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Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Wizard

I'm really excited to bring you another edition of Saturday Night at the Movies, because for the next ten...count 'em...ten weeks, I'll be selecting films that I located from a really awesome discovery that I found at my workplace the other day.  It's definitely one of the coolest discoveries that I found in my department for quite some time, and I just want to tell you all about it before I go ahead with today's choice.

So, I don't know if I mentioned this in the blog, but over the last few days, the electronics department at my store (also known as the department where I've been based for the last year) underwent a massive transformation.  Everything in the department moved around in an effort to accommodate new products.  As well, due to the increased popularity of mp3 players and iPods, our music section shrank considerably.  The renovation kicked off on July 9, and since that day, I've heard lots of comments from customers about it.  Below are just a few...

@#$%!!  $#%&!!!"

(Notice that there is only one positive comment listed?)

I'd just like to explain that the renovation of the department is not something that we have any control over.  We set it up the way that we are told.  I wish we had more input over how things are presented, but we don't get the chance to let those feelings know. 

That said, I want to look at the bright side of things.  There's a lot more new products available for purchasing.  The way the department is designed makes the department a lot easier for us to manage, and I think that in the long run, it will be more accepted.  At least, I can only hope that this is the case.

The one thing that I particularly like is the fact that our newly revamped movie section seems to have a lot more choices available - or at least it will when the modulars are finalized and the stock starts coming into the building.  And, I'll admit that some of the titles that we're getting have piqued my interest.  Have a look at this one, for instance.

Normally whenever we have multi-feature movies in which we have more than five films in one case, it means one of two things.  It means that the movies are ones that nobody has ever heard of, much less seen, or the entire package is available for a low, low price of $119.97.

Plus tax.

Not this one though!  You see all the movies listed on there?  Nine out of ten of them I know right off the bat.  They might not be considered Oscar worthy pictures, but as someone who was a kid when the vast majority of these were released, this collection was like a piece of my childhood all wrapped up in a brilliant light blue DVD case.

And the price?  Five bucks!  Fifty cents a movie.  You can't beat that price!

So, as I said, for the next ten weeks of this blog, I'm going to watch one of these films per week, and I'll be talking about it right here in this blog.  Let's's July 26th right now, so this will wrap up...on September 27th if I did my math correctly.

So, what movie will I be looking at first.  There's so many to choose from.  I know!  I'll choose the movie that I remember seeing first of all the ones listed here.

And that movie would be "The Wizard", which starred Fred Savage, Luke Edwards, Jenny Lewis, Christian Slater, and Beau Bridges.

Oh, and it was a movie that also contained the sneak peak of what would be considered one of the biggest-selling video games of all time.  But more on that later.

Though the movie was considered a critical flop when it was released ten days before Christmas 1989 - critics felt that the hour and a half long movie was nothing more than an exercise in product placement courtesy of Nintendo - this film will always have a very special place in my heart.  Admittedly, I thought Fred Savage did a great job in this movie (though admittedly I also liked him in "The Wonder Years", so he had that going for him).  And as someone who was just getting into video games right around the time that this movie was released, this movie was like locking me inside of a candy and chocolate store overnight without any supervision.  It was just that awesome.

And, hey...even at thirty-three years of age, I still love it.  So sue me.

Anyway, the reason behind all of the video game references is due to the climax of the film.  The film depicts the adventures of three kids who decide to enter a video game playing competition where the top prize is fifty thousand dollars (still a nice chunk of change by 2014 standards), and the final game that the players played was a then unknown in the U.S.A. title called "Super Mario Brothers 3".

Considering that Super Mario Brothers 3 didn't hit store shelves until February 12, 1990, the movie was the only way that people could get a glimpse of what the game would look like.  Henceforth, the reason why the movie made double its six million dollar budget was partly because of curious gamers scoping out the game footage.  Because as we all well know, there was no YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or even GameFAQs in 1989.

Of course, that's the end of the movie.  And, that's all I will be sharing about the movie's ending.  But I don't mind talking about the beginning of the movie - which details how the three kids met each other, as well as the tumultuous back stories of all of the characters in the film.

The first kid we meet is Jimmy Woods (Edwards).  He is a little boy with a very tough life.  His sister Jennifer drowned in the Green River a couple of years prior to the beginning of the film, and Jimmy was so traumatized by the event that he developed a mental disorder.  He doesn't interact with anybody else or will hardly even speak a word to anyone around.  He is also obsessed with carrying around a lunchbox.  What's inside the lunchbox?  I think I'll hold off on that for a little while.

There's something else that Jimmy keeps doing.  Once in a while, he'll say the word California.  This becomes quite significant.

In the meantime, the death of Jimmy's sister caused a whole lot of turmoil for Jimmy's family.  The marriage between Jimmy's parents fell apart, and the whole family spilt up.  Jimmy lives with his mother and stepfather, and his two brothers Corey (Savage) and Nick (Slater) live with their father (Bridges).

Jimmy's mother and step-father make the decision to put Jimmy in an institution without any thought over what the rest of the family would think, and this makes Corey very angry.  Corey isn't sure what will bring Jimmy around, but he knew that locking him up wasn't the way to go.  So, Corey decides to bust Jimmy out of the institution and find a way to bring him to California, thinking that it would be the one thing that would bring Jimmy back.

Of course, with Corey and Jimmy let loose in the middle of the country, both Sam and Nick, and a child bounty hunter that Jimmy's mother hired to bring back only Jimmy.  Yeah, no wonder Jimmy is so screwed up.  Having your entire family not on the same page would make anyone fall apart.

On the way to California, the two boys meet up with a girl named Haley (Lewis), and it is here that Haley discovers Jimmy's talent with video games.  She's the one who gives him the nickname of "The Wizard", and she also informs them of the "Video Armageddon" tournament which is held in Los Angeles at Universal Studios.  The three decide to team up to win the competition and split the prize money three ways - Haley, so she can use the money to help pay for a new house for her family, and the two boys, who want to prove that Jimmy doesn't need to be institutionalized.

And, that's all I'll tell you about the movie plot.  I don't want to give too much away.

But I can share with you some behind the scenes trivia about this film.  Have a look!

1 - Super Mario Brothers 3 wasn't the only video game featured in this movie.  As many as sixteen different video games were shown, including "Contra", "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", "Zelda II:  The Adventures of Link", "Mega Man II", "Ninja Gaiden", and "Double Dragon".

2 - The movie also utilized the Nintendo PlayChoice-10 - a special arcade game that would let you play NES games on an arcade cabinet - for a limited time depending on how many quarters you inserted inside of the game.

3 - This movie features one of the first appearances that Tobey Maguire made in a film.  Look for a kid with a mullet at the Video Armageddon scenes after the finalists are announced.

4 - Some of the translations for the movie's title in other languages are quite interesting.  Have a look;

Germany - Joy Stick Heroes
Finland - Game Over (what a depressing title!)
Spain - The Little Wizard
Japan - Sweet Road
French Canada - The Child Genius
France - Videokid

5 - Although this isn't really a piece of trivia related to the movie, I have to share the story anyway.  There is a scene in which the three kids hustle a group of teenagers in which they challenge them to a dual.  That actually happened to me when I was nine years old.  The corner store which was a block from my house had a Bubble Bobble game, which was the most popular game in the place.  I really wanted to play it, but a group of high school kids tried to boot me off of the game so they could play.  So, I challenged them to beat my score.  If they did, they could play.  If not, I remained in control.

Needless to say, there were some sad looking teenagers at the Michael Jackson's Moonwalker game that day.  

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