Sabrina The Teenage Witch - Season 7 (Final Season) DVD Review

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This review was originally written on August 23, 2010
One-Third Of The Episodes Are Edited, Sabrina Goes To Rome TV Movie Seems Complete

Here we are at the seventh, and final, season of the Melissa Joan Hart series, Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Our fair Sabrina has left college and has now joined the workforce as a journalist for Scorch magazine. The first episode of the season, "Total Sabrina Live", provides the conclusion to the Season 6 finale ("I Fall To Pieces"); but with no "previously on" segment to explain what's happened before, it doesn't make any sense to new viewers.

Even though I've seen most of the episodes over the years, originally on ABC & The WB and in syndication, this is the first of the Sabrina season sets that I've purchased (not counting all of the animated series DVDs). Even though I like the series, it is not a show that I feel compelled to buy on DVD. However, the inclusion of the "Sabrina Goes To Rome" TV movie from 1998 is what enticed me to purchase this set. Sadly, I'm highly disappointed by how many of the episodes are edited. Here, take a look at the episode list with runtimes, and see if you can figure which episodes are edited.

01. Total Sabrina Live (September 20, 2002) (21:39)
02. The Big Head (September 27, 2002) (22:08)
03. Call Me Crazy (October 4, 2002) (21:13)
04. Shift Happens (October 11, 2002) (22:08)
05. Free Sabrina (October 18, 2002) (22:07)
06. Sabrina Unplugged (November 1, 2002) (22:05) [Scooby-Doo & Shaggy appearance retained]
07. Witch Way Out (November 8, 2002) (20:45)
08. Bada-Ping (November 15, 2002) (21:23)
09. It's A Hot, Hot, Hot, Hot Christmas (December 6, 2002) (21:58)
10. Ping, Ping A Song (January 10, 2003) (21:50)
11. The Lyin', The Witch And The Wardrobe (January 17, 2003) (21:08)
12. In Sabrina We Trust (January 24, 2003) (22:08)
13. Sabrina In Wonderland (January 31, 2003) (22:08)
14. Present Perfect (February 7, 2003) (22:08)
15. Cirque Du Sabrina (February 14, 2003) (22:08)
16. Getting To Nose You (February 21, 2003) (21:22)
17. Romance Looming (February 27, 2003) (22:08)
18. Spellmanian Slip (March 20, 2003) (22:08)
19. You Slay Me (March 27, 2003) (22:05)
20. Fish Tale (April 17, 2003) (22:07)
21&22. What A Witch Wants / Soul Mates (April 24, 2003) (44:00)

If you didn't figure it out, I think it's safe to say that any episodes under 22 minutes in length are edited, except for maybe the Christmas episode since it's only 2 seconds under. That's 7 out of 22 episodes (excluding the Christmas episode). I don't know if the previous season sets were this highly edited, but I think that it's shameful for Paramount to charge full price for a set that has one-third of its episodic content edited - and possible more with music replaced. Granted, Paramount at least makes note of this on the back of the case - "Some episodes may be edited from their original network versions" and "Music has been changed for this home entertainment version" - but that's the same standard text they put on the cases for all of their TV series releases, whether it's actually true or not.

Here's a quick, and likely incomplete, list of edits:

* Witch Way Out - VERY heavily edited, as noted by the runtime. About 1 minute 20 seconds removed, including a performance by The Goo Goo Dolls (at 8:47 and 10:55?). The group is referenced in what little remains of the episode, and some comments make no sense now that the performance has been removed.

* Bada-Ping - It seems that an Avril Lavigne performance was cut out at 2:25.

* Getting To Nose You - It seems that a Sixpence None The Richer performance was cut out, and the music replaced in the background of the fight scene.

* Soul Mates - From what multiple sources tell me, at the very end when Sabrina runs out of her wedding to meet Harvey, originally "Running" by No Doubt was playing in the background. That song has been replaced by either a different song, or a different artist performing the song.

You know, considering this was the season that Sabrina worked at MUSIC MAGAZINE, with many appearances by musical artists performing their hits, the series producers should have made darn sure that they got home video rights to the songs. TV shows getting released on DVD wasn't an entirely unknown phenomenon back in 2002-2003.

BONUS FEATURE: Sabrina Goes To Rome

This was the first of two Sabrina series TV movies that aired on ABC as part of "The Wonderful World of Disney". Sabrina Goes To Rome aired on October 4, 1998, during season 3, and is presented here in its original 4:3 aspect ratio with stereo audio and Enghlish subtitles. On this DVD, it has a runtime of 1:26:49.

• Edits - None.
• Music Replacements - None.

All of the music that I remember being there is still there on the DVD: "Sky Fits Heaven" by Madonna still opens the movie, while "Crush" by Jennifer Paige remains at 40:29, and Carl Orff's "Gassenhauer" is heard during the end credits. If music were to be replaced, these would have been the first to go. The runtime matches the length I wrote on the label of my original ABC recording, so that's a good sign, too. Perhaps the music licensing was done differently because it's technically a "movie" and not an "episode".

I am disappointed that Paramount didn't include the 1999 TV movie Sabrina Down Under as a second bonus feature, as I don't see it very likely that Paramount will put it out on DVD at a later date. There are no more seasons of the TV series in which to bundle it, and if they were going to put it out by itself, they would have done so already. I mean, the logical thing to do would have been to put out both TV movies - Rome & Down Under - in one "double feature" set. Instead of doing that, they chose to put Rome in this final season set. So where does that leave Down Under?

Before I conclude this review, I'd like to bring two things to the attention of the purists out there. (1) The Viacom logo at the end has been replaced with a new CBS Television Distribution logo on all episodes and the TV movie. (2) Even though the last two episodes were originally broadcast on The WB as one hour-long episode, they were produced as and meant to be shown as two separate episodes, and should have been included that way on this DVD set (which is how they're currently shown in syndication). I believe that the wishes of the filmmakers takes precedence over how they were originally broadcast.

All in all, it's an okay set. The last season certainly isn't as good as the first three - the series lost its charm when the gorgeous Jenna Leigh Green left the show and Sabrina left high school - but it's not as bad as the stuff on TV these days.

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2017 UPDATE - Paramount finally released Sabrina Down Under (1999) on DVD, which I reviewed here. I wonder what prompted Paramount to release this last bit of Melissa Joan Hart Sabrina stuff nearly seven years after the rest. I really wish Paramount would have paired it with Rome as a "double feature" release.

Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood Playstation 2 Video Game Review

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This review was originally written on December 20, 2004
I Hope You Like Playing 1-On-1 Hardcore Matches Over And Over And Over Again

The first Backyard Wrestling game (subtitled "Don't Try This At Home") received poor reviews from just about everyone who played it, so you'd expect for Eidos to learn and make a better sequel. Of course, you'd be wrong. Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood (BYW2) is pretty much the same as BYW1, for good and for bad.

THE BASICS

The game includes 25 playable wrestlers (all unlocked from the start) and 5 CAW slots. Of the 25, only 4 are female: Adrienne Pain, Sunrise Adams (adult film actress), Tera Patrick (adult film actress), and Tylene Buck. The other 21 are male: Andrew WK, El Drunko, Kelvin Finn, Luke Hadley, Madman Pondo, Masked Horn Dog, Messiah, New Jack, Ruckus, Rude Boy, Ryuji Ito, Sandman, Shaggy 2 Dope, Sick Nick Mondo, Sonjay Dutt, Supreme, Vampiro, Vic Grimes, Violent J, and Zandig.

A big problem with the game is that there's very little to do in it. Up to two players can duke it out in a 1-on-1 exhibition match, or a single player can go through the Career mode (you can have up to 10 saved careers). That's it. There's nothing else to do. One of the reasons WWE games are ranked so highly is because they give you a wide variety of match types. This game is just one match type: 1-on-1 hardcore. Although the game tries to give you the impression of variety, the entire game consists of you playing this same exact match over and over and over again. There's no reason a BYW game has to stick to non-ring-based action. Heck, watch the BYW Videos in the game's Media Room and you'll see that 95% of the action in the real-live events takes place in a ring. There should be the following match types: tag team, handicap (not the fight one guy then the other "handicap" match that this game has as it's career finale), lumberjack, steel cage, Hell in the Cell (though they'd have to use a different name since WWE probably has that copyrighted), plus the non-ring hardcore action. In short, everything you see in a WWE game should be here, but with the violence and blood turned up to the EXTREME! The rings should have regular, barb wire, and electrified ropes (player's choice). There should be thumb tacks, barb wire bats, panes of glass (they should be held and set up like tables in a WWE game), and other assorted "ultra-violent" weapons. Tables should not be part of the environment (they're "Enviro-Mental Throws/Attacks" in this game). They should be items you can pick up, place somewhere, stackable, and do moves onto - like you see in the WWE SmackDown! games.

Loading times throughout the game are 15-20 seconds each, but they happen right before every single opponent, plus short ones before going back to the menus. I shutter to think of how many minutes total of loadings you will sit through by the time you're done with Career mode.

Create-A-Wrestler (CAW) sucks, which is sad because you're forced to use it for career mode the first time you play it. There are so few options that I can practically list all of them here. There are only 6 body types: 4 male (athletic, muscular, overweight, slim), 2 female (athletic, muscular) with 16 different skin tones (most of which are useless unless you want funky colored wrestlers). There are 6 different face styles for each gender. There are 7 different hair styles for each gender with 16 different hair colors (again, most are rather funky). In terms of clothing, each gender has 18 upper body (shirts), 18 lower body (pants), and 6 footwear (including bare feet) choices. You can choose two different colors for each, assuming the piece of clothing has a base and a stripe.

Rounding out the CAW options are a few custom logos/tattoos, a limited selection of moves, and 35 mostly useless CAW accessories that you can buy for $200 each in the shop section of Career mode. How useless are they, you may be wondering? Take a look at this list and judge for yourself: Top Hat, Cowboy Hat, Football Helmet, Do Rag, Skater Helmet, Headband, Bowler, Visor, Sun Hat, Beanie, Beret, Headphones, Hard Hat, Baseball Cap, Ear Muffs, Biker's Helmet, Sunset Shades, Round Glasses, 3-D Glasses, Eye Patch, Painter's Mask, Clown Nose, Corn Cob Pipe, Bandage, Big Ears, Tiny Shades, Left Arm Band, Double Elbow Pads, Double Wrist Bands, Gauntlets, Biker Gloves, Bandoleer, Messenger Bag, Backpack, Bow Tie, Single Gun Belt, Double Knee Pads, Shin Guards, Wallet Chain, Tool Belt, Knee Brace, Spurs, Leg Garter, Studded Belt, and Snow Shoes. Nothing says "I'm a hardcore brawler, don't F with me" more than a guy wearing a Bowler hat, 3-D glasses, a clown nose, and a pair of snow shoes. To the game's credit, though, a few of these looked great on a gal wearing the default thong outfit (cowboy hat, biker gloves, and leg garter).

On top of that, you can't even delete CAWs. The best you can do is revert them back to their default appearance and moves, but the CAW slot will still be filled - even after you've deleted your Career save and the CAW no longer has a use. Also, you can't import CAWs from another game save/memory card.

Besides the CAW accessories, the game has a few other unlockables, but they're really not worth the effort to unlock. If you can manage to make it through the game tedious and boring Career mode, you get the option to play it all over again, but this time with one of the in-game wrestlers. Since the story is exactly the same as the first time, there's nothing new to see by playing it again with an established character instead of the CAW you used the first time. As an added bonus, completing Career mode also unlocks all of the "Game Videos" in the Media Room. These are the same video you've seen throughout season mode (actually, each one is unlocked after you view it in the course of your career).

These videos are only marginally better than the ones you can buy from $1000 each in the shop. The five purchasable videos are short highlight reels of these wrestlers: Zandig, Ryuji Ito, Sick Nick Mondo, Vic Grimes, and Sandman. Before you get too excited, you should know that they each run a mere 35-40 seconds and contain no audio at all. In fact, almost all of the "BYW Videos" in the Media Room are 35-40 second audioless highlight reels. These are the same clips shown on the main menu. However, there are more clips shown on the main menu than there are in the Media Room. All of the main menu videos should be viewable in the Media Room, where they're displayed full screen. I, personally, would have rather watched the clips of the ladies (Tylene Buck, Tera Patrick, and Sunrise Adams) in the Media Room than a clip of Andrew WK singing, made pointless by the fact that there's no audio in it.

The only "BYW Videos" that have audio are three relatively short music videos and the promo/newspiece ("Pulse"). I have never seen a wrestling match from BYW or any of the other feds represented in the game. It would have been more beneficial for them to include one or two whole matches, instead of all these pointless, short, and mostly audioless video clips. Maybe *that* would get me interested in buying one of their videos.

The "Pulse" video is a TechTV story about the game and a wrestling event held to promote it several months (?) before its release. One of the game designers proudly mentions that BYW2 was the first wrestling game with confirmed online capabilities. There is no online mode in the final product. Oops!

The design of the different fighting areas is pretty good overall, though of course, some are better than others. I, personally, like the Office because you can break ALL of the cubicles in the middle of the room, and when that's done, you're left with a TON of weapons and one open area to fight in.

GAMEPLAY

The game engine is essentially the same as in BYW1, but with a few additions, such as submission holds and a block button. There's also a new type of environmental attack, appropriately titled an "Enviro-Mental" attack. You can perform these attacks when you have your opponent in a front grapple and you're positioned in the right spots of each fighting area. You'll know when you're in the right spot because an exclamation point inside a triangle will appear on the screen. All you have to do is press the Triangle button and a cutscene will pop up showing you doing an extreme move to your opponent, like powerbombing him through a picnic table, hitting him with beer bottles, or frying his face on a fast food grill.

The problem with the environmental attacks, as with ALL attacks, is that the wrestlers don't sell their moves. They'll pop right back up on their feet as if you just blew air in their face. In WCW Kevin Nash once sold a finger poke to the chest as if he had just gotten hit with a bowling ball, yet here they act like nothing happened if you repeatedly slam their head in the truck of a car. The only time wrestlers act like a move really hurt them, is when they MISS a move that THEY were trying to perform.

One of my biggest grievances about the game engine is that reversals require guesswork, not skill. When in a grapple, you have to guess which of the four face buttons your opponent will use for his next move, and press it before he does his move. This is just like the reversal system introduced in WWE Smackdown Shut Your Mouth in 2002 (in that game it was the four d-pad directions instead of the face buttons). A lot of people apparently hated this system (such as me), and it was changed to a much simpler 2-button method (one for strikes, one for grapples) for the next WWE game in 2003. Why BYW2 would use a reversal system that wasn't even kept for the WWE games is beyond me. (I don't remember if BYW1 used this reversal system or not.)

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CAREER MODE

The meat and potatoes of the single player experience is the Career mode, which replaces the short Talk Show mode from BYW1. The Talk Show mode was boring and repetitive, and guess what? Some things never change.

The story is simple enough: The Backyard Wrestling "federation" has come to your town with a $1 million prize to anyone who can plow through the competition and win all the regional championships.

Career mode consists of ten fighting areas. The first nine are grouped into three sets (or tiers), with the last area being the locale of the finale. Each of the first nine areas contains five "missions" and five "challenges" each, with the last in each tier also containing a Title Tournament. The finale area contains the final five challenges. Thus bringing it to a grand total of 45 missions and 50 challenges, plus 3 title tournaments.

Not everything is unlocked from the start. You need to complete one tier in order to unlock the next, and the tenth and final area is unlocked after the third tier. The game has a rather confusing way of setting this all up, so I'm going to try to explain this as simple as possible. Please try to follow along. I'll use Tier 1 as an example (it contains the Backyard, Trailer Park, and Pool areas). You can play all 15 missions (five per area, remember) in any order you want. However, you must complete all 15 in order to unlock 12 of the 15 challenges (again, five per area) and the Title Tournament in the Pool area (the last area in each tier has the tournament). Completing the tournament (four matches total) not only unlocks the next tier (set of three areas), but also unlocks the three Title Defense challenges in the Backyard, Trailer Park, and Pool areas (one defense per area). If you lose any of the three Title Defense challenge matches, you have to play that tier's tournament all over again to reclaim the belt. This whole procedure of completing all 15 missions and the title tournament is required for all three tiers. It's quite possible that you don't even need to do the Challenges, but I did them anyway, so I can't tell you for certain.

If this all sounds like it makes perfect sense, it's because I explained it to you and you didn't have to figure it out for yourself using the rather disorganized menu in the game. The game doesn't even do anything to signify that you did all the missions and challenges in an area. You'd think they'd put a big X over the locale on the useless "why is it taking up space on the screen" map. Anyway, if you think this doesn't sound so bad, wait until I tell you specifically about the missions and challenges.

MISSIONS

You are given a specific objective for a match or a series of matches. Some of these include: performing a specific number of reversals, using a Weed Whacker three times, or just avoiding your opponents attacks 20 times. For objectives like these, you don't even have to go on to win the match. Once you perform the objective required, you can just quit the match and go on to the next objective. Later in the game, some objectives will require you to win a match within a set period of time, win a match with more or less than a certain percentage of health, or just to fight without using certain moves. Obviously, in these cases, you actually DO need to finish the match.

Some of the missions are downright stupid. No one in the right mind would do what they want you to do in a normal match on purpose. I mean, who really would want to finish a match with less than 10% percent health, if they didn't have to? Since I hate the reversal system (as I've previously mentioned) you can imagine how thrilled I was when I had to reverse 20 moves as one of the mission objectives.

These "Missions" should be in a separate "Challenge" section outside of career ala WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw, with unlockables earned for completing them. They should NEVER have been made a required part of completing career mode.

What makes the missions even harder is that the game doesn't specifically tell you how to complete them. I rented this game, so I had no manual to give me the controls. I had to rely on the information given on the loading screens. While this is good most of the time (and I made sure to write down the controls as fast as I could - though the few screens repeat often enough that you'll get all the info down soon enough), the game has a nasty habit of giving you loading screens that don't relate to the objectives for the match you're about to play, or giving you the information you need AFTER you need it. For example, I played a mission in which I was not allowed to grapple, so guess what information was on the loading screen before the match? Yup, the grapple controls. Better yet, there's a mission in which I had to perform a Guard Break (I believe that's what it was). The game decided not to tell me how to perform the move until *AFTER* I quit the match out of frustration (it was on the loading screen that takes you back to the menu).

CHALLENGES

The five goals almost always are as follows:
  1. Fight a real wrestler. Sometimes you'll be required to finish him off specifically with a knockout, pin, or submission. On two instances, you will be forced to "hunt" for a specific wrestler: The game will give you several matches with random jobbers, occasionally giving you the wrestler you NEED to fight, and if you beat him three times, you complete the challenge.
  2. Fight a jobber (a freaky-looking CAW), who will then by replaced with a real wrestler.
  3. Win three matches in a row.
  4. Win five matches in a row.
  5. Defend your title (unlocked only after you win the tournament).
From what I can tell, the challenges are optional, as it doesn't seem like you need to do them to progress in the career (I did them anyway, so I can't say for sure).

The challenges are what should have been required for career mode, as they make more sense within the context of the story.

At this point you should have realized that the "Missions" should have been called "Challenges" and vice versa.

GRAPHICS

The graphics are decent, but nothing more than what's required to get the job done. I've read that they're better than what was in BYW1, but without doing a side-by-side comparison, they don't look that much better to me.

A nice touch is that a wrestler who is repeated pummeled will have blood stains all over his body by the end of the match. Sadly, the blood stains look like someone drew lines on them with red marker. There's no dripping blood, hence why I call them stains.

SOUND

Like WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw (SVR), the game features wrestler voice-overs (used in intro/outro cutscenes and a few Career videos only). For the most part, they are done by the real people, though the following use substitutes: Sandman, Vampiro, Kelvin Finn, Ruckus, and Adrienne Pain (I'm not sure if those last three are real people or characters made specifically for the game). Also just like SVR, the voice acting is really bad.

A big problem is that the sounds of impacts, punches, weapons, and the such, all sound very flat and underwhelming. There are also times when a sound effect should be heard, but isn't. This completed undermines any power that a move should have.

Some of the artists on the licensed soundtrack include: Insane Clown Posse, Andrew WK, Kool Keith, Bad Brains, Body Count, and Hoobastank. So if you're into that type of music, you're sure to love the very large soundtrack (there was over two and a half minutes of music listings in the end credits!). I, personally, didn't like the music in the game, so I turned it off. That's not to say the game didn't turn it back on itself every now and then. Speaking of glitches ...

GLITCHES

I've encountered many of them while playing the game. Some of them are pretty bad and could actually make you lose matches or missions/challenges. Here's a small list.

* Because I don't like the in-game music, I turned it off (by setting the volume to zero). Every now and then, while in Career mode, after a match, as it autosaves my game before going back to the menu, the music would come back on. It stays on while I'm on the menu, only going back off when the match loading screen appears.

* One time in the pool area, and MANY times in the restaurant area, I found my character inexplicably walking by herself towards the bottom of the screen. She would not move in the direction I wanted her to, and would only stop her migration to screen bottom if I held the block button or got into a move with my opponent.

* If doing a move on a ledge (like in the pool area), you may end up doing the move without even touching the opponent. Sometimes both characters will even shake violently like they're having a seizure or something.

* Wrestlers will sometimes fall out of grapples and teleport to standing positions in another part of the fighting area.

* The enemy artificial intelligence is also quite bad, and I don't think it's because I had the AI Difficulty set to Low. Almost every time a match started in the junkyard area, my opponent would run straight to the red van on the right and just keep running into it for a few seconds.

I also came across a glitch that prevented me from getting 100% completion in Career mode. Office: Challenge: Title Defense never becomes selectable (it's always greyed out). I had no problem playing the other eight Title Defense challenges. I completed career mode with 45 out of 45 missions completed and 49 out of 50 challenges completed.

I didn't even get all "opponents seen." I would think that the game would have shown me all of them by the end of career.

PLAY TIME/REPLAYABILITY

If you use cheat device codes (like Infinite Health & Turbo for Player 1, No Turbo for Player 2), you can probably work through career mode in six to ten hours - if you don't get bored first. If you play it straight, then it'll take a lot longer due to all of the stupid tasks the game forces you to complete. That's if you don't become bored AND overly-frustrated and just give up on the game altogether.

Replayability is practically non-existent for a single player because if you do complete career mode, you will NOT want to play it again with the newly unlocked option to use an in-game wrestler this time. And even if you did, it would be the exact same season you played through the first time.

Of course, two players will get a little more replayability out of the game, but not much more, because there's only so many times you can play a 1-on-1 match against each other before you both get bored. It's not like there's a plethora of areas to fight in, anyway. If you do one match in each area, after 10 matches, you will have seen them all.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION

If you must play this game, RENT IT! It's not worth the $50 asking price for a purchase.

Austin Powers Pinball PlayStation Video Game Review

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This review was originally written on October 30, 2002
It's Pinball, Baby! Yeah!

As if you couldn't have guessed, Austin Powers Pinball is pinball with an Austin Powers theme - based on the first two movies.

STORY

Pinball itself doesn't have a story, but the themed tables "follow" the storylines of the movies. Here are the story synopsises as written in the game's manual:

International Man of Mystery - As the utterly shagadelic Austin Powers, you must save the world from the never-ending threat of Dr. Evil! Defrost after 30 years in Cryogenic Suspension. Catch up to the '90s, and with the help of the smashing Vanessa Kensington, find the secret underground lair beneath the Virtucon headquarters. Stop Dr. Evil's plan to extort "100 Billion Dollars" and save the world from certain destruction by liquid hot magma. Beware the seductive fembots, who can lure men to their doom, and don't fall victim to the wiles of the sexy Alotta Fagina and her seemingly innocent hot tub.

The Spy Who Shagged Me - Dr. Evil has stolen your Mojo, and that spells bad news for your bits and pieces! With CIA agent Felicity Shagwell at your side (and sometimes covering the rear) fight through Dr. Evil's henchmen - from the very vocal Frau Farbissina and the cyclopean Number Two to the terrifyingly well-fed Fat-Bastard - and reclaim your manhood. Rocket from Dr. Evil's hollowed-out volcano lair to his secret Moonbase, and stop the giant "laser" from destroying the world. Travel back in time to recover your Mojo and save Felicity from certain death.

I know that there's a real Austin Powers pinball table (my friend played it in the arcade), but I don't know if these tables are modeled after any real tables. Just thought I'd mention that.

GAMEPLAY

The game plays like ... well, pinball. To be a little more precise, it plays like a real pinball table, not like some sort of arcade simulation (like Sonic Spinball on the Sega Genesis). The control scheme is very simple: X fires the ball into play; the left shoulder buttons (L1 & L2) control the left flipper; the right shoulder buttons (R1 & R2) control the right flipper; the directional pad is used for nudging up, left, and right (there's no nudging down). This is an absolutely PERFECT control scheme for a pinball game. Much better then the default for Pro Pinball: Big Race USA.

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AUDIO & VIDEO

The game looks and sound fantastic. While you may not be able to see every little detail on the table (unless you have a really big screen TV), the game doesn't suffer because if it. The bottom 25% of the screen contains the dot-graphics screen, which is easily readable and adds to the enjoyment of the game (dot-digitalized clips from the movies are shown throughout, when appropriate). The upper 75% of the screen shows the table, which scrolls as necessary.

The sounds are pretty good. The standard pinball-type sounds are there, along with audio clips from the movie featuring Mike Myers and Robert Wagner (I didn't hear Mr. Wagner yet, so I have to take the packaging's word for it).

The music played on the menus is very mellow, and somewhat appropriate ... it's nothing to hurt your ears, that's for sure.

THE FLAWS

The game does have a few flaws, which is why I rate it 8 out of 10 instead of a perfect 10.

(1) It doesn't auto-load & auto-save high scores to/from memory card. You have to do it manually every time you play the game, which is really annoying.

(2) It is not vibration function compatible, like Pro Pinball: Big Race USA is. If you've ever played Big Race with a Dual Shock controller, you'd know that vibration adds even more realism to a pinball game. It makes it feel like you have your hands on a real table.

(3) Austin Powers' familiar theme music is notably absent. Although the music in the menus are fine, that would have been better.

(4) Nudging seems to have no effect - though if you nudge too much, the game "tilts" on you. (In Big Race I actually saw the table move when I nudged, so it's possible that even though I don't see the table move in this game, the nudging could actually be working. So this might not be a flaw.)

REPLAYABILITY

It has as much replayability as the game of pinball does. Meaning, you won't play it everyday (unless your a pinball fanatic), but every now and then you'll get the urge and you'll pop it in and play it for a while. Perhaps you can even beat your own high score!

TO BUY OR RENT?

The game retails for about ten bucks. Considering that it's a near perfect pinball game, you'd be stupid NOT to buy it ... unless you hate pinball or Austin Powers.

Penn & Teller: Bullshit - Ghostbusters Episode Review

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This review was originally written on July 29, 2005
Worst BS Episode Ever. Didn't Disprove Anything.

[2016 NOTE: When I originally wrote this review back in 2005, the "Ghost Hunters" show was in its infancy, and they actually did attempt to disprove things. The show was not the joke it would later become, which caused me to stop watching many years ago.]

As a fan of the Ghostbusters movies and animated series, and having an interest in the paranormal, I was very interested to see this episode. I was really curious as to how Penn & Teller would try to prove that ghosts/spirits don't exist, when there is lots of hard evidence to the contrary.

First, I was expecting some sort of Ghostbusters reference, especially since that was the episode title. I thought maybe we'd see Penn & Teller wearing Ghostbusters jumpsuits/uniforms or something. I was highly disappointed to find that they mentioned the word/name "ghostbusters" 8 times total, and that was it. None of it was in reference to the movie, but to the "job" itself.

As for this particular episode, I thought it was a little shortsighted of Penn & Teller to simply dismiss all paranormal studies based on the two (count 'em, TWO) groups they got on the show. I wonder if they tried to get any famous paranormal investigators on the show, but couldn't. You know, the ones you frequently see on shows like Sightings, or the two guys from Ghost Hunters. It's very well possible that they just happened to get the worst two groups in the paranormal investigator community. There are no doubt frauds in that community (as in any group of people). Maybe they just happened to get two of them.

There's a famous haunting that (I believe) was shown on Sightings called the "Heartland Ghost" (a tv movie was made based on it). It was about an entity that was leaving actual physical cuts on this guy. They filmed it while it was happening, and the cuts just appeared out of thin air. Why didn't Penn & Teller try to disprove that case? What about any of the other famous hauntings commonly shown on the ghost specials that pop up around Halloween? Winchester House? Hotel del Coronado?

Normally, I agree wholeheartedly on the topics Penn & Teller cover. I mean, really, anyone with common sense knows that the Virgin Mary doesn't REALLY appear in a grilled cheese sandwich. But for this topic, they left so many things out, that they would need much more than a half-hour, and would need to deal with famous cases, in order to prove to me that the entire "world of the paranormal" is fake.

I highly suggest avoiding this particular episode and watching *any* episode of Ghost Hunters instead. Those guys thoroughly investigate supposed hauntings, using science and experimentation, and more often than not, they deem places to NOT be haunted.

If you're interested in seeing this episode for yourself, it is available on The Complete Third Season DVD set.

The Wizard of Oz (1990) Cartoon & DVD Review

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This review was originally written on September 8, 2004 & April 28, 2007
An Insult To Fans Of The Classic 1939 Movie

I have mixed feelings about this series. On one hand I really like The Wizard Of Oz (1939) movie and I fondly remember watching this series Saturday mornings back when ABC actually showed GOOD cartoons (The Real Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, etc.). On the other hand, this series is a slap in the face to all fans of the original 1939 movie. For starters, it's damn near impossible to make a decent series based on the movie featuring ALL of the memorable characters since the movie ended with the hero (Dorothy) back home in Kansas, the villain (the Wicked Witch of the West) melted to oblivion, the Wizard floating off to parts unknown (presumably back to his homeland), and the three friends (Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion) being left to take care of Oz and the Emerald City.

I suppose you could set it in Kansas and do stories about the life of the teenage Dorothy, but that would leave out all of the Oz characters. You could do stories about the travels of the Wizard, but since he's a con man, it's hard to see him as a "good guy" and a good role model. The only thing left would be to do a show about the citizens of Oz with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion presiding over the whole land like royalty. I've never read the Oz books, so I don't know how many more different Oz residents there are, but since Oz is a wacky place all by itself, the writers could let their imaginations go wild, and create new characters. The problem with this idea is that it leaves out three main characters: Dorothy, Wizard, and Wicked Witch of the West. The creators of this series would have none of that. They MUST have ALL of the main characters, the ending of the film be damned!

And so we got a series that totally ignores all character development from the film and carefully disregards certain parts of the ending. Dorothy is inexplicably back in Oz. The title sequence suggests that her ruby slippers glowed in her closet back in Kansas, thus sending out a distress call that she was needed back in Oz, and so she used them to return. There goes the whole "it was only a dream" plot device that the film laid out for us at the end. OK, I can suspend my disbelief for this to be possible. Next the title sequence shows us that the Wicked Witch wasn't melted at all, but merely turned to wood! The winged monkeys bring her back to life by putting her hat back on her head and putting her broomstick back in her hand. Now I'm starting to get worried.

Remember at the end of the film the Wizard gave the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion some items (diploma, heart clock, badge of courage - respectively) to reflect the attributes that they felt they were missing, but told them in no uncertain terms that they didn't need these items because they had those attributes all along (as they demonstrated numerous times throughout the film)? Well, they must have been missing the attribute of "paying attention" because in this show they lack all of those attributes they "had all along" simply because all of their "special items" are locked up in storage at the Emerald City where the Wicked Witch is keeping guard over them. The three friends are constantly complaining throughout the entire series about not having those attributes because they don't have the items, yet as in the film they display those attributes numerous times. What they DO have is a total lack of self-esteem as they are constantly discrediting themselves when they display those supposedly "lost" attributes (to paraphrase the Scarecrow: "I have an idea, but since I don't have a brain, it musn't be a very good idea.")

The Wizard is back, but he's stuck forever floating around Oz in his hot air balloon because the Wicked Witch put a spell on the wind so that it won't let him stay in one place for very long. Throughout the series Dorothy and friends are trying to catch up with him, but he always leaves just before they go to where he was last seen at. Why he doesn't just decide to ditch the balloon and stay on foot, where he's safer, is beyond me. Glinda, the good witch, is no great help as she is so powerless that all she can do is put a spell on the balloon so the Wicked Witch can't harm him while he's in it (I'd still take my changes on foot rather than floating around aimlessly), and put an Emerald Star in the sky above the Emerald City which glows as long as he's alive. Remind me not to call Glinda for help the next time I'm in trouble.

There are many MANY times in first two episodes ("Rescue of the Emerald City" Parts 1&2) and the twelfth episode ("Day the Music Died") alone that you'll be thinking to yourself "Why doesn't this person go there, or do this?" For example, in the first episode the Wizard is on foot in the safe confines of a fort. The Wicked Witch and her winged monkeys come to cause havoc, and the dumb Wizard thinks he'd be safer taking to the air in his balloon than hiding inside the fort (a large opened door in the fort can clearly been see in the background). The twelfth episode involves the citizens of Musicland not feeling very musical because the conductor's baton was stolen. Dorothy suggests he use his hands, and she even tries it herself to show him that it'll work, but the lazy citizens would rather read their newspapers and sleep than pay any attention to her. At this point, if I were Dorothy, I'd say "screw you all" and leave. They're not worth my help. As Dorothy and friends pointed out with their song and dance number (a dance themed song to the melody of "If I Only Had A Brain/Heart/Nerve" - which is rather good and even mentioned the Lambada!), the music isn't dead in the land of Oz, just in Musicland. So, who cares? Let the Musicland citizens die of boredom for all I care, the rest of Oz will move on with their lives.

By the way, although credit is given to the music composers of the 1939 film (since this series uses a lot of the movie themes), no credit is given to L. Frank Baum (the writer of the original book series).

Although the series lasted only 13 episodes, we have been "gifted" with a few DVD releases...and they don't even contain the whole series!

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The Rescue of the Emerald City DVD contains the following episodes:

1. Rescue of the Emerald City - Part 1 (09/08/1990) (ep 1)
2. Rescue of the Emerald City - Part 2 (09/15/1990) (ep 2)
3. The Day the Music Died (11/24/1990) (ep 12)

Purists be forewarned that the original DIC logo at the end of the show has been replaced with the new "The Incredible World Of DIC" logo.

Although the colors are bright and the sound is great, the overall quality of the episodes is rather poor as there is a lot of dirt and debris in them and the picture jumps a little on more than one occasion. It would have been really nice if they cleaned up the episodes when they transferred them to DVD.

The disc contains absolutely NO bonus features, save for a lame (nee VERY easy) six question trivia game. If you win it, you're treated to a commercial for the DVD releases of "Sherlock Holmes In The 22nd Century" and "The Wizard Of Oz." Yeah, that's such a great prize! Plus on start-up there's an ad for other DIC properties and on the main menu the DIC logo brings up a few more ads.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Inspector Gadget provides help on ALL of the menu screens (and appears on them). This "feature" is meant to help little kids, for whom this disc is targeted. But it comes off as really lame since this isn't an Inspector Gadget DVD and that's not Don Adams providing his voice. For the record, all of DIC's DVDs from this time period (2001) contain the Inspector Gadget Help option (I have the Sabrina The Animated Series disc and it's on there too).

The only REAL bonus feature that could actually be of use to someone are English subtitles, which of course is good if you're deaf or hard of hearing as the episodes are not closed captioned. The audio is stereo (2.0 channel) and the runtime is 63 minutes.

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The Continuing Story DVD contains the following episodes:

1. Fearless (9/22/1990) (ep 3)
2. Crystal Clear (9/29/1990) (ep 4)
3. We're Not in Kansas Anymore (10/6/1990) (ep 5)
4. Time Town (11/3/1990) (ep 6)

The audio is stereo (2.0 channel) and the runtime is 88 minutes. There's not much more to say about this disc.

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We're Off To Save The Wizard! DVD contains the following episodes:

1. Hot Air (12/1/1990) (ep 13)
2. A Star Is Gone (10/27/1990) (ep 8)
3. Upside-down Town (11/17/1990) (ep 11)
4. Dream A Little Dream (10/20/1990) (ep 7)

I've never viewed this DVD, so I can't say anything more about it.

So, you have to buy three separate DVDs and you'll still be missing two episodes:

• The Lion That Squeaked (10/13/1990) (ep 6)
• The Marvelous Milkmaid of Mechanica (11/10/1990) (ep 10)

With so few episodes to the series, DIC should have just released the whole series in a 2-disc set. Of course, you can just go to YouTube to watch the complete series: U.S. / U.K. (US has the episodes split in two-halves each).