Sunday, August 14, 2011

Canon MST3K Review: Master Ninja II

A little over a year ago, I did a review of an MST3K episode called Master Ninja I, in which two episodes of the failed 1980s TV Series The Master was presented as one movie. Well, this review is the sequel, Master Ninja II, in which once again, Joel and the 'bots watch two crummy tv episodes jammed into one movie. Yes, that means two more episodes of Timothy Van Patten mumbling through his lines, two more episodes of a stuntman doing all of Lee Van Cleef's action scenes, and two more episodes of throwing stars and smoke bombs. Awesome.

The first episode is titled State of the Union, and guest stars a young Crystal Bernard. She plays a young woman racing against Max in a motocross race named Carrie Brown. Even though Max claims he's faster than a hiccup on greased lightning (I think, although I can't make out what he says half the time), Carrie wins. Yay. Then she turns down Max's advances. Yay again. But as it turns out, Max and the Master are needed, as Carrie has some problems with her boss Chad Webster. See, Carrie is trying to form a union at the cannery, but Chad doesn't want any part of that, and Carrie is convinced that her brother was killed for a similar attempt at forming a union. She then mentions this 34 other times during the episode. As it turns out, Carrie was right about Chad, as he attempts to grab her at a restaurant. But the master saved the day (while Max got his worthless self thrown out of the place) and the three must continue to avoid various attempts on their life. One night, Chad and his thugs run the Master and Max off the road, and the Master is believed to be dead in the crash. Max runs over to Carrie's house, but they're captured anyway. Everybody is taken to the graveyard, where the Master "comes back from the dead", and they have a very confusing fight in the dark graveyard in which somehow, Max and the Master emerge victorious. At the end, Carrie thinks to two for helping prove her brother's murder in a most cheerful manner, and the two leave for another town in the midwest in search of the Master's daughter.

The second half of the movie starts with a bang, as Max is flying a plane he got out of the back of his van (huh?) and rescues a damsel in distress who is driving a fast car with crummy breaks on a cliff. He grabs the girl, and the blond bombshell lands on the Master. As it turns out, she's the daughter of a senator and having a garden party for some European dignitaries. As it also turns out, there's a group a terrorists seeking to kidnap a whole bunch of people at the garden party in the hopes of the release of various political prisoners. Also, George Lazenby is here for some reason, playing a Bond like character who thinks that the Master is a killer. Well, if you saw Master Ninja I, you know that that is true. Lazenby, Max, and everybody else proves useless as the terrorists take about 12 people hostage, including the senator's daughter. At least the Master got one of the bad guys with a throwing star to the back, and Lazenby (or Mallory as he's called here) shoots a tracking device on one of their helicopters. As it turns out, the terrorists are holding the hostages in a giant house right next to the HOLLYWOOD sign. Yeah, that's inconspicuous. Somehow, Max and the Master are arrested for something, but are eventually freed, and the Master agrees to accompany Mallory on a mission to rescue the hostages, but not before a run in with his former pupil out to kill him for leaving Japan or something.

With his escape from his former pupil, the Master gets to the task of rescuing hostages. First, he takes five minutes to climb a rope up onto the roof, and the 'action' begins. Mallory is captured almost immediately, while the Master takes care of one security guard before he too, is captured, but at least he's able to escape by hiding on the roof of a storage closet and taking down a few more security guards. Meanwhile, Max takes out his damn plane from the back of his van and flies onto the property. Both Max and the Master get there just in time to save the senator's daughter from being raped, and the Master frees the hostages and stuffs them in the back of a moving truck. While Max drives off, the Master comes back for Mallory and saves him by tying up the bad guy's machine gun with a rope and then knocking him out with a cartwheel into leaping side kick combo. At the end of the day, Max kisses and leaves again, and they go off in search of the daughter that is never mentioned at one point in this movie.

The acting in this movie/show borders on awful. Except for Van Cleef and Lazenby, you can't even understand half the words the actors say, in part because of bad audio and in part because of the actors themselves. Whoever cast Van Patten as a heartthrob made a huge mistake, as quite simply, he can't act. You can hardly understand what the heck he's saying (something that is mocked to great effect during this episode) and he doesn't exactly fit the profile of a heartbreaker. As far as the action goes, it's cheesy 80s action at it's finest, with car chases and explosions galore. Overall, it makes for a quite humorous episode, as there's just so much to mock here.

The host segments are a mixed bag. The opening segment featuring an improv exercise was well done, as was the Patton spoof starring Crow as Timothy Van Patten 'motivating' his soilders. However, the 70s van segment and the TV detectives pets as determined by Servo segments weren't quite up to the same level.

Overall, this is such a cheesy group of episodes, but Joel and the Bots make it more than bearable. It's actually better than the first Master Ninja episode in my opinion, even without Demi Moore. I'd give the movie a 3.3 out of 10, but the episode a 7.1 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this review, or ideas for future reviews, then feel free to share either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Canon Video Game Review: Suikoden 3

Continuing with the reviewing of the Suikoden series, I recently finished playing Suikoden 3, the first Suikoden game to be released for the PlayStation 2. Released in 2002 by Konami, Suikoden 3 is also the first Suikoden game to be rendered in 3-D and unlike most other RPGs, the story does not have one single hero. Instead, you get to play through the story as three different main characters, Hugo, the son of a the chief of the Karaya clan, Chris, the female captain of the powerful Xexen Knights, and Geddoe, a mysterious mercenary squad leader. Each character has three separate chapters in the story, with all three characters and their forces combining in the final chapters.

Photo courtesy of

The strength of Suikoden III is it's deep and gripping story. True, there is some overlap with the three main protaginists often bumping together at the same time, but even so, this is welcome because the player gets to see the same events from a different perspective. For example, Hugo and Chris often come across each other as enemies, but if you play through both chapters you will get an understanding for each person's actions and feelings. Also, there's two optional chapters you can play through as Thomas, a young man who has been thrust into becoming the master of a castle full of eccentric people. Overall, the story provides a lot of twists and turns and plenty of character development, which isn't all that easy when you have 108 characters to go through.

Like the first two Suikoden games, there are three types of battle modes in Suikoden 3, regular battles, war battles, and one-on-one duels. Like the first two games, you can control a party of up to six people in battles, but unlike the first two games, you control the players as three rows rather than six individual players. For example, the front and back player on each row is assigned to attack the same enemy. This is kind of frustrating, especially when you have one person use a magic spell while the other person just stands there or, if you're lucky, attacks a random enemy. Also, unlike the previous two games, you are not limited by where you can put certain characters, as you can put anyone in either the front or back rows. There are also a variety of combo attacks, and a few 'mounted' attacks, in which a person can attack while riding on the back of another character. For example, Hugo and his pet griffon Fubar have a particularly devastating combo attack. War battles are somewhat similar to regular battles, only you control a unit of up to four people and have them attack another unit. Provided that you develop each character's skills to a high level, these battles aren't too hard. Duels work just like the previous two games, in which you have to guess what the enemy is going to do based on what they say before each attack. A new twist to the game is the implementation of a skills system, in which each character has their own separate set of talents that are either automatically gained or bought with skill points that are earned after each battle. By improving skills, the characters become more powerful or more likely to dodge attacks. However, you must be diligent in assigning skills, as different characters pick up on different skills quicker than they do others. For example, Hugo is more adapt at using combat skills than magic skills, while another person would be more adapt at using magic skills. This system adds to the uniqueness of each character, and you can mix and match skills to come up with the perfect skillset for each fighter.

The graphics in Suikoden 3 are solid, but not spectacular. While it was a step in the right direction to go into 3-D, the graphics in this game aren't quite up to the level of other RPGs released around this time, but that's only a minor problem for me. The soundtrack in this game is inferior to the first two Suikoden games, as there's not really a lot of themes that stick out, and each song just kind of blend together with a few exceptions. Suikoden 3 also provides a lot of mini-games, such as horseback racing and a couple of card games as well, but none of the mini games stack up to the Iron Chef mode found in Suikoden 2. Like the first two games, you get your own castle to play around with, and you can customize it by adding painting and vases to make things look better. Also, like Suikoden 2, there's a suggestion box and a detective, tools that allow you to find out more about the other characters. Perhaps the best little addition to Suikoden 3 is the ability to put on plays with your characters, as you can collect up to six scripts and stage performances. Depending on who is cast in these plays, the results can be quite hilarious.

Overall, I'd have to say that Suikoden 3 is a minor step back from Suikoden 2, but still is a fine game and one of the best RPGs to ever come out for the PlayStation 2. Sure, there are some flaws, but the strong story more than compensates for whatever flaws this game has. Overall, I'd give it a 8.1 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this game or review, than feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you have an idea for a future review, then send those to me at

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Canon Book Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Over the last week or so, I've been reading Ken Kesey's 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. After watching the movie and reviewing it a few months ago, I found it curious that Kesey despised the movie so much due to the changes made from the novel. Well that, and he didn't make any money off the film. Anyway, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is based off of Kesey's experience working in an insane asylum, and is set, naturally, in an insane asylum in Oregon. The story is narrated by an inmate of the asylum known as Chief Bromden, a 6'7" Native American who is thought to be a deaf mute. Because of his 'condition', the Chief is able to hear nearly everything that goes on in the ward, as since he's thought to be deaf, everybody around him talks as if he's not there. But the Chief's life, and everybody else's at the ward, is changed by the arrival of R.P. McMurphy, a petty criminal and a gambler who seemed to fake his way into commitment at the mental hospital because he was tired of being imprisoned at a work farm.

Before McMurphy's arrival, the ward was under complete control of Nurse Ratched, a battleaxe of a woman who always had a smile on her face, but used passive aggressive techniques and establishing an environment of fear by threatening patients with electric shock therapy and lobotomies if they refuse to follow her strictly set routine. The patients fall in line 'like rabbits', but McMurphy will not submit so easily. At first it seems like McMurphy is only challenging the nurse's authority as a way to kill time and win a bet with the other patients, but over time the problems between the two escalate into an all-out war, as Ratched becomes determined to break McMurphy's hold on the patients and establish complete dominance over the ward once again. The Chief looks at Ratched as the agent of the 'Combine', the force designed to keep men in line and control the world as a whole. As such, Ratched isn't really portrayed as a character but instead as the cold, calculating face of authority, whose one purpose in life isn't to help the patients with the problems but rather mold them into another mechanical part of society, or keep them out of society.

On the other side of the coin is McMurphy, a man that seems to resent authority of all kinds and sees right through Nurse Ratched's facade of therapy for what it really is, complete control over the patients in the ward. McMurphy's will power and sense of humor make him an intriguing character, a rebel who begins to take up a cause as he fights for the freedom of the other patients against Nurse Ratched's oppressive reign. Eventually, he starts to make some ground, as he starts a basketball team and somehow gets a lot of the patients to come on a fishing trip with him (along with the doctor of the ward), allowing the patients to experience something they hadn't in a long time, freedom.

This tale of the rebels vs. the establishment is seen all through the eyes of Bromden, a man that served in WWII but developed extreme anxiety after coming home and seeing his father become a weak alcoholic after the government took away his land. Bromden, to be frank, doesn't see the world the same way as most of us, as he has hallucinations that include seeing a thick fog where nothing is there and one of the patients being opened up by a team of robot workers. In crafting Bromden's hallucinations, Kesey drew back on his experience taking mind-altering drugs as part of a CIA project, and the results are that the reader is taken through the mind of someone that isn't 'all there', so to speak. But there always seems to be some sort of truth in the Chief's visions, as if he sees things more clearly than those around him. Kesey further explores the character of Chief Bromden to various flashbacks, resulting in the reader getting a clearer picture of the Chief's mindset and perspective of the situation he has found himself in.

The movie adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest differs in quite a few ways. For one, Chief Bromden becomes a minor character in the movie, as the movie focuses more on McMurphy vs. Ratched than any other aspect of the story. Also, the orderlies in the movie were seemingly just a group of guys doing their jobs as told, but in the book they are presented as more vicious, even sadistic, in their handling of the patients. Some of the other characters are different in the movie, as Harding had a larger role in the book as it delved more into the problems he had with his wife, whereas in the movie he was just a guy that complained a lot. Also, Tabor was a former patient in the book that became a current patient in the movie, although his role is rather minor in both circumstances. There's more deaths in the book as well, but I won't spoil it too much.

Overall, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is quite a tale. Yes, it starts with the basic story of the rebels vs. the establishment, but Kesey is able to make most of the characters three dimensional, each with their own personalities, and even though you know deep down that McMurphy is kind of a louse, you can't help but to root for him in his struggle against Ratched. Overall, I'd give it an 8.6 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this book then feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you have ideas for future posts, then send them over to me via e-mail at

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, Game 7, 1993 Patrick Division Finals

Once upon a time, the Islanders were a pretty decent hockey team. Sure, the 1992-93 were nothing like the team that won four straight Stanley Cups in the 1980s, but they still had Al Arbour coaching behind the bench and a mixture of talented veterans and promising youngsters. The Islanders of 1992-93 were good enough to snatch third place in the Patrick Division, then beat the Capitals in six games in the first round. But nobody expected the Islanders to hang around with the two time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Led by Mario Lemieux, the Penguins had All-Stars up and down their lineup, and finished the regular season with a 19 game unbeaten streak. They breezed past the Devils in the first round, but were flummoxed by the lightly regarded Islanders, who fought and clawed their way to a game 7 in Pittsburgh. In the deciding game, the Islanders would win four to three, thanks to an overtime goal by an unlikely source, left wing David Volek. The Penguins hopes for a three-peat were done, and the Islanders moved on to the conference finals. The Islanders haven't won a playoff series since. A few notes about this game.

- Volek is a classic example of the playoff hero that comes out of nowhere. During the regular season, Volek scored a mere eight goals, and was so highly thought of that he was a healthy stracth for the entire first round and the first two games of the second round. Volek came into game 7 without a point in the playoffs, but with the score knotted at one in the third period, Volek took a drop pass from Ray Ferraro and fired a shot just under the blocker of Penguins goalie Tom Barasso to give the Islanders the lead. Then in overtime, Ferraro and Volek led a 2 on 1 break, and Volek fired a one timer past Barasso to knock the Penguins out of the playoffs. Success would be fleeting for Volek, as he scored only seven more goals in his career and was out of the NHL after the 1994 season, but he'll always have that one moment in the spotlight.

- Another player that came up big for the Islanders was goalie Glenn Healy. In the first period, the Penguins outshot the Islanders by a 17-6 margin, and Healy stopped them all. Overall, Healy stopped 42 shots in the game, including a great diving glove save on Ron Francis in overtime. Not bad for a 5'8" goalie who split time with Mark Fitzpatrick during the regular season. But despite his small stature, Healy was huge for the Islanders here. Healy would leave the next season and end up on the cross town Rangers as a backup, where he won a Stanley Cup ring, while the Islanders replaced Healy with Ron Hextall despite Healy's stellar work in the postseason, which was yet another move that hasn't worked out for the Islanders in the last 20 years.

- During the game, the announcers kept referring to the Islanders winning as one of the biggest upests in Stanley Cup playoff history, and they were probably right. The Islanders had 87 points during the regular season and their roster was populated with mostly journeymen like Healy. Furthermore, the team's brightest star Pierre Turgeon (132 points during the regular season) missed the first six games due to a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, the Penguins had four future Hall of Famers (Lemieux, Francis, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy) a fifth player likely to be a Hall of Famer when he's eligible (Jaromir Jagr) and All-Stars such as Rick Tocchet, Kevin Stevens, Ulf Samuelsson, and Barrasso. Furthermore, they had the league's most points (119), won the last two Stanley Cups, and were led by Scotty Bowman, the man widely considered the greatest coach in NHL history. But thanks to some great goaltending from Healy, key contributions on offense by Ferraro and Steve Thomas and the stellar defensive play of Darius Kasperitus, the Islanders somehow fought their way to a seventh game and a victory over a team that many felt were the class of the NHL that year. That's why they play the game.

- Give credit to the Penguins, though. They looked out of it after falling to a 3-1 deficit in the third period. But with less than four minutes to go, Larry Murphy led a rush, wound up behind the net, and set up Ron Francis to score a goal to get the Penguins and their fans back into it. With just over a minute to go, the Penguins pulled their goalie, and once again Murphy (who almost lost the puck at the blue line) set up a goal with a shot that bounced off of Francis and Rick Tocchet's sticks and wound up in the net. Even though the goal was credited to Tocchet, replays did not indicate that the puck deflected off of him at all, and it looked like Francis was the last to touch it. Either way, the Penguins tied it at three and finally showed some fight after being in a haze for most of the final period. Of course, the Islanders didn't fold, stayed calm, and wound up with the winning goal, but the Penguins didn't go down without a fight.

- While Healy was great on the Islanders end, Penguins goalie Tom Barrasso didn't have his best night. The first goal he allowed was the result of a poor clearing pass by Ulf Samuelsson and a lucky bounce off the boards, while the second one was a shot he had the angle on, but just missed it. The third goal the Islanders scored was nearly unfathomable. Benoit Hogue fired a wrist shot from behind the blue line that slightly bounced off of Murphy's stick, but was still headed right at Barrasso. Somehow, the puck went under his blocker and landed in the net to give the Islanders a 3-1 lead. To me, that was worse than allowing the game winner, because it was one of the easiest chances of the night and Barrasso just whiffed on it. If he stops it then, who knows what happens? because it's still a one goal game. Barrasso was the goaltender for the Penguins' cup winning teams, but his poor play throughout the series has caused him to be looked at as the main reason the Pens didn't win a third cup. But Barrasso wasn't the only goat, as the Penguins defense was loose with the puck all night long, constantly letting passes go by them and being unable to keep it onside. Ulf Samuelsson, even though he scored the first goal, caused the first Islanders goal with a bad pass, and he went too far up the ice on the play that eventually resulted in Volek's game winner. Meanwhile, Bowman played Mario Lemieux early and often, and while Lemieux was effective in the first two periods, he eventually wore down and wasn't his usual spectacular self.

- Then again, it could have different for the Penguins if Kevin Stevens wasn't hurt in a first period collision with Islanders' defenseman Rich Pilon. Stevens, one of the top wingers in the league at the time, left the game with a concussion and a broken nose after his check went awry. Meanwhile, the Islanders got their own superstar back in Turgeon, although he only played limited minutes and was not a factor.

After this game, the Islanders went on to the Conference Finals, well they fell to the Montreal Canadiens in 5 games. It's the last time the Islanders have been that close to the Stanley Cup Finals, as years of mismanagement have turned a once-proud franchise into a joke. The Penguins didn't get a third Stanley Cup until 2009, but remained a competitive team thanks to Lemieux and Jagr for much of the next decade. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this game or ideas for future posts, then share them either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Monday, August 1, 2011

Canon Restaurant Review: Pizza Hut, Royston, GA

Earlier this evening (or technically the previous evening) I, along with a few of my friends, dined at the Pizza Hut located in the fabulous town of Royston, GA. In my previous experiences with Pizza Hut, I have found that no matter which one I go to, it seems like they are like a fastball pitcher with inconsistent control, in that when they're good, they're good, and when they're bad, they're so bad that you'll wonder just why you came there in the first place. Heck, I still get grief for suggesting a trip to Pizza Hut in Commerce, and that was two years ago. How was I to know of the events that took place? Anyway, I came into Pizza Hut tonight hoping for the best, or at least something halfway decent.

We get there and even though they are offering a pizza buffet tonight, we decide to eschew that because it was late and most of the pizza up there had been out there for a while. Instead, after a few minutes of heated debate, we decided on three large one topping pizzas, mushroom, pepperoni, and the always popular bacon. All three pizzas we ordered were with the hand-tossed crust. We also ordered a side of garlic covered wings, of which I chose not to partake. Now I wish I had, since I have no opinion about the wings, but those that ate the wings did have mostly good things to say about them.

Looking around at my surrounding, I'd say that even though it was late in the evening, there was a decent-sized crowd there, about 15 people or so including ourselves. There were also quite a few people carrying out pizzas, so this place wasn't exactly hurting for business tonight. The interior of the Pizza Hut is a bright room, with a brick interior, a few booths on three sides of the room and a couple of larger tables for parties of four or more people. The walls had a few pictures hanging on them, and there was a clock on each side of the restaurant. However, neither clock was set for the right time, which makes me wonder just what the purpose of having a clock on the wall is if you're not going to bother setting it to the correct time. Well, to each their own. Our table was rather clean, I must say, and a lot of the booths appeared to be in good shape, although I did notice that one of the seats had a big hole in the middle. Our service was good overall, especially considering that the place had only one waitress there. However, it seemed like our pizzas took a little longer than they should have, as I'd estimate we waited 25-30 minutes at least.

As for the pizzas themselves, well some people seemed to like them more than others, and some pizzas were better than others. The pepperoni pizza was just slathered with grease, almost as if somebody decided to pour some extra grease on it at the last second. Fortunately, the other two weren't quite as greasy. Also, the makers of the pizzas were quite generous with the toppings, which is always a good thing, and there was plenty of cheese on them. Of the three, I thought the mushroom was the superior pizza, and it seemed like most everybody else did too as it had the least pieces left at the end. The bacon pizza was decent, but not spectacular, while the pepperoni, while covered in pepperoni, was the weakest of the three. I thought the crust wasn't too bad, although I did hear some of my compatriots expressing slight displeasure over it.

Overall, continuing my poorly thought analogy at the beginning of this post, I thought this trip to Pizza Hut was like a pitcher allowing four runs in six innings and leaving with a no decision. Yes, it wasn't bad, but you were left wanting more. Overall, I'd give it a 5.45 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this post, or ideas for future reviews, then feel free to share either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

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