Britney Spears - Greatest Hits: My Prerogative DVD Review


This review was originally written on May 4, 2005
Great Idea Ruined By Poor Menu Design & Non-Standard Bonuses

It's great to finally have all of Britney's videos on one DVD. One video is different from a previously released version. "I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman" contains different film clips and some different shots than the version on the "Crossroads" DVD. This means that there are, at least, two different versions of this music video. Also the movie clips on this disc's version are squeezed (they were not anamorphically unsqueezed).

Some have complained about not having a 5.1 audio track. Since most (if not all) of the videos were originally created with a stereo audio track, I'm quite happy with what is on the DVD. Better they leave well enough alone, then use the studio recordings of the songs to make a 5.1 mix, and thus ruin the videos by leaving out sound effects and the such (like Sony did on the Billy Joel: The Essential Video Collection DVD).

However, that's not to say that they didn't mess up this DVD in other areas. The menu design has got to be the worst I have ever seen on any DVD. It's very confusing and hard to navigate. No explanation is ever given as to what the key, dice, and clock icons do. Key gives you a rather unhelpful menu explanation, and dice and clock give you a random video (as far as I can tell). Moving the highlight around is more of a chore than it needs to be. You press Up, only to be taken to the left. You press Left, only to be taken up. It's very illogical. To make matters worse, if you linger for more than a few seconds on any menu screen, it changes to another screen, thus losing you your place.

Who's idea was it to present all of the videos in reverse chronological order instead of forward chronological order? I'd rather see the evolution of Britney instead of the devolution. Would it have been that difficult to present an option to view them in either order?

The enhanced "alternate" videos are a great idea in theory, but they would have worked better as standard bonus features. Some can be confusing with prompts placed way too late (prompts are supposed to tell you to switch angles or audio tracks or to press Enter on your remote) and no clear indication of what the "enhanced features" of each video are (sometimes you're left wondering what the heck it is you're watching). The only one, to me, that truly works is "My Prerogative" (the camcorder clips), though that's dampened by the advertising of Sony's Cyber-Shot camera (including branding the website address on the screen).

In case you need more information before you buy, here's a list of what the "alternate" videos contain.

My Prerogative
* ENTER when prompted on film to view it.
* ENTER, LEFT, RIGHT on camcorder to view clips. DOWN to go back to video.

* NON-INTERACTIVE - Unused footage, dance sequence.

* ANGLE 1 - Regular video, ENTER when prompted on paparazzi
* ANGLE 2 - Britney sings to camera

[video is of Britney clad only is jewels with lyrics places over her "bare" breasts]
* AUDIO 1 - Instrumental
* AUDIO 2 - Regular Song

I'm A Slave 4 U
[ignore all ENTER prompts as they just switch angles or audio]
* AUDIO 1 - Acapella (vocals only)
* AUDIO 2 - Regular Song
* ANGLE 1 - Britney close-up in front of green screen.
* ANGLE 2 - Regular video, then one long uncut master shot.
* ANGLE 3 - Regular video with one clapboard shot.

Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know
* NON-INTERACTIVE - Outtakes from this and other videos edited together, instrumental audio.

* NON-INTERACTIVE - Outtakes plus one home video clip, instrumental audio with occassional vocals.

* Oops!...I Did It Again
NON-INTERACTIVE - One long uncut master shot.

(You Drive Me) Crazy
* NON-INTERACTIVE - Double video and audio, left video plays in left audio channel, right video plays in right audio channel, plus outtakes.

...Baby One More Time
[ignore ENTER-UNCUT prompt too]
* ANGLE 1 - Regular Video (with some outtakes?)
* ANGLE 2 - Uncut Master Shots, ENTER-ONE MORE TIME prompt takes you to the hallway uncut master shot.

There are two hidden features (easter eggs) in the "alternate" videos, which I personally found.

-- My Prerogative (Alternate Version): After you press ENTER at the film projector prompt to see the film footage, press ENTER again *while* viewing the film footage to see black & white footage of Britney singing the song while rolling around in the bed (Title 59). There is no ENTER prompt on screen during the film footage, so this singing in bed footage is hidden.

-- Oops!...I Did It Again (Alternate Version): Press ENTER at the start of the video to go to outtakes from the video (Title 88 & 89). There is no ENTER prompt on screen, so the Outtakes are hidden. (There is an Enter prompt on the Outtakes which takes you back to the alternate version.

All of the videos, both regular and alternate, have fantastic video and audio quality, as you would expect from DVD. I did notice that the "Baby One More Time" audio is a bit lower than all the others. I also noticed two defects, which appear in several different DVD players.

-- Me Against The Music (Title 7 & 26) - At 3:16 as Madonna is on the swing singing "Just work your body and let it go," there is one frame of a man within the shot. This frame is a still from the "From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart" video (Title 18 & 37 at 4:02).

-- Crazy (Title 20 & 39) - At 3:10 is a minor freeze or jitter as Britney puts her hand on her head on the lyric "But it feels alright."

Finally, the 160 minutes run time listed on back seems incorrect. Even with all of the bonus features, I don't think it totals 2 hrs 40 mins. I'm very glad to have all of Britney's videos on one DVD, I just wish they did a better job overall.

To My Friends Fathers, Rest In Peace

This has been a very bad week for two of my closest friends as both of their fathers passed away. Jaclyn Anthony lost her father, James Simon, on Sunday March 13th. Doreen Mulman lost her father, Herman Mulman, on Friday March 18th.

My prayers and condolences go out to Jaclyn, Doreen, and their families.

James Joseph Simon
January 13, 1944 - March 13, 2005

Herman Morris Mulman
June 10, 1917 - March 18, 2005

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


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 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.


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.)



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.


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).


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.


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.


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 ...


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.


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.


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

The Hitchhiker Canadian First Season DVD Review


This review was originally written on December 17, 2004
Sets A World Record For Amount Of Compression Artifacts

I have a lot to tell you in this review. Let's start briefly with why I bought this set, which was only released in Canada. I own one of the Hitchhiker VHS tapes, but two of the three episodes are missing the beginning credits. I wanted the complete episodes, especially on DVD. I live in the United States, but the DVD released here (titled "The Hitchhiker Vol. 1") only contains 10 episodes, only one of which was on the videotape. This Canada-only "Season 1" set contains the first 26 episodes of the series, although in a different order from how they were released in the United States (it's the first three seasons here).

I have no problem with the episodes being in a different order, what I *DO* have a problem with is the ungodly amount of compression artifacts found in the set. Practically EVERY episode has at least one noticable artifact (though admittedly a few of these you'd have to have an "eye" for in order to see them).

Here is a list of the episodes in this set, in the order presented on the DVDs, with the time markings of the compression artifacts listed in brackets after the episode title.

01. When Morning Comes [5:24/8:11/11:26/12:08]
02. Shattered Vows [18:39/19:09]
03. Split Decision [21:58]
04. Remembering Melody [NONE]
05. Face To Face [NONE]
06. And If We Dream [26:26(slight)/26:28(slight)/29:30(slight)]
07. Petty Thieves [NONE]
08. Hired Help [1:09(slight)/21:05(slight)]
09. Man At The Window [NONE]

10. Murderous Feelings [NONE]
11. Videodate [27:42(slight)]
12. A Time For Rifles [NONE]
13. Lovesounds [11:10]
14. Last Scene [16:35]
15. One Last Prayer [1:14(slight)/1:17(slight)/8:45]
16. Ghostwriter [4:27]
17. Dead Man's Curve [2:34/22:19/23:17/23:33]
18. True Believer [25:16]

19. Man Of Her Dreams [NONE]
20. O.D. Feelin' [17:33]
21. Man's Best Friend [NONE]
22. The Curse [NONE]
23. Nightshift [NONE]
24. W.G.O.D. [NONE]
25. Killer [15:59/23:29/23:43]
26. Out Of The Night [1:51/2:05-2:08/5:28/20:33]

Now I'll list everything else that's wrong with this set.

* It comes in a cheap top/bottom load slipsleeve (the cases easily fall out when you take it off the shelf). I wish it was a side loader like mosts dvd-set sleeves.

* The seems like the version of "Split Decision" included is from an edited syndicated print as there are fade ins and fade outs (for commercial placement) that aren't seen in any other episodes. It's also clearly edited at 18:52 and at 18:54 - if you frame advance during the fade out you can briefly see another shot.

* In "Last Scene" there's an original tape defect at 28:35.

* In "True Believer" the picture jumps very slightly from 3:03 to 3:34.

* In "Man's Best Friend" there is no audio from 12:42-12:46. The original Lorimar video I have has the audio. The DVD cuts out music and the dog panting and the first part of Michael O'Keefe's dialogue ("I mean...").

* There are several errors on the packaging text:

-- Most of the episode descriptions on the back of the cases give away the surprise endings.

-- The back of the sleeve mentions the following actors who are not in any of the episodes on the discs: Robbie Benson (was in "Tourist Trap" 1990), Louise Fletcher (was in "Offspring" 1991), Elliott Gould (was in "A Whole New You" 1991), Lisa Hartman (was in "Her Finest Hour" 1989), C. Thomas Howell (was in "White Slaves" 1990), Lauren Hutton (was in "Riding The Nightmare" 1990), Nick Mancuso (was in "Fading Away" 1990), Michael Ontkean (was in "Square Deal" 1989), and Alan Thicke (was in "Tough Guys Don't Whine" 1990).

-- The back of the sleeve mentions director Gerard Ciccoritti (aka Jerry Ciccoritti), but he did not direct any of the episodes on the discs (he directed "Power Play" 1989).

-- For episode 3 (Split Decision) it says "retail" when it should be "real."

-- For episode 9 (Man At The Window) it says the female lover's name is Catherine when it's really Carla (as listed in the end credits of the episode itself).

-- For episode 11 (Videodate) in the first sentence is says Gregg Henry's character is named Jack Rhodes, but in the last sentence it says his name is Jeff.

Now let me list the neutral and good points of this set.

* This DVD set includes the original Nicholas Campbell (as The Hitchhiker) version of "Split Decision" (ep 3), but the Page Fletcher versions of "When Morning Comes" (ep 1) and "Shattered Vows" (ep 2).

* For those purists in the USA, I should let you know that the Alliance Atlantis logo was tacked on to the end of all episodes. However, it appears AFTER the "Markowitz/Chesler Producing" logo and "This Has Been An HBO Presentation" screens, so all of the original content is present.

* Each episode has a 2.0 (stereo) and 5.1 audio track. I really see no need for the 5.1 track and would have preferred that they left it off (maybe there wouldn't be so many damn compression artifacts if they had that extra space on the discs to work with).

* There are no bonus features like in the U.S. "Volume 1" release (audio commentaries on selected eps).

* This set gives you more episodes for less money than the U.S. "Volume 1" set. For the record, there are only five episodes (from Seasons 4 & 5) on the U.S. set that aren't on here: Why Are You Here?, Homebodies, The Legendary Billy B., In the Name of Love, and The Miracle of Alice Ames.

PNY Attache 64MB USB 1.1 Flash Drive Review


This review was originally written on December 4, 2004
The Perfect Companion For The CodeBreaker

The PNY Attaché 64MB USB 1.1 Flash Drive (Mfr#P-FD064U11-RF) is the only drive that I have successfully gotten to work with the CodeBreaker v8.0 cheat device for the PlayStation 2 (buy version 9.3 here). I plug it into my PC, download code and game save files from the internet onto the drive, remove it from my PC (after going through Window's "Unplug or Eject hardware" routine, of course), plug it into one of my PS2's USB slots, boot up the CodeBreaker CD, and transfer the files from the drive to my PS2 memory card. Of course it works the other way around too (so I can transfer my game saves from my PS2 memory card to my PC). As a bonus, I can also use it to transfer files from my PC to someone elses. A very reliable little device.

I can also personally confirm that the Memorex Thumb/Travel Drive (Mfr#32507712) (128 MB) does NOT work. Feel free to check out the official list of (supposedly) Compatible USB Pen Drives:
Compatible USB Pen Drives by Neo (last updated: 7/26/2005)

Here's a list of compatible USB drives:

* Lexar Jumpdrive - $20-$40 @
* PNY Attache - $20 for 128mb @
* Sandisk Cruzer Micro - No information yet
* Memorex - $20 for 128mb (unconfirmed price)
* The PSP - Compatible as a gamesave/code save storage device.
* iLo MP3 Player - $65 (average) for 256mb storage. Verified it myself.
* Dell USB Pen Drives - $30 for 128mb

Below is a list of incompatible storage devices:

* Sandisk Cruzer Mini
* MaxDrive (ARMax) - Supposedly it works, however completely unauthorized and unsupported by CMGSCCC. Do not use.

When purchasing a USB drive, remember that unless you plan on other uses for your pen drive, you won't need one larger than 64mb (that's the size of 8 PS2 memory cards). That kind of storage is more than you will ever need for your PS2.
2017 UPDATE - Okay, this is an item that no one reading this today will be interested in buying. USB 2.0 is commonplace, much less USB 3.0, so a USB 1.1 device isn't going to be of interest to anyone anymore. On top of that, 64 Megabytes is a drop in the bucket compared to the GIGABYTES of space afforded by today's USB devices. Remember, 1 GB = 1,024 MB, so all of my 4GB devices are each 63 times larger than this one drive, while occupying roughly the same physical space. I won't even bother to calculate the increase in capacity I get from my 8 GB and 128 GB devices. That said, I still have this 64 MB device, but only use it exclusively with the Codebreaker cheat device in my PlayStation 2 video game console, just as I suggested in this "mini review".

Codebreaker, which ceased development about 10 years ago, was always finicky with the USB devices it would read files from. It may not read from today's faster and larger capacity devices, so this old PNY Attache 64 MB drive may be something to seek out if you're a retro PS2 gamer who wants to cheat/have fun with your games. If you're tracking down an old copy of Codebreaker, you will also need to ask questions of Amazon and eBay sellers to find out which version they are selling. Version 10 was the last one produced, but you'll be good with versions 8 or 9, too. I have v8.0 and it works great to this day. Version 7 could be useable, but I heard that it has issues, and don't bother with any earlier versions. As a general rule, go with v8, v9, or v10.

Alvin And The Chipmunks - Here's Looking at Me! Audio CD Review


This review was originally written on October 10, 2004
Too Bad Some Of These Are Not The Original Recordings

First, here's the track listing for the Alvin And The Chipmunks - Here's Looking at Me! audio CD.

1. 1:02 We're The Chipmunks ("Alvin & The Chipmunks" Theme)
2. 2:22 Witch Doctor
3. 3:16 Girls Just Wanna Have Fun -- with The Chipettes
4. 3:31 Let's Go
5. 3:11 Uptown Girl
6. 3:22 Beat It
7. 2:21 Wooly Bully
8. 3:08 Leader Of The Pack
9. 2:21 The Chipmunk Song
10. 3:20 Express Yourself -- with The Chipettes
11. 2:34 On The Road Again
12. 2:16 Achy Breaky Heart
(total time - 32:44)

This is a great collection of songs. It's just too bad that it's ruined because, although not stated on the album, some of these songs were re-recorded. They just don't sound as good as the original recordings.

Lilo & Stitch's Island of Adventures DVD Game Review


This review was originally written on September 28, 2004
Two "Lilo & Stitch: The Series" Episodes & A Board Game

The Lilo & Stitch's Island of Adventures DVD/Board Game is interesting, but even playing it with my family, I found parts of it to be rather embarrassing. If you don't have a problem getting up in front of people and doing goofy things, then this probably won't be much of a problem for you.


The two "full-length Lilo & Stitch adventures" advertised are really two complete episodes of Lilo & Stitch: The Series: "Mr. Stenchy" and "Clip". Since the series is not otherwise available on DVD, if you're a big fan, you may want to buy this game just for them. Of course, it's rather expensive for just two 23 minute episodes.


The Wizard of Oz (1990) Cartoon & DVD Review


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!


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.


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.


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).

The Hitchhiker Vol. 1-4 VHS Review


This review was originally written on August 15, 2004
Episode Titles, Descriptions, Casts, and Notes

The Hitchhiker was a Twilight Zone-esque show that aired on HBO in the early 1980s. It was somewhat of a precursor to HBO's later Tales from the Crypt series. Four volumes of episodes were released on VHS back in the 1980s by Lorimar Home Video. Each tape contains three episodes, the first of which is complete, while the other two are missing the beginning title sequence. All episodes end after the "Markowitz/Chesler Producing" logo (the "This Has Been An HBO Presentation" screen is omitted). Each tape was duplicated in the SP speed. An interesting bit of trivia: the tapes in this series originally sold for a suggested retail price of $39.95 (according to the commercial on the Vol. 4 tape).

I will be taking a quick look at all of them, starting with The Hitchhiker Vol. 1 VHS, which includes the following three episodes:

• "The Curse" - Jerry Maclachlan is the owner of a rundown apartment building who promises Serita, a tenant, that he will make repairs to the building. After he becomes involved with a strange woman Tanya, he discovers a snake tattoo on his body. Both Serita and Tanya tell him how to get rid of the snake. Stars: Harry Hamlin, Peter Yunker, Daryl Hayes, Janet Hodgkinson, Arnold Johnson, Deborah Lacey, Laurie O'Byrne, and Beah Richards.

• "W.G.O.D" - Reverend Nolan Powers is a money hungry radio evangelist preaching on the air waves about the bible. 0ff the air, he's a self-righteous greedy man. A tabloid news reporter, Sato, digs up the story about how the Reverend killed his brother, Gerald. Gerald's ghost comes back to haunt the Reverend, ruin his career and pay him back for causing his death. Stars: Gary Busey, Robert Ito, Geraldine Page, Brioni Farrell, and Ian Forsyth.

• "Hired Help" - Kay Mason, abusive owner of a dressmaking sweatshop, is cursed by an angry worker who exclaims that she will be paid back by the devil for her actions. When she hires a mysterious stranger to do some odd jobs around the house, she doesn't realize he's the devil in disguise. Stars: Karen Black, Fernando Allende, and Donnelly Rhodes.


The Hitchhiker Vol. 2 VHS includes the following three episodes:

• "Dead Man's Curve" - Claudia now a famous novelist, returns home for her high school reunion and opens old wounds in Lee, the sheriff. Claudia finds out that Lance, her town-appointed escort, is really the son of a former high school boyfriend who blames her for his father's death. Fighting over her, Lance and Lee replay the fateful event that killed Lance's father. Stars: Susan Anspach, Michael Ironside, and Michael Schoeffling.

• "Nightshift" - Jane Reynolds is a nurse at a retirement home where she steals the resident's valuables, which her boyfriend Johnny hocks. The couple get an unpleasant surprise when her newest victim is an old man who is much more than he seems. Stars: Darren McGavin, Margot Kidder, and Stephen McHattie.

• "Last Scene" - Alex, a former actor, tries to prove his abilities as a first-time director. In his first film he must deal with a first-time actress, Leda Bidell. Off the set Leda is being terrorized by the fictional killer from the movie, and when she finds out who it is, she enacts the last scene with him in reality and instills in him a fear that haunts him for the rest of his life. Stars: Peter Coyote, LaGena Hart, Tom Heaton, and Garwin Sanford. Directed by Paul Verhoeven.


The Hitchhiker Vol. 3 VHS includes the following three episodes.

• "Ghostwriter" - Jeffrey Hunt will resort to anything to create a lucrative career as a novelist, even if it means faking his own death. His wife Debby believes he is dead and continues her affair with Tony, Jeffrey's editor. By the end, everyone must pay for their own deceptions. Stars: Barry Bostwick, Willem Dafoe, M. Emmet Walsh, Dayle Haddon, Anthony Holland, and Madeleine Sherwood.

• "True Believer" - A non-believer in the supernatural, Detective Frank Sheen must investigate a priest's suspicious suicide. Upon questioning Father Dowling he learns that the convent is demonically possessed and closed down years before when Sister Theresa committed suicide. After one night in the place, he soon begins having his own suicidal feelings. Stars: Tom Skerritt, Ornella Muti, and Walter Learning.

• "And If We Dream" - Roseanne Lucas develops a mad and obsessive crush on her married high school photography teacher Todd Fields. Todd finds more than he bargained for when he steps over the line and sleeps with her. Stars: Stephen Collins, Roberta Weiss, Brian Dooley, Nicholas Kilbertus, Bronwen Mantel, and Mitch Martin.


The Hitchhiker Vol. 4 VHS includes the following three episodes.

• "Videodate" - Jack Rhodes is a salesman that attempts to wear many disguises to get what he wants - women. One day, he gets a video letter from a mysterious woman who challenges him to meet her. She plays him like a fiddle and takes advantage of him. Now the tables are turned and Jeff can't escape, not even with his life. Stars: Shannon Tweed, Gregg Henry, Pauline Little, Michael Rudder, and Linda Smith.

• "Face To Face" - Dr. Christopher Hamilton, an ambitious and pompous plastic surgeon, meets his challenge in Nina Russell, a patient in the process of a gender change. He completely botches up the procedure when he shows up to the surgery unprepared. Stars: Robert Vaughn, Sonja Smits, Sybil Danning, Michele Scarabelli, Robin Greer, and Arthur Corber.

• "Man's Best Friend" - Richard Shepard is kicked out of his house by his wife Eleanor. He takes in a stray dog that begins killing off his enemies. When the dog goes for Eleanor, Richard tries to keep the dog from killing the woman he loves. Stars: Jennifer Cooke, Michael O'Keefe, Boyd Norman, Margot Pinvidic, and Joel Polis.

Weird Al Yankovic - The Ultimate Video Collection DVD Review


This review was originally written on July 4, 2004
How Could They Screw Up Something So Simple?

It shouldn't pose much of a problem to put together a DVD containing a collection of music videos. So how come the makers of the Weird Al Yankovic: The Ultimate Video Collection DVD got so much wrong?

1. The videos are not in chronological order. That right there is a major no-no.

2. There is a layer change-type pause inbetween EVERY video (I think they put each video on it's on Title and my player has to pause in order to retrieve the video). Because of this, some of the extreme end of the audio for each video gets cut off.

3. There are some compression artifacts, such as at the very end fade outs of "I Lost On Jeopardy" and "The Saga Begins", and after the movie clip montage in "UHF". Considering the total length of the videos is 86 minutes (plus another 10-15 minutes for the bonus features), there should not have been a need for very much compression, so there should be no artifacts at all.

It should also be noted that the Spy Hard video has two titles: "Spy Hard" and "Opening Title Sequence by 'Weird Al' Yankovic." The one on his previous DVD release ("Weird Al Yankovic: The Videos") has no titles at all. Of course, in the film "Spy Hard" all of the titles are present. This means that there are now three different versions of this video.