Posts Tagged ‘Top 11’

Top 11 Favorite 90s Characters

February 17, 2018

Top 11


11. Bob (ReBoot)

When I played my first video game on the Atari, I was hooked. Even though the games of my youth were next to impossible, I loved trying each and every game I could get my hands on. Computers were also becoming more and more of a thing as I entered my teen years. I spent a lot of time playing computer games and video games with my friends and we bonded over them. So when Reboot first premiered, I was instantly in love. The show is about the programs that live inside a computer city called Mainframe. The show’s main hero is Bob who is a guardian. Being a guardian means that Bob would enter the games the user played and would “reboot” himself as an enemy character and try to beat the user at the game. If he succeeded, he protected Mainframe and if he failed, that section of Mainframe was destroyed. So it set up most gamers as unintentional villains opposed by guardians like Bob. Bob was always level-headed and did not let fear override his thoughts as he could not afford to get distracted. Bob also had a multitool that could transform into a lot of gadgets he might need to save the day both in the games and out of them. Even with the danger, I envied Bob’s life of basically living in video games.


10. Freakazoid

As I was growing up, my sense of humor started to evolve and animation started to move beyond the laugh track humor of past cartoons. Instead of corny humor of shows like The Flintstones or He-Man, family shows started to really figure out humor. Just because you are putting out a PG product, does not mean that your humor has to insult even its youngest audience members. The makers of Freakazoid obviously embraced a lot of different types of humor. Most of all, they seemed to embrace smarter forms of humor like Monty Python or Bugs Bunny. Combining the silly and the surreal was what that sort of humor was about. Dexter Douglas is a young nerdy teen (like I was!) who got zapped by his home computer and was transported into the Internet. Let’s pause there because I would have loved to be able to be zapped into the Internet. That would have been a geek’s dream. The experience turned Dexter into Freakazoid, a manic but enthusiastic superhero. Freakazoid is always out for a good time but, like Bugs Bunny, he often has to take care of villains just to get back to the fun. Freakazoid was also the defender of Washington, DC which is close enough to my hometown for me to get a little excited. This show had the same humor as The Animaniacs (more on that later) with low humor blended with high humor. Freakazoid was impossible not to root for too.


9. Mega Man

I was an early adopter when it came to video games even though I have always been kind of in the middle of the pack when it comes to skill. Still, I have always loved the aesthetics that video game developers come up with. Even a lot of the worst games at least look interesting. When I was young, I immediately glommed onto Mega Man 2. It was an incredibly difficult game but I loved the franchise’s idea of having elemental-themed enemies with a high degree of character. The show combines the concepts from the video games with anime. Rock is a robot who gets redesigned for battle and uses an energy blaster to fight evil robots. He also had an onboard computer feature that could copy his enemy’s abilities when he touched them which was similar enough to the games. I just remember Mega Man being so cool and confident and I liked the idea of not being stuck with one power but being able to use your enemies’ powers against them. The cartoon was short lived but it included a lot of stuff from the franchise and Mega Man eventually teamed up with his future counterpart Mega Man X as well. What kid didn’t want to be a robot with a robot dog?


8. Xena: Warrior Princess

Before I discovered the Evil Dead franchise, I discovered something else that Sam Raimi and his gang produced. That something was Hercules: The Legendary Journeys but, while it was a good show, Hercules was kind of a bland show compared to its spinoff. Xena was supposed to be a one-off character on Hercules, a brutal female villain for Hercules to contend with. At the end of her turn on Hercules, the audiences loved her so the decision was made for her to reform and to start her own legendary journey to right wrongs. Basically, she was fighting the patriarchy before most people were even using that term. She was also one of the first lesbian characters on television and even gawky preteen me understood that subtext. Xena was a total badass and she never met a situation she couldn’t fight, intimidate, or trick her way out of. She was also funny in the same way that Batman was funny which is funny without trying to be. She also fought a lot of the mythology that I had fallen in love with after reading The Oddysey, The Iliad, and other Greek/Roman tales. She also is one of three characters to get stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque scenario that ended up funny and interesting. (The other two are Sam Winchester and Phil Connors himself, of course). I also often have a soft spot for tough people who secretly have a heart of gold.


7. The Blue Ranger (Billy Cranston)

Power Rangers was a show that I was a huge fan of. I had no idea at all that it was edited from footage from a similar Japanese show. However, Saban was able to turn that into an unstoppable franchise that became its own animal. For me, Power Rangers was something I watched before leaving for school at one point. I remember being really interested in the idea of normal teenage kids becoming superheroes. It also scratched the same itch that magical girl shows would later also scratch. Billy, in particular, was my favorite because he had abilities beyond being a Power Ranger. He was yet another example of blue characters being the smart ones. He was an inventor who came up with a lot of the extra gadgets the original Rangers used and a lot of those gadgets continued into later series. He was also the awkward one, a little insecure about being among other people. When it came to actual Power Ranger powers, he was on par with everybody else. Episodes focusing on him often dealt with more real issues like rescuing a new girlfriend, phobias, or science.


6. Gambit (Remy Lebeau)

When I was a kid, I hated the Boy Scouts of America. I was briefly part of the Indian Guides (now thankfully called Y-Guides) and the Scouts were our rivals. Even today, I do not put much faith in the organization. But when I was a kid, I was kind of averse to “boy scout” characters like Superman and especially Cyclops. I much preferred to see more subversive characters like Wolverine, Rogue, and especially Gambit. Gambit was a thief from New Orleans who had the mutant power to replace an object’s kinetic energy with explosive energy. Anything he touched basically turned into a grenade. He did not wear a team uniform and instead wore a custom costume with a big trench coat. This was at a time when I was very tired of wearing uniforms for sports. While Gambit did not get nearly enough time on the animated series during the nineties, they meted out just enough of him to keep people wanting more. On top of that, I always wished I had his confidence growing up.


5. Darkwing Duck

This was officially my first experience with the combination of Disney and superheroes which would end up often being a very satisfying combination. Drake Mallard is a duck living in the DuckTales universe and he dresses up and fights crime as Darkwing Duck. He is basically Batman, James Bond, and The Green Hornet combined into one hero. He is a serious hero but the show was both a serious superhero show and a parody superhero show. The character of Darkwing Duck is a superhero who fell in love with being a detective and fighting crime. However, he also had a huge ego and tended to be rather clumsy at times. He often only saved the day when he managed to get serious and get out of his own way. He fought alongside Disney-fied versions of popular superheroes and fought Disney-fied versions of popular comic book villains and James Bond-esque villains. Unlike annoying heroes like Inspector Gadget, the humor did not come from him being incompetent but from Darkwing’s quips and physical humor. The character was also a good father to a little girl he had adopted who often helped to fight crime along with DW and his sidekick Launchpad (from DuckTales). As the show continued, Darkwing’s history was added to and there was a lot of great world-building.


4. Yakko Warner

The Animaniacs was a cartoon variety show that focused on a whole cast of zany Warner Brothers style characters updated for the nineties. The main focus of the show was the Warner Brothers and their sister Dot. They were cartoons deemed too zany and disruptive and were sealed in the water tower on the Warner Brothers lot. At the beginning of the series, they finally made their escape and the studio spent the entire series trying to acclimate them to polite society with no success. The kids were not evil, though. They were rambunctious and sarcastic but, like Bugs Bunny, they really only caused malicious chaos when somebody crossed the line and upset them. Their revenge was out of proportion but justified. Out of the three, Yakko Warner was my favorite. His form of comedy was mostly wordplay. He employed puns, sarcasm, and just good old-fashioned tricks with words. He was basically a cartoon form of Groucho Marx. He always seemed to be the smartest guy in the room and he leveraged that to make mean or rude people pay for their behavior. He also sang quite a few of the show’s most memorable songs including the highly educational Yakko’s World and Yakko’s Universe. Like Groucho, he usually ended up as the leader of his siblings and their spokesman. Inside my head, the words always flowed like Yakko but outside, especially as a kid, I was never as glib.


3. Sailor Mercury (Ami)

When I was sitting on my bed, watching episodes of Sailor Moon from Cartoon Network’s line up, I always loved Sailor Mercury the most. She never had the coolest power but in retrospect, her abilities usually gave the Scouts a tactical advantage such as fog or freezing the enemy. I mean, Sailor Jupiter obviously had the coolest powers. However, Ami was present from the fifth episode and it is a good thing that she was. She is by far the smartest of all of the Scouts and was the only Scout to be granted a magical supercomputer. There is only one episode of the original anime when she pulls out her Mercury Goggles which was basically a VR overlay visor for scanning things. That blew my mind because the combination of technology and magic was amazing. I identified with Ami because she was the “smart one” and my teachers kept claiming I was intelligent. I was also interested in the emerging technology of computers just as Ami was. Also, I was probably drawn to Ami because she was the shy and timid one and that was how I felt as well.


2. Spider-Man

In the middle of the decade, Marvel finally got its crap together and started to put out really good animation. Spider-Man is a character who I have always loved. His origins are as a nerdy and shy high schooler who got to magically transform into a superhero after being bitten by a radioactive spider. As a kid, I dreamed of finding my own radioactive spider (figuratively, of course). He also got to work for a newspaper in a sort of creative job all while studying cool science in college. That cool science enhanced his gear with gadgets but his main deal was his brain, his strength, and his speed. The cartoon in the 90s was great. It really captured a lot of what I loved about reading Spider-Man comics and it included pretty much his entire rogue’s gallery. They really captured both Peter’s internal monologue and the quips that Spider-man uses to disarm his foes mid-battle. The show also explored a lot of the angst that a young superhero felt while also trying to juggle a career, school, and a girlfriend. The show and the comics made me feel at the time that I could be Spider-Man which is one of the main strengths of the character. Anybody can be under that mask as long as they have radioactive spider blood too.


1. Batman

When I was a little kid, reruns of the 1966 Batman show came on and, while I enjoyed it, I never really engaged with it. It was better than I Dream of Jeannie reruns because it had superheroes even though Adam West was never really super. My relationship with Batman drastically improved when Bruce Timm and Warner Brothers released Batman: The Animated Series. B:TAS was everything that I wanted Batman to be and it became the bar by which I measured future Batman stories. The Animated Series was an amazing mix of both light and dark. I welcomed the darkness which was so sorely lacking from the campy Adam West series. I realized that Adam West was never really Batman. This was Batman. Kevin Conroy’s strong voice matched the shadowy, adventurous character on screen. His voice could be scary, brave, warm, vulnerable, and even funny at times without losing the character of Batman. The writing made it clear that Batman was not perfect but he lived in a world that believed he was. He put the weight of the world on his shoulders and then still saved the day the best way he knew how.

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Top 11 Favorite Anime Series

April 24, 2017

Top 11

I have read a few top lists for anime series (and movies) and there are some of the usual suspects and some that I have not seen yet. My top list may not be the most thoughtfully crafted, profound creations but I enjoyed them. A lot of these were also my gateway into the genre of anime and will be fondly remembered forever for that reason.


11 Record of Lodoss War

I did not see this one on any of the lists. I add this here because it combined anime with high fantasy. It is something that is Dungeons and Dragons-inspired. It is based on a bunch of Japanese fantasy novels but the look of it was definitely Western fantasy. It follows the hero Parn, the son of a dishonored knight who is trying to bring honor back to his family’s name. He is accompanied by his love, the high elf Deedlit, his mentor Slayn, Ghim, Etoh, and Woodchuck. The series eventually shifts to cover characters related to the first cast. It is basically a D&D party adventuring. The characters were always interesting and the adventure was fun to follow.


10 Lupin the 3rd

I love heist movies or heist shows (see Italian Job, Oceans 11, Leverage, The Sting, etc.). The twists and turns of the plans of legitimately skilled criminals are fun to watch. That is what Lupin the 3rd is about. Lupin is an infamous master thief who is descended from a family of master thieves. He pursues thievery with great joy and a flair for the dramatic. Of course, nothing goes right a hundred percent of the time so he is backed up by his crew of Goemon, Jigen, and Zenigata. All of them provide specialized skills to win the day. The art style was also really smooth and just had this international style. The show is mostly madcap capers with plenty of action and comedy.


9 Trigun

Cowboys. Who doesn’t love cowboys? Trigun was a great series about Vash the Stampede, also known as the Humanoid Typhoon. Wanted posters across the land bear the face of this more human than human gunfighter but he is actually a really nice guy. He constantly tries to protect people without blowing his cover. He is pursued by two agents named Millie and Meryl who are partners tasked with documenting the damage Vash inadvertently causes by combatting the bad guys. They and others get sucked into the combat, helping Vash save the day. The show has great artwork and stylistic, well-animated gun fights and combat in general. There is a lot of classic Wild West imagery thrown in with great science fiction technology. This show can get very dramatic but it has a lot of comic moments to lighten the mood.


8 Gurren Lagann

This was a later find for me thanks to a tip from Ross O’Donovan. I like this show because of the unbridled sense of optimism you get from it. No matter what the obstacles are, the characters find some crazy way to overcome it. It is famous for the line “Don’t believe in yourself. Believe in me! Believe in the Kamina that believes in you!” A line used to instill confidence in a character who constantly suffers from anxiety and low self-esteem. The show is full of all sorts of craziness with action, drama, and plenty of wacky comedy. It is about two young guys who emerge from an underground city in a post-apocalyptic land and recover two battle mechs. They team up with a rebellious faction to fight off the monsters and villains that plague the dangerous terrain around them. While things often look hopeless, they are a shining light in the darkness. It is pretty inspiring and sometimes very funny.


7 Naruto

This is kind of the anime I hear people refer to the most. Naruto follows a ninja student who is trying his hardest to be the best person he can be. Naruto was cursed to contain a demon beast inside of himself and he battles that with the help of his friends. The show also follows Naruto’s graduating class at the academy who are all interesting characters. The supporting cast is huge and there are so many characters I identify with and cheer on. Each ninja has their own signature set of powers and abilities that they use to fight with like manipulating the elements, cloning themselves, mind merging with a dog and changing shape among many, many powers. The show constantly surprises me with how dramatic it can be considering half of the characters are happy go lucky goofballs. The thing is, most of the characters are young and they act like you would expect young people to act. The animation is generally super bright and fluid which makes for excellent action scenes.


6 Mobile Fighter G Gundam

When I grew up playing a lot of video games, one of the biggest things in the arcades was fighting games. One of the most iconic fighting games of all time would have to be Street Fighter II where all the fighters represented their countries of origin. That is the feeling I got from watching G Gundam. The show is about a world where futuristic societies in orbit around Earth hold giant robot battles to settle political differences instead of fighting wars. The main protagonist is the representative from Neo-Japan but there are other main protagonists from Neo-America, Neo-France, Neo-China and Neo-Russia. Most episodes are about matches between the giant Gundam mechs who each have their own style of fighting and weaponry which often represent their country somehow. While I like earlier and later Gundam series, this one was so optimistic and energetic and was such a breath of fresh air.


5 One Piece

This one has the potential to be controversial not because this series is not popular but because I first fell in love with it during the 4Kids dub days. Luckily, they kept the same voice cast when the even better Funimation dub started up. Anyway, this is is a story about a young man with magical stretchy Mr. Fantastic powers who has a dream to be King of the Pirates. His goal is to recover a treasure in the most dangerous part of the ocean that will allow him to inherit the power and wealth of the famous Jolly Roger. Along the way, he forms a crew of misfits and underdogs who become a formidable team together. The action scenes are so fun as there are super-powered fistfights, sword fights, gun fights and so much more. The show is also pretty surreal with all kinds of animal people, altered humans and so many other creatures and all of it adds to the action and comedy of the show.


4 Fullmetal Alchemist

This show came when I was just about ready to get back into anime during college. It really resonated with me because it is about two brothers hanging together no matter what and that is how I feel about my brothers. The show is about a world where humans have discovered real workable alchemy and use it as a system of magic in combat. The animation is fluid and beautiful, especially during action sequences where the characters are using alchemy to battle one another. The show is about the conflict between the military, the people and the monsters somewhere in between the two. The Elric brothers stick together through thick and thin as dogs of the military, investigating threats to the nation and eventually uncovering something much bigger. The show is probably the darkest one on this list as the brothers deal with death, resurrection, atrocities, genocide and other grotesque things done by heroes and villains alike.


3 Cowboy Bebop

From the first notes of the show’s theme song, the show has a great jazz feel to it. The animation has mostly muted, softer colors and deep beautiful shadows. The show takes place in a science fiction world but it definitely has both a film noir and a wild west feel to it. The show is about three bounty hunters who do not always get along or work together and yet they share a ship together. Spike is a well-dressed, slick adventurer. Jet is a muscle-bound, older tracker. Faye is a charmer and a con artist. Along the way, they are joined by a girl genius named Ed and her hyper-intelligent dog Ein. The show is inspired by Lupin the 3rd but they took it even farther in feel and execution. There is a great central plot thread but they approached each episode as if it was a movie and it shows. Each episode is pretty much a self-contained story about these characters with a clear story arc. The show has a lot of light, funny moments but it also has a lot of poetic, darker moments.


Sailor Moon

I talked about this show yesterday but it bears repeating that this was such a great show. After I wrote yesterday’s post (which is actually more about me than the show), I watched the show again. Serena is told by a talking cat that she is the legendary Sailor Moon, guardian of love and justice. She is joined by a whole team of Sailor Scouts mostly made up of her school friends. Together, they battle against the evil denizens of the Negaverse who want to hurt the citizens of Earth. The characters are so memorable to me and remind me of a lot of people I have known over the years. I have worked in a lot of female-dominated work environments in the past. It was also the first television show I watched that had gay characters in it which is amazing. Also, there is a male character who aids the female protagonist not by fighting her battles for her but by helping her remember who she is and how powerful she can be.


Seven Deadly Sins

This is a show I discovered last year and I am desperately waiting for Season 3. Season 2 was only four episodes long and the cliffhanger was awesome. Anyway, this show is about a group of seven legendary knights who were the best squad in the military service of a country called Leonis. They are the titular Seven Deadly Sins and they have been framed for crimes of treason and are actively being hunted. At the same time, they catch wind of a great danger to the nation and ride off to the rescue. There is so much to explore with this show and the best part is that I get to explore it with characters I would love to hang out with. The action scenes are some of the best I have seen, animated or not. The show just sparks my imagination in ways that few shows do. The show is not for children as there is plenty of gore and risque behavior but nothing feels gratuitous and, so far, there is always a happy ending right around the corner. The finale of the first season was also the first time I teared up in a while and also the first time I cheered at the screen at moments. It probably makes number one on this list because it is still ongoing and I desperately want more so badly.

Top 11 Fictional Jobs I Might Want

February 18, 2017

I am currently working at a paralegal internship and soon I will get undoubtedly get a job in the legal field. This got me thinking about where I might have ended up if things had gone differently. Of course, they have gone differently in the past, leading to my rather eclectic list of former jobs. But I started to think about my favorite television shows and movies and the jobs fictional characters have. What if I could have any job even a fictional one? Here is a list of the top 11 fictional jobs I might want.


11. Grim Reaper
(Dead Like Me)

In the world of Dead Like Me, dead people who are not ready to pass on can be chosen to act as reapers which is way more peaceful than you would expect. With a simple touch, a reaper takes a person’s soul just before they die. Doing so makes sure that the person feels no pain when they die which helps with their transition to the next step. One of the cool things would be that I would suddenly be in a peer group that included a mish mash of different people from very different time periods. So, I could hang out with a young hippie from the sixties along with an ex-thug from the twenties. It would be a very rewarding job. Everybody has to die someday and, in the world of Dead Like Me, people are destined to die at a specific time and place. So, without any reason to think I could prevent death, I would want to make that experience as comfortable as possible. If possible, I would want to be assigned to the accidents and misfortunes department like the characters of Dead Like Me. The big downsides are that I would never see or talk to my friends and family again and I would have to die to get hired. Those are huge downsides.


10. Stargate Program Researcher
(From Stargate SG-1)

One of my favorite aspects of watching Stargate SG-1 is watching the team encounter new worlds with new cultures and civilizations. In the movie and on the television show, I admired Daniel Jackson because he was using years of study to help unravel ancient mysteries that had to do with both peaceful and hostile aliens. I would love to work with a lower priority SG team so I could get off Earth and explore the ruins of alien cultures that influenced cultures back on my home planet. Of course, things are bound to get dangerous with the Goa’uld and other hazards but that would be a risk that I could live with in order to do such important work. Of course, I do not know how well I would do in a military system. Daniel Jackson was afforded certain freedoms and exceptions that I feel I would not receive as Jackson was one of the first people to crack the stargate technology. I think I would learn to adapt but obviously, it would not be my first choice.


9. Auror
(From Harry Potter)

While I am much more interested in defending people than prosecuting people these days, I do recognize the importance of law enforcement. In the world of the Potterverse, Aurors are basically a magical version of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They use magic and their wits to track criminals who are abusing magical abilities or using forbidden spells. I feel like an Auror book or movie should be in the making. Fantastic Beasts broached the subject but it was only the B-plot but the theme in Harry Potter was that authority is not to be trusted. I think I would be a great investigator but I have already read too many mystery books and movies. The Aurors in America seemed pretty uniform but they were also given a lot of leeway in the way they investigated crimes. In England, I would have been a Ravenclaw but here in America, those qualities would carry over. I would know the spells I needed to defend myself and disable fleeing or combative criminals. It would be a dangerous job but I would think with proper training I could manage things. One might be afraid of a Voldemort or Grindelwald situation but those situations seem to be few and far between for the wizarding world.


8. Jurassic World Tour Guide
(Jurassic World)

Jurassic World exists 22 years after everything originally went to crap in the first movie/book. It is a pristine theme park where you can observe a lot of dinosaurs in realistic settings with little to no danger. These behemoths are kept at bay by state of the art technology and qualified professionals. The only reason that goes badly is the reason it always went badly: somebody gets greedy. If that had not happened, the park was an efficient machine that was more nature preserve than zoo although there was plenty of allusions to zoos and aquariums. There is also the issue that the things in the park are not real dinosaurs. They are featherless hybrid creations but if I was watching their T-Rex in action, I would not really care. The awesome power of these creatures would be so interesting to be around all the time. Watching people’s faces as they see one for the first time would be amazing. Learning everything I could about them so that I could explain to park visitors would be pretty cool too. Even working perfectly, there is plenty of risk working at Jurrasic World but I guess I would hope that the technology and safeguards would work.


7. Theme Park Writer
(From Westworld)

I love writing. I could not keep myself from writing if I tried. When I do not write, it just floods my imagination especially when I am trying to sleep. Westworld is a theme park where robots are programmed to carry out live action roleplay with human park guests. If the guest wants to be a good guy, there are bad guys to kill and people to save. If the guest wants to be a bad guy, there are good guys to kill and dastardly crimes to commit in a safe environment. There are technicians who work on the robots but there are also writers and designers who make the storylines. I would love to spend my time doing that. Taking the same characters and repurposing them for slightly different stories would be so much fun. Of course, there are the dangers of the robots gaining sentience but that would not really be my problem unless they came after me. There are some ethical concerns but really, as far as I would know, the robots are just fancy animatronics in cowboy clothes. It would give me a chance to write stories with good guys or bad guys in the lead role.


6. Watcher
(From Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

In the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, magic is real and has been unleashed in the world. There are demons, vampires and other nasty things that are more than ready to prey on human beings. Magical warrior women (and girls) known as “slayers” are tapped to fight these creatures. Of course, suddenly becoming a supernaturally strong is not enough to fight evil successfully. Knowledge is power and these slayers are backed up by “watchers” who teach the slayer about fighting the undead. Watchers are usually bookish types, the Q and M to a slayer’s Bond. Among other things, I have been the bookish type. I love to research things and read up on things to arm myself against the world. In this scenario, I would be using that passion to examine eldritch threats to the human populace. I would be helping to guide a young woman in combat, usually without having to do any of the fighting. The only problem I would have is that I would be largely helpless if my charge was killed. Of course, I could study magic to negate some of my relative physical weakness.


5. Space Cowboy/Smuggler
(From Firefly)

The crew of the Serenity spaceship takes a lot of less than savory jobs on the very outskirts of civilization. Of course, they take a lot of the riskier jobs because they do not want to run into the Alliance for two big reasons. If I was serving on a different ship, we would probably not be taking jobs that were quite that dangerous. Sure, there would still be rough jobs and there are always Reavers out there but there should not be dangerous black ops operatives or as many sketchy jobs. I am not inexperienced with firearms (which I would hope not to use). The job also seems like it would include a lot of downtime between jobs. When you pick up a load of cattle and have to fly it to another planet, there’s some rest time between destinations. Of course, there would always be the risk of being arrested by the Alliance but they are pretty corrupt. It would only be the worst offenses that we could not pay our way out of.


4. Mystery Shack Employee
(From Gravity Falls)

Gravity Falls is a little town in Oregon where strange things are happening. There is also an extradimensional tear and a lot to do with what appear to be Old Ones. Did I mention that this is an all ages show? The show follows a brother and sister who are twins who are staying with their Grunkle Stan for the summer. Stan owns and operates a tourist trap called the Mystery Shack which is kind of a museum of the weird. Some of the exhibits are real but most of them are not. Every day would be an exercise in both creating art projects and writing imaginary lore about supernatural creatures. I would have to keep customers safe from the real supernatural creatures and objects in town but that would be fun. Reading the journals would be all I did during lulls when I was not selling cheap trinkets to visitors. The residents of Gravity Falls are pretty dumb but are also kindhearted so it would be a pretty pleasant place to live.


3. Dal Riata Bartender
(From Lost Girl)

I have worked in the service industry before although it was only for a few months as a summer job just before college. It was often a long day of working on your feet with only the hope of enough pay to handle your commitments. However, most people were nice enough and those who were not eventually left and you usually did not need to deal with them again for a while if ever. The people watching was very interesting as I saw tables with all sorts of compositions. The regulars were often the nicest people I could meet and I also felt supremely satisfied at the end of a good day’s work. The Dal Riata is a bar exclusively for faekind in the world of Lost Girl. It is a way station where those with faerie blood can stop in and rest and relax without having to hide what they are. If you think that faeries are all glitter and sparkles, you would be wrong. Faekind is often incredibly dangerous even with powers meant to be beneficial to humankind. However, the reason I would want this job is because the Dal Riata is basically Switzerland. It is the one zone in town where fighting amongst the Dark and the Light is forbidden. So, I would get to meet all sorts of interesting creatures while being protected by an ancient truce. Of course, that would mean I would have powers of my own but that is just an additional bonus.


2. Muppet Crewmember
(From the Muppet Show)

If you look back far enough in this blog, you will know that I used to work in professional theater. I still have an undying love for the theater even if I have moved on professionally. The atmosphere backstage is controlled craziness. It may look crazy but everybody knows where they are supposed to be and they have practiced every minute over and over. Of course, the Muppet Show is more of a vaudeville show which has more elements of improvisation and chaos. The show almost never goes as planned except when it does. While there are definitely a lot of interruptions, huge expensive-looking musical numbers often go off without a hitch. In addition, the show continues to book hugely popular human celebrities even with a reputation for those guests getting abused. We do not see a lot of crewmembers beyond Scooter, Gladys and Kermit as many performers double as crewmembers and vice versa. However, I would love to be a crewmember on The Muppet Show. First, I would be a muppet which means I would be nigh impossible to kill. Second, I would get to work with really cool celebrities and my coworkers would be absolutely insane in the best ways.


1. Librarian
(From The Librarians)

Having recently watched The Librarians, I was totally jazzed about the main characters of the show. That is actually the show that gave me the idea for this list. A couple years ago, as I was spending days putting up campaign signs, I was told that my great memory for details especially of literature and film would serve me well in a new profession. I briefly considered studying to become a librarian. Of course, this show is about Librarians who travel the world and collect magical artifacts and save the day. They do so by using research and intelligence, two things I love to use. To be in the field and put the details of legend, mathematics and art history to practical use would be amazingly fun. Of course, every adventure has the possibility of incredible danger but I would have the satisfaction of knowing that I am saving the world on the regular. Also, I get to hang out with Santa Claus and see and experience the wonder of magic.

Top 11 Superheroes That Need a Movie or Show

January 14, 2017

These are a few characters or teams that I feel could use their own show or movie. Some of them have already been animated and some of them already have a television show but they could use more. I purposely left out characters who are confirmed to already have a movie or show in the works.


11 Deadman

There have already been some allusions to Deadman’s origins when Nanda Parbat was mentioned on Arrow. Boston Brand is a deceased circus performer who clings to the land of the living in order to right wrongs and save the day. While I have really only experienced the character during crossover events, I feel like a lot could be done with this character. In death, he is merely a spirit but he has the power to possess people to use their bodies to accomplish his tasks. He is also often a conduit between the lands of the dead and the living. The problem with putting this on screen is how to depict the possession. Frankly, it could be fun to see a bunch of different actors doing an impression of whoever is playing Deadman. I am not sure if the character could carry a movie on his own but a movie teaming up with somebody like Zatanna or some other mystical DC Comics characters could be fun. It looks like he will be in the upcoming Justice League Dark but that is one animated feature. He could also be in a television show with a whole bunch of guest stars standing in for him in each episode.


10 The Shadowpact

While they were not around for long, I always liked the Shadowpact. They were a ragtag group of mystical heroes and anti-heroes who confronted mystical threats. They always kind of struck me as kind of a blue collar superhero team. They all met each other at a magical bar that exists beyond space and time that is owned by formerly retired leader Nightmaster. Probably the most famous character is Blue Devil, a guy who sold his soul for demonic powers and fame. He struggles with the decision and how it might inspire others to sell their soul too. My favorite character from the issues I have read was Detective Chimp. He is an actual chimpanzee who can talk and was also a very intelligent, chain-smoking detective. In fact, two reboots ago, he was somebody that Batman would consult with to help the World’s Greatest Detective figure out tougher mysteries. The problem here is that the team also had The Enchantress in it and Suicide Squad kind of screwed that up. She is not very necessary and Nightshade (another magician) can easily fill her role since she is already on the team. I won’t go into everyone on the team but they would make a good movie.


9 Runaways

The Runaways were a breakout success in comic books that seemed to come out of nowhere not long before the Civil War storyline in Marvel Comics. The Runaways were young superheroes who were struggling with a very difficult truth. Their parents were some of the most powerful yet relatively unknown supervillains in the world. While villains like Doctor Doom and Loki were tearing down cities while loudly proclaiming their intentions, the Pride were villains that controlled things more from the shadows similar to the early days of the Mafia. They were grooming their kids to take over the family business but the kids had different ideas and ran away from home, struggling with not wanting to be villains but also not really wanting to fight their parents. The series deals a lot with dealing with the strong emotions that come with youth and being on the lam with superpowers and/or superweapons. There were also some very interesting gay, lesbian and transgender themes which we haven’t really seen a whole of in superhero stuff so far. There were so many interesting concepts in this book that would be amazing adapted on screen.


8 Green Arrow

A long time ago (at least a decade), a movie was announced as being in development. This was long before press conferences where the big two revealed their movie schedules for the next four years. DC Comics revealed a potential movie that at the time was simply called Supermax. In reality, the movie was a vehicle for the Green Arrow. In it, Green Arrow would be imprisoned in a new state of the art prison for high-profile lawbreakers and would have to escape to survive. It would have had cameos from a whole bunch of DC Comics villains who would be imprisoned alongside him and thirsting for superhero blood. I really wanted that movie to happen but it was canceled a while ago with the new darker and edgier concept that DC has going on. Green Arrow always felt like a more lighthearted superhero. Like Batman, he was a rich man who combatted crime in a costume but he was always a little more snarky. He is also one of the most liberal superheroes around and that is not bad in my book. Of course, we already have the fantastic show Arrow so nothing like Supermax will probably be made but I would actually love to merge the two ideas at some point and allow Steven Amell to have a movie under his belt.


7. The Outsiders

This was a short-lived offshoot of the Teen Titans (who will probably get a movie eventually). Nightwing and Arsenal (two former sidekicks) put together a more pro-active superhero team. They hunt down supervillains before they finish putting their master plan together instead of waiting for them to attack Metropolis or Gotham and having to scramble to defeat them before stuff really hits the fan. It was a cool concept to see these characters not only react to situations but also try and track down villains before their plans were made. That way, the innocent bystanders of the DC Universe were not in danger as much. When the battle occurs in a remote supervillain hideout, the characters can be more free with their wanton destruction. I am sure Lex Luthor probably insures his hideouts anyway. Along with Nightwing and Arsenal there were plenty of young heroes just trying to figure things out. Metamorpho is basically a walking chemistry set. Grace Choi (no superhero codename) is a super strong bartender who does not take any crap from anybody. Thunder could manipulate her density to cause all sorts of havoc. Then there’s a super powerful android named Indigo and Jade who is basically a Green Lantern. The comic also had a positive outlook toward LGBTQ issues and had a fairly light tone. I cannot stress enough how much DC Movies need a lighter tone here and there.

6 Sandman (Wesley Dodds)

Soon there might be a movie based on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and if it makes it through Development Hell, then I think I will be in love with it. However, there is another character involved with DC Comics with the same name who is actually connected. Wesley Dodds is a rich inventor who lives in the roaring twenties. Wesley’s problem is that every night he cannot sleep because of horrible prophetic dreams connected to the Dreaming from Neil Gaiman’s series. These dreams may keep him up but they also push him toward solving or preventing horrible crimes. He wears a suit, a World War I gas mask and uses a gas gun to put his enemies to sleep. In the Sandman Mystery Theater series, he fights extremely evil people. Dodds himself is a quiet mouse of a man but when he dons his mask, he is confident and ready to risk his body and freedom to bring criminals to justice. Along the way, he is helped and hindered by a party girl/flapper named Dian who is often able to figure out a lot of the mystery without Wesley’s help. Together, they are a formidable force. If Warner Brothers wants to go dark and gritty, they should do it with characters and situations built for it instead of tarnishing their bright, shiny symbols of justice.


5 Blue Beetle and Booster Gold

This is pretty much the opposite of the above entry. There is a time for things to get dark and edgy but if Warner Brothers keeps playing the same song, then people are going to leave the party. Suicide Squad attempted to be more lighthearted but it still had muted colors and struggled with portraying villains vs. having characters save the day. Blue Beetle and Booster Gold are two heroes who bring both the best and worst out of each other. A movie starring the two of them has a lot of potential to be very funny while also adding a little variety to the DC Movie universe. Booster Gold is a man from the future who stole a bunch of equipment and traveled to our time to become famous and a superhero in that order. Blue Beetle is an inventor superhero who has a tendency to be a little too serious. Put them together and they are a formidable team that is constantly cracking jokes on each other like a buddy cop movie. Something in the vein of I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League would work. It would be kind of a gentle parody of Batman v. Superman and other offerings in that universe mashed together with an almost improv style of comedy.


4 Squirrel Girl

Squirrel Girl kind of became a meme a couple of years ago as writers dug through the archives and realized that this minor hero had beaten a lot of Marvel’s biggest villains. She has defeated Doctor Doom, Galactus and several more heroes with determination, smarts and being underestimated. The character has a lot of charisma as seen in her own book recently. She has been a babysitter for Jessica Jones and Luke Cage’s baby (spoiler maybe?) and has been an asset to a couple of different superhero situations. Lately, she has been going on her own adventures as she has tried to figure out who she is and where the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl fits in. Her character has a similar can-do spirit to Kimmy Schmidt and actually has a similar disconnect from the way things really work. She also regularly breaks the fourth wall in her adventures and pokes fun at a lot of superhero tropes and other things we take for granted. In fact, she literally takes some of this from Deadpool who gifted her a set of flashcards which explain most of the characters in the Marvel Universe. Her movie or television show could be kind of like a PG Deadpool. We all know that the reason Deadpool worked was not because of its rating. A similar thing with the same fast-paced, cartoony action with smart dialogue would definitely work.


3 Static

I was just old enough to be able to watch the animated show Static Shock when I was a kid. I would love to see them reexamine that character since there are tons of issues around starring the character. Static comics put a spotlight on what it is to be a black kid in American cities while also showing what it is like to be a young superhero. Power over electricity and electromagnetism is a powerful ability and I was always impressed with the different ways the character could use that power. He wasn’t like most characters with energy-based abilities which includes the similar Black Lightning. He did not always zap his problems away and instead either used his powers indirectly or thought his way out of a problem. Virgil Hawkins was an inspiration, especially to young black Americans who wanted a hero who looked like them. In addition, his villains were people you would actually meet walking around a city who just happened to have superpowers. Deciding what cause to further through use of those powers was a big theme in the cartoon and, from I’ve read, the comic. Apparently,  there is a live action television show that may or may not be happening and I hope that it stays true to the spirit of the character. Also, please do not cast Jaden Smith.


2 Hawkeye (Kate Bishop)

I fell in love with Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye series. Not only does it portray Hawkeye in a very human and relatable way, it really does a lot of good for his protege Kate Bishop. Kate took over the mantle of Hawkeye for a while for Clint Barton, especially why she teamed with the Young Avengers. She is younger and just as good a shot as Clint is but she comes from an entirely different background. She comes from wealth but tends to shrug off her birthright more often than not. I would love to see something with Kate in it because she is a pretty complicated character in her own right. Also, Hawkeye gets a lot of crap from fans of the Avengers series of movies. I love Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, the kind of blue collar/military hero that is just trying to survive while more powerful heroes rage around him. I would love to see a Hawkeye movie where he mentors Kate and they fight villains together. We already saw a little bit of Hawkeye’s urge to mentor during Avengers II And Civil War with Scarlet Witch but Kate would be snarkier yet more receptive. To me, that would be the best way to do a Hawkeye movie which could lead into a Young Avengers movie or just stand on its own.


1 She-Hulk

Please. Please. PLEASE give me a She-Hulk movie or television show. Jennifer Walters is Bruce Banner’s cousin and she accidentally gets transformed into She-Hulk through a blood transfusion needed to save her life. Unlike Bruce, she does not need to be angry to transform but being angry definitely will transform her more easily. She also is not the bottomless pit of rage and self-loathing that Bruce is and actually becomes a better person through being She-Hulk. Hands down the best part of her is that she is a working lawyer more than she is a superhero. My favorite stories about Jen are when she is actually trying cases and researching the law and making closing arguments and getting this done legally. Punching somebody is at the bottom of her list to do when she can simply get an injunction and end the fight before it even begins. I want to see her try some superpowered cases and deal with villains with legal skills. She could bring in Patsy Walker (from Jessica Jones) as her investigator and there could be cameos from all sorts of great characters. This is probably the whole reason I wrote this list. Give me a She-Hulk show or movie or both.

Top 11 Television Lawyers

December 17, 2016

As a little celebration of finishing all of my classes on the way to my paralegal certificate (except an internship), how about we look at some great lawyers.  Unfortunately, they do not make any shows about paralegals.  Obviously, I may need to change this eventually.


11 Jeff Winger (Community)
Trial Lawyer

Community has been one of my favorite shows since my brothers introduced me to it. In the first episode, we meet Jeff who is a lawyer who has just been put into a tough spot. He had lied about having a bachelor’s degree when he was hired at the law firm he was working at. So he is forced to go to Greendale Community College to get a quickie law degree. This is now somewhat familiar and relevant to my life. So a successful lawyer has to attend college just to get a piece of paper. Winger is at the bottom of the list because he is not a properly licensed lawyer through most of the series. Jeff was a defense lawyer who mainly tried DUI and other traffic cases. Jeff’s main strength comes from his excellent charisma and his ability to make a great speech with very little substance. He was very successful but it seems that he does not know a lot of actual law and falls back on convincing judges and juries with his silver tongue. Throughout the show, he does sometimes act as an advocate at disciplinary proceedings and we see both how effective he can be and also how ineffective he can be when people see through his nonsense.


10 Saul Goodman (Better Call Saul)
Public Defender/Civil Litigator

I am really only referring to Saul Goodman during the first season of Better Call Saul. In Breaking Bad, he is a piece of crap and does very little that an actual lawyer does or should do. In the early part of the show, he is a lawyer with a small general practice operating out of the back of a nail salon. Like Jeff Winger, Saul’s true strength lies in his opening and closing statements. When his money situation gets desperate, he becomes a public defender for meager checks from the State. He encounters some horrible prosecutors who seem disinterested in dealing with him in any way. As far as we see, his clients are pretty guilty but Saul does not quit. He works tirelessly for his clients, giving masterful closing arguments and going above and beyond his duties to try to get plea bargains for his clients instead of letting them get fully prosecuted. He does not lie, he does not cheat. He does what a good defense lawyer does and tries to slant the cases in favor of his clients and does his best on behalf of his clients. He falls into a dark place for a bit, trying to cheat the system to make some money but he is also scared back to a more righteous path. Later on, he gets really jazzed about representing the elderly in writing wills and then protecting their rights. He will fall to evil eventually but for the first season, he is a good lawyer.


9 Lindsey McDonald (Angel) – Defense Lawyer

For those of you were born after the nineties, Angel was a spinoff of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and both of those shows are in the upper echelons of my favorite shows. The heroes formed a sort of detective agency that did more saving of lives than actual mystery solving. The main villains of the show came from an evil law firm known as Wolfram & Hart. While there are a lot of jokes about how evil lawyers are, this show took that to the extreme and connected lawyers to several hell dimensions. One of those lawyers was a southern boy played by the awesome Christian Kane. He was tough as nails and was eventually grizzled and buff. When he first appeared, his main strength was that he was one hell of a lawyer (pun intended). Time and again, it is proven off camera and on camera that he is a great lawyer. While he represents vampires and demons, he often did his best to prevent his clients or his firm from carrying out truly heinous acts. He was not a good guy but he had a moral code even if he did want to kill the title character on more than one occasion.


8 Rafael Barba (Law and Order: SVU)
Assistant District Attorney

Really, I could have picked almost any Assistant District Attorney from the Law and Order series to put in this spot. The Law and Order ADAs are often excellent at their jobs. They are very charismatic and they speak with great eloquence and know just how to play witnesses like they were musical instruments. Of course, this leads to overly melodramatic moments that would probably never actually happen in court but it makes for good television. What impresses me most about these ADAs is their knowledge and command of case law. Almost every lawyer on the show knows key cases at the drop of a hat which convinces the judge to see things their way. After law school, most lawyers do not memorize these things anymore because even memorizing local landmark cases is way too much information to retain. Besides, that is what research is for. The ADAs are also very good at convincing judges to make decisions without putting in motions. This is not entirely out of the realm of possibility in real courthouses as this sort of thing falls under a judge’s discretion. However, most judges like having some paper to point at when somebody asks why they made their decision. I picked Rafael Barba for this spot specifically because he seemed to me to be the most professional and least emotional lawyer of the bunch. He assigned to Special Victims Unit and has to try some very difficult cases and it feels like he really never let it get to him too much.


7 Alan Shore (Boston Legal) – Defense Lawyer

Alan Shore is unequivocally an asshole, a fact that becomes more and more clear as the series progresses. However, he usually uses that power for a good cause. He has an undying loyalty toward his client and champions for their right to a fair trial no matter what. He works for a huge multinational law firm called Crane, Poole and Schmidt which largely handles both civil and criminal cases. He is an extremely competent lawyer who is very good at reading people and finding a path to victory when defeat is certain. He specializes in what he calls pulling a rabbit out of his hat. He creates sensational stunts to win cases in the eleventh hour when things are looking dark. It is clear that he also knows how to use case law and actual lawyering to win cases. He often has to resort to his strange tactics because the firm gives him the strangest and most difficult cases. They do this because he is a very self-destructive person who delights in instigating the people around him. He also bends the rules constantly which is another reason why the firm throws him the bad cases to try and get rid of him. As the show progresses, he works at evolving as a person and a lawyer and gets better every episode. This reminds me that I need to watch more of this show.


6 Stewart Sanderson (The Grinder)
Trial Lawyer

When we meet Stew, he is a somewhat downtrodden lawyer who works at his father’s law firm. While he technically works for his father and another partner, he acts as the boss of the law firm. We see him leading meetings, deciding case strategy and assigning cases and work to lawyers and assistants at the office. The tiny firm does good work and obviously,  Stew is an extremely competent lawyer. Throughout the one and only season of this show, we see that he is very adept at doing his research and clearing cases the right way. In the pilot, he clearly remembers a lot of landmark decisions because he is able to pull just the right ones to convince the judge to make the correct decision. He knows the rules and he sticks to them because it gets results. His one weakness is that he is not very good at speaking in court. He relies too much on note cards and does not speak with any fluidity and finds it difficult to adapt his strategy. Enter Dean Sanderson, Stew’s big brother. Through exposure to Dean’s hammy acting and superior confidence, Stew begins a journey where he becomes more confident and therefore a stronger lawyer.


5 Laurel Lance (Arrow) –
Defense Lawyer/Assistant District Attorney

In a show that involves law enforcement and vigilantes, it is a little weird that there are so few lawyers that we see. Of course, most of the show hinges on action and drama and there is no time to slow down and show some courtroom drama. Laurel has worked hard all of her life to do what is right and protect the people around her. The first we see of her, she is working as a defense lawyer who largely represents poorer clients. One of the themes of the show is about class differences so this was a perfect starting point for her character. As the daughter of a cop, she was in a great position to see both sides of things and decided to defend people legally instead of physically. While the show does not focus on her that much, we see that she is a great lawyer. She eventually gets hired on as Assistant District Attorney, a position she uses to team up with her father and secretly with the vigilantes. While normally I would question a lawyer for bending or breaking the rules by working with a vigilante, she is working in an extremely corrupt system. When things are wrong, you have to do what it takes to make them right without crossing major moral boundaries. In the end, she blurs those boundaries by becoming a vigilante herself but she still operates as a lawyer.


4 Constance Griffiths (Life)
Legal Aid/Assistant District Attorney

Few people seem to know about this show but I will continue to champion it until my final breath. The whole show is put into motion by Constance who takes a wrongly accused police officer’s case pro bono. She is able to use DNA evidence to exonerate Charlie and get him the best and weirdest settlement that I have ever heard of. We know from what we see of her that Constance has a big brain and even bigger heart. She does not believe that the innocent should be left to languish in jail and fights for the rights of the falsely accused. She is a one woman Innocence Project. Throughout the show, she deals with a client that has some interesting and potentially annoying personal quirks with ease. She fights to make sure that her client keeps their end of the bargain and protects him at every turn. When it is clear that she has become romantically connected to her client, she removes herself from the position. Her hard work pays off and she is offered a position as an Assistant District Attorney and I always believed that she was probably very fair and ethical in that job.


3 Caroline Julian (Bones)
Prosecutor

At first glance, Caroline is a bit of a bulldog. She is a prosecutor who works directly with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She seems to be assigned all of the cases that come from crimes investigated by the partnership between the Jeffersonian Museum and the FBI. She comes across as humorless and has little time for nonsense as she helps investigate cases. She works hard to get the FBI good legal standing and open up doors to allow them to investigate. She is key in getting warrants and clearing obstacles that stand between investigators and the evidence they need. As the show progresses, we see Caroline become more comfortable in being more personable. She works to make things run smoother in the FBI offices and Jeffersonian Labs in the interests of being more efficient. Through it all, she retains the ability to be very intimidating but also later becomes more of a mama bear in the cast. While we do not really get to see her in court, we know she is dead set on following the rules and is instrumental in the cast’s success rate.


2 Foggy Nelson (Daredevil)
General Private Practice

While it would have been easy to put Matt Murdock himself in this spot, we know that Matt has an unfair advantage while plying his trade. Matt can literally monitor a witness’ heartbeat during testimony and is basically a human lie detector. Also, while he is kicking butt on the streets, he often neglects his actual job. Foggy Nelson turns out to be an even better lawyer. He works day and night for his clients and it shows in the bags under his eyes and the beers that he drinks after work. When we first meet him, he is a little too eager to take shortcuts to get clients and clear cases but he has evolved quite a bit on the show. He does his research and he and Matt are able to make a name for their little law firm. One of the main reasons I gave this spot to Foggy is the moment where he was forced to deliver an opening statement on the spot without any preparation and he knocked it out of the park. He also was able to do the same kind of thing in the middle of a knife fight which saved a lot of lives. He is a good man and a good lawyer.


1 Cliff McCormack (Veronica Mars)
Public Defender

Finally, we come to one of my all-time favorite television shows. I mourn its cancellation more than Firefly’s cancellation because every single character was awesome and I wanted a billion of their stories. One of those characters was Cliff McCormack, a public defender, and a working class lawyer. He associated with the Mars family because it is wise for lawyers to use private investigators and for private investigators to have lawyers handy. They form a friendship which Cliff is loyal to a hundred percent. I really, really love Cliff as a lawyer. He always has a hundred cases on his plate but never seems to let any of them down. He has a personal code of ethics and although he may come off as slimy, he is anything but. He even tells a rich murder suspect (a client who could net him a lot of more lucrative cases) to hire a better lawyer. While he is not above using tricks to win cases, none of those tricks involve him breaking the law. He is charming, hard-working and successful.

Top 11 Favorite Horror Villains

October 22, 2016

The following villains are my favorite horror villains mostly from film franchises. There are three that were also in books and one that was also in a play. These guys are my favorite villains and, on a sidenote, I wish there was more than one woman on the list. However, instead of talking about them generally, I wanted to talk about their motivations and how I identify with them somewhat. No matter what I say, I cannot condone or excuse anything these characters did. You should not respond to personal tragedy with violence or supernatural terror.


11 Jack Torrance

Jack is a great example of how the human mind can break if you apply enough of the right kind of pressure. He is arguably one of the most sympathetic characters on this list while still being incredibly sadistic and violent. He is a writer who just wanted to get some work done before his inner demons came out to play. It is hard to fight against that anger and resentment inside even if it is for the sake of people you love. When you lose yourself, anything can happen in the midst of that rage. Added to that, he was being egged on by a vortex of murderous ghosts. I definitely understand how powerful that anger is.


10 Hannibal Lecter

Lecter was a cannibal and a serial killer and you really can’t get past that. However, Dr. Lecter was also incredibly intelligent and had a personal code of honor he adhered to. More often than not, the people he killed or maimed were rude or jerks. They were assholes. Dr. Lecter had a clear picture in his head of what a good, useful person is. Personally, I can’t stand a bully. I would never kill or even physically harm anyone, though. I definitely have a lot of things that people can do that cause me to instantly lose respect for them. I wish a lot of the people who commit these things could disappear from my world but I would never actually act on that.


9 The Woman in Black

Regrettably, she is the only woman on this list and she might just have the saddest story of anybody here. She was not always a homicidal ghost. She was once a trying to get back to her baby when she drowned in the swampy land within a stone’s throw of her child. Now, anyone who sees her loses their child to the Grim Reaper’s bony hands usually by some impossible accident. It is horrible to feel cheated. That feeling gets even worse if being cheated hurts both you and your loved ones. You just want to burn the world down for daring to be so unfair. It is hard to accept the bad places we are put in.


8 Jason

When you take away all of the dead teenagers, Jason is hard not to feel sympathy for. He feels slighted for dying while those who were responsible for his safety neglected him. He wants revenge for this slight but cannot really go to a lawyer and file a wrongful death suit. Eventually, he just doesn’t want people in his territory and yet they keep invading his space over and over despite the danger. On top of all of that, they killed his mother. Sure she was murdering teenagers but you just don’t kill a guy’s mother. Really, he combines the motivations of Dr. Phibes and Jerry Dandridge strangely enough.


7 Pennywise

While Pennywise is probably the least scary clown in the history of horror clowns, I still like him. Pennywise is a great example of turning symbols of childhood into symbols of hate and fear. Pennywise just does not like kids. I often feel uncomfortable around children and sometimes I joke that I ‘hate’ children but they’re alright in small doses. Still, as uncomfortable as I can be around them, I really like some of the stuff that kids like. It is kind of a weird feeling sometimes to like all ages material but not really get along with all ages. Of course, Pennywise hates adults too so maybe we are pretty much alike.


6 The Leprechaun

The Leprechaun is a happy little fellow who lived with anger issues in Ireland. The trouble starts and the whole franchise is pretty much put into motion by people taking his gold. Unfortunately, he does not call the authorities to track down his stolen property and instead decides to kill for it. Unfortunately, I understand that impulse. I am fiercely territorial when it comes to my property. I get really upset when people enter my bedroom without asking. I get antsy when people handle my phone or go near my car. So I understand that impulse to get people away from my stuff. I do not believe that violence is the answer, though.


5 Dr. Anton Phibes

Phibes was undoubtedly a very smart person who suffered a horrible tragedy. He loved his wife and only wanted to hurt the people who had hurt her. I can understand that instinct. I don’t like it when people hurt me but I really don’t like when people hurt the ones I love. It can be too easy to lash out to protect or avenge the people you love even if it won’t actually help you. I don’t actually take action against those perpetrators but I find it nearly impossible to forgive. It is really hard to let go of that anger because letting it go feels like somebody is getting away with something.


4 Jerry Dandridge

He is possibly the most Eighties-tastic horror villain in film history. Jerry Dandridge moves into a peaceful Iowan suburb. He’s got a great big house, great furnishings and his buddy Billy Cole who lives with him. The only problem is that Jerry is a vampire and Billy is a… something else. They are killing people but they are really discreet about it. As far as we knew, he did not want to rule the world or anything. They just wanted to be left alone to do their own thing. While Jerry was indeed evil, I can definitely identify with that hunger for privacy. Thankfully, I do not also share his hunger for blood. I think a lot of us just want to be left alone.  I also wish I was as smooth and confident as Jerry Dandridge and of course I am talking about Chris Sarandon.


3 Evil Ash

In the entirety of the Evil Dead franchise, it is hard to pinpoint many actual villains with names and faces but the biggest one is Evil Ash. Evil Ash, for lack of a better name, is born two different times during the franchise when Deadite magic gets into Ash’s body. He literally splits from Ash’s body like an amoeba and looks and sounds just like him. He is a fairly intelligent deadite (undead) creature. Really, when he is born, he is stuck on the side of the Evil Dead. As with all deadites (except Sam), Evil Ash is immediately drafted into the dark side and is tasked with fighting for the Deadite army. Throughout his appearances, he is only playing the cards he is dealt. To a certain extent, it is hard to blame him for being evil since that is the way he was made. He has all of Ash’s positive and negative qualities, he just ends up on the wrong side of the fight.


2 Chucky aka Charles Lee Ray

Sometimes, I think that Charles Lee Ray is my spirit animal. By that, I don’t mean that I am confessing to being a killer doll who dabbles in voodoo and wisecracks. Well, I do like a good wisecrack. What I mean is that I think Chucky and I might share a similar trait in our brain chemistry. I was born with Attention Deficit Disorder and I think Chucky has it too. He has a lot of the symptoms, at least. During the Child’s Play films Chucky usually has one goal and that is to transfer his soul into a human body. Sure, he makes a lot of assumptions about how or why he can do that but it is still his stated goal. However, he is constantly diverting from his task to kill somebody else. Hell, in Child’s Play 2 he takes the time to murder a non-sentient doll and then buries it. He has a deadline but he just loves killing too much to get it done.


1 Freddy Krueger

Imagination is why I love and identify with Freddy Krueger. He puts so much thought and work into each and everything he does. It is not just the killing either. His taunting is so well laid out that it’s a good thing the dead don’t sleep or else he would never get it all done. He tailors each death individually like some weird boutique/concierge murderer. Usually, his only audience for these morbid art projects are the victims themselves who are going to be dead in a minute anyway. That shows dedication. He must have files on everyone in Springwood because he almost automatically knows how to kill just about anybody he meets in the most poetic way.

Top 11 Movie Directors

September 3, 2016

Directing is a tough gig. I thought I would honor their commitment to film by coming up with a list of my favorite movie directors as of today. I have only one caveat before we get started. There are directors who have two many movies that I did not like or too many movies that I have not seen yet and are therefore not a proven commodity. Steven Spielberg is actually a good example of that for me but it does not mean that his work is invalid at all. I love the Indiana Jones series and Bridge of Spies a lot but I hate ET and Terminal. Same goes for guys like Tim Burton whose latter movies I do not really care for even though I am a huge fan of his earlier work. I chose to disqualify them because I felt conflicted about their body of work. Everybody on this list is a director whose body of work I admire. While I do not like every movie, I like most of their movies that I have seen.

 


11 Peter Jackson

Jackson left me spellbound the first time I saw his name on the credits on a movie. I read the Lord of the Rings book series near the end of my tour of duty in high school. I had heard the movies were coming out and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The Fellowship of the Ring was amazing and pretty much exactly what I had pictured when I read the book. Not only that but it was a beautifully shot movie with great acting and great pacing. I was eagerly waiting when The Two Towers came out and it was even better than Fellowship. The battles were epic and the music, acting and visuals were even more striking. Then Return of the King came and it was even better. Many criticize its multiple endings but it was in keeping with the book and I thought it was well done. As college continued, I saw The Frighteners which is a funny and scary horror movie that I encourage everybody to check out. Finally, he made the Hobbit movies which I like very much but all three were overly long and that’s coming from somebody who has watched the extended LOTR movies more than once. Jackson is really good at getting awesome performances out of his actors and putting together beautiful movies.


10 Luc Besson

My experience with Luc Besson started when I first saw The Fifth Element in High School. That movie has his fingerprints all over it. Besson put together an amazingly quirky and fun action/comedy movie that just has so much to love in it. It has always been one of my favorite movies and probably always will be. Of course, I have talked about Monsieur Besson on this blog before when I reviewed Leon: The Professional this past April. Leon was a great movie that I have learned to appreciate more and more after seeing it. There is a third movie of his that I recently saw that I will be talking about on Thursday. He crafts visually pleasing movies and not only that but each movie I have seen looks significantly different from the last. He does really good drama, makes potentially annoying characters fun and just puts together a lot of great movies. He makes me want to see more of his work and especially whatever he does next.


9 Robert Rodriguez

I was thirteen when Desperado came out and I loved the fresh Mexican flavored action with just enough comedy to keep things light. It was an exciting movie. Based on my enjoyment of Desperado I insisted that we rent From Dusk Till Dawn which horrified my mother but thrilled me. This was another movie that helped form my love of horror movies. The acting is great but the action and gore are even better. After that, I read his book about the making of El Mariachi and I was inspired to watch and love that movie. It was also at this point that the Spy Kids movie series became a guilty pleasure for me. Now they are not even that guilty a pleasure for me because I know there are stupider kids films out there. He made Once Upon a Time in Mexico which I love mostly for Johnny Depp’s character but it’s a great end to that trilogy. Finally, he made Planet Terror which had me laughing really hard and while it’s not a “good” movie, I enjoyed it a lot. I guess I can forgive him for Machete and the Sin City movies. Rodriguez casts good actors and makes well-shot and fun movies. He also writes the music for his movies and is often the screenwriter as well.


8 Sam Raimi

Sam Raimi was one of the formative directors of my youth. I think that he and his friends are the driving force behind me being a superfan of Halloween. I was in middle school when I first saw Army of Darkness. It was at an afterschool club during middle school and I absolutely loved it. His blend of comedy, action and campy horror was something I had never really seen before. I eagerly obtained The Evil Dead and I liked it but I like it even better now that I have learned to appreciate it. Evil Dead II is actually my favorite of the series. It is here that Raimi first got the right balance between comedy and horror by combining his love for The Three Stooges with his love of blood and guts. He could have done just that but he also created the first Spider-Man films that meant anything. While his trilogy has its problems, at the time it helped launch the current crop of good comic book movies. Spiderman 2 is especially good with a great mix of darkness, drama, comedy and adventure. He also made Darkman which was an early shot at combining horror and comic book-style action. Raimi is great at mixing genres and especially using the genres of action, comedy and horror.


7 Brad Bird

Iron Giant came out right in the middle of high school and I had no idea what to expect. This was probably the start of my adult experience with animation. Now that I had friends who could draw really well and some who wanted to go to film school, I started to realize the real art behind animation. Not only was Iron Giant great but it was beautifully crafted. It wasn’t until after college that I saw another of his movies when he made the blockbuster The Incredibles. It coincided with the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and was somehow a better superhero movie than a lot of what had come before. It was the first Pixar film I owned on DVD. Pixar tapped him again to direct Ratatouille which was a touching and sweet film that often gets overlooked but I like it a lot. He then moved on to Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol which took the fresh new stuff JJ Abrams had done with the franchise and ran with it. Finally, he returned to Disney with Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland is a movie that disappointed a lot of people but I really loved it and my mind keeps drifting back to it every so often. It is a movie I hope gets more recognition down the line. Bird makes really touching movies that are also really inspiring and visually striking. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

 


6 Quentin Tarantino

I probably was a little young for my first Tarantino movie. I knew he had written From Dusk Till Dawn so I set out to watch his movies. My first was Reservoir Dogs which had a great cast and had some of the best dialogue I have ever seen. After that, I had to see what all the fuss was about with Pulp Fiction. Pulp Fiction was fun and exciting and one of the first films I saw that had a non-linear structure to it. Kill Bill was one of the coolest action movies that I had ever seen. With minimal plot, good actors and awesome action it rivaled some of the best Hong Kong action and martial arts films in history. I felt like Volume 2 did not live up to 1 but it was still really good. Death Proof was the first thriller that I had watched in a while and it scared the crap out of me but it was also exciting and cool. Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained were both interesting takes on historical periods and homages to a bygone era in film. Finally, The Hateful Eight is practically a perfect film with not a wasted moment in it. None of Tarantino’s work is for the squeamish but he is a master of great dialogue and does violence with flair.


5 Christopher Nolan

I know that this pick might be a little controversial considering most people either love or hate Nolan’s films. I happen to be in the camp that loves his work. I had just graduated from college and I had not yet landed my first big job out of college. So I was driving my little brother around a lot when his new PhD. was just a twinkle in his eye. We went and saw Batman Begins and I was excited. I had half-heartedly defended Batman and Robin but I knew in my heart that it was bad. I wanted a return to being inspired by Batman instead of feeling sorry for him. The movie was great and it renewed my love for the character in all the best ways. A year later and I wanted to see The Prestige mostly because I had really liked Christian Bale who was new to me. I loved the dark, crazy tale that Nolan laid out. Then the Dark Knight came out and it blew my mind. The music, the acting, the imagery were all just so perfect to me. Of course I was going to watch Inception and I loved the dream imagery and the trippy plotline and the maddening open ending. It was so great. Finally, the Dark Knight Rises came and I thought it was the perfect end to Nolan’s trilogy, finally showing hope in a dark world. He also had the good sense to not direct for DC anymore, dodging the Man of Steel bullet somewhat. He is a great director who knows how to use his actors and knows how to paint great pictures.


4 Joel and Ethan Coen

This is a little bit of a cheat because not everything in this section will be directed by both brothers but they are a team so they get counted together. My experience started off with Oh Brother Where Art Thou? which came at just the right time. I had studied and adored the Oddysey and I drank in the parallels while falling in love with Bluegrass music. It is still one of my favorite movies. Then I saw The Big Lebowski which I had to finish in two sitting because my mom shut it off during family movie night. Then I watched Fargo which is beautiful in its simplicity, full of great characters and beautiful shots. I still see it as a grim movie with light touches that pull it back out of the darkness a little bit. No Country for Old Men was tense and dark and was refreshingly different from a lot of other stuff I was watching at the time. Burn After Reading was a return to dark comedy but it my least favorite of their films which still makes it a very good movie. I saw True Grit on my birthday six years ago and I loved it. I was impressed that they took a John Wayne movie and made it good. Finally, there was Hail, Caesar! which I talked about loving recently on the blog. The Coen Brothers are an excellent team who have memorable characters, offbeat comedy and incredible shots.


3 Kevin Smith

Finally, we come to one of my heroes. Of all people, my parents suggested that I watch Dogma because it had such an important message that I still live by today. The great dialogue that mixed comedy with drama really struck a chord with me. I went on to pick up Clerks and the dialogue was just so close to the way my friends and I talked. The same goes for Mallrats, where even among all the wacky hijinks there is a lot of dialogue that I heard in the halls of High School and then college. Chasing Amy is a movie that I came to appreciate a lot more later as I started to support LGBTQ rights and respect adult relationships. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is a stupid movie in the best ways and one I have watched over and over. Jersey Girl was not well received but it really reached me emotionally when it came out. He evolved a bit with Clerks II which is not for the squeamish but it felt so real and it is probably the movie of his that I have re-watched the most. I have already talked about how I liked Zack and Miri Make a Porno because of its honesty about sex and adult relationships. The last movie I have seen of his is Red State which was so different from anything he had done before and it was scary, exciting and a little depressing. I loved it so much. I need to see more of his stuff because he is one of the best at dialogue and creating interesting characters that you want to spend time with.


2 Joss Whedon

This is kind of a different choice because Joss Whedon has not actually directed a lot of movies. Instead, he started off as a showrunner, writer and director for television. I first discovered Whedon through Buffy the Vampire Slayer which really mirrored my high school and college experience but with far more vampires than I had. After that I watched Firefly and I was convinced that Joss Whedon was the best thing to ever happen to television. I quickly got my hands on Angel and Dollhouse which definitely scratched the same itch that his previous work had scratched. Then he directed Serenity which I eagerly bought on DVD and have forced other people to watch because it is so endearing and fun to watch. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog came out on the internet for free but I bought the DVD because I wanted to support Joss and his friends so much. It was sad, funny and the character of Dr. Horrible felt so much like the way I’ve felt several times in my life. Finally, mainstream Hollywood finally realized Joss’ value and hired him to direct The Avengers, a flagship Disney/Marvel movie. The Avengers remains one of my favorite movies. Its release made it possible to also release Much Ado About Nothing which is a really well shot and directed Shakespeare movie which was the first of his comedies on film that I actually laughed at. Finally, he directed Avengers II which is often lost in the mix but I really liked the feel of it and the way it sets the stage for later Disney/Marvel movie. Joss Whedon is the king of dialogue and getting great performances from every actor who works for him. He also has slowly evolved to make his work really visually appealing and he can do both drama and comedy so well.


1 Guillermo Del Toro

I first encountered Guillermo Del Toro through Blade II. The visuals of Blade II were so out of this world after the simple but pleasant first installment of Blade. Blade II’s version of vampires and additions to the vampire mythology were amazing and the actor’s performances were so interesting. Hellboy was where I truly fell in love with Del Toro because I found the movie strangely similar to the way I had felt throughout high school and college. The visuals were again amazing and the characters were so charming. Pan’s Labyrinth scared the crap out of me and I still shudder a little when I see the mindbending horror visuals of the movie. Hellboy II was even more charming and amazing than the first movie. It was like he took every little weak spot from the first movie and made it stronger while combining it with the awesome visuals from Pan’s Labyrinth. Pacific Rim was so awesome. It was exactly the movie I needed to see and it felt like there was not a single wasted moment in the movie. I literally cheered while watching this film in theaters. The last of his movies that I have seen is Crimson Peak which creeped me out but also inspired me. I talked last year about how I admired the movie while other people may not have dug it in the same way I did. Stay tuned for another Del Toro movie review this October on this blog. Del Toro is a master of getting amazing performances out of lesser known actors, creating mindblowing visuals and setting just the right tone for his movies.

Top 11 Romantic Comedies

April 23, 2016


11 Jerry Maguire

Jerry Maguire was a powerhouse when it came out. It stars Tom Cruise when he was at the height of his pre-freakout part of his career. So far it was also the height of Cuba Gooding Jr.’s career and the movie even got him an Academy Award. The one is probably the most critically acclaimed movie on this list and it won or was nominated for a lot of awards. It has a great cast with Cruise, Gooding Jr., Jerry O’Connell and a great villain in Jay Mohr. A lot of the movie is focused on the title character trying to regain his honor and his career after a huge professional setback. There is plenty of romance, though. Unfortunately, a lot of this movie has been heavily quoted and the movie’s tropes have become very cliche. At the time, it felt pretty original. As a warning, it has some pretty graphic sex scenes in it that I was not allowed to watch when this first came out. Other than that, it’s a pretty fun movie.


10 Alex and Emma

Go figure that a romantic comedy movie about a writer would be on this list. I guess I have always identified with writers. Also, a big part of this is a deadline which I think we are all far too familiar with. Now, I’ve never really been one for writing romance but the main character is a writer played by Luke Wilson who enlists Kate Hudson to help him work through his latest book. So we get them working on the book and that is juxtaposed with scenes from the book. The two stories contrast and fit together and we get to see a lot of the growing chemistry between Kate and Luke. This was only the second romantic comedy I saw that more or less had a male lead. Of course, Luke is the guy who must change to get the girl he needs instead of the one he wants. It’s a cute little movie that has a bunch of interesting twists to it.


9 Coming to America

Most of you have probably seen this movie already. It’s often in rotation several times a year on Comedy Central and it was a big hit around the time of Trading Places. It comes from the brighter part of Eddie Murphy’s career when he regularly picked better movies and was not yet a caricature of himself. Ok, I am mostly kidding because Eddie Murphy often gets a bad rap even though he has made some great or at least fun films along with a string of bad ones. This is the tale of an African prince who journeys to America to figure out his path in life and to try and find a wife. The movie is surprisingly subtle for both the times and for Eddie Murphy. There is an interesting fish out of water story mixed with a story about a man hiding what he is for benevolent reasons. The movie is funny but not at the expense of the story moving forward. It ends up being a pretty sweet movie with a tight little love story.


8 Shakespeare in Love

I love the plays of William Shakespeare. My early days in theater were spent doing a lot of Shakespeare plays and they were so fun to do creatively. This movie was a massive hit when it came out, it was nominated for and won a lot of awards and for good reason. I love anything that humanizes Shakespeare. I don’t like ‘updating’ classic literature as much as I like when that literature is brought to life. Romeo and Juliet is arguably one of Shakespeare’s worst plays but mostly because people misinterpret it. It is a play about the excitement of lust and new love and the insanity it can cause. This is the backdrop of the movie, a romance set in an obviously romanticized Elizabethan era while Romeo and Juliet is being made. Almost everybody is somebody you could read about in a history book but they feel like a real person. They didn’t whitewash Shakespeare’s real history either at least not much. As I get older, I have learned to really embrace the ending as a happy one.


7 Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Now hold on, don’t leave right away. I promise I won’t go int the porno part of this movie if you don’t want me too. It’s enough to know that this one is about two broke roommates who decide to make a cheap porno spoof to pay their bills. There is a lot of wackiness involved and you get a lot of sexual humor and humor based on the awkwardness that we feel around sexual humor. It has a cast of supporting characters who are zany but human and it’s really fun to see them all interact. However, above it all is a story about two people who have known each other a long time. Two friends who explore whether they might be more in a very interesting set of circumstances. Like a lot of Kevin Smith’s movies, I went in expecting a silly stoner comedy and I came away with something that felt really interesting. Who says friends can’t become a couple? (Fair warning there is some nudity in this one)


6 Catch and Release

So I watched this movie initially because of Kevin Smith’s involvement. It certainly did not hurt that the movie also stars Jennifer Garner who I had liked in Daredevil and Timothy Oliphant who I had enjoyed in Die Hard 4.
This was probably the first or close to first romantic comedy that I watched on my own recognizance. I will give you a heads up here, this one looks weird on paper. It starts with Jennifer Garner’s fiance dying on a fly fishing trip and then goes from there. The relationship between Garner and Oliphant is pretty funny and interesting to watch as there is a strange dynamic from the start. On top of that, there is a B-plot where Kevin Smith romances a single mother with a kid. The two stories are fun to watch separately but watching them interact is even better. I know this one is kind of an obscure pull but I really enjoyed it.


5 Chasing Amy

Alright yes, three movies in a row on this list have Kevin Smith involved but it is a known fact that I am a big Kevin Smith fan. More than any other movie, this was the one that broke Smith into the mainstream studio system. For this movie, we delve into the exciting world of comic books which is a topic near and dear to my heart. Two of the main characters make comic books for a living and you know Kevin Smith has been in the industry because everything about that feels right. The movie is a little bit of a product of its time. There is a flamboyantly gay black man in a time when there were a few of those sorts of characters in Hollywood. Kevin Smith is so great at dialogue that even the more cliched characters come off as real and likable. The main part of this movie is that Ben Affleck plays a guy who ends up dating a lesbian. While some people thought it was a little crass at the time, I think it was a little ahead of its time in depicting the unpredictability of the Kinsey scale. Of course, that’s just my opinion.


4 Groundhog Day

This is technically the only science fiction movie on this list. I would also classify this as a dark comedy while most of the rest of these movies are at least a little bit lighter. Bill Murray is a comedy legend and is very funny as a man who is trying to decide what is important. The universe makes him repeat the same day over and over again until he achieves what he is supposed to. Andie McDowell is a great romantic lead. She is cute, funny and appropriately skeptical as a formerly grump starts to become a romantic. Another strength of the movie is that it has a great ensemble of character actors who interact really well with Bill Murray. I feel like the movie is about discovering that love is not checking things off a list but is more about realizing how to make a real human connection. I am sure most people reading this have already seen the movie but it is worth checking out if you have not.


3 Forgetting Sarah Marshall

I was totally blindsided by this movie. While I had heard that it was a good movie and that it was worth seeing, I had no idea how good it could be. I actually watched this movie for the first time this week so it is the freshest in my mind. Ten minutes in and I was definitely hooked. The cast is fantastic as it has Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand and a whole bunch of great actors in smaller parts. I especially love Kristen Bell and the meta references to Veronica Mars which was one of my favorite shows of all time. Segel shows why he was able to rock it in The Muppets as he is the star and the writer of the movie. Frankly, more of this movie is about break ups rather than new relationships. Everything really clicks together and there are a lot of moments where I felt like the movie had really shown what had been in my heart during my most awkward moments. It may have the best message at the end of all the movies on this list. (Fair warning there is a lot of nudity in this one)


2 Love, Actually

This movie is a Christmas tradition for my family. My mom actually owns three copies of it on DVD. This movie is actually pretty atypical in structure for a romantic comedy. There is a huge cast of characters that make up a whopping nine couples who the audience gets to follow. At times, the movie seems to employ just about every actor in England which is the setting for most of the movie. A couple movies like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Day later tried to use this formula to zero success. Love, Actually is a really charming movie. There is a bitter, sardonic edge to a lot of the humor that makes it feel emotionally true even if some of the plots are contrived. I am trying to spoil as little as possible with this list but it is important to note that not all of the stories have happy endings. Not all of the stories and couples are even very likable but the movie as a whole is very cathartic and is always a good watch.


1 Trainwreck

I have talked about this movie previously in this blog, shortly after I saw it in theaters. Amy Schumer is a great comedian who works very blue and also works very dark. She manages to make a lot of that subject matter way funnier than it should be. There is also something to the cadence of her voice that is just inherently funny to me. Combine that with the great, befuddled straight man in Bill Hader and you’ve got a beautiful match. The movie uses a lot of modern romcom tropes and dumb comedy tropes but it manages to strip them down and make them feel more real. There’s real drama and at the end of it, both people in the relationship have changed their lives for the better in a deeply transformative way. It’s really ugly to watch but it’s beautiful too and I feel better for having watched it.

Top 11 Christmas Episodes

December 20, 2015

Top 11


11. Scrubs – My Own Personal Jesus

Probably last on the list because it leans heavily on the belief in God and the low production values. It largely deals with how hospitals are one of the worst places to be during the holidays. In the emotional parts of our lives, it can sometimes bring the worst of us bubbling to the surface. A young Catholic surgeon loses his faith while on call on Christmas Eve. He feels he has been proven wrong in his assertion that God watches over all of us. In the end, his faith is restored and we’re reminded that even if you don’t believe in God, you can believe in people. The subplot has plenty of comedy about dealing with people you don’t like but coming together anyway. It’s a welcome balance to the sad but uplifting main plot.

10. Rick and Morty: Anatomy Park

Alright, this one is only this low on the list because half of it is a Jurrasic Park/Innerspace parody. That plot has little to do with Christmas besides taking place inside a homeless man in a santa suit. The title characters (and Jon Oliver) are busy dealing with the strange problem inside Ruben. While all of this is going on, the rest of the family is playing host to Steve’s parents and trying to get along during the holidays. The family in Rick and Morty are pretty disfunctional. They’re perhaps the most disfunctional family I’ve seen in fiction that still stays together. Steve, the father, decides to disconnect his family from electronics for the holiday so they can connect with one another. He’s not prepared for the consequences of his action. The episode teaches that sometimes our family can annoy us and drive us crazy, especially around the holidays. That’s ok. It’s very normal.

9. Futurama – XMas Story

While the episode is largely silly, like most Futurama episodes there’s a deeper message involved. The surface story is about how a Santa Claus robot has gone crazy in the year 3000 and will murder anybody after sundown. Naturally, this is because its naughty/nice processing unit has been damaged. However the episode more expertly deals with two characters who are feeling lonely on Christmas because they have no family. Both of them fail to see that they can always fall back on their circle of friends because friends are our extended family. They also tackle the folly of being selfish especially around the holidays. There’s also a mostly subtle message that possessions are fleeting and no thing can take the place of a kind thought.

8. Boston Legal: Loose Lips

Now, I’ve only seen the first season of Boston Legal but it’s definitely got cynical edge to it that you might think would clash with Christmas. The thing is, beneath that cynical and bitter surface, Boston Legal has heart and that especially applies to its star, James Spader. His character likes to pretend he has no heart and that he’s the villain but in the end he often does the right thing in spite of himself. Christmas is all about that sometimes. Christmas can be the one time all year where we stop ourselves and do the right thing. Not because we’re supposed to but because we realize we want to be good just like Ebenezer Scrooge did. The secondary plot has to do with a confidentiality dilemma when a doctor’s patient may be planning to kill somebody. The main plot is much more Christmas-y and has to do with a Santa who was fired because it was discovered that he cross-dresses on his off hours. The main plot starts kind of comedic but ends up being pretty touching and features one of those good mall Santas.

7. 30 Rock: Ludachristmas

30 Rock was a clever show that was always funny but every episode devolved into insanity unless it already began insane. This is one of those episodes that starts with a lot of crazy concepts and premises and just runs with it. There’s weird amnesia, crazy alcoholic christmas and paper shredders that are easily mistaken for a photo scanner. There is a clash between those who just want to have fun with those who would dictate how you should celebrate Christmas. In the end, maybe it’s not such a good idea to meddle in how other people celebrate as long as they’re responsible and safe. The main story hammers home how everybody’s family is pretty crazy so there’s not much point worrying about the grass looking greener on the other side. It’s best to just live and let live most of the time.

6. Bones: The Santa in the Slush

Bones has always been a good show. Some of my scientist friends might have problems with it but I’ve liked the show because it has compelling characters and stories with a lot of heart. Even the worst episode of Bones is head and shoulders above a lot of other stuff on television. The show has had a long run so it has a lot of holiday episodes to choose from. I had to go with The Santa in the Slush because of the interesting imagery of the episode. It starts with the discovery of a murdered mall Santa and the mission to discover who could do such a thing. Now, these days its popular to depict mall Santas as alcoholic jerks who are just faking it for cash. However, I love a good story about a true mall Santa who loves kids and is sticking it out in the trenches as a true foot soldier for the North Pole. We all want to believe in magic. Whether it’s the magic of Santa or the magic of human kindness, we all want to believe. This is a good story that shows that there are people out there who really believe in humanity and what’s right in the world.

5. Supernatural: A Very Supernatural Christmas

Brothers have history together. I lived in a house (several in fact) with my brothers for 18 years and then spent holidays and some summers with them. Granted, we never had the history the Winchesters had but we went through a lot of stuff together. Even in moments where that’s not being directly dealt with that is the major undercurrent of the show. So how do two guys who grew up experiencing Christmas in motels on the road view the holidays? Both Sam and Dean have had a taste of normal Christmas but that’s gone for them. The episode also deals with various mytholigies that surround Christmas. Some have been forgotten and some were appropriated for use by Christianity. It’s a fun but creepy look at those myths coming to life.

4. Veronica Mars: An Echolls Family Christmas

Since this episode occurs in the first season, Veronica is very much separated from the friends and family (minus her dad) that she used to celebrate with. This isn’t necessarily a happy episode, especially for one set at Christmas. That’s fine as the holidays are not always so happy and problems don’t just magically stop during the holidays. This episode primarily focuses on the Echolls family’s dysfunctional problems. There is a more lighthearted whodunit trying to figure out who stole the poker winnings from the last poker game with Veronica taking great pleasure in shaking down the rich boys (even her ex). In the main plot we have a much more dangerous mystery that includes cheating, stalking and holiday parties. It foreshadows a lot of stuff later in the series. It’s a good dysfunctional look at the holidays because we’ve all experienced that at one point or another.

3. Leverage: The Ho Ho Ho Job

When your main cast is a bunch of ex-criminal vigilantes who no longer have any family connections, you don’t really expect to have a Christmas episode. However, from its inception, episodes of Leverage are about restoring hope to the hopeless and defending the defenseless. Most of the characters are loathe to get into the Christmas spirit but all they need is a little push from the suddenly cheery orphan thief to try and stop a holiday heist. They take the case of a mall santa who may as well be the real man in red. In the end the crew and even some of the villains embrace the season. It’s a lot of fun and doesn’t delve into the somewhat dark histories of the characters but does show them getting a little light in their lives.

2. Doctor Who: The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe

It was hard to pick just one Doctor Who Christmas episode but I managed to whittle it down eventually even though I could probably do a separate list. British shows tend to run a little dark around the holidays and Doctor Who is often not an exception. This one starts with a mother taking her kids to the country for the holidays while trying to keep it secret that their dad recently died. While there is a horror/science fiction plot at work, there is a bigger discussion on the nature of the collision of happiness and tragedy. The Doctor does his best to heal this broken family and in the end I was so filled with joy that I cried.

1. Community: Comparitive Religion

The first season of Community was like a force of nature when it showed up. It was a little more cynical and bitter as the characters were still feeling out their relationship with one another. Still, by Christmas at the end of their first semester they had grown into a tight group that genuinely liked each other despite all of their flaws. However, sometimes it is the people with the best intentions who can cause the most pain. Shirley is a devout Christian and chooses to impose her will and control over her non-Christian friends using motherly guilt. The episode features a pretty even-handed look at how many different cultures in the United States celebrate Christmas because it’s fun and not because they’re Christians. In the end, everybody learns that family means togetherness and that’s way more powerful than any religion in the world. It manages to achieve this message without putting anybody’s beliefs down and isntead preaching peace and the ability to live and let live. It’s a violent but strangely joyous way to celebrate the holidays.

Top 11 Horror Movie Connections

October 30, 2015

So, I whipped this up because I love imagining what’s beyond the limits of a film. I readily admit that this is barely researched. I also admit that I know there’s a simpler story for a lot of these examples. I also admit that these were fun to write. These are the top eleven horror movie connections with greater story implications.

Xenomorph
11 Xenomorph Skull (Predator 2)

Alright, we start with a well-known easter egg in the background of the lesser-liked sequel to a great, yet cheesy Schwarzenegger film. This crossover is actually happened so it’s not the most exciting on the list to me. However, back when Predator 2 was released it took a quick eye to pick this out. It was casual confirmation that the two awesome franchises might share the same world. It opened up a lot of possibilities where we could have (and still could see) some awesome stuff. An interesting side note: the xenomorph skull looks an awful lot like the xenomorphs in Alien and Aliens which are set centuries after Predator 2. Does this mean that there were no advances in xenomorph evolution for centuries? Considering that xenomorphs use other species as incubators, they must have some dominant genes. Maybe, they’re a genetically manufactured species?

Max
10 Max Schreck (Batman Returns, Shadow of the Vampire)

Batman Returns is a pretty good Batman movie (Catwoman is great though) and it has some very memorable characters. You have your Batman, your Penguin, your Catwoman (rowr!) and you have the corporate villain who doesn’t really have a comic book counterpart. Max Schreck is the tycoon who isn’t above manipulation, fraud and even murder to earn money. He’s pretty much an unrepentant evil monster who easily out-evils the other two villains put together. The thing is, he started out with the last name Schreck and his parents called him Max. Max Schreck is a little known film actor who worked in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Of course, the one movie of his you might have a snowball’s chance in Hell of knowing is Nosferatu in which he plays the vampiric Graf Orlok. Not only that but in Shadow of the Vampire, a fictional telling of the making of Nosferatu, it’s revealed that Schreck himself was a vampire. Am I saying that Max Schreck (Batman Begins) is a vampire? Well, definitely figuratively as a sort of financial vampire. A bit of a stretch but it makes me smile.

Bachman
9 Bachman (Sons of Anarchy)

Alright, Sons of Anarchy isn’t a horror movie or even a horror television show. Instead it was a long-running show about a motorcycle club’s politics and crimes and the personal lives of the members. It’s a great show (at least as far as I am in it) but it definitely has its dark moments. Without giving away too much, during Season Three of the show a couple of main characters need a body to completely disappear. They call in a guy they know and a character played by Stephen King shows up and claims that his name is Bachman and that he is a cleaner. He plays his scenes pretty low key but there’s definitely a creep factor to his lines and delivery. So, “Richard Bachman” is an alias that King has used freely to publish a few of his books (The Regulators for example). What if Sons of Anarchy’s Bachman is supposed to be Stephen King? What if that’s what he does in his spare time? He travels around and makes bodies disappear for some extra cash but mostly for the fun of it.

Midwich

8 Midwich Elementary (Silent Hill, Village of the Damned)

Village of the Damned is a B Horror movie where weird albino children appear who have psychic death powers that they use to hold adults hostage and get what they want. It capitalizes on how creepy kids can be without even trying. It takes place in the Midwich, England and therefore the creepy kids all attend Midwich Elementary as the adults try to figure out how to survive their predicament. In the Silent Hill video game series (and the first movie) characters encounter a Midwich Elementary where the kids of Silent Hill attend school apparently. It’s situated on Midwich Road but I would still think it would be called Silent Hill Elementary because it’s in Silent Hill. Of course, many places in America are named after places in England but I have a more fun theory. What if the supernatural forces that swirl through Silent Hill were attracted the residual psychic resonance of Midwich Elementary. What if the town wanted to possess such power and somehow transported the school to Silent Hill and then cannibalized it to create its own school?

Chalk Door
7 The Chalk Portal (Beetlejuice, Pan’s Labyrinth)

In Beetlejuice, Barbara and Adam Maitland find a spell to access the Netherworld. The spell has them draw a door and knock three times and the wall opens to expose a portal to a world beyond our own. The book they get their spell from is readable by mortals who aren’t deceased and later in the film a spell is even successfully performed by a mortal man. Granted, the spell that is used isn’t the chalk door spell but there’s nothing to say it couldn’t be done by a mortal. In Pan’s Labyrinth, the main character Ofelia is given magic chalk by a seriously untrustworthy faun who instructs her to use it to form a door. She does and is transported to a dark, twisted version of a faery lair of sorts in order to further her weird faery scavenger hunt. (Seriously, just go watch the movie. It’s amazing.) It’s almost the same dang spell! It involves the drawing of something in chalk that ritual makes real. It’s almost like the spell relies on the user’s imagination to work. Could these two spellbooks overlap? It’s interesting to think about.

Whiteboard
6 “Deadites and Evil Molesting Tree” (Cabin in the Woods)

Cabin in the Woods is an interesting dark comedy/horror movie because it tears horror movies apart while paying so much tribute to them. I could sit here and list dozens of little homages to a lot of horror franchises that range from subtle to brilliant. However, the main thing about these homages and easter eggs is that most of them look like knockoffs of the originals. They’re close but no cigar. Early in the movie, when certain characters are cataloguing supernatural threats, you actually see the words “Deadites” and “Angry Molesting Tree” very close together. These are very specific words that only relate to one movie which is Evil Dead 2 (basically a gorier remake of Evil Dead). Deadites are practically a registered trademark of the Evil Dead movie and video game series and the Angry Molesting Tree is a pretty infamous part of the second movie. What I’m saying is that those words really don’t apply to anything else. Now, I don’t want to give away the premise of an awesome movie by saying this but could “they” be responsible for the events of Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2?

Ethan
5 Striped Shirt (Nightmare Before Christmas, The Addams Family)

In the Addams Family movie from 1991, there’s a very clear art direction which includes brilliant costumes that fit the tone of the movie exactly. One of the prominent costume pieces is Pugsley’s shirt which is a distinctive black and white horizontal striped shirt. The actor playing Pugsley is a young man and is more than a bit chubby, mostly as a visual counterpoint to his thin sister Wednesday. In The Nightmare Before Christmas, there is a little zombie boy who participates in all of the shenanigans of the movie as one of many good-hearted yet misunderstood characters. He wears a shirt with black and white horizontal stripes and he is pretty portly himself. Granted, he’s a little more plump than Pugsley but he’s dead and sometimes dead bodies bloat. If anyone on Earth would have access to Halloweentown, it would probably end up being the Addams Family. So is the dead little boy Pugsley? I don’t think so but they may have shared some fashion tips. Alternately, Pugsley may have shipped some hand-me-downs to Halloweentown.

Chucky4 “Chucky on Crack” (Leprechaun in the Hood)

This next one is just a little bit of evidence but the idea excited me too much to put it lower on the list. I am a sucker for both the Leprechaun and Child’s Play franchises. In Leprechaun in the Hood (Leprechaun 5), two gang members are startled by their first meeting with the Leprechaun. (As we probably all would be). One of them calls the Leprechaun “Chucky on Crack”, not being familiar with the little demon in front of them. There are many similarities between Chucky and the Leprechaun. They’re both vertically challenged and they both rely on ancient magics. Chucky is fueled by Voodoo magic which somehow keeps his little doll body mobile and able to swing melee weapons. The Leprechaun relies on some sort of ancient Irish magic of his own which allows him to basically break reality. Maybe, just maybe, these gang members called him “Chucky on Crack” because Chucky is a well known urban legend. I want a Chucky vs. Leprechaun movie so bad.

Santa Mira3 Santa Mira (Halloween 3, Invasion of the Body Snatchers)

I have a soft spot in my heart for Halloween 3: Season of the Witch mostly because it’s a good movie but also because a lot of people don’t like it. One of the most eerie parts of Halloween 3 is how ordinary people are replaced by unfeeling automatons who serve Silver Shamrock with undying loyalty. This all took place in the town of Santa Mira, California which was also the site of another famous horror movie. Invasion of the Body Snatchers features Santa Mira getting slowly taken over by aliens who replace human beings with emotionless copies. Both plots are only discovered because one man infiltrates the situation and flees to warn the world. It’s definitely too much similarity to simply be a coincidence. Imagine you’re Conal Cochran and you need guards for your big, magical terrorist plot. You think of androids and then you do your research about the Body Snatchers incident. Maybe you get a hold of info from Body Snatcher technology and you use it to perfect your android copy technology in the same town the original incident it went down.

Necronomicon
2 Necronomicon (Jason Goes to Hell)

The Necronomicon was an important object and an intesely detailed prop created for the Evil Dead series. In Army of Darkness we see it in great detail in a time lapse sequence that explains exactly what it is. It’s a book written in blood and bound in human skin and it contains information and dark spells relating to the deadites and the great magical force of the Evil Dead. Somehow such an important book often finds itself lost and in clear sight of people who could stumble onto its evil. First a cabin and now strewn among a whole lot of other magical items in a Friday the 13th movie. Among the many items in the Voorhees house, the Necronomicon is clearly visible as not many books have a face with a gaping mouth on them. This is another one that needs no speculation because the prop was confirmed by Sam Raimi. Later, in the comic books, Ash has to ride to the rescue to take out Jason and Freddy when Freddy gets a hold of the Necronomicon.

Freddy's Claw
1 Freddy’s Claw in Evil Dead 2

Speaking of unmistakeable props, Freddy Kruegger is a vicious killer/dream demon who takes out his victims in very creative ways. However, one of the most iconic parts of Freddy’s image is that unique clawed glove that has drawn the blood of so many teen victims. In Evil Dead 2 you can pretty easily spot Freddy’s glove hanging in the barn. Ash apparently doesn’t notice it but it is a clear sign that Freddy has entered his world. Now, I’ve already covered how Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash became a thing when it was published in the comic books. However, there’s something else in play here. In New Nightmare we are introduced to the concept that Freddy Kruegger is a real dream demon originally from our world aka the world you’re sitting in right now. He was only tamed by making movies about him which trapped him in the film world where he harmlessly killed fictional characters. What if, between Nightmare movies, they desperately wrote Freddy into Evil Dead 2 to keep him at bay for a little while?


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