former Liverpool FC and England captain Emlyn Hughes. With Suni playing as Brazil while Emlyn favours England. Suni makes short work of this challenge and completely decimates Emlyn 5-0 to win the golden joystick.

The last batch of hints & tips for this series as people struggling with The Legend of Zelda (NES), Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (Mega Drive) and The Adventures of Rad Gravity (NES) are all helped. Then onto the final challenge of the final episode with Decap Attack (Mega Drive). Having to finish the first 2 levels of the game in under 2 minutes is John from Hastings. Managing to fly through the first level with ease, it’s onto the second level with 1:07 still on the clock to finish this challenge. John messes up on a jump and takes a hit from an enemy, leaving him short on time and vulnerable as he can only take one more hit before dying and failing the challenge. But he finishes the second level with 12 seconds left to win the final golden joystick of this series.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Overall

As welcome as the first series of GamesMaster was, compared to latter series, this was a little uneven and not quite there yet. Dominik Diamond’s cheeky persona is here, but doesn’t really come alive until later series. The lighting is very drab and dank with a few lasers shooting around and smoke machines making the set look like a really bad early 90s rave venue. I never really liked the original set. The show evolves (for the most part) later on and as the budget increases, so does the quality. The first series is a little ropy and rough around the edges, but for the first dedicated gaming TV show, GamesMaster did well indeed.

And with that out of the way, it’s time to don the smoking jacket and enjoy a nice hot cup of jasmine tea.

Series 1 End

Total golden joysticks won this series – 18

Much more to come in series 2… when I get round to it.

“You may be wondering why I’m playing with my organ in a crowded church? Well, this is GamesMaster, television’s only video game magazine show. Coming to you from the only church in the country where Harry Secombe is too fat to fit through the door. But nevertheless, we’ve managed to squeeze and ample portion into tonight’s slot.”

– Dominick Diamond

 

 

GamesMaster: A Retrospective – Introduction

When it comes to worthy and quality gaming TV shows, there aren’t that many worth remembering. They usually lacked substance or even a basic understanding of the gaming world. Here in the UK, we had a few gaming shows through the 90s and most of them were complete pants. But one stood out in the rather small crowd. A show that had humour (often both very adult, near the knuckle and childish), gaming news & reviews, challenges, celebrity guests, hints & cheats and above all… it had respect for games and the gaming community.

GamesMaster ran for 7 series (seasons for my American readers) between 1992 – 1998. With a total of 126 episodes. It was massively popular among British gamers such as myself and the millions of viewers who tuned in week after week to watch, what was, at the time, the UK’s first and only dedicated gaming TV show.

At first, I thought about doing a short-ish article just looking at how GamesMaster began, grew and ultimately ended. But after reading what I had written, it felt unworthy and disrespectful to what was, quite easily the greatest gaming TV show ever made. So I decided to do something more in-depth. A proper intro (this that you’re reading right now), a look at every series, every single episode and right up to the end of GamesMaster and it’s influence and impact.

There a hell of a lot to cover here and this is just the beginning. So here we go. My in-depth retrospective look at GamesMaster, from it’s origins to it’s end including every episode and as many interesting tit-bits I can find and cram in along the way.

Just a quick aside. When I do these large retrospectives, I usually pre-write the whole thing in advance and publish each part one after the other. Due to a lack of time, other writing projects and more than several other distractions. I’m writing and publishing this gargantuan retrospective as and when each part is done. As I aim to cover every series and every episode (and a few bonuses along the way), so this will take a while. So please do bear with me as there will be gaps of days, even weeks as I write this epic, multi-part retrospective.

So with that out of the way, onto GamesMaster… all of it.

Origins And Format

GamesMaster was the brainchild of Jane Hewland, who founded TV production company Hewland International. While watching her young son playing video games, she began to wonder why this increasingly popular form of entertainment is not represented much on TV. Jane put together a pitch for a new TV show that would not just cover new games, but also work in an element of competition via gaming challenges. Channel 4 caught wind of the pitch and offered to push ahead with the production and so GamesMaster was born.

Interestingly enough, because the show had a competitive angle, it fell under the jurisdiction of the sports department of programmes. So I guess GamesMaster could be considered the first foray into what we now call e-sports.

The format of GamesMaster took ideas from popular gaming magazines of the day. It would feature news and reviews, but the main thrust of the show would be the challenges where members of the public (and sometimes celebrities) would go up against the latest games and compete to win the coveted golden joystick trophy, which was just a cheap computer joystick spray painted gold.

GamesMaster Golden Joystick

The show would have a main presenter who introduced the games, challenges and spoke with the contestants and often joined by a co-commentator, who would be an industry insider or gaming journalist, comically talking about the games being played. Then there was the titular GamesMaster himself. Played by the legendary Sir Patrick Moore, who would introduce the game challenges as well as offer his endless wisdom as the GamesMaster to provide hints, tips and cheats for the latest titles.

GamesMaster Moore

Each series had a theme/location and even a continuity linked story for the presenter as the series “story” evolved… more of which I’ll cover with each series write-up.

GamesMaster’s format was structured but also felt very fresh and exciting too, with a little anarchy thrown in. This was the first time games and the gaming world had a dedicated TV show. Aimed at older children/teens, but with some more than risqué adult humour. GamesMaster aired at 6:30 pm, before the watershed, how they got away with some of the sexual innuendos, references and jokes was hilarious and it was that blending of gaming and near the knuckle humour that made the show such a hit.

First airing in 1992, during the 16-bit generation of gaming with the Mega Drive and SNES and being the first dedicated gaming TV show had developers and publishers eager to show off their latest games. The GamesMaster production team built up a very friendly and close relationship with many gaming studios at the time which was beneficial to all involved. GamesMaster got their millions of viewers watching for the latest games and the developers/publishers got their games in front of the millions of avid viewing gamers with parent’s money to spend on their software. Due to this close working partnership with developers and publishers, on occasion, GamesMaster could show off titles well in advance of their release date and often getting the edge over popular gaming magazines at the time.

During it’s run, GamesMaster was THE TV show to watch at a time before the internet took off proper and gaming culture was everywhere.

GamesMaster Title 2

So with the intro out of the way, I’ll kick things off with a look at the very first series and every episode of GamesMaster.

 

 

Have You Stayed With Atari Today?

I tend not to cover news on this blog, I usually stick with opinion pieces, histories and sharing memories, etc. But a slice of news has surfaced today that made me chuckle a little that I felt I had to quickly cover.

When it comes to big names in gaming, Atari were one of the biggest. The grandfather of gaming to most people and the company the defined home gaming with their brand of consoles, going back to 1977’s iconic Atari 2600. I think it would be fair to say that Atari as a company have had a very chequered past. I mean, they were central in the infamous video game crash of 1983.

The company has died, been reborn and swapped hands so many times over the years that I’m really not sure who own the name anymore. A new console, the Atari VCS is said to be released this year, but that’s not what I want to cover here. I’m going to look at the Atari hotels… yes Atari hotels.

Atari Logo 2

It’s very recently been announced that Atari (whoever owns the name now) has teamed up with real estate developer True North Studio and GSD group to build eight Atari hotels around the U.S. The first is set to begin building in mid-2020 in Phoenix, Arizona… which given Atari’s rather ‘interesting’ connection to that particular place is kind of ironically amusing (see the previously mentioned video game crash of 1983).

The hotels will obviously be gaming related. They will be used to house the ever increasing in popularity e-sport events. Guests can expect VR experiences, interactions and games. Gaming related rooms utilising famed Atari IPs. All along with standard hotel facilities such as restaurants, bars, gyms and all the other stuff a hotel usually offers.

More sites for hotels are planned outside of the Phoenix one with Austin, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle all set to have their own Atari hotels built over the next few years.

Honestly, I love the sound of them, I’d love to stay in an Atari hotel and revisit my childhood as well as experience (what I hope will be) cutting edge gaming interactions and experiences. But there is serious doubt over of they will ever happen. I mean, there have been numerous stories of troubles in getting the new console made and ready for release. So if that’s been a bit of trouble, how will multiple, cutting edge gaming hotels work out?

I just hope they do happen and that they will have guest capacities of 2600, 2700, 5200 and 7800.

You can check out the official website right here. Plus here’s a few renders of what the hotels could look like…

Spam, Spam, Spam, Terry Jones, Spam, Spam And Spam

I really don’t think I can write anything that hasn’t already been said about Monty Python. A pioneering group of comedians who changed British, and indeed, the world of comedy forever. I could sit here and talk about things like the parrot sketch, the lumberjack song, silly walks, spam and all that… but it’s been done hundreds of times over already

The sad news of Terry Jones’ death, while upsetting, was hardly a shock. He’d been suffering from dementia for a while now. He was diagnosed with the awful disease back in 2015, or as he put it…

“I’ve got dementia, you know. My frontal brain lobe has absconded.”

–  Terry Jones

Yet even while on limited time and slowly loosing his humanity, his mind, his very person, he still remained active. According to Terry’s very close friend and fellow Python, Michael Palin, Terry loved to go for long walks, enjoyed a beer, loved watching classic movies and would talk as much as he could, right up to the point where the dementia eventually took over. Having lost family members to dementia myself, I know just how soul destroying it is.

Terry Jones

I can’t really remember how or when my love of Monty Python began, but I do remember my older brother having a copy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail on VHS and us watching and re-watching it, almost to the point of it becoming religious. It was probably the first film that I recall that I could watch and watch, yet never get bored of it. I knew all of the dialogue by heart and would quote the film in every day life. I could re-enact scenes with pinpoint accuracy. Knew the lyrics to all the songs (“I have to push the pram a lot.”). I loved and still love the absurd silliness of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Of course, there were more Python films. The epicly funny and hugely controversial Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the bizarre Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. They did several live shows over the years including a reunion with all the remaining Python members in 2014, Monty Python Live (Mostly). This was where his fellow cast first noticed something was not right with Terry. He was known among his colleges to be fantastic at remembering lines. But during this live show, he had to rely on cleverly hidden cue-cards and a teleprompter to deliver his dialogue correctly and on time. If you have ever seen the show, then you can really tell Terry was struggling at times, yet he still did it for the fans and for himself.

Terry co-wrote and directed all of the main Python films, but his talents went way beyond just being part of one of the most famous and influential comedy troupes ever. He had a very successful TV and movie career outside of all the Monty Python stuff as a writer, director and actor. He wrote the screenplay for one of my all time favourite childhood films…

Labyrinth

Labyrinth, a wonderful melding of Jim Henson’s puppets, fantasy story telling and David Bowie’s codpiece. Loved this film as a child and still adore it today. You can really tell Terry wrote this one, the humour is there, it has that distinct Jones flavour and style. Terry also wrote and directed the overlooked Absolutely Anything. A fun comedy about a man (Simon Pegg) who is given the power to have/do anything he wants by some aliens… who are all played by the other surviving Pythons. It’s also the final film of Robin Williams.

Terry also loved history and wrote many books covering medieval history for children and adults. Terry Jones’s War on the War on Terror was a collection of articles and editorials published as a paperback condemning the Iraq War. He also wrote several poems that were featured in the long running Poetry Review magazine. In 2016, Terry Jones received a Lifetime Achievement award for his outstanding contribution to television and film.

There is just way too much to cover that this man was responsible for. His talent never seemed to end. He was funny, articulate, charming, clever and sadly, now gone.

I guess there is only really one way to bring this article to an end…

Life of Brian

Terry Jones 2

“I don’t think people who have children are acting selfishly or unselfishly. Having a child who’ll be loved, to parents who love each other, is the important thing.”

–  Terry Jones

The Film That (Probably) Killed John Wayne And Several Others

Hey folks. So first off and for my regular readers. I know I didn’t publish much on this blog last year. I was busy concentrating on other writing projects and that’s pretty much how things will be this year too. I made some great connections in 2019 and got my foot in a few doors, wrote a lot, published 2 books and almost finished a 3rd too, which I’ll be publishing in the next couple of months. Then I also have a few other big writing projects simmering away for 2020. So I won’t have the time to dedicate to this blog as I have in the past, but I’ll still be publishing a few articles through the year as and when I can.

And for my first article of 2020, I take a look at the film that most probably caused the death of one of Hollywood’s greatest acting legends, as well as other connected deaths and some interesting tit-bits about the film as a whole…

The Man

Marion Mitchell Morrison, a.k.a John Wayne, a.k.a The Duke. One of the all time Hollywood greats, a true tough guy known for playing heroic cowboys, cops, soldiers and much more. A multi-award winning/nominated actor, including winning the Oscar for Best Actor in 1963 for the film True Grit. A man with a worldwide fanbase that included my granddad. As a child growing up, I remember whenever we’d go round to visit my grandparents, granddad would always have his films on and 9 times out of 10, it would be a John Wayne flick.

John Wayne 2

It was the 11th of June, 1979 when John Wayne died of stomach cancer… but the fact he died of cancer is not that unusual. He was a heavy smoker and had a 6 pack a day habit. It’s the fact that more than 90 other people who all worked on the same film as John had developed some form of cancer and by 1980, 46 of those had died from the disease. That film was 1956’s The Conqueror.

The Film

I guess that today, some would call the film “racist” or “culturally inappropriate” due to the fact that white American actor John Wayne plays the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, complete with some questionable make-up to make him darker and appear more Mongolian. But even if we ignore the slight racism by today’s standards… it’s just not a very good film at all. It was critically panned when released and has gone down in cinematic history as one of those “so bad it’s good” flicks.

The Conqueror poster

Directed by Dick Powell, produced by Howard Hughes (yes THE Howard Hughes) and starring John Wayne along with Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead and Pedro Armendáriz. The Conqueror is a hot mess of a film. From terrible miscasting to a nonsensical and boring plot, with some of the worst dialogue you’ll hear in a movie…

“I feel this Tartar woman is for me.”

– John Wayne

The Conqueror tells the story of Genghis Khan (John Wayne) falling in love with, Bortai (Susan Hayward). When Genghis Khan kidnaps Bortai, he kick-starts a war. Long story short, there’s some fighting, betrayal and Bortai ends up falling for the Mongol chief and they live happily ever after. As stupid as the plot is… it is loosely based on fact… very, very loosely.

As I said before, The Conqueror is a terrible film and is considered one of the worst films ever made and definitely one of John Wayne’s poorest flicks. It’s terribleness and being slated by critics at the time led to the closure of legendary production studio RKO Radio Pictures due to losing so much money. And if killing off a world renowned film studio was not enough, it could be argued it also killed off a lot of it’s cast and crew too.

The Cancer Controversy

And so we get to the meat of this article, just how can a film give more than 90 people cancer? Well it all boils down to where they chose to shoot the film… in the vicinity of a nuclear weapon testing site. Pretty much all exterior shots were filmed at St. George, Utah which was several miles downwind of the United States government’s Nevada National Security Site. The same location with a good chunk of nuclear fallout from testing during Operation Upshot–Knothole in 1953. And if that was not bad enough, then Howard Hughes paid to have 60 tons of the dirt from the site shipped back to Hollywood so any filming done at the studio there would match up with the location.

Operation Upshot–Knothole

The deaths include, but not limited to the film’s director, Dick Powell, who died of cancer in 1963. Co-star Pedro Armendáriz took his own life in 1963 after he was diagnosed with cancer in 1960 and learned it became terminal later. Other actors like Agnes Moorehead died of uterine cancer in 1974. Leading lady, Susan Hayward was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1974 and died after suffering a seizure in 1975. Then of course, there was John Wayne himself who died of stomach cancer in 1979.

And that was just the main cast and crew as many others also died from various forms of cancer by 1980 that worked on the film. Then there were cancer scares of people not even in the film at all. Both of John Wanye’s sons, Michael and Patrick visited the location where the film was being  shot and both of them developed cancer related conditions. Michael with skin cancer and Patrick had a tumour removed from his breast. Even Susan Hayward’s son, Tim had to have a benign tumour removed from his mouth. Plus other visitors had to be treated for cancer related illnesses.

Howard Huges

Then we get to eccentric business magnate Howard Hughes who was the main producer on the film. Well if you know anything about Howard, then you know he went a bit off the rails in his latter years… and that’s putting it mildly. He went completely bat-shit crazy. Becoming a recluse, living in a Las Vegas hotel for years and storing his urine in bottles were some of his more tame endeavours. While hiding away from public life, he bought the rights to The Conqueror outright and every single print of the film for around $12 million. He reportedly would watch the film on a loop day and night during his final years before dying of kidney failure in 1976.

Around 220 people worked on the film, an estimated 91 of them developed some form of cancer and a total of 46 of them died due to the disease. And those numbers don’t include visitors to the set or the Native American Paiute extras who also worked on the film but were not credited. So the cancer deaths could very well be higher.

I once read a review of a film where the critic made the jokey comment that the film was so bad that it gave them cancer. Well in the case of The Conqueror that claim could very well be true.

John Wayne 3

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”

– John Wayne

My 12 Movies Of Christmas… And When I Watch Them

I have a tradition every year where I watch my choice of Christmas flicks in the 12 day run up to Christmas Day. Now I don’t only watch these 12, I sit through other films in the festive build up, but it is these 12 in particular I always watch on these specific days. It’s not as obvious a list as others as some of my choices have nothing to do with the annual celebrations that are Noël. Now I do have some undisputed Christmas classics here, yet some just are completely unrelated.

Okay, so before I get into this one, I just need to clarify something, why a few of these films have nothing to do with Christmas. Not set at Christmas, no Yuletide characters, not even a slight whiff of a mention of the festive period or any kind of Christmasy message at all. But there is a reason for this, I covered it in my Die Hard/Christmas article last year, but I’ll just quickly recap here to explain…

So back in the 80s here in the UK, we only had 4 TV channels and 2 of them (BBC 2 and Channel 4) tended to concentrate on alternative, indie, ‘outside of the box’ type shows and films. This left the other 2 (BBC 1 and ITV) which were more mainstream and would, over the Christmas period, always fight for viewers by securing big, popular films for the holidays, often TV premieres. Meaning that I got to see a lot of flicks over Christmas as a kid. So even though some had absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, they still take me back to my childhood and remind me of those family gatherings over the festive period and (to me) are very much Christmas movies despite having zilch to do with Xmas at all. So with that out of the way, on with my list.

December 14th

So you know my explanation of how some of the films in my list are not connected to Christmas? Well the first is very much one of those.

Rocky III#

Yeah Rocky III is a Christmas film for me. See, this one takes me back to Christmas of 85 or 86. It was one of those big TV movie premieres I mentioned. We had Nan and Granddad staying with us for Christmas and after dinner, after playing with my new toys but before bedtime. 9 or 10 year old me sat on the sofa with my Nan and we watched Rocky III for the first time. I like to watch this one as my festive movie marathon begins just to spark off that Christmas childhood memory once more and remember by much missed Nan.

December 15th

Well at least this one is set at Christmas. Okay it involves parents abandoning their deformed child, a dead woman brought back to life by cats, a corrupt business man and other man who dresses up as a bat… but it’s set at Christmas.

Batman Returns

Batman Returns is the sequel to the awesome 1989 Batman flick. It’s dark, brooding, moody and very Gothic. Not as good as the first film, but it’s Christmas setting is mainly why it makes this list. I love the juxtaposition of director Tim Burton’s dark vision against the film’s happy setting. Seeing those wonderful sets and buildings that offer a very
foreboding atmosphere decorated with bright and colourful Christmas decorations is beautiful and always gets me in the festive mood.

December 16th

Follow the yellow brick road.

1939, THE WIZARD OF OZ
I have to confess, I really do not like The Wizard of Oz. I don’t like the music, I don’t like the characters, I don’t like the story. So why is it on this list? Because this is another one of those films from my childhood that always seem to be on TV over Christmas when I was growing up. This one takes me back to memories of those family gatherings as we all sat there watching The Wizard of Oz, it just became tradition year after year. I don’t like the film, but I love the memories it brings back.

December 17th

It’s another one of those nothing to do with Christmas films from my childhood. It’s time to go back in time…

Back to the Future
This film was actually released here in the UK in December, 1985, so at least I can say that Back to the Future is Christmasy-ish. But I first saw it on TV years later (and after I watched the sequel in the cinema in 1989) over the Christmas period. There’s not much I can say about this time travelling classic that has not already been said before. A glorious melding of comedy, sci-fi, and awesome music too. One of my all time favourite films that I still love to revisit every year for Christmas.

December 18th

Okay, so nothing but actual Christmas films from this point onward. My all time favourite Christmas story is the Charles Dickens penned A Christmas Carol. I even like to read the original story over the festive period if I get the chance. But when it comes to film adaptions, there are dozens and dozens to choose from.

Scrooge

Scrooge (A Christmas Carol in the US) starring Alastair Sim from 1951 is my pick here. A great and very British re-telling of the tale with a lot of charm and personality. This version also adds a lot more meat to the bones over the source material and none of it feels out of place either. It’s just brilliantly told version of the classic story. The first, but not only version of A Christmas Carol on my list…

December 19th

What’s Christmas without a little fun and merriment? Quite possibly the funniest Christmas film ever about the worst family Christmas ever.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is third film in the Vacation franchise starring Chevy Chase as Clark, the head of the long suffering Griswold family. A nice family Christmas soon turns into chaos as guest and family members turn the festive gathering into a disaster. This is crude with toilet humour and slapstick… and I love it. A stupid film for a stupid season that packs a lot of heart warming Christmasy felling into it. Just don’t watch the sequel…

December 20th

Cuteness, monsters and quite possibly the most disturbing story of how a little girl learned there was not Santa.

Gremlins

Monster movies and Christmas is a cocktail that just should not work. But Gremlins gets the mix just right and serves up a tasty concoction. A scary “family film” that is at times a little to intense for kids but great fun for adults. I remember the first time I saw Gremlins, I was about 12 years old and a neighbour rented it out on VHS and asked me over to watch.  It was all I could talk about at school for the following few weeks, I loved it as a kid and even more so as an adult. That story Kate tells of how she found out Santa wasn’t real… that’s dark man.

December 21st

So I may be cheating a bit here as this isn’t really a film. It’s a TV show, but a feature length episode of a TV show… but it is Christmas.

Black Mirror White Christmas

Black Mirror is an anthology show where technology takes centre stage and shows the (mostly) dark and disturbing way it can be abused. Black Mirror: White Christmas is the festive special and it’s just as bleak as it’s standard episodes. This one is actually an anthology within an anthology as this episode features four interconnecting stories about 2 men stuck in a small house over Christmas and just how they are connected is slowly revealed. This is very, very downbeat and depressing and I think it’s brilliant.

December 22nd

It’s back, that darned Dickens descriptive. Told you I love this yarn and here’s another adaption I always watch over Christmas.

Scrooged.jpg

Directed by Richard Donner and starring Bill Murray. Scrooged is a much more comedic and contemporary take on the classic tale. Bill’s take on the Scrooge character (Frank Cross in this version) is sarcastic, bitter and still not without charm. Behind the scenes stories tell that Richard Donner and Bill Murray never got on and how the plot kept changing. Apparently Bill hated working on this film… and yet it and he are still brilliant to watch. 

December 23rd

Who’d have thought that a film about a man wanting to commit suicide would make for an all time Christmas classic film?

It's a Wonderful Life.jpg

I love Jimmy Stewart, he’s one of my all time favourite actors ever. His good looks, charm and that voice all add up to one of the most charming and charismatic people ever seen on film. It’s a Wonderful Life is a wonderful flick. Despite the fact this film has very, very little to do with Christmas, it’s still an undisputed Christmas classic and one I watch year after year after year.

Christmas Eve

There is really only one film you can watch on Christmas Eve. The greatest Christmas Eve film ever made.

Die Hard.jpg

Watching Die Hard the night before Christmas has become a decades long tradition for me now going back to Christmas of 1989 when my older brother first came home with a copy of Die Hard on VHS to watch. I must have been around 13 years old at the time and loved the film. This year will mark the 30th year running I’ve watched Die Hard on the night before Christmas and I hope to continue it for at least another 30.

Christmas Day

So it’s the main event and I’ve already included some surefire (and no so) Christmas classics. But for the grand finale, I’ve got to pull out the big guns and those lovable marionette/puppets.

The Muppet Christmas Carol

I grew up watching The Muppet Show on TV and even now as a 43 year old… I have a major soft spot for them. So when they made their version my all time favourite Christmas story, it was lighting in a bottle. I have already said how much I adore A Christmas Carol as a piece of storytelling and no matter how many times it is told and re-told year after year in it’s many different versions, I can just not get bored of it. The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best of the lot. That melding of music, humour, heart and of course, Muppets is genius. Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge is the most perfect casting and the way he plays off his fuzzy co-stars and they off him is flawless. The greatest Christmas film ever made.


 

I’m a little bit late with this list as it’s now the 15th as I publish this and not the 14th when my Christmas movie watching begins. The delay is due to the fact I was in hospital on the 14th as my son was born. Yup, I became a Daddy… best Christmas present ever!

Merry Christmas

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m a little behind with my list and have to go watch Rocky III and Batman Returns tonight. Have a good Christmas and New Year folks, see you in 2020… unless something big happens I feel I need to express an opinion on.