This is the last bastion of glory on Vancouver’s Theatre Row. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, there were a minimum of 20 movie theatres along several blocks of Granville Street. Now, in 2007, there is only one left. It is appropriately named the Granville. It was Cineplex Odeon’s mid-1980’s seven screen showpiece that was built to replace the Coronet Twin and the Odeon. (The latter is now the Plaza nightclub.) It was opened on June 19, 1987.
In 2006 it became a discount theatre. It showed second run films and artsy/obscure fare. It was still a very beautiful theatre and well worth a trip downtown. It closed on November 4, 2012.
For this latest edition in the Intrada Special Collection, Intrada has revisited an earlier Special Collection release — Alan Parker’s score to Jaws 3-D — and remixed and reassembled the entire score for this 2-CD set. Although Jaws 3-D was Alan Parker’s his first feature film assignment, he delivered an exciting and sometimes even romantic score, being the first Jaws score to feature a love theme. It is a rousing mixture of his own original material and the world-famous John Williams theme. Like Williams’ Jaws 2, it frequently takes a high-spirited approach, emphasizing the fun nature of the Sea World setting, with the main title featuring both the shark theme and a rousing motif for the water-skiers. Parker put his own stamp on the film’s shark music:
“While the main motif is exactly the same as John Williams’ [basses and cellos], I did a different horn thing for my own shark theme that would have a slight edge to it. There are two Great Whites here, a mother and a baby. So I wanted the score to differentiate their identities and level of threat. While their motif is the same, the baby has a lighter presence with two horns, woodwinds and strings. And when the mother comes in, she’s scored with six horns and intelthe entire trombone section. It’s music that has more ‘weight.’ It’s the difference between saying that one shark isn’t too bad and then suddenly hitting the audience between the eyes with something bigger and nastier.”
Parker composed and conducted enough music for two pictures. He made numerous rewrites and often recorded two different versions of his cues, recording one version at a given session, then making significant changes that altered not only the timing but the tone and intensity of the cue involved and recording the new version during another session. In the final cut, almost all of Parker’s cues are truncated, with a large portion of them being used in places for which they were not originally intended. For this release Intrada was provided with all the original 1” eight-channel scoring session masters of every cue; the ½” 15 ips Dolby A-encoded three-channel stereo mixes of all of the rewrites, overlays, stingers and other short bits; and the ¼” 15 ips Dolby A-encoded two-track stereo mixes of the source cues—everything that was recorded in London between late April and mid-June of 1983.
The film takes place in a brand new water park, where chief engineer Michael Brody is expecting a visit from his younger brother Sean, who is still terrified of the water after the shark attacks that haunted his childhood. As a series of mysterious deaths and disappearances plagues the park, Brody and his girlfriend, marine biologist Kay Morgan, discover another visitor—a small Great White shark. Kay tries and fails to keep the shark alive in captivity, but soon the cause of the deaths becomes apparent—the shark’s full-size mother, who is stalking the park’s lagoons.
I want you all to take a moment to remember and pay your respects to the one and only Freddie Mercury. The Queen mastermind was many things: an unparalleled showman, an incredible singer, flamboyantly gay, a living legend, and surprisingly shy off stage. Freddie was one of the greatest rock stars of all time, and he gave us so much to enjoy as his legacy.
Now, the younger and/or less experienced of you out there are no doubt wondering why the hell I’m kicking off an RPG review with prattle about a dead musician, no matter how brilliant or talented he may be. Meanwhile, the Ogre fans who’ve been around the block are nodding along in understanding (and appreciation, I hope) – because the Ogre Battle series is, indirectly, part of Freddie’s legacy. I doubt Freddie ever considered that his music would be the inspiration for a young Japanese video game designer, but fate works in mysterious ways. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, like Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen before it, draws its name from quirky Queen song titles, despite the game itself having nothing else in common with the band.
It was over 15 years ago that Tactics Ogre was first released, and back then it was a feisty little upstart in the RPG world; it introduced plenty of revolutionary concepts and put the Tactics RPG on the map, paving the way for future fan favorites like FF Tactics and Disgaea. But a lot of time has passed since then, and Square had their work cut out for them to make the PSP remake seem fresh and not the old granddaddy of the genre.
And they’ve succeeded, for the most part. The story has been updated and given a brand new translation – a far more sophisticated script for a more sophisticated era. In fact, some might even consider it too sophisticated; the dialogue, for all its richness and depth, may come across as verbose to the point of distraction. Don’t get me wrong – this may be the most intricate and lovingly crafted translation I’ve ever seen of a Japanese title – but I fear that gamers who aren’t students of literature may lose interest in the overall story because it’s so damn dense.
The war-torn continent of Valeria has innumerable factions and characters jockeying for power: The Walister, Galgastani, and Bakram are the three social castes fighting for control, all while juggling political alliances, truces, and hostilities with neighbors like Xenobia and the Holy Lodis Empire. If that sounded like a mouthful, it only gets more and more complex when you actually play the game, and you’ll inevitably be overwhelmed at first when bombarded with the many characters who form the major players of all these factions.
So you’d do well to visit the Warren Report often, which is a nice handy reference for keeping track of those said characters and factions. It takes hours just to get acquainted with the Tactics Ogre world, and for some (I’m looking at you, Halo fanboys), that may be too much to ask from a video game before the story really gets rolling. If you’re willing to put in the time, though, very few game universes rival the depth and intrigue of this one.
For now, all you need to know is that Denam, his sister Catiua, and longtime friend Vyce have lost their families to the war, and meet secretly to conspire for their revenge on the enemies responsible and free their native Walisters from Bakram and Galgastani oppression. As you’d no doubt expect, plenty of allies, enemies, treachery, loyalty, victories, and defeat line the long road to justice. If there’s one constant in epic storytelling, it’s the “unexpected” plot twist.
That road, however, doesn’t just have twists and turns – the original Tactics Ogre innovated by throwing forks in there too. The remake of course keeps these branching storylines intact, and it’s as interesting as ever to see where your particular choices land you. Each weighty decision you make will throw Denam and his party in remarkably different situations down the road. Characters may live or die, people may or may not betray you, and some new battles may pop up while others never occur. If you and a friend each play the game, it’s a fun side activity just to ask each other what happened in your respective games – you’d be surprised how differently one playthrough ends up from another.
Luckily, Square made a great addition with the Wheel of Fortune. While this feature won’t win you a new car or a trip to the Bahamas, it does something even better: allow you to change your fate. Certain major events in the story are referred to as “anchor points”, and the Wheel of Fortune gives you the option of turning back time to that point in the game, allowing you to make different choices and see other branches of the story without starting from scratch. Remember how awesome it was when you were a kid to read those “choose your own adventure” books and flip through all the different pages to see the outcomes? That’s sort of like what the Wheel of Fortune does for this game.
The battles on the typical isometric grids are characteristically engaging and can be pretty tough without the proper preparation. It’ll be instantly familiar to a Tactics RPG veteran: move your characters around, taking one action per turn (attacking, healing, using items, activating special abilities that cost TP, etc.) and trying to eliminate the enemy force or often just the leader. A smaller version of the Wheel of Fortune, called the Chariot Tarot, allows you to go back up to 50 turns in battle any time you want to correct your missteps. A purist would refrain from using this feature, and the game keeps track of battles you won using it as opposed to the victories that were legit.
Even the shorter battles in the game are pretty damn long (at least half an hour each, some much more) which makes Tactics Ogre less suited to quick sessions. You’ll sink as much time into organizing your army between battles as you will fighting with them. There’s the usual staggering level of customization involved with a Tactics game – you can change any character’s class and equipment outside of combat, teach them magic spells, or learn new abilities and assign them to the limited number of ability slots. One nice gameplay tweak to this version is that characters don’t have individual levels, only the classes do. So if you leveled a knight up to 10, any character that switched to the knight class would be 10. Conversely, if you never leveled any wizards, switching that same level 10 knight to a wizard would drop his level to 1.
The graphics and presentation are a real mixed bag. Virtually nothing has been done to change the fuzzy sprites and backgrounds of yesteryear, still looking like they belong on a Super Famicom. On the other hand, the detailed character artwork and maps outside of combat are gorgeous, although not in a technically impressive way. The soundtrack was and still is one of Tactics Ogre’s strong points, beating plenty of modern games and their cacophony of loud noises today.
In the end, Tactics Ogre doesn’t change the fact that the Tactics RPG is a niche genre, putting some people off while the fans ravenously eat it up. If you’re into Tactics, this game is definitely one of the best. It takes more than a fair amount of commitment on the player’s part to get absorbed into the intricate, many-layered story and environment, but if you do, you won’t be disappointed.
Now if they would only come out with a sequel to Ogre Battle 64, I could die happy.
A new Showtime docuseries reminds us of just how awful Ronald Reagan was and how his brand of demagogic racism became a model for Trump.
Watching the four-part Showtime docuseries, The Reagans, is an interesting form of leftist self-punishment for all you masochists out there. You may be familiar with most of the Ron and Nancy horror show laid out here in traditional documentary form through lavish photos, clips, and talking-head interviews.
Memories, how they linger — from calling in the National Guard on peaceful student protesters in Berkeley as governor to breaking the Air Traffic Controllers’ strike as president, to forcing disastrous tax cuts, massive military escalation, corporate deregulation, and “trickle-down economics” upon us. There’s even the story about how Reagan got the idea for the delusional and costly “Star Wars” missile defense system from a ray gun he carried in one of his old B movies — it’s all here!
But some of the details that you probably forgot — or maybe never knew — will make you groan aloud in pain that this man was unleashed upon the country at such a pivotal moment. And that his legacy, sadly, is seen everywhere today.
You doubtlessly recall Reagan’s notorious attempt to undermine support for the welfare program while president — the fantasy of black “welfare queens” rolling up in Cadillacs to collect their checks. But have you ever heard Reagan’s racist talk about life in California in the 1960s, such as the city streets that become “jungle paths after dark”? That’s the kind of racist dog whistle Reagan first used to get himself elected governor of California in 1966, defeating beloved two-term progressive Democratic governor Pat Brown.
The material covered in the second hour-long episode of the series, titled “The Right Turn,” is the most important in the series, according to director Matt Tyrnauer in a recent interview with Jacobin. It covers Reagan’s early political career, backed by a powerful consortium of California millionaires who raised the money for his gubernatorial campaign “over lunch,” after Reagan’s turn from a New Deal Democrat to a rigidly conservative Goldwater Republican made him their perfect candidate. This early era of Reagan’s political career is less well known to mainstream America. Thankfully, the docuseries is helping to change that, exposing Reagan’s aggressive use of “institutional racism” to win over white voters frightened of civil rights gains and the newly proposed fair housing laws.
Tyrnauer says that if he’d had to make only a one-hour documentary on the Reagans, instead of the four-hour series commissioned by Showtime, he’d choose this episode for the way it draws a straight line between Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump for those who would deny the connection:
How is it possible that even never-Trump Republicans can still say Ronald Reagan is their hero? He practiced the same kind of demagogic racism [as Trump]!
The refusal to recognize the similarities between Trump and Reagan is characteristic of centrist Democrats as well, who consistently represent Trump as a horrifying anomaly instead of a fairly standard Republican when it comes to policy. As a result of the attitude that Trump is a monster the like of which we’ve never seen before, there’s been a bizarre whitewashing of George W. Bush’s heinous reputation. Now, pre-Trump Republican presidents are suddenly regarded as fine, statesmanlike, “decent men” by comparison.
“I like to quote Gore Vidal, who said ‘We live in the United States of Amnesia,’” as Tyrnauer puts it.
To Tyrnauer’s chagrin, some American film reviewers are failing to connect those dots between Reagan and Trump, however strongly they’re emphasized in the docuseries. The obvious indicators include Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign motto, “Let’s Make American Great Again,” which made an abbreviated reappearance on millions of pro-Trump MAGA hats.
Like Trump, Reagan’s landslide victory in 1980 came as a shock to most liberals. His entire career, as Tyrnauer puts it, seemed to “rise invisibly through the 1960s.” Just as liberals mocked Reagan for being a “middling washed-up ex-actor” in 1980, Trump, too, was dismissed at first as nothing more than a vulgar TV star. The same Dr Anthony Fauci who tried and failed to reason with Trump about the urgency of the COVID-19 epidemic once tried and failed, as a much younger man, to reason with Reagan about the urgency of the AIDS epidemic.
It’s ironic, Tyrnauer says, that the primary complaint about the docuseries is that when it comes to the Reagans, we’ve simply seen it all before: “Because you haven’t.”
In fact, much of the footage in The Reagans has been seen rarely or never. In the crucial second episode, for example, we see Nancy Reagan being interviewed in her new post as First Lady of California. She relentlessly complains on camera about the supposedly unlivable governor’s mansion — complaints she would repeat when she got to the White House and began angling for expensive remodeling of the private rooms. That documentary video was only shown once, and was sufficiently unflattering that Nancy Reagan asked to have it destroyed.
Tyrnauer begins and ends the series with Reagan’s claim, “If you’re not a good actor, you can’t be a good president.” At the start, from behind the scenes, we’re shown Reagan delivering a presidential speech for the cameras, holding a dignified pose and never fluffing a line. This kind of image construction seems very familiar by now, but for Tyrnauer it’s still an urgent issue, because of a tendency in the general public to watch political performances uncritically. “People need to be grabbed by the lapels and shaken: ‘You’re not looking at reality!’”
And indeed, Reagan was notoriously as far from reality as he could get. There was so much filmed evidence of Reagan’s confusion with fantasy role play versus reality that Tyrnauer had to pick and choose among countless examples. As the late Michael Rogin laid out in pitiless detail in Ronald Reagan, the Movie, Reagan consistently confused his reel life with his real life in a way that dangerously determined presidential policy.
It was a syndrome that began early in life, as the docuseries demonstrates, and was shared by Nancy, a fellow actor who was also scarred by an unhappy childhood. Unable to deal with his own precarious youth, with a failed traveling salesman and alcoholic for a father, Reagan cast himself early in the role of hero in a fantasy life he made as real as he possibly could every day.
The closest Reagan could come to grappling with the harshness of his early life was recalling that, at an impossibly young age, he once dragged his dead-drunk father out of the snow, where he would’ve frozen to death, up many steps into the family home. It was like a heroic scene out of a nineteenth-century melodrama about demon rum, and Reagan’s son Ron Jr admitted it could never have happened as described because “I saw the steps.”
Reagan played football, badly, because he felt it was a heroic sport, but then got to play the title role in Knute Rockne – All American and quote “the Gipper’s” lines from it for the rest of his life. Asked by a reporter what his dog’s name was, Reagan answered, “Lassie,” the name of the most famous dog star in Hollywood history. His dog’s name was actually Millie. Perhaps most notoriously, Reagan couldn’t seem to remember that he wasn’t allowed to go into combat in World War II because of his terrible eyesight — a perfectly honorable reason to spend the war “fighting the battle of Culver City” under the command of Jack Warner, making propaganda films for the war effort.
But he couldn’t live with that idea of himself, not when fellow actors like Jimmy Stewart went off to fight and became real war heroes. Instead, Reagan told anecdotes about battles that were actually from war movies he’d starred in and made absurd claims about how much combat had changed him.
During the 1950s, when Reagan became General Electric’s television spokesperson, he and Nancy were given a gadget-packed GE home and filmed in extensive advertisements as idealized Ward and June Cleaver parents raising their perfect children in a perfect house. The reality was quite different in ways they couldn’t hide so easily in the White House, though Ron and Nancy did their best to “stick to the script.” Daughter Patti and son Ron Jr became liberal Democrats and outspoken critics of their parents’ policies.
In this regard, Tyrnauer said that of all the material he might’ve included on Reagan and regretted he didn’t have room for in the series running time,
I’d probably have most liked to include a section about the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Walt Disney, who were highly conscious of one another as figures representing the same values. Reagan carried them from movies into politics while Disney carried them from movies into a mass media empire and experiments in social engineering.
Both men were old-fashioned, rock-ribbed Republicans — pro-business, anti-union, hysterical about the “threat of communism,” desperate to overcome miserable, impoverished working-class childhoods by inventing a society designed around a sanitized fantasy of a white suburban family life that they themselves never experienced. Reagan was even chosen for the emcee team hired to drum up enthusiasm for the opening day of Disneyland in 1955, with its sentimental vision of an America that never existed outside of popular fiction, the first of nearly a dozen such Disney theme parks now spread around the globe.
Though it might seem as if the premiere of The Reagans shortly after the election indicates that Showtime intended it to be received as a commentary on it, Tyrnauer says the initial release was actually scheduled for next year. Instead, “a hole in the schedule created by the pandemic” led to the earlier release. According to Tyrnauer, several of his friends said, “Don’t you wish it had aired two weeks before, so you could persuade people?”
Though persuading people to vote for Joe Biden can hardly be seen as saving us from Reagan’s legacy.
Tyrnauer’s docuseries is a visceral reminder that America has always been — and likely will always be — fertile ground for reactionary showmen like Trump and Reagan. Both were celebrities savvy enough to recognize the gap between the American middle-class dream on TV and the dashed dreams of those same people struggling for their slice of the pie in reality. And once in the White House, both presidents did everything they could to redistribute wealth upward, further enshrining a ruling class deeper in the halls of power even as they made the working man the hero of their political vision.
And with the further retreat of a political left in America, and widening inequality since the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s only a matter of time before the next Gipper takes the stage. God help us all.
Two years after the US-backed Maidan revolution, Ukraine is worse off than it was before – the country is sliding into poverty, Germany’s daily newspaper Junge Welt reported, describing the life of ordinary Ukrainians as “staggering.”
“Since the end of the Yanukovych era, the average income has decreased by 50 percent,” the media outlet noted.
In addition, consumers in Ukraine have lost half of their purchasing power. Inflation reached 25 percent in 2014 and spiked to 44 percent last year, according to the data released by Ukraine’s Central Bank in late December.
Last October, the World Bank updated its forecast for Ukraine, saying that the country’s GDP was expected to contract by 12 percent in 2015, instead of a projected 7.5 percent decline.
The average pension in Ukraine is 80 euros, Junge Welt noted. Those pensioners, who continued to work, received 15 percent less last year. It is not surprising then that in these conditions “more and more” Ukrainians rely on food grown in dacha gardens, which belong to them or their relatives.
Ukraine’s dire economic state has had a negative impact on the president’s popularity. Earlier this month, Ukrainian TV Channel Novin 24 reported that approximately 17 percent of respondents supported Petro Poroshenko. This makes the current Ukrainian president less popular than his predecessor Viktor Yanukovych was shortly before the February 2014 coup.
Ukraine could well face complete economic failure. Its economy has been plagued by corruption, inefficient reforms and civil war. Billions of dollars in foreign financial assistance have also been unable to help it recover.
Ukrainian leadership blames the country’s poor economic state primarily on the ongoing civil war, but Western investors, according to the newspaper, see these claims as an excuse. “What matters is that Kiev authorities have done little or nothing to prevent corruption and insider trading,” Junge Welt noted.