Saturday, November 29, 2008

Top 5 Things I Hate Most About Having a Cold

As you probably guessed based on the title of this list, I'm a little under the weather right now. I'm not terribly ill or anything, just a mild cold. The Common Cold, though rarely a serious ailment, is always annoying. Here's my Top 5 Things I Hate Most About Having a Cold.

5. Fatigue - I pride myself on being outgoing and energetic. Being tired really cramped my style.

4. Dry, itchy, red nose - Tissues take their toll on my nose. It burrrrrns. Yes, I could use tissues with lotion, but they make my hands feel greasy and gross.

3. Contagion Guilt - I had my girlfriend and three of my friends over today, with plans that were set in advance and that I didn't want to cancel, so instead I spent a lot of the time worrying about getting them all sick. I did a lot of hand washing and even brushed my teeth a couple of times so that I would stop feeling sick. It didn't help. I'm certain that between today and the three hours in the car back to school tomorrow that I'll have gotten either or both my girlfriend and one of my friends together.

2. Itchy Eyes - Few things are more annoying to me than an itch I'm not allowed to scratch. Combine that with the tired feeling you get from having heavy, itchy eyes, plus the likelihood that I am actually tired on top of that leads to double-extra annoyance.

1. Runny Nose - Mountains of used tissues! Constant hand washing! Oh, yeah, don't forget feeling like snot for days, even weeks! A runny nose completely throws off your rhythm. It can keep you busy for minutes at a time, which makes working, playing or, say, typing, extremely difficult to enjoy or complete in a timely manner. Grr, argh.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Top 5 Greatest Inventions of the 20th Century

Requested by Dad

Sitting in my living room with my parents, my sister and my sister's boyfriend, the topic eventually somehow came to T5E and what tonight's topic should be. My father suggested that I do "Top 5 Greatest Inventions of the 20th Century." So, first, what makes an invention great? I would grade an invention based on its overall effect on global society, influence on later technology and longevity of use. That being said, here's my list.

5. Cellular Phone - Today, everyone and their kid has a cell phone. Anyone can reach anyone personally nearly anywhere on Earth. (Literally everywhere if you could SatPhones.) Remember before cell phones? (Not all of us are old enough to.) Remember having to find someone in a crowd without a cell phone? Remember calling someone's house and having to ask if Johnny was home? For that matter, remember picking up the phone and not knowing who was on the other end? Remember payphones? The fast pace of today's world could not sustain itself without the ability to communicate on-the-go.

4. Airplane - Speaking of the fast pace of the world, what about travel? The invention of the airplane, and to a greater extent after the popularization of jet engines, placed the continents closer together and made travel relatively quick and inexpensive. Business became streamlined. The nature of military strategy completely shifted. Not to mention the role of airplanes and airports in popular culture.

3. Television - National network radio established the foundations for a single American pop culture by giving people across the nation something in common - their entertainment. But radio, time has proven, lacks the absolutely hypnotic effect of television. TV changed the way America, and later the world, spent their spare time, fought their boredom, got their news and educated their kids. Yes, TV is blamed for melting the brains of kids, but think of all the edutaining videos you watched in school, or the Discovery Channel special you watched last week. TV didn't just change the way we relax, it also changed the way we learn and the way we think.

2. Refrigeration - I can't take credit for thinking of this one - this was #1 on my dad's list, and I'll tell you why: Refrigeration changed agriculture by making perishable foods longer-lasting. It changed medicine with its ability to preserve specimens. It changed economics and real estate, because now, through the power of Air Conditioning, people could settle in places no one would have dreamed of living years earlier. What if you had no fridge and no A/C? Think about how much your life would change!

1. TIE: Computer & The Internet - Yes, it's T5E's very first TIE! When we were debating our own Top 5s, we were unable to come to a consensus about which was more important - the PC or the Internet. The Internet revolutionized pretty much everything about everything, but there'd be no Internet without the computer. The computer contributed millions of important breakthroughs in science, medicine and entertainment before the internet became widely used, but the internet is such a huge part of all of our lives and the lives of everyone in the forseeable future, that it's hard not to place it ahead the PC. Today, the two are so completely intertwined that you don't even consider a computer not being connected to the internet. Honestly, if you were to be offered a free computer today and it had no internet capability, you wouldn't think about accepting it, no matter how fast or otherwise state-of-the-art it is.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Top 5 Movies That Rock

Yes, I just borrowed a term invented by VH1. A "Movie That Rocks" is a movie that either centers around musicians or music fans or uses music as a lens to examine life. I'm a big fan of this genre, being a musician and music appreciator myself, as well as a cinemaphile. I've seen a lot of "Movies That Rock", and here's my Top 5.

5. Ray - Definitely the best of the music biopic subgenre, Ray is the most honest-seeming biopic of a living celebrity I've ever seen. It is both sympathetic and merciless. Every punch that Ray takes in his life (with the exception of those that are racially-motivated) it seems he deserves. He is portrayed as an unfaithful husband, a drug abuser and a selfish, selfish man. His blindness is not played for sympathy, it is his personal faults that both make us root for him and prevent us from seeing Ray as a vanity piece for an aging music legend. Jamie Foxx's portrayal is incredible - he completely disappears into the role. And the music is, of course, great.
4. This is Spinal Tap - Rob Reiner and what would eventually become the Christopher Guest Gang brings you the single greatest improvised comedy ever. Quotable, innovative and gut-bustingly funny, Spinal Tap reinvented the mockumentary genre. The music is parody, yet quality. Not to mention that, even after the entire viewing public public realized that this was not a real documentary (yes, they did fool some people) people still flocked to record stores looking for "Smell The Glove", and Spinal Tap actually inspired a new generation of over-the-top hair bands. That's a pretty damn big impact.
3. That Thing You Do! - Okay, I know I'm going to take some crap for putting this ahead of Spinal Tap, but That Thing You Do! has a lot of sentimental value to me. I've seen it over twenty times, I've got the damn thing memorized. A playful look at the rise and fall of a band in 1964, TTYD! is a quirky comedy written, directing and co-starring Tom Hanks, with great, era-appropriate songs (the title number written by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne) and a score by the now-legendary Howard Shore. This movie walks the fine line between smart and cute with the grace and agility of Juno or Garden State.
2. Almost Famous - A semi-autobiographical film from writer-director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) about a very young rock journalist touring with a "mid-level band struggling to come to grips with success". A great music film and my favorite coming-of-age tale. Almost Famous is about rock music, but it's also about what it's like to love rock and roll, or at least what it was to be a fan in the late 70s. Witty and emotionally stirring, Almost Famous's status as a cult movie instead of a legendary film is astonishingly unfair.
1. High Fidelity - Shamefully, I left this off my Top 5 Romantic Comedies. John Cusack's portrayal of Rob Gordon, indie-record-store-owner who is clueless over why his relationships always fail. Rob analyzes his life through music. It is the one thing he actually understands, and if you don't then he'll leave you behind. (He's a snob - I can relate.) High Fidelity is very much a romantic comedy, but this movie fits under the "life through the lens of music" category. This is a film for neurotic record collectors. (And most record collectors are neurotic. I should know, I work at an indie record store.) Plus, Jack Black as an obnoxious record geek who's in a band called Sonic Death Monkey.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Top 5 Cartoon Cliches We'd Like to do in Real Life (Guest Starring Mike Pfeiffer)

Today's Top 5 is something a little different. As I mentioned in the afterword for yesterday's list, I'm hope for the weekend, which means I have access to certain resources I am otherwise forced to work without. Tonight, Special Guest Star Mike Pfeiffer(!) helps me compile this list. (NOTE: We just watched The Mask, so that's where the idea comes from.)

5. "Don't Look Down" Syndrome - It's interesting to note that in cartoon cliché, the idea is that whatever the funniest thing that can happen in a given situation is the one that will happen, even if, nay, especially if it defies the laws of physics. "Don't Look Down" Syndrome is our name for the ability to shatter reality by ignoring it. Whether that means surviving a dynamite blast by making a witty comeback (even if it's out of the back or side of your head) or refusing to fall off a cliff simply by looking straight ahead, in the cartoon world, ignorance is bliss.

4. Rubber Band Body - The human body's capacity for bouncing off the walls is, unfortunately, very limited. Neither you, nor, in most cases, the walls, have that much elasticity, so you don't get great results, and persisting in bouncing off walls will likely lead to being relocated to a place where the walls are padded. (However, as Kel Mitchell's Ed in Goodburger discovered, this is actually a step in the right direction for the avid wall-bouncer.) With the ability not only to bounce off of surfaces like a rubber ball Daffy Duck-style, the cartoon classic Rubber Band Body also allows one to dodge bullets or let your tounge fall to the ground watching a pretty lady get out of a taxi and lead it to being caught in the door and pulled away, leaving you dazed and oblivious until the suspense has reached its optimum funny output and you get snapped back.
Mike Pfeiffer's theorum of Cartoon Funny: Comedy = (Amt. Bodily Harm Caused) x (Time Spent Anticipating Bodily Harm Caused) + (Attractiveness of LAAADeeeee inadvertantly responsible and/or oblivious to Bodily Harm) / (Wryness of Comeback Afterwards). The goal is for the equation to equal 1.

3. Automatic Soundtrack - I don't know know if it's a problem for you, but it's really hard to maintain a conversation while singing your own soundtrack. How long have you waited for a private sensual moment to be accentuated by a muted trumpet? How many of your trumpet-playing friends are tired of being petitioned to hiding in your closets during a rendez-vous? How many of your trumpet-playing friends have started to creep you out for acquiescing to this request too often, or even asking you not-so-subtly when next his services will be required? I know this is a problem for me. (Pfeiffer still calls me often to coda his disappointing moments on trombone with a descending "bwaah bwaah bwaaah".) What if, by some freak of non-science (read: nonsense) you could summon an invisible, intangible omnicient 40-piece orchestra to react to and anticipate your every comedic whim? This solves everything.

2. Fourth Wall Breakage - It's about time we start acknowledging the secret audience of each of our lives. Why should that little pissant Frankie Muniz get to do this and not me? That way, I can at least pretend that someone interested is listening when I talk to myself. (Not to say that I'm not interested in what I have to say. I do publish a daily blog of my opinions and actually expect people to read it. T5E may in fact be the closest I'll ever get to 4th wall acknowledgement.)

1. "Hammer Space" - The lesser-known half of the Hammer-Time/Hammer-Space Continuum. Hammer Space, like Hammer Time, is potentially infinite and went of style in the late 80s. Imagine, if you will, a pocket so deep that it contains every possible funny object that could be used in any scenario, yet still appears, from the outside, to be flush with your pant leg. (Or fur, if you're an anthropomorchic rabbit.) Named for the funniest of all objects that can be retrieved from Hammer Space (called Mallet-Space in some circles), it allows for the existence of spontaneous prop gags that even the Who's Line? gang could antipate. Playing cards? Go fish! History quiz? Pocket Lincoln! Lost your pencil? Too bad, that's not funny. Pfeiffer was quick to point out that these pockets may also provide an endless supply of lingerié that would distract authority figures (hunters, hungry cats) and make even J. Edgar Hoover blush.

Catch you guys tomorrow, when I more-than-likely count down top "Top 5 Foods I Ate Too Much of This Afternoon". (Pfeiffer suggests "Top 5 Holiday Cop-Outs") Also, we'd like to thank the two people who got the J. Edgar Hoover joke.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Top 5 Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes



As promised, here's my list of the Top 5 ST:TNG episodes.

5. Starship Mine - This pick I'm sure will baffle some Trekkies. I've never seen this episode make any other top 5s around the net, but it's an all-around winner. Starship Mine feels more like one of the movies than a TNG episode. It's funny, action-packed, but still true to character. It's one of the first times we ever get to see Picard kick ass, as he's stranded aboard a deserted Enterprise fighting to keep dangerous trilithium resin out of the hands of terrorists. A subplot involving Data's new "small-talk subroutine" brings the biggest laughs the series ever gets. How this episode slipped under the Best of Trek radar is beyond me.
4. Lower Decks - This Seventh-Season episode focuses on a small group of friends, junior officers, the expendable guys, the guys who don't get to make the calls, just follow them. I mention that it's in the seventh season because we've had seven years to get used to how the show works: the crew is confronted with a problem, they struggle, but their confidence and experience helps them prevail and at the end of the day everything goes back to normal. This week, everything is different. Our heroes are only vaguely aware of the problem, because it's classified. They struggle with smaller, more personal struggles, and their youth and insecurities make overcoming them difficult, and when the story ends their lives are changed forever. Refreshing.
3. The Inner Light - Though The Next Generation was always more plot-driven than character-driven, there were character subplots that ran through the whole series: Data's quest to be human, Riker's stagnant career, and the most powerful one, Picard's lonliness. Captain Jean-Luc Picard, it is slowly revealed throughout the series, has always regretted not starting a family. In The Inner Light, Picard experiences, in the space of 25 minutes, an entire other life where he has a wife, kids, and grandkids. And then he wakes up and to everyone else, nothing's changed. But for Jean-Luc, nothing will ever be the same.
2. Darmok - The epitome of what Star Trek is supposed to teach: understanding through adversity, the brotherhood of diverse cultures, and trust and respect to all people. If you are to show someone any one Star Trek episode, it should be this one.
1. All Good Things - A perfect ending to the series, providing closure to the character arcs. Guest appearances abound, an epic story and the highest stakes the show's ever put on the table. All Good Things is one of the best series finales in TV history, paying respect to the entire series and leaving the viewer with a tear-jerker. I can't tell you how many times I've watched this episode, and every time that last scene chokes me up.

(My apologies about the lateness of this list - I came home from college today for Thanksgiving break and my time was kind of limited. I'm considering coming back to this one in the morning and touching it up, but I didn't want to keep you guys waiting.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Top 5 Albums of the 90s

Whereas most of my generation seems to have some kind of 80s obsession, (see T5E reader David L's blog article on the subject) I'm a much bigger fan of the 1990s. The 90s undoubtedly had better music, better TV and better movies, not to mention that we actually experienced the 90s. (I'm tired of people in my graduating class saying "Remember [80s sensation]?" No, I don't remember that, and neither were you. You weren't born yet.) Today I begin a recurring series of lists on the 90s, starting with my Top 5 Albums.

The state of music in the 1990s was unique - the popular stations were equally shared by mindless cookie-cutter pop and deep, introspective alternative rock. This balance, I think, improved both genres. Pop's simplicity had limits, and could remain fun to listen to, and rock had to have catchy melodies and memorable lyrics. Today, I fear that both genres have suffered from the loss of this balance.

My list today is, though, all alternative records. This is, like any of my other lists, based on my own personal tastes.

5. Yourself or Someone Like You - Matchbox 20
Six hit singles don't lie. "Real World", "3AM", "Back2Good" (stupid 90s title, I grant you) "Long Day", "Push" and "Girl Like That", plus "Kody", which wasn't a single but got a fair amount of MTV play (this is before MTV plunged off the deep end). The epitome of fine 90s Post-Grunge, Youself or Someone Like You was angry, aggressive, but still open and accessible.

4. Weezer (The Blue Album) - Weezer
This one's a no-brainer. "My Name is Jonas", "Buddy Holly", "Say it Ain't So" and "Surf Wax America" are still recognizable rock anthems. Weezer's self-titled debut influenced dozens of bands to follow. The Blue Album set the standard for rock albums for the remainder of the decade.

3. Bringing Down the Horse - The Wallflowers
Considering that every Wallflowers album prior to or following this one is mediocre at best, you have to give the bulk of the credit for this album's near-perfection to producer T-Bone Burnett, who only two years earlier had crafted the first Counting Crows record into a work of sheer genius. In this album (and this album alone) Jacob Dylan is able to cast off his legendary father's shadow and establish himself as a songwriting force to be reckoned with; Bringing Down the Horse is miles above anything Bob Dylan put out during the 90s. From beginning to end, Burnett and The Wallflowers create a full, enveloping sound, offering lyrical brilliance and a long series of great hooks.

2. Whatever and Ever Amen - Ben Folds Five
"Brick" is only the tip of the iceberg. Yes, the haunting abortion elegy is a memorable, lasting 90s hit, but to ignore the other 12 masterworks would be criminal. Every track on this album is approaches perfection. "One Angry Dwarf & 200 Solemn Faces" is an introduction to Ben Fold's own variety of "fun anger". "Fair" demonstrates the band's ability to take a story of misery and pain and make it boppy and peppy. "Selfless, Cold and Composed" is the best, most emotionally real break-up song of all time. (In contrast to the previous track, "Song for the Dumped", which is the most fun break-up song of all time.) "Evaporated" is one of the most finely-crafted ballads ever written, emotionally gripping and melodically hypnotic. (Though those of us who like to cover Ben Folds songs on piano find the use of two pianos on the studio track extremely frustrating.) As a whole, Whatever and Ever Amen uses the entire emotional spectrum, and like a fine meal, leaves the listener exhausted, but satisfied.

1. August and Everything After - Counting Crows
"Stepped out the front door like a ghost into a fog, where no one notices the contrast of white on white"
An introduction to the mind of Adam Duritz, tormented poet laureate of the invented genre of English Major Rock. Duritz has a psychological condition called a "dissociated disorder," which in essence makes life feel like a prolonged, absurd dream. August and Everything After is filled with dreamlike images, perfect poetry of a man only half of our world. "'Round Here", "Anna Begins" and "Sullivan Street" are perfect songs. They are perfect. They represent the finest poetry in alternative rock, melodies that stay with you for decades, and again, the fine production talents of Mr. T-Bone Burnett. There is no single sound on this album that feels unnecessary, and nowhere does it seem as if something is missing. Most of the Counting Crows archive is excellent, but August is a masterwork from beginning to end.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Top 5 Things that Need to Change about American Society

I don't think I've done a serious political list in a few weeks, so I thought I might take a broad look at American society and judge it arbitrarily. Of course, if you read this, you agree that mine is the only opinion in the universe that matters, and will gladly help me enact broad social change in this great(?) nation of ours. (You'll note that this "serious" list is already biting with goofy sarcasm, but trust that the points I make, regardless of how much I ham up the problem, are my real opinions.) Here's today's Top 5 Things that Need to Change about American Society.

5. Absenteeism - Yes, there's an argument that Americans are lazy, there's also a lot of fine examples of people who live their whole lives at work. Today's American businessperson is expected to be on-call 24 hours a day. That means when he's at home with his kids, when she's sitting down to family dinner, when they're on a date or at the movies, their eyes are fixated on their Blackberries. This is extremely destructive to our already-struggling American family.
4. Apathy - The election woke us up, but our generation, the generation in college and high school now, needs to stay awake and informed. Yes, The Daily Show is great, but it can't be our only source of news. Yes, Facebook is a great social networking tool, but behind each of those status updates is a real person who needs real human interaction. Yes, the cafeteria buffet means eat all you can eat, but there are still people on the other side of the world or just the other side of town who are dying of starvation. The Obama Campaign reminded us that we matter and that we can change things. Let's try to keep it that way.
3. Credit - Why do you think our economy is in crisis? It might have something to do with the fact that each of us is in debt up to our eyeballs. The lesson here is the same one we were supposed to have learned from the Great Depression: don't spend money you don't have. That goes for you, too, Federal Government.
2. Jingoism - The last eight years have involved a lot of unwarranted flag-waving. If we're going to call ourselves "The Greatest Nation on Earth" every five seconds, let's make sure we deserve it. And even then, let's still not say it. Our complacancy is what makes other nations resent us. We need to acknowledge that there are always things we can be doing better.
1. Homophobia - After November 4th, many of us were quick to say that America is now a "post-racial" country. That very same day three states voted to define in their constitutions that marriage is between a man and a woman. The civil rights challenge of today is in gay rights and sexual tolerance. America must remember that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" (MLK) and that by extention, injustice to anyone is an injustice to everyone.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Top 5 Newspaper Comics

Requested by rrrrrreooow!

Huzzah! A request! Keep 'em coming, folks. For this list, I've decided to confine myself to comics that are currently in publication. Included as evidence for each entry is a strip from the past month. (Due to some embedding issues, you're going to have to click on each one to get the whole picture. I'll get to work on fixing this problem when I have more time.)

5. Get Fuzzy - Darby Conley
Get Fuzzy

4. Monty - Jim Meddick
Monty

3. Doonesbury - Gary Trudeau (CONTEXT NOTE: This strip is from two days after Obama's election.)

2. Zits - Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman

1. Dilbert - Scott Adams
Dilbert.com

Friday, November 21, 2008

Top 5 Games to Look Forward To

Requested by Dan Montrose

This year's holiday season, in my opinion, has not been the most exciting for video games. Sure, a lot of people are psyched for Gears of War 2 (I'm not) but besides that, there's not a lot much to look forward to until next year. Here's the Top 5 upcoming video games I'm looking forward to.

5. Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) - Hey, a Batman game actually based on the comics instead of an adaptation! Developer Rocksteady Studios says the gameplay will focus on combat and forensics, the two core skills of Batman. Story by Paul Dini, plus the return of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and Joker.
4. Star Wars: The Old Republic (TBA) - Just announced, the follow-up both to the popular Knights of the Old Republic series and to the lackluster MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies. Now, play as a Jedi, as a Sith, as a Mandalorian, you name it. It's early in its development, but BioWare promises in-depth story and PvP action.
3. Halo 3: Recon (Q3 2009) - A lot of people were disappointed with Halo 3's online multiplayer, or upset that the series of sci-fi first-person-shooters was over. But the first (of many?) expansion pack to the game promises not only a totally-new single-player campaign, in which you play as one of those NPC troops you see throughout the franchise, plus lots of new multiplayer possibilities.
2. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Fusion (2009) - I've played the hell out of Ultimate Alliance. I'm still playing it, and it's been out for almost three years now. If they just gave me more stages to this same game, I'd be thrilled. But Activision promises new characters, new game mechanics and a super-cool storyline that might include plot elements from Civil War!
1. Star Trek Online (Q4 2009) - My entire life, I've wanted to be a Starfleet officer. This is the closest I'm ever going to get, and I've been waiting since 2005 for them to finally finish the damn thing. Everything I've seen so far of this game, from its species-creation system, the promise of your very own starship and a universe that will literally expand, giving you new things to explore for years, means I'll pay whatever monthly fee they want. I'm ready to energize.

(I've noticed you guys have stopped making requests. Is it something I said? Is there an odor? Please, don't be shy.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Top 5 Bond Themes

Since Quantum of Solace hit theaters, I've been musing over Bond themes. Most of them are just awful, but there are a few gems hidden between lines of bad lyrics and tired smooth jazz. Here's my personal favorites, plus a YouTube link to the sequence they each appeared in...

5. "A View to a Kill" - Duran Duran, A View to a Kill

4. "Live and Let Die" - Paul McCartney & Wings, Live and Let Die

3. "Goldfinger" - Shirley Bassey, Goldfinger

2. "Tomorrow Never Dies" - Sheryl Crow, Tomorrow Never Dies

1. "You Know My Name" - Chris Cornell, Casino Royale

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Top 5 Worries about the New Star Trek Film


I am, as I've mentioned before, a huge Trekkie, and have been all my life. I'm also a fan of J.J. Abrams, mostly through Lost, so I was excited when I first heard he was taking the helm of the franchise. And so far, I've been very happy with all the casting decisions, preview footage and with most of what's been revealed about the story. Unlike so many whiny babies on the internet, I was pleased with the Enterprise redesign, finding it to be a fair mix between the original TOS model and the refit from the first six films. However, I do have a few reservations about the film, which are, as always, listed below from 5 to 1.

5. Believability - The trailer has a 12-year-old Kirk driving a Corvette off a cliff and jumping out at the last second. There is no way nobody's going to laugh when this happens. And it's probably in the first half-hour of the movie. Walk-outs? A very real possibility.

4. Accessibility - Rumor has it, this movie is going to start on Post-Nemesis Romulus, with Next-Gen-era Spock (Leonard Nimoy) picking up the pieces from the Reman rebellion and following up on the events of "Unification" (TNG) before traveling through the Guardian of Forever (from "City on the Edge of Forever (TOS)) to the past. So, it's a spiritual sequel to a movie nobody saw and two TV episodes, one that aired 15 years ago and the other that aired 40 years ago. Are people who've never seen Trek before going to have any idea what's going on?

3. Reception - Speaking of accessibility, it's no secret that my generation has no respect and no interest in Star Trek. How many high school and college kids, the people who make blockbuster hits blockbuster hits, will actually show up to see this movie? How many of them are willing to give Star Trek a chance? This is going to be the most expensive Trek yet, by a lot. My fear is that this movie will lose so much money that it will bury the franchise forever. These fears already existed when the movie was scheduled to come out at Christmas. Now that it's a summer movie, that means that Paramount will be spending a lot more on promotion. I would love to see this movie be a hit, but I'm calling it right now - it's not going to happen.

2. Continuity - I wish they'd just call it a "re-boot". They keeps saying that it'll stay true to the established canon, but it can't possibly. All they're doing by calling it a "prequel" instead of a "re-boot" is opening themselves up to getting attacked by purists for "raping continuity".

1. Star Wars Influence - J.J. has repeatedly said that he wants to "inject more of a Star Wars feel into the new Trek. It's always been my position that Star Trek should be entirely separate from Star Wars, and remain the smart storytelling it's based in instead of feeling like it has to be effects-driven or action-oriented. Sure, I like when there's action and special effects, but I certainly have never felt that Trek has anything to learn from Star Wars, particularly based on the last 10 years of Star Wars. The fact that J.J. says he "was never a Star Trek fan", but that he loves Star Wars, makes me worry that he's going to try and make my favorite franchise more like his favorite franchise. The last thing we need is another Star Wars movie.

P.S. - If you read this blog, please respond to the poll on the right sidebar. I'm trying to do a little census-taking. (Please don't eat my liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Top 5 People Who Should Have Their Own Talk Shows

There's talk of giving Sarah Palin a talk show when her term runs out in Alaska. Though this is definitely favorable over her ever running for President ever, ever again, this still makes my flesh crawl. If there's a spot open on a network's daytime or late-night line-up, I've got 5 potential hosts that should definitely get the call before the GOP's favorite Hockey Mom.

5. Tina Fey - Should be the next host of the Tonight Show (after Conan) or the Late Show (after Letterman, so it might finally be watchable).
4. Ron Paul - Ron Paul's common-sense politics may not have gotten him anywhere in the race for the Republican nomination, but I'd love to see him make a thirty-minute firesat chat five nights a week, addressing the day's issues.
3. Patton Oswalt - My favorite stand-up comic and script doctor should have a show on G4 or something about geek interests. Listen to his album "Werewolves and Lollipops" and you'll understand why. (If you've only got time/money for one track, my point is best illustrated by "At Midnight I Will Kill George Lucas.)
2. Mike Pfeiffer - Okay, nobody knows who he is, yet. And he's just my pal from High School. But I swear he's the funniest guy in the universe. His show would, however, be best suited for cable or light-night, because his sense of humor has gotten filthier and filthier since I've known him, and I imagine this trend can only continue into the future. Speaking of the future, keep your eyes and ears open, because he might sneak up onto the big-time comedy scene. (If he ever gets around to actually getting on the comedy scene. C'mon, buddy. Get on that.)
1. John Oliver - The Daily Show's British corespondent is quickly becoming the new Steven Colbert. John Oliver's contributions are a highlight, if not the highlight of the show these days. His wry wit, plus is fresh, one might say "foreign" perspective, would make him an ideal candidate for another spin-off. Of course, there's really no need or demand for another half-hour of political satire on Comedy Central, but should either Stewart or Colbert ever wish to retire, go on sabbatical or pursue other projects (as if either of them would throw away their careers with such a move) Oliver could absolutely fill in. (Ironically, as I was writing this, tonights' John Oliver segment began, and it was kind of disappointing. Well, you can't win them all.)

CODA: This list was revised in Top 5 Revisions I'd Like to Make to Previous Lists.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Top 5 Ways DC Comics Failed Me This Year

I'd like to say up front that I've always been more of a DC guy than a Marvel guy. Though I've had my spurts of buying Ultimate Spider-Man, I spent years buying three or four books a month from DC and thoroughly enjoying it. My fondest comic book memories are from the summer and fall of '05, when my friends and I used to buy all the different threads in Countdown to Infinite Crisis and share them every Thursday over lunch, then spend the rest of the week trading theories and cracking jokes about B'wana Beast.

When I left for college, I thought I would be devastated over the lack of a comic shop anywhere near campus. I was sure I would need my mother to ship me my monthly comics or that I would go into severe withdrawl pains. But this entire calendar year, I've struggled to even care what's going on in the DC Universe. Below I list the reasons I think I've lost interest, linked to major failures by the DC editorial staff in 2008.

5. Green Lantern: Secret Origins - Green Lantern is my favorite book DC makes, by far. I'm a big fan of Kyle Rayner, but I like Hal, John and Guy, too, and Hal's GL book, written for the last four years by Geoff Johns, is probably the best run in the franchise's history. After being a little disappointed with last year's Sinestro Corps War, I'm still hopeful about the upcoming Blackest Night storyline, which should be absolutely epic, assuming this years-long buildup doesn't burn all the fuel up. But here's what drove me nuts about GL this year: Johns and his team spent 5 issues, nearly half the year, on a storyline called Secret Origins, which is a flashback storyline that basically rehashes the popular 1991 storyline by Gerard Jones. Like, it's basically the same story, with some cryptic foreshadowing for Blackest Night added in. It was remarkably pointless, and the series lost all momentum. I've never seen a book stall for time more obviously. Just give us the story we want, already. This is ridiculous.

4. The Return of Barry Allen - Thank you, DC Comics, for making meaningless. Just like you made Crisis on Infinite Earths meaningless. Just how you made A Death in the Family meaningless. Thank you so much for bringing back the last character left in comics whose death had any weight. I'm so tired of DC (and Marvel) resurrecting long-dead characters for shock value. It's long-since stopped being shocking, besides being shockingly stupid. Jason Todd's death was a vital moment in this history of Batman, and you had to bring him back for no reason at the same time Marvel brought back Cap's long-lost sidekick. Are they officially out of ideas?

3. Countdown to Final Crisis - I think enough has been said about what a disappointment Countdown was. A weekly comic for the sake of a weekly comic, Countdown had no cohesion and was horribly confusing. It was such a failure that Grant Morrison severed all ties to it when making his Final Crisis book.

2. Batman: R.I.P. - This is supposed to be "The Last Batman Story". Batman could very well die at the end of this storyline. Batman, arguably the greatest comic book character of all time. But could this book seem any less epic? Grant Morrison, though he has proven his creative genius in countless comics since the eighties, truely dropped the ball here. Morrison has Batman performing his final act hopped up on acid in a suit made from a tablecloth, making random references to stories from the Silver and Bronze ages and providing nearly no shocks or intriguing twists. Plus, precious little action. Then he reveals that Batman: R.I.P. is actually NOT the end of Batman, as it had been advertised all year, but that the real ending will be in Final Crisis, and that this is just the build-up. Which brings us to #1...

1. Final Crisis - 1986's Crisis on Infinite Earths was a 12-issue crossover that completely changed the status quo for DC Comics forever. The long-awaited sequel came in 2005 with Infinite Crisis, which was epic, character-driven and action-packed. Just over a year later, it was revealed that there would be a third and final act in the Crisis line, Final Crisis, that would again change everything and would be penned by none other than the great Grant Morrison. Comic fandom cheered, hoping for the best. So far Final Crisis has been as slow, confusing, and un-shocking as Batman: R.I.P.. So far, everything major that has happened in the story was spoiled months earlier by solicitations and promotional material anyway. (If you're going to bring Barry Allen back in the last panel of your book as your shocker cliff-hanger ending, try not to put him on the cover of the book. It kind of spoils the surprise.) Despite the epic potential of the book and how much I wanted to like it, I've already stopped caring. I'm not even reading it anymore. And if it's supposed to set up the status quo for DC in the future, I can't overstate my disappointment.

(Sorry this post is a couple hours late. I've back-dated it to 11:59 so that it gets filed in the proper day.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Top 5 Romantic Comedies

This is it: the long-awaited Top 5 Romantic Comedies of ALL TIME list. I've been weighing the possibilities for a while now, making sure to watch movies that others recommended to make sure I didn't leave a worthy entry off the list. Now confident that my list is definitive, I present to you today's Top 5...

5. Moonstruck - I can't believe I could become addicted to a movie starring Cher. But it happened. Moonstruck treads the line between the romantic and the cynical so well that it's one of the most human comedies ever. The comically-tortured Nicolas Cage is... I want to say "believably unbelievable." He's the perfect picture of someone who thrives on his own pain because it gets him attention. I've been that guy. With a ton of quotables and memorable scenes, plus actually really good acting from I-can't-believe-I'm-saying-this-about Cher make this a terrific romantic comedy.
4. Love Actually - What makes Love Actually such a great romantic comedy is that it's actually eight romantic comedies. 1) A couple's new marriage causes problems for the groom's best friend. 2) A recently-widowed father helps his eight-year-old son win the heart of his pre-pubescent love. 3) A woman tries to balance a relationship with the man of her dreams and caring for her institutionalized brother. 4) A couple meets while being stand-ins for a porno. 5) The new British Prime Minister falls for a member of his house staff. 6) A twentysomething, having failed to attract a fellow Brit, travels to the states in the hope of cashing in on his accent to get laid. 7) A man can't resist the extremely forward advances of his employee. 8) A writer and his assistant are both thinking the same thing - but don't speak the same language. Any one of these could be a good romantic comedy on its own, but together they make one great one.
3. Garden State - Although the main reason this movie is so good is the script, what probably makes this romantic comedy so brilliant is Natalie Portman. Her character, Sam, is so perfectly cute, so insanely and convincingly lovable, that you cannot possibly not want the protagonists to get together. It's just impossible.
2. Ten Things I Hate About You - Certainly the best "teen movie" ever made, Ten Things is a modernization of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, which somehow manages to walk the tightrope of originality and fidelity to its source material with grace and hilarity. Never before or since has Shakespeare been so perfectly modernized. Unlike so many other high school melodramas, this film makes no attempt to dumb itself down. The dialouge is snappy and the acting (including Heath Ledger in his US breakout role) is superb. (The soundtrack is also excellent.) The best part, I think, of this movie is that every character grows in a very unique, very believable way. Oh, yeah - it's also insanely funny and re-watchable.
1. When Harry Met Sally - The pinnacle of neurotic couples that simply must be, Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) are complete and utter opposites who take their own sweet time - all of fifteen years - to finally get together, a process as hilarious as any other film other made. Billy Crystal gives the performance of his life as the cynical, low-maintenance Harry, while Meg Ryan made her bones in this film as the lighthearted Sally, particularly in the famous "fake orgasm" scene. What really makes this film the best of its kind is the simply brilliant script, which dove deeply into both the male and female psyches in a way few film had ever done before. Every cliche is combatted with original thought and every line of dialogue, EVERY line is quotable. It's the veritable Big Lebowski of romantic comedies. And of course, the ending is perfectly heartwarming, a must for any romance.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Top 5 Reasons Quantum of Solace is Just "Okay"



Last night I saw the new Bond film, the direct sequel to 2006's Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace. Here's my review, in the form of my Top 5 Reasons it was just "okay".

5. Like many of its weaker predecessors, Quantum of Solace had a few too many "oh, get real" moments. Too many bullets miss by an inch, too many falls are survived with a scrape. Some of MI6's tech seems flashy to a point, instead of the bare-bones practicality that worked so well in the last film. Also, this film's Bond Girl #1 (the one who always dies) jumps into bed with Bond a little too quickly, to the point that it feels like she's thrown in just for the hell of it. A lot of Casino Royale's believability is thrown out the window.
4. The pace of the movie was just uncomfortable. Picking up immediately after the last film, Quantum starts with an exciting car chase, followed immedately by a brief interrogation scene, a shooting, a ground chase, and then more chasing. Throughout the film, the structure is uncomfortable. There will be a lot of protracted action, a drastic change in location, then a little character, then a ton of exposition, then another drastic relocation, and then too much action again. The movie seemed to move too slowly and too quickly all at once.
3. Unlike Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace offered no new memorable characters. Olga Kurylenko's performance, and the size of her part in the film, were very overstated in previews and promotional material. She ended up being just another passerby in the Bond lore. The antagonist, Dominic Greene, was creepy in his own way, but unlike Le Chiffre, offered no menace whatsoever. He was just some guy with an agenda, barely qualifying as a villain.
2. After Casino Royale, it's quite possible that no Bond movie will ever be completely satisfying. 2006's reboot of the Bond franchise was a refreshing, original film, with great acting and a great screenplay, and still managed to feel like a Bond movie. I don't think there's any doubt that it's the best Bond film to date. The question is, can it really be topped? Expectations for this film were extremely high, and I don't think it could possibly have lived up to them. Granted, this year's smash hit The Dark Knight was put in the same position, being the sequel to a startlingly successful reboot of the Batman franchise, and managed to pull another great film out of the fire. This really put Quantum of Solace on the spot, because now there was the expectation that this sequel, too, could best its predecessor. It simply doesn't, which makes it unsatisfying.
1. This addition to the series took a lot of risks, which is particularly admirable in a franchise that spent 40 years in formula-limbo. It was refreshing to not be able to predict what would happen next based on other Bond movies. However, the most notable risk was that this is the first Bond movie not stand by itself as a film. Quantum of Solace does have its own plot, its own villain and its own ending, but it absolutely requires that you see Casino Royale, not only to provide you with the emotional background and connection with the characters, but just to know what the hell is going on. While I enjoyed the movie, it felt more like an epilouge to the last movie and a prolouge to the next one than like its own film.

Again, none of these flaws is fatal. Quantum of Solace is not a bad movie. It's just not a very good movie. I still recommend that you see it if you're a fan on Bond or just of Casino Royale, or even if you just want to catch the new Star Trek or Watchmen trailers. I would not consider it a waste of my money and I still intend to see the next installment.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Top 5 Reasons Nathan Fillion Should Play Captain America


Okay, so I was skimming through Newsarama.com (the #1 resource for comic book news, plus genre films and other geek interest items) and happened upon a poll asking readers who they'd pick to play Captain America in the upcoming Avengers films. In addition to the leading choices mentioned (Brad Pitt, Will Smith), they listed one of my favorite genre actors, one who I can't believe I had never thought of for the role - Nathan Fillion of Firefly and Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Sure, he's Canadian, but what does that matter? Here's my Top 5 reasons he whould play Cap in 2011...

5. Sci-Fi Icon - Fillion has a cult genre following that is as strong as any more established actor, and he's more popular than ever now since his internet-musical debut. His casting would please the Comic-Con crowd, and Comic-Con has proven to be able to make or break a genre film before it even hits theaters.
4. Hearthrob potential - Let's face it, the guy's dreamy as hell. He's got that winning smile and superhero-movie-worthy musculature; he can totally bring in the "Leonardo DiCaprio" effect to score the movie some extra cash.
3. Dream Come True - He's a big comic book fan, reading Marvel Comics since he was a wee lad. The enthusiasm he would bring to the set would make him extremely easy to work with, a nice change of pace from the whiny big-name actors they're probably used to working with. He'll be active in promoting the film and will be a great team player in the Avengers.
2. Price Tag - He works on the cheap, at least when compared to Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson and Don Cheadle. This movie promises to be one of the most expensive movies ever just in terms of effects, plus several lead actors. Nathan Fillion will not be bickering over his salary, ensuring a lasting franchise life.
1. He's got the chops, just watch Firefly. He's as good an actor as anyone else on television, plus he's hilarious when he wants to be. Based on how well audiences responded to humor in Iron Man, this is definitely a plus. But of course, this is not going to be a comedic role. Nathan Fillion can play badass hero better than anyone- just see Serenity!

Not that I'd be upset if someone else got the part; there's talk of Brad Pitt playing Cap, and I guess that'd be alright, but my pick is Captain Malcolm Reynolds -er, I mean Nathan Fillion.

CODA: This list was revised in Top 5 Revisions I'd Like to Make to Previous Lists.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Top 5 Ways that Love is Similar to Tape

5. It's real good at making two things one.
4. Sometimes it breaks off before you are done.
3. Sometimes its hard to see the end. You search on the roll with your fingernail again and again and again...
2. Sorry you guys, I have a gig tonight and I don't have time really to do a decent Top 5.
1. So instead, I leave you in the capable hands of Flight of the Conchords. Catch you tomorrow, loyal readers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Top 5 Star Trek: The Original Series Episodes


I can't believe I haven't done a Star Trek list yet! Here I am, one of the biggest Trekkies this side of Ferenginar, and scarcely a mention of my favorite TV Series(es)! This must end! Today's list begins a series of Star Trek Top 5s, which I will not post consecutively for the sake of all you readers (say, 2 out of the 5 of you) who don't watch the show, that will span the entire franchise's history. Today, my Top 5 episodes of The Original Series (TOS).

5. Space Seed - Two words: Ricardo. Montalban. The introduction of the now-legendary Khan, Kirk's nemesis and the only man to rival Shatner's bad-acting skills. Of course, it paved the way toward The Wrath of Khan, which is now an American classic whether you're into Star Trek or not.
4. The Menagerie, Parts 1 & 2 - The Original Series's only two-part episode, The Menagerie's greatest contribution is creating the foundations for the Trek mythology, a sense of past, a sense of continuity. In this episode, which encorporates footage from the unaired first pilot to Star Trek, The Cage, Spock kidnaps his former Captain, Christopher Pike, and hijacks the Enterprise, setting it on a course to a forbidden world. For what purpose? The mystery unfolds fifteen years in the past, telling the story of the last man to command the Enterprise, with a young science officer named Spock (who appears younger because he was) at his side.
3. The Balance of Terror - A rarity for Cold War-era television - in this episode, the battle between "good guys" and "bad guys" is told from both perspectives simultaneously. When Kirk's Enterprise scores a hit against the Romulan ship, you see the carnage on the enemy ship as well. The first half of the episode lets you see the Romulans as heartless murderers. Halfway through the episode, however, you start to see that they, like Kirk, are only doing what they've been ordered by their governments. The Romulan Commander (played by Mark Leonard, who would later go on to play Spock's father Sarek) and Kirk acknowledge at the end that in another life, in another time, they could have been great friends. Like most of the great Treks, this episode has a great message: the real enemy is not your combattant - the real enemy is the war.
2. The Doomsday Machine - One of the most ambitious television productions of its time, The Doomsday Machine had it all: a great story, suspense, psychological weight, great acting (for the show - remember, it's still Shatner) and of course some nice social commentary and allegory. Plus, in the Remastered version, a space battle that actually looks cool! Note: This is the closest that Trek: Remastered ever came to pulling a Lucas; wheras most Remastered episodes had improved special effects that were shot-for-shot CG replacements of the original material, TDM actually did add a few that were in the original script but they couldn't afford in 1967. Honestly, I didn't mind, if only because the effects in the original episode were so unbefitting the epicness of the script that they tended to ruin it for me.
1. City on the Edge of Forever - God-awful acting non-withstanding, (as with most TOS episodes,) this hour is certainly one of sci-fi's finest. What happens when, while traveling through time, you fall in love with someone who history says must die? Plus, the epic Guardian of Forever makes its first (and only) live-action appearance, though its rumored to be involved in the new J.J. Abrams reboot. (If you know for sure, please don't tell me; I'm trying to avoid spoilers.) CotEoF has been hailed on almost every list I've seen (and I do a lot of reading on the subject) as the best The Original Series had to offer, and some even call it the best Star Trek ever. (To which I reply "not even close, thank you.") Though I'm partial to the second-generation series, this episode stands up to any science fiction story made in the twentieth century.

Next in our Top5Trek series: Top 5 Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes. Coming soon...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Top 5 Most Delicious Breakfast Cereals

Yes, this is a fairly random idea, but c'mon, everyone enjoys breakfast cereals. Yes, this is certainly a matter of personal taste, but aren't all of these? (Hey, wait, that may have been a pun. Shit, I try not to do those here. Oh, well.) As a note, I generally have a bowl of Nature's Own Granola in place of cereal these days, but I wasn't sure that would count as a cereal or that it really belongs on this list. Besides, this list is about super-delicious cereals, implying SUGAR.

5. Corn Pops - Gotta have 'em.
4. Just Bunches - I don't even know if they still make these, but basically they're Honey Bunches of Oats, but without the flakes. It's just the delicious little out clusters.
3. Cinnamon Toast Crunch - Probably the most flavorful a sugary cereal can be without being overpowering. Downside - gets soggy quickly, and the cinnamon tends to get rinsed off sometimes by the milk.
2. Cocoa Puffs - C'mon. You love them. Chocolate for breakfast! Yay!
1. Cap'n Crunch - The point of a sugary cereal is the sugar. Cap'n Crunch is, like, 80% sugar. Plus, it makes the milk taste sugary, too. It's crunchy, it's sweet and it's really stupid to try and describe why a cereal is good. This may not have been the best topic. But at least I proved that I will do any random topic, no foolin'.

Top 5 Villains for the Next Batman Movie

So far there's been absolutely no information released about the script for the next Batman movie, but based on the ending to The Dark Knight we do know that it will involve Bats being on the run from the law and Commissioner Gordon having to keep up a sham pursuit of him while secretly aiding his fight against crime. Of course, any Batman movie needs a good villain, but not every villain in the Gotham rogues gallery works within the style of the "Nolanverse". Choosing the right villain will likely make or break the movie. Here's my Top 5 Villain choices for the Next Batman Movie, along with brief summaries of where they would fit in the story.

5. Checkmate - Since Batman is on the run, how about sending the government's covert ops group, perhaps with Sasha Bourdeaux or The Wall as their leader.
4. Talia Al Ghul - Bookend the trilogy with the return of the League of Shadows under the command of Talia, daughter of Ra's Al Ghul. She is a worthy adversary to Bruce, and they're destined to be together in much the same way that Bruce and Selina Kyle seem to be, only that Talia's never been used in film before and is in a lot of ways a much more complex character.
3. Catwoman - After the death of Rachel Dawes, now's the perfect time for Bruce to enter a toxic relationship. It would be nice to see her as the anti-hero she is in the comics. She follows many of the same rules as Batman - she doesn't kill, she generally only targets the corrupt for her thefts, and now they're both on the wrong side of the law. Plus, if done right, she fits right into this universe. Just don't give her cat-powers and we'll be fine.
2. Bane - This character was totally ruined in Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin. What makes Bane special is not that he's a huge, steroidal bruiser. What makes him special is that he's a huge steroidal bruiser who's also as smart and calculating as Batman. If done right, Bane could be an excellent villain for the next movie, perhaps in the role of a mercenary hunting the fugitive Batman for money and sport.
1. Hush - Introduced only a few years ago by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, Hush has become an iconic Batman nemesis. His backstory, like the Nolan films, is grounded in reality - no freak accidents with chemicals or ridiculous mutations. The comic book story can be used without changes. As a boy, Tommy Elliot was Bruce Wayne's one and only playmate. Tommy, even at a young age, demonstrated the ability to read and outthink his opponents in games of skill. Tommy is also a monster - he tries to kill his parents so that he can inherit their fortune, but after the horrible car crash he orchestrates, Tommy's mother is saved by brilliant surgeon and family friend Thomas Wayne. Months later, the Waynes are gunned down in an alley and Bruce achieves with tragedy what Tommy had hoped to achieve through ingenuity. Tommy has to spend the next twenty years pretending to be a good son, waiting for his mother to die slowly from cancer, seething with jealousy at Bruce's independence. Later, after he discovers Batman's identity, he becomes Hush, the bandaged, calculating gunslinger who tortures Batman with unsolvable puzzles and coerced betrayals, as well as attempting to kill him on several occasions. Hush also wants very much to be Batman.
Does that sound like an awesome movie, or what?

Yes, I missed my update yesterday. As always, you'll get an extra today.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Top 5 Prematurely-Canceled TV Shows

I think this one pretty much speaks for itself- many TV shows are canceled before their time, while others (ER, According to Jim) are allowed to run for years and years too long. These are my Top 5 Prematurely-Canceled TV Shows, ranked by considering both quality and lifespan.

5. Star Trek Enterprise - Yes, I know, the show sucked pretty bad. But it was just starting to get good! Season 4, under the leadership of new showrunner Manny Coto, finally turned the show around from unwatchable to genuinely entertaining! Imagine what he could have done with three more years! We may actually have had a Star Trek!
4. Invader Zim - Lost to the fight for a good timeslot, indie comics legend Jhonen Vasquez's Invader Zim was the first and only show on Nickelodeon to drop a six-year-old kid down an elevator shaft. Zim was written by a group of mental patients, making the show's story and dialogue random and often nonsensical, but never lost its focus on being hilarious. Invader Zim was perhaps the first show to be targetted specifically at ADD kids.
3. Arrested Development - Basically wrote the book on what's funny in this decade. Unlike many of the other sitcoms in recent history, the creators of Arrested Development did not assume that its audience was a bunch of drooling morons, but a smart group of viewers who can be trusted to get their ironic, absurdist humor. Unfortunately, the creators of Arrested Development were dead wrong. Though critically-acclaimed with a devoted cult audience, the public at large just didn't get Arrested Development. It was cancelled after two-and-a-half seasons, far too short for a show with such potential. (Had the series been shorter, it would have ranked higher on my list.) The entire show is available on Hulu.com, where it's been welcomed by a whole new audience. I urge you to join it.
2. Clerks: The Animated Series - Kevin Smith's Clerks is a staple in the history of American Indie cinema. The ABC cartoon that it inspired is a staple of DVD collections and not much else. Cancelled after only six episodes were produced and only three aired, Clerks takes the best parts of Clerks and the best parts of Family Guy (meaning the parts that aren't stupid, meaningless frat-boy humor) and combines them to make a whole greater than either of the ingredients. Easily one of my favorite cartoons of all time.
1. Firefly - This is a no-brainer. Joss Whedon's brilliant space western produced only 14 episodes, but managed to inspire an army of fans (called "Browncoats) and influence half-a-dozen other series that followed, including the critically-acclaimed Battlestar Galactica. In only about ten hours of content, including the feature film that followed, Whedon and his collaborating Executive Producer Tim Minear managed to lay the groundwork for a deep, intreguing mythology with simply amazing characters. If I could resurrect one dead series, this is the one.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Top 5 Things I Would Do If I Ruled the World

If I ruled the world, I would not make every day the first day of spring. No, my friends, I have much bigger fish to fry. Here's the Top 5 Things I Would Do If I Ruled the World.

5. Create a government-sponsored program to educate children about the dangers of listening or watching Dane Cook.
4. Create a Flag of Planet Earth and put the Bat-symbol squarely in the center. Our national anthem is the theme to the original Battlestar Galactica.
3. Decree that no professional athlete may make more money than the lowest-paid educator in their team's city. This way I can use the concentrated whining of the world's spoiled sports stars as a tool for practical education reform. And stick it to Terrell Owens.
2. Have authority to cancel TV shows that I deem "too stupid for human consumption". MTV's lifespan is limited. Seriously, they'd better start playing Daria again or they're finished. I would not, of course, be able to limit people's free speech, unless they choose to express themselves through bad TV.
1. Ban Pan-and-Scanning Movies. That's right, no more fullscreen copies of theatrical films. No more ruining works of film so that they fit on somebody's outdated TV screen. It pisses the hell out of me and I'm tired of dealing with people's ignorance. If you want to watch a movie, you're going to have to watch the movie the way it was meant to be seen. Also, on that note, I would force George Lucas to release a quality remastered print of the ORIGINAL, UNALTERED Star Wars Trilogy. Or else I will, as Patton Oswalt says, kill him with a shovel.

With my platform clearly outlined, I now announce my candidacy for Ruthless Dictator of Earth. Vote for me!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Top 5 Coolest Superhero Costumes

Sorta Requested by: Mike!

Well, I didn't receive a lot of requests this week, so I decided to instead accept a challenge by Mike to make a nerdier list than Sunday's Top 5 Best Star Wars Games. I call it: Top 5 Coolest Superhero Costumes. This is, mind you, a very separate list from my all-time Top 5 Coolest Superheroes. After all, there is much more to a hero than just his duds. Also, this list includes "alternate" costumes, perhaps suits that a hero or heroine used for only a short period of time, in the past, or in a film or television adaptation. Also, this is an opportunity for me to continue to challenge myself to use more multimedia on Top5Everything. (See: This afternoon's Top 5 YouTube Creators.)

5. Spider-Man - Symbiote Suit
The sheer simplicity! No comic book publicity stunt has more fans than Black Suit Spidey. Originally conceived as a way to shake things up at Marvel, Spider-Man's mysterious new black costume was an instant success. It's sleek, it's badass, and it's... alive? HOLY CRAP! Slowly, the origin of the suit was revealed - it's a symbiote, a living organism that lives off its host, granting him greater strength and organic webbing, but slowly eating him alive! Also, no other superhero costume has later transformed into a fan-favorite villain. (WE ARE VENOM!)

4. Blue Beetle III
Say what you will about Jaime Reyes as a character or about his book in general, but the new Blue Beetle's outfit is wicked cool. An unholy mix of magic and tech, Blue Beetle's costume creates weapons much like a Green Lantern ring, but like Spidey's symbiote, it's grafted to his body! The latest Teen Titan may not be much fun to read, but he's certainly cool to look at.

3. Ultimate Captain Marvel
I'll be perfectly honest with you. I've never read a single comic with this guy in it. But look at that frakking suit. It's spacey, it's futuristic and it's got "dangerous" written all over it in some alien language.

2. Kyle Rayner - Green Lantern, V2.0
For one thing, any Green Lantern outfit is going to score big points just for having the ring. The most powerful weapon in the universe, the GL Ring responds to its wearers' commands and creates energy constructs right out of the ringslinger's imagination. Kyle is my personal favorite GL, with his artistic prowess and Peter Parker attitude, and this is certainly my personal favorite GL uniform. Designed by comics legend Jim Lee, this is honestly the first time, in almost 60 years of publication, that Green Lantern acutally looked cool. And damn, look at that thing. I want one.

1. Iron Man - Movie Suit, Mark III
And speaking of things that fall into the "I want one" category, is there any suit you'd rather have than Iron Man's armor? Supersonic flight, repulsor blasts, rocket launchers, invulnerability, a super-smart A.I., all in hot rod red? It's like a dream car that you wear. I chose the movie version because it's an almost perfect translation of the suit from the current era, the Ablative Armor suit, except in a live-action film, which I would argue makes it fundamentally cooler than comic art.

Disagree? Think there's one I forgot? Just friggin' hate Iron Man? Leave me a friendly response.

CODA: This list was revised in Top 5 Revisions I'd Like to Make to Previous Lists.

Top 5 YouTube Creators

I've talked a lot about TV and film so far on this blog, but I noticed today that I haven't really spent any time on the medium I'm actually on - the internet! So, I've decided to dive into the New Media category by counting down my Top 5 favorite YouTube creators, and using the magic of Blogger to embed a sample video for each entrant to the countdown, so you don't just have to take my word for it. I'm sure there will be some argument on this topic, on account of there's so frakking many YouTubers out there, but here's my Top 5...

5. HarryPotterCentral - Anyone who hasn't seen "Wizard People, Dear Reader", the Brad Neely's re-dubbing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone hasn't seen the Potter at all. I submit to you the first chapter.


4. blamesocietyfilms - Creators of the now-legendary Chad Vader series. I think their appeal is pretty well summed-up by this video:


3. It'sJustSomeRandomGuy - It started as a simple gag- poking fun at the Mac vs. PC ads with Batman and Spider-Man sharing a screen: "Hi, I'm a Marvel." "And I'm a DC." It grew into an empire built on action figures, a cutting wit, some ridiculously good voice acting (this one guy plays like fifty characters!) and even some dramatic chops. In addition to his Mac-style commentaries on superhero movie franchises, there's also an ongoing series called "Marvel/DC: Happy Hour" that packs on some serious laughs. Yes, it's a guy playing with toys. It's also frakking brilliant. Here's an example from this summer.


2. NeilCicirega - YouTube Pirate Overlord of the Seven Seas Neil Cicirega is best known for his wildly popular series Potter Puppet Pals, which has gotten as many as 53 million views for a single episode. However, Mr. Cicirega has much more to offer than just puppet fanfiction. He is, frankly, a crazy person. And also quite possibly a genius. His music, which he publishes under the name Lemon Demon, is original and brilliant, and his music videos are a great demonstration of his video prowess. Here's my favorite Neil video, "Word Dissassociation".


1. DerrickComedy - A sketch comedy team out of NYU, the DERRICK Comedy, consisting of Dominic Dierkes, Dan Eckman, Donald Glover, and DC Pierson, (plus producer and occasional castmember Meggie McFadden) are a fresh, original voice in... well, I suppose I have no choice but to use the word twice in this sentence... comedy. Their sketches combine our generation's trademarked (if I may coin a phrase) "darkward" sense of humor with the just-freaking-weirdness of Donald Glover, who's gradually become the standout in the gang. They've been on hiatus from sketches for a while, as they've been producing their own feature film, Mystery Team. (The trailer looks awesome.) As proof of their unbridled greatness, here's my favorite DERRICK sketch, "Girls Are Not To Be Trusted".

Sorry about yesterday's lack of list. There will be an extra one today to make up for the gaff, probably a request.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Top 5 Fictional Presidents I Would Vote For

Yes, yes, YES! I can't tell you how ecstatic I still am since last night's election named Barack Obama our next President. Having worked in small ways for the campaign, contributing funds, debating undecided voters and cold-calling voters in Snyder County, PA, not to mention that this was my first opportunity to actually vote, it feels like as much a personal victory as it is a national one. And so it should - that's democracy. I would have a hard time naming another eligable person I'd rather to see as the 44th President of the United States... but I could probably think of a few fictional ones. Of all the fictional characters to sit in the Oval Office in film and TV, here's my Top 5.

5. Dave Kovic (as Bill Mitchell) - Dave
A lookalike coerced into impersonating the President after he falls into a coma, Dave manages to end balance the budget and pass a full-employment plan. Not bad for an actor.
4. Tom Dobbs - Man of the Year
Speaking of actors, what about the movie where a pastiche of Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert ran for President? Yes, the movie sucked, but wouldn't you like a president who was that funny? You wouldn't even notice if he was awful, you'd be so distracted by laughter.
3. David Palmer - 24
Remember when this show was actually good? Before the shocking assassination for President David Palmer, the series had a conscience, David Palmer. Palmer (who was never explicitly stated as a Democrat, but get real) kept Jack Bauer from crossing the line and kept a trigger-happy post-9/11 America out of the Middle East. Also, American television's first black president.
2. Laura Roslin - Battlestar Galactica
Imagine being thrust into the most stressful, high-pressure job in the world on the same day you found out you had terminal cancer. Then imagine that happening while you are in space running for your life from an army of robots who can't die? Laura Roslin handles the mantle of the President with grace and understands the weight of her office better than anyone who would have ever actually asked for it.
1. Josiah Bartlet - The West Wing
What can one say about Jed Bartlet? The West Wing was designed as an idealistic look at what government would be like if the people with power were actually trustworthy. President Bartlet, though he can have a short fuse when those he cares about are in danger, is passive, considerate and very, very liberal. Bartlet is not perfect. He hides his diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis from the public. His (great) sense of humor makes him a lot of enemies and he doesn't always take his opponents seriously. But over the course of the show, it becomes clear that there is no one, real or imagined, who you'd rather see in the White House. Fans of the show know exactly what I mean. (Hint hint: go watch the show.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Top 5 Reasons I'm Way Too Busy to do a Serious List Tonight

5. Lost the morning to class.
4. Lost the afternoon to voting lines and conferences.
3. Lost the evening to post-voting celebratory pretzel-run, followed by laughing at romance novels at the nearby bookstore. I mean, for God's sake, they make official NASCAR romance novels about women who fall for stock car drivers.
2. Losing the night to homework and...
1. DUH, Election Coverage.

A real one tomorrow, I promise.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Top 5 Disney Villains

There is, of course, a formula to Disney films. There's the hero or heroine, the love interest, the talking-animal sidekick(s), the incompetent henchman, and of course, the threatening but not-too-threatening-to-scare-the-small-children-silly villain. Often, the quality of the villain directly relates to the quality of the Disney classic. This list may very well be a sneak-preview of a forthcoming Top 5 Disney Animated Classics. (I have to re-watch Mulan first.)

5. Hades - Hercules (James Woods) - Sufficiently evil, sufficiently menacing, but also probably the funniest Disney villain.
4. Jafar - Aladdin (Jonathan Freeman) - The guy turns into a giant snake. I had nightmares for weeks. Then, he's an evil genie. Plus, he gets to beat up Gilbert Gottfried. For the win.
3. Ursula - The Little Mermaid (Pat Carrol) - God, she's creepy when she makes sexual innuendos. "Poor Unfortunate Souls" is one of the best songs in the whole Disney Renaissance.
2. Gaston - Beauty and the Beast (Richard White) - The trick about Gaston is that for most of the movie he's portrayed as a harmless buffoon. Just when you're most at ease with him, they hit you with "Kill the Beast". From that point on, he's one of the darkest villains in the Disney Canon.
1. Scar - The Lion King (Jeremy Irons) - For one thing, Jeremy Irons has one of the best "evil" voices in animation. (His biggest competition is Michael Ironside (no relation), the voice of Darkseid in the DC Animated Universe.) He's a killer, he's got that scar so you know he's evil, he's got that sarcastic wit. "Be Prepared" kicks ass. And let's not forget the single most badass line in the Disney canon: "Long live the king." Amen to that.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Top 5 Star Wars Video Games

Movie tie-in video games get a bad rep, I say. Yes, they usually suck (Harry Potter, Iron Man, the little-known disaster called Star Trek Generations) but there is one franchise that is a very notable exception to this pattern: Star Wars. Say what you will about the state of the film franchise today, (you could say, for example: "the prequels were an epic waste of my time and money", or "George Lucas should burn in hell for The Clone Wars) but Star Wars has always had the upper hand over other space sagas when it comes to video games. Of the dozens of fun, addictive games Lucasarts has provided, here's my personal Top 5:

5. Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (PC) - The first Star Wars game I ever owned was Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, a then-revolutionary 1st-/3rd-person shooter which allowed you to use Force powers for the very first time, as well as ten different weapons, including a lightsaber. It featured full-motion video and a pretty kickass storyline, launching a cult following for the fledgling Jedi Kyle Katarn. Years later, with better graphics, more powers and the ability to run on walls, which apparently was a big deal because every gameplay video I ever saw of it involved someone running on walls, Jedi Outcast outshined its predecessor in every way. Except one: no full-motion video.
4. Shadows of the Empire (N64) - Released to coincide with the best-selling novel, Shadows of the Empire for the Nintendo 64 was the closest we would ever get to another Galactic Civil War-era movie. As the brash Dash Rendar, players got to take on famous Star Wars characters like IG-88, Dengar and Bossk... okay, so nobody's heard of these characters. Well, guess what? I don't care. It was challenging, fun and you got to play the Battle of Hoth. (Little did we know that every Star Wars game for the next ten years would let you play the Battle of Hoth.)
3. Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike (Gamecube) - The third and final game in the Rogue Squadron series, Rebel Strike is almost undoubtably the best starfighter dogfighting game ever made, its closest competition being its predecessors and Starlancer for the Sega Dreamcast. Rebel Strike kept all the features that made the Rogue Squadron series so popular in the first place: loads of starfighters, familiar locales and battles (such as the Battle of Hoth) and great multiplayer, but added some on-foot missions as well. True, if you played as either the Jedi Starfighter or Slave I from Episode II, both featuring those physics-defying Sonic Mines, it was pretty much impossible to lose a vs. battle, but it never stopped me from trying to take down my cheap-ass buddies with an A-Wing. (This never worked. Ever.)
2. The Force Unleashed (Playstation 3, XBox 360) - Not since Dark Forces II has there been this much of a leap in the coolness of Force powers in video games. I lost count at the number of Stormtroopers I threw off ledges with Force Grip at about 42. And that was in the second stage. Though short, the gameplay of The Force Unleashed never got tired, and the story did not disappoint. There are many on the internet who wished, in hindsight, that and The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones could have been one movie so that Revenge of the Sith could have been Episode II and The Force Unleashed could have been the last movie. But to be truthful, this chapter of the saga, the official "Episode 3.5", could only have been done as a video game. (Note: If this game had had multiplayer, I mean besides the lame duel-mode from the Wii version, this would have been #1.)
1. Battlefront II (XBox) - The ultimate Star Wars game. In what at first feels like a mod for Battlefield 1942, this infantry-combat-based shooter is a charm all its own. First, being able to play as the Empire, the Rebels, the Clones or the Droids is a joy. Add in this sequel's addition of Jedi and Sith classes, plus a space battle mode that's different enough from Rouge Squadron to evade comparison, and it has pretty much anything you'd ever want out of a Star Wars game. Add in XBox Live's multiplayer and downloadable add-on packs, and it absolutely trumps any SW game previous or to follow.

Wait a minute... where the hell is Knights of the Old Republic? How can someone make a list of the best Star Wars games without KOTOR? What is this shit?

I have a confession to make: I've never played it.

There. You can kill me now. Yes, somehow I have never gotten around to playing the legendary RPG or its sequel, nor have I even witnessed anyone playing it for more than a few minutes. And truth be told, the few minutes I saw did not look exciting to me. Maybe it's my distaste for RPGs. Maybe it's because I prefer games with multiplayer. Maybe it's because I have a Mac. I'm sorry - I'm just not in any kind of hurry to play it. Let the flame war begin. (As if I even have enough readers to spark one.)