Tag Archives: secular students week

BibleMan: Breaking the Bonds of Disobedience

BibleMan: Breaking the Bonds of Disobedience

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Today, I’m continuing my week-long marathon of the Bibleman franchise as part of Secular Students Week. If you make a donation to the Secular Student Alliance this week, and I’ll cover a movie of your choice.

“Breaking the Bonds of Disobedience” was released in January of 2001, and is the sixth entry into “The Bibleman Adventure,” which is the second incarnation of the franchise.

“Breaking the Bonds of Disobedience” was directed, produced, and co-written by Bibleman himself, Willie Aames. His co-writer was once again Marion Wells, who also helped pen “Shattering the Prince of Pride” and “The Fiendish Works of Dr. Fear.”

The villain for this episode is Luxor Spawndroth, who is played by Brian Lemmons for his sixth straight lead villain role. L.U.C.I., the evil computer, and Ludicrous, his henchman, appear as well, but the latter is this time dramatically re-cast.

Bibleman’s allies for “Breaking the Bonds of Disobedience” include Cypher, the supercomputer U.N.I.C.E., and the introduction of the first Biblegirl as a secondary sidekick.

The story of “Breaking the Bonds of Disobedience” centers on a play based on Bibleman, which the team is frantically trying to plan and execute. However, this cuts into their praying time, and leaves them susceptible to a new engineered rebellion disease created by the villain Luxon Spawndroth. Bibleman and company have to resist the disease, find a cure, pull off the play, and finally defeat Luxor before he can spread the disease any further.

The episode kicks off with a dayglo laser nightmare, which is apparently a rehearsal for a Bibleman musical about temptation, that would ironically require a significant intake of drugs to sit through.

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One of the key assumptions of the episode’s plot is that rebellion can be caused by an infection or disease, which strikes me as more than a little silly. I think it plays into the idea that children only rebel because of some outside influence, rather than being just a natural part of growing up, and the folks behind Bibleman are clearly terrified of the thought of children growing into rebellious teens. In any case, the plot pretty blatantly involves biological warfare, even if it is nonsense and fictitious. That’s not particularly anything new for a show that has featured mind control drugs and hypnotism, but biological warfare is still pretty dark for for a children’s show.

“Breaking the Bonds of Disobedience” features an updated introduction song and title sequence, which works with the increasing pseudo-technological aesthetic of the show. Personally, I find this particular version of the song incredibly grating, and almost makes me miss the old theme to “The Bibleman Show.”

The title of this episode, “Breaking the Bonds of Disobedience,” strikes me as a tad bit ridiculous. When I think of disobedience, the first thing I think of is not bonds. Speaking of which, why not use the word ‘rebellion’ in the title? That is what the story is really about when it comes down to it, and it just seems like a more apt and obvious word than ‘disobedience.’

This is the first episode where I have spotted a “BibleMan” branded bible on set, which is something that I have always found kind of hilarious. For a show that has an entire episode dedicated to the folly of pride and how God should have more glory than any individual, that’s a gutsy move.

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One of my favorite parts of this episode occurs after Bibleman has been infected with the disease of rebelliousness. For some reason, the only effect it seems to have is to make him ornery and forgetful of his bible verses. A young girl walks up to him, and asks him if cheating on homework is bad, and he literally cannot answer because he can’t remember his scripture. That is a level of inept that is hard for me to even fathom: to have your moral code so tied to a book that without it, you can’t even perform basic though processes. If that is the case, why don’t the bad guys just mess with his memory? Theoretically, if he can’t remember passages from the bible, he’ll be off the rails snorting cocaine and murdering passers-by with his laser sword in no time.

In keeping with truest and most time-honored of Bibleman traditions, the villains of the episode once again die miserably. This time, U.N.I.C.E. causes L.U.C.I.’s remote drone to explode, which somehow causes a chain reaction that results in Luxor and Ludicrous shattering into of pieces in the midst of a fireball. Not too shabby as far as villain deaths go.

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For some reason, I kind of love this episode. I think it is mostly because of the dayglo stage production and Bibleman’s utter helplessness and unhinged fury throughout the story, but I also kind of like the new version of Ludacris. There is also a segment where Luxor fools Bibleman with what I am pretty sure is a shitty Dr. Phil impression that slowly turns into Forrest Gump, which is just amazing to watch. This one is a solid and hardy recommendation from me: it is just the right amount of nonsense that makes for an enjoyable Bibleman experience.

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BibleMan: Shattering the Prince of Pride

BibleMan: Shattering the Prince of Pride

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Today, I’m continuing my week-long marathon of the Bibleman franchise as part of Secular Students Week. If you make a donation to the Secular Student Alliance this week, and I’ll cover a movie of your choice.

“Shattering the Prince of Pride” is the fifth entry into “The Bibleman Adventure,” which is the second incarnation of the franchise.

“Shattering the Prince of Pride” was co-written, directed, and produced by Willie Aames, who once again stars as Bibleman. The other credited writer was Marion Rose Wells, who also wrote the Bibleman episode “The Fiendish Works of Dr. Fear.”

The villain of “Shattering the Prince of Pride” is, of course, the eponymous Prince of Pride, who is played by Brian Lemmons, who appears as the primary villain in his fifth-straight Bibleman episode here. He is once again joined by his henchman, Ludicrous, and the evil computer, L.U.C.I..

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Bibleman is once again joined by his trusty computer U.N.I.C.E., as well as his sidekick, Cypher. However, in this episode, they are at each other’s throats more than usual, which is explained over the course of the story.

The plot of “Shattering the Prince of Pride” follows BibleMan as he is making preparations for a new nationally published comic strip based on his image. Cypher and U.N.I.C.E. bicker over who should be featured as his sidekick, and Bibleman struggles to maintain his humility in the limelight. The new villain, the Prince of Pride, further complicates matters  through the use of a ray gun that excessively boosts people’s egos.

The story actually pulls an interesting fake-out with Bibleman, in that the Prince of Pride claims that he starts becoming prideful about his own humility after being hit by his pride ray, which is an interesting and complicated notion to portray in a television show for kids. However, it is mostly played for a joke, and the ray ultimately just makes him garden-variety prideful.

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The comedy in “Shattering the Prince of Pride” really gets to the point where it is trying to hard, focusing on being self-referential and generally comedic, which makes it lose some of the charm of being earnestly made. It is also pretty clear that humor is there to try to mask the incompetence that is still very much present, which never comes off well.

Once again, the villain dies an exceptionally terrible death, but the Prince of Pride gets the most graphic one so far. Bibleman manages to back him up into an electrical grid, which causes him to fry for a number of seconds before exploding into a mass of green fluid. It is actually pretty dark and gory, even for Bibleman’s Old Testament standards.

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“Shattering the Prince of Pride” is uneven episode, but the highlights of it are pretty great. A lot of the humor totally misses, but some of it works, and the over-the-top villain death pushes it into the realm of being a recommendation from me.  I mostly just wish that The Prince of Pride was a little more distinctive, and that he got more interesting screen time. The most boring part of the episode is his musical number, which seems to drag on indefinitely in an episode that is already almost 45 minutes long. This isn’t the episode I would introduce someone to the show with, but again, the highlights are pretty solid.

Watching Paint Dry: A Review

This post is based on a viewer request, which is being filled due to a donation to the Secular Student Alliance via my fundraising page during Secular Students Week (June 10-17, 2015).

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I don’t think there is any idiom more often used in the discussion of bad films than the classic simile, “like watching paint dry.” There is no other universal image that so perfectly captures the frivolousness, agony, and boredom that many people experience while watching a sub-par movie. It really describes everything a conventional movie shouldn’t be: static, passive, un-engaging, and without thought.

Sure, there are some exceptions to this rule: some art films have been made with the expressed purpose of inciting the feeling of boredom, But as far as the general public consciousness goes, if a movie is “like watching paint dry,” it is because something has gone horribly wrong.

I consider myself a sort of specialist at watching bad movies. Given how often this experience is compared to “watching paint dry,” I assume I will be able to handle the task of, basically, watching paint dry on a surface. But how similar are the two activities, really?

It takes a fair amount of willpower and determination to suffer through a movie like “The Maize” or “Daniel Der Zauberer,” but is that the same kind of endurance necessary for the classically menial task of watching paint dry? I will say this: I have watched a pot boil. I don’t know why I did it, apart from the fact that I wanted to prove that I could. That brings up a whole different question of how similar watching pots boil and watching paint dry are, but my point is this: I have challenged the traditional wisdom of idioms in the past, and I have been victorious.

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Now, there are a lot of ways that I could theoretically watch paint dry. In fact, there are more than you might expect: there are numerous YouTube videos varying in lengths of a few minutes to 10 hours, a live webcam of paint drying, and even a flash game created around the concept that gives you achievements for how long you continue, ranging from a few minutes to an entire day. Alternatively, of course, I could go buy some paint and put it on something.

For the sake of time, I decided to go with a 10 minute YouTube video, done by the channel “10minutesofyourlife,” which you can see below.

First off, I appreciate that they decided to use an eye catching color. Can you imagine if that were gray or beige? On to a negative: what are they doing with that tripod? There is an awful lot of camera movement for a video whose expressed purpose is *watching paint dry.* You don’t need to operate the damn thing, we’re not looking for creative angles, here. On the flip side, it does provide a little bit of welcome variety for a monotonous activity.

One thing that becomes clear very quickly while watching paint dry is that you become acutely aware of your other senses. Not only am I focusing on the background noises in my apartment (various mechanical hums, electronic buzzes, and cat sounds), but also on the curious background of the video itself. For whatever reason, I initially assumed that the setting of this video was indoors, but the details start becoming clear quickly: the stained wood at the bottom of the frame must be a deck, and the amount of background noise leads me to assume that there must be nearby traffic. That does beg the question, though: is this person planning to paint their house in this vivid green color? I’m not sure if that would be more weird or awesome.

Around minute five, I started thinking more about the form of the piece. The consistency of the paint is a bit odd, in my opinion: somehow thicker, and more plastic-like than I expected. It looks a little like “Gak,” for those of you who remember what that is. Also, the shape of the paint’s pattern is bizarre: there’s clearly no reason to it, but it also clearly wasn’t done haphazardly. Note, there are no splatters, so it wasn’t just slung against the wall. However, there is also no sign of orderly brush work, and the edges and smooth and pristine. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how they managed to do this. Even the pooling at the base seems surreal, as the quantity seems oddly high, and it has clearly already been allowed time to creep its way across the horizon between the wall and the deck. I feel a little cheated, as if someone tore the first chapter out of a book. How did the paint get this way? I am missing some crucial developmental information about the paint and its relationship / experience with the wall. I understand the realistic style of telling a story in medias res, but I feel like the purpose of watching paint dry is to get the completest  possible view of the experience, from beginning to end. I’m not here for a highlight reel, I’m here for a full ride.

There is a message on the ground, partially obscured by the pool of wayward paint (which oddly does not seem to perceptibly expand over the course of the video). “_________ _______ MUST BE INSTALLED.” It is clearly the sort of industrial message one would find on a work in progress, and isn’t something you would ever see on the exterior of a finished product. This is something that we, as casual observers, are not supposed to see beneath the surface of our surroundings. But these messages, surely, are in buildings we enter every day: internally facing, and invisible to pedestrians. The paint serves to hide these messages from us, both in this video, and in our everyday lives. What “must be installed,” I wonder? We may never know, not without chipping away at the dried paint. And then, what was the process all really for? Maybe it was too late to install this mysterious object/program all along, and it is for the best to just leave it alone.

The video ends abruptly, and I was honestly jarred by it. You can’t help but sink into the process of watching paint dry, because it is so difficult to perceive the progress. With watching water in a pot boil, there are definite stages: you feel the heat rising, the bubbles begin forming at the bottom of the pot, there is a brief simmering pre-boil. Watching paint dry lacks any of this structure, so you are left completely on your own. In my case, my mind was desperate to find something to focus on, and I was able to find it in analysis of the minor details.

So, how does this tie back to movies? Well, there are two points worth making.

First: structure is vastly important to maintaining an audience of any kind. It doesn’t have to be traditional, but it needs to be present in some way to keep people engaged. This is one of the worst ways a movie can collapse, and it typically happens in either the editing or the initial screenwriting. We, as audience members, are conditioned to expect a certain kind of structure in a film, to the point that it is unconscious within us. When looking at screenplays, many people use a shorthand of “expecting x event by y page” to gauge whether it will play with audiences, because that is what we expect. When a movie is written without those important beats to keep us all on pace, the result is that, generally, people get bored.

Inexperienced writing and non-creative editing are usually the key things to blame when these structural things go wrong. For cases of the latter, give a watch to movies like “They Saved Hitler’s Brain” or “Monster A Go Go”: both incomplete films that were finished long after the fact and stitched together with minimal thought or care for the editing process. For some examples of the first, I would point out any popularly failed attempts to adapt television shows to the big screen: “The Singing Detective” and “The Last Airbender,” for instance.

Television show plots are usually (not always) structured differently than films, with miniature arcs and developments over the course of individual episodes combining to create a greater arc of a season or a series. Movies typically have one, distinct arc. Here is a visual way to think about that:

graph1So, in order to turn a TV show plot into a movie, you have to do something to fill in the valleys. In the case of “The Last Airbender,” this was done with brief sequences of exposition acting as transitions, which was apparently the best way they could figure to stitch the story together in a cinematic way. Obviously, that didn’t work out so well.

So, back to paint drying. Part of the reason that the experience is so awful is the lack of a perceptible structure. Another way to look at this is by comparing it to distance driving. An 8 hour drive through flat territory with no landmarks is awful, because there is no perceptible demarcation to indicate progress, which helps us break down the experience. However, an 8 hour drive between, say, Cincinnati, Ohio and Birmingham, Alabama features a number of urban areas as landmarks: Louisville, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee, for instance. This helps us digest the whole experience better, just like we do with any experience: memorizing numbers, distance driving, watching movies, or watching paint dry.

As I mentioned before, there are two points I wanted to make about the parallel of movie watching and watching paint dry: the second is the similar importance of being an active observer in the experience. For sitting through the experience of watching paint dry, I had to dig around the details of what I was watching to keep myself entertained and focused on the task. That is pretty much the same thing I do with especially dull movies: close reading and analysis is a different experience than just watching something unfold before you: it is about minor details, and appreciating the entirety of the experience. In the case of watching paint dry, this meant noting the sounds in the background, paying attention to the shape the paint was taking on the wall, and even reading the obscured message on the ground and coming up with a bullshit theory. With a movie (particularly a shitty movie), this might be noting the positioning of the actors in a shot, paying attention to the repeated use of colors and specific objects, keeping track of the continuity of scenes, and coming up with bullshit theories to cover up gaping plot holes and errors. Honestly, I think it is easier to do close readings of bad movies, because there is rarely anything else worth paying attention to on screen (y’know, kind of like paint drying). It is a good skill to have, and it is something that most people are taught to do on some level in literature or English classes in primary school. Watching films as visual literature and art in addition to entertainment is part of what makes it so cool for so many people. It can also theoretically help you watch paint dry, so there’s that.

All in all: yes, there are significant similarities between watching paint dry and watching bad movies. However, I think bad movies can be a little more constructive: in many ways, you can reverse engineer a lot of the elements of what makes a good movie by diagnosing how bad ones ultimately fail. With watching paint dry, you aren’t going to get a whole lot out of the experience, apart from really odd bragging rights.

If you want to make me do a review of literally whatever you want (even watching paint dry), make a donation to this page (of any amount) by June 17, 2015. I will cover any request you have for as low as a $1 donation. Really. Also, enjoy my (God)Awful Movies BibleMan franchise marathon as part of Secular Students Week, and check out the excellent work of the Secular Student Alliance.

BibleMan: Conquering the Wrath of Rage

BibleMan: Conquering the Wrath of Rage

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Today, I’m continuing my week-long marathon of the Bibleman franchise as part of Secular Students Week. If you make a donation to the Secular Student Alliance this week, and I’ll cover a movie of your choice.

“Conquering the Wrath of Rage” marks the fourth entry into “The Bibleman Adventure,” which is the second incarnation of the franchise.

“Conquering the Wrath of Rage” was directed, produced, and co-written by Willie Aames, who once again stars as Bibleman. The other credited writer is one Greg Perkins, who I wasn’t able to dig up any information on.

The villain of “Conquering the Wrath of Rage” is El Furioso, who is yet another antagonist portrayed by Brian Lemmons, marking his fourth straight appearance on the show. He is once again accompanied by his self-aware, possibly stoned henchman, Ludicrous. The evil computer, L.U.C.I., also pops up again as a supporting villain.

Bibleman has a new partner for “Conquering the Wrath of Rage” in the rookie Cypher, who is introduced as a bit of a tech wizard, and is credited with designing the new Bibleman armor. He winds up hanging around for a long time in the series as I recall, becoming a bit of a staple.  I’m not really sure what happens to Coats, the previous sidekick, as the point is glossed over pretty quickly. It is actually somewhat implied that the split wasn’t exactly pleasant, which might allude to some tensions behind the scenes.

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The story of “Conquering the Wrath of Rage” focuses on a new villain named El Furioso, who comes up with a chemical that causes uncontrollable fits of rage. This is used both on local children and on Bibleman to disastrous effect. Bibleman must confront his own anger and learn to trust the people around him in order to win the day and defeat El Furioso.

The episode begins with Bibleman fighting a group of really racist caricature villains, whose lines are subtitled despite the fact that they are speaking clear English. If the exaggerated, generic Asian accents don’t get the point across, the reference to Jackie Chan certainly does. Bibleman also, in keeping with tradition, straight murders one of them in a fit of rage after they corner Cypher. However, this time his actions are actually addressed, as the theme of the episode deals with rage and violence.

“Violence never got anyone anywhere”

-Bibleman, noted vigilante murderer

 

“Conquering the Wrath of Rage” features another notable upgrade for the Bibleman outfit, and introduces what is probably the most recognizable version of the cowl. This version is far more musclebound than the previous versions, and sets the precedent for future changes to the outfit as the series goes on.

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“A man in spandex is no laughing matter”

-Bibleman

“Conquering the Wrath of Rage” also introduces the use of lower third text gags, which continues throughout the rest of the series. These are usually a bit funnier than the comedy in the dialogue, because they don’t rely on the actors having any kind of comedic timing.

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El Furioso is probably the most amusing performance from Brian Lemmons so far in the show. He feels like he must be offensive somehow, but I’m not really sure to who? His name would make you think of some sort of Mexican stereotype, but it doesn’t really play that way, apart from using the occasional Spanish phrase. He is somewhat effeminate, but also occasionally drifts into what sounds like a bad imitation of a Jewish person, making for a really perplexing mixture of stereotypes.

As is tradition for the series, El Furioso suffers an awful demise in the conclusion. Bibleman uses some sort of divine force field that forces Furioso’s beam weapon to backfire, which leaves him dissolved into a nasty, green, gooey mess. In keeping with the theme of the episode, Bibleman doesn’t directly strike him down, but he certainly gets very dead. Bibleman’s reaction to this horrific loss of life is, quote:

“Jeepers, what a mess.”

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human remains

Overall, “Conquering the Wrath of Rage” is a solid recommendation from me as an entertainingly awful entry into the saga of Bibleman. It makes for a pretty good introduction into the series: the cheese factor is to the max, and the comedic writing is actually entertaining at times, and completely baffling and tone deaf at others.

BibleMan: The Fiendish Works of Dr. Fear

BibleMan: The Fiendish Works of Dr. Fear

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Today, I’m continuing my week-long marathon of the Bibleman franchise as part of Secular Students Week. If you make a donation to the Secular Student Alliance this week, and I’ll cover a movie of your choice.

“The Fiendish Works of Dr. Fear” marks the third entry into “The Bibleman Adventure,” which is the second incarnation of the franchise.

“The Fiendish Works of Dr. Fear” is once again directed by Eric J. Smith, who also took the reins on the previous episode, “The Incredible Force of Joy.” Willie Aames, who also plays Bibleman, co-directs, and the writing for the episode is credited to Marion Rose Wells.

The central villain of “The Fiendish Works of Dr. Fear” is, of course, Dr. Fear. However, the character is once again played by the same actor, Brian Lemmons, who portrayed the previous two villains: The Master of Misery and The Shadow of Doubt, a fact that is pointed out once again by his self-aware sidekick, Ludicrous. This time, Dr. Fear appears to be partially cybernetic, which gives him a little more interesting appearance. The evil computer program, “L.U.C.I.,” who appeared in the live version of “The Incredible Force of Joy,” also shows up as an accessory villain.

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Both the intelligent computer, U.N.I.C.E., and a sidekick, Coats, appear alongside Bibleman in “The Fiendish Works of Dr. Fear,” just as they did in the previous two “Bibleman Adventure” installments.

The story of “The Fiendish Works of Dr. Fear” follows Bibleman as he leads the “Clean is Cool” campaign to keep kids off of drugs (or something like that). Meanwhile, a new villain named Dr. Fear plots to fill people with anxieties and destroy their self confidence, even taking aim at Bibleman himself. I assume that also has something to do with drugs, but I wasn’t entirely clear on that point. Bibleman, as per usual, has to figure out the villain’s plan and overcome his own fears to win the day.

“The Fiendish Works of Dr. Fear” shockingly kicks off with Bibleman dancing to a swing number with lyrics about saying ‘no’ to drugs. I can’t even make this kind of ridiculous thing up, that is actually how the episode starts.

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This episode also features the first (but not the last) time that Bibleman appears on a televised talk show. Of course, Dr. Fear uses this opportunity to strike Bibleman with some sort of fear ray, which sets off his anxieties about appearing on camera, leading him to briefly botch the interview.

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For once, Bibleman actually takes a fair amount of damage in the combat sequences, particularly thanks to Dr. Fear’s ranged attack. Speaking of which, why exactly doesn’t Bibleman have a way of fighting from a distance? You would think that with the amount of technology at his disposal, he would have some sort of plan for this kind of thing. He ultimately figures out a way around it, but it wouldn’t have been as much of an issue if he just had some sort of bible-themed projectile for combat.

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The humor here is still cringe-inducingly awful, and bows to a number of lazy stereotypes for no discernible reason. The plot also isn’t as entertainingly cheesy as other episodes, which, combined with yet another lackluster villain, makes for a pretty dull watch on the whole. The most amusingly terrible thing in the episode is the swing dance in the opening sequence, which passes pretty quickly. “The Fiendish Works of Dr. Fear” definitely isn’t on the top of my list for Bibleman episodes, but it is also far from the worst. It also features a brutal villain death for Dr. Fear, but it generally pales in comparison to most of the other episodes.

BibleMan: The Incredible Force of Joy

BibleMan: The Incredible Force of Joy

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Today, I’m continuing my week-long marathon of the Bibleman franchise as part of Secular Students Week. If you make a donation to the Secular Student Alliance this week, and I’ll cover a movie of your choice.

“Incredible Force of Joy” is the second installment in “The Bibleman Adventure,” which is itself the second incarnation of the show.

“The Incredible Force of Joy” was directed by Eric J. Smith, and written by Albert Upton and Cory Edwards. This marks the first time that star Willie Aames was not involved in either the writing or direction of the episode, at least as far as the listed credits go.

The villain in “The Incredible Force of Joy” is basically just the return of Shadow of Doubt from the previous episode, but now under the name of Master of Misery. His henchman, Ludicrous, is also back, and a second supporter is introduced in the form of an evil computer named L.U.C.I.. L.U.C.I. is essentially the counter-balance to Bibleman’s computer, U.N.I.C.E., and continues to appear throughout the series. This practice of re-using villains under new monikers also continues throughout the rest of the Bibleman franchise.

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Bibleman once again has a couple of allies present in the form of Coats and U.N.I.C.E., who were both introduced in the previous episode, “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt.”

The story of “The Incredible Force of Joy” centers on this new villain called the Master of Misery, who has developed some sort of weapon and computer program that can make people sad. He manages to infiltrate Bibleman’s lair, and corrupts his computer with the program, creating chaos for the team. Meanwhile, the Master of Misery launches his evil plan to corrupt children by making a young child miss a science fair. Bibleman, as always, has to figure out a way to foil the villain’s plans, and help the young boy make the science fair. This also marks perhaps the only time that Bibleman has supported science in any way.

“The Incredible Force of Joy” marks some notable improvements to the Bibleman costume. The appearance is more streamlined than the previous incarnation, and the cowl is pretty dramatically altered as well, with a gradient of purple and yellow.

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Once again, the villain knows the location of Bibleman’s lair for no stated reason, which raises some questions for me as to whether theere might be a mole within Bibleman’s inner circle. However, Bibleman doesn’t seem particularly alarmed by that fact, which struck me as kind of odd.

“The Incredible Force of Joy” features the first iconic full armor sequence for Bibleman, and is also the first episode to have a live performance incarnation. The audio of the full armor sequence takes over for the old “The Bibleman Show” theme song in the introductory credits, completing the transition into “The Bibleman Adventure” series.

The plot of “The Incredible Force of Joy” features an awful lot of jargon-packed computer hacking magic that doesn’t make even a shred of sense, particularly on the part of the bad guys. The astounding misunderstanding of technology pops up a few more times in the series going forward, at least in some of the episodes that I have already seen.

The episode starts with the murder via laser evaporation of an unnamed villain (who resembles The Fibbler) by Coats, which isn’t treated with much seriousness by either character. Bibleman even offers a classic one-liner for the situation:

“Don’t you hate it when guys smoke?”

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The smoking remain of a human being

Once again, this shows just how callous, unforgiving, and violent Bibleman and his crew can be, making him more like a comic book antihero (The Punisher) than a traditional superhero (Superman, Captain America). Interestingly, U.N.I.C.E., Bibleman’s computer, is the one who ultimately kills the Mastery of Misery, which sets a dangerous precedent in my mind about artificial intelligence committing murder.

Overall, “The Incredible Force of Joy” is another middling episode in the series, but the quality of the show from a production standpoint is clearly steadily improving. The villain here is once again a bit forgettable, but the techno-magic provides some entertainment value to the episode. The attempts at humor of course still fall flat, but there are some unintentional laughs to be had here.

BibleMan: Defeating the Shadow of Doubt

BibleMan: Defeating the Shadow of Doubt

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Today, I’m continuing my week-long marathon of the Bibleman franchise as part of Secular Students Week. If you make a donation to the Secular Student Alliance this week, and I’ll cover a movie of your choice.

In 1998, two years after the conclusion of “The Bibleman Show,” “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” marked the first episode of “The Bibleman Adventure,” the second and longest-running incarnation of the show.

For “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt,” Willie Aames takes sole writing and directing credits, and continues to star as the crusading eponymous hero, Bibleman. Chris Fann, who was previously co-director on “The Bibleman Show,” is now relegated to director of photography, I assume for the purpose of giving Aames sole credit. Notably, Tony Salerno’s creation credit for the Bibleman character is absent from both the ending and opening, which makes me wonder how much internal turbulence there was over the change of direction for the show.

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The villain of the episode is Shadow of Doubt, who is overall a pretty generic antagonist for Bibleman. He uses a sort of chemical to inspire doubt in people, which reminded me a bit of the mind control used by previous villains. His performance is certainly over the top, but the character still comes off as pretty dull on the whole. He does have a fourth wall breaking henchman named Ludicrous, who is somewhat self-aware about his position, and steals the show from Shadow of Doubt in most of the villain scenes. However, Shadow does get his time to shine with his frenetic dancing musical number.

“Who is both a verb and a noun!”

“Shadow of Doubt!”

For the first time in the franchise, Bibleman has allies in the form U.N.I.C.E. and Coats. U.N.I.C.E. is an intelligent, speaking computer that runs the Bibleman headquarters, and continues to appear throughout the rest of the series. Coats is a pretty generic assistant / sidekick, who has a vague sort of military aesthetic to him.

The story of “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” centers on a young girl, Kyla, who has lost her faith, which is initially assumed to be due to her parents arguing. However, there are also sinister forces at play in the form of a Pandora’s box of doubt, planted by a new villain called Shadow of Doubt. Bibleman has to overcome his own insecurities and find a way to defeat the shadow, and help restore Kyla’s faith.

Kyla: “You don’t know how I feel! Nobody does! Not even God!”

Bibleman: “Kyla, that’s just not true. God does care…I mean, he must?”

“Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” features a new introduction that focuses more on action, and also introduces the more familiar BibleMan logo. The old theme song is still around, but it plays over the credits as opposed to the introduction sequence. Honestly, it is a bit strange tone-wise to have both styles present, but I am guessing that will only be the case for a few of these transition episodes.

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There is still a children’s musical number at the beginning of the episode, but it is cut into semi-digestible small chunks. I’m curious if this was initially intended as part of an episode of “The Bibleman Show,” and was repurposed for “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt.”

“Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” features more deliberate attempts at humor than previous episodes, most of which awkwardly fall flat. As the series goes on, the amount of tongue in cheek self-awareness seems to increase, which adds a whole new dimension of cringe-inducing awkwardness to the show.

The entire episode of “Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” reinforces a stereotype that the only reason people leave religion is due to some trauma or sinister influence, which just isn’t true by a long shot. The Bibleman version of questioning faith is also kind of hilarious in its lack of sincerity.

“In my mind I know all the right scriptures. I just don’t feel like they are real. One thing is for certain: whoever this [villain] is, he has affected my ability to reason.”

-Bibleman

I was a little surprised when Shadow of Doubt survived the episode, especially given the show’s pattern for giving villains violent and tortuous ends. I assume this was done to make a statement about how doubt never totally goes away, or something to that effect.

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“Defeating the Shadow of Doubt” is more or less middle-of-the-road as far as entertainment value for Bibleman goes. The villain could certainly have been better, but there are still some entertainingly awful child acting and dialogue moments that help it out. It is certainly easier to sit through than the first two episodes of “The Bibleman Show,” and features a lot more cheesy action and fighting, if that is what you are looking for.

BibleMan: Silencing The Gossip Queen

BibleMan: Silencing The Gossip Queen

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Today, I’m continuing my week-long marathon of the Bibleman franchise as part of Secular Students Week. If you make a donation to the Secular Student Alliance this week, and I’ll cover a movie of your choice.

“Silencing the Gossip Queen” is the final episode in the original series of Bibleman, called “The Bibleman Show.” As with the previous episode, “Six Lies of the Fibbler,” Willie Aames is credited as writer, producer, and co-director, as well as filling in the lead role as Bibleman.

The villain of the episode is the eponymous Gossip Queen, who looks like a traditional witch, and also has force lightning powers like Emperor Palpatine.  She apparently just generally hates friendship and good things, which is the extent of the motivation that is provided. She has henchmen by the names of Loose lips and Blabbermouth, which I guess fits with the dastardly theme of gossip. Once again, the villain somehow knows Bibleman’s secret identity without any explanation, and attacks directly at him before trying to go after the children. Also of note is that the Gossip Queen gets a musical number, which is the first time the villain has gotten to perform in the show.

gossipqueen3 “An ounce of gossip is worth a pound of trouble”

-Bibleman

The story of “Silencing the Gossip Queen” centers upon the same group of musical kids that appeared in the previous installments of “The Bibleman Show.” The time, a villain called The Gossip Queen conspires to break up their special friendship  through the use of planted rumors and hearsay. Once again, Bibleman has to help repair the damage and save the day from evil, but only after escaping his kidnapping by The Gossip Queen.

Once again, the villains die miserable, brutal deaths in “Silencing the Gossip Queen.” Bibleman evaporates both Loose Lips and Blabbermouth with deflected lightning blasts, and then melts the Gossip Queen with his laser sword, after which he looks directly into the camera and says:

“The bible warns against ladies like her”

Honestly, that part is pretty bad ass. However, there is something to be said for the fact that Bibleman seems to frequently leave his enemies as corpses. Most heroes that do that are well within the bounds of being anti-heroes, and the practice is pretty seriously frowned on as far as superhero decorum goes. I suppose you can chalk that up to his particularly brutal and conservative version of biblical morality.

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“Silencing the Gossip Queen” isn’t nearly as entertainingly awful as “Six Lives of the Fibbler,” but it is worlds better than the first two episodes in the series. Regardless, I’m thrilled to be done with “The Bibleman Show,” because I just can’t handle any more awful child-driven Christian musical numbers. I hadn’t seen any of these episodes previously, and now I think I know why they aren’t as popular as the later series, which strike me as being generally better polished in most regards. They are still awful, and I might eat my words on this, but they aren’t nearly as bad as “The Bibleman Show,” which is generally a dull, unfocused mess. As far as a recommendation goes, you could do worse than “Silencing the Gossip Queen,” but there are some more entertaining entries in the Bibleman franchise that are more worth your time.

BibleMan: Six Lies of the Fibbler

BibleMan: Six Lies of the Fibbler

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Today, I’m continuing my week-long marathon of the Bibleman franchise as part of Secular Students Week. If you make a donation to the Secular Student Alliance this week, and I’ll cover a movie of your choice.

“Six Lies of the Fibbler” is the third episode of the original Bibleman series, “The Bibleman Show.” Willie Aames wrote, produced, and co-directed “Six Lies of the Fibbler,” while also portraying the lead character of Bibleman. Chris Fann again co-directs, but Milt Schaffer and C. Scott Votaw are notably absent from the credits, and Tony Salerno is relegated to solely receiving creation credit for the episode. There is definitely a quality difference between the first two episodes and “Fibbler” that makes me wonder if there was some change in personnel and direction behind the scenes, which might explain a lot.

“Six Lies of the Fibbler” is once again a musical, as all of the original “The Bibleman Show” episodes appear to be. The introductory song is something like “Bible Vision,” which sounds like a useless power that Bibleman might actually have. The music certainly hasn’t gotten any better from the first two episodes, and the increase in necessary dramatic acting on the children’s parts results in a product that is hilariously awful, more so than the first two entries in the series.

The villain of “Six Lies of the Fibbler” is, of course, The Fibbler: a damn creepy orange clown who hypnotizes children into lying through the use of some sort of magic dust. The Fibbler is definitely the most ridiculous and over the top villain on the show thus far, and is genuinely a bit unsettling, particularly thanks to the makeup work (which is reminiscent of The Joker). I will note that for the first time in the series, the villain actually interacts with the kids, rather than just going after Bibleman. This does liven things up a little bit, and gives the villain character some badly needed additional screen time in comparison to the first two episodes.

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“Six Lies of the Fibbler” introduces a lot of elements that pop up a bunch later on in the series, including Bibleman’s laser sword, the recitation of bible verses while fighting, and a bible lair, which becomes a key set and base of operations later on.

The story of “Six Lies of the Fibbler” once again follows the same children’s musical group from “Big Big Book” and “Back to School,” but this time there is unrest within their ranks. Their youngest member is influenced by a villain named The Fibbler into compulsively lying to her friends, which drives a wedge into the musical group. Bibleman eventually figures out what is going on, and helps bring the group back together.

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One of my big issues with the plot of “Six Lies of the Fibbler” is that the kid was drugged into lying, but it still forced to apologize for her actions while under the effects of The Fibbler’s drugs. The other kids forgive her, but was it ever really her fault? She was a victim, and forced into lying to the group. It is also notable that Bibleman knows that this is the case, but never tells the girl that she was being manipulated by a villain with mysterious chemicals. Way to go, Bibleman.

Speaking of the villain, The Fibbler straight up explodes after his fight with Bibleman, starting a trend of brutal villain deaths that continues throughout the series. Bibleman doesn’t directly kill him, but something tells me that he doesn’t have a non-lethal code of ethics. I’ve read enough of the bible to know that.

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“Six Lies of the Fibbler” just sort of ends right in the middle of a musical number, like they were caught off-guard in the editing process by how long it ultimately ran. I had a brief flashback to the botched conclusion of “Dracula 3000,” which might actually be better than any given episode of “Bibleman.”

“Six Lies of the Fibbler” is actually an episode of “Bibleman” that I would recommend. The villain is ridiculous, the story doesn’t make sense, the acting is awful, and the series is still young enough that all of the costumes and props are incredibly cheap. Even the musical numbers are arguably baffling enough to justify sitting through, though that is definitely up for debate. If you are looking for an introduction to the world of Bibleman, “Six Lies of the Fibbler” is a good place to start.

BibleMan: Back to School

BibleMan: Back to School

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Today, I’m continuing my week-long marathon of the Bibleman franchise as part of Secular Students Week. If you make a donation to the Secular Student Alliance this week, and I’ll cover a movie of your choice.

“Back to School” marks the second episode of the original Bibleman video series, “The Bibleman Show.” Willie Aames is once again the title role of Bibleman, and also shares directing and writing credit for the episode. The rest of the team is pretty much the same from “Big Big Book”: C. Scott Votaw, Milt Schaffer, and creator Tony Salerno also have writing credits, with Votaw and and Chris Fann taking co-directing roles alongside Aames.

In the first episode of “The Bibleman Show,” “Big Big Book,” I understood the amount of singing involved. I mean, it was centered around a church musical. However, this episode also starts off with singing, but without the inherent, semi-reasonable justification. It is eventually explained that the same group of kids is going to be performing a similar musical at a local school (thus “Back to School”), but that bit of exposition has to be awkwardly forced into a scene in the form of a fake telephone call.

I can’t describe just how much my heart sank when it dawned on me that all of these original BibleMan episodes were going to be musicals. The fact that the kids in this episode aren’t even in an obvious venue to be singing makes it all seem much worse to me. To add to my frustrations with the whole situation, one of the songs, which takes place entirely in an RV, is specifically about a fictitious train:

Let’s take a trip through the creation
Head on down to the revelation
The train is waiting at the gospel station
so get on board the bible train

Could they not have come up with a song about a “Bible Bus?” That would at least be a closer comparison than a damn train. There is also alliteration to that phrase, which is perfect for this kind of lazy product. Why am I doing their job for them?

The primary villain in “Back to School” is Madame Glitz: a vaguely sinister, vain, and fame-obsessed woman who inexplicably knows Bibleman’s secret identity. She operates with the help of a henchman named ‘Mr. Thug,’ which is pretty much all you need to know about him. Her primary motivation seems to be envy over Bibleman’s popularity, so she plans to kidnap him to turn his fans against him. If that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to you, you aren’t alone on that.

“I love it when famous guys don’t show up! Then you can boo and hiss and stuff.”

-actual dialogue from “Back to School”

The story of “Back to School” once again focuses on a children’s musical performance, this time taking place at their local school (which I hope isn’t a public one, because that sounds like a separation of church and state violation to me). Bibleman is scheduled to appear alongside them, as he did in “Big Big Book,” but is kidnapped by Madame Glitz just before the show begins. Bibleman eventually prays his way out of his binds, terrifyingly imprisons Glitz in a television, and shows up in time for a grand finale with the kids.

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After watching “Back to School,” I think I understand why the direction for Bibleman was changed so quickly. It is really just more of the same of what was offered in “Big Big Book,” and there are only so many ways to replicate the same boring story over and over again. The villain is once again the highlight, and she is unfortunately hardly in the episode at all. The largest chunk of it is once again dedicated to the godawful children’s musical numbers, which were really testing my patience with this one. Also, somehow the dialogue seems to have gotten worse for this episode. My favorite exchange by far is right after the musical has completed, when two kids in the audience enthusiastically say to each other:

Kid 1: Wow! That was excellent!

Kid 2: Yeah! Seriously, comic books are tame compared to this stuff. I think I’m going to go out and get me a bible!

Kid 1: Cool idea! Me too!

It is like the producers’ fantasy-land version of America’s youth. Shame it didn’t work out that way for them, isn’t it?

I don’t recommend watching this episode, but it is available in its entirely on YouTube if you are just deathly curious. If you can’t resist, I implore you to at least skim through the songs, because you aren’t going to be missing anything with them. The only exception is, of course, “The Bible Train,” which managed to inexplicably fill me with hate and darkness.