James Cameron

The Terminator

Year: 1984
Directed By: James Cameron
Written By: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, and William Wisher

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was one of the most successful films of the year in 1984 when I was born. I don’t remember specifically when I saw it for the first time. I have a deep memory of watching it with my Aunt and Uncle at a young age, and of course when I was older it was a staple in the household I became part of and then throughout life with my brother. There are few movies more beloved in the home I grew up in than The Terminator, and its sequel Judgement Day. This was a groundbreaking film that studios have always been determined to turn into a franchise with one desperate attempt after another. This movie undoubtedly left room to grow, but for whatever reason there is just no way to recreate the success of these movies with James Cameron behind camera.

James Cameron may be an asshole and notoriously hard to work with, but he is a God at filmmaking. I would literally put him on par with the likes of Stanley Kubrick and early Steven Spielberg. I think he is one of the most inventive and industry changing men alive today and I think the Avatar sequels will surprise us all in new and exciting groundbreaking ways. He took science fiction to new heights with films like this one, Aliensand The AbyssHe stole the hearts of women all over the world with Titanic, making it one of the most successful box office films at all. Making that accomplishment even more impressive is the fact that Titanic has a three hour run time that limits how many tickets can be sold in a day. He broke all the records again when he revolutionized 3D films with Avatar. I saw it in the theater four times and it was worth every penny because it was a truly exceptional experience. You can never watch the movie today and get that same effect that the 3D created in the movie theater, if you missed it back in 09 you made a grave mistake. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it hit theaters again before it’s long awaited sequels are released so if you didn’t see it in the theater hold out hope for another chance. I think it’s easy to forget that there are more Avatar movies coming because it has been so long but when they come out James Cameron will again prove to be one of the most capable and revolutionizing filmmakers there is.

I don’t think one paragraph can accurately cover how much of a badass James Cameron is. I often joke that after Titanic and Avatar that James Cameron could make a movie about anything and studios would fall all over themselves for the rights to fund it. He could literally pitch a biographical feature about his old German Sheppard Wolfie and they’d give him a 250 million dollar budget for the film. This wasn’t always the case though as prior to this film he was actually living in his car. In fact his vision for this movie was so much grander than the budget allowed he had to cut many corners. In an effort to save money Cameron created what he called “guerrilla film making” where he would film on location without the proper permits. A lot of the movie is shot at night because Cameron and crew would show up, set up, and film as quickly as possible before the cops showed up to shut them down. The man may be hard to work with, he may be demanding and even occassionally bring his stars to tears, but the man is a badass and nobody can deny that.

Sometimes is takes a badass to make a badass and that is certainly the case when it comes to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Who knows where Schwarzenegger would be today without landing the role in this film. Like Kanye and Taylor Swift, Cameron made that bitch famous. Sure his career had already started with the Conan movies but does anybody really think those parts were going to help him ascend to the next level? Would he have ever reached the heights that he has without these 17 lines of dialogue that gave him the opportunity to get better before his next role? Schwarzenegger could barely speak English back in the day and his accent has never really faded but he was able to overcome that due to the iconic part that made him famous.

When you look at Arnold Schwarzenegger you have to marvel at what the man has accomplished. Here is an immigrant body builder who has risen to the heights of the acting world, married into one of America’s most famous families, successfully entered and exited politics, and maintains his fame even now. I think he is a true example of how anybody is capable of anything in this country. It truly is the land of opportunity for certain people and Arnold Schwarzenegger is a prime example. At one point Schwarzenegger was the highest paid actor in Hollywood, he was elected to not one but two terms as The Govenator, and now he is slowly becoming Donald Trump 2.0. It’s an interesting story and I’m sure there are so many untold stories behind the man that only deepen the intrigue. There are probably already several books written about him but I’d really like to read the one that covers the whole life. There is still an uncertain future that lies ahead and Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man who can reach out and grab it for himself.

One of the reasons this is one of my favorite Schwarzenegger roles is that he actually plays the bad guy in this movie. The cold hearted ruthless bad guy that doesn’t eat or sleep but simply kills and will never stop. I may give a lot of credit to Cameron for how things turned out for Schwarzenegger but he brought his own ability to this movie. It wasn’t enough to look the part so much, he had to be the part. Schwarzenegger didn’t want to act like a robot, he wanted to be a robot. He spent countless hours working with guns prior to shooting and got so good that he was literally criticized for being too good by gun enthusiasts. His presence looms over this movie so much that it’s a tribute to his own personal prowess as a man and person. He only has 17 lines in this movie and speaks less than Stallone did in Rocky when he specifically wrote the part with little dialogue to mask his difficulty speaking. Interesting the parallels of the once action kings right? Schwarzenegger and Stallone both had problems speaking and burst onto the scene with movies that had them speaking less.

Funny factoid, OJ Simpson was originally considered and desired for the role of the terminator but he was deemed too nice. It was thought that people would never be able to accept him as a cold blooded killer. You can twist your head around backwards trying to imagine how that decision may have changed the fate of the American timeline right there. Would OJ and not Arnold turned into America’s fan favorite action star? How different his life would have been…

James Cameron was fond of casting Michael Biehn and I’ve always liked that about him too. I don’t know the story behind Biehn and why he never quite made it to the next level of acting but I have always been a big fan of his work. I think one of the problems with all these new Terminator films is that they keep trying to recast Kyle Reese and they fail. You just can’t top Biehn in the part. I think this is where he was at his best with his role in Aliens a close second, his role in the Abyss certainly doesn’t win him any awards. When I was little and would play with my G.I. Joes there was always a character who would play out a Reese scenario and generally be molded after the character. One of my favorites would be the soldier lost in time and have to fight his way through all the others.

Don’t want to delve too far into Sarah Hamilton here because there is really more to be said of her in the sequel Terminator 2 when she goes full blown Ripley. In this movie she is the soft and delicate victim. In truth a very typical character that we usually see in slasher films, which as a matter of fact some actually consider The Terminator to be. However one difference being that she actually gets down and dirty yet still survives in the end. Sarah Conner isn’t some typical teen running from the killer though, she’s the adolescent badass of the future. Of course she has sex and still manages to survive. Plus she had to make Jon Connor, and become badass mother of the future.

This was one of the most popular movies I remember growing up. The 80s were a terrific time with many groundbreaking and legendary movies being made but this one sticks out as different. I do not know how old I was when I saw it for the first time but I remember where I was and who I was with. It was a movie that I never would have been allowed to watch at home but it was with my Aunt and Uncle that I saw it for the first time. I remember learning the word motherfucker and thinking it was just awesome. I generally credit Wesley Snipes and Passenger 57 for teaching me that beloved nomenclature but this actually preceded it by quite a while. My parents probably would have flipped had they known I had seen this movie but I had a cool uncle and he introduced me to a lot.

Eventually I would enter into a new family dynamic around the age of  10 or so and in that household the action movie was king. We would watch action movies all the time and over and over again. The Terminator and it’s sequel were some of the most popular and to this day the movies are regularly referenced in my household. In fact I think there is a specific corner of my brother’s brain where the movies just play on a loop non stop. I’ll get to more of that with Judgement Day, but the point being this was an influential movie not only in the movie industry but in the very household I grew up in and in my young life.

I have rambled on for a long time now and still have managed to say so little about something so big. There is so much more to this movie and I could never hope to cover it. I may know it like the back of my hand but there is still so much that I know nothing about. For example, there was probably a lot James Cameron’s wife, Gale Anne Hurd, had to do with it as she has gone on to have a really storied career herself. There is a lot to be said of Stan Winston and the special effects his company were able to create. With a movie so influential and groundbreaking there are plenty of people and things to cover but I think it’s time for this rambler to ramble on.

If you haven’t seen this movie then frankly I think there is something wrong with you. Maybe you’re a kid that doesn’t know any better and been blinded by all these new Terminator movies, I’ll get to that in the review for the third film. Point being any movie enthusiast has already seen this movie and they know. Not only is it worth your time but it’s worth your money, it’s worth your attention, and it’s worth that sponge inside of all of us that absorbs influence and binds to the fiber of our soul. This movie isn’t going to change your life or anything but it’s going to entertain the hell out of you. It’s going to raise the bar for what you expect of movies because it shows what a movie is capable of. Even after more than thirty years and multiple attempts to recreate they simply can’t do what this movie does.

NEXT MOVIE: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) 

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Point Break

Year: 1991
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow
Written By: Rick King and W. Peter Iliff (story) Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

When it comes to adrenaline fueled action films there are few that are as fun as this one. As I have always said, the cool factor is important in any film, especially in a mindless exaggerated action flick. Being cool in an action movie is as important as being scary in a horror film. This movie not only has the cool factor but all along the way there is shooting, surfing, and skydiving. What more could you want? With a cast that screams the early 1990s and a great filmmaking duo this film never fails to entertain. Despite being a household favorite while I was growing up this was never a movie I intended to own because I always considered it a bit silly. Yet it found its way into the collection anyway when I bought it as a gift for my brother a year or so ago for Christmas and just decided to assimilate into the collective instead. I specifically remember wrapping the gift for him and reflecting on the film as I did so. I thought to myself “this is a cool movie, why do I have a stick up my ass about it?” and before I knew it I was fitting it onto the shelf in the “P” section.

It’s true that I do have a certain mentality about this type of movie today. I don’t even watch the mindless action flicks that are coming out anymore but I appreciate the ones that I grew up with. When our collection was smaller I had a smug attitude about the films that would be part of it and I felt it was too good to be sullied by silly action films like this. As the collection grew it absorbed plenty of movies that made that line of thinking moot and there was no reason to deny this movie. This movie is cool and it is fun. As entertaining as any cops and robbers film and plenty of films have since ripped off exactly what this movie did. As I started to wrap this movie up for my brother years ago I thought about all of this and decided there was no need to waste it on him. I had already bought the DVD, might as well just keep it for myself because I had a place for it. I had suddenly realized it belonged and I couldn’t send it away to collect dust on some other shelf as part of an insignificant collection of films that had no purpose. I am such an compulsive person when it comes to collecting things and would it not be for my wife I would most likely be the worst kind of packrat. I channel all that type of insanity into this movie collection and for me it embodies something that has taken on a life of it’s own.

This movie always reminds me of my stepdad. While we differ in this way, my stepdad and stepbrother have always been thrill seekers. I, as a naturally clumsy and accident prone person, steer clear of activities involving such obvious opportunity for risk and embarrassment. They on the other hand have always been fearless in the face of danger and when I was about 15 or 16 my stepdad went skydiving for the first time. This involved many nights both before and after where as a family we all sat down to films like Drop Zone, a few of the Roger Moore James Bond pics, and of course Point Break. It was much more fun before the actual skydiving because seeing these movies afterwards in round two consisted of nonstop talk about how unrealistic it was. First time around I had no idea that you didn’t have time for all kinds of acrobatics as you fell through the sky. I was completely innocent of how ridiculous the notion of jumping out of a plane without a parachute was. I knew deep down such a thing was ridiculous but it was still cool to see Johnny Utah jump out of the plane without a chute to chase down Bodhi through the air. After all, I had seen Roger Moore as James Bond do it several times when I was growing up. It was kind of a buzzkill to watch it in round two and hear all about how this wasn’t right and that wasn’t possible. Who cares what is and isn’t possible when watching a movie like this anyway? The skydiving scenes in this movie are about as cool as they get, and as a person who intends to always stay grounded I at least like to imagine such things could really be so cool.

The cast of this movie is like a snapshot of 1991. Looking at it today the young movie watcher might scratch his head and wonder but back in 1991 it all made so much sense. In 1991 Patrick Swayze still had his youthful good looks, Gary Busey wasn’t insane, and Lori Petty as a leading lady was something that happened. I have never been a fan of Patrick Swayze but I’ll give him credit where it is due. This was easily one of his best roles and he fit the part of Bodhi perfectly. I read somewhere that he was an actual accomplished skydiver prior to the making of this movie. If that’s true it’s not only pretty cool but made him an even better fit for the role. I wonder what young people today, who watch this movie for the first time, think about seeing Gary Busey play this part. The Gary Busey they know today is not the guy we had 24 years ago. I am told he didn’t become this crazy Gary Busey until some accident he had some time back when he sustained a head injury. I don’t know about that one way or another but I’d find it hard to believe Busey’s current persona isn’t just the result of having done copious amounts of drugs. I admire how well the man markets himself these days but I just don’t care for it. It seems fake and intentional to me. I much more preferred the Gary Busey of old like the one we see in this film. As for Lori Petty, well I have just never understood. She had a few significant roles in the early 90s but I have never really liked her. She has a really whiny tone to her voice and her persona always gets under my skin, especially in this movie.

Keanu Reeves is still finding success as an actor today but I can’t imagine how he got the role in this movie back in 1991. It seems like an awfully progressive idea to take Ted and turn him into an action star but it worked. I wonder if his obvious practice at using surfer type lingo played into the decision at all. Had he not done so well in this role so many things might have been different in the future with movies like Speed and The Matrix. One of my favorite actors from the time was in this movie as the over the top asshole boss. John C. McGinley is one of those actors who can do just about anything and I have always liked him in these types of supporting roles. If I remember correctly he went on to play nearly the exact same role from this film in one of the many films that followed in the footsteps of Point BreakSet It Off. After Point Break nearly all heist movies looked for new cooler ways to mask their bank robbers, and Set It Off was no different. Correct me if I’m wrong about Set It Off, it’s been almost 20 years since I saw it in the theater and I’m surprised I remember it as much as I do.

James Cameron served as Executive Producer for this film and his wife at the time, eventual Academy Award winning Kathryn Bigelow, directed the film. I read somewhere that they also wrote the final version of the screenplay together although weren’t listed because of a dispute over the credit. I have grown up as a huge fan of anything James Cameron was involved with and still marvel at his film making abilities today. We will all have nearly forgotten about how awesome Avatar was by the time the next one comes out and that will be perfect timing for Cameron to remind us who he is. I think the whole point of Avatar is lost if you try to watch it at home but that’s only part of what makes it so incredible. In an era when movie theaters are suffering, James Cameron made something that was necessary to see in the movie theater to get the whole effect of it. I don’t get out to the theater anymore like I did when I was younger and the same was true in 2009. Yet I made it out to see Avatar  times because it was something to make exception for. I will certainly do the same when the sequels eventually come out too because I have faith that Cameron will blow our minds ago. This movie doesn’t involve the same type of special effects he is known for using but Cameron has a great mind for action sequences. His influence undoubtedly played a role in this movie as it offers several action packed scenes that are exceptional. Incidentally, James Cameron is a filmmaker who appreciates the value of the “cool factor.” Of course this movie is cool, James Cameron had a hand in it. Whether the guy is dressing Arnold Schwarzenegger in all black leather or putting Sigourney Weaver in a giant robot suit he knows how to make something better by making it look cool.

This movie has been remade and that is a travesty. I don’t think the movie has come out as of this post but I remember a few years ago when the idea was announced I was incredibly disappointed. I don’t know which asshole in the movie industry is pitching these awful ideas but I wish he/she would get fired. I specifically remember that this movie was referred to as a “timeless classic” in the announcement that it would be remade. Who thinks it is a good idea to remake a “timeless classic”? It’s timeless because it will always be entertaining. Why sully its name with some kind of knock off version that will never live up to what people have already enjoyed for over 20 years? It’s ridiculous and lazy. These executives are reaching when they can’t do anything better than remaking or rebooting something just to capitalize on the name recognition. They think we, as the audience, are stupid and they treat us as such. They are ruining movies in vain by making foolish efforts to sell more tickets. They want to sell tickets to kids so they pussify something to get the PG-13 rating. They’ll abandon new ideas because we are too stupid to be interested in something new and instead they simply remake something with a name we might recognize and turn out for. On one end I get it, home entertainment is killing the industry and these guys got to do what they can to make a buck. I think it is the wrong way to do it. Don’t ruin classics by remaking them but find new and inventive ways to get people in the theaters, like James Cameron did when he made Avatar. That kind of thing costs a lot more money though, so the studios cheap out and do what is easy. Ruin something to make more money or make a weak effort to format it into 3D so the ticket prices are higher. What a waste. Bottom line: don’t waste time watching the remake of this movie people, just watch the original because it’s a good movie and there’s nothing wrong with it.

I have seen this movie more times than I can count. Yet when I sat down to watch it for this review I found myself just as sucked in as I was the first time. That says everything about how good this movie is. It’s a fun movie that doesn’t get old, it’s a “timeclass classic.” After everything else that I have said it goes without saying that I think this movie is worth your time. I am even happier now than I was before that I decided to keep this movie for the collection. There is no reason to turn your nose up to something when it’s something you will enjoy. Some movies are made to make statements and teach lessons but others do only what movies were originally intended for, they just entertain and there is nothing wrong with that.

NEXT MOVIE: Poltergeist (1982)

 

Avatar

Year: 2009
Directed By: James Cameron
Written By: James Cameron

RYAN’S REVIEW

When this movie came out I saw it in the theater three times.  I thought it was one of the most awesome movies I had ever seen.  It was really something special, and the box office results reflect the fact that it was no ordinary movie.  I hailed James Cameron as a genius and still do because the fact is he might have saved the theater business from going under.  He created an experience that can’t be recreated at home.  His 3D, and I’m not talking about the crap being passed off as 3D now, but James Cameron 3D, Avatar 3D, will save the movie industry.  That is of course when people figure out what Cameron did different and learn to recreate it.  Until then let’s look forward to Avatar 2 because I have every hope that it will surpass it’s predecessor and blow us away all over again. For further opinions about James Cameron see our posts on The Abyss and Aliens. It’s difficult to describe watching Avatar in 3D because I didn’t write about the experience when it happened, but I remembered thinking I wish I could see every movie I loved just like that.  I felt like I was inside the movie, and it was amazing.

That being said, having just watched it I can see now that this movie doesn’t belong in our collection and I regret buying it when it came out.  We don’t own a 3D TV, and even if we did I don’t know how well the film actually transitions to the small screen in that format. The 3D effects made this movie truly amazing and an outstanding viewing experience, but without them it’s a different story.  It’s just a movie without those effects, and not a good one at that.  The story is practically a knock-off, the performances are weak, even by the A-list actors, and until the end the movie is more or less boring without the 3D.  Giovanni Ribisi is so cliché in this film he should be embarrassed, Stephen Lang is trying too hard to pass himself off as a badass, and Sigourney Weaver is just going through the motions.  The surprising actress is Michelle Rodriguez, who I usually hate but didn’t mind here.  Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana are both good,  but the effects that make their characters tend to overshadow their acting.

If you have watched this movie on a 3D TV then please let me know how it was, but if you don’t own one I’d advise you not to waste your time with this one.  If you saw it in the theater I trust you were pleased but that experience can’t be recreated at home with a normal TV.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I am really happy that I can say that I saw this film in 3D. It was an amazing experience and by far the coolest movie I have ever seen in the theater in 3D. It was the experience that was amazing. The movie itself was not. The story has been told before, and while I appreciate the effort put forth to make a statement about human kind, they story wasn’t original and I am not sure why Ryan bought this movie.

NEXT MOVIE: Back to the Future (1985)

Aliens

Year: 1986
Directed By: James Cameron
Written By: James Cameron and David Giler

RYAN’S REVIEW

Now this is a badass Aliens movie, the best of them all, a sequel that spawned a franchise. This movie has lived on in the past 25 years.  With scenes popping up in DirectTV commercials, Troy and Abed dressed as Ripley and the Alien in a Halloween episode of Community, and it even has had a clear influence on the Halo franchise. The soldiers in the Halo games are taken directly from this film, the captain may even be voiced by the actual actor from this movie for all I know.  Aliens is what all sequels should be, a bigger and better version of the original. I have mentioned before that I think James Cameron is a badass and this movie is one of the reasons why.  He took a movie that was already cool and expanded the story to devastating proportions.  For anybody that thought that one alien was scary in 1979 must have been blown away when they saw what Cameron had cooked up.

This movie, like its predecessor won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, and Sigourney Weaver was actually nominated for Best Actress. In a genre dominated by the likes of Schwarzenegger and Stallone, Weaver did prove to be just as much a badass with this film.  This movie also has James Cameron regular Michael Beihn, I’ve said it before, I think he is awesome.  Lance Henriksen is great as the android Bishop, and Bill Paxton was appropriately cast as a whiny bitch. I don’t care for Paul Reiser but he too is appropriately cast, as a douche bag.  The cast was great in this movie and the story and execution of the film give this film the strength and longevity it has enjoyed over the last 25 years.  If you haven’t already seen this movie then it is a definite must see, more than worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW 

I liked this better than the original. It had more action, it was scarier and it tied into the first one. I think my favorite thing about this movie is how mad Ridley gets throughout the film. No one can say “goddamnit” like she can. Again, this isn’t one of those films that I like watching over and over, but it a really good film, how could it not be coming from Cameron? Definitely see this one, at least once.

NEXT MOVIE: Alien 3 (1992)

The Abyss

Year: 1989
Directed By: James Cameron
Written By: James Cameron


RYAN’S REVIEW:

What makes James Cameron such a fantastic filmmaker is his ability to show us something really mind blowing.  He has a great imagination and ability to film action scenes but he has consistently been able to go out there and do something that nobody else has ever done.  That’s something he did with The Abyss, something nobody else had done or even thought of.  The story is very imaginative, truly great science fiction, which was Cameron’s calling card throughout the 80s and early 90s. I have read that this film was really difficult to make, and that James Cameron is a major asshole.  I specifically read that during filming Ed Harris was on the way home from shooting one day and pulled his car to the side of the road because he broke down crying. The filming was that hard on him and getting to him. I have also read that Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio had a physical and emotional breakdown during filming. Cameron is notorious for being a hard ass on set and hard to work with.  As far as I am concerned though, he can be an asshole as much as he wants as long as he keeps delivering those hits.  He proved to us all that he still had it when Avatar came out, again doing something nobody else had done and showing us something new and exciting in 3D. Obviously I am a big fan and very proud of the fact that he owns the #1 and #2 spot on the highest grossing films of all time list.  With that kind of success, Cameron could literally decide to make a movie about toilet paper and every movie studio out there would beg him for the rights.

The Abyss is a very long movie, but it is more than worth the time.  The story is great and ambitious, it’s an idea so big that only a guy like James Cameron would have dared to do it.  The movie takes place underwater, I can only imagine how difficult it was to actually make, and how expensive.  James Cameron actually almost drown to death during filming, both lead actors were on the verge of losing it, it must have been insane.  They somehow put it all together and made it work though.  I am a fan of Ed Harris and I think he does well playing the lead role.  I am not a fan of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, but she is also very good in this film.  It warmed my heart a few years back when I was watching South Park and saw the scene where Mastrantonio was being revived reenacted by Cartman and Kyle during one of the Imaginationland episodes.  That is a powerful and gripping scene, I can only hope that people realized what it was when they saw it on South Park.  Also in this film was James Cameron regular, Michael Beihn. I think Michael Beihn is an awesome actor, I don’t understand why he hasn’t had a more successful career.

The liquid oxygen technology used in the film was and is apparently a real thing.  The scene where the rat is submerged was actually really happening on set and there were problems with animal rights activist because of it.  Ed Harris did not breathe liquid oxygen though, and during filming those scenes had to act with his helmet full of water while submerged in the tank.  It must have been unbearable, and you can see his strain on his face as he falls down the canyon. The film won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects and it was well earned.  The special effects in the film are incredible even by today’s standards, they must have been absolutely mind blowing upon release in 1989. If you have never seen this film then it is definitely a must see. If you have already seen it, it is always worth a revisit.  Excellent movie all the way.

AMBER’S REVIEW:

The Abyss is a good movie. It is entertaining and intriguing enough to keep you focused and into it the entire time, which is a while. They only downfall is how long the movie is, but the adventure it takes you on is well worth it. James Cameron is a pro at making us (the human race) feel like we are doing something wrong and that we should change our selves for the greater good. This is a common theme throughout his films. In this particular one, I love that he puts the characters in a position that we aren’t all familiar with. I don’t think I know one single person that actually works on a submarine. He captures the surreal life of people that live under water most of the time. We are interested because it isn’t something that we encounter on an everyday basis, or perhaps, ever. We get to see characters change, always important, and we also get to see how the human race is split into good and evil, and age-old, but ever important fact.

I definitely think this movie is a must see if you are a movie lover. It is an award winner, by an amazing writer/director and it has also been parodied by many television shows and cartoons.